17th December:
Christmas Social.......

The 17th December Wednesday Christmas Social rang with success when the Trentside Singers performed their Christmas Medley incorporating Carols, Seasonal songs and Poems, interestingly introduced with details of the writer/composer of each piece of music. Dressed for Christmas, the ladies brought a colourful scene into the village hall and encouraged the audience to join in with singing and bell ringing.
  
After the renditions we then tried to put our brains into action with a very interesting and amusing Call My Bluff type of quiz ably given by Rodney Cousins of Newark.  After much laughter and disbelief in some of the correct answers, everyone was encouraged to enjoy the wonderful array of food which the members had willingly brought along.

Thanks to everyone who helped to make the gathering such a colourful, tasty and happy evening.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

29th November 2014:
Message from our Secretary.....

 Photograph of The Green Man 
on the font in Stow Church

(29th November 2014).
   

Would this month's talk feature little green men from Mars or the delights of a local pub?  Actually neither, although the pubs were slightly relevant to the information we were given by Loretta Rivett, our visiting speaker, last Wednesday.
"The Green Man" is a popular name for English public houses and various interpretations of the name appear on inn signs which sometimes show a full figure rather than just the head.  A few of the Lincolnshire Green Man pubs were referred to namely in Louth, Norton Disney, Scamblesby and Stallingborough.
The “Green Man” we actually heard about and discussed is the dimly remembered symbol of an ancient spirit of Nature, recognized and revered by many civilisations and adopted by many religions.  He can be found in churches, chapels and cathedrals all across Europe. He dances in May Day processions  and he also appears on temple walls in India and in churches in Borneo.
Loretta showed many slides complementing her talk, giving the audience various facts and allowing us to think through these and come to our own conclusion as to why the Green Man was actually depicted and what he represents.   It is generally thought that these heads/faces represent a life force, a way of connecting with nature and is primarily interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of growth each Spring.
Loretta explained, and could describe quite accurately with superb slides from her journeys across the country collecting data and photographs, that generally this figure takes three forms -   -  the Disgorging Head - shown spewing  vegetation out of its mouth, down its front and over its head
  -  the Foliate Head - foliage growing from the face and covering the head but not coming from the eyes, mouth or nose, only from around the face and head 
  -  Jack in the Green  -  a face staring out from behind foliage.
Loretta questioned whether these all developed from one type.  Some churches show all of the different images and should you wish to visit a church and seek a face out it is always best to look at the corbels supporting the window ledges; the misericords; the roof vaulting or even outside the door.
The infamous sanctuary knocker on the main door of Durham cathedral depicts a Green Man - Foliate. In medieval times, it was an important symbol of the Cathedral's political role because someone who was in trouble could bang on the door and claim sanctuary within the cathedral for up to 37 days in which time either be reconciled or properly arrested.
Loretta quoted St. Peter's at Barton upon Humber and St. John's Church (now the 20:21 Arts Centre)  as good local examples where various faces can be seen should anyone wish to visit.
But thinking outside the box was encouraged by Loretta so we could see the parallels in other parts of our lives.  Well known mythical names we have grown up with were quoted - Robin Goodfellow, Puck of Midsummer Night's Dream, Robin Hood (Lincoln Green), Peter Pan who we are told enters the civilised world from Neverland dressed in green leaves and even Father Christmas who, until the 1930's when Coca Cola took this jolly figure on as their logo and put him in a red outfit, was often shown dressed in green.
We hadn't been listening long when we all realised that there is a lot more to the question of the Green Man than we thought.   However the name “Green Man”, perhaps surprisingly, dates back only to 1939, when it was used by Lady Raglan (wife of the scholar and soldier Major Fitzroy Somerset, 4th Baron Raglan) in her article “The Green Man in Church Architecture”, published in the “Folklore” journal of March 1939. Prior to this, the carvings whether in stone or wood were just known as "foliate heads", and few people took much interest in them. Lady Raglan’s interest was piqued by her discovery of the Green Men in St. Jerome’s Church in the village of Llangwn in Monmouthshire (Gwent), Wales.  In spite of Lady Raglan's final paragraph which would infer that there is a lot more to this subject, the “Folklore” article was her only foray into folklore study, quote -
'"This figure I am convinced, is neither a figment of the imagination nor a symbol, but is taken from real life, and the question is whether there was any figure in real life from which it could have been taken.  The answer, I think, is that there is but one of sufficient importance, the figure variously known as the Green Man, Jack-in-the-Green, Robin Hood, the King of May and the Garland King, who is the central figure in the May Day celebrations throughout Northern and Central Europe.” 
Today her theory is disputed simply because we know that the folklore figures she quotes are of a much later provenance than the Green Man carvings.  Because by far the most common occurrences of the Green Man are stone and wood carvings in churches, chapels, abbeys and cathedrals in Europe (particularly in Britain and France), some experts have seen this as evidence of the vitality of pre- Christian traditions surviving alongside, and even within, the dominant Christian mainstream.
Incorporating a Green Man into the design of a medieval church or cathedral may therefore be seen as a kind of small act of faith on the part of the carver that life and fresh crops will return to the soil each spring and that the harvest will be plentiful. Pre-Christian pagan traditions and superstitions, particularly those related to nature and trees, were still a significant influence in early medieval times.
Loretta reminded us that tree worship goes back into the prehistory of many of the cultures that directly influenced the people of Western Europe which is not surprising with much of the continent of Europe being covered with vast forests. It is perhaps also understandable that there are concentrations of Green Men in the churches of regions where there were large stretches of forests in ancient times, such as in Devon and Somerset, Yorkshire and the Midlands. She pointed out the human-like attributes of trees (trunk-body, branches-arms, twigs-fingers, sap-blood), as well as their strength, beauty and longevity which makes them an obvious subject for ancient worship.
Of course, the Green Man of the Middle Ages may just have served as a decorative or architectural feature, in much the same way as gargoyles. Such carvings were often thought by the superstitious stonemasons and carvers of the medieval period to ward off death and evil, or possibly to create a healthy balance of good and evil in the design.  But it is also entirely possible that such images held little or no deep symbolism for many of the carvers representing little more than an interesting and diverting bit of fun in which they were merely following in the footsteps and traditions of many respected carvers of earlier years.
So to conclude after an extremely interesting presentation by Loretta we
can perhaps agree that the Green Man means different things to different people and different cultures. 

