Village Friends

We would like to introduce you to Village Friends. We meet on the first Thursday of each month, except January and February, in Grateley War Memorial Hall. We enjoy various speakers and events organised by the committee using suggestions from our members.

We only charge a very moderate £2 per person for our meetings which pays for the speaker (if appropriate) and refreshments. There is usually a raffle when the meeting takes place in the village hall. The meetings last about two hours depending on the event. Outings are also enjoyed to various places which are heavily subsided for members. In March we enjoyed a delicious fish and chip lunch at The Plough Inn in Grateley and at our April meeting hot cross buns were eaten with relish.

We would be very pleased if you would like to join our happy band and you can be sure of a very warm welcome to our meetings. If you would like an introduction or further information please contact Shirley on 889312 or Peter on 889186 who will arrange for someone to help you to break the ice. We look forward to meeting you.

November Meeting

The talk this month was on canal boats, in particular the decorations on them, the way they are painted and how this form of painting came about.

Robert Wright started his talk with a short history of canals and explained how much more weight a horse could move whilst puling a barge on a canal than could have previously been moved by cart. Huge tonnages of materials were moved by canal barges, particularly coal and ballast directly to ports for export.

Another great advantage, and one which could easily be overlooked, was moving delicate items around like china and porcelain. The roads were usually bumpy and rutted (nothing changes then!!) and moving delicate items by road caused many breakages, whereas by canal the going was smooth and even.

In the early days bargees would employ an assistant whilst his wife and family lived at home. Remember it took two people to operate a barge, one to look after the horse and one to steer. However, with the coming of the railways, it became necessary for the bargee’s wife to act as their assistant so she and the family moved onto the barge. They lived in the back 10 to 12 feet of the barge (which was about 61 feet long and 7 feet wide). Whole families lived there, mum, dad and all of the children. They must have been well organised as the daily chores such as cooking and washing also had to be completed in the same area.

They were only paid by what they carried, so barges were operated virtually continuously. Landsmen tended to look down on the barge people living in such cramped conditions with frequently illiterate children, considering them more like gypsies, possibly dirty and smelly. To counteract this, bargees started to decorate their barges and a stylised form of art developed consisting mainly of roses and castles. The formation of the roses is distinctive and consists of specific brush strokes. There is a society today whose members replicate this paint form and Robert is a member.

The bargees would start by drawing vertical lines down the barges thus creating panels and then each panel would be painted with a different theme. The painting of the barges became quite competitive, with each bargee making his boat as bright and colourful as possible and with all utensils also painted. This effectively converted their appearance from dirty floating transports to a thing of beauty, showing landsmen that although their living quarters were cramped, they did not have to be squalid.

Today Britain’s canals have become a playground with many people owning pleasure craft and with some still living permanently on their craft. People still paint items both on commercial lines as well as self-use.

Robert’s talk was fascinating and he played a video of how a rose was formed, indicating the specific brush strokes required. He was given a well-deserved round of applause at the end.

Peter Bye

Programme for 2018

1 March Fish and Chips at the Plough Inn, Grateley, raffle 12.30 p.m.
5 April Broughton Water Buffalos, raffle 2 p.m. Village Hall
3 May The Test Valley by Jill Daniels, raffle 2 p.m. Village Hall
7 June Cream Tea at Minstead – time to be advised
5 July From Cadet to Commodore and Beyond by Commodore Ian Gibb, raffle 2.00 p.m. Village Hall
2 August Lunch, venue to be arranged, raffle 12.30 p.m.
6 September Bustards on Salisbury Plain, raffle 2 p.m. Village Hall
4 October A Farmer’s Wife in 18th Century Hampshire by Ruth Facer, raffle 2 p.m. Village Hall
1 November Laughter in the Services by David Greenway, raffle 2 p.m. Village Hall
6 December Christmas Lunch, raffle 12.30 p.m.