May Bank Holiday Walk 2023
The weather stayed fine for our traditional May Bank Holiday walk, which this year was the ‘Six Reservoirs’ walk in glorious moorland above Littleborough, in Rochdale borough, close to the historic border between Lancashire and Yorkshire, including a bit of the Pennine Way.
A party of 22 plus a dog called Tess (the Reservoir Dog?) set off from the car park next to the White House inn on Blackstone Edge, 1,300 feet above sea level. From there we crossed Bryon Edge and walked beside the reservoirs of Blackstone Edge, White Holme, Light Hazzles and Warland before descending to follow part of the Rochdale Canal, England’s highest broad canal at 600 feet above sea level, completed in 1804.
From there we climbed back up to the White House via Lower Chelham and Higher Chelham Reservoirs and an animal sanctuary (a sixth reservoir, Wardle, could be seen in the distance). We were joined by a couple of others at the pub. The White House is a former coaching house dating from 1671. The Coach and Horses (its original name) was where “the young bloods of Littleborough having guarded the mail coach from highway men would seek recompense for their labours with vigorous applications to strong liquors”.
It was a welcome end for our walkers, as it must once have been for the horses.
AGM and Informal Dinner February 2023
Our year got off to a lively start on 9 February with our AGM, followed by a two-course meal and an entertaining talk by Anthony Burton (Wadham) on the Arts and Crafts Movement. For the first time this was held at the Deanwater Hotel in Woodford, Cheshire. Anthony is a life-long expert on the fine arts from his long career as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which included writing the standard history of the V&A before retiring to his native north west. He described the movement, a significant tendency in the design of British consumer goods and architecture in the late nineteenth century.
Beginning with John Ruskin and William Morris, he explained that it may not have had a consistent style, but had a wide-raging impact on the taste and way of life of Britain well into the twentieth century. “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” said Morris. Its influence stretched across the country, including guilds in northern England, and ranged from Charles Rennie Mackintosh to grand country houses.
It produced not only attractive objects, but aimed to inspire a way of life, including suburban architecture such as that of semi-detached houses in Bramhall.
Autumn Lecture 2022: Achieving Net Zero – in the middle of an energy crisis
Our first face-to-face autumn lecture since 2019 was an eloquent plea by Professor Myles Allen for oil and gas companies to be forced to ensure that part of the carbon dioxide they produce will be captured and stored safely underground.
Prof Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at Oxford and director of the Oxford Net Zero initiative, is one of the foremost authorities on climate change. He is credited with demonstrating, 15 years ago, the need for net zero carbon dioxide emissions to stop global warming. He argued, however, that present strategy based simply on trying to reduce emissions was failing. Carbon capture and storage could solve a quarter of the problem.
He urged groups of countries to introduce a ‘carbon takeback obligation’ whereby companies would be required to fund capture and storage of a proportion of the CO2 they produce, initially small but rising to 100% by 2050. In Britain’s case, storage is likely to be under the North Sea. Gas would be purified, compressed and reinjected deep under the rocks. An attempt to achieve this by amending an energy bill in 2015 failed after industry lobbying, but Prof Allen called for a new effort.
There would be a cost for the companies and consumers, but the increase was likely to be less than recent variations in energy prices. Prof Allen argued that regulation was likely to be more effective than campaigning for disinvestment in oil and gas companies.
Freshers' Event - September 2022
For the first time since 2019 we were able to offer a face-to-face meeting for freshers about to go up to Oxford from Manchester schools and colleges. We were once again generously hosted by the law firm Eversheds Sutherland, and fifty freshers accepted the invitation. We provided a panel of six current undergraduates plus one very recent graduate, and they gave short presentations about different aspects of Oxford life, covering a range of academic, social and personal issues.
They were then available to answer questions in a plenary session and informally afterwards.
The meeting was ably chaired by Sarah Herdan. This is an important meeting for the students and is one of the largest Freshers’ Meetings held world-wide.
Many of the audience thanked us as they left and expressed a greater sense of confidence as they faced the new term.
Visit to Hawarden for Gladstone's Library and associated buildings - September 2022
On a sunny day in early September, seventeen members met at the Old Rectory of St Deiniol’s Church, Hawarden, now NE Wales Archives and Flintshire County Record Office to meet Clare Harrington, principal archivist.
A morning spent in the company of William Ewart Gladstone and guided by the expertise and knowledge of OUS member Chris Wain. We examined documents including Gladstone and Catherine Glynne’s marriage certificate, Gladstone’s funeral order of service, a commemorative axe, and several books by the great man.
In St Deiniol’s Church we admired the enormous marble monument to William and Catherine, along with two windows by Burne Jones, and memorials to Gladstone’s daughter and niece. The Gladstone family plot was in a quiet corner of the churchyard.
The Gladstone Library was built in 1906, by John Douglas in red sandstone and replaced the original St Deiniol’s Library housed in a “tin tabernacle” which Gladstone had erected himself in the late 1880s to house 20,000 of his 32,000 books.
He left £50,000 in his will as a book fund to continue the work, and the library remains a residential one with 28 bedrooms and Gladstone’s own unique classification system.
A delicious lunch in the library café and a chance to chat rounded off an excellent outing.
Guided tour: Why does Manchester look like it does? July 2022
On a glorious summer day, a party of 34 enjoyed a fascinating tour by renowned guide Jonathan Schofield, focusing on the city centre’s architecture and planning and how it evolved.
We started on a bridge overlooking Manchester Cathedral and Chetham’s School Library; the bridge was once part of the approach to Exchange station, which had the world’s longest platform before closure in 1969.
We looked across to the former Salford Cross, Salford’s historic centre, which lost its centrality when a viaduct was built across it, resulting from a property dispute.
Passing the Old Wellington, Sinclair’s Oyster Bar and Exchange Square, we entered the Royal Exchange, where Jonathan explained the role of cotton in shaping the look of Manchester. The need for so many warehouses meant that Manchester acquired a larger city centre area than, for example, Birmingham and Sheffield.
On to St Ann’s Square, where Jonathan explained the role of formidable Lady Ann Bland in creating the church and square, the city’s first bit of town planning. Then we went via St Mary’s Catholic Church, a “hidden gem”, to the redesigned Lincoln Square, where the curious statue of Abraham Lincoln has been turned round.
Jonathan showed us what Albert Square will look like once Town Hall refurbishment has finished and ended beside Central Library, the UK’s busiest library up to the pandemic.
It was a tour packed with incidental detail, enjoyed by all.