2018-2019  LECTURES

The Lectures take place between 1st October and end of March, at Bethesda Church Hall, Gt. Norwood Street, CHELTENHAM, GL50 2AP at 2.30pm. on the FIRST Thursday of each month, and at Woodmancote School at 7.30pm on the THIRD Thursday of the month

The admission price for all meetings payable, on the door, £3 Members & £4 visitors. 

The Thursday afternoon meetings to remain at Bethesda Methodist Church Hall until further notice.

The Thursday evening meetings will be at Woodmancote School.

How to get to Woodmancote School

Woodmancote School is located in Station Road, Woodmancote, GL52 9HN.

Suggested directions from Cheltenham are either to:

Take the A435 Evesham Road, do not follow the by-pass round Bishop‘s Cleeve. Instead go into the village and right after passing the fish and chip shop onto Station Road. The school is on your right, after the railway bridge. If you reach the mini roundabout, you have gone too far.


Take the B4632 Prestbury Road towards Winchcombe. Ignore the turning to Southam and take the next turning on the left, about 200yards further on, signposted Woodmancote‘. This is New Road. Follow the road round past the old chestnut tree on your right into Station Road. The school is down the road, on your left, just past the mini roundabout. If you reach the railway bridge you have gone too far!

The entrance to the school car park is closer to the mini roundabout, the exit is closer to the railway bridge.


The programme of lectures for 2018-19 is as follows:


4th October              Bethesda            Newark Park                                            Stephanie van Stokkom

18th October            Woodmancote    Tasmania                                                  Frank Austin

1st November          Bethesda           The Gunpowder Plot                                  Vic Avis

15th November        Woodmancote    Regency Cheltenham                               Stephen Blake

6th December          Bethesda           Corfe Castle, Dorset                                  Pam White


3rd January             Bethesda           James Wyatt, Architect                                Helen Roberts

17th January           Woodmancote    Looking at Pictures                                     Simon Trapnell

7th February           Bethesda            BBC Naturewatch at Sherborne Estate      Simon Nicholas

21st February         Woodmancote    The Siege of Gloucester, 1643                    Ted Wilson or Paul Drinkwater

7th March               Bethesda            National Star College                                   Sally Gillespie

In connection with this talk, the Star College has invited members and friends to a tour of the College on 19 March, 2019. The details of this outing are here.


Lecture reports

3 January, 2019, James Wyatt, Architect, Helen Roberts

Helen was an excellent speaker, so we rapidly learnt a lot about Wyatt, loved and admired by the Georgians, hated and vilified by the Victorians, especially Ruskin.  His father was a builder and quickly recognised James‘s talent, sending him aged 16-18 to study in Venice, moving on to Rome at 18.  He was befriended by Piranesi who gave him all 10 volumes of his drawings, an immeasurable gift for a young man just starting out.
Back in London aged 22, Wyatt‘s first commission was to design the London Pantheon, a large but awkward site on Oxford Street.  Scagiola had recently been invented, so Wyatt used it extensively.  The building was used to stage opera (especially Handel) and plays.  Wyatt managed to sneak in a run of arches alongside the Pantheon dome, in a nod to Agia Sophia. It was a truly enormous building, large enough for the trendy new hot air balloon to be assembled inside.  It was destroyed in a disastrous fire after 20 years

At Dodington Wyatt installed underfloor heating, gasoliers and water closets.  He designed the Observation Tower at Croome, and Broadway Tower.

He took on too many jobs: on his death from hitting his head in a coach accident, piles of unopened letters were found in his offices.  There is a suggestion of ill-health towards the end, talk of spending months in bed, and Helen is intrigued by the idea he might have been bi-polar.

21 February, 2019. The Siege of Gloucester, 1643. Paul Drinkwater.  

The Siege in 1643 lasted 26 days, when a small party of Parliamentarians, led by Colonel Edward Massey, held the might of Charles I and his Royalist Army at bay at a significant point in the English Civil War.  Paul belongs to the Gloucester Civic Trust, set up to save the city‘s heritage.  His talk was the best-attended we have seen at Woodmancote but we will not be returning there next season nor, indeed, offering evening talks, as attendance has been too low to warrant the Lectures Committee‘s efforts.

Paul explained that in general Parliament was filled by rich men who acted as advisors to the King.  However, as the Civil war got under way, Parliamentarians represented the middle classes, while the Royalists were aristocrats and peasants, who depended on the former for their livelihood.  Colonel Massey had fought for the King in Scotland, but changed sides to defend Gloucester, which was a Puritan city.  

In July 1642 the King took Bristol, and in February 1643 Prince Rupert took Cirencester.  It might have seemed a foregone conclusion that Gloucester would similarly fall.  However, Paul gave us a good description of the spirited defence both the 1,500 troops and 5,000 citizens put up, such as creeping out at night to attack the sleeping foot soldiers, and stealing the fallen cannon balls.  Even though the King‘s defeat could be seen as the beginning of the end‘, the siege cost Gloucester dearly, as it took the city 100 years to recover.

Julph Miers 


                                              The Lectures Sub-Committee at work.

When your list of lectures comes through in your newsletter every year please give a thought to the hard-working members of the Centre’s lectures sub-committee. This seven-member subcommittee ably
chaired by Jan Turner, organise, arrange and run the lecture series for the benefit of members on a
completely voluntary basis.
They are fortified only with copious cups of tea or coffee and a substantial supply of quality biscuits provided free of charge by the host.
The meeting this September reviewed progress and details of the organisation for the coming season’s lectures and tried to anticipate possible problems. It seeks to ensure that speakers arrive, are properly introduced, looked after and paid. Critically the sub-committee tries to ensure that the audiovisual equipment arrives in a working order, the pay desk is manned and that the key for the premises is collected and returned. Additionally, some of the committee members have the responsibility of the storage and carriage of the equipment to the two venues.
The meeting in November concentrates on the choice of speakers. That is followed by sometimes tortuous attempts to contact them and sort out availability. This follows a strict procedure written by the subcommittee Minute Secretary and endorsed by the sub-committee members. Subsequent meetings monitor progress and identify issues arising during the season.
During the long summer break, they are busy ensuring that lecturers will turn up, have all the equipment required and that the publicity is provided for the newsletter, website and the 'What’s On' section of Radio Gloucestershire

Recently innovations by the sub-committee are a request for voluntary contributions for the refreshments on the Thursday evening lectures; investigation of the hearing loop and audio equipment systems in both venues and the introduction of a free guest pass for members to invite non-members to one of the evening series of talks.  All this is intended to give good quality lectures at a reasonable charge of £3. 


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