Time: the night of Thursday
14 May 1936 Place: Ascott Park, Stadhampton,
PILLAR AND MOON
Nash’s Pillar and Moon, held by the Tate Gallery, was
painted between 1932 and 1942. It is inspired by Ascott Park, Stadhampton,
a few miles south east of Oxford. This picture was based
around ‘the mystical association of two objects which inhabit different
elements and have no apparent relation in life... The pale stone sphere on top
of a ruined pillar faces its counterpart the moon, cold and pale and solid as
stone.’ Though not explicitly about mourning, the deep, unpopulated space
and ghostly lighting gives the scene a melancholy air. Rather than depict a
real landscape, Nash said that his intention had been ‘to call up memories
and stir emotions in the spectator’.
purchaser in 1947 of Pillar and Avenue, an early drawing by Nash of this same
subject, was classical scholar Professor Sir Roger Mynors
(1903-1989), Fellow of Balliol College Oxford. Mynors,
who became a member of the literary committee for the New English Bible, taught
at Oxford from 1929, at Cambridge as Professor from 1944 and
at Oxford again as Professor from
1953. He received honorary degrees from many British Universities and the University of Toronto - Mynors
took a major part in editing the works of Erasmus on behalf of the University of Toronto press. He died in a
Ascott Park Farm Stadhampton
outside Oxford was the place where the body of Thomas Patteson “Pat” Moss, a six-foot Canadian undergraduate, was
found in the remains of a burned hayrick on 15 May
The rumour that a Balliol undergraduate had been found murdered spread
round Oxford on that evening.
was a high-profile case with potentially sensitive links to people in the
public eye. Sir
Bernard Spilsbury, Britain’s best-known forensic
pathologist, was brought in to investigate. He was known for his ability
to work with minimum remains, such as those in the 1930 blazing car murder near
Northampton. Was this a case of
murder, suicide, or had the victim merely fallen asleep and been overcome by
fumes from smouldering hay lit by an unattended cigarette? The puzzle remains
unsolved to this day. Spilsbury took his own
life in 1947.
from Toronto, had developed an interest in Canadian
art. One of the first on the scene to help the authorities with their
enquiries was Vincent Massey, High Commissioner for Canada. Massey, too, was a
Balliol man, and himself perhaps the most noted collector of Canadian
art. By a strange irony, considering where the body was found, Massey’s
world-renowned family business was in harvesting and haymaking machinery.
His family home was in Port Hope just east of Toronto, and the young Pat Moss
had attended school at Trinity College there, leaving as head boy
STADHAMPTON, Oxfordshire, May 15. -- T. Patteson
Moss, Oxford University undergraduate, and a native
of Toronto, was found dead today in
the remains of a burned hayrick on a farm near Stadhampton.
charred remains were found after fire of unexplained origin had broken out in
the rick during the night,
of death could not be immediately ascertained and an investigation began to
determine whether or not Moss had met with foul play.
however, surmised that Moss had dropped asleep on top of the rick. They believe he fell off the rick and was knocked unconscious. His presence in the
district also remained a mystery.
Both Arms Broken.
fire was discovered in the middle of the night by a farmer in the
vicinity. Investigation later revealed the badly-burned body of the
six-foot student, who has lived in Great Britain for some years. Both arms
were broken and the skull was fractured.
was in his third year at Balliol College, Oxford. An official of the
college went to London to inform his mother.
to attending Oxford, Moss had been a pupil at
Marlborough, boys’ school in Wiltshire. He spent two years there.
Moss’ father is dead and his mother came to Great Britain three months ago.
theory that Moss might have been murdered was not definitely abandoned, pending
careful investigation into his death. The fact that both arms were broken
and the skull fractured lent some credence to the possibility he was slain.
TORONTO, May 15. - T. Patteson Moss, reported burned to death in a haystack at Stadhampton, Oxfordshire, was the grandson of Thomas Patteson of Toronto, who died in 1907.
Patteson, an Englishman who attended Oxford University where young Moss was
attending, was postmaster of Toronto from 1879 to 1907.
He was editor of the old Toronto Mail in 1872 and was founder of the Ontario
The late Mr Moss was nephew
of Mr. G. B. Patteson, of 202 Elgin street. The former Oxford University students had made several
brief visits to his uncle in this city but had not been here for the past
several years. The victim of the tragedy, was
named after Mr. Patteson’s father.
THOMAS PATTESON MOSS,
attending Oxford University, whose
charred body was found under peculiar circumstances in an English haystack. Police believe that
death may have been accidental, but there is suspicion of foul play. He was a
nephew of G B Patteson, 202 Elgin St., Ottawa.
Associated Press Despatch
STADHAMPTON, Oxfordshire, May 16. -- A small patch of unburned hay
in the middle of the smouldering hayrick where the body of T. Patteson Moss, Toronto-born Oxford undergraduate was found
today provided a fresh slim clue for authorities seeking to unravel the mystery
of his death.
