Old World Charm?

“Bodicote is a dump!”

Mary’s letter from Oxfordshire shocked me. She didn’t like the village where I grew up? How could she not? The cobblestone streets. The village pub (I got drunk there many nights as a lad). The Green where everyone caroused on Fair night.

I read further. And sighed. The pub was gone. The Green was Brown. Banbury was encroaching, razing everything in its path. Dad’s farm, the one he rented from Mrs. Wyatt, was in shambles, about to be bulldozed for houses.

I had never wanted to return to England. Now there was even less reason.

#99WordStories #CarrotRanchChallenge #HighamFamilyHistory #BodicoteOxfordshire #QuaintEnglishVillage #MargaretGHanna


My maternal grandfather, Caleb Higham (b. 1889), grew up on a farm — The Grange — just northwest of Bodicote which, in turn, is just south of Banbury. A hundred years ago, Bodicote was one of those reputedly “quaint” English villages: three streets lined with brick row houses, a pub or two, a school, the village green, and St. John the Baptist Anglican Church surrounded by the graveyard. No longer; it is now overrun by housing development and is merely a suburb of Banbury.

No one knows why Caleb decided to emigrate to Canada in 1913. He never talked about it, in spite of the many times my mother and aunts and uncles asked. He refused to return to England, leaving everyone to suspect he left England under a cloud of some sort.

Grandma Higham did return, in 1952, to visit her sisters in Cornwall and then to visit Caleb’s family in Oxfordshire. By some stroke of good fortune, her letters to Caleb were saved, and the opening line in my little story above is taken directly from one of her letters. She was not amused, and my grandmother, never one to mince her words, spoke it like she saw it.

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5 thoughts on “Old World Charm?

  1. My grandfather left Bottisham in 1903. Returned in 1906 for the winter but was so restless his mother said he bedt return to the wide open skies. He never returned but did keep in touch with his sister. Her granddaughter and I are close despite the ocean between us. They wanted a different world. Going back didn’t help apparently.

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  2. On the other hand I loved Bottisham. It doesn’t seem like it’s changed since 1906. The public, the store, the church, and the school all still exist as does the house my great grandparents raised their children in. One child never left and his descendants still live there. I feel quite connected when I am there.

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    1. Unlike you, I have not made the pilgrimage to my ancestral homes, either in Oxfordshire or Cornwall, other than courtesy of Google Maps. But seeing a photo of a place is not the same as being there surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the place. Thanks to Ancestry, I’ve met two second cousins. I dream of one day going to England to meet them but, well, years roll on and with each year the dream diminishes.

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  3. I travelled around Britain a few times in my younger days and loved it – but with Google and Ancestry now we can find exact addresses of our ancestor’s homes and churches, etc. which is pretty cool. I’ve been enjoying finding my pioneer ancestors’ homes around Ontario lately.

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