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1st Quarter Newsletter 2020



Chairman: Henry Brougham 1st Quarter 2020

Reporter: Norma Aubertin-Potter

The Society meets on the last Tuesday of every month at the Willows Restaurant, Moorside Place, The Moors.

Meetings Start at 7.50pm. All meetings cancelled until further notice.


At the time of producing this Newsletter, Kidlington and the entire world is experiencing a change to our normal lifestyles unheard of a few months ago: shops, offices, parks closed and only essential services running. And here we must thank our wonderful National Health Service, the Post Office who are still delivering to our door and the wheelie bin collection which is still taking place. And ofcourse the farmers and growers who are still providing our food and the supermarket staff who are still providing a service.

Because of the massive impact the Coronavirus is having on our lives I have felt we at Kidlington should record our experiences for future generations – such as queuing for food, trying to work from home, in fact anything you have experienced during the lockdown.

I hope you will feel you can take part – it can be sent to me via email (see below) and hard copies can be given to me when we next meet in Moorside. Photographs of empty roads, shelves etc would be welcome. It is hoped we may be able to produce a booklet of Kidlington at this time.

The History Society Committee hope you and your families and friends keep well and we hope to see you soon.

Thank You,

Norma (


28th January 2020

The Mail – Yesterday and Today

John Dennis

John told us that he first became interested in stamps when at the age of eight his family received a letter with a foreign stamp and his Mother showed him how to detach it from the envelope. As he grew older he realized that stamp collecting and the delivery of mail should be studied together. The first thing we must do is to realize that Rowland Hill was the not the first person to establish a mail service. That honour must go to King Cyrus of Persia who in 550 B.C. organized a mail service for his extensive Empire. This was at a time when most could not read or write and writing materials were primitive and expensive. Augustus Caesar ( 27 B.C. – 14 A.D.) established the “Cursus Publicus” public roads to make delivery of mail easier within the Roman Empire. Russia had a service for official mail in the eleventh century; and in 1634 they signed a Treaty with Poland for the interchange of mail; a further Treaty in Kyakta with China established interchange of mail with that country. In 1497 the Holy Roman Emperor Maxmillian I commissioned the von Taxis family to organize postal services for the whole of the Empire. Marco Polo on his return from the Mongul Empire reported on his experience of an extensive mail organization in that country.

In this country Henry I (1100-1135) appointed official messengers; later Henry III (1216-1272) provided them with uniforms. Edward I (1272-1307) established “Postal Houses”, followed by Edward 11 (1307 – 1327) who established “postal markings”. Henry VIII created the office of Master of Posts – the first holder was Sir Brian Tuke. In 1603 James I extended the service to Edinburgh. In 1635 Charles I opened the postal service to the public; letters to be paid for by the recipient. In 1639 the General Court of Massachusetts designated the tavern of Richard Fairbanks of Boston as the depository of overseas mail. The office of Postmaster-General was founded by Charles II in 1661. By 1663 English Imperial Post had been extended to Barbabos; in the same year Willian Docura set up a Penny Post in London. In 1792 Paul Chappe developed a semaphore system to serve Paris. During the Napoleonic Wars the Field Post Office was developed for the British Army, and after the war branches of the British Army Office overseas were developed.

By 1830 the mail was carried by train, and a year later the Irish and Scottish Post Offices were united with the Post Office of England and Wales. In 1832 mail was first sorted on the train. In 1838 saw the introduction of a money transfer service by money order. And in the same year Samuel Morse experimented with a sound system which was adopted.

Roland Hill makes an appearance in the 1830’s - when he suggested a letter could be delivered to any address in the UK for a fixed charge and proof of payment shown by an adhesive label. In 1854 perforated sheets of stamps were introduced. Soon London was divided into postal districts, a system which soon spread to other cities and towns. In 1870 England developed a telegraph service, and also introduced a halfpenny rate for postcards and newspapers. In the same year Paris was besieged by the Prussian Army so the French developed a balloon mail.

In 1874 the Treaty of Bern established the Universal Postal Union, and in 1881 the Treaty of Paris established the Universal Parcel post. Postal Orders came into being in 1880, followed three years later by the Parcel Post. In 1912 the National Telephone Service came into being. And at this time the Post Office trained the post men to ride bicycles. Finally all addresses in the UK given post codes.

25th February 2020

C.S.Lewis and JRR Tolkein

Alastair Lack

Alastair is an Oxford guide and he gave us a fascinating insight until the Oxford lives of both C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkein. He said that while tourists knew of the Eagle and Child few know about the characters of the two men. Lewis (1898-1963) and Tolkein (1892-1973) were good friends, Lewis said of Tolkein that “there was no harm in him he just needed a slap or two”. And they were both prominent figures in the University which at the time, between both wars, had 6,000 - 8,000 students, a sleepy atmosphere and catered for the middle to upper classes.

