Victorian Upton

Notes of a lecture given by Mr F M Underhill at Upton in January 1973. Unfortunately the slides he used cannot be traced.

Introduction

Historical studies of many Berkshire villages have been published. We are fortunate in living in a district very rich in material, archaeological, architectural and well-documented. Through buildings, as at Steventon and East Hendred, it has been possible to trace the changes in the style of living and local industries through the centuries, but with few exceptions little notice seems to have been taken of the developments in the last 150 years, although 100 years of this period is still almost within living memory.

I have known Upton and its surrounding villages for a very long time although I only came to live there three years ago. The place has changed completely in appearance since I first saw it in 1926. But the changes had commenced long before my recollection and on enquiry I found that most of these innovations had come about through the agency or influence of less than half-a-dozen sources. I became interested in what had happened during the last century through a written record which, although perhaps one-sided in its outlook and incomplete, was in many ways a remarkable testimony of the thoughts and aspirations of its originator, the Rev Richard Hooper, first rector of Upton and vicar of Aston Upthorpe. I shall be quoting extensively from his diaries but to commence I must summarise Upton’s earlier story leading up to Hooper’s arrival at Upton in 1862.

NDFC 31 Jan 1973

Victorian Upton

Upton is a small village on the Streatley-Wantage road, formerly joined ecclesiastically with Blewbury. In ancient times there were four manors, the first landowner of which we have mention was BRICTRIC at the time of Edward the Confessor. He possessed considerable Berkshire properties at Brimpton, Hungerford, East Shefford, Childrey, Sparsholt and Coleshill. After the Norman Conquest we have TURSTIN the son of Rolf. His name suggests Scandinavian origins; we do not know if he was present at the Battle of Hastings, but he must have rendered good service to the Conqueror for he was awarded many English manors, including the estates of Brictric and other manors in Bucks, Herts, Hants and Hereford. The main Upton Manor passed soon after 1086 to Winebald of Baalun who almost immediately granted it to Bermondsey Abbey. They held it until the dissolution of the monasteries. Queen Elizabeth I granted it to Michael and Edward Stanhope. The Vachells held it and Tanfield Vachell sold it in 1693 to Charles Ambrose of Wantage. In 1755 it belonged to Henry Tompkins of Abingdon, who sold it in 1769 to John Phillips of Culham, Oxon. Phillips held another portion of a manor called Upton Russell. This, with the main property, Phillips sold to Nathaniel Humfrey (1828-1914) in 1866.

The Humfrey family had long lived in the locality. Nathaniel was born at Skeleton Farm on the Downs and I believe that his uncle, Thomas Humfrey (1790-1865) was for some years tenant at the Manor House in Upton. I have had access to two estate account books of the John Shaw Phillips estate. I have a Xerox copy of one of them here, from which it may be seen that the annual income was quite considerable. I have yet to discover who Phillips’ Upton agent was, possibly Thomas Humfrey. Nathaniel Humfrey acquired most of the land at Upton and some at Blewbury. Phillips retained a few pockets including the plot on which the village school was built in 1862/3.

The first John Phillips I have notice of was the king’s carpenter at Windsor Castle. He purchased the Great Manor of Blewbury in 1763 and died in 1775. The Manor passed in his Will to his brother, William Phillips, for life, and then to his nephew, John Phillips, who was lord of the Manor in 1802. John left it in trust to his son, John Shawe Phillips of Culham, Oxon, who sold it to Lord Overstone of Lockinge in 1872. Members of the Phillips family were not long-lived. John Phillips of Culham House died in 1824 aged 41. John Shawe Phillips died in 1859, the year the Upton Estate account books finish. Another John Phillips is described “of Hagbourne”. His wife, Mary, already a widow, died there in 1829. The Upton blacksmith’s account book (1790-1797) which I shall refer to, only mentions one John Phillips and Thomas Humfrey. I assume the blacksmith was working for the Upton Estate.

