Charmian Whitmell (1938 – 2019)

Charmian passed away peacefully after a short illness on 3rd November. A Thanksgiving Service was held at St. Michael’s Church, Blewbury on 19th November.

Charmian and Derek Whitmell moved to Blewbury in 1965 as a young married couple with their baby Clare, who was their first child. They stayed there for 23 years, increasing their family with three more children (Nick, Andy and Anne) and then moved to Upton in 1988 where they have lived for the last 31 years. Charmian split her loyalties between the two villages. She sang in the St Michael’s Church Choir for 42 years right up until her short terminal illness prevented her from continuing a few weeks ago. In her earlier days in Blewbury her excellent soprano voice was put to good use in five community operas in St Michael’s Church. She also served as a foundation governor at Blewbury School for many years, was involved in the Churn Benefice Pastoral Care team, helped as a volunteer training young people at Style Acre Café, and in her Grahame Close years utilised her nursing skills to offer treatment for minor injuries for the children of the Close from her kitchen work-surface and washing machine. In Upton, she was known best for the annual play-readings and her support behind the book stall at the annual fete.

Charmian was originally an Essex girl, living in Brentwood and Wickford, before going off first to boarding school in Eastbourne after her parents divorced, and then later to train as a registered sick children’s nurse (RSCN) at the Children’s Hospital at Great Ormond Street in London. She remained there working as a staff nurse before moving to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, where she obtained her SRN qualification and met and married Derek. Years later after her children had all started school she returned to nursing ,working at Didcot Hospital for 16 years, and then at Winterbrook Nursing Home in Wallingford until her retirement in 1995. After her retirement she worked for 15 years as a volunteer at Basildon Park, where among other things she helped with the arrangements for the filming of Pride and Prejudice. One task she seemed to particularly enjoyed seems to have been showing Colin Firth around the National Trust property, and was quoted in the Oxford Mail as having said that he was just as gorgeous in real life as he was in the films!

Charmian was very well liked by a wide range of people, and was well known as a very caring, thoughtful, funny, gentle and sociable woman. She had a very deep Christian faith and her commitment to expressing that through her life and work was unstinting. She contributed a great deal to the wider community of Blewbury and Upton and will be sorely missed by many.

Derek and her family want to thank all the many people who have sent cards and letters of condolence to them in the period since her death.

Olive Prior

We are sorry to announce the death of Olive Prior, formerly of Upton, at the age of 91.  Olive and Harry Prior lived for many years at Wychwood on the corner of Newmans Close and Fieldside.  Olive was initially a lively and active member of the community who took a great interest in her fellow villagers.  Unfortunately life became more difficult for her when she was in her 80s, and following Harry’s death in 2015 Olive moved to a care home in Newbury.  Despite various health problems and failing eye sight Olive was settled and generally contented there but on 22nd March 2019 she was admitted to hospital where she died peacefully a few hours later.

Peter Gardiner

It was with great regret that we learned of Peter’s death; he had been a good neighbour, kind, obliging and convivial, when he and Juliet lived at Willows, in Stream Road, across the stream from us.

Peter, we soon found out, was another English teacher, and had actually taught a friend of ours when he was at Charterhouse.   Such are the concatenations of coincidence, even in a small village.  And his love of English Literature showed in so many ways.  He master-minded a number of Readings on a theme, and I always marvelled at the breadth of his sources;  in their new home in Goring, he spoke of a group who met to discuss poetry, even when Parkinson’s was taking its toll.   He acted with Blewbury Players, too.

Other contributions to the village were pieces of historical research in local record libraries, his civic-minded litter collection on his regular walking of the footpaths, his service as the transport representative for the village – he and Juliet rarely used their car and set a great example by using the bus to shop and even to visit the dentist, along with suggestions for planting the circuit of the Recreation Ground.

