The 2021 Seasonal Celebration will be held on 1st December from 7pm at the Wells Museum. Members and friends will be very welcome to share seasonal refreshments.



The society’s AGM was held at Wells Museum at 7pm on Wednesday 10th November,

and was followed by a talk from Graham Mottram the former Museum Director and current Chair of the Society of Friends of the Fleet Air Arm Museum.

Below is an account of the talk by Richard Hanks

Now is the winter of our discontent.” It may well have been for Richard III, according to the Bard of Stratford, but not for Chris Winter, chair of Wells civic society, who was pleased to welcome members not only to their first meeting of the winter season, but to their first meeting for many a long month, thanks to the pandemic.


The speaker’s first slide would have puzzled many people. It was “Fly Navy”. No doubt this could sound a contradiction in terms, but us locals, of course, know at least something of the Fleet Air Arm, and its museum at Yeovilton. Not only that, the presenter was Graham Mottram, former museum director and now chair of the Friends of the Museum. His theme was essentially the history of the concept and practicalities of enabling aircraft, particularly ones that were heavier than air, to take off from and land on a moving vessel at sea, something which in the early 1900s had never been done; indeed, the aeroplane had only just been invented. The First World War increased the impetus, and the strategy grew that aircraft could work with the fleet at sea, and ships and aircraft could combine operationally.


Following experiments with flying boats and sea planes, 1917 saw the advent of the first aircraft carrier: that is to say, the converted battle cruiser Furious became recognisable as an aircraft carrier, although its funnel and bridge remained in the centre of the deck. But this was the start, and the Royal Navy gave the aircraft carrier to the rest of the world.

Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning lands his Sopwith Pup on HMS Furious in August 1917. The birth of the aircraft carrier.












And so things progressed, with aircraft carriers proving invaluable in war and also in peace, guarding our trade routes.


Technology was experimented with. There was even an aircraft carrying submarine, with a film to prove that such a thing did exist. There were different methods tried so that aircraft could take off from the decks more effectively and safely; there was a steam powered catapult, so that a plane could take to the air from only a 75m deck, where it achieved 100mph at takeoff.


The aircraft changed dramatically. By 1945, jet aircraft could utilise aircraft carriers. Then came fighting helicopters, then vertical take-off planes until, within only 100 years, we now have the modern aircraft carrier, the remarkable HMS Queen Elizabeth.


Graham had given the smoothest of presentations, illustrated with fascinating old photos charting the evolution of the carriers and the aircraft that worked from them. He had also shown himself to be encyclopaedic in both his technical knowledge of these remarkable machines and vessels and the history of their mutually related developments. That the audience had found his talk fascinating was evidenced by the number of questions that were asked.


The next meeting will be at 7pm on Wednesday, December 1, which will, in fact, be the annual Christmas social event. Non-members and friends are also very welcome to come for light seasonal refreshments. There is no charge and it will be in the large room of the Wells museum, Cathedral Green at. For more details of this or the civic society, please contact Chris at or go to

We continue to support Wells in Mosaic by reporting Ruth’s progress on social media and in the local press, especially now that she has made significant progress during lockdown, but is now able  to open the Studio for visits (by appointment).

Work on the Neighbourhood Plan has started again and regular updates will be posted.

The programme of Plaques awarded locally continues to acknowledge places and people of note in the City.

The research project into housing growth with the Alliance of Historic Cathedral Cities and Towns (ACT) supported by Historic England is able to begin again and progress will be reported here.

It was a year and a half ago that Wells Civic Society members last met, but catching the last of the warm, light evenings, they were finally able to get together on 29 September to enjoy what has become the traditional Summer Social fare of strawberries and fizz!


For information about events or other activities or if you would like to suggest speakers or events please contact me at  or on 01749 673610 or complete the form below

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