Notable Residents (and Visitors)



THIS IS OUR NEWEST PAGE, WHERE WE PLAN TO DETAIL PERSONS OF INTEREST WHO HAVE EITHER LIVED IN OR VISITED THE ASTONS. This is 'work in progress' as there are quite a lot of people to research and add!

IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE OF NOTE IN THESE CATEGORIES DO LET US KNOW. Contact astonshistory94@gmail.com

A taster of what is to come:

Edward Duke of Windsor (1894-1972): Prince of Wales and briefly Edward VIII. (VISITOR: see below)

Sir Frank Williams, centre front:  founder of the Williams Formula One team. (RESIDENT: to come)

Dick Francis (1920-2010): steeplechase champion, jockey to Elizabeth the Queen Mother,  and successful crime writer. (VISITOR: see below)

Sir Patrick Abercrombie (1879 – 1957): a leading authority on national UK planning matters and garden-city initiatives. (RESIDENT: see below)


Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis, left (1883–1978): fashionable architect in the inter-war years, best known now for the Italianate village Portmeirion. (VISITOR: see below)

 

Bob Danvers Walker (1906-1990): English radio and newsreel announcer best known as the off-screen voice of Pathe News cinema newsreels during WW2. (RESIDENT: see below)

John Masefield (1878-1967): writer and Poet Laureate. RESIDENT: see below.

Tour de France (via Aston Tirrold) 2014. VISITORS!

Linda McCartney (1941-1998): photographer and wife of Paul McCartney. Visitor: to come.

Tracy Reed (1942-2012): actress daughter of director Sir Carol Reed (‘The Third Man’). Photo above from 'Dr. Strangelove'. RESIDENT: to come.

Bill Simpson, right (1931-1986):  actor best known for Dr. Finlay’s Casebook during the 1980s. VISITOR: to come.

Christine Lee:  sculptress, sister of Jennifer Worth (‘Call the Midwife’ author). RESIDENT: see below.

Stevie Winwood, front:  pop musician and producer; member of the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and others; also a solo performer. VISITOR: to come.

Frank Cundell (1879-1939):  successful racehorse trainer in the 1930s. RESIDENT: see below.

The Rolling Stones.  VISITORS: to come.

Notable residents:

Cyril Frederick Danvers-Walker (1906 - 1990). 

Bob (as he was known in the Astons) Danvers-Walker was an radio and newsreel announcer best known as the off-screen voice of Pathe News newsreels during World War II, and for many years afterwards. His voice was described as "clear, fruity and rich, with just the suggestion of raffishness".

In retirement he lived at The Thatched Cottage in Aston Street (now Abbey Thorn Cottage) and was often called upon to open the annual church fete. In one of the pictures below you will see his famous personalised number plates RAD10 and TV1.

Born in England, he spent much of his childhood in Tasmania and began his radio career in Melbourne in 1925 before returning to the United Kingdom in 1932. From 1932 to 1939 Walker worked as a presenter for the International Broadcasting Company (IBC) network of commercial radio stations broadcasting in English to Britain from the continent. Danvers-Walker wanted to join the BBC as soon as the war started, but was prevented by a BBC rule against employing anyone who had worked on commercial radio. This rule was quietly dropped in 1943, and from then on he was deployed on a variety of morale-boosting wartime BBC radio shows.

He was the off-screen voice of the twice weekly Pathe News newsreel shown at all British cinemas, a job he held continuously from 1940 to 1970. The arrival of commercial television in the guise of ITV in 1955 brought new opportunities, such as being the announcer on Michael Miles' game show Take Your Pick (1955–68), and its successor programme, Wheel of Fortune (1969–71), while at the BBC Danvers-Walker was one of the regular presenters of Housewives' Choice throughout the 1950s.

How much would these be worth now?!

Cinema was incredibly popular during WWII, and was therefore utilised as a major morale booster.

Michael Miles' ITV game show Take Your Pick. 

John Edward Masefield (1878 – 1967). 

He and his wife Constance and their two young children, Judith and Lewis, moved to Lollingdon Farm in June 1914. He was at that time already a well-respected writer and poet. He was Poet Laureate from 1930 until 1967. (Perhaps his best known poem is 'Sea Fever' - "I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by').

