Zooming into Over t’ Head History

Todmorden U3A’s first virtual Monthly Members’ Meeting was an insightful pictorial and historical tour of Britain described through some of our pub and inn signs.  In an articulate and energetic Zoom presentation, Michael Astrop, one of our members, offered us ways to enhance our historical awareness of England, revealing how inn signs are indicators of both the past and key issues that once prevailed in our towns and villages.

He traced this development from Roman to the present day, showing that our inn signs have been inspired by a huge variety of key developments and themes in our history, including transport, religion, politics, royalty, heroes and the occasional scandal.

However, we were first introduced to the four main types of signs – Hanging , Pillory, Banged Up and Gallows or Beam signs. As space and expense allowed, inns advertised themselves prominently on their street location and often became very large, with one sign in Norfolk being so heavy it pulled a house down.

But why have signs at all? Taxes, illiteracy, and streetmapping.

Signs in a largely illiterate world served two major purposes: they were both a tradesman’s advertisement and a public way marker. ‘How do I find the road to X?’ ‘Turn right at the White Lion, go past The Robin Hood and the sign of the pawnbroker…’ and so on. But such signs were mandated for inns and pubs only in 1393 by Richard II so his inspectors could identify them for tax purposes.

Inn signs also record and commemorate former historical realities. Political allegiances might be indicated by the colour of the ‘Lion’. A red one indicated loyalty to John of Gaunt, for example, while a White Hart represented Richard II. If your town had a Blue Boar, if probably favoured the Earls of Oxford.

The Old Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham, and references to Saracen’s and Turk’s Heads remind us of the era of the Crusades; great commanders such as Wellington, Marlborough, and Nelson preside over many a drinking den as do highwaymen, and the frequency with which The Marquis of Granby is commemorated is a reflection of his having given each of the men in his service money to buy their own inn – he died in debt!!

Developments in transport are often to be celebrated: The Bargeman’s Rest, The Railway Inn, The Old Ship, The Mermaid, The Prospect of Whitby.

And all this history is traditionally presented to the public by skilled professional pub sign artists.

Our speaker kept us on our toes by using a quiz sheet where we had to try and match a sign to one of three possible names. This gave rise to more anecdotes of the history above our heads.

 During discussion following his talk, Michael speculated on some local inn signs such as The Shannon and Chesapeake, based upon an American sea battle in 1813. Worth investigating further in the light of Todmorden’s history.

He ended by considering an intriguing group of inn signs that were variations depicting the Four Alls – Rule, Pray, Fight and Pay, and it would be fair to say we were All Entertained, Enlightened, Engrossed and Excited to have this, our first Zoom meeting, so well attended by over 100 members.

This reviewer will certainly spend more time looking at our richness of inn signs with a keener eye when we can each more safely travel around our country visiting friends and family or enjoying a holiday, maybe just a pie and a pint.

Mary Carrigan

The next Todmorden U3A Monthly Members Meeting by Zoom will be on July 16 at 1.45 p.m., open to all fully paid up members for 2020. Our presenter will be David Keep, a world-travelled professional photographer, who take us on a set of journeys into “Underwater Photography: From Sharks to Gannets.”

Contact details – www.u3atod.org.ukinfo@u3atod.org.uk; 01422 886021

Message from the Committee about Meetings


After the very popular talk by Sue Flood at the January Members’ Meeting it seems pertinent to advise all members about some concerns the Committee did have in preparing the final touches for the meeting.

We were concerned that we have no way of knowing how many people would be attending the meeting and if in fact we would have to turn some people away.

Maybe we should consider making such events ‘ticket only’? but that would I feel, be unnecessarily bureaucratic and after all, members cannot easily predict their availability.

The Fire Regulations stipulated by the Fire Brigade tell us that the maximum number allowed in the building is 160.

Meetings generally attract between 100 and 125 people so an extra 35 was manageable; yet we knew we would have no alternative but to turn people away if Anne Foster’s ‘clicker’  as she welcomed you at the door, showed numbers were at the limit!

This message then is quite straight forward.

On future occasions when attendance at our meetings is quite likely to be high can we suggest that you make sure to arrive as close to 1.30pm as possible, when the doors open. We cannot guarantee that visitors too would not be sure to arrive punctually, but at least you have been made aware that there does exist a maximum number to which we must adhere for the Health and Safety’s sake of our members.

