ARCHIVE OF TALKS on subjects of local interest presented by the Local History Society and more recently by the talks programme of Shere Museum and Local History Society.

Talks for year 2018


After the coverage of WW1 history and the armistice centenary in film, TV, newspapers, books, in local churches, villages and the exhibition in Shere Museum we were delighted to be able to welcome back a popular outstanding speaker, Andy Thompson, chief executive of Eyewitness Tours. As always there is insufficient space here to review the huge amount of information which Andy presented to the 32 friends and visitors but the talk entitled “Journeys End” after the play written by R.C.Sherriff in 1914 was full of information derived not just from the well known written histories and archive material but also from original research by Andy. Using slides and some material recovered from the battlefield Andy covered some of the social issues of the time which encouraged men, some of them very young, to join-up, the war-work taken on by women and some of the major factors which affected the course of hostilities and the work of the commonwealth war graves commission. A bucket collection raised funds for Friends of Lochnagar to support the preservation of the crater formed when the mine exploded close to the village of La Boiselle on the Somme. After a keen Q&A session, chairman Andrew Baker offered our thanks a highly informative and thought-provoking talk.

Jeff Nellist      


Shere Museum Talks and Outings programme recommenced on Tuesday 11 September with a talk of huge local significance when speaker Tim Morris from the Brooklands Trust presented the HISTORY OF BROOKLANDS which was no mean feat within the time allowed. Tim explained that the activity really centered about the club-house, much as it does today, initial works being finished by 1907. Photographs illustrated the Great Air Race of 1911 and early hangar construction with accelerated development when the Royal Flying Corps moved-in. An interesting collection of photographs such as Ethel Locke-King driving during an outing for the motor industry on the new banking and a 1930’s aerial picture of the circuit which didn’t change much in shape showed the finishing straight and the Campbell circuit. Early motor-circuit racing had no rules and borrowed much from horse-racing hence terms such as paddock and Clerk-of-the-Course. Miss Barbara Cartland responded to a challenge by instigating a ladies race as illustrated by a short film which was very much of its time. Ladies such as Mrs Victor Bruce also broke flying records. Originally betting was popular on car racing whilst judging from some of the pictures of spectators and cars on member’s hill and photographers on the track, crowd protection and barriers were yet to be introduced and safety procedures in handling fuel had some way to go. Some famous people appeared at Brooklands such as Sir Malcolm Campbell and three of his cars were built at Brooklands. After WW1 a large supply of surplus aircraft engines typically of over 20 Litres were utilised by racing-car builders enabling John Cobb to become land speed record holder. Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus were visitors to Brooklands and Tim summarised the impressive list of records broken by drivers and riders at Brooklands in cars and motorcycles. At the start of WW2 motor racing ceased and aircraft production was taken up by Vickers and an early picture of the Bellman Vickers Wellington Hangar and wartime attempts to camouflage the site help to explain why the track did not return to action after WW2 . Aircraft production was started by A V Roe and continued for 80 years. Barnes Wallis who developed the geodetic framework for the R100 air ship and the Wellington bomber (the mainstay of RAF bomber command until the arrival of the Lancaster) was later involved in development work on the stratosphere atmospheric climatic research and testing chamber and the hugely innovative swing-wing aircraft design. In all, some 260 different types of aircraft (a total of 18,600 aircraft) were manufactured at Brooklands including Viscount, Valiant V Bomber, TSR2, VC10 and sections of Concorde made Brooklands a major centre for the development and manufacture of both defence and commercial aviation projects. Thanks to Tim for a very informative and entertaining talk. 

