Category Archives: Talks

Newspapers, social media & politics in Divisive Times — Nancy Fielder — Mon 9th Dec 2019

These are troubled times for prin­ted news­pa­pers, all of whom are haem­or­rhaging cir­cu­la­tion in the face of com­pet­i­tion from the inter­net, and social media in par­tic­u­lar. Many are in their death throes.

For some­body who spent his entire work­ing life in journ­al­ism, the fig­ures make depress­ing read­ing. When I star­ted work on the Yorkshire Evening News in 1961 it was (unbe­liev­ably by today’s stand­ards) selling 119,000 copies a day across its Leeds and Doncaster edi­tions, and yet by the end of 1963 it had gone to the wall, regarded as uneco­nomic and absorbed by the rival Evening Post.

Today, regional even­ing news­pa­per edit­ors can only dream of a cir­cu­la­tion any­where near that figure. In Sheffield, The Star, des­pite having the field to itself as far as South Yorkshire is con­cerned, is strug­gling along on a print cir­cu­la­tion of less than 12,000 copies a day.

Nancy Fielder. © Prolific North Ltd.

Nancy Fielder is editor of JPI Media’s stable of daily and weekly news­pa­pers based in Sheffield, includ­ing The Star and weekly Sheffield Telegraph, and she had already filled us in on the state of play in the news­pa­per industry gen­er­ally when she last vis­ited Stumperlowe Probus Club in July 2018. Since then, things have only got worse.

Nancy’s latest present­a­tion, timed to per­fec­tion just three days before a General Election, was more about the part played by news­pa­pers and the inter­net, includ­ing their own online offer­ings and social media plat­forms such as Facebook and Twitter, in influ­en­cing public opin­ion.

The Star website’s selec­tion of news stor­ies.

Johnston Press plc, the country’s biggest regional news­pa­per pub­lisher and the Sheffield titles’ pre­vi­ous owner with a market cap­it­al­isa­tion of just £3 mil­lion, placed itself in admin­is­tra­tion in November 2018 when it was unable to find a suit­able buyer of the busi­ness to refin­ance its £220 mil­lion of debt. Its assets were brought under the con­trol of JPI Media Ltd, a com­pany formed by a con­sor­tium of Johnston Press’s main cred­it­ors who reduced its debts to £85 mil­lion and injec­ted £35 mil­lion of invest­ment.

The real­ity is that fewer people are buying the print product, and that is where most of the money comes from, but more people are access­ing our web­site,” explained Nancy, fresh from her appear­ance dis­cuss­ing the week­end papers on BBC Breakfast.

Generating enough money from the web­site to make up the loss of income from the prin­ted paper is easier said than done. Advertising rev­enue goes some way towards this, but the busi­ness model is com­plic­ated and the long-term viab­il­ity of the web­site is far from cer­tain des­pite, or per­haps because of, the ease with which people can click on www.thestar.co.uk by fol­low­ing a link from, say, Facebook.

More than half of all the ‘hits’ we get online come via Facebook,” Nancy told us. So that must mean that Facebook is doing The Star a big favour by driv­ing traffic to their web­site. Well, yes and no. Obviously, the more people who visit the web­site the more The Star can charge advert­isers for the priv­ilege, but only to a cer­tain point. Because who are The Star com­pet­ing with for advert­ising rev­enue? You’ve guessed it – Facebook.

Companies such as Google and Facebook can under­cut us for advert­ising because they are so big but, although we are having to com­pete with them [for income from advert­ising] it is our news that people are click­ing on. And we have a shrink­ing number of report­ers with an ever bigger job to do.”

So, while there is no doubt that news­pa­per web­sites such as The Star’s are attract­ing a healthy amount of traffic, just how sus­tain­able they will be in the long term from a com­mer­cial point of view is still largely an unknown.

In September, in the face of squeezed advert­ising rev­en­ues, The Star took a sig­ni­fic­ant step in secur­ing the viab­il­ity of its web­site by intro­du­cing a so-called pay­wall. This allows read­ers to view five free art­icles a week, after which they will have to register and choose from a range of sub­scrip­tion plans such as £1 per month for three months and £2 per week there­after, or £52 for the first full year and £78 per year there­after.

One inter­est­ing dif­fer­ence between prin­ted news­pa­pers and a web­site is that con­tent can be better tailored to meet read­ers’ tastes.

