Finstock’s most generous resident?

A short history of the most generous Finstock resident ever.

John Kibble, wrote in 1927 in “Charlbury and its nine hamlets”,

“Many years ago a Finstock girl went away to London and married well, and they came to Finstock at the place where her grandfather had his smithy”. House enlarged, stabling for 10 horses, rode to hounds, whilst house being done, they rented Lee Place, Charlbury. Before Xmas, she gave a pound of meat for each adult, half for child, bread, beer, tea; flannel and shawls, buried in Finstock churchyard.

What was the story? Who was she? Why was she so generous? What does it tell us about village life at the time? Why was such a generous donation to villagers required? What has been found?

The person in questions was Elizabeth Hunt; her grandfather was Thomas Hunt who lived in Patch Riding and was a blacksmith in the early 19th century. Elizabeth was baptised 26th December 1827, daughter of Charlotte Hunt. She was born out of wedlock and the father is not named in the parish register. The Hunts had been in village since at least early 16th C.

1851 census – Finstock – Elizabeth Edwards Hunt is described as an unmarried visitor, aged 22 and was staying with Hannah Hunt, head of the household. Hannah’s occupation was given as a Blacksmith. She was Elizabeth’s grandmother and her husband Thomas had clearly died by this time. Charlotte Hunt aged 40 (her mother) was an unmarried grocer.

Elizabeth Edwards Hunt (aged 27) married Joseph Aldridge Oliver in Oxford in late 1855.

Census 1861
26 Regency Square, Brighton (appears to be a hotel)
Joseph Oliver boarder, m, 35, Timber Merchant, b. Clerkenwell, Middx
Elizabeth Oliver, boarder, m, 25, wife of above, b. Finstock

In 1867 Kelly’s directory of Brighton, this address is shown as a Boarding House of Mrs Phippin, and is now part of The Price Regent Hotel.

Census 1871
1 Sutherland Villa, Hanbury Road, St Mary’s, Islington
Joseph Aldridge Oliver, 44, m, Head, timber Merchant, b. Clerkenwell, Middx
Elizabeth Oliver, 37, wife,. Married, b. Finstock
(no children resident)

Oxford Times 1872
“Finstock’s lady bountiful:
The hearts and homes of the inhabitants of this village have again been gladdened at this festive season by the presence and liberality of Mrs Oliver, of London, a lady whose love of her native place, and large heartedness in ministering to the comfort and enjoyment of those around her, has so often won golden opinions from all sorts of people. In addition to four fat sheep, equally distributed, Mrs Oliver presented warm shawls, blankets, flannels, tea, bread and beer to every household”.


Oxford Times 4th January 1879
“Bountiful benefactors at Finstock: the poor of Finstock parish have been most kindly remembered this Christmas. Handsome donations for the more elderly people have been received from Charles Sartoris Esq. And Mrs Sartoris, of Wilcote; and we have also to acknowledge the continued liberality of those now well-known benefactors, Jospeh Oliver Esq, and Mrs Oliver, whose very munificent list of provisions etc for distribution will speak for itself i.e.: five fat sheep, 125 loaves of bread, 16 lbs of tea, 90 yards of flannel, 50 blankets, 12 pairs of sheets, nine shawls, etc.”


Finstock churchyard
Elizabeth Edwards Oliver, died 18th Jan 1880, of 19 Kensington Palace Gardens, and of Finstock, dearly beloved wife of Joseph.
Buried at Finstock, 23rd January aged 52 of Finstock.

Joseph Oliver remarried, and in the 1881 census was shown at the Grand Hotel in London.

After the death of Elizabeth Oliver, her husband continued the charitable tradition.

Chipping Norton Deanery Magazine in September 1881 – A letter from JA Oliver Esq. He had let his house in Finstock to GA Pain from London, and though absent will continue to take an interest in the welfare of the village

January 1882 – Chipping Norton Deanery Magazine - Thanks to Oliver

October 1886 – Chipping Norton Deanery Magazine – presentation to Oliver for his good deeds.

November 1886 – Chipping Norton Deanery Magazine – a letter of thanks from Oliver

Oxford Times 28/3/1891
“Mr J Oliver, who formerly resided in the village, with his usual generosity, caused to be distributed on Christmas Eve the sum of £41 13s 6d among 119 families thus providing the means for a good Christmas dinner. Mr Oliver has distributed this or other generous gifts for over 20 years, and we can assure him that his noble present is greatly appreciated. As Mr Oliver does so much to make others happy at this festive season we sincerely hope that he derives true happiness himself from doing so”.

Joseph Aldridge Oliver died in early 1899 near Folkestone. His first wife Elizabeth (nee Hunt) remembered her roots when she ‘married well’ and her generous donations were continued by her husband after her death to the poor of Finstock.
Was she Finstock’s most generous ever resident?

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