Recent Events

Fossil Plesiosaur – Sea Dragons at Hinkley Point

On 24th October 2019, John French from the South West Heritage Trust gave an illustrated talk on marine fossils, focusing on a Plesiosaur or sea dragon found on the north coast of Somerset.  John began by explaining how fossils are formed and transformed and pointing out that not all living things become fossils – scavengers eat the flesh and bacteria decomposes the rest.  Therefore they must become quickly buried, so fossils are usually found in rock – showing the hard parts of the animal.  In the case of the Plesiosaur, the animal would die, sink to the seabed, decay and be buried under layers of sediment.  In 2004 a Plesiosaur fossil was found near Hinkley Point.  The creature would have been alive about 188 million years ago.  The Trust had to act fast to save the 1.8 metre long fossil and permission was sought from the landowner and English Nature to excavate it.  The fossil was excavated in four blocks and is now on display in the Museum of Somerset.


5 People Talking About 5 Objects in the Museum

On 26th September 2019, 5 members of the Society gave short talks based on 5 objects in the Museum.

First up was Paddy Gray who based his talk around a milk bottle, recounting his memories of growing up in Tonedale and the part Tonedale Farm and Dairy played in this.  Owned by Fox’s and tenanted by the Southcott family, Mick Hawkins was the milkman and Fred the herdsman.  Paddy recalled helping out with the second milking of the day after school, during which time he gained an insight into the life of a farmer.

Mark Lithgow spoke about HMS Wellington, a Grimsby class ship built in 1934 at Devonport.  Initially she saw service in the Pacific and New Zealand, before moving to the North Atlantic during the Second World War, including participation in Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. After the War, HMS Wellington was converted at Chatham Dockyard to a Headquarters Ship for the Honourable Company of Master Mariners and is now moored alongside the Victoria Embankment in London.  A plaque from the ship is displayed in the Museum.

Carole Moore used an ashtray, a souvenir from the 1stWorld Snuff Championship in 1979, as a basis for her talk.  The Championship was the brainchild of Gary Cox, a Town Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Taunton Deane Borough Council. He was one of the two sons of Cox & Sons, the agricultural engineering business which was on the road into Wellington from Taunton at what became known as Cox’s Corner.  Gary was a member of the Carnival Committee and the Championship was held as a fund-raiser.  He also arranged wrestling matches and in the 1970’s was involved with the River Tone Struggle.  The first Duke of Wellington was a snuff taker. 

David Hawkings talked about the Sun Life Fire Insurance Policy Registers, using a reproduction plaque and fire mark in the Museum. The Registers relate to policies taken out in the late 18thCentury and include details of the occupants, the buildings and their value, etc.  One entry was for John Greenslade of the Squirrel Inn, where the Museum is now housed.  

Joan Copleston featured 3 people whose photographs are displayed in the Museum and who attended Wellington School. Jeffrey Archer was born in 1940 in Finsbury, London, but was brought up in Weston-super-Mare and later attended Wellington School.  After Oxford University he began his career in politics, initially with the GLC before becoming MP for Louth.  Following financial problems he stood down as an MP and wrote his first book – ‘Not a Penny More, not a Penny Less’ as a means of avoiding bankruptcy. As well as novels and short stories, he also wrote stage plays.  He later revived his political career and became Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in the 1980s.  In 1987, he was involved in a libel trial which some years later would result in him being charged with perjury and sentenced to four years imprisonment. David Suchet was born in 1946 in London.  While attending Wellington School, he took an interest in acting and trained at the London School of Speech and Drama.  He carved out a career in repertory, television and films, particularly character parts such as Poirot.  Tom Singh was born in 1949 and his family emigrated from the Punjab to the UK when he was a baby.  He later attended Wellington School before earning a degree from Aberystwyth University.  In 1969 he borrowed £5,000 from his parents and opened the first New Look store in Taunton, specializing in inexpensive clothes for young people.  New Look now has over 500 stores in the UK and has outlets in 69 countries.  Singh sold the company in 2015 and in 2019 retired from the board, with his net worth being estimated at £340m.  


Ordering Their Estate – the Sanford Family of Nynehead

On 25th July 2019, the influence of the Sanford family of Nynehead Court on the landscape between Nynehead and Wellington was described in an illustrated talk by David Rabson.  They moved to Nynehead in 1590 and three centuries of Sanfords remained there until the early 1900s, during which time they produced 2 MPs and 5 High Sheriffs.  Nynehead was a wealthy area with much of the land being owned by the Bishop of Winchester.  The house as we see it today was largely a result of the work of John Sanford in the late 17thCentury, using the services of a London surveyor, William Taylor.  In the early 19thCentury, the parkland was transformed by diversion of the River Tone, formation of a lake and the erection of a 3 arch bridge, together with the laying out of a tree lined avenue.  An icehouse was added in 1803.  For many years the Nynehead Court estate was managed by Charles Bailey (senior and junior). The original concept to celebrate the victory of the Duke of Wellington came from William Ayshford Sanford – this later culminating in the erection of Wellington Monument.  It was around this time that he acquired a holiday home in Lynton on the North Devon coast, which later became the Cottage Hotel and is now holiday apartments.  His son, Edward Ayshford Sanford, married Henrietta Langham, the daughter of the owner of Cold Blow Farm in Deptford, south-east London, bringing land there into the family.  This area is now developed, with several street names being taken from local landmarks and buildings.  Edward’s son, another William Ayshford Sanford, designed extensions to the church to house the Sanford memorials.  Many of the buildings in Nynehead are characterised by their red brick and steeply sloping roofs, including the ‘new’ vicarage designed in 1867 by John Hayward, who also designed the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. 


Visit to St John the Baptist Church

On 30th May 2019, the venue was the Church of St John the Baptist when James Bradnock gave a talk on the history and development of the building.  There had been a church building on the site since Saxon times, the remains of which were found when the hall was being built.  The current building dates from the 15thCentury, although there have been many changes since then, with various kinds of stone used.  It is more than probable that the tower was built using stone from the Longforth manor house.  There is also ham stone and chert, mostly not very good because the intention was to render the walls.  In Georgian times, the box pews could accommodate up to 858 people, with all but 30 owned by individuals.  Victorian pews replaced these when the building was enlarged in the mid 19thCentury.  In the 1980s the wooden floor fell in and was replaced by a solid floor. The opportunity was taken to replace the pews with chairs to allow more flexibility in the use of the space. James described the various windows, including the rare clerestory in the nave, a war memorial window installed by William Morris’s firm and two further war memorial windows dedicated to the Pope family.  The carving of the centre mullion of the east window of the Lady Chapel is a lily crucifix.  The font cover is a recent addition – in 1957.  Until the 1980s, the only access to the gallery was from outside. Although there has been heating in the building since 1848, electricity and electric lighting were only provided in 1938.  Methodist John Wesley preached from the pulpit during his travels.  The church includes a monument to John Popham, having been Speaker of the House of Commons, Attorney General and Lord Chief Justice.


What is Freemasonry

On 25th April 2019, Adrian Ridout explained ‘What is Freemasonry’. Freemasonry has a reputation for being a secret organization with influence in high places. Nowadays it is much more considered a society with secrets, being open about its membership and its relationship with the wider world. A Mason for over 40 years, Adrian explained the origins, purpose and ethics of Freemasonry and what it does for the benefit of society as a whole.

The origins can be traced back to stonemasons in the 14th century. The basic unit is the lodge. At lodge meetings, politics and religion are not discussed. Following the formal meeting, members dine and hear various speeches. The square and compasses is the most recognized symbol of Freemasonry. Freemasons’ Hall in London is the headquarters in the UK and parts are open to the public. Locally there are Masonic halls in Taunton, Uffculme and in Wellington – in Twyford Place. Famous Masons included Churchill, Alexander Fleming, George Washington, Davy Crockett, Mozart, Peter Sellers, Nat King Cole and Sugs. Fundraising is carried out to support both own members and their families and external charitable causes, eg air ambulances, hospices, etc.


Annual General Meeting and WHERE (West Country Health Education & Research Enterprise)

At the Annual General Meeting on 28th March 2019, Chairman Paddy Gray reported that there had been over 2,500 visitors to the museum last year and the hard work of the stewards was much appreciated. It was noted that there had been no visits from any of the schools. All the Committee members were thanked, with special thanks to Ray Hitchcock, who has been involved with the museum since it opened over 30 years ago, has been a Committee member since 1999 and is standing down from the Committee due to ill health. Also standing down is Judith Ward, who has been a Committee member since 2008 and is a past Chairman. Carole Moore is standing down as Chief Steward with Lynda Russell-Cairns taking over this role. The Town Council was thanked for their donation towards the rent for the Museum. Wellington School was thanked for the use of the Junior School Hall for the Society events. Members of the Wednesday morning working group had been busy during the closed season. Paddy made reference to the ongoing efforts by the National Trust to raise funds for the repair of Wellington Monument, which as a Wellingtonian he considers to be “our Monument”. Treasurer John Angus presented the annual accounts. Curator, Colin Spackman, reported on new accessions to the Society’s collection. The Chief Steward reported that there were currently 25 active stewards. Officers for the coming year are Chairman Lynda Russell-Cairns with Paddy Gray as Vice-Chairman and Gillian Taylor and John Angus continue in their posts as secretary and treasurer respectively. The remainder of the committee consists of John Hamer, Carole Moore, Colin Spackman, Linda Wiltshire, Joan Parkinson, Mark Lithgow and Janet Govier. John French was appointed as a new Trustee. Richard Fox was again appointed as Independent Examiner.

Following the Annual General Meeting, there was a talk on the Westcountry Health Education Research Enterprise (WHERE) by the organization’s Chief Executive, Barbara Ford. The aim is to combat loneliness, reduce isolation and encourage friendship. Based at the Northfield Centre, it was started by Dr Newmarch, a local GP, in 1988 as a health information centre. In 2004 the council provided funding for it to expand and develop and in the following years WHERE continued to diversify and develop as need and funding dictated. At this time funding streams changed drastically and many services were taken ‘in house’. WHERE changed from being an umbrella body, and managing many different projects, to being a hands on organisation. It became an Active Living centre offering a wide range of activities, courses and events, with a minibus and café. The number of days the centre is open increased from 2 to 5. Currently up to 700 people a month visit the centre. With the closure of Stratfield House, Popham House and the Court, there is again a need to look at closing gaps in the system, a need made more acute with the additional houses being built in the area. WHERE is mainly run by volunteers, with no regular funding. It receives a grant for the partially sighted from the Town Council and income comes in from the various activities.


Fox Family Houses in and around Wellington

On 25th February 2019, Colin Spackman and Richard Fox spoke about the history of Tonedale House and then go on to other houses built by and occupied by the Fox family of Wellington over 200 years. Tonedale House was built by Thomas Fox 1 in 1809 so that he could be near to his factory. The house was greatly extended 25 years later and altered again in the early 20th century. The occupants of the house changed quite frequently and for around 50 years it was home to two families. For the first 200 years of its life Tonedale house was a domestic dwelling occupied by members of the Fox family. It is now run as a commercial venue by a member of the family.  Following this Richard and Colin showed how over 7 generations the Fox family had built several houses in and around the town, and lived in many others - sometimes briefly, sometimes for many years. The talk ended with a summary of the current usage of Fox-built houses and a comparison of the number of Fox households in the town at various times since 1809. The current 4 households is the lowest since the 1890s - the peak was around 1920.


