History of the Buxton Archaeological and Natural History Society - abridged from a history published in 1997 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Society.
The first suggestion that Buxton should have an Archaeological Society appears to have been made at a meeting of the Buxton Literary Society in 1921 and there was sufficient interest shown for a meeting to be held the following February to discuss the advisability of forming such a society.
Support was forthcoming; the proposed society’s scope being enlarged to include natural history and the BANHS was formed in March 1922. The society was limited to 25 members and men only were eligible. The officers elected later that year were: C Slater, Chairman, Dr. S Sawden and J Brandreth, joint Honorary Secretaries; and H Foster, Treasurer.
One of the first lectures to be given was by Dr. Shipton who spoke about Birds of Buxton and District on 1st May 1922. The summer excursions for 1922 included visits to Castle Naze, Arbor Low and Chelmorton Church. Mr. W H Salt led the first two excursions and the appointment of a leader, generally a man with expert knowledge, was usual for many years thereafter. In September of the same year J Brandreth gave a lecture on Mary Queen of Scots and in December W H Salt spoke on Bronze and Roman objects.
At the beginning the Society met in one of Hampsons’ rooms in the Quadrant and from the end of 1928 in the Union Club (The Old Club House). Meetings were formal; dress was dinner jacket and black tie. The foundations of the Society were well laid for the rules and structure of the Society, and its activities, have changed little over the years. In the period 1936-40 the average attendance was about 13 for lectures and a little less for excursions, though 20 or more people would go to popular places like Holme Hall or Haddon Hall. The attendance did not fall during the War years but increased slightly to an average of 14 for lectures and 13 for excursions, but the number of excursions was reduced. A general invitation was extended to officers and men of the services in Buxton to attend meetings of the Society but only a few took advantage of the invitation. In 1942 it was resolved that one meeting of the year should be open to ladies on an occasion when a lecture of interest to ladies was to be given. A member could invite only one lady but there was no restriction on how many the lecturer could invite. Ladies were present for the first time at the March 1943 meeting. It was decided at an AGM in 1957 not to increase the number of ladies a member could invite nor for ladies to be eligible for membership. There was a waiting list for membership at times, but the maximum number was not raise from 25 to 40 until 1946.
Dr J Wilfred Jackson was made an honorary member in 1928 and became President in 1940. From 1947 the lectures were more formal and he gave a Presidential Address every year from 1947 to 1969. These covered an astonishingly wide range and were open to the public. A dinner was given for Dr Jackson in 1960 to mark his 80th birthday and from 1967 to 1974 annual Dinners were held at the High Peak College, or the Leewood or Sandringham Hotels. Guests of Honour included E B Robinson, the High Sheriff of Derbyshire, D Fisher, Comptroller of Chatsworth Estates and, in 1974 Professor Tarn of Liverpool University.
The Society terminated its agreement with the Union Club at the end of 1946 and moved to Collinson’s Café (The NatWest Bank now stands on the site). Collinson’s had little to recommend it as a meeting place other than its central position, and excellent coffee, and when an increase in charges was imminent the Society moved, in November 1963, to the High Peak College at Harpur Hill. This had excellent lecture theatres and projection facilities, and it was hoped that these advantages would outweigh transport problems in the winter. The committee continued to look for a more central site and in November 1972 moved to the Sandringham Hotel and in 1982 to the Old Hall Hotel.
In 1977, after much soul searching, it was decided to admit ladies. Miss A Jackson was made our first Lady Honorary Member, and there were eight further ladies. The Society heard the first lecture to be given by a lady member in January 1979 when Mrs. Marion Spurr spoke on “The Stone Circles of The British Isles”. Mrs. Spurr can also claim two other firsts; the first woman Chairman (1983/4) and the first woman Treasurer from 1988.
The Society has collaborated with other organisations in various activities such as the Derbyshire Archaeological Society and the National Trust as well as more official bodies like the Peak Planning Board and the local Council. F A Holmes and Dr. Jackson were involved in the preservation of Dovedale. I H Morton served on the Peak Planning Board from its inception and was awarded an OBE for his public services.
Individual members were well known for their work in archaeology and other fields. The Salt family had been involved in archaeological investigations from the 19th century and Dr. Jackson’s life and work is admirably summed up in the book “Cave Hunters” by Dr. Bishop. One particularly successful archaeological project was the study of the cultivation terraces (lynchets) at Priestcliffe near Taddington, the result of which were published in the Derbyshire Archaeological Society bulletin in 1962.
On the first excursion on May 31st 1922, to Castle Naze, members travelled from Buxton to Chapel by the 5.30 p.m. L.N.W.R. train, walked to Combs on the track by the railway line, and then up to Castle Naze on an unsurfaced road. In 1968 members visited Castle Naze, Bradshaw Hall, Buxworth Basin, and Chapel Church all in one evening…but that was by car! The best attended visit (44 members and guests) was to Chatsworth in 1970 when the Duchess of Devonshire invited Dr. Jackson and the Society to the private rooms in honour of Dr. Jackson’s 90th birthday.
(Dr. Jackson was undoubtedly the most eminent member of the Society, being Senior Assistant Keeper of the Manchester Museum and a renowned conchologist, osteologist and speleologist).
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