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Newsletter May 2013

The HEDFAS Quarterly Newsletter

                                                                                                               May 2013

As winter slowly ebbs away and spring emerges in all her bounteous beauty, welcome to the second edition of our new HEDFAS Quarterly Newsletter.

Since February we have had four excellent lectures, as diverse and entertaining as ever, together with a delightful Study Day on London's Squares & Town Houses from 1630-1830 and a splendid visit to Tate Modern to see the Roy Lichenstein exhibition.
Our Annual General Meeting took place on 3rd April when we said goodbye to Alvi Shaw, who had served her three year term as Chairman. We extend our warmest thanks to Alvi for all her hard work and dedication while in the Chair. Alvi will continue to run holidays, which are hugely enjoyed by so many of our members.


 A very warm welcome to Pauline Simmonds who now steps into the Chair. Pauline is a very experienced committee member of HEDFAS and we all look forward with much pleasure to her time at the helm. Before becoming Chairman Pauline took care of Study Days with great skill and imagination.

Una Murray-Wood (tel: 0118 979 0781) has joined the committee and takes over Pauline's duties running Study Days. Her first Study Day is on Wednesday, 26th June, "Dresden - Art and Architecture", which ties in with the HEDFAS holiday in the autumn to Dresden, Meissen, Leipzig and Colditz. Please telephone Una if you have any queries relating to this Study Day. We wish Una much happiness on our committee.

After many years of dedicated service, Hilary Beck-Burridge resigned from the committee at the Annual General Meeting. We were very sad to say good-bye. A huge thank you to Hilary for all her loyal hard work.  

Ann Downing (01491 573392) has taken her place as Operations Manager and we also wish her much happiness on our committee.
The rest of the committee remain the same.


As many of you will know, our email ( is very active and we are always here to answer your queries and listen to your suggestions. As a matter of interest we have been on email for a whole year now and this has been a most successful addition to HEDFAS.


Another splendid enhancement has been Phyllis Court's invitation to all HEDFAS members to enjoy lunch there on lecture days. The Orangery, Dining Room and Lounge Area are all available for lunch and drinks.  The Bar is reserved exclusively for Phyllis Court members. Of course HEDFAS members may accompany a Phyllis Court member in the Bar. Do email us if you would like any more information on this.

                                               A Letter from the Chairman, Pauline Simmonds
It is with great pleasure that we welcomed Lady Camoys to our 37th AGM in April. Her knowledge of HEDFAS history is always fascinating and her support invaluable in times of change. She warmly thanked Alvi for her contribution as Chairman over the past three years.

Having joined HEDFAS as an Evening Member in Shiplake over 20 years ago, I am also well aware of our Society’s many traditions - and challenges! Luckily I have inherited an excellent and dedicated team and very much look forward to my first year as new Chairman.

I am pleased to have Geraldine Crippin as Vice Chairman. As Joint Chair with Ginnie Johnston from 2005-8, she brings a wealth of experience to the position and I greatly appreciate her support. We will take turns to Chair either the Morning or Afternoon meetings but I also hope that others from the Committee will ‘have a go’!                                   

Geraldine of course is approaching a very busy time as the Church Recorders Project draws to a close and we look forward to exploring the results of their work. This project along with Young Arts and the Heritage Book Group will be featured widely at the end of the year as NADFAS celebrates “40 Years of Volunteering”. Like many Societies in our South Mercia Area we hope to highlight the occasion but I shall return to that later.
Jillie Drucker, our Programme Secretary, has started the year well and presented us with some excellent Lecturers. I accompanied her recently to the Directory Day in March and am confident that many more ‘outstanding’ lectures will follow. Our new Committee Member, Una Murray-Wood, also promises to treat us to some exciting Study Days. I think she was amazed at the variety of subjects under the ‘Decorative and Fine Arts’ heading!!
Ann Downing, another new Committee Member, volunteered to ‘help behind the scenes’ and I’m sure you already enjoy her friendly welcome at the Monthly Meetings. We look forward to working with them as our large membership grows and changes.

                                                                                      With best wishes to you all
                                                                                            Pauline Simmonds
                             HEDFAS Young Arts start the year in spectacular fashion!

