Historian Ruth Presented With Town Medal

Historian, Ruth Gibson was presented the town medal for her incredible work in the researching and recording of historic buildings in and around Henley yesterday at the Town Hall by Henley Mayor.

Ruth has lived in Henley for about 60 years. She was married to the late Town Councillor Bill Gibson and raised their family here.  Their daughters Natasha and Tanya accompanied Ruth to the ceremony yesterday and they were joined by friends and members of the Henley Archaeological & Historical Group (HAHG).

Henley Mayor, Councillor Kellie Hinton said, “It is fair to say that there is nobody in this town that knows more than you do about Henley’s historic buildings. Ruth has given her time voluntarily for nearly 40 years and you’ve been doing a lot of recording and interpreting of the early buildings of Henley to preserve our heritage and spread that information to new generations.  Ruth’s depth of knowledge particularly on funicular timber frame buildings has enabled her to make an exceptional contribution to the people of Henley giving greater awareness to the town’s unique heritage, communicating this to the wider community and working hard to ensure that this appreciated and protected.  She has been part of the Dendrochronology (tree ring dating) project enabling buildings in the town to be dated to the exact year of the building.  I’ve been particularly happy to contribute towards the cost of this with my District Councillor grant.  Absolutely fascinating the work which was done on Bell Street and at the Red Lion hotel.   Details of 100 buildings are already available on the HAHG website with more to follow and hard copies being held in the Oxford archives.  Her work has facilitated the listing of buildings with English Heritage and she’s often improved or corrected their initial descriptions.”

Ruth is secretary of the Henley Archaeological & Historical Group and is still involved in research, writing articles and letters, giving lectures and organising visits and keeping the membership informed about the historical activities over a wide area.  Kellie added, “Ruth has always shared her unique knowledge generously.  She continues to offer expert knowledge to Town Council and the Henley Society on one of the 200 listed buildings that becomes the subject of a planning application.  We are so grateful for the work that you do.”

Ruth continues to work with Dan Miles, an expert on Dendrochronology to date the town’s earliest buildings revealing further architecture treasures hidden behind more recent building work.

Kellie concluded by saying, “Without the huge volume of work Ruth has done we wouldn’t have any of these records in the archive.  It’s phenomenal amount of work which is important and key to our history.”

Afterwards Ruth gave an insightful picture slide presentation on the some of the earliest built Henley buildings including the Old Bell pub and Old Broadgates on Market Place, now offices for Simon Mack Architects which dates back 1353.

Ruth said, “I didn’t know anything about the Town Medal so I was totally surprised when I was nominated.  I never worked on my own completely; I’ve always worked with a group of people working with me.  It’s also been a hobby for nearly all my life.  In the late 1980s there was talk on buildings and the landscape that lit a flame of interest and we started recording barns and bit by bit we came into the town.  We’ve done more and more lately in the town.  It’s very much a joint effort but it was always me writing up the reports and making the contacts.  John Howard a former town councillor had an engineering background, he was very helpful and his drawings were very good.  He helped with building the relationships with the owners of the buildings.”

Daughter Tanya said, “I’m really proud of her.  She has put so much work into protecting these lovely buildings.  If they are not recorded people don’t know they are there or what is behind them.  She’s done this for such a long time and she’s always been interested in it as long as I can remember. She’s been a member of the HAHG for long time.  We used to go up to the woods when we were young where she used to organise digs of roman sites.  There’s nothing she doesn’t seem to know; she can look a brick and know how and when it was made.”



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