40 years of change in Milton-under-Wychwood

Front of Harman's Butchers Shop. pre 2003

Front of Harman’s Butchers Shop. pre 2003

Do you remember? In 1980 at the top of the High Street we had Harman’s Butchers, where Mike Harman, his father, his sister and their team served quality meat. Further on down the road was Pratley’s Hardware, an Aladdin’s cave of a shop selling everything from garden seeds, paint and children’s toys – you name it, they had it. Basil Pratley would drive his red lorry, a converted fire tender, around Milton, ringing his bell to announce his arrival, bringing bean sticks, and always a shiny new dustbin on top.

Along that same stretch of the High Street, several other businesses existed: Midland Bank, Mr Bigg the dentist, Beryl Dore’s Wychwood Hair Fashions, London House and also the Library and the Baptist chapel. On the opposite side of the road we had the Wychwood Surgery. The GPs at that time were Gordon Scott and Robert Beazer.

A little further on was the pub, The Quart Pot – a traditional pub with a dartboard, fruit machine and cribbage team, serving good ales and pickled eggs! Sadly, the pub closed in the late 90s and remained closed for several years before reopening as The Hare. Next door to the pub was the Post Office and village stores run by the Leftwich family and more recently John and Edna Naish, who served baked-in-store bread rolls and pastries as well as delicious home-cooked ham.

Around the corner and we are now in the stretch known as The Green. The first shop was Jim and Ann Mills’ greengrocers. Very ahead of the times was this little shop as it was open on Sunday mornings, just enough time to get your veggies to go with your Sunday roast! Along from there was “Cinders” ladies’ fashions and along from that the Co-op and a little further on a TV shop, WH Rawlins, selling radios, televisions, small electrical goods and bicycles. On the boundary of Milton and Shipton we still have Milton Service Station run by the Prew family.

The most noticeable change over the last forty years is the expansion of the village. In the early 80s, Church Meadow and Brookfield Close were built on open farmland and in the 90s Elm Grove was built on the site of Alfred Groves’ wood yard. A smaller residential development was built on the site of Greenlands, which had been a council-run care home. The result of losing this facility has seen The Paddocks built, a residential complex offering extra care for the elderly. Most recently Milton has gained further housing at the end of the High Street at St Jude’s Meadow. This is a mixed development of houses from small affordable homes to large family homes, most notably, ‘Trump Towers’, the thatched house at the entrance!

The village green has also seen the benefit of a ‘new build’. Gone is the old wooden pavilion from where football was played every Saturday and cricket every Sunday. We now have the club house for Milton Sports Association (MSA). Sadly, Milton no longer has a cricket club, but I’m sure many people will remember Cliff and Godfrey Bridges at the wicket and Archie hitting sixes! Gone too is the old play equipment and the ever-popular paddling pool, both removed because they did not meet ROSPA standards. Many village children have spent hours cooling off in the pool after school on a hot sunny day. Instead we have two new play areas, for younger or older children, including the very popular zip wire. We also have the addition of a hard play court, with tennis nets and basketball nets. The Green is a central part of the village and everyone looks forward to the annual village fete, which was reinstated in the 90s.

Those who have served as Chairman to our Parish Council have come and gone over the years too. I remember Mr Montgomery, Terry Hartley, Mick Burson and Graham Collett. Councillors are all volunteers working tirelessly for the benefit of the village. I remember well our Councillor George Harrison: he was manager of the Co-op for many years. It was his responsibility to mow the village green with a gang mower which was pulled by a grey tractor. It was great fun to run along behind him and get covered in grass. Happy times.

vimilesatmiltonfete2005No village would be complete without the larger than life, colourful characters and I fondly remember Vi Miles or ‘Auntie Vi’ to everyone who knew her. Vi devoted most of her life to Milton. She was a church warden, on several committees, bookings clerk and cleaner for the village hall. Woe betide anyone who didn’t leave the hall as clean and tidy as they found it! She would cycle back and forth to the village hall several times a day, chit-chatting and waving to everyone she met. Vi was such a popular villager that every year we have a stall dedicated to her at the fete.

Milton-under-Wychwood is a wonderful village to live in, embracing all the changes that the last forty years has brought – new houses, new people, new businesses – but the good heart and friendliness of the village hasn’t changed at all.

So, here’s to the next happy 40 years!

Peter Rawlins

April – May 2020