Origins of East Meon History Group

The Group originally met in members’ houses

Until 2010, there was no historical society in East Meon. Freddie Standfield, a solicitor and prominent resident of the village, had written ‘The History of East Meon’, published by Phillimore in 1984, was an authoritative record, and successive vicars had written and spoken on the history of All Saints Church. When Michael Blakstad established a village website in 2005, there was a page on its history, and it generated a number of enquiries from people from all around the world about their antecedents in East Meon which prompted him to publish these two articles in the parish magazine.

These are extracts from two articles written for Meon Matters in January and May 2010, seeking to establish whether there would be an interest in forming a History Group.

Interested?  March 2010

We’d like to establish whether others are interested in learning about our past. As previously described in Meon Matters, the website has generated a lot of interesting queries and information, including the Saxon ‘royal peculiar’ . I have been asked to put people in touch with the East Meon Historical Society …. Thinking about it, we have more history than many villages with very active societies and it is perhaps an anomaly that we don’t have one.

It would be interesting to get together and discuss what topics interest people and whether we might invite those who have done research to give talks to a small group. If anyone would like to spend an evening talking about the possibilities, please contact me.

Looking into the History of the Village, May 2010

East Meon now has the beginnings of a Historical Society. Following the article in the January edition of Meon Matters, sufficient people made contact and we organised a meeting in March at which we discussed how the group might operate.

We agreed it should be a small, highly informal group, numbering no more than 20. We shall arrange a mixture of talks by visiting speakers, tours and visits plus, importantly, active research into the history of East Meon. All these activities will focus on East Meon whilst looking at the wider context in which each subject is framed. We also want to record and index the topics on which talks take place or research is conducted.

We have already had two such events. At that first meeting, we were treated to an entertaining and very wide-ranging talk on the history of Christianity in East Meon (and the wider Meon Valley) by a local barrister, Tim Concannon. He believes that in Saxon times, East Meon was a ‘monastic settlement’, so important that the great Saxon King Edgar granted ‘that famous place which the locals have always called Aet Meon’ to his grandmother Eadgifu, who retired here to live a holy life. How things change ….

Those of us lucky enough to live in one of the more ancient village houses have come to welcome visits by learned parties led by Edward Roberts, who used to teach the History of Buildings at what is now the University of Winchester. Because Tricia and I have put The Tudor House on the market, it was suggested that Edward be invited back to give the neophyte society a guided tour of this building, which he did on a chilly evening in early May.

If you would like to join this group, do get in touch. There are still a few places open!

Michael Blakstad

So, the Group  started as a bunch of interested people, no academic historians among us, interested in arranging and listening to talks on local history and in visiting nearby sites of interest. Because most of our meetings took place in the sitting rooms of members, we limited our membership to 30, a third of whom are content to attend talks and go on visits.

A minority, however, wanted to go further, and in our second year we embarked on research into the ‘historic buildings’ of East Meon – not just the big and old, but also some smaller, newer houses which had been lived in by less well-off villagers. From this modest beginning grew a membership of 50 or more, a regular programme of talks and visits, and a number of activities which research and promote the history of East Meon.