Uncover Oxfordshire’s past with Heritage Search

Here is news of a set of free online catalogues from Oxfordshire County Council’s heritage services.

Residents and people interested in the history of Oxfordshire can now uncover more of the county’s rich past with Oxfordshire County Council’s new Heritage Search.

This brand-new resource is free to use and contains a comprehensive catalogue of historical resources, including a wide range of archive documents, books, photographs, maps and much more, relating to the history of Oxfordshire ¬from ancient artefacts to modern-day landmarks.

Whether you are a student, historian, or simply an enthusiast of local history, Heritage Search is your ultimate, free-to-use resource. You can easily find out about items of interest and dive deeper into the fascinating world of Oxfordshire’s heritage.

You can also display historic maps of Oxfordshire and plot many of our heritage assets, like photographs and archaeological finds, on the new mapping platform.

Typical ( small sample) search result for Shipton under Wychwood

Visit the site here: https://heritagesearch.oxfordshire.gov.uk/

Examples of what you can find:

  • Archives catalogue of documents created by local councils and other official bodies, churches, schools, businesses, and individuals; including written records, maps and plans. (12th to 21st century)
  • Local Studies catalogue of published material, including books, journals, articles, and maps about Oxfordshire people, places and topics
  • Oral history catalogue of sound recordings, including extracts from Radio Oxford programmes back to 1970, and field recordings made since the 1960s
  • People & Business indexes of articles relating to Oxfordshire people and businesses, from local newspapers (1791-2011)
  • Poor Law index of individuals and families named in the Oxfordshire Poor Law records (1601-1891)
  • Miscellaneous lists including tithe and enclosure records, sale catalogues and digital publications
  • Archaeology catalogue of all the material that is cared for by Oxfordshire Museums Service and which was recovered through archaeological processes
  • The Historic Environment Record (HER), an index of buildings, monuments, excavations and finds in Oxfordshire
  • Social history catalogue of objects from agricultural machinery to textiles as well as the art collection
  • Ordnance Survey maps detailed maps to help explore your changing local landscape
  • District valuation maps and surveys recording property ownership, created under the 1910 Finance Act
  • Tithe maps – colour scans from original maps (1830s-1850s), covering 44% of historic Oxfordshire parishes
  • Aerial photos from 1961, 1981 and 1991

Their Finest Hour Project – WWII Memorabilia Digital Collections Day

We invite Wychwoods Local History Society members and friends to consider contributing their own WWII memorabilia to an important OU and Heritage Lottery funded initiative.

Bring your stories and objects relating to the Second World War to the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. The Collections Day is part of a nationwide campaign organised by Their Finest Hour.

Objects will be digitised and recorded: the items themselves will remain with you and your family.

About “Their Finest Hour

Their Finest Hour is a University of Oxford project that aims to collect and digitally archive the everyday stories and objects of the Second World War.

  • Share your family’s Second World War stories and objects for an online archive
  • Opening from 11am – 3pm, Saturday 1st April 2023
  • Museum Open Day – free admission to the museum throughout the day
  • See Second World War living history displays, kit displays and art exhibitions in the museum galleries

World War II stories are fast fading from living memory, so we believe it is vital that they – and the wartime objects that often accompany them – are preserved for future generations.

Here are some ideas:

  • Stories about your family’s wartime experience
  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Medals
  • Journals
  • Ration books
Page from the POW Diary of A J Wallis (Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry)

All these and more will be recorded, digitised and then uploaded to the Their Finest Hour online archive, which will be free-to-use and will launch in June 2024.

Cigar Case – example of a WW2 Object brought to the museum in Woodstock
‘Villa Patricia’ an object donated to the museum by a Woodstock resident, a dolls house made by a Prisoner of War during World War Two

Why Else Visit on April 1st?

The museum will waive its normal admission fee on the day – entry will be free to all on 1st April.

SOFO will also be hosting a range of other Second World War-themed events and exhibitions on the day. Visitors will be able to enjoy displays from 1940s living historians inside the museum and view a recently installed replica Anderson Shelter, as well as a number of exhibitions.

With often limited parking in Woodstock, Blenheim Palace will also be kindly supporting this event, offering free parking to those attending to share their stories. The museum is just a short walk into town through the palace’s Woodstock Town gate.

Attending Living History Groups Will Include:

  • Winston (Churchill)
  • Doing Their Bit (Home Front)
  • Oxfordshire Home Guard
  • Ham & Jam (Second World War British Airborne troops).

Collector John Noott’s expansive exhibition, The Art of World War II, will showcase a diverse range of perspectives of the era all produced during the conflict, while the Aces High gallery will have a range of impressive prints – including many signed by veterans – up for sale.

