Local history

Murder and Mystery at Hanslope

Gravestone of William Farrow  Hanslope

The Monday Photo

What does this gravestone at Hanslope have to do with a disused, hidden piece of road on the way there from Haversham?

It’s the story of murder, suicide and a mysterious inscription on a gravestone.

On a scorching hot July Sunday in 1912, William Farrow lay in wait for his employer, Squire Edward Watts. He had been Squire Watts’ head gamekeeper, but had recently been sacked. He hid in the spinney that surrounded the old crossroads, less than a mile along the road from Hanslope. He held a loaded shotgun.

If you turned left at this crossroads you would be heading towards Tathall End, but turning right takes you towards Castlethorpe. Going straight on took you into the private drive of Hanslope Park, where the squire and his wife Sophie lived.

In the Spinney

The 67 year old Squire Watts and his wife approached on foot from Hanslope, returning from church. Edward would usually walk a few paces in front of Sophie, and they would talk as they went along.

As they came along the road into the spinney William Farrow fired at the squire, who fell with a fatal head wound. Sophie cried out and ran to him.

Close by in the coach house of Hanslope Park (it’s still there) the wife of the coachman, Lily Green, heard the commotion and rushed out with her son William.

William was told to get help. He went back for his bicycle, then rode off to Hanslope, fetching the police, the doctor, and his father George. As William's father George Green approached the spinney, there was another shot from inside the spinney.

George Green bravely went to investigate, climbing the fence and finding a path through the undergrowth. 20 yards into the spinney he found the body of William Farrow, who had killed himself. He left behind his wife Annie and three children.

Unconsecrated Ground

The squire was cremated and his remains were placed in the family vault, in the church. But because Farrow had commited suicide he could not (the church warden told me) be buried on consecrated ground.

He was instead buried on the far edge of the ditch that formed the graveyard boundary, between the ditch and a hedge that wran close and parallel to it.

Annie Farrow had his grave stone (above) installed on the churchyard side of the ditch, so his remains are behind it, lying parallel to its rear face, and at 90 degrees to the usual arrangement.

If you can’t read it in the photo it says:

IN
LOVING MEMORY OF
WILLIAM FARROW
THE DEARLY BELOVED HUSBAND OF
ANNIE FARROW
WHO DIED JULY 21ST 1912
AGED 45 YEARS
WAITING UNTIL ALL SHALL BE REVEALED

At some point since then the ditch has been filled in, and the graveyard extended slightly. William Farrow now lies on consecrated ground.

The Mystery

The last line on the stone was a mystery for many years, until around 2006 when a member of the Farrow family came to the grave.

They said that in those days serving women and maids were held to be fair game during shooting parties at the park, and the squire had been making sexual approaches to Annie Farrow. Whether these approaches were refused or reluctantly accepted we will never know, but whatever happened might well be why William Fowler lay in wait for the squire, on that hot Summer day.

Sophie Watts, was of course much distressed at her husband’s murder. She later had the road diverted so it no longer ran through the site of her husband’s murder, producing the road layout of a bend with a side road coming off it we know today.

Hanslope Park is now a Government Communication Centre.

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Secrets of Olney, Part 2

Olney shadow factoryOnce a shoe factory, then a WW2 shadow factory, now flats.

Part Two of Two

The town of Olney, often pronounced “Ohney” lies on the River Great Ouse. There’s been a river crossing here for a long time, and a minor Roman road crossed the river about where the modern bridge lies.

There’s plenty of free parking. In the car park in the middle of the Market Place there’s a three hour limit, but on the roads around there it’s just an hour. Away from the Market Place there’s no time limit on the High Street.

Olney has a great many old buildings, but I’ve just picked out the ones I found most interesting. I’ve divided the town up into two walks, both about a mile and a quarter long. The first Olney walk was published here last week.

Secrets of Olney Walk 2 of 2

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Secrets of Olney, Part 1

Wooden town sigh  OlneyOlney's town sign, in the Market Place.

Part One of Two

The town of Olney, pronounced “Ohney” by many locals, lies on the River Great Ouse. There’s been a river crossing here for a long time, and a minor Roman road crossed the river about where the present bridge lies. It’s the home of the yearly Olney Pancake Race.

There’s plenty of free parking in the town. In the middle of the Market Place there’s a three hour limit, but on the roads nearby it’s just an hour. Away from the Market Place there’s no time limit on the High Street.

Olney has a great many old buildings, but I’ve just picked out the ones I found most interesting. I’ve divided the walk up into two halves, both about a mile and a quarter long. The second half of the guided walk will be published here next week.


Secrets of Olney walk 1 of 2

 

Continue reading "Secrets of Olney, Part 1" »

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Where Did the River Go?

Ducks feeding at Willen lake Feeding the water birds at South Willen lake is very popular, and the birds know this. They are always on the lookout for likely bird feeders and will come quite close. If you want come to the lake to feed them, access is off the V10 Brickhill Street.

 

Willen lake in Milton Keynes is a popular spot to visit, but  before they built it, Milton Keynes Development Corporation had to move a river.

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Ready to Fight

Home guard loophole

The Monday Photo

This strange bit of wall was built by the local Home Guard in 1940, in case of German invasion. It’s a loophole; a firing slit. It sits on a junction in Clifton Road, Newton Blossomville, facing the turning to Hardmead.

We all know about the Home Guard, right?

Newton Blossomville is just a small village on country lanes, so why did the Home Guard think the Germans would come through the village? One reason might be that a few miles to the South is RAF Cranfield, which had been opened five years earlier.

It would have certainly been an objective for an invading force, and from there they would want to quickly advance; this was blitzkreig.

It’s an easy run from the airfield and along Hardmead road to Newton Blossomville, and once through the village it’s only a few miles to the crossroads at Warrington.

From there, main roads could take the invaders straight to Northampton or Wellingborough. I think the local men knew this, so they built this loophole. It wouldn’t have stopped the German army for long, but it was better than doing nothing.

Pillboxes and other hard defense points were built all over Southern England to standard designs, but non standard ones were built as well. There’s a pair of non standard pillboxes opposite Wolverton Works, made to protect the entrance.

If you know of any other hard defenses, standard or not, please let me know in the comments.

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The Monday Photo

Wolverton Works pillbox

Railway Defense

What are these strange little windows set in concrete on a corner in Wolverton? They are loopholes in a pillbox that was built to protect the entrance to Wolverton Railway Works, in World War Two.

The pillbox is on Stratford road on the corner with Radcliffe Street, at the bottom of the garden of the Roman Catholic church of St. Francis de Sales.

There’s a second pillbox on the far corner, partly concealed by the bus stop, and together they covered over half a mile of Stratford Road. The first Germans coming into sight in either direction would get a nasty surprise.

Last time I looked (this isn’t a recent photo) this nearest pillbox had a statue of the Virgin Mary and is nice and tidy inside. The further one has had its loopholes blocked up and is now a very substantial garden shed.

The bus stop that used to partly conceal the far pillbox has been removed since I took the photo.

Do you know of any strange things where you live in North Bucks?

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