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Local History research has been a core activity of the Society to support achieving each of its four charitable object clauses. The Society would not have won so many of the planning inquiries concerning listed buildings and conservation areas if we had not presented well researched historical evidence about those buildings and their setting.
The Yateley Society History Group was one of the two research groups set up when the Yateley Society was inaugurated on January 1981.
In 1982 the Society sponsored a major research project into Yateley’s past. This was run by the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) as a tutorial class following an introductory series of lectures. A major achievement of this project was the collation, and transcription of over 200 pre-1700 wills and inventories, as well as several publications.
For other members fortnightly ‘How to Do It” meetings were organised mainly to research Yateley’s old houses. This research contributed to a substantial increase in numbers of listed buildings and the eventually to the designation of two further Conservation Areas.
The second five years, from 1987 – 1992, was mainly devoted to researching the history of Yateley’s major listed buildings, spurred on by planning applications for development which would affect them. The Society’s evidence was pivotal in refusing development or encouraging sensitive development.
The major achievement of this period was guiding the successful transition of Yateley Hall, a notable early Norman Shaw house built round a mediaeval building. This grade II* building was converted from a convent school to the headquarters of a major financial group, without compromising the buildings historical integrity.
From 1991 – 1998, the History Group devoted its greatest efforts towards computerising its existing historical records for Yateley creating a resource which allows many historical questions to be answered with remarkable speed .
Since 1998, the computerisation of the historical records has continued, but more attention has been given to understanding Yateley’s historic economy, its important connections with the East India Company, and tracing the genealogy of some of the more important local Yateley families.
The Society has produced a number of local history exhibitions with the intention of informing the public about the history of Yateley. Initially these were held at the annual May Fayre but were subsequently mounted in Yateley Library in conjunction with the Society’s Annual ‘Library Lecture’, sponsored by Hampshire Library Service.
The last annual Lecture and Exhibition was held in 2005 after exhibition space was severely restricted by the refurbishment of Yateley Library and the downgrading of the library to satellite status.
Since the last exhibition was mounted in 2005 we have concentrated on making the Society’s archive more widely available to members, and non-members around the world.
When the Society launched its own website in 1998 a conscious decision was made to invite enquiries from family historians around the world. These would be answered free of charge in exchange for information provided by the recipient.
The Yateley Society gets more Local History enquiries about an institution called The Haven than any other single aspect of Yateley’s History. The Haven was a “mother and baby” home run by the Baptist Union for unmarried mothers to come and have their babies. It was opened in 1945, and closed in 1970. Almost 1,800 babies were born there, many of whom have contacted the Society’s website for information about their birthplace.
This year (2011) may see a revival of Local History Research because of the specific requirement to provide a historical basis for the re-appraisals of Yateley’s three Conservation Areas.
There is an impression about that the Society has ‘completed’ the history of Yateley. This is nonsense. There is much to be learnt from the existing archives but there will be even more from the classes of documents not yet transcribed — and those which we as yet do not even know exist.
The Yateley Society is a founder member of the Berkshire Hampshire Surrey Heathlands Local History and Archaeology Research Forum