BHS Notes


Rosy Burke

Rosy Burke, a local creative artist who regularly exhibits at the Church Lane Gallery, Banbury and with the Chacombe Art Group in Chacombe Village Hall, has made a number of Videos and Slide Shows, all of which will entertain and some of which will inform with considerable Local Historical interest. I list some titles below, but the full list with active links can be found on her youtube website at:

● Alcan - Sapa 2008, the MOVIE, Banbury 2008
● Alcan - Sapa 2008 - When there was fire in the furnace and power in the press.
● Banbury Christmas Event - Late Night Shopping in the old town centre on 12 Decomber 2019
● Banbury on a frosty evening.
● Banbury Hobby Horse Festival 2017 Slideshow
● Banbury Hobby Horse Festival Sunday 4th July 2010
● Banbury Hobby Horse Festival Saturday 3rd July 2010
● Banbury Halloween 2017
● Browse the independent shops in Parsons Street, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX16
● The fine Lady Upon a White Horse - how she came to 'ride' to Banbury Cross.
● Banbury Old Town Party, Armed Forces Parade and St. Mary's Fete 2012.
   etc. etc. etc.

A weary knight

(A weary knight - observed by ICW)


Book Review

REVIEW of Victorian Brackley by John Clarke (Phillimore 2018 190pp  ISBN 978 0 7509 8758 5 ) £16.99

John Clarke grew up in Brackley, and what comes over very strongly in this, his third book about the history of Brackley, is his intimate knowledge of the town and his deep affection for it.  His previous two books (The Book of Brackley published in 1987, and Yesterday’s Brackley: from Restoration to Reform, in 1990) took the story as far as the beginning of the great age of reform in the 1830s.  Victorian Brackley takes us from there into the twentieth century.  Though Brackley has always tended to be overshadowed by Banbury, its larger neighbour, and has always been part of ‘Banburyshire’, despite being in a different county and diocese, it has always had a character of its own.

Brackley was small enough for individual people to have a large influence, and John Clarke tells the story of nineteenth-century Brackley through a series of events and characters who dominated the life of the town.  The shocking story of the child who was scalded to death in the workhouse took Brackley scandalously into the national news, with Workhouse Guardians who saw the workhouse as ‘an instrument for the moral reform of the lower orders’.   There were arguments with Magdalen College, Oxford, which had founded a school in Brackley centuries before, but had neglected it.  Thomas Judge, ‘the Demon Grocer of Brackley’, was a vital force in fighting for the abolition of church rates and for further electoral reform.  In the 1860s a new Vicar arrived who became a dominant figure, pushing the Parish Vestry towards improving public health among other things.

One of the oddities of the town was that the Egerton family, who owned much of Brackley, had always been absentee landlords (though the Duke of Bridgewater was responsible for building the handsome Town Hall at the bottom of the Market Place) but in the 1870s the then squire built a new manor house at the top of the town (now Winchester House school).  This was extraordinary at that time, when aristocratic families, if building new houses, were usually constructing grandiose country piles in the middle of a gentry park. 

Brackley missed out on development in the nineteenth century because of its poor position on the railway network, but the ‘London extension’ of the Great Central railway brought a boost to Brackley, and enabled hunting people from London to come up to Brackley by train to join local hunts.  This came to an end with the outbreak of the First World War when hunters were commandeered to go to France. 

John Clarke has filled this book with fascinating local detail:  he remembers that there were old people in Brackley in his childhood who still felt that they shouldn’t show themselves too often in the High Street – the lower orders were expected to use the ‘Back Way’ (now Manor Road), just as in grand houses the servants always used the back stairs.  He has also been careful to describe the changes and reforms to local government and how these affected the way the town was run.  The  book is beautifully and generously illustrated with old photographs.

Deborah Hayter


Anthony (Tony) Cooper

Members might like to know that the funeral of Tony Cooper will take place on 14th April. Because of COVID-19 arrangements are complicated. There will be a webcast on 14th April and also a 'watch-again' option that will be available for 28 days afterwards. Anyone interested should contact Andrew Cooper (,  Tel. 07775 585650). 

(, 11th April 2020)


David Hitchcox.

