The Engineering of the Pyramids

On 20 Jun 2018 John Clark came to Painswick Probus to explain his theory on how the Pyramids of Egypt were constructed. John, an engineer, worked in Cairo for several years and one day he and his neighbour Dick Parry, a civil engineer, decided to investigate how the Pyramids could have been constructed.

After reviewing data on the great pyramids they soon realised that many of the theories suggesting vast armies of slaves dragging blocks up ramps on sledges were just not tenable. The great pyramid at Giza is 230m square at the base, is146m high and contains 2.3 million blocks each weighing 2.5 tons. With a build time of 22 years a block would have to be placed every few minutes – this was clearly a vast production engineering project requiring ingenuity and planning rather than just brute force.

It is known that the stone came from a quarry 7 km away on the opposite side of the Nile and there is clear evidence that the blocks were cut to size in the quarry. It is also feasible that the blocks were floated across the Nile on reed barges but the means of transport over land and up the Pyramid site was less obvious. Sledges pulled by slaves are often suggested but immense effort would have been required even over flat ground.

John and Dick had a theory that any equipment used in the construction would have been buried with the Pharaoh for use in the after life and they were granted access to the Cairo Museum’s warehouse full of pyramid artefacts. There were many tools for cutting the stone and aligning the blocks but only one sledge which supported their view that this was not the means of transport. There were however around 150 curved wooden constructions which John described as ‘rockers’. These were also found on the river bed with stone blocks that failed to make the crossing suggesting they were transported with the blocks. It was then realised that these rockers could be clamped around a stone block, four at each end, to form a construction a bit like a modern cable drum. It has been shown with a full size replica that this can easily be rolled over flat ground and by winding ropes around the rockers around 20 men could safely steer it up a ramp around the Pyramid.

John admits that theirs is only a theory and the truth may never be known but believes it is based on sound engineering judgements and equipment known to exist at the time.

A fascinating talk and a believable theory but maybe it is better that we never know in order to maintain the mystique of the Pyramids?

John Wylde

My Life in Russia

At the meeting on 23 May 2018  Masha Lees gave a talk entitled ‘My Life in Russia before Perestroika and After’ which covered the period from 1957 to 1997. In this she contrasted the Soviet time when the educational system and the medical facilities were excellent, through the Perestroika period of chaos in Yeltzin’s time, to the present where a doctor’s qualifications can be bought in the open market for cash.

She showed something of family life marked by squalid living conditions in Soviet times, through to poverty as the USSR broke up, to modern times where for some there are great riches but for the masses, particularly in the countryside, there has been little change. Life in Russia, she explained, is now centred on money, acquired usually illegally. Power and wealth can be grabbed by individuals by theft but only retained through kick- backs to high officials of the regime, right to the top. In consequence the good education she received, admittedly as the daughter of a government official, is now not available.

Masha Lees gave a fascinating account of a changing Russia which has moved from socialism and lack of freedom, to a regime based on theft and corruption. She did, however, show us some of the eternal aspects of Russia in the exhibits she displayed, including shawls, samovar cups and newspapers, in her interesting and well-illustrated talk.

Basil Butler

The Building of the Kariba Dam

On 9 May 2018 David Lemon returned to share his passion and knowledge of Africa, and in particular the Zambezi River, and the building of the dam at Kariba during the period of 1951 – 1958. At first engineers could not find a practical route, which would require many bridges and tunnels through the inhospitable terrain, for the road which was essential for getting materials and labour to Kariba. Then it was noticed that elephants had formed an ancient track along the ridges – a natural solution!

Tenders were invited in 1955 to divert the river, and to build the dam, turbine hall, and accommodation for the 10,000 labourers who would ultimately be employed for 4 years.

The lake started to be filled in 1958 with 183 billion cubic metres of water, forcibly displacing some 57,000 Tongan tribesmen and women from their ancestral land. changing the ecology of the region for ever.

Henry Hall

Forgotten Objects of Yesteryear

On 25 April 2018 Sandra Ashenford delighted her audience of both ladies’ and gentlemen’s Probus Clubs with her interactive talk about forgotten objects of yesteryear. Her talk was followed by the customary buffet lunch arranged by Paul Sparks.

Henry Hall

AGM 2018

On 14 April the Club held its AGM. The president’s chain of office was passed from Henry Hall to Basil Butler, formerly the vice-president.  The draft minutes may be found on this website.  The AGM was followed by an interesting presentation by David Chapman about the trustee’s emerging future vision for the Painswick Centre and a less interesting one about the impact on the Club of the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

The Life And Songs of George Formby

On March 28th Matthew Sproston entertained Probus with a talk on the life of George Formby interspersed with some of his songs accompanied by the ukulele. Matthew is a member of the George Formby Society and a member of one of the many ukulele clubs which have sprung up as a result of the popularity of George’s songs. Even the Queen is a fan, her favourite apparently being ‘Leaning on a Lamp Post’.

