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Sybil's Village Memories.

Kingston Bagpuize in the 1920s.

Sybil Beard nee Ballard.

Before the 1914-18 war, Kingston, like most villages, had been more or less self-supporting, due to the lack of any transport faster than a horse and cart. True, many people had bicycles and the carrier ran once a week to Abingdon and Oxford but there was no bus service and no telephone with which to communicate with other areas, and in the Twenties none but the very wealthy had cars. So the villages survived with the help of small businesses, most of them very flourishing, and many of which had been in the same family for generations. Because the structure of the villages was so unchanging, everyone knew not only those families in their own village but those in adjoining villages also. If one wrote a letter to someone in the Twenties, it was not necessary to use house names, numbers or names of roads, much less a post code; just the name of the recipient and the village were adequate.

Photograph of Ballard Family

Fred G. Ballard, Blacksmith of Kingston
Bagpuize with daughters.

There were no commuters. If one lived in the village, one's work was either one's own business or on one of the farms, small businesses or at one of the big houses. As I remember the main road of Kingston and Southmoor, between The Hind's Head and The Waggon and Horses, the houses were occupied by: Mr Woodbridge, the saddler and shoe repairer (adjoining the pub).

Next to the Reading Room lived Miss Castle, the school-mistress.

Up School Lane were a number of cottages where I understand Mrs Farmer, one of the inhabitants of the 20s, still lives. In the yellow Victorian cottages were Mrs Russell the postmistress and newsagent; Mr Hitchcock, the old Berks Hunt stud groom; Mr Prior the policeman whose wife gave piano lessons; and Miss Sharp (?) who had a sweet shop. The two cottages lying further back were occupied by the Ricketts family and next door Miss Woodbridge who took in lodgers.

Next was the forge and our house. Then Mr Rickett's carpentry yard and workshop (now a house). The old stone cottage on the boundary of Kingston and Southmoor was occupied by Mr Sharp who was the butler at Kingston House.

Photograph of Ballards

Charles Ballard, late Blacksmith of
Kingston Bagpuize with grand-daughter Jose.
NB the house in background on Faringdon Road.

Next was Mr Holifield who was the painter and decorator. Then three pairs of semi-detached cottages occupied by farm workers; Miss Wicks who did dressmaking and Mr Jupp who was a lay preacher and whose daughter went to China as a missionary.

There were no more houses on that side of the road, just meadows, until Miss Tubb's cottage (she worked on the fruit farm I believe). The adjacent thatched cottage was where' Mrs Woodward, the doctor's wife, lived after he died; before then it had been a farm cottage. The house on the corner where the garage now is was kept by a couple who sold fruit and vegetables and did cycle repairs.

Heath House was one of the "big houses' and was lived in by a lady of independent means who kept some lovely carriage horses. There was one other cottage before The Waggon and Horses, which I think was occupied by a farm foreman.

Coming down the other side of the road there was the house of Mr Aldworth, a solicitor; then that of Mr Neale, a retired landlord of The Waggon and Horses. Next was the workshop, yard and house of the Godfrey brothers who were wheelwrights and undertakers. Then there was a field before coming to two cottages. One was the home of the Viney family and the other of Mr Absolam the roadman. The house on the corner opposite the chapel was the main grocery store, run by a couple and their two daughters. Next to the chapel were two cottages and then the bungalow occupied by Mr Tanner, the estate manager. The whole village at this time was owned by Mr Strauss of Kingston House. On the corner of Sandy Lane was a small shop run by Mrs Palmer. Mr Palmer did cycle repairs.

There was another field before coming to Southmoor House, home of Mr Stevenson, the Master of the Old Berks Hunt. This was another of the 'big houses'. The other side of the lane, now Bellamy Close, was an old white-washed cottage, then a pair of semi-detached cottages before the bakery of the Florey family, who had ten boys before finally getting the girl they desired. Stone House was the surgery and home of Dr Woodward. Across The Warren was the farm and then all the buildings and the paddock of the Old Berks Hunt.

Any buildings you think I have missed had not been built in the Twenties.

There were other businesses off the main road, of course, such as that of Mr Cox, the market gardener at Town Pond, and his neighbour Mr Ray Hobbs the coalman, who delivered coal with his four-wheeled cart and his horse, Flower. There was also a shop in the house on the corner of the Oxford Road.

Photograph of Aunts Bess & Annie

Rachel Ballard with daughters.NB the old
Bakehouse on Abingdon Rd in background.

The structure of the village changed when the estate was sold in the early Thirties and became fragmented. The decline of the horse and the advent of the tractor and the motor car spelled the end of the old village businesses, and in their place sprang up garages and filling stations and bus offices. The young people found that there was more money to be earned in the towns, to which they could then travel by bus, car or motor bike. So, as the old craftsmen died, no one came forward to carry on the businesses as they had been.

The thing I deplore about the main road in Kingston is not the building of new homes or the alteration of the old ones, but the destruction of the many fine trees which were felled to make room for them. In particular I think of the huge red chestnut tree that stood in the carpenter's yard, and another one that was in Stone House garden at the Warren end. And then there was the large old yew that went to make way for my father's garage, itself demolished a mere thirty years later.

There was also the largest red may tree that I have ever seen, growing in the corner of our neighbour's garden. It must have been very old, as it was as high as our house and had a. trunk with a diameter of 12"-14", which is large considering how slowly thorn grows. When my mother had her new bungalow built in our vegetable garden after the last war, she planted a new red may tree as near to the site of the old one as possible, and called the house 'May-tree1. But when she died, the new owners changed the name to 'The Croft'. Also gone are the two large rowan trees which stood on either side of the Ricketts' gate, as well as numerous laburnum, almond and other flowering trees, which were interspersed with holly hedge, which ran all along one side of the main road.

Source:(As a follow-up to Jill Muir's article 'Putting the Meat on the Bones: a school log book', OFH Vol 4 No 4, Oxfordshire Family History Society, has kindly allowed us to reprint her article, which also appeared in Kingston Bagpuize with Southmoor News, May 1987.)