Joseph Lewis, Heritage Co-ordinator at the Community Heritage & Archives Centre in Yeovil, presented a fascinating selection of images of Langport from their collection.
Joseph began with some useful advice to anyone interested in history. The three most important things to remember, he said, were: first, to bear in mind how and by whom history is written – generally by the victors, by men, and by people who were wealthy. Secondly, always go back to the evidence, whether that is an artefact, a written text, or a photograph, to learn more; and thirdly, never underestimate the importance of recording things, even if they seem new today, they will be history tomorrow.
Joseph had brought two editions of Kelly's Directories from the 1930s, to show how much detail such original sources contain. He then illustrated the importance of different perspectives, by showing his own school photograph, when he attended Huish Episcopi School in the 1980s, demonstrating that he himself was part of Langport's history. A photograph taken from the roof of the Town Hall showed that privileged access could be an opportunity to record something others might not be able to see.
His slides included some images created by South Somerset District Council, but the majority came from a collection of material from an estate agent, Peal & Co, who had taken photographs of properties they dealt with, and added detailed information about each one on index cards. The estate agent's perspective meant that the collection provided an invaluable record of a variety of local buildings from the period.
Joseph's slides, the printed copies of photographs, and the gloving artefacts he had brought, all provoked interest and sparked conversations among the audience, who really enjoyed the glimpses of Langport in bygone years, , especially in recognising or guessing the relevant locations – including one old shop someone recognised as now being their home.
The Society's AGM took place after the talk rather than before it, a precedent which was well received. As the Society has become a registered charity, certain formalities had to be observed. The new Constitution was adopted as the Society's governing document, and nine Trustees were elected for the coming year: Paul Deegan, Allan Edwards, Colin Edwards, Pat Edwards, Sheila Edwards, John Grain (as Treasurer), Anne Michell (as Vice Chair), Janet Seaton (as Chair) and Sue Standen (as Secretary). The Accounts for last year were approved, and the meeting closed after the Chairman's Report. It was attended by 27 members.
The Society's next meeting will be at Langport Library on Monday 5 November, when Ross Aitken from Dawes Twine Works will talk about flax in South Somerset. It is free to members (annual membership from September is £15): non-members are welcome, admission £4. Anyone interested in joining the History Society should contact Sue Standen (01458 273471, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Follow the History Society at @langporthistory, and via this link