If you have an interest in Methodist History, and wish to visit 15 locations around Oxford City Centre related to John and Charles Wesley, or Methodism today, there a free mobile phone app, called Huntzz, which can take you round them on a free Treasure Hunt.
Download the app onto your phone, and run it – you can do this from home (or your hotel in Oxford if you are visiting) before you start. You will see a list of available Hunts, sorted by distance from where you are.
Select the Wesley Walk in Oxford entry (you should only see one – mine has two as I developed it), and you should see a screen which looks like this:
As the screenshot above shows the start point is Wesley Memorial Church, in the centre of Oxford. If you are travelling by car you should use the Park and Ride, as the roads into Oxford are slow and confusing and parking is expensive. The church is a short walk from the train and bus stations.
I am a member of Oxford Phab Club, a social club for people of all abilities, which is based at Wesley Memorial Methodist Church in Central Oxford. We are always looking for new ideas for things to do and over the years have done several Treasure Hunts around Oxford City Centre, for example the paper based treasure hunt we did in June 2015. We were looking for another hunt go to on the programme for the summer of 2017, and I found an App for Android and iPhone devices called Huntzz, which had an inexpensive (£1.79 at the time of writing this post, I think it was about that in 2017 too) paid Treasure Hunt around Oxford City Centre available. I downloaded the app, bought the Oxford Hunt and tried it, and on July 7th 2017 several Phab members did the same, with reasonable success. I had a family event that night, so was unable to participate, so the event is not recorded on the Phab website.
I had noticed that the Huntzz app allowed a user to create their own Hunt, and felt it would be good to try, taking inspiration from the Wesleys in Oxford walking tour leaflet already available in the church. The Huntzz app authors encourage charities to create their own Hunts, and were very helpful and supportive. I also like a business model I can understand, where they sell Hunts at a good value price, as opposed to, for example offering something for ‘free’ where they make their money through intrusive advertising in the app, or selling your personal information. I produced the ‘Wesley Walk in Oxford’ hunt for fun, but if you feel inclined to support either Wesley Memorial’s Open Doors project, or Oxford Phab donations would be very welcome.
Birth is one of the experiences we all share, although the circumstances can vary widely. I, and – I believe – my brother were born in The Simpson Memorial Ward of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (although, surprisingly neither of us are mentioned in the Wikipedia article section on Notable Births !). Sir James Young Simpson, after whom the ward (or pavilion) was named, attended the birth of Christina Box, my Great Great Aunt, who was born in Edinburgh, a month early, when my Great Great Grandparents, William Braund Box and Rosina Box were visiting Robert Bryson.
Not very many years after I was born in hospital, the elder of my sisters was born at home, in my parents house in Balerno, and my youngest sister was born at home in their next house in Juniper Green. The change of birth location from maternity hospital to home birth could have been due to improvements in the information available to mothers, as Obstetric ultrasonography, now routine, was becoming available. These improvements in diagnostics, and medical practice in general, were part of the trend of improvements in survival rates of both infant and mother.
Historic high infant mortality rates are brought home when researching the family tree, as there are many instances of children dying in their very early years. Sometimes this makes it difficult to work out what is going on, as a subsequent child was sometimes given the same name.
One of the starkest cases of the impact of maternal mortality was Alexander Bryson, eldest son of Robert Bryson. Alexander’s first wife, Elizabeth Waterstone Gillespie died 10th April 1855, shortly after giving birth to William Alexander Bryson on 2nd March 1855. His second wife, Catherine McDonald Cuthbertson died around September 1859, within 7 months of giving birth to Donald Cuthbertson Bryson on 21st February 1859. Alexander married again, and his third wife, Jane Thompson, not only survived giving birth to Leonard Horner Bryson, but outlived Alexander and remarried.
I do not know the details of the circumstances of any of the other births, but I know something of my own, as my mother wrote to my fathers parents shortly afterwards, and I have a copy of the letter (she presumably wrote to her own parents too, but I do not have that letter).
2, Lovedale Grove
(not really there !)
