Show and Tell – 18 January 2018

A varied selection of objects were brought to ‘the Show and tell’ at the FHS meeting in January in the Fairford United Church.

  • The model submarine HMS Pride of Fairford stood on the counter of one of the Pubs to collect funds for ‘Warships Week’ during 1942. There was also a larger version which floated on the River Coln – for a while! The owners of this model have donated it to FHS.

  • A picture showing the number of barrels of beer drunk at the 1938 Carnival

  • Two candlesticks brought back memories of before electricity, which only came to Fairford in 1933.

  • An 1882 map showed the proposed route of the railway to Cirencester – from Maisey Hampton westwards and other interesting features such as the Fairford Brickworks to the west of the town. The bricks were used to build houses in West End, the Cottage Hospital and an outbuilding at the Railway Inn.

  • A beautifully-made wooden box which had contained surgical instruments probably for use at a field hospital in WW1.

  • An old walking stick used by the owner’s great grandfather who came to farm in Gloucestershire during the 19th century and still being used.

  • A lovely inherited fox brooch which was found to have a very interesting story behind it

  • Fairford Steam Rally started in 1968 and a 25 year anniversary programme and Morris Van made specially in 1993 were shown, which evoked memories of attending the event. Sadly the Steam Rally has ceased in 2016 although it raised a great deal of money for charity.

  • John Read talked about the Fairford Church Organ, its history and organists and asked if anyone could remember the name of the female organist who was a Farmor’s School teacher.










  • 1918 diary with two memorable occasions of that year noted on November 11 the Armistice with hooters and maroons being set off at 11am and the first election after the Representation of the Peoples Act in 1918 where men over 21 and for the first time women (still only over 30) could vote. The results were not counted until a few weeks later so that soldiers’ votes had time to get back to this country.

Craftsman’s Art and Music’s Measure – 14 September 2017

Alan Crumpler, David Hatcher and Dr Mary Remnant
Alan Crumpler, David Hatcher and Dr Mary Remnant

As a follow up to the publication of Music in the Window’s of St Mary’s Church in 2014, a talk was arranged to take place in the Church entitled ‘Craftsman’s Art and Music’s Measure: the making and playing of medieval instruments; illustrated by Alan Crumpler and David Hatcher with guest artist Dr Mary Remnant.

The afternoon talk attempted and succeeded to give an indication of the sound which may have been made by some of the instruments to be seen in the windows of St Mary’s (which are illustrated in the FHS booklet). Several of the instruments are quite plainly visible in the glass but some are less so and comparisons to similar instruments may be made from other contemporary sources including manuscript illustrations, stone and wooden carvings and window glass.

Alan, David and Mary played short extracts of medieval music on their instruments, including the long trumpet, shawm, rebec, harp, psaltery and pipe, recorders, portative organ, mandora and bagpipes. Some of the tunes were recognisable as played today.

The process of making a fiddle
The process of making a fiddle

The second part of the presentation illustrated methods of making a fiddle or vielle, (from approximately 12th to the 16th century) and a small symphony (musical instrument) based on an illustration in the Lutterel Psalter. The rebec and early fiddles were made from a single block of wood. Evidence for this is found in a few remains of instruments that have been discovered, including those from the flagship the Mary Rose.

It was a fascinating and delightful afternoon. The craftsmanship and skill of the performers were awe-inspiring.

John Read with a Portative Organ, the bellows are under the base
John Read with a Portative Organ, the bellows are under the base
The angel with the portative organ in Window 23 of St Mary's Church, Fairford
The angel with the portative organ in Window 23 of St Mary’s Church, Fairford

Fairford Heritage Open Day – 9 September 2017

The Dovecote at Fairford proved a great attraction at Fairford’s first Heritage Open Day organised by Fairford History Society on the 9 September. Over 80 people were able to see the impressive 1,196 pigeon holes contained in the walls of the Dovecote and the unusual central pillar. Visitors were also able to visit the Estate Yard which is all that remains of Fairford Park House demolished in the late1950s to make way for Farmor’s School. The Ernest Cook Trust Offices are in the yard and it was with their permission both of these sites were open to the public.

View of the Obelisk from Ernest Cook Trust Estate yard
View of the Obelisk from Ernest Cook Trust Estate yard

At Fairford Community Centre there were displays recording other ‘lost’ buildings in the town e.g. the Magistrate’s Court and Police Station, the three chapels, lost pubs etc. On view were items collected by Fairford History Society over the years and examples of oral history and local archive film. St Mary’s Church tours were led by Mike Godsall and Geoff Hawkes.

Fairford's Lost and Hidden Past display at the Community Centre
Fairford’s Lost and Hidden Past display at the Community Centre

It was also the launch of Fairford Walkers are Welcome which aims to attract visitors to the town. Malcolm Cutler, Chair of Fairford Walkers are Welcome presented the certificate of accreditation to Mark Dudley, Deputy Mayor of Fairford. Over 30 people took part in the Heritage Walk led by Syd Flatman. There was also a guided Tomb Trail around St Mary’s Churchyard led by Chris Hobson who gave interesting background to some of the churchyard’s inhabitants. A River Walk took place in the afternoon led by Malcolm Cutler.


