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Helmdon Branch WEA - Activities
Charity reg. no: 1112775



An archive of Helmdon WEA Branch activities; 2005 to 2010

Drovers' Roads and Christmas Fare - posted 18 December 2010

Bruce Smith
On Friday, 3 December 2010 Helmdon Branch WEA enjoyed an informative talk by local historian Bruce Smith on the development and demise of drovers' roads, such as the Welsh Lane (B4525) that runs past Helmdon. Drovers' roads were the routes used to transport cattle from Wales where they had been reared to the markets in London (predominantly Smithfield) and elsewhere in England.

Drovers' roads have several distinctive features, tending to be wider than normal routes, which allowed larger herds of cattle to be driven along them without the herd becoming too strung out. The roads also feature long narrow fields alongside called stances, where the cattle would be rested overnight. Often inns and other facilities can be found near to these stances that grew up to serve the needs of the passing drovers.

Bruce Smith's delivery style was dynamic and enthusiastic and he demonstrated a very deep understanding for his subject. And living locally he has ample opportunity for study!

The presentation was followed by a delicious meal, prepared and donated by WEA members.

News Of Future Courses - posted 26 November 2010

As already announced:

Spring 2011  The Great War –cultural change or continuity

                                           click to Courses



Autumn 2011 Houses in the Landscape

This course examines nine great houses in Northamptonshire & looks at how they have been shaped by the surrounding landscape.

Spring  2012: Famous Gardens and Gardeners

The 10 week autumn and spring courses run on Tuesday evening from 7.30 p.m.  Each session is 1 and a half hours.  Look at the courses section for further details or on village notice boards one month before the start of each course.                                       

WEA Chrismas Supper With Guest Speaker- posted 24 October 2010

The Christmas Supper will be held in the Reading Room on Friday, 3 December 2010.

The doors will open at 6.45 pm, and then at 7.15 pm our guest speaker Bruce Smith will give a talk on 'Drover's Roads'.  Afterwards, supper will be served.

WEA members, partners and guests are welcome - cost per head is £7.50. Places are limited and are on a 'first- come first-served' basis. Now Full

More details from Jan Harrold

Outing to Gloucester Docks - posted 28 August 2010


Gloucester Cathedral
Impressive Gloucester Cathedral


On 24 July, WEA members and guests took a Jeff’s coach to Gloucester. On the way we stopped for coffee at Stow on the Wold and were pleasantly surprised to see many colourful groups of Morris dancers - one group had started their performance while others were waiting their turn.

Gloucester itself offered plenty to see: the National Waterways Museum; the working dry docks; the very impressive Gloucester Cathedral and the much simpler Mariners Chapel. Some found time for a boat trip to see more of the Gloucester & Sharpness canal, while others investigated the shopping opportunities  at the Antiques and Designer Outlet Centres.

On the journey home, one of the most talked about topics was the fascinating modern stained glass windows within the Cathedral.  A very enjoyable day out!

Richard Farquharson

Branch Annual General Meeting - 20 March 2010

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 at 8:00pm
Helmdon Reading Room

1. Chair’s welcome
2. Apologies for absence
3. Minutes of AGM, 07 April 2009
4. Matters arising from the minutes
5. Secretary’s report
6. Treasurer’s report
7. Election of officers and auditor for 2010/11
8. Courses for 2010/11 and 2011/12
9. Summer trip
10. Suggestions for winter event
11. Any other business

Cheese and wine will be served after the formalities.

Anyone interested in adult education in Helmdon is very
welcome to attend this meeting.
You will be able to meet local WEA members
and find out what is going on at your local WEA branch.
For more information contact Richard Farquharson (01295 760079)

Please note: AGM will start promptly at 8:00pm.
The Reading Room will be open from 7:45pm.

Workers’ Educational Association, registered charity number 1112775.
Company limited by guarantee in England & Wales number 2806910.
Registered office: Quick House, 70 Clifton St, London EC2A 4HB
Website: www.wea.org.uk

Helmdon Studies Group Winter Event - 5th December 2009

Glyn Jones's talk on Charles Darwin
Dr Glyn Jones gave a talk about Charles Darwin.


