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November 2020

The Monday Photo

Church arches  WinslowThe church of St Laurence, Winslow.

Underneath the Arches

This is the church of St. Laurence, in Winslow. Most of what you can see here was built in the 14th Century. Or was it?

That’s what the 1959 listing for this Grade 2* building says. But according to David J. Critchley, the story is far more complex, and much of the original fabric is older, altered work.

In his paper on the building of the church he says that the earliest parts of the church are two hundred years older. He says that the tower was first built no later than the first half of the 13th Century, though the belfry probably dates to the 1470s. The tower arches were reworked in the 14th Century.

The nave seems to be the oldest part of the church, originally built in the 12th Century but much altered since. He says that the side aisles seem to date from around the same times as the tower.

He thinks that the chancel is 13th Century, but extended in the 14th Century. There may well have been an earlier chancel, as old as the Norman nave.

David Critchley’s paper is in draft form; unfinished until he can gain access again to the church, and of course that depends on what happens with the current pandemic.

But you can see what he’s found so far by clicking on the link above, which takes you to his paper on the very useful and interesting Winslow History website.

What can you tell me about your own local church?

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Distance Project 22

Social Distancing Project 180On the last day before the second lockdown, I found some of Bucks County Council’s signs in Buckingham. It’s difficult to keep your distance in some parts of this town, where the pavements are extremely narrow and the roads are often too busy to step into. This is West Street.

 

No Armistice in Sight For Covid.

After a hopeful Summer, we headed back towards a stricter regime. Bucks County Council were concerned enough to take action in October, sending out letters to householders and erecting signs warning about the increasing number of infections.

They were right to be concerned, as the number of cases in the UK had taken off in mid September, followed not long after by the number of deaths. The Government had to do something, and the second lockdown began on the 5th of November, to run for four weeks.

This meant that the Armistice Day ceremonies, planned to be held in a limited fashion, could not go ahead as usual on the 11th November. But I took a walk via the local war memorial on the day.

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The Monday Photo

English walnut tree

This Tree is Nuts

What did the Romans ever do for us? They brought the walnut tree to Britain, because they liked the nuts.

Now we can eat Walnut Whips (they date from 1910), crack the shells for a Christmas snack, and eat big slices of coffee and walnut cake at tea shops. Walnuts are very good for you, but that doesn’t mean a walnut cake is a health food, no matter how nice it is.

This large Walnut tree is one of a pair planted either side of the drive of Gayhurst House, not far from Newport Pagnell. The other tree has had major surgery and last time I looked (this photo is a few years old) was recovering nicely.

It’s believed that most of the walnut trees in the area are descended from these two trees. I couldn’t find out how old the one in the photo is, but it's one of the biggest in the United Kingdom, with a height of about 66 feet (20 metres), and a girth of over twenty feet (6.2 metres).

The girth is measured at five feet above ground level; it would be called the circumference if trees were perfectly round.

This is an English Walnut, but sometimes they are called the Persian or Common Walnut. But the latin name is always Juglans Regia.

Gayhurst is one of North Buckinghamshire’s many lost villages; moved on from its original site next to the manor house, in the interests of having nicely landscaped grounds.

 

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Changing Lanes 1

The 1970s to the Early 90s

Our Local roads gradually change over the years, and we soon forget how they used to be. These changes began to affect me when I started riding motorcycles in the 1970s; my first powered vehicles.

Living in Winslow meant I lived right in the middle of the North Bucks Wanderer’s area, though I didn’t know it at the time! Here’s just a few of the changes that have happened in North Bucks, from the 1970s to the early 90s.

 

Little Brickhill  BucksLittle Brickhill.

At first I rode a moped, but then I bought a much quicker 200cc Yamaha; I would go out on it just for the pleasure of riding. One favourite route took me North East from Winslow, across to Woburn and the woods. Even then I preferred the back roads, and saw little traffic until I reached Little Brickhill and the A5.

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The Monday Photo

Norman arch

Booking the Chapel

This is the oldest building in Buckingham, but it’s not as old as you might guess, looking at the doorway. This is the Chantry Chapel, on Market Hill.

It really is a genuine Norman doorway and not some later imitation, but the building dates from a rebuilding in 1471. The original building was built as St John’s Hospital for the Poor and Infirm in the late twelfth century, and I suspect that the doorway dates from then.

It’s a pretty typical example of Norman masonry; the semicircular arch has several concentric rows of decoration, and the outermost rows are supported by a small column on each side.

The hood mould, the outermost row that directs rainwater around the door, is carved in a sort of double nailhead pattern. Each nail head is pyramid shaped and you might have seen actual nail heads like this in ancient doors. 

The next row is perhaps the most well known and common pattern, the chevron or zigzag. If you recognise nothing else from Norman times, you’ll have seen this pattern before.

The next row is plain, and the arch is all the better for it. The innermost row is carved with shallow pointed-arched arcading. On the inside face of this last row, you might be able to see a groove running all the way round the arch. Any rain that got as far as the last row and tried to slip in would be defeated by this groove.

This doorway may well be in its original position, and the chapel, sometimes known at the Old Latin School, was just rebuilt around it.

So why is this the oldest building in the town? There’s a couple of reasons. Churches are often the oldest local building in a town or village but Buckingham’s old church collapsed, not for the first time, in 1776. This time it was not rebuilt. A ‘new’ church was erected in a different spot.

And in the early 18th Century Buckingham had a disastrous fire which destroyed  much of the town centre, and many older buildings were destroyed.

But the Chantry Chapel has had its problems too. Three times over the centuries it has needed major work, and today is looked after by the National Trust. No longer a chapel, it’s just about my favourite sort of shop; a second hand book shop.

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The Distance Project 21

Social Distancing Project 173The three boys inspect the first display. No sweets at this one, but they liked this creepy figure of a builder.

Trick or Treat

This American tradition has taken off in the UK in a big way, and no wonder when there’s free sweets. But how could it go on this year under social distancing rules? This is how Little Horwood did it.

The village arranged things in advance. Householders put out pumpkins and other spooky decorations, and where they were, there was a good chance of sweets too. Children could tour the village looking for booty, but there would be no knocking on doors. Householders would stay inside and not meet the children.

I turned up just as dusk approached, and found three young brothers and their parents who were just about to tour the village. They let me follow them round.

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