Sunday, 8 December 2013

Loughborough Archaeological and Historical Society meeting

This week I have been to the monthly meeting of the LAHS. I recently joined this society as a friend had recommended it to me, and their programme of talks for this year looked interesting and informative.

So, I duly trotted off to the university campus and hunted around for the James Mason building. This actually turned out to be quite easy to find as there was a group of people loitering outside: For some reason or other (possibly because this was not the regular meeting place) security had not unlocked the doors, so we were unable to get in!

After a number of ’phone calls by a number of group members to a number of university departments, a security van pulled up outside the building and opened the doors for us. Quite glad really as although it has been rather mild weather for the time of year, it was beginning to get a bit nippy, standing around doing nothing!

I was quite intrigued by the topic of the talk: John Bley, distiller and benefactor of East Leake, but thought for a minute we weren’t going to be able to hear it, for there was a problem logging in to the projector. Someone offered to go home and get their projector, but luckily one of the members was able to activate the system and we were away!

Well, Keith Hodgkinson had us enthralled for about an hour-and-a-half as he teased us with tantalising titbits about the life and times of John Bley. Who was his father? Who paid for his apprenticeship to a distillers in London? Why did he never marry? Who taught him to be so savvy with his money and investments?

Some of these questions were answered by a consideration of life as it was in the period of his life, spanning two centuries, from 1674-1731, and what was expected of people. Other questions remain unanswered, queries for another day when more investigative work by the authors can be done, but even then, there will remain some things that will be forever unknown or at best, assumptions.

Keith was a joint author, along with Ian and Rachel Flynn, of a book which showcased the story of John Bley through the masses of the research that they did. Called: John Bley of East Leake and London 1671-1734: distiller and benefactor, the book was published in 2012 by the East Leake and District Local History Society, and is available to purchase from their website.
The ELDLHS also got a heritage lottery grant to renovate John Bley’s tomb which is in St Mary's churchyard, alongside a leaflet about the man. One of the church windows is also dedicated to John Bley and the house he built for his mother is still standing on the main street.
Looking forward to next meeting of the LAHS which is the one that focuses on presentations from members of the group!

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