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Ellesmere Society

Speakers Archive

Ellesmere Society Speakers Archive

Archive of Speakers Reports

Oct 2018

The meeting of the Ellesmere Society’s for Tuesday 16th Oct. the speaker was Wendy Davis with a talk titled Oh! What a Pantomime!

Wendy took us through the history of Pantomime using costumes, verse, and readings. Wendy told us that pantomime is a type of musical comedy musical stage production designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is still performed throughout the United Kingdom and (to a lesser extent) in other English-speaking countries, especially during the Christmas and New Year season. Modern pantomime includes songs, gags, slapstick comedy and dancing. It employs gender-crossing actors and combines topical humour with a story more or less based on a well-known fairy tale, fable or folk tales It is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers.

Pantomime has a long theatrical history in Western culture dating back to classical theatre. It developed partly from the 16th century commeda dell’artetradition of Italy and other European and British stage traditions, such as 17th-century masques and music hall. An important part of the pantomime, until the late 19th century, was the harlequinade, because Harlequin was initially the most important character. The titles continued to include the word Harlequin even after the first decade of the 1800s, when Joseph Grimaldi came to dominate London pantomime and made the character, Clown, a colourful agent of chaos, as important in the entertainment as Harlequin. At the same time, Harlequin began to be portrayed in a more romantic and stylised way.

Wendy finished off the very entertaining talk with a bit of community singing, which everyone enjoyed.


Sept 2018

The first meeting of the Ellesmere Society’s new season was on Tuesday 18th Sept. the speaker was Alister Williams with an illustrated talk titled 'The Gummows- who brought Venice to Wrexham'. 

Alister began by introducing us to Benjamin Gummow who was an architect, He was born in St Endellon in Cornwall in 1766 and died at Ruabon in March 1844.

Alister said Gummow started his career in London as a clerk of the works for the architect Samuel Pepys Cockerall, for the alterations to St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Benjamin Gummow had a brother Michael Gummow who was also an Architect and they worked on the rebuilding of Cleveland House St. James, Westminster around 1800.

Over the next few years Benjamin worked for a number of prominent Architects on various projects in London. Then in 1802 he was appointed as supervising Architect to the Earl Grosvenor to rebuild Eaton hall near Chester. This brought Gummlow to the Wrexham area. At this time Wrexham was larger than Cardiff, but with mainly small thatched buildings. After rebuilding Eaton hall, he got various commissions for large houses in the area such as  Littleton Hall, Christlton in Cheshire in 1806, additions to Nercwys Hall between 1813 and 1820 and the building of a portico and other alterations for the Ormsby-Gores at Brogyntyn, near Oswestry in Shropshire, plus work at Chirk Castle.

Gummlow was heavily influenced by Italian Vancian style Architecture although he had never been to Venice, also Palladium influenced his buildings which shows in most of his them. Gummlow had a son who also became an Architect. as did his son, and between them over a number of decades in the nineteenth century they designed and built most of the large buildings in Wrexham, especially the houses around Grosvenor Road which are now Solicitors or private clinics.

At the end of Alister’s presentation the society’s chairman Fred Williams then opened the meeting to numerous questions, after which he thanked Alister for a very informative presentation.


July 2018

On July 17th the society held it's AGM, we had a very good turn out for this with over 40 members attending. After 4 years at the sharp end our Chairman Robert Box decided to step down and Vice Chairman Fred Williams agreed to to take on the role of Chairman.

Our President Peter Sanderson facilitated the election of officers and committee members, this was done en bloc with a show of hands.

The full list is as follows- Chair – Fred Williams, Vice Chair – ??, Treasurer Sue Checketts, Secretary – Paul Goulbourne, Programme Secretary – Mary Goulbourne.

The Committee are:  Robert Box, Margaret Sanderson, Mike & Pat Lister, Ivan Jasper, Heather Bayne.

Our President reminded everyone that we need some fresh blood on the committee. He said it is not an onerous Task with only 3 committee meetings a year.

On completion of the business part of the meeting members were invited to partake of light refreshments & a glass or two of wine.


June 2018

The speaker for the Ellesmere society’s meeting on June 19th was David Skillen with a talk titled ‘Forewarned Forearmed’ a talk about The Royal Observer Corps in War and Peace.

David said he served in the Royal Observer Corps for many years, and he would give us a potted history of the Corps. He said that the ROC can trace its roots to the First World War and the requirement for a warning system to bolster UK defences, predominantly over south east England, against bombing raids by German Zeppelin airships. A system of observation posts and observers was organised, the members of the Corps were highly trained in recognising aircraft visually and also by the engine sound, to maintain their expertise competitions were held national and badges awarded for gaining a score of over 90%. With a network of approximately 200 posts established in strategic areas. Initially these posts were manned by British Army personnel, who were in turn replaced by Special (Police) Constables Special, these were superseded by civilian volunteers and posts were coordinated on an area basis with telephone communications provided between themselves and their associated anti-aircraft defences. The ROC gained a valuable role in being the “Eyes and Ears” of the Royal Air Force. Later during the Cold War under the control of the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO) the ROC provided key monitoring, recording and appraisal of nuclear fallout if a nuclear attack had occurred in the United Kingdom.  At the end of the Cold War and following the defence spending review in 1990, the vast majority of the civilian spare-time volunteers were stood down on 30 September 1991, with the remainder being stood down on 31 December 1995. However, a number of the centres and posts throughout the UK are now open as museums showing the history of the Corps, there is also an active website https://www.rocatwentytwelve.org/


May Outing 2018

The Ellesmere Society held their annual outing on 15th May, this was to Hereford Cathedral to view the Mappa Mundi. We set off at 8:40, early for us, on a lovely sunny day, 40 members and guests were transported by Lakeside Coaches to the cathedral city of Hereford, a lovely journey through the countryside to our destination. Our driver Paul dropped us off at the door of the cathedral where we were met by our guide, he lead us into a dining room where we were given Coffee tea and cake before being split into three groups. Each group was then lead by our guide to the cathedral area where the Mappa Mundi exhibition is held. We spent as much time as we needed viewing this fascinating artefact, plus then going into the “chain library”, there were a number of guides stationed around who were only too keen to answer any questions.

After viewing the above, we then spent time looking round the cathedral, where there were rehearsals going on for an organ recital to be held later that day. Some of the group stayed to listen to this, while others went into Hereford to find somewhere for some lunch and a bit of retail therapy for the ladies.

Promptly at 3pm our driver Paul arrived with the coach to take us all home to Ellesmere at the end of a lovely day.   


April 2018

he speaker for the Ellesmere society’s meeting on April 17th was John Butterworth his talk was titled A Towns 3 ancient Treasures. John is a retired editor of the Shrewsbury Chronical, he gave us a very entertaining talk about three treasures from Shrewsbury, the first was St Chad’s Church, John told us that the original 13th-century building was largely destroyed when the central tower collapsed in 1788.

Scottish architect George Steuart was commissioned to build a new church, and he submitted several preliminary designs, but due to a misunderstanding, Steuart went on to complete a circular plan which was not the Parish Church Council's preferred design. The foundation stone was laid on St Chad's day, 2 March 1790, the building work was supervised by John Simpson (who later worked on several projects with Thomas Telford.

John’s next treasure was The Shrewsbury Chronical Newspaper, he said it is one of the oldest weekly newspapers in the UK, publishing its first edition in 1772. Founded by Thomas Wood, a drapery salesman-turned-printer and a bit of a Del Boy according to John, the Shrewsbury Chronicle was first published on Monday 23 November 1772 more than 20 years before The Times. Thomas Wood mainly used his newspaper to promote and sell items to do with his many sidelines. John said that in the early days the paper covered national, international and local news, major news stories as the American War of Independence, the death of Nelson and the Crimean War, did not warrant much space, as it carried advertisements alone on its front page which is where the money was made. Following Wood's death in 1801, his widow Mary carried on the paper until her own death in 1808, making her "one of the earliest, if not the earliest, of women newspaper proprietors".

