20th October:

We welcomed an excellent audience of people intent on listening to Dr John Sutton's account of the day that the world recoiled over an horrendous incident.  It’s become a cliche but people who remember John F Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, can usually say exactly what they were doing when they first heard the shocking news; it was a defining moment of the second half of the twentieth century.

Dr Sutton wasted no time getting into his stride and immediately went into the context explaining the decision making as to why JFK was in Dallas in the first place. On 21 November 1963, President Kennedy, accompanied by the First Lady, travelled to Texas, where he was
scheduled to make a number of appearances in a bid to drum up support for the Democratic Party prior to the 1964 general election.  Not everyone, however, was convinced of the wisdom of such a journey.  Some White House officials, worried that the President would receive a hostile reception from voters in what was a staunchly Republican State, advised against it.

So the run-up to the events of Friday 22nd November - at 12.30pm, President Kennedy was travelling in an open top car through the streets of Dallas when three loud rifle shots rang through the air, apparently shot from the sixth floor of the nearby Book Depository building. According to official reports, the first of these bullets missed its mark, while the second penetrated the back of the President’s neck. Kennedy’s steel-boned back brace, which he wore to alleviate his constant pain, held Kennedy in an upright position despite his wound – allowing the final, fatal shot to strike the back of his head.  In the ensuing chaos, the presidential limousine sped to nearby Parkland Memorial Hospital, where surgeons tried in vain to save Kennedy’s life – in all probability, the impact of the third bullet had killed
him instantly.  At 1pm local time the 35th President of the United States was pronounced dead.  He was forty-six years old.

Less than two hours later, on the tarmac of Dallas Love Field airport, Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as President on board Air Force One. Standing by his side was the former First Lady, still dressed in the pink suit covered in her husband's blood.

Events then moved along in almost tram-like lines. A little over an hour after the shooting of President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald – a disaffected former US Marine who had once tried, unsuccessfully, to defect to Soviet Union and who had a Russian wife  – was arrested on suspicion of Kennedy’s murder. Unfortunately, he was not given an opportunity to defend himself against the allegations levelled against him – two days later, as President Kennedy’s body lay in State in the Capitol rotunda in Washington DC, Oswald was shot by nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, while in police custody.

John ran through these points clearly and easily with the aid of a selection of excellent slides, but more interestingly, with actual film footage of the day which brought home the effect of those few horrendous Dallas minutes.

Almost immediately after the event, various conspiracy theories began to surface. Among the most popular were allegations that Oswald was not in fact a ‘lone gunman’; that he was merely a pawn in a sordid assassination plot, masterminded by FBI boss, J Edgar Hoover.
Another conjecture put Fidel Castro as the villain of the piece, accusing him of murdering Kennedy in revenge for a rumoured CIA-backed attempt on his life.

The 'magic bullet' theory was discussed, with Dr Sutton explaining how much of the early critiques of the Warren Report focused on the implausibility of the "single bullet theory", wherein the Commission attempted to explain how Oswald had killed President Kennedy and
wounded Governor Connally with just three shots. In particular, the Zapruder film showed Connally reacting to being hit too soon after Kennedy for Oswald to have operated the bolt-action Carcano and fired again. Were the two men hit by different bullets fired from two different rifles?

The solution created by Commission counsel Arlen Specter was to pose that both men had been hit by a single shot which entered JFK's upper back, exited his throat, and then struck Connally, breaking a rib and shattering his wrist, and finally coming to rest in his thigh.
The "magic bullet" deemed to have done all this was found somewhat mysteriously on a stretcher near an elevator in Parkland Hospital, about an hour after the victims had been brought there.

However, while no definitive proof has ever emerged to support these hypotheses, neither have they been irrefutably disproven, despite various governmental inquiries into the assassination – most notably the Warren Commission, established by President Johnson a few days after Kennedy’s funeral. John had a copy of the Warren Commission's report to hand and offered it out for closer reading but we all declined!

Quite recently another theory was raised by Dale Myers, a computer animator; using latest technology and animated film to assess the trajectory of the bullets raised the question whether, in all of the melee, a member of the secret service, George Hickey, who was sitting up on the back of the car, grabbed his firearm from the footwell of the car and turned towards the Book Depository having taken off the safety catch with the idea of shooting the would=be assassin.  However BY ACCIDENT, shot JFK!  It is said that JFK's head exploded; the gun used by the Secret Service used soft-nosed bullets; JFK's brain was missing for the autopsy.

Dr Sutton provided us with much food for thought and his talk was well received; several new faces amongst those listening intently which was very good to see.  After the final applause died down there was much chattering and questions posed to prove that the controversies surrounding John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s untimely death continue to fascinate even now, over fifty years later.

1st October:

Sunday evening - 1st October Lois Fenn, a retired schoolteacher and author of several books, came along to speak to us about being evacuated from Hull to Lincolnshire in 1941 at the age of six.  She subsequently spent the war years in Lincolnshire  before returning to the city for three years.   She described how, as a small child , she had to conquer her home-sickness and develop self-sufficiency during her four years of separation. Her reminiscences of the social culture of the 1940's were, to some in the audience, quite clear and I noticed people nodding and agreeing to some of the descriptions Lois put forward as to how life was at that time.  The remainder of us could also understand having listened to stories of the war years from our families.  The overlying feeling, in spite of some amusing anecdotes about childhood escapades, was, however, sadness and how children were simply taken from their familiar surroundings and left with families in another part of the country 'for their own good.' Upon returning to their families, a divide had sometimes happened.  Four years is a long time, particularly for a child and people, places and circumstances change.

This government policy of evacuating children to safety from cities and towns during the Second World War provided the starting point for The Magic Mooncat, Lois' first novel, following nine year old Hannah into the 'south' over the river Humber and discovering the horrors of earth closets, dark country lanes and fat bacon! The cover of this particular book featuring the photograph taken after the raids known as The Hull Blitz, shows a street lamp still intact amid the devastation and was actually the street where Lois' father was born.