However, the chief source for my talk today is the Parish Diary kept by the Rev Richard Hooper, first rector of Upton, which commences on Easter Day 1862. A word about parish diaries generally: these appear to have been kept quite widely by 19th century parsons. The Rev J H Burgess, vicar of Blewbury, who was incumbent during part of Mr Hooper’s residence at Upton, kept a similar book which is in the Berkshire Record Office. Mr Burgess’s diary is not quite so personal as Mr Hooper’s, but he goes into more detail about the lives of his parishioners and he visits many of them almost daily.

Of Richard Hooper. He was the son of William Henry Hooper, a civil judge of Point-de-Galle in Ceylon, and his wife, neé Margaret Gibson of the Gibson-Craigs of Edinburgh. Richard was born 3rd August 1822 in Ceylon and at an early age was sent to England where, not more than nine years old, he found himself in Reading School under the famous Dr Valpy, then about to retire as headmaster. We learn that he was one of the favourite pupils of the remarkable doctor and was frequently selected by him to declaim Greek and other compositions on special occasions; also to read the daily newspapers to the doctor when his eyesight began to fail – “a task requiring no less accuracy of diction than facility of expression which the young Richard possessed and retained throughout his life to an eminent degree.” Hooper’s recollections of Dr Valpy were published in the Reading school magazine of March 1893.

Richard left Reading School in 1840 and proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge where he was soon known for the studiousness of his character, spending the greater part of his leisure in the college library and becoming a member of a small literary society which met once a month to discuss historical and other kindred subjects over a dinner. Richard Hooper graduated BA in 1844 and proceeded MA in 1853 having been ordained a deacon in 1845 by the Bishop of Exeter and priest the following year by the Bishop of Ely for the Bishop of Exeter. He was curate of Holy Trinity Exeter 1844 – 1847, first curate of St Stephen’s Westminster 1849 – 1854 where he preached some noted sermons which were published. He was chaplain of St Thomas’s Hospital for two years, curate at White Waltham, Berks and subsequently curate to the Provost of Eton at Mapledurham, Oxon. In 1862 he was presented to the then newly formed living of Upton joined with Aston Upthorpe in Berkshire by Wm Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford.

Hooper became known as a classical scholar, editing Chapman’s Homer in five volumes, the Iliad in two volumes, which reached a third edition in 1888, and the Odyssey in two volumes, which also went to a second edition. His edition of Chilcot on Evil Thoughts passed through three or four editions, Sandy’s (Southey’s?) poetical works in two volumes and three volumes of Richard Drydon’s (John Dryden’s?) works in the Aldin edition, which included a life of the poet. He wrote many articles and reviews, was a contributor to the Dictionary of National Biography and was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. In his closing years he was engaged on a life of Swift. Critics of his work said that he was at all times careful and accurate and his voluminous correspondence and everything he undertook was marked by concentration and thoroughness; the taste for scholarship acquired in his youth never deserted him.

He was also a noted bibliophile, his knowledge extending over a vast field of literature. “He was able to gratify his taste as a book collector, keeping up a correspondence with the chief book dealers whose catalogues he regularly received. He could never resist a bookseller’s shop and from these sources he collected many rare and precious items which he either disposed of, or presented to the Bodleian, the British Museum or his own college library, or more frequently gave to his friends. Many of them, including Mr Augustus Sala, publicly acknowledged their indebtedness to his many achievements as a book collector.” An early treatise on cookery in his collection sold recently for £800. As a parish priest we shall see that he was indefatigable, usually taking three services a day at Upton and Aston Upthorpe, regularly walking to his more distant church in all weathers to within a few weeks of his death. During his incumbency he raised money for building schools both at Upton and Aston Upthorpe and also for restoring the Norman church at Upton in 1885. He was local Guardian of the Poor, attending regular meetings at Wantage, and a Diocesan Lecturer in Church History. He addressed the Berks Archaeological Society on “Literary Associations of the County of Berkshire” – the MS of this lecture survives. He married Sophie Eleanor daughter of William Hanbury-Jones, who was an eminent City of London lawyer – there were no children of the marriage.

The period of Hooper’s incumbency at Upton was a time of church revival when the parson was expected to take a lead in all local matters. An influential rector or vicar along with the principal landowner was the acknowledged head of his parish, as well as his flock; he took the chair at parish council meetings, dealing with general and poor rates, the maintenance of roads and most other matters now considered as being under secular control and administered at district council level.

