OLIVER HENRY STONE was born on 21 Oct 1896 in Bawdrip, Somerset, England. (ref 1)
His parents were Simon Stone born in Jan 1868 in Bawdrip and Florence Purnell born in Jul 1872 in Puriton. (ref 1)
Oliver was blinded at age 11 according to the 1911 UK census. The family were living at Bay Cottage Bawdrip then and in 1939 (ref 2)
In 1901 census Oliver’s father Simon Stone was a carter on a farm. (ref 2)
In 1910 he bought the property for £112.
Sadly, his father died on 25 Jan 1937 in Bawdrip in tragic circumstances by committing suicide. At the inquest held at Bawdrip Parish Hall it was reported that he had suffered for eight years from shaking paralysis. He was described as a former employee of King Sedgemoor Drainage Board. Oliver gave evidence and identified his father’s body. He was found by his brother John lying face down drowned in a tank of water in the garden. He is buried in Bawdrip churchyard (ref 3)
In 1940 Oliver’s widowed mother Florence and Jack Stone (Simons brother real name John), with Oliver and his sister Emily were living at the cottage. Jack died on 23 June1942 and Florence on 07 Jan 1950 in Bawdrip but Oliver continued to live there with his younger sister Emily. (ref 1)
Oliver was very accomplished at his craft and people came from far and wide to buy his baskets. In 1925 he was awarded a first-class certificate of proficiency and third prize of 7s 6d (equivalent to £16 in 2019) by the Worshipful Company of Basket makers held at the Clothworkers Hall Mincing Lane London on 10th November 1925. He was the first person in the South West to receive this honour which was presented to him at St Marys Parish Hall Bridgwater in February 1926 In 1932 he won first prize for basket making at the Bath and West of England Show held at Yeovil and in 1934 was awarded joint first prize for his luncheon basket in willow in a worldwide competition organised by the National Institute for the Blind (ref 4)
Oliver and his donkey and cart were a familiar sight around the village. He harvested withies from a withy bed at the end of Eastside Lane.
The late Phyllis Burrow (nee Lynham 1919-2018 ) recalls memories of Oliver in her written life story (ref 5)
“There was a very nice man in Bawdrip called Oliver Stone, who was about my father’s age, but almost blind due to some infection he caught swimming in the river as a child. He was a big, strong man, so very kind to we children, He used to pull the rope of the heaviest bell in church. He used to sit on the floor of an outhouse at his parents’ home, on a cushion, making baskets and other things from withies. We would spend hours with him whilst he talked to us as he worked, plying the withies in and out, holding the article he was making between his knees. For many years I had a clothes basket which Oliver made and gave me as a wedding present, and my first baby’s bicycle seat came from him.
He used to deliver a weekly newspaper on Saturdays – the Somerset County Gazette, I think – and we entered competitions, the prizes for which came by post. Also, on Saturdays he would come around the village with a large flat basket selling Oxo’s, shoe laces, polishes, matches and other small things. He also sold tea in varying strengths packed in different coloured packets and by holding the packet close to his eyes he could just about make out the colour of the packet. The articles I believe were supplied by the Association for the Blind.”
Oliver’s sister Emily looked after him until he died on 2nd September 1975, aged 78. She continued living in Bay cottage until she died on 29th December 1983 aged 74. (ref 1)
Oliver’s siblings were: (ref 1)
ALICE STONE was born in 1892 in Bawdrip servant in WSM 1911. She married William Thomas Wheeler from Bridgwater in York Ontario Canada 1 April 1913
WALTER JOHN STONE was born on 02 Apr 1894 in Bawdrip, Somerset, England. He died on 08 Sep 1987 in Branson, Taney County, Missouri, United States of America.
FRANCES STONE was born in 1900 in Bawdrip
ADA STONE was born in 1903 in Bawdrip
MINNIE STONE was born in 20 Feb 1905 in Bawdrip, Somerset. She died in Jan 2000 in Sedgemoor. She married Bernard William Stone of Chedzoy in Bawdrip Church on 28 June 1929. Emily and Florence were witnesses
EMILY STONE (above) was born 18th Feb 1909 in Bawdrip and died on 29th December 1983
ref 1 Ancestry.co.uk
ref 2 1901, 1911 UK Census and 1939 Register
ref 4 copy of certificate and newspaper report 24 Jan 1934