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July 2022

Pumping Iron

Canal pumphouse at Fenny Stratford  BucksThe pump house at Fenny Stratford has a rounded corner, probably to give clearance for horses working on the towpath. The windows and doors have flat brick arches rather than the semi-circular arches found on the other pump houses.

The Northern Engines Part 1

From the Iron Trunk aqueduct over the Great Ouse at Old Wolverton, the canal through North Bucks rises 111 feet and 11 inches on its way South to Tring Summit.

Every time one of the many locks on this stretch is used, tons of water move to the next level down and is lost; it's always a problem for canals.

At Tring Summit the Grand Junction Canal Company found only a few very small streams, not enough to keep the canal supplied. To get water, the canal company built the Wendover Arm, a branch canal, along the base of the Chilterns to pick up water from the streams that emerge there.

But once the canal opened over the summit in 1800, the company found that their water supplies were barely adequate.

Reservoirs were built and wells were sunk but the company struggled to get enough water. The Wendover arm had been leaking for years despite many repairs. It would eventually be stopped up but more had to be done.

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Let’s go to Secklow

Secklow meeting mound

The Monday Photo
Right at the top of the highest hill in the area sat a meeting mound; right next to the spot where three parish boundaries came together.

This was the meeting mound for Secklow Hundred and It’s still there, behind the library at Central Milton Keynes. It's a low circular mound with a surrounding ditch. A few mature trees are on the mound.

A Hundred was notionally a hundred hides though in practise this varied quite a bit, and a hide in Anglo-Saxon times was the amount of land needed to support one family group.

The Secklow hundred wasn’t too different from the area now covered by the town (but now a city) of Milton Keynes; it covered quite a few parishes.

An archeological dig undertaken in 1976 and 1977 when the mound was threatened with destruction by the new town found Roman and Medieval pottery, suggesting it was constructed some time between the 4th and 13th Centuries.

What was it for? Every month the freemen of the Hundred would meet to discuss local issues and land management, and to make sure that common law justice was done. Freemen were one cut above the serfs, but below minor nobility.

Even in the middle of the 20th Century a lane led to the mound from Bradwell, turned sharply and went to Loughton. (there was another road between these villages that was far more direct)

A track from the moot mound joined the road between Great Linford and Woolstone, and from the mound footpaths led off in all directions.

To the East lay the parish of Woolstone cum Willen. But before Milton Keynes came, this area round the mound was known as Bradwell Common. All these names have since been used for estate names.

Secklow mound lay near the centre of an area five miles long and two miles or more wide, where there wasn’t a single village; you could travel almost due South from Great Linford and not come near another settlement until you reached the railway at Bletchley.

To find the mound, walk past either side of the CMK library and keep going until you reach the far end of the piece of parkland.

On the back edge is the moot mound, and there’s an information board with a charming illustration that reminds me of the Noggin the Nog children’s series.

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

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Down the Aisle

Square Norman column at Tingewick churchThe end bay of the Norman arcade has a square column but all the other columns are round; signs of the church being extended. You can just see a Norman window through the arch.

St Mary Magdalene’s church at Tingewick was built by the Normans, though there are traces of an even older Saxon one on the same spot, found in 2017.

It’s thought that these remains, beneath the line of the present North arcade, were part of the stone plinth for a wooden church.

I know this because the first thing I saw in the church were some sketch plans of the church showing it at different times; Saxon, Norman, and Victorian.

The maker of these sketches considers the arcade (and so the North Aisle) to be a later addition to the original Norman layout of a nave with no aisles. I don’t know if that's the case, but although Norman churches originally built with aisles are unusual, they do exist.

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The Power of the Church

Leckhamstead church with overhead lines

The Monday Photo

You might think that the electrical wires spoil this photo, but they are the reason I’m showing you this shot.

By the way, this is the 13th Century West tower of St Mary’s Church, Leckhamstead, and yes, that’s a genuine 12th Century Norman window. It was most likely the West window of the church before they built the tower.

But you might not have noticed the wires. We take electricity for granted these days and expect to see it everywhere; it’s a surprise if a church or other old building does not have it.

But before the Second World War it was a different story. In the mid to late 1930s only half of all houses were wired for electricity, though two thirds of rural dwellings had a mains supply. The majority of farms were not linked to the mains at all.

After the war ended, the Government took steps to improve agricultural production, and one of these steps would be rural electrification. It would take time to achieve, and the majority of farms did not get a mains supply until some time between 1950 and 1970.


I have this book and can recommend it.

Leckhamstead is not exactly a remote village so it would have most likely got electricity to its farms fairly early in this process, if it wasn’t connected before the war.

While most towns and villages were converted to underground cables, Leckhamstead retains it’s overhead lines. I expect that’s because the village is spread out and there are relatively few buildings, making it not worth doing.

You might have noticed remains of brackets and insulators on churches or other buildings, left over from when the supply went underground, the overhead lines and the wires that took power into the church now gone.

Follow the link to find out more about St Mary’s church. It’s worth a visit.

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

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Late Norman Leckhamstead

Norman doorway and tympanumThe South doorway is well protected inside the porch, which has a Tudor arch and is dated “W.G. 1688”. The tympanum was made for a narrower doorway and is most likely older than the church. It was carved in one piece with the diaper pattern lintel below it.

This is St Mary’s church, Leckhamstead and it’s been on the bank of the Leck since the mid 12th Century. What doe

St Mary’s was first built in late Norman times, and quite a bit of their work can still be seen today; the nave, two doorways, a reset window in the 13th Century tower, and the North aisle. The church is Grade 1 listed.

The North aisle was built in about 1180, and the tower added in the late 13th Century. The chancel is from the Decorated period and would have replaced an earlier, smaller sanctuary.

The small village is very spread out and has five or six “Ends”, which means it probably began as a woodland settlement. It may have still been in the woods when this church was built.

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Village Life

Little Horwood fete

The Monday Photo

It’s Saturday. A village field, some stalls, a brass band in a marquee. It’s Little Horwood’s annual fete.

Village fetes are one of the great English traditions, and Little Horwood’s fete takes place in the field behind St Nicholas’s church.

I turned up early because I wanted to visit the church. (it’ll be the subject of a post soon) Parking for the fete was in the next field along, accessed by driving through the pub car park and out the back.

I spent 90 minutes in the church and got the fete about half an hour after it had started. On the field I tried the golf game; not one of my strengths, but I did well at the used book stall next to it, and took home half a dozen volumes.


I bought this book, not from book stall at the fete, but brand new. It is the reference guide to buildings and I'll be using it to write this blog.

In the jumble sale I found an old exposure meter from the mid 1950s, similar to the one I used at school in the early 70s. It works well, and doesn’t use a battery.

I also bought an old digital camera from 2006; it’s a lost cause with a dead battery, but at least the village got a bit more money from me. I think the takings are going towards the church.

I avoided the welly wanging as the last time I saw one a badly aimed boot bounced off my head. Even 40 years later I’m still wary!

The classic car show had a couple of cars from the 1930s, a few motorcycles, and some tractors. I correctly identified the one on the end as a diesel engined little grey Ferguson; I’ve driven one similar.

Tea, squash, and a huge variety of cakes and sandwiches were set out in the pavilion. I had ham and cheese and a tea.

I haven’t been to a fete in years; it was great.

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

I make a small percentage from sales through Amazon links, no matter what you buy while you visit their site from here. This helps me but costs you nothing, so if you make a purchase via the NBW, thank you.

 

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