Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

October 2009

This months News



Village History - The Hunt family of Oxhill

The Bowers family photos taken during their visit to Oxhill in 1930 have also a subsidiary story.  One photo shows the south, or far side of the churchyard where three new and startlingly white gravestones are noticeable.  There is a woman walking near them, whom I believe by her distinctive hat, to be Peter Mowlam’s grandmother Mrs Bertha Bowers, nee Betteridge.  (I find I inaccurately referred to her last month by her maiden rather than her married name).

I have sought out the gravestones, and find that they are all dedicated to members of the Hunt family.   John Gardner Hunt, the village shoemaker and cobbler, and his wife Mary Ann had a sad history.  They lost a daughter and a son in infancy, and also two daughters, who died later in their teens of TB - Ellen (Nellie), in 1906, aged 15 and Laura, in 1912, a week short of her 16th birthday.  The family lived originally in Meadow Cottage, at the bottom of Gilks Lane (they are listed there in the 1901 census), but later as disease took its hold on the children they had moved to higher ground at Fern Cottage, Main Street, hoping for purer air away from the brook.  Evelyn Colyer has told me that their son, another John, was also affected by TB, and had to live in a “hut in the garden” but he appears to have eventually recovered.   Living outside with plenty of fresh air was the only treatment available at the time.  Charlie Taylor, son of the carpenter/wainwright at Fellows House, Back Lane similarly had an outside hut or outhouse to live in.  He did die young, aged 29, in 1921; such treatment in our climate can hardly have helped much.

The far-left cross in the photo records the death of the two Hunt babies, Ada Mary aged 18 days in 1893, and William aged 2 days in 1897, and also of Ellen (Nellie) in 1906. The middle stone is to Laura: and the arched one on the right to their father John Gardner Hunt, who died in 1923.  His inscription, reflecting his sense of loss, reads “We shall meet on that beautiful shore”.  His wife Mary Ann, who lived on until 1941, was also buried in Oxhill, and I imagine lies in her husband’s grave, but there is no added inscription to record this.  Bill Heritage remembers her in her widowhood, a somewhat aloof figure, always in black with a black bonnet - frightening to him as a little boy!

What significance, I wondered, did the Hunt graves have to Mrs Bertha Bowers, whose family, the Betteridges came from Over Norton?  It had been thought important enough for a photo to be taken of her beside them.  Oxhill’s Marriage Register revealed that in 1871, a cousin of Bertha’s father’s, Noah Betteridge from Over Norton, had married Ann Hunt of Oxhill, (sister of John Gardner Hunt, the children’s father).  Bertha would no doubt have known the family’s tragic story, and come to pay her respects.

The glaring whiteness of their marble stones initially caused some murmurings in the village, as they were not thought to be in keeping with the rest of the churchyard.   Now lichen and the passing of years has made them all uniformly grey.  Time heals.

Ann Hale

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Last modified: October 12, 2009