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George Winship

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George Winship

1847 − 1928


(see long history)

George Winship was Abingdon's Inspector of Nuisances and Borough Surveyor for forty-one years and brought Abingdon into the twentieth century. Much of what he did is still with us today.

George Winship was born in London and became a pupil civil engineer in London in 1866. He worked first for the Kent Water Works Company and then in Great Malvern, where he was engaged on the water supply and on gas and street improvement works.

At the beginning of 1877, Winship was appointed Inspector of Nuisances for Abingdon for three years. His first jobs were superintending the laying of new sewers and private drainage. Not long afterwards, the then Borough Surveyor became ill and Winship was appointed to the post on a temporary basis, which lasted till he retired. When the new waterworks opened in 1878, he added Waterworks Manager to his job titles. He made many improvements to the waterworks and wrote papers about this which were published in international journals.

One of his biggest tasks was to make sure the town had enough water. He was constantly adding more space to the waterworks at Wootton and added a supplemental supply from the artesian well under The Square. He ordered and supervised the installation of the gas engines in the basement of the County Hall that we can still see today, in order to pump water to the top of the County Hall to provide extra pressure, and made sure that there was a constant supply of clean water for every house and business in the now-expanding town.

Winship also made sure that the local lodging houses were fit for human habitation and he inspected canal boats for sanitation. His department was responsible for keeping the roads in good condition and licensed garages to keep petrol. It was George Winship who sited the original post boxes for the Post Office and the telephone brackets for holding the cables for the newly invented telephone system.

George Winship remained in his post for forty-one years, making plans for buildings such as the new fire station and supervising their construction, ensuring the streets were kept clean and in good repair and finding new sites for dumping the 3000 tons of rubbish that the town produced each year. He was also responsible for ensuring that the numerous sheep, pigs and other animals kept around the town and brought through the town for sale and slaughter didn’t cause any nuisance or extra noise.

George Winship married Ellen Jane Smith in 1872. They had nine children and were married for fifty-three years. He retired in 1918 and died in 1928.


See Glossary for explanation of technical terms

© AAAHS & contributors 2013



(see short history)

George Winship FGS, AMICE

George Winship was Abingdon’s Inspector of Nuisances and Borough Surveyor for forty-one years. He brought Abingdon into the twentieth century and some of the improvements he initiated or oversaw are still with us today. The story of his life and work sheds much light on what was happening in Abingdon in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth.

Winship was born in 1847 to Frederick Winship and Anne, née Copas, in West Drayton, then a village near London, one of six children. Both his grandmother and mother had been servants, while Frederick was a butcher.[1]

He was born into a time of great change. Queen Victoria had been on the throne for ten years, gas was just beginning to be used for all sorts of commercial and domestic uses, the telegraph system was improving communications, and railways were being built all over Britain as well as abroad. Industrialisation had brought huge numbers of people from the countryside into the towns, with resulting social problems caused by poor housing, over-crowding and lack of proper sanitation such as clean water and effective waste disposal. Diseases such as cholera and typhoid were rife and life expectancy, especially amongst the poor, was low. All these things were to influence and become the focus of Winship’s working life.

Professional Life

In May 1866, Winship entered the business of Messrs. Hyde & Co in Russell Square, London, as a pupil civil engineer.[2] Civil engineering was one of the professions into which better-off families could enter their sons if they could not afford to send them to university but still wanted them to have a professional occupation.  

In December 1869, Winship was engaged by the Kent Waterworks Company to carry out surveying and to correct plans. At the beginning of 1871, he was appointed Assistant to the Town Surveyor and Manager of Gas & Water Works in Great Malvern. There he was put to work extending the water and gas supplies and improving the streets. During this period, he lived with the Sandoe family as a boarder, a practice that was common at the time, when families would take in respectable single people or relatives to supplement their income and provide safe lodgings, and which the Winship family was to do in its turn. [3]

On 21 December 1876, Abingdon’s Sanitary Committee worked its way through fifty-nine applications and testimonials for the office of Surveyor and Inspector of Nuisances and selected seven for interview. On 4 January 1877, the twenty-nine year old George Winship was appointed Inspector of Nuisances for three years on a salary of £75 per annum (per year).[4] [For an explanation of the pre-decimal currency here and later in this article, please see ‘Pounds, shillings and pence’ in the glossary.]

