There are many lost villages in England. Many people imagine they vanished because of the Black Death, but there are plenty of other reasons for villages to disappear. Here’s just a few of the lost villages that you can visit in North Bucks.
In 1562 the Tyringham family had the seven farms in the village demolished so that they could extend the park land surrounding the manor house. The village had been emparked.
There’s no evidence that the village was rebuilt elsewhere. Emparking was common in England, and Gayhurst House, on the opposite side of the B road, is the site of another emparked village.
At Gayhurst, the village was rebuilt on what’s now the B526.
What’s there now?
Tyringham Hall and grounds (not open to the public) and the church. The graceful Tyringham bridge is Grade 1 listed.
Tyringham is a couple of miles North of Newport Pagnell, just off the B526. Turn right off this road, and drive through the gatehouse and over Tyringham bridge. The church is on the right, about 200 yards after the bridge.
The early 18th century church up by Gayhurst house is very fine, and there’s a magnificent Walnut tree not far past the gatehouse of Gayhurst House. The house is not open to the public.
There was a village here from Saxon times, but by 1654 the local landlords, the Longuevilles, had enclosed all the strip cultivation fields and turned them over to pasture.
This wasn’t unusual; raising sheep was much more profitable than arable farming. Countless villages were lost to enclosure, where smaller landholdings were taken and legally consolidated into larger farms. Enclosure in England went on for centuries.
What’s there now?
The conical mound of the motte and bailey castle is by the church. The house platforms and hollow ways (worn down streets) are clearly visible and cover a large area.
Old Wolverton is just to the North of modern Wolverton. Follow signs for Old Wolverton or Old Wolverton industry. There’s a public car park near The Galleon pub, on the same side of the road.
A sign in the car park has a map of the site; it’s all Parks Trust land and is open to all.
It was 1645, and the English Civil War was in progress. The fortified manor at Boarstall, set in the centre of the village, had already withstood three seiges by the Parliamentarian forces.
The houses and church of the village had been providing cover for attacks on the manor house, so Sir William Campion, Royalist commander of Boarstall, had no choice but to have them knocked down.
He’d been reluctant. Many of his men had been staying in the village, because the manor was too small to house them all. And Sir William didn’t want to upset the villagers; they might have started to help the enemy.
He also wanted to prove how dangerous it was to have the village so near, and waited until after the third seige before knocking it all down. But in the end, he had had no choice.
What’s there now?
Today all that’s left of the fortified manor is Boarstall Tower, a National Trust property. It will be open to the public again next year.
There are earthworks in the surrounding fields where once houses stood. The church was rebuilt after the Civil War, but it isn’t very interesting. I went to Boarstall yesterday and there’s little to see; especially in the rain. For a visit, I’d wait until next year, when the tower is open again.
Boarstall is right on the Western border of the county, just off the B4011 between Blackthorn on the A41, and Thame.
Fleet Marston was a small village big enough to support a modest church, but by 1851 the parish was in decline. By 1870-72 there were just five houses and 23 people.
At the turn of the 20th century the village had faded away, and now traffic rushes past on the A41. The manor house is long gone; it was demolished in 1772 and now there’s no sign of it. It stood near the church.
What’s there now?
There are a few scattered cottages. Fleet Marston Farm nearby is 17th Century. The 12th and 13th Century St Mary’s church is cared for by The Churches Conservation Trust; John Wesley preached his first sermon there in 1725.
The church is on the highest point in the middle of a large field, which was ploughed when I visited yesterday. I saw drifts of stone fragments in the turned soil, possibly from the village beneath.
The church is half a mile past the railway bridge over the A41, going West from Aylesbury. Access (it’s on your right) is through a reclamation yard (they close at 5 pm) and across the ploughed field, on a wide grass path. You can park on what used to be part of the A41.
If you want to see inside, the church key can be borrowed from the farmhouse of Fleet Marston Farm during office hours, Monday to Friday. It’s a quarter of a mile further along the A41, on the right.
More Lost Villages
The Lost Villages of Britain is the book that first got me interested in this subject. I can’t recommend it enough.
There are over 2,000 deserted medieval villages in Britain. The book doesn’t list them all, but describes how they came to be, and what to look out for. There are more deserted villages is North Bucks, too.
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