Books about Woodstock

Close Families of Old Woodstock

The Story of Spittle House Close, 1566 to 2000

by Patricia D. Crutch

The 'close' in the title refers to a piece of land, not to family relationships. This study is based on the history of Spittle House Close, Old Woodstock, and the owners and occupiers described in the title deeds from 1616 to the present day. The Close belonged to the author and her forebears for over a century.

Together with information from Woodstock leases, it has been possible to trace ownership of the Close from the mid-sixteenth century and learn something of the lives these people led and the work they did.

A strikingly detailed insight into the lives of ordinary townspeople over a period of 450 years, set against the history of the town as a whole.

£9.99 paperback   9781902279398   116pp    photographs and family trees   Published December 2009

The Salt of the Earth

Diary of a poor family in Woodstock, 1900

by Dorothy Calcutt

This is the story of one year in the life of a large family living on the edge of the Blenheim estate in Woodstock, Oxfordshire in the year 1900. The author’s mother, Dora, told her daughter many tales of her childhood at the turn of the century, and this book is based on those stories.

Life in a poor family at that time was a precarious balance, weighted on one side by the pleasures of alcohol and on the other by the influence of John Wesley and General Booth. The biggest enemy was unemployment. But Dora’s mother found hope even at the saddest times, which she would attribute to a gypsy and her magic good influence on the family’s lives.

Dora’s father, George, begins the year as a farm labourer, too fond of his whisky; but he proves himself an adept midwife when the farm cow produces two heifer calves. Later he answers an emergency call to the Palace when one of the Duchess's spaniels is whelping. As the year passes Dad spends more time at the Palace, and each time a bitch whelps successfully he is secretly given a guinea. The puppies are sold when they are six weeks, and George is employed to deliver them to their new owners; by the end of October he has twenty-five guineas hidden in a cocoa tin buried in the garden.

For this and other reasons Georgina has every reason to believe that things are really looking up for her family. But good fortune is tempered with bad. There are to be four deaths in the family in this year alone. Georgina also conceals the fact that she is pregnant. As a result, and to his great surprise, Dad’s midwifery skills are suddenly called on again on New Year’s Eve.

But the family’s troubles are not yet over, and there are still more tragic events to follow.

The story is true to the extremes of poverty and wealth of the period, and all the characters described in both the family and the town were real. Dorothy Calcutt, Dora’s daughter, was a schoolteacher in Woodstock. Now retired, she lives in Combe.

With contemporary photographs of the people and places in the story.

£8 paperback, 120pp, 9781902279060

Where there's a Will

A study of Woodstock probate documents, 1530-1700

Edited by Patricia Crutch, Antony Smith and Royston Taylor

For about 20 years, The Woodstock Society's local history group has been transcribing seventeenth-century documents from Woodstock. For this book, over 300 probate documents and more than 40 wills have also been transcribed, providing often detailed information on the following aspects of life in Woodstock in the 16th and 17th centuries:

• an overview of probate documents outlining the wealth of testators and their economic management.
• the size, layout and contents of houses, providing a background to life in the town.
• widows, their role in the family and their involvement in town affairs.
• costumes and changing fashions in the town over 150 years.
• personal belongings, both personal and utilitarian, found in the homes of Woodstock residents.
• the occupations of local men and women.

Illustrated with line drawings by Brenda Cripps.

£9.99 paperback 140pp 978-1-902279-32-9

Published May 2008

Ten Woodstock Families of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

by Patricia Crutch
Foreword by Mary Hodges

Local history is about ordinary people and their everyday lives. Research into ten families has provided a basis for further study. Incorporating over 100 surnames, 416 individuals are named, many achieving office within the borough; these include 18 aldermen who served terms as mayor, 7 chamberlains who did not become aldermen, 3 members of parliament, 6 town clerks, 3 churchwardens and one rector of Bladon with Woodstock. In addition 6 comptrollers of Woodstock Park are studied along with their associates, the neighbouring gentry and nobility.

Seven of the main families represent the core of influence within the town, reinforced by judicious marriages and trade links. The remaining families lived in the three adjoining parishes; one each from Bladon (Hensington), Old Woodstock and Woodstock Park, and these represent the gentry and working classes with their contrasting lifestyles. The stories include the following families: Ayres, Bradshaw (2 families), Browne, Cooper, Fletcher, Glover, Johnson, Nash, Whitton.

£9.99 paperback 124pp ISBN 978-1-902279-22-0