Visitors can talk to museum staff on the day about donating items to the museum’s own collection if they wish, but the focus will be on digitisation – photographing objects, recording stories and scanning documents – so original items can remain with their families.

The project team is especially interested in collecting contributions from people from under-represented backgrounds in order to increase the diversity of people benefiting from Second World War heritage.

Find out more at www.theirfinesthour.org

About the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum:

Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, Park Street, Woodstock, OX20 1SN

Registered Charity No. 1145408

The Parish Room Mystery: Can You Help?

As our website visitors know, the Wychwoods Local History Society have recently acquired a long-term home for the Society’s archive thanks to Alfred Groves & Sons. In the process of cataloguing this material we are unearthing several little-known snippets of Wychwoods history.

Poster of a 1902  Auction in Milton under Wychwood

One example came to light recently. This poster advertises the sale of a property on the Shipton Road in 1902. It was once apparently the “Parish Room”. We are mystified as to exactly which property this was.

There are not so many properties on Shipton Road facing the Village Green (which was more extensive in 1902 than it is today), and we can exclude some buildings such as Hillborough House, the former Primitive Methodist Chapel, and The Elms and Elm Cottage (Groves Yard).

Here we have an extract from an OS map dating from 1881 which shows the buildings opposite the Green that were in existence at that time, (highlighted with a red dot). But which was the parish room?

Any ideas or handed down memories would be much appreciated. Please use the comments box below, or visit “Memories of the Wychwoods” on Facebook.

The Society’s Archive and Study Centre

Over the past 40+ years the Society has become home to a variety of material relating to all aspects of the unique history of the Wychwood villages. This archive includes over 2000 historic photographs, as well as a wide variety of documents, maps, charts, census material and research records . Providing access and opportunities to engage with this information has been difficult.

Over the years, it has been stored in a variety of locations. We have been grateful for the support of Chipping Norton Museum, who held a fair proportion of the archive after its removal from the arrangements at New Beaconsfield Hall. But much of the material has been held in under-stair cupboards, garages and lofts, and never all in one place. Although some of the collection has been carefully catalogued, and some is digitised here on our website, other material remains in the bags, boxes and suitcases in which it was handed over.

For some time, the Society has been determined to catalogue and give full access to this unique collection. The first step towards achieving this aim came earlier this year when we were able to take a three-year lease on an office above Groves shop in Milton-under-Wychwood. For the first time, we have been able to bring everything together in one place to begin the process of organisation and indexing.

The society has sought professional advice on best practice in storing and cataloguing the contents of this archive. The process has begun. By spring 2023 the Society hopes to build a fully itemised catalogue of the archive and make it available for publication on our website.

Additionally, once this task is complete, we will look forward to assisting individual enquiries from members and non-members alike, by arranging personal visits to the archive Study Centre. For further information on the Archive and its availability for researchers please contact the Society Secretary, John Bennett by using our Contact Form.

The Hartley Family: Sporting Siblings and Brothers in Arms

2022 marks 100 years since the Hartley brothers from Shipton under Wychwood arrived together on the international sporting stage. Their their lives – as well as the sporting lives their sisters – are celebrated in a recent article published online on the Playing Pasts sporting history website.

The article is written by Bill Williams, former Head of Physical Education and sport at Burford school. Bill writes in fascinating detail of the careers of this illustrious sporting family, from early Burford schooldays and onwards. Burford was a pioneer in the promotion of Association Rules Football, and the boys excelled. But cricket were also played to high standard, and the Hartley boys were firmly in the mix, setting themselves up for successful sporting careers in their chosen disciplines. In addition to the boys playing football and cricket, the elder brother Ernest was selected to play for England at field hockey. 

The brothers, on horseback as part of The Oxfordshire Yeomanry in 1914

Bill’s article covers the sporting achievements of each family member, and at the same time takes us through the challenges facing each of them through two world wars. We learn a great deal about the life and times of those pursuing a sporting career in the face of historical changes.

For example , we read “As war broke out in 1914, Tom, Ernest and Frank joined the Army, while William joined the Merchant Navy; Richard stayed at home to run the family farm, which during times of conflict, was a reserved occupation and vital to the war effort. The three brothers joined The Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, which formed part of The Oxfordshire Yeomanry and by the start of the twentieth century, had reached regimental strength. As a reserve regiment, the Hussars were often granted permission to conduct drills and exercises on the extensive grounds at Blenheim Palace. Thus, as a young boy, Winston Churchill often witnessed the summer cavalry training camps in which he would later take part in as a grown man, rising to the rank of Major and commanding the Henley squadron, the rank he maintained until 1924”.

