A Portrait of an Old Lyneham Gentleman

Memories of being a Home Help in the 1980s

In the early 1980s Jill Fox joined the band of Home Helps in and around the Wychwoods. She was issued with a nylon check overall and her first client was an elderly gentleman, Fred Tidmarsh in Lyneham. His previous help, Vera Case, had retired. Here are Jill’s memories of those times, in her own words.

Fred Tidmarsh in Lyneham
Fred Tidmarsh of Lyneham

Fred had originally come with his family from Ebrington. He told me that his father had a job at the farm of Mr Izod in Lyneham in the early 1940s, and there the family had a tied cottage. Mr and Mrs Tidmarsh had, as far as I remember, three children – Fred, Nellie and another daughter (whose name I cannot remember). They crossed the Gloucestershire/Oxfordshire border so that his dad was not conscripted (so Fred said)!

I believe the family had also lived in Wyre Piddle/Upper Piddle which Fred thought was hilarious! When Fred was old enough he too worked at Izod’s farm. Nellie became Mrs Turner and lived in one of the bungalows at the top of Milton High Street when I knew Fred, and she was a widow. His other sister, I seem to remember was in a home somewhere in Buckinghamshire. Each year on her birthday Fred asked me to address an envelope with a £5 note in it, to send to her. Fred could not read or write. I do not know if he ever attended school.

I went to his cottage on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and I collected his pension and some groceries from the then Milton Post Office each week. His shopping list consisted of: 2 oz. of tobacco, ¼lb of tea, a piece of cheese (either Stilton or Cheddar), ½ lb of butter, sometimes sugar but not often, and a jar of marmalade. About once a month he would ask for a packet of candles and sometimes he would say his ‘lectric’ had run out and could I get him some more – that meant a battery for his torch.

On Sundays, Mr Lewis, who lived nearby, would go and give him a shave and Mrs Lewis would give him a Sunday roast. The milkman and the baker called. Three times each week I would fill two plastic buckets from the tap at the bottom of the garden, near the privy, and put them in the back kitchen on the table. One was for drinking and one for washing he told me. Then I had to fill two buckets of coal from the coal shed.

Once a week I washed the floor which was red and black quarry tiles, although you could not see their colour as the soot from the fire had discoloured them over the years. However, Fred was very bent and looked at the floor when he walked about so he saw a lot of the floor. I never made his bed. He always did that and he was always sitting in his chair when I arrived. Each side of the fireplace was a big cupboard and in the one, by his chair, he kept his cider. Normally, Mr Hussey (from Hussey’s in Burford) would deliver his one or two gallon jars of cider each week. However, if there was a hiccup in the delivery Fred was not happy and when I asked him how things were he would say “No good – Brewer ain’t been”. I would then be asked to go on my bike, back to The Quart Pot in Milton to fill up a couple of cider bottles from the Off Licence at the side of the pub. Normal service was then resumed!

Also each week I would take his washing home. He kept himself as clean as he could and was never smelly! On his kitchen table was what he called a blue check oil cloth. On the wall was a picture of Queen Victoria, although she was almost impossible to see because the walls were covered in black from the smoke in the fire. He had a regular delivery of coal.

Fred lived downstairs. He had a range with a kettle, always on the boil and he never let the fire out. I have to say that the range was a bit splattered with ‘baccy’! He slept in the same room with navy blue army blankets (a bit moth eaten). I would wash these periodically when the weather was warm enough because they had to go back the same day! The kitchen was attached to the living room and that is where he kept his few provisions. His mother’s old hat still hung on the wall.

When I arrived in the morning, usually about 9.30 I would knock on the door and wait to be allowed entry. The door was never locked when I got there. I could often hear a clink or two as I think he was secreting his cider bottle but I never ever saw it! We would pass the time of day and discuss the weather before I did the chores.

At that time my youngest child was about four and occasionally I would put her on the back of my bike to take her to visit Fred. While I worked, she played dominoes with him and she often won! It was a lovely relationship and for the 45 minutes or so I was there they both enjoyed each other’s company. There were 80 years between them!

One day I asked Fred when he last saw his sister Nellie. At least two years ago was the answer, so I suggested that if I drove to Lyneham one day each week instead of going by bicycle, I could perhaps take Nellie with me. I could leave her with Fred while I ‘did’ for Miss Treadwell who was round the corner in one of Henman’s cottages, and then collect Nellie before returning home about 11.30. He thought this a good idea so we started the new regime. Each week I took Nellie to visit her brother and they had a good ‘chin wag’. It worked well.

Fred was apparently known as “The Cider King”, although this was before my time and when Fred was much younger. Legend has it that he would walk with his dad every night to the Red Horse at Shipton for their pints of cider. One night they were walking home and Fred asked his dad how much he had drunk. “eleven pints” he replied – “Well, I have only had ten” said Fred and turned round to go back for the other one!

I asked Fred one day if he had ever been married. His reply: “I couldn’t afford any of that tack – done a few jobs in my time though”!

