An Update from Jeff Kingaby


From: Jeff Kingaby <>
Date: 8 June 2011 10:42:20 GMT+01:00


Closure of Museum We are now able to report that we have had some success at last regarding the display of some of the artefacts to various locations in the town

Wincanton Primary School have now agreed that the museum can display some of our artefacts in a showcase in the school starting in September The staff at the school have always been keen to encourage the children to learn something of their heritage and almost every year classes have visited our museum.

King Arthur School have agreed that some of our artefacts will be on display in the school starting in September.

We would like to thank the staff in both schools for their co-operation in providing these facilities.

Wincanton Public Library have not been able to give us a reply as to whether we can use the small room in the library as this will depend on the number of mobile libraries operating in the area.

Some other locations in the town have expressed an interest in displaying our artefacts.

Old faithful. The propeller and other engine parts of “Old faithful” from the Flying Fortress bomber that crashed at Snags Farm in 1944 have now been removed to that farm hopefully as a final resting place where a plaque is about to be erected in memory of those unfortunate men.

In the last year a lot of work has gone into sorting our some of the artefacts from the museum prior to the society vacating number 32 High Street at the end of July this year and moving to a new store.   This has been a mammoth task returning some items to their owners, offering some artefacts to other museums in the area.  The society owes a debt of gratitude to our Chairman, Terry Stanford and our Curator, John Atkins and others for all this work.


The committee were delighted with the number of members who have attended the last two or three talks all of which have been described as excellent.


30th September – Arnolfini Portrait, Van Eyck,in 1434, etc,  by Jonathan Weeks

28th October The history of Brewham Coal Mine in 1800. By Brian Shingler

John Baxter write: Brian Shingler has lived at Gant’s Mill since 1949 and is fascinated by the history of this former silk mill and has followed this up with research in the County Archive. There he discovered a forgotton story of one of the mill’s former owners, Theophilus Percival, who in the early 1800s was well know in social and business circles and an enthusiastic entrepeneur.

On seeing others around Bath Avon and Radstock making a killing by opening up coal-mines, he thought – on the basis of very little evidence – that under the clay of South Brewham lay – if you dug deep enough – coal.

Despite the negative evaluation of William Smith who visited the site and was one of the first geologists and published the first map of the geology of the country, Theophilus pressed ahead, set up a company and got 100 local worthies to stump up £20 each, at least £1000 by today’s values. With this they founded a mining company and employed a foreman and teams of miners to start digging. Over three years they went down 625 feet, but found no coal. At that point suddenly water came flooding in at such a rate that the whole enterprise had to be abandoned and all the share-holders lost almost all the money they had invested.

Told with maps and diagrams and pictures it was a fascinating account of an incident in local history which was big at the time but which, because it failed and the land was cleared up afterwards, has been almost forgotten.

Brian spoke with humour, sympathy and considerable knowledge of the people involved and of the time, illuminating the tough lives of the majority and the grand lives of the gentry – who discounted Smith because he was not one of them. It was also a time when the population doubled in a few decades and energy and transport links were in short supply.

It was also the time when a canal was planned to run from Bath to Poole to carry all the hoped for manufactured goods and coal. It would have run through Wincanton and Bruton, but because enough coal was never found it was never built.

Many questions were asked and there was an excellent turnout with everyone staying to chat afterwards over a glass of wine in the Balsam Centre.

(Brian owns Gants Mill in Bruton)

Jeff Kingaby                                    e-mail:

01963 824786