Tackley Newsletter
December & January 2020–21

Newsletter team

Didi Joslin

Christmas greetings and a happy and healthy 2021 to all the kind people who distribute the Tackley Newsletter throughout the year. This month we welcome Max Clark, a secondary school pupil from the village, who will distribute to the Cherwell Rise and Deanfield Grove developments.

I would also like to send a big thank-you to Martin Edwards who continues to be the editor although he no longer lives in the village. Thanks are due, too, to Pierre Macke who is responsible for all the printing. Finally, I would like to welcome our new treasurer Nick Hawes who has taken over from Mike Willemite.

Christmas tree

Dawn Chambers on behalf of the Tree on The Green Committee

Sadly, for the first time in many years, there will be no carol service or official lightening of the tree on The Green due to the current pandemic.

The tree will be erected on Thursday, 3 December and the lights will be set to come on that evening.

We would like to thank Barwood Homes, again, for their generous donation towards the tree and lights.

We would also like to wish all the residents of Tackley a very happy Christmas and a healthy 2021. We hope we will be able to resume the usual lightening ceremony and refreshments next year.

Collection for the shop team

Jan Read

In the space of just two weeks, Tackley residents expressed their appreciation to Debbie, Steph and Sue for keeping the village shop open and making sure that vital deliveries were made to those who had to stay safe indoors during those long lockdown months. £1,491.84 was raised.

The girls have been overwhelmed by this response and would like to say thank you to all—and to Jim Pitts for bringing the idea to Tackley Parish Council. They are looking forward to a well-earned spa break together when the Covid restrictions are over, and to treat and say thank you to those who have supported them.

The JustGiving page raised £1,186.00, and their processing fee was £51.48. Cash donations were £357.32, making a total of £1,491.84.

Horse show

Alexandra Machin

Plans are already being made – with everything crossed – that Tackley Horse Show will be able to resume as normal next year, so please make a note in your diaries for Sunday, 25 April 2021.

We are always on the lookout for additional help with various things, so please do get in touch if you are able to offer us some time. You don’t need to be horsey, and you won’t even need to go near a horse if you don’t want to!

Poppy Appeal

Sue Pitts

A total of £566 was raised in the village for the Poppy Appeal. Covid restrictions meant collecting was very different this year, and considering there were no house-to-house collections – and we only managed one Saturday outside the village hall due to the second lockdown – we achieved a really good total. Thank you all for giving so generously, and special thanks to the shop for displaying a collecting tin so prominently.

A gentle man who had time for all

June Collier

Can the trials and tribulations of 2020 get any worse? Not much, but with the death of Lawrence recently I do wonder. To say that the sad news was a shock is an understatement. The whole village is devastated.

Lawrence came to Tackley in the early 70s and has lived with Sylvia, his wife, in St Nicholas Road all his married life.

He was very definitely a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was generous with his time and skills. Never a bad word for anyone, he had time for everyone and everything that was needed in our village. He cared for its people, and its fabric. He checked on those who lived alone, our elderly, disabled, poorly and bereaved. If they needed anything, he found it; a problem, he solved it. Delivering papers and groceries, and running errands for anyone who asked. If he couldn’t do it, he found someone who could. He was the first there when things needed fixing and mending around the village. Our school, village hall, shop and especially St Nicholas’ Church have all benefited form his care.

He could be found on Sunday morning sorting the newspapers to give the shop staff a lie in. And most days in the recycling area, squashing down the cardboard boxes to fit into the bins, emptying the rubbish from the play area or mending a fence. I’ve seen him with Alan on the roof of the ‘oldman shelter’ fixing the tiles, cleaning out a blocked drain, decorating numerous people’s homes—even taking a dent out of the odd car! He was the unofficial church sexton who organised the churchyard—mowing grass, sorting the parking, seeing the graves were dug in the correct place and at the correct depth! He could be found in the church for services making sure everyone had a seat, a hymn book or just a reassuring hand of comfort.

A keen photographer, it was no surprise after a village event to find some photos in your letterbox taken by Lawrence.

