Reginald TIDDY (1880–1916)
Collector of folk plays, local benefactor
Tiddy Hall (the Village Hall), Ascott-under-Wychwood
Born at Margate to William Elliott Tiddy, schoolmaster, and his wife Ellen (née Willett) who came from farming stock at Ramsden, he attended Tonbridge School where in addition to outstanding academic performance, he became Head Boy. At Tonbridge he formed a friendship with E. M. Forster and the character of Tibby, the brother of the Schlegel sisters in Howard’s End, is thought to have been based on him. He won a scholarship to University College, Oxford, and became Classics Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, and University Lecturer in English Literature, the new subject to which he was drawn. Inspired by the foundation of the English Folk Dance Society, he started a branch in Oxford and the side known as the Dancing Dons performed with the OUDS. Together with George Butterworth, he was a member of Sharp’s English Folk Dance Society Demonstration Team.
His professional and recreational interests came together when he turned his attention to mummers’ plays. He collected assiduously both through correspondence and by travelling around the villages and recording oral recitations. By the time of his death he had collected at least 33 mummers’ plays which were published by his friends in 1923 and have remained the most accessible collection of such plays.
In about 1909 he came to live with his father at the Corner House, Ascott End, and then at Priory Cottage in Ascott-under-Wychwood. He made a great impact on the village, recording songs and dances and forming a new morris side. He was an early supporter of the newly founded Ruskin College and the WEA and in 1912 built for the villagers a reading room, later called ‘Tiddy Hall’ after him. The hall became a natural venue for recreational activities and helped to break down social barriers.
In 1914 Tiddy felt that he should volunteer for service in the war, resisting the suggestion that he should transfer to the greater safety of the Intelligence Corps. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant with the 2nd/4th battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1915, he arrived on the Somme in May 1916. On 10 August while searching for wounded men he was hit by a stray shell and killed. Ralph Honeybone from Ascott, his batman and friend, was present at his death. His grave is in Laventie Military Cemetery, La Gorgue Nord.
- Sources: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (OUP) article by Michael Heaney; Reginald Tiddy, article by Anne Pedley in the Journal of the Wychwoods Local History Society, issue 21, 2006
- Photograph of unveiling ceremony
- Oxford Mail, 11 September 2012: “Plaque tribute to folk dance expert”
The plaque was unveiled at Tiddy Hall as part of centenary celebrations on 8 September 2012 by Michael Heaney of the Bodleian Libraries. Among those attending was Sir Ivor Roberts, President of Trinity College, Oxford.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
REGINALD / TIDDY
Collector of Folk Plays
Benefactor and resident
of this village / 1909–1916
Villagers of Ascott-Under-Wychwood