Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

December 2009

This months News



Village History

The Cliftons Revisited

Since my article in the September Oxhill News showing photos of Arthur, Walter, and – as I thought – Walter’s wife Amy Clifton, I have been contacted by Mrs Pat Pick, a cousin of Bill and Tom Heritage, who tells me that the lady on the sun parlour at Payn’s House was in fact Ethel Clifton, Walter’s sister, rather than his wife Amy.  Pat Pick has happy memories of childhood visits to Uncle Walter and Aunt Amy, and has now shown me several old family photos of both Ethel and Amy, (if I may call them so), to clear up the confusion.  (She has some views too of  Payn’s House showing Walter’s productive and immaculate vegetable garden; I understand his pea sticks stood in strict precision!).

The lady shown in the  Bowers photographs is clearly Ethel, who would still have been living at home with her parents, Arthur and Jane Clifton, at Payn’s House in 1930.  Mrs Pick’s photo shows her on her wedding day, September 21st 1932, when, aged 39, she married John (Jack) Gilks, smallholder, 46, moving only a field’s distance away to the house now called Laurel Cottage in Blackford Way.  Jack was later to die tragically in an accident in 1962, aged 76, when, while doing some repair work to his house, he fell from his ladder.  Bill Heritage tells me that he used to farm the fields across the Kineton Road from Whitehill, where there were then some farm buildings.  He kept a few cows and pigs there, and he and Ethel would cycle up daily, carrying hot water in cans on their bicycles to wash the dairy utensils.  People said you could set your clocks by them, even on a dark winter’s morning.  It was a hard and unremitting life – they saw little return for their labours, and had no holiday – but they were always happy and content.  Their house was known as “Pickins Farm”, but the name does not seem to have been much used, nor have any historic roots.  I heard it used when I first came to the village in 1975, and when Ethel died in 1983, aged 90, her address was entered as “Pickins Farm, Oxhill” in the burial register.  The name occurs nowhere else in village documents, and I wonder whether perhaps it had any connection with the fields that Jack Gilks had farmed, which were across the parish boundary in Pillerton Priors.  I have randomly found a number of the Pickin family listed in Birmingham in the 1901 census.  Could one of them have owned land in Pillerton perhaps?  (A very long shot!)

Having established the identity of Ethel, it appears that Amy Clifton is not present in any of the Bowers photos after all.  She and Walter lived then in Tysoe, and their daughter Dorothy would have been at school, so Amy had presumably stayed at home that day in 1930.  Dorothy was their only child, and grew up to train as a nurse and work at a nursing home near Oxford.  Tragically she was killed in 1950 aged 27, when riding pillion on a friend’s motorbike, and her parents never recovered fully from their loss.  The photo of Amy here shows her with Dorothy  in about 1925 or 1926, when Dorothy was 3 or 4.

I met both Ethel and Amy in their later years.  Ethel on one occasion, was accompanied by her neighbour in Blackford Way, Mrs Lizzie Cornes.  She described how, before marriage, they had lived across the lane from one another, she at Payn’s House, and Lizzie, then Lizzie Taylor, at Fellows House.  It was a pleasure to them that in old age - (Mrs Cornes having returned to Oxhill in widowhood) – they once again lived close to each other, this time not opposite but next door.

Ann Hale

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Last modified: November 26, 2009