After having no overseas holiday due to Covid, my partner and I thought it was time to have a little UK break up in the Lake District, where my father hailed from. As the journey is a long one, we decided to break up the drive with not only a couple of nights stay in Stratford-Upon-Avon, but also with a whistle-stop tour of Bledlow to get a feel for the place.
Having driven through the quaint village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire on the A40 and the sign told us to turn right towards Bledlow which, after a 3 hour drive that should have taken about 2 hours, was a welcome sight.
Following Chorley Road into Loxboro Hill and on to the long Chinnor Road, the route took us through the small hamlet of Bledlow Ridge. All with beautiful views interspersed with winding wooded areas.
We passed Scrubbs Lane, a small narrow single-track road which, in 1841, was listed as The Scrubbs. The City, also mentioned in the 1841 census, appears to have then been a larger area covering both sides of the main road but now, as we pass, it is just a small narrow cul-de-sac on the east side. The whole area is surrounded by farmland, beautiful views and wooded areas which have hardly changed at all, just a few relatively new buildings, including the Bledlow Ridge Cricket Club.
On the right is Haw Lane, signposted as such, which was mentioned in the 1841 census, however, looking at the map from the late 1880s-early 1900s it is shown as Hall Lane, very possibly due to a misreading or misspelling. Up the road, we came across Bledlow Ridge Parish Church of St Paul. This is a pretty little 19c. church of flint walls with stone dressings which was unusual in this area at the time, as brick dressings were more common. Continuing along the road we found the old Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, which is now converted into a house.
Next, we arrived at The Boot Beerhouse. It was here that the coroner’s inquest into the 1893 brutal murder of local farmer, Mr John Kingham, was held (see Bledlow Tragedy blog). The early 19th century pub has had a few alterations over the years, having been saved by the local community.
Passing through the ‘Middle of the Ridge’ past Routs Green and turning right into Wigan’s Lane, we see that Wigan’s Farm is still there. In 1841 farmer, Thomas Lullman, and his family were living at the farm in what was then called Wiggins Lane. The small hamlet of Callow Down sits far back on the east side of Wigan’s Lane. There are two buildings here, Callowdown Farm and Old Callowdown Farm. The latter now appears to be self-catering accommodation. Two farmers are mentioned in 1841; William Avery and Jonah Britnell, however, it is not known who lived in which house. On the west side of the road on a bend between the two tracks to these farms is Shimmells Farm, occupied in 1841 by Robert Denham, a farmer, his wife Martha. Also showing is an Ag Lab, John Denham, who is more than likely related.
Following Wigan’s Lane into Bledlow Ridge Road, we were then coming into Bledlow itself. We turned into Church End, driving past The Lyde Gardens (the subject of my Bledlow Landmark blog), the Holy Trinity parish church, and arriving at the Lions of Bledlow for lunch. This is a lovely 16c. pub which, in the 1841 census is probably run by a Kezia Richardson, 65, with 30 year old George Richardson, likely to be her son. She has been listed in the census as Inn Keeper on Church End.
After lunch we took a walk back down Church End. Across the road is Manor Farm where, in 1841, farmer John Clarke and his family lived with 3 servants. Further along the road we come across Church End Cottages, shown on the 1888-1913 map, one of which was the local post office, and now has the local postbox outside.
The Holy Trinity Church, built of flint with limestone dressings, sits surrounded by trees with iron gates on the west side leading to the main entrance. These gates were installed to commemorate King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. The church mainly dates from the 12th and 13th centuries, and despite being completely restored in 1909, remains mostly unaltered. Burials over the centuries have resulted in the graveyard being a higher level than Church End itself.
The east side of the church overlooks the Lyde Gardens (see Bledlow Landmark blog). We were lucky that, at the time of visiting, the gates were open and we were able to take a stroll through the gardens. A misty, damp day in September is probably not the best time to visit the gardens as they did look a little neglected, although on a brighter summers day they would have been really pretty with lots of greenery. Unfortunately, as we had quite a few dry weeks, the little stream flowing over the brooks was almost dry leaving the ponds a little green. However, the whole area was so lovely and secluded, with occasional seating areas I can easily imagine how lovely it could have been had it been a sunny day.
After emerging from the gardens, we made our way back down Church End to The Lions pub and the car, ready for another drive round the area, passing the church again and the walled 17c.-18c. Manor House, arriving at the far end of Church End that we had turned into that morning. Opposite is the old Wycombe Workhouse, which was to become Wycombe Union Residential School in the 1850s, which has recently been developed into luxury housing. The development created 4 houses in the original U-shaped feature of the Grade II listed building. Also restored was the master’s house, and 2 other blocks on the site. A nice touch in this modern development is the naming of each house with the family names of children who had, at some point, been residents at the school, for example: Britnall House and Aldridge House.
Turning left, we continued on Perry Lane until we reached the junction with Lower Icknield Way, passing what was Brewhouse Farm and is now separated into Brew House and Brew House Barn. The road crossed over Icknield Way, into Sandpit Lane towards Pitch Green. The road forks with Chapel Lane to the left, not mentioned in the 1841 census, and Sandpit Lane continues round to the right. Driving into Chapel Lane we find the old Methodist Chapel from 1869, which has now been converted into a house.
Returning back to Sandpit Lane we continued through more countryside and came upon the old Seven Stars public house. In 1841 50-year-old Mary Roberts, shown as Inn Keeper, was living here with her family. The building has since been converted into a house. Opposite the Seven Stars was the old Bledlow Station. From 1862, the single-track Wycombe Line from Maidenhead to High Wycombe, having been extended, transported passengers through the countryside to Oxford, and a two-storey station was built on the route at Bledlow.
Passenger services between Princes Risborough and Oxford stopped in 1963, however freight transport continued until the line between Princes Risborough and Thame was closed in 1991. The station building still remains today, including the platform, and after being converted into a bed and breakfast has been more recently transformed into a house. The tracks can still be seen crossing the road and the track bed now forms part of a footpath and cycle trail, The Phoenix Trail.
We continued along Sandpit Lane to the junction with North Mill Road. This junction appears to be where the area known as The Ford was mentioned in 1841, however, Sandpit Lane now has a little bridge over the stream. Turning left would have taken us to North Mill and Common Leys, however, as time was running short, we turned right towards Bledlow Mill. North Mill Road is a long, winding, narrow lane where, at the end, we find the old Bledlow Paper Mill. The paper mill, mill house and 3 separate cottages have all been converted into luxury housing with the old mill wheel, and other small iron gear, dominating the entrance to the complex.
Having had a very enjoyable time visiting Bledlow, and seeing many of the areas mentioned in the 1841 census, it was time to continue our journey to Stratford-upon-Avon. It was lovely to get a feel of the place and see that it hasn’t change a huge amount over the years. There are some more modern houses but you are still surrounded by farmland and beautiful views. It was refreshing to see some of the older buildings, chapels pubs etc, having been sympathetically restored and converted into accommodation.
All images copyright: Julia Wynn
Information source: https://maps.nls.uk/ – 1888-1913 OS six-inch series