We learned that the Hull was the second worst bombed city next to London and this was all kept secret because the government of the day didn't want Hitler to know what devastation the bombs were causing.  An added was that the Arctic Convoys started from Hull. With Hull this year being the City of Culture, Lois is now on a mission about this lack of knowledge about her birth city because she wants people to know exactly what happened to Hull during the war.  She produced a newspaper which stated that on May 7th and 8th 1941 Hull experienced nights of horror with four hours of solid bombing which destroyed the city centre.  Three thousand houses were destroyed during this time and the telephone system reported 14,000 faults.  At this time Lois' family had not had their shelter built so had to hide under the stairs.  To this day, when she hears a siren, all of the old feelings of terror hit her.

Lois is an amazing 88 year old, full of confidence and her life experiences, some of which have been horrendous, have set her up to be a persevering and inspiring character.  She held the audience spellbound for a couple of hours and I only wish that the audience had been larger for Lois' sake.

20th September:

The evening of September 20th saw John Wilford present an amazingly detailed talk about Thomas Watson - the Last Roman Catholic Bishop of Lincoln.  It was an evening of learning but John is an able and charismatic speaker and coupled with these assets, he had some wonderful slides to illustrate this information.  Thomas Watson lived through tumultuous times and his recording of these detailed and complicated changes is invaluable.  I have to admit I knew nothing about the man until I sat listening to John's talk.

John made it very clear that no single figure in Lincoln's history better illustrates the Reformation from a Catholic perspective than that of Bishop Thomas Watson.  Watson lived through it and he described the time as a Greek or Roman tragedy.  To put the times into perspective, Thomas was born c. 1515 near Durham when Thomas Wolsey was Lord Chancellor of England and the Papal Legate.  England was, at this time, the most Catholic country in Europe.  Henry VIII received three 'Golden Rose' awards from three popes.  These were presented to monarchs and rulers for their Catholic spirit and loyalty to the Holy See.

Thomas became a gifted scholar and from the Durham Priory School he moved to St. John's College, Cambridge in 1528/29.  At this time universities were academic extensions of the church.  Thomas immersed himself in the Greek and Latin classics and throughout this period names we have grown up with throughout out history lessons, started to emerge - John Fisher, Thomas Cranmer, Katherine of Aragon - the whole simmering episode of divorce and the boiling point when Henry broke with Rome.  This, in turn, brought about the 1534 Act of Supremacy which declared Henry VIII as the Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England.

The ensuing trials and tribulations of Henry's many marriages and life,and the subsequent monarchs with opposing religious views, were described by John Wilford, explaining that whilst all this was happening Thomas Watson was progressing with his life in the church and continuing to follow the Catholic indoctrination no matter who was on the throne.  He was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln on the feast of the Assumption and Blessed Virgin Mary on 15th August 1557.

What did surprise me was how and where Thomas Watson ended his life.  Moving on into Elizabeth I's rule, the bishops were once more cut off from Rome, stripped of their authority and "extinguished" as a hierarchy. On 25 June 1559, Watson was tried, found guilty, deprived of his bishopric and given a life sentence. One by one Elizabeth replaced the Catholic bishops with Protestants.

After a time in the Tower of London, Watson was placed in the custody of Grindal, now Bishop of London; Guest, now Bishop of Rochester; and Richard Cox, now Bishop of Ely. 

Ten years later, in  1569/1570 the pope finally excommunicated Elizabeth. Watson was returned to the Tower. When interrogated about the excommunication, his only regret was that it might create greater hardship for Catholics. He was kept in the Tower until the following year, and then returned to his former places of confinement. He was transferred from the custody of the Bishop of Rochester to that of the Bishop of Ely in 1580, and committed to imprisonment in the notorious Wisbech Castle.

The Bishop of Ely had been ordered to turn his palace Wisbech Castle into an internment centre for Catholics, and for the first time in years, Watson had friends around him. These included his old friend John Feckenham, a fellow student of his at Cambridge and the last Abbot of Westminster.

Thomas Watson died almost blind at the age of sixty-nine. He had been confined for twenty-five years, ending his days in Wisbech Castle on 15 October 1584. He lies in an unmarked grave somewhere in the churchyard of Wisbech Parish Church. His only epitaph is given in the Athenae Cantabrigiensis (1858). 

After living through such tumultuous times and keeping his faith, I feel that his life has not been marked appropriately and it seems sad that his grave is unmarked and the man has not been recognised.  I also find it very strange that there is no mention of Thomas Watson on The Wisbech Society's website under 'Wisbech Castle'; no mention on the British History website for Wisbech and not even a mention on Wikipedia.  A visit to Wisbech perhaps??

5th June:

On Monday 5th June Wendy and Norman Hedderick celebrated 71 years of marriage.

Wendy is an honorary member of Sturton & Stow History Society.

Wendy edited our local book “Memories of Sturton by Stow” in the year 2000, and co-edited “Memories of Stow” in 2002.

Although Wendy finds it difficult to visit our monthly meetings she loves local history and continues to follow our various events.

27th May:

On Wednesday evening 17th May we were taken on a long, but interesting journey with Peter mostly through by-gone Lincoln.  The Lincoln seen through his wonderfully descriptive slides and commentary is Peter's passion and he passed his intensity and enthusiasm onto us during the two hours where he described scenes which are long gone but well remembered with affection by a lot of his audience.

With Peter and his wife Marcelle, having been keen sailors we were shown slides of Humber Sloops and Keels, one picture showing a Keel at Saxilby on the Fossdyke .  Peter's amusing stories were very much in evidence during the course of the evening, one relating to his own experience when he and Marcelle were sailing through the Brayford and they lost their outboard engine.  This was at the time of the well-remembered swing bridge and the queues of traffic this caused probably due in part to the temper of the man working the bridge! 