Taunton Cider

At the Society event on 22nd November 2018, Alan Reeve, a Director of Taunton Cider gave an illustrated talk on the history of the company and his time there between 1973 and 1992, which was a period of growth in a very competitive environment. The soil in the south west of England (including Herefordshire) was found to be eminently suitable for growing the apples used in cider making. In 1805 two farmers from Norton Fitzwarren set up a cider making operation, which became the Taunton Cider Company. In 1843, cider from the company was supplied to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. In 1911 Arthur Moore, a gardener and part time cider maker from nearby Heathfield Rectory, was headhunted and the company’s fortunes took off and furthermore survived the introduction of purchase tax on cider in 1923. Following the Second World War, Taunton Cider began to supply cider to pubs of various breweries in the region to meet the demands of West Country drinkers. Pasturisation meant that the product could be transported further. The 1950s and 1960s was a period of rationalization in the brewing industry with a series of takeovers and mergers. This was good news for Taunton Cider as the larger brewers all needed to stock cider in their pubs and they naturally chose one that was proving so popular in their West Country acquisitions. Sales increased and there was considerable investment in the Norton Fitzwarren operation. At the start of Alan’s time with the company, it moved into TV advertising and launched two new brands aimed at the supermarket trade – Dry Blackthorn and Autumn Gold. By the time Alan left the company, its share of the British Cider market had increased from 11% to 35%. In 1992, there were 550 employees and the company made £10million profit. After a public floatation, the company was taken over by Matthew Clark plc who decided to consolidate their cider production at their Shepton Mallett plant rather than Norton Fitzwarren. Production of all brands progressively transferred to Shepton Mallett and the Norton Fitzwarren site finally closed in 1998. It is now occupied by residential development.


History of Wellington Monument

At the Society event on 25th October 2018, a sizeable audience heard an illustrated talk by Wendy Lutley on the history of Wellington Monument.  Wendy has spent the last 5 years or so unraveling some of the history of the Monument.  The original concept to celebrate the victory of the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo came from William Ayshford Sanford of Nynehead Court.  The period 1815 – 1819 saw the acquisition and enclosure of land, raising of money and the purchase of materials. There was a competition for the design of the monument, with the design of Thomas Lee Jnr being selected.  Materials for the triangular structure were green sandstone from Whitestaunton near Chard with flint rubble for the interior. The foundation stone was laid by Lord Somerville in 1817 (on the eve of Trafalgar Day).  Work on construction continued into the 1820s on what might be described as the 1stphase.  There was revived interest in completing and repairing the Monument following the death of the Duke of Wellington in 1852.  Goodridge Architects of Bath were appointed and came up with a new Egyptian style for its completion.  The structure we know today was not finally completed until 1892, with the 3rdphase of construction of the last few feet. Into the 1900s, the Monument continued to require repair.  The National Trust acquired the Monument in 1933 and John Macgregor acted as the Trust’s architect for the Monument until 1969, during which time substantive repairs were carried out.  The Trust is again fundraising for the repairs that are currently required.


Thomas Young - 'The Last Man Who Knew Everything'

At the Society event on 27th September 2018, an audience of almost 50 heard John Young talking about Thomas Young (no relation), who was born in Milverton in 1773.  Often dubbed ‘The Last Man Who Knew Everything’, Thomas Young was a child prodigy who could read at aged 2 and had read the Bible twice by the age of 4.  Educated in Minehead then Compton in Dorset, by the age of 14 he had learnt Greek and Latin and was acquainted with several languages.  In 1792 Young began studies in medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, before continuing his studies at Edinburgh University.  In 1794, aged just 21, he was elected to the Royal Society.  He attained the degree of doctor of medicine from the University of Göttingen in Germany.  His thesis was on the human voice.  Between 1797 and 1799 he studied at Cambridge University, following which he established himself as a physician in Welbeck Street, London, gave many lectures to the Royal Society and was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy (Physics) at the Royal Institution.  He developed the optometer and was the first scientist to identify astigmatism.  Further lectures covered a vast range of topics, including the speed of sound in water, tuning an organ (Young’s Temperaments) and the stretching and squashing of materials.  In 1804 he married Eliza Maxwell.  In 1811 he became physician to St George’s Hospital.  He devised a rule of thumb for determining a child’s drug dosage (Young’s Rule) and developed the eriometer, an optical device for measuring the diameter of fibres such as wool.  After 1814 Young made significant contributions to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, including the Rosetta Stone.  He also made significant contributions to the fields of energy, languages and tides and was involved in the Weights and Measures Act of 1824, which established the British Imperial System on the basis of precise definitions such as the standard yard and the imperial gallon.  Between 1818 and 1829 he was the Superintendant of the Nautical Almanac – used by astronomers and mariners.  In later life he became interested in life insurance and in 1827 he became an associate of the French Academy of Sciences. Thomas Young died in London in 1829 and is buried at St Giles Church in Farnborough, Kent.  There is also a plaque in his memory in Westminster Abbey.  He certainly left his mark in many areas of knowledge.  -----------------------------


Wellington Brick

On 26th July 2018, an audience of around 40 heard retired architect Pater Harrison gave an illustrated talk on the vast range of brick buildings in Wellington through various time periods.  Two generations of the Howard family designed most of the housing developments in the town between 1875 and 1950.  Edwin Howard was an architect as well as the town surveyor between 1873 and 1920.  His son, Thomas, joined the architect’s practice in 1900 and took over the role of Town Surveyor on his father’s death in 1920.  Most of the properties in Longforth Road (council) and Wellesley Park (private) were designed by the Howards.  Another architect was Taunton based FW Roberts, who designed the Swallowfield Estate on behalf of the Co-operative Society – this area comprising Holyoake, Owen and Mitchell Streets and the east side of Station Road. He also designed the Methodist Church in Waterloo Road.  In the 1800s, 3 brickworks were established in and around the town. The longest lasting of these was the works established by William Thomas at Poole.  This business had the big advantage of a rail connection and a state of the art Hoffman kiln, which burnt continuously.  Comprehensive illustrated catalogues were produced (the Society has a number in its collection) and in 1939 a shop was opened in Fore Street (now the library).  Much of Wellington’s early 20thCentury housing was built with Thomas’s distinctive orange bricks.  A number of prominent buildings in the centre of the town have had their Thomas brick facing covered with render – such as the Kings Arms and the former Squirrel Hotel, now occupied by the museum and council offices.  Peter’s top 3 brick buildings in Wellington are The Avenue in South Street, now part of Wellington School; The Mount in High Street and 64 Mantle Street.  


Annual General Meeting 2018 and a quick history of Wellington

At the Annual Meeting on 22nd March 2018, Chairman Paddy Gray thanked the Officers and Committee for the work they have done over the year together with others who help out the Society – including Wellington School, the Town Council (who this year awarded a grant of £750 towards the fitting of a new carpet in the museum) and Dennis the handyman.  A highlight of the past year was a visit to the Museum by the current Duke of Wellington.  Treasurer John Angus reported that the accounts showed a healthy balance. Curator Colin Spackman reported on the shift in emphasis of the Society’s collections policy towards accessioning more Wellington related items and an increase in the importance of the local history collection.  Trading had been good, with sales of books on the Old Town Hall and Our Boys performing well.  All Society members would be contacted in the near future with regard to the forthcoming changes to Data Protection legislation.  Chief Steward Carole Moore reported that there were currently 24 fully trained stewards with 4 new trainees.  Volunteers, stewards and other behind the scenes workers were thanked.  Officers for the coming year are Chairman Paddy Gray with Lynda Russell-Cairns as Vice-Chairman. Gillian Taylor and John Angus continue in their posts as secretary and treasurer respectively. The remainder of the committee consists of John Hamer, Carole Moore, Ray Hitchcock, Colin Spackman, Linda Wiltshire, Joan Parkinson, Judith Ward and Mark Lithgow. Richard Fox was again appointed as Independent Examiner.  From the floor, Dennis Trist thanked the Chairman for his hard work over the year.  

Following the Annual Meeting, Colin Spackman gave a very quick history of Wellington – 1,000 years in 25 minutes.  Starting in pre-Roman times, through the Domesday Book (when the population of Wellington was 600), the English Civil War and the Monmouth Rebellion – all before the time of the 1stDuke of Wellington.  The Industrial Revolution brought the woolen industry to the town with the development of factories by Fox and Elworthy.  The Town Hall and the Monument were built and in 1837 the workhouse opened, before the canal and later the railway improved transport in the area.  The second half of the 19thCentury saw further industrial development with the Thomas brickworks at Poole, Walter Gregory (Swallowfield), Price Brothers (Relyon) and the Walker family dairy (the milk factory).  The Wellington Weekly News was established in 1863.  The 1st half of the 20thCentury saw improved social and recreational provision in the form of the park, the maternity hospital and the introduction of a bus service to Taunton.  Post 1960 was a period of loss of facilities despite population growth.  The railway station was a victim of the Beeching cuts in 1964 and the town also lost its magistrates court and maternity hospital.  Industrial decline also took place with the contraction of Fox Brothers and the closure of the milk factory.  This was despite the development of new houses, which has continued into the 21stCentury.


Easton Family of Bradford-on-Tone and Fox Brothers employee benefits

The event on February 22nd 2018 was a two part talk.  The first part revealed the extensive commercial, industrial and artistic activities of the Easton family of Bradford-on-Tone over 150 years from the late 18thCentury onwards.  The first prominent member of the family was Josiah Easton (1761-1848), an engineer with patented inventions who promoted the use of hydraulic rams in Britain.  His several sons were surveyors and land agents for the Duke of Wellington and also engineers in their own right.  Although the engineering sons moved to London and Kent, there was an Easton manufacturing company in Taunton until well into the 20thCentury.  Many members of the family over 5 generations are buried in Bradford-on-Tone’s churchyard and there is also a memorial plaque and stained glass window in the church itself.

The second topic of the evening briefly covered some of the employee benefits of working for Fox Brothers & Co in 1902.  The company, as is well known, had a paternal attitude towards its employees, and provided a range of benefits that included among others a profit sharing-related savings scheme, maternity pay and a pension scheme.  Although the level of these benefits seems meagre by current standards they were generally in advance of the general industrial employment terms and conditions of their time. 


 Having a lovely time - wish you were here

At the Society event on 23rd November 2017, Ken Atherton entertained a select group of people with his illustrated talk on Blackpool's post cards through the ages. His father owned a shop on the North Shore, where it was Ken's job from an early age to daily restock the enormous array of post cards. People seemed to send post cards to family to advise of safe arrival, one mid holiday "having a wonderful time" and a final one posted the day before to advise of train times home. These cards arrived in time for family to meet the train – a miracle by today's standards. Ken's talk ended with post cards from the Second World War. He owns over 3,000 cards and will happily buy any more unusual ones. 


