Champion of Bloxham history celebrates her own 100 years

Yvonne Huntriss celebrates her 100th birthday at Bloxham's Godswell Nursing Home NNL-180529-094455001
Yvonne Huntriss celebrates her 100th birthday at Bloxham's Godswell Nursing Home NNL-180529-094455001

One of Bloxham’s most passionate and prominent residents turned 100 last weekend - and celebrated the occasion with friends and family.

Yvonne Huntriss MBE was born in Hampstead, London on May 28, 1918 when the bombs were still falling on the capital.

Mrs Huntriss said: “The bombs were dropping from the Zepplins. My mother said that from the moment I was born I was looking around to see where the next bomb would drop.”

Mrs Huntriss was one of three children and had two ‘lovely’ brothers Peter, the eldest, and Louis, the youngest.

From a young age Mrs Huntriss possessed the drive and ambition that would be the hallmark of her life.

After finishing school in Hampstead just before the outbreak of World War II, Mrs Huntriss’ dreams were reigned in by the social conventions of the day but she fought for an acceptable compromise.

“I wanted to go to university but my father belonged to the era where women didn’t go to university. Women were brought up to get married and that didn’t suit me at all. I wanted a career.”

“With my mother’s urging he allowed me to go to a teachers’ training college in Kensington.”

Mrs Huntriss continued to teach throughout the war.

She said: “I loved my teaching, I loved my children and I think they loved me.

“ I never had any trouble with discipline because we were always laughing.”

It was the war that indirectly brought her to Banburyshire, first Claydon and then Bloxham after she met and eventually married Charles Huntriss at the insistence of her brother Louis.

She recalls: “My youngest brother was taken prisoner by the Japanese at Singapore. I just hoped that my brother would find a friend and help each other, that’s exactly what happened.”

That friend was Charles Huntriss.

“I was very close to my younger brother and very close in age and I became well aware that he wanted me to marry his friend.

“The friend asked me to marry me and I said ‘no I am a career girl’,” she recalls with a chuckle.

“But he came back and I remember the thought in my head was I must make this man happy again and I said yes, I would marry him.”

This union with Charles began her life-long love affair with village life and the tapestry of history that is needed to create it.

Mrs Huntriss said: “I had to leave London, leave my teaching, both of which I loved and I came to this area.

“We lived for eight years in Claydon, which in those days was a tiny village, and as we were travelling there in a car my new husband said to me ‘you may not realise it but this village we’re going to has no electricity, no gas, no mains water, no mains sewage, no shops.

“Everything I thought I would get was a no but the people were lovely, they were all working on the land. I got on with them very well, we had eight happy years there with my two boys born.”

Plagued by poor eyesight throughout her life Mrs Huntriss was unable to drive so the decision to move to Bloxham was born through the necessity for more frequent public transport now they were a family of four.

“We lived in a house by the church. We came in 1955. I got very interested in village life and I noticed there was nothing for the children, so I decided I would start a Brownie pack for the girls here.

“I had done Brownies and Guides in London during the war. I had 18 years of teaching the Bloxham Brownies.”

Mrs Huntriss also threw herself into other aspects of village life and started fundraising for the church which would later flourish into the formation of the village museum.

She said: “The church is a wonderful Norman church but it needs a lot of money to keep it in repair and I wanted to help with that so I put on three pageants based on Bloxham history.

“I did the research at the Bodlean Library in Oxford and I was fascinated by the history of Bloxham which is very long and got absolutely absorbed in it.

“I did three different pageants, each one took three years to do; one year of research, one year to write it and the last year finding people from the village to take 

“I thought the people of the past should be honoured and remembered. It’s darn hard work for the people working the land and I wanted to keep their memory going by starting the museum.”

It was this work that earned her an MBE.

To celebrate, sons John and Michael, spouses and grandchildren visited her for a party - and on Tuesday, Godswell Care Home hosted a tea party.