Local history

Back on the Bike

Typepad is having technical problems after moving to a new server which means I cannot upload photos, so I am republishing posts from the NBW archives. This Photo is from August 2019, but it's a story of my early life from about 1962.

Boy on a Tricycle

Boy on a Tricycle  Summer 1962Summer 1962 in Church Street. Left is aunt Peggy's eldest, my cousin Jayne. Right is my brother Alan. I’m in the middle, on that tricycle. I was three.

My previous post about the MK Heritage Open Days for historical places in North Bucks reminded me about my life in Winslow, when I was a boy. At first we lived in Church Street, close to the Brownie and Guide Hall; it’s one of the Winslow buildings that’s having an open day.

Church Street is a cul-de-sac that rises quite sharply up to the churchyard. Cars were not often seen there in the early 1960s, so I was allowed to play in the street. I had a tricycle, and this is what I did with it…

I laboriously pedalled the tricycle up the slope. At the top I turned the little machine around and began to pedal downhill. I was soon moving at great speed, steering slightly left all the way down to follow the curve of the narrow street.

The end of my run, the much bigger Horn Street, came into view. I made ready for my last manouvre; it was coming up quickly now and I didn’t want to shoot across Horn Street at the bottom.

At the last moment I swerved skilfully left on to the footpath and came to a halt. I turned the tricycle around, and started back up the slope.

Our kitchen window didn’t look out on to Church Street, so Mum couldn’t see me as I shot past. But Aunt Peggy’s kitchen window looked out on to the street. She saw me hurtle past, and went straight round to knock on our front door. Mum opened the door.

“Vera, he’s doing it again” said Peggy. Mum came out straight away and confiscated my tricycle. I wept and promised to reform and never to do it again, and pleaded to keep the lovely machine. Still she took it away.

When my toddler brother Alan later asked me where the tricycle was I just tersely said, “It’s gone”. So he was surprised and pleased a few days later to spot it in the corner of our unused top floor bedroom.

He was up there helping Mum to hang up clothes for drying. He pointed at the tricycle again and again and tried to tell her he had found it, but was puzzled because Mum just didn't seem to see it there.

Eventually I got the tricycle back, but it wasn't too long before temptation struck again and I began to make my way to the top of the slope for another run.

You’ll not be surprised to know that I later became a biker.

Church Street  Winslow  Summer 1961Around Summer 1960. Too young then to ride a tricycle with pedals, but you can see how steep Church Street is.

Church Street  Winslow  Summer 2019Here’s Church Street now. The nearest window is much smaller, front doors have been moved, and what used to be old boxed in thatched roofs are now tiled. The building on the right has been extended.

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A General in Peacetime

Bletchley war memorialThe Bletchley war memorial (not to be confused with the Old Bletchley war memorial) is on what’s now The Queensway, Bletchley, in front of the Knowles School.

By Guest writer John Taylor.

This is part two of three. I posted part one three weeks ago; A Naval Man in Buckinghamshire, and Part two, A Retired General in World War 2 just last week.

It was June 1946; World War 2 had ended just ten months earlier. Lieutenant General Harold Blount of the Royal Marines had fought in WW1 with honours and retired aged 57, a few months before WW2 broke out.

Blount used his military experience and commanded A Company of Bletchley’s Home Guard throughout the war, but now there was peace.

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A Retired General in WW2

Bletchley's old police station and courthouseThe nearest part of this range, with the three upstairs windows, was the old Bletchley Police Station. Here were the headquarters of A Company, Bletchley Home Guard.

By Guest writer John Taylor (Not John O'Hara as previously stated; sorry John Taylor)

This is part two of three. Part one was two weeks ago; A Naval Man in Buckinghamshire.

It was 1939. In September, six months after General Harold Blount had retired, war with Germany had been declared. Harold Blount was then sharing Woughton House in Woughton on the Green with his brother Oswald.

Their domestic staff comprised of a cook, two housemaids, a parlour maid, and a kitchen maid. The house also accommodated, for Bletchley Park or one of the other secret organisations now in North Bucks, two secretaries, ‘Civilian Admiralty NI’. That is, Naval Intelligence.

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A Drink for Queen Victoria

Liscombe Jubilee fountain  Soulbury  Bucks

The Monday Photo

In 1887, drinking fountains, clock towers and other monuments were built all over Britain to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. She had come to the throne fifty years before, aged just 18.

This combined drinking fountain and water trough was one of them, built by Phillips Cosby Lovett, of nearby Liscombe House. It sits on a slight bend on the road from Soulbury to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, less than 200 yards from the main gate of Liscombe Park.

Although the road follows the South edge of the park, this monument is on the North side of the road, facing the park.

45 years later in 1932 Beresford Lovett Esq., Phillips Cosby Lovett’s son, had the fountain restored. It was restored again for the Silver Jubilee of our present Queen in 1977, but I was unable to find out who did the work. Does anyone know?

Another 44 years have passed since then and it needs restoration again. Brickwork is crumbling and some stonework is missing.

An old photograph from around 1910 shows the road going right up to the drinking fountain, which is now separated from the road by a kerb and a raised verge. The bottom few inches of the fountain are now underground.

In Woughton on the Green in Milton Keynes an oak tree planted in 1887 is now 134 years old; it is Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Oak Tree.

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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:


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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