During a fascinating talk Anna Morris explained the role and work of Gloucestershire Archaeology’s Sites and Monuments Record which seeks to create and develop a comprehensive record of all archaeology within the County, including sites of finds.
The SMR currently consists of a large and very sophisticated database of about 30,000 individual records of sites and artefacts dating from the Palaeolithic period right up until World War Two. This information can be searched and presented in a variety of ways including plotting on large and small scale maps. In this way all archaeological finds in a specific area or all examples of a specific type of monument found throughout the entire county can be displayed.
Gloucestershire Archaeology has close links with other organisations and is currently working with the English Heritage Aerial Survey Team on several National Mapping Programme (NMP) projects, mapping and recording archaeological features shown on aerial photographs and also two major surveys: the Severn Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment and a survey of the Forest of Dean. The latter survey is being conducted using the newly-developed LiDAR technology which enables accurate aerial images of the ground surfaces to be produced despite dense vegetation that would normally preclude such a result.
Anna gave examples of the ways in which Gloucestershire Archaeology can assist individuals and local societies and it is expected that FHS will take advantage of this offer.
About 60 members and visitors gathered to hear Alicja Swiatek Christofides talk about the Polish Hostel in Fairford. Alicja was born in the camp and lived there until 1955. Alicja explained how and why the Polish exiles had come to this country after the Second World War and had been housed in the former
US Army Hospital at Fairford Park north of the town. Alicja feels very strongly that this part of Polish and Fairford history should be recorded and was instrumental in getting the plaque to commemorate the Hostel placed at the Pitham Path entrance on Leafield Road. About 200 people attended this event in May and because of the contacts made before and during the event much information has been gleaned about what life was like in the camp. Alicja showed a selection of photographs, the chapel with its ornate frontage, the ‘baraki’ and their gardens, and how the Polish people adapted to their life in their new surroundings. This was a safe, welcoming place compared with their terrible experiences previously. Eventually the lease on the land at Fairford Park expired and many of the Community moved to Swindon or to other parts of the country and even abroad.
About 40 members attended the 5th AGM of the Society. The Chair, Geoff Hawkes reported that it had been an interesting and successful year, the topics covered have been:- Fairford, Manitoba; The Retreat, with a small group visiting Coln House School as a follow up; Son et Lumière Reminiscence evening was an extra meeting and was enjoyed by everyone; a speaker from the Corinium Museum with a follow up visit to the Northleach Reserve collection which was fascinating; and another extra event, the Polish plaque unveiling which over 200 people attended.
In the coming year, Alicja Christofides is talking about the Polish Hostel; Gloucestershire Archaeology will be talking about the historic sites and monuments of the county, and in February a speaker from the Ashmolean Museum which is having a grand refurbishment and re-opening in the Autumn of 2009 – finds from the Fairford Anglo-Saxon graves were deposited in the Ashmolean during the 19th century.
There has been a lot of work on oral history recordings, Geoff Bishop spoke at the AGM last year and interviewed people who took part in the Son et Lumière and his project at the moment is the 2007 floods.
A high standard of publications has been produced, the most recent ones being the Oldisworths, Richard Green and the St Mary’s Tomb Trail. Further topics will include the Tracys of Fairford and the 1830 Swing Riots.
Several artefacts have been deposited in the Archive Room including the Fairford Silver Band big bass drum and paperwork and photographs. Thanks to Rob Winney who has contributed several items.
Last year it was predicted that subscriptions would have to rise. There is a service charge for running the Archive Room and various other financial commitments, so it was put to the meeting that the subscription should be raised to £5. The Treasurer’s report was approved.
The Chair then thanked all the Committee for their hard work and especially Brian Routledge as outgoing vice-chair who was a given a token of appreciation; Gill Compton for her first year as treasurer and Chris Hobson for his work on publications and the rest of the Committee. Ian Westlake has agreed to be vice-chair and Rob Winney has offered to be on the Committee. The Committee members were duly elected as follows:-
Geoff Hawkes as Chairman, Ian Westlake Vice-Chair, Alison Hobson Secretary, Gill Compton treasurer, Margaret Bishop FCC representative, Maurice Jones FTC, John Read, Chris Hobson and Rob Winney.
After the business meeting Edwin Cuss gave an illustrated talk titled ‘Along the main road through Fairford’. He started off from Waiten Hill showing rare pictures of Fairford Brick and Tile works and on eastwards towards Lechlade. Old shops no longer in existence were shown including Mr Cuss’ tea room which was a stopping off point for cyclists, the garages, the Infant School and the Vicarage before it became Hyperion House. Edwin’s knowledgeable commentary kept everyone absorbed in this wonderful collection of pictures.
talk by Emma Stuart, Outreach Officer of the Corinium Museum
At the February meeting Emma Stuart, Outreach Officer of the Corinium Museum, gave an illustrated talk on the artefacts found at the Thornhill Farm and Claydon Pike archaeological digs in the 1980s. Most of the finds shown were made of copper alloy, Emma explained that metal artefacts were the first ones to be stabilised and conserved and there were still 123 boxes of pottery and shards from the digs awaiting attention at the Museum’s Reserve Collection at Northleach. Although the finds from Thornhill Farm appear to have been of lesser quality it was because they had been less well conserved.