Abingdon at that time was a compact market town with a population of about 7000 (compared with over 33,000 in 2015) clustered around the town centre and along the roads leading from it. The main populated area stretched from the Abbey site in the east to the Ock Bridge in the west – a distance of about three quarters of a mile – and from the Vineyard in the north to the Thames, less than half a mile to the south.

Winship’s first job in the Surveyor’s office was supervising the laying of new sewers and private drainage while, as Inspector of Nuisances, he was responsible for making sure that the various animals that were kept in and around the town were kept under control and caused no offence either by noise, smell or fouling. He had to ensure that the lodging houses in the town met the standards of the day and he had the power to close them down if they were unsatisfactory.

The following month, the then Borough Surveyor, Mr Mattingley, fell ill and never returned to work. Winship eventually took on the post on a three-monthly contract that was renewed quarterly until at least 1890 – thirteen years.  Winship was paid separately for each post and received considerably more for the Nuisances.

In his first year, he specified repairs to the Town Hall (today known as the County Hall). He was also made responsible for cleaning and flushing the sewers, and installed a flushing apparatus for the sewage pipes. He had to make sure that Turnagain Lane was channelled so that rainwater and rubbish would not block the street; although the owners of this street were supposed to see to this work, Winship had to carry it out, putting in paving and drainage, and then he had to chivvy the owners for payment. He had to buy a street scraping machine as the streets were no longer to be scraped by hand. This was an unpleasant job, involving the removal of animal excrement, ashes and other rubbish. However, animal excrement could be sold, dog turds being of particular value for various industrial processes including the curing and tanning of hides, and other waste used for manure on the many fruit and vegetable gardens then in existence in the town.

The sewage farm, out at Wilsham Road, kept him busy too, to meet increasing demand for connection to the sewage system. The Corporation stables were moved from the depot in the Vineyard to the farm; Winship became responsible for the animals’ welfare. The sewage farm was so called because, as well as having the sewage disposal facilities, there was a working farm providing vegetables.

The new sewage works, opened in 1877, first dealt with 100,000 gallons of sewage per 24 hours from some of the commercial premises around the town as well as from 247 houses. There were still many places that had their own sewage systems, including the Convent, which later asked that they be connected to the new mains piping, and all that needed not just connections, but payments to be put in place, too.

Winship now added the title of Sanitary Inspector to his list. He would inspect houses together with Dr Woodforde, the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) to ensure that the toilets flushed and the wells provided unpolluted water, didn’t leak or had been put out of use as ordered. He could prosecute owners if things were not fixed after the relevant notices were served. On one occasion, Dr Woodforde reported an outbreak of enteric fever in a cottage in the Vineyard and Winship was expected to take “the necessary steps for the Nuisance complained of”.[5]

There were constant improvements made by Winship to the sewers and the sewage farm; in 1889 a deputation from the Borough of Heywood in Lancashire visited the farm and “expressed their opinion that the effluent of which they took a sample was the best they had seen of the various towns visited”. [6] In the same year, Winship’s apparatus for flushing the sewers was installed in Queen Street with very satisfactory results: “...cost is £3 – half the cost of others already installed in the Town”.[7]

As the Department expanded and more people were employed, weekly pay sheets were expected. Bridges were declared unsafe for the passage of locomotives (then a term that included steam engines for road works as well as railway engines) and needed reinforcement.

Gas mains were requested for the new houses being built in the Oxford and Radley Roads, the supervision of which was all part of Winship’s remit. In October, the Council compulsorily purchased land at Wootton, three miles north of Abingdon, which became the waterworks. [8] Winship commissioned and supervised the construction of an underground reservoir by a specialist company.[9] As well as being the consulting engineer, he also supervised the connection and supply to the town. For the rest of his working life, Winship was expanding its capacity and dealing with its endless problems.

In April 1877, ten licences were granted to keep “petroleum” on various premises.[10] At the end of 1878, the Council formed a Petroleum & Licensing Committee, to which Winship had to report. He was responsible for the licensing of premises to keep flammable substances, for which there was a rising demand as new agricultural and other machinery and, eventually, cars, became available. This was put on a more formal footing in August of 1890 when Winship became the Petroleum Inspector and received an extra payment quarterly for this work.

01 first motor car 3.jpg

The first car seen in Abingdon, arriving with a circus in 1896.

Courtesy of Abingdon County Hall Museum

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Coxeter’s garage next to Vernon Whitehead’s cycle shop at 32 Ock Street in about 1910.

