Our May 2024 Evening Event: AGM and “From Our Archive”

The Wychwoods Local History AGM took place in Milton Village Hall on May 8th 2024

Agenda (PDF) | Chairmans Report (PDF)

After the AGM, our final talk of the season included 3 presentations from WLHS Committee members, featuring stories from our archive using newly-discovered historic photographs, letters and oral history recordings

First we had a short review of the society’s work on audio recordings and oral histories by David Betterton. He played a few sample clips which typified the variety and human interest found in this archive. [ Overview here ]

John Bennett gave a review of a recently-acquired album of photographs of Milton under Wychwood dating from 1891. This album – we call it the “Marshall Album”  is a treasure trove of historic images of Milton houses, from which John selected several individual properties and compared them to their appearance today. The Album itself was a gift from the guest of a prominent Baptist family in the village. 

In the final presentation, Carol Anderson took us on a fascinating audit trail of the Baughan family in Milton, derived from her research around an intriguing box containing apparently random notes, receipts and letters – a box she titled “A Box of Baughans”.  Her work on this revealed fascinating insights, for example, on the role of women in business administration.

Wychwoods Local History Archive Room

Further research is planned for the Marshall Album and the “Box of Baughans”, and work continues on creating extracts from the society’s oral history files.

Our April 2024 Evening Talk: “Down in the Dumps” – How Oxford Helped Win World War Two

Speaker: Maurice East

Subject: “Down in the Dumps” – How Oxford Helped Win World War Two

Another fine evening was enjoyed by 40+ members and guests, with plenty of response at the Q&A from many of us who had family connections with the Cowley works. Maurice is a speaker who is clearly passionate about Cowley’s role over time, and his talk was full of surprises, only a few which we illustrate here.

Introduction

Maurice started the evening with a discussion of the role of Oxford in the nation’s consciousness and the myths around its contribution or otherwise to the war effort in World War Two.  

He played a BBC excerpt from the programme “Rogue Heroes” which exemplified the usual idea of war heroes. However, as he pointed out, all their equipment and weaponry was actually manufactured by equally committed individuals who are  far less lionised.

And so, the theme of the evening was how the contribution of the Cowley Motor Works became instrumental in the war effort in a way which is often underestimated.

William Morris and Morris Motors at Cowley

Maurice covered the development of the Cowley  works through the story of William Morris and his creation of a major manufacturing business from early beginnings. [ A story also told here : Morris Metropolis ] . With the advent of World War One, William Morris’ enterprise engaged in war work. This included the making of mine sinkers for the Royal Navy in large quantities.

After the First World War, in the 1920s there was a major expansion. This included, in 1926, the building of the Pressed Steel factory which created a huge demand for labour. Men came from all over the UK and especially from South Wales, building the centre of gravity of the population of Oxford eastwards around the villages of Barton, Headington and Iffley amongst others.

By the outbreak of World War Two it was clear that the country was ill-prepared and short of arms and equipment, especially of aircraft for the Battle of Britain. At the nation’s low ebb, Dunkirk, things looked bleak.

Wartime Production at Cowley

But as these concerns grew, William Morris (Now Lord Nuffield) acted. In the late 1930s, his company began developing tanks and aircraft engines. When war erupted, the vast Cowley factory transformed once again, this time into an armaments and military equipment production hub.

The output ranged from army trucks, utility vehicles and light reconnaissance vehicles to Cruiser and Crusader tanks. Additionally, the factory produced aircraft components such as engines for the Lancaster bomber, as well as wings and tail units for the Horsa glider. By 1940, Cowley was also making complete Tiger Moth training aircraft for the RAF.

Everyday military essentials, such as wireless communication devices and searchlights, also rolled off the assembly lines – not least, millions of helmets and field canteens for the army. Extraordinarily also, in the field of neurosurgery, the production of metal plates used in surgery for head injuries pioneered by surgeon Hugh Cairns.

Beyond “Production” at Cowley

However, the Cowley factory’s role extended beyond production, and this was a key theme of Maurice’s talk, with extraordinary and copious illustrations of recycling and re-purposing materials from crashed aircraft, both allied and German.