Photographs of the 'industrial' Brayford in 1880 and later, reminding us of how busy Lincoln was with 8 corn merchants, 1 coal merchant, 1 brewery, 1 boat builder to name but a few.  The first Lincoln electricity works buildings sat proudly in a photograph, the works having been inaugurated in 1898.  We were told that electricity generating was strictly prioritised and the organ in the cathedral was one of the first places to receive it. Unfortunately, this building was only recently taken down to make way for a hotel.  Names of companies which were once familiar sights with their warehousing were listed by Peter and members of the audience.  Progress is a strange word when it comes to altering a city or area to keep in line with changes in industry.  We all know it was a hard and dirty working environment years ago but a 'nod' to the past in these areas which brought prosperity would surely be better than removing the past forever?


The Glory Hole does look more attractive now than when it did in a photograph taken in 1808.   Today we now have what is possibly an idealised version of an early Tudor building sitting on the oldest bridge in the United Kingdom which still has buildings on it.  The building was fully restored in 1901, taking off the cladding which we saw in a photograph dated 1890 and a miserable looking building it was then. Peter, again with a nautical flavour, told us that High Bridge was notorious for being very shallow under the bridge and the city fathers were so worried about this they called in Isambard Kingdom Brunel to come to Lincoln and give his advice. Came he did and his barge got stuck under the bridge and had to be winched out!

A photograph of the obelisk standing on High Bridge and looking as though it could topple into the river Witham is one which many people may be familiar with. Peter told us that this obelisk contained a conduit which was part of the city's water system; another one still present outside St. Mary's church further down the High Street.  The obelisk was removed in 1939 (due to concerns with its weight on the bridge) and 'recreated' at St Marks Shopping Centre in 1996.

Moving along the river we passed The Green Dragon - a four-gabled timber-framed building which dates from c 1500 and probably began life as the house of a wealthy merchant. It may have been the site of the wool staple until the 14th century. The staple house was where wool for export was stored and the tax paid.  The Green Dragon was restored in 1956. 


Now our magical, mystery tour moved on to the heavy industrial area of the river Witham with the Clayton & Shuttleworth factory taking centre stage, once the largest engineering employer in the world, which consisted of more than 7,000 workers.  Names from the past and also from our past speakers, such as John Cooke & Sons, the Plough Works were mentioned, Doughty's Seed Mill, the Titanic Works (same length as the ship?  Well, Peter has measured it and it is longer! or was it simply that the building was built the same year as the ill-fated ship? Sadly this iconic building, like the ship is fast disappearing with pieces of it slowly being taken down to make way for modern requirements of today.

Peter has a wealth of information to hand on many subjects but Lincoln remains dear to him and we are very lucky that he is always willing to share his information and memories with us.  We need people like Peter to remind us of what went before and how industry, places and buildings have perhaps changed either for better or worse, depending on your point of view.

21st April:

Last Wednesday at the history meeting we were provided with an evening of interesting Lincolnshire learning, mainly because Loretta is a self-confessed 'Lincolnshireite' and feels that our lovely county is not appreciated as it should be by the rest of the country so always finds time to expand on its virtues through many subjects.

We were given a sheet of paper with a small quiz/questionnaire to complement the talk, entitled 'What do the following have to do with Lincolnshire?'  Following these questions numerically, Loretta's talk took us along the route of some of those literary figures who have connections with the county.  Sadly, because of time restraints, we could not delve into each section with great detail but those we covered, albeit reasonably quickly, were very interesting indeed.  I certainly learnt additional information on the more well known of the figures, and for those unknown characters, it has encouraged me to remember to 'check these out' when I have a minute!

I shall put together a reasonably quick resume about a few of the individuals which Loretta introduced/re-introduced to us - 

'The inventor of the most popular cake in England - the Marmalade Brompton Cake'  This introduced Gainsborough as our first port of call for the evening with, as most people would guess, (Mary Anne Evans) - George Eliot and The Mill on the Floss (written in 1860).  This is an autobiographical novel first published in three volumes in 1860 by William Blackwood and it is thought that St. Oggs was Gainsborough.

Apparently, it was while Mary Anne was acting as her family's housekeeper after her mother died, that she invented the Marmalade Brompton cake.  She passed the recipe to a local baker who produced it on a commercial basis and, for a while, it was the most popular cake in England.

Mary Anne was an intelligent female who became one of the leading writers of the Victorian age with most of her novels set in provincial England.  She used a male pen name to ensure her works were taken seriously because she wanted to ensure her writing was not seen
merely as 'romantic'.

She was not considered to be a beautiful or even an attractive woman and according to Henry James - 

'She had a low forehead, a dull grey eye, a vast pendulous nose, a huge mouth full of uneven teeth and a chin and jawbone qui n'en finissent pas... Now in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes , steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end, as I ended, in falling in love with her. Yes, behold me in love with this great horse-faced bluestocking.'

The man who had a toy teddy, wrote poetry and enjoyed churches' - the answer - John Betjeman  - 

Betjeman liked Louth and was said to be devoted to the town.  He said the Cornmarket reminded him of Venice - ??  Slightly strange but there you are. Betjeman was great friends with a Louth bookseller, Jack Yates who ran a bookshop in Mercer Row for many years. The two friends studied at Oxford University together and Betjeman regularly stayed at Yates' mother's home in Westgate, Louth. Lincolnshire
was the inspiration for three of Betjeman's poems including Lincolnshire Church, in which Huttoft Church is mentioned, A Lincolnshire Tale and House of Rest, inspired by a rest home in Woodhall Spa.  Loretta then read us a couple of verses of one of the poems written by Betjeman relating to Lincolnshire and although the names are fictitious, they certainly sound like Lincolnshire village names - 

Kirkby with Muckby -cum- Sparrowby -cum-Spinx

Is down a long lane in the county of Lincs.

And often on Wednesdays, well-harnessed and spruce,

I would drive into Wiss over Winderby Sluice. 

