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Another year and lots to do, so to start this years newsletter I would like to ask for help. If you have any spare time to help with research (start with your own house or your part of the village) or help with the May Open Day or making tea at our meetings. Any help at all would be appreciated.

Now lets look back over the past year. Our first meeting in Feb was our AGM after the business part of the evening with all the officers being voted back we had a most interesting and colourful talk by Barry Kaufmann-Wright on ‘Wildlife in the Garden'. Barry seems to get the most wonderful wildlife photos, we must thank him for sharing these with us. He must have endless patience.

Bill Hardy came in April his talk ‘The History of Thorley Post' most interesting to see the old photos of the old post office and of course the Thorley post mark stamp. At the end Bill presented us with a post card with a Little Hallingbury post mark. Both Thorley and Little Hallingbury post marks are rare. Perhaps given todays situation we should research the history of Little Hallingbury post office. There is reference to a post office in Little Hallingbury in Kelly's Directory 1845 onwards.

Anne Padfield came in June and gave us a fascinating talk on ‘Hearth and Homes'. Only the very rich could afford chimneys the rest cooked over an open fire with the smoke escaping through the roof hence evidence of sooted beams in 15th century houses. With bricks becoming affordable around 1600 chimneys and bread ovens were built.

In July our speaker was Brian Hilton with a talk titled ‘The History of Irons'. I must say before the talk I did wonder if this would be interesting. I need not have worried, what a wonderful collection I had no idea how many different types of irons there are both in this country and all over the world. This was both interesting and most unusual.

Our visit last year was to Ashdon Museum what an excellent collection this is. An Aladins cave full of local history, set out beautifully. The evening finished with tea and homemade cakes.

‘London to Cambridge by Waterway' was the talk given by David Young. This of course is not the straight London to Cambridge as we know it, but up country across and down to Cambridge. Some very good navigation was needed in some of the stretches, especially the foot tunnel, were you lay on your back and push your way through using your feet on the side of the tunnel.

William Tyler came again this time the talk ‘A War to end all Wars'. He was highly critical of both politicians and generals for the lack of relationship between them. William always comes up with a good talk.

Jacqueline Cooper came to tell us all about the excavations around Clavering Castle. Jacqueline managed to get funding for this project, but like us there is still much more to do.

We ended the year with our cheese and wine. Our chance to chat about all our events.

Our main event last year was the Open Day. As well as the display of our growing collection of history, we had a collection of old tools, a collection of old household items and this year our vintage tractors were joined by some beautiful vintage cars.

We hope the speakers this year will be as interesting and entertaining as last year. We start with our AGM on Monday 11th Feb Anne Padfield on ‘Traditional Essex Houses' The following have been booked for meetings throughout the year. Jonathan Dick - ‘The Mossman Carriage Collection'. Lady Diana Kemp-Welsh - ‘A Year as High Sheriff'. William Tyler - ;Wellington & Napoleon'. John Drury - ‘Essex Workhouses'. Stephen Ruff - ‘Buntingford Branch Line'. Alan Hart - ‘The Salvation Army'. For next years AGM we have our friend William Tyler again his talk ‘The Saxon Kingdom of Essex'.

We are still continuing with the idea of a building at the back of the village hall, but this all takes time, but lets hope we will get there in the end.

Last year we had all the excitement of Carenza Lewis and the Cambridge University Academy who came to the village and dug 12 test pits in our gardens. Carenza will be coming to talk to our society about these test pits and what was found on Monday Feb 25th at 8pm. This will be for members only. I will have a list at the AGM for you to put your names on if you would like to come. This will give us an idea of numbers. People who opened their gardens will be having an invite. I am sure this will be most fascinating. Instead of the usual entrance fee we will be having a raffle.

Carenza and the team will be coming again this year on 26th & 27th March. We will be looking for 14 test pits, so how about your garden? Size of test pits 1 metre square about 1 metre deep.

We would like to thank all who have helped over the past year in so many ways with research, setting up displays, raffles, cakes, stalls, bric-a-brac, teas and the list goes on. I would just like to mention a special thanks to Fred Flight who has now transcribed 71 of those old documents. I think he must now be classed as an expert, and Colin who continues to produce voice recordings, the last one recorded is Life in our Village by Betty Rogers. This now brings the total of his recordings to nine.

This year our Open Day will be on Sunday 11th May please make a note of this in your diaries and spread the word. This year we hope to have a few more classic cars. If you have any more ideas for display or fundraising for this event they would be most welcome. Finally if you have any items for the bric-a-brac stall we are collecting now, contact Mel or Sue.

Thank you for your support we look forward to an enjoyable year.