Given the chronic shortage of planes, restoring damaged aircraft was crucial, allowing them to return to the front lines. To manage repairs across the country, the government established the Civilian Repair Organisation (CRO) in secrecy, coordinating repairs in a network of factories and workshops. Lord Nuffield was invited to lead the CRO, initially based at Cowley but later relocated to Merton College in 1940. Repaired sections of aircraft, and sometimes entire planes, were transported to airfields for reassembly and test flights

The Cowley factory specialised in repairing crucial Hurricane and Spitfire fighter planes, along with trainers produced by Miles Aircraft and the Tiger Moths they manufactured. During the intense three months of the Battle of Britain in 1940, the Cowley Unit restored up to 150 planes to active service.

To improve efficiencies and expediate repairs, Cowley Airfield was constructed adjacent to the factory. We even learned that damaged planes were occasionally flown directly to the airfield for “while you wait” repairs, swiftly returning to battle.

We also learned that Cowley served as the hub for a civilian salvage group (50MU), operating seven days a week to collect and transport damaged aircraft and parts for firms participating in the CRO network. Over the course of the war, this unit handled upwards of 12,000 aircraft. Maurice showed us extraordinary pictures of the transporter vehicles used for this work.

However, not all recovered planes could be repaired. The Morris factory housed a “Metal and Produce Recovery Depot” (MPRD), which salvaged badly damaged aircraft from various nationalities for parts and raw materials. For this work, the extraordinary “Cowley Dump,” a sprawling area of mangled wreckage from severely damaged planes, covered 100 acres of adjacent farmland.

Paul Nash “Totes Meer” c. Tate Gallery
Note the wheel of the Dornier plane, replicated in Paul Nash’s painting

These twisted metal piles, organised in blocks and “roads” for easy access, were immortalised in Paul Nash’s 1941 painting titled Totes Meer (Dead Sea), displayed today in the Tate Gallery. Thousands of tons of high-grade aluminium, rubber, steel, and plastics were reclaimed and reused as part of this programme. 

By the end of the war, Cowley had more than twice as many employees as it had before the war. Most of these workers were women because of course most of the men in the regular workforce had been drafted into the armed forces.

It was a great blessing that Oxford and the Cowley area was never damaged by bombs. But clearly the workforce at Cowley were instrumental in the eventual victory for the Allies, risking its own set of dangers with commitment, imagination and effort. Maurice’s talk was an eye-opener and indeed pointed to another – and very important – definition of wartime heroism.

About Maurice East

Maurice East was born and raised in Headington Quarry at a time when everyone you met seemed to have a connection to the car factory. His father, grandfather and uncles all worked ‘on the line’. After living in London for many years he returned to Oxford in 2013 and found a city much changed by de-industrialisation.

During lockdown he used his love of local history to develop walking tours which deliberately avoid the typical tales of dreaming spires and instead seek to reflect the overlooked experiences of ordinary Oxonians. This is history from below, less grand but no less exciting.  The story of how Cowley helped win World War Two is one of those hidden stories of Oxford.

Our March 2024 Evening Talk: Known Unto God – A Great War Detective Story

Speaker: Ingram Murray

Subject: ‘Known unto God’: a great War Detective Story

Around 50+ members and guests enjoyed the latest in our season of evening talks, which this time covered the intriguing story of a search for the identity of a particular soldier of the Great War, one of many whose unidentified remains, until the solution was found, made up the over 50% of the fallen whose resting place remains unknown.

Ingram introduced his talk with a quick introduction to the work of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, and the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He reminded us that Commission has been responsible over the years for the continued task of identification and reburial of the fallen.

Ingram then outlined the full story of his work with the late Tom Shannon, on one soldier, an officer of the Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry

On May 3, 1917, during World War I, the 5th Battalion of the regiment launched an attack against the enemy, who held a fortified trench. Tragically, over 300 officers and men were either killed, wounded, or went missing that day. Among the missing were two young Second Lieutenants who were never found.