It is with sadness that we record the recent death of David Hitchcox, a long-term member of the Society, editor of Cake & Cockhorse for a decade between 1984 and 1994, and a member of the committee for several years afterwards. A host of memorable articles appeared in the magazine during his time as editor, including the late Ross Gilkes’s celebration of the life of Ted Brinkworth, Rob Kinchin-Smith on Staley’s Warehouse and the Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit’s report on Bridge Street and Mill Lane. David was the manager and subsequently owner of the branch in Church Lane of W Ekins the outfitters. The shop’s closure in 2003 was the subject of an article in the Banbury Guardian (15 January 2004) by Brian Little, which will be reproduced in the anthology of Brian’s writings, Banbury Remembered, to be published by the Society later this year. We extend our sympathy to David’s family. 


The next Banbury Historical Society publication.

 Banbury Remembered: looking back 1995-2019 is an anthology of about a hundred of more than 1200 articles written for the Banbury Guardian which were a hub for local history in the town and its neighbourhood for more than a quarter of a century. The book, edited by Dr Barrie Trinder, is now with the printers. It runs to more than 250 pages, and is well-illustrated and thoroughly indexed. We had hoped to launch the book in May, but the current emergency makes this impossible, and we look forward to its public appearance in the autumn.

(Barry Trinder, March 2020


Book Review

The Parish in Wartime – Bishop Gore’s visitations of Oxfordshire 1914 and 1918, ed. Mark Smith (The Oxfordshire Record Society vol. 73, 2019, 601 pp, ISBN 978-0-902509-75-7

This publication of the two early 20th century episcopal visitations of Oxfordshire marks the centenary of the Oxfordshire Record Society and represents an important source for the history of the county during a period of immense difficulty and change. More than that, it offers a glimpse into how the religious changes introduced in the mid-19th century by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce were working out in practice and to what extent, by the end of the period, wartime conditions had forced further changes. Questions (11 in 1914 and 6 in 1918) were posed to the incumbents who mostly did their best to answer, even if they sometimes struggled to find the answers.
In the early summer of 1914, the Church in Oxfordshire appears to have been thriving in a rather conservative way, led by well-educated clergy who tended to dominate a hierarchical society with generally accepted norms. Probably this was too rosy a scene – the agricultural depression of the late 19th century was still leading to rural de-population, a loss increased when war broke out and many men enlisted for the forces. By 1918 126 parishes reported falling school rolls and only 42 noted rising rolls. These changes in population, already apparent in 1914, had, by 1918, started to erode the influence the clergy were accustomed to wield in their parishes and changes in liturgical practice during the war years, in part due to the need to hold services in daylight rather than at the more popular time in the evening, contributed to falling congregations. Despite this, many parishes reported an increase in sacramental teaching and practice between the two visitations, attributed by the editor to a conscious effort to change the pattern of worship by Bishop Charles Gore, a brilliant if controversial figure who has been described as ‘the most fascinating and influential bishop of the Church of England in the twentieth century’. Oxfordshire clergy, as a whole, adopted changes such as a sung Eucharist much earlier than other parts of the country, though the changes were not always appreciated by their congregations. Another problem for the diocese was that the average age of incumbents was high due to many of the clergy having had earlier careers elsewhere, a tendency increased by the need to recruit new incumbents over the age of enlistment during the war.
Gore was interested in education, as had been his predecessors and wanted information about schools and about proposals for moving the management of church schools to local authorities. School rolls were falling and were unlikely to rise, and a reforming bishop was anxious to make unwelcome changes in the way the clergy were involved in education. The latter tied in with his perceptions of the need for future change but was not appreciated by his clergy who mostly appear to have regarded their customary contributions to existing schools and the management of the Girls Friendly Society, the Mothers’ Union or the Church of England Men’s Society as sufficient.
Episcopal interest in ‘the moral and spiritual effect on the different classes in your parish a) of wartime b) of the National Mission’ provoked extremely varied answers, with a surprisingly large number of parishes (20%) returning an answer suggesting little had changed during the war years. Inevitably sex and drink are singled out as harbingers of a decline in morals (the vicar of Holy Trinity Oxford commented on the manner of dress of young girls ‘(short skirts and transparent stockings etc)’ but that was hardly confined to the war years. One, perhaps unexpected, result of the changes between the two visitations was the rise in income for many rural inhabitants, due to the introduction of a minimum wage for agricultural labourers in 1917 and war-time separation allowances. Clerical influence over those who gained by this appears to have declined, exacerbating tensions and the dislocation of social norms and hierarchies. Despite this, many incumbents reported an increase in concern for those who suffered as a result of bereavement or hardship, perhaps a growth of community spirit as a result of the war. Spiritual changes were less easy to evaluate, but at least 25% of the Oxfordshire clergy detected little or no difference between the two visitations though increased intensity of spirituality appears to have been experienced by those who were already members of the Church. Faith clearly meant a lot to them.
Transcribing and evaluating such a number of returns is a mammoth task and Mark Smith is to be congratulated; his analysis of a wide range of information is detailed and will be of interest to many twentieth century historians. However, the information does need to be seen in the context of England in the throes of social change and the situation of the Church and the Anglo-Catholic movement, in which Bishop Gore himself had played a large part before he became Bishop of Oxford. It would have been helpful to understand more of his stance and to give some indication about how he reacted to the results of the first visitation. Was he satisfied that by the 1918 visitation some changes were happening or was he disillusioned by the general reduction in the influence of the Church? Was that the cause of his resignation the following year? Some such questions still remain but overall this is a monumental achievement which will provide information for historians for many years to come.