21st October:
Message from our Secretary......

This month (19th October) we welcomed back Rod Fanthorpe, a well known speaker to the group, who gave an illustrated talk on "The Christmas Truce of 1914" and the question was asked, was this Fact or Fiction?  Most of us have heard about this so-called show of camaraderie but what, exactly, is the true story?
We have been told that on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sound of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favour of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.  Apparently many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines.  At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across No-Man’s-Land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.
Can we take this information as fact or was it perhaps an excellent PR session to help those back at home think their loved ones were not having such a bad time of it over on the Western Front?  Or did the men take matters into their own hands and decide, for a short while at least, that enough was enough?Or perhaps did the men get this Chinese Whisper off the ground to embarrass the government? 

Rod showed maps of the British sector on Christmas Day and gave an outline of the run up of events on the Western Front in the days before Christmas.  By crossing backwards and forwards from the Front Line to Lincoln he also painted an excellent picture of what life was like for the families back here in Lincolnshire, using extracts from the Lincolnshire Chronicle. Each issue of the Lincolnshire Chronicle devoted their Page 8 to report on the events of the war.
Sanatogen Tonic Wine was taken off the shelves in the shops because it was made in Germany! Women started working, proving they could do men's work and they put aside their Suffragette feelings for a while.
The newspaper reported that 'shops were regular hives of industry' on the run up to Christmas.  'Lincolnshire was cold, rainy and miserable'.
Letters from the Front started to trickle through in January 1915 and this was when family members began to learn of the strange happenings on the battlefield over Christmas.  The Times carried several letters referring to the events.
We are told that fir trees started to appear on the German parapets; cigarettes were thrown to each side and then of course there was that famous/infamous football match.
A Private Willis is reported as saying - 'A ball appeared from their side, they put some goals and then a general kick about with about 100 men.  No score.  No referee.'
Pictures and cartoons decorate the many history books and journals but thinking about it all, with the mud, shell holes, barbed wire, could the men have managed to kick a ball around in this mess?  How did they manage to crawl through the barbed wire? It is a reasonably warming picture to imagine, a humanitarian one we always like to hold close, but it does seem rather too colourful.
There were the hour-long Truces each day when the soldiers retrieved the bodies of their fellow their fellow men from No-Man's-Land and this would of course have happened on Christmas Day.  However the question will always  be there as to whether the match took place and information gathered can be interpreted in a number of ways.  Rod Fanthorpe gave his information to the audience in a well- balanced and informative way with his usual slots of humour.

20th October:

Visit to Sturton-by-Stow School, see separate page titled "Sturton School & WW1".

19th September:
Report from our Secretary.....

The speaker for the opening of the Autumn season (17th September) was our very own Treasurer, Chris Stable.
Now a lot of you will know Chris from the History Group's perspective as the guy who 'takes' your money on the door and who has a very loud and commanding voice which is very useful for the raffle and any important announcements! Well, the Chris we saw on Wednesday evening started off by letting us in on a bit of his personal history and early career which not only proved interesting but being Chris, entertained us with amusing anecdotes as well!
The history of electricity and the arrival of power stations into our lives does not always conjure up an interesting evening to some but Chris had the 'spark' to make us listen and take in some really useful information, not only about the very beginnings of electricity but about how the views across the river Trent changed dramatically when the power stations arrived in the Sixties.
Those of us who came to live in the area after they were built just accept them as part of our area and either love them or hate them but they now are very much a visual backdrop to the landscape and of course provide vital employment.

Chris explained that his interest in engineering grew from his father who took him to his own place of work (Kent Instruments of Luton) as a child and then Chris started out his own career as a draughtsman producing drawings for actuator arms.   Now I did listen to Chris's explanation of all things mechanical and I learnt that an actuator is a type of motor that is responsible for moving or controlling a mechanism or system and is operated by a source of energy i.e. an electric current.  The more involved explanations did lose me at times I am afraid (!) but I did pick up that Chris produced the drawings at his factory for the actuators used at West Burton Power station and he then moved on in his career as site engineer at West Burton in 1965.

Names dropped into the talk for explanations of the progression of electricity included of course, Michael Faraday (1791-1867) an Englishman, who made one of the most significant discoveries in the history of electricity: Electromagnetic induction. His pioneering work dealt with how electric currents work.

James Watt (1736-1819) born in Scotland.

Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) an American inventor and businessman who developed many devices which influenced life throughout the world including the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the long-lasting electric light bulb. 

And amongst these names there is Chris who put all the bits and pieces of information together so those of us who do take electricity for granted on most occasions and try to switch on the kettle to make a cup of tea when we have to sit down during a power cut could understand the enormity of this energy source which is so vital to our lives today.  

To bring the power stations further into our mind Chris showed slides of the construction of West Burton and Cottam kindly loaned by Pete Wainwright of Sturton who worked on site as well.  Enormous constructions of concrete and steel, the giants began to soar over the Trent with the help of excavators and cranes in the Sixties and here they still stand puffing away in the distance, lighting up the night skies, and for me, are a very useful tool in determining when I am close to home!

