A Wartime Wedding at Prebendal House

This article was written in 1988 by John Rawlins and appeared in No. 4 of the Society’s Journal. It is reproduced here as part of our occasional series on Prebendal House.

The activities of the Oxford Archaeological Unit at Prebendal House, coupled with the interest and co-operation of the owners and their contractors, stimulated the Society to research further into its history. A request was made for any old photographs which might add to our knowledge of the property. Initially very few were forthcoming, but on checking an old photograph of the Prebendal staff with Bob Bradley, he produced the wedding photograph shown here. Both his mother and my father appear in the back row, and Mrs Hinde, the owner of Prebendal at the time, sits on the groom’s right. It was obviously taken at Prebendal, but why and when?

The wedding of Levi Evens and Katherine Wall, 14 July 1915

The photograph prompted Norman Frost to recall some correspondence he had had with a retired minister of the United Reform Church, the Revd Norman Singleton. With the kind permission of the Revd Singleton (who appears as the pageboy in the sailor-suit in the front row) the letter is now quoted in full.

When war with Germany was declared in August, 1914, the Old Prebendal at Shipton under Wychwood was a lovely ‘stately home’ in the old tradition – dignified, handsome, comfortable, well-staffed with ‘domestics’, gardeners and coachman, and owned by a ‘stately’ pair of occupiers, Dr and Mrs Hinde. Soon, Britain was really at war and our young men were being killed or wounded by tens of thousands, at which Dr and Mrs Hinde offered to turn part of the house into a convalescent home for wounded men, an offer quickly accepted by the authorities.

Beds, medical supplies, and other necessities, plus a nurse or two, quickly appeared at Shipton and were soon followed by a string of young men in blue hospital uniforms. When 1915 became warm enough, the lovely garden took on a new look with groups of blue-clad men – some bandaged, some on crutches ¬enjoying the peace and beauty of it.

At least two romances developed from all this. One had begun previously when Mrs Hinde engaged a new, young assistant gardener named William Sabin. Finding that Will was attracted to her personal maid, Nell Evens, Mrs Hinde thought it best for Nell to go home to Lancashire, which she did, though not surprisingly Will was soon called up for army service. Mrs Hinde was then without either of them and, missing Nell’s invaluable services, she quickly recalled Nell and used her in the convalescent home arrangements. To that end Mrs Hinde bought a motorcar – an Overland ‘tourer’ – which Nell quickly learned to drive and many of the wounded soldiers were met at the station by Nell and the Overland. And what could Mrs Hinde say or do when one of the wounded arrivals was none other than Will Sabin? Thus, a few years later Will and Nell were married, being tremendously happy together for many years and dying within a week of one another in Hertfordshire.

By another coincidence, one of the wounded soldiers turned out to be Nell’s brother, an extremely good-looking young man who, while at the Old Prebendary, quickly ‘fell’ for one of the young housemaids. It was all very sudden, and a great event in the first year of the Shipton ‘soldiers convalescent Home’ was when Levi Norman Evens (aged 22) married Katherine Lilian Alice Wall (21) at the Parish Church on 14 July 1915.

They were anxious to marry before Levi’s return to the trenches; Mrs Hinde was anxious that it should be more than just a ‘war wedding’; and so she did all she could to make it a great day for both. Thus, the procession out of the Church was of a ‘white’ bride, a handsome soldier bridegroom, soldier best man, six `white’ bridesmaids, and lastly a very young pageboy dressed in a sailor outfit and carrying a Union Jack which, incidentally, he had dropped with a clatter in the centre aisle during a prayer! (No carpet those days!) Sadly, as the war took its course, Levi Evens was badly gassed and he died very soon after the war ended.

The Wilts & Berks Canal – The Latest Society Talk

The society’s latest online gathering on Feb 18th, 2021 was another well-attended session. Members and guests continue to support and enjoy these “at-home” evenings. This one was no exception, not least due to the obvious enthusiasm and commitment which our speaker gave to his subject.

