Programme 2019-20 – COVID-19

In common with all organisations like ourselves, we have cancelled our talks programme for the foreseeable future. This page will be updated when we are able to resume, and next year’s planned programme (which has been arranged) will be published soon, even if we don’t know when it will be possible to deliver it.


12 September 2019 The Art of Underground Travel by David Burnell

10 October 2109 The Amersham Martyrs  by Dr Peter Burrows

14 November 2019 Mabel Neville: the story of a local survivor of the Lusitania by Greg McCormick

12 December 2019 The recipe book of Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale by Dr Heather Falvey
Some time after 1800, when she was in her late sixties or early seventies, Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale, who lived in Hertford, copied almost 700 recipes and more than 80 housekeeping tips into a leather-bound book.  She was the wife of a world-famous small-pox inoculator.  In this talk we heard about her life, her husband’s work and what her recipe collection tells us about late Georgian society in Hertfordshire.  And it has come to light that she recorded one of the earliest recipes for doughnuts.

(The planned talk on Cassiobury, the ancient seat of the Earls of Essex by Paul Rabbitts, which was cancelled due to illness, will be rescheduled.)

9 January 2020 West House and the Heath Robinson Museum by Cynthia Wells

Cynthia’s talk was about the story of West House in Pinner: its history, but more importantly how it was saved for the community and how a museum for the collection of original works by Heath Robinson came to be built on the site. She talked also about Heath Robinson himself, known in his lifetime as the Gadget King but also a fine artist and an accomplished and instantly-recognisable illustrator.

This is a place well worth visiting! Visit to find out more – and to plan your visit!

13 February 2020 The Antikythera mechanism: an ancient Greek astronomical calculating device by Aris Dacanalis

The Antikythera Mechanism is an ancient Greek astronomical calculating device, dating from the late Hellenistic era. Named after the place where it was found over one hundred years ago at the bottom of the Aegean Sea, it puzzled scholars for decades, until revolutionary research in 2005 brought out many of its closely held secrets. It is a unique piece of ancient technology that never ceases to amaze and inspire us, even more than two millennia past its creation.

Aris’s lecture was a remarkable combination of the story of the Mechanism itself and what it did (in essence, presented the Babylonian concept tof the movement of the various heavenly bodies round the Earth), and of the work done over 50 years to find out how it worked. All the metal has been dissolved in the sea, and only the residues were left – and they had no structural strength, certainly not to allow any attempt at dismantling. The most modern techniques of scanning and radiography have now allowed a working model to be made, which allow a close understanding of what was known over two thousand years ago of the movement of the heavenly bodies – and how eclipses and transits were calculated and forecast. It was a remarkable set of revelations.

12 March 2020 Chenies Manor and the Russell Family  by Alison Wall

Alison, who is a guide at Chenies Manor, summarised the lives and work of the Russell family from 1485 to the present day. She started with the first John Russell, who moved to Chenies Manor when he married Ann Sapcote, who inherited the manor from her Cheyne connections.  He was very influential, and much favoured by both Henry VIII and Edward VI, who granted him various areas of land and monastic foundations across the country and bestowed the title of Earl of Bedford. 

But that was just the start, and Alison covered key episodes within the family history, especially the Civil War, and told us about the several ‘eccentric’ members of the historic family. One feature was the extent of the relationships – some social, some business and some by marriage – between the ‘great families’, including Russell, Cavendish, Howard and others, many of whose names are given to areas of London and other towns and cities. A fine piece of local history set in a wider context.

..AND THOSE YET TO COME (but now on hold)…

9 April 2020 Beacons of the Past: investigating a prehistoric Chilterns landscape  by Dr Wendy Morrison

Beacons of the Past is a three and a half year project, part funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Chiltern Society and the National Trust amongst others.  Its purpose is to engage and inspire communities to discover, conserve and enjoy the Chilterns’ Iron Age hill forts and their prehistoric chalk landscapes. 

Now at the project’s midpoint, project manager Wendy Morrison will present some of the results of the UK’s largest bespoke archaeological LiDAR survey, the project’s outreach programmes and what the shape the final eighteen months’ work will take.

[Lidar (/ˈlaɪdɑːr/, called LIDARLiDAR, and LADAR) is a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflected light with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths can then be used to make digital 3-D representations of the target.]

14 May 2020 The Rickmansworth Week Lecture: Lord Ebury’s Railway by Chris Hillier

Chris Hillier will recount the story of the short-lived railway opened in the 1860s that ran from Rickmansworth to Watford. If all had gone to plan Rickmansworth might have had a broad gauge station as well as a standard gauge one.

11 June 2020 66th AGM (postponed), followed by The Slave Owners of West Hertfordshire by Brian Thomson

It is 213 years since Britain abolished the slave trade and 186 years since emancipation for slaves in British colonies – yet this aspect of our history continues to resonate today.  Brian Thomson will talk about the people living in West Hertfordshire who owned slaves in the 18th and 19th century, and their place in local society.