Was Jane Austen's aunt a shoplifter

On 26th October 2017, David Pugsley made a return visit to the Society, this time asking the question ‘Was Jane Austen’s aunt a shoplifter?” His talk centered on a trial in Taunton in 1800 involving Jane’s Aunt – Jane Leigh Perrot, who was charged with stealing a card of white lace in the shop of Elizabeth Gregory in Bath, when she had gone in to buy some black lace. She had been committed to Ilchester Gaol for 8 months, facing the death sentence or, more likely, transportation if convicted. Whilst in the Gaol, she and her husband James lived in the Gaol Keeper’s house. The circumstances surrounding the incident largely focused on whether it was a scam and whether the lace had been planted. The court jury took just 8 minutes to conclude that Jane was not guilty and acquit her. She subsequently went on to live to a ripe old age and died in 1836 age 90. 


Regency Dress

At the Society event on 28th September 2017, Daphne Hilsdon brought a large variety of clothing to the recent event to demonstrate Regency Dress – clothing appropriate to the time around the lives of the Duke of Wellington and Jane Austen.  Daphne started with underwear, some of which, especially for the wealthy, was very pretty indeed.  She moved on to gentlemen’s wear for the working classes, middle class and the wealthy and Society Chairman Paddy Gray modeled a waistcoat and coat in a wool material which suited him very much.  Moving on to the upper classes, dresses made from Indian cotton were shown, together with saris, some of which were silk, outdoor wear, cloaks to keep you warm in carriages and hats made to accommodate long hair, and presumably to keep the sun off as pale skin was much admired.  Although the better off would have clothes made to measure, as there would have been a tailor in most small towns, a lot of the clothing was second or third hand.  Wealthy ladies would pass their cast offs to their maids, who in turn would sell them at market stalls.


Dear Loosy

At the Society event on 25th May 2017, the subject of Mike Crew’s talk ‘Dear Loosy’ was the life of Louisa, the 6th child of Queen Victoria who lived from 1867 to 1931.  From the uncertainty in her early years of how to spell her name through to her funeral – she was the first, and so far only, member of the royal family to be cremated – her life was full of mystery, scandal and a lack of convention.  What Mike made clear however was that Louise led a very full life and was very popular with the general public.  She was an accomplished sculptor with some of her work in public space.  But her most effective accomplishments were in promoting women’s education and the place of women alongside men in social, cultural and business life.  Although not very well known these days in Britain, her reputation seems to have led to an embargo on public access to material relating to her life.  She was and still is better known in Canada where, in the early 20th Century, as wife of the Governor she played a major role in developing that country’s cultural life.  Mike’s diligent research into the life of this remarkable woman and his extensive collection of artifacts relating to her were evident in his entertaining and informative illustrated talk.  


The First Anthropologist - Edward B Tylor

At the event on 27th April 2017 organised by the Society, John Young gave an illustrated talk on Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, considered to be the father of anthropology and who was a very famous man in his day.  He was born in 1832 in Camberwell in London into a Quaker family who owned a brass foundry and at the age of 16 he became a wages clerk in the company.  The company was at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851, as was Fox Brothers.  It was around this time that both his mother and father died and as he suffered from TB he began to spend more time abroad.  In Cuba he met Henry Christy a fellow Quaker and they went on together to Mexico where he took up the interest of 'people watching', out of which grew anthropology. Their Mexican travels were described by Tylor in his first book, Anahuac, published in 1861.  In 1858 he had married Anna Rebecca Fox, daughter of Sylvanus Fox.  The Fox family were also Quakers.  In the 1860s, Edward and Anna moved to Wellington and lived in Linden House.  He continued with his travels and wrote articles for magazines before publishing his second book in 1865,Researches into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization.  In 1871 Tylor published his 2-volume work Primitive Culture, becoming the originator of cultural anthropology.  The same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.  There was also growing involvement in the civic and cultural life of Wellington.  He was the School Board chairman, in which role he oversaw the development of education in the town.  He was involved with the Wellington Literary and Scientific Institute and also became a magistrate.  He served as President of the Anthropological Society before publishing his final book, Anthropology, in 1881.  Tylor was appointed Keeper of the University Museum at Oxford in 1883 and in addition to lecturing, became the first Reader in Anthropology and subsequently the first Professor of Anthropology at Oxford University.  He was also involved with the establishment of the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford.  He retired in 1910 and lived on in Wellington for a number of years.  Knighted in 1912, he died in 1917 being buried in Wellington Cemetery.  


Annual General Meeting

At the recent Annual General Meeting, Chairman Paddy Gray reported another outstanding year for the Society, with 2,500 visitors to the Museum.  A particular highlight for him was the repositioning of the Cyclists’ Touring Club sign on the building frontage.  The sign is one of only 9 in the country and the only one in its original position.  Paddy thanked the Society’s Officers, particularly Carole Moore and David Young who were standing down from their positions as secretary and treasurer respectively, and the Committee for the work they had done over the year together with the museum stewards, the Town Council for their support, the Prep School and last but not least – Dennis the handyman.  The retiring treasurer reported another successful year for the accounts.  Curator Colin Spackman reported that the current emphasis was on the conservation of items related to Wellington with about 100 new items being donated and accessioned in the previous year.  The Museum had hosted a number of visits by schools and other groups.  Chief Steward, Carole Moore, thanked all the stewards for their reliability over the previous season.  More stewards would still be welcome. The remainder of the committee consists of John Hamer, Ray Hitchcock, Colin Spackman, Joan Parkinson, Carole Moore, Linda Russell-Cairns and Linda Wiltshire.  The Trustees remained the same.

Following the Annual Meeting, Nigel Wood from the Milverton Village Archive gave an illustrated talk about setting up the archive and showed some of the many objects it held.  An embryonic archive had been set up by the Milverton & Fitzhead Society as far back as 1983 and various exhibitions had been held over the years.  In 2009, the vicar of the village church offered space to have a permanent display in the church.  The fortunes of Milverton were originally from the woolen cottage industry.  Until the 1950s, there were 22 shops serving a population of 1,300.  Together with the various public houses, there was a motor garage (adjacent to the current wood yard), a gas works, railway station (closed in 1966) and its own fire brigade (run by the Parish Council until the 1930s).


The Town Stream, the A38 and Wellington banks

At the Society event in on 23rd February, a sizeable audience heard Colin Spackman’s talk covering 3 separate topics.  These were the Town Stream, the A38 and Wellington’s banks.  The Town Stream was an artificial open watercourse first mentioned in the 14th century, bringing water to the town from the base of the Blackdown Hills.  Various maps have been annotated with ‘Town Stream’ over the years, although today there are few traces remaining.  It followed the line of the ditch at the bottom of Webber’s Close open space, but the section along South Street was culverted in 1972.  The name lives on by virtue of the property in Pyles Thorne Road, which is called Town Stream House. 

The A38, linking the south-west with the rest of the country came into being when road numbering was introduced in 1923, initially from Plymouth to Derbyshire, later extended from Bodmin to Mansfield.  The road runs through Wellington from the Devon border at something of a pinch point which, in addition to the road, accommodated the canal, railway, motorway, an electricity transmission line and the transatlantic cable.  The route is included on John Ogilvy’s map of 1675 and the road was subsequently run by the Taunton Turnpike Trust between 1752 and 1876.  There were tollgates within what is now the town.  The route between Wellington and Taunton was improved in the 1920s and 30s, with new bridges over watercourses and bends straightened out.  The flyover at Beam Bridge was built in 1962, to relieve congestion at the narrow railway over-bridge.  When the Wellington relief road was built in the 1970s, it was designated the A38 and the route into the town from Chelston became part of the B3187.  The later opening of the M5 motorway further reduced traffic through Wellington. 

With the closure of the HSBC bank in the town, coverage of Wellington’s banks was very topical.  HSBC has had a presence in the town since 1911, when the London Joint City & Midland Bank Ltd moved into the former Grattons premises in the centre of town.  The bank changed its name to the Midland Bank in the 1920s.  The Museum possesses a metal plaque, which has Midland Bank Ltd on one side and the former name on the other.  Lloyds Bank originated as the Fox Fowler & Co Bank in 1885, becoming part of Lloyds in 1927.  Barclays Bank was also a former Fox Fowler bank, before being occupied by the National Provincial Bank from 1913 until the Barclays take over in 1973.  The NatWest started out as Stuckey’s Bank in 1864, before becoming Parr’s Bank in 1909 and the Westminster Bank in 1918.  This was merged into the National Westminster Bank in 1970.  The future of the 3 remaining banks in the town remains to be seen.


Trial by Jury

On 24th November 2016,  John Porter's talk drew similarities between Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera ‘Trial by Jury’ with a case at Monmouth Assizes.  The opera concerns a breach of promise of marriage lawsuit and was first performed in March 1875 at London’s Royalty Theatre.  John related this to a lawsuit, Williams versus Haines, brought 4 days later at the newly opened Monmouth Assizes.  At times this case was to prove almost as farcical as its fictional counterpart in London.  The case focused on Margaret Williams’ brother-in-law instructing William Haines to prepare a will, in which Margaret was left nothing.  When William also called off the marriage, Margaret brought a case of breach of promise of marriage.  The case was proven and she was awarded damages.  Both Margaret and William subsequently met new partners and married.


The Story of the Kenyon Photographic Archive

On 22nd September 2016, an audience of 61 gathered to hear Dr Janet Tall of the South West Heritage Trust give a presentation of the work being done by the Trust to save the Stanley Kenyon Photographic Archive.  Stanley Kenyon came to Wellington from Kent in the 1930s and lived here for the rest of his life.  He died in the late 1970s.  He gained international recognition within the photographic profession for the quality of his work.  The archive of his life’s work is a collection of around 48,000 acetate negatives plus a smaller number of glass negatives.  The acetates have begun to deteriorate due to a disease commonly called ‘vinegar syndrome’ but the Trust recognizes that the subject matter of the archives – ranging from industrial scenes in India to Wellington wedding photographs, all from the mid 20th Century – is well worth saving.  Unfortunately, finding funds to complete this task is not easy; many potential funders were put off by the need to destroy the infected negatives after preserving the images digitally.  Although the digitisation has been carried out by a specialist firm, much of the sorting, cataloguing and checking is being carried out by volunteers at the Heritage Centre in Taunton.

At the end of the formal presentation, members of the audience gave their personal reminiscences of Mr Kenyon.  These ranged from his fondness for fast cars to his meticulous approach to recording his work – but with a workplace that wasn’t the tidiest.  Dr Tall said that the contributions of the audience were useful in providing background information and context to the archive.  The archive is an important and extensive record of life in the mid 20th Century that was produced by one of Wellington’s illustrious inhabitants.  


