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Meetings 2012 to 2013 - All meetings take place in the Farmor Room of the Fairford Community Centre at 7.30pm unless otherwise stated.

May 16th 2013
Old paths of Gloucestershire by Alan Pilbeam
June 20th 2013
AGM followed by Postcards by John Higgs


April 18th 2013 - Chedworth Roman Villa by Dr Nick Humphris

Chedworth Roman Villa - Museum

Cheworth Roman Villa Museum

Chedworth Roman Villa has recently received a £3 million lottery grant for improvements to the site. A new building giving better viewing facilities of the mosaics was constructed at the West Range and a new school room and learning centre was also built to make the site more enjoyable for visitors.

Dr Nick Humphris has been a volunteer guide at the site for over a year. He explained that it had been occupied by the Romans from the 2nd Century to 4th Century. Its heyday being in the 4th Century. The site was probably occupied before that as the Spring at the corner of the site made it a desirable place to live. A pre-Roman burial has also been found on the site.

After the Romans left, it fell into disrepair and was then robbed of stone and was lost. It was rediscovered in 1864 by a gamekeeper who found tesserae whilst ferreting on Lord Elgin's Estate. Lord Elgin immediately gathered his workers to uncover the whole site. He built a hunting lodge in the centre which is now the Museum.

It is has been difficult to distinguish the various phases of building, in part due to the Victorians making it a tourist attraction. It is also unknown who lived there but Cirencester was the second city in the country and there are several large villas within striking distance of the town. The surviving mosaics in the triclinium are considered to be of equal standard to those in found in Rome or Pompeii. They are also likely to have had beautiful frescoes painted on the walls. This was the room where the Romans liked to to dine in style.

When a geophysical survey was carried out on the farm land just beyond the villa, it was discovered that the north and south range extended by a further 20 metres beyond the present villa. There is a lot still to be discovered and some more excavation will be done this summer.

Thanks to Nick Humphris for a snapshot of the history of the Villa. An FHS group visit will take place on May 9th 2013, meeting at Chedworth at 3pm when Nick will give us a tour. Any member interested please contact Alison on 01285 711768.

Chedworth Roman Villa Triclinium

Chedworth Roman Villa's Triclinium


March 21st 2013 - Come and meet Mr Therm! by John Lang

Over 40 members attended the 'Come and Meet Mr Therm' meeting. John Lang, a former employee of British Gas showed some very nostalgic footage of the 'Mr Therm' advertising campaign. Surprisingly it started in the 1930s, Mr Therm went through various incarnations in green, red and white. The film showed the changes as gas appliances became part of the home. Having hot water on tap was a major improvement for the 1950s house wife. Examples of a gas iron, a gas television and a gas hair dryer were shown.

With the advent of gas from the North Sea, British Gas undertook to convert all appliances in every household - what an undertaking! And some real horror stories were revealed – like a teapot affixed to the end of outlet pipe of a gas fire with a tube attached to the spout which vented out of window. John then took us through the subsequent privatisation of British Gas. Lastly he explained how gas was made at our own Fairford Gas Works. FHS, with the help of research by the U3A Industrial Heritage Group, have issued a publication about the Gas Works.

Fairford Gas Works

Fairford Gas Works


February 14th 2013 - Churches and Chapels by Edwin Cuss

St Thomas', Fairford

The cornerstone of the Congregational Church

Edwin Cuss gave his customary excellent presentation of postcards and photographs to an audience of about 60 members. He first showed us pictures of the sites which no longer exist - the Salvation Army Chapel by the Marlborough Arms, the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Milton Place (closed 1925) and the Ebenezer Chapel in Coronation Street (closed 1919). The latter two continued in use as secular meeting places until the mid 20th century.

The Congregational Chapel in the Croft also closed in 1919 and was used for other purposes (including the Home Guard and school dinners) until it was demolished in 1965.

Pictures were shown of the old and new Chapel at the RAF base and at the site of the Polish Hostel in Fairford Park which had also been the US Army Chapel when it was the Military Hospital during the war.

He gave us details of the complicated history of the Chapel in Milton Street and of St Thomas of Canterbury RC Church in Horcott which was more straightforward. He finished with some pictures of St Mary's Church, one of which was his most treasured rare postcard of the windows boarded up during World War II.

