With its 16th and 17th century cottages, thriving pub with its convivial coffee mornings, the ancient church gazing serenely over its parish, Beckley is a seemingly cosy, picture postcard image of rural England - one which is recognised across the globe. Who doesn’t dream of exchanging their stressful urban existence for a peaceful life in a charming English village? But hang on a minute - why are so many TV crime series set in rural idylls? Think Broadchurch. Or Agatha Christie’s St Mary Mead, setting for The Murder at the Vicarage, the first of her Miss Marple novels. The story of this village like many others from Norman times to the present day is not one of sleepy rural idylls. It is a story of purpose, persistence and power: a history of death, theft, arson and more happily: cricket matches, Oddfellows meetings, village feasts, dances to support the church… Birth, marriage, death - all human life is here.

This is a snapshot of Beckley in 1891 - based on the census return taken on Sunday 5 April. At that time Beckley consisted of 3,620 acres and had an overall population of 345, the population density in Beckley was less than 1 person per acre.

The 1891 census in Oxfordshire

Census night in 1891 was on Sunday 5 April, and below is an extract from page 5 of a local newspaper, Jackson’s Oxford Journal, Saturday April 4 1891, describing how the census would be conducted throughout the country: 

“THE CENSUS FOR 1891 The enumerators who have been appointed to assist in the work of taking the census throughout the country have been supplied with the schedules which are to be left at each house with the object of being filled up by the head of each family. The schedules have been delivered in the course of this week, and are returnable to the enumerators (who will call for them) on Monday next, April 6. In the papers furnished, the attention of the occupiers is called to the requirement to record all those present in the house on the night of April 4th including all visitors, and to the provision in the Act of Parliament, whereby a fine of 5/- can be inflicted upon any person who either refuses to give the required information, or wilfully gives false information in filling up the returns.

It will be the duty of the enumerator to open and examine to see that it has been correctly and intelligibly filled in, and he may ask any question which may be necessary to satisfy himself on this point. Errors are to be rectified by him upon the spot, and if, from ignorance, or any other cause the schedule has not been filled up, the enumerator must enter upon it himself all the particulars he can ascertain from the occupier or other competent member of the family. Should the schedule be lost, or mislaid, he will supply a fresh one. The strictest precautions will be taken to preserve as secret and confidential the information given in the schedules.”

This extract from page 8 of Jackson’s Oxford Journal, Saturday April 11 1891…

“THE CENSUS In accordance with the instructions of the Census Act, the Registrars of births and deaths for the eleven united parishes of this city and the Headington Union, Mr E. Butler and Mr J. Draper, appointed their enumerators, who during last week delivered the schedules at every house in the districts allocated to them, and they were filled up descriptive of all the persons who on midnight on Sunday the 5th, were dwelling therein, or were out at work or travelling, and were to return on Monday morning. The issue of every schedule had to be entered in a book in order to check its due return. 

The schedules were called for on Monday, in nearly all cases, by the twenty-five enumerators Mr Butler employed. …. Whilst difficulties were rare… “It so happened, however, that there were several Italian street musicians in Oxford who could not be persuaded into giving their names, or any information, in fact, about themselves, and upon a compatriot living in Oxford proceeding to go to their lodgings in order to explain what was required of them, it was found that the whole lot had disappeared, consequently they succeeded in evading the Act.”

The enumerator for Beckley was Alfred Gunston, who lived in Stanton St. John, he was tasked by the Registrar, one John Draper, with collecting, a few days later, from each house the completed schedule, or census form, which had been filled in by the householder. (It is a common myth that a census enumerator knocked on doors and asked who was present; and then wrote down the details, often mis-hearing, or mis-spelling. There may have been isolated examples of that having been done, but this was very rare!) In many cases, the original schedule was filled in by a child rather than by the head of the household, because during the 1800s children went to school, or Sunday school, where they learned to read and write, whereas parents (of the older generation) were often not able to read and write. During the week following census night, the enumerator visited all of the houses, and collected the forms (the Schedules), collated them, and then wrote them up into his enumerator’s book, in schedule number order. The enumerator may have found it difficult to interpret the handwriting on the schedule, and he may have mis-transcribed some details. Except for the 1911 census, the original Schedules (forms) have, sadly, very rarely survived.

The census shows that the majority of the population had been born in Beckley, of the others the persons most distant came from the Isle of Wight, and from Cheshire. There were 33 properties with four or fewer rooms, and of these one cottage of four rooms housed two families (15 people in all) a second four roomed cottage housed two families (seven people in all),  one three roomed cottage housed a family of eight, whilst a two roomed cottage housed two families (six people in all). Two properties were uninhabited.

39 children (orphans) lived at New Ridge and Old Ridge in Church Street A needlewoman
56 were agricultural labourers The parish clerk (also a gardener)
A baker A ploughboy
A blacksmith and his apprentice The police constable (Charles Arie)
A bricklayer 2 ‘rural’ postmen/telegraph messengers
A butcher

6 land owning farmers

2 carpenters 9 domestic servants and 4 farm servants
2 carriers and their assistants A dressmaker who has an assistant - her daughter
A charwoman A gardener
A coachman 3 housekeepers
An errand boy 2 laundresses
The farm bailiff 1 shepherd
1 licenced victualler at the Abingdon Arms: Martin H. Timberlake and his wife Rosa. 3 shoemakers
8 were living on their own means A grocer
87 children were at school The vicar (George Theophilus Cooke - more of him later)
2 schoolmasters including Henry Tossell (a.k.a. Tessell) who lived in the schoolhouse at the end of Church Street. 1 wheelwright

Children in Beckley

In the mid-19ththcentury, women in England and Wales had around four and a half children each over their life-time, and Beckley was much in line with this, the average being 4.5 children per woman. It is important to bear in mind that many women remained unmarried and without any children at all. Illegitimacy was not uncommon in England and Wales in 1851 there were nearly 20 illegitimate births for every 1,000 unmarried women. However the risks of a woman having a child out of marriage fell by over half in the Victorian era, to less than 8 illegitimate births per 1,000 unmarried women in 1911. In Beckley illegitimate births were much in line with the national average in 1981 at 8 births per thousand. Illegitimacy was still frowned upon by society.

In Beckley 6% out of the households contained a single parent family. This is almost certainly due to the decrease in adult mortality which started in the 1870s. Most instances of family dissolution in the nineteenth century were caused by the death of either the husband or the wife - divorce was difficult, expensive and out of reach of the majority of the population.

The School

1878 “The Education department, in pursuance of the Elementary Education Act 1870.School districts of Beckley and Stow Wood, give FINAL NOTICE they propose to unite the parishes of Beckley and Stow Wood. The Public School accommodation in Beckley being suitable for 63 children. A School Board will be formed. F.R. Sandford, Secretary. Education department. Notice number 14,399. The Headington Union” Oxford Times - Saturday 29 June 1878

There was a ratio of 33 children per teacher in Beckley which was much in line with national averages.  However we do not know whether each child in the village was actually going to school or not, nor whether they attended full-time or half-time. Therefore numbers of children per teacher could mean that some children in the district never attended school, or that many left school before the age of 13. This measure is more about educational provision than it is about class size, it is likely that the trends in the number of children per teacher reflect changes in legislation related to education. The first Education Act in 1870 established school boards which could build and manage schools, and the 1880 Education Act made school compulsory between the ages of 5 and 10 years, although it is likely that the continued need to pay fees until 1891 meant that not all children would have attended school. The effect of these Acts will have been to increase the numbers of teachers, therefore reducing the numbers of children per teacher. Further increases in educational provision are likely to have been associated with rises in the minimum school leaving age to 11 years in 1893 and to 12 years in 1899.

1882“Mr Henry R. Tossell, assistant at St Barnabas Boys School Pimlico, is appointed Master of the National School, Beckley.” Bicester Herald - Friday 22 December 1882

1887 BECKLEY. National School. -The following , report from H.M. Inspector Schools (Rev. A. Pickard) and the Diocesan Inspector (Rev H. De Brissay), have been received by the Vicar, Rev. G. T, Cooke. H.M. Inspector Schools: -“The children have passed a very good examination in elementary subjects and English. There is a little weakness in the geography in the upper Standard owing to the difficulties incurred by grouping: singing by note and needlework are good. The infants, have passed a good examination.’

Diocesan report - it is impossible to speak too highly of this excellent school. Throughout the infants’ department and the Standards, the knowledge of their work, which extends over a considerable portion of the Bible, is very and very intelligent and distinctly in advance of most of the schools which I visit. I was especially pleased with the knowledge of the Acts of the Apostles shown by the Upper Division. The writing was good throughout the school, and the singing also was good. The following are especially be commended: Lower Division Willy Shipley, John Shrimpton, Frederick Smith. George Newman, Edith Jordan, and Emily Cox. Standard II and lll—Louisa White, George Cox, Louisa Hall, Sarah Benjamin Rosser, and Albert Jordan. Standard IV. V. VI. and VII.-Charlotte Cook (received the last year), James Rosser (prize). Susan Wilkins (prize), F. Eady, H. Anderson. H. Smith. H. Gardner, Edward Hall, and E. Dinsdale. The answering was remarkably even and general throughout the school, and was difficult find a topic within the range their work on which the children had not been informed. Their interest in their work was evidently great, and the whole the school seemed me to have exceeded even its former excellence. This is the third year in succession that this school has been classified by the Diocesan Inspector as excellent. Signed, H. De. Brissay, Diocesan Inspector of Schools, Oxford.” Oxford and Reading Gazette 1887

1895 “OPENING OF THE NEW SCHOOL. The new National School at Beckley, the foundation stone of which was laid by the Bishop of the diocese on April 18th, were opened by the Bishop of Reading on Monday week. The building, which is a handsome structure of red brick with Bath stone facings, has been erected by Mr. W. D. Somerville, of Headington, from the designs of Mr. Clowes, Oxford, upon a plot of land at the rear of the Vicarage, given to the parish for the purpose by Mrs. Cooke. he external dimensions of the schoolroom, which is well lighted and ventilated, are 53 feet by 23 feet, and accommodation is provided for 100 children. The floor is laid with patent wooden blocks, and the room is divided in the centre by a sliding partition. Cloak rooms with lavatory accommodation are provided for both boys and girls, for whose use also a considerable portion of ground adjoining the school has been levelled and divided off into playgrounds. The opening ceremony was preceded by a largely-attended service in the church, consisting of evensong as far as the third collect. The service was conducted by the vicar, the lessons being read by the Rev. S. F. F. Auchmuty and the Rev. H. C. Adams. At the termination of the first part of the service the choir and clergy walked in procession through the churchyard to the school, singing the hymn, "The Church's ono foundation," the school children and a large number of parishioners following. His lordship then offered several prayers, and a collection having been taken, dismissed the assembly with his blessing. The school children were subsequently entertained at tea the Vicarage lawn.” Oxfordshire Weekly News - Wednesday 18 September 1895

Despite a common perception that large proportions of Victorian children were earning money, and in an absence of compulsory schooling, percentages of children aged 10-13 who were working were actually rather small: 13 per cent of boys and 4 per cent of girls in Beckley. Older children, aged 14-18, were much more likely to have been working: around 30 per cent of girls and around 40 per cent of boys. These figures remained steady, with perhaps a slight increase, over the period. Although fewer girls than boys were working, they were almost certainly less likely to have been at school. Some girls would have been at school, of course, but those neither in school nor employment were probably taking on housework and domestic duties in the home.

1875 “BECKLEY. BURNED to death. —An inquest was held at the Radcliffe Infirmary, on Thursday afternoon, before the Coroner, Mr. W. Brunner, on the body of Susan Powell, a little girl about three years of age, who died on Tuesday from injuries received by burning. Elizabeth Powell, mother, deposed that her husband was a labourer, living at Beckley. The deceased was three years of age last month. On the previous Monday morning, she left the child in care of a neighbour, the other two children being at school, as she was going out at farm work. She was fetched at three in the afternoon, and on her return the child was lying on Mrs. Jordan's lap, and witness was informed that her pinafore had taken fire. She found that the child was much burnt, and she sent for Mr. Hitchings, surgeon, who came the same evening, and took the child back with him to the Infirmary. Wittman did not blame Mrs. Jordan. Mrs. Jordan, a widow, living next door to the last witness, deposed that the child was left with her on Monday while the mother went to work. During the afternoon witness went upstairs, leaving the child downstairs. There was a fire in the room, and in a few minutes she returned and the deceased was on fire. There was no one else in the room. Witness endeavoured to pat the fire out, and she removed the clothes from the body and stn. for assistance.—Mr. Wm. Lewis Morgan, house surgeon to the Infirmary, deposed that deceased was burnt a good deal about the stomach and the chest, and under the arms. She died on the following day (Tuesday). The jury returned a verdict of accidental death” 1875 Jackson’s Oxford Journal

As today, the majority of lone-parent families were headed by a mother rather than a father. Partly this was because men tended to die before women: not only was male mortality higher at each age, but husbands were on average a little older than their wives. However it is also the case that widowed men were more likely to get re-married than widowed women, or for their children to be sent to live with another family member. It is possible that some unmarried mothers reported themselves as married in order to preserve their respectability. 

Single person households were mainly made up of two demographic groups: the elderly (particularly widows and widowers) and young adults who had not yet entered a relationship. The latter were also likely to be boarders or lodgers and it is probable that the fluctuations in single-person households were mainly due to treatment of the household position of younger adults. Although the overall trend was probably actually rather flat, the proportion of households containing only one person varied considerably geographically and by type of place. People in agricultural and professional places were more likely to have lived alone. Around 11 per cent of households in England and Wales contained ‘boarders’  and in Beckley 9% of households had at least one boarder - in line with most agricultural areas across the country. Agricultural areas were characterised by out-migration, so pressure on housing was likely to have been lower than in overcrowded urban, especially mining, areas…

1906 “Attempted suicide at Beckley. John Jordan, labourer, was charged with attempting to cut his throat with a razor on 5th inst. George Fitzell, engine driver, also of Beckley said at about 12 midday inconsequence of what he was told looked through the window of Jordan’s house. He saw the razor on a chair by the bed and the accused on the bed. Mr Haw then came and going inside the house saw that blood was flowing from the neck. Prisoner lived alone in the house and said nothing whilst his neck was bound up with a towel. The prisoner was taken to the Radcliffe Infirmary. PC Day deposed that he was called by Fitzell to the house and found the prisoner and the razor. He spoke to the prisoner who complained of his head and then pointed to the window, where he found a piece of paper wishing all friends goodbye. Fitzell had known the accused for four years and he was a very funny man. Accused agreed to go to the workhouse and was discharged.” Oxford Journal 1906

(At the time of this incident John Jordan was a widower, aged 70 years and lived in a two roomed cottage next door to the Abingdon Arms. He probably died in the workhouse.)

Living with family more distant than the immediate family group was rare in the past. Usually fewer than 2 per cent of households contained kin (including situations where parents and married children lived together, and grandchildren lived with grandparents). Although elderly people did not routinely live with their married children, these types of relationship were still the most common among households with kin, and a decline in late adult mortality may have increased the length of time this type of household would have survived for before the parent died. Alternatively an increase in celibacy could have led to more adult siblings living with their married brother or sister (‘the rise of the ‘live-in’ maiden aunt’). Finally housing shortages may have made staying with kin a more sought-after option rather than boarding or lodging.

During the pre-industrial and industrialising periods of British history, it was very common for young people to spend a period of time as a live-in servant in another family's household. This usually occurred between the late teens and mid-twenties, and was particularly common among women, allowing them to save up money which would allow them to contribute towards the setting up of an independent household when they married. This institution of domestic service was in decline, however from at least the mid-nineteenth century. In England and Wales as a whole over 10 per cent contained live-in servants. In Beckley in 1891 6% of households had at least one live-in servant.

Between 1851 and 1881 there were around 62 dependents (children and old age) for every 100 working-age people (aged 14-64), in 1891 in Beckley it was 68 per one hundred working age people. Examination of the child and old age dependency ratios separately shows that this decline is almost entirely due to a decline in the number of children per worker, which can be attributed to fertility decline. Throughout the period there were far more child dependents than elderly, reflecting a pyramidal age structure created by relatively high fertility and mortality. The average age in Beckley at this time was 27 -  slightly older than the national average for the population, the average age in England and Wales was just under 25 years.


Industrial and occupational change is evident in 1891 as increasing percentages of men are occupied in non-manual work, however skilled non manual workers still made up only 6% of the total. 89% of all working men were manual unskilled or skilled workers, the others worked in skilled non manual occupations. In Beckley 65% of workers still worked on the land. As mechanisation and increasing efficiency in farming meant that at least as much food could be produced with less labour, men who would previously have been agricultural labourers found more lucrative work in the manufacturing and tertiary sectors.

Health and Welfare

1788“INOCULATION. MR. SUTTON informs the Publick, he has engaged several HOUSES in BECKLEY, near Oxford, for the Reception of Patients under Inoculation. Families inoculated, at their own Houfes, on the following Terms ; Gentlemen, from Three to Six Guineas; Farmers and Trades-people, One Guinea;  Servants, and inferior Mechanicks, Half a Guinea each; And Parish Poor Half a Crown.” Oxford Journal - Saturday 16 February 1788

In 1891 there were 6 doctors per 10,000 people in the Beckley area. This figure does not include other health professionals such as nurses, midwives, health visitors and so on. It is important to remember that during this period there was no free health care. Doctors were all private practitioners, although some may have been paid by the Poor Law to provide care for paupers, and others may have charged lower fees for needy cases. It is also the case that before the development of powerful drugs such as antibiotics, medical care was much less effective than it is today. Before the widespread acceptance of germ theory and the antiseptic revolution, a doctor’s visit may even have increased the chance of illness through the transfer of infection from another patient.

The Infant Mortality Rate was around 150 per thousand for England and Wales as a whole in the second half of the nineteenth century, but in Beckley it was lower at about 135 per thousand. Death rates had been slightly lower in the 1880s, but suffered a resurgence in the 1890s when a series of long, hot summers caused spikes in infant diarrhoeal deaths. Unlike mortality at older ages of childhood, and in adulthood, which began to decline from about 1870, there was no sustained decline in the national infant mortality rate until the start of the twentieth century. 1911 also saw a particularly hot summer which increased the Infant Mortality Rate, and this shows up in the national rates but not in our local rates.

1882 “BECKLEY. An inquest was held by W. W. Robinson,Esq,county coroner, at the Abingdon Arms, Beckley, on Monday, on the body of an unbaptized male child of George Charlett. Charlotte Charlett, the wife of George Charlett, labourer, deposed: I was delivered of the deceased child on Sunday, the 5th of March. It was a seven months child. Mrs. Auger attended and nursed it until Wednesday last. It was a healthy infant, and was suckled by me. On Saturday last I put the baby to bed soon after one o'clock in the afternoon, and about three o'clock I heard him snore. Between seven and eight in the evening I thought I heard him cry, and I sent my stepdaughter upstairs to fetch deceased down. She went, and called out for me. I went up and found the child was dead. He was lying on his back, and his lips were discoloured and fingers clasped. He was quite warm. I had not gone or sent upstairs to look after the child from the time he was put to bed soon after one o'clock until between seven and eight. No medical man attended me or saw the deceased, who was never ill so as to require a doctor. Avis Charlett said she had nursed the deceased, and saw him put to bed upstairs on Saturday afternoon. No one went to see after deceased until witness was sent to do so between seven and eight in the evening. She noticed that the lips of deceased were black and called for Mrs. Charlett. The child was lying on its back in bed. The bed clothes did not cover its mouth or face. No one else was in the house during the afternoon. Witness never raw anything given to deceased, except some gruel and the east. It had cried on Saturday morning, and was restless before being taken upstairs. —Martha Auger said deceased was a healthy and fine child, and properly attended to by its mother so far so as she noticed. She had not seen it since Wednesday till sent for on Saturday evening when it was dead.—Thomas Fletcher Tyerman, surgeon, had made an external examination of the body, and discovered nothing unnatural about it. He considered from the evidence taken that death was from natural causes—convulsions--which were not attributable to neglect. The jury returned', verdict of "Died from natural causes." Oxford Times 1882

Beckley had a fair share of problems with crime some of which led to severe penalties…

1775 “Monday last James Corbett, capitally convicted at our late Assize for burglary committed in the dwelling-houfe of Mr. John Hitchcock, of Beckley in this County, was executed here purfuant to his fentcnce. Corbett behaved with decency, but did not appear much shocked in his last moments. Having placed the knot of the cord to his fatisfaction, he slipped from the ladder without waiting to be turned off. His body was delivered to his friends for burial.” Oxford Journal - Saturday 19 August 1775

Less severe was

1823 “Saturday 20th John Eadle, of Beckley, labourer, was convicted before the Rev. Dr. Lee and J. Ireland, Esq. two of our County Magistrates, in the penalty of 5s. and costs, for stealing peas in Beckley Field, the property of Mr. Daniel Chapman, which penalty was directed by the Magistrates be distributed among the poor of the parish of Beckley.” Oxford University and City Herald - Saturday 27 September 1823


1861 “Thomas Coleman was convicted of being drunk at Beckley on the 20th of April, and ordered to pay 5s. penalty and 12s. 6d. costs, or six hours in the stocks.” Oxford Journal - Saturday 04 May 1861

1865 “PETTY SESSIONS. BULLINGDON DIVISION.- Before the Rev. Dr. Wynter and Guy Thomson, Esq. Thomas Saunders, of Beckley, labourer, was charged with setting fire to a cottage, the property of Thomas Bannister, on the 21st. Two cottages were destroyed, in one of which the prisoner lived. He was committed for trial at the Assizes.” Oxford Journal - Saturday 01 July 1865

1866 “Oxford September 1st. Thomas Sumner surrendered to his recognizances on a charge of breaking into the house of Mr,. Langston, baker, of Beckley, on Sunday, Aug. 26, and Stealing therefrom 1 spade Guinea, a sovereign 21 shillings in silver, as well as three or four shillings' worth of copper. Mr. Brunner appeared for the prosecution, and Mr.1 G. Mallam for the defence. Prosecutor and his wife saw the money safe in its box in his bed room about half-past one o'clock; they left the house locked up to go to Church. On Monday morning the robbery was discovered, entrance to the house being effected by the removal of an iron bar in the bakehouse window. Footmarks were traced within four or five yards of the prisoner’s house, and a pair of his shoes exactly corresponded with the marks  on being compared by Inspector Yates.  A clasp-knife was also found which fitted the aperture in the prosecutor’s box. An alibi was endeavoured to be proved, but the Bench committed the prisoner for trial. Bail was refused” Oxford Journal - Saturday 08 September 1866

In 1894 the village would have been shaken by the following news…

“DISTRESSING DEATH OF VICAR OF BECKLEY. ACCIDENTAL POISONING. A painful sensation was caused on Sunday morning, on its becoming known that the Rev. George Theophilus Cooke, the respected Vicar of Beckley, and Rural Dean of the Islip Deanery, had died through a deplorable misadventure on the previous evening. He had been suffering from loss of appetite, and his sister obtained a tonic for him, at the same time procuring a bottle of carbolic acid The two bottles were placed on the hall table, and the deceased accidentally took a dose of the poison. He was 74 years of age, and had held the living of Beckley since 1847. The reverend gentleman was well known for his generosity and liberal support of all religious and philanthropic works. The inquest was held at the Vicarage, Beckley, on Monday afternoon, before Mr. W. W. Robinson, coroner, for Mid-Oxfordshire, Mr. David Kinbell was chairman of the Jury. The Coroner, in addressing the Jury, said they had been called together to investigate a most distressing case, which was as unusual as it was distressing. They would find that the cause of death was poison, and also that, without doubt, the poison had been administered by himself. He did not think they would have any difficulty in finding that it was taken accidentally. In fact he believed that Mr. Cooke was taking medicine, and took it from the wrong bottle. The first witness called was Miss Caroline Cooke, sister of the deceased, who said he was 74 last September, and was Vicar of the parish and Rural Dean,. and had been a Fellow of Magdalen College since 1865. Deceased had been in very fair health lately, but Dr. Gray saw him on, the 13th December last, when he was suffering from neuralgia and rheumatism, and ordered him a little tonic, which he wished him to go on taking. Deceased had taken two bottles of tonic, and witness produced a third bottle on Saturday afternoon last at A. Houghton, of Oxford. At the same time she bought a bottle twice as large of carbolic acid. Deceased did not know that witness had bought the carbolic acid. She took both bottles to the dining room, and placed the tonic on the table in the centre of the room, and the carbolic acid on .the piano. She took the medicine bottle up to his room, and placed it on a table outside the door, and told him several times that she had got his medicine, but he could not have heard her. He was a little hard of hearing, and was rather absent at times. The carbolic acid bottle was, she believed, left on the piano in the drawing room, and it was about two hours after she brought them home that she told deceased she had brought his medicine, and would take it upstairs for him. That would have been about 6.25 in the evening, After she had told him the last time witness went into her own room, and deceased into his, and about ten minutes after deceased came to her room and said, "There must be some mistake, what - I have taken is carbolic." He also said, "But my name it was on the paper outside." She had previously removed the paper from the medicine bottle, but left the paper on the other, and she thought it must have been removed by the deceased himself. Deceased had no sense of smell x whatever Witness asked him what quantity he took, and be replied, "As near as I could measure a tablespoonful." She then gave deceased a glass of warm water and rang for mustard, and while she was waiting she gave him a large glass of ipecuanha wine. Mustard and water, soap suds, salt and water were also given, and deceased stood quietly doing whatever they told him, but he never spoke. None of the remedies produced vomiting. Deceased also tried to make himself vomit with a feather and by putting his fingers in his throat, and in about five minutes witness felt the deceased fall against her and the servant, who were both supporting him. Deceased was then laid on the floor, and neither moaned nor groaned, and there was it no contraction of the face of any kind, the appearance being like a faint, and she believed that he was dead within fifteen minutes of taking the acid. Deceased was perfectly ignorant of medicines, and always took simply what he was asked to take. It was his intention to take a dose of Dr. Gray's tonic before dinner, and that witness believed was what he thought he was taking when he took in the acid. The witness subsequently added that she had believed deceased did hear her say that he was to take his medicine, because he asked her if it was necessary a. that he should take it, as he thought it was a little too  late, the directions on the bottle being that it was to be taken at four o'clock, but she did not think that he had Dr beard her. say that she had taken the bottle up to his r. room. -at Mary Clarke, parlour maid at the Vicarage, said that at about half-past six on Saturday evening Miss Cooke called her and told her Mr. Cooke bad taken carbolic acid by mistake, She took up salt and warm water, and saw a, oh small quantity taken by the deceased. This only had a to very little effect. The deceased said nothing, and witness he remained about five minutes in the room, She then went at and fetched a feather, which the deceased put down his throats and. directly after began to stagger. Witness and  Miss Cooke supported him, and helped him to lie on the I a floor, and then she left. The bottles had not been in her  charge. Mr. Tessell, Miss Cooke, and Mr. Hunt were present.  Miss Cooke, further examined, identified the two we bottles produced as the ones she brought from Oxford on the previous Saturday. The larger bottle was labelled carbolic acid with the word "poison," and had a fluted ion surface at the back. The other bottle was labelled " The Mixture," and bad apparently not been touched, whilst a small quantity had been taken from the larger bottle. The carbolic acid bottle was found afterwards on the table in deceased's bed room, and the medicine bottle on his mantlepiece, but Miss Cooke did not know that the deceased had taken it into his room, although there was the no doubt he was confused at the time. She was also sure that deceased must have taken the carbolic acid before taking the wrapper off, and when he noticed the taste be then must have torn the wrapper off. Mr. G. T. Blick, Surgeon, of Islip, knew deceased by sight, and was sent for a little before eight on Saturday the evening. He came at once, and reached the Vicarage about twenty minutes to nine when he found deceased lying on the floor quite dead. His face was rather livid, and the extremities were getting cold; witness thought that he had been dead about an hour and a half. Witness noticed that the tongue was whitened and hardened, and the roof of the mouth was also whitened with carbolic acid. Witness also noticed that the mouth smelt of carbolic. The quantity of carbolic acid necessary to cause death varied with different constitutions; with someone with a weak heart it had been known to cause death in three minutes. He thought deceased must have taken nearly a tablespoonful, and that would be quite enough to cause death. Witness had not the least doubt that death was caused by taking carbolic acid. Miss Cooke said that Dr. Barns had also been sent for, and that Dr. Blick had to be sent for on foot as the roads were so slippery on Saturday evening that they had not another, horse that could keep its feet. The Coroner then said that in view of the evidence which had been laid before him that the death was the result of pure accident. The jury immediately returned a decision of death from accidental poisoning.  Sincere sympathies were expressed for the great blow which had fallen upon the family.” Oxford Journal - Saturday 06 January 1894

Commercial transactions were common:

1790 “BECKLEY, near OXFORD. TO be LETT, and entered on immediately, or at Michaelmas next. An exceeding good HOUSE, etc. containing a Hall, two Parlours, three good Bed Rooms, with three Closets, and three Servants Rooms ; a good Kitchen, Store Room, and Cellars ; Brewhoufe, Bakehoufe, and Wafh- houfe; a ftalled Stable for two Horfes, and Hay Loft; a Garden, walled-in and well planted ; with an Orchard of near three Acres May be viewed, and Particulars known, by applying to Mrs. Carr, on the Premiffes. Beckley is a very fine and healthy Part of the Country, and two Packs of Hounds are kept near it.” Oxford Journal - Saturday 07 August 1790

1815 BECKLEY PARK FARM. TO BE LET. WITH IMMEDIATE POSSESSION, FARM and LANDS at Beckley, now occupied by Mrs. Catherine Lewin, called BECKLEV PARK FARM, consisting of about 230 Acres of Meadow and Pasture Land, and about 80 Acres Arable Land; the whole inclosed with good Homestead, convenient Outbuildings, Yards, &c. For Particulars apply at the office of Messrs. Walsh, solicitors, Oxford.” Oxford University and City Herald - Saturday 28 January 1815

1888 "BECKLEY, OXON. Two hundred and fifty Acres of excellent GRASSKEEPING on Otmoor, to September 29th, 1888, in convenient enclosures, will be sold by auction, by Messrs. FRANKLIN and JONES, at the Abingdon Arms Inn, Beckley, on Monday, 23rd, 1888, at four o’clock in the afternoon ..." Oxford Times Saturday 14 April 1888 

And it was not all doom

1884 “Cricket - a match was played in Beckley on Friday 1st August between the Elsfield and Stow Wood C.C’s which resulted in an easy victory for the Elsfield eleven.” Oxford Times - Saturday 09 August 1884

1889“BECKLEY. Marriage of Mr H. Mocatta and Miss Katherine Cooke. This event, which excited a vast amount of interest, was duly solemnized at the Church of St. Mary, on Thursday, August 1st. The hour fixed for the ceremony was 2.30 pm., but for a considerable time before that hour arrived, a large company assembled at the Church, which was tastefully decorated for the occasion. The Rev. G. T. Cooke officiated, assisted by the Rev. J. Mocatta. brother of the bridegroom. The bridal party reached the Church punctually at 2.30, and were met by the choir, who sang, hymn 350 aa a processional. The service was fully choral and at its conclusion the Wedding March was played, and the bells rang a merry peal. On the invitation of Miss C. Cooke, a large number of the villagers, together with the School children were entertained to tea. Beckley Brass band were in attendance, and played a good selection of music admirably. The happy pair left Beckley for St. David's about 5 pm, amid Showers of rice, the cheers of the children, and the hearty good wishes of all. The presents were handsome and numerous and consisted of several pieces of silver, cheques and very handsome gold bracelet from the parishioners and tenants.” Oxford Journal - Saturday 10 August 1889

1920 “Beckley. Entertainment for diocesan funds.—Two excellent dances and social entertainments were held at Beckley December 3 and 17. in the School in aid of the parochial quotas for the Diocesan Fund and Foreign missions. They were admirably arranged and well attended and it was the general verdict that Beckley had never had two more pleasant entertainments of the kind. It is satisfactory to learn that through them the whole of the sum required to meet the quotas has been obtained. The arrangements were made by Mr. J. Clare in combination with Mrs. Hall, Mrs. A. Sumner, Mrs Dean. Mrs Gatz,  Mrs. Wing, Mrs. Mattingley, Mrs. Clare. and Misses. Higgs who in addition provided the refreshments'. Mr. F. T. Payne acted as MC and Miss Collett of Boarstall accompanied the dances, assisted Mr. Tossell and Mr. Amos Wing whose violin accompaniment was greatly appreciated. The Vicar would like to thank most heartily these and others who contributed so mightily to such a successful result.” Oxfordshire Weekly News - Wednesday 29 December 1920

Historical events can often be dismaying, but history is ultimately encouraging; it’s concerned with change, with possibility, with adaptation, with finding ways. It’s concerned with human experience and achievement of every kind.

In studying the history of Beckley, the newly formed group can try to understand what the village and its population have been - and why; to raise questions, solicit suggestions, and consider implications which explain the village we experience now. We will try to find evidence which the past, our ancestry, has left for us in its buildings, traditions and people. By finding out about the past we not only understand our village as it is now, but we may also see when we got it right, when we have gone wrong - and why. Potentially history may help us to find possibilities for the future of this ancient and beautiful place.

Most of all history is about the people who lived here - people like these Beckley Victorians- a snapshot in time. And that’s why history, all history, matters. It really does matter.

Alice Louise Thorne born 1878

Arthur Hutt Shrimpton born Upper Park Farm 1890 emigrated to Australia 1910

Henry Bannister born 1836

Kaziah Beckett born Beckley 1808 emigrated to Canada 1857

Louisa Mary Payne (Nee Allum) born 1878

Phoebe Waite (nee Sumner) born 1839



Jayne Todd

11 March 2019