Thornborough

Thornborough has been a farming community since before the Domesday Book, where it is recorded that in the manor there was land for 11 ploughs, or oxen teams, and a meadow for 4 ploughs. Thornborough parish had two large fields, East or Thornton Field, and West or Padbury Field, divided into strips or furlongs which were a unit of tenure. About 1325 a third field was carved out of these and called Mill Field. This gave a two-year crop rotation for the villagers, followed by a fallow or rest year.
On one of the highest points in the parish is the site of a windmill where corn was ground in the 17th century. The parish is bounded on the west side by the Claydon brook, a tributary of the river Ouse, which is spanned by a medieval bridge with six arches, by-passed now for modern traffic. Close by there are two ancient burial mounds.

In the centre of the village, between the 17th century manor, the village hall and the village school, stands St Mary's church. Parts of the south wall are believed to date from Saxon times, but the earliest records begin in the 12th century. In the floor of the nave, protected by the carpet, lies a fine brass dedicated to John and Isabel Barton. The tower houses a peal of five steel bells, which, after a silence of over thirty years, have been re-hung, and may be heard once more ringing joyously across the fields. The mechanisation of the tower clock brings to an end the labour of love of the verger, who has climbed up the tower by a vertical ladder every day for no less than sixty years to wind up the clock by hand.

The village hall was built in 1846, with money given by the Verney family of Botolph Claydon, for the purpose of teaching the children the scriptures. Incorporated in the hall was a two-bedroom house for the schoolmaster. Up to 126 children were taught in the hall at any one time. After the present school building took its place in 1910, the hall was used, as it still is today, for village functions such as dances and whist drives.

Many of the village families have roots in Thornborough which go back for many generations. Whereas there are now only two public houses and one shop, many of the present-day inhabitants can remember the days when there were several shops and inns. Some 50 years ago, the old bakehouse played an important role in village life. On Sundays at about 10.30 am husbands and a few sons could be seen dressed in their best navy blue serge suits, with white shirt and navy tie, and probably a pork pie hat, wending their way towards the bakehou,se. They bore a large tray with the Sunday joint in a meat tin, the Yorkshire pudding mixture, and another dish containing potatoes to be roasted, and also the weekly fruit cake mixture, the whole covered with a clean cloth, all to be baked in the bread oven. There was of course no electricity and very few people had a decent oven of their own. When the men had deposited their trays, they broke into two groups, one of which would congregate under the horse chestnut tree outside the bakehouse, and the other under the dole tree. At five minutes to eleven, the bakehouse group would disperse, one group to chapel and the other group to church. At 12.30 pm they would go and collect the Sunday lunches that had been cooked for them. The charge for this service was two old pennies.

Today the village is smaller than it used to be. The farms are still there but they don't need as much labour. Some residents are commuters to nearby towns. But village life is alive and well. The village community assembles for its annual rituals; the fete, the sports day, the donkey derby. Modern traffic must sit and wait for the team of morris dancers to finish its display. And the ducks are still swimming on the village pond.

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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