Our season of lectures has now concluded and will resume in September.

Evening lectures are held at Bluecoat C. of  E. Academy, Birmingham Road, Walsall. WS1 2ND, on the second Wednesday of the month from September to April, starting at 7.30pm.

Afternoon lectures are held at The Methodist Church Rooms, Anchor Road, Aldridge. WS9 8PT, on the fourth Wednesday of the month from September to March, at 2.30pm

Lectures for the Season 2016 – 2017

This year we have again endeavoured to produce a varied programme of lectures which we hope will be of interest to all members. We would also like to acknowledge our ‘home grown’ Speaker Reserves and our Technical Advisors for their support at these events.

Evening Programme

Our evening programme begins on 14th September with Alan Power, Garden and Estates Manager for N.T. Stourhead. Alan’s talk “Celebrating the all-round colour and magic of N.T.  Stourhead” will cover the history and management of the landscape gardens at N.T.  Stourhead. The garden is one of the finest examples of an early 18th Century landscape garden and has mostly remained the same since the 18th Century. The plant collection has developed over the years and the garden is one of the busiest in The National Trust seeing over 400,000 visitors through the gates every year. (Read our report on Alan’s talk)


On 12th October Michelle Leak, Collections and Visitors Engagement Manager at N.T. Upton House, was to present her talk “N.T. Upton House, Saving the Art Collection in a Welsh Slate Mine”Due to the illness of Michelle,  Brian Teall stepped in, at very short notice, to deliver his lecture “Rebuilding Peggs Barn”

Click here to read about this talk.


We next welcome on 9th November Nigel Lowery who lists himself as a St Pancras enthusiast. Nigel’s talk “St Pancras’ Victorian Gothic to Breathtaking Transformation” is for anyone with an interest in history, world class architecture, elegant engineering or a great story!  Nigel will describe how the fantastic mid-Victorian Gothic Railway Cathedral came to be built and how in recent years the long neglected building has undergone a breathtaking transformation. (Read about Nigel’s talk)


On 14th December Colin Stewart, a N.T. Volunteer at N.T Calke Abbey with an interest in archaeology, will deliver his talk, “N.T. Calke Abbey from Medieval Priory to Elizabethan Manor”.  Colin will describe how N.T. Calke have investigated the current mansion building and what 

Calke Abbey

has been found in those investigations. We will learn how the structure has changed in the early years and discover what of the earlier phases is still visible to the modern visitor. Colin will also take us on a ‘visit’ to the house.  He will describe the minimal remains of the early priory and the limited evidence we have for it and the Tudor period with features still evident which can be seen by all who visit today.(Report) 



2017 begins with a return of one of our most popular speakers on 11th January when Derek Clarke presents his talk, “Exploring California and New England – Special Locations and The Wonderful use of Wood”. Derek’s talk was put together to present to The Woodworkers’ Guild in Birmingham, but as with all of Derek’s talks this one includes interesting locations, featuring ‘out of the way’ buildings and the climax being an introduction to the works of Green and Green a firm of Pasadena architects who were leaders of The California Arts and Crafts Movement who designed houses in the early 1900’s which were about 50 years ahead of their time… another interesting gem of a talk. (Report)


On 8th February, Emily Medecraft – Front of House Manager at Compton Verney will arrange for a member of The Gallery Team to present to us “The Past, Present and Future of Compton Verney”. This talk will cover the history of Compton Verney, how it was saved and transformed into what is now recognised as Warwickshire’s premier arts venue and park, hosting many exhibitions. (Report)


We always enjoy a talk from N.T.  Wightwick Manor and on 8th March Helen Bratt-Wyton, who is wightwick5House Steward at N.T. Wightwick Manor, will give a talk on “Sex drugs and Poetry” Helen will relate all the stories that you have wanted to know about the Pre-Raphaelites and their … “friends”. This will be a tongue in cheek romp through the lives and loves of this bohemian group of artists and poets with a definite adult slant! (Report)


Finally, on 12th April following our A.G.M a dramatic presentation by Andrew Lound in his talk “Liner of the Skies – The Hindenburg”.  The airship was the pride of Germany, the greatest airship in history, the epitome of luxury air travel in the 1930’s and as big as The Titanic.  The history of airship travel was however fraught with tragedy and technical brilliance but with the rise of National Socialism and the fear of war, The Hindenburg became a propaganda weapon much to the anger of her designer Hugo Eckener.  In a remarkable presentation Andrew captures a lost age and examines what might have caused the loss of the world’s greatest airship. (Report)


Afternoon Programme

Our afternoon programme starts on 28th September with Martin Fisher, Chair of Aston Manor Road Transport Museum.  Martin’s talk “Aston Manor Transport Museum – a local resource – Past, Present and Future”, will explain its development from Aston to its move to Shenstone Drive Aston transportAldridge. 

He will show how a group of voluntary transport enthusiasts are working, making plans and hoping for this museum to go from strength to strength in celebration of past industries and our heritage. (Report)



On 26th October, another local storyteller, Mary Bodfish, will talk on “Skulduggery at Soho”.  She tells how James Watt’s letter-copying machine has preserved this remarkable story, of what happened in 1826 when the Soho Foundry’s chief cashier was caught with his fingers in the till.  Boulton & Watts Soho Enterprises were considered models of business organisation but a chance discovery in the company archives has shown that things were far from right in the accounts department. This is a story of real human drama involving connivance and corruption. (Read report)


Another welcome return visit from Ray Sturdy who on 23rd November will deliver his talk “Worcestershire Remembered”.  Ray’s talk covers working conditions, pay, goods available in the shops, social entertainment plus views of Worcester and Worcestershire in earlier times with comparisons made to our life today.  Were these really ‘the good old days’?  You decide!

(Read about this talk)


On 25th January, Liz Taylor of The Woodland Trust will talk on “The Work of the Woodland Trust“.  Liz will outline the work of The Woodland Trust and how we work together to both create and enhance our experience of woodland.  Liz is a real lover of trees and finds them to be both inspirational and magical, as well as food for the soul!  We can all do OUR bit whether it’s through the planting of trees, visiting woods or helping the next generation to appreciate the impact of trees for our planet’s, as well as our own, health. (Report)


On 22nd February 2017, a return visit from Bob Horner whose talk “Spying – Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive”, will look at the organisations used by both SpyingGermany and Britain to spy on each other during the Second World War.  Bob describes how the organisations operated and how Bletchley Park helped to defeat the German network. (Report)



Finally, on 22nd March a new speaker Derek Hayward whose talk will be “The Sutton Coldfield Railway Accident”.  Derek will tell us how on a grey, cold day in 1955, calamity struck a sleepy Royal Town, when the diverted York to Bristol Express with 300 passengers on board came off the track and overturned.  17 people lost their lives and many were injured.  We are told of the heroic efforts made by quite ordinary people.  The immediate after-effects are described and the reasons and conclusions to that fateful day are examined. (Report)railway


We wish to thank members for recommending speakers, please continue to do so. Some recommendations are included in this programme and in our 2017/2018 Speaker Programme.  

Margaret Wood

Speaker Secretary

Reports on Lectures in 2016 / 2017