The Arts Society Wirral lectures are held at Heswall Hall on the 3rd Monday of every month. They start at 2pm and the doors are open from 1.30 pm.  The lectures will run for approximately 1 hour followed by tea and biscuits.

There are no lectures in the summer months of July and August. 

All Lectures have been cancelled until the New Year due to Covid-19

From Desktop to Bureau-Writing Furniture from The 16th to the 18th Century.

Janusz Karzewski-Slowikowski

18 Jan 2021

The rise in importance of writing furniture from the 16th to the 18th centuries reflected the economic as well as social need for greater literacy and numeracy as mercantile trade developed across the globe.   This lecture traces the development of the bureau-bookcase and other writing furniture from the humble  “writing slope” or “Bible-box” through to  magnificent symbols of status and power – just think of Louis XV’s desk in Versailles, or it’s replica in London’s  Wallace Collection. Computers may have “hidden files” but lack the intrigue and mechanical craftsmanship of secret drawers and compartments, which this lecture will reveal.  Just think of all the “knickknacks” the various sized drawers of a desk, bureau or Escritoire can hold and what collections can be displayed where printed books, replaced by “E-books”, once stood.  Have personal computers and lap-tops made writing furniture redundant?    Definitely not! 

The Genius of Beethoven

Peter Medhurst 

15 Feb 2021

Famously, every morning of his adult life, Beethoven measured out exactly 60 coffee beans for his breakfast.  A man who is capable of such discipline over a cup of coffee, can surely apply that exactness elsewhere in his life; and in Beethoven’s case, it was applied to his compositions. In fact, the detail found in his music is often so subtle, that most people don’t even know it’s there. The lecture/study day explores Beethoven’s genius as a writer of music, at the same time setting his extraordinary story against the backdrop of 19th century warfare, revolution and dramatic social changes. Beethoven will be 250 years old on 17 December 2020.


Peter appears in the UK and abroad as a musician and scholar, giving recitals and delivering illustrated lectures on music and the arts. He studied singing and early keyboard instruments at the Royal College of Music and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

Gilt and Gorgeousness, a celebration of the 200th Anniversary of King George 4ths Accession to the Throne in 1820

Barbara Askew.

15 Mar 2021

On coming to the throne George IV instinctively understood the majesty and splendour appropriate to the monarch of the richest and most powerful country in the world. This lecture traces his developing taste as Prince of Wales, Regent and King and examines connections between his royal residences as well as his spectacular legacy to the Royal Collection.


Barbara is an historian and London Blue Badge Guide since 1988. Lecturer, Examiner and Course Director on Blue Badge Guide Training Courses and an acknowledged expert on Royalty and Windsor Castle. A rota guide for the Albert Memorial and British Museum. Has conducted tours for American museums and alumni groups for the past 25 years. She offers guided visits and walking tours linked to her lectures.

Turner vs. Constable: The Great British Paint-Off.

Nicola Moorby 

19 Apr 2021

This is the story of the epic rivalry between the two giants of British art, J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. As unlike in background and temperament as their paintings were in style, these two creative geniuses transformed the art of landscape. This lecture/study day sets them head-to-head and examines their differences, their similarities, their battles and their shared triumphs. But who will ultimately be crowned star painter? As well as giving an overview of Turner and Constable, the subject provides an enjoyable overview of the British art world during the nineteenth century.  

Nicola is an independent art historian specialising in British art of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She studied at the University of York and Birkbeck College, London. Formerly a curator at Tate Britain she has curated a number of exhibitions and has published widely on J.M.W. Turner, including contributions to the forthcoming online catalogue of the Turner Bequest. She is also co-editor and author of How to Paint Like Turner (Tate Publishing, 2010). In addition, she has published on Walter Richard Sickert and is co-author of Tate's catalogue of works by the Camden Town Group.

