The Huntingdonshire Local History Society was founded in 1957 to encourage interest into and to support the research of the rich and varied history of the county of Huntingdonshire. When Frank Cossey, a Fenland tutor of the Workers Education Authority (WEA), and George Findlay, the County Archivist, worked together to establish the Society their intention was to encourage a wide spectrum of people, academics and non-academics, with a common interest in researching and preserving of Huntingdonshire’s local history. From the outset they aimed to organise a regular lecture programme to help members experience and understand local history matters. To arrange meetings at venues in Huntingdonshire where members could share and discuss their findings of research and study. To compile and record information about the history of each town and village within the county. To provide help and guidance to members researching documents in the County Records Office. To arrange excursions to places of local historical interest. To issue a bulletin at least twice per year in which articles of interest would be published.
The essence of these initial aims of the Society hold good today. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in the history of this county, or in local history generally. From September to April we hold a wide-ranging programme of monthly lectures on Thursday evenings in Huntingdon; lectures are normally held in the Methodist Church, Huntingdon, PE29 3TE. There is no formal charge for non-members, but we do invite them to make a donation of £3.00. During the summer we organise excursions to places of historical interest within the county and much further afield. Each excursion will be led by members of the Society or by local experts. We aim to hold at least one extended weekend excursion each year where we visit other counties in the country, often with some long established historical connection to Huntingdonshire.
The Society publishes a bulletin,’ The Almanack’, twice per year and this provides members with information on upcoming events, meetings, lectures, excursions, archaeological excavations and topics of local historical interest. In addition, the Society publishes a journal, ‘Records of Huntingdonshire’, which contains short and scholarly articles on Huntingdonshire history.
From its foundation the Society has always enjoyed a very close association with a number of historical organisations. In particular, the Huntingdonshire Archive Office; a member of the Archive Office has always been represented on the Society Committee. A number of Society members are experienced archivists and researchers and in keeping with the aims of the ‘founding fathers’, provide help and assistance to members wishing to use the archive services. Similarly, there has always been a close association with the Norris Museum in St Ives. The Society’s first committee included Mr C M J Coote, the Honorary Curator of the museum and that remains the same today with the current curator holding office on the committee. Similarly, since its foundation in 1962, the Cromwell Museum, located in the old grammar school in Huntingdon, has been actively supported by the Society.
The Society was fortunate to have been bequeathed a legacy by Miss Phyllis Goodliff (1897-1993), one of our early members. A fund was established with the legacy and each year the Society gives awards of financial assistance (Goodliff Awards) to individuals and organisations who are researching Huntingdonshire’s past or who wish to preserve local historical records and objects. Since its foundation in 1996 the Goodliff Fund has given awards to over 120 projects. These projects have been varied, including support to local schools, associations, museums, archives and individuals doing research and publishing pamphlets and books, preserving and displaying artefacts and documents.