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See Chairman’s Report for 2020

Chairman’s Report 2020

Nutfield History Group

Annual General Meeting 2020: Chairman’s Report


The objects of the Nutfield History Group are to stimulate interest in the history of the parish of Nutfield and generally to educate and to engage residents in its history.  Your Committee strives to meet these objects and to provide a wider view of past events and how they affect us today.  At the time of writing the Covid 19 Lockdown is in force.  This Report is offered as an interim statement pending news of Lockdown relaxation and a new normalisation of NHG activities.

Talks and Visits

Our year commenced on 12 April 2019 with a well-attended AGM followed by a talk by Dr Judy Hill on “The Victorian Gardener”.  This gave a telling insight into the important role played by gardeners during the 19th Century and their position in relation to their employers and society generally.

On 23 May we welcomed Susan Threader, the Clerk and Chief Executive to the Rochester Bridge Trust.  Susan’s excellent presentation brought to life the history of the Bridge and the strategically important City of Rochester.  A distinguished civil engineer, Susan made the technical issues about the provision, replacement and maintenance of the Bridge through history seem accessible to our audience.  We were pleased to welcome a number of new members at this meeting.  It proved to be a good introduction to our visit to Rochester later in 2019.

Our first visit of the summer was to Loseley Park on 4 July.  The house was resplendent and we were fortunate to have a wonderful guide.  Members enjoyed time in the gardens and our lunch in a private dining room was first rate.

Following on from our Rochester Bridge talk, we visited the City on 2 August.  We were able to visit many of the various historic sites and enjoyed generous hospitality at the “Six Poor Travellers’ House”.  This was probably the last trip provided by local resident and coach driver Graham Bailey.  We are grateful to Graham for his help and support over the years.

Our final talk comprised the wonderfully­­-illustrated “Lewes and Bonfire Night” by Andy Thomas, appropriately enough in November.  Myths about the sectarian nature of the festival were dismissed and the celebratory and charitable purposes of the events were described.  After the turn of the year, we welcomed back a favourite speaker, Roger Packham.  Roger’s talk in February 2020 was entitled  “Sport and Scandal at Sheffield Park”.  We learnt much about the life of the Earl of Sheffield; his enthusiasm for cricket (including arranging the first-ever match between England and Australia); and his private life.

Research and Publications

We have assisted a number of individuals with their researches about the village, including investigating local names and buildings; the Aerodrome; the railway; and Prisoners of War held locally.

Our publications include several definitive works on local history.  Such booklets make interesting gifts for friends and family.

Programme for 2020-2021

We have been pleased to present our Membership and Programme Card for the next season.  Our talk for the postponed AGM on 17 April 2020 was to have been by Kim Durham on “Discovering Darwin’s Downe”.  Our 22 May presentation by Philip McDougal on “Chatham Dockyard: Rise and Fall of a Military Industrial Complex” has also been a victim of the Lockdown.  We hope that both these talks might be rescheduled but current uncertainties make re-planning impossible at the time of writing.

Our visits to Down House and Chatham Dockyard in July and August respectively have sadly also had to be postponed to another day.  We still hope to hold our final meeting of the year on 13 November, when Howard Slater is due to address us on “Winston Churchill: his Life Story & Exploits”.  If this proves possible, we’ll combine it with the AGM postponed from April.

We seek to educate, inform and entertain.  We hope this programme will, circumstances permitting, interest all members and that you will continue to support the Group at its meetings and on its visits.

Nutfield History Group in the Community

Your Committee has been active in taking our turn at stapling The Link magazine although this part of the production line has now been automated.  We entered the Royal British Legion Annual Quiz and gave a creditable performance but more significantly raised the profile of the Group.

We supported the Patronal Festival of SS Peter & Paul Parish Church where we also sold several of our publications.  I was privileged to lay a wreath on behalf the Group at the War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday.

We hope to promote the Group and its objectives more widely in Nutfield.  If you belong to another society, club or Group in the village and, circumstances permitting, would like me to come along and talk, I would be very pleased to do so, especially if there is a cup of tea on offer.  Please also consider inviting a friend to one of our meetings – they would be most welcome.  Our membership stands at 49 although we would expect this figure to increase once we have confirmed a total at our AGM.  There is always room for more!

The Bourne Society, the local history group covering the area from Godstone to Purley, had invited all local history groups and societies to its AGM in March 2020 to help establish helpful networking between groups.  Regrettably this was an early casualty of the shutdown. We hope that this can be re-arranged in the future.


It is with sadness that we note the resignation from the Committee of Alan Smith whose expertise and genial fellowship will be greatly missed.  We look forward to welcoming him and Angela to our future events.

My thanks go as ever to all the Committee members who do great work on secretarial matters; arranging speakers and visits; dealing with the logistics and refreshments at our meetings; balancing the finances; publicising events; and producing programme cards.  Thanks too to David Elliott who kindly produces the tickets for our outings.

Thanks also to the Tillbrook family who have generously allowed the Group the use of the Capenor Room at Robert Denholm House.  This arrangement has now reached its natural conclusion and we look forward to our future meetings at Nutfield Memorial Hall as and when we meet again.

Thanks of course also go to you, the membership, for your continuing support.  The Group belongs to you.  The Committee and I would be pleased to hear your comments on past and up-coming events and any suggestions you may have for the future.  We look forward to the relaxation of current restrictions and re-starting our programme as soon as possible.

To conclude – a quote. Although made by Camus in 1947, it has a haunting resonance now, both in terms of remembrance on the 75th Anniversary of VE Day; and in relation to the Covid 19 pandemic.

“What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men* to rise above themselves.”
Albert Camus, The Plague

Bob Evans

Chairman, Nutfield History Group

June 2020

*This generic term would, of course, include women as well!