“Watlington was always home”
I lived in Headington as a child, but I spent time in Watlington visiting friends at Dame Alice [Lys Farm], and learned to ride a horse age 8 or 9 years old.
I ‘came out’, as one did in those days, when I was 17, it would have been 1931. I had friends in Watlington and we went out riding together. I played tennis at Gorwell with friends from Ewelme.
I’ve always loved Watlington. I fell in love with John – well, we ragged – we were great friends. He lived where Jeremy Irons lives now. My great memories are when we stayed in that house. Cricket was John’s great love. I can remember sitting on a wire fence in Watlington in the 30s watching him play cricket.
In 1939 the war came. At that stage we’d been married 3 months. As soon as we were married we lived in under graduate lodgings in Oxford, as John was at the Cowley barracks.
John’s mother bought the house here for £1,000 in 1929. I am not too sure of the dates, actually, but no one can contradict me! I stayed with them for the first 3 months of the war. I was a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment), in Nursing, at the Hospital here. The hospital meant a lot to us, it was the only war work I could do.
I had Nigel in 1940, and I worked at the Hospital until we moved to Banbury – actually a room in a farmhouse at Bloxham. We were only there 6 months. Then I moved back to Watlington, with Nigel as a tiny thing, and an aunt to help look after him.
My mother and father in-law went to India, and got caught out there – they couldn’t get back because of the war, and I lived on my own here, with Nigel. Then [my second son] Patrick arrived in 1942.
John came back in September 1945 and we moved to Camberley, to the staff college just for one year. Tim was born. After that we were with the first lot of families to be allowed to go to Germany. There were no schools, so I tried to teach Nigel myself.
Watlington was always home. We hadn’t got a house, so we always came back here.
John retired in 1976 and we have lived here completely since then. We looked after his father until he died in ’77. He was a marvellous man.
There have been many changes, but I think Watlington has changed very little compared to other villages. The biggest changes have been the number of shops. There were lovely little shops – a shoe shop in Couching Street, three grocers shops, a very good second hand clothes shop – I still wear things I bought there.
I enjoyed it when I was young so much. We had dress shows in the church hall. Cecilia Leighton. Always very smart, showing off clothes, up and down the cat walk. Such things, such fun!
The people were wonderful. Mrs. Cox was a great character. She owned most of Watlington and lived in the High Street. It was so much smaller then, so one knew nearly everyone. It was really lovely.
I still like the atmosphere of Watlington. Places like the Chequers haven’t changed at all. It still has very nice people.
Watlington Folk is a documentary project by photographer Nicola Schafer. Watlington is blessed with pretty buildings and beautiful countryside, however it is the people who live here that truly make the place. This project aims to capture that through a series of portraits of the people who live here, together with their “Watlington Story”. For more information please contact Nicola at email@example.com or click here for more photography