Arthur Clear: A Thousand Years of Winslow Life (1888)

pp.13-15: anecdotes

Scattered here and there among the pages of old newspapers and magazines may occasionally be found some paragraph relating to Winslow, such as the following.-"In 1715 the standard of rebellion was raised in Scotland under the Pretender, and the English Government engaged a large number of Dutch soldiers as auxiliaries to aid in suppressing the rebellion. The winter of that year was very severe, so that the Thames was frozen over. In Buckinghamshire there was an enormously deep snow, so that all traffic was suspended. This frost was long known at Winslow as the "Dutchmans Frost," for it happened that at this time seven hundred of these troops being on the march towards the north, upon arriving at Winslow found it impossible to proceed any further on their journey, and consequently they were quartered in every house in the town without exception until such time as the snow was dug away out of the roads, sufficiently for them to resume their march to the great relief and satisfaction of the inhabitants. "

This story is at least partly confirmed by a letter of Lord Fermanagh of Claydon house to his son (Verney Letters of the Eighteenth Century, 2.25, 27 Nov 1715):

There came abt 600 Dutch Soldiers to Winsloe from Barkhamstead with 14 Carriages of Women and other Baggage and one Calesh, yesterday they went on to Tocester, but at night another Regimt of em came to Winslow.

He added (15 Dec): "The Dutch soldiers would not keep the Road but Cutt or pulled up the Hedges at Sand Hill to go over the pasture". According to Verney Letters of the Eighteenth Century, 2.198, "thrifty housewives remembered how not an egg was left at Winslow".

Pillow lace was first commenced to be made in Buckinghamshire about 1626 and the art soon found its way into Winslow, an old account states - "a large proportion of the labouring inhabitants are employed in lace-making, scarcely a cottage in the town but what is provided with a lace pillow, parchments, bobbins, gimp, thread and other requisites, the sort of lace principally made is a fine thread lace. The thread is fixed on the top of small bobbins, a pattern is pierced on parchment, the holes are filled with pins, which are placed, or displaced as the bobbins are moved, or stitches finished. In the evenings the neighbours take their lace pillows into each others houses by turns, where they form a little group round a candle stool-And they gossip and sing over their work in a right pleasant manner."

In the "Whitehall Evening Post" Nov., 1754, was a paragraph stating that "Robert Gibbs of Winslow, in the County of Bucks, had six sons, Robert, Richard, William, Thomas, John and Stephen, which sons rang the Bells of Winslow Church on new years day, for forty years in succession. The senior son rang the tenor, and every son had his bell in right of seniority, and they were every New Year's Day entertained at dinner by the worthy family of Lowndes at Winslow." Three of the said sons -Richard, William and Stephen, were said to be then living at Winslow. These six brothers were the progenitors of Mr. Robert Gibbs, F.S.A. of Aylesbury, the well known journalist, local historian, and antiquary.

Perhaps no name appears so frequently in the Parish Records during the 17th century as that of Gibbs. In 1681 & following years there are many entries in the Church Register of the burial of members of that family in woollen, according to law." At a Vestry held on the 20th. April, 1693, the name of Robert Gibbs appears, and again in 1695. In 1709, Robert Gybbs junr, was one of the Overseers of the Poor, and the like Office was filled by Richard Gibbs in 1715. They were a family of good position and held considerable property in the Parish. Within the last few years a row of Grave-stones in the Churchyard marked their burial place, but most of these have now disappeared. Some of the family are interred in. the old Baptist Chapel ground viz., "April 15th, 1808, was buried in Keach's Meeting-house yard at Winslow, Robert Gibbs of Castle Street Aylesbury."

In the Imperial Magazine for 1760, under date of Friday, Feb. 16th, it is stated-"This night a most terrible storm happened that did prodigious damage both by sea and land,-near Winslow, Bucks, five Windmills were bumt to the ground, occasioned by the high wind which gave them such quick motion that their axletrees took Fire." From an old map of Winslow it would appear that one of the Mills so destroyed was situate at a spot still known as Mill Knob. There is also an entry in the old Manor Rolls, under the date of October 3rd, 1762, showing there had been-"taken for an Harriot on the death of Mr. George Savage ye remains of a Windmill," valued by Mr. King, Carpenter, at £5.

In the award of the commissioners at the time of the Parish enclosure 1767, a Mr. George Savage is mentioned as the owner of a garden called the "Mill Garden" containing 2½ acres, formerly belonging to the Mill House at Winslow.

In the Northampton Mercury of Jan. 26th, 1788, is an amusing incident relating to a well known inhabitant of Winslow at that day. "Mr. Burnham, Coroner for Bucks, was sent for by the Parish Officers of Loughton to take an Inquest on the body of a man unknown, who was found lying under a hedge supposed to be dead. He was removed to a Public-house in the Village of Loughton, and in a few hours symptoms of life appeared. The next morning the Coroner set off for that place to take the Inquest, but to his astonishment met a special messenger to inform him that his attendance was not necessary, for the dead man was restored to life."

Church Sunday Schools at Winslow were first established in 1788. On the 21st of August in that year, a sermon was preached on the subject in the Parish Church, by the Rev. Nicholas Owen, Curate of Winslow. In this sermon he states - "To such a pitch of licentiousness are the common people in general arrived that they pay no regard to the Laws of God, and very little to those of our governors; for our prisons are crowded with felons, our streets are infested with all sorts of prophane and irreligious persons "who make a mock at sin" and in defiance of all order and decency, commit all manner of wickedness with greediness. And it is a common observation that the Lord's day, more especially is devoted by them to the works of darkness, to sinfull pleasure, to drunkenness, and to pilfering; the