(HF, Novenber 2019)


Book Review

Banbury’s People in the Eighteenth Century: from Records and Accounts of the Overseers of the Poor 1708-1797 and other Lists and Sources, transcribed and edited by Jeremy Gibson. Hardback, 365pp including biographical Index of personal names, 2019 Banbury Historical Society vol 36 , ISBN 978 0 900129 35 3.

This volume provides a wealth of detail on the inhabitants of Banbury in the eighteenth century. The introduction provides a succinct overview of the civic landscape of the town, its responsibilities towards the parish poor in relation to its legal obligations and a look at the administration of the local workhouse. Its core comprises a transcription of the Accounts of the Overseers of the Poor (also referred to as the Vestry Book), from 1708 to 1797, previously unpublished and now held by the Oxfordshire History Centre at Cowley. It is indeed rare that such a detailed volume as this has survived, offering us a valuable insight into the lives of Banbury’s people in the eighteenth century. What is even more noteworthy is that the volume is transcribed from the original handwritten material, which is a feat in itself, making the Vestry Book more accessible to demographic researchers, family historians and those with a wider interest in social history.

The volume is not only about the poor, however. Light is also thrown on a broader social spectrum of the town with space allocated to two events in the century; the building of the canal (1768-78) and the demolition of the parish church in 1790. It comprises lists of names of the better off, such as those assessed for land tax and rates (from which relief for the poor was paid), the names of pew owners (1691-1788), shopkeepers (1785-9) and overseers of the poor. A copy of the legislation for taking down the church is also included and the book is interspersed with appropriate excerpts from the Jackson’s Oxford Journal where relevant. Finally, a comprehensive Biographical Index of personal names brings together the 2000 or so Banburians whose names appear in this volume.

The Vestry comprised the ‘middling sort’ of Banburian who acted as vestry members and as actual overseers. One of the roles of the Vestry was to help and sustain the poorest people of the parish. As the author explains in the book’s introduction, particularly vulnerable inhabitants were the sick, aged, orphaned and illegitimate children and widowed mothers with young families. The overseers were responsible for distributing poor relief in the form of money, clothes (or, more likely, cloth and sewing thread) and shoes, and local women were employed by the parish as nurses for the sick and women in childbirth. The Vestry was also responsible for the appointment of the Governor of the workhouse and the setting out of his/her responsibilities. The parish clothed the poor upon entry to the workhouse, thereafter it was the responsibility of the Governor to clothe and maintain inmates, pay for funeral expenses should they die in their care and, with the exception of those with smallpox, pay for any medical care. The 1760s appeared to be particularly concerning for the Vestry when Governor, John Grant was discharged from his office after being ‘complained against by the Overseer … for supplying the said Workhouse with unwholesome Food for the Maintenance of the said poor’ (p137).

