2019 Events with reviews
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Croome – Restoration and Plans for the Future
Michael proved to be a charismatic and knowledgeable member of the NT whose enthusiasm for the Croome project was much in evidence. He gave a history of the Croome lands after the Norman invasion when it was controlled by Urse d’Abitot the first Norman sheriff of Worcester.
The sixth Earl of Coventry inherited appr 15,000 acres in 1751 and although known as being of very poor quality the land was also known as ‘soggy’, hence the draining of the land into the river and ornamental lake after Capability Brown was commissioned in 1750 to landscape the grounds and refurbish the originally red brick house.
Croome Court (grade 1 listed) is now a Bathstone Palladian mansion incorporating substantial arts of the previous C17 mansion, the interior including work by Brown, Robert Adam, G. Vassalli and J. Rose jnr.
C20 saw a decline in the estate and in 1948 it was sold in various parcels to a succession of owners including the Archdiocese of Birmingham who ran a boys boarding school in the court until 1979. It was then sold to the Hari Krishna who occupied the court until 1984.
In October 2007 Croome Court after suffering years of neglect, was bought by the Croome Heritage Trust who took the property on in partnership with the National Trust which undertook to run and repair it after obtaining Heritage Lottery funding. The house opened to the public on 26 September 2009 after being made safe and the Trust have now extended the lease to the NT for 999 years.
The adjacent Red Wing is currently the subject of major repairs and refurbishment and it is hoped to be able to view the site some time next year.
Michael gave much more information including the sale of furniture and artefacts – some of which is on show in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and some in the V & A in London, together with news of future events and exhibitions not to be missed!
11th September saw a visit to the museum which is now housed in what was the very first factory built for making carpets in 1855 and is now owned by Morrisons who only charge a peppercorn rent.
Lottery funding provided £2m for setting up of the museum building which opened in 2012, the looms being donated, and Lord Cobham is patron.
Originally work was undertaken in weavers cottages with fleeces prepared downstairs by the children and mother of the family and weaving upstairs by the father.
Different kinds of wool used in the carpet making together with flax and silk were shown, together with spinning and which is where the word ‘spinster’ originated.
The use of looms was then demonstrated beginning with the hand operated loom of 120 years ago used with the flying shuttle.
The different types of carpet were explained; Wilton being the superior, followed by Axminster and the original Kidderminster a double sided simple rug.
More sayings originating from the industry:
tenterhooks, spinning a yarn, shuttle, sweep under the carpet and dyed in the wool.
This visit led by Tim Bridges, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society, looked at some of the less familiar, discovering Birmingham’s hidden suburbs, houses, church and industrial buildings in the city of a thousand trades, enjoying architecture and design from the Victorian Arts and Crafts Movement.
First stop was the parish church of St. Augustine of Hippo in Edgbaston named obviously, after St. Augustine who a Berber by birth in North Africa became a lawyer and converted to Christianity in 367 in Milan. Ordained a priest and returned to North Africa to become bishop of the small city of Hippo.
A beautifully maintained church on a small green surrounded by examples of the Victorian Art & Craft movement houses, the architect of the church being Julius Chatwin who became chief architect in the C19 for Birmingham City Council. In 1868 the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Worcester having won a design competition, the construction cost of which was £9,000, a 185ft tall steeple being added in 1876 at a cost of £4,000. Inside the church is a striking painted chancel ceiling, stained glass and a wealth of stone carving, much of it done by the Bromsgrove Guild. We were offered coffee and delicious homemade cakes to sustain us on our next tour by coach through Edgbaston. This enabled us to see over hedges and walls and admire the leafy suburbs and Regency/Victorian style buildings many of which are listed.
On through Selly Oak, Bournville Village , Stirchley and into Moseley Village to admire the houses in Amesbury Road and the St. Agnes Conservation Area. Then along Wake Green Road the base for the setting of Tolkiens Hobbit. Much of this area was part of Worcestershire until the early C20th. On past Moseley Baths being the last Edwardian baths still in use in the country for which it is hoped funding can be found to have this amazing building restored.
On to Highgate to visit St. Albans Church close to where several mosques and high rise flats could be seen on the horizon.
The church was consecrated in 1899 again by the Bishop of Worcester, built mainly of red brick but with Bath stone pillars now discoloured by heating and lighting and incense fumes. A delicious lunch was served before we continued the tour around the Jewellery Quarter admiring many of the Georgian houses which had been converted into workshops and the Ramgarhia Sikh Temple once an Independent chapel.
We wended our way through Lozells and around Handsworth to the Handsworth Cemetery Chapel adjacent to a very large cemetery, where our coach successfully dodged a multitude of cars. The chapel was built in 1908 by Handworth Urban Council who allegedly blew their remaining funds on the building before being absorbed by Birmingham City Council.
On to Anchorage House in Handsworth Wood sadly currently up for sale after being the home for some years of a community charity. A wander around the garden gave us a chance to chat with 4 ducks and admire the building after being served more tea and cakes.
An illuminating trip even for those of us who thought we knew Birmingham well!
Views were shown of Weir Meadows where the circus paid an annual visit with elephants being taken across the road for a swim in the shallower waters. Clips were shown of the coal wharf serving Wick and Pensham together with the Watergate which was destroyed with explosives by the Royal Engineers at the request of LANT although the blast was apparently larger than expected. The remaining stonework can often be seen amongst the reeds adjacent to what was once Sanders Boat Hire. Fascinating meander along the Avon.
A fascinating evening showing postcards and photos of Pershore’s past including many of the old racecourse situated opposite Defford Road which opened in 1899 moving behind what is now the High School in 1934. One photo featured “Bruiser” Woods the official race starter in 1929 and grandfather to the current president of Pershore Civic Society John Alexander. There will be another opportunity to view some of these photos and other memorabilia at the Photo Day in St. Andrews on Saturday 29th June 10.30 – 1.30pm when all will be welcome.