Month: January 2016

Great Oxenden: the little library

What at first glance appears to be a telephone box – in itself unusual – turns out to be so much more. Inside the box, the telephone has been replaced with a series of shelves holding a variety of reading matter, offering villagers the chance to book swap. A nice example of both community spirit and giving an unused space a new lease of life.

03 church locks

I had read that inside the village church there was a place where an echo would resonate 13 times, however finding the church proved difficult – eventually we asked someone (and by coincidence it transpired his wife was the bell ringer!), the church was outside of the actual village and positioned in between Little Oxenden and Great Oxenden on a slip road off the main road*. Yet again, as in previous experiences, the church is locked – however this does draw my attention to the particularly nice heart-shaped keyhole and handle detail.

Despite being locked out, I photograph more historical ‘graffiti’ – initials that have been carved into the archway entrance; the oldest I could find, that was still legible dated from 1631. I particularly like the added decorative boxes by both TS and John(?) Loke in 1707. I had wondered whether there was a reason behind these carvings as I discovered that many church wardens would carve their initials somewhere within a church (pews, windowsills etc), however IW when I asked him, suggested that this was graffiti and it would have been tolerated at the time as the church was a focal point for the whole community.
*Another connection between our individual research – your church at Warkworth now isolated due to the castle being demolished, and this church also in an isolated position as Little Oxenden is a deserted medieval village, therefore buildings start to become disconnected from their origins.


Chacombe: The sweet tone of the Bagley Bells



Research into the seemingly oddly named Silver Street in Chacombe led me to discover stories of Henry Bagley and his boys who cast church bells at a local foundry located at the top of Silver Street in the village of Chacombe between 1605 and 1785.  441 bells in churches and cathedrals are listed as being cast by the Bagley family.  The bells were richly decorated with patterns, motifs and text including bells at Chacombe  inscribed ‘ring tunefully and you shall have as much beer as is good for you’ and ‘I ring to sermon with a lusty tone that all may come and none may stay at home’.

The metal for the foundry was transported to Banbury by canal and then by wagon to the village.  Allegedly women of the village would throw their silver jewellery in with the molten metal at the very moment the bells were being cast believing this additive would impart an exceptionally sweet tone to the bells!

Stoke Albany: a revelation


This is the last village in the northern section of the walk (going from the north to south). At this point it was becoming quite difficult to differentiate between each village, they are all stone built, attractive and well-kept. Yet again the church becomes the main focus. The stone frontage features a sundial and quite a lot of historic, stone carved ‘graffiti’, although much of it is hard to deciper. Fortunately unlike East Carlton the church was open and I was able to photograph the ancient wooden plaque above the vestibule door that asks for men to scrape their shoes, and women to removes their stays.

Inside, the rows of pews all feature individual needlepoint kneelers (hassocks) presumably hand sewn by the people of the parish; it would be interesting to find out who instigated this and how the patterns were selected.

Having struggled to find points of interest or connections between each location, there is a realisation that one common thread that does unite each village is the sense of community – whether to celebrate their war dead, sewing for a common cause or the trust in the free range egg honesty box!

On further reflection – I’m aware that I have photographed lots of references to individuals, either on head stones, war memorials or plaques, and my additional research into specific villages has also started to highlight individuals; this could be a way forward – to celebrate ordinary people and their connection with the environment. Perhaps the piece could also evoke or include some sense of community spirit?

Middleton Cheney: 3 Churches, 1 Admiral and a Dolphin

Middleton Cheney lies 3 miles outside of Banbury and some 115 miles from the nearest coastline. It is home to three churches, an Admiral and the Dolphin pub!

Whilst other village pubs seem to be related to country life and times (The Hare & Hounds, The Plough and The George & Dragon…) I have not been able to discover why the local is called the Dolphin!  However there are recorded tales of a  Vice Admiral Holland who was born in the village and joined the Royal Navy in 1901. He spent the First World War on the HMS Excellent and in 1937  became an aid to King George V1. In 1941 he was killed in action leading the Battlecruiser Squadron against the German battleship The Bismarck.

