A History of Spelsbury

A History of Spelsbury

Including Dean, Taston, Fulwell and Ditchley

by Elsie Corbett

The history of the parish of Spelsbury (which includes the hamlets of Dean, Taston and Fulwell and the great house and estate at Ditchley) was written by the Hon. Elsie Corbett and first published in 1931, but Miss Corbett continued to work on the history of the parish and a revised edition – reproduced here without the plates and with a few corrections by the Charlbury historian, the late Lois Hey – appeared in 1962.

Ditchley was purchased in 1583 by Sir Henry Lee, whose descendants lived there until 1933. But if the parish has a claim to fame today, it is as the birth and burial place of John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester.

The rake and poet was born at Ditchley in 1647 and educated at Burford Grammar School and Oxford. Elsie Corbett describes him as ‘possibly the wickedest figure at the Restoration court’. He was to drink himself to death by the age of 33. Famous for the obscenity of his amorous poems, he also wrote some of the most moving, witty and lyrical love poetry of all time. He was infamous for his atheism, yet in his final year of life he stunned his friends and turned to God and is buried in the crypt of Spelsbury church.

About the author

Born in 1896, Elsie Corbett met Miss Kathleen Dillon on a ship to Serbia with the Red Cross in 1915, an experience she described in her book The Red Cross in Serbia, 1915-1919. The two women remained unmarried and lived together in Spelsbury House. Elsie was descended from the Ayrshire Corbetts, and her brother, Lord Rowallan, was chief scout and later governor-general of Tasmania. A determined tea-totaller and responsible for the fact that Spelsbury no longer has a pub, she devoted herself to the village and to the welfare of animals, giving a home to rescued pit ponies and seaside donkeys. She died in 1977, nineteen years after Miss Dillon, to whose ‘dear and gallant memory’ this book is dedicated.

£14.99 paperback 338pp 978-1-902279-26-8