History of the Society

The Spalding Gentlemen's Society, one of the oldest learned societies in the Kingdom and the earliest provincial association for the encouragement of antiquarianism, was founded by Maurice Johnson (1688-1755), "The Antiquary", of Ayscoughfee Hall, Spalding.

It began with a series of informal meetings of a few local gentlemen at a coffee-house in the Abbey Yard, Spalding, in 1710 to discuss local antiquities and to read The Tatler, a newly published London periodical. In 1712 it was decided to place these meetings upon a permanent footing and proposals were issued for the establishing of "a Society of Gentlemen, for the supporting of mutual benevolence, and their improvement in the liberal sciences and in polite learning". In that year formal meetings began with the appointment of officers and the keeping in minutes. The founder, Maurice Johnson, also played a leading part in refounding the Society of Antiquaries of London, and for some years an exchange of minutes took place. Francis, Duke of Buccleuch (1695-1751), Lord of the Manor of Spalding-cum-Membris, became Patron of the Society in 1732.

The history of the foundation of the Society and its development in the 18th century is to be found in Nichols' Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, 1790, and also in Michel's Literary Anecdotes, vol. vi. 1812. Other histories are by the Revd. William Moore, D.D. (1851), Dr. Marten Perry, G.W. Bailey and S.W.Woodward. In 1981 the Lincoln Record Society published The Minute books of the Spalding Gentlemen's Society 1712-1755 selected and introduced by Mrs. Dorothy M. Owen, M.B.E.,D.Litt.

         Maurice Johnson

                      by George Vertue, 1731