An enthusiastic canoeist, only days before he died and having a rare day to himself, he could be found going for a paddle before it got too cold.

He was a regular at the Gardiner Arms ‘Sunday Club’.

Lawrence would tell you he was an Oxford boy—and he was in his youth. As an enthusiastic ‘wheeler’ he would escort us cyclists around Oxford pointing out places of interest. Wolvercote and Walton Street were his childhood haunts, most especially the Victoria Arms where he was brought up; of course, we were obliged to stop and look inside! He would always cycle at the back to see none of us came adrift or were left behind. One night, after missing the train, we had to cycle back to Tackley and Lawrence rode behind us. He was the only one among us who had a rear light!

He might have said he was an Oxford boy, but he was most definitely a Tackley man, and will be much missed by all in our village.

Our thoughts are with Sylvia, his wife, and we thank her for sharing her wonderful husband with us over the years. Our hearts go out to you at this difficult and sad time, and to Elaine and Alan who will be so very sad too. There is a book of condolence at the shop for anyone to write a few words and share their memories with Sylvia.

Lol’s funeral

Alan Diver

Lol’s funeral didn’t quite go to plan.

With the Covid restrictions in place, the family had decided to start the cortège from the house in St Nicholas’ Road and for it to travel up St John’s Road (the station end) and make its way to the village hall via Nethercote Road and Medcroft Road, so that people on the route could pay their respects and, if they wished, place a single flower in a basket being carried by the undertaker.

Unfortunately, just before the cortège was due to arrive in St Nicholas’ Road, a transformer on an electricity pole on the junction of Medcroft Road and Nethercote Road exploded and burst into flames. The electricity board, fire brigade and police were called to deal with the emergency.

It became apparent that the cortège was not going to be able to reach the family home and the decision was made for us waiting, including the family and Father Robin, that we should meet up with the cortège and people already assembled at the village hall. Word soon went round.

Father Robin was like the pied piper of Hamelin, with people joining the throng every few steps until we were several dozen joining those at the village hall.

There, the undertaker, a firm friend of Lol, addressed us; saying that his friend, Lawrence, had decided to go out with a bang—and then asked for a moment of silence. Throughout this we could hear fizzes and bangs coming from the transformer.

Father Robin then gave a short address and led us in the Lord’s Prayer. The undertaker collected the flowers people had brought as the family got into the cars for the short journey to the village green where a similar ceremony was to take place before a private service in the church.

As the cortège was about to move off, a lady rushed through the throng to hand Father Robin some papers. It turned out these were his sermon and readings for the church service. I gather he had planned to pick them up as the cortège passed his cottage, but of course this didn’t happen.

The whole thing reminded me of an episode of that beautifully scripted and enacted television series Jam & Jerusalem.

The thing that struck me is that Lol would have loved it. He would have been in his element, dashing round with a smile on his face organising people to get things back on track.

I am not a man of faith, but if anyone was to say to me they thought Lol must have had a hand in proceedings, I couldn’t contradict them!

Thank you

Sylvia Clack

I would like to thank family and all of you for the lovely cards, letters, heartfelt words, flowers and offers of support given during the sudden passing of Lawrence.

Thank you to Graham for staying with him when the tragedy happened.

Thank you to Jim for helping to maintain the churchyard.

Special thanks to Father Robin for the lovely service and Revd Marcus Green for the committal. Also thank you to Neale Harrison for the poem which my brother-in-law Harry read out in church after the eulogy.

Finally, a big thank-you to all the people who came together as a working party to get the churchyard ready.

Lawrence had a wonderful gift of making everyone feel as if they mattered, and that showed by how many of you were there saying your goodbyes.

Lawrence

NJH

You couldn’t have met a nicer bloke,
To have a chat with or share a joke.

He was always busy throughout his life,
And lived in Tackley with his wife.

If you needed a hand he was always on tap,
No matter the task or what you was at.

He looked after our churchyard—kept it spick and span,
And helped with its services so all went to plan.

He was a friendly, caring, considerate guy,
Still in his prime—too young to die.