The eldest of seven children, George Booth was born in Wigan in 1904 into a relatively affluent family, his father being a music hall entertainer of some repute. It was his father, George senior, who first used the stage name Formby after the town on the Lancashire coast. His parents didn’t want George to follow his dad and he went off at a young age to train as an apprentice jockey. George senior suffered continual chest problems and often referred to it into his act. It is reputed he coined the phrase “ It’s not the coughin’ that carries you off it’s the coffin they carry you off in”.

His father died when George was only 16 and he returned home to support his mother and family. It was on a trip to London with his mother that they saw an act similar to that of George senior and decided that George would take over his father’s act. The act was a disaster until George took up the ukulele and then met Beryl Ingham, a clog dancer from Accrington, who agreed to become George’s manager and was eventually his wife for 36 years. Beryl was very astute and George became one of the best paid male stars making 21 films, usually playing the simple but likeable working-class man, and recording 230 songs. George was no great musician but played with an attractive syncopated style, thought to mimic Beryl’s clog dancing. However it was the lyrics of his songs with their sexual innuendo that really made him popular, no doubt aided by the BBC banning many of them for broadcast. Many of the songs were written by two songwriters but Beryl made sure George added some words of his own to ensure they could share the royalties.

Beryl was the dominant one in the partnership, reputedly she gave George 5s per week spending money despite him earning around £100,000 per annum. Even so George managed to own 26 Rolls-Royces and several houses during his lifetime. After WW2 George’s popularity declined and so did his health. When Beryl died of leukaemia George caused a stir by getting engaged 6 weeks later to Pat Howson, the daughter of his Rolls Royce dealer! However, before they could marry, George died of a second heart attack in 1961 at the age of only 56. His funeral in Liverpool attracted 100,000 mourners.

The George Formby Society was formed in the 1960’s and has gone from strength to strength, meeting four times a year in Blackpool. The ukulele is also becoming an increasingly popular instrument because of its accessibility and there are numerous local ukulele clubs.

Matthew finished an entertaining talk with one of George’s best known songs “Leaning on a Lamp Post”.

John Wylde

 Katherine Parr, Gloucestershire’s Queen.

On March 14th Mike Bottomley, an admirer of Katherine Parr, came to talk to Painswick Probus about her life, achievements and her connection to Gloucestershire. Dressed as Miles Coverdale who, for a time, served as her almoner and spiritual guide at Sudeley Castle, Mike presented a portrait of the most interesting of Henry’s queens. He also enlivened his talk with videos he had created using costumed actors at Sudeley castle.

Born in 1512, the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Parr of Westmorland, she was well educated and became fluent in French, Latin and Italian.  First married at 16 she was widowed by the age of 20. She was re-married shortly afterwards to John Neville who was twice her age but was a substantial step up from her first husband.  Widowed again at 30 she was now a wealthy independent woman. Having renewed a friendship with Mary, daughter of Henry and his first wife Katherine of Aragon, she became a member of Mary’s household.  It was here she came to the notice of the king. Katherine accepted the king’s offer of marriage despite being romantically involved with Thomas Seymour, brother of the late queen Jane Seymour and poor Thomas was posted abroad to avoid any distraction for the new queen.

Henry loved Katherine and of all his marriages it was probably the most loving.  She was becoming increasingly interested in the new Protestant religion, was reading widely and starting to translate books from Latin into English in order to make them more accessible to ordinary people. She saw this as God’s work.  She even composed her own book of prayers and had two books published under her own name, becoming the first published female author.  However Henry was reverting to Catholicism, really only having left for convenience and this led to an argument between the couple.  Fortunately Katherine diplomatically placated him before a warrant for her arrest was implemented. Henry’s health was now declining and Katherine nursed him until his death. Widowed again the dowager queen retired from court following the coronation of the new king, Edward VI.

Henry’s death prompted Thomas Seymour, later Baron Seymour of Sudeley, to return from exile and they renewed their romance secretly.  They married in secret as it was so soon after Henry’s death and as such could be considered as treason. This was when Katherine took her stepdaughter Elizabeth under her wing at Sudeley.