The Royal Society of British Artists' annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London was held from 6th to 17th March. Fifty-two NADFAS Societies submitted over 465 works of art from 87 schools. Just twenty were selected to be shown.  

HEDFAS submitted works by three Henley College students. Danny Leyland’s picture, Matilda, had the honour of being placed in that top twenty. 

John Lewis (yes, the John Lewis) chose one picture to hang in their most prestigious store in Oxford Street. It was Danny’s ... Danny is now at Oxford Brookes University taking a one year Art Foundation Course. He hopes to go on to study

fine art at the Ruskin School, Oxford.

HEDFAS is so proud to have sponsored our young artist and we wish him every success in his career.



                                              Young Arts: Sculpture Workshop on 2nd and 3rd March



 On 2nd and 3rd March HEDFAS sponsored a Sculpture Workshop at the Henley Youth Centre.

 Under the expert guidance of the professional artist Peter Rush local children of all ages fashioned exotic birds and bugs. These were crafted solely from plastic cutlery, chicken wire and tissues, then painted in bright colours with care and consummate skill. What talented, artistic youngsters we have in our community.



                                Young Arts:Fire the Inventor Workshops on Saturday 16th March   


As part of the Henley Youth Festival, HEDFAS sponsored the Fire the Inventor Workshops at the d:two
Centre in Henley on Saturday 16th March.  Using a mix of pre-made parts, craft materials and random bit and pieces, participants made a cam-based machine which burst into life at the turn of a handle.  A splendid day was had by all.  

                                  Young Arts: Crazy Comic Club Workshops on Saturday 16th March

HEDFAS also sponsored the Crazy Comic Club workshops at the Kings Arms Barn in Henley on Saturday 16th March for the Henley Youth Festival.  James parsons ran four one hour sessions on the theme of "Back to the Future". The workshops involved making x-ray specs and creating time-travel magic pictures.  A delight for younger children.

             Our first Study Day was entitled "London's Squares & Town Houses 1630-1830"
                                                            on Monday 4th March


A Study Day on ‘The Houses and Squares of London’ proved to be a popular choice, with over 70 members attending in the Finlay Suite at Phyllis Court. Philippa Barton, the lecturer, lived in one of the Georgian houses in our capital city and was able to explain the various styles - from Inigo Jones to John Nash. Most 17th Century examples, like Covent Garden, had disappeared. Some like Buck House had been extended. Marble Arch was ‘moved’ but luckily many much-loved squares, like Grosvenor, Berkeley and Bloomsbury still survive. Architecture to the Georgians was an expression of ‘good taste’ and their style still appeals today, but their builders, we learnt, were sometimes less reliable!! Members heard how patrons, architects and landlords developed land to the north and west to meet the needs of an expanding population. A fascinating history of growth and change which still continues today.                                
Pauline Simmonds

                               New Members Coffee Morning on Wednesday 20th March
On the morning of Wednesday 20th March the Committee welcomed New HEDFAS Members to the Chantry House for coffee and cakes.  We had a wonderful time chatting to each other and hearing of some of the many activities of HEDFAS.  Such is its success that our New Members Coffee Morning has now become a firm tradition.  A very warm welcome to all our new members!
     Our second visit of the year was to Tate Modern to see the Roy Lichtenstein Exhibition
                                                           on Thursday 4th April
 On the wettest, chilliest day imaginable, braving the wind and driving rain, an intrepid HEDFAS party went to Tate Modern to visit the Roy Lichenstein exhibition. Lichenstein is considered one of the great American artists of the twentieth century. He is renowned for his works based on comic strips and advertising imagery, coloured with his signature hand-painted Benday dots. We were delighted to see such key paintings as Look Mickey (1961) and his monumental Artist’s Studio series of 1973–4. Other noteworthy highlights included Whaam! 1963, a signature work in Tate’s collection, and Drowning Girl (1963).
Lichenstein's rich and expansive practice was represented by a wide range of materials, including paintings on Rowlux and steel, as well sculptures in ceramic and brass and a selection of previously unseen drawings, collages and works on paper.

