A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE VILLAGE

100 YEARS IN SOULDERN

The population of Souldern was 575 in 1881 and 371 in 1951. The 2011 census recorded the population as 370.

During the War years, 15 men did not return from the 1914–1918 war and of the 46 men who served in the 1939–45 war, 2 did not return. Those that did received a sum of £3 from the Souldern Welcome Home scheme.

The Villagers lived mainly in cottages on The Hill, Bates Lane, Fox Lane, Chapel Row and the cottages that were once on The Green – on land now owned by Souldern Manor. These cottages were replaced in the 1950’s by the Bovewell Estate near to the recreation ground. There were a few cottages belonging to larger houses such as The Hollies, The Court, The Hermitage, Manor Farm, Souldern Manor and Souldern Lodge (now Souldern House) The Rectory, the Wall House, Fox Hill Farmhouse and Greystones.

Most of the men in the Village worked on the farms but some were self employed – a saddler and harness maker, two cobblers, many hedge cutters, carters, shepherds and milkmen. Almost every boy leaving school began work on the farms or in the gardens, especially during the war years. Joe Bates and Will Lett would go to Banbury on market days to get articles for other villagers. Joe was a village coal merchant, haulier, small holder and pig killer at West End. Will lived at Timber Cottage, and supplied the fly for village weddings. His brother Richard was head gardener at the Manor.

Henry Binding had a forge at The Crown, but in 1912 moved to Sunny Bank and its nearby paddock. The property The Old Forge was once owned by John and William Plumb who ran a forge there and horses waited outside to be shod. Nathan Jarvis was a wheelwright, carpenter and joiner. He had premises at The Orchard. He was also the undertaker. There was also another carpenter, Edward Arnold, who lived near the Pond. Lace was made by the Souldern ladies and sold in Banbury.

In the early part of the 20th century there were three public houses; The Crown, The Bull’s Head and The Fox. The Bear was in Fritwell and was transferred to Souldern with other land in 1953, but was also used by Souldern villagers.

There were three shops, The Hollies, owned by the Boddington family who were bakers and butchers. They cooked villagers’ bread and pudding in their bread oven, which is in Back Lane, and also sold provisions. Built in 1700 and owned by the Gough family, the Village Stores and Post Office was at Deepwell Cottage. This was first rented to Kings of Syresham and then in 1920 to the Kyte family. In 1949 Doug Lee and his family owned this shop and Post Office. Another early shop was run by Albert Titcombe on the premises which were previously the Bull’s Head public house and is now a garage. Albert was a baker and smallholder who sold bread, cakes, faggots, pies and sausages. For shopping in Banbury, a villager would walk to Aynho station and board a train, returning the same way. In 1929 Jack and Mary Callow opened a shop at Callows Cottage in Bates Lane, they also sold items from a pony and trap. In 1972 they built Callows Stores in the High Street.

This was demolished in 1991 and 4 cottages built there.

The Pound, (now called the Secret Garden) and the Allotments are owned by Souldern United Charity. The allotments are rented out for a small fee. The Green and the recreation field, together with Nancy Bowles Wood, are all owned by the Parish Council. The Green is an ancient open space with a seat commemorating the Jubilee of King George VI. The recreation field was sold to the Parish Council in 1970 by Ploughley District Council. Nancy Bowles Wood was set up in 1986 after the purchase of the land by the Parish Council from Nancy who lived at Rose Cottage in Bates Lane.

The Church of England school had 47 pupils in 1937 and closed in 1964. Pupils then went to Fritwell. It is now a private house. The Catholic school (now Appleton Lodge), hosted the Coronation lunch for the village in 1953. It closed as a school in 1904. The Wesleyan Reform Chapel in Back Lane still has a Sunday School for children.

The earliest record of a burial at The Church of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary (St Mary’s) is dated 1161. The font is 12th century and there were restorations to the building in the 13th and 15th centuries. The original Rectory was at the rear of the Church but was demolished because of deterioration and a new Rectory was built on higher ground with access from the main B4100 road. St Joseph’s Catholic Church was built in Souldern Manor grounds and is now an office. The priest lived in the Catholic Presbytery, now St Joseph’s. The Wesleyan Reform Chapel was built in 1869. Prior to this services were held in a small cottage in Chapel Row.

A Working Men’s Club was formed in 1816 initially with 84 members. Every 29th May everyone wore oak leaves and there was a parade ending with a Church service and a fair on The Green. The club ended in the 1930’s. The Souldern Football Club won the Lord Jersey Cup in 1924–25 and again in 1978–79 and is still running. A Horticultural Society was formed in 1905 with Aynho and was restarted in Souldern in 1981. Souldern no longer has a Mother’s Union or WI, the latter being disbanded in the 1990’s

Two Doctors came to Souldern from Deddington, three days a week to the surgery at Mrs Sweetman’s near to the school. The village also had two resident midwives, Mrs Rouse and Mrs Plumb. Later there was a surgery next to the Parish Reading Room which was in Church Lane. Deddington Health Centre is now the main surgery for Souldern. The Parish Reading Room was destroyed by fire in 1971 and plans were started to build a village hall on part of the recreation field. This finalised in 1974.

There was an 1888 church magazine published and a South Oxon Electoral Magazine in 1927 followed by the “Ploughley 20” which was followed by the Three Parishes in 1978, which still remains.

This brief history was very kindly written by Ann Prescott in memory of Audrey Westbury who gave permission for the extracts of Robert Hitchman’s books to be used for the benefit of Souldern village.