Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society

33rd Annual AGM – Minutes


Minutes of the 33rd Annual General Meeting held in the Apostle Room, Clifton Cathedral, Bristol, on Wednesday 9 March 2022, commencing at 7.30 pm

1.    Welcome from the Vice Chairman James Lyttleton

James welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced himself. Dr James Lyttleton is a Senior Heritage Consultant with the engineering and environmental consultancy firm AECOM, based in their Bristol office. Before consultancy work, James completed a PhD in University College Cork where he then became a post-doctoral research fellow. James taught historical archaeology at University College Cork and the Memorial University of Newfoundland. His main research interests are in later medieval and early modern settlement in Ireland, as well as English colonial settlement in the North Atlantic world.

James emphasised how busy the committee had been since the last AGM before outlining the proceedings of this AGM.

2.    Confirmation of a Quorum and Apologies 

Present: 45 members signed into the meeting, with several more in attendance so the meeting was declared quorate.

Apologies: from Mike Gwyther, Bruce Williams, Julie Bassett, Paula Gardiner, Marion Pitman and Chris Molan and Mary Issen.

3.    Minutes of the AGM held on 11 March 2020 are available on the BAAS website

Members were reminded that the minutes from the 32nd Annual General Meeting are available on the BAAS website for anyone who is interested.

4.    Officers’ reports:      

Hon Secretary’s report by Gundula Dorey                      

The 2 years since the last AGM on the 16th March 2020 have coincided almost exactly with the period of the Covid restrictions and loss of normal working practices. Your committee however valiantly rose to the challenge of trying to keep the business of the Society going, as you will now hear from all the officers’ reports. We continued to meet regularly by Zoom and in fact increased our meetings to once a month, as much to keep our own spirits up as for devising ways of communicating with you, the loyal members.

In addition we have been much exercised in keeping track of the situation following the unexpected and untimely death 2 years ago of James Russell, a very long term member of BAAS, its meticulous treasurer for nearly 40 years, an avid collector and researcher and walking encyclopaedia on all local matters, historical and archaeological. We knew that he had regarded BAAS as his family but finding that he had left the bulk of his estate to BAAS, consisting largely of the house he had inherited from his parents and all its contents, not least his thousands of collected books, was quite a shock.

Because of Covid it was some time before we could gain access to the house, even after probate had been granted, but we managed finally last summer. Our aim was that everything important to him went somewhere he would have appreciated. So his archaeological collection has gone to the Museum, his research material is in the City Archives, his slides are being digitised. Two very successful book events distributed many of his books to BAAS members, who were generally amazed at the range of treasures they found. The money from the sale of the remaining books to a reputable antiquarian bookseller, and from selling the furniture, is being held separate until it is joined by the net proceeds from the sale of the house, now finally on the market. Then we shall decide, in consultation with yourselves, how it can best be used to honour James.

And just to add to that that there will be a James Russell Memorial Day in July this year to start things off – the details will be on line and in the next Bulletin.

I am standing down as Secretary at this AGM. What a pleasure and privilege it has been. I want to thank you and the committee for so much enjoyment and fellowship over many years. I know that you will give Kate Iles, your new Secretary, the same unstinting support.

Following Gundula’s report, Bev Knott offered a vote of extreme thanks and gratitude to Gundula for all of her hard work over the years noting her role in running the society and kepting it going. This was seconded and supported by the membership. James also added that committee recognises Gundula’s hard work and adds the thanks of the committee to that of the membership. This was followed by a round of applause.

Hon Treasurer’s report by Steve Hastings

Steve Hastings talked through the financial report for the year ended 2022 (see separate attachment).

Income, expenditure and prepayments:

Income has increased to £3,814 an increase of £1,694 over Fy 2021. This is mainly due to the James Russell bequest generating £1,725 arising from the sale of books and other chattels. This was offset by the absence of £490 of interest on assets invested in Barclays Equity Income. This is due to these assets being caught up in the winding up of James Russells estate, though we should get this back after probate.

There has been an increase in expenditure of £4,901 mainly attributed to the publication of BAA volume 28 (£2,820) and the BAA digitalisation project (£2,530).

£128 of the £576 prepayment to Clifton Cathedral was used during the year, this now leaves £448 left to be redeemed.

Information on accounts and funds:

The Barclays Business Account and Britannia Charity Account were merged in December 2021 due to the COOP bank’s decision to end offering the Britannia financial product. BAAS were asked to either open a new account or transfer the financial assets. It was decided to simplify our portfolio by merging these two accounts.