Fast forward ninety-six years, and a local farmer stumbled upon the remains of a body. Artefacts found alongside the body, including a button, whistle, pocket watch, and uniform fragments, indicated that the deceased was an officer from the 5th Battalion. However, the officer’s identity remained a mystery at that time.

Ingram and Tom   dedicated many years on the research. After navigating through numerous false leads, they finally succeeded in identifying the young officer. His name: Osmond Bartle Wordsworth, a great nephew of the renowned poet Wordsworth. In recognition of his sacrifice, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have carried out the reburial.

More details on the full story are here:

About Ingram Murray

Ingram Murray grew up in various police states due to his father’s work as a BBC foreign correspondent and involvement in the Political Warfare Executive during World War II.

In 1956, Ingram joined the Royal Engineers, serving in the Middle East during National Service. At Oxford University, he became part of the Airborne Engineer Regiment, eventually commanding the Parachute Engineer Squadron.

His military career took him to Aden, Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, and Germany. Simultaneously, he consulted for the British Railways Board across Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

After retiring, Murray volunteered at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, deeply involved in many of the museum’s important projects. As a trustee of the Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust, he remains active in preserving and sharing historical narratives.

Our February 2024 Evening Talk: The Effect of Enclosures on Common Right

Wychwoods Local History Society Evening Talk Jan 2024

Speaker: Deborah Hayter

Subject: ‘Common right : private property and how enclosures shaped the Oxfordshire/Northamptonshire landscape’

There was a hectic period of enclosure by Parliamentary Act in the late 18th century which drastically changed the surroundings of many local villages which were still farming using the medieval open fields.

The Enclosure Map in Milton Village Hall

We were pleased to welcome 9 visitors to a gathering of 50+ to hear Deborah’s talk, which attracted some interesting audience questions, as well as a chance to socialise. Members and guests also enjoyed the opportunity to view the Enclosure Map archived in Milton Village Hall.

Milton Under Wychwood Enclosue Map in the Village Hall
Viewing the Enclosure Map of Milton under Wychwood

Definition of Terms

Deborah was able to explain that common land is land owned by the general public and to which everyone has unrestricted right of access. However,all common land is private property, whether the owner is an individual or a corporation. Although generally in the past, the owner of the common could have been for example, the lord of the manor, today many commons are owned by local authorities, the National Trust and other bodies for the public benefit. However not all commons offer total access to all comers.

In detail, common right included the following, although there were others:

  • of pasture: the right to graze livestock; the animals permitted, whether sheep, horses, cattle and such, were specified in each case.
  • of estovers: the right to cut and take wood (but not timber), reeds, heather, bracken and the like.
  • of turbary: the right to dig turf or peat for fuel.
  • in the soil: the right to take sand, gravel, stone, coal and other minerals.
  • of piscary: the right to take fish from ponds, streams and so on.

These rights related to natural produce, not to crops or commercial exploitation of the land.

Common Land Over Time

In her talk, Deborah demonstrated how the landscape changed over the course of 300 years. She showed the contrast in the total area of common land over time.   In the late 17th century, perhaps 25-30% of the land in England was Common (or 8-9 million acres). By the mid-20th century only 4000 commons were recorded. These had an acreage of 1 – 1.3 million acres, much of which is to be found in Scotland and Wales, and the English North West.

We learned some of the key reasons over time which drove these massive changes. We started in the Middle Ages, when benign 12th century weather patterns morphed into harsher climate conditions in the next 100 years. This was a time which also included the massive depopulation of the country due to the Black Death, which caused de facto changes in land use as villages depopulated or disappeared altogether.

Open Field System

The open field system grew from these changes, through which common right became established. An example of the open field system still extant today is at Laxton in Nottinghamshire, but we do also see in the landscape in parts of the country, the visible signs of that system in the ridge-and-furrow in fields which have seen little of the plough.

Copy of part of the original Mark Pierce map of the Laxton Estate 1635
Medieval Ridge and Furrow above Wood Stanway © Copyright Philip Halling

Towards the Parliamentary Enclosure Act

Enclosure thus was not always problematic. On the whole, agreements between land owners and a parish about enclosure were not by any means acrimonious, and in the 16th and 17th centuries we can find documents in the Chancery which show positive and settled working agreements.


