site visit

Welford, Elkington and Winwick

The return trip from a making day in the North provided the opportunity to re-visit the last villages on my section of the Jurassic Way to search out possible starting points for the final stories.

The first visit to Welford with P some months before had led to The Wharf Inn and a notice board listing local walks.  Having read about The Welford Arm of the Grand Union Canal I was interested to find a story to represent this.  The notice boards and village website provided information about boatmen, business men and their lives.  I was drawn to the story of Mary Gilbert who ran the Inn and continued to expand the business her husband began after his death.

In Elkington I found the village notice board but little else!  Surrounded by fields and sheep only one or two farm buildings seemed to make up this tiny settlement.  After taking the photographs, I discovered farmers listed in Kelly’s directories and eventually happened upon a report examining large scale sheep grazing in the sixteenth century.  Apparently many flocks were pastured on deserted village sites such as Elkington and an individual called Sir John Spencer emerged as the most renowned at this time!

The tiny village of Winwick on the other hand was home to a church on a hill, a hall and a manor.  The village website and additional local history sites provided a wealth of information about owners of the manor, rectors and their families.  I became drawn to the story about Juliana Poole who started the Winwick Orphanage for boys in 1877.  Further detail about the orphanage, the school master and Juliana was found through online census listings.



Charwellton: Royal Connections & Bridge 491



First research led to searching out and recording the village notice board.  This time the board was situated just outside the village hall.  Originally a cottage,  the village website claims that the hall was donated by The Knightley’s of Fawsley to the residents of Charwelton in 1922 as a place to meet and socialise.  Lady Knightly of Fawsley was  lady-in-waiting to The Duchess of Albany who died in 1922 which may have initiated the  donation?

The Duchess, originally Helena Princess of Waldeck-Pyrmont, married Queen Victoria’s youngest son in 1881.  Tragically Leopold died in 1884 and left Helena a widow at the age of 23.  Reading about Helena I have come to understand that The Duchess had a strong sense of duty and a genuine love for her charity work which led her to work closely with hospitals, sponsor auctions and raise funds, until her death.  In 1894 she established The Deptford Fund to assist in finding alternate employment for women who worked in the cattle slaughtering trade which at the time was a dangerous occupation.  Allegedly Queen Victoria grew to respect her daughter-in-law after the death of Prince Leopold as she had the courage to stand up to her!  One example of this was The Duchess disagreeing with the Queen’s original choice of lady-in-waiting and imploring with her face-to-face to choose her own attendants which Queen Victoria relented to!

The Duchess travelled by rail to Charwelton station to visit Lady Knightley, her lady-in-waiting, in 1905.  Children of Charwelton assembled on the platform of the station in their best clothes with flags and flowers to welcome her.

L2526 Charwelton_Railway_Station

The station at Charwelton  opened in 1899 and closed in 1963!  It is no longer visible and has been completely demolished apart from Bridge 491 – a small metal bridge which once carried  a minor road across the railway line.  The station was part of the Great Central Railway and included a goods yard and extensive sidings to cater for the ironstone quarries.  At it’s peak there were often more than 200 wagons stabled in the goods yard!

L2767 charwelton(1903)old3 charwelton(tony_harden1.1951)old1charwelton(hcc7.1946)old6


The village hall website provided further information to the origins of Charwelton including reference to the village name being derived from the river Cherwell which used to rise from the arched cellar of an old farm house in the village!  British History online provided references to prehistoric, medieval and more recent times alongside a series of beautiful maps which seem to echo the decorative patterning of the railway lines and may provide the style of visual imagery to represent the village.







West Haddon: Bike Hire & Repairs


First research led me to All Saints Church, the village notice board attached to the wall opposite,  Crown Lane and the adjoining pub.

Initial interest in Crown Lane led to the local history group website and a wealth of social history stories to choose from.  The website identifies that the success of tradesmen  within the village was due to the commercial advantage of being located  at the crossroads from Warwick to Northampton and Banbury to Market Harborough!  The website continues with information cited from ‘The Militia Lists’ (1770’s) which recorded every male villager between the ages of 18 and 45 along with their occupation.  This identified that twice as many people were weaving and woolcombing than farming at that time.