Murder in the Culm Valley

On 28th July 2016, local historian David Pugsley talked his audience through the infamous murder of William Blackmore in Clayhidon in 1853 and the subsequent trial and execution of George Sparkes. David set the scene by giving background to the economic and social history of the area. Life in Clayhiddon at that time was nasty, brutish and short. There was no school and no entertainment, other than the pub. William Blackmore was a farmer, miller and tax collector, who owned 80 acres of land and employed 2 farm labourers. On 5th February, he left home to collect taxes on foot, unaccompanied and unarmed. In the evening, agricultural labourers James Hitchcock and George Sparks were drinking in the White Horse pub at Bolham Water. William Blackmore joined them and a card game ensued, which Blackmore won. The drinking session ended at 1.30 the following morning when the 3 set off to walk home. Blackmore was laden with his tax takings and the other two were hungry and desperate enough to take them. Just before he reached his home, Blackmore was attacked with a pair of iron tongs that Hitchcock and Sparks had taken from the pub. A search party organized later in the day by the parish constable (no police then) found Blackmore dead. Sparks was convicted of his murder and was hanged on 1st April 1853. As an aside, the landlord of the White Horse was prosecuted for out of hours drinking and gambling and fined, as a result of which he went bankrupt. 


Midsummer Urban Ramble

On 23rd June, members of the Society met for the annual Midsummer Urban Ramble, this one loosely based on ‘telephones and electricity’, led by Colin Spackman.  Starting at the South Street car park, the first call was the Baptist graveyard where the founder of what is now Relyon, Joseph Price, is buried.  The former office in the building opposite (now part of Wellington Junior School) still has ‘Price Brothers’ engraved on the window and along Scotts Lane there is an electricity transformer with the legend Price Brothers on it.  The adjacent Oxfam shop was at one time a butchers shop.  A walk down Clifford Terrace took us past a locally produced Bishop Brothers lamppost before reaching Falcon House, which was at one time Toms organ and stained glass factory.  Back along Clifford Terrace brought us to the former Salvation Army premises in Gladstone Terrace, which started out life as a Methodist chapel, and which is to become a nursery as part of Wellington School.  The current telephone exchange building in Scotts Lane was erected in 1955, now less utilized with its current computerized equipment.  A further substation at the rear of the Waitrose store is labeled Somerfield, the building being built with the latter in mind before they were taken over by the Co-op.  The houses forming Acre Cottages, dating back to 1845, were passed before noting another Bishops Brothers lamppost in a private garden in Buckwell.  Finally, the first telephone exchange in the town was at Orchard Villas, established in 1901 with 6 subscribers.  


Wellingon School Chapel

At the recent event on 2nd June 2016, James Bradnock gave a guided tour of Wellington School Chapel - the Chapel of St Michael and St George.  The building was built as a memorial chapel for the fallen of the school in the Great War at the instigation of the then headmaster, George Corner, who asked Old Boys from the school to support the project financially.  Designed by Plymouth architect Charles Biddulph-Pincher, it is built of red brick with stone dressings and pinnacles, which were to surround a cupola, but this never materialised due to shortage of money.  The clear glass perpendicular windows were considered to be ‘the finest of this generation’.  The interior is richly decorated with finely traceried carved oak wood wall panels with elaborately decorated canopies made of plaster fibre, all painted and gilded, the panels with names of the old boys killed in the Great War.  There are similarly decorated choir stalls and organ loft over the entrance and canopied reredos.  The carved figures and decorative panels were by F.J. Hunt and over the last few years have undergone restoration work.  The Chapel is in daily use, but with a maximum capacity of 300 is now too small for the full school, so assemblies are in sections.  It is a fitting memorial to those old boys who died in the Great War.


History of Taunton Flower Show

At the recent event on 28th April 2016, Anne and Robin Leamon gave a talk on the History of Taunton Flower Show, the oldest longest running flower show in the country and also frequently dubbed the Chelsea of the West.  The first show was held in 1831 in the Assembly Rooms on the Parade, Taunton.  In 1851, the show moved to Vivary Park, where it has been held ever since.  From the start it was the gentlemen who won the prizes depending upon how good their gardeners were.  The gardeners were highly prized and well paid, but not when it came to acknowledging them in competitions – it was the owners who received the prizes, not the workers!  Gentlemen exhibitors came from all over the country and have included the Duke of Wellington.  The show has been used to exhibit newly discovered plants brought back by plant hunters employed by nurserymen such as Veitch.  It was also used by local nurseries to introduce new plants raised by them.  Several societies have held their national and international shows in conjunction with Taunton Flower Show, including the International Gladioli Exhibition in 1930.   Military bands have always been a feature of the show and until 1970 there was a fireworks display.  In recent years, celebrity talks, show gardens in the open and a children’s area have been introduced and in 2014 the show expanded onto Wilton Lands.  The Show now attracts 14-15,000 people over the 2 days it is held each year in August.


 Annual General Meeting

At the annual meeting on 24th March 2016, outgoing Chairman Judith Ward thanked the Officers and Committee for the work they have done over the year together with others who help out at events and at other times.  The accounts showed a healthy balance and membership numbers were stable.  Curator Colin Spackman reported that there had been about 2,500 visitors to the museum during 2015 and there had been a steady amount of new donations and acquisitions to the collection.  The Society was also increasingly becoming a valuable source of historical information for researchers. The new Chairman is Paddy Gray with Judith Ward as Vice-Chairman.  Carole Moore and David Young continue in their posts as secretary and treasurer respectively. The remainder of the committee consists of John Hamer, Ray Hitchcock, Gillian Taylor, Colin Spackman and Linda Wiltshire.  Joan Copleston was appointed as a Trustee.

Following the Annual Meeting, David Young gave an illustrated talk on the Covent Garden Theatre, which started in 1732 following a Royal Patent issued by Charles II.  The name originated from it being the theatre in the convent garden.  There were daily performances, the doors opening 3 hours before commencement and servants and footmen keeping seats for their masters.  David talked about the various proprietors with their varied types of performances and events and explained the different payment methods, including metal tickets or tokens, which were in use until 1874 when they were replaced by paper tickets, and box payments (hence the term box office).  There were disastrous fires in 1808 and 1856, following which the current building, designed by EM Barry, was erected.  The theatre became the Royal Opera House in 1892.  During World War 2, Mecca leased the building and it became a dance hall for servicemen.  It took on its current name of Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1968.


Wellington and its Railway


At the Society event on 25th February 2016, a capacity audience heard Colin Spackman speak about Wellington and its railway, in particular the social impact the railway had on the town.  A number of Colin’s ancestors and relatives worked at the Great Western Railway’s Swindon Works.  Before the coming of the railways, the only modes of transport were horse drawn, horseback or walking and this included the carriage of newspapers and mail.  A handbill advertised Taunton to London by flying machine – 2 days by horse drawn coach!  By 1842, the railway had reached Taunton and by 1843 it headed further west as far as Beam Bridge, passing through a new station at Wellington.  Records show details of the land sales from names such as Sanford, Thomas, Fox and Weir.  At that time, the station was separated from the town by fields, the road northwards out of the town being known as Millway.  It was only later that Station Road came along.  The coming of the railways resulted in canal traffic being killed off and also different local times were synchronized into a single standard time.  The reason the railway only ran as far as Beam Bridge initially was that the 1,094 yards long Whiteball Tunnel was not completed until 1844.  Lined with 7 million bricks it is the highest point on the London to Exeter via Bristol route at 350 feet.  Banking engines were often employed on heavy trains from Wellington to the summit.  The line was initially built as broad gauge, with mixed gauge introduced in 1876, but standard gauge was adopted in 1892.  Wellington Bank was the scene of the claimed first steam locomotive to exceed 100mph.  City of Truro was timed at a speed of 102.3mph in 1904.  In 1905, the Westbury to Newbury route to London was opened, shortening the journey from the West to London by 20 miles.  In the 1930’s the line through Wellington station was quadrupled.  At this time there were 33 staff at the station, but times changed and the station closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.  The talk ended with a general discussion on the possibility or otherwise of Wellington ever having a station again.


Longforth Farm Mediaeval Manor House Discoveries

On 26th November 2015, Phil Andrews from Wessex Archaeology explained the mystery of the archaeological site at Longforth Farm. Expectations were not high after the geophysical survey, which revealed nothing, and there was also very little from subsequent test pits. However things changed when they began fieldstripping on an area north of the site near the railway. Bits of medieval wall footings were uncovered but as yet they didn't know from what type of building. The scale of the work increased and more footings were found. A reconstruction of the foundations shows a north facing medieval manor house with a second floor central hall. To the west is a solar (living apartments) and to the east service rooms. A detached kitchen and guest block were also uncovered. Further evidence of a high status building is the discovery of a garderobe adjacent to the solar.

There were few finds from the site. This is indicative of high status, as rubbish on the site would have been removed. The pottery and floor tiles date from the 12th to the 14th centuries. The crested roof tiles are also evidence of high status. No records of such a house have been discovered but it is thought to have been built adjacent to the track from St Johns Church to Nynehead by the Bishops of Bath and Wells. It fell out of use in the late 14th or early 15th centuries, abandoned and robbed out. The stone would have been used for building in the surrounding area.

The site is to be a green space as part of the housing development and maintained for the future. Maybe one day written records will be discovered. .............................................................................


Visit to Henry VIII Mural in Milverton

On 22nd October 2015, members visited the Old House in Milverton.  When the new owners Rhodri and Angie Powell were renovating their Grade II* listed property, a Tudor wall painting of Henry VIII was discovered underneath the plaster as it was being removed. The property once served as the summer residence of Thomas Cranmer, the Arch Deacon of Taunton, who went on to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is believed that the mural, which measures about 6’ x 20’ was painted sometime around 1532-1542 as an expression of loyalty to the king. It is the only one of its kind in a domestic dwelling.


The Poor Law and the Wellington Workhouse

At the event on 24th September 2015, David Hawkings talked about the Poor Law and Workhouses. A system of relief for the poor had developed in England starting in the 16th century. In each parish residents were expected to pay into a fund, which provided help for the destitute and infirm. Over the years the system had become bureaucratic and unwieldy. A parish would only help those who were deemed to have originated there and ‘strangers’ were made to return to their home parishes, after detailed enquiries and paperwork had been completed.

In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act ordered the building of a workhouse in all towns of any size, to house the poor from the parishes of the surrounding area. Management was in the hands of an elected Board of Guardians and was financed by a rate charged on householders. The Master saw to the administration and discipline and the Matron to household affairs. Lists were kept of all inmates, including ages, previous work, and health and detailed reports about conditions had to be submitted regularly to the Poor Law Commissioners who could arrive unannounced to inspect the premises. A Medical Officer and a Nurse were appointed for each Union of parishes to organise care for the sick, and children were given a very basic education to ready them for life as servants or labourers.

Life was not intended to be easy for the inmates. Men, women, boys and girls each lived in separate accommodation and were rarely allowed to meet. All able bodied inmates were expected to do hard physical labour such as breaking bones to make fertiliser or stones for road building. The women would do the cleaning, sewing and cooking in the workhouse. Some workhouses were better kept than others and there were reports of abuses of the system.

The Wellington Workhouse, which was opened in 1837, was one of the earliest. It continued as an institution until the 1970’s, having been absorbed into the National Health Service after the 2nd World War. It occupied the area now covered by the Lodge Close development. All that now remains are the gates, which are hidden behind the bus shelter in North Street. The census taken in1841 lists 82 residents ranging in age from 3 months to over 85 years, some being noted as imbeciles, blind or insane.

