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.

Wednesday 14 May 2024, in Saffron Walden Library, in person, at 7:30pm
Gibson Library Society's AGM

The AGM was originally planned for 7 May, but has been deferred as the work on the Saffron Walden Library's RAAC is over-running. It is not yet certain that the AGM will take place on 14 May either.

Details of the AGM are held on the Society's 2024 AGM webpage.

The AGM will be followed by a talk on the ghost stories of M R James.
We invite all members attending to join us in a drinks reception after the conclusion of the AGM business.

Details for further meetings in 2024 will be available shortly.

When meetings are announced as being "via Zoom", GLS Members will be sent a Zoom invitation via the GLS email ; Members can also contact Peter Walker via the Library if they do not have email.

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The events of the last 12 months

Wednesday 20 March 2024, in Saffron Walden Library, in person, at 8:00pm

The Point of the Needle: Why Sewing matters

a talk by Barbara Burman, based on her new book on sewing

Barbara Burman chronicles new voices of people who sew today, by hand or machine, to explore what they sew, what motivates them, what they value, and why they mend things, revealing insights into sewing's more intimate stories. In our age of superfast fashion with its environmental and social injustices, this eloquent book makes a passionate case for identity, diversity, resilience, and memory - what people create for themselves as they stitch and make. Barbara will also include local examples collected from a survey conducted following an earlier talk to the Gibson Library Society.

Barbara Burman is an independent scholar, formerly based at the University of the Arts, London, and Southampton University. She is the author and editor of numerous publications on the social history of dress and textiles, including The Culture of Sewing: gender, consumption and home dressmakin'g (Berg, 1999), and was most recently the lead researcher on the national "Pockets of History" research project and co-author of The Pocket: a hidden history of women's lives, 1660-1900 (Yale University Press, 2019, paperback April 2020). She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and lives near Clare.

Wednesday 21 February 2024, via Zoom at 8:00pm

In Search of Boudica: through Iron Age and Roman Artefacts

an illustrated talk by Natasha Harlow

What evidence do we have for the fabled Queen Boudica and the British "War of Independence"? This talk looked at the varied narratives concerning the Iceni and provincial resistance to Roman occupation, provided by the study of both classical history and archaeology. It also discussed the roles of female leadership and identity in the creation of modern mythologies about the past.

Stained glass Nettleswell

Natasha Harlow researches life and identity in Iron Age and Roman Britain, in particular through the small personal artefacts often found by metal-detectorists. She studied for her BA and MA at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and has worked in heritage, museums and education for many years. Her PhD on "Belonging and Belongings" was awarded by the University of Nottingham in 2018 and she published her first book, based on this project, in 2021. Natasha now lives in Shropshire, although her interest in community archaeology regularly brings her back to East Anglia. She has recently excavated with the Caistor Roman Project and the Later Prehistoric Norfolk Project and also runs educational workshops for the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Wednesday 31 January 2024, via Zoom at 8:00pm

The Early Stained Glass of Essex
an illustrated talk by Christopher Parkinson

In his presentation to the Gibson Library Society, Chris looked at the work of the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (CVMA) - Great Britain's National Survey of Medieval Stained Glass, and its resources which are freely available. This was followed by a survey of the wealth of pre-1800 stained glass surviving in Essex, including many local examples.

Stained glass Nettleswell

Chris Parkinson developed his interest in stained glass while at University, and more recently undertook a photographic survey of 16th century stained glass in Essex for the CVMA. On completion of this project Chris was asked to co-author with Dr Penny Hebgin-Barnes (a world renowned author on medieval stained glass) a catalogue of medieval stained glass in Essex which is to be published by the CVMA. Chris has also written several journal articles on stained glass and his wonderful images have appeared in academic text books in the UK, Europe, USA and Australia.

Thursday 30 November 2023, via Zoom at 8:30pm

Writer and historian Christopher Hadley spoke about his latest book:
The Road: A story of Romans and ways to the past

Christopher Hadley, acclaimed author of Hollow Places, took us on a lyrical journey into the past while retracing and searching for the elusive Braughing to Great Chesterford Roman road. Gathering traces of archaeology, history and landscape from poems, church walls, hag stones and cropmarks, oxlips, killing places, hauntings and immortals, and things buried too deep for archaeology, The Road is a mesmerising journey into two thousand years of history.

