Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Humanists Celebrants Conference and Leamington Spa

Posted in Leamington Spa by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 12, 2013

I attended our annual Humanist Celebrants conference at Warwick University. It is good to catch up and get a feel of where we are at. We had a jolly powerpoint presentation by Isabel  which she had actually given at her interview when she was appointed our Head of Ceremonies. Isabel is the first HOC who was/is a celebrant which I think is the ideal.  Isabel comes from a theatre background and is a member of our little SE London celebrants group. The keynote speaker was the ever entertaining Charles Cowling of the Good Funeral Guide empire. He threw down the gauntlet and challenged us to think about what we are doing when we conduct funerals. It reminded me of my assertion that the BHA, members and celebrants, reflects the CofE culture that the majority were raised in. They are mainly C of E atheists which is a British/Monarchial/Empire/Establishment/Christian Protestant culture.

One workshop that I attended was led by Poppy Mardall.

poppy mardal

Poppy is based in Fulham, London and originally set up to provide a simple, inexpensive  memorial type funeral whereby she would provide the family with the cremated ashes so that they could then conduct their own ceremony however, wherever they wanted it. This now constitutes about a third of her funerals and the rest are bespoke funerals. She does not believe in embalming nor the black garb entourage. Her pallbearers wear green fleeces.

We are a small independent company, passionate about helping you get what you want and need from a funeral. We take pride in providing the down-to-earth, practical, emotional and highly professional service you need when faced with the death of someone you love. Above all, we care hugely about getting it right for you.


We stayed in a nice B&B called Jersey Villa run by Polly. It was halfway between Warwick and Leamington Spa and we were able to walk to both. We went to Warwick on the Saturday   evening for a meal and drink and to Leamington Spa on the Friday and again on the way home on Sunday to visit the Pump Rooms Museum and Gallery and a walk in Jephson Park in the rain. It has a lovely glasshouse where we sheltered.Greenhouse plant Jephson


The function of the Royal Pump Rooms changed several times over the following years. While retaining its assembly rooms and medical facilities, around 1863 it was extended to include a Turkish bath and swimming pool, in 1875 the the Royal Pump Room Gardens   were opened to the public, and in 1890 a further swimming pool was added. The economy of Leamington decreased towards the end of the 19th century following the decline in popularity of spa towns, and it became a popular place of residence for retired people and for members of the middle-class who relocated from Coventry and Birmingham and wealthy residents led to the development of Leamington as a popular place for shopping. In 1997, the owners of the building, the district council, closed the facility for redevelopment, reopening it in 1999 as a culture centre. It now contains Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, a library, a tourist information centre, refurbished assembly rooms and a cafe. Spa water can still be sampled outside the building.

The Turkish bath Leamington.

Turkish baths

Leamington is closely associated with the founding of lawn tennis. The first tennis club in the world was formed in 1872 by Major Henry Gem and Augurio Pereira who had started playing tennis in the garden of Pereira. It was located just behind the former Manor House Hotel and the modern rules of lawn tennis were drawn up in 1874 in Leamington Tennis Club.  This is from the Leamington Museum.Tennis Pim Trophy

Dr Joshua Pim was a medical doctor from  and a renowned former World No 1 Irish amateur tennis player. He won the Wimbledon men’s singles title two years in a row, in 1893 and 1894. In 1893, Pim returned to Wimbledon and won both the single and the doubles, (with  Frank Stoker a cousin of writer Bram Stoker)   championships.Joshua Pim – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia      He was descended from the quaker family that introduced Pimm’s brand of fruit cup.




During the Second World War, Leamington was home to the Free Czechoslovak Army a memorial in the Jepson Gardens commemorates the bravery of Czechoslovak parachutists from Warwickshire. Also the Ford Motor Company relocated here from Cork during the war bringing many Irish people over to follow the work. Of course, John Ford was of Irish extraction and had an affinity to the homeland.

leamington town hall

One quirky feature is the fact that a German bomb budged Queen Victoria’s statue I inch!

queen vic movedAs it is now being pointed out by Dave!

queen Vic moved my [hoto


And another snippet of Leamington lore –

Napoleon III

Few towns can claim as a resident someone whose portrait would later appear on postage stamps and on his country’s coinage.  There can be little doubt that Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the Pretender to the throne of France was the most illustrious of Leamington’s erstwhile residents. Louis, the nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte, had, like all members of the Bonaparte family been forced into exile after his uncle’s enforced abdication in 1815.

He resided at 6 Clarendon Square. Nap3-House


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: