Diaries and Headington

Many Oxford academics were in the habit of strolling up to Headington when they went on a country walk, and so it is worth checking the indexes of the many published diaries to see if any of your ancestors get a mention: they are often surprisingly gossipy. Here are some samples from the diaries of Thomas Hearne in the early eighteenth century.

Saturday 7 June 1718

… I also saw the following Inscription in Heddington Church Yard:—

1717, AGED 61 YEARS.

The said Richard Gurden’s Widow is now living, & is commonly called Mother Gurden. She was lately famous for selling Ale, tho’ she hath now given of that Trade. Great Resort used to be made to her House, &, for that reason, she is several times mentioned in Print by the Wits of the Age….

Many of the Chillingworths are buried in Heddington Church Yard, a noted Family of this place, and of this Family was the famous Mr. Wm Chillingworth, notwithstanding he was born in a little House near Cairfax, in Oxford.

Wednesday 18 June 1718

In Heddington Church Yard, near Oxford:-
Here lyeth the Body of Mary, the Wife of George Godfrey, who died January the 8th, 1691, aged 34 Years, 9 Months

Upon the same Stone,
Here lyeth the body of George Godfrey, husband of the said Mary, who unfortunately departed this Life the 13 day of May, anno Domini 1699, aged 43 Years.

NB. Memorandum that the said George Godfrey, who was look’d upon as a very honest Man, was shot upon Heddington Hill, he having receiv’d Money that Afternoon at Oxford. The Persons that did it are suppos’d to have seen him receive the Money. They got off, and we never heard as yet whether all, or either of them, came to the End they deserved.

Monday 6 September 1725

Being at Heddington yesterday, at one Smith’s whose Wife is Mary Gourdon, I understand that the Man (named Hart) that was kill’d at Horton was Brother in Law to the said Mary Gourdon, having married a Sister of hers. It seems, he was in the loaded Cart, and a boy (the Carter) was upon one of the Horses. The Horses were frighted by the Hare and the Hounds. They ran round and round two or 3 times. The boy leapt off, but the Cart was overthrown, and a Spike of Iron happen’d to run through the Man, wch bereav’d him of his Senses, and he died four Hours after. He was a very sober, honest Man, and hath left a Wife & five Children behind him.

Saturday 23 October 1725

Last Tuesday Mrs. Mary Smith of Heddington, one of the Daughters of Mother Gordon [= Gurden] of that place, was brought to bed of a Son. She hath a Son & Daughter (born before), both living. Her Husband is a Taylour, & lived before Marriage at Marston.

© Stephanie Jenkins


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