Whitwick & District U3A - History Group
The History Group meets during the afternoon of the last Monday of the month. History topics are varied and suggestions from members are always welcome. Summer meetings are usually outdoor visits and winter sessions are talks at Thringstone Methodist Church Hall.
During the coronavirus pandemic it has not been possible to meet, with the exception of the October and November tours of Griffydam and Coleorton graveyards. In the meantime we are sharing short history films every Monday and have been fortunate to have had fabulous suggestions from several members.
While we have restrictions on numbers I am more than happy to repeat the walks to accommodate all members who wish to attend. This includes a walk for "slow walkers" if anyone is concerned that their pace would hold back the rest of the party.
Places must be booked for the walks. Participants should also complete a personal risk assessment - this does not need to be shared with the Group Leader.
Monday 29th March There will therefore be a short history walk around the Peggs Green area. There is plenty of interesting history packed into a small area - coal mines, brickworks, horse drawn tramways, blacksmith's forge, post mill, two public houses, church, a French language bible, the house of a surgeon, historian and retired publican and more.
Monday 26th April - Long Lane - A stroll around Mantle Lane, Vulcan Way, Whitwick Road and Hotel Street - searching for evidence of the 19th century coal mine, railway works, railway, tile works and cottages. This will take place twice to accommodate the numbers. A member has had the foresight to suggest that the walks should start and finish at the Council Offices' car park which makes sense as car parking is available. So that's what we will do.
Monday 24th May - Former Swannington - a pub crawl of former hostelries with a railway and lake thrown in.
Monday 28th June - Snibston Colliery Park and the former mineral line. Meet Snibston Colliery Park.
Monday 26th July - Belvoir Road Memories - Keith Pare
Monday 23rd August - Historic Ravenstone - Lyn Jordan
Digital History On a Monday
The suggestions for viewing during 2020 can be found on this page.
Monday 19th April
Watch The Scene from Melbury House This rarely seen 1972 British Transport Film was actually produced by BTF as a training exercise for their apprentice camera operators, recording the daily events of their neighbours as seen from the high roof of their headquarters in London's Marylebone. There is no narration, just the accompaniment of Ralph Vaughan Williams' London Symphony.
With St George's Day approaching and St George's Chapel, Windsor in the news the following seemed appropriate. Georgia is of course one of several countries and cities to have adopted St George as their saint.
Monday 12th April
We have all been to London, travelled on the tube, seen the sights, read about its history - but in the following films there are lots of things most of us won't know:
The genius of the London Tube Map | Small Thing Big Idea, a TED series talk
Monday 5th April
Elizabethan Express Spring is now well upon us, always a very uplifting time of the year, and I think we all deserve an outing – and, thanks to British Transport Films, we can enjoy a wonderful rail journey on the Elizabethan Express (1954), from Kings Cross Station, London to Waverley Station, Edinburgh. This summertime express covered the 393 miles journey in six and a half hours and the film recalls the glamour of the great days of steam travel.
Staying on a railway theme are two films featuring our locality. The Leicester and Swannington Railway film is the best I have seen for explaining the need to transport coal, the development of canals then the history of the Leicester and Swannington railway with stations and connecting lines being added and subtracted throughout its life. The railway was so important in early railway history, with Swannington having a steam railway several years before Birmingham, Glasgow, London and other major cities.
At the bottom of the Swannington Incline, the Coleorton horse drawn railway continued to Newbold. There is a cutting behind the school leading to the Newbold tunnel a place that can only be accessed if you go down the steep sides of the cutting and have wellies! Loads more information on Coleorton Railway 1833| Swannington Heritage Trust
Monday 29th March
Some films involving hills.
The Abandoned Hill With Two Members Of Parliament One of the rottenest of rotten boroughs prior to the 1832 Parliamentary Reform Act.
Discovery on the "Broken Hill", History of BHP
Monday 22nd March
This week some farm related films. The 1943 film emphasises how unmechanised British agriculture was before WW2 and how rapidly it changed during the war. Many people associate Henry Ford with the Model T car, but his Fordson tractors had a big impact on agriculture, I hadn't realised his farming background. The last film covers a unique present, a 5/8 size tractor for Henry Ford's 8-10 year old grandson, we have many grandparents amongst our membership, have any of you made something special for your grandchildren?
Tractors Working On The Farm: Power On The Land - 1943 CharlieDeanArchives / Archival Footage
Henry Ford Built This Fordsons Tractor For His Grandchildren! Classic Tractor Fever
Monday 15th March
As Wednesday is St Patrick's day, an Irish theme seems appropriate for this week's films.
Monday 8th March
Work in Progress - In 1951, British Transport Films produced this 25 minute short which takes a look at the ongoing growth and change in all forms of transport in Britain at that time. The film presents examples of transport involving rail, road, bus and ferry services in various locations in the UK, and showing the people working in those spheres. The film commentary concludes with "But the present never stands still" and highlights opportunities for the younger generation in planning the future for the transport industry. I hope you will agree, this is another piece of our social history marvellously captured on film by Edgar Anstey's British Transport Films unit.
A couple of other short films to go with this:
Monday 1st March
You will all undoubtedly be rising early for the excitement of St David's Day! So I felt I would help you along the way with a few film clips about St David and co. Growing up in Cardiff there were not any school lessons on St David's Day, the morning was the school eisteddfod. At primary school age this tended to be each class performing various Welsh songs. By secondary school the eisteddfod was somewhat broader, small groups singing or playing instruments of Welsh music, but also wider culture. There was a dramatic monologue taking the mick out of teachers and their trips to a legendary oasis of tranquility across the road (the three brewers). Also a pop group giving a very lively rendition of Hey Jude. So included are some historical clips about both the Welsh National Eisteddfod (thank you Victorians for inventing this) and the more recent Welsh International Eisteddfod at Llangollen.
