Mark Tewkesbury reports from the event organised to celebrate the Sussex Engine & Associated Machinery Society’s 30th anniversary.
Back in 1991, a group of enthusiasts got together and decided it was high time that the South East of England had its own dedicated stationary engine club. Headed by the late Gerry Rump and assisted by others – including long-standing enthusiast, Ian Sampson – an initial meeting was called where Gerry was duly declared chairman and the name Sussex Engine & Associated Machinery Society, or SEAMS for short, was decided upon. This was to emphasis the fact that engines powered equipment, and that the showing of both engines and machinery should be recognised and encouraged.
Very quickly, the Society proved popular, with well-known and respected locals such as John and Jenny Jefferies, Charles Hudson and Tony Harcombe all joining up. Winter meetings were held at the Warnham Village Hall, where several great speakers came and talked about engines, including Stationary Engine magazine editor, Patrick Knight, and others. Summer events included small shows and sections at larger rallies; indeed, the Rudgwick Steam Rally was a favourite until its demise just a few years ago. Through Gerry, the club supported charity events at Ditchling and elsewhere. The newsletter was produced ‘in house’ by Gerry and his wife, Maureen, to whom we members owe a great deal.
Following Gerry’s sad death in the ‘noughties’, things changed and incoming chairman, Alan Goodchild, took the club in new directions, not always appreciated by some. He was followed by chairman, Jonathon Foster, membership secretary, the late Tony Peirce and newsletter editor, the late Paul Cook. Paul established a museum at his farm, and events were held there including the SEAMS summer BBQ; a yearly treat.
Over the years, several projects have been supported and encouraged by the Society. The first being the restoration of the large Tangye gas engine that’s located at Cobbs Mill, achieved with much assistance from Dennis Richardson. Then group restored a derelict Hayward Tyler Hot Air engine at local gardens for the owners, led by Richard Amos.
The club also donated a large Allen heavy oil engine – rescued from a local pumping station by the late Eric Taylor – to the Internal Fire Museum, where it’s been returned to working order. A more recent project has been the restoration of a locally-made triple-ram pump that was recovered from its site on a large estate. It was rescued in the nick of time from vandals, and is now on display at the town museum.
Now, with the uncertainty of the pandemic, SEAMS hopes to keep local interest going for the future, thanks to the combined efforts of its current chairman, Steve Rowland, safety officer John Peters and newly-appointed events organiser, Brian Charman, who steps into the big shoes of our longest-serving committee member, Ian Sampson (another person to whom the club much indebted).
The Society has kept up to date by having a website run by Sue Goodchild, and establishing its own, dedicated Facebook page which is managed by committee member, Sean Murrell. You can check it out by clicking here. It’s hoped to restart winter meetings either later this year or early next, and to continue to support smaller events held at venues such as Southdowns Garden Centre, Coultershaw Heritage Site and other locations in the area. I can say without the amazing efforts the good people already mentioned (and others that aren’t listed here), who have all stepped up to the challenge of serving the club, SEAMS wouldn’t be here today.
For the 30th anniversary, it was deemed appropriate to hold an event to mark this milestone and, with the agreement of Pete and Lin Vandendyck, the club took over Foxleigh Barn for the weekend of August 7/8th for a ‘private’ get together and BBQ. Unfortunately, nobody remembered to tell the weather gods, who decided it was high time we enjoyed some decent rain!
We suffered at the hands of some heavy showers in Saturday afternoon, just as the BBQ was lit, but the brave team of John and Steve kept on cooking and all enjoyed themselves, if a little damply. Of course, as soon as the food had been enjoyed, the sun returned! Oh well, lets hope the next milestone can be supported by better weather!
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