One day I arrived at Fred’s and he was in bed. This had never been known before. I asked him what the problem was and he said he could not get out of bed. I told him I would get the doctor. Fred said that, although he wanted to stay in Lyneham, if they offered him a place at “that Langston House place” he would go, although he didn’t know how he would get on with Miss Treadwell (who had gone to reside there after a fall). He told me he thought “That Doctor Beazer is a real gent”. I said not to worry and got on my bicycle speedily down to the surgery. “That Doctor Beazer” was there and I asked him to come quickly to Fred.

I went back on my bike to Lyneham and waited for the Doctor to arrive. He told Fred he must go to Chipping Norton hospital. This put Fred into a panic because, as far as he was concerned, it was the “Work House” and his biggest fear was that they would give him a bath! I explained that it would be very different and that I would follow the ambulance and see him in safely.

Whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive Fred had me climb up to the big cupboard, at the side of the range, and in there was a biscuit tin with money and a copy of his Will. He said I was to keep it safe as the Will was for his sister and the money was to pay for his funeral. This I did and off we went in convoy to Chippy hospital.

I saw him safely into a lovely clean bed (they did not give him a bath). He was concerned because he did not have a clock so I gave him my old, schoolboy type, Timex watch which I wore for my chores. He looked very comfortable and as I left he said “Thank you, it won’t be long before I sees the Lord”. I then took the tin and his Will to Nellie in Milton and told her what had happened.

I went home sad, but pleased Fred was in a safe place. The next morning, around 8.0am there was a knock on the door. It was Dr Scott who came to tell me that he had been to certify Fred’s death. I was very touched by his sensitivity, knowing I would be worrying about Fred. Fred is buried in Milton cemetery, strangely near Miss Treadwell. His cottage is now called “Tidmarsh Cottage”.

After his funeral, I was able to buy his chair from his sister and it is in regular use in my kitchen – a permanent reminder of Fred who was a lovely person and whom I feel privileged to have known. My experiences looking after folk who needed a bit of help to remain in their own homes in the Wychwoods enriched my life and gave me many lasting, happy memories.

Jill Fox, April 2021

Discovery in the Snow

by Ian Sanders

The society recently heard from Shipton resident Ian Sanders with some intriguing insights into landscape changes near his home. The recent snowfall had a story to tell. Here is Ian’s summary.

Julia and I moved to Shipton at the end of 2019, and live at Littlestock, which is the last house on Meadow Lane just over the bridge over the Littlestock Brook. With the property, we acquired the meadow which stretches all the way down to the Evenlode. It has Shipton Mill the other side, and the Littlestock Brook running along the southern border in roughly a straight line. As to the house – there are no proper deeds, and the estate agent vaguely said it dated back to around 1800.

Shipton Under Wychwood 1830

A couple of months back we were sent this link to the old pre-enclosures tithe map for Shipton village dated to 1830.

( Please click the link for the fully scaleable map, which gives all the detail for what follows.)

© Oxfordshire History Society

The first thing I looked for was our house – and the map shows that Meadow Lane and all the houses along it did not exist at that time.

Secondly, the brook wanders all over what were presumably water-meadows, making it difficult to place exactly where our house was later positioned. The Evenlode was also taking a very different course as it flowed down to Shipton bridge from the north-west.

Old course of the Littlestock Brook

On Sunday 24th January the snow came, transforming the landscape, and what was clearly shown was a watercourse running across the field to the left of the Evenlode as you look northwards from the bridge. If one then compares this to the 1830 map, one can see that the river did not run straight to the bridge as it now does, but meandered across where this field now in very much the same pattern as this watercourse now does. If this watercourse is in fact the old course of the river, then it confirms the accuracy of the old 1830 map.

Old course of the Evenlode from Shipton bridge

The next thing I thought about was what the map tells us about the original channel of the Littlestock Brook. Within our meadow are what I thought were natural oxbows which fill up with water for much of the winter, and these again showed up well in the snow rather like a serpent musical instrument. I originally thought they could have been the course of the Evenlode. If the 1830 map is to be believed, this was the Littlestock Brook as it took a course northwards before joining the Evenlode, roughly at the north-east corner of our meadow below the Shipton Mill.

As to our house and Meadow Lane, I presume that these were built post enclosures in the 1850’s, and following the straightening of the courses of the Littlestock Brook and the Evenlode as it approached Shipton Bridge. Up until then this part of the village may have flooded too often to be built on, and 150 years on is again becoming a frequent event!

Ascott Village Charity Booklet: Village History and Things to Know

A publication funded by the Ascott Village Charity can be seen here. The publication is offered courtesy of the charity. It highlights the fascinating and varied history of the village.

Ascott Earl Castle Looking South East: photo Hamish Fenton

The booklet contains a variety of maps and images. These include features of the village from Neolithic times and the later Iron Age. It describes Saxon field systems and also the Norman Age which saw the building of Ascott’s 12th Century Holy Trinity church. Also described is the founding of the Ascott Village Charity in 1480. Finally, the booklet also covers medieval, Victorian and 20th Century events and personalities.

All in all, this is a handy guide and is an inspiration to wander through the village and its surroundings and soak up its varied and deep past.

The booklet is available here as a PDF.

A Short History of Ascott-under-Wychwood
Copyright © Ascott Village Charity 2016
Thanks to Ascott Village Charity for permission to include this booklet. Not to be reproduced or distributed without the Charity’s written permission. Please check back with the Charity for any updates and amendments.

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.


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!