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Heritage Network 20/02/2021 150 150 SGSocAdmin

Heritage Network 20/02/2021


The fourth Heritage Network event was held online on Saturday 20th February 2020 and, building on the success of the earlier events, there were 23 people participating from 15 different organisations. This included two new organisations; Thorney Museum and the Welland Rivers Trust.

As the pandemic is coming towards the end organisations are starting to think about coming out of lockdown and planning to reopen and recommence events and this was the focus of much of the discussion. Many activities have been moved online with remote talks and lectures to maintain interest and these have attracted large audiences. One of the challenges will be to combine the realand the virtualworlds as we start to return to something approaching normality.

Some of the updates and possible ideas discussed at the meeting are shown below, if there is anything important that I have missed please let me know.

National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant Application:

An application has been made to support the work of the Heritage Network and includes;

Development of a shared website and virtual museum,
Website development and social media training, and
Support for museum training and engagement.

An announcement on the success of the application has been delayed until March 2021.

Website and Social Media Training:

An outline was given of the type of training that could be provided through the network including website development and maintainence as well as the use of social media to promote activities and projects. The emphasis was on the different platforms for communication that are available and how they can be linked.

Welland Rivers Trust:

Perry from Welland Rivers Trust explained the role of the trust and some of the projects in which they are involved. In particular they are looking for history and storys from the Welland. If anybody has any information they would like to share then please email Perry on


Chain Bridge Forge Museum are working on a number of projects including memories of the Spalding Flower Parade. If anybody has any photographs or other material please visit the CBFM website or contact them on


A number of organisations are having difficulties in attracting and retaining volunteers, particularly during the current coronavirus pandemic. If anybody has any ideas or strategies that have been effective please get in touch.

Below are some of the websites discussed during the meeting and which may be of interest/use to members. (Subterranea Britannica)

The date for the next online networking event is Saturday 17th April 2021, details to follow. If you know of other groups or individuals to include in the network, please let me have their contact details and I will send them an invitation. If there any other topics you would particularly like to talk about at the next session let me know and I will include them on the programme.

This note and the contact list will also be available on the SGS website (



The table below shows the contact information for the organisations involved in the Local History Network sponsored by Spalding Gentlemens Society. If any of the details are incorrect or you would like to provide more information then please email If there are any other group who would like to be added to the list thenplease get in touch.



Contact (email)

Ayscoughfee Hall

Medieval merchantshouse and local history museum.

Boston Hanse Group

History of the Hanseatic League in Boston

Chain Bridge Forge Museum

Blacksmiths museum and local history archive.

Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum

Aviation and local history.


Local history of the Deepings.

Fane Road Archaeology Group (FRAG)

Archaeology of Peterborough.


Archaeology of the Fenlands.

Fleet Delvers

Local history of Fleet and surroundingarea.

Gosberton Local History Group

History of Gosberton and South Holland.

Heritage Lincolnshire

History and heritage of Lincolnshire.



Contact (email)

Holbeach Cemetery Chapels

Local history.

Louth Museum

History of Louth and surrounding area.

PeakirkArchaeological Survey Team(PAST)

Local history and archaeology of Peakirk.

Peterborough Archive Services

Archive of Peterborough records.

Pinchbeck Engine Museum

Industrial Archaeology.

Red Barn Creative

Heritage, creativity, craft and digital skills.

Sleaford Civic Trust

Heritage and history of Sleaford.

Sleaford Museum

Local history.

Spalding Cemetery

(Friends Of)

Local History

Spalding Gentlemens Society

Museum, archive and research hub for general/local history.

Spalding U3A History Group

General and local history.

David Lawson



Contact (email)

Strawberry Glass

Stained glass crafts.

Thorney Museum

Local history and heritage museum.

Trigge Library

Sixteenth century library.

Welland Rivers Trust

Conservation, restoration and education.

West Deepings Heritage Group

Local historyand heritage.

Wisbech and Fenland Museum

Local history of Wisbech and the Fenland

If there are any errors in the above information or any other organisations that should be included please let me know so the list can be amended.

Musings from the Museum 17 150 150 SGSocAdmin

Musings from the Museum 17


by Alastair Goodrum.

