Staffordshire Centre

Come to a Talk

All talks take place on Tuesdays at Walton Village Hall, Green Gore Lane, Milford ST17 0LD and begin at 2.30pm. Admission for members of the centre is £4.00, visitors £4.50.

There is no need to pay in advance for our talks, you can simply pay at the door on the day. However, it will help us if you book in advance to advise us that you are coming, using the Talk Booking Form on the button below. If you do, we will  give you a personal reminder that you have booked by email a couple of days before.

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2024 Talks Programme

Tales From The Classroom - 10th September

A Talk by John Hibbs

John takes us on an amusing stroll through a life in education, from student to teacher, to school inspector.

Educated in Winchester, London and Cambridge – “all the right places but perhaps the wrong institutions”, John leads us though a trail of education mishaps and learning that may strike you as familiar when you look back at your own schooling.

Hear about the two compliments he received in his 30 plus years in education. Learn what a school inspector, this one anyway, looks for during a school visit.

Sometimes thought provoking, always amusing, join us for an insight into a world we all lived through and probably never noticed.

The History of Telecommunications - 13th August

A Talk by Nigel Holmes

Those of you that came to Nigel’s ‘Technology Through Time’ talk last year, may recall that he had always been interested in ‘how things work’, which is probably why he ended up working in telecommunications.

When he started work as an apprentice in 1975, telephone exchanges were noisy places, with electromechanical switches, and you could still make long distance calls via the operator. When he retired in 2018, all exchanges were digital and noise free, but in the process of being replaced, as they were now obsolete!

We all rely on communication and information technologies in the 21st century, but where did it all begin? How did we get where we are today? And, who was Almon B. Strowger? If you come to this talk, you’ll find out.

The Rugeley Poisoner - 9th July

A Talk by Dave Lewis

Dave Lewis, author of ‘The Rugeley Poisoner’, explores the life of Dr. William Palmer whose effigy stood in Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors, London, for 127 years. In 1855 Palmer, a country doctor and owner of 17 race horses, at the age of just 31, was hanged in front of Stafford Prison before a crowd of over 30,000 people.

He had been found guilty of murdering friend and racegoer John Parsons Cook. The press, however, labelled him as a serial killer. Explore most of the suspicious deaths, ‘The Rugeley Tragedies’.

Not so much a ‘who dun it’ but a ‘did he do it?’

Through The Eyes Of A Magician - 11th June

A Talk by Peter Turner

This event is now closed

This is a fascinating & intriguing talk, light hearted, informative and delivered with humour, it is full of twists and turns. It’s definitely different!

There is a ‘Mysterious World’ out there and Pete will give you a taste of it on a fascinating journey of the unexplained. Using the ‘Science of Perception’ Pete will demonstrate how you can see something that is not there. I know, it all sounds a bit crazy, but seeing is believing, and until you experience the unknown in a logical world, it will open a new dimension on  how you perceive the impossible.  Also, you will discover the psychological mind games used by magicians to convince you that what you’re seeing is actually happening right in front of your eyes.

The Violin – May 14th

A Talk by Natalie Cummings

This event is now closed

This is the story of how Abraham, music tutor to the Tsar’s children, fled with his family and his violin from St. Petersburg to escape the Bolshevik revolution. The violin passes to his daughter, Rosa, violinist with the famous Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Arrested by the Nazis on Kristellnacht 1938 she is sent to Mauthausen Concentration Camp, and then to Auschwitz, where her musical talent sees her forced to join the Women’s Orchestra and saves her life.
Rosa’s brother Israel, inherits the violin after her death and finally it comes to his daughter, Natalie. Unplayable due to damage sustained during its arduous history, it remained silent for 30 years until it was famously brought back to life in the BBC’s Repair Shop.

50th Annual General Meeting - 9th April

Followed by an Update on Shugborough

Mansion House Frontage - Shugborough - David Goacher

This event is now closed

Although 2023 was the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the Staffordshire Centre the pandemic means that this is our fiftieth AGM. As usual there will be a report from the chair on the year’s activities and the Treasurer’s report, followed by the election of the committee. There will also be a vote on an important amendment to the constitution concerning opening membership of the Centre to non members of the National Trust. This follows feedback from the meeting that we held in August 2023.
After this there will be an update on the Shugborough Estate.
Non-members of the Centre are welcome to attend the AGM but they are not able to vote in the elections to the committee.

Admission to this meeting is free.

The History of The Gatehouse – 12th March

A Talk by Keith Harrison

This event is now closed

Hear the stories from behind the scenes at the Gatehouse Theatre, from its tumultuous beginnings as Stafford’s Borough Hall to one of Britain’s most successful provincial venues.
This is a tale of rotten MPs, death, drama, disaster and . . . Ken Dodd.
Now, with more than 100,000 visitors a year and on the back of a record panto season, Marketing Manager Keith Harrison takes us behind the scenes to see what really goes on when the curtain goes down.
Join us for this audio-visual backstage tour followed by a Q&A.
PS. Did we mention the nuclear bunker, William Shakespeare performing in Stafford and the ghosts? No?
OK. There will also be a nuclear bunker, Shakespeare in Stafford and ghosts. Lots of ghosts.’