Although David’s family had roots in Wellington and Rockwell Green, he was able to recount stories from around the country that came to light while he was researching his family history using the vast amount of documentation produced by the administration of the Poor Law held in the National Archives. David’s knowledge of the subject was obvious and is recorded in his book “Pauper Ancestors – a Guide to the Records Created by the Poor Laws in England” published by The History Press. The event ended with a brief discussion on the merits, or otherwise, of the Poor Law system – with a general desire to know more about the Wellington Workhouse’s own history. 



At the Society event on 23rd July 2015, several members of the Society gave a short talk on an ancestor or two of theirs.

First up was Carole Moore who spoke about John Frederick Hornsey.  After a period as a maker of scientific instruments at Oxford University, he trained to be a doctor and following his taste for traveling became a ship’s doctor.  He then became the medical officer on a rubber plantation in North Borneo before moving to a doctor’s practice in Singapore.  In 1917 he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and was sent to France with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.

Brian Hillier has traced his ancestors back to 1625, many of them fairly localized from the North Somerset settlements of High Littleton, Emmer Green and Hallatrow, with others slightly further afield from Nunney and Evercreech.  Many of them were from large families of agricultural labourers and coalminers. 

Sophie Hippisley firstly spoke about Hester Medlum who in 1795 was a parish apprentice in housewifery.  Secondly Samuel Hippisley, who ended up in Wells Workhouse before being admitted to Wells Asylum, where he died of dementia in 1905.

Next was John Hamer, who spoke about his 4 generations of watchmaking Lancastrian ancestors.  John concentrated on Arthur, his great grandfather, who followed on the trade from his father and established a shop selling jewellery, clocks and watches in Preston 1886.  Arthur also had a stall on Preston market and two of his brothers also became watchmakers in their own premises in Preston.  His 2 sons and grandson (John’s father) subsequently became involved with the business which continued in existence until 1971.  He was very involved with local organisations in the town, including becoming chairman of the Chamber of Trade in 1926.  His leisure interests included bowling and holding various offices at his local Methodist chapel.

Mike Perry talked about his wife’s great uncle, Thomas Henry Lovelace Bowling, who fought in the Indian Mutiny in the 1850s – on the side of the Royal Navy.   As a 16 year old naval recruit, he joined HM’s screw steam ship Pearl, the first of a new class of 21 gun corvettes.  After a period around the Pacific station, in 1856, the ship was ordered to transport HM 90th Regiment from Singapore to Calcutta.  Along with men from another ship, HM Shannon, the Pearl’s crew formed a so called Naval Brigade – the guns were unloaded and put on barges and taken upstream.  During the whole of 1858, they fought vastly superior forces around Uttar Pradesh.  Once peace had been restored in 1859, the crew returned to Calcutta and set sail for home via the Cape of Good Hope and St Helena, thus circumnavigating the world.  In all they had been away from home for 3 years, and Tom was still only 19.  He was mentioned in dispatches 3 times, which helped him in later promotions, eventually reaching the rank of Paymaster-in-Chief of the Navy.  He served in the Abyssinian Campaign but spent most of the rest of his career as an administrator, assisting various admirals before retiring in 1904.  He never married and died in 1922.


Colin Spackman spoke briefly about the meaning of his surname and the cluster of ancestors and others with the same surname from Clyffe Pypard in Wiltshire, a number of who are buried in the parish churchyard there.  In summing up the evening, Colin, the Museum Curator, ran through the material which the Society holds that may be of use to family historians.  These include indexes to the 1841 and 1891 Censuses, churchyard inscriptions, directories and town guides covering most the 20th Century, an employment record book from Fox Brothers and a Poor Law Rate Book covering the years 1836-1839.


 Sir John Popham

On 23rd April 2015, James Bradnock gave an illustrated talk about Sir John Popham.  Although little known in the town itself, he was a significant man in the world that he was involved in.  He was born at Huntworth near North Petherton in 1531, one of 6 children.  He studied law at Oxford before beginning his legal career in 1871 as Recorder of Bridgwater.  He married local girl Amy Games and they had 6 daughters and a son.  The daughters were all married off to influencial families.  He was elected MP for Bristol and rose through being Speaker of the House of Commons and Attorney General to become Lord Chief Justice.  He was a big supporter of Elizabeth.  As a lawyer, he covered a wide range, including drawing up statute to ensure that coinage was equal throughout the UK and that prescriptions had to have the patients’ name on them.  He presided over the trials of Sir Walter Raleigh, the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot, including Guy Fawkes, and Mary Queen of Scots.  Popham became a very wealthy man and owned a number of estates.  He had an interest in several commercial ventures, including what was to be known as Popham’s Eau, a 7 mile long dyke in the Fens.  He built a mansion in Wellington, which was destroyed during the Civil War, and the Popham’s Almshouses in Mantle Street (now the Roman Catholic Church).  As Executor of Peter Blundell’s will, he was asked to establish a free grammar school in Tiverton (Blundell’s School).  Popham died in 1607 and is buried in St John’s Church, where there is a large freestanding monument.  


Annual General Meeting

At the Annual Meeting on 26th March 2015, Chairman Judith Ward thanked the Committee for the work they have done over the year together with others who help out at events and at other times.  The death of Graham Jones, who had done much behind the scenes in the museum, was reported.  New arrangements in the museum, the new signs and the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo were mentioned before finally an appreciation of members’ support.  Curator Colin Spackman reported that about 60 objects had been received over the last year and that in a joint collaboration with the National Trust, items related to the Monument in the Society’s collection have been documented.  The museum has been renamed ‘Wellington Museum & Local History Centre’ to reflect the amount of local history material which has been amassed in recent years.  Colin considered that the Society has the ‘best collection of Wellington related material in the world’.  Chief Steward Carole Moore reported that there were currently 23 regular stewards, but there is always room for more to spread the load. Judith Ward was re-elected Chairman and Paddy Gray Vice-Chairman.  Carole Moore and David Young continue in their posts as secretary and treasurer respectively. The remainder of the committee now consists of John Hamer, Ray Hitchcock, Gillian Taylor, Colin Spackman and Linda Wiltshire.

Following the Annual Meeting, David Rabson gave a talk on ‘A Brief History of the British in the Pyrenees from the Black Prince to the Victorian Tourist’. David has a forthcoming book entitled ‘From Somerset to the Pyrenees’, a biography of the Reverend William Arthur Jones, a geologist and antiquary who was a prominent member of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) and a highly regarded figure in Taunton civic life.  The Pyrenees are on the border of France and Spain and within the area are about 200 fortified new towns (bastides).  The wine region of Bordeaux was developed as a consequence of the English interest in wine.  In 1813, the Duke of Wellington crossed the Pyrenees on his way from Portugal to France.  With the development of the railways, the favourable climate of the area attracted many Brits and by 1847,for example, the town of Pau had more British inhabitants than French.  Apart from visits to the area by Jones, other eminent Brits included the agriculturalist Arthur Young and Ann Lister who made the first official ascent of the Vignemale, the highest of the French Pyrenean summits.


Wellington & Its Dukedom: a Footnote in History since 1809

At the public talk on 26th February 2015 in aid of the Society, entitled Wellington & Its Dukedom, Colin Spackman explained how and why Arthur Wellesley rose through the ranks of the peerage to become the Duke of Wellington.  He also showed how the title has passed through succeeding generations, not always from father to son, to the current ninth holder.  Other topics covered included the role of the Dukes as Lords of the Manor following the purchase of land around Wellington in the early 19th Century, the visits by Dukes to the town and how Wellington has, and has not, commemorated its links with the dukedom.


A History of where I live

At the Society event on 27th November 2014, five members of the Society gave a short talk on the history of where they live.
First up was David Rabson, who lives in half of the former rectory at Nynehead, which was built in 1867. The architect was John Hayward, a gothic revival ar- chitect based in Exeter who designed various public buildings, churches, schools and vicarages. One of his finest buildings is the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. The rectory was built of local bricks and roof slates from North Wales. It was an early building to incorporate cavity walls and in a form of recycling, water tanks were installed in the loft space for flushing the toilets. It continued in use as a rectory until just after the 2
nd World War. The building was divided into two dwellings in 1958. 

Sophie Hippisley spoke about her house, which is one of the courtyard style houses built in 1977 along Barn Meads Road. The development was carried out on land that was previously part of Middle Green Farm, in the ownership of the Brook family. The scheme received a design award from Taunton Deane Borough Council for its innovative design. 

John Hamer spoke about his house in Bishops Hull and some snippets from the history of the village. The land on which John’s house now stands was part of an area called the Islands and since being built in 1931, there have only been 4 owners. Concluding with some items from the area’s history, it was re- membered that, as well as Wellington, Bishops Hull also had a brickworks – lo- cated where the Cornishway trading estate now is. Previous incarnations of the Stonegallows pub were recalled – the Red Lion and the Hutcombe Café and Hotel. It was known locally as the Hutcombe Bunny – after the menu hold- ing rabbit on the side of the road! 

David Hawkings spoke about what were originally 5 cottages adjacent to the former Rockwell Green Baptist Chapel, now the Rockwell Green Christian Fellowship. At one time they were in the ownership of ancestors of his, being referred to in a will of 1845. David then moved onto the ‘Modern Domesday’, which was the result of a measure brought about by the Finance Act 1910 and the Sun Fire Office insurance records, which gave the names of policyholders and descriptions of the property insured. 

Finally Mike Perry talked about the various owners and occupiers of the build- ing occupied by Perrys the hardware shop on Fore Street and how the struc- ture of the building has changed over the years. The earliest record found by Mike was when EG Clarke sold the property to John Arbery in 1877, in whose family the shop remained for nearly 100 years, always as a draper’s. It was 2 of his grandsons who sold the shop to Mike’s father, Howard Thomas Perry, in 1971. In the Arbery family ownership, after 1900 there was a succession of tenants – Arthur Searle, Rowe Bros, HS Limmer, Duncalfes and finally Far- mers, which closed in 1969. There is a model of the shop in its former times in the Museum. 


A Wellington Soldier

On 23rd October 2014, Andy Denham gave an illustrated talk about his great great grandfather’s life around the First World War. The talk was entitled ‘A Wellington Soldier – from Witchcraft to Warcraft’. Andy’s ancestor, Alphonso Rawlings Denham, is in- cluded in a list of those who served in the War, in Wellington Baptist Church in South Street. Alphonso’s father, Frederick, grew up in the Blackdown Hills at Ford Street. At that time, the area was one of deprivation and ignorance where witchcraft was widespread. There was also considerable out migration and Fred moved to Cardiff for work. There he drove a horse tram and married Ellen Honeybun before moving back to the Wellington area to set up the family horse bus business, which ran the town bus, services to Taunton, wedding and fu- neral services, furniture removals, parcel deliveries, etc. Following the onset of the First World War, Alphonso trained as a lorry driver and served in France and Italy. After the War, he tried to re-establish the bus service, but there was too much competition. He therefore became a delivery driver with International Stores. On his death in 1936, the Wellington Weekly News recorded that he had become well known to most of the town’s inhabitants. He is buried in Wel- lington Cemetery. 


