Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Yesterday - when it was sunny - the tree fellers came to take down a sycamore which I inherited when I moved here and which, being female, showers the garden with seeds every year and has outgrown its space. I also got rid of a cotoneaster which had grown too far and a weeping birch which had joined the oak tree across the path. The shed on the left is mine, on the right belongs to the house next door. Some of my Christmas Tree branches are on the right-hand side. Lots of lower branches of the sycamore had already gone before I got down the garden...

Being able to sit there so casually has to be the result of long practice and knowing what you're doing, which always helps. The willow leaves on the top right are going too, from my next-door-neighbour's garden. It is getting on a bit, branches are dying so it's been pollarded...

The lad above is the cutter and his mate had the job of plodding up and down the garden path, along the side alleyway to dump all the branches on the parking space at the front and some way down the side, too. I was asked to move my car and I put it across the road.

The boss arrived with the shredder and this is the start of feeding the unwanted greenery into the shredder's business end.
Just a small vehicle (I'm kidding) and making a tremendous noise, too.
This is the 'scoop' at the back where all the thin branches went.
Stuart had asked if I would leave the tree trunk rather than get it taken away so he could take the logs he'd cut to his father to use on his wood burner. I asked and the tree trunk was cut into handy sized pieces. They're all on the compost heap which is directly under where the tree was. Now it's up to Stuart to bring his trailer and take them down to the stables. The post sticking up against the blue plastic is the limit of my boundary. A self-sown honeysuckle had been growing up the sycamore for several years and the workman managed to save that.
The bare trunk and the tuft at the top is all that's left of the willow but it will sprout again in due course. On the right you can just see the dreaded walnut which has already overgrown two gardens and it won't be long before it creeps over another - and that's apart from the garden it's growing in.

The clearing up was particularly good. Everything that was cut off was cleared up, all the small twiglets and heaps of leaves which were scraped together with a leaf rake. Once these had been shredded a workman took the leaf blower along the path to clear away any bits they'd missed, the frontage was cleared and the road, which had some leaves on it. The stumps of the sycamore and two shrubs had had slots cut in the base which remained in the ground, poison scooped into them and then covered with handfuls of earth to keep it safe.

I'd provided them with tea and home made cake and it time for them to leave - and I haven't paid yet, either!

Sunday, 23 October 2011


On the way home from my friend's house in Chesham I passed the forge at Litttle Hampden where there were new iron sculptures on display - I blogged about them before in April. The forge is on a narrow road with woods on one side and a fairly narrow frontage to the building on the other - and cars zip along here! You have to park in the road and hope... There's not much room to step back to get a different angle. Here it is in solo flight.

You could call this anything you like, I suppose.
The sphere is more pleasing, to me at any rate. The individual shapes remind me of something but - is it seeds from a conifer of some kind or perhaps gingko leaves?
Had to stop and look in a Trees book and I think it might be gingko leaves. I'll stop and ask one day, if the forge is open.

This graceful display of kites is how we see them round here, calling to each other as they sail on the thermals. I've left the background so you can see the lane...
I wish I had a garden where you'd see something like this to real advantage..

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Stone Parish has four elements - Stone itself, a hamlet called Sedrup, Hartwell (which was not included in the parish until 1935 but was a separate parish) and Bishopstone, a mile and a half down the road towards Stoke Mandeville and a separate community though always included in Stone for Church Register purposes.

Bishopstone was included in a book, 'The Rich Mrs. Robinson', published in 1984, which was written by a local lady, Winifred Beechey, about life before WW1 in the village. The sketch above is of the road from Bishopstone to Stone which she and her sister walked and ran every school dinnertime - and back again for afternoon school...

and the road looks like this today. Not much has changed apart from the road being paved, repaved, patched and blobbed from time to time - but still a long way to walk for small children.

This is now called 'The Old Schoolhouse', I can't imagine why! It was for boys only who also worked on the piece of land to help pay the master for their tuition. It was set up before the Education Act which allowed public schools to be built post 1871.

Here it is today, well, last Monday when I began this blog... the pantiled roof is an extension. The lane on the right hand side of the building leads down to Parson's Piece (of land). I don't know which way the engraving faces so it could be the other way round. I believe this building and others at the same distance from the road along here were built on 'spare' land in 24 hours but I might have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Something to do with the Enclosures in the late 18th century, here at any rate.

Further on, out of sight of the end of the road in the first photo, is this fairly recent entrance to the village with just a few notices to take note of. The Bishopstone Action Group nagged to get these pinchpoints to try and stop the excessive speed along this lane, which has no pavements. It's a rat run for cars, vans, coaches, plenty of post vans on their way back and forth to the Sorting Office, school buses, etc. The thatched cottage on the right is one of 16 listed buildings in this small hamlet.

