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Midlands history

The group meets on the third Wednesday of every month 2 till 4pm in the Emily Haydon Room at the George Ward Centre.

Although the emphasis will be mainly on history set in the Midlands particularly the five counties of the Danelaw, there will be the odd foray into the Kingdom of Mercia (West Midalnds) .

There will be a ‘theme’ for the year with a mix of talks by members and outside speakers and there will be coach trips too. Remember this is a u3a group so the emphasis will be on ‘Learn Laugh & Live’. 

The charge for the group will be the usual £2 per person, however if there is an outside speaker then, to cover the cost, an extra £2 will be charged making £4 in total.

If you want to receive email updates from the History Group then sign up using this link

Wendy Barker, group leader



Our theme for the year Mediaeval Midlands

FEBRUARY 21st – Leicester Cathedral Revealed – Matthew Morris – BA, MA, University of Leicester Archaeological Services

Leicester Cathedral’s construction of a new heritage learning centre in the Cathedral Gardens has revealed a fascinating snapshot of life in Leicester over the past 2,000 years. From a possible Roman shrine to a burial ground in use from the late Saxon period to the 19th century. In this talk Mathew Morris from University of Leicester Archaeological Services will reveal the archaeology found during the recent Leicester Cathedral Revealed project, what it tells us about the lives of the people of St Martin’s parish, and its significance for the story of Leicester. Leicester Cathedral Revealed is a £12.7m restoration of the Grade II* Cathedral, made possible with the Heritage Fund.

MARCH 20th – Vikings in Leicestershire – Peter Liddle MBE, former County Archeologist

The East Midlands formed part of the Danelaw, as place names with the ending ‘by’ show.  Many are nearby such as Frisby, Brooksby and Rearsby.   Leicester was one of the “Five Boroughs” of the Danelaw together with Nottingham, Derby, Lincoln and Stamford (the main towns of Danish Mercia).  Danish rule of the Five Boroughs was lost following the English reconquests under Aethelflaed (King Alfred’s daughter) during 916 and 917.  The area was then ruled by Earls of Mercia, until it was briefly reoccupied by the Danes in 941, but it was soon recovered by King Edmund in 942.

APRIL17th Everyday Clothing in the Mediaeval Period – Tony Perkins

In the medieval period, clothes not only showed your wealth but could also show your job and even how pious you were, especially for women. The fabric, colour and style showed your status. Poorer people had a limited wardrobe and so their clothes had to be multi purpose for all weathers. They may not have had the range of fabrics as now but they had a wide variety of colours available to them to brighten up their wardrobe, including yellow and purple. This talk gives you an insight into the life of medieval people through their everyday clothes and shows that while there was some inconveniences – no zips!, they had some practical ideas that we could learn from today. If you want to know how Lucy Locket could loose her pocket, then this is the talk for you.

May 15th Simon de Montfort 6th Earl of Leicester – Hinckley u3a member Keith Barker

Keith will tell us about this controversial character in Medieval times, was he a hero or villain? He was at one time the most powerful man in England after King Henry 111 & married to his sister Eleanor. Popularly acknowledged as the man who gave us parliament, Montfort’s banner known of the Arms of Honour of Hinckley is incorporated into the towns coats of arms.

JUNE 19th The Danelaw – Don Chiswell

Created by the Treaty of Wedmore between Alfred the Great and the Army of the Danes, this was the area of east and north England between the rivers Thames and Tees settled by the Danes in the ninth century. Within its bounds Danish law, customs and language prevailed and its linguistic influence is still apparent today.

JULY 17th Derbyshire’s Castles – Robert Mee MA

Okay, you can probably name three or four castles in the county. But you may be surprised at just how many known castle sites there are. This talks looks at the sites and at their history (where any history is known!). As part of the talk there will be a general introduction to Castles

AUGUST 21st Medieval Medicine: superstition and science – Gareth Howell

The Medieval Medic has a bad reputation, but do they truly deserve it? The theories and practises and the Medieval doctor and surgeon are examined, demonstrating that for all their failures and mistakes doctors then were every bit as determined to help their patients, and just as keen to learn as today. Come along and learn about the fascinating world of medieval medicine as we examine a series of should never have been forgotten doctors and surgeons.

SEPTEMBER 18th – Mediaeval Pilgrimage – Peter Liddle  MBE, former County Archeologist

In the Middle Ages, religious pilgrimages were all the rage in Europe. In spite of plagues and famines that ravaged the population in the 13th and 14th centuries, tens of thousands of people would walk perhaps for months to reach a holy site. Medieval pilgrims would want a souvenir to prove they had made the trek, to signal they belonged to a specific religious community and to serve as a sort of protective talisman. They are the medieval equivalent of the bookmarks, pencils and fridge magnets we purchase at tourist sites today.

OCTOBER 16th – Mediaeval Sculpture: Motifs, Messages & Morals –  Dr James Wright FSA, Buildings Archaeologist

How stonemasons worked with their patrons to create meaningful imagery upon buildings which can give us a unique insight into the mediaeval mind. By looking at both sacred and secular architecture we can begin to understand the fascinating, disturbing and sometimes comedic messages imparted to the viewer. Ideas connected to religious texts, morality, lordship, politics and personal identity are covered as we explore how one simple image may have many complex meanings…

NOVEMBER 20th – “A White Ship,  and 2 Queens who acted as Kings, the story of 12th Century England”. – Hinckley u3a member John Whitehead

On 25th November 1120 one of the worst maritime disasters occurs– which doubles as one of the greatest royal catastrophes.

DECEMBER 18th Æthelflæd – Myrcna Hlædige  (Noble beauty – Lady of the Mercians)- History group leader Wendy

Eldest daughter of Alfred the Great king of Anglo-Saxon Wessex & married to Aethelraed the ruler of Mercia. Although a Lady not a queen she wielded a significant amount of power and influence during the Mediaeval period. Playing a part in the unification of England, sometimes called our greatest woman warrior she drove the Danes out of the five boroughs










London Museums Trip, October 2023

Natural History Museum,     Victoria & Albert Museum,     Science Museum

Click on image to enlarge (close with X at top right)