To her delight Katherine became pregnant but sadly died at Sudeley 8 days after the birth at the age of 36. She was buried there with the first service conducted in English. Thomas left Sudeley and never returned, the castle fell into disrepair but was eventually restored in the 19th century and a re-creation of Katherine’s tomb can be seen in the restored chapel.

Mike summarised Katherine Parr’s legacy as being:

  • Henry VIII’s favourite wife

  • The first published female author

  • Responsible for the first church service in English

  • Involved in the formative years of one of our greatest monarchs

  • The only queen buried in Gloucestershire.

John Wylde


Dame Janet Trotter – Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire

On 28 Feb 2018 we were privileged to welcome Dame Janet Trotter who is the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire. Supported by 30 deputy lieutenants distributed evenly throughout the region, Dame Janet summed up her role as “to uphold the dignity of the crown”.

Dame Janet reflected on her activities in 4 main areas during her 8 year term of of office:

 Royal Visits – assisting event organisers with planning and with Palace and Police liaison

Supporting Excellence – recommending Queens Awards for voluntary service

The Armed Forces – currently gearing up for the commemoration of the end of WW1.

 Building up Civil Society – special interest in foster carers, Age UK, and the Nelson Trust

Dating from the time of Henry VIII, when armies loyal to the king needed to be raised, Lord-Lieutenants who were usually wealthy and experienced in military matters were appointed to use their money and influence to satisfy their king and be rewarded by the gift of land.

Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants are the representatives of the Crown for each county in the United Kingdom. Men or women of all backgrounds, they are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

There are 98 Lord-Lieutenants, who cover all areas of the UK, from Shetland to Cornwall, County Tyrone to South Glamorgan. As the sovereign’s representative in his or her county, the Lord-Lieutenant remains non-political and does not hold office in any political party. They are appointed for life, although the customary age of retirement is seventy-five.

Lord-Lieutenants are responsible for the organisation of all official Royal visits to their county. On the day of an engagement they escort the Royal visitor around the different locations — not simply The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, but any member of the Royal Family.

Lord-Lieutenants also carry out other duties in their county, such as the presentation of decorations (where the recipient is unable to attend an Investiture), The Queen’s Awards for Export and Technology, and Queen’s Scout and Queen’s Guide Awards. As well as taking a particular interest in the armed forces (including ex-Service men and women and their families), Lord-Lieutenants have a close association with the magistracy and higher courts in their areas — thus demonstrating the maintenance of historical links.

Lord-Lieutenants are also responsible for ensuring that The Queen’s Private Office is kept informed about local issues relating to their area, particularly when a Royal visit is being planned.

Henry Hall

Stroke Awareness

On St Valentines day Jen Robinson-Slater came to Painswick Probus to talk about stroke awareness and the role of the Stroke Association.

There is good news in that survival rates have doubled in recent years but the incidence of strokes is rising due to longer life expectancy and lifestyle changes. The Association directs its efforts in three ways: research into prevention, support for stroke victims and campaigning for better treatment; however, treatment facilities and expertise are still a bit of a postcode lottery.

A stroke is a brain attack where the cells of the brain are damaged due to a lack of blood flow. The most common form of stroke is an ischaemic attack which is a blockage due to a thrombosis or an embolism and accounts for around 80% of strokes. Alternatively, a stroke can be a haemorrhagic stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.  A third type, known as a TIA, is a transient ischaemic attack where the symptoms are short lived because the blockage is temporary. Because the symptoms are temporary many people ignore a TIA but it is still serious and often a precursor to another attack.

The symptoms of a stroke can be various physical and emotional changes. Because different sides of the brain control different sides of the body the effects are often one sided, such a loss of facial control or limb weakness. “Time lost is brain lost” and fast identification and treatment of a stroke is critical.  The association has had great success with a recent campaign resulting in a 24% increase in prompt emergency calls following a stroke.

The campaign used the acronym FAST:

Facial weakness

Arm weakness

Speech problems

any of these three symptoms and it’s Time to call 999.

With the different causes of strokes it is vital that the cause is identified to inform the treatment; blood thinning drugs may help a blockage but worsen a bleed.  The good news is that treatment techniques have improved significantly with brain scanning, clot-busting drugs and mechanical clot removal.

As with everything though prevention is better than cure. There are risk factors we can’t control such as age or ethnicity but there are others we can influence such as obesity, smoking, alcohol which are things that all contribute to high blood pressure. And this was the underlying message – if we could control blood pressure around 40% of strokes could be avoided.

The Stroke Association can be found at

John Wylde

Mountain Search And Rescue

At the end of January, Vince Williams came to talk to Painswick Probus about mountain search and rescue in the UK. Vince is a Search Manager and active member of the Western Beacons Mountain Search and Rescue Team in South Wales.

