Category Archives: Talks

The curious world of old-time punishments — 1 October 2018 by Ian Morgan

Ian Morgan has given a number of talks to the Club.  His pas­sion is his­tory.  He has pub­lished books on his­tor­ical and crime sub­jects, made many appear­ances on local radio and is a guide for some English Heritage prop­er­ties.

His talk star­ted with the earli­est laws still in use.  Until recently the 1266 Assize of Bread and Ale was the oldest but it was updated due to met­ric­a­tion.  The oldest is now the 1267 Assize of Distress.  This meant that a person suf­fer­ing dis­tress from another should take the matter to the Crown Court and not just take their own revenge.

Until the 1840’s there was not a police force as we think of one.  Local people would pay into a Felon Society to cover the costs of main­tain­ing a con­stable.  A form of pro­tec­tion was the “hue and cry” and parish­ion­ers must help to detain a felon if not the parish may have to pay com­pens­a­tion to the victim.  At this time pris­ons were essen­tially to hold people before their trial.  The pun­ish­ment for approx­im­ately 285 crimes was hanging or quite likely trans­port­a­tion to the colon­ies.

None cap­ital pun­ish­ments were flog­ging, birch­ing, pil­lory, stocks, duck­ing stool, scold’s bridle or branks.  It was only later that hard labour and tread­mill type pun­ish­ments were used when crim­in­als and debt­ors were incar­cer­ated for long peri­ods.  Branding 1.5 “ high let­ters onto crim­in­als was common to sig­nify the type of crime com­mit­ted.

Birching on a birch­ing stool was com­monly 12 lashes and was stopped in England in 1948 but con­tin­ued in Jersey until 1955.  Public flog­ging with a cat ‘o nine tails was abol­ished in 1830’s although it con­tin­ued in pris­ons and died out in 1930’s.

A pil­lory and or stocks were common in many vil­lages and all towns.  One could be pil­lor­ied for many offences and might be ser­i­ously injured or killed by the pun­ish­ment.  Prisoners would be kept in the stocks for sev­eral hours or even days and might be tor­tured as well has have all manner evil sub­stances thrown or poured over them.  There were even finger and thumb stocks that were some­times used in schools and by employ­ers sus­pect­ing petty theft.

Ducking stools were fre­quently used on women for such things as vin­dict­ive gos­sip­ing and pros­ti­tu­tion and entailed the com­plete immer­sion of the person in water sev­eral times.  This was some­times fatal.  Another pun­ish­ment for nag­ging and gos­sip­ing was the scolds bridle.  In 1799 a man was placed in a bridle for 3 days and then was hanged.

Ian’s talk con­tin­ued to cover cap­ital, prison and less obvi­ous pun­ish­ments.  The talk is crammed full of really inter­est­ing detail and makes one real­ised how atti­tudes have changed over the past cen­tury.  The last public behead­ing was in 1747 and the last removal of a head after hanging was in 1817 in Derby.

Creative Sheffield — Prof Sally Wade — 24th September 2018

Sheffield – known as the ‘Steel City’ — has built its repu­ta­tion on man­u­fac­tur­ing, but sadly over the years this has declined. However, look­ing to the future, Sheffield is determ­ined to re-establish itself as a major centre for the cre­at­ive and innov­at­ive indus­tries.

Professor Sally Wade, Chair of the Sheffield Culture Consortium, gave us a most inter­est­ing talk on the aims of the Consortium and the pro­gress made in enhan­cing Sheffield’s national and inter­na­tional repu­ta­tion for cre­ativ­ity and innov­a­tion. The Consortium is rep­res­en­ted by all the inter­ested parties in the city includ­ing the uni­ver­sit­ies, museums, theatres, Millennium Gallery and the dance net­work. Its prime aim is to speak with one voice for Sheffield, bid col­lect­ively for fund­ing , pro­mote the cul­tural aspects of the city and estab­lish key object­ives.

The ‘our­fave­places’ web­site

Nationally, man­u­fac­tur­ing has declined, the ser­vice indus­tries have grown and the cre­at­ive and innov­at­ive indus­tries are fast becom­ing a major and influ­en­tial group in the wealth of the coun­try. So what sec­tors can be grouped under the creative/innovative banner? Sally listed 12 which include advert­ising, archi­tec­ture, engin­eer­ing, pub­lish­ing, enter­tain­ment, dance and video gaming. The national pic­ture for this industry shows it as a key player rep­res­ent­ing 5.3 per cent of the eco­nomy and employ­ing one in 11 of the work­force of whom 35 per cent are self employed and over 98 per cent are small micro busi­nesses.

