If you would like news and photos of your family to be included in this section, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in tracing your family history in Steeple Aston, try the Oxfordshire Family History Society website for lots of useful services and links. It’s www.ofhs.org.
Funeral for Eileen Matthews
Eileen Matthews, formerly of Steeple Aston, died aged 98 on Christmas Eve at a Bicester care home. Her funeral will be held at Steeple Aston Parish Church on Friday, 19th January at 11.00am. All are very welcome to attend.
Eileen lived at Cedar Court in Water Lane from when it was built in 1962 until 2011. Her husband Norman, who died in 2002, will be remembered by many villagers as a teacher of sport and music at Dr Radcliffe’s School. He was also well-known as a local councillor and football administrator.
If you have memories or photos of Eileen and Norman that you would like to share, please email email@example.com.
Funeral for David Steels 1943 – 2023
David Steels, who lived in the Crescent in Steeple Aston, died peacefully on Sunday, 20th August.
His funeral will be on Friday, September 15th at 2.00pm in the church. All are welcome.
Mel Smith’s funeral thanks
Thank you to all of you who attended the funeral of my husband Mel Smith on 20th January 2023.
The collection raised was £175. I am very grateful to you all who donated. The money will be divided with Parkinson Disease and Dementia.
Thank you Irene Smith
Remembering May Woods, formerly of Middle Aston
May Woods, a long time resident of Middle Aston, has died aged 78. There is to be a Thanksgiving Service for her life in Steeple Aston church on Tuesday, 2nd May.
Her friend Caroline Parsons has written this tribute:
May died peacefully at home on February 4th surrounded by her family. They had lived at Westcott, Middle Aston for 50 years and their cottage at weekends was a joyful place, full of friends and family.
It was May and Gil who rescued us after our house had burnt down on our wedding day. They lent us the cottage for two weeks while we searched for somewhere to live. From that day in September 1974 we became firm friends.
May was successful at everything she did. She wrote two books, one on the history of glasshouses and the other on European gardens. She lectured both in the UK and in the USA. She was a brilliant gardener and plantswoman and her plant sales both here and in London were legendary. She raised enormous amounts for the Church and other local charities as well as for Fairbridge, now part of the Prince’s Trust. We all remember her plant sales at the Fete.
May and Gil were always in Church on Sundays and before they moved from Westcott, she was an active member of the PCC. They left Middle Aston as May needed to be near the hospital where she had regular blood transfusions.
All of us who knew her will remember her for her enduring kindness, compassion and love.
She made us happy.
There is to be a Thanksgiving Service for May in the church where they worshipped, SS Peter & Paul, Steeple Aston on May 2nd.
Sad death of Adrian Shooter, founder of Chiltern Railways
We are very sad to report the death of Adrian Shooter CBE of The Beeches, Heyford Road, Steeple Aston.
His wife Barbara has asked us to publish the following:
“It is with profound sadness that I have to tell you that my husband, Adrian Shooter, of The Beeches, died on December 13th, on his own terms in Switzerland after his body was ravaged by Motor Neurone Disease.
“Adrian faced death with great courage, dignity and relief. There is a tribute page to him on: adrianshooter.muchloved.com
“I’m very proud of him and my heart is broken.”
Mr Shooter, 74, was an engineer who led the first Chiltern Railways franchise and founded Vivarail, Earlier this year, he unveiled this bronze statue of himself in Marylebone Station. It commemorates his contribution to the rail industry over 50 years, and is pictured here with floral tributes left after his death. There was also a Chiltern Railways train named after him.
He was probably best known in Steeple Aston for the Beeches Light Railway, which ran for nearly a mile around his garden. The sound of his steam engine, built for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, was a familiar one in the village.
You can read more about his life and career in Rail News
Funeral for Mike McKinley
We are very sorry to report the death of former Steeple Aston resident Mike McKinley. Mike was very active in the village, notably with Steeple Aston Players and writing his Sustainable Steeple columns. He was also a pilot, and you can still see his aerial photos of the village in the Photo Gallery archive.
His wife Clare has asked us to publish the following notice:
Young bellringer celebrates with a special peal
Well done to Bellringer Jack Knowles of Steeple Aston who rang a special quarter peal to celebrate his 18th birthday. This was the first time Jack has rung a quarter peal on a working bell in a triples method.
He is pictured here with the other ringers taking part.
Tributes paid to Margaret Mason, former PC Chair
Tributes have been paid to Margaret Mason, the former Parish Council Chair who died suddenly on Friday, 7th January. Margaret was Chair of the Parish Council for 20 years and was the driving force for many improvements in the village during that time.
Her colleague, Councillor Stuart Ferguson, has written the following tribute on behalf of the Parish Council:
It is surely the case that Margaret was one of the most, if not the most, significant members of the Parish Council during its 100+ years history. Her sudden passing has shocked and saddened the Parish Council which would like to pay tribute to Margaret for her long service on the Council. Margaret first joined the Council in May 1986, becoming Vice-Chair in May 1990, before being elected Chair in 1994, a post she held until stepping down in May 2014. 28 years must be one of the longest ever periods of service, but even more notable is what she achieved in 20 years as chair.
I joined the council in May 1998 and am the only member remaining who served under Margaret and will give a flavour of Margaret’s work for the village. Back in 1998 I assumed that Margaret had already been chair for more than four years such was the smooth nature of the meetings. Margaret was the very opposite of those Chairs (not the Parish Council but in the wider world) who aim to get through the business of any length in 30 minutes or so by racing along and not giving members of their committees time to say anything before moving on to the next item. Margaret was always very well informed about every item of business but always gave everyone their say (however off beam), even if this meant some tangential excursions into various village issues. ‘Light touch’ and ‘enjoyable’ come to mind. I quickly realised that Margaret was very well informed about planning issues and rules, had lots of contacts at Highways and Cherwell DC, all of whom seemed always to be on the other end of the phone, and a good appreciation for what architectural styles suited in rural new developments.
I am sure that Margaret would have been very active on the PC around 1990 when the village was faced with direct take-offs of planes over the village from Upper Heyford. But in my time I would pick out several developments where her guidance and acumen led to the best possible outcomes for the village. The first of these was redevelopment and extension of the football pitches. This stemmed from an inescapable requirement to provide decent changing rooms if the village football team was to continue playing in local leagues. It transpired that the only way to get funding for this was to make it part of a larger package of football enhancements. In summary, this involved flattening the Dr Radcliffe’s school pitch and transferring the excess soil to the other side of road so as to extend the turfed area into land which was at the time wooded and owned by a farmer. This involved multiple funding sources and permissions plus taking out a loan which only now has just one remaining year to run. We were fortunate in that Richard Preston, the Vice-Chair, was a master of fund raising and that others in the village contributed various technical expertises; they were all very significant and energetic driving forces. A consequence was a big hike in the precept to pay for some of the work with the remainder being met by grants. Margaret had to co-ordinate the Parish Council’s part, both in seeking permissions and making applications, as well as convincing those like me who were a bit sceptical that this was a doable, affordable and wanted project. A much larger piece of complex business than most Chairs would expect to encounter.
The second ‘big’ thing was the building of the houses in Lawrence Fields. It is fair to say that there was opposition to this but Margaret played a key role in reconciling different interests, controlling the height of the houses, the layout and importantly the retention of the medieval hedge in front of the development. This was the famous occasion when Margaret lay in front of the digger which was about to remove all the hedgerow.
A third significant development was the building of the ‘affordable’ houses at Shepherds Hill. She and others discovered that the land, then uncultivated, was owned by Cherwell and so the Parish Council took up the cause to use the land for such housing. This I clearly recall was a complicated business but in the end Margaret ensured that the houses are of a good design and blend into the village well, while also ensuring that the required pavement connecting the development to the village was rebuilt to make it more compatible with a rural environment.
I am not sure of the details but I think that Margaret was much involved in the acquisition of leases for the Village Hall and Sport and Rec building and certainly the torturous process of acquiring the lease for the allotments (how she stayed so calm in the face of repeatedly incorrect maps provided by the lawyers I will never know). One of her biggest achievements was the re-roofing of the Village Hall. A modest grant was obtained from the Heritage Lottery Fund for what were thought to be relatively small repairs. Once the men got on the roof and removed some of the tiles they announced that every tile needed replacing and that the tiles could not be reused to cover the parts they had already exposed. Margaret contacted the Lottery Fund and somehow persuaded them almost immediately to increase the grant substantially to £65,000, allowing the work to continue and saving the Village Hall from rainwater damage.