4. Colour: Littlebury Holbeach 2011/2.​Side view of the tomb in 2011. ©AJG 2011

  It seems such a long time ago when, one evening at the end of October 2011, at an informal gathering in the Lecture Room, a sample of photographs taken from the Society’s glass-negative collection was shown as a Powerpoint presentation to members for the first time. This came about because, over a couple of years, I had made steady progress in the (self-imposed) process of digitising this rather vulnerable collection of about 800, 5″x7″ glass plates into positive computer images. With about 60% completed, I felt it was time to let some of them see the light of day for the first time in over one hundred years. It also echoed the president’s view that more ought to be done to utilise the Lecture Room to air some of the Society’s collections and presentations like this one seemed like a step in the right direction. Since this early work, many more negatives have come to light, in out-of-the-way corners and the collection has been found to be about twice the size first thought.

  The collection includes both glass negatives, smaller glass lantern-slides (positives) and some examples of early ‘plastic’ film, all estimated to date between 1890 and 1910. Much of the material is thought to be the work of E. E. Smith, a past member of the Society and at one time its curator. His main interest, apart from photography, lay in the production and study of stained glass and there are a number of negatives of examples of the latter art. However, it is known that other members of the Society were active in the local Photographic Club and so it is possible we are seeing some of their work, too. The collection is an eclectic mix of events; panoramic views; streets and buildings; people at work or posing in groups or as individuals.

  Card boxes containing the plates are numbered and the very basic original index lists about half of the collection’s contents. Sadly, many items are described as ‘unknown’ and it is hoped, now that the back of the digitization task has been broken, investigation can be carried out to identify the ‘mystery’ images – although I fear many will never be resolved. However, it is satisfying to report that some successes have already been made on this front.

  By way of illustration, in Box No.53 contains twelve negatives originally indexed as ‘unknown views’. These show hilly, rocky countryside, a croft, steam ships, piers and a small community with a church and to me, the views suggested Scotland. Paper prints were sent to a friend who is a Scottish local history ‘buff’ with a simple plea: “any ideawhere these are?” His response was: “probably Iona and Mull.” Sure enough, when the community/church view was compared to a modern view (via Google and my own holiday snaps) they had both been taken from an almost identical camera position: on a ferry from Mull – “over the sea to Iona” – as the song goes.

1. B/W: 53j Iona 1900.​Isle of Iona from steamer ferry from Mull, circa 1900. Church in need of repair to roof and tower. Note shape of hill in background and row of cottages near a small inlet.


2. Colour: Iona 2012 1 Box 53.​​Isle of Iona taken from the ferry to the island from Fionnphort harbour on the southern tip of the Isle of Mull. Church repaired. ©AJG 2012.


  Closer to home, in Holbeach Church is the Littlebury tomb – photographed on twelve plates in Box 21. A local monument, of course, but nothing informative was written in the collection index. It is simply listed as ‘Littlebury Monument.’ So, with notebook in hand, I called in at the church to see Sir Humphrey for the first time. My visit coincided with an art &craft exhibition and I hoped there were ‘people who knew’ present. However, it seems the sum total of all knowledge was on view in a single small piece of typescript (about A5-size) mounted in a picture frame, propped up against the recumbent form of our trusty knight. This short note was copied and will be added to the SGS collection index. During this small investigation, it was found that the tomb had been moved within the church since the original photos were taken.

3. B/W: 21.008 Holbeach Church Littlebury.​​Overhead view of the Littlebury tomb in Holbeach Church, c.1900.


4. Colour: Littlebury Holbeach 2011/2.​Side view of the tomb in 2011. ©AJG 2011


There is a small quantity of Kodak plastic-film negatives that have intriguing Alpine views among them – probably taken by a member with one of the new-fangled compact Pocket or Box cameras becoming available at the turn of the 19th/20thcentury, who seems to have travelled via Paris and Geneva to the (then) unspoiled area around Chamonix. Having consulted the Alpine Club of Great Britain, they quickly identified these views of mountains, valleys and glaciers around Mont Blancand thus the previous ‘unknown views’ index entry has been vastly improved.

8. Google image of Mont Blanc Hotel in 2010 with buff-coloured Hotel Couronne on left at end of street. Road level has been raised and front door area of Hotel Mont Blanc altered; but the name is still visible on the wall.


7. B/W Box 5.020.​Ladies outside the Mont Blanc hotel with Hotel Couronne in background. Chamonix c1900.


  An ‘unknown chapel’ turned out to be a bit of a teaser, but was gradually narrowed down to Weston St John, near Spalding. The chapel is almost unchanged but the whole area surrounding it has been entirely built upon, to the extent that the chapel can no longer be seen from the original camera viewpoint – a factor applying to many of the collection’s images. The growth of trees and houses over a hundred years have, understandably, greatly hidden the old views.

5. B/W 47.007.​A south Lincs chapel? – one of the ‘unknown locations’ – identified now as St John The Evangelist church, Broadgate, Weston Hills; with school building at right.


