Personal history

Let There be Light

1960s MK light switch  Lavendon

The Monday Photo

This switch in the porch of Lavendon’s church of St Michael reminds me of my childhood home, but how?

After a rewire in the late 1960s we had the white versions of these switches installed everywhere in the house. The switches were made by the MK Company (nothing to do with Milton Keynes) and electricians liked them; they were good quality. They are plastic, not bakelite.

At one time you could see them everywhere, and if you look at films and television made on location from the 1960s to the 1990s you’ll often spot them in the background. They are easy to spot with their curved face design.

Our early 50s house must have been originally wired with square pattern switches, as the old back boxes in the wall were reused.

But when we moved there in 1964 we found lighting in our brick built sheds, with the older style of round pattern switches. I think they were installed by a previous householder, as the circuit included a 13 amp socket but was wired to the 5 amp house lighting circuit!

Using a shed as a darkroom one winter, I switched the electric fire to both bars and all the lights in the house went out. The fire was rated at 2,000 watts, more than eight amps, so I’m not at all surprised!

In my defence I was only 16 and this was a long time before I trained as an electrician. I know better now…

The cables to the switch in today’s photo have been replaced but with a different route; two of the old style metal cable clips are still visible; one near the switch and the other is on the far right of the photo.

Whoever rewired the circuit was expert enough to make a tidy job of it; they must have judged this old switch fit for further use.

But if you think about it, the switch has had a fairly easy life, being operated far less times than one in somebody’s living room or kitchen. So fair enough; I would have used it again, too.

The wall of the South aisle that the switch is fixed to is a good 750 years older than the switch; what would those Medieval masons thought of electric lights?

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Say Uncle

10 High Street  Winslow

The Monday Photo

When I look at this house in Winslow High Street, I don’t think of its Georgian style 19th Century frontage and the large, timber framed 17th Century building behind it, I think of my uncle Dick and aunt Julie, who once lived there.

We used to visit them as kids; walking through the gate at bottom right, past (if I remember right) exposed timber framing to our left, and in through the door at the back.

Up and Down
We couldn’t get in via the front door on the High Street, because the ground floor was a bank, completely separate from their two story flat. Dick and Julie had just one room and a staircase at ground level; everything else was upstairs.

But the first floor was on several levels, with short flights of steps between. The kitchen in a small pitched roof extension was several steps lower than their hallway, and for years had just a skylight.

If I remember right, it wasn’t possible to put a window in the gable end because the roof of the bank vault was there.

But when the bank changed to a flat roof Dick chopped through the brickwork and at last there was a window in the kitchen. That was easier said than done, because the wall was thick and built of hard engineering bricks, to protect the vault beyond.

Young Man
I remember timber framing inside the house, but as a child I paid little attention to it, as I did to Dick and Julie’s furniture and antiques.

Aunt Julie used to tell me I should get my hair cut; it was shoulder length from my teenage years on, and would give me Christmas presents of aftershave, when I had a beard! Maybe this was a hint...

I still have a beard, but Julie might have been please to see the long hair is long gone; I just shave my head now to keep it tidy, as I’m going bald.

Sadly, Julie passed away at quite a young age, but Dick lived into his eighties. I’d love to have a look round the back, but the alley is private now.

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How Winslow has Grown

Winslow development since 1950Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The Monday Photo

Not a photo this week, but a map. But it does give you a picture of how much things have changed in the town I grew up in, since this map was published in the early 50s. It also shows you the centre of the North Bucks area, on the right side of the map, about half way up.

I’ve shaded areas where land was developed since the map was printed, and I’ve outlined in red areas that had been built as far as I know, by the time I came to Winslow a few years later. Here's a key to the numbers on the map.

I moved to the town as a baby (with much help from Mum and Dad) in 1959. We lived in Church Street until not long after I started at the now closed primary school (6) in Sheep Street.

The Winslow County Secondary School opened in the same year we moved to Winslow. It would be a long time, as the oldest of three boys, before I was even aware of it.