Members of the WEA and guests enjoyed a splendid social evening in the Reading Room, Helmdon on Friday, 4th December 2009, which included an illustrated talk by Dr Glyn Jones entitled 'Celebrating Darwin'.

It is 150 years since Charles Darwin published his ground-breaking book and 200 years since he was born.

Dr Jones offered ten things you never knew about Darwin, including the fact that he married his first cousin (one of the Wedgwood family) and that Darwin never used the phrase "survival of the fittest" (it was coined many years later).

Dr Jones's in depth knowledge and own enthusiasm for the subject made it a thought provoking and enjoyable presentation.

Afterwards supper was served and members enjoyed some early Christmas revelry.

Visit to Ickworth House - 25th August 2009


Ickworth House
In July, we arranged an outing by coach. At Bury St Edmunds, a pleasant stroll through the market took us to the cathedral. Inside, our tour was greeted by music thanks to rehearsals for a wedding celebration. Our main event was a visit to the National Trust’s Ickworth House, Park and Gardens. Many commented that this was one of the best WEA outings. The luxury coach and courteous driver from Jeff’s Coaches made the whole trip very enjoyable.

50th Anniversary Celebration - 10th May 2009

Cutting the anniversary cake
   Founder member David Brookhouse and  Branch chairman Jan Harrold cutting the anniversary cake


Helmdon WEA branch celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Reading Room on Friday, 17th April, in the presence of nearly sixty WEA members.  

Bob Chapman, enthusiastic friend of the branch and WEA county organiser for Northamptonshire until his retirement, apologised for not

being present.   He wrote:

The branch is - and has been - fortunate in having so many committed officers and members. If there was anything new and exciting going on in the branches, you could be sure Helmdon was leading the way. It was a pleasure to attend classes and "special occasions" at Helmdon because I felt there was a spirit there that was characteristic of the WEA at its best. It was always the jewel in the crown of the county's branches - long may it so remain.” 

It is great that our millennium village film, the recording of the monumental inscriptions in the churchyard, our six Aspects of Helmdon publications and the creation and continuing maintenance of www.helmdon.com, all conceived in the late 1900s and early 2000s, have been so well remembered and valued. 


David Brookhouse

Present at the formation of the branch in 1959, David Brookhouse (pictured left) then spoke.   His mother, Doris Brookhouse, encouraged him to attend the first meeting with, amongst others, the Rev Dickie Rowbury and his wife, and Geoff Ipgrave. 

With the exception of a few terms missed, classes have been running in the village ever since.   In its early days the branch met in the rectory, but down the years the pub and the school and even member’s homes have been used, with the Reading Room now the preferred venue.


Edward Parry annotating

one of the fascinating old maps

he showed


Local historian Edward Parry, a Helmdon resident over thirty years ago, spoke on “Helmdon Past and Present – Reminders of Helmdon’s History”.  His talk ranged over the years of the village’s existence and of particular interest was his mention of a vicar of St Mary Magdalene in the latter part of the seventeenth century who had his portrait painted by the famous portraitist Sir Peter Lely, no less, which deserves further investigation.  

The formalities were followed by the usual delicious supper provided by members.  To round off proceedings chairman Jan Harrold proposed the toast to the continued sucessful running of the branch, and a magnificent celebratory cake was cut by Jan and founder member David Brookhouse.

Helmdon Studies Group Winter Event - 29th November 2008


Owen Bryce explains the workings of a trumpet to WEA members
Owen Bryce explains

the workings of his


WEA studies group events are always popular.  They began seven years ago, and have included a variety of lecturers.  To begin with the branch were privileged to be able to have the use of The Old Glebe; recent events have been held in the Reading Room.

In the past we have welcomed local historian Edward Parry (Helmdon History), garden historian Jenny Burt (The History of Gardens), Radio Four Woman's Hour presenter Jenni Murray OBE (The Changing Role of Women over the Last 50 Years), the then administrator of  Sulgrave Manor Maureen Jeffery (Christmas in Tudor Times), Judith Hodgkinson (Fashion, Art &  Design around 1900), Front-of-House Manager Rudi Parish (Behind the Scenes at the Derngate), local historian Dr Peter Hall (The Origins of the  Green Man), tutor Joanna Rodgers and Holloway’s expert  Marylin Duerdon (Antiques), Natural historian Reg Tipping (Otters), and Forestry Commission ranger Andy Patmore (The Salcey Forest).

