The latest news from the
Oxfordshire Local History Association (OLHA)
December 2020
(Above) The bridge at Iffley Lock, built 1793. It carries the towpath over the entrance to the rollers which allow punts and rowing boats to bypass the lock.

All members of local history societies and groups that are members of OLHA are themselves members of OLHA automatically, and this e-bulletin is for everyone. Hence, if you are on the committee of a local history group or society, please make sure that this e-bulletin is forwarded to all your members by sending them this url. Thank you.
OLHA’s autumn study meeting and AGM took place on Saturday 14 November, with 82 members and guests in attendance via Zoom. The draft [as-yet unsigned] minutes of the AGM can be read here.

Attendees enjoyed an illustrated talk on Oxfordshire during the Second World War by historian Stephen Barker. His talk included many personal stories of the War; over 80 such stories from Oxfordshire can be found on the BBC’s WW2 People’s War archive.
In 2021 Wallingford Museum will celebrate its 40th anniversary. It was created, and has been entirely run, by volunteers. The museum is looking forward to welcoming visitors back next year. If your society or group is planning events for 2021, why not consider a visit to Wallingford Museum, or a guided history walk around the town. Contact the curator Judy Dewey on 01491 651127 to arrange.

Read news from the museum
Banbury townscape from the Castle Street car park, by Kenneth Moore, c.1979.

The Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock reopens on 2 December; check the museum website for revised opening times. The current special exhibition, Distance, runs until Sunday 3 January 2021.

Read more news from the museum here.
Looking for interesting and unusual Christmas presents? Why not buy that special person membership of OLHA? It’s only £11 a year, and there are many benefits; find out more here.

And/or, how about one of these recently-published books...
A new edition of English Local History by Kate Tiller has been published. This classic guide, brought up to date and expanded, is for anyone wanting to explore local history in England. It summarises current knowledge and approaches, bringing together and illustrating the key sources and evidence, the skills and tools, and the contexts and interpretations for successive periods.

Further information and ordering here, and read an interview with the author here.
Windmills of Berkshire and Oxfordshire by Guy Blythman, one of the UK’s most active windmill researchers, had just been published by the Mills Archive Trust. The book describes the histories of 170 windmills and windmill sites, and is illustrated with over a hundred images and maps.

Further information and ordering here.
Members of South Stoke Historical Society used the opportunity of lockdown to complete a project which began more than twenty years ago. The result is a new publication, South Stoke’s Past - a Miscellany. This well-illustrated book covers many aspects of the village’s history including the chapel, education, the railway, the roads and river, and the Great Fire of South Stoke in 1905.

Further information and ordering here.
Woodstock Remembers WWI brings together the personal stories of the 44 soldiers listed on Woodstock’s war memorial. This free booklet is the culmination of extensive work by students at the Marlborough School, prompted by the national  Battlefield Tour programme which involved pupils from 2,000 secondary schools across the country. Marlborough School Library Manager Joanne Onions says “The booklet is our lasting legacy to Woodstock; it underlines the importance of our young people not only studying the First World War, but also connecting with the local community, and bringing stories to life.” The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery fund.

The booklet is available at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock, or by contacting Joanne Onions.
The Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society has published its first Occasional Paper, a 464-page, full colour volume on The Archaeology of Oxford in the 21st Century, edited by Anne Dodd, Stephen Mileson and Leo Webley. The book includes a new synthesis of current knowledge of Oxford’s archaeology by City Archaeologist David Radford, and a review of changing approaches to urban archaeology by Tom Hassall. One of the most exciting findings was the first very likely medieval Jewish signature in British archaeology.

Order the book here.
The latest volume of the British Historic Towns Atlas, covering Oxford, won’t be available until March 2021, but if you want a copy, it’s worth ordering now, as a 20% discount is available on advance orders. The atlas is a large-format portfolio of maps showing the city at key points in its history, many illustrations of its buildings and streets, maps to show its setting, and reproduction early maps. It concentrates on the topographic development of Oxford as a settlement, and a comprehensive gazetteer lists every building and street shown on the maps, with a short history and references for further reading.

Further information and pre-ordering here.
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, built between 1855 and 1860, is the extraordinary result of close collaboration between artists and scientists. Temple of Science: The Pre-Raphaelites and Oxford University Museum of Natural History by John Holmes describes the campaign to build the museum and takes the reader on a tour of the building, whose entire structure was an experiment in using architecture and art to communicate natural history, modern science and natural theology.

