Slade Farm

The following info is taken from Kevin Peake’s ringbinder file “Bicester’s Secret Garden” (1998) held at Bicester Library. As a school boy, he and his friends masterminded a campaign to save as much as they could of their “adventure playground” before it became today’s Bure Park:

The farmhouse was built on the Slade (“floodplain”) on an old drover’s path, between 1698-1702 and first occupied by the Foster family (it is thought). It had 8 bedrooms, servants quarters, outside toilets, and was more of a manor house. It was Grade II listed. The entrance was off today’s Banbury Road at the pedestrian crossing from the Southwold side. It still runs into the nature reserve and the line of lime trees has been preserved in the grounds of the school.

Ordnance survey maps from 1900 and 1965

Oliver Gilbey and the Farmhouse

Oliver Gilbey and the Farmhouse

In 1924 Oliver Gilbey occupied it until 1974. He set up horse shows and events and farmed the 144 acres for hay, corn and cattle. He frequently saw off tresspassers with his air rifle! During the 70’s and 80’s the property fell into ruin. A local builder, Mr. Titchener, tried unsuccessfully to build flats on the site, but then pulled the house down anyway without permission in 1988! The land reverted to its natural state and became a haven for adventurous children to explore.

Newspaper articles of the campaign

A planning application was submitted in 1991 and at age 11 Kevin and his friends campaigned to save it, starting with their own nature survey. Over the course of 2-3 years and with the help of a local lady, Olive Moore, they attended all the planning meetings and submitted their survey results, which found Great Crested newts, water voles, skylarks, sand martins, and barn owls. In all, 25 species of tree, 87 flowers, 76 birds, 5 amphibians and 5 reptiles. They spent all their spare time from 6:30am-10:30pm doing it. They raised a 4800 signature petition and eventually secured all the original hedgerows and 30% of the estate from the building of 1200 houses. Well done – and what a credit to local youth.

The transformation from fields to estate

Today (2013) in Bicester there is a campaign to save Gavray Meadows from similar development, in what has become the fastest growing town in Europe. Kingsmere estate (Whitelands Farm) is under development but there has been much public consultation and a green lung is central to the plans. Lessons have been learned.

Poems by Kevin (age 12) and Olive:

What a magic place is Slade Farm!
Where swallows speed merrily past my arm.
There are water voles swimming, birds singing
While the great trees just stand watching
The land rolls gently to the Bure
Where fish meet to feed once more
The heron watches from shiny black eyes
Another fish that must die
The Slade Farm ruins refuse to go
Even though it’s the end of their show
Lazily lizards lie in the sun
As mice scurry and run, run, run.
Now developers want to build
They don’t care about animals that will die
Or the trees that will silently cry
They want Slade Farm to lay down and die.
Take care, protect tree and hedgerow
The shady place where rare plants grow
For greed can destroy in only a day
All that nature has held in sway
Gone the food for bird and mouse
Smashed is nature’s store-house.
Extinction is forever……………………


I am currently looking for info and pictures about Slade Farm (Bure Park) for my page about it on the Bicester Green Gym website. Many thanks in anticipation of some past memories and photos:

Pam R: Wow. I used to work on this farm, when it was horses and Charolais cows. That was in the early 80’s. The house was in a terrible state due to teens breaking in and sniffing glue and having little bonfires etc. They succeeded in burning down the barn of the neighbouring farm. Boys from my own year in school. You know how you are, karma Gary!
I’m glad the land escaped redevelopment. I spent many a happy day there. Galloped over those fields and into town. Shame the house couldn’t be restored, but it was just too far gone.

Thanks Pam -great memories. Were Titcheners were builders? Hence Titchener Close, Maud, Margaret, Graham, Barry etc? Did he knock down the Grade II listed farmhouse without permission?

Pam R: Yes the same . Barry named after the son and Graham the other son who died very young. Maud for his wife, Fane for her maiden name etc… I’m talking about old man Titch now, had the little hardware shop up by The Star. He owned the strip of shops there, Goss the butcher, Savins the grocer and Wendy’s, I think, a dress shop!

I don’t know about the house being pulled down without permission, but it was condemned. It was not safe and had been vandalized by some of Bicester schools rejects. If it had been a viable option to refurbish it then he would have. Makes sense to live close to your expensive livestock, but it wasn’t. Barry would have weighed the options very carefully before making such a decision. Town council would know more.

I spent a cold and long night watching a future champion being born. A champion Charolais bull and a showjumper by Marius, out of Pennywort. I was there when the Titcheners owned it and had horses and cows, and rented stables out to a few other people such as our coalman’s wife and daughter. Don’t remember their names, but I do remember the horses names- Sam and Sky. Sally Burgess had her ponies there too. She lived just a few doors down from me on Bucknell Rd. And the Titcheners all lived at the bottom of Bucknell Rd. What a lot of horsey folk on Bucknell! I was last there in ’85.

