Filed under: heritage

Thames-side Resident Association – Socials / Traffic and River Bridge / Community Centre / New Phone Boxes

Tomorrow Evening we have a committee meeting of the Preston Road Community Centre Association. We still have some of the old handwritten minutes from the Thames-side Residents Association (TRA). The TRA fund raised to get Preston Road Community Centre built.

The following extracts from meetings of the TRA from 1972-4 provide a little social history. There might even be something to learn from the past.

Everything under control – 185 tickets have been sold for April 7th Social.

The next social is a barn dance. The caller Ken Moore is very good at teaching newcomers to join in.

The darts match on May 8th at the MG’s club on Caldecott Road was judged by all to be a roaring success.

The social was aided by the excellent food prepared by Mrs Judy Baughan … It is sad we saw the Baughans moving house, and hope their life in Wolverhampton will be a happy one.

The coach trip to Bristol Zoo was a notable success.

Despite the Government’s Emergency Power measures we were able to hold our Children’s Christmas Party.
Traffic and River Bridge
Traffic and River Crossing

Traffic has become a major problem in many towns nowadays but with the completion of the A34 bypass, much of the through traffic will be removed from the town.

When the Abingdon By-pass is opened gravel extraction lorries will go via Oday Hill not Preston Road and Wilsham Road.

Following the D.A.W Report’s recommendation of a new bridge across the Thames at St Helen’s Wharf, Abingdon Borough Council appointed a firm of traffic consultants to re-analyse the current and possible future traffic situation in Abingdon. It said:

  • The bridge scheme at St Helens Wharf, although probably best for traffic flow, does not have sufficient flexibility and is an environmental disaster. 
  • Stratton Way should be extended to Wilsham Road so that South Abingdon is not cut off.
  • If a new bridge is required then it should be sited at Culham Reach. That would require a new road from the Drayton Road south of Sutton Fields, Overmead and Riverside estates.

The gravel / refuse lorries are starting to creep in again. The only lorries using Preston Road should be corporation dust-carts. If you see any violations please contact Curtis direct.
Community Centre
Community Centre

At long last some activity – the community centre steering group have obtained quotes from builders.

Abingdon Borough Council will set aside £15000 for community facilities including £3000 for the Mill Road Clinic and £12000 for a Community Centre in Preston Road

The Community Centre money we have raised so far will only stretch to the bare shell of a building. We will probably have to do things like electrics, heating, and some plumbing ourselves.
New Phone Boxes
New Phone Boxes

Another victory as another phone box is being erected at Kensington Close

Judging by the heavy use of the telephone box at the corner of Kensington Close it more than justifies our request for more.

The GPO have decided to install another phone box along the river bank by Wilsham Road / Saxton Road.

(Phone Box image thanks to Google Maps 2008. The original should have been red.)

1 Comment January 22, 2020

Abbey Gateway

Postcard Craze
This postcard (County Series. No 3326) is of the Abbey Gateway, Abingdon, and was sent with the message ‘This and some very old buildings here all over the place.’.
Postcard Craze
The very old buildings are still here in Abingdon, but farm animals no longer laze about.
Postcard Craze
There were a couple of stone faces over the gateway I had not noticed before. Are they multiplying?

4 Comments January 21, 2020

Abingdon 100 years ago – January 1920

Abingdon 100 years ago
Saturday 3rd January 1920
The Abingdon Town Council Street Lighting Committee have commenced electric street lighting by placing electric lamps on the G.W.R. gates, corner of Park Road, and on the Square.

At the Oxford City Police Court last week, Albert Turner Wiltshire, of St. Thomas, Oxford, formerly of Gaol Yard, Bridge Street. Abingdon, was sent to prison for three months for neglecting his five children. It appeared from the evidence that the mother died at Abingdon last year, at which time the defendant was employed in the Labour Corps, working on land at Newbury and coming home week-ends. Defendant, after his wife’s death, broke up the home, left his children at the Abingdon Workhouse, having been taken there through illness. When the defendant was demobbed he was summoned for neglecting to support his children, and eventually took his children out of the Union and went to Oxford, giving up his job at Abingdon where he was earning £3 9s 4d per week, and drew out-of-work donations for 18 weeks. They were all living in a common lodging house in High Street, St. Thomas, Oxford, and found in a filthy state by Miss Hatch, of the Oxford Refuge Home. The children’s ages range from 13 to 5 years, three boys and two girls. Defendant’s excuse was that he could not get a house.

The Slate Club sharing out meeting at the Abingdon Railway Inn (G.W.R. Station Road) took place last week, ‘when a capital dinner was catered by the landlord. The amount received as members’ shares was 4s 6d each. Members present gave a subscription to the Abingdon Cottage Hospital.
Abingdon 100 years ago
Saturday 10th January 1920
United prayer meetings have been held at Abingdon on four evenings this week, the opening one being St. Helen’s Church, where, with permission of the Bishop of Oxford, Nonconformist ministers took part. The other three evenings the intercessions were held at the Congregational Chapel

The scholars of the Abingdon Wesleyan Sunday School gave a capital entertainment last Thursday evening at the Wesleyan Schoolroom in aid of St. Dunstan s Hostel for the Blind and the School fund. There was a large and appreciative audience.

