EMOTIONS ran high in a West Oxfordshire village when descendants of 16 female martyrs met to celebrate their ancestors.

A ceremony was held in Ascott-under-Wychwood, near Chipping Norton, last weekend to mark the women’s imprisonment in 1873 for founding a branch of the National Union of Agricultural Workers.

Celebrations took place on the village green throughout the afternoon, while a commemorative textile nine months in the making was unveiled in the church next door.

Descendants travelled from far and wide, but none further than Beverley McCombs, who came all the way from New Zealand to attend the ceremony.

Mrs McCombs is the great grandaughter of Eli Pratley, whose first wife Elizabeth was one of the martyrs.

She published a book on the women in 2016 and revealed unveiling the textile was incredibly emotional.

Mrs McCombs said: “It was very moving and such a wonderful day.

“The women who made the textile used my book - they call it their bible.

“Everyone came together and were so happy to meet each other, it was such a nice place to be in.”

The martyrs were arrested in May 1873 after persuading men in nearby village Ramsden to join the workers’ union.

They spent two nights in Chipping Norton prison, where a crowd of 1000 tried to free them, before being transported to Oxford prison.

After an appeal to Queen Victoria the monarch pardoned the women, allowing them to return to Ascott as martyrs.

Saturday’s celebrations were timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of female suffrage as 150 residents gathered to hear nineteenth century folk songs and extracts from Mrs McCombs’ book.

The New Zealander discovered the martyrs’ story after visiting Ascott in 1988 to find out about her great grandfather and after 28 years of research she published her book in 2016.

She said: “When I discovered the story the women may as well have been standing there saying ‘you have to write about this’.”

The commemorative textile, which took 14 women nine months to create, will hang opposite the church's main entrance.

Sue Richards, co-organiser of the ceremony, helped make the textile and said the day went 'perfectly'.

She said: “It was magical.

“When we got to the church and I saw all these people I was bowled over.”