He cared for his garden in his headmasterly way: everything was strictly under control. But he had a genuine love and knowledge of plants, too.   We had many interests in common, so conversation was always easy. We even did the same crosswords – and we also agreed they were getting harder by the year. He was an impeccably courteous and convivial host, an ardent environmentalist, a much missed asset to the village community, and we in Upton who remember him send Juliet and their family our deepest sympathy in their loss.

Malcolm Wright, with some help from Margaret Maytham.

Brian Simpson

With sadness we acknowledge the death of Brian Simpson.

We remember his many years of commitment to the Village Hall Trust and his sterling work he did as Treasurer so effectively and efficiently. Not only in the day to day finances, and in making every penny earned count, but in the mammoth task of securing and handling the funding that was achieved for the extension and improvements to the village hall.

Brian retired from the Trust in 2011 but continued along with his wife Daphne to support village activities.

St Mary’s church also enjoyed his quiet wisdom and financial expertise as he served for many years on the PCC .  How we loved to hear his measured tones while reading the lesson on a Sunday morning.

I’m sure I speak for everyone involved with the Drop–in,  the Bowls Club, the Wine Club, those who shared his love of croquet, and those of us who had the pleasure of working with him. A true gentleman. He will be remembered with great fondness.

Jessie West

A Tribute to Sidney Hardwick

Sidney Hardwick 1924-2011

A Tribute from Daughter Sarah:

Our mother died during the night of Sunday 8 May and her funeral was held on Friday 27 May, so that her brother and his family from Canada could be there.

Mum was born on 12 December 1924 in Lindsay, Ontario. Whilst still a baby, her parents decided to move to Vancouver and the family travelled by train across Canada with Mum “in a laundry basket”. Eventually, Mum went to the University of British Columbia, studying first Domestic Science, before deciding that Bacteriology was more interesting option, only partly because there were more boys on that course…After graduating, she was made redundant from her first job in a canning factory. She then found a job at Canada’s Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories in Ontario. It was here that she met our father, Bill. He had studied chemistry at Oxford during the war and had decided that Canada after the war was a better bet than cold and draughty Cambridge…They married in 1949 and came back to England in 1951, where Dad started work at AERE, Harwell. They spent their early married life in a prefab at Chilton and then built their own house in Upton to where they moved in 1956. About 9 years later, Mum discovered pottery, thanks to an evening class given by Ron Freeborn, art master at St Birinus, and this, together with her beloved family, gave her the most enormous pleasure and satisfaction throughout her life.

The following is the tribute that my brother made to her memory at her funeral in Blewbury Church:

“You have all chosen to come here to remember Mum and to honour her. Sarah and I, and our families, are proud and grateful to you. Mum would have been so touched and so surprised. She didn’t feel she was this special; she always wanted to help people and was just profoundly grateful for your friendship and support.

Her warmth to people, whether she knew them or not, sprang partly from her feeling that she was very lucky. Indeed she was – particularly her Canadian relatives, her wonderful husband and her three children, and her house she and Dad helped design and where she entertained many of you. Later on she had seven grandchildren to love and to spoil. Three of them, Ed, Will and Jack are pallbearers, while Anna and Matilda have followed the coffin down the aisle. The 6th pallbearer is their father, Tony.

Mum felt another aspect of her luck was her income which enabled her to travel to so many parts of the world (with some of you) and to go to Canada nearly every year. There she would meet up with Uncle Charles, Aunty Luce and their family, cousins and friends and spend time at Hornby Island off the west coast of British Columbia. In fact the unusual piece of wood on top of Mum’s coffin is genuine BC driftwood, brought over specially by her niece Alix. Mum loved Hornby, the scenery, the light, the space, the people on the island, and of course the sea. Even in her 70’s, Mum was still diving off the rocks, smoothly and gracefully, into the blue ocean. But among the people on the island were some of her favourite potters.

