Landor (Local History) Society

Recent Society meetings:


It was a full house at the February meeting of the Society when David Barrett and Robin Mathams gave a talk on the History of the Trent Valley Railway Station.  

In 1845 an Act was obtained by the Trent Valley Railway for the construction of a line from Stafford to Rugby via Colwich, Tamworth and Nuneaton.  Robin spoke and showed diagrams of how the line was constructed.  The line was completed in February 1847.

David showed photographs of the Station and the Stationmaster's house and some of the railway workers.  He also compared older photographs with the way the Station looks today.

This was a fascinating talk, which appealed to all the local people who attended.

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MAY 2011

On Wednesday,  May  18th,  35 members were welcomed by Ben Phillips for a  visit to the Heath House at Tean.   

Ben commenced by talking about the history of the house which had replaced an earlier dwelling occupied by the Phillips family who bought the estate in the 1680’s.  This was followed by a tour of the gardens and the Orangery, built in 1824,  and incorporated into the design for the new house, gardens and surrounding landscaped grounds.

Supper was served and some members went to the top of the tower which afforded excellent views of the surrounding countryside.  A tour of the house then took place looking into the newly furbished bedroom and looking at the original furniture and wall coverings as well as artworks collected by the family over the years. The house has been featured on the programme “Country House Rescue” and is now a delightful place for Wedding Venues.

 The Red Cross has had a long association with the Heath House and during the Second World War was requisitioned by them as an auxiliary hospital.  Florence Nightingale was a visitor to the house after the Crimean War.  The house has also been used as a film location for the Miss Marple series and the film of the Hound of the Baskervilles.

This was a memorable evening spent in beautiful surroundings.

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JULY 2011

On 20th July 2011, Philip Leason  conducted a walk around Stone.  He commenced by telling members that Stone was named after a pile of stones that were placed on the graves of King Wufhere’s two sons who were killed by their father in 665 AD because of  their conversion to Christianity.  This was followed by a visit to St. Michael and St Wulfrad church, built in 1753, partly on the site of the old Priory Church.

Members were then taken to the Jervis Mausoleum, within the grounds of the church, to see the graves of the Admiral and many members of his family.  Admiral John Jervis, born in Staffordshire in 1735, commanded the smaller British fleet at St. Vincent and, following the victory, he was created Earl St. Vincent.

After a walk around the town viewing some more notable landmarks the tour ended with a walk along the Trent and Mersey Canal which has played a vital role in the development of the town, with the Trent and Mersey Canal Company being formed in 1766 by Josiah Wedgwood and engineer James Brindley.  The murder of Christina Collins in 1839 at the “Bloody Steps” in Rugeley is a well known tale and members were able to see the statue along the canal at Stone which has been erected to mark her fatal journey at the hands of the boatmen who were taking her to London to meet her husband.

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At the October meeting members were invited to give a talk of 10 minutes on a subject of their choice..  Seven members participated, giving talks on diverse subjects.  Jean Woollet spoke about her experiences as a child growing up in Rugeley during World War II and talked about the  two evacuee sisters who stayed briefly with her family.  Janice Barry read an extract from her father-in-law’s reminiscences of his childhood in Rugeley.  Barry Walker talked about his interest and research into Victorian Kitchen Gardens and Ruth Robinson enlightened members about the hidden brooks of Rugeley.  Mike Pope gave an illustrated talk on quirky buildings including the bottle lodge at Tixall e and Roger Francis showed pictures of the demolition of the Post Office at Slitting Mill and removal of the George VI letter box.   Last but not least Margaret Neal talked about the Old Hall at Hawkesyard  and the Rugeleys.  This proved to be an enjoyable and interesting evening.

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The speaker at the November meeting was Alan Lewis whose subject was Charles II and the Legacy of the Royal Oak.    

Charles II was a relatively young man when his father Charles I was executed.  He went to Scotland to raise an army to fight Cromwell.  Although he issued a proclamation ordering all men between 16 and 60 to rally to his cause less than 16,000, mainly Scottish, came forward against 28,000 experienced New Model Army soldiers, Cromwell was assembling against him.

After the Battle of Worcester, which took place on 3 September 1651,  Charles was forced to escape Cromwell’s troops.  He fled the city in the company of Lords Wilmot and Derby and Charles Giffard.  On their advice he headed into south Staffordshire, a Roman Catholic stronghold which offered many hiding places.    Eventually arriving at White Ladies Priory on Giffards’s Boscobel estate the king was introduced to the Pendrell brothers who helped him disguise as a woodsman.  His long hair was cut, and he was  furnished with an old set of clothes.  Unfortunately they could not supply a pair of shoes that fitted as the King was ‘two yards high’.  He had to walk many miles in shoes with their sides cut out.  When Cromwell’s troops arrived to search the nearby woods Charles spent all day hiding in an oak tree with Colonel Carlis.  Fortunately he was not discovered and eventually with the help of loyal subjects was able to escape to exile in  France.

One legacy resulting from Charles adventures is that there are number of public houses called the Royal Oak.  The other important one is that after his restoration in 1660, Charles, created pensions, in perpuity, for those who had helped him such as Thomas Whitgreave and the Pendrell brothers.  However, Alan pointed out that though these pensions are ongoing they are not index linked!