We are delighted to find and secure speakers of as high a calibre as Sue. Indeed, Peter Carrigan has an excellent record of booking speakers on topics we find entertaining for which we are most grateful. Long may his success rate of finding top notch speakers remain!

U3A Day 2020

U3A is delighted to announce the very first national U3A Day – this year which will take place on June 3rd 2020.

U3As across the country are being invited to mark the day by celebrating and showcasing what happens in their U3A.
Regional Trustee, Sue Stokes, a member of the Communications and External Affairs Committee said, “We are so excited that from now on, every year, there will be a day dedicated to learning, staying active and having fun in your third age (retired, semi-retired or no longer bringing up a family)

“We hope this day becomes, not just an opportunity for U3A members to showcase some of the amazing things that they do, but a way to challenge negative perceptions of older adults and a chance to invite other Third Agers in the community to learn about the contribution U3A makes to the quality of life for retired people.

“We really would welcome as many U3As as possible, either individually or collaboratively with neighbouring U3As, to engage with the public all on the same day with each U3A deciding what it would like to do.

“Potentially this could mean the movement staging hundreds of “eye catching” events across the UK on the same day.

“A resource pack is being developed with exciting ideas and guidelines and will be available before the end of December. We will post regular updates on facebook and more detail in the monthly national newsletter – which you can sign up for here 

“If you want to be in the organising of U3A Day you can join the closed Facebook group

“For now, please put Wednesday 3rd June in your 2020 diaries and let’s make our first National U3A Day a great success”.

Tree of Knowledge marks our 10th Anniversary

On 18th April at our Monthly Members’ Meeting, we unveiled the ‘Tree of Knowledge’, a wall hanging made by the Craft Group to celebrate and commemorate U3A Todmorden’s 10th anniversary which took place last year.

The piece is housed permanently in the Central Methodist Church’s upper room in a glazed frame made from reclaimed wood by John Andreae, the son-in-law of our founder, John McNair.

The piece, which also bears witness to hundreds of hours of work by a team of Craft Group members, represents each of our Special Interest Groups extant at the time of our anniversary.

Each group is shown as an apple whose design characterises each group. Thus, Philosophy is represented by Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’; the intricacies of philosophical thought are shown by the convolutions of quilling and its logic by straight lines.

By contrast, Spanish consists of the vivid flag of Spain with the black ‘Osborne’ bull in the centre.

Anglo-Saxon is emblematised by the Alfred Jewel delicately figured in gold thread on a green sheeny background, and Golf, played at Todmorden Golf Club, emphasises something of the rough landscape surrounding the course by using felting in greens, browns and greys.

Numerous techniques have been deployed. In addition to those already mentioned you can find macramé, découpage, collage, beading, patchwork, embroidery, appliqué, knitting, lace-making, weaving and ceramics.

In this respect, the Badminton and Table Tennis Club is exceptional. The apple-artist has used an embroidery background; the foregrounded objects are composed of cocktail sticks, garden and rubberised twine, a prosecco cork, a Wetherspoons stirrer, nail polish, brads and feathers.

Craft Group members designed the apples in consultation with Group convenors, and each apple took an average of 40 hours to complete.

This is truly a labour of love, celebrating what U3A Todmorden has offered the town’s active and enquiring retired community, and furnishing a permanent record of one aspect of community life in the Upper Calder Valley in the 21st century.

It is only fitting public recognition should be given to the Craft Group for the generous way they have dedicated their talents, skills and services to the production of this ‘Tree of Knowledge’, and to the Methodist Church for giving the hanging a home. Long may both ‘Tree’ and Church be a feature of Todmorden.

Ant Peters

Crown Green Bowling

Peter Carrigan 07852 488884  carrigan90@gmail.com
Returning in April 2020

Peter Carrigan 07852 488884  carrigan90@gmail.com
Returns again in April 2020

Each session costs £3 per person, paid in cash on the day to Todmorden Bowls Association. There is a £20 pa cash option with no further fees – a recommended path if you intend to fit in 7 or more bowling sessions this season which ends on September 30 . Our group started late in the season, yet allows for 31 U3A CGB bowling opportunities between 22 July and 30 September. A good 10 weeks or so.

Can’t bowl? Then sit down and enjoy watching learners at play!


Fiona Ryland 07719 422946 fio.a.ryland@gmail.com
Mandy Hill 0788 788 0607 mandy@hillsown.com.
Fridays 1.30 -2.30pm at the Dawn Chapman School of Dance. Victoria Road, OL14 5LP. 01706 839113

April Members’ Meeting

Gill welcomed special guests Reverend Kathy and Deacon Bob from Central Methodist’s Church to the April Meeting. U3A Todmorden is always pleased to have an opportunity to thank Central for letting us use their meeting rooms for U3A events and this afternoon we had special reason to thank them.

