Those lucky enough to live in Farnham will be well aware of its vibrant artistic and cultural life with a wide range of organisations catering for a myriad of interests. One such body is the Farnham & District Museum Society, which was created to support the work of the Museum of Farnham and to stimulate interest and research into the history of Farnham and the surrounding area.
Despite Farnham’s long existence, it had no museum until 1961 when JMC Crum , who had been Rector of Farnham, and later Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, died and his family generously bequeathed his home to the Farnham Urban District Council for this purpose. The property is the Grade I listed Georgian town-house known as Willmer House at 38 West Street. It has one of the finest facades of its type in the country and it seems entirely appropriate that in a town famed for its Georgian architecture the Museum of Farnham should be housed within its elegant walls.
The first Curator was Mr Ashton Booth, who was tasked with relocating the various historical items which had been gathering dust in the custody of the Council over the years, enabling the Museum of Farnham to open in the spring of 1961. Many individuals supported the museum in its early days and two years after its opening a group came together to form the Farnham Museum Society (& District was added at a later date) holding its inaugural meeting at Willmer House on Friday 11 October 1963. A minimum subscription was set at 5 shillings (25p).
Its aims then remain the same today – to support the museum in practical terms through providing items like the oak-framed display cabinets, and to sponsor activities such as the archaeological ‘Dig for Farnham’. The society also joined with the museum in the autumn when it put on a very successful exhibition on hop-growing as a contribution to the town’s Heritage Open Days.
A series of fortnightly evening talks runs from September to April, details of which appear in the Jottings section of this magazine. These cover a wide variety of subjects – still to come this year are talks about smuggling on the south coast and ‘The Lady’s Realm’ (a monthly magazine published between 1896 and 1914), finishing on a rousing note with Rupert Matthews’s talk on the Battle of Waterloo. As fundraisers the Society puts on a very successful evening of Christmas readings at the museum and hopes to see the return of its very popular supper quiz evening.
For those with an interest in learning more about Farnham’s local history there is the series of monthly seminars which run from September to June, and a quarterly Journal featuring articles contributed by members – this has an excellent reputation in the world of local history publications and provides an opportunity for members to share the results of their researches.
For those hoping to publish their research in more depth the Society will consider well-researched manuscripts and so far has published several books on a variety of local subjects including the history of Farnham Park, hop growing, death in Victorian Farnham, St Polycarp’s Catholic School 1891-1962, and the very latest off the presses – Pat Heather’s Women in Farnham & Its Villages 1200-1900. All these books may be purchased from the museum shop – well worth a visit if looking for unusual gifts – and some titles are available at Pullingers, the stationers in West Street.
As a Society member you can participate as much or as little as you would like – just enjoy the stimulating talks and seminars or use the opportunity to expand your own researches, everyone is welcome.
Visit the website www.farnhammuseumsociety.org.uk where you will find details of membership and all the talks, seminars and publications on offer.