Past Events

Thursday 11th January, 2018 – Treasured Memories – Cheam Library

Vintage toys and a Victorian musical album were some of the special items that conjured up memories for Friends at the first meeting in 2018. Personal memories were also recounted, one Friend telling the story about the house where she was born. Altogether a thought-provoking afternoon.

2nd December 2017 – Mistletoe Market in Cheam Parochial Rooms

The Friends annual Mistletoe Market was held in the Parochial Rooms, Cheam Village. With gifts and bargains galore, as well as cakes and refreshments, visitors were able to find some Christmas Presents and say hello to friends and Friends! The Friends of Whitehall Gift stall was popular.  As usual refreshments were available in the kitchen area  and there was the usual Christmas raffle.

The Heritage department were present with the ‘Pop-Up’ creating interest in the refurbishment of Whitehall, and the future re-opening.

9th November 2017 – Talk by Mike Evans of the British Association of Friends of Museums.

Twenty members and friends, some of whom are also Friends of Nonsuch, found the description of the creation and work of BAfM most interesting. It was a group in Barcelona that wanted to meet others in the 1930s which led to the formation of the World Association. Mike Evans co-ordinates Friends’ groups for the British Association of Friends of Museums in the South East of England.

BAfM offers support and help to groups on all aspects of these organisations including production of newsletters(colourful and informative Journals), a handbook, advice on insurance, guidance on grants an d ideas on activities run by other Friends’ groups. Awards are made to volunteers who contribute to the success of their local group whether their museum is owned by their Local Authority or a separate charity.

Mike Evans was particularly in favour of arousing the interest of schools, preferably when pupils are just entering secondary level, and told us how Maidstone pupils are encouraged to study for their curriculum by visiting the local museum. He commended making use of the expertise of the young people to publicise the museum on social media.

30th October 2017 – A Walk Around the Lesser Known Corners of the City of London.

Valary Murphy, London City Guide and Friend of Whitehall, began the walk close to the Monument marking the Great Fire of London in 166. The fire started near pudding Lane – Pudding in fact referring to offal from the butchers’ trade rather than baking.

Passing through narrow Lovat Lane, the rather plain exterior of St Mary at Hill contrasted with the lovely wide-open space and beautiful dome within the church.

From Mincing Lane, ‘mincing’ being a corruption of the word ‘mychens’ used to denote nuns, we turned into Minster Court to view three large horse sculptures, nicknamed Stirling, Dollar and Yen standing in front of the London Underwriters’ Centre. We also visited the public sculpture in Fen Court commemorating the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807. The sculpture consists of 17 columns of sugar cane inscribed with the words of the poem ‘The Guilt of Cain’.

As we walked, Valary pointed out the curious figure of a woman on many buildings and explained that the figure, known as the ‘Mercer’s Maiden’ was to show that the property had belonged to the Worshipful Company of Mercers.

Our walk took us to the outside of the Jamaica Wine House in Cornhill, where the first coffee house in London was located and where Samuel Pepys visited in 1660. Passing other places of interest on our way, we finished the morning at the Royal Exchange founded by Sir Thomas Gresham.

14th September 2017 -Cheam Library – National Garden Scheme.

Thirty-one Friends assembled for a talk by Margaret Arnott, Volunteer Assistant Surrey County Organiser for the National Garden Scheme.

The story of the NGS started in 1859 when William Rathbone, a Liverpool merchant and philanthropist, engaged Mary Robinson to nurse his sick wife. When Mrs Rathbone died, William continued to employ Mary and encouraged her to go into the poorest areas of Liverpool to try to relieve suffering and teach the basic rules of health. Although Mary found the work almost unbearable, she eventually realised the difference she could make and decided not to return to private nursing.

William Rathbone then extended his idea by dividing parts of Liverpool into districts, and with advice from Florence Nightingale, provided nursing staff for each district. This was the beginning of District Nursing which, within a few years, spread throughout the UK.