‘What’s On’ at the Millennium Gallery

But what of Sheffield? The city is fast gain­ing a repu­ta­tion for cul­tural activ­it­ies. The Crucible, Lyceum and Studio theatres attract nation­ally acclaimed pro­duc­tions with over 700 per­form­ances a year, attract­ing over 400,000 vis­it­ors to Sheffield with all the com­mer­cial spin-offs that brings. Sheffield holds numer­ous fest­ivals includ­ing Off the Shelf, Tramlines, Doc/Fest , Art Sheffield, Festival of the Mind, Sheffield Design Week and International Concert Week present­ing wide ran­ging activ­it­ies, all very well sup­por­ted and bring­ing many vis­it­ors to the region. The city has long been cel­eb­rated for its music and has 460 bands work­ing cur­rently, 65 record­ing stu­dios with 24 labels oper­at­ing.

The Crucible Theatre

The visual arts are well rep­res­en­ted with three major gal­ler­ies (Graves, S1 and Site) and 23 smal­ler gal­ler­ies. Street Art is sponsored with large strik­ing murals not to be con­fused with the illi­cit, tacky graf­fiti which blights our build­ings.

Sheffield is a vibrant city and making great strides in becom­ing a centre for cul­ture, innov­a­tion and cre­ativ­ity, and gain­ing a grow­ing national and inter­na­tional repu­ta­tion. Clearly, more needs to be done to spread the word and shout the suc­cess from the roof tops.

The Lyceum Theatre

There is a web­site called “Our Favourite Places” (www.ourfaveplaces.co.uk) with the strap line “a dif­fer­ent sort of guide to a city of cre­at­ive spirit, uncon­ven­tional beauty and DIY cul­ture, nestled within seven hills.” Clearly, every res­id­ent and every poten­tial vis­itor needs to read the web­site to ensure that the wide range of cul­tural activ­it­ies are sampled and enjoyed. In short — pro­mote, pro­mote, pro­mote our city of cul­ture.

It was a most inform­at­ive talk which promp­ted many ques­tions and sev­eral sug­ges­tions from our mem­bers – always a good sign of a suc­cess­ful morn­ing.

 

The Causes of the Trojan Wars — Peter Miles — 17th September 2018

Peter’s talk and slide present­a­tion was more a look at Greek myth­o­logy than the Trojan Wars them­selves. In fact, he con­ceded, it is almost cer­tainly a myth that the Trojan Wars ever happened.

The jury is still out on whether there is any his­tor­ical real­ity behind the wars, and if so how much. The ancient Greeks believed that Troy was loc­ated near the Dardanelles, and that the Trojan War was a his­tor­ical event of the 13th or 12th cen­tury BC, but by the mid-19th cen­tury both the war and the city were widely seen as non-historical.

Paris, with the Apple of Discord

However, towards the end of the 19th cen­tury, archae­olo­gists found the remains of a great cit­adel that exis­ted on the west­ern shores of Asia Minor, at what is now Hissarlik in Turkey (the tra­di­tional loc­a­tion of Troy), and which appeared to have been over­run by a great war in around the year 1250 BC. On the basis of excav­a­tions con­duc­ted by the German archae­olo­gist Heinrich Schliemann, this claim is now accep­ted by many schol­ars.

So there may be some truth in the story, but Peter’s point was that — whether the wars are fact or fic­tion — the stor­ies try to explain way of the world, the rela­tion­ship between gods and humans, and the ori­gins and sig­ni­fic­ance of the ancient Greeks’ own cult and ritual prac­tices. Modern schol­ars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the reli­gious and polit­ical insti­tu­tions of ancient Greece and its civil­isa­tion.

The main source for our know­ledge of the Trojan Wars is Homer’s Iliad, writ­ten in the eighth cen­tury BC, where he recounts 52 days during the final year of the decade-long con­flict. The war star­ted with a quar­rel between the god­desses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite after Eris, the god­dess of strife and dis­cord, gave them a golden apple, some­times known as the Apple of Discord, marked for “the fairest.” Zeus, the sky and thun­der god, sent the god­desses to Paris, son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy, who judged that Aphrodite was the fairest and should receive the apple.

