6th Sept | History of the Co-op Movement – talk by Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews was our September speaker on The History of the Co-op Movement. He began by saying that he grew up in London where he got his first job at 13, delivering newspapers for his local Co-op.  Now here he is in his thirties still working for them as the Manager of Woodbridge Co-op & a Director of some aspects of the work the Co-op does in this area.

The Co-op movement was started by The Rochdale Pioneers, a group of twenty-eight people (one of whom was a lady), who decided that the rich merchants were taking advantage of them by adding ingredients to products to make them weigh more, to the detriment of the quality of the goods.  They started in 1844 calling themselves the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. They struggled to amass £28 over four months, but were able to open a warehouse from which to trade at 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale, on 21st December 1844.  They traded in flour, butter, sugar, oatmeal and candles, and soon expanded to include tea & tobacco, all goods sold at fair prices.

Chris told us that The East Anglian Co-operative Society follows the same principles as the pioneers in that they do what is right for the people. It was started by John Castle of Essex in 1861, later joined by George Heinz of Ipswich in 1867. Together they opened a little shop at 34 Carr Street, Ipswich, which was registered on 3rd March 1868, and was later to transform into the flagship Co-op Department Store. Eventually Boss Hall Farm was bought to supply dairy products in Ipswich. The first official Co-op Supermarket was the Solar Store (now Morrisons) that was eventually built on the same site.

The East of England Co-op is now made up of 150 stores across Norfolk, Suffolk & Essex, and – as in the old days – customers can still become shareholders by paying a membership fee of £1 which entitles them to an annual dividend payout.

The Co-op is still a great supporter of local communities. They promote local food producers and source many of their goods from our region. In addition they have a number of good causes which they support and they pride themselves on being a business for people and communities not just for profit.

The Co-op was the first company to introduce degradable plastic bags, and they led the way in introducing Fair Trade products such as bananas, tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate.

Chris brought several bars of Fair Trade Chocolate for us to sample, and it was passed around and duly devoured. He was an extremely good ambassador for the Co-op, and we all enjoyed his talk and his chocolate!


19th Jul | ‘My Life in Harrods’ – talk by Sue Smart

What an interesting career was had by our July speaker, Sue Smart. She spent all 43 years of her working life in Harrods, from the age of seventeen as a Junior until she finally retired after being a Buyer in various departments.

Harrods began as a small store in Stepney, East London, in a single room owned by Charles Henry Harrod selling only tea and groceries. The store moved to Knightsbridge and expanded in 1849, until gradually the business occupied the whole block in the Brompton Road. After the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851, Knightsbridge became a very fashionable area and the store enjoyed great success. In 1898 an escalator was installed – England’s first – and smelling salts or a stiff drink were offered to its daring early passengers after their trip! In the same year Harrods issued its first Catalogue, where all its products were listed. The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which is Latin for “all things for all people, everywhere”, so you can imagine the size of this publication!

As far as Sue Smart is concerned – she began her career there travelling from her home in Neasden as a Junior trainee in 1968. Her training took two years including one day a week at college and during that time she worked in several different departments. When decimal coinage was introduced in 1971 she was one of the “Decimal Pennies” who were stationed on each floor of the shop each wearing a sash to make them visible to the customers and offering help with the new currency. During the ’60s and ’70s she remembers the I.R.A. bomb threats and the store had to be evacuated a number of times. In 1974 a bomb did actually go off in the House & Garden Tools department which was sealed off in time to minimise damage and no one was hurt. The January Sales attracted large numbers of customers, some of whom camped outside to be first to get the bargains and takings often exceeded £100 million in this month!

One of Sue’s unusual roles as a Buyer was in the Pets Department, and one of her first trips abroad as a Buyer was with the merchandise director to Frankfurt to a Pets Accessories Trade Fair. After a day of walking around the stalls she was told that the next day she could buy whatever fancy accessories caught her eye – and the more unusual the better!

As a Buyer for the Linens department Sue visited China, India and the USA in search of beautiful hand-made products, and one banqueting-size tablecloth covered in hand-made lace which she brought back actually sold for £40 000!

Famous customers who Sue remembers include Priscilla Presley (who regularly visited the linen department), plus countless celebrities, an Arab princess and several members of the Royal family. Sue told us that Al Fayed was a very generous and hands-on employer who was often in the store and who knew many of his staff by name. After the death of his son Dodi he eventually decided to sell it in 2010 to Qatar Holdings for £1.5 billion. It was – as Sue says – the end of an era, and soon after this she retired, taking all her remarkable memories with her. We all enjoyed her sharing some of them with us!

Click CONTINUE READING to discover more fascinating facts about Harrods… Continue reading

3rd May | Memories of a Headteacher – talk by Brian Carline

Brian Carline, our speaker in May, is a former Head Teacher with forty years experience in the profession. It turns out he was originally half of a double act in the world of stand-up comedy, and has even appeared on TV in the vintage talent show “New Faces”! He told us that one of the essential qualities of being a good teacher is a sense of humour, and this was well illustrated in his very amusing talk!

He has worked in a number of secondary schools in quite difficult areas of the country, from Toxteth and Salford  to parts of Essex and the East End of London, and he recounted many amusing anecdotes about the staff, pupils and families which he has come across over the years. He had us all laughing from the word go – and yet throughout his talk of the tough characters and difficult families his devotion to the job and his compassion for the pupils in his care was clear for us all to see. A very entertaining evening which culminated in many of us remembering our own school experiences!