Gill thanked Treasurer Emily and Membership Secretary Brenda and their team of helpers who had worked hard to make it crystal clear what exactly needed to be done to renew membership this year; namely not only paying subs but also giving us your permission to hold safely and securely your details in accordance with recent legal changes. So, thank you to members for your understanding.

 Gail gave her Groups Report and was delighted that there is the possibility of a new group starting. Those interested in forming a Dance group – not ball room dancing, but other than that the dances themselves would be decided by the evolving group. Let Gail know if you are interested. Also, please would Convenors contact John Boutell to let him know any News for including in the Websites News Desk.

Last year we celebrated our 10th Anniversary from 2008 to 2018 and Keith Coates and team presented us with the very impressive history of U3A Tod. Thursday was also part of the anniversary celebrations because it was agreed last year that during the 10th year that the Craft group would create a wall hanging, a tapestry to commemorate this milestone.

There wasn’t enough time to make something that could be presented at last year’s celebrations especially as discussions within the group made sure that maintaining the normal Craft group format in their Friday morning sessions was paramount. Gill had had no idea the lengths these wonderful people would go to, to make sure what they created would be of the highest possible standard. They knew, but she didn’t!

23 members of the Craft group have contributed and spent hundreds of Craft grouphours creating this commemorative masterpiece, including the core of 8 people who have overseen the project and made sure the textile would be ready on time. 12 members of the Craft group came to the presentation. Gill thanked Mary and the Craft group for the love and absolute dedication that had gone into their work. The Craft group have ticked as many boxes as possible to make sure this Tree of Knowledge is an absolute testament to U3A Todmorden’s work in Todmorden and The Upper Calder Valley.

On a final note the frame has been made from locally sourced recycled timber by the son in law of John McNair the instigator and driving force behind U3A Todmorden back in April 2008.

We were delighted that Rev Kathy and Deacon Bob could share the presentation with us, with Bob assisting Gill in the unveiling. Our special thanks go to them for allowing us to hang a non-religious artefact in their church hall a privilege which U3A Tod does not take lightly.

April SpeakerGill introduced the main speaker of the afternoon Tony Waltham who gave us his slide show and talk of the geological formations of 7 of the volcanoes in Italy. I would defy anyone not to have been bowled over by his magnificent photos, his highly informative and charismatic style of presentation. I feel sure he will be invited back!

Peter Carrigan thanked Tony for his amazing talk which somehow did actually fit into the 60minute window he had requested.

Next month’s Members’ Meeting will take place on Thursday 16th May and the talk will be by Patrick Wildgust, entitled ‘ Shandy Hall and Laurence Sterne’. Members may like to read the following link in preparation for his talk. https://www.laurencesternetrust.org.uk/shandy-hall.php.

With Best wishes for a Happy Easter

Gill Radford,  Chair U3A Todmorden 2019.




March Members’ meeting

Vice Chairman’s report of the Members meeting Thursday 21 March 2019.

We had an excellent turn out, rough count 140 including 4 guests.

In the 5 minute showcase Sarah Penney gave a short, succinct and thought-provoking account of the work  of Age Concern Todmorden

Gail’s Groups Report March 2019 has already been sent to all members by email.

Our main speaker, Maria Glot, talked about Saltaire after Titus from 1840 to the present day. As before, she gave a full-on amusing story-telling experience of the characters who drove the Mill through its various phases of boom and bust. The canvas proved broad enough to include many personalities through their loves, desires and all to frequent early or sudden death, curses of Milner’s Field included. 1983 saw the nadir of the mill, with only 123 workers. Some visionary ownership and management then led to its listed building status and the ultimate reward of world heritage site status. A complete account will appear in the local press and on our website next month.  For more about her talks, look at the Saltaire experience.

Our next meeting will be Thursday 18 April 2019 and our speaker will be by professional photographer, Dr Tony Waltham. He will take us on a photographic tour of the Volcanoes of Italy. His website has recently been hacked, so a link to his work is here.

Your committee look forward to perhaps seeing you next month.

Peter Carrigan,

Vice Chairman.

