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Transfer of Blackminster from Offenham to Badsey, 1949

If you travel northwards from Badsey towards the Littletons and Bidford-on-Avon, you will see signs for Blackminster.  The name derives from ancient field names which may be seen on early 19th century maps.

Blackminster refers to the houses either side of the B4085, beginning at the bend in the road just after Bretforton Brook has been passed and ending shortly before the centre of South Littleton is reached.  It also encompasses houses at the start of Station Road going westwards towards Offenham; the boundary with Offenham is at the bridge over the railway.

Until 1949, Blackminster was part of Offenham but, at the petition of the parishioners, it transferred to the parish of Badsey.    A witty journalist on a London newspaper, referencing the fact that it was close to the Bard’s Stratford-upon-Avon, wrote the following article under the headline, “To be or not to be in this hamlet”:

You might get black looks in Blackminster if you mention Offenham; in Offenham it’s a bit “off” to mention Badsey; and it’s just as bad in Badsey to speak of Offenham.

For the Worcestershire villages of Offenham and Badsey are at “war” over the adjoining hamlet of Blackminster.  The Blackminster folk have campaigned long to be removed from the auspices of Offenham.  They favour the social life of Badsey, with its main bus route and its street lighting.

Now the County Council has issued an order for the transfer of most of Blackminster to Badsey – a move which has the support of Badsey and the disapproval of Offenham.

So Blackminster is satisfied; Badsey is gratified; Offenham is mortified.

The Offenham folk may appeal to the Minister of Health who will decide whether the change is to be or not to be …..

Read on to find out more about this so-called “war”.

* * * * *

Early Development of Blackminster

In 1842, at the time that the Offenham Tithe Map was drawn, there were no houses at all in Blackminster; the land was given over to arable.  But, in about 1844, a stone quarry was built by Solomon Hunt of Evesham.  By 1851, a house which we know today as The Old Farm House, Birmingham Road, had been built to house the foreman of the stone quarry.  The address given in the census was simply “Offenham”.  An auction of 1850 of land at Blackminster refers to “Hunt’s far-famed paving, building and limestone quarries at Blackminster".  An auction notice of September 1853 refers to “three newly-erected dwelling houses”.  As well as The Old Farm House, these were the nearby cottages called today Ivanhoe and Rose Cottage; they appear in the 1861, 1871 and 1881 census with an address of Blackminster.  

Littleton and Badsey Station opened at Blackminster on 21st April 1884.  A railway had cut across the land in 1853, linking Evesham with Oxford and London, but now there was the facility for the growing market industry to send produce to market.

No further housing development took place for nearly 30 years, until the late 1870s when Lime Trees was built, followed a decade or so later by the houses known today as Corner House and Victoria Cottage.  By 1911, the house known as Orchard House had been built.  When the First World War broke out, there were just seven houses at Blackminster.

An Explosion of Housing in the Inter-war Period

After the First World War was over, the population of the small settlement at Blackminster more than tripled.  There were now 23 houses in the hamlet.  People in these new houses felt more of an affinity with Badsey.  They felt they were not getting the community of interest they should have got.  The residents’ postal address was ‘Badsey, near Evesham' and during the Second World War the civil defence was administered from Badsey.  
 
There were various rumblings about the possibility of transferring Blackminster from Offenham to Badsey.  At the beginning of the Second World War steps were taken to ascertain whether it was possible for Blackminster to become a separate parish but it was deemed not big enough to form a parish of its own.  The feeling did not go away, however, and the people continued to think they should be associated with Badsey.  

The events of 13th July 1946

As is often the way with these things, sometimes a seemingly insignificant event proves to be the catalyst for something much bigger.  On Saturday 13th July 1946, a Children’s Day was held at Offenham.  It began with a children’s service in the church at 9.30 am.  In the afternoon there was a general assembly at the maypole with the crowning of the Maypole Queen and children’s dancing around the maypole, followed by a Fancy Dress Parade, tea and sports.  There was a horticultural show in a marquee throughout the day.  The day concluded with a grand old-fashioned dance in the Village Hall.

The idea of Children’s Day originated through the Offenham School Parents’ Association and was brought to fruition by a general organising committee.  Blackminster residents, most of whose children attended Badsey Council School, felt that their children had been snubbed at the Children’s Festival at Offenham.  Mr Charles Tutton had written to the Organising Committee to complain and also had a letter published in the local press which had inflamed resentment.