Paris study­ing Aphrodite, who stands before him naked, while Hera and Athena look on

In exchange Aphrodite made Helen — the most beau­ti­ful of all women and the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta — fall in love with Paris, who took her to Troy. Agamemnon, king of Mycanae and the brother of Helen’s hus­band Menelaus, led an exped­i­tion of Achaean troops to Troy and besieged the city for ten years because of Paris’s insult. After the deaths of many heroes, includ­ing the Achaeans Achilles and Ajax and the Trojans Hector and Paris, the city fell to the well doc­u­mented ruse of the Trojan Horse.

Peter, from Great Hucklow in Derbyshire, has many strings to his bow includ­ing teach­ing, acting, book pub­lish­ing and glid­ing. Another of his interests is the Willow Foundation, foun­ded by his brother-in-law Bob Wilson, the former Arsenal foot­baller and TV pundit and his wife Megs fol­low­ing the death from cancer of their daugh­ter Anna at the age of 31 in 1998.

Peter’s fee for speak­ing to us has been passed on to the Willow Foundation, which raises £2.5 mil­lion a year to provide up to 1,400 ‘spe­cial days’ for young people between the ages of 16 and 40 who are suf­fer­ing from life-threatening ill­nesses.

 

 

Chesterfield Canal, Past, Present and Future by John Lower 10th Sept 2018

The West Stockwith basin at the River Trent end of the canal.

John atten­ded Sheffield University and became a chartered civil engin­eer.  In 1981 he became involved with the Chesterfield Canal Trust, a registered char­ity with many volun­teers.

The Past:  The canal was built in 1777.  James Brindley being the engin­eer.  It was a mag­ni­fi­cent achieve­ment for its time includ­ing the 2,880 yard Norwood Tunnel.  The prime pur­pose of the canal was to carry Derbyshire coal to new mar­kets on canal barges.  It was a big saving on pre­vi­ous meth­ods whereby ten pack-horses were needed to trans­port one ton of coal.  A barge could hold 24 tons of coal.

Due to the coming of the rail­ways boat traffic declined and in 1907 the col­lapse of part of the Norwood Tunnel isol­ated the Derbyshire sec­tion of the canal.

In 1834 there was a big fire in the Houses of Parliament and stone which was quar­ried at North Anston was taken by barges to West Stockwith and then to London via the Trent, Humber, North Sea and the Thames.

The Present:   In the 1950’s the 26 miles between West Stockwith and Worksop were barely nav­ig­able.  A cam­paign was star­ted by the Retford and Worksop Boat Club to save the canal.  Funding was gran­ted and this sec­tion of the canal was restored.

John showed us many pic­tures depict­ing the canal res­tor­a­tion .  Grassy fields with a slightly sunken path indic­at­ing the pre­vi­ous route of the canal became restored canals due to the efforts of the volun­teers.

The path is the centre line of the canal.

The brick­work and masonry skills of the volun­teers were second to none and would have put many of today’s build­ers to shame.  So many pro­jects of restored canal sec­tions, locks, and towpaths, were shown to us and the before and after shots were amaz­ing.

In 1978 The Telegraph repor­ted that an over keen worker, clear­ing rub­bish from the canal, caught his hook on a chain. He pulled hard and out came “the plug” res­ult­ing in all the water being drained from that sec­tion of the canal.  Nowadays it is no longer pos­sible to drain the canal because of envir­on­mental reas­ons i.e. the poten­tial loss of fish and wild­life etc.

At Staveley, an archae­olo­gical dig was com­menced by stu­dents.  This res­ul­ted in unearth­ing three old ori­ginal cuckoo boats.  These were the ori­ginal type of barges made for the canal.  The find of the cuckoo boats promp­ted the volun­teers to build a rep­lica cuckoo boat by hand using all the old skills of the work­ers.  A “steam box” was used to bend the planks which formed the bow of the boat and sim­ilar mater­i­als and skills were employed.  The boat was launched in 2015, recre­ated with copies of the ori­ginal mast and sails and named “The Dawn Rose”.

Millions of pounds have been needed to restore sec­tions of the canal, many with Government grants plus a size­able sum from fun­drais­ing and public dona­tions.  Sponsored “boat pulls” and other events have con­trib­uted to the res­tor­a­tion funds.

The Future:  The future plans for the HS2 rail­way also impact on the canal.  Many con­sulta­tions have res­ul­ted in part of the HS2 track being rerouted from the present canal route into a hous­ing estate in Mexborough.

The latest con­struc­tion is a £310 mil­lion Chesterfield water­side com­plex.  This is still under­way. The long term aim is to link up sec­tions of dif­fer­ent canals in three adja­cent counties to rival the nav­ig­able water­ways of the Midlands and the North West.

