Village History

Information of the parish of Curbridge can be found on the British History Online web site. Follow the link
for more details

Details on local history from one of our residents follows:-

We are in the process of building this page with the help of pictures from Janie Inskipp and words from our local expert Bill Mills.

Bill has spent many hours compiling the following text and know doubt it will change over time. Contributions to verify the details have been made by many local people (mostly on Friday night's in the local PUB!!) and alterations have made.
The following is what life was like in the Village through the eyes of Mr Mills c1946, it is in his own words and is presented here just as he wrote it.
Hopefully we will add pictures of some of the people and places mentioned (Your turn now Janie).

Many thanks to Bill for all his hard work.

The Hamlet of Curbridge in the late 1940's
By Bill Mills

 This is an account of my memories of Curbridge and the people who lived here in the years immediately after WW2.

 On approaching the village from Witney the first building you came to was the hostel, a wooden building built to house workers brought in to help on the land during the war.  This was the only place in the village to be connected to a sewage system; it had its own works on land Witney side of the hostel.  Behind the hostel is Manor Farm, Mr.& Mrs. Winfield lived here with their son Percy and daughter Mary.  Their eldest son Perrin with his wife Edna and daughters Jen and Jill lived in one of two cottages in the farm drive near the Brize Norton Road and Edna’s brother Terry Coggins lived next door.

 Over the wall from Manor Farm is Charity Farm, Mr & Mrs Woods with sons John and Norman, daughters Mona, Eileen and Hazel lived here.  The large barn in front of the house was used for whist drives and barn dances, popular events in those days.  Across the road there were two thatched cottages, Tommy Longshaw lived in the first one, he worked for the Woods family. The roof on Tommy’s cottage caved in but he still lived there for some years after; it never was repaired while he lived there.  Next door lived Walter Hickman with his wife and sons Sid, Fred and Percy and daughters Rose and Ruth.  Sid later emigrated to Australia. Walter was the local odd job builder. Behind these cottages was a farm run by Walter’s brother also called Percy, he still used horses for all the farm work.  With his wife Elsie they milked (by hand) a small herd of cows and supplied the village with milk. The milk was delivered daily to the door usually by Elsie carrying two large cans on the handlebars of her bicycle.  She didn’t ride the bicycle but I do remember it falling over complete with cans, sending gallons of milk into the road.  A jug was left by the door and the required amount was measured out of the can.  It had to be delivered daily as it would not keep any longer; there were no fridges then.  Percy had some fields off the Downs Road and either side of the bridle track where he grew corn and hay. The corn when ripe would be cut with a horse drawn binder which would tie it into sheaves, these would be stacked in groups of six or eight and left to dry (weather permitting) for some days.  These stacks were called stooks or shocks. When dry they would be loaded on to horse drawn wagons and taken to the farmyard and stacked into ricks.  When all the corn was home the ricks would be thatched to keep it dry.

 In the spring Bill Fowler and his son, also Bill, would arrive with a large thrashing machine and bailer, these would be set up with great precision close to the Ricks.  They had to be exactly in line as they were driven with wide canvas belts, one from a tractor to the thrasher and another from that to the bailer.  It was very dangerous as these belts, up to forty feet long, whizzed round at very high speed with no guards around them.  Thrashing was very labour intensive needing a man to feed the thrashing drum; his job was to cut the strings on the sheaves and feed them into the drum, sometimes he would accidentally miss the string and drop the sheaf in complete, this would usually cause the drive belt to come off; two men would be on the Rick with pitchforks throwing the sheaves to the feeder; another to change the sacks with corn in and two on the bailer - one to thread the wires that the bales were tied with and the other to stack the bales.  Bill Fowler and his son worked for Bob Brickell who owned the thrashing machine, he was a well-known farmer and property owner.

 In the cottage next to Walter lived Eva Barker, she had kennels at the back of the cottage.  Sometimes the dogs would bark for ages but I don’t remember anyone complaining. You could see Eva riding her horse around the village most days.  She was our Sunday-school teacher in the Methodist Chapel (now the village hall), it was attended by most of the children in the village, 30 on a good day.  Next to Eva’s cottage is a barn and next to that was the blacksmith’s shop which was no longer in regular use but used by a farrier when he visited the village.  Across the road was the chapel, services were held here every Sunday evening and were well attended.