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David Barratt and Robins Mathams returned to a packed lounge to continue their talk on ‘The History of Rugeley Trent Valley Railway Station’ on Wednesday 15th February.

Robin spoke first about how the Trent Valley Line was opened in 1847 to give a more direct route from London to the North West of England.  The contractor for the original 50 miles of line was Thomas Brassey working in partnership with Robert Stepehnson and William Mackenzie.  The engineers were Robert Stephenson, Mr. Bidder and Mr. Gooch.  Originally the Trent Valley Line was owned by an independent company which started building in 1845.  While it was being built it was absorbed into the newly created London and North Western Railway (LNWR).

David Barratt continued the talk by relating the history of the Stationmaster House and showing pictures of how it has changed over the years since it was built.

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In June members had a walk around Eccleshall led by David Wilkinson.  This commenced with a visit to the Church of St Peters and then on to Eccleshall Castle followed by a stroll around the town looking at some of the historical buildings.

 The July outing on the 18th was to Bantock House Museum and Park, Wolverhampton.  Sue was the guide who told members that the
house had been built in the 1730s as New Merridale Farm.  It was extended and improved about the beginning of the 19th century and after having several tenants was bought in about 1864 by Thomas Bantock, a canal and railway agent.  His son Albert Baldwin Bantock, twice Mayor of Wolverhampton and also High Sherriff of Staffordshire in 1920, further improved the property following his father’s death in 1896.  On his own death, without children, in 1938 he bequeathed the house and park to Wolverhampton Corporation.  The house was renamed in his honour.

On the ground floor there are displays about the Bantock family and the way they lived, whilst upstairs the focus shifts to the men and women who shaped Wolverhampton and the industries they created.  Displays featuring locally made enamels, steel jewellery and japanned ware are on show.  The museum presents a more informal and imaginative setting where visitors are encouraged to sit on any furniture they can find.

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The subject of the talk given by David Robbie at the February meeting was “J.R.R. Tolkein in Staffordshire”,

In 1915 Tolkein was commissioned in Lancashire Fusilier as Signals Officer and transferred to Brocton Camp.  

In 1916 he married Edith Mary Bratt and for a while they lived at the old Clifford Arms in Great Haywood and later St. John’s Presbytery.  Tolkein travelled to France and took part in the battle of the Somme.  He contracted Trench Fever and was invalided out of the army returning to Great Haywood to convalesce.  It is thought that he gained many of his ideas for his mythical tales from living in the area.

In “The Tales of the Sun and the Moon there is reference to the village of Tavrobel which has a bridge where two rivers meet, this being Essex Bridge.  In the same tale there is a gnome, Gilfanan, “whose ancient house – 'The House of a Hundred Chimneys' – stands
nigh the bridge of Tavrobel” - thought to refer to Shugborough.

Members were enthralled by David’s spellbinding talk.

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MAY 2013

After a very  rainy and cold May, day, approximately 40 members of the Society had a fine sunny evening for their first outing of the Summer on Wednesday 15th.  The meeting place was the Great War Hut at Marquis Drive on Cannock Chase.  

Stephen Dean, Principal Archaeologist, Stafford County Council, told the group about the construction of two large military camps at Brocton and Rugeley, where an infrastructure of water  sewage and roads had to be put in place before the building of the huts commenced in March 1915.  These provided transit training camps before the men were shipped abroadto fight in the war.  

The hut was set out as it might have been at the time, complete with beds, linen, a table, chairs and a stove.  For many years this original hut had served as a parish hall for the village of Gayton until, in 2006, it was offered to the Friends of Cannock Chase who in partnership with Stafford County Council have managed to preserve it as a reminder of the days of the camps.  

The group then drove on to the site of the WWI Messines model.  The battle of Messines Ridge took place in June 1917 near Ypres in
Belgium; the terrain model on Cannock Chase represents the section of the front captured by New Zealand troops.  Although there is little to see at the moment, Stephen told the group that, in a project led by Staffordshire County Council, the site is to be excavated later this year.

 Stephen’s enthusiasm for his subject was inspiring and the evening was enjoyed by all present. It was very topical as in 2014 it will be a 100 years since the start of WWI.

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Thirty-one members were present for a visit to Beaudesert, on Wednesday 21st on what would be the Society's last outing for the summer season. 
Mike Street, Chairman of the Friends of Beadesert, told the group that the aims of  the trust is to stabilise and preserve the ruins for future generations and bring out and tell the stories of the people of Beaudesert.  

In 1939 the Charity 'The King George V Memorial Scouts and Guides Lands" was registered and now scouts and guides from all over the country have facilities to visit the grounds for their activities.

The visit commenced with a walk around the estate, stopping at the site of the walled garden which, in its heyday had provided work for 50 gardeners; next onto the ruins of the hall which are thought to date back to the 14th century when the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield still held the Estate.  

After the dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII conveyed the property to Sir William Paget.  The estate was owned by generations of the Paget Family until 1935 when, due to the burdens of taxation, huge tracts of land were sold and after the sale of valuable items from the interior, the fabric of the  hall was demolished because no buyer could be found.  A walk to the terrace gave a spectacular view of all the surrounding area once owned by the family.  

The group then returned to the chapel where refreshments were served by Amanda: Mike then gave an illustrated talk showing how the hall used to be when still occupied by the Paget family.  