The number of interments in the Abingdon Cemetery during the past year was 82 which is 57 less than in 1918 during the influenza epidemic.
Abingdon 100 years ago
Saturday 17th January 1920
The Abingdon Women’s and Men’s Unionist Associations held a social evening in the Corn Exchange on Wednesday evening. The hall was tastefully decorated, and there was a large attendance. J. F. Downing presided. Brigadier-General Wigan, the Member for the Abingdon Division of Berks, gave an address.

The gale of Sunday and Monday last swept over the town doing considerable damage to chimney stacks, roofs, telephone wires, trees, etc.

The Abingdon Pavlova Leather Works Club met a team from the R.A.F. at Milton at Abingdon on Saturday last,in the second round of the Berks Charity Shield Competition. After a close and good game the scores were Pavlova 2 R.A.F. 1. There was a good number of spectators notwithstanding the inclement weather.

Mr King, of Edward Street; Abingdon, country postman for 31 years between Abingdon and Kingstone Bagpuize has been awarded the Imperial Service Medal, and friends in hie postal district have subscribed and sent him a cheque for £11.

The Abingdon Girls’ Club, a very flourishing institution, held its New Year party on Wednesday in last week in the Corn Exchange, which had been gaily decorated. About 160 were present and the programme included music, songs, refreshments, dance, etc., and a very enjoyable time was spent.

Last week a thief entered through an unfastened window at the Abingdon Vicarage, and stole an overcoat, in the pocket of which were a pair of gloves and a 10s Treasury note. The theft took place in the afternoon during the temporary absence of the inmates of the Vicarage.

An accident befell P.C. Owen, of the Abingdon Police Staff, last Thursday whilst riding his bicycle in the High Street. On passing the Lion Hotel gateway, Mr Wilkinson of Wantage, came out on his motor cycle which collided with the constable, who knocked against the Wantage motor bus, which was passing at the same time, having a narrow escape of being ran over. The constable sustained a severe fracture of the wrist.

A handsome pair of altar candlesticks have been presented to St. Helen’s Church, Abingdon, by Miss Hyde, a former resident, in memory of her late sister, who was the donor of the fine reredos in this Church.

Abingdon 100 years ago
Saturday 24th January 1920
The Abingdon Dramatic Society gave an entertainment in the Corn Exchange on Wednesday to a crowded house. The programme consisted of the play ” The Ghost of Jerry Bundler,” a variety entertainment, dances, and farce, Leave it to me.”

Last week an Abingdon angler, fishing in Appleford Reach, was successful in landing jack which weighed 10 1/4 lbs.

The graded supplies at Abingdon cattle market on Monday last were two butchers beasts and 54 sheep, all of which were allocated to local tradesmen.

A lecture on Profitable poultry keeping was given in the Roysse Room on Monday afternoon by Mrs A. C. Rawson to the members of the local branch of the National Utility Poultry Association.

The Culham Old Boys’ Club held a re-union dinner at the Roysse Room on Thursday evening in last week, to welcome the return of their comrades from the war. The company numbered about 70, and Mr L. Evetts, headmaster of Culham School, presided. After the dinner and complimentary toasts the company paid silent tribute to the memory of their fallen comrades in the war, whose names were read out by the Chairman.
Abingdon 100 years ago
Saturday 31st January 1920
The Abingdon Comrades of the Great War held another their successful whist drives at their Club Rooms, Ock Street, on Thursday evening, when nearly 100 were present.

The graded supplies at Abingdon Cattle Market on Monday last were 18 beasts and 108 sheep, 6 of the former being allotted to Reading and 35 of the latter to Wantage.

The Abingdon Division of the Berks Constabulary held a reunion dinner last week at the Roysse Room, under the chairmanship of Supt. Foster, their respected head. A few friends were also present, and about 50 sat down to an excellent repast served by Mr G. Hathaway. The Chief Constable telephoned a message of regret for being unable to join the company, and wishing them a pleasant evening. Supt. Foster, in welcoming those members who had returned from the war, spoke of the difficulties attendant on their absence. The evening proved very enjoyable.
Abingdon 100 years ago
Thankyou for the extracts to the Faringdon Advertiser and Vale of the White Horse Gazette on the British Newspaper Archive. Adverts came from the North Berks Herald.

4 Comments January 18, 2020

11th January 1645 – Civil War – Abingdon

Thank you to Mark Turnbull for this piece. All Rights Reserved. Three of the pictures were taken in 2019 at an English Civil War Society re-enactment in Gloucester. The last picture was taken during Abingdon Heritage Open Day 2013 at Culham Bridge.
Civil War - Abingdon
On 11th January 1645 troops commanded by King Charles I’s nephew, Rupert of the Rhine, appeared before Abingdon intent upon seizing it. During the endgame of the British Civil War, the fate of the town was the focus of a desperate and most remarkable struggle that is preserved in a series of letters. Abingdon’s fate caused royalist in-fighting that succeeded only in wounding the King’s cause.

