Local history

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

 

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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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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’.

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