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


History Group visit

Here is account of our visit to Fairford Church on Jan. 15th. Wendy Morgan


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.

History Group Visit

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

History Group’s Visit to Whittington Court

19 members of the History group visited the 15th century Whittington Court. Just 100 yards north of the A40 near Andoversford, not one of us had ever visited it or even noticed it.
Mentioned in the Doomsday Book, it was built near the Anglo-Saxon church accross the lane from a 2nd century Roman Villa which was discovered in 1949. During the middle ages the Court was owned by the de Crupes family, then it passed to the Despencer family and later to Henry VII and Henry VIII. Then it passed to the Cotton family who gave respite and tea to Elizabeth I on her way to Sudeley Castle. Unusually the house then passed through many female members of the owning families. In 1748 Thomas Tracey, MP for Gloucester bought it and ownership passed through his widow to her family until the last surviving member Mrs Stephanie Evans-Lawrence bequeathed it to Mrs Joan Charleston, the mother of the present owner. An emblem on their coat of arms refers to a distant ancester who had accompanied Richard the Lionheart to Jerusalem and was made a Knight Banneret. This history of the house was given to us while we were sitting in the very atmopspheric Library.
Originally envisionaged as an E-plan house, there were many alterations in the 16th and 17th centuries.
After our talk, we were free to wander around the three floors.The house is full of interesting architecture, panelling and old oak furniture.
The church which is just outside the Court, and within it’s beautifully kept garden, has many interesting features, including two Knight’s tombs, one Richard de Crupes who died in 1278, and the other, his son.
There are brasses of the Cotton family, and records showing mention of the church dating back to 1216.
This is an HHA property, and is only open twice a year for two weeks, so we were lucky that their August opening coincided with our monthly meeting. 
Following our tour, the owner had made some lovely sandwiches and cakes to finish off our very intersting and enjoyable day.

History Group Visit Charlbury Museum

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

History Group visit June

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.