A Brief History of the Mendip Society:
On 28th February 1965 a meeting was held in Priddy with the objective of setting up a steering committee for a proposed Mendip Preservation Society. An inaugural General Meeting was held on 15th May 1965 at Wells Museum. Mr A R Thomas was elected Chairman and Mr S N Hobbs, Secretary/Treasurer. Two main issues were discussed, Crook Peak, and a proposed cable railway in Cheddar Gorge. A constitution was drafted in which the aim was ‘to keep itself informed of anything affecting the rural amenities of the Mendip area and act in any way possible to conserve these amenities’. A subscription was fixed at 2/6d.
By January 1966 there were over 200 members and at the Annual General Meeting that year a resolution was passed calling for closer co-operation with the West Mendip Rural Preservation Society, a body originally set up to deal with a specific issue at Bleadon.
At the AGM in 1967 voting membership was 466 and amalgamation with West Mendip Rural Preservation Society was agreed bringing in 120 additional members. At the AGM in 1970 the name was changed to the Mendip Society.
The first issue of the Newsletter appeared in July 1967. The year 2000 was celebrated with the publication of the 100th issue and ‘Mendip’ continues to be published in full colour on a regular basis three time a year..
The Society was the first to propose that the Mendip Hills should become an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and together with the Somerset Trust for Nature Conservation, produced a draft proposal for the County Council. The Society's campaign for designation of the Hills as an AONB met with partial success in 1972 when much of the central and western part of the area was designated.
The Society continues to campaign for the existing AONB to be extended to cover the remainder of Mendip which is of equal landscape value.
In 1971 a major exhibition, Man and The Mendips, was held at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells. This continued for 3 weeks and attracted 23,000 visitors. A number of books have been published; Man & the Mendips to coincide with the Exhibition, Some Buildings of Mendip, a booklet on St Hugh’s Church at Charterhouse, the Salter Collection, and Some Walks Around Wells.
In 1999 a Small Grants Scheme was launched and to date the Society has helped a number of projects of varying size and type. With the decreasing membership and low interest rates the scheme was suspended in 2009.
Today the Society faces many challenges particularly from inappropriate development in the form of Wind Turbines, Solar Installations and possibly Shale Gas Extraction in a area of such high landscape value, and work continues to protect Mendip for future generations.
Past Presidents of the Society have included the Bishop of Bath & Wells and Lord Rees-Mogg. The current incumbent is Les Davies, MBE.