8th January

Bertie Pearce

Wonder workers and the art of illusion (The history of magic through art and pictures)

From the beginning of time the fascination with magic and the impossible has been widespread. Egypt was the cradle of magic. Sorcerer Priests used scientific principles to create illusions for the edification of worship and to hold power over the people. Then there is the age-old skill of sleight of hand, which proves that ‘the hand is quicker than the eye’. Magicians were known as ‘Jongleurs’ lest they be sentenced to death for ‘witchraft and conjuration’ under the edicts of Henry VIII.

Music hall gave birth to legendary tricks such as pulling a rabbit from a hat and sawing a lady in half.

'Wonder Workers and the Art of Illusion' is a whistle stop tour of the history of mystery from 3000 BC to the 21st century and be careful! – you might be amazed and bewitched.

12th February

Sarah Lenton

Handel and Rembrant (two great baroque protestants)

Handel and Rembrandt are wonderful examples of that comparative rarity, the Baroque Protestant. Both artists were reared in a religious tradition of deep involvement with stories from the Bible and were able to translate that involvement into works of art which, by sheer bravura and narrative drive, made them live for their contemporaries. I look at the Bible stories, such as Belshazzar’s Feast which inspired both artists and show how, astonishingly – given their very different media, paint and music – the two artists seem to bounce off each other.

11th March

John Benjamin

The Georgian Jewel. (A window into a forgotten world)

Eighteenth century jewellery is largely misunderstood and is sadly neglected today. In a world wholly focused on fabulous gems, jewellery which fetches millions at international auction and diamonds bought for investment rather than their innate beauty, there seems to be little time and even less interest in Regency shoe buckles, dainty Posy Rings and intimate lockets conveying messages of love. John Benjamin’s new talk examines the jewellery of what, in reality, was an innovative and fascinating period of jewellery design and explores many of the key themes, inspirations and gems used in this most elegant of eras – from the soft twinkling diamonds of Queen Anne to the sumptuous Parures typifying the stylish exuberance of William IV.

8th April

Sam Newton

CANCELLED due to the CoronaVirus

Sutton Hoo and the master workshop of the Wuffings

An exploration of some of the artistic and technical wonders found aboard the funeral-ship berthed beneath Mound One at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, burial place of the Wuffing kings of East Anglia. The central theme will be the superb jewellery of gold, garnet, and blue glass, which reveals such a brilliant synthesis of styles. These masterworks appear to have been made in the East Anglian royal workshop for the king who lay in state in this treasure-laden ship, thought most likely to have been Rędwald (died c.624), Wuffing king and overlord of all England.

20th May (Please note this is the third Wednesday)

Ian Keable

CANCELLED due to the CoronaVirus

History of Cartoons (Hogarth to Private Eye)

The first time the word cartoon was used in the sense that we know it today was in 1843 in Punch magazine. But the employment of satire, caricature, speech bubbles and the writing of captions had been around long before then. In this talk Ian tracks the early stages of cartoons and how, through the works of Hogarth and James Gillray, they gradually evolved. Copious illustrations abound from the masters of their craft such as John Tenniel, John Leech, David Low, Vicky, Ronald Searle, Heath Robinson and Giles; and, bringing it right up to date, with Gerald Scarfe, Steven Bell and Peter Brookes

10th June

Paul Jagger

Heraldry in the 21st century (VIRTUAL LECTURE)

We are working with Paul Jagger our lecturer for June who will be telling us about herldry and it's origins.
This will, however, be a lecture with a difference in view of the CoronaVirus situation.
Amongst Paul's many talents lies a particular skill in IT and we are hoping he will be able to convert his lecture into a "virtual lecture" which we will all be able to watch (and take part in) in our own homes on our laptops, computers and iPads. Watch this space for detail about how you can participate.

Britain’s tradition of heraldry has its origins in the Norman Conquest, and is often perceived as a medieval form of visual expression, yet HM College of Arms and the Court of Lord Lyon have never been busier than in the 21st century. Men, women, corporations, councils, professional bodies and universities in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth are petitioning the Crown for Arms in greater numbers than at any time in the past. This lecture explores this most contemporary of ancient art forms in a visual feast of pageantry from postage stamps to pixels.

8th July

Sue Jackson

Cancelled due to the CoronaVirus

Art and Architecture in Docklands past and present

Over the last 25 years, the Docklands area of London has been transformed. Here are not only some of the great Georgian industrial warehouses and dock buildings, but state-of-the-art office buildings by the great architects of today. Canary Wharf is also a dramatic and witty sculpture park. Even the lamp posts, benches, pavements, planters and ventilation shafts are specially commissioned and designed to the highest standards.

The rest of this years programme will be subject to the progress of the CoronaVirus and details will be announced here in due course.

9th September


10.30am Doug Gillen

Hidden Canvases (Street Art and the City)

Get ready to go beyond Banksy and delve into the fastest growing art movement of a generation. Street art is everywhere, whether you realise it or not. In this lecture we look at the artists, activists and vandals that have been re-imagining the way in which we see the world around us. From the cracks in the pavements to hijacking satellites, it seems nowhere is safe.

