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  • Writer's pictureHenry Brougham

1st Quarter 2018 Newsletter

Since the last Newsletter the following members have died: Valerie Sweetnam, Margaret Anne Bishop, Daphne Paul and Joan Lingard. All four had been great supporters of the History Society and we send our thoughts to their families.  Another sad loss to Kidlington was the announcement of the death of Alan Walton; Alan had not been a member but he had been a great supporter of the Society and always bought a copy of any new publication once it was available.

30th January 2018

William Morris – designer, novelist and explorer

Peter Barrington

Peter told us that William Morris the designer of famous wallpapers NOT the William Morris of car fame was the William Morris he was going to talk about this evening. Morris was born at Elm House, Walthamstow on 24 March 1834, the fourth out of ten surviving children of William Morris senior, financier, and his wife Emma.

In 1840 the family moved to Woodford House, Essex on the edge of Epping Forest and there the young William explored the woodland on his pony dressed in a miniature suit of armour. William later said he had read the novels of Walter Scott between the ages of four and seven. In 1848 he went to Marlborough College and from there explored Savernake Forest, Avebury and Silbury Hill. From his walks in the countryside he drew inspiration for many of his wallpaper and textile designs. One of the best known “Willow” derives from the leaves of the trees that lined the river where he fished.

William’s father had died in 1847 leaving the family in debt to the sum of two million pounds (about two hundred million in today’s prices).  His widow moved the family to the smaller Water House, Walthamstow later called the William Morris Gallery.

In 1852 William entered Exeter College, Oxford to read classics and there he met Edward Burne-Jones also at Exeter College. While at Oxford Morris spent some time in the Bodleian Library looking at the illuminated manuscripts held by the Library.   In 1855 along with Burne-Jones and another college friend William Fulford, Morris explored the great Gothic cathedrals of northern France. Morris decided to be an architect and entered the firm of G.E.Street; but while Morris never designed a house when at Street’s firm he began to experiment with wood and stone carving. When Street moved to London Morris went with him taking rooms in Bloomsbury for which he designed the furniture.

At this time Morris became friends with Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. In 1857 they were commissioned to paint the murals in the newly built Oxford Union. In the same year Morris met his future wife Jane Burden (died 1914). Morris and Rossetti both used her as a model.  William and Jane were married on 26th April 1859 in St. Michael’s Church, Oxford. None of William’s family attended as they considered her a social inferior – her father being a stableman. Philip Webb was to design the Red House for the couple which they moved into in June 1860.

In 1861 the decorating company was founded by Morris and the work was first exhibited at the International Exhibition at South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). The exhibits won two Gold medals. In 1862 the first of William’s wallpapers were produced, the retail shop being at 8 Red Lion Square. In 1865 they sold the Red House which since 2003 has been run by the National Trust.

Morris also wrote poetry devoted to Arthurian legends, but in 1877 he turned down the post of the Oxford Professor of Poetry and he was also to turn down the appointment of Poet Laureate. He devoted a lot of his time to calligraphy and book illumination. He established the Kelmscott Press which generated the private press movement.  In 1871 he discovered Kelmscott Manor a sixteenth century grey stone manor house.  In 1877 he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. A year earlier he had become Treasurer of the Eastern Question Association, a Liberal pressure group formed to prevent Disraeli’s alliance with the Turks in the Russo-Turkish War.

Morris died on 3rd October 1896 at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith and is buried in Kelmscott Church.

27th February 2018

The stench of Victorian Indecision

Tony Boughton

Tony gave us a fascinating insight to the sewerage problem of Victorian England, this was mainly generated by the rise in population particularly in urban cities such as London. The term “sewer” originally meant “a fresh water trench, or little river”. And drainage is divided into two – “separate” a two drain system which deals with the rain water flowing into water courses and the sewage leading into sewers with processing facilites.  The second system: “combined” dealt with rain water, sewerage into one drain leading to the processing facilities.

In London sewage from 1800 to 1900 flowed into the Thames, the main source of drinking water for the city, and in 1858 the stench was so great Parliament was suspended; this period was called the “Great Stink”. At the time the population of London was two million and rising rapidly. Earlier the Public Health Act of 1848 established the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers, in the light of the Cholera outbreak of 1849 which resulted in the death of 2,000 people per week this Commission ordered a survey of the sewers.  William Farr and John Snow – both doctors- conducted a survey of the Broad Street Public Well in Golden Square, Soho and established that contaminated water had caused the outbreak not “foul vapours” in the air.