Dearest M&D (or G &GF ?),
Of course Roger has phoned and told you that Willie has arrived at last and has turned out to be Jonathan. He really is sweet, despite being a little red and new looking. He has dark fluff on his head and his ears don’t stick out – Aunt Jennifer, at least not yet. They don’t allow the Mums to play with the new baby for the first day, but I’ve been allowed to hold him 3 times. This is apparently a treat and not usually done ! Tomorrow he comes out with all the others. I don’t know when I’m allowed up but I’m already tired of bed. I did get out to ring the bell for another bedded Mum when all the Mums who were allowed up were out on the balcony in the glorious sun – lucky things. I had not been allowed to get out while they made the bed, but performed the far more difficult feat of crawling down and sitting on the end.
I have had instructions from various people to “get plenty of rest”. It’s hopeless though! We are continually pilled, or cocaoed or babies appear or bedpans and today we had afternoon visitors – ward specially tidied & all propped up – evening visitors the same. (you should see the titivating before father arrives – alas not so for me – I left my glass behind, so can’t even produce a straight parting! Roger brought it in tonight though, so he won’t know me tomorrow !)
In between all this I try to knit – so far about 1 row, read – page 10, I think and I have looked through Good Housekeeping for June.
I good deal of time this morning was spent on preparing for the weekly visit of Professor Kellar, the big white chief of the Friday clinic & therefor of ward 51. I actually had a “consultation” with him (I was really ‘specimen A’) and several of his staff doctors on Wednesday, when they decided to bring me on and ‘start’ the baby. As I was late for that appointment I hoped he wouldn’t recognise me as he rushed round. We were all smartened up. Just like a Doctor in the House scene, really, quite mad. Made beds remade, pillow cases that were spotless changed, all patients propped and dared to breathe. Thus we waited – and waited. Then we were told he was having coffee – and we still waited. The little nurse was getting quite worried because she had various things to do – including giving me a blanket bath (this ended by me washing myself, all but my back ! not my idea of having it done & no rolling the patient about as I learnt in Guides). Anyway, there was a bed vacated by an escaping Mum & this bed had to be remade. The nurse put screens round – in case the Prof. “saw such an untidy scene” – and she’s a ‘proper card’ and had us all quite weak with a comic turn behind the screen. I don’t know what would have happened if the great man had arrived but he never did! Nor did a visitor from the regional board, for which we were smartened up.
I’m afraid this is a very bitty letter. It isn’t easy to write when something happens mid sentence (in the middle of this one sister arrives and asks me how I feel !) The writing is not up to standard either as I’m lying back – the elbows get rather worn otherwise..
I’m looking forward to showing you your grandson. I think he’s a darling, but I’m biased – so will you be !!
I’m leaving a space* for Roger to add a word. He is being a proud father, I can see him grinning in a p.f. way at the office when he tells everyone how wonderful his baby is !!!! And he’s right
* Jane didn’t and I’m about to start a wash-up for at least 1 1/2 days at 11.PM so will write tomorrow
Very much love to everyone
Jane, Jonathan and Roger.
p.s. Added on Sunday. I have been up officially today and also managed to get out onto the balcony in the sun, which has been lovely. Alas – sitting is uncomfortable, so I was quite glad to lic in bed again. I now have Jonathan to play with at every feed and he is becoming less fragile! He make gorgeous faces when he has hiccups (how do you spell it ?) and I have discovered that the short fluff on top is hair which is quite long over the ears & down the neck. A haircut is going to be necessary !!!
I was born in the time depicted by the TV series Call the Midwife, although, rather than Edinburgh, that is located in Poplar, in the East End of London. There used to be a connection between Wesley Memorial Church and Poplar and my wife, along with others from the church ran a summer playscheme there. I have only seen snippets of Call the Midwife, but the descriptions of the preparations around the visit of professor Kellar remind me of the depiction of Sir Lancelot Spratt in Doctor in the House.
My father was out, working on the moors the day I was born. All the other mothers had large vases of commercial roses, but my mother had a little jam jar of hand picked wild flowers from the Lammermuir hills – which were much admired !
