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Village Life in the 1950s and 60s

Mrs Marion Colwell was the lady who delivered the post, not just in Elsfield but in Beckley as well and when she retired her daughter Helen took over. The unsorted post would be brought out from Oxford and she would sort it at Home Close and then cycle through the worst of the weather, including heavy snow (twice a day coming up to Christmas), to make sure the post reached its destination. Mrs Buckingham would help the Gypsies deal with officialdom if they needed help with any paperwork. At first the Post Office was one of the few places in the village with a telephone. The Manor was number seven, while the telephone kiosk outside the school, the only public telephone in the village, was number five. Calls went through to the exchange in Stanton St John, where they were answered by one of the Knight family who ran the Post Office. Brenda Knight, who was competently manning the exchange at the age of eight, recalls that the telephone exchange was in their living room. There was a race not to be last at the dinner table because the last one to the table had to answer the telephone when it rang. It was a twenty-four hour job. There were nineteen or twenty people in the area who had telephones and people often didn’t ask for a number, just said who they wanted to contact. Quite often her aunt would say, ‘Well, it’s no good ringing them now, they’ve gone up the village’, in which case the person ringing would ask to leave a message.

Post Box Cottage was occupied in the 1960s by the Brown family who rented it from David Brown, the farmer, at £2 a week, a sum which was collected once a year. Mark and Darren lived there with their parents, next door to the Sandfords. Mr Sandford was the gamekeeper and Mrs Sandford the pest control person. Mrs Brown was convinced she saw the ghost of an undertaker walking up their path, an idea which her boys scoffed at until they discovered that Caleph Clark and bled to death in their house.

Mark was taught by Sue Bradford how to eat soup correctly - with the spoon tipped away from his mouth – and how to eat peas by conveying them from plate to mouth on the top of his fork rather than using it as a scoop. Though he now lives in Berinsfield, Mark has warm memories of Elsfield, which he has always loved and sometimes visits. There are three photographs of Mark and his family in the Gallery.

At this time there were milking herds at Forest Farm, Church Farm and Home Farm. Jill would collect milk in a jug from Home Farm and eggs were bought from Mrs Brown at Church Farm. You took along a cereal packet and she then wrapped the eggs in newspaper and placed them inside. The cows also had to be kept out of the cricket square in Home Close so the team could practice and the pitch remained playable.

Jill started at the village school when she was about four and a half. When she was eight the school closed and then together with a friend, Lois Watts from Hill Farm, she attended a school on the Banbury Road until she was 11 years old when she moved to Old Marston secondary school. The Elsfield school building was then rented from Christ Church and run as a village hall and was still there in 1968. Previously the older children in the village had attended Gosford Hill School in Kidlington.There was no transport from Elsfield to Marston School so they all had to cycle. At the bottom of the hill was a three-lane road which was replaced by the ring road. It was very dangerous because there was a dog-leg where people going towards Oxford had to do a right and then a left turn, crossing the main road. Traffic was very fast along the main road and there were several fatalities. One was a girl who lived in the cottage by Field Barn: Julie Hadland. It was her first week at grammar school. The Reverend Jarvis was also involved in a serious crash there. Mrs Bedding used to accompany her daughter Joan and other village children to make sure they crossed the road safely, but Mrs Buckingham could not do that because she ran the Post Office. Many mornings on their way to school the children passed gypsies camped in a lane to the side of the road which ran into Mill Lane in Marston and horses were regularly to be seen tethered along the verges.

In 1955 the school was closed, with Elsfield children of Primary school age moving to Beckley school. This posed a problem for the village, since the building had been used not only as a school but as a meeting place for social events. Not only the Social Club but the Men’s Club and the Women’s Institute had all used the premises at one time or another.

In November of 1955 a well attended meeting, chaired by the Vicar, met to discuss the future. The Vicar had already approached Christ Church, owners of the property, who had agreed that the school room could be used as a village hall. The Vicar pointed out how fortunate the village was in having a building in first rate repair and said how grateful everyone should be to Christ Church for their generosity. £100 had already been collected towards building a village hall, and discussion centred around whether the money should be used for maintenance of the school room. Mr Brown proposed that the money should be put to that purpose. Mr Taylor of Home Farm seconded the motion and the money was passed to the treasurer . A committee was then set up to run the village hall. The chairman was the Reverend Jarvis, secretary Mrs T. Buckingham, treasurer Mr Hambidge. Other members of the committee were drawn from the Lafford and Merry families along with Mr F. Hayes and Mrs J. Maltby. Christ Church, owners of the building, agreed to a rent of one shilling a year, with the insurance of £3-3-9d. Surplus funds raised for the Coronation celebrations were given into the hands of the treasurer and it was agreed that Mrs Paintin should be paid £1 a month to look after the hall. Charges for hire of the hall would be ten shillings and five shillings for hire of half the big room. The chairman was instructed to order ½ ton of coal from Mr Tembs of Wheatley.

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