The Museum of Making – Derby, 8th Nov 2022
Most of us had no idea what to expect. Would there be some kind of factory demonstration but without Gregg Wallace championing the processes? Would there be silks on display as it was originally the first silk factory in the UK? What would have been made in Derby?
It took all of us by surprise. There are 2,000 objects on display as we were told, coming from all manner of different engineering operations which have become part of our lives over the last decades and centuries. Starting with the first centre for silk manufacturing, Derby has attracted enterprising visitors from all parts of Europe and the far east who are interested in developing engineering for industrial production. Whatever your interests are, you will found something fascinating that attracts you personally.
One of the cabinets that interested me informed us how the exhibits were obtained, e.g. gifted, bought, stolen, exchanged, looted, bequeathed…. Another was that Burnaston in Derbyshire became the first manufacturing centre for Toyota in the UK in 1989. My current car is an old Corolla made in 2003, and one of the big hanging displays (a Rolls Royce engine was of course the other) was the first model launched in 2001. It was thrilling to see her older sister up there in her magnificence showing off all her parts. Other visitors I am sure had their own exciting finds.
There were lots of posters about different events, and for railway enthusiasts there are many as Derby Locomotive Works began in 1840. A large poster set out the strict rules for travelling on trains which dated from 1901, together with another one giving the prices for porterage from the train to your carriage. I was reminded of seeing station porters in my childhood.
Other posters showed photographs of strikes and rebellions against the long hours, poor pay, and hard labour in the factories. Will we ever learn?
There was so much to see, it is impossible to exemplify the variety of objects on display and the relevant information which explains their purpose. The curators have worked hard to make this a living museum. They were all well informed, available and were clearly enjoying their job.
Before moving on to see the Museum Gallery and the Cathedral I read the following words on the wall. This museum is far from being simply history. It still continues to think into the future.
“The next episode of the Industrial Revolution will be the growth of Automation and Artificial Intelligence. ……. The demand for digital and advanced technological skills, and emotional skills such as leadership and managing others, will grow. Creativity and critical thinking will be essential as our workplaces change………. There will be equal demands for highly technical and creative skills, and empathetic and caring skills. What will the jobs for the future be?”
The Cathedral is very beautiful (which cathedral isn’t) and contains unusual features e.g.; plaques to Florence Nightingale, Joseph Wright of Derby, the portrait painter and Bonnie Prince Charlie. The tomb of Bess or Hardwick is here and there are many intriguing stories to read about the Duchess of Devonshire.
The Museum and Art Gallery is within walking distance. It looks like a little craft and card shop from the outside but once you get it, it is vast. There are objects from all parts of the world. Several areas are dedicated to remnants of our colonial exploitation deriving from them, with full stories of events in many countries where we Brits have broken human rights with horrendous tortures and killings that we have hidden since or glossed over. Viewers are invited to comment from their own personal experiences. It is deeply humbling to read their responses.
You may conclude that Derby is well worth a second visit. I send grateful thanks to both Philip Dearle who did a grand job taking over from Tina Dearle who sadly was not well enough to lead us on the day, having done all the planning and arranging.
Visit to the National Coal Board Mining Museum and Hepworth Gallery Wakefield, Wednesday 12th October
Judging by the smiles and thanks as people left the coach at the end of the day everyone had an enjoyable day out also a great opportunity to make new friends. Our driver Erwin had researched the area that we travelled through and gave us lots of information during the journey. For instance, I had no idea that the Emley Moor mast was a grade 2 listed building.
We were given coffee, tea and biscuits when we arrived at the NCB Coal Mining Museum in a private room that was ours to use throughout our visit. We were then given a tour by Pete Wordsworth a very knowledgeable ex miner who explained the complete process of mining at the colliery from the early days until closure. After an enjoyable lunch we headed to the Hepworth museum, I was particularly impressed with the art exhibition drawn from the Sherwin art collection. We could all spend time in the galleries and then enjoy a drink before we journeyed home. Please look at the website for future trips that you can book.
Shandy Hall and Pickering Trip Report, Wednesday 10th August
It was hot, sunny morning and the coach arrived on time. Our driver was there to greet us with a smile as usual and we headed toward Coxwold. On the way we saw the white horse of Kilburn. We learnt about the history of the famous furniture maker Robert Thompson and his trade mark of church mice. We visited St Michael’s Church where the guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. As you can see from our picture, the stained-glass window was beautiful with the sun shining through. We then visited Shandy Hall, once the home of the Reverend Laurence Sterne, the author of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.
