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Village Life in the 1950s and 60s

Lesley Chandler, Rosie Lane and Candy the puppy
Lesley Chandler, Rosie Lane
and Candy the puppy

While Miriam Lane does not appear to have been as intimately involved with villagers as the Buchans had been, she nevertheless played an important part in the welfare of the village. She contributed generously to village events and when one man, the father of five children, was killed on a level crossing at Wheatley, she instructed her lawyer to deal with compensation for the family and bore the expense herself. Her children mixed freely with village children, who had the run of the Manor grounds, and Rosie Lane and the chauffeur’s daughter, Lesley Chandler, were firm friends.

Lesley Chandler and her mother, with Judy the dog and Che Che
Lesley Chandler and her mother,
with Judy the dog and Che Che

There was contact between the maids and the Buckingham family who lived just across the road at Home Close, because Mrs Buckingham was the postmistress and helped them with their letters home, but Mrs Lane did not participate in the WI, as Lady Tweedsmuir had, except to contribute to the funds which provided the Christmas party for the children and occasionally to lend films.

One of the children who attended these parties was Jill Dewhurst, nee Buckingham. She had come to Elsfield as a small child in 1949 with her parents and baby brother Philip, only one month old at the time. They lived at Home Close, which was at that time two houses. Theirs was the one nearest the Manor and as their next door neighbours, the Pinkers, did not have a bathroom, they sometimes went round to the Buckinghams for a bath. There was no water closet; or mains water, although there was mains electricity and water was pumped from the reservoir behind what is now Dove House. When the Pinkers moved out in the 1950s the house was made into one.

As a child Jill attended Christmas parties at the Manor which were held in the basement. She also went to parties at Christ Church in the Great Hall there, as her father worked for Christ Church. There were also outings to the seaside with Christ Church and she had her sixteenth birthday party at Elsfield School which was by that time the Village Hall.

Cows Under Elms
Cows Under Elms

There was a double row of elms along the road which everyone called ‘Under Elms’. The trees had been there for many years and they towered above adults and children alike. Jill found it exciting to ride her bike along under the elm trees because of the wind whistling round her ears. It was so dark it was like entering a tunnel.

The Watts family who farmed the land attached to Forest Farm, Home Farm and Hill Farm, had a television at the time of the coronation, as did the Hambidges. Jill was one of many villagers who watched the event at Forest Farm. There was a big celebration party in the barn at Home Farm including many events such as egg and spoon races and sack races in the field called Home Close after which each child was presented with a Coronation mug.

Mr Chandler, Mrs Lane's chauffeur
Mr Chandler, Mrs Lane's chauffeur

Jill’s mother and father were both from Cowley, but they had met in Kenya when they were stationed there in the Air Force during the Second World War. When they came to Elsfield at first, Jill’s mother was not happy. No-one would talk to her because she was a newcomer, she spoke differently from other people in the village and her husband worked for the landlord, Christ Church. As most families worked on the land there were few points of contact. Tom Buckingham had started work before the war in the Clerk of Works office at Christ Church and on his return, he went to work in the Treasury where he eventually became the Assistant Treasurer. Privately he also did the wages for the farm labourers, for Mr Jack Brown, living at Church Farm, and was a stalwart of the Cricket Club when it reformed in 1953, being both treasurer and secretary.

There were several tradesmen who came to the village because not many people had transport and there were no shops. The baker in Beckley would deliver cottage loaves and groceries could be ordered from a shop in St Clements, delivered weekly by a Mr Tom Pamphlin. The coalman Mr Maunder came out from Islip and Jill and her husband still use the firm today. Cigarettes were available from Mrs Lafford who lived at 1 Hilltop Cottages, and if any of the children went to buy them for their parents she always had a sweet to give them. Her son Denis eventually became the village postman.

The Beckley bus (number 72) provided a link for shopping in Oxford. The timetable had been devised to facilitate hospital visiting at the local hospital, the Radcliffe Infirmary on the Woodstock Road. It ran on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from Oxford at 2pm, 4pm, 6 pm and finally at 10 pm on a Saturday only. There was an afternoon service on a Sunday. In the early fifties by the time the bus reached Elsfield it was often almost full and provided the opportunity for a good gossip and catch-up between villagers. In later years with more people having cars the number of passengers dwindled until the service was eventually withdrawn, probably in the late 1960s.


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