HLF Open Days


For more details of our Big Open Days view the ‘Nostalgia and Steam’ and ‘St Georges day’ pages!

Our open days have proven to be very popular with out local communities, here are a few reviews by visitors to the days.

If you would like to review any of our open days, exhibitons or heritage talks, please email them to kates@thespring.co.uk.

St George’s Day at The Spring

Review by Jane Gregory, Freelance copywriter, editor and visitor to The Spring.

“I went along to the celebration of St George’s Day at The Spring with two younger generations of my family, and as soon as we arrived there was something for us all to do. An imaginative programme devised by the team at The Spring saw children and their parents engrossed in craft activities, listening to stories and learning about the history and legends of St George and the Dragon.

Staff and volunteers were on hand to offer guidance on making a sword and shield, and some marvellous creations emerged with a bit of help from parents. (This activity was equally popular with boys and girls!) Children could also make a medieval brooch embossed with ‘jewels’, or a tall beribboned ‘princess hat’. Suspended from the ceiling was a large flying dragon, but no one seemed to be scared!

Drinks and snacks were created to fit the theme too, including colourful ‘heraldic cupcakes’. One of the most popular competitions was ‘Make Your Own Dragon’, which attracted a wide range of entries; it was a challenging task to choose the eventual winner, Penelope Baker (6), who won with her bright red lady dragon. It reminded me of the Bread and Butter Fly in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Penny won some tickets to see a show at The Spring.

Anticipation was mounting at lunchtime as the Fishbourne Mill Morris dancers assembled. Ably supported by their musicians, they presented a varied programme and then offered the audience a chance to join in. Everyone was on their feet straight way – and not only the children! It was lovely opportunity for me and my family to dance all together. Later the dancers taught the children how to use the sticks; perhaps they gained some potential recruits for the future!

Congratulations to The Spring for hosting such an enjoyable and successful event.”


Nostalgia and Steam: Hayling Billy Open Day

On Saturday 2 November the Spring Arts and Heritage Centre in Havant was buzzing with atmosphere, energy and excitement. The Spring organised an Open Day entitled ‘Nostalgia and Steam: 100 years of Hayling Billy History’ to commemorate the 50th year since the Billy Line’s closure, and to celebrate almost 100 years of the ‘Little Train’s’ history.

Every space in the building was occupied with a range of activities; there were railway enthusiasts and many others who had come along to remember trips on the Hayling Billy, but much more was on offer as well, as The Spring’s Josephine Payter explains:

“We expanded the activities to incorporate a broader sense of history. For example, we had a 1940s hair booth and a 1950s make-up salon, a wartime tea dance and a Victorian character re-enactor. We also included Victorian children’s crafts, and a real live ticket inspector!”

Staff at The Spring, ably assisted by a great many volunteers, made a tremendous effort to ensure a sense of nostalgia and period atmosphere was present by having their hair pinned in a 1940s fashion and some even wearing tea-dresses in line with the theme. Even the tea and cakes, provided free at the tea dance by Forest Forge, brought to mind treats from times past.

Josephine adds: “We were also delighted to celebrate our local community’s personal memories of the Hayling Billy. When I advertised for people to come forward and share their memories of the Billy Line, the response was overwhelming. I received a great variety of contributions, from childhood summer holiday reminiscences to the memories of those who once worked on the Billy Line Terriers. We showed an hour-long film by Alan Wallbank featuring scenes of Langstone Harbour and the Billy Line; and we collated all the memories we received to produce a booklet – copies sold out within a couple of hours!”

Mr Brian Boxall, who contributed to the booklet, said: “I am pleased to have been able to make a small contribution to the event. My input brought back many memories of my happy childhood, made possible by my parents who provided my two sisters and myself with such rich experiences, including trips to Hayling on the Little Train.”

And Mr Peter Drury, of Hayling Billy 50 who was the on hand expert during the Open Day, described the event as “magical… I am told the number of visitors on the Open Day alone was approaching one thousand. I spent all day talking to visitors. People were taking a great interest in all the exhibits…It was a really memorable occasion”.

Children’s activities proved very popular, with many children and their families staying right to the end of the day. Craft tables filled the Gallery area, with children busy making dioramas, model trains and seaside mobiles. The model train competition was announced by the Ticket Inspector with Miss Hedgecock winning.

For older visitors there were talks on the history of the Billy Line and the birds of Langstone Harbour; both were very well attended. The Hampshire Poet, Brian Evans-Jones, was on hand too, to compose a successful ‘crowd-sourced’ poem. On view outside was a single lever ground frame, on loan from the National Railway Museum, and on the mezzanine floor visitors could inspect a model, made by Mr Alan Bell, of the paddle steam carrier which was used between 1885 and 1888 to transport goods in railway wagons from Langstone to Bembridge harbour.

The afternoon tea dance was a great success; couples of all ages twirled around the floor under the stage lights, while many others enjoyed simply watching from the theatre seats. The dance was presented by Forest Forge, as part of their Battle Lines project; dancers were encouraged to contribute memories about World War I, and refreshments included Victory Cake made to an authentic recipe.

The Spring’s Director, Sophie Fullerlove, had this to say:

“The Spring is here to recognise and celebrate the local heritage of Havant Borough, and on Saturday we did just that! Nearly 1000 people came along to remember and celebrate the Hayling Billy line. We were delighted to see so many people engaging with their heritage and learning more about the line.

I was particularly pleased to meet a group of former Billy drivers who hadn’t seen eac h other for 50 years and whom we reunited by our event. It was great to see them remembering together and swapping stories. That is exactly what this kind of event is all about, and I am absolutely ‘chuffed to bits’ that The Spring enabled so many people to engage with an important piece of local history.”