Health, Education & Welfare
In This Section
Before the nineteenth century voluntary organisations contributed hugely toward both helping the less well-off avoid the disastrous consequences of unemployment and illness, and assisting talented youth to secure some sort of education. Increasingly, however, the growing complexity of modern life necessitated the expansion of public provision through government action. Building on an awareness of traditional practice, this section focuses on how the greatest needs – for health (both physical and mental), education and welfare – have been catered for in Hook Norton over the last two hundred years.
In the process this section has stimulated some of the most interesting and arresting writing in the whole history website. The two other editors particularly recommend the authoritative and original articles by Roy Meadow which serve to broaden and deepen our understanding of serious problems relating to both health and education. Hook Norton, it transpires, was for a long time disadvantaged by its isolation and governmental neglect, but since the 1950s it has gradually managed to overcome those disadvantages. Concerned local residents worked to bring about those improvements – but some were not at all helpful!
The problems in health and education were exacerbated by the worsening poverty of many residents in the nineteenth century. For over two centuries local government had taken its responsibility to assist the poor of the parish very seriously, but the growing financial burden brought about a reform in the 1830s that shifted responsibility from local to regional level, though the parish still had to contribute to the costs of running the new large “union” workhouse in Banbury that served a “union” of neighbouring parishes. The harshness of the new regime encouraged local self-help and charitable societies which helped to keep many poor people out of the workhouse and prepared the way for a proper national welfare system in the twentieth century.
The health and welfare of the parish’s inhabitants has also been furthered in other ways not (as yet) considered here. Animals have benefitted from the parish’s veterinary services: some insights into equine services may be found in Alan Walker’s autobiography, Four Legs and a Tale (Banbury: Live Wire Books, 2014). The fire brigade is one of the village’s oldest established public-service institutions, dating from the eighteenth-century hand-pumped fire engine which is now kept in the parish church. It was replaced in 1896 when the village brigade was founded, and finally resulted in the building of the present fire station in 1952. The story is well told in James Clarke, ed., Hook Norton Fire Brigade: A Celebration [Hook Norton, 1996], available from the HNLHG. Appropriately, one urgent editorial meeting for the booklet was disrupted when the editor had to rush out to attend a severe fire in a neighbouring village!