Tuesday, 18 June 2019

A Scurry Hurry in Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire County Show

What better to do on a warm sunny day than attend a County Show. Well accustomed to Australian shows it was interesting to view the similarities and differences with this very English experience. The county showgrounds are not far from St Albans where we had been staying, but with no public transport to get there, the traffic was endless in all directions. Cars parked in fields with a long trek to the grounds. Lush grass everywhere, no dusty areas or bare ground.

A variety of arenas provided the venues for horse riding and jumps, cattle showing and judging along with novelty events. Each arena had portable grandstands either end and marquees down one side. I saw no permanent buildings, rather those that could be transported to, or moved around for the next show or event. Show attendants clothed in dark suits and bowler hats were located at every gate as areas were opened and closed to allow passage of beasts or people. 

A new event to me was the scurry driving. We had wandered past a practice area where small ponies in pairs were attached to carts but we had no idea what was to come next. There were a variety of sizes of ponies, some Shetlands and some Welsh. Inside the Jubilee Arena a course was marked out with cones. The driver guides the ponies through these cones at speed and points are awarded for speed of completion and accuracy. The crowd cheered wildly at this skilful spectacle. At the back of the scurry (cart) the second person leant into the corners much like a motorcycle rider.

These pony pairs also had paired names so Pride and Joy, Suited and Booted, Bangers N Mash, Stand and Deliver, Morse and Code, Blink and Miss It, Fast and Furious being a few of those I remember. Fun all around.

Pony cart at Hertfordshire county show

Pony cart

Shortly after this spectacle the working shire horses plodded in. Two magnificent whites towing a brewery waggon demonstrated their skills by following voice commands to back up and manoeuvre that heavy cart. Others pulled ploughs and carts demonstrating skills and equipment from the past.

On to the cattle which were housed in large temporary marquees, no pens here but copious amounts of hay underfoot. Large beasts of a variety of breeds stood side by side in comparative peace seemingly untroubled by the stream of humans passing nearby.

After sharing a lunch in the sunshine we ventured into the sheep pavilion. Here was the biggest surprise of all. Vintage breeds looking nothing like many of the sheep we are accustomed to in farms in Australia were housed in small pens with ribbons on display.
Below is a collection of photos of these weird and wonderful beasts, some loooking more like goats than sheep, but sheep they indeed were!

We had a delightful day out with our daughter and her parents in law, it has just taken me a couple of weeks to finally get around to writing about it. Hertfordshire County Show was held on 25th -26th May 2019.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Hellfire on a sunny day

A gothic facade, chalk tunnels and a mausoleum
Entrance to the caves

Such was the vision that greeted us on arriving at West Wycombe on this sunny May morning. We descended into the chalk tunnels to learn of their history and the characters involved.  Long winding passages led us downward with side passages revealing the history of the excavations funded by the Baronet of Dashwood to build a road to High Wycombe back in 1750 after the failure of local harvests in the three preceding years.
Chalk was chipped and then taken by wheelbarrow through these narrow passages up to the surface. The men were paid a shilling a day. It is unclear why  the chalk was mined in this manner with the creation of the long passages and culminating in a grand central hall. It seems that he was working to create a new phenomenon underground while others built their follies above ground.

The Hell-fire club from which the caves take their name had been established by Sir Francis Dashwood firstly with the name of the Knights of Sir Francis but as the meetings became more ribald through the years, the underground chambers were more suitable for secrecy than an above ground venue.

High above the caves the Dashwood Mausoleum stands atop the hill. The hexagonal structure is open air with iron gates barring entrance to mere mortals. The scale of the structure dwarfs us as we trudge uphill.
  This enormous structure is made of walls covered in flint and internally there are arches and niches to contain urns and busts of the deceased. 


The tower of the church of St Lawrence rises behind the Mausoleum and is topped with a golden orb which can be seen as one approaches the town.
A graveyard full of ancient markers surrounds the church. 

On descent into the village we see that here is a medieval centre not adapted to tourists as it retains it charms of old.

An enjoyable day out shared with family - my husband, daughter and son-in-law.

Further details about West Wycombe attractions 
Wikipedia Hellfire Caves
Dashwood Mausoleum

Saturday, 11 May 2019

A pathway to indexing

Local History Preserved

Volunteers at Cooroy Noosa Genealogical & Historical Group have created a new index. Over the last 20 years the members of the Group have collected and collated a wide range of historical documents, photos and newspaper clippings about the residents and events in the local Cooroy region and its surrounding districts in the Noosa Shire, Queensland.

These collections are housed in folders which until now have been of limited use except for those with amazing local knowledge. The scope of the collection covers the early days of the region up to and including local living legends from the last twenty years. It has been the long term intention of the group to provide a comprehensive index to these materials and now that the new Heritage Centre has been planned, paid for from extensive fundraising efforts, built and occupied for two years, the time for this undertaking has come.

Driven by stalwarts of the group, Bev Warner and Margaret Rickard, a planning meeting was held, the data fields decided and templates developed. I held an introductory session to indexing which was well attended by a representative body of members. A core group of six volunteers have commenced this task. We view this task as an ongoing one which may take several years to complete given the size of the collection.

In order to provide ongoing funding for the group it has been decided to publish a limited selection of the data to the public website so that further information about the resources can be sought through the group’s research services, or by visiting the centre for full access to the records indexed. The data fields include:

  • Surname
  • First name/Initial
  • Date
  • Business/ Organisation
  • Town/Location
  • Subject/Occasion
  • Media
  • Notes
  • Source
  • Shelf location
The data provided on the web includes these three fields:
  • Surname
  • First name/Initial
  • Subject

Indexers have been provided with a range of templates in versions of Word, Excel, Writer and Calc along with a Google Form for those who may choose to enter data directly online. Not all fields will have data for each item.  Data is compiled into a master spreadsheet and stored in the Group's Google Drive and is also housed on local external hard drives.

In only one month of indexing almost 700 items have been added. These include newspapers articles that are not on Trove, local ephemera such as business receipts from the 1930s and much more. As more folders are indexed the data will be progressively updated. This new index is a valuable addition to the Group's research capabilities and will be a treasure trove of information for future historians and genealogists. If you had ancestors or relatives in this area, take a look at our newly minted local resources index or visit the Heritage Centre in Cooroy to learn more.