King's Lynn Society of Arts and Sciences
Founded in 1913
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HISTORY OF THE SOCIETY
THE INSIDE STORY OF THE THURSFORD COLLECTION AND THE CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR by John Cushing
Mr. John Cushing, CEO and Producer/Director of the Thursford Collection and the Christmas Spectacular was welcomed by our chairman.
He began by explaining the origins of the collection started by his father who left school at twelve and began his working life on a farm. His father always had an interest in steam engines which he would travel to Walsingham to see. At eighteen he was employed as the driver of Walsingham’s steam roller. When the roller became redundant he bought it and between the wars began, as a hobby, to build a fleet of steam engines.
In nineteen forty seven, when many engines were put aside, he began to buy fairground engines, and in nineteen fifty five acquired a huge Paris-built fairground organ which he restored. At this time the collection was sometimes open to the public, though any money raised was donated to charity.
However, with the ever increasing interest in steam engines, his father was persuaded to turn Thursford into a trust. Visitor numbers increased. Organ concerts were put on in the winter when numbers dropped. Next came the first Christmas Carol Concert using amateurs. Nowadays there is a huge cast of professionals, with vast numbers of people travelling to a village in rural Norfolk to experience the ‘Christmas Spectacular’.
Work on the spectacular continues throughout the year. It takes three to four months of preparation, followed by auditions in London during June and July. Performers are given their music in September and begin to practise together in London, before moving to Norfolk during the second week in October. Mr. Cushing rents tourist cottages for them. The cast of around a hundred and fifty can expect a very full day. Many others are employed in supporting roles.
He added that he hoped always to produce a show worth travelling many miles to experience.
A programme from the twenty eighteen Christmas Spectacular was left on each seat.
After answering several questions, our speaker was thanked for an interesting talk.
COVERING IT ALL UP — PROTECTING OUR ASSETS by Paul Garcia
Dr. Paul Garcia and Mr. Peter Whitely were welcomed by our chairman.
Dr. Garcia began by explaining that the title of his talk refers to the belief that the sole purpose of bookbinding is protection. While this was the case in the days of precious, monastic, hand-written books, the advent of printing caused changes. Though books are still desirable objects, binding has become fancier.
The two necessary materials are paper and leather. Paper can be made either by hand or using machines. That made by machine has a grain where it has been pulled over rollers, but hand-made paper lacks any grain.
Leather is produced by the process of tanning goatskin in order to make it both dry and flexible. Current methods differ little from those used in medieval times.
A tanned skin was passed round, along with a book wrapped in skin, thus demonstrating the earliest coverings, those used to protect Egyptian papyrus.
Dr. Garcia spoke of the art of covering books. Most early books were written on vellum which is susceptible to moisture and were therefore stored flat between wooden boards. However, as books printed on paper became more special, covers became a statement of wealth and could incorporate such items as semi-precious stones or ivory.
The twentieth century saw an explosion of fine bindings, sometimes with so much decoration that it is almost impossible to see the leather.
Various examples of decorated covers were circulated.
After answering several questions, Dr. Garcia encouraged everyone to enjoy the displayed items which he and Mr. Whitely had brought.
Both were thanked for an interesting evening.
BIOGRAPHER’S LUCK — THE WRITING OF LITERARY LIVES by D J Taylor
Mr. D. J. Taylor, author and biographer, who lives in Norwich, was welcomed by our chairman. Mr. Taylor then added his pleasure in speaking to an audience many of whom he knows.
He likened ‘Biographer’s Luck’ to the experience of a mariner who is almost into port with a loaded boat, but who hears sirens calling. He then searches for the sirens, and in so doing, his return is delayed by two years.
The speaker gave examples of his own Biographer’s Luck’. He had written ‘Lost Girls’ about a group of young women who worked on a literary magazine in the 1940s. The luck came about in June 2018 when he received a telephone call from one of the group’s daughter. Her mother had died, and the speaker was invited to look at the contents of the old lady’s flat. She had kept everything! He was able to collect letters, diaries and much else. His book had been almost finished, but as a result of this diversion, completion took a lot longer than anticipated.
Each of his biographies has included such amazing finds. He is writing a new biography of George Orwell because of fresh information which has filled in some of the gaps in our knowledge of Orwell’s life.