History of the Wool Trade in Wellington

The event on 25th September 2014 was held in the first wool warehouse in Wellington, which had been built by Weres in about 1720. Thomas Fox, who was related to the Were family, came on the scene in 1760. Fox could see that his new works at Tone Dale must be water powered and set about providing a constant supply by di- verting streams and creating the Basins to store water. Thomas Fox died in 1821, but by then his five sons had been trained to run the business. In 1838 reliable steam engines became available, powered by coal which could be de- livered via the nearby canal or railway. The main period of factory expansion came in the 1860’s, probably due to the new markets in the expanding Empire. At the start of the 20th century, the company might have been in difficulties, had it not been for the production of items for military use. The khaki colour was developed during the Boer War and during later wars Fox’s puttees were pro- duced in vast numbers. Problems began to mount up after the Second World War and following successive changes of ownership, in 2010 Deborah Meaden invested in the company and it continues to make top quality woollen cloth. 


Pitt Farm, Culmstock

On July 31st 2014, members of the Society made their way to the end of a lane at Culmstock to view the collection of agricultural artefacts at Pitt Farm, Culmstock which is under the custodianship of Mr and Mrs Robert Garrett. This was a fascinating and intriguing follow up to the short talk Mr Garrett gave to the Society’s Annual General Meeting in March. The Society had visited the farm previously – in 1998. Museum cases obtained from Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery house hundreds of 18th Century fine pottery sherds made locally in the Blackdown Hills and a 17th Century pewter rat tail spoon, in two pieces, probably belonging to the Southey family. Moving up in size was a pio- neering x-ray machine from Chard dating back to the late 19th Century and a 2- seat horse-drawn carriage made by Halfyard of Wellington, which is probably unique. Elsewhere there were ploughs, sickles, tractors, everything imaginable and a few other things as well, including pieces often used in television program- mes and films featuring Victorian rural life such as the Victorian Farm. Coming more up to date, members saw a limited edition Morris Metro made for the Arctic. 


Quaker Meeting House

On May 22nd 2014, members and guests of the Society visited the Quaker Meeting House in High Street, Wellington, where they were welcomed by Marion Dawson and another of the Friends and shown around the building and garden. Then Marion spoke about the history of the Society of Friends (who became known as Quakers) and the Wellington Meeting. George Fox (1624 – 1691) was a weaver’s son. He became dissatisfied with the various types of Christianity available to him and, following a mystic vision, decided to set up his own form of worship. He began travelling around the country talking to people and setting up groups of sympa- thisers, known as Friends. Their meetings involved periods of silent contempla- tion, without any set service, ranting preachers, rousing hymns or psalm singing. The Friends oppose war and the taking of oaths, they believe that all peo- ples are equal and they follow ethical work practices and philanthropy. The Wellington Meeting was first established in 1694 in a cottage in High Street. The present Meeting House is of a later date. The garden at the rear was originally their graveyard and some gravestones do still exist, but now it is kept as a place of peace. 


Wellington Weekly News

At the Society event on April 24th 2014, Tony Brown talked about and answered questions about his time as Chief Reporter at the Wellington Weekly News, from recounting the day of his interview to his recent return as temporary Chief Reporter. The way of put- ting together and the content of the paper have changed over the years. At one time, a reporter would attend court hearings, parish and town council meetings and funerals, with the names of mourners being taken. Nowa- days items for inclusion in the paper are sent in by the public. 


Annual General Meeting

At the Society's AGM on March 26th 2014, Chairman Judith Ward reported the sad death of Tony Dawes, who had helped to run the Society over many years. She also referred to the reorganizing of the Committee structure by having sub groups that reported back to the main Committee and also thanked all the Committee members for their work. Chief Steward, Carole Moore thanked all the stewards for the hours of work they put in, which amounted to about 1,000 last season, looking after our 2,500 or so visitors, and additionally helping with school visits. Treasurer, David Young reported on the annual accounts of the Society, which showed that there had been a small excess of expenditure over income on the Museum Account. This deficit would have been greater had we not received sums from both Waitrose and ASDA’s charity collections. Income from events had been affected by the bad weather and membership subscriptions were also down. Judith Ward was re-elected Chairman and Paddy Gray Vice-Chairman. Carole Moore and David Young con- tinue in their posts as secretary and treasurer respectively. The remainder of the committee consists of Bill Copley, John Hamer, Ray Hitchcock, Gillian Taylor, Colin Spackman and Linda Wiltshire. The AGM was followed by a talk by Mr RJ Garrett of Pitt Farm on the connections between Pitt Farm, Culmstock and Wellington School.


The 18th Century Pleasure Gardens of Bath

On February 27th 2014, David Young gave a talk on what were probably the greatest pleasure gardens outside London, where Jane Austin walked every day when she lived in Bath. The Spa at Bath had become a popular and fashionable resort, and many of the no- bility and gentry visited not just to take the waters but also to be seen with the right people in the right place. By the middle of the century, a popular form of open-air amusement was the pleasure gardens. The cost of admission was nor- mally sixpence, the ticket received being exchangeable for refreshments at the bar. Music, galas and firework displays were also very popular at the various gardens. The period culminated in the laying out of Sydney Gardens, where the facilities included bowling greens, a grotto, a grand camera obscura and a laby- rinth, which was advertised as being so perplexing that correct plans of it were sold at the bar. By the mid nineteenth century it seems that fashionable society was becoming tired of Bath, and sufficient numbers of royalty and nobility were no longer visiting the city, either for the season or to take the waters. Fashions were changing too; private parties were far more popular now than the large public gatherings of the past. After a period of neglect and dereliction, the City Council took over the gardens in 1913 and they became a municipal park, being free for all to walk in. 


Five favourite museum artefacts

At the event on 27th November 2013, 5 Committee members each gave a short talk on their favourite artifact from the Museum, making use of the Wellington Arts Centre's microphone and pa system. 

First up was Carole Moore, whose subject was a prescription book from the late 19th century from Hoyles Pharmacy, one of several in the Museum’s collection.  This was at a time when the pharmacist still made up the drugs themselves from recipes.  The book contained much detail including the prescriptions, the quantities of drugs and the names of people.  By looking at the drugs dispensed it is possible to have a stab at what ailments the citizens of the town were suffering from.  Paddy Gray recounted his part in Relyon, using a pack of cards with a round bed on the front.  This was one of many special order beds and mattresses that Paddy has made over the years.  These have included a wedding present from Harrods to Charles and Diana and orders for Mick Jagger, Cliff Richard and Dick Emery.  John Hamer talked about the Directories, using the 1912 one as an example.  They provide a link between the museum, local history and family history, holding a mine of information about the local community, its organisations and the individuals who lived in the town. Many of the Wellington Directories were published by L Tozer & Co, who at the time was the publisher of the Wellington Weekly News.  Colin Spackman’s subject was a road map of Bristol to Exeter published in 1675 by John Ogilvy.   This was at a time when roads were not tarmaced and became rutted and there were also no road signs, with common carriers averaging about 4 miles an hour.  Colin described parts of the 79 mile route.  These maps, which were published for routes all over the country were the forerunner of modern road maps.  Finally Judith Ward played a guessing game describing one of the longest items in the museum, originating in the home counties in the late 1940s, which is seen as being very useful and multifunctional.  This turned out to be Colin, the museum curator! 


West Somerset Railway

At the October 2013 meeting, members were the guests of Taunton & District Civic Society.  The speaker was Paul Conibeare, the General Manager of the West Somerset Railway.  Following closure in 1971, the railway partially reopened in 1976 and Paul started work on the railway as a fireman in 1979, the same year the railway reopened over its current operating length between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard.  Although the early years of operation were a struggle, the railway is now in the forefront of the heritage railway movement with 50 full time staff and around 1,000 volunteers.  Developments in recent years have included the installation of a turntable at Minehead and the provision of a triangle at Norton Fitzwarren (enabling whole trains to be turned). Passenger numbers now exceed 200,000 annually, the majority arriving at Bishops Lydeard.  In Minehead, the spinoff to the local economy has been estimated at £10m per annum.  Paul’s talk included a description of a journey along the line, including stopping at each of the stations.  Looking to the future, 5 acres of land have been purchased at Bishops Lydeard with a view to providing carriage storage sheds.  Running through services to Taunton is possible, but there are problems, including the cost of £5m for reinstatement of previously lifted track.  However, the railway wouldn’t be averse to First Great Western extending its Cardiff to Taunton service to Bishops Lydeard.  



On September 26th, members heard Geoffrey Bass give an illustrated talk about armada beacons in Devon.  Beacons were fires lit on hilltops as a means of communication and date from pre-history times.  Initially, they were just bonfires, but by the Middle Ages pole beacons were common.  In 1326, Edward II feared an attack from France and gave out the order to all Counties to set up beacons in order to convey news of any impending invasion.  They were further developed during the Tudor Age, when perhaps their most effective use was their role in Britain repelling the Spanish Armada in 1588.  Some beacons had a stone enclosure, which provided shelter for the beacon keeper while he was on watch and kept the fire material dry.  The most well known example locally is Culmstock Beacon.  The use of hilltop bonfires on hilltops as a means of celebrating events such as Jubilees was a relatively recent introduction – during the Victorian Age. 


Visit to Wellington Baptist Church

On 18th July, members of the Society recently visited Wellington Baptist Church, as part of the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology.  Pastor Sam Griffiths explained the background to the chapel being built 180 years ago and explained how the building has evolved into the form it is today. A larger schoolroom was added in 1865 and the chapel itself was extended in 1877 to increase its capacity from 450 to 600.  The proportions of the new expanded space meant that in order to make full use of it, the interior arrangement was turned through 90 degrees.  Yet another extension, to the schoolroom, was added in 1907. 1966 saw land on the west side of the chapel being sold and it becoming South Street car park.  In 1982, an electric organ with speakers replaced the pipe organ and in 2008, further changes were made to the worship centre with the pews being removed.  Sam led members and visitors on a tour of the building, which has some intriguing levels, largely due to the various extensions at different times.  The history of this church shows that it has never stood still and is not afraid to change.


Mid-summer ramble


On 27thJune, members of the Society met for the annual Midsummer Urban Ramble led by Colin Spackman.  Starting at the car park in Courtland Road, the walk took in Mantle Street, Champford Lane and Bulford.  Mantle Street includes some fine underrated buildings from different periods.  The art deco Wellesley Cinema continues to provide film and theatre entertainment for the town.  What was formerly the Ford Brothers foundry has been redeveloped for housing and named Tylor Place.  Ironwork from the foundry can be found throughout the town.  The Ship Inn is the most recent of a long line of public houses that have been closed and converted to residential use.  Champford Mews is what was previously part of Champford Lane.  Although the latter was diverted when the Walkers Gate housing was built on the site of the old milk factory site, the old metal street name sign is still in position on the gable end of a house.  Little now remains of the former factory other than the former manager’s house.  The variety of styles of design in the Howard built houses on Champford Lane were admired.  After walking along Bulford Lane / Improvement Place, the group passed along a little known public right of way from Martins Buildings to get back onto Mantle Street.  