John’s third treasure was the Lion Hotel. John said that as the major inn on the road that connected Ireland, Wales and London, The building which stands on Wyle Cop today was built in the 1770s, when the owner with the deep pockets was John Ashby, a former mayor and town clerk of Shrewsbury. Subsequently it turned out that Ashby’s pockets were not so deep as he thought; he died in bankruptcy in 1779 and the contents of the hotel were sold to pay off some of the debts. As a grand gesture, it might have been one of the shortest on record.

In 1780 the hotel lease was taken on by Robert Lawrence, who turned the place into one of the most successful travel inns in the region, by starting a stagecoach route from London to Holyhead stopping at the Lion. When the trade was in its heyday the Shrewsbury Wonder, plying the route between Shrewsbury and London in its distinctly yellow livery, was one of most recognizable, and certainly one of the fleetest of foot. Leaving London at 6.30 in the morning, it pulled into the Lion at 10.30 at night. The Lion Hotel has seen enough history, and enough comings and goings, to fill a volume twice the size, the schedule of famous customers is an impressive enough dictionary of biography on its own: William IV, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Benjamin Disraeli, the Beatles, Tony Hancock, Niccolo Paganini and Charles Darwin, to name just a few.


March 2018

The speaker for the Ellesmere society’s meeting on March 20th was Pat Roberts & her troupe of models taking us through the life and times of the Tudors in costumes and words. Pat first introduced us to the Plague Doctor who was a man dressed in a black costume covered in Beeswax to give him some crude protection, and a mask with a bird’s beak which was worn to give added protection from being infected by the disease, which they believed was airborne. In fact, they thought disease was spread by miasma, a noxious form of 'bad air.'

Pat narrated the story of the Tudors clothing, she said that clothes were a means of displaying how wealthy a person was. Rich people could afford clothing of fine wool, linen or silk. Their clothes were decorated with jewels and embroidered with gold thread. No rich person felt properly dressed to impress unless he or she was wearing a ruff. Like so many Tudor clothes, it gave a strong signal about wealth and importance of the person wearing it. One of Pats models came out in a dress of the day and Pat showed us what Rich ladies wore, they wore padded skirts held up with loops. Over these went bodices and colourful floor length gowns, Pat whispered that in those days ladies didn’t wear any underwear as it was considered to be healthier to let air get to the skin.

Then a male model dressed as king Henry eighth came out, and a fine regal person he looked, Pat explained how rich men dressed, she showed us that they wore white silk shirts, frilled at the neck and wrists. Over this they wore a doublet, and close fitting striped trousers (called a hose). Pat explained the Codpiece was for, and what a fine one the king had, a Codpiece was basically a purse where the rich men kept their money etc, the king kept his jewels in his Codpiece, hence the saying about where the crown jewels are kept.

Pat explained that poor people wore simple loose-fitting clothes made from woolen cloth. Most men wore trousers made from wool and a tunic which came down to just below the knee. Women wore a dress f wool that went down to the ground. They often wore an apron over this and a cloth bonnet on their heads.

Next came some models dressed as King Henry’s wives. All the costumes are made by Pat’s group of ladies, which looked amazing.

The whole cast of models paraded among the audience and answered numerous questions about how the costumes had been made.

Our Chair Robert Box then thanked Pat and her models for a very entertaining and interesting talk, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.


February 2018

The speaker for the Ellesmere society’s meeting on February 20th was Carole James with a talk titled ‘Poverty in Victorian Oswestry. Carole said she is a member of Oswestry’s U3A and leads the social history group; she said she has spend hundreds of hours researching various aspects of the social history of Oswestry. Carole said that in the early 1800s there was a huge increase in the population of Oswestry of around 170% due to the building of the Railways, as there were very few people with the expertise in Oswestry the workforce was recruited from all over the UK & Ireland. While there was plenty of work this also brought its own problems such as drunkenness, and work related accidents, poor housing etc which meant as people became unemployed, and with the average family size was 10 to 12 children this lead to poverty. Carole said in those days the Morda Valley was a hive of industry, with small coalmines, Iron foundries, Textile manufacturing on the river at Morda, Lime Kilns and Quarries.

Even at this time there was some poor relief, however mass unemployment following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the introduction of new technology to replace agricultural workers and a series of bad harvests meant that by the early 1830s the established system of poor relief was proving to be unsustainable. This lead to The Poor Law Amendment Act  of 1834, as an attempted to discourage the provision of relief to anyone who refused to enter a workhouse. Carole explained that some Poor Law authorities hoped to run workhouses at a profit by utilising the free labour of their inmates, and most were employed on tasks such as breaking stones, bone crushing to produce fertiliser or picking oakum using a large metal nail known as a spike. Life in a workhouse was intended to be harsh to ensure that only the truly destitute would apply. But the provision of free medical care and education for children, neither of which was available to the poor living outside workhouses, meant that workhouse inmates were often better off in those respects. Carole said that the Textile manufacturing in Morda had a ready stream on young workers, the history of the Workhouse in Morda was a project that she was very interested in and hoped to find the time in the future  to research it fully.

Our Chair Robert Box asked for questions from the floor, he thanked Carole for a very entertaining and interesting talk, which everyone enjoyed.


January 2018

he Ellesmere Society’s speaker for our first meeting of the New Year on 16th January was John Revell Davies with a talk titled ‘The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’

John explained how the War Graves Commission was started, he said it owes its existence to the vision and determination of one man - Sir Fabian Ware. He was neither a soldier nor a politician; Ware was nevertheless well placed to respond to the public's reaction to the enormous losses in the war. At the age of 45 he was too old to fight but he became the commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross. Saddened by the sheer number of casualties, he felt driven to find a way to ensure the final resting places of the dead would not be lost forever.

His vision chimed with the times. Under his dynamic leadership, his unit began recording and caring for all the graves they could find. By 1915, their work was given official recognition by the War Office and incorporated into the British Army as the Graves Registration Commission. John said that Encouraged by the Prince of Wales, Ware submitted a memorandum to the Imperial War Conference. In May 1917, the Imperial War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter, with the Prince serving as President and Ware as Vice-Chairman.

The Commission's work began in earnest after the Armistice. Once land for cemeteries and memorials had been guaranteed, the enormous task of recording the details of the dead began. By 1918, some 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known grave. John told us about the history of the building of the large well known cemeteries, which were designed by leading Architects of the day, many took years to be completed. There are war graves in cemeteries all over the world, from Bagdad to Burma, each war grave is maintained by the Commission wherever they are.

When he finished his very informative and entertaining talk John took a number of questions from the floor.


December 2017

The Ellesmere Society held it’s seasonal Quiz and Christmas party on 19st December. This was attended by over 50 members and guests, the quiz was set by last years winners Ian and Julie Munro, Ian said he did his best not to make it too difficult. Ian had designed a high tech setup with three screens and projectors, one showing the questions, another the answers and the third the results.

Everyone said they had enjoyed the quiz, which this year was won by Robert Box’s team, and we look forward to his quiz next year.

After the quiz everyone partook of a light buffet of small eats, and the odd glass of Wine.

Many thanks to all members of the committee who organised it all.


November 2017

The Society’s speaker for the meeting on 21st November was Kate Lynch & Wendy Capelle from the Canal and River Trust, talking about the work of the Trust. Wendy said her job was as Manager of the navigable Canals & Rivers in the North Wales & Border area, which cover the Llangollen Canal, (previously called the Ellesmere Canal) Montgomery Canal, Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewich Branch (Shrop Union Canal), Shrewsbury & Newport Canal, and the Weaver Navigation.

