The book is available from the Ascott Village Shop at £15
or from the Ascott Martyrs Educational Trust 01993 831967 £20 including post and packing
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Book Review - Paul Jackson
A remarkable 28 year project
The Ascott Martyrs by Beverley McCombs
You live in New Zealand and back in the family history you know your descendants had emigrated from England in 1874. The author of this remarkable book, Beverley McCombs, was on holiday in England in 1988 searching the grave stones in Ascott under Wychwood , Oxfordshire to no avail, only to be directed to a plaque on a seat around a tree on the village green, and yes there was her great grandmother’s name!
This seat was erected to celebrate the centenary of the ‘Ascott Martyrs’, the sixteen women of Ascott who were sent to prison in 1873 for the part they played in the founding of the Agricultural Workers Union when they were sent ‘over the hills to glory’
Twenty years later and many revisits to the UK, an inspired Beverley who had had no idea of the Martyrs has extensively researched the lives of these women, the court case, the Oxford Jail and the legacy. She then wonders what to do with all this information so off she goes to study how to write a book.
The result, after another 8 years is a very comprehensive analysis of the Martyrs’ lives which by today’s standards were appalling. Large families lived in hovels exploited by the landlord farmers. The influential Church of England were on the side of the gentry and it was vicars as local magistrates who sent the woman and babies to prison. The Duke of Marlborough organised fellow farmers to hold firm against the fast rising and newly formed Agricultural Workers Union but at the end of the day after a massive media and political backlash, picketing was allowed and magistrates were no longer religious officials.
The book tells the story so well that one cannot help but be grateful to the 16 women who became Martyrs to a cause that even today makes our lives more agreeable. Take time to read what life was like not so long ago.
Other Publications that may be of interest
The Revolt in The Field - Arthur Clayden 1874
From Ploughtail to Parliament An Autobiography - Joseph Arch 1898
Over the Hills To Glory Radicalism in Banburyshire 1832 -1945 - J.R. Hodgkins
Sharpen the Sickle - Reg Groves 1948
Joseph Arch - Pamela Horn 1971
Rural Discontent in 19th Century - J P D Dunbabin 1974
Poor Labouring Men - Alun Howkins 1985
(Fictional based on Ascott Martyrs Events by a former
resident of the village now living in New Zealand)