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Clanfield and Bampton Historical Society

2014/2015 Season

The society was founded as the Clanfield Historical Society on September 26 1960 at a meeting in the Methodist Hall chaired by Rev. Oxley.

Ernest Pocock was elected the first treasurer and Dorothy Wise in her absence was elected as secretary.

Bampton was added during 2010/11.

Although Mrs Wise only stayed in the position of secretary for two years, her pearls of historical wisdom have over the intervening years graced the pages of the Clanfield What!

​The Historical Society was once described as being a "friendly meeting of like minded people with a common interest". That remains its objective with everyone welcome, either as annual members at a fee of £20 for 2014/15 when the season resumes in October 2014 or by paying £4.00 per meeting both including a glass of wine, or soft drink, during our habitual get-together at the end of each meeting.

The meetings will be held in the Carter Institute, Clanfield except on March 18 and May 20 2015 when they will be in Bampton Village Hall.

For further Information please contact either Alan Smith(Chairman) on 01367 810245 or Raena Farley(Hon.Sec and Treasurer) on 01367 810604



October 21 – Liz Woolley: ‘Children and War: Experiences of WW II in Oxfordshire’.

Liz Woolley , local historian, author, guide and lecturer and treasurer  of the Oxfordshire Local History Association, writes: ‘Thousands of evacuees found refuge in Oxfordshire and became part of residents’ homes and schools. This talk looks at how children, both who lived in the county or were evacuated here, were affected’. Liz Woolley's presentation was an excellent start to the season. Alan Smith's summary of the evening can be read or dowloaded here.



A special feature of 3hrs of interviews with evacuees to Clanfield and Bampton can be found below on this page.


November 18 – Paul Backhouse: ‘Excavations at the First World War Burial Site at Fromelles’.

Paul Backhouse, formerly with Oxford Archaeology and now Head of Imaging and Visualisation at English Heritage, worked on the site at Fromelles.

A summary of Paul Backhouse's talk on November18th by Alan Smith

On July 19th and 20th July, 1916, Australian and British troops launched an attack; within 14 hours 5,533 Australian and 1,547 British lay dead or dying on the battlefield. During 2009 a joint UK/Australian project recovered 250 bodies, and with DNA testing 124 were identified. This is the story of that project’.

On 19th and 20th July 1916 Australian and British troops launched a ferocious attack upon the well-entrenched German lines at Fromelles on the Western Front as part of a diversionary tactic for the battle of the Somme; within 14 hours 5,533 Australian and 1,547 British lay dead or dying on the battlefield.

 It was the first major action seen by Australian troops in Europe and is described by the Australian War Memorial as "the worst 24 hours in Australia's entire history".  The scale of the losses were so great that the news needed to be covered up back home, and even to this day it carries a poignant and highly emotive resonance in Australia’s national psyche.

Step forward over 90 years and echoes of this military disaster were revealed when historical research uncovered evidence for a mass grave on the edge of Pheasant Wood, just outside the village of Fromelles.

 During 2009, a joint Australian and British project recovered 250 bodies from the grave, and this story was thrillingly told to the society in the Carter Institute by Paul Backhouse, then of Oxford Archaeology (now at English Heritage), who worked on the excavations along with an expert international team. Paul related the stories of two Australian brothers who both died in the battle, and also of the painstaking efforts the project team went to in order to identify the soldiers from the mass grave.

 An unprecedented level of DNA testing led to 124 of the soldiers being identified; these along with the unidentified remains have been buried in a new military cemetery within the village – the first such cemetery to be created since the aftermath of the First World War.

The society will now have the usual mid-season break until meeting, at 7.30pm in the Carter Institute, Clanfield, on February 17th, 2015, when Bill King will talk to us about ‘The River Thames at War’. I hope to see you there, and in the meantime have a Happy Christmas.


February 17 – Bill King: ‘The River Thames at War’.

Bill King, an authority on many aspects of the British war effort, among his eclectic list of interests, looks at ‘Why the River Thames was such an important strategic feature in World War II, and its role in the defence of the country’.