In the early 1900’s fell walking and rock climbing were activities enjoyed by relatively few people, however a number of high profile accidents resulted in the formation of the Joint Stretcher Committee by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club and others in 1932. They were charged with devising a suitable mountain stretcher and selecting other equipment to be located in huts in popular walking and climbing areas. A desire for a more permanent structure led to the formation of the First Aid Committee funded by interested parties such as the Ramblers Association and the YHA and by 1950, the First Aid Committee had become the Mountain Rescue Committee, a charitable trust with membership from a wider spectrum of outdoor pursuit groups. In 1993 the MR Committee became the MR Council with representatives from the Police, Coastguard, Fire Service, Ambulance Service, Sports Council, Air Ambulance Association and others. The MRC is now the Mountain Rescue (England & Wales) and individual teams (such as Western Beacons) are members both of the MREW and of their regional association (e.g. South Wales S&R Association) which is also represented at MREW. However neither the MREW nor the regional associations have authority over the individual teams but provide an opportunity to discuss and agree standards, training and equipment.

Despite being the fourth ’emergency service’ after Police, Fire and Ambulance, Mountain Rescue today remains a volunteer-manned service and surprisingly MR teams in England and Wales receive no direct government funding and have to finance their own running costs through charity fund-raising or sponsorship.

Volunteers are from all walks of life and need no pre-qualification to join.   As Vince explained the range of equipment and continuous training a team requires,  his audience appreciated that funding a team is not a trivial exercise.

When required Mountain Rescue will be called out by the Police in response to a 999 call but not just for walking and climbing accidents in difficult terrain; their skills are often used, along with their colleagues in SARDA (Search And Rescue Dogs Association), in locating persons missing due to illness or mishap. So just because we don’t dangle from ropes on icy cliff faces we shouldn’t assume mountain rescue will not be relevant to us – a donation may be worthwhile!

John Wylde

 The Korean War 1950-53

David Thorp gave an excellent talk to Painswick Probus on 17 Jan 2018 about the Korean War. It is often called the ‘forgotten war’ but the Korean War has a particular relevance for Gloucestershire due to the substantial losses  (some 33%) incurred by the Gloucestershire Regiment.

Korea was a unified country for nearly 600 years but was annexed by Japan and ruled as colony from 1910 until the end of WW2 when the Russians liberated the north and the U.S. liberated the south. Initially the US had little interest in the country until the advent of the Cold War when it became concerned about the advance of communism. Korea was then split, along the 38th parallel, into two regions with separate governments much as we know it today. Both claimed to be the legitimate government of all Korea, and neither accepted the border or the truce  as permanent.

The war started in June 1950 when North Korean forces supported by the Soviet Union and China moved swiftly to occupy much of  the South. In response the UN authorised the formation of a UN force, supported by 21 countries, to repel the invasion. Within only two months the Northern forces had advanced almost to the southern tip of the country, however a sea-based UN counter offensive in the middle of the country isolated many of the Northern forces and enabled UN forces to advance northwards almost to the Chinese border. Then, surprised by a Chinese offensive, the UN forces were pushed back until, in mid-1951, the front line was more or less on the 38th parallel.

In April 1951 the Chinese army attacked positions on the Imjin river in an attempt to re-capture the capital Seoul. This region was defended by the 29th Brigade of which the Gloucestershire Regiment was part. Despite being outnumbered by a factor of almost 20, the brigade held its position for three days. When they were ultimately forced to fall back, their actions in the Battle of the Imjin River had blunted the Chinese offensive and allowed UN forces to halt the Chinese army. The Gloucestershire Regiment, were eventually surrounded by Chinese forces on Hill 235, a feature that is now known as Gloster Hill. Although defeated and captured their resistance was an important factor in repelling the communist takeover of South Korea.

The war became a stalemate and fighting ended on 27 July 1953, when an armistice was signed. However, no peace treaty has been signed, and the two Koreas are technically still at war.  Photos were shown of substantial tunnels which the North has built under the demilitarized zone between the two countries, capable of through which thousands of North Korean troops intended to mount a surprise attack, an accusation Pyongyang has long denied.  In the decades since their discovery, some of the tunnels have found new life as a tourist destinations!

John Wylde

 Living On The Edge

For the first meeting of 2018 Painswick Probus were presented with a talk by Rose Hewlett concerning fishing and farming along the upper Severn estuary. Starting in pre-historic times when the vale would have been densely wooded and prowled by wolves, wild boar and woolly mammoths she traced the developments through Roman times and the Middle Ages up to the present.

