'Stately' theme for this year's February Forum series in Knutsford

Knutsford Guardian: Margaret Leicester, who will be the subject of the ‘Jam and Magic Lanterns: A Victorian Year with the Leicesters of Tabley’ talk on February 15, with the ‘very spoilt’ family dog Trim Margaret Leicester, who will be the subject of the ‘Jam and Magic Lanterns: A Victorian Year with the Leicesters of Tabley’ talk on February 15, with the ‘very spoilt’ family dog Trim

HISTORY buffs will have a chance to step back in time and explore the area’s colourful past this February.

Next month will see the return of the popular February Forum, a series of Saturday lunchtime talks organised by the Friends of Knutsford Heritage Centre and hosted at the centre.

This year’s talks have a ‘stately’ theme, with guest speakers giving a candid insight into the lives of the area’s wealthy land-owners and those who served them.

The first talk, entitled ‘The Arley Shopping List’, will be given by Charles Foster on February 1. Charles, project director of Arley Hall archives, will look at the shopping habits of the Warburton family of Arley in the 18th century.

The following week, on February 8, Knutsford Heritage Centre volunteer Mary Gracie will deliver her talk ‘Knutsford and Beyond’ using images from her extensive collection of old Knutsford postcards, including the town’s surrounding estates.

“It was partly due to Knutsford servicing the needs of these wealthy landowners that it became such a prosperous market town,” she said.

Mary has lived in Knutsford for 29 years and started collecting old postcards of the town 12 years ago after becoming a volunteer at the heritage centre.

“I wonder if the photographers of 100 years ago could have imagined how technology would one day enable us to view their small postcard images on a large screen,” Mary added.

“When they are blown up these little pictures reveal fascinating details from the town’s past.”

On February 15, one of the Trustees of the Tabley House Collection, Sarah Webb, will be talking about her research on the Victorian period at Tabley.

The talk, entitled ‘Jam and Magic Lanterns: A Victorian Year with the Leicesters of Tabley’, is constructed from the family’s surviving diaries, photograph albums, letters and poems.

“We have Lord and Lady de Tabley and their children: John, Catherine, Meriel, Eleanor and Margaret Leicester. There’s also a very spoilt dog called Trim – little but tough- who was apt to strike fear into their guests’ hearts and his teeth into their ankles,” said Sarah.

Sarah takes a look at the Leceisters’ hectic social calendar, search for suitors and royal ties but the family’s relationship with the ‘ordinary’ people of Knutsford will also feature.

“They danced at the Knutsford Assembly Rooms and planned spectacular private theatricals where the girls could play boys and show off their ankles.

For Christmas they gave out presents to their tenants and the poor but unfortunately the children of Tabley school grumbled about the quality of their presents,” Sarah added.

“Tabley and its family provide many fascinating stories about life for the rich and aristocratic and I hope as many people as possible can come and spend a Victorian year with the Leicesters of Tabley.”

The series ends with a final talk, ‘Monarchy and Dunham’, delivered by retired teacher Peter Braun on February 22. The volunteer speaker and tour guide at Dunham Massey will give an illustrated talk of stories and anecdotes covering the history of the house, family and royal connections.

Talks start at 12 noon and are followed by light refreshments. Tickets cost £7 each or book all four events for £24 and are available from Knutsford Heritage Centre. Booking is essential as numbers are limited.

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