Richard, Ernest and Frank in later life

The society is pleased to been able to contribute in some small way to Bill’s extensive research, and we recommend members and visitors to visit Bill’s article here.

More on the Hartley Heritage can be discovered in our 2001 Journal here

About Bill Williams
Bill was Head of Physical Education and sport at Burford school in Oxfordshire, from 1987- 2019. Since retiring in 2019, he has spent time researching the sporting history of the school and beyond.

A Magic Lantern Splutters Back into Life

The society has had access to a set of scans from recently-discovered glass plate slides owned by the late Ellis Groves 1872-1914. Here, I describe a small selection of these slides, and also include them with 40 more of the better preserved in a slideshow.

“Would I like to look at a box of old black and white transparencies?” This was the offer made to me by Peter Rathbone a few weeks ago. Peter brought them round and I settled down to go through them. The simple wooden box contained about five dozen old glass transparencies. Not your familiar, modern 35mm slides but 3¼” x 3¼” magic lantern glass plates, many in the form of glass sandwiches.

Ellis Groves’ Box of Magic Lantern Glass Plate Slides

A label in the top of the box indicated that they had been put together by the “late Ellis Groves 1872-1914”. Most were very dark and dusty and not always sharply focused. A few had begun to peel off the glass substrate. Not surprising as they had been kept in one of Grove’s sheds for thirty years and had been saved from going to the tip by Peter.

Going by the rare labels, the collection appeared to date from the first decade of the 20th century. A few slides had been coloured by hand. Several I recognised having seen them already in the archives of the History Society. My first reaction was that it was unlikely there would be any treasure here – perhaps just half a dozen images could be salvaged? I was wrong.

In the end more than 40 interesting and usable images emerged, after scanning, from the collection. A few were very surprising and these are the images seen here, in most cases probably for the first time in 125 years.

Slide 1
Slide 2

Slides 1 and 2 – These depict an old three wheeled car with the single passenger seat facing forward at the front.

The second slide probably shows the garage where the car was kept. Was this the first internal combustion vehicle in the Wychwoods? Could the driver have been Fred Pepper who had bought Shipton Court in 1901? It does look like him although he is not known to have owned such a vehicle. His first car was in fact a larger French Gobion Brillé but perhaps this three wheeler was a precursor.

Slide 3

Slide 3 – This shows a mix of two cricket teams in front of the Shipton Court cricket pavilion. The label refers to the Shipton Court team and a team from Monk Bretton. Monk Bretton colliery in Yorkshire was owned by the Pepper family. It is known that twenty of the long service employees were invited down for the day to Shipton to play the team from Fred Pepper’s new village in 1908. This photograph marks the event.

The bearded gentleman on the left is Thomas Alfred Groves who owned and managed Groves and was the Captain of Shipton Court and Milton cricket teams. He was the son of Alfred Groves and his first wife, Ann Shepard. Ellis Groves, who assembled the lantern transparencies was the eighth child of Alfred’s second wife Mary Reynolds.

Slide 4 – This shows a young girl holding a poster advertising a magic lantern lecture in Milton for the Mutual Improvement Society. It was included more than thirty years ago in the Second Wychwoods Album. The photo was apparently taken by Ellis Groves who also operated the magic lantern. Did the Mutual Improvement Society meet its aim? As a Shiptonian I could not possibly hazard a guess.

Slide 4

Slide 5- shows the bottom of Burford Hill in around 1905. In the background, behind the assorted Burford urchins, is Hambidge’s Delicatessen. Ellis Groves married one of the Hambidge daughters and his younger brother, Samuel, married her sister.

Slide 6 – A distant view of Green Lane Milton. Older by at least ten years than the view shown in the first Wychwood’s Album. The building on the right was the Quaker Meeting House which was sold in 1925 and divided into two cottages.

Slide 5: Burford Hill c.1905
Slide 6: Green Lane, Milton under Wychwood
Slide 7: c 1903 Milton under WYchwood Sunday School Project

Slide 7 – Milton Sunday School built this large life boat and took it to a Sunday School Festival at Moreton in 1903.

Slide 8: Shipton under Wychwood Station Master’s House

Slide 8 – This shows the erection of the Shipton Station Master’s house. It is not clear whether this was the original building or the subsequent demolishing and re-erection as the last house on the right as one one leaves Shipton for Milton.

Slideshow of all 47 Slides


AWV Feb 2022

Joan Howard-Drake and her contribution to local history in the Wychwoods

The death occurred on 31 October of Joan Howard-Drake following a long struggle after she suffered a severe stroke about a year earlier.

