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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Tall Tales at Stowe

R. Bradbury 090169

The Monday Photo

In 1957 this monument at Stowe received a lightning strike. It hit the statue of Lord Cobham that had stood on the top for over two hundred years.

There was nothing left of the statue but one wrist and a weathered piece of the head, and whatever was left of the feet. Three of the four lions near the base were also destroyed.

These two fragments, together with computer enhanced photos, were used to recreate the original statue.

In 2002 the new statue of Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham was craned into place. Like the original, at ten feet nine inches it is about twice life size and Lord Cobham is portrayed in Roman armour.

With the new statue on top of the column, a lightning conductor was installed, just in case the monument gets hit again. It’s 115 feet tall with the statue and near the top of the highest hill in the locality, so this is a wise precaution.

Sometimes the monument is said to be 104 feet tall, but this doesn’t include the statue; so both figures are correct.

The column is hollow with a spiral staircase to a roofed platform just under the statue; a belvedere, where visitors can admire the view. As usual with high viewpoints, you “can see five counties from here” on a fine day.

If the column doesn’t look quite vertical in the photo, that’s because it isn’t. It’s still stable, especially as the four buttresses were added in 1792.

The statue is in the grounds of Stowe House (National Trust) which you can reach via Stowe Avenue, but with my local knowledge I parked elsewhere and followed a public footpath into the grounds.

The monument was designed for the most part by Capability Brown, who also got married in Stowe’s church.

This photo was taken in 2009.

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History Free

Lord Cobham's monument at StoweThe 115 foot tall Lord Cobham's monument at Stowe, Buckinghamshire was completed by 1749.

Coming up in the North Bucks Wanderer’s area in mid September are a long list of open days, and they are all listed on the Milton Keynes Heritage website. Not all these events are in Milton Keynes; they are also as far apart as Cosgrove, Olney, Stowe, and Winslow, amongst others.

As I grew up in Winslow, I’m interested in the events in the town. On Saturday the 14th of September are four events to see and do.

Open from 2 ‘till 5pm is 28 High Street, the Winslow Rural District Council offices when I was a boy. It now belongs to Winslow Town Council; it’s a Victorian building, I think.

The interior of Keach's Meeting House  WinslowThe interior of Keach's Meeting House.

Keach’s Meeting House is also open from 2pm to 5pm. It was built as a Nonconformist Baptist’s chapel in 1695. It’s tiny. The entrance is in Bell Walk, next to Limes Court.

Also open from 2 to 5 is the Brownie and Guide Hall. It’s in Church Street. Built in 1865 as the National School for Girls, it was bought by the Winslow Girl Guides in 1958. I was a baby when we moved to Church Street a year later, and you can read all about what I used to get up to as a small boy here. (But not until tomorrow morning, when that post is published here on this blog)

The solid garden gate to one side of the entrance used to lead into the vicarage garden, and I used to play with the vicar’s son in there, when I was a bit older.

See my next post (coming up tomorrow) on what I was like as a small boy in church Street.

Japanese visitors at Keach's Meeting House  WinslowI took this family from the Fukishima region of Japan and a local Japanese nun on a history trail around Winslow. This was in 2013, at Keach's Meeting House.

At 5pm there’s a History Walk, which lasts about an hour. Starting in the ancient centre of the town, you’ll never be further than 100 yards from the Market Square on the walk. It starts from outside Keach’s Meeting House. The History Walk is also on Thursday 19th.

There’s no need to book for any of these Winslow events, but some of the other heritage events require booking; check on the website.

The Bourbon Tower  at StoweThe Bourbon Tower at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. It was built in 1741 as a Keeper's Lodge.

It’s a busy day on the 14th. Also open (for example) from 10am to 4pm is All Saints Church, Bow Brickhill. They say that the tower stairs are very steep and narrow, but the views are outstanding.

On Friday 20th, the Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney are having an open day, while at Stowe on Sunday 22nd, they are doing free taster tours of the house, and free entry to the grounds.

In and around Aylesbury are more events:

You can visit RAF Halton’s Officer’s Mess.
There’s a Drawn to the Chilterns art exhibition in Wendover.
The 13th Century St Mary’s Church in Pitstone  has an Open Day.
A Strict and Particular Baptist Chapel will be open, at Waddesdon Hill.
There’s a round dozen events in Aylesbury, including Open Days at the ancient King's Head pub, a Quaker meeting house, and the huge council tower block in the centre of town that some call Pooley's Folly. I've got a lovely photo of that building somewhere, but I couldn't find it for you.