As men developed farming techniques and animal husbandry and moved away from hunter gathering the banks were cleared of trees and the vale took on the look we know today. From finds of iron tools and weapons we know the area was inhabited in the iron age and the crossing at Newnham to Arlingham was probably part of the route eastwards for iron deposits from the Forest of Dean. The Romans came and built the banks we still see today to protect the low lying farmland from the storm tides. Good examples can be seen at Arlingham, Longney and Elmore. They established the town of Goucester (Glevum) and many fine villas were built around the fertile lands of the estuary.

Much of the land bounding the estuary is reclaimed land and in 1637 King Charles I unsuccessfully attempted to raise money by taxing these reclaimed areas. He failed due to the counter argument that the margins of the river were continually changing and land could be lost or gained. Breakwaters were built to protect the margins and prevent erosion by the river water. The finest example was Hock Crib at Freetherne, built in 1739 to protect land at Slimbridge but only the foundations remain today.

Fishing in the Severn has long been an important industry and the oldest recorded fishing grant is dated to 1143 for rights at Frampton. Wooden weirs containing willow or hazel baskets called putchers were built across part of the estuary and would trap the fish which could then be removed when the tide receded. Another more precarious form of fishing employs lane nets where men wade into the river holding a funnel-like net but this has largely died out today.

Rose finished her talk by saying that the Severn Estuary is a unique environment but she is optimistic for its future. She is proud to work with many other locals and the various Government agencies in managing the margins where the modern approach is not to constrain the river but more to allow it to do what it has done for thousands of years.

John Wylde

The Poppy as a Symbol of Remembrance

Bill King, military historian and member of the British legion, came to talk to Painswick Probus on 1 Nov 2017 about how the poppy was adopted as the symbol of remembrance of those that fell in WW1 and subsequent conflicts.

The churning of the land by artillery shells had eliminated nearly all the flora around the front lines but a poppy seed can lay dormant in the ground for years waiting to germinate when the land is disturbed. The disturbance resulted in an abundance of the flower near the front lines and the burial sites. One evening a Canadian medic, John McCrae, serving with the Royal Army Medical Core and having just buried a close friend, sat down and penned the poem we know as “In Flanders Fields”. However it was not until 1918, when a lady called Moina Michael came across the poem, that the idea of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance was devised. Moina worked in the New York YMCA through which many US servicemen passed and one day she came across McCrae’s poem in a magazine. The poem was published under an alternative title of “We Shall Not Sleep” and Moina was particularly affected by the last verse:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

At that moment Moina made a personal pledge to “keep the faith” and she took her pen and immediately composed the poem “We Shall Keep the Faith”. Noting the poppies in the illustration accompanying John McCrae’s poem she vowed always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance. Moina worked at getting a number of American institutions to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance with some success but it was a French lady, Anna Geurin, a representative of the French YMCA, who hit on the idea of making artificial poppies for sale to fund help for French people suffering from the effects of war.

Anna worked to introduce the idea of the memorial poppy throughout the allied nations and in 1921 French ladies came to London to sell their poppies and Anna herself went to meet Earl Haig, founder of the British Legion. She persuaded him to adopt the poppy as its emblem and the first British Poppy Day Appeal was launched that year and has continued to this day.

So what we may think of as a particularly British institution was initiated by a Canadian medic’s poem and implemented by an American lady and a French lady.


History of Policing

Dr. Tim Brain, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire from 2001 to 2010, returned on 18 Oct 2017 to Painswick Probus to give another excellent talk, this time on the history of policing in Britain. With the audience expecting the history to start with Robert Peel, Dr. Brain explained that this may have been the start of the police force as we know it today but it was a long way short of when policing began.

Going back almost to Roman times the majority of people in England lived in small village communities. These villages, or tithings, would consist of maybe up to 10 families, grouped together and subsistence farming the surrounding land. Issues of law and order were the tithing’s responsibility, overseen by a tithing leader or ‘tithing-man’.

With the formation of kingdoms such as Mercia and Wessex, the kings saw a need to maintain law and order and it was Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, who started to codify the rules established in the tithings. With the expansion of the population and creation of towns there was a greater need to maintain law and order and this was seen as the duty of ‘worthy men’. These were men with some property and hence an interest in maintaining local order. As time went by and the task became more onerous, the worthy men would recruit paid help, eventually in the form of constable watchmen. These men would patrol the streets at night equipped with a lamp, a staff and a bell and every hour would cry out ‘all is well’ to assure their colleagues patrolling neighbouring streets.

