Reports of previous meetings

Monday, November 20th: Phil
Mansell: “Visitors to Adderbury

Our Secretary Phil Mansell did the honours for our last formal meeting of the year with a talk about ‘Visitors to Adderbury’.

In his introduction he said that over time there have been visitors too numerous to mention so his presentation was divided into five themes which each included several of those who had come to the village.

He spoke about English Explorers, for example Celia Fiennes; Politicians such as Ernest Bevin; Friends including Margaret Kennedy and Flora McCrae from Somerville College; People who came as part of their job like the Bishop of Oxford and Creatives such as Anthony Burgess. Some were familiar names others not known to us.

He concluded with a reference to the childhood memories of Walter Clarke who was the grandson of the last Quaker resident of the village Fanny Buck.

Phil had obviously undertaken some intensive research and quoted from many original sources. He gave us a fascinating insight as to how Adderbury was perceived by a cross section of society in the past.

Jean Davis

Monday, October 16th: Carol Anderson: “The Stonesfield Embroidery”

Our Scheduled speaker was unable to come due to health issues but we welcomed Carole Anderson who was able to stand in at short notice.

Carole from the Oxford Museum at Woodstock, had talked to us on previous occasions on a variety  of subjects and this time she introduced us to the Stonesfield Embroidery which is held in the museum.

It is an 18th century piece of needlework depicting the design of the mosaic pavement at the site of the Roman villa near the village.

She explained how it had been obtained by the museum about 25 years ago and the subsequent research undertaken to establish its validity and history. Measuring some 2.5 metres x 2 metres the stitched carpet has retained its vibrant colours due to not being used for about two centuries before being purchased.

She added that recently a stool had come to light in Christie’s Auction \Catalogue which may have a connection with the carpet and the museum is investigating further.

Carole answered questions after her presentation and was warmly thanked for attending the evening.

To view the embroidery visit the museum or look at its website.

Monday September 18th 2023. Martin Buckland: “Canal People”

On the 18th September, for our first meeting after the summer break, we were treated to an informal and informative talk by Martin Buckland who is a volunteer at Didcot  Railway Centre. He also has however a wide knowledge of another form of transport – waterways.

He spoke about “Canal People”, those who had planned, constructed, lived and worked on and maintained them, from ancient Egyptian times to the present day. Among these diverse individuals Mark included James Brindley, Thomas Telford, Ferdinand de Lesseps, Mary Ward and  LTC Rolt.

Their ingenuity, problems, hard labour, lifestyles and legacy to England’s  canal network were explained concisely, sometimes, tongue in cheek, but always with an interesting and entertaining approach. A question and answer session followed the presentation.

To find out more about our local canal from our archives visit the AHA website:

July 17th 2023: Sue Smith: The Friends’ [Quakers’] Ambulance Unit

At July’s meeting Sue Smith was our speaker talking about the Friends Ambulance Unit. She described how this civilian volunteer ambulance service was set up in 1914 to serve alongside the military medical groups in spite of antagonism from the army. Comprised mainly of Quaker Conscientious Objectors upholding their peace testimony it provided unpaid support at home and abroad. Funding came from richer Quaker individuals including the Cadbury and Rowntree families and members provided their own transport. Her presentation then showed how after 1919 the FAU continued to be involved in social causes. At the onset of WW2 it returned to relief work on the battle fields and organised work for conscientious objectors on the land, in hospitals etc. In 1947 the unit was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and carried on with post war humanitarian activities until 1959.Sue was able to answer many members questions afterwards

To find out more about Quakers in the village borrow AHA’s The Quaker Meeting House in Adderbury from the library or contact Secretary Phil Mansell to obtain your own copy.

On 19th June Simon Wenham, from Oxford University’s Continuing Education Department, came to talk to us about “Living the Lexicon: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary”.

He explained in detail how Murray, the son of a tailor, began a project which became his life’s work. The Oxford English Dictionary superseded Samuel Johnson’s book (1755) and Webster’s American version (1828). Murray, supported by volunteers, drew heavily on the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, The Dictionary of National Biography and the Victoria County History. Some words described as “unmentionables” were omitted! In his account Simon told us that a second edition was published in 1989 and the book continues to be up dated about every three months. Will it ever really be completed!

To find out more about Quakers in the village borrow AHA’s The Quaker Meeting House in Adderbury from the library or contact Secretary Phil Mansell to obtain your own copy.

Monday, June 19th 2023: Simon Wenham: “James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary

Monday, May 15th 2023. Carol Anderson: “Oxfordshire and the Great Exhibition

Carol Anderson, who is Oxfordshire Museums Service Manager made a return visit to Adderbury for our May meeting. This time she turned our attention to the Crystal Palace, the Great Exhibition of 1851 and Oxfordshire’s involvement.
She began by outlining the reasons behind the event, to improve Prince Albert’s standing in the country (he played a part in the organisation) and to showcase British industry to the world. Throughout her talk Carol commented on how the state of affairs in the mid 19the century often paralleled life as it is today.
She explained how the building itself was a marvellous feat of engineering and that the exhibition was visited by six million people in the 6 months of its duration. Of the 49 exhibits from Oxfordshire several were awarded medals.

Adderbury in 1851
We do not know if anyone from the village made it to Hyde Park but we can learn a lot about Adderbury’s residents from the census of that year.
The majority were born here but others came from the neighbouring counties; a few had arrived from London, Somerset, Hereford and South Wales; one lady was born in Malta.
There was a wide range of inhabitants from the very poor (paupers and those on Parish Relief) to the very rich (annuitants who lived well off their pensions or those owning property to rent out). Occupations covered everything needed to make the village almost self sufficient – butchers 5 and bakers 4 but no candlestick makers!!!.
In 1851 23 farmers were recorded in the village and hamlet of Milton. Some 250 labourers worked for them or were employed on road building.
Most women cared for families with as many as 10 members living at home at once while others earned a living to support themselves – 12 dressmakers, 11 charwomen,5 laundresses, 8 lacemakers, 3 nurses, 2 schoolmistresses, 1 governess and a midwife are listed.
Servants (maids, grooms, cooks, housekeepers, gardeners etc) filled as many positions as the labourers.
6 inn keepers played host, 2 ministers presided on Sundays and 5 grocers provided food for the table. 3 Carriers travelled to Banbury with and for supplies.
There were numerous other trades including a vet, coal merchants, 3 millers and 2  hairdressers although probably not all worked in Adderbury.
About 130 children were scholars in the schools or being educated at home.
How times have changed!

The meeting on July 17th will be Sue Smith talking about The Friend (Quakers) Ambulance Unit in the Institute

Jean Davis

Monday, April 17th 2023. Bill King: “On Two Wheels: the history of the bicycle”

The meeting opened with our AGM. The business was dealt with swiftly and we then welcomed our speaker, Bill King. His presentation was entitled “On two wheels – the fascinating story of the bicycle.”
By way of introduction he read a poem and invited us to close our eyes and recall our experiences with bicycles. He then took us through a photographic cavalcade of machines from the first velocipedes with no pedals in 1839 to the latest versions used in Olympic racing today. As befits the owner of 27 bicycles Bill was an enthusiastic, sometimes tongue in cheek, entertaining speaker.

The talk prompted a search of our archives.
The first mention of bicycles in Adderbury is in the 1895 Flower Show when there was a bicycle race, no details given. In 1907 a bicycle obstacle race appeared and in 1908 musical chairs on bicycles – how did that go!! Several Edwardian postcards depict children with bicycles but not actually riding them.
In the first World War they provided transport for people such as Edith Walton who cycled daily to Banbury to start work at 6.00am in the paint shop of the munition factory.
In 1924 Thacker’s garage advertised “to supply any make of cycle and repair and overhaul all makes of machines.”}
During World War 2 members of the American 110th Field Artillery were billed in the village. Later a history of the group described how they “were amused, bewildered and bedevilled by the hundreds of bicycles. But before long many of the men were riding rented and newly purchased bikes during leisure hours.”
At that time too the Walton family welcomed an evacuee who later recalled that his brother disobeyed orders from Mr Walton not to ride an old dilapidated bicycle, rode down a hill and crashed into their wall. He was not hurt but Mrs Walton hid the truth from her husband!
The late Rhoda Woodward remembered riding to dances in Banbury and paying sixpence to leave her bike in a haulier’s yard for security; the rule for half covering bicycle lamps during the wartime blackouts; the scissor grinder turning his pedals to spin the stone; Theodore Lamb the local hermit whose wheels had no tyres; and her own tricycles and new blue BSA which was a 10th birthday present.
At least one decorated bicycle featured in the 1953 Coronation celebrations, PC Simons patrolled on a bike in the 1950s and paper boys cycled on their rounds before catching a school bus. Few children today are without a bicycle.
Bill asked at the end of his talk “Is there a bike lurking in your shed?” Perhaps you’d all better check it out!

Jean Davis

Monday, 20th March 2023. Barry Davis: “Banbury Photographers”

Barry gave us an insight into one of his specialisms – the early years of professional photographers in this part of the world.

He covered their activities in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, producing images of individuals and families for cartes de visite and later postcards as well as in memoriam cards, which were initially hand-coloured. Barry was able to reveal the details, such as embossing, which distinguished the products of the different companies, and showed examples of the elaborate props and backgrounds used in portraits during the heyday of commercial photography between 1860 and 1900, when the approval of Queen Victoria was a great boost to the industry. He also painted a wider picture of the commercial development, with some of the firms moving beyond their cluster of studios in South Bar and opening branches throughout the region and beyond.

Commercial photographers ventured out of their studios when later technical developments permitted, becoming involved with showing village views, covering events and even road accidents.

Barry showed that a number of photographers combined their activities with a camera with other trades. And the invention of the Kodak Brownie in 1900 made a big difference to the demands that the general public made of professional photographic firms.

Alongside professional photographers there were amateur hobbyists and Barry showed examples of a number of these, including George Norris of Adderbury, a retired barrister who lived in Cross Hill House and produced a number of atmospheric studies of Adderbury and the surrounding countryside.

Barry concluded his talk by challenging members to identify village views taken by the firms he had been discussing.

Monday, 20th February 2023. Liz Wooley: “Oxfordshire and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39”

This month we welcomed back Liz Woolley from Oxford. She describes herself as having an MSC in English local history from the University’s  Department of Continuing  Education. Her particular interest is in the social, economic and industrial history of Oxfordshire in the 19th and early 20th century. The subject of her talk was “Oxfordshire and the Spanish Civil War”.

Liz explained that her interest in this arose from conversations with a friend whose Spanish father had been rescued from an internment camp in 1939 by Alec Wainman from Shipston-under-Wychwood.

She outlined the background to the war which ensued after a failed military coup against the Republican government in 1936. Fighting between Nationalist aggressors and the ruling body was intense and thousands of civilians and troops were killed in the three years of its duration. Germany  and Italy became involved but Britain and France made a non-intervention pact along with 26 other nations.

However many people in England held strong views about the crisis and began to offer help to the beleaguered Republicans. This was mainly based on humanitarian grounds with volunteers giving medical aid in the war zones, fund raising for food and supplies and sheltering the Basque refugees and exiles. Others joined the International Brigade to fight.

Liz then described some of the 31 people who travelled from Oxfordshire of whom 6 were killed. They ranged from Morris Car workers, Witney Blanket hands and builder’s labourers to students and academics at the University. Nathan Clark of the Quaker Clark Shoes family was one such volunteer. There were divided political opinions in the city with Denis Healey, Clem Atlee and Iris Murdoch all speaking out about the conflict. British Fascists met with Oswald Mosley in the Town Hall. Luis Portillo (father of Michael) married an English woman who had worked to rescue refugees. About 200 Basque children were accommodated in camps at Thame, Shipston, Aston near  Witney and Buscot Park.

On the 1st of April 1939 it all came to an end when General Franco the Nationalist leader claimed victory. He remained in power until his death in 1975. But the events in Spain were almost forgotten as another bigger war was looming.

As we have come to expect from Liz, her presentation was a well delivered and illustrated version of events and an eye opener on a lesser known conflict abroad.

To find out more look for the book “Oxfordshire and the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 town and gown united” which was co-written by Liz in 2015.

On April 17th  the meeting will be the AGM followed by Bill King talking on the history of the bicycle.

Jean Davis

Monday, 21st November. Keith Westcott: “The Broughton Hoard and Roman Villa. Monday 19th December: Christmas Party and 40th Anniversary Celebration.

November was  especially memorable in that the lights in the Institute alternately illuminated the room or plunged it into darkness before giving up altogether. However our speaker seemed unperturbed and carried on regardless!

Keith Westcott described how his early hobby of shipwreck diving led from a plumbing apprenticeship to a career as a historian, archaeologist and detectorist. Throughout his talk he emphasized the value of found artefacts as a tangible link with the past.

His coastal finds aroused his interest enough to take up metal detecting on land. He explained that research plays an important part in archaeology and a drawing in Banbury Library archives prompted him to research on Broughton Castle estate. In 1996 he discovered a Treasure Trove hoard of Spanish silver coins there

Years later recalling a previous high status Romano British sarcophagus unearthed in the area led to an exploration of the nearby landscape. In 2016 this revealed the presence of a very large Roman Villa. During 2021 he became a project  manager for the Time Team dig on the site where traditional and modern techniques were used to establish its size and layout.

Keith’s presentation was well illustrated and he concluded with the hope that in the future the Heritage Lottery or Oxford University might fund a whole scale excavation of the villa thus adding to our knowledge of local history

The Christmas meeting on December 19th was a celebration of 40 years of the Association at which 3 of the founder members were present. A quiz, bring and share buffet, slide show and anniversary cake were enjoyed by all as we made our own little bit of history.

