Stourbridge Historical Society was formed 70 years ago in 1946 as ‘Stourbridge Historical and Archaeological Society’. The initiative was taken by Geoffrey Beard of Wollaston. He was sixteen years old and a student at Stourbridge Grammar School. In a letter to the local Stourbridge newspaper, the County Express, Geoffrey invited people who were interested in forming a society which would study and record the history of the area to get in touch with him. The letter was published on 2nd March 1946 and as a result of the enthusiastic response a meeting was held on 1st May in the Guild Room at New Road Methodist Church. The society was launched at this meeting with Alderman Harry Evers Palfrey, Stourbridge’s foremost public figure and local historian in the first half of the twentieth century, as its president.
The first general meeting of the society was held on Friday 24th May also at New Road Methodist Church. Officers were elected and a provisional set of rules, drawn up by Geoffrey Beard, was read. At the second general meeting on Wednesday 26th June the rules of the society, after slight modification, were accepted. At the same meeting Alderman Palfrey gave an address on the history of Stourbridge from Anglo-Saxon times. He illustrated the talk with items from his collection of books and maps. This was the first talk in a series of more than 500 that has continued without a break for the last 70 years. Other talks that year included Frank Somers on Halesowen and Rev Gwynfor John on Clent. In 1947, among other topics, the society heard about ‘Byways of Worcestershire’ and ‘English Crystal Glass.’
Each year the talks were complemented in the summer by outings to places of interest. Samuel Johnson Supreme Coaches were hired for the visits. In 1948 the society visited Chaddesley Corbett, Harvington Hall, Shrewsbury, Madresfield Court, Halesowen Church and Abbey, Pershore Abbey, Ludlow, and Moseley Old Hall. An extremely ambitious programme! In 1947 the society arranged an exhibition of historic documents and maps relating to Stourbridge and district. This was held in a room in the Public Library/School of Art building. The cost of hiring the room on Saturdays was £1, and 2s-6d each evening.
At the first AGM in January 1947 the society’s membership stood at 62 and the bank balance was
£8-11s-1d. The committee included a number of well known Stourbridge personalities including founder Geoffrey Beard as the secretary. Jack Haden, County Express reporter and author of many books and articles about Stourbridge, was a committee member from the beginning until his death just a few years ago. Presidents of the society in those early days included jeweller W.A.Peplow and architect Homery Folkes both of whom were to remain members throughout their lives. Many years later W.A.Peplow presented the society with the jewel worn by the president during their years of office. The society’s minute books contain many fascinating details including references to life in the 1940s. In 1947 the petrol ration was reduced, thus members with cars would be restricted in the number of long journeys they could make. Therefore, as seen above, in 1948 it was decided to increase the number of coach outings. National Service was mentioned when Geoffrey Beard had to resign as secretary because he had been called up for the RAF.
David Hickman: February 2016
Dr Geoffrey Beard OBE. MA. D.LITT. F.S.A
23rd March 1929 – 24th June 2015
Stourbridge Historical Society: Some aspects of its history
The first meeting of Stourbridge Historical Society took place in May 1946. It was founded by the 16 year old Geoffrey Beard who became the first secretary, and until his death in 2015 he remained a member. The first President was the eminent local historian Alderman H. E. Palfrey. The society’s original name was Stourbridge Historical and Archaeological Society. This was shortened to Stourbridge Historical Society in 2004. The society’s constitution states that its objectives include promoting the study of the history of Stourbridge and district by a series of meetings and lectures and by the organising of visits to places of historical interest. This basic idea has been carried out down the years and is still the basis of the society’s activities today.
The society aims to present a varied programme. Gradually over the years the range of talks has been widened to include non-Stourbridge topics. Thus today both local and national subjects are represented. Speakers have covered subjects such as; Stourbridge Glassmakers, Dudley Castle, Epitaphs, Charles Dickens, Black Country Shops, Crimean War, Stourbridge Institute. Visits have taken place to many ‘places of historical interest’. These have included Hartlebury Castle, Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Baddesley Clinton, Calke Abbey, Himley Hall and many more.
The society has been lucky to have had, as members, people with a wide range of interests in the local area. The first president H.E. Palfrey was a Mayor of Stourbridge and for many years a member of Stourbridge Council. Members of the society have held office in an extensive range of organisations in the locality. Much research has been carried out into the history of the local area. Many subjects have received the attention of members. These subjects have frequently featured as talks given at meetings and have often been developed and published as articles or books. When Stourbridge Historical Society was founded there were few other such societies in the region. In the intervening years the number of societies has grown tremendously. The society’s membership has varied over the years. Today there are about 130 members. The average attendance at meetings in 2014 was 70, probably the highest in the history of the society.
Founded 1946, by Geoffrey Beard
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