This is quite an impressive array of talent, and on Friday November 28th we added to it when we welcomed the return of our jazz musician, Owen Bryce (who had given a very successful course in 2004) and who talked to us, on this occasion, on The History of Jazz.

We were thrilled to listen to excerpts of early jazz and to have him illustrate his talk with the aid of his trumpet. Owen formed The Original Dixielanders, which included Chris Barber.  Since 1956 he has led his own band which has included many now famous names,  for Owen has been a prolific discoverer of Jazz talent.  A regular visitor to New Orleans, he has played with some of the legendary musicians there and he was made an Honorary Citizen of the City in 1980. He is an enthusiastic and entertaining speaker.

The evening concluded with an excellent buffet.  Thanks are due to WEA members for their contributions to the supper and to the committee for all their hard  on-the–night  preparation.


Outing to Hardwick Hall - 20th July 2008


Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire


On July 19th the WEA enjoyed a visit to Hardwick Hall, the birthplace and home of one of the sixteenth century's most powerful women - Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, or 'Bess of Hardwick’. Outliving four husbands, Bess gathered social status, land and fabulous wealth and founded future ducal dynasties, including the Dukes of Devonshire at Chatsworth who donated Hardwick to the National Trust.

The main focus of the visit was the Hall itself.  With impressive large rooms, it was built in the 1500s by Bess, and its architecture and decoration offer a unique and vivid insight into Tudor Times.  To those of the group who particularly appreciate tapestries, there was a remarkable textile collection which highlights Bess’s wealth and status.    Many members also visited Hardwick Old Hall (English Heritage), and the Gardens (based largely on nineteenth century and later designs), were a delight.

Another successful and enjoyable  WEA visit.

WEA Social Evening - 5th September 2007

A date for your Diary - Members and their guests are invited to a social evening in the Reading Room on Friday, 30th November.

More information will be given to members later.

Trip To Lacock - 16th June 2007

Lacock Abbey

WEA members thoroughly enjoyed their trip to Wiltshire on 16th June. There was a stop for coffee at Lechlade before the group reached Lacock.

At Lacock there was plenty to see, including the National Trust properties: Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum of Photography and Lacock Village.  Members were able wander around the Abbey Gardens and see the ongoing work restoring the Botanic gardens.   All in all a very pleasant and interesting day.

Christmas Get-Together - December 2006

Douglas Hadfield, Andy and Jenny Overson.
Douglas Hadfield, Andy and Jenny Overson.

Members held their Christmas social evening in the Reading Room on Friday, December 1st.  Andy Patmore, a Forest Commission ranger, talked about the evolution of the Royal Forests of England from the Ice Age to the present day;  it was illuminating to hear what types of trees are at present in our forests, why they came to be there and what this means for the forest floor.  More specifically he talked about his work in the Salcey Forest (which has now, incidentally, an exciting walkway above the trees) and the flora and fauna in our local woods. The evening ended with supper provided by members, served by the ever-hardworking committee.

Interested In Roman History? - Autumn 2006

Now, some ten years on, the finds are being shown at the Piddington Museum and interpret 500 years of life at the site.

In the 90s Helmdon WEA had a series of lectures from Roy Friendship Taylor about the Romans and an archaeological dig at Piddington, Northamptonshire, and some members were fortunate enough to visit it and to be shown around the site.

Now, some ten years on, the finds are being shown at the Piddington Museum and interpret 500 years of life at the site. It was opened in 2004 by Tony Robinson, and in November 2006, Roy, who is chairman of the Upper Nene Archaeological Society and director of excavations, received two prestigious prizes on behalf of the Museum at the British archaeological awards' ceremony.

The Roman Villa Museum at Chapel End, Piddington, Northants, NN7 2DD is open on Sundays, 2pm until 4pm until Easter. Contact the museum (01604) 870312 for further opening times in 2007.