We’ll all miss him sadly and this is a shame,
And know that our village just won’t be the same.

Primary school

Mrs L. J. Murrey, Headteacher

Who can believe we are nearly in the Christmas season again? It will be a very different experience for us at school and many in our community this year. We plan to continue with the tradition of a Nativity play for our Reception children, moving to the virtual world of filming our production and sharing with parents. The children are very excited to be learning actions and dancing to songs!

We focussed on Remembrance for the early part of this term, and spent time creating artwork and discussing significant events that are important to remember.

We have been donated trees by the Woodland Trust. Children were so enthusiastic about planting these at the back of our outdoor area, creating a new quiet space in our grounds.

The new house point counter, our whole-school reward system, has created ripples of excitement. I have been delighted to see children working extra hard to be both resilient and reflective learners to earn their gold house point coins.

St Nicholas’ church

Revd Marcus Green

November wasn’t at all what we expected. For some, the lockdown dominated. For many of us, it was the loss of Lawrence Clack, a man who quietly and generously lived his faith in God every day—caring for others and making all our lives better. Rise in glory, dear friend.

And as we reach December, we are all wondering what to expect at Christmas.

Services in church

If we are allowed to hold services, the plan is for Christmas services in:

Sadly, we’re still not allowed to have congregational singing, but we are hoping to have a small choir at each service which will sing some carols for us. There will be readings, and we will have the crib and a tree and lights, and we will do our very best to celebrate together.

As ever with our services just now, it would be really helpful if you could book if you are coming. We will do our best to get you in if you come, but when we are full we will have to apologise and close the door. I am really sorry! So book early: Julian for Tackley on [phone number removed from archive copy], Clive for North Aston on [phone number removed from archive copy], and Eileen for Steeple Aston on [phone number removed from archive copy].

These are our special services. See the rota for other services.

Online services

We will have two extra Worship at Home services on our website over the Christmas period.

From 20 December we will have a carol service, with a super choir leading us. You can watch at home and sing along as much as you like! We hope this will be a really lovely way to celebrate Christmas, and it will be filmed in our benefice churches. We will also make this available via the phone service, so people without access to the Internet will be able to ring 01869 929021 and listen in.

From 24 December we will have available a Christmas Communion service. This too will be filmed inside our benefice churches, and will also include some Christmas music as well as being a full communion service. I shall be thinking of you all as I record this, so why not take a moment and keep a little bread and wine, and join in with your family or by yourself at some point over Christmas?

Alternative Christmas fair

St Nicholas’ Fair will be different this year. Thanks to Sue Lygo for arranging this. On Saturday, 5 December there will be stalls around the village from 2 to 3:30 pm—at gates, on The Green, and at the village hall car park. Do wander around, keep safe, and let’s raise money for all sorts of charities (including St Nicholas’) together.

Compact Concerts

November’s concert in Steeple had to be postponed, but we’re still planning a concert of Christmas choral music on 12 December in Steeple Aston Church. Given that full ‘live’ carol services are a bit beyond us this year, do book for this—see opposite.

And then…

From January we are looking to go back to weekly services in all our churches. The upside is that there will be no more need to book to come to church (please still book for any December service) but the pattern will be weekly Morning Prayer in North Aston, Evensong in Tackley (apart from the last Sunday, when there will be Morning Prayer), and Holy Communion will be at Steeple Aston. So do feel free to go to whichever service you like, even if it isn’t your own village! Everyone is always welcome. We will do our best to follow Jesus as Lawrence would do—caring for each other and making all our lives better.

Methodist church

Jan Grimwood

In Charlie Mackesy’s book The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse the mole asks the boy what he wants to be when he grows up. “Kind”, says the boy. As simple as that—just kind.

We’re still living in and through these very strange, unsettling pandemic times. We are concerned about our own future, and what the future holds for those we know and love—not to mention numerous other people whose stories we hear, or read about, which touch our hearts. It’s all so uncertain at the moment that just being kind to one another can make a huge difference, especially with Christmas fast approaching.

