2005 Balchin Family Gathering – Horsham, Sussex

The 2005 Family Society Gathering was held in Horsham, Sussex, during the weekend of 17th/18th September.

Roy Balchin reports on the weekend’s events:

Our weekend programme started on Saturday afternoon, 17th September, at the Horsham Museum, which is situated at No 9 The Causeway. Many of us had slowly drifted into this cobbled street, ready for our Museum visit. The weather was perfect, with bright sunshine and blue skies. We had a ‘meet and greet’ under the shade of the horse chestnuts that line this ancient highway. We were pleased to see, and welcome, Michael and Huguette from Ottawa, and looked forward to his part in our Sunday programme. Soon there was a crowd of us all talking as we strolled towards the lovely St Mary’s Parish Church. We had a moment to spare so, from my bulging file on Balchins of Horsham tucked under one arm, I drew out a copy of the 1881 census. I was delighted to discover that it listed one Margaretta Lavinialiving at No. 26, the very house we were looking at! This lady, discribed as a Dresmaker, was previously married to a Barton Balchin, she being born as plain Margaret Morgan, daughter of a Palace coachman, her birthplace given as 7 The Cottages, Hampton Court Palace. practically next door to my own great-grandfather x3. Just why and when she changed her name to Margaretta Lavinia I have yet to discover. As wioth all research, the more answers you get, the more questions you find!

It was now 2.30, and, as we gathered at the Museum door, Jenny greeted us all and explained that the Museum contained a fine collection relating to the Balchin-Gravett-Voice families. These archives were in document form mostly, covering over 100 years of work and domestic affairs of these connected families. This rare and precious collection would, with special permission, be ours to inspect for the whole afternoon. We were met at the door by the Chief Curator who guided us through this marvellous old merchant’s house, with its creaking floors and ancient timbers, the whole place atmospheric with history. We were shown into the Eductaion Centre where all the collections are laid out, and, to my surprise, we were left to browse and searcyh to our hearts’ content with only the polite request to put things back as they were. A rare priviledge I have never found before – we thank the Museum for such a consideration.

The Committee had decided to make some changes this year after reviewing previous comments from members. the Satuyrday evening informal meal had been a regular event, and worked quite well in most years. However, this year it was svheduled earlier in the evening, in order that people who had to travel home could do so at a reasonable hour. This change would also remove the problem of what to do until dinner time. So Jenny had pounde the hot pavement, only to discover that small parties are difficult to fit in most weekends. Jenny found an ideal place with 14th century exposed beams, polished oak floors, very noice staff and an exciting menu – the fact that over the door it said ‘Pizzza Express’ only added to our appetite. There were, I think, 21 of us, and we were all happy with both excellent choice and service.

On Sunday morning our President, Professor William Balchin, opened the proceedings promptly at 10 o’clock; he welcomed all our menbers present. Due to the extra time allowed, thianks to thew Surrey History Centre, Roy and Iris had managed to load up about 90% of the Society records to bring to the meeting. This year we had sent out a mailing to Balchins in the Horsham area – one lapsed member and his family renewed thie membership and two other Balchin families accepted the invitation to come along for a chat and tobrowse our records; they would perhaps join the Society. Finally, apologies from two members for absence through sickness. Our Chairman, Sie Robert balchin, was also unavoidably delayed.
The Professor invited Jenny Dixon to open ‘What Have You Found?’ – this popular hour, where any member can speak on any Balchin subject, has produced many interesting items. Jenny started with the latest enquiries that had come direct to her. the first was from the granddaughter of Walter Balchin, who was London’s longest serving publican. At one time Walter was at the Adam and Eve at Westminster. Another Captain Balchin (Balchen) had appeared in the records of the East India Company. And while at the PRO Kew, Roy had found an Admiralty reference to another Captain Balchin who commanded a Royal Naval vessel, who requested His Lordships to send crew and repair materials out to his ship. This letter was dated some weeks before the loss at sea of Sir Admiral Sir John Balchen. Further research will follow as time alllows.

Jenny then mentioned a strange contact from a lady who claimed that it was her father, not Nigel Balchin, who invented the bubbles system in Aero chocolate. It would semm, at first, a rather bizarre subject to research. However later years saw the principle being used in hydrogen technology. Jenny will, when time allows, follow this up. Other enquiries included our President who was interested to see the book ondisplay ‘Vicar on Dads Armey’. We all know him as the Reverend Timothy Farthing of Walmington-on-Sea (see article in Newsletter). Jenny had recieved an e-mail from Anita in Melbourne, who by chance has turned up several more Balchin bigamists! Jenny thought we might have to file them under ‘Scandalous Balchins

Finally Roy described briefly a coincidence that occurred when working on the Man/Balchen family link. The diary of the Journey from London to Oxford by James Balchen anf John and Mary (nee Balchin) Man in 1747 had been repeated in WWII, albeit in much different circumstances. Roy’s father-in-law along with Ron Man had been taken prisoners of war in North Africa. Ron Man, from Farnham in Surrey, kept a diary of their journey, which ended in the salt mines of Germany. These rare documants will be preserved in the Aldershot Military Museum.

After a welcome break, we moved to an important and complicated subject that would be explained by Dr Nigel Balchin: the Computer Tree project. We are indebted to Dr Nigel foir undertaking such a project that, if done commercially, would just about break our bank. After a goos lunch break to absorb things Balchin came the Archive Hour, which soon passed, and so on to the Archive Roundup. It was felt that the extra time for browsing the records was well used by Members and we would allow for extra time in future Gatherings

We were fortunate thus year in having with us Michael and Hugette Balchin from Ottawa. Michael is a member of the Greater Ottawa Historical Society and a contributor to our own Newsletter. He kindly volunteered to talk to us about his links with Canada and the talks he had given explaining the Balchin family Society and its aims.

It was now 4.15 pm and we were running out of time for the final item in our day, the AGM. Sir Robert Balchin got the meeting off to a cracking pace; mentioning that a s a One Name Society the society was flourishing and was pleased that our archives were becoming more accessible to members. The President thanked Diana Beamish for her Nautical Quiz; the winners were Hazel Roberts and Ted Balchin. Jenny Dixon reported that she is following up new lines of research into the Kirdford and Arundel Balchins. The Election of Officers followed and the meeting closed at 5.15pm.

Roy Balchin