Jean Davis

Monday September 19th: Karen and Brett Wiles: “The Women’s Voluntary Service 1938 to 1945”

Following the funeral of Queen Elizabeth our first autumn meeting was held on 18th September and as we decided to go ahead with it we opened with a minute’s silence. The theme for the night seemed appropriate as it was all about ordinary people coming together for King and Country.

Karen and Brett Wiles gave us a presentation on the Women’s Voluntary Service “ The army Hitler  forgot” during World War two. Their talk was very well illustrated and had a musical accompaniment. Photographs and songs brought back childhood memories of wartime and the ensuing years.

Karen described themselves as home front historians belonging to a re-enactment group. They have amassed a large collection of facts figures and memorabilia about the years from 1938 to 1945 which they shared with us. They explained that the WVS was originally founded in 1938 to recruit for the Air Raid Precautions civil defence force as war with Germany loomed. However it became much more than that with a membership of over one million by 1945. Yet little of its activities has been recognized since then.

The organization was non political, non denominational and open to all classes and included many WI members and Girl Guides. A Housewives Service was introduced and put into practice in every street. Training included first aid, driving and vehicle maintenance. This enabled them to deal with anything from fire fighting to refugees, children’s welfare to salvage collection, mobile canteens to hospitals needs and everything in between. Their motto was Never Say No.

The talk was a fascinating reminder of how pulling together can play a big part in our country’s history. It would stand us in good stead in today’s troubled times.
The Service still exists as the Royal Voluntary Service with WVS archives held at Devizes

The next meeting on October 17th is “Do onions cure earache?” Come along and find out.

Jean Davis

Monday, 18th July: Paul Booth: “Romano-British Oxfordshire”

Our speaker, Paul Booth, was formerly Senior Project Manager at Oxford Archaeology Limited until his retirement in 2019. He is still actively involved with the company and is leading the post-excavation programme for the publication of the joint Oxford University Institute of Archaeology/Oxford Archaeology training excavation undertaken at Dorchester on Thames from 2008-2018. His talk was wide-ranging and while he was at pains to concentrate where possible on sites in the north of the county, he acknowledged that the bulk of the detailed work referred to the Thames valley. A convenient way to follow up his detailed presentation is to consult the following paper he prepared for Oxford Archaeology, conveniently available online:

Phil Mansell

Monday, 20th June: Sheila Alcock: “Homes Fit for Heroes?”

Homelessness has ever been a problem in England and continues to be so today. Our speaker explained how this has been addressed in this country since late Victorian times. Sheila Allcock introduced herself not as a historian but as someone who has always been interested in local history. Her talk  “Homes fit for heroes, the Centenary of Council Houses” was based on personal experience and research.

It was presented in two parts. In the first she outlined the series of Acts which led to the provision of council houses nationally. Amongst these the 1890 Houses for the Working Classes brought new building in Liverpool and London to replace over crowded tenements. The Housing and Town Planning Act 1919 was the first comprehensive government initiative for social housing. It served three purposes: slum clearance, accommodation for people driven into towns for manufacturing work as agricultural employment declined and homes for ex-service men.

During 1939 to 1945 all building was halted and houses were lost due to war damage. Sheila explained that prior to this council estates had begun to appear including the largest in the world at Dagenham. Afterwards many more homes were completed. However housing stock was depleted as tenants were offered the opportunity to buy their homes. Margaret Thatcher’s 1980 Right to Buy Bill only added to what had been possible from the beginning. But replacement homes never kept pace with those lost as private property.

In the second part she concentrated on Oxford. She said her father had come south from Scotland in 1926 and found work in the building trade eventually running his own business. She lives in the family’s former council house in Headington. Over the years, in the city and surrounding area council houses have continued to meet the same needs. They include the Rosehill, Cutteslowe, Barton and Blackbird Leys estates. As early as 1956 the Green Belt began to disappear but there were still not enough homes. By 1988 The Housing Act was an attempt to return to greater social housing building levels, led by Housing Associations rather than Councils and backed by private finance. New developments must include “affordable homes” which are still beyond the reach of many people. So the problem remains and Sheila intends to pursue her research further.

Jean Davis

Monday, 16th May: Richard O. Smith: “Oxford Eccentricity”

On the 16th May we were pleased to welcome back Richard O Smith. This month’s visit had been postponed in 2020 due to Covid restrictions.

In his introduction he described himself as a scriptwriter, novelist, columnist and writer for many different platforms. These were his day jobs. In the evenings he became a speaker and stand up comedian although he preferred to be known as a humourist. And humour a plenty we had on the night!  

Richard’s lively presentation was based on a book on which he collaborated with Korky Paul the children’s illustrator. The book is “Zz to Aa. 1000 years of History in 26 letters,” the talk was entitled Oxford Eccentricity.  There seemed to be little he didn’t know about the city when it came to the unusual, the out of the ordinary and the downright daft. Every explanation was designed to amuse. There wasn’t time to cover the whole alphabet but he had selected a cross section of tales, anecdotes and photographs, all based on genuine sights and headlines, which kept us entertained for just over an hour.

We learned of misdemeanors, conflicts of interest, seemingly inane facts of life, town versus gown exploits, true stories (who knew Oxford once had a zoo?) and much more. With a slightly larger number of members present than usual laughter echoed round he Institute and hilarity and enjoyment kept us enthralled.

Search on line to discover more about Richard O Smith

Monday, 18th April: AGM + Julie-Ann Godson: “Toffs in Trouble”

April 11th  was the date of the Annual General Meeting of the Association. The business took all of ten minutes to conduct as the relevant paperwork had already been circulated to members. The most important item on the agenda was the election of Tim Woodall, a founder member, to Honorary Life Membership. This was agreed unanimously.

We then turned our attention to our speaker Julie Ann Godson. She had previously spoken about one of her books “The Water Gypsy” and made a welcome return. She explained how, in researching that book, she had uncovered many entertaining tales of “real life iniquity, misconduct and plain criminality among the local aristocracy.” These then leant themselves to a further book “Scandal in High Society Oxfordshire.”

Her talk was entitled “Toffs in Trouble” and she had selected six infamous characters from this book to present to us. Their stories ranged from the Tudor period to the mid nineteenth century and included murder, secret love affairs and debt.

In the introduction in her book[BD1]  she writes “I can only conclude that the sheer variety of ways in which the upper classes of Oxfordshire have continued to behave badly over the centuries is nothing less than impressive.” To find out more go to The book is still available.

Jean Davis


21st March: James Hamilton: “J.M.W.Turner and Oxfordshire”

Many people are probably familiar with the most well known works of landscape  painter J M W Turner (1775 – 1851). Our speaker for the evening came to talk about “Turner in Oxfordshire” and the prolific pictures he produced, especially of the city and colleges, but also of the surrounding area. 

Dr James Hamilton is an Art Historian and writer who works in the University of Birmingham. He is a recognised authority on Turner and has written several books including the definitive biography. 

He described Turner’s relationship with Oxford as a romance and as a second professional home. This resulted in his many water colours, and later oils, compositions which were always preceded by detailed  sketches and outlines. Some then became engravings for the Oxford Almanack and for James Wyatt a picture dealer. 

James explained  that Turner’s works were not only attractive scenes but the details in them reflected the life of the times -there was always more to them. He illustrated this with slides emphasising the finer points. 

He said that Turner knew his worth as an artist and his fees were based on the size of each canvas. There were many facets to his character: he was an associate of the Royal Academy at age 14. He had architectural skills, and he travelled widely. There was no doubt of his talents. James gave us many more fascinating insights into Turner’s life and answered questions at the end of the evening when we were also able to purchase books. 

Jean Davis 

Monday, 21st February: Pat Fricker and Dick Carter: Claydon House: Now you see it, now you don’t

In spite of the remnants of storm Franklin making for a cold evening there was a good attendance at our second meeting of 2022 on 21st February. A talk on “Claydon House: Now you see it, now you don’t” was given by Pat Fricker and Dick Carter who are both  volunteers at this National Trust property. 
The Claydon Estate was originally a Tudor Manor and home to Sir Edward Verney, standard bearer to Charles 1st. He died in battle in the Civil War leaving huge debts. Subsequent heirs faced a future of debt and bankruptcy until it came to the formidable Lady Mary Baroness Fermanagh in the late 18th Century. She prudently  sold off assets and land  and within 2 years it was solvent again. 
The rather mysterious title of the presentation refers to the House. This had been enlarged and almost entirely rebuilt on a grand scale by Ralph 2nd Earl Verney to consist of two wings and a central rotunda between 1760 and 1777. Mary, his niece , dismantled all but the west wing in 1791 recycling the materials in the remaining portion and properties in the neighbourhood. On her death it passed to Sir Harry Verney who had married the sister of Florence Nightingale. The later was a frequent visitor to Claydon and it contains many of her personal effects and memorabilia. 
All this and more was described by Pat who gave us a lively account of  the various colourful characters in the family and the architects and craftsmen associated  with them. Dick explained  how much of the interior had been embellished with elaborate wood carvings and  an impressive staircase. They were both very knowledgeable and happy to show case Claydon but the frequent handover of controls was a little distracting. 
The main house was handed over to the National Trust in 1956 while the courtyard and park still belong to and are managed by the family. Much conservation work has been undertaken, more is needed. The Pandemic has reduced visitor numbers and income. To find out more visit 

Jean Davis 

Monday, 17th January: Rob Jacobs: Beatrix Havergal of Waterperry

After some discussion we decided to continue with face to face meetings in 2022 unless the Covid situation worsened again. About 35 members came to the first meeting of the year held in the Institute, on January 17th.

Our speaker was Rob Jacobs who is the Horticultural Manager of Waterperry Gardens and his talk was entitled Waterperry Horticultural School; History and Legacy. In it he charted the life and times of Beatrix Havergal and her battle for recognition for women in the gardening world.

Rob had put together a presentation outlining the life of Beatrix, her troubled childhood as the daughter of a vicar, her instigation and development of the school, recognition by RHS in 1963 and, with her aims achieved, her closure of the college in 1971.

He explained how, with sheer determination, perseverance and an indomitable spirit, she moved from Thatcham, to Downe House, to Pusey building up her experience and resources. Finally she leased Waterperry from Magdalen College before buying up the land and buildings in 1947 for £2,500.

It was a residential school and the girls who came to train paid for their tuition. During WW11 it ran as a market garden and the produce contributed to national food supplies. In later years attendance at the Chelsea flower show provided another outlet for more sales especially of strawberry plants.

Rob then told us how in the 1960s Miss Havergal received the RHS Medal of Honour and an MBE. Her partner Avice Saunders, who she met at Downe and who ran the domestic side of the operation, died in 1970 and Beatrix closed the school. She sold the estate to the school of Philosophy and Economic Science, which agreed to the continuation  of the gardens and nursery, for £250,000. She herself died in 1980 at the age of 79.

Rob was an engaging speaker, very knowledgeable about his subject and his illustrations gave us a clear picture of what life was like there. His talk reflected his own interest and pleasure in his working environment and its history. In answer to questions at the end he recounted several amusing anecdotes which showed that that it was not “all work and no play” if you were at the school! (As one member of his audience was).

See or pick up a leaflet from Banbury library or museum for more information

Jean Davis

Monday, 20th December: Voices across Time: “But Once a Year”

For the History Association, in common with many other groups 2021 was another strange year. Zoom talks came first and then the return to face to face meetings in our new venue in the Institute. In September we staged the Village History Exhibition for the Community Day and in December decorated a Christmas tree for the Festival. Life was just beginning to feel ”normal” again. 

Then came Omicron. However on Monday 20th December twenty eight members and guests made their way to the church for our Christmas gathering, not the usual party, but to watch a performance of  “But once a year” by Voices Across Time. 

It was loud, lively and a lovely end to our programme year. This evening was their dress rehearsal but if there were any problems we didn’t spot them. It was originally meant to take place in the Institute but the church seemed the perfect setting for reminiscence especially during the more sombre and  nostalgic moments. The only disappointment was not being able to join in with the songs and actions due to covid restrictions but we did manage some foot tapping and nodding heads! 

Jean Davis 

Monday, 15th November: Barry Davis: “The Cawley Family of Adderbury House”

This talk provided the background to the period that Hugh Crawley, born in 1840, spent in Adderbury, as the owner of Adderbury House for the twenty years from 1905 to 1925.

Barry’s meticulous research traced the parallel careers of the brothers Hugh and Frederick Cawley. He made clear how their early occupation as land agents to great landowners had brought them status, contacts and the means to take advantage of the many opportunities that surrounded them. In the case of Hugh, we saw that it was possible to pursue a career both as a farmer, cheese manufacturer and later provisions merchant and as an industrialist. We also saw with both brothers how chance and national events could provide a huge uplift to the fortunes of individuals, as when the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 plunged the country into mourning, but brought massive profits to the Cawley brothers, who owned the patent for a pure black dye which made their cotton finishing business the most successful in Lancashire. National events could also bring tragedy, as when Frederick lost three sons during the First World War.

Towards the ends of their careers, both brothers looked for country retreats, perhaps as a contrast with the noise and dirt of the Adelphi area of Manchester where their mill was, and perhaps in emulation of the life of the great country estates they had experienced as land agents. Frederick found his retreat in grand style with his purchase and subsequent restoration of Berrington Hall near Leominster in Herefordshire (now in the care of the National Trust) and Hugh did so in a more modest fashion at Adderbury House. Hugh was clearly the more private of the two, satisfying himself with local affairs and country pursuits, while Frederick entered politics as a Liberal MP, receiving a baronetcy in 1906 for services to the Liberal party.

Although focussed on the Crawley brothers, there was plenty of opportunity to observe and reflect on the role of women in the period, particularly with the untiring devotion of Hugh Crawley’s daughters to the affairs of Adderbury, as they provided financial support, organisational ability and inspiration to village events year after year.