 In the bungalow next door lived Mr.& Mrs. Ern Silman with daughters Margaret and Marlene.  Mr. Silman later became landlord of the New Inn Public House in Crawley.  In the adjoining bungalow lived Mr & Mrs Isaac Aldsworth with daughters Beryl and Doreen and sons Gordon, Ken and Richard.  Mrs. Aldsworth ran the post office from her front door, I often took parcels for my mum but never got inside the door no matter what the weather.  Parcels had to be tied firmly with string, all knots and wherever string crossed had to be sealed with sealing wax or they would not be accepted for posting.  Isaac was a big strong man with barrel chest, red face and huge feet; he always wore hobnailed boots (you could hear him coming a mile off!).  He was a strong Chapel man, on Sunday afternoons the whole family would cycle to other villages to attend services.  At the bottom of the hill on the same side is the cottage where the post office was run many years previously by Isaac’s mother.  Mr Tommy Pratley with wife Margaret and son Michael lived there then.

 On the end of the cottage was an out-house that must have subsided as the door and window frames were six inches lower one side than the other.  It was later demolished when the road was widened.  Across the road is the old school house Mr.& Mrs. Barker, Eva’s parents, lived here they had another daughter Margaret, she was a nurse and worked abroad.  They also looked after a young girl named Barbara Squires.  Mr Barker worked at Clinch’s brewery and rode a motorbike with a sidecar.

 Moving back over the road is the Malt House, Mr.& Mrs Oliver Barrett lived here; they had four daughters Phoebe, Agnes, Gladys and Heather.  If anyone had a pig they wanted killed and butchered Mr Barrett was the man to call.  It was common to fatten a pig in the back garden, it was said that when you had a pig killed friends you hadn’t seen for ages would suddenly appear at your door.  Backing on to the Malt House drive is Church Row.  At the far end lived Bob& May Illingsworth with daughter Ann and son Pete.  Bob was a bus driver and worked for the Oxford Bus Company.  Next was Mrs Jones (Gladys) and son David.  Next to them was Mr & Mrs. Fields with sons Ray & Stewart and daughters June & Pauline.  Nearest the road lived Mr. & Mrs. Townsend and son William.  Mr. Towsend (Teddy) worked at the Pressed steel Company in Cowley.

 Crossing the road again is the cottage called Willow Farm, people never seemed to stop here long, perhaps it was because the floor was a foot lower than the yard and garden, so every time there was heavy rain the house flooded.  Mr. & Mrs. George Hambridge and children Joyce and David lived here for a while.  George worked for Bob Brickell who owned the cottage.  In the garden were about six straggly plum trees planted right against the wall near the road, when the plums were ripe we would stand on the wall and pinch them.  If Mrs Hambridge caught us she would tell us off for not asking her permission to have some but they wouldn’t taste the same then would they?  George was affectionately known as Digger as he was always going to emigrate to Australia but he never did. 

 Moving on to Curbridge Farm, Mr.& Mrs. John Castle had a fine herd of Friesians here.  Every Sunday morning two men would exercise the bull up and down the road, it was a huge beast and must have weighed a ton, its shoulders were as high as the men.  Isaac Aldsworth worked at the farm, he never swore but the English phrases he taught the German prisoners of war could not be found in any dictionary!

 The church attracted a much larger congregation then, it even had a choir of six or more village boys and about the same number of young ladies, all or whom dressed very smartly in gowns. In the cottage by the church gate lived Mr.& Mrs. Guppy, during and just after the war Mrs. Guppy (Mable) was a post lady, she never looked very confident on a bicycle but was always smiling.  Mr. Guppy (Albert) was an electrician and worked at Brize Norton Aerodrome.  Some years later they turned their front room into a shop and ran a very prosperous business here for some years.  Next door at Honey Suckle Cottage lived Billy and Constance Gotobed with son Ron.  Mr Gotobed worked as a farm contractor; he later built up quite a large business, with three tractors and several pieces of farm machinery.