As Nancy explained: “With the front page [of the news­pa­per] it was always a bit of a gut reac­tion, what we thought people would like, but now we can actu­ally see what people are look­ing at.

But it is doubt­ful that the elec­tion will be the most read item.”

To illus­trate her point, Nancy brought along a screen shot of the elec­tronic ‘score­board’ which is per­man­ently on dis­play in The Star’s news­room and shows, in real time and updated almost by the second, what vis­it­ors to the web­site are look­ing at.

On the morn­ing of her visit, the most read item up to eight o’clock had been Sheffield United’s comeback against Norwich City. The first polit­ical story on the list, about LibDem leader Jo Swinson’s visit to Sheffield, ranked only sixth.

If they are not look­ing at polit­ics today, when will they be?” she asked. “We know what interests the people out there. If they are not click­ing on polit­ics, why should we write about polit­ics?

It is a very wor­ry­ing trend, and a depress­ing pic­ture that they [the fig­ures] paint.

How our local news used to look. A front page of The Star from 80 years ago. © British Newspaper Archive.

On a recent day, in the middle of the General Election cam­paign, the most viewed stor­ies were about a Sheffield cus­tomer who was turned away from a pub for wear­ing a flat cap, which attrac­ted 51,000 hits, and an item about a Sheffield mother who com­plained that her son’s day — “if not his life” — had been ruined by a Cadbury’s advent cal­en­dar which was miss­ing its chocol­ates, and which attrac­ted 47,000 views.

You get more money, the greater number of people look­ing at your web­site, so you have to give them what they want to read,” Nancy added.

It’s quite a ser­i­ous debate, how to get people to engage with polit­ics. We’ve had stor­ies about national politi­cians coming to the city, which we have put on the front page of the prin­ted paper, but vir­tu­ally nobody was look­ing at them on the web­site.”

Nancy Fielder is not alone in her cam­paign against polit­ical parties imit­at­ing local news­pa­pers. © www.pressgazette.co.uk.

Nancy also believes that local demo­cracy is at risk because papers such as The Star, which will only pub­lish unbiased stor­ies, are often com­pet­ing with polit­ical leaf­lets which are made to look like local news­pa­pers. “Political parties put a tre­mend­ous amount of effort and money into pro­du­cing mater­ial which just isn’t true,” she claimed.

The Star was first pub­lished in 1887. Let’s hope it’s got a few more years’ life left in it.

 

Redifining Carbon in a Circular Economy – Prof Peter Styring — 2nd Dec 2019

John Laurie said, and it was said again by Peter Jackson at our meet­ing, “We’re doomed, we’re all doomed!” Here in Sheffield it’s really scary with a pre­dic­tion that Millhouses Park, as well as East Anglia, Lincolnshire, north­ern Germany, the Low Countries and many other low lying lands around the world will be part of the sea bed by 2100. Stumperlowe should escape, how­ever.

So some­thing drastic needs to be done. There’s a lot of elec­tion noise here at the moment, and indeed at a much higher level at the immin­ent G20 about tack­ling carbon emis­sions. Do our politi­cians have a handle on the scale of the prob­lem and what to do about it?

Peter Styring, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at the University of Sheffield, is such an inter­na­tional author­ity on the sub­ject that politi­cians and industry are taking him and others in the field very ser­i­ously. Peter is Director of the UK Centre for Carbon Dioxide Utilisation and has his own com­pany (CO2Chem Media & Publishing) and has estab­lished the Styring Group. He is look­ing to set up a Brussels office. He has pub­lished the influ­en­tial “Carbon Capture and Utilisation in the Green Economy” and “Carbon Dioxide Utilisation: clos­ing the carbon cycle”. He delivered a stun­ning lec­ture to us, but at a cost of a met­eoric rise in carbon diox­ide (CO2) in the room and con­firmed by the num­bers on his pocket gas­o­meter at the end. Despite wor­ry­ing levels of such a narcolepsy-inducing gas-filled air, every­one stayed awake.

Global warm­ing is asso­ci­ated with increas­ing carbon diox­ide levels. Coral reefs are dis­ap­pear­ing. Fisheries at low lat­it­ude around the world are being lost. Arctic regions are melt­ing. There’s more water and heat in the atmo­sphere caus­ing weather extremes. Rising water levels lead to coastal flood­ing. Here in Sheffield, there’s already sig­ni­fic­ant heat related mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity res­ult­ing in 500 to 700 deaths, largely from par­tic­u­late matter in the air.