Lollingdon Farm is in the Parish of Cholsey but is very much considered part of our village ‘envelope’.

When the First World War began in 1914 Masefield was old enough to be exempted from military service, but he did carry out some military duties both in the UK and in France, and is listed on the village muster roll for the village in St.Michael’s Church.

It was at Lollingdon that he wrote his only war poem ‘August 1914’ which was provoked by his strong sense of foreboding just after Britain had declared war with Germany. It was also here that he wrote his famous book Gallipoli, and his series of poems and sonnets titled ‘Lollingdon Downs’.

The Masefields lived at Lollingdon for three years and finally moved to Boars Hill in Oxford during the spring of 1917. Even when they had settled at Boars Hill, John Masefield would regularly return to his beloved Berkshire Downs.

John Masefield in 1916.

Lollingdon Manor Farmhouse.

Astons' WW1 Muster Roll.

Sir Patrick Abercrombie (1879 – 1957) 

Patrick Abercrombie was a leading authority on national UK planning matters and garden-city initiatives, and is internationally recognised as a pioneer of town and country planning. He lived at the Red House on Moreton Road, Aston Upthorpe from 1945 until his death in 1957. 

He devised post-war reconstruction plans for London and its environs - the County of London Plan (1943) and the Greater London Regional Plan (1944) - commonly referred to as the Abercrombie Plan - which tackled such key problems as overcrowding and poor housing in deprived neighbourhoods, traffic congestion and the inadequate provision of open space.

In 1926 in his The Preservation of Rural England he had called for "a bold and wide policy (for) the creation of a series of National Parks (for the) preservation of wild country”. He was a founder member of CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) and urged in their 1926 manifesto that new communities must be ‘finely planned and developed harmoniously (within) ‘the lie of the land.’ In 1947 he was on the Hobhouse Committee which drew up the final recommendations to government for the creation of National Parks. 

In 1945 Abercrombie was given a knighthood, and in 1948 he became the first president of the International Union of Architects, which continues to annually award the Sir Patrick Abercrombie Prize for excellence in town planning. 

In 2012 Oxford Brookes University opened the Abercrombie Building which is home to their Departments of Planning, Construction, Real Estate and Architecture. In 2019 a blue plaque was placed on his London home to mark World Town Planning Day.



Frank Cundell (1909-1993).

Successful Flat-National Hunt racehorse trainer, nephew of Leonard Cundell founder of the Cundell Stables, Aston Upthorpe. 

The stables were based originally at Chilton, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) but in 1934 his land was compulsorily purchased by the Air Ministry for a new airfield (which post-war became the Atomic Research Establishment Harwell, now Harwell Science and Innovation Centre).

In 1934 therefore Leonard bought the Blewburton Hall estate, composed of eleven hundred acres of good land and buildings with the gallops on the Downs above the village. Frank assisted his uncle in the training of Noble Star (winner of both the Jockey Club Cup and the Cesarewitch Handicap in 1931) and himself trained Crudwell  - sired by Noble Star(winner of 50 races), Super Flash (Mackeson Gold Cup) and Celtic Cone (5 hurdle races and a Yorkshire Cup).

He trained over a thousand winners and was instrumental in persuading the young Dick Francis (see separate entry under Visitors) to ride some of his chasers and hurdlers. His wife Barbara became good friends with Francis’ wife Mary, and they at one time jointly owned a dress shop in Wallingford.

His entry in the online National Horseracing Museum says of him: “Frank Cundell was a kind and patient man, with a good sense of humour”.

Frank Cundell.

Returning from the gallops down Spring Lane.

Crudwell in flight (front).

Christine Lee

Christine Lee is the sister of Jennifer Worth, author of Call the Midwife.  Like her sister, Christine also trained and practiced as a midwife, but later went on to a successful career as a sculptress.

In 1967 she and her husband bought Aston Tirrold Manor at auction for £13,500 (an unexpected bargain - the next day she was offered an extra £10,000 if she sold it on). She lived there until 1972.

