Skip over navigation


Publication date: 19th April 2011

Canterbury Branch History

Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Central Tower. Seen from south. Author: Hans Musil. GNU License.
Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Central Tower. Seen from south. Author: Hans Musil. GNU License.

Although active between the wars, the Canterbury Branch had faded into oblivion by the 1960s.

The arrival of the University of Kent at Canterbury brought about the Branch's revival in 1971-1972, led by Peter Roberts, Grayson Ditchfield and Donald Read, and a programme was arranged for 1972 -3.   Among those on the first Committee was Lawrence Lyle who is still an active committee member.

The Branch has always had a President (Geoffrey Templeman, Edward Norman, Donald Read, and currently Hugh Cunningham) and a Chairman to conduct the general run of business.   We have been very lucky in having representations from both Canterbury's Universities and from many of Canterbury's schools on the committee.

The branch has always been peripatetic, having meetings at various venues around the city.   Committee meetings were originally all over the place (Bill Lewis remembers one in a pub - The Locomotive - destroyed by arson a few years later), but for the last 20 years committee meetings have always been at the King's School.   Until recently, talks could be on any weekday at any time (usually evenings) but now we have standardised the day and time as Thursdays at 7.00pm from October to May.   Our current venues are the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, The King's School, Kent College and the Cathedral Archives.

Unfortunately, we do not have a complete set of minutes stretching back to the 1970s, but our accounts go back to 1972.  We had an initial grant of £15 from Headquarters, not much it might seem; but in October 1973, Professor Marwick's talk cost £12.82 (Travel £4.00, Dinner £2.20, Hotel £6.62).  One of the first speakers, in March 1972, was A.J.P Taylor, and the next few years saw offerings from Joel Hurstfield, S.T. Bindoff, A.G. Dickens, Eric Ives and J.J. Scarisbrick among others.  Now, each year, we try to present a programme ranging from Anglo-Saxon times to the late 20th Century, usually about seven lectures a year.   Perhaps we have fewer ‘big' names nowadays, though Professor Nigel Saul has addressed us three times in the last 15 years, but we enjoy hearing from university lecturers, teachers and graduate students putting forward new ideas on their latest research.   One of the highlights this year (2010-11) was a talk by Professor Anne Curry, President of the HA.

Since 2006, we have held a debate for Sixth Form pupils at local schools, this lively event becoming increasingly popular.  Generally we have one outing a year, and an annual buffet supper after our final meeting.  For about the last 10 years we have run an afternoon conference for Sixth Form pupils, which, thanks to the generosity of our speakers, costs the pupils nothing. There is also a seminar every year for students from local schools who are considering reading History at university.  In 2009-2010, we organised a Canterbury Trail competition, and in 2010-2011 a Crossword, to provide fun (and funds).  For the last three years we have also run, as a fringe event of the Canterbury Festival, an historical writing competition for primary school children. The Branch is always looking for new ideas.

The Branch has a large membership, about 130, most of it sleeping, and about 20 loyal Branch Members: we also attract a number of non-members to talks, though curiously the tobacco tin which is used for collecting entrance fees rarely contains multiples of the £3.00 we invite them to contribute.  We also attract school pupils and university students, so that meetings often have audiences ranging from 16 - 90+.   Our finances are sound and we like to contribute to local historical projects.

We face the future with enthusiasm and confidence, and we are overjoyed that Professor Jackie Eales of Canterbury Christ Church University, who has worked tirelessly for the Canterbury Branch, and with great success,  is now to become the President of the HA.