The Houghtons and Brafield Local History Society was formed in the early 1990s following the publication of the first village Parish Appraisal - undertaken by a group of enthusiasts at the instigation of the Northamptonshire County Council’s Departments of Leisure & Libraries, and Planning & Transport. A number of those on the Appraisal Committee became founder members of the new History Society.
A committee was formed and Peter and Verne Hardingham agreed to be its Chairman and Secretary. Regular monthly meetings were held with a varied programme of subjects and speakers. There were no meetings during the summer but a popular aspect of the Society was the coach outings in those warmer months, to churches and villages near and far. A tradition of social evenings started - one at Christmas time and another in late spring, after the annual AGM.
One notable village project around 1998 was another Parish Appraisal - ‘Parish 2000 & Beyond’ - a ten year update of the original, involving the History Society, the school and members of the Millennium Committee. Much information was gathered from another questionnaire - again delivered to each house in the village - regarding occupations, houses, lifestyles etc. These audits are valuable resources for study for future generations and provide a sound data base for future projects by the Society. A repeat issue of the questionnaire would be useful - a great deal has changed in the village over last twenty years.
During the Hardingham’s time the Society was invited to exhibit at a Local History exhibition held at the Northampton Cricket Ground. It was also entered into an area competition held in Little Houghton - against about six other village entries, - which the Houghtons & Brafield won.
Records of membership numbers and descriptions of the History Society programmes during their time here appear to have gone with the Hardinghams when they moved from Little Houghton around 2012. Fortunately David and Rosie Heath who had recently moved into Brafield, were prepared to take over the reins as Secretary and Chairman respectively. Under their leadership a varied programme of speakers continued to be provided, extending throughout the year. Several outings were made, some jointly with Cogenhoe and Whiston Heritage Society, including visits to Deene Park, Rockingham Castle and Broughton Castle, rounded off with splendid lunches in historic surroundings. It was at this time that meetings were changed to the fourth Wednesday of the month in order not to clash with Cogenhoe’s meetings.
In 2016 David and Rosie, stood down before leaving the area and at the AGM that year Richard Deacon was elected Chairman. The monthly programme has continued, with different speakers and subjects - with those that are local to the villages always proving the most popular. However it is difficult to maintain a continuous list of local topics [there is only so much local history!].
It would be beneficial to widen and involve the membership in local research projects, such as house/occupier surveys over the years; a more detailed look at occupations using the Audit as a start; the farm houses in the village; the Workhouse at Hardingstone, following the closure of the individual village ones and a look at the mills along the river. Another interesting project would be an oral history of the villages - interviewing residents for their memories from times past.
History is all around us - it just needs a bit of digging. Yesterday is now history! [’Today is tomorrow’s history’] Yesterday’s history has lots of gaps and begs questions. If we don’t keep records they will not be there for future generations to research and they will wonder why we didn’t. We should try to make it easier for them. Let’s try not to make the same mistake again.