Past talks


9th January 2024 – Exploration
In 2019 Philip Beale set out to prove that the ancient Phoenicians could have crossed the Atlantic 2,000 years before Christopher Columbus arguably the most ambitious voyage in experimental archaeology since Kon-Tiki.
Phillip Beale FRGS – Sailor, expedition leader, adventurer and author

27th February 2024 – Dining at the Villa Ventorum: ancient Roman Cookery at the Newt
Roman Cookery based on olive oil, fish and fresh vegetables, was the origin of of the Mediterranean diet as we know it today. Mark Grant has unearthed everyday recipes like Tuna Wrapped in Vine Leaves, Olive Oil Bread Flavoured with Cheese, Honeyed Quinces. Ham in Red Wine and Fennel Sauce, Honey and Sesame Pizza, and Walnut and Fig Cakes.
Dr Mark Grant, author, researcher and cook

5th March 2024 – Past Forward at the Salisbury Museum
Past Forward continues the journey of development at the museum, after the creation of the Wessex Gallery in 2014. New galleries and event spaces, and restoration of the fabric of this wonderful building, together with an entirely new programme of engagement opportunities for local people.
Adrian Green Director of Salisbury Museum

2nd April 2024 – So Far So Good
After 24 years of experience in the Army as a musician playing cello on state occasions and banquets at Kensington and Buckingham Palace – amusing stories including the occasion when we played the wrong National Anthem!
Malcolm Wells MBE

9th April 2024 – The life of Sir James Thornhill
An English painter of historical subjects working in the Italian baroque tradition. He was responsible for some large-scale schemes of murals, including the “Painted Hall” at the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, the paintings on the inside of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, and works at Chatsworth House and Wimpole Hall..
Jeremy Barker researcher, enthusiast and Friend of Sherborne House

16th April 2024 – The history of glass
From his own personal collection, he brought historic and valuable items of glass, for members to examine for themselves, which illustrate the whole history of glass-making from 3,000 B.C. to the present day.
Dr Francis Burroughes BEM


10th January 2023 – Corfe Castle in the time of King John and Richard, Earl of Cornwall
King John who reigned from 1199 to 1216 frequently visited the castle and spent a small fortune on making it luxurious. He also used it to lock up political prisoners. His son Richard built the castle at Mere.
Martin Papworth, National Trust Archaeologist

17th January 2023 – The History of The Arundells
The former home of Prime Minister Edward Heath in Cathedral Close, Salisbury. It contains his diverse and very personal collection of art work, photographs, sailing memorabilia and political cartoons.
Ivan Smith MRICS

28th February 2023 – Trinity House
Since 1514 the safety of shipping and the well-being of seafarers has been its mission. It provides lighthouses, aids to navigation, education and welfare to the maritime community.
Captain David Parsons

7th March 2023 – Game Changing Warfare
From the Gallic Wars to the Falklands examples of strategies and technologies that have helped win wars.
Wing Commander Tony Davies

4th April 2023 – William Beckford 1760 – 1844
Writer, collector, eccentric architect and slave owner was just 10 years old when he inherited one of the greatest individual fortunes in England.
Dr Amy Frost – Architectural Curator of the Bath Preservation Trust and Curator of Beckford’s Tower & Museum in Bath

11th April 2023 – Saxons, swineherds, weavers and convicts – one family’s ties to Mere
Susan Winch

18th April 2023 – The Royal Collection
One of the largest and most important collections in the world running to more than one million objects. Spread among 13 occupied and historic royal residences in the United Kingdom, the collection is owned by King Charles III and overseen by the Royal Collection Trust.
Nicola Turner Inman, Curator of Decorative Arts

25th April 2023 – The Falkland Islands – It’s people, history and abundant wildlife
Beverley Verwoert a native Falkland Islander, descended from one of the early families of British colonists.

14th June 2023 “They also had names” Medieval life in Mere
The church was a powerful force in medieval times, its influence pervaded almost every aspect of people’s lives. St Michaels is the perfect place to explore what it was like to live then.
Kit Stallard

3rd Oct 2023 – Wills and what to do with them
Who wrote wills? What information can be found in them and in other probate records?
Stuart A. Raymond, BA (Hons); MA; Dip Lib; Family & Local Historian

10th October 2023 – The history of Wells Cathedral
Set in the medieval heart of England’s smallest city it is the earliest English Cathedral to be built in the Gothic style. It has inspired pilgrims for neatly 850 years. Built between 1175 and 1490 Wells Cathedral has been described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals”.
David Hindley

