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VISITS & WALKS 2015
APRIL 15th VISIT TO JOHN BOYD HORSEHAIR FACTORY, CASTLE CARY
A group of twenty members visited a unique piece of British industry: the John Boyd Textiles
horsehair factory in Castle Cary. Our guided tour included all stages of the production process but the most interesting was the weaving itself. This is carried out on banks of looms that operate just as when they were made in 1864, except that the power is now electric instead of water or steam. The mechanical noise in the weaving rooms gave an atmosphere of earlier times as the shuttles passed to and fro with great speed.
The business has adjusted to changing times to survive. Horse-tails are the raw material and these now come from Mongolia or China; white ones are more in demand than black as they can be died to give fabric of any colour. Some stages of the process are very labour-intensive so the fabrics, in a wide range of patterns and styles, are relatively expensive; they are used in luxury products, including hand-bags, furnishings and even wall-coverings.

MAY 16th WALK AT CHARTERHOUSE
A group of members spent a breezy afternoon at
Charterhouse, on the top of Mendip, for a guided tour of
the archaeological remains in the area. After starting at
St Hugh’s Church, which stands as an isolated relic of a
once-thriving community, archaeologist and teacher
Rachel Shaw took the group around the overgrown
remains of the lead workings from various periods of
history. The outline of the fort built by the Roman army
soon after they invaded – and began to exploit the lead
reserves – can still be seen, but most of the mining
remains have been reworked by later generations so that only the Victorian ones are
widespread. Large lumps of slag show the shape of the wagons that they were tipped from
whilst still hot and piles of glassy fragments can be found. The only structures clearly visible are
the horizontal flues, where lead fumes were condensed and the solid residue was scraped off by
child workers.
JUNE 3rd COACH TRIP TO WADDESDON MANOR AND BURFORD
The Society’s first coach-trip of the summer was a successful visit to Waddesdon Manor in
Buckinghamshire. Waddesdon was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in 1874 to
entertain the fashionable world and to house his collection of fine art. The visit included a
guided tour which gave some insight into the pieces of porcelain, furniture and fine art
which the family gradually built up; the Rothschilds were the greatest collectors of the 19th
century and Waddesdon is a rare survivor of their magnificent collections. Some of the group
also took the opportunity to visit the enormous wine
cellars, which are an attraction in themselves.
For a contrasting experience, the party called at the
attractive Cotswold village of Burford on the way back
to enjoy refreshments and a walk around the town.
As well as a magnificent parish church Burford is
remarkable for the way in which the medieval buildings
and street plan have survived almost unaltered by
Victorian and later redevelopment.
JULY 11th AXBRIDGE TOWN WALK
Local historian John Page of the Axbridge and
District Museum Trust led about a dozen
members on an afternoon walk around the
relatively unspoilt central area of this medieval
town.

AUGUST 8th COACH TRIP TO IMPERIAL WAR
MUSEUM
A group of forty members and guests enjoyed
a full day at the Imperial War Museum. Whilst
some made use of the military records at the site, the majority toured the detailed display
describing many aspects of the First World War, covering both life on the battlefield and on
the home front, followed by the Second World War Galleries.

SEPTEMBER 6th SALTFORD BRASS MILL VISIT
Twenty-five members of the Society enjoyed a guided tour around Saltford Brass Mill. Over
the last few years the volunteers of the Brass Mill Project have done a great deal of work to
restore further features of the manufacturing process; where the machinery has been lost
they are building full size replicas to give an impression of exactly how the brassware was
made. Only the noise of the hammers will be missing! Perhaps because it’s on our doorstep,
it is easy to overlook this fascinating relic of industrial history, but everyone on the visit
found the tour well worthwhile.
SEPTEMBER 24th CAERLEON & CHEPSTOW CASTLE COACH TRIP















Caerleon Roman Fortress

Local guide Bob Trett gave our party a
well-informed tour of the remains of Caerleon,
one of the three permanent legionary
fortresses established in the Roman occupation
of Britain.

Today the modern village covers much of the
site but the remains of the amphitheatre are
probably the best of their kind in this country
and the footings of a complete barrack block
are exposed. We then visited the National
Roman Legion Museum adjacent to the
preserved remains of the fortress baths;
this contains a fine collection of artefacts giving an insight into Roman life, both military and
civilian.

Chepstow Castle
After lunch we visited the ruins of the imposing cliff-top castle founded in 1067 and had time
to look round the centre of Chepstow.