Apart from these illustrative big ‘projects’ Margaret carried the burden of all the other aspects of the Parish Council’s work. She must have spent several whole days per week on this business in addition to her major involvement in other aspects of village life, notably the now defunct dramatic society, the Players. There are not many of whom it can be said ‘they made a big and lasting difference’. Margaret was one of those who did, and the Parish Council wishes to record its gratitude to her for all that she did. One can reflect on the fact that there have been three chairs in the seven years since she stood down!
The Parish Council sends its deepest condolences to Roger and the family but hopes that this reflection of Margaret’s contributions to the village might provide some comfort.
Margaret’s colleague and friend Richard Preston worked with her on the Parish Council and later in the Garden Club. He is pictured here presenting her with a bouquet on her retirement from the Parish Council in 2014.
He writes: Very occasionally in life you come across someone who makes a very large contribution to village life and Margaret was one of those people. It is impossible to list all the village activities that she was involved in such as the garden club, flower arranging, especially at the village church, the original play school, and the village drama group.
For me personally and to anyone who has had the privilege to live in Steeple Aston, it was her 20 years as parish council chairperson. I was fortunate in joining the parish council (PC) at the same time as Margaret back in the very early 1990’s and was vice chairman for all those years. In that time and with her persistence and leadership the PC achieved so much which in turn benefited the village. A play facility was born where other attempts had failed and over time became the envy of all around as it developed into what it is today. A toilet was added where other notable towns and villages avoided what they thought would be a recipe for disaster. The Village Hall, Sport and Recreation Building, at that time a near derelict structure, and the surrounding area was brought into the control of the PC after some serious negotiation with Dr Radcliffe’s School Foundation. This in turn led to the development of the S & R Centre with its state-of-the-art changing facilities and the levelling of Robinson’s Close which at the time was on a severe west to east slope. Margaret was the supporting parish council chair that encouraged the working party that went on to achieve over 350k to provide the village with the sports and recreation facilities that we see today.
Two ‘affordable’ homes sites were introduced to the village with an enormous amount of encouragement and pressure placed on the relevant bodies by Margaret to make them happen. She was the lead in making Steeple Aston one of the first villages to take control of its own roadside maintenance. Up to that time we were reliant upon the county council cutting the grass once or twice a year. The list goes on and on but without the sheer determination and commitment of Margaret our village would not be anywhere near such a wonderful place to live. It was my privilege to have worked with Margaret on the PC for those 20 years and if we could learn a lesson from her life committed to the village as hers was, it is that anything is possible if you can reproduce the determination and commitment that was simply Margaret.
And Julia Whybrew adds: “I will miss Margaret. When I have wanted to discuss something delicate or in some way complicated I would talk to Margaret. She was invariably wise and balanced. I have never known her to be unkind or self seeking in any way. On top of that she was fun and well informed in lots of different areas; from gardening to design of china. She got things done, partly from doing a lot of work herself and partly from the outstanding way she got others to contribute. I hope the village can find a way to commemorate her outstanding qualities appropriately.”
Below is a photo of Margaret receiving the cup for Best Floral Artist from Edwina Kinch at the 2010 Summer Show.
If you have any memories of Margaret you’d like to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Memorial service for Margaret Mason, former PC Chair, on 28th January
Her many friends in Steeple Aston were shocked and saddened to hear that Margaret Mason passed away suddenly late on the night of Friday, 7th January. They were invited to a memorial service for her in the church on Friday, 28th January, followed by tea at Middle Aston House.
Margaret was a driving force for many improvements in the village during her 20 years as Chairman of the Parish Council. On her retirement in May 2014, the then Vice-Chairman Richard Preston praised Margaret’s contribution to making Steeple Aston “a wonderful place to live”.
Under her leadership, he said, the parish council had brought many improvements to the village, not least the building of the affordable housing and the children’s play facilities. This has contributed, he said, to making Steeple Aston Parish Council one of the most respected in Oxfordshire. He particularly praised Margaret’s hard work behind the scenes and her achievements over the years in helping the village take control of its own facilities and its future.
Richard’s sentiments were echoed in a letter from local MP Tony Baldry who described Margaret as an outstanding chairman with a considerable record of achievement. He wrote; “The whole community owes a debt of gratitude to Margaret for her service over the years.”
Organisations that Margaret was involved with have been expressing their sorrow at the news and sending their condolences to her husband Roger and the family.
These include the Village Hall Committee where Margaret was a long-standing member, very involved in bringing many actors and musicians here to entertain villagers over the years.
Since her retirement from the Parish Council, Margaret took on the role of Secretary of the Garden Club, putting together programmes of speakers and garden visits. The Garden Club has cancelled its meeting on 18th January, saying it will resume when they are ready to recommence.
Villagers welcome at funeral for Peter Waite, artist and village archive chair
Peter Waite of Northside, Steeple Aston died on Thursday, 14th October 2021 at the Horton Hospital in Banbury. His funeral service will be at the new North Oxfordshire Crematorium and Memorial Park near Tackley on Tuesday, 9th November at 12.00, followed by a gathering back at his home, Cedars Barn, afterwards. Anyone from the village who would like to come will be very welcome.
Many villagers will remember Peter’s line drawings which appeared on the cover of Steeple Aston Life for several years. But drawing was only one of his many talents, as his friend Martin Lipson writes in this obituary.
“Peter Waite, who has died aged 94, was an accomplished painter, sculptor and maker. In the 1980s he was principal of Berkshire College of Art and Design; he was hugely committed to its excellence.
“In 1946, when he was 19, he survived an attack on the Royal Navy ship on which he served, when it was hit by an Albanian mine in the Corfu Channel incident, a notorious attack now largely forgotten.
“Peter developed a keen interest in astronomy and in the natural world, and became an accomplished collector of butterflies, moths and fossils. He travelled with his second wife Pamela to many exotic places in search of rare specimens. On one occasion they were held at gunpoint by Colombian bandits, but survived to tell the tale.
“As an artist, Peter’s work was strongly influenced by the folk art of many countries that he visited, and his papier-mâché figures, in particular, have a powerful resonance with their cultures. In retirement, when he and Pamela were not away on one of many walking holidays, Peter was, until 2006, Chairman of Steeple Aston’s Village Archive. Peter is survived by Pamela, and by his daughter Caroline.”
Here is an example of one of Peter’s SAL covers.
Remembering Mick Bonwick 1948 – 2021
Mick Bonwick ‘s sudden death in August came as an enormous shock to his family and friends. Many condolences to them at this very sad time.
His wife Anne has given us the photo below of him taken in June this year, just a couple of months before he died. She says, “He had just finished laying the base for our new shed and he was very pleased with all his hard work which was on a very hot day!!”
Mick was a lovely man and a great photographer. He was a good friend to the village website, contributing many photos to the site over many years. His pictures of Open Gardens Day were the first to appear in the Media Gallery in 2006.
And last year he worked really hard to take photos of all the wonderful scarecrows around the village.
Mick had a sense of humour too. When asked for his contribution to the competition for My Best Spring Photo, he decided not to send us a picture of flowers or wildlife like most of the other photographers. His contribution was the garden photo below. Steak and chips and a glass of red! Cheers Mick, we will miss you.
If anyone else would like to contribute memories of Mick,please email them to email@example.com.
Baby boy for former SAL editor
Congratulations to the Coker family on the birth of baby Magnus. Becca, who was a co-editor of Steeple Aston Life, has recently welcomed a new addition to the family – like her former colleague Angela Smith, and one or two other mothers living on South Side!
The Bench for Bob is officially opened
When popular local character Bob the Dog died unexpectedly on Sunday, 27th September 2020, his shocked and saddened friends got together online to raise funds for a bench in his memory.
On Thursday, June 10th 2021 they got together in person in the Folly Field to see Bob’s partner Debs Morris declare the bench officially open, and to drink a toast to his memory.