Barry’s meticulous research and copious illustrations made it possible for us to experience the lives of wealthy self-made men throughout the Victorian, Edwardian and early modern times.

Phil Mansell

Adderbury History Association October 18th Meeting 2021

On Monday 18th October we met in the Institute for our second “face to face” meeting, observing Covid guidelines. Our speaker was Ciaran Walsh from Oxford whose talk was entitled “The Otmoor Riots in the wider context”.
The Otmoor riots took place during the first quarter of the 19th Century as a protest against the enclosure of the moor. The communities of the seven villages around it lost their common rights to graze livestock, and in particular ducks and geese, on the land and also suffered from flooding. Matters came to a head in September 1830 when a thousand villagers walked the seven mile circumference of the moor destroying every fence on their way. 41 people were arrested. However, aided by a sympathetic crowd at St. Giles’ Fair, on route to Oxford gaol they all escaped.
Ciaran gave us a very detailed account of these events and explained that they were part of a wider movement across the country and were not just concerned with enclosure but a combination of factors. The ruling classes such as Sir Alexander Croke at nearby Studley Priory were riding rough shod over the local areas everywhere.

Rebellion against such behaviour, partly fuelled by what was happening during the French Revolution, also emphasised the need for electoral reform here to give the working classes a voice in how their lives were governed. In addition agricultural depression, due to enclosure, was forcing rural populations into towns where jobs were also being lost due to the mechanisation of industry displacing workers. This led to the formation of Trade Unions and disputes with government departments through physical and verbal protests which continue to this day.

Ciaran’s presentation was delivered with all the fervour you would  expect from a ‘radical labour historian’ and sometimes it was difficult to distinguish between the people he was relating to. His most recent talks had been via zoom and some of the illustrations were a bit small for the larger screen and for members at the see. We trialled a sound system and revised the seating and it was an improvement on the last meeting. All in all it was an evening in which we learned a lot.

Jean Davis

September 20th 2021 : Stephen Oliver: “St Mary’s Adderbury; its history and restoration

On 20th September we gathered together for our first “face to face” meeting, following Covid guidelines, at the new venue of the Institute. About thirty five members and visitors attended to hear a presentation by Stephen Oliver. He was the Church Architect overseeing the restoration and conservation of St. Mary’s Adderbury during 2018 and 2019. His talk was a reprise of the earlier ones with additional material from his own recent research 

In two parts it began with a history of the church from the 18th C to the 19thC with particular reference to the elaborate carvings. These he attributed to the “Banbury School of carving” as there is similar decorative work at Bloxham, Hanwell and Middleton Cheney. The fabric of the church had deteriorated by the 18th C and some restoration was undertaken in Victorian times. More work was needed however and repairs to the tower and chancel became essential. 

In the second half of his talk Stephen explained how these were carried out, the problems encountered and the solutions found at considerable cost, with help from the Heritage Lottery fund. He showed some very clear photographs of the project enabling us to see up close and in detail the ornate decorative work which is not easily visible from ground level. He included some aerial views of the tower clad in the scaffolding – a work of art in itself! 

Whether your interest lay in church architecture or local history it was fascinating to hear an expert account of this familiar structure at the heart of the village. 

Jean Davis 

July 19th 21st 2021: AGM and Alistair Lack: “Country Houses of Oxfordshire. Meeting held via Zoom 

A little later in the year than usual our AGM was held by Zoom on July 19th. With fewer members present than at a face to face meeting the business was swiftly dealt with. We then welcomed our speaker for the evening. 

Alistair Lack “returned” to give us a personal account of some of Oxfordshire’s Country Homes. In his introduction he told us that some 1900 large houses had been lost during the 20th century. This was due to the two  World Wars, agricultural depression and a general movement of population into towns plus the cost of maintaining such properties. 

He had chosen four of his favourite houses and described each in turn, mentioning their dates, builders and his reasons for including them. Each verbal description was accompanied by clear photographs to illustrate his points. 

Our own local Rousham House was first as an example of a family home with a warm and welcoming character. Then came Blenheim Palace on a grand scale as a ‘truly national monument’. Third came Chastleton House, more modest but a fine example of the Jacobean period. Finally he recommended Ashdown House near Hungerford which he described as a dolls house in appearance and which was built out of love for Elizabeth Queen of Bohemia. Sadly she died before it was completed. 

At the beginning of his presentation Alistair had mentioned Tusmore Park which had a chequered history and was demolished in 1961. It had a revival in 2002 when a new house was built on the site in Neo Georgian style. There were a few technical hitches during the meeting but it was an enjoyable evening to round off a very hot day. 

Two of the properties are run by the National Trust and all four have websites if you wish to find out more or make a visit, 

Jean Davis 

June 21st 2021: Marie-Louise Kerr: The Romans of Oxfordshire. Meeting held via Zoom

Our June Speaker Marie-Louise Kerr describes herself as “a curator without a museum”. She was a mine of information and supplemented her verbal presentation with slide and handheld artefacts.

The theme was ‘Romans of Oxfordshire’ and the talk was divided into three parts. The first two outlined pre – Roman aspects of British life and the Roman invasion. In the longest section she described some of the examples of Roman remains and archaeological finds in Oxfordshire.

Commenting that many people think of gladiators, togas, soldiers, forts, baths etc. when asked about the Romans she said her aim was to show the everyday lives of those who made the Oxfordshire area their home.

She explained that before 50 BC two tribes – the Belgae and the Atrebates populated this part of Britain and examples of iron age grave goods, including a coin from the Henley horde and the Didcot mirror, displayed high quality craftsmanship and indicated an already cosmopolitan society with links to the Roman Empire through trade.

Invasions by Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC failed to secure a foothold in Britain but there followed a successful attempt by Claudias in 43 AD. This resulted in Roman rule with Londinium being established as a capital. Closer to home the earliest recorded resident near here was Lucius Valerious Germinus, an army veteran, whose 79 AD gravestone was uncovered at Alchester, south of Bicester.

Marie-Louise then went on to describe several of the county’s sites of Roman occupation, the North Leigh villa, the Cholsey villa, one at Goring and another at Wittenham Clump. Of particular interest to us all was the discovery already made on the Broughton Castle estate which is to be further investigated by Time Team.

She was a lively and enthusiastic speaker and after the talk discussion followed with members about the Roman evidence around Swalcliffe and Tadmarton.


17th May 2021: Janice Kinory: “Salt in Prehistoric Britain”. Meeting held via Zoom

On the 17th May twenty two members met up on zoom to resume our monthly meetings and hear about a commodity which we take very much for granted – SALT.

Most people in the Banbury area are familiar with Salt Lane on the southern edge of the town, part of the route that once carried salt from Droitwich to London. Little of it remains today but from Bodicote to the Broughton Road it exists as a bridleway and a length of the Sustrans Cycle Way, soon to be surrounded by housing.

Janice Kinory was our speaker. Janice, who lives in Steeple Aston, is a research Associate in the School of Archaeology at Oxford University. Her interests lie mainly in Prehistoric and Romano Britain with the production and distribution of salt being her speciality. It was an insight into these earlier times that formed her presentation.

She spoke for an hour giving us a detailed account accompanied by maps and illustrations of pottery. She reminded us that salt has always been important in human diets and is still used for food seasoning and preserving. She explained how excavations have revealed many examples of “briquetage” a coarse ceramic. These enabled archaeologists to understand the methods used in the production of salt, not only from evaporating sea water but also by burning and processing other natural materials.

In thanking Janice, Phil our secretary said how fascinating it had been to listen to a talk given from an archaeological perspective other than the more usual historian’s point of view. It was an interesting start to our “summer season”.

Jean Davis

15th March 2021: Stephen Dawson: “A Tour of the Work of the Oxford Preservation Trust”

 Our Zoom meetings continue and on March 15th twenty four members settled down in front of their screens to find out about the work of the Oxford Preservation Trust. The talk was presented by Stephen Dawson. He has been the operations and development manager since 2016. 

It was entitled A Tour of our Work. Started as a charity in 1927, when the green belt was coming under threat as the country recovered from war and started to rebuild, the Trusts aims were to work alongside the various authorities involved, to accept changes while ensuring the minimum of disruption took place to the local environment. 

Stephen outlined the Trust’s objectives as being “to preserve and enhance for the public benefit the amenities of Oxford City and the surrounding area” and “to promote and encourage public interest and knowledge in the history of the same”. 

He then took us on a visual tour of the many sites for which OPT is responsible including Boars Hill, Kennington Village ,and South Park describing them in detail. Buildings in its care include Oxford Castle, for which they have developed an educational programme, The Merchants House at Abingdon, which was bequeathed by its last owner and the painted room in Corn Market. Some items of architectural significance have also come under its protection with ongoing projects at the LMS Railway Swingbridge, the Martyrs Memorial, the Covered Market and even historical railings, with support being given to their owners to restore, repair or replace them. 

He explained that the work of the Trust has many facets. A set of Heritage Walk booklets has been prepared for self guided days out and the Oxford Open Doors annual event gives access to places usually unavailable. It had to go virtual in 2020 but it is hoped that this year it may happen for real in September. There are also Trust Awards to celebrate projects which enhance the environment. 

Some of us knew very little about OPT and Stephen had a lot to show and tell us in an hour. We shall be able to see the dreaming spires and their environs in a new light on future visits to the city. 

The Trust welcomes donations and new members. For more information look at 

 Jean Davis

15th February 2021: Carol Anderson: “Over the Hills to Glory – The Ascott Martyrs”

The usual group of history enthusiasts logged on for this month’s meeting to hear Carol Anderson’s talk “Over the Hills to Glory – the Ascott Martyrs”

She introduced her presentation with a reference to the well known story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the six men from Dorset, who in 1834 were transported for union activity in an effort to improve the lot of the rural working classes. The Ascott Martyrs found themselves in similar circumstances but their story was very different.

Carol is the Chairman of the Ascott Educational Trust which was set up to recall the actions of a group of village women, not union members themselves, who caused a national stir at the time but have been largely forgotten over the years. “The Incident” as it became known occurred in 1873. She set the scene by describing what life was like in Ascott under Whychwood when the 1871 census was taken.

This was followed by an account of the event in which 17 women were arrested, charged and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour. Their husbands had been locked out for demanding higher wages from a local farmer who then employed two young men to do the work. The wives tried peacefully to persuade them to go away. This was considered to be picketing and they were accused of  “Unlawfully molesting and interrupting the two boys”. Riots ensued at Chipping Norton police station where they were held before being taken to Oxford goal.

This was at the time when Joseph Arch the Trade Union advocate was active in the area and he used it to his advantage. The case attracted the attention of the local and national press, members of parliament and even Queen Victoria. Although their sentences were remitted later the women served their time and they were feted on their return home.

Finally Carol pondered about what had been achieved by their actions and concluded that they did highlight the injustice and poverty of the agricultural scene of the day.

The Trust exists to keep alive this little piece of history. If you visit Ascott there is a memorial tree on the village green surrounded by seats bearing inscriptions of the martyrs’ names and an account of what took place. Inside the church is a wall hanging, made in 2018, to commemorate the small but not insignificant occasion.

Jean Davis

18th January 2021: Simon Wenham: “The Rise and Fall of Pleasure Boating on the Thames

With the continuance of Covid restrictions we began the New Year with our third zoom meeting in which 23 members participated. Our presentation was by Dr Simon Wenham. 

Simon is a part time tutor at Oxford University, combining teaching courses on the Victorian period with ongoing research . He has written many academic and popular articles and is the author of 2 books about boating. His title for our talk was “More than three men in a boat: the rise and fall of pleasure boating on the Thames.” 

From a starting point of river usage in the middle ages he showed the development of pleasure boating and how it both shared and competed with commercial river traffic. It reached its heyday in the late 1900s, diminished and then had a second Golden Age in 1970s. 

He explained how there were many social influences on its growth and decline; how man power, steam and diesel engines all added to the variety of craft on the Thames; how different authorities were responsible for maintaining the river, making it something to be valued and celebrated as in the Thames Jubilee Pageant. 

Simons talk was both entertaining and enlightening and packed a lot into 56 minutes. A slightly slower pace might have enabled some of us to digest a little more of the facts and figures. Similarly one image rather than several at a time would have made it easier to pick out details on a small screen. Nevertheless his enthusiasm for his subject provided an enjoyable evening and raised some nostalgic comments from several members. 

To find out more about Simon and his books go to 

Jean Davis 


December 7th 2020: Liz Woolley: Children’s Experiences of the Second World War in Oxfordshire

On 7th December  23 members and a dog logged on for our second zoom meeting and final get together of 2020. We welcomed Liz Woolley, a regular speaker for the Association. She has a wide knowledge of all things Oxfordshire and gave us a presentation entitled ‘Children’s Experiences of the Second World War in Oxfordshire’

Liz divided her talk into several sections each illustrated by a relevant slide featuring children; her account was based on her interest in and involvement with the Soldiers of Oxfordshire group at the time it was setting up its museum a few years ago.

She began appropriately with September 3rd 1939 when the county woke up to the news that war had been declared and almost immediately preparations to survive began. This included the evacuation of children from cities into the countryside. No one is sure why there was so little enemy bombing in this area but only 30 people were killed in the few air raids. However, the threat of such attacks did have an impact on everyone.

Liz went on to describe the children’s awareness of and interaction with the nationwide activities around them. These included agriculture, manufacturing, salvage and repair work, military training and monetary savings. All ages were expected to play their part. She used examples from school log books to show how events impacted on their education and home life; interviews with some of those who were growing up during this time revealed that for many the war suddenly became a reality

Liz’s research also examined the experiences of evacuated children; for some those days held happy memories, for others it was an unpleasant episode in their childhood. Liz delivered her talk in her usual direct, concise style to an audience who had mainly been born just as and after the war ended. But it did evoke some recollections of parents talking about concerns and lasting friendships being formed during the years 1939-1945 as well as a discussion about how Adderbury itself had been affected.