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The fascinating story of the 'Dancing Marquess' was the subject of a talk given by Mike Street on Wednesday 16th October.   

This title refers to the 5th Marquess of Anglesey, Henry Cyril Paget, nicknamed “Toppy” who was notable during his short life for squandering his inheritance on a lavish social life and accumulating massive debts.

He was the eldest son of the 4th Marquess by his second wife, Blanch Mary Boyd.  However, rumours persisted, that his biological father was the French actor Benoit-Constant Coquelin and the rumours were fuelled by the fact that at the age of two,  after the death of his mother in 1877,  he went to live with Coquelin’s sister-in-law.

When his father died in 1898 he inherited the title and the family estates which provided an annual income of £110,00 which would represent millions today.  He swiftly acquired a reputation for a lavish and spendthrift manner of living purchasing jewellery, furs and throwing extravagant parties and flamboyant theatrical performances.

He converted the chapel at the family’s country seat of Plas Newydd  to a 150 seat theatre named the Gaiety.  He would perform “sinuous, sexy, snakelike dances” dressed in costumes encrusted with real jewels.

By 1904 he had accumulated debts of £544,00 and was declared bankrupt.  He died in 1905 in Monte Carlo aged 30.  It was, in part, owing to the debts left by the 5th Marquess that the family’s principal English estate at Beaudesert had to be broken up and sold in the 1930s. 

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MARCH 2014

Staffordshire Soldiers and the Great War was the subject ofan illustrated talk given by Stephen Booth at the meeting on the 19th March 2014.

Stephen told members that he had worked as a tour guide on the Somme.  He described the role played by the Staffordshire Regiment during the war the 2nd South Staffords being the first of the battalions to see action.  By 1915  the numbers of soldiers were running out and there was a massive campaign to recruit more men.  Cannock Chase became the central location for training and camps were built on land owned by Lord Lichfield.  Here men were taught many skills such as scouting and signalling.

The 1st South Staffords and 1st North Staffords went to France and the 1st particularly distinguishing themselves at the first Battle of Ypres and at the capture of Memetz on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme.

The first line Territoral Battalions formed parts of the 46th (North Midland) Division, the first territorial formation to go to France in 1915 and their great day came in September 1918 when they crossed the St Quentin Canal to smash through the strongest sector of the Hindenburg Line.  Staffs captured Riqueval Bridge, a key event leading to the winning of the war.

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APRIL 2014

At the meeting on 19th April, Archaeologist, Dr David Barker gave an illustrated talk on Ceramics in Early modern Britain.

He spoke about ceramics being closely associated with pleasures of life such as eating and drinking and so many fragments found on archaeological digs are associated with drinking vessels.

Dating of such pieces is made evident by the style of decoration.  In the 1740’s an oriental decoration was often used.  Ceramics could demonstrate people’s place in society.  People of a higher status would use Chinese porcelain to make a statement to indicate that they were “cultured.” 

Dr Barker showed paintings of people of varying status in society and demonstrated the sort of ceramics they would use in their everyday life.

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MAY 2014

The first of the summer outings was a walk around Alrewas, on 21st , led by Roger Hailwood.

Although the village has changed from an  almost self-sufficient arming community to the present largely residential community, Roger was able to point out buildings which had once been farmhouses.

Alrewas still has a tranquil, village atmosphere, with its beautiful old buildings and the sunny evening made it pleasant for walking and observing buildings that have changed their use. 

Amongst some of the buildings Roger pointed out were the Old School first converted to an Outdoor Centre then to private housing: The Midland Bank, opened 19th November 1952, was replaced first by a building society then by an office and Crackpotz pottery cafe: the Mill has been converted to apartments and the rest of the site covered by private housing: Alrewas house, the grand private residence of Joseph Cartwright is now the base for a Chemicals company.

A church has stood on the current site since the 10th Century and was thought to be a timber building.  Alterations and rebuilding have taken place since the 13th Century through to the 19th and Roger pointed out evidence of this.  Unfortunately the group were only able to view the outside on this occasion but certainly an excuse for another visit.

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JUNE 2014

On a sunny evening on the 18th June, members visited St Lawrence’s Church Gnosall. The Rev Mark Bridgen welcomed everyone and
introduced Norman, our guide for the evening, and his wife Sheila.

Norman was able to show many features of the building and to demonstrate how the Church has adapted to the changes over the years.  The church has now entered its third Millennium as its foundation lies well before the year 1000AD.

Following a stroll around the grounds of the church Norman showed a number of slides which gave more detail of the features he had pointed out on the outside of the building.

The tour was complete when Sheila provided tasty refreshments in the church hall.

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JULY 2014

On Wednesday 23rd July, members were welcomed by Cosy and Charlie Bagot Jewitt for a visit around Blithfield Hall.  The evening commenced with a walk around the Church of St. Leonards which dates back to the Norman conquest.  It contains various Bagot family tombs together with an original helmet.  There are lovely stained glass windows, a wooden ceiling with gold bosses, and a Minton tiled floor.

The church is adjacent to the orangery of Blithfield Hall and Cosy explained that this is in the process of renovation.  Members learnt about the history of the Bagot Goat, the head of which forms the family crest.  The goats are thought to have been brought to England by returning Crusaders and  subsequently presented to Sir John Bagot by King Richard II in appreciation of the good hunting he enjoyed at Bagot’s Park.

