MY ARTICLE in June was a brief look at the 50th anniversary of Stephen Freeman Primary School.

But today I will focus on the man himself, Stephen (or Steve to his friends) Freeman.

So who was Stephen Freeman?

He was born in Dorchester-on-Thames in 1895 and attended the local church school. In 1914, at the age of 19, he started a long career with the Great Western Railway, at the very bottom rung as a cleaner, progressing up the career ladder to be a fireman, engine driver and then into management roles such as a controller and supervisor. He was also a Union official for ASLEF. He retired in 1961, after 47 years with GWR.

In 1920, a young Stephen Freeman became chairman of the Northbourne Radcliffe Infirmary Contribution Scheme, where participating married couples would pay 2d a week towards free hospital treatment (if required) at the (then) debt-ridden Radcliffe Infirmary.

In 1928, he entered local politics. Standing as a Labour candidate, he became a parish councillor at East Hagbourne and, in 1937, he gained a seat on Didcot Parish Council and one on Berkshire County Council simultaneously. While a member of Didcot Parish Council, he was made clerk to the council, a post he held for 38 year until ill health forced him to retire in 1966.

He was a progressive councillor and suggested the amalgamation of the Hagbourne and Didcot Parish Councils as far back as the 1930s.

Stephen Freeman had visions of a future Didcot with a population of around 50,000. Along with many other councillors at the time, he became obsessed with making Didcot Parish Council (with a population of around 8,000) into an Urban District Council and thus receiving greater powers.

Wantage had already attained Urban District Council status and Wallingford was a borough council, although both had populations of less than 5,000.

The formation of South Oxfordshire District Council in 1974 saw the end of that dream.

In 1935, air raid precaution committees were formed around the country in case of war, in line with other European Countries. Stephen Freeman, along with all of the other Didcot Parish Councillors, took various posts on that committee to coordinate the fire, ambulance and police services around Didcot and surrounding villages in the event of attack, mainly from the air, by a foreign force.

A Government spokesman had said there was little chance of a war anyway!

During his time in local politics, he oversaw the opening of the library in Mereland Road, the old open air Swimming Pool in Newlands Avenue (opened in 1961) and Didcot Town Football Club’s former football ground in Station Road, purchased for £3,000.

He was involved with the football club and with the Marlborough Working Mens’ Club, retiring in 1961, when he was made an Alderman of the town.

He passed away in December 1968. A memorial service held at Dorchester Abbey attracted a large number of local dignitaries, including MPs, county and rural district councillors and the local police Chief Constable.

He has a road and school named after him. His vision of an expanded town are so true today.