A whacking great sunset bathed level and drain

From Kirkby with Muckby to Beckby -on-Bain,

And I saw, as I journeyed, my marketing done,

Old Caisterby tower take the last of the sun.

Betjeman was appointed Poet Laureate in 1972 and remained so until his death in 1984. However, he was not just a poet; through his broadcasting and journalism  Betjeman opened people’s eyes to the value of the buildings and landscape around them and became Britain’s grand champion of its heritage.  He became the first secretary of the Victorian Society which was based in London, founded in
1957 and which continues to campaign to preserve the best Victorian and Edwardian architecture built between 1837 and 1914.  Where
does the teddy bear come in?  Well, the poem ‘Archibald‘ referred to Archibald Ormsby-Gore and was, according to Betjeman, the one person who never let him down. Archibald was a teddy bear – and the inspiration for Sebastian Flyte’s teddy Aloysius in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. The poem reflects Betjeman’s fondness for his stuffed toy, and helps to explain why Betjeman became, for Britain, ‘the nation’s own teddy bear’.  Archibald, and Betjeman’s toy elephant Jumbo, were in his arms when he died in 1984.

Betjeman was described as 'a scruffy icon of English neglect' and this persona is reflected in the larger-than-life size statue of him by Martin Jennings; "such a realistic image that you think he's about to walk down the platform" - Duncan Hamilton, Yorkshire Post. Betjeman had been the driving force behind efforts to save the station when it was threatened by development plans during the 1960s and the sculpture stands as a tribute from London and Continental Railways to the man who made their redevelopment of the station possible.

The stooped Village Fiddler - referred to the book -  'Like A Rasen Fiddler' by Mary E Shipley, born in Sussex in 1842.

The 1900 publication is subtitled, 'A Tale of the Pilgrimage of Grace', giving an historical but narrative insight into the Lincolnshire Risings of October 1536, the rural revolution that threatened to rock the state. This 1900 book tells the tale from a Rasen viewpoint, the opening chapter painting a colourful picture of the district and following the course of the River Rase, and the author introduces Tealby, Market, Middle and West Rasen's in turn. The hero is Martin Greenwood, the kindly crook-backed fiddler who inspired the Lincolnshire saying, 'he sets up his back like a Rasen fiddler'.   Greenwood was also a Cordwainer, a person who made new shoes from new leather.

During the reign of Henry VIII churches in the main Lincolnshire towns were extremely rich and possessed very valuable treasures which they thought to be under threat of confiscation by the king. This resulted in the Lincolnshire Uprising in November 1536, when there was general unrest and people marched from Horncastle, Louth, Caistor and other large towns to try to resolve the matter. On their way to Lincoln, marchers camped on Hambleton Hill and on  2 October 1536, the King's commissioners for the suppression of the monasteries
reached Caistor.  In  his letter to the rebels King Henry VIII described Lincolnshire as, "The most brute and beastly shire of the whole realm.

Hedingham Harvest - A book on Victorian family life in rural Lincolnshire by Geoffrey Robinson.   Hedingham is not an actual Lincolnshire village but it is thought this may have related to Waddingham near Kirton in Lindsey.  Quote taken from the book - "Hedingham is on an escarpment which at Kirton Lindsey, a few miles away, drops sharply into the Trent valley. The tall ridge of the Wolds shelters Hedingham on the east, and Lincoln itself stands on as steep a hill as anyone could wish not to climb. It is the Fens in the south, the hideous bulb fields and the marvellous skies, that have given Lincolnshire its reputation."  Robinson was born in a Lincolnshire farmhouse and his mother, a primary schoolteacher, was one of nine children.  Geoffrey claimed that as a baby he was passed from one doting aunt to another and seldom put down. He later drew on his rich family history in his 1977 book Hedingham Harvest, "an account of Victorian village life in rural Lincolnshire". The story, with its accounts of family life and misdemeanours in a thinly disguised version of his maternal relatives' home village, was serialised for Woman's Hour on Radio 4.

The writer of Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe

Through Defoe's 'Journeys Throughout Britain' we are given a picture of the country during the 16th & 17th Century.  Defoe quotes - 

 "The Trent is navigable by ships of good burthen as high as Gainsborough, which is near 40 miles from the Humber by the river. The barges without the help of locks or stops go as high as Nottingham, and farther by the help of art, to Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire. The stream is full, the channel deep and safe, and the tide flows up a great way between Gainsborough and Newark."

'tis calculated that there is about four thousand ton of Cheshire cheese only, brought down the Trent every year from those parts of England to Gainsborough and Hull; and especially in time of the late war, when the seas on the other side of England were too dangerous to bring it by long-sea.

We know he admired our cathedral but he was less impressed by the two halves of the city.  Apparently he much preferred Stamford.

Sons and Lovers - D H Lawrence - born in Eastwood Nottinghamshire in 1885 and died 1930.  

I hadn't realised that Lawrence had loved the east coast and spent many summers in the resorts, particularly Mablethorpe and the town was mentioned in the novel Sons and Lovers it being the destination for the Morel family's first holiday in the novel, published in 1913.  
 "At last they got an answer from Mablethorpe, a cottage such as they wished for thirty shillings a week. There was immense jubilation. Paul was wild with joy for his mother's sake. She would have a real holiday now. He and she sat at evening picturing what it would be like. Annie came in, and Leonard, and Alice, and Kitty. There was wild rejoicing and anticipation. Paul told Miriam.  She seemed to brood with joy over it. But the Morel's house rang with excitement."  Apparently, the cottage in question is Brook Cottage, which still stands on the Theddlethorpe Road.  Thinking about the subject, many mining families made the east coast their holiday destination even back in the 1930's so this entry should not have been a surprise.

Charles Dickens - A setting for Bleak House - 

"For the rest, Lincolnshire life to Volumnia is a vast blank of overgrown house looking out upon trees, sighing, wringing their hands, bowing their heads, and casting their tears upon the window- panes in monotonous depressions". .......