6. Modern view of St John’s church, Weston Hills, now enclosed by housing development. ©AJG 2015.


  I am sure that the SGS Council will, in due course and Covid-rules permitting, make the collection and perhaps its accompanying Powerpoint presentation, available to a wider audience, since there seems little point in keeping such a fascinating collection of bygone images in a dark cupboard far from the light of day.


Musings from the Museum 16 150 150 SGSocAdmin

Musings from the Museum 16

Musings from the medal department.

The inter allied victory medal 1914-19

Of all the medals in the world the allied victory medal must surely be the most collected as the variants created, often in small numbers, combine to make a fantastic collection as very often there are many variants of a single medal found. I only intend this to be an introduction to the subject as Alexander Laslo has managed to fill a book on the whole subject. At the close of the great war at the Paris peace conference it was proposed by marshal Ferdinand Foch that the allied nations should issue a medal to commemorate the conclusion of hostilities. It was decided that each nation would make its own medals, and to avoid wholesale exchange as souvenirs between combatants, be similar with the wording appearing in the language of the issuing nation. The basic brief was as follows,

The ribbon would be of the double rainbow type with the red to the centre and colours merging to violet at the outer edges and be 39mm wide.

The medal would be a 36mm bronze disc with a winged figure of  victory on the obverse or the nations own interpretation of victory.

The reverse would have the wording “The great war for civilisation 1914-1919” or the national equivalent. National alms or symbols were permitted.

The nations who agreed to the medal are as follows  Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Great Britain and dominions, Greece, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Siam, South Africa and lastly the united States of America. It is important to note that of these nations who agreed to the medal, Poland never actually produced one.

Examples of allied variants.

Top L-R  Belgium, France, USA,

bottom L-R  Czechoslovakia, Italy, Japan.

The British medal designed by William McMillan followed the brief with a very stylish winged victory on the obverse but with a fairly plain reverse with the stated wording within a wreath border. This same medal was also used for those who qualify for the award in the dominions. South Africa had a medal which differed from the British version in that the wording on the reverse was written in English and Dutch, approx 75 000 were issued and made at Woolwich arsenal. The British version was originally made in a dull bronze as are those of the other nations, however it has been reported that senior officers complained of this as it looked dirty against highly polished silver medals normally issued for gallantry and campaigns. The result was the medal was re-issued with a polished and lacquered finish with those having been given the dull versions able to exchange them for the lacquered example which most did but dull early issues are still found. Approx 5.75 million British victory medals were issued. These were made between Woolwich arsenal and Wright & son.  All British, dominion and South African examples are found with machine impressed naming of the person awarded around the circumference of the rim. A point to note is the dating of the British medal, although the war on the western front finished in 1918 certain operations carried out in Hedjaz and by the Aden field force carried on until the end of January 1919.

Left, front and reverse of South African Issue

Right, original British and Commonwealth Front and later reverse.

We have in the society collection half a dozen of the allied issues which at present are not on general display. On top of these we hold many of the later British issue which are found widely throughout the museum mainly in groups. To my knowledge and as far as I can remember we do not have an example of an early dull issue. In between the lockdowns I managed to get into the museum and start a re-vamp of the display of medals. A cabinet to the right of the Grundy map once contained lots of medals in envelopes and not on display these have now been removed and ribboned as required and are on display in the new drawers in the lecture room. Labels are still required for these as handwritten tatty scraps of paper are doing the job at present. It is my intent that in the future when we are allowed back into the museum the cabinet under the Grundy map will be cleared out and medals housed elsewhere. This will then give us a cabinet of four compartments dictated by the glass top panels to be used as a special exhibition which can be changed frequently so when the public view the museum there should be new items to look at including the stories of those to who the medals belong. The victory medals will be part of  the first instalment supplemented by some loans. While in lockdown Ian and Sharon have been working hard finding information and research hidden in the society with reference to the medals. So we are on the verge of putting together the stories which have for so long been hidden and dormant. If anyone has an interest in the collection and would like to help I would like some assistance with some of the more mundane chores , labelling, researching and sorting out the collection although not that interesting these tasks do take up loads of time and I am not the best at computer skills and work full time.

Although there are no time limits on the medals side of things and exhibits will be constantly changing around as new information is found, I hope the temporary display cabinet will be in use by the end of the year ready for public viewing in 2022. All this though is subject to covid policy but it does require doing to preserve the stories of our collection for future generations, When I took over as the curator I had no idea of what  information and objects were present to supplement the medals as they have been spread around the museum and not properly catalogued, little by little this is changing. My mission is to tell the story, any recruits out there please contact me then I can sign you up for the duration.

