We will be archiving the lectures as we go through the year, so you can look back on
lectures, perhaps look at some of the links associated with them.
Thursday 12th September 2019
A Kelmscott Chaucer of our Times
William Morris founded his Kelmscott Press in 1890 in order to save the fine art of hand
printing in Britain. When in 1896 his last book, the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, was
published, it was universally hailed as the greatest book of the age.
It is a huge book, with illustrations by Burne Jones and decorations by Morris, and was
printed at the press in Hammersmith over a four year period. Fewer than 400 copies were
produced. In 2012 Dominic was presented with a copy in a poor binding, with a view to
creating a contemporary artistic binding for it. This lecture is the record that process. He
will give an overview of Morris and the Kelmscott Press, and then talk about his very
demanding commission — from the early designs to the completion of the project four
Background to the book
Thursday 13th June 2019
English Mediaeval Castles & Great Houses : The non elite response to elite
This lecture offers a little-regarded alternative viewpoint of life in English mediaeval
castles:that of the ordinary folk. Using archaeological evidence gleaned from historic
building survey, contemporary literature, artistic representations, graffiti and architectural
history this talk presents the story of the masons, carpenters, cooks, clerks, servants,
stable-hands and lower status visitors to great castles.
Instead of studying towers, gatehouses and great halls here we delve into the kitchens,
stables, staircases, cellars and garderobes to uncover evidence of the non-elite response
to elite buildings.
James Wright FSA is an archaeologist and historian based at the University
of Nottingham. With over twenty years of professional experience, he has
published two books and a string of popular and academic articles
concentrating on the British Mediaeval and Early Modern periods. He is a
very proficient public speaker and has spoken to a wide variety of
organisations including Historic Royal Palaces, the National Trust, Lowdham
Book Festival, the Fortean Society, Gresham College, Shakespeare400 and the
Museum of London.
Thursday 9th May 2019
The Story of Beatrix Potter
Not only is she one of our best loved children’s authors and illustrators but Beatrix Potter
was a respected naturalist, an entrepreneur, an astute business woman, a farmer and a
breeder of prize winning sheep as well as a conservationist whose early support fostered
the foundations of our much respected National Trust.
In addition to her art and stories for children, we will explore her personal life, first beset
by the tragedy of losing her first fiancée Norman Warne but ending in fulfilment with her
husband of thirty years, William Heelis.
So, if you enjoy a good story, and who does not? - then share with me the extraordinary
and fascinating tale of Beatrix Potter.
Thursday 30th May 2019 – DAY TIME MEETING
‘How to Read’ The English Church
How to read the architectural and liturgical features that have shaped the building through
the ages to the present day.
Part one: The pre-Christian to the Tudors
It is possible to ‘read’ the passage of time, of movements, cultures and peoples in the
architecture and art forms evident in many of our older English country churches. This
lecture takes us from the pre-Christian era, through the arrival of the Romans and
onwards to the sixteenth century and the epoch changing Tudors Simple indicators are
given how to identify churches with Roman and Saxon origins. The great flowering of
Romanesque and Gothic architecture that followed the invasion of the Normans in the
eleventh century are explained with illustrated examples. Onwards into the high Middle
Ages and the tumultuous changes of the Reformation we can see the architectural and
structural evidence of a period of great change.
Part two: The Tudors to the present
This second part takes us on from the Tudor era into the establishment of a new
Protestant England visible in church structures. Later the profound destructive changes of
the seventeenth century Commonwealth era are followed by restoration and liturgical
change. The largely forgotten Georgian period of church architecture is examined as
church architecture that the Victorians forgot. In turn the great period of church building
and Gothic revival of the Victorian era and the associated innovations of the Oxford and
Cambridge movements are examined in detail. Finally, there is a brief look at
contemporary changes that have influenced and altered church buildings as the English
country church continues to reflect the passing of the ages.
Thursday 11th April 2019
William Simmonds and the English Puppet Theatre
Simmonds was an old-fashioned Cotswolds
craftsman, who achieved a stellar reputation by the
time he died in 1968.
