Bow Brickhill

'Little Brickhill, Great Brickhill,
Brickhill with a Bow
These three Brickhills
 Stand all in a row.'

As this old rhyme explains, our village straddles a steep hillside and sprawls along three lower roads. At the eastern end, All Saints Church dominates the top of the hill. A mile away westwards, and 500 feet below, a tiny railway halt ends the main road through the village. The railway, between Bedford and Bletchley, opened in 1846 and brought employment for many villagers. Names on ancient maps  Sheep Lane, Hogstye End, Back Woods, Blind Pond Field, depict a mainly rural area. Other employment was in the extensive woodlands bordering the church and owned by the Duke of Bedford. Nowadays areas of these woodlands have been cleared and are used for golf, including important events such as we Dunhill Masters.
Dick Turpin is supposed to have galloped in the area, and an old legend tells of a phantom horse near the river, in the valley. Another colourful legend involves the Blind Pond on the north side of the village. As children we were told a richly-jewelled lady with coach-and-four had galloped down to the pond, and such were the depths she was still travelling downwards! It certainly ensured we children never ventured near the pond although we often passed it to walk in the beautiful bluebell woods.

Visitors who brought great pleasure, earlier this century during the summer months, were the Westminster Choir Boys. They came to camp in old railway carriages placed on the south side of the hill. Dr Sidney Nicholson, a village resident who founded the Royal School of Music in 1927, was responsible for these visits. On fine summer evenings we would listen with delight as they sang around their camp fire, the voices floating around the village with a purity of sound not normally heard from the village church choir! An earlier choir was made famous in 1847 when the artist Thomas Webster, staying in nearby Little Brickhill with his sisters, exhibited A Village Choir at the Royal Academy. It depicts 16 adults and 5 children singing in the choir gallery (since demolished) of our church and dominated by a central figure conducting the singers and instrumentalists. Descendants of the choir still live in the village. The picture is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The hill is at the end of a greensand escarpment where stone was once quarried for building. An old document exists which confirms permission for 'stone to be dug from these stone pits at l/6d per yard'. A recent botanical survey of Buckinghamshire churchyards showed ours to be one of the most interesting. This is mainly due to the light sandy soils allowing unusual plants to grow. The lovely wild daffodil is one of the most choice species. It is known locally as the Lent Lily, because, despite the changing date of Easter, it always flowers then. At the bottom of the hill the sands mingle with the stiff clays of the vale.

The Domesday Survey of 1086 records the village as a small rural settlement which the Normans gave to Walter Giffard. 900 years later, while still enjoying rural life, we can savour the technical advantages of an expanding city on our doorstep. Such a promising future built on a rich heritage of the past, augurs well for Bow Brickhill.

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

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