Will we be able to get together with friends and families at Christmas? Will we be in lockdown immediately afterwards? These are questions on many people’s minds; hopefully, by the time you read this we’ll know the answers. We may not agree with them, but whatever those answers are, there’s no doubt that Christmas will be very different this year. It may be difficult, too, for many people: those whose circumstances have changed due to Covid; the lonely; and especially those who’ve been bereaved, for whom any celebrations are tinged with sadness.

At Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s gift of his son to the world. As we navigate our way through these difficult times, may we know his presence with us and give thanks for it.

Christ child, thrust from the warmth and security
of your mother’s womb,
into the bitter cold of the night
and the stark reality of the world.

In your vulnerability, demanding instant attention;
kicking and screaming for your mother,
for reassurance, and for food;
making your presence felt.

You began your life like many a child, in poverty,
facing an uncertain future.
Yet, you were no ordinary child,
for you were born the
Son of God.

Have a peaceful Christmas, and be kind to yourself and to one another.

Services

All at 10:30 am:

Parish council

Cherie Carruthers, Parish Clerk

Your councillors

Please feel free to contact your local councillor or the parish clerk if you have any problems or concerns.

Meetings

Due to the current restrictions, all meetings and surgeries will continue to be held online. These are via the Zoom platform, with the login details remaining the same for each meeting:

Meeting ID: [removed from online edition]
Passcode: [removed from online edition]

The next meeting is on Monday, 21 December at 7 pm. Please join us if you are able.

Notices and freecycle

Thank you to Mary and Mark McIntyre for the huge amount of time and effort in putting together the Tackley Freecycle webpage. Mary also kindly administers Tackley Notices, an electronic communication keeping residents up to date on activities and matters of interest in the village—a service the parish council is extremely grateful for. Thank you, Mary.

From our MP

Robert Courts, MP for Witney

As we come to the end of this very challenging year, the Christmas period and its meaning have never been more important. I want to assure you that the government is united in its aim to ensure that we can have as normal a Christmas as possible. Undoubtedly, though, your Christmas will be different this year.

This festive period is a special time for us all. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, another religious festival – or none at all – it is vitally important that we all work together to make this unusual and challenging festival period a special one nonetheless. It might be that you have to see your extended family via Zoom this Christmas, or that your traditional Christmas Day trip to the pub looks different. It may be that you brave a West Oxfordshire winter this year rather than escaping to warmer climes. But I have every confidence that the people of West Oxfordshire will not let anything get in the way of their festive spirit.

Christmas time is also one for giving and charity. This year, that might mean something different from usual. Maybe you could speak to a neighbour, reconnect with a friend, or reach out to someone who lives alone. If you are able, charities are still working and grateful for any donation you can give. This year it is more important than ever that we show our festive spirit in our community.

Wherever and however you may be celebrating this year, I want to wish you a very merry Christmas and season’s greetings from myself and my team. I can assure you we will be working around the clock as usual on your behalf. So, if there is anything at all I can do to help, please do let me know.

Sustainable Tackley

Liz Marshall, Tackley Parish Council

As we all know, 2020 hasn’t been an easy year. The climate emergency was already deeply concerning, biodiversity loss a real worry, and then Covid-19 hit, which has been so awful for so many. But somehow, somewhere we have to find some positives. As Sir David Attenborough says in his forward to the 2019 State of Nature report: “Although this report highlights what we have lost, and what we are still losing, it also gives examples of how we – as individuals, organisations, governments – can work together to stop this loss, and bring back nature where it has been lost. These examples should give us hope and inspiration.”

So, what has this got to do with Tackley, the environment and Covid-19? Well, during the lockdown when the verges and green areas were being left a little less manicured than normal (although, thank you to Green Scythe for keeping the sports field in tip top condition!) we started to see a little more life in the village than normal. Dots of colour appearing where flowers were able to bloom; the buzz of bees, the hum of insects and, particularly down Rousham Road, the singing of crickets and grasshoppers—did you know, grasshoppers make the noise with their legs and crickets with their wings?

