Please click on the picture to start the slide show.

 

Jim Purves and Victoria Granville-Baxter

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The ‘Sevenoaks Heritage Exhibition’: 19th June - 6th July 2019:

The Society’s highly successful ‘Sevenoaks Heritage Exhibition’ took place in the Kaleidoscope Gallery in the Sevenoaks library from 19th June to 6th July 2019. Forming part of the 50th Sevenoaks Summer Festival, it consisted of a stunning visual display of the 900 year history of Sevenoaks with photographs, paintings and original artwork which included the town’s iconic landmarks. The accompanying slideshow offers highlights of the exhibition.

The exhibition aimed to show the diversity of Sevenoaks distinguished heritage. It covered Knole and the historic town centre, the old landed estates, farms, public houses, industry, schools, churches and the town’s expansion following the arrival of the railway. We need to protect and enhance the features and the characteristics that make Sevenoaks distinctive. But we also need to encourage and recognise buildings and projects which demonstrate excellence in design and construction quality and make a positive impact on the Town.

The exhibition was formally opened on Wednesday 19th June by the Sevenoaks Town Mayor, Councillor Nick Busvine OBE. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Sevenoaks District Council also attended together with most of the Sevenoaks Town Councillors. 20 school children also attended from St Thomas Primary School and Sevenoaks Preparatory School. The Mayoress is a teacher at St Thomas Primary School. Sevenoaks Prep School celebrated its centenary in 2019.

Throughout its duration, the exhibition was extremely well attended by the general public. The Visitors’ Book had some 300 entries in it. The overwhelming majority of visitor comments was extremely appreciative with a number expressing the wish that the exhibition be repeated. One estimate of attendees shows that in excess of 1,500 people attended the 16-day event. The Sevenoaks Visual Arts Forum who hosted the event in their Kaleidoscope Galley kindly texted their own comments as below:

“It's been a pleasure to host the Heritage Exhibition and see the Gallery filled with enthusiastic Sevenoaks people of all generations…. Now all the hard work has been done, we think you should preserve the content (boards) with a view to potentially showing again in the Kaleidoscope Gallery, maybe as a Biennial event at different times of the year.

You should all congratulate yourselves on a fantastic project that has brought Sevenoaks history to life and intrigued the many visitors. We are sure there are a lot of locals and visitors who have increased their appreciation of Sevenoaks from their newly informed stance.” 

The exhibition panels and accompanying book were compiled by a small Steering Group. This was led by Geraldine Tucker with the assistance of Elizabeth Purves, Keith Wade, Victoria Granville Baxter (exhibition & book designer) and Veronica Coath (photographs). Additional material on safeguarding our heritage was provided by John Stambollouian. Roger Lee, Ed Thompson and Graham Usher kindly provided further photographs. Roger FitzGerald notably painted a number of pictures specifically for the exhibition as well as the wrap around book cover which is the iconic image of the Sevenoaks Vine cricket ground.  

A key part of the exhibition’s success is due to the Society members themselves. Some members kindly loaned exhibition artefacts such as George and Joanna Comer who gave their permission to display their lovely old King Charles 1 Bible and prayer book which had belonged to the Austen family. Other Society members helped as volunteer stewards. The volunteer stewards were an essential part of the exhibition and were amazing throughout, crucially enabling the exhibition to be manned from 10am to 4pm each day. Not only did they interact well with all the exhibition visitors by, among other things, answering visitors’ questions, selling exhibition books and inviting people to leave comments in the Visitors’ Book, they also seemed to enjoy the task. Other Society members played equally vital roles either with behind the scenes activity installing and taking down the exhibition or turning up with their friends and families to support events as well as visiting the exhibition itself.

This has been a community exhibition which has appealed to every generation. Following the opening on 19th June, the accompanying exhibition book – “Sevenoaks: A Remarkable Town” - which is co-authored by Elizabeth Purves, Geraldine Tucker & Keith Wade was launched on Thursday 20th June. This was followed by archaeologist Nathalie Cohen’s extremely interesting talk on the National Trust’s recent Knole restoration project. Bob Ogley also gave a highly successful talk on ‘Old Sevenoaks’ on Tuesday 25th June. Geraldine Tucker gave formal guided tours to Sir Michael Fallon MP on Friday 21st June, and to schools on Wednesday 26th June, Thursday 27th June and Wednesday 3rd July. Well over 100 school children attended the exhibition. Geraldine also gave a formal guided tour to over 15 Rockdale residents on Tuesday 2nd July.

In addition to the Society’s usual methods of publicising its events and talks, a feature this year has been the use of social media instigated by Alexander Tucker to great effect to publicise and inform Twitter users of the exhibition’s events and its progress. The SVAF joined in with this process additionally using Instagram and so did the Town Council and others. The use of social media is a highly effective way of publicising events and activities

Looking to the future, we hope to repeat the exhibition before too long. In the interim, the accompanying book ‘Sevenoaks: A Remarkable Town’ is still available to buy in the Sevenoaks Bookshop, the Bat & Ball station café and the Vine café for £14.95, or at Society meetings at the special discount rate of £10.

20st July 2019 – Geraldine Tucker