The Newcomen Position on Coronavirus

Given Government advice on the likely duration of the Coronavirus epidemic, we are working on the principle of postponement rather than cancellation of events.  All branch meetings (including London) in what remains of March, April and May are cancelled. Plans are underway for weekend seminars in the autumn to hear some of these papers. The Dickinson Lecture is postponed until probably October 2020. At this stage the Centenary Picnic at Crofton Pumping Station remains in place but it may have to be rescheduled. The Summer Meeting in Sheffield may have to move to September, or to July 2021. We hope the October Centenary Dinner in York on 15 October will celebrate the end of isolation and the clear resumption of normal operations. We will keep you informed as best we can during these times.

Letter From the President and Vice-President

Dear members,

I am writing to bring you all up-to-date with the Newcomen Society’s thinking on the current coronavirus epidemic.

Council delegated decision making on future meetings, workshop and conferences to the President and Vice-President of the Society.  The Vice-President, Dr John Suter, and I have been in very close touch and we have consulted Branch Chairs and involved the Society’s Management Committee every step of the way.  We have reached the following decisions.  The principle is that we should postpone rather than lose events all together.

Firstly, we are cancelling all branch meetings (including London) in what remains of March, April and May.  We will postpone the Dickinson Lecture, probably to October 2020.

Secondly, given Government advice on the likely duration of the epidemic, we are leaving the Centenary Picnic at Crofton Pumping Station in place at the end of June for the time being.   But this this may have to be rescheduled to the recovery phase if need be, perhaps in August.  We will keep you informed via the web-site and e-mail.

Thirdly, since we have no idea how long this will go on, the Summer Tour is under threat.  In particular, firms may withdraw their invitations if they are struggling to catch up with order backlogs and missing staff.  So, the Summer Visit might have to move to September, or to exactly the same time in 2021.  Again, we will keep you informed about the situation.  We may still be able to stage one or two core events on schedule.  Please watch this space.

Fourthly, in September we plan to restart meetings as usual (all being well).  We are looking at plans for weekend seminars whereby we meet on a Saturday to hear two or three postponed papers at a social event built around lunch.

Finally, we hope the October Centenary Dinner will celebrate the end of isolation as well as the clear resumption of normal operations.  So there will be extra reason to celebrate in York on Thursday October 15th.

The website will have an enhanced role as a way to keep members up-to-date and we will do our best to keep you informed by e-mail.  If you have not been receiving e-mails from us, please make sure we have your up-to-date address by e-mailing:

There are two factors that weighed on our mind when making these decisions.  Firstly, many of our venues are likely to be shut down, if not immediately, then next month maybe.  Secondly, it is clear that a number of our speakers are in the “at-risk group”.  While members can self-select on attendance, speakers may feel under pressure to travel and present.  Our decision to postpone meetings means these very welcome contributors are no longer placed in an invidious position.

We are sorry to be the bearers of bad news.  Truth be told, we are fairly relaxed about the position.  We appreciate the Government’s reliance on evidence and we did not wish to act prematurely.  However, public perception is sometimes proving more important than the facts of the disease itself.  So we need to respond to the pressure of public opinion as much as the scientific evidence.

We know that members eagerly anticipate meetings and often travel considerable distances to hear papers.  Recent attendances have been particularly high at a number of branches.  So it is all the more disappointing to have to take this action.  We very much cherish the enthusiasm and support of members and particularly look forward to seeing you all again when this medical emergency is over.


Jonathan and John

Dr Jonathan Aylen, President and Dr John Suter, Vice-President, Newcomen Society

For further information contact the President at

About the Author: Phil Legg

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