Programme for 2023-2024

Meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month, starting at 7.30pm, at the Windhill Churches Centre, Windhill, Bishops Stortford,  CM23 2ND.

Non-members are welcome to all meetings, for a £4 entry payable at the door (cash-only.)

The nearest car parks can be found at Basbow Lane (CM23 2NA) and Apton Road (CM23 3SN). Both are just a short walk from the Centre.  Please note that the charging regime continues to 8:00pm

September 21
The Walls Have Ears: Trent Park and the Secret Listeners of WW2
Dr Helen Fry

During WW2 British intelligence bugged the conversations of thousands of German prisoners-of-war at three stately houses: Latimer House and Wilton Park in Buckinghamshire and Trent Park in North London. Hitler’s Generals, housed in luxurious conditions and wined and dined at exclusive clubs, were lulled into a false sense of security. Not realising their conversations were ‘wired for sound’, they inadvertently gave away some of Hitler’s most closely guarded secrets.

For over 60 years ‘secret listeners’ did not speak about their work, not even to their families. They died, little knowing that they, alongside Bletchley Park, not only shortened the war but helped toward the victory on VE Day.

October 19
Ukraine and the War with Russia
Dr Felix Schnell

This topical talk will summarise aspects of Ukraine’s long and proud history while also addressing the historical and ideological narratives used to justify Russia’s invasion.

November 16
Excavating Roman Stortford (Repeat & Update)
Daniel Firth, Oxford Archaeology

Redevelopment of the Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre has led to a wealth of new information about the Roman settlement at Bishop’s Stortford. This talk will present some of the initial findings of the excavations carried out on the site in 2019 and 2022 along with our working theories about the nature of this settlement, its place in the province and the people who lived there.

Please note that, for this event only, we have introduced a booking system, as we were overwhelmed with those wishing to attend the original presentation earlier in the year.  From 11 Oct, tickets must be booked, by members and non-members through Eventbrite.  Members who had previously let the Chair know they wished to attend do NOT need to use Eventbrite.

Update: 24 October, all seats have now been booked

December 21
A History of Easton Lodge: The Countess and her Gardens
Gary Matthew

The talk outlines the history and development of Easton Lodge from the late1500’s to the present day. In 1865, three-year-old Frances Evelyn Maynard inherited the estate and the vast fortunes that came with it.  Later, as the Countess of Warwick, her interest in the gardens grew, as well as her involvement with the wider community, including an intimate friendship with King Edward VII.

The talk will be followed by seasonal refreshments

January 18
PoW Camp 116, Hatfield Heath
Mark Ratcliff

Tucked away in Hatfield Heath are signs that the village harboured a prisoner-of-war camp during WWII. This illustrated talk describes the camp’s history from its construction in 1942/3 up to the present day. It will include a brief overview of prisoners of war in the UK, life for the prisoners and what happened to the site at Hatfield Heath after they left.  The site’s future will also be discussed. 

February 15
Rye Street Hospital, Bishops Stortford
Dr Chris Connell

At the end of the nineteenth century, Bishops Stortford still had no hospital provision.  The community came together and, with the support of a few wealthy local patrons, was able to build, extend and maintain a hospital which was to serve the local area for the next 50 years, until the NHS took over responsibility.

Please note that owing to illness there is a late change of topic and speaker.

March 21
1917: Eight months that changed the World
Dr Jonathan Davis

In February 1917, Russia began its first revolution of the year. The Romanov dynasty was overthrown and the people freed themselves from Tsarism.  Two new governing bodies emerged and, amidst the turmoil of WWI, a moderate democratic republic began to be constructed. But eight months later, a second revolution took place and a socialist state was declared by the new Bolshevik government. This talk will discuss how Russia passed from one revolution to the other, and it will show how Lenin’s Bolshevik Party came to power during the October Revolution.

April 18
A House fit for the Queen: The plan and interiors of Theobalds, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire
Dr Emily Cole
May 16
AGM and a talk: From Pig Barn to The St Barnabas Centre
Bill Hardy

The AGM will be followed by a talk by our new President, Bill Hardy.

In the early 1990’s, the Church of St James the Great, Thorley was proving too small for its growing congregation. In 1994, a large adjoining Tudor barn belonging to Thorley Hall Farm became available. After fundraising, plus a considerable donation, the pig barn was converted into the substantial church and community centre that we have today. This talk will focus on its year-long conversion, its timber-framed history and its present day uses.

The talk will be followed by refreshments.


The programme can also be downloaded here.