We’re now at the tip­ping point, so every­one needs to be acutely envir­on­ment­ally and eco­nom­ic­ally aware. To avoid cata­strophe, at cur­rent emis­sion rates, and to limit a global warm­ing rise of 1.5 degrees C by 2055, global carbon diox­ide emis­sions must by then have reached net zero, start­ing now. Radiative factors such as meth­ane, nitrous oxide (not a laugh­ing gas matter) and aer­o­sols need to reduce by 2030.

Perversely, wind tur­bines are not low carbon at all, emit­ting five per cent of the SF6 (sul­phurhex­a­flu­or­ide) which leaks from its casing and is dan­ger­ous! SF6 from tur­bines emit 24000x carbon equi­val­ent of CO2. It’s used as an insu­lator which pre­vents arcing.

Internationally (and many coun­tries are drag­ging their feet), industry must be will­ing to engage. Carbon cap­ture util­isa­tion (CCU) and stor­age (CCS) is the only solu­tion. A global carbon price is essen­tial there­fore it must be taxed. CCU must be prop­erly sub­sid­ised on a level play­ing field. Vast sub­sidies to pro­tect jobs are already made to the oil and gas indus­tries. The same is true for CCS pro­jects, yet CCU does not yet attract sub­sidies. There will need to be a gradual (rather than sudden) trans­ition as a “calmer” to the pet­ro­chem­ical industry.

It was encour­aging to hear from Peter that Unilever is now taking CCU all very ser­i­ously, with home care products ini­tially but now with a ripple effect on their whole industry.

So what exactly is CCU? This is carbon cap­ture without the need for geo­lo­gical stor­age. Carbon diox­ide from power sta­tions, factor­ies and the atmo­sphere can be used for the pro­duc­tion of fossil oil sub­sti­tutes, feed­stock for farm anim­als, plastics, sur­fact­ants, con­crete, bio­fuel, and avi­ation fuel. The whole pro­cess is carbon neut­ral and depends on algal pho­to­syn­thesis (energy from light). Drax use it with their waste water. Another method is con­ver­sion into hydro­car­bons which can be stored as energy or con­ver­ted into fuel or plastics. Chemical inter­me­di­ates from CCU can be pro­cessed into phar­ma­ceut­ic­als, health care and con­sumer products.

The gov­ern­ment claims it is com­mit­ted to deploy­ing CCU, cap­tur­ing carbon and stor­age on a long-term basis, but any delay after 2030 will not achieve its aim of com­ply­ing to a limit of a 1.5 degrees C rise by 2050.

© co2chem

Government plan­ning is short on detail about removal of green­house gases and action on CCU and CCS. Neither adequate private invest­ment nor research fund­ing is in place. Clarity is needed. Brexit takes pri­or­ity at the moment, at the expense of social justice and account­ab­il­ity. For instance, Manchester has prom­ised CO2 emis­sion reduc­tion of 49% by 2025 by means of a Clean Air Zone, more elec­tric vehicles (EV) and CCS. The prob­lem is that EVs are not zero emis­sion and their plans for CCS facil­it­ies are unclear. Biomass is not the pan­acea. It is not carbon neut­ral. The UK energy mix cur­rently falls far short of the ideal (com­bined cycle gas tur­bines 56.2%, open cycle gas tur­bines 0%, oil 0%, coal 5.9%, nuc­lear 16.7%, wind 9.7%, pumped stor­age hydro 0%). If we’re not at net zero by 2029 it will be the tip­ping point, so the politi­cians need real policies to back up their polit­ical state­ments. This is a long term game, so ser­i­ous cross party think­ing and decisions are urgently needed. “The world will not evolve past its cur­rent crisis by the same think­ing that cre­ated it” (Einstein — para­phrased)

The Lansing tri­angle sums up where we need to be — in the green bit at the top, avoid­ing fossil fuels unless care­fully man­aged. Worst of all is CCS and land­fill. Sheffield’s pro­posed Clean Air Charge is flawed. It cleans up the city centre but defers the prob­lem to the sub­urbs. The worst emis­sions are cur­rently already owned by the Station, Abbeydale Road, Ecclesall Road and Broomhill. These will get worse. Other examples of our City Council’s wisdom are the diesel gen­er­ator for the Ferris wheel at ground level, pois­on­ing all the kids around. Old pol­lut­ing diesel taxis and buses are a major prob­lem. The solu­tion is an urgent need to “reduce and reuse”. We were advised to hang onto our old dies­els as tech­no­logy is on the way to make them carbon friendly. In the mean­time, get a bike.

