Audio Recordings: The Groves Family – Talks by Norman Frost

The Groves Family 1
The Groves Family 1b
The Groves Family 2a
The Groves Family 2b

The first of these two talks to society members were given on Jan 13th 1987, and the second on an unrecorded date soon afterwards.

Norman Frost opens by reminding us of the importance of the Groves family to life in Milton under Wychwood for 400 years. They were always at the core of village life, along with other equally old families such as Rawlins, Seacole, Barnes, Burson, Silman, Shayler and Mace, some of whom married into the Groves family.

Research Methods

He briefly describes his methodology of research into the Groves’ names via census readings, parish registers and baptismal records, and even looking at entries in the Domesday Book.

Details of the results of some of this family tree research is outlined. Much more detail is to be found in Journal No 7 available here as PDF.

There are descriptions of the “look” of Milton at the time of the arrival of John Groves to Milton from Chipping Norton in the late 16th Century, including Frog Lane and the path from Green Lane towards Bruern, and “Turf House” dwellings around The Square. Few stone building were extant at this time. What stone buildings there were, would have included stone “pilfered” from the ruins of the old Bruern Abbey.

The Quarries and Local Stone

Since the fortunes of the family and of the firm are based solidly upon the local building stone, the first talk includes some detail of the early history and later 17th Century re-emergence of quarrying in the region, and the types of stone available to Groves’ masons. [14.00]. The Milton Downs form an outcrop from the huge limestone belt which extends from Portland in the South to the Humber in the North, and it was from these sources that stone was used for large building projects including Oxford colleges. We are reminded that it was this period that Shipton Court was built.

The Groves Generations

Much of the remainder of the talk covers the early and later generations of the family, and the talk is a useful summary of the much more detailed coverage of the family history in Journal 7 and Journal 8, as well as the discussion of the emigration of Groves family members to America in Journal 9.

Mention is made of Leonard Grove (1594-1662) and his 4 children [22.00], who lived through interesting times, and who left a will, which has some detail of the quantity and value of possessions (Sept 1664). A comparable will from a local blacksmith is compared.

A series of Groves with the name William give an outline of the generations from the 17th and 18th century, details of which can be found in the Journal articles, including details of their home locations in the “Lower Heath”. [from 27.00] and, for example, details of a William Groves’ will.

From [30.00] onwards, the first talk traces generations of the family in outline, with mention of the bequeathing of quarry ownership. An interesting key moment is the mention of John Grove who built the stables from Taynton Quarry stone Stables 1724 at Shipton Court. He was the first to adopt the “s” at the end of the family name Grove.

Mention is made of the trade of “banker mason”, a highly skilled branch of the trade, and of Thomas Grove, the first of the family to live in the Elms (letters 1850s refer).  And we also hear of a William and 5 children emigrating to America in the 1850s, and the later Victorian building of houses in Jubilee Lane (formerly Groves Lane). Again, fuller details are available in the Journals summarised by Norman in these talks.

Part 2b moves on to talk about some of the Groves’ projects and quarry ownership and some of the uncertainties in WLHS research in the late 1980s when Norman was active.

Milton stone, formerly used in Oxford colleges, was had long been found to be unsuitable for outdoor use, and so was discontinued for that purpose. But it was fine for interior carvings, and Milton’s local quarries became and remained busy in the Victorian times. Over time however, the quarrying business in the 20th century became regulated to a point where it was not economical for the small business owner.

The work of the Groves’ family is thus outlined in these contexts, especially from [8.25] and the current era starting with Alfred Groves and the developing from the 1880s of an expanding group of multi-skilled tradesmen, including the acquisition of the Leafield Pottery which they kept until 1920.

The end of this first part covers the 20th century family in living memory of the audience, including Lucy Ellis Groves, a major source of information via her copious correspondence.

Second Talk

The second talk continues with much more about the family, starting from John and Alice Groves in the late 1600s as mentioned in the first talk. John died in 1627 “an old blind man of Milton”. Leonard Groves, John’s son was recorded as “a stonemason of Milton”, and so a first marker of the Groves family trade. Leonard left a will, with an inventory which gave clues around life in those days. This embellishes the subject first touched on in the first talk, and details of the will appear on page 14 of WLHS Journal No 7. Part b of the talk also revisits the acquisition of the Leafield Pottery, and the formation of the modern incarnation of Alfred Groves and Son in 1904.

Typical Buildings

Descriptions of houses are included, 39 houses in Milton paying hearth tax, and other descriptions are included of cooking arrangements. An image of the cottage he lived in is reproduced here from the Journal. Descriptions follow of the development of cottages and their conversion over time, with further details also of other wills, yielding further insights, especially around the freehold value of Haselford Quarry in the 1750s.

The talk continues through the generations, some of whom were also covered in the first talk. These include Jeremiah Grove and Elizabeth Booth, John Grove (1695-1761), John Grove and Mary Crips., George Groves, Thomas Groves and Hannah Upstone, up to and including the generations current in the mid-1980s. Much of the remainder of the talk can happily be followed with the full details of Norman Frost’s research in the Journals. The talks ends with several interesting and sometimes amusing diary entries from around 1879, by Elizabeth Bolton, one of Alfred Groves’ daughters, who had married Edward Bolton, a Wesleyan Methodist minister.

Brief Note on Norman Frost

Norman Frost was a very active member of the WLHS for many years. He came to Milton as the new Postmaster with his wife Eileen who was in charge of the attached shop on the corner of High Street and The Green. Highly respected in the WLHS. He served in the RAF.

DB November 2023