This Barclays UK Equity Income account, opened in the names of Mr James Russell and Mr R Williams, with the annual income being paid to the society. It is understood that this is because an asset of this nature has to be held by a legal person and the society is not considered to be a legal person. Because of the deaths of both the signatories this fund has now potentialy become included in the closure of their respective estates. The solicitors acting for the executors have been informed of the societies ownership.

This Grinsell Bequest- COIF Charities Funds at 31 December 2021 stands at £22,572. In 2021 the fund earned £693.18 which was accumulated into the fund quarterly.

Following the report, James thanked Steve for all his hard work.

Hon Membership Secretary’s report by Julie Bassett (delivered by Gundula Dorey)

At the start of 2020, membership stood at 177 which was in line with previous years.   Unfortunately over 2020 and 2021 we lost 39 members.  That sounds a lot but is consistent with previous years at around 19 or 20 per year.  I feel we have fared well with keeping our membership during such an unprecedented period.  Sadly, we lost members through death – James Russell, Bob Williams, Mike Baker, Reg Jackson, Jenny Pennington, Malcolm Dunn, Ivor Grimstead and Martin Crossley-Evans.    I am sure that, sadly, some names have been missed, but we haven’t been notified of them.  Other members have left BAAS because of moving away, lack of mobility or illness and, I suspect because of Covid.   I’m sure too that some of these leavers are simply members who have forgotten to renew, despite several reminders, especially as they could not attend live lectures and hand over their subscription in person.

However, on an optimistic note we gained new members bringing our total membership to 167 by the end of the period.  Although this is still a reduction of 10 on the original figure I am pleased to say that during January and February of 2022 we have already received 7 new membership applications which means we are almost back on track- although these don’t get included in this AGM tally.

I am pleased to say that 55% of our members have given their permission for us to send their Bulletins and other information by email.  This is much appreciated as it not only saves the Society money in terms of printing, stationery and postage – which gets ever higher, but it saves the really time consuming job of getting the printing done, the envelopes labelled, addressed and stuffed and the packages then posted.   During Covid this was particularly challenging and therefore we took advantage of contacting people by electronic means as much as possible.  If anyone who currently receives their BAAS information through the post would like to convert to receiving information by email, please let me know as soon as possible using my email address  [email protected].  This email address is also shown on our website.

We thought it would be great to ask members to Gift Aid their subscriptions, meaning that BAAS can reclaim 28% of your subscription costs from HMRC.  We apologise that although a good percentage of our members have offered to Gift Aid their subscriptions, HMRC are being very difficult about the process.  Steve is on the case and he will get there in the end.

We are working up some new initiatives to try and make payment of membership subscriptions easier for you.   A lot of our members already have standing orders set up with their banks which removes the risk of forgetting to renew subscriptions.  A lot of members also make their payments through internet banking, but we still have a good number who prefer to pay by cheque or cash.   If any member would find it more convenient to set up a standing order or pay by internet transfer, please let me know and I can send out details.

We are still at a stage where we need to encourage more new members as our membership income doesn’t cover our annual running costs. Feedback from our recent members’ survey indicates that more than 50% of respondents would be happy to contribute to the cost of producing the BAA journal; this is something we are exploring further. If you have any friends or acquaintances who would be interested in joining BAAS please let me know.  Alternatively it may be that we have to propose at the 2023 AGM that membership subscriptions are increased.

Finally, a good number of people have been members since the 1960’s and, in fact, two members are celebrating 60 years of BAAS membership this year.  We thank them and you for your continued loyalty.

Following this report, John Hunt asked how many life members there were and whether this impacted the figures. Gundula confirmed that although there were life members, many continued to pay their subscriptions.

Hon Programme Secretary’s report by Keith Stenner

Covid restrictions then intervened necessitating the entire programme to be cancelled

between mid-March until November, 2021. Conscious of this loss to our membership the

Committee did consider introducing Zoom talks. Thanks entirely to Kate Iles by early 2021 a plan was introduced to hold a series of Archaeology Online Zoom presentations. BAAS, BACAS, BGAS and Bristol Museum all contributed to enable the talks to be offered to participants free of charge. All presentations were of a superb standard and featured speakers we would not normally expect to be able to secure for a live talk.