                                                                                                                                  Thank you Chris.

28th August:
         
         New wall mounted plaque at Bransby Horses, Bransby...............



   


Thomas Spencer was a Sturton-by-Stow 19th Century Quaker 

14th August:

New book published titled "Memories of Local Business Life in Sturton-by-Stow".
128 pages, with supporting photographs, Compiled by Sharron Banham and David Curtis.........

     

1st August:
Our Secretary Says.......

Hello everyone, Now the dust has died down from Saturday's very successful event I can taken the time to send you a brief overview.
I was absolutely delighted with the response of all the exhibitors I have approached over the last six months asking them to come along to our fourth Open Day of the society because on Saturday they all turned up bright-eyed and positive with a fantastic array of artefacts and memorabilia relating to WWI and other significant battles.  From a fantastic Model T Ford taking pride of place on the forecourt courtesy of David Jakes, to a miniature WWI tank hand built by Ian Douglas of Lincoln, to the WWI motorcycle lovingly restored by Richard Pullen of North Scarle and model WWI aeroplanes kindly loaned by Ron Smith of Sturton we moved onto the smaller items.
A formidable list of military memorabilia and collectables can be added such as firearms of all sizes and weights, grenades, swords, and helmets brought over from France as well as the rainbow of medals depicting battles fought with bravery of the utmost.  John Duffield from Sturton was on hand to explain the history and type of medals should anyone have a query.
Terry Marker of Sturton was in attendance with his laptop should anyone want a relative tracing who sadly died in the conflict and of course Terry recounted the 'Overview of 1914' through his Talk that same evening.
Such a lot of people put a great deal of effort attending for which I am most grateful.  Charles Parker of Cherry Willingham brought along three of his friends who filled their tables with an exciting collection - too numerous to mention in detail.
Local people who put their own family war history together and sat and explained it to interested parties such as Jenny Garner and Mick Moore, could have held people's attention for  an hour or more!  Norman Birkett as always, put on an excellent display on related items including a lovely copy of the Roll of Honour of the village.
Then of course the entertainment in the afternoon was supplied by 'A Touch of Class' ladies who read poignant pieces and sang songs which most of the audience knew and could join in with.  Poetry readings from Loretta Rivett in a Lincolnshire dialect lightened the mood slightly but then when Trish Wingad read her own poetry we were all brought back to the touching and mournful feeling of those times.
For those of you who were unable to attend you can examine several photographs which will soon be on our website  showing you the extent of the fantastic exhibits. 
Brian Bowler's photographs can be ordered through Brian and he tells me that the 6x4's are 75p and the 7x8's are £1 and 25% of the sales of all photos goes to St. Barnabas funds.  Should anyone wish to contact him direct asking for thumbnails to be sent his email address is - bowlerhats@btinternet.com
The other
photographer - Mick Fox - can be contacted on - foxmick@btinternet.com for the same purpose.
Many thanks to everyone for making the day such a huge success.

19th June:
Message from our Secretary.....

YESTERDAY EVENING YET ONCE AGAIN, LINDA CRUST PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIETY, GAVE A FULL AND INFORMATIVE TALK ABOUT A LESS WELL KNOWN LINCOLNSHIRE FIGURE, DR MATTHEW FLINDERS OF DONINGTON IN HOLLAND.  MOST PEOPLE HAVE HEARD OF MATTHEW FLINDERS, THE DISTINGUISHED ENGLISH NAVIGATOR AND CARTOGRAPHER ALSO BORN IN DONINGTON (SON OF DR FLINDERS) BUT FOR GENERAL READING HIS FATHER MAY BE LESS WELL KNOWN.
LINDA’S TALK, DERIVED FROM INFORMATION GAINED FROM DR FLINDERS’ OWN DIARIES, DESCRIBED HIS EVERY DAY LIFE WITHIN A SMALL FARMING COMMUNITY, GIVING US ALL AN EXCELLENT PICTURE OF HOME LIFE WITH THE FLINDERS FAMILY AS WELL AS THE DAILY ROUTINE OF BUSINESS AND SOCIALISING WITH NEIGHBOURS AND FRIENDS.
DONINGTON IS NOW A SMALL MARKET TOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FENS ABOUT 10 MILES FROM BOSTON.  IT IS A VERY OLD SETTLEMENT AND WAS ONCE AN IMPORTANT CENTRE FOR AGRICULTURE, HOLDING A WEEKLY SATURDAY MARKET AND FOUR ANNUAL FAIRS FOR THE SALE OF HORSES, CATTLE, FLAX AND HEMP.  DURING DR FLINDERS YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD THE AREA GREW LARGE QUANTITIES OF HEMP, MAINLY FOR THE ROYAL NAVY.  IT WAS AFTER THE DRAINING OF THE FENS THAT DONINGTON’S PROSPERITY DECLINED WHEN ROAD TRAVEL BECAME EASIER AND THE PORT OF BOSTON BEGAN ITS SIGNIFICANT RISE IN IMPORTANCE.

LINDA ALSO ADDED AMUSING AND, AT THAT TIME, STARTLING EVENTS SUCH AS THE BEACHING OF A WHALE CLOSE TO BOSTON AND THE VISIT TO DONINGTON OF A FIRE-EATER TO ENTERTAIN THE TOWNS FOLK.
ENTRIES IN THE DIARIES UNDERSTANDABLY REFER TO THE FLINDERS’ FAMILY PERSONAL LIFE WITH THE BIRTHS AND DEATHS OF THE CHILDREN AND THE EARLY DEATH OF DR FLINDERS FIRST WIFE, SUSANNAH.  PRIOR TO THIS, DR FLINDERS WHO QUALIFIED AS A SURGEON-APOTHECARY IN 1770, SET UP HOME IN DONINGTON AND ACTUALLY DELIVERED HIS OWN SON AND NAMESAKE, MATTHEW.  LINDA TOUCHED ON THE SUBJECT OF CHILDBIRTH IN THE 18TH CENTURY, SPARING THE MEN IN THE AUDIENCE OF THE FULL-ON DETAILS!  I KNOW SOME OF THE LADIES PRESENT LAST NIGHT WERE SITTING CROSSED-LEGGED AT THE THOUGHT OF WHAT HAD TO BE ENDURED DURING THOSE TIMES!

