Recent events and lectures, Autumn 2005

Saturday 8 October 2005: 'The 17th century Book of Games by Francis Willughby of Wollaton'-Dr Dorothy Johnston, Keeper of Manuscripts & Special Collections, University of Nottingham

Dorothy's lecture treated us to images showing different forms of games, woodcuts of games in progress, the homes of the Willoughby family at Middleton in Warwickshire (which the Society visited in May), and Wollaton Hall, and illustrations from the Book of Games itself. Both Francis Willughby (b.1635) and his lifelong friend John Ray were early members of the Royal Society, founded 1660. John and Francis travelled in England, Wales and on the continent, observing and collecting. This classification of the observable world was going on in England fifty years before Linnaeus from Sweden produced his Systema Naturae in 1735. Francis died when he was 36, leaving his work almost entirely in notebooks and specimens, and Ray worked on his notes on fishes and birds in order to get these subjects published. But the Book of Games was handed down over the years, to eventually reside amongst the Middleton papers held by Nottingham University under Dorothy's care. She worked with David Cram and Jeffrey Forgeng, and the Book of Games is now published.
Leslie Cram

Saturday 10 September 2005: Excursion to Merevale Hall

The day began and continued with rain, but this did not dampen our spirits. The first visit was to the Gatehouse Chapel to Merevale Abbey. We were welcomed by the vicar, Janet Casper, who spoke about the church past and present, pointing out some of the medieval stained glass windows. Afterwards local historian Mrs Rita Poulson answered many questions. We then went down to the Abbey ruins, in the grounds of Abbey Farm. The churchwarden and Mrs Poulson spoke of the history of the Abbey itself, after which we went into Atherstone for lunch. The town has livened up in the last couple of years and is promoting itself as a book town, and has a tiny museum celebrating its history as a hatting centre. The afternoon was spent at Merevale Hall, where Mr Matthew Dugdale (left) showed us around. The house was fascinating: it had been neglected for a number of years until Mr Dugdale and his family spent much time and money on its restoration. Our interest was in one of the family's ancestors - Sir William Dugdale, the antiquary, who wrote the Antiquities of Warwickshire in 1656 and who advised Dr Thoroton when he was writing on Nottinghamshire. Adrian Henstock told us about the Thoroton/Dugdale connection, and a number of relevant documents were laid out for us in the library, a particularly beautiful room. The whole tour was enlivened by many family reminiscences. We visited the garden, before taking a splendid tea at Mansetter Memorial Hall.
Penny Messenger and Margaret Trueman