On Saturday 5th October 2013 at the Farnham Pottery, Lady Jan Verney was the guest of honour at a very special lunch party held at the Farnham Pottery. The occasion, hosted by the Farnham Building Preservation Trust, was part of the celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Sir John Verney, Bt, MC, TD, 1913-1993, distinguished soldier, writer, artist and conservationist, who lived in Farnham from 1944 to 1977. There were over 100 specially invited guests present, including a large group of the Verney family representing four generations, as well as many of the people who had known and worked with John Verney in Farnham.
John Verney’s work as an ardent conservationist had a very great influence in Farnham and had it not been for him, many buildings which are treasured today as part of the town’s exceptional architectural heritage might no longer exist. He was a man who devoted himself to the service of his fellow citizens, and he left Farnham with friends in every walk of life.
He was a chairman of the Farnham Society, and in 1968 he founded the Farnham Building Preservation Trust, which in its 45 years of existence has saved many important Farnham buildings large and small. In 1969 he led the campaign to save the Maltings from demolition, and from 1968 until 1974 he was an Independent member of what was then Farnham Urban District Council, until it was replaced by Waverley.
Martin Lloyd, chairman of the Farnham Trust, said that he was honoured and delighted to welcome Lady Verney to the lunch party, together with members of her family. He recalled some of the many restoration projects undertaken in Farnham by the trust since its foundation, including saving the Farnham Pottery from demolition, which had been the trust’s biggest project to date, and he described some of the important and influential work the trust continues to do today.
The next speaker was Laurence Kinney, a founder member of the Farnham Trust, who recalled Sir John’s sense of humour and his essential fairness even to those with whom he had not always seen eye to eye. Juliet Verney, one of Sir John’s daughters, spoke next, with a tribute to the way her mother had efficiently managed a large house and six children so that her husband was free to carry on with all his work, his painting, and his many interests.
Finally, architect Michael Blower, President of the Farnham Trust, spoke of some of the work he had done with John Verney. He had served as a member of a working party led by John Verney which had the task of identifying the many Farnham buildings of historical or architectural importance which had been missed when the Statutory List was introduced in 1947. Michael Blower recalled John Verney’s determination to save the Farnham Maltings, and his complaint that those who hesitated were “a hotbed of cold feet”. With typical farsightedness, he had been concerned as early as the 1970s about the preservation of the unique buildings at the Farnham Pottery, which were deteriorating, and Michael Blower described how eventually, in 1998, when the buildings were at imminent risk of demolition by developers, the Farnham Trust was able to step in, acquire them, and carry out a careful restoration.
The speeches were followed by two presentations by the Farnham Trust to the new owners of the Farnham Pottery, Guy and Elaine Hains. The first, presented by Dennis Pratt, treasurer of the Trust, was a watercolour painting of the pottery done by John Verney in 1946. The second, presented by past trustee Denise Todd, was a collection of items of the highly prized greenware produced by the pottery in the past. These had been purchased through the generosity of Langley Potters, a Buckinghamshire group who had for several years donated the proceeds of their annual sales.
Many parts of the Farnham Pottery buildings were opened to visitors for the occasion although building work was in progress. Thanks to the Farnham Trust and their successors Guy and Elaine Hains, the buildings are safely rescued and being used in ways which are appropriate to their unique character. It was therefore fitting and symbolic of his work that the centenary lunch honouring Sir John Verney was held at the pottery which he had loved and had been so anxious to save.
BISHOP’S MEADOW TRUST CELEBRATES AT A LUNCH HOSTED BY SIR RAY TINDLE.
July 16th 2012 was a new red letter day for the Farnham calendar as it marked the date on which The Bishop’s Meadow Trust became the owner of a further 12 acres of meadows by the River Wey, making its holding in all about 30 acres.
The remarkable achievement came just two-and-a-half years after the land was put up for sale by the Marshall family.
The final purchase was made possible by the timely intervention of the Farnham Building Preservation Trust, who were able to offer Bishop’s Meadow Trust a loan for the amount required for the final purchase, on very favourable terms.
The Trust has now amended its articles of association to extend its remit to include purchase of land. However, pending this change being made, the Farnham Trust recognised the importance of the Bishop’s Meadow, as open space of historic significance, at the heart of Farnham and offered the loan to The Bishop’s Meadow Trust to enable it to secure the final piece of land.
“The campaign to raise we money to purchase tile meadows has been remarkable” said Jo Aylwin, chairman of the Bishop’s Meadow Trust.
“The Bishop’s Meadow Trust was formed by the passion of a few people, worried about what wouold happen to the meadows if they were sold. Our concerns were picked up by The Farnham Society who, with great efficiency, called a public meeting to test public opinion.
“The outcome of that meeting was that there was wider concern and people were happy to pledge money to the BMT with a view of it being able to purchase the land.
“We could not, however, raise sufficient in the time allowed to prevent the sale taking place.
“Our next lucky intervention came from Sir Ray Tindle, who stepped forward and offered to purchase the land outright in order to give the BMT time to raise the money needed.
“Both Sir Ray personally and The Farnham Herald as a company have made substantial contributions towards the purchase, over and above what was effectively an interest-free loan for two-and-a-half years.
“To have then had substantial support from the Farnham Trust to enable the purchase to be completed is fantastic. It says a lot for this town that this land has been purchased by the combined efforts of over 600 private individuals, giving donations between £1 and £25,000, the support of The Farnham Herald, and co-operation and support from both The Farnham Society and Farnham Trust.” The good news is that the purchase was completed in July 2012 with the aid of a £75,000 loan from the Farnham Building Preservation Trust.
The Bishop’s Meadow Trust is a registered charity. It will have to continue fund raising and welcomes new members who would like to donate and be involved. For further information see www.bishopsmeadowtrust.org.
On Friday 24th June 2011, The Farnham (Building Preservation) Trust exchanged contracts to sell its freehold interest in the Grade II listed Farnham Pottery in Wrecclesham to Mr and Mrs Hains for an undisclosed figure.
Purchased by the Trust in 1998, the Pottery was being offered for sale through commercial property expert Hollis Hockley at a guide price in excess of £400,000.
It was understood that the new owners would be working with The Farnham Pottery Trust, the ceramics based educational business, to ensure the site’s future as a centre for local pottery and ceramics.
David Graham, Vice-Chairman of the Farnham Building Preservation Trust, said: “When we purchased the pottery 12 years ago it was the Trust’s aim to ensure the conservation of the site and its buildings for future generations as a valuable example of local industrial architecture and heritage. This has been achieved and the sale to Mr and Mrs Hains assures not only the buildings’ ongoing preservation but also its future use as a centre for traditional pottery and ceramics.
“The proceeds from the sale will allow the Trust to move on to other projects in Farnham and reinvest the funds to safeguard the future of other historical properties that are intrinsically important to the fabric and character of the town.”