2010 Annual General Meeting

President’s Report

By Roy Peacock

My strongest impressions of the year concern ‘The Blackcountryman’ and the Committee. Our magazine is a remarkable quarterly production and Mike Pearson, the Editor, is to be thanked for what is an unending responsibility. No sooner is an edition sent out to members than another has to be set up! However, a magazine can only be as good as its contributors. In this respect we can all be pleased that the quality of the articles continues to reveal fascinating stories about the Black Country: its people, its industry and its environment, both past and present. So, we thank all our contributors, together with the magazine sub-committee.

The Society’s main committee has no less than twenty members. This might seem unduly large, but the point is that these are all hard-working people. So large is the membership and so broad are the interests of the Society that a great deal of labour is required. A glance at the many reports for this AGM suggests some of the time-consuming responsibilities carried out so willingly. Just think of the size of the membership, the scale of the finances, the number of publications for sale, the organisation of walks, visits and talks, and the links with other organisations like the Black Country Living Museum. Our thanks are due to them all, but especially to Judith Watkin, our Secretary. The unexpected calls on her time are usually considerable, but she never flinches – at least, not in my sight! And, of course, it has taken the steady control of Charles Hanmer, to keep a degree of control. So we thank him for his many years in the Chair. As for me, I am very pleased to be asked to stay as President for another year. I have been able to do so little as a result of major surgery last Summer but I now have a second chance to promote the project on the Black Country War Memorials.

Secretary’s Report

By Judith Watkin

The Committee of the Black Country Society has continued to organise events for our members. James Morgan has provided us with a series of interesting and informative speakers, the recent talk by Helen Lloyd being particularly well attended and received. We are grateful to Graham Beckley, the Society’s photographer, for also ensuring the smooth running of the programme. Both the walks and excursions programmes have been well supported and our thanks are also due to Dave Galley, the walks co-ordinator, and the excursions programme organisers, Linda Button, Lance Warren and Joan White for all their hard work in finding places to visit. The unexpected sometimes does happen, the closure of Stowe School by a swine flu outbreak leading to a diversion to Claydon House, the home of Florence Nightingale, where the Black Country Society was welcomed with a hastily erected sign. We must commend particularly Lance and his wife for their persistence in rescuing the excursion and the National Trust at Claydon for their warm welcome.

The fifth Black Country History Day in October, organised in partnership with the University of Birmingham, was enjoyed by 150 participants and we are grateful to Dr Malcolm Dick from the Centre for the Study of West Midlands History for Chairing the Day School, due to our President’s illness. Despite this, the President continued to organise the annual Carol Concert and Roy was able to lead the service at St Mary’s, Oldswinford at an early stage of his recovery.

The Black Country Society has welcomed the new Chief Executive of the Black Country Living Museum, Andrew Lovett, courtesy of the local hospitality provided by the Pie Factory at Tipton. The Society continues to be represented on the Museum’s Board by Ron Julian and we are also represented on the West Midlands Canal Partnership by Keith Jeavons, another of our committee members, himself a canal boat owner. Without the efforts of our Treasurer, Tony Copson, Membership Secretary, Linda Button and Alan Pilkington, who co-ordinates the sales of our publications, the Society would not be able to function, and we are grateful for their efforts. Finally, our Chairman, Charles Hanmer has announced his resignation, after ten years of service to the Black Country Society. Charles is going to take on the new challenge of leading the regeneration of Dudley Town Centre and we wish him well in this important new endeavour. During his time as Chairman he has influenced, particularly, the updating of the appearance and layout of the magazine which continues to flourish, under the editorship of Mike Pearson, with Martyn Round as the assistant editor. We are pleased that Charles has agreed to continue to serve as a committee member, in spite of the new demands on his time.

Membership Secretary’s Report

By Linda Button

Current membership stands at 1777 and we were pleased to welcome 91 new members to the Society during 2009. Thirty five members gave gift subscriptions to family and friends. We have a number of overseas members but we would like to recruit more as there must be many people with an interest in the Black Country. We encourage all members to take part in our various activities and to tell their friends about the Society.

Treasurer’s Report Year Ended 30 June 2009

By Tony Copson

The accounts have again been prepared by Yates & Co (now part of the Siviter Greenfield group of accountants and business advisors) and a copy signed by the Chairman and Treasurer is available for inspection. Financially the Society has again had a successful year, although there are three worrying trends of which the Committee is aware - the income from subscriptions continues to fall because of our failure to attract sufficient new members and the half price membership offer to new members is not generally being followed up by second year renewals; magazine production costs and postage will inevitably increase but these are manageable within our present income; the surplus from the sale of publications kept up with last year but cannot be guaranteed. Donations included £1,500 to the Black Country Living Museum ( made up of £1,000 to the Streets Ahead appeal to secure and dedicate a bench in the new Folkes’s Park, inscribed ‘The Black Country Society, Founded 1967’, and £500 as a donation towards bricks for the Workers Institute ) and £150 for an advert in the Mary Stevens Hospice calendar. Website expenses include an upgrade to the editor’s operating system and a contribution towards the cost of a new computer. The new equipment shown under Fixed Assets is £1,740 paid for a display stand and mounted photo quality prints purchased in August 2008 A sub-committee is currently in the process of improving the layout of ‘The Blackcountryman’ which we hope will attract new members and advertisers, and we are seeking to widen the variety of speakers at the Dudley meetings. To conclude, our financial position gives the Society a solid base for the future and to reverse the decline in the membership on which it depends.

