News of AOUG in the South (02)
A small group of Oxford members recently visited the Bodleian Library to see two of the current exhibitions – one on Harold Wilson and one on Bodleian Treasures. The latter exhibition was an opportunity to see some of the rarer items that the library holds including a copy of the Magna Carta and items from the women’s suffrage movement. One of the more interesting items was a book of drawings of insects made from viewing the insects under a microscope. Apparently, to keep the insects still to allow time to draw them, the insects were provided with alcohol, so the drawings are actually of drunk insects! Apparently a tot keeps an insect still for about an hour!
The Harold Wilson display is to mark the Centenary of his birth and comprises photos, documents and a couple of pipes! One of the most interesting documents from our point of view was a document referring to the possibility of starting a ‘University of the Air’ – the organisation that was to become The Open University.
After an interesting viewing we moved on to enjoy lunch at The Mitre. For those that are interested an exhibition that started the day after our visit and runs until mid-September is called ‘Shakespeare’s Dead’ and marks four hundred years since his death by looking at the theme of death within his plays. I shall definitely be going back to view this.
Visit to Chichester CathedralA group of us joined with a couple of members from Region 01 for a handshake visit to Chichester Cathedral. A visit to the Cathedral is rewarding in many senses – there has been a church on the site since Norman times, with a previous cathedral having been sited, in Selsey, some ten miles away. After the Norman Conquest, cathedrals were transferred to places with larger populations; as a result, constriction started in Chichester in 1076 and was completed in 1108. The 13th Century Bishop, Richard of Wych, was canonised in 1262 and a shrine established until 1538, when it was destroyed. It was restored in 1930. The cathedral has interesting installations and artefacts, dating from the 1300s to 1998 – Romanesque sculptures dating from the 12th Century in the eastern part of the nave, a somewhat controversial tapestry by John Piper from 1966, a window by Marc Chagall of 1978 (based on symbols from Psalm 150), the Gustav Holst memorial of 1934 set in the floor in the north transept and the Sailors’ Chapel of St Michael dedicated in 1956.
By a small distance, the cathedral is the widest in England (due to transepts having been added after the main building was completed). The 15th Century spire collapsed in 1861 and was replaced within five years (it is the only English cathedral which can be seen from the sea) – this partly explains the separate Norman bell tower which stands a few feet to the north – again, unique in England.
Although there was no evidence at the time of our visit, peregrine falcons have nested in the spire since 2009.
On a bright February morning a dozen members joined together to visit the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery in Hampshire. It was good to welcome a number of new faces to this as well as some long-time supporters. The distillery moved to Laverstoke Mill in 2014 from its previous location in Warrington. The surroundings are rural and peaceful and we enjoyed a guided tour of parts of the distillery including the history of the brand and some of the work involved in selecting the botanicals that are an important part of the process to make Bombay Sapphire gin. We spent some time sniffing different botanicals such as the expected juniper berries and citrus peel and perhaps the less expected ingredients of liquorice, coriander and grains of paradise. Many of these botanicals can be seen in the glasshouses at the mill which were designed by the same gentleman who designed the 2012 Olympic cauldron.
The process of gin making was taking place in two of the smaller stills. As it was early in the day, the air was not too heavy with gin fumes – apparently later in the afternoon the fumes can become quite strong! We saw the meters installed by HMRC to ensure that all duty is paid on the spirit – the concentrated gin passes through these meters before pouring through the spirit safe where the master distillers test the gin on at least an hourly basis to ensure it meets the expected quality. One of the spirit safes we saw was the original safe designed by Mary Dakin, who was integral in the making of the original gin recipe the company used. It was in 1831 that the Dakin family used vapour infusion to capture the flavour of the botanicals used to make the gin that still forms the basis of Bombay Sapphire gin to this day.
Laverstoke Mill, where the distillery is based, has an interesting history of its own. For many years it manufactured the paper for bank notes and also the bank notes themselves for countries in the British Empire. The main stills for today’s gin production are housed in India House, which used to produce the bank notes for India. Many of the buildings have been restored but there is also work still required, including the restoration of what were originally workers’ cottages on the site.
After learning more about the history of the Mill itself we adjourned to the bar where we were provided with a complimentary cocktail based on the flavours we had indicated as our preference from the botanicals we had sniffed at the start of the tour! For those not driving this was an alcoholic cocktail but I can confirm that the non-alcoholic cocktails were very refreshing. Drivers could then collect a “take-home” bag with a small bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic water to enjoy of an evening.
It was a thoroughly enjoyed visit which we will definitely repeat in the next couple of years, especially as we had the opportunity to meet a number of new faces who we will hopefully see at other Portsmouth gatherings.
Executive Representative: Jayne Littlejohn email@example.com
Oxford and area: Colin Reed 01235 815548 Mobile 0775 2932 182 (Event days only)
Portsmouth & Area: Mike Bechley (and Executive Representative until May 2014) 023 92552087
Mobile 07812 915458