Report of Events

Past Events Archive



May 2016

25 Members of the Historical Society and The Royal British Legion went to The Poppy Factory at Richmond. We were met at the door to the factory by our tour guide, Brian and were offered complimentary tea or coffee before we listened to a very interesting talk about the history of The Poppy and the founding of the Factory. This included a short video. Following the talk we were taken through to the factory where we could see how the individual poppies are made and how the wreaths for The Royal Family to lay each Remembrance Sunday are made. (we were allowed to make a poppy for ourselves).

During the First World War much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. Previously beautiful countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over again and again. The landscape swiftly turned to fields of mud, bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow.
Bright red Flanders poppies, however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands flourishing even in the middle of chaos and destruction. In early May 1915 shortly after losing a friend in Ypes, a Canadian doctor Lt. Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now famous poem called 'In Flanders Fields'. This poem inspired an American academic Moina Michael, to make and sell red silk poppies which were brought to England by a French woman, Anna Guerin. The Royal British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of these Poppies and sold them on 11th November that year. The Poppies sold out almost immediately and the first ever 'Poppy Appeal raised over £106,000, a considerable amount of money at that time. This was used to help WW1 veterans with employment and housing. The following year, Major George Howson set up the Poppy Factory to employ disabled ex-servicemen. Today the factory and the Legions warehouse at Aylesford produces millions of Poppies each year.
When our tour was over we made our way out to have lunch in one of the many cafes restaurants and pubs in Richmond. Everyone agreed it was a very enjoyable day.




JUNE 2016

On 17 June Anne Kneif described the early history of Kentish Seaside Resorts. At first the interest in sea bathing was medicinal. Thomas Vicary, a sixteenth-century physician, advocated its restorative value and the curative effects of drinking sea water (in those days quite pure), but his ideas were not followed up for more than a century. After taking the waters at inland medicinal spas became common, spas at the seaside followed. The grandest of all, the Royal Sea Bathing Hospital at Margate, opened in 1796 (and is now divided into luxury flats)

Visiting the seaside for entertainment rather than illness became popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Kent, Margate took the lead. Londoners came down by sailing hoys, steam vessels, the railway, and finally charabancs and motor coaches. Families could rent a house for the season, while single visitors could rent rooms in a boarding house, shopping for their own food but having it cooked by the landlady. With the bank holiday act of 1871 weekend visits became popular.

Once in Margate what was there to do? To swim in the sea visitors in the Victorian period hired a bathing machine, a kind of beach hut on wheels, where they could change into a bathing costume, be pulled out into the surf by horses, and then enter the water with modesty. There is a good description of a bathing machine in Tobias Smollett's novel Humphry Clinker (1771). To sit on the beach you hired an ordinary household chair (deck chairs were an Edwardian invention). Shell collecting, sand castles, donkey rides, Punch and Judy, cards in the Assembly Room, horse races nearby, the camera obscura, the shell grotto, the circulating libraries (popular because new three-decker novels costs 31s. 6d. almost throughout the Victorian period), the pier (originally just a landing jetty for steamers), and boat trips were all popular diversions. Souvenirs included seaside postcards (not yet saucy, and not until 1894 accepted as post). With the First World War all this came to an end.



Toni mount

October 2016

On 21 October the historian Toni Mount gave a brilliant talk on 'They dared to be Doctors', women in the nineteenth century who were determined to practice medicine despite the many obstacles in their way. Women could become nurses and midwifes, but it was thought they could not cope with the rigours of a medical education, and medical schools were closed to them.

The first of Toni Mount's heroes was, unexpectedly, James Barry (c. 1795-1865), who studied medicine at Edinburgh and London, and joined the British army as a junior medical officer in 1813. Doctor Barry was posted to Cape Town and appointed physician to the governor's household. In South Africa he performed the first successful caesarean delivery, when both the mother and the baby survived. Later postings included Jamaica, St. Helen's, and the Crimea, where he rebuked Florence Nightingale for neglect of hygiene (a life-long interest, along with quarantine). Eventually Barry became inspector general of all military hospitals. It was only on his death in 1865 that it was discovered that the doctor was in fact a woman. Barry's medical and military career had defied the establishment, and the military buried her as a man and sealed the official records for nearly a century.

The first woman doctor to obtain a medical education without Barry's subterfuge was Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) of Bristol, who emigrated to Ohio with her family in 1832. She was at boarding school when her father died, followed a few years later by her mother, who might have survived had not modesty prevented her from consulting a male physician. Her mother's death inspired Elizabeth to become a doctor for women, but the only medical school that would consider her was at Geneva, in upstate New York, and even there she was only enrolled when the students, asked if they would agree to a female classmate, voted to accept her. She graduated in 1849, top of the class, the first woman (apart from Barry) to qualify as a doctor, but no hospital wanted her. She returned to Europe to study surgery in Paris where she had to pretend to be a student of midwifery. Unfortunately she caught an eye infection, and limited vision put an end to her aspirations to be a surgeon. Back in London, at Bart's, she was employed only to take notes on the patients. Returning to America she established a dispensary which later was to become the New York Infirmary for Women. She died in Hastings in 1910.

Elizabeth Garrett (afterwards Mrs. Anderson, 1836-1917) was the daughter of a wealthy merchant and maltster at Aldeburgh. She attended a boarding school at Blackheath with Emily Davies, afterwards founder of Girton College. Her younger sister was Millicent Garrett Fawcett, the campaigner for women's suffrage. Elizabeth's own contribution to the emerging women's movement, inspired by a lecture by Elizabeth Blackwell in 1859, was to promote the rights of women to study medicine. She had been denied admission to the medical schools of St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and London University, but discovered that completing the course of studies and examination of the Society of Apothecaries would entitle her to be entered on the medical register, and she qualified in 1865. With her father's financial support she set up a practice in the fashionable neighbourhood of Upper Berkeley Street, where she also treated poor female patients three afternoons a week. The next year she established the St. Mary's Dispensary for Women and Children, subsequently the New Hospital, in Marylebone Road. Thanks in great measure to Elizabeth's pioneering efforts British examining bodies gradually opened their medical examinations to women students, following the example of the Sorbonne in 1868 and other continental universities. From 1883 to 1902 Elizabeth was dean of the London School of Medicine for Women which was associated with the Royal Free Hospital and has since merged with University College Hospital Medical School.


Shoreham And District
Historical Society
Affiliated to
The Shoreham Society
The Kent History Federation and
The Kent Archaeological Society

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Shoreham And District Historical Society
Last Updated

November 14, 2016