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June 2022

Technical Difficulties

Technical difficulties? the North Bucks Wanderer has certainly been having some. A new computer back up plan revealed problems which took all week to sort out. Meanwhile I wasn't able to upload photos I'd taken just for the second post about General Harold Blount of Woughton on the Green; A Naval Man in Buckinghamshire.

My apologies. The computer, whose brain was getting very full, is now much happier.

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A Higher Plain

Church of St Nicholas  Cublington

The Monday Photo

In the middle of the 14th Century, the Medieval village of Cublington finally ceased to exist.

The village had long suffered from sodden and unworkable land, brought on by a change in the climate; it was now destitute and nearly deserted.

It’s thought that the Great Pestilence of 1348-50 killed off the few villagers that were left, and so Cublington was abandoned. You might know the pestilence better as the Black Death.

Entering the country through Weymouth in Dorset, this plague killed between 30 and 50% of the population. It’s common to be told that the many deserted Medieval villages in the UK were lost because of plague, but villages were abandoned for many other reasons too.

With a much reduced English population it’s no wonder Cublington remained deserted for nearly sixty years, until the church of St Nicholas was built in about 1400, on higher, dryer ground at the top of the hill. The new village grew up around the church.

St Nicholas’ was built using materials from the old church, and orange-red roof tiles, placed in groups in place of stone blocks, can be seen in the external walls all around the church; you can see some in the photo.

In the vestry is a parish chest from the old church, believed to have been made in the 12th or 13th Century.

Though restored, the church still retains its original simple layout, but with the addition of a 19th Century South porch. There’s a North porch too, (used as a vestry) but I don’t know when it was built. I like the elegant proportions of the tower.

The church is generally locked, but you’ll find that two keyholders are listed on a sign on the South porch. Worth a visit.

I used a Sony A6000 and zoom lens for this photo.

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Whose Barn? Down’s Barn!

The original Down's Barn

The Monday Photo

Until recently, I hadn’t visited this barn in decades. Back then in the mid 80s, the big doors were either wide open or missing and I don’t remember there being much else around it. Either way, this is where Milton Keynes’ Downs Barn estate got its name.

Down’s Barn wasn’t just a barn, but was several buildings ranged on three sides of a rectangle on the slope of a hill. This barn, the only building now remaining, marked the uphill edge of the rectangle.

The barns appear on an 1834 map, but the earliest record I could find of them being called Down’s Barn is on maps published around 1900. On the 1834 map there are also two similar clusters of buildings about half a mile away to the South.

These three clusters of farm buildings are all marked as “Barns” on the earlier map while farms are specifically named.

I think it’s quite likely that the farm buildings known as Down’s Barn were once a farmyard complete with farm house, but when the land was sold to another farmer they just became some more or less useful buildings away on a hill; I expect the other clusters could tell a similar tale.

Even maps from the 1950s show buildings on three sides of the farmhouse, but by the time I got there they were, as far as I remember, long gone.

The map from around 1900 seems to indicate that some of the buildings had open fronts; used to store equipment. Perhaps this made them less durable.

On the same map the nearest cluster is now called Manor Farm, a name it kept at least until the mid 1950s.

I did remember that Down’s Barn was high up on a steep hill and  the land sloped away to the Southeast to what’s now Campbell Park; the H5 (Portway) had not then been built. The land also slopes away to the Northwest and Northeast.

The farmyard, if that’s what it was, extended about a third of the way down what’s now an all weather playing surface; the barn is now a sports pavilion. The hedge behind the barn and another behind the camera were already there when Milton Keynes came along.

Why don’t you go and take a look? See if you can imagine what it once was like, when from this spot you could see the Grand Union Canal at the bottom of the hill, Moulsoe across the Ouzel Valley and to the North, Newport Pagnell.

I used a Sony A6000 and zoom lens for this photo.

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A Naval Man in Buckinghamshire

Woughton House  Woughton on the GreenWoughton House, now a hotel.

Part One

Many thanks to regular reader Taylor (Not John O'Hara as previously stated; sorry John Taylor) who sent me this detailed historical account and allowed me to publish it.

This is part one of three. Part two, 

This is the story of Harold Blount, who rose high through the ranks of the Royal Navy but retired to the tiny village of Woughton on the Green, nearly as far from the sea as you can get in England.

Harold Blount was born on October 11th 1881 to George Bouverie Blount and his wife Annie Christina. They lived in the small town of Belvedere, Kent; now well inside Greater London.

By 1891 both Harold and his brother Oswald were pupils at the Grange Preparatory School in Eastbourne, which prepared boys for Public Schools and the Royal Navy.

In September 1898 Harold was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Marines Artillery, and in 1901 was stationed at Eastney Barracks, Southsea.

He made good progress, and in 1907 was appointed as assistant professor of fortifications at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. He was promoted, aged 28, to captain in 1909 and now at the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth he had charge of a term of cadets.

In 1912 he joined HMS New Zealand, a battlecruiser armed with eight twelve inch guns in four turrets. The ship was a gift to Britain from New Zealand. In 1913 the battlecruiser made a cruise to the Dominions, receiving a rousing welcome at New Zealand through April and May.