Christine Lee became a best selling author in 2015 when her first book "The Midwife's Sister" was published. This memoir is about her life as a sculptor and her relationship with her sister Jennifer Worth.The book gives some interesting vignettes of Astons life in the late 1960's.

Many of her pieces are cast in bronze, with larger work constructed from sheet metal or wood. In 2014 her piece Compassion was placed in Exeter Cathedral. In 1996 Christine created the remarkable Commemorative Fountain outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford -upon-Avon for Shakespeare’s 800th Anniversary. It was unveiled by H.M. The Queen.

Christine and Jennifer Worth as midwives.

Astons Manor in the late 1960s.

Stratford's Anniversary Fountain, 1996.

Notable Visitors:

Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis (1883 –1978) 

Williams-Ellis was a fashionable architect in the inter-war years, who wrote and broadcast extensively on architecture, design and the preservation of the rural landscape. He is best known now for the Italianate village Portmeirion in north-west Wales, setting for the famous TV series 'The Prisoner'.

In 1934 he designed Home Farm in Aston Street (now Manor Farm) for the Aston Manor estate owned by Francis Cross. He was a friend and professional colleague of Patrick Abercrombie – see Patrick’s entry under Famous Residents - who shared similar concerns for the rural environment.

In 1928 he had written England and the Octopus - an outcry at the urbanization of the countryside and loss of village. It prompted a group of young female activists to form the Ferguson's Gang, which between 1927 and 1946 raised huge sums to protect and preserve important but lesser-known rural properties and landscapes that could otherwise have been destroyed.

In 1937 he published Britain and the Beast, a collection of essays by various authors on the preservation of rural amenities - one of them John Maynard Keynes, a significant British economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments in the post-war years. 

In 1958 Williams-Ellis was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire  'for public services', and was knighted in 1972 for 'services to the preservation of the environment and to architecture'.  At the time, he was the oldest person ever to be knighted.

Williams Ellis with Patrick MacGoohan.

His Italianate project Portmeirion.

His call to arms.

Richard Stanley Francis, CBE FRSL (1920 –2010)

British crime writer and former steeplechase jockey, who for nearly 30 years lived in Blewbury, and was part of the Astons wider equestrian community. His wife Mary was good friends with Barbara Cundell, wife of Frank Cundell, whose stables were based at Blewburton Hall (see separate entry under Residents). 

In his career as a full-time jump-jockey Dick Francis won over 350 races and was at one time champion jockey of the British National Hunt. From 1953 to 1957 he was jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. His best remembered moment as a jockey came while riding the Queen Mother's horse, Devon Loch, in the 1956 Grand National, when the horse inexplicably fell when close to winning the race. Francis considered losing that race his greatest regret and called it "a disaster of massive proportions".

When he retired from the turf he became a journalist and novelist. The British Crime Writers Association awarded him its Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. All his novels deal with crime in the horse-racing world, and more than forty of them became international best-sellers, with his first novel, Dead Cert, being adapted as a film, and another novel being adapted for television, starring Ian McShane.

Devon Loch falls at the 1956 Grand National.

Being presented to the Queen Mother.

In later life. a celebrated journalist and writer.

Edward Duke of Windsor (1894-1972)

Prince of Wales and briefly Edward VIII before his abdication in 1936.

In the summer of 1914 a military cadet group, including the Prince of Wales, visited Aston Tirrold as part of their military training on the Downs. They stayed in the ‘parish room’ of the Rectory in Aston Street. The rector at that time was the Reverend Lumley Green Wilkinson. The following wording is on the thank you card, on Buckingham Palace stationery, from the Prince of Wales after his stay:

“Dear Mr. Green Wilkinson. At last I am able to send you the photos I did that memorable morning. So sorry for the delay. The art of frying eggs is well illustrated I think. It was good of you to put us up that night, and no one enjoyed it more than I did. Thank you very much indeed for all your kindness. I remain yours very sincerely.  Edward”

A photocopy of the photographs - with the thank you card on the rear - was given to the History Group by a later occupant of the Rectory, Mary Ackworth.

Edward in military uniform.

A series of photos taken at the time of the visit.

Edward's thank you note to Wilkinson Green.