In the 18th century there was rapid change; as the population doubled towns expanded. With the end of the Napoleonic wars soldiers were laid off and, being without employment, they would turn to stealing with a resultant crime-wave and public outcry. This led to the emergence of ‘thief-takers’ – individuals who, using bands of informers, would track down culprits and claim a reward for their arrest. Unfortunately many of the thief-takers were setting up the crimes in order to claim the rewards.

Particularly within London there was a need for a more coordinated system which would eliminate this corruption. In response it was magistrates Henry and John Fielding who, in 1749, set up the Bow Street Runners who are considered to be the first professional police force. By the early 18oo’s there were numerous similar forces in London but there was a need for a more unified force and this was when Robert Peel, then Home Secretary, set up the Metropolitan Police Force in 1829. This became the model for other forces established throughout the counties and towns over the following years and formed the basis of the system we have today.

Dr. Brain then outlined how the police force has developed into what we have today, taking account of the many technological and social changes, but still retaining the devolved nature of the current 43 forces. An interesting question session followed. A fascinating talk by a highly  accomplished speaker.

John Wylde

Outing to The Royal Mint, LLantrisant

On 4 Oct 2017 26 members including some guests joined a coach trip to The Royal Mint at Llantrisant, where the history of coin design and production was presented through “The Royal Mint Experience” – a combination of a guided tour, films, demonstrations and an exhibition. Several visitors struck their own brilliant, uncirculated, one pound coins which were preserved in transparent packaging immediately. Morning coffee on arrival and an excellent finger buffet rounded off the visit in appropriate style.

Top tip for visit organisers: if a disabled coach passenger has a blue badge the coach may use the Severn Bridge toll-free (normally £20)! The toll is due to cease by 31 Dec 2018.

Henry Hall

Longfield Hospice

Jan Ryder, Community Events Manager of Longfield, was invited to Probus on 20 Sep 2017 to talk about the work of the hospice and how this fits into the care network for Gloucestershire.

The hospice was established around 30 years ago but in 2012 it decided on a name change from Cotswold Care to Longfield, the name of the house in which it is based. It was felt that the original name gave a misleading image of the service provided. Longfield’s aim is to support adults with a life-limiting illness from diagnosis onwards, helping them to understand their illness and to cope better with its impact on their lives; however it is not residential and provides no bedded care in-house. The care is aimed to complement that provided by the other Gloucestershire hospices, Sue Ryder in Leckhampton and Great Oaks Forest of Dean, and in conjunction with them it will provide nursing care in the home for patients in their last 3 months of life.

Patients can apply to attend for daycare at Longfield after diagnosis without referral from a healthcare professional, referral is only required for the home nursing service. If a patient is accepted they will usually attend one day a week for 12 weeks by which time they will hopefully have been given the tools to help them cope with the emotional and psychological impact of their illness. Services provided include complementary therapies such as massage, Reiki and reflexology, and creative therapies such as painting, pottery and counselling. In the event of a patient’s death bereavement counselling is available to the family.

All services are free and are 85% paid for by funding from the public and sales in the 17 charity shops with the remaining 15% from the NHS to support the home nursing service. There are a number of paid employees, mainly part time, but an army of around 500 volunteers provide 50,000 hours of unpaid labour without which the hospice could not survive.

The hospice currently handles around 1200 patients per annum but with an increasing ageing population this is sure to rise in the future.

John Wylde


Georgian Entertainment

On Wednesday  6 Sep 2017 Mike Rendell made a return visit to Painswick Probus, this time to talk about entertainment in the Georgian period. Mike is a keen student of the period and has written several books on different aspects of life at that time. This interest is fuelled by a large archive of diaries, letters and other documents inherited from his great, great, great, great grandfather Richard Hill. Richard was a relatively wealthy hosier who lived at 1 London Bridge at the end of the 16th century and was in a prime position to observe London life which he recorded in detail in his diaries. Mike used this archive extensively in illustrating his talk on the development of all forms of entertainment during the Georgian period.

Many forms of theatre had been banned by the puritans and only two theatres, Drury Lane and Covent Garden, were licensed to present ‘spoken drama’ and therefore other theatres were having to be inventive with the forms of entertainment they presented. Orchestral music had been confined mainly to private recitals and it was at this time that Handel was starting to make music available to a wider audience with his public concerts. Circuses, which consisted of displays of horsemanship, together with acrobats and jugglers but no wild animals, became extremely popular as they were one of the few forms of family entertainment.

It was a time when many of the sports and games we know today were being developed and the rules established. Mike showed illustrations of the early forms of sports such as skating, ice hockey, cricket, football, rugby, badminton, squash, billiards and skittles.