"Thus Chesney Wold. With so much of itself abandoned to darkness and vacancy; with so little change under the summer shining or the wintry lowering; so sombre and motionless always--no flag flying now by day, no rows of lights sparkling by night; with no family to come and go, no visitors to be the souls of pale cold shapes of rooms, no stir of life about it--passion and pride, even to the stranger's eye, have died away from the place in Lincolnshire and yielded it to dull repose."  Dickens drew upon many real people and places but imaginatively transformed them in his novels.  It  has been said locally that the description of the property which Bleak House was based on was near Market Rasen although in most write-ups this is taken as a property in Broadstairs, Kent. The George Shopping Centre, a former coaching inn, Grantham was mentioned in Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby and a blue plaque advises people that Charles Dickens stayed there.

27th March Visit to Gainsborough Heritage Centre

Our regular attendees of the group were given a most warm and friendly welcome at the Gainsborough Heritage Centre on North Street.  The centre is situated in the old Post Office building on the traffic lights/roundabout, opposite the Methodist church. The association is a registered charity which was founded over 20 years ago and the group made it their mission to protect, preserve and promote the town's rich and vibrant past. Within the building, there is an extensive archive of local history information, a research service available and a well-stocked shop with books, CDs and DVDs that cover a large array of subjects on both the town and the district's past.  The group has an excellent website where you can learn more about what they have to offer and how the group intends to continue to develop the centre and the association in order to preserve Gainsborough's heritage for future generations. 


All of the above is manned by the friendly and willing volunteers who made our visit so very special and a two and a half hour tour is definitely not long enough so I know most of us will return at some time in the very near future.   There is a super little cafe on site, all in keeping with the theme of the post office building, called The Exchange, where you have a choice of delicious cakes and you can call in here without popping into the centre.   We hear so much about the demise of Gainsborough, well at the centre you can learn about how great the town was and what it gave to the rest of the country and the world.  It also encourages us to want to see Gainsborough rise again like the proverbial Phoenix and build on this important past.

Most of you will have heard about William Rose, the design of his wrapping machine and the Cadbury's story of Roses Chocolates.  If you haven't, well go the the centre and learn about it all - a fascinating achievement of the first ever packing machine, an invention that changed the world on the same level as Arkwright and his spinning frame. Do you know who Fred Spiksley was?  No? He was a footballer who played for Gainsborough Trinity, Sheffield Wednesday and England - learn more by about him by visiting the exhibition of this chap from Gainsborough.  It's not all about Marshalls although this is always a fascinating subject and there are superb photographs to accompany this part of Gainsborough's history.  The photographs, the resources, the chats with any member of the team, is an excellent way to pass a few hours.  See their website for opening details -  For those of
you who may find climbing two flights of stairs a bit difficult, there is a lift so all catered for.

17th March message from our Secretary:

Our monthly Talks seem to come around faster and faster, thereby pulling the year along with them!  The March evening meeting certainly raced along like the wind, with Richard Croft from the Harby History Group painting a vivid picture of the lives of Edward I and his wife, Eleanor of Castile.


We were initially reminded that there are monuments around the world which proclaim a man's love for a woman, namely the Taj Mahal

coming to mind; the beautiful mausoleum which was built by a Mogul Emperor for his wife when she died.  On a similar note, Edward I remembered his wife with monuments in the form of a series of crosses along her funeral procession route of 159 miles from Lincoln to London after she died in 1290.

As was the usual format, the marriage of Edward and Eleanor was pre-arranged.  Prince Edward was 15 when he was taken to Spain by his father, Henry III, to marry Eleanor, the 10 year old daughter of King Ferdinand of Castile, to make an alliance between the  countries.
 At this point in the talk Richard reminded us that the Kingdom of Castile was a large and powerful state on the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages; Spain as a country not yet in existence.

Although the marriage was an arranged one, Edward and Eleanor, once they had grown into young adulthood, became inseparable.
Arranged royal marriages in the Middle Ages were not always happy,but available evidence indicates that Eleanor and Edward were devoted to each other. Edward is among the few medieval English kings not known to have conducted extramarital affairs or fathered children out of wedlock. The couple were rarely apart; Eleanor accompanied Edward on military campaigns and in Wales gave birth to their son Edward on 25 April 1284 at Caernarfon Castle. This child was proclaimed by King Edward to be the true 'Prince of Wales', a title which the heir to the British throne has held ever since.   The couple had a total of 16 children together. 

Eleanor was better educated than most medieval queens and exerted a strong cultural influence on the nation.  She popularised the use of tapestries and carpets and the use of hangings and especially floor coverings which were noted as an extravagance but by the time of her death this fashion was much in vogue amongst the rich. She also promoted the use of fine tableware, elegantly decorated knives, and even forks. She also had considerable influence on the development of garden design in the royal estates. Extensive spending on gardens is evidenced at her properties and in most places she stayed, including the use of water features - a common Castilian garden design feature, which was owed to Islamic influence.

However this picture has been blemished with some historians reporting her 'darker' side indicating that she may not have been so loved by her people.  Her reputation was primarily as a keen businesswoman. Walter of Guisborough preserves a contemporary poem:

"The king desires to get our gold/the queen,our manors fair to hold..."

Her acquisition of lands was on an unprecedented scale for any medieval noblewoman, let alone a queen and the level of her activity was exceptional by any standard. Between 1274 and 1290 she acquired estates worth above £2500  each year.  Edward initiated this process
because he wanted the queen to hold lands sufficient for her financial needs without drawing on funds needed for government. One of his methods to help Eleanor acquire land was to give her the debts Christian landlords owed Jewish moneylenders. In exchange for cancelling the debts, she received the lands pledged for the debts. The debtors were often glad to rid themselves of the debts, and profited from the favour Eleanor showed them afterwards; she granted many of them, for life, lands worth as much as the estates they had surrendered to her, and some of them became her household knights.  However, these  property dealings made the queen highly unpopular with her people.

