Annual Report for 2013

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Annual Report for 2013' page

For AGM on 29 April 2014

Introduction

2013 was another good year for the Society, with continued growth in membership, a successful programme of meetings and exhibitions, and much activity on the website. Two Town Trail leaflets were produced, and distributed to various outlets where they rapidly needed restocking. A leaflet about the Society was also printed. Amy Coburn and John Carpenter retired from the Committee and were thanked for their service. Betty Russell, having resigned from the Committee in 2011, continued to work on the programme of meetings, but retired at the end of 2013. I would like to thank all the members of the Committee for their energy and commitment to the Society, but most particularly Diana Parrott, who has continued as Acting Secretary for yet another year, and who responds to a huge number of enquiries from all over the world.

Museum Accommodation

The Public Library duly moved from Vaughan Road to the High Street in June 2013, with the local studies collection situated in an area close to the information desk. Two small cabinets have been provided for the Society, in which our curator, Les Casey, provides thematic displays, changing each in turn once a month so that one cabinet holds its display for two months. The upper storey of the library has been designated for Youth Connexions and other occasional bookings. Otherwise little progress has been made in the search for a more permanent museum and archive store. We are pleased that St Albans Museum Service has secured Heritage Lottery funding for the project to move from the Hatfield Road site and refurbish the old Town Hall as the Museum of St Albans. However, we continue to press for recognition of the District Council’s responsibility to support museum facilities for the north of the District, and have had further meetings with the relevant officers and some District Councillors. We are most grateful to Harpenden Town Council for the continued use of a room in Park Hall and for the Town Council’s support in our continued search for suitable premises. 

The Society’s collection of archives

Our collection continues to grow, adding to the pressure on the limited space in the Local History room in Park Hall. Our curator, Les Casey, is working with volunteers to help sort, remove excessive duplication, catalogue and integrate new acquisitions so that they can be made available for study. The card catalogue of the Society’s collection of over 13,000 photographs is being digitised by Pat Nevell.

Society Meetings

A full programme of well-attended meetings was organised by Betty Russell and Margaret Pratt, covering a wide variety of subjects with well-informed speakers, and reports of some of them have been published in the Newsletters and on the website. We are looking for a volunteer to assist Margaret Pratt with future programmes. The meetings in 2013 were:

  • 29 January: “The History of Elmfield School, from its beginning as a Sanatorium, about 1910 through until the 1970s”, by Judy Hamblin and Margaret Hewitt.
  • 26 February: “The Second Battle of St Albans” by Peter Burley and Harvey Watson.
  • 26 March: “Water Colours in the Harpenden & District LHS Collection” by Patricia Yates.
  • 23 April: “Bells, Bells, Bells” by Amy Coburn.
  • 28 May: “The Coin Hoard from St Albans”, by David Thorold.
  • 25 June: “Delving into Harpenden Shops” by Geoff Woodward.
  • 24 September: “From Pint Pot to Coffee Pot – Breweries and the Temperance Movement in St Albans”, by Jon Mein. 
  • 22 October: “The Stained Glass of Frank O. Salisbury”, by Nigel McMurray
  • 26 November: “Films of Old Harpenden” made by John Heather in the 1940s and 1950s, presented by John and Pauline Ridgewell of Redbourn Village Museum.

Visits

Thanks are due to Margaret Pratt for arranging a series of visits to sites in Harpenden associated with Frank O Salisbury, the stained glass and portrait artist, which took place during the European Heritage Weekend in September. Members met on different days at his birthplace, the Inn on the Green, his studio at Red Gables, portraits at Rothamsted, stained glass at High Street Methodist Church and Highfield Oval Chapel, a mural in St Nicholas Church and his grave in St Nicholas churchyard, with informative talks.

Exhibitions

Once again we are grateful to our Curator, Les Casey, for producing four excellent exhibitions in Park Hall. Much work was involved to prepare these two-hour displays on the following topics:

  • 2 March:  Geology
  • 1 June:  75 Years of Harpenden Red Cross, presented by themselves
  • 7 September:  Paintings in the Society Collection
  • 7 December:  Southdown

In addition Les produced a varied series of displays for the Public Library cabinets, on subjects including Plaits and Hats, Harpenden Breweries, With Pen and Ink, and Harpenden Races, Made for Harpenden, and the Romans in Harpenden. He gave talks to schools and prepared education packs for several primary schools, and also arranged a display on Harpenden Races for the Harpenden Building Society community noticeboard. In May he was presented with an Achievement Award by the Hertfordshire Association for Local History.

Newsletters

Thanks are due to John Wassell for producing newsletters 119-121, packed with information.

Society Website

The Society Website has expanded and continued to attract many comments, enquiries and new contributors from local residents and those researching their ancestors in Harpenden. New pages are added regularly, based on articles and research recorded in past newsletters. New research is welcome for publication in the Society’s Newsletters and on the website. 

Membership

Alan Bunting reported that there were 244 paid up members, with 34 recruited during the year.

Publicity

The Website Team along with Les Casey produces and distributes posters for the Tuesday evening meetings, and for the Saturday Exhibitions. If any member with publicity or advertising skills willing to advise, help or take over these tasks to improve their effectiveness, please step forward. Alan sends ‘what’s on’ information and newsworthy items to the local press.

Finances

John Bristow has produced the 2013 accounts, which show a satisfactory position with a surplus of £335 in the year and closing cash resources of £10471. Although this is a lower surplus than last year, it is to be remembered that income last year was boosted by the excellent sales of Theodora’s Journals and these have understandably dropped and stocks are now all but exhausted and the Committee has decided against a third reprint. The accounts have been independently examined this year and will be circulated separately for the AGM to consider and approve. John Bristow will expand on the highlights of financial performance at the AGM and will also answer any questions on the Committee’s recommendation to dis-continue external scrutiny, which, as we are a small charity, is no longer required of us by the Charity Commission.

Publications

The three leaflets: a promotional Membership pamphlet, a High Street Trail and a Common Trail, were printed in the spring of 2013, supported by a grant from Cllr Teresa Heritage’s Locality Budget. A further print run was funded by the Society as stocks ran low. 50 copies of Harpenden Races by Eric Brandreth were re-printed, and will be promoted more actively in May 2014.  Most copies of Theodora’s Journals have been sold, eliciting some nice compliments.

Gavin Ross, Chairman                                        March 2014

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