Afterwards Mr. Taylor answered several questions. He agreed that, with fewer paper records kept, the writing of biographies will become more difficult.
He was thanked for amost interesting talk.
Lecture Dates for 2020-2021
Friday 16th October 2020
Wednesday 4th November 2020
Friday 20th November 2020
Wednesday 9th December 2020
Friday 8th January 2021
Wednesday 27th January 2021
Friday 12th February 2021
Wednesday 10th March 2021
Friday 26th March 2021
Friday 15th October 2021
THE RIVER GAYWOOD - KING’S LYNN’S HIDDEN CHALKSTREAM by Dr Jonah Tosney
The Chairman introduced Dr Jonah Tosney, who presented this talk. He is the operations director of Norfolk Rivers trust.
The trust has 11 members of staff and was founded in 2011 as a charitable trust, and is concerned with the preservation and protection of 9 chalk rivers in Norfolk, of which the Gaywood River is a good example.
The trust is not concerned with any particular species of wildlife but with the whole river and its wildlife. Sympathetic support for the streams is needed from any farmers and landowners through which the streams pass.
The water in an English chalk stream emerges from the chalk bed, in which it is held, and is filtered by the chalk. The large mass of the chalk bed maintains the water at a constant temperature and flow rate, and ensures that it is mineral rich, particularly in calcium and magnesium.
Chalk streams are at risk from modification, extraction, and pollution, but are very rich in wildlife. Many of the world’s chalk streams are in England.
The Gaywood River in particular has a wide diversity of wildlife because it has some direct connections with the Little Ouse which allows some sea species to enter the river. The river contains eels which originate in the Sargasso Sea and swim across the Atlantic ocean, entering via the Little Ouse.
Springs around Grimston are the source of the Gaywood River.
Attempts were made after the last war to straighten the river, in order to allow better use of nearby agricultural land, but this had the effect of removing variations in the speed of flow and the extent of slit deposits, thus narrowing the range of wildlife which could thrive.
The river’s original course was restored 12 years ago, and the meandering flow now allows changes of speed and diversity of deposits, which encourages wider diversity, but it is now a little deeper than it was originally.
Islands of weeds increase the risk of floods, but provide an environment suitable for plant life and dragon flies. Otters are now beginning to reappear.
The flood plains provide an environment for yet more creatures which are not fully aquatic, and they provide a buffer from industrial pollution, but are often removed or reduced by famers. Additional environmental problems include agricultural pollution, siltation, barriers, extraction and invasive species.
The trust allows some fallen wood to remain in the streams to provide further opportunities for species which live on wood, or benefit from local variations of water speed which result.
Questions were asked about
The level of co-operation from farmers, (somewhat variable, with about 20% showing strong support).
The extent to which the river is covered by culverts. (A few hundred metres).
Ownership of the river. (Farmers and land owners do not own the river, but can claim ownership of the river bed up to half way across it).
The impact of dredging. (Dredging is ecologically harmful, and is now being more carefully managed by drainage boards).
The chairman closed the meeting and thanked Dr Tosney for his informative and interesting talk.
THE BEGINNINGS OF GLOBAL OPERA by Dr Benjamin Walton
Dr. B. Walton, Senior Lecturer at Jesus College, Cambridge, was welcomed to our society, introduced himself, and then explained that he would work backwards during his talk. He mentioned that new opera houses have recently been built in such diverse venues as China and Dubai. Both the New York Met. and London’s Royal Opera House transmit live opera relays to hundreds of cinemas all over the world. Opera stars such as Joyce di Donato and Juan Diego de Flores are booked several years in advance, and travel almost everywhere, moving rapidly between European venues and to faraway countries including Japan.
A hundred years ago was the era of Puccini and Lehar. 1883 saw the opening of the Met. Opera in New York. This was followed by opera houses in Hanoi in 1908, and both the Royal Opera House in London and another in Calcutta were opened in 1912. Tosca, first performed in Rome, soon travelled as far afield as Chile and China.