May 19 2016: The Young Laurie Lee by Howard Beard and 16 June 2016: AGM followed by Highwaymen by John Putley

In May Howard Beard showed members a presentation of pictures of places in the Stroud area that Laurie Lee might have seen or visited when he lived at the village of Slad. It was really interesting to see how the town had changed over the years, especially the shops. It was an excellent pictorial presentation from an entertaining speaker.

In June the news at the AGM was that Rob Winney has resigned from the Committee and Syd Flatman has taken his place. After the loss of our President, June Lewis during the year, David Perry has taken her place. The FHS funds were healthy and the work outside of meetings continues apace. A full Chairman’s report is in Fairford Flyer 23.

John Putley then gave us his usual informative, entertaining, well illustrated talk – this time on Highwaymen. He brought his pistols along (replicas) and told us about the practicalities of being a highwayman. This was pre-enclosure days so riding across country to escape was easy, after enclosures the obstacles of fences, ditches and turnpike gates made escape less certain. Local horses were easily identified so it was difficult to be anonymous. The words ‘Stand and deliver – your money or your life ‘ were actually reported as being said in court cases.

April 21 2016: The Bells of St Mary’s by Peter Harris, Tower Captain

The history of bell-ringing with practical illustrations from the bell-ringers

Peter Harris, St Mary’s Tower Captain with some of the St Mary’s team and with the help of ringers from Cirencester enlightened, informed and entertained over 50 FHS members on the technique, science and history of bell ringing.

Since Saxon times bells have been used to summon people to worship, using either hand-bells or fixed bells on a simple spindle. Up until the 14th century the bells were hung on quarter and half wheels but it was after the Reformation when bells were rehung on whole wheels that bell ringing became more popular. In the 17th century bell ringers were of two types, those that were paid and the more wealthy who did it for sport and leisure.

Now the bells could be rung in sequence (a round consists of eight strikes on each bell), one ringer following another. Change ringing which is ringing the bells in a different order began in the late 16th or early 17th century this was subsequently worked out by mathematical compositions, and given names such as Grandsire Triples and Bobs. These sequences have to be memorised, 168 change takes 5-8 minutes.

The treble bell (1) is the lightest and the tenor (8) the lowest note and the heaviest bell. The tenor bell at St Mary’s weighs 17 cwt and at Cirencester Church the tenor bell weighs 27 cwt. The bell is stored in an upright position and controlled by a stay. It rings 360º clock forewards and backwards. The oldest bell in St Mary’s is 1539-40 but the bells were recast in 1927.

It is a peculiarity that change ringing has only developed in Great Britain and other English speaking countries – on the continent carillons are used. There are 50,000 active bell-ringers all over the world.

The members really enjoyed this talk on a subject most of them knew little about. The bell ringers efforts on Sundays will now be much more appreciated. Thanks were expressed to Peter Harris and his team for such an interesting talk and what a lucky coincidence that the talk on bell ringing coincided with the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen and the bells rang with extra joyousness for the special day.

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March 17 2016: Tudor Medicine by Cherry Hubbard

With her colourful and fragrant baskets of herbs and spices we shall journey into the Tudor world

Cherry Hubbard is a social historian based in Cirencester. She explained to members what life was life in Tudor times for ordinary people, She, herself has experienced the life of aTudor person for a year at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The Tudor home was a dark smoky place, the main light was the fire. If you were suffering from an illness home remedies that had been passed down word of mouth down the generation e.g chamomile has been used since ancient time for its anti-inflammatory properties and calming influence. The only advice available was from a local wise woman – a barber surgeon could supply the service of setting bones and pulling teeth. Life expectancy was 20% during childbirth and to the age age expectancy was 35-45 years. People had a different outlook on life than nowadays.

Some remedies

for any ache

In May take henbane and bruise it well put in in a pot and a pint of sallat oil and set it in the sun till it be all of one substance, then anoint the ache therewith .

for the falling sickness 

during the waning of the moon or when it is the sign of virgo eat berries of asterion and bear the berries next to the skin

Cherry was dressed as a Tudor woman and had a lovely table of items for members to inspect, she also passed round examples of items that were usual in Tudor times

inspect, smell or feel.

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February 17 2016: Along the River Coln by Edwin Cuss

At a well attended February daytime meeting Edwin Cuss gave a slide presentation of pictures of the River Coln from Mossy Bridge near Quenington to the Broad Boards south of Fairford. Edwin was as usual, extremely informative about the history, people and places on and by the River.

In the bad winter of 1947 there was severe flooding in Fairford and after that the road at Mill Bridge was raised 18 inches. Edwin mentioned that this really spoilt the whole symmetry and line of the Bridge. He also showed change in the Mill House buildings. During the War it had housed a generator and pump for Fairford Park which his father had to monitor daily. During this time the Mill House fell into a state of disrepair.

