Shipton Memories: Jim Hudson

Here is an article by former Shipton resident Jim Hudson, which has been published in the Oxford Mail and also appears on the Wychwood Magazine website.

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Jim Hudson

My name is Jim Hudson; I live in County Durham and work in ICT for a local council. Before that, I served all over the world in the Royal Navy and long before that and before my wanderings began, during the mid 1960s, I was a small child living with my parents in Shipton-under-Wychwood.

The Smiths’ Bus

Living at the top of Fiddler’s Hill in Cherry Tree Cottage, I would walk to St Mary’s School each morning and home again that evening usually on my own; this would be from the age of about five. Sometimes on the way home, if I was lucky, I would be picked up by the Smiths Industries’ bus taking workers home from the factory in Witney. I would walk down the length of the bus to where my Dad would be sitting and we would go home together. If I had missed the bus, I would walk home past an old hand-operated water pump.

During the summer (and it always seemed to be summer) I would stop to wash my face and hair, drinking the cool water as I did so. I remember at the School, one of the greatest honours was to be allowed to ring the school bell at dinnertime. A chain hung from the bell in a small bell-house at the top of the school, ran down a cast iron tube and into the hallway. I only remember being allowed to ring the bell once but I can still remember the feeling of importance. I must have been a very good lad that day.

Dinner time meant being served food that had been cooked and ferried in from Burford Primary School. It generally arrived in an open wagon during morning break, packed into large metal flasks. The drivers would employ all us kids to hump it off the wagon and into the kitchens, two kids to one flask. We finished the work and got stuck into the small one-third pints of milk we received mid-morning, small glass milk bottles and straws, served from battered metal crates.

Another Village!

On hot days, we were sometimes allowed to take the class desks and chairs outside into the courtyard. Again during the break, we sometimes stacked the tables up, one on top of another with chairs on top of that. We used this as a homemade climbing frame and called it ‘Table and Chairs play’. The teachers would stand by, telling us to be careful and not get ourselves hurt.

At Harvest Festival, we would all troop to church. Two by two, and it had to be boy next to girl – we were not allowed to walk next to our mates. At church we boys had to take off our school caps, girls of course could leave their bonnets on. Teachers fussed over us, making sure our hair was combed and our partings straight. They would spit on handkerchiefs and rub the muck off our faces.

Also once a term or so we would walk along the road – two by two again, all the way to Ascott-under-Wychwood School where we could bathe in their new bathing pool. It was three foot deep and outdoors. It was great fun, not only because we were splashing about in the water, but also because the whole class had walked all the way along a road to Ascott … and that was another village!

Hay-Bale Heaven

Outside of school, my mates and I would make camps and dens out of the hay bales in the fields. Staking them up, we would make structures two or even three storeys high. We helped the farmers to collect them at the end of the summer, riding on the open trailer and lifting the bales on. Above us, the Red Arrows aerobatic display team, based at Little Rissington, would be practising their next air display. I thought it was perfectly normal to have an air display nearly every day.

We spent long afternoons building go-carts from old tea chests and pram wheels. These carts were very special as you actually rode inside them rather like an armoured car. With a crew of two, one lad driving and one in the back with his head stuck out of a hatch, we ran them down Fiddlers Hill. Whoever was driving nearly always lost control at some point and crashed. We didn’t bother with brakes either, once the cart was going down the hill you could not stop it and you were therefore committed to experience whatever happened next. We certainly never worried about cars coming the other way. We were all grazed up and cut but it was great fun, we dusted ourselves down and pushed the cart back up for the next run.

I often think back to my time in Shipton, and surprise myself that I only lived there for about four years. Even now, so many years later I still consider myself as “growing up in Shipton” and consider it to be my spiritual home.

Are YOU in the Photograph?

Here is a photograph of Jim Hudson and classmates, dated on the back as 1967, so Jim would have been eight years old. He is the lad in check trousers, centre front. Second lad to the right of him is Duncan Barney and five to his left is Nigel Barrett.

So, are YOU in this photograph? Do let us know : Contact Us!