An Illustrated History of Stafford – 13th February

A Talk by Ray Johnson MBE

This event is now closed

Ray Johnson MBE is Director and Founder of the Staffordshire Film Archives.  This presentation is a compilation archive films and documentaries from the Archive, bringing some of Stafford’s heritage back to life.

We begin and end at Stafford Station. In the 1940s we’ll see film of the station and of the old English Electric, leading up to the company developing and producing the first diesel/electric passenger locomotive.

This is a fascinating look at Stafford’s history with film of places such as the Brine Baths and the old Post Office, where Stafford’s Shoe Industry was born, and footage of industries from the town’s past such as the Salt Industry and Lotus Shoes.

The lighter side is covered by a look at Stafford Carnival – remember that?

These and other short films bring the towns past alive on the screen.

Cook’s Tours – 9th January

A Talk by Danny Wells

This event is now closed

Join us for this fascinating talk on ‘Cook’s Tours’ (Thomas Cook & Son) – ‘the Julius and Augustus Caesar of modern travel.
Thomas Cook was born eight years into the 19th century and died eight years before the end of the century. When born in 1808 the words ‘tourism’ and ‘sightseeing’ were unknown yet at his death in 1892, both he and his son had played key roles in opening the world to popular tourism. Operating in a dynamic and turbulent age, the relationship between the Temperance reforming father and his more business orientated son was not exactly plain sailing either. Come and hear of their incredible achievements at this afternoon talk!

2023 Talks Programme

A History of Jabez Cliff - 12th December

A Talk by Cliff Kirby-Tibbits

This event is now closed

The world renowned, Walsall based saddlemakers, Jabez Cliff, were holders of the Royal Warrant as Saddlers and Loriners to Her Majesty the Queen.

The Cliff Family can trace their association with the leather industry back to George Cliff, a boot maker who left Stafford in 1750 to seek his fortune in Walsall. His son, George Cliff, became an apprentice bridle maker in October 1793. The family business he created was so successful that larger premises were required and the expanding company acquired one of Walsall’s major saddlery firms. In the following years they supplied the MOD with equipment – specialised items for war and ceremonial items, including the funeral of Princess Diana and, in 2011, the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. The company diversified into footballs, luggage, leather goods and golf bags, all carrying the Cliff name, supplying footballs for The World Cup, Olympic Games and the F A Cup Final.

Cliff Kirby-Tibbits is the sixth generation of the family who ran the company from its inception. He will tell us why, during the Falklands War, they had to refer to their archives? And how they helped the Royal Navy with its first submarine.


Gadgets and Gizmos - 14th November

A Talk by Kath Reynolds

This event is now closed

This is a new offering from the always entertaining Kath Reynolds which has only been available since May this year. The talks Kath presents are a reflection of her interest in people and in social history within living memory. She is a collector and sharer of stories. Like most of her talks, this one is interactive, She adds a personal touch to each one from the stories I collect along the way

Gadgets and Gizmos – all those fantastic, must have products, tantalisingly advertised on TV, that we convinced ourselves we couldn’t live without – but in actual fact – became redundant often after the first use!

You can Get It If You Really Want - 10th October

A Talk by Nigel Holmes

This event is now closed

This song, written by Jimmy Cliff, typifies the Windrush generation, who sought to triumph in the face of adversity. People from the Caribbean travelled to Britain between 1948 and 1973, to address the post war labour shortage. Compared to the Caribbean, Britain must have seemed like a cold and unfriendly place, but fortunately they brought their sunny music with them. This talk, will look at the influence of Jamaican Ska and Reggae music on the UK music scene in the late 60s/early 70s, with plenty of musical interludes.

Nigel has been interested in pop music all his life, since junior school days in the 1960s. He would bring home speakers, record players and salvaged valve amplifiers from scout jumble sales, to create stereo sound systems to play Ska and Reggae music and in the late 70s/early 80s he ran a mobile disco, building much of the sound and lighting equipment himself.

Life With Vintage Fashion - September 12th

A Talk by Joanne Massey

This event is now closed

Joanne Massey (alias Lola Lamour) has spoken to us previously about her time as a Maid for Patrick, Lord Lichfield at Shugborough. She is also a well known singer, songwriter and entertainer. Her talk to us today is about her life and fascination with vintage fashion. How she loves to dress in vintage clothes on a daily basis and has a passion for all things from the 40s and 50s. Over 35 years she has amassed a huge collection. These items are not stored in mothballs, they are used, worn and loved. She talks about the difference in the eras and will bring along examples of day wear, evening wear, casual wear, coats, dressing gowns, bags and shoes. A light hearted and fun talk that should appeal to everyone.