We moved to Demoram Close. I wasn’t impressed, as this meant it was too far away from the school for me to come home for lunch. But the house did have a fine big garden.

This part of the map dates the its surveying to 1950 or 51; the houses on the West side of Demoram Close are shown, but the ones on the East side, including the house we lived in hadn’t been built by then. By the way, some of my uncles were bricklayers employed on the building of the close.

I’m not sure when the bungalows nearby at Tinkers End were built, but I remember them as a boy so I’ve outlined them in red, too.

The Elmfields Estate was established by 1965.

The railway station closed on 30th December 1967. I do remember it, but only after it was closed. The new station is now being constructed in the shaded area just to the North of the railway.

My primary school closed in the 1980s, with a new school being built on the Magpie Farm estate, between (4) and (5) on this map.

When it's helpful I’ll be showing you a few more maps like this, including some older ones, from now on.


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A Fresh Look

Sleeping ginger tom

The Monday Photo

I’ve been away on a break, to Warwickshire. There I visited my brother and his family, arriving around teatime on Thursday and driving back yesterday afternoon, getting home not long before it got dark.

The cat, who seems to have spent most of that time on the bed, has been very glad to see me back home. So here he is in today’s photo, on that bed.

During my visit we went to some of the local attractions, which meant I did far more walking than I’m used to; I don't usually walk too far.

Most of you don’t know that I had an accident about 17 years ago. My left foot was badly damaged and now I have to wear orthotic shoes; it restricts how far I can walk. This means that I’m wary about walking too far; if I over do it, I’m not just tired, it hurts; for hours. Sometimes it can still hurt the next day.

But on Saturday we all walked about five miles, some of it on steep slopes, and I was fine. A bit tired because I’m unused to such a distance, but I didn’t hurt. I needed a cup of tea, (don’t I always!) but that’s about all.

I think that a lot of this increased range is because I’ve been on a diet. I’ve lost about 2st 4lbs so far, with about another 2 stone to go.

Losing weight has made all physical activity easier, but until now I hadn’t realised by how much.

But how is this relevant to the North Bucks Wanderer? You see, I’ve been avoiding places of interest that are a long way from roads, thinking they are out of my range. You may have noticed. Now I know my range has increased, I can look at these places again.

That’s the thing about going away; when you get home, you look at everything with a fresh eye. Now I wonder, with that eye, what I’ll find next for the NBW.

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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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Lighting the Way and Staying Closer

The Distance Project 37

Now it’s been over a year since the lockdown rules were almost completely relaxed, I’ve been returning to some previous subjects. There’s been a few changes...

This is the second post comparing things now and in lockdown; the previous one, How Have Things Changed After Lockdown? was just last week. Dates for older photos refer to the day the original post went live. The first few shots are from social calls in 2020, and the comparison shots from a few weeks ago. The earlier shots have their original captions.

The Rules Are Relaxed
The Distance Project 6 (4th June 2020)

I wrote in 2020:

Some restrictions were relaxed on Monday, so there’s been a few changes in behaviour. The more vulnerable are allowed to venture out, though there are still some curbs on what they can do. Visitors in the garden are now permitted.


Social Distancing Project 48(2020) My sister in law has been bringing “the boys”, my nephews, to see me nearly every week since they were babies; they are now 19 and 21. With the lockdown in place, this couldn’t happen. But with the changes to the restrictions, the whole family came to see me on Tuesday.
They brought camping chairs, biscuits and drinks. I sat at my garden table. It was great; nothing beats seeing the people you care about, face to face.


Social Distancing Project 266(2022) Two years later we are all sitting at the same garden table. My sister in law couldn’t make it, but here is my brother and the boys. Before, they couldn’t come in my house and we had to socialise in the garden. This time we chose to sit outside because the weather was nice. As soon as it was allowed in July 2021 we had started to socialise at close range again.

Continue reading "Lighting the Way and Staying Closer" »

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