The first official steps towards seeking unity with Badsey

Since 13th July, contact had been made with the Clerk of the County Council to find out the steps necessary to secure Blackminster's transfer to another parish.  At a meeting of Offenham Parish Council on Friday 13th September 1946, Blackminster’s representative on the Council, Mr Stanley Bunting, made it known that the residents of Blackminster had expressed their desire to break away from the parish of Offenham and instead to join with the parish of Badsey.  

The Chairman, Mr E T Trenfield, said that, during the war, the Parish Council had sought to ensure that Blackminster was represented on the Council.  He indicated that Mr Bunting was a very great help to them and he was sorry the whole affair had cropped up. 

Mr Bunting said that he also hoped that, after 20 years, any talk of a separation between Blackminster and the rest of the parish of Offenham would die a natural death, but events both before and after 13th July however had proved that Blackminster was still outside Offenham:  “I have come to the conclusion that Blackminster should seek unity with some parish other than Offenham."  He explained that the first reason was the incompatibility of interests and second was Blackminster’s geographical position with lack of public transport from east to west.  There was also the question of street lighting.

At a meeting of Badsey Parish Council on Monday 23rd September 1946, Mr C A Binyon presided over a meeting which was supportive of Blackminster’s desire to transfer to Badsey.  The Clerk reported that he had written to Worcestershire County Council informing them that the Parish Council had made a recommendation that that part of Blackminster, in the parish of Offenham, on the Badsey side of the Great Western Railway, be transferred to the parish of Badsey.  

Procedures for Transfer

The Clerk of Worcestershire County Council notified the parties concerned of the procedure for transfer:

The procedure for the transfer of a part of a parish to another parish is laid down in Section 141 of the Local Government Act 1933, and is that where the County Council consider, either on the receipt of proposals from a local authority or otherwise, that a prima facie case exists for the change, they hold a local enquiry after publication and service of notices. At the local enquiry, any local authority or person appearing to the County Council to be concerned is entitled to be heard.  

If the County Council are satisfied after holding the local enquiry that the change is desirable, they may make an Order giving effect to the change and submit it to the Minister of Health for confirmation. They must publish a notice in one or more local newspapers advertising the Order they have made, and stating that Petitions with respect to the Order may be made to the Minister within six weeks after the publication of the notice. 

Offenham’s Objections – the Rateable Value

If Blackminster were to transfer from the parish of Offenham to the parish of Badsey it would mean Offenham sustaining a big drop in rateable value.  This was discussed at a meeting of Offenham Parish Council on 28th November 1946.  The financial effect such a transfer would have on the Offenham rate was as follows:

The rateable value of the property on the South Littleton side of the railway line totalled £434; on the Badsey side it was £221 while the assessments which would require division such as water mains, railway station etc amounted to £361 giving a total of £1,066.  As the total rateable value of Offenham was £3,439, it meant that the transfer of Blackminster would result in the village losing approximately one third of its rateable value.  At present the product of a penny rate in Offenham was £14; without Blackminster it would be reduced to about £10 10s.

It was proposed that a special parish meeting should be held in order to give the whole of the residents of Offenham the opportunity of expressing their views on the subject.

Blackminster Residents prepare Petition

Meanwhile, Blackminster residents began pressing ahead with their desire to transfer to Badsey.  In November 1946 a petition asking the Worcestershire County Council to authorise the transfer of their administration from the parish of Offenham to the parish of Badsey began circulating.

The petition gave nine reasons why the transfer from Offenham to Badsey should take place.  These were:

  1. Incompatibility of interest.
  2. The geographical position of Blackminster in relation to Offenham.
  3. The distance from Blackminster to Offenham Church and School was the reason why no Blackminster children attended the latter.
  4. There was no public transport between the two places.
  5. Because Blackminster children did not attend Offenham School they therefore had no interest in its life.
  6. While South Littleton and Badsey had electric lighting, Blackminster, in the centre, was in darkness.
  7. The postal address was “Badsey, near Evesham”.
  8. During the war, Blackminster was attached to Badsey for civil defence, and this was found to be a satisfactory arrangement.
  9. A very strong communal spirit existed between Blackminster and Badsey residents, and the amalgamation should be for all official purposes.

The petition was despatched to the County Council on 8th January 1947.  According to a report in The Evesham Standard, the petition was signed by 60 local government electors living at Blackminster and that only one elector failed to sign.

The greatest value lay in the north part of Blackminster (this was where the secondary school, the railway station and Littleton & Badsey Growers’ premises were situated) but it was not desired to split the north from the south, rather to keep Blackminster as a complete entity. The petition was signed by all the residents north of the railway.  