Richard recommended books to read about Eleanor and pointed out a recent publication by Sarah Cockerill - The Shadow Queen. Throughout Edward's reign she had deliberately kept in the shadows, hiding her very considerable abilities, and her influence in political affairs, from all save their closest circle of friends.  "

"a thought-provoking portrait of a quietly remarkable queen.... [Eleanor] is convincingly characterised as more intellectual, more literary and possibly more intelligent than her imposing husband; a woman of hard-nosed business acumen who was also possessed of an
unshowy integrity."

Helen Castor, Times Literary Supplement. 

In 1290 Edward had to make another journey to the north to deal with the Scots.  Although Eleanor had just given birth to their latest child, it was decided that she would follow at a more leisurely pace.  By November that year the royal procession had journeyed as far as Harby when Eleanor was taken ill with a fever.  Her condition deteriorated rapidly and Edward was summoned.  Sadly by the time he arrived at her bedside Eleanor was dead.  Edward was distraught.  He decreed that a sombre funeral procession be made to the royal burial place in Westminster Abbey.  Prior to this Eleanor's body was taken to Lincoln Cathedral for embalming and lying-in-state before the funeral procession began on December 4th.

The long and arduous 159-mile journey took over two weeks, arriving at Westminster Abbey on December 17th.  At the outskirts of London, Edward left the cortege and hurried to the abbey to be in position when the procession arrived, where the Queen was entombed. After the interment, Edward ordered that crosses should be erected at every point on the journey where the cortege had rested for the night.

Between 1291 and 1294 twelve elaborate stone crosses were erected - Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St. Albans, Waltham Abbey, Cheapside and Charing Cross.  Over the centuries, most of the monuments have deteriorated one way or another and would more than likely have been vandalised in the time of the English Civil War.  The crosses were set on top of lavishly decorated sub-structures, richly carved with figures, coats of arms and other armorial emblems.     Each cross was of a different design and some of the finest craftsmen of the time from England and Castile were entrusted to carry out the work. Unfortunately, only three of the original crosses are still in existence, those at Geddington, Hardingstone and Waltham Cross.  The best preserved cross is at Geddington in Northamptonshire.  The one which stands outside Charing Cross station is a replica, being commissioned by the railway company in 1863.

The Lincoln cross is thought to be that of the fragment of late 13th century carved stone which has been on display in the grounds of Lincoln Castle since the early 1900's, but in all probability, it was placed there some years earlier, perhaps even in the 1870s. The Lincoln
Castle Guide Book, printed by Morton in 1906, referred to this fragment as 'the first of the Eleanor Crosses being on display in the entrance gateway of the Castle'.  It is a Grade II listed monument.  The location of the Lincoln cross marked the start of the journey opposite the Gilbertine Priory of Catherine and at the point where the funeral cortège would have taken a last look at Lincoln Cathedral and the Castle on the hill and turned away from the city on to the old Roman road, Ermine Street, towards Grantham. It appears that
the memorials sites were selected on main roads and at junctions where travellers and pilgrims would have passed by. They would, therefore, have been encouraged to pray for the soul of Queen Eleanor.

If you want to visit these last remaining crosses, to absorb the atmosphere of the remaining tribute from a king to his beloved queen, you could, like Richard, take the train to London and then cycle back, retracing that long and arduous journey of over seven centuries ago. We
saw photographs of the crosses taken by Richard on his journey, with his bicycle in the background as proof of his  successful attempt!  I am sure that his journey may have been as nearly as arduous as that of the cortege, bearing in mind the amount of traffic Richard and his companions would have had to deal with!

Three tombs were made for Eleanor’s remains. A tomb was made for her viscera within the Angel Choir in Lincoln Cathedral. Her heart
was placed in a tomb at Black Friars, London. Her skeletal remains were buried in the tomb in Westminster Abbey.  So should you not wish to get on your bicycle for the tour,  you can visit Lincoln cathedral and see the replica of Eleanor's tomb.   As with many items, the tomb was destroyed by Parliamentarian soldiers in 1644.   However, it was replaced in 1892 by a replica based on drawings of the original by the heraldic draughtsman William Sedgewick for Sir William Dugdale’s Book of Monuments in 1641 and the tomb in Westminster Abbey. Sir Joseph Ruston sponsored the new tomb which was unveiled at a special service.

Richard gave so much more information within his talk which I don't have time to impart but I am sure you will now want to learn more about this fascinating Royal couple and where better to start than at Harby and Lincoln?  Happy exploring (Cycling!).

19th February Message from our Secretary:

At our the 15th February talk …..Ben began by telling us why he had become interested in this subject and as with a lot of us, his curiosity was aroused when he was young and had to visit his paternal grandparents who lived in a small village which contained a church, chapel and two pubs.  There was nothing for children to do in the village so whilst Ben played on the village street, he took great delight in wondering why one of the pubs was called The Lion and Lamb.  He knew the owner was a Mr Johnny Lamb so that was easy to translate but did it mean Mr Lamb kept a lion in the back of the pub?  Did he have an animal farm??? It was easy to see why Ben is now full of information because he obviously was a nosey and inquisitive child - all to our benefit!  


We are all familiar with the huge variety and strange conceptions displayed by Inn signs and if you are like me, when you notice a new one or a strange one when visiting other parts of the country, you say to yourself, I must look that up (with a hundred other things!).   Well, after Wednesday everyone in the audience will have a much better insight into the naming of these establishments.   We know that back along the timeline it was customary for trades people to display signboards outside their premises due mostly to the fact that the majority of people could not read but could recognise pictorial representations.  But how did these pictorial signs come about and what links them together?

