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October 2021

A Low Point for the Canal

_IMG2824The towpath hangs out over the edge of the aqueduct.

The Iron Trunk, the aqueduct that carries the Grand Union Canal 40 feet above the Great Ouse, is the third one to be built here.

The first one collapsed, the second one was temporary, and the one we have now is 210 years old. The canal company changed the course of the river and the shape of Buckinghamshire to build it.

Here’s the timeline.

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Taking Stock

Village stocks in Dinton church porch  Bucks

The Monday Photo

All I had to do to find these village stocks was to look left after I took last week’s Monday Photo of Dinton’s fine Norman doorway. I didn’t even have to change position to take this photo!

The stocks have only been in the church porch about two and a half years. They were moved from their previous spot by the garden wall of Dinton Hall, at the end of May, 2019.

In 1905 they were by the garden wall (probably their original position) and surrounded by an iron railing fence. In about 1920 they’d been given protection from the weather as well, with a roof supported by a post at each corner. By 2019 there was no sign of the roof or fence.

Village stocks were for public punishment of local offenders. This was mostly as a form of humiliation, sometimes added to by villagers throwing rotten fruit and vegetables.

Offenders were fastened into the stocks by both ankles, but strangely there are only five holes in this set of stocks. They are not the only village stocks in England with five ankle holes, but can anyone tell me why this many, and not an even number of holes?

The stocks were used as a punishment for minor offences, but those iron fixings on one end of Dinton’s stocks are to secure wrists so that end can be used as a whipping post.

Stocks came into general use in 1351, when the Statute of Labourers ruled that every town was to provide and maintain a set of stocks. The last recorded use in England was in 1872!

By the way, we are viewing these stocks from the offender's side, so I hope you've been behaving yourself...

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Iron and Water

Cosgrove aqueductThe Iron Trunk aqueduct.

Canals take a wriggly path, following the contours of the land as much as possible.

But sometimes that’s not practical, as the engineers of the Grand Junction Canal realised when they came to the Ouse Valley.

A one mile embankment carries the canal across the valley, with a cast iron aqueduct over the Great Ouse. The aqueduct is known locally as the Iron Trunk.

The Aqueduct is a great piece of engineering. It’s about half a mile from the road and the nearest parking spot, but well worth a visit. It’s a nice walk, too.

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The Door to the South

Norman doorway  Dinton church  Bucks

The Monday Photo

This is one of the oldest parts of Dinton church near Stone. It is a fine Norman doorway, built in 1140.

If you didn’t know, the biggest clue to it being Norman is the semi-circular arch, surrounded by concentric orders of decorations. The zig zag patterns are typically Norman.

The columns flanking the doorway are also a common Norman design theme.

Above the door is a lintel with a carving of St Michael fighting Satan, who is in the form of a dragon. Above that and under the arch is a tympanum with a carving of a tree of life, with monsters each side that are eating fruit straight off the tree.

This is the South doorway of the church. Saints Peter & Paul’s Church was largely rebuilt in the 13th Century, but there are a few parts of the church that may date back to the original building.

Some of the wall above the South arcade (the arches between the nave and aisle) may also be from 1140, and just possibly a small part of the South aisle’s East wall too.


This is one of the books I use to research posts on this blog. I referred to it for this post as Dinton is one of the first churches in the book.

This doorway is in the wall of the 1240 South aisle. It’s believed that the door had originally been in the South wall of the original aisle-less Norman nave, and was carefully dismantled and re-erected here.

This means the doorway’s original place was on the line of the present South aisle. But in the 15th Century the South aisle was widened; it seems this doorway has been moved twice! It is now protected from the weather by a porch built in 1500.

I wonder what the original builders would think of how the church looks today, with its Perpendicular windows and finely arched arcade so different from the massive stonework and tiny windows of a Norman church.

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Two in One

Waiting for the rain to stop  HavershamA cyclist waits for the rain to ease off. As in most of these photos, the seam between each viaduct is visible as a line up the pier and along the underneath of the arch.

This looks like a railway viaduct. But it’s really two, built right next to each other at different times.

They are both about half a mile North of Wolverton station, on the West Coast Main Line.

Robert Stephenson engineered the first of these viaducts for the London & Birmingham Railway, and work began in 1837. In September 1838 it opened, carrying two lines across the Ouse Valley.

The Great Ouse had to be diverted 900 feet North during the construction; the old river bed now lies under the South Embankment. To leave the river in place would have meant the viaduct would have to be twice as long as it is now.

Cutwaters by the Great OuseThe viaducts take the railway over the Great Ouse and the Ouse Valley.

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A Box of Books

 

Phone box library  Chilton  Bucks

The Monday Photo

This phone box library is in the small village of Chilton, on a bend opposite the entrance to Chilton House and the Gatehouse.

This phone box (or kiosk) is a type K6. Introduced in 1936, 60,000 had been installed by the time a new design, the K8, was introduced in 1968. About 11,700 K6 boxes are still in place.

The completed box weighs about three quarters of a ton, not surprising when you know that the sides and top are cast iron, and the door is made of teak. This one is a listed building, but many are not.

Communities or registered charities can adopt a phone box from British Telecom and it costs just £1. Over 5,000 have been adopted already, and there’s another 5,000 still available.

They are boxes that BT no longer wants to use on their network. Some are made into mini libraries like this one, some house defibrillators.

The only other phone box library in North Bucks, as far as I know, is in Gawcott. An original phone box for the village in a different spot had previously been removed, so the village bought a complete used phone box and had it installed in Main Street.

This cost them a lot more than £1. I don’t know how long it’s been there, but it wasn’t there last time Google Streetview toured the village. You’ll find it opposite Old Barn Close.

If you know of any more phone box libraries in North Bucks, please leave a comment.

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