During WW1 the ship saw action at Heligoland, Dogger Bank and Jutland, and in the 1917 New Years Honours list Harold was awarded the DSO:

"Captain Harold Blount. Performed excellent service as officer of “Q” Turret on 31st May, as well as in the action off Heligoland in August, 1914, and at the Dogger Bank in January 1915."

“Q” turret was one of the four main turrets on the New Zealand. The 31st of May had been the first day of the two day Battle of Jutland.

In another decoration the Russian Government awarded him the Order of St. Stanislas 2nd Class (with swords) for distinguished service, again at the Battle of Jutland.

Captain Blount continued to serve on the New Zealand until 1919 when he was appointed as instructor in musketry for the Marines.

From 1922 until 1924 he served as Fleet Royal Marines Officer, Mediterranean, and from 1924 until 1928 was a Brigadier Major of the Royal Marines at Portsmouth. In 1928, aged 47, he was again appointed as Fleet Royal Marines Officer, Mediterranean. Two years later he returned from Malta aboard the SS Rajputuna, intending to be stationed at HM Barracks Plymouth.

From 1931 until 1934 Harold Blount was Colonel Second Commandant at Chatham Dockyard in Kent, not 25 miles from Belvedere. He became Commandant Depot Royal Marines and held the post until 1937.

He, his brother Oswald, and their sister Minna had had a house at Tring but earlier in 1937 they moved to Woughton House in Woughton on the Green.

At his own request Harold retired in March 1939. He was 55. Six months later, Britain was at war with Germany. Though retired, General Harold Blount would not stand idle...

Many thanks to Charlotte Hall for her help with this series.

Next week, Harold Blount and World War II

 

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The Automatic Windmill

Quainton windmill at night

The Monday Photo

Here’s a less usual view of Quainton windmill I spotted recently on my way back down to the village from Mill Hill, after watching their Platinum Jubilee Beacon being lit.

That’s the local name for the steep hill above Quainton; on maps it’s Simber Hill, which I called it when I wrote about the village’s 19th Century windmill two years ago. I should have asked my auntie who still lives in the village; then I would have known.

By coincidence, even though today’s photo shows the mill from the rear side instead of the front, we can see the cap and sails from the same angle as in my previous photo.

That's because the cap rotates automatically to face the sails into the wind. But how does it work?

The fantail is on the opposite side of the cap to the sails. It turns in the wind if the sails are pointing the wrong way, and drives a system of gears which turn the cap.

When the sails are pointing the right way, the wind blows equally on both sides of the fantail, so it will not turn. When the wind changes direction, it blows on only one side of the fantail which starts to spin, turning the cap until the sails face into the wind again.

It takes many turns of the fantail to slowly rotate the twelve tons of cap and sails, driving it round with a relatively small cog that meshes with a huge geared ring.

Earlier windmills had to be turned manually, which meant they could be wrecked if the sails pointed the wrong way. That’s what happened in 1902 to Pitstone’s 17th Century windmill in a violent storm. The fantail mechanism had not been invented when it was first built, so the mill never had it.

Quainton’s fantail mechanism means it is not prone to the disaster that hit Pitstone’s mill; automation is a wonderful thing.

Quainton windmill is open on Sundays where you can often see it running. It's well worth visiting; see the link for details.

This post's photo was taken with a Pentax camera and lens.

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Pure Platinum

Platinum Jubilee parade dancersGirls wait for the parade to start. They’ll be dancing after the parade gets to Campbell Park, and some of them (with the multi coloured skirts) danced during the parade too.

Well, that was a nice long weekend of our culture and tradition, both celebrating history and making a bit more of it, too.

I started on Thursday morning when I followed the big Jubilee parade at Central Milton Keynes across to Campbell Park. In the evening I drove to Quainton to see the lighting of their Jubilee Beacon, on Mill Hill behind the green. I covered that last week.

On Saturday night I followed ancient British tradition and culture and went to the pub, to drink beer and listen to live music. I found some proud patriots in the bar.

On Sunday I went to Jubilee Classic Stony, Stony Stratford’s classic vehicle festival. As is traditional for outside events in Britain, it rained. I still enjoyed it. Usually both Classic Stony events have good weather, even the one on New Year’s day.

Later that day I joined the Old Woughton Jubilee afternoon tea, at Woughton House in Woughton on the Green; a most traditional event. The organisers had asked us to bring a cake, so I’d made a fruit cake and carried it up there still warm from the oven. The event went well, and there’s talk of repeating it next year. When I got there I saw that plenty of other people had brought cakes, too.

(Note: if you want a copy of the group photo the payment buttons are now back in place; see below)

Woughton House is where I took the group photo at the bottom of this post. The blogging platform I use isn’t good for highly detailed photos, but here is a much clearer version. I am selling A4 prints of this shot at £15 each, plus postage.

Payment details are at the bottom of the page.

Continue reading "Pure Platinum" »

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