Hugh Pihlens joined the Hungerford GP medical practice in July 1973. He and Lois soon came to appreciate the charm of Hungerford, and began to develop an inquiring interest into the local history of this delightful market town.
In May 1979 he called a meeting of local people known to have an interest in the history of the town, and from this the Hungerford Historical Association was born, its first meeting taking place in September 1979. Hugh was its first Chairman. He was Chairman from 1979-1984, and 1999-2002.
He was invited by Nicholas Battle to write "The Story of Hungerford", published 1983, the first of Countryside Books Town History series.
He has led numerous guided walks around the town for HADCAF, local and visiting groups. In 1988 he brought out a small booklet "A Walk About Hungerford", describing a series of walks around the town illustrating its history through local buildings and artefacts.
In 1992 Phillimore Publishers invited him to write "Hungerford - A Pictorial History", including 170 captioned historic photographs.
Hugh has been interviewed on Radio Berkshire and Radio 210.
- Hugh Pihlens, on his last day in General practice, 30 Jun 2006.
- Hugh Pihlens, Aug 2007
- Filming with Julia Bradbury, Sep 2010
Talks and lectures:
Over the years, he has lectured to the HHA on many aspects of local history, including:
- History of Medicine in Hungerford, HHA Jan 1986
- A Look at Hungerford's History, HHA Jan 1998
- Four Dukes and a Duchess, HHA Mar 2002
- Victorian Hungerford, HHA Sep 2004- History of Medicine in Hungerford, HHA Sep 2006
- Medieval Hungerford, and the History of the Three Swans, HHA Sep 2008
- 400 years of Schooling in Hungerford, HHA Sep 2009
- Victorian Hungerford, HHA Oct 2009
- The Kennet and A Canal - 1810-2010, HHA Sep 2010
In addition, he has spoken to many groups in the local area.
Following Hugh's retirement from medical practice in 2006, he updated the 1992 book, added nearly 50 more pictures mostly dating from 1930-1990, and with Christopher Cooke of West Berks Books Ltd, brought out a revised and enlarged edition of "Hungerford - A Pictorial History".
However, Hugh had long had an interest in IT, and had been lead developer of one of the major computer systems for General Practice. After some months deliberating, he decided that rather than write more books on the history of the town, the best way to share the mass of information he and Lois had collected about Hungerford's history, he would make it available through a website. In February 2009 the Hungerford Virtual Museum was born.
He was delighted to be invited to do a small bit of filming for Julia Bradbury's BBC TV series "Canal Walks", when he spoke on the importance of the Kennet and Avon Canal during the Second World War. This was filmed in Sep 2010 and shown in early summer 2011.
List of available talks:
Most talks are illustrated with PowerPoint, and last 45-55 mins, but (within reason!) they can be shortened or lengthened if required.
• “A Look at Hungerford’s History” – a general description of a thousand years of history in a 50-minute talk! [HHA Jan 1998; RBL Women’s Section Feb 2013]
• "Mediaeval Hungerford, and the History of the Three Swans" - [HHA, Sep 2008]
• “Georgian Hungerford” – A closer look at Hungerford’s history during the Georgian period, and the coaching era. [Kintbury Kewi Sep 2019; Friends of St Lawrence's Church (Zoom) Jan 2021].
• “Victorian Hungerford” – A closer look at Hungerford’s history during the Victorian period, and the railway. [HHA Sep 2004; HHA Oct 2009; Hungerford RBL Women’s Section, May 2016]
• “Hungerford 1900-1920” – A closer look at Hungerford during the Edwardian period and the first World War.
• “Hungerford in 1912-13” – Hocktide 1913 and the visit by King George V in Oct 1912 – including rare video footage of both events. [HHA Jun 2016]
• “Hungerford in the 1950s and 60s” – [Tuesday Club, Nov 2018].
• “10 Key Events in Hungerford’s History” – Time to expand on the ten most significant events in Hungerford’s history. [RBL Women’s Section Feb 2013]
• “The History of Medicine in Hungerford” – a brief outline of the history of medicine with special reference to Hungerford – 40 doctors over 400 years! [HHA Jan 1986; HHA Sep 2006]]
• “The Postal Service in Hungerford” – An outline of the 500 year history of the Royal Mail, with special emphasis on the postal service in Hungerford – 20 postmasters and six post offices. [HHA Mar 2016]
• “Education in Hungerford – 400 years of Social Change” – The history of education, emphasising the varied and several schools in Hungerford. [HHA Sep 2009]
• “The History of the Common Port Down” – Covering all aspects of the Common – the archaeology, the events on the Common, great construction works over the Common, and its management. [HHA Feb 2015; East Woodhay History Soc Nov 2015; Inkpen 92 Group, Mar 2016]
• “The Town and Manor, Hocktide and all that!” – the history of the unique institution that defines Hungerford – how it arose, how it has changed over the years, and what it means today. [HHA Jan 2014]
• “Four Dukes and a Duchess – The Seymour Family” – the story of the Seymour family, Royalty, leading up to the Duchess of Somerset, a great Stuart benefactress, and her alms houses at Froxfield. [Merchant House, Marlborough, 1995; HHA Mar 2002; RBL Women’s Section, Jul 2012; Hungerford & Marlborough Ladies’ Luncheon Club, Feb 2016]
• “The Kennet and Avon Canal” – the general history of the Kennet and Avon Canal, with special emphasis on Hungerford. [HHA Sep 2010; East Garston History Soc Jan 2012; BFHS Newbury Apr 2016]
• “A Tour of St Lawrence Church” – [Aug 2016].
• “Treasures of St Lawrence Church” – the history of the Parish Churches in Hungerford, with special emphasis on the features and memorials in the church today. [HHA Sep 2016]
• “When William of Orange came to Hungerford” – [Dutch visiting group, Aug 2018; HHA, Jan 2020].
• "Remembering the Fallen" – the story behind the history and work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. [Rotary Nov 2014; RBL Women’s Section, Jul 2015; RBL Lambourn, Jan 2019]
• “Peru, Ecuador and Galapagos” – Holiday pictures of an amazing visit to South America 2015. Colourful and of general interest. [Hungerford Rotary, Sep 2015]
• “The Canal and WWII Defences” – The story behind “Stop line Blue”, and the building of pillboxes and other anti-tank defences in WWII – with special reference to Hungerford. [ARK, Nov 2015]
• “Sir Christopher Wren – his Life and Times” – from childhood, to perhaps the greatest architect England has known. [HHA Apr 2013]
• “A Look at Churches” – a visual romp through the changing architecture of churches in England. [Probus May 2013]
• “The Pihlens – from Latvia to Hungerford” – the story of my family history, including the first Russian revolution, escape from persecution, settling in England, and state banquets back in Latvia. [HHA Oct 2011; Probus Feb 2013]
• “Who do you think you are – Hugh Pihlens?” – an expanded Pihlens family history, in the style of the TV programme. [RBL Women’s Section, Jul 2018; HHA Oct 2018; East Woodhay History Society Jan 2020; Berkshire Family History Society [Zoom] Nov 2020].
Guided Walks of Hungerford:
Hugh and Lois often lead guided walks around historic Hungerford. These walks may cover the general history of the town, or may cover specialist topics such as Elizabethan Hungerford, Georgian Hungerford or Victorian Hungerford.
Follow this link to see pics (pdf) of the Arts Festival Guided Walk 11 Jul 2019 (with thanks to Tony Bartlett).