In 1964, a group of enthusiastic people got together to found the Warrington & District Archaeological & Historical Society (WAHS) and nearly 60 years later the Society is still going strong.
After meeting at a local community dance group, Cliff Newton and Ken Jermy discovered a mutual interest in archaeology. Together with friends, Arthur Thomason, Eric Maddock and Eric Pollitt, they started investigating the possibility of starting a local history society for the Warrington area. They enlisted the support of George Carter, chief librarian at Warrington library, and his colleague Reg Rimmer, Warrington’s museum director.
Advertisements were placed in the Warrington Guardian newspaper inviting interested members of the public to attend a meeting on Wednesday, 19th February 1964, at the museum. With 132 people attending, it was clear the founders had struck a nerve.
The first committee meeting, with George Carter as Chairman, took place on 27th February 1964 when it was formerly agreed to form the ‘Warrington and District Archaeological and Historical Society’. The Society’s first ordinary meeting was held on 1st April, with a lecture by Dr (later Professor) J.R. Harris on the “Pattens of Warrington and the Copper Industry”. Since then over 350 lectures have taken place (a full list of these can be found on our Past Lectures page).
The original aims of the society were:
- To meet regularly in order to listen to good lectures on local historical and archaeological matters;
- To stimulate members to undertake local historical research and to assist in local archaeological field work;
- To issue publications or a bulletin;
- To assist in local photographic projects;
- To consider affiliation with major historical and archaeological societies; and
- To organise outings to places of historical interest.
The first committee felt it was important that members contribute in a practical way to the archaeology of the area, and to this end they negotiated with Liverpool University to run short courses for the WAHS. The first course of five lectures cost eight shillings and sixpence (42.5p in 21st century currency). The Society also made immediate links with other organisations including The Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and The Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society.
The pattern of the Society’s activities was quickly established with its lecture season running from September through to April interspersed with a members’ quiz or other activity at Christmas and a guided walk or excursion in the Summer. Field excavations were also prominent in first 20 years of the Society’s life with its first excavations taking place in 1965 on a section of the Roman road near Nantwich.
In the past five decades, the Society has met in three different locations. Initially our lectures took place in the Small Art Gallery at Warrington Museum, then in the Central Library in Museum Street and finally, at our current venue, Friars Green Independent Methodist Church in Cairo Street.
In the year 2000, a ‘Millennium Scrapbook’ of over 160 pages was published thanks to a grant of £2,200 awarded by the “Millennium Festival Awards for All” committee. The book comprised a series of short articles by society members on topics as varied as the infamous Jean Paul Marat, who once taught at the Warrington Academy, public timekeeping in Warrington, rugby, pubs and railways. Some of these stories (and other contributions from Society members) are now reproduced in the News & Articles section of this website.
The foundation of the society has been celebrated three times during its history, with its 25th, 40th and 50th anniversaries all being officially marked with a celebratory dinner.
In 2015 the Society shortened its name to the more succinct “Warrington History Society” but apart from that little has changed. Our annual programme of lectures continues to form the backbone of our activities where our members and guests can enjoy listening to fascinating stories about Warrington’s past. Talks are usually on topics concerning Warrington, as well as Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, and Merseyside, but subjects of wider historical and archaeological interest are often featured. Indeed, an attempt is made by our Programme Secretary to keep a balance between these interests at all times.
Now almost 60 years old, the Society itself is part of Warrington’s long proud history, and long may it continue!
If you are interested in becoming a member and supporting our activities please visit our Join Us page.