To fund pensions for retiring nurses, gardens were opened to the public at a shilling admission, thus forming a pension pot. This system evolved into the establishment of the National Garden Scheme in 1927, and with the advent in 1948 of the National Health Service, donations from the National Garden Scheme were then directed to major charities.

Towards the end of the talk, Margaret showed illustrations of some of the beautiful gardens that are opened to the public during the year. A most interesting afternoon.

13th July 2017 – Cheam Library – The Great Unwatched: Wit and Wisdom on the Wireless.

In his second talk to the Friends. Bob Sinfield recalled his early interest in ‘the wireless’ when he would listen to a large valve radio with mysterious sounding stations on the dial such as Hilversum, Athlone and Normandy. Bob’s lively talk included amusing anecdotes and interactions with the audience about programmes and presenters over the years.

One of the first commercial radio stations was the United Biscuit Network which broadcast to the company’s factories around the country and became the training ground for many radio presenters. Bob’s talk was well received by a full house of Friends and guests.

5th June 2017 – Alison Weir – Eleanor of Aquitaine – St Dunstan’s School, Anne Boleyn’s Walk.

As something different for the Friends’ Birthday celebration this year, an evening talk was arranged to take place at St Dunstan’s School Hall in Cheam. Publicity officer, Trish Carey, worked hard to publicise the event and on the day over 60 people came to hear local historical author, Alison Weir, talk about Eleanor of Aquitaine.

There was a good mix of local residents and Friends who enjoyed the fact-filled talk. One lucky visitor went home with a prize for the best question put to Alison and another visitor, picked at random wen t home to a copy of Alison’s latest book ‘Anne Boleyn – A King’s Obsession’. Very appropriate as the school is in Anne Boleyns Walk.

Saturday 20th May 2017 – CHEAM VILLAGE CHARTER FAIR.

In spite of the prospect of rain, the weather was kind, and visitors and Friends were able to stroll around the stalls in the dry to look at the diverse range of items for sale. The Friends of Whitehall stall was in Park Road, in the driveway of one of our members who provided those manning the stall with welcome cups of coffee during the morning. The Heritage department was also on hand with their pop-up Whitehall publicity stall.

11th May 2017 – Exhibitions 1862 – 1924

Michael Gilbert’s talk covered the growth of exhibitions to promote industry and culture during the 10th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Many of the exhibition halls built during this period are still familiar to us today, Alexandra Palace, Olympia, Ears Court and White City. In 1908 the Olympics were held in Britain and the marathon was run from Windsor Castle to the great stadium built in White City, setting the standard length of marathons to this day.

In 1924 the British Empire Exhibition opened at Wembley, with fifteen miles of streets, and included a reproduction of the Niagara Falls, a garden contained 100,000 tulips and the popular Amusement Park promoted by Billy Butlin.

Saturday 19th November 2016 – Mistletoe Market

This event provided a plethora of pretty gifts and perfect presents in the Parochial Rooms at this year’s Mistletoe Market, Crafts, Jewellery, Cards, Gifts, Knitted Items and Homemade Cakes. There were also plenty of provisions at the refreshment counter. It was a good opportunity to find something special’ for a Christmas Present. Pop-up Whitehall gave visitors an idea of what to expect when Whitehall reopens.

Thursday 13th October 2016 – Royal National Lifeboat Institution Talk.

Richard Bywaters illustrated talk focused on the RNLI’s search and rescue service along the Thames. Using a range of fast boats based at 4 stations, and incident can be reached within 15minutes. As well as aiding people who get into difficulties accidentally, RNLI deals with people who deliberately intend to harm themselves, by jumping off Waterloo Bridge for instance. The RNLI provides expert support in terrorist incidents, flood rescue and the Varsity boat race. The talk ended on a lighter note with a video of a variety of animals being rescued from the water.

Tuesday 20th September 2016 – Talk by Gerald Smith at the Nonsuch Palace Stable Block.

Gerald, who has recently retired as Chairman of the Friends of Nonsuch, talked about his personal involvement with the Friends for over 25 years. A story of the ups and downs of the Friends as they campaigned to keep the Nonsuch Mansion Estate open to all.

