The arrival of the railway in Didcot, then in Berkshire, prompted
extensive development of houses, roads, other infrastructure
and services. Andy's grandfather's house in Hagbourne Road
was built for him and his new wife by his father in 1900
as a wedding present. At that time the house was virtually
on the edge of the town's expansion. This postcard shows
houses recently built on a relatively new road, South View,
that formed a turning off Hagbourne Road. The card was sent
in 1914 but could have been produced a few years before.
The image reminds us that the naming of parts of Didcot and
its roads can be most confusing to the casual reader
because all changed over time. Our research shows that
different versions were used at the same time both by official
bodies and members of the public.
"North Hagbourne (better known as Didcot New Town)" (Kelly's
- "For Didcot New Town see Hagbourne" (Kelly's 1899,
- "Didcot New Town or North Hagbourne" (Kelly's 1899,
- "North Hagbourne or New Town" (Kelly's 1915,
- "North Hagbourne (known also as New Town)" (Kelly's 1915,
The residents of Hagbourne Road variously described themselves
as living in Newtown, North Hagbourne, Northbourne or just
plain Didcot in 1911.
Similarly, one South View resident records that he lived in
South Street though eight households keep to South View. And
they were as varied with the town name as their neighbours
in Hagbourne Road in the same census.
However, the census enumerator is clear in his use of South
View which is shown in the Summary List while
the 1912 OS map shows the road as South Street.
All somewhat confusing.
Be that as it may, South View is shown with only minor development
on the OS map of 1899 but by 1912 the semi-detached houses
closest to the camera and the row of cottages with their distinctive
front porches had been built. The immediate area was called
Newtown (or New Town) around 1876-8 but by 1912 it was known
as North Hagbourne.
On the 1960 OS map the area had become Northbourne but was
part of Didcot by 1969.
South View was to be renamed Wessex Road by 1920 and
houses had been built on the opposite side of the road by 1931,
blocking the view of the railway embankment that can be seen
in the distance on the right of the image. The embankment carried
the line of the Didcot Newbury and Southampton Railway southwards
between East and West Hagbourne towards Upton. The line finally
closed in 1964 but Andy can remember seeing goods trains passing
in the 1950s.
This enlargement shows the young boys featured in the main
picture and we can see their varied clothes
and height more clearly.
The 1911 census lists 14 boys aged between 7
and 14 years living in South View and a few more in
It is tempting to think that the tallest boy might be
Andy's uncle, Cyril, as he was born just round the corner
in 1901 so would be about the right age. Andy's father,
Reginald, was born in 1902 so might even be one of the
A large proportion of South View's working residents had occupations
directly related to the GWR, including several engine drivers
and is indicative of how the growth of the railway prompted
an influx of staff and their families, and expansion of the
The writer of the card signs himself AA and refers to arriving
at "Jim's" residence. The only Jim/James living in
Didcot in 1911 was
James Allen, a GWR railway guard of Lydals Lane, so AA could
be a relative. Indeed, a check of the 1891 Census finds the
same James Allen living with his family and a younger brother
Arthur. Thus there is the possibility that AA is Arthur Allen
but this is by no means proven.
As for the addressee, William Empson, he was a GWR engine
driver living in the Neath area in 1914 having lived there
since the 1911 census at least. Andy's great grandfather also
worked for the GWR and his employment record (now held at the
National Archives at Kew) shows that at different times in
his long career he resided at many different locations throughout
the GWR network; it is likely that Messrs Allen and Empson
did the same and perhaps met and became friends in the process.
 "Kelly's Directory of
 "Kelly's Directory of
 "Kelly's Directory of
 The 1911 census is available on
FindMyPast. It can be found via the Links
page. The Summary Lists can be found amongst the 1911 census
 Old OS maps can also be found via
the Links page.
 Personal recollection by Andy's uncle,
Cyril Andrews, recorded in his beautiful hand illustrated "History
of Dudcote" completed in 1975 and later privately published
by his son David and grandson John for the enjoyment of family