News and Events

Forthcoming events

All events are held in Saffron Walden Library except where stated. There is no charge for admission and non-members are welcome. The Library has disabled access.

Programme for the remainder of October 2017 to January 2018:

Wednesday 3rd January 2018 at 8.00 pm
New Year Social Evening and Readings: Four centuries toing-and-froing in Europe

This New Year's programme will highlight some accounts of journeys into various other European countries made by people from the United Kingdom, using the trip to France and Italy undertaken by George Stacey Gibson and his family in 1865 as a jumping off point.

© Saffron Walden Town Library Society, 2017

The events of the last 12 months

Sunday 12th November 2017 at 3.00 pm
LITTLEBURY (film by Lizzie Sanders) at Saffron Screen

A charity screening (in aid of Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust - Haematology department) of Lizzie Sanders' fascinating and moving film of Littlebury which assembles historic and contemporary images.

This intimate portrait of the parish combines historic and contemporary photographs generously given by the people of Littlebury, museums, and libraries and of Lizzie's own recording. These unique pictures are threaded through the seasonal changes of a farming parish, showing the changing village as the backdrop for work, local events, moments of joy and affecting poignancy covering over a century.

Wednesday 8 November 2017 at 8.00pm
The Forgotten Slave-owners of the Hundred Parishes and Beyond, by Dr Nick Draper

For two hundred years Britain has rightly celebrated its abolitionist history. But in doing so it has sometimes forgotten its period of colonial slavery that preceded abolition and ran from the 1620s to the 1830s. New work at University College London has begun to peel back some of the layers of forgetting, revealing the presence of men and women throughout Britain who drew money from the slave-estates, as owners, annuitants and legatees. This talk explores the local legacies of such slave-owners in the areas surrounding Saffron Walden, and places them in the wider context of British slave-ownership as a whole.

Dr Nick Draper is the Director of the new Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership at University College London. His book Legacies of British Slave-ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (with C Hall et al) was published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press. His The Price of Emancipation: slave-ownership, compensation and British society at the end of slavery (CUP, 2010) was awarded the Royal Historical Society's Whitfield Prize and shortlisted for the Frederick Douglass prize. He is a member of the Finance Committee, and a Fellow, of the Royal Historical Society. Prior to his current research, he worked in the City of London for 25 years.

Thursday 19 October 2017 at 8.00pm
The Arts and Crafts Renewal of Stained Glass 1880-1950, by Peter Cormac

None of the 'artistic crafts' was more profoundly affected by the philosophy of the Arts & Crafts Movement than stained glass. As this lecture demonstrated, many of the Movement's leading figures were closely involved in the art, as designers, patrons or technical innovators and, significantly, it was the one field in which women gained real parity - in status and achievement - alongside their male colleagues.

From the late 1880s onwards, stained glass had a prominent place in Arts & Crafts exhibitions and also in the Movement's polemical campaigning, which aimed to develop the public's understanding and appreciation of the handicrafts. All too often neglected in the literature of the Arts & Crafts Movement, stained glass is now recognised as one of its core activities, with many of its exponents enjoying long careers that lasted well into the late twentieth century.

Peter Cormack, MBE, FSA is the author of Arts & Crafts Stained Glass (Yale University Press, 2015). A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, he was formerly Keeper of the William Morris Gallery, London, where he curated many exhibitions on aspects of the Arts & Crafts Movement, and is the Honorary Curator of Kelmscott Manor, Morris's country home in Oxfordshire. He is a Vice-President and Honorary Fellow of the British Society of Master Glass-Painters and a director on the board of the Charles J Connick Stained Glass Foundation in the USA.

Wednesday 12 July 2017, the annual visit to Libraries ouside Saffron Walden.

This year the Town Library Society joined with the Historical Society for a visit to Norwich. The visit included an excellent guided tour of the Cathedral by a very informative guide, and a visit to the Cathedral Library where we heard a talk about its history and then were able to roam its ancient bookshelves.

Thursday 22 June 2017 at 8.00pm
William Morris: Aesthetics, Politics, Revolution, by Owen Holland.

The Victorian poet, designer and revolutionary socialist William Morris was a man of many parts. Often known today for his wallpaper and soft furnishings, this talk focused primarily on the contemporary relevance of his political commitment, and the way in which this commitment grew out of Morris's artistic ideals.

Owen Holland is lecturer in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature at Jesus College, Oxford. He is also editor of the Journal of William Morris Studies.

Wednesday 10 May 2017 at 7.30pm
AGM, followed by Historic libraries in a digital age, by David Pearson.

Saffron Walden Town Library has served many generations as a wonderful quarry of knowledge and ideas. Like many such libraries, its future may be increasingly questioned when so many books and journals are now readily available online. This talk explored numerous ways in which the Library does in fact have unique and enduring value through the individual and collective histories to be found among the books of George Gibson and others.

David Pearson recently retired as Director of Culture, Heritage & Libraries for the City of London Corporation, having previously worked in numerous major libraries and collections, including the British Library, the V&A, and the Wellcome Library. He has also written and lectured extensively on aspects of books and their history, and on how they have been owned, used or bound; his books include Provenance Research in Book History (1994), English Bookbinding Styles (2004), and Books as History (2008).

Thursday 20 April 2017 at 8.00pm
Saffron Walden, Quaker radicalism and the Hadstock arrests of 1661, by Kevin Davey.

Kevin Davey is the author of English Imaginaries (2000) an analysis of national identity in the twentieth century, Moscow Gold (2013) with Paul Anderson, an account of the influence of the Soviet Union on the British left, and most recently Playing Possum (2017) a modernist detective novel about T S Eliot, silent cinema and Kent in the 1920s. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, he advises technology businesses in Shoreditch and social enterprises across the UK. He grew up in Hadstock in the 1960s.

Thursday 16 March 2017 at 8.00pm
The Making of the West End of London in the Nineteenth Century, by Rohan McWilliam.

By the later nineteenth century, London's West End had established itself as one of the world's great pleasure districts. It had become a constellation of theatres, restaurants, department stores, exhibition sites and grand hotels. At the end of the century it became home to a new invention: the cinema. But how did the West End come to be? This talk explored the ways in which the West End took shape. An area that had formerly served the leisure needs of the aristocracy became available to all.

Rohan McWilliam is Professor of Modern British History at Anglia Ruskin University. He is Director of the Labour History Research Unit and a former President of the British Association for Victorian Studies. Currently, he is at work on a history of the West End of London since 1800.

Thursday 16 February 2017 at 8.00 pm
George Clausen and the Painting of English Rural Life, by Elizabeth Allen.

In 1881 George Clausen (1852-1944) and his new wife left London to settle in the countryside. It was a bold, decisive and political act which shaped Clausen's future career as a painter for in doing so he abandoned the fashionable subject matters which had brought him to the attention of the critics and declared his intention to record the realities of rural lives, of the people who worked and thereby lived closer to nature. A decade later he moved to Widdington, Essex and maintained a deep and intimate connection with the area for the rest of his long life. This talk described the work of George Clausen and his Paintings of Rural Life.

Elizabeth Allen gained an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art and is an art historian and freelance lecturer who has worked for many years at the National Gallery and other London galleries as well as teaching at 'A' Level and undergraduate level.

Wednesday 4 January 2017 at 8.00 pm
Sketches of Saffron Walden

Readings about our town and its surroundings, from the 14th century to the 1940s, based on John Player's descriptions of walks in and around Walden that he published in the 1840s as starting points, including some which may be well trodden, others now overgrown.