History Group March outing – Visit to the Almonry Museum in Evesham

9 members of the History group went to Evesham today for a visit to the Almonry Museum and what a superb visit it was.We had a guided tour full of interesting information. In the early 8th century, the Bishop of Worcester grazed his pigs in the forest in a bend in the river Avon, under the care of Eof. Eof had a vision of Mary one day, and reported this to the Bishop, who also saw the vision, and decided to build an Abbey on the site. News of the visions soon spread and many pilgrims began to arrive. So the town of Evesham began, it’s name deriving from Eof’s Ham. The Abbey was at one time the third largest in England, but sadly only one stone archway survives, following it’s dissolution in 1540.In the 14th century, the almoner was given a house nearby in which to live, and dispense alms to the poor, and this house is now the Almonry Museum. There have been later additions and alterations, but there are a lot of original features remaining. There are 12 rooms on two floors with outstanding collections, including Saxon grave goods, and the 14th century Abbot’s chair.Henry V111’s son Arthur was betrothed to Katharine of Aragon in Evesham Abbey, and there is a wonderful stone over-mantle dating from this period, showing their coats of arms..Our tour and talk ended with the story of Simon de Montford. He was killed in the Battle of Evesham, and buried in unconsecrated ground. Many years later his skeleton was supposedly found, and the Museum has the skull, and are looking into the possibility of verifying it with DNA testing.We finished the afternoon with tea, coffee and cakes in a lovely farm shop and cafe on the way home, and all agreed that the Museum, with it’s friendly and knowledgeable staff and wonderful atmosphere, is well worth a return visit.

History Group Visit to St Mary’s Church Temple Guiting

17 members went to Temple Guiting on what turned out to be a beautiful summer’s day. The church was founded in AD 1170 by the Knights Templar and has many features of interest. Under the roof line, the most ancient and original part of the church has eleven stone corbels staring out over the Windrush valley; beautifully carved figures, beasts and grotesques, designed to ward off evil spirits. Above the 15th century font are three panels of medieval glass. A further nine panels in this set were sold in 1809 for £5.00, and exported to America where they are currently on display in the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York. Above the door is an ornately painted Georgian Decalogue dating from 1746. This had lain hidden until being restored in 2004.

Above the lectern is a most beautiful stained glass window, the work of artist Tom Denny. This illustrates, in vibrant jewel colours, a verse from Psalm 111, and was installed in 2010, in memory of Lord Butterworth, the first vice-chancellor of Warwick University.

The Preceptory of Guiting was founded at the same time as the church. After provision for the maintenance and hospitality, the surplus of income was sent to London, and on to Palestine. After the Knights Templar’s order was destroyed in 1309, John de Coningston, the preceptor of Guiting, was sent to London, and following the trial the Templars agreed to confess to heresy. The property at Guiting was confiscated, and the Templars dispersed to serve in monasteries in the diocese of Worcester on a pension of 4d per day.

We then went to Temple Guiting Pantry, a delightful gift shop and café, in what used to be the village post office, for our afternoon tea and cakes, and we all agreed it had been a lovely visit. Christine

History June Visit to Richard Jefferies Museum – Swindon

11 members visited the Museum in Swindon dedicated to Richard Jefferies, a Victorian author. He was born in 1848 in his family’s farmhouse near Coate Water. He wrote about nature, and published several children’s stories, illustrated by E.H Shepard. He travelled around the south of England with his family, but returned to Swindon shortly before his death at the young age of 38. The farmhouse passed through many hands before being bought by Swindon Borough Council, who in 2011, were persuaded by the newly formed Richard Jefferies Trust to turn it into a museum dedicated to the author.Our tour guide showed us many items belonging to Richard Jefferies including his writing desk, and several original manuscripts. One of their volunteers had come to offer us afternoon tea which we had in the very pleasant garden surrounded by beautiful trees, and flowers, and were entertained by several chickens looking for a snack.A very interesting Museum, and well worth another visit.Christine

History Group February News

14 members of the History group met for our usual February Tea and Talks.The topics were very varied, and included a visit to China, Minster Lovell Hall, San Francisco City Hall, the Mary Rose, Sir Humphrey Davy and the Oxfordshire connections to the Knights Templars.February isn’t usually a good month to travel far, so this get together is one of our favourites.Christine

History Group Outing to Faringdon

History Group visit to Faringdon – January 21st 2019
14 members of the History group visited the Pump Room in Faringdon to see a very moving exhibition, given to commemorate the ending of WW1.From his personal collection, Lord Faringdon of Buscot House had donated nursing uniforms, photographs and hospital memorabilia to the Faringdon Town Council, for the public to see for the first time.Lord Faringdon’s grandmother, Lady Violet Henderson, had become a registered Red Cross member in 1907. At the onset of WW1, she offered the Pump House in Faringdon as an auxilliary hospital. Within months it had run out of space, and was moved to her home, Kitemore House at Shillingford. The exhibition includes all the hospital records of the patients, details of their injuries and treatment. There is a register of the donations made by the public to the the hospital, and many photographs of the nursing staff and patients.  There are a few pictures of some of the nursing staff who have yet to be identified, with requests to the public to offer help in finding out who these women were.This is only a small exhibition, but reading about the exhibits, and looking at the photographs, we were transported back to those times when dedicated men fought in this war, and dedicated women cared for the injured amongst them.We followed our visit by having afternoon tea and cakes in the coffee shop next to the Pump Room.