Hooper did not live to see the implementation of the Local Government Act of 1894 when rural district councils were instituted. In the time we are considering the parson therefore had the opportunity to act as a benevolent autocrat and in many villages his over-riding opinion was acknowledged although not always appreciated. I am sorry that I cannot show you a portrait of the Rev Richard Hooper. None has survived at Upton and I have been looking for one in London, Reading and Oxford for over a year. By a singular stroke of luck I ran a small carte-de-visite photograph to earth only on Monday this week. I am obtaining a copy but it has not arrived in time to show today. The photograph is of a keen-featured clergyman of medium build, immaculately dressed, carrying a top-hat “large enough brimmed for a bishop”, taken, I should imagine, when he was about 40 years old. He was at that age when he first came to Upton.

The two small parishes of Aston Upthorpe and Upton had then been divided off from Blewbury, the larger village which lies between them. From a draft letter which has survived from the Rev Jacob MacDonald, then vicar of Blewbury, to the Bishop of Oxford dated Nov. 1862, we learn that the vicar complained of Mr Hooper’s refusal to provide details of the registration of births, marriages and deaths at Upton from Sept 1861 until the Order in Council dated June 7, 1862 separated the two parishes officially from Blewbury. I find Mr MacDonald in March 1862 holding a vestry meeting at Blewbury (which nobody attended) when he appointed chapel wardens for Upton and Aston Upthorpe, sending over a messenger to Hooper to tell him what he had done. Hooper remonstrated with him and wrote to the bishop who advised him to present his own churchwardens to the archdeacon at Abingdon. Hooper remarks: “After some further dispute, Mr MacDonald withdrew from the contest.”

Hooper commences his diary with a record of the celebration of communion at Aston Upthorpe on Easter Day 1862. Eight communicants were present and the collection amounted to 9/1d. Hooper was then living at Aston as there was no accommodation yet suitable for him at Upton. John Breach the local surgeon at Aston was his churchwarden and “after service I proceeded to Mr Breach’s house and administered Holy Communion to Mrs Breach who was ill.” He then walked over to Upton, (the nearest route would have been over Blewburton Hill through Blewbury village and by field paths, nearly three miles) where he celebrated communion in St Mary’s. The congregation was 22 people and the collection 10/-. “The church was prettily decorated with wreaths and flowers by both the Mrs Humfreys, Miss Hall, the Miss Butlers and Jacob Butler.”

On Easter Tuesday April 22 the annual vestry meeting was held at Upton: “We elected a sexton with an annual salary of 30/- and chose William Elliott. I determined there should henceforth be no more so-styled Clerk and Joseph Seymour, who had hitherto held that office, was dismissed.” The following Monday “went to Oxford to make arrangements …. for the Bishop’s coming to consecrate our churchyard at Upton, also order registers of burials, marriages and banns for both new parishes.” Previous to the separation of the parishes, all Upton burials had been at Blewbury. Next day “the churchyard at Upton was harrowed, rolled and sowed with grass seed which I bought at Sutton’s in Reading. Proceeded to the churchyard with Mrs Philip Humfrey and planted a yew tree which she gave to the parish, and was assisted by her son Wallace and daughter Alice, also Mrs Nathaniel Humfrey and her son Stanley, my wife, myself and James Grimshaw.” Philip Humfrey was Nathaniel’s younger brother (1830 – 1872). The yew tree did not flourish for in December following two further trees were planted, in the NW corner and on the left hand of the entrance gates. He also planted twelve rose trees on either side of the church path.

In Feb 1863, Mr Hooper had the use of Thos Pitt’s cottage in High Street for confirmation classes. This was a small timber-framed building on the east side of the street; when it was demolished in 1960 seven silver coins of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I were discovered beneath the floor. The coins are now in Reading Museum with the exception of a 6d piece which the finder was allowed to keep.

The new school at Upton had been opened on land given by Mr Phillips – the original Deed still exists. The architect was Mr St Aubyn of London and Reading; Finch of Abingdon being the builder. When Hooper was curate at Mapledurham he acquired a house at Whitchurch which he kept on for the time being. With his wife he made frequent brief visits there. Mrs Hooper’s uncle, Charles Whitaker of Bampton, appears to have stayed in this Whitchurch house and he died there early in March 1863.

