The First W.G. Hoskins Memorial Lecture (1991)

[From the Transactions of the Vaughan Archaeological and Historical Society, Leicester, Volume XXIX (1989/90).]

The highlight of our 1990-91 season was the first W.G. Hoskins Memorial lecture, held on Saturday 27th April 1991 at Vaughan College. This was a long overdue tribute to the founder of the Society and, after months of deliberation, it was felt that this would be a most appropriate way of honouring his memory.

The occasion was well supported by many members and friends, including a number of founder members! At the outset, a brass plaque commemorating Dr Hoskins, with details of his academic posts and his position as founder of our Society, was unveiled by the guest speaker Professor Charles Phythian-Adams. The plaque is situated just to the right of the entrance to the library.

After the unveiling ceremony, Professor Phythian-Adams, who is currently the head of the Department of English Local History at Leicester University (a post established by Hoskins) addressed the meeting. He gave us a very lively and stimulating account of Dr. Hoskins and his personal contribution to the developemnt and study of English local history. Interspersed with the more serious nature of the lecture were a number of personal reminiscences. We were reminded that his work raised the study of local history to the status of an academic subject. It was especially gratifying to know that Hoskins' notebooks have recently been given to the University and we had glimpses of the wealth of information they contain, showing the careful preparation and planning Hoskins carried out and even detailed lecture plans.

They will provide valuable material for further insight and research into Hoskins' work. In conclusion, Professor Phythian-Adams spoke of Hoskins as "a visionary and a poet of a disappearing world, to which he belonged and whose great gift to posterity was to give us a glimpse of our own past - a veritable garden of Eden".

After the lecture, three founder members gave us some of their own personal memories. Firstly, Miss Grace Bridge recalled that Hoskins was able to sketch with one hand and write with the other at the same time on the blackboard and continue talking! She then went on to read some of Miss Dora Valentine's memories. Dora had attended Hoskins' classes in 1946 and the subsequent excursion of 1947. Out of this had grown a desire to form a society which had its first meeting on the 18th November in 1947, with Hoskins and Mr T.G.E. Powell of the Leicester Museum as its first Presidents. During the early years, Society members helped Hoskins in his excavations at Hamilton and Gaddesby. The Miss Mabel Baumeister recalled joining a Saturday school "A Satday School on Satday" and the appointment of a Mr Frost as Chairman assisted by a Mr Snow and a Miss Dora Valentine as Librarian.

Mr Bernard Elliott concluded with his vivid and amusing accounts of Society occasions such as the dinner at Cossinton Mill and of introducing Messrs. Frost and Snow to the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle. He reminded us of the some of the more memorable passages from "The Midland Peasant", notably a quote about South Wigston, which at least one member present felt was unjustified!

When the formal proceedings were concluded, members and friends mingled over tea to carry on with their own personal recollections. It was an opportunity to recapture and look afresh at the ideas and investigations which Hosking initiated over the past forty years. He has encouraged so many to delve into the past and make a study of their own areas, and the Department which he established has contiued to develop and flourish and has won international renown. That, together with this Society, will be permanent and lasting memorials to an outstanding historian.

Sybil Rutland, President

Note: Professor Phythian-Adams' paper was published as: C. Phythian-Adams, 'Hoskins's England: A Local Historian of Genius and the Realisation of his Theme', Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, 66 (1992), 143-159, now available online at the website of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society. Go to:

Last revised 19 March 2008 (ADW)