Somerset & Dorset Burials Data

On 23rd May, the Society’s Carole Moore and David Hearn from the Somerset & Dorset Family History Society (S&DFHS) described the various sources and location of Somerset and Dorset burials data from as long ago as the 15th century.  The S&DFHS has since 1993 been capturing on computer as much information as it can of the burial data in the two counties.  The prime source is the hand-written parish records that have been deposited in the two county record offices.  These records are made available on microfilm or microfiche and then need to be transcribed.  Transcription is not always straightforward.  Handwriting styles have changed considerably over the years, as have spellings – there are for example, more than 15 variations on the name Whitcombe.  Also the calendar changes in 1751 can cause confusion for the uninitiated.  The S&DFHS database contains over 1.2 million records and is increasing by up to 20,000 each quarterly update.  But the coverage by parish varies – some are well indexed, others less so.  The earliest are from the 15th century, the most recent from the 21st.  There are now only a handful of volunteers transcribing and checking – more would be welcome.  The Society’s burials enquiry service offers two kinds of search – a named person search and a blanket search for members only.  Details of cost and who to contact are on the Society’s web site at .


United Reformed Church, Fore Street

On April 25th 2013, Members of the Society visited the United Reformed Church in Fore Street.  Church elders Andrew Harvey and Steve Disney gave a conducted tour and explained the way the building has evolved into the form it is today, with a smaller sanctuary and a separate meeting hall to the rear.  The building was formerly a Congregational Church, becoming a United Reformed Church in 1972 when the Congregationalists and Presbyterians combined.  The Congregationalists grew out of the1662 Act of Uniformity, when many clergymen refused to conform and were expelled from the Church of England, in what became known as the Great Ejection.  This was effectively the start of non-conformism.  Early meetings of Congregationalists in Wellington took place in a room at the back of the Three Cups Hotel.  However the licensee became increasingly concerned at loss of trade caused by funerals held at the premises.  Adjacent land was donated by James Perry in 1728 to build a church and in 1730 a brick built chapel was opened.  The pulpit from that first building is still in the existing church.  In 1861, the current building was completed providing capacity for a congregation of 600.


Annual Meeting

At the annual meeting on March 28th 2013, outgoing chairman Bill Copley referred to the fact that this year sees the 30th anniversary of the opening of the museum.  He thanked the Town Council for its continued support and in recognition of this, a reception for councillors is to be held at the end of April.  Bill also thanked the stewards and winter working parties in the museum.  The monthly events had continued, although affected to an extent by the inclement weather during the winter months.  Judith Ward was elected chairman and Paddy Gray was elected vice-chairman. Carole Moore, David Young and Colin Spackman continue in their posts as secretary, treasurer and curator respectively.  The remainder of the committee now consists of Bill Copley, John Hamer, Ray Hitchcock, Paul Cottrell, Lindsey Withers and Gillian Taylor.  The meeting was followed by the curator showing some of the recent donations to the museum, including a tea towel with self drawn pictures of school pupils, a tankard from the now closed Ship Inn and a number of carnival programmes.



Wellington's Weather

On February 28th, members heard local amateur weather watcher, Simon Ratsey, give a talk about Wellington’s Weather. It was rather ironic that the previous two Society events did not proceed as planned because of inclement weather – snow and flooding!  Since the year 2000, Simon has written a monthly weather report in the Wellington Weekly News.  Befitting the organisation he was addressing, Simon concentrated on what the weather has done locally in the past.  Growing up on a farm and also having an interest in fishing, he became very aware of the significance of the weather at an early age.  His day job was eventually to be a geography teacher. Climate can vary within a small area, largely being dependent on the local topography.  Wellington is a good place to live for weather, being more typical of inland southern England rather than the south-west generally.  The Quantock, Blackdown and Brendon hills are very much a determinant of this.  It has only been in the last 50 years that comprehensive weather records have been collected.  Simon’s own records span the last 40 years or so.  Before then, articles in newspapers can give an indication of the weather.  Going back 100 years or so, a report on the Taunton Flower Show indicated that 1911 was one of the hottest summers in memory.  This was followed in 1912 by the wettest summer of the century – the consequence of a volcanic eruption in Alaska.  In 1921, there was a drought with water tanks and heath fires. 1924 saw wet weather, with cricket matches badly affected.  People awoke on Christmas Day 1927 to a snow blizzard.  The first three months of 1929 had continuous severe frosts.  During World War 2 there were no reports, but it is known that three of the hardest winters of the century occurred during that time.  In more recent times, in 1976 the heatwave and drought resulted in Clatworthy reservoir being reduced to 27% of its capacity.  Coming right up to date, last year was the wettest on record by a massive margin, raining on 213 days with 40% of it falling on just 18 separate days.  The previous wettest year was 2002.  As to the future, there is an adage that ‘if it has happened before it could happen again’ – take note.


Transportation of Criminals

On 25th October, at the annual joint meeting with Taunton & District Civic Society, David Hawkings gave an illustrated talk about his research into the 19th Century punishment of transportation to foreign lands.  When he started researching his family’s history back in 1964, he was advised to look at criminal records and he came across 5.  These included his 4 times great grandfather, John Hawkings, who was transported to Australia for stealing a sheep and killing it.  The practice of transportation replaced hanging for certain crimes during the 17th Century. In 1788, 733 convicts were sent from Britain to Australia.  David’s ancestor was transported to Australia in 1806.  From Treasury records, criminal records and transportation orders, it is possible to build up a picture of the criminals involved around that time.  Australian newspapers are also an invaluable source of information on the later lives of those transported.  Transportation from Britain officially ended in 1868, although it had become uncommon several years earlier.  


Somerset in 1952

On 27th September, standing in for the advertised speaker who was unable to attend, Colin Spackman gave a talk on Somerset in 1952, from the point of view of visiting holidaymakers.  Then it included what is now North Somerset, BANES and bits of Bristol.  Many people from elsewhere used some of their statutory holiday (less than today’s entitlement) on a visit to Somerset.  If arriving by road, a typical car then was an Austin 7 or a Morris 8 from the indigenous motor industry.  There were problems in getting here – petrol was still rationed and the M4 and M5 were still another 15-20 years away.  Or, perhaps we would arrive by train – steam hauled.  Then there many more lines, before the Beeching cuts of the 1960s swept away routes such as the Somerset & Dorset, which wound its way from Bath to Bournemouth via Radstock, Shepton Mallett and Wincanton.  Once in the county, there more opportunities to travel around by train, including to and from Wellington.  It was also possible to take a day trip by paddle steamer to South Wales.  For entertainment, many towns had at least one picture house and pubs were more plentiful (and if you overindulged, you could go into a wc and spend a penny, literally).  Food at your B&B would have been more restricted than today, partly due to rationing and being before the onset of frozen meals and dishes from other countries.  For those lucky people with television, there were fewer channels, poor reception in many areas and for only a few hours a day.  In the pre transistor age of radio, there was no VHF, DAB or Radio Somerset – but the Archers was already underway.  Phoning relatives to tell them what a fine time you were having in the beautiful county of Somerset was less straightforward than today.  No mobiles, and if you had a landline it may have been a party line.  Since then the resident population of Somerset has increased by 50% (twice the increase nationally).


Midsummer Urban Ramble

On 28th June, members of the Society met for the annual Midsummer Urban Ramble led by Colin Spackman.  Starting at the car park in Courtland Road, the walk took in Rookery Terrace, Mantle Street, and the area of the former cattle market (now the North Street car park). There were comparisons between the current buildings and townscape in this Diamond Jubilee year and those present in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897.  The park was still to be laid out – in 1903.  However, Victorian terraced housing had progressed down Mantle Street as far as Hyacinth Terrace.  In the same street, it was noted that the building which is now the Roman Catholic Church was the Popham’s Almshouses until 1933, when new almshouses were built in Victoria Street.  The two Champford Lanes were seen.  The original Champford Lane was diverted through the Walkers Gate housing development when the former milk factory was redeveloped in the 1990’s.  However the original street nameplate survives on the wall of the end property.  Chadwell House was passed – now a private dwelling, but at one time it was the children’s home for the Workhouse in the town.  In Mantle Street, several original shop-fronts which would have been present in 1897 survive.  



All Saints Church, Rockwell Green

On 25th May, members of the Society joined with Nynehead & District Local History Society for a visit to All Saints’ Church, Rockwell Green.  The visit was organised by David and Sheila Rabson.  Visitors had an opportunity to visit the bell-ringing room, view the bells and visit the organ loft, to which there is normally restricted access.  The Vicar, Rev. Christopher Rowley, welcomed members and together with David Rabson gave a brief history of the circumstances leading to the building of the church. 

The building was designed by J Houghton Spencer, a Taunton architect who also designed St Andrews Church in Rowbarton, Taunton.  It was financed by Frederick Thomas Elworthy, of the well-known local family, at a cost of around £5,000.  When the church was opened in 1890, the funds available did not permit the expense of erecting the tower and spire.  These were added in 1908.  The external walls are of local red sandstone, lined internally with brick and stone dressings.  Three colours of brick were used – buff, blue/black and red, giving an internal appearance as ‘railway gothic’.  The church has no monuments, but records the freemasonry connection of its benefactor (FT Elworthy) with one of its stained glass windows – made in Munich, Germany.  William Josiah Giles, a local sculptor, carved the pulpit and font.


Hemyock and its Milk Factory

On 26th April, around 30 members of the Society heard local historian Brian Clyst talk about Hemyock and its Milk factory, illustrated by some of Michael Cooper’s slides from the Blackdown Archive collection.  The arrival of the railway in the village in 1876 meant that farmers in areas such as Devon were able to make butter and exploit increased markets for their products.  Consequently, the first mechanically operated butter making factory in the West of England was started at Mountshayne in 1886 by a partnership of 4 local farmers.  Expansion after its opening was meteoric, with milk coming from farms up to 10 miles away.  The premises were altered over the years and smaller depots were opened in Culmstock and Clayhiddon, where processes were established to separate out the cream, a necessary part of the process.  In 1897 the factory moved to Millhayes, a former corn mill, which was by the River Culm and next to the railway.  The factory management gave a worker’s bonus, giving them a financial share in the company.  This was a reflection of the non-comformist liberal background of the owners.  During the First World War, the factory was taken over by United Dairies.  The railway was the prime means of transport of the products from the facory until the 1960s, when road transport began to take over.  The railway finally closed in 1975.  The factory ended its days in the 1990s, having in its final years produced St Ival Gold and Utterly Butterly.  Most of the site has been redeveloped with new housing, but the former social club building is still standing and in use as the Blackdown Healthy Living Centre.