In the same month, confirmation was received from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners who gave a grant of £1,000 for building a parsonage at Upton. The difficulties of living outside the parish can be shown in August of that year when Mr Hooper, having walked over from Aston to take a service: “by a singular accident I was unable to get into (Upton) church as the key was at Mrs Fisher’s and she had gone out and forgotten it.”

The new Upton school was nearly ready but the opening was delayed, the bishop being ill. Mr Hooper planted a giant ivy, a climbing rose and two plants of hope, a white jasmine and a clematis “round our school at Upton”. Mrs Hooper followed this by planting a yellow jasmine and wisteria and a honeysuckle.

On June 15th 1863, Upton school was opened by the bishop. Triumphal arches were erected at the entrances to the village and others beside the two houses of the Humfreys. The bishop was accompanied by Archdeacon Randall. They walked in procession from Mr Nathaniel Humfrey’s house (The Manor). A full description of the service, sermon by the bishop and hymns sung, is given. After this the party went to Philip Humfrey’s barn in the middle of the village which Jacob Butler had decorated with flowers and boughs. Here the remainder of the village was provided with dinner, and the bishop made a speech. At school the tables being cleared, a tea was provided for 100 children. “Such a day of enjoyment was never witnessed in Upton before.”

The month of June 1863 concluded (June 29): “In the afternoon Mr Philip Humfrey, accompanied by the Rev J. C. Clutterbuck (of Long Wittenham) and myself examined a curious cave or grave on his Downs at Upton and found numerous bones of animals and some Romano-British antiquities.” Aug 3rd: “My birthday. My wife and I went to Oxford to buy some books for our school at Upton.”

Aug 18th: “Received the plans of my new parsonage (at Upton) from Mr J P St Aubyn. I obtained the names of builders to tender at Oxford on Saturday next. Aug 24 I drove H Peyman of Abingdon to see the site of the new parsonage house, he wishing to tender for the contract.” However, Gardiner, an Oxford builder, obtained the contract, the estimated cost being £1330. “Mr Gardiner promised to begin immediately …. After they had gone, my wife and I, accompanied by Mrs Philip Humfrey, planted a little seedling walnut in the ground. It is a descendant of the great walnut tree in the garden of the house at Upthorpe where we now live.” The foundations of the new parsonage were laid by Gardiner on Oct 21. The Lewintons of Aston dug the parsonage well at 5/- a yard. They reached water at 22 yards on Nov 24. The parsonage was not finished by Sept 29th 1864 when Mr St Aubyn came over to make a survey and “found many most unsatisfactory points”. Earlier that year, Hooper had been quite seriously ill with a chest complaint and was treated in London by Dr Williams of Upper Brook Street. He was away from duty for nearly a month. His return was marked by their pony, Puck, falling on the way back to Upthorpe “cutting his knees very badly”. “My poor old faithful dog Pincher, who had been my companion for many years at my curacies of Rotherfield, White Waltham and Mapledurham, died aged 17 years, 10 months and 10 days.” Mr Hooper started a night school at Upton and was rather overwhelmed by the number of students who enrolled. In addition to gardening, Hooper was an observer of nature. April 28, 1864: “Heard the land rail for the first time this year”. May 7: “Saw swifts for the first time this year, both at Blewbury and Aston.” There are frequent similar entries.

May 26: “Cut the grass in the churchyard at Upton, a very good crop and the day likely to be fine.” “George Slade (July 1) gathered the cherries for me off the tree in Upthorpe churchyard.” In June 1864 Mr Todd (Surgeon Breach’s assistant at Aston) was taken ill with small pox and removed to Aston Tirrold. Hooper and his wife were then vaccinated.

April 3rd, 1866. The London Gazette published the benefices of Upton and Aston Upthorpe designated a vicarage. Mr St Aubyn surveyed a piece of land opposite the new parsonage at Upton where stables could be built. Hooper had to mortgage his tithes to find the money and he records that he successfully paid off the debt and interest on Feb 5 1888.

