Fairford History Society

Oral History

The group, like the Fairford History Society, grew originally from the Community Centre project. Recording the heritage and history of the old school included events and activities which took place there and stories of the people involved, and we realised that there were still a number of people in Fairford who had personal experience of these. It would be good to record these memories while they were available, how should we set about it? We asked around, and were fortunate in finding a young lady, brought up in Fairford, with expertise in the subject. She was Dr. Mandy Morris, then working for the East Midlands Oral History Archive at the University of Leicester. Mandy was approached by her cousin, Alex D'Elia, and was interested enough in the Fairford project to attend one of the Heritage days. We naively thought that perhaps Mandy could show us how to make recordings, but quickly realised that a great deal more is involved. This was disappointing, but Mandy made the generous offer to run a free training day to pass on some expertise and teach us enough to make a start. On 7th. May 2004, six people attended a very professional Workshop, learning about interviewing, recording, equipment, copyright and ethics, transcripts, storage, funding etc. and trying out techniques of giving and recording interviews.

June Lewis-Jones

June Lewis-Jones, the History Society's President, recording Fairford Wartime Memories.

Next step was to choose the equipment needed and raise the funds to buy it. Grants from the Ernest Cook Trust and the Fairford Preservation Society enabled us to purchase 2 Sony MZN910 Mini Disc Recorders, 2 Audio Technica AT804 Microphones, a Dell Inspiron 510 Laptop Computer, plus associated Cables, Audio CD's and Mini Discs. The audio software, Sonic Stage and Audacity, have been procured to manipulate the original recordings into wave files before copying onto the Audio CD's and for preparing the minidisks for further recordings.

To date (February 2008), 30 recordings have been made.These recordings have been downloaded into the computer and the contents edited using the Audacity software. The edited versions have been saved as wave files and these files are then copied onto an Audio CD. Synopses of these recordings are prepared and placed onto this website for open access. Recordings can also be copied onto tape.

So far the recordings have concentrated on life in Fairford Schools old and new, and facilities and events from after the first world war up to the present day. The school recordings were used to provide material for the community play staged in St Mary's Church during October 2007. It covered life in Fairford schools over the last three centuries. This project was supported by the Local Heritage Initiative and was a successful sell out over four evenings. Other recordings give details of past Fairford Carnivals known as 'the Best in the West', wartime conditions and incidents, the RAF airbase, shops and shopping in 20th century Fairford, the Railway Station and train services, and other events. There is a recording giving details of the Vicars of Fairford from the start of the present building in 1497 to more recent times. Another recording covers aspects of enclosures in the area over the centuries. One recording tells of the harrowing times experienced by a Polish Airman, now living in Fairford, during the second world war. Another recording was made of the Town Crier, Maurice Jones, explaining the stained glass pictures on the St Mary's Church windows in a rich Gloucestershire accent.

The History Society meetings are also recorded and available This makes it possible to hear a repeat or to catch up when unable to attend a meeting.

Geoff Bishop, Group Leader

Geoff and Mary Chick

Geoff and Mary Chick preparing their oral history interview.

Oral Recordings

The following are available to buy at a cost of £3.00 each (including packing & postage), either on a tape or CD to play on a computer or on a CD player. Please see the contact page.

List of CDs

100101 CD71 Fairford Polish Hostel by Alicja Swiatek Christofides.

On May 30th 2009 a plaque was erected at the gate on Leafield Road, to mark the entrance to the site of the Polish Hostel which housed well over 1000 displaced Poles and other refugees from Europe between 1947 and 1959. Alicja Swiatek was born at the camp and when she returned in later years and found there was nothing to mark the site began her quest to get the plaque erected. She has also recorded the memories and collected photographs from the people who lived or worked there and collected them in a book available from FHS. This CD was a talk given to Fairford History Society on September 17th, 2009 also tells about the background of how and why the Polish families came to this country.

90694 CD59 Fairford in the 1950s by Sid Flatman.

Syd Flatman and his family came to Fairford in 1950 from London, they lived in a caravan up Southrop Road. He tells what life was like for a small boy in Fairford and takes the listener on a walk through Fairford from Cinder Lane to Waiten Hill, with a short diversion up back down the Market Place. He gives a remarkably detailed account of all the shops and shop owners at that time, his remembered impressions of the interiors. There are also a few diverting tales of the personalities of Fairford at the time.

