PROGRAMME FOR 2012
* Council Meeting 25th February, 2012, St. Nicholas Church Hall, South Gosforth.
* One Day School 24th March, 2012, Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle upon Tyne.
‘NORTH EAST HISTORY THROUGH ART’
A substantial audience of over 70 assembled on Saturday 24th March at the Newcastle upon Tyne Literary & Philosophical Society to hear a variety of speakers on the theme of ‘North East History through Art’. The purpose of the event was to explore the various ways in which the history of the region has been interpreted and represented through the medium of art.
The session began with Chris Kilkenny from the Northumbrian Association talking on “Picturing St. Cuthbert and his role in Northern History”. Not content with simply describing the extant imagery specific to the time of St. Cuthbert, Chris brought his story right up to the present. His talk traced the spatial and temporal pattern of the growth and expansion of St. Cuthbert iconography, noting the various transitions the representations passed through in different periods as different groups sought to lay ‘ownership’ to the saint. Marie-Therese Mayne from the Laing Gallery, Newcastle then spoke on “ A Place for Painters: Cullercoats and the Phenomenon of the Artists’ Colony”, describing the characteristics of artists’ colonies and explaining how Cullercoats emerged as such a location. Marie-Therese drew attention to the techniques used by the artists to represent the different moods of the sea and weather. She then went on to trace the contributions of various artists to representing the social and family conditions of the village’s fisherfolk and how these representations changed in response to the changing nature of the village and its local economy.
The afternoon session began with Douglas Glendinning discussing “The Art of Mining: Thomas Hair’s watercolour sketches of the Great Northern Coalfield”. Using Hair’s illustrations, Douglas took us on an early nineteenth century journey from the coal face, through the mine shafts to the surface and then onwards through the loading arrangements, transport to the loading staithes and then downriver in the keels. His lecture mixed detailed knowledge of the changing technology of mining with explanations of the working and social conditions experienced by miners in the first half of the nineteenth century. Totally unfazed by the failings of the technology Michael Thomson (National Trust, Wallington) presented a fascinating account of the artistic origins and influences of William Scott-Bell. Arguing that, although influenced by various groups (notably the pre-Raphaelites), Scott-Bell represented a totally unique and individual artist, Michael examined in detail each of the representations of Northumbrian history in the large murals at Wallington. These images were related to the changing socio-political environment of late nineteenth century Britain, in particular the liberal ideologies held by his patrons in reaction to the predominant jingoistic and imperialist view of Britain’s role.
There is no doubt that this was a successful event, enormously enjoyed by the majority of those present, but this was entirely due to the outstanding quality of each of the four speakers who judged their lectures to perfection in terms of detail and generality, humour and serious intent and, above all, the depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for their various subjects.
ROUND THE COUNTY DAY – ALSTON MOOR
SATURDAY 30th JUNE 2012
The members of Alston Moor Historical Society kindly hosted this year’s ‘Round the County’ Day, a particularly generous decision as it also coincided with Alston’s Gala day. Sadly the powers that be decided neither event merited fine weather, and both ANLHS and Gala participants spent the day dodging sometimes heavy showers. On our arrival at the Town Hall, we were greeted most warmly by Alston Moor’s Chairman, Richard, before proceeding upstairs to enjoy refreshments, an interesting display of items from their archives and an excellent bookstall. After the preliminaries, some were led on a walk round Alston, while others chose to enjoy a most comprehensive lecture by Alistair Robertson on Alston’s past from prehistory to the mid twentieth century. Shortly after midday, we all were transferred by coach to Killhope Mining Museum. There we began by eating an excellent lunch in a Yurt, giving us strength to explore the rest of the site. What followed was both fascinating and challenging. Equipped with wellingtons, hard hats and miners lights, we spent an hour in the tunnels of the lead mines, walking through up to nine to ten inches of water, stooping to avoid hitting our heads, and learning practically that, in total darkness, one cannot see ones hands in front one one’s face. As we came to grips with the realities of the way lead was won from the ground, we wondered at the determination and courage of the men who spent their lives in an environment we were all glad to quit after sixty minutes. Beyond the mine, we learned how the ore was sorted and graded both by hand and mechanically; looked at the great water wheels which both pumped water from the mine and drove other machinery and saw the living conditions of the miners, so bad that an inspector observed that he would rather spend time underground than pass even 15 minutes in the ‘mine shop’ where they slept. Before returning, we were fortunate, also, to enjoy a preview of a rag rug exhibition due to open at the beginning of July, and the fascinating display of Spar Boxes, created by previous generations of miners in their spare time. In all, it was a most interesting and rewarding day, and our thanks go to Alston Moor Historical Society, and in particular to their co-ordinator, Lawrence Law for making it all possible.
Preparing to Visit Killhope Lead Mine
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING, 2012, MITFORD VILLAGE HALL..
The Annual General Meeting was preceded by a fascinating talk by Chris Hunwick, Archivist of the Duke of Northumberland's Archives, Alnwick Castle. He outlined the scope of the archive collection held at Alnwick Castle and the challenge of preserving both aging documents and digital items. He then presented, with illustrations, brief life stories of the five past Percy Earls. A lively and enjoyable discussion brought the session to a conclusion. The Annual General Meeting followed, and was well attended. The afternoon concluded with the drawing of the raffle. Many prizes had been donated, for which thanks. Thanks are also extended to those members of Mitford Historical Society who organised the visit to their village.