Walton and Hersham

Decorative & Fine Arts Society


Special Interest Days 

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Walton and Hersham


These special interest days take place at the Riverhouse in Walton and normally take the form of two lectures in the morning followed by lunch. A further lecture or discussion follows in the afternoon.

Wednesday 23 April 2008
Dr. Rosamund Bartlett

Psychology of a City: Architecture of St. Petersburg

Booking opens at the March meeting.

Arriving in St. Petersburg in pre-revolutionary times was always a thrilling experience. Imagine stepping off the train and into a troika which would transport you noiselessly over the snow down impossibly wide, long streets—past spacious squares and enormous classical buildings, past imperial ministries, embassies, and imposing cathedrals with gilded domes—all the way, if you were lucky, to your opulent mansion on the embankment of the River Neva. The city’s dignity and grandeur were everywhere apparent. St. Petersburg has some of the most beautiful facades of any city in the world. But what went on behind those facades during imperial times? Peter the Great had before him a vast tabula rasa when planning his future capital at the beginning of the 18th century. The city he built was truly sumptuous—but it came at a price. This lecture tells the story of the buildings of St. Petersburg, but also the life that went on inside the buildings, focussing particularly on the city's writers, musicians and artists, for whom St. Petersburg definitely had a personality—sometimes enigmatic, sometimes tragic—which they immortalised in their paintings, music and literary works.

The talk will be accompanied by musical extracts.


Thursday 25 September 2008
Andrew Davis
From Shakespeare to the Royal Shakespeare Company

Booking opens at the July meeting.

We will explore the fascinating history of the British theatre which for centuries has been at the heart of our life and culture. The lecture is fully illustrated with many unique slides.


  • Medieval mystery plays
  • the first theatres in Shoreditch
  • the Globe, 1599
  • William Shakespeare and his contemporaries
  • Inigo Jones' court masques

From Restoration to Victorian

  • Charles II, Nell Gwyn and Restoration drama
  • the life and career of David Garrick
  • the growth of Theatre Royals outside London
  • fairground theatres and strolling players

From the Victorians to Today

  • penny gaffs and bloodtubs
  • the rowdy Old Vic and others
  • the life and career of Sir Henry Irving
  • popular drama (music hall, circus, radio and television)
  • 2Oth century theatre: the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and others

Tuesday 9 December 2008
(an evening meeting with supper)
Dr. Claire Walsh
A History of Christmas Shopping

Booking opens at the October meeting.

Christmas before the late-nineteenth century was a simple, domestic affair concentrated on Christmas Day. From the Renaissance to the mid-nineteenth century, shopping for Christmas simply meant buying food for the Christmas Day meal. But by the late- nineteenth century Christmas had been transformed. As the popularity of gift exchange increased, ‘doing the shops’ became a central feature of Christmas celebrations in the 1880s. With the commercialisation of Christmas, the introduction of Christmas cards, decorations, presents and the tree, the shopping workload increased remarkably and the Christmas period expanded from a few days to a six week period within a matter of years.

The Christmas present became one of the central features of the late-Victorian Christmas, Father Christmas himself underwent a change in image as he became specifically the bearer of presents, but it was the wife and mother of the family who made Christmas happen by going out shopping. Initially the female shopper was commended for her efforts in braving the crowds and the weather, and in her skill, thrift and creativity in shopping. However, the popularity of post-Christmas sales provided the chance for ridicule in cartoons in the popular press, and by the early 1900s the female shopper’s ruthless drive for a bargain and ability to shop ‘til she dropped was the hilarious target of Punch’s wit.