Monday Photo

Naughty at Church

18th Century graffiti  Gayhurst church

The Monday Photo

St Peter’s 18th Century church at Gayhurst had been just five years old when somebody calling themselves I. Wag carved their name and age into an outside wall of the chancel.

It was 1733, and Wag claimed to be 12 years old. I bet the rector wasn’t very pleased when he found this fresh carved graffiti in the East end of the chancel.

It’s quite well and deeply carved, and must have taken a good while to do. But whoever did this bit of vandalising didn’t plan ahead and ran out of room; the letter “s” in “years” had to go under the rest of the word.

But who was I. Wag? The rector would want to find out too, but I think the carver knew this and used a false name; a wag of course is a joker, a wit. Wag is a real surname, but it’s very rare.

Without a real name to identify the offender, the rector would have suspected every 12 year old boy in the parish.

This is the earliest dated piece of graffiti I could find on the church. Wag might well have been the first to leave their mark, but they were not the last. T B (I think) carved the church in 1845, and “M. Williams (RAF)” used a pencil in 1930.

This church replaced a Medieval one that had been in a ruinous condition, probably the same one the first rector was appointed to in 1227.

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Getting the Bump

Bowl barrow  Church Hill  Whaddon

The Monday Photo

What is this mound on the top of Church Hill, at Whaddon?

It may be a mill mound; the Ordnance Survey think so and it’s marked as such on at least some of their recent maps. Historic England agrees. OS maps from around 1900 show the mound, but say nothing about a windmill.

It’s a good place for a windmill, high up on a hill and facing into the prevailing winds. But it is also a good spot for a bowl barrow, and that is how it’s listed, in the records of scheduled monuments.

A bowl barrow is a burial mound. Most of them were constructed between 2400 and 1500 BC; so that’s from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age.

This barrow, like many, had a surrounding ditch. In a bowl barrow there may be just one burial or there may be several.

Unusually, the top of the barrow was much later flattened and levelled, with a shallow central depression. There’s also a causeway to the top on the South West side. These two features suggest this bowl barrow was modified later to become the mound for a Medieval post mill. It might have been 3,000 years old by then.

The mound is just along the footpath from the churchyard, and easily in sight of the remains of the important World War II wireless station the operators called Windy Ridge.

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Country Wellingtons

Runway  RAF Little Horwood

The Monday Photo

During WW2 tons of hardcore were delivered by train and lorry to Greenway Farm in Buckinghamshire, from bomb damaged London. It was all for the foundations of the runways, roads, and dispersal areas of a new airfield, RAF Little Horwood.

On 2nd September 1942 the airfield went operational, and this is one end of the main runway, made 150 feet wide and 2,000 yards long.

There was just enough room for it between two back roads. At this end the runway stops just 125 feet from the road between Winslow and Little Horwood. The far end nearly reaches the Great Horwood to Winslow road. There were two other, shorter runways, the three crossing each other at a 60 degree angle; the standard arrangement for these airfields.

Maps from after the war show no sign of the buildings of Greenway Farm, built in the middle of what was to become the airfield.

RAF Little Horwood was used by an Operational Training Unit, OTU 26, to train crews for night missions in the twin engined Wellington bomber. Aircraft also flew from there on “Nickelling” missions, dropping propaganda leaflets over occupied France.

There are two well known local crashes connected with the airfield. On 11th April 1943 a Wellington Bomber on night training approached this end of the main runway in heavy fog to make a third attempt at landing.

The plane came in too low and crashed into the water tower at Mursley; the crew of four were killed. There’s a memorial plaque by the tower and the crew are remembered each year on Armistice Day.

At Winslow in the early hours of 7th August that year another Wellington from RAF Little Horwood crashed into Winslow High Street, on their second attempt to land at the airfield. Of the crew of five only the navigator survived, but 13 civilians died in the crash.

I don’t know how many other casualties there were from RAF Little Horwood, but I do know that the RAF lost a total of over 8,000 men, in training accidents or during non-operational flying over the course of the war.

There’s not much left of the runways now but quite a lot of the perimeter track is still there. It’s hard to tell how useable it is; it’s on private land and I’m not able to explore it.

This is just one of several Second World War training airfields in North Bucks.

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D-Day Radio Station

Windy Ridge wireless station  Whaddon

The Monday Photo

Why am I showing you some old concrete slabs in a field? Aren’t they just the remains of old farm buildings?

They weren’t farm buildings at all, but the site of an important WW2 military radio station.

The hill top station was called Windy Ridge by the soldiers that manned it, but the field is known as Church Hill and it’s in Whaddon. The station played an important part in Operation Overlord, the invasion of German-held Western Europe that began with D-Day.

There were two huts at the station and the radio hut’s foundation is in the foreground. From there, morse code messages were sent to radio lorries on the battlefield, that kept close to commanders like General Montgomery and the US Army’s General Patton.

The radio lorries were known as SLUs, or Special Liason Units, and were manned by members of the Royal Corps of Signals.

In England, RCS radio operators at Windy Ridge had to cover each day from morning to late evening, working a two shift system. The first shift was 08:00 to 16:00, the second 16:00 to 22:00. Windy ridge also sent messages to agents in occupied Europe.

The second hut held teleprinters that received intelligence from Bletchley Park, which they’d gained from decrypting German military communications. The teleprinter hut’s foundation slab is just in front of those nettles in the middle distance, on the right of the photo.

Just to the left of that slab is another slab, set at a different level. I found iron studs in two of the corners, so I think this might have been an aerial base.

The huts were simply built, with low brick walls and corrugated iron roofs. Some time after the war they were given to the farmer, but some genius set fire to them and now only the bases remain.

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Mystery Box

Mystery post box  Wolverton

The Monday Photo

I’d heard this post box was a rarity, so I went to have a look and was surprised at what I found; not all is as it seems.

This box is supposed to be one of the 130 or so left of the 271 installed during the very short reign of Edward VIII, in 1936. But when I got there I saw that the royal cipher on the door is the wrong one.

Instead, it’s the cipher for a post box erected between 1901 to 1910, in Edward VII’s reign.

I’ve heard that after Edward VIII abdicated some of the boxes with his cipher had their doors changed, and perhaps that’s what happened here.

Even the Milton Keynes Heritage Association think it’s an Edward VIII box, though the ciphers for the two kings are very different.

While this box has an ornate cipher and I find it takes a minute to identify the letters, the Edward VIII cipher just has a fairly plain ‘E’ and ‘R’ with a tiny ‘VIII’ between the letters and a crown above.

But here’s another mystery. This box is in Furze Way, Wolverton. But the street wasn’t built until after World War 2, so what on earth is a much older post box doing there?

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Mask Survey

Social Distancing Project 247

The Monday Photo

The Distance Project

It’s Thursday, the fourth day since the lockdown eased right off, but my visitor is still wearing a mask.

It’s because he is a council surveyor, and required to wear a mask when visiting properties. I’m not surprised.

On my visit to Central Milton Keynes on the first eased day, the previous Monday, I saw that about a third of shoppers were still wearing masks. I think a lot of people are still going to be wary for quite a while, and the council have to bear this in mind.

We discussed the matter. I was quite willing to wear a mask while he was in my home, but I was also happy if he took his mask off. I’m double jabbed, (he most likely was too) and windows were open in every room. In the end, neither of us wore a mask during his visit. A helpful and knowledgable chap.

This is just one of many posts from The Distance Project, which has been running since April last year. That link will take you back to the very first posts, or if you want to see them in reverse order, click on the link in the categories list that's on every page.

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