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Mike Bone February 2016

Committee business since my last report has followed the pattern of previous meetings during the year in that ‘BIAS Futures’ has taken centre stage. Core activities have not, however, been neglected and I can report some significant advances on the conservation front.

The main project partners on the ‘Brunel’s Other Bridge’ project – BIAS. AIBT and CHIS – each agreed to put up £1000 as match funding to support a further grant from Historic England (HE), this time to determine the soundness of the foundations of the bridge and the amount of wrought iron plate that needs to be replaced. In addition, they have financed consultancy work on replacement of the hydraulics that once turned the bridge. This work, nearing completion at the time of writing, should enable us to provide the best possible estimates for a future HLF bid to restore the structure to operational condition. Escalating cost was one of the main reasons for failure to progress the previous Bristol City Council scheme and the HLF have indicated that they need to be assured that this will not be repeated before they allow us to restart the application process.

The conservation of documents is also another of our aims and I’m pleased to report on two recent deposits at the Bristol Record Office. The first was of 12 medium size boxes of engineers’ purchasing documents from the Fry/Cadbury factory in Keynsham and accompanying photographs. These were salvaged and cared for by Eric Miles. These records – comprehensive apart from details of the locomotive that Eric is restoring at Bitton – will prove an invaluable source for historians of this important 20th century factory. The other deposit was a miscellany of ‘Bristol’ items relocated from Stuart Burrough’s museum in Bath which included images of the Floating Harbour and documents relating to Hanham Mills, the St Philips Ironworks and Hobhouse’s shipbuilding business. I feel that we should make a major effort to deposit any records and images that we have salvaged or made as we approach our 50th anniversary. The above and other recent deposits were much appreciated by the record offices in Bristol, Bath and Gloucester.

The AGM papers are included with this Bulletin and you will see that this year we will make use of our customary post-AGM slot for a presentation on the ‘BIAS Futures’ project that has been our major focus over the past year. I will introduce our proposals and an action plan at this time and we will prepare a detailed report after this for those who are not able to attend the AGM. In the past we embedded the minutes of the previous AGM in the bulletin, often with the result that few have them to hand when asked to approve them as a true record! You will now find them as an insert. We have also included a proxy form for those who not attend the meeting, so please send this to me if you wish to contribute this way. You will also see the nomination form for election to office. In the past we have taken nominations at the meeting but now feel that you should have a little more time to think about and consult with others about this important task. Most of your committee are willing to stand for re-election but we could do with additional committee members and, in particular, nominations for the chair (standing down) and vice-chair (currently vacant).

Last year at this time I indicated in my pre-AGM report that I would be standing down but, lacking a successor, have continued in post for a further year. I regret that I will not do so again. It has been a privilege to serve for a third term as your chair and I cannot thank members and committee colleagues enough for the support that I have been given over the years. BIAS is in good shape but is in need of fresh impetus to take it towards and beyond its 50th anniversary in 2017. I will be pleased to share thoughts on this at the AGM and look forward to seeing you there.