Wychwoods Local History Society February 2021 Talk

The talk – on The Wilts & Berks Canal – was given by stalwart supporter and onetime project director Martin Buckland. It featured a synopsis of the history of the canal’s development. It also covered the canal’s eventual decline (in common with the entire canal network due to the coming of the railways) and then the revival of interest by local communities to revive the waterway for social and tourism development.

We learned that the canal opened in 1810 after 15 years of construction but had a chequered career until its legal closure in 1914. In 1977 restoration of the canal began in a few places.

However, in 2004, a full restoration of the entire 62 miles was decided upon.

Martin’s talk looked specifically at the restoration progress and future proposals for the canal. It focussed in detail on the development and opening of a  150-yard cut near Abingdon at the Eastern end of the canal, named the Jubilee Junction. Running from the River Thames to the edge of a former gravel pit south of the town, it is a key section of the project to reopen the canal for its entire length.

Martin’s talk also showed a tantalising number of images taken from key places along the canal. These were of various projects – past and current. Included was a particularly stunning development at Shrivenham, involving the delivery of vast quantities of ash from the Didcot power station in the days it was operating.  All these images represent subject-matter, certainly, for further focus on similar projects. These are, as Martin called them – “pearls” along “the string of pearls” which describes the canal in an apt metaphor

About Martin Buckland

 Martin Buckland has been interested in Industrial Archaeology from the age of 4 when watching Great Western trains with his Dad at Iver where he was born.

 Nearly seven decades later he is involved with the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre and with the restoration of the Wilts & Berks and other canals.

 He gives talks at Abingdon Museum to primary school children and leads walks along the historic and proposed routes of the Wilts & Berks Canal and another covering the rivers of Abingdon.


The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust https://www.wbct.org.uk/

History Synopsis appears here:

Oxford Mail Report on the Jubilee Junction . (The name was chosen to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of IWA)

Jessie Jones (1885-1945): Teacher with a Legacy

An article appears on the Oxfordshire History Centre blog, which will be of particular interest to those drawn to the history of Wychwood villages Idbury and Fifield.

The article highlights the work and times of village teacher Jessie Jones. She was Head Teacher at Idbury and Fifield village school in the 1920s and 1930s. A remarkable collection her papers, and schoolwork of the children, is held at Oxfordshire History Centre. These provide a vivid insight into her work.

“Miss Jones” as she (of course!) was known, encouraged her pupils to discover and record the history and traditions of their locality, and to study the countryside around it.

It was the inspiration of her grandfather’s country records and teaching devices which gave Jessie Jones the idea and motivation to make these historical surveys. This work began with the creation of a local field map and a nature study. It was extended over several years to include the mapping and the collection of artefacts and data relating to all aspects of the geography and history of the locality, together with details of village life.

The article describes this work in some depth, with illustrations, and is well worth a look. The article is here

19th Century Emigration from Oxfordshire: A Book Review

The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown (1855)

A fascinating new book has just been published which will be of interest to us in the Wychwoods, especially those who have ancestors who made the often-perilous journey to a new life in the colonies. The book is called ‘The Promised Land” and subtitled “The Story of Emigration from Oxfordshire and Neighbouring Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire 1815-1914”.

Despite the difficulties we are enduring in the current health emergency, it is perhaps sobering to be reminded of the problems and uncertainties afflicting the rural poor in the UK during the upheavals of the 19th Century.
This is a lively and well-researched survey, written by Oxfordshire-based local historian Martin Greenwood. It focuses on the drivers which caused individuals and families to embark on the often-hazardous pathways to a new life. These were times of great upheaval for village communities affected by several seismic developments in both international and domestic politics of the nation.

