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  • Writer's pictureHenry Brougham

4th Quarter Newsletter 2019



Chairman: Henry Brougham 4th Quarter 2019

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.

29th October 2019

Robert Harris

Lord Nuffield – his early life & the birth of the motoring industry in Cowley.

William Morris born at Worcester on 10th October 1877 was the only surviving son. His father was a farm bailiff but they moved to Oxford because William’s mother was not well. William enjoyed taking things apart and seeing how they worked. He left school at 14 or 15 and started as an apprentice with a firm called Parker’s in St. Giles, after nine months he asked for a salary increase of one shilling a week, this was refused so he left to start up on his own at 16 James Street. He made a bicycle for the Vicar of Cowley and the orders increased so that the entire house was given over to bicycle making.

Morris enjoyed cycle racing which was where he met his future wife. Finally he moved to 48 High Street, where, with Joseph Cooper they made motorcycles. By 1908 the firm was at the Old Livery Stables, Longwall. The Earl of Macclesfield, then at Oxford University, loaned him £4,000 to build cars; Gillett the banker also lent £4,000. Morris only had a shilling to his name at the time. In 1911 he went to the Motor Show with his designs and came back with an order for 250 cars! Needing larger premises he took over the old grammar school in Holloway where the Bullnose Morris was built and sold for £175.

At the time he started to show interest in public affairs – the Council were considering running trams in Oxford because the horse drawn buses were unrealiable and could not get up Headington Hill. The University was against this, so Morris built buses and sold vouchers in shops as bus tickets. On Friday, 5th December 1911 the first such bus ran, the last bus was at 11pm at night.

After World War 1 the North Works on the allotments in Holloway were given over to assembly line car production, using conveyor belts. At the recession in 1921 Morris had financial problems for the first and only time – Gillett gave him a loan to pay the workers and Morris repaid this to the bank the following year. In 1913, having started with 200 workers, Morris employed 1,300 out of 34,000 employed in car manufacture in the country. By 1940 this had increased to 10,000 and with the introduction of the Pressed Steel factory the number grew to 25,000. In the beginning the car bodies were wooden made at Cowley sawmill, and then covered in steel or even fabric. Pressed Steel had come into being because Morris travelled to the Budd Brothers car works in America and saw they were using pressed steel for the bodies.

Morris gave money to many charities including the Nuffield Orthopedic Centre and for the establishment of Nuffield College.

Sadly he was convinced he would be forgotten after his death. But that will not be allowed to happen with speakers such as Roger – who incidentally coped magnificently when his laptop lost connection to the WiFi.

26 November 2019

Mike Heaney

Tom Carter of Marsh Baldon – the invisible collector

In 1987 Martin Biddle wrote to Andrew Sherratt at the Ashmolean museum asking if he knew who “T.J.C.” was that Professor Biddle had found mentioned in an early letter. This turned out to be Thomas James Carter (1833 – 1909) a prolific collector of Oxfordshire historical artifacts but one who is almost unknown. Carter worked closely with the Oxford antiquary Percy Manning, and it is to Manning that we know a little about the life of Carter. He was born at Marsh Baldon in 1836 his family moved to St.Clement’s, Oxford where he worked for some years in the old St. Clement’s brickfields. He developed an interest in fossils and would travel the country going from quarry to brickfield until he became an expert on the county geology.

Carter supplied fossils to collector’s including James Parker the bookseller in Broad Street. In 1892 Carter joined Percy Manning and John Myers at their dig in Alchester and Carter continued to sell artifacts to Manning for the rest of his life. Carter kept Manning informed of any new archaeological finds , such as at Drayton St.Leonard where pots and human bones had been found in 1893. And at Shotover where Carter told Manning of Roman pottery being unearthed. He also sold some Neolithic flints to Henry Balfour, first curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum. These were later donated to the Pitt Rivers. He travelled to Brize Norton to check on some human remains that had been discovered but was unable to get any examples. He was also at the time still looking for fossils.