Wendy gave a brief overview of how the Trust started and how it operates, the Canal & River Trust was launched in July 2012, taking over the guardianship of British Waterways (the previous government-owned operator) canals, rivers reservoirs and docks in England and Wales. These waterways are free to access and open to all, every day of the year. She said the Trust works with its partners and volunteers to care for these canals and rivers, making sure they are used and enjoyed and that there is a place for everyone. A board of 10 trustees heads the trust with a Chairman, which is obliged to ensure that the charity meets its objectives and sets strategy for the trust. The trust also has a 35-member council which referees the business of the trust and whose construction is supposed to ensure that all waterways users, in all areas, have a representative voice. Finally, a management board of seven directors are collectively concerned with the ordinary running of the trust. Wendy said that the Trust was constantly looking at ways to involve local communities with the Canals in their area, one such way was through Friends groups, who help to keep towpath clear, and volunteer for numerous tasks. 

Wendy then handed over to Kate Lynch who is the Heritage manager, Kate gave us a brief history of the Llangollen Canal, how it came to be built, and where the original route was planned. Kate emphasised the Canal Workshops in Ellesmere, which were built 200 years ago and are still used to carry out maintenance of the canal. Kate said that they reactivated the Blacksmiths Forge with a part time Blacksmith who can be seen at work on their open days, there is also a Dry Dock at the yard, and this is still used today. Kate said that before they reopened the Forge they asked for volunteers to help with the labelling of the numerous Blacksmiths tools they found there, some dating back 200 years. She said they also have all the original patterns for making cast iron parts for Lock Gates, Handrails etc, and Kate asked us to spread the word for volunteers to help with this task.

After taking questions from the floor Wendy & Kate was thanked by the society’s chair Robert Box for a very interesting and informative talk.


October 2017

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for the meeting on October 17th was Saraid Jones talking about the story of Attingham House. Saraid said that she worked for the National Trust and had worked at Attingham for eight years, and lived in the house. Saraid told us that Attingham Park was built in 1785 for Noel Hill, 1st Baron Berwick, who received his title in 1784. Noel Hill was a politician who aided William Pitt in the restructuring of the East India Company. Noel Hill already owned a house on the site of Attingham Park called Tern Hall, but with money he received along with his title he commissioned the Scottish architect George Steuart to design a new and grander house to be built around the original hall. The new country house encompassed the old property entirely, and once completed it was given the name Attingham Hall. Saraid  said that the Estate comprises roughly 4,000 acres, but during the early 1800s extended to twice that amount at 8,000 acres. Over 400,000 people visit the house annually  placing it as the fourth most popular National Trust house.

In 1805 John John Nash added the picture gallery, a project that was flawed from the beginning as it suffered from leaks. In 2013 work began on building a new protective roof above the delicate Nash roof, replacing one installed in the 1970s with a new one which will stop leakage and reduce natural weather wear. Saraid brought to life the history of the of the house, she told us that the 2nd baron went bankrupt, and all the contents of the house were auctioned in 1827; some were reacquired later. When he died the house passed on to his elder brother who regenerated the house, after which it had a chequered history, during WW I the house was a hospital for wounded soldiers, then between 1948 and 1971 an Adult Education College occupied the hall. In 1952 the Attingham Trust was set up by the last owner, A summer school has been run by the Attingham Trust every year since 1952.

After taking questions from the floor Saraid was thanked by the society’s vice chair Fred Williams for a very interesting and informative talk.


Society's August  Mini Outing

The Ellesmere Society’s August meeting was a mini outing to The Llanymynech Limeworks for an organised tour of the site. Forty members and guests turned up, before we set out we were given some refreshments in the form of Tea & Biscuits, after which we were split into two groups, we had two guides Glyn and Martin. Glyn took the first group and Martin took the second. We learnt how Limestone, which is derived from the shells of undersea creatures got to Llanymynech. There were two quarries at Llanymynech with separate owners one on the English side of the boarder and one on the Welsh side, with Limestone from both quarries going to the same wharf at the canal, they even had two separate tunnels alongside each other under the road.

Prior to the opening of the Montgomery Canal then known as the Ellesmere canal in 1796, limestone quarrying was undertaken on the site on a relatively small scale, although kilns for lime burning appear to have been within the quarry from at least 1753. The Hoffman kiln was the last major development on the site and is believed to have been built around 1900, along with additional tramways and rail track. The kiln, which is exceptionally well preserved, has two tunnel vaults entered through 14 round-headed arches and a very tall chimney, which is a local landmark.

Everyone agreed that this was a very interesting piece of history and Glyn and Martin gave a very informative guided tour.

This site is well worth a visit for more information check the website http://www.llanymynech.org.uk/html/llimeys.html


AGM July 2017

The Ellesmere Society’s meeting on July 18th was the AGM. This was well attended by members. The Treasure’s report stated that the society’s income was slightly up on last year, although subscriptions were down due to a number of our more elderly members not coming out after dark. However the sale of the society’s Historic Town Walk were going very well,(these are sold from the SWLT at the Boathouse) and she can report that the society has a very healthy Bank balance, therefor the Treasurer recommends that the membership subscriptions remain at £10 per year. The Chair Robert Box read his report  which highlighted the years activities, he said to sum up it had been another successful year, with an enjoyable outing to Hampton Court Castle Herefordshire, and interesting speakers. He then called on the Peter Sanderson the Hon President to preside over the election of the committee and its officers. All the present members of the committee and officers agreed to re-stand and were re-elected unopposed.

The society’s Hon. President then said that the society needed members to join the committee; he said it was not an onerous task with only four committee meetings a year.

He then went on to ask for a member to urgently come forward to take on the post of Programme Secretary, Ivan had stepped down last year, but because no one came forward he kindly agreed to carry on, however Ivan said that after 9 years he was not prepared to carry on for another year, Peter said that Ivan had organised next years programme so anyone who came forward would have a period to settle in with help from Ivan. Mary Goulbourne said she would give it a try.

When the business part of the meeting had finished, Peter invited everyone to partake of a glass of wine and some nibbles.


June 2017

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for the meeting on June 20 was Dorothy Nicole who is an old favorite of the society with a talk titled ‘Francis Frith-Victorian Photographer’.  Dorothy said that Francis Frith was a true Victorian photographer having been born in 1822 and lived until 1898 the same length as Queen Victoria. He was born in Chesterfield into a Quaker family attending Quaker schools at Ackworth and Quaker Camp Hill in Birmingham. He then started as an apprentice in the cutlery business, he was a very proactive apprentice and ended up running the company. At a comparatively young age Frith became very wealthy, (by todays standards a multi millionaire) by developing two different businesses. Deciding to combine business with pleasure, he had a desire to make a lasting and interesting record of the places he visited.

Photography, combined with publication provided the solution. Francis Frith married Mary Ann Rosling in 1860 they had 6 children. Her brother was Alfred Rosling, a talented amateur photographer. This connection could have fuelled Frith's ambition to become a photographer. By 1856 he felt sufficiently competent to take the cumbersome equipment required on his first tour of Egypt and Palestine, where the heat and strong light drove him to develop the negatives in tombs, temples and caves. On his return he negotiated contracts with various agents to sell individual prints from the his large (16" x 20") negatives and to publish albums of his photographs. The views he had taken for publication by were especially popular when published late in 1857. He left again, this time travelling to Jerusalem, Syria and Lebanon. He was so delighted with the success of the publication: "Egypt and Palestine", that he undertook a third tour in the summer of 1859, venturing into Nubia. There he crossed the Sinai desert and finally re-photographed sites as far north as Jerusalem before returning home after a year abroad. He often took his family with him on his photographic tours using them in his photographs to give the idea of scale. Frith died in France aged 76 by then his sons had taken over his business.

After questions the Society’s chair Robert Box thanked Dorothy for another very interesting and well researched presentation.


