Employment and Commerce in King’s Sutton

The station master and staff at King’s Sutton

Trades and Employment

Until the coming of the Great Western Railway most work was to be found on the farms and in associated services such as the blacksmith, saddler and wheelwright. Pump making was an important business as, with no mains water, one either had to use a well or a pump.

Cabinet and chair making was carried out and these craftsmen met socially at the Walnut Tree Inn in Church Avenue. Other trades such as thatching and shoemaking continued until recent times. Edgar Mobley was the last thatcher from the village and he retired in 1949. Bert Stockford is still remembered as the shoe-mender along with 'Snobby' Ring, whilst “Shoe-maker” Wyatt and Johnny Taylor, the church sexton, were shoe-makers.

When the Oxford to Birmingham railway line was built a new opportunity was opened because it became possible for ironstone to be mined and carried away by rail. There were mines at Astrop, Nell Bridge and Sydenham. Joseph 'Joey' Owens, the ironmaster at Astrop, lived in the house on the corner of Astrop Road and The Knob, it was then known as Spring Vale after the foundry at Bilston. To reach the Sydenham works the workers walked over Black Bridge and through Factory Meadow where the old paint factory had stood, from there they crossed the river and canal by a footbridge and a swing bridge.

See details of ''Gertrude'' one of the three trains used at the Sydenham Iron works....also see Gertrude now! reunited with The Doll''

Work at the Ironstone Works was very hard and not well paid. In the early 1900s the pay was 4d per ton for wet ore and 3 1/2d for dry. A man could usually fill about twenty wagons which each held 1 ton of ore. For stripping the soil, the pay was 3d. a yard and one farthing for tipping each wagon. Fred Hickman, who is now in his eighties, (in 1993) started work at Sydenham when he was 14 years old and as he had a good head for figures was put to working out the wages. The wage was linked to the cost of iron so as the price rose during the First World War so the men earned more. However, when the war finished and the price went down many families faced difficulties. When Astrop closed in 1924 and Sydenham in 1926 two thirds of the working population were without work and great poverty was experienced. A soup kitchen was operated from the Reading Room as had previously happened in 1887-88.

Evidence of the workings can still be seen around the village, fields being lower than nearby roads and, if you look carefully, you will see where the tramway was laid, along which horse-drawn trucks carried the iron-ore down to the railway sidings. One of these foundations can be seen on either side of the road near Buston Farm.

The demolished ironstone works at Sydenham

Apprentices learnt their trades from experienced craftsmen. In 1927 Jack Cox was apprenticed under the Ann Jenkinson Charity to Messrs Harris Bros. to “learn the art, trade or business of carpenter and wheelwright”. During the five years following, “the said apprentice his Master faithfully shall serve, his secrets keep, his lawful commands everywhere gladly do, he shall do no damage to his said Master nor see to be done of others but to the best of his power prevent or forthwith give warning to his said Master of the same, he shall not waste Goods of his said Master nor lend them unlawfully”. A common practice in the early part of this century was for schoolgirls, as soon as school was finished, to work as maids doing housework for the local gentry.

New Opportunities

Gradually other opportunities arose at the Northern Aluminium Company in Banbury, Morris Motors at Cowley and the building of RAF Upper Heyford. Some also found employment at Bletchington Cement Works, Wroxton Ironstone and on the Great Western Railway. At the start of the Second World War men were conscripted into the forces and it became necessary for women to take their place in the factories and on the land as they had during the First World War.

Agriculture, which had been affected by the depression, now became an important source of food as many supplies were cut off. As mechanisation became more prevalent small farms gave way to larger units, fields increased in size with the removal of hedges so the small working farms within the village gradually disappeared. There is now only one farm, Home Farm, situated in the village and even that is cut off from its land due to housing development. Within the parish boundaries there are still working farms, Buston Farm, Astrop Hill Farm, Little Purston, Sutton Lodge Farm and The Mill House Farm, the remainder of the land being worked by company farms.

Commerce – The Early Part of the Century

There were nearly 50 businesses directly serving the villagers in 1914 as listed in Kelly's directory. These included Alfred Adkins and Thomas Hopkins, bakers, David Cadd the saddler, six shop-keepers, Joseph Ayriss, John Cousins, John Dagley, Mary Jane Parry, George Turvey and William Tustain. There was also the Banbury Co-operative Industrial Society Ltd.