For many of us this was a departure from the more conventional art we were familiar with. Indeed this was the first visit to a modern art exhibition for some. However, we were fascinated by the interpretation and structure of his works. We thoroughly enjoyed our day in London and returned home most satisfied that we had seen a little of the world of contemporary art.

                                              Ginnie Johnston
                    For our first holiday we visited the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean from
Tuesday 9th April to Friday 12th April
                                                                     Chapter 1

 The travellers assembled at their appointed pick-up points and the trip was under way, under a heavy sky, misty with rain not seen in the Henley area (almost) in living memory.
Nevertheless we duly arrived with, at least temporarily, a break in the rain at Cirencester. All took off in search of coffee and other sustenance before entering the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, a historic wool church and a masterpiece of perpendicular church architecture.
The front of the church had been startlingly “cleaned” par excellence and is now referred to by the locals (disparagingly?) as “Weymouth beach”. One of the church guides estimated that the startling nature of the work will rapidly fade with rain and sun. It was learned that some £4.5m had been raised for an extensive refurbishment programme including some £800,000 for restoration of the Willis Organ. This now has 4 manuals and 63 speaking stops. For heritage reasons the case designed by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1867 was retained and the new “works” incorporated into it. There has been a church on this site since the early years of the Christian era. The present building represents many decades of additions, alterations and developments resulting in one of the largest and most beautiful churches in the country.
The coach returned and we set off to visit Chavenage, a wonderful Elizabethan house of mellow Cotswold stone. We were welcomed by Caroline Lowsley-Williams, her brother and their father David. They gave a wonderfully fluent informative and very humorous account of the history of the house and estate set in the context of some seminal moments in the history of England. Theirs is only the second family to have lived here since Elizabeth I and that from 1891. Previously the property was held by the Stephens family. Colonel Stephens, MP for Gloucester during the Civil War, was cursed for supporting Cromwell and acquiescing in the death of Charles I. A fatal illness attacked him a few months after and his ghostly image is said to haunt the house. Cromwell stayed in one of the bedrooms – a room entirely decorated by English tapestries made in Mortlake nearly 400 years ago and restored by the British Museum in recent years.
The ballroom where we had a delicious lunch was built as part of the Edwardian wing and was added in 1905. The Anglican Chapel is another charming addition dating from 1780. The figures in the porch are from Elizabethan tombs, the font has a Saxon top and the windows are Victorian painted glass. Chavenage has appeared in several film and TV programmes including Lark Rise to Candleford, Tess of the D’Urbevilles, The House of Eliott and Cider with Rosie. The National Trust has helped with maintenance and in return the house is opened to the public two days per week. Other funding is from wedding receptions and other events. Virtually all the work in and around the house is done by the family.
                                                                                                                             Chapter 2

 The first visit was to Dr Edward Jenner’s House at Berkeley, Gloucestershire. Dr Jenner was born to a vicar and his wife in 1749. He studied medicine in London but decided to return to Berkeley to practice as a local doctor. We enjoyed an excellent film about his childhood, studies and subsequent career but most importantly his pioneering work to develop vaccination as a way of defeating the devastating smallpox plague which was responsible for the deaths of one in three children and one in eleven of all deaths in the country. He observed that individuals did not succumb to smallpox following their exposure to cowpox, a much milder disease. He took material from the pustules of cowpox and vaccinated a small boy who was subsequently given the smallpox infection. The boy proved to be resistant to the latter. After many years of overcoming resistance to his methods the treatment became successful and the disease was eradicated.
In addition to this Dr Jenner researched into Hibernation, Migration and Nesting Habits, excavated fossils and launched one of the country’s first hydrogen balloons. After visiting the house and reading further details of his work we moved on to visit the Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin which shares a site with Berkeley Castle and Jenner House. St Marys was rebuilt in the 13C from a first Saxon then Norman church and overlooks the Castle and Severn Estuary. Its many features include the West Front with five tall lancet windows, early English arcades, and a large Norman font for immersing infants. There are tombs of the Berkeley family and mural paintings discovered in 1866 and restored under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott. The north side of the altar houses the Jenner family vault and the east window stained glass is in his memory.
Following lunch served in the yurt we went on to visit Berkeley Castle, the oldest in Britain to be lived in by the same family for nearly nine hundred years. Started in 1117 to keep out the Welsh, Edward II was imprisoned for eight months before being murdered in 1327. Cromwell’s troops besieged the castle in 1645. We visited State apartments, containing collections of furniture, paintings, tapestries, silverware, ceramics and weaponry.

