Over the Hills to Glory: The story of the Ascott Martyrs

at Exeter Hall

By: Carol Anderson FSA AMA  – The talk will commence at 8pm

Synopsis:  This talk explores the little-known story of the Ascott Martyrs and their contribution to  the campaign being mounted by the National Agricultural Labourers Union led by Joseph Arch to improve the wages of the agricultural labourer.

In May 1873, 16 women from Ascott-under-Wychwood, some with babes in their arms, were sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour in Oxford Gaol, for what on the face of it, amounted to little more than a peaceful demonstration in support of a strike for a living wage by some agricultural labourers in the village.

What became known as the Chipping Norton Incident, provoked a near riot in the town and attracted national attention to the plight of the women and that of the rural poor. Although not Union members the women’s actions, and the sympathy aroused by their draconian punishment, undoubtedly helped to further the cause of the Union both locally and nationally. Local rallys attracting crowds numbered in thousands. More importantly it added to the pressure on Gladstone’s government to repeal the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which had effectively made peaceful picketing illegal and limited the activities of the unions.

Today the women are remembered by their names on seats around the tree on the village green and by a colourful and skilfully crafted textile hanging on display in the parish church.

Speaker Bio: An archaeologist by training, Carol’s interest in local history has developed during the time she spent working for the Oxfordshire Museums service in a variety of capacities, most recently as Director of the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock and Manager of the County service.

Having now retired Carol is able to give time to developing her interest in local and family history, and now chairs the Ascott Martyrs Educational Trust as it celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Chipping Norton Incident.  Carol is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a Trustee of the Oxfordshire Buildings Trust


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