Honington Hall Shipston-on-Stour Warwickshire
On 18th February 16 members of the History Group met in the Town Hall for talks on historical subjects by ten of those present First was an account of a Museum visit to the Kremlin, Moscow, which was of interest to the speaker as she was of Russian descent. The Armoury Museum she talked about was one of many in the Kremlin and this one housed beautiful costumes and dresses, elaborate crowns and magnificent thrones etc handed down through the generations of Tsars, Tsarina Catherine the Great’s wedding dress and an ornate sleigh as well as the gold and jewelled encrusted ornaments. This was followed by a talk on a 1912 Liberal Monthly where a reader suggested the establishment of a new Parliament House just for women, this was at a time of Women’s Suffrage. Another item was an 1847 Conveyance Indenture regarding the sale of two cottages for £115 that were occupied by a Malster and a Carrier, both in Burford. We next heard of Nadine Gordiner who lived in South Africa, was politically active in 1960 and was anti-apartheid, joining the African National Congress party and helping members to hide from the authorities. She was a writer with many books published and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Queen Emma’s Dyke is a road in Witney that another member researched to find out why it was named. Queen Emma was the daughter of Richard Duke of Normandy, married the English King Ethelred the Unready and when he died she married the Viking Cnut, King of Denmark and Norway who became King of England, by virtue of invasion. Emma granted the Bishop of Winchester an estate in what is now Witney and here he built a palace (remains seen next to St Mary’s church). The Dyke was a drainage ditch that surrounded a large area now occupied by a large area of Witney and named after the Queen who once owned that land. Next came a talk on RAF Little Rissington, from a member whose father once worked there, but mostly on the war memorials and graves of RAF servicemen of which there is a great many from the 2nd World War; also in the church there is a window to them. In the graveyard are 76 graves of RAF servicemen, 45 of those from the 2nd World War, these include those airmen from the Commonwealth. The Red Arrows team were once based there and some who died are buried there as well. Then came a talk on Oxford and Beating the Boundary, this event occurred on the church’s Rogation Days and was originally means of marking the parish boundary with stones. The care of the poor was by the parish and a marked boundary of the parish, before maps were drawn, meant only residents could be cared for. In Oxford the annual procession around the Boundary of the city centre headed by church officials, choirs and dignitaries still takes part on Ascension Day. Next was a talk on a member’s ancestor Robert Huntington who was a Major in Cromwell’s Army during the English Civil War who realised that Cromwell did not just want King Charles to lessen his authority but to rid him and the Monarchy altogether. He resigned his commission and presented his reasons why Cromwell was a traitor to the House of Lords but the House of Commons didn’t want to hear them so he published his report for others to read. Another member also had a family member to be proud of but this was her own father who was a Battle of Britain RAF pilot flying a Spitfire, won many awards, was based at RAF Duxford and settled there after the war. He became interested in flying after seeing a notice that flying lessons were available at a nearby airfield for 10/- (50p!!). He was awarded a very special brooch of a tiny golden caterpillar that was awarded to those who bailed out by parachute and which his daughter was proud to show us. Animals on trial was the next subject, in medieval times animals were named as servants of the devil but had the same rights as people, if they broke the law they were tried, convicted and usually hung! If they were lucky in church courts the animals had a lawyer. In Oxford a baby was left on its own, a pig ate it, went to trial, found guilty and hung. Not only pigs but other animals such as cows, horses, dogs, cats and rats were put on trial, found guilty and hung. It was said that these public trials were put on to act as a warning to people to control their animals or maybe just for entertainment. The last talk was on Roman remains found in our county. Sometimes these were found in Victorian times during excavating old buildings in order to build new housing and builders finding Roman remains of villas underneath, these would be put on public view before building resumed on top. Building on top of previous ancient ruins was not unusual as the Romans often used to build over Iron Age Settlements sites. Among other sites mentioned were Cirencester, named Corinium by the Romans, and Chedworth Villa, which the History Group had visited at an earlier time and was most impressing. This was a most interesting afternoon listening to ten quite different historical subjects and I regret I had to edit them for brevity so apologies to the authors. The session ended with us having refreshments and then being thrown out of the Town Hall – due to a fire alarm, not for bad behaviour! WENDY MORGAN
Here is account of our visit to Fairford Church on Jan. 15th. Wendy Morgan
HISTORY GROUP VISITS FAIRFORD CHURCH.
Fairford Church is famous for their 28 Pre-Reformation mediaeval stained glass windows, which are the only surviving complete set in the country. During the English Civil War Cromwell’s troops smashed windows, statues and religious objects and used churches for stabling their horses and the mystery still is how these windows survived when no other churches did. Theories include whitewashing the windows, protection by influential people or a popular one was a local resident took them down and hid them. In fact the latter idea actually happened during the 2nd World War when they were all hidden in stone vaults under a Fairford Park house. 17 members of the History Group made their way to Fairford on January 15th to see these extraordinary windows which filled the church with colour as the sun shone through, there seemed to be more windows than walls! A church guide gave us a short history of the church including how a wool merchant John Tame built a new church, St Mary the Virgin, on the site of a Saxon one which was finished in 1497 with the glass windows placed soon afterwards. John Tame’s plan was to make the windows a complete picture bible to educate the people with the windows divided into four parts with a story in each. The guide took us around the church starting with scenes from the Old Testament and then in the Lady Chapel with two windows on the life of the Virgin and Jesus as a child, next the Chancel with the life and death of Christ in a magnificent East window. Going around the church the following windows were scenes from the New Testament ending with the Ascension, after which were pictures of all the Apostles, the Saints and the Prophets and the West window of the Last Judgement. High up near the roof are smaller windows depicting the death of martyrs on one side and traitors such as Judas and persecutors such as Herod on the other. After the tour we were free to walk around and see the other interesting church objects such as the 14 Misericords (tip up seats) and the High Altar in the Chancel, the lovely carved altar reredos in the Lady Chapel, the choir stalls under a central Tower above which are the bells. From the guide book I read that once high in the Tower was a Rood (cross) and figures of Mary and St John each side of it also a gallery for singers and musicians, used before a choir and organ were introduced, but all has long been demolished. We all enjoyed our time in this unique church and finished our visit in Fairford with refreshments in a little teashop across the road from the church.