English Towns in the 18th Century: Society, art, and Architecture

Caroline Knight 

17 May 2021

From the late 17th century towns and cathedral cities grew in size and prosperity, bringing in gentry from the surrounding countryside. To entertain the leisured classes, theatres and assembly rooms were built, subscription libraries started and race courses set up. Gentry families increasingly owned a house in their local town, where they could spend the winter, shop, attend concerts, and see their friends. In the 19th century some towns became industrialised and lost their charm, others still have some of their 18th century attractions.


Caroline is an Architectural historian, trained at the Courtauld and specialising in 16th to 18th century English and Scottish architecture. Lecturer at the V&A on year courses and short courses, and lecturer for the Art Fund, and for the Royal Oak Foundation in the US. Researched and wrote a history of Kensington Palace. Contributed to a book on the Cecil family, and has written several articles on architectural and social history and the history of travel. Wrote London's Country Houses(2009). Contributed a chapter to a history of the Royal Academy (Yale, forthcoming).

The Subtle Science and Exact Art of Colour in English Garden Design

Timothy Walker 

21 Jun 2021

In 1888 Gertrude Jekyll wrote a short but seminal article in The Garden in which she urged the readers to “remember that in a garden we are painting a picture”. As an accomplished watercolour artist, Miss Jekyll was familiar with the principles of using colours, but she felt that in gardens these principles “had been greatly neglected”. This talk looks at how to apply these principles in designing a border, but it also looks at the ways in which a border is different from a painting. However, it goes further than this and looks at how contemporary work of the likes of Turner, Monet, Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and Hockney evolved in parallel with ideas about what a garden or border should look like.


Since 1986 Timothy has given 1,500 public lectures. This was originally part of his work as director of the Oxford University Botanic Garden from 1988 to 2014. Botanic gardens are often described as living museums, and garden curators lecture about them in the same way as museum curators talk about their collections. Since 2014 he has been a college lecturer and tutor at Somerville College Oxford. Gardens are often thought of a place where science and art meet on equal terms. His lectures investigate this relationship.

Thomas Heatherwick - the Leonardo da Vinci of our times

Anthea Streeter

20 Sep 2021

London-born Thomas Heatherwick is by almost any measure the most important British designer working today.  Sir Terence Conran spotted his talent early on and described Heatherwick as “the Leonardo da Vinci of our times”.


Heatherwick and his Studio team bring craft, design and urban planning together in a single workspace.   Their Olympic Cauldron with its breathtaking giant ring of fire was a memorable sight at the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games in 2012.   In the same year, the Studio’s new red London bus was launched, the first re-design of such an iconic symbol of London for 50 years.   Among Heatherwick’s recent architectural projects, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, hollowed out from the concrete tubes of Cape Town’s old Grain Silo building, is an astonishing feat;  and the shining Vessel stairway structure of 2019 has become a major tourist attraction on New York City’s West Side.    


Thomas Heatherwick’s innovative approach is in demand all over the world, and the lecture will highlight the broad range of designs from this most creative of British designers.

Anthea Streeter studied the Fine and Decorative Arts in London and continued her studies at Harvard University. It was while at Harvard, where there was great enthusiasm for American design, that she became interested herself in 20th century architecture. Since returning from America she has taught on courses in Oxford and London, lectured on the Country House course in Sussex, and for several private groups around the country. Her special interest is in the architecture and design of the 20th century.


Venice – from Canaletto to Monet

Jennifer Toynbee- Holmes

18 Oct 2021

Canaletto and others shaped the image of Venice. Many progressive artists like Turner, Whistler and Monet found new approaches to contribute to the development of modern art.

Jennifer Toynbee-Holmes is a guide at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. She has a long-standing career as a television producer/director and is a lecturer at Goldsmiths College and Birkbeck, London. 

The Architecture, History, and Material Culture of Moorish Spain

Ian Cockburn

15 Nov 2021

The Alhambra of Granada, the Great Mosque of Cordoba and the Alacazar of Seville are just three of the many impressive monuments to the architectural creativity of the Moors in Spain revealed in this lecture. 