 

For the future, e-fuels from CCU are per­haps the most import­ant. CCU isn’t new. The first CCU plant was built by Joseph Priestley at the Leeds brew­ery in 1772. He inven­ted fizzy drinks (as well as other things).

Carbon found in any­thing can be extrac­ted as CO2 to util­ise it and make it carbon neut­ral, for instance in extrac­tion of iron from its ore. There are count­less syn­thetic sub­stances which con­tain carbon. Any of these can be sourced from CCU.

Sustainable agro­chem­ic­als can feed the world. Blue urea pro­duc­tion has excit­ing poten­tial as a fer­til­iser and is truly carbon neg­at­ive. Furthermore, there are plans to pro­duce it in ship­ping con­tain­ers on site at farms where it’s needed. This is a great example of CCU as a renew­able commodity-based tech­no­logy with the capa­city to use carbon diox­ide emis­sions in remote loc­a­tions where there is no oppor­tun­ity for geo­lo­gical stor­age.

Artistry in Stone, Wood & Bronze by Frank Tory & Sons, of Sheffield — Dr Sylvia Dunkley — 25th Nov 2019

Sheffield city centre is blessed with many strik­ing build­ings of archi­tec­tural qual­ity from the late 19th and early 20th cen­tur­ies demon­strat­ing the wealth and prestige of the city at that time. Many of the build­ings were fur­ther enhanced by super­ior stone carvings, many of which were hand craf­ted by the family com­pany Frank Tory and Sons. The firm was in busi­ness from the early 1880’s to the late 1950’s and was owned by Frank Tory and his twin sons Alfred Herbert and William Frank . Apart from stone, the com­pany worked in wood, marble , bronze, copper and plaster.

Frank Tory was born in 1848, des­cen­ded from Huguenot refugees. He ori­gin­ated from London and trained at the Lambeth School of Art, coming to Sheffield in 1880 to work on a stone carving con­tract at the Corn Exchange .(gutted by fire 1947, demol­ished 1964) Tory’s work was of such a high stand­ard that it was sug­ges­ted he stayed in Sheffield where there would be plenty of work for him. His work at the Corn Exchange brought him into con­tact with the archi­tect Matthew Hadfield whose son Charles recom­men­ded Tory set up his own busi­ness.

Alfred and William Tory’s depic­tion of the Sheffield trades on the White Building in Fitzalan Square.

Frank’s identical twin sons Alfred (1881 — 1971) and William (1881 – 1968) trained under their father who also taught at the Sheffield School of Art and even­tu­ally joined the family busi­ness. Frank and his sons worked together with the sons gradu­ally taking over the com­pany and win­ning many com­mis­sions in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Frank Tory died in 1939 and when Alfred and William retired in the late 1950’s , the firm was wound up because archi­tec­tural styles were chan­ging with stone carvings and sculp­ture becom­ing unfash­ion­able in modern build­ings.

Frank Tory’s work on Parade Chambers includes images of Geoffrey Chaucer and William Caxton with the date 1883.

The talk by Sylvia chal­lenged us all to stop walk­ing with our eyes glued to the ground or straight ahead but to look up and study these old build­ings enhanced by the artistic work of Frank Tory and Sons , and others. Take a look at the last­ing legacy they have given us on the fol­low­ing build­ings :-

Parade Chambers High Street (1883–85), Cairns Chambers Church Street, Carmel House Fargate, Sheffield City Hall, Sheffield Central Library (1934), Mappin Art Gallery (1937), White Building Fizalan Square (1908), Victoria Hall (1908). Sheffield Cathedral, Sheffield University (1926), Weston Park Museum, Old Fire Station. Look inside the churches of St Matthews, Cathedral Church of St Marie and St John’s.

Carvings on Sheffield Central Library by Alfred and William Tory

Their work was not con­fined to Sheffield as they under­took sig­ni­fic­ant assign­ments in Leeds ( Civic Hall), Chesterfield ( Town Hall and the Golden Fleece ), Preston ( St Ignatius Church), Birmingham (Fire Station) and Hull (Paragon Station).

