Stoke Mandeville

Stoke Mandeville is of course known nationwide for the hospital for spinal injuries. But the village has its own attractions. The church of St Mary the Virgin is in the heart of the old village. Built in 1866 to replace the even older ruined church in the fields, it stands in a lovingly tended churchyard, surrounded by sweetly scented lime trees. Originally there were five bells; during the time Rev. Winterton was vicar three more were installed. The belfry is now unsafe, so no ringing is heard at present. Inside the simple, cool interior is a monument to Dorothy Brudenell — whose father was once Lord of the Manor. Her likeness is embroidered on the banner of the Stoke Mandeville Women's Institute.

Across the green, part of the ancient Common Land, is the village school. The original part of the building is still in use and bears the date 1898. All the children were taught in the two rooms. Now the much enlarged premises house the County Combined School with almost 300 pupils.

In the past, a grand party took place here each New Year's Eve. The partition between the rooms folded back — the tortoise stove well stoked — tea urn bubbling — home-made cakes and lemonade laid ready — the fun would begin.
To the music of fiddle and piano, all the old dances — Sir Roger - Lancers — Veleta, interspersed with games of trencher, Nuts in May etc. would raise the temperature, and the dust, until everyone was glad to rest. So until midnight, when, outside in the cold night air Ring out wild bells would be sung to welcome the New Year.

Manor Cottage next to the school is one of the lovely 18th century cottages and beyond, near the entrance to the allotments, is where the Bell Pond — now regretfully filled in, was situated.

Across the allotments in Marsh Lane is the present-day wheelwright's yard. Most of his work is to keep in repair pony traps and other light vehicles still to be seen occasionally in the lanes.

In Risborough Road, heavy container lorries from the continent and the many fast cars make it difficult to cross! The road here is wide and part of the old common land provides an open green with lovely silver birch trees and the copper beech planted to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Less than 50 years ago the quiet roads were lined with magnificient elms, and deep ditches either side carried storm water to the ponds and streams.

Round the corner is the 15th century Old Thatch next to The Bull, where in the past much business was transacted over a pint! The three old cottages under one rooftree which stand next, are required to pay the sum of £l per annum in tithe under the terms of the Jackson Charity dated 1726!

Our hairdresser has a shop opposite the church, where Pargeters general store once supplied most of the villagers' everyday needs in the 1930s. Older residents will remember it being dominated by the wonderful smell - spice, tea, coffee, herbs, polishes, vegetables etc. Sugar and dried goods were weighed on brass scales and put into blue or brown 'made' paper bags.

Children of that era were allowed round the corner of the counter to spend their Saturday pennies. Gob stoppers, sherbert dabs, liquorice and boiled sweets at 4 oz for a penny! Times have changed!

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