Oakhurst: the story of a country house, the latest in a series of books and booklets on the history of Oswestry by John Pryce-Jones, has been launched this week by the Llanforda Press, and is now available for sale.
Focussing on the Victorian country house of that name on the outskirts of Oswestry, Oakhurst: the story of a country house is the ninth title by John Pryce-Jones, stretching back to Historic Oswestry, published in 1982 by Shropshire Libraries. Other titles, all published by the Llanforda Press, have included Oswestry, a local history (1994), The street names of Oswestry (1997), An Oswestry miscellany (2008), and A second Oswestry miscellany (2020).
Oakhurst: the story of a country house was commissioned by the well-known entrepreneur and philanthropist Dame Stephanie Shirley CH, who lived at Oakhurst as a boarder whilst attending Oswestry Girls’ High School – Oakhurst serving as a boarding hostel, or hall of residence, for the Girls’ High School from 1948. Dame Stephanie contacted John Pryce-Jones in March 2022, inviting him to carry out research into the history of Oakhurst, and the present booklet is the result.
In the 48 page booklet, the author talks about the Venables family, who had Oakhurst built in 1853/54, and life at their new house from that time through to the second world war. He also describes the house which preceded Oakhurst – known as Mount Sion – built in 1774. A chapter focusses on Oakhurst’s role in the second world war, when it was leased by Coventry Climax Engines Ltd who relocated much of their operations from Coventry to Oswestry, with factories in Oswald Road, the Cross Market and in Victoria Road. Oakhurst was used for offices, and for the company’s board meetings.
John Pryce-Jones commented that “it has been a privilege to work on this project – and the varied history of the house since its construction in 1854 has been fascinating, providing me with a number of different avenues to explore”.
Illustrations, in colour and black & white, have been provided by sources including Shropshire Archives, Oswestry Library, and the National Library of Wales.
The publication is priced £4.95 and available from Oswestry Tourist Information Centre based at Castle View (next to The Library). Proceeds from the sale of the booklet will be donated to the Mayor of Oswestry’s annual charity.
Picture credit: Visit Oswestry.