Random memories of a Fifield childhood

Although we did not live in Idbury, my brother and I went to the school there. I attended that school until I was about nine years old when we moved to the outskirts of Chipping Norton. We went to school with the Beaney boys, Ricketts, Bobby Preston, Elizabeth Howse, Barbara and Gill Smith and two American children called Brannan. The school had two teachers: firstly a Mrs Greenhouse, who rode an autocycle, and then a Mrs Blake, who had a daughter called Ruth. It was a one-room school and a dining room. The class room had two stoves, one at each end, to heat the room.

In Fifield, my parents lived in a cottage with my father’s mother and sister and her husband. This cottage could only be reached at that time via the churchyard. As far as I am aware, there was no access from the High Street. Later my parents lived in Gorse Cottage, which was down the lane at the bottom of the village. This cottage and the one further down could be reached by motor vehicles. The Ferrimans, with father Dick who was foreman at the farm, lived near the very bottom.  Further down was the Cameron family at Fifield House.  I recall that Mr Cameron had a visit from the commander of the airbase at Rissington who owned an American car, which would have been a rare sight in those days. Years later, the Cameron’s elder daughter, Victoria, married Simon Orr-Ewing, and they now live in what was the Ferriman’s house.

Gorse Cottage, in which we lived, was owned by a Mr Heanley, who lived in Brays, a house along the Milton-under-Wychwood Road. While other households were enjoying the new-fangled lighting, heating and cooking systems, we managed with paraffin lamps, candles, coal and wood-burning stoves. My father, whose name was Albert Goscombe, worked on a farm owned by the Griffins, which was out of the village on the Milton-under-Wychwood Road. It was here that father pulled a muscle in his shoulder while working on a threshing machine and was off work for quite a while and, after some time, I believe the farmer came to our cottage and gave him his cards, telling him that he was no longer in his employ.

I recall that, in the village of Fifield there were two shops and a builders’ yard. Mrs Davis originally owned the post office and general shop in Church Street, later moving to new premises at the bottom of the High Street. Her son, Stanley, owned the builders’ yard, which was almost opposite the shop in Church Street. Mrs Townsend owned and ran the Post Office half way up the High Street on the left side. Sadly neither of these shops exist today. Mrs Davis moved to a new bungalow that, together with others, had been built on the left side of the Merrymouth Road. I recall visiting Mrs Davis there once. She said: “I call all my properties ‘South View’,” even when they didn’t face south!”

We grew up with rationing and I recall going to Mrs Davis’ shop for my mother and having the different coloured coupons cut from the booklets to get what mother needed or was allowed to have. I also recall going to a big house, The Gables, in the bottom left hand corner of the village and obtaining free bottles of orange juice. I remember when my mother was invited to Mrs. Davis’ house to see the Queen’s Coronation on TV. Mrs. Davis was one of the few people in the village who had a television set (BBC only in those days of course).

All the members of our family are buried in St. John the Baptist’s churchyard. Originally they were on the far side of the church, but, sadly, the last time I was in Fifield the graves were no longer to be found, probably because no permanent gravestones were erected.

Stanley Goscombe

Editor’s note:  nobody has a perfect memory but we have done the best that we can regards accurate information

April-May 2021