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A Case of Tax Avoidance in Churchill: The story of the abandoned village of Churchill (2021)

Curated by local historian, Christine Gowing

A new exhibition curated by local historian, Christine Gowing

There is nothing new. The hearth tax imposed in 1662 by Charles II’s government (always short of funds) put pressure on the villagers of Churchill, just as taxation vexes us now. But for one woman in 1684, the temptation to avoid the tax in order to light her fire to bake bread became just too strong.

At some stage she had made a funnel to join chimneys with that of her neighbour and on Wednesday 30th July 1684, she was found out when her house was set ablaze and fire spread throughout the village. It resulted in the loss of four Churchill lives and twenty dwellings. And the event led to the creation of the village we now know - with the rebuilding of stone houses at the top of the hill.

The exhibition revealed what happened to the serial tax evader (this was not her first offence) and how the local communities at the time reacted and supported the ravaged village of Churchill.

Criminals and Crime Fighters 2019-20

A History of Criminal Justice in Churchill

Curated by crime historian Dr Nell Darby

poaching 002 Nell email 28.11.18What were the crimes that local people committed in the 18th and 19th centuries, who committed them, and who apprehended and punished them? From poachers to turnip stealers, and from policemen to magistrates, this exhibition built a picture of rural crime and justice in the Churchill area over this period.
Using archive documents and newspaper reports, the exhibition was divided into two main themes: firstly, crime and criminals, and secondly, constables and courts.
The first part looked at case studies of local offenders and the crimes they committed, such as theft, poaching, and assault. These offences were typical rural crimes – but who committed such offences, and why? Looking at cases involving local labourers and servants, this section of the exhibition also assessed whether Churchill’s offenders were career criminals or were reformed after a first offence.
The second part looked at those who were responsible for law enforcement – the local police and the magistrates, who were usually local landowners or, later, clergymen – and how and where individuals were punished, exploring both the tripartite system of summary proceedings (later petty sessions), Quarter Sessions and Assizes, and the varied places where individuals could be held, from lock-ups to the forbidding surroundings of Oxford’s gaol.

Sarsden Washpool 2017-18

The History of Cotswold Sheepwashing and the Restoration of the Sarsden Washpool 

The older inhabitants of the village can remember seeing the Sarsden washpool in action, but it has been overgrown and overlooked now for many years. Happily Rupert and Amanda Ponsonby, who live at Sarsden Glebe, have been working hard to restore the pool, and research its history. There is also a connection with William Smith, who would have been able to watch the sheep being washed from his home, and in 1818 was asked to prepare an irrigation and drainage scheme lower down the Sars Brook - of interest because there are so few physical remains of Smith’s work in Oxfordshire.

The Sarsden washpool is easily seen from the road
In the middle of Churchill village with Chipping Norton behind you and the pub on your right, leave the church on your left and go down the hill – signposted to Sarsden and Merriscourt.
The washpool is on the left hand side of the bridge over the Sars Brook at the bottom of the hill.
P1010043

 

 

William Smith: The Family Man 2016

With thanks to Oxford University Museum of Natural History who are curating this exhibition, and to Nina Morgan, author of The Geology of Oxford Gravestones, for her help and advice.

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From Our Guest Book

  • "Beautiful setting, very peaceful & informative"

  • "What a lovely treat to stumble upon. Thank you for preserving a part of our Heritage"

  • "Excellent to have this centre as a focus for Churchill's history - especially in relation to William Smith."

  • "A fascinating display in a very beautiful setting."

  • "Beautiful restoration, very nicely done! Unexpected hive of information."

  • "Such a wonderful enterprise. The locality should be proud of it."

  • "Why haven't we been here earlier? We shall certainly return!"

  • "Fantastic, absolutely first class. Most interesting and informative."

  • "Very good new interactive displays, very comprehensive."

  • "A fine chance discovery"

  • "Lovely spot, so grateful this part of the old church was saved."

  • "Great building, well restored. Charming!"

  • "Congratulations to all on this initiative.  So well-organised and user-friendly."

  • "A fascinating visit. William Smith was a wonderful man! "

  • "A little gem I didn't know existed."