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2011 AGM Report

FORDINGBRIDGE HISTORICAL SOCIETY AGM REPORT 2011On Monday, 11 October 2010 the Fordingbridge Historical Society held its AGM. After opening remarks by our President, Sir Edward Hulse, the Chairman reported on a successful year with good attendance at lecture meetings and summer visits full to capacity. The Treasurer reported that the Society had made a small surplus over the year, and therefore the membership fee of £6.00 per annum would not be increased. The current officers and committee members were all re-elected, and the chairman thanked them for their hard work over the year and was in turn thanked for her own contribution.After the formal business had been concluded, members of the committee reported on aspects of a research project into the history of Fordingbridge Workhouse. There was also an exhibition of photographs and information associated with the project. The evening concluded with wine and nibbles. In November we heard about the 367 Fighter Group, aka the Dynamite Gang. They came from California to the New Forest in April 1944, and took part in the D-Day Landings. Henry Cole spoke movingly of these very young men who had suffered appalling casualties and won a presidential citation for their bravery in battle. We heard how history might have very been different if one sergeant had not survived; he was Barack Obama's grandfather! The December lecture was an account of trade in the Roman Empire. Nick Griffiths amazed us with the variety of goods that were distributed throughout an empire which ran from the Scottish border to North Africa, and from the Danube to the Iberian Peninsula, and with how extensively goods travelled within that area. In January Georgina Babey spoke to us about some of the writers who have lived and/or worked in the New Forest. Most of us were familiar with Captain Marryat’s Children of the New Forest, although Georgina warned us that both the history and geography of this well loved story are occasionally shaky. Other writers with New Forest links were Lewis Caroll’s real life ‘Alice’, Charles Kingsley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Vera Brittain. But there were other, unfamiliar, writers such as Mary Braddon, a 19th century Barbara Taylor Bradford with an unconventional lifestyle, and the afternoon ended with the reading of some extracts from - and about - the various authors.In February Martyn Barber spoke about the Damerham Archaeology Project. It was he who originally noticed intriguing crop marks on aerial photographs of Damerham and eventually got funding to investigate. It is not easy to interest the layman in Neolithic remains where changes in soil colour and holes where wooden posts would once have stood may be the total visible result of an excavation. However, Martyn succeeded in so doing by interspersing a comprehensive report of what had been found with light-hearted asides on the complications of managing a host of volunteers, a bunch of trainee archaeological students and the organisers’ assorted offspring on an archaeological dig a mile from the nearest pub in some of the worst fieldwork weather he had ever experienced. We had considerable problems with multi-media projectors this year: modern technology is a rather like the little girl who had a little curl: when it's good, it's very very, good - and when it doesn't work it's a disaster. Despite only being able to see part of each slide, Peter Roberts’ account of Forest life in the 17th century. The Civil War barely touched the Forest. In fact, it could be good, because when all the law enforcers were away fighting, Forest folk did quite well. The records demonstrate that people are the same in any era, and the 17th century had characters we would recognise today – the curtain-twitching old lady who told tales on her neighbours, and the minor official who found wrong-doers in all the surrounding villages but none in his own. Summer visits started with a trip to Arundel Castle which was much enjoyed. There was an amazing amount to see and do, and an awful lot of steps to climb if you wanted to see and do it. One participant complained her knees would never be the same again, though she did add, "but it was worth it.”The Society lunch, held in early June at the Rose and Crown in Harnham, was as usual enjoyable, although we were smaller in number than on some occasions in the past.The visit to Devizes, also in June, was the least well supported of the year, which was a pity because those who went were very enthusiastic. However, both museums visited were quite small so the lower numbers were an advantage. The hit of the day was the volunteer curator of the Kennet and Avon Canal Museum, who introduced himself by saying, "I ran away to sea at the age of 12 – with my father's encouragement." Our ladies were entranced, and I was very thankful that a proposal to kidnap him and bring him back to Fordingbridge fizzled out; perhaps the thought of what his soldier wife might do if they did gave them pause for thought.The first local visit of the year was to Deans Court in Wimborne where Sir William Hanham told us how his 14 times great-grandfather had mysteriously acquired the deanery at the heart of the house when closing down the local ecclesiastical communities on behalf of Henry VIII. He led us on a tour of this fascinating house and gardens while entertaining us with tales of his ancestors – the good, the bad, but none really ugly, as we could see for ourselves in the many portraits. The afternoon concluded with a magnificent cream tea.It was a long journey to Kelmscott Manor, but it was worth it as all agreed that this was a wonderful day. From the moment of welcome everything seems to have met with approval. I have never had so much positive feedback from a visit as I had for this one. As one participant put it, "The lunch was delicious and the house all I'd expected and more – a magical place."In April of last year we took 40 participants to Trafalgar Park, but had such a long waiting list that we offered the same visit again this year. To our amazement we took a further 42 people in September 2011, and they enjoyed hearing the history of the house and also the efforts of the current owner to restore the building and, where possible, to collect together the original contents, as much as last year's visitors did.Two other things have happened during the year which were relevant to the Society. The first was to do with Rockbourne Roman Villa. You may remember that earlier in the year I protested on your behalf about Hampshire's proposal to cut the opening hours for the Villa. As a result of making that protest I was invited to join a Steering Group tasked with considering how the Villa could be kept open for longer. Transition funding was obtained from Hampshire and Vanessa Tipton was appointed to a short term post of Volunteer Coordinator. The Steering Group also obtained funding from Hampshire County Council to appoint a heritage education consultant to create a program for a day out for schools involving the Villa, Fordingbridge Museum, Fordingbridge workhouse and other educational activities based on the Rockbourne/Fordingbridge area.I was unable to attend the last meeting of the Steering Group, but hope to display a full report on progress on both these projects at the November lecture. The second is to do with the research work carried out into the history of the Fordingbridge Workhouse. Some of you may have seen the publication, The School at Hell Corner. We are hoping that by the next AGM we will be able to offer you a sister publication, also with a timeline and the commentary, about the Fordingbridge Workhouse.Now we come to the thanks. First, to Sir Edward Hulse for agreeing to continue as our president for a further year. Next to my splendid committee, who make me actually look forward to our committee meetings, for their support, their enthusiasm, their ideas and their hard work. Then individual thanks for specific contributions: Diana Woffenden for being our secretary and staying calm when I don't do things until the absolute last minute, and for ranging far and wide to find good speakers for our winter lecture programme. Bernard Warner for being our Treasurer, Wendy Cracknell for keeping the register at meetings; Alistair Dalrymple for the development of our new website and the setting up of microphone and room for our lectures. Brian Dixon for the Society lunch; John Lobb for being the keeper of the society's history; Christine Pope for assisting with visit planning; Barbara Reid for dealing with posters, publicity, and the tea tickets for meetings, Sue Seaman for assisting with lecture organisation, and Janet Wallington for supervising refreshments at meetings, Thanks also go to Pat West, who creates our posters, Ian Wallington, who audits our accounts and Harrington's coaches, who are always helpful and efficient and who try and take us the pretty way when at all possible, thus adding beautiful scenery to enhance our days out. And finally, thanks to all of you for supporting our activities so well. Sometimes, when the weather is bad I warn speakers that we may have a thin house - a sort of insurance policy. Every time I do this, 50 or 60 of you turn out, and the speaker looks at me in amazement as if to say, "This your idea of a thin house?”