2027 will be the 250th anniversary of the Chesterfield Canal and it is hoped that all work will be com­pleted by then.

There are many delight­ful walks along the canal, boat trips and activ­it­ies organ­ised by the Chesterfield Canal Trust.

Have a day out on the canal and enjoy all that it has to offer!

John’s talk was very well received and he was thanked for his inter­est­ing and beau­ti­fully illus­trated present­a­tion – many of which can be seen, along with a host of inform­a­tion, on their web­site — http://www.chesterfield-canal-trust.org.uk/

A map of the canal can be found here: http://www.chesterfield-canal-trust.org.uk/on-the-water/canal-maps/#more-7054

 

 

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: CLUES FOR A CURE — Dr Rosie Staniforth 3rd September 2018

 

 

 

There has a notice­able increase in media atten­tion in recent years to the matter of ageing and it asso­ci­ated health prob­lems and espe­cially mental health.  We all know people suf­fer­ing from the symp­toms includ­ing memory loss, con­fu­sion, mood changes and com­mu­nic­a­tion skills and will have observed that Alzheimer’s becomes more common with advan­cing age.

Our speaker this week is a lec­turer in Sheffield University’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.  Perhaps because her sub­ject was so rel­ev­ant to our mem­bers’ age group she not only spoke to a full house but cap­tured the interest of those present.

Dr Staniforth com­menced her present­a­tion with an out­line of her subject’s his­tory and a sum­mary of past research.  It was a story of much achieved but, like a long jour­ney, still much to be dis­covered before the des­tin­a­tion is reached.

Alzheimer’s Disease –the most common (about 70% of cases) form of Dementia- is now one of the lead­ing causes of death, still behind Cancer but now edging ahead of chronic heart dis­eases.  There are around 850,000 suf­fer­ers in the UK, a figure set to rise to over two mil­lion by 2050.  Despite this rapid growth, research fund­ing –both public and private- is pro­por­tion­ately way behind those dis­eases, com­mand­ing only 3% of med­ical research and expendit­ure in this coun­try. Dr Staniforth wondered if this was a symp­tom of an ageist soci­ety or faith in our abil­ity to under­stand the brain.  Despite the fund­ing prob­lems, the sci­ence into the causes and mech­an­isms of Alzheimers’s dis­ease is ongo­ing and we know that mul­tiple factors con­trib­ute to the devel­op­ment of the dis­ease.  These include dam­aged pro­teins, genet­ics, neur­onal energy fail­ure, inflam­ma­tion and vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

The dis­cov­ery of Alzheimer’s dis­ease is attrib­uted a German Scientist of that name.  Alois Alzheimer (1864–1915) was a Psychiatrist and a Neuro Pathologist who worked in the fields of epi­lepsy and lunacy, ini­tially in Frankfurt am Main.  Drawing on the work of the Polish-born sci­ent­ist, Rudolph Virchow (1821–1902) and others, Alzheimer was the first to dis­cover the import­ance and impact of the build-up of nat­ur­ally occur­ring pro­teins on the func­tion of the brain.  He found there were two main types of pro­tein which, as the dis­ease pro­gresses, cause more and more nerve cells to become dam­aged:

  • Amyloid. This pro­tein forms plaques or clumps that can ‘mis­fold’ and which accu­mu­late in the brain, caus­ing dis­rup­tion to normal mental pro­cesses, and
  • Tau. This pro­tein accu­mu­lates into tangles within nerve cells in the brain, caus­ing massive dis­rup­tion and cell death.

The aim of research is to dis­cover ways of remov­ing the amyl­oids which are toxic to the body’s nervous system and nor­m­al­ise the pro­duc­tion of Tau, together with redu­cing neuro-inflammation and other symp­toms.  Our Speaker showed us photos and dia­gram­matic examples of the brain in vari­ous stages of decay. 

Dr Staniforth con­tin­ued her present­a­tion by expand­ing on some of the research cur­rently under­way to try to find a cure for this dis­abling dis­ease.   Such research is greatly assisted by the devel­op­ment of mag­netic res­on­ance and micro­scopy equip­ment that can reveal the detail of how pro­teins clump together to form amyl­oid.  The impact of amyl­oid modi­fy­ing agents is a major area of study while another is improv­ing our under­stand­ing of how amyl­oids become toxic to the body’s nervous system.  Brain cells do not regen­er­ate as easily as other cells in the body and there was a fur­ther need to under­stand more of how the body trans­ports amyl­oids, spread­ing the toxin through the brain. Interestingly, modern drugs have not been the com­plete answer.  Everyday plants such as mint, rose­mary, sage and tea con­tain help­ful anti-oxidants but are also excel­lent at dis­solv­ing away these amyl­oids.  A great deal remains unknown and not under­stood but she was con­fid­ent that, given time and resources, cures could be found.