But we learned that by the 18th century changes in agricultural practices – as improved crop rotation, additional land requirements for growing populations, and improved drainage systems, all conspired to create a drive to top-down efficiencies and so a commensurate diminution of common rights. 

A key event was the ‘Inclosure Consolidation Act’ of 1801 which really spelt massive compromises to common rights. Much parliamentary enclosure took place throughout the first half of the 19th century, and so for example counties such as Oxfordshire found themselves at an epicentre of enclosing activity. Curtailment of rights and rural depopulation became watchwords.

Deborah took us though examples and exceptions to this general flow of history, with many maps and illustrations around field and road definitions which gave insights into the reasons for the look our landscapes today.

Included in her examples was the eventual loss of much of the Wychwood Forest, and intriguingly, the fact that Milton (1848) and Shipton (1852) came late in the cycle of enclosure activity.  Why so late? she asked. Why indeed, Historians!

About Deborah Hayter

Deborah has an MA from Leicester University’s Department of English Local History, and has been teaching Local and Landscape History in Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education for some 20 years.

She is first and foremost a landscape historian, looking to answer the question ‘Why do places look like they do?’, but she has also taught courses on village history and on the history of poor relief, which is a particular interest.

Our January 2024 Evening Talk: Cemeteries of Oxford : more than a Century of History

Speaker: Trevor Jackson

Subject: ‘Cemeteries of Oxford : more than a Century of History’

26 members with 4 guests attended our first talk of the year, a fair attendance for a cold January evening.

Our speaker was Trevor Jackson, who had previously given us a talk on the history of RAF Brize Norton. This time his subject took us through the history and development of the cemeteries in Oxford.

Background

Between 2005 and 2017 Trevor was the Registrar and Manager of Oxford City’s cemeteries at Wolvercote, Botley, Rose Hill and Headington. He and his team were also responsible for maintaining the grounds of 11 closed Anglican churches in the city. Trevor came to the work after 30 years with the RAF, which included work around the repatriation of war dead from overseas operations, and the attendant management of service funerals.

Trevor Jackson’s Team

Nineteenth Century Developments

Trevor’s talk took us through the reasons for the establishment and development of the cemeteries at Osney and St Sepulchre (Jericho) in the mid 19th century. In addition to the effects of regular cholera outbreaks, there were other capacity issues in existing cemeteries, where the practice of “continuous burials “ was no longer sustainable. However, both new cemeteries filled rapidly, with continuing cholera outbreaks, and so were closed to new burials from 1855.

New Capacity

For new capacity, land was sequestered in the late 1880s to create the three cemeteries of Rose Hill, Botley and Wolvercote, with a further cemetery established at Headington in 1928.

Retaining Wall Examples

Using these examples, we learned something of the structural maintenance of cemeteries, using retaining walls and careful monitoring of underground subsidence and the attendant danger of falling monuments, and also the layouts to include specific areas for children and victims of sudden infant mortality.

Some Highlights

Sobering subjects indeed, but intermixed with these realities, we had insights into the use of the cemeteries as filming locations – including the filming of “Any Human Heart” which transformed Rose Hill cemetery to a New York location, and also an episode of the TV series “Endeavour” at Headington.

“Any Human Heart”- at Rose Hill

We looked at the chapel architecture for each of the four cemeteries, including gate lodges which have now become private dwellings, as well as some biodiversity initiatives amongst the necessary ground maintenance work.

War Graves at Botley
A Remembrance Sunday at Botley
Grave of Edward Brooks VC at Rose Hill

Trevor’s talk also took in stories of individual WW2 service personnel, and something of the Commonwealth War Graves, particularly at Botley. We also learned of some famous names whose resting place is at the large Wolvercote Cemetery, which has the graves of JRR Tolkien, Sir Roger Bannister and Isaiah Berlin.

