Catching Rogues and Dips at Thiefrow - Andy Lucker

Posted on November 21, 2019            

The final meeting of the year today, was celebrated for being number 800.

Our speaker was Andy Lucker, who before retiring, headed up an undercover team at Heathrow Airport to police the area for ‘bag snatchers’, ‘pickpockets’, etc.

The presentation started with a BBC documentary film about this team and included some real ‘live’ arrests.

Andy then took questions from the members and also told a few more interesting tales.

A really interesting and enjoyable talk to end the year.

150 Years of History at Clevedon Pier - Abbie Edbrooke (Ladies Invited)

Posted on November 7, 2019              

Today we welcomed the ladies to join us for our meeting.

Abbie Edbrooke gave an enthusiastic talk on Clevedon Pier illustrated with slides, video and sound. She covered the history of the pier from how it came to be built to serve the steamer trade, with Brunel’s redundant broad gauge wrought iron rail section, to being described by poet Betjeman as “the most beautiful pier in England”.

There had been many technical and financial challenges involving false starts, bankruptcy, rework of the pier head to make docking less hazardous, storm damage and the collapse of a main span during safety testing.

This collapse could have been the end of the pier had it not been for the enthusiasm, drive and money raised by volunteers who formed the Preservation Trust.

Money is always needed for the maintenance of this historic structure.

This year is the 150th celebration year with many special events.

Audio Visual Sequences - Brian Fish

Posted on October 17, 2019  

Our Speaker today was one of our own members, Brian Fish.

Brian has given presentations to us before, using photographs and images on a range of topics.

Today was no exception, with sets including, East Brent Harvest Home, Weston Sand Sculptures and Flowers.

As always, the quality of the photographs were exceptional and Brian’s commentary entertaining.

Thank you Brian.

Charles Dickens - Dr. Keith Hooper

Posted on October 3, 2019    

This meeting’s speaker was Dr. Keith Hooper who spoke on the life of Charles Dickens.

Commended by his examiners, for his extensive knowledge of Dickens’s work, Keith Hooper was awarded a Doctorate from the University of Exeter in July 2009. Two years later, his first published article appeared in The Dickensian.

Dr. Keith injected humour & an understanding of the personality of one of our most famous authors.

For most of us, Dickens’ novels are somewhat “dry” but Dr John through his insight & understanding of Dickens’ underlying personality, was able to offer us an interesting critique of how Charles Dickens created the personalities in his books.

Dr. Keith outlined Dickens’ upbringing in Portsmouth & the difficulties that ensured when his father was imprisoned for embezzling the Royal Navy.

Despite no formal education Dickens edited a journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels as well as lecturing & campaigning for many aspects of social reform.

More information about Dr. Keith Hooper can be found:

The History of the Cross Manufacturing Company - Rodney Cross

Posted on September 19, 2019          

Rodney Cross was welcomed today who gave a great insight into the ‘family’ business.

In the Early Days of 1900s, a young Roland Cross, whilst still at school, was appointed Secretary and Treasurer of the Bath Model Aeroplane Club. On leaving school Roland secured an apprenticeship with the Arrol Johnson Motor Works in Dundee.

In the 1910s, Roland joined the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company in Bristol where he designed parts for the Bristol Fighter biplane. After the war he moved to Vickers Aeron to increase his engineering experience.

In the 1920s, the Cross Rotary Valve Engine was invented. Roland designed his innovative rotary valve engine which proved to be superior in power output and torque to the conventional poppet valve equivalent. The first Cross company was set up to develop the concept.

Immensely powerful and widely used Centaurus and Hercules sleeve valve engines suffered from excessive oil consumption. The Cross Sleeve Contracting Ring solved this problem and over 300,000 were eventually manufactured.

In the 1950s, the well-known Cross Wire Thread Insert range was produced in large quantities. Other new products included Spring Washers, Retaining Rings and Circlips.

Eventually, a second factory was opened in Devizes to separate Aerospace and Automotive industry products, as annual turbo ring production climbed to 60 million

Automotive industry activity became more important, beginning with the manufacture of piston rings for Formula One racing cars, followed by high temperature sealing rings for the new breed of turbocharged cars.

