John Avery Heritage
Member Southampton Heritage Federation
 Sharing local history with the community
In 1967 the Queen Mary set off on her final voyage to Longbeach, California. This watercolour by Eric Crompton records the farewell.A stone carving on the RSH Hospital Chapel.An afternoon stroll on Plymouth Breakwater
John Avery is a Fellow of the Huguenot Society of Britain and Ireland, a member of Southampton
Heritage Federation, City of Southampton Society [Honorary Life Member], Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery [Honorary Life Member],  Friends of  Town Quay Park, National Federation of Cemetery Friends, The Southampton Fryatt Plaque, Devon Family History Society, West Country Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust , Landmark Trust, National Trust
Copyright 2018

   Home      Heritage Talks by John Avery





Comments from audience members

Titanic's People
"Many thanks for the lecture which was widely praised"
Dr Henry Will MBE [Ford Park Cemetery Trust April 2012]

Dear John-many thanks for coming this morning and telling us about Titanic's People! It was a fascinating account of a tragedy which really brought home the impact  the disaster had on individual people. Members much enjoyed your talk-so much so that I am being asked to book you again!  I will be in touch later when I am sorting next years programme!    best wishes  Howard [New Forest Probus]

"I would like to say many thanks for the very interesting and informative talk you gave at Ford Park Cemetery on Wednesday 25th April"  [Anne Roberts]

"I am pleased to send you a cheque* for the splendid presentation that you gave to us. Thank you also for making your booklets available for purchase. There is so much ‘real’ information in them. I am pleased that I bought a copy."

Barrie Clark [Bitterne Church Men's Group April 2012]

"We all enjoyed today very much (a proper thank-you letter is in the post to you). Thank you very much again".

Robert Long [Probus Southampton North]
"Everyone very much enjoyed your talk".  [Stephen Prince Southampton Luncheon Club]
"I began to take an interest in the Titanic about 5 years ago and now watch various TV programmes and attended various talks and lectures. You hit the right spot today and it is the best talk on the subject that has come my way, thanks for making it so interesting" [U3A Chandlers Ford attendee].
"Thank you again for your wonderful talk which we all enjoyed so much" [Boldre Historical Society April 2014]
Thank you very much for your most interesting talk you gave us last night, we really enjoyed it. You have done a lot of research and it showed in your talk. [HGS Ringwood 21-10-15] 
Unfortunately I was unable to attend your talk at the Ringwood meeting a few weeks ago, and I have received a number of favourable comments. [Paul HGS Ringwood 11-11-15]
On behalf of the Romsey Abbey Probus Club I would like to thank you once again for giving us your very interesting talk on people associated with the ‘Titanic’.  Everyone we spoke to after the talk commented on how much they enjoyed it. Thank you also for fitting us in at relatively short notice and hopefully the extended time spent on club business was not too boring. [21-6-2017]

*cheques for this talk are added to donations to Seafarers UK
  The Cable Ships of Turnchapel "We were all looking forward to this talk. several of use served  aboard or worked on cable ships in the dockyard. We were not disappointed and it brought back many memories. Please come back with another talk next year." [Ian Denton, ex deck officer John W. Mackay, secretary Plymouth branch WSS]
"As usual your talks bring a lively response from the audience and the questions and answers were just as interesting as the talk itself" [Bill White Hampshire Industrial Archaeology Society]
"Again you have brought us an interesting talk from your range of topics, we are grateful to learn of the Mackay-Bennett and of other ships" [Sept 2014 Man Friday Club, Bishopstoke]
"Once again, thanks for a very interesting talk yesterday.  It was much appreciated by us all!!
I am sure we will be meeting again in 2016.!!" Cora, HGS Southampton branch 16th March 2015
We very much enjoyed your talk to DIAS on the above. You may remember that after the talk I spoke to you about the cutting of Japanese cables by submarines in August 1945. I have found the story on the web under <far flung Australians - cutting cables > and thought you might be interested and perhaps include it one of your talks. A pretty amazing tale

Best wishes,   Roger Berry.  
Cable Ships of Turnchapel. Commercial Cable's ships Marie Louise Mackay and John W Mackay. Image copyright Ian Denton. 

The Thetis Widows

"The presentation was excellent. The facts tumbled from your mouth without any apparent effort or unsureness……… your talk was amongst the top three given to us in the last 15 years  Thank you."

