The inaugural Balchin Family Gathering was held on the campus of the University of Surrey in Guildford between the 2nd and 5th September 1994. Friday 2nd September saw the arrival of overseas and long distance members and the setting up of exhibitions by members of the Committee. Formal registration of participants began on Friday 2nd September and continued at 9 am on Saturday 3rd, after which the exhibitions and coffee were available. The exhibitions constituted an essential part of the Gathering. The famous tree of the Surrey Balchins prepared by John Walker and other more recent trees by Paul Taylor were on display together with an exhibit of books by Balchin authors Numerous newspaper cuttings and photographs had also been mounted and space was available for memorabilia contributed by those attending.
The Plenary Sessions
Plenary sessions began at 11 am with a formal welcome by Sir Robert Balchin and the Committee. This was followed at 11.15 am by a lecture given by Professor William Balchin on the ‘History of the Balchin Family’. Professor Balchin covered the sources from which historical data can be obtained and gave a broad indication of how the family originated in Surrey and developed over five centuries, gradually expanding into Sussex and Hampshire and elsewhere in the UK with more recent migrations to many parts of the Commonwealth. It was particularly pleasing to welcome so many members of the Family from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and also from the USA.
The possibility of a derivation from Viking sources via a 12th century migration from Normandy was touched on. A common ancestry with the Norwegian Balchens (who also have a well-documented history over the last five centuries) seems likely but has yet to be proved.
The first of three Family History sessions under the direction of Mrs Pat Green and Adrian Hindle-Briscall then followed. Preliminary analysis of the 170 participants had shown that it was possible to group those attending into eight main lines of descent. These were separated out into groups which enabled relations to be readily identified. These sessions produced some hilarity as new relations were found and long-lost contacts were re-discovered. The afternoon session commenced with a fascinating lecture from Sir Robert Balchin on ‘Heraldry and the Balchin Family’. The principles of Heraldry were explained using the crests of Admiral Sir John Balchin and Sir Robert Balchin as examples and concluding with a description of the crest adopted for the Balchin Family Society.
A break followed in order to photograph all those present, with a separate photograph of all those with ‘Balchin blood’ and direct lines of descent. A slight drizzle of rain made this photographic session somewhat memorable but there were many smiling faces in the print.
After further Family History discussion and tea a third lecture was scheduled. This was given by Professor Balchin on ‘The Life of Admiral Sir John Balchin’ in order to provide a background for the excursion to London planned for Monday 5th September. A third and final Family History session included short talks by Mrs Pat Green and Dr Nigel Balchin on genealogical aspects, and an introduction to the aims and objectives of the Balchin family Society by Adrian Hindle-Briscall. Sir Robert Balchin then closed the plenary sessions at 6.15 pm in order to give members time to change for the Balchin Family Dinner in the Chancellor’s Restaurant at 8 pm.
The formal Family Dinner will be memorable for many for the Grace composed and given by the Revd Michael J Balchin:
May Balchins rich and Balchins poor
To the Lord keep open door
Balchins fat and Balchins thin
May the Good Lord keep from sin
Balchins large and Balchins small
May the Good Lord bless them all
Grant, O Lord, that all may be
Fine examples of our Tree.
After the plenary sessions on Saturday September 3rd excursions had been scheduled for Sunday September 4th and Monday September 5th. On the Sunday two local excursions endeavoured to give overseas members and those living at a distance some idea of the ethos of the ‘Balchin countryside’ of Surrey. A morning circular route embraced Guildford, Shalford, Wonersh, Bramley, Graffham, Alfold, Wisborough Green, Chiddingfold, Witley, Milford and Godalming. The high spot of the tour was a visit to Vanhurst – the ancient farmhouse which has been the home of one branch of the Balchins for six generations over a period of 175 years from the beginning of the 17th century to nearly the end of the 18th century; the present occupants, Mr and Mrs Robert Maxted, responded magnificently to the invasion by three coachloads of enthusiastic Balchins.
The Sunday afternoon excursion visited Effingham and Cedar House, Cobham, another early Balchin residence now owned by the National Trust and functioning as a hotel. Afternoon tea was taken by kind invitation of Sir Robert and Lady Balchin at New Place, Lingfield, a Jacobean house of considerable charm and character. The return journey was by way of Dorking and past Balchin’s Lane at Westcott.
The excursion on Monday September 5th aimed to cover points of interest in the London area relative to Admiral Sir John Balchin. The first port of call was 15 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, which was the Admiral’s home from 1717 to 1744. The group then moved to Westminster Abbey to see the memorial to Sir John and also his son-in-law Admiral Temple-West. A Thames river boat then took the party down to Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum, where the Admiral’s portrait and the model of the Victory were on view. The return to Guildford was by way of the M25: the Gathering then formally ended with congratulatory thanks to all and sundry for what had been a very successful and memorable experience.
Professor William Balchin