October 10 – A Visit to Chastleton House, the Birthplace of Croquet

A Detour to St Georges Barracks and a few geocaches

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Before we did anything else today we drove over to St George Barracks near Bicester to get a disk out of our trailer for the demonstration tomorrow. It was a lot further than we thought and I do not think we took the shortest route but it is hard to say as there does not seem to be a direct route.

We had checked out the National Trust and thought we would go to Chastleton House. We arrived at Chastleton House 15 mins too early as they don’t open until 12 pm so we thought we would go for a short walk to grab a traditional cache. It took us a few mins to find as the camouflage was very good. The ladybirds hatched today as it was a warm 24C and they are everywhere and keep landing on us ten at a time. A very strange phenomenon. There were both red and black ladybirds.

We also visited the church which was not open when we were here on 10/9/18. Because Chastleton House is open today so is the church and they were selling afternoon tea with cakes in the church as a fundraiser. St Mary’s church had some nice stained glass windows both Victorian and more modern. It also had several monumental brasses to Katherine Frockmorton d. 1592 and Edmund Ansley d. 1613. However, the brass plaque that stood out for us was “In Memory of Herbert Westmacott, third son of the Reverend Horatio Westmacott. Born in this parish 18th April 1842. Died at Timaru, New Zealand 28th March 1926. There was also some lovely medieval floor tiles and some Victorian floor tiles which had copied the medieval designs.

At 12 pm we were able to enter the National Trust property of Chastleton House. It has been owned by the National Trust since 1991 and is a Grade I listed building. It is advertised as “preserved as it is, not as it was”. The house was built between 1607 and 1612 and is one of the finest country houses of the early 17th-century. It was built as a statement of wealth and power by a prosperous wool merchant, Walter Jones, during the reign of King James I. It was owned by the same increasingly impoverished family for nearly 400 years until its last owner, Barbara Clutton-Brock, along with her 15-plus cats, and eventually the house was into the care of the National Trust in 1991. The house has links to the Gunpowder Plot, the Jacobite rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie. However, the most interesting thing was that this is where the rules for the game of Croquet were codified by Walter Whitmore Jones and published on 7 April 1866. There are two croquet fields behind the house but unfortunately, the gear was all put away at the end of September so we were not able to have a game. It would have been nice to play a game of Golf Croquet in this important place in the history of the game. It has been ages since we had a game, about three years now.

The inside of the house has nice wood panelling on the wall and some fancy fireplaces. It also had some interesting ceilings, furniture and artwork. Of particular interest is the impressive Great Chamber which was designed for the entertainment of the most important guests and for the playing of music. The painted roundels around the frieze depict the twelve prophets of the Old Testament and the twelve Sybils or Prophetesses of Antiquity. Also in the Great Chamber are a set of Jacobite Fiat glasses engraved with the Jacobite emblems of roses, oak leaves, and a compass rose, which betrays the families 18th-century sympathies.

The wall tapestries, carpets and table linens were also fascinating and are covered in netting to protect them. The Long Gallery is lined with wood panelling and as it is on the second story it would have not been used for a ball but rather for walking and exercise. Two ferocious looking characters look over this room from the plastered, curved ceiling. The kitchen was particularly interesting with its tin plates and time-saving gadgets. The garden is grade II listed and I was particularly fascinated by the pottery rhubarb forcers.

After our visit to Chastleton, we decided to do some church micros. We have done many of them in Oxfordshire but managed to plot a track to places that we thought we had not been before. Daylesford was our first visit but St Peter’s church was closed so we found the geocache and moved on.

At Holy Ascension church in Oddington, we were very pleased this to visit the church and to find the cache on the track out the back of the church. The church had a lovely ornate font and quite a few stained glass windows that all seemed to be by the same artist. This is an older church which has been renovated with a vestry, toilet and kitchen and the seating all faces the south wall in three long rows of comfortable seating. The tilework is also rather lovely. I was lucky enough to be able to plug my cell phone in for a few minutes as it was running out of charge.

When we arrived at St Nicholas church in Oddington we realised that we had visited this village before on 1 June 2017 but we had been unable to visit either church as both churches were closed after their roofing had been stolen. We are glad to be able to visit them both this time especially St Nicholas as it has a wonderful doom painting.

The church was begun some time in the 12th century, and is very simply adorned, with a three-arch nave arcade and Early English chancel arch. It’s main attraction, and the reason the church is well worth a visit, is its Doom painting, a medieval means of communication with the generally illiterate population. This type of painting is also known as The Last Judgment.

The Oddington Doom painting was created about 1340. It fills the north west wall and measures 32 feet long by 15 feet high. It would originally have stretched to the floor but the bottom has been covered by Jacobean panelling. At the top centre of the painting is a figure of Jesus, flanked by apostles and saints, and below this are two angels sounding a trumpet to waken the dead. The bottom of the image shows the dead rising from their graves to be judged. Some are awaiting admittance at the gates of heaven, while others are being dragged into hell, where a fearsome figure of Satan surrounded by his imps awaits them. One imp in the stripey top is using bellows to enliven the flames below the sinners.

Immediately to the east of the Doom painting is another tall painting that can be reliably dated to 1520. It depicts a very tall central figure in a gown surrounded by much smaller secondary figures in a variety of costumes, some of which are in contemporary Tudor style. This has been attributed to a satire on the life of the high-living Cardinal Wolsey.

In the south chapel, there is an earlier 13th/14th century image which may represent a nativity scene or a life of the Virgin Mary. Over the chancel arch is a rare painted rendition of the royal coat of arms of William IV dated 1835, superimposed on a medieval painting on the chancel arch. The church also had an amazing pulpit on a high pedestal with a tester above and a carved stone reredos. When we left the church to collect the numbers for the church micro I realised we had been here before when we found”The Doom” cache. The church micro has been placed since we were her last. We were glad we were able to see inside the church this time.

We have been to St Paul’s church in Broadwell before but we didn’t look for the cache that time, not sure why. Anyway, we collected the numbers and soon we were on our way to the final. There was an excellent and accurate hint, thank goodness. But there was a nasty piece of the barbed wire at ankle level and Michael has the scars to prove it. It took us ages to find the cache as there were so many places to look but we got there in the end.

The church is twelth century, modified over the years and restored by the Victorians in 1860 although retaining many original features. There is also a 16th-century effigy in alabaster of a husband, wife and child at prayer. There is also a variety of lovely stained glass windows. In the churchyard opposite the east end of the chancel is a splendid collection of table tombs with rolled ‘wool bale’ tops dated around 1601 and 1612. One has an arcade with kneeling mourners.

A lovely warm late summer’s day out with the hatching ladybirds making it an especially memorable day.