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Talks Programme

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Talks venue

All talks take place on:

  • Wednesday at 19:30 unless otherwise stated

  • Upstairs in the Rankin Room

  • At the Victory Hall, Broughton in Furness

 2018-2019 Talks Programme

Next Talk:

23rd January 2019

Horrible Railway Histories:

Bill Myers -Bill will take us back through history to recount railway accidents in Furness



November TBC

Social Evening

27th February

Old Roads of Cumbria:

Nick Thorne - Rights of Way Officer for the National Park Authority – An illustrated talk on the history and development of the road network in the Lake District and Cumbria.

27th March

The Diaries of Edward Wadham:

Susan Benson - The Barrow Archivist explores the writing of the Agent to the Duke of Buccleugh

24th April

Longhouse Project Finale:

Stephe Cove - By now the dating evidence and sampling, alongside the excavation findings should allow us to present a final report on our three year project

May 22nd

Mills to Mosques:

David Fellows - takes us on a trip passing by industrial heritage along the Leeds to Liverpool Canal

26th June

Annual General Meeting

Talk Reports

Last Talk:

24th October 2018:  Great Grandad's Army - Jeremy Rowan Robinson

Jeremy introduced himself by explaining he first had the idea for this talk when he was volunteering for bracken bashing for the National Park and on Torver Common came upon the remains of target practice equipment.  Researching archives he found there was another example on Silver How which was shown on the 1897 map but not on the earlier 1849 sheet. Further research of archives and records showed eighteen ranges in the Lake District.  Jeremy then did a detailed survey of the area on Torver Common to search for ammunition etc some of which was displayed for us to examine. These dated between 1859 and 1873.  Target platforms were also discovered, where cartridge cases were found.

The ranges on the maps were shown with various shooting distances up to 800 yard range and a breach loaded rifle could fire 10 rounds (as in Zulu, where  Henry Martini rifles were used).  The metal targets were 3 cast iron plates 6ft by 2ft with a pit in front and a thick bank behind.  A hut close by protected the markers who kept watch and signaled with flags the target results, although less than a quarter of all ranges were safe!  So huts called Captain Hill’s Boxes were eventually designed which had a very thick window and a slot in the side wall where a pole with a disc on the end was pushed out, with the appropriate colour brushed on to signify the result.  These were abandoned when shooting butts developed.  One range from 1898 at Troutbeck has graffiti carved close by saying “5 months, 1 week and 5 days to do”.

Why were there so many of these training targets?  Research showed how stretched British resources were and in 1859 home defence corps were raised. 180000 volunteers enrolled in six months.  A detachment was set up in Broughton and a meeting was held in the Old King’s Head in 1860.  The volunteers were encouraged with field days and annual inspections and each unit seemed to have its own design of uniform, creating much scorn from the army.

Jeremy also discovered several accidents  through his research.  At Grasmere 2 sheep were shot; it was found that Kendal golf pavilion was in the direct line of fire of the range, and some fishermen had a narrow escape when Lake Windermere iced over and the bullets ricocheted across the ice!

Sue Lydon

Previous Talks:

26th September 2018:  Mining in the Lake District -  Mark Hatton

Ken welcomed a capacity audience, including many visitors, to our meeting on Wednesday.  The speaker was Mark Hatton, a member of Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining Society – CATMS and there were many followers of CAT in the audience.  Mark presented an excellent talk entitled “A History of Mines and Quarries in the Lake District” and his enthusiasm throughout the whole evening inspired us all.  He warned us that mines are not for entering without professional leaders as many are unenclosed with many hidden dangers, adding that he is happy to show people round.

Displaying a geology map Mark showed areas around the Lake District where various minerals are found, including copper, lead, tin, graphite, coal, and most commonly, iron (eg Red Dell etc).  Also bands of slate cross the whole area as at Honister, Coniston, and Longsleddle. Mark then explained the beginning of mining in the area, which was as early as 5000 years ago, showing stone axes which were chipped out of a vein and exported from Langdale, Scafell etc. These were highly prized as many have been found as grave goods.

However, little was known about the importance of mining for minerals in the Lake District because it was considered a wild inhospitable wet land which was inaccessible.  There was a little small-scale mine working around as mortar stones have been found which were used for crushing stone by hand to get the ore. It was Queen Elizabeth I who exploited mining here as metal, especially copper was needed for warships.  The Company of Mines Royal was set up in 1564, which was the first organization in England to mine for ore. The Lake District became perfect for  industry and mining as there was so much water for power.  Mark explained with a diagram how  English miners struggled to produce ore because they dug from the surface down which caused problems with flooding, excavating and transporting.  German miners, however, discovered that by creating an adit into the bottom of the hillside towards a vein of ore reduced  the problems significantly. So many German miners came especially to Keswick  to the Newland Valley in 1564 and to Coniston in 1599 and many have stayed as evidenced by Germanic names still in the area.

