Bicester’s extraordinary women

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BICESTER’S extraordinary women were the theme of a Heritage Open Day held at St Edburg’s Church on Saturday (September 8).
The event was part of a national series of Heritage Open Days with the theme of Britain’s Extraordinary Women, celebrating the 100th anniversary of (some) women getting the vote.Kingsmere Family Ministry and the Mothers Union are part of St Edburg’s and were among those who took part in the exhibition. Bicester Local History Society, Bicester Ladies Circle, Bicester Widows Club and ARCh charity (Assisted Reading for Children in Oxfordshire) also took part.

The exhibition included the story of St Edburg herself. She may never have visited Bicester, but her relics were later a focus for pilgrimage in the Priory. It focused on women who still contribute to the town, as well as the 70 recorded on memorials in the church.

Historic families were celebrated as well as fictional characters such as Queenie from Lark Rise to Candleford. Service to the community was celebrated, with Joan Blackman, who was the first female Mayor of Bicester and has served as mayor three times, as being active in St Edburg’s, being mentioned. Florence Dealey was the subject of a display by the junior members of the choir. Born around 1893, Miss Dealey ran a sweet shop in the Market Square. She was a musician in the church, leaving her house to St Edburg’s when she died. Her life story was just one of many showing the vital role played by women in the town which has often been under-recognised.

Dr Christopher Young, Licensed Lay Minister, said: “The displays also emphasised the extent to which St Edburg’s, whether as a congregation or as a building is an integral part of the town. The use of the church for events such as this re-affirms the importance of the role that we still have within the community and how the church and wider community can reach out to each other.”