Memories of Westbury

The village of Westbury, situated between the market towns of Brackley and Buckingham, saw a new squire installed just before Christmas 1902 when Sir Samuel Scott, MP for Marylebone, moved into Beachborough House. To celebrate the occasion Sir Samuel gave a house warming party for many of his friends which  later became a regular event during the Christmas holiday when many of the inhabitants of the village helped in the house and at the table. Although Westbury was quite small, it was a completely self-contained unit with its own abbattoir, butcher's shop, laundry and dairy, all of which provided work for the men and women of the village. At the end of 1902 Sir Samuel Scott signed on Mr Steven Ward as his head cowman and Mr Ward, his wife and eight children moved from Brackley into Westbury where two tied cottages were knocked into one to provide a home large enough for ten people. The rent was one shilling a year, and the wage was sixteen shillings a week, plus as much separated milk as the family needed from the dairy at ½d a gallon. For sixpence the family could fill a large dinner plate with liver at the local butcher's shop.
At the age of nine years Mrs Bedden was taught the traditional art of Buckingham lace-making by Mrs Johnson, who was herself a maker of high-class lace. Mrs Bedden took her lace pillow and bobbins wherever she went, making lace for her own clothes and household trimmings and teaching her own daughter and grand-daughter. Lace parchments were made in the nearby village of Finmere by an old lady.
One of the most interesting commissions which Mrs Johnson received was to supply twelve lace table mats for an American client. These were despatched on completion, two at a time, for ten shillings each. The last pair crossed the Atlantic in the Titanic, and went to the bottom of the sea when this ship struck an iceberg. Eventually Mrs Johnson received compensation from the post office for the loss of her registered parcel.
In 1922 Mrs Bedden married and moved into the cottage in Westbury in which she still lives. In those days the rent and rates were 1s 8d a year and in 1974, still without mains water and drainage her rates are £23 a year. To fetch her water Mrs Bedden has to walk across the road to the village pump which is kept in use just for her.
The village had various events, most important of these were the May Day celebrations and the Westbury Feast.
On May Day the children were given the day off from school to dance the Maypole. The King and Queen, Prince and Princess, Duke and Duchess were chosen, and after dancing the children went in procession round the village carrying the May garland. The garland was made from three sticks tied at the top, and joined to a hoop at the bottom. Two more hoops were placed in the centre to hold the May dolls, and the whole thing decorated with flowers and green foliage.
The other big date in the village calendar was the Westbury Feast which took place two weeks after Whitsun. This lasted from Sunday until the following Saturday. The main food was pork and ham as most households kept two pigs, killing one for the feast and selling the other to the local butcher. The money from the sale helped to buy two more weaners and food to keep them until the next feast. On the opening Sunday the ham was served to the friends and relations who came to the village. Other attractions were provided by two separate fairs, one in the playing fields, and the other in the Reindeer field.

Pauline Meads, Westbury & Shalstone


Miss Collins remembers the mill where her father worked before the First World War. It was powered mainly by water from the Ouse which drove the big wheel at the back end of the present building, and the present sluice was to divert surplus water. If water was short the machinery was powered by a steam boiler. The only lighting was tallow candles. The corn was first crushed by rollers, then ground on a stone wheel and finally brushed through fine silk stretched on revolving drums. In addition to fine flour the mill made semolina from the kernel of the wheat and the 'toppings' were made into bran and meal for pigs. Locust beans' were also ground by millstones for cattle food. If Mr Collins wanted his dinner taken down to him, he signalled by stoking up the boiler to emit a puff of smoke—Miss Collins at a set time looked out of the back bedroom window to observe his signal!
At the top of the village there was another mill which made fertilisers from bones, rags, locust beans and other very smelly waste.
Lady Sophie Scott hunted, kept racehorses and entertained, and the Grafton Hunt met at the Lodge gates. The Scotts kept a fine herd of Jersey cows and one could get lovely butter and Jersey milk from the Manor.
They also installed main water, pumped from a spring in the spinney on the Billesden Road and the householders drew this water from standpipes in the street—there is still one outside the school—but before that all water came from wells.
Annually after Christmas the Scotts held a very grand Servants' Ball. Most of the guests were servants from the other great houses, but a few villagers who worked for the Manor were invited. Lady Sophie also gave an annual Christmas Party in the school for the children.
The District Nurse, Mrs Ernest Turner, a very popular figure, went around in a donkey cart. There was also Mr Law who lived in Brackley Road and made and repaired boots, a blacksmith and a butcher. "The Barracks' were old thatched cottages on the site of Orchard Place.
The October Ox-Roast in Buckingham was a feature of their lives.

Alice Collins,   Westbury & Shalstone

Extracted from 'A Pattern Hundreds' (1975) and reproduced with the kind permission of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes