Society Lecture: 450 Years of Education in Huntingdonshire @ Huntingdon Methodist Church
Nov 12 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

HLHS-450years-educ001Mr Peter Downes MBE, former Head of Hinchingbrooke School, will trace the way in which education has changed to reflect local and national changes in society over the last four centuries.

If you take an interest in local affairs our speaker will be bound to be known to you.  As a former Head of Hinchingbrooke (1982-96) and Chairman of the Old Huntingdonians he took a leading role in the celebrations earlier this year for the 450th anniversary of the school as successor to the Grammar School.  But in this talk he promised to paint a broader canvas of the history of education in Huntingdon as a whole across that period. The talk will be illustrated with photographs and documents from the recently published book to mark 450th anniversary of the founding of Huntingdon Grammar School in 1565

Society Lecture: Chris Thomas (Mammoths) @ Methodist Church, Huntingdon
Jan 14 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Dr Chris Thomas will talk about the Mammoths of the Great Ouse Valley.

ChrisThomas001Dr Thomas conducted a year of research for the 2015 Marvellous Mammoths display in the Norris Museum in January 2015 and this revealed a series of interconnected stories that formed the core of the exhibition.

How do you determine if the Museum’s Mammoth Hair is genuine? The mysterious envelope which originally held the mammoth hair suggested a strong link with St Petersburg and the most famous, first ever intact mammoth found in 1901. The “mammoth” 18,000km expedition to Siberia to excavate and return the intact Berezovka mammoth to the Museum of Natural History, St Petersburg. Huntingdonshire in the glaciations and interglacial periods, where ice sheets ebbed and flowed in 100,000 year cycles, transforming the landscape. How three species of Mammoth and three different species of human roamed our region for at least the last 2.5 million years – evidenced in part by local fossils in the Norris collection.

The research and the stories were condensed into seven exhibition boards and three display cabinets. The Marvellous Mammoths exhibition was launched in January 2015.

Dr Thomas was awarded a Goodliff Grant in 2015 to help with the publication of his booklet, entitled “Marvellous Mammoths”

Society Lecture: Revising Pevsner (Charles O’Brien) @ Huntingdon Methodist Church
Mar 10 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Obrien-Pevsner001REVISING PEVSNER – A new look at the buildings of Huntingdonshire.

This coming Thursday, 10th March 2016, we have Charles O’Brien coming to talk about revising Nikolaus Pevsner’s volume containing Huntingdonshire in his famous Buildings of England series.

Nikolaus Pevsner found that the study of architectural history had poor coverage in published documents and received little status in academic circles. Information available to the wider public about the architecture of a particular district, was limited. He conceived the idea to write a series of comprehensive county guides to rectify this omission.

The book covering the architecture of our own area of Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough was first published in 1968 and was revised in 2014. The appearance of the new edition, like the original one, was a landmark in the understanding of Huntingdonshire’s built heritage, and I hope you will feel encouraged to come and hear about the research and writing which went into it.

Dr O’Brien is not only the editor of this volume but also joint Series Editor, and was recently appointed one of the Commissioners of Historic England, the body that now has overall responsibility for the National Heritage Collection managed by English Heritage. We are delighted that he is coming to speak to us.

Usual time and venue: 7.30 p.m., Thursday 10th March, Huntingdon Methodist Church.

Society Lecture: Religious Life in mid Victorian Huntingdonshire Prof. David Thompson @ Methodist Church
Apr 14 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

16-04 Thompson001This is our last lecture meeting of the society’s year.

Professor David Thompson will speak to us on ‘Religious Life in mid-Victorian Huntingdonshire’.  David Thompson is a distinguished historian of nonconformity, Emeritus Professor of Modern Ecclesiastical History in the University of Cambridge.  He is editor of the Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire returns for the 1851 Census of Religious Worship, recently published by Cambridgeshire Records Society, records that provide a remarkable snapshot of our ancestors’ belief at a peak period in religious observance.  The religious complexion of our towns and villages is surely one of the most telling aspects of their history that has shaped them today.  From hearing David Thompson before I am sure he will have much of interest to tell us and some perceptive interest.

Copies of the census returns published under the title Religious Life in mid-19th Century Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire will be on sale at the reduced (conferences) price of £24.00.