The Great Staircase dates from the reign of Charles I and is carved in a luxurious style from oak grown on the Blithfield estate.  The Dining Room, with its green and gold Elizabethan panelling, grapevine cornice and barrel ceiling is stunning.

The Great Hall boasts elaborate plaster-work carried out in 1822 but Cosy pointed out that the original oak-beamed roof still exists above the plaster ceiling and it is possible to crawl between the two.

There is so much of interest to see at Blithfield making the visit a most enjoyable one.  To conclude members were served in the Great Hall with tea and delicious cake.

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On Saturday 6th September, Tim Jones led a walk which viewed the historic buildings and sites along and close to Main Road
Brereton from Ravenhill  Park to the Red Lion and back.

Members were able to see buildings they may not have noticed before, when driving along the A51. Tucked away are the Railway Cottages which once stood alongside a line leading to Brereton Colliery.  There is the Old Free School with its decorative brickwork built by Elizabeth Birch in 1838 for the education of 40 boys of poor parent living within three miles of Brereton and further on is the Methodist Church built in 1872 and the old Methodist School opened in December 1905.

Among the many interesting buildings Tim pointed out were Brereton House and Brereton Hall.  Brereton House is three storey, Grade 2 listed, built shortly before 1772 for a Brereton landowner and malster, Andrew Birch  It was made into six flats in 1985.

Brereton Hall, a three storey  Grade 2 listed building with its long Victorian frontage of cream-coloured brick and 29 sash windows  hides an interesting internal timber framing which possibly dates back to the 16th century.  This was uncovered in 1992 when the building was converted into seven dwellings and Members were thrilled to be invited to look at some wall paintings of busts of Roman Emperors, dating back to 1600, which were discovered inside when the Hall was converted.

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Members returned to Sneydlands on 17th  September, when Tim Burgin revisited theSociety to give an interesting and amusing talk entitled “Waterloo – the Aftermath”. This was a sequel to his talk last year when he described the Battle itself.

Some of the more gruesome facts were that 10,000 horses were shot and Farriers removed all their shoes.  Many wounded soldiers were also shot [on compassionate grounds] and teeth were extracted [from corpses] to make dentures which became known as “Waterloo Teeth”.

Tim’s theme was one of “digging up”.  
 - There was a Waterloo Bridge built in 1816 which, because it was falling down, was closed in the 1930’s.  In 1942 it was ‘dug up’ restored and rebuilt. 
 - Napoleon’s body, buried on St Elena, was ‘dug up’ and taken home. 
 - Wellington’s horse, which had been buried with military honours was ‘dug up’.
 - The Earl of Uxbridge’s leg, amputated after he was shot in the knee in battle, was buried in the garden of the house where the operation took place in Waterloo. The owner of the house, Hyacinthe Joseph Marie Paris suggested he bury the leg in his garden.  In later years a
tree fell and exposed the leg whereupon the last member of the family who had made money out of showing people the spot, incinerated the bones.

Each year, since 1832, there has been a Waterloo Dinner held to commemorate the Battle.  However, the battle field has since been ‘dug up’ and a mound erected.

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Principal Archaeologist for Staffordshire County Council, Stephen Dean, visited the Society again on Wednesday 18th  February to give a talk on two subjects: further theories surrounding the Staffordshire Hoard and a proposed project to conduct a Lidar Scan of the Chase.

On more recent examination it has been discovered that the gold objects were alloyed with silver and lead. Craftsmen were able to give low grade metal with high silver content the appearance of pure, gleaming gold.  Similar techniques had been used in Roman times.  The combination of metal would give weight to hilt collars and other items used in battle.

Animal imagery has also been identified on the items, in particular a helmeted boar which was a powerful symbol at the time.  The items signified the status of the owner and were probably deposited at a time of stress such as a battle.  Although the owner proposed to return to the hiding place, he may have been killed in battle.

Stephen then when to talk about a proposed HLF bid to deploy Lidar over the Chase.  This is a remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser.  This would focus on the Great War camps to identify trench systems and the topography of the area.  It could also identify pre-historic features.  This system was used at Treblinka to highlight some Holocaust features.

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MARCH 2015

At the meeting on the 18th March, Peter Brown gave an illustrated talk on the 115 Posters donated to the Canal and River Trust at
Ellesmere Port
.  These date from 1785 to 1813 and have been imaged and glued into a hand-numbered book.  They depict such things as a table of weights, charges for warehousing and instruction to warehousemen.   Amongst them is a notice with reference to using public houses and neglecting goods on the barges.

Receiving goods was deemed a higher offence than stealing and one of the posters states what had happened to such offenders.

This was a fascinating talk which prompted many questions and much discussion.

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APRIL 2015

 'The History of Horse Racing in Hednesford'  was the subject of a talk by local historian Anthony Hunt at the Society’s April meeting.

There is evidence of ten Racing stables in Hednesford in the middle of the 19th Century.  The reason for so many in the area was that there are hills which afford good drainage and therefore it would be possible to train 365 days of the year.  It was also a good agricultural area.

Anthony named a few of the people who had stabled their horses in the area.  One horse who trained in Hednesford, 'Flintoff', raced 29 time and won 21 races.  He was sold in 1833 and never won again.  Another, 'Independence', raced 74 times and won 12 Gold Cups and was still racing at the age of 10.

