Forest of Galtres Society

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Friday, September 29th, 2023

We have arranged six winter Lecture meetings for the Society in the winter season, 2023 – 2024. Our lectures will be held on Thursday evenings.

The venue for meetings is the Church Hall, Long Street, Easingwold. This is on the west side of the street, just south of the Pelican crossing. The postcode, should you need it, is YO61 3JB. Lectures will commence at 7.30pm. We will hold a raffle. Gifts of prizes for the raffle are always welcome. Raffle tickets are £1 a strip. We are also offering refreshments after the lecture, which we know allows members to converse with the lecturer in an informal setting.

Our next lecture will be held on Thursday 5th October. That evening your subscriptions of £10 per person are due. Cash, or cheques payable to Forest of Galtres Society are welcome.

Our lecturer will be Frances Smith-Golland. Her subject is Islamic Gardens in Spain – Reflections! This is the lecture which she had intended to give us in October 2022.

Members will  be welcomed at the Church Hall, each paying £2 for entry. Guests pay £2 in addition, ie £4 each.

Locals will know where to park. For those coming from beyond Easingwold, there is a small car park in front of the Church Hall. available for several cars including those with mobility needs, and our speaker for the day. There is also a North Yorkshire Council carpark nearby, off Showfield Drive.

We shall be using the digital equipment which we were able to purchase in 2009, from our Awards for All Lottery funding.

It is with much pleasure that we invite Members and Guests to come to our lectures. We very much hope that you can support our events. We look forward to seeing you and sharing with you the winter lectures for which we have made preparation. 

Thank you               Frank Kirk, Chairman

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Friday, September 29th, 2023

Our winter lecture series will hold its second lecture on Thursday 5th October when Frances Smith-Golland will give her talk about ‘Islamic Gardens in Spain – Reflections’.  Frances had hoped to give this talk to our Society last October but a complete visual tech failure prevented this from taking place.

Frances has visited Spain many times, learned the language and has friends there who share her holidays and visits to beautiful Islamic places. There is much for us to see and we are looking forward to the experience.

We shall also be meeting in our new venue, the Church Hall on Long Street. Many of you will know the Hall, alongside the Catholic Church near the pelican crossing on Long Street.

Church Hall, Long Street, Easingwold, commencing at 7.30pm, Members £2, Guests £4 to attend.

Subscriptions, £10 per person, are due this evening, so please would members be ready with the funds as they enter the Hall.

We look forward to welcoming you to our winter events.

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Can you ride a horse safely under a canal bridge?

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Forest of Galtres Society members were delighted to welcome Peter McDonald to Yorkshire last Wednesday.  Plenty of technology to set up and off we went.  Peter had brought with him a series of films taken for television broadcast, and for these he had written the story and the commentary himself.  The films were professional and well photographed, and in them we saw many nice touches.

Peter had decided to take a ride on horseback with a fellow surgeon (he had effected two gall bladder operations only that morning before setting out for Yorkshire and Easingwold) through part of Middle England (his home patch) and doing this while at the same time avoiding modern routes and the relentless rush of motorways.  Quite a challenge!

Horses can easily go lame, and that of his fellow surgeon did so, before many days of the fifteen day journey had passed.  The replacement, a pretty and reliable grey, was brought to them – by motor horsebox – surely the wrong method bearing in mind he was intending to avoid modern transport?  Taking the tow-path beside a canal presented the obstacle of going under a canal bridge with its restricted head space.  Also, how do you get a horse out of a canal if it is so foolish as to fall in?

The various episodes of the story continued, and we only had to stop because time was passing and Peter had to drive home.  Some CDs of the journey changed ownership, and we all appreciated the little stories of welcome and incident along his route.  What a different view, that from the saddle, with shoeing and the Civil War vie-ing for space on the film.  I thought it was just about right to see the two friends, each with a pint of best brew in their hand.  It showed how the gentler pace of walking a bridleway and cantering on the greensward give such a thrill to the lucky few.  It gave an appreciation of what it used to be like when turnpike roads saw horse-drawn carriages as the fast traffic of their age.

Summer beckons,  and we look forward to a full programme of outings and warm weather in which to enjoy them.