However, in 1819, there was little opera outside Europe, though, in 1808, when members or the Portuguese royal family fled to Brazil to avoid the Napoleonic threat, they introduced opera to Rio. Rossini’s Tancredi was staged there only six years after its first performance. It was a very small Italian troupe, consisting of only four singers which carried the operas of Rossini outside Europe. This troupe had neither scenery nor musicians, nor even a tenor! During their ten years’ travelling they had to hire these. Their travels took them firstly to Lima, followed by other South American cities, and then on to Macau where they performed a season of operas, and finally to Calcutta.
Dr. Walton played several extracts from Rossini operas to give us a taste of their melodies. In conclusion an American critic claimed that by 1835 everyone worldwide was singing Rossini tunes. The small troupe from Italy was, to a large extent, the reason for this.
THE STORY OF GAS AND ELECTRIC LIGHTING FROM THE 18TH CENTURY TO THE PRESENT DAY by Ralph Samel
The Chairman introduced Mr Ralph Samel and thanked him for visiting us to offer his presentation.
Mr Samel is a Chemist, and has followed this subject and presented it to the North London U3A, previously. He began by showing an evening time sketch of a street in London during 1750. Householders were obliged by law to show a light,(usually a candle) in their window between the hours of 9pm to 11pm, and risked a fine of one shilling if they did not do so. Despite this, streets were dark and boys offered their services to guide people through the streets. Those who needed to walk at night usually carried whale oil or bees’ wax fuelled lanterns. Watch men were appointed who carried an Argand lamp (introduced in 1780), but they had little power to intervene in the event of misfortune. In 1800 the race to improve street illumination began.
Volta discovered that different metals in contact generated a small electric current, and he produced a demonstration battery in 1800. Mr Samel demonstrated a basic electrical cell, illuminating a light emitting diode, using a lemon to provide an electrolyte, and copper and zinc strips to form electrodes.
Humphrey Davey read Volta’s report and set up a 600 cell battery in 1801 in Penzance, and went on to demonstrate that when the terminals of his battery were touched together they generated a bright flash. He found that carbon rods could create a continuous brilliant arc, which required constant adjustment of the electrodes as they burn away. This system provided lighting for 100 years, and was improved by the use of electric generators instead of batteries. He also found that a platinum wire connected between the electrodes could provide a bright light for a short period before the wire burnt out. Early arc lights became popular in Paris during 1850, and were enormously bright. Billingsgate Market was illuminated by 16 arc lights until 1884.
But then there was no further development of electric lighting for 70 years.
During the early 17th Century, several experimenters found that by heating coal in the absence of air a flammable gas was evolved which was named “spirit of coal” by John Clayton of Wigan, England. William Murdock illuminated his house in Redruth, Cornwall, in 1792. Phillipe le Bon demonstrated street lighting in Paris in 1801. Frederick Windsor installed gas lighting down one side of Pall Mall in London and the first gas works was built in 1812 in Great Peter Street. By 1929 there were 200 gas works, and the gas holder was developed to hold a large volume of gas and to stabilise pressure variations as demand increased.
The light given by a burning gas flame was poor, and in 1881 the gas mantle was invented by Parisian, Charles Clamond, and a practical mantle was developed by Carl Auer von Welsbach. Cotton mesh was coated with magnesium oxide and when the cotton was burnt away, a delicate web of magnesium oxide remained. When a gas flame was directed at a mantle there was an increase in the brightness of the light emitted by about 15 times. Other formulations were developed and the mantle saved the gas industry which was facing strong competition from electricity. Slot meters were invented in 1870, and gas meters in 1900.
Work continued on the development of a practical electric bulb, and Joseph Swan developed the vacuum bulb, in which a platinum wire was surrounded by an evacuated glass bulb, thus preventing the wire from burning in air. He patented this invention in 1860. Edison also developed a similar system in America. Swan was the inventor, but Edison developed it. He experimented with other filament materials, particularly forms of carbon. Electrical illumination had the advantage of avoiding the fouling of the air in buildings due to gas combustion, which was a feature of gas lighting.
Electric lighting replaced candle light in theatres which also produced air pollution. Both gas and candle light risked fire in buildings. Swan and Edison co-operated, and a carbon filament bulb was developed which burnt for 150 hours. The first public building in the world to be illuminated by electricity was the Savoy Theatre. There are still 1500 gas lamps in London which are maintained for historical purposes.