February Meeting: from Barrow to Baghdad

The Chair welcomed everyone to the February meeting. We are delighted to announce that the membership of U3A Todmorden has now reached 519 and we hope the recent recruits enjoy their involvement finding many opportunities to make friends and contribute to stimulating discussions in their new learning ventures.

The May 2018 survey results are now on line for members to have a look and are encouraged to click on the link to make comments (by the end of February please.)

Gill asked the members to join her in thanking and congratulating the Publicity team on the huge amount of work and effort this has taken but it does indeed paint a positive picture of U3A Tod with many good suggestions for the committee to consider. A new webmaster to take the place of Alan McDonald has been appointed. Gill welcomed Teresa Paskiewicz as the newest recruit to the Publicity team and thanked Teresa for stepping forward.

A very general over view of the Survey results shows that many members enjoy the monthly meetings and our speakers but then again the bulk of the replies did come from the audience at the May, 10 year celebrations so that isn’t too surprising. Next time we must definitely make sure to encourage those who didn’t attend the meeting to reply too.

In the Special Interest Groups section, Gill is taking on board requests referring to Languages by attending the first Language Conference at Aston University next month and in particular is hoping to find out how these groups can function long term without a leader who has specialist knowledge. It is of course part of our ethos that we share the learning task between us but she particularly wants to know useful tips on how you can actually make progress without an expert to guide and correct you, especially in pronunciation!

It was also amusing to find out how warmly members regard our association by the fruits, furniture and animals chosen to represent us. Gill tempted members to look more closely at the results but gave as examples the following; an animal? A cheetah because it has lots of interesting spots! A piece of furniture? a 3 legged stool because it is stable and a great support and finally a fruit? A pomegranate because there are lots of things inside one skin / lots of seeds with the potential to grow into something fantastic.

The coffee morning for new comers is going to be on Tuesday 9th April, down stairs at Central Methodist from 10.30am to 12 midday. Gill will be in touch with all those who replied showing an interest.

Members were encouraged to consider attending the U3A Summer Schools by The Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Association at Easingwold near York, from 5th-8th August and The North West Region of U3As in Keswick from 28th-31st August. There are lots of interesting courses and friendly people to meet, not to mention one of the perks of living so close to the Yorkshire Lancashire boundary is that we are entitled to attend both!

There were several notices of events with which our members have connections: Alan Fowler, our Social History Convenor and member of Hebden Bridge Local History Society is giving a talk on 13th March at The Methodist Church, Hebden Bridge entitled, ’Remembering Peterloo’. Non members are most welcome, £3 on the door.

Jill Dobson is reminding us of the 4th Hebden Bridge Lecture by the Hebden Bridge Literary & Scientific Society on Saturday 2nd March, 7.30pm at The Town Hall. Richard Morris looks at Yorkshire through the eyes of artists and writers like JMW Turner, Thomas Girtin, Winifred Holtby and JB Priestly, tickets cost £10.

Angela Greenwood is involved with the first Hebden Bridge Annual Film Festival and is inviting members to the launch at Hebden Bridge Town Hall on Friday 8 March at 6.30pm. Printed programmes will be available and passes & tickets will be on sale for the Festival which takes place 22nd to 24th March They can also be bought at both Todmorden & HB Tourist Information Offices & Hebden Bridge Town Hall.

Melvin Coleman told us about The Calder Valley Community Land Trust which is a community benefit society and a charity so certainly not “political”. Their remit is to hold land & buildings for the benefit of the community (eg they own the Fielden Centre) and to provide sustainable and environmentally sound housing which is more affordable for the ordinary folk of the upper valley. The Trust is developing 6 bungalows at Walsden suitable for older folk. They have been working to provide 20 apartments in Hebden, particularly aimed at the 20-34 year age group, many of whom leave the area because of the lack of affordable homes. Sadly the application was very recently rejected so their important work is definitely on going.

The main speaker of the afternoon was Philip Crane who took us on a whirl wind tour of his life from leaving school in Barrow, Cumbria with ‘no formal qualifications’ to Baghdad and back again. Although he started as a chef this developed into Hotel Management in the Uk and Europe, to the management of residential complexes for thousands, to catering for military staff in Iraq, via Moscow the KGB and the Mafia. He reached amazing heights and shattering lows but with the encouragement and support of his wife he not only lived to tell the tale but has written 6 novels about it too with ideas and plans for at least 4 more.

A thorough and entertaining account will be available in the local press, courtesy of Ant Peters and the Chair assures the members who were unable to attend to make sure they look out for it. It will be a riveting read!