AN ARTS society’s 60th anniversary celebrations have been put on hold after the discovery that the group is more than twice as old as first thought.

WADS, formerly known as Whitchurch Amateur Dramatic Society, had this year been planning to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its very first production.

But a discovery by a member of Whitchurch History Society has since revealed that the group’s roots date back more than 133 years.

Geoffrey Kelland found two articles in the Hampshire Chronicle dating back to 1886. The first was dated March 13 and read: “Members of this society gave their first performance on Monday evening in the Town Hall, to a crowded audience.”

A second piece, dated October 2, recapped two further town hall performances in the society’s first shows of the new season.

It was previously thought that a 1959 production of Jean McConnell’s Haul for the Shore was the first in WADS’ history. The society was believed to have been formed one year prior on May 30, 1958.

Claire Isbester, WADS committee member, said: “I think everyone thought that WADS was founded in 1958, until Geoff’s recent research.

“Indeed, in ‘Whitchurch: a Hampshire Town from Past to Present’ [a book that Geoff co-wrote] he and Geoff Hide write that ‘At a meeting held in the Church hall in May 1958 and chaired by Archie Alliston the Whitchurch Amateur Dramatic Society was inaugurated.’”