Emberton

The village of Emberton in north Buckinghamshire lies on the southern edge of the wide, lush water meadows through which the Great Ouse winds. The old coach road from Newport Pagnell used to swing between its fine stone houses and past its clock tower before setting off across the causeway and bridge into Olney.
Today, rescued by a by-pass, the village seems to the casual visitor a quiet and tranquil place, the clock tower still providing the focal point and parts of the ancient high street shaded with magnificent chestnuts, copper beeches and sycamores. But the quiet is deceptive. Though the number of its working farms has dwindled and lace making is now a hobby instead of an industry, Emberton is underneath humming with activity.

From what archaeologists have discovered there has been a settlement at Emberton from Roman times or earlier. The original form of the name was Eanbeorht's Tun, the word 'tun' meaning a farm. So possibly a Saxon of that name after crossing the North Sea, travelled up the Ouse until he found this good defensive position slightly raised above the flood plain of the river. The Norman conqueror divided Ambreton, as it became known at one point, between the Bishop of Coutance and Judith, Countess of Huntingdon and from then on its manor was held by various great local families until it came into the hands of the Tyringhams.

For as long as there have been records the village seems to have remained remarkably stable. Strangely enough the continuity did not come through the big houses but through the cottages. Names of Emberton people well known today such as Lett, Howson, West, Mynard and Lovell go far, far back.
Emberton has always been dominated by farming and remnants of the great ridge and furrow fields that surrounded the village before it was enclosed in 1798-9 can still be seen. The oldest villagers living today can still remember when seven farms employed the local men and when the main street was pitted and potholed with dust rising in clouds as herds of cattle were driven through night and morning.

At the south end of the village on a piece of rising ground stands the church of All Saints. It was built in the second half of the 14th century but considerably restored in Victorian times. The chancel is said to contain the mortal remains of Sir Everard Digby of nearby Gayhurst, famed for his part in the Gunpowder Plot.

It was the Rev Thomas Fry who gave the village its central focus today. Just below the church, where the High Street curves sharply, he built a clock tower in 1846 which he named 'Margaret's Tower' in memory of his second wife (he had three altogether). It replaced an old elm surrounded by a stone wall. The site had traditionally been known as Emberton Cross, indicating that a preaching cross once stood there. Today, the clock still keeps excellent time. The British Legion lay their poppies beneath its war memorial and the more robust members of the community dance round it on New Years Eve.
Probably the most dramatic development in recent times took place in 1964, not in the village itself but on its outskirts. Just before the bridge crosses the Ouse into Olney were fields rich with gravel. When the construction of the MI began, these fields were heavily quarried and left as an eyesore. But two members of Newport Pagnell Rural District Council under whose authority Emberton then came, had a wonderful idea. They turned the scarred landscape into a huge country park with wildlife reserves, reed fringed lakes and open waters for sailing. So successful was Emberton Park that it won a Countryside award.

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