Simon Thompson

Curator of medals

Musings from the Museum 15 150 150 SGSocAdmin

Musings from the Museum 15

              Bible chain or is it?

A Universal Goddess?

       by Patty Harris

Long, long ago, in a place called normal life, I was asked to try and investigate a museum piece.

I bet, like me, you have walked past this dozens of times without sparing it a second glance as it hangs on the wall to the right of the Maples Gallery door.

A short description: It is labelled as a Bible chain but it has two figures, the larger one at the top, linked to a smaller one and a few links down it terminates in a fan-shape rather like an upside-down peacock tail.

The figures are rather crudely modelled cast in metal, the top figure being female with wings and holding what look like snakes, or dolphins, she has a tall head dress and full gown.

The lower one is much stranger in that she has two faces, a Greco-Roman dress with breasts exposed.

My first thought was to look at as many bible chains as I could, museums collections, church relics and auction sites, not one out of many hundreds looked like this.  Not only does ours have pagan half-naked goddesses, it also has none of the fixings required to keep a bible chained, so I abandoned that line of enquiry.

As the peacock is the symbol of Persia, I started there and immediately came upon a goddess called Astarte, not exactly as depicted on our chain, but she did have wings and held two lion cubs. I then went on to Minoan, Zaroastrian, Hittite, Greek, Mesopotamian and as many others of middle Europe and Asia and, amazingly, found versions of her almost everywhere.

The name in its Canaanite form is Astoreth and is mentioned in the Book of Jeramiah, to the Caananites she is the Goddess of War and Sexual Love, a strange combination. She may also a very old Egyptian Goddess, one of the first children of the creation myth.   The name appears to stick with her and she is,variously, Goddess of the Harvest,  Mother Goddess (that is, like Isis in the Egyptian pantheon, the first mother) Goddess of Nature and others.  I was amazed that despite my love of all things ancient I had never heard of her!

I then tried the other figure,  there are some two-faced and even three faced deities in the above pantheon, but none are like the chain figure, Janus is the only Greek god with two faces and he is definitely male .  I found absolutely nothing that resembled this figure.

So, sadly, I feel I’ve failed in this quest, there is no definite evidence pointing to what this object actually is, my feeling is that it may be some kind of souvenir albeit with some age, possibly from Istanbul, which would have been a good spot for amalgamating all things ancient godlike for tourists, rather like the things you can buy today, only less phallic. (In joke, for those who have visited this City).

If there are any among you who are particularly interested in this era of history and can shed any more light, I would love to hear from you.  For my own sanity I must refrain from looking at any more pictures of Goddesses, my brain is addled!

Conclusion.  Is it almost definitely not a bible chain, but what would you call it?




Heritage Network 21/11/2020 150 150 SGSocAdmin

Heritage Network 21/11/2020


The third Heritage Network event was held online on Saturday 21st November 2020 and, building on the success of the earlier events, there were 23 people participating from 15 different organisations. 

I think we have all been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic and by the latest national lockdown that has meant that museums have been closed and meetings and events have all had to be cancelled. The response has been to increasingly move activities online by developing website access and holding remote talks and lectures that have attracted large audiences. The focus of this Heritage Network Event was to share experiences and ideas on how to manage during the pandemic as well as how we as a group can work together in the future. 

Some of the possible ideas discussed at the meeting are shown below. 

Fen and Wold Heritage Network:

To build a network of mutually supporting organisations as a ‘centre for fenland studies’ to share information and knowledge as well as promote the the heritage and attractions of the region.

Fen and Wold Heritage Website:

To develop a shared website with access to all participating organisations enabling them to link and promote their activities and projects.


To put in place a programme of training initially focussing on the development of IT skills including website development and management and the use of social media to raise the profile of organisations. 

Joint Projects:

To investigate the possibilty of joint projects including training, education and engagement, e.g. joint exhibitions, publications and conferences. 

Grant Funding:

To seek funding opportunities to help develop and support the heritage network.

The date for the next online networking event is Saturday 20th February 2021, details to follow. If you know of other groups or individuals to include in the network please let me have their contact details and I will send them an invitation.  The aim of the next session will be to build on the ideas from this meeting and hopefully to discuss   launching the programme of training. If there any other topics you would like to talk about at the next session let me know and I will include them on the programme.


The table below shows the contact information for the organisations involved in the Local History Network sponsored by Spalding Gentlemen’s Society. If any of the details are incorrect or you would like to provide more information then please email If there are any other group who would like to be added to the list then please get in touch.