There was Pennywort, so if you remember seeing a huge black horse in the upper fields near the house, this is her. She was a beautiful, talented, sweet as honey mare. Her pedigree is equally impressive by Top Walk xx.

Having proved herself in jumping she became a brood mare and a dear friend.

Tina G: My Gran told me that in the 20’s there was an outbreak of foot & mouth and all the cattle were buried in a pit which would be where the Howes Lane roundabout is, she could remember the awful smell of burning.

Pam R: I remember the stories about the F&M. We had a scare when I was there. Buckets of disinfectant everywhere that we had to walk in before entering or leaving. It was a false alarm, but it would have broken my heart to see those gorgeous Charolais slaughtered.

Tina G: Hey Pam, remember Rumba, she didn’t like me….. Scary Horse x

Pam R: Yes. She was a bit of a mare at times! They are all sweethearts to me. She replaced Blue. Poor Blue had melanoma and had to be put down, and then there was the chestnut Shetland, Jasper Carrot. He was supposed to be for the kids but Shetlands are rarely a good idea for kids. Rumba was better for them. Good times.

Terry B: My gran used to work at this farm a long, long time ago. She lived in Slade cottages on Bucknell road Didn’t it used to belong to Gilbey? My mum was brought up on this farm as well.

Which brings us on to some further research, with many horsey connections:

Oliver Holland Gilbey as mentioned in and other websites:

Oliver Holland Gilbey was born on 6 June 1894 in Paddington, London, Middlesex, England. He lived in Wooburn, Buckinghamshire, England in 1901. He died on 3 May 1971 at the age of 76 in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England. Oliver was educated in Harrow School, Harrow on the Hill, London, England.

He fought in the First World War, with The Blues, serving with the Royal Horse Guard from 1914-1922.

Oliver Holland Gilbey and Violet Elizabeth Gertude Burrows were married in December 1926 in St Geo H Sq, London, Middlesex, England. Violet Elizabeth Gertude Burrows, daughter of Thomas H Burrows and Muriel S Burrows, was born in October 1898 in Esher, Surrey, England. She lived in Esher, Surrey, England in 1901.

The Bure Farm pub was called the “Oliver Gilbey” in its first 6 months or so.

His grandfather (Alfred) was the brother of Walter Gilbey, 1st baronet Gilbey of Elsenham Hall, and Chairman of W & A Gilbey wine merchants and distillers, marketing Gilbey’s Gin.

Walter was born at Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire to parents Henry and Elizabeth Gilbey. His father, the owner (and frequently the driver) of the daily coach between Bishop’s Stortford and London, died when he was eleven years old, and young Gilbey was shortly afterwards placed in the office of an estate agent at Tring, subsequently obtaining a clerkship in a firm of parliamentary agents in London.

On the outbreak of the Crimean War, Walter Gilbey and his younger brother, Alfred, volunteered for civilian service at the front, and were employed at a convalescent hospital on the Dardanelles. Returning to London on the declaration of peace, Walter and Alfred Gilbey, on the advice of their eldest brother Henry Gilbey who was a wholesale wine-merchant, they started in the retail wine and spirits trade, such as the local London style gin.

Sir Walter Gilbey also became well known as a breeder of shire horses, and he did much to improve the breed of English horses (other than race-horses) generally, and wrote extensively on the subject, including the encyclopaedic ”Animal Painters of England From the Year 1650: A brief history of their lives and works. He became president of the Shire Horse Society, of the Hackney Horse Society, and of the Hunters Improvement Society, and he was the founder and chairman of the London Cart Horse Parade Society. He was also a practical agriculturist, and president of the Royal Agricultural Society. He was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Essex in 1906.

The champion born at Slade Farm

The fabulous Milton (1977 – 1999) was a grey gelding and stood 16.2 hands (168 cm) high. Milton was by Dutch warmblood Marius, out of Irish Draught Aston Answers (first called Epauletta). His grandsire was international jumper Any Questions and his granddam was Pennywort by the thoroughbred Top Walk xx. So Milton‘s lines included successful sportshorses in both paternal and maternal lines, his sire and grandsire being an international level and his dam a Grade A national level jumper. Marius – Milton’s sire (pictured).



Milton was bought as a foal by Caroline Bradley from the breeder John Harding-Rolls. She trained him until her death in 1983, after which many offers were made to her parents to buy the gelding, who had already proven his talent but they kept the horse. Stephen Hadley rode Milton for a short time, before John Whitaker took him. The couple entered international competition in 1985. During his competitive career, Milton achieved many international victories, and became the first horse outside the racing world to win more than £1 million in prize money. Throughout his career, Milton rarely touched a rail or refused a fence. The gelding was a favourite with the crowd, many times ending a successful round with a leap into the air. Even after his retirement at the 1994 Olympia Horse Show, he was adored by all. Milton died on 4 July 1999. He was buried on the Whitaker’s farm in Yorkshire.

Top Walkxx + Lucky Penny = Pennywort

Pennywort + Any Questions = Aston Answer

Aston Answer + Marius = Milton

(bold = male)

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