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Golden designs and royal graves

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The story of Street House is curious, so unexpected, a tale of unimagined quality and associated with events which took place over fourteen hundred years ago. Forest of Galtres Society members gathered in surprisingly large number (given the piles of snow still heaped up at the roadsides) for the January 2010 AGM and to hear the subsequent lecture. At the AGM members were told how the new Awards for All funded equipment is being used and they were again able to experience for themselves the greatly improved sound quality, and the beautiful digitally projected images.

The finds we saw on screen, and which Steve’s team uncovered over several years of digging, are of such quality. Steve shared with us the fantastic thrill of scraping away the soil and there, before one’s eyes, the yellow shining glint of gold appearing. Steve had had an idea there had been some round Iron Age huts on the bleak hillside. Aerial photography confirmed there was something worth investigating. The growing crops could be hiding some round house ditches. For those of you who remember the archaeological dig which took place before the Easingwold bypass was built, the YAT archaeologists found various roundhouse ditches and channels and hearths. But Steve had much greater luck at Street House.

When Iron Age folk were creating their building footprints for us to find now as cropmarks, they were making an enclosure surrounding round houses. Anglo-Saxon folk later took it over and now, on top of the Iron Age site, there are many graves, with grave goods, and centrally something very special for the burial of two very wealthy people. There are no bones at all, they have disappeared in the acidic conditions. The graves have a very regular ‘footprint’, only visible when the topsoil has been removed. In the centre of the approximately rectangular area of graves there are two differently placed grave hollows and signs of some different rectangular buildings too. The two special graves held goods which are definitely associated with female burials of persons of great wealth and status. Who would be buried with their best jewellery on a barren hillside unless the place has special meaning and special resonance in the local community? Glass beads of great variety and detailed colour and spiralling zigzag designs, carefully crafted goldwork of the finest intricacy and delicacy of design and making these graves to be most certainly out of the ordinary run of things.

Did you know Anglo-Saxons had wooden beds? We learnt that, for Steve showed us the metal cleats which held together the side planking and the struts for each side of the bedhead. Bedhead? Yes, this princess had a wooden bed with twisted metal straps to each side to hold the bedhead vertical. Her beads were draped across her long-gone shoulders, her gold was where the archaeologists expected a female body to wear a gold pendant, and now these pieces have been brought once more into the light.

The cleats and the struts on the long-gone wooden bed had had a previous use – a resourceful metalworker had divided up and pieced together bits of a metal bucket to make them and the sharp-eyed archaeologist could interpret this ancient re-use. What things a trained eye can spot, which you and I would miss entirely!

Steve Sherlock contends that St Hilda of Whitby very possibly knew the royal persons buried in the cemetery he has been uncovering, and that for once, archaeology from so far back can be closely associated with certain specific individuals. The royal Northumbrian family would travel by boat down the coast, their A1, to Whitby to meet with St Hilda. Dying at the age of about 28 for women and about 32 for men, there would regularly be new dead to bury and their status to be marked by appropriate grave goods. Stephen Sherlock came and enthused about a totally unexpected site, and we were lucky enough to be treated to a story of generous farmers and helpful local people. It was a right royal treat for us, on a snowy evening, to hear all about it.

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Books on demand

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Books appeared from bags, parcels and some from tiny envelopes last Thursday. Books had been taken from their library shelves, and brought in an astonishing variety to be laid out on tables where all of us could see them. Richard Hodgson, our Forest of Galtres Society speaker last Thursday, had also brought a crate of books with him on one of his own favourite themes, that of animals in books. There were books about paintings, books on old farm vehicles, books about animal husbandry, books in old bindings, modern jacketed books; a huge variety.

Richard explained how he had always been interested in books, and how that interest changed from part-time to full-time when dairy farming ceased to offer adequate reward. Good bookdealer friends instructed him in how to become a bookdealer, and he took up that new line of business. Careful not to compete with his friends in his chosen speciality, he now takes stands at particular book fairs in widely dispersed parts of the country.

