Thursday 27th October, Thomas Bewick

Dr Peter Quinn gave a witty and informative talk on Thomas Bewick to a packed audience at the Hearth, in Horsley, on Thursday evening.

Dr Quinn, chairman of the Bewick Society, looked at the life and work of the renowned artist and engraver born in Cherryburn, in Mickley, in 1753. From this modest start Bewick, a man who boasted that he had never had a drawing lesson and who exhibited only one framed image in his entire career, rose to achieve global fame.

After schooling at Ovingham Parsonage, Bewick was apprenticed to Ralph Beilby, an engraver in Newcastle’s Amen Corner.

While he was devoted to the family and fell in love with Mary Beilby, they looked down on Thomas. He sensed he was an outsider, a feeling he carried throughout his life.

Much of Bewick’s early engraving was hack work -  bank notes, trade cards and ball tickets - yet his fascination for nature spurred him on to rise higher. He first caught the attention of a wider public with images of natural history.  A General History of Quadrupeds was published in 1790, followed by the first volume of British Birds, in 1797. The Romantic movement was at its height and Britain had fallen in love with nature.

At this spooky time of the year Dr Quinn revealed the eerie nature of Bewick’s work. He had a fascination with devils, sprites and bogles. His ‘tale-pieces,’ were strange engravings which decorated the end pages of his books - a murderer beneath a gibbet, his horse whipped by a devil, or a country scene obscured by a giant thumbprint.

Bewick was excited by the French and American Revolutions and feared the government had him under surveillance. He hated war, and many later images are unsettling - wounded soldiers returning home, young boys playing war games while sitting astride gravestones - a clear indication of their fate.

Dr Quinn’s final slide was of two poor musicians walking outside a walled estate, where man traps had been set. The wall was cracked, a hint that Bewick believed this world of privilege was in danger of crumbling to dust.



Thursday July 28th’s History & Heritage talk Working at the Great North Museum - the world under one roof was held on an evening in high summer which more resembled a mizzly, dull night in November. This did not, however, deter around fifteen intrepid visitors, plus the supporting cast of helpers, from turning out to hear Adam Goldwater, Learning Officer at the Great North Museum: Hancock.

Adam spanned the early origins of the Museum up to the recent modernisation of this local gem and took us all around the world in an hour and a quarter - From Altars to Butterflies, Crabs to Dodos, Egyptology to Forts, Ancient Greeks to Hadrian and his Wall, the whole world in a Modern Museum was covered by Adam.

He brought with him some most unusual objects to hand around the audience, including a model of a head of one mummy – named 'Bakt en hor’, as well as some brand new miniature 3D printed models of Roman altars, faithful in every detail.

Adam’s enthusiasm for his subject was obvious and his connection with the audience was amazing. His engaging manner resulted in many of us planning our next visit to the Great North Museum and booking for one of the monthly tours of the ‘below stairs’ storage treasurers (starting again in September 16). 

Adam’s talk was rated ‘Highly Recommended’.  Many, many thanks to him.



We might have been 12 hours early as we gathered for this talk on 30th June 2016 at 7.30pm, but we were close enough to the exact centenary of the 1st July 1916, 7.30am, the start of the Battle of The Somme.

The Hearth History & Heritage Talk titled “We dusted them off good” The German victory at Beaumont Hamel, 1st July 1916  was delivered by Alastair Fraser; he gave us one of the most thought provoking talks.  He showed us the earliest ever moving film of such combat, gave us illustrations and commentary of one of the bloodiest events in our island’s history with staggering casualties - the smoke, the smells, the panic, the reality. The presentation was supported by images of remarkable paintings by Albert Heim,  and photos from both British and German collections. 

There were some smiles - seeing the picture of Germans eating and drinking in a 30 foot dug-out with Moritz the dog on the table eating biscuits; there were colourful stories of iron rations, salty beef, excessive smoking plus rats, gas and madness. 

Thank you to Alastair Fraser for delivering this perfectly timed talk which gave us a glimpse into the reality of this terrible time in our recent history.  Let’s hope we all remember 1st July in context for another 100 years.


Thursday 26th May  Les Turnbull was welcomed back to the Hearth’s History and Heritage talks – he has presented in the past and we certainly hope he will do so again.

This time the talk was ‘ Newcastle’s Greatest Catastrophe – the Heaton Main Colliery Disaster.’  This was a truly memorable talk, the audience was given evidence of the fact that for hundreds of years coal mining had been the life blood of Newcastle and the surrounding areas – feeding through to a broad spectrum of industries across the region – ship building, railways, mechanisation etc etc.  Les gave us a picture of the reality of working life back in the time; endless house of working in the pitch black, hundreds of feet below the surface.  A workforce with ages ranging from 7 to 70, entire families attached to the pit – all male members and even some teenaged girls – all dependant on the pit and its outcome.  Their rewards being a few shillings per week.   201 years ago Heaton Main filled with water and despite pockets of air and repeated attempts from all sides of the seam, the outcome was pitiless – 75 lost from this small but strong community.  Les told us that largely this catastrophe has been forgotten – the audience at the Hearth is not likely to forget after such an engaging talk.  Thanks for a captivating evening. 

On Thursday 28th April 2016 we were treated to a fascinating presentation on The Creation of The Tyne & Wear Metro System by a most entertaining and knowledgeable Malcolm Snowball.

With enthusiasm and many supporting photos (all taken by Malcolm over the past 35 years) He told the story – from the work starting in 1974, to the present day and a look into the future. His talk was compelling and convincing told of its significance in becoming one of the greatest achievements in the North East England’s rich industrial heritage. One of the principal champions of the projects success was the late Harry Cowans, MP and Gateshead Councillor.

As the scheme has developed over the past 35 years the alignments have been further developed to serve the changing centres of population; it was built to support not only industry and commerce, but also city retail and new housing and other transport links. All enhancing the financial infrastructure of the region.

Built at a time of national financial crisis and high unemployment it seems a miracle that Metro ever got up and running at all.  But against all the odds the project was seen through to completion and was opened in the summer of 1980 by Her Majesty The Queen, to a fanfare of critical acclaim. Our Metro system was an instant success story and became part of everyday life on Tyneside, and included Wearside in 2002. Malcom gave us a glimpse into future plans – all in all a great evening, well supported and much appreciated. Thank you Malcolm.

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