POTTERY: This, and her warmth and generosity, are what most people will remember about her. She first started going to pottery classes as an escape from her troublesome children. It captivated her. She attended more classes and gradually acquired the essential equipment and the skills to use it. After a while she was able to share her skills by teaching at St Birinus School in Didcot. Her enthusiasm (and height!) helped her maintain order among large teenage boys, a few of whom are here today. Her first exhibition was here in Blewbury at the Borlase Gallery and was a resounding success, with nearly all her pots selling in the first twenty minutes. There was almost a struggle for some of the little red “sold” stickers. She was so exhilarated by it that we have lost count of the number of exhibitions she has taken part in, but 2 or 3 per year for nearly 50 years certainly adds up. She was still exhibiting less than 3 weeks ago, at Cuddesdon and at Cedarwood. Even on the afternoon of Sunday 8th May she was welcoming visitors to Cedarwood as part of Art Week. Her Alzheimer’s was developing, but there she was, talking lucidly and enthusiastically to complete strangers about different aspects of glazing pots, and still selling them!

But after that she was very tired. We had supper and Mum was thrilled to see her youngest grandson, happily named Sidney after her, take his first tentative crawling steps. Next morning, Sarah, who had been worried about her tiredness, was phoning her unsuccessfully. A longstanding friend, Sheila Dawson, found her apparently unconscious. She called the ambulance, who confirmed that Mum had died peacefully in her sleep.

Maybe that was more good luck, to have such a peaceful end compared with enduring late stage Alzheimer’s? But should you think that Mum just had a blessedly happy and lucky life, you would seriously under-estimate her strength of character and her courage. Three events required all her strength:

1. The loss of her baby sister Judy at the age of only 5

2. The loss of her wonderful husband: Dad needed one of the world’s first open heart operations when they had been married for only 2 years. He survived but was always weakened and died early, leaving Mum on her own for another 23 years.

3. And the loss of our sister Kathy, who was taken by cancer at the age of only nine.

Yet even while Mum would be missing them, and grieving, she soldiered on, making friends and lighting up people’s lives. She would affect people right from their first meeting. We have received so many glowing tributes, from you, and from lots of people who couldn’t be here today. Perhaps I could end with just one from some-one at a pottery materials supplier she hardly knew, and who met her only once:

“So very sorry to hear about Sidney. I thought she was a lovely lady with a fantastic personality. I had the great pleasure of meeting her once through work, many years ago, and the recollection of that meeting still brings a smile to my face. She was instantly recognisable to me because of her glorious accent. She was a lovely lady to do business with, she would have all relevant information ready at hand and always so very polite and professional. My deepest sympathies to you all. Claire.”

We are all privileged to have known and loved such a wonderful person and mother. “

Gordon Hardwick

Barbara Blond

We are sad to record the death of Barbara Blond, known to many in the village as "Mrs Blond" who taught for many years at Upton School until the school closed in 1961.  Barbara was born in West Hagbourne in 1920 and died at The Meadows Nursing Home in Didcot, aged 91.  Her whole life was devoted to teaching and raising her family.   A service of thanksgiving for her life was held at St Andrew’s Church East Hagbourne on 24th May.  Our sympathies go to her sons David, Philip and their families.

Clare Lightfoot

Theo Gordon


1913 – 2010

It is with great sadness that we reflect on and pay tribute to Upton’s oldest resident – as her son, John, proudly acclaimed at the official opening of the extended Village Hall earlier this year.

She came of an almost entirely clerical family, and was for a long time a regular worshipper at St Mary’s, with a deep personal faith. It greatly grieved her when she became too crippled to attend services

Theo and her husband, Jim, a Professor at Reading University, moved to Upton in 1968 and she frequently said how happy they were in the village. The many cars sometimes parked in High Street suggested there were great parties going on – she was renowned as an excellent cook – while a notice "Quiet, please; a book is being written" indicated other activities at "Littlecote" The spacious garden, designed on classical lines by Jim Gordon, was once or twice used for open-air performances..