We are lucky to live in beautiful rural Oxfordshire, and so fortunate to have the heath on our doorstep, but space for other flora and fauna continues to decrease. Any extra space we can provide for our fellow inhabitants of this planet can only be a good thing. So, from next year we will be changing the way we manage our green spaces in the village.

It will likely be an evolving process. While we have a plan, based on Plantlife’s Good Verge Guide, and we will cut our hedges in a different way, if things aren’t quite right as we go along we will make changes.

Some areas, like the sports field, playground and village green, will remain short cut and managed as they currently are, although we will have a wide margin around the sports field only cut twice per year to provide shelter for frogs and insects alongside the stream as part of a corridor through the village.

Other verges, which need to not get too out of hand, will be cut four times a year to encourage smaller flowers to grow, and other areas will only get two cuts per year to give time for the larger flowers to grow, flower and set seed. All grass cuttings will be removed to reduce the vigour of the grass which is what allows the flowers to compete and flourish.

This may take a few years to really make a difference, so if there are some sight-lines blocked by some over-enthusiastic grass, which makes walking on footpaths or driving dangerous, of course we will make sure those places are sorted out.

We will also make sure there is communication between the contractors and the parish council so that we can be sure flowers have set seed before cutting commences, and also liaison with Tackley People Against Litter (PALs) to make sure rubbish is removed before cutting. It is awful to see litter shredded after the cutting, as it cannot all be removed, becoming part of the soil and part of the problem.

And, of course, the Sustainable Tackley group are finalising plans to develop the Jubilee Garden to not only make it a nicer place for us to be, but also for wildlife.

Some councils around the country have been following the Good Verge Guide and/or rewilding areas for several years (e.g. in Dorset); others have more recently switched (e.g. Elmdon Park, Solihull and Yardley, Birmingham) and more locally Oxford City Council is reviewing cutting in parks and green spaces and will be asking the county council to review its verge cutting regimens. So, we are not alone in what we plan to do, but maybe at the start of a better way of managing our green spaces throughout the country!

We hope that you enjoy the changes and be patient with little problems while the process evolves. If you have any more ideas on ways of greening the village, please contact the clerk if you think it is a parish council matter or Sustainable Tackley if it is another initiative the village could be involved with.

Sustainable Tackley survey: what you thought

Joanna O’Mahoney

At the beginning of September, a short questionnaire was distributed to every household in Tackley parish by a team of volunteers from Sustainable Tackley. This a growing group of more than 30 residents who are keen to explore and promote different ways of achieving a greener and more sustainable lifestyle.

59 households replied which, in the midst of all that is happening at the moment, was a pleasing result. One priority for these residents is to expand recycling in the village and to use less packaging in general (86%). Many want to see more wildflowers (84%) and schemes to support wildlife around us (76%), such as the hedgehog highways in Kirtlington which have featured in local and national media.

A new idea gaining support around the UK is the ‘library of things’. In Summertown, for example, people borrow equipment that is perhaps only used infrequently but is sometimes expensive to buy and difficult to find space to store (76% support in the survey). Elsewhere in the UK there are also ‘repair sheds’ where things might be repaired rather than thrown away (73% support). We could try the same thing here.

The Jubilee Garden enhancement project was very well supported (91%). If there are any garden designers who would be willing to lend their expertise or landscapers happy to help, the project team would be very grateful for that support.

There were some reservations about leaving spaces in the village to grow naturally – clear visibility along roads being most often expressed – but 62% were in favour of more flowers and wildlife.

There were many suggestions and positive comments. If you would like to read the full report please email us. There is also a very busy WhatsApp group to share ideas and encourage. The toy swap has been announced, and a wildlife blog will be coming soon so that all of us can share sightings. There used to be glow worms in Tackley 30 years ago—are there any left? Children and adults alike are fascinated by the bats, owls and grass snakes that visit our gardens and the blog would be a way to share that enthusiasm.

As everyone keeps saying, this has been a very difficult year for so many; but Sustainable Tackley would like to contribute to a more hopeful future. Why not get in touch just to find out more?