Remains of the Congregational Church wall

Remains of the Congregational Church wall

After coffee about twenty members set off to visit the sites of the old chapel then meet at St Thomas's Church where there was a guide to help answer questions and the Milton Street Chapel was also open for us to view the interior.

We then returned to the centre of town to visit the site of the Congregational Chapel in a member's garden, this was really interesting as we could compare it with what we had seen in Edwin's pictures.

Thanks to Edwin Cuss for yet another very interesting and informative presentation and to St Thomas's and the Chapel for permission to visit.

St Thomas', Fairford

FHS Members visiting St Thomas's Church


November 22nd 2012 - In ffaireforde aforesaid by Alison Hobson and Sue Middleton

The Society was treated to a fascinating lecture by Alison Hobson and Sue Middleton on the origin of Fairford place names in their presentation "In ffaireforde aforesaid". The product of months of research in Gloucestershire Archives and elsewhere, Alison and Sue explained the origins of many of the familiar (and, in some cases, lost and forgotten) place names in and around Fairford, some of which date back to medieval times. Using original documents and maps unearthed during their in-depth study, they showed how names have changed over the years but the basic topography of Fairford has remained remarkably stable; even some medieval field boundaries can still be found in situ today. A new occasional paper (No. 11 Fairford Street Names) which records the origins of all of Fairford's streets has been produced to accompany the lecture.

The Oxpens, Mill Street

Are the Oxpens the site of 'the wurmstalls [cattle shelters] near the Greate Greene' cited in a 1591 Indenture?


October 18th 2012 - Aviation Heritage in the Cotswolds by Graham Pitchfork

Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork gave a fascinating talk to a packed audience on the connections that the Cotswold district has had with aviation starting with the very early days of ballooning in the 1780s up to the testing of Concorde in the 1970s. He spoke about Royal Flying Corps airfields of the First World War, such as Rendomb and Leighterton, and the Royal Air Force airfields of the Second World War, such as Broadwell and Fairford. He also mentioned the county's connection with the aviation industry, especially the 'local' firm of Gloster which made Britain's first jet aircraft among many other types. The speaker focussed very much on the human side of aeronautical history as he spoke about some of the famous and less well known individuals who have played a part in the Cotswold's aviation heritage.

September 20th 2012 - This is the end of the line: the Fairford branch railway by Colin Moulden

To mark the 50th anniversary since the closure of the Fairford Branch Railway, to a packed audience Colin Moulden gave an extremely interesting and informative presentation of the route of the Fairford Branch Railway in its 100 years of existence until its closure. Colin showed views of the railway how it was then and what is there now. The talk satisfied both the local Fairford historians and the Railway buffs. You can find out more information about Fairford Branch Railway website.

Colin has also written a booklet to commemorate the 50th anniversary which is available from Fairford History Society.


June 14th 2012 - Titanic by Hugh Brewster

Hugh Brewster from Toronto, who has recently a published a new book about the first class passengers on the Titanic ‘Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage’, came to Fairford especially to talk to members about Fairford’s connection with the Titanic, the Countess of Rothes. She lived at Fayre Court, Fairford for a time and there is a memorial to her in St Mary’s Church. Hugh had been speaking at the Broadway Festival on Francis D Millet, the painter of Carnation Lily, Lily, Rose who painted the work in Broadway, Worcestershire. He has also written a charming children’s book entitled Carnation Lily, Lily, Rose which has references to our own Edwin Abbey, the artist who lived at Morgan Hall, Fairford. Francis Millet also died on the Titanic. Hugh gave the audience a riveting, well illustrated talk about his longstanding connection with the Titanic. As a publisher he was involved with Dr Robert Ballard in the discovery of the location of the wreckage on the ocean floor and published a book on the subject. He sold his publishing house to become a full time writer but it seemed he was always drawn back to the topic of the Titanic. He wrote a book in connection with the blockbuster film which came out and in 1997 and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking in April 2012, he produced his latest book. He has delved in the greatest depth about the social lives of this elite Edwardian set of first class passengers and their interactions which each other.

The Titanic Talk

The talk reviewed the TitanicÂ’s fatal voyage and the subsequent rescue of the survivors. It was a highly entertaining and informative talk and we are grateful to Hugh for taking time from his busy schedule to visit Fairford and talking to FHS.

He finished most poignantly with an image of a pair of shoes lying on the mud at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean indicating the position that a body must have lain until consumed by ocean organisms – reminding us what a terrible disaster it was.