Ian is an historian with a BA (Birkbeck College) in art history and an MA (Courtauld Institute of Art) in medieval Spanish art history. Specialist in the nearly 800 years of Moorish occupation and Christian reconquest of medieval Iberia. 

Founder and director of an art tours company, specialising in guided cultural tours in Spain, plus lecturing in London at institutions such as the V&A, SOAS, Christies Education, and the London Art History Society. Trustee and Honorary Treasurer of Art History Link-Up, a charity that offers an education in Art History to young people regardless of their background.  Working in partnership with galleries, schools and other institutions, AHL-U provides accredited courses where there is a gap in provision in the formal education sector.  Formerly a Chartered Accountant and senior manager in multi-national IT companies, with extensive public-speaking experience.

A Right Royal Christmas, how our royal family has celebrated Christmas, from William the Conqueror to Queen Elizabeth ll

Roger Askew

13 Dec 2021

Our royal families have always celebrated Christmas. William the Conqueror made sure of his claim to the English throne by being crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. Feasting on a spectacular scale characterised medieval Christmases – including crane’s flesh, peacocks and herons. Present-giving ranged from the extravagant – the City of London presented Richard II with a camel and a pelican – to the witty – Mrs Thatcher sent the Queen a pair of yellow washing-up gloves having seen Her Majesty doing the dishes without any.

Roger was a chorister at Wells Cathedral School and a choral scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated with an honours degree in English.  He combined a teaching career with professional singing in London, and after obtaining a further degree in Music became Director of Music at Daniel Stewart’s and Melville College in Edinburgh.

After retiring in 2003 he returned to the south of England.  He is President Emeritus of The Stoke Poges Society and Chairman of Windsor and Maidenhead Decorative and Fine Arts Society.

The Bayeux Tapestry: The World’s oldest comic strip

Eveline Eaton 

17 Jan 2022

Everyone is aware about “1066 and all that” without necessarily knowing the exact facts about this momentous event. This lecture will present in details the historical, cultural and artistic aspects of that unique masterpiece, the Bayeux Tapestry, which provides posterity with such a startling testimonial of peoples’ lives in the late Viking age. 

Eveline has a BA Hons Courtauld Institute; Diploma: Study Centre for the History of Fine & Decorative Arts. Freelance lecturer in Fine Arts and tour-guide to Berlin, Dresden, Munich. Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dresden Trust

Mad Men and the Artists- how the advertising industry has exploited fine art

Tony Rawlins

21 Feb 2022

Fine art has provided advertisers and their agencies with a great deal of material to use in their creative campaigns. Tony describes some of the processes by which these advertisements have been created and why the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo have been a particularly rich source. From the Renaissance through to the present day fine art continues to provide opportunities to enhance Brand imagery with admiration, humour, satire and irony.

In an entertaining and informative lecture Tony uses a wide range of visuals and video to show examples of the original works, the creative process and the (not always entirely successful) advertisements that are the end result.

Tony was educated at Highgate School, starting his career in advertising in 1965 as a mail boy in J.Walter Thompson. He graduated through the training system there to become an account director and subsequently worked in a number of agencies before setting up on his own in 1985. There he handled primarily Guinness advertising in Africa and the Caribbean, where he produced many commercials and print ads for them over a period of 15 years. He remains active as a consultant in the industry, but now concentrates on more philanthropic projects - producing a film in the rural villages of Nigeria for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. More recently he has completed a sanitation project in Haiti after it was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  

He has been a member of The Arts Society for many years. His earlier lecturing experience includes presenting to client groups, sales conferences and students of creative advertising in the UK and overseas. More recently he has been lecturing to Arts Societies in the UK and Europe.

Sarah Dunant

The Most Infamous Family in History: The Borgias

21 Mar 2022

Murder, poison, corruption and incest: all perfect ingredients for sensational popular culture. But in an age known for its brutality and church corruption were the Borgias really so bad? This lecture reveals the real family that dominated the Papacy and Italian politics during the last decade of the 15th century: the charismatic figure of Pope Alexander VI, living inside his sumptuously decorated apartments, the career of his son, Cesare, cardinal, general, employer of Da Vinci and the model for Machiavelli’s The Prince, and the journey of Lucrezia Borgia from “the greatest whore in Rome” to a devout and treasured duchess of the city Ferrara. Sometimes truth is more intoxicating than myth.

