An article about the Martyrs that appeared in
'Rural History Today' published by the British Agricultural History Society
“Change of Guard”
Carol Anderson will soon be taking over as Chair of the Trustees from Paul Jackson who will remain a Trustee. Andrew Weaver (Ascott resident) has become a Trustee to head the Study Group and Cynthia Bryant ( the WEA organiser of the Textile) will become secretary. Villagers descendant Marylyn Moss and Kester Harvey remain as Trustees
Grandson of Ascott Martyr unveils memorial plaques and new film now on YouTube.
Ivor Townsend with daughters from Kingham
Paul Jackson Trust Chairman with Ivor Townsend unveiling the memorial plaques under the Martyrs Tree on the village green at Ascott under Wychwood.
Ivor with Granny Fanny Honeybone the youngest of the 16 Martyrs.
Welcoming a good crowd of mainly descendants of the Ascott Martyrs at a recent unveiling of more information on the village green Paul Jackson outgoing Chairman of the Ascott Martyrs Educational Trust reflected that when he moved from Kingham to Ascott 8 years ago he couldn’t believe how little local and certainly national awareness there was of a such a significant social incident that even today has resonance. The legacy of the 16 women who went to Oxford Jail in 1873 is that picketing was made legal a year later and clerical magistrates were phased out breaking the link between landowners and their “control” of the lower classes.
Paul admitted it had taken a long time to persuade the Parish Council to allow more information even holding a “referendum”, but unlike Brexit the result was in favour by 99.9%! There is now a comprehensive website, a large research group and even a film made by Brookes University which was premiered after the unveiling and is available to view here https://www.ascottmartyrs.co.uk/martyrs-in-film-song
The tasks now were to “pin down” some of the story by more in depth research and to prepare to publish a book for the 150th anniversary in 2023.
After 2 years of discussion with the Parish Council, including even a public consultation exercise, the Ascott Martyrs Educational Trust is at last close to providing more information on the Village Green at Ascott under Wychwood. A recent grant from the Area of Outstanding Beauty… AONB “Caring for Cotswolds” will allow metal plaques with the full story to be placed between the existing memorial seats under the Chestnut tree on the village green. It is hoped that this will be completed for an unveiling ceremony on Sunday June 30th.
Meanwhile the Trust which has recently achieved Charity status is producing a film, which will appear on YouTube, with students from Brookes University and the Cotswolds School using the recording of a specially written folk song by Mark Pidgeon the founder of the Wychwood Folk Club.
On the research side Ruskin College Oxford and the Trust have agreed in principle to work together to follow through the legacy effects of what appeared at the time to be just a local incident but in effect helped “change our world”
Other longer-term ambitions agreed are to try and establish a special memorial outside the former Chipping Norton Court (where the Ascott women were sentenced) for the 150th anniversary of the event in 2023. Current thinking is to combine the other major local and similar protest event at Bliss Mill Chipping Norton in 1913/14 as a celebration of “Defiant Women.”
The Trust is now happy to give presentations to schools, societies and clubs and can show the textile produced by the women of the village which is now exhibited in the village church. It is well worth a visit.
Copies of the book by Beverley McCombs on the Martyrs are still available at the Village shop but numbers are now low and a third reprint is now underway.
Another project getting underway is to develop a Martyrs Way walk with the Cotswolds Wardens. After hours of work by the study group we are close to identifying (14 out of 16 so far) where the various martyrs lived in the village. We have yet to establish whether any of the workers were reemployed and therefore what happened to those who after all were very brave to “”take on” not only the main employer but also the main landlord in the village.