Headington history: People

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Doris Ruth Field, and her parents Lewis and Harriet Field

Memorial Park boardDoris Field Memorial Park, off Jack Straw's Lane

Doris Field's father

Lewis Field was born in Duns Tew on 14 March 1870 and baptised there on 11 June. He was the son of the carpenter William Field, who was born in Spelsbury in 1830 and baptised there on 11 July, recorded in the parish register as William Botheham Field, the baseborn son of Elizabeth Field.

Lewis's mother Elizabeth Merry was born in Deddington in 1836, the daughter of the farmer & baker Nathan Merry and his wife Susannah.

Lewis Field's parents were married at Deddington on 21 November 1854.

By the time of the 1891 census Lewis (20) was a house decorator, living at 1 Princes Street in East Oxford with his parents and his brother Sidney (18), who was a coach painter. His father was now a wheelwright.

Doris Field's mother

Harriet Sturges was born at Sleay Barn Cottage, Cuddesdon on 22 December 1871 and registered as Harriett Sturgiss. She was the daughter of the shepherd William Sturges (born in Wheatley in c.1828) and his wife Mary (born in Haseley in c.1830).

At the time of the 1881 census Harriet (10) was ten years old and still at school, living at Sleay Barn Cottage with her parents and four of her siblings. She was still there in 1891 at the aged of 19 and employed in domestic work.

On 14 May 1898 at Ss Philip & James's Church, Oxford, Lewis Field (27), who was still working as a house decorator and living in St Clement's at Cave Street (then called George Street), married Harriet Sturges (26): she was then living at Park Crescent, Park Town and was probably in service there. She described her father as a farm bailiff (although he was in fact still working as an agricultural labourer as late as 1901).

At the time of the 1901 census Lewis Field (30) was living with Harriet (29) at the Cricketer’s Arms in Iffley Road, where he was the landlord as well as continuing to work as a painter & decorator. Doris was their only child:

  • Doris Ruth Field (born at the Cricketer's Arms, 43 Iffley Road on 8 February 1904 and baptised at Cowley St John Church on 15 May).

By the time of the 1911 census the family was living at 27 Iffley Road, and Lewis Field had returned to his original trade of house decorator.

By 1933 Lewis Field appears to have come into money. He had ceased working as a painter and decorator, and was farming at Plowman’s Farm in Headington, which was more usually known as Jack Straw's Farm. He continued to be listed in Kelly’s Directory as a private resident at 27 Iffley Road until 1945, but was simultaneously listed as living at Oakgate on the south side of Jack Straw’s Lane (now No. 42). At the time of the 1939 register Lewis was described as retired and was living at Oakgate with Harriet and their daughter Doris, who worked as a clerk/cashier in the office of a motor firm.

1939 map1939 map showing Jack Straw's Farm, with Hillside (33 Jack Straw's Lane)
next door to the west, and Oakgate (42 Jack Straw's Lane) to the
south-east of the lane behind Cowley Cottage (now a children's nursery

From 1940 to 1946 Doris Field was a nurse at Great Yarmouth.

From 1947 the farm was no longer listed in directories, but Lewis Field continued to be listed at Oakgate.

Lewis Field was still living at Oakgate when he died at the Cowley Road Hospital at the age of 86 on 26 June 1957. His effects came to £48,584.

His wife Harriet died at the age of 94 in 1966.

Jack Straw’s Farm and the adjoining cottage at 33 Jack Straw's Lane were inherited by their daughter, Doris Field, who created the Doris Field Memorial Park on some of the fields of Jack Straw's Farm as a memorial to her mother Harriet Field.

View of Oxford

Above: View of Oxford from Doris Field Memorial Park. Left to right: University Church of St Mary the Virgin; the twin towers of All Souls College; All Saints Church (now Lincoln College Library); the Radcliffe Camera; New College bell tower; the Tower of the Five Orders at the Bodleian; the green cupola of the Sheldonian Theatre; and the narrow spire of the chapel of Exeter College. To the right is the spire of Nuffield College, with the cupola of the NatWest Bank in Cornmarket in front. The tower in the centre foreground is that of St Michael & All Angels, New Marston

This view is discussed here in the Oxford View Cones Assessment of 2014.

The park is reached via the private road that runs beside the postbox in Jack Straw's Lane.

In about 1971 Miss Doris Field moved into a cottage next door to the farm, 33 Jack Straw's Lane, and she was there until at least 1976. Neighbours remember that after she had moved from the cottage to live elsewhere, she continued to get a pint of milk delivered to the doorstep of No 33 every day and had it collected by a chauffeur.

Doris Field died at a Witney Nursing Home on 18 August 1988, and her funeral service was at St Clement's Church on 26 August. Her estate was valued at £2,688,511 net.

The Doris Field Charitable Trust was constituted under a Trust Deed dated 16 May 1990, created out of the will of Doris Ruth Field. It gives grants, mostly to local charities, averaging about £400,000 a year. Many Headington charities, such as the Headington Festival, have benefited from grants from this trust.

In 1990 plans for a development of twelve dwellings to the rear of 17–31 Jack's Straws Lane was approved, and in 1993 Doris Field Close was named after Doris Field.

The Rectory Homes development at Nos. 35–43 Jack Straw's Lane in 2006 are the most recent houses built on the lands of Jack Straw's Farm.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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