Ben explained that there was a definite link between the church, ale and breweries.  For one - The Lion represents the Resurrection; the Lamb is the Messiah.  To trace the origins of these signs Ben took us back initially to ancient Rome and Greece.  In Pompeii a number of signs worked in stone or terracotta have been found.   One of these represented two slaves carrying an amphora.  Perhaps this design was a prototype of the Two Brewers.  The Roman wine seller indicated his trade by displaying an evergreen bush and so possibly in the days when Britain was under Roman rule the practice was adopted in this country.  The 'Tabernae' would hang vine leaves outside to show that they sold wine - in Britain, as vine leaves are rare (due to the climate!), small evergreen bushes were substituted.   From the earliest times, innkeepers were obliged to display a sign which, in its simplest form, consisted of a pole set up in front of the house or which projected from the wall.  If both wine and ale were sold, then both bush and pole would be hung outside.  These long poles or 'ale stakes', might have been used to stir the ale outside the doors of the said establishments.

The naming of inns and pubs became common by the 12th century.  In 1393, King Richard II had passed an Act making it compulsory for pubs and inns to have a sign (his own emblem the 'White Hart' in London) in order to identify them to the official Ale Taster. Ever since then, inn names and signs have reflected, and followed, British life at that time.  Before King Henry VIII and the Reformation, many had a religious theme, for example 'The Cross(ed) Keys', the emblem of St. Peter.  When Henry split with the Catholic church, names were changed from religious themes to 'The King's Head' or 'The Rose & Crown'. The rose is said to be the Tudor rose of the House of Lancaster.

The traditional names such as the Green Dragon and Red Dragon comes from George and the Dragon showing a variety of interpretations of the patron saint administering the death blow to the beast.

Thinking of the village of Sturton - 

The Red Lion is probably the most common name for a pub and originates from the time of James I and VI of Scotland who came to the throne in 1603. James ordered that the heraldic red lion of Scotland be displayed on all buildings of importance - including pubs!

The Plough is a particularly common pub name in rural areas.   The name itself has been in use since the sixteenth century.   In the Middle Ages, and at the time of the ploughing season, ploughs were often blessed in a ceremony in which a plough was decorated. A collection would be raised in the parish and the ' plow money' was used to brew a special plough ale.

Historical allusions can be seen with 'Trip to Jerusalem' in Nottingham and the 'Saracen's Head', the latter occurs in quite a few towns around the country.  Both names are taken from the days of the Crusades.

There are many 'Royal Oaks' too referring to the famous tree at Boscobel in which Charles II is said to have hidden after the Battle of Worcester.

Amid all of the colourful sign details,  Ben explained the difference between Ale and Beer.  Not being a beer drinker, I had always assumed that the word Ale was simply an old name for Beer - Wrong!    Historically, the term Ale referred to a drink brewed without hops; a type of beer brewed using a warm fermentation method, resulting in a sweet, full-bodied and fruity tasting drink.

Women brewed the majority of ale for both domestic and commercial use in England before the Black Death. Ale represented a key part of the medieval English diet as it was both the most affordable and clean beverage available.  Women's role in the medieval ale
industry likely grew out of the traditional household responsibilities of wives and daughters who had to brew ale to give to their families. To turn a profit, early medieval women became "small-scale retailers" by selling goods tey already produced for private consumption. Ben showed us a slide of the famous ale wife, Elinour Rummin c. 1624 who ran an ale house near Leatherhead in Surrey.  However, shortly after this date the beverage turned from ale to beer.  Ale only kept for three days whereas beer, made with hops, kept for three weeks - no competition.  Supplying beer then became a man's work because money was required for hop production and a working woman of that time did not have her own money.

Bringing us right up to date, Ben added a piece on the history of J D Wetherspoons - a 21st-century success in the world of pubs. Wetherspoons was actually founded by someone called Tim Martin in 1979 who opened his first pub on Colney Hatch Lane in Muswell Hill, north London.  He took he surname from a teacher at school who had told him he would never amount to anything and the initials were taken from J.D. ‘Boss' Hogg in The Dukes of Hazzard, his favourite programme.  A piece of light' information to end on!

So for those of you who were not able to attend last Wednesday's talk, I hope the above gives you an idea of the breadth of the subject which Ben easily covered.    There are of course many other sign names which I haven't listed but perhaps this may give you the impetus to look further into this fascinating subject which Ben opened our eyes to.  Many thanks again Ben for such an enjoyable evening.

19th January Message from our Secretary:

Well, what a start to the new year for the history society, 64 people packed into the village hall last night to attend our regular January speaker's offering for 2017.  Graeme Wade once again gave an excellent talk accompanied by superb slides taken from various sources, but mostly from his own camera taken over a number of years.  This time Graeme left his boats tethered and told us about the history of the 'Flying Scotsman' and asked us whether this is a train or an engine?  Well actually, and' not a lot of people know this' .....! it is both.



The train dates from 1862 and the engine from 1923.  Graeme dealt with the engine first because this was where the local connections came in.  After the end of the first World War, the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Northern Railway, Nigel Gresley, decided that in order to deal with increased passenger traffic a new series of larger express engines was required and he designed the first Pacific loco the GNR had ever seen.   Pacific means a loco with the 4-6-2 wheel arrangement.  The first two of Gresley's Pacifics were built in 1922 at Doncaster. The third was built in 1923 and remained unnamed until 1924 when it was decided to exhibit it in the Great Exhibition and name it 'Flying Scotsman' after the train of the same name and here is where lots of confusion has arisen!  The 10.00 am departure from Kings Cross has been unofficially named the Flying Scotsman since 1862 and this name was not officially recognised until 1927. 

Graeme gave us a huge amount of information about the rebuilding/overhauling of the classes of locos which, whilst very interesting, I am not going to relate here because it is confusing and I don't want to misinterpret any of the details and this also goes for the re-numbering of the engine over the years, plus I don't have the time!  For those who didn't attend the meeting last night for one reason or another - apologies!  However, the 'newsy' bits of information may interest you more!  