The one remaining pub, The Harrow, has a history. In 1830 there were riots in different (Southern) counties against machinery being employed to take the place of local men. In Wycombe it was centered on the paper mills but in in this part of Bucks it was against farm machinery. In Stone, a group of labourers cajoled others to join them, one man gaining a gun from a house, shot and powder from a local shop - that shop, now a house, is still there. Others armed themselves with sticks and hammers. The mob moved on to Bishopstone and entered The Harrow to see if they could induce others to join them. Machinery was broken up before the gang moved on.Eventually constables rounded up about 40 men who were taken to Aylesbury Gaol. The men, with labourers from other disturbances, were brought before the Petty Sessions and sent for trial. There are full accounts of the proceedings in the newspapers and although most of the Stone men were not transported but bound over for the rest of their lives, three men were sent to Van Dieman's Land. One remained there and made more of himself than staying in England would have afforded him, one returned and is listed as a pauper in various censuses and the last man has disappeared from history. The book which contains this information - and what happened to all the other Bucks men involved in the Swing Riots - is 'Buckinghamshire Machine Breakers, The Story of the 1830 riots' by Jill Chambers.

Plater's Cottage is another of the listed buildings in Bishopstone, most of which are thatched. This was a shop at one stage in its history; many years ago before the time of digital cameras I was taken to the back of the property where there's still a board giving information about the shop's owner. Perhaps it was also a beerhouse, I can't remember.

The War Memorial for the village, just past the Harrow,was dedicated in June 1920; it's always kept tidy and a commemoration service is held there in November separate from the service in Stone. The hedge at the back has been cut quite recently and spoils the look of the setting, a green hedge made such a difference. Daffodils bloom here in the spring.

A commemorative plaque was given to all communities mentioned in Domesday and this is the one for Stone, kept in a back room in the village hall when I took this SLR photo.

Bishopstone displays their plaque on the right of the porch for all to see - if they look, that is. When William 1 invaded he gave this village to his half-brother Bishop Odo of Bayeux who may have been the person who commissioned the Bayeux tapestry (which as you will know is not a tapestry but an embroidery).

There was once a school for the village children on this site. Lord Carrington gave the land in 1876 for a building to hold 50 children. Two of the school log books which my friend, Chris, and I transcribed several years ago make fascinating reading - for teachers, that is. One teacher taught all the children and what the children learned is laid out. Knitting, sewing, learning the alphabet, using counters for number work; the illnesses the children suffered - measles, whooping cough, chilblains, congestion of the lungs and ringworm together with numerous other problems - such as a 6 week absence with bronchitis... The school functioned with decreasing numbers of children until December 1945 when it finally closed, the remaining children being transferrred to Stone.

It was a one-room school and so far we haven't found any photos of it, just a floor plan giving measurements; the only photo which doesn't really show the building is of the children in their 'glad rags' having their photo taken, much like these days.

There aren't any 'other religions' in the Parish, just C of E and Methodists. This is the Methodist chapel in Bishopstone which had rendered walls and no brick wall when I first saw it. The outside wall was 'cleaned' and the internal structure made into a modern home. In 2002 it was on the market for £450,000.

Coronation Villas has a plaque with the date 1902 just in the bend of the downpipe. The postcard which showed this view was posted in 1909. I took a photo in 2002 and the one below was taken on Monday - what's changed in just over 100 years?

The large house below was advertised for sale in 1994, long before Chris and I knew what function it had served for a few years from 1888. It had been decided a British Dairy Institute would be established in Aylesbury and that was just the beginning of the rows and wrangles. Various pieces of land were suggested and declined and eventually the building chosen was a long way from Aylesbury - heavens, it was a couple of miles! It was intended that students would be instructed in' butter making and three kinds of soft cheese'; a library would be started and with donations of utensils from W. Jordan and Sons, still going strong though they have no record of any gift. Female students were boarded in the house and male students lodged in Stone Village - as can be seen in the Censuses. Within a few years the whole business was moved to Reading where is has become The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers. Another small, unknown part of history in the Parish. Chris and I had trouble determining where the building was until the newspaper reports named it as Alwyn Lawn.
The Country Life advert is of the front of the house but my photo is all you can see of the building across the fields. Nothing is left, I understand, of the Dairy Institute buildings. It's not really on sloping ground - that's me standing on the verge being buffeted by the air disturbance of vehicles...

The chunky stones are from local quarries but flints come from the Chiltern Hills and are used here to make the initials and date (1862) stand out. I have no idea who W W is, can't find anything in the Census.

Lastly, you'll be pleased to know, the drawing below is from a tome written by John Lee showing the school he built at the crossroads from Stone to Bishopstone. Actually the schools were never completed, the only portion of this grand project being my photo of the house, below.