Further information and ordering here. There is also a free podcast series to accompany the book.
Many Oxfordshire history societies are offering talks on-line or, if circumstances allow, in person. For a detailed daily listing see OLHA’s website.

Here is a selection for December:

1stBritish Modern Military History Society – Paul Johnson “Disgraceful Conduct – The Murder of British Troops in WW1 & WW2”. On-line talk, 2:00pm, register by e-mailing

1stHenley on Thames – Michael Redley “Public Health and the Growth of Henley in the Late Nineteenth Century”. On-line talk, 7:45pm, register by e-mailing

2ndFriends of the Oxfordshire Museum – Alice Foster  “1,500 years of the Christmas Story in Art”. On-line talk, 7:30pm, register by e-mailing

3rdCharlbury – Barbara Allison “Researching the History of Charlbury’s Buildings”. On-line talk, 8:00pm, register by e-mailing

7thOxfordshire Victoria County History – Christmas lecture, summarising recent work. On-line talk, 5:00pm, register by e-mailing

8thOxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society – Geoffrey Tyack “William Butterfield in Oxfordshire”. On-line talk, 5:30pm, register at (OAHS members only)

9th – British Modern Military History Society – Simon Jones “Underground Warfare in WW1”. On-line talk, 7:30pm, register by e-mailing

10thBanbury – Stephen Wass “Voyages to the House of Diversion: Garden Urns and the Destruction of the Seventeenth-century Gardens at Hanwell Castle, Oxfordshire”. On-line talk, 7:30pm, register by e-mailing

14thRadley – Victoria Bentata “Einstein and the Scholar Refugees of Oxford”. On-line talk, 7:30pm, for registration see the club website

If you have any items for the next OLHA e-bulletin, please send brief text and low resolution images to Liz Woolley by 24 December.
A warm welcome to all our new members, including the Ascott Martyrs Study Group and the Ascott Martyrs Education Trust who have recently joined OLHA. The Ascott Martyrs were sixteen women, some with babies in arms, who were imprisoned in 1873 for supporting their striking farm worker husbands in Ascott-under-Wychwood. In 2016 Ascott residents and descendants formed a group to discover more about these women, whose names appear on the seats around the chestnut tree on the village green (above). In 2018 a charitable trust was established to publicise the story of the martyrs. Amongst other activities, the trust supports a study group which carries out research into the martyrs and their achievements, as well as into life in this part of rural west Oxfordshire in the 1870s.

Read more about the activities of the trust and study group here.
A nightgown trimmed with mid-Victorian Mixbury lace made by Mrs Hannah Bolton.

A warm welcome also to the Mixbury History Group, recently set up by enthusiastic amateur local historians to investigate the history of this small village in the north-east corner of Oxfordshire. Current projects include arranging geophysics investigations at important sites in the parish; identifying old place names; and writing up evidence that Mixbury may have started life as an Iron Age hill fort.

Read more about the activities of the group here.
Goring, one of several riverside villages covered in the forthcoming VCH volume on the South Oxfordshire Chilterns.

Work is almost complete on the next Oxfordshire volume of the Victoria County History (VCH), and it’s on schedule for publication in late 2021. Volume XX covers a dozen parishes in the South Oxfordshire Chilterns, all of them historically long thin ‘strip parishes’ stretching from the Thames up into the hills – a pattern reflecting Anglo-Saxon estate organization. Meanwhile, new research is concentrating on the Chipping Norton and Hook Norton area. A draft history of Hook Norton (famous for its brewery) is already on the VCH website, and drafts on Great and Little Rollright, Swerford, and Salford will follow next year.

Find out more in the Oxfordshire VCH Trust’s latest newsletter.

The annual VCH Christmas lecture will be held by Zoom on Monday 7 December at 5pm. Members of the VCH team will give short illustrated presentations on recent work in the Chilterns and west Oxfordshire, focusing on Swerford, Salford, and the Rollrights. The lecture is free; to register, e-mail Simon Townley by 6 December.
Advertisements on the front and side walls of Mrs GM Darby’s general shop at the corner of Summerfield and Lake Street, New Hinksey, December 1949. The shop is long gone, but the sign for Lyons’ Tea is still there.