There’s lot’s to see and do, and you can find out more on the main Heritage Open Days website.


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Fletcher Was Here

Norman Stanley Fletcher

Near the entrance to the new theatre in Aylesbury is a statue of Ronnie Barker, as he looked when he played the prisoner Fletcher in the TV series Porridge, between 1974 and 1977. He considered Norman Stanley Fletcher to be his finest creation.

Born in Bedford in 1929, Ronald William George Barker was living in Oxford in 1948 and working in a bank there. He took a trip to Aylesbury to see a play at the Market Theatre, where the Manchester Repertory Company were Performing.

The Market Theatre was off the Market Square, and behind The Green Man pub. It's gone now.

Back home, he wrote to the company asking for a job and enclosing a photograph, but didn’t receive a reply. He wrote to them again asking for the photo back, and they offered him an audition. At the audition, he was hired on the spot.

His first role was in J.M. Barrie’s comedy play Quality Street. That was in November 1948; he was nineteen.

Ronnie Barker statue  Aylesbury

Once Ronnie Barker had performed in two more comedy plays he realised that he wanted to become a comic actor. In 1956 he made his first radio appearance in the sit com The Floggits. Later he played Able Seaman Fatso Johnson, in the excellent long running comedy series The Navy Lark.

This radio programme ran from 1959 to 1976, and he played a total of 40 different characters.

Many people don’t realise that he played another role in Porridge, too; that of the judge who sentences the “habitual criminal” Norman Stanley Fletcher to five years in the opening credits. Ronnie Barker played a huge variety of radio, TV, and film roles over the years; he was a man of great talent. He passed away aged 76, in October 2005.

If you want to hear how good he was in his younger days, The Navy Lark is often broadcast on Radio 4 Extra. See if you can spot which characters he plays; it’s not as easy as you might think.

Eye to eye with Ronnie Barker

I’ve written about some of the other statues in Aylesbury; there's lots of them:

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Aylesbury. David Bowie played in the Borough Assembly Hall, which is what the Market Theatre later became. Standing Square in Aylesbury. A Market Square hero. A Bird From Aylesbury. John Hampden gets the bird.

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The Church on the Hill

St Mary's church  Great Brickhill The war memorial and the church of St Mary, Great Brickhill.

Sometimes the memorials to the dead of World War One are dated 1914 to 1919, not 1918. The memorial at Great Brickhill is one of them.

There are various reasons given for this. One is that soldiers were sent to fight the Bolsheviks in Russia until 1919. Another is that the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, and that was the official end of hostilities.

Of course the Armistice was declared in 1918.

Some men stayed in the forces in Europe after 1918 but died after hostilities had ended, and William James Dickens was one of them.

He died on his way home to be demobilised on Sunday, 2nd March 1919, and was buried at the communal cemetery at Theux in Belgium. It’s not a military cemetery, but some of the dead of both world wars are there.

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A Garden for the Fallen

Silent Soldier and poppy

At Steeple Claydon, while there’s a monument to the fallen in the church, there has never been a war memorial in the village, until now.

There’s now a stone memorial, in a new memorial garden.

It all started three years ago, when Steeple Claydon couple Norman (Nobby) white and Leslie White began their fight to establish what would be called the Steeple Claydon Memorial Garden.

They wrote letter after letter to officials, and found that most correspondence was not answered for months. But both times they wrote to their MP John Bercow, he answered them the next day.

After a long struggle, they were able to buy the strip of land in Meadoway near the centre of the village for just one pound. They gave it to the village.

The Whites and the rest of the Steeple Claydon Remembrance Group committee then had to work hard to get the garden ready in time. 

 As well as the stone memorial, there is a silent soldier, a place to sit, some shrubs and plants, and some patches of bare soil and grass where next year there will be a proper lawn.

I met Leslie White on the 7th of November when she came to slip a red woollen poppy over the silent soldier’s bayonet, and she told me all about the garden. It’s a bit late in the year for grass to grow she explained, but she expects the lawn to do well next year.

It was a close run thing for the garden to be ready for the opening; Leslie told me that she was out in the dark washing the garden’s path the night before the opening on the 21st of September.

As John Bercow had been so helpful to their fight he was asked to officially open the garden, and he accepted their offer.

The garden was ready for Remembrance Sunday this year, but donations are being asked for to pay for the garden’s construction. They’ve already raised £12,500, and hope to reach their £18,000 target soon. You can donate to:

Steeple Claydon Remembrance Group

Lloyds Bank sort code: 30 90 89

Account Number: 35489568

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