May 17th 2012 - A grave matter: Cotswold churchyards and tombs by Chris Hobson

Chris Hobson, who has a long standing interest in graveyards and church memorials, gave members a very interesting and informative talk on Cotswold graveyards. He covered the history of burials, the design and architecture of gravestones and showed examples from all over the Cotswolds. A special feature of the Cotswolds is the bale tombs which is a chest tomb with a semicircular capping stone, originally said to represent a wool bale but more likely to represent a funeral pall cloth which covered the bier.

Fairford Graveyard
Fairford Graveyard

In Fairford Churchyard there are 7,452 recorded burials since the parish register started in 1617, but there are only 2,624 gravestone commemorations. He also showed some of the more interesting memorials in the area and showed what could be found out about the deceased from information on gravestones.


March 15th 2012 - The Cotswold Way by Steven Blake

In March Dr Steven Blake took FHS members on a wonderful historical journey along the 102 miles from Chipping Camden to Bath – The Cotswold Way. The talk, excellently illustrated by slides started with the three prehistoric sites of Belas Knapp, Hetty Pegler’s Tump (was she the owner of the field or a lady of the night?) and Nympsfield Long Barrow. Examples of Iron Age monuments are Crickley Hill fort and Beckbury Hill Fort above Hailes. Dr Blake then moved forward in time through the Romans, (Chedworth and Witcombe), Anglo-Saxons (Winchcombe capital of Winchcombeshire) to the Medieval period illustrated by Manor houses, Abbey sites.

The great changes that affected the landscape were also described, the Reformation, when Hailes Abbey was destroyed by Henry VIII, the Civil War, when Camden Manor, the home of Baptist Hicks was destroyed by the Royalists in retreat, the Glorious Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution marked by the industrial mills of the Stroud Valleys.

Famous people connections - Broadway Tower conceived by Capability Brown, and built by architect James Wyatt where William Morris is thought to have the idea for the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), the Tyndale Monument, (William Tyndale translated the Bible into English and was burnt at the stake in 1536), the Hawkesbury Monument, built to Commemorate Lord Robert Somerset in 1846, and Sudeley Castle and its association with Catherine Parr.

Hailes Abbey
Hailes Abbey

This was a thoroughly enjoyable talk and made everyone itch to get on their walking boots and follow in the footsteps of those ‘Pilgrims’ who made their way from the Shrine of St Kenelm at Winchcombe to see the ‘relic of the Holy Blood’ at Hailes Abbey.


February 16th 2012 - Pubs and Hotels of Fairford

Over 70 FHS members and visitors attended Edwin CussÂ’s presentation about FairfordÂ’s pubs and inns on the morning of February 16th. Tim Edgell, who has written books on Gloucestershire pubs and breweries, explained that in about 1830 all people had to do to get a licence to sell beer was to pay two guineas. It was a part of a government scheme to get people drinking beer rather than gin, which was more alcoholic and caused a high level of drunkenness, and this was the reason for the large number of beer retailers that sprang up all over the country in the 19th century.

The first part of the presentation covered hostelries that are no longer in existence: The Swan in the Market Place, the QueenÂ’s Head in Milton Street, The Red Lion (site uncertain), The CarriersÂ’ Arms in Horcott Road, the Fairford Country Club, Whelford Road, and the Troglodyte Club next to the Marlborough Arms. The second half of the talk related to existing establishments some of which were illustrated with pictures of the bars inside as well as exteriors which was very nostalgic for some of our members. Thanks to Edwin Cuss for yet another very interesting and informative presentation.

The Plough Inn
Members view The Plough Inn

The White Hart Jar
The White Hart Jar

After the talk some of the audience accompanied Edwin Cuss and Syd Flatman around the town to view some of the pubs mentioned, ending up at The Bull, FairfordÂ’s most famous inn.

To accompany the talk a booklet has been compiled with historical information about former and present pubs and inns in Fairford. It also lists all the beer retailers. Price ÂŁ1 (p&p 32p) available from enquiry@fairfordhistory.org.uk or 01285 71768.

Recently a stoneware pitcher was donated to FHS with The White Hart, Fairford engraved on it and stamped Powell Pottery. This pottery was based in Bristol and was one of the first firms to use a high gloss glaze. The firm amalgamated with Prices in 1906 so the pitcher probably dates from mid Victorian to before 1906.