Our table of trophies came under his careful scrutiny. The beautiful quality of the illustrations, often coloured by hand in the more expensive editions – cheaper editions being left uncoloured – was explained. The bindings were discussed. The bookplates stuck by some collectors into their books. The pretty little prize labels personalised for young children and pasted into Sunday School ‘improving’ texts. The very fancy Victorian book cover decorations. The glorious handmade paper, often with uncut folds and deckle edges remaining. The spectacular printed images of specialist publishing houses working to provide beautiful books to niche markets. The lovely soft leather on the tiny pocket book. The question whether to rebind or leave the broken spine un-mended. The issue as to whether value is in the book, or the actual pages because of the illustrations which they carry.

Tooling work on leather binding is skilled work, but these days no-one has time to just do lettering or only fancy scrolls; the bindery worker must practice every skill and produce the whole finished binding with little ancillary skill provided by other people. Good work is still done, but of course, the modern book will have a paper book jacket with pretty pictures. This is a different element of modern books, for the dustwrapper, if in pristine condition and unfaded, adds considerable value to a good first edition of something produced in a smallish print run.

Lots of questions popped up. Richard Hodgson answered them genially, resolved curiosities and opened our eyes to the quality of books. Afterwards, looking through his books and with a carefully held cup of tea, we exchanged thoughts about books and realised that so many of us in this computer age really do get so much enjoyment out of books. There is a good future in books, for they will always work, even when the power is switched off.

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What an arresting cover!

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Next Thursday Forest of Galtres Society will be doing a bit of handling, that is, handling books. Real books, old ones, pretty ones, some with terrible covers, others which one goes back to, time and again.

Richard Hodgson will bring his book dealer skills into play to tell us more about the physical book itself and how it is that some books fall apart on first reading and others last hundreds of years. The paper? The binding? The printing process?

Have you something on the bookshelf which merits study and which you would bring with you to our meeting on 12th November? We do hope so, for seeing what people bring with them and describing the story of those books will make our evening fascinating and different. History with a cover. Come along and see; see our advert for this event elsewhere in the Advertiser.

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Sand dunes and sharks’ teeth

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Forest of Galtres Society members were joined by Royal Geographical Society members last Thursday for a fascinating evening learning about the Sahara Desert, from Sam Watson, Head of Science at Terrington School and the regional RGS Secretary.

Sam Watson had spent some time living in Cairo and in Marrakech, and this had enabled him to visit the desert and explore it. As he came to understand the many different sorts of desert, their landforms, their beauty, their dangers, their wildlife, their peoples, their opportunities, he also appreciated all that deserts have to show to westerners used to comfort and prolific supplies of water.

Water, and wind. These two have influenced the shape of deserts and their appearance. Sand dunes; these are the mobile element of the natural geology, and the wind shapes them and erodes them. Clearly, a suitable off-road vehicle is necessary for deserts, and Sam’s was there too, for us to see. He had brought his navigational equipment, a sun compass, maps of part of the Sahara where even now it says ‘not surveyed’. Sam and his oil exploration colleague would spent weekends in the desert, camping, sleeping in the open under a sky so full of stars as to be nearly beyond belief. The tiny footprints alongside them in the morning told them which desert animals had hopped close to sniff at them as they slept, and hopped off too.

Sand dunes can create an almost impenetrable barrier, but they provide a fine vantage point to photograph the surroundings as Sam has done, and show oases, green in their verdant, sometimes inhabited, places. Water is wealth in the desert, and water from wells is usually free to passers’ by. Water from wells is being drawn from deep, fossil, water stored in aquifers below deserts. By exploiting this scarce commodity on a massive scale, some governments are actually taking from their neighbours. The water finds its own level, and does not stay under a careful country but moves to favour the country drawing more water from deep bores holes to spray over circular farmland patches and grow crops. This exploitation will cause some countries great damage as their wells dry up and the nomadic tribes can no longer find water and food for their goats to eat. There is also the serious risk that this will lead to conflict.

