Hinckley Historian Magazine

Hinckley Historian Magazine No.70 - A Short History of Hinckley Local History Group (HLHG)

Presentations to Hugh and Jill Beavin on the 25th Anniversary of the Group in 2000.
Presentations to Hugh and Jill Beavin on the 25th Anniversary of the Group in 2000.

The merging of Hinckley Local History Group and Hinckley Museum in 2012 is the occasion for this brief historical account.

In 1974 Hinckley Upper School, (John Cleveland College), became a new Community College along with many other 14-18 Schools in Leicestershire. The appointment of Rev Tom White as Assistant Principal in charge of Community Education resulted in an appeal for teachers to offer adult evening classes in a variety of subjects. I had come to Hinckley to teach History a year earlier and offered an evening class in Techniques in the Study of Local History'. The course was successful and at the end of the Autumn Term some of the adult students, particularly John Coley, suggested we should start the 'Hinckley Local History Group' (hlhg).

Accordingly, in January 1975, we held our first meeting. I became Chairman, John Coley was Treasurer and Roy Biffin became Secretary. About half of the 30-40 members at that first meeting were my history students at the College. From those at that first meeting we also established a Local History Group Committee.

We drew up a programme of speakers and visits on themes connected with the history of the Hinckley area." Meetings were to take place once a month throughout the year with the exception of the Summer Holiday in July and August. For example: Dr Trevor James - History of Inns and Public Houses, Superintendent Kelly, retired Hinckley Police Officer, Dr Parker, County Archivist - Leicestershire Archives, Rev Teddy Boston - Railways. From the very beginning the group attracted a number of local characters: notably Bill Jebbet and Sam Harris. These two gentlemen, who were retired Hinckleyans, had many anecdotes relating to Hinckley's past and they often differed strongly in their interpretation of events.

At the end of 1975 I became Head of the History Department and we moved from our original room (H10) to the adjacent room (HI) which had a large collection of old books and documents housed in bookcases which lined the walls. It was decided to hold an extra meeting each month when members could use the contents of the bookcases to conduct a little local history research. Within a year the results of the research prompted the decision to publish the first Hinckley Historian which appeared in Autumn 1977. Barbara Allinson typed the original manuscript and 50 copies were sold at a price of 20p. each. Barbara was to continue producing the original manuscripts for the next twenty years. Contributors to that first edition ranged from Tim Parry, one of my young history students, who wrote about Dadlington, to Bill Jebbet, probably our oldest member, who recounted his memories of Hinckley in the years before the First World War. Peter Foss drew an excellent cover illustration of the original Hinckley Library to accompany his article.

The coming of the 1980s saw the Hinckley Local History Group membership increase to over 50. In 1981 Rose Allinson provided her first Historian cover featuring St. Mary's Church, Peter Foss having left the area. Rose has continued to draw the subject on the front cover ever since! Apart from our regular talks we began to take a day excursion each summer, joining with Earl Shilton Local History Group. Many of these visits were organised by Phillip Lindley, who besides being a member of Hinckley Local History Group, was also Secretary at Earl Shilton. A variety of visits were made over the following years to places such as the Gladstone Pottery Museum, the Black Country Museum, Avoncroft, Worcester and Bath. Speakers at our meetings included John McNaughton, Arthur Tomlin, Greg Drozdz and David Knight, to mention but a few.

At the beginning of the next decade increasing interest had developed over the question of starting a Hinckley Museum. Bill Partridge had been particularly active in arousing public support for such a project. In the late summer of 1991 a meeting was held at the Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel in Hinckley and over 50 people attended, with at least half that attendance coming from members of the Local History Group. In the Historian that autumn (No.28), Greg Drozdz, wrote an article pleading for support entitled 'It's Now or Never - A Museum for the Hinckley Area'. Greg had been a member of the Local History Group since his days in the VI Form at John Cleveland College, had helped organise the meeting referred to earlier and as a professional historian saw the importance of a Hinckley Museum. From that point on moves began which culminated in the opening of Hinckley and District Museum in June 1996. How appropriate that by this historical process the Hinckley Historian has now become the Journal of Hinckley & District Museum!

In 1991 the membership of the Group stood at 47 and in that year the Historian, which had been appearing for fourteen years, acquired the ISSN number 0963-4738 and copies were now sent to the copyright libraries.

March 1992 saw an arson attack on the Humanities building at John Cleveland College and HI, where we had been meeting since 1976, became a blackened burnt out shell. Fortunately, most of the local history books and documents were stored in a neighbouring room and were saved from the flames. Alternative accommodation was provided for our meetings until the room was rebuilt. By 1995 our membership had reached 55 and the committee arranged an attractive programme which continued to bring an increased membership which more than filled the new HI. Amongst particularly active members of the committee were the Stoke Golding trio of ladies -Janice Gardham, Jean Jones & Jill Webster. A lady member who made many valuable contributions to our meetings was Armine Robinson. Armine had been an actress at the Hinckley built mobile Century Theatre in the 1950s. When the Local History Group made a visit to the new Snibston Discovery Park she alerted the Leicestershire Museum Service to the imminent destruction of the Century Theatre. As a result of Armine's intervention the Century Theatre was saved at Keswick and brought back to Leicestershire. By the late 1990s the Historian, now costing £1, was selling around 250 copies per edition. Sadly, in 1999, Don Allinson stepped down as Secretary and died later that year. His contribution to the Local History Group had been immeasurable. Jill Beavin succeeded him as Secretary and continued in that post until the merging of the Museum and Local History Group this year.

In 2000 we celebrated our twenty- fifth anniversary as Hinckley Local History Group with the same Chairman and Treasurer over the whole period. The year 2002 saw a record 58 members in the Group which continued to provide a varied programme of talks and visits. One of our speakers, Arthur Tomlin, who had been a member since the 1980s, became 'Citizen of the Year' and at the end of the decade was made the only honorary member of the Local History Group. Talks varied from 'Cottage Pig Keeping' to 'Gopsall Hall' and visits ranged from Derby to Lichfteld and Nottingham. In 2007, John Coley retired as Treasurer, a post he had held since the start of Hinckley Local History Group. He had not only been the leading figure in suggesting the formation of the Group but had regularly contributed articles to the Historian, especially those which traced the events from 1914 to 1918 through the reports of the 'Hinckley Times'. We were most fortunate that Neville Jackson was prepared to take on the post of Treasurer, which he continued to hold until the final merging of the Group with the Museum.

The final visits of the Group were ably arranged by Anne Holt and were most popular, the last being a rail trip to Nottingham. By 2010 our membership had declined to 44 and in the following year our annual subscriptions increased to a whole £10. Our last season began in September 201 1 with a talk which I gave on ‘700 Years of Hinckley Market' and ended in June 2012 with a visit to Elmesthorpe Church. Jill and I were most touched to receive a generous gift from members of the Group. Over the years since 1975 Hinckley Local History Group has provided a most interesting programme of talks and visits on a wide variety of topics. The Group has done much to preserve the heritage and history of Hinckley and District and from the enthusiasm of many of its members has developed the Museum. My thanks to all those who have done so much to sustain and develop the Hinckley Local History Group during two centuries. It is a record of which all our members may be proud.

Hugh Beavin - Editor and Past Chairman of Hinckley Local History Group.

Author: Hugh Beavin

Written for: Hinckley Historian Magazine