Robert Craig Wilson, known to all locally as Bob the Dog died in the John Radcliffe Hospital following a very short illness. His funeral took place on Wednesday, 28th October at Banbury Crematorium. The funeral procession left Grange Farm and drove through Middle Aston then on to Steeple Aston and many people lined the route to pay their respects.
Amanda Tosh, who organised the fundraising appeal said that whilst raising a glass to Bob outside and in the pouring rain and thunder on the day of his funeral, his friends came up with the idea for a Bench for Bob. There was a great response to the appeal, which raised over £2,000.
She said, “We’d like to thank each and every one of you who donated to the Bench For Bob and his chosen charities. I think he’d be pretty chuffed.
“I must also thank Graham Porcas for ordering the bench and George Rogers for settling it into place.”
Graham, who is pictured here sitting on the bench with Debs, said, “The appeal to raise funds to buy a memorial bench for Bob the Dog was very generously supported by his many local friends. The sum required for the bench was actually achieved in a couple of days but everyone kindly went on donating so that in the end over £1400 was raised for Bob’s favourite charities, for dogs of course!
“Thank you to everyone who donated, and especially Tim and Jenny Taylor who provide the location above The Folly where we finally installed the bench.
“Although the arrangements for the grand unveiling were only made at the last minute there was a good number of friends there to see Debs remove the official temporary railing and declare the seat open for use, which it duly was with several glasses of Bob’s other favourite, Hookie!
“Everyone agreed that the location is perfect, it’s a great spot to sit and enjoy the wonderful views across our valley, please use it.”
Graham added, “I should apologise to those who missed the grand opening but we really felt that with all the delays we wanted to get it installed and running, we could always have a rerun if there’s enough interest.”
SAL Editor has baby girl – eventually!
Congratulations to Angela Smith, co-editor of Steeple Aston Life, and her husband David on the birth of their baby daughter. It was a long wait, as Angela explains.
She writes: “Elodie Poppy Smith was born at 1.28pm on Friday 19th February 2021 weighing 9lbs exactly. She certainly kept us waiting, as she was 18 days late!
“Elodie is already bright and alert and has been treated to many cuddles and kisses from her big brother James. She’s looking forward to meeting everyone when lockdown lifts.”
Angela moved to Steeple Aston five years ago, and took over as co-editor of SAL early in 2020. She is on maternity leave for a few months, and the magazine is being edited in her absence by co-editor Robert Scott.
Bob the Dog appeal fund goes over £2,000
Plans to buy a bench as a memorial to popular local character Bob the Dog have had a very positive response from villagers. Within 24 hours of the appeal for donations going out, the £1,000 target had nearly been met. Now it has reached over £2,000.
Robert Craig Wilson, known to all locally as Bob the Dog sadly died on the evening of Sunday, 27th September in the John Radcliffe Hospital following a very short illness.
His funeral took place on Wednesday, 28th October at Banbury Crematorium. The funeral procession left Grange Farm and drove through Middle Aston then on to Steeple Aston and many people lined the route to pay their respects.
Amanda Tosh, who has organised the appeal, writes, “Whilst raising a glass to Bob the Dog outside and in the pouring rain and thunder on the day of his funeral we came up with the idea for a Bench for Bob.
“Having liaised with Debs (Bob’s partner), we are now in a position to invite his friends if they would like to contribute to a memorial for him.
“Tim and Jenny Taylor have very kindly agreed for the bench to be securely placed at the top of Folly Field.
“Any surplus donations will go to Bob’s charities, The Dogs Trust and Dogs for Good.”
Graham Porcas adds, “I imagine most people in the village would have known Bob as he was a most unusual character, often to be found in The Red Lion where he was famous for his amusing stories and comments. He was also renowned as a Border Collie fan and had several which he rescued over the years.”
If you would like to make a donation, please go to Amanda’s page on gofundme.com
Sad death of Tony Clifton
Tony Clifton father to Graham and Daphne (Preston) passed away on October 22nd aged 88 years.
He was admitted to the Horton Hospital following a fall and feeling unwell on September 30th, then tested positive for Covid19 and put into isolation.
Over the next three weeks his condition went up and down until he passed away. It was a difficult for the family as no one was allowed to visit during that time.
His funeral will be at Steeple Aston church on Wednesday,18th November at 12 noon. Numbers will be limited but if anyone would like to attend please ask if there are places available.
Bob the dog
Robert Craig Wilson, known to all locally as Bob the dog sadly died on the evening of Sunday, 27th September 2020 in the John Radcliffe Hospital following a very short illness.
His funeral took place on Wednesday, 28th October at 11.00am at Banbury Crematorium. The funeral procession left Grange Farm and drove through Middle Aston then on to Steeple Aston for people to pay their respects.
The funeral service was webcast on www.obitus.com . A recording will be available online from the beginning of November for 28 days. The log in and password are Julo2786 and 250869.
If anyone would like to make a donation in Bob’s memory, they can give to two chosen charities, Dogs For Good and Dogs Trust. Donations can be sent personally or via the funeral directors, D L Hancock Ltd.
Many condolences to Debs Morris.
Funeral for Joy Foster
Joy Foster of Nizewell Head, Steeple Aston died peacefully on 17th May 2020
There will be a private cremation on Friday, 5th June. Joy will leave from her home in Steeple Aston on Friday; the hearse will set off at 1.15pm and will proceed up South Side towards the main road for those who wish to pay their respects.
The service on Friday is at 2.00pm and will be live streamed. For those that wish to follow the service the details are: www.obitus.com Username: banbury8130 Password: 746595. The Live Webcast will be available to view between approx. 1.56pm and 2.45pm. Once the service has finished, it will take up to three working days to get the 28-day Watch Again onto the website.
Congratulations to ‘diamond couple’ Roy and Edwina Kinch
The children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of Roy and Edwina Kinch are delighted to congratulate them both on reaching the huge milestone of 60 years of marriage on 19th August 2019.
Royston, who was born and raised in Steeple Aston. married his bride Edwina in her home village of Adderbury on Wednesday, 19th August 1959 and they have lived in Steeple Aston throughout their married life.
Their family say they are “A real diamond couple who are rocks to so many”.
Roy and Edwina were also congratulated by many villagers and by the committee of Steeple Aston Life. Edwina edited the magazine for over 25 years, and is now the Chairman of the SAL committee.
A tribute to Jean Stone
We are sorry to announce that local author and long-time Steeple Aston resident Mrs Jean Stone of 8 Grange Park has died. Villagers were invited to her funeral service in the church on 18th June and afterwards to a Wake at the Red Lion, Steeple Aston.
Her friend Susi Barber spoke at the funeral about Jean’s life in Steeple Aston and has written this tribute to her:
“My neighbour and good friend, Jean Stone died on 3rd June 2019. Peacefully, in Katherine House, at the age of 91.
“Jean moved into The Croft over 40 years ago with her husband Geoff , son Colin and daughter Wendy. As a family, they appear to have had a great social life. The Red Lion was just over the road, so became pivotal in their lives, and they made many good friends.
“Ever since I’ve known her, Jean has always been lively and adventurous, and a whizz at motoring. Even in her 90’s, Jean’s driving was spot on. In the 1980’s she, and her good friend Jane Hamilton, did the Monte Carlo rally (Ladies class) – no sat. navs. No back up team. Just a trusty map and a lot of vava voom!
“Jean loved travel, journeying throughout Europe, and also to places as far flung as India and Iran, which she approached with enthusiasm. She knew so much history on all those places visited and her knowledge was such that she would also give talks and slideshows of her travels to groups and local societies.
“This extraordinary spirit didn’t stop at exploring. Until recently she was still doing hospital volunteer driving – a taxi-style service, taking people to surgeries and hospitals for medical care. Jean has always been involved with the Village Flower show – even last year she was still selling raffle tickets at her usual spot in the Produce Tent At one time she became President of our WI, and has also been an active member of the Steeple Aston Players, bringing invaluable experience from working as an Assistant Stage Manager, in London, in her teens.
“Jean has written many books – mostly about the Oxfordshire she came to know as home. Her writings included handbooks on local walks, and in 1997 published a history of our war memorial here in Steeple Aston. In 2014, Amberley published her book ‘The River Cherwell’ – a comprehensive history of the entire Cherwell Valley. She took all her own photos. W H Smith in Oxford hosted a book launch and book signing. Copies are still available on Amazon.
