Reports of our lectures held during 2018-9
We have reported our lectures in the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard for many years. Each year for some years we have gathered these together at the end of each season and published them in late summer as one of our newsletters. If you should look through our past Lectures page or our publications pages, you can find which Newsletters have reports in them.
Back copies of some of our Newsletters may be available on request from our editor. A copying charge may be made. Since 2014 we now only publish these reports online. We will keep paper copies solely for archive purposes. In general reports will appear online about a month after they have appeared in the Wilts & Glos Standard.
If you would like to write up a report on a particular talk, contact a committee member as early in the season as possible, as we arrange a rota to ensure that every talk is reported.
September 2018 Report
‘Wot! No Engines?’ Horsa, The Silent Wooden Warrior
James Rendell, a local historian provided a fascinating insight into the story of theWW2 Horsa gliders and the significant contribution they made to the success of the D-Day invasion and the Arnhem landings in 1944.
The Horsa gliders were constructed mainly of spruce with birch ply. This, together with careful design made them very strong. The timber sections were made by various companies with HH Martin of Cheltenham manufacturing 3500 cockpits in the 1943/44 period.
These gliders were designed to carry heavy equipment or troops and set them down together in one place. The 88 foot (30m) wingspan and 67 foot (22m) length made the Horsa a large and notoriously difficult aircraft to fly.
Pilots trained to fly other aircraft, including Spitfires, were often transferred to fly Horsas with very little training.
To get them airborne, the gliders were towed behind Stirling and Halifax aircraft at speeds of up to 150 mph.
To enable gliders not seriously damaged during landing to be re-used, a system of snatch – recovery was developed. This allowed the gliders to be hooked direct to an aircraft, in flight, testifying to the strength of their timber construction.
Gloucestershire played a major part in the Horsa story with glider training at RAF Stoke Orchard; the assembly of gliders at Aston Down and Kemble and gliders full of troops and equipment for D-Day being towed out from RAF Fairford and RAF Down Ampney.
Northleach- A ‘Planted’ Town
At the Society’s October meeting, Peter Dawson told us about the “planted towns” of the Middle Ages. Using many slides and pictures, including some by LS Lowry, he showed us how to recognise one of these towns.
They mostly have a small castle, or its remains, at one end of a street and a church at the other. The terraced houses tend to be of a uniform width of 2 perches (33feet) with very long gardens half a furlong long (330 feet). These were known as burgage plots.
There will also once have been a triangular market-place, though if large enough, the space may have been subsequently filled with houses. There is often a market-cross with 3, 5 or 8 steps. Big enough to sell wares from.
Professor Beresford, of Leeds University, wrote a book (1967) and it seems the Normans created about a thousand such towns, many added onto existing Saxon settlements, as at Northleach. Most of the towns were within a day’s hard walk of each other. They grew through the Middle Ages and maps even show Birmingham and Leeds to have such a town at their core. So why were there so many? Building new towns allowed the King and the Barons to ‘keep an eye on’ the people and encourage them to speak French, which clearly failed, but Celtic languages were discouraged. The landlords would have had a good income from the rents.
Report by Peter Watkins
Francis Haverfield’s ‘Roman Cirencester’: Then and Now
It was a rather damp, miserable night, but this didn’t deter many members and friends from attending an illustrated talk by Neil Holbrook, Director of Cotswold Archaeology, on Francis Haverfield’s ‘Roman Cirencester’: Then and Now. Many there had little knowledge of Haverfield, but nearly 100 years ago, in September 1919, he gave a lecture on Roman Cirencester, which was to prove influential to our understanding of the town, and the inspiration to many famous names in the field of archaeology. Sadly, a month later, at the age of only 58 he died.
A study of Silchester had given him an interest in Roman Town Planning, and his aim was to write a book on all the Roman towns in Britain. Only two papers were published – Leicester and Cirencester.