 A well known name in Hednesford is Tom Coulthwaite, who Anthony said , was the best trainer ever. He recognised that every horse needed to be trained individually.  He trained three Grand National winners.

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MAY 2015

On the 27th May members met at the Coppice Hill Car Park where Stephen Dean, Principal Archaeologist, Stafford County Council, conducted a Great War Walk of the former training camp of Brocton.  He pointed out evidence of roadways and the railway line as well as practice trench systems.

Stephen took the group to see where a huge water tower had been built to supply the camp.  He also took members to the spot where a German prisoner of war camp had once been and pointed out how the roots of some ancient oaks would have prevented potential tunnelling and subsequent escapes.

The walk ended at the site of the recently excavated Messines model, now covered over for its protection.  The model was built by German prisoners of war at the training camp in 1918, under the supervision of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade  The excavation uncovered a unique scale model of the Belgian town of Messines,  which commemorated a famous victory in the Great War and helped to train troupes for future battles.. 

Stephen’s enthusiasm for his subject made for an excellent evening visit.

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Members visited two churches in the last two months.  In July, Beryl Holt gave an illustrated talk at St. Thomas, Walton, concentrating on
some of the older buildings in Walton and relating their history.  This was followed by a walk around the village to take a look at how the buildings had changed over the years.

The last visit of the summer season took place,on 19th August, to the Grade 2 Listed Church of St. Mary and St. Luke at Shareshill.

The Revd Sarah Bowie  told the group that there has been a church on the site since at least 1213 AD but only the base of the lower tower now remains.  There have been two rebuildings of the Church, the first by Sir Humphrey Swynnerton in 1560AD the second in
1743 by Squire Henry Vernon who married Margaret, the daughter of the Swynnertons.  The latest major building work was in 2009, when the new extension was built  providing a beautiful bow windowed meeting room.

Tablets in memory of past vicars, include Rev. W. H. Havergal, whose daughter was Francis Ridley Havergal, the hymn writer, who
wrote the hymn “Take my life and let it be”.  The local Church primary school is named after her.

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After its series of summer visits, for its September meeting the Society returned to Sneydlands, where Ray Johnson, founder of the 'Staffordshire Film Archive' was the guest speaker.

Mr Johnson showed a sequence of short films, the earliest of which was of a train leaving Stafford in 1911, and the most recent a promotional film produced for Armitage Shanks in the late 1960s. In between we saw: the opening of the Scout/Guide camp at Beaudesert by the Princess Royal in 1938: a Rugeley farrier shoeing a horse: a practice session at Brereton of the mines rescue team, and the activities of the girls at Pipewood Camp School in1941. We also viewed a short film about Shugborough Model Farm, produced by Mr Johnson, to be shown to visitors there.

June Pickerill, on behalf of the Society, thanked Mr Johnson for such an enjoyable and entertaining evening.

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A “Scrapbook for 1945” was the title of the talk given at the October meeting.  This was arranged by Margaret Neal and entailed the reading of extracts, by Margaret and three members of the society,  from local newspapers of seventy years ago to celebrate the year that the war ended.

In November Mithra Tonking visited to talk about the Alms Houses of Abbots Bromley.  She spoke about the Abbots Bromley Hospital which was built in 1705 with a bequest by local landowner Lambard Bagot.  The almshouses were built to support six elderly men residing  in Abbots Bromley and outlying villages.  The Grade II listed building continues to support men and women in reduced circumstances. 

The  almshouses have recently been modernised and the trustees decided to extend and refurbish the existing listed building to create four one-bed room units and two two-bed homes. Residents no longer have to be male and,  in fact, come from a wide range of circumstances where age is not a criteria.

 Mithra had brought some photographs of past pictures of the Almshouses and also some books on the history of almshouses in general.

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On 17th February the Society welcomed David Moore who spoke about the setting up of the 'Lichfield Waterworks Trust' whose objective is to save the redundant waterworks at Sandfields, Lichfield.

Sandfields is a Grade II listed building and is important as piece of social history in that with its Cornish beam engine,  was responsible for pumping fresh water to millions who would have otherwise succumbed to the cholera outbreaks at the time of the Industrial Revolution.   The cholera affected thousands in the industrial midland towns.  In Bilston alone, there were 742 deaths in 1832 resulting in the lack of space to bury the dead.   There was a school set up in Prouds Lane, Bilston to accommodate 450 children orphaned by the outbreak of the disease.

Doctor John Snow from Sunderland, working in Soho in 1845,discovered that cholera was a waterborne disease after realising that those affected in the area were drawing their water from one particular pump.  It was from this discovery that it became urgent to set up a method of providing clean water and it is argued that because of this Sandfields Pumping station is an important piece of our industrial heritage.  One if the objectives of the Trust is to promote access to the complex for the purposes of education and protection of the historic environment.

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MARCH 2016

Members were given an informative and amusing insight into the working of the Record Office when John Yates former genealogist at
Birmingham Registry Office visited the Society to give his talk entitled “A funny thing happened at the Register Office".

John related how civil registration had started in 1837 and the office held registers on births marriages and deaths.  Some of the indexes have now been digitised but some of the registers were difficult to read.  Amongst the famous names registered in Birmingham are George Cadbury, John Henry Newman, Barbara Cartland, Tony Hancox and Robert Norman Davis, a.k.a. Jasper Carrott. 
Buffalo Bill’s death was registered at Birmingham in 1903 as at the time he was taking part in two shows in the region.