The frieze over the east door at the Mappin Art Gallery.

It was an inter­est­ing talk which chal­lenged us to look at Sheffield’s old build­ings with a new aware­ness of the skills and ded­ic­a­tion which were needed to build and dec­or­ate them. Clearly, Frank Tory and his sons were artists of con­sid­er­able abil­ity and made a sig­ni­fic­ant con­tri­bu­tion to the her­it­age of Sheffield. Go, explore and admire the work of Frank Tory and Sons.

The Truth about Charlie Peace (1832–1879) – by Dr. Alan Caunt — 18th Nov 2019

Charlie Peace was Sheffield’s most notori­ous Victorian mur­derer who was born in grim sur­round­ings at Angel Court, Nursery St., Sheffield, in 1832. This is now the site of ‘The Big Gun’ pub.

His father, John, was a cob­bler, pic­ture framer, and sub­sequently trav­elled with the Wombwell Menagerie as a one legged lion tamer.

Charlie star­ted school in Pitsmoor, then, at Paradise Square for his middle school classes. He got employ­ment at Millsands Works as an appren­tice tin smith, then as a foundry worker at Kelham Island, where at the age of 14, he acci­dent­ally had a red hot iron bar through his leg. 18 months in the Sheffield Infirmary ensued, where he had his left knee­cap removed, but he learnt to play the violin. After dis­charge and a spell with a lock­smith, learn­ing how to make and pick locks, at 17 years of age he was not only an accom­plished viol­in­ist play­ing Paganini at The Prince of Wales pub on Ecclesall Road, but had acquired good house­break­ing skills.  He was short, with a limp, 2 fin­gers miss­ing from a fire­arms incid­ent, prob­ably had suffered with rick­ets and could dis­lo­cate his jaw at will. What a pic­ture!

At 19 he had 1 year in prison after house break­ing with his sister, using a hinged ladder which looked like a pole, when folded. Graham Wardley, a rag and bone man of the Salt Box Houses on Psalter Lane was sus­pec­ted to be the ‘fence’ for his stolen goods. There is a plaque and poem about Wardley at the remains of these houses, even today.

At 22 he was back in Wakefield prison for burg­lary, for 4 years, during which time he tried to escape.

On his release, he mar­ried Hannah Ward, who already had a son. They had 2 fur­ther chil­dren and lived in Kenyon Alley, near Netherthorpe. He still went burg­ling and was soon arres­ted in Manchester where he gave a false name of George Parker. This time he had 6 years hard labour, in Gibraltar.

2 years after his release, in 1866, and at the age of 34, he was caught burg­ling again and sent to prison for 7 years. On his release in 1873, he still went thiev­ing, and even­tu­ally settled in Darnall in 1875, and lived near to a couple called Dyson. He had an affair with Mrs. Dyson, and threatened to kill Mr. Dyson (a Civil Engineer). He was tem­por­ar­ily scared off, and moved to Hull, but when in Manchester whilst burg­ling, armed with a gun, he shot and killed P.C. Cock who had tried to arrest him. Two local broth­ers named Habron were wrongly con­victed of the murder, as they had pre­vi­ously pub­licly threatened to kill the P.C. There is a museum in Preston where P.C. Cock is buried.

Following the murder, Charlie Peace went back to Sheffield to Banner Cross (959 Ecclesall Rd. – which is now a Barbers) where the Dysons then lived. He slandered Mrs. Dyson and got into an argu­ment with Mr. Dyson, whom he shot dead. This was on 29/11/1876.

Charlie went on the run, and there was a big man­hunt.

Meanwhile, he took a girl­friend as a maid to Peckham where he changed his name to John Thompson, (one of many ali­ases he used through­out his life) had a horse and cart, became a respect­able member of the com­munity and had a good life, whilst at the same time, con­tinu­ing his thiev­ing, becom­ing a one-man crime­wave.

