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History of the AAS


Read about our long history in this article compiled by club archivist, Susan Robinson.

Inaugural Meeting in 1925

The Alton Art Society was formed at an inaugural meeting called by Mr W Hugh Curtis, Curator of the Curtis Museum, on 16 November 1925 at 4, High Street, Alton.

Those present were Mrs Gerald Hall, Mrs Chowne, Mrs Wood, Miss Langrish, the Misses Crowley, Mrs Mortimer, P Schell, Mr Gorden Brown, Mr Monk, Mr Warner, Mr Morgan and Mr Curtis, Lt. General Sir Alfred Martin, the head of Farnham Art School.

Lord Robert Baden Powell was asked to be the first President and remained in that position until his death in 1941.

The first committee members were Lt. Gen. Sir Alfred Martin voted First Chairman.

Mrs Gerald Hall, Mrs Downie, Mr Burnell, Miss Gorden, Miss Crawley, Mr Warner and Misses Wood, Farthing and Monk.

Honorary secretaries were recorded as Mr Owen, Mr Morgan and Mr Curtis.  Mr Curtis remained as Secretary until 1947.

The annual membership fee agreed was 5/-shilings, about 25p today.

There were 42 members to the Alton Art Society at this time which increased to 115 by 1926.

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The Early Years


The first exhibition was opened on 27 April 1926 at 2.30pm by Lord Robert Baden Powell and closed on 29 April 1926 at 7.30.

The cost of hiring the Assembly Rooms in Alton was £12.10s (£12.50p) and the profit on the show £10.3s.3d, £10.17 today.

Members could exhibit pictures free if approved by the committee although non members were charged a fee.

The Principle of Farnham Art School overlooked the exhibits on 24th April and Boy Scouts sold the catalogues. A good number of tickets were sold.


Children's exhibits


A sub-committee arranged to meet with school teachers on 23 October 1927 to discuss entries in age classes for children in the next exhibition. Teachers asked if crafts could be included, this was agreed.

The Children's Exhibition has since been held annually with the Art Society's main exhibition.


Elementary schools are welcome to enter, also schools in Alton Urban and Rural District, and only if there is enough space, ages up to 16 if not at school. Children who are home schooled may also enter artworks.


Demonstrations and Crafts

In the early days many crafts were accepted for the main exhibition.


Demonstrations and classes were also held at the Assembly Rooms where the Society had the use of all rooms for the sum of £10 for the whole week. 


These included Miss Everett with her spinning wheel with wool that she had gathered from the countryside, and Mr Norris Thrower with his loom.


At a later date there were also pottery demonstrations by Miss Whitehouse and Mr Plomer. Miss Clegg also demonstrated weaving. Other crafts were leatherwork, Chinese lacquer, pewter work and carving.

In 1927 the committee decided to buy a painting a year to promote the artists work and as an asset for the Society.


A few paintings are mentioned in the minutes but the handwriting is difficult to read. It appears they were scattered among members during the war but because of storage problems were eventually given to the Curtis Museum in the 1960's.

Post War

Activities ceased during the World War 2 and the Society reactivated in 1946. Mr Hugh Curtis remained Secretary, with Mr Stephen Warner re-elected Chairman. Lady Charlotte Bonham Carter became the President of the Alton Art Society at the same time.

The Sketch Club


The Sketch Club was started in 1948 by Lieut. Comdr. Brooks at the Butts Tearooms, the home of Miss Clegg and Miss Whitehouse. Members met weekly and later moved to the British Legion Hall in Albert Road, this continued until 1960.

Since those days the Society has a winter and a summer programme of demonstrations, tutorials and informal summer outdoor painting days.


Various small groups of members have set up painting groups which have been valuable for artists who cannot paint in their home.


The AAS Paint group meet currently on Thursdays at the Maltings in Alton, an informal group, all members are welcome.

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1951 to the Present Day

During the Festival of Britain year in 1951, the Art Society were allowed to use the Assembly Rooms free of charge for the week, by the Alton Town Council.

Sir Hugh Smiley became Chairman in 1955 and continued until 1966 when he became Vice Chairman. Mr H Percy Cox, was then appointed Chairman, having been a member since 1926 until 1979.

