The Tools and Trades History Society was founded in 1983, to further the knowledge and understanding of hand tools and the trades and the people that used them. The tools and equipment of historic trades are now often the only surviving evidence of what were once common everyday activities. The Society seeks to preserve these artefacts and to investigate, record and interpret the past and present performance of trades. There were around 200 founder members, some 40 of whom were from overseas, and currently there are nearly five hundred members, of which approximately 20% are from overseas. The Society publishes a high quality quarterly newsletter containing a wide variety of articles about tools and trades, and an occasional Journal, with more detailed articles. It also produce special publications, for example The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton, and reprints of catalogues, trade directories, and other relevant publications.
The Society holds an annual conference, at various locations around the country, with guest speakers and visits to sites of special interest, some of which are not usually accessible to the general public. A growing number of local area groups exist where members can participate in a variety of activities including lectures, visits and demonstrations. The reports on past events show the range of activities - generally a guest speaker and plenty of time to chat. A tool identification service is also available to both members and non-members.
The Society has a large collection of tools which is displayed in two purpose-built buildings located at the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre, near Arundel in West Sussex. The museum is open to the public from the end of March to the end of October. The museum’s website is at www.amberleymuseum.co.uk.
The Society also holds a collection of more than a thousand books (including many that are now out of print) and old tool catalogues which is held at the Museum of Rural Life in Reading. It is available for research by both members and non-members. Access is by appointment through the Museum librarian (tel: 0118 378 8660, email or www.reading.ac.uk/merl).