March 2017

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for the meeting on February 21st was Glyn Gaskill with a talk titled ‘Llanymynech Lime Industry’. Glyn said he used to be a science teacher which kind of drew him to the Lime Kilns. Glyn explained how Limestone, which is derived from the shells of undersea creatures got to Llanymynech, he said that many years ago the area now known as Llanymynech was very far further South in warmer climes, and over the Millennia the land mass gradually move to it’s present position, however it is still moving. There were two quarries at Llanymynech with separate owners one on the English side of the boarder and one on the Welsh side, with Limestone from both quarries going to the same wharf at the canal, they even had two separate tunnels alongside each other under the road. Glyn went on to say that Prior to the opening of the Montgomery Canal then known as the Ellesmere canal in 1796, limestone quarrying was undertaken on the site on a relatively small scale, although lime kilns for lime burning appear to have been within the quarry from at least 1753. In 1806 a tramway and incline was constructed to transport limestone from the quarry to a new wharf on the canal. A second tramway was constructed to the east of the site sometime between 1807–1837 and this became the main transport route, remaining in use until the closure of the quarry in 1914. The Hoffman kiln was the last major development on the site and is believed to have been built around 1900, along with additional tramways and rail track. The kiln, which is exceptionally well preserved, has two tunnel vaults entered through 14 round-headed arches. The chimney, a local landmark, stands on a plinth and is around 139 ft high. Glyn gave the group a very informative talk and certainly wetted our appetites to visit this Heritage site. To find out more about the heritage site please check the website http://www.llanymynech.org.uk/ 


February 2017

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for the meeting on February 21st was Peter Leach with a talk titled ‘Kinder School in Wem. Peter started the story In1926 when Anna Essinger and two of her sisters, Paula and Berthe, opened their own progressive school in the village of Herrlingen in Swabia. The school became very successful with Jewish and German children attending the school. Peter said in 1933, everything changed. Anna’s first tussle with the Nazis came that April, when every school was ordered to fly the swastika on Hitler's birthday. Anna and her sisters took their pupils on an all-day outing, leaving the caretaker to raise the flag over a totally empty school. Then the non-Jewish parents came under growing pressure to remove their children and some complied. At the same time, desperate Jews found that Herrlingen school was one of the few still willing to accept their offspring. When the government decreed that no Jewish children could sit the Abitur, the principal high-school leaving examination, it was plainly time for action. With the agreement of their parents, Anna took one group of children on an "educational trip" to Holland. Her sister Paula took another to Switzerland and both parties just kept travelling. They arrived in Britain, then wholly ignorant of what was going on in Germany and unable to fathom why 70-plus children and their teachers had suddenly erupted into rural Kent.

They rented, and later bought, a 17th-century manor house near Faversham, As Hitler tightened his grip the flood of refugee children increased, Jewish charities supported some. But, determined that Bunce Court should not become a "Jewish" school, she always maintained a proportion of pupils who were English and non-Jewish. Peter said there was a rocky moment after the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 when Kent was declared a Defence Area. The school was given three days to evacuate Bunce Court. Somehow, Anna discovered Trench Hall, an empty property near Wem in Shropshire, where the school spent the rest of the war.

Among those who emerged from its intensive educational regime were painter Frank Auerbach, playwright Frank Marcus, immunologist Leslie Brent, humourist Gerard Hoffnung, film-maker Peter Morley and US diplomat Helmut Sonnenfeldt. Many more of Essinger's 900 pupils became leading figures in their professions, a remarkable record for an institution which seldom had two pennies to rub together.


January 2017

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for our first meeting of the New Year was Martin Wood (Shrewsbury’s Town Crier) with a talk titled ‘Have Bell, Will Yell’

Martin (who is a very imposing figure at over 7 Foot tall) started off with a brief history of his profession, telling us that Town Criers have been going since biblical times, and in their early days the job was quite a dangerous occupation, because if the Crier gave bad news by telling the populace that the King had lost the battle it was likely that the Crier would be killed. Thankfully today they don’t kill the messenger. Martin said he has been Shrewsbury’s Town Crier for over 30 years, and in that time he had travelled the world, once going to Canada to take part in a Town Crier competition, he has also competed in Europe. Martin entertained the group with numerous amusing stories of his thirty odd years as a Town Crier, from his application for the job, to the present day.

Martin then put on his Town Crier uniform which consisted of a Lace neck bib, a Red and Gold Waistcoat, a Red and Blue Greatcoat, all topped off with a Tricorn hat decorated with a feather. Martin then brought out a large hand Bell.

Martin told us how he got his large hand Bell, this was as the result of a Town Crier job he carried out at a Pub for a brewery, when he put his invoice in they said that they would not pay it, but they were so impressed with him they offered to buy him a hand Bell and asked if he would work for them.  The Society’s President thanked Martin for a very entertaining talk.

The society’s next meeting is on 21st February  the speaker will be Peter Leach talking about the ‘Kinder School’ that was in Wem

The society holds its monthly meetings on the third Tuesday of the month in the Ellesmere Comrades Club, visitors, and potential new members are welcome.  For more information please check out our Website – www.ellesmeresociety.org


November Meeting

Ellesmere society’s speaker for November was an old favorite local historian Chris Jobson the title of his talk was  ‘Ellesmere Castle‘. Chris gave us a well-researched presentation explaining the myths and the truths that have built up around the Castle over the centuries. Was it only a wooden Mote and Bailey construction or was it there at some time a more substantial stone Castle. Chris lead us through the history of the Castle from its first construction, and explained how it changed hands throughout the years, not through wars but marriages, the town and Castle of Ellesmere being gifted as a present on the various political marriages. Chris discovered a number of rarely seen documents in the national archives which proved when and where the Castle was built, the Castle was originally more than double the size that it is now. Chris is of the strong opinion that the Castle was eventually built of stone, and through a number of photos he showed that the narrow lanes, and roads around the Castle area and in Cremorne gardens are lined with substantial walls built with large dressed stones, some of which have what look like ancient marks made by masons. Next time you are walking up Loves Lane take a closer look at the stones in the walls, and in what is locally called the bandstand in Cremorne gardens, certainly food for thought.

Robert Box, Chair of ES thanked Chris for another very interesting talk.


October Meeting

Ellesmere society’s speaker for 18th October was Ellie Taggart the title of her talk was  ‘Another Man’s Shoes‘, this is a gripping first-hand account of a Norwegian scientists' who during the Second World war was arrested for spying for the Allies, and after his arrest escaped from German custody, he had been caught photographing a strategic German torpedo station during one of his many spying missions for the Allies in 1944. This scientist happened to be Ellie Taggart’s father.

He wrote his story just after the end of the war, which vividly describes his 200 mile trek in 1944 across mountains, pursued by German over 900 soldiers, in a bid to reach Sweden, and freedom.

Ellie told us how sixty years later she, and her sister set out on foot to retrace their father’s trek from German occupied Norway, meeting some of the people who helped him along the way. Ellie recounted the moment when a pair of her father’s shoes, which he had exchanged for mountain boots, were returned to her by one family who had sheltered him along the way. Ellie said the family had kept the shoes as a reminder of the young man they had found hiding in a frozen mountain hut. Ellie also pays tribute to her uncle Iacob, who was also arrested and later executed.

Ellie said she and her sister were the only members of a party of five who managed to finish the trip in 2004 and a year later they published their father's tale, together with details of their own journey.

Robert Box, Chair of ES thanked Ellie for relating the fascinating and emotional story.


September Meeting

Ellesmere society’s speaker for the first meeting of the season was Martin Wright who told us about ‘The changing world of the local newspaper ‘ Martin gave us a brief resume of his career, he said that at the start of his career he had worked for the Shropshire Star as a reporter, before moving to be the deputy editor at the County Times in Mid Wales, he then edited the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer and the County Times before becoming deputy editor for the Leader and Cheshire Publications. He then joined the Shropshire Star as Editor in 2013, based at the Shropshire Star’s head office in Ketley, Telford, Martin said he is responsible for managing the newspaper editorial team across nine offices, along with the management of the portfolio of 12 weekly newspapers.

Martin told us that the Shropshire Star was born in October 1964, the Star is one of the few independent daily newspapers still operating in the UK, and it is still owned by the Graham family. The Shropshire Star is Britain’s fifth biggest selling regional title and publishes three editions a day Monday to Friday and one edition on a Saturday.

Martin said that all newspapers faced very challenging times today, with the continuing development of the Internet and devices like iPads & iPhones, which enabled the public to receive news instantly at any time of the day or night instead of buying a daily newspaper.

