Canterbury Branch

We have had three events in April, the first being our AGM. The meeting was well attended and the majority of our committee was re-elected for a further year. The exception was that the post of Honorary Treasurer was taken by Mrs. Sally Waters.

Following the official business, we had our annual presentation of cheques to local charities which, this year went to: Canterbury & District Recorder, The Lord Mayor’s Christmas Gift Fund, the Lady Mayoress’ Charities and the Canterbury Branch of Parkinson’s.

After a pause for tea and biscuits, we had an interesting illustrated talk by Alan Barber on Dr. Beaney.

The second event, was a coach trip to London to visit the Silver Vaults and the Museum of London. Once we arrived in London, we were taken in hand by a Blue Badge Guide, who gave some interesting history about both venues.

First, we had an all-important cup of coffee and biscuits before moving on to the Silver Vaults, which are situated in Chancery Lane and comprise a labrynth of underground shops selling everything one could imagine made from silver. This was an excellent opportunity for some retail therapy or, in most cases, merely window shopping.

We were then taken for a brief stroll to the Hatton Garden area, famous for jewellery shops, where we had an opportunity for lunch and then on to the Museum of London to view a special exhibition of the Cheapside Hoard, a collection of beautiful 16th and 17th century jewellery, discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century buried in a cellar.

The day was a huge success and our thanks go to Tricia Shephard for organising everything.

The last event of the month was our ever-popular Wine & Wisdom Evening held, as usual, at Lower Hardres Village Hall. There were tables from Lynsted and Whitstable branches as well as representatives from a local W.I. group, and our own Canterbury branch tables. Peter Warr was our excellent quiz-master, providing questions that were hard enough to tax the grey matter, without being too serious, and a fun evening was had by all. One of the Canterbury teams was the overall winner.

Our March event was a very interesting illustrated talk by Mr. Mark Bathurst on the paddle steamer ‘Medway Queen’, which was launched in 1924 as a pleasure boat on the Medway River.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy, converted to a minesweeper and made seven crossings under heavy fire to the beaches of Dunkirk. She rescued an incredible 7,000 British and French troops and earned herself the title Heroine of Dunkirk.

Eventually the Medway Queen feel into disrepair but in 2011 she was taken to Bristol where work began to restore her, with the aid of a £1.9m Heritage Lottery Grant.

She is now residing in Gillingham for fitting out by a team of apprentices, and it is hoped she will soon be restored to her former glory, with help from fund-raising by dedicated volunteers. Thirty-two of our members attended the talk, which was followed by tea and biscuits and an opportunity to speak to Mr. Bathurst about the paddle steamer.

Our last event for 2013 was a pre-Christmas lunch, attended by 64 members at Lower Hardres Village Hall in early December.

As in previous years, the food was provided by the excellent Special Occasions Catering in the charge of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Goodman.

We had a three-course, traditional Christmas lunch followed by mince pies and coffee, with wine and soft drinks provided by the Branch.

There was the usual raffle, which helped to boost funds, and the afternoon was rounded off with Christmas carols and seasonal songs, accompanied by pianist John Mitchell. Doug Goddardled the singing.

A jolly time was had by all and it made a very upbeat start to the Festive Season.

In November, we enjoyed an illustrated talk given by Mr. Richard Filmer of Ashford, entitled 'Traditional Kentish Trades, Crafts and Industries'.

The speaker showed photographs, some taken more than 100 years ago, illustrating the traditional ways in which timber, grown in Kent, was fashioned into fencing, ladders used on fruit farms, hop poles, casks, cart wheels etc and the slides were accompanied by amusing anecdotes about the craftsmen, many of whom Mr. Filmer had known personally.

The talk was followed by refreshments and an opportunity for members to socialise. Our thanks go to Poppy Beerling for the use of the Dominican Priory for what will probably be the last time, and which brings to an end a long and happy association for Canterbury Branch members.

Also in November 33 members attended the Branch Annual Church Service, held at St. Paul's Canterbury. The church had been completely refurbished and was very warm and welcoming. The service was conducted by the Association's Chaplain, Rev. Derek Mottershead and was followed by the usual excellent tea provided by the ladies of the church.

Our October event was a return to Abbots Barton Hotel for lunch. Just under forty of our members met in the bar for a drink and chat to friends, before proceeding to the restaurant, where we enjoyed a well-cooked and presented three-course meal, followed by tea and coffee. It was very enjoyable to meet up with members and everyone seemed to have a pleasant time.

