Millington, Bryan Worsley

Jo Eames

A Deddington Life Well-Lived; Bryan Worsley Millington 

The Banbury Guardian of 18th September 1947 contained an obituary:

"One of the best-known and most successful farmers in the Banbury district, Mr Bryan Worsley Millington, died suddenly at Jerusalem Farm, Deddington during Monday night. He was found dead in bed on Tuesday morning by one of his employees, Mr Harry Shirley.

Mr Millington, who was 86 years of age, was born at Ardley, near Bicester but had farmed at Deddington, at Leaden Porch, Tomwell and Jerusalem Farms, for 52 years.

He was a well-known judge of hunters, and in that capacity was in great demand all over the country. He was also a successful hunter-exhibitor and had been a member of the committee of the Banbury and Bicester horse shows.

In former years one of his chief hobbies was the old Deddington Volunteer Fire Brigade of which, besides being President, he was an active member.

He married Miss Frances Wood, of Bicester, but had no family and after her death some years ago gave up Tomwell Farm and Leaden Porch House and went to reside at Jerusalem Farm. Recently he had lived there alone.

He had not been in his usual health for some months, but was still active, and only the day before his death had driven, in his pony and trap, all around the farm." 

The paper subsequently reported on his funeral at St Peter & St Paul, Deddington. The service was attended by representatives of the farming community from a wide area, and worthies including Lady Dorothea Hobart who had succeeded Mr Millington at The Leaden Porch House. A member of the Heythrop Hunt played the “Gone Away” over the grave.

Millington bought Leaden Porch and Tomwell Farms in 1895 from Frederick Gulliver, who had farmed them since around 1850 (first appearing at The Leaden Porch House in the census of 1851 as a 22 year old). Bryan Millington’s arrival in Deddington in 1895 is corroborated by an auction poster from April 1895 I happened across recently, advertising the sale of sheep and grazing by direction of Frederick Gulliver “who is retiring from business”. Farmer Millington remained at Leaden Porch until after the death of his wife. In 1940, when he had moved to Jerusalem Farm (now known as Leadenporch Farm) the house was re-let by the Church Commissioners to Major-General Hobart, conditional on the freeholders installing mains electricity, mending the broken grates and converting a pantry into a downstairs WC. It seems Bryan Millington had shown little interest in modernising the house.

He was, however, interested in community affairs. This is clear from his presidency of the Deddington Volunteer Fire Brigade, which stabled its engine under the Town Hall, ready to steam into action. He was also Chairman of the Committee dedicated to raising a memorial to the village dead after the Great War, a long drawn-out and difficult process which finally succeeded in building the memorial around which the parish continues to gather on each Remembrance Sunday.

As well as eschewing mains electricity, he clearly remained attached to traditional forms of transport. His obituary mentions his last outing in his pony and trap, and a decade or so ago I met an old gentleman in Deddington churchyard on market day, who was paying his respects to his forebears interred there. We got chatting and he asked me where I lived. I told him “Leaden Porch”and he said he remembered Mr Millington, who used to live there when he was a boy, recalling that: “He used to ride a grey cob with a docked tail.” 

It sounds a good life, and an especially enviable death. To be fit enough to drive around one’s own farm at the age of 86, and to die there peacefully in your sleep, seems a consummation devoutly to be wished.  

Chairman of the Deddington War Memorial Committee

The following is an extract from Rob Forsyth's story of Deddington’s War Memorial .

The idea for our War Memorial was first raised in May 1919 and a committee was soon formed chaired by Mr Bryan Millington who was a well-to-do farmer living  at Leaden Porch on New Street.

There is a personal connection here. Bryan’s next-door neighbours and good  friends  were Richard Bull the village Vet and his family living in what is now our house - The Stile House. Their son Reginald had been killed in action on 1 November 2018 only 10 days before the Armistice. This may well have been why Bryan took on the Chairmanship of what proved to be a less than happy task. A memorial to Reginald is on the North wall above the crosses

A decision was quickly made that the War Memorial would be in the churchyard. This was unlike most other villages whose memorials are in the village centre. This may have been because the state of the market place was apparently very bad and unsightly. But there may have been another problem. The village had a large number of Wesleyan & Congregational church-goers who, by some accounts I have seen, did not like the incumbent vicar’s tendency to follow high church practices. So it may be – and here I am speculating – that not all grieving families may have wished their men to be  memorialised in the ‘established’ church’s churchyard. There are several extremely unseemly exchanges by notes and postcards between parishioners about location and costs in the Oxford Records Office!

This all caused delay. Mr Millington himself, in one note, says he is close to giving up Chairmanship. Even the Diocesan authority - whose permission is  required for any work on church property - seems to have prevaricated for a very long time over the design.

Although by August 1919 it had been agreed that the Memorial would be “designed by Mr Smithin, would be twelve feet 6 inches high, executed in Portland Stone and cost about £230”   nothing really had happened even by January the next year such that the committee felt obliged to issue a public apology.

A whole year further on it had still not been completed. At which point a very angry lady called Miss Ellen Hands took the matter into her own hands, compiled a list of names and personally  paid for a small brass plaque to be engraved and hung in the church in March 1921. You can see it just inside the porch to the North door.

It was not until Sunday 6 August 1922 - over 3 years on from that first meeting - that the memorial we see today was finally unveiled by Major General Sir Robert Fanshawe KCB DSO. He had commanded the 48th (South Midland) Division on the Western Front and in Italy from 1915 until June 1918.