Martin said that the Star has been very proactive in developing online access to their publications. August 2012 saw their website re-launched alongside its sister title Express & Star believed to be the first of any other regional newspaper websites in the UK. A Shropshire Star App for iPad and iPhone was launched in January 2012, using page-turning technology to mimic the look and feel of the actual newspaper. The website also offers free access to the weekly Chronicle and Journal series. Martin said that they are continuing to try to keep ahead of the curve with technology in these difficult times for the print industry.

The chair of the ES Robert Box thanked Martin for a very informative talk which gave us a brief insight into the world of newspapers.


August Outing

On a lovely sunny afternoon on the 23rd August over thirty members of the Ellesmere Society met at The Park hall Countryside experience for a tour of the replica WW 1 Trenches.  The buildings of the replica trenches were the brainchild of Mark Hignett who is the curator of the Oswestry museum. The members were shown round in 2 groups; they were told that Park Hall was the site of one of the largest training camps in the country, which was built in 1915. Huge numbers of soldiers, including poet Wilfred Owen, spent time at the camp on their way to the front. Mark told the group that he tried to include everything you could come across in the trenches even including ‘above ground’ trenches such as those used in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea is to show what we have learnt from 100 years of trench warfare. The group thought it was a very realistic construction. Well worth a visit. To find out more contact this website - http://www.parkhallfarm.co.uk/museums/trenches-through-the-ages/


AGM 2016

The AGM was held on 19th July, The Treasurer reported a small surplus for the year 2015/16 and as a result the membership Subscriptions will remain at £10.

Some of the present committee are stepping down, Ivan Jasper is stepping down as programme secretary, but has agreed to stay on the committee. Ken White, and Jean Millman are stepping down from the committee.

The president Peter Sanderson thanked Ivan for all his excellent work over the years as programme secretary, and presented Ivan with lovely a model of a lectern, and Gwyneth with a bottle of Rosie wine.

The Committee is as follows -


Chair – Robert Box, Vice Chair – Fred Williams, Treasurer Sue Checketts,

Secretary – Paul Goulbourne, Programme Secretary - ???

Committee members:  Margaret Sanderson, Mike & Pat Lister, Ivan Jasper, Heather Bayne.

A plea to all members for someone to come forward as programme secretary, Ivan has prepared the programme for the next year, so any new programme secretary would have an easy introduction.

After the business part of the meeting finished the members were invited to partake of a glass of wine, and Cheese & Biscuits. 


June meeting

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for the meeting on 21st June was Tom Jones who spoke about ‘The Rows of Chester ‘. Tom is an official Chester tour guide. Tom started off by dispelling one of the popular myths that the Rows of Chester were built by the Victorians, Tom said some of the facades of the buildings had been upgrade by the Victorians, but the main buildings can all be taken back to the original 13th century foundations and undercrofts. Tom said that the unique two-tier shopping galleries were first built in the Middle Ages when Chester was a thriving sea-faring port. Tom said the Rows may have been built on top of rubble remaining from the ruins of Roman buildings, but their origin is still subject to speculation. In some places the continuity of the Rows has been blocked by enclosure or by new buildings, but in others modern buildings have retained the Rows in their designs. Undercrofts were constructed beneath the buildings in the Rows. The undercrofts were in stone while most of the buildings in the Rows were in timber.

Today about 20 of the stone undercrofts still exist, but at the level of the Rows very little medieval fabric remains.

Tom took us on a fascinating journey through the history of Chester and Chester’s Rows he told us how they had changed throughout the centuries as the economy changed.


May Outing

The Ellesmere Society held their annual outing on 17th May, on a lovely sunny day 50 members and guests were transported by Lakeside Coaches of Ellesmere via the scenic route to Penrhyn Castle at Bangor, N. Wales, it was built in the form of a Norman Castle It was originally a medieval fortified manor house. Penrhyn is one of the most admired of the numerous mock castles built in the United Kingdom in the 19th century; Christopher Hussey called it, "the outstanding instance of Norman revival." The castle is a picturesque composition that stretches over 600 feet from a tall donjon containing family rooms, through the main block built around the earlier house, to the service wing and the stables.

Penrhyn's attractions include a formal walled garden, extensive informal gardens, the  Penrhyn Castle Railway museum, a model railway museum and an adventure playground. Hanging on its walls is one of the finest art collections in North Wales. All agreed it was a lovely day out.


April meeting

The Ellesmere society’s speaker for its April meeting was Peter Hawthorne whose talk is titled “Animal VCs”. Peter gave us a small selection of histories taken from his well-researched book "The Animal Victoria Cross". Peter told us that the Dickin medal was awarded by the PDSA in honour of its founder, Maria Dickin, from 1943. A total of 67 medals have been awarded, one twice because the medal was stolen, the stolen medal has local connections because it was stolen from a dog owned by the family of one of our members Heather Bayne, but that is a book in itself. Since 1943 the PDSA has honoured 31 pigeons, 31 dogs, three horses and a cat! There might also have been a parrot, it was heard under several feet of rubble after a bombing raid, cursing the bombs and the Nazis and the rescuers didn't realise it wasn't a person!

Each of the stories of these heroic animals and birds was an amazing account of the intelligence of animals and birds. Sadly Peter’s book "The Animal Victoria Cross" is now out of print, and following his talk he sold the final 4 books. Peter said the book is available on Kindle.


March Meeting

The Ellesmere society’s speaker for its March meeting was Sherie Soper whose talk is titled “Come with me behind the ropes and shutters”. Sherrie’s talk was about the deep cleaning/conservation that goes on behind the scenes at a Castle or Stately home. Sherrie said that she worked for the National Trust at Chirk castle in the late 90s, the NT trained her as a conservationist, she said it was excellent training and she went on many courses around the country, with experts in the antiques trade, who she often sees on the BBC series the Antiques Road Show. Sherrie said that the cleaning and conservation work use to be carried out in the closed season, however now that most buildings are open all year round she said that it is now done all ear, she then explained how some of the cleaning and conservation work is done, to clean Chandeliers a good head for heights is a must, first you have to erect the scaffolding (after attending a scaffolding course) this is not easy and takes some practice. When you are in position then the delicate time consuming work starts, with a small artistes brush each part is cleaned of dust, but the dust must not be allowed to drift around in the room so a small vacuum cleaner is used to catch the dust, so you learn how to brush into the vacuum cleaner. Cleaning Carpets are done brushing with the pile so as not to damage it, and then they are rolled onto a cardboard carpet roll and hung off the floor. Sherrie told us of the many conservation jobs she had been involved with at Chirk Castle, and other places since. She then passed around photographs showing some of the work being done, Sherrie said it is a very rewarding and satisfying job, and invited the group to come and look at some of the tools used in the work. Another very interesting talk Sherrie.


February Meeting

The Ellesmere society’s speaker for its February meeting held on 16th Feb was one of our members Michael Bambridge, whose talk is titled ‘From Sooty Smoke to Invisible Cloud. Michael said his hobby was the history of  sound recording. Michael took us from the first actual recording of sound by one of a number of pioneers in the latter half of the 19th Century, de Martinville's Phonautograph of 1857, which was 20 years before Edison, who’s invention of the phonograph, was patented by him in 1877.                                                         The earliest practical recording technologies were entirely mechanical devices. These recorders typically used a large conical horn to collect and focus the physical air pressure of the sound waves produced by the human voice or musical instruments. The history of sound recording can be marked in four separate milestones The acoustic era1877 to the 1920s, The electrical era 1920s to towards the end of WW 11, 1945, then came the magnetic era after WW 11 to the 1970s, then the latest era which we are all familiar with the "digital" era 1970s to present day, with discs, Tapes etc being replaced with ‘Clouds’ Hence Michael’s title “from Sooty Smoke to Invisible Cloud” Michael brought  with him a number of artifacts including one of Edison’s Phonographs to show the audience. All thought it was very interesting and entertaining talk.                     


