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Museum Friends News

From the Spring 2017 newsletter

Chairman’s Report

Welcome to our Spring Newsletter. We have had some excellent talks since last September.  Dr Hubert Zawadzki’s was particularly interesting and we are looking forward to his next one.  The Christmas talk given by Majory Szurko was very enjoyable and she accompanied the talk on Edible food for the 4th Earl of Abingdon with an array of various tasty morsels from this era, together with a cake dedicated to the Museum Friends, which was absolutely delicious.  It was a very entertaining evening and our thanks to Marjory for all her hard work.  The concert on the 8th October was again good, our thanks to Steve Rich and Abingdon Town Band.  The audience was a little disappointing.  It may be we chose the wrong date or theme.  It just makes things a little difficult if we do not get the response we hoped for.  Our next fund raising event was the Quiz plus Fish and Chip Supper which was held on Saturday 11th March 2017 and was a great success.  Thank you, Ruth, for making it such an enjoyable evening.  Our outings will be Pitts River Museum (evening), Cuddesdon and Oxford University Press museum; forms to apply are included with the Newsletter.  The Museum has enjoyed a successful period in which visitor numbers have increased.  Unfortunately the weather gods were against us for Heritage Day, but even so everyone who braved the rain appreciated the efforts the Museum staff had made to celebrate the day.  I finish on a sad note the death of Brian Moylan in February –he had previously been a member of our Committee, but probably most people will remember him for the MG room at the top of the Museum.  Here he had gathered together memorabilia about MGs.  Brian’s knowledge about the factory was immense and in particular about the competition department in which he worked.

Our AGM is on the 6th April and the talk is by Richard Smith on ‘Oxford eccentricity’ please do come along and as always, if you have queries or suggestions regarding the Friends do let us know.  Both Ruth Weinberg and Pam Martin have said that they will not stand for re-election to the committee so there will be vacancies to fill.  In particular we need someone to take over the organisation of our summer visits in 2018 otherwise there will not be any to enjoy.  If you are willing to consider joining the committee please contact me.

My good wishes to you all.

Sue Stevens

Dates and venues for talks 2017/18

All will be held at 19:00 for 19:30 in St.Helen’s Church Centre:

Sep. 7th 2017

James Mather – ‘Treasures Beneath Our Feet and the Watlington Hoard'

Oct. 5th

Dr Hubert Zawadzki – ‘Invasion, Deportation and Survivial: A Polish Woman's Epic Wartime Story 1939-1945'

Nov. 2nd

Ruth Weinberg – 'Uzbekistan: the hub of Central Asia' 

Dec. 7th

Liz Woolley – ‘Leisure and Entertainment in Victorian and Edwardian Oxford'

Feb. 1st 2018

Jackie Smith – ‘The bridges and causeway at Abingdon and Culham'

Mar. 8th

Mark Davies – ‘The Joneses of Jesus: Oxford's Welsh Connections’

April 5th

AGM & Alan Copeland – ‘Curiosities in the Chilterns - part one’



Visits 2017

Pitt Rivers Museum - Thursday, 25th May 2017 - 5.30pm


This is an excellent opportunity to visit the Pitt Rivers Museum in the evening with a guide.  The Pitt Rivers is renowned for its unique period atmosphere and dense displays.

Cost £10 with a limit of 20 people.


Oxford University Press Museum Thursday, 22nd June 2017 – 3pm

The University Press is a department of the University.  The museum traces the history of the University's involvement with printing and publishing from the 15th Century to today.  The guided tour will last about 1½ hours and there is no charge.   Maximum number 20.


Ripon College, Cuddesdon  - Wednesday, 26th July 2017 Tappins Coach - 1.15pm Stratton Way

Jane Baun has agreed to take us round the Chapel, College and 12th Century Parish Church.  The Bishop Edward King Chapel was dedicated in 2013.  The architect, Niall McLaughlin’s design was chosen from 126 international entries.  He has also worked on Olympic accommodation and on several Oxford Colleges.

It is a short walk to the Parish Church and a steepish climb back.  Anyone unable to make the walk is free to remain at the College and enjoy the gardens.  Tea and cake will be provided and the coach will leave at 4.30pm.

The cost of the coach and tea is £12 with a limit of 29 people.


“When you stand on this site with your back to the great Beech, leaving the buildings behind, you are in a ring of mature trees on high ground overlooking the valley that stretches away towards Garsington.  This clearing has its own particular character, full of wind and light and the rustling of leaves.  Our design seeks to capture these qualities within the building.  We have two important architectural ideas.  The first is a gentle hollow in the ground as a meeting place for the community.  The second is a delicate ship-like timber structure that rises into the treetops to gather the light from the leaves.  The first idea speaks of ground, of meeting in the still centre.  The second idea suggests an uplifting buoyancy, rising towards the light.  The way in which these two opposite forces work off each other is what gives the building its particular character.”

Niall McLaughlin, Architect

“As writer of the design brief, I set the competition bar far higher than the creation of a work of art, let alone of a mere ‘worship space’.  This needed to be a chapel designed to touch the transcendent, moving believer and non-believer alike to wonder and awe, the seed-bed of prayer which is what we wanted from this space.  I challenged Niall to show us what my dream for this building looked like and his astonishing achievement is to have succeeded quite beyond my wildest dreams.”