In May 1940, when, after the remnants of the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated from Dunkirk, the might of the German Army stood on the French coast poised to invade Britain, rapid defences were deployed in case that happened, and no part of that defence was more important than the River Thames, as Bill King told a packed and engrossed meeting of the society in Clanfield’s Carter Institute.
 A summary of Bill King's Talk on Feb 17th by Alan Smith
Stretching more than 200 miles from west to east, the Thames, and its tributaries, form a natural barrier to any mass progress if an invading army, having landed on the south coast, wanted to move north. So for hundreds of years the bridges over the Thames have played a vital role in British history, including the first that was built over the river, at Radcot just a mile or so from where Bill gave his talk: the forces of Queen Matilda and King Stephen fought there, as did the Roundheads and Cavaliers during the Civil War.
In World War ll, while the forces rescued at Dunkirk were sent to the north of England to regroup and be re-equipped – almost all of the best British armaments had been left behind in France – the Thames Valley was being readied for the expected invasion.
In just two months an anti-tank ditch had been dug across the country, from the Medway to the Somerset Levels, and all sorts of static defences laid out along the Thames, many of which can still be seen today: pill boxes were built every half-a-mile from Teddington to Lechlade, together with embedded concrete blocks in a variety of shapes to stop everything from tanks to motorcycles on roads and especially bridges. Smaller towns, including Witney, Burford and Faringdon, were turned into ‘anti-tank’ islands.
The Upper Thames Patrol had been created as early as 1939, to protect the river and up to a mile on either side of it; as Bill told us its initials (UTP) were facetiously said to stand for ‘Up The Pub’ because many of its local headquarters were in public houses, including The Swan at Radcot and The Rose Revived and The Maybush, north and south of Newbridge, which were fortified to defend the bridges. The UTP was on patrol 24 hours a day from its formation in 1939 until it was disbanded in 1944.
Thanks, above all, to the RAF, but also to a Navy still strong despite their losses, and to the home defences – searchlights every 6000 yards from London westward and anti-aircraft batteries that could fire eight shells a minute – the invasion never happened, but Bill King’s detailed account of the preparations made in case it had, and much else of Oxfordshire’s contribution to the war effort made for a fascinating evening.



March 18 - Alastair Lack: ‘Oxfordshire Country Houses’.

Alastair Lack, Oxford-based author and lecturer whose talks at the 2014 Oxford Literary Festival were a sell-out, will tell us about his ‘Four favourite Oxfordshire houses, all different: a small family home, a great palace, a Jacobean masterpiece and an isolated house of great beauty’.

A summary of Alistair Lack's talk on March 18 by Alan Smith

Oxfordshire has its fair share, or maybe more, of country houses and the society was treated to an in-depth look at four of his particular favourites – all quite different and with their own unique features - in a well-illustrated and absorbing talk by Alastair Lack at Bampton Village Hall.


Two of the houses that Alastair talked about have been in the same family since they were built, including the county’s most famous, Blenheim Palace, on land given by Queen Anne to John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough, to celebrate his famous victory over the French. It was designed principally by John Vanbrugh, though Churchill’s wife Sarah had wanted Christopher Wren, and there mishaps aplenty, including a falling-out with Queen Anne, before it was completed.  And when it was, Vanbrugh, by then persona non grata, was turned away when he tried to visit.


Alastair told us that when the Orangery was being built much of the stone ‘disappeared’, only to reappear later as part of some of the buildings, including Barclays Bank, in adjacent Woodstock. The gardens created by ‘Capability’ Brown was so extravagant that when George III visited for the first time he remarked grumpily: ‘We have nothing like this at Windsor’.


Sir Robert Dormer bought the manor of Rousham in the 1630s and, with interruptions for the Civil War, began building the house in which his descendants live to this day. His son, also Robert, inherited in 1649, and ensured its enhanced continuation by marrying twice, each time to an heiress: his second wife was the daughter of Sir Charles Cottrell, and it was his son, Colonel Robert Dormer-Cottrell who called in William Kent both to refurbish the house and lay out the 25-acre garden which is a masterpiece of classical references.


Although the gardens are open to the public, the house is only rarely so and then only with organised groups. Our society was able to arrange such a trip some years ago – shown round by the present incumbent, Charles Dormer-Cottrell - and also to Chastleton House, another of Alastair’s choices.


Once the property of Robert Catesby, the estate was bought by Witney woollen merchant Walter Jones, who pulled down the existing castle and built the present house between 1607 and 1612, and whose family lived in it for over 300 years. It has hardly changed over the years,  but the family fortunes diminished - it was such a cold house that priceless tapestries were cut up to patch over cracks in the wall - and in 1991 it passed to the National Trust, who also own the fourth in the talk, Ashdown House.


Ashdown was built, in 1662 by William Earl of Craven for Elizabeth of Bohemia, the hapless ‘Winter Queen’, daughter of James ll, but she died before she could live there. Although near to Lambourn, the house is so isolated that no other house can be seen from it, and it is, said Alastair, the least visited of any house open to the public in England or Wales. To ‘declare an interest’, having, over the years, spent many hours walking various of our dogs in the estate without ever going in to the house, this is something I must soon put right.