By November the Committee felt confident enough to reintroduce live meetings again. BAAS current policy is to ensure our programmes cover archaeological subjects which range from the pre-historic to the relatively modern and, therefore, appeal to a wide scope of member interest. Programmes are always compiled by a dedicated group of Committee members without whom I would not be able to produce the finished product. My thanks to these individuals for all their help and encouragement during the process. Finally, many thanks to Society members who have made suggestions for topics and speakers.

Ian Becky commented that a Society of the Clay Pipe Research event will be happening in Bristol this September and members may be interested in this.

Hon Bulletin Editor’s report by Jack Fuller

It has been a strange two years but despite this, the bulletin has been going out seasonally, though not as regularly as Jack would have liked. Most copies have gone out electronically, mainly due to COVID restrictions but this has helped keep costs low.  If you haven’t received it electronically or via post, please do let the committee know. Jack and the committee would welcome any feedback on the bulletin.

BAAS have also trailed a regular e-news over the pandemic. There was no feedback from the membership on how this had been recieved so any comments would be welcome. The e-news has been paused due to Jack’s workload and Jack will be stepping down after this AGM.

Gundula offered her thanks on behalf of the committee to Jack for producing such an exciting and readable bulletin.

Hon Editor BAA’s report by Bruce Williams (delivered by Bev Knott)

Two years late owing to a dearth of papers, volume 28 appeared in December 2021 thanks in no small part to the efforts of a sub-committee who canvassed archaeological professionals and amateur groups for papers detailing their work in the Avon area. We were therefore delighted to be able to report on the results from four community archaeology projects. The first concerns the work of the North Somerset Roman Roads Research Group who researched the routes and possible routes of the lesser known Roman roads (Viae Vicinales) in the district. Another group conducted research and excavations on a site in the centre of Chewton Mendip (okay, in Somerset but not far from the Avon border), summarising the results of excavations and research conducted over a period of eleven years within the precinct of a probable late Saxon Minster church. Geophysical surveys and follow-on excavations at Ashton Court by members of the local community, Bristol and Bath Young Archaeologists Club and children from schools in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare investigated the site of a long-lost post-medieval stable block, and at Woodspring Priory, Kewstoke, members of the Yatton Congresbury Claverham and Cleeve Archaeological Research Team (YCCCART) conducted surveys within the priory grounds between 2012-2020.

The results from two archaeological digs in the centre of Bristol, one lying just outside Castle Park and the other at Stokes Croft are also detailed. The review of archaeological work undertaken in the four districts between 2018-2020 is particularly noteworthy given the range and abundance of work undertaken by amateur groups working in the areas.

And, finally, volume 28 carries obituaries for five members of BAAS who passed away during the period, namely Bob Williams, James Russell, Jenny Pennington, Mike Baker and Reg Jackson, all of whom were fondly remembered.

Bev offered his thanks for all of Bruce’s work and welcomed the return of the BAA.

Hon Website Coordinator’s report by Paula Gardiner (delivered by James Lyttleton)

Over the last year our website designer (Mark Benewith) has digitised all the BAA journals so that they are accessible on the BAAS website:  Volumes 1-27 (From 1982 – 2017).  The current journal will be added in due course.

You just click on each volume for the entire contents of that year to appear on your screen.

He has also digitised some early BARG Bulletins (1975 – 1978) and two BARG Reviews (1980; 1981)

that were donated from committee members’ collections, but far from complete.

Mark’s next task is to digitise the hundreds (if not thousands) of slides that form part of James Russell’s legacy to BAAS.  This will be time consuming and we hope that a system can be put in place to make them available via the website to BAAS members.

Do keep an eye on the website for up-do-date information, especially during times of Covid.

Hon Projects Officer’s report by Kate Iles 

Restrictions, lockdowns and the impact of COVID has unfortunately meant that no physical projects have taken place this year. Instead, BAAS have focused their attention to online projects and activities.

Archaeology Online began in 2020 as a joint project with Bristol Museums, Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society and Bath and Counties Archaeological Society. It allows all three societies to deliver a high profile, online lecture series and provides an opportunity to work together. The cost of the speakers is split equally between all three societies with administration, technical, booking and marketing support from Bristol Museums.

Since its inception, we have delivered 9 Archaeology Online sessions covering a wide range of subjects including: witchcraft, the Great Viking Army, Sutton Hoo, Neanderthals in Jersey, Roman Isca and more. A total of 2406 people booked onto these session and we have received very positive feedback. Two more Archaeology Online sessions (on bog bodies in March and Priddy’s prehistoric landscape in April) are currently booking.

