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Cock and Bull story - short history of North Bucks

Discussion in 'Buckinghamshire' started by Bob Spiers, May 14, 2013.

  1. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Just as my home town Birmingham came under Warwickshire & Worcester (as opposed to today’s West Midlands) so too did my days living in South Northamptonshire, with the North Bucks border just a few bus stops away. The area now comes under Milton Keynes. Here are some reminisces about North Bucks and you can read about my South Northants memories under Northamptonshire.

    North Bucks contained a myriad of small villages and three principal towns, each quite small. These were STONY STRATFORD, WOLVERTON & BUCKINGHAM. If we wanted to shop we went to Stony Stratford about 4 miles away and to catch a train Wolverton a further 4 miles. In the other direction about 8 miles away was the lovely market town of Buckingham. I will cover each in turn.

    STONY STRATFORD (referred to as Stony) has a long history dating back to the early 13th Century. The great Roman road known as Watling Street (today the A5) runs right through the town. Stony was a staging post for both north/south and particularly east/west travelling.

    Two famous Coaching Inns – ‘The Cock’ and ‘The Bull’ (which were side by side) are said to have been have been the origins of the well known “Cock and Bull story” where each Inn exaggerated what it could provide for weary travellers. In similar fashion “Ride a Cock Horse” of Nursery Rhyme fame is said to be based on horses being provided at The Cock Inn and taking the Buckingham road to Banbury.

    WOLVERTON as well as being on the main London-Birmingham railway line was known as a Railway town because of its large Railway Works. [My first father-in-law worked there as a Stores man and his elder brother as a Foreman “Smithy” –bowler hat and all! You can read his story elsewhere in the Forum under Blacksmiths.]

    The works were built 1836 on behalf of the London & North Western Railway. The town was selected because of its midway point between London & Birmingham. At first it both built and repaired locomotive stock but later on as Crewe took over this role, it concentrated mainly on the repair of carriages and other railway mechanical equipment. Interestingly it was also home to the Royal Train fleet which it maintained.

    BUCKINGHAM which before Aylesbury took over the role in the 18th Century, was the county town of the 10th Century newly formed Shire of Buckingham. I knew it as a small market town with great period buildings. I remember well its Cattle Market on a Saturday when portable pens were set up in the roads and the place came alive with Farmers and onlookers and not to forget Cattle!

    Just as Stony Stratford was strategically placed, so was Buckingham, particularly for East West travel. (East to Banbury and Oxford and west to Chester, via Stony Stratford). This was because three main roads passed through the town (they became the A413, A421 & A422), making Buckingham an important hub for travel.

    I cannot finish without reference to the area dialect which I touched on in my Northamptonshire narrative. To me it was impossible to determine whether I was listening to a South Northants accent or a North Bucks, they were identical and (to the un-initiated) equally unintelligible.

    It would amuse me to hear some of ‘Old Boys’ of the village (the elders so to speak) tell me they could pinpoint not only an approximate Northants/Bucks dialect but also pinpoint their village of origin. I never put this to the test, but they were adamant that it could be done. They gave up on me because in their words (and said with a smile) “you be a bloody Northerner”. Totally ignoring the fact Birmingham was barely 60 miles further north and part of the west midlands (lower case) as they were part of the south midlands.

    No references to pass on but you can find all you want if you just Google the place names mentioned.
     
    • Creative Creative x 1
  2. GillW

    GillW LostCousins Member

    Thank you for the interesting information Bob, my husband’s 3xgt-grandfather and his son were chimney sweeps in Wolverton and Stony in the 1850s to 1890s.
     
  3. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Thanks for that Gill. Isn't it funny in the Forum where someone responds to a story, it triggers another, as yours as done this time.

    It concerns chimney sweeps of course, but this time I hark back to the Worcestershire part of my heritage. The unusual thing about my story is it concerns a Mistress Chimney Sweep. I found two generations where the Head is shown as Master Chimney Sweep, and in the third the son has taken over and is employing others. So imagine the surprise to find in a later census he has died and his widow Eliza is shown as Mistress Chimney Sweep -"employing 3 men".

    So the widow chose to carry on the business as 'Mistress'. I assume she also swept chimneys, although it could have been a titular role. There is another interesting facet to the story in that Eliza was his 3rd wife and had been married to him for 16 years. His other marriages had been 10 years & 21 years respectively so had aggregated 47 years over 3 marriages; he died aged 71. Eliza continued the business and lived on until she was 85. Quite a lady!
     

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