Novelist, broadcaster and critic.  Sarah read history at Cambridge, then worked for many years as a cultural journalist in radio and television on such programmes as Kaleidoscope (BBC Radio 4), The Late Show (BBC 2), and Night Waves (BBC Radio 3). She has published thirteen  novels, taught renaissance studies at Washington University, St Louis, is a visiting tutor on the MA in creative writing at Oxford Brooks and has lectured around the world at festivals and conferences. Her last five novels have been set within the Italian Renaissance. Her next, In the Name of the Family (to be published in 2017)  completes the story of the Borgia family and the remarkable period of Italian history in which they lived.

Novelist, broadcaster and critic.  Sarah read history at Cambridge, then worked for many years as a cultural journalist in radio and television on such programmes as Kaleidoscope (BBC Radio 4), The Late Show (BBC 2), and Night Waves (BBC Radio 3). She has published thirteen  novels, taught renaissance studies at Washington University, St Louis, is a visiting tutor on the MA in creative writing at Oxford Brooks and has lectured around the world at festivals and conferences. Her last five novels have been set within the Italian Renaissance. Her next, In the Name of the Family (to be published in 2017)  completes the story of the Borgia family and the remarkable period of Italian history in which they lived. 

Shimmering Splendour: Silk in SE Asia

Denise Heywood 

25 Apr 2022

Luxurious, sumptuous silk, beloved of kings and courts, priests and princesses, is a miracle of nature. The thread of silkworms, woven into fabric, a process guarded in China when discovered, became so valuable it was a source of currency. This sensual material, created in countries from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to Thailand, Burma, Bali and Philippines, embellishes all who wear it. But its origins were sacred, a gift from the gods, to cover holy manuscripts, adorn sacred dancers in rituals and protect wearers with auspicious symbols. This lecture shows the origins of silk, most dazzling of all natural creations, revealing its transformation from silkworm cocoons, dyed and woven in glorious colours and complex patterns. Images of sartorial splendour, glamorising handsome film stars, ennobling monarchs at royal courts and enhancing dancers’ ethereal beauty in Hindu temples, illustrate how human and divine forms have been enriched by this shimmering material.

Denise is an Art historian, author, lecturer, photographer and journalist. Worked in Cambodia in the 1990s and has been a scholar of Southeast Asian art ever since. Her books include one on the Buddhist temples of Laos, Ancient Luang Prabang and Laos, also in French, and Cambodian Dance Celebration of the Gods, with a foreword by the daughter of King Sihanouk. Lectures for the Art Fund, the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) on their post graduate Asian Art Course and for Madingley Hall (University of Cambridge); also for organisations such as the British Museum, the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, Asia House, the National Trust, the Royal Geographical Society and has lectured worldwide for universities, museums, colleges, art institutions, literary societies and travel organisations. She writes for many art, literary and travel publications and has appeared on television and radio. She has led cultural tours to Southeast Asia and France for the Royal Academy, the Art Fund, Asia House and many more and lectures on cruise ships. A member of the Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the UK, Asia House and the Royal Geographical Society.

Simon Seligman

From Venice to Sheffield: John Ruskin’s Passion for Art, Craft and Social Justice 

16 May 2022

Inspired by the bicentenary of the birth of John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) in 2019, this lecture celebrates the extraordinary life and work of this visionary Victorian. As writer, teacher, artist, collector, patron and critic, Ruskin was perhaps the most complete polymath of the 19th century. He left behind a dazzling range of writing and collections that continue to inspire and generate debate around the world. Perhaps most famous today as a champion of Turner and admirer of Venice, Ruskin’s impact ranged far and wide; his ideas inspired the Arts and Crafts Movement and the foundling of the National Trust, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the Labour Movement. George Eliot wrote ‘I venerate him as one of the great teachers of the day’, and he influenced the thinking of Tolstoy, Proust and Gandhi among others.