Since his death in 1998, Theo had made a life on her own. She had a wide range of interests, continued to entertain, made new friends amongst her neighbours. These later enabled her to remain independent and stay in her home, while in her last years she was further supported by home carers and of course her family as well. When John and Liz moved to Cholsey, she saw more of them, and more of her beloved great-grandchildren.

The welfare of the village and its inhabitants was always very close to her heart, and she especially enjoyed the OTTC performances and specifically requested our home-produced evenings of words and music. Quite recently, indeed, Theo hosted a private rendition of "Animal Crackers".

She came of a bygone age, when traditional values and good manners were presumed without question, she was punctiliously grateful for any little services rendered, and anxious always that she and her house were in a proper state to be visited. But she was also so interested in and concerned about other people, so amazing at remembering the detail of their lives and plans, and so good at making everybody feel welcome and important. She had also an acute sense of humour, enjoyed a good laugh as much as a serious discussion, and bore the problems of her increasingly poor health with a quiet fortitude.

Other residents of Upton will recollect scenes in which she featured during her 42 years in the village; for many there will be a Theo-shaped hole in our lives for a long time.

Elisabeth and Malcolm Wright

August 2010

Julia Williams

On Sunday 24th May, Upton suffered another huge loss when Julia Williams passed away at the age of 66 years.

Most people in the village knew Julia for one reason or another, perhaps as the ‘Queen’ of flapjack and tiffin baking, as a deliverer of ‘Meals on Wheels’ and the Upton News, or for collecting for the Poppy Appeal. Julia was especially proud of the British Legion Brooch that she was awarded for 20 years of collecting, however, I think mostly she will be remembered for her friendly smile and chat or the pip of her car horn and a huge wave as she passed by.

Julia, husband Willy and sons Howard and Simon moved to Upton from Blewbury about 25 years ago and soon settled in making new friends and becoming involved in various village activities. tragically 10 years ago, Willy suddenly passed away at the age of 57 and Julia had spent the last 10 years living on her own.

Despite having both hips replaced during recent years she was always busy baking or tending her garden. Much time was spent with family especially grandson Sam who thought the world of his Granny.

St Michael’s Church in Blewbury was completely full for the service of thanksgiving for Julia’s life and the large number of people who attended reflected the deep loss that was felt by everyone. Her generous nature and willing attitude to help people in all types of situations was second to none, she was a true friend and words cannot describe how much she will be missed.

Helen Weston

George Milford Cottam

George Milford-Cottam. 4th May 1918 – 19th May 2009.

Mr Milford-Cottam, who lived at Barn Acre in Stream Road, was brought up in West London and worked in insurance. He belonged to a yeomanry regiment which was mobilised when war started and sent to the Middle East as part of the horse mounted 1st Cavalry Division. Soon afterwards he volunteered to serve with the newly formed Long Range Desert Group operating hundred of miles behind enemy lines in the Desert. By 1944 his regiment formed part of an armoured brigade which landed in Normandy on D Day. Within a few weeks he was shot through the neck when looking out of the turret of his tank and was invalided back to the UK.

As a debonair bachelor in London after the war he became well known in the world of opera and ballet, and eventually became Chairman of the London Ballet Circle. He also appeared as a sophisticated man about town in advertisements for cigars published in colour supplements.

He married fairly late in life, though he and his wife, Diana, lived to enjoy their silver wedding anniversary. Together they helped to form the Goring and District Fine Arts Society which now numbers 460 members. George served as the first chairman.

On moving to Upton they joined St Mary’s Church and served on the Parochial Church Council. He bequeathed his body for medical research and so the usual funeral service was replaced with a service of thanksgiving for his life.

Myra Louisa Dowding

Myra Louisa Dowding has died at the age of 107. Myra was born and brought up in Upton and used to play the organ at St. Mary’s. Her father (or was it grandfather?) was Thomas Butler who has a tombstone in the graveyard by the church. Up until recently when she was taken into the JR, she lived on her own, supported by carers, in the parish of St. Peter’s Didcot.

The funeral will take place at St Mary’s on Monday 3rd November at 11am.