Cirencester had achieved some fame with the discovery of the Hunting Dogs mosaic in Dyer Street in 1849, and by the end of the century, interest was renewed when the end of the Basilica was discovered. Haverfield was interested in material culture, particularly inscriptions, and the importance of coins in chronology. He felt that the people of Corinium led a comfortable life in a country town, dependant on local agriculture, unromantic and therefore happy. He was particularly interested in the text on the Septimus Stone ( seen now in the museum), which appeared to be restoring paganism in the 4th Century, after the introduction of Christianity.
Neil also exploded some myths about Cirencester – was it really called Corinium? Far more likely, it was Cironium, which would have been more likely to develop in Saxon times into Cirencester. How did Roman Cirencester end? Probably not in a battle in 577 as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. What was Haverfield’s legacy? His paper published in 1920 after his death, was the best paper for at least half a century, and although he is little known himself, he was the inspiration of people like Atkinson, a founder member of the Cirencester Excavation Committee, Shepherd Frere and many other more famous archaeologists.
The Storming of Cirencester 1643
At the January lecture, John Paddock told the meeting about the Storming of Cirencester, a traumatic event for the town that took place on the 2nd of February 1643 during the English Civil War. Cirencester was the first town to be taken by storm in more than two generations and the first English town to be subject to an artillery barrage. John Paddock gave a fascinating exposition of both the background to the conflict at national and local level and details of the actual battle.
At the start of the Civil War Cirencester, with a population of about 4000, had strong Parliamentary tendencies and was held by a Parliamentary force of about 700, supported by 5 artillery pieces and the ‘men of the town’.
Earlier probing by Royalist forces had been driven off, but in January 1643 Prince Rupert left Oxford and moved determinedly towards Cirencester with a force of about 1000 infantry, 3000 mounted troops, two cannon and a mortar. Rupert used his cannon to attack key strong points, whilst the mortar shelled the town.
The psychological effect of the artillery on troops and civilians unfamiliar with such weapons was undoubtedly significant – the Civil war equivalent of ‘shock and awe’ – although Rupert only had ammunition to fire 120 artillery rounds. After a period of barrage, the town’s defensive barricades were rushed and blown aside. The town was swiftly taken in less than four hours.
Reports of casualties are confused, with some records indicating 300 killed and 1000 captured. Parish Records, however, only indicate 39 males, 6 females and 5 children buried over the period.
Attacking forces carried out extensive looting, normal for the time, but there is no indication they ‘ran amok’.
The Royalists held Cirencester, without local opposition, for the rest of the War.
Report by Lynton Mogridge
The Croome Lecture – Report awaited
The Mick Aston Lecture
The Origins of Wessex: Archaeology and Landscape in the Upper
Thames Valley, 5th-7th Centuries AD
Professor Helena Hamerow (University of Oxford)
Over to You – Members’ Evening
It is always a privilege to be given an insight into personal stories through treasured objects and pictures. The audience at our society’s new ‘show and tell’ venture in March were treated to a range of brief talks and a display of artefacts, and a summary follows here. We have not included the names of speakers, but any follow-up information could be passed on via this website and the CAHS committee. Thank you to all contributors and the welcome audience; we will certainly consider holding another similar evening in the future.
Talks and artefacts on display:
An attractive collection of post-medieval ceramic sherds, made into a plate mosaic by grandchildren, from a probable midden site in a cottage garden in Coxwell Street.
A knuckle-duster handed down from a formidable retired headmistress to the family, with no explanation recalled about how she obtained it, or whether she had ever used it herself!
The silver cigarette case of Highland Light Infantryman Charles McCrostie, who died near Albert, France on 1st July 1916. This remains as a poignant witness to his death with a bullet hole through it. His niece and family have visited the site of the battle and marvel to this day how it made it home to the family, to remain with them as a memorial to his sacrifice.
The Military Medal awarded to a grandfather, Harry Bough, in August 1918.
A ‘Death Penny’ and an explanation of their history and their symbolism of British imperial power. This ‘Penny’ commemorates Charles William Selby, who died in 1918 when a member of the 63rd Field Ambulance RAMC. He was born in Poole Keynes and is remembered on the memorial in Poole Keynes church. With it, a picture of his gravestone in Hermonville Military Cemetery, France and his two service medals.
