The following reports of meetings in the 2021-22 season are available:
Sep 22: “Lady Craven and Benham Park” by Helen Lockhart
The Hungerford Historical Association celebrated a small return to normality with its’ first live talk since February 2020 and a tour de force from its’ own Secretary, Helen Lockhart, that kept the 100 plus audience of members and guests riveted.
The subject of her fascinating talk was the life and times of the scandalous and charismatic eighteenth-century socialite, Elizabeth, 6th Baroness Craven, who lived at Benham Park in the Parish of Speen on the outskirts of Newbury. It explored Lady Craven’s identity as aristocratic landowner’s wife, glamorous society hostess, female philanthropist and interesting local figure, within the context of her magnificent Palladian country house Benham Park, designed by leading designers of the period Capability Brown and Henry Holland. The talk examined her tempestuous marriage to Lord Craven, with infidelities, their scandalous separation, her departure from Benham Park and her return with a second husband. Lady Craven’s scandalous and extravagant lifestyle was revealed in salacious detail in eighteenth century press reports and in accounts of her by contemporaries, including the gossipy and waspish observations of Horace Walpole.
The talk also drew on Lady Craven’s memoirs and analysis of her portraits by Joshua Reynolds, Angelica Kauffman, George Romney, Thomas Beach and Ozias Humphry.
She was born in 1750, daughter of Augustus 4th Earl of Berkeley, at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire and at the age of 17 married William Craven who two years later became the 6th Baron Craven. In 1772-75 the Cravens built and moved into their Palladian country house, Benham Park. Here they raised their seven children; 3 sons and 4 daughters.
However, the marriage was tempestuous with infidelity on both sides and they separated in 1783, with Lady Craven losing custody of her daughters. She then departed for the Continent to pursue life as a socialite, traveller and writer. In 1786 she travelled through the Crimea to Constantinople and wrote her travel journal.
In 1791 Lord Craven died and in the same year she married the Margrave of Anspach who had connections through both his parents to both the Prussian and British royal families. They returned to England pursuing their interest in horse breeding and residing at Brandenburgh House in Hammersmith and also at Benham Park where he died in 1806. In 1819 Lady Craven moved to her villa at Posillipo on the Bay of Naples and in 1826, at the age of 76 published her memoirs. She died there in 1828.
Sporting footnote: The original Craven Cottage was built by Lord Craven in 1780.
Oct 27: “Yanks in the Kennet Valley – the Friendly Invasion of the Marlborough Area by the US Army in WWII” by Neil Stevens
Nov 24: “London 1851 and the Great Exhibition” by Mick Gilbert
Jan 26: “Fuelling the Town – A History of Hungerford’s Petrol Filling Stations” by Roger Day
Feb 23: ‘’The Ship, the Lady and the Lake - The Extraordinary story and rescue of a Victorian Steamship in the Andes” by Meriel Larken
Mar 23: “A Nice Quiet Life - The story of a Merchant Seaman 1908-1946” by Rob Chicken
Apr 27: "Salt from the Hellath-du: A History of the Mines and Brines of Cheshire" by Dr Chris Carlon, BSc, PhD, FSEG, FGS.
May 25: ‘’Historic Clockmakers of Hungerford’’ by Dr Hugh Pihlens
Jun 22: AGM and Social