C.S.Lewis was born in Belfast, from the family home he could see the shipyards. He had a difficult unhappy relationship with his father. When aged 9, the family dog Jack was run over, Lewis announced that henceforth he wished to be called Jack. His mother taught him French and Latin; Lewis lost his faith in God when his Mother died of cancer. Lewis developed a love of northern sagas. He went to Malvern School which he hated, the other boys mocking his Irish accent. In 1916 he entered University College, Oxford to study the classics but by November 1917 he was in France with his friend Paddy Moore. He was wounded in April 1918 and returned to England, and finally demobbed in December 1918. He and Paddy had made a pact that should one of them be killed the other was to look after the family of the deceased and Lewis did look after Paddy’s mother(Janey) until her death, so much so there has always been a rumour that they were lovers. In 1925 he became a Fellow in English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford. The college looked upon him as an outsider.

J.R.R.Tolkein was born in South Africa, his father a bank clerk died when Tolkein was just four. His mother died when he was twelve. Tolkein went to King Edward’s School, Birmingham and there developed a love of languages and invented a new language a year; one of which was called Naffarin. At the school he did little work, founded societies, played rugby and on one occasion stole a bus. He spent more time on philology than classics. In 1909 he learned Esperanto, possibly one of the first to do so. He was a student at Exeter College, Oxford and determined to get his degree before joining the army, he was one of the few that did not believe the war, which he considered a terrible disaster, would be over by Christmas. Tolkein’s family had originated in Germany and Tolkein himself could speak German. In June 1916 he was called up and sent to France as a signals officer; by October 1916 he had contracted trench fever caused by lice and was invalided back to England, by which time all his close friends had been killed, and he was finally demobbed in July 1919. He had met his wife Edith when he was sixteen and she was nineteen, they married in 1916. She was not intellectual and mainly looked after the children while Tolkein was with friends in public houses. In 1925 Tolkein entered Pembroke College as Professor of Anglo-Saxon; in 1945 he moved to Merton College as Professor English Language and Literature. He and his family lived in 20 Northmoor Road.

C.S.Lewis and his brother Warren known as Warnie, who suffered from shell-shock, built The Kins, in Headington with money left to them by their father. At the time the study of English was a new department and not looked upon with enthusiasm by other departments who felt it would attract second-rate students. The Eagle and Child public house became the venue of The Inklings, English professors, led by Lewis and Tolkein, would meet on a Monday lunchtime for about two hours. The landlord did not look kindly on them as they would make a half pint last for the two hours! In 1956 Lewis, who had previously ignored women, married American Joy Gresham. She was to die of cancer. In 1949 he began writing the Tales of Narnia which has never been out of print. The wardrope in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrope is based on the wardrope in his fathers house where Lewis and Warnie would enter to tell each other stories. In 1954 Lewis moved to Cambridge as a Professor of English having twice been passed over by Oxford.

There are few monuments in Oxford to either Lewis or Tolkein – but in Exeter College there is a bust of Tolkein sculptured by his daughter in law.

31st March 2020

Marjory Szurko,

Sweet Slices of History

Due to the Coronavirus this talk was cancelled but Marjory kindly sent me details of a 14th century recipe she was going to talk about (and bring us samples to taste)! She also sent me the text of her talk relating to this recipe.

Following is the recipe in Middle English.

PAYN RAGOUN (Pine nut sweetmeats)

(14th Century)

Payn ragoun.  Take hony and sugur cipre and clarifie it togydre, and boile it with esy fyre, and kepe it wel fro brennyng.  And whan it hath yboiled a while, take vp a drope þerof wiþ þy fyngur and do it in a litel water, and loke if it hong togydre; and take it fro the fyre and do þerto pynes the thriddendele & powdour gyngeuer, and stere it togyder til it bigynne to thik, and cast, and cast it on a wete table; lesh it and serue it forth with fryed mete, on flesh dayes or on fisshe dayes.

(Forme of Cury 68)

The ingredients in modern English!

2 cups fine white sugar

3 Tablespoons clear honey

125 ml/4 fl oz/ ½ cup water

3/4 cup pine nut kernels, chopped small or ground

1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger

The first 14th century recipe I attempted to make was payn ragoun, a honey and pine-nut sweet from the manuscript ‘Forme of Curye’ which means ‘Method of cooking’.

On reading it over, I saw that it involved heating sugar and honey together, but the only instructions relating to temperature were ‘…with esy fyre, and kepe it wel fro brynning…’ I took ‘esy fyre’ to mean ‘on a low heat’, so that I could keep the sugar and honey mixture from burning in the pan.

The next part of the recipe resembled instructions that my mother had given me when I was a young girl learning to make toffee.  The words were: ‘And whan it hath yboiled a while, take vp a drope þerof wiþ þy fyngur and do it in a litel water, and loke if it hong togydre…’ While I was reading this, it dawned on me that it was the ‘soft ball’ test for boiled sugar, in which you drop a small quantity of the mixture into cold water to see if it is ready (if you don’t have a sugar thermometer!) This gave me confidence that I was working along the right lines and that I might be able to understand the instructions more easily than I had thought at first. One of the things I learned from this first experiment was that modern recipes have their roots in these old recipes of the past.

Marjory Szurko, Sweet slices of history: baking & cakes. 2018. ISBN 978-1-909248-60-1

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