Large iron mooring posts(?) displayed by a member who is currently volunteering with the archive of the ‘Stroud Water Navigation Company’, helping to put the information online thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding. Much of interest is emerging from the archive concerning the salt trade and the 18th century salt warehouse at Brimscombe, and the trade in iron nails from the Bromsgrove and Redditch foundries. A Timothy Lewis has come to light as a prominent Cirencester merchant who appears very involved with the Navigation Company in the 1770s, but little seems known of him. A suggestion has emerged through research that he was described as the ‘son’ or ‘grandson’ of the then Lord Bathurst. What role did the Bathurst family play in establishing the canal? More information needed…
An assemblage of late Roman pottery sherds, animal bones and other objects typical of ‘low status’ settlement midden content from just beyond the Corinium town area. The items were in the possession of the landowner with the knowledge and consent of the Oxford Archaeological Trust who had supervised the site in 2009.‘
Then and Now’ photographs –
The Stroud Subscription Rooms in 1940, with a large public above-ground air raid shelter in the forecourt. With it, a brief history of the building and how it has been used since it was built in 1833-34.
Charlie Morse from Fairford c1930, a head ganger on the railway between Fairford and Lechlade (closed 18th June 1962). Considered a smartly dressed man, he always wore a carnation in his buttonhole.
A picture, early 1940s, of two gunners from a WW2 heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and Miss Betty Tombs enjoying some time off punting an old water storage tank across the farm pond at Hayden Farm. The gun battery was nearby, close to the ‘House In The Tree’ public house between Gloucester and Cheltenham. A snapshot of life during a very difficult period.
An illustrated talk and ‘walk’ along the old Swindon Road route out of Watermoor, now truncated and disguised by the ring road and Kingsmeadow Tesco, Premier Inn, McDonalds development. The discussion helped establish the probable site of a 1920s ‘Cirencester- Please drive slowly through the town’ sign, found at auction, now protected and preserved locally. This would have been one of four original signs put up on the main roads into Cirencester by the Urban District Council before statutory speed limits. The ‘Siddington Road’ sign that was probably nearby before the road changes has also been rescued.
Report by Anne Buffoni
Joint meeting with Cirencester Science & Technology Society
The Cheltenham Branch of Mr Brunel’s Great Western Railway
Colin Maggs -Report awaited
AGM followed by:-
Ghosts In The Stones: Supernatural Tales in Gloucestershire.’
Kirsty Hartsiotis, The Wilson in Cheltenham
The decline of folklore has been spoken of since Puritan times, and yet people still tell tales that are ‘as old as the hills’ for entertainment. The store of tales is constantly replenished as people find new wonders to share with friends. Stories about ghosts are prominent in the catalogue and are constantly renewed with new sightings in old places.
Kirsty Hartsiotis a storyteller and writer about folk tales. Her purpose in writing and re-telling the stories, legends, and myths is to give people an opportunity to hear the tales most closely linked with the places where they live. Gloucestershire has many of these old stories – and its share of the newer ones. We did not hear any of the stories in full, but Kirsty’s talk gave us a flavour of the wide variety that can be heard in our county.
Our archaeological sites often have their spectres, such as the squad of ghostly figures with tattooed faces, dressed in leather tunics, and carrying stone-tipped spears who were seen through a mist at West Tump Long Barrow in Buckle Wood, near Cranham. Barrows were, in more superstitious times, seen as doorways to an underworld where ghosts and fairies lurked. In one tale two labourers discovered a concealed entrance in a hill which led to a series of underground chambers. They heard sounds and a groan and ran for their lives as the chambers collapsed behind them, never to be seen again
.Not all apparitions have involved the figures of people. In the case of Edward II only the scream that he gave when he met his horrible end survives to haunt Berkeley Castle. Gloucestershire has more than its share of royal ghosts, such as that of Margaret of Anjou, who haunts Owlpen Manor. A house of any great antiquity would be sadly deficient if it didn’t have a ghost of its own.
It was still twilight as we left the Ashcroft Hall, but I suspect that those who had listened to this enthralling talk were keeping their eyes peeled as they walked home through the ancient stones of Cirencester.
Martin Graebe. 23 May 2019