Churchill Remembrances

A Guest Article from Churchill Village

From time to time, we welcome guest contributions from villages local to the Wychwoods. This article comes courtesy of the Churchill and Sarsden Heritage Centre, the small and unique museum in Churchill Village which celebrates the lives of two of its famous sons: Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India, and William Smith, famous as the “Father of English Geology”. The Heritage Centre is known to most members of the Wychwoods Local History Society, and especially through a talk given to the group in January 2017 on WIlliam Smith by Owen Green.

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Churchill: Church Street with Chequers Inn on the right

In April 2008, Churchill village lost one of its best-loved residents, David Crudge, who had been born in the village in 1920 and at the time of his death, had been its longest resident.

A farmer, David was interested in all farming and rural activities, in particular a project begun many years earlier by his father in establishing the pedigree herd of dairy shorthorn cattle, which he was proud to exhibit at local and regional agricultural shows.

David was a fount of knowledge about village history too, and regularly wrote in the Churchill newsletter, Roundabout. Here are two of his reminiscences of life in and around the village.

Churchill Village: Top of Kingham Road

David Crudge Remembers: February 1999

Much has changed since local historian Arthur Ward wrote in the 1930s, ‘In practically all the villages in this part of the country, agriculture has been for centuries, and still is, the most important industry and the main source of the livelihood of the bulk of the population.’

Until the end of the 18th century, the landscape was quite different: large open spaces with the arable land cultivated in strips and the stock grazing common land. Our enclosures in 1788 saw the beginnings of fields as we now know them and some still have the names they were given then. Many were obvious choices: ‘Mountfield’, ‘Longround’ and ‘Brookside’, and a glance at the map explains why another is called ‘Crooked Elbow’.

Other interesting names are ‘Challenge’, ‘Hangings’ and ‘Childrens’, while the cow fields behind The Chequers were originally Upper and Lower ‘Football’. Even stranger, Mr Loehnis’ land down Sarsden Road was known as ‘Mouse Pit Ground’ and Sarsden still has a ‘Beggar’s Piece’ and a ‘Witney Gate’.

My favourite is a very small field on The Grange, adjoining the old farm yard, known as ‘Lampacre’. Only in recent years have I found out how it got its name. With very few buildings available then, many animals needing attention during the night – cows due to calve, sheep to lamb or perhaps mares to foal and sick animals – would be put in there before dusk. The farmer could then walk round after dark with his ‘lamp’ – most likely a paraffin lantern, and would soon find and attend to them.

David Crudge Remembers: March 2002

Now that the cattle have gone from the village, I sometimes think back to the 1920s when I was a boy and would walk to school past the busy blacksmith’s shop (now the Forge Guesthouse), the thriving shop and post office and The Chequers, which was then a farm as well as a pub. Jesse Barrett the farmer/landlord walked his cows there twice a day from his grass fields down Kingham Road up through the village to be milked.

There were 4 farms actually in the village and they, like the outlying ones, almost all had pigs, poultry, sheep and cattle as well as a dairy herd. Some 70 or more of the menfolk worked on the land or at the blacksmith’s. There were lots of children about then, the number attending school would be written each day on a blackboard and it would generally be over 90.

The schoolmaster, Mr Anson, was also the church organist and was a fine musician. His village choir won prizes at the local music festivals and his church choir was large and exceptionally good. Many of the village men were in it – the same men who during the week would be doing the ‘ploughing, sowing, reaping and mowing’ and of course milking the cows by hand (milking machines didn’t arrive here till the mid-1930s). The Mount Farm had the largest herd and the most milkers, many of them good singers, so as they worked sitting on their 3-legged stools, they sang and they could be heard from the road.

The most distinguished herd was at Churchill Heath where they bred pedigree dairy shorthorns and owner, Mr Rose, was nationally famous as a judge of them. Mr Martin at Rynehill was a pioneer of clean milk production, while Churchill Farm in the village won the Shorthorn Society’s silver medal for the highest herd average in the county for three consecutive years – one year it was the second highest in the country.

Cows were allowed or even encouraged to eat the grass on the sides of the road and every village garden had a gate, which was kept closed or they would help themselves to the vegetables. It was a different world then; I’m not saying it was better or worse – but shoes certainly needed cleaning a lot more often!