For some of the Friends of Whitehall who had not visited the Stable Block before it was a good opportunity to take a look around and to admire the beautifully presented stained glass windows on display.

Thursday 8th September 2016 – The Story of Polly Hewson: Talk by Jane Allen, Heritage Manager.

Jane gave a talk about Benjamin Franklin, his friend Polly and her mother Margaret Stevenson. Mrs Stevenson, who had lived in Cheam, and her daughter Polly were to become life-long friends of Franklin. The talk was of particular interest as a group of Friends are visiting Benjamin Franklin’s house in London on November 2nd.

Thursday 11th August 2016 –  Friends of Whitehall Collector’s Afternoon

A very successful Collector’s Afternoon was held in the upstairs room at Cheam Library which attracted people who were visiting the library as well as Friends of Whitehall. Collections on show covered a wide range of items including cigarette cards, coins, vintage toys, spoons, playing cards, model soldiers, postcards, paperweights plus a rather unusual item, a collection of rubber  bands made into a large rubber ball. A bound copy of the 1938 Sutton and Cheam Advertiser was on hand for historical interest.

To add to the enjoyable afternoon, an impromptu competition was proposed suggesting people make a note of all the sweets they remembered. The winner displayed her brilliant memory by managing to name 46 different sweets. Refreshments were served and an interesting afternoon was had by all.

Thursday 14th July 2016 – Victorian Leisure and Pleasure

On 14th July (Bastille Day) the ‘Friends’ were addressed by Ian Bevan in the Cheam Parochial Rooms on the subject of ‘Victorian Leisure and Pleasure’.  The talk was complemented with slides and musical interludes, including a short film of the variety artist, Little Tich, performing his ‘Long Boots’ routine.  Ian also explained the origin of being in the ‘Limelight’ – a phrase originating from the use of lights with a green tinge used for special effects. Altogether an entertaining afternoon.

Tuesday 21st June 2016 – Music at Nonsuch High School for Girls

The Music Teas are organized to showcase the musical talents of Nonsuch pupils and to give them an opportunity to perform in front of strangers. A small group of Friends attended the final Music Tea of the season and enjoyed a diverse programme of music featuring a wide variety of musical instruments.  To round off the afternoon, Friends enjoyed the homemade cakes which were on sale.

Thursday 9th June 2016 – 38th Anniversary Afternoon Tea.

The 9th June was chosen to celebrate the 38th birthday of Whitehall’s opening to the public and, as the house is at present closed, the Friends held the Anniversary tea in the upper room of Cheam Library.  A birthday cake and colorful plates and napkins set the scene.  With the refreshments we had a demonstration of Marzipan flower-making from Christine Emery and Joan Kimber, and having made a rose one could eat the flower of your labours. It was a pleasant afternoon organized by the Programme Committee, and thank you to the Committee and all our visitors.

Saturday 14th May 2016 – Cheam Charter Fair

This event was once again a success thanks to the traders and organisers. Whitehall was represented at both ends of the Fair. At the beginning in Park Road stood the new Pop-Up Whitehall, designed and manned by the Heritage department, this appeared again in Cheam Park at the Rotary Fair on May Bank Holiday and will Pop-Up at events in the area while the house is closed.At the other end of the Fair, the Friends had stalls in the front garden of Whitehall and as we made a profit for the funds, it was a successful outcome for everyone’s hard work. 

Thursday12th May 2016  – Tea and Chat at Cheam Library.

This was the first of our monthly afternoon meetings at Cheam Library while Whitehall is closed. As the Friends’ committee delved into cupboards for cups and plates and a teapot –- would a coffee jug serve the purpose? – has anyone bought any knives? – a group of Friends chatted and caught up with their news.  Plates having been discovered, everyone was served a piece of homemade cake baked by our Vice Chairman, Paul Gibbins. This was a very agreeable way to spend a Thursday afternoon and we were pleased to welcome two new members to the gathering.