Mining was an extremely dangerous and hard life.  Rock hewn out must have taken many weeks just to produce a small amount of ore and to minimize labour adits were “coffin” shaped to save on energy and time.  Several companies went bankrupt in the struggle to produce enough ore to make any profit. However, with better machinery in the 1800s mining became big business and our Lake District landscape is riddled with the remains of all this industry,  including  some which are still producing slate.

Sue Lydon

25th July 2018:  Diana Matthews - Jack Kitchen, The Windermere Inventor

Diana came to describe the life of the Windermere inventor Jack Kitchen. Jack died in 1939 leaving over £31,000 in his will, so he must have been a successful inventor to have made so much money. He started his working life as an engineer in Lancaster. Though he continued to collaborate with his old employers, he set himself up as an inventor from his home in Windermere. In his life he patented over fifteen hundred inventions, both mechanical and electrical. He developed many ways to improve the propulsion of boats, some of these were used by the Royal Navy in the 1930s and 40s.  His other works involved the remote control of boats using HF radio waves. All these experiments were carried out on Lake Windermere. Diana showed slides and diagrams of Jack's inventions while other slides showed the practical applications of his inventions.  The vote of thanks was given by Sue Lydon on behalf of the History Group.

Dave Hughes

23rd May 2018:  Carving in Cumbria - Frank Wood

Frank inspired me with his fascination for Cumberland Vernacular furniture in the seventeenth century. He told us how the development of decoration of wood could be traced back to the patterns carved in stone by early man, through the greeks and romans up to the present day. Circles, spirals and zigzags have featured as repeating patterns to fill space and make edgings. The simple paterns developed in more complex shapes like the commonly found daisy pattern. Mahagony furniture came late to Cumberland where most furrniture was dark oak until the late 1700s.His interest was in the lowly farm houses rather than the posh house with fine furniture following in the Dutch and French styles.  he showed examples of his own work making accurate copies of original pieces to museum standard and encouraged us to look for examples of carving and other decorative wood working such as victorian barge boarding and finials before they were all replaced by plastic.


25th April 2018: The Coniston Miniature Railway - Geoff Holme

Geoff gave an interesting presentation of Major Hext's steam railway in the grounds of his house in Coniston. Major Hext had been interested in railways as a child and looked through toyshop windows at model trains not knowing that one day his dreams would come true. The railways was built and extended over the years with a number of engines working to a "timetable" with meticulous recoding of journeys made. Signalling and and signal box frames ex-British Railways made an authentic system. The line and locos were maintained by a loyal band of volunteers. After the Major's death, the engines were worked one more time before everything was sold at auction. Geoff's final photos were of his own garden and the items he had had brought away from the sad day when the collection had been broken up with bits going all over the country.

28th March 2018 : Settlements and Field Names in Finsthwaite - Sophia Martin

Sophia gave a presentation of maps and photos of the history of Finsthwaite village.  Finsthwaite settlement dates back to Viking times.  All around the village are extensive woodlands, originally of oak, birch and hazel but with the opening of a bobbin mill in 1835 the forests were converted to smaller coppice trees.   The records from Chapman House and Finsthwaite House show how the land in the village had been divided and how field names gave indications of how the land had been used in the past and also of the nature of the land.  Sophia gave some examples such as Grubbins - a clearing, Hard Hills - hilly land difficult to work on its rocky slopes, and Featherbed - a humorous reference because of a lump of bedrock in the field.


28th February 2018 : Jack Kitchen the Windermere Inventor  - cancelled due to the snow. Rescheduled for later in the year

24th January 2018: Broughton Soldiers in the Great War 1917 - Peter Greenwood

Peter took us through just one year of the war and the deaths of seven soldiers on the memorial. He detailed the events of the battles and the life of the soldiers in the trenches and their movements forwards and backwards in the lines. He brought some trench maps and reference books for the period and had members reading extracts from letters sent and received from one soldier to his parents, their reply and the notification of his death from the commanding officer. The scale of the losses was brought home by the regimental diary entry on the day a guard was killed by sniper fire - "Quiet day".


Tuesday 14th November: Duddon Dig Year 2 - Ken, Stephe, Jamie Q and Jeremy B

After the presentation of Peter's certificate, Stephe gave an overview of the project with pics of all the volunteers for the benefit of a number of people in the audience that had only become involved recently. Jamie outlined the background to long houses/shieldings and Jeremy talked about the dig and what we found. Then came Jamie to talk about the carbon-14 dates from samples that we sent off. We were hoping for something around 1000 but three dates came back with very similar dates in the Bronze Age. This has a number of possible explanations which we will have to investigate next year. It would be great if we could prove occupation from such an early date but we will need to show that the charcoal is not the result of clearing by burning across the whole site.