On November 20th eleven members of our group made the short journey to St Mary’s church, Black Bourton, in the parish that Carterton was once part of. By 1180 a chapel, that now is the chancel, was in use by 1180, the nave was built in 1190 when the font was built and the stone pulpit was from the fifteenth century. Most of the windows are narrow lancet ones dating from the 12th century which doesn’t give the church much light but better for the preservation of the historic wall paintings that the church is famous for. These date from the 13th century and were for the religious education of an illiterate congregation showing 13 scenes from the bible and studies of religious people and all are seen on the original nave walls. Presumably during the Reformation in the 16th century, when churches were cleared of catholic images, they were covered with plaster and whitewash. They were revealed in 1866 when the church was being restored and the paintings uncovered but when the Vicar went to London to get a wash to fix them he found on his return that his curate and tenants had whitewashed them over again! In 1932 the whitewash was carefully removed and all was revealed. The church has recently had new bells in the tower and many of us went up a circular stone staircase to view them. One of the congregation, himself a bellringer, also gave an interesting talk to some of us on the church. Behind the altar for instance is a recently discovered memorial stone to a Sir Arthur Hopton, the stone having been covered by the altar and then revealed when the altar was moved. Sir Arthur was a diplomat, knighted in 1638 and became our Spanish Ambassador and remained in Spain during the English Civil War. His famous nephew Ralph Hopton supported the King during the war. Sir Arthur died 1650 and buried in the chancel but not where is memorial stone is because the first vicar of the church in 1587 was James Godman who died in 1632 and was buried under the altar and during the 19th century restorations they moved his stone to the north aisle and replaced it with Sir Arthur Hoptons! This was such a lovely historical church well cared for, as was the graveyard outside, by the villagers. In one part are the war graves of airmen from RAF Brize Norton killed during the 2nd World War and in another part are graves of local RAF airmen, serving and retired, who have died since. As usual on our excursions we later had tea, cake and chat and this time at a local garden centre to round off a very interesting visit. Christine/Wendy
On July 24th 14 members of the History group visited Charlbury museum and a talk by the Curator on the history of how it all began. This was when a historical exhibition was held showcasing residents’ family possessions that connected with Charlbury’s history in 1949. After it finished it seemed a good idea to keep exhibits, donated or lent, to show as part of the town’s history in a museum which in time was opened in part of the old Corner House that is now the Town Hall and Library, a historical building built by a Quaker resident. We gathered first in the entrance room where special exhibitions are held and today it was all to do with items from Henry Allen a draper, who in the later part of the Victorian period and up to 1912 clothed the well to do, made their hats, provided dressmaking materials with examples of his work displayed together with antique sewing machines together with documents from his business. Displayed were beautifully made white linen dresses including a farm worker’s smock and pleated woman’s bonnet. The Curator and her assistant gave two very interesting talks on what was displayed and then we were free to wander around the other four small rooms crammed with items concerned with Charlbury’s past. In the 2nd room were fossils, Roman pottery and Anglo Saxon items and into modern times with both World Wars items Charlbury souvenir china and 19th century costumes which included corsets (womens!). The next room displayed a typical Victorian kitchen with a black leaded range taken from a local cottage and the usual kitchen items of that time, domestic help equipment and lovely floor length white linen maids aprons. Onto the next room where we saw the famed Charlbury industry of glove making, with the patterns, special sewing machines and the finished items; this trade was a major source of employment in the town and only closed down in 1968. In this room were also more of the town’s industrial past with a mock up of a blacksmith shop, a collection of boot and shoe making equipment and the finished products and also the tools of carpenters, thatchers and other artisans. The last room was a special exhibition of women’s Victorian black mourning clothes which came about after Queen Victoria’s husband Albert died and they became a fashion. So much to see in this town museum and a reminder of how we need to preserve a town’s past which Charlbury has done so well.
The next visit was to Shorthampton church which I cannot comment on since our car toured around the Cotswolds for ages looking for it, which included going through Charlbury twice more. (Thank you, driver, for doing your best). I have since found out that Shorthampton is a hamlet with a few houses and reached by a lane. The rest of our party made it to the church which is famous for its wall paintings. These you can see on the website for the church as I did and can recommend that you do. WENDY MORGAN
13 members set out for Broadway Tower. We were given a talk on William Morris and the Civil Defence Corps which used the tower during WW11 as a lookout post, watching for enemy aircraft. There is an exhibition of artifacts and war memorabilia on the second floor, and on the third floor is an exhibition of items connected with William Morris himself. Some brave membes made it to the top of the tower where there are spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside.
By this time, some of us were wilting in the heat, and made our way back to the really nice cafe where we all met to have a welcome cold drink.
Apart from the heat, it was a really interesting and enjoyable visit.