Gardening group

Mary Lee

Well, what a year it’s been! I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas again and we’ve had no meetings all year. I’m afraid I can’t say when the next AGM will be, but let’s hope it’s soon in the new year.

We’ve all had more time to spend on the garden this year, so I hope you’re all pleased with your efforts.

Merry Christmas to you all, and here’s hoping for a prosperous and better New Year when we can meet again.

U3A

Chris Sladen

Defying what looks like more months of lockdown, Woodstock U3A stalwarts continue to find ways of pursuing their interests and expressing themselves.

Our monthly speaker meetings, which in normal times are sociable occasions in Woodstock’s Community Centre, have shifted online. Early in November, nutritional therapy experts Shona Kennedy and Teresa Tolfree gave out some good advice on how to manage our guts and ensure healthy digestion. Tuesday, 1 December (2 pm) sees Helen Matthews who, having become a novelist late in life, promises to pass on a few tips she learned in the process; while on 5 January, amateur astronomer Mary McIntyre explains how much can be learnt from studying Shadows in Space. The full list of online talks, through to April, is on our website.

It’s worth taking a look at what is available regionally: look up U3A’s Thames Valley Network (TVN) which offers members a rolling programme of online talks on a variety of subjects.

Members of Woodstock branch’s individual interest groups continue to work on their specialisms. The artists and craftspersons post a fact-packed newsletter every few weeks displaying a formidable range of talents—and did I mention their biscuit recipe? The two play-reading groups are looking at how they might meet within the latest guidelines, while the book group now meets monthly, again courtesy of Zoom, to discuss books and poetry; and the recorder group continues to stay in tune online with weekly meetings of its own.

Walking group

Linda Birch & Rachel Strachan

Ever wondered which field paths you can walk from the village? Tackley Walking Group is a friendly way to get to know your local countryside better, and learn about the history of its paths and the places they pass. It’s been great to welcome new and familiar faces on this summer’s walks.

We’re offering led, local, social distancing-compliant walks when the pandemic restrictions permit. We need to know in advance who is coming, and will keep records of walkers for test and trace. Places may be limited. Contact Linda Birch if you’d like to book a place on a particular walk.

Walks are at a leisurely pace, and depart from the village hall at the times given. Distances are approximate, and routes may be altered due to weather or ground conditions. All walking is at the participant’s own risk.

12 December: Bletchingdon

Saturday, 12 December at 10 am: Bletchingdon Park (6.5 miles). Cross the canal to the path to Kirtlington golf course; follow new paths through 17th century Bletchingdon Park, passing Grade II listed stables to reach the village. Field paths back to the golf course, and return to Tackley. Bring a picnic lunch.

9 January: Kirtlington

Saturday, 9 January at 10 am: Kirtlington’s thoroughbreds and fossils (5 miles). Up Crecy Hill bridleway and over the railway, to the river and canal bridges; Crowcastle bridleway past Kirtlington Stud farm. Through Kirtlington Quarry (SSSI in disused cement works) then over the canal at Pigeons Lock to return to Tackley.

28 January: Historic walks

Wednesday, 28 January at 2 pm: Tudor and Roman tracks (4.5 miles). Get 360° views near Tackley’s trig point before crossing the A4260 to reach Woodstock Palace’s old drove lane. Bridleways to Sturdy’s Castle pub, then on Akeman Street back to the site of Tackley’s Roman villa.

History group

John Perkins

Most of Tackley Local History Group’s activities, including our annual programme of talks, the mosaic project, exhibitions, Recording Tackley, pottery days, the planned Roman Pop-up Zone, and the commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the shipwreck of the Cataraqui, have been put on hold by the pandemic.

Although excavations at Gibraltar Point are now nearly finished, we have not been able to meet with various experts to carry out the identification and analysis of pottery, human and animal bones, coins and other objects from the site. Nor have we been able to arrange for radiocarbon dating of the several adult skeletons from the site. All of this will have to wait until the spring when we all hope for the beginning of a return to something like normality.

