Following our exciting visit, organised by Gill Cooper, to see the Heritage & Historic Houses of Shropshire and Ironbridge in late April 2019, she wrote the following account:


34 members boarded the coach at Rickmansworth for a five day trip to Shropshire.  En route we stopped at Hanbury Hall in Worcester, a homely William and Mary style house it is famed for its fine painted ceilings and staircase by Sir James Thornhill.  We continued after lunch to The Park House Hotel in Shifnal which was to be our home for the next four nights and where we enjoyed a welcome drink prior to dinner.

The following day we enjoyed a half day guided tour with our Blue Badge guide of the Ironbridge Gorge and some of its museums and its famous bridge - the great symbol of the success of the iron industry and the birthplace of the industrial revolution.  The bridge was cast in 1779 by Abraham Darby the 3rd.  Its great arch draws visitors from all over the world to admire its construction.  In the afternoon we visited Attingham Park, an 18th century mansion with fine silver and Italian furniture and paintings from the Grand Tour.

A walking tour of Shrewsbury on the third day took in the Norman castle, St. Mary's Church and the black and white 'magpie' houses so typical of the Welsh Marches.  This was followed by free time to explore until we met after lunch to visit Powis Castle in Wales. Its gardens are laid out under the influence of Italian and French styles and they still retain their original lead statues.  The castle has one of the finest collections of paintings and furniture in Wales.

On day four we visited the historic town of Bridgnorth where we had some free time before taking a 16 mile steam train excursion from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster on the Severn Valley Railway - a lovely way to explore the beauty of the River Severn.  Unexpectedly, from the train, we saw elephants and rhinos in the West Midland Safari Park at Bewdley!  In the afternoon we visited Stokesay Castle. This perfectly preserved 11th century medieval fortified Manor House nestles in a valley in the heart of Shropshire.

En route for home on the fifth day we visited Charlecote Park in Warwickshire. The home of the Lucy family for over 900 years it was built in the 1550's of warm red bricks and decorated in Warwickshire stone.  The house has a fascinating history and fabulous grounds including herds of deer.

A most successful and enjoyable tour with good weather to enhance the beautiful Shropshire countryside.

Gill Cooper

6 May 2019

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Charlecote Park, grand dining room-with

The Treasures of Umbria - 2019 Five Day Tour from Perugia to Assisi

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The 2019 overseas tour arranged and guided by Siân Walters from Art History in Focus captivated its audience from 23rd to 27th September 2019.  Diana May has provided the following brief review.
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Sian Walters in front of 'matching' Albe

This holiday, wonderfully organised by Siân Walters of Art History in Focus and The Art Society Moor Park's  Anne Harris,  for forty of us, was based in Città di Castello, an attractive walled town perfectly placed for exploring the exquisite works of  painters such as Giotto, Raphael, Perugino and Piero della Francesca. This had been preceded by an introductory visit to explore works by Umbrian artists in London's National Gallery.

The Hotel Tiferno on a pretty and central square was comfortable, with nice breakfasts, and delicious dinners with local wines most nights. 

On Tuesday we had an introductory walking tour through Città di Castello, visiting the church of San Domenico where Raphael’s Mond Crucifixion (National Gallery) once hung, as well as the local art gallery, an elegant C.15th palace once owned by Vitelli family, with masterpieces by local artists from Signorelli to the young  Raphael.  We then drove to nearby Sansepolcro, the home town both of Luca Pacioli (inventor of double-entry book-keeping),  and of Piero della Francesca . We visited the Duomo with its C.14 altarpiece, and then the Museo Civico for a guided tour and to see his most famous painting, The Resurrection of Christ, which Aldous Huxley described as 'the best picture in the world'.

On Wednesday we enjoyed exploring hill-top Assisi and learning about San Francesco. After Francis’s death in 1226 his home town suddenly became a great focus of attention and a huge basilica dedicated to him was built.   His tomb is in the basement, then there is the church with the famous series of frescoes dedicated to St Francis' life traditionally attributed to Giotto;  with the renovated frescoes by Cimabue in the basilica above (en route we had seen the dramatic film of its near-destruction by earthquake in 1997).  Afterwards, we drove to a nearby family-run vineyard, to stroll through the vines and the olive trees before a private wine-tasting.

Thursday brought us modern art, of one Alberto Burri, displayed in the old tobacco-drying sheds of Città di Castello (previously used for drying out Venice's artworks damaged in the 1966 floods). Happily,  we then drove to elegant Perugia, especially its medieval square dominated by the Fontana Maggiore.  We marvelled at Perugino’s beautiful frescoes in the tiny Collegio del Cambio (he was greatly influenced by Piero della Francesca, and taught the young Raphael), lunched,  then saw many Madonnas etc in the Palazzo dei Priori, the impressive medieval town hall which now contains the National Gallery of Umbria.

Friday  was an amazing visit to  Arezzo. After coffee in the Caffe dei Constanti we went to the C.13 church of San Francesco, where we saw Piero della Francesca’s famous frescoes (featured in 'The English Patient') dedicated to the Finding of the True Cross It was also the hometown of  Giorgio Vasari, polymath and author of  'Lives of the Artists'.  Heads spinning with glorious images, we drove to Pisa for the journey home via Luton. 

Young Arts Area Meeting 19 September 2019

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Our Young Arts group hosted the Herts and Beds Area Society meeting on 19 September.

17 representatives of the local area societies were treated to a guided tour of Moor Park Mansion and surroundings.  This included viewing the sundial, sponsored by our Young Arts group, made by pupils at Bishop Ramsey School and presented to Moor Park in 2018.

After a refreshing sandwich lunch, information and ideas were shared with great enthusiasm and everyone felt more connected and better prepared for their role as Young Arts representatives of their Societies.

A big thank you to our Young Arts Area chairman Caroline Barnes, our Heritage Volunteers and Moor Park for helping us to make it a success.

Angela Stein

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