Offenham Parish Meeting, January 1947

As discussed at their meeting in November, a parish meeting was called for Wednesday 22nd January 1947.  The Parish Council felt that it was an issue too big for them to take the responsibility on their shoulders without hearing the views of the whole parish.  Mr A J Billings, Chief Rating Officer and Accountant of the Evesham Rural District Council, presided over the meeting as a neutral chairman.

Mr Billings drew the attention of the meeting to a letter sent by the County Council stating there was to be a general review of boundaries affecting both county and parochial boundaries.  They therefore advised postponing considering the transfer of Blackminster until a later date unless there were real grounds for regarding it as urgent.

Mr J Sharp (one of Offenham’s representatives on the Evesham RDC) then moved the following resolution:

“That this meeting requires the Offenham Parish Council to oppose any proposals to alter the boundaries between the parishes of Badsey and Offenham, viz Badsey taking in the portion of Offenham known as “Blackminster” on the ground that no material benefit would be gained by the inhabitants of Blackminster, but would result in a large financial loss in rateable value to the parish of Offenham by such an alteration, and that in view of the fact that a general review of parish boundaries will take place in due course, the Blackminster application is premature.”

The resolution was carried by 37 votes to one.  

At a meeting of Badsey Parish Council on 10th March 1947, it was agreed that the matter was not urgent.

Public Enquiry, September 1947

The Blackminster petition had been submitted in January, but it was not until eight months later that a public enquiry was held.  On Friday 26th September 1947 at 7.30 pm, Worcestershire County Council held a public enquiry at Blackminster County Modern School, at which the fate of Blackminster would be decided.

Mr C A Binyon, Chairman of Badsey Parish Council, confirmed that neither the idea nor the petition originated with his council.   "We had information,” he said, "that the people of Blackminster wanted to come into the parish of Badsey – and I think they would be welcomed, for there is a great deal to be said for the transfer.  It is quite true that there is no communal life between the two under the present arrangement, and there ls no public transport; besides, the whole of Blackminster is very much closer to Badsey than it is to Offenham." 

The main spokesman for Blackminster was Mr C Tutton of St Cadoc, Station Road.  He said that distance and transport were his first points.  "Whichever way you try to get to the centre of Offenham you have to meet cold winds, and the only means of getting there is by walking or by cycle, because there is no public transport."  His next point was concerning the children.  “The children go to school at Badsey. They have Badsey ideas and they have their friends there. There is nothing in Offenham for them, and they do not go there because they do not know anyone.”  (Mr Tutton spoke from personal experience, as two of his children had attended Badsey Council School before going on to Prince Henry’s Grammar School.)  “It is not nice to think that something is happening in the area and you are out of it," he concluded.  "I feel that I have more community of interests with Badsey because I am more in touch with things there. There no spirit of vindictiveness about the plea. We believe that our interests will be best served if the whole of Blackminster is transferred to Badsey."  

Stanley Bunting felt that the question as to whether the request was premature had nothing to do with the issue as their plea was based on a community of interests with Badsey.  “We represent the minority as well as the majority.  We have no interest in acres and rateable value.  The welfare of the people is just as important as the rateable value.”  

As well as the issue about rateable value, Mr Hodgetts of Offenham Parish Council was also concerned about acreage.  The total acreage involved was 193 and if this were taken from Offenham it would reduce that parish to 1,035, and increase the Badsey acreage to one-third larger than Offenham.  He saw no reason why this should happen.  “Badsey has already encroached on another parish,” said Mr Hodgetts, “and it looks as though they want to do it again.”
  
Mr Bunting repeated that the whole of Blackminster wanted to go to Badsey, and there was no desire to split the place.  “The south want to go,” he said, “and the north would like to go, but if it is a question of splitting they would rather go to South Littleton than remain with Offenham.”

Part Transfer to Badsey Proposed, October 1947

At a meeting on 27th October 1947, the General Purposes Committee proposed to Worcestershire County Council that the part of Blackminster lying to the south of the Great Western Railway line from the parish of Offenham should transfer to the parish of Badsey.

The transfer would involve 80 of the 100 residents and 113 of the 193 acres of Blackminster but only £221 of the £700 rateable value.  It was suggested that the wishes of the inhabitants would thus be satisfied without unduly disturbing the finances of Offenham parish.