Following the dedicated scanning and cataloguing work of a photographic volunteer during lockdown, the Oxfordshire History Centre has published on-line a new set of historic images of Oxford shopfronts and advertising in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. This was part of a survey by Oxford City Council of shops, petrol stations and advertisement hoardings, compiled on over 1,000 index cards. The photographs capture the fascinating visual detail of the retail paraphernalia of the period, and cover the city centre and the suburbs.

This link will show you the whole collection, or you can search via the Picture Oxon front page using the phrase city heritage [place name] (e.g. city heritage New Hinksey) to find images of specific suburbs and streets.
A Generall Mapp of the County of Oxford, by Richard Blome, 1673.

The Digital Bodleian project has revised its interface, making it easier to use. The Bodleian Library’s collections contain many high-quality zoomable maps and prospects of Oxford and Oxfordshire, dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

View the search results for ‘Oxford’ here and for ‘Oxfordshire’ here.
The latest short film by architectural historian Malcolm Airs gives a fascinating insight into the history of building materials. It explores the social and architectural reasons for the use of cob, brick, timber, stone and thatch, using examples from Dorchester-on-Thames.

Watch the film here.
The Chilterns have one of the largest collections of hill forts in the UK, yet many are poorly preserved, and little is known about them. The Beacons of the Past - Hillforts in the Chilterns Landscape project has recently made available the results of a large high-resolution LiDAR survey, so that members of the public can explore, find, and map archaeological sites across the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (and beyond).

The project’s LiDAR portal includes full instructions and tutorials on how to understand the data, and Landscape Heritage Officer Ed Peveler runs regular on-line sessions and workshops on how to interpret the information, and for people to discuss their findings. Participants have been discovering archaeology from the Neolithic to the twentieth century, so there is something for everyone.

To get involved, visit the project website, and/or contact Ed Peveler.
A non-invasive geophysical survey covering nearly eight hectares of Port Meadow, near Wolvercote, has revealed evidence of the flying training aerodrome which was there during the First World War (above, looking north, with the Thames along the left-hand side of the image). The access road, main flight-shed, huts, some of the canvas hangars and other features can be seen. Nothing remains above ground now, except the faint line of the road and a small concrete hut, used as a refuge for ground crew laying targets in a nearby ditch.

The survey also revealed some new Prehistoric (Late Iron Age) features near the Thames, and showed more detail of those already known.

Find out more about the survey, and about the WWI aerodrome community project, here.

There are a few copies left of Oxford’s Lost Aerodrome: The untold story of Port Meadow and the Royal Flyng Corps 1916-1919 by Peter Smith. Order here; all proceeds to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
Debbie Dance, David Mather and Tom Hassall of the Oxford Preservation Trust, with the swing bridge in the background (photo: Ed Nix)

After spending nearly a decade on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register, the LMS railway swing bridge in Oxford is at last to be restored. Work started on site in November, under the watchful eye of the Oxford Preservation Trust. It is hoped that this Scheduled Monument of national importance, built in 1851, will soon turn again.

Read more about the restoration project here, and about the history of the swing bridge here.
Ernest Hook of 89 Friars Street with his seven sons in 1954. From ‘The Changing Faces of St Ebbe’s and St Thomas, Book 1’, courtesy of Carole Newbigging.

Two new information boards have been put up by Oxford City Council in St Ebbe’s, to highlight the rich history of this inner-city parish. They describe how a crowded and lively suburb developed over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; what industries, shops and businesses flourished here; and how the area came to look as it does today.

The boards can be seen at the junction of Preachers Lane and Blackfriars Road, near the pedestrian crossing over Thames Street.
Three new Blue Plaques have been put up by the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board this year. They are to lawyer and university teacher Ivy Williams, the first woman to be called to the Bar of England and Wales; novelist Rhoda Broughton, ‘Queen of the Circulating Libraries’; and Classicist Annie Rogers, campaigner for women’s full membership of Oxford University.
The most recent e-newsletter from the British Association for Local History (of which we are members) can be read here. The newsletter includes a link to BALH’s popular new series of Ten-Minute Talks on a wide variety of local history topics.
The OLHA committee wishes all our readers a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. Thank you for your continuing support.
Copyright © 2020 Liz Woolley, All rights reserved.

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