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July 2023

Let There be Light

1960s MK light switch  Lavendon

The Monday Photo

This switch in the porch of Lavendon’s church of St Michael reminds me of my childhood home, but how?

After a rewire in the late 1960s we had the white versions of these switches installed everywhere in the house. The switches were made by the MK Company (nothing to do with Milton Keynes) and electricians liked them; they were good quality. They are plastic, not bakelite.

At one time you could see them everywhere, and if you look at films and television made on location from the 1960s to the 1990s you’ll often spot them in the background. They are easy to spot with their curved face design.

Our early 50s house must have been originally wired with square pattern switches, as the old back boxes in the wall were reused.

But when we moved there in 1964 we found lighting in our brick built sheds, with the older style of round pattern switches. I think they were installed by a previous householder, as the circuit included a 13 amp socket but was wired to the 5 amp house lighting circuit!

Using a shed as a darkroom one winter, I switched the electric fire to both bars and all the lights in the house went out. The fire was rated at 2,000 watts, more than eight amps, so I’m not at all surprised!

In my defence I was only 16 and this was a long time before I trained as an electrician. I know better now…

The cables to the switch in today’s photo have been replaced but with a different route; two of the old style metal cable clips are still visible; one near the switch and the other is on the far right of the photo.

Whoever rewired the circuit was expert enough to make a tidy job of it; they must have judged this old switch fit for further use.

But if you think about it, the switch has had a fairly easy life, being operated far less times than one in somebody’s living room or kitchen. So fair enough; I would have used it again, too.

The wall of the South aisle that the switch is fixed to is a good 750 years older than the switch; what would those Medieval masons thought of electric lights?

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Lavendon’s Saxon church

Saxon church towerThe tower with its small narrow windows is Saxon, apart from the added top stage with its larger reticulated windows; it’s probably 14th Century. Hard to see here, there is some herringbone stonework about halfway up the tower. The South porch (and also the North one) are 15th Century.

Not well known and tucked away at the top of North Bucks, St Michael’s church, Lavendon is one of the oldest in the county.

The bottom three quarters of the unbuttressed tower, parts of the nave walls, and half of the South wall of the chancel are Saxon.

St Michael's  LavendonThis 1920s plan of the church shows the font as being under the tower arch, but it’s since been moved to roughly where the letter H is in “South Aisle”. “Modern” on this plan means from 1859 to the mid 1920s.
Drawing courtesy of the British History Online website, where you can also find a 1920s description of the church and village.

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Window Theory

Blocked priest's door and lowside window  Lathbury church

The Monday Photo

The blocked up arch in the corner here is where a low side or “leper” window once was, but nobody knows what it was for.

This is the chancel of All Saints church, Lathbury, just North of Newport Pagnell. Low side windows were built into many, but not all churches, and almost always found in the South West corner of the chancel. They are not always blocked up as this one is.

Writing in the 1920s, Arthur Robert Green wrote about the 17 different theories he had found for why they were built.

Firstly, he says these were not windows, but had a shutter; the stone rebate for the wooden frame can often be seen. Others say not all of them originally had shutters. But here are a few of those many theories.

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Evening Ride

Pete Roberts and ThunderdogPete Roberts built this special in 1993 and named it Thunderdog. Underneath the radical styling is a Honda Gold Wing. Those solid looking wheels are the original ones with covers made out of a camper van roof. The silencers came from a Ford Capri, the headlamps from a Citreon 2CV, and the engine temperature gauge is an old Geiger counter, graduated in Mr/h; milliroentgens per hour!

The thousand year old village of Ludgershall near Quainton holds a bike night every year; it’s a charity event, collecting money for the village. I’m a biker, so naturally I went along.

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Say Uncle

10 High Street  Winslow

The Monday Photo

When I look at this house in Winslow High Street, I don’t think of its Georgian style 19th Century frontage and the large, timber framed 17th Century building behind it, I think of my uncle Dick and aunt Julie, who once lived there.

We used to visit them as kids; walking through the gate at bottom right, past (if I remember right) exposed timber framing to our left, and in through the door at the back.

Up and Down
We couldn’t get in via the front door on the High Street, because the ground floor was a bank, completely separate from their two story flat. Dick and Julie had just one room and a staircase at ground level; everything else was upstairs.

But the first floor was on several levels, with short flights of steps between. The kitchen in a small pitched roof extension was several steps lower than their hallway, and for years had just a skylight.

If I remember right, it wasn’t possible to put a window in the gable end because the roof of the bank vault was there.

But when the bank changed to a flat roof Dick chopped through the brickwork and at last there was a window in the kitchen. That was easier said than done, because the wall was thick and built of hard engineering bricks, to protect the vault beyond.

Young Man
I remember timber framing inside the house, but as a child I paid little attention to it, as I did to Dick and Julie’s furniture and antiques.

Aunt Julie used to tell me I should get my hair cut; it was shoulder length from my teenage years on, and would give me Christmas presents of aftershave, when I had a beard! Maybe this was a hint...

I still have a beard, but Julie might have been please to see the long hair is long gone; I just shave my head now to keep it tidy, as I’m going bald.

Sadly, Julie passed away at quite a young age, but Dick lived into his eighties. I’d love to have a look round the back, but the alley is private now.

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