As we face what seems like another world war with the Covid pandemic and restrictions give us more time on our hands for reading, copies of “In it Together Adderbury at War” by Barry Davis are still available.

Jean Davis

November 2nd 2020: Stephen Barker: “Soldiers, Saints and Sinners: Oxfordshire Characters from the British Civil War5 1642-51”

November 2nd saw the History Association attempting to return to some form of ‘normality’ after a lockdown summer and no opportunity to meet together  during early autumn. Twenty five members logged on to a zoom illustrated  talk given by Stephen Barker.

Stephen is a museum consultant and expert in military history specialising in World War 1 and the English Civil War. He has been our speaker on several previous occasions.

This time he departed from the more regular theme of battlefields, commanders and outcomes of his presentations and  introduced us to some other situations and people who lived at the time of the Civil War 1642 – 1651. These he called Soldiers, Saints and Sinners!

He told us that the Civil War was a brutal affair affecting  all areas of Oxfordshire, especially Oxford which became the Royalist Capital. Caused by religious differences, Parliament’s refusal to accept the king’s dominance in power and the latter’s financial extravagance it provided a back drop for Stephen’s accounts of the various characters he described.

These ranged from the ghost of Deadman’s Walk, near Merton College, Francis Windebank, through William Lenthall of Henley and Woodstock, a speaker of the House of Commons, to Lady Jane Whorwood of Holton who acted as a secret agent for Charles 1.

Abingdon, Great Tew, Banbury Castle and Burford all had their share of unusual activists contributing  to the events of that period. They too were brought to life by Stephen.

The evening was a different experience from our usual gatherings but nonetheless an interesting one.

Another zoom meeting is planned for December. 


Jean Davis

February 7th 2020: Alistair Lack. “The elusive Lewis Carroll”

The tale of Alice in Wonderland was at the forefront of entertainment over Christmas and the New Year. Appropriately our speaker this month, Alistair Lack, came to give us a glimpse of the man behind the author “Lewis Carroll.” Alistair, formerly a BBC correspondent and now a tour guide in Oxford, made a return visit to provide his own personal insight into the intriguing real life of Charles Dodgson.

Opening with an account of Dodgson’s early life he described him as the son of an academic vicar at Christchurch Oxford. He was the eldest of eleven siblings in a very self contained family of 3 boys and 8 girls. After Rugby School he went to Christchurch and eventually became a ‘student’ (Fellow) there lecturing in maths. Obliged to serve as a Deacon, a role he disliked, he was friendly with the Dean and his family including the daughter Alice. As a result of this the Alice in Wonderland stories came about under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

Alistair then told us that Charles had many interests and talents. He did drawings for his first book but unhappy with them commissioned John Tenniel to illustrate the others. He visited Russia, spent summers in Eastbourne, took up photography, believed in the evolution theory,
was a pacifist and a choral singer. He walked miles every day, kept diaries and wrote numerical and literary puzzles. But his character had many facets. He enjoyed the company of children although there was never any suggestion of impropriety. He spoke with a stutter and later in life developed a fear of dying. He suffered from depression especially as a result of a supposed sinful episode in his life. He was obsessed with the number 42. Although he earned a good annual income at Christchurch he died in 1888 with a huge overdraft and his family were forced to sell most of his possessions.

Dodgson was in many ways a strange, enigmatic person and Alistair, although intrigued by him, admitted in his conclusion to finding him “almost rather creepy” leaving us wondering if perhaps Charles lived in his own imagined private wonderland.

Jean Davis

January 29th 2020. Anthony Wagg: The Wars of the Roses

There was a full house on January 20th as members queued to renew their subscriptions for another year and provide an audience for our speaker. ‘The Wars of the Roses’ in 45 minutes was how Anthony Wagg concluded his own talk, And indeed it was. Thirty two years of scheming, power struggles, political intrigue and battles, from Towton in Yorkshire in the north to Barnet in the south, were condensed into an account of the actions of the York and Lancastrian combatants between 1455 and 1487.

Rivals for the throne of England, supported by ambitious and ruthless women in two families fought their way through history, culminating in the famous defeat of Richard III at Bosworth and the coronation of Henry VII to create the Tudor monarchy. Locally the wars came close with the battles of Edgecote, Northampton and Chipping Norton and troop movements affected the Banbury area.

At times during the evening it was difficult to remember which side the various Henrys, Edwards, Margarets and Elizabeths were on, such was the wealth of information. However this turbulent period clearly held a fascination for Anthony and he knew his subject well. We learned as lot about the way the wars were conducted and the final outcome.

Jean Davis

November 18th 2019.  Barry Davis:  Pansies, Parsnips and Ponies

AHA Chairman Barry Davis’s latest exploration of Adderbury’s history concerned the Adderbury Show, from its first appearance in 1877 to the last in 1925.

As we have come to expect from Barry, the research that lay behind his talk was detailed and well-sourced. Barry drew heavily on accounts in the Parish and Deanery Magazines of the time and on accounts in the local press, which reported the results of the shows in great detail. He was also able to illustrate the venues, the personalities and the activities of the shows with contemporary  photographs and posters, something which added much to our appreciation.

The details of the shows gave us a vivid picture of the social structure of the village in Victorian and Edwardian times and on to the period after the First World War. Even the opening set of rules distinguished between the entry charges for “Gentlemen keeping gardeners”, then “Amateurs”, and finally “Cottagers”. Barry also showed how the upper reaches of the village supported the show in all sorts of ways, from providing potted plants to decorate the marquee, to donating prizes, to becoming patrons of the event.

Barry surprised us by showing how popular the show was despite the fairly high entrance fee – though the level of attendance at all times depended on the weather. While the exhibits were the main attraction, together with the band which attended from the beginning, the organising committee kept adding features to the show to stimulate the public’s interest. These ranged from “Old English Sports”, including tug of war, to organised visits to see Jeddah, to swing boats and fairground attractions, to the products of local industries, to a Punch and Judy show.

The most significant innovation, however, was the introduction in 1888 of horse and pony races. Barry showed great ingenuity in locating the probable site of the racecourse itself and took us through the variety of races staged and shared with us some of the incidents that enlivened proceedings over the years.

Barry’s presentation expanded from the detailed history of the Adderbury Show to give a picture of the social structure of the village as a whole and the main protagonists. It left us too with a vivid picture of popular entertainment over a period of nearly fifty years.

Phil Mansell

October 21st 2019. Bill King: Yesterday’s Runways

“Yesterday’s Runways” was a talk by Bill King a military historian with a particular interest in aviation. It encompassed the Airfields of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the Cotswolds. In a year that has celebrated the 50th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon Bill’s introduction took us back to that first brief flight by the Wright brothers in 1903 and his theme continued with the development of aviation through to the end of World War 2.

Admitting to a fascination with flying since childhood he showed his encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject supporting his talk with numerous pictures and much reference to local airfields. He explained how World War 1 saw the start of airborne combat, from the use of planes with canvas covered wooden frames to those made of metal with more enclosed cockpits. After the war many were sold off or burnt although some were used for air travel.

However, as the threat from Germany again became obvious an expansion programme was introduced which saw Britain building airfields with surfaced runways to accommodate Hurricanes and Spitfires. We learned that there were 42 such sites within a 25 mile radius of Adderbury. The majority of pilots, navigators, radio operators, flight engineers, gunners and casualty evacuation staff were trained in the Cotswold area. This was accompanied by continual development of the aircraft themselves. Tiger Moths were built at Cowley, gliding lessons took place at Kidlington and jet engines were tested at Barford St John.

Aerodromes became complex areas with control towers, hangars, homes and offices and an average population of 3,000 personnel. For many their military significance declined after the war and Bill described how modern life has overtaken these sites; some have buildings (now listed) housing companies, others are still used for commercial and leisure flights and some are buried under housing estates. At several, memorials to their 1940s occupants are being put in place.

Such was the wealth of detail that Bill provided that at times it was difficult to keep up but throughout his presentation he listened to comments and answered questions. It was an interesting and informative evening enjoyed by all those present.

Jean Davis


September 16th 2019. Maggie Black: From local committee to international organisation: Oxfam’s extraordinary journey

Our September 2019 meeting was addressed by Maggie Black, who spoke on the subject of “Oxfam’s extraordinary journey”. Maggie worked for Oxfam during the 1970s then around the international aid sector before producing a history of Oxfam’s first fifty years in the early 1990s (A Cause for Our Times, OUP, 1992). She took us on an exploration of Oxfam’s developing role from small-scale operation during war time to one that could operate across the globe. She showed us how the scope of Oxfam moved from Europe to the Middle East, then back to Europe with the aftermath of the Hungarian uprising, and laid a special emphasis on the opening up of Africa as a focus for aid and support in the 1960s. Maggie’s presentation linked to our own memories of seeing the horrors of, say, the Congo and Biafra in our newspapers and made us realise how much our understanding of overseas aid had grown through the actions of Oxfam and other Agencies. Maggie made it clear throughout that Oxfam’s success was very largely due to the farsightedness and courage of a few individuals. She clearly continued to feel, as she put it in Cause for Our Times, that “No-one will ever convince me that this organisation is anything less than extraordinary, possessing a concentration of calibre, energy and dedication which would be the envy of any organisation in the world”. Nonetheless, Oxfam has experienced a great deal of negative publicity recently, and Maggie was questioned on this. She gave us to understand that she felt the organisation had perhaps grown beyond the point where adequate control could be brought to bear in all circumstances.

July 15th 2019. Deborah Hayter: ‘Harvest Rituals’

Landscape Historian Deborah Hayter made a return visit this month to enlighten us about “Harvest Rituals”. She began by making the distinction between Customs (usual or established ways of behaving) and Rituals (events involving religious or other rites). 

An initial problem with the projector was resolved which was fortunate as the talk relied heavily on illustrations. These showed agricultural practices from the 15th Century to the present day. 

Commentary and quotations accompanied them and we learned something of how the Reformation altered life in communities, as did the progression from manual labour to mechanisation. A seasonal presentation for a warm summer evening. 

June 17th 2019. Julie Ann Godson: ‘The Water Gypsy’

The village of Northmoor close to the Thames near Appleton is home to our speaker for June, the Oxfordshire historian Julie Ann Godson. It is also the scene of events in the eighteenth century which inspired her to write the book “The Water Gypsy”, the subject of her talk.  Three years of research and writing culminated in the story of a Thames fishergirl who became a Viscountess and she describes the tale as an astonishing romp through the Georgian and Regency periods.

And so it proved to be.  Betty Ridge was the daughter of a Thames Fisherman who had bettered himself to become Parish Constable and a licensed victualler, selling beer and refreshments from his cottage home on Noah’s Ark Island. As a result Betty met and wed a University student William Flower 2nd Viscount Ashbrook. Denied marriage by his guardians until he was 21 they tied the knot in 1766 and set up home in Shellingford Manor near FaringdonSadly William died in 1780 leaving his wife to fight her children’s corner among the aristocracy. 

Julie charted the family’s history through high society and political intrigue – her granddaughter becoming Duchess of Marlborough at Blenheim – and brought us up to date with the present generation whom she had met during her research. A complicated mix of trials and tribulations, fame and fortune made up the account which she delivered with much humour, bringing the facts and figures to life. Several of us left clutching copies of Julie’s book to read more about this fascinating character.  

“The Water Gypsy” by Julie Ann Godson 
ISN 9781511973427


May 20th 2019. Ben Ford: ‘Initial Results from the Westgate archaeological dig in Oxford’

The Westgate Centre in Oxford has recently been in the news for winning the British Construction Industry Award for Commercial Property of the Year 2018. What is perhaps less well known is that it also won the Archaeological Project of the Year. Ben Ford, the Project Director of Oxford Archaeology, spoke to us on May 20th about their achievements. He explained that the rebuilding and extension of the Shopping Centre provided the opportunity to undertake extensive excavations on the site of the Franciscan Friary (Greyfriars) known to have existed there from 1224 until its demise in the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s His talk was detailed. It covered all aspects of the dig, including the plans and maps used in conjunction with the developers. He explained how modern investigative techniques had revealed the engineering skills, diet and way of life as it was conducted in a teaching foundation. Ben’s illustrations also showed examples of some of the artefacts recovered from the layers of gravel and Oxford Clay of which the flood plain site is composed. The writing implements, religious items, domestic goods and many other finds are being studied before finding a home in the County Museum. As our secretary said in his vote of thanks ‘there is a great deal of detective work involved in archaeology’. Ben presented the results of his team’s investigations with precision. With the Westgate Centre completed and functioning Greyfriars has once again gone underground. Just one art installation, of medieval tiles in Middle Square, is a reminder of its medieval splendour. Look for it next time you shop in Oxford.

Jean Davis

April 15th 2019. AGM and Nick Allen: ‘Richard Andrew, a fifteenth century Adderbury and New College Man’

This month’s meeting was one of two parts. It opened with our AGM. The usual reports, elections and points of information were dealt with swiftly. The committee and officers remain the same and there will be no increase in subscriptions until 2021. Membership stands at about 60 but visitors have also enjoyed the past year’s visit, exhibition and talks and are always welcome.

After a coffee and cake interval we continued with a presentation by Nick Allen about “Rev. Dr Richard Andrew – a man of Adderbury.” Nick introduced his talk as a follow on to Phil Mansell’s Three men of Adderbury talk last year. Richard Andrew (1407 – 1477) was in fact the son of a wealthy farmer in Bodicote which in the 15th century was in the Parish of Adderbury. Nick set the scene for that period of time and then showed how Richard Andrew featured in it. Somewhere or somehow the young man acquired the knowledge of Latin required to enter university and study at New College, Oxford, eventually achieving a doctorate in 1432.