Oct 19 1875. “I was this day elected an associate of Dr Bray’s Institution”. This was a scheme dating back to the original Dr Bray in the time of Queen Anne to provide libraries for churches, both in England and America. The service book in Upton church, still in use, bears a label: “Rev Richard Hooper one of Dr Bray’s Associates from his friends”. 1876 was a severe winter. In February there was snow: “On my return from Upthorpe the snow was so deep that I lost my way between Blewbury and Upton and had some difficulty in regaining the road”. The time was one of mortality. His wife’s sister, Gertrude Hanbury-Jones, died and Mr Hooper buried her in Brompton cemetery; returning home he buried Philip Humfrey the younger child of Herbert Humfrey who had died through suffocation in his cot at Southampton. The same day he buried “old Betty Geary aged 89, the oldest inhabitant of Upton. She died of a severe cold on Sunday last. Two funerals in one day.” March 12: “This was the roughest day, one of the heaviest snowfalls I have seen. In walking home from Upthorpe in the evening the frost was intense and the road a sheet of ice.

On April 14 (Good Friday): “This was a most remarkable day. At 5 a.m. a tremendous gale of wind set in with the heaviest fall of snow this season. The snow drifted several feet deep in places. In the evening I saw the first swallow at Blewbury.” In late July of that year Mr Hooper and his wife had a brief holiday at Matlock which they both enjoyed. That year’s record ends with a list of 55 garden plants and flowers growing at the Rectory. There were white roses and other rose trees opposite the front door, there was a “mulberry bed” and the “Titchborne bed”. The following November Mr Hooper received three mulberry trees taken from the celebrated old tree growing at Syon gardens. They came in pots and he was advised that planting out should be delayed until just before they began to bud in the spring. There is still a mulberry tree in the Rectory garden.

It was a time of emigration. Walter Slade, son of the Aston churchwarden, “came to say good-bye to my wife and myself previously to sailing for Adelaide on Sept 10 1877.” Travelling was still an adventure. For some reason not stated, Mr Hooper had to go to Alnwick in Northumberland on Oct 16: “Arrived safely home on Oct 18 having travelled in all 730 miles on the railway besides the Underground railway in London on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

All was not quite as it should have been in the parish: Dec 23rd “baptized Elizabeth the (illegitimate) daughter of Elizabeth G (of our parish); N.B. she went to live at a Dissenter’s in West Hagbourne and this was the result.”

Disease and illness were always the rector’s concern. In 1875 there was an outbreak of typhoid in Upton. Isabella Broadway the schoolmistress went down with it and she died on August 17th. “My wife and I sat with her all night and were with her when she died.” She was buried the following evening and Mr Hooper erected a stone over her grave at his own expense. Illness was common among children, not only of the poor. Mrs Philip Humfrey had a daughter on Feb 14 1863, the child was privately baptised by Mr Hooper and died on March 24. Herbert Humfrey’s baby Philip was suffocated in its bed in February 1876 and there is an expensive memorial with an extinguished torch emblem to Fanny Jane Humfrey who died in 1863 aged four years. She was the daughter of Nathaniel Humfrey. Of villagers, the first burial in the newly enclosed Upton churchyard in 1862 was a young girl, Miriam Dearlove. Mr Hooper raised a cross over the grave at his own expense (June 28, 1862).

Non-conformity had come in Upton as early as 1672 when there is a record of a licence given to Thos Gregory to be a “teacher” in the house of Philip Allen of Upton. W H Summers (County Congregational History p.300) thought it was possible that this Gregory was the “gifted man” from Watlington who is described in 1669 as taking part in services at High Wycombe. Upton would be within riding distance of Watlington. I have no further information on this subject until 1840 when a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built. It still stands converted into a house garage, there being a new and larger chapel on another site. The registers survive and date from 1845. The present congregation and chapel flourish.

The condition of the poor at Upton was constantly before Mr Hooper. 1878 Jan 11: “My wife and I gave 20 blankets to the Upton poor, viz: to all those receiving parish pay and such as had more than three children, excepting Mrs Mott (deserted by her husband), Sarah Shepherd and Job Winter, to whom we gave as deserving cases.”

