Secret places

Another Look Underground

As Typepad is having technical problems after moving to a new server which mean I cannot upload photos until the problems are fixed, I thought I'd show you a post from the early days of the North Bucks Wanderer.

You may find that some of these photos when clicked on, do not produce an enlarged version. I can't do anything about that until the technical issues are fixed.

Since I wrote this in 2018, the shrubs and hedge that hid the top of the shaft have all been cleared away, and the hatch has been padlocked shut.

Underground in the Cold War

ROC post Bucks entrance shaftThe entrance shaft. The top of the shaft is about three feet above ground level, so the post is about 17 feet below the ground (I estimate)

In the mid 1950s, the threat of atomic attack by the Soviet Union was taken very seriously by the British government. The Royal Observers Corps were given the job, if an attack took place, of reporting nuclear bomb explosions and of monitoring radioactive fallout. Three men at a time crewed the post.

1,563 underground posts were built all over the UK for the ROC, and many still exist. This one is somewhere between Winslow and Aylesbury. I’ll not be more precise, as these posts tend to get vandalised or the contents are stolen. This post closed in 1991.

There are a few restored posts. Here is one, with a cutaway diagram of the post.

The posts were built to a standard design, although the hatch at the top of the shaft isn't always hinged on the same side, and some were built 'handed'. That is, to a mirror image plan. I have no idea why; can anybody enlighten me?

If you want to know more, there are at least two books on the subject. They are Cold War Secret Nuclear Bunkers by Nick McCamley, and Cold War - Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989 by Wayne D. Cocroft and Roger J. C. Thomas.

Anyway, here’s some photos I took last year.

ROC post Bucks bottom of shaftThe bottom of the access shaft. The device on the right is a hand pump for emptying the sump, where any water that got in would collect.

ROC post Bucks main roomThis is the main and only room. The entrance shaft is at the far left, and off the  shaft but not visible in this photo, was the chemical toilet.

ROC post BucksThe view from the door.

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All Quiet on the North Bucks Front

Lodge Plugs factoryThe Lodge Plugs WW2 shadow factory, Olney.

The Monday Photo
Folks, I'm taking a break from the Wanderer. I'll be back next week but there are quite a few posts in the planning stage, with research and/or pictures to be finished. In the meantime, here's a few photos from the archives of the Monday Photo. Please click on the links if you want to learn more about the photos.

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Murder and Mystery at Hanslope

Gravestone of William Farrow  Hanslope

The Monday Photo

What does this gravestone at Hanslope have to do with a disused, hidden piece of road on the way there from Haversham?

It’s the story of murder, suicide and a mysterious inscription on a gravestone.

On a scorching hot July Sunday in 1912, William Farrow lay in wait for his employer, Squire Edward Watts. He had been Squire Watts’ head gamekeeper, but had recently been sacked. He hid in the spinney that surrounded the old crossroads, less than a mile along the road from Hanslope. He held a loaded shotgun.

If you turned left at this crossroads you would be heading towards Tathall End, but turning right takes you towards Castlethorpe. Going straight on took you into the private drive of Hanslope Park, where the squire and his wife Sophie lived.

In the Spinney

The 67 year old Squire Watts and his wife approached on foot from Hanslope, returning from church. Edward would usually walk a few paces in front of Sophie, and they would talk as they went along.

As they came along the road into the spinney William Farrow fired at the squire, who fell with a fatal head wound. Sophie cried out and ran to him.

Close by in the coach house of Hanslope Park (it’s still there) the wife of the coachman, Lily Green, heard the commotion and rushed out with her son William.

William was told to get help. He went back for his bicycle, then rode off to Hanslope, fetching the police, the doctor, and his father George. As William's father George Green approached the spinney, there was another shot from inside the spinney.

George Green bravely went to investigate, climbing the fence and finding a path through the undergrowth. 20 yards into the spinney he found the body of William Farrow, who had killed himself. He left behind his wife Annie and three children.

Unconsecrated Ground

The squire was cremated and his remains were placed in the family vault, in the church. But because Farrow had commited suicide he could not (the church warden told me) be buried on consecrated ground.

He was instead buried on the far edge of the ditch that formed the graveyard boundary, between the ditch and a hedge that wran close and parallel to it.

Annie Farrow had his grave stone (above) installed on the churchyard side of the ditch, so his remains are behind it, lying parallel to its rear face, and at 90 degrees to the usual arrangement.

If you can’t read it in the photo it says:


At some point since then the ditch has been filled in, and the graveyard extended slightly. William Farrow now lies on consecrated ground.

The Mystery

The last line on the stone was a mystery for many years, until around 2006 when a member of the Farrow family came to the grave.

They said that in those days serving women and maids were held to be fair game during shooting parties at the park, and the squire had been making sexual approaches to Annie Farrow. Whether these approaches were refused or reluctantly accepted we will never know, but whatever happened might well be why William Fowler lay in wait for the squire, on that hot Summer day.

Sophie Watts, was of course much distressed at her husband’s murder. She later had the road diverted so it no longer ran through the site of her husband’s murder, producing the road layout of a bend with a side road coming off it we know today.

Hanslope Park is now a Government Communication Centre.

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Tunnel Estate

Gayhurst tunnel

The Monday Photo

Most people don’t realise when they drive through Gayhurst, but there’s a tunnel hidden under the road. Built before 1793, it gave foot access to part of the grounds of Gayhurst House, on the other side of what’s now the B526.

Through the tunnel there was a Chalybeate (heavy iron content) spring, and a bath house which I think is much enlarged now. Chalybeate springs were once thought to have health-giving properties.

The spring is still there but the two boat houses on the Great Ouse are, I’m told, now gone. The bath house sat in open parkland, but the spring and boat houses sat inside Gayhurst Spinney.

The tunnel runs under a causeway, built to raise the 1709 turnpike above flood water. We don’t know if the causeway came first, or if it and the tunnel were built at the same time. This tunnel is just a quarter of a mile away from one of the biggest walnut trees in the United Kingdom.

The only other tunnel I can think of in North Bucks is under the canal aquaduct at Old Wolverton; also close to the Great Ouse. That’s it, unless you know better.

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The Cold War Post on Your Doorstep

Whitchurch ROC postCold War concrete.

Overlooked by houses and just next to a bus stop in Whitchurch is this strange piece of concrete. It’s a remnant of the Cold War.

Built in 1957, it’s the entrance to an underground observation post, to be used if we ever came under atomic attack. Under the locked hatch is a shaft and a fixed ladder that leads down to the three man post.

Over 1,500 posts were built across the UK, all spaced around eight miles apart. Some still remain. In the event of the Soviet Union attacking, volunteers of the Royal Observer Corps would man each post and report the direction and intensity of atomic blasts.

When the Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991 there was no more need for these posts, and they were all closed.

What’s There Now?

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