Group Events


The following is a statement from the Trustees on the restarting meetings of the History Group


For the minutes of the 2021 AGM - click here

The Trustees


To Members and Friends.

Meetings of the History group resumed in September 2021, with the first meeting being a short Annual General Meeting prior to the speaker presentation, in order to ensure compliance with our constitution and the requirements of our charitable status.


The Trustees have agreed that all those who paid as members at or after the AGM in January 2020 will have their membership carried forward to cover the remainder of 2021 and 2022. New members are always welcome and you can join at any future next meeting. Membership is 15 and ensures free admission to meetings. Non-members are more than welcome to attend meeting at a fee of 5 per meeting.


The Trustees have also agreed that the venue for all forthcoming meetings in 2021 & 2022 will be the Village Hall, Station Road, Balsall Common and will take place in the afternoons – 2:00 p.m. for a 2:15 start.

From your Trustees.



Jan 19th Wayside Wonders and Country Curiosities    Richard Churchley


February 16th   Local Hero...the Story of Sir Henry Parkes.    Sheila Woolf

Born in 1815, a few weeks after Waterloo, Henry Parkes grew up in Warwickshire, the son of a poor tenant farmer who was evicted and jailed for debt. Nevertheless he rose to become one   of   the   most   important   men   in   the   history   of   the   British   Empire:   after   emigrating   to Australia in 1839 he became a leading politician there who fulfilled the role of Premier of New South Wales no fewer than five times – an unrivalled record. He is credited with being the founding “Father of Federation”, determined to amalgamate the states of Australia into one successful nation. His story is one of failure and success combined – in public life he excelled, yet he died a pauper.

The talk will be preceded by a brief AGM.

April 20th  Wallis Simpson        Roy Smart

Wallis Simpson

and the

Abdication Crisis

1936 – The  Year  of

Three  Kings !


‘That  Woman !’

“Too rich, too thin and too American; a bewitching, vulgar, Yankee huntress,

 out for what she could get - a gold-digger!”

But rather, was Wallis Simpson in fact, a benevolent woman, caught up in a situation from which she could not extricate herself and who, indeed, on the eve of war, saved us from a feckless king?  However, as one of the most reviled women in history, Wallis, a twice divorced American with two living husbands, became a hate figure for ensnaring our King and destabilising the monarchy.   With his dashing good looks Edward V111 embodied the hopes and aspirations of most in 1936 - The Year of Three Kings! ;  by renouncing the throne he convulsed the nation bringing dishonour and disgrace upon the Royal House of Windsor. 

Roy Smart  recounts how Queen Mary despaired that her son had been beguiled by an      American Sorceress, while Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin thought Mrs. Simpson tolerable as “a respectable whore but not as Queen Wally !  But the King, whose obsession with Wallis had become total dependency, signed the Instrument of Abdication, making way for the third monarch of 1936.  Now, ‘Prince’ Edward fled the country to be with his ‘love’ and a lifetime of exiled futility, and Wallis would, thereafter, carry the burden of blame for this catastrophe; and remain to this day, the enigmatic, compelling subject of gossip and fascination worldwide. 

Profile of the Speaker

Roy Smart was a Naval Officer, Fleet Air Arm pilot and air director of many great national memorial events including the televised D Day, VE and VJ Day commemorations attended by the Queen and fifty heads of state, together with flying displays and aviation pageants.   With an interest in history and art, he recently contributed to the BBC centenary commemorations of the Battle of Jutland. He lives in East Haddon, Northamptonshire.      Contact:  01604 770713 roysmart@btconnect.com

June 15th  Editing the Black Country Bugle          John Butterworth

As editor of the only weekly paid-for nostalgia newspaper in the UK, John Butterworth will talk about how the Black Country Bugle started, the characters involved and some of the amazing stories they have covered.

August 17th  The History of Silk from its origins in China to the British Silk Industry    Clive Garner

Circa 3000BC Chinese learn process of making silk

329BC Trade begins with the west, along the Silk Road

552AD Secrets of silk making smuggled out of China

1400 Silk Road falls into disuse

C13th Italy develops a thriving silk industry

1540 Francis l of France begins to establish silk industry in Lyon

1685 Thousands of French silk weavers flee to Britain and set up shop in


1718 John Appletree attempts to introduce a system of silkworm farming in


1721 Silk weaving has become one of Britain’s largest manufacturing industries

1831 Half the population of Spitalfields are directly involved with silk weaving and

 up to 17,000 looms are in operation

1860 Silk weaving in Britain begins to decline

1930 Only four weavers remain in Spitalfields

Silk Production

The key to understanding the great mystery and magic of silk lies with one species: the blind, flightless moth, Bombyx Mori.  It lays 500 or more eggs over a period of four to six days and dies shortly afterwards.  The eggs are like pinpoints - one hundred of them weigh only one gram.  From an ounce of eggs come about 30,000 worms which eat a ton of mulberry leaves and produce 12 pounds of raw silk.  Over time Bombyx Mori has been bred into a specialised silk producer.   As a result the moths have lost the ability to fly, only capable of mating and producing the next generation of silk producers.

Producing silk is a lengthy process and requires constant close attention.  To produce high quality silk there are two conditions that must be fulfilled - preventing the moth from hatching and perfecting the diet on which the caterpillars feed. The eggs must be kept at 65F, increasing gradually to 77F at which point they hatch.  After the eggs hatch, the worms feed night and day every half hour on fresh, handpicked, chopped mulberry leaves until they are very fat.  Thousands of feeding worms are kept on trays which are stacked one above the other.  A room full of munching worms sounds like heavy rain falling on a tin roof.  The newly hatched silkworm multiplies its weight 10,000 times within a month.  The worms feed until they have stored up enough energy to enable them to enter the cocoon stage.  When it is time to build their cocoons, the worms begin to excrete a jelly like substance from their silk glands, which hardens when it comes into contact with air.  Silkworms spend three to four days spinning their cocoons around themselves until they look like puffy, white balls.

After eight or nine days in a warm, dry place the cocoons are ready to be unwound.  First, they are steamed of baked to kill the silkworms or pupas.  The cocoons are then dipped into hot water to loosen the tightly wrapped filaments.  These filaments are unwound onto a spool.  Each cocoon is made up of a filament between 600 and 900 metres long!  Between five and eight of these super-fine filaments are twisted together to make one thread.

Finally, the silk threads are woven into cloth or used for embroidery work.

October 19th Postman’s Knock             Alan Godfrey

Illustrated talk on the development of the postal service in England from 16th to the 20th century, using examples from Warwickshire. The talk follows the history of the post from the founding of the General Letter Office, to the mail coach era, the postal reforms of 1840 and the impact of improved communications in the early 20th century.

December 7th       Helen Larner   Christmas social (members only))

Christmas is coming.............

.......presents are wrapped, cards are written and chimneys swept. But who is coming down the chimney? Father Christmas or Santa Claus? We shall delve into the past to find out. Illustrated with pictures and music