31st October 2023 – Follies of the West Country
Gothic, Rustic, Classical, Monumental, Chinese, Indian, Italianate and Japanese follies in an equally wide variety of building types, including shell houses, grottoes, pagodas, towers, temples, summer houses, tea houses, gazebos, belvederes, lodges, gatehouses, pavilions and arches.
Jonathan Holt

7th Nov 2023 – Look into my eyes
The history of hypnotism from its earliest references through Mesmerism and19th century anaesthetic to present day use to counter phobias
Alan Jones

5th December 2023 – Shepton Mallet Prison
When it closed in 2013, it was the United Kingdom’s oldest operating prison. It was opened as ‘a house of correction’ in 1625 at the time all prisoners – men, women and children – were held together.
Maurice Gee – a former prison officer

12th December 2023 – The time they cancelled Christmas
The crackdown enacted in the 17th Century by English Puritans who regarded it as a frivolous, wasteful, decadent festival.
David Heath


1 February 2022: ‘The Gate Lodges of Wiltshire’ by James Holden
8 March 2022: ‘SS Great Britain’ by Ian Caskie
22 March 2022: ‘Florence NightingaTony Daviesle and the Herberts’ by Russ Foster
29 March 2022: ‘Nepal and the Ghurkhas’ by Johnny Fenn
5 April 2022: ‘Ethel Freame, A Gillingham Traveller’ by John Porter
12 April 2022: ‘The White Horses of Wiltshire’ by David Dawson
4 October 2022: ‘Environmental Archaeology’ by Dr Ines Lopez-Doriga
11 October 2022: ‘The Forward Family and its connections to Mere’ by Richard Backhouse
1 November 2022: ‘The Victoria County History of Wiltshire: Mere and Zeals’ by Dr Mark Forrest
8 November 2022: ‘Bosnia: the Fighting and Politicking then, and the Unfolding Tragedy now’ by David Leakey
6 December 2022: Susie Simmons ‘The Museum of Somerset’
13 December 2022:  Andrew Pickering ‘Bruton’s History as seen through its Museum’


28 September 2021: ‘The Rivers of Mere’ by Ian Sheppard
5 October 2021: ‘Updating Pevsner’ by Julian Orbach
12 October 2021: ‘The Borgias’ by Gerald Meyer
2 November 2021: ‘The Canal Age’ by Paul Atterbury
9 November 2021: ‘The Fascination of Place Names’ by Tony Painter
7 December 2021: ‘The Freezing Hell of Halswell’ by Philip Brown
14 December 2021: ‘The Archaeology of the Deverills Valley’ by Dr David Roberts


10 March 2020: ‘Lady Butler – 19thC Battle Artist’ Felicity Herring
3 March 2020: “Escape or Die”: King Charles II Escape after the Battle of Worcester,  Paul Cordle
4 February 2020: Captain Charles Fryatt and the SS Brussels Ben Carver
7 January 2020: History of Bells & Bell-ringing Mike Durkee


10 December 2019: Copper Printing Plates at Stourhead by Sandy Kerr and Geoff Ellen
3 December 2019: My 50 Years of Motor Racing by Mike Wilds
12 November 2019: The History of the Internet by Peter Mason
5 November 2019: General Pitt-Rivers by Adrian Green
8 October 2019: John Aubrey – A C17th Wiltshire Antiquary by Gerry Cook
1 October 2019: Kingston Lacey – The Medieval Manor House by Martin Papworth
16 April 2019: The Mere Man – A Beaker Warrior Burial by David Dawson
2 April 2019: Death at Porton Down; its investigation and inquest by David Masters
12 March 2019: Nathaniel Ireson of Wincanton, Architect, Master Builder, & Potter by Peter and Sarah FitzGerald
5 March 2019: Dunsterforce by Peter Landymore
5 February 2019: It Wasn’t Just Alan Turing by Hamish Bell
8 January 2019: The Frome Cheese Fair by Philip Cary


11 December 2018: Fifty-five Years Fighting Rust, by Ian Dean
4 December 2018: The Death of Gordon of Khartoum by David Baker
13 November 2018: Alberto Bioletti, Soldier of Napoleon and Master Clockmaker of Wincanton by John Baxter
6 November 2018: Stonehenge by Julian Richards
16 October 2018: Hadrian’s Wall by Mark Corney
9 October 2018: Stephen Hyde Cassan, Curate of Mere and Bruton by Justin Bailey
17 April 2018: Sugar to Camels by Ros Liddington – an illustrated talk about the sugar trade
3 April 2018: Out of my Attic – Boy’s Toys of the 20th Century by Michael Weale
13 March 2018: Stand Up and Be Counted – The Story of the Census by Daphne Tighe
6 March 2018: The Wessex Turncoat by Michael Wills
20 February 2018: Emergency Planning and Practical Salvage in Historic Houses by Hannah Severn
9 January 2018: Dorset Heroines by David Beaton


