A regional Gathering was held on Sunday 17th September 1995 at the Bookham Grange Hotel, Little Bookham Common, Leatherhead, Surrey. Bookham and nearby Effingham have strong Balchin links, as both localities were homes to a family of wheelwrights who descended from Henry Balchin and Mary Thompson of Alfold, whose uncles founded the West Chiltington and Wisborough Green dynasties. The Bookham Grange Hotel was therefore a most appropriate centre for a Gathering where members could meet and circulate in pleasant surroundings. Eighty-eight members registered and were welcomed on behalf of the Committee by our Chairman, Sir Robert Balchin. All the arrangements for the meeting had been undertaken by Paul Taylor, whose efforts were much appreciated by those attending. Although announced as an informal Gathering, a considerable amount of essential and useful business was also achieved between 10.30 a.m. and 5.00 p.m.
The Committee had prepared a draft Constitution, and after coffee this was considered line by line under the able and expert Chairmanship of Sir Robert Balchin. A number of important amendments and improvements were proposed and agreed by those present. Although a substantial proportion of the membership was at the Gathering, and agreed to adopt the amended version, it was agreed that any comments would be considered at the 1996 Annual General Meeting.
The newly-constituted Society then formally elected a Committee for 1995 – 1996.
An interim report was then given by the Treasurer, Adrian Hindle-Briscall, who was able to indicate a very favourable situation as a result of the success of the 1994 Guildford Gathering. This had been contingency costed on the basis that 50 might attend; in fact 172 registered. After settling the cost of the Bookham meeting the Society would have approximately £2,400 in hand. Now that a better idea of the response rate was emerging, it would be possible to plan future events without building in a contingency element to cover possible loss from low attendance. The cash in hand would also enable the Society to consider other activities suggested by the membership, while members of the Committee, who gave their services free, could be recompensed for more out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel to committee meetings.
The Society was also feeling its way with the Newsletter, the first issue of which had cost approximately £450 to produce and distribute. The current paid-up membership numbers 153 “households”, of which 20 are overseas, giving a total subscription income of about £ 1,200. Two issues of the Newsletter a year would therefore be well within budget. As most ‘households’ have two or more participants the real total membership of the Society probably exceeds 300, which represents a substantial proportion of those eligible to join. It was agreed that audited accounts will be presented at future Annual General Meetings. The Treasurer proposed an unchanged annual subscription.
The President, Professor William Balchin, then initiated a discussion on ‘The Way Ahead’. From the response to date it was clear that members welcomed Gatherings and that in future these would coincide with the Annual General Meeting.
The location could vary in order to assist members with transport problems; the Committee would be glad to have suggestions as to possible future venues. Some Members had found the Guildford venue unsatisfactory in various ways, particularly for those with disabilities; the Committee was therefore urged to seek an alternative venue for the next major Gathering in 1998. The Newsletter had also been favourably received, but its future success very much depended on members contributing items of interest.
The receipt of a number of other suggestions from members of the Society for possible activities was also reported. Those present agreed that the Committee should investigate the feasibility of adding a plaque to 15 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, to commemorate the residence of Admiral Sir John Balchin. It had already been established that Mrs Allason, the present owner, is quite happy with this suggestion. The Committee was also asked to look into the cost of the small stained glass windows in Guildford Cathedral commemorating Surrey families and organisations. Another matter which it was agreed that the Committee should watch carefully was the fate of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, in view of its connection with Admiral Sir John Balchin.
After lunch a group photograph was taken in the grounds of the hotel, before hearing an account from Secretary, Pat Green, of her recent tour of Balchin contacts in North America.
The high spot of the afternoon, however, was undoubtedly the extended family tree drawn up by Paul Taylor from Pat Green’s research. The original Walker Tree which takes goes up to 1939, and is some 15 feet long, has been extended to the present day, and now measures 43 feet in length. Laid out in one long line on chairs in the hotel dining room, the Tree provided a basis for animated discussion for the rest of the afternoon.
The meeting concluded at 5.00 p.m. after appropriate votes of thanks to all those concerned in the arrangement of a very successful meeting.