Bexhill National Trust association to disband but is left with great memories

The executive committee of the Bexhill Association of National Trust Members, St Augustines Church in 2008
The executive committee of the Bexhill Association of National Trust Members, St Augustines Church in 2008

A National Trust group in Bexhill has had to close after a drop in the number of people willing to take on committee positions.

The Bexhill Association of National Trust Members (BANTM) dates back to 1970 – when it was part of a branch which took in Hastings, Eastbourne, Rye and other local towns under a county-wide umbrella.

That group soon split into more localised branches – including BANTM, which at its peak boasted 750 members.

However, despite proving popular over the last four decades, the decision was reluctantly taken to close BANTM and branch chairman Colin Kirk told the Observer it was a sad day for all concerned.

“It is a real shame,” he said, “but like many associations, club and groups across the county it became impossible to persuade members to share the administrative load.

“Unfortunately such closures are symptomatic of changing patterns in society’s behaviour.

“We had some great times and the group was very sociable. It is sad for all concerned.”

Over the 43 years of its existence, BANTM has offered valuable financial support to the National Trust thanks to membership fees and a wide range of fundraisers, including lectures, trips, garden parties, wine tasting evenings, craft sales and more.

In fact, records show the group has contributed more than £123,000 towards the maintenance and development of local National Trust properties since 1987.

Final audited accounts showed a surplus of £4,653 which has now been divided equally between properties at Bateman’s, Clergy House Alfriston, Sissinghurst and Smallhythe.

BANTM’s demise will not go unnoticed - a commemorative tree will be planted in the grounds at Bateman’s next week close to the property’s old mill house – itself a National Trust project which is still operated to this day, producing corn sold to raise funds for the charity which receives no government funding and relies completely on donations and volunteers.

Filling BANTM’s committee positions became increasingly difficult in recent years – not least because the volunteers were clocking up an average of 1,200 hours of input a year.

Therefore the difficult decision to disband was taken at the tail end of last year.

However, according to Mr Kirk, BANTM will be survived by some great memories – not least of a hugely popular holiday its members went on.

“We used to do something called the Magical Mystery Tour,” he explained.

“It was always fully booked but nobody on the coach knew where we were going apart from the driver and the two organisers.

“Everyone loved it and in all the years it was held the organisers never once took us on a repeat visit.”