It is that time of year again – the writing of my annual report seems to come around more quickly every year!
2014 saw the completion of two very long awaited projects – the Abbey Gatehouse roof and the opening of the platforms in Leicester’s Building at the Castle. The Gatehouse is now water tight at last but unfortunately the lovely ‘grass top’ attracted a number of unwelcome sunbathers during the summer months! Those of you who have already visited the platforms at the castle will know that they were well worth waiting for. The views are stunning and the details which are now visible on the principal floors make the building so much more interesting. We had a preview of what was to come in July when Richard Morris shared his research findings following his inspections from the scaffolding! There will be a private evening visit for Society members in the Spring.
Although we did not have a formal meeting in July it was, nevertheless, a very busy month. 30 members of the Society travelled by coach to Tewkesbury and Hailes Abbeys where we had excellent guided tours led by Richard Morris whose vast knowledge of these locations made for a very interesting day. The afternoon was rounded off by a visit to a garden centre near Hailes for a cream tea and the most fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. A few days later members also attended a small social get together in the Abbey Barn Museum as part of the National ‘Museums at Night’ initiative. This gave everyone a chance to view the latest improvements to the exhibits on the upper floor and it was also an opportunity for those who had not done so before to go inside the Abbey Gatehouse and hear more about the Harry Sunley Memorial Project plans. During the fortnight of the British Archaeology Festival an excavation was carried out on the west side of the Abbey Gatehouse – more on this elsewhere in this publication. Geoff Hilton was unable to lead his usual walk of the Abbey ruins as his house move took place just a few days before the date of the walk, which still went ahead but led by myself, assisted by Margaret Kane. The event was very well attended though the weather looked threatening. We managed to get almost to the end when a very large black cloud started to approach rather quickly so we all made a dash for the museum arriving just ahead of a terrific thunderstorm. At least it gave everyone a good opportunity to ask questions and enjoy the Abbey interpretation!
During the summer we hosted three Abbey tours with outside groups – one from Dudley, one from Berkswell, and one for the local Soroptomists.
In September a further guided walk of the Abbey ruins took place in support of Heritage Open Weekend. Having made sure that this was well advertised locally I was delighted that over 30 people turned up (despite the wrong date being printed in the KWN!). This time the weather held and we had a most enjoyable afternoon followed by a visit to the museum – the last day of opening. In the late afternoon we held our usual get together to thank all our volunteers who had helped at the Barn during the summer. Please do come and help next year!! During this winter a few further improvements are taking place on the upper floor of the Barn – hopefully this will be the final stage of the refurbishment. The museum will open again on Sunday 5th April 2015, until Sunday 13th September, when we will have our splendid new ‘Fish’ map and an exciting new exhibit on display.
Sadly 2014 saw the loss of two of our long-standing members – Pat Bodenham passed away in February and in August we lost our President, a founder member, Rob Steward. It was with great regret that I heard on January 7th this year that Richard Morris had passed away. During the last six months Richard struggled bravely to continue with his projects, especially the Harry Sunley Memorial Project. He will be sadly missed by his family, the academic community with which he was so closely involved and, not least, by his many friends and colleagues within KHAS.
On a brighter note I am pleased to report that a few more new members joined the Society during the year and subscriptions for 2015 will remain at the present level for a further year. We ended 2014 with a very successful Christmas social event. Contributions from members, and a few brain teasers courtesy of our Vice Chairman, made for an interesting early part of the proceedings followed by some delicious festive refreshments and a good opportunity to mingle and chat. A big thank you to everyone who contributed.
I hope that you will all enjoy the programme which your Committee has put together for 2015. During the course of the year we will be remembering the signing of Magna Carta (800 years ago) and also Henry Vs great victory at Agincourt (600 years ago). There will be outings in July and August and details of these will be published in the spring.
As always I would like to offer my thanks to my fellow Officers and Committee Members, and indeed to all our members, for their continued support.
With best wishes for a very happy and healthy New Year.