Monday 22nd February
This week some short clips about the names of places and some quirky films re maps.
Monday 15th February
In view of the closeness of the date, some short films about the history of St Valentine and Valentine's Day. Just as Wales is the only one of the home nations to have its home grown patron saint, it is also the only UK country to have its own home grown romantic saint, St Dwynwen (make a note to surprise the love of your life on the 25th January next year) an interesting tale worthy of the Mabinogion.
Monday 8th February
This week some films about medieval life.
Monday 1st February
I am sure many of you will recall your trips to Saturday Morning Pictures wherever you lived, just one example of a happy childhood spent in the 50s/60s when we were not yet ruled by television - let alone computer games and mobile phones. Ourlatest film offering below offers us a nostalgic reminder of those happy times.
I have used this film as inspiration for others on a similar theme, starting
with an interesting history of how films began.
History of Movies in 3 Minutes | Fun Facts and History for Kids | Educational Videos by Mocomi
Brace yourselves for the challenge with this next one. In a couple of minutes
it must show images of 40-50 films. How many can you recognise?
The History of Cinema in 2 minutes
Some of my favourite history is when someone takes a small aspect of a subject
and researches it. I really enjoyed learning about these film studio logos.
5 True Stories Behind Hollywood Studio Logos
Monday 25th January
The media's focus on climate change and biodiversity sometimes seems to suggest that people only started planting trees and looking after forests and nature about 30 years ago. So here's a potted history of trees and forests ancient and modern:
Monday 18th January
The speedy development of coronavirus vaccines is a terrific achievement and scientists of all genders and nationalities are rightly getting a huge amount of credit. The role of the mathematicians in this is relatively unnoticed, yet they are the ones who do the statistical analysis that assesses the efficiency and safety of the vaccines. So here are some films that celebrate not just mathematicians, but lady mathematicians, ladies who have helped shape the world.
Hill - 13-year-old mathematician who helped win WWII (UK) - BBC News - 10th
July 2020 Not only is the story of a 13 year old girl whose work helped in the
design of the spitfire's guns amazing, it harks back to a different era when
people quietly got on with their jobs without posting it on Instagram.
Fuller version of the story
10 Historic Female Mathematicians You Should Know Anyone who has experienced the frustrations of technology, such as getting a printer to work, will agree with this Radia Perlman quote - The world would be a better place if more engineers, like me, hated technology. The stuff I design, if I'm successful, nobody will ever notice. Things will just work, and will be self-managing.
Dorothy Johnson Vaughan Biography I find it so incredibly hard to understand why talent and ability are underused because people are female, black, poor etc. The world has lost so much. But it is inspiring to see instances where people have overcome these various prejudices and been a success.
Monday 11th January
Last week's events in Washington have prompted a selection of revolting films this week, predominantly peaceful revolutions within our lifetimes.
Solidarity and the fall of communism in Poland The name Solidarity is in many ways synonymous with Poland, a country that has itself struggled to survive with three partitions in the 18th century as Austria, Germany and Russia gobbled it up.
The Peaceful Revolution | People & Politics When Kennedy gave his dramatic speech in Berlin, few would have expected the East German regime to crumble the way it did.
Velvet Revolution 1989 Perhaps the ultimate peaceful revolution was in Czechoslovakia
The Revolutions Of 1989 Considering the violence of the communist oppression, the generally peaceful ethos of the revolutions was amazing, Romania being the notable exception.
Monday 4th January
To start the glorious year of 2021, the history of snow.
Watch Snowdrift at Bleath Gill online - Snowploughs are readied to rescue a snowbound train - in one of the most popular of all British Transport Films. The film offering this time features an incident which occurred in February 1955 when a freight train travelling between Kirkby Stephen and Barnard Castle became snowbound in the Westmorland Hills near Stanmore Summit.
Winter of 1947 - A bit before my time, but some of our members may remember this.
January's A Frost (1963) As usual we had decamped to my maternal grandparents in Porthcawl for Christmas. I had to miss a week of school because we were unable to return to Cardiff, such a shame!
Online Snow 1982 January 1982 has the most vivid snowtime memories for me.
I was unable to get to work in Talbot Green for a week and a colleague had to
drive to my house in his land rover to collect the keys to the cheque signing
machine so that Taff Ely Borough Council could pay the weekly wages.
On the Friday evening I went on a three hour stroll delivering letters cancelling a Scout Group Christmas Party, only to return home and see a big dent in my car (a delivery lorry to the corner shop across the road had hit it). The next morning a couple of neighbours rang my doorbell and asked if I had seen the side, not the car, the house! I lived at the end of a Victorian terrace and went around the corner with my neighbours to see the cast iron gutters had collapsed under the weight of the melting snow, demolishing a small narrow conservatory and garden wall. I then went out of the kitchen door into the paved garden and heard the sound of running water - the pipes had burst in the outside toilet. Yes it took months to resolve all the insurance and other issues but all were easily survivable.
I've always loved snow, but like it to be gone within 2-3 days. It really makes the garden magic and working with the Swannington Heritage Trust volunteers last week in the snow covered Gorse Field near Hough Mill was fabulous. You will all have your own snow memories, best enjoyed in front of the fire with a glass to toast the health of all our members.
Roger (Bis) Bisgrove at
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More pictures are available in the Gallery
October 2019 - Gas in Leicestershire.
Some slides from the talk
September 2019 - Breedon Hill Fort.