90417 CD55 - Fairford Floods 2007 (1). Compiled by Geoff Bishop 100006 CD60 - Fairford Floods 2007 (2). Compiled by Geoff Bishop

On July 20th 2007 torrential rains caused substantial flooding in Fairford. This CD contains three accounts by flood victims, Diana Ewart of East End, Ellis Hoult of Milton Street and Tegid Pugh of East End. Clearing up the initial mess was just the start, none of the people involved realised how long it would take to restore their homes. What a traumatic experience it was, and awesome to think that the same experience was happening at the same time to numerous families in Fairford and throughout the county. CD60 contains accounts by Geoff Bishop, Jennifer Collyer and Stewart Benzie of East End and Geoff Hawkes of Back Lane.

Diana Ewart:

Ellis Hoult:

Tegid Pugh:

Geoff Bishop:

Jennifer Collyer:

Stewart Benzie:

Geoff Hawkes:

90029 CD52 - Fairford Asylum and the Iles Family by Shelagh Diplock, read by Geoff Bishop.

This talk, about the Iles family and the Fairford Asylum is read by Geoff Bishop from a script of a lecture by Shelagh Diplock, at an FHS meeting, November 2008 Shelagh is a 3 x great granddaughter of the Alexander Iles.

Alexander, son of Daniel Iles, a yeoman farmer of Kempsford, had worked in asylums in London and saw a gap in the market in the Fairford area. He obtained a licence for 10 patients in 1823 and took patients into his own house. In 1827 he had 13 patients, 40 patients in 1829 the number of patients was over 119 according to the 1841 census and by 1844 there were 140 patients of whom 119 were paupers.

In 1856 Alexander died and left everything to Daniel, his eldest son. During the mid-1860s Daniel and his wife Susan were joined by their eldest son, another Daniel, who qualified as a surgeon in 1864. Susan Iles died in 1883 and Daniel in 1887. Dr Daniel and Henry, their sons took over the asylum until 1899 when Daniel died and his son Francis, another doctor, decided not to take over the business. The Retreat, as the asylum was also known, was sold to Dr A C King Turner in 1901 and it continued as an upmarket private asylum until 1944.

900425 CD57 - Fairford, Manitoba, Canada by June Lewis Jones.

June Lewis-Jones told the Society something of the fascinating story of Abraham Cowley who left his native Fairford to minister to the indigenous people of Canada. He was the son of a stonemason and left school at the age of 12. He overcame his lack of formal education and with the encouragement of the Vicar, the Rev Francis Rice (later Lord Dynevor), he trained for the ministry and went off to the wilds of Canada. He and his wife coped with the harsh winters and raised a family there. Converts were slow to appear but eventually he made progress and built a church and school house. The original Indian name for the settlement was changed on the suggestion of the Bishop of Rupert's Land to Fairford in honour of Cowley's home town in 1851.

June described the warm reception on her visits to Manitoba - that warmth contrasting with the chill of -30°C outside - and she showed pictures of the more recent occasion when in 1997 a deputation came to Fairford for the 500th anniversary of the re-dedication of St Mary's Church.

90416 CD54 - Son et Lumière 30 years on: memories compiled by Geoff Bishop

In October 1978 a Son et Lumière production of a 'history of Fairford' took place in St Mary's Church. It was written by June Lewis and produced by Madeleine Teed and was probably the first secular production to take place in the Church. In October 2008, with the help of June Lewis-Jones, FHS organised a gathering of people involved in the play with various memorabilia on display and this CD stemmed from that meeting. This CD is a collection of memories and gives a wonderful snapshot of the event by some of the actors and back stage personnel. It conveys the mammoth undertaking which managed to concentrate the minds of a quarter of the population of Fairford for six months in 1978. Speakers talk about the costumes, lighting and the roles they played in the play, all with very happy memories of the event, which has been often talked about in the subsequent years.

50321 CD1 Enclosures Interview with John Hunt 11th May 2005

John covers the effect of enclosures on the agricultural landscape and the effect on the social life of the time. Three documents are relevant to enclosures in Fairford: 1748 Draft Bill; 1754 Fairford Enclosure Award, Milton End; 1770 Fairford Enclosure Award, East End. There was no evidence of opposition, expulsion or expropriation. The enclosures were carried out in a sympathetic manner, but they must have altered the landscape around Fairford. However, all the records are only from landowners' point of view. Minutes books and other records have not been traced. The result of enclosures seems to have been that the total number of farms decreased, sheep farms were improved, the modern landscape was created and the old field system swept away.

50321 CD1 - Vicars. Interview with John Hunt 27th April, 2005 and 20th March 2006.

John has researched the vicars of Fairford from 1273 to the present day as far as are known, with brief biographic details.