The Roots of Emigration

The book opens with an outline of the establishment of penal colonies in Australia following the voyages of Captain Cook. We are reminded of the draconian penal system of the time which fuelled the initial population of these places. A survey then develops to highlight the mass migration initially to the USA and then in large numbers to Canada in the years 1815-1850. The early chapters outline the opening-up of land and opportunities in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Some emphasis is placed on the development of faster, iron-hulled shipping more suited to the long and often hazardous journeys involved, and there are many illustrations of the ships of the time.

Political changes around the Poor Laws and then the Corn Laws are highlighted, and the effects of both developments in terms of population change is fully demonstrated in charts which show these numbers village-by-village over the course of the century.

The Great Exodus

The even more dramatic developments from 1850 are also covered, highlighted by changes in agricultural policies and the lack of work and opportunities. This “Great Exodus” as it is called, is finely documented with examples of personal stories from many towns and villages. These chapters are a fascinating read for all who understand how the stories of individuals are the bedrock on which history can be understood. These stories also evoke the bustle and confusion of migrants at Liverpool, and the emotions of departure. It looks at their shipping, health problems, costs, and shipwrecks, and at their experiences on arrival.

Emigration and the Wychwoods

Among the stories pertaining to the Wychwoods, we find the Ascott Martyrs as part of the discussions around the establishment of the National Agricultural Labourers Union in the early 1870s. Also highlighted is the disafforestation of the Wychwoods which contributed in part to the recruitment of 10 families in an organised meeting in Shipton, to travel for work on a railway project in New Zealand. Also covered is the sad loss of life – not an isolated incident – of Wychwoods emigrants in the fire and shipwreck of the Cospatrick.

About the Author

Martin Greenwood’s book is a mine of information but is also an easy read, brought to life also by the author’s own personal experiences during the research, and his family connections with ancestors who had made their own journeys to “The Promised Land”.

Other Books by Martin Greenwood

Martin Greenwood has written previously about village life in Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise Country and more widely in Banburyshire. Here is the list:

How to Purchase “The Promised Land”

The book costs £9.95 plus £3 p&p = £12.95, if ordered from the author at: Sarnen, Main Street, Fringford, Bicester OX27 8DP.

The book is also be available from Coles, Banbury bookshops (Waterstones and the Tourist Office), the Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley and Blackwells in Oxford. ISBN: 978 1 908738 40 0

The publisher is Robert Boyd Publications, 260 Colwell Drive Witney, Oxon OX 28 5LW

Apprentice Boys: Charity Records Revisited

an article by Wendy Pearse, published in the Society Journal No 30, 2015

In the latter part of the 20th century the long-established firm of Farrant and Sinden Solicitors of Chipping Norton uncovered a chest of documents relating to the Ascott Poors’ Estate Charity.

The chest’s contents were catalogued by the Oxfordshire Record Office (now Oxfordshire History Centre); brief summaries of the documents were typed on to catalogue cards, copies of which were handed to the Ascott Parish Council and the Charity Trustees. One set of copies is kept in the Tiddy Hall at Ascott-under-Wychwood. The Poors’ Estate Charity of Ascott-under-Wychwood helped the needy in several ways: during the second quarter of the 19th century one of its aims was to help with apprenticeships for poor boys.

These apprenticeship indentures cast some extra light on Ascott’s inhabitants at that time. Between January 1823 and July 1848 the Charity trustees arranged twenty-one apprenticeships for Ascott’s youths. Exactly what criteria were required to apply is unknown, but only eight families are represented, with two families having four sons apprenticed and two families having three.

The first Indenture was made in 1823 for Luke Quarterman, who was sixteen and apprenticed to the trade of shoemaker. In fact, sixteen of the applicants were bound to training as shoemakers, including in 1841 another Quarterman, William, and later the two sons, Israel and George, of Sarah Quarterman, a young widow. They were both thirteen at the time of their Indentures in 1846 and 1847. Sarah’s family lived in High Street, then known as Upper Street, as compared to Lower Street (Shipton Road), which was nearer the river. With the consent of his father William, Luke of the earliest Indenture was to be bound to John Parrott of Charlbury, Shoemaker, for five years from 14th January 1823.

