During June we supported two local events – Magna Carta Day in Egham and Carnival Capers at Virginia Water. We took along a different display to each event featuring aspects of local history and sales items. We warmly welcome some new members who joined this month at both shows and talks.
Last month Sally Botwright gave us a talk on London’s Docks from the beginning in the Pool of London (between where Tower Bridge stands and the City) through the growth in the Victorian era when Britain was the warehouse of the world. Each dock was a monumental undertaking done mainly by sheer manpower until the 20th century. As ships increased in size and then containerisation became the norm the docks could no longer cope and deep water facilities took their place. Most of the docks have been built on but there is the Museum of London Docklands Museum to show what it and life was like then – well worth a visit.
At the end of June William Suttie told us about ‘The Tank Factory’, a place on our doorstep but very little known, isolated as it was for good reason. Britain invented the tank but rather oddly this was under the Admiralty, not the Army. After the First World War the tank was thought to be out of date but the Second World War soon disproved this idea. Actually William believed there was little difference between British and German tanks in 1939. The Tank Factory had a testing ground on the other side of the Longcross road (and later the M3) where road tests on various surfaces & angles could be carried out. This is due to become a ‘garden village’, just as the Tank Factory is being built on. The house in the centre is listed and will be preserved.The research and development on the site produced some world beating tanks until its closure just over ten years ago. These had stable gun controls and had been tested under extreme climatic conditions. Some of the equipment had been sent to the Tank Museum at Bovington. We were pleased to see a number of visitors in the audience of nearly 70.
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.
This talk by John Glenister explained how they had to raise £6.8 million annually to fund their service. They cover 3,700 square miles of south east England wit ha transient population of about 19 million. They are one of 18 air ambulance groups in the country and are accessed via the 999 system. The call handler has to decide if they are needed – about 5-6 per 1000 calls. They treat the severe cases and are much quicker than road based ambulances and deal with around 2,400 cases per annum. We hoped we would never need them but members added to the speakers fee for which we were thanked
To mark the forthcoming 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Egham-by-Runymede Historical Society the newsletter will contain a view of local and general life 50 years ago.
Members who have not collected their complimentary cards and pin badge please see their newsletter for how to get these.
A good audience enjoyed a talk on Chertsey’s Historic Houses by Mr M Loveday, member and Chairman of The Chertsey Society for nearly 30 years. Chertsey is one of Surrey’s five historic towns, founded in AD666 with the Saxon religious foundation of Chertsey Abbey & is where Henry VI was buried. His body was later removed to St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The curfew bell in St Peter’s Church is still run nightly.
Behind the church lay the Manor House and some of the oldest houses but we heard about The Orchard, The Cedars, Denmark House, Curfew House, Eldridge’s and the four Almshouses.
Denmark House, next to The Swan was saved from demolition & The Chertsey Society was formed there. It was an inn rebuilt in 1742. Later occupants lived there with their pet crocodiles. The Cedars, nearby, is a Grade II building, but has lost a good deal of ground & its cedars. It became the Museum in 1972.
The Orchard stands on the site of the Abbey fishponds and given to the people to Chertsey by the Agar Bequest as a public library, museum, art gallery or kindred purposes. It is now held in trust by Runnymede Borough Council. The former Chertsey gasworks stood in the grounds. Eldridge’s, an elegant Georgian house, is named after the family of bell founders who moved there in 1500s.
Curfew House was The Swan in 1495, lived in by the founder of Sir William Perkins School. In the 18th Century it educated 25 each of poor boys & girls.
The Almshouses are called Willets, Giles, Chapmans, & Cowley and administered by two trusts.
Several books exist if further history information is wanted including A Chertsey Camera by D & J Barker. A fuller report will come in the printed Members newsletter at the end of February.
Last year EbRHS was awarded the Kenneth Gravett prize for the best display.
This year’s theme “Feeding the County-Agriculture in Surrey” will be a lot harder for us. Ideas and new twists on this theme are welcome as would be help is producing a display. Also come and support us at the meeting itself.