Roll out the barrel!

We are grateful to John Chipperfield, writer of Oxford Mail’s ‘Memory Lane’ section, for sending us a cutting of his article looking back at Kidlington’s beer barrel races. The annual races were one of the highlights of the village calendar from 1961 to 1970. The text of John’s article, originally published in the Oxford Mail in August 2019, is reproduced below.

Captions to the photos read as follows:

The Old Southfieldians head for victory in 1963

A near collision in the 1961 race

Competitors in the 1962 race

Nigel Townsend, left, and Peter Faulkner, from the Oxford Old Boys

The start of the 1963 race – starter Trevor Williams is in the sombrero


Roll out the barrel…the whole village had a barrel of fun as the beer flowed

      A LOT of beer was drunk – and a lot of fun was had – during the annual beer barrel rolling race through the streets of Kidlington.
      The races became an important part of village life between 1961 and 1970 for competitors, spectators and good causes which benefited from the money they raised.
Most years the race took place between the Kings Arms in The Moors, Kidlington, and the Kings Arms at Gosford, now the Miller & Carter steakhouse.
      The 1963 race was a tight one, with Old Southfieldians rugby club beating the team from the Britannia pub in Church Street, Kidlington, by four yards. Gosford All Blacks rugby team was third.
      The barrel rollers were preceded by a band of musicians from the Witney and Wheatley detachments of the Oxfordshire Army Cadet Corps. Race starter Trevor Williams said: “We gave the band 15 minutes to get ahead of the barrels, or they would have been mown over.” Then, as the musicians disappeared in the distance, Mr Williams, wearing a sombrero, false moustache and sideburns, started the race.
      As the five teams pounded away from the Kings Arms at Gosford, the Britannia team was quickly in the lead. But then “something went adrift” and the Old Southfieldians swept past. From then on, they kept in the lead, watched by hundreds of spectators lining the route and 40 cyclists following behind.
      It was the third successive victory for the Old Southfieldians, who attributed their win to “giving up drinking and smoking – for at least 10 minutes before the race.” A member of the Britannia team had an excuse for being further behind the leaders than they were last year: “After all, we’re getting older.”
      The Old Southfieldians, who entered the race as part of their rugby training, were presented with their prizes – a nine-gallon barrel of the beer and a miniature barrel – by the Rev Ian Beacham, vicar of St Mary’s Church, Kidlington.
     Money collected from the 1,000 people who watched the race was given to Kidlington Evergreen Club and St Mary’s Church restoration fund.

John Chipperfield

Do you remember Kidlington’s barrel races? If you have memories to share, we’d love to hear from you. Just send them in to