History of the Society
Over 40 years ago, on 25 October 1974, more than 50 people met in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall to found the Cowbridge and District Local History Society. It was a time when Cowbridge was fighting to retain its ancient Grammar School, when new estates were being built, and when the High Street was being revitalised now that the by-pass was in operation.
The influential figures behind this local venture included Norman Williams, then mayor of Cowbridge, Miss Maud Gunter, a senior teacher at the Girls' High School, and Cecil England. The constitution declared the new Society would "foster interest in the history of Cowbridge and District'', ''promote research into local history'' and ''preserve documents and other records''. Annual subscription would be £1 but OAPs and students could join for 50p.
An early stalwart of the Society was Yvonne Weeding as Excursions Secretary. She was already well known locally for the series of classes she gave on local architecture. In 1977 she became the Society's Chairman, a post she was to hold for more than 20 years.
By 1978, membership had doubled to over 100. A formative influence on developments was the fact that the Cardiff University's Extra-mural Department began classes in local history in Old Hall, the first series given by Philip Riden in 1977. Later, Brian Ll. James took over, to be succeeded by Jeff Alden when he retired as Head of the Sixth Form at Cowbridge Comprehensive School.
Norman Williams had started to collect copies of important local documents but it was the Extramural activities that exposed the
need for detailed research on Cowbridge, especially on its town plan and its wealth of ancient buildings. This resulted in the founding of the Cowbridge Record Society, which was registered as a charity with Jeff Alden and Brian Ll. James as leading lights. Its main purpose was to research and record the history of people and places in and around Cowbridge and to publish the results in a series of books.
From the very beginning, the Society adopted a brief to examine local planning policies and plans, and to comment on them – especially with respect to developments in the Conservation Areas of Cowbridge and Llanblethian, including their Listed Buildings of which there are more than 90.
Sadly, in 2007 the Society lost the services of its long-standing Chairman, Jeff Alden. The History Room was established in his memory with his wife Betty as curator. When Dick Buswell took over as Chairman, there was considerable overlap in the objectives and the membership of the two existing societies. It is not perhaps surprising that one of his first tasks was to oversee their merger and the creation of the Cowbridge History Society, with a revised constitution and retained charitable status.
Today, this new society has a membership of about 90, remarkably similar to that of 40 years ago. It is as strong as ever in spirit but always welcoming of new members, especially those of a less advanced age! As in the beginning, we still meet on the first Friday of each month between October and May in the Lesser Hall. Membership may now be £7.50 but in real terms that is not much more than the original £1.00 of 1974!
Links with other organisations
The Cowbridge History Society is affiliated with:
The British Association for Local History: www.balh.org.uk
The Glamorgan History Society: www.glamorganhistory.org
Bonvilston History Group: www.bonvilstonhistory.co.uk
Llantwit Major History Society: www.llantwitmajorhistorysociety.co.uk
St Hilary Village: www.sthilary.org.uk/village-archives