In 1854 the Chief Engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works Joseph Bazalgette planned a network of sewers, the Northern and Southern Outfall sewers to collect flows from the river outfalls and convey the waste to East London, once there it was stored in lagoons for nine hours and released into the river on the ebb tide out to sea.  The work started in 1859 and by 1874 the system was fully operational. Pumping stations were built to lift the sewage from lower levels into higher pipes. Two of the more ornate stations, Abbey Mills in Stratford and Crossness on the Erith Marshes are now protected by English Heritage. Bazalgette also built the three embankments to London in which the sewers run:  the Victoria, Chelsea and Albert Embankments. The Victoria Embankment was opened by the Prince of Wales in July 1870, the Queen being ill at the time.  The Albert Embankment had been completed in earlier in November 1869 and the Chelsea Embankment was opened in July 1874. Bazalgette put out to tender each section of the work and the final cost was an estimated £6.5 million. These sewers are still operational today.  The Oxfordshire pumping station at Sandford has been destroyed.

Not everyone was in agreement with the new systems – for instance industries faced with a high investment outlay to clean up their effluent into the rivers or sea threatened that a high number of the workforce would be laid off. In Leeds the tannery owners said over 20,000 men would be out of work. Paper mills were also responsible for the river pollution.

In 1878 a Thames pleasure steamer the SS Princess Alice collided with the collier Bywell Castle and sunk with the loss of over 650 lives. The accident took place near to one of the outfalls and the press blamed the sewage for the deaths. In 1882 a Royal Commission under Lord Bramwell devised a process of turning solids into liquids then dumping this into the North Sea using six sludge boats.  This system only ceased in December 1998.

In November 1894 this country was almost free from the cholera that raged in Russia and Europe, and this was credited to the new sewage systems of Bazalgette.

Today the London drainage system is controlled by Thames Water and used by over eight million people a day.

27th March 2018

Putting Kidlington on the map from Gough to Google

John Leighfield

The first known map dates from 6,000 BC and is a map of Catal Hyuk (Turkey). Following that is a Babylonian map of circa 6 BC.  The first surviving map to show England is the “Anglo-Saxon Map” dating from the end of the tenth century.     The “Gough” map of circa 1360 is the most important map of England and is housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. In the sixteenth century there was a growth in the production of estate maps both for the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge and for private estates.  In the late sixteenth century Christopher Saxton, born in Yorkshire in circa 1542 produced one of the first regional atlases of the counties of England.  This project was financed by Thomas Seckford, Surveyor of the Court of Wards and Liveries and being supported by Elizabeth I made this possible. The first two maps of the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire are dated 1574 and the last county was dated 1579 the year the atlas was printed.

Saxton’s maps were reproduced to illustrate the 1607 edition of Britannia by William Camden. Camden had been at Magdalen College, Oxford. His history of Britain was first published in Latin and then throughout the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries to accompany many county atlases.  The engravings in Britannia were done by John Kip and William Hole. William Hole engraved the Oxfordshire map.

A contemporary of Saxton was John Speed, born in Cheshire in 1552; Speed was the first to show the hundreds on county maps and also to show small views of the larger towns.

In 1675 John Ogilby produced his Britannia – a work in 100 plates illustrating in detail the principal roads of England and Wales. By the eighteenth century there was a demand for larger scale maps. One result was the map of Oxfordshire surveyed by Thomas Jeffreys, and engraved on four copper plates by John Cary. In 1797 Richard Davis of Lewknor produced a map of Oxfordshire on sixteen copper plates and at a scale of two inches to the mile.  John Cary, is perhaps the last great figure of county mapping. In 1809 he produced his New English Atlas with maps measuring 18 ¼ “ by 20 ¼ “.

In 1790 the Ordnance Survey was established in response to the threat of invasion from the French. The first one-inch to the mile was published in 1801 and covered the county of Kent.  By 1830 the southern part of Oxfordshire was produced.  From 1842 for two decades there was disagreement by the authorities over what scale to use: finally it was decided to use one inch to the mile for general topography; 6 inch to the mile for mountains and moorland; 25 inches to the mile for cultivated areas (in 1875 this scale put every tree on the map) and 10 feet to the mile for built up areas with a population of over 400.  In 2018 the Ordnance Survey produced Digital Master for an area; and street view.

And today of course we have Google Maps, also with street view, and Sat-Nav.

The handout produced by John showing in colour the maps mentioned with Kidlington depicted was an excellent accompaniment to the talk.

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