 Across the road again stood Packhorse Cottage, it had a thatched roof then and belonged to Curbridge Farm.  The Crook family lived here, Mr & Mrs Crook who had three girls Rose, Jean and Margaret and one son Ron.  Crossing again is Batts Row, Percy Wise lived at number one, after losing his wife his niece Mildred came to look after him.  Percy had some fields near Lew Bridge either side of the railway line and a small field on the Brize Road.  He had some cattle and a couple of goats on the Lew Road fields and he kept hens and pigs in his garden. He used a pony and trap as his transport, the horse was called Ginger.  Two Batts Row was where I lived with my parents, brother Fred and my grandfather Gabriel Smith.  My father (Fred) was a carpenter and worked at Brize Norton Aerodrome, my mother (Hilda) worked at Lew House for Captain and Mrs. Radcliff.  At number three lived Fred Hickman his wife Bet and sons Ron and Les.  Fred had a transport business running two lorries, a three ton Dennis and a long wheelbase five ton Austin.  Lorries weighing less than 3 Tons were allowed to travel at 30 mph. those over 3 Tons un-laden weight were restricted to 20 mph.   Fred was a great practical joker always catching everyone on April fool’s day and still laughing about it days later.

 Standing on higher ground and well back from the road are two cottages belonging to Curbridge Farm, in the first one lived Mr.& Mrs. Leach with daughter Beryl and sons Derek and Bryan. Although mains water was in the village, a lot of houses still drew all their water from a well as did these cottages until someone poured several gallons of paraffin down it, then they had to be hurriedly connected to the mains supply.  Mr. Leach used to keep bees, his hives were next to Mr. Hickman’s wall, we all got stung several times.  In the adjoining cottage lived Mr. Hussey he was Mr Castle’s cowman, he started work at five o’clock in the morning, when we used to go on seaside trips he would give us a call on his way to work as you had to start out early or it would be time to come back before you got there.

 Standing even further back on its own is the cottage where Mr & Mrs. Bert. Laurence with daughters Joan and Beryl lived.  Bert was a keen Witney Town Football Club supporter.  Then there was the Merry Horn pub, Mr. Fields was the landlord, his wife, sons Jack and Gordon and daughter Joan also lived there.  Jack bred rabbits in the yard at the back.  He sold me one as a pet, it cost two shillings and he gave me a hutch.  Across the road was an army camp, the Royal Signals were based here. When they moved out at the end of the war, squatters moved in but not for long.  It was knocked down as soon as they went.  The Brize Norton Road now runs through the middle of where the camp stood, the old road was in line with the Downs Road and had a ninety-degree bend towards Brize Norton.  Off of this bend was the track to Peashell Farm, the Pill family lived there then.  Opposite and inline with the Brize Norton Road was the bridle track, cars and even buses often missed the turn and drove up it, especially in fog. 

 Half a mile on towards Brize Norton at the bottom of the hill is the drive to Caswell Farm.  Mr. Tommy Joslin his wife Maude and son John lived here, Mrs. Joslin always drove a big posh car but Tommy only road a bicycle.  He could be seen most Thursdays cycling to and from Witney market, he never looked very steady on the way back.  A little past the drive and opposite one field from the road is a wood called the Cuniger, there were several large plumb trees in here.  Every year when the plums were ripe we would go and pick buckets full and would be eating plums for weeks.  Mr Joslin never seamed to mind us having them but when his son John took over the farm he had them all cut down.

 A row of telegraph polls ran from Witney through the village on to Brize Norton and beyond, they were right on the edge of the road and carried about fifty single wires, a real eye sore, some of the polls leaned dangerously and were probably only held up by the wires.

 Now for Well Lane, at the Merry Horn end was a triangular piece of grass in the middle of the junction with the main road, traffic could pass either side of it, in the middle was a signpost for Lew and Bampton.  In the lane there were only the eight houses on the left, in the first lived Mr & Mrs. Harry Joiner with sons David and Fred and daughters Joyce, Nelly and Margaret.  Joyce later married Terry Coggins.  At number two lived Mr & Mrs. Silman they had four children all of them had left home by now.  Ern Silman was one of their sons and Gladys Jones their daughter.  At number three lived Mr.& Mrs. Busby.  Jack Fields and his wife moved into number four from the Merry Horn, Jack was a postman.  At five was Mr. & Mrs. Tanner with daughters Rosemary and Jennifer.  Next-door, number six, lived Mr. & Mrs. Combes with sons Bill, Arthur and Sam and daughter Edie.  At number seven was Jack Smith his wife Mary, daughters June and Doreen (Dimp) and son Tony.  In their front garden was a large tree by the gate. June played the piano at Sunday school; Jack worked at Caswell Farm and later built the garage on the Lew road, Gray Gables.  In the last house lived Percy and Elsie Hickman with son Chris.  Chris later married Barbara Squires.  Percy would walk between house and farm several times a day, whistling all the way.  Over the fence is the wreck, just an open field then.  Beyond the wreck the road was flanked by thick hedges and large Elm trees overlapping to form a tunnel.