Organisation Interests Contact (email)
Ayscoughfee Hall Medieval merchant’s house and local history museum. 

Boston Hanse Group History of the Hanseatic League in Boston 

Chain Bridge Forge Museum Blacksmith’s museum and local history archive. 

Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum Aviation and local history. 

Deepings Heritage Local history of the Deepings. 

Fane Road Archaeology Group (FRAG) Archaeology of Peterborough. 

FenArch Archaeology of the Fenlands. 

Fleet Delvers Local history of Fleet and surrounding area. 
Gosberton Local History Group History of Gosberton and South Holland. 
Heritage Lincolnshire History and heritage of Lincolnshire. 

Organisation Interests Contact (email)
Holbeach Cemetery Chapels Local history. 

Louth Museum History of Louth and surrounding area. 

Oxford Archaeology East Archaeology.

Clemency Cooper 

Peakirk Archaeological Survey Team (PAST) Local history and archaeology of Peakirk. 

Avril Lumley-Prior 

Peterborough Archive Services Archive of Peterborough records. 

Pinchbeck Engine Museum Industrial Archaeology. 

Red Barn Creative Heritage, creativity, craft and digital skills. 

Lorena Hodgson 

Sleaford Civic Trust Heritage and history of Sleaford. 

Sleaford Museum Local history. 
Spalding Gentlemen’s Society Museum, archive and research hub for general and local history 

Spalding U3A History Group General and local history. David Lawson 

Strawberry Glass Stained glass crafts. 

Gillian Wing 

Organisation Interests Contact (email)
Trigge Library Sixteenth century library. 
West Deepings Heritage Group Local history and heritage. 

Wisbech and Fenland Museum Local history of Wisbech and the Fenland 

Musings from the Museum 14 1024 768 SGSocAdmin

Musings from the Museum 14

Daniel Cross Bates (1868 – 1954) Clergyman and Meteorologist

by Richard Buck, Curator of Archaeology

It is sometimes interesting to observe the way that small things from your past develop into something much larger and more interesting in later life…

As a child my paternal Grandparents lived in a bungalow along Hawthorn Bank in Spalding. The bungalow, sadly, is no longer there, but I remember visiting my Grandparents in the early 1970’s and meeting their neighbour, a rather pleasant fellow they called Arthur, but who I knew as Mr Bates. I hadn’t thought of Arthur Bates for many years, until it became my pleasure to become a member of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society and latterly curator of Archaeology, that the name began to crop up again and I decided to investigate, not only for my own satisfaction, but to allow some artefacts in the Archaeology cabinet to gain provenance and discover something about their history.

The Moa bones were the catalyst, and my investigations began.  The Moa was a tall, flightless bird from New Zealand, long considered extinct, its remains being found on both North and South Islands and being one of the society’s more popular exhibits. From information on labels either attached to the bones or displayed nearby, I determined that the artefacts had been presented by Daniel Cross Bates but knew nothing more except the name.

                                      Leg bones of the giant moa donated to the SGS by Daniel Cross Bates.

The easiest place to look was on the internet and I must admit to being quite overwhelmed at the information I was able to find. Bates was far more well known in the antipodes than in the country of his birth and is often referred to there as ‘The Weather Man’.

He led a very long and interesting life, being born in Spalding and passing away in Wellington New Zealand. Bates was born on 9 June 1868 to Noah Bates, a farmer of 48 acres from Spalding in Lincolnshire and Louisa Bates (nee Cross) and was eventually one of seven siblings. He was educated at Spalding Grammar School and later Salisbury Cathedral school. By 1890 Bates had decided that he would make a career of the Clergy and entered the College of St Augustine in Canterbury. After ordination as a priest in Newcastle, Bates soon found himself heading towards Australia and by 1893 he was curate of St John, Wagga Wagga.  In late 1893 he married a girl from Sydney, Elise Abigail, with whom he was to spend the rest of his life.

By 1898 he and his wife had settled permanently in New Zealand. From here Bates became an Army Chaplain. He served with the 9th New Zealand Contingent and attained the rank of Chaplain-Colonel. The Boer War proved to be a changing point in Bates life. He contracted Enteric Fever in which one symptom was impaired voice and as a result he was obliged to retire from the church in 1903 as he was no longer able to deliver sermons. On his return to New Zealand his interest in all things meteorological gave him he opportunity to join the staff of the Colonial Museum, in which he was able to assist in helping to sort out a large amounts of climatological work for the Weather Reporting Office, of which he became Director in 1909 until his retirement in 1927. During this he was Director of Meteorology for the Army, specifically concerned with the meteorological requirements of military aviation. On his retirement he was appointed consulting Meteorologist to the New Zealand Government.