It's always seemed to me that the chimney stack is a sweet from the Liquorice Allsorts packets... along the far side of this building is a couple of rows of bricks with initials of the donors of money to build Mr Lee's school - again, before the Education Act. One of the bricks has C.B. on it and, as Charles Babbage was a friend of John Lee, I wonder if that might not be 'his' brick?

Thursday, 13 October 2011


I wonder if you remember this unidentified plant which was included in a blog in August titled 'Garden Mixture, August, still'?

I wrote to the Royal Horticultural Society after ringing in the first place. I was asked to send photos and a sample of the plant material. Gillian had just dug them up so I recovered some from the compost heap and sent those. Yesterday I had an email identifying it.

The RHS wrote:'Our Botanist says the sample and photographs you sent for identification appears to be Ambrosia artemesiifolia, a somewhat uncommon annual weed in Britain, most probably from bird-seed or possibly an impurity amongst garden seeds. Although quite a serious agricultural weed in parts of the US, it seldom becomes a problem in Britain.'

It's not from garden seed (didn't scatter any this year) so must be something in the bird seed. I hope it doesn't recur next year though we'll be able to hoick it out directly it appears! They also reminded me that their ID service is for Members Only and this was a one-off - fair enough - but there's no point in me joining now as I don't really garden, just direct Gillian... It's quite a lot of money for no benefit as far as I'm concerned. But I will send a small cheque in appreciation.

Monday, 3 October 2011


I realised a few weeks ago that there are three bell-cotes/turrets in the village, all visible from the road and all Victorian. The one above is on the only remaining building of the Pauper Lunatic Asylum, the chapel. The main building was opened in 1853 and the original chapel was in this building. As numbers of inmates grew the hall was not large enough to accommodate everyone to a service and the decision was taken to build a separate chapel. It was designed by David Brandon, the architect who designed the asylum, opening in 1869.
In 1999 the bell-cote was refurbished and several photos were taken by the owner, who gave them to me, and this is being used without asking permission first. It shows the finial.
I had put a photo which I took about 2002 for my Listed Buildings book showing the chapel as it (still) is today but I've been unable to move it from the top of the blog so have deleted it. Suffice to say it is in a sorry state but as it's a Grade 2 Listed building, it can't be destroyed. In that year it was listed in the local paper under Commercial Property for office conversion but nothing has happened to it since then.I've also tried to move down a very early postcard and that, too, doesn't want to be moved so I'm afraid I can't show any more of the Asylum photos I have.I don't know why this happens and am not expert enough to fiddle about trying to solve it.

The bell-cote above, with the bell still in place, is on the village school's original building, which opened in 1871 - there's a fireplace in one classroom with that date on the fireplace itself which still survives. It's a thriving school after 140 years. I've read some of the log books with comments about some of the boys who didn't return to school after dinnertime because they followed the hunt instead; absences because of harvesting, a night school whose members wrote 'obscene words' on the desks and the childhood illnesses which meant time off school.
The Lee family at Hartwell House were interested in the school, as gentry were then, the local vicar paying visits, too, because it is a C of E school. During the war Jewish children from London were evacuated here and it must have been a culture shock on both sides! Most seem to have returned home by early 1940. I have a copy of the school register for the war years. I haven't been able to take a photo of the front of the school because there are trees, shrubs and an ivy covered ?wall at the front. The front gate isn't used now though the original lantern is still in place over the path.
This is the 'turret' on the Village Hall which was 100 years old last year, though there didn't appear to be any celebrations, or none that came to my notice. It was opened in 1910 by Lady Smyth, of the gentry family in Stone, their home now being a residential home. The Smyths were one of the families who made England what it is - Admiral William Henry Smyth who had the idea of bringing Cleopatra's Needle to London; one of his sons was Charles Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal for Scotland who is responsible for the One O'clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle and the Time Ball on Calton Hill. He was interested in Egyptology and is buried under a pyramid shaped stone in Sharow churchyard in Yorks.
One daughter, Henrietta, married Rev. Thomas Baden-Powell and became the mother of the man who founded the Boy Scouts; another, Georgiana, married Sir William Henry Flower, once Director of the Natural History Museum. Another son, General Sir Henry Augustus Smyth, was at one time Commander in Chief of Malta, spending his life in the Army.
His wife, Lady Constance, was referred to by one of her nephews as Aunt Connie - he was Clough Williams-Ellis who designed the Village Hall and the village's War Memorial gates where brass plaques with the names of men who died in 2 World Wars still are despite an attempt to steal them some years ago. I think, from the design, they may have been a 'trial run' for the gates at Chequers a few miles away years later as the designs are almost identical but no-one has researched them. He was also the man who created Portmerion, the Italianate village in Wales. I've cancelled my old photo of the village hall, it won't do as I want it to, so that's gone, too. Sorry about all the deletions...