It’s a charming little house, full of his personal possessions. I don’t believe the place has changed since he lived there (1760-1768). The garden is divided into four parts – the Barn Garden, the West Garden, the Orchard and the Wild Garden – and includes a large chestnut tree dating back to the 18th century. The front garden has changed little since the earliest known illustration of the house. We completed our tour with a small gift shop and a plant shop. We then made our way to Pickering for lunch and some free time, after which we headed home following an excellent day out.
Kent Trip Report, Sunday 26th to Thursday 30th June
We began with an early start in fine weather with the ever reliable and mine of information, Erwin driving as the coach headed south to Tonbridge. We stopped en route for refreshments at an excellent hotel in Stamford and then went on to visit Hatfield House – an originally Elizabethan and fascinating mansion owned by the Cecil family who started life as Chancellors to Elizabeth the First and never looked back. It’s a bit of a shame about the massive stainless-steel water sculpture in the drive at the front (maybe something of a carbuncle in that setting) but a wonderful house nevertheless with lovely gardens at the back.
After our first night at the Rose & Crown in Tonbridge (excellent food) we set off for a tractor tour of the Brogdale National Fruit Collection, a gene pool of all significant fruit-tree varieties, during which we spotted orchids growing in a field margin. Then it was on to Chatham Dockyard (utterly fascinating) where some of us undertook a tour of HMS Ocelot, a diesel/electric submarine of the 1980s, and where there was a WW2 destroyer to visit. In the old ship-building sheds there was an excellent interactive exhibition about the building of wooden men-of-war for the Napoleonic era together with demonstrations of rope making, enormous quantities of which were required for these ships.
On Tuesday we went to Brighton for a fascinating tour of the Brighton Pavilion and then on to the sea front, where some of us chose to take a ride on the Volks Electric Railway, opened in 1883 and the oldest electric railway in the world. Brighton was hot and sunny (just as the seaside should be) and there were also the attractions of the Pier and the Lanes.
Wednesday saw us off for a steam-train ride from Tenterden to Bodiam (where the station is beautifully preserved by a dedicated band of volunteers) then on to visit Bodiam Castle, completed in 1388 for Sir Edward Dalyngrigge (apparently a vanity project as the Normans had long since secured the country). Then it was off to the wonderful Sissinghurst gardens laid out by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson in the 1930’s.
On Thursday, after checking out from the hotel we travelled north-west to Eltham Palace which was previously owned by the Courtaulds (who originally made their fortune by inventing Rayon) and whose interiors are the epitome of 1930s style. Again, another fascinating house surrounded by beautiful gardens. Then it was back to York via the Blackwall Tunnel and Sacrewell Farm Park near Peterborough.
A wonderful trip that gave us all a wide variety of interesting visits and five days of most enjoyable companionship with our fellow u3a members.
Our heartfelt thanks go to the organisers, Hilary and Margaret.
South Shields Trip Report, Wednesday 8th June
We set off in fine weather with Erwin driving and the coach headed north to South Shields. About two hours later we reached The Word (new library and function centre) set on the south bank of the River Tyne estuary where we were greeted with coffee and biscuits and given a most interesting and informative introductory talk on its establishment and funding and on finding our way around. We were then free to explore South Shields, which has everything from a very good museum and art gallery to the usual ‘kiss-me-quick’ attractions on the seashore plus Arbeia, the reconstructed western gateway to a Roman fort on the south bank of the Tyne.
Duly instructed, a number of us hiked up to Arbeia to examine it all and then returned for our reward of an excellent lunch at Colman’s Fish and Chip restaurant in Ocean Road which our leader,Tina, had recommended. After that we walked out to the shore for a breath of sea air, and returned via the attractive South Marine Park and the museum and art gallery. Culture sated, we returned to the Word in time to take the ferry to and from North Shields which gave us a fine view of the DFDS overnight ferry to Denmark moored a little way up-river on the north bank. Then it was time to board the coach and head south back to York, after an excellent day out.
Thank you Tina!
RSPB Bempton Cliffs and Burton Agnes Hall, 19th May 2022
The coach journey under grey clouds to the coast was a feast of lush green countryside and pleasant chatter. Free time at Bempton was dedicated to admiring the crowded busy cliffs, with loud cries from their annual visitors, kittiwakes, gannets, razorbills, gulls, and spotted with great delight, an occasional puffin.
