May Newsletter 2014



The Museum  re-opened on the 5th April and the number of visitors since then has been encouraging, although there are some days which are  quiet.

The opening hours are from 10am to 1pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and we will continue to be open at these hours until the 31st October.  Thereafter for the winter months we will additionally now open on Saturdays, which is a new concept to try to make the public more aware of us. With these longer hours of opening, more stewards are always  useful so further volunteers would be welcome

We have purchased a new copier/scanner, which will enable details of our artefacts etc. to be transferred on to the computer for everyone to see, as so many of these are stored away from the museum, because of lack of space. This will be a gradual process

As far as lectures are concerned, we will be switching these to the Memorial Hall because of their good audio system and the fact that they have no light problem there on summer evenings

The next lectures are as follows;

Thursday 29th May    “It’ll all be over by Christmas” – Wincanton goes to War 1914    by Tony Goddard (RBL Chairman) who will talk about some of those names on the local war memorial, and generally about the town at that time

Friday 27th June – “ A History of Bayford “by Marcus de Giles, one of our best known local vets

There are no lectures in either July or August but the autumn ones will start again in September – details to follow in due course. 

The Committee have decided that this year there will not be a Garden Party

Please also note that in Wincanton there is a WW1 Heritage Day on the 5th July where there will be various aspects on show around the town with the local schools involved.  The Museum will have WW1 items/features on display as will the library

The current membership of the Society stands at 75 which we would like to increase so please encourage any friends or neighbours to consider joining us 

Nigel Fox  Chairman

First Talk of 2014 and AGM.

A Very Fair Castle.  The Changing Face of Corfe Castle

From Wincanton to Corfe. Judith Teasdale and Philip Hughes

The high point after our AGM was the lecture by Judith Teasdale on Corfe Castle. In her work as a landscape architect Judith has been employed by the National Trust to produce a Conservation Management Plan for Corfe Castle. She also worked with chartered building surveyor and consultant on historic buildings Philip Hughes who also lives in Wincanton and was there to hear Judith.




The Norman Castle Strategy

Illustrated with spectacular photographs and historic drawings Judith explained how from the time of his invasion in 1066 William the Conqueror covered the country with a network of castles, starting with motte and bailey log clad palisades which were then rebuilt as imposing fortifications with a towering keep and a wider perimeter wall.  She explained that the aim of these castles was not primarily to repulse attacks, but to impose Norman and royal rule on every area and in particular monitor and tax trade, which was why most were situated by rivers.  In the case of Corfe the castle was strategically placed in a gap between the Purbeck hills so all traders going to and from the coast had to go by it. 

A Castle for an Empress. Matilda at Home

Established as early as 1080 the castle became one of the largest and most imposing in England providing a set of rooms in the keep where the noble family were able to live in considerable splendour.  Taken by supporters of the Empress Matilda in 1138, the castle was besieged twice by King Stephen over the next two years.  

From Castle to Royalist Ruin to NT Tourist Attraction

Being on the wrong side during the Civil War of 1642-1651 resulted in the castle being blown up by Cromwell and his men leaving the whole structure as a haunting and imposing ruin, part of the extensive estate of the Bankes family.  When the last remaining Bankes heir died it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1981 and has since then been a much visited property, but one which has faced the NT with ongoing problems regarding its maintenance.  Basically the NT seeks to keep the ruins it acquires as ruins, but the problem is keeping these stable under the pressures of storm and sun.  This means building work remains ongoing. To illustrate this Judith had some wonderful photos of workmen perched on the top of a narrow keep wall without any safety equipment in the early 1960s, quite a contrast with the most recent work being done using elaborate scaffolding and safety harnesses.

It added up to a fascinating talk which was very well received by the fifty plus audience who turned out on another dark and stormy night to hear her.

Our AGM.

                   Our Thanks to Terry Stanford

As most well-run associations do, we planned to get through our AGM as quickly as possible and the whole committee was re-elected.  The great exception was that our chairman, Dr Terry Stanford, has chosen to stand down. For the past three years, as our president Frank Foster told us, Terry has carried out the work of chairman with admirable efficiency and care as well as having given us some very interesting lectures.  Getting things going in the library with all the negotiations that have gone with it has taken up a lot of time and he has made sure everything has been done thoroughly and well.

Nigel Fox elected Chairman

We have been very happy to elect Nigel Fox, who has been Secretary, to take over from Terry as our new chairman.  Here is Terry’s report on this year.

Chairman’s Report January 2014.

New Opening Hours for 2014

The past year has been a very busy one mainly concerned with the opening of the museum at Easter.   Although small it has proved to be of great interest to a wide cross section of visitors and it is hoped to improve what is on offer in time for the reopening in April.  Building on this experience and at the suggestion of many people it has been agreed to extend the opening period this year to include all of  October and, with effect from April, to open on Saturday mornings all year.  In addition with the anniversary of the start of WW1 this year it has been decided to try and mount an exhibition with this as the theme taking into use display areas in the library itself.

Our Stewards

The success of the museum this year has been due to a number of factors not least amongst which has been the support and interest shown by stewards and the library staff.    There is little doubt that the fact that we have taken occupation of part of the library premises has helped the library service as they face difficult decisions over funding etc.