Gambling was responsible for the popularity of many sports such as horse racing and boxing and also some less savoury pastimes such as bear baiting and cock fighting. Fortunately the latter were banned by the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835.

It was a time of development of pastimes and hobbies. Compact pianos allowed people to learn and play at home, card games and board games were being invented and the range of children’s toys was expanding. One of Mike’s illustrations showed the Prince of Wales playing with a popular toy known as a bandelure and reputedly Napoleon was also a fan. We know it better today as the yo-yo.

Altogether a well presented talk by an knowledgeable and enthusiastic speaker with access to a unique archive of the period.

John Wylde

Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth and the Kenilworth Entertainment of 1575

Gill White made a welcome return to Painswick Probus on 5 July 2017 to speak this time about “Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth and the Kenilworth Entertainment of 1575”.

It is not certain when Robert Dudley and Queen Elizabeth first met, but it was probably at court during childhood. They had one distinction in common: both had had a parent executed for treason. At her coronation in 1559, Robert Dudley was Elizabeth’s Master of Horse, which meant that he rode at the head of the procession following the queen. Rumours were spread by foreign ambassadors that the pair were lovers, a potential relationship that caused much concern, particularly as Robert Dudley was already married. When his wife died in mysterious circumstances in 1560 (a verdict of “Death by Misadventure” was recorded by the coroner), Robert Dudley became very unpopular. (The coroner’s report was lost for centuries and was found only in the last decade or so; it had been “misfiled”). Circumstances changed after Queen Elizabeth’s recovery from a near fatal smallpox infection in 1562 at which point she was told she could choose her own husband. She made Dudley Earl of Leicester, gave him Kenilworth Castle but kept him hanging. The Kenilworth entertainment was a 3 week extravaganza designed by Robert Dudley as a final attempt to persuade Queen Elizabeth to marry him. The speaker gave details of the elaborate festivities and the preparations for them, which included extensive castle modifications and building. As we know, Dudley was unsuccessful in his aim. He went on to marry one of the queen’s cousins and he died in 1588. Queen Elizabeth went into mourning and kept his last letter to her until her death in 1603.

Ian Breckels

The Blue Lamp
We were pleased to welcome Richard Dickinson to the meeting on 21 Jun 2017 to describe his life during the 25 years he served since 1948 with   the Metropolitan Police.   He met Jack Warner -“Evening All” – and his duties covered the Olympic Games, the Coronation, the World Cup and many other historic events.  Between ceremonial events  he was of course  involved in crime situations and highlighted the great differences in the approach to policing then and now.
We were particularly grateful that Richard was able to accept our invitation following the necessary withdrawal of our planned speaker.
Henry Hall

Gloucester Cathedral – Inside and Out

On 7 Jun 2017 the Club was privileged to welcome The Very Reverend Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral. The Dean is primarily responsible for the management and maintenance of the fabric and facilities of the cathedral, working alongside the Bishop of Gloucester who leads the religious aspects of the cathedral. Unlike other churches which receive funds from the dioceses, the 42 cathedrals in England must generate their own income from sources such as donations from the 500,000 visitors they see each year and from investments. The Dean is justifiably proud of his record of engagement with all communities in Gloucestershire, and is determined to avoid the introduction of admission charges. The present building was founded in 1581 so, unsurprisingly, maintaining and replacing stonework is a constant task. Apprentice stonemasons are being trained to sustain this vital aspect of maintenance. A £6M project named Project Pilgrim is underway both to improve access and to restore the Lady Chapel.

Henry Hall

I Was An Olympic Volunteer (Twice)

On Wednesday May 24th Mike Cooper came to talk to Probus about his experiences as an Olympic volunteer.

In the late 1980’s, after 27 years with IBM, Mike took advantage of the company’s need to reduce manpower in the UK. While wondering what to do with his new found leisure time, Mike noticed an article in the company magazine looking for volunteers for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Although clearly aimed at US residents, Mike applied and was accepted.

Training was to take place a month before the games but no expenses were offered for accommodation. Fortunately Mike negotiated his training to be a couple of days before the games opened and he was assigned to main stadium management – checking tickets and ushering people to their seats. This was an ideal job as once people were seated Mike could enjoy the opening ceremony with the rest.

With time off between the opening ceremony and the start of the athletics he was able to take in some of the other sports. Mountain biking was in the Olympics for the first time and Mike saw the men’s race won by a competitor from a country without anything approaching a mountain – Holland. Controversy arose when the winner was censured for unzipping his singlet in the heat. He was allowed to keep his medal but was fined $5k. Strangely the same penalty was not awarded to an attractive Italian competitor who did the same in the lady’s race.

