The Aims of the Society (1996)

[Adapted from Vaughan Archaeological & Historical Society Newsletter No. 4 (Autumn 1996)]

"The Society was founded in November 1947 to provide a medium for historical and archaeological research of a practical kind".  This basic aim was set out by C. L. Frost and O. W. Snow, Chairman and Honorary Secretary, in a joint report printed in the first volume of the Society's Transactions (1948).

The Constitution of the Society did not contain a separate statement of aims or objects, but what they were can be inferred from other clauses in the document.  Membership was open to students of Vaughan College and other people "who are interested in archaeological and historical research".

Archaeological research was expected to be active and practical: "The Society shall draw up and approve rules of conduct" for excavations.  A Superintendent of Excavations would have the power to appoint a deputy for "each site under excavation by the Society".  Besides these activities it was stated that, "The Society shall set up a Historical Research Group".

The booklet The Church Brasses of Leicestershire [Vaughan Paper No. 20 (1975)] was a new edition of a monograph originally published in 1951 by the Society.  In the Foreword, W. G. Hoskins, the Society's inspiration and first President, wrote that when the Society was founded, it "very wisely took the view that it ought not to be just another Society for the purpose of listening to a few lectures and undertaking a few excursions".  Instead, "many of its members would welcome the opportunity of doing some original work on their own account".

Hoskins hoped that the Church Brasses monograph would become the first of a series.  The ambitions of the Society were reflected in this hope and in the appointment not only of the Superintendent of Excavations, but also of Secretaries for both the Archaeological and Historical Research Groups.

The real archaeological work that Society was able to do was limited.  (At the A.G.M. in 1952 someone asked whether the Society's stock of excavation tools should be sold.)  The Society changed direction towards conservation of ancient monuments and buildings.  The biggest project was the overgrown chapel at Dishley, the burial place of Robert Bakewell of Dishley Grange, one of the heroes of the Agricultural Revolution.

The Society had more success in the tasks it set for itself in historical research.  But apart from articles in its own Transactions, the Society's research work was published by outside bodies.  For example, a survey of timber-framed "cruck" buildings was published in the Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society in 1954: this example is typical.  Church Brasses was republished by the Adult Education Department of Leicester University.  The Society has not had the resources to support the project foreseen by W. G. Hoskins.

The retreat from the idea of ordinary members "doing some original work on their own account" is marked by the revised Constitution of the Society adopted in 1965.  Besides Vaughan College students, membership was to be open to people "interested in Archaeology and History" - the word research was deleted.  Also the Committee could still elect the Superintendent of Excavations and the Historical Research Group Secretary, but only "as and when necessary".

 

As our Fiftieth Anniversary approaches, questions arise.  [...]

  • The Society has to work within its means, so how far can it follow the aims of its founders?
  • If the Society produces too little work of its own, will it help other more active bodies through donations?
  • How do the activities of the Society need to alter to accommodate the changes in daily life?  [...]

In 1948, the Committee hoped that those who were keen on historical and archaeological research would be able to meet and "join together in undertaking research".  The Society was "anxious to co-operate with fellow societies" at Vaughan College and "to work in harmony with other bodies of like aims and interests".

Mr C. L. Frost and Mr O. W. Snow referred specifically to the reciprocal invitations made by the Vaughan A.H.S. and the Leicester branch of the Historical Association so that their members could attend each others' meetings.  Something similar now exists between the Vaughan A.H.S. and the Leicester Group of the Victorian Society, but the link with the Historical Association has lapsed.  The series of joint meetings held by the the Vaughan A.H.S. and the Leicestershire A.H.S. during the 1960s also ceased.  Can this earlier co-operation be profitably revived?

W. G. Hoskins wrote about other societies "listening to lectures and undertaking a few excursion".  Is that simply the most practical way for a society with limited means to survive?  Or does a society need fresh sources of enthusiasm and a new sense of purpose?

 

The Editor [A. D. White]

Review of the Constitution (1997)

 

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