Outing to Southwell - 7th October 2006

Southwell Minster

About 26 members and guests visited the Workhouse at Southwell. We left Helmdon in style because due to the numbers Jeffs Coaches decided we could have the 1st XI Cricket team coach, so we had plenty of leg room and posh facilities!!

We arrived at Southwell Workhouse about 11.45 a.m. and were met by one of the guides who gave us a very informative introduction. We were then all issued with individual audios and left to proceed on our own after seeing a short film. The site is now run by the National Trust and very well preserved and maintained. Not quite sure whether I fancied living under those conditions!!

About 1.30 p.m. the coach then dropped us off outside Southwell Minster. Some of us proceeded to have lunch first before doing a tour of the Minster.

The Minster is referred to as the hidden gem of Nottinghamshire and on viewing this beautiful church you can see why. We were exceptionally lucky because in the evening there was to be a large Concert, and in the afternoon they were practicing their recital, so as we wandered around we were treated to this lovely music.

We arrived back in Helmdon at about 7.30 p.m. and we all agreed that anyone not coming with us had missed a really good day out. Here's to the next one.

Jan Harrold (Chair)

Useful Links:

Brief details from the NT website
More information on The Workhouse at Southwell
Background material on workhouses
To learn more about the WEA

WEA Annual General Meeting 2006 - 5th December 2005

This meeting was held in the Reading Room on 11th April 2006.  Jan Harrold was in the chair and welcomed members to the meeting.

The secretary's report, given by Richard Farquharson, reported on courses and visits during the year.  He also explained how the branch was supported by other staff within the WEA.  The website, created and maintained by members had won a prestigious award, being Central England winner in the Calor “Village of the Year” competition. 

Kate Moody, treasurer, reported that the branch was in a very healthy financial position.

Otters At The WEA - 5th December 2005

Naturalist, Reg Tipping.
Naturalist, Reg Tipping.

WEA members enjoyed another well-attended social evening at the Old Glebe on December 2nd.

Reg Tipping gave an excellent talk on what has become his main wildlife interest over the years, the subject of otters, although he confessed that bats were also an enthusiasm. He pointed out that their conservation was of prime importance, the west coast of Scotland and Ireland being the western limit of their European habitat, but more than that, he had obviously put his money where his mouth is, as the expression goes, by the amount of time he has spent in building artificial badger holts alongside rivers of Oxfordshire and surrounding counties. These are being made because of the gradual denudation of shrubby water banks, and the amount of man-made walling now being put alongside water channels. It was interesting to be told that bridge builders are now incorporating tunnels under the road or river to allow badgers and other animals to cross from one side to the other.

After Reg's contribution to the very successful evening, members enjoyed a fish and chip supper and delicious desserts. Thanks to the committee for organising such delicious fare!

Summer Supper - 24th June 2005


The wonderful gardens at the Old Glebe
The wonderful gardens at the Old Glebe

In June, Will Watson kindly allowed us to use the Old Glebe for our summer social event.

After a stroll round the garden and an excellent supper, Will entertained us with a most enjoyable recital of piano music to illustrate the different musical styles of composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Mozart.

Helmdon Branch AGM - 17th May 2005

Judy Cairns (Chair) welcomed 22 members and Dr. Denise Cowley to the AGM in the Reading Room. Denise is the Area Learning Manager for Northamptonshire and is also going to be our tutor for the autumn 2005 course "Anglo-Saxon and Viking England".

The Secretary's report, given by Richard Farquharson, explained recent changes to the regional organisation and course fee structure. The report also highlighted how the previous year's courses had been very successful and well attended.

Kate Moody then gave a detailed financial report. This clearly showed that, despite recent changes, it was another strong year for the branch and it should remain in a good financial position for the foreseeable future.

Throughout the meeting, Dr. Denise Cowley kindly answered many of questions about tutor availability and various operational matters.

Visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum - 16th April 2005

The Victoria & Albert
The Victoria & Albert

Following our course "The Suburbans", a coach trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington allowed us to see many items of suburban furniture and decorative items at first-hand.

A vast range of products from the past 3000 years is wonderfully displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Many other Helmdon residents took the opportunity to join us on the trip.

Thanks go to Cec and Jan Harrold for arranging the trip and to Joanna Rogers for acting as our guide at the Museum.

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