WW2 memories – first accounts available

The first three in a series of short accounts of the war experiences of Radley people and life on the home front in the village are now available. More will be published each month

Learn more about the project and read about evacuees in Radley in the war and the wartime tales of Bill Small and Charles Lockett. Bill was a private in the 4th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (a Territorial unit), and Charles a squadron leader in the RAF. Both were captured by the Germans in northern France in May 1940 and spent the rest of the war as POWs.

Photograph of Bill Small taken in 1938 in his Terretorial Army uniform
Bill Small in uniform, 1938
Photograph of Charles Lockett in his RAF uniform
Charles Lockett in uniform

Buy a copy of the Club’s latest book

RADLEY MANOR AND VILLAGE a thousand year story was published on 30 November 2019. Copies can be bought via the Club’s website or in person from Radley Village Shop. The book costs £15 (plus postage & packaging).

The book was researched and written as a collaboration between Radley History Club and Radley College’s archivist. It tells the history of Radley’s manor and its relationship with the village from around the time of the Norman Conquest to the present day. It explores the changing role of the manor, the people who held it, how they lived and the power they exercised, as well as how the lives of ordinary villagers were affected by the manor.
More details

Front cover of 'Radley Manor and Village: a thousand year story'
Front cover of ‘Radley Manor and Village: a thousand year story’

Launch of Club’s latest book

Radley Manor and Village: a thousand year story

When: Saturday 30th November 11am to 4pm
Where: The Mansion, Radley College, Kennington Road, Radley, Abingdon OX14 2HR

Launch of 'Radley Manor and Village: a thousand year story' at The Mansion, Radley College, on 30 November 2019

A bright, sunny day and the historic Mansion at Radley College provided the ideal setting for the launch of Radley Manor and Village: a thousand year story. The Mansion was built by the Stonhouse family in the 1720s as their manor house.

Radley Women’s Institute served hot drinks and delicious cakes in the entrance hall. Displays included a timeline of 1000 years of national and local events, family trees of the Stonhouse and Bowyer families, photos and facts about Radley servants, and banners depicting the College grounds and their links with ‘Capability’ Brown. Also on display were artefacts belonging to Radley College, such as a laundry maid’s goffering kit from the mid-1800s, used to put fine pleats into the shirts of Radley ‘dons’.

Another photo taken at the launch

The book is a collaboration between Radley History Club and Radley College’s archivist. It uses first-hand and contemporary sources, and tells the story of Radley’s manor and its relationship with the village from around the time of the Norman Conquest to the present day. Employment, land ownership, and deference are recurring themes.

The final chapter includes episodes from the lives of Radley village couple David and Beryl Buckle and their relationships with Radley college. The book was partly funded by a legacy from David Buckle to Radley History Club, and so the Club was particularly pleased that his son Peter at the launch.

More about the book and how to buy a copy


New venue for Club meetings

After meeting for 18 years at Radley Primary School, Radley History Club has moved to a new venue – the Church of St James the Great – for its speaker meetings. The Church offers a high quality sound system (including an induction loop), level access and more comfortable seating.

Like the school, the parish church is on Church Road in Radley (OX14 3QF) and the two share a car park (see map). Those with disabilities can park in the lay-by in front of the Church or against the railings at the top of the drive to the School (so as to leave the drive clear for access). Details of travel by bus and train to Radley for meetings

Meetings are generally on the second Monday of the month (apart from August) and start at 7.30 pm (doors open 7 pm). New members and guests welcome.

Location of Radley Church and its car park

Report of September 2019 meeting

Hanging and escapes at Oxford Castle – Mark Davies

On 9 September, after Radley History Club’s usual brisk annual general meeting, Oxford historian and narrow-boat resident Mark Davies narrated gruesome tales about crimes and punishments at Oxford castle and prison.

In the 17th century, the gaolers ran the prison as a money-making family business, and you could be imprisoned for making ‘saucy and rash comparisons’ between your wife and ‘the best wives in the town’. In 1650, Anne Green was hanged, falsely accused of killing her stillborn child. As usual, her body was cut down to be used by medical students. They noticed she wasn’t dead. She revived and lived on until 1662.

Jack Ketch – the brutal executioner of Charles II’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth – was so infamous that he figured in Punch and Judy shows. Mr Punch protested that if he, Punch, was cruel to have murdered, then Ketch would be cruel to hang him; and then tricked Ketch to put his head in the noose.

In 1752 Mary Blandy was hanged for poisoning her father with arsenic. She claimed to have trusted her suitor that the powder was a love potion to make her father less hostile towards the intended marriage. In 1761 they hanged Isaac Darkin, a handsome and silver-tongued highwayman whose ‘sufferings made a deep impression on the tender hearts of the ladies’. In 1776 rewards were offered for the apprehension of two young women who had escaped from the by then dilapidated prison.

From 1787 Daniel Harris began an enlightened policy aimed at rehabilitating the prisoners, putting them to work in the prison, and helping build the Oxford Canal. Harris went on to become the architect of Abingdon gaol.

Responding to a question after his talk, Mark Davies confirmed that, according to at least one source, in 1142 Empress Matilda escaped from a snow-bound Oxford Castle camouflaged in a white cloak.

All these stories and many more are in Mark’s book, Stories of Oxford Castle.

The Club’s next meeting will be a talk by Liz Woolley on ‘Olive Gibbs, Oxford politician and peace campaigner’, at 7.30 pm on Monday 14 October, at Radley Church – the Club’s new venue for its speaker meetings. The church’s sound system has a hearing loop, and there is step-free access.

List of all meeting reports