At lunchtime the coach dropped us off at Burton Agnes Hall and most of us headed to the café for a quick bite. Luckily by then the sun had pushed through the clouds into a warmer and pleasurable experience as we wandered through the colourful walled garden and tried out giant chess, hopscotch and snakes and ladders.
There was ample time to stroll through the impressive rooms of the still lived in house discovering its many treasures. One could study the exquisite carved wooden fireplaces and staircase, and the stone carvings of bible stories for the servant’s hall. The large collection of paintings throughout the house and the fascinating contemporary glass and wooden sculptures in the long gallery could have captivated us for much longer, but we assembled in mid afternoon for our return trip.
A very stimulating and pleasurable day.
Lotti Sturge and Debbie Wright
Tennants Auction House, 5th April 2022
Our trip to Tennants started with a pleasant scenic drive to the venue with our excellent driver Erwen pointing out places of interest on the way. On arrival we were warmly greeted and given refreshments followed by a talk on the history of the family-run business and shown certain items for the forthcoming sale. These were passed round the audience to handle and see close up while being informed as to how they are valued.
We were also told how difficult it would be to value an object, as one lovely glass vase valued at a few thousand pounds sold for £3.5 million. The highest figure ever achieved in any sale. It came from a small house having been passed down the family and was found sitting on a windowsill.
At midday we had a lovely lunch in the elegant Bistro Restaurant followed by a tour of the three sales rooms, one already prepared for a forthcoming sale a few days later.
There are on average 800 lots per sale with over 80 sales per year. Since Covid there has been a change in the way an auction is run with online bidding as well as people attending the saleroom. 120,000 people a month visit the website. The building also caters for 400 events a year such as concerts, talks and weddings with seating capacity for up to 600 people.
Our day ended with a cream scone and tea or coffee after which we boarded our coach for home at 4pm having had a very interesting and informative day.
VISIT TO ALDBOROUGH AND DUNESFORDE VINEYARD, 14th September 2021
In the morning we visited Aldborough, the remains of an interesting Roman town which some of us did not know existed. We had a fascinating guided tour, then our guide showed us parts of the walls of the town dating from the second century AD when the settlement expanded into a thriving town on the route from York to Hadrian’s Wall. An amazing fact about Aldborough is that it has the largest number of mosaics excavated in any town in Roman Britain. We were able to view two mosaics which have been excavated and are protected from the weather by modern buildings.
After lunch in Ripon we drove to Dunesforde Vineyard where the owner and his family told us the history of its creation, with vines planted in 2016. We were welcomed in a lovely upstairs room which connected our wine tasting to our morning’s visit. This room had a wonderful mural on one wall, showing the Roman town of Aldborough as it is thought to have looked at its most affluent and well-developed stage. We had been told in the morning about tablets found at Vindolanda, wooden tablets with ink writing. One has been deciphered as the expenses claims for a Roman soldier travelling from York to Vindolanda and claiming for wine bought at Aldborough. A tenuous link perhaps, but interesting nevertheless.
After our interesting introduction to Dunesforde, we had the opportunity to taste two of the wines produced from the grapes grown there. Of course, some of us had to indulge in buying some of the wine to share our day out with others before the coach took us home. Altogether an excellent day out!
VISIT TO THE ROYAL HALL, HARROGATE
On arrival at the Royal Hall, we were greeted by a delightful, entertaining guide. She told us that it was built as a Kursaal in 1898 by Harrogate Council to entertain the wealthy folks as part of their spa treatment.
The entertainment was diverse. It included a performance by seals, Gracie Fields and military bands. But after WW11 the building was neglected leading to its closure in 2002. Local folks encouraged by Lillian Mina MBE, formed a Restoration Trust and over six years raised money for the redecoration of front of house, stained glass windows, a new dress circle, drapes and carpets. The renovation used 112,500 sheets of 23.5 carat gold leaf and the blue paint for the ceiling was sourced from a mine in Afghanistan. Before the restoration there were no ladies’ toilets. They had to use the facilities in nearby hotels and only two gents toilets. Naturally, today that has been rectified.! The Hall opened its doors again in 2008.
The Royal Hall is a unique venue offering many different types of entertainment. I, thoroughly recommend a visit, if not to a concert or show then join one of their Open Days and guided tours.