WE WERE SURPRISED TO HEAR LINDA REFER TO DR FLINDERS AS A MIDWIFE BUT APPARENTLY THIS WAS FAIRLY COMMON AT THE TIME AND MOST MAN-MIDWIVES OF THE 18TH CENTURY BEGAN THEIR CAREERS AS APOTHECARIES AND MANY HAD BEEN SURGEON-APOTHECARIES.  WITH NO PAIN RELIEF AT ALL WE CAN IMAGINE HOW WOMEN SUFFERED AND MANY DID NOT SURVIVE THE PERILS OF CHILDBIRTH AND NEITHER DID THE BABIES.  HOWEVER WE ARE AMAZED AT THE KNOWLEDGE THAT A LOT OF WOMEN DID SURVIVE TO BEAR HUGE BROODS OF CHILDREN, NO DOUBT MAKING SURE AT LEAST SOME OF THE OFFSPRING SURVIVED. IT WAS BEYOND IMAGINING HOWEVER WHEN LINDA STATED THAT PROLONGED AND OBSTRUCTED LABOUR WAS MANAGED BY REMOVING THE FOETUS IN PIECES!

DR FLINDERS FIRST WIFE WAS SUSANNAH WARD AND THEY MARRIED ON 6 MAY 17773 AT BOLINGBROKE.  THEY HAD NINE CHILDREN OF WHOM SEVEN SURVIVED.
MATTHEW – 16 MARCH 1774 – DIED 19 JULY 1814
ELIZABETH – 24 SEPT 1775
JACKEY (BOY) – 28 SEPT 1776
TWIN DAUGHTERS – BORN AND DIED 19 JULY 1777
JOHN AND SAMUEL TWINS – 28 MAY 1778 BUT DIED ON THE SAME DAY AND THE NEXT
SUSANNAH – 22 MAY 1779
JOHN – 5 APRIL 1781
SAMUEL – 3 NOV
SUSANNAH FLINDERS DIED ON 2 MARCH 1783 AND DR FLINDERS REMARRIED A WIDOW, MRS ELIZABETH ELLIS AND THEY HAD THREE CHILDREN, OF WHOM TWO SURVIVED – 
FIRST DAUGHTER DIED (b.30 AUG 1786, DIED SAME DAY)
HANNAH – 22 FEBRUARY 1789
HENRIETTE – 29 JANUARY 1791
DR. FLINDERS DIED 1 MAY 1802

THE EVENING GAVE US A FULL AND INTERESTING LIFE STORY DETAILED TO US BY LINDA.  WITH THE PROSPECT OF ANY OF USE WiSHING TO FOLLOW UP THE INFORMATION AND VISIT THE TOWN, SHE SUGGESTED THAT THERE IS A VERY GOOD PUB WHICH SERVES FOOD – THE BLACK BULL IN THE MARKET PLACE – ALWAYS GOOD TO HAVE SOMEWHERE TO SIT AND CONTEMPLATE THE INFORMATION GAINED!

28th May:
Message from our Secretary..........

LAST WEDNESDAY'S TALK WAS GIVEN BY ONE OF LINCOLN'S BEST KNOWN AMBASSADOR'S, MR JOE COOKE, MAYOR'S OFFICER FOR OVER THIRTY YEARS.  JOE, A GEORDIE BY BIRTH BUT A DEVOUT LINCOLNIAN BY CHOICE, TALKED ABOUT HIS ADOPTED CITY WITH PASSION AND MIRTH.
JOE HAS LED AN INTERESTING LIFE AND HIS CHAT WAS PEPPERED WITH DETAILS OF HIS PRE-LINCOLN EXPLOITS.  HE JOINED THE GRENADIER GUARDS AS A YOUNG MAN BY DEFAULT HAVING GONE ALONG WITH A FRIEND WHO WAS INTENT ON JOINING UP AND INSTEAD FOUND HIMSELF 'SIGNED ON AND ACCEPTED'!  HE HAS STOOD GUARD OUTSIDE BUCKINGHAM PALACE NO DOUBT TRYING HARD NOT TO SMILE WHEN TOURISTS HAVE ATTEMPTED THE USUAL JOKES AND I WOULD IMAGINE FOR JOE THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY HARD AS HE ALWAYS SEEMS TO BE SMILING OR CRACKING A JOKE.  HOWEVER IT WAS NO JOKE BEING SENT TO NORTHERN IRELAND BUT HE WAS IN THE LINE OF DUTY, HAVING BEEN GIVEN THE TASK OF BEING ONE OF THE BODYGUARDS TO KEY POLITICIANS.
ALL THESE EXPERIENCES STOOD HIM IN GOOD STEAD WHEN HE TOOK ON HIS NEW ROLE IN LINCOLN WHERE, AMONGST OTHER COLOURFUL DUTIES, HE HAS TO OFFICIATE AT ROYAL VISITS SUCH AS WHEN HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN CAME TO OPEN LINCOLN UNIVERSITY AND HE SPOKE FONDLY OF THE ROYAL FAMILY.
IN ADDITION TO HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, JOE ALONG WITH FRIEND FRANK CONNELL, IS A HARD WORKING AND SUCCESSFUL FUNDRAISER FOR PROJECTS CLOSE TO HIS HEART.  AT THE MOMENT THE MAIN PROJECT IS WORKING WITH THE LINCOLN TANK MEMORIAL GROUP WHO ARE ON THE WAY TO RAISING £60,000 IN ORDER TO PLACE A 2D FULL SIZE MODEL OF A MARK 1 TANK ON THE TRITTON ROAD ROUNDABOUT NEAR THE UNIVERSITY WHICH IS CLOSE TO THE SITE OF FOSTER'S FACTORY WHERE THE FIRST TANK CAME OFF THE PRODUCTION LINE IN 1916.
THERE IS CURRENTLY NO PERMANENT MEMORIAL TO LINCOlN'S INVOLVEMENT IN THE CONCEPTION AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE TANK IN THE CITY.  THE MEMORIAL WILL BE IN THE FORM OF A PARTLY CONSTRUCTED TANK.  THE MALE AND FEMALE FIGURES STANDING AROUND THE TANK WILL BE DRESSED IN THEIR WORK WEAR WITH SPANNERS AND PAINTBRUSHES IN THEIR HANDS. THE MEMORIAL WILL ALSO INCLUDE THE FIGURES OF TRITTON, RIGBY AND WILSON WHO WERE THE DESIGNERS, DEVELOPERS AND MANUFACTURERS OF THE TANK.  THE MEMORIAL WILL ALSO RECOGNISE THE HUGE EFFORT MADE BY CIVILIAN MEN AND WOMEN IN LINCOLN DURING BOTH WORLD WARS WHEN THE MAJORITY OF PRODUCTION I THE CITY WAS SWITCHED TO WAR WORK.
JOE THANKED THE MEMBERS AND COMMITTEE FOR HANDING OVER £50 WHICH HE WOULD PASS ON TO THE LINCOLN TANK MEMORIAL FUND WHICH AT THE MOMENT STANDS AT £45,500 (+£50 OF COURSE!).
AN EXCELLENT AND ENTERTAINING EVENING.

