Oxted & District History Society - Talk
Oxted & District History Society

Members of the Oxted & District History Society heard presentations from four people at their mini-symposium on ‘ Oxted in the 1950s and 1960s ‘.

Dr.Richard Cockerill spoke about Medical Life & Services in Oxted.  Medical advances saw the first renal dialysis and organ transplants.  This was also the period when the tobacco industry tried to disprove the link between lung cancer and smoking.  There were reusable syringes for injections although disposable syringes were introduced during this period.  He remembers the regular morning, evening and Saturday morning surgeries in Oxted and those at Coldshott in Hurst Green and at Nurse Pryer’s house at Limpsfield Chart as well as on Sunday mornings at Oxted Hospital, where he also assisted with operations and sometimes had to deal with the outcomes of back street abortions before the Abortion Act.  At night he recalls the nightingales singing outside Oxted Hospital. 

He also remembers being on duty at the Police Station and at the Magistrates’ Court.  Trainee doctors were sent down from Guys Hospital where he himself trained.  Family planning advice was for married and engaged couples only.  The Group Practice at the Health Centre was set up after the 1966 Charter for GPs which recognised the need for practice nurses and ancillary staff.  Before the Clean Air Act chronic bronchitics were sent to Malta for the winter on the NHS.  This was cheaper than having them occupying hospital beds for much of the winter because of the polluted air.

Shirley Dunnicliffe gave an account of Aspects of Music Making and in particular the Limpsfield and Oxted Music Society. 

Leading musicians of the day visited for meetings and concerts.  There were five concerts in 1946, the Society’s first year, held in the Hoskins Arms.  The Society folded after its second season but was re-constituted with some help from Adrian Boult, who became President.  Other leading lights of the Society in this period were Wolstan Atkins, the son of a distinguished musician and godson of Edward Elgar who was Chairman for many years and Eileen Joyce, who became President in 1960.  Shirley remembers Eileen Joyce changing dresses two or three times for different pieces she performed in the same concert.  She highlighted the contribution of Joyce Cohen, Secretary for 30 years, who had to handle bizarre requests from performers.  The Society now has 4 professional concerts and four club evenings every year.

Stella Thomas spoke about the Barn Theatre and Oxted Operatic Society.  Stella regards the Barn Theatre as her second home.  The Barn itself was originally the barn of the saw-mill in Limpsfield, mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. 

It was dismantled and re-assembled on its present site in 1923-4.  The old wooden posts have now been dated and one was felled in 1434.  The first play put on was Sheridan’s ‘School for Scandal’ of which Stella is very proud as Sheridan is one of her ancestors.  Many famous names have appeared at the Barn.  There was originally no area for the orchestra, which had to perform in the damp area under the stage before the number of seats in the theatre was reduced.  During the Second World War, the Barn was used as a billet for Canadian soldiers. 

In the early days of the Oxted Operatic Society there were many performances of Gilbert & Sullivan but a wide variety of musicals have been put on since, including ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Carousel’.  Stella recalled three occasions when she was injured on stage during a show.

Frank Widdowson talked about the Sounds of Oxted. 

Before the ceaseless drone of the motorway Oxted was generally quiet at night except for the occasional sheep bleating in the distance.  Another sound was that of the siren, which meant that designated volunteers had to turn out to deal with an emergency.  There was also noise of aeroplanes from Croydon, Redhill and Biggin Hill Aerodromes. There was a variety of noises from steam trains on the railway.  Because you could travel down the line via various other lines to Tunbridge Wells and the south coast there were little tank engines as well as larger ones.  Frank also remembers the hooter sounding at Oxted Chalkpit before blasting and the lunch break.  He recalls the hooves of cattle from Court Farm, next to Oxted Church on nearby roads and of horses pulling delivery carts.  In the autumn there was also the noise of axes as woodmen coppiced local woodland.


Oxted in the 1950s and 1960s a talk by members of the society