"I was a member of your audience but had to rush away before I had a chance to speak to you after the talk. You were too popular and I had other commitments.

As an ex RN Submariner I was delighted to get the background to the Thetis Incident from an unbiased mouth at last. The results on the families was almost entirely new for me.

Again my thanks that you should have investigated this affair and given such an interesting and informed expose"

Don Hayward [IOWFHS Nov 2011]

"I travelled 70 miles to be here tonight and enjoyed the talk and images very much indeed"

"Just a quick note to say, on behalf of our group, a very big thank you for helping us out and stepping in to give us a most interesting talk. I think we all found is very moving and it must have taken endless research to gather together all the accounts of such a tragic disaster. It was an amazing story". 
With kind regards 

Liz Grover [Rownhams and Nursling History Group April 2012]

"You have given the Bitterne Men's Group many fascinating talks and for me this was one of the very best.  I thank you for your most interesting talk to us last Thursday evening 19th September 2013".[Barrie Clark, treasurer]

The Building of Plymouth Breakwater
"One of the most interesting talks I believe that we have had in the last 7 years or so" [Plymouth Postcards Collector's Club]  
 The Hampshire Industrial Archaeology Society's report on my presentation on the subject on 4 January 2010:
Our first talk of the New Year was John Avery on the "Building of the Plymouth Breakwater 1812-1841".  A great engineering feat in its time even by today's standards, it was decided in 1806 to provide the Channel Fleet with a safe anchorage  in Plymouth Sound.  After purchasing a 25 acre site from the Duke of Bedford at a cost of £10,000 John Rennie and Joseph Whidbey were commissioned to come up with a scheme.  Four million tons of stone were excavated from nearby quarries which were then transported to the site on ten specially converted sailing barges.  The scheme was finally completed in 1841 by John Rennie's son, Sir John Rennie and turned out to be well over budget equating to about 72 million pounds by today's standards.  Because of the cost, only one lighthouse was built on the Breakwater and is situated at the western end.  Started in 1841 it was finished in 1843 and built of white Cornish granite.  At the eastern end a beacon was constructed with a stepped base and topped with a pole and cage which could accommodate several shipwrecked sailors.  Trinity House acquired the lighthouse bell from Montreal Cathedral as it was shipped back to the  foundry where it was made, as considered " too flat" in tone for it's original purpose.  John ended his talk on rather a sad note with stories and some slides of various shipwrecks that had occurred over the years.  In particular in 1905 a submarine sunk just off the Breakwater  with hardly any survivors and all the lighthouse keeper could do was to look on in horror as the tragedy unfolded. 
"Your research as usual was first class and we look forward to your next talk"  [Jeff Pain, Southampton Local History Forum]
"I think that you have set a new standard, we have had interesting speakers in the past and you have set a new benchmark" [Plymouth Postcard Collectors Club] 
"What an interesting talk, your research is to be commended and it was first class" [Barton on Sea Probus 31st Aug 2014] 
" A fine mixture well presented facts, a good piece of intrigue and plenty of nostalgia, the mix was just right and a very interesting talk" [Southampton East Probus 19th Nov 2014] 

The Flying Enterprise and the tug Turmoil 

I was delighted to hear the account of the Flying Enterprise.I remembered much of the story but was not aware of the American interest.So, thanks for the treat!  [MH at BLHS 14th February 2015]
John Avery presenting a talk [image Will Temple]
The Huguenots at Southampton and the South Coast
" We travelled from Andover [to Brockenhurst] this evening to listen to your talk. I have now new avenues to explore and will follow up a probable Huguenot link. It was well worth the journey". [HGS Brockenhurst Group attendee]
"Thank you so much to you (and your assistant) for a very entertaining talk last evening.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as I am sure everyone did.  I am very intrigued now about the Huguenots and shall delve more closely into my own roots.
Once again - many thanks."  [HGS Southampton Group - speaker secretary]
.... our thanks for your excellent talk on Thursday 15th May 2014. A most interesting evening John and it left me with a desire to get down to the old part of Southampton and see some of the places that you talked about. [Barrie Clark, Bitterne Men's Group].
Everyone I spoke to enjoyed your talk tonight.  [RF Fleet and Farnborough HGS June 2014]
On behalf of the Society I would like to thank you again for the interesting and entertaining talk you gave us last Friday. Many have said how little they knew of the older parts of Southampton, and appreciated it being brought to their attention.
Adrian Abbott, Programme Secretary Botley, Curdridge and Durley LHS [27th Feb 2015]

Many of our members have expressed their appreciation of your talk last Wednesday and I would like on their behalf to thank you for your excellent and personalised talk on the Huguenots.  Obviously your local knowledge and experience made the talk such an interesting one.

