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'Time to rekindle the old community spirit'
5:00pm Saturday 8th March 2014 in News
EIGHTY years ago, families began moving into new homes around Cornwallis Road in an estate which was soon to become known as Florence Park.
Sophie Scott spoke to Sheila Tree, who has lived in the area for 79 years and is thought to be the resident who has lived there the longest
Sheila Tree was just a toddler when she moved with her parents into a small house in Cornwallis Road.
Her father, Frank Hudson worked at Pressed Steel for 45 years and came to Oxford purely for his work, like so many other men.
Her mother, Irene, and father couldn’t afford to buy a house so rented the property when they moved in 1935 but were able to buy it later at a cost of £400.
Mrs Tree was just seven when the Second World War broke out and she has clear memories of the time.
- Sheila Tree with the book she wrote to mark the 50th anniversary of the community centre in 2002
The now 81-year-old said: “I remember seeing all the planes going over for D-Day in 1944. There were just so many planes. It was like they all met up over Oxford before they went over.
“The sirens sounded a couple of times and we had to use the shelter in our garden , but there were only a few incendiary bombs dropped nearby.
“My father’s work was classed as vital so he stayed at the factory and worked as a fireman in the evenings and we did get some men come and stay in the spare room to work at the factory making munitions.”
Oxfordshire was host to many of London’s evacuees and it was through a friend who was sent to live in Eynsham that Mrs Tree met her now-late husband Maurice.
- Sheila Tree, aged six, with friend Pamela Willett, left, at the house in Cornwallis Road she grew up in
Mrs Tree went to Donnington Infant and Junior Schools before heading to Central Girls School (now Cheney School) until she was 17.
After Mrs Tree was married in 1953, the couple stayed with her parents until they could afford a home together.
The couple had three children; Christopher, 51, who now lives in Rose Hill, Andrew, 49, of Wheatley, and Deborah, 54, who lives in Long Wittenham.
Her husband passed away 12 years ago but Mrs Tree still lives in the same home in Campbell Road.
- Milkman Fred White retires in 1990 after 40 years' service
The grandmother-of-ten and great-granny-of-one said: “Things here have changed so much. When I was girl we were always playing out. All the kids in the street played together and each season there were different games to play, like hoops, or marbles.
“And even when my three were children they would play out after school. Now there is not so much of that.”
Gladys Curtis at a Cornwallis Road Royal Wedding street party in 1981
She said the area has changed dramatically over the years, with more young professionals moving in and people moving away from the area.
Mrs Tree said there were often street parties and at the end of the Second World War each road held its own party with bonfires lighting up the place at night.
She added: “They were just such lovely times and people really came together.”
- A 1938 production of Rumpelstiltskin by Donnington Jr School
Her interest in the area led to her putting together a book on Florence Park’s history to mark the 50th anniversary of the community centre in 2002.
She said: “It would be nice if there were more people involved in the area and I do hope that the 80th celebrations bring more younger people together.”
'THERE'S THIS REAL SENSE OF OWNERSHIP'
Vice-chairman of Florence Park Community Association, Fiona Mullins, said it was a vibrant area to live.
The 49-year-old said: “It has lots of creative people from different nationalities who are very active in the community. A lot of people pitch in with whatever is going on.
“We have a lot of street parties, or organise litter picking and everyone helps out.
“It has become more and more active over the seven years I’ve lived here.”
- A potato and spoon race at Florence Park ijn 1990
Stella Bell has lived in Florence Park’s Campbell Road for four years.
The 42-year-old said: “It has got such an incredible sense of community.
“Everyone really pulls together.
“There is a sense of ownership, it really feels like a wonderful place to live.
“It is a beautiful space that has been properly designed and thought about. We have the park nearby which is beautiful and the walk to it is incredible.
“I have also got the nicest bunch of neighbours. If I need anything I could go to any one of my 10 closest neighbours.”
- Libby Haddield, 10, Lilia Bonacorsi, Freya Goozee, 12, and Helen Woods, 12, launch the estate’s anniversary celebrations in January
- The Florence Park community is hoping to put on a range of celebrations and activities over the rest of 2014 to mark the anniversary.
- It has already hosted a 1930s Tea Dance at the community centre, but between now and the end of the year a number of events are in the pipeline.
- Party in the Park, June 21
- During Oxford Open Doors, residents are being invited to open up their doors to show off any creative talent hidden in their home on September 13 and 14
- A community pantomime to be put on over the Christmas period s Florence Park in Bloom
- A street party
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