Some of the unusual names chosen for babies were, Posh, Mercedes and Porch.  Triplets were named Faith, Hope and Charity.  One boy, whose father was Michael Rabbit, was called   Peter Rabbit.  There were also many Harry Potters.

Amusing and unusual occupations were: “bone gatherer”; “retired squatter”; “cow leach” (the old name for a vet), and most unusual of
all, “A Rodney” (meaning the person was bone idle).

This is just a brief summary of what John was able to tell during his very enjoyable talk.

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APRIL 2016

Michael Guest, Senior Vicars Choral, at Lichfield Cathedral was the speaker at the April meeting. Michael is currently completing a postgraduate research at Keele University on the history of the choral foundation of Lichfield Cathedral in the 18th century.

In 1241 the first statutes of the Cathedral ordained that here should be a corporation of Vicars Choral, both laymen and priests who
would be responsible for singing the daily choir offices on behalf of the Canons or Prebendaries of the Cathedral

Between the thirteenth and nineteenth centuries several benefactors bequeathed lands and endowments to the Vicars and so the
corporation developed into a powerful body. 
They were wealthy enough to provide a good income for themselves.  A vacancy for a Bass in 1767 was advertised at £40 per year and by 1797 it went up to £90 per year.  This also included rent free accommodation.  They were given a plot of land in the north-west corner of the Close by Bishop Walter de Langton upon which was built a double quadrangle of half-timbered houses, together with a common dining hall so that the Cathedral musicians might be housed within the Close.  This remains today and some of the Vicars Choral still occupy these unique residences.

Michael showed a photograph of an important relic of the period which is still displayed in the Cathedral.  An eighteenth century glass goblet, known as a Rummer, with a capacity of two and a half imperial pints which was originally used to measure a daily allowance of beer for each Vicar.  Once a year the present Lay Vicars enjoy filling the vessel with beer again and passing it around the assembled company as a loving cup in memory of past members of the Choral Foundation.

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MAY 2016

18 members were welcomed by Chris Copp and Melanie Williamson, from the Museum Service at Shugborough, on the first of the Summer outings.  The visit was a ‘behind the scenes’ look at items held on site by the service.

Half of the visit concentrated on items on display in the galleries.  In one room there was displayed a Regency style dress worn by one of the Landor family which was of particular interest to the group and demonstrated how small and slim people
used to be.  The Victorian classroom bought memories back to some members as even in the 1950’s this type of furniture was still in use.  There was a gallery devoted to shoemaking, a trade of Stafford, some of the styles being from the 1960’s and the narrow pointed toes worn at the time made some members realise why they suffered with their feet now.

Following this was a walk through the storerooms where artefacts are kept from floor to ceiling on racks. Chris then took members to
the room where  the collections of old photographs are catalogued and carefully stored, some being transferred to the Staffordshire Past Track website.  As well as material from the County Council’s own collections the website features images and information held by Staffordshire museums, archives, libraries, local history societies and in private collections.   Chris talked about a few of the albums and
original photographs he had put out for the group to see.

This was a most enjoyable outing and all felt privileged to have the opportunity to see so much of how the museum service works.

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JULY 2016

Members met David Robbie on Essex Bridge, Great Haywood,  on July 20th for a walk around the area where J. R. R. Tolkein lived for a time.  He served in the First World War seeing action in the Somme in France, and after becoming victim to “trench fever” returned home to convalesce.

He was recently married and he and his wife Edith took a cottage in Great Haywood which David pointed out was thought to have been “Rock Cottage”.  There he began to write his tales of mythical kingdoms.

The Tale of the Sun and the Moon in the Lost Tales makes reference to the village of Tavrobel which stands by a bridge where the rivers
meet and this appears to be clear reference to Essex Bridge where the rivers Sow and Trent have their confluence.    There is also mention of an” ancient house – the house of a hundred chimneys which stands nigh the bridge of Tavrobel”.  This is supposed to refer to Shugborough which has 80 chimneys in all.  Perhaps on a misty day in 1916, with fires lit in the draughty rooms, the sight across the park could justify the title “The House of a Hundred Chimneys.”

David led the part across to the Roman Catholic Church of St John the Baptist where Tolkein and his wife received a nuptial blessing. Their wedding in Warwick in 1916 had occurred during Lent and only the Marriage Service and not the Nuptial Mass had been

This was a lovely sunny evening to enjoy David’s interesting talk about one of our popular novelists and some members concluded by taking refreshments at the Great Haywood Social Club.

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It was a sunny evening for the last of the outings for this summer, when members met at Kings Bromley Village Hall, for a walk around the village led by Alan Howard.

Inside the hall, Alan gave a brief history of the village which was anciently called Brom Legge. But derived its present name from being the property of the Crown for nearly two centuries after the Norman conquest.  Previously it had been distinguished as the residence of the Earls of Mercia, Leofric, the husband of Lady Godiva.  Henry III granted the manor to the Corbetts who, in the 16th Century sold it to Francis Agard of Ireland.  Charles Agard sold it to John Newton of the island of Barbados and in 1794 it was bequeathed to the Lane family who were related to Jane Lane who had helped Charles II escape to France after the Civil War.