As most of us can remember, the age of steam started to decline in the mid 60's and a lot of the engines were pensioned off and subsequently broken up.  Strangely none of the A3 or A4 classes were recommended for preservation by the British Transport Commission on account of their having been substantially altered from their original condition.  However, a Retford businessman called Alan Pegler who owned at the time the Ffestiniog railway, stepped in and bought the engine in 1963 to save it from the scrapyard. He managed negotiations with British Railway to keep it running on the mainline until 1972; this was the only steam loco allowed on BR rails.  On 14th January 1963, at 40 years old, loco 60103 left Kings Cross for the last time as a BR loco destined for Leeds and entering Doncaster works for an overhaul.  

The engine which emerged from the works in the April of 1963 had been reinstated to its previous condition with a single chimney and adorned in the LNER Apple Green livery.  This was the engine which headed the Gainsborough Model Railway Society trip in June 1966 and this was where we were reminded for the first time about the connection with George Hinchcliffe.  George was the founder member of the Model Railway Society and over the next few years became very much involved with the Flying Scotsman but perhaps best known locally as the Deputy Headteacher of Sturton Secondary School during the 1950's and 1960's.

Superb slides were constantly being shown of the engine in steam as well as standing in stations and wherever it appeared hundreds of people turned out to see it.  The second local connection which we were told about came via Norman Birkett's knowledge of our local haulier Bradshaws, who built a modified trailer to provide additional water capacity and trailed it around when the Flying Scotsman was on tour.  Leo Steadman, Pauline Birkett's father, used to drive the truck on occasions and Norman B said last night that he remembered
one of those trips involving Leo was when the loco stopped at Berwick upon Tweed.

With Alan Pegler now at the helm, at the time an astute businessman who wanted to make money, he decided to take the Flying Scotsman to America on a promotional tour,  In the meantime Pegler asked George Hinchcliffe if he would become the manager of the Flying Scotsman and George jumped at the chance.   Accompanying the loco was a 9-coach train, a local crew provided by BR but paid for by Pegler, an observation car converted to a pub, trade stands, a Pipe Major who had played at Winston Churchill's funeral, and ten mini-skirted sales girls - a travelling circus! Initially this 'Buy British' tour was a resounding success with whole towns turning out to view the spectacle and on this hype Pegler decided to repeat the tour the following year. However, on this occasion, he did not have government or industry support so he paid for everything himself.  By the time the loco reached San Francisco in 1971, after running over 15,000 miles, Pegler had to file for bankruptcy.

George Hinchcliffe was already back in Britain by this time as Headmaster of a school for Ugandan Asian refugees at RAF Hemswell.  In 1972 the loco was bought by Bill McAlpine and he asked George to handle the rescue deal which brought the loco back from San Francisco in February 1973.  It was repatriated to Liverpool via the Panama Canal and ran under its own steam to Derby watched by 100,000 people.  George then became its manager when it was subsequently based at Carnforth Steamtown Museum.  The loco then spent several years hauling special trains throughout the UK.  In 1988 Bill McAlpine was asked to take the loco to Australia and agreed on the condition that a Bond would be taken out to secure the loco's return to the UK.  This tour was a huge success and the loco was the first standard gauge loco to visit Alice Springs and set a world record for a non-stop steam run of 422 miles to Perth.

More change came in 1994 when steam mainline specials became uncertain and McAlpine sold a half share in the company owning the loco to Pete Waterman, the English record producer.  1995 saw another overhaul with the emergence of a double chimney and the familiar Brunswick green livery carrying its number 60103.   But more dealings happened in 1996 when the loco was sold yet again to Tony Marchington for £1.5m. Dr Anthony Frank Marchington was an English biotechnology entrepreneur and businessman, famous as the co-founder of Oxford Molecular.  But all was not good news because Marchington decided to take advantage of installing an A4 boiler which made the loco more powerful, equalling the ability for heavier loads, thus taking on more people and making more money!  This practically wrecked the loco; the money dried up and once again the loco was put up for sale.  Enter The National Railway Museum; they launched a campaign to buy the loco with public subscriptions and this was made possible in 2004 but it was to be over ten years before it steamed again in 2015 which I am sure a lot of you watched on the TV.

After all of the above information was fed to us and we thought we had taken it all in, Graeme then went on to explain about the Flying Scotsman the train!!  Keep up, I'm nearly there!  The first 10.00 am through train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley was in 1862 - 392 miles in 10.5 hours BUT the carriages didn't have facilities with only one half-hour stop at York for all the necessaries - imagine the queues (or not!) for the loos!!!  This train was originally known as 'The Special Scotch Express'.  Fast forward to 1896 and the train was 'modernised' with corridor coaches, heating and dining cars.  In 1924 the LNER renamed the train as The Flying Scotsman and in 1928 it became a non-stop train with more improved carriages, improved catering and even a barber's shop.  Secretarial services were included too (a job I would have loved!).

We then reached the 1960's when diesel took over and all the other classes of locos and train replacements were detailed, with of course, electrification taking hold too.  Speeds of up to 140 mph were reached; the world of train travel was altered considerably with reduced timings.  In 2011 the Flying Scotsman train was relaunched, not as a 10.00 am departure from Kings Cross but as am 05.40 departure from Edinburgh with no corresponding northbound service. The timing is now 4 hours (remember hours ago I typed the initial timing was 10.5 hours?!) and the fastest northbound service is 4 hours 20 minutes???

Before Graeme sat down for a well deserved coffee, he informed us that the Japanese Azumas will be the new kids on the block.  These are being assembled at a new factory in Newton Aycliffe and are currently capable of 140 mph and expected to be in service next year.  The slide showed a white, futuristic streamlined engine and train, not a wheel or chimney in sight.  I know which train I would prefer to journey on at 140 mph, enjoying the memories of yesterday when rail travel conjured up character, excitement, speed, and yes okay, a good lungful of that coal smell with smuts on your clothes!

Thank you again Graeme for taking us backwards and forwards and putting us straight about engines, locos and trains.

 Find us on Facebook - for extra news & information
Community Web Kit provided free by BT