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Bethersden Parish Church
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Bethersden Parish Register Society: Introduction to the Society, Kent, England

Introduction to the Society

For more information about the Bethersden Parish Register Society and its records please contact Mr. Brian Robinson at Brian  [AT]  islandfarm [.] co [.] uk  Anti-spam has been employed in constructing the above email address.  Please remove the extraneous spaces as well as the sets of square brackets so that the email address looks like

        For those of you who are relatively new to the Village and to any who remain unaware of the existence of the above Society I would like to give you some information on this very worthy body through the good offices of the Parish Magazine.

        Any unacquainted with the Society will, surely, not be unacquainted with our Keeper of the Records, George Fraser, who, in reality IS the Records by virtue of unearthing these from chests stored in various parts of St. Margaret's Church.Many books and papers dating back as far as 1515 were in extremely poor condition and it was for the purpose of restoring these that the present Society was formed in 1987.  Since that date by having various fund raising events, payment of membership fees (£15 for life membership), receiving donations from local Charities as well as grants from the Lottery Fund, Community Action South Kent and Ashford Borough Council over £25,000 has been raised for the cost of restoration.

        The Parochial Registers and Records Measure of 1978 decreed that all our Village records should be removed to the County Archives in Maidstone unless a high standard of care linked to a continuous programme of restoration could be met.  It was the desire to retain our Records within the community to which they refer which led to a small group of residents, including the Rector as the official custodian, coming together with the express determination to carry out this work.  The Society achieved charitable status and since its inception an elected Committee has overseen the work.  I should make mention of inspections and reports on our collection carried out by Diocesan and County officials on a regular basis to ensure that all is in order.

        Our collection is indeed unique and it is generally accepted that the Bethersden collection is, probably, the best and most complete in the County.  The entire spectrum of Village life is covered within the various papers and volumes which are a wonderful commentary on the lives and work of Bethersden people through the ages.  For those wishing to peruse original items from our collection these are available by prior appointment or they can also be viewed from microfiche at the Archives Department of Canterbury Cathedral.

        Each year letters are received from far-flung places on the globe requesting information on forbears and George does a most sterling job in replying to such requests.  Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States are common request points but by no means the only places from which information is sought.

        From time to time the Committee arrange a display in the Village Hall when photographs of bygone days, papers and documents dating back almost 500 years together with books of Churchwardens' accounts and Overseers are displayed.

        With continued support we are anxious that items, which have been safely held in the Parish for 450 years, should remain here.  The Committee are determined to keep our Records within the confines of the Village and hope that at some time in the future an opportunity may present itself so that they may find a home which is secure and accessible where books and papers can be held in conditions of correct humidity and temperature and yet provide a comfortable working environment for researchers and Society members.  Perhaps if you become aware of such a place you would be kind enough to let us know!

        I do hope that the foregoing information may have proved of interest and brought to your attention a Village Society which has always maintained a relatively low profile but since its founding has achieved a great deal to keep Bethersden Records within the Parish to which they relate.

© 2000, Bethersden Parish Records Society