Stewkley

Stewkley in the Vale of Aylesbury is the longest village in England, one mile either side of our beautiful and most unspoilt Norman church, St Michaels, which dates back to 1150. This division was known as 'Up-Town' (north) and 'Down Town' (south) and friendly rivalry existed between the two.
Stewkley was mentioned in the Domesday Book and was then spelt 'Steuclai'.
It is recorded that during the Civil War Oliver Cromwell and his soldiers put their horses in Stewkley church when they brought many guns to Pitch Green Hill and put them on three terraces. Also, quite recently a cannon ball was found behind the fireplace of a farm house, which probably dated back to this time.
Village life was mainly focused around the church and chapels and a hundred years ago Stewkley could offer just about every service required. These were six grocers, two butchers, a baker, carpenter, blacksmith, wheelwright, harness maker, shoemaker and ten public houses.

The malting and brewing of beer was carried out in quite a big way on a site which is now called The Malting Yard and some of the beer was taken to London on wagons.

Stewkley was noted for its excellent straw plaiting which was made by men, women and children. It was very well paid. The men could earn 61- to 12/- a week which was more than for farm work.

Brick making was also an important source of work in the area at The Kiln Dunton Road, and eight cart horses complete with shining brasses used to pass through the village to Swanbourne railway station to collect the coal for firing the bricks.
A tale told by older residents in the village is how, at dusk, boys used to go 'netting sparrows'. They put a net one side of the hedge and 'bashed' the other, then they would kill the birds for sparrow pie.

The Stewkley Feast, 11th October, originated from the Feast of St Michael and on that day all land owners collected their rent and they would give their tenants a meal of roast beef and christmas pudding, and the school children were given two days holiday to enjoy the fun of the fair which came at feast time.

A 16th century cottage, now 14 Ivy Lane, was at one time a forge. From 1912—14 the cottage was the country residence of Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Sylvia, no doubt many of the leaders of the 'Votes for Women' campaign were visitors here. Soon after Mrs Pankhurst's disappearance from London the whole country was seeking to learn her whereabouts; no one knew she was living in Stewkley.
No record of Stewkley would be complete without the inclusion of the village ghost, in the name of the Rev. William Wadley. 'Old Wadley' haunted the Manor House. It is said he had a long flowing beard and rode a white horse.

Perhaps the 'new' Stewkley grew out of a long and determined fight, in the late 1960s and early 1970s against the siting nearby of London's proposed third airport. Had the Roskill Commission had its way, this Buckinghamshire village would have disappeared from the county map. Once the threat of the airport's arrival had been squashed, newcomers began to settle, and building developments sprang up — clusters of houses, and single buildings, filling in many of the remaining open paddocks along either side of the so called 'straggly' High Street. Many of these 'newcomers' were to be commuters, but have integrated into the existing community assisting with whatever needs to be done to maintain village life.

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