The Trustees of Ascott Charity – James Ansell (solicitor), Thomas Chaundy, James Hyatt, John Chaundy and John North (all farmers) and C. R. Henderson (solicitor) – signed the document in consideration of the sum of £14. Half the sum was paid to John Parrott at the binding and half two months later, while another £2 was paid to Luke’s father at the time of the binding to be laid out in clothes for his now-apprenticed son. Among the earlier Indentures the consideration sum varies between £12 and £14 (later rising to £16), but in three cases it is only half that. This smaller sum may partly be explained by the situation concerning George Venville, one of the three apprenticed sons of Hannah Venville, a widow living in one of the References 1. Oxfordshire History Centre, A. S. P. E. C. I/1/I and I/1/ii. 2. Written alongside the text at the beginning of the document.

Charity properties in the vicinity of Church Close. William, the eldest, had been apprenticed in 1833, aged sixteen, to a mason at Burford, when Hannah, already widowed, was aged thirty-two. In 1834 Charles, aged apparently only nine, had been apprenticed for seven years to a pipemaker in Burford. George himself was apprenticed at sixteen to George Groves of Kingham, shoemaker, in 1843. William and Charles’s considerations were for £12, whereas George’s was £16 for five years. Two years later, however, George was reapprenticed to John Adbury of Adlestrop, shoemaker, for £6 for three years and two calendar months. Presumably George Groves died and the Trustees made other arrangements.

A number of Indentures are for six or seven years. Apart from shoemakers, two boys were bound to blacksmiths, two to tailors and one to a mason. I know the ages of only twelve of the applicants, which vary from twelve to seventeen years, Charles Venville being an exception. It is to be hoped that his lot was not as dire as we might imagine for a child taken from his home so young. At least Charles was only in Burford, whereas some of the others went to Witney, Eynsham, Faringdon, Hook Norton and Bourton-on-the-Hill. Only two of the youths were able to sign their names on the Indentures, but, surprisingly, Hannah Venville signed all her sons’ Indentures despite the boys’ inability to make more than a mark.

There is one unusual case when in 1833 a £7 consideration was arranged for William Baughan for a five-year apprenticeship to a cordwainer (shoemaker) in Bristol. It appears, however, that his mother, Mary, was living in Bristol; perhaps William had been born in Ascott and therefore qualified for a certain amount of assistance.

I can follow only one boy in Ascott into later life. Two of the sons of Richard Weaver of Upper Street were bound to apprenticeships: Charles in 1844 to a shoemaker in Eynsham and John in 1848 to a cordwainer in Hook Norton. Charles actually returned to Ascott in the 1850s to ply his trade. He married Mary Ann, from Somerset, and together they produced a family of six, living at the eastern end of Upper Street until at least the 1880s.

Copies of the Wychwood History Journal, Number 30 (2015) are available to buy: £3.50 [ How to Buy ]

Articles include: Brasenose Leases; “All Christians for Evermore”: the Ascott Village Charity; Apprentice Boys; A Study of the Vegetable Gardens in Shipton and Milton View as PDF here

Wychwoods Victorian Evening 1990

In January 1990, the new decade was celebrated in truly entertaining style by the society. Here we present the show, digitised from the old VHS tape which recorded the event.

The Victorian evening was based on the format of a concert given in Milton Board School in 1885. Society members and friends entertained the audience with a feast of words and music depicting late Victorian life in the Wychwoods and surrounding areas.

The cast played, sang or recited from contemporary sources with material created and researched by members. Many aspects of everyday life were included – Christmas, cooking and health were prime examples. Farming life with its attendant problems was also part of the show. The themes made many references to low pay, woodland disappearance, emigration, the coming of the railways and fear of the Workhouse. Much more fun than it sounds!

We hope you enjoy the show.