Another online project run in 2021/2022 is the BAAS membership survey. This was designed to gather information about who our members are, what they feel about the society and how the committee can improve in the future. Thank you to everyone that responded.

We had 54 responses in total. The main results were that the membership thought that BAAS provides value for money. The membership were most interested in a programme of walks, talks and trips to sites/heritage venues is, though some would be interested in more hands on activities. People like the newsletter, e-bulletin and journal. This committee will be considering this feedback in due course.

5.   Changeover of Chairman and mention of other proposed changes on the committee

James outlined a number of changes proposed on the committee as various officers change their posts. More details below.

6.   Change to the ‘Rules’: ‘That there is created a new position of Assistant Editor to the BAA’
       proposed by Bev Knott, seconded by Bruce Williams

This was put to the membership who endorsed this rule change. The position of Assistant Editor to the BAA is recorded as duly passed.

7.   Election of Officers and Committee Members

The following positions were agreed by the membership.

  • Committee Officers confirmed for another year: Steve Hastings as Treasurer, Julie Bassett as Membership Secretary, Keith Stenner as Programme Secretary, Bruce Williams as Editor of the BAA and Paula Gardiner as the Website Coordinator.
  • Secretary: Kate Iles was newly elected
  • Projects Officer: Donal Lucey was newly elected.
  • Assistant Editor of the BAA: Bev Knott was newly elected
  • Committee Members: Mike Gwyther was accepted. Gundula Dorey and Bob Jones requested to be co-opted by the committee.

The posts of Vice Chairman and Bulletin Editor remain to be filled and there are three Committee Member places.

8.   Mention of the proposed change to the Charitable Status of BAAS

Steve Hastings explained that BAAS is a registered charity regulated by the Charity Commission. Currently the structure of BAAS is as an Unincorporated Association.

As an Unincorporated Association BAAS is not a legal entity therefore it is unable to own property, control investments or contract in its own name. This means that when a contract is necessary, such as the Barclays Investment fund or the printing of the Journal, the liability is taken by one of the Committee, who are registered, as trustees with the commission, for the duration of their elected or co-opted term.

There is now a new legal form for a charity called a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, (CIO), it is not a limited company which is subject to Companies House regulations its legal framework emanates from and is regulated by the 2011 Charity Act.

The benefit of this structure is that it gives BAAS the legal capacity to do business in its own name that a person can do, such as:

  • Own freehold or leasehold land or other property, i.e., the Barclays Equity Fund could have been in BAAS name rather than James Russell’s.
  • Employ paid staff
  • Enter commercial contracts in its own name
  • A CIO trustees are normally not personally liable for what it does

However, more work by the committee is required to identify and write amendments to the BAAS constitution (Society Rules) so that it is compliant with the Charity Commission requirement for a CIO.

Steve would like permission from the membership to continue this research. At another AGM or EGM we will bring this proposal to the membership

Membership granted the committee to continue to carry out this research on behalf of BAAS. A member asked whether we might need a solicitor. Steve replied that he did not think this would be necessary but he was in contact with the committee of the Bath and Counties Archaeological Society who have recently undergone this process.

9. Election of Examiner: Steve Hilliard was asked whether he would accept. Steve agreed and was duly elected.

10. AOB

Ian Becky asked about the James Russel celebrations being planned for July, mentioned by Gundula. Ian asked whether Mike Baker would be included in these celebrations. Gundula confirmed that a number of people would be remembered but the emphasis would mainly be on James.

Ian Becky asked about work on the delftware collection at Bristol Museum. Kate Iles confirmed that a two year project was underway looking at some of the delftware collections held by the Archaeology and Applied Art Departments.

Ian Becky mentioned Mike Baker’s legacy and mentioned that Bristol Central Library are currently working on an exhibition about Mike and the work he did on Living Easton. Ian would like to see his archaeological work included and offered to share the contact details with the committee. Ian has also found clay tobacco pipe waste at Mike’s house, probably from the Phoenix Pipe factory at the Baptist Mills. He asked for an accession number for the material.

John Hunt enquired about the procedure for nominating a BAAS Life Member. Gundula stated that the procedure was to inform the committee who would bring it to the next AGM. John then nominated Ian Becky ahead of the 2023 AGM.

11.  Date of the next AGM: The Chair confirmed that the next AGM was planned for March 2023.

The meeting was declared closed at 8.25 pm.

Following the AGM, Pete Insole the Historic Environment Officer for Bristol (and a former Chairman of BAAS) addressed the membership with a talk on ‘Bristol, the place by the bridge’.