In the 1960s, sealing ring manufacturing included four-foot diameter aluminium rings designed for Concorde and seals that were critically important for the performance of the ground-breaking Harrier jump-jet.

Cross is a world leading manufacturer of precision engineered high temperature metallic seals and retaining rings for aircraft engines, gas and steam turbines, vehicle turbochargers, control valves and many other challenging environments.

An extremely interesting insight into this ‘local’ Company.

Route 66 and All That - David Addis

Posted on September 5, 2019              

Today we welcomed David Addis from Long Ashton Probus Club.

David has given a presentation to us before and again didn’t disappoint.

The talk was about a trip he and his family made along the famous Route 66 in America.

Although David kept referring to it as an ‘educational trip’ for his children, it is certain that whole family found it ‘educational!’.

The journey took 21 days with many stop off points along the way. These were elaborated on by way of a slide show and included many fascinating and comical stories.

David was thanked in the usual manner by the members.

Great Western Air Ambulance - Ian Cantoni

Posted on July 4, 2019             

Today we welcomed Ian to give a talk on the Great Western Air Ambulance charity.

Ian included slides with his talk, discussing all aspects of GWAAC.

The web site address is below which includes comprehensive details of the organisation.

It is hoped that later in the year, a visit to their new operating base will take place.

At the end of the presentation, Ian was handed a donation cheque from the Club which was the Chairmans Charity choice this year.

Bristol Buses - John Penny

Posted on June 20, 2019        

We thank John for standing in at short notice today to present one of his many talks, this one about Bristol Buses.

With the use of projected film, a pottaged history of Bristol’s buses was shown.

Some rare unseen footage was included along with John’s sometimes ‘humerous’ narrative.

Hopefully John will visit us again with another of his entertaining talks.

Food To Die For - Mike Hogan

Posted on June 6, 2019           

Our past Chairman led the floor today with a very interesting talk on the subject of sea fishermen.

As a ‘mariner’ Mike told the story of the risks to their lives that the fishermen take just to provide us with this food type.

A slide show accompanied the talk which was interspersed with some fascinating facts.

What we take for granted will put a whole new view on the fish on our table.

An excellent talk, thank you Mike.

Andrew Cross and the Mite that Shocked the World - Brian Wright

Posted on May 16, 2019          

 Taunton author and historian Brian Wright has written a biography of Andrew Crosse, who was born in 1784 and grew up to be a pioneering scientist, eccentric, republican landowner and poet.

Today we welcomed Brian to give his account of Andrew Crosse.

An eccentric scientist who scared the locals with the bangs and flashes from his experiments reckoned he accidentally created a life form.

Andrew Crosse installed 3,000ft of copper wire from poles and trees at Fyne Court, Broomfield, on the Quantock Hills, where he was born.

While neighbours were terrified by the sounds and lights emanating from the house he had turned into a laboratory, it had the added benefit of keeping poachers off his estate.

His main, but by no means only, interest was in electricity and many of his discoveries in that field are still valid today.

He once startled guests at a dinner party in 1816 by telling them: “By means of the electric agency, we shall be enabled to communicate our thoughts instantaneously with the utmost parts of the earth.”

While we owe a lot to the early scientists who laid the foundations of our modern comfortable existence, we often know little about their private lives.

This is not the case with Crosse and Brian has uncovered a lot about him, including odd facts like he was involved in an armed rebellion as a schoolboy, and accompanied the great scientist Michael Faraday to a seance.

The book also explains what sparked Crosse’s interest in electricity from the age of eight, which lasted until his death in 1855 in the same bedroom in which he had been born.

However, most people know of Crosse because of the belief that he inspired Mary Shelley to write her book Frankenstein, and that he accidentally created life in the form of mites during an experiment, which brought him to wide attention in Britain, Europe and America, and shook the world of science to its very foundations.

The story of the mysterious mites is detailed for the first time, and an attempt made to explain what they were.