The chairman thanked Mr Samel for his presentation.
‘THE WONDER OF LIGHT’ IN ALL ITS GUISES AND APPLICATIONS by David Morton
The chairman introduced David Morton who gave the illustrated presentation. His lecture was an overview listing and summary of visible light and selected other electromagnetic waves, their sources, applications, and effects.
Mr Morton began with a slide of the sun, and referred to sun spots, their effect on radio communications and apparent effect on mean earth temperatures. He also referred to lower sunlight levels on the planet Mars, and higher light levels at the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Mr Morton then listed the main effects of light, including chemical reactions, evolutionary progress, propagation of plants, decomposition, preservation by photochemistry, destruction, e.g. sunburn, measurement of distances, effects of light on the body clock. He briefly illustrated each of these effects, by citing examples where they applied, as well as describing the phenomena of the aurora borealis and aurora australis.
He briefly described the human eye, and went on to mention artificial light sources, X- rays, lasers, the CT scanner, radar, optic fibres, infrared cameras, light emitting diodes, holograms, OLED television, grow lights, digital cameras, mobile telephones and even the large hadron collider.
Then he turned his attention to the future, describing how various countries are constantly developing new technologies and innovations, especially Japan and now Australia with their prototype solar powered cars, solar farms for energy generation, proving that progress never stands still. He finished with facts and comments on lightning, illustrated by some dramatic photographs taken above Cromer.
There were various questions from the audience covering such diverse areas as light emitting diodes, and the time lag caused by the travelling of light over vast interstellar distances.
The chairman thanked Mr Morton for his wide ranging talk.
FINGERPRINTS: STILL THE ONLY POSITIVE METHOD OF IDENTIFICATION by David Smith
David Smith regaled the large audience of the KLSAS with many amusing and gory tales about his job spanning 40 years, culminating as a Senior Fingerprint expert, working with the Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard. He explained that the original method of identification used to apprehend criminals was the Anthropometric Method used at the end of the 19
century, which was invented by Alfonse Bertillon in Paris. This was a nine stage process involving recording and comparing standard sets of measurements, such as height, head girth, arm length from elbow to fingertip, backed up by fingerprinting, to identify suspects. Notorious poachers, the identical Fox twins, proved the undoing of this plan. Their physical appearance, photos and measurements were virtually the same, and they always committed crimes singly, so that if one was caught he gave the name of the other twin, who had been in the pub all evening, thus providing an alibi! Each person’s fingerprints are unique, even in multiple births, so this proved to be their downfall and both were eventually convicted of their crimes, resulting in fingerprinting becoming a much more widespread police tool.
The first organised fingerprint record-keeping system was originated by a Croat living in Argentina, but in Britain the longest serving Police Commissioner, Sir Edward Henry, founded the metropolitan Fingerprinting Bureau on 13
July 1901. There are 5 common patterns, thought to be formed by pressure during development in the womb. They consist of a series of ridges and troughs, spanning the sides of the pads. Every person has one or a mix of these patterns, alongside other specific characteristics. It’s these unique differences which are studied to confirm identity. Palm prints and sole prints are used too. Sole prints are also unique, but less commonly seen, owing to our climate, which necessitates the wearing of shoes and socks!
A pot of extremely fine aluminium powder and a swirly zephyr brush are used to reveal fingerprints, which are then lifted using very sticky tape which doesn’t leave any residue on a surface, then sealed onto a plastic template containing all the necessary identification details. The Chairman’s prints were taken to ably demonstrate this procedure. She was assured that they would be destroyed at the end of the evening!
In 1967 the paper storage of fingerprint evidence took up an inordinate amount of space, and checking and comparing samples was a laborious visual process with the aid of a magnifying glass in true Sherlock Holmes’ style, involving many hours of overtime. Nowadays every police station charge room has a Livescan machine which has 24/7 access to IDENT 1, the central computer database in Hendon, which can accurately search through 15 million samples (x 10 fingers) in about 30 minutes.
