Local history

Armchair Exploration

Horn Street  WinslowSheep Street, Winslow.

Part 1
Armchair exploration? No, I don’t mean putting your arm down the gap at the side of the chair and finding a fluff covered peanut, a biro that doesn’t work, and a bit of that mouse the cat brought in last year.

What I mean is, we can explore North Bucks without leaving our front rooms. The county is full of things to go and see, but until we can do that freely again we can explore it in other ways, and not just online.

I’ll show you how to look back in time, explore tiny back lanes and rural villages, and even find Roman roads. There are many more than you might expect, and I was very surprised to find that one minor Roman road goes through my back garden!

There’s lots to see, but don’t forget to take notes of what you’ve found; one day it will be okay to go and see things for yourself again.

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Not Mushroom

Claydom Mushroom

The Monday Photo

Next time you travel between Botolph Claydon and East Claydon, why don’t you stop and look at this old thatched shelter? It was built over 100 years ago, and is known as the Claydon Mushroom. inside it you can see carved wooden boards that tell you a little bit about the shelter’s history. The first one says:

Builders: L. Stonell & Sons Granboro’   F W V 1912
Thatchers: J Gibbard & Son Padbury

The second board says:

Rethatched by S Viggers 2012  The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year

and the third:

Funded by Claydon Villagers, Claydon Estate, and Bucks HBT

It looks like these boards were all put in the mushroom at the same time. S. Viggers is Stuart Viggers, Master Thatcher, in Banbury. I have no idea who Bucks HBT are. Do you know?

The mushroom club in the village hall next to the school and clock tower is a fully licensed bar named after the shelter. It’s available for hire, with the hall.


The Railway That Nearly Was.

Home signalThis home signal is all that remains of the last station reached; Newport Pagnell. The goods yard and station site is now under houses.

When you travel the back roads or footpaths between Olney and Newport Pagnell, you may notice long banks or hollows in the fields, crowded with trees. They are the remains of a railway that nearly came to run from Wolverton to Olney, and was planned to go even further.

Only the first four miles of the line was ever finished, less than one fifth of the total scheme. Who knows what other changes might have happened if the line had been completed?

But it had started well. In 1866 a branch line from Wolverton to Newport Pagnell opened, part of the London and North Western railway (the LNWR).

Already plans had been made to extend the branch line to Olney, and then to Wellingborough to join another part of the LNWR there.

Contractors started work on cuttings and embankments between Newport Pagnell and Olney in 1865, almost as soon as their work on the Newport Pagnell line had finished. A bridge was built over Wolverton Road the next year. It would take the line North through what’s now the police station.

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What’s in a (Place) Name?

Lillingstone LovellLillingstone Lovell.

There’s over 170 towns and villages in the North Bucks area, and each one has its own name. But what do these names all mean?

Nearly every one started off as a brief but clear description of a certain place, usually in the words of Old English, the ancient Anglo-Saxon language that was in use from the 5th Century until about about 1250 A.D.

There’s a dozen with ‘ford’ in their name, (this is an easy one to guess) but there’s 19 with ‘den’ or ‘don’, (both mean ‘hill’) and a massive 36 with ‘ton’ in the name. ‘Ton’ means a settlement or a farm, perhaps a village or an estate; a place with buildings.

Often somebody’s name would be part of the description; so Haddenham is Haeda’s village or homestead. ’Ham’ means nearly the same as ‘ton’.

Of all the places with ‘ford’ in their name, the ones with ‘Stratford’ in the name mean a ford where a Roman road or street crossed a river or brook. Fenny Stratford was a muddy or marshy crossing; Stony Stratford was a gravelly one.

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Secrets of Haddenham

Dragon font  HaddenhamThe dragon font.

The village of Haddenham has over 120 listed buildings, and most of them are made of an unusual material; Witchert.

Witchert was cheap and available. It could be dug up out of the ground just where you wanted to build, so it was used for all sorts of buildings and walls up to about 1920. Here are some of them.

The shortest version of this walk is slightly over half a mile, or 900m; good if you are not too mobile. The longest version is a mile and a quarter, or 2.6 km.

To get there, take the A418 South West from Aylesbury, and when you get near to the village, a couple of miles off the main road, follow signs for Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital. Keep on past the entrance to Tiggywinkles and park next to the green; there’s a pond.

You might see some Aylesbury ducks at the pond; they used to be bred in the village. This breed is easy to recognise. The plumage is white, the bill is pink, and the legs and feet are orange. They are quite large, especially compared to the other ducks I saw on the pond. Ducks with an orange bill are not Aylesbury ducks.

Haddenham has often been a location for film and television. Eleven episodes of Midsomer Murders have been filmed here, and when Kermit, Fozzie Bear and Gonzo parachute into England in The Great Muppet Caper, it’s this pond they end up in.

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