“I could go on – there are so many facets to this extraordinary Lady. But I’ll finish by saying a fond farewell to Jean, who brought so much, to so many. I’ll miss her friendship, sociability and wisdom, and many in our community will have fond memories. Thoughts go to her son Colin and his wife Ali at this time.”
Tony Cross Memorial Football Match
Passing on a huge THANK YOU to everybody associated with making Tony’s Memorial match such a special day. There are too many people to thank individually but rest assured everybody’s kindness and generosity has been extraordinary.
I know Tony would have been super proud and full of emotion seeing everybody coming together in the village, enjoying themselves, having a drink and raising money for such a worthy cause.
So far we’ve collectively raised £1,000 for Katharine House Hospice.
Once again thanks to every single one of you.
The Cross & Brewer family
Celebrating the life of Ted Whybrew
Former colleagues. friends and relations gathered in Steeple Aston Church on Monday. 4th February to celebrate the life of Ted Whybrew. Then they were all invited to continue the celebrations over afternoon tea in The Orangery at Blenheim Palace.
Ted died peacefully at his home, Grangelea in Grange Park, on Sunday, 20th January after a long illness. At the service, his son Adam along with others payed tribute to his distinguished career in the Civil Service, his great sense of fun, his love of family – and his notable dress sense.
His great love of sport – especially cricket and football – was reflected in the choice of music at the service. It opened to the theme tune of Match of the Day and closed with his beloved Test Match Special.
For many years Ted, his wife Julia and children Adam, Katherine and Anna had a cottage on the Rousham estate. Moving to Steeple Aston in 1995, they played an active part in village life. Ted will be remembered particularly for sharing the position of the Horticultural Society’s Show Secretary with Julia for many years. His love of sport was reflected in his hard work and support for the Recreation Trust.
Ted wrote some reflections on his life in 2014. These form the basis of a booklet with lots of photos, which was given to those attending the service. To read it, please click here.
Memories of Rachel Smith
Many Steeple Aston friends attended a memorial service for Rachel Smith, who sadly died on 3rd November 2018, aged 44.
Several carloads of villagers travelled to Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon on Monday 19th November for the service. Following tributes from Rachel’s siblings and an old friend, Steeple Aston’s Emily Burt gave the reading and other villagers joined in singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as part of a choir made up of friends and family.
Rachel and her husband Graham moved to Grange Park in Steeple Aston in 2004. As Dr Rachel Mulcahy, she worked as a locum GP in several surgeries locally before finding a permanent post at West Bar Surgery in Banbury.
Rachel was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer in 2012, and had to give up work. This enabled her to spend more time with her three precious daughters while undergoing treatment. Cliona (11), Phoebe (9) and Florrie (7) all attended Dr Radcliffe’s School. Rachel also helped out at the school and took part in many village and sporting activities, especially with ‘Team Terry’ her group of local cycling friends.
The Smiths moved to Surrey in the summer of 2017 to be nearer to family. But they continued to be supported by a large group of friends from Steeple Aston. Many of them also visited her in the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher where she spent the last five weeks of her life.
Several fund-raising activities are planned locally in her memory to raise money for the hospice and for Cancer Research. Meanwhile if you want to make a donation in her memory, please go to https://www.justgiving.com/remember/622461/Rachel-Smith
Tony Clifton publishes his memoirs
Local resident Tony Clifton has published a book of memories entitled “A Way of Life”. The book is mainly about his life in the nearby village of Great Tew where he spent his childhood and working life before retiring to Steeple Aston in 1999.
Tony and his wife Jean lived at Tchure Cottage on Northside for 12 years before moving more recently to Primrose Gardens. Their son Graham is well known in the village as the church’s Tower Captain and churchwarden. Their daughter Daphne married Richard Preston and is best known as a regular cup winner and champion at local flower shows.
Tony Clifton was born in Great Tew in 1932 in a cottage with no running water or electricity. The only heating was from a black grate fireplace where all the cooking was also done. The book vividly describes the harsh way of life for a family on poor agricultural wages in the 1930s and through the Second World War. It then chronicles the slow improvement in conditions through the second half of the 20th century.
Lots of photos, old and new, bring the local characters and their stories to life as Tony describes his childhood and then his 54-year farming career. He spent most of his time caring for cattle, but turned his hand to many other tasks over the years: raising pheasants, duck and carp, clay pigeon shooting, felling trees and much more. He was also very involved in village activities, becoming Chairman of the Parish Council and the Great Tew Flower Show among many other roles.
The book is available from Tony or his son in law Richard Preston at a cost of £9.95. You can call them on 01869 347870 (Tony) or 340512 (Richard).
Funeral for Donald Knight
Ben Lloyd, the Executor for Donald Knight, has asked us to publish the following notice:
“Sadly Donald Knight, resident of Steeple Aston for 88, years died on the 1st March 2017. His funeral will be held at Banbury Crematorium at 3.00pm on Thursday, 30th March.”
Wedding celebrations at Primrose Gardens
Kevin Preston and Laura Peckham were married at Oxford registry office on Wednesday, 29th June and celebrated their wedding at Primrose Gardens on Saturday, 2nd July with their family and friends.
Guests witnessed a celebration of their marriage in the garden on the Saturday followed by a ‘party’ in the adjoining field under cover of a large marquee and the occasional diversion to the bouncy castle which obviously wasn’t just for the younger guests.
Villagers invited to memorial for Bridget Inkpen
We are sorry to announce that former Steeple Aston resident, Bridget Inkpen has died. Villagers are invited to a memorial service for her in the church.
Lucy Valentine, Bridget’s daughter writes:
“Bridget Inkpen (née Gardner) died peacefully at Heathfield House Nursing Home on Sunday, 18th October. She was born in Steeple, lived most of her younger and older life in Steeple and will have a final memorial service in Steeple Aston Church on Tuesday, November 3rd at 2.30pm.
“The family would love anyone who remembers Bridget in times of better health and humour to come along to the service and then tea in the Village Hall afterwards.”
Former Steeple Aston residents Paul and Jan Hotston have been in touch with the sad news of the death of Harry Williams on 15th February 2015.
Jan Hotston writes: “My father in law, Harry Williams (also known as Uncle Harold) died at Aldingham nursing home, just outside Ulverston in Cumbria.
He moved to Steeple Aston in the mid 90s, to be nearer to us after his wife died and bought and converted the stables that were part of Old Toms on Northside,now known as Barn Cottage.
“He was a lovely man and well known around the village. We all moved to the Lake District in 2009 for our last big adventure, but sadly Harry had already been diagnosed with dementia….he moved to the Nursing Home late in 2010 following a stroke, but always remembered his time at Steeple Aston.
It would be nice if you could include this in the family section of the website,to let all those who remember him know.”
Jill takes tea for her 90th birthday
In true Steeple Aston tradition there were plenty of wonderful cakes on offer when family and friends joined Jill Duncan to mark her 90th birthday at a tea party in the garden of the family home, Westfield.
Julia Whybrew talked to Jill afterwards about her memories of childhood, and her many years living in the village.
She writes: “Jill Duncan celebrated her 90th birthday on 8th August 2014.
“She has lived in the village for 60 years and brought up her children here. She has not only taken an active part in village life but also had a variety of jobs; in all of which she distinguished herself.
“Jill was brought up in Brighton and during the war, when German bombers dropped their last few bombs on the coast, her mother would only allow her to pick blackberries if she wore a saucepan on her head. Fortunately the efficacy of this was never put to the test though once when riding her bike she was strafed by machinegun fire from a German plane.
“Jill’s family has always come first in her life. Her children tell of her disliking being in the car with all four of them and as she did not want ‘all her eggs in one basket’. She moved around with her husband Ken as he changed jobs quite frequently initially.
“But 60 years ago they settled here and Ken commuted to work from the village, though not always to the same place. Both her father and her grandfather liked to make furniture, though on a rather large scale, so the Duncans had to find a large house to accommodate it. Jill still eats off a table made by her grandfather and writes at a desk made by the same grandfather.
“Jill got involved in village activities; first she became a school governor. Her most lasting memory of this seems to be having been shut in a cupboard with a cleaner but she cannot now recall why it happened or how they escaped. Later she joined the village WI and became its President.
