Coffee Morning 19th October 2023

A very warm welcome was given to Mistress Valerie and her husband Ian as the speaker at our last coffee morning on 19th October, Valerie gave an in depth talk on Tudor Times and gave the group lots of interesting facts about living during that time period, she arrived in traditional female Tudor dress. Surprisingly, we were told that the average age that male and female lived to during this period was 65, and that the average height of the male was 5 feet 7 inches and for females 5 feet 2 inches.

Well known sayings that we know today came from that period,i.e. straight laced, derived from how a woman laced her clothing. A frog in the throat, when a frog was actually used to cure a sore throat. Bringing home the bacon, Upper crust, Rock a bye baby, Rule of thumb and countless more where explained.

The climate and weather changed dramatically during the 1500’s, from the Thames freezing over to severe heat with very little rain for 9 months, this being followed by floods, and amazingly a 4 year drought during which time horsemen rode their horses along the Thames river bed, the hot summers were followed by storms with extremely large hailstones.

The population increased in London by 350% from 1520 to 1603 creating illnesses and plagues, we were told how the doctors known then as Quacks dealt with these situations, and also how Astrology was important during the period.

Valerie also brought along some props from the 1500’s which were passed around and finally ended with questions and answers from the group. 

Coffee Morning – 21st September 2023

What an interesting, humorous morning we had on Thursday 21st September, our guest speaker Mr Trevor Bevan kept the group entertained with his talk, A Dickens of a tale.

Mr Bevan being an avid cyclist for many years was invited to become a member of the Pickwick cycle club, of which not many have the opportunity of an invitation, there are 200 members and each one has a name after a Dickens character, Trevor is known as the red nosed Mr Stiggins. Pickwick bicycle club was formed in 1870 with just six cycle enthusiasts, Charles Dickens had passed away the week before the club was named after the Pickwick papers. The unique club is the only one in the world that combines literature and a sporting connection. The club fund raises for charities raising thousands of pounds at the two functions they hold every year in Covent Gardens. So, not only did Trevor (Mr Stiggins) give us the history of the club but also the connection with Charles Dickens.

Dickens was born in the Regency period in Portsmouth, he was a very intelligent child and became an avid reader. He moved to London with his family into a two up two down house due to his parents financial crisis, and many of his novels were based on his life experiences.

His first job was in a blacking factory just off the Strand, where he lived in loft type lodgings with other workers for six shillings a week, a similarity to Oliver Twist. He started to work for a publication company, he was known to have a photographic memory and Dickens tied in the images of prisons, slums, lamplighters, the poor, child exploitation and life into his books.

He was said to be a difficult person, going from happy with a good sense of humour, to falling into periods of depression. He had two ladies in his life, his wife Katherine who he had 7 sons and 3 daughters with, he went on to divorce his wife to live with an actress for the rest of his life.

All of his books have at some time been best sellers, with the Tale of two Cities selling 200 million copies worldwide. His most popular novel is A Christmas Carol, it took Dickens just six weeks to write this novel and it sold out in five days. Mr Trevor Bevan gave us a good rounded insight into the life of Dickens and was enjoyed by all at the history society.