Westbury Branch meetings 

The Westbury Area Branch meet every 4th Thursday of the month at 7.15pm in the
foyer of Westbury's Methodist Church [November - February meeting are held on Zoom] See below for details of topics future and past. Everyone is welcome and there is no charge. Tea/coffee available before the meeting, with time to chat before and after the talk

Please scroll down for contact details
Future Meetings
Thursday 26th October -   Helen Frisby - Traditions of Death and Burial. 
Death has been a source of grief and uncertainty for humanity throughout history, but it has also been the inspiration for a plethora of fascinating customs and much human creativity. This talk with Dr Helen Frisby, author of the Shire book Traditions of Death and Burial, explores English death and burial customs from the Norman Conquest right through to the present day and the impact of Covid-19. From winding-sheets to funeral bells, angels to the Alexa Ghostbot, together we’ll discover how ritual continues helping us to relate to the dead, in ways which are at once innovative and longstanding.
Helen has taught history at the University of the West of England, Bristol, and funeral directing at the University of Bath where she’s also a Visiting Research Fellow. Helen is also Secretary of the Association for the Study of Death and Society, and a Council Member and Trustee of the Folklore Society. Helen has appeared on BBC Radio and The History Channel, and continues to research and publish on topics relating to death, funerals and bereavement, past and present.
Thursday 26th November - Meeting on Zoom - TBC
Past meetings
Thursday 28th September - Research Evening
Thursday 24th August- Sally Hendy -  Westbury’s Quaker Graveyard  in the grounds of Pinnegar & Finch, solicitors in Church Street was probably first used in 1720 and was then in existence for almost a century, with the last recorded burial in 1814. Sally told us what has been learnt about the Matravers family members who were buried there and the rise and fall of Quakers in our community. 
Thursday 27th July - Visit to the Wiltshire FHS Resource Centre, Devizes
Thursday 22nd June - Steve Hobbs - Reading 16th and 17th century handwriting
Thursday 25th May - AGM and Show and Tell evening. 'Correspondence from the past'
Thursday 27th April - David Birks - Origins, development and redevelopment of Trowbridge  Museum. David Birks is the Museum's Learning and Outreach Officer responsible for formal and informal learning within the museum, which encompasses school workshops, holiday crafts for families, reminiscence work in care and residential home and what is termed Lifelong Learning, which covers walks, talks and crafts for adults. David's background is in fine art, and although still practising as a printmaker at home, he is more likely to be found dressed as a Victorian gentleman or a Saxon peasant nowadays. David's talk traces the museum's beginnings with the Garlick Bequest, how the collections grew through various gifts, before finding a permanent home in Salter's Mill. The story will be brought bang up-to-date with the latest redevelopment and reopening in 2021. There will be slides illustrating the talk and David will attempt to answers any questions afterwards.
Thursday 23rd March - Meeting in person at the Methodist Church Foyer - Speaker Graham Warmington. - History of Bratton Baptist Church.  Graham Warmington will be looking at the history of Bratton Baptist Chapel, His story will begin with a love story between a member of the Reeves family in the village and the pastor of the Baptist Church in Westbury. The history of the chapel stretches from the time of persecution when the local worshippers had to meet in secrecy in Earlstoke Woods, to the time when they were able to build their own chapel which has evolved as their place of worship ever since. The story includes the involvement of the Reeves and Whitakker families (featured in the book "Sheep Bell and Ploughshare"), plus its relationships with the other churches in the area right up to today.
Thursday 23rd February  - On Zoom - John Hanson -'The 1939 Register explained.' The key to getting the best from anything is understanding it and the process involved in the first place. Something like the 1939 Register is no different so the lecture will look at the history behind the 1939, its release, and the problems that exist because of its difference anything else. It will also try to show how to get the best from it and find those elusive people.
Thursday January 26th 2023 
We were very pleased to welcome Jackie Depelle to our zoom meeting who helped us with our series of talks on the 20th century census' with the talk 'Bridging the Gap : tracing forwards from 1911' She explained the basic research strategy for building a family tree is to work from the Known to the Unknown however it can be difficult to make connections back to census records. Now the 1921 census is available that can be worked in conjunction with other documents which can be used to provide details of our ancestors' lives across this potential awkward time period.  The talk reviewed several identifying chronological timelines which can help keep our research focussed.  Many are obvious, some perhaps unexpected as a sample case study reveals picking up from First World War Internment.
On December 15th we swapped our evening talk for a lunchtime of chat and a Christmas Meal.
Thursday November 24th the group was joined by John Hanson for our meeting on zoom. A former trustee of the Society of Genealogists and the current Research Director for the Halsted Trust. John told us 'How to get the best from the 1921 Census'. John also gave us an insight to the history behind the 1921 and its release.
Thursday October 27th the booked speaker was unable to attend  so we used the opportunity to add to the Tanyard Project research using the 1921 census. 
On the week-end of September 30th/Oct 1st we staged an Exhibition about Charles Case and Son, the tan yard and leather works at Westbury Leigh, as part of the Westbury Festival. This exhibition was the of work Westbury Area Family History branch, Heritage Society and Dilton Marsh History Group. The other two groups looked at the buildings and business, while the family history Group have been finding more about the men and women who worked there during the eighty plus year it was trading. This is an ongoing project. The exhibition was very well attended, and we were able to add to our research from other people memories.
On Thursday 22nd September we held a Research Evening with the group helping one another with ideas to crack brick walls in their research.

On Thursday 25th August we welcomed Patrick Cogswsell who told us about the Life and Adventures of Reginald James Cogswell. He began life as an engineering apprentice in Westbury Iron Works and, amongst other distinctions was decorated with the MBE for his part in the Battle of the River Plate whilst serving on HMS Exeter. Partick gave us more details of Reginald's early life, his naval career and the battle that lead to his decoration.

On Thursday 28th July the scheduled talk had to be postponed at very short notice. This talk will take place at a later date.  Thankfully Ashley Jones, who has spoken to the group before, kindly offered to step into the breach with a very enjoyable talk on the 'History of Comics'. Enjoyed by children for generations since 1874 it is interesting how they reflected social and historical events. Looking past the story lines we can see changes in fashion over the years and also social attitudes. We all found ours selves remembering the ones we badgered our parents to buy for us and the annual  that was wrapped up under the tree for us at Christmas.


 Meetings: Methodist Church, Station Road, Westbury BA13 3HA, (Click for map) fourth Thursday each month 7.15pm

Contact - Mrs Lynne Vercoe   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


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