Coleshill

Coleshill is a lovely village which is set back from the main road between Beaconsfield and Amersham leaving us free from through traffic.
In 1669 Thomas Ellwood, the Quaker leader, wrote these directions to his friend:

'Two miles from Beaconsfield, upon the road
To Amersham, just where the way grows broad,
A little spot there is called Larkin's Green,
Where on the bank some fruit trees may be seen;
In midst of which, on the sinister hand,
A little cottage covertly doth stand.
"Soho!" the people out and then enquire
For Hunger Hill; it lies a little higher.
But if the people should from home be gone,
Ride up the bank some twenty paces on,
And at the orchard end, thou may'st perceive
Two gates together hung. The nearest leave,
The furthest take, and straight the hill ascend,
The path leads to the house where dwells thy friend.'


Larkin's Green is still there to-day, by the Magpies Pub. Ellwood's timber framed house at Hunger Hill, where the Quaker Monthly Meetings were held, was just in Hertfordshire, conveniently out of reach of the Buckinghamshire magistrates who persecuted the Friends. It was replaced by Ongar Hill farm in 1873. Going up Magpie Lane, Bowers Farm lies back on the right, a lovely red brick and timber framed house with the oldest oven in Coleshill, panelled walls, and a cased staircase so that the servants could reach their bedrooms without disturbing the family. Bowers was probably built by George Coleshill in 1614, on the site of the medieval manor of Stockbury.

Passing Old Rafters, The Wattles, and Lawyers Cottage, all old names, you reach the little fork in the road, and the Common. In 1300 it was called Coleshill Green, and later, Donkey Common, as horses and donkeys grazed there. On the other side of the road stands the windmill, which the new owners are restoring to its former full-sailed glory. This is the start of the village centre. The blacksmith's Forge, Fleur-de-Lys pub, and two more cottages formed a row, now converted into Forge House. The Slade family worked this forge for over a century, and in the last generation, seven out of nine sons were blacksmiths. Their family cricket team played the rest of the village, in the middle of the road before we had a cricket meadow!

One of the features of the village is the pond, which aised to be called the 'Clenemer' and was then part of the Common. Once a year the gypsies would camp there and hold a fair, watering their horses in the pond. Waggons would be driven through in dry weather to stop the wheels from splitting. One cold winter, Mr Slade made a bet that the pond was solid ice, and drove a team of two horses, (shod with ice studs), and a loaded coal waggon across to prove it. He won his bet!

On round the village is Stock Place, once the manor house, and home of the poet Edmund Waller. He wrote a flattering ode to his relation, Oliver Cromwell, and later another to Charles II at the Restoration. The King complained that his ode was inferior to Cromwell's. Waller replied 'May it please your Majesty, we poets are never so successful in fact as in fiction'. Some of his poetry was said to have been written under an oak tree which gives its name 'Waller's Oak' to a nearby house, and still stands to-day.

The road forks again at Hill Meadow, a group of houses built by the Council, and a little further along is The Rosary (a farm in the 17th century), and the imposing late Georgian facade of Coleshill House, which conceals an earlier 18th century building. Sir Bernard Docker lived here, but now it has been converted to comfortable flats, which command a view to Windsor Castle and the Post Office Tower in London. The original grounds now form the gardens of the houses in Chase Close. Round the corner lies the cricket meadow. The Club is enthusiastically run, with a flourishing club house, and the far side of the pitch is used by an archery club.

More old cottages complete the semi circle back to the main road where the water tower stands, perhaps our best known landmark, which can be seen from miles around. Its small reservoir provides all the water for our village, so that old wells and storage tanks have fallen into disuse.

Article written by members of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes for the publication "The Buckinghamshire Village Book" (1987) and reproduced here with their permission

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