Author: Sheila Williams

After almost six years of recording, the task is now completed. Originally set up by Jill Harris in 2011, the current team of seven are to be congratulated for their painstaking work which has culminated in the production of a superb record which will be treasured by posterity.

Jill de Bretton-Gordon      Helen Oakes      Felicity Mc Swiney

Belinda Wentworth           Maggie Blather   Pat Gee

Diana Stephens  

The team was assisted by Frances Moule, Judy Heron, Trish Johnson – and names from the past, Rosie Roberts, Liz Hamilton, photographer Andy Newton, Leon Sparrow and many others.

The record, beautifully- bound in dark blue leather with gold lettering, was handed to St. Mary’s Church at a service of Holy Communion on Sunday 16th February 2020 by the Chairman, Mrs Sheila Williams.


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         Sheila Williams (Chairman)

The annual Young Artists’ Christmas Exhibition is now running from Friday 29th November until Saturday 14th December.  Prizes were awarded on Friday evening by the Chairman, Sheila Williams to Will Montgomery, Peter Hazzard and Sharon Hutchings.  George Thomas and Anne-Louise Richard’s exhibits were Highly-Commended.

The Evening Lecture planned for Wednesday 27th May 2020 will be held in the Tithe Barn at Hinton St. Mary. 

The  Making of Landscape Photographs – an Extraordinary Double Act between the Eye and the Brain by Charlie Waite, a world-renowned landscape photographer who produces amazing, artistic landscape pictures.

Doors open 1815hrs followed by the lecture at 1845hrs.  Drinks and canapes served until 2030hrs.

Welcome to the 2019-2020 season  –

Autumn is here already and after the long summer days we can now look forward to Thursday 3rd October and the start of an exciting and varied lecture programme taking us right through until July 2020.

On behalf of the Committee, I should like to extend a very warm welcome to all our new Members.  We hope you will all be able to attend the buffet lunch on 7th November in Stalbridge Hall after the lecture.  This is an opportunity for us to meet you personally and for you to meet other new members.  We hope you will enjoy being part of our lively society and that you will make new and lasting friendships.

Thank you for joining us.

With best wishes,


Sheila Williams


The Arts Society (formerly known as NADFAS) has always been known for its wonderful work on Church Recording.  That is, recording everything inside a particular Church, from floor to ceiling and eventually producing large illustrated books detailing each item and its history.  These volumes are then presented to various institutions, for example if it is an Anglican Church in England, one volume will be presented to the participating Church, one to the local  County or Diocesan Records Office which holds the diocesan archive, one to Church Care, one to the Victoria and Albert Museum Art Library and another to Historic England Archives.

These books are incredibly useful for researchers, historians, insurance companies and the police trying to identify stolen items, but also of much interest to Church Recorders and worshippers.

The work can be fascinating at times and quite a bit of detective work can be involved trying to discover if an item is original or whether an item has been painted over or renovated incorrectly. Just trying to read some items written in different forms of language can be an interesting challenge.

At our Blackmore Vale Branch of The Arts Society we have a small group of people who are always happy to welcome anyone who is interested in their work to find out more about it.  Having completed the records of St. Mary’s Church in Sturminster Newton, at the moment the group is just starting on the recording of St. Peter’s Church, Hinton St. Mary and two committee members, Penny Brentnall and Jill  Harris went along to see the group in action.  Although we only had a short time with the group it was a most enjoyable visit and a small insight into this very important contribution that the group make.

  It was fascinating to see the great detail that the group go into and how they work together to try and solve various conundrums.  The group carry out their work, a couple of hours at a time, mostly during the warmer months of the year for obvious reasons!

Penny Brentnall


Pat Gee and Felicity MacSwiney

                                                                              One of the many stained glass windows at St. Peter’s Hinton St. Mary 

                                               A quick sketch of the window made by Frances Moule before work begins


If you are a tax payer, HMRC will reimburse our Society with £8-75 in addition to your annual £35 subscription.  This is one of the simplest and most effective ways of giving to charity and it will not cost YOU a penny, but we do need to have a Gift Aid form completed by you, not just confirmation that you are a taxpayer.  Forms can be collected from the Treasurer, Jill Harris at the monthly meetings.

With your help the Society is then able to fund arts projects in schools and colleges throughout The Blackmore Vale thus promoting The Arts and enriching young lives.