The Very Reverend Lister Tonge
Dean of Monmouth, Chaplain to the Sisters and, formerly, to the College


Edward King

Born in London in 1829, Edward King, both as a priest and then as a bishop, was revered for the holiness of his life and the wisdom of his counsel.  He was chaplain, then principal, of Cuddesdon Theological College, followed by a dozen years as a professor of theology in Oxford, during which time he exercised a great influence on a generation of ordinands.  In 1885, he was consecrated bishop of the diocese of Lincoln, a position he held until his death.  His advocacy of Catholic principles involved him in controversy, but his significant gift to the Church was his example as a pastoral and caring bishop to both clergy and laity.

For more information visit


If you have not told us your email address please email or

Booking Form For Outings

Thursday, 25th May 2017— Pitt Rivers Museum

Please meet there at 5.15pm.

The tour costs £10 per person.

I/we would like to visit the Pitt Rivers Museum and enclose a cheque for £




Tel No.                                    email address


Thursday 22nd June 2017 - Oxford University Press Museum

Please meet at 3pm at the Visitors Entrance, Gt Clarendon St.  There is no charge for this visit.

I/we would like to visit the Oxford University Press Museum.




Tel No.                                    email address


Wednesday, 26th July 2017 - Ripon College, Cuddeson
Cost £12 per person.

I/we would like to visit Ripon College, Cudde^bn and enclose a cheque for £




Tel No.                                    email address

Pick up Stratton Way, 1.15pm - Tappins Coach


Please Make Cheques Payable To:  Abingdon Museum Friends and send to;

Mrs P Martin, 12 Musson Close, Abingdon 0X14 5RE Contact No. 01235-530996 by 5th May 2017


From the Treasurer


Subscriptions are due from the 1st March 2017.  Please send them direct to the Treasurer.

The rates are – Single £10      Couple/Family £15  Please send your cheque together with the slip below to the Treasurer: Peter Clare, 24 Wootton Road, Abingdon, OX14 1JD.  Email:

(If you wish to pay by Standing Order in future please contact the Treasurer, preferably by email, for a Standing Order form).

On behalf of the Museum and the Friends many thanks for your continued support.


Abingdon Museum Friends

Membership Form 2017/2018

I enclose my/our subscription of £………………….. for 2017/18   

Name …………………………………….…… Address ………………..………………………………………




Tel. …………………………..   E-mail …………………………………………………………………………..



From the archives

Report on BAFM SE(W) Regional Conference from autumn 2015 newsletter

Abingdon Museum Friends hosted this Conference last year and I was very happy to attend the Conference this year when it was held in Reading Museum.  Having made quite a number of visits to Reading for shopping I had missed the opportunity to visit Reading Museum.  The building is a very grand Victorian affair but very beautiful in that unique Victorian way.  The conference was a delight, well organised, lots of information and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  It was very well attended, representatives from a very varied selection of museums within the SE(W) area.  Delegates had elected beforehand which of the talks they would attend and after the initial introductions and history of the building by the Museum manager we formed our groups.  My choice was Young Friends/Kids in Museums: to attract young people into Museums obviously was a challenge for all and even though the ideas were there, there was certain lack of ideas when it came to middle years teenagers and how to engage them in the Museum.  Starting youth panels or organising days in local Museums needs a lot co-operation with local schools.  Members of my group had had various degrees of success but it seemed these were just one-off situations.  I felt that it was very much down to the individual Museum to organise and although the ideas were there implementation would be difficult.  The workshop was interesting and gave food for thought.  The second session I chose was a tour of Reading’s Bayeux Tapestry which was excellent – Ben Bishop, Museum Gallery Assistant - gave a detailed and most enjoyable storyline of the tapestry. 

Much of the talk at the Conference was of ways of keeping Museums friendly, open places. Reading Museum Friends have a coffee morning once a month for their members for a general get together which is an idea that we could take up as the Mousehole is now run by the Museum.  I have promised myself I will return to Reading Museum because there was much more to see and I can recommend it as a place to visit, please do so if you can.

Sue Stevens

Three Visits organised in summer 2015

BMW, Cowley

Thirteen of us visited the BMW plant Cowley.  We had an excellent guided tour by John, who had worked at both the old Cowley works in the good old days and also at the ultra-modern, very efficient works.  Everything is calculated to the minute.  Tea and coffee breaks are exactly 14 minutes long.  Time is money and nothing must halt the production line.  A very interesting afternoon.          

Pam Martin


Print Room of the Department of Western Art

The friends who crowded into the Print Room of the Department of Western Art were treated to most informative and beautiful hour by the curator who displayed a representative selection of the illustrations stored there.  For those of us unable to go on this visit The Ashmolean’s website has most of the collection available online.