Four months earlier on 14th September 1644, Rupert’s bitter rival, Lord George Digby opened rapid fire correspondence with Parliament’s governor of Abingdon, Major-General Richard Browne. The toxic Digby may have had golden curls and a politician’s silver tongue, but he certainly didn’t have the Midas touch. Considering Abingdon’s garrison were mutinous over pay, he’d assumed it to be ripe for the picking and coaxed Browne to turn coat.

Lord Digby’s courting quill flattered, fawned and offered rewards a-plenty. There was a baronetcy, continued governorship of Abingdon once in royalist hands, and command of a brigade in the King’s army. Digby even offered Browne, “what other reward you shall desire within His Majesty’s power to grant.” Notwithstanding this bait, Browne stood firm, but cunningly offered lip service to the plot. Rupert, meanwhile, advocated an attack but was muzzled by the royalist council. All that marched forth was time itself.
Civil War - Abingdon
Digby resorted to tittle tattle in an effort to alienate Browne from his colleagues; Sir William Waller had supposedly spoken to the Countess of Brentford of the, “rogue Browne, who would use her like a clown.” Digby also promised to send on, “Lord Saye’s letter written with his own hand, whereby you may guess at your future respects with [Parliament].”

The end of November marked ten fruitless weeks, yet still Digby reloaded his ink time and again. On 1st December he pushed for action with an idle threat, “it would be an extreme grief to me, to be an occasion of misfortune to you.”

Having staked his reputation and assured the King of his success, the deluded Digby couldn’t contemplate failure. He even betrayed the intentions of the King’s army. “The pressures of our military men here for some enterprise, either for the taking or blocking up of [Abingdon], are daily such as I suffer much by opposing them.”

Communications between the two pen-pals was to get more explosive. Warning signs such as Parliament sending fifteen-hundred reinforcements to Abingdon failed to dim the blue skies of Digby’s world. Only on 19th December did Browne admit that his, “design was to play with you at your own game, till our works … were strengthened and accommodated with men and provisions …”
Civil War - Abingdon
Digby threatened to publish the letters to prove Browne’s prostitution of himself. Unbelievably, he also persisted and suggested Browne might follow through once royalist troops approach the town. But Browne, acting fast and acting first, published all of these fascinating and insightful letters and saved this chapter in Abingdon’s history for posterity.

One of Browne’s last letters must have galled Digby. “I find you are swelled, and the poison you vent is worse than spiders; but your web is so thin, that the readers will guess by the ridiculousness of your plot.” Browne continued, “If I were a prostitute, my lord, as you call me, why did your honour act the pimp, and offer me a reward with such solicitations so frequently, so hotly, so long a while?”

At this juncture, Rupert and the army were finally let loose upon the by now strengthened defences of Abingdon, and the reinforced Parliamentarians manning them. In the early hours of 11th January 1645, three-thousand royalists were on Culham Hill. An attack was made at Culham Bridge and all went well until Browne’s men waded through waterlogged meadows and outflanked Rupert’s. The Parliamentarians attacked the royalist rear and forced them to withdraw, trapping some on the bridge. Sir Henry Gage, one of the King’s most able commanders, was killed and in obeyance of Parliament’s orders, Browne mercilessly hung all Irish prisoners. The royalist humiliation over Abingdon was an open wound. After only two months as General of the King’s armies, Rupert’s command had been neutered by politicians playing at toy soldiers.
Civil War - Abingdon
Mark Turnbull is the author of an award-winning civil war novel called Allegiance of Blood, set in 1642-43. More information can be found at

3 Comments January 11, 2020

Star Tavern – excellent supper

A Star for Epiphany
On 24th April 1847 the Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette reported “The Mayor’s Court Leet Jury inspected the weights at the shops and warehouses of the various tradesmen in Abingdon, which, with a few exceptions, were found correct.

In the evening the jury and a party of friends partook of an excellent supper at Mr. Joseph Emmens’s, the Star Tavern. The health ot his worship, the Mayor was drank in a bumper.”

Mr Emmen managed the Star Tavern from some time before 1823 to some time after 1854, according to Kelly’s Directories in Abingdon Library. The Star Tavern also functioned as a tobacconist and hairdresser. (Picture is part of a 1857 Print by John S Austin – Oxford Architect – All Rights Reserved.)
A Star for Epiphany
If the Star Tavern was still standing today it would be in front of the DaleBoot UK sign and entrance, and would hide the view of the TSB.

According to Abingdon Borough records from 1888, trees were planted where the Star Tavern had stood. The Star, and the pub over the road, had been demolished to allow Stert Street to be widened into a main road.

* Epiphany is celebrated 12 days after Christmas on 6th January and remembers the arrival of the wise men, who followed the star to find Jesus. Why I did a blog post about a lost Abingdon star.
* Court Leet was a court for small offences. Such courts went on to check standards in sales of food and drink.

Thankyou to The british newspaper archive for the news story about the Star Tavern.

5 Comments January 6, 2020

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