The South Woodham Ferrers Local History Society was formed in October 1978, the initial idea for the Society being sparked by a short course ‘An Introduction to Archaeology’ run by the South Woodham Ferrers Community Association where there was interest expressed in further gatherings. The late John Boreham initiated the inaugural meeting and was elected the Society’s first chairman, a post he held until 1990.
The aim of the Society is to promote an interest in all aspects of local history. Its main activity in pursuit of this aim is a monthly meeting when an invited speaker talks about a subject of local history interest, ‘local’ in this context being generally limited to the county of Essex. More than 250 such meetings have been held to date. Early meetings were held at St Mary’s Church Hall but since 2004 have been held at the Champions Manor Hall Community Centre. Outings have featured during summer months including visits to local museums and historic houses, and guided tours of historic towns and villages.
The Society has organised a number of local history exhibitions including:
- ‘South Woodham Ferrers 400 years’ (1982), 400th anniversary of 1582 Survey of the Manor
- ‘South Woodham Ferrers – A Look at its Past (1987),
- ‘100 Years of the Southminister Branch Line’ (1989),
- ‘Down Memory Lane’ – the history of Hullbridge Road (1993),
- South Woodham Ferrers Dreams and Realities’ (2003), 30 years of the new town
- ‘The Crouch Valley Line – A Look at its Past’ (2007)
- ‘South Woodham Ferrers - Land of Hope and Glory’ (2011), held in conjunction with South Woodham Evangelical Church.
- 'Changing Tracks at South Woodham 1889-2014' (2014) 125 years of the railway
The Society’s 1989 railway centenary exhibition won an award in the Essex Amenity Society Awards Scheme as did an audio-visual presentation on the history of South Woodham Ferrers ‘Woodland to Wonderland’ produced in the following year. The Society participated in the town’s annual ‘Victorian Evening’, held between 1992 & 2002, where its ‘magical lantern show’ was a popular attraction.
‘South Woodham Ferrers - A Pictorial History’ was published by Phillimore & Co Ltd in 1992 using some of the photographic archive accumulated since the Society’s formation. ‘Where’s Woodham Ferris?’, an illustrated historical novel based on real people and events, was published in 1988 written by a founder member of the Society the late Les Holden.