History Group Visit – July – Stanway House

10 members had a most interesting visit to this beautiful house on the Cotswold escarpment, between Stow on the Wold and Tewksbury.
Stanway’s first owners were Odo and Dodo, who founded the monastery in Tewksbury in 715 AD, and endowed it with Stanway Manor,
together with the first house built there. Over the years the Manor was very industrious with Fulling mills, and unusually the house has changed hands only once.
Sir William Tracy lived in nearby Toddington, and in 1530, the Abbey at Tewksbury ceded ownership to his son Richard Tracy. The male Tracy line died out in 1770, and 
Thomas Tracy’s niece Susan inherited the Manor. She was married to Francis Charteris, the 7th Earl of Wemyss and their decendant Jamie, 
the 13th Earl of Wemyss is the present owner. 
The house is very much a family home with some interesting pieces of furniture and portraits of all the owners. A spectacular water garden has
been created, and includes a single-jet fountain, which at 300 ft high is the highest gravity fed fountain in the world. 
Our guide talked about the many famous politicians, artists and writers who had stayed at Stanway over the years, and entertained us with anecdotes
about some of the various owners. We were given afternoon tea and cakes, after which the fountain was fired up for us to marvel at.
We all enjoyed our visit, and I’m sure it’s a House we will visit again.

History Group May’s Visit

Honington Hall  Shipston-on-Stour  Warwickshire

16 members of the History Group went for a guided tour of Honington Hall. This beautiful red brick building was built in 1670 by Henry Parker, a London lawyer who became MP for Evesham.
The Hall was sold in the early 1700’s to Joseph Townsend, and passed through this family until purchased by the present occupier’s grandfather Sir Charles Wiggin in 1924.
Our tour started in the church which is close to the house, and contains the tombs of members of these three families. The church is used by the parish of Honington twice a month, and buried outside is Mary Elizabeth Butler, a member of the Townsend family, who founded the Girls’ Friendly Society in 1875. This was of interest to one of our members who had once been a member of this society.
Going into the Hall, we started in the entrance hall which has on it’s walls, six beautiful plaster bas-relief panels showing scenes from the classics. We then saw the Oak room, the Boudoir and the Dining room all with beautiful plaster work on the walls and ceilings. However the most spectacular room is the eight sided Saloon, with two toned pale blue walls and a domed ceiling. The walls are adorned with white plaster work panels, representing the four elements and four seasons, and the domed ceiling has 96 rosettes, all depicting different flowers.
Sadly we didn’t have time to explore the grounds which surround the Hall and lead down to the river Stour, but made our way back home, stopping for afternoon tea at Burford Garden Centre.

History Group April Outing

15 members of the History group went to Cricklade where we were met at the Town Hall by the Museum curator. She took us on a walk lasting over hour and a half, up and down Cricklade High Street, pointing out the many Grade 2 listed buildings, including many houses and pubs built in the Georgian and Queen Ann times, and  telling us of their history through previous owners. We passed St Sampson’s Church, and decided this will be worth a visit next year. We walked on down to the Thames, and learned about the history of the warves that were once there when the river was navigable from London. 
Then we made our way back to the Museum, which houses a considerable collection of coins found locally, some of which dated to the Saxon times, when the town was founded. One particular William and Mary silver coin was so crisp and shiny, it could have been minted this year. In fact at one time Cricklade had it’s own mint and there were several examples of local coins. There were many other interesting exhibits, including a large Bible, in English, dating from 1642, and examples of gloves, made when Cricklade had a thriving glove-making industry.
We all agreed Cricklade is a little hidden gem of a Cotswold town, and after our very welcome strawberry cream scones and tea, we made our way home.

History Group March Outing

8 members of the History Group made a visit to the church of St Laurence in Combe, or Combe Longa as it is otherwise known. St Laurence’s feast day is August 10th, and there is a travelling fair on the village green around that date.  Combe is an Old English word for valley and the original village was down in the valley of the river Evenlode, where the Saw mill is now. However as parts of the south doorway of the present church can be dated to the 12th century, it seems the village spread up the hills to surround the church. The church itself was first documented in 1141-2, when it was granted by Empress Maud to Eynsham Abbey. The present chancel was built around 1310 and the three arched sedilia dates from this time. The nave is exceptionally wide for a church of this overall size, and had a rood screen the whole width. However this was removed in 1852, although the narrow winding stone stairway which led to the top can still be seen in one corner. There is a rare medieval stone pulpit against one wall which is still used, and from which John Wesley gave three sermons in the 1700’s.There are many colourful early 15th century wall paintings. One large one, sadly damaged, is of St Christopher surrounded by a mermaid and various river creatures. Over the chancel arch is a colourfully painted Last Judgement or Doom. There are several stained glass windows, some with very old fragments of birds and other creatures. There was a fire in 1918 in the tower, and the bells had to be recast, although the medieval sanctus bell survived. The damaged tower was then recontructed to it’s original design.
We all enjoyed our visit, and meeting the Rev Roy Turner who showed us round, and was recognised by one of our members as having been at one time the vicar of Carterton. Then made our way through Finstock to the Hilltop Garden Centre for our afternoon tea.

History Group update

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


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