I found the talk very apposite in that we are currently experiencing a similar exodus of people migrating due to war and religious persecution. As it commonly stated, “ What goes around , comes around”  Bob Fowler, secretary Alresford Historical & Literary Society 16th September 2015
Thanks so much for coming up to us last week for your Talk. It was most interesting and extremely well received. D.F.Dever Valley Local History Society  9th Jan 2016
Thank you so much for giving us a very informative and entertaining presentation. Our members enjoyed the evening and we are very grateful to you for coming  along to share your knowledge with us BG HGS Andover Group 14th July 2016 
I have had a lot of positive feed back from our members. I am now booking speakers for 2017 and I am hoping you will be available   Peter Richards, chairman Bitterne LHS
Dust on their Shoes
John Avery took us on a visual trip looking at some Southampton personages - some well known others less so. Interesting facts were uncovered on Benny Hill, Sidney Kimber and his political adversary Thomas (Tommie) Lewis , Split Waterman (speedway rider) and the disgraced John Stonehouse MP. A wide variety of people, all with dust of Southampton on their shoes. [Millbrook Local History Society]

The Cholera Years
I keep meaning to write to thank you for your talk at our Group recently.  Our members really enjoyed it - I had very positive feedback from it. [Lin Perry speaker secretary HGS Basingstoke Group March 2014]

Many thanks for the most interesting talk on The Cholera Years this week at our Brockenhurst meeting.  After hearing you mentioning the numbers dying in Southampton in 1848 due to Cholera I am now wondering if my great great grandfather and his infant son's death on the same day were due to that awful illness.  They are both buried in an unmarked grave at The Old Cemetery, Southampton. [Allison, HGS group May 2014]

I must admit knowing relatively little about cholera and the fact that it was the subject of today's talk I was probably a little uninspired but now after such an interesting presentation you have surprised and engaged us all and we are grateful to you for coming today. [Peter, Ringwood U3A 20th Nov 2014]

 Quaker Businesses in Britain

Thank you for such an interesting talk and for coming at short notice to replace our speaker - I have to say we were to benefit as the facts were an eye opener to us. [Romsey Probus 3rd Sept 2014]
We heard so many interesting facts and enjoyed your talk. I think that you have created a a record in the number of Q & A's at the end, the members were clearly interested in the subject. [Southampton East Probus [Henk Alkema] 15th April 2015
That was a most fascinating talk this evening, thank you. BL CoSS 23rd Nov 2015
Your talk was excellent – I learned a lot and really appreciated being able to be there.  Thank you again. JG Nov 2015
Thank you so much for coming to talk to us last Friday. I know how much everyone enjoyed the evening. I think most of us knew about the Quaker chocolate connection but we certainly were not aware of their engineering prowess. It is amazing that such a small group of people made such an impact. Once again thank you for such an interesting talk last week. We look forward to seeing you again next year. [April 2016 HGS New Milton and Christchurch Group]

The Tichborne Claimant

May 2017 
Thank you for a most interesting talk last night.

What tangled webs some families have! It must have been intriguing investigating all the various avenues and deciding what might or might not have been the truth. I am not in the least surprised to hear that up until recently it was the longest court case.  I should think that it probably ate up most of the estate with court fees! [HGS Gosport group]
22nd Sept 2014 Just to say many thanks for your fascinating talk tonight which now has me intrigued! Kind regards, Bruce.

