‘A Schoolgirl’s War’ was the subject of the illustrated talk given by Mary Smith at the recent meeting. It was the story of Maidstone Grammar School for Girls during World War Two as depicted in drawings and paintings by the school art teacher, Miss Helen Keen. The speaker had done much research, which was assisted by many of the past pupils who still remembered life at that time with lessons being taken in the air raid shelters. A good number of members present also remembered those days, though in other places.

The next meeting will be the Annual Gardiner Lecture when Professor Sally Alexander will speak on ‘A woman’s place: feminism after the vote’. This will be held on Thursday 18 October at 8pm at St. Nicholas Church. Non-members will be welcome.

Adrienne Rogers
21 Sept 2018


At the recent meeting, James Dickinson spoke on ‘Edward lll: War, Plague and Chivalry’. It was the time of various conflicts with France about disputed lands in France which were claimed by England. The superior English long bow helped win land and sea battles. Edward’s son the Black Prince won his spurs at the Battle of Crecy and is commemorated in Canterbury Cathedral with a fine monument. Edward founded the Order of the Garter.

The talk was very informative about a period with which many of us are not familiar. The next meeting will be on Thursday 20th September at St. Nicholas Church Undercroft at 8pm when Mary Smith will speak on ‘A Schoolgirl’s War’.

Adrienne Rogers
24 July 2018


At the recent meeting, after a short AGM, Mike Bolton spoke on ‘A School transformed: Sevenoaks School 1898 – 2002’. The school, founded in 1432 is one of the oldest in England. After going through some bad times, with wars and the depression, by the 1950s it was a minor boys public school, complete with corporal punishment. Nowadays it is fully coeducational and international.

The next meeting will be on Thursday 21 June at 8pm in St. Nicholas Church Undercroft, when Chris Rowley will speak on ‘Local History in Leigh’.

Adrienne Rogers
26 May 2018


At the November meeting Prof. David Killingray spoke on “Radical Voices in Sevenoaks since the 18th Century”. People with radical views can be of any political party or none; they are people who want reform of the current system. The speaker gave many examples of radical people in the Sevenoaks area. They included the 3rd Earl Stanhope who opposed the slave trade along with William Wilberforce. Until 1918 people had to own property in order to vote, and some wealthy radical people bought land to divide it up to allow more people to vote. Other examples of radical causes included agriculture, the provision of main drainage, housing for working class people, green open spaces and education.

The next meeting of the Society will be on Thursday 15th February 2018 at the Undercroft of St. Nicholas Church when Alan Williams will give a talk entitled ‘“Fit for Purpose” – The History of the London Underground’.

Adrienne Rogers
29 November 2017


At the 15th Annual Gardiner Lecture, Professor John Coffey of the University of Leicester spoke on ‘The Reformation and British Values: Protestantism and Liberty Revisited’. On this 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, much has been written about Martin Luther, who was a Roman Catholic monk, and the ’95 Theses’. The principles of these gave rise to what we now consider ‘British values’ such as individual liberty and toleration as well as the rule of law and democracy. The speaker told how views had varied over 500 years so that there are now various dissenting protestant movements.

Adrienne Rogers
31 Oct 2017


At the September meeting, Dr Mark Ballard gave a talk entitled ‘New Light on the Austens of Sevenoaks. It is well known that Jane Austen’s great-uncle Francis Austen owned the Red House at one time, having bought it in 1743, and that she visited him there as a child. Less well known is that other houses in Sevenoaks were owned by other family members and several generations of Austens. The Old House and Kippington and Suffolk House had been owned by the family and they also had property in Horsmonden and Lamberhurst among other places. Francis Austen also started the long period of the Red House being used by lawyers, except for a short time as a school.

Adrienne Rogers
24 Sept. 2017


At the May meeting, following a short AGM, there was a talk by Mike Brown on ‘The Influence of the Great War on the Home Front in World War Two.’ As the start of WW2 was only 20 years after the end of the Great War, the authorities certainly remembered the lessons learnt.

In 1914 there was a rush of men to sign up, including about a third of the agricultural workforce and many dock workers. This led to food shortages due to lack of people to work on the labour intensive farms. Women gradually took over many jobs not done by them before. A Ministry of Food was set up in 1917, and land could be taken for allotments, as this was the year of the potato blight, but rationing was only introduced in 1919, after the war.

In 1939, the Ministry of Food was set up on 1st September and rationing announced in January 1940. The Women’s Land Army had been re-formed in 1938 as war was not unexpected.

In WW1, people in essential jobs were given badges ‘On War Service’ to show that they were not avoiding going to the war, as workers on munitions and at the docks, for example, were needed. In the second, there was a list of ‘reserved occupations’.

Other aspects covered were preparation of shelters, clothing shortages and petrol rationing. The talk was received with great interest, partly because many hearing it could remember the events of WW2!.

Adrienne Rogers
17 May 2016


At the April meeting, Christoph Bull gave a talk entitled ‘The Kaiser’s War’. This was a different view of the First World War being from the German perspective. As he had one German and one English grandfather, he was well able to do this.

In Germany and Austria this war was not much talked of, being overshadowed by what happened in WW2. It was rather thought of by the ordinary people as being self-defence; they were convinced that they were in the right. He noted that Germany did not have many colonies unlike Britain and had no long history as a united country, having been made up of many separate states.

Adrienne Rogers
19 April 2016


At the March meeting, Patricia Wright spoke on ‘The Wonderful Mediterranean’. She stressed that the area was so vibrant due to the exchange of ideas, being at the interchange of three continents and three religions. Giving a brief summary of the various civilisations, it was trade that was the point of contact between them.

There was more trade as better ships were built, and the use of Arabic numerals instead of Roman also made trade easier. At one time, the Greek language was spoken in much of the region.

Adrienne Rogers
1 April 2016


At the February meeting, Elizabeth Finn took as her subject ‘The Thompson Brothers of Kippington: a story of the First World War’. This was not just the story of a family, but of the various means by which the information about them was collected starting from a single photograph of three young men in First World War uniform. The photo was one of 600 glass plate negatives found in the shop formerly used by photographer Essenhigh Corke. He advertised in the Sevenoaks Chronicle free photographs of service men and women – the resulting 600 included service people from 60 regiments.

From the uniforms and badges, the speaker found the regiments of these brothers, and their names and other information were found from census returns, ‘Ancestry’ website, The Times, London Gazette, Kippington Parish records and magazines and regimental histories.

All three brothers survived the war and were decorated for gallantry. Also on one of the glass negatives was the photo of one of their sisters who was a VAD nurse at Cornwall Hall, Sevenoaks.

At the end of the meeting it transpired that several members of that family were in the audience.

Adrienne Rogers
27 February 2016

Sevenoaks: an Historical Dictionary - online book

BookcoverThis full-colour, lavishly illustrated book was produced with the support of The Sevenoaks Society. It contains a wealth of information from over 100 contributors covering people, places, organisations and themes. The book sold out within a year of publication and is now available online to everybody.

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