Between lockdowns we have been able to continue with socially-distanced activities such as field-walking and the metal-detecting surveys of various Roman sites in and around the village, which are beginning to create a more detailed picture of early life in Tackley. We have started two series of occasional publications based on research that members have been doing: short articles appear in Tackley History Mysteries, which goes out on Tackley Notices, and longer articles can be found in Stories from our Past on our website.

Our Facebook group is thriving and now has over 200 members, with regular posts on village history including lots of old photographs, many of them from Simon Somerscales’ collection. There is a lot of interest in the history of the older houses in the village and who lived in them, and we have been thinking of setting up a village-wide project to find out about each house and its inhabitants. If you would be interested in joining such a project, please let Sue Ashton know on [email address removed from archive copy].

In the Tackley Newsletter for February and March we hope to be able to announce a timetable for restarting our regular activities.

Miss Sharpe

The August issue of the Tackley Newsletter included the first in our Stories from our Past series: ‘Coffee Lodge, Miss Sharp and a teapot: temperance and philanthropy in Tackley’. Betty Holmes of St John’s Road wrote to offer the following continuation:

“I started school in 1931. At that time, Miss Sharpe visited once a year. She came all dressed in black in a wheelchair with a black umbrella. Stan Franklyn pushed her in. She terrified me—she sat there and would point her umbrella at you and say ‘What’s your name, girl?’ I think she only came about two years.

“Miss Sharpe lived in the big house on The Green.

“When she died, Mrs Evetts lined her grave with moss and bunches of violets and primroses. We had to pick the flowers (you could in those days) and it looked very nice.”

Tackley history mysteries

John Perkins

Mystery 4: The Tackley poet

Richard Edgington died on 30 April 1870, aged 88, in the Union Poorhouse in Woodstock. The Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette (7 May 1870) described him as ‘the author of some very credible rhymes which displayed a natural poetic taste’, and the Bicester Herald (15 May 1870) called him ‘The Tackley poet’.

He appears in the census returns for 1841, 1851 and 1861. In 1851, he and his wife Sarah were living at Weaveley Farm, though not as the tenant farmers. 10 years later Richard was a lodger with the Bolton family in Tackley; Sarah had presumably died.

Have any of his verses survived? The phrase ‘the author of some very credible rhymes which displayed a natural poetic taste’ suggests they had a life outside the village. So perhaps they were published, although he does not figure in the British Library or Bodleian catalogues.

He certainly had a local reputation for eloquence beyond his poetry. On 9 March 1848 the major local landowners issued notices starting the process of enclosing the common lands and fields in the village. At a meeting in the Gardiner Arms, labourers attended in force and elected Edgington their spokesman—or, as he described himself, ‘representative of the peasantry’. On their behalf he objected altogether to the proposed enclosure and refused to put any claim to ‘the supposed or real rights of the peasantry’ in writing—the only way, legally, by which they might be taken into account. This was no doubt an assertion that he did not recognise the whole process.

The Banbury Guardian (22 June 1848) says that he continued ‘and in copious, sometimes eloquent, language urged the folly of “asking for a man’s own.” “Shall I,” he said, “having paid for the shoes on my feet, condescend to put in a claim for them to a man, or to a set of men, who can have no sort of right to them?”’ James Saunders, the Enclosure Commissioner, who chaired the meeting, took notes of what he said, ‘but Edgington, like a true British freeman, refused to “put his hand” to any paper whatsoever.’

His use of the term ‘peasantry’ is unusual in a British context and suggests that he was acquainted with recent Continental history, and possibly with some political writings, probably French. This is partly borne out by the opening words of the speech he went on to give at the meeting, which began: “When Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Italy and seized the crown…” Unfortunately, no more is recorded.

He was clearly an educated man, too, though undoubtedly largely self-taught.

The enclosure of Tackley’s common lands did not take place until 1873, due in part to the opposition of Tackley villagers which Edgington so eloquently expressed.

It would be interesting to know more about him. Has any of his poetry survived? Who in Tackley was he related to? How did he educate himself? Was he connected to the Methodist church, as so many of Tackley’s radical voices were?