Fingerprinting has other uses, apart from proving criminal activity. After the S.E. Asia Tsunami teams of experts were dispatched, for a fortnight at a time, to help identify recovered bodies by matching finger and palm prints with samples taken from personal belongings. This experience meant that when the London bus and tube bombings occurred, the process was so well-practised that all the victims were able to be identified within a week. Apart from criminals, the only prints kept permanently on file are those belonging to Police Officers and civilian scenes of crime experts for elimination purposes, and members of the Royal Family in case of kidnap.
Advances in forensic examination in recent years have led to many sophisticated and highly technical methods of determining the presence of substances like blood and DNA, to aid crime scene investigation and conviction … BUT fingerprints still provide the ONLY positive method of identification.
The speaker answered several questions from the appreciative audience and was warmly thanked by the Chairman for his entertaining and informative talk.
NORFOLK TREASURES by Kevin Elfleet
Our speaker, Kevin Elfleet, Chairman of Norfolk Metal Detecting Club, was introduced and welcomed by our chairman. Both were pleased to notice a full house for the talk.
Mr. Elfleet started by explaining that the metal detecting club is involved with various other associations, including Norfolk’s archaeological service and Time Team who excavated both at Bawsey and Brancaster. Metal detectors also take finds to display at Sedgeford Archaeological Project’s annual open day.
Artefacts frequently found are Roman pins and tweezers, medieval matrixes, (small seals) and coins from various ages. There were coin weights discovered near Beachamwell, mint Victorian coins on the Norfolk/Cambridgeshire border, and a bronze bowl from Grimston.
During excavations on Ken Hill, Snettisham, in 2015 a Coptic bowl was unearthed, indicating the site of a burial which was duly found, along with artefacts including a spear and shield, all dated from around 650. Snettisham is an area rich in archaeology. The Bronze Age Hoard is famous, but there is as well a Romano-British temple lying on top of an Iron Age site.
The Metal Detecting Club also took part in an American-led project searching for King John’s jewels. In an area near Tydd there were finds dating from the thirteenth century.
Recently the group was involved in the digging of test pits at both Hillington and Grimston. At Saxlingham a two inch medieval gold cross was discovered, and in the Gayton area a gold pendant from around 650.
After his talk the speaker answered several questions, and then invited his audience to look at the items on display. Amongst these were Roman coins and brooches, and a beautiful Neolithic polished axe from Snettisham.
Mr Efleet was duly thanked for his interesting talk.
THE HOUSE OF HIS DREAMS: REIMAGINING THE MUNNINGS ART GALLERY by Dr Lynne Broughton
The chairman introduced Jenny Hand, who is the Director of the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Gallery in Dedham Essex, situated in Castle House, his last home, which he dubbed ’My Dream House’. He was a prolific and accomplished artist and whilst there is, as yet, no comprehensive catalogue of his paintings, the gallery currently holds about 400 of his works.
He was born at Milhouse, Mendham, Suffolk and showed remarkable artistic gift at a very early age, a fact ably illustrated by a painting of a pony which he produced at age 9, and his early water colour of the mill at Mendham.
In 1892 whilst apprenticed to a printer he took an interest in the Belle Epoch and designed several posters for famous companies including Colman’s Mustard, and Caley’s Chocolate. The Director of Caley’s was so impressed by his posters that Sir Alfred was invited to join him in tours to Europe, where he further refined his artistic skills. His extraordinary paintings emphasised the three-dimensional nature of his subjects and between 1897 to 1900 he exhibited and sold his ink and wash monochrome pictures in Norwich.
In 1899 Munnings had an accident whilst negotiating a stile with his dog, and he lost the sight of his right eye, but after lengthy recovery, he continued as a skilled and productive artist, moving into a new studio near Norwich, and we were shown his remarkable Constable-like country scenes.
Alfred Munnings settled in Cornwall in 1911 at Lamorna Cove, where he formed and led a group of artists, and met his first wife, Florence, who later suffered mental illness and tragically took her own life 4 days before the outbreak of the First World War. In 1918 he was selected as the official war artist to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, and in 1920 he married his second wife Violet.
He went on to produce portraits of Lord Rothschild, the Duke of Marlborough, and the Royal family, and these were exhibited in Norwich as a tribute to him in 1925. We were also shown an illustration of one of his stunning paintings,
“My wife, my horse and me”
, featuring Lady Violet on horseback, outside Castle House. He became president of the Royal Academy of Art from 1944 to 1949. Munnings was famously outspoken, and in 1956, he produced a painting showing famous artists of the time reacting to inconsequential works of art, titling the work
“Does the subject really matter?”
which was unexpectedly well received.