Other businesses listed throughout the centuries include the clockmaking father and son, Valentine and John Hanbury who moved to West Haddon from Watford at the beginning of the 1900’s.  Also Thomas Patch and John Johnson who became brickyard partners and began building cottages in the 1820s.

wh_station_rd_ovis_1    wh_station_rd_tithe_yard_1


Searching for an individual to represent West Haddon, I became particularly drawn to the trade section of the website which presents recounted memories of businesses operating within living memory and include:

Symington Corset Factory
Doris Webb’s mother and grandmother worked at Symington Corset Factory which was allegedly hardly more than a shed  with six sewing machines in.  According to Doris, girls would train at the factory and pay one shilling per week towards the purchase of the machine she worked on.  The pay differed depending on the quality of stitching on each corset!  Once a girl had enough money to buy her own  machine she would work from home.

Cross Butchers                                                                                                                                                 The butchers killed their own animals in Crown Lane watched on by boys of the village. The down side to this was the rise in rats which then invested the thatched roofs of cottages in Elizabeth Road!

Bush Bakery                                                                                                                                                Denys Bush recalls that his father used to use the huge bakehouse ovens to  roast people’s Sunday lunches on the one day they were not being used to bake bread.

Bike Hire & Repairs                                                                                                                                      Next door to Bush’s Bakery, Fred Hutchins looked after the bikes of the village. He repaired them, and even ran a bike hire service for those without bikes of their own!





Watford: The Gap & The Rockers



First research led to this three sided partially empty village notice board positioned in front of the community centre and a small well.  Different in form and scale from previous notice boards I was drawn to the gaps and the evidence of past notices through left pin holes and lighter coloured areas of wood.

The village website revealed a massive wealth of social history including a detailed account of Watford Gap.  The website notes that whilst North of Watford Gap is now used to distinguish the South from the North of England historically the phrase refers to an important cross-roads on coaching routes and an actual inn from the 17th century called The Watford Gap.

In the 1950’s work began on the development of the first motorway.  The M1 was to pass through Watford Gap joining London to Birmingham. The village website notes that despite Lady Henley making a television appearance to protest about the invasion of the motorway on the rural idyll of Watford, the motorway was officially opened by Ernest Marples, Minister of Transport, on 2nd November 1959.  This reference to protest of industrial development links back to England and the Octopus by Williams-Ellis (connected to Wardington)

Watford Gap services opened on the same day as the M1 and as such is the first and oldest motorway service station!



Prior to the M1 being built the Blue Boar filling station was located on the crossroads of the A5.  The company name refers to a local legend of a Blue Boar who lived beside the lake. As compensation for lost business Blue Boar were offered the opportunity to run the Watford Gap service area.  Allegedly as soon as the services opened they became a prominent landmark for drivers and their fine-dining experience led to them reading their maximum capacity on their first day of opening!




In its day Blue Boar was the place to be!

Service stations were at the cutting edge of catering innovation!   Blue Boar pioneered cooked meals being reheated in ovens for queues of motorists and in 1965 a plate of bacon and eggs cost just two shillings!


Memories of teenage Rugby Rockers who frequented Watford Gap in the 1960’s recall studded  R.R.  initials alongside their names on the back of black leather jackets.   Known as Whippet and Boxer the girls spent their evenings at Blue Boar and worked at the Co-Op Milk during the day on delivery rounds at 4am each morning.  Whippet recalls:

Watford Gap was the place to go even if you had no transport, people would walk up there or thumb a lift and stay all night!   It was electric!

Staverton: Elizabeth Darby and a fire engine


First research into Staverton has led to an Elizabeth Darby who bequeathed a fire engine to the village in 1720 following a fire which destroyed  22 houses, haystacks, stables and grain stores from the original village behind the church. Who was Elizabeth? and why a fire engine?


I found this image of a fire engine within the Information & History section of the Staverton Parish Website.  Allegedly the fire engine was kept in the village until recently when it was moved to Daventry museum.

Chipping Warden: History & Heritage



The altered  Medieval village sign pays tribute to RAF Chipping Warden which significantly changed the village for 5 years from 1941-1946.  An airfield, hospital and series of Nissan huts were built just northwest of the village.  The hospital is now a school, one of the Nissan huts is the football club’s hut and the the aerodrome is part of an industrial estate.  An account from Domesday Reloaded records that the hospital became a school in the early 1950’s and notes that the single story building has long corridors and wards turned into classrooms.

