SHERINGHAM AND DISTRICT SOCIETY: REPORT OF THE TRUSTEES
The Trustees present their annual report of the Society for the year ended 31 December 2016.
The Sheringham and District Society is a registered charity (No. 280951) formed in August 1979. It is governed by a constitution revised in May 2011 to reflect the Society’s name change from the previous Sheringham and District Preservation Society.
The main objectives of the Society, as defined by the constitution, are to preserve and improve features of historic interest, to promote high standards of planning and architecture and to stimulate interest in the area of benefit, which is the town of Sheringham and the parishes of Upper Sheringham and Beeston Regis. These aims are promoted by the Executive Committee, which normally meets monthly. All planning applications in the area are reviewed and comments referred to the Town / District Council where necessary. A newsletter is distributed to members three times a year, a website is maintained and social events are organised.
The Society is responsible for the upkeep and operation of the Fishermen’s Heritage Centre (incorporating the historic Henry Ramey Upcher Lifeboat) and the Peter Coke Shell Gallery. Both were opened for public viewing at Easter 2006 and remain open for as many hours as possible during the summer months each year, and during the Easter and Autumn school holidays.
An art exhibition has been organised annually from the earliest years of the Society’s existence. As well as providing an opportunity for local artists to show and sell their work, the exhibition is now a well-anticipated annual fixture for residents and visitors, as are the monthly coffee mornings.
Review of developments, activities and achievements during the year
The Society continues to put a large proportion of its energies into the operation of the Fishermen’s Heritage Centre and the Peter Coke Shell Gallery.
Visitor numbers (13260) to the Fishermen’s Heritage Centre saw a 12% increase compared to the previous year (12,129). This included visitors from around 21 non-English countries, a few less than last year. We have mostly had good weather this year but we did have one or two days when the rain came straight off the sea through the door frame and over the following days we struggled to open and close the doors because of the swollen timbers! We continue to remain open on most days because some volunteers very kindly continue to fill the gaps due to volunteer shortage. We had fewer school parties this year though we did see Bradway Primary, Sheffield and Finedone Mulso Junior near Wellingborough. Comments in our Visitors Book remain positive, as well as on TripAdvisor: “Getting up close to a historic boat of this type is a real privilege. The information boards are very informative.” Most popular items being sold are: postcards, fridge magnets and gansey patterns.
We had a professional survey undertaken of the Henry Ramey Upcher lifeboat in February, the last one being undertaken in 2010. Overall, the surveyor felt the boat to be in good condition. There were a couple of areas the surveyor suggested work on to continue to maintain the boat in good condition. We continue to have good links with Gresham’s Senior School CCF Naval Youth Cadets who helped to prepare the Fishermen’s Heritage Centre again for the winter and we were invited to attend the Biennial Review of the Naval Youth Cadets force.
It’s good to be able to report that the 2016 season in the Peter Coke Shell Gallery has again seen an increase in both visitor numbers – over 14,000 – and sales. The Gallery has had visitors from many different countries including America, Canada, South Africa, Austria, Poland, Brazil, Sweden, China, Ireland and Scotland. A teacher from Sweden was so pleased to be able to take many photos of the exhibits and intended making a DVD to show to her pupils. The Gallery has become better known for a variety of reasons – more signs; leaflets in holiday venues; word of mouth; favourable comments on Trip Advisor, one of the entries being “stunning creations, very individual, clever and intricate; also the volunteer was helpful and friendly” . It is also encouraging for our volunteers to read on TripAdvisor that they, as well as the exhibits, are appreciated. Once again thanks to all our volunteers- without them we could not function. The sale of shells continues to show a healthy position with sales of £6329.13 compared to last year of £5146.80. Several new lines were introduced this year in the lower price range and these have sold well -also some of the larger more expensive items to shell collectors.
The small craft shop continues to be rented out for the sale of locally made craft goods and other items of interest.
68 pictures were sold at the annual art exhibition, a few less than last year but we made a profit of £625 compared to £556 the previous year. £600 of the profit was given to Sheringham Playpark Revamp.
The Society continues to monitor all planning applications and is represented at Town Council planning meetings. Although there have been no major planning developments there are a few buildings which have created a bit of a stir. The Burlington Hotel has now closed. A proposal has been put forward for a reuse and refurbishment but no planning application as yet has been made. The Shannocks building opposite the Two Lifeboats pub has been derelict for quite a while and a consultation exercise has taken place over a proposal to develop the site which the Society has commented on. The Town Council objected to the McCarthy and Stone application for the Beaumaris Hotel site for several reasons including design, parking facilities and infrastructure pressures. A cottage on the Fishermen’s Slope mentioned in the last Newsletter was “revitalized” with scant disregard for planning regulations and in our opinion not in very good taste. The Society made its feelings felt to the District Council and, as a result, the owners were asked to make a retrospective planning application. It is not known as yet what the outcome of this planning application will be.
Three issues of the newsletter were issued during the year and the Society’s website continues to provide a useful source of information for members and non-members. The regular monthly coffee mornings remain very popular with ever increasing numbers attending. Many interesting speakers gave talks covering a wide range of topics and visits were arranged to Norfolk wildlife Trust at Cley and to the restored Lucy Laver lifeboat.
Partnerships – The Society is a member of Maritime Heritage East (MHE) and supplies material for the MHE website which promotes visitor attractions along the East Anglian coast. The Society is also a member of Museums Norfolk, the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), the Historic Towns Forum (previously ASHTAV) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The Society continues to develop relationships with the Mo Museum and participated again in the Crab and Lobster Festival and Museums at Night, the theme of which was North Norfolk Stories.
This year North Norfolk District Council asked the Society to administer £500 which the Council provided for materials to support local artists David Barber and Colin Seal in painting a new very large mammoth mural on the promenade wall. The mural depicts Neolithic life including a herd of life sized mammoths. The mural was inspired by the excavation of a skeleton of a mammoth at West Runton and adds to the impressive range of murals which Colin Seal and others have contributed to the Sheringham townscape and which provide a big attraction to visitors.
Membership at the end of 2016 was 196 compared to 195 in 2015. Of the 196 members 8 members were life members ie 90 years and over in age. The Society continues to rely on subscriptions, on donations and, importantly, the unpaid services of volunteers.
The Committee of Trustees believes the Society continues to make good progress and its affairs to be satisfactory. Like many other organisations though the Society does need more volunteers both for the Fishermen’s Heritage Centre and Shell Gallery, as well as on the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee consists of a number of members who have been in post for many years and an influx of younger members is required.
Chairman, on behalf of the Trustees