With thanks to Rex Coxeter

Also in 1878, G A Drewe, was appointed by the Council as their first Cattle Inspector at £10 per annum and he and Winship, as Inspector of Nuisances, must have worked closely together.[11] There were several notifiable diseases, such as swine fever, that had to be reported to the authorities and on which they then had to act, enforcing quarantine if necessary.

At the beginning of 1879, Winship was elected an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Not only did he have to be proposed for election by an existing member (the proposer, J. Bailey Denton, was a well-known water engineer who had written books on the subject and would construct Abingdon’s waterworks in the following year) he had to have worked five years for someone else and then five years on his own, and then had to produce an original piece of work, either an invention or a written essay. Sadly, the submission does not seem to have survived.[12] While this membership was not then required for the post that Winship held, the success of his application was recognised in his salary, which was raised to £60 as Borough Surveyor and to £90 as Inspector of Nuisances. Winship now had the letters AMICE after his name and took part in discussions at Institution meetings.[13] He also became a member of the Geologists’ Association, the geological institution for amateurs; he retained membership of both these organisations until he died.[14]

He was also a member of the Association of Municipal and Sanitary Engineers and Surveyors, to which he gave a talk at the meeting in Nottingham in May 1885, entitled “Some Advantages and Results of the Supply of Water by Meter for Domestic Consumption”.[15] He resigned in February 1919 after he retired.[16]

The Dairies, Cowsheds and Milkshops Act, passed by Parliament in 1878 and amended several times after that, meant that now Winship’s department had to inspect premises on which milk and dairy products were being made and/or stored.  In this context, Winship had to liaise even more closely with the Medical Officer of Health (MOH). Winship had already been making returns to the MOH regarding the registration of births and deaths, as well as notification of contagious diseases, such as smallpox, scarlet fever and typhoid in his capacity as Inspector of Nuisances. He also included weekly pauper sickness returns from the Workhouse.

In 1880, he had been granted permission by the Council to take on pupil engineers to teach them civil and railway engineering provided there was no conflict with his council work and that “the Urban Sanitary Authority shall at all times have the first claim on the Surveyor’s personal services”.[17] According to his advertisements placed in the Northampton Mercury in March 1900, Winship described himself as “a Consulting Engineer and Water Expert” and his offices were in the Borough Buildings in Abingdon.[18]

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Winship’s advertisement for pupil engineers in Hooke’s Abingdon Almanack and Directory 1905.                 

With thanks to Abingdon Library

At least one of his pupils, Hubert Finch, joined the Borough Surveyor’s Department officially; when, in November 1914, he became a draughtsman in the Royal Engineers, Winship said, in his report to the Council at the time, “he was a remarkable clever young man and assisted me in many matters connected with my public office. I shall miss him”. Finch obtained the highest possible grade a recruit could get in the Trade Examinations of the Royal Engineers and the Council sent him a present in recognition, which seems to have been a case of instruments. A tribute to Winship’s training.

Animals such as chickens, dogs and pigs were kept throughout the town, often in back yards, and horses were used for all manner of work including transport. One of the main tasks of the Inspector of Nuisances was to ensure that all these various animals did not cause any problems as they were led through the streets to market, to work and to the numerous abattoirs around the town.

04 abbeysheep 6 comp.jpg





Sheep resting in the Abbey   Gateway in about 1890, on their way to market.

Reproduced by kind permission of John Chapman





There were so many complaints, however, about the keeping of pigs in the town that a complaints book was set up in the Borough Surveyor’s office for the public to register their grievances; pigs can be very noisy and smelly if they are not looked after properly, and someone from Winship’s department would have to go and sort out the problems. In November 1902, the Abingdon Herald contained a report that twenty people had petitioned the Council not to licence a particular premises for the slaughtering of pigs as “ their opinion a great nuisance would be caused, and the value of the surrounding property would be depreciated.”[19]

Every year, about two thousand cart loads of rubbish had to be disposed of from Abingdon.[20] At the time Winship moved here, there were rubbish dumps at the east and west of the town, but these were fast becoming full. Rubbish was expected now to be collected in an organised fashion and, in 1881, Winship wrote to fifteen towns to discover how they dealt with this.[21] He recommended “...the continuance of the present system of putting the receptacles in the street but improved by a better mode of collection” and “…that both Horses be used for removing the Ashes in the early part of the day – say up till 10-0 O’clock”.[22] The ordinary scavenging in the streets was not to be interfered with. He suggested that the council acquire a piece of land to be used as a depot where the rubbish could be sorted and stacked to save time. This depot was sited first in the Vineyard; later it was moved to the sewage farm and also housed the council’s horses.                                                                      

05 Bristol wagon.jpg

This was the type of cart for collecting rubbish from the streets that Winship advised the Council to buy in August 1880. It has a simple but ingenious mechanism that enabled the cart to be tipped up so the contents could be easily and quickly removed.

From Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History accessed 12 February 2015 through

In 1890, the Borough boundary was extended and Winship was told that the whole area was to be scavenged once a week and if that was not enough, then twice. [23]  Winship’s estimate was that now 3000 tons of ashes and road scrapings would need to be moved each year and suitable disposal sites found. Mr Badcock of Caldecott Farm took some and the rest went to the new tip on Abingdon Common.                                       

The discovery of the cholera bacillus and the E. coli bacillus provided criteria by which water purity could be judged. From the 1890s onwards, water engineers increasingly saw their role as dealing not only with the mechanics of supplying water, but also the means of protecting their sources from pollution, determining the extent to which natural water had become polluted and ensuring it received the necessary treatment to deal with this.[24] During the long drought that lasted from 1890 to about 1912, Winship would send water samples drawn from suspect wells to the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for testing.[25] Any well that showed contamination would be closed down, a real hardship for the many families who had wells in their yards, as their water now had to be paid for. As a result of this, people cut back on their use of water to an extent considered by the MOH as prejudicial to their health.



The water pump at Twickenham House.


Many houses had simple brick-lined wells into which buckets were lowered.  

Ruth Weinberg 2014








As inadequate rainfall in October meant that the “springs didn’t rise” properly in the following March, Winship needed this kind of information to make provision for the water supply; one source of information was the Reverend F C Clutterbuck who would send him rainfall figures from Culham.[26] Eventually, an extra supply of water was obtained by pumping water from the artesian well beneath The Square into the mains supply. This was managed by installing gas engines in the basement of the County Hall to power a pump, which was installed next to them. Winship was responsible for all aspects of this, from design and costings to installation and operation.[27]

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The standpipe over the Artesian well in The Square in 1890. It was erected after 1875.

Courtesy of Abingdon County Hall Museum

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The location of the artesian well, today behind the War Memorial where the stand pipe had been.

Ruth Weinberg 2011





In 1880, Winship was charged with the erection of a fire station in the yard of the Borough Buildings (the former school yard and now the open area along Bridge Street), for which he made the plans.  In 1909, he made plans for a new fire station in Bury Street (now the shopping precinct) close to the Market Place.[28] The plans were revised in 1914, and the new station was built then.[29]

09 Roysse's gateway 8 ed & comp.jpg









Roysse's Gateway.
Left, view of about 1900 through to the fire station that had been built in 1881 in the former school yard.
Right, the gateway today, now permanently closed.  The damage caused by the fire engines’ rapid exit can still be seen on the edges of the niches next to the gateway.

Left:.Courtesy of Abingdon County Hall Museum.  Right: Ruth Weinberg 2014

Winship was publishing in professional journals. There are references to articles about his innovations to the provision and maintenance of drainage and water supply in Abingdon, but the author has been unable to find them. An article published in the Contract Journal set out his innovations at the Abingdon waterworks; visitors would come to see his improvements.

The Borough Council minutes of 1890 record that he had invented a drain cleaner which proved very successful. The Council enthusiastically installed the device in Abingdon’s drains as it proved efficient and much cheaper than the old method. An article published in the Contract Journal in August 1891 described his drain cleaner and the Abingdon Herald reproduced this in full, although minus the illustration.[30]

Water supplied from the waterworks at Wootton was metered from the time the newly-constructed reservoir was brought into use in 1880 until the waterworks closed, probably in 1967, when responsibility for water supply was transferred from the town to the new Oxfordshire and Thames District Water Board. Abingdon was one of the first, and almost the last, town in England to have water meters as standard.[31] Winship’s department had to make records to deal with payments.

 In fact, much of Winship’s working life in the town was concerned with water – the provision of clean water, adequate supply and pressure, and the disposal of waste water. To this end, he must have spent a lot of time finding out about the local hydrology and geology to help him. In 1898, he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society - then, as now, an organisation for professional geologists. His qualification for membership stated that he was “engaged for some years .... on Water Works necessitating the particular study and Geological research of water bearing strata.” [32] It is quite clear that whatever Winship turned his hand to, he did it very thoroughly.