17th April:
Message from our Secretary.........

Yesterday the group welcomed County historian Dr. Simon Pawley from Sleaford who spoke about the migratory lifestyle of the agricultural labourer.  Dr. Pawley’s opening gambit was that to some extent, we are all descended from agricultural labourers because England was a land of farmers from the beginning of history.
He was avid to point out that the mistaken myth of labourers staying put in the area into which they were born, was exactly that, a myth.  This may have been the case in the Middle Ages where the poor labourer or peasant would work under the manorial system and in return for his work on the land he would be given the rights of sustenance, payments being taking in kind.  These included rights to use the common land for grazing livestock, fishing, rabbiting and collection of fuel for fires and cooking purposes.  Building materials were available too so the peasant could construct a simple dwelling for himself and his family. The ‘strip’ system of farming under the open field system meant that a portion of the peasant’s harvest would have to go to the Lord of the Manor in payment for the rights of sustenance.  Unfortunately most landowners did not like the general use of common land and when the ‘Enclosures Act’ came into force, the peasant lifestyle changed forever.
This law had a devastating effect upon the peasant and the new system ended the traditional rights as mentioned above of mowing meadows for hay, grazing the livestock etc.  Once ‘enclosed’ the use of the land became solely for the owner. Under Enclosure the land is fenced and deeded to one or more owners.
There then began the division of peasants and farmers and a slow but sure migratory system for workers came into being.  Dr. Pawley emphasised that from that point on there was a large amount of movement of people travelling looking for work within other parishes.  This work was usually for short bursts and often a worker and his family had to fall back for help ‘on the Parish’ they originally came from.  He spoke of a Deed of Settlement which was a legal document which gave a final registration of a person’s right to belong to a particular parish.  This document had to be issued by the parish and each parish was dependent upon its own local resources. Stability of a job for more than one year would guarantee the right to claim Deed of Settlement.  However the landowners, realising that their employees would be a burden on the parish through the rates should they become fixed to the area, would find an excuse to discharge them from their job before the full term originally agreed was completed.  Such excuses used included sickness, travelling time between home and place of work and even marriage.  A lot of the workers did live with their employer but where some chose to live outside their place of work it gave the employer a reason to quote lateness of arrival.  Sometimes the workers were dismissed on the day before they were due to complete a full year’s work.
A labourer could spend thirty years in one parish and still not gain settlement.  Legally he was included in the parish where he was born.  An ‘open’ parish – urban  - where there were too many people so the Parish Rate system did not work;  ‘closed’ parish – estate system with a tight control of settlement.  A certificate was needed from the home parish and the labourer would be taken back if he required Poor Relief.  In this case the home parish would have to pay the transport costs from wherever they were working back to their home parish but the further you were from your home area the less likely you would be to get a certificate because of the ultimate cost of the distance involved.
From here Dr. Pawley moved on to explain the rise of the ‘hiring fair’ where those looking for work would present themselves at these events, usually held in the market place of the towns, in the hope they would be taken on. Hiring ‘tokens’ would be worn to show potential employers what trade they were in i.e. shepherds wore wool in their caps, girls would carry brooms.  Some of the fairs were very big such as Doncaster’s which was the largest in the region, Lincoln’s May Fair which still makes its appearance in the form of a funfair on south common each year, as does that held in Abingdon, Oxfordshire which over the years had more and more stalls and fairgrounds rides added to now make it the longest street fair in Europe, running a mile down the length of the High Street from the market place an down into Ock Street.
Those hired were given a ‘fastening penny’ which was half a crown and sadly sometimes this money was spent at the fair - ‘Oh dear what can the matter be?  Johnny’s so long at the fair’.
The talk then moved back into tracing relatives within an area. To narrow the field when tracing families back through the system you could start with the perceived birthplace or a known place of employment.  The nearest location for a hiring fair would be a useful starting point and then you could investigate a sizeable place within the catchment area of that fair.
Dr. Pawley’s suggestion for a plan to do this would be to move outwards onto a circle with a radius of, say, five miles, where the birthplace is at the centre. Then investigate places of which lie on or near the circumference. Next extend the circle outwards and repeat the procedure and continue to move outwards in concentric circles until the information you are looking for is found. Migration to distant parts was still less usual, although the introduction of the coach transport in the eighteenth century and then of the railway in the nineteenth century did make this more of a possible option.
Desperate working-class men also had a right to join the Forces, if this seemed more attractive, and doing so increased the mobility enormously. Geographical location, as well as differing duties, revealed inequality of wages, which is also reflected in today’s wages, although at that time it was the north of the country that the payments were 33% higher than the south. This was simply because there were fewer labourers available to be hired.  Adult workers’ wages were very poor - seven shillings in the eighteenth century, when bread cost a shilling a loaf, meant that families must live on a diet of mainly bread and ale. A more skilled person such as a good shepherd could command better wages however. ‘Generous’ employers would offer perks of cheese, onions, bacon, potatoes or flour to make bread. Some workers were still paid in kind, in the form of ale (water being polluted and drawn from insanitary sources such as a pond). Children were used, quite legally, as cheap or unpaid labour; so school holidays were of necessity dictated by harvest. Lincolnshire October Half Term continues to reflect the old potato picking month.  The months from June until October saw extended school closures or badly-depleted rolls. Twelve-hour days were observed in summer, when daylight was at a premium, for harvesting had to be done by hand until 1900 brought gradual mechanization. There was no security of tenancy following the death of a landlord; all rights ceased.
Not everyone was happy with this way of hiring workers, and denounced the system. In 1860, Reverend Winter of Lincolnshire condemned it as ‘degrading’ towards the poor, who had no choice but to grasp at straws if they, and their families, were to eat and clothe themselves. But this did nothing to alter the system. The revised Poor Law of 1834 gave access to the workhouse as a last resort but no-one wanted to enter the workhouse where families were split up and added shame and heartache to their lack of independence.
This same Act abolished all new rights of settlement, for it came at a time when unemployment was on the increase.  At the same time the relationship between employers and those hired was changing. The manorial system was giving way to the more modern approach of ‘them and us’, whereby the men who paid the wages appeared in an air of superiority of class. The practice of mingling at the table, and living-in for example, stopped in the larger part. Once a peasant/servant married he would move across to become a labourer and no longer was it necessary to go to the hiring fair because the wages were paid by the day or week. Finally, the formation of the Agricultural Servants' Union in 1875 signalled that a class system in England had become a reality.
A full and interesting talk by Dr. Pawley gave most of us added details to the bare facts which we had learnt at school.  In giving his Thanks to Dr. Pawley, Graeme Wade did say that when he first sat to listen he was not sure whether the subject matter was to his taste but by the conclusion he was fascinated by the detail and content and welcomed a return by the speaker at a later date.