5 December 2017: Dartmoor Mindscapes by Peter Knight
12 December 2017: Kings of Music by Tom Weare
14 November 2017: Paul Maze, a Frenchman in khaki, the last impressionist by Philip Schofield
7 November 2017: Peace without victory: could the Great War have been ended in 1917? by Peter Landymore
10 October 2017: Popham: a 16th century lawyer who made good! by James Bradnock
3 October 2017: ‘The history of Desert Island Discs’ by Ralph Jerram
25 April 2017: ‘Jade, Amber and Gold, three stories from pre-history’ by Hilary Griffiths
4 April 2017: ‘The Yetties Group’s tours across Europe, Far East and Africa’ by Bonnie Sartin
21 March 2017: ‘Will Shakespeare’s London – danger, vanity and vice’ by Gerry Cook
7 March 2017: ‘Life and Times of the Iconic Vulcan Bomber’ by Tony Davies
21 February 2017: ‘Shackleton’s 1914 Expedition to the South Pole’ by Frank Marshall
7 February 2017: ‘How the 1940 Invasion of Belgium changed my Life’ by Monique Turnbull
17 January 2017: ‘Royal Naval Hovercraft in the Falkland Islands 50 years ago’ by Vernon Phillips


6 December 2016: Inner sanctums by Rob Curtis
15 November 2016: In search of Francis Faugoin, Steward for Henry the Magnificent at Stourhead by Julia Mottershaw
1 November 2016: Mysterious life of Walter Henry: from workhouse to transatlantic troopships in World War 1 by Howard Nichols
11 October 2016: Mid 19th Century Charity Organisations in Mere by Michael Plaxton
4 October 2016: Verwood industry and life by Pam Reeks
3 May 2016: Mata Hari – Eye of the Day; The Story of the Beautiful and Clever Double Agent by Kathy McNally
5 April 2016: Constable – His Visits to Gillingham by Sam Woodcock
15 March 2016: Conservation – the Agents of Decay by the Hannah Severn
1 March 2016: SS Great Britain – From Launch to Relaunch by Ian Caskie
2 February 2016: A Fresh Look at the Silk Industry in Mere by Julia Mottershaw
12 January 2016: Ancient Jordan and Petra: A Personal View by Tony Grinyer


1 December 2015: The Brigade of Gurkhas 1815 – 2015 – 200 Years of Service to the Crown by Johnny Fenn
17 November 2015: The Society’s Archive: Open for Business by Jenny Wilding
3 November 2015: The Last Russian Countess of Pembroke by Ros Liddington (Archivist, Wilton House)
13 October 2015: Sheep to Ships to North Sea Oil Rigs – Occupational Health in the 20th Century by Rose Cox
6 October 2015: History and Development of Variations; a musical Adventure by Jill Jenkins
17 March 2015: Fossils, Rocks and Dinosaurs: – local content, Somerset coal fields, Lyme Regis and Mary Anning, by Gerry Cook
3 March 2015: Annual General Meeting followed by A Blast from the Past, by Jonathan Weeks. Listen to woodwind instruments from the middle ages
17 February 2015: Paradise Lost: Stourhead Gardens’ Lost Features, by Julia Mottershaw
3 February 2015: Rural Temperance 1880-1908, by Canon Andrew Evans. A case study on Mere Society
20 January 2015: A History of Bruton School for Girls, by John Burrough
6 January 2015: A Very Fair Castle -The Changing Face of Corfe Castle and its Role within its Landscape, by Judith Teasdale, landscape architect


2 December 2014: The First World War: Tunnelling and Mine Warfare, by Phillip Robinson, adviser on films and documentaries
18 November 2014: Occupational Health Hazards, post industrial revolution: chimney sweeps to deep sea divers, by Rose Cox
4 November 2014: Shaftesbury: King Alfred’s Legacy, by Rob Curtis, a South West Tourism blue badge guide
14 October 2014: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”: Henry, Alda and Harry’s Years at Stourhead’, by Janet Way
7 October 2014 – Archive Fever: Modern Research, by The Hon Victoria Glendinning CBE critic, broadcaster and novelist talking on research methods