A History of the Village of Milton (written in 1927 by Lucy Davenport)

Once more we pass over 200 years and in 1906 find a charming description written by J. E. Vincent: "Milton is the most tranquil of villages, an oasis of elm trees at the edge of the plain of the Vale" and an allusion to the glorious trees of Milton - and although the author speaks of elms as short lived and treacherous trees, we like to think of them in the words of Lord Tennyson as 'immemorial elms' who have seen the days of our fathers and forefathers before us.

 

The Great War of 1914-18 affected us principally through the coming of the Depot (Now Milton Park)Perhaps the tranquil aloofness of or village, added to the proximity of the railway, caused the Government to choose Milton as the site for a stores depot for the Royal Air Force in 1916. Pleasant fields, the favourite Sunday walk of Miltonians, were enclosed with high corrugated iron fences (9), innumerable sheds painted in dazzle colours, were erected and a wide asphalted road, lit by powerful arc lights which shed their radiance far over the countryside, leads to Didcot. The entrance gates by Potash (10) are guarded all day, and men still come in their hundreds from a wide district and find work here, while some live in cottages and lodgings in the village.

 

It is of curious interest that 365 Chinese men were encamped here during the war (WW1) and used as a labour corps at the depot. They were stevedores, seamen and labourers, and it is said that they were unable to leave England in ships to which they belonged owing to the danger of the submarine warfare. They mixed freely with the villagers, always showing great kindness to the children and at first communicating by signs, but, with the aid of the schoolmaster, soon learning to speak some English. They received high wages, and spent money in an open handed way, particularly in buying bicycles, which they learnt to ride in the open space leading to the church, and also suits of clothes made of the finest quality dark blue cloth. They left Milton in 1918, and the photographer who took their photographs for the passports, still speaks of the impossibility of distinguishing one Chinese face from another in the developed picture. In 1923 the Air Ministry began building houses on the rising ground called Milton Heights, and over 40 houses were shortly inhabited by a new population.

 

During the war a great many of our elms were marked by the government for felling, and in 1925 we lost a fine row of trees leading down to the church and numbers of those which shaded the paths and fields on the way to Steventon. The falling of those trees seemed to mark the end of a period of change and violent upheaval.

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