50322 CD2 Fairford Memories: AGM 2005

At the FHS AGM 2005Brian Routledge, vice chair of Fairford History Society led a reminiscence session with 5 well known Fairfordians:-Peter Egerton, Maurice Jones, Meg Perry, David Perry, and Peter Yells. They cover the topics of schools, shops in Fairford and the war years with audience participation and contributions.

50323 CD3 Down Your WayBBC radio programme 1982

Down Your Way visits the Coln Valley, with Brian Johnston. The producer was Anthony Smith who went to Farmor's School. Interviews were conducted with June Lewis (teacher at Farmor's School), Sid Jacques (verger), Geoff Payne (rushweaving), Keith Lindley (Dutchford computers), Roger Randall (Godwin Pumps) and Douglas Peters, (manager of Bibury Trout farm).

50323 CD3 Root of the matter radio programme May 1990

This programme is about the effect of the reduction in personnel at RAF Fairford in 1990 on the town as 1200 staff and families had to reduce to a few dozen. Almost 200 civilian jobs were lost. The programme also covered the effect on businesses in the town (Leo D'Elia) and on the people who might lose their jobs and have to work away from the town.

50326 CD4 Fairford Church windows A talk by Denys Hodson at the FHS meeting, 24th February 2005

This talk concentrated on the history of stained glass, methods of manufacture, techniques of staining and how the windows came in to existence in the Church and the subsequent restoration techniques.

60163 CD15 Albert Alder, David Pitts

Albert, who has lived in the area all his life, talks about his working life from Godwin Pumps via RAF Fairford, Wootten Bassett, Fairford Cottage Hospital and finally for the council, work he is still doing at the age of 80.

David Pitts lived in Cowley Court Cottages, Coronation St until he was 17 and went to work on the railway. He talks about what life in Fairford was like in the second half of the 20th century.

60164 CD16 In sickness and in health

James Turtle from the Gloucestershire Record Office talks about medicine in Gloucestershire from 1540-1900 covering disease, especially the plague and smallpox and the development of the medical profession with references to Fairford.

60165 CD17 Audrey Cowley, Jean Bennett, Kathleen Price, Peter Egerton

Audrey talks about her life at the Fairford Park estate, the carnival and characters in Fairford. Jean talks about the schools and life during the war and the railway. Kathleen and Liz Morecambe talk about Mr Dipper at the Primary School. Peter talks about the school and life as a boy during the war, Fairford Carnival and shops in the town.

60166/60167 CDs 18/19 Betty Cook

Betty has lived in Fairford all her life. She covers the topics of Fairford Primary School, Farmor's School, working on the railway 1942-1949 and at the Primary School for 34 years. Fairford Carnival and shops are also covered.

60168 CD20 Geoff & Mary Chick, Gillian Bilbrough, Jos Barker

Geoff with his wife Mary came from London to work in Fairford as a youth worker. They talk about their experiences living in the Youth Warden flat in the Community Centre and all the activities for the young people in Fairford in the 70s-80s and what Fairford was like in those days.

Gillian moved to Fairford in 1967, Harry taught at Farmor's School, they first lived in Victory Villas, Hatherop Rd. She talks about what it was like living with a young family in the 1960s and 1970s.

Jos Barker talks about shops and people in Fairford in the years 1918-26.

60243 CD23 Liz & Phil Hope, Peter Egerton, Tony Rodgers

Liz and Phil talks about their early life and childhood (Phil used to live in the George Hotel and Liz at Waiten Hill Farm), the war years and their experiences in the shop in the High St for 20 years.

Peter talks about the school and life as a boy during the war, Fairford Carnival and shops in the town.

Tony Rogers talks about his experiences, how he got to England from Poland which includes his terrible experiences in Russia. He trained as a pilot, completed many operations and became an instructor, and flew many types of aircraft. When the war finished he stayed in England and in 1947 joined the RAF. He recounts his post war flying experiences in the Far East, his work at Lucas Aerospace, as liaison officer in Birmingham. In June 1993 he retired to Fairford.

60244 CD24 Fairford at War and Schools by June Lewis-Jones

June covers the topic of her schooldays and working life at Farmor's School. At her entertaining and informative talk to the Fairford History Society on September 25th, 2005 June describes what Fairford was like during the war. The topics of evacuees, communications, air raids, St Mary's Church windows, rationing, pests, savings, fund raising, fire fighting, the Home Guard, the railway, RAF Fairford and the secret services were all covered.