The group then walked on to All Saints Church, a Gothic building originally of Norman style which has been enlarged and repaired in
various architectural styles.  It contains fine examples of stained glass and monuments to the Agard, Newton and Lane families.

Various places of interest were pointed out by Alan during the walk such as the Alms Houses, a lodge house to the former Manor House, now long gone, and the wall which surrounded the house.

To complete a very enjoyable evening Alan and his wife Alison provided refreshments at their home.

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Heather Brown was the guest speaker at the September meeting.  Her subject was “Ceramics in Armitage and Handsacre” and this was not only about the famous factory in the village, Armitage Shanks.

She talked about the presence of clay in the vicinity and that it was recorded that clay pipes were made at Armitage.  There were also a number of small brickworks in the village.  A small pottery company was in existence by 1817 and by 1851 this had begun to produce sanitary ware.  In 1867 Edward Johns, a congregational minister from Armitage, bought the business and founded the Edward Johns and Co Sanitary Pottery, later to become Armitage Ware, the internationally renowned company.   As many will know this is why the toilet is known as the “John” in America.

Armitage Park,a mid 18th Century house built for Nathanial Lister in 1839,  was purchased by the widow of Josiah Spode III who lived there with her son Josiah IV who converted to Catholicism.  On his death he left the house to the Dominican Order who built a a chapel and priory, they named it Hawksyard Priory.  The house was used as a school and was known as Spode House.  Spode put a window in the church as a dedication to his mother.  Herbert Minton also tiled the aisle of Armitage Church.

The daughter of Cuthbert Bailey. Chairman of Royal Doulton, had entered a convent in the 1930’s.  In his desire that the convent should not entirely possess his daughter he encouraged her to design what was to become the “Bunnykins” range of pottery.  He had recognised in her a talent for drawing animals, especially rabbits.

The talk inspired lots of discussion with local members chatting about their own reminiscences of Armitage and Handsacre.

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Rachael Cooksey, from the Archive Service, was the speaker at the October meeting.  Her subject was  “Opening Access to the Mid-Staffs Military Appeal Tribunals 1916-1918.”

Rare archives that shed light on conscription during World War One, have been found in the collection of Staffordshire’s Archives service and with the help of HLF Funding and the work of 50 volunteers the records have been indexed and digitised.

As the War was only expected to last until the Christmas 1914 there was no conscription and recruiting was reliant on volunteers and the sense of nationalism that gripped the nation.  However, by 1916 there was a growing pressure for more soldiers resulting in the Military Service Act and the onset of conscription.  The age of conscripted soldier went up to 56  and height restrictions changed.  Some exemptions were considered such as hardships to family without a man, dependent children, workers in essential industry, and medical reasons.  In these cases the men were required to attend a Military Appeal Tribunal where exemption could be granted, but in most cases only for a short time requiring the men to appeal again.  As the war became more intense many cases were dismissed and the men were forced to go to war where many were killed

The project, involving 4000 hours of help from the volunteers, has enabled the information, regarding these Tribunals,  to be published and made available online.

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Hednesford Buildings and its Characters” was the subject of the talk by Anthony Hunt speaker at the February meeting.

Until the coming of the railways in 1858 and the growth of mining in the area, Hednesford was a relatively small village that centred at the Cross Keys Inn reputed to the oldest building in the area.

John and Sarah Massey were the first owners and they ran stables, and trained race horses.  Rumour has it that a Grand National winner was trained here, however it seems this stems from the fact the jockey of the winner lodged at the Cross Keys. The inn underwent renovation during the 30’s and 40’s when some of its best features were removed and underneath the floorboards were feathers indicating that cockfighting had taken place in the past.

Anglesey House was built in 1831 for Edmund Peel, brother to Prime Minister Robert Peel.  The building has not changed much over the years and is now Grade I listed.  After many occupants and being turned into a hotel, it is now a Weatherspoons public house.

The oldest building in Hednesford is Chase Farm which dates back to 1660.  It was eventually taken over by horse trainers and then became a farm.

One of the amusing personalities was John Wright from Rugeley who is known to have held races between men and horses. 
Although a drinker himself he would lecture people on the “evils of drink”.

For anyone interested in learning more about Hednesford, Anthony has written a book entitled “A History of Hednesford and Surrounding Villages” which examines the town from its earliest times.  It was a small agricultural village whose only claim to fame was the training of racehorses.  It mushroomed with the opening of the mines from a population of 500 in 1861 to 6,000 by 1881.

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MARCH 2017

On Wednesday 15th March, the speaker for the evening was Steve Booth whose illustrated talk was entitled “Lidice 1942 – its destruction by the Nazis and the part played by the People of Staffordshire in its re-building”.

The area of the former Czechoslovakia had been occupied by Nazi Germany since April 1939 and Reinhard Heydrich had been acting Reichsprotektor.  There was some resistance to the occupation and on the morning of 27th May 1942 Heydrich was assassinated by Slovak and Czech solidiers Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis who were part of a team trained in Britain.  The reprisals from the Nazis were devastating as anyone thought to have aided the assassins were executed and any village known to have harboured the killers would be destroyed.  Lidice was chosen as one such village.  A total of 173 men were shot, 184 women were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp where they were forced to work in appalling conditions. 88 children were separated from their mothers and, apart from seven who were considered suitable for Germanisation, were all gassed.  The village was then razed to the ground.

