The year began with a visit to the British Museum for the exhibition ” I am Ashurbanipal, King of Syria, King of the World.” The artefacts on display showed the beauty and precision which the craftsmen during the years 669-661 BC had produced. It was stunning and so well displayed. Tablets of stone with cuneiform writing were displayed on shelves making a library as it would have been.
Following a talk on the history of New Hall, Chelmsford, by Tony Tuckwell, in our series of Friday Talks, Tony kindly met us at New Hall, now a school, and gave us a very informative tour, showing where the old Tudor buildings which Henry VIII had built had once stood and the present day traces of the Tudor building. This, being local, was an afternoon visit, and we did not use a coach but travelled independently in cars.
On what was officially the hottest day of the year we travelled to Kent to Penshurst Place. A defended manor house, dating from 1341, this too had belonged to Henry VIII. Filming was taking place whilst we were there with actors suffering the heat in Tudor dress and around a blazing fire in the Great Hall. There are 11 acres of garden rooms so we could spend time outside as well.
Another of the Friday Talks was on Essex Barges so the obvious thing to do was to charter a barge to sail on the River Blackwater! We were very lucky to have a calm, sunny afternoon and were able to see familiar places from the water as we sat back and enjoyed a slow restful afternoon.
Our final day visit was to Cambridge. The Fitzwilliam Museum was holding an exhibition of fans and we were fortunate that the Objects Conservator was able to give us a background lecture on the history of fans and the origins of this collection. Afterwards some folk enjoyed the Museum whilst others did some Christmas shopping in the city.
In October we undertook the Friends’ seventh extended visit; this time to Devon. We stayed at the Ilsington Country House hotel which was on the edge of Dartmoor and very comfortable. The restaurant has two AA Rosettes so we were served some excellent meals. Our group of forty filled the entire hotel so it was a very happy house party! The swimming pool was well used too!
Each day we travelled to places of interest in the area. A Red Coat city guide accompanied us on a tour of Exeter and we then enjoyed the rest of the day at leisure.
The next day was called Round Robin. We started in Paignton and journeyed on a steam train to Kingswear from where we took the ferry across the River Dart to Dartmouth. A couple of hours in Dartmouth enabled us to explore the quaint narrow streets and alleys all bedecked with flowers. When the tide was right we embarked on a boat for an hours leisurely journey up the river to Totnes. The sun shone and it was clear why this area is termed the Riviera!
Roadworks and a closed road over Dartmoor necessitated a change in plans on our fourth day. However we still enjoyed the calm and peace of Buckfast Abbey.It is hard to conceive that an abbey of such proportions was built by only six monks at the beginning of the twentieth century.
On the return journey we stopped in Swindon where a retired engineer showed us around “Steam”, the museum of the Great Western Railway. Housed in the old railway sheds, there are life sized mannekins as well as several locomotives. Although there was a shopping outlet in an adjacent building I don’t think anybody was tempted!
It was a a year of varied visits and we begin 2020 with a visit to the Tutankhamun exhibition in March which is fully booked. Other venues are in the pipeline for 2020 so watch this space!