Author Archives: Joyce Huddleston

Programme change for June 2022 meeting

Hubert Zawadzki’s talk, The Land of the White Eagle: The Story of Poland, which had to be cancelled at the last minute due to illness, will now be on Monday 13 June 2022 at 7.30 pm in Radley Church.

The talk by Liz Woolley, From Axtell to Zacharias: the men who built Oxford, which was originally scheduled for 13 June 2022 will now be on 14 November 2022.

January 2022 meeting: Romans in Oxfordshire

On 10 January, encouraging numbers of members and guests braved a dreich evening to hear Marie-Louise Kerr describe traces of the Romans in Oxfordshire.

Soon after their invasion in AD 43, the Romans established a fort at Alchester (near Bicester). Two wooden gateposts survived, which, from the pattern of the tree rings in their wood, could be dated to AD 44 or 45.

At the Museum of Oxfordshire in Woodstock you can see this tombstone of a legionary who died around AD50. ‘Lucius Valerius Geminus … of the Pollia voting tribe, from Forum Germanorum, veteran of the Second Augustan Legion, aged 50(?), lies here. His heir(s?) had this set up in accordance with his will.’

The most striking Roman site in Oxfordshire is the villa at North Leigh, probably started around AD100, and later hugely extended. You can see remains of hypocausts, and some beautiful mosaic flooring.

Other important Roman, or Romano-British, sites include Cholsey, Goring (where there was a villa with a cold plunge pool), Long Wittenham, and near Broughton Castle.

In answer to a question after her talk, Marie-Louise confirmed that Dorchester had been an important Roman settlement, but suggested that few traces of it have survived.

Reports of previous meetings

Club visit to Radley College chapel

On 16 December 2021, members of the Radley History Club enjoyed an enjoyable and interesting visit to see the Chapel’s new extension with Estates Bursar, David Anderson.

The chapel was designed in 1893 by the famous Victorian architect Thomas Graham Jackson and is Grade II* Listed. In 2015, Purcell Architects won a design competition for an extension to the Chapel. Fortunately work on the extension was able to continue through the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, as it was a slow-moving traditional project with only a handful of workers on-site at any one time. Minor finishing touches were still being put in place on the day of the Club visit just after the end of term. Indeed the original chandelier from the chapel had yet to be rehung in the centre of the sanctuary roof.

Exterior of the newly extended chapel at Radley College, Oxfordshire, in December 2021
Radley College Chapel with its new sanctuary, December 2021

The main aim of the extension was to create additional seating in the chapel to accommodate the significant increase in the number of pupils following the opening of a new boarding house. A secondary aim was the enhance the capabilities of the space, for example, to better accommodate larger groups of musicians.

The key element was the construction of a completely new sanctuary at the end of the chapel. This involved knocking out a large hole in the existing wall behind the altar without removing the glass from the large stained glass window above! The octagonal timber-framed roof of the new sanctuary (see below) was designed and constructed by Carpenter Oak Ltd.

Octagonal timber ceiling of the new sanctuary
The timber ceiling of the new sanctuary , December 2021

Other changes included:

  • alterations to extend and strengthen the balcony to allow the installation of a magnificent new organ
  • the addition of two alcoves on each side of the top of the chancel, each providing 20 seats
  • installation of new pews in front of these alcoves indistinguishable from the existing pews
  • sourcing matching floor tiles for the space between the new pews and below the new stone arches leading to the sanctuary
  • lighting the chapel ceiling for the first time and installing LED lamps on all the pews
  • refurbishment of the 15th century reredos behind the altar
  • repositioning of memorials such as those to Old Radleians who died in the Boer War and the First World War on the walls next to the sanctuary
Members of Radley History Club view the mangnicent new organ at the far end of the chapel

Above is the view from the top of the chancel looking towards the balcony and the new organ. Below is the view looking down the chancel towards the new sanctuary.

View towards the new sanctuary at Radley College chapel, December 2021

After the visit Club members enjoyed mince pies and a hot drink courtesy of Radley College,

November 2021 meeting: The Harcourt Arboretum 1712-2014

One of Oxfordshire’s brightest botanical jewels

On 8 November Timothy Walker described the Arboretum’s history from (about) 1712 until 2014, the end of his stint as Director of the Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum.

In 1710 Sir Simon Harcourt had acquired the Nuneham estate, probably as an investment. His grandson Simon, the first Earl Harcourt, decided to live there, and organized the removal of the then village to its present site along the main road. In 1777 he drowned while rescuing his favourite dog from a well. George, the second Earl, enthusiastically continued laying out the gardens near Nuneham House, with notable herbaceous borders and a new ornamental church (whose dome is prominently visible from several places in Radley).

The earldom died out, and the estate passed to Edward Vernon-Harcourt, archbishop of York, and, in 1861, to one of his sons, William Vernon Harcourt, a clergyman with a keen interest in chemistry. William, working with Charles Daubeny, professor of Botany at Oxford (and saviour of the Botanic Garden) began laying out the Arboretum, planting many oaks and limes, expensively imported redwoods, and rhododendrons along a serpentine path.

In 1904 the estate briefly passed to Sir William Harcourt, who as Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1894 had reformed and increased estate duties. They may have been a factor in his grandson Viscount Harcourt’s decision in 1948 to sell the estate to the University of Oxford.

Initially the University saw the land as a source of income from forestry. In the 1960s the University proposed to sell it. Cyril Darlington, Professor of Botany, had to campaign for the Arboretum to become an adjunct to the Botanic Garden. From then on the Arboretum has been continually improved and enriched, and now includes two colourful wildflower meadows and a richly stocked pond.

Timothy Walker illustrated his talk with pictures of favourite trees, and revealed some of his pet hates, including the resident feral peafowl, squirrels, and people who trample the bluebells in order to pick the white ones. He described a trip to Heathrow to collect some palm trees from David Mulholland.

In an answer to questions after his talk, Timothy Walker confirmed that the effects of climate heating are visible at the Arboretum in earlier springs and later autumns, and more frequent extreme events such as the great gale of January 1990.

Reports of previous meetings

Radley Heritage Walk launched

Radley History Club’s new leaflet describes a walk around the village that combines glimpses of everyday life in days gone by in Radley with an introduction to its historic buildings.

Discover the history of Radley by comparing old photos with what you see now. Pick up a free Heritage Walk leaflet from various sites around the village, including the Bowyer Arms, where the walk starts. The leaflet features 24 points of interest and includes a map.

The walk is in two halves, both starting at the pub. One half includes St James the Great church and the ancient ‘Radley Oak’ in the grounds of Radley College. The other explores some of the old farmhouses and cottages of Lower Radley, and the River Thames.

Find out more and download a copy of the leaflet

Front cover of Radley Heritage Walk leaflet