Past Reports

September 2011: Landscape Archaeology: Judie English

At our meeting in September landscape archaeologist Julie English and our local historic exhibits curator, Dudley Sparks provided an enthralling tour de force! There was even a first-rate handout which explained, with pictures, when the Paleolithic age morphed into the Mesolithic age – and much more besides!

Julie lectures at Sussex University and must be used to explaining things in such a way that even the most poorly motivated and the least knowledgeable student becomes engrossed.  So we were a doddle!  She demonstrated how aerial photography could clearly identify bronze-age field systems and magnetometry could show where kilns had been built.  Local archives could help locate hill forts and Priories could indicated the way the local community lived; there was a wealth of knowledge that could be gained without even starting a dig!  But if you did start to excavate around Westcott you found yourself amongst some intriguing, and puzzling, evidence of Romano-British settlement.

Dudley was able to show us some of the amazing things that he and his metal detector had found belonging to these early residents of Westcott.  From an early Roman pendant, through Anglo-Saxon artifacts and Medieval items to ‘souvenirs’ from World War ll: they could all be found around here, although you had to know where to look and been doing it for around 25 years!

July 2011: Charles Darwin & Russel Wallace: Richard Selley

Our AGM was rapidly followed by Richard Selley talking on the two men who independently proposed a theory of evolution based on natural selection, Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, and their connections with Dorking.  We know Wallace stayed in Dorking, but not where, and the work of Darwin at Leith Hill Place is well documented.  These men were working when the majority of country believed the world was created in seven days in 2004 BC!  The difficulties they faced and their journeys of exploration made an intriguing tale.  Professor Selley is a highly entertaining and succinct speaker and this talk was no exception.  As always he dealt with his subject in an amusing way and introduced new ideas: for example, did you know about John Hutton and his work of 1795 on natural selection that remained unexamined till 1947?

May 2011: Powell’s stained glass: Dennis Hadley

Denis Hadley is a well regarded speaker who has recently talked in St Martin’s Church, Dorking, on the stained glass windows there and their makers, Whitefriars Glass. Unfortunately on the day he had his problems with our projector and was working against the clock because of his transport arrangements.  He covered the family history of the founders of Whitefriars, the Powells, (and their links to Mr Baden) and the business difficulties they ran into.  The story of Whitefriars glass is an interesting one when well told and there are strong local connections as the last owner of the company is a member of the History Group.   We hope we are able to develop these aspects at some future date.

March 2011: Betchworth Castle: Martin Higgins

We expected the story of Betchworth Castle would be an interesting one – and it was.  But we had not anticipated what else we would learn: for example that Westcott was the home of one of the few fortified manor houses in Surrey, a house known as Black Hawes.  And it seems that much of the stone for Betchworth Castle when it was built around 1377 could have come from Westcott.  But that is a bit of a parochial view of the exciting story of a ‘castle’ that rose, declined, and rose again, with famous names like Sloan and Hope passing through the narrative.  Martin Higgins gave us a fascinating insight into what it is to be the owner of a local castle “bought for” £1!