Grave of JRR Tolkein at Wolvercote

The evening was a fair mixture indeed, with no small amount of dark humour to make for an educational and entertaining time.

Our November 2023 Evening Talk: Romans of Oxfordshire

Speaker: Marie-Louise Kerr

Subject: Romans of Oxfordshire: Roman settlements and their impact in the local area .

A fine turnout of 60+ enjoyed our final talk of 2023, when Marie-Louise Kerr talked with obvious enthusiasm on the subject of everyday life in Roman Britain.

Romans in Britain: Background

Marie-Louise began with the background context before and after the arrival of the Romans, referring particularly to accounts of pre-Roman Britain in Ptolemy’s Geography, and to examples of pre-Roman artefacts. These demonstrate, via some examples she showed, of excavated or found votive offerings, of a living, sophisticated culture among the tribes of the Iron Age.

So, with the arrival of the Roman Legions under the Emperor Claudius in 43 AD, we have a mixed story.  This is a story of a consolidation of pre-invasion diplomatic and trading relationships exemplified for example in a Romanised version of the Atrebatean triple-tailed horse. It is also a story of insurrection and revolt as epitomised by the Iceni rebellion under Boudicca, which saw the destruction of the vital port of Londinium in a wave of other devastating but temporary setbacks for the new Roman era in Britain.

Atrebatean triple-tailed horse

A Soldier’s Tale

As an example of an individual who lived on the cusp of the worlds of Empire and Britain, Marie Louise mentioned the soldier of the Second Augustan Legion, Lucius Valerius Geminus. His repurposed and fragmented gravestone was unearthed at Alchester near Bicester. Details here.

Reconstructed Tombstone of Lucius Valerius Geminus

Here was a soldier who came with his legion to Britain, and took the option after 30 years’ service, to settle with his plot of land. By inference, this would have been a common pattern.

Roman Villas

By using examples of the many Roman villas in our region, Marie Louise was able to introduce simple insights in the everyday lives of citizens of the time. Particular examples are the engraved glass beakers found by the South Oxfordshire Archaeological Group at a recent dig at Goring Roman Villa. “This may help” and “Give this to a loved one” are slogans we can all relate to.

Goring Roman Villa

The Goring Roman Villa is an example of an “Aisled” villa, one of two types of construction. The villa at North Leigh is an example of the “Courtyard” construction, with a communal space flanked by the living accommodation and bathhouses common to both types. The recent excavations by the Earth Trust at Wittenham Clumps offers a tantalising glimpse of the social hierarchy of the time – a villa with at least 15 nearby Iron-Age style round houses.

North Leigh Roman Villa

With these and several other examples of villa excavations, as well as examples of the reconstructions at Segodonum ( Wallsend) at Butser Ancient Farm in Petersfield , with its trompe d’oeil décor, we had interesting insights into how our Oxfordshire villas might have been set up, designed and furnished.

About Marie Louise Kerr

Marie-Louise’s background is in Ancient History and as a museum curator. She has over 15 years’ experience in the heritage sector, looking after museum collections and developing exhibitions around the country.

These have included archaeology, history of science and textiles collections as well as military and social history artefacts. She set up her Curator Without Museum talks business when she was between collections, but she is now Curator at West Berkshire Museum

Our October 2023 Evening Talk: Drovers’ Roads in Oxfordshire and Beyond

Wychwoods History Society Poster

Speaker: Tim Healey
Subject: Drovers’ Roads in Oxfordshire and Beyond

Tim’s talk described how in centuries past cattle drovers made epic treks from the far reaches of West Wales to London’s Smithfield Market, passing through Oxfordshire on the way. His talk described the drovers’ lives and the tell-tale marks they left on the landscape.

This was another successful evening for the society, enjoyed by 50+ members and guests, and we are grateful to Tim for a lively and richly-illustrated presentation.

Tim’s talk focused particularly on the cattle droving from West and North Wales through to London and the Southeast which invariably covered routes through Oxfordshire. Cattle droving (and the movement of sheep and other animals) has a deep history, covering the country as far north as Skye and particularly the Great North Road. Records exist for example of Welsh cattle driven to London for the coronation of King John, and it is known that Welsh beef fed the army at Agincourt, and over time the burgeoning trade became subject to licenses and controls by the time of Henry 8th and Elizabeth 1st.