Website Report

By Mike Pearson

Unfortunately the website always plays second fiddle to the magazine. I have always had great plans for development, but these require the time to carry them out. Wholesale change is out of the question for the time being, but I do still have plans to refresh how the site looks. In terms of content, I will hopefully soon be able to add more material from projects I have in my possession from a variety of sources, selected articles from past issues of the magazine and photographs.

It has always been my desire to have a Black Country Society photograph archive. I am aware that there are many thousands of photographs of the Black Country, taken over a long period of time. Some of these may be made available to us in due course, but you, as members, may hold many unpublished images. Any photograph collection must be properly organised and ensure that the proper permission to reproduce images has been obtained. I have been sent a number of images and have some more that can be reproduced, but if you have photographs, digital or printed, then please consider allowing them to join our collection. If any are used, either in the magazine or on the website, full credit will be given to the owner. I do not want to keep any printed photographs, as the archive will be a digital one. Any images sent will be returned once they have been scanned, and can be returned either by hand or via recorded delivery.

I am also interested in historic documents. These do belong in the local archives, but that does not mean that they cannot be digitised, so they can be used and distributed through the website or via CD-ROM. I am currently looking at the Dudley Chamber of Commerce minute books and have photographed one volume. I am also negotiating to obtain some other minute books as well as a number of deeds, once digitised these will probably be deposited in a local archive, where they can be preserved in their original form. Again, please contact me if you have anything you think might be appropriate to join our archive.

Magazine Report

By Mike Pearson

I hope you will agree that The Blackcountryman goes from strength to strength. Despite another change of printer, due to the economic downturn, we are hopefully giving you the magazine you want. The Winter issue saw some “style” changes to the magazine, feedback has all been positive so far. We hope to be able to develop the magazine even further during 2010. One possible change will be to increase the number of inside pages from 84 to 88, with the additional pages hopefully being in colour. This gives us greater flexibility and a better ability to include photographs, something I know that many of you are keen on. We may also be able to move to full colour at some stage, this will be partly dependant on advertising income, something that we will be looking at throughout 2010.

We felt that it was time to have a small editorial sub-committee to look at the magazine and how it could be developed. Martyn Round has been Deputy Editor for some time now; he has been joined by Judith Watkin and Frank Cox. This gives me a group of people to assess how to improve the magazine, two proof readers to spot my deliberate (and not so deliberate) mistakes as well as three consciences for my decision making. The mix works very well, Martyn has many years of experience in the printing industry, Judith is a former teacher and Frank is a good judge of what looks right. Whilst the Editor’s decision is final, I have always sought and appreciate feedback on my way of doing things. We believe that the magazine is as good as any professionally produced publications, and looking at the price some other societies charge for membership, very good value for money.

I cannot be at the AGM, but hopefully Judith, Martyn and Frank will be there. If you have any comments to make on The Blackcountryman please feel free to pass them on, or you can always email me at editor (at) blackcountrysociety.co.uk.

Black Country Society – Kingswinford Branch

By Keith Jeavons

The Branch has enjoyed a very varied programme during the year. Membership continues to be buoyant, but we are always pleased to see new members and make them welcome at our meetings at St Mary’s Church Centre, The Village, Kingswinford on the third Wednesday each month at 7.45pm.

Vic Smallshire took us through a detailed visit to Baggeridge Pit. This was followed by a fascinating insight of the development of Malvern as a Spa town. On other occasions Ian Bott, a Society member, reminded us of the lost mansions of the Black Country and Black Country Burials. These were just a small selection of our evenings. Every effort is made to provide a rich variety of talks and visits. We held the usual Mince & Wine evening at Christmas. The New Year’s programme was welcomed with an evening of music provided by the St Mary’s Hand Bell ringers, who were hindered or helped by members of the Branch practising their hand bell ringing skills.

In June we will hold our AGM followed by the traditional buffet and all members are invited to join us.

The Industrial Archaeology Group

By Pete Glews and Keith Hodgkins

Members have continued to research and record the activities of life and work in the Black Country region and have enjoyed two ‘get-togethers’ for a meal Ma Pardoe’s (The Old Swan) at Netherton. The Manchester Industrial and Science Museum was the destination for the Group’s annual visit last July. The IA Group is restructuring its activities for 2010, launching a new series of evening lectures by Group members on the first Wednesday of each month at the Pumphouse (HQ of the Dudley Canal Trust), Peartree Lane, Dudley at 7.30pm. On Wednesday 5th May 2010 Keith Hodgkins will consider ‘The Last Days at Round Oak’, using the photographic record he made during its closure. For details of the rest of the programme see ‘The Blackcountryman’ or the Black Country Society’s website www.blackcountrysociety.co.uk. Both members and non-members are welcome to attend.