5th Apr | The Royal Gardens – talk by Mark Lane (Head Gardener, Buckingham Palace)

Capel Ladies Club members were very excited about their April speaker, Mark Lane, who was coming to talk to us about The Royal Gardens. BUT – as we found out – there are TWO Mark Lanes, both highly accredited in the gardening sphere. One is the first wheelchair garden designer who also presents “Gardener’s World” from time to time and the other is the Queen’s Head Gardener at Buckingham Palace. Who knew? I think we had all assumed it would be the Gardener’s World Mark Lane, and so when our Chairlady Di Barker and her husband went to collect Mark Lane off the evening train from London prior to the meeting they were looking for a man in a wheelchair!  Misunderstandings corrected, and laughed over, OUR Mark Lane arrived in the Library to give his talk, having come straight from work especially to speak to us, and charging us nothing but the price of his train ticket!

He spoke in a very relaxed style, telling us about the history of the 39-acre garden at Buckingham Palace, and showing photos of the different areas of landscape and planting. There is a large five-acre lawn where the Garden Parties are held, a three-acre lake and a large wildflower area, plus a huge herbaceous border, a rose garden and extensive vegetable plot growing organic produce. The Palace is self-sufficient in its own honey too, having several beehives. There are nearly 500 mature trees and a very comprehensive plant collection. Mark has been Head Gardener at the Palace for over thirty years, and he also oversees the gardens at Clarence House, home to the Prince of Wales. A total of only eight gardeners are employed at these two places which seems surprisingly few as they are kept very busy throughout the year with all the many functions, open days and exhibitions held in the grounds. The Palace grounds are home to many types of wildlife, which bring their own sets of problems – for example large flocks of greylag and Canada geese live by the lake, and of course create a lot of mess which needs to be continually cleared up.

At the end of Mark’s illustrated and interesting talk he answered a number of our questions before leaving to catch his train back to London.

1st Feb | Anecdotes of a Midwife – talk by Kim Mason

Chairlady Di Barker welcomed a full turnout of members to the first meeting in our 2018 programme, and she announced that as this is our 50th Anniversary Year there were some extra-special events planned to mark it. These would be revealed as the year went on! After introducing the new committee Di welcomed our speaker for the evening, midwife Kim Mason, who had come to tell us all about her work, and of her beliefs and values in helping women to deliver their babies safely.

Kim has been a practising midwife for forty years, having first qualified as a State Certified Nurse and then taking a hands-on midwifery course, learning on the job. She worked for a year in a general hospital and then in Leigh-on-Sea with another colleague giving mothers-to-be ante-natal and pregnancy care, taking them all the way through from ante-natal classes to delivery, and then following up with post-natal care for both mothers and babies.

Although retired now, she is still called upon to attend occasional births. Her philosophy is to let the mothers lead when it comes to delivery – it is the midwife’s job to learn when to interfere, and to ensure a calm and comfortable environment where mothers feel able to relax and listen to their bodies. Midwives are there to “catch the baby” as Kim put it, and let women feel empowered by doing it all themselves as far as possible.

As it happens, Kim disapproves of programmes such as “Call the Midwife” as she feels that many of the stories can put mothers-to-be off completely and actually terrify them when it comes to giving birth themselves. Giving birth at home and as naturally as possible also makes for healthier babies and healthier mums, and less post-natal depression too. Only 8% of mums-to-be in the UK give birth at home today, compared to 50% when Kim started work!

Kim’s talk was both relaxed and informative and given with humour and sensitivity – exactly in the way you would imagine she did her job!

Jan 18th | Capel Ladies Club A.G.M. 2018

The 2018 A.G.M. was attended by 21 members of Capel Ladies Club, six of whom were current committee members.

After welcoming everyone to the meeting Chairlady Di Barker gave her annual report. She said it had been another successful year with some good speakers and members had enjoyed meals out, social and the annual Barbecue. However, although a number of outings had taken place throughout the year they had not been particularly well attended. The main exceptions to this was our Christmas shopping trip to Bury St Edmunds and the Mystery Tour round Suffolk. Di said perhaps it was time to reconsider the number of outings arranged each year as it was quite a lot of work if only a handful of people wanted to go on them. Wendy Keeble commented that it was a shame that a minority of interested people who wanted to go on trips and visits should have to forfeit these because of the great majority’s disinterest.

Di went on to thank everyone who had helped the club in some way over the year: Val and Dorothy for setting out the tea things each meeting; Linda Morrison for putting round our posters; and each individual committee member for their various roles. Secretary Sue Woolgar received special thanks, and also mentioned was Nick Woolgar, Sue’s son who puts reports and photos on our website,

Treasurer Liz Gulliver was also thanked for her hard work, and John Bloomfield too for auditing the accounts. Sue and Liz were leaving the committee this year but there were two new volunteers to join. These were Sue Crane and Beryl Backler, who were both proposed and seconded on to the 2018 team.

Of special note was this, our 50th Anniversary year, and Di announced that the club would be holding several special events to mark this. The committee was yet to finalise this year’s programme but all would be revealed as time went on.

After the main business of the evening there were refreshments with home-made cakes baked by members of the committee and this was followed by a “Backwards Raffle” which turned out to be great fun and was a jolly way to end the evening!

Dec 21st | Christmas Social

Our Christmas Social 2017 was another happy occasion with decorations on the tables, a Grand Christmas Raffle, the Members’ Hamper Draw and even a Secret Santa surprise at the end! As usual each member brought a plate of food to share, and there was a tremendous variety of snacks and party food. Irene Carder had a seasonal quiz for us with chocolates as prizes, and the winners were Beryl Backler and Sue Woolgar. The draw for the fantastic Christmas hamper, put together by Pat Bradford and Shirley Ward, was won by Jacky Lloyd amidst great applause. Di Barker thanked all the committee for their hard work over the year and reminded everyone of the coming AGM in January when some new committee members will be chosen.