Green Lane near Ipsden
Green Lane near Ipsden

He showed images of typical drovers’ tracks, with lush borders and tunnels created by hedgerows – all a consequence of the rich soils fertilised by centuries of passing cattle.  Tim quoted from Thomas Hardy as an illustration of how the presence of the drovers over centuries had become embedded in the consciousness of people of the countryside   ” They wandered up the slopes till they reached the green track along the ridge, which they followed to the circular British earth-bank adjoining, Jude thinking of the great age of the trackway, and of the drovers who had frequented it, probably before the Romans knew the country.” – Jude the Obscure: Chapter 8

David Jones and Company £5 Banknote

We had insights into how a token system to replace cash transactions was developed. Eventually new banks were opened to meet the need for control over the handling of cash for the sake of security and for the sake of avoiding criminality amongst the drovers themselves. The first of these, David Jones of Llandovery, opened in 1799. His brand was a black ox, which became over time the black horse of Lloyds Bank.

Old Tollgate Whitchurch
Old Tollgate Whitchurch
Tollbooth near Welshpool

The effects of the development of the Turnpike system in the 18th century had a huge impact on the economics of the business, culminating in direct action epitomised by the so-called Rebecca riots.

Some compromises were made with a system of special passes at reduced costs, but more crucially, the drovers found new routes away from the Turnpike roads, which created their own networks in the landscape. Tim’s talk covered some of these networks, and particularly the routes from North and West Wales through Oxfordshire and to the markets in London, further into Kent and Sussex, as well as southward to Salisbury and beyond.

Map of Oxforshire Drovers  Routes
Map of Oxforshire Routes

Some typical reminders of these routes are to be found in place names such as “Coldharbour” – from the Norman French “Cul d’Arbre” – a sheltered spot beneath a tree, or “Little London”. Other reminders are in pub names, streets and lanes, and the wide verges on many roads, which allowed grazing “on the move”. Along the Ridgeway, other evidence of these drovers’ routes is found in the Scots Pines, a non-native tree, which were planted by drovers as a long-term marker for future generations.

With Tim’s accompanying map illustrations of these routes, we learned much about the reception of local people to the drovers and stockmen – most of whom spoke only in Welsh.

Drovers in Abingdon – Reading Mercury 12 July 1859

Among many other topics, we heard of the Lurchers and other dogs who worked the herds, the special shoes made for the cattle for the long journeys, and the transport back to Wales of Windsor chairs in flatpack form.

Tim also covered something of the cultural legacy of the drovers’ roads and livelihoods, which is only rarely reflected in true folk tradition, although reference is made in work by Alfred Williams, and an opera by Vaughan Williams.

Postscript:

For those interested in some in-depth research on the drovers roads, here is a useful link : Welsh Cattle Drovers in the Nineteenth Century

About Tim Healey

Tim Healey is a freelance writer and broadcaster who has presented many programmes on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. A frequent contributor to the Oxford Times he has a special interest in the landscape and heritage of our county.

Our September 2023 Evening Talk: ‘Morris’ Motopolis

Wychwoods Local History Society Evening Talk Poster

Speaker: Simon Wenham
Subject: ‘Morris’ Motopolis

Our first evening talk of the 2023/4 season saw 45+ members and guests convening at Milton Village Hall, for a fine and informative sweep through the history and development of the city of Oxford, through the prism of the story of William Morris and the motor works at Cowley.

Our speaker Simon Wenham was as surprised as the rest of us to be greeted in the car park by a fine example of the famous Morris Oxford “Bullnose” – we all thought this was part of his talk, but in fact it belonged to local resident Peter Meecham – a nice touch to set the stall out for the evening.

Peter Meecham’s Morris Oxford “Bullnose” at Milton Village Hall

Simon’s talk took us through the early stages of the evolution of the Morris empire, the “town vs. gown” dichotomy and the idea of Oxford as a city with “air of studied backwardness” caused by the conservative, established control of the city through the University hierarchy.