The River Nile is a source of water which has long been exploited to enable local agriculture to flourish. The Fayoum Basin, shown to us in an aerial photograph, is supplied by a canal from the Nile, and this canal was built by the Romans. Around one side of the Fayoum Basin there is an escarpment with three distinct stone outcrops. Sam Watson had enjoyed the journey by Landrover down these three levels, and the scouting on foot necessary to ensure the route ahead was passable all the way down. He explored the nearby fossil bearing strata. Bones from aeons ago lying in the sun with maybe just a rope to keep people from trampling it. The marine fossil animals come from one stratigraphic level, and the hills protruding present land animal fossils as that land lay above water when the animals were breathing.

Sharks’ teeth. These are genuine teeth from sharks and they are the only part of a shark to survive, as the animal is otherwise made of soft tissue. Sharks’ teeth are now a true curiosity, but they had been so different to anything known about in previous historic eras, that they were favoured and acquired by potentates to put in their Cabinets de Curiositées. Sharks’ teeth had great esoteric value in Baroque decoration and were placed alongside gems of real value as decorations for fabulously exuberant creations from goldsmiths’ workshops. Think of the Green Vaults in Dresden and the wonderful pieces created and collected by the Habsburg Princes.

Sam’s talk held our attention and many questions were asked afterwards. It was also the first occasion for using our brand-new Awards For All equipment at lectures.

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Cannon Hall; Barnsley Borough’s jewel

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Sitting in the farm café in August 2009 eating lunch, totally surrounded by so many family groups and on a wonderful sunny day, we wondered why we had never before been to Cannon Hall.

Cannon Hall is a fine stone-built country house, built for the Spencer family in the eighteenth century. The family had made its money from iron, and as the family grew (some generations had fifteen children so more bedrooms were urgently needed) they extended the house.

York Architect John Carr had made interior alterations. He installed the pillars and the cornice and decorative scheme in the entrance hall. He decorated the dining room and the other south front rooms, now used to display furniture and paintings. His elegantly proportioned rooms with their fine decorative detail well set off the collection put together by Barnsley Council after they purchased the empty house from the last remaining lady of the family. War deaths and death duties had taken their toll and changes had to follow.

Latterly the family name had been Spencer-Stanhope and that name should ring bells for followers of the Pre-Raphaelite Circle. Roddam Spencer-Stanhope’s painting of the Ladies at the Well, very recently purchased, now adorns the library wall. It is incongruous, but strangely not out of place amongst Hepplewhite mahogany furniture.

The secretary had organised a guided tour for Forest of Galtres Society members, and Shaun, our guide, gave us very full value. We heard about the Spencer family who built and enlarged the house, and whose connection with the house has lasted for several centuries. We looked around and marvelled at the paintings and furniture, the Moorcroft pottery, and the enthusiasm of the curatorial staff carried us happily along. Upstairs there is a military gallery and an infantry museum commemorating a local regiment. Cannon Hall clearly gathers local people around it in very large numbers, but it was not crowded and we had time to savour it fully under Shaun’s guidance.

The gallery with its paintings from the National Loan Collection has some super loan pieces for the summer exhibition, well worth a special visit. Most provincial museums would be delighted to have such a collection, and this collection is entirely newly gathered since the house was purchased. Quite an achievement!

After lunch we walked in the extensive grounds, and visited the garden centre – every wish is catered for. We saw the house’s walled kitchen garden with its numerous pear and apple trees well laden with ripening fruit grown espalier-fashion, on the garden’s brick walls. Only children may eat the fruit. An unusual exhortation, but so many children were enjoying their day out in the warm sunshine, that was of no consequence. Cannon Hall is a place we ought to visit again.

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Battle of Talavera

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Forest of Galtres Society members took to the motorway in the last week of July 2009, to visit the Royal Armouries in Leeds. A real treat awaited us. Simon Riches, Education Officer was true to his job, and he enlightened us about the events of the Peninsular Wars which led up to the Battle of Talavera. We saw re-enactment photographs of the thin red line of British troups in their battle lines, and held the replica Brown Bess musket, and wielded the (well balanced) curved sword for the light infantryman, and the horribly balanced, straight, heavy sword of the heavy infantryman. We saw thick cloth coats made from West Riding fabric – some people at least were able to make money out of clothing the army through their factory-produced thick woollen cloth.

It was not all ancient battles, for, following questions, Simon brought out a Bren gun, and also a Mk 4 Lea Enfield rifle for us to handle.

