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Archive 2022

Monday, 31 January 2022 – SANDY BURNETT


Four hundred years ago in July 1623 saw the death of the outstanding English composer William Byrd; prolific and successful, he was a favourite at the court of Queen Elizabeth. But Byrd led a complicated existence as a devout Catholic in troubled Tudor times, when to infringe strict religious rules ran the risk of imprisonment or even death. Forced underground, he created some of his most expressive music for fellow Catholics to use in secret worship. This talk celebrates the best of Byrd’s awe-inspiring work and reflects on what it means to create superb art in circumstances of great danger.



Monday, 28 February 2022 –  AMANDA HERRIES

The source of the stuff of dreams, the poppy is a beautiful, fragile flower with immense power. Opium (from the greek ‘opion’ – poppy juice) is a hypnotic bringer of sleep, delightful lethargy and relief from pain. It is also highly addictive.

Greed led to the introduction of this hugely desirable substance first to China, and then to Europe. The beguiling seduction of its effects led to its use to quieten troubled minds and calm agitated children and babies. Its use – often by those with troubled minds – led to the creation of great works of art in music, art and literature. Social and art history meet as this lecture unfolds.



Monday, 28 March 2022 – DAVID WRIGHT


Wine has been part of our global society for over 7,000 years, and the story tells of its origin and appearance in all societies across the Mediterranean and through Europe. There is rich evidence of the role wine has played in these societies and how it became an important component of faith, well-being and festivity. From the kwevris of Georgia in 5,000 B.C., the symposia in ancient Greece, the thermopolia of Pompeii, the hospices of Europe, to the dining tables of fine society wine has been ever present. Drawings, paintings, engravings, buildings, pottery and wine labels themselves all contribute to the story.



Monday, 25 April 2022 – CHRISTOPHER GARIBALDI


Alfred Munnings, the son of a Suffolk miller, left school at the age of fourteen and a half when he was apprenticed as a commercial artist. Attending evening classes at the Norwich School of Art, Munnings would go on to become one of the most successful English artists of the first half of the twentieth century, ending his long career as President of the Royal Academy.

This lecture looks at his amazing and extensive artistic output from his early life as a commercial artist, through the extraordinarily evocative and powerful depictions of Canadian soldiers during the First World to his mature work as this country’s leading sporting and equestrian artist. It also touches on the controversy around his views on modern art and as such acts as an accessible examination of the tensions between figurative painting and non-representational art during the early twentieth century.



Monday, 23 May 2022 – SIMON SELIGMAN


Deborah Devonshire, the youngest of the Mitford sisters and wife of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, was hefted by marriage to one of Europe’s greatest treasure houses, Chatsworth. In the second half of the 20th century, in partnership with her husband, she imbued it with a spirit, elegance and sense of welcome that transformed it from being the worn-out survivor of decades of taxation, war and social change into one of the best-loved, most-emulated and popular historic houses, gardens and estates in the country. With responsibility for Lismore Castle and Bolton Abbey as well, no wonder her passport stated her profession as ‘housewife’.

Along the way, she became a best-selling author and sell-out speaker, champion of the countryside, its skills, traditions, livelihoods and food, trustee and patron of numerous charities, businesses and good causes, and the most famous poultry keeper in the country. She met Hitler and Churchill, was a trusted confidant of the Prince of Wales, played her part as the steady heart of the Mitford sisters’ melodrama and was friends with a dazzling array of some of the brightest and most fascinating of her contemporaries, including President Kennedy, Evelyn Waugh, Oscar de la Renta, John Betjeman, Lucian Freud, Tom Stoppard, Neil MacGregor, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Alan Bennett.

She said herself that charm was the hardest quality to describe in another person; hers lived in her unique turn of phrase, her stoic Mitfordian perspective on life’s challenges, her curiosity about everyone she met, her stylish beauty, quick wit and delight in all that life offered her. Debo had a lasting impact not just on Chatsworth but on everything she touched and everyone she met; Simon was lucky enough to work for and with her over more than 20 years and in this lecture he pays tribute to an astonishing life.



Monday, 19 September 2022 – DR PAUL ROBERTS


In this talk we look at one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world, the fabled city of Palmyra, in the Syrian desert. Palmyra arose on a trade route that brought silk, spices and other luxuries across the desert from the east. Her wealth and power are displayed in gorgeous monuments, while her people, wealthy, sophisticated and cosmopolitan, are preserved in their hauntingly beautiful funeral portraits.

Palmyra became so powerful during the Roman empire that its warrior queen Zenobia challenged Rome itself. We’ll see Palmyra’s meteoric rise and its dramatic fall, its rediscovery by English lords and its desecration by Isis. But there is hope that beautiful Palmyra will rise again…



Monday, 31 October 2022 – MARK COTTLE


From the 1890s to the 1960s, Winston Churchill’s life was captured in countless photographs. He was a prolific writer and speechmaker - the definitive edition of his speeches alone runs to four volumes. He was a successful and enthusiastic artist, producing some 500 paintings in a span of over fifty years.

Churchill was a complex and sensitive man of many parts and many interests – a discriminating contemporary, Kenneth Clark, was to write of him, “I have never been frightened by anyone except Churchill … he was a man of a wonderful and very powerful mind”.

The aim of this lecture is to try to capture the richness and diversity of this great man’s life and character which can still inspire us today.



Monday, 28 November 2022 – DAVID WYNFORD EVANS

This illustrated talk is a light-hearted investigation of the roots of British 21st century Christmas rituals and traditions. The mid-winter festival from earliest times forms the basis of much that the British now do and David will show how this has changed over the centuries.

An ideal talk for the festive season – and it is always good to have some mulled wine and mince pies after learning of their history.