The roads were then untarred and produced much dust and Winship had to keep the dust down by spraying with water. Until 1879 the streets had been watered by private contract but the council seems to have taken this job on.[33]

11 dustlaying cart  cropped & comp.jpg

A typical dust-laying cart. Winship was responsible for the horse’s health, the carter’s wages and the good repair of the cart itself.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Museum of East Anglian Life

Winship searched for additives to help and found a substance called Akonia (chlorides of calcium and sodium), which seems to have been quite good for this. [34] The figures make interesting reading:

 “…800 gallons [of water] mixed with Akonia dust laying substance over 4,700 superficial yards. Then done every week or 10 days according to traffic and weather, not reckoning wet days – but should be given after heavy fall of rain...“. There was no saving on road sweeping  “as the District must be gone over as usual”, but ten percent saving on wear and tear. Winship worked out it would save £70 over five years.[35]

Roads were a major source of work for Winship’s department. Examples include the repair of an arch in Northcourt Road damaged by a steam plough and many claims against Lord Norreys, a local landowner, for damage caused to the Wootton, Oxford, Faringdon, Marcham and Radley Roads “by the passage of His Lordship’s Traction Engines”; one claim was for damage “to 106 chains of roads” (eighty chains equals one mile).[36]  Winship had to write and chase payment.  

12 Steam roller 13 ed.jpg

A steamroller in Stert Street in about 1910. Steamrollers were always needed and the Council never had enough, or indeed, sometimes any, so often they were hired, right up to the 1940s.

Courtesy of Abingdon County Hall Museum

From about 1900 cars were starting to appear regularly on the roads and these became a big problem. In 1913, Winship wrote: “the remarkable development of motor traffic with its peculiar action upon the surface of roads has naturally led to almost a revolution in the treatment of roads as regards their making and repairs”.[37]

13 Barrett van shopped as tiff straightened & cropped jb18jan14 comp.jpg

This 1908 De Dion van is believed to be the first commercial vehicle owned in Abingdon. Beesleys was a clothing retailer and would take samples out to the villages and deliver orders. 

Courtesy of Abingdon County Hall Museum

By 1902, Winship was preparing estimates for the taking up and tarring of roads; for the High Street, the costs came to £232 with ordinary macadam and £378 with tar macadam.[38] He also had dealings with the Automobile Association (founded in 1905).[39] This all became so important that the County Surveyor suggested that Winship attend the International Road Congress in London in 1913, which covered all aspects of roads and road maintenance, and to which Bromley Challenor, the town clerk, contributed paper No. 112 on the qualifications of engineers and surveyors in charge of the construction and maintenance of roads.[40] Winship’s report to Council makes interesting reading and includes the recommendation of the purchase of a “Farnham” patent hand road-tarring machine.[41]

014 tarring machine 14 ed.jpg

The Farnham hand road-tarring machine that Winship recommended.

From The Surveyor and Municipal and County Engineer, Vol. XLIII, January 3 to June 27 1913, p. 785. Accessed 12 February 2015 through  

15 Street repair23 ed.jpg

Repairing the Stert Stream culvert in 1912. Note how close to the surface of the street the arch of the culvert lies.

Courtesy of Abingdon County Hall Museum

By 1899, Winship had collected several more titles: Inspector for the Urban District Council, Inspector of Common Lodging Houses, Manager and Engineer to the Borough Waterworks, Sanitary Inspector, Inspector of Canal Boats, Examiner of Gas Meters and Inspector of Gas and Petroleum Licensing. [42],[43] He now also described himself as architect and surveyor.

At the beginning of 1901, Winship as Sanitary Inspector was required by the Council to carry out a survey of the housing of the poor, defined as those having two rooms or fewer, to comply with the provisions in the new Artisans Dwelling Act. [44]

At the end of 1913, Winship’s last working year before war was declared, his working life became even more fraught. Roads were being tar sprayed and kerbed. In West St Helen Street, the cobbles were being pulled up and mains electricity laid before the street was tarred. West St Helen Street was giving Winship other problems; there were not enough toilets for the population living there at the time. In Court No 7, for example, there were five toilets for fifteen houses, a potential of eighty-seven people although only sixty were currently living there. At the time, one toilet for two houses, that is, ten people, was officially considered to be adequate.