When we were young, Christmas was a very special time for my siblings and me. We lived in Edinburgh, but our Grandparents, and most of our relations, lived in the south of England, or even further afield. Although I have written about going to Pickwick for Christmas, my father’s parents must have moved when I was quite young, as I remember being at Rest Harrow during the Winter of 1962-63, when the elder of my sisters was a baby, and the younger not born. (Although, when she was a small child and was told she did not participate in such great adventures she would protest ‘I was there, in Mummy’s tummy!’). Rest Harrow was snowbound, as was the whole village of Medstead, and my father had to walk to Four Marks for bread and milk. It is possible that we did not then go on to my mother’s parents at Little Cucknells,
Our normal pattern was that we would travel from Edinburgh to Rest Harrow – usually by car, with the journey becoming swifter as the years passed – in the early days I believe the trip incorporated a Bed and Breakfast somewhere around Nottingham. I do also remember flying (in a Comet) and being put to bed, and then woken to be taken by taxi to the station to go down on the train – though that may be have been to Pickwick.
Pre-Christmas at Rest Harrow
On arrival at Rest Harrow there were several common events before Christmas. Grandpa would have bought a Christmas tree, which would be in a pot in the sun room, awaiting our artistic, or enthusiastic labours to decorate it. We eschewed the minimalist approach, and it was impressive how many of the glass baubles would still be there every year, despite having been put up by small children.
As my brother and I grew usefully tall we also had the honour of helping to decorate the large Christmas tree at St Andrews Church in Medstead.
The while family would also be involved, to varying degrees according to skills, in the preparation of Christmas dinner. My Grandparents approached gardening on a serious scale, so harvesting and preparation of winter vegetables was a communal activity, preparing sprouts, peeling carrots, parsnips and potatoes, as well has mixing (and tasting) cake ingredients. Aunty Jennifer always made her famous cheese straws, in a variety of shapes.
Christmas Day at Rest Harrow
We would wake on Christmas morning to find that, no matter how resolved we might have been to catch him in the act, Father Christmas had been in the night and managed to fill out stockings (we used Heriots school socks) with presents. It is possible that Mother Christmas might have taken some tips from her relative, George Braund, and switched the stockings for ones which had been filled earlier.
The stockings managed to achieve an impressive balance, considering our range of ages, between fairness and personalised interest. Several of our toys only really made sense as communal toys, even though we knew which specific parts were ours – examples of this were the Floral Garden, the Zoo (with Britain’s Zoo animals) and the Farm (again Britains Farm animals, though with out of scale farm machinery. The stockings were filled in roughly the same order, and so opening them together we might have clues about what type of thing might be inside the individually wrapped parcels (in venerable wrapping paper). Recurring themes were
Some kind of small torch
A cub/scout/brownie/guide diary
little sets of colour pencils
Chocolate coins (I suspect one bag was divided into four, and the balance became a delivery fee)
The aforementioned animals, parts of gardens and so on
A paperback book
Always a satsuma in the toe of the sock.
Opening the stockings often occurred on my parents bed, where they would be suitably impressed by the wisdom and good taste of Father Christmas.
We would also show our new presents to Aunty Jennifer, who lived at Rest Harrow, and to Uncle Tim, who came from Geneva for the Christmas period. As a bachelor uncle – who had the opportunity to give us slightly less suitable toys (I remember a battery powered walking, noisy robot) Tim was relegated to the sofa bed on the lounge, where he may not have been having as restful a night. Despite this we felt it was our duty to bounce on him in the morning to wake him up. Some years later Tim married and had two daughters, and my brother and I relinquished the bedroom we had used, to sleep in the lounge. I remember being awoken on Christmas morning by the enthusiastic bouncing of two small girls, egged on from the doorway by their father, Uncle Tim.
During the morning my Uncle Michael and Aunt Fanny would arrive from London, and my Uncle Jeremy, with Aunt Claire, and her mother, Oma (Flemish name for Grandmother), and cousins Peter, Ian and Robert from Southampton or later Gosport. If the weather was fine we would go out into the garden.