“Jill was trained as a doctor and worked for some years as a GP but this became difficult because the family moved around a lot. Jill’s good sense, intelligence and sense of humour shone out. She has the unlikely distinction of being asked to be a District Councillor by the Liberals, Labour and the Conservatives; so she stood as an independent and says it taught her a lot. She was asked to be a magistrate and then the Chairman of the Oxfordshire Probation Service; she was given an OBE for her work in this field. She finally went back to medicine and was put in charge of the family planning facilities in Oxfordshire.
“Jill is now very deaf and finds this very frustrating as she loves to learn and hear about what is happening around her. The huge number of cards and good wishes on her birthday show that all her friends and family love and respect her; we are lucky to have such a feisty and well balanced personality in the village.”
Local author Jean’s book signing
Pictured here is local author Jean Stone with some visitors from Steeple Aston at her book signing in WHSmiths in Oxford. Her book, “River Cherwell”, was published in February, and her publishers had arranged for the book signing on Saturday, 31st May.
The 96-page book with lots of colour photos follows the River Cherwell on its journey from its Northamptonshire origins through the Oxfordshire countryside until it flows into the River Thames. It shows how the river, and later the canal, rail and road have influenced the development of towns and villages on the way.
Jean said, “It was an interesting experience – albeit not exactly hugely profitable! Many thanks to those few of you who did turn up and also to Susi Barber who accompanied me there, arranged the books on the table and did a great PR job distributing leaflets to the unsuspecting public.
“It was hardly the best place for this event as I was placed nowhere near any books and most of the Saturday shoppers were only interested in newspapers and sweeties for the kids. Waterstones would have been a better bet but I gather they charge for the privilege! I also noted a distinct absence of anyone from Amberley, the publishers – but then, we can’t all be J.K Rowling!!
“A nice surprise was a friend from London who looked in on her way to a wedding in the Cotswolds. One member of the public actually bought a copy, several others expressed interest and one in particular, spent quite a while looking at the book and remarking – ‘ooh, that’s cooool, really coool’!”
Congratulations to Barbara Oakley on her 100th birthday
The first of January saw in the New Year and Barbara Oakley’s 100th birthday. Barbara has lived in Steeple Aston for five years with her daughter and son-in-law, Judith and Geoffrey Lane. She is pictured here with her message from the Queen.
The Lanes have been here for six years and quickly settled into village activities. Barbara, despite recently needing a wheelchair to get around, has frequently joined garden club outings. She still gets a lot of pleasure from flowers and many of her family and friends know this with the result that the Lane household was awash with wonderful blooms for her birthday.
Barbara’s father worked in Shanghai and then Hong Kong and Barbara, from the age of seven, was brought up in England by her grandmother. She saw her parents occasionally when they were on holiday.
At the beginning of the last war she was in Shanghai, but was sent home hurriedly with her younger sister, across the Pacific, the USA and Atlantic. She was married to a naval surgeon and after the war she brought up her three children in Wolverhampton, only leaving there to move in with her daughter Judith when she was 95.
Barbara has eight living grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Her three children, three of her grandchildren and three great-grandchildren were all there to congratulate her on her birthday itself.
Sadly, Barbara died peacefully nine months after her 100th birthday in September 2013.
Historical village maps go online
Sue Bradley has been collecting maps since she was a child. She has recently put a lot of her extensive collection of Banburyshire maps from the 1800s to the present day online.
Her oldest map of Steeple and Middle Aston is dated 1833, she also has a Second World War map (1946) as well as maps from the fifties and sixties. There are eight maps altogether with the latest dated 2006.
Sue, who moved last year from Banbury to Adderbury, explains that as well as maps of local villages there is also a section on Banbury itself which shows how dramatically the town has grown over the years.
To see the maps of Steeple and Middle Aston, go to http://banburyshiremaps.co.uk/middle_aston.htm
You can contact Sue by email. Her address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Country transport for McKinley bride
On August Bank Holiday Saturday, Alison McKinley, youngest daughter of Mike and Clare McKinley of South Side, Steeple Aston married Gerry Carty from Robinstown near Dublin.
The ceremony and reception were held at Middle Aston House and an evening party was in the Horticultural Society marquee on Robinson’s Close. Transport between the two was provided by Graham Clifton and one of his classic tractors which towed one of the Kinch’s trailers.
The flowers in Middle Aston House and the marquee were arranged by Margaret Mason and Jenny Hallam, and the wedding cake was made by Marilyn Garrett who used to live in Steeple Aston.
Gerry and Alison met in Darfur, Sudan where they were both doing humanitarian work. They now live and work in London but visit Steeple Aston regularly.
For more photos please click here.
Do you know the Bolton, Cross or Creek families?
Joyce Gilbert née Bolton has been researching her family’s links with Steeple Aston using the SAVA archive and other sources. She is very keen to make contact with any of her relatives still in the area.
Joyce is seen here in a recent photo with her husband John near their home in the Scottish Borders. She says an early census shows many Boltons living in the village. Cow Lane, Paine Street, Harrisville and Dickeridge were named as some of the places they were living.
Joyce’s great, great, great grandfather William Bolton was born in 1782 and married to Hannah Gater. His son (her great, great grandfather) was Thomas Bolton who married Sarah Knight. The Knight family also came from Steeple Aston.
Her great grandfather was William Bolton. His brother David Bolton married a local girl, Sophia Scragg, and they had one daughter, Beatrice. They emigrated to Australia when Beatrice was 17-years-old.
Here are two photos that came from the Scragg side of the family now living in Tasmania. This one shows David and Sophia with their granddaughter Ollie.
Their daughter Beatrice married Fredrick Charles Golder a year later. He had also emigrated she thinks at the same time. Beatrice, pictured here, is in the middle of the photo.
Joyce has traced another branch of the Bolton family who were also living in Steeple Aston at the time of the 1841 census. James Bolton, (b.1796) married Martha Cross. By the time of the 1851 census they were living in Middle Aston.
And there are links to the Creek family too. Thomas Creek is named in Brooke’s History of Steeple Aston as living at Southfields Farm. His son Edmund is listed in 1881 as living with Charles Scragg, possibly a cousin. It was Charles’s daughter Sophia (pictured above) who married David Bolton and emigrated to Australia.
Joyce says: “I don’t have any photos of any of my grandparents together. They were George Henry Bolton, born 1860 in Bletchingham and Edith Mary who came from Long Hanborough. They lived there when they first married, but moved before my father Arthur Bolton, the youngest of nine children, was born in Coventry in 1910. My mother, Rosina was also born in Coventry but her family came from Mollington, their surname was Frost.
“In April of this year we spent a memorable day visiting the churches my ancestors used in Steeple Aston, Combe, Mollington, Cropredy and Long Hanborough. We took the time to also look at gravestones in the churchyards for relatives.
“We are coming down from the Scottish Borders to see the SAVA exhibition on the 10th November and would love to make contact with any family relatives still living in the area.”
If you want to contact Joyce, please email her email@example.com.
Follow Jasmine’s Bosnia blog
Earlier this year Steeple Aston schoolgirl Jasmine Trinder won a place with the United World College to study the International Baccalaureate at one of their 13 colleges around the world. She was one of only 43 people to get a place this year out of the more than 200 students that applied.
Jasmine, who is 17-years-old, was allocated to the college in Mostar, Bosnia. She travelled there in August and once she got settled in started writing a blog called A Brit in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She’s planning to update it weekly, and there’s already plenty to read about her student life and travels with her new friends from around the world.
If you would like to read Jasmine’s blog, please go to http://uwcim2012.blogspot.co.uk/.
Rose says thank you
Congratulations to Steeple Aston resident Rose Todd who has successfully completed the Oxford Half Marathon. Rose was running in memory of her son Harry, who sadly died earlier this year only 18-years-old.
Rose has written to thank all those who have supported her with their donations as follows:
“Dear Friends and Fellow residents
Just to let you know that I ran the Oxford Half Marathon on Sunday 14 October in under 2 hours. Harry was with me all the way.
My Just Giving pages remain open so it is not too late to support these amazing causes:
Thank you to you all for your wonderful support.