Jeff Nellist      


On Tuesday 8th May 2018, 67 friends and visitors welcomed Jenny Elmes, niece of former Shere resident Flight Lieutenant John Vere Hopgood DFC, who with Shere Fraser delivered a very moving and informative talk entitled Dam Buster to Dam Builder. Shere was accompanied by her husband Joe McCarthy having flown into the country that morning. Shere and Joe both have a very personal connection with the story of John Hopgood as both of their fathers also flew on the RAF dams raid of 16-17 May 1943. The history of 617 Squadron RAF and the dams raid in particular has been covered in film and books but we were privileged to see slides of letters, photographs and personal items which illustrated the early life of John Hopgood and his family life in Shere and Jenny, Shere and Joe were able to correct some of the detail in histories published by various authors with some interesting additions. Joe gave an account of his father’s war service with references to Barnes Wallis who also lived and worked locally. Jenny presented a summary of John’s life; having finished at Marlborough College in 1939, into law at Lincoln’s Inn Fields before joining the RAF in the summer of 1940; a photograph taken during training at Torquay and pages from his logbook recording 48 flying operations; he did not return from the 49th, also a summary of flying operations July 1941 to May 1943. A few photographs showed Mr and Mrs Hopgood, Harold and Grace and John’s siblings at their family home Hurstcote to the south of Shere which was demolished in 1963; the site is now occupied by Southridge, a smaller house. Photographs and sketches illustrated John’s early interest in the construction of dams having built dams in rivers, aged 14 whilst on holiday in France. Jenny explained how a desire to build a lasting legacy led her to place the collection of documents with the IWM and to sell John’s medals at Sothebys, raising £50,000 which was donated to the charity Water Aid and was used to build a sand dam in NE Uganda which transformed the lives of over 3,000 people who previously had mobile phones but no clean water. Signed copies of Jenny’s book M-Mother were on sale and a collection raised funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund and Water Aid. We very much appreciated an engaging, fresh account of this important historical event and the very personal family recollections with special significance to Shere; an outstanding evening.

The well-documented RAF Dambusters raid is the subject of a new exhibition in Shere Museum.

Jeff Nellist and Eric Thornton.                                                                                                  


In Shere on 12th June 2018 a well attended meeting of 56 friends and visitors enjoyed a delightfully presented talk by Sandy Eve entitled Suffragettes and Suffragists. An engaging speaker with a wealth of research and slides of photographs and documents, Sandy delivered a highly informative and moving account of the history of the social and political influences with which the movement to gain the right to vote for women and the formation of the National Union of Womens Suffrage Societies, 1867, had to contend. With a wealth of fascinating information, too much to summarise here, we learned of The Peaslake Connections as the talk went beyond the popular history and reviewed many of the women from local Surrey villages, especially Peaslake, who were instrumental in forcing a change in the law, the case strengthened by the social changes following WW1. A delightfully presented account of very much local, national and indeed international importance a transcript of which we hope to upload to the website. The exhibition in Shere Museum is well worth a visit and complements the talk. Thank You Sandy.

Jeff Nellist              


Geoffrey Beare from the Heath Robinson Museum Trust ( delivered an entertaining, illustrated and very informative talk at our meeting on Tuesday 10th April 2018 entitled William Heath Robinson. Born in May 1872 in Finsbury Park, London, W.H.Robinson trained at the Royal Academy Schools and starting as a landscape painter became an illustrator of books for adults and children, Shakespeare plays and Kipling poems. Living with his family in Pinner from 1908-1918 his cartoons for satirical magazines such as Tatler and The Sketch were appreciated for their humour and social commentary and he also produced advertising art-work for many industrial clients. His series of “How to” books established Heath Robinson as “The Gadget King” in the 1930’s, his first publication being “How to live in a Flat” which established the genre of satirizing characters, pomposity, modernist architecture and design. He is popularly known for his illustrations of highly-complex and cobbled-together contraptions which are recognized today in the expression “A bit Heath Robinson” but in fact he was a prodigious contributor to well-known magazines and books with work such as fantasy coloured drawings of elves and ethereal fairies and art work for Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales and the 1915 edition of The Water Babies. His cartoon work in gentle satire and irony during WW1 produced letters from the troops thanking him for some light relief. During WW2 he was much in demand for his drawings which depicted a sense of weariness and futility although there was no bitterness in his humour. W.H.Robinson died at home in Cranleigh in 1944.