November 17th 2011 - The Hicks Beach Family of Coln St Aldwyns

At the November meeting Karen Cooke, the archivist from Gloucestershire Archive who was responsible for the cataloguing of the Hicks-Beach Archive, talked about the project which was sponsored by the National Cataloguing Scheme for Archives. The Hicks Beach Archive brought together several collections which had been obtained at different times plus a more recent deposit. There were estate records from Williamstrip Estate in Coln St Aldwyn and Quenington and the Netheravon Estate in Wiltshire from the 18th and 19th centuries, family and personal records of the Hicks Beach and related families of the 17th-18th century, and political papers of Sir M E Hicks Beach, 1st Earl St Aldwyn of the 19th-20th centuries, business records. Karen also brought a charming display of the Victorian Christmas cards from the family records.

She gave us the history of the Wither, Hicks and Beach families including some romantic incidents that ended badly. Charles Wither (1684-1731) toured the country with his tutor and wrote a daily journal, an example of one of the earliest travel diaries. Sir Michael Edward Hicks Beach, 1st Earl St Aldwyn was Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1885-1886 and 1895-1902 was undoubtedly the most famous member of the family. The estates at Netheravon and Keevil, and their acquisition and disposal were described.

The collection at Gloucestershire Archives is now listed on the catalogue and is available for inspection. For further information about Coln St Aldwyns, Ana Bianchi Evans has written an excellent book called ‘The way we were’ published in 2011 it is available from the shop in Coln and local bookshops as well as from Amazon.co.uk.

Williamstrip House
Williamstrip House over 100 years ago


September 15th 2011: The Wars of the Roses in the Cotswolds

Minster Lovell House
Minster Lovell House, Oxon, the home of Lord Lovell, Richard III's henchman. Photo C.Hobson

Tim Porter’s lecture on ‘The Wars of the Roses in the Cotswolds’ on September 15th was a very thorough and challenging look at a period of which most of us know very little. He began by clearing the undergrowth of our misconceptions: it was nothing to do with the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire; the name given to the war was coined long afterwards; in the half century 1450 – 1500 there was no more than six months fighting and most battles lasted no more than a few hours; the battles were between powerful lords and hardly affected the general population; in fact it was a time of economic prosperity evidenced by the building and rebuilding programme of churches and manor houses. The key to conflict was the quarrelsome aristocracy who felt loyalty to either the House of Lancaster in the shape of Henry IV, V and VI and the House of York in the person of Edward IV and his brother Richard III. The Earl of Warwick (“the King-maker”) personifies the political attitude of many of the aristocracy. He was immensely rich and powerful with estates in many counties. He helped put Edward IV on the throne in 1461 for which he was richly rewarded and he exercised enormous influence in government. He had his own ruthless army. Nevertheless he grew dissatisfied and switched sides, helping to re-establish Henry VI on the throne.

It was a brief interlude. Edward returned from exile, seized the throne in a series of actions one of which ended WarwickÂ’s life. The culminating Battle of Tewkesbury settled EdwardÂ’s position as king. Shortly afterwards Henry VI died in the Tower.

Tim illustrated his lecture with examples from tombs and stained glass in churches and great houses and from battlefields. He took his evidence from places not too far from here like North Nibley, Bledington, Fyfield and Minster Lovell. He stressed the influence of the network of roads and tracks across the Cotswold which enabled armies to move around. And his parting shot was a reminder of the sheep, the timeless and innocent source of local livelihood, wealth and prosperity.


June 16th 2011 - The Seventh FHS AGM

Chairman's Report.
FHS has had a successful year, our membership has grown to 128 members. There have been talks on the Swing Riots, Gimson and the Barnsleys followed by a very enjoyable visit to Rodmarton Manor then the Thames and Severn Canal and a very informative talk about the Ernest Cook Trust. Our shops daytime meeting in February proved to be very successful. Next year we start off with Tim Porter on the Wars of the Roses, the Hicks Beach family in November, then later tombstones and Steve Blake on the Cotswold Way. At the AGM next year we hope to have Dave Kaspar on cider with samples. The daytime meeting in February will be on pubs, inns and hotels. If members have any ideas for meetings they would be welcome.John Read who was in at the start of FHS is no longer able to attend Committee meetings so he is resigning from the Committee. We have a space if anyone would like to offer. John will continue to have input in an advisory capacity. We thank him for his seminal role in establishing the society. Thanks to all the Committee, Gill Compton, Ian Westlake, the Vice Chair, Margaret Bishop, Don Cobbett, Maurice Jones, Rob Winney, Chris and Alison Hobson. Thanks to Edwin Cuss and Syd Flatman who have helped and supported us, Piers Hobson for technical support and Nick Hobson for helping with the chairs etc. at meetings, also to June Lewis-Jones for her knowledge, information and support. The Chair closed his report with a quote from Dr Johnson ‘Do not remit the practice of writing down occurrences as they arise, of whatever kind, and be very punctual in annexing the dates. Chronology you know is the eye of history’.