Society Lecture – Excavation of Spitfire at Holme Fen @ Huntingdon Methodist Church
Oct 13 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

The Spitfire Excavation at Holme Fen


Anthony Haskins, archaeologist at Oxford Archaeology East, will be coming to talk about X4593 – the Holme Fen Spitfire that crashed whilst on a routine training flight on 22 November 1940 into the wooded area near to Holme Fen. The pilot, Pilot Officer Harold E. Penketh sadly died when the aircraft crashed. Mr Haskins will talk about the unusual and challenging excavation that took place in 2015. Some information about the excavation, just to whet your appetite, can be found at:

The aircraft, a Mk 1 Spitfire, was from 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron at RAF Wittering. Pilot Office Penketh took off on a routine training mission with three other aircraft of the squadron to carry our high altitude intercept exercises. During the climb to altitude the aircraft departed from the formation over Holme Lode and crashed into the ground.


Although Pilot Office Penketh was a new pilot with 266 (Rhodesian) Squadron, with only 13 hours of experience on the Spitfire, the Station Commander at the time reported that Penketh could fly quite well. The exact cause of the crash was never determined, but the crash report surmised that there had been some failure of the oxygen system which resulted in him losing control of the aircraft.


Society – Christmas Social @ Assembly Rooms, Huntingdon Town Hall
Dec 8 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

The Society’s Christmas Gathering will be on Thursday 8th December at 7.30pm at Huntingdon Town Hall.

There will be entertainment from Tapestry Singers, a local capella group formed in 1996 with an enviable reputation and a repertoire ranging from Tudor anthems to Lennon and McCartney.

The cost of the evening will be £7.50 per head, a little more than last year, but it includes food and a glass of wine or soft drink. Guests are most welcome.

For further information and to book your seat please contact David Smith on 01480 350127

Society Lecture – Stained Glass in Huntingdonshire Churches @ Huntingdon Methodist Church
Jan 12 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Stained Glass in Huntingdonshire Churches

The Revd. Stephen Day has been researching stained glass in and around Huntingdonshire for some time. He has made some very interesting discoveries and he is publishing his research in a book with the aid of an award from the Goodliff Fund in 2016. He has some especially good photographs of stained glass windows so we are expecting a very interesting evening.


Society Lecture – Railways of Mid-Anglia @ Huntingdon Methodist Church
Mar 9 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Railways of Mid-Anglia with Tony Kirby

Expect more than trains, this is not just for railway buffs. Tony Kirby will examine the history of these lines in the context of the social and economic history of the area.

Tony Kirby was Principal Lecturer in History and Coordinator of Strategic Planning at Anglia Ruskin University before retiring in 2008. He is a former President of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society and Chairman of the Cambridgeshire Records Office, and is now Secretary of the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History and the Cambridgeshire County Advisory Group on Archives and Local Studies.

Society Lecture – Fen Drainage – The People who drained the Fens @ Huntingdon Methodist Church
Apr 6 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

The People who drained the Fens: Promoters, Engineers and Workers – Dr Philip Saunders.

This is a change to the originally advertised programme. Unfortunately, Dr Stephen Upex, who was to speak on Saxons in Huntingdonshire, is unwell and will be unable to talk to us on Thursday 6 April.  We wish him the very best for a full recovery. 

We are fortunate that our own Chairman, Dr Philip Saunders, will delight us with a different perspective of the drained the Fens. He will be expanding upon a short talk that was given to the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership conference in November 2016. We tend to think of the history of fen drainage in terms of organisations, mills, engines and drains.  However, without the promoters of drainage driven by economic necessity/profit, the engineers who designed the drains and waterways and the workers who toiled to dig the drains none of the changes to our landscape would have happened. Although not especially focused on  Huntingdonshire, it should be remembered that a substantial part of the county fell within the Great Level of the Fens commonly called the Bedford Level.  This is also a topical issue as the Cambridgeshire Records Society has recently reprinted Jonas Moore’s Mapp of the Great Levell 1658 and Dr Saunders will bringing copies of the map to the talk.

President’s Lecture and 2017 Goodliff Awards Presentation @ Assembly Rooms, Huntingdon Town Hall
Oct 12 @ 7:15 pm – 10:15 pm

Our President Dr Simon Thurley (former Chief Executive of English Heritage) will present the Goodliff Awards this year to the successful applicants in the prestigious surroundings of the Assembly Room in the Huntingdon Town Hall.

After the presentations Dr Thurley will entertain us with a talk, ‘Houses of Power‘ on what places shaped the English Tudor world.

What was it like to live as a royal Tudor, why were the residences built as they were and what went on inside the walls and who slept where and with whom? Our President come to talk about his new book about Tudor royal architecture and reflects on the Tudor monarchy’s perambulations in Huntingdonshire.

There will be an opportunity to purchases his new book ‘Houses of Power The Places that Shaped the Tudor World‘, with book signing.