Nick then charted his remarkable career with the church and crown from ordination at Waddesdon, via King’s Secretary, to Dean of York and much more on the way. As a result of Nick’s thorough research he painted a picture of a wealthy, capable, influential and above all intriguing character from Adderbury’s past.

Jean Davis

March 18th 2019. Ruth Peters: ‘Romantic decline – Preserving Chastleton House’

Our speaker Ruth Peters’ enjoyment of the job she holds with the National Trust at Chastleton was clearly evident in her presentation. As a Senior House Steward she schedules conservation work, commissions surveys from experts, works with a team of other house staff and promotes the work of the Trust to a wider audience hence her talk.
It covered 3 areas: there were some historical facts about the property, the trust’s approach to the properties they care for and the work entailed in the choreographed preservation of this particular building.
Originally in the possession of the Catesby family (of Gunpowder Plot notoriety) and built between 1607 and 1612 it was purchased at a later date by one Walter Jones. No additions or major alterations have been made and it remains essentially a small gentry country estate of its time. It passed down through the Jones family to Barbara Cotton Brock and her husband who, without the financial means to remedy years of progressive decay, sold it to the National Trust in 1991.
Ruth explained that the trust, true to its policy of keeping ‘the spirit of the house’ has done only what is necessary to keep it structurally safe and water tight. The contents reflect four hundred years of daily life and no attempt has been made to restore, only conserve, what remains, as her images showed.
The small domestic scale tells of life in an average family home with few objects ‘on display’, except for the Juxton Bible and some Jacobite glass. Other items are in store as the House, built on bedrock, is damp and not conducive to maintaining fabrics etc.
Chastleton is obviously very special to Ruth and she encouraged us to visit and even become involved as volunteers who are always welcome To find out more about experiencing a step back in time see

Jean Davis

February 18th 2019: Timothy Walker: The Oxford Botanic Garden, the first 393 years

Timothy Walker, Director of the Oxford University Botanic Garden until 2014, gave us a fast-moving and very amusing survey of the development of the garden since its seventeenth-century, maintaining a timeline of the successive directors and associated professors of botany with their many strengths and weaknesses. He spelled out the ways in which the function of the garden changed over the years from its origins as a means of teaching medical students how to recognise the plants they would need to prepare their cures. He gave us many examples of the research work of the garden and of the ways in which the physical layout has changed as new approaches to gardening have come in. He told us how the garden had rescued some plants from extinction, recounted the story of its most famous escapee, Oxford ragwort, and introduced us to some of the plants which had found a place in the hearts of Oxford people – including a pinus nigra that was the favourite in turn of J.R.R.Tolkien and Philip Pullman. He also sang the praises of the arboretum at Nuneham Courtenay which is part of the botanic garden. He said at one point that among scientific studies “biology has a soul”. He certainly gave us a very clear idea of how that soul had manifested itself in the Oxford Botanic Garden over the years, and left many of us determined to visit or revisit as soon as possible.

Phil Mansell


January 21st 2019: “Percy Manning, the Antiquary who collected Oxfordshire”

For our first speaker of the new year we welcomed Mike Healey, a former librarian at the Bodleian. There was a good turn out in spite of the cold weather. Mike’s talk was entitled “Percy Manning and his place in Oxfordshire history”. Percy Manning was an antiquary who amassed enormous collections about the county and city covering all periods of history and documenting folklore and customs as well as material objects. Born in 1870 in Leeds he was the son of a railway engineer. Percy was four when his father died and the family moved to Watford and then to Oxford. Percy was a student at New College but more interested in practical archaeology than his academic work and he failed to get his degree until 1896. From then on he lived as a gentleman scholar, always in lodgings, and belonged to many societies including the Oxford Archaeological and Historical society. His life revolved round collecting and setting up exhibitions, talks and publications. He died of pneumonia in 1917 while serving in the national reserve at Southampton Docks. His collections are housed at the Pitt Rivers, Ashmolean and Bodleian and reflect the constantly changing ways of life. His maps were left to the University and a project celebrating the centenary of his death in 2017 has brought together two sets of resources for local history. “Mapping Manning” makes available large scale maps created by Percy showing archaeological sites and finds and indexes and data bases of his collections. Manning never married and was a modest man with a stutter but he achieved much in his comparatively short life which is acknowledged by a blue plaque on 300 Banbury Road, Oxford. Michael Healey is a respected researcher in folk music and folk lore and is the editor and main contributor of the book “Percy Manning: the man who collected Oxfordshire”. 332 pages, published by Archaeopress price £30 ISBN 1784915289

Jean Davis

Saturday, 10th November and Sunday, 11th November: Adderbury History Association Exhibition Commemorating the Role of all Village People 1914-18

The decision of the Association to mount an exhibition in November 2018 in place of holding a talk was amply justified by the numbers who came (nearly 200) and the appreciative comments they made.

The exhibition was assembled and curated by Barry and Jean Davis, who were on hand throughout to answer questions and provide further detail. The material they had selected so expertly and displayed so handsomely showed, as promised, how all aspects of the village were affected by the war and how everybody in the village played a part in the war effort, not just the soldiers who went to fight. Their material showed us villagers raising money, making medical and other supplies and providing support to troops as they passed through Banbury. They took us into all aspects of village life, showing, for example, through extracts from the log books, how school life was disrupted as pupils and teachers took time to visit returning soldiers. Written accounts and contemporary sources were supplemented in the exhibition by an impressive range of everyday objects

As we would expect after the painstaking research of the 2014 book, In It Together, Barry and Jean showed us the full range of Adderbury’s combatants and their fate. They concentrated not on the horror of the conflict, however, but showed us instead the everyday humanity which informed, for example, cards and messages from the front.

The most impressive aspect of the exhibition was the amount of time that visitors spent looking at the presentation and the range and seriousness of the questions that it raised for them. The reception the exhibition received certainly repaid Barry and Jean’s efforts and showed that the exhibition had played a valuable role in the village’s commemoration of the struggles of 1914-18 in this centenary year.

Phil Mansell

15th October 2018: “William Castle: A notable Banbury Eccentric and Morris Fool”

William Castle, known as “Old Mettle”, was born in Adderbury in 1792, but spent most of his life in Banbury, where he died in 1841. He was a well-known “character” there, and, as a result, aspects of his life are better documented than we might expect for a person with little standing in society. Stephen Wass, our speaker, gave out a series of quotations about Old Mettle, which members read out at appropriate points.

William Castle’s father was a weaver, who died when William was only six years old. William had physical deformities, either at birth or as a result of an accident or possibly, as Stephen suggested, as a result of Moebius Syndrome. Stephen believed that many features of his life could be traced back either to an attempt to avoid bullying in an unsympathetic age or to the need to scrape a living on the margins of society.

William moved to Banbury, at that time a moderately successful town, and first came to prominence as a “mock candidate” in what was then a “rotten borough”. In this role he enjoyed popular success and became the focus of political protest in the chaotic and often violent electoral conditions of the time.

The 1832 Reform Act, however, robbed Castle of this role, and he then had a number of occupations – matchseller, gravedigger (particularly during smallpox outbreaks), and, finally, professional fool in the context of Morris dancing. Here he seems to have been actively sought out by Morris dancers, because of his ability to control a crowd and keep up a stream of jokes and comical actions, filling in the gaps between dances. He wore a series of costumes as a Fool and was portrayed wearing an academic gown and cap and with the characteristic slouching stance which related to his deformed legs.

Records seem to show that William Castle was involved in petty crime from the 1830s onwards, but there seems to be some evidence that his popularity rescued him from the worst consequences when he was caught. He was valued as a local character with a ready wit but could himself be the butt of people’s cruel jokes. One consistent theme seems to have been his love of children and rapport with them, and people seem to have been happy to leave them in his care.

William Castle died of apoplexy in 1841 at the age of 52 or 53. His possessions at the time of death were meagre indeed: a heap of straw and a pocket knife. Stephen made a powerful case for viewing William Castle as someone who had made a life for himself on the margins of society in an era when someone with a disability had to make his own way. It was a case, Stephen said, of sink or swim. And “Old Mettle”, in the end, proved himself a swimmer.

Phil Mansell

September 17th 2018: “Beer, Sausages and Marmalade: Oxford Food and Drink in ther Nineteenth Century”

Liz Wooley, well known to us as a social historian, came to give a talk entitled Beer, Sausages, and Marmalade. And indeed she provided us with a veritable feast of facts and figures about food and drink in 19th century Oxford, whilst explaining their links to tourism and politics in the city. Beer had long been considered safer to drink than water and by 1883 there were over 300 licensed premises in Oxford and seven breweries. Four families, all related by marriage, dominated the industry, namely Tawney, Hanley, Morell and Hall. It was the latter two who flourished into the 20th century before succumbing to the city development programme and being absorbed into a bigger company. Also prolific were the butchers with nearly 50 shops in 1852. Alden and Clark, in the covered market, sold the famous Oxford Sausages. These were made from pork and veal and highly rated by Mrs Beaton. Messrs Hughes, Pigott, Grubb, Boffin and Underhill were all successful merchants of the period. Most became Mayor of the city influencing the local political scene. Frank Cooper’s establishment in the High Street began selling marmalade, made by his wife, in 1874 and his factory was opened in Park End Street in 1902. Visitors were encouraged to watch the production, Henry Taunt was commissioned to draw up a trade guide and the university rowing teams were advised to include marmalade in their training diets!. The marmalade has stood the test of time until recently when a letter from a disgruntled lady in Devon surfaced, complaining that it contained too many bits which had to be spat out! Anecdotes such as this and Liz’s clear and concise delivery of her presentation, interspersed with wry comments, made for enjoyable listening and gave us a real flavour of the tastes of the ‘foodies’ of the time. Oxford’s Working Past by Liz Wooley is available price £5.

Jean Davis

July 9th 2018: Life on Board a Narrow Boat

Some forty members arrived on the 9th for the welcome return of Martin Way and his talk ‘Life on board a narrow boat’. And if anyone nodded off in the summer heatwave they were soon roused by a blast on a horn, Martin being keen on authenticity. He told us that he had no experience of canals until his first teaching post at Cropredy school in the 1960s. Sent to Stoke Bruerne to find out more he learned a lot and then continued to acquire a wealth of information, artefacts and ephemera, all of which he shared for our interest and enjoyment.

After giving a brief resume of the beginnings, development and engineering aspects of canals Martin presented a slide show with a running commentary in his usual entertaining style. Following this he elaborated on the narrow boat related items on display. These included crockery, costumes, and jugs and boards with the familiar roses and castles designs. We were then invited to examine them.

The talk was wisely delivered at a gentle pace reflecting the character of his theme but not ignoring the harsher side of a bargee’s working life. It was an evening worthy of what we have come to expect from Martin and much appreciated.

Jean Davis

June 18th 2018: Glove Making in West Oxfordshire

On the 18th June Carol Anderson from the Oxfordshire Museum Service came to give us a talk. On a night on which England’s first match in the Football World Cup was being played it was no mean feat to attract a good attendance for her presentation ‘Glove making in West Oxfordshire’ .

Carol gave us a resume of the history of glove making from prehistoric times, when they were worn primarily for protection against the elements, rough materials and hard on the hands vegetation, through to the gauntlets worn by soldiers, hunters and hawkers and finally to the decorative accessories of dress fashion.

By the 16th century the area bounded by Woodstock, Chipping Norton and Witney had achieved a reputation for quality handmade gloves due to the availability of leather (doeskin) and a suitable local water supply.

She outlined how preparation of the skins (tanning, scraping, dyeing and cutting out) was undertaken by men while women did the stitching. Initially the latter was done as piece work in their own homes. With the introduction of sewing machines from the USA small factories were set up and the industry continued to flourish

However after WW2 gloves became less fashionable and the demand was met by foreign imports. Decline was inevitable and by 1990 glove making in Oxfordshire had ceased.

Carol brought along a collection of the ‘tools of the trade’ and she showed pictures of the processes involved. It was an interesting account of a lost skill but we were a little disappointed not to have found out anything about it in our own immediate area. Perhaps that could be a research project for some members of the Association

Jean Davis


May 14th 2018: Pagans and Puritans

One of our most popular speakers, Tim Healey, joined us on May14th to talk about ‘Pagans and Puritans’. This was the story of May Morning in Oxfordshire where May 1st has become synonymous with the singing on Magdalen Tower. It also embraces the old traditions of Morris Dancing, Jack-in-the –Green, Folk music and feasting. Tim has explored the history of these customs and explained that they originated from the 16th century or earlier when country folk went into the towns carrying greenery; this was probably a throw back to the Roman festival celebrating the Goddess Flora. The first reference to the Magdalen ceremony comes in 1695.

The Puritans were strongly against such revelry and reviled Maypole Dancing, garlanding, hornblowers, Morris men, loud music and the eating and drinking which accompanied them. However all survived the repression to continue to the present day. Tim suggested that, in Victorian times, the frolicking became somewhat more ‘sanitised’ but it was promoted by notables such as Tennyson, Holman Hunt and Ruskin. Henry Taunt’s many postcards of early 20th century activities reveal its popularity then. Examples of these, together with colourful modern photographs and images reflecting the historical facts, brought to life a picture of ‘bringing in the May’ and Tim welcomed contributions to his presentation. To find out more visit his website

Jean Davis

April 16th 2018: AGM and Travels with Auntie

There was a double bill for the members who attended this month’s meeting. First we held our AGM. The business was quickly dispatched. The Officers were all re-elected there being no other nominees, and Jill Adams was welcomed back onto the committee. In any other business the implications of the new Data Regulations Bill were raised and will be addressed before it becomes law in May.
There was then a short refreshment break following which the Chairman introduced our speaker. Alistair Lack worked for the BBC Radio World Service for 26 years and came to talk about his ‘Travels with Auntie’. He described the service as a pot pouri of people, events and communications and that was what he gave us, an interesting mix of his experiences through anecdotes and photographs.
He had clearly enjoyed his work as a producer, journalist, researcher and presenter, travelling at home and abroad in such places as the Falklands, America and Israel. He met with Presidents, Margaret Thatcher, and the Beirut Hostages to name but a few. He credited the success of the World Service to the love and respect felt for the BBC until recent years and its ongoing reach to 50 million listeners although the Myanamar, North Korea and Chinese public are denied it.
When asked if it could continue to survive in today’s global political climate he thought it was secure providing funding was maintained but it was a wait and see situation. Alistair was an outstanding raconteur and provided reminders of our own immediate history, not just world affairs. It was a thoroughly enjoyable presentation.