Much in demand, his ambitious puppet shows were
put on for grown-ups as well as children. He could
carve a calibrated figure one-sixth-life-size so
convincingly that, when controlled by an expert
puppeteer, reviewers thought his creatures had a
life of their own. Winston Churchill was one of many
who admired a performance put on by the 2nd Duke
of Westminster at his country house, Eaton Hall in
Trained at the Royal Academy and emerging from the Arts&Crafts movement in
Gloucestershire, Simmonds moved on from traditional painting to designing aircraft for De
Haviland during the First World War.
Background to William Simmonds and his wife.
Thursday 14th March 2019
Sir Joshua Reynolds - Destroyer of Pictures? Techniques & Conservation
Eighteenth century Britain was an age of romanticised elegance captured politely in paint.
In contrast, Sir Joshua Reynolds pushed the boundaries of composition and materials
through endless experimentation. His constant attempts to replicate the painting
techniques of the Old Masters resulted in some of the triumphs of Georgian British Art.
Whilst much of his work survives, his experimentation with oils, waxes, pigments and
other ingredients of painting alchemy, many are in poor condition and pose conservation
conundrums. In addition to Reynolds's development as a painter, this lecture will discuss
the various scientific methods undertaken to revive, and in some cases resurrect, his
valuable and important paintings.
A rare and curious example of Joshua Reynolds reusing a rather elaborate costume for two different
Thursday 14th February 2019
‘Very Bad for Art’ ? The impact of the Great War on 3 Artists
Augustus John turned to Bomberg and said “David, this news of the outbreak of war is
going to be very bad for art.” This lecture considers the truth of that prophesy among
three British artists who had first-hand experience of the Great War and whose work was
profoundly affected by it.
David Bomberg (1890-1957) By his mid-twenties he had achieved notable success and
was being hailed as a major talent in avant garde circles. The rejection of a Canadian War
Commission was a significant disappointment and it is true to say that his career never
Christopher Nevinson (1889-1946) He is generally regarded as the only British artist who
wholeheartedly adopted the tenets of Futurism, a movement that set out to glorify war.
However, faced with its reality his work took a completely new direction but not before he
had produced some of the War’s most powerful images.
William Orpen (1878-1931) One of the most financially successful artists in the pre-War
period, Orpen used his society contacts to gain privileged access to military leaders yet
developed a deep admiration for the regular soldier. His unorthodox approach to official
commissions led him to produce some of his most compelling works. Alan Read
A Group of Soldiers (1917© IWM (Art.IWM ART 1097)
Thursday 13th December 2018 (Includes Drinks & Mince Pies)
George Cruikshank - The man who drew Oliver Twist
George Cruikshank is now best known for his brilliant drawings for Charles Dickens's Oliver
Twist. But this is to do his prodigious skills and work output a disservice. Cruikshank
moved effortlessly from biting satirical prints in the Georgian era through to producing
engravings for numerous books and journals in Victorian times. Adapting his talents both
to new printing technology and the new demands of the reading public, he is considered
by many to be the greatest illustrator of the 19th century. His personal reputation hasn't
survived quite so well, partly through his obsession with temperance in later life and the
fact that when he died, aged 85, it was discovered he had fathered eleven illegitimate
children with his mistress.
Thursday 8th November 2018
Great Lengths-On the Art & Architecture of swimming pools & lidos
Swimming is Britain’s second favourite form of physical recreation (after walking). Almost
everyone has memories of visiting their local baths. But whilst not all these memories
might be positive – drooping knitted cozzies anyone? – for many swimmers the baths
themselves are cherished.
Some, particular those built in the late Victorian and Edwardian years, are rich with
decorative tilework, stained glass, polished wood and terracotta detailing.
This sense of municipal pride continued into the 1920s and ’30s, when Art Deco and
Modernist lidos became the urban beaches of their day. In this lecture, Simon highlights
the treasures of aquatic art that survive, and considers how the pools of today compare.
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Programme for 2019/20