22nd March:
Message from our Secretary.......

It was with great pleasure the group welcomed Rod Fanthorpe back on 19th March to give members another of his entertaining Talks. We were peppered with information and dates concerning local Lincolnshire people who had fled the County in the 19th Century for 'better' shores.
The difficult time for families in the early and mid 19th Century was highlighted by how women were disregarded as people, always having to follow their husband's or father's directions. One such female, Charlotte Brackenbury born in 1827 at Tunby Woodside married an Anthony Duddles in 1851.  Life was severe and with 9 children to feed, Anthony was brought up before the Petty Sessions in Horncastle for stealing wood.  A minor demeanour in our books but times were very different then and without wood a family could not boil water, eat or keep warm and would therefore subsequently die.
The outcome of this event was that the family left for Michigan in 1867.  At that time, as with most outposts of America, Michigan was sparsely populated and presented a most unrecognisable and barbaric landscape with unimaginable distances between settlements. Acres of land were purchased but then came the hard bit of marking your land, building a cabin to live in and generally surviving everything that was thrown at you.
Rod relayed stories of many families who went through the hardships; some of whom returned whilst others persevered.  Religious provocation was another reason for families to leave England.
Before they arrived on a new continent the travellers had to contend with weeks at sea in awful conditions. Usually a sailing over to New Zealand would take two months if a good passage but could be as long as three months. Life aboard was not a holiday!  Families were often segregated.  Married couples, for whatever reason, were kept on short rations! Food was basic - Bread, Salt Beef/Pork, Suet Pudding.  Very often trouble broke out.
A photograph of a Mormon Waggon Train dated 1891 was shown circled for the night.  Apparently a misapprehension portrayed through films is that waggons circled to protect themselves from Native Americans.  This was not the case, the waggons circled to protect their cattle from wolves. It took on average a day to travel 3 miles - one month to cover 100 miles.  Risk factors were disease - Typhoid, Malaria, TB, Cholera; childbirth; vitamin deficiency; wild animals.
Through descriptions of other families and Rod's usual excellent pictorial stories, the audience was able to imagine the lives of these people who, from their photographs looked twenty years older than their given age; this was no surprise considering how hard their lives would have been, To subject yourself to such hardships and to the unknown, life must have been exceedingly hard for a lot of people. We cannot envisage such a life.  I have seen this morning online that you can 'buy' Bushcraft Weekend Courses - where you are introduced to shelter building, cutting tools, firefighting etc.  How things change! And what would the pioneers of yesterday think to someone paying for such an experience?

19th February:
Message from our Secretary....

