Our village has a wide range of marvellous facilities, created and developed over many years. From community buildings to online initiatives, generations of villagers have developed and nurtured these facilities. It is good to remember and celebrate those efforts.
(NB. The initiatives below are a selection of key initiatives, and in no way a comprehensive listing).
Our recreation ground: 1897
The first 'modern' village initiative was of course our recreation ground on Chalk Hill, or our 'pleasure ground' as it was called initially!
The recreation ground site was purchased in 1897 by public subscription in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. In June 1897 an appeal went out to all inhabitants of both villages to help raise the £250 needed to buy, fence and grass the chosen 5-acre field. The site was bought, and probably sown with grass seed that same autumn, as it was being used for cricket the following summer. Lime trees were planted around three sides of the field, the north side having an existing row of chestnuts in place'.
The current pavilion was built in 2009, replacing one built by the village football club in 1968, which in turn had replaced an earlier thatched pavilion which had burnt down “in mysterious circumstances” in 1967. The pavilion was one of several improvements to the grounds which originated from a village Millennium Recreation Survey carried out by the Astons News - others being a hard surface play area and a youth shelter.
The adventure playground, which had been built to commemorate the 1953 coronation, was further developed in the 1980's with the area fenced in for the first time and a slide placed on the mound, donated by a generous resident, Mary Ackworth. Further improvements were made in the 1990's and again in 2011 with generous grants from the district council.
On May 14 1908 a set of bye-laws were passed to define rules and regulations for the use of the ground.
Hopefully this reflected the time needed to get approval for byelaws, and not that any behaviour had made them necessary.
Our village hall: 1945
The hall stands on land bought by public subscription in 1945 as part of Winston Churchill’s postwar village hall programme. (This mirrored a similar move for community buildings that had followed the First World War). A trust deed was drawn up in that year to define the responsibilities of and the constitution of the management committee. In 1950 the hall and its lands were invested with the Official Trustee of Charity Lands (now known as the Official Custodian for Charities).
At first a Nissen hut was placed on the land while the villages attempted to raise funds for a permanent building, however in 1963 Paulise Lugg, the founder of the Stockwells Players (now the Blewbury Players) donated the current building. It was designed by the architect George Zukic and opened by the local MP Airey Neave in September 1964.
Its Millennium project saw the addition of access friendly facilities – a ramp, a furniture storage room (previously tables and chairs had been kept on the stage making their use a major lifting job, and an accessible toilet. The project had been necessary because the 1964 shingle roof was beginning to fail, but with lucky timing we were able to apply to the brand new National Lottery, which had chosen as its first priority "Community Involvement".
Cometh the hour, cometh Camelot! The hall was re-opened in September 2001 by an original member of the Stockwell Players, Robin Sewell.
The Astons News: 1968, and web-site: 2005
The Astons News has been a vital unifying factor in village life, used by groups, individuals and local businesses. It enables everyone to communicate and to engage in village life and enterprises. It was started in 1968 by Gordon Harris, a United Reformed Church minister new to the village, and has gone from strength to strength under its dedicated band of editors and distributors.
1968 First issue produced by the new Presbyterian minister Gordon Harris. (Copies were delivered by Mr Carter the newsagent, but only to those taking newspapers! See 1981 note). 1969 “ production has been greatly eased by the rector placing his electric duplicator at our disposal”
1970 “ My gratitude also to my wife for her help in typing the stencils.” 1974 “we have now purchased that same duplicator for the Village News now that the rector has replaced it with a more recent model for his own use. This makes us independent in the matter of printing”
1975 “we are now flat broke! (the purchase of the duplicator) drained our funds to the point where we now need money to pay for our next batch of paper and stencils”
1980 First adverts included 1981 Production costs given as £80. "this issue will have been delivered with The Sun newspaper . . for those who do not have a newspaper spare copies of the Village News will be available from Mr. Cox’s shop”
1984 The News was produced on a duplicator owned by the Cholsey Silver Band. First A4 issue produced. First monthly parish council entry. First illustrated header, by Stephen Whitwell, followed by Woody Lord in the December issue
1986 First “display advert”, previously just typed items. Production costs hit £160. 1987 Darley Stud take over copying the News, paper provided by the parish councils.
1998 Production becomes computerised. 1999 Village News initiates a village recreation survey that leads to a range of new projects at the recreation ground.
2005 Village News initiates the first village website.
Income from adverts had been accumulated by the previous editors in case the next editor had no computer - how quickly things have changed.
With their agreement the reserves were used to buy the village a PA system for use at the village hall and recreation ground, and a tug of war rope. The Village News continues to make community grants, for example the ADCA project - see below.
2008 Production moves to Races Farm offices
2009 First major re-vamp of village website, and the creation of a separate web-team. Village News continues as main funder of the website.
2010 'online' production out of village begins.
Roll Call of Editors:
Gordon Harris: 1968 to 1981
Bill Bradshaw: 1981 to 1984
Catherine Betts: 1984 to 1993
Alan Wilson: 1993 to 1998
Nic Marks, Jon Morgan, David Clayton 1998 to 2003
Jancis Smith: 2003 to 2009
Jeremy Imbush: 2009 to date .. .
"The Village News was also responsible for setting up the village website in 2005. The then editor persuaded two very foolish village residents to spend many hours setting up and managing the villages' first comprehensive website, allowing village groups to disseminate information on their activities and events...
"In 2009 a new web team upgraded the site ... many new initiatives were introduced, with a much more proactive programme of services ..."
From "Art in the Astons" the History Group's 2010 exhibition.
Astons Online: 2010...
BT's Race to Infinity, and beyond ...
In 2010 a joint working party of the Blewbury telephone exchange area villages entered the BT "Race to Infinity" broadband challenge.
With an incredible 98% response rate the Astons made a major contribution to the entry, and gained £8,000 in BT technical eqiupment.
The Astons Online committee - comprising the astons.net web-team and the village hall management committee - went on to win a £12,000 community grant from SODC enabling the project team to install a wide range of online and media equipment at the hall, and an ongoing Tea and Technology programme of technical advice services to the Astons and surrounding villages.
As a result of all this effort, The Blewbury telephone exchange area - which includes the Astons, became one of only five rural communities to be offered BT Infinity's High Speed fibre broadband. If we'd lost, we would probably still be languishing in the internet slow lane!
ASTONS DIGITAL COMMUNITY ARCHIVE (ADCA)
This is another project that has developed from Astons Online. With grants from SODC's Community Fund, our parish councils and the Village News, the History Group is developing a digital archive of village records from its own and other organisations' archives. Pictures and documents are gradually being digitised and added to our community archive. It has already been made use of by the CLP Transport Group, who were able to access the parish councils' 1994 to 2002 traffic calming records as part of their investigations.
Do you have any interesting photos or documents that could be scanned and added to the village archive?
In 1965 the Astons WI created a village album to mark the National Federation of Women's Institutes 50th anniversary.
The album is a fascinating record of village life in 1965 - a parallel album created day would show so many changes.
ASTONS DIGITAL COMMUNITY ARCHIVE (ADCA)
The Astons History Group archive of pictures, and documents, is gradually being digitised and added to our community archive. Do you have any interesting photos that could be scanned and added to the village archive?