Nazi propaganda had proudly announced the events in Lidice as a deterrent to any further resistance. The information was picked up by the Allied media.   Coal miners in Stoke on Trent, led by doctor and MP Barnett Stross, founded the  organisation 'Lidice Shall Live' to raise funds for its rebuilding after the war.  The new village lies below the original and holds a memorial to all the children killed by the Nazis.

This was a heartrending and thought provoking talk.

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Steve Dean, former County Archaeologist, gave a talk on further developments in Staffs Archaeology when he visited the Society on 20th

One of the sites he spoke about was St John’s Hospital, Lichfield where 50 skeletons had been uncovered underneath the bowling green.  Some were juveniles of about 10 years of age and three out of the fifty were thought to be of African origin.

Steve related how a second hoard had been found by two detectorists in Staffordshire, this time in Leek.  Three Iron Age gold necklaces and bracelet were found by detectorists in December 2016 and are believed to be about 2000 years old making them a significant find.  They are now referred to as the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs and are a unique find of international importance.  The location is almost 50 miles away from where the £3m Anglo Saxon Staffordshire Hoard was discovered, also by a detectorist.  It is thought they are either family heirlooms or votive offering placed as treaties with their gods.

From the sites that Steve mentioned in his talk it seems that our area is steeped in interesting history.

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The Midland Zeppelin Outrage was the subject a talk given by Ian Bott to the Society in October.

Zeppelin’s, an invention by German Count, Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin, during the early part of the 20th Century, were airships built of a
rigid wooden construction and cloaked in canvas.  Inside were twenty airtight compartments made from cow’s intestines and filled with lighter than air hydrogen.  Beneath were attached two gondolas which accommodated the crew and missiles.  This type of craft was used after the outbreak of the 1st World War.

On 31st January 1916 a squadron of heavily armed airships left German naval bases on course towards Britain.  They entered a country shrouded in dense fog which hindered their otherwise meticulously  planned objectives.  Each individual airship sought prime targets to unleash their missiles and steered their craft towards the industrial Midlands.  Lack of preparation for such an onslaught by the enemy,  led to death and destruction on an unprecedented scale.  It is stated that sixty-seven lives were lost on 31st January and in the ensuing weeks, but Ian, through thorough research, said he could confidently name seventy victims.  He related the stories of some of these in his talk.

Ian has written a book on the subject of this tragic night of a hundred years ago.

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MARCH 2018

The Society welcomed back, Steve Booth on 21st March 2018, this time his talk was about Chimney Sweeps’ climbing boys in particular in Staffordshire and the part played by Francis Wedgwood and others in ending the abuse.

Over many years in the 18th and 19th Centuries, young boys had been used throughout Britain to ascend complex, inter-connecting hearth and chimney structures of large houses, their job being to use metal scrapers and brushes to remove soot and tar deposits, and to collect it in sacks which became heavier as they climbed. Often the boys would be “bought” by the Master Sweep from the virtually anonymous parish children from workhouses and orphanages, much like OliverTwist in the Dickens tale.

There were horrific tales of boys getting trapped in  the chimneys and perishing.    This resulted in attempts being made to restrict the use of climbing boys after 1788 and laws were passed in 1819, 1834, 1842 which had little effect. 

In 1854  the Earl of Shaftesbury persuaded Parliament to pass a law by which any master sweep would be fined a maximum of ten pounds if he knowingly allowed anyone under the age of 21 to assist in the business of chimney sweeping.  This law was a step forward in that in North Staffordshire the Hanley and Shelton Chimney Sweeping Association was formed in 1855, to regulate the workings of the new law.  At their first meeting they elected Francis Wedgewood, the grandson of Josiah I,  as their Chairman. Together with other members he was determined to eradicate the abuse of using climbing boys.  They purchased equipment for chimney sweeping and employed Peter Hall, an ex sweep as their manager.  He employed six sweep to use the equipment and his intention was to take the business away from those still using boys  He also employed paid agents to discover those  sweeps still using boys, and then fines were imposed on those breaking the law.  

It was largely due to the Association’s efforts that the Earl of Shaftesbury was finally able to eradicate the abuse within the following fifteen years.  

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The destination of the July outing was to the Beamhurst Museum, Uttoxeter.

The museum was the brainchild of John Walton together with his wife Laura and daughter Bethany.  It comprises a collection of antiques and local memorabilia put together by the family over the years. There are over a 1000 items related to Uttoxeter alone plus a vast array of other memorabilia too numerous to mention. The family wished to share their collection so that people could enjoy it as much as they did.  They opened their museum for the first time in August 2010 and were overwhelmed by a visit of almost 600 people in three days. Since then the museum has gone from strength to strength. Since opening the Museum John has appeared on a number of antique programmes including, Antique Road Trip and Put Your Money where your mouth Is.

Members were enthralled, many saying they would visit again in order to take in what they had missed during the evening. Laura laid on delicious refreshments of home made cakes and tea or coffee and members were able to reflect on what they had seen whilst sitting around a vast display cabinet where they could see even more artefacts.  It is a visit to be highly recommended.

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The Landor (Local History) Society serves Rugeley, Staffordshire and the neighbouring parishes.  We care about the heritage of the town of Rugeley and its surrounding area.
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