Joan and her husband, Jack, were founder members of the Wychwood Local History Society (WLHS) in 1981.They remained stalwarts of the Society for the remainder of their long lives. Joan and Jack were very computer literate into their 90s and spent many hours beavering away in their book lined study in Shipton largely for the benefit of history research in the Wychwoods and the WLHS in particular.

Both were on the Society’s committee following the first Annual General Meeting 1982. Jack became the Chairman in 1984 until 1992. He died in 2013 at the age of 94. Joan was on the committee for 35 years, until 2016.

Under the auspices of the Family History Society, the Howard-Drakes started the long task of transcribing the Shipton parish registers from 1538-1899. They also worked together on significant projects such as the transcription of the Oxfordshire Tudor Church Court Rolls.

Joan became the guardian of the Society’s archives in 1995. She managed them until she stepped down from the Committee by which time they had grown from one box file to more than five. Joan herself added much material to the archives through her research on local family histories.

Joan was involved with the planning, writing and production of the Society’s well respected annual Journal for thirty years and was joint editor with Trudy Yates from 2012 to 2015. She indexed all the first 27 volumes of the Journal.

She was an active member of the Wills Group – associated with and partly funded by the WLHS – which transcribed 17th century wills in the Wychwoods.

Apart from researching and publishing with other members of the WLHS on team projects, Joan also wrote separately on:

  • The Poor of Shipton under Wychwood Parish 1740
  • The Burford to Banbury Turnpike Road
  • Care in the Community 18th Century Style
  • Bruern Abbey (with Joy Timms)
  • The Reade Family
  • The Crown Inn Charity
  • The Old Beaconsfield Hall Shipton
  • The Brookes Family of Shipton
  • Brasenose Leases

She was always ready to give real and generous help to younger local historians working on various projects and for that alone she will be sorely missed.

AWV November 2021

Milton’s Unusual Wooden Carving

This amusing article, taken from the Wychwood Magazine where it appeared some years ago, highlights the unusual wooden carving removed during the old Mission Room renovations in Milton.

The intriguing figure will feature in the Society’s 40th Anniversary celebrations, re-scheduled for May 2022.

We plan to publish a detailed study of this wooden carving, which we like to call “The Milton Angel” in due course. Meanwhile, a special feature by John Bennett here includes some more information about the carving. John’s article highlights the fact that this angel carving is just one of the pantheon of Milton sculptured figures.

Go Figure!
Bernard Shaw once received a letter addressed to a Mr B Shawm. In great annoyance he complained to his wife that there was not even a word shawm. Mrs Shaw, one of the World’s most martyred women, quietly took the dictionary from the shelf, looked up the word and showed the definition to her husband – “shawm – an old fashioned wind instrument”.

Angel Musician wooden carving: front view and side views
Angel Musician front view and side views.
Go here for more on this and other Milton sculptures

Our Shawm
The great Irish playwright would probably therefore have been at a loss to describe accurately the wooden figure pictured here which has been serenading Milton for decades.

This carving of a priest or possibly angel blowing a shawm has stood largely unnoticed in a niche on the gable end of what is known as the Mission Room in Milton High Street. The building has had various uses over the years including a reading room, a bank, a dentist and Barry Way’s office.

The owners of the site, Groves the builders, have recently (2006) been renovating the property and brought the figure down from its rather exposed shelter.

They realised that it could be of some artistic and historic importance and called in Sue Jourdan, Chairman of the Wychwood Local History Society. The first expert Sue consulted was of the opinion that the figure is “fascinating, rare and complex”.

The 22 inches high figure is believed to date from the 15th century and possibly came from Shipton’s parish church.

from an article by Alan Vickers
First published: The Wychwood October/November 2006 Vol. 27 No4

The Small Tin Church – Little Ben Rings Back

This article, first published in the Wychwood Magazine some years ago, features the story of the bell from the small Shipton church, long since demolished . The bell featured in the Society’s 40th Anniversary celebrations.

Some of the older inhabitants of Shipton can recall a small tin church up on Fiddlers Hill. Today nothing remains but a small, dense copse of trees sited somewhat incongruously in the corner of an extensive arable field.


Fiddlers Hill showing tin tabernacle. Probably in the 1950s

What Happened to the Church?
The church is believed to have been built in the 1880s to serve Shipton inhabitants who could not easily get down to the Mother church, St Mary’s. It had ceased to be used as a church before 1930. Sometime in the 1930s it was bought by Dr Gordon Scott and used to store clothing during the Second World War under the Bundles for Britain scheme – hence the name given to it by some irreverent residents of ‘moth hall’!