 26th  October 2017: Unearthing the past - Stuart Flett

A great talk and display of finds by a local metal detectorist who made it clear that many of the "treasure hunters" were not interested in the importance of their finds to archaeology so much is not being well recorded. He had found coins a plenty and a string of tudor coins found along a Kirkby pathway indicate how long it had been in use. A Hanseatic League steelyard found in the south of England was a major find in historical terms. I was particularly interested in the number of civil war lead musket balls found around Ashlack Hall - not a battlefield but a Cromwellian barracks! The weight of a handful made you realize just what sort of a load was carried by a soldier going into battle.

27th September 2017: Lakeland Churches - Andy Lowe

As always Andy gave a flowing and interesting talk looking at the architecture of our churches both grand and small, from the fell churches like Cartmel to the larger town churches like Bowness following the expansion of church buildings in the mid to late Victorian period. Andy offered a new insight into the Stained Glass in our lakeland churches The medieval glass that still remains was removed from Furness Abbey and Cartmel Priory to be reused in small fell churches at Cartmel Fell and the grander church at Bowness. Andy then moved on in time to the stained glass in churches of the Art Noveau which can be found in churches like Irton, Ambleside and Broughton. Andy finished his talk by mentioning some of the books that had been written about our Lakeland Churches.

Dave Hughes

26th July 2017: From Clay to Shale - Furness Industrial History Society

Information about the brick making industry in Furness

28th June 2017: Holme Mills - Geoff Pegg

History of the flax industry

26th April 2017: Recording Historic Buildings in the Furness Area - Daniel Elsworth


22nd March 2017: Transport Delights of the Isle of Man - David Alison

22nd February 2017: The Haverigg Tannery - Bill Myers

There was a great number of  members and some visitors at the Feb 22nd meeting opened by Ken. He congratulated Peter Matthiessen on gaining the British Association for Local History award for Personal Achievement for his outstanding work on the Longhouse Project. Members were then reminded of a forthcoming trip to Eden Camp. Our speaker, Bill Myers was then  introduced, who gave a very interesting insight into Haverigg Tannery.

Usually Millom is known for its legacy of iron mining but after WW1 there was not as great a need for iron and steel and the workforce suffered.  In the 1920s Lord Adams raised £80 million to get support for a Millom industrial regeneration and especially for a tannery, sometimes also called West Coast Tannery. Since import duties were high it was more profitable to make leather for sale in this country and many Hungarians came to escape Hitler’s hatred of Jews.  Millom was a prime site with water from the river Lazey and a ready supply of labour.  Foreign businessmen approached the local MP Frank Anderson to help him set up industries, which also included a button factory. Many Jews who had escaped here became managers of local factories and gained British citizenship after many years.

Haverigg Tannery was built in six months! There were 200 employees which increased to 500 when a new building was opened by Harold Wilson with a promise of government aid for development. Chrome leather was a speciality here. This involved chromium sulphate being added to aid the retention of the colour.

The tannery became successful because boots etc were needed for WW2, then there was a call for fashion items and also for sheepskin products. Hides were imported from all over the world and involved a lengthy process to produce a pair of shoes. However in 1968 10% of the workforce disappeared as production fell due to many other countries producing leather.  In 1969 they applied for more government investment but were turned down and there was a deep depression since the tannery was the largest manufacturer in Millom.

A prominent figure, Vigodny, travelled all over Europe to trade fairs to encourage trade and also tried to claim compensation for his family tannery being nationalized, but he failed.

The tannery closed in 1969 and in 2008 some buildings were demolished and others used for small industries which are still on the site today.

Sue Lydon

25th January 2017: Duddon Dig Update - Stephe Cove

Stephe split the evening into three sections. He started with a ten minute presentation prepared for the Lancaster University Archaeology Conference at the beginning of March. This shows the way that the DVLHG has moved from a typical history society with talks and an interest in in local and oral history to a group that has been able to set up up a three year archaeological excavation project. This will introduce Jamie’s talk on the dig itself. There was then a presentation that tried  to give a simple explanation of what carbon dating was all about and what to make of the strange graphics that accompany the result. Finally he brought out some of the main points from the Interim Report and discussed whether Tongue House A was a shieling or a longhouse and how much did the name matter in the wider understanding of what had been happening at the site.


 29th November 2016: Social Evening Prince of Wales, Foxfield

Another super spread put on for the members. Stephe and Dave tested the group's knowledge of words containing the letter "L" with some interesting results!


26th October 2016: Crossing the Duddon Estuary - Mary Jardine

28th September 2016: History of Brantwood Gardens - Ron Ward

26th July 2016: Vikings in Cumbria - Iain McNichol

28th June 2016: Digging up Millom's Past - Duane Farren

Duane has spent many years digging for treasure around the area. His finds are not silver or gold, but glass, eathenware and rusty metal. He has also been digging in the archives to flesh out the stories from the manufacturers' names on the bottles. The saga of Millom's pop maker and the far flung colonies was an interesting reflection on migration from the area. He showed some mystery objects that had been identified and got some crrect answers. The objects that he hadn't identified are still a mystery despite our fevered speculation!