January Meeting 2016

 For the society’s first meeting of the year we had one of the society’s favorites as speaker, Mark Hignett whose talk was titled ‘The Tanat Valley Railway’. Mark began his talk by telling us that he wasn’t just taking about the Tanat Valley railway, he said the bit he was interested in is the Nantmawr branch line. Mark went on to say it started off as the Potteries, Shrewsbury and North Wales Railway (Potts), which ran from Shrewsbury Abbey. To access the Nantmawr branch to the quarry, howevere like many railway companies at the time it ran into financial difficulties and services were suspended in June 1880, and then reopened in 1881. Mark said at that time there are recorded stories of bailiffs removing a section of railway line to prevent the company operating, then under the cover of darkness the company replacing the piece of line to deliver coal etc to paying customers. Mark said British Railways closed the line in 1988 after the closure of the Limestone quarry. Mark said in early 2000 he investigated the line only to find the under all the undergrowth the railway lines were still in place. This was very unusual because the railway lines from abandoned lines were always removed and sold as scrap. Mark decided he wanted to but the line, but the bureaucracy was amazing, if a closed line had railway lines on it was owned by Rail Track, if it had no lines it was owned by British Rail (I think that’s what he said). Anyway the outcome was, after lots of toing and froing, the line was acquired by the Tanat Valley Light Railway Company during 2004. Part of the line re-opened as a heritage railway in 2009.

Mark told us many amusing stories of life on the numerous branch lines in the area, and some of the near accidents that happened on a regular basis such as trains becoming uncoupled from their engines and running away. Most of the lines were built to carry quarried material such as limestone or coal, but as a side line also carried passengers, taking people to market and children to school between the small communities on the route.

Many thanks to Mark for another factual, and very entertaining local history lesson, which this writer can’t do justice to in a short report. 


The society’s end of year meeting 2015

On 15th December the Ellesmere Society held its end of year meeting, Christmas Party and quiz at the Comrades Club. We had over 50 members and guests attending, with the finger food supplied by the Committee & members. The quiz, which was locally themed, had been complied by Ken & Hazel White, Ken was the quizmaster. The quiz was a great success, with small prizes to the winning team. Everyone said how much they had enjoyed it.

                                                               ______________________ __________________________

November meeting 2015

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for October was Shelagh Hampton with a talk titled ‘Deliberately Deposited ’

(Some unusual Shropshire finds and their find spots).

  Shelagh said that most of the artifacts discovered were found either in water or boggy land, she said that very few of the ancient finds had been lost, the majority had been deliberately dumped as an offering to their Gods. Shelagh then took us back a few thousand years to a lake in Italy where thousands of gold items of jewelry, swords, and spears had been found. From where the items were found in reasonably deep water the archaeologists worked out that a pier must have been built for people to walk on from where they deliberately tossed the items into the water. Shelagh said that similarly in a small lake at the end of the runway at RAF Valley on Anglesey were found thousands of Gold, Silver and Bronze items exactly the same as in Italy. Shelagh then showed us pictures and told us about some of the bodies found in the Bogs in Shropshire (Bog Bodies as they are called) and because they have been in a Bog for thousands of years are very well preserved. Plus the valuable items that have been found in Bogs, and rivers in Shropshire, many of these can be found in local museums, and some of the larger ones in Manchester and London. Sadly this brief report doesn ’ t really do justice to Shelagh ’ s talk, because lack of space stops me writing more. Thank you very much for a fascinating and very interesting talk Shelagh.


October meeting 2015

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for October was David O’Hare Fullwood’s Director of Marketing, for this presentation the society met at the Fullwood factory on Grange road.

David took us through the history of the company, he told us that In 1785 two brothers named Fullwood set up a company in Clerkenwell, London, which was to become Britain’s best known milking machine manufacturer. The brothers establish an import and export company. The company was to be called Fullwood & Bland Limited. Amongst the items shipped back to England from Jamaica was the seed of the annatto plant or the lipstick tree as it was called locally. Annatto was and is still used in the colouring of leather, fish and cheese. This was the newly formed company’s first contact with the dairy farmer. Later its product range was increased to include rennet used for coagulating milk for cheese making.

How did they come to move from London to Ellesmere I hear you asking, the reason was simple Ellesmere, Shropshire was and still is situated in the heart of the English dairy country.

In the 1930s Fullwood & Bland became involved with the latest invention - machine milking.

 David took us from hand milking with the three-legged milking stool, to the huge Robotic milking machines with thousands of cows milking themselves up to three times a day, which Fullwood’s design and manufacture in their Ellesmere factory today. One interesting statistic that we were told is that worldwide even today more animals are milked by hand than machine.

David then gave us a quick verbal tour of buildings in Ellesmere that help trace the growth of the company, their old Rennet factory that is now Dykes DIY store, The Market Hall, which was Fullwood’s factory making milking machines, and The Library building that was Fullwood’s main offices before they moved to their present site. Fullwood’s range of milking machines milk Cows, Goats, Sheep, Buffalos, Camels, and even Pigs, and mice for Labourites. It appears that if it can be milked Fullwood’s can design, and manufacture a machine to milk it. David showed the group some of the original documents they have, that show the history of the company from the first set of accounts (on one page) in the 1700s to various charters and awards they have earned over the centuries.

David finished his presentation by taking us on a tour of the factory where David explained that all the components and electronics are manufactured by Fullwood’s most on site, we also saw a new Robotic milking machine in it’s various stages of manufacture.

Thank you David and Sue for an excellent presentation, and also our thanks to you both for giving up your time outside your normal working hours


September meeting  2015              

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for September was to have been Martin Wright, who for personal reasons had to withdraw at the last minute.

So it is many thanks to Mark Hignett who at the 11th hour agreed to speak about his latest project the building of replica WW 1 Trenches at Park hall.

 Mark told the members of the society how he decided to commemorate WW 1 by building a system of replica trenches at Park Hall. Mark showed us his plan for the trenches, which he had drawn on a piece of A4 paper. He said firstly he approached Shropshire Planning department to request planning permission, to be told that there was no requirement to get planning permission to build Trenches. So he went ahead, and applied and got a grant of £20K, to build them but this could only be used for material and not labour costs. Mark arranged for a local contractor to dig the Trenches for free, and before he started he approached Shropshire planning to get a No Objection letter, only to be told that they had been thinking about his project and had decided that he did need planning permission after all. This threw all of Marks plans into disarray. He eventually got the permissions but by then the promised free work had gone as the contractor was now booked up. Mark managed to get the work done at cost price. His next hold up was he had to build reinforced walls in the trenches this was because his idea to build the Trenches was to allow schools and the public to walk through them. So metal cages had to be made and instead of a trench being dug one Metre wide it was now dug to three Metres wide to include the cages.

Mark said he was telling the story of the Trench war through the voices of the soldiers in them. He has obtained letters and soldiers’ stories, which had been placed in the Trenches to give a feeling of Trench life. Mark read some of the letters out, they seem to be obsessed with food and mention what they are eating, or not, and ask for certain food to be sent out to them. A parcel only took around two days to reach the Trenches from England, faster than today.

 The Trench system has now been officially opened and Mark has over eight schools already booked up for a visit. There is no charge for groups, so all are encouraged to take a tour.

Many thanks Mark for a fascinating tale, not only of the WW 1 Trenches but also of your battle to get them built, well done.  


August Outing   2015                   

On the19th August over thirty members of the Ellesmere Society met at Stan’s supermarket in St Martins for a guided tour of the store, and behind the scenes. Stan’s is said to be one of the largest independent Supermarkets in the UK.  The group was split into two and taken round by Andrew who is Stan’s grandson and Rob one of Stan’s sons. Andrew gave the group a brief history of how the business was started by his grandfather.

Andrew said that his grandfather who was a Japanese prisoner of war during WW II returned home at the end of the war and started a Fish & Chip shop in St Martins. As it turns out he was a very successful local entrepreneur long before the term became popular.

