Waddesdon

Stone Age and Bronze Age tools discovered on or near Lodge Hill, are an indication that people in ancient times occupied the land now known as Waddesdon. Later when the countryside was divided into 'Hundreds' by the Anglo-Saxons, the Hundred of Waddesdon was one of the original portions of Buckinghamshire. The name itself is thought to be derived from the Saxon words Wode (wood) and Don (hill).
The Anglo-Saxon village of Waddesdon stood on the Roman Road, Akeman Street, about five miles from Aylesbury and 11 miles from Bicester.
In 1086 it is recorded in the Domesday Survey that Waddesdon was the largest property held by Miles Crispin, so it is possible that he lived in the village.

However, the Lords of the Manor have not normally resided at Waddesdon, and without a big house and newsworthy residents the village earns few mentions in history. The community suffered the effects of the plague and traumas of the Civil War in common with neighbouring villages, but came off worse than most as a result of the Enclosures, when all of the large common fields were lost and very little employment was available. About this time the name 'Black Waddeson' was earned as a result of the hostile reception meted out to travellers.

The turning point in Waddesdon's fortunes arrived when Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild purchased the large manorial estate, and proceeded to construct his country mansion on Lodge Hill in 1874. During the next 25 years many changes were wrought in Waddesdon, the village itself was practically rebuilt, half of it removed a few hundred yards nearer to Aylesbury. Employment prospects improved as dozens of jobs became available in the house, and on the gardens and farms of the estate. Social life in every form of physical recreation and enlightenment was encouraged and assisted. Instead of being the place to avoid, Waddesdon became acceptable at all levels. The Baron entertained politicians, artists and royalty; the Prince of Wales was a regular visitor, even Queen Victoria came to see what the Baron had achieved - and made much of the novelty of electric lights!

Some of the older villagers can recall Waddesdon before the First World War when the village was pre-eminent in the area for every aspect of life. The Parish Church and three Non-Conformist Chapels thrived, two brass bands and a Philharmonic Society were admired by all, and the football and cricket teams reigned supreme. More than 60 part or full-time businesses ensured the self-sufficiency of the community. Services available included several bakers and provisioned, a photographer, a rat-catcher, a gas works, builders and numerous 'front room' shops selling a wide range of small items; cottons, threads, sweets, etc. Few villagers had need to stray farther than the parish boundaries.

This seemingly idyllic and rather unusual village still found an enthusiasm for some of the old traditions including the annual Feast Day in October, and the seven yearly perambulation of the parish boundary. Sadly the Feast Day has faded away, but Beating the Bounds of the combined parishes of Waddesdon, Westcott and Wrodham is very enthusiastically carried out. Taking two days to cover the course, the 'Bounders' still follow the tradition at Rogationtide of marking the boundary and spanking young boys over the marks 'to impress the place upon them'.

After the Second World War several council housing estates were built, but unlike most neighbouring villages Waddesdon has not experienced large private housing developments. The majority of the land still belongs to the manor and the church as it has since the enclosures. The population has remained around 2000 as in 1900, and the broad structure of the village has not altered significantly. However it is the role of the village which has changed, along with the lifestyles of the inhabitants.

In 1957 Waddesdon Manor, its art treasures and the wooded slopes of Lodge Hill, was bequeathed to the National Trust by James de Rothschild. The property is visited by many thousands each year, some of whom take the opportunity to stop for a while in Waddesdon's fine High Street. There they may savour a litre of what makes the village somewhat special for the people of Waddesdon.

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