Castle House was Alfred Munnings’ last home, which he bought in 1919. It now houses the exhibition which is dedicated to his life and work. His ashes are buried in St Paul’s Cathedral next to those of his hero, John Constable.
Sir Alfred Munnings was a man of many talents, and questions were asked by the audience about his sculptures, his European studies, and his music and poetry, as well as his paintings. The chairman thanked the speaker for her enthusiastic and instructive talk, and beautiful illustrations.
INTERPRETING LINCOLN CATHEDRAL by Dr Lynne Broughton
The chairman introduced Dr Lynne Broughton who gave the presentation.
She began writing about Lincoln Cathedral in 1966 producing a descriptive pamphlet and is now writing a book on the Cathedral. Her previous book on Ely Cathedral is also now being re-printed.
She began her talk by showing a picture of the Cathedral which she had taken from a distance of about a mile, showing a large and imposing medieval building with two transepts. John Ruskin has written “
It is our most precious Cathedral, which is worth any two others
Dr Broughton described the imposing exchequer gate approach which has three arches, one believed to be for entering the Cathedral, one for leaving, and one for horse traffic. This compound arch leads to the West door, which was inspired by the triumphal arch of Constantine in Rome, and symbolises the triumph of Christianity over death.
The West door was commenced in 1072, being further extended in the 12 century, and embellished in the 14 century with a superstructure. The entire West front is intricately carved with religious images. In particular, the door surround is embellished with images of the “harrowing of hell” and also images of the raising of Lazarus, and of Noah’s Ark. The oak door is of elaborate form and is heavily reinforced.
Photographs of a 12
Century font and candlestick within the Cathedral, as well as some of the Nave were shown, revealing a light open structure with high arches, and pillars which were all different to create interest. The choir stalls were made between 1365 and 1370, and are highly detailed with carvings, including angels playing instruments.
Pictures were also shown of the “crazy vault” which showed an asymmetric roof structure, again designed to create interest.
There were questions from the floor about detail in the carvings and about the possibility of wartime damage.
The chairman thanked Dr Broughton for her detailed and inspiring presentation.
SONGS THAT EMANATE FROM THE HEART: LUTHERAN MUSIC MAKING AFTER THE REFORMATION by Dr Bettina Varwig
The King’s Lynn Society of Arts and Sciences recently welcomed Dr. Bettina Varwig to a well attended meeting in which she gave a lecture entitled: Songs that emanate from the heart : Lutheran music making after the reformation. Dr. Varwig is a University Lecturer at the Faculty of Music, Cambridge and a Fellow of Emmanuel College. Dr. Varwig is especially interested in questions of musical meaning and expression, historical modes of listening, and music’s place in the history of the body, the emotions and the senses. She specialises, also in the music of Heinrich Schutz.
The lecturer described the music, and played examples of it, that congregations would have heard in church from Martin Luther’s time in Germany and the effect it had on them spiritually and emotionally and looked at the church authority’s reaction to that effect bearing in mind their priority was to the word not necessarily the music!
It was, in fact , as legend has it, on 31st October, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, an act of rebellion prompting the reformation .
Dr. Varwig also discussed the religious musical works of perhaps the greatest of all composers, J.S. Bach, and some of the composers of the times. A question and answer session followed and those present enjoyed a fascinating evening. The Society’s next meeting is scheduled for Friday, 11th January, is entitled : Interpreting Lincoln Cathedral and will be given by Dr. Lynne Broughton.
Andy Tyler — Lynn News
'An Illustrated History Of Gold Work Embroidery' by Jean Wright
Jean Wright who gave this talk was introduced by our chairman. She is a textile artist who specialises in the incorporation of precious metal into embroidery, and is based in Diss, Norfolk, and works with the Cambridge group “Fibre fusion”.
Embroidery incorporating metal threads began about 3000 years ago, and there are references to it in the Old Testament (Exodus 28). It began in the Middle East, and spread to Japan and China where gold and silver were incorporated together. It then moved to the west, where only the aristocracy and the church could afford it. It was classified as “great art”.