Peter Hallowell


Haseley Court Gardens

We were treated to rare treat when we were able to visit this beautiful garden which is not normally open to the public.  The owner, Mrs Fiona Heyward, gave us a short talk about its history: how, after years of neglect, it had been rescued in the 1950s by the famous American interior designer, the late Nancy Lancaster.  She then led us on a conducted tour of the garden enabling us to enjoy its many features including sunken garden with a giant topiary chess set, a walled garden with a mix of roses, perennials, biennials and annuals, a hornbeam tunnel, a potager, a scented white garden, a pink garden and a parterre all within a total area of eight acres.  I hope the photographs give some indication of just how splendid it is.

Peter Hallowell


Events and Talks archive


Concert with Wantage Male Voice Choir April 2013

For our last fund raising effort for the Museum Appeal, the Wantage Male Voice Choir came and gave a concert in the beautiful setting of St. Helen’s Church. With their conductor Cathie and accompanist Lorraine, 25 men sang a range of popular songs, old and new, from the musicals and by much-loved composers, taking full advantage of the great acoustics. There were several solos, some of which were sung, others recited, and the programme was varied in both mood and pace. For the “Song of the Jolly Roger”, formality was thrown to the winds as eye patches, pirate hats and even a parrot were produced. Drinks and good conversation peppered the interval in which the bar dispensed the drinks included in the price of the ticket and members of the Choir mingled with the audience to increase the intimacy of the occasion. There was a very good turnout and the audience enjoyed it all. It was a most successful event, raising just over £700; this will be doubled by the Lottery Fund. An enormous thank you to the Choir and to everyone who came and helped.

Fish and Chip Supper Quiz March 2013

This year’s Quiz took place yet again to a packed house. Lots of new faces in the crowd showed the event has taken off like a rocket and it was a sell-out before the tickets went on general sale. Despite the odd remark that some of the questions were hard (who can’t tell the difference between the feet of a camel and those of a giraffe?), and the Quizmaster getting an answer wrong through overwork (at least that’s her excuse!), there was a great atmosphere helped, no doubt, by many visits to the bar. The fish and chips arrived on time this year, although the designated collectors couldn’t find the van and were rushing round the area desperately trying to locate it, and were delicious. Many thanks to all those who contributed to the raffle, both with prizes and with ticket purchases, and to our anonymous donor who gave the prizes for everyone on the winning table. This year the losers each received a small Easter egg, but the battle was close fought and everyone did well. We raised over £300 and this will be matched by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Well worth the effort and a big “thank you” to the Friends’ Committee who worked so hard to make this a great evening.

Open Gardens June 2012

For the third time in 2 years, our Saturday Open Gardens event took place in dry weather, certainly almost miraculous this year. With 3 gardens to relax in and enjoy in East St. Helen Street, many people took advantage and came to admire the splendid array of colour and the luxurious lawns that the gardens offered. The roses, particularly, seemed to have flourished in the wet and cool conditions and their wonderful displays were remarked upon and photographed with great enthusiasm. St Ethelwold’s offered us the Garden Room to provide a place to have refreshments, and many visitors took their delicious cakes out into the fresh air and enjoyed the river views. The event made £550 which will be doubled by the Heritage Lottery Fund. So a worthwhile effort from the gardeners, who battled against all the odds to get their colourful havens looking so beautiful in time for the day. And who also sat at the door and explained to everyone how they manage the plantings. Susie Howard’s ability to keep her plants from being eaten by slugs was a cause of wonder, as she uses only organic and natural repellants. Take note – we do not need to use harsh methods to have a wonderful display. A huge thank you to everyone involved – Mr and Mrs Higham, Mr and Mrs Howard, St. Ethelwolds and all the volunteers who sat at the gates, donated cake, made tea and washed up the million cups and plates. See you next year?

There is a special message from Julie Mayhew-Archer, the Councillor who has represented the Museum for many years, She says Can I congratulate and thank everyone who helped with this very successful event, particularly the kind homeowners who opened their gardens. They were picture perfect. It raised almost as much money as last year and was much appreciated

Cheese and Wine Party May 2012

Choosing the first fine evening in the month, Fredericka Smith and John Elston hosted a wonderful cheese and wine party to help raise funds for Abingdon County Hall Museum. It was attended by almost 100 people, not just Museum Friends but personal friends and neighbours of the hosts and other interested parties. As the wine flowed freely and everyone tackled the huge range of cheeses on offer, so many that they needed two tables in two rooms to hold it all, the marvellous atmosphere encouraged everyone to donate most generously. This was greatly capitalised on by the extra help drafted in, in the form of the family offspring and their friends, especially for the raffle, which alone made several hundred pounds. The raffle prizes were enticing, with a brand-new vacuum cleaner, a glider flight, a photographic session, a handmade cot quilt and a beautiful oil painting of a heron (donated by Charlotte Elston) amongst the goodies. The event raised just under £1500, the single largest amount raised in one effort. Huge thanks are due to Fredericka and all her family – for opening their lovely house, for donating all the victuals, for attending so well to the parking arrangements, for moving much furniture and for ensuring that the weather was so good. And to everyone who donated so generously, some of whom couldn’t actually come in person. A very big vote of thanks is given to Miele Abingdon, Windrushers Gliding Club, Faulkener Photographers and to everyone who gave a prize towards the raffle. A triple gold star effort.


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