A particular strength of this section of the book is the extensive footnotes which make the linkage between parish expenditure and the life events of some of those named. This has been done by cross-referencing detail from parish registers (proven in themselves to be a robust demographic study source), other primary documents and secondary material. This enables the reader to help build up a rounded picture of the lives of Banbury inhabitants and helps to ‘humanise’ those whose lives had been met with adversity. For example, in September 1749 the Vestry recorded that ‘… the affair relating to the late Thomas Allen’s children be pursued in the best method they … the Overseers think proper’ (p105). The author then provides supplementary information drawn from parish registers, informing us that Thomas was a victualler. He married Mary Maice by licence in May 1744. Their daughter, Mary was baptised in August 1746. Thomas died in November 1747 (when Mary was about a year old). With reference to the building of the canal, the book includes several extracts from the diary of Sir Roger Newdigate (held in the Warwickshire Record Office), promotor of the canal project. From this source we learn that several local dignitaries pronounced their disapproval for the scheme ‘without one reason’ in 1768 (p145). However, ten years later, the Jackson’s Oxford Journal demonstrated the impact on the community by reporting that the wharf would be constantly supplied with coal ‘of an exceeding good Quality’ … so rejoiced are they [the inhabitants of Banbury]… the boats are intended to be ushered in, with Bells ringing, Colours flying, and a select Band of Music for the Occasion’ (p178).

This book is a remarkable achievement encompassing a wide range of sources; there is a wealth of material here to explore and analyse and the writer is to be congratulated on what is the culmination of five years’ work. It will, undoubtedly, encourage further research. For example, the abundance of known occupations of inhabitants over a long period can help to build further detail on shifting social patterns, and as the author suggests, publication of accounts spanning a period of 90 years opens the way for comparisons on poor relief spending. It is an attractive book with an eye-catching cover. The current mayor of the town is noted for each year over the period and the names of all individuals are in bold type for easy reference. I’m sure it will inspire members of the Society and others to embark on further research into the workings of the parish and its people in the eighteenth century.

Rosemary Leadbeater .


Book Publication

'The Midlands Canals in 1871' – Dr. Barrie Trinder

Our vice-president Dr Barrie Trinder lectured to the Society on Banburyshire’s Victorian Boatpeople in October 2015. The research that he described is incorporated in his new book, The Midlands Canals in 1871, which is to be published by Robert Boyd Publications on Monday 8 July 2019.

The study is based on an analysis of the 1871 census and covers the network of narrow canals radiating from Birmingham, ‘centre of all the canal traffic of England’, and extending north-west to the Mersey, south-west to the Severn, south-east to the Thames and north-east to the Trent. The book describes the Midlands waterways at a time that has hitherto received little attention from historians. It presents evidence about numbers of vessels and of boatpeople, living conditions on boats, the prosperity or otherwise of individual waterways, the principal traffics and evidence about boatpeople’s culture. There is an extensive bibliography and the text is fully indexed. The book of 242 pages is printed in colour, with nearly 200 illustrations. Nineteen diagrammatic maps show the waterways covered in each chapter. The book re-peoples the waterways, identifying boats in every nook and cranny of the system. It will be a delight to present-day boaters, as well as providing valuable data for local and family historians.

 The book includes a chapter on the Oxford Canal which will be of particular interest to BHS members. Copies will be available to members at a discount price at our AGM at South Newington on Thursday 11 July and at the reception before our first lecture of the 2019-20 series on Thursday 12 September.


Harry Judge (1929-2019).

Few people did more to influence Banbury’s development in the twentieth century than Harry Judge who was appointed headmaster of Banbury Grammar School in 1962, and went on to transform the town’s educational system, being designated  principal of Banbury School from 1967. He left the town in 1973 to direct the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Oxford, a post he held until 1988. He became one of the most respected educationalists of his time, sitting on numerous committees and commissions. Harry Judge’s family had roots in North Oxfordshire, although his father worked for the Great Western Railway and Harry was born and went to school in Cardiff before studying at Brasenose College, Oxford. He was a valued member of the committee of the Banbury Historical Society from 1963, and was elected a vice-president when he stood down. In 1977 he returned to Banbury to deliver to the Society a memorable lecture on ‘History, Politics and Education’. He described his time in Banbury in A Generation of Schooling: English Secondary Schools since 1944 (OUP, 1984). We extend the Society’s sympathy and best wishes to his widow and family.

BT (April, 2019)

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