Since its publication in January 2023, The Road has attracted critical and popular acclaim. IN November 2023 it was shortlisted for the East Anglian Book of the Year Awards by the National Writing Centre.

'... magnificent ... exciting ... This is no dry and prosaic history, but a work of imagination and a deeply literary book ... wonderful prose ... striking images and lapidary sentences ... enthralling. It's an absolute joy to read and an early contender for every list of History Books of the Year' - Daily Telegraph

' ... the breadth of his knowledge ... the beauty of his prose. [The Road] deserves to be read at least twice, first to appreciate what it reveals and then to luxuriate in its effervescent voice. On nearly every page a random passage takes one's breath away' - The Times

Wednesday 18 October 2023, in the Saffron Walden Library at 8pm

Every picture tells a story, a talk by Martin Turnbull (although given by Martin Everett as Martin Turnbull was unwell).

Local photographer David Campbell took thousands of photographs of Saffron Walden during his lifetime. Many of these survive only as negatives, which were transferred to the Gibson Library after his death. Since last year Martin Turnbull has been searching and indexing this collection, and has digitised and converted nearly 2,000 negatives into positive photographs. During this illustrated talk he will describe the collection and show some of the images that have been re-discovered.

Martin Turnbull is the co-author, with John Tennant, of a new book 'Lost Walden' published this month and featuring old photographs of Saffron Walden from the collections of the Gibson Library and Saffron Walden Museum.

Wednesday 5 July 2023, Visit to David Parr House, Cambridge, at 11:30 am and 1:30pm

Full details are included in the attached sheet, 2023 David Parr House Visit webpage.

Thursday 22nd June 2023 at 8:00 pm via Zoom

The Survey of London in Whitechapel, a talk by Peter Guillery.

The Survey of London is a topographical and architectural-historical project founded in 1894 in East London. In 2022 the Survey published the 54th and 55th volumes in its continuing main series. These massive volumes are devoted to the parish of Whitechapel, and are the first Survey volumes on an East London district north of the Thames in 28 years - south of the river there has been Woolwich (vol. 48, 2012). This talk described some innovative aspects in the Survey's approach to documenting Whitechapel, some well-known highlights, and some less well-known interest in the southernmost part of the parish of Whitechapel. The Gibson Library has an almost complete set of the Survey volumes.

Peter Guillery was a researcher, writer and editor for the Survey of London on and off from 1986 to 2021. His work for the Survey of London covered areas ranging from the Isle of Dogs to Clerkenwell, Marylebone, Woolwich and Whitechapel. Away from the Survey his publications include The Small House in Eighteenth-Century London (2004), Behind the Facade, London House Plans 1660-1840 (2006, with Neil Burton) and, as editor, Built from Below: British Architecture and the Vernacular (2011) and Mobilising Housing Histories: Learning from London's Past (2017, with David Kroll).

Wednesday 10th May 2023 at 7:30 pm in the Saffron Walden Library - 40th Annual General Meeting

Details are held on the Society's 2023 AGM webpage.

This was followed by "The personal library of George Stacey Gibson", a talk by Martin Everett.

Thursday 13th April at 8pm by Zoom.

"The care of his diet is now the material article: Recipes to mitigate the ill-effects of teething in eighteenth-century England", a talk by Dr Helen Esfandiary .

As trivial as the appearance of a tooth is to a modern mindset, it once bore a significance that went far beyond simply marking a routine milestone in a child's development: for teething could kill. Discover what Georgian mothers - and their day-to-day medical practitioners - did to prevent or mitigate its life-threatening potential. Eighteenth-century recipe books, commonplace books, receipts, and correspondence reveal a surprising amount about how mothers went about this.

Dr Helen Esfandiary is a cultural historian interested in the body, medicine, disease, and gender in 18th-century Britain.