16 Court No 7 15 ed & comp.jpg

Court No. 7, West St Helen Street, in 1933, twenty years later. The courts were demolished following the slum clearance that started in the mid-1930s.

The North Berks Herald, Friday 29 September 1933

Also in 1913, Winship was deciding where to site brackets to hold telephone and electric wires, all helping to bring Abingdon firmly into the twentieth century.

Winship was now sixty-six years old and suffering from the “serious affliction of nervous deafness”. He requested of the Council that, when giving his reports, “a special dispensation [be] given to him that no questions be put to him orally or without warning”. This was granted.

This did not stop him working hard. In January 1914, a report was published in the Contract Journal about his waterworks siphon. Sadly, a copy of this article has not been traced, despite extensive enquiries. Winship had read papers about the Abingdon Waterworks all over the country and the waterworks themselves had received many visitors, who expressed nothing but “wonder and astonishment” at its remarkable results.[45] He had obviously never stopped improving the works since they had first been opened.

The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 caused Winship to carry an extra heavy load during the last years of his working life. Many of his staff joined up and the list we have illustrates some of the work of his department: his assistant Mr Fay Parker;  Hubert Finch (see above); William Howe, the boy “who went round to clear up the streets”; William Gardner  who was the engine driver at the sewage pumping station (then a term for one who ran the engines and was responsible for their good working order); J. Tubb jnr, assistant to his father on road repairs and street improvements; George Sanford, who acted as engine driver to the Waterworks, described by Winship as “a good mechanic and looked after the gas and petrol engines”; and Percy Norman Avery Miles, Winship’s typewriter (typist). Winship described Miles as “sharp and intelligent” and was sorry to see him go. Miles was listed as “missing presumed killed” at Passchendaele on 9 October 1917. He was nineteen and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial near Ypres.[46]

17 Miles 16 cropped & ed.jpg



Percy Norman Avery Miles, missing presumed killed at Passchendael, aged nineteen. He was the typist for Winship’s department.

Reproduced by kind permission of Abingdon School


Winship’s department also relied heavily on the McIntyre family; McIntyres looked after the roads, the sewers and the various engines run by the Council. In 1918, more men were called up and Winship lost Edward McIntyre, who looked after the County Hall pumping machinery as well as others. The department was short everywhere. Talbot, who ran the sewage engine, became unwell and Councillor Gibson helped out with this; pumping hours were from 5.30am to 11pm.

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The Borough Surveyor’s departmental outing 1916.  Winship is the bearded figure in the middle.

With thanks to Steve King for both the photograph and permission to reproduce it.

The Pavlova leather factory made a lot of leather goods for the forces, including horse harnesses for pulling artillery and tack for mounted officers. Although the factory was by then uneconomic, the War Office refused permission for it to close. Leather production is a water-intensive process and each day Pavlova produced more effluent than the rest of the town put together. This caused many problems and the company was restricted to releasing this effluent only at night and only up to 168,000 gallons at a time.

19 Pavolva 18 ed.jpg

A view of Pavlova leather factory. The problems with their waste disposal continued and in the 1950s, lagoons were built outside the town to help accommodate this.

Courtesy of Abingdon County Hall Museum

On top of all this, everything Winship needed to keep the town in good repair was in short supply. For spare parts and road materials, he had to apply to both the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Defence. Costs were rising – scavengers who helped clean the streets now wanted 30s  a week instead of £1 (a rise of 50%); J. Eynstone, the blacksmith, who was paid by the hour, got 5d before the War and received 8d by the end of it. The cost of horse hire went through the roof. More than eight million horses, which had been the basis of commercial, transport and agricultural work, were now being used in the war, and the rising cost of horse hire was one consequence. Petrol was also in short supply and buses were being run on gas, stored in balloons on their roofs.

The  troops stationed close by caused Winship’s department extra work  – the public toilet at Abingdon Bridge, for example, was cleaned every day but in September 1918 was “found to be in a most filthy condition every morning and the paper is most extravagantly used, three rolls in one week frequently”. One soldier inserted a florin (two shillings) instead of a penny to open the toilet door and applied to the Council for a refund. Winship reported that, indeed, a florin had been found in the takings, and he was instructed to return 1s 11d – the total amount minus the one penny for use of the facility.