The book includes the many ups and downs of his life, with much humour and a bit of scandal.

The last years of his life were his happiest after he married his second wife, who was 43 years younger than him.

Thanks to Brian for an unusual and interesting talk.

The Seige of Bristol - Ian Faulker

Posted on May 2, 2019            

Aided by slides, we welcomed Ian to give a talk on The Seige of Bristol.

The second siege of Bristol of the English Civil War lasted from 23 August 1645 until 10 September 1645, when the Royalist commander Prince Rupert surrendered the city he had captured from the Parliamentarians on 26 July 1643 to Lord Fairfax the commander of Parliament’s New Model Army.

Childrens' Hospice Southwest - Emma Parker (Ladies Invited)

Posted on April 18, 2019       

Today, a warm welcome was extended to the ladies who joined us.

The presentation was given by Emma Parker on behalf of Childrens’ Hospice Southwest.

For more than 25 years Children’s Hospice South West has been caring for children with life-threatening conditions by providing children’s hospice and professional family support services. They are dedicated to making the most of short and precious lives through the provision of the best possible hospice care for children and young people with life-limiting conditions. The care offered at each of the three hospices is not just about medical and nursing support for sick children but enriching lives of the children and their whole family.

They provide care and support to families living in the South West, who have children with life-limiting conditions. They provide specialist palliative care, respite for the whole family, a sibling service for brothers and sisters, emergency support, end of life care and a bereavement service for as long as is needed.

After this excellent presentation  by Emma, an impromptu collection was made which raised over £200.

A Tale of Three Villages - Alan Bateman

Posted on April 4, 2019           

Colnbrook, Harmondsworth and Longford were the three villages in todays talk.

Alan Bateman, Secretary of the Club gave the talk assisted by slides.

Three small villages slowly being eroded by Heathrow Airport and it’s planned expansion, hold some interesting historical facts.

Alan’s family owned farmland before and after the airport appeared. Some slides showed Alan as a young lad on the farm and tractor driving.

Alan picked out certain properties and buildings and then took us back through the history books, one with a gruesome tale.

The Ostrich Inn in Colnbrook dates back to 1106, although the current building was constructed in the 1500’s.

The hostelry is said to have hosted King John, who is rumoured to have stopped at the pub on the way to Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta.

According to local folklore, highwayman robber Dick Turpin used the inn as a hideout, escaping the Bow Street Runners by jumping out of a window.

But it was a series of murders in the 17th century which really put the pub on the map.

Rich guests at the inn started disappearing in mysterious circumstances under the reign infamous pub landlord Mr Jarman.

The guests would go to sleep upstairs in one of the rooms that had a magic four-poster bed in it.

It would tip backwards when they were fast asleep and tip them into a pot of boiling liquid, in the kitchen below, killing them instantly.Then they would throw the bodies into the brook behind the Inn!

Thank you Alan for a look back into your family history.

What's Happening at Worlebury Hillfort - William Fraher

Posted on March 21, 2019     

William Fraher, Chairman of  The Worlebury Hill Fort Group, said the monument is of international importance and must be preserved for future generations

Worlebury Hill fort, which is thought to have been created as a form of defence 700 years before the Romans arrived on British shores, is described as an ‘outstanding’ example of its type.

However, vandals moved parts of the structure, which is in Weston Woods, and Historic English re-registered it from being in a ‘vulnerable’ condition to ‘at risk’.

The Worlebury Hill Fort Group stepped in to save it and criticised North Somerset Council for not doing enough to remove the trees which are destroying the fort.

The council needed to install clearer signs to deter people from moving anything of archeological importance.

With the support of the Hill Fort Group, the council is planning to apply for funding to secure the fort’s future. If successful, the first grant for around £10,000 will pay for surveys to be carried out to assess what needs to be done.

It is expected the council may then bid for £200,000 to carry out works around the site.

Historic England says it is an ‘outstanding example’ of its type as so few of these forts were created along the coast.

Since the change in status, Historic England and the volunteer Worlebury Hill Fort Group have been trying to raise the profile of the site in the hope it will protect if from further vandalism in the future.

