50 YEARS OF RESEARCHING LOCAL HISTORY by Richard Williams

We were very pleased to welcome two founder members of the Egham-by-Runnymede Historical Society (EbRHS), Gerald Dorman (the first Chairman) and David Barker, to this evening marking the 50th anniversary of the Society’s founding We reviewed the past 50 years highlighting the Society’s achievements and commemorating past and present members and their contributions. As far back as 1952 the General Purposes Committee of the Egham Urban District Council proposed that a Historical Society would be good for the town of Egham but not until 1967 did this happen. Maureen Rendall, one of a number of people concerned about the wholesale demolition of the south side of Egham High Street, sent a letter to the Staines & Egham News suggesting the formation of a Historical & Archaeological Society. A meeting for those interested was held at Sydney Oliver’s house in Vicarage Road, Egham, on 14th April 1967, it was agreed to form one and a newspaper report seven days later said ‘Historical Society formed in Egham’. Sydney Oliver suggested the name and the first Committee was elected. Membership grew from 40 to 100 in just six months and in October the first newsletter was published under the Editorship of Dr H J Davies. In April 2017 to commemorate our anniversary month we published our first all colour newsletter. Our current membership stands at nearly 100, very close to that of 50 years ago. In October 1968 Baroness Schroder became the EbRHS Patron and, later on, the President. Also in 1968 the Society founded and opened The Egham Museum with the first exhibition featuring Magna Carta. This 3 day exhibition attracted some 600 people proving how popular local history was to the area. The first subscription rates were £1 for adults and five shillings (25p) for children (under 16 or in full time education) and the first lecture meeting was held on Thursday May 11th in Egham Library Room. This venue was used until April 1971. We have also met in Strode’s School Library, in upper rooms & Main Hall in the Literary Institute (including the now Research Room), the Band Hall, Waspe Farm & the United Church of Egham. Lecture evenings were held on the second Tuesday of the month until April 1986 when growing audience numbers forced a change to the Main Hall of the Literary Institute and the date changed to the fourth Thursday of the month. The archaeological excavations in Egham occupied most of the time and effort of the fledgling Society with the demolition of the Kings Head Inn being a priority. Finds were processed and catalogued and several photos were shown of the various dig sites. Outings to historic places soon followed, the first to Berkshire (reported in the local paper) followed by many others. Displays were taken to the Egham & Thorpe Royal Show, beginning in 1968 and have continued frequently since. In October 1969 the Museum opened on Tuesday and Thursday evenings (as most people were still of working age) for members to carry out research. Various projects were undertaken such as financing the re-cutting of the inscription of Frederic Cournet’s tomb in Egham churchyard, piecing together fragments of posters discovered on the wall of Rumsey’s old shop (near where Tescos is) and rescuing the waterpump from the Coach & Horses at The Glanty and re-siting it in Walnut Tree Gardens. There were publications. The first was Country School in 1982 and then Egham in 1988. Then came the picture books, the first was Egham Picture Book, launched in December 1988 which sold nearly 200 copies that one day. Subsequently EbRHS published the Virginia Water Picture Book in 1990, Englefield Green, Thorpe by Jill Williams, Runnymede and Holloway Sanatorium. Each has helped trigger memories and show newcomers how the areas looked in the past. Apart from displays at the Egham Show the Society provided similar ‘productions’ at local fairs and fetes and at the Surrey Local History Symposium. At the latter we have, on two occasions, won the Kenneth Gravett Award for Best Display – a tribute to the hard work put in and the research behind it all and EbRHS also received another similar award at Carnival Capers. Other members wrote smaller -Industrial History of Runnymede and The Last Duel. Radio 4’s Making History team, including Nick Patrick and Sue Cook, visited us in response to a listener’s enquiry about the Runnymede Pageant of 1934 and Phillip Hammond made his first visit in August 2002.. We also received a Waitrose Community Prize in 2008 and the Society decided to spend the money on a digital camera to help with our research work. Annual dinners have been held to provide members with a social event. This was a quick look back at our own past and it brought back a good many memories to our long standing members and, it is hoped, provided newer members with a sense of what we have achieved and hope to do in the future. The Society does rely on people being interested enough to join us and to support us so to past and future members – thank you. After the talk Gerald Dorman, David Barker and Heather Knight cut the first slice of the 50th Anniversary cake.

Cake

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