The Wychwoods Local History Society – The First 40 Years 1981-2021

The Initial Vision | 1981: The First Meetings of the Society | 1984/5: Meeting Patterns Established – First Publications | The 1990s: Highlights of the Decade | The New Millennium| Looking Ahead – Members’ Survey | Towards Digitalisation | Embracing Technology – Photograph Archive Scanning | 2016/18: Website Re-launched | The 2020s: Moving Forward

The 1990s: Highlights of the Decade

The year 1990 started with a bang with the January meeting taking the form of a Victorian evening’s entertainment organised by Daphne Waugh and modelled on a concert held in Milton in 1885.

See the video record here

In the summer we visited and entertained members from neighbouring societies, while in October an enthusiastic group under James Bond surveyed the Bruern monastery fishpond, courtesy of Mr David Astor.

Babs Richards designed two distinctive earthenware and porcelain mugs featuring buildings in Milton and Shipton; these were marketed by Jack and Peggy Chapman, our tea towel sellers, and proved just as popular.

1989/90 saw Norman Frost retiring from the secretary ship after eight years but staying on as archivist. Wendy Pearse took over as secretary, as well as being programme organiser.  Margaret Ware succeeded Sue Richards as journal editor.

In September “The Second Wychwoods Album” of old photographs was published. [ Re-published on our website here ]

1991/2: 10th Anniversary | Committee Changes

At the tenth anniversary meeting in April 1991, ten members gave short talks on a variety of topics.

In 1992, after eight years as chairman, Jack Howard-Drake retired in favour of Sue Jourdan, while Janet Wallace and Trudy Yates joined the committee, Trudy finally to tackle the recording of oral history.

The Second Wychwoods Album
The Second Wychwoods Album republished here

1992 and Onwards

For the next ten years the Society followed its established enjoyable pattern of monthly meetings, covering an astonishing range of topics. Talks given by society members and other local folk often proved among the most popular.

But several other highlights stand out. We heard a Michael Aston of Bristol University talk on ‘Landscape Archaeology’. Once a Milton resident, he became famous as Professor Mick Aston of TV’s Time Team!

We heard the Rev. Ralph Mann on the ‘Ascott Martyrs’, George Lambrick on the Rollright Stones, Brian Durham on the Witney Palace and Tom Hassall on his experience as an oarsman on a replica Greek trireme.

We listened to that inimitable storyteller, Sheila Stewart (Lifting the Latch), and heard Beryl Schumer and W D Campbell on ‘Wychwood Forest’. We enjoyed several beautifully illustrated tours of the Cotswolds with Tim Porter.

Shipton old village hall was packed to the roof to hear Dr Celia Miller, the author of Rain and Ruin, an edited version of the Victorian diary of a local farmer. Enthusiastic audiences listened to Miss Dor Thomson’s and Professor Hall’s memories of their former home, Shipton Court, while we were enlightened on topics as diverse as local railways and canals, sheep-farming, brewing and many, many more.

Every meeting was enhanced by the serving of coffee and biscuits, for many years by Peggy Chapman and her band of helpers and later by Jane Barea and Janet Wallace.

Our summer excursions included visits to the water meadows and hunting lodge at Sherborne, Chastleton House, walks round Swinbrook, Burford, Asthall and Worsham and the Chalfords, guided visits to local churches and a tour round the wartime volunteer resistance training ground at Coleshill.

More Highlights and Key Events in the 1990s

Frank Ware retired from the treasurer ship in 1994, succeeded by Duncan Waugh and then by David Perceval.

Joan Howard-Drake once more became guardian of the archives on Norman Frost’s retirement from the committee after fourteen years’ service. Margaret Ware bowed out from the committee in 1996.

Over the years, Tom Barrett, Clifford Stevenson, Freida Ashton, Richard Bidgood, Frank Barea and Anthea Jones also served on the committee. Sadly, Geoffrey Giles died in 1998, while Jack Chapman had served as vice-chairman for sixteen years on his death in 1999. In 2001 both Norman Frost and Peggy Chapman died.

In 1996 Wendy Pearse was interviewed on Shipton Green by two visiting New Zealand historians, and can now be seen and heard on screen in the Wellington museum, telling the story of the nineteenth-century emigrations and the tragic sinking of the Cospatrick.

After a few years’ break, the annual field-walking programme re-started in 1996. In May 1999 the Society hosted the county’s annual conference of local historical and archaeological societies, Oxfordshire Past.

Later in 1999 James Bond led an extensive survey of the Norman castle and settlement site at Ascott d’Oilly.