A Computer Archive of Images, Old and Contemporary

The provision of a modern computer has enabled us to offer an extensive range of photographs   adding to the available pictorial history of Wincanton. This has proved to be very popular and it is intended to extend this provision in the coming year.

The Series of Winter Talks

These are now well established and the printing of the programme so as to be accessible to all has proved to be of value. We have covered a wide range of topics and are always interested in suggestions from members.  This is especially the case if they are able to provide the presentation.

Room for New People to Join Our Committee

We have been fortunate this year in being able to welcome two new members to the committee and this has been very helpful.  We are however still interested in extending the numbers and would very much like to hear from anyone interested in helping out.  We do need new ideas and enthusiasm.

It is with regret that I will not be able to continue as Chairman and wish the committee every success in the future.

Terry Stanford











The Story of Wincanton Parish Church

Friday 29th November in the Balsam Centre.  Colin Watkins gave us his talk on Wincanton Parish Church on which he has written a very useful and interesting guide. It may be the oldest public building in the town for parts of the church tower go back a very long way perhaps to Saxon times, and it has undergone a series of rebuildings reflecting the changes which have taken place over the centuries right up to the present day.

His lecture was a fully illustrated Power Point presentation and sits very well with the Power Point presentation on the Parish Church, the Bell Ringers and the View from the Top of the Tower which we now have on our Museum computer for people to view when we open in the Spring.

Our Thanks to Canon Watson at the Garden Party

Wincanton Museum and History Society held our annual Garden Party in the Balsam Centre gardens on Saturday 3rd August where Canon Alan Watson was thanked for his years as a Trustee.

It was a perfect sunny Saturday afternoon and the Balsam Centre Garden was looking its best for our Garden Party. The party was arranged as a thank you for all the stewards who have been on duty since the new Museum attached to Wincanton Library has been open, that is on every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning. We also wished to thank them for their patience and persistence in getting used to our new computer which provides so much for visitors to see but which is very much a work in progress.

It was also the ideal occasion for the committee to thank Canon Alan Watson who after more years than he cares to remember has been one of the Museum Trustees and who has decided it is time to retire from that role. In thanking him our president Frank Foster and our chairman Terry Stanford spoke of his unremitting support of the museum over the years and of the recent moves taken to make the most of contemporary computer technology to record and display our artefacts and records.  They also spoke of his dry wit. We are also extremely pleased that he intends to remain on our committee.


Forty people attended and everyone enjoyed a great cream tea. Here Alan and his wife Rosemary receive a small token of appreciation from Frank and Terry.


Terry Stanford’s 2013 Summer Newsletter

As you are aware the Museum has now been open for three months and to date the comments by visitors have been favourable and encouraging.  It may well be ‘The smallest museum in Somerset’ but its re opening in Wincanton has obviously been well received and created quite a lot of interest.   The attendance figures are quite interesting with some 206 in April, 126 in May and 127 in June. As was expected by far the greatest numbers attend on a Saturday. It will be interesting to see how many persons visit during the school holidays.

It has been said on many occasions that one of the strengths of the museum has been the Stewards who are always welcoming and helpful.  My thanks goes to all who have helped in this way.

In order to improve the visitors experience John Baxter is continually improving the information available on the computer and a substantial photographic record is being developed which ha s proved to be of interest to visitors especially to younger generations.  This will continue to be improved with power point presentations and a widening collection of images.

Our programme of talks at the Balsam Centre has been completed and is as follows,

27th September, ‘A Wincanton Childhood’ by Gill D’arcy,  25 October ‘The status of Silk in art’ by Hendrika Foster, 29th November ‘Wincanton Parish Church’ by Colin Watkins, 31 January, ‘Corfe Castle and its surrounds’ by Judith Teasdale, 28 February, ‘ A social History of Beer. AKA the History of Mankind’ by Terry Stanford and on 28 March, ‘The Iconic Vulcan Bombers’ by Wing Commander Tony Lewis.

 All the above will start at 7.30p.m and Our AGM will precede the talk on 31 January starting at 7p.m.  A new Brochure/Flier has been prepared and will be available at the Museum, Library, Balsam Centre, Council office and some shop premises.

Our Annual Garden Party will take place on Saturday 3rd August commencing at 2p.m. all members of the society are invited. It is to be held in the gardens at the Balsam centre and we would love to see as many members as possible attend this free event.  In order that we may properly prepare it is important that we have some idea of the numbers involved, it would therefore be appreciated if those wishing to attend could contact me by Friday 27 July at the latest.

On a less cheerful note we are all aware that money is tight and the chances of getting additional support by way of grants etc is slim. The committee is therefore looking to future financing in an attempt to decide on ways by which the society can continue to flourish without eating up all our funds.    In this way we are examining our fee structure, the way in which we manage talks, refreshments, meetings etc.  As yet no decisions have been taken and we are interested in hearing from our members with any suggestions that they might wish to make.  We have to finalise our proposals over the next few months and must be completed well before the end of the year.

Terry Stanford.  Chairman.

e.mail.  Tele. No. 01963 31665.