The charred body of the Balliol College student was found
yesterday in the ashes of the rick, which caught fire
mysteriously during Thursday night.
discarded the theory of foul play after a post mortem examination conducted by
Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the famous Home Office
pathologist. They emphasized, however, that the possibility Moss was
murdered was not dismissed entirely.
Massey on Scene
Hon. Vincent Massey, Canadian High Commissioner in London, went today to Oxford, eight miles away from
this village, to assist authorities personally in their effort to solve the
The rick where the body was found—on
a farm just outside Stadhampton—was still smouldering
today when Henry Taylor, farmer and owner of the ricks,
accompanied a reporter to the spot and pointed out the place where Moss was
found. This proved to be the only patch of hay that was not completely
burnt out. In Taylor’s view, this patch of hay
must have been wet before the fire Wednesday and would therefore be unlikely to
attract a tired man who had four dry ricks to sleep
A curious circumstance in connection with the discovery of the
body is that farm hands and others attempting to put out the fire in the ricks failed to discover anything amiss until a drove of
cows which was passing sniffed suspiciously and nosed into the debris, refusing
to be shooed away.
Sir Bernard worked for three hours in his shirt sleeves in
conducting the post-mortem. He used a wooden door placed on zinc pails as a
table, using the farmer’s white kitchen cloth as a covering. The famous
pathologist worked in full view of all passing along the lane leading to the
only means of identifying the body was a remnant of a small brown trouser belt
inches wide, on which was scrawled “Thomas Moss.” A pair of cufflinks and three shillings and two pence (about 80
cents) in cash were the only other articles not completely burned.
Spilsbury decided the broken arms
and skull were due to the terrific heat to which the body had been subjected
during the fire, causing the bones to crack. At first it had been thought
the fractures were the result of violence or of a fall from the top of the hay-rick.
Police stated that despite an intensive search, there were no
signs that the hay-rick had been deliberately
fired. Nor was there any clue as to how the blaze originated.
One theory considered by police was that Moss had fallen asleep
on top of the hay-rick, then had fallen off and in so
doing had knocked himself unconscious.
Moss was last seen in Oxford Wednesday night. The
hay-rick fire was discovered that night, but not
until it had died down was the body found. Police were anxious to learn
what Moss was doing so far from Oxford.
student’s mother, who came from Canada just three months ago, was
told of her son’s death by an official of the university who went to London to inform her. Moss
was in his third year at Balliol College. He was a grandson
of the late Thomas Patteson, postmaster of Toronto from 1879 to 1907.
Montizambert wrote in her May 22 report to the
Montreal Gazette which appeared on June 6:
DEATH OF THOMAS MOSS
Canadians in London have been shocked over the
tragic and mysterious death of Thomas Patteson Moss
and sympathy is felt for the relations of a young man of whom everyone speaks
as possessing unusual qualities of both heart and mind. A member of a family
known in Canada for brilliant achievements
in the legal profession, Mr Moss never allowed the years he spent in England at Marlborough and Oxford to change his decision to
live out his life in Canada, where he intended to be
called to the Bar. He was keenly interested in literature. One of his
contemporaries writes: “I have a vivid impression of him from the few times
when I did meet him. He was above all a scholar in the truest sense, and
besides mastering his own subjects, he read a good deal and was a very
interesting and amusing talker. He had recently been drawn towards French
literature and Canadian art. He had a most lovable character, perhaps
best observed by his acquaintances through his manner towards his mother.”
His grandfather, Chief Justice Thomas Moss, was the youngest man ever to hold
that post in Ontario.
In 1931 “Pat” Moss left Trinity College School, Port Hope, with ten first
class honors and three scholarships. He was
only sixteen, too young to go straight to college, so he put in the next two
years at Marlborough, travelling a great deal
in the holidays and studying archaeological discoveries in Greece. The clouding
uncertainty about the way in which this young man went out of a life that
seemed so promising must, in these harrowing days, obliterate all other aspects
of his untimely death. It is difficult to remember the truth that made a
great poet write of another much-loved youth
“ He hath awakened
from the dream of life—
‘Tis we, who, lost in
stormy visions keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance strike with our spirits knife
Moss had attended Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario. In 1941, forty acres of
hilly countryside were given to the school “in memory of Pat Moss, a
brilliant student who had been tragically killed while studying at Oxford University. After the war
it became a camp for underprivileged boys during the summer months, financed
and operated by the boys of the School. … As a week-end refuge in a lovely
countryside, it is recalled with pleasure by numerous Old Boys.”
… ”those beautiful and mysterious gate piers framing a grand entrance to nowhere, just the other side of Stadhampton” -Chris Koenig, Oxford Times
PASSION FOR PLACE & TIME: John
LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK
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