The technique was to beat gold or silver into thin sheets, which were the cut into strips and hand wrapped round individual threads, mainly silk to achieve sufficient flexibility. This embellished thread was known as “Jap Gold”, thought to mean Japanese gold thread. There are a large variety of types of gold decorous threads, which can be used to create texture in finished embroidery. “Purl” is a variety of self supporting hollow wound gold which is spring like, and can be cut into short lengths and incorporated by passing thread through the core, resembling beads. “Plate” is wider strips of gold which are folded and embroidered into a pattern to offer a more reflective surface. “Underside couching” is where gold wire is passed through a fabric and held in place by stitches.
Gold work was important to medieval monarchs. They went into battle with elaborate gold embellished embroidery on tunics and even their horse’s adornments. “English work” which was regarded of particularly high quality became famous during the period 1060 to 1380, and was sought throughout Europe. The standard of work was controlled by the guilds. Whilst Henry VIII wore garments heavily embellished with gold thread, embroidery of this type was not allowed in religious institutions after the Reformation. Illustrations of the gold embellished dresses of Elizabeth I and Ann Boleyn were shown, as were examples of Queen Ann afternoon tea gowns. During the Civil war (1625) lavish embroidery was no longer seen, and it did not reappear until 1660.
In the 1920’s dresses were no longer structured three dimensional garments, but were much more simplified. Pictures of exotic 1920’s gold and silver embroidered dresses were shown. The 1978 Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee cope was also illustrated. Gold embroidery cannot be polished or washed, and tarnishes with handling. In modern times metal threads were coloured to make patterns more varied.
Gold work continues to current times, and is supported locally by the King’s Lynn embroidery guild.
After answering questions, the chairman thanked the speaker for her excellent presentation.
'Repair, Re-Use, Re-Invent' by Jeremy Stacey
Tonight’s speaker, Jeremy Stacey, was welcomed by our chairman. Mr. Stacey, an architect, explained that he and his wife, based in Beachamwell, work together on projects. He paid tribute to the highly-competent quantity surveyor who joins them and enables work usually to be completed both on time, and within budget. They have recently worked in Swaffham, Dereham and Gt Yarmouth.
He first spoke of Juniper House in King’s Lynn. Here it was necessary to ensure that new building fitted in with older work. Old buildings, he feels, must be respected. Hence new work needs features which link to the old. In this case, for example, he created overhanging roofs which link to the older building, without copying. He also made circulation within the building easier.
Another project was to adapt an 1850s carrstone-built workhouse which already had some interesting detail. Mr. Stacey wanted to make the centre full of light, where, previously it had been dark. When a wall was replaced by glass, the central roof raised, and a lantern built, light flooded into the building. Gt Yarmouth Town Hall was also opened out and lightened.
In Dereham Mr. Stacey was able to create a new cemetery for the town council. He wanted to recognise the gravitas of a cemetery, while ensuring that it was different from older ones. As the designated area is near the countryside, he constructed a leaf shape, with paths as veins of the leaf. With additional veins, the leaf can grow until 2065. He also planned for plenty of trees, and earth mounds to insulate the area from the A47. His design also incorporated a shelter, to acknowledge both the sky and the countryside.
After answering several questions, Mr. Stacey was thanked by our chairman for an illuminating talk.
'The Flora of King's Lynn' by Robin Stevenson
After our AGM Robin Stevenson was welcomed by our chairman.
Our speaker clearly has a sense of humour, since he described his recording of Lynn’s flora, undertaken while he was still employed, as not only a labour of love, but probably an act of lunacy too! He acknowledged the vital help in his endeavours of Frances Schumann.
A five kilometre by five kilometre square was chosen. This was divided into twenty five squares. The area included part of South Wootton, Reffley Wood and Fairstead and bordered on a section of the Ouse to the west. Lynn has a range of habitats, from woodland and maritime to industrial wasteland and rural margins. Each one kilometre square was visited several times during a year, and a list of plants compiled using hand lenses, compass, notebook and pencil, and, importantly, a gps. Both native plants and aliens were recorded, with over eight hundred species found.