Jean Davis

March 19th 2018: Behind Closed Doors

On March 19th members braved the ‘Beast from the East’ weather to welcome our speaker Julie Summers. She described herself as a historian and author with a fascination for art and architecture and a strong feeling and interest for social history. ‘Behind Closed Doors’ was a new talk to introduce her latest book ‘Our Uninvited Guests’, which explores the requisition of Britain’s country houses during World War 2.
The idea for the book came from a visit to Harrogate, having been told that her great grandfather had lived there in a hotel. Staff at the Majestic explained that it had been taken over in 1939 and was intended to become the Government’s headquarters if London was destroyed by enemy action. But a list of all properties, across the UK, with 4 or more rooms downstairs had been prepared in 1938 for potential use.
She went on to describe how four of the houses in her book had indeed been called into service. One was Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire, ironically the home of Nazi sympathisers, which took in the London Maternity Hospital. Aldenham Park near Bridgnorth housed the nuns and their schoolgirls from Kensington. Two estates in Scotland situated in the area from Fort William to Mallaig were commandeered by the Special Forces Executive. They were used for training foreign nationals as saboteurs and agents who would then return to their own countries.
Sadly some of the buildings, such as the Tudor Melford Hall in Suffolk, which became an Army barracks and training camp, were badly damaged or suffered from neglect and were eventually pulled down (although Melford was rebuilt at their own cost by the owners). The Government paid out only the minimum ‘reasonable’ reparations after the war.
Julie had undertaken extensive research for her book and the people and places were brought vividly to life by photographs and her own personal enthusiasm for the project. It was an eye opening and fascinating account and revealed much about the circumstances of the war years and how they affected everyone in the country to some degree. At the end after some questions we were happy to purchase copies of the book and others which she has also written.

Our Uninvited Guests – The secret lives of Britain’s country houses 1939 – 1945 by Julie Summers
Published by Simon and Schuster 2018. Hardback £20

Jean Davis


February 19th 2018: The Battle of Cropredy Bridge and the Oxford Campaign

Stephen Barker was once again our speaker for the meeting on February 19th, which more than 50 members and guests attended. Amongst his several other roles Stephen is a trustee of the Battlefield Trust and half of his work involves military history. So we welcomed him to talk about the Battle of Cropredy Bridge and the Oxford Campaign.

To put it in context he introduced his theme by saying that Cropredy was the largest Civil War battlefield in Oxfordshire. Today that local area is largely unspoiled and can be seen more or less as it looked in 1644. The battle was also instrumental in bringing about the formation of the New Model Army and the production of new ordnance.

He gave us a detailed account of each phase of the battle, illustrated with maps, portraits of the army commanders involved and readings from contemporary writings about it. These were accompanied by photographs of the battle ground today and mention of the artefacts found within it. He concluded with some book recommendations for those who wanted to find out more and add to Stephen’s undoubted knowledge of his subject.

Jean Davis

January 15th 2018: Visit to Aynhoe Park and “Jackson’s Oxford Journal and Adderbury”

Members were treated to ‘Two for the price of one’ on January 15th. In the morning we were privileged to be given a conducted tour of Aynho House by Peter Cole of Aynho History Society. After a detailed history of the House and its former occupants we were taken through the ground floor rooms with Peter adding anecdotes in each. The current owner, James Perkins, buys , sells and collects an eclectic mixture of items which the building show cases; it is also available for weddings, concerts and photo shoots etc. together with the extensive parkland. It proved to be a fascinating visit although it left some of us a bit bemused.

In contrast our secretary Phil Mansell left us in no doubt about his theme in the evening when he introduced us to the world of Jackson’s Oxford Journal. This was probably unfamiliar to those members who are not actively engaged in research, but Phil has identified its relevance to Adderbury and its depiction of the village in the 19th century
His talk was divided into two parts, the origins of the Journal and William Jackson himself and secondly a picture of Adderbury drawn from its pages. The paper ran from 1753 until about 1920 and was an offspring of the General Election for Oxfordshire Campaign instigated by the Duke of Marlborough who became a County MP. Little is known of Jackson’s private life but he and his newspaper prospered until his death in 1795 and it continued thereafter.
From the 3540 mentions of Adderbury in the 1800s Phil had chosen examples of news relating to agriculture, mining, fatal accidents, crime and punishment, celebrations and similar events; he also included some of the front page advertisements. He drew our attention to its limitations, there was not much freedom of the press in those days, and concluded by showing how the present day reflects the past with a poster from 1884 for a Bazaar in aid of church restoration. It was a lively, informative presentation enjoyed by all.

Jean Davis

November 20th 2017: “Hello, hello, Adderbury Fire Brigade calling”

Our Chairman, Barry Davis, gave us not just an entertaining evening, but also an object lesson in how to do truly local history. He treated us to a fascinating account of the voluntary fire service in Adderbury, putting everything in the context of the development of fire-fighting generally, especially in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London, when churches were charged with providing fire-fighting equipment. He included lots of examples throughout, both of fires in this parish as well as neighbouring parishes, such as Bloxham and King’s Sutton, which suffered much more severely from fires than did Adderbury.

Barry had looked into all aspects of fire-fighting and was able to explain, for example, how fire-fighting crews were able to link engines together to enable the hoses to reach greater distances from the water source. He covered insurance against fire and had investigated insurance premiums, insurance policies, and the means by which insurance companies paid firefighters for their attendance. He was able to tell us who administered the fire service, who serviced the engine, what the uniforms cost and what tools the firemen used. He even had a helmet for us to pass around.

Throughout, Barry emphasized the community aspects of what he was describing. He told us how neighbours and villagers generally had a key role to play when there was a fire, helping to rescue furniture and clothes from the flames. And he told us how the Fire Brigade took part in village events, marching in parades and providing displays as part of the entertainment. And he was able to show us photographs of the fire-fighters themselves, including photographs of the remarkable dynasty which kept the captainship in the same family for sixty years!

In a presentation which took us from the first Adderbury fire engine of 1755, which had to be carried to the scene of a fire, to the motorised engines of the 1940s, Barry had followed up every aspect of his subject and illustrated it with copious slides. He was rewarded by the warm appreciation of a capacity audience.

Phil Mansell

October 16th 2017: “The Richard III Project in Leicester

There was a full house for our meeting in October. Richard Buckley came to enlighten us about ‘The King in the Car Park’, or to give his presentation its full title ‘Greyfriars Leicester and the search for Richard III’.

Richard was the Project Manager and lead Archaeologist; he is the Co- Director of Leicester University Archaeological Services. His day to day work involves organising excavations and research. This was to be one undertaking with truly amazing results and caught the attention of the public and the media worldwide. It must have been the ultimate in job satisfaction for him and he has now told the story many times. As he said we all knew the outcome already so he would be talking us through the process which led to that successful conclusion.

Richard put the project into context by first giving us a brief outline of medieval Leicester, the Battle of Bosworth, Richard’s death and his supposed burial in the city. Greyfriars Priory had been destroyed in the dissolution of the monasteries so the initial problem was to identify its site, with a budget which covered only 1% of the precinct area. A GPR survey was inconclusive and the team dug three trenches based on the traditional monastic layout. Within six hours human bones were found.

Then began the lengthy and meticulous business of opening the grave proper and confirming that they did indeed belong to Richard 111. Using radio carbon dating, the limited written evidence, mitochondrial DNA testing and facial reconstruction his identity was established some six months after work began. A judicial review rejected York’s claims to the King. The reinternment of his bodily remains in Leicester Cathedral brought much needed tourism and interest back to Leicester and a visitors centre has been set up next to the site.

Richard kept us enthralled for an hour with his excellent talk and accompanying illustrations. As one member said at the end ‘It was so interesting you could almost visualise it happening’.

Jean Davis

September 18th 2017: “William Smith, the Father of Geology”

The admiration that our speaker, Owen Green, had for his subject, William Smith, shone through every aspect of this talk. Owen began with Smith’s famous geological map of 1815, showing the many similarities between this and contemporary findings, despite the fact that Smith’s map was the product of only one man’s efforts without the benefit of modern technology.

Owen also located Smith in the major movements of his time, particularly the Industrial Revolution and improvements in agriculture at the end of the eighteenth century, showing how Smith had directly contributed to these developments, particularly in his roles as canal builder, land drainer and provider of the background information that enabled others to locate profitable coal deposits to mine.

Smith’s personal story was also covered, from scarcely-educated blacksmith’s son in an Oxfordshire village, through the varied activities where his skills were called upon by some of the great figures of his time, through constant money worries, via debtor’s prison to belated recognition as the “father of English geology”. Always in the background was the knowledge that Smith combined his multifarious commercial activities with the estimated 15,000 miles of travelling needed every year for him to gather the material for his geological map.

Owen’s presentation enabled us to appreciate just where Smith’s contribution to geological science lay – in his awareness of how a description of the fossil assemblage could be combined with the stratigraphy to give a unique insight into the landscape. He encouraged us to visit the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough, established by Smith’s nephew and protégé, John Phillips, and recommended for further reading Simon Winchester’s book, The Map that Changed the World.

Phil Mansell

July 10th 2017: “Skulduggery in the Shrubbery”

‘Skulduggery in the shrubbery’ was a presentation by Stefan White. A former business man he has forged a new career as a speaker. He gave us a detailed history of the Tradescant family who were renowned plant and rarity collectors in 17th Century England and the real founders of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. John Tradescant followed in his father’s footsteps to become a gardener. He found favour with aristocratic patrons including Lord Cecil, The Duke of Buckingham and Charles 1. Given the opportunity to travel on expeditions abroad he began to amass a collection of plants and curiosities. These he exhibited in his Lambeth home and they became known as The Ark. Some 40 minutes and as many facts later, we had learned how the villain of the piece, Elias Ashmole, fitted in. He had long coveted John’s collection, acquired it by trickery and devious means and eventually housed it in the museum to which he gave his own name – The Ashmolean. There was a lot to take in but some fascinating information emerged throughout this rather sad family tale. Many of the original exhibits have since been rehoused in other Oxford University museum buildings.


Jean Davis

June 19th 2017: “Oxfordshire in 50 Objects”

Stephen Barker made a return visit on June 19th. He recalled that last time he came it was very cold. This time we gave him a warmer welcome on what was surely the hottest evening of the year so far. Stephen is a museum consultant and last year he worked closely with the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock to curate an exhibition entitled Oxfordshire in 50 objects. The Museum Service was celebrating 50 years since its foundation. Its supporting role has somewhat diminished with budget cuts and several museums passing out of Council control but the storage facility at Standlake is open to the public. The Exhibition was put together by consultation with community groups and members of the service, past and present, and reflected their memories, experiences and interests. Stephen had chosen fourteen exhibits to describe, accompanied by the notes contributed by those involved. Sadly he wasn’t able to bring any artefacts with him and we had to make do with pictures so there was less interaction than the exhibition enabled but some of the members were able to add comments from their own experiences.

The objects included a violin, a teddy bear, a human vertebra and a telephone switchboard. We forgot to ask what the other thirty six items were! Stephen’s enthusiasm for all things historical came across in his talk and he concluded with a description of something which did not appear in the exhibition but was obviously close to his heart. This was a Roman burial stone from 43AD the inscription on which gave us the earliest recorded named person in Oxfordshire. We went away wondering what we would have chosen.

Jean Davis

May 15th 2017: “The Restoration of Stowe Gardens”

Our May meeting was all about Stowe Park Gardens and attracted a full house in the Methodist schoolroom. Barry Smith has worked his way up to become the Head Gardener at the National Trust estate and gave us a talk on the restoration of the 18th Century gardens. Begun in the 1680s as a series of terraces and orchards, from 1720 onwards many leading architects, landscape gardeners, including William Kent and Capability Brown, and sculptors were employed to create the idealized classical landscape which exists today. However by 1848 the owner, the Duke of Buckingham, was declared bankrupt and many of the contents of the house and gardens were sold off to save the estate. Further decline in the family’s fortunes led to it being sold to educationalists to provide a home for Stowe, a newly established public school, in 1922. The school authorities endeavoured to maintain the garden features but inevitably the cost forced them to hand over the grounds and temple buildings to the National Trust in 1990. Restoration proper of the gardens began and is still continuing. The garden layout represents a classical journey through life, each area being symbolic of mythology and human choices. The many temples are focal points with the planting providing backdrops or drawing the eye into the vistas. Groundsmen, gardeners and farmers worked together to establish a contrived natural landscape which blends into the surrounding countryside. Barry explained that the restoration work has involved salvaging old trees, dredging lakes, uncovering paths, digging hahas, erecting fences and obtaining replica statues for the different areas, in order to return it as closely as possible to its origins while using old and new techniques, materials and plants. He was both knowledgeable and entertaining in his presentation and spoke without notes for over an hour reflecting his enjoyment of his work. Many of us had already been to Stowe but will appreciate it all the more on future visits.