He was finally caught by P.C. Robinson, whom he attemp­ted to shoot. He was con­victed of attemp­ted murder and burg­lary. He con­fessed to being Charlie Peace, which wasn’t at first believed, but was con­firmed by his wife and Mrs. Dyson. His family sold up as he was sen­tenced to hard labour in Pentonville prison, for life, so he decided he wanted to die. He came up to Sheffield by train and drew a plan of the Bannercross scene of the murder of Mr. Dyson, which con­vinced the author­it­ies of his guilt of Mr. Dysons murder. On the second trip by train to Sheffield for the com­mit­tal pro­ceed­ings, he jumped out of the train window whilst hand­cuffed to an officer. He was injured in the ensu­ing ker­fuffle, but, reach­ing Sheffield, he was tried in a cor­ridor in the Sheffield Courts.

It took 10 minutes, by a non-white judge, to sen­tence him to be hanged at Armley Gaol by chief hang­man William Marwood, the ‘’long drop’’ pion­eer. The year was 1879. He was buried in a coffin in uncon­sec­rated ground.

There is a recon­struc­tion of the hanging scene in Madame Tussauds.

Before his death he con­fessed to the murder of P.C. Cock, so the Habron broth­ers were exon­er­ated.

In his will he left everything to his wife in her chip shop at Darnall.

A man whose per­son­al­ity changed, after a trau­matic acci­dent in his youth, with a com­pul­sion to burgle, he spent 50% of his life in gaol, and has a sep­ar­ate sec­tion for his thiev­ing arte­facts, at Scotland Yard.

Would he today be dia­gnosed with a treat­able con­di­tion?

Dr. Caunt, a retired anaes­thet­ist, and reg­u­lar S10 Probus speaker, amazed us again with his depth of research into this com­plex and vil­lain­ous char­ac­ter, about whom there have been numer­ous books, films, pho­to­graphs, museum exhib­its and talks.

All agreed it was a most enjoy­able and enlight­en­ing hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn Rose: Building a wooden horse drawn narrow boat for the Chesterfield Canal. John Lower 11th November 2019

 

 

John who is a long stand­ing volun­teer in the Chesterfield Canal Trust was making a second visit

to Probus having pre­vi­ously given a very inform­at­ive talk on the work of the Trust in renov­at­ing

the canal which runs for some 46 miles from West Stockwith on the River Trent to Chesterfield

work which he explained is ongo­ing but today some­what hampered by inde­cision regard­ing the

pro­posed route of HS2 which was pre­vent­ing the Trust from making fund­ing applic­a­tions

par­tic­u­larly for the re-opening of closed sec­tions between Kiveton Park and Staveley.

 

Following a brief over­view of the canal’s his­tory was star­ted in1771 and com­pleted in

1777 util­ising horse drawn narrow boats the canal being  some­what nar­rower than wider

nav­ig­a­tion canals. These boats often referred to as Cuckoo boats remained unchanged through­out

the life of the canal which stayed open until 1940’s when it was even­tu­ally aban­doned.

 

John then gave an inter­est­ing insight into the nature of the boats them­selves, and the work

under­taken to build using only tra­di­tional meth­ods a new narrow boat. Traditional boats could

carry some 24 tons of freight pulled by a single horse , the equi­val­ent 24 wagons or 240 pack

horses. The boats had no soph­ist­ic­ated facil­it­ies only a basic cabin which offered little or no

pro­tec­tion to the crew. The last known example of these boats was unfor­tu­nately broken up  in

1976.

 

In about 2000 a group of volun­teers decided it would be a good idea to build the first new

Cuckoo boat, unique to the Chesterfield Canal, since the 1930’s this becom­ing The New Dawn

Project. A retired boat builder David Bownes was per­suaded to join the group and it is his

spe­cial­ist skills and enthu­si­asms that kept the pro­ject run­ning over the years of effort by the team

until launch in 2015. A model of the boat was built to raise aware­ness of the pro­ject and assist

with fund rais­ing and detailed plans were pre­pared though John told us the these were not    con­sul­ted on many occa­sions the build being com­pleted “by eye” in the main.

 

Wood for the boat was pur­chased at a cost of £7,000 in 2007 and seasoned in John’s garden

for 3 years, much to his wife’s dis­pleas­ure. A build site was loc­ated in Shireoaks in 2010

when the 4+ year build pro­gramme com­menced. Ninety planks for the bottom of the boat

were painstak­ingly laid on a raised frame then fixed side pieces were cut these being 28ft

long 10” deep and 2” thick. Prior to fixing the planks had to be steamed for 4 hours and then

with much elbow grease fixed in place and the hand caulked and water­proofed work which

involved the use of foul smelling mater­ial includ­ing horse poo, horse hair and tar, the interior

of the boat also having an addi­tional layer of pro­tec­tion using treated flannelette sheets.

