Branscombe reignites link with Oxford college

THE unique bond between Branscombe and an Oxford college will be reflected this month – as the learning establishment marks its 400th anniversary.

THE unique bond between Branscombe and an Oxford college will be reflected this month - as the learning establishment marks its 400th anniversary.

Representatives from Wadham College will celebrate this milestone by reconnecting with the origins of the institution and visiting the village from which its founding was directed.

The whole village is invited to join in with the festivities, which mark 400 years since Dorothy Wadham, of Edge Barton Manor, Branscombe, established the college in accordance with the instruction of her late husband, Nicolas.

Silvan and Dawn Robinson, the current owners of Edge Barton, will - in true Wadham style - offer generous hospitality to their guests from the college, which include its warden, Sir Neil Chalmers, and his wife, the chaplain, and a number of Fellows.

Mr Robinson, who has lived at Edge Barton for 15 years, said: "When we realised the college was founded from here we created a link with it and we have a group of postgraduates down for a week every year for a reading party.

"We have struck up quite a friendship with the warden and he has kindly invited us to the Dorothy Wadham Dinner which they have once a year, and when we heard it was the 400th anniversary this year we thought it would be nice to recreate this link and invite a party here.

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"I am delighted to welcome the group to Branscombe and involve as many people as possible."

The group, during their stay on June 26 and 27, will participate in the annual general meeting of the Friends of St Winifred's Church and be given a traditional Branscombe dinner of local crab, lamb and meringues with Devon cream.

In a fitting historical tribute, the warden and his wife will stay in Dorothy Wadham's bedroom at Edge Barton.

The college chaplain will preach at the morning service on the group's final day in the village before being entertained by around 50 villagers at Edge Barton with a bring-and-share buffet lunch.

The Reverend Nigel Freathy will give the guests a guided tour of the village, which will take in the funerary monument of Joan Wadham, Dorothy's mother-in-law, in St Winifred's Church.

THE Wadham family played an extremely important part in the history of Branscombe.

They were a well-known and prosperous West Country family, who bought Edge Barton Manor from the Branscombes in 1377 and owned it for eight generations.

The Wadhams made their main residence at Merifield near Ilminster but Edge Barton was retained as the family dower house.

Dorothy and Nicolas were the last direct line of the Wadhams and as they had no children they considered that the founding of an Oxford College was an appropriate way to carry on the family name.

The couple had built up a fund of �14,000 for the project and following Nicolas' death, Dorothy, then 75, carried out the task.

Silvan Robinson, of Edge Barton, said: "A series of still extant letters records the details of the achievement.

"This remarkable lady, with her trusted servants, carried out the bequest with meticulous care and her record tells how the college should be built, who were to be Fellows, scholars and servants and so on.

"As a consequence of Dorothy's detailed supervision and the care with which the original structure of the buildings has been retained Wadham is unique amongst Oxford Colleges for the purity of its architectural layout and design."

The college has continued to flourish and is proud of its association with many famous people, including the late politician Michael Foot, author Melvyn Bragg and Lord Moser, who effectively founded the Central Statistical Office.