Annual Meeting

At the annual meeting on 29th March 2012 , Bill Copley was re-elected chairman for his third and final year and Judith Ward was re-elected vice-chairman for the second her second year.  Colin Spackman and Caroline Newcombe stood down from their posts as secretary and treasurer respectively as they had reached the end of their maximum five-year tenure. Carole Moore was elected secretary and David Young treasurer.  The Committee now consists of Paul Cottrill, Tony Dawes, Ray Hitchcock, John Hamer, Colin Spackman and Paddy Gray.  The meeting was followed by an open discussion on how Wellington commemorated royal jubilees since Queen Victoria’s in 1887.  That year had seen an all-day event on Tuesday June 21.  It started at daybreak with a peal of bells and a 21-gun salute and finished after 9pm with a firework display. During the day there had been a grand procession through the town by representatives of the Local Board, the precursor to the urban district council, local trades and businesses, and schools.  There had been tea and sports for the children.



Young People & the Law - Our Different Experiences

On 22nd February, members paid their annual visit to the Wellington Youth Centre to share their experiences of young people and the law.  The youth leaders and the young people gave presentations.  A Police Community Support Officer and a Magistrate also gave the perspective from the angle of their area of work.  The perspectives were looked at over the ages and in particular over the last 20 years or so, which has been a period characterised by less progression of work with greater multi tasking.  From the PCSO's and Magistrates viewpoint, young people from broken homes were the most likely to offend - a situation largely brought on by feelings of anger, frustration and boredom.  However, on the whole, teenagers were considered to be very energetic and were leaving their parents behind in areas of communicating and networking.  Continued collaboration between the Centre and the Society was considered to be valuable.  



400 Years of the King James Bible 

On 26th January, members had a talk from visiting speaker, James Bradnock, whose subject was ‘400 Years of the King James Bible and how it was celebrated in Wellington’.

James gave the background to the production of the Bible, including earlier translations in the 200 years or so before.  The first complete English translations of the Christian scriptures were undertaken by John Wycliffe in the early 15th Century.  Other translations by William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale followed in the 16th Century and became the basis for the Great Bible, which was the first ‘authorised version’ issued by the Church of England during the reign of Henry VIII.  When Mary I succeeded to the throne in 1553, she returned the Church of England to the communion of the Roman Catholic faith and many English religious reformers fled the country, some establishing an English speaking colony in Geneva.  These expatriates undertook a translation that became known as the Geneva Bible.  In 1568, the Church of England responded with the Bishop’s Bible, a revision of the Great Bible in the light of the Geneva version. 

In 1604, the newly crowned King James convened the Hampton Court Conference.  That gathering proposed a new English version to address issues raised by the Puritan faction of the Church of England.  The task of translation was undertaken by about 50 scholars working in 6 committees, with Archbishop Bancroft in overall charge.  The first completed versions were produced in 1611.  In 1769, Benjamin Blayney produced a ‘corrected’ version which, due to advances in printing technology, established itself as completely dominant in public and ecclesiastical use in the English speaking Protestant world.

Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible in Wellington followed 15 months of planning.  A week long series of events at the end of last September included an exhibition, an art competition, a bible quiz and visits to local schools.  But the main feature was a reading aloud of the Bible by 221 different people over a period of 78 hours.  The venue for this marathon was outdoors in the High Street during the day and in 5 local churches in the evenings.  


Where I Live

On Thursday 17th November 2011, several members of the Society spoke about their house, street, etc.  We saw how Pyles Thorne Road has developed since the 1920's, when it was a quiet country lane.  Many of the early houses were designed by Thomas Howard, the Town Architect.  He was a keen cyclist, hence the lack of garages when the houses were first built!  There was a uniformity in the standard of construction, with many of the materials being from the brickworks at Poole - supporting local industry.  Subsequent developments resulted in side roads in the form of Shuteleigh and Mornington Park.  In the 1970s, Pyles Thorne Close was built on what had been a prisoner of war camp.  

The row of 18 cottages forming Improvement Place formed the next segment.  Many of these '2 up and 2 down' cottages built of stone, brick and slate have had additions made to them over the years.  

Shuteleigh was built in 1835, when Charles Henry Fox married into the Hancock family, the brewers from Wiveliscombe.  Following a fire in 1951, the property passed through the Burnett family before being developed by Magnus Developments in the mid 80s into what is now Cedar Court.  

Another Magnus development was covered in the form of Gillards Close at Rockwell Green, which was built in 1991.  

Finally, Wellesley Park which commenced in the 1890s by the Wellington Estates Company along what was then known as Butts Lane. In the late 1920s, development commenced along what is now the east-west part of Wellesley Park.  Many of these properties were originally laid out with spacious gardens, including tennis courts, although over the yeras many of these have been the subject of 'infill' development.  


Visit to Taunton Civic Society

The Society's October event was a visit to Taunton Civic Society, when we were entertained by Martin Horler, who gave an illustrated history of 18th Century mail coaches and the role played by their guards.  The talk was enlivened by the blowing of various commands on a guard's horn and we were able to see and handle various other objects such as the guard's pistol.  Martin was even dressed the part in a thick scarlet and gold uniform.


The Blackdown Archive

On Thursday 22nd September 2011, Michael Cooper from Hemyock spoke about this project.  It aims to collect digital images of photographs and documents from all across the Blackdowns.  Michael described how it started, how it is funded and the progress to date.  Fragile photographs have been scanned and added to the collection.  Many have been digitally enhanced to capture interesting detail, often missed until now.  To date, the collection contains more than 2,300 local family photographs.


Midsummer Urban Ramble

The weather was kind to us (it didn't rain) on the evening of Thursday 23rd June 2011 when 15 members made their way around a circular route starting at the Sports Centre.  The combined extensive knowledge of society secretary, Colin Spackman, and Richard Fox was fascinating and everyone seemed to come across something they had not seen before.  Points of interest during the walk included, among others, the industrial archaeology of the Basins and its water supply, the fine 360 degree panorama from Hilly Head, a tree planted 100 years and 2 days earlier and the nature reserve by the Sports Centre.


Waitrose in the Community 

On Thursday 26th May 2011 a large turnout heard a representative of Waitrose outline the history of the company and its coming to Wellington.  This was followed by a discussion on Waitrose in general and in particular the company's experience in Wellington.


Annual Meal

On Friday 20th May 2011 the annual members' meal took place at the Martlet Inn at Langford Budville.


Annual Meeting

31 members attended the Annual Meeting, held at Wellington Junior School on Thursday 24th March 2011.  There were a few changes to the composition of the Committee.  Bill Copley was re-elected as Chairman; Judith Ward replaced Carole Moore who was no longer eligible as Vice Chairman.  Caroline Newcombe and Colin Spackman were re-elected as Treasurer and Secretary respectively.  The following were also elected to the Committee: Carole Moore, Paul Cottrill, Tony Dawes, Ray Hitchcock, John Hamer and David Young.  There are still two vacancies on the Committee.  The Society's finances continued on an even course, with a small excess of income over expenditure.  It was agreed to increase all classes of annual membership by 50p with effect from October.  Several new stewards had come forward and would begin training when the museum reopens for the season on 11th April.  With space restricted, the Society was now focussing on promoting Wellington's history and so was seeking to find another home for some of its more general interest items.  More artefacts are to be made available in the museum in the coming season.  Three new Holding Trustees; Tina Wells, Adam Gibson and Simon Newcombe had been appointed during the year to replace those that had to withdraw.  

The formal part of the meeting was followed by an open discussion on the history of the Wellington Co-op.  It seems that the business started around 1893 and went through several mergers and takeovers before ending up in its current situation as part of a national organisation.  Members of the audience contributed their memories of the Co-op when it was in North Street where Belvedere Court is now, of the other shops in and around the town and the role the Co-op has played in the growth of Wellington.  


Growing up in Wellington in the 21st Century

On Wednesday 26th January 2011, in a new venture, the Society met at the Wellington Young People's Centre in Mantle Street.  Young and old swapped stories of growing up in Wellington, when youngsters at the Centre played host to members of the Society.  After watching a short film of young people being interviewed about their opinions of the town, there was a lively and candid discussion, members of the centre showed their visitors around and challenged them to games of table football.  Further collaborations between the centre and the Society are planned.


6 Objects & 6 Voices

On Thursday November 25th 2010, six members of the Society each spoke about a different object in the Museum's collection.  Carole Moore, using a commemorative plate, recalled the World Ploughing Contest held at Nynehead in 1971, which she had attended as a programme seller.  Tina Wells spoke about and demonstrated the versatile Edwardian child's wooden high chair that converts into a wheeled pushchair and a rocking chair.  Then Brian Hillier demonstrated the way in which railway signalmen used to use their block instruments and bells to control the passage of trains.  Two volunteers from the audience acted as signalmen, while another was the train.  Bill Copley spoke about the life and times of William Sydney Price who had, in the early 20th Century, lived in the house now occupied by Mr Copley.  David Young explained the circumstances that led to the Fox Fowler bank being the last private bank to issue legal tender currency notes in England in 1921.  Finally Rosemary Bailey used the Museum's 'Bishops Brothers' branded lavatory cistern to describe the company and its impact on the town.


Wellington Park - its Past, Present and Future

On Thursday 21st October 2010, an audience of around 40 heard Richard Fox describe the origins of the park, followed byPaul Saturley from Taunton Deane Borough Council, who talked about how they maintain the park and where it fits into their work across the district.  DouglasMarshall then showed some slides of the park during its 100 years of existence and finally Iris Ellins spoke about the role that the Friends of Wellington Park play in maintaining the park's recent successes in gaining Green Flag Award status.


Wellington's History as revealed by its Street Names

On Thursday 23rd September 2010, the audience discovered how new streets in Wellington get their names and more about some of the existing names. 


Midsummer Urban Ramble

On Thursday 24th June 2010, a walk of about  a mile and a half in length commencing outside Rockwell Green Cemetery enabled members to share their memories and knowledge of Rockwell Green.


Wellington Street Fair

On Sunday 6th June 2010, the Society had a small display in conjunction with Oxfam.


 Tour of South Street Baptist Church

On Thursday 20th May 2010, a tour of the church and its adjoining buildings was led by Pastor Sam Griffiths.  The original building with its Italianate pillars dates from 1833, but there have been many subsequent additions and alterations.  


Annual Meal

This was held on Friday 23rd April 2010 at the Beambridge Inn.


Museum Society's 2010 AGM - Town Stream

On Thursday 18th March 2010, after the formal business of the AGM, there was an open discussion on the Town Stream.  Knowledge and memories of the stream from long term Wellington residents were augmented by extracts from 'When I was a Boy', A L Humphey's memoir about his boyhood in the town in the 1880's.  There were also extracts read from a late Victorian document produced for the Local Board (a forerunner of the Town Council) giving details of various legal actions regarding access to and repair of the Stream.  Both of these documents are in the Museum's collection.


Fox's Workers Committee, 1920 - Tina Wells

On Thursday 25th February 2010 Tina skilfully interpreted the minute book of Fox's Workers' Committee of 90 years ago, from the Society's collection, to illustrate vividly the workers' concerns as the word's economy fell into the depression of the 1920's.  She also described some of the firm's welfare provisions which were very advanced for the period.


Policing Wellington - Sergeant Stuart Bell

On Thursday 28th January 2010 Sgt Bell gave a candid and interesting talk on the problems and pleasures of policing in Wellington.  He described how the impact of technology and governement initiatives had affected policing over the last decade or more.