Jean Davis

April 24th 2017: AGM and “When 4 strokes of a Brush were worth £400,000”

The evening began with our Annual General Meeting which was well attended. All the reports had been circulated beforehand; there were no contentious matters on or arising from the agenda and the business was completed in 15 minutes. After a coffee and cake interval we welcomed Gerard Moate, the chaplain at Bloxham School. He gave us a fascinating presentation entitled ‘When 4 strokes of a brush were worth £400,000’. This was the story of a village hall restoration project. For 20 years Gerard was ‘vicar and lecturer’ of Dedham in Constable Country and as such was the sole Trustee of the village hall which on his arrival was in much need of repair. The brush strokes were on a painting by Constable – The Vale of Dedham 1828. Gerard described how his research into the painting showed that the hall was originally Assembly Rooms built in 1745! An architect’s estimate to prevent it falling down was £427,000. Then came the discovery, in a locked cupboard in the hall, of a book written by the young Winston Churchill. The sale of this, matched with a contribution from a charity and a heritage lottery grant enabled the village to raise sufficient funds to save the hall which is now a Grade 11 listed building. More good fortune arrived in the person of Frank Lampard senior who bought the caretaker’s house next door so the money for the future upkeep of the hall was secured. This was a very entertaining and informative talk delivered with humour, with enough facts to satisfy our curiosity about the title and to share in the successful outcome.

Jean Davis

March 20th 2017: “Upton House in 1927”

Victor Ince, a guide at Upton House, gave a wide-ranging talk that covered the history of the Samuels family prior to the purchase of Upton House by Viscount Bearsted in 1927, emphasising the willingness of the family to make trade of all sorts across the Middle and Far East, and telling us of the events that led to the formation of the Shell company. All this provided the background to the forthcoming National Trust exhibition at Upton House, entitled “The Made to Measure House”. This will cover the changes made to the house and gardens as the Bearsteds moved in, and will be an exhibition that will evolve over the next three years with the intention of providing new experiences for visitors over that period, thus encouraging them to return. During questions, our speaker was able to speak about the pleasures and benefits of volunteering at Upton House, emphasising that volunteering opportunities were available across the board, and that volunteers could get involved in research on parts of the history of the house and family. He explained about decision-making in the National Trust and how the Trust judged the success of its ventures.

Phil Mansell

February 20th 2017: “Three Men of Adderbury”

The February meeting saw our secretary Phil Mansell pressed into action with the non arrival of our speaker. Phil brought forward his April talk on ‘Three men of Adderbury’ and without notes and only a power point presentation entertained a large audience of members.

His first prominent man was William Cole, born in Adderbury in1626, the son of the master at the village Grammar School. He left Adderbury for New College Oxford in 1642 and at the time of his graduating in 1650 he was a notable figure in Botanical studies. After Oxford he lived at Putney where he became the most famous herbalist of his time. Later he became secretary to Bishop Duppa the Bishop of Winchester and died in 1662.

Eminent man number 2 was Charles Harris born 1791. He and his family moved to Adderbury for his work. He was a violin maker living in the cottage next to the Bell. The violins that he made and those which have survived to the present day are described as of a very high quality sound. They also keep their note in changing temperatures and degrees of humidity. Phil treated us to the sound of a Harris violin with a video clip. It appears Charles Harris was an excellent musical instrument maker but was poor at managing his finances. He later became Lord of the Manor at Steeple Aston and built himself a new manor house but this put him into debt. A scheme to sell the house and clear his debts still left him penniless.

The third eminent person was C F Beeson who was born in Oxford in 1889. At school his best friend was T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Beeson graduated in geology at Oxford in 1910 and then switched to forestry. From 1911 until 1941 Cyril worked for the Imperial Forest Service and in 1913 he was appointed Forest Zoologist for India. In the late 1940s he and his wife moved to West View in Adderbury West. Here he started to collect antique clocks, many of which originated from the surrounding area, and in 1953 he became a founder member of the Antiquarian Horological Society.

Beeson was a well published author. His first book was on The Ecology and Control of the Forest Insects of India and the Neighbouring Countries. Later he wrote many articles on clocks culminating in a book called Clockmaking in Oxfordshire 1400-1850 for which he is best known locally. In the early 1970s his expanding clock collection was given to the Museum of Science in Oxford. He died in 1975.

Phil entertained us with the problems these people encountered and their achievements in widely different backgrounds and all without the help of his notes.

Barry Davis

January 16th 2017: “The VC – Facts and Fancies”

Dan Allen, an officer of the Victorian Military Society, who had previously instructed us on the role of women in the Victorian army, spoke to us about the Victoria Cross, telling us about its origins and development. In an informative and entertaining presentation, we learned about the conditions that need to be fulfilled for the VC to be awarded, and about the military actions that yielded many VCs, as well as the colourful and brave individuals who have received the award over the years.

Phil Mansell

December 14th 2016: “Did we really dig for victory?”

In December we combined our Christmas party with a speaker. A bring and share buffet supper was followed by an entertaining talk from Ursula Buchan. The Institute was bedecked with red, white and blue bunting in keeping with the 1940s theme of the evening. Just over 50 members and guests attended. Ursula Buchan is a gardening author and lecturer and posed the question ‘Did we really dig for Victory?’ Her presentation of the grass roots of the government campaign – the facts and figures – was neatly done and well sprinkled with anecdotes both personal and general. It seems that digging for victory may not have won the war but it raised morale and gave some people a lifelong interest in gardening. A raffle was held to end the evening.

November 21st 2016: “James Sadler, the Man with his Head in the Clouds”

On 21st Richard Smith came from Oxford. Having extricated himself from the aerobics at the Institute he found his way to the correct venue! His talk was about “The man with his head in the clouds”. Richard is a comedy writer and broadcaster for radio, TV and films. He grew up in Lincolnshire and his first job was writing obituaries for the Boston Standard newspaper. It was in Boston library that he first encountered the story of James Sadler, the ‘man’ in the title, and the first Englishman to fly in a balloon. He began with a brief history of how balloon flight came about, originating in France with the Montgolfier brothers. James Sadler (1753-1828) was baptised and buried in St Peter in the East in Oxford but during his life he moved around the country. He was a pastry cook in his fathers’ business before his interest in balloons developed and he understood the science behind them. His initial interest waned and among other jobs he went to work in Portsmouth researching how to improve naval guns and he mixed with many eminent men of the period. Richard’s talk was highly amusing with many topical or unexpected jokes interspersed with the main content. Sometimes however it was difficult to follow the theme amongst the humour. Nevertheless it was an entertaining evening at the end of a dreary and overcast day. Richard has written several books including “The man with his head in the clouds”. For details see

October 17th  2016: “Apples!”

This month we had a return visit from one of our most popular speakers – Tim Healey. He kept us enthralled for an hour with fascinating facts about Apples! The full title of his talk was ‘Myth and mystery of England’s favourite fruit’. Tim divided his talk into five sections: myths, the history of apples, apple rites, working with apples and apples in Oxfordshire. Each contained diverse and sometimes familiar examples of that particular theme. Amongst them were Adam and Eve, although apparently the forbidden fruit wasn’t actually an apple! There was Snow White, William Tell and Newton; the Beatles Applecore company featured along with Applemac computers and Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream; Halloween apple bobbing and toffee apples got a mention and he quoted a version of Ride a Cock Horse with a two penny apple pie ending. It was both interesting and amusing to be reminded of them all in a different context. Tim also included the names of local varieties of apple such as Hanwell Souring, Eynsham Dumpling and a newly discovered Deddington Pippin which is growing wild along the main Oxford Road; and coming right up to date, a new tradition in the modern Apple Day events. There was further discussion after the presentation. Andy Howard is involved with the Midshires Orchard Group ( which promotes fruit awareness in this area. Fittingly the evening concluded with refreshments of apple juice and apple biscuits.

September  19th 2016: “The importance of local railways in World War I”

Railway history expert Martin Bloxsom gave us an absorbing account of the role of local railways in World War I, focussing for the most part on Banbury. He first outlined the position of the railways at the beginning of the war, emphasising just how large and powerful the railway companies were. He then showed us the many tasks the railways had to carry out, with Banbury being an important junction for cross-country routes, making it possible to avoid London altogether. He told us of the traffic towards the south coast with troops for embarkation, with the volume of hay for horses over the same route being surprising, and the transport north through Banbury of South Wales coal for the destroyer port of Immingham being completely unexpected. While dealing expertly with the technicalities if his subject, Martin kept coming back to the human element. He covered in particular the involvement of women in railway work as the war progressed: they not only took over almost entirely the work of clerks, but also worked in large numbers as porters and engine cleaners. Worker representation and trade unionism was also covered. Martin featured the hospital trains which the railway companies provided to transport wounded troops throughout the country, and found time to praise the support provided for troops passing through Banbury by Miss Day and her nurses. He finished with a short account of the losses suffered by the railway companies in the war, and showed us some of the different types of war memorials that were developed, including memorial trains.

20th June 2016: “Old Banbury in Pictures”

Our Secretary Phil Mansell opened the meeting as Barry Davis was the speaker for the evening. He thanked those who had participated in the Adderbury Royal Event day on June 4th and invited members to put forward suggestions for an ‘outside meeting’ in 2017. He then handed over to Barry who, in competition with England’s football game in Euro 2016, and a fine warm evening following a very wet day, gave us a look at Banbury Past. By means of some 70 postcards from his own collection we were taken on a tour of the town as it was in the early years of the 20th century up to about 1960. Some sights were familiar, others have disappeared and many have changed beyond recognition. Most notable were the absence of parked traffic, the wide streets and the jumble of vehicles, people and animals in close proximity. The talk was a reprise of a previous one with new material added. Members of the audience made personal or informative contributions. For some it was a nostalgia trip; for those comparatively new to the area it must have seemed like a different town altogether as indeed it is. Having grown from a population of about 3,000 in 1800 to nearly 50,000 today there has been much demolition (famously undertaken before preservation orders were in place), rebuilding and development along the way.

Visit Banbury Museum for more of the town’s history

16th May 2016: “For to get to the other side”

This month we were pleased to welcome back one of our favourite speakers – Martin Way with his presentation of ‘For to get to the other side.’ This was about the Radcot river crossing where, in fact, there are three bridges all within a short distance of each other. The Radcot bridge, erected in about 1220, carries the Faringdon to Bampton road over the Thames; the canal bridge spans the cut dug to form a Severn – Thames link; a modern replacement for a medieval bridge crosses the nearby Pidnell stream. In his opening remarks Martin stressed the importance of intersecting routes like river crossings for trade, defence and settlement. In these contexts he outlined events around Radcot over the years since the original ford was abandoned. Archaeological finds suggest Roman, Saxon and even Neolithic occupation. The wool trade was carried on by both land and water. A Norman stronghold was discovered by a Time Team dig. The battles of Radcot bridge took place in 1387 and 1645. There is evidence of boats carrying stone for the rebuilding of London in 1672 after the Great Fire. The Pidnell became a Toll Bridge on the Turnpike Road in 1771 and in WWII a block house was built near Radcot Bridge. The talk was a bit more subdued than we have come to expect from Martin but nonetheless enjoyable. His background is in education and at times it felt like we were back in the classroom, albeit with a well prepared and witty teacher. However there were enough amusing anecdotes and quips to hold our attention and he had brought along maps, coins and civil war weaponry. He also recommended the area for its historical interest especially Great Coxwell Barn, a National Trust property near Faringdon.

18th April 2016: AGM and Face the Music

This meeting was an evening of two parts. First we held our AGM and then Association Secretary Phil Mansell donned his speaker’s hat to give a presentation entitled ‘Facing the Music’. The business was dealt with swiftly and we enjoyed coffee and cakes, courtesy of Jill and Joy, before settling down to hear what Phil had prepared. By way of introduction he said “I want to introduce you to a forgotten tradition of church singing that held sway in most country churches between about 1769 and 1860… Adderbury was an important centre for such music.” The presentation was divided into three sections: information about this particular kind of music, sources from which to find out about it and Adderbury’s contribution. Phil then took us through several hundred years, from Puritan zeal in banning organ playing and singing in church to the revival of music and song in the 18th century, from village choirs in the 19th century to the West Gallery style groups of the 1900s and today. West Gallery is the clue to the title of the talk. Galleries were erected across the west end of the nave, including one at Adderbury 1830-1860s, and the congregation turned to face the musicians and choir. Choirs performed fugeing tunes (where the parts repeat each other and overlap), based on psalms, anthems, canticles, hymns, carols and celebrations and sounding very similar to folk music. Three people in Adderbury played roles in keeping alive these traditions. They were Thomas Hayward, choirmaster and composer and William ‘Binx’ Walton who sang in the choirs as a boy in the 1840s. Janet Blunt recorded the songs and music as described to her at a later date by Walton and others. This was certainly a talk with a difference. The ‘soundtrack’ took precedence over the pictures while we listened to examples of what Phil was referring to. All credit to him in that he spoke for an hour with one arm in a sling and the hitches with the switches as he operated everything one handed could readily be forgiven. Phil certainly communicated his enthusiasm for his subject to us and we were both informed and entertained.

Find out more from A.H.A. Publications, Michael Pickering’s book (“Village Song and Culture”), Janet Blunts’ manuscripts on line and Thomas Hardy’s “Under the Greenwood Tree”. Or ask Phil for details of documented records.

21st March 2016: Dinosaurs of Oxfordshire

This month’s meeting was a slight departure from our usual talk. Although it still featured names, dates and places the emphasis was on animals long gone. Paul Austin Sargent, a member of the Oxford Geology Group, came to tell us about The Dinosaurs of Oxfordshire (not the Associations members but genuine fossils!).