Sept 22, 1878: “Service and collection for the survivors of the Princess Alice steamship accident (in the Thames estuary). I doubled the collection and paid it to the Lord Mayor when I went to london on Oct 16.” (The receipt is stuck in the diary – £1.10.9d.) Work commenced on building the Didcot-Newbury railway. Mr Hooper organised a mission for the navvies who were encamped at Upton. May 23rd:”Our navvy service very successful, the record of this service kept by my wife in a separate book”. On June 13 Sir John Leigh Hoskyns, rural dean, came over from Aston Tirrold to take a navvy service. Children of the navvies were baptized; there were marriages of navvies and there were accidents: Nov 14 “Prayers for Daniel Howson, a boy crushed on the railway on Thursday last”. A coffee tavern was set up for the navvies. On July 15 Edward Howson was buried, “killed on the railway last Thursday”. The navvies’ camp at Upton was abandoned by December 1881 and “the room in which our navvies’ services were held was pulled down, Sat Dec 3rd.” However, work continued further along the line to Newbury: Aug 31 1883: “Buried at Upton 6.30 p.m. George Hazell. He was a ganger over the permanent way navvies and dropped dead in the railway cutting on Wednesday morning. At the coroner’s inquest it was elicited that he really belonged to Churchill near Calne, but had deserted his wife and children three years ago. He was passing under the name of George Brown and was about to marry a young woman of Cold Ash. He resided at Chilton but was buried at Upton, as the inquest was held at the George and Dragon where the body had been taken. His wife came from Churchill and recognised the body but would not follow the funeral. I proceeded from the churchyard gate straight to the grave and the corpse was not taken into the church.

In May 1884, the important work of restoring St Mary’s church, Upton, commenced. Mr Hooper obtained a licence from the bishop to hold services in the schoolroom while the works were in progress. However, marriages had to be solemnised in a church. One or two were transferred to Chilton and Blewbury and baptisms continued in the font while it was available. Later it was taken to Wantage, being in a broken condition. It was carefully put together and a new base made for it. “Monday May 19th: The restoration of the church commenced. We pulled down the pews, etc and the east wall of the chancel was removed.” August 17: “During the past week the bell turret of Upton church has been pulled down and the old bell (dated 1747) has ceased to be rung until the church is restored.” Nov 26th: “Buried John Greenough at Upton. His was the 100th funeral in our churchyard. The body was taken into the church which was undergoing repair.”

On 2 July 1885 the restoration of St Mary’s church was completed. The bishop came and Sir John Hoskyns, the rural dean. There was a triumphal arch and other floral decorations over which floated the parish banner. The church was crowded out and many had to stand outside. There was a lunch for special guests in the Rectory grounds. Praise was given to the architect, Mr Slingsby Stallwood of Reading, who (so the newspaper reports said) had saved the building in the last stages of decay. Speaking of the south doorway, “time has served to push the arch out of a true semi-circular shape, but rather than remove the ancient stones, the architect has simply strengthened the work and kept it in position.” The 16th century oak roof had been revealed from behind a plaster ceiling. The west gallery had been removed and a substantial new bell-cote erected. “All the walls of the building, which were extremely dilapidated, have been carefully strengthened and their outer face renewed with flints.” The contractors were Messrs Stroud, Gregory and Aldworth of Hanney.

After the lunch, Mr Hooper gave the health of the two churchwardens, Messrs Humfrey and Izzard. He thanked Mr Humfrey for the invaluable assistance given in the restoration of the church. The family of Humfrey had long been part of the parish. He could trace them back quite 500 years. Of his friend “Old Master Izzard”, he could not say he was quite as old as the church but it was a fact that he was as old as the century, he having been born in 1800. Mr Nathaniel Humfrey responding recapitulated his knowledge of the church before Mr Hooper came and the infrequent and unpunctual mode of conducting the services in days gone by. Since Mr Hooper had been among them, now 25 years, the churchyard had been enclosed, a school had been provided for the parish, a new vicarage built and now the old church was completely restored.

