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Another Famous Victorian

Diane Inglis

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Sarah GuppyMarpleIsambard Kingdom BrunelThomas TelfordWindlehurst

The Victorians have long been hailed as brilliant builders and engineers, with examples of their work all around Marple and surrounding areas. 

But one of them was overlooked, despite many achievements, because she was a woman. 

Sarah Guppy, of Birmingham, who was friends with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Thomas Telford, came up with a number of ideas which were used on developments such as the Great Western Railway and the Clifton Suspension Bridge at Bristol.

She also invented ways of keeping ships free of barnacles, and household devices including exercise equipment and even a machine to cook eggs while keeping toast warm.

Her ingenuity is largely unknown to many people but was brought to the fore at a recent drama production at Windlehurst Methodist Church in High Lane.

Entitled “Another Famous Victorian”, the performance told her story in a light-hearted yet informative way.

The cast were members of the Active at Windlehurst group for adults with learning disabilities who performed to a full house of more than 100 people.

Val Rowlands, leader of the group and writer of the play, told the Review: “We were delighted with how it went. They all performed really well and the audience seemed to enjoy it.”

Val, who has been running the group for nine years, is a retired physiotherapist, and is assisted by two other retired physiotherapists and a team of willing volunteers.

The Active members meet every Thursday from 10am – 3pm for a range of activities including local history, craft, healthy eating and exercise. Events have included activities for Comic Relief and a Bake Off style competition.

The annual drama performance is always well received and inspiration for this year’s theme came from a newspaper article and a feature on Radio 4.

Val continued: “I had never heard of Sarah Guppy until recently and I was so intrigued that I decided to use her as the main topic for this year’s production. She truly was an inspirational woman, and although her work was very important, she has remained largely unknown.

“The Active group and our audience certainly enjoyed learning about some of her fantastic designs.

“Our members come from Marple and other areas of Stockport and they all really enjoy the social and learning aspects of what we offer. 

“As well as being involved, they also like fund raising for charities. We had a collection at the performance and were delighted to raise a total of £305 for the Disasters Emergency Committee to help with the current crisis in East Africa.”

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