Charming Charlbury

Charming Charlbury

by John Kibble

John Kibble published Charming Charlbury in 1930 and Charlbury and its Nine Hamlets in 1927.

Re-issued for the first time in a single volume by The Wychwood Press in 1999, these books give a unique and tantalising insight into two hundred years of life in this quiet corner of the Cotswolds, conveyed in the memories, stories and records of the people Kibble knew and met.

Kibble was born in Finstock in 1865, moving later to Charlbury where he died in 1951. His father and grandfather were stonemasons, unusually literate and well-versed in local affairs, and Kibble continued the tradition in all respects. Kibble draws freely on family memories, but also on countless conversations with people he met from childhood on, many of whom showed him family heirlooms or lent him documents from which he quotes. (Photograph right: John and his wife Florence, taken about 1950)

Some of the old men he listened to as a boy will have been born before the French Revolution, yet he died in Charlbury well within living memory.

Kibble describes many trades and crafts, including those of the baker, blacksmith, clockmaker, glovemaker, mason, slater, shoemaker, pipemaker and woodworker. He also gives us a fascinating guide to local dialect. Among countless other stories, he recounts the legend of the Rollright Stones and tells of Charlbury's involvement in the Battle of Otmoor, and describes many games he played as a child. His own enduring landmark in Charlbury is the fountain which he built on the Playing Close (photo left).

As well as Charlbury, the places included in this volume are Chadlington, Chilson, Chipping Norton, Churchill, Coate, Fawler, Finstock, Kingham, Pudlicote, Shorthampton, Spelsbury, Tappewell and Walcot.

We have retained the pictures from the original books, together with the advertisements from local businesses which doubtless helped Kibble cover the printing costs. The latter are an interesting reminder of just how many shops and other businesses there were in the town at that time.

(Kibble self-published a third book, Wychwood Forest and its Border Places, also re-published by the Wychwood Press.)

£10 paperback, 224pp   978 1 902279 05 3