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March 2023

What is the Meaning of This?

Angel statues  Buckingham cemeteryThis group of angels are all on graves belonging to the same family. Angels represent the guardianship of the soul and protection on their journey to Heaven. Weeping angels (not seen here) convey the sorrow of an untimely death.

We are back at Buckingham’s Victorian cemetery, to take a closer look at some of the memorials and what the carvings on them mean, as the Victorians often had symbolic designs on grave memorials. We first looked at this cemetery last week; see the link above.

One of them, in memory of two women that seems to be distant relatives of mine has so much symbolism on it I can’t fathom out what it all means. But perhaps you can.

I arrived at the cemetery in Brackley Road to find council workmen inspecting gravestones and memorials; many of them have become unstable. I talked to one of them.

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Estate Houses

Estate houses  Biddlesden

The Monday Photo

At first glance, these semi-detached houses looked to me like just another example of those 50s and 60s ex-council houses, the type that are everywhere in this part of the world; I grew up in one.

But when I noticed their unusual, round, paired chimney stacks I looked more closely.

Then I saw the brick pilasters (like flat, partial columns) at the corners and in the centres of the front walls. These six pairs of homes were built as estate cottages for Biddlesden Park, in about 1830.

Our old council house was large but plain; these estate cottages are nicely detailed and bear closer attention. The windows have flat brick arches and the front doors have hoodmoulds to divert rainwater away.

The brickwork is in a chequer pattern. As well as the round chimneys and pilasters, the cottages have wave edged eaves and bargeboards.

These might still be the original wooden windows, but the early 50s council house I grew up in had the Crittal Company’s metal framed windows, replaced in the mid 90s by double glazed units. When that happened I took three of the windows away and built them into a motorcycle shed that I still use today.

Each pair of cottages seems to have been knocked into one. In this nearest pair you can see that the nearest doorway has been blocked up and the two front gardens have been made into one. It’s a similar story with the rest.

In contrast, just down the hill are a couple of council type semi-detached houses, similar to the one I grew up in; it’s interesting to compare the two types.

A little further down the hill is the county boundary with Northants, subject of a recent Monday Photo. The county boundary marker is in the middle of the bridge; the boundary following the course of the river.

There you go, two things to see for the price of one.


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Two Chapels, One Cemetery

Nonconformist mortuary chapel  BuckinghamThe Nonconformist chapel still remains its bell turret and built in the Early English style.

In 1856 a new cemetery opened on the edge of Buckingham with two chapels of ease. I found there a wide variety of unusual gravestones and memorials, many of them Victorian.

One chapel is for Anglian or Church of England burials, the other for The Nonconformists or “Dissenters”. There’s also a gate lodge, now a private dwelling but once for the sexton.

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Return of Post

Reinstated mile post  Hillesden

The Monday Photo

Many milestones and mileposts have gone missing over the years, but this is the one that came back.

This steel milepost had been installed at Hillesden by Bucks County Council in the late 19th or early 20th Century. It’s the type known as a Bucks Pressing. It went missing thirty years ago and wasn’t seen again until a householder in Oxfordshire found it hidden in the hedge in their garden, in a very bad state.

The milepost had vanished (I presume stolen) in the early 1990s; about half the length of the milepost is underground so it must have been quite a job to remove it.

The householder approached Peter Gullard of the Milestone Society when he was out in their county, who contacted the Buckinghamshire Council Archaeology Service (BCAS) in July 2021.

“Brill” and “Buckingham” were just visible on the rusty, paint faded sides of the milepost, and “Hillesden” could just be seen in the curved top. That was enough to work out where it had come from.

In January last year the milepost was taken from the house in Oxfordshire to D. Moss, Blacksmith in Thame to be restored. Peter Gullard funded the restoration works.

On October 25th that year the milepost was reinstated. It’s by the turning to The Hamlet (a sign says  “Hillesden Hamlet Only”) on an unclassified road between Gawcott and Edgecott. It is three miles from Buckingham and thirteen miles from Brill.

The milestone is a bit unusual, because it is on a road that was never a turnpike. It’s a different story from the milestone at Winslow I showed you last week.

You can find the location on Google Maps easily enough, but the milestone must have been put back after their last pass with the camera car; it isn’t yet visible on Streetview.

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The Explorer and the President

The Abbey  Aston AbbottsThe front door of the mainly 18th Century house, The Abbey. It faces North.

In Aston Abbotts is a house that’s had two men of note living there, though many years apart.

The first was polar explorer Rear Admiral Sir James Clark Ross. The second was president of Czechoslovakia Edvard Beneš, in exile with his government during World War 2.

The house is The Abbey, so called because the lands it was built on belonged to the abbots of St Albans Abbey until the estate was confiscated by Henry VIII. The Abbey is mostly 18th Century, though it might well have an earlier core, perhaps 15th or 16th Century.

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You Are Here

Moved milestone  Winslow  Bucks

The Monday Photo

At Winslow recently to photograph the New Track Construction Machine laying a new railway line as far as the town’s new station, an elderly lady pointed out this milestone.

As I grew up in Winslow I’d known about this stone for years, but as she said, it’s unusual for the distance to anywhere to be “0” miles.

That’s how far this stone says it is to Winslow. It seems obvious that you’ve reached the town now, but when this probably 18th Century milestone was erected Winslow was a quarter of a mile away, out of sight on the other side of the hill. 18th Century milestones were erected on turnpikes; main roads that travellers had to pay to use.

The new Wendover & Buckingham turnpike through Winslow, now part of the A413, opened in 1721. But I think this example is later, no earlier than the opening of the Buckingham, Brackley and Banbury turnpike in 1791.

It was then 23 miles to Banbury from this point, as far as I can make out; the roads have changed a lot since the 18th Century.

With eight turnpikes leading from the town Banbury was a major connection on the turnpike network, probably why it’s on a milestone by a turnpike that doesn’t actually go there. Of course London was, and still is, a major destination; that’s why it’s on this marker too.

 Moved Again?
This milestone has been moved a couple of yards; it used to be at one end of the bridge parapet until recently. Being of suspicious mind, I wondered if had also been moved when the railway came through the town, so that it wasn’t in the middle of the bridge.

I can’t say for sure, but the pre-railway, Ordnance Survey Old Series maps seem to show it more to the South, probably within the 200’ width of the cutting.

This milestone is in the design known as Aylesbury Square, as are most or all of the milestones between Aylesbury and Buckingham. But starting with this one and heading towards Buckingham, Banbury starts to be mentioned.

The milestone at Shipton, the next one towards Aylesbury, has on it Buckingham 7, London 50, and Aylesbury 10, but no mention of Banbury. There’s also no mention of Winslow, though the milestone is still in the parish. Perhaps it’s part of an earlier batch.

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