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Village Life in the 1980s and 90s

Living next door to Annie and Pat are Richard and Lynn. Lynn’s grandfather, Cornelius Phipps, had once worked as an odd-job man at the Manor and because Richard worked for Christ Church they were already living in a tied house in Abbey Road in Oxford. Richard’s brother was already living in Elsfield.

"Richard knew Rachel Heaton[1] and Tom Buckingham and it was Tom Buckingham[2] who got us our first house. We renovated it and loved living in Abbey Road", Lynn said. Following a harrowing time with a mentally ill neighbour who abandoned her medication and started hallucinating, they felt the need to move. "She would talk about horses’ heads in the corner and she had a thing about water. She knocked the toilet off the wall and flooded our kitchen", Lynn explained.

At Christmas, they came up to Dave (Richard’s brother) and Sue’s, who lived at Post Box Cottage and as they drove back down the hill,  Richard commented on how much better Lynn looked. "Don’t set your sights on living at Elsfield because people like me just don’t get offered houses there," he said. However, Richard was wrong. When he went to Christ Church and told them they needed to move, they said, "There’s a cottage in Elsfield and we’ve offered it to several people but it’s in such a poor state that they didn’t want it. And it’s so tiny you couldn’t put a family in it or anything. Do you want it?" The answer was a resounding yes, though Lynn worried about how they would manage to fit their furniture into such a small house. "There was just the one room downstairs and the bathroom on the end. The living space was divided into a tiny living room with the kitchen next to it. It took a year to put it to rights. The irony was that the woman left Abbey Road six months before we moved up to Elsfield", Lynn concluded.

Their friends, Mo and Keith, have lived in Elsfield since 1992. Both work for Christ Church, and were so impressed with Elsfield they felt they would like to live here. "The house was very old-fashioned, with all the walls plastered over and a false ceiling covering the beams. The house had been empty for months because no-one wanted to live in it but we felt there was the potential to make an interesting home," they said

Kate and Paul, too, found their cottage through a personal contact. "We came to Elsfield in August of 1984," they said. "We’d come back from Australia. Kate’s mum worked in the estate office of Christ Church, and she mentioned to Tom Buckingham that we were needing somewhere to live. He offered us this house and we’ve been here ever since."

When Annie first moved in to her cottage, it had been empty for some time and whilst it was not in bad condition, it did need some attention in terms of decoration and facilities. There was an open coal fire with a back boiler and a side oven - they were never short of hot water because the boiler produced so much. Eventually the boiler burst and it was replaced by a large multi-fuel stove which had originally been in an eight bed-roomed house in Binsey. Now there was even more hot water - they often had to open the taps to release the nearly boiling water. The answer was to install radiators which now warm the bathroom and bedrooms. Despite the radiators and the insulation provided by the thatch and the thick stone walls, the temperature in the bedrooms depends to some extent on the weather. If the wind is coming from the north, or north east, it finds its way through the gaps in the stone and between the beams and seems to draw the warm air out no matter how much fuel they burn.

[1] The widow of the Dean of Christ Church, Eric Heaton.
[2] Clerk of Works for Christ Church.

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