The Merry Bells

  • The Merry Bells circa 1914
  • Printed from Oxford journal June 15 1910, reporting on the 'great flood'.
  • 2018. The Merry Bells
  • 2018. The Merry Bells
  • The Merry Bells in 1988 as shown in the Centenary booklet
  • 1988 Centenary Committee as shown in the Centenary booklet
  • 1988 Management Committee as shown in the Centenary booklet
  • 1977 Management Committee as shown in the Jubilee booklet
  • 1977 as shown in the Jubilee booklet
  • Portrait of Mrs Dorothy Miller who was the driving force for the building of the Merry Bells in 1888. This hangs in Shotover House.
  • Mrs Dorothy Miller died in August 1911
  • A later portrait of Mrs Dorothy Miller
  • Undated plan of the Merry Bells
  • Re-roofing, date not known
  • Merry Bells c. 1910
Archive Notes:

Copy of postcard (from Hinton Collection) circa 1914, also replacing the road surface in 1910 from article in Oxford Journal - original in newspaper box.

Since the building of the new turnpike road from Oxford to London in 1775, trade had slumped. The village had become a refuge for rough quarry workers, highwaymen and students. In fact, if you fancied a pint of beer and a punch-up, it seems that Wheatley had been the place to go. The change in Wheatley’s profile began by the banning guns and dogs in 1834, followed by a halt to bull-baiting and badger-baiting.The Temperance Movement resulted in the building of the Merry Bells as a temperance hotel in 1888 by Dorothy Miller (photo shown) of Shotover House. It was a coffee house with ‘two large meeting rooms, a refreshment bar, a bathroom, cubicles, commercial and travellers rooms and stable accommodation for four horses’. Bought as a village hall in 1970.

According to the records the manager at its opening was Mr Ayling, followed in 1891 by Mary Miller or, according to the Kelly Directory John Miller. In 1895 it was run by Joseph Gould, in 1901 by Ernest Turner and his wife Blanche, in 1908 by Henry Atherton and his wife (see next paragraph), and in 1911 by George Silvester and his wife Emily.

An article in the Oxford Journal on 21 October 1893 included the following accolade about The Merry Bells which was a place of meeting which formed

‘a centre for every good work as well as for necessary recreation. No country village in England possessed so perfect a building as that in which they wero assembled; so far from being intended to injure anybody it was built to be a help to every class. It had not as yet taken its proper position as the natural centre for educational purposes for all kinds, of lectures of an instructive nature (such as were now supplied by the County Council), for night school, musical meetings, temperance entertainments, as well as being the natural home of all those societies that had a more directly religious object, such as the Mother’s Union, the Girls’ Friendly Society, the Sons of Temperance, the Church of England Temperance Society, and many others.’

In 1908 there were two groups, led by Henry Atherton (then manager of the Temperance Hotel) and Mrs Atherton, with the Men's Mutual Improvement Class shown in record 2446, and the Ladies' Wednesday Afternoon Class, record 246.

A history of the Merry Bells, written by Michael Heaton in 2020, is one of the files which can be accessed.

The Merry Bells Management committee were shown in the 1977 Jubilee booklet.

On its centenary in 1988, an 80-page booklet of photos, history and recollections was published. many of the photos are shown in the archive reproduced from the original prints.

There is an undated plan of the interior of the building.

See 1554 for collection of Hinton postcards.

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