Talks, Trips & Events

We have talks in Autumn & Winter and trips in Spring & Summer each year. For further details see the current Contact magazine (via the Bookshop page).

2021/22 Talks

We will be having Saturday afternoon lectures in the Assembly Rooms at the rear of the Frome Memorial Theatre in Christchurch Street West (BA11 1EB) as advertised in Contact and below.  All lectures start at 2.30pm.  Lectures are free for members, visitors are most welcome but are asked to pay an entry fee of £3.00

The 61st Annual General Meeting of the Society was held at the Assembly Rooms on Saturday 9th October 2021, at 2pm before the lecture by Jonathan Holt AGM papers 2021

9th October 2021 Jonathan Holt – Somerset Follies after AGM
Jonathan Holt is the author of several books on the architectural follies found in Somerset and surrounding counties. He is currently adding to their number by building his own – a shell house – in his garden in Bath, a city that boasts more follies than any other.

He will offer us the results of many years’ exploration and research by giving a wonderful tour of some of the more extravagant and interesting landscape and garden buildings in the county and others that don’t seem to fit into any category at all. He will also tell some bizarre stories on the way.

16th October 2021- Frome Society Lunch to be held at the Assembly Rooms, 1pm for 1.30pm

Pat Eames is once again organising a Society lunch. David Lassman has agreed to organise another quiz to entertain and stimulate you during lunch.


23rd October 2021 John Smith – The Battle of Britain over Somerset
John will explain the main actions over Somerset and how they fitted into the overall Battle of Britain. There were no aerial defences or radar installations west of the Purbecks at the time of the evacuation of Dunkirk but they were put in place in six weeks.

John will describe the main types of aircraft used by both the RAF and the Luftwaffe and tactics employed using small replicas made by members of his family.

6th November 2021 Robin Hungerford – The pride of man and earthly glory
Robin Hungerford has explored the history of his extended family, the Hungerfords, over 50 years and amassed a fine collection of books and prints. He has also assembled a family tree, a copy of which is in Farleigh Hungerford Castle and another in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington (through a link found between its founder, James Smithson, and the Hungerford family). He maintains links with family members in Canada, USA and Australia.

He will approach his subject through three different topics – History, Heraldry, and Heritage. These topics cover the Hungerford family from its early days to the decline of the senior branch in the 17th Century.

20th November 2021 Alison Bevan – Ellen Sharples and the Royal West of England Academy
Ellen Sharples had a remarkable life. Born 252 years ago, in 1769 in Lancaster, she died 80 years later in 1849 in Bristol, having made a living as a professional artist on both sides of the Atlantic. At the age of 17, she married artist James Sharples, and with him produced portraits of the founding fathers of America, including George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. She also raised and home schooled three children training them as artists. Alison Bevan, who is Director of the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) in Bristol, will tell us about this indomitable woman and how, five years before her death, she helped to establish the Bristol Academy of Fine Arts, which later became the RWA, and how she donated many of the Sharples family’s works of art to the Academy. Alison will also tell us about how the RWA, acclaimed as “one of the most beautiful art galleries in this country”, is now being improved and enhanced at a cost of £3.8 million, part funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, which will transform the experience for visitors to the RWA and the communities they work with.

4th December 2021 Andrew Ziminski – A life in ruins: Secrets of a Frome stonemason
In his thirty year career, Frome stonemason, Andrew Ziminski, has worked on many of Britain’s greatest monuments, including Neolithic monoliths, Roman baths and temples, the tower of Salisbury cathedral, and the engine houses, mills and aqueducts of the Industrial Revolution. Last year, his book The Stonemason: A History of Building Britain was published by John Murray. Andrew, who is a Director of Frome based Minerva Stone Conservation Ltd, a member of the Society of Antiquaries, and a William Morris Craft Fellow awarded by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, will tell us about his life and career as a stonemason and his experiences repairing and restoring Britain’s historic buildings, including many of the old buildings of Frome. Copies of his book will be available for sale.

18th December 2021 Yvette Staelens – Folk Carols in the West Country
Yvette Staelens, a Research Fellow at Bournemouth University, is currently co-ordinating the pioneering Human Henge project. Her talk features the celebration of Christmas and the role of song in the festivities.

Christmas has always been a time of singing and giving, specifically the sharing of seasonal songs and carols. Here in the West Country there are rich traditions and carols of some antiquity, as well as the gleanings of a raft of collectors who went out to discover them. Yvette Staelens, has for many years researched folk songs and folk carols and organised the Voice of the People Community Choirs and singing workshops, and in this talk, she will explore some of these songs and traditions, identify source singers, and we meet collectors and composers who have gifted us a rich legacy of Christmas fare. CDs and copies of the Somerset Folk Map will be on sale.

8th January 2022 Jane Tapley – RIsen from the ashes: the story of the Theatre Royal, Bath
Jane Tapley is an experienced lecturer and Arts Society speaker. She has been the Special Events Organiser for the Theatre Royal, Bath for the last 35 years interviewing actors and authors as well as giving talks on many subjects including Jane Austen, Dickens and Agatha Christie. Her talk will cover the history of the Theatre Royal Bath from Georgian to Modern Times including the restoration after a major fire in 1862 when the theatre was completely destroyed apart from the outside walls and its planned recovery from the financial impact of the Covid pandemic.