The boat was now ready for fit­ting out fixing the rudder, side boards, mast and tiller all of which

were cut by hand from seasoned timber.

 

On com­ple­tion a cel­eb­rat­ory launch took place and the boat is now in use for dis­plays, sponsored

boat pulls and the Trust now had access to a trained horse to com­plete the pic­ture of what a

Cuckoo boat looked like on the water in the 18th and 19th cen­tur­ies.

 

The trust are now hoping to raise £200,000 to com­plete their works which I am sure they will

having head of the huge efforts on the New Dawn Project by the volun­teers.

 

A well presen­ted talk enjoyed by all.  Graeme Beck 13th November 2019

 

Crime and Punishment — Through the Ages. Chris Dorries  4th November 2019

Chris said that he would cover the period from 1066 to 1820.

Around 1066 there was a phrase ‘Raising the hue and cry’. If a body was found the local sher­iff or cor­oner was informed by a yodel from tree to tree in the area — the person who found the body was leg­ally respons­ible to ‘raise the hue and cry’.  Then the cor­oner would ride out with two men and gather all the local men to make a ‘jury‘, who had to prove that the dead man belonged to the vil­lage.  If they could not do so the assump­tion was that he was a Norman occu­pier and this was now a very ser­i­ous case.

Some types of trial  were quite severe — if you were sus­pec­ted of theft you had to swear you had not com­mit­ted the offence, but you had to plunge your arm into a pot of boil­ing water to remove a stone from the bottom of the pot.    If you did not get scal­ded you were inno­cent!

Another method was to press the suspect’s body with weights, like cartwheels or rocks, to make them con­fess.  If he, or she, was found guilty they could lose all their prop­erty, but if they did not con­fess they would very likely die.

Other crimes were decided by trial by ordeal, but this was replaced by the Catholic Church with ‘jury trial’, where local men told what they knew but did not decide guilt.

Much later, from the 12th cen­tury onward, trials were more like our modern trials.  However, the accused had no coun­sel, no rules of evid­ence, con­fes­sions could be extrac­ted by tor­ture, defend­ants could not give sworn evid­ence nor call wit­nesses but could dis­pute wit­nesses.

In 1600 tor­ture was banned and defend­ants could call unsworn wit­nesses. However, in a  16th cen­tury trial, evid­ence from dreams was accep­ted — “I had a dream and I saw him do it in my dream.”

Later pro­sec­u­tion by the Crown to prove guilt was intro­duced and the accused could exam­ine wit­nesses but not give sworn evid­ence.  Felonies now res­ul­ted in all the guilty person’s prop­er­ties going to the Crown.  All thefts were hangable offences unless the value of the stolen prop­erty was less than one shil­ling.

Public hangings, i.e. humi­li­ation fol­lowed by a pain­ful death, were accep­ted and the hang­man could make it a quick or slow death.  Women were burnt at the stake (and some­times the hang­man would strangle them before they were burnt).

Hanging, draw­ing and quar­ter­ing was a reli­gious idea because it was believed that you could not be resur­rec­ted if your body was not com­plete.  The accused would be slowly choked on a rope, taken down and the bowels drawn out, then the body would be cut into four pieces which were put onto spikes at the town gates.

If you were accused but you could prove you were in holy orders you could claim ‘bene­fit of clergy’.  This meant that you would instead be tried by the Church (and often would be found not guilty!).  The abil­ity to read often was accep­ted as proof that you were a priest.  However, you might be branded, so if you were arres­ted again you could not claim bene­fit of clergy .

Sometimes, if a member of the nobil­ity was found guilty he would be decap­it­ated, because this was less humi­li­at­ing than being hung, drawn and quartered. Sometimes the guilty would be trans­por­ted instead of hanged.

By 1800 there were over 200 felon­ies where the pun­ish­ment was hanging, one of which was imper­son­at­ing a Chelsea Pensioner!

This was a grue­some talk which made me glad that we no longer have public flog­gings, pil­lor­ies, stocks, duck­ing stools, burn­ing at the stake, decap­it­a­tions and public hangings.

Old England was a bloodthirsty place!