Between 1964 and 1968 there were three Secretaries, Miss Tippett, Mrs Dawkins, and Mrs Mallinson. In March 1968 Miss Norah Coggin was appointed until her resignation in 1977. Mrs Sheila Trimming took on this role until 1990 followed by Mrs Judith Shadey.

The Jack Riviere Trophy

1982 was the first exhibition to feature an award for the most popular exhibit voted for by the visitors.


This is a bronze trophy designed by Jack Riviere well known in the art world, as was his father Briton Riviere. The first winner was Mr Eric Street



Lady Charlotte Bonham Carter died at the age of 96 on 21 December 1990 after being president of the Society for 44 years. Lord Baden-Powell having served as the previous president for 20 years.

Anne Lady Scott, the wife of Sir James Walter Scott, 2nd Baronet (1924-93) Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, of Rotherfield Park, Alton, followed Lady Charlotte Bonham Carter as the third President of the Alton Art Society.


Anne Lady Scott visited the annual exhibitions and insisted on a tour of all the artist’s work giving her opinion on the majority on display. Anne Lady Scott died in 2005 whilst still President of the Alton Art Society.


In May 1989 Spring exhibitions were started in the Oakhanger Church, then St Lawrence Church, then on to the Assembly Rooms.


For many years the society has enjoyed using the Allen Gallery for exhibitions.


Art Society members were also fortunate in being asked to exhibit works at Selborne (usually in December each year) and at the Medstead Village Hall.

1980s to Date

Pam (Pell) Jones was Chairman of the AAS during the 1980s (60th – 66th exhibitions), Pam Jones also organised the Children’s exhibition for approximately 20 years.

Kate Davis has run the Children’s Exhibition since Pam retired from this role.

Peter Forey served as Chairman from 1992 – 1995. Peter was a local artist and demonstrated his watercolour techniques to members during the Winter Programme. Peter  also won ‘Best in Exhibition’ for his painting ‘Winter Afternoon’ (2012) voted for by visitors to this exhibition.

Mary Janaway took on the Chairman’s role from 2000 – 2004. Mary is an active member of the Society and paints with the Chawton Art Group on Thursdays.

Jennifer Lines was inaugurated as President of the Alton Art Society in 2006 and remains in this role to the present day.


Jennifer was also the Membership Secretary until early 2018 and kept her finger on the pulse of all changes to the membership, ensuring all newsletters and documents were sent to every member.


Jennifer is renowned for her excellent watercolour paintings, many of local scenes. These are turned into greeting cards which are much sought after by friends and family. Jennifer has had Christmas Cards of her paintings accepted by the Wessex Cancer Trust, for sale in Alton Library.

John Hearn and Mike Cross served as joint Chairmen until 2007. John Hearn became sole Chairman in 2007 and retired in 2013, due to ill health, after 10 years in the role.


John’s vibrant presence and leadership were missed by all the Art Society Members. John remains with the Society as a Lifetime Honorary Member.


John’s artwork is admired by all, especially his detailed painting of Chawton House Library.

Annabel Young succeeded John as Chairman of the Art Society in 2013.


Her lively presence at meetings and events are appreciated, especially her diligence in looking after the Art Society’s smooth running, with the back-up of a strong committee and several volunteer members who step in at exhibition times.


Sally Cox served as the Society’s Vice Chairman during this time.

The Society moved into the technological age during the 2000s, now two thirds of the 200+ members are contactable by email. The exhibition entries are also sent via the AAS Website to Exhibition Secretary, Kaye Garrett, from one web page to another. This saves an enormous amount of time in administration and costs, eg: postage & printing costs.




Today the Alton Art Society continues to be a very active friendly society of amateur and professional artists and welcomes new members from a wide surrounding area.

We have a monthly Winter Programme of demonstrations by Artists covering a range of topics, using Oils, Pastels, Acrylics and Watercolour, finishing with a workshop in April.

The Summer Programme is an opportunity to sketch and paint with other artists in the open air, visiting beautiful gardens and the countryside around Alton.



Every October we hold an Exhibition at the Assembly room lasting nine days. All members are welcome to enter.

The AAS Library

Our library was started 1997, with a bequest of 55 books from the late member Jack McArthur, and has continued since, a valued resource  for members.  Books are loaned out during the Winter programme demos, please return books when finished with, for others to enjoy.

If you would like to join the Society please contact the Membership Secretary or come along to a monthly demonstration.

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