60245 CD25 Schools: Derrick Youngs, Hugh Dudley and David Pitts

Derrick Youngs was head of technical studies at Farmor's from 1971-1992 and talks about his time as teacher at the School, starting in a newly-built department. Hugh Dudley also started in 1971 is now deputy head teacher, Dave Pitts was a technical assistant at the school. They all talk the about various aspects of school life, Hugh Dudley includes the history.

60246 CD26 Medieval pilgrims in Gloucestershire

Tim Porter gave a talk to the Fairford U3A, July 4th 2006, illustrated with slides. Tim trained as a musician, but has always studied history as well.

Pilgrim routes date from the Roman times. In this area the main route was from Cirencester (the largest town after London) to Bath (Aquae Sulis) along the Fosse Way to visit the hot springs. There was also a 4th century Roman temple now in Lydney Park above the River Severn, so the basis for the pilgrim routes along the Roman roads and by water on the River Severn were in existence by medieval times. Tim told the story of St Kenelm (son of King Cenwulf of Mercia who was murdered by his stepsister at a young age near Romsley, Worcs. The Winchcombe monks brought the body back to Winchcombe (a main residence of King Cenwulf) where a shrine was made. The route from Romsley to Winchcombe and then a few miles to Hailes Abbey became a pilgrim route. Wayside shrines and wells were built for places of rest, Tim gave examples.

60247 CD27 Victorian Fairford - A snapshot of Fairford in the 19th Century

Chris Hobson outlined the research tools that were used to search about this topic at his talk on September 21st, 2006 :- censuses, trade directories, the Times Digital Archive, National Burial Index and the Internet were all cited. He went into in some detail about the population growth of the town (also see historical Topics) and also covered the railway, medical practices in the town, the Cowley family and also told the Society about the family database he is setting up which will be a very useful family history tool.

70104 CD32 Fairford Medical practices

At the FHS meeting on November 16th June Lewis-Jones took a look at medical practices in the town over the centuries. She included the Fairford workhouse, the Retreat (Fairford Lunatic Asylum), the doctors Bloxsome at Croft House, the Pharmacy, Fairford Hospital and Carnival, Nurse Davis and the doctors of Hilary Cottage Surgery.

70105 CD33 Peter Yells

The Yells building firm was established in Fairford in 1858. At first the work was mainly agricultural repairs but in the 20th century building houses became the main work. They built a huge number of properties in the area including Burdocks and Palmer Hall. They worked at The Retreat for Dr A C King-Turner, Palmer Hall and flourished during the building boom after the war. Peter Yells show many pictures and examples of stationery that his firm used.

70112 CD35 Melba Barnfield

Melba covered her schooldays at the Infant School and Farmor's School, her first job at the American Hospital and a hairdressers, former shops in the town; football, tennis and cricket in the town (her husband was a gifted sportsman) and Fairford Hospital.

70136 CD37 Fairford United Chapel

Brian Routledge covers the history of the Chapel building from 1853 and its subsequent renovations. Firstly Baptists, then the Congregationalists from the Croft and finally the Methodists have joined to make Fairford United Chapel. Examples from the Register of Members are cited, the first Baptism entry was in 1852 before the date of the building. The content of the minutes of the meetings from 1986 show that little has changed in the agendas over the years, and the Fairford United Church is thriving since its renovations in 2007.

70240 CD38 The late old clerk's description of the painted glass windows of Fairford Church.

This book was originally published in 1906 and was written in Gloucestershire dialect. Maurice Jones, Fairford's town crier gives a splendid rendition of the work. This was not an easy task as being in dialect which is not usually written it is difficult to understand.

80008 CD42 God sent a plague of frogs to Fairford

On November 15th 2007 at an FHS meeting Dr Andrew Warmington gave a fascinating insight into the religious turmoil that followed the English Civil War when Fairford hit the national headlines! He told the story of the pamphlets that were published in 1660 telling of a plague of frogs that visited the houses of Fairford's Justice of the Peace and Lord of the Manor as a 'punishment' following their refusal to act when nonconformists were harassed by the locals.

80065 CD48 Farmor's School - in transition

On September 20th 2007 at the FHS meeting Hugh Dudley, deputy head teacher at Farmor's School gave an interesting insight as to how Farmor's made the change from a school of a few hundred when it moved to the Park site in 1961, to a comprehensive school in 1966 and on to 1094 pupils in 2007. It also gave an understanding of the momentous changes in education that were happening while some of the audience was at school.

The essence of Oral History is to record the lives of people and what they experienced, witnessed and contributed to during their lifetime, and also to record the events of today - history in the making. Our recordings will be part of the Fairford Archive. They will be used in the heritage work at the Community Centre, will be made available for demonstrations and research, and will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.