The rise and fall of village life
The hunt saves the day
The hardship among the newly-created new poor class in the two parishes was to some extent relieved by the arrival of the Old Berkshire Hunt (OBH) in 1863 as it provided much local employment. Successive Masters of the Hunt lived at New House and Southmoor House. The kennels were first at Bullocks Pits from 1863-1884 and then at Kingston opposite Frax House. Kennel Cottage still remains. The hunt brought prosperity and colour to the village. Horses were kept everywhere where there were stables. Many wealthy people and aristocrats, including the Duke of Windsor, as Prince of Wales, hunted with the OBH. It was the mainstay and centre of life in the village until it moved to Faringdon in 1935.
Bankruptcy and the sale of the village
Edward Anthony Strauss MP, head of a London firm of grain and seed merchants, bought the estate from John Blandy in 1917. He was responsible for the beginning hop-growing in the area. He had tried growing them at Kingston Hill farm in 1919, where for some reason they were not a success so he tried growing them on the Bullock's Pit Estate to the west of the Hanney Road. High shelterbelts were grown round the fields and the hops prospered.
Although not everyone agreed, according to his valet Mr Hobbs Strauss was "best squire village ever had". He was generous and gave a Christmas party and presents for the children and a wristlet watch for school-leavers. At Christmas each family on the estate got a joint of beef and money.
He was the leading partner and shareholder in the firm of Strauss & Co Ltd, the grain and seed firm. However, after trying unsuccessfully to corner the world market in pepper (or some said groundnuts) he went bankrupt in 1935 and the Kingston House estate, including most of the village, was sold up. The contents of Kingston House went up for sale on 25 March 1935 and there was reported to be a crush of people wanting to buy and some villagers feeling the loss of their Squire said, "No kinder man ever breathed."
Next: Second World War>>