More problems: eleven workmen threatened to leave the Council’s employ if they weren’t given pay rises. The Council decided to call their bluff and the men were let go. Winship reported “The scavenging and other work in the streets has since been carried out by the farm staff [sewage farm], including girls, who have given every satisfaction”.[47]

The council minutes during the war years are somewhat sparse, but it seems that, as well as all his regular work, the extra paperwork involved in applying for materials, and dealing with manpower shortages, Winship was one of the people who carried out canvassing for the information required for the compilation of the Abingdon Roll of Service, documenting who went to war, where they served and when they returned.[48]

Three of Winship’s four sons also served in the war and all survived. One son was wounded and mentioned in despatches and another was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.

Finally, in December 1918, a month after the war was over, Winship retired. The Town Clerk, Bromley Challenor, who started work with the Council in the same year as Winship and with whom he must have worked very closely, died in harness in October 1918. That must have been very difficult for Winship. But he was still acting as a consultant to the Council, even after his successor, R V Hall, was appointed.

All aspects of Abingdon’s needs had been his responsibility, from sourcing the coal for the Council, to street lighting, from water purity to sanitary conditions in canal boats and lodging houses, from designing buildings to mitigating animal nuisances, providing medical returns and ensuring adequate water supply. He had served notices concerning the cutting and trimming of hedges and looked after the bicycles used by the council employees.[49] He had made estimates of costs, invented better ways of doing things, sourced materials, provided new systems of working and the keeping of accounts for his department and had constantly updated himself on the myriad new developments that had happened throughout his long working life.

When Winship died in 1928, the mayor read a copy of the letter he had written to Miss Winship, (the oldest daughter) expressing “on behalf of all the members of the Council their deep sympathy and sincere condolence with them and the respective families. Approval of the same and the sympathy of the Council was expressed by all members rising in their places.”[50]

Private Life

In December 1872, George Winship married Ellen Jane Smith at St John's Smith Square in London. They lived in Malvern where he was then working, and where the first three of their nine children were born. [51]

After moving to Abingdon, the 1881 census has their address as The Abbey, which at that time meant in one of the properties inside the Abbey Gateway. By then, along with Ellen, his daughters Lucy, Nellie and Katie and his son George aged 3, he had a boarder, Joseph Huld and three servants: Martha Wiblin, domestic servant and chambermaid, and Fanny and Emma Pastor, book keeper and housekeeper respectively.

The family moved several times more, leaving the Abbey quarters for Spring Road some time in 1881 and then to 52 Ock Street, known as Hope Haven, where they were living by 1886. [52]

20  Ock St house ed & comp 8mar15.jpg




52 Ock Street, where the Winship family lived for several years.

Ruth Weinberg 2015      


In 1904 there was another move, to Park Crescent, and by 1911, George, Ellen and three of their children were to be found at 12 Conduit Road, where George and Ellen celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1922, quite an achievement for those times.[53]

21 Conduit Road 20 ed.jpg




12 Conduit Road, where George and Ellen were living by 1922 and where they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

Ruth Weinberg 2013

22 Wedding anniversary 21 ed & comp.jpg



George and Ellen on their golden wedding anniversary. They were to have three more years together before Ellen died.

Reproduced by kind permission of Oxfordshire County Council




Eight of George and Ellen’s nine children survived into adulthood.

Ellen died in 1925 and on 14 October 1928, George himself followed her. The funeral took place at St. Helens Church on 18 October 1928, with one of his sons playing the organ at the service.[54]

23 Grave 22 ed.jpg



The Winship grave in the Spring Road Cemetery. Buried here are both Ellen and George, as well as their oldest daughter Lucy Helena, and another George Winship, who may have been a cousin.

Ruth Weinberg 2012





Abingdon Town Council Archives abbreviated as ATCA.

[1] 1851 census

[2] Institution of Civil Engineers Archives, George Winship’s application form for membership dated 23 December 1878.

[3] 1871 census.

[4] ATCA, Abingdon Corporation Minutes 4 January 1877.

[5] ATCA Borough Surveyor’s Report Book 23 December 1879.

[6] Surveyor’s Report Book August 1889.

[7] Corporation Minutes 10 May 1889.

[8] Corporation Minutes 20 March 1879.

[9] Proceedings of the Association of Municipal and Sanitary Engineers & Surveyors. vol. 9 (1882-83), pp. 176‑186.

[10] Corporation Minutes 18 April 1877.

[11] Corporation Minutes 9 November 1878.

