Banburyshire Family History

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go back to the last page you were on Memories of life in an Oxfordshire village

Barry Dunwoody

I was born in Banbury in 1944 and lived in a house on Warwick Road. My gran lived in a cottage near the church in the village of Horley. From an early age my Mum would take me on the Stratford Blue bus or one of Sumner's brown and cream buses to stay at my gran's for the weekend.

The cottage didn't have mains water - there was a well in the back garden. Eventually the council sampled the water and decided it was unfit for human consumption after my gran had been drinking it for about 40 years! She then had mains water installed but this consisted of one cold tap over the kitchen sink. She cooked all the food on a coal-fired cast iron range, so the house was always warm - especially in summer! From when I was about 8 or 9, I rode my bike the 4 miles to Horley most weekends. I also spent most of my school holidays there.

One farmer in the village, a Mr. Taylor still used Shire horses to work the land in the 1940's and I remember riding on the back of one of the team with my uncle.

One of my earliest frightening memories was when Mr. Rump killed a pig which lived in a pigsty at the house opposite my gran's. He had a kind of slatted wooden stretcher on legs and the pig was lifted onto it. He then cut its throat and I had nightmares about the squealing for sometime after.

A binder

Running repairs on a binder in the field

My gran's husband Fred (my Mum's stepfather) was also a farmer. He had a herd of Friesian cows and milked them in a milking parlour at the south end of Horley next to the brook. He had a shed where he pasteurised the milk which then ran through a cooler, cooled by water from the brook. The milk was put in aluminium churns and my gran took it round the village on a hand cart. People came out with jugs and she had a 'dipper' which held a pint.

Fred also had fields to the south of the village on both sides of the Oxfordshire Ironstone Railway. Some were kept as meadows for the cows and some were used to grow wheat. He had two tractors. One was a single cylinder diesel Field-Marshall which had an outside flywheel and was started with a cartridge with an explosive charge which spun the flywheel - very exciting for a young lad! The other tractor was an ancient Fordson. I would often ride perched on the mudguard of both of these - no H & S then!

Stooking

Building stooks in the field
to keep the grain dry


For me the best time of the year was always the harvest. The corn was cut with a reaper-binder behind the Fordson tractor - this was before combine harvesters. A man had to sit on a seat on the binder making sure that the binder twine came off the spool and fed into the machine. The corn was cut close to the ground and rotating arms pushed it into the binder where the corn was tied in a sheaf. These dropped out the back and the job of other men (Ag Lab's!) and me was to stand the sheaves up in 'stooks'. This meant forming a kind of pyramid so that the corn remained dry. The next day we went back with trailers and stacked the sheaves of corn on them so that they could be taken to the threshing box. This was a huge mysterious machine bizarrely painted salmon pink with red wheels and driven by a long flapping belt around the flywheel of the Field-Marshall. The sheaves were fed in one end, cutting the twine with a knife first. Everyone with long trousers - not me as I still wore short trousers - used this twine to tie round the legs of their trousers to stop mice running up! Straw came out the other end and the grain came out of a chute on the side into sacks. Another chute blew the chaff into a heap at the side. The straw was stacked to make a rick and this was thatched on top to keep the rain out. We stacked the straw using an elevator when it got too high - this was also driven by belt from the tractor. Thatching was a skilled job and a thatcher from Hornton used to come to thatch it.

Neithrop

Old map of Neithrop

One year we travelled from Horley backwards and forwards to Golden Villas in Neithrop with tractors, binder, trailers and the threshing box. The "Golden Villa" was a farmhouse standing alone in the middle of these fields. It was rendered white and the quoins were painted golden yellow.

I'm not sure if Fred had rented the land or if he was harvesting for someone else. I remember long warm sunny days and the song "Fields of Gold" always reminds me of this time and place.

Later as a teenager I delivered newspapers to houses in Woodgreen Avenue and Golden Villas Close built on these fields. The farmhouse is still there according to Google maps but is boarded up and looks rather sad - have a look on street view at the end of Golden Villas Close.

Contributed by Barry Dunwoody
Email: barry.dunwoody(@)gmail.com
To contact Barry Dunwoody, copy and paste the address and remove the brackets around the @ - thank you.