Clive advised that back in 2010, when our History Group was initially formed, he began communicating with a lady who lived in Manhattan and her Great Great Grandfather was Thomas Spencer.  Communication was very difficult because the lady in question, Mary Jane, was rather frail but in her time she had been a well known American biographer of musicians and wrote a famous biography of Verdi.  She was born in 1926 and sadly she died last January.   However during their acquaintance Clive was able to make some interesting discoveries about Mary Jane's ancestor, Thomas Spencer.
Thomas Spencer was a Quaker and Clive gave a brief resume of the formation of 'The Society of Friends' later to become known as Quakers.  Originally the society was formed by George Fox in the mid-1600's and then known as the 'The Friends of Truth'.  By 1656 the followers of Fox refused to attend Anglican services or pay the due Tithes.  Fox was arrested and at his trial he told the presiding Judge Justice Bennett of Derby, "I bade you tremble at the word of the Lord".  From those words Judge Bennett nick-named him 'Quaker' and eventually members of the Society of Friends became known as 'Quakers'.
Well known Quaker family names were shown and discussed, mostly philanthropic, influential social reformers and entrepreneurial families such as those of Joseph Rowntree, Richard Cadbury, George Palmer, Joseph Huntley (Huntley & Palmer).  Present day famous names were given as followers of the Quaker tradition too - Dame Judy Dench, Sheila Hancock and Paul Eddington.
Our Thomas Spencer was born in 1792 but a lot of his early life leaves a large gap as early documentation has not been forthcoming. However a lot of stories have been bandied around the family which all make interesting reading.  Legend has it that Mary Spencer, Thomas' mother, arrived in Salem in Massachusetts, penniless after being shipwrecked.  Some stories say she was accompanied by Thomas, others say she was not and the year could have been either 1804 or 1806, making Thomas either 12 or 14 years old.  Apparently upon arrival in America Mary was donated a barrel of sugar because she was known as a sweet maker (how and why we do not know) and from this one barrel she made sweets which she sold from the stoop of Salem's First church.  These sweets proved to be very popular and she moved on to sell her produce to neighbouring towns and villages by selling out of the back of her horse and cart.  This cart can now be seen in Massachusetts Peabody Essex museum.  We were shown a slide of the same.
Interestingly a few years later Thomas Spencer sold the business his mother had built up and this same business is still in production - Ye Olde Pepper Companies in Salem -  having been run by four generations of the same family since the sale.  Clive had sweets flown in from the company to hand out to those attending the meeting and I hope you were all able to have an envelope of said sweets.  The writing on said envelope reads, 'First Candy made commercially in America - Gibralters - still manufactured in the same way - America's Oldest Candy Company 1806.'  On the reverse side of the envelope is a short history on the original of the famous Salem Gibralters.
But moving onto Sturton and Bransby.  For some reason, Thomas Spencer was left the Bransby property by a Reverend John  Kirkby from Worksop.  Revd. Kirkby died on 14th January 1836 and in his Will dated 10th February 1832, his estate was to be passed to Thomas. This Will was made after the death of Kirkby's only daughter.  Are we to think that Thomas Spencer was the natural son of Revd. Kirkby?  Whatever the reason, when Thomas head of his inheritance he sold the successful sweet business to Mr Pepper as above and returned to England sailing for Liverpool in 1837.
Here Clive went into details of the Anti-Slavery Movement which was heavily supported by the Quakers, stating that when Thomas came to England he carried anti-slavery publications, newspapers and letters connected with the movement.  Some people believed that Thomas smuggled important papers and private letters back to London for the Abolitionists.  It is believed that Thomas also brought back his mother's embalmed body in a copper lined coffin but Clive has been unable to confirm this and there is no information on Mary Spencer's final resting place. Was her coffin perhaps used to hide these secret papers?
Thomas arrived in Bransby in 1837 and an extract of a letter written by Thomas dated Bransby December 1838 addressed to Dr. Abel Lawrence Peirson MD of Salem was read out by Clive. From this letter we can ascertain that initially Thomas was in Bransby without his family.
A treasure from his time at Bransby is the photograph of Thomas and his wife, also Mary, taken outside their home in 1867.  This house is now in the ownership of Bransby Horse Home but is still recognisable which is the oldest semi-portrait photograph in our district.  In fact the Horses Home now occupies the greater majority of what was Thomas Spencer's land.
The American Civil War featured highly in the Talk as well.  The war presented Quakers with a dilemma.  They believed in non-violence but also believed in the abolition of slavery.  These beliefs and feelings tore some families apart.  Clive can relate to this on a personal level because his grandfather, Wilfred Tennyson Thompson, was one of nine children and he knew them all apart from two, the eldest brother who died at Gallipoli in July 1915, and the youngest brother who was a conscientious objector and who was never invited to visit the family home.
Thomas Spencer's son Franklin who was born in Massachusetts in 1827, found his own unique way around this dilemma.  He founded a company of soldiers to serve in hospitals and military camps of the Union Army of the North.  The company was called Spencer's Quaker Greys.
Franklin died in Sturton in 1888 and is buried in the Sturton Quaker burial ground.  For any of you who do not know where this is, it is in Ashfield around the corner from the school and in the shadow of Bradshaw's fence.  His wife is also buried here.  The Quaker meeting house, now a bungalow with a wooden frontage, was along the High Street in Sturton approaching School Lane from the village end.  Franklin was on the original School Board of 1878 and the foundation stone which can be clearly seen in the old school wall, was laid by a Mary Spencer on April 22 1878. Many thanks to Pete Baumber, owner of the Old School House for bring this to our attention again.
At this point more old photographs were brought to our attention, this time of Stow Church and a drawing of the church dated 1793. Stow church comes into the story with the clashes between Thomas Spencer and the then curate of Stow, George Atkinson.  An interesting fact which I didn't know, is that we now know the Church Vestry as being the room where the vestments are kept for the clergy and where married couples sign the register, however the Vestry was the forerunner of the Parish Council.  Sturton, Stow and Bransby Parish was an open vestry and over a long period the inhabitants would have become accustomed to deciding their own affairs.  George Atkinson was a single minded bulldozer of a man, intent on restoring Stow Church which at that time had fallen into serious disrepair.  Thomas Spencer was a placid, gentle man who didn't want money spent on church buildings - 'loggerheads' of the Dissenters and the Anglican church. Thomas was renowned for his non-payment of Tithes.
Thomas Spencer is remembered although somewhat obliquely, by the date etched in the brickwork behind the bus stop at the crossroads end of the High Street in Sturton on the same side as Village Farm, once another home belonging to the Spencer family.

