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The Gillingham Historian March 2024

The Newsletter for Gillingham Local History Society and Museum

March 2024 Volume 14 Number 3

7.00pm Tuesday 19th March at Wyke Primary School (doors open at 6.30pm for refreshments


The Parish Registers: A Social History by Ted Udall

First instituted in England during the reign of Henry VIII, parish  registers are vital sources of information for family historians.      This talk takes a light-hearted look at the origins of these documents, their subsequent development and some of the unintended consequences of their use.


Ted Udall says: “I have been researching my family history since 1986, the original inspiration being some old photographs and artefacts left by my grandmother. In that time, I have discovered family lines stretching back into (among others) West Dorset, the Home Counties and Ireland. In more recent years I have started to give talks on the subject. I am currently (2024) the secretary of the Somerset & Dorset Family History Society.”


 SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP          Annual subscriptions were due on 1st January and reminders have been sent to all members. If you are a follower of the Historian, and not a member, you can join the Society through the website or request an application form from the Museum.       Please support the Museum. which is entirely run by volunteers.


The image left, from the Museum, is a reminder that sea creatures once lived in this part of Britain.



The Western Gazette of 1 October 1937 reported the visit of representatives of the   British Museum to Gillingham to examine the bones and fossils found at the Gillingham Pottery’s clay pits in Oldlands Lane (later known as New Road). This was probably the area around today’s fishing lakes.

“Workmen, while digging in the newly-opened clay pits, found 12 or 14 feet below the surface a bone which is undoubtedly part of the skeleton of an animal of remarkable size, and further bones of corresponding size and shape have since been unearthed close by and at the same depth. Bones found previously included one about 40ft. long, which was assumed to be the backbone of one of these monsters – stated to be 60 or 100ft. in length – which apparently in days gone by lived in the swamp where Gillingham now stands. These bones, which have been the subject of great interest to authorities on natural history, are now in museums, and the most recent finds are shortly to be despatched to the British Museum.

The reptile of which these bones are thought to be the remains is the Plesiosaurus, whose form is described as follows:- To the head of a lizard it united the teeth of a crocodile, a neck of enormous length resembling the body of a serpent, a trunk and tail having the proportions of an ordinary quadruped, the ribs of a chameleon, the paddles of a whale.                                                                                                                                                   Both fore and hind limbs are stated to have been well developed for swimming, and the bones found recently are thought to be from the hind limb or ‘paddle’.”     

Remains of the Plesiosaurus have been found in Britain, Europe, India, Australia and America.

In 1823 Mary Anning, of Lyme Regis, made history by unearthing the complete skeleton of a Plesiosaur which is displayed at The Natural History Museum. See below.


The image above left shows a piece of Plesiosaur bone in Gillingham Museum and the image right is a Plesiosauran femur found in Gillingham in 1927 and held by the Natural History Museum.



Volunteers needed

 Due to long-serving volunteers leaving at Easter, we will be very short of people to keep to the existing Museum opening times. We particularly need stewards for MONDAY, FRIDAY and SATURDAY mornings. The Museum hours are 10-00 to 12-30. The duties are not demanding but involve being present to welcome and provide information to visitors, and also to open and close the premises as needed. Full guidance will be provided. We are looking for people prepared to commit themselves to a regular time, but it might be possible for a time to be shared on a rota basis.

 Please remember that as members of the Society this is YOUR Museum, and unless someone is prepared to step up to these needs, our opening times and activities will have to be considerably curtailed.

Anyone who feels they might be able to take on this role should contact the Museum at, and your offer will be much appreciated. Thanks, John Porter, Asst. Curator.


Barbara Hurst organises the speakers for our monthly meetings and would appreciate suggestions from members. If you hear an interesting or entertaining talk, either on a local  history topic or by a local historian but not on a local topic, please let her know.


She also needs help promoting our talks, so if you have access to a noticeboard, perhaps at a village hall, shop or church, and could put up our posters, she would be very grateful. And do feel free to offer any fresh ideas you might have 01747 825646.




Can you identify anyone in the photo below? It is probably a Gillingham group. This was donated to the Museum recently.

Was it taken in 1924 in connection with the British Empire Exhibition opened by King George V on 23 April 1924?



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