Moxon, Ruby (nee Sandle) (1918-2023)

The story of a remarkable 105 year old and her memories of Didcot Primitive Methodist chapel

Ruby Moxon, celebrating her 10th birthday
David and Pam Moxon
Ruby Moxon, as a young girl
David and Pam Moxon

Ruby Constance Loveday Sandle was born in Didcot (Berks, as it was then) on March 1st, 1918, the daughter of Kate and Walter Sandle.  She was baptised on March 24th by the Rev. Thomas Bonney, the Minister stationed in the Wallingford Primitive Methodist Circuit.

Ruby grew up in the PM tradition.  Another family in the church at that time were Cyril and Edith Moxon and their children Stella, Bertram and Joseph.  Ruby and Joe became childhood sweethearts.  Their love for each other blossomed and continued until their lives end.  They married in 1939.

During the Second World War Joe served as an Instructor in the Army and Ruby joined him on each of his postings – notably to Kent and then N. Wales.  Their first home after the war was in a Nissen hut on Ryman’s field in Didcot.  Joe worked in his father’s grocery and greengrocery shop, later taking it over when Cyril retired.  By this time Joe and Ruby were in their own home and there they brought up their three children, Anne, David and Judith, They established a nursery growing fruit and veg for the shop but also selling from the nursery itself.  There Ruby was able to exercise her skill with flowers, arranging bouquets, wreaths and displays.  (She was a very artistic person and also wrote a good deal of poetry.)

Ruby continued her life in the united church and was a ready participant in the special efforts and Womens’ Weekends.  In later years, and especially after Joe’s death in 2007, she continued to care for herself and her home, took a keen interest in news brought to her by friends and family (and especially by her Class Leader) and was a welcoming hostess for visitors. Her children and grand-children were a great joy and comfort to her although the unexpected death of Anne was a grievous blow.

During those years Ruby wrote the following entitled  “Childhood Memories”:

“My earliest memories of the old Didcot Primitive Methodist Chapel was of the lovely old pipe organ with all its different stops and pedals on which the organist operated, helped by the organ blower, a gentleman who sat in a little side room adjoining the organ.  He had to use a handle while he pumped up and down, keeping it at a certain mark otherwise the organ would run out of air and we would have no sound.  The organist was my aunt Polly Loveday and I have lovely memories of sitting on the long wooden organ seat while she played played as the congregation left after the service.  There were two more lady organists,  Miss Stella Moxon and Mrs. Dorothy Mobbs of East Hagbourne; they took in terms to play for the Sunday services.

There was a nice raised pulpit and a rounded communion rail of carved wood.  The chapel seats were wooden and a sort of closed in effect.  Half way there was a large partition which was drawn across when there was a social or teas or any other functions taking place.  The heating was two large, black, rounded stoves with pipes leading up through the roof.  They were heated by coke.  Sometimes we had a lot of smoke when the stoves were first lit.  The lighting was large gas lamps which hung down from the ceiling.  We had little vestry and a small room used for making refreshments when we had teas; about six steps led up to the inside of the chapel.

The congregation was about thirty or more and children.  We had a Sunday School led by Mr. Morse and Mr. Gifford.  There was also a Christian Endeavour.  The Minister lived at the Manse in Wallingford and we had a Pastor who took services, also some Local Preachers.  As children we loved the Harvest Festival when all the members brought in their produce from their gardens, there was always a lovely display made by the ladies.  The produce was sold afterwards and we all enjoyed a lovely tea.  I remember the blancmange and jellies and little cottage loaves, and large sheaves of corn made from bread.  I remember buying the little cottage loaves – they were lovely.

Another special Sunday there would be what was called a Money Tree.  It was like a silver birch and was placed by the pulpit and each member had a little envelope which only silver had to be in like a silver 3d piece or two shillings or a half a crown.  What each member could afford and with it a little motto or a verse which each member read out as they came up to cut each envelope from the tree.  And we used to have the Social evenings that were enjoyed by all.  Mr. Morse had a quartet that sang spiritual songs, Mr. Goudge, Mr. Stroud, Mr. Smith and my mother made up the four.  We often had a soloist at Sunday services and we used to hold Sunday School anniversaries where we used to sing children’s hymns and we read readings, some recited poems and some would act out a little play.  Once a year in the summer time we would have our outing.  A large horse drawn waggon would pick us up outside the chapel and take us to Wittenham Clumps and Mr. Wigley’s farm house for a picnic and afterwards we played games, we all had a lovely time.

Sunday services, the hymns were from the Primitive Methodist hymn book and we also had a Sankey book with some good old choruses to the hymns and everybody singing out loud.  As children we would hear the older members make responses say “Amen”, “So be it”, “Praise the Lord” a thing seldom heard today.”

Following a stroke Ruby entered a local care home and spent her last few years there.  Her family visited her faithfully and lovingly and among the visitors was her cousin Jim, the son of the aunt whose organ seat Ruby had shared with such pleasure all those years ago. Ruby died shortly after her 105th birthday in March 2023.

Comments about this page

  • How well I remember being a member of that Sunday School and Mum serving tea to the wartime soldiers. Remember the Moxon and Rowland families. Lovely people.

    By Bernard Bowler (15/06/2023)
  • I’ve added pictures of Ruby as a young girl and celebrating her 100th birthday. The pictures are provided by David and Pam Moxon.

    By Christopher Hill (29/05/2023)

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