Evening Talks

Timber framed buildings


Friday 2 October 2015

Bill Fergie gave a talk titled “The evolution of the timber framed house in the later medieval period”. Bill is a retired architect and has spent 14 years as chairman of the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust.  His talk was based largely upon his work with the Hampshire Buildings Survey Work.





Magna Carta


A country near to bankruptcy, watered down manifesto promises, issues of human rights and outsourcing by the government. It all sounds familiar today, but, as The Farnham Society learned in our recent lecture, this happened 800 years ago.

On Tuesday 2 June, the military historian Alan Turton delivered a lecture titled ‘In the meadow which is called Runnymede’. We heard how England, under King John in the early 13th century found her finances depleted after years of disastrous war with France. Against this background the barons formulated a list of demands, presented in 63 clauses. In 1215, King John set out from his castle at Odiham for the historic meeting at Runnymede, after which he put his seal to the document. Multiple copies of the document were produced, to distribute nationwide. Different script styles in the various copies show how they were produced at various locations, some of the work having been passed to Oxford colleges. Outsourcing is nothing new!

However, this was only the start of a long story. Within a short time, the king repudiated the document. It was reinstated by his successor, the young Henry III, under the stewardship of William Marshall. This version, however, omitted the enforcement clauses present in the original. Further versions of the charter were issued, with progressively fewer clauses. By the end of the thirteenth century, 37 clauses remained, and today only 3 are still valid: one relating to the liberty of the church; the liberty of London and other cities and ports; and the rights of free men to justice. Magna Carta’s power is now, to a considerable extent symbolic.

With the future of human rights legislation in the forefront of political activity, we might remind ourselves of the words of the Parliamentarian Thomas Fairfax: ‘This is what we have fought for, and by God’s help we must maintain’.

Literary Farnham


16 March 2015

We live in a town that teems with literary connections. Rosemary Wisbey, with the help of readers Rae Baker-Wisbey and Duncan Wisbey, explored Farnham’s literary heritage, taking a cycle ride with Edward Thomas, a flight with Peter Pan and hunting the Hog’s Back for Lewis Carrroll’s Snark. There was also hopping with George Sturt and extinguishing a fire in Jonathan Swift’s Lilliput but definitely not taking tea with William Cobbett. However, there was time to visit a few lesser-known writers on the way.







Photo Copyright FreeStockImages.org



The Natural History of Farnham

Elephant hawkmoth

Monday 19 January


Our speaker, Dr Martin Angel, had followed a career in marine biology, taking part in numerous oceanographic surveys, and was for a time Vice President of the British Ecological Society. He is also involved actively with the Bourne Conservation Group.

The lecture gave a view of the diversity of species to be seen in Farnham, – mammals, birds and insects. Some of these have been present in Farnham for many centuries, others are more recent arrivals. Different species are found in different seasons of the year, with the number of different species present at any one time being dependent upon season. This was shown to be of great relevance in planning matters. Figures presented showed how an environmental analysis, to support a planning application, can give an unrealistically low assessment of species on site, which will increase the likelihood of planning consent being granted.


Sir William and Dorothy Temple of Moor Park

Sir William and Dorothy Temple of Moor Park revised

Wednesday 19 November

by Hans du Moulin and Sam Osmond


Hans DuMoulin and Sam Osmond spoke to a packed house on Sir William and Dorothy Temple, who created Moor Park House in the late seventeenth century. The audience learnt how William Temple and Dorothy Osborne came from families on opposing sides during the civil wars, and having met at the age of about twenty, chose to marry, in spite of parental attempts to arrange a marriage to someone ‘more suitable’. The couple conducted a lengthy correspondence, and although William’s letters have not survived, Dorothy’s letters are held in the British Library. But the lecture encompassed international politics as well as their love affair.

William, later Sir William, worked in diplomatic roles during the time of the Anglo Dutch wars, and was instrumental in achieving an alliance between the two warring nations, to form a united opposition to Louis XIV. The alliance was sealed by the marriage of Princess Mary to William of Orange in 1677. Their story continued with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and important step on the route to a modern constitutional monarchy.

Sir William was offered a government post on several occasions, but he declined each time, and eventually retired to Farnham. He and Dorothy acquired a house near the village of Compton, which they renamed Moor Park, after the house in Hertfordshire where they had spent their honeymoon many years earlier. They laid out the gardens, canalising a stretch of the River Wey. It was during this period that they engaged the young Jonathan Swift as secretary.


Sir John Soane’s Simeon Monument


Wednesday 15 October

by Alan Windsor

Traffic calming measures, controversial new architecture and accusations of murky politics. It may sound all too familiar, but this was not about the present day. As The Farnham Society learnt in the October lecture, given by Alan Windsor, this happened about two hundred years ago. In 1804 Edward Simeon, a director of the Bank of England, commissioned a monument for the Market Square in Reading. It was claimed that the monument would promote better traffic flow through the square. However, Simeon was standing for election to parliament at the time, so there were suggestions that the project was more about promoting himself as a candidate.

The monument was designed by the architect Sir John Soane, who was born near Reading and is remembered for his work on the Bank of England, and many fine country houses. The speaker presented a sequence of Soane’s architectural drawings, showing how the design for the monument had evolved, and demonstrating the technical difficulties associated with the triangular structure. Soane had attempted several designs, eventually pulling together different architectural styles in a combination that was seen, at the time, as controversial. Today, it is a much cherished feature of Reading. Anyone interested in learning more about Soane can visit the London home he designed for himself in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which is now a museum.


Past Talks

Past talks have included:-

The Watts Story – an account of how the Watts Gallery was saved and the plans for establishing an artists’ village in Compton by Perdita Hunt, the Gallery’s Director

Aldershot Camp 1910 -  a tour of Aldershot military camp during Edwardian times by local historian Paul Vickers

The Planning System and our Community.   An insight into planning procedures by Jane Terry, a Principal Planner and Nicolette Pike, a Planning and Environmental Solicitor

The Joe Lyons Story – Neville Lyons traced the history of the family business from the 19th century and talked about the Joe Lyons coffee shops and corner houses

The MoD’s approach to its Heritage Assets – their Sale and Preservation.   A talk by Martin Lloyd on the changing face of Aldershot and the Military Town.

Following on from her book about Father Robo’s Farnham, Rosemary Wisbey gave an enlightening talk about Etienne Robo and his literary output, not least his Medieval Farnham:  Everyday Life in an Episcopal Manor

A talk onThe Mary Rose by Alan Turton preceded a visit by the Society to the new Mary Rose Museum and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in July