We had a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide who made our visit even more memorable.

                                                   Chapter 3

 To Tintern Abbey. Huge! Very well preserved. Founded in 1131 by Cistercian monks who developed agriculture, farming, vineyards and setting up hospitals. In 1536 it was taken over by Henry VIII and the roof removed leaving it to decay. It witnessed enormous changes throughout its long life. Corn and oil mills and, during the Industrial Revolution, the Wye was one of the most industrialised valleys in Wales. Manufacturing including wire making, left the area around the Abbey covered in makers huts. In the late 18C the fourth Duke of Beaufort ordered the clearing of the grounds and the interior and levelling and turfing the whole area. The Abbey became a tourist attraction and including such artists and poets as Turner and Wordsworth and the novelist Jane Austen.
A short drive from Tintern we stopped for tea and coffee at Tintern Old Station comprising a Victorian teahouse, railway carriages and a signal-box used for exhibitions of arts and crafts. And then to Monmouth for lunch. We saw the Narrow Bridge on the way back to the coach which has a narrow 13C gateway thought to be the only surviving bridge gate in Britain. Other features of the town are the Shire Hall recently refurbished. The building dates back to 1794 and includes the court room where members of the Chartist Movement were condemned to death for high treason. There are statues to Henry V, Charles Rolls (a son of the Monmouth) who sold the cars made by his partner Henry Royce. Rolls held over 200 bi-plane records but it was a plane crash in which he died. There is a museum of Nelson memorabilia commemorating two visits he made to the town. Finally we moved on into the Forest of Dean and visited the Dean Heritage Centre where we were entertained with a presentation covering the history, development and current situation in the forty-two square-mile site. Among its activities were mining for coal and iron ore and use as a hunting forest. Wood from the forest has been used in ship building and charcoal for iron smelting. During the Napoleonic Wars the timber was essential for warships. It took two hundred trees for one ship. Free miners rights were given to anyone born in the forest from the 13C and this continues to the present day. Finally we called at Westbury Court – the last surviving Dutch water garden in the country. Sadly the rain came down and we simply looked at the Garden through railings and over the wall before returning to our hotel in Cheltenham for dinner.

                                                     Chapter 4

 And so to our last day. We had dined and slept in Cheltenham but we now had a chance to see the town. Anne Bartlett, a Blue Badge Guide, joined us and we drove slowly through the Roman and Georgian parts of the town with Anne pointing out all the places of historical and architectural interest. We stopped at the Pittville Pump Room and spent some time admiring the beautiful interior with its dome and chandeliers. The whole party was photographed on the steps overlooking the grounds where a group was doing some sort of calisthenics, walking as if in slow motion. Alvi joined in – what a sport!
Having returned to the centre of town we were free to explore and have lunch. Some went to the Gustav Holst Museum and other buildings in Alvi’s splendid guide notes.

After lunch we drove to Bibury, a village with history back to the Iron Age. William Morris called it the most beautiful village in England. It really is exceptional with honey-coloured 17C stone cottages on the river which flows alongside the street. Cloth was woven from the 17C and in the mill it was taken for degreasing and then set out to dry after washing and dyeing on racks. A trout farm was established in 1902 to supply fish for restocking angling waters. St Mary’s Church dates back to Saxon times. Various hostelries supplied tea to set us up for the run back to Henley.

Altogether a splendid trip full of interesting places and buildings, not least a quietly situated hotel with good facilities, food and friendly, helpful staff.

                                               Russ Openshaw 

                                                       With grateful thanks to Richard Lloyd and Tim Green for their delightful photos.                                                    



We hope you have enjoyed this springtime edition of the Newsletter. Amateur it may be, but crafted with affection and enthusiasm!