Stonesfield turns on the waterworks

If you've ever taken a stroll around Stonesfield you may have noticed a stone plaque sitting above a wooden bench in a shaded section of the village where Laughton Hill, Stonesfield Riding and Boot Street all intersect.

If you have, you may have thought to yourself 'so what's that all about?' and you may have taken a closer look. The words are now worn in areas so the full history and story of the plaque isn't immediately apparent, however, there are still clues and with a little help from the internet, this more 'Stonesfield' than 'Oliver' piece of history 'springs' to life.

The main clue that the plaque itself gives us is a date, 'something something 1897' - the 1897 probably gives a fair indication of what it might all be about as 1897 was a pretty significant year in 'Victorian' England.

Okay, okay, enough drip feeding of clues. The stone was actually erected and unveiled on the 15th June 1897 and local newspapers report Stonesfield as being en fete with much cheer and joy. But why?, well, firstly the stone marks the opening of a much needed public water supply to the village, furthermore it was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and thirdly, it commemorates Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

The summers of the early 1890's were long, hot and very dry and water was a scarcity, the village wells had repeatedly run dry leaving villagers having to travel long distances for water. This all led to a keen need throughout the village for a public water source and the matter was taken in hand by the Parish Council to devise a method for funding the installation of a village water works. The cost of £200 was met largely through public subscription with almost every villager providing support and in addition the Duke of Marlborough provided financial assistance as well as providing the bricks and gravel that were necessary to complete the works.

On the day itself triumphant arches of evergreens were erected, houses were decorated with flags & bunting and as the Duke and Duchess arrived the Stonesfield Brass Band played and children gathered and waved flags from the bank above the site of the new tap.

At 3:30 Consula Duchess of Marlborough, accompanied by the Duke, declared the the waterworks open and upon turning the tap the hydrant fired its first jets of water reaching more than 15 feet into the air

As the cheering subsided, Mr E Townsend, Vice Chairman of the Parish Council addressed the Duchess, thanking her, welcoming her amongst the villagers and presenting the stone as a commemoration to the Jubilee year and as a record for future generations of the Duchess's visit

The stone reads 'In commemoration of the 60th year of the reign of Queen Victoria, these water works, erected by public subscription, opened by Consula Duchess of Marlborough, on 15th June 1897.

Today, more than 100 years later, the efforts of the Parish Council, the commitment of the villagers (including many Olivers) and the visit of the Duke and Duchess can still be recalled and remembered through the continued presence of the inscribed stone and the small tap that sits below it.