He also showed the method of clearing out the River of unwanted fish, (e.g. pike and coarse fish) in the early days by netting and then layer by charging the water with electricity and stunning the fish. The ones wanted were thrown back and the others eaten if suitable.

Fishing in the Broadwater by Fairford Park

November 19 2015: Those adventurous Cowleys by Chris Barrett

Chris Barrett, a descendant of Robert Cowley and Mary Sandling through Jacob the eldest son of 12 children gave a fascinating account of the Cowleys who left the small town of Fairford and travelled out in to the wider world in the mid 19th century.

Jonathan Cowley (1784-1865) from the previous generation was a soldier in the Napoleonic wars and served in the 82nd Regiment of Foot from 1806 to when he was wounded at the Battle of Vitoria, 1813.

His son Robert (1805 -1865) was one of the ‘Machine breakers’ in Fairford in 1830 and was transported to Tasmania and after five years was released and went mining to Dunnolly, Victoria where he died

Isaac Cowley (1813 – 1892) set off with his family to D’Urban, S. Africa where he was responsible for building the first stone buildings in the town (he had been a mason) and founded and built the Baptist Church. He became know has Pastor Cowley.

Jesse (1837-1909), Isaac’s eldest son went off to Australia in 1856 and became a town clerk for Paddington and Newton in Sydney for many years. His grandson Cecil Cowley and his son met an unfortunate end in the volcanic eruption of Mount Laming ton in 1951. His wife and daughter survived.

Isaac’s son Alfred Sandlings Cowley (1848-1926) went to Australia and became a member of the Queensland parliament. His son Campbell Cowley (1881-1919) served in the Boer Wars in South Africa, had a game hunting venture then went back to Australia where his obtained some land in Papua New Guinea. Unbeknown to his Australian family he had a a liaison with a PNG lady Bagunai, and had a son in 1916. he then went of the to WW2 and served in the Middle East, came back returned to PNG and while on the search for labour contracted ‘blackwater fever’ and died. Campbell’s son Punch was well educated and set up a successful township in PNG until the country gained its Independence and Australia withdrew its support. He had three ‘wives’ and children by two of them.

Abraham Cowley (1818-1887) (went of to Canada was a Church of England missionary. Fairford, Manitoba was named in honour of him. he had 12 children and Chris met a descendant John Peter Cowley when he visited Fairford, Manitoba. Fairford, Manitoba is keen to reopen links with Fairford, Gloucestershire.

This is just small snapshot of a very adventurous family that came from a small Gloucestershire town and there were others whose story Chris did not have time to to tell.

October 15 2015: Magna Carta by Tim Porter

Tim Porter was up to his usual high standard when he gave a talk to FHS in October on the Magna Carta, highly appropriate as the country is celebrating the 800th anniversary of its signing Runnymede in June 1215.

He gave a comprehensive background to the events leading up to the signing, the power of the King, the growing resentment of the Barons and quarrel between the Pope and the King on the appointment to the post of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Pope was in favour of Stephen Langton, the King was not. Between 1209 and 1214 there is an Interdict imposed on England, at the the end of 1214 the King capitulated.

Tim outlined the drafting and issuing of the Magna Carta and the several later amended editions (the last one being produced in 1300). Although King John had no intention of abiding by the Magna Carta, many of its 63 clauses later formed the basis of English law and its unwritten constitution and the great Charter of Liberties is now regarded as the most important document in English history.

September 17 2015: The Upper Thames Patrol

At the first meeting of the new subscription year, Geoff Hawkes, Chairman said that David Perry who had been Vice President of the Society has agreed to be president.

The first speaker was an old favourite, Bill King who talked to members on the Upper Thames Patrol (UTP) or ‘Up the Pubs’ as they were known as they so often met in pubs. This was an organisation formed in August 1939 (before the Home Guard) to defend the upper reaches of the Thames, from Teddington Lock to Lechlade. The Thames has 46 locks, 44 road bridges and 4 rail bridges and if there had been an invasion it would have been essential to have these crossing points well defended or destroyed if necessary. There were about 6000 members of the UTP consisting of Thames watermen and recruited civilians some of whose boats were recruited as well. The UTP was divided into the seven counties and within that each section had a stretch of river, e.g. from Lechlade to Oxford there were 30-60 men in three sections. Their duties included patrolling the banks of the Thames and looking for anything suspicious; sabotage was feared. Bill showed the defence plan for Radcot Bridge which through history had always been strategic crossing point of the Thames.

This was no exaggerated threat, there were German spies dropped in the area in WW2 who were captured and shot. The Upper Thames Patrol performed a valuable service from August 1939 – December 1944. Some of the boats still exist and Bill attends a Small Boat Rally which takes place after Henley Regatta with also the Dunkirk small ship survivors attending.

As it is the anniversary of the Battle of Britain taking place, it is important to remember that the threat to this country was very real, and although to the modern eye it seems like ‘Dad’s Army’ these men would have defended their patch to the death.