Bates probably became re-associated with Spalding sometime between 1919 and 1920.  On 5 July 1919 he and his wife set sail on the Commonwealth and Dominion Line Steamer the SS Port Denison bound for London. He was heading for the Meteorological Conference to be held in Paris, stopping over in England and presumably making his way back to Spalding. When you consider that Europe was at this time engaged in a pandemic of Spanish Flu, it was a very brave thing for him to have done! He left Europe, bound home for New Zealand in January 1920 and the records of the Gentlemen’s Society show that he was made an honorary member in October that same year.

From the Society acceptance books post 1920, Bates becomes a keen donator to the society, including many antipodean artefacts. We do not know if Bates brought anything with him in 1919, intending to donate to the Society, or whether the majority were sent over from New Zealand as gifts after his return.  It is clear however, that the Society forged an important link by making Bates an honorary member.

Daniel Cross Bates was indeed a remarkable man. In later life he helped establish the Wellington Zoo and became the first President of the Numismatic Society.  He was also a fluent speaker of Greek, being interested in the Greek Orthodox Church and its community in New Zealand. From humble beginnings Bates became a very learned and well-travelled man, he had connections with both the Church and the Army, he became known as ‘The Weather Man’ for his interests in Meteorology and he found time to return to his roots and acquaint himself with the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, the museum of which benefit greatly from his donations and gifts from the other side of the World… I am sure his descendants, including the late Arthur Bates, would be duly proud of their illustrious ancestor and his great achievements.

He passed away on 7th August 1954. In an obituary in ‘The Lincolnshire Free Press’ he was described as being one of the finest students Spalding Grammar School ever had. So next time you browse in the Archaeology cabinet and see the Moa bones, spare a thought for Daniel Cross Bates, a forgotten son of Spalding.

Musings from the Museum 13 1024 348 SGSocAdmin

Musings from the Museum 13

Captain Christopher Middleton’s Map and Book

-Jonathan Dobbs, SGS Member & Volunteer Coordinator

A couple of weeks ago my Father was given a birthday present from his family to enable both him, and my Mother, to keep in touch with their grandchildren.

Advertised as an easy to use video calling device, Portal from Facebook also has the slogan: ‘If you can’t be there, feel there’.

I am not too keen on the advertising slogan – I am more impressed with Facebook’s portal – but my favourite portal lies elsewhere. Since I first entered its Broad Street home Spalding Gentlemen’s Society has become my portal to the past.

One Tuesday morning at the Society I came across a map of Hudson Bay, Canada. A couple of handwritten lines at the bottom of the map informed me that it had been donated together with an account of a voyage to discover a Northwest Passage. Our librarian Dustin found the accompanying book which transported me to a frozen eighteenth century landscape where I began to learn about Spalding Gentlemen’s Society member Captain Christopher Middleton.

Middletons Map of Hudson Bay, labelled by an early SGS member


                   Middleton’s Map of Hudson Bay, presented to the SGS in 1743

He was the first sea captain to become a Fellow of The Royal Society and also the first to receive its most prestigious award the Copley Medal.

He became a captain in 1725 when given command of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s ship Hannah. The following year The Royal Society published his paper on the variation of the magnetic needle in Hudson Bay and he continued to supply the Society with similar observations collected during a dozen annual trading voyages from England to Canada.

These Royal Society papers changed Middleton’s life as they attracted the attention of Arthur Dobbs, an influential Irish politician and hard-line free trader.  Dobbs wanted to end the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trade monopoly by finding the Northwest Passage, a route westward from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through Canada.

One of several editions of the “Vindication”, with an inscription recording its donation to the SGS library by Middleton

Dobbs found an ally in Middleton as the captain was one of a long line of seamen who dreamed of finding the Northwest Passage.

What followed was years of lobbying by both Dobbs and Middleton before they finally got the blessing of King George II in 1740 for the first-ever British naval expedition to set sail the following year in search of the Northwest Passage through Hudson Bay.

In order to lead the 1741 expedition Middleton had to give up his long and successful career with the Hudson’s Bay Company to take up a temporary commission in the Royal Navy.

After sailing further in Hudson Bay than any previous vessel, the two ship expedition returned to England the following year with Middleton concluding that there was no Northwest Passage to be found.

It was the Society’s copy of Middleton’s map of the expedition’s discoveries that introduced me to him. He presented both the map and his self-penned book ‘A Vindication of The Conduct of Captain Christopher Middleton’ to the Society in 1743.