14th October

Timothy Walker

The subtle science and exact art of colour in English garden design

In 1888 Gertrude Jekyll wrote a short but seminal article in The Garden in which she urged the readers to “remember that in a garden we are painting a picture”. As an accomplished watercolour artist, Miss Jekyll was familiar with the principles of using colours, but she felt that in gardens these principles “had been greatly neglected”.

This talk looks at how to apply these principles in designing a border, but it also looks at the ways in which a border is different from a painting. However, it goes further than this and looks at how contemporary work of the likes of Turner, Monet, Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Hockney evolved in parallel with ideas about what a garden or border should look like.

11th November

Sarah Cove

Constable – the father of modern painting

Constable’s great landscapes, also known as the ‘six footers’, include some of his most famous and iconic paintings: The White Horse (1819), The Haywain (1821), The Leaping Horse (1825) and Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (1831). The compositions derived from small pencil drawings and oil sketches made outdoors and for each Constable painted a full size oil study. These ‘six foot sketches’ were unique and extraordinary creations for the early 19th century.

This lecture is based on Sara Cove’s extensive research on Constable’s oil painting practice carried out over 30+ years of the Constable Research Project. She describes his diverse painting methods in oil sketches, studio studies, and exhibited pictures, illustrated by highly detailed images taken during technical and scientific examinations of these works. Constable’s dynamic late works and artistic temperament are brought to life in a new and exciting manner revealing a ‘Jackson Pollock of the 1830s’. You will never look at these ‘chocolate box’ pictures the same way again - guaranteed!













Please note the cancellations shown below as a result of the CoronaVirus.
We have provisionally re-booked the Stratford outing for October 8th, and will aim to re-book the Boughton House outing, probably for next year unless we can squeeze it in sooner!

Please rest assured that none of your cheques for the Stratford outing have been paid in, but are being held in a safe place.

If you would prefer us to tear them up, please telephone Kate Winterbottom on 01296 630125. Otherwise they can be returned at the next meeting or put towards the October 8th visit.

Tuesday, January 7th.

Gauguin at the National Gallery, and St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Described as “spanning his early years as an artist through to his later years spent in French Polynesia, the exhibition shows how the French artist revolutionised the portrait”, the exhibition comprises about 50 works from collections worldwide.

It will also be possible to attend a free concert at 1pm in St Martin-in-the Fields, and admire the East window. The afternoon will be free to return to the National Gallery or National Portrait Gallery.

Tuesday, February 25th.

The Foundling Museum and Dickens House.

The Foundling Hospital was the first UK children’s charity and public art gallery, with strong links to both Hogarth and Handel. The Messiah was first performed in the chapel, and there are a number of related artefacts and Hogarth paintings. The Hospital had close links to Berkhamsted.

The Charles Dickens Museum nearby is the house where the author lived from March 1837 to December 1839, and where he wrote Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby.

Thursday, April 23rd.

Shakespeare’s birthday and visit to Stratford.


We will visit the house where Shakespeare was born (with the famous second best bed), the grammar school he attended, and Anne Hathaway’s cottage and childhood home. There may even be impromptu excerpts of Shakespeare performed in the garden at his birthplace!

Thursday, June 4th.

Boughton House, Northamptonshire.


Described as “the English Versailles”, Boughton is a traditional rural estate in Northamptonshire, which has been in the family since 1528 when it was acquired by Sir Edward Montagu, a direct ancestor of the present Duke of Buccleuch. The House was greatly enlarged in the first 170 years, a period influenced by a strong French style. There are baroque state rooms, and paintings by Van Dyck, Gainsborough and El Greco, as well as extensive woodlands and gardens. It was a location for shooting the film of Les Miserables.

Thursday, September 24th.

Rainham Hall, Essex, and the Red House, Bexleyheath

Rainham Hall was acquired by the National Trust over 70 years ago, and was let to tenants. While the building has been restored, the Trust has left the often quirky interventions of its numerous tenants in place. One of these was Denney, a fashion photographer and Decoration Editor of Vogue. The Denney Edition exhibition presents the Hall as a magazine, with areas for jewellery, fashion, interiors etc.

The Red House in Bexleyheath was the iconic Arts and Crafts home of William and Jane Morris and the centre of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. It was co-designed by the architect Philip Webb and William Morris, and retains features and furniture by Morris and Webb, stained glass and paintings by Burne-Jones and embroidery by Janey and Bessie Burden.

Monday, November 2nd.

Guildhall Art Gallery and Goldsmiths’ Hall.

The Guildhall Art Gallery collection ranges from Pre-Raphaelite art to colourful depictions of London’s Victorian past, and includes one of the largest oil paintings in Britain. There are also the remains of a Roman amphitheatre.

Goldsmiths’ Hall is a Grade I listed building used as an assay office and the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. It has been considered “the most magnificent of all the Halls of the City of London.” The Company has been based at this location since 1339, the present building being the third hall on the site.

There may be an opportunity to visit Wren churches in the afternoon.




1st March 2018

The start of our guided tour of the museum

Under the Cutty Sark
The Queen's House, overlooked by Elizabeth II
The Tulip staircase in the Queens House