I won't tell you the date, see if you can spot it next time you are walking or driving past, or waiting for the bus into Gainsborough.


11th February:

A new ceiling mounted projector was installed in Sturton Village Hall today

20th January: 
Message from our Secretary…

Once again, Graeme entertained the 36 people who turned out on a wet and miserable January evening last week with his interesting talk on an area far distant from the village hall.  The information provided coupled with excellent slides were certainly up to Graeme's usual standard and we learnt a lot about one of his favourite places in the UK.
Back in December he posed the question - 'What is the largest island in Britain?'  We all know that the description of an island is - "an area of land surrounded by water".  Most people as they arrived for the evening asked me the question, 'what is Graeme going to talk about? Is it the Isle of Axholme?  Is it connected with the Trent or the Humber?  Understandably most people thought it would be connected with Lincolnshire.  Not wanting to spoil the surprise I kept quiet!
By way of a change we left Lincolnshire for an hour or so and headed north to look at the Mull of Kintyre and Knapdale which are separated from the mainland of Scotland by the Crinan Canal, a relatively short canal connecting the east coast of the peninsula at Ardrishaig from the west coast at Crinan.
The Mull of Kintyre is a long and relatively narrow peninsula stretching for 50 miles north to south from Lochgilphead in the north to Campbeltown and Southend in the south.  Immediately to the south of Southend lies the narrow strait between the Mull and Ireland.  
As a family we went on holiday on the Mull over ten years ago, taking our bikes!  This was way before I knew anything about the canal of course.  I do remember the staff in the library in Campbeltown were extremely friendly and helpful by letting our son Ro take out the last remaining four TinTin books he hadn't read so he could read them during that week!  I also remember driving back south to the Lakes, our next stop on the second week and how tired I was when we eventually reached Cumbria!  But it was certainly worth the drive.
Graeme began by explaining the history of the Mull, pointing out its early connection with Ireland as it was originally part of the Kingdom of Del Riata (Dalriada) in the 6th and 7th Centuries.  It is also thought that the area is the cradle of civilisation in Scotland as there are many standing stones believed to be around 5000 years old.
Continuing with the history of the area, both the Mull and Knapdale were regarded as an island in around 900 AD when the then King of Denmark annexed the area to Denmark.  This was as a result of his claiming the area by boating around the Mull!  Between East Loch Tarbert and West Loch Tarbert there is a narrow strip of land. To conclude his circumnavigation of the area he had his boat carried between the two lochs and thereby claimed he had boated around the island!
Not many people may have heard about the King of Denmark but we have all heard of Paul McCartney and the famous song "The Mull of Kintyre" written when he lived in the area and also adding to his repertoire "The Long and Winding Road" which refers to the A83 between Glasgow and Campbeltown (and it certainly is!)
Graeme went on to explain the reason for the canal.  Because of sea conditions in the strait the passage from the Firth of Clyde to the Atlantic was difficult and this meant a detour of around the Mull of some 100 miles. Whilst this didn't bother ocean going ships, it was a problem for the coastal vessels so the decision was taken in 1771 to consider a canal to bypass the Mull and save the long and arduous journey.  Construction started in 1794 under the control of John Rennie but it didn't open until 1801, closing almost immediately after a collapse.  It re-opened in 1806 only to close again and it wasn't until 1817 that it finally opened properly!  It was Thomas Telford who came to the rescue.
Today the canal is approximately 9 miles long and 10 ft deep with 15 locks and is used mainly for recreational purposes by about 2000 boats each year.  Graeme has seen the canal over most seasons so has noticed very different vessels making use.  A main point of interest is that there are no overbridges along the canal so this means that none of the yachts using the canal have to step their masts.
With the aid of his superb slides Graeme took us along the canal starting from Ardrishaig, the birthplace of John Smith QC, MP, Leader of the Labour Party who sadly died in 1994 during a walking holiday in Scotland.
A favourite of Graeme's is the history of the Clyde 'Puffers'. These were small types of steamboats which provided a vital supply link along the coast of Scotland.  Graeme had photographed the sole surviving serviceable puffer in the sea lock at Ardrishaig.  This is the Vic 32 - the name coming from the acronym for Victualling Inshore Craft.  A note closer to home, it was built by Dunstons at Thorne in south Yorkshire in 1943. There are others still in existence and subject of restoration projects but Vic 32 is the only one currently in use as a hotel boat and is owned by a Charity, the Puffer Preservation Trust.
With the help of the slides we travelled the full length of the canal with Graeme adding little snippets about the places which we passed through, marvelling at the attractive scenery for most of the way.  I'm sure if anyone has the thought of visiting the area Graeme would be more than happy to give you any details/information he has collected over the years.








     http://sshs.btck.co.uk Find us on Facebook - for extra news & information
                                   
Community Web Kit provided free by BT