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Friday 10th May 2013 ko 18.15

Witney & District League Division One

MINSTER LOVELL 7 (Ryan 13 Harris 22 51 86 90 Wright 48 Sallis 87) Hewar missed penalty 66

STANTON HARCOURT 3 (Jackson 46 Cornish 71 Smith 74) Jackson sent off 89 (dangerous play)

Att 44

Entry FREE

No Programme, although the club do any information leaflet which may keep the ardent paper chaser happy.



The village of Minster Lovell lies on the River Windrush around 2 miles west of Witney, in Oxfordshire. It has three parts: Old Minster, Little Minster and New Minster. Old Minster includes St. Kenelm’s Parish Church, Minster Lovell Hall and the Old Swan Inn and Minster Mill Hotel. A large part of New Minster is the Charterville Allotments, which were founded by the Chartists in 1846-50.

The suffix “Lovell”, from the main landowning family, was added to the name from the 13th century, and in 1197 a William Lovel  held land here, probably granted in 1124 to his father William by Henry I.

Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote are extensive ruins of a 15th century manor house, once belonging to William Lovel’s descendant, Lord Lovell. There is a medieval dovecote nearby.

But its the Lovell family that hold the key to two legends about the village, although I suspect they’re derived from the same tale.

William, Baron of Lovell and Holland, was one of England’s richest men. His son John was a prominent Lancastrian and a courtier of Henry VI. But family fortunes took a nose dive when Francis Lovell, John’s son and the ninth baron, sided with the Yorkists in the disputes between the houses of York and Lancaster that became known as the Wars of the Roses. He was made a Viscount by Richard III, but within two years, Richard and the Yorkists were defeated at the Battle of Bosworth.

Briefly exiled, Francis returned from France only to take up the losing side once again, in an abortive Yorkist rebellion. According to local legend, he hid in a vault at Minster Lovell Hall giving a servant the only key. The servant died shortly after and, so the story goes, his skeleton, surrounded by mouldy books and the skeleton of his little dog at his feet, was found by workmen in 1708.

Or if you’d prefer, in this story, one William Lovell’s bride disappeared during a game of hide and seek in the hall on her wedding night. Many years later, a servant found the body of a girl dressed in a bridal gown, well preserved in a leaden cool chest used for food storage. Legend again suggests that she hid in the chest during the wedding party and the lid fell shut, trapping her inside.

Either way, its reckoned that William Lovell’s ghost haunts the hall, wailing either for help, or for his lost bride on quiet nights. Its fair to say though there was little chance of hearing anything haunted on my visit to the village this evening.

Minster Lovell FC play at the positively bucolic Wash Meadow in Old Minster. The Windrush bubbles along pleasingly along one edge, St. Kenelm’s Parish Church is clearly visible, and nearby is the Old Swan and Minster Mill hotel  which was apparently frequented by Winston Churchill. It is by any standards a stunning setting, and there was the bonus of a Friday evening fixture, presumably as by now cricket will have precedence over the ground on a Saturday.

The game had something riding on it too. Whilst Lovell had won the league Stanton Harcourt had win, and better Aston’s result with that club being at home to Brize Norton simultaneously. Then and only then could they leap-frog Chadlington to the second promotion place. Very quietly, the Chadlington captain watched proceedings…

I had a chat to referee Rob Huxford. Interestingly he’s the chairman of Kingham All Blacks FC, also of this division, and wore a KAB shirt underneath his black shirt. He expected a physical game, and he had one major decision to get correct which he did.

Early on, 10 goals looked a pipe dream. Neither side looked capable of forcing a mistake from the other, and it continued to be a tight game even after Mike Ryan opened the scoring for Lovell. Ultimately the difference between the two sides was Nathan Harris. He scored his first after 22 minutes and when the Stanton Harcourt defence imploded in the final 10 minutes he took full advantage, collecting a stunning four-goal haul.

That’s not to say that Stanton didn’t give them a real run for their money. They did after all pull the score back to 3-3 and their management must have regretted not shouting louder to stop goalkeeper taking (and missing) a penalty when the score was 3-1. They clearly wanted their regular taker to step up but player pressure won out, incorrectly it transpired.

In the end it didn’t matter, Harris ran riot, and an obviously unfit Craig Sallis came on and scored within 2 minutes! Soon after Stanton Harcourt’s Andy Jackson collected a straight red for a quite horrible challenge, but as Rob Huxtable admitted later he could have easily sent him off for his antics afterwards, and the language he used!

The final whistle saw the Lovell celebrations start, and I managed to catch up with League fixtures secretary Ralph Davies, and former chairman Fred Bellinger. They are part of a well-run league, and I congratulated them in particular on their excellent website. I stopped for the presentation, and I do wonder what a champagne shower will do for my receding hairline! I also spotted a grinning Chadlington captain, this result and Aston’s defeat meant his team took the runners-up spot and with it promotion.