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A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
 
[Didcot] North Hagbourne: South View, 1914


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.

Examples include:

  • "North Hagbourne (better known as Didcot New Town)" (Kelly's 1887, Hagbourne[1])
  • "For Didcot New Town see Hagbourne" (Kelly's 1899, Didcot[2])
  • "Didcot New Town or North Hagbourne" (Kelly's 1899, Hagbourne[2])
  • "North Hagbourne or New Town" (Kelly's 1915, Didcot[3])
  • "North Hagbourne (known also as New Town)" (Kelly's 1915, Hagbourne[3])

The residents of Hagbourne Road variously described themselves as living in Newtown, North Hagbourne, Northbourne or just plain Didcot in 1911[4]. 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[4]. However, the census enumerator is clear in his use of South View which is shown in the Summary List[4] while the 1912 OS map shows the road as South Street[5]. 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[5]. On the 1960 OS map the area had become Northbourne but was part of Didcot by 1969[5]. South View was to be renamed Wessex Road by 1920[6] 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 Hagbourne Road[4]. 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 others.


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 housing stock.

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[4] 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[4]. 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.


Untitled photographic postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Andy Andrews. On the back it records that this is "South View, North Hagbourne, Didcot, Berks. 1914". Posted at Didcot on 26 Oct 1914.
Information researched, written by and © Ann and Andy Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References:

[1] "Kelly's Directory of Berkshire", 1887.
[2] "Kelly's Directory of Berkshire", 1899.
[3] "Kelly's Directory of Berkshire", 1915.
[4] 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 documents.
[5] Old OS maps can also be found via the Links page.
[6] 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 members.



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