Annual General Meeting, 19 May 2009

Chairman’s Report

Stoke St Mary and District History Group held its inaugural meeting on 22 April 2008.  The creation of the Group responded to a widely-felt sense that people wanted to discover more about the history of the parish and district both through active research and through talks and other events.

Our first year of existence has been a very busy one.  On 24 June we held an open meeting in Stoke Chapel to learn more about sources for local history and to hear about the Neroche Project from Tanya James, the Community Heritage Officer.  She showed us some of the remarkable LiDaR images which have been revealing the secrets of the Neroche landscape.  On 5–6 July we organised a display of village photographs and archives in the chapel as part of the Village Weekend, and in August there were tours of Taunton Castle and of the Somerset Record Office.  A meeting organised by the Neroche Project found us gathered at Thurlbear church on a September evening to discover more about the history of that wonderful building, and in December Bob Croft, the County Archaeologist, suggested some approaches to undertaking community archaeological projects.  Finally, on 17 February, we marked the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Heniettra Moulton Barrett in the village by showing the 1934 version of ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’, complete with a suitably monstrous performance from Charles Laughton as Mr Barrett.  

The Committee has met on three occasions during the year, and the Research Group twice.  The first edition of our Newsletter appeared in December.

The research activity of the Group has included preliminary work on sources in the Somerset Record Office and the distribution of a questionnaire to householders as part of the house history project.  An enthusiastic group of members has identified potential people to interview for the oral history project, and has considered some of the practical and ethical issues involved.  The first recording has now been made and several more will follow in the near future.  The year ahead offers an important opportunity for taking the research projects forward and for confirming proposals and potential funding sources for a publication celebrating Stoke history.

Our programme for our second year of existence includes a talk on the remarkable discoveries at Cambria Farm in Ruishton, a visit to the Norman church at Orchard Portman, experience of simple archaeological fieldwork, and a chance to discover our lime-burning heritage.

We owe thanks to all members of the committee for their enthusiastic support of the Group in a variety of ways, and not least to our Secretary Stephanie Crockett, Treasurer John Pugh and Newsletter Editor Meriel Thurstan.  We are also most grateful to Stoke Chapel for allowing the Group to meet there on a number of occasions.

We look forward during 2009/10 to building on the achievements of our first year and in particular to taking forward our research and giving it a permanent form.

Tom Mayberry