My Grandmother would make a quiche for Michael and Fanny, who were vegetarians, but the rest of us would be keen to try it, as well as the traditional turkey. Fitting about twenty people round the table was a challenge, but we managed (sometimes by having a children’s table). The Christmas pudding had silver threepences cooked into it which were then exchanged for real money. Afterwards everybody helped clear up and wash up. We listened to the Queen’s Speech on the radio, and there would be the traditional family photo, in the sunroom if the weather was bad, of outside if we could. In the early years this was my grandfathers prerogative, using a self timer on his camera, with varied results. There are a number of pictures of a Grandpa shaped space in the family group, and I am sure there should be some of the sky or the grass due to tripping over the tripod trying to reach that space. We then chatted, or played games until the prolonged departures of the day visitors, normally after even more food.
Entertainment at Rest Harrow
There was no television at Rest Harrow for several years, when they were common elsewhere, but there were plenty of books, including a full set of the Swallows and Amazons series, and The Far Distant Oxus. We also played games, my grandparents had a Deluxe Edtion Scrabble board, on a turntable. Aunty Jennifer was a whiz at Pounce, and we also played Pickwick Rummy. She also always had some kind of craft activity available, from candle making to painting. She was also headteacher of Herriard school, and would bring musical instruments back from school. She also had a guitar, which we would attempt to play – she would teach us some chords, but we would generally forget them by next Christmas and have to start again. My cousin Peter, an accomplished musician, sometimes played his violin.
The Christmas present from Aunty Jennifer to my brother and me was a trip to London, on the train, visiting famous sites, such as Madame Tussauds and the Post Office Tower – back in the days when you could eat at the top. We traveled on the Underground, very exciting for boys from Edinburgh, and ended the trip with a visit to Hamleys, where Great Aunt Peggy was managing director (though we were more impressed by the railway running round the big central staircase, the teddy bears the size of a grown up and other amazing toys)
Christmas at Little Cucknells
When we were young we did not really celebrate New Year, but had a second, quieter, Christmas with my mother’s parents at Little Cucknels, in Shamley Green. Our interactions with Grandfather Box were limited – I only really remember him lying in bed in a downstairs room with the curtains closed, and greeting him awkwardly on arrival, and saying farewell when we left. Grannie Bee (My mother said it was because she was busy as a bee – though I assume the name really came from her being Box) cooked a second Christmas Dinner for us. She too cooked a Christmas pudding, but every piece came with a sixpence, courtesy of sleight of hand in the serving process.
Meals were cooked on the Aga, which also kept the kitchen and adjoining small dining/sitting room warm. I remember both at Little Cucknells and Rest Harrow (and at home in Edinburgh) that hot water bottles were part of the bedtime routine.
If the weather was good we could play in the huge, overgrown garden, or Little Cucknells wood, and if the weather was bad we had our new toys or books to read. Although the house was full of interesting antiques, such as the Bell of the Kishon, the longcase clock made by my Great, Great Grandfather – William Braund Box, and a chess table made by some ancestor – a model of this table made by the same person is in the Queen’s Dolls house in Windsor Castle – they were not very interesting to children, though the copies of National Geographic, with their maps and pictures of exotic places gave plenty to read and look at.
We would also go and visit my mother’s sister Aunt Sue, with her four boys, and her husband (until they were divorced) who I mainly remember for the smell of brandy and cigars, at their home in South Stoke, with Wolfie, the Wolfhound.
Somewheres and Anywheres
Receiving scans of Christmas past from my father’s slides sent by my sister coincided with me reading ‘The Road to Somewhere’ by David Goodhart. (I am still in the early stages). The book relates the differences in attitudes to society, and life opportunities between the majority (about three in five), of Britons who still live within 25 miles of where they were born – the Somewheres, and the possibly less grounded, but more influential Anywheres, who lack the deep connection to a single community, although they may well be members of several less tangible communities. My father, for example, spent most of his life far from his London roots, but was a member of a small international community of Research Foresters.