First research into RAF Chipping Warden led me to names of individuals who were based  there and stories of war time raids.  One in particular listed the last flight of a Wellington Bomber which crashed south east of the airfield killing all but one of her crew.  LP286 was returning home and overshot the airfield due to engine problems.  The crew were remembered with honour and were all aged early to mid twenties:

Flight Sergeant WJ Hillier -Pilot
Sergeant H Mairs -navigator
Sergeant AG Grant- Air Bomber
Sergeant JB Egan – Wireless Operator
Sergeant P McGowen- Air gunner
Sergeant PV Birch- Air gunner (only survivor)

The story continues with an account of a meeting with a witness to the crash.  At the time the witness attended the old primary school by the church in the centre of the old village.  The man recalled the plane flying over with smoke trailing from the starboard engine and that following the crash the children were sent home.  The witness continued with memories of the excitement of planes flying, and as a small child having no awareness to the true horror of the crash.



Beginning to piece it all together


In response to sharing working practices with P  I have begun to piece together the different strands of my research in order to collate the visual and written data to document the 18 towns within my section of the walk.  Literally piecing together through cutting, sticking, writing and drawing adding layers and linking elements  within my sketchbook has enabled me to search out an image, an individual and their story.  I still have gaps but am slowly beginning to see how each story fits with it’s neighbour and where there is a gap my research is becoming more purposeful.

Several stories and their corresponding images need to be further refined before they are posted, however this process of re-assessing and re-looking has led to the uncovering of a greater level of detail and some ideas around the visual imagery to best represent the found stories.

Research this week has been through use of the internet which whilst has made effective use of my time (commuting to and from work) may need to be further expanded by returning to make additional site visits.

Sibbertoft: The wellington and washing


This is the final village visit of my section of the walk. The Old School house features a brickwork date on the gable end, next door stands the church which has some lovely detailing in the porch area – the door hinge and decorative floor tiles in particular.

05 sign not mine

This above image of the plaque is one I have found since the visit – and have subsequently researched further. As it states, in 1941, a Wellington of 305 (Polish) Squadron returning from a raid on Cologne crashed near Sibbertoft. All six crew members were killed. After removal from the wreckage the crew’s bodies were placed in out-buildings at the Red Lion public house in Sibbertoft to await collection by the military.

Pictured here is Flight Officer Golacki the second pilot who was only 22 years old, the other photo is believed to be the crew.

There is also a nineteenth century reference to the Red Lion pub from the Sibbertoft village website which records that at this time the village saw major improvements being made, ‘this was due to the new Lady of the Manor, Lady Villiers.  She had acquired Sulby Hall and its lands by the middle of the century. Lady Villiers was a stickler for propriety. Tenants of hers (and most of the villagers were) could not hang out clothes on Sunday. All had to attend church and line up outside to doff their caps or curtsey to her after service.  Those that didn’t abide by her rules were thrown out of their homes. Despite this picture of Victorian rectitude the village had quite a reputation as being a wild and lawless place.  Heavy drinking in the Red Lion and poaching on an industrial scale seemed to be the order of the day.  Running fights between the local ruffians and the Constabulary were not unknown’.

Something else to note, up until the Industrial Revolution, flax weaving and farming formed the principle trades of the village. I wonder if, like in one of T’s previous posts regarding Silver Street, there are any street or house references to flax weaving?

East Farndon: A dancer with bells on

09a ??firemark

Another picturesque village set on a hill. The houses became the main focus here and when I took the photograph of the small sun plaque, high up on the front of a house, I had no idea what it represented; having referred to Geoffrey Grigson’s Country Alphabet book, it seems likely that this is actually a firemark – or insurance sign, these were issued after the Great Fire of London when it became apparent that some houses needed insuring. The number is the insurance policy number, they were affixed to houses and told the fire brigade that the house was their responsibility.
On the main street there seems to be a trend for naming houses based on their original use, and another nice feature is the date brickwork feature on the gable end.

I found this personal recollection from Marjorie Houlston (nee Read) who lived in East Farndon and she refers to some of the houses:
I remember three shops in the village. One is now ‘Hillside’ and was kept by a Mr Mayes. Then there was the Post Office and shop kept by Mrs Nichols (now ‘The Old Post Office’) and one in ‘Ivy House’, kept by a rather eccentric lady called Mrs Dancer. She used to sell everything and had small bells stitched to her long skirts, which tinkled when she moved about. 

I love this evocative image of Mrs Dancer – and just the sort of person you can imagine fascinating – or scaring(!) young children, I imagine her being rather bohemian. Bells seem to be a recurring theme at the moment! (The images above show Ivy House from two different angles).

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.