Oxford Morris Garage Longwall Street 1910
Oxford Morris Garage Longwall Street 1910

We learned of the early beginnings when William Morris at the age of 16 was repairing bicycles in his parents’ garden shed, to the development of a business which employed thousands of workers. We learned of the acquisition and development other businesses and brands – MG in Abingdon, Wolsey, and Pressed Steel included – in a career which elevated him to the title of Lord Nuffield.

Morris Minor Introduced 1948. 1 million sold by 1960

We gained some insights into the man as a creative and energetic business brain, a man who liked to “get things done” – but also a man of extraordinary philanthropy, giving most of his fortune to good causes in health care and education.

Woven through Simon’s talk were insights into the transformation of the city. High wages brought in workers from South Wales and the Midlands, and the factory expansion in the inter-war years meant housing developments swallowed up villages – not just Cowley, but Headington, Marston, Wolvercote, Botley, Littlemore, and Iffley – and filled the gaps between them.

Typical Council Housing
Example private development

Hence, we have a story of a tension between old and new and a constant debate on progress and conservation.

1966 Cowley Skyline

The debate is perhaps epitomised by the establishment of Morris’ Nuffield College. Here in the city centre is an extraordinary example of Morris’s philanthropy. It was built as Morris wished, in a traditional design in Cotswold stone. It was Oxford’s first co-educational college and first all-graduate college. Revolutionary. But also, even Morris had to compromise, having intended his college specialise in engineering but the university wished otherwise. He was persuaded that it should specialise in the social sciences.

About Simon Wenham

Dr Simon Wenham is a part-time tutor on the panel of Oxford University’s Continuing Education Department where he teaches courses on the Victorian period. His doctoral research at the University of Oxford was on the history of Salter Bros Ltd , an Oxford-based Thames boat firm, which resulted in several books.

Simon has been a regular contributor to Radio Oxford and has done interviews for a number of television documentaries .

Ascott Martyrs Trust Family History Day

Saturday 17 June saw committee members supporting WLHS colleague Carol Anderson and the Ascott Martyrs Educational Trust’s family and local history day at Tiddy Hall in Ascott under Wychwood.

This was an enjoyable as well as informative opportunity for visitors to discover more about their family history. A major part of the exhibition was the Trust’s amazing Martyrs Family Tree (11 metres long it contains more than 2,500 names). Also on hand was Beverley McCombs whose book ‘The Ascott Martyrs’, introduced us to their family histories.

Visitors were also regaled by Charlbury Finstock Morris with a performance which included two of the traditional dances that originated in Ascott. A Facebook clip appears here thanks to Mark Pigeon.

Charlbury Finstock Morris Dancers

Visit to the Oxfordshire Museums Resource Centre: May 2023

The society recently arranged a fascinating visit to the Oxfordshire Museums Resource Centre, a large purpose-built, tent-like structure near Standlake. Here a group of society members were able to enjoy a couple of hours hosted by Christiane Jeuckens , who is the Collections Officer for the Oxfordshire Museums Service.

The Resource Centre is normally open to the public by appointment only, but WHLS members were given the opportunity to enjoy a special guided tour.

During the afternoon we learned about the role of the centre to preserve important artefacts, in the areas of archaeology and of social history. The centre houses 100,000+ items large and small, from Neolithic times to recent history. Just two examples we saw were the tombstone of Oxfordshire’s first named inhabitant (a retired Roman soldier ) and an early 18th century wooden blanket loom made from local timber.

Th group had a lively time wandering among the stacks, viewing pictures, photographs, farm implements large and small, domestic appliances, musical instruments, stone carvings. There was much indeed to take in.

The group was delighted to find that Christiane had lined up some particularly Wychwoods-relevant items for us to view, including the much-treasured Shipton Serpent, late of St. Mary’s Church but now housed in the Centre.

A facinating afternoon, and one well worth recommending to friends for a future group visit.

The Resource Centre: Website here