6th March 2013: AGM / What is a Castle?

Wednesday 6th March saw an absolutely packed audience gather in the Lady Joanna Thornhill School for the Annual General Meeting of the Society. Chaired by its President, Ian Coulson, the business of the evening was dispatched in timely manner: the minutes of the last AGM were adopted (with one minor amendment) and reports from the Secretary and the Treasurer were duly noted. The Society's finances are in good shape and the sale of publications, in particular, brought in a healthy income during the year.

This AGM saw the retirement of two long-standing members of the Committee: Averil Clayton who has served as Secretary for over twenty years, and Mary Tidnam, the Programme Secretary, who has served for seventeen. The Society's Chairman, David de Saxe, thanked them heartily for their commitment and wished them well in the future. David agreed to serve a further year as Chairman, Jenny Oram was elected the Society's new Secretary and Karen Mitcalfe and Ellie Morris (both having served as co-opted members over the past year) were elected to the committee to take on responsibility for the meetings' programme and the Society's website.

The Society will be running two excursions this year. The first on 23rd April to Maidstone will include a guided walk led by Ian Coulson and a Museum tour. The second, on 3rd July will be to Eltham Palace and Gardens. Further information can be obtained from Celia Roberts. The AGM concluded with a discussion of the starting time for meetings. It was agreed by a large majority to bring the time forward to 7.30pm beginning with the first meeting of the new season in October.

The AGM was followed by a lively presentation by Ian Coulson on "What is a Castle?" Far from being a fortification built solely for attack and defence, the concept of the castle has been reinterpreted over recent years as research, particularly into their architecture, has emphasised their multi-functional character. Like country houses, castles were places to be lived in - lordly dwellings, built on a grand scale to reflect the status and prestige of their owners. Architecturally they were designed as much to impress as for defence.

The talk was lavishly illustrated and deftly followed the course of history from Norman times, through Romanesque and Gothic to Renaissance castles. One fascinating feature was the use made by architects of lakes, in which the massive proportions of a castle, and the sense of awe engendered by them, could be doubled by the castle's reflection in the surrounding water.

Jenny Oram