The Committee were then re-elected. The business meeting was followed by a 'Show and Tell' session. It turned out to be very successful and there wasnÂ’t time for all the offerings. Fourteen people contributed and topics included a former Lord Mayor of London, a mounted priest in Queensland, Rudolf Hess, a cricket ball, a plate, scientific instruments, an airship, books, pictures and a delightful letter etc. Fascinating and something well worth repeating.

2011 AGM

May 19th 2011: Ernest Cook and Fairford Park

At the May meeting Nicholas Ford, Agent and Director (Chief Executive) of the Ernest Cook Trust since 2002 talked to FHS members about how Ernest Cook came to found the Ernest Cook Trust as an educational charity and the work of the Trust today managing their estates and its work as a grant giver.

Ernest Cook was the grandson of Thomas Cook from Derbyshire famous for setting up the Thomas Cook Travel Agency. Both Ernest and his brother Frank both went to work in the Travel Agency, Frank as an agent in remoter parts of the world and Ernest in the banking side of the business. Ernest helped to initiate the use of travellersÂ’ cheques for foreign travel. In 1928 he and his brother sold the company to Wagon-Lits of Belgium for ÂŁ3.500,000.

With his half of the money Ernest could indulge his interests, he loved fast cars, bought paintings which he donated to the National Art Directors Fund, and a lot of land. By 1939? he had bought 17 estates. He cared passionately about the country and Estate system, but was also aware of hardship in the countryside and founded a fund to help the provision of District Nurses in rural areas.

To avoid death duties, Ernest Cook set up the educational charity, the Ernest Cook Trust.

See the excellent website www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk for more information.

See also the Fairford Park Topic.

March 17th 2011: The Thames and Severn Canal

Bruce Hall, of the Cotswold Canals Trust took the audience on a 36-mile journey from the Severn to the Thames through the industrial area of the Stroudwater Navigation to the rural Thames and Severn Canal. The most important cargo was coal especially from the Forest of Dean which was needed to supply power to the mills of the Stroud Valley.

For more see: The Topics Page.


February 17th 2011: Where have all the shops gone?

FHS's first experiment of a morning meeting in February attracted a bumper turnout of over 80 members and visitors. This was an opportunity for the whole community to investigate the history of retail in Fairford.

Firstly, local postcard and photograph collector Edwin Cuss gave a presentation of images of former Fairford shops, which stimulated memories for many audience members. The images showed the High Street, London Street, Bridge Street and Milton Street at various times during the mid-20th century and this was also the route we would later take on our walk.

Victorian Fairford High Street
Victorian Hand Tinted Image of Fairford High Street

Display of Shops
Display of Shops

During the coffee break the room was abuzz with discussion. The interval also gave us a chance to look at the display of pictures, and town and carnival guides (containing adverts for local shops) from the Society's archives. The Society's Vice-President, David Perry, presented a large display of invoices for former businesses. Gloucester Archives also loaned a display of images relating to Herbert Hayes saddler's shop in Back Lane.

After the interval we split into two groups respectively led by Edwin Cuss and knowledgeable volunteer Syd Flatman and went out for a walk around the town. We were favoured with good weather and the fact that the resurfacing works closed the road to traffic. The walk enabled us to see the locations of former shops and whilst the images in the earlier presentation had stimulated memories, the relaxed walk caused the memories to flood back.

With the evidence and memories recorded at this event we hope to be able to produce an archive of information on retail in Fairford by the community of the present for the community of the future.

bootmakers london street
Group outside the old Bootmakers in London Street


Meeting Reports for 2010

Meeting Reports for 2009

Meeting Reports for 2007 and 2008

Meeting Reports for 2006

Meeting Reports for 2004 and 2005

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