Dear Member,
During 2018-19 we presented a varied programme of lectures – from Thai Silk to JS Bach, from Shakespeare to Banksy and from Stonehenge to post-war British theatre. We have learned about music, marine painting, literature, art history and gilding. The quality has been consistently high – no lecture has been rated below Excellent, whilst two (Peter Medhurst on JS Bach in November and Giles Ramsay on post-war theatre in December) were rated Outstanding.
As Programme Secretary, I put my own stamp on the style of lectures we have had for the past five years, but as this current Programme draws to a close, it is time for a change in perspective. You will all have had your favourites and there will have been some occasions when the title of a lecture might have sounded very dull – but to your surprise, you learned a lot and it turned out to be quite riveting!
This exciting new Programme 2019 -2020 (enclosed) has been planned by my successor, Ann Tasker. She has the best job of all and I know she’ll enjoy it as much as I have done.
Looking back over the year, the Evening Celebration to mark 50 years since the foundation of NADFAS was held at St. Mary’s School, Shaftesbury on a glorious spring evening in May. Peter Medhurst treated us to his repertoire of songs from Gilbert and Sullivan followed by drinks and canapes on the lawn organised jointly by Liz Pocock and Clare Liddell.
At the beginning of October, Penny Brentnall invited Paul Atterbury from The Antiques Roadshow to give us two lectures on The Golden Age of Travel. Some of the members brought along vintage memorabilia which was discussed and valued, after a delicious lunch cooked by Donna and organised to perfection as always, by Penny.
Our visit to The Silk Mill at Whitchurch took place in early October. It was a delightful autumn day, the sun shone, there were trout in the Test and we had lunch on a double-decker bus converted into a tiny restaurant. Mary Anderson had organised more – a visit to the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery just up the road………all in all, a great day out which was voted a huge success.
Our Church Recorders, led by Pat Gee and Felicity MacSwiney have completed an excellent record of St. Mary’s Church, Sturminster Newton. It has been a huge task, often involving working in Spartan conditions and is a tremendous achievement for which we offer our congratulations and thanks. New members have joined the team and work has now begun on St. Mary’s at Hinton St. Mary.
Jill de Bretton-Gordon has been a pioneer with Young Arts projects for many years and has made such an impact on the Schools and Sixth Forms across the Blackmore Vale that she has been awarded the Wessex Wyvern Award for her outstanding contribution. The national curriculum is no longer geared to offering much in the way of providing access to The Arts in schools. However, as a charity, we are able to help fill the gap a little by funding and raising awareness of The Arts by sponsoring events. In November, we sponsored the Guggleton Gallery Young Arts Exhibition and prizes were awarded to under 25-year-old exhibitors. We also held pottery and painting days at local primary schools. These types of events are made possible by your Gift Aid donations which form such an important part of our charitable giving in The Blackmore Vale.
Our Membership now stands at 259. The fees have remained the same for the last nine years and we have decided not to increase the renewal subscription this year. However, next year we will have to increase our fees as lecturers’ fees and travel expenses have increased significantly. We have also had to charge a little more for coffee and biscuits as there has been an eco-friendly transition from plastic to paper cups. On behalf of everyone, I should like to thank Alix Brooke and Pat Gee for serving refreshments so cheerfully every month.
Our Treasurer, Jill Harris, took over from Chris Sledge last year. I’d like to thank Jill for dealing with all the complexities of accounting and for presenting such meticulous accounts which were audited again this year, very kindly, by David Duvall.
Philip Gray and his projection team strive hard at monthly lectures, DOSIs and special Evening Lectures to ensure that the images on the screen and sound systems are always working well. There is a great deal of behind-the scenes work involved and they are always the first to arrive and last to leave.
Lincoln Waller has worked tirelessly to maintain our Website and given training to many of the Committee Members. We are always grateful for offers of additional help from Members and would love to welcome new faces to ‘shadow’ the various roles. There are currently 90,000 members of The Arts Society worldwide. This is your Society – have a say in how it is run!
With very best wishes
Sheila Williams
Member Society of The Arts Society Reg. Charity No: 1103740

Our last Day of Special Interest was held on Monday 15 October at Charlton Village Hall on the outskirts of Shaftesbury.  After a welcome cup of coffee, Penny Brentnall introduced Paul Atterbury who is so well-known from his appearances on BBC 1’s Antiques Roadshow. His theme for the three lectures  was The Golden Age of Travel.

 During the course of the next few hours we were visually transported to a world gone by on cruise liners such as The Queen Mary and luxury train travel on the near Continent.

Lasagne, salad and ciabatta followed by fruit kebabs, coffee  and chocolates preceded an hour when interesting objects connected with travel brought in by members were examined and given approximate valuations by the speaker. It was an enjoyable day using a format which has proved very popular with our members and for which we  owe thanks to Penny for her meticulous eye for detail and advance planning.