As Rationing ended in the early 1950s, from serving Fish & Chips to the Miners working in Ifton Coal Mine, Stan expanded into groceries and other items that the Miners asked him to get for them. From that small beginning, over a number of years Stan went from strength to strength, eventually expanding into the large store that is here today, and is still owned and managed by the family.

The group were taken through the store and shown the extensive display of items where Andrew & Rob told their groups how things worked etc.  They then explained the newly opened Butchery department, the Butchers working there worked for Sid’s in Ellesmere before he recently retired. All the meat is sourced locally from the same place that Sid got his meat. The group was also told that the his new Butchers have brought the recipe for Sid’s famous Pies with them, and the Pies are being made in the store.

The group were then taken into the large warehouse where Andrew & Rob told their groups that where possible all the produce was locally sourced, among the numerous facts given, one fact that seems to have stuck in some of the members minds is that Stan’s stocks hundreds of types of Wine. It turns out that Stan’s Supermarket carries everything that the major Supermarkets carry, and more including Sid’s Pies.

After the tour Andrew & Rob had arranged a fabulous spread of Sandwiches and Scones, Tea and Coffee. Thank you Andrew & Rob for a very interesting and informative tour.    


Brief report on the society’s AGM 2015

The Society's AGM was held on 21st July 1015

The Treasurer Ken White presented his report – He said that due to the increased membership and the sale of the Ellesmere Memories and the Ellesmere Walking booklets the finances were in a healthy state, therefore this year’s membership subscriptions will remain at £10 for the year.

The Programme Secretary Ivan jasper presented next years programme of speakers, which is very varied and has something for everyone

In his report the Chairman, Robert Box said that the society is growing all the time with now 70 members. Robert said he thinks this is mainly due to two factors, the interesting speakers that Ivan as programme secretary has booked for us. And the website which this year has had over 10,000 hits which is an increase on last year.

 The committee elected for 2015/16 are –


Chairman – Robert Box, Vice Chairman– Fred Williams, Treasurer Sue Checketts,

 Secretary – Paul Goulbourne, Programme Secretary - Ivan Jasper.

 Committee members: 

 Margaret Sanderson, Mike & Pat Lister, Ken White, Jean Millman, Heather Bayne.

 Ken White has stepped down as Treasurer after serving for 3 years, but Ken has agreed to remain on the committee. And Shelagh Holland also stepped down after a number of years on the committee. Thanks to both of you for all your hard work over the years.


June Meeting 2015

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for June, was John Eastern whose talk was titled ‘The Romans in Chester’. John arrived dressed as a Roman Legionnaire, this was the surprise start to a very entertaining description of the life of a lowly Roman foot soldier. Remaining in character John explained his dress, which consisted of Leather boots, Woolen Socks (yes the Romans did wear socks) a skirt, a Tunic on top of which was Chain Mail armour, all the clothing was authentically made exactly the same as it was at the time. John went on to tell us that in Roman times Chester was known a Castra Deva, meaning “the military camp on the River Dee” and was home to the 20th Legion (Valeria Victrix) for about 200 years.

John carried on, always in character, to take us through the 200 years of the 20th Legion.

A most entertaining talk, or one man play, and well worth seeing. If you want to see John or find out more of the events in Chester contact their websitewww.romantours.uk.com.


Annual Outing May 2015

We held our annual outing on 19th May, 59 members and guests were transported by Lakeside Coaches of Ellesmere to Quarry Bank Mill in Styal near Manchester, made famous by the Channel 4 drama series “The Mill”. Built in 1784, and powered by Europe's most powerful working waterwheel, it is a very impressive site. On arrival the group had enough free time to tour the beautiful gardens and the Mill. Then a bite of lunch before a guided tour of the “Apprentice House”. This is where the pauper children who were employed by the Greg family to work in the Mill lived. The reason that children were used was because of their small size they could crawl under the machinery to sweep the cotton fibres up without stopping the looms. It sounds horrific to us in the 21st century, but as these children came from the Workhouse they were better off as they were fed schooled and clothed. Everyone said they enjoyed the outing and can recommend Quarry Bank Mill for a day out.

Many thanks to Ivan for orginising another great day out, also last but not least a special thanks to Gwyneth who kept Ivan sane throughout the stress of arranging the outing (Gwineth told me to say that)


 April meeting 2015

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for April, was local author Kenneth Ballantyne, taking us back to the WW 2 era. Ken has written a series of books about local WW 2 hero’s. With the aid of photos and true stories from the time Ken took us on an amusing journey from 1939 through to the early 1950s. Ken brought to life the war on the home front, describing some of the heroic actions of not only the men & women of the armed forces but the also many brave male and female civilians who not only did a full days work in the factories and on the farms but also when they finished work worked in the Civil Defense as Air Raid Wardens, Firemen, Home Guard etc recuing hundreds of people and saving many lives. Ken also explained that Hull and not Coventry was the most bombed city in WW 2, this was kept very quiet during the war, over 75% of Hull was destroyed by Bombing raids, mainly because being on the East cost it was so close to Europe.

Thank you Ken a fascinating and interesting story which brought back many memories for the audience.


February Meeting 2015

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for February, was  Rodney Upton whose talk was titled ‘Ellesmere’s Church Bells’. Rodney who is a Bell Ringer at St Mary’s Church in Ellesmere gave us a short history of Bells and their manufacture from around the world. He explained that the bells in a church tower are hung so that on each stroke the bell swings through a complete circle. Then the complicated bit how the ‘Changes’ are Rung, (on six bells this would be 123456.) this involved a bit of audience participation. Rodney then went through how the Bells at St Mary’s were removed to carry out repairs to them plus retuning. And how the Bell Ringing team raised the vast amount of money needed to do the job. Rodney said the Bells had not been removed since the 1700s. Rodney explained how all the work was carried out by the Bell Ringers themselves and the problems they came across, not least that the assess trapdoors were not in line so the seven Bells some weighing over a Ton had to be moved across from one side of the tower to the other.  A very interesting talk enjoyed by all.


January Meeting 2015

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for January was an old favorite Chris Jobson, whose talk was titled ‘Church History-Made in Ellesmere’. Chris entertained the members with a well researched and entertaining talk. Chris took us through the history of the Church in Ellesmere he told us that the church is mentioned in the Dooms Day Book, he went on to explain the links with Ellesmere and far flung places like Iona and Lindisfarne, he also told us that in the early days Monks ran the Church in Ellesmere some of whom were members of the Knights of St John.

 Rev Day who was a member of the Oxford movement came to Ellesmere in the early 1800 and between 1848–49 altered and enlarged the church. The Rev Day also started a Choir school in the town. Chris showed various old pictures which had never been seen in public before, Chris said that he obtained the pictures when someone knocked on his door and gave him the pictures wrapped in an old newspaper dated 1864.

A very interesting talk enjoyed by all.


 December Meeting 2014

On 16th December the Ellesmere Society held its Christmas Party at the Comrades Club, with the finger food supplied by the Committee & members. We had over 50 members and guests attending. 

The evenings entertainment  was a locally themed quiz complied by David Farncombe who with his wife Jane was our quiz master. The quiz was a great success, with small prizes to the winning team. Everyone said how much they enjoyed it.


November meeting 2014

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for the November meeting was Mark Hignett,  talking about the setting up of the Oswestry Museum. Mark gave a very enlightening and humorous talk. Mark explained how he and a team of 4 volunteers had set up the Museum in less than a year.( But with Mark’s enthusiasm it is not surprising.)

Mark said that he decided at the start to set up the Museum differently to other Museums. The ‘Time Line’ is not based on 4 or 5 moments in history such as wars piece time etc, but on any tenuous link he can find. One example he gave is that Whittington Castle claims that Dick Whittington the first  Mayor of London came from there. But Mark found out that Boris Johnston, the present Mayor of London married Allegra Mostyn-Owen his first wife near Oswestry. Nor is the ‘Time Line’ painted on the wall, but stuck on so parts can be removed or added to as required.

