Local history

Shakespeare Slept Here

The Bard slept here

The Monday Photo

But it should say, Shakespeare had a few lunchtime pints and dozed off in the wooden porch that once sheltered this door, in Grendon Underwood church.

It’s said that he was found asleep there by the two village constables. The constables shook him awake and roughly turfed him out of the porch. One of them was the Rector’s son, a Mr. Josias Howe.

As Shakespeare stood there, both half sober and half awake, they accused him of stealing from the church, but our William took them inside and pointed to the wooden chest there. “Go and see”, he told them. They looked in the chest, but they could find nothing missing. “There!”, said Shakespeare, “Much ado about nothing!”

It all seems a bit of an unlikely tale, but it’s quite possible that Shakespeare was thinking of these village constables when he wrote the unflattering parts of those two fine men of the watch, Dogberry and Verges. Of course in his play Much Ado About Nothing.

Shakespeare stopped overnight at Grendon Underwood several times on his way to and from Stratford-Upon-Avon and London, and stayed in the half timbered inn The Ship, not far from the church. It’s now a private house.

In Shakespeare’s time this area was more heavily wooded, and the village lay on the forest tracks used by gypsies and strolling players. ‘Grendon Underwood’ means ‘Green Hill under the wood’.

Weaselly Found

Weasel Lane

The Monday Photo

This is ancient Weasel Lane. We are out in the countryside just North of Mursley, but the lane stretches all the way from Bletchley to Winslow, and is part of National Cycle Route 51.

I took this photo in May 2015.

At Bletchley the lane starts from the old Buckingham Road, opposite one end of the golf course. Don’t confuse Weasel Lane with the blocked off turning at the other end of the course and close by the roundabout; that’s part of the old road to Buckingham.

From Buckingham Road, Weasel Lane cuts across the fields, crosses the road not far from Newton Longville, and less than a mile later, passes the spot where this picture was taken.

Behind the camera, the lane (and the cycle route) cross the disused railway line and a few miles later reach Shipton, just outside Winslow.

National Cycle Route 51 runs from Felixstowe to Oxford, and Weasel Lane is a five mile stretch in the middle of the route. The lane get its name from “Was Hael”, a Saxon Salutation between travellers.

Armchair Exploration 4

Grand Union Canal BridgeThis bridge over the Grand Union canal at Woughton on the Green was for farm access, and sat in the middle of fields. It's now just yards from the (usually) busy A421.

Now I’ve been on a few officially sanctioned walks, I’ve realised there’s still scope for a bit of local exploration. Best of all, it gives me somewhere to go, a destination.

This is great.

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The Mill on the Hill

Quainton windmill

The Monday Photo

This is the tallest windmill in Buckinghamshire, and it’s at Quainton. The mill sits at the top of the village green, but it’s still 150 feet, or 45 metres, below the crest of Simber Hill on the North side of the village.

That’s why Quainton Windmill is 65 feet, 19 metres tall; so it can catch the North wind as it comes over the hill. This is the third tallest windmill in England.

By the way, Simber Hill is really just part of the great mass of Quainton Hill. The actual summit of Quainton Hill is another 110 feet or 34 metres higher, and half a mile further North.

Construction of the mill started in 1830, but a few years later the owners installed a steam engine into the base of the mill, so grain could be milled on calm days. This was a common ploy then.

There are photos of the mill in working order in 1860 and 1870, but a 1900 photo shows it to be disused. The fantail, red and white in the photo above, had been blown off the year before during a gale. The mill lay derelict through two World Wars and for decades after. Then in 1972, restoration began.

Work went on for years until grain was milled for the first time in nearly a century in 1997, but more work still had to be carried out. I remember it all working when I visited a few years ago, but I later heard that the mill was out of action again.

It’s now back in working order. Just over a year ago the sails were hoisted back into position after they had undergone a six year refurbishment project.

Once we’ve overcome the Coronavirus, we can visit the windmill again. The usual opening times are 10 am to 12:30 pm, every Sunday.

There’s a pub on the green, The George and Dragon. In normal times it’s open until 2 pm on Sundays.

Armchair Exploration 1

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.

Continue reading "Armchair Exploration 1" »