The Essex Society for Archaeology and History is the county’s major society for collecting, protecting and disseminating news and information on the county’s historical and archaeological heritage.
Founded in 1852 as the Essex Archaeological Society, it was renamed the Society for Archaeology and History in 1985. The Society is concerned with the whole of the historic county of Essex including the five London boroughs (Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest) established in 1965.
The Society’s record is a proud one. Well over 20,000 pages of articles have been published with reports on newly discovered archaeological sites in the county and the latest research findings by historians of all periods and aspects of Essex’s past.
To date, the archives, the collections and the publications produced are some of the best resources on the county notably, (name some collections. Ask Mark Davies) and the Fenwick Treasure. These collections, formed by members of the Society, have grown into what is now the Colchester Castle Museum.
Presidents of the Society have long been plucked from the highest echelons of Essex County affairs in these matters and their knowledge has been invaluable and instrumental in moving the aims of the Society forward. Its Presidents have included eminent personalities of Essex history such as the great medieval historian, John Horace Round; the leading authority on historical music and musical instruments, Francis Galpin; and a familial descendent of the Reverend Philip Morant, author of “The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex” published in 1763, Charles Frederick Denne Sperling, President of the Society from 1928 to 1933.
From the very beginning of the Society’s foundation, outings have been part of its lifeblood. The Society has its own Programme Committee which sits to discuss and select the visits for the year ahead that would be of most interest to its members. The outings in themselves are an invaluable opportunity to meet fellow amateur and professional historians and archaeologists, and to be guided by an expert around places not usually open to the public.
In addition to the outings, the Society produces a number of publications which include the Transactions, in-depth reports of recent research material, Newsletters with the latest events and news that appears throughout the year and recently accepted ownership of the titles of Essex Review and Essex Journal. The Essex Journal remains an independent organisation, with its own officers and accounts.
Council and committee meetings are regularly held at different historical venues all along the year, all of which have close ties with the Society such as the Essex University, the Essex Record Office, Chelmsford Museum and Colchester Castle Museum.
While the methods and concerns of archaeologists and historians may have changed with the times and the Society with them, their aims would still be recognized by the founders. It is the passion and professional commitment of many Essex historians and archaeologists which has made ESAH the oldest, largest and major society in Essex. To be a member is to join a long line of enthusiasts dating back to 1852.