Upper Slaughter

House - Upper Slaughter
Photo - Rod Morris

The British Serviceman's keen sense of irony has long been recognised and no doubt the soldiers on the Western Front, knee deep in the Flanders mire, would have given a wry smile when told that the name 'Slaughter' comes from the Saxon word Slohtre meaning 'muddy place'. The village of Upper Slaughter lies two miles beyond the better-known Lower Slaughter, just off the A429 trunk road between Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the Wold. This area is, without any doubt, one of the most beautiful in England and this small Cotswold Village remains unspoilt and uncommercialised.

Upper Slaughter sits astride a fast flowing brook, the River Eye, with a deep ford (not suitable for motor vehicles) and two stone built footbridges. The village square was reconstructed in 1906 under the direction of Sir Edward Lutyens and there is a Manor House, Old School House, tiny Chapel, Village Hall and the Parish Church of St Peter. The Parish Church dates back to Richard The Lionheart's reign and is approached by a path bounded by steep banks on either side.

Literature in the Church records the fact that the village suffered no fatalities in the Great War but the Rolls of Honour for both World Wars are to be found proudly displayed in the Village Hall. The simple wooden board recording the twenty-four men and one woman (Driver Agnes Witts) from the village who fought in the Great War lists their names as:

Sapper F Alder RE

Corporal F Bateman 7th Bn Gloster Reg

Private G Beams 9th Bn Gloster Reg

Lt Col E P Brassey Coldstream Guards

Gunner C A Burtonshaw RFA

CQMS F C B Collett 7th Bn Gloster Reg

Sergeant R Griffin Cameron Highlanders

Private A E Guy 12 Bn Gloster Reg

Leading Stoker F Hazell DSM RN

Driver F H Hazell RFA

Major K M F Hedges DSO ASC

Driver J Hill RFA

Private F Jones Lanc Fusiliers

Driver F W Lockey ASC

Private J Ollett ASC

Private W J Parker Tank Corps

Private W J Tarling ASC

Private A S Winfield Ox and Bucks LI

Major E F B Witts DSO 9th Bn Gloster Reg

Captain G B Witts 14th Bn Gloster Reg

Major J T Witts MBE 3rd Bn Gloster Reg

Captain F H Witts DSO MC Irish Guards

Major F V B Witts DSO MC RE

Driver A E B Witts VAD

Private A E Woodward Devon Reg

For King and Country

A total of twenty five Service personnel enlisted from the Parish of Upper Slaughter (six of them with the surname Witts) to fight in the First World War and, miraculously, all twenty five of them were delivered safely back to the tranquil beauty of this quintessentially most English of 'Thankful Villages'. The village was able to repeat this remarkable feat twenty-five years later when thirty-six villagers went to the Second World War and all thirty-six returned. On return from hostilities after the Great War the Women of the village presented the servicemen of Upper Slaughter with Certificates of recognition as a 'small token of their appreciation and thanks for your help towards the attainment of victory'.

The Village Hall
Photo - Rod Morris

The Village Hall in Upper Slaughter was, until just after the Great War, a combination of reading room, washing room and stables but was leased for 99 years at a peppercorn rent by the Witts family to be constituted as a Parish Hall 'to commemorate the ending of the Great War'. The founding document listing those who contributed to this enterprise is still on display almost 90 years later. Also on display in this lasting legacy from the Great War is a brass plaque of commendation from the Bourton and District regular and Special Constabulary to the inhabitants of Upper Slaughter for their 'distinguished conduct and promptitude on the occasion of an Enemy incendiary bomb attack on the village on 4th February 1944'. Even when the ravages of war were brought directly to this Cotswold Village there were no fatalities.

The writer of this article would like to thank Mr Francis E B Witts for his generous help in providing information, time and guidance in the composition of these pages - any errors and omissions are the fault of the author himself. Upper Slaughter has a great deal to be thankful for.

Text - Rod Morris

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