Clanfield and Bampton Historical Society
The society was founded as the Clanfield Historical Society on September 26th 1960 at a meeting in the Methodist Hall chaired by Rev. Oxley. Bampton was only added in 2010-11.
Ernest Pocock was the first treasurer and Dorothy Wise was elected as secretary in her absence. Although Mrs Wise only stayed in that position for two years, her pearls of historical wisdom have over the intervening years graced the pages of the Clanfield What?
Ernest Pocock remained as treasurer until his untimely death in 1983. The society was said to be ‘very close to his heart’, as was Clanfield’s own story going back to antiquity. A History of Clanfield in Oxfordshire, prepared from his manuscripts and published by his family and friends in 1999, contains much valuable research. The only regret is that he did not have the time to do more. A Stone Age axe found on his land is now in the Ashmolean Museum.
The initial objective of the society was to organise a series of 10 lectures on pre-history given by Professor Stephens of Magdalen College, Oxford, at a cost of 10 shillings. The first meeting was held less than one month after the inauguration, on October 16th.
The Rev. Oxley was chairman for just two years, but then Mrs Cummings filled that position from October 1962 to February 1983, when she moved to Bampton. In our present amalgamated state she could of course have continued, but probably felt that 21 years service was long enough. Patricia George chaired for the next two years, then Barbara Slocock until 1988.
Speakers were by the sound of it, not given an easy ride under Mrs Slocock’s chairmanship, one being described as being ‘very poor, but the slides were delightful’. In 1987 Eddie Birch, curator of the British Telecom Museum in Oxford ‘faced a potentially hostile audience’ because of the problems villagers were having with their phones but managed to charm his way out of trouble.
The society itself was in trouble in the late 1980s and might well have come to a premature end. The meeting on 17th May 1988 was described in the minutes as ‘a complete travesty. Only two members came, and they had 'our grateful thanks'. The intended annual outing was cancelled ‘for lack of interest’, and representation at ‘the dig at Lechlade was embarrassing'. 'If members are not interested, please let us know’.
So it was perhaps not surprising that in 1989 no one could be found to stand as chairman. But fortunately Ruth Fowler and Geoffrey Fowler jointly stood in for the season and then Gordon Shute took over for a seven-year stint, when the society moved its meetings from the Methodist Hall to the Carter Institute. They have been held there ever since, except during the floods of 2007 and in the past two seasons, our incursions to Bampton. Angie Bell, Austin Hilditch, Robin Stainer, David Slack and the present incumbent Alan Smith, have filled the chair since then.
If the chairmanship of the society has been, since Mrs Cummings’ era, something of an transient position, the society has benefited considerably from the longevity of its secretaries, with just three, and counting, in the past 32 years. Elizabeth Maxwell filled that rôle from 1980-92, followed by Helen Groves until 2000, when Raena Farley not only took over, but combines it with being treasurer as well. In her spare time Raena is now also chair of the Clanfield Women’s Institute!
In its early days the society had a fully-fledged committee, but it had become something of a two-man band recently, with a chairman plus Raena Farley wearing her two hats. With the addition of Bampton it was felt that there should be a return to greater representation: John Greatrex kindly agreed to be a temporary vice chairman, and Grace and Richard Wilkins, who live in Bampton. It was Grace’s idea originally to incorporate Bampton which has many thriving societies but did not have an historical one .Grace and Richard were, with the agreement of members at the 2011 AGM, coopted on to the committee. John, busy with the Faringdon Rotary Club asked to step down and so, from 2012, Grace Wilkins will be vice chairman.
The historical society was once described as ideally being ‘a friendly meeting of likeminded people with a common interest’. That remains its objective, with everyone welcome, either as annual members, at a fee of £17 for 2012-13, when the season resumes in October, or paying £3-50 per meeting.