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The Somborne & District Society

History and present activities

The society was formed in 1978 following a course of lectures on local achaeology which had been held in the village hall. Interest in the subject had arisen following the discovery of a Saxon grain drier in a field at Little Somborne which archaeologists had excavated and parisioners had been invited to visit. The response was extremely good.
Following the lectures a committee under the chairmanship of Paul Marchant was convened and a public meeting was held to launch the society, to decide its function and draft a constitution. Charitable status was later obtained. Groups were formed to carry out specific tasks such as surveying historic buildings, recording memorial inscriptions and undertake fieldwalking.
Following the initial meeting almost 200 people joined the society. The first evolutionary change was that the groups were soon abandoned and replaced by a series of regular lectures held in a room above the stables of the Goodfriend's house 'The Old Vicarage'in the centre of Kings Somborne. A quarterly newsletter was started under the editorship of Irene Piggott and visits were arranged to local places of interest. Guided by Noreen O'Dells book 'A Hampshire Year' members visited each of the 12 places covered in the chapters of the book, one visit each month until all had been visited.
The programme of lectures, visits and the newsletter has set the pattern which still exists and membership remains fairly constant at its original level.
Fundraising activities have included bring-and-buy-auctions, art exhibitions, antiques roadshows, concerts and coffee mornings etc. These have often been held in the lovely settings of the finest local country houses.
Major events which the society has organised have included a local history fair and a conference on John of Gaunt.
When the Goodfriends returned to America the society was without a home for short time but Toby Bromley stepped in and offered the use of a semi-derelict cowstedding at Ashley provided members refurbished the building. Volunteers made the building habitable and 'The Barn' became the home of the society until the Bromley estate was sold and the stedding converted into a private house. Since that time all the society's meetings have been held in Kings Somborne village hall.
The society has published an illustrated guide to the village, a guide to the parish church, a village directory for the Parish Council, a guide to local footpaths, a video of village life and various Christmas cards and postcards. In 1989 the history of the parish was published in 'Celebrating Somborne', a hardback comprising 30 chapters and written by society members (ISBN 0 9515 110 17). This was followed by 'Illustrating Somborne' which concerns the changes in the parish in the twentieth century.
As the village is situated at the point where the Test Way and Clarendon Way intersect, a parish map was prepared by members to assist travellers. It stands outside the local pub The Crown in the centre of the village.
Since its inception the society has collected old photographs of the locality which provide a unique record of changes which have taken place over the years. These are displayed whenever there is a major function.
A large collection of records relating to the history of the village has accumulated. These have been indexed and are stored in the church room at Ashley. In addition, local benefactor Richard Sawyer has bequethed his large collection of books to the society. The collection is kept at King Alfreds College in Winchester and is available to researchers in local and family history.
In 1996 the society undertook the formation of an unusual archive portraying life in the village at the end of the twentieth century. It sought to record everyday events which usually pass unnoticed. The archive includes monthly reports from all the local organisations, school timetables, outings and staff changes, all parish magazines published during the year and reports of Parochial Church Council meetings. A food survey recorded what people ate and which crops were grown in each named field in the parish. Propety which changed ownership, new developments, newly planted and fallen trees were recorded together with village hall bookings, events held at the three public houses in the parish, bus timetables and postal collection times. Surveys included village amenities and a household response to subjects such as gardening, occupations and holidays etc. The total archive occupies 0.5 cubic metres of information and is held at the Hampshire Records Office.
In 1999 the society inaugrated The John of Gaunt Award to encourage local schoolchildren to take an interest in local history and the environment. A trophy is awarded together with certificates and monetary prizes at the AGM of the society.

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