Order for Transfer issued, January 1949

It was not until the beginning of 1949 than an Order for Transfer was issued by Worcestershire County Council.  At their meeting on Monday 3rd January 1949, councillors were informed that the County Council had issued the Order, subject to the confirmation of the Minister of Health, for the transfer to Badsey of that part of Blackminster lying to the south of the main railway line from Evesham to Oxford.  If confirmed, the Order would become operative on 1st April 1949.  The ecclesiastical divisions of any parish would be unaffected by the order.

Councillors at the Offenham Parish Council meeting on 13th January 1949 agreed to take no further steps in opposition to the transfer of Blackminster from Offenham to Badsey.  As the Offenham case had been presented and turned down both at the public inquiry and also by Worcestershire County Council, there seemed little point in further protest unless fresh evidence could be produced.  In any case Offenham’s chief objection, the considerable loss of rateable value, had mostly been met as the transfer would only affect that part of Blackminster south of the railway line.

Councillor S Bean proposed that the Council should not oppose the recommendations for transfer, and wished the residents of Blackminster every success and happiness in their new parish.  “And no disillusionment,” added the Chairman.

Badsey Residents at last, April 1949

The residents of Blackminster south of the railway line finally became residents of Badsey on 1st April 1949.  Following the transfer, the parish of Badsey was divided into three wards, increasing the parish representation from nine to 11 councillors.  The new wards were known as Blackminster (one representative), Badsey (nine) and Bowers Hill (one).  

Elections took place on 11th May.  In a closely-fought election at Blackminster, Stanley Bunting (company accountant) narrowly beat P F Harrison (market gardener) by 26 votes to 24.  The new residents of Badsey living in Blackminster turned out in force – 90% voted, as compared with 30%-35% in the rest of the area.

The main Blackminster Spokesmen

Stanley Francis Edwin Bunting (1897-1986) was Blackminster’s representative on Offenham Parish Council.  Born in Glamorganshire, the only child of Albert Edward Bunting, a domestic gardener, and his wife, Florence Beatrice, Stanley grew up in Gloucester.  He lived at 59 Great Western Road where he continued to live with his parents until 1926 when he got a job as a book-keeper with Littleton & Badsey Growers and later became their accountant.  Stanley married Ellen Margaret Hiden (1901-1983) in 1936 in Walsall.  Ellen had been born in Staffordshire, but both her parents were from the Vale of Evesham:  her father, Marcus Pember Hiden, was from Evesham and her mother, Ellen Matilda Careless, was from Littleton.  The couple moved to Elmar on Station Road soon after marriage.  They were certainly living there in 1938 as they appear on the Electoral Register for that year as living at Elmar.  Their only son, Alan (1939-2016), attended Badsey Council School and then Prince Henry’s Grammar School.  When the transfer from Offenham to Badsey eventually came into effect, Stanley resigned from his place on Offenham Parish Council and was elected to Badsey Parish Council.  He died at Merstow Place Rest Home, Evesham, in 1986, aged 88; his wife had died three years earlier.

Charles Henry Tutton (1894-1967) was one of the main residents negotiating for the transfer of Blackminster to Badsey.  Charlie, as he was known, grew up in Barry, Glamorgan.  He married May Robins in 1918 in Sully, Glamorgan, and had three children, all born in Glamorgan.  It was in 1934 that the Tutton family moved to Worcestershire when Charlie, a railway signalman, accepted a job at Littleton & Badsey Station.  The Tuttons moved into a bungalow on Birmingham Road which they named St Cadoc (now called Greystones), after a saint from Glamorgan.  Charlie quickly became a part of community life in Badsey and went on to serve on the parish council, the Rural District Council, and as a manager at both Badsey School and Blackminster School.  He was an eloquent speaker and was awarded many medals for public speaking at the annual music festival of the Great Western Railway.  Charlie died at St Cadoc in July 1967, aged 73.

Transfer of the Ecclesiastical Parish, January 1967

The Reverend W B Chapman pointed out in the February 1949 Parish Magazine:  “It is now generally known that after April 1st the greater part of Blackminster will be incorporated in the Badsey Parish Council area.  This, however, does not affect the ecclesiastical boundaries and, therefore, that part of Blackminster still remains in the ecclesiastical parish of Offenham.  I point out this in order to avoid confusion in the matter of Banns, etc.”

It was not until nearly 18 years later that the residents of Blackminster became a part of the ecclesiastical parish of St James Badsey with Aldington.  This came into effect in January 1967.

Maureen Spinks, December 2021

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