Transport and Industrial Heritage

Transport and Industrial Heritage Group

Since September 2023 this returning group has been meeting at Jackmans Community Centre, Ivel Court, Jackmans Estate, SG6 2NL

See Group Events for details of future meetings.

If you know of a speaker or have experience – or a contact – in an interesting industry, please let us know. We would love to have your ideas for talks and visits.

A map showing the location of the venue can be downloaded - see below.

Map of the venue (128.6 KB)

Contact Details

Tessa Palfreyman 01462 678032

Group Events

Group Articles

Richard Meredith-Hardy, owner of Radwell Mill and member of Revivel, gave us an engaging talk on how the upper reaches of the River Ivel were once healthy enough to support mills at Radwell, Norton and Stotfold. Accompanying his talk with archive images, Richard then moved on to explain the hydrogeology of the Ivel, a chalk stream, and the impact that extraction of water from the chalk aquifer is having on it. With stretches of the river now drying or experiencing very low flows, huge damage is being done to the ecology of the river.

Malcolm Bates gave an engaging talk about Letchworth company, Shelvoke and Drewry. Founded in 1922 and trading until 1991, S & D first produced the Freighter a general purpose ‘lorry’’ going on to design and produce a large range of vehicles including tractors, fork lift trucks and bin lorries. War-time production included tank transporters and submersible craft.

Terry Cavender, Executive Officer at the Buckingham Canal Society (BCS), gave us an impressive account of the achievements of the Society and volunteers in protecting and restoring the Buckingham Arm, built in the 1790s as part of the Grand Junction scheme. The canal was a financial success and community asset until the opening of the railway in 1850 drew trade away from it. It was dammed off in World War II and offically abandoned in 1964. The BCS formed in 1992 and has been working to restore several sections.

Douglas Kent, Technical Director at the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), explained the work of the SPAB before discussing how SPAB principles have been put into practice through the programme of major conservation work underway at the Old Sun Inn, Saffron Walden. We learned that the inn is a Grade I-listed historic building displaying some of the best pargeting – external decorative plasterwork – in England.

Matthew Platt gave a fascinating talk entitled Ice Age to ICL: technology through time sharing images from the collection of North Herts Museum at which he is Assistant Curator. From mammoth hunting tools in Weston, to the 'One per Desk' computer created by Letchworth Company ICL, our local area has played host to the development of many innovative technologies.

Josh Tidy, Heritage Manager at the Letchworth Heritage Foundation, gave a fascinating talk on the town during World War II. We heard about home life, including the monotonous diet, and the role of various Letchworth industries in supporting the war effort including British Tab, Spirella, Kryn and Lahy, Meredew and more. A bumper crowd of 40 of us listened to the detail and anecdote with great enjoyment.

James Greer from Airbus gave us a fascinating and enlightening talk about the company and its commercial predecessors which have been building launchers / satellites from the Stevenage site since the 1960s. We learnt about early projects and commercial telecommunication satellites as well as science and space exploration missions including the current programmes in build like Biomass and the Mars Lander. A varied range of questions from our audience provided an interesting ending to this stimulating talk.

Letchworth author and historian, Bill Lindsay, gave a fascinating talk based upon his recently published book on the history of his ancestor William Schaw Lindsay. An orphan who ran away to sea at the age of 16, Schaw's entrepreneurial nature led him to develop a significant merchant shipping line and successfully handle the transition from sailing ships to those with auxiliary steam power. Schaw wrote the key text on the history of merchant shipping and became the Liberal Member of Parliament for Tynemouth and North Shields.

Jo Ward, Curator of Stevenage Museum, gave a fascinating talk on the relationship between the development of transport and the shaping of Stevenage. We explored the original roads layout and the coaching industry, moving onto turnpikes before the advent of the railway in 1850. The station moved from the Old Town to the New in 1973. As workers changed from bicycles to cars the role of buses expanded to relieve pressure on the roads and we learnt of the Superbus initiative.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019   Beep Beep! A talk on micro cars

Tuesday, June 4 2019       The Avro Vulcan and the Cold War ... and More


Tuesday, May 7 2019  History of the Great Northern Railway through Hertfordshire and Letchworth.