Scheduled monuments such as the hill fort are protected by law which make it an offence to damage, remove, or alter any part of it without consent.

North Somerset Council, which owns the structure, is working with Historic England to protect it and has cleared away some of the trees which were damaging the stones.

A very interesting talk today about a topic that is right on our doorstep!

The Bloodhound Project - Martin Evans

Posted on March 8, 2019    

Our Members were delighted to be able to welcome Bloodhound SSC Ambassador – Martin Evans

Martin covered the whole range of topics that make up the exciting history of the World Land Speed Record. We learnt that the land speed record (LSR) is the speed over a course of a measured mile, averaged over two runs. Two runs are required in opposite directions within one hour, and a new record must exceed the previous one by at least one percent to be validated

Martin explained that the journey began December 18th 1898, when Frenchman Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat reached an astonishing 39.24 mph driving a Jeantaud Duc electric powered car.

Martin took us through many of the interesting record attempts, including the controversy that arose in 1963, when the ‘Spirit of America’ was not recognised due to it being a three-wheeler!

The main thrust of Martin’s presentation was of course the current attempt to reach 1000 mph in Bloodhound. We enjoyed learning about the engineering challenges that face the team, the interaction with Schools and Universities which clearly enthuses and encourages our next generation of Engineers.

Martin referred to the tremendous commitment and hard work of Richard Nobel OBE. Richard was himself the driver and holder of the land speed record (633 mph) between 1983 and 1997 in Thrust 2 (a rocket propelled car).

Richard Noble was also the Project Director for Thrust SSC the vehicle that holds the current record of 763mph. He is now the ‘driving’ force behind the Bloodhound SSC project.

We had a cockpit view of practice runs in Bloodhound’s predecessor – Thrust SSC, driven by Wing Commander Andy Green in 1997 at Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Andy Green will also be the driver for the attempt on the record in the Bloodhound SSC at 1000 mph

However, Bloodhound Project Ltd went into administration in October 2018 due to lack of funds to maintain the project’s monthly overheads. By early December, it was announced that the project was facing immediate closure and plans were put in place by the Administrators to sell off the remaining assets including the car for scrap value.

Following this announcement, a series of very fortunate circumstances led to the purchase of the assets and intellectual property by an Engineering enthusiast. A new company was formed called Grafton LSR Ltd which is the new legal owner of Bloodhound.

Since this date, the new owner has been busy working behind the scenes with a core team to work out if its possible to save the land speed record project with new sponsors and partners.

Scam Workshop - Mike Keig

Posted on February 21, 2019 

A slightly different presentation today regarding subject matter, but nontheless very appropriate in this day and age of the ‘internet’.

Mike Keig gave an enlightening talk and although many members were aware of scams, it was great to have the consequencies reinforced.

The talk included slides and video clips and with the ability to ask questions along the way, this provided a very much ‘workshop’ feel.

Some members offered first hand experiences as well.

Being reminded to be aware and cautious was the name of the game.

The members showed their appreciation in the usual manner.

Aviation Comes to Bristol - Arthur Spencer

Posted on February 7, 2019   

We welcomed back yet again, Arthur, who has given such enthralling talks to us in the past.

Today, Arthur told the story, as per the title, of how the aviation industry developed in the Bristol region.

A lot of research had gone into this talk and we were thankful on being enlightened on the subject.

Thank you Arthur, no doubt we will see you again……………………

Three Short Talks - Members

Posted on January 24, 2019   

Our first meeting of 2019 kicked off with, as the title suggests, ‘Three Short Talks’.

The idea for such a meeting was hatched by one of our long serving members , initially as an insurance topic in case the weather was so bad, that the arranged speaker could not make the venue.

As it turned out, it was quite a glorious morning today although a bit on the ‘chilly’ side.

Now that our insurance has been used, we hope that the weather does not turn for the worst for future meetings!

The three talks were: Life as a wife of an army recruit, a whistle stop tour of Bristol museums and a short demonstration on First Aid resucitation.

Thanks to the participants including Ruth and Resusci Annie!