Autumn lecture - November 2017
[image left: Reconstruction of the head and shoulders of a victim of the Vesuvius eruption in AD79. Courtesy of Richard Neave]
Our Autumn lecture, 'Macedon, mycenae, molars and more: reconstructing ancient faces' was given by Professor John Prag, Honorary Professor in the Manchester Museum and Professor Emeritus of Classics in the University of Manchester.
His ground-breaking work on archaeological reconstruction brings together all the details that specialists can deduce from ancient remains, producing what he describes as a three-dimensional report, more accurate and powerful than any printed account. He paid warm tribute to the many specialists who had contributed to the research – surgeons, dentists, anthropologists, physicists, radiologists and others.
A large and enthralled audience watched as he revealed the lifelike heads he had produced in collaboration with the medical artist Richard Neave. Philip of Macedon was a particularly startling sight, as the skull found at Vergina supported the historical record that he had lost an eye in battle. The method has also been used to identify modern-day murder victims, and to prove that ancient tomb effigies and mummy paintings were, not surprisingly, considerably idealised.
Oxford alumni network - Manchester LinkedIn group - September 2017
In late September, more than 30 members of our LinkedIn group met over drinks and a buffet in the rooftop bar of the Hilton Doubletree Hotel, Manchester where they enjoyed lively conversation and a rather spectacular sunset against the Manchester skyline.
Guided tour of the Lion Salt Works Museum, Northwich, Cheshire - September 2017
[image below, right: Salt-making experience © Copyright Chris Allen]
A group of members and their guests had a guided tour of the museum at lunchtime on Sunday 3 September. The works had been set up in 1894 to exploit the brine resources which, together with rock salt, are widespread in the area.
A variety of ongoing problems related to the corrosion-enhancing nature of salt, subsidence caused by mining of rock salt, and competitive markets meant that the business struggled along but defeat was finally accepted when it was closed down in 1986.
The site was then taken over by the local council and, after a long period of fund-raising followed by conservation and restoration, it was opened as a museum in 2015.
The tour showed how crystalline salt had been produced by boiling away the water from brine in large saucer-shaped “pans” and how it was then crushed and ground to produce the various grades of salt that were used largely in the food industry.
The ongoing structural problems that the works had suffered were evident. Continual subsidence meant that very few of the buildings on the site were not leaning in one direction or another and one remaining works’ chimney looked decidedly precarious.
The salt had also taken its toll, with brickwork and surviving machinery and other metalwork being severely corroded.
At a cost of several million pounds, walls and roofs had been rebuilt and buildings reinforced by internal steel frames.
Whilst the corrosion had been arrested, it was evident that the whole site was still on the move. Our visit was very enjoyable and informative with Duncan, our excellent guide, keeping us entertained with both his thorough knowledge of the history of the site and his keen sense of humour.
Visit to Gawsworth Hall, Cheshire - July 2017
Gawsworth Hall is an evocative Tudor house in Cheshire, whose beautiful gardens still have traces of a historic tilting ground.
The group was invited to visit by the owners, the family of our late group member, Timothy Richards.
Almost 50 members and guests enjoyed a fascinating visit on an afternoon of glorious sunshine. Rupert Richards made us very welcome and spoke warmly of how much Oxford had meant to his father and uncle – although the strongest memories were of successes on the river and of driving around Oxford in one of his classic cars, a Bugatti.
Elizabeth Richards, the current owner, gave us a lively account of the history of the house, which was built by the Fitton family, whose daughter Mary was a maid of honour to Elizabeth I.
The story was full of interest and incident, including the occasion when the ownership of the house remained unresolved after a duel in which both participants were killed.
Following the introductory talks, members were free to explore the house and grounds. Gawsworth is also renowned for its outdoor theatre productions in the summer, and some of the party remained to enjoy a picnic and an evening performance of Romeo and Juliet.
May walk 2017
The group's annual May Day walk and lunch was based at Ashford-in-the-Water near Bakewell. On a dull and damp spring morning, 18 of us made our way up from the village towards Monsal Head and our objective of Monsal Dale and the River Wye. The weather improved as we walked and, when we reached the southern rim of the dale, we had clear views across the river and well beyond.
At Monsal Head, the sun was starting to shine, encouraging some of the party to patronise the ice-cream van that was parked close-by. Standing there with our cornets in hand and admiring the view, valuable minutes passed by with no progress being made. Our leader, who had a time schedule to keep to in order to get us back for lunch at the appointed time, finally brought us to order and marched us quickly down the side of the dale to the River Wye and the quite spectacular waterfall (actually a weir).
After spending a few minutes admiring the river, we turned upstream, passing through pleasant river-side meadows before climbing up onto the old railway viaduct from which the views along the river, both upstream and down, are some of the finest in the Peak District. Across the viaduct and through the tunnel, following the Monsal Trail, we reached the deserted platforms of what was once Great Longford Station. From there it was a gentle stroll back to Ashford to complete our six-mile walk.
Despite starting our walk 15 minutes later than planned and the encounter with the ice-cream van, we arrived on time at the Riverside House Hotel. There we were joined by another group of our members and their guests who had forgone the walk and we all participated in what was an excellent lunch.
Inaugural event for the Oxford Alumni Network - Manchester LinkedIn group - February 2017
The group met for the first time in February 2017. A central Manchester pub provided a room where nearly 30 alumni met to chat and socialise. Starting at 6pm, there was very lively conversation through the evening, with some still chatting at 10pm.
Some of the attendees lived close to the centre of Manchester while others came from further afield – such as Liverpool, Yorkshire and Preston.
OUS Manchester has subsidised this initial event to help the group make a good start.
All Oxford alumni in the area are welcome to join the Manchester LinkedIn group, which can be contacted at: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8571815/profile
2017 AGM and dinner
Our first event of 2017 was an informal dinner, with Emma Smith - Professor of Shakespeare Studies and Fellow of Hertford College - as our guest speaker.
Her title - 'Who wrote Shakespeare?' - was sufficiently intriguing to draw 70 members and guests to the occasion, where we also held our AGM prior to enjoying an Italian-themed meal.
Professor Smith gave a wide-ranging view of Shakespeare’s life as an acting playwright, where collaboration was inevitable and fruitful. Questions of authorship have only been common since the 19th century, when biographical research revealed details which contradicted the almost saintly status deduced by some from his plays. Modern techniques of textual analysis have also become almost self-defeating, as the body of work indisputably by Shakespeare’s sole hand is steadily diminishing.
The issues raised threw light on all types of creativity and provoked stimulating discussion afterwards. Can a collaborative work be a masterpiece?