[12] Carol Morgan, Archivist, Institution of Civil Engineers, personal communication.

[13] For example, in the ‘Discussion on the sale of water by meter’, Minutes of the Proceedings of the

    Institution of Civil Engineers vol. 107, (1891-92 Pt. 1) pp238 - 241

[14] Wendy Cawthorne, Librarian, Geological Society, personal communication.

[15] Proceedings of the Association of Municipal and Sanitary Engineers and Surveyors, vol.  Xl (1884-85), pp. 154‑171.

[16] Carol Morgan, Archivist, Institution of Civil Engineers, personal communication.

[17] Corporation Minutes November 1880

[18] Northampton Mercury, 2, 9, & 30 March 1900, (accessed 28 February 2015).

[19] Abingdon Herald , 1 November 1902, p. 5.

[20] Surveyor’s Report Book, 9 December 1881.

[21] Surveyor’s report book, 9 December 1881. Some towns collected refuse in boxes, others had it collected straight from the streets, Banbury had collection boxes in principal parts of the town and Margate intended to “change to galvanised buckets” to be collected from each house every morning.

[22] Surveyor’s Report Book, 9 December 1881

[23] Corporation Minutes 9 November 1890.

[24] Hugh Barty-King, Water: The Book, an illustrated history of water supply and wastewater in the United Kingdom. (London, 1992), pp. 98, 140-1.

[25] Surveyor’s Report Book, 1900-1904; The Times 19 September 2014 p. 65.

[26] Surveyor’s Report Book, 29 December 1904.

[27] Ruth Weinberg, ‘The Crossley Gas Engines of Abingdon’, Part 1, Stationary Engine August 2008, No. 413, pp. 20-21; Part 2, Stationary Engine September 2008, No. 414, pp. 28-29; ‘The Basement Installation in the Abingdon County Hall Museum – Gas Engines, Water Pumps and Their Involvement in Abingdon’s Development in the First Half of the 20th Century’, unpublished typescript (2007), Abingdon County Hall Museum. 

[28] Surveyor’s Report Book, October 1909.

[29] W J H Liversidge (ed.), ‘Selections from the Municipal Records of the Borough of Abingdon 1898-1931’, unpublished typescript (1986), Abingdon Library, Local Studies Collection, ref: 942.5, p. 55.

[30] Abingdon Herald 22 August 1891, p 5.

[31] Ernest Nicholson (ed.), Road to the Seventies: two decades of achievement in Abingdon & District (Abingdon, 1970) p. 14.

[32] Geological Society Archives, Winship’s application form. Elected Fellow (No. 4156) on 23 March

    1898. His death is mentioned in the Society’s Quarterly Journal vol. 86 (1930) p. LXIX.

[33] Corporation Minutes 20 March 1879.

[34] Annette Howard, Archivist, Institution of Chemical Engineers, personal communication.

[35] Surveyor’s Report Book 5 April 1906. Note: Akonia was taken over by the government in

1916 and the dust-laying additive was no longer available.

[36] Surveyor’s Report Book 27 February 1878, 8 August 1878 & 8 May 1879; Corporation Minutes February 1874 – April 1881; Urban Sanitary Committee Report August 1880.

[37] Surveyor’s Report Book February 1913.

[38] Abingdon Herald 1 November 1902, p. 5.

[39] Corporation Minutes 3 June 1913.

[40] Corporation Minutes 24 June 1913.

[41] Corporation Minutes 2 July 1913.

[42] Corporation Minutes 8 March 1881.

[43] Kelly’s Directory of Abingdon 1899.

[44] Abingdon Herald,  5 January 1901.

[45] Surveyor’s Report Book 28 January 1914.

[46] Abingdon (Borough) Roll of Service August 1914 – June 1919, compiled on behalf of the Corporation of Abingdon, (Abingdon, 1919), p. 15. Abingdon Library, Local Studies Collection 940.46742576

[47] North Berks Herald 21 September 1918, p. 3.

[48] Abingdon (Borough) Roll of Service August 1914 – June 1919, on the Dedication page inside the front cover.  

[49] Corporation Minutes August 1913.

[50] Corporation Minutes 31 October 1928.

[51] Westminster marriage records & 1881 census accessed through on 28 February 2015   

[52] 1881 census; Anne Smithson, Parish Archivist, personal communication - information from St Michael’s

    parish registers.

[53] 1911 census.

[54] Abingdon Herald 19 October 1928, p. 8. 

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