Present: D. Turner (Chair), B. Barnett, P. Barnett, S.Holdaway, T. Jones, B. King, R. Lamb, A. Massey, L. Sumner, J. Turner and about 44 members.

Welcome: DT welcomed everyone to this strange situation, and introduced Wing Commander (Rtd) Adrian Sumner, who was to give a talk entitled ‘Zeppelins Over Retford’.  Adrian was well known to most of us, active in the community as a member of RCS, Rotary, and U3A, and a previous Open Meeting speaker: two years ago he fascinated us with a talk on Gamston Airfield.

Talk: Zeppelins Over Retford

Adrian’s presentation was professional, as one would expect. He did not disappoint in his command of the enormous wealth of historical facts and technical information about the Zeppelin, and his engaging, well-illustrated way of conveying it all to us. 

We learned that the Zeppelin was designed by Count von Zeppelin (1838-1917), and that the first flight (of airship LZ1) took place in 1900. We heard about its construction and development: the size, the engines, the range, the speed; one interesting snippet was that it took 250,000 cows’ intestines to make the gasbags for one Zeppelin and that some areas of Germany were thereby deprived of their wurst. Before WW1, there were civilian airships: gondolas were slung underneath, and over 10,000 passengers were carried during that period.

Then they were seconded to the German Army and Navy. Adrian made the important point that this was the first time that there had been attacks on civilians, and aerial bombardment of an enemy country was viewed as an act of terrorism rather than part of war. It actually boosted recruitment, because war was being brought home. In 1915, bombs were dropped on east coast towns like Great Yarmouth (claiming the first two victims) and Hull, and on London. Defence was difficult: the Zeppelins could fly at 20,000 feet, were painted black underneath, and had machine guns above and below; they carried incendiary and HE bombs. It took the Royal Flying Corps 50 minutes to climb to that height. We also had the Radio Direction Finder, but the range was limited, and guns mounted on trucks. Colmans (of mustard fame) issued a cardboard disc called a Zeppelin Raid Indicator!  

On the evening of 2 September 1916, L13 was possibly heading for Sheffield and became lost, because it dropped bombs on Gainsborough, East Stockwith and Morton before appearing over Retford at 12.56 am on 3 September. It was said that people broke the rules about showing lights (possibly the 3 shilling fine for doing so was not enough!). A boy called Edwin Wilmshurst, who lived near the Newcastle Arms on Bridgegate, reported seeing 16 bombs: on the first run, they fell in fields and most didn’t explode, but on the second run, they fell and exploded by the gasometers on Grove Lane, which caught fire. The glow could be seen for 30 miles around, and the fire was so hot that, it was reported, ‘apples baked on the trees and roosting wild birds roasted alive’. Nearby houses were wrecked, and three women and one man were injured; miraculously, there were no fatalities. 

The hazards for the Zeppelins were leaks, cold, and hypoxia; they had no parachutes; our defences became much better. The final raid was in August 1918, by which time 557 lives had been lost, 1,358 people had been injured, and £1.5 millions’ worth of damage caused. However, the Germans had failed to crush morale, rather the opposite.

   Adrian was thanked for his absorbing talk. He mentioned that a leaflet was available at Bassetlaw Museum.

1.     Minutes of the Open Meeting held on 16 October 2019: accepted.

2.     Matters arising: none.

3.     Treasurer’s Report and Membership: 

(i)             BB reported that there had been no income except subs (30 unpaid) and just over £20 from Amazon Smile (a reminder if using Amazon). There was £7,900 in the bank, of which £1,000 was committed. £5,000 had been spent on the panels in the station underpass.

(ii)           8 new members had joined (2 through the website, which now had a subs form, and 1 because of the noticeboard).

4.     Projects Update:

(i)             A News-sheet had been issued regularly, thanks to PB and TJ.

(ii)           The 30th Projects Catalogue had been published, thanks to JT and Pam Barnsdale.

(iii)         The Grove Church was being refurbished; RCS had given £2,000.

(iv)          Panels had been replaced in the station underpass.

(v)           RCS was involved in the consultations about the station lift etc, and was represented on the Friends of Retford Station.

(vi)          New play equipment in Kings’ Park and information panel – Pam Barnsdale had been involved from the beginning.

(vii)        The St Swithun’s crocuses were blooming; they had been planted by RCS in partnership with Muddy Fork and BDC. 