Our last event for 2013 will be our pre-Christmas lunch at Lower Hardres Village Hall. Bookings are now closed for the lunch but, if anyone has any enquiries about joining our branch, please do not hesitate to contact the Branch Secretary, Lorna Archer on (01227) 760732 or email:

We had two events in September.

Our annual Progressive Whist evening, was very successful and enjoyed by everyone. Norman Smith was the overall winner and he received a small cash prize.

Tea and coffee, with biscuits, was served at the end of the evening and thanks go to Tricia Shephard for running the event, assisted by Val and Stan Miller, and to Ken Ranger for carrying out the all-important task of washing up.

The British Library and the St. Pancras Hotel.

Our coach trip to London arrived in time for coffee and an inititial visit to the British Library,

The Reading Room.

After our visit to the Library, we walked the short distance to the St Pancras Hotel.

The hotel, built by Sir George Gilbert Scott and opened in 1876, closed in the 1930s, was used as offices and eventually became derelict in the 1960s and was threatened with demolition.

Intervention by late Poet Laureate and lover of Victorian architecture, Sir John Betjeman, ensured its survival and it has now been thoroughly restored to its original splendour.

The tour was most informative and we were shown areas that are not normally available to the general public. After the tour there was time for lunch and a return to the British Library or some retail therapy, before boarding the coach for our return to Canterbury. Our thanks go to Tricia Shephard for organising a very interesting day.

For information about our organisation, please contact the Branch Secretary, Lorna Archer on or 01227 760732

August Events

Our two August events were the annual Service of Remembrance, held at the commencement of Cricket Week, and our summer party.

The Service was attended by our Chairman of Council, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Association members and representatives from The Old Stagers and the Band of Brothers and was conducted by Canon Clare Edwards, the Vice-Dean, with the choir from St. Stephen's, Canterbury.

The last post and reveille was played beautifully by Charlotte MacQuarrie.

The party, this year, was held at Nackington Barn. Approximately 40 of our members attended, with special guests the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and Chairman of Council, Mr. Mick Backhouse. It was an opportunity for everyone to socialise in a delightful setting and thanks go to Mr. and Mrs. Evelyn Wright for granting us the use of the Barn.

There was a cheese and paté supper, provided by Lorna Archer and Chris Sproul, and wine and soft drinks were served by Pat Gibb and Amanda Harris-Deans.

We are grateful to Branch Chairman, Mrs. Tricia Shephard, for making all the arrangements.

Provender House

In July our members enjoyed a very interesting afternoon visit to Provender House, near Faversham. It is thought the house is named after its first owner, the 13th century Elias de Provender and there are a few beams and roof trusses of that original hall house still remaining. In the 14th century Provender was bought by wealthy landowners, the de Viennes, who added a private wing to include a vaulted solar with beautiful crown posts. This was recently restored and is at the heart of the current house; it is called the Crown Post Room. Over the following six centuries the various owners have altered the house by adding or removing wings. One of the 18th century owners, Dorothy Huguesson, was married to naturalist Joseph Banks, who planted hickory and chestnut trees and 'Banksia' roses at the property, that are still there to this day. Provender is now the home of Princess Olga Romanoff, the daughter of Prince Andrew Romanoff, eldest nephew of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. When Princess Olga inherited the house in 2000, it was almost derelict and she has spent the past 13 years restoring it, in conjunction with English Heritage and the architect, Ptolemy Dean. Our members were given a comprehensive tour of the house and grounds by Princess Olga and her daughter, Alexandra. We were shown numerous photographs and paintings of members of the Romanoff family, accompanied by fascinating stories and everyone agreed they had enjoyed the visit very much. Our thanks go to Norman Smith for making the arrangements.

Visit to The Red House and Hall Place

Our June event was a coach trip with two venues.

First stop was The Red House in Bexleyheath, the former home of founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris. The house was completed in 1860, to a design by Morris' close friend Philip Webb and Morris lived there for five years with his wife, Jane, and their two daughters.

Although the house is not fully furnished, there is plenty to see, including some beautiful stained glass designed by the artist.

Our group of 40 members and friends was divided into three, for a very thorough guided tour of the house, which is still being restored.

Original Morris wall paintings were being uncovered while we were there, and we were able to see the conservators hard at work.

Our group then boarded the coach to travel the very short distance to Hall Place in Bexley.