Musings from the Museum 12 1024 683 SGSocAdmin

Musings from the Museum 12

I Felt Like Alice in Wonderland (Italian & English)

Irene Regolo

[*We are delighted to have many international members, volunteers and correspondents. To ensure their voices are captured, we present their posts in their own words, followed by a translation where necessary.]

Durante il mio viaggio attraverso l’Inghilterra, casualmente scoprii la SGS e il suo museo, ero abituata a visitare grandi e rinomati musei, ma quando vi entrai pe la prima volta, fu come scoprire un piccolo gioiello celato a sguardi indiscreti.

Era come essere proiettati nella Storia, in un tempo sospeso che si mostrava poco a poco.

Quello che mi colpii di più fu l’atmosfera particolare che vi regnava e la moltitudine, la varietà e la preziosità degli oggetti esposti che mi fece pensare ad una sorta di Wunderkammer, ordinata ed esposta con grazia, perizia ed eleganza.

Tutto era come doveva essere, aveva il fascino di una partitura musicale, non coglierlo era quasi impossibile, almeno per me.

Questo contribuì a capire meglio il mio personale rapporto con l’Arte ed il Restauro, le motivazioni e la curiosità che mi spingono in quella direzione ed attraverso le quali mi sento appagata.

In quell’occasione, al termine della visita e aver parlato con i volontari presenti presi la decisione di aderire alla SGS e di attivarmi per contribuire per quanto mi è possibile, collaborando e contribuendo a far conoscere ed apprezzare ciò che ci deriva dal passato, sul quale si basa il nostro presente.

An 18th century deck of playing cards from the SGS museum (SPAGS 65000047).

During my journey across England, I casually came upon SGS, and its museums.  I was used to visiting large and famous museums, but when I entered there for the first time, it was was like finding a rare, tiny and precious jewel.

It was as if I had been sent back in time, to a place where time itself was suspended, edging out a little at a time.

What struck me the most was the particular atmosphere that reigned there, and the vast variety of precious items exhibited, that made me think of a kind of Wunderkammer (cabinet of curiosities) carefully exhibited with grace, skill and elegance.

Everything was it should have been, it had the charm of a musical score, to not fall under its spell was impossible, at least for me.

This helped me to understand my personal rapport with Art and Restoration, and justify the motivation and curiosity that drives me in that direction, giving me great personal satisfaction.

On that occasion, at the end of my visit and after speaking to the volunteers present, I decided to join SGS.  My aim is to help, where possible, to collaborate and contribute in making known and to appreciate that what derives from our past, is also the foundation of our future.

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Musings from the Museum 11

Combat Over the Trenches

Alistair Goodrum

Their donor sadly unknown; tucked away among the treasures in our Library are two unique books that, to an aviation historian, are little gems.  These are a pair of Log Books – not of the more familiar, personal, aircrew type – but of two individual aeroplanes that flew during the First World War.  Each book contains the service history of an aeroplane known as the FE2b (Farman Experimental 2, model ‘b’).  Over the Western Front in 1917, these were used for bombing and photo/reconnaissance and even – rather optimistically – as an escort fighter.  The FE2b was the main production model of this two-seat, single-engine, ‘pusher’, aeroplane manufactured by the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough and outsourced to Boulton & Paul; Weir; and Ransome, Sims & Jefferies who between them built about 1,900 b-models.

Due to the high rate of loss in combat or accidents, life-span of these rapidly mass-produced aeroplanes was short enough, but one machine can only be described as ‘a real Friday-afternoon job’, since it gave nothing but trouble every time it flew.  Serial A5472, built by Boulton & Paul in Norwich, was issued to No.11 Squadron in France on 7 January 1917 but saw no combat action.  Various wing components were faulty and replaced and its engine was unreliable.  On 18 March the engine seized up in the air and A5472 was wrecked during the ensuing landing.  After nine weeks service, the RAF gave up on it, packed it in a crate on 28 March and shipped it back to ‘Blighty’ for spares!