Results were plotted on the twenty five square kilometre map, each species being represented by a black circle in the one kilometre square in which it was found. An analysis of the results showed that the urban/suburban areas had the highest totals. Rare plants such as Spleenwort, (on walls in the middle of town) and Rare Bittercress (by waterways) were noted.
Probable ‘winners’ in the future will be garden escapees such as Evening Primrose and Grape Hyacinth, while ‘losers’ are likely to include Wood Anenomes and our native Primroses.
This interesting and unusual talk was followed by questions, after which Mr. Stevenson was thanked by our chairman.
Our speaker concluded by expressing his concern over our flora. Not only is ‘over-neatness’ a problem, but he feels that the various conservation bodies do not work sufficiently together.
Our chairman thanked Robin for an interesting talk, told with humour.
Résumé of "The West Runton Mammoth"
It is twenty seven years since the excitement of the discovery of freshly exposed parts of a mammoth skeleton in the Cromer Beds at the bottom of the cliffs at West Runton, after a storm had loosened material in 1990. Using media that included drone footage and video, Peter Sibbons of Poppyland Publishing, Cromer, gave the Society a comprehensive overview of how the remains were excavated over five years, as well as reconstructing the possible environment of the period and how this mammoth lived and died there.
This mammoth isn’t the better known woolly variety of later glaciations but a much larger species,
, which at 9-10 tonnes and 4m at the shoulder was considerably larger. The remains date from around 700,000 years ago. Pollen analysis of core samples from the site suggest that the temperature then was similar to how it is today. The environment the mammoth knew would have had a nearby river and similar flora and landscape features to that found at Upwell Fen today. The fauna would also be recognisable but with the addition of bears, rhino, hippo, spotted hyena, sabre-toothed cat and others. The Cromer Beds, which lie between Weybourne and Happisburgh where bones and shells have been found for nearly 200 years, were subsequently overlain by outwash from later glaciers which left them at the bottom of today’s cliffs.
Excavations in 1992 and 1995 showed the skeleton to be incomplete and scattered. Using methods of reconstructive archaeology and observations from current elephant and hyena behaviour, it is suggested that the remains had been trampled by other group members and scavenged by predators, as the bones were smashed in distinctive ways; teeth marks and coprolites indicate hyena activity. Also, the left knee showed pathology consistent with injury which may have weakened it.
The bones were all secured in plaster of Paris and removed from site. The remains have not been put on display yet, although the Castle Museum at Norwich is their likely destination. It is planned to launch the Deep History Coast Project this April and there will eventually be fourteen information points between Weybourne and Happisburgh. A DVD of the discovery and excavation of the mammoth based on about sixty hours of video taken at the time is to be produced in the future.
Résumé of "A Talk on Writing, Including Poetry" by Louis de Bernieres
The speaker was welcomed by our chairman. Mr de Bernieres started by saying that he hoped to convert any scientists in the audience to poetry. He stated that most people don’t know how, or why poetry works. His idea of poetry is that it is language made musical. He pointed out that, in the west, poetry was, initially recited to a lyre, as in Greece. Thus poetry and music were one.
In England poetry and music coincided in ballads of seven to nine syllables. In the eighteenth century it was possible to buy ballads on contemporary topics which could be sung to old tunes.
At the end of the twentieth century some poets felt constrained by conventions such as rhyming. G.M.Hopkins, for example, used ‘sprung rhythm’ to catch the mood of poetry.
Mr. De Bernieres talked of the different types of metre used in poetry. He added that rhyme, though not an integral part of poetry, nevertheless makes a poem easier to remember.
Alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds) was used heavily by Anglo-Saxons. Assonance (recurring vowel sounds) can also be used. Tennyson’s ‘The Eagle’ uses both.
Since English, unlike Italian or Spanish, suffers from a lack of rhyming words, that is a good reason not to rhyme. Our speaker said he was unable to give a definition of poetry.
He answered with panache several interesting questions such as ‘How do you know when a poem is finished?’ Reply — ‘When it’s published!’ He concluded by stating that, in composing poetry, it is useful to know what rules poets have used, but you can then disobey them. Poetry must mean something, as well as being pleasant to the ear.
Our speaker was warmly thanked for the stimulating talk.