Thornhill Farm predated – Middle Iron Age to Early Roman – but was also concurrent with Claydon Pike, both settlements seemed to have been worked as cattle ranches. The Farm items displayed ranged from tiny silver Dobunnic coins (the Dobunni were one of the few Iron Age people to use coins) to hair pins and brooches.
The items from Claydon Pike – Late Iron Age to 5th Century ranged from brooches, rings, coins, belt fastenings, and a Roman key and votive offering showing that there must have been a shrine there. Some of the jewellery was beautifully enamelled. There was some interesting jet jewellery which only comes from the north of England showing that there must have been travel and trade across the country.
The different types of tile classified also gave an overall impression of what the buildings may have looked like.
Emma also bought some items from the collection which fascinated members, including a tiny silver coin and a knife or shears.
Taken with Butler’s Field and the recently excavated Horcott Quarry site it is possible to build up a picture of what life like may have been like in this area from the Iron Age to Anglo Saxon era. Each excavation gives more valuable information to the archaeologists.
Roman coin depicting Emperor Valentinian (364-375AD)- Claydon Pike
Shelagh Diplock, a 3 x great granddaughter of the Iles family gave an informative and interesting talk about the Iles family and the Fairford Asylum. Alexander Iles, 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. His father owned the land called Curtis Piece on Milton Street. He obtained a licence for 10 patients in 1823 and
took patients into his own house. In 1827 he had 13 patients, but in 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act increased the intake of pauper admissions and Alexander quickly started to build to accommodate them. From 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. Charles Cornwall was the first physician and had as an apprentice John Hitchman who married Mary Ann Iles and after qualifying in London became head of a new model asylum in Derbyshire. John Hitchman’s experience may have helped with the policy of non-restraint that was adopted at Fairford.
In 1856 Alexander died and left everything to Daniel, his eldest son. At that time there was a change in government policy and the County Asylum was enlarged to admit all paupers so that by 1859 there were only 77 patients and by 1861 only 49 patients. Despite the loss in revenue this reduced the strain on the Asylum’s resources as patient numbers had reached almost 200. During the mid-1860s Daniel and his wife Susan were joined by their eldest son, another Daniel, who qualified as a surgeon in 1864. Albert Iles, another son moved back to Fairford in 1861 from his doctor’s practice in Cirencester. He bought Croft House and had hoped to join Dr Charles Cornwall’s practice but tragedy struck in July 1863 when he was killed when his phaeton carriage suffered an accident
Mid 19th century – the corresponding interior ground floor plan
Picture from the Gloucestershire Archivest leaving Ellen pregnant with their eighth child. Some time before 1870 Ellen Matilda Iles set up a small female private asylu
m in Croft House. In 1856 Alexander died and left everything to Daniel, his eldest son. At that time there was a ch
ange in government policy and the County Asylum was enlarged to admit all paupers so
that by 1859 there were only 77 patients and by 1861 only 49 patients. Despite the loss in revenue this reduced the strain on the Asylum’s resources as patient numbers had reached almost 200. During the mid-1860s Dan
iel and his wife Susan were joined by their eldest son, another Daniel, who qualified as a surgeon in 1864. Albert Iles, another son moved back to Fairford in 1861
from his doctor’s practice in Cirencester. He bought Croft House and had hoped to join Dr Charles Cornwall’s practice but tragedy struck in July 1863 when he was killed when his phaeton carriage suffered an accident leaving Ellen pregnant with their eighth child. Some time before 1870 Ellen Matilda Iles set up a small female private asylum in Croft House.
Susan Iles died in 1883 and Daniel in 1887. Dr Daniel and Henry, their sons took over the asylum until 1899 when Danie
l 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.
November 27th 2008
As a follow up to the talk the previous week, a group of members visited Coln House School and were shown round by the headmaster, Chris Clarke and head of care, Sandra Rogers. It was fascinating to detect what was left of the Iles buildings and compare the 1930s brochure of Dr A C King-Turner with the present day buildings. We told of the school’s ethos at the present time and we wondered how the head master and staff cope in such a rabbit warren of buildings. Grateful thanks to Coln House School for their time and hospitality.