On behalf of Manning Carter started to collect local folk lore – he looked for “old superstitions, stories, proverbs, words”. He first collected, in 1894, ghost stories from Beckley, Headington, Little Tew and Stanton Harcourt. He then turned his attention to the May Day celebrations being provided with a set list of questions by Manning to ask the local people. He managed to obtain for Manning examples of the costumes, instruments, and sets of bells. The May songs were also collected, from Blackthorn and Wootton (by Woodstock). He supplied Manning with the Bladon Shroving song in 1895.

Carter supplied Manning with a mix of objects – such as an 1823 money box from Brill; in 1902 he brought for Manning a horn lantern. Policemen’s decorated truncheon’s were also collected. In 1903 he supplied a candle holder “found 7 foot below the foundations of old houses in St. Clement’s.” In 1904 he sold to the Pitt Rivers Museum some flints found at Mongewell and some dice with letters for the game of A-all. He sold to Henry Balfour a smock from Bucknell now in the Pitt Rivers Mueum. In 1909 he sold his last item to the Pitt Rivers Museum – this was a wool-bobbin and had cost him 2s 6d.

Carter died on 26 November 1909 at the age of seventy-six from a stroke, his death certificate describes him as “formerly a geologist”. Today the Ashmolean Museum holds almost 800 items found by him during his travels. A member pointed out that we were learning about this invisible man exactly one hundred years on the date of his death.

10th December 2019

Mike Hurst,

Old Time Christmas Days of Christmas Past

It was unfortunate that Mike having driven from Goring Gap was beaten by the Kidlington road system and arrived 30 minutes late but he soon regained his composure to give us a fascinating view of Christmas past. Yuletide or Christmas can be traced back to the Vikings who celebrated the re-emergence of the sun. The favourite date for the birth of Jesus has been established by historians has 6 B.C. Emperor Constantine was the first Christian Roman Emperor. In A.D. 440 Christmas Day was established as falling on 25th December. In A.D. 567 the Council of Tours decreed that Christmas Day was to be a holiday. The term A.D. was invented by the Venerable Bede in Jarrow. In 1038 the first Christmas Mass was recorded. And in 1223 St.Francis of Assisi recorded the first play detailing the birth of Jesus. In the 1500’s the Wassall bowl made of oakmead and cider was drunk to pray for more crops the following year. At this time the Holly King would fight with the Oak King twice a year for the emergence of the sun. The Puritans in the English Civil War were against Christmas and tried to ban it in 1643 at the Westminster Assembly. But the tradition was reinstated by Charles II. In the 1800’s Christmas was a time of excess drinking and eating. The turkey had been introduced into this country from Italy in the Middle Ages.

The medieval carols were not religious, Hark the Herald was first sung in 1739 and the Holly and the Ivy in 1818. Slowly St. Nicholas changed into Santa Claus and his reindeer were first given names in 1939. In America Louise May Alcott author of Little Women first mentioned Christmas elves. Christmas was almost re-invented by the Victorians. Mistletoe has always been part of the Christmas tradition. Christmas trees were first introduced into this country by Queen Caroline, but it was Prince Albert who introduced them more successfully in 1840. Candles were first used to dress the tree, with the introduction of electric lights in 1902-04. Crepe paper for decorations appeared in the 1950’s, the same time has balloons became popular. The first Christmas card appeared in 1843. And Christmas stamps, mostly designed by children, were introduced in 1966. Christmas crackers were introduced by a Tom Smith. Advent calendars were invented in Germany in the nineteenth century.

The Great Western Railway introduced Christmas trips to the main shopping areas. And the underground Circle Line in London took people into the main shopping area of the city. Games such as Snakes and ladders; Ludo, Monopoly and card games became part of the twentieth century Christmas. Children’s annuals such as Eagle (1950), Beano (1954); the Robin Annual for very young children; Swift Annual for ten year olds were popular. Santa’s Grotto was an English invention in the 1880’s. Christmas stockings appeared at this time. Christmas postcards were introduced in the 1950’s. The Robin developed into being the favourite Christmas bird.

The evening ended with the Christmas buffet and drinks organized with her usual efficiency by Olive Williams and her helpers. At this 58 members attended.

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