Here was another gem of a house, although somewhat older and grander. It was built in 1537, with some 17th century additions.

After a short break for lunch, the group was divided into two for a very informative guided tour. We were told that the first owner was Sir John Champneys, a wealthy merchant and former Lord Mayor of London.

The house is set in magnificent gardens and parkland and, after the tour of the house, we had time to stroll round enjoying the formal beds and borders and the magnificent topiary animals and chess pieces, planted in 1953 to commemorate our Queen's coronation.

The property is now in the hands of Bexley Heritage Trust.

Quiz Night

Our May event was the annual Wine & Wisdom evening.

We had seven tables of members and friends, including representatives from Faversham and Medway branches.

Our quizmaster was the excellent Peter Warr, who always manages to pose questions that are testing without being impossible and, with his original scoring system, no-one knew which team was going to win until the end of the quiz.

The whole evening was great fun, with much laughter, and the winning team this year was from Faversham Branch, with Canterbury a close second.

The Beaney Institute of Art and Design

On Thursday afternoon, 11th April, 14 Canterbury Branch members met at the Beaney Institute of Art & Design for a guided tour by Gary Jephcote, a member of the Beaney Visitor Services team.

The Beaney, as it is affectionately known, was opened in September 1899 and was the result of a generous bequest by Dr. James George Beaney, a self-made native of Canterbury, who had subsequently emigrated to Australia, where he became Honorary Surgeon at the Melbourne Hospital.

Dr. Beaney's bequest had been for an Institute for Working Men, with amenities for men from poor backgrounds, like his own. However, Canterbury's museum and free library had outgrown their premises and Canterbury Corporation persuaded the Charity Commissioners to allow the money to be used to build a new museum and library premises.

The Beaney Institute became a local landmark and dignitaries from the area made generous contributions of artefacts to the museum and paid towards its furnishings. In 1934 a purpose-built picture gallery was added, thanks to a gift from the Slater family.

By the advent of the 21st century, it was realised that some modernisation was necessary and the Institute was closed for extensive refurbishment and extension. It was re-opened on 5th September 2012 under its new name of the Beaney Institute of Art & Design. The cost of the project was £14 million, of which £7 million was from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Beaney is now home to a bright and airy library, rooms devoted to displays of artefacts and paintings, and a coffee shop. There are special exhibitions held throughout the year and workshops for children and adults. Many of the rooms have areas specifically to attract children, with interactive displays. Our members enjoyed the tour, which has given them an idea of what can be seen and everyone agreed that a return visit is a must, when time can be devoted to studying and enjoying everything that is on display. Our thanks go to Tricia Shephard for organising the event.

In March, our members enjoyed a fascinating talk by John Graham called 'Contraband Corner', all about smuggling in East Kent, particularly in the Thanet area. The speaker has done a great deal of research into the myths and legends surrounding smuggling in this area, and found that much of it was true, with all the bays in the Thanet area and the many caves which end up in pubs or churchyards! Their entrances are still visible, although for safety reasons many have been blocked up and do not reach their original destinations. After the talk, our members enjoyed a cup of tea with biscuits and a chance to chat to their friends, before making their way home.

Hellfire Corner

In January we enjoyed a talk by John Grimwood entitled 'Hellfire Corner', where he illustrated defensive positions and monuments from Romney Marsh along the coast to Thanet.

He included the Hythe canal and numerous defences around Dover, including the Western Heights and tunnels under Dover Castle.

(Photo Courtesy English Heritage)

His superb overheads and commentary were much enjoyed by our members.

Howfield Manor

Our first lunch of the year was a return to Howfield Manor, Chartham. We had been there in 2012 and our members enjoyed it so much, we decided on a repeat visit. We were not disappointed. Once again, we had been given a wide variety of courses, with 3 starters, 4 main courses and 4 desserts from which to choose, followed with tea or coffee.

The meal was relaxed and gave members time to chat between courses. The staff were attentive and cheerful and everyone agreed it had been a very pleasant event. Our thanks go to our Chairman, Mrs. Tricia Shephard, for organising everything.

Canterbury Branch Pre-Christmas Lunch

In early December, 52 members and friends from Canterbury and Dover Branches gathered at Lower Hardres Village Hall for their annual Pre-Christmas Lunch.