Mark said that the exciting part about being involved with the Museum is the amount of unknown history of Oswestry that has been learnt from the most innocuous items. Mark said he has a great team of volunteers who carry out research for the Museum. He also said that without the help and support of Oswestry Town Council the Museum would have been very difficult to set up and continue to run.


October meeting 2014

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for the October meeting was Sherie Soper speaking about  !7th Century Costumes. Sherie had brought with her a whole wardrobe of ladies and men’s clothing of all classes in the style of the 17th century.

Sherie told us how clothing had developed from simple Shifts worn by the lower classes to the elaborate costumes of the rich. The Shift was the only piece of clothing that was washed, so most people had two Shifts. One to wear & one to wash. Sherie told us that there was a large second hand clothing industry, and due to the lack of washing of all clothing worn above the Shift these markets were aptly named the Flea Markets. These markets were also used by people who wanted to dress above their station so to speak as they could purchase clothing form rich people. Foot wear was also different to today’s as it was not made as left and right shoes, but straight and worn on any foot so most were sold in threes, and you could swap them round as they wore.

After Sherie’s very interesting talk she invited the members to inspect the clothing, and even try some on


September 2014

In September for the first meeting of the season the speakers were a well known local couple Bill & Lynn Morris. They came to update us on the Kenyan Schools Project. They explained that they travel to Kenya twice a year to help young children and babies in schools and orphanages in Kenya. Since 2004 they have raised over £35,000, donating everything from desks and scholastic equipment and new classrooms. The Desks are made by local carpenters, and all the building work is carried out by local craftsmen which helps the local economy and gives work to local people.

Bill said that without the fantastic  help and support of DHL they would find it almost impossible to ship the pallets of donated equipment to Kenya.

A Desk costs £25 to make and seats two children, who would otherwise have to sit on the schoolroom floor for lessons. If they wish, the donor can have their name painted on the Desk.

For further informationabout Bill & Lynn’s work  go to their website http://www.kenyanschoolsproject.co.uk/


Summer Outing 2014

On 19th August we had a visit to Welshampton Church

Our guide for this visit was local historian and long-time member of the church Christopher Jobson. Christopher gave us a very enlightening talk about the history of this beautiful church. He explained that in the 1860s a new vicar came to Welshampton, which already had a small church, this had been built in 1788.

The new Vicar was one Buckley Owen Mainwaring who was a member of the Oxford Movement, (an Anglo Catholic movement), and had connections to the landowner Charles Kynaston Mainwaring of Oteley Hall.

The new Vicar immediately wanted to build a bigger and better church in keeping with the Oxford Movement. The Vicar attempted to raise the money for a new larger church locally but it was a very slow process, and the Bishop of Litchfield was very much against a new church in Welshampton, even up to the consecration of it.

Fortunately for the Vicar Charles Kynaston Mainwaring passed away and his grieving widow Frances Mainwaring wanted to build the church as a memorial to her husband. Needless to say with the support of Frances Mainwaring the church was built., And what a church! The type of which would usually be seen in a large town, not a small village in North Shropshire.

 Christopher Jobson alluded to other historic stories related to the parish, not least the one about an African prince, Jeremiah Libopuoa Moshueshue, who died in Welshampton in 1863.

The history of the church is supported by a booklet written by Christopher Jobson.

The Ladies of the church supplied us with Tea, Coffee and lovely homemade Scones with Jam and Cream.

A great afternoon out enjoyed by all.


June meeting  2014

June meeting the speaker was Tom Jones with a talk titled “Stretton Mill”. No he was not that Tom Jones. Tom explained that the earliest record of a mill at Stretton is from around 1351, but little is known of its early history, though the mill pond is the same location today as in the medieval period. The current mill building was started in 1630 on the footings of an earlier mill building became the estate mill for nearby Carden Hall owned by the Leche family. The Mill has 2 water wheels powering 2 separate Mill Stones. While helping to renovate the Mill Tom has trained as a Millar and helps to run the Mill and give demonstrations to visitors. Tom explained how the ancient wooden & Cast Iron machinery worked, and that the Mill Stones came from France, which surprised  the audience.  Thanks to Tom for a very informative and entertaining talk.



April Meeting 2014

At the Ellesmere Society’s April meeting the speaker was The Rev. Ben Parry, with a talk titled “The Battle of the Somme”.

The Rev Parry spoke very knowledgably about the Battle of the Somme and the lead up to it. His talk was interspersed with stories from Soldiers who survived, and verse written by serving Soldiers. Rev Parry said he has traveled many times to the cemeteries and battle fields of the First World War, and is convinced of the futility of War. Everyone agreed that it was a very enlightening and at times moving talk.


March Meeting 2014

 At the Society’s March meeting the speaker was an old favorite Dorothy Nicolle, with a talk titled “The Story of English Pup Signs”. This was obviously a favorite subject of Dorothy’s dating back to her childhood. Dorothy told an audience of over 50 members & guests that Pub Signs had been around since Roman times, starting out as a bush hanging out of a window, to let people know that Ale was sold there. And Dorothy explained how the history of the UK can be traced through Pub Signs. A very entertaining and interesting talk, which everyone enjoyed.


February Meeting 2014

The speaker for our February meeting was Tony Lewery with a talk titled 'The Saturn Project'. No it was not about the Planet and those members who had swatted up on Saturn & its Rings, & polished up their Telescopes could have been disappointed. But I challenge anyone to be disappointed with Tony's talk. Tony’s passion and enthusiasm for the restoration of the 100 year old Shropshire Union Canal Fly Boat was infectious, and as he showed us slides taken of the restoration the audience gasped and groaned at every set back and almost cheered when the boat was re-launched at the end of the restoration.

This project was started in 2000 and took 4 years to complete it was one of the first such projects to get Lottery funding, and the project is a partnership between the preservation society and British Waterways. Now the boat has been fully restored it goes round the Shropshire Union Canal network attending major events and undertaking specific educational and other bookings.


January Meeting 2014

 The speaker for our January meeting was Geoff Evans with a talk titled ‘Shropshire-The Story in the Stones’.

Geoff told the story of the Geological history of the British Isles narrowed down to Shropshire. He traced the journey of the land mass of what is now the British Isles for the past billions of years. From the South Pole, Northward to it’s present position on the earth. And we are still moving Northward at the speed of 1 inch per year. Geoff told how parts of Shropshire were at one time underwater, then a desert of sand, and latterly covered in Ice, which in turn helped to form the Meres.

Geoff had the knack of turning what could be a crusty subject, to a very interesting and entertaining talk, which even this writer could understand.


December's speaker & Xmas party 2013

The speaker at our December meeting and Xmas party was David Trumper telling us about the making of the film a “Christmas Carol” in Shrewsbury in 1983. staring  George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge, & Susannah York as Mrs. Cratchit plus many others. Many local children also had roles in the film, some of whom went on to make a career in the film industry.

David  also told us how the film crew turned  the Square in Shrewsbury into Victorian London at Christmas. And the fact that Dickens has been to Shrewsbury and stayed at the Lion Hotel. David told us how fake snow made setting the scene easier as it helped to cover up most of the signs of modernity, such as manholes Post Boxes and Yellow lines etc. As a local historian and photographer David was given access to all areas of the film set. As a result he took many pictures which helped to show how the film was made. David kept us entertain with some amusing stories about the stars.

After David’s entertaining talk the members and guests went on to partake of the lovely food organised by the ladies. A great evening was had by all


November's Speaker 2013

The Ellesmere Society’s speaker for their November meeting was Judge Michael Mander his talk was titled “A Judicial Pot Pourri”. Judge Mander certainly dispelled the Tabloid press’ view of Judges being stuffy and slightly out of touch. He gave a very entertaining talk, which was made up of a mixture of Magic sleight of hand tricks, Mind reading, Jokes and some amusing courtroom tales. Before the end of his talk Judge Mander asked for questions from the floor, these ranged from questions about his work as a Judge, to why he took up performing Magic tricks and became a member of the Magic Circle.