22nd January 2022 Lee Young – Dore and Rees: the Frome Auction House
Lee may be a familiar face to some of us from the BBC Antiques Roadshow, where he specialises in Asian art. He is based in Somerset and has a career of over 30 years working for National and International auctioneers. He recently bought the Frome auction house of Dore and Rees earlier this year.

His talk will introduce us to his work in such well known auction houses as Sotheby’s, Phillips and most recently Duke’s of Dorchester as well as his many appearances on the Roadshow. Particularly of interest will be his plans for the future of Dore and Rees. He says there is a need to create new reasons for people to visit and to open doors to a wider audience while maintaining the magic of a bygone age and preserving the place of the saleroom as a cherished part of the Frome community.

5th February 2022 Gill Harry and John Payne – Working Memories
Home in Frome’s ‘Working Memories project’ began in 2009. Its purpose was to record, share and celebrate Frome people’s memories of their working lives from 1940s and 50s onwards, in a way that captured the original voices. From this, the book Working Memories: Frome workers tell their stories, was published in 2012. To help make the material as widely available as possible a small team then spent 5 years constructing a ‘Working Memories’ website which was launched in October 2020 along with a second edition of the book.

The talk will give an introduction to ‘Home in Frome’, an outline of the journey over the last 13 years and discuss the future use of the material collected. Copies of the book will be on sale.

19th February 2022 Colin Johns – The History of Bradford on Avon and the Hall Estate
Bradford on Avon, like Frome, owes its prosperity to the wool trade and like Frome, this is reflected in its architecture and buildings, but in 1848, Stephen Moulton brought from America a licence to process vulcanised rubber, on which the town thrived until the 1980s, supplying the world with rubber springs, seals, gaskets and hoses. Colin Johns, an architect and planner, long-time resident of Bradford on Avon and Architect to the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust, will tell us about the history and development of the town, the growth of Wiltshire’s ‘Rubber Industry’, the influence of the Moulton family on the town and their restoration of the magnificent Elizabethan house. This family house, rebuilt in 1610 as Kingston House, and now known as The Hall, is listed by Historic England as a Grade I building, and is where in 1962, Dr Alex Moulton invented the rubber suspension for the Mini and the famous small wheeled Moulton bicycle. This is the story of an industrial town, the way it has adapted to change and the family who shaped its destiny.

5th March 2022 Julian Orbach – Revised Pevsner for Wiltshire
The 48 volumes of The Buildings of England, originally written by Nikolaus Pevsner between 1951 and 1974, are in the process of being comprehensively revised and enlarged.

Julian Orbach, an architectural historian, talked to us in March 2014 about his work on revising the volume on South and West Somerset and in January 2016, he talked to us about his experiences and researches on re-writing the volume on Wiltshire, published in June 2021. Pevsner wrote the original Wiltshire volume, following an 8 week tour in 1962, but that was 60 years ago. Julian, who knew Pevsner, when they were both involved with the Victorian Society in the 1970s, will describe the highlights and experiences of more than five years travelling the highways and byways of Wiltshire in his exploration of its best buildings. Copies of the book will be available for sale.

19th March 2022 Roger Marsh – The Coaching Age in Somerset and Dorset
Roger Marsh’s interest in the ‘coaching age’, which was at its height in the late 18th and early 19th century, was sparked by his hobby of postal history. His curiosity was aroused by the thought of how the mail actually got to its destination. Some old local correspondence that came into his possession served as an intriguing start to his research.

Coaching inns were built to accommodate travellers on horseback and the travellers and coachmen in the horse drawn coaches known as ‘stage’ coaches. Many coaching inns are still thriving albeit in 21st century guise. The Archangel in the middle of Frome is a great example. Many Toll houses were originally set up to recoup money spent on creating new roads and improve existing ones. Some have been transformed but many still exist. A few others still serve their original purpose. He will tell us about the roads, Turnpike trusts and toll houses of Somerset and Dorset and the coaching routes that began to open up the country for travellers and communication. We also hear of the passengers as well as the movement of the mail. We will be given a fascinating insight into the early days of modern transport and transportation in this rural area.

TRIPS –  We provide two Departure Points. The main Departure/Return point will be at the Rugby Club – please park behind the clubhouse.
We also pick up members outside the Memorial Theatre in Christchurch Street West, which will also be the returning drop-off point.  Seating is available at the front of the theatre for use whilst waiting. The advertised Coach Departure Time is for the Rugby Club, to which ten minutes is added to determine the pick up time for the Memorial Theatre.

Bookings to Pat Eames on 01373 464464.

Guests pay £3.00 supplement. Please mention any dietary needs when you book and remember you are responsible for your own insurance.

(14)The final trip of the 2021 season was to Southampton on 5th September 2021.  Our Trips Committee are planning an exciting series of the trips for the 2022 season and full details will appear here early next year after all the dates have been confirmed.  Most of the trips planned for 2020 will be rearranged for 2022 including

St. Fagan’s Welsh Heritage Museum, Cardiff

Since 1948 when St. Fagan’s Open Air Museum was opened, there has been a growing collection of over 40 historical buildings rescued from all over Wales and rebuilt using the traditional skills. Besides the examples of milling, blacksmithing, weaving, farming and the use of clay, we shall also see the recent refurbishments and galleries illustrating Welsh people’s lives from Neanderthal times to the present day.

To join the FSLS please fill out a membership form from this page.