Hedgerley

The name Hedgerley dates from the time when the southern slopes of the Chilterns were colonised by early Saxon settlers.
Hedgerley was famous for its bricks. The brickmaking industry here probably dates back to medieval times but it had its heyday in the 17th and 18 th centuries when several writers extolled the merits of Hedgerley loam. Its popularity resulted from the fact that the loam contained a large amount of sand and so made very good firebricks. Hedgerley bricks were used to build the Box Tunnel in Wiltshire on the main Bristol line of the Great Western Railway. Isambard Kingdom Brunei was in charge of the operation. Before the end of the First World War, when the Slough Trading Estate was built, brickmaking was the only form of employment in the area, other than agriculture or market gardening. But sadly brickmaking in Hedgerley came to an end just before the Second World War.

Many famous names have been associated with the village including Judge Jeffreys, whose children's marriages are recorded in the church registers. Well known Quakers are also said to have met in the Old Quaker House in the mid 17th century, and suffered harassment from Judge Ambrose Bennet who, locally, was more infamous than Judge Jeffreys. Another man of note was John Hill, the son of Theophilus Hill, Rector of Hedgerley from 1743-1746. The Shell Book of Firsts notes John Hill as the first daily newspaper columnist. He was the first biologist to introduce Linnaeus' binominal system into English science, making him the originator of many generic and specific names. He wrote the first English book on honey, and pioneering works on geology and gemstones. He was also the first man to express in writing the connection between tobacco and cancer.

Hedgerley has no stately home within its boundaries, and the only mansion (Hedgerley Park) was demolished in 1930. But it does have many old houses and farms of interest, some of which date back to the 16th century.
One house with a ghostly connection is Leith Grove, in Hedgerley Green, a hamlet next to the village of Hedgerley. It was built in 1580 to serve as gamekeeper's cottage on the old Hedgerley Park estate. It was here that Leslie French lived. When he and his friend, David Lloyd-Lowles, moved in (in 1931) they were told that in the late 18th, or early 19th century two men came to the house and killed the old lady who lived there in order to gain a body — body snatching being rife in those days. Some time in the 1940s a child was given the spare room, and in the morning she asked her mother who the nice lady was who had come to tuck her up. It was, in fact, the old lady who had been murdered. She appeared quite often to children, including those of families who had previously occupied the house. They thought her quite pleasant but were puzzled because she never spoke. When there was an adolescent there, the spirit became a poltergeist.

The work pattern of the village has changed considerably over the years. In the Roman period Hedgerley really established itself as an important centre for the production of pottery. In medieval times brickmaking was the main industry, and this reached its peak in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 18th century most of the residents were either in domestic service or tending the gardens and farms on the Bulstrode, Hedgerley Park and Hall Barn (Beaconsfield) estates. Others worked in the brick and tile works at various points along the valley.

The original village at the bottom of Hedgerley Hill has remained relatively unchanged, and has been declared a conservation area. But in the 1930s some private development was allowed at the top of the hill, and in the early 1950s a new council estate was built there, and this tended to change the pattern of village life. Most people travel outside the village to work — in London, at Heathrow Airport, in factories on the Slough Trading Estate, and in both National and Local Government.

But all in all present day Hedgerley is a very beautiful and friendly village in which to live.

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