AN AUTHOR has uncovered the fascinating history of his village for a new book.
Donald Chilvers’ Quiet Times, Cruel Times reveals the surprising secrets of seemingly peaceful Brightwell Baldwin, which nestles in the countryside between Wallingford and Oxford.
The retired Government financial legal expert said that a rector who murdered his glove-maker is one of the shocking stories he uncovered.
A village squire who was related to Anne Boleyn and beheaded for disagreeing with Henry VIII is another whose story has been revealed.
Mr Chilvers, 84, said: “It was round about 1420 when the rector John Soulby did the dirty deed.
“He was given an absolute pardon by the Pope of the day, but presumably rather remotely.” John Soulby was succeeded as rector by his son John Crosby – surprisingly, because as a Catholic priest he should not have had any children at all.
Mr Chilvers said: “After that, an edict went out from a Catholic cleric saying they mustn’t allow sons to succeed their supposedly celibate fathers, which was becoming a bit of a habit.”
William Paul, another rector at St Bartholomew’s Church, went on to become chaplain to Charles I as he was shepherded around prisons before he was executed. He became bishop of Oxford in 1663.
Village squire Adrian Fortescue, a cousin of Anne Boleyn who largely owned the village in the 16th century, was beheaded by Henry VIII after disagreeing with the King about the Reformation.
The book is a distillation of a 200-page village history painstakingly compiled from parish records by former village resident Tony Fraser.
Mr Fraser died 20 years ago, three years after Mr Chilvers moved to the village where he now lives with his wife Rosie.
But he had donated copies of his magnum opus to several local libraries, including the one in Watlington.
Mr Chilvers said: “It was an incredible labour of love.”
Mr Chilvers worked as legal financial expert advising the Government on court cases.
He then ditched the legal world to become a garden designer for four years, designing a memorial garden for the Oratory School in Woodcote near Reading, among others.
He has since published seven books, including his autobiography, Boarding the Express.
Quiet Times, Cruel Times will be published in December by Luxx.
It will be available for £25 from qtct.co.uk