The rest of Mike’s time was spent in the main stadium with a grandstand view of the events including top athletes such as Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson. With the material he collected Mike has written a book on his experiences entitled “ I was an Olympic Volunteer” and this includes a foreword by Mary Peters whom he met in Atlanta.

Subsequent Olympics were either too far (Sydney) or required a foreign language, but when London 2012 arrived Mike got the urge again. He applied, was accepted for interview and set off with his book in hand. Success and once again a plum job in the Olympic stadium affording him views of the opening ceremony and the athletics. He was there on ‘Super Saturday’ when GB won three golds.

Mike entertained Probus with anecdotes from both events which are too numerous to repeat here but has now decided to call it a day – well he will be over 80 when Tokyo 2020 arrives!

John Wylde

A Whisper of Eternity, The Life of Edith Cavell
As a young boy on his way to school in Norwich, Peter Petrie would pass by the grave of Edith Cavell and attend the annual service in her name at the Cathedral without perhaps fully appreciating the significance of her life. Now he has researched her life and the repercussions of her death and he came to share his knowledge with Painswick Probus in a talk entitled “A Whisper of Eternity”, the title of a recent biography of Edith Cavell.

Edith was born in 1865 in the Norfolk village of Swardeston where her father was the vicar. She was educated at the Girls High School in Norwich where she showed an aptitude for languages. This and her yearning to travel led her to take up the role of governess to a Belgian family which she did for 5 years. It was probably during this time, when admitted to a German hospital with a cut arm and being impressed by the standards of nursing, that she developed the desire to become a nurse.

HavIan Breckelsing returned home to nurse her ailing father Edith enrolled to train as a nurse at the London Hospital at the age of 30. After completing her training and working at a number of hospitals throughout England, she developed a significant reputation for her nursing and organisational skills which resulted in her being recruited by Dr Antoine Depage to be the Matron of a training hospital at St. Gilles in Belgium. Dr Depage was concerned by the poor standards of nursing in Belgium, and in particular infection control. Edith’s fluency in French was no doubt a significant asset. By 1912, Edith was busy managing several nursing schools and training hospitals.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Edith was in Norwich but returned to the front-line in Belgium saying “At a time like this, I am more needed than ever” . A devout Christian, Edith believed it was her duty to nurse the wounded whichever side they were on. She became involved in the escape route for allied soldiers from occupied Belgium by sheltering them in her hospital. She was arrested by the Germans in August 1915 and charged with ‘conducting soldiers to the enemy’. At her trial Edith’s Christian upbringing made her unable to deny the charges. The British were powerless to intervene but the U.S. Ambassador informed the Germans that executing Cavell would rank alongside the atrocities of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania. Despite this Edith was shot by firing squad on the morning of October 12th 1915.

Cavell’s execution was a godsend for the British propaganda effort, in the months following her death recruitment was said to have doubled. She was buried in the grounds of St. Gilles prison but after the war her body was repatriated with a memorial service in Westminster Abbey and burial in ‘Life’s Green’ in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral where the young Peter Petrie would pass on his way to the school playing fields.

John Wylde

Exploring our Churches

On 26 April 2017 Philip Wilkinson revealed his long term interest in the fabric of England’s churches, having been attracted initially by their architecture and then by the extraordinary range of objects he has found inside many churches. John Betjeman dubbed the activity “church-crawling”.

Illustrated by excellent images, Philip highlighted architectural features and the practical aspects of church construction using local stone, ranging from relatively easily worked and low cost timber in Shropshire and Worcestershire, through red sandstone and limestone sometimes in-filled with flint, to the hard granite found in some churches in Cornwall. Perhaps the ultimate material was Portland stone, as used for many public buildings in London, including the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.

Churches sometimes have clear links with individuals. For example a prisoner in the Civil War who left his mark in our St Mary’s Church, and a plumber who worked the lead gazing bars of a church in 1839 and left his name scratched on the glass. Various gadgets can be seen such as the large hour-glass to inform both the congregation and the preacher of the progress of the sermon. Perhaps Philip’s most remarkable discovery was the ducking stool last used in 1809 to punish a woman with a loose tongue – or should the honour go to the portable “hood” made for a clergyman who wished to be sheltered at the graveside when conducting his service in the rain. Or the village fire “engine” dating from 1728 stored ready for action in the village church?

Philip closed by inviting those who wanted to learn more to visit his blog at

Henry Hall


Reports about earlier events may be seen in the Archive