Alongside this international reach, Ruskin became deeply concerned by what he saw as the negative impacts of the industrialisation of 19th century England, and as a teacher, thinker and philanthropist he set up projects that aspired to give the working man access to beauty, art, craft and the land. In 1871, he founded what became the Guild of St George, the charity for arts, crafts and the rural economy, and gave it a sizeable collection of art, books and minerals for public display and education in Sheffield. Today, cared for by Museums Sheffield, the collection continues to honour his legacy, sharing something of Ruskin’s encyclopedic European sensibility for the benefit of a 21st century city. This lecture spans Ruskin’s life and work from the timeless and global to the intimate and exquisite, to paint a portrait of a great life.


Simon Seligman studied art and architectural history at Warwick University, including a semester in Venice. He is also Graduate of the Attingham Summer school. From 1991 until 2010, Simon worked at Chatsworth, in a variety of roles, latterly as Head of Communications. He has lectured about Chatsworth, the Devonshire Collection and associated topics, throughout the UK and on several US tours (including the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery of Art). He has given numerous public presentations and interviews with the late Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. Publications include written or edited guidebooks and  articles for and about Chatsworth.

English Women and the French Revoltion

Karin Fernald

20 Jun 2022

Early in the French Revolution, English women of letters visit Paris. Some stay there. Mary Wollstonecraft is there for the execution of Louis XVI. Grace Dalrymple hides the governor of the Tuileries Palace between two mattresses in her own bed, and stays in the bed for four hours while her apartment is searched. Painted by Gainsborough, her portrait is in the Frick Museum, New York. Fanny Burney, Hannah Moore and Helen Maria Williams are among others and we shall see their portraits by contemporary French artists such as Louis-Leopold Boilly and Jean-Baptiste Lesueur. 

Karin Fernald, actor, writer and speaker, has an excellent reputation as a solo performer on arts and literary subjects.  She researches and writes her own material to create a spell-binding recreation of a character and a historical period. She also works with musicians and performers to combine words and music. She has appeared at festivals all over England; on tour in Japan, Australia and Europe, and at the University of Cape Town Summer School. London venues include the National Portrait Gallery, the Foundling Museum, Dr. Johnson’s House and the Hurlingham Club. She is a speaker for The Arts Society on Fanny Burney, Jane Austen, Queen Victoria, Hans Christian Andersen, Florence Nightingale and other  l8th and l9th century writers and correspondents connected with the arts; some are artists themselves.  Extensive researches into diaries and letters bring subjects to vivid life. Most recently-researched subjects are Perdita Robinson; poet, actress, fashion icon and first mistress of George lV; and that unending source of instruction and fascination, Virginia Woolf.

Karin trained as an actor at RADA and worked in theatre, TV and radio until branching out with her solo show on Fanny Burney and then turning it into a popular lecture, the first of many.  She  has a distinguished theatrical background, having appeared at  London’s Haymarket theatre with Sir Ralph Richardson, and at the Savoy Theatre opposite Robert Morley in his hit comedy A GHOST ON TIPTOE. She has  played ISABELLA in MEASURE FOR MEASURE and MARIANE in TARTUFFE at Stratford, Ontario; SALLY BOWLES in the first production of CABARET outside London, and ELIZABETH BENNET in a nation-wide tour of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.  TV roles include ANNE WILMOT FORSYTE in THE FORSYTE SAGA.  More recently she became  a member of John Calder’s Theatre of Literature, and  has appeared in Michael Friend Productions at Leonie Scott Matthews’  well-known Fringe 

Indians Buffalo and Storms: The American West in 19th century art. 

Toby Faber

19th September 2022

Artists were never far behind the explorers who opened up the west of America in the 19th Century. Sometimes they painted what they saw. Sometimes they painted what they wished they saw. Either way, painters like Alfred Miller, Frederick Church and Albert Bierstadt have left us a powerful, if romanticised, record of the country and people that the settlers found. Now we can use their pictures to chart the  history of the opening of America’s west - the arrival of the railroad, the confinement of native Americans into reservations, and the extermination of the buffalo.

This is a story on a big scale and it seems appropriate that among the pictures illustrating the lecture are some of the largest and most grandiloquent paintings of the era. After a period of deep neglect, they are now very much back in vogue, but whatever one thinks of their artistic merits, I hope audiences will agree with me that they are, above all, great fun. 

Toby, a frequent visitor to Wirral, has written two works of narrative history, Stradivarius and Fabergé's Eggs, published by Macmillan in the UK and Random House in the US, and given lectures associated with these two subjects at venues including The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Library of Congress and the Huntington Library, as well as a number of literary festivals. His career began with Natural Sciences at Cambridge and has been through investment banking, management consulting and five years as managing director of the publishing company founded by his grandfather, Faber and Faber, where he remains on the board. He is also non-executive Chairman of its sister company, Faber Music and a director of Liverpool University Press and the Copyright Licensing Agency.

Portmeirion: A Welsh Italianate Fantasy

Matthew Williams

17th October 2022

Portmeirion is an extraordinary surprise; a colourful and delightful fantasy village on the coast of north Wales.   Created from the 1920s by the remarkable architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion was his personal defiance against the advance of modernism and what he saw as the despoilment of Britain. By the 1950s it had become the playground of artists, intellectuals, aristocrats and the merely rich. Regular visitors included H G Wells, Bertand Russell and Noel Coward (who wrote Blithe Spirit at Portmeirion).

Sir Clough’s daughter Susan created Portmeirion Pottery, which during the 1960s and 70s, was synonymous with cutting-edge ceramic style.


This lecture looks at the place, its architecture and associations. Matthew also draws on some personal memories, as his uncle was Resident Director of Portmeirion for 30 years.

Mathew lectures widely on the subject of design, and is especially interested in that of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A recognised expert in the work of the designer William Burges, he has been the Curator of Cardiff Castle since 1990 and has published widely in art and architectural journals. A long standing member of The Arts Society, Matthew has been a Volunteers Representative, a Programme Secretary and a Chairman. He has been an accredited lecturer of The Arts Society since 2001.

William Morris and Wallpapers

Joanna Banham

21 Nov 2022

William Morris was a one-man pattern-making phenomenon whose work had a powerful and lasting impact on many areas of interior design. He is probably best-known today as a designer of wallpapers and this lecture examines the development and production of his work in this genre from his early medievalising patterns to his more elegant mature style. It explores the sources and inspiration for his wallpapers, changes in style, and how and where they were used, all within the context of 19th century design.

Jo Banham is a freelance curator, lecturer and writer. From 2006-2016 she was Head of Adult Learning at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and before that Head of Learning and Access at the National Portrait Gallery, and Head of Public Programmes at Tate Britain. She has also been Curator of Leighton House and Assistant Keeper at the Whitworth Art Gallery. She has published on many aspects of Victorian and early 20th century decoration and interiors. She is currently curating an exhibition on William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement for the Juan March Fundacion in Madrid and the Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya in Barcelona. She is also Director of the Victorian Society Summer School.

The kingdom of the Sweets: All about the Nutcracker.

Nigel Bates

5th December 2022

The Nutcracker has delighted audiences at Christmas for many decades yet it was deemed a failure at its first performances.  We take a close look at how this well-loved ballet now takes its rightful place on stage and how the music of Tchaikovsky along with story-telling, design and dance all come together to make the most magical escape for young and old alike.  Includes several performance video clips.

Nigel Bates is the Music Administrator of The Royal Ballet and has been a performer for nearly forty years in and out of the Royal Opera House, including seventeen years as Principal Percussionist with the Orchestra. He has worked with many of the leading figures in the classical music industry and was also a producer for both the BBC'sMaestro at the Opera and Pappano's Classical Voices documentary series.