 Near the bottom of the lane on the left was a large stone-built barn with tiled roof, near this was a round Dovecot.  Mr. Gotabed used the barn as a workshop and to store his machinery.  The barn and land around it belonged to Mr. Bill Lewis who with his wife lived in the house behind the barn on the Witney road.  At the front of the house were two large holly bushes with lots of red berries on them every winter.

 Heading back towards Lew the first house past Well Lane on the right lived Harry and Muriel Hickman with daughters Margaret, Maureen and Valerie and son Pete.  Harry worked for the council repairing the roads.  Further down on the same side lived Bill Provis in what was just a small cottage.  During wet spells water would run off the higher fields behind and through his cottage. Across the road is the Lord Kitchener pub, Bill Trafford was the landlord and lived here with his wife.  When Percy Wise returned from his fields by Lew Bridge he would often tie Ginger, still in the shafts of the trap, to a ring set in the wall by the front door while he popped in for a pint.  On the end of the pub were two cottages, in the one nearest the road lived Mr.& Mrs. Bill Harris they had a large family.  Daughters Daisy, May and Rose and son George were married and had left home, sons Bill and Fred with their sister Betty still lived with their parents.  Next door was Mrs. Peacock, she was Muriel Hickman’s mother. These cottages had large gardens where the pub car park is now. Over the wall is the Wreck, only used for grazing then.  Next , in the house well back from the road, lived Mr. Jo Hunt.  In the cottage facing towards Lew lived Mr. & Mrs. Lafford with daughters Mary and Helen.

 The King family lived at Duttons Farm, Mr.& Mrs Dutton. with sons Michael and Peter.  Across the road Mr & Mrs Earn Simmons ran the village shop and had a daughter Janet.  Every time you went to buy something from any shop you had to have your ration book with you, couldn’t buy much without it then.  Next to the shop is Beechams Cottage, Fred & Eva Taylor with daughter Pam and Eva’s brother Cyril Pierce lived here. Fred worked at Brize Norton Aerodrome.

 The four cottages facing Lew were the last buildings on the right, at the far end lived Tommy Costello and his wife.  Tommy was a jockey in his younger days, it’s said he once rode in the Grand National; he worked at Crawley Mill then.  In the third one from the road was Mrs Fowler with her son Tony, and in the second were the Cole family, with sons John and Eric and daughter Margaret.  Mr Cole worked at Walker’s Mill.  Nearest the road lived Mr & Mrs Bert Harris with sons Roger and Roy and daughter Joy.  Bert was a Barber when he was in the army, for a few old pennies he would give us young boys a short back and sides, which was the only style on offer. 

 Further on towards Lew on the left at the end of a long drive is the thatched cottage where Mr and Mrs Jarvis lived with daughters Yvonne, Esme and Valerie Anne and son Derek.  Mr. Jarvis ran a bicycle repair business from here.  Mrs. Jarvis was Mrs. Fowler’s daughter.  Down the same drive a little nearer the road is the house where the King family lived before moving to Dutton’s Farm.  After they moved Mr. & Mrs. Richardson lived here. Mr. Richardson was a schoolteacher.

 A Quarter of a mile towards Lew on the right is Abbey Lane down here is Abbey Wood.  Every spring families would go here to pick Blue Bells and Primroses.  Good Friday was a popular day for this.  Red Squirrels were a common sight then and Rabbits by the hundred.  Next to Abbey Lane is the railway bridge, several trains a day would travel from Witney through to Fairford on a regular timetable.  Men working in the fields in view of the line would know the time by the trains, they were that reliable.  There was also a bridge on the Ducklington Road (Starnham Lane), we would often walk to one of the bridges to watch the trains go by and wave to the driver and fireman. There were only steam power trains then, it was the fireman’s job to keep the fire stoked with coal to maintain pressure.  A cloud of smoke would billow over the bridge as the train went underneath, it had a different smell to the smoke from household coal, we would stand in the smoke and become completely engulfed for a few seconds we must have smelled as our mothers always knew where we had been. 

In  no order are presented some old picture from Curbridge's past. We are in the process of adding names to the pictures.

If you would like to contribute to this page, have any interesting stories, or have pictures you would like included, then please contact: -