Cheddington

Cheddington of the early 1920s was a very different village from that of today. Then it was a very rural community comprised of not more than 200 houses. The largest of these were the Rectory, Manor House, White House and the farms. There were very few detached houses and the rest were terraced cottages. The 3 pubs at present in the village were supplemented by The Old Inn where beer only was sold.
The village then boasted 2 general shops which stocked everything from peanuts to glass lamp shades (for the oil lamps then used), a bakery with daily deliveries, butcher, cobbler, drapers, post office, newspapers, coal merchant, forge and 2 farmers delivering milk, builders and 2 undertakers. In addition to grocers from Tring and Leighton Buzzard who delivered orders and butchers from Long Marston and Ivinghoe, there was also a fishman and an ice cream seller from Wing.

The local men were mostly employed on the farms, with local builders, on the nearby Rosebery estate or on the railway. Cheddington was and still is the only village on the main Euston line. It is believed we had this honour because of the convenience for taking Lord Rosebery's racing horses to Newmarket or wherever they were running. The railway employed a staff of about 20 on the station alone. Besides plate layers, there was even a gasometer to supply gas for lighting the station and the station master's house. There w"as also a branch line to Aylesbury. The drivers knew all the passengers and checked we were all there every morning, if not they looked out for us rushing up late and would stop the train and hoist us up to the carriage. The train was liable to delays when cattle strayed on the line and had to be driven off.

The women in Cheddington went to work in the factories at Apsley and Berkhamsted, and those at home often did plaiting for the famous Luton straw hats, did dressmaking or made the Bucks lace.

Practically every house had a garden or allotment and very few people ever bought vegetables. But above all Cheddington produced plums. Nearly all the new estates are built on old orchards. Greengages, Victorias, damsons, Pond's Seedlings, Early Rivers, but above all prune damsons which were used in plum and apple jam and for dyes. They are not a dessert variety and very few remain except in gardens. They were sent to Covent Garden and Spitalfields market for sale, and in a good year one ton a day would be packed in the round skips sent by the fruit firms and collected daily by Tommy Lambourne on the coal cart and sent to London for sale along with the churns of milk the farmers sent to the London dairies.

Cheddington became famous in 1962 because of the Great Train Robbery which happened at a railway bridge just outside the village. A record sum of two and a half million pounds in used bank notes were taken and at the trial of the robbers record sentences of 30 years in prison were inflicted by the Assize Judge at Aylesbury.

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