What’s in a name?

You scarcely need an A-Z to find your way around the Wychwood villages. There are simply not many roads or streets. Most of the names are self-explanatory such as The Sands, London Road or Frog Lane. Jubilee Lane does not refer to one of Queen Victoria’s Jubilees but rather to the 50th anniversary in 1889 of the building of the Baptist Chapel in Milton.

There are however a few streets which have names apparently based on people or, in some cases, places. You may have wondered about some of them.

Harmond’s Court – Milton. This one is comparatively easy to decode. Many people will remember the butcher’s shop run by Mr Harmond until he retired and the plot was redeveloped about ten years ago.

Willis Court and Coombe’s Close – Shipton. Clearly these are the names of local families and I believe refer specifically to past Chairmen of Shipton Parish Council. James Alfred Willis (known as Puffer) had a saddlery in the house to the left of the Shaven Crown. He was Chairman of the Parish Council from 1899 to 1946 just three years before his death. Two members of the Coombes family, Henry John Coombes and Samuel Coombes were on the Parish Council in the 1890s but I believe Coombe’s Close is named after Harry Coombes (son of Henry who was the Head Carpenter at the Court), founder and owner of the largest of the three tillyards in Shipton (The United Woodworking Co) and who was Chairman of the Parish Council after James Willis.

St Michael’s is named after the college for young ladies built in the early 1880s on the site now covered by Willis Court. It subsequently became a Church of England Home for Waifs and Strays. In the 1930s it housed a group of Catalan refugees including the father of Michael Portillo. It was demolished in 1989.

The name Tothill comes from a farm in Lincolnshire from where the farmer James Calvert moved in the 1870s when he came to the Wychwoods and lived in the house now called Holmwood (see his diary, Rain and Ruin).

Bradleys is named after the garage which stood on the site. This was the second garage belonging to the Bradley family. The first had been established in Station Road, next to Harry Coombe’s tillyard. Reg Bradley and Harry Coombes served together in the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War.

Finally Mawles Lane refers to Harry Mawle and family who farmed Court Farm from the 1890s. Previously Harry Mawle had tenanted Cogges Farm in Witney.

Nobody seems to know the origin of Dawls Close in Ascott.

Alan Vickers

June – July 2018