Everyone enjoyed a traditional three-course meal, catered by the excellent Norman Goodman and his team and, after mince pies and coffee, the afternoon was rounded off with Christmas carols and other seasonal songs, lead by Doug Goddard and accompanied on keyboard by John Mitchell. No Men of Kent event is complete without a raffle, of course, and members had brought along an impressive array of prizes. As everyone made their way home, it felt as though the Festive Season had begun.

November brought our annual Cheque Presentation Evening. This year, despite some of our events being poorly attended, the branch managed to find enough spare funds to support five local charities: The Lord Mayor of Canterbury's Christmas Gift Fund and the Lady Mayoress' Charity, Canterbury & District Recorder, Kent Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre and the Dominican Priory.

Each of the cheque recipients took a few minutes to speak about their charities and they were all anxious to make it clear to us that donations are used for the benefit of local people. The presentations were made by Branch President, Mrs. Muriel Jennings, supported by Chairman Mrs. Tricia Shephard and afterwards there was time for everyone to socialise with a glass of wine and a few 'nibbles'.

In October, thirty-one of our members met at Abbots Barton Hotel, Canterbury for our Autumn Lunch. This was a new venue for us, although the Hotel had been used when Canterbury hosted the Association's AGM a few years ago. Everyone gathered in the bar for a drink, before proceeding to the restaurant, where we enjoyed a three-course lunch, followed by the usual raffle. It was agreed that the event was a great success and will probably be repeated next year.

A very enjoyable Progressive Whist evening was held in early September, at the Dominican Priory. Members of all abilities, and one or two who had not played before, joined in for this light-hearted event. We stopped for coffee and biscuits part way through the evening and then proceeded to the final round. The winner, Pat Goddard, received a small prize. Thanks go to Val and Stan Miller and Michael Blackband for helping to organise the evening.

Our next event was a visit to Brogdale near Faversham, the home of the National Fruit Collection. Members travelled in their own cars and met for coffee before being taken on an interesting tractor-trailer guided tour of the orchards. Brogdale has over 4000 varieties of apples, pears, plums and cherries, as well as soft fruit, and our guide explained the history of the collection and gave us samples of some of the apples and plums to taste.

After the tour members visited the shops in the Market Place or had lunch in the Courtyard Restaurant, before returning home.

To begin Cricket Week, on 8th August, the Association had its annual Remembrance Service and wreath laying at the Cathedral Garth. As usual, representatives from the Band of Brothers and Old Stagers were there, together with our Association Chairman, the Lord Mayor and members of Canterbury Branch. This year, a wreath was also laid by a representative of the Queens Own Buffs. Support with the hymns was provided by Renaissance Choir from Belfast and the service was conducted by the Dean.

On Friday 10th August Canterbury Branch had its usual Cricket Week Party at the St. Lawrence Ground. Once again, it was held in the Kent & Canterbury Club's marquee, which gave us plenty of space to accommodate the 80 members and friends who attended. Everyone enjoyed the social evening with wine and a paté and cheese buffet and our President, Mrs. Muriel Jennings, was on hand to welcome our special guests, the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and our Association Chairman and his wife. Thanks went to the Branch Chairman, Mrs. Tricia Shephard, for organizing the evening, Pat Gibb and Amanda Harris-Deans for running the bar and Chris Sproul and Lorna Archer for the catering.

At the end of July, a group of 40 members from Canterbury Branch enjoyed a coach trip to Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, the splendid 18th century Georgian Gothic home of Horace Walpole. The coach took us past Hampton Court, the venue for many of the Olympic cycling events, and it was interesting to see the spectators' stands, the flags and posters and the many officials making arrangements for the following day's races.

Photograph courtesy of Chiswick Chap and licensed under Creative Commons

The Strawberry Hill Trust, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, re-opened the building in late 2010, following a £ 9 million restoration. After a reviving cup of coffee in the café, our party was divided into two and each group was taken on an informative tour of the house with an experienced guide. We were shown the rooms on the ground and first floors, many of which had beautiful Renaissance stained glass windows and we were told about the restoration work that is still being carried out. Fortunately there are extensive records in existence showing the house in Walpole's day and every effort is being made to bring it back to its original condition, with the colour scheme Horace had chosen.

After the tour, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, and then we had time to wander around the gardens and to visit the gift shop. Unfortunately, heavy rain had started to fall by that time, and so it was decided to start making our way back to Canterbury. Everyone agreed they had an excellent time and our thanks go to Tricia Shephard for making the arrangements.

Thanks to our sponsor.

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