Home to 3 church going communities, first research unearthed a wonderful extract from the Banbury Historical Society newsletter (1996; volume 13, number 6/7) which documents memories from a Mrs. Annie Jarvis (ne Seeney) who was ‘possibly the first child born in Middleton Cheney in 1900!’. Annie was named Mabel Annie Seeney and was the third child of Frederick and Elizabeth who lived at The Rectory.  Annie remembers that for over fifty years her Mum looked after the alter and her Dad rang the bells at All Saints’ Church in the village. She recalls that her father worked in the fields at the farm every morning and at five to twelve he would cycle back to the church and ring the dinner bell in the middle of the day so everyone knew it was lunchtime! On Pancake Day Annie he rang the bells from 11.30 – 12.00 so that the mothers knew to start cooking pancakes! At the end of December, Annie recounts that her Dad would climb up the bell tower and wrap the bells to ring the old year out with a ‘muffled peal’. Then, at midnight on New Year’s Eve Annie’s Dad would climb up the bell tower once more, take off the covers and ring the New Year in!


East Carlton: being thankful

Bringhurst is a nothing more than a hamlet really, although this beautiful carved sign above a cottage doorway did catch my eye. Who were RS and ES? This way of celebrating the inhabitants of the house seems so much nicer than, for example, a craze in (probably) the 1970s of combining two christian names to form a word, so Duncan and Margaret would  become ‘Dunmar’.

01 above door

Research prior to visiting  East Carlton had highlighted it as a Thankful village – a term I was previously unfamiliar with. It refers to villages where all those who went to war returned, therefore the village has no war memorial; however I was keen to see inside the 1778 church as I had read about a plaque that celebrated the seven men who achieved this feat. Despite the fact it’s Sunday – the church is locked. A disappointing visit and it has to be said that I am finding the rural nature of some of these sites rather limiting, particularly the small parishes.


I do discover later that East Carlton was once the home of the Palmer family of Huntley and Palmer biscuit fame.

Gretton: the good and the bad

In Gretton there is a village green that features an impressive war memorial, it is unusual in that it records all of the seventy two men who served in WW1 and returned, as well as the thirty five men who lost their lives – the names of the dead are picked out in gold. My attention is drawn to the name Tee Boon – one unfamiliar to me, it lists one Tee Boon as dead, whilst six survived. I assume they were all related.  Friendship regiments meant that people from the same village were allowed to serve together, hence why some villages suffered dramatic losses.

On the same village green is a fenced area that protects the original village stocks and whipping post – these are apparently some of the last remaining in the country. A sign informs us that the last recorded use of the stocks was in 1857 for drunkenness! This did start me thinking about how long someone would be held in the stocks – further research found that: Public humiliation was a major part of punishment in stocks and pillories. These would always be sited in the most public place available, for example the market square or village green. In small communities, those being punished would be well known to everyone else, thereby increasing their shame. The physical discomfort of being confined for long periods in stocks or pillories should not be discounted. People could be left in the stocks for days, even weeks, in all weather. Being stuck in the same position would become very uncomfortable after only a few hours.


Harringworth – arches and eggs

01long distance via

The Welland railway viaduct is a spectacular architectural feature spanning the Welland valley with its 82 arches; this grade II listed building was completed in July 1878 and, according to Wikipedia, is the longest masonry viaduct across a valley in Britain. As we drive from village to village we pass under the viaduct on several occasions – I am drawn to the hand painted
figures at the base of each arch/span, which depict their numerical construction order. I am keen to find out more about the construction of this engineering feat, and specifically about the workers and working conditions.

The Health and Safety section of the Manton to Kettering line helpfully lists all the deaths that occurred during the building of the viaduct. The youngest casualty was just 13 years old. In December 1877 Alfred Hide died at Glaston tunnel whilst attending an engine fire. He had got caught in a cog wheel which drew him into the engine. Other reports include men falling to their deaths either from the scaffolding or into the shaft holes.
Further investigation shows that there was a Zeppelin attack on the viaduct in 1916.

In the village, next to the White Swan pub (which was sadly closed at 1pm on a Sunday), an honesty box was in operation for free range eggs – a bargain price of £1 per half dozen!

Stories behind closed doors



Located some distance from the village, in the middle of fields, and accessed only by passing through three closed gates, St Mary’s church at Warkworth contains stories of medieval knights, Lords, Ladies and fairy tale castles.

The 13th century church was originally built as a chapel for Warkworth castle which was the home of crusader knight, Sir John de Lyon. The castle is no more – but the church remains and today is home to a congregation of 8 villagers.



Wakerley: who is Julie?

We pass Wakerley woods and enter the village – the signpost features some interesting

01village sign

The entrance to the church features a memorial arch with the names of the fallen on one side, and wounded on the other, alongside the expert carving of these panels is a hand-painted sign, screwed to the gate, which shows less craftmanship!

I am becoming aware that signage and lettering seem to be one of the main focus areas of my enquiry at the moment.