         5.  Planning Matters: RL reported on the following:

             (i)        There have been few planning applications, but the planning sub-  

                         committee has been monitoring developments.

(ii)            The half-yearly meeting with BDC Planning took place in February;

 it is now an established forum for a frank exchange of views.

             (iii)       The Strawson’s site on the London Road has moved forward with the  

                           opening of Lidl. It is hoped that the old Northern Rubber tower will 

                           become 3 ground floor retail units and a gym/fitness centre on the 

                           first floor. There will be another 3 units on the southern boundary.

(iv)       Site of Perry’s garage – plan submitted by Esso for petrol station    

  with convenience store and drive-through coffee facility.

              (v)        St Alban’s church – BDC seem confident that conversion into flats        

will proceed, retaining many original features.

              (vi)      The last remaining plot at King Edward’s is scheduled for a  

 substantial new house.

              (vii)     Bridgegate site has been bought by Strawson’s, and we hope that this 

  will be a residential development, with possibly a small hotel.

              (viii)     Surface water drainage – a problem in Darrell Road and land    

 adjoining the Norman Nursery development. JT and Cllr Jim      Anderson have been working on this, and both the Environment Agency and the Isle of Axholme Drainage Board are looking into it.

(ix)          RCS highlighted the problem of a large number of retail outlets that are unlikely to reopen, and the effect this will have on the town centre.

(x)           Signage and dereliction – enforcement notices remain an issue, but there has been some action: garish signage on the Pizza takeaway on Bridgegate has been removed; there has been some improvement on the properties opposite the Mayflower Pilgrims Centre; plans have been amended for the Masons Arms, so we hope for development into flats with the retention of some original features.

BB reported on the following:

(xi)          BDC published a Draft Local Plan last November. RCS, amongst other organisations submitted comments, and these are being considered. BDC expects by Autumn to produce a final plan for examination by the Planning Inspectorate. We have been concerned about the large number of new houses proposed, and we also wanted assurances that the community facilities promised in the proposed new village and in the large extension proposed to the south of Ordsall would actually be delivered; so it was worrying to be told that the planners did not know how some of these would be financed and run in the long term. This is the third Draft Plan; the sooner they can agree something that can be formally adopted the better, because with no up-to-date Local Plan, council officers feel they have little control over what is built where.

(xii)        The appeal against the refusal of permission for 170 houses off Bigsby Road is going to an Inquiry in May. We hope to persuade the Inspector that there is no need for this housing, nor is it environmentally desirable; it would also delay servicing the much-needed employment land proposed for Randall Way, which is dependent on income from the completion of the housing proposed on Trinity’s land on North Road. The Inspector’s decision should be known by July.

SH reported on the following:

(xiii)      Retford Town Centre Neighbourhood Planning Group Management Committee, in partnership with BDC planning officers and the Business Forum, has gained approval for the development of a Town Centre Neighbourhood Plan; the plan area has been approved. This policy document for the next 10 years is a reference document for, eg, a green agenda, the future of retail and residential in the area, the environment, planning and design, aspects of education and training, transport and travel; specialists in these areas are on the Management Committee and community forum. SH has the job of analysing data. There will be referenda for local people when it is formulated.

6.      Retford-in-Bloom:

(i)             DT reported that the committee had met twice and everything was underway.

(ii)           Cllr C. Troop had donated £500 from her Community Fund. 

(iii)         Schools given sunflower seeds and books about growing them.

(iv)          Members were asked to note gardens as they take walks.

(v)           Two members of the committee have had to leave, so DT appealed for volunteers.

(vi)          It is hoped to have a litter-pick in June.

7.     Future Events – Diary Dates and Visits:

(i)             Heritage Day – 11 Sept. PB and JT had met with Laura Sercombe from the Museum and Liz Carney-Marsh of the North Notts Lit Fest; the latter’s theme is ‘Good Company’ and the national theme is ‘Edible England’. It will take place, either virtually (as last year – the videos are still on the website), or in fact, or a combination of both. All participants are to meet to see if they wish to take part.

(ii)           Visits – on hold till we have clearance. The visit to Leeds on 28 April has been postponed; that to Castle Howard at Christmas will be subject to restrictions; there is still the possibility of a visit to Worksop Priory at some time.


8.      Any Other Business: none.


9.     Date of Next Meeting: AGM on 7 July 2021