Next Meeting

19th September

Professor Sarah Richardson

speaking about:


The Cobden Sisterhood:

politics and culture in the age of women’s suffrage. 


Jane Cobden, together with her sisters, sought to protect and develop the legacy of their father, Richard Cobden, a 19th C Liberal statesman, who campaigned successfully for the repeal of the Corn Laws and who believed that free trade was a powerful force for peace and a defence against war.

The sisterhood were prominent in many areas of radical and progressive politics, including the fight for women’s suffrage and land reform.

Professor Sarah Richardson is based with the University of Warwick and has a particular interest in women in politics.

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What went on at Recent meetings

In September,2019 a small group went to Wrest Park to have a tour of English Heritage’s Archaeological Collections Store. Some members arrived in the morning and had a walk round the park, then met up for the tour. An amazing collection of artefacts from sites all over the country were on racks around the building, including some large stone balls from Kenilworth used on a trebuchet. Other interesting artifacts were early blue plaques and some larger than life figures from a clock tower.

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In June, 2019 we had a double helping of Chris Hone when he came and gave a very interesting talk about the Wroxton Mineral Railway. He had a large map and detailed the construction along the route in great detail. His knowledge of the subject shone through. Afterwards there was a lively Q&A session where an enthusiastic audience questioned him extensively. This was one of the longest talks of the year, showing the interest in the subject. On the following Saturday we again had the pleasure of Chris, this time taking us on a walk along part of the track-bed where he showed us the sites of the crusher, sidings, etc. and explained their use. Later in the year we hope to have a viewing of some old film of the Railway (maybe at the AGM), so keep an eye open for details.

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In May, 2019 Ginny Davis gave a very interesting talk about the criminal trials in the 17th century when they were short and swift. Defendants could not give evidence and 200 crimes ranging from theft to murder were punishable by death, although ingenious ploys were used to spare some prisoners. Petty criminals were named and shamed, often in the stocks. Felons were frequently hanged, the process becoming more specialised when the weight of the criminal was taken into consideration. (The end result was the same!). Gradually, over the next 400 years the penal system introduced other forms of sentence: transportation, hard labour and eventually, imprisonment. The talk was well delivered and kept everyone’s attention throughout.

Ginny finished by telling us about her new stand-alone play to be performed at the Bridge House Theatre, Warwick on 12th July. Details:

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The April, 2019 meeting was well attended for the talk by Colin Clay and Phil Taylor who discussed the use of old maps, aerial photographs, responsible metal detecting and LIDAR to study where old trackways crossed the countryside. It was very interesting how they discovered these old tracks and superimposed them on modern maps. Members went away armed with the knowledge to explore the undulations around their locations.

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The March, 2019 talk by Matt Armitage about Tooley’s Boatyard and the Oxford Canal was an interesting insight of the history of the boatyard and some of the characters who have run the operation for the last couple of hundred years. He explained how the yard was saved from the developers of the shopping complex, building and lauching boats as well as the rescuing of an old wooden craft from the bottom of the canal near Braunston. He had his new book about the history on sale which contains some amazing photos from the past. See: for a description of the book.

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In February, 2019, Medieval historian Dr Rowena E. Archer, a Fellow and lecturer at Brasenose College and lecturer at Christ Church, gave a very interesting talk about Joan of Arc. Rowena teaches French History from 1000 – 1500 and has a particular interest in the experiences of women and runs a specialist course on Joan of Arc and her Age, 1419-1435

We heard that Joan of Arc was not from a noble or military family but believed that God had chosen her to lead France to victory in its war with England. She lead the French army to victory over the English at Orléans and was then captured by Anglo-Burgundian forces, tried for witchcraft and heresy and burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19. By the time she was officially canonized in 1920, the Maid of Orléans, as she was known, had long been considered one of history’s greatest saints, and an enduring symbol of French unity and nationalism. Through her researches and teaching Rowena has added greatly to the understanding of the life and times of Jeanne d’Arc.

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The January, 2019 talk by Keith Westcott on the Broughton Hoard, on display in the Ashmolean, and the Broughton Roman Villa, one of England’s Great Courtyard Villas, was received with great enthusiasm. The question time after the talk went on for more than half an hour, showing the interest generated.

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The Members Miscellany was a very interesting evening (as always), with Peter giving a history of his early farming life and the use of Ram Water Pumps. Stephen gave an update of the archaeological work he has been undertaking at some important sites around the area and David gave a very interesting look into Masons Marks in over a hundred Churchyards in the local area. If you missed this meeting, make a note for next year!

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Some of our members joined the Kineton Heritage Group on their recent coach trip to the SS Great Britain. The work done on the ship is amazing. The cabins, dining room, etc were recreated and a glass roof, representing the water (actually covered with water) gave an impression of it floating. It was also to keep the hull covered from the elements so that two big de-humidifiers could keep the humidity low enough to prevent further rusting of the fragile ironwork. A very enjoyable day.

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On 22nd July a small group had a fascinating tour of Burmington Manor hosted by the enthusiastic owner. He told us the history of the Manor and showed us the many features preserved and carefully incorporated into the restoration so they were not hidden. By doing so the construction and many alterations over the years became clear. 

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The visit to Tooley’s Boatyard on 16th July was a great success. Matt took his time explaining the history of the yard and then gave a demonstration in the forge. This was followed by an explanation of the dry dock, a visit to the paint store and the machine shop. Outside he showed us their project – restoring a wooden narrowboat which was found sunk in the canal and abandoned. To round off the evening Matt then took us on a leisurely cruise along the canal.