Binton Church – a Link with Antarctica

South of Bournville and a few miles west of Stratford and less than a mile from the River Avon, in the peaceful Warwickshire countryside, lies the little village of Binton. It is just a few houses (very nice ones, though!), farms and a church. There is no longer a pub and no railway station, shop or Post Office. The church is Victorian and dedicated to St Peter.

This quiet village seems an age  away from the icy cold blasts of the Antarctic continent. Nevertheless here in Binton’s satisfying little church is a further link with a theme that seems to crop again and again during this centenary year of Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition. This village was one of the last places visited by Scott before he set out for the Antarctic. The reason was that his brother-in-law, the Rev Lloyd Bruce, was rector of the parish.

My  friend had discovered that the church contained a set of windows designed and manufactured by Charles Eamer Kempe in memory of the Expedition and illustrating stages of the journey.

There’s a small exhibition telling the Scott story and illustrated with photographs, commemorative stamps and other memorabilia.

My friend discovered the existence of the memorial window so near to Stratford in John Timpson’s ‘Timpson’s England : a look beyond the obvious’. She, like me, is always out to discover hidden gems and the unusual whenever she travels around Britain and abroad.

“I am just going outside and may be some time”: a very gallant gentleman.

Captain Lawrence Oates

Yesterday I heard on the national BBC Radio 4 news that there was to be the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Captain Lawrence Oates in Meanwood Park in Leeds.

Lawrence Oates Memorial

My interest was piqued as many years ago I visited Selborne in Hampshire where the Lawrence Oates Museum is located in the attic area of Gilbert White’s The Wakes.

More recently, of course, I had read Cherry’s ‘The worst journey in the world’ and visited the Polar Research Institute in Cambridge and attended the Antarctica talks in January at The Leeds Library.

As I work in the library on Saturdays I was unable to attend the unveiling but I went along today – parking nearby at Waitrose – and visited the park to view, along with many other visitors, the plaque and information boards.

Lawrence Oates’ connection with the Meanwood area of Leeds has long been commemorated by a stone plaque on the gatepost of Holy Trinity church and there’s a brass plaque in the Leeds Parish Church, which I have yet to see.

From the Oates Collection website :

Captain Lawrence Oates (1880 – 1912) 
Captain Lawrence Oates is best remembered as the brave Antarctic hero who was chosen to be part of Captain Robert Scott’s team to undertake the epic journey of discovery to the South Pole 1911-12. The ill-fated expedition turned into a race for the pole when the explorers learnt of the presence of the Norwegian team led by Admundsen. Scott’s team suffered inadequate food supplies, severe weather conditions and failing health so Oates sacrificed his life in the hope of saving his comrades, leaving the tent in a terrible blizzard with the famous last words “I am just going outside and may be some time.” His body has never been found.”

Antarctica in Leeds

Yesterday was the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s arrival at The South Pole on his ill-fated journey in Antarctica.

The day the boiler broke down at The Leeds Library just happened to be the day that they were hosting an Antarctica Evening!

Here is the programme :

Antarctica Evening – All Welcome

Tuesday 17th January 2012 at 17.00

17.00 Welcome, refreshments and a chance to browse the exhibition of books, artefacts and photographs 1911-1912

18.00 ‘Antarctica’ a talk with slide show by John Whitley (Leeds Library member)

19.00 ‘Why read books on Antarctic exploration’ a brief talk by John Bowers (Leeds Library member)

During the event there will be a chance to talk to the Leeds Library Staff about the Library’s holdings and their interest in the Scott-Amundsen story.

There will be a charge of £5 per person with proceeds being split equally between the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and The Leeds Library.

The talk and slides took us on a wonderful journey where we could see the icebergs and the rough seas and only shiver slightly in the chilly room.  At the end John reviewed his trip in the light of what he had seen and pointed out his Top Five which included the penguins, the icebergs, the whales.

We came away from the second talk with our own annotated bibliography of Antarctica ‘must reads’ and a fascinating and revealing comparison of secondhand book buying and book prices between the late 1950s and 1960s when John and his wife were starting their collection and if one were to start a similar collection today. These days many of the books  turned out to cost less when purchased via Amazon mainly because there are more popular, cheaper editions and reprints available.

Of the books on the list I have read only one: Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s excellent “The Worst Journey in the World“. John rounded off his talk with a quotation from “Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer” by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell. He said ‘Shackleton’s leadership was so exceptional as to be deemed a worthy subject by management specialists’.

But there’s one book I’ll be looking out for (I hope it is in the Library Catalogue!) and that is “Mrs. Chippy’s Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton’s Polar-Bound Cat” by Caroline Alexander. She was the only female member of an Antarctic Expedition at the time.

An addition was made to the programme and another speaker, Jane Francis of Leeds University, talked briefly about her own expeditions to the South Pole (10 in all) and showed us sample fossils (glossopteris) that she had collected.

Finally there was a Q&A session when we were able to question the speakers and a member of the library team on all manner of related topics not least the differences between the Scott and the Amundsen teams and methods.

This evening reminded me again of my visit to the Scott-Polar Research Institute in Cambridge last February.