Apart from these there were a variety of small shops which people set up in their front room. Both Janet Bevis and Elsie Merry remember these little shops, especially Mrs Hurst who kept a little shop in Red Lion Square selling haberdashery, sweets and liquorice rolls which cost one farthing. Janet helped in her own mother's shop making ice-cream by putting ice-cream powder, egg substitute and milk into a container and, placing the container inside another then surrounding it with ice and saltpetre, turned the handle until the ice-cream was made. This was done on a Saturday morning and sold at Id. a cornet and 2d. a wafer in the afternoon at the cricket matches in the Greens. The Dagley family had the Post Office at the The Lace House. Mr Dagley is remembered for his little goatee beard. Olive Wyatt worked there at that time and next door Mrs McGinlay had the shop which had previously belonged to Mr Joseph Ayriss, her brother.

The Co-op (formerley Mr & Mrs Heath's general store) was situated on the corner of Astrop Road and Mill Lane but in the 1930s moved temporarily into the old thatched Methodist Chapel whilst modernisation took place. Fred Moore and then Ted Keen were the managers and Kath Stimpson and Sheila Wyatt worked there for many years. Kath took over as manageress when Ted Keen left in 1964 and stayed until its closure in 1977. In the early days customers would sit on a chair in the shop doing their knitting whilst waiting for their order to be put up, the bacon sliced just as they liked it and the tea and sugar weighed out from sacks.

Since the closure of the Co-op the shop has become Coupe's Stores with its own butchery owned by Ivan and Neville Coupe.

Other businesses in 1914 were George Kerby, a hurdle maker, Dr. J. Rickards, physician and surgeon. Public Houses were run by Oliver Compton at The Three Tuns and Frederick Poole at The Bell, there were two beer retailers, one William Williams was also the butcher at the Butchers Arms, two carriers, two builders, a blacksmith, dressmaker, coal merchant and drainage contractor. Twyford Mill was owned by Spokes & Marriage and the other mill, King's Sutton Mill in Mill Lane, was run by Robert Lane.

By 1940 there were three coal merchants, Owen Judd, Cousins & Morgan and Eder 'Jack' Bint who was also a dairyman and cow-keeper, Mr Hopkins' bakery had been sold to Percy Ayriss and Ernest Plank had taken over from Alfred Adkins.

Miss Anna Dagley had retired and Mr & Mrs McGinlay took over the Post Office & telephone exchange. Mrs McGinlay retired and closed the shop in 1972, having already transferred the Post Office to Mr & Mrs Bert Taylor in High Street. Today the Post Office is in the old bakery in Bull's Lane (Red Lion Square), as part of the Spinney Bank Stores. David Cadd continued as saddle and harness maker, Leonard Green as the blacksmith and William Barber was still one of the carriers, the other being Edward 'Teddy' Meadows.


There were two garages in the village Canning's Garage, formerly owned by Mr Terry Canning, ran a fleet of coaches until 1974 when they were sold to Heyfordian Coaches. Mr Canning retired in 1978 but the business continues under new ownership. Waverley Garage, owned by Mr Eddie Moon, was opened in 1947 and continues as a family business.

Working for the Parish

The following is an interesting example of a contract with the Parish Council from the early part of the century:

AN AGREEMENT made this ninth day of June, One thousand, nine hundred and thirteen - between The King's Sutton Parish Council and John Lovesey, as to labour in connection with the said Council.

I, John Lovesey of King's Sutton hereby agree to carry out the whole of the work required to be done by the said Council, including grave digging at the Cemetery, also mow with 'machine once a week, mow the ordinary grass twice a year, keep graves tidy, trim hedges and clean ditches twice a year, dig round the inside of hedge and fence once a year, to attend to flower borders when necessary.

To clean Lamps once a week (when in use) and light them as instructed. To weed the parish footpaths once a year. To go round with the Cart to collect the Household Refuse once per week, and afterwards bury same.

To attend to the Recreation Ground hedges, also to lock and unlock the swing and see-saw each weekend.

The Cemetery Grass to be mown and cleaned away in a reasonable time. All the above mentioned work to be done to the satisfaction of the Council for the sum of Twenty six pounds (£26.0.0) per year. The payment to be made at the rate of 10/- per week.

In case of any breach of Contract in any of the above mentioned work, one months notice be given to terminate this Agreement.

Witness: Alfred Weaver
Clerk to Parish Council"

Signed: John Lovesey 1913