In the period immediately after the War the building was used as a basic youth club for children living close by, run by Alf Clarke who had the small grocery shop opposite (now a garage). He ran a cable from the generator in his house to light the snooker table.

Only the Shed Door Left!
By the 1960s the building had fallen into disrepair and Dr Scott could not get permission to develop the site. The tin church was therefore dismantled. Nothing remains, except the vestry door, from the rear of the church, which was re-used as a shed door by Charlie Pilcher who lives opposite the site.

Charlie recycles the old Vestry Door
Charlie recycles the old Vestry Door

The Story of the Bell
This left Dr Scott with the problem of what to do with the small but solid church bell. The problem was solved when he gave it to Peter Coveney who lived nearby. But eventually Peter moved away to the outskirts of Oxford where he died earlier this year (2012). His Widow, Margery, (cousin to Jim Pearse of Honeydale Farm Shipton), thought it would be fitting if the old bell could be returned to Shipton.

She contacted the Wychwoods Local History Society and they now have it in their safe care and are looking for a suitable home.

Bells and Whistles?
A suitable home for the bell could be the Wychwood School where presently a simple whistle is used to summon the pupils to their lessons. The school has indicated its interest.

Even the old Shipton school had a proper bell which would be rung by a well behaved pupil worthy of the privilege.

This bell could certainly be an improvement on a mere whistle! It bears the inscription of the maker J. Warner and Sons and the date 1883. Research has shown that this company also produced the first Big Ben. It was a Warner bell which was used as the pattern for the Paul Revere bell founding business in the US.

Gordon’s Penance
If it is eventually installed in the school, we hope the current pupils are better behaved than the young Gordon Duester who once rang the bell without touching it – by using his air gun from a safe distance!

The Tin Tabernacle Sketch by Gordon Duester
The Tin Tabernacle Sketch by Gordon Duester

As a penance the older Gordon Duester has kindly provided a sketch opposite of the outside of the old church, drawn from memory.

Alan Vickers.
(First published in The Wychwood December 2012)

The Rector Returns – A Well-Travelled Painting

This article, first published in the Wychwood Magazine some years ago, features a well-travelled portrait of Revd. Dr. Thomas Brookes, Rector of Shipton from 1773 to 1814, which currently hangs in the Old Prebendal House. This painting will feature in the Society’s 40th Anniversary celebrations, re-scheduled for May 2022.

It has been a convoluted journey, via South Africa and Germany, but the Revd. Dr. Thomas Brookes, Rector of Shipton from 1773 to 1814 is home again. His powerful portrait, probably painted in 1783 when he was fifty, will once again grace the Old Prebendal House where he lived two hundred years ago.


The WLHS acts as a home for some historical objects of interest to the Wychwood Community. Here in 2013 the Chairman Alan Vickers receives the very generous gift of a portrait of the Rev Dr Thomas Brookes who lived at the Prebendal. The portrait was returned by Peter Cullom following the death of his brother. The return was physically made by Mr Cullom's parents. It is currently on long term loan to the Prebendal Care Home

A Well-Travelled Painting
Some years ago Mr John Cullom bought the portrait in an auction to furnish his house in Oxford. He became a pilot for Virgin Airlines flying the route to South Africa and took the portrait to his new house in the Cape. Tragically he died when he was swept off rocks near his house and drowned. His brother, Peter Cullom, took over the house and planned to let it. The picture was no longer required there so he brought it back to his own home in Germany and considered what should be done with it.

He noticed that there was a pencil inscription on the back of the portrait describing the portrait as being of the Rector of Shipton-under-Wychwood. He googled ‘Shipton under Wychwood’; and found the website of the Wychwoods Local History Society (the WLHS). After an exchange of emails, Peter then generously decided to gift the portrait to the WLHS for the benefit of the local community. His parents brought the portrait to Shipton and presented it to the Chairman of the Society (see photograph). During their day with us they visited our prime old buildings and especially St Mary’s where Thomas Brookes had preached, and the Old Prebendal House where he had lived. It was wonderful to hear Mrs Cullom say at the end of the day, “This is where he belongs. I am so glad he is coming home”.

In His Church Once Again
The following Sunday, the portrait was displayed in the Church during the morning service, for parishioners to view.

Portrait of Revd. Dr. Thomas Brookes, Rector of Shipton from 1773 to 1814 on display during the church service commmorating the portrait’s return to Shipton

Arrangements have been made for the portrait to hang in the Old Prebendal House, possibly in the same room where it may have hung two hundred years ago. The Care Home has kindly agreed to allow interested members of the Community to view the portrait on application.

AMV August 2021