About fifty people gathered together for this entertaining evening. June Lewis-Jones gave the background to the Son et Lumiere, the purpose of which was to raise money for Fairford Cottage Hospital, over £1000 was raised. Oral recordings had been made of participants and Geoff Bishop introduced snippets of their contributions which jogged people’s memories. Brian Routledge then facilitated a panel of participants: – Trevor Hing, Maurice Jones and Gretchen Langford who talked about their memories with contributions from the audience. There was then an opportunity to look at the displays of photos and articles from the play; have a convivial drink and talk to other people. Leo D’Elia had made a cine film at that time and had lent it for FHS to convert from video to DVD for people to watch in the Heritage Room.
This event in St Mary’s Church in October 1978 was the first secular event to be held in St Mary’s Church; there had been an influx of newcomers into the town and as so many people took part it brought the town together. June Lewis-Jones wrote the script and as far as possible actors played the same role throughout the 1000 years of history and in some cases their real role in life. Maurice Jones was the town crier; Trevor Hing, the reeve or justice; Peter Juggins, the stonemason; June Lewis the shepherd with real sheep, they had been lambs when planned which had grown to sizeable animals by the time of the performance. The amount of costumes and props that had to be organised – many people had multiple roles which involved many costume changes in the semi-dark in the chapels. There was over a mile of cabling for the lighting and the most beautiful music and sound effects. The play lasted almost three hours with no break and although cushions had been hired the pews were very hard and the audience deserved a plaudit as well.
Everyone remembered ‘the Cross Keys’ the pub referred to throughout the play which historically had been thought to be sited at Montacute House opposite the Church. There was a barrel of beer in the Centre available to participants at 30p a pint. There was an outbreak of warts which grew more prevalent throughout the week ( rice krispies or puffed wheat glued on to people’s skin); tricks were made to make Trevor Hing as Justice of the Peace laugh during the sentencing of the culprits of the Swing Riots – a most serious event. Diana Lee Browne was crouched under the lectern as prompt during the whole of the performance. David Niven and Peter Ustinov had made recordings for the play and June had written to the RAF Fairford and Brize Norton to ask them not to carry out any NATO exercises over Fairford during those weekday evenings!
It was a wonderful community event and its importance is shown by the fact that it is still remembered. A thousand years of Fairford’s written history were encapsulated in a few hours. The play showed the continuity of life in a small country town, its social structure and how it was affected by national events.
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. His family background in stonework undoubtedly helped him in such practical tasks. 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 -30o 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. A colourful procession made its way from the Market Place to the Church for the thanksgiving service. The Bishop of Gloucester was present in his robes plus priests, choir, two Mounties, various members of the visiting party and most important the chief with his feathered head-dress.
The Society returned to the newly refurbished Community Centre for its fourth Annual General Meeting. In his last report as Chair, Keith Cottam began by showing everyone the lectern beautifully crafted by Ian Westlake for the Heritage Room. It had been funded from a donation from the collection at the funeral of Enid Johnson, a founder member of the Society: Enid had been extremely interested in local and family history and kindly bequested a donation to the Society. Keith continued by reviewing the substantial achievements since the setting up of the Society four years ago from its tentative beginnings to the culmination of the Fairford Community Play and with the resulting income setting up the Heritage and Archive Room in the Centre. The Society has also held successful events and produced scholarly publications. He thanked his Committee for all their support and hard work. An appeal was made for a treasurer and Gill Compton kindly volunteered.
The new Committee was elected with Geoff Hawkes as Chairman, Brian Routledge Vice-Chair, Alison Hobson Secretary, Gill Compton treasurer, Ian Westlake Membership, Margaret Bishop FCC representative, Maurice Jones FTC, John Read, Julie Parker and Chris Hobson. Geoff Hawkes thanked Keith for his expert leadership and gave him a token of appreciation, a photographic record of his years as Chair and some liquid refreshment.
The refreshments which followed were generously sponsored by our president June Lewis-Jones to celebrate the setting up of the Heritage and Archive Room.
Geoff Bishop gave an interesting and informative talk on Fairford during World War II compiled from the oral history recordings, finishing with a very moving account from Tony Rogers, a Pole from what is now Lithuania, who had survived horrific experiences and finally ended up in England flying with 18 OTU, RAF and eventually retired to Fairford. Over 20 CDs have been made of the recordings and Geoff asked for anyone interested in interviewing or being interviewed to contact him.
Edwin Cuss gave an excellent slide show from his vast collection at this meeting. He covered the topic of transport in Fairford ranging from a delightful picture of him crawling as a baby to nostalgic pictures of Concorde. Prams, wheeled toys, bicycles, motorcycles, tractors, steam powered vehicles, buses, cars and aircraft plus walking all featured with interesting pictures of local people, some of whom were known to the audience. Edwin said he had thought it was going to be an easy selection but when he came to it he found it difficult to choose what to exclude. The talk was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Dr Andrew Warmington gave a fascinating talk about 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. Dr Warmington studied the English Civil War for his doctorate and is the author of books and articles on the subject, especially Gloucestershire’s part in the War.
See Dr Warmington’s Prize winning Essay on the Subject