Mystery 5: Another Roman archaeological puzzle

Soon after his death in April 1936, William Evetts’ collection of over 800 coins and tokens found in Tackley – including 138 Roman coins – was donated to the Ashmolean Museum by his son Edgar. They were collected by Evetts himself, his farm workers, village children and villagers. Some were found scattered around the parish but others appear to have been in concentrations which would indicate archaeological sites. These are referred to in various unpublished letters in the archives of the Ashmolean Museum and in short notices in journals between 1921 and 1952. However, in spite of a number of references to particular locations, we have so far been unable to identify most of them, some of which, including a ‘Roman cemetery’, are tantalising.

Solving the puzzle of where these sites are is difficult because some of the people giving their locations had no personal knowledge of the village, and others may have been unintentionally imprecise or perhaps even deliberately misleading.

At first, all seems plain sailing. In a letter of 21 March 1921, Evetts told E. L. Leeds, assistant keeper of the Ashmolean and author of An Archaeological Survey of Oxfordshire, that “most of the Roman and Anglo Saxon coins were found at Street Farm.” We now know that there was a villa there. But this is the only mention of Street Farm.

In 1929 Bryan O’Neill, the Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments, visited Evetts and reported to a colleague in the Ashmolean that “there undoubtedly is a Roman site near at hand xxxx (illegible) in allotments & a new rectory (red brick) has been built very close but set back from the road.”

In 1932 he visited Evetts again to assess his collection and noted that the coins came mainly from three sites: the allotments west of the new rectory; around Wood Farm; and the ridge. The allotments were sizeable parcels of land, up to an acre or so, cultivated by village labourers, and ‘The Ridge’ refers to the high ground behind the Rousham and Nethercote roads which gives its name to the small housing estate on the Rousham Road. All these are fairly precise, but no Roman pottery, which one would expect to find along with coins, has so far been found on any of them.

Evetts’ coin collection was generating scholarly interest and had been mentioned in a survey of discoveries published in the Journal of Roman Studies, 1926. They devoted one paragraph to Tackley:

“At Tackley, where Akeman Street crosses the Cherwell, there is a Roman inhabited site on the hilltop North of the road and West of the river. Drainers assert that they have found an ‘underground passage’ here, and many coins have turned up. There are foundations, perhaps on the lower ground between this and the river. Mr W. Evetts has a large number of coins from the immediate neighbourhood (including a cemetery a little further to the north) ranging from Claudius to Arcadius and Honorarius.”

None of these locations fit the Street Farm site. Many hours of field-walking north of Akeman Street and west of the river have produced only a few pieces of Roman pottery, most likely associated with traffic on Akeman Street. There are no indications of an inhabited site, underground passage, foundations, or cemetery.

The first volume of the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire published in 1939 compounds the confusion. Under the heading ‘Romano-British Remains’ on page 343, the entry for Tackley states “An occupation site occurs on the line of Akeman Street on the hill-top south of the village. Pottery and 138 coins ranging from Claudius to Arcadius were collected by Mr. Evetts and have been presented to the Ashm. Mus.” The only hill-top on the line of Akeman Street is Sturdy’s Castle, and that is to the west, not the south.

In May 1952, Edgar Evetts brought speculation about where the sites might be to an end when he met H. W. Catling, an assistant keeper at the Ashmolean. Catling had gone to see him at the request of Leo Rivet, of the Archaeological Division of the Ordnance Survey, and wrote: “Re your problem about the Roman site at Tackley. I have been to Tackley and spoken to the son of the Evetts mentioned in VCH, I, 343. He knew of no Roman site (properly speaking) within the parish. He made it clear that the coins his father donated to the Ashmolean were found all over the parish, over a number of years. VCH therefore contains a slight suggestio falsi in that it rather looks as though the ‘pottery and 138 coins’ come from the alleged occupation site, which is definitely not the case.”

We now know of 13 Roman sites in the village. Are there more? Or were the foundations, occupation site, underground passage and cemetery a combination of mis-remembered conversations and over-receptive imaginations, together with a dose of deliberate obfuscation? It would be interesting to know.

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