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Romford and Hornchurch historical groups fold after charting Havering’s heritage for six decades

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 August 2018

Peter Butler of The Hornchurch and District Historical Society.

Peter Butler of The Hornchurch and District Historical Society.

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Two beloved historical societies in Havering that have been around for more than 50 years folded due to declining membership.

The Hornchurch and District Historical Society. Barn Museum Upminster 1994The Hornchurch and District Historical Society. Barn Museum Upminster 1994

Former members of the Romford Historical society and the Hornchurch and District Historical Society said that it was a “great shame” that they both closed down this year.

Lorna Poole, 86, from Collier Row Lane was a member of the Romford Historical society and she explained that losing some of their key members had a big impact on the society.

“People who were leading the society have died or moved away,” she said.

“Jackie Rabbit died and as the secretary of the group, she used to sort out the entire news letter.

The Hornchurch and District Historical Society. May 1995The Hornchurch and District Historical Society. May 1995

“The numbers were dropping off and it wasn’t a good idea to move the society to Harold Hill.”

The group used to meet in Romford Library but they decided to move to the Myplace Youth and Community Centre in Dagnam Park Drive, Harold Hill where the parking was free.

Lorna added: “People didn’t want to rush out to an evening meeting anymore.

“It has been very successful in the past. We just managed to make our 50th anniversary.

Peter Butler of The Hornchurch and District Historical Society.Peter Butler of The Hornchurch and District Historical Society.

“I joined sometime in the late 1960s. At our 25th anniversary there must have been around 100 members.

“I’m a local person, my parents were born here and I was brought up in the borough. Havering’s local history has always been a part of my life.”

The Romford Historical society was started by Gordon Humbey, the borough librarian in 1956.

“He was the borough librarian and he was very good at history. I think he probably did invent just a little bit, but he was very enthusiastic and kept the society going,” said Lorna.

The Hornchurch and District Historical Society Queens Theatre 1996The Hornchurch and District Historical Society Queens Theatre 1996

The remaining funds from the Romford Historical Society were donated to Havering Museum.

The Hornchurch and District Historical Society began in 1958 and also folded this year.

Peter Butler from Mendoza Close, Hornchurch was the secretary of the society for 27 years. In that time he only missed one committee meeting.

He now considers himself as the de facto president of the society.

Peter Butler of The Hornchurch and District Historical Society.Peter Butler of The Hornchurch and District Historical Society.

The 89-year-old ship broker said: “It’s a great shame. We lost the secretary and then we lost various officers.

“We still run the Tithe Barn Museum of Nostalgia, but it’s hanging on by a knife edge.

“We just couldn’t get the volunteers.”

The Upminster Tithe Barn Museum of Nostalgia in Hall Lange belongs to Havering Council and the Hornchurch and District Historical Society have been using it for an Agricultural and Folk Museum.

Within a year of joining the society, Peter said that he was at the Barn Museum every Thursday night cleaning, repairing and painting.

He said, “that is what the volunteers accomplished all those Thursday nights summer and winter.

“In this manner the exhibits were kept washed and dusted, painted and repaired and the whole Museum was in very good order.”

Peter joined the society in 1980 by a recommendation from his wife.

He added: “They were looking for a secretary and so I took up the position.

“When we first started we had about 180 members and we managed that up until 2000.”

Brian Evans from Brook Street in Brentwood, was involved with the Romford Historical Society since 1967.

“It was quite a relaxed atmosphere in the society. People often came for special talks, but you have got to have a larger membership for it to keep going,” he told the Recorder.

“To a certain extent our technologies undermine the things we used to do.

“One of the biggest things we did was to produce the Romford Record which was a fantastic collaboration. They are a treasure trove of information.

“I think the society flourished when we had a general interest. But if you’ve got a dwindling membership then you can’t afford costs of hiring out halls or buying speakers.”

The Brentwood historian hopes there might one day be a revival of the society.

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