In con­clu­sion, our speaker touched on how we might reduce the like­li­hood of con­tract­ing Alzheimers’s and others related such as Parkinson’s and Hodgkinson’s.  She sup­por­ted the well- rehearsed advice of med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers applied to these afflic­tions as to many others: a bal­anced diet, reg­u­lar exer­cise, reduced weight, stress avoid­ance, no smoking and modest con­sump­tion of alco­hol.

Dr Staniforth’s talk stim­u­lated an unusu­ally long ses­sion of ques­tions and answers which ranged from redu­cing the disease’s effects, its early detec­tion, to the use of Marijuana.  She was warmly thanked for provid­ing a most inter­est­ing and well- presen­ted ses­sion. Hopes were expressed that a future return visit might be made to update us on research devel­op­ments in this import­ant field.

Michael Clarke

The fascination of the Romanovs 1894 to 1918 — Rosemary Beney — 20th August 18

Rosemary spoke about Tsar Nicholas II and Princess Alexandra of Hesse and showed us many pho­to­graphs of the family, espe­cially the chil­dren.  Although the pho­to­graphs were ori­gin­ally mono­chrome, many of them had been col­our­ised to modern stand­ards.

Tsar Nicholas was born in 1868, the son of Tsar Alexander III.                 Tsar Nicholas was known to be the richest man in the world but he was regarded as a polit­ic­ally weak man.

Princess Alexandra was the grand-daughter and favour­ite grand-child of Queen Victoria, but was not pop­u­lar in Russia.                                 Nicholas and Alexandra became engaged in 1893 and were mar­ried later in St. Petersberg.  The mar­riage was regarded as a love match and they were a pas­sion­ate couple.

Nicholas suc­ceeded his father, Alexander III, in 1894.   The coron­a­tion was immense with Royal fam­il­ies from all over the world in attend­ance.  Alexandra’s dress was so heavy with jewels and ermine that she had to have help to sit and kneel.   Outside the cathed­ral a crowd of over 50,000 had gathered to see the Royal couple.   There was a stam­pede and over 1300 people were crushed to death and many more were injured.  The couple still appeared before the crowd in the after­noon.

They had five chil­dren; at first four daugh­ters, which did not go down well with the pop­u­la­tion, and finally a son.

Olga was born May 3rd, 1895 when they vis­ited Balmoral and lived at Alexandra Place.

Tatiana was born in 1897 and later did Red Cross work in World War I.

Maria was born in 1899 and was strongly fan­cied by Lord Mountbatten.

Anastasia was born in 1901 and always had poor health.

Alexis was born in 1904.  He was found to be a hae­mo­phil­iac and was always pro­tec­ted because of it.  He was car­ried by a retainer at all public events, even when he was older, and was not allowed a bicycle or to play any sports.  He had a major bleed some years later when the family was on hol­i­day in Finland and was bathed in mud to stop the bleed­ing.

The family trav­elled in luxury in a fant­astic train with guards sta­tioned at 10 meter inter­vals along­side the tracks!  They owned a per­sonal Rolls Royce and another 66 cars.  Alexandra had dia­monds galore.

Nicholas had estab­lished an Entente Cordiale with Great Britain and, early in World War I, took over com­mand of the army.  He left the con­duct of home affairs to his wife, who became dom­in­ated by Rasputin.  At the time there was great unrest and threats of revolu­tion in Russia.

In 1917 Nicholas was forced to abdic­ate and, three days later, they were put under house arrest at Tsarskoe Selo.  They still had the ser­vants and the free­dom of the palace and grounds, so life car­ried on fairly nor­mally.

They were moved to Topol August 1917 with sev­eral of their staff.  The locals were kind and gen­er­ous but life in the Siberian sur­round­ings was not as col­our­ful.

In May 1918 they were put on ‘sol­diers rations’ and con­fined to a small area, then moved to Ekaterineberg  where they were held for 78 days in a ‘house of spe­cial pur­pose’.  Captivity became very harsh and some staff thought they were being sexu­ally abused.

They were assas­sin­ated on July 17th, 1918.

There are many stor­ies of their buri­als  etc. and the mys­ter­ies con­tinue to this day.