Royal Aircraft Factory FE2b, serial number A5478, presentation aircraft ‘Gold Coast No10’; from same batch as SGS aircraft logbooks for A5472 & A5485

The second log book relates to FE2b, serial number A5485, also Boulton & Paul-built. It was what is known as a ‘Presentation Aircraft’.  It had ‘BOMBAY No.1’ painted on the side of the cockpit nacelle and had been ‘bought’ by the gift of money from wealthy citizens of that Indian city.  As an indication of the attrition rate, no less than nine aeroplanes bore that particular name – as each one was written off, its replacement was given its predecessor’s name.  On shipment to France in parts, in a wooden crate, A5485 was assembled and issued to No.23 Squadron based at Baizeau airfield on 15 February 1917.  On 13 March it was flown by pilot, Sgt James Cunniffe and his gunner Airman First Class (AM1) Strong, before Cunniffe was posted away from No.23 to No.11 Squadron.  In action with No.11 on 13 April 1917 he encountered the famous Red Baron (Manfred von Richthofen) flying an Albatros DIII fighter.  Sgt Cunniffe was shot down and wounded but was one of the few Red Baron victims (Cuniffe was his 42nd) to survive and quite coincidentally this Welshman spent two years in Johnson Hospital, Spalding recovering and recuperating from his wounds.

At 2.15pm on 24 March 1917, pilot Sgt Edward Critchley, a twenty-four-year old American from Ohio and his observer/gunner, Airman First Class Frank Russell, aged twenty, took off in A5485 as part of an escort for a group of photo reconnaissance aircraft.  The lumbering FE2b was far from an ideal aeroplane for fighter escort duties and was certainly no match for the nimble German fighters currently opposing them.

That day, it was bad luck that Critchley and Russell should run into the next best air fighter in the German Air Service at that time, Leutnant Werner Voss of Jagdstaffel 2 (Fighter Squadron 2).  Voss was a fighter pilot ‘ace’ with 20 air victories to his name already and his victory tally would climb to 48 before he was killed in action.  Flying an Albatros DIII, Lt Voss swooped at the RAF aeroplane; his gunfire was deadly accurate and his twenty-first victim dived to the ground.  AM1 Russell was killed outright and Sgt Critchley was wounded in the leg but despite his wound, Critchley managed to crash-land the stricken aeroplane behind British lines.

A5485 was damaged beyond repair and the logbook records its demise: “Forced down in combat near Achiet-le-Grand with extensive damage by machine gun fire.  Total time in the air since ‘purchase’: 7hours 45minutes.  Operational flying time: 2hours 0minutes.  It was dismantled, packed in a crate and sent back to England on 28 March 1917.  It had lasted just six weeks at the Front.

Why don’t you have a browse through our Library – you just never know what you might find.

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Musings from the Museum 10

U3A Shared Learning Projects with the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society

Dr Mandy Topp

The Spalding Gentlemen’s Society holds some thirty plus boxes of documents relating to Sir Joseph Banks and the Stanhope family who inherited his Revesby estate. Over the last few months members of Sleaford U3A have been working with the SGS, in a Shared Learning Project, to catalogue the contents. The SGS provided training in how to handle, catalogue and describe documents. Then the SLP members set to the task. The ultimate aim is to develop a comprehensive inventory of the boxes’ contents so that it can be cross-referenced and made available to aid researchers.

These boxes are proving to be a wonderous mixture of regional, estate and personal documents covering almost two hundred years of the Revesby estate history. Everything from detailed records of Lincolnshire’s canal network and eighteenth-century drainage improvements to very personal items such as school textbooks and even love letters. Some mirror national historical events, such as the setting up of a powered weaving factory in Louth for which Banks sought advice from ‘Mr Arkwright’. While others deal with very local issues, for example the exchange of letters between Edward Banks-Stanhope and the neighbouring vicar as to how a hare came to be shot on Revesby land. This fascinating project has even produced some significant finds. For instance, a copy of the second act for the building of the Sleaford Canal. As this act failed, copies of the act were discarded making this a rare and important document.

Signature of Sir Joseph Banks

From this wealth of material each cataloguer has their personal favourites. These include the documents about local elections in Lincoln and Boston which include an affidavit swearing that one of the candidates had been seen to have raised a glass to ‘The King Across the Water’. The long list of curiosities including ‘exploding glass balls’ and ‘jumping frogs’ but sadly no explanation as to how or why the list was made. The magistrate records showing Sir Joseph Bank’s involvement in the planning and organising of the ‘transportation of felons to Botany Bay’ and that some wives opted to go with their husbands. A very personalized cartoon about a recent local election drawn for Banks-Stanhope by a house guest.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis means that the project has had to be put on hold for the time being. The U3A members were sad to have to stop so jumped at the chance to join the SGS in an online Shared Learning Project in the form of the Stukeley Memoirs Project. This involves the transcription and annotation of the SGS’s five unique volumes gifted by William Stukeley. These slender notebooks offer a personal, first-hand account of the Royal Society from 1740 to 1750. This project is proving to be just as fascinating and simulating. A great way to pass the lock-down.