1886 commenced with deep snow. Mr Hooper organised lectures in the schoolroom on the science and practice of farming. 1886 ended with further heavy falls of snow, making it impossible one Sunday for Mr Hooper to get to Aston. For Easter 1887 Mrs Hooper and her sister made a magnificent altar frontal out of her wedding dress. This we still have at Upton. It is used for festivals and very appropriately at weddings. Snow was still falling on April 24th.

June 21st was the jubliee of Queen Victoria’s accession. There was a church service with an overflowing congregation. Afterwards a dinner in Mr Church’s orchard of baked and boiled beef (114 lbs) and baked and boiled mutton, a beautiful fat sheep being given by Mr Humfrey. Plum puddings etc followed and 36 gallons of Dymore Brown’s XX were consumed. “All the men, women and lads and girls of the village were there. We sent dinner to four persons who could not come. I gave two toasts, “The Queen” and “Prosperity to Upton” and with the last I coupled Mr Humfrey’s name. We then went to the field by the railroad (opposite Mr Anger’s) where the children had tea and the grown-ups played cricket and had dances and games. Everyone expressed satisfaction at such a happy day. At 9 o’clock my wife and I walked up to Hagbourne Hill to see the numerous beacon fires.”

1887 Sept 11: “Lilian Ravening returned thanks for God’s great mercy to her in saving her life when she fell down the well (70 feet deep) at Upton station.” A new blacksmith came to Upton, Mr Wallin from Milton; he was unfortunate, Hooper notes soon after his arrival, when his leg was broken by a kick from a horse. In January 1888 old William Elliott, the sexton appointed by Mr Hooper when he first came to Upton, died suddenly at the age of 77. He was taken ill up on the Downs from the extreme cold.

1888: On March 19th, Mr Joseph Fry “the new tenant of Mr Humfrey’s house in the village, came to reside”. This was the beginning of a new and long association with this family from Birmingham. They were most generous to the village, school and church to which they gave a new organ. The Miss Frys were talented artists. I show some of their drawings. Their attention to the school lasted almost to the present, indeed a niece of theirs gave me photographs and plans of the Upton Estate which I am exhibiting today. The last volume of Mr Hooper’s diary ends on Oct 18, 1889 with the brief entry: “I was in London”. Hooper died on 23rd December, 1893 and was buried in the churchyard where there is a monument to his memory. He was followed by the Rev John Henry Moore, who remained until 1928. Moore was succeeded by the Rev Dr Derwas James Chitty in 1931. He resigned in 1968 and has since died following an accident. The parish is now served from Blewbury. The ecclesiastical authorities have sold the rectory. It is unlikely that we shall have another incumbent of our own in the village. The railway was closed 8 Sept 1962. The school was closed in 1971. The children now go by bus to Blewbury or East Hagbourne. There is no village constable or postman. We occasionally get visits from mobile police patrols and the post comes by van from Didcot. The place had its first piped water supply about 1958. Previously almost every cottage either had its own well or drew from the village pump. About the same time electricity came but there is no gas laid on.

There have been many other changes: I first visited the village about 1927 when many of the old thatched and wattle and daub cottages were still standing. To my regret I did not take any photographs except of the church. On June 6th 1933 the centre of the village with the two farms, Butlers and the ancient Middle Farm, were destroyed by fire. The farmhouses and some cottages went as well. I have some poor photographs of the devastation left. Two new houses were built from the ruins of Middle Farm, using some of the old clunch and bricks, and part of the ancient surrounding wall by the site of Middle Farm, now Corderoys, survive. New council houses were built in Fieldside, and many new houses and bungalows, including my own (built in 1969) have completely changed the scene. By a stroke of fortune, the old Manor House still stands although uninhabited. Three houses built by Nathaniel Humfrey also stand: Prospect House, the residence of Mr Boyd Alexander, The Elms, formerly occupied by the surviving Miss Humfreys and Upton Lodge, to which Nathaniel Humfrey removed in 1874. This has had additions and is now an hotel.

The population in 1801 was 217. When Mr Hooper came in 1862 it was 306. It rose to 415 in 1881 when the navvies were in residence at the time the railway was under construction, reducing again to 213 in 1901. The present number is 346, comprising 254 adults, 92 children and 43 retired. I count myself amongst the latter. I took up residence on 1st October 1969.

F M Underhill