Our next talk, in the Carter Institute, Clanfield, at 7.30pm on April 21st, will show where researching one’s family tree can sometimes lead: when Paddy Walsh began looking at his father’s Irish roots he little thought he would end up in ‘The Indian Mutiny of 1857’. See you there.

Alan Smith


April 21 - Paddy Walsh: ‘The Indian Mutiny of 1857’.

When Paddy Walsh began research into his family history his main objective was ‘to ascertain the Irish roots on my father’s side of the family, but I little realised that it would lead me into investigating some of the worst tragedies of the Indian Mutiny in 1857’.

A summary of Paddy Walsh's talk on April 21 by Alan Smith

Many people, when investigating their family’s history, discover something disturbing – maybe a sheep stealer hanged for his crime or a boy transported to Australia for taking a loaf of bread – but few can have encountered the wholesale tragedy that Paddy Walsh did, as he told the society’s meeting in the Carter Institute, Clanfield, in a talk illustrated on the Institute’s brand new, electronically-controlled screen, part of a refurbishment that will also include a projector of cinematic quality.

Paddy Walsh, of Irish descent, was born in India, at Khargpur, where his father Jack had worked on the Bengal Nagpur Railway from 1923 until 1948, when, like so many Europeans, the family left, following the partition of the sub-continent in 1947. Jack had followed in the footsteps of many generations of Walshes and it was while looking into their stories that Paddy came to the Indian Mutiny of 1857, one of the most harrowing episodes in the often-troubled history of Anglo-Indian relations.

After delving deep into archives over some five years, Paddy found that no fewer than sixteen members of the Walsh family had been killed during the uprising, including his great-great grandfather William, his wife, their six daughters and four sons-in-law and four grandchildren, with stories of promised safe passage from besieged towns such as Cawnpore being then reneged upon with merciless massacres of men, women and children. Paddy’s great grandfather, John William and his younger brother Henry, who were at college in Lucknow, were among the few family survivors.

Paddy gave us a brief summary of all that led up to the mutiny, of how the East India Company, though essentially a trading company, had ‘divided’ India into three parts, Madras, Bombay and Bengal, had gradually usurped the powers of many of the Indian princes, creating their own armies in the process. The catalyst for the mutiny has often been said to have been when Indian soldiers – Moslems and Sikhs – were told to grease their guns with cow and pig grease, which would have been strictly against their religions.

Paddy said that orders had been given for them to use beeswax and linseed instead, but in April 1857 a group of sepoys, thinking this was a trick, refused to obey orders, were sentenced to 10 years hard labour and that this triggered off the mutiny that quickly gathered strength with such appalling consequences.


Our next and last talk of the current season will be less harrowing, though I am sure no less interesting when, on May 20th in the Bampton Village Hall, at 7.30pm, Julie Thorne will tell us the story of ‘The Water Gypsy: how a Thames fishergirl became a Viscountess’. I hope to see you there.


May 20 – Julie Ann Godson: ‘The Water Gypsy: how a Thames fishergirl became a Viscountess’.

Historian Julie Ann Godson has researched and written the story of Betty Ridge, the daughter of an Oxfordshire fisherman, who married William Flower, the Anglo-Irish Viscount Ashbrook, struggled as a young widow to protect her children’s interests in 18th Century Ireland and saw her granddaughter become the Duchess of Marlborough. She says ‘The reality is far more intriguing than the myth’.


June 16 – AGM and Dinner


Contacts: Alan Smith (chairman: tel. 01367 810245. Email: Raena Farley (Hon.Sec & Treasurer: 01367 810604)


Following Liz Woolley's talk on 21 October 2014, Janet Rouse has kindly allowed us to place the following interviews made with past evacuees to Clanfield and Bampton on our website. The recordings were made during 2003.

Special Feature. Interviews with Evacuees to Clanfield and Bampton.

Albert Chambers. An Evacuee to Clanfield .

A Personal Record.

1 Hour

Nellie Newman(nee Beckinsale)

Below Stairs at Weald Manor.

The War

Wellington Crash.Evacuees

American Children

Recorded September 9 2003 .40 Minutes

Joyce Cotter. An Evacuee to Bampton.

25 Minutes

Edie Quick with Ruth and Cyril Wheeler

The downside of evacuees

Edie on the bombing of Plymouth

German bodies an a Norfolk beach

Cyril on cobbling

Recorded 2003 37minutes.

Ruth Wheeler & Edie Quick talk about Evacuees who came to Bampton.

Recorded November 6 2003. 25 Minutes

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