Jeff Nellist.


A pleasing attendance by some 40 friends and visitors enjoyed a thought-provoking talk by David Rose entitled “Dear Mum I’m having a lovely war”. Starting with a picture of the large Victorian Post-Office building which stood in North Street Guildford we were reminded that the methods of communication of 100 years ago, especially postcards and telegrams were labour-intensive. The Post Office was the largest employer in Great Britain at the time of WW1 and large numbers of employees were called-up for military service, their place being taken by many women including the telegram girls who often had to deliver bad news. Using slides of postcards and letters from servicemen to family at home in the Guildford area including Witley Camp and hospitals, David’s research into some of the descendants and social history of the time made a fascinating talk. OUR NEXT TALK will be on Tuesday 10th April when Geoffrey Beare from the Heath Robinson Museum Trust will inform us about HEATH ROBINSON.

Jeff Nellist.

Talks for year 2017


On 14th November 2017, 22 friends and guests enjoyed a fascinating talk illustrated by slides entitled Bringing Back the Brighton Belle delivered by Mr Stuart Wilkinson, chairman of the Transport Trust. A mixture of history of the Southern Railway, the Pullman Company, the characters, many from film and theatre such as Sir Laurence Olivier who regularly travelled on the train and interesting technical detail, Stuart explained the huge progress being made in recovering the cars, five of which made up each train; hence the Five Belles by the 5-BEL Trust, restoring them from motors, chassis and bodywork to marquetry, nickel-plated hatracks, lighting , seats and upholstery and updating them to modern railway safety standards and ability to maintain 90mph as required for mainline service. The Transport Trust being the only body supporting all forms of transport preservation, they recognized that whilst steam and diesel was being preserved, little or nothing was being done to preserve examples of electric trains and through the 5-BEL Trust they set out to preserve this world-class example of railway heritage from the 1930’s. With an explanation of the Pullman Company business model whereby 3rd class was at least equal to 1st class elsewhere and a mention of the interesting principle from the time that “quality of service is remembered long after the price is forgotten” we learned something of the technology which converts the rail 700VDC to other AC and DC voltages and what is required to restore the original Art Deco interiors. Restoration of the remaining cars that have been located and purchased, some having served as extensions to restaurants or as B&B accommodation or stored by other railway preservation trusts were taken first to Derby for structural work and are being completed at various sites including WH Davis at Mansfield. Having been withdrawn from service in 1972 they are close to being returned to service as six-car sets thereby making-up for the loss of seats in the new configuration of 2+1 abreast which allows for the modern passenger being larger than in the 1930’s. An interesting account of restoration work which can be followed on the trust’s website

Jeff Nellist.


The Shere Museum talks programme resumed in Shere on Tuesday 12th September 2017 when David Rose presented more of his extensive local history research using local newspaper archives and photographs from various sources, this time on “Guildford Personalities” the famous and infamous who lived in Guildford. Interestingly this presentation was about people who had shaped Guildford in modern times; mostly the last 100 years and utilized many personal recollections not only of the people but also the houses they lived in and in some cases the business premises which they occupied. In no particular order we learned about Charles “Choppy” Ayling, shellfish seller; Elenora Iredale, cathedral building fund-raiser; Charlie Matthews, scrap metal dealer; Eric Parker, researcher, writer and editor of Field magazine; Albany Peters and family being 4 generations of town crier; David Peters, current town crier; Sallie Thornberry, mayor and councillor; Nigel (Baron) Vinson plastic-coated metals manufacturer; Private Reg. Streeter, regimental boxing champion and first British soldier to be killed in the Korean war; The Rev. Francis Paynter and wife Julia, supporters of Anglican church and buildings; Ernest Shepherd, illustrator of Winnie the pooh; Florence Desmond, actress; Bruce Bernard (Lord) Weatherill, army and MP; Sir John Jarvis MP, industrialist and philanthropist; Yvonne Arnaud pianist and actress, Dave “The brush” Salmon, gifted photographer and road-sign painter; Alan Turing, founder of computer science. As David remarked in opening his talk, they left their mark.