I never did say a proper thank you to you for the Tichbourne Claimant talk; it was a very interesting and remarkable story.Thanks. Marian
First a quick thanks for your intriguing talk last Tuesday on ‘The Tichborne Claimant’.  It provoked much interest and subsequent discussion – I am going for ‘the wrong side of the blanket theory’ – although others may have different views of course.  DNA is the answer – I wonder if it will ever happen!! Thanks again for the talk – we all really enjoyed it [Chris Pavey, HGS Waltham Chase Group] 25th May 2015
Your talk on The Claimant was very well received by our members and I have been asked to book you for another of your talks in 2016 [Linda, secretary Dorset Family History Society]
The committee have asked me to thank you again for your very interesting talk about the Tichborne Claimant.
I was aware of the case did not know the various for and against. E.G. Alton Probus 
Mary Seacole - the lady without the lamp
Knowing that I was to give a vote of thanks today and not knowing of Mary Seacole I ventured onto the internet where there was a wealth of detail about her [and Florence Nightingale] so was much looking forward to your talk. What we were not prepared for was the dreadful incompetence of those administering the troops and the huge loss through infections of the wounds so today well filled my ignorance of the Crimean War. This is your third talk to the club and we look forward to a return visit...perhaps a talk with a happy ending! [Twynham Probus Club 9th Dec 2014]
Thank you once again for your extremely interesting talk yesterday
evening and coming out to speak to us while you were not feeling 100%.  
I was so pleased we had a capacity crowd to hear all about Mary Seacole and also her connection with Florence Nightingale, the local lass. [Liz Grover, Nursling and Rownhams History Group 11th Dec 2014]
I just wanted to thank you for visiting us yesterday to give your talk on Mary Seacole.  Your audience appeared to have enjoyed it – in fact I already have been asked to find and reserve a copy of Mary Seacole’s book that you referred to in your presentation. [7th Oct 2015 Basingstoke Discovery Centre].
Just a short note to thank you for your very informative talk last night at Meeting Point. 
I am sure we will see you again. [IM, Barton on Sea Meeting Point 23rd February 2017]

Victorian Funeral Traditions and Mourning Practices
Visitors travelled from New Milton, Portsmouth and Fleet and were in praise of it.
I felt I had to write to once again thank you for attending our meeting on Wednesday and giving your talk on Victorian Mourning and Funeral Traditions which our group enjoyed very much.  As I said, this was undoubtedly one of the best talks we've had for months.
You speak very well, slow enough for people to grasp what you're saying (and for us to take notes!) and from memory rather than from a written script.  Your slides are colourful and well presented.  You easily answered the questions asked at the end which is a good reflection on you and I was pleased that our group were interested enough to want to know more. 
I didn't have a chance at the time to look at the booklets you left for us which you said were a donation.  Are you sure you don't want any payment for these?  They must have cost you a great deal of money to produce and are very good quality.  Please let me know if I misunderstood.
Once again, very many thanks.  I hope we can book you again next year. [Lin Perry HGS Basingstoke Branch 22nd April 2015]. 
Thank you very much for giving a most informative and interesting talk to the Ash U3A Family History Group this morning.  [Heather 24th June 2015]
Thoroughly enjoyed your talk and look forward to hearing about your next one in Basingstoke.
On behalf of the Romsey U3A Genealogy group I would like to thank you for a most interesting talk this morning; many members said to me after how interesting and informative it was; it clearly went down well. Colin 26th Aug 2015
Many thanks for your interesting talk on the Victorians and Death. You will be pleased to know that we have had lots of favourable comments from our members. Sue Baptiste, speaker secretary 28th January 2016
Your talk was extremely interesting and enjoyed by allCora Ashton, speaker secretary, HGS Southampton group 21st March 2016
A quick line to thank you for your very interesting talk to our Romsey HGS group last night. From the feedback I received from the members it was enjoyed tremendously and you told us lot we didn’t know. Thanking once again and we might see you again in the future. Dorothy Thompson group leader 5th Sept 16
The City of Southampton Society[title of talk]
It was my duty today to propose a vote of thanks but has proved to be my pleasure to do so, thank you for such an interesting talk and I believe speaking on behalf of my fellow members, we will be asking you to return in the future. Eastleigh & Chandlers Ford Probus 13th January 2015
John Claudius Loudon -horticulturalist, author, inventor, architect, landscape artist and cemetery designer
On behalf of FoSJP I would like to thank you for the recent talk that you gave our group on the theme of 'John Claudius Loudon'. We have had very good feedback from the talk, which people found extremely interesting. [Michaela, Friends of St James Park]

snowfall Southampton Old Cemetery courtesy FoSOCSeamen's strike at Southampton 1966Royal Blues at Bournemouth c 1949 photo by Derek Amey local historians Jim Brown and John Avery deep in thought. Image Ann MacGillivray Veronica Tippetts addressing Court Leet Oct 2nd 2012. Image Will TempleJohn Melody Southampton Town Crier at Court Leet 2012. Image Will Temple