Once that joke was out of the way his presentation was divided into five areas explaining how the county was home to some important palaeontology finds. It was accompanied by cartoon like and animated illustrations including strange little Kevin whose ambition in life was to become a fossil! We were given the definition of dinosaur (a terrestrial reptile). The fossilisation process was explained along with the intricacies of Deep (geological) Time measured in mya (million years ago). English geology was outlined to show how and why Oxfordshire was good hunting ground. And then came the dinosaurs. Paul described each one with additional information about the people responsible for their discovery – all eminent men in the field of geology. At the end he invited questions and answered them. We learned lots of long names and saw some fascinating giants of many, many years ago. The light hearted style turned what could have been a ‘dry as a bone ‘ topic into an entertaining presentation. For those interested there are many examples of dinosaurs in the Oxford Museum of Natural History.

15th February 2016: Women and the Victorian Army

About 35 members braved the cold on February 15th to come along and hear Dan Allen speak about women, children and war. Dan is the Treasurer of the Victorian Military Society which is an educational charity promoting the study of military bodies between 1830 and 1914. He opened with the army’s definition of soldiers’ partners in the 19th Century: officers had ladies, sergeants had wives and the rest had women! But all of these were regarded as a “confounded nuisance” in war and peacetime and were confined to the roles of nurse, cook or washerwoman. Only those who had married their husbands with the permission of the commanding officer were recognised as legitimate wives at all. There was no real provision of proper married quarters until 1870; a wife widowed by a man killed in action received a token pension; if he died of disease while serving she got nothing and it was back to family, the workhouse or the streets. Many a wife remarried quickly to remain with her regimental family and so provide for her children. Dan also described the rigours of campaigns and the hazards of travel when a wife accompanied her husband and the uncertainty of life experienced by those women left behind. Wherever they were, at home or abroad, a soldier’s wife’s lot was not a happy one. He then reminded us of some well known, and perhaps infamous women, – Mrs Duverley in India and Mary Seacole in the Crimea for example. Dr James Barry was Surgeon General in the Army when his post-mortem revealed him to be a woman! Her real identity was never established. It was a fascinating talk full of anecdotes, information and humour and accompanied by illustrations which, as Dan pointed out, often painted a misleadingly rosy picture of Victorian army life! Delivered at a smart pace, as befits a military topic, it was sometimes difficult to keep up but we had a very entertaining evening.

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January 18th 2016: Four legs and a Tale

There was a good attendance, on a very chilly evening, at the first meeting of 2016. Our speaker was Alan Walker whose style of presentation could be called “conversational”; it was informal and more akin to chatting with guests than talking to a room full of strangers. And then he threw in a quiz at the end for good measure! Alan introduced himself as “lightweight”, in view of Adderbury’s long history from the 10th century, then gave us an insight into the life of a family which has practised as animal doctors since 1674. Originating in Lancashire the Walkers moved south in that year to Long Compton in Warwickshire. They remained in that area only moving to Burmington and then Hook Norton in comparatively recent times. He talked us through the family line in which all the men succeeded each other, initially as farriers, then unqualified veterinary practitioners and finally professional veterinary surgeons. In those early days they looked after the drovers’ animals en route to London and the coach horses travelling from Manchester to the capital. Their expertise evolved from their experiences in working with animals and formal training was not demanded until 1900. Alan’s interest in the job grew from accompanying his father Jack, particularly as he tended to horses, and following the same career path became inevitable. He inherited from Jack both tools and tales of the trade and the latter he has recounted in his book “Four Legs and a tale!” At the end of his talk some of the old tools were passed round for us to identify. This led to some amusing guesswork and squeamish groans when we found out what they were actually for! Ten percent of the proceeds of the book sales goes to the Injured Jockey Charity. It is available locally priced £12.50 Four Legs and a tale, published by Live Wire Books 2014 ISBN 9780955312489

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November 16th 2015: Adderbury and the Oxford Canal over 200 years.

Phil Mansell, Secretary of the Association, took centre stage for our meeting on 16th November. Phil has not lived in Adderbury for long but is keenly interested in the village and surrounding area. He has been researching several topics recently including his theme for the meeting, ‘Adderbury and the Oxford Canal over two centuries (1790-2015). He began by giving us a potted history of canal evolution in England explaining James Brindley’s Grand Cross plan to connect four rivers, the Mersey, Trent, Severn and Thames. He then went on to how the Coventry – Oxford branch came into being and the part it played in the country’s economic growth during the Industrial Revolution.

The next three sections of his talk showed how Adderbury, although not a true canal village, was affected in some ways by its arrival and entirely unchanged in others. He used historical sources to illustrate both this and local people’s attitude to the new waterway.

But, as with many similar canals, the Oxford went into decline with the coming of the railway and today it serves only as a leisure route for boaters. In the length bordering Adderbury Parish the original archaeology survives in the form of three wharves, two locks and nine lift bridges.

Phil gave a lively presentation designed to educate and entertain and condensing 200 years into just over an hour. As he himself said ‘So there we are!’

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21st September 2015: The Cadbury Story

On 21st September we gathered for our first meeting after the August break. Our speaker was Alan Thornton, who gave a highly entertaining and informative presentation about Cadburys and its Bourneville origins. Alan has never worked in the factory, but is on the board of the Education Trust which was pioneered by George Cadbury.

He began by explaining the background behind the establishment of the works and village at Bourneville. The Cadbury family were Quakers and social reformers. John Cadbury founded his cocoa and chocolate business in the 1800s in Birmingham. Many of the workers lived in back-to-back houses and in the 19th century had a life expectancy of 40 years. John’s son George took over the business as a young man when his father’s health failed. As well as managing this he also taught his workers to read and write “to help them on”; he experienced at first hand the poor living conditions when he visited them at home.

Determined to improve the situation, he decided to move the whole manufacturing enterprise into the country at a time when it was struggling commercially. In 1878 this, with some judicious purchasing of Dutch machinery and French expertise, brought about a turn around and Cadbury’s began to prosper again. In addition to new premises he built houses, gardens, a school, almshouses and sports facilities; he also introduced a five and a half day working week and medical care. A pension scheme and tolerance of trade unions all added to the community spirit. Bourneville became a prototype for modern methods of housing and town planning.

After this introduction, Alan showed us a film made in 1951, by which time the workforce had risen from 230 to 8,000. This outlined all the processes by which Cadbury’s famous Roses chocolates and other sweets and drinks were manufactures; it gave a picture of life in the workplace and the benefits enjoyed by the employees. George was a philanthropist for whom money meant being able to help others and he continued to fund good causes, including a hospital, until his death in 1922. He was involved with Oxfam, Amnesty International and the setting up of the state pension.

The film gave rise to some questions, which Alan answered with amusing anecdotes and even more facts. It was a very enjoyable evening although, sadly, he didn’t bring any Cadbury’s samples along!

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18th July 2015: Adderbury History Association Open Day

About 150 people came along to this event, including some who went on one or both of the walkabouts. Visitors spent their time browsing through the archives, talking with members, chatting together and then having a sit down with coffee and cakes! Some purchased items from the sale table while others rummaged in the “Help Yourself” box for freebies. About a dozen families made their way round the history trail. Several people had come especially to try and add to their family trees or to find out exactly where their ancestors lived. Most of them achieved this my using the resources available and from talking to Society members. Others discussed how to record, display and make further progress.

This year the ever popular Adderbury House and Lakes walk was on offer, together with a new ramble taking in Adderbury’s industrial past. The “Top 6” display prompted many questions and reminiscences and the maps attracted a lot of attention.The collections of scrapbooks and parish magazines proved popular; other material included wills, housing information, manorial court records and many miscellaneous items relating to the village. The day was slightly different from our usual meetings, giving more people an opportunity to discover the village and its past. We hope everyone enjoyed it.

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15th June 2015: Visit to Rousham House

June’s meeting took the form of a visit to Rousham House and gardens. The weather was on its best behaviour and we spent a very pleasant afternoon there. The house is home to the Cottrell Dormer family and we were given a guided tour with information about the building, its history and the people who have lived there. Built originally about 1635, it was altered by William Kent in the mid 1700s and again in the nineteenth century by its Victorian owners.

Paintings, furniture, decorative features and a costume room reflect all the periods during which they were put in place. Afterwards we were able to walk in the grounds and gardens and admire the cattle in the park before leaving in search of tea and cake!

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18th May 2015: The Home Front

Our advertised speaker was unable to attend due to his wife’s illness, so Martin Way stepped in at short notice with a talk on the “Home Front”.

In his introduction he said the focus of the evening was twofold. Firstly to outline the role of women in wartime and government attitudes towards them. Secondly to show how talk and activity about invasion and air raids made war real for civilians at home away from the frontline fighting.

He explained how undervalued the Women’s Services, such as First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (F.A.N.Y.) had been during WW1. Many soldiers survived to make the journey to field hospitals due to their efforts, although only France and Belgium employed them. However, by WW2 their role had changed and their contribution as part of the British Auxiliary Territorial Service was recognised. Only the part played by the Women’s Land Army workers remained unacknowledged until this century.

In WW2 the whole civilian population was called upon to undertake a range of occupations so that Britain was prepared for any land invasion or air attack. The Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), later renamed the Home Guard, and the Warden Services were the main units but by the end of 1939 almost everyone was wearing a badge or armband to denote their responsibilities.

Martin reminded us that throughout both wars everyone did their bit. Participating in the War Effort, recycling, making clothing and equipment, fund raising, being on duty and helping each other along were the order of the day.

As usual with Martin, facts and figures were accompanied by amusing anecdotes and ephemera and artefacts from his large collection.

At the end members were invited to contribute their own personal experiences of wartime and the aftermath. It was a thought provoking talk and particularly relevant while the country as a whole is currently recalling the trauma and sacrifices of WW1.

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20th April 2015 Meeting: AGM and Adderbury Bells

About 45 people, including several visitors, attended the Association’s Annual General Meeting on 20th April. The business was dealt with swiftly. All the committee members were re-elected and there was an invitation for other people to join it at a later date. The Treasurer gave a comprehensive account of our finances and a “Children and Vulnerable Adults Policy” was adopted. Nick Allen drew our attention to possible new members from the various housing estates being developed around the village.

Following a short break for refreshments the Chairman, Barry Davis, gave us a presentation on “Adderbury Bells and Bellringing”. Speaking from personal experience, as a former Captain of the local band and now Vice-Chairman of the Banbury Branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers, he outlined the history of Adderbury’s bells and the ringers from the fifteenth century through to the present day, with additional related information about the church clock and carillon. Trevor Trivett, the current Tower Captain, extended a welcome to members to visit the tower and learn more.

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Monday, March 16th 2015: “Ridge and Furrow – what’s it all about?”

Deborah Hayter’s presentation took the form of questions and answers with who, when, what, where, how and why all featuring.

She outlined the origins of early English agriculture, explaining that the undulations remaining amongst our modern landscape are “archaeological evidence of the former medieval farming system”. Ridge and furrow came about as early ploughs could only turn the earth to the right so strips were ploughed one way then the plough was turned and pushed back again. This formed ridges and allowed good drainage in the soil. The land around each village or settlement was called a township. This was divided up into fields and then strips, each of which known as an acre irrespective of its actual size. There were no hedges at all. This open field arrangement survived until the land enclosures began in the eighteenth century, although the last act was not passed, at Castor near Peterborough, until 1910. Men worked single strips in each of the fields to give a fair distribution of good and bad soils and the system kept communities tightly organised. Inevitably, farming methods changed as machinery and crops became more effective and productive, but the surviving ridge and furrows, though now all under grass, are a reminder of times past.

Deborah used a range of illustrations to accompany her talk including several examples from neighbouring Northamptonshire that is still well endowed with the remnants of ridge and furrow fields. Aerial photographs from post war RAF film, hand-drawn maps and diagrams,and old documents from the fourteenth century were all combined to give a comprehensive insight into how it all came about, but she left us to draw our own conclusions as to why it happened.

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Monday, 16th February 2015: Witney Blankets

On February 16th Valerie Burton came with her husband to give us a talk on Witney Blankets – very appropriate for a cold winter evening. Valerie was employed in the Early and Smith blanket factories; although not involved in the manufacturing process she became familiar with it from moving through the different departments in the course of her work.

Her observations at this time coupled with some thorough research made for an interesting account delivered in her own exuberant style. Speaking without a screen or computer aids and using only the briefest of notes she kept us enthralled for an hour.

Through a mixture of historical facts and amusing anecdotes we learned how blanket making in Witney came about due to the combination of Cotswold sheep and the river Windrush in the area. We heard how a cottage industry was lost with the advent of industrial machinery and mass production; how Witney blankets found fame abroad in the USA and Africa; how Earlys celebrated their tercentenary in 1969 and of their sad demise in 2002.

Valerie gave us a complete picture from medieval methods to the antics of the weaving shed in the 20th century! We were also able to examine artefacts and memorabilia from the mills. At the end, in quoting examples of related sayings, she suggested she might have “pulled the wool over our eyes.” If so it was in the most charming and entertaining manner!

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Monday, January 19th 2015: Oxfordshire on the Home Front

Our 2015 programme started well with a talk by Stephen Barker entitled ‘Oxfordshire on the Home Front’. Stephen is a Heritage Adviser and involved with museum projects and local history development throughout the county, including the recent exhibition at Banbury Museum.

His enthusiasm for research and the use of original source material was reflected in his presentation. Not only did we see pictures of relevant posters, photographs and other ephemera but he also quoted many examples from newspapers, correspondence and conversations. Others were drawn from official documents.

An insight into an area covering Henley, Witney, Oxford, Chipping Norton and Banbury provided an overview of what was happening almost everywhere during WW1. Using themes ranging from military units to civilian morals, white feathers to munition factories and outbreak to armistice Stephen took us through an account of life as it would have been from 1914 to 1918 and he recommended places to visit for further interest and information.

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