The Battle of Talavera took place in central Spain. The British and allied army had some 54,000 men. The French army, some 46,000 men, was commanded by Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain (the brother of Napoleon). On 27th July 1809, British forces, led by Sir Arthur Wellesley, lined up on rising ground in front of Talavera, and they and the Spanish jointly stood, facing the French lines. Attacks were mounted, and the French opened fire. Holes in the lines were plugged by deployed brigades. Retreating soldiers were in confusion. The dry grass of the plain caught fire, and many wounded were burned alive. The French did not attack again. British reinforcements arrived at camp. The British had achieved success in the battle, and Sir Arthur Wellesley as their commander, was elevated to the peerage and took the title of Viscount Wellington of Talavera and of Wellington, and Baron Douro of Wellesley, in the county of Somerset. Wellington had won a significant battle in the Peninsular Wars.

Easingwold has two stone plaques commemorating the Battle of Talavera, but do any memories remain of who from our town fought in that campaign, be it as officers or infantrymen or cavalry, or in the British Navy?

We enjoyed our education session, and fortified by lunch, then sallied forth to see the displays in the museum itself. The setting is imaginative, and the quality of the materials most attractive. Even if war and battles are not your scene, there is so much to admire in the static displays, and also for those who know Leeds, the rejuvenation of the city’s waterside is remarkable. Many are promising themselves a return visit to Leeds Armouries.

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A day at the Seaside

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

The Forest of Galtres Society ventured across to Lancashire the day before the June 2009 European Elections. We went to Blackpool. We were treated with such exceptional courtesy and a welcome which delighted us all.

If, like many in the party, you have not been to Blackpool before, you might have wondered why we made our visit, but it is due to the chance meeting we had with members of the Blackpool Civic Trust during 2008.

Come to Blackpool, they said. Come, and we will look after you. And they did, so much so that we thought Royalty must have been in town. Met by a numerous turnout of their committee and membership at Solaris, we were refreshed on bacon butties and coffee, and then went to see the Promenade and the Mirror Ball. The day was fine, and we watched the trams, and along came ‘Michael Airey’, historic Tram No 147, the best in the Blackpool fleet, brought out especially for our journey along the Promenade. What a treat, and the start of treats galore. The journey introduced us to the major works being carried out on the sea defences and sea wall with European money, to provide better and greater space for people, and to dispel upwards the wild winds which can trouble the town.

At the War Memorial, we were met by the Conservation Officer, Carl, who showed us the work recently completed to create a more respectful and quiet space for memories surrounding the obelisk itself. Off next to a Frank Matcham theatre, the Grand Theatre, built in 1890. There, we entered straight onto the stage scene for Summer Holiday, and saw the cast’s side of life and then enjoyed the very comfortable new stalls seating.

Next, to the Town Hall, where we were greeted by the Mayor and Mayoress, and taken into their Parlour, where we partook of a buffet lunch and heard about the history of the Town Hall. The Council Chamber is flooded with light, and has very large historical paintings on the wall, particularly one depicting the marriage of the parents of Henry VIII, King Henry VII and Princess Elizabeth of York; the union of the House of Lancaster and the House of York.

Off to the Tower! Blackpool Tower we entered via the aquarium, and we climbed up staircases amongst the elegant polychrome tiled decorations to see the silver model of Blackpool Tower. Then up in the lift to the top, and the Walk of Death (a glass panel in the floor; not for the faint-hearted – you will be pleased to learn that the Secretary and the whole team survived the Walk).

Back at lower levels, we went to the Ballroom balconies and stood watching the dancers and the guests enjoying afternoon tea below us, then descended to join the throng, not on the dance floor but in the eating of sandwiches, tea and scones. Then off once more, this time to the Circus, where we saw such a wonderful show of acrobatics, rollerskating, trapeze, balancing, and to bring it to a conclusion, a huge watershow in the centre stage complete with all the participating athletic artists.

Elaine and her committee had organised a memorable day for us, and we can now say we have been to Blackpool. We saw a town with great civic pride, and a hugely successful approach to making the Blackpool Experience enjoyable, whatever level one has.

Come Again!!

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