Jeff Nellist.


In Shere Village Hall on Tuesday 11th April 2017 the seven puppet characters from the Tales and Trails of Tillingbourne Valley gallery at Shere Museum were on display for Jim Munro’s detailed and very entertaining presentation of the stories behind the seven characters which he told in chronological order from 1500’s to present day. Jim is part of the T&T project and has been presenting his stories of the seven characters and seven mills in the valley. Jim presented us with Mr John Parkhurst and wife Alice, clothier working with English wool from Shere in 1540’s, Mr Peter Brocklesby, pewterer, plate and wire manufacturer from Wotton in 1640’s, Mr Tom Liddel who had an iron foundry in Abinger, Mr Charles Ball, paper maker who turned old linen into banknote paper and at one time supplied the French aristocracy, Mr John Lambert, miller of Shalford in early 1800’s, Mr Joe Durbridge of Chilworth gunpowder factory in late 19th century and Maggie Jones who worked in Gomshall tannery from 1940’s and married a Canadian soldier after the war.

Jeff Nellist.


An excellent attendance by 35 friends and visitors welcomed Sally Beck to Shere Village Hall on Tuesday 14th March 2017 for our first talk of the year entitled FERGUSON’S GANG. Sally is co-author of a book in the N.T. series which covers the fascinating history of the people who were the gang and indeed much involved with the saving for the National Trust of a local historically significant structure, Shalford Mill. Using slides showing some of the characters and newspaper cuttings of the time Sally covered a complex story of the people involved starting with Peggy Pollard, the founder who was great-great niece of Prime Minister Gladstone and who studied oriental languages at Cambridge and within the gang became Bill Stickers. From Cambridge University to Cornwall, the Lake District, Newtown Isle of Wight and other parts of England including their headquarters at Shalford Mill the five core members of this group of women hid behind pseudonyms and raised £5500 and bought buildings and land enabling their conservation by the National Trust, between 1927 to 1947.

Mike Hutchinson, local photographer had an interesting display of photographs of the mill and his range of local picture postcards.

Jeff Nellist.

Talks for year 2016


On Tuesday 8th March in Shere, 37 friends and visitors welcomed Imogen Middleton from Surrey Heritage at Surrey History Centre. Imogen is a Project Officer and very enthusiastically delivered a talk entitled “Surrey in the Great War: A County Remembers”. Using photographs on the large screen Imogen mixed an explanation of the exciting and important project with some of their discoveries to date which covered the home front and western front and characters such as Wilfrid Owen in illustrating the support which the county of Surrey gave to the country and those left behind. The shortage of teachers due to the number who had joined-up and the wealth of individual stories were uncovered in the archives of Charterhouse school. A copy of a public information circular which was issued following the zeppelin raid on Guildford and photographs of some of the 160 Red Cross hospitals established such as at Epsom racecourse grandstand and Clandon Park and photographs of women at war work in munitions factories such as Chilworth told a diverse story. Copies of local newspapers from the archives for 1915 with news printed in French for the 6000 refugees in the county and personal photographs and letters contributed by families showed some results of research which individuals can upload to the website. Volunteers will be most welcome to enlist and contribute research and building the website in this exciting 4-year project. Our next talk will be on April 12th in the Village Hall in Shere at 8.00pm when speaker Caroline Walker will deliver her eagerly awaited talk “McDonald Gill’s Maps and Posters”. Shere Museum has on display the impressive pictorial map showing the Tillingbourne Valley as it was ninety years ago, painted by MacDonald 'Max' Gill, the younger brother of the controversial sculptor and typographer Eric Gill. This informative and richly-illustrated talk of local historical interest will delight you with the full story of his life and work. The museum charges a £1 fee for visitors who will be most welcome, refreshments provided.

Jeff Nellist.



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