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22nd June 2011 A GEORGIAN DAY IN ROSS 'ON THE WAY TO THE WYE'
by Norman Bricknell.

To commemorate the founding of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty 40 years ago, it was decided to hold a Georgian Day in Ross-on-Wye, this being one of several events in the AONB area to raise the profile of the River Wye and its environs.

The Georgian period (1714 - 1837) saw significant commercial activity in Ross and the Wye Valley, partly because, in 1745, the well connected Rector of Ross-on-Wye, Dr. John Egerton, started taking friends on boat trips down the Wye, this being the period when the 'Picturesque' movement began to take off.

In 1782, William Gilpin published his 'Observations on the River Wye' (still available in Rossiters of Ross) which is greatly acknowledged to be the first illustrated tourist guide, and these two fine gentlemen effectively kicked off the burgeoning tourist industry in Great Britain. (Wars and unrest in France and parts of Europe also discouraged the toffs from going abroad!).

The Georgian Day took place in Ross-on-Wye on Saturday, 18th June and began with the commencement of the 'Walkers Are Welcome' Walking Festival which kicked off at 10:15am down by the Riverside. The day then broadly could be described in four sections.

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Jesse Norman MP speaks of the significance of the day and was happy to lend his support to this great event.

The official start took place at 11:00am at Ross Market House where Ross Town Mayor, Councillor David Ravenscroft and Jesse Norman MP, spoke of the significance of the day, after which local historian Heather Hurley introduced the principle characters for the historic Progression Through Ross.

The Town Crier, Mary Sinclair-Powell called the crowd to order before they were introduced to the splendidly garbed John Kyrle and his buxom housekeeper, Judith Bubb. Once the walking parties were assembled, they progressed to the sandstone Alms Houses in Church Street where the character, Thomas Hooper, a wonderful old schoolmaster pleaded for a place in the Alms Houses.

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Schoolmaster, Thomas Hooper pleads for a place in the Alms Houses.

John Kyrle with Alexander Pope, William Gilpin and Robert Bloomfield who explain their part in the Picturesque movement.

In the churchyard, we met Jack the Scape, the sin eater and, notably the Reverend John Egerton, the aforementioned Rector of Ross, who in a most effective manner, explained how he came to start his 'Wye Tours.' The beautiful panorama from The Prospect saw Alexander Pope, William Gilpin and Robert Bloomfield explain their part in the Picturesque Movement.

The assembled crowd then moved on to the Swan & Falcon Courtyard to meet dashing Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton. After an attempted abduction by highwaymen in Wye Street, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton stepped into the Clinker built boat on the river from the broad steps in front of the Hope & Anchor Inn, from where, they were rowed downstream towards Monmouth on their historic tour.

The period costumes, (brilliantly assembled and prepared by Iris Price), together with the superb acting of all participants, gave this historic progression and immense feeling of authenticity and we all learnt a great deal more about the history of this beautiful area.

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After an attempted abduction, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton proceed with their famous River Wye tour.

This man was demonstrating how flax used to be worked, making it suitable for many uses.

Meanwhile, down in the Caroline Symonds Gardens, adjacent to the Bandstand there were, throughout the day, a series of musical and dramatic performances by a classical quartet, the students of John Kyrle High School and Ashfield Park Primary School. There were also military demonstrations going on along with craft demonstrations, including costume and lace making, rope making and the Mulberry Dyer, together with excellent exhibitions by many local history societies as well as the Wye Valley AONB group.

Another programme of events ran in the Hope & Anchor Conservatory. These included excellent demonstrations and talks by food historian, Dr. Annie Gray, Jon Hurley with Georgian wines and a fascinating, animated talk by Lucy Adlington, who brilliantly demonstrated what a palaver it was for a posh Georgian lady to dress and undress.

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In the Hope & Anchor Conservatory, Lucy Adlington brilliantly demonstrated what a palaver it was for posh Georgian ladies to dress and undress .

Tina being represented with the John Kyrle Award which was presented to Alan before he died.

Another notable part of the day took place at Ross Market House at 1:30pm, when the John Kyrle Award was represented to Tina Jones, partner of the late Alan Wood. This award, made annually by ART to an individual for outstanding service to the community had been presented in a small ceremony to Alan before he died, for all the good work he did for this town and area with his web site www.wyenot.com. (The original plan was for Alan to receive the award at the Georgian event). Richard Mayo, Chairman of ART had arranged for the award to be presented to Tina by 'John Kyrle' aka Jon Hurley.

Richard also presented to the town a massive cake with the classic view of Ross Town from the riverside photographically reproduced on the icing of the cake. Pieces of the cake, which was made by Richard's wife, Hayley at their shop, Truffles Delicatessen were then distributed by Ross Sea Cadets to all those around the Market Place.

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John Kyrle cuts the huge cake watched by Town Crier, Mary Sinclair-Powell, historian, Heather Hurley, Hayley Mayo, who made the cake and Richard Mayo.

The afternoon continued with a repeat of the historic progression at 2:00pm. At the conclusion of the progressions, Leader of the Wye Valley AONB, Andrew Blake thanked all the participants and his hard working staff for making the day come alive in such spectacular fashion. The names of all those at the AONB were not known. However, ART are very aware that Nikki Moore was a very important link, liaising between the two associations.

Huge numbers of people contributed to the day in different ways but one thing is for certain; the 48 plus costumes which were assembled voluntarily by Iris Price was a spectacular achievement which very much contributed to the character and success of the day.

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