Memories of Dr Radcliffe’s School
Barbara Stubbings (formerly Lawrance) contacted the Website Editor with her memories of Dr Radcliffe’s School in the early 1950s, and to ask whether there are ever any school reunions. If you know of any reunions or you want to get in touch with Barbara, her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can phone her on 01903 771996.
Barbara, pictured here in 1953 when she was aged 14, wrote:
“I have been visiting the Steeple Aston website and also viewed the village on Google Earth. I have really enjoyed my trip down memory lane, re-living and remembering so much of my days at Dr Radcliffe’s School during the 1950’s.
“Seeing it as it now is, mainly the Village Hall evokes such happy memories of my school days, even though most of the buildings as I knew them no longer exist.
“During my years there the Headmaster was Mr J Passant. Where the main school is now used to be one of our playing fields – we had three! Directly opposite the entrance to the Village Hall car park – formerly a netball court – was a timber building which housed the Junior School’s two class rooms and Mr Passant’s office.
“There were two other buildings holding four class rooms – Domestic Science, Woodwork, Science Laboratory and one other general purpose classroom. The building containing three further class rooms where history and geography were taught in one class room by Mr Smart, and I remember English being taught in one by Miss Pym. The assembly hall – now the Village Hall – is where we were taught art by Miss Dew who was also our needlework teacher.
“Eventually there was a tennis court built behind the science laboratory which prefects were allowed to use during the lunch break. The old school, which is now a private house and near to the church, was our ‘gym’ in those far off days.
“A wooden bungalow, which had been the headmaster’s house until a more substantial one was built, became the domestic science, and sewing class rooms, until domestic science moved into the ‘new building’. The vacated room then became the boys ‘gardening’ room. They tended the school grounds and I remember it being a riot of colour.
“In the summer we were able to sit on the four lawns and even had some lessons there particularly art. At this time one of the rooms in the bungalow became the teachers ‘rest room alongside a bedroom where any sick child could be put to bed. The older girls were sometimes sent to clean the bedroom as part of our Domestic Science lessons even making our own polish with beeswax. We were being trained to be either good wives or good servants it seems. I remember the main room had a black range upon which we ‘cooked’ and it made the room really cosy.
“As I got older I became a prefect and House Captain for Duckworth House. How proud was I!! I was also progressed through school fairly quickly being catapulted into year four before I was thirteen which was not very popular with several pupils as the older girls I was now with didn’t want a ‘junior’ amongst them and my peers didn’t think it was ‘fair’.
“One of the girls who is a year older than me came ‘up’ to year four after I had been there for a year and we became good friends. When she left at fifteen and I was still soldiering on we lost touch. Some ten plus years ago we found each other again and have met several times and regularly keep in touch – it is just great.
“My main reason for contacting you was not to ramble on about my nostalgia, but to enquire if there are ever any school reunions? We are all getting on a bit now and have surpassed our three score years and ten, but it would be lovely to catch up with the old crowd again.”
Barbara is pictured here as she is today. She added, “I have recently returned from a trip to Australia where I met with a former pupil with whom I have been communicating for the last year. We had a really lovely afternoon together remembering old pals and teachers.”
And asked for a brief summary of what had happened to her after she left Dr Radcliffe’s she explained that she had one term at school in Bicester but left at the end of the Christmas trerm 1953. She then worked at Upper Heyford American Air force base in an office at the PX. At the same time she was attending night school three times a week for English, shorthand and typing.
She said, “At the age of 18 I joined the WRNS, and after training was ‘drafted’ to Marine Barracks and became what was known then as a Marine Wren – there were 33 of us. I had a wonderful time.
“I married a Royal Marine and have three wonderful sons. After more than 20 years I became a ‘single parent’ and after bringing up my boys and seeing them through their education (two with degrees and one an army helicopter pilot) I married my present husband. We are now coming up to our 27th Wedding Anniversary.
“David was a Veterinary Surgeon/Pathologist who retired in 1996. We lived in Wales for 17 years in a beautiful area and in a lovely house with wonderful views. It was heaven and I hated leaving it. Our children (six in all as David has three also) were concerned about us being a day’s journey away and suggested we came back to England to be nearer to them. David too had wanted to come back here, and we settled seven years ago on the south coast- 200 yards from the beach – and near to my eldest son. I have five grandchildren and David has four so we are now quite a big family!”
If you’d like to contact Barbara you can email email@example.com or phone her on 01903 771996. And maybe you’d like to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your memories and photos of Dr Radcliffe’s school.
Looking for the Diaz family
Here is an appeal from the editor’s mailbox. If you can help, please send Ursula an email.
“From 1974 to 1976 I used to live as an Au Pair in Steeple Aston with a familycalled Diaz. The father was Michael Diaz, he was a Veterinary Surgeon inBicester. The small daughters were called Caroline and Sarah.
I am trying to find out what became of them. They lived in a house in Grange Park Road,36. Most probably they left there some years ago.
My daughter is going to study in Manchester soon, so it would be really lovely to see the family again. If you have any idea, how to track them, please let me know.
Anna and Simon tie the knot
Anna Whybrew married Simon Thatcher on Saturday, 6th August in Steeple Aston church. Both Anna and Simon have long connections with the village. Simon was brought up in Steeple Aston and lived in numbers 2 and 4 Grange Park. Anna was at Rousham as a child and biked up to the riding stables in Steeple Aston every weekend and every holiday weekday as well.
They were surrounded at the wedding by all the family. Simon’s four boys were there, and so was Anna and Simon’s daughter Tamsin, who was 11 months old at the wedding. Tamsin joined her cousins as bridesmaids and she was pushed down the aisle in a decorated truck that she loves.
The reception was held in the garden of Anna’s parents home where all the family and local friends had a friendly and enjoyable party.
Clare Preston weds
Pictured here is proud father Richard Preston preparing to walk his daughter Clare down the aisle. Clare married Mark Walker on Saturday, 14th August at Steeple Aston church.On a day of heavy showers, the wedding party were very lucky not to be caught in a downpour or worse. As the picture shows the weather was fine when they arrived at the church. During the ceremony though there was heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning.
However, by the time the bride and groom emerged to face the photographers as man and wife the skies had cleared and the sun was shining again.
The newlyweds, pictured here, and their guests were able to travel in the dry the short distance to their reception. It was held in the garden of the family home, Primrose Cottage on Northside, where a large marquee accommodated the many guests. It was by all accounts a very happy occasion.
Clare and Mark will be spending a delayed honeymoon in Kenya.
Taylor’s Ruby Wedding
The church tower in Steeple Aston was lit on the evening of Sunday, 11th July, in celebration of Tim and Jenny Taylor’s Ruby Wedding Anniversary. Tim and Jenny, of Rectory Farm, celebrated their 40 years of married life with their growing family, pictured here, on the day.
Memories of Iris Murdoch
The novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley lived in Steeple Aston for about 30 years from 1956 to 1986. The two writers were often seen strolling around the village, hand in hand – clearly a devoted couple.
Although often away, they made numerous friends who remember the warmth of their hospitality and the chaotic state of their house and garden at Cedar Lodge, on Northside. Just inside the door was an accumulation of autumn leaves. Everything else – from their clothes to their non-matching crockery – seemed to have come from Oxfam. It was difficult to know where to sit among dusty chairs piled with books and less identifiable object.
But they were enthusiastic hosts who plied their guests with wine and stronger drinks – often accompanied by pork pies – in a room with walls painted bright red. One neighbour, invited to dinner, was scarcely encouraged by the oval brown object, as she feared she might be served a mouse; it turned out to be a paté, and the rest of the meal was fine too. Asked who did the cooking, John Bayley explained that they had borrowed some staff from his Oxford College for the day.
In his moving memoir, Iris, John Bayley says that for the whole time they lived here, “we had no help in the house or garden”, and eventually “both were in a state in which help of any kind would have come too late”.
Others remember things a little differently: they did have a gardener at first, believed to be Ted Coombes, but never gave him any instructions. Once when Iris was away, he took it on himself to weed their gravel drive. Iris was horrified when she got back, and even tried to order poor Ted to put the greenery back where he’d found it. Later, it was noticed that the most abundant plants in the garden were Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed.
Bayley himself admits that it became increasing overgrown during their time: “The grass of the former lawns”, he wrote, “grew longer and longer and more tussocky… the box hedges, neat and trim when we moved in, had climbed to giant size, almost obscuring the front of the house, which faced north… Letting things go, a principle we had once followed almost unconsciously, was now asserting itself as a positive force”.
The Bayleys loved swimming, and one of the garden’s newer features was a swimming pool – really a large tank – fed with rainwater from the roof, and known to some friends as “Iris’s Wallow”. Bayley fixed up a heating system consisting of two electric immersion heaters, and posted warnings that swimmers should take care to switch them off first.
Cedar Lodge in their day was seriously run-down. As Bayley recalled it was “startlingly cheap to buy, but we discovered later that it was in bad condition, however solid it looked. Mr [George] Palmer, a veteran builder with very bright blue eyes, was soon in constant attendance”. They never succeeded in heating it properly, and it was only towards the end of their time that they attempted any major alteration, trying to open up the hall and stairs:
“Young Mr Palmer and his helper…stood on ladders, manoeuvring a gigantic steel girder into position on top of the new brick piers. Owing to some miscalculation, this rolled steel joist, however massive in appearance, was barely long enough to span the gap, and one end only just rested on the brickwork. After it had been shrouded over with paint and plaster I used sometimes to give it a glance of apprehension as I descended the stairs, wondering if it would come crashing down on us…”
The Bayleys loved their village home after their own fashion, but as John admits, they weren’t either county or country, nor were they the sort of enterprising commuters who did up their houses at the weekend.
Eventually they moved back to a more manageable home in Oxford, a few years before Iris began to show signs of the Alzheimer’s disease which overshadowed the end of her life, and forms the sad conclusion of her husband’s absorbing book.
Collected by Geoff Lane of Steeple Aston Village Archive, with thanks to Jill Duncan, and to Hanny and Roderick Nicholson, for their memories.
Mike McKinley adds:
Geoff has very nicely summarised some of the best memories of Iris. However I can still offer a few more from others as well as from Clare and me.
One of our own clearest memories contrasts with what Geoff’s informants recall. We remember the Bayleys not so much strolling hand in hand as striding round the village, invariably anti-clockwise, one well ahead of the other, seemingly deep in their separate thoughts and quite unaware of one another.
But perhaps the two recollections are not incompatible: one day strolling lovingly together along North Side, another striding out further afield to exercise their separate bodies and oxygenate their separate brains to think each their own fresh thoughts.
I once shared the village hall stage with Iris. It was another words and music event, as I recall: probably more words and less music than this memorial event, but perhaps worth a mention. We and others were reciting or reading items on local history and other local interests. I read something about the history of Hopcroft’s Holt and our own local highwayman, I remember. She, I am pretty sure, read something of her own. I think it was a poem, but I’m not sure. What I do remember clearly is that she was not happy on stage.
Another lasting memory that Clare and I from South Side have of Iris is the haunting calls of foxes across the valley. Gwen Stone confirmed Geoff’s impression that, if their gardener had any instructions, it was not to meddle with nature in the garden. We always understood that the garden was for Iris, whatever else and perhaps even primarily, a fox sanctuary.
Incidentally, a nice little story apropos their domestic staff. Once, when Iris learnt that one of her staff was keen to buy a small house in the village but could not get together the deposit, she offered to lend them the money on flexible terms so that they could pay her back out of their earnings as and when they could. A nice little human touch about the great writer I think.
To add to Geoff’s reports on parties chez Bayley I have an account from Bill Lund who used to live in Grange Cottage across the village on South Side opposite Cedar Lodge. He recalls being invited to a drinks party:
“We were greeted by Iris pointing to a large table in the hall which was loaded to the gunwales with a vast number of bottles – Iris saying “Just help yourself”. I may say we did! I remember a lot of the literary world there with JB Priestley ensconced like an emperor in one corner of the drawing room.”
Finally I have from Margaret Bulleyment, part of a poem she wrote after Iris’s death. She calls it “Village Post Box, Steeple Aston. In memoriam Iris Murdoch 1919-1999”. Margaret would have walked from Grange Park along North Side to the old Victoria Regina post box almost opposite Cedar Lodge. The first lines are:
Early mornings overlapped
at the box in the wall; I
clutching the Barclaycard bill, or
a quirky card for an old friend;
she, replying to an editor, perhaps
accepting another college dinnerinvitation,
a book signing for the literati?
Mrs Bayley, the Colston man called her, amused
by the prune laden sills.
Obsequious Americans addressed
Mizz Murdoc: stumbling into the dark hallway
clutching their Nets and Severed Heads, unswept leaves
flurrying over their trainered feet.
I could not call her anything.
“Good morning, lovely day”,
Hardly stimulating conversation, but
She nodded and smiled.
Marie and her twin celebrate their 80th birthday in the US
Steeple Aston resident, Marie Maccutcheon flew to the United States to celebrate her 80th birthday along with her twin sister Angela and her family.
Marie and Angela, who has lived in the USA for the last 47 years, had their double birthday celebration in a tavern just outside New York. They are pictured here with their twin balloons and candles.
Marie flew first to Angela’s home in Lakeland, Florida. Then with Angela’s husband and daughter, Belinda, they had to take three planes to get to New York for their special birthday party. They stayed in Belinda’s home in the mountains outside the city for a week.
Despite their long separation, the twins have stayed closely in touch, talking on the phone several times a week and visiting each other when they can.
Angela met her husband Andrew Mastalski when she and Marie were working at the US Air Force base at Upper Heyford. He was a Master Sergeant in the USAF.
While Angela followed Andrew to the US, Marie stayed working at the base, she moved from Deddington to Steeple Aston 42 years ago and now lives in one of the 17th century almshouses on Northside.
Looking for the Lloyds
A retired major in the US Air Force has contacted the website to see if we can find
Hillary and Clive Lloyd, who used to live in Steeple Aston.
Major Don Nikunen was stationed at RAF Upper Heyford between 1969 and 1972. He wrote: “My secretary was Hillary Lloyd and her husband was Clive. My reason for locating them is that I was quite close to them and am wondering how they are doing in these later years of life.
They lived in Steeple Aston during this time frame and I am trying to locate them. I don’t know where they moved to or presently live and amwondering if you could be of any assistance in an attempt to locatethem.”
Major Nikunen, who now lives in Bellevue, Nebraska was told that the Lloyds may have moved to Milton-under-Wychwood, but he has been unable to locate them there. If you can help, please get in touch with him. His email address is email@example.com.
Bryan Mitchell visits to Steeple Aston
The sunlit garden at the ‘White Lion’ on the evening of Friday July 3rd was full of the family and friends of Bryan J. Mitchell who left Steeple Aston to live in Pennsylvania. Many of them are pictured here.
The event was organised by Bryan’s son, also called Bryan, who was over from the States with his wife, Karen. They wanted to meet the family and friends of Bryan Senior whom they had not already made contact with. This was Bryan Junior’s third visit from Pennsylvania to Steeple Aston (though his two earlier visits were when he was only nine months and three years old).
Bryan Joseph Mitchell had been born and brought up in Steeple Aston and Bryan Junior reckons he now has at least three uncles, twenty first cousins and countless second cousins living in the area, many of whom came to see him, including his uncle Hubert “Choo” Mitchell.
His grandfather was Frederick James Mitchell and his grandmother Annie Georgina Barrett Mitchell. Edith Monk and Nell Higginson were Bryan’s aunts. Bryan Junior and Karen had spent the afternoon researching their family tree in Oxford’s County Records.
He also told us how his father had met his mother, Linda A. Mitchell who worked at the USAF base at Upper Heyford. It was at the White Lion, and they were introduced by Marie Maccutcheon from Steeple Aston.
Bryan Junior was born and brought up in Pennsylvania but Bryan Senior used to tell his son many stories about Steeple Aston and now Bryan Junior wants to see his ‘roots’ for himself. From his father’s stories, he had expected pubs in England to be dark, smoke-filled and dingy but was delighted to find the White Lion so spacious, airy and smoke-free. He had already tried his hand at darts and cribbage. As Karen tucked into an appetising and hearty, ‘breakfast’ of fried eggs and bacon, Bryan said that it wouldn’t be allowed in Pennsylvania for health reasons!
He also said his father had told him many stories of the mischief he and his mates used to get up to in Steeple Aston, and his visit to the White Lion to see his father’s family and friends was bringing these stories to life for him.
A medal for Mrs Smith
The Imperial Service Medal was awarded to Mrs Irene Smith for 30 years service to the M.O.D at R.A.F Croughton as a Switchboard Operator.
The award was presented by the R.A.F Commander,Squadron Leader Anne L Gibson-Sexton MSc PGCE BSc RAF at an informal gathering of friends and family.
Links to the Bryan family of Rectory Farm
A visitor to this section of the website has spotted an extraordinary link with two of our recent stories in Family News.
Charlie Bryan noticed that Tim Taylor of Rectory Farm featured in a recent story when he went microlighting in France. Then he found our story called Memories of the Ray family, and realised he had connections with both items.
Mr Bryan contacted us to say that the stories caught his eye because Rectory Farm was the home of his Great Grandfather, Benjamin Bryant. Benjamin was born in Lower Heyford in 1840 but spent most of his life in Steeple Aston until he passed away in 1930 aged 90. He is buried in the village churchyard with his first wife Elizabeth, the mother of his thirteen children.
One of Benjamin’s many children was Martha, who is pictured in our story about the Ray family. She married John Ray (1867-1936), the village baker and sometime landlord of the Red Lion.
Mr Bryan has sent us some photos. This picture shows Rectory Farm (now the rear) around 1902. The people are (from left to right) his grandmother Elizabeth Bryan, his Great Grandfather, Benjamin Bryant, his grandfather Charles Edward Bryan who was born in the house, and Fanny Bryan (nee Claydon) Benjamin’s second wife who he married in 1901.
This is a more recent picture of the back of the house. The fence and the water pump have gone, but you can still see where the door in the corner was.
This photo shows Benjamin and Fanny in the doorway of Rectory Farm on their wedding day in 1901. Maybe it was the prospect of looking after those 13 children that made Fanny look so miserable!
One of Benjamin’s sons William was killed in the First World War, and his name is on the plaque in village church. John and Martha (nee Bryan) Ray are also buried together in the churchyard. Nearby are the graves of Fanny and other members of the Bryan(t) family.
Mr Bryan says he started researching his family tree several years ago as a result of finding the picture of Rectory Farm. He had a lot of help at the time from Mrs Preston ofPrimrose Cottage.
He explains: “Since then I have managed to trace several lines from the 13 brothers and sisters who were children of Benjamin and Elizabeth Bryant. Some of us met up a couple of years ago in Steeple Aston and did a walk of the village. Unfortunately Mr Taylor was not at home that day, so we could not see the house.
“However, I think my sister contacted the Taylors a few years ago, and they kindly supplied some pictures and history of the house.
“The last known Bryan living in Steeple Aston was Sarah who was married to Alfred John Putt and died in 1966.It may be that some of your readers might be descendents of the Bryans(t). I would love to hear from them. I have visited the village many times over the past few years and always feel at home when I am there, it must be in my blood.”
If you are a descendant of Benjamin Bryant, or have more information about the family, please contact Charlie Bryan. His email address is: C_BRYAN@sky.com.
Tim takes to the open skies
Much to the relief of his wife and family, Tim Taylor of Rectory Farm is safely back from a trip to France. They were concerned because, unlike the rest of us, Tim didn’t take the train or the plane. He flew all the way to Bordeaux in a microlight.
He took the opportunity to hitch a lift with his cousin, Andrew. They are pictured here with their fragile craft. Appropriately, Tim’s teeshirt reads ‘Failure is not an option’.
The two of them flew in a “squadron” of six, to hop across the channel. One hour 45 minutes to Calais and no queuing, according to Tim. Rather different from the usual Heathrow experience.
On the way down to Bordeaux, Tim and Andrew ‘dropped in’ on a former Steeple Aston resident, Mike Coyle, who now lives in the Loire Valley.
As a farmer, Tim took a keen interest on the land below from his perch. He was checking out the state of the French harvest, which, he reports, does appear to have suffered from the recent weather.
Safely home now, he says his feet may be back on the ground, but the knees are still shaking!
Sheila celebrates her 80th birthday
Sheila Side, as twice Past President of Steeple Aston WI, had helped perform the cake cutting ceremony on the occasion of its birthday in March. This stood her in good stead when it was time for her to cut her own special birthday cake recently.
The sun shone and all looked wonderful in Sheila’s garden when family and friends joined her there to celebrate, as she described it, “her coming of (old) age”. Of course, all the candles were blown out in one go! Congratulations and best wishes on your birthday, Sheila.
Memories of the Ray family in Steeple Aston
I have just discovered your web site and write to say how much I have enjoyed reading about it and the surrounding area. My name is Tony Ray. I was born and have lived all my life in Cumbria – but have much interest and affection for the village.
My late father was Edgar Ray born at South Side in 1915, the youngest of nine children and son of John Ray 1867 – 1936 (the village baker). His mother was Martha Sarah, maiden name, Bryan, from Rousham. John Ray was also the landlord of the Red Lion in the early part of the last century.
From the stories my father told me about village life and the people he grew up with, I have always felt part of the place and tried to visit often over the years. A few of the family names on your website sound very familiar.
After John Ray died in 1936 the family all went off in different directions, my father eventually settling in Whitehaven, Cumbria in 1945.
My Grandfather also had a brother, Ernest Ray, who lived at Payne’s Hill.
The 1901 Census describes him as Mounted Rural Postman. Then he was 37 yearsold and had a wife Annie, three children, Mabel 6, Gertrude 4, and Ernest 2.They later had a daughter, Mona Beatrice in 1903. I remember visiting herwith my parents in the 1960s, then Mrs Fred Irons, when she lived at theDuke of Cumberland pub in nearby Clifton. I am sure I must have a few distant relatives scattered around the villages.
I enclose a couple of pictures from the past, which may be of some interest to anyone still left who may remember the Rays.
The first photo was taken in 1927 in the orchard at the back of their Steeple Aston home, South Side Villa. It shows John and Martha Ray and their son Edgar and daughters Kathleen and Edith.
In the second photo, taken in the early 1900s, the man in the right of the picture is my Grandfather, John Ray. He is standing outside the family home with the Bake House on the left. The chap holding on to the horse was called Ollie Woods.
Kevin and Natasha’s Wedding
Kevin Simmonds and Natasha Hazell from Shepherds Hill got married at Bodicote registry office on Friday, 9th November. A really nice day was had by all and even the rain kept off!
A Perfect Day for Pamela
The sun shone at last in Steeple Aston for the wedding of Pamela Mawson to Simon Knowles on Saturday, 25th August. “It was a perfect day,” said the proud father of the bride, Geordie Mawson.
The happy couple pictured here were married in the Church of St Peter and St Paul. The second photo shows them with Simon’s parents, Steve and San and Pamela’s parents, Geordie and Pat.
Over 80 guests attended the wedding ceremony for the couple who live in Shepherds Hill. Pamela is a familiar face in the village as she works in the local Post Office; Simon, who works for Pro-Drive, the racing car team based in Milton Keynes, plays for the Steeple Aston football team.
After the church service, the guests travelled by coach to the reception at Bicester Golf and Country Club. Seventy more friends joined them for the evening reception. A few days later, the couple left for their honeymoon in Cyprus.
New twins in the village
Alison and Dave Moran now have two gorgeous twin boys, Joshua and Isaac. They were born on 3 July at 10.59pm and 11.20pm and weighed in at 5lbs11½ oz and 5 lbs 7 oz. They developed jaundice hence had to stay in hospital for a few extra days, but it has cleared up now and both are putting on weight fast. Alison is very obliging about letting visitors have a cuddle so the twins already have a full social life. Alison took them to meet their future playmates at the Mothers and Toddlers Group when they were only three weeks old.
The two boys are rather different in character and looks, though both are charming and very alert. Joshua is placid and sleeps virtuously while Isaac is less easy to settle and asks for more attention. Both boys seem to have feet that are too large for their otherwise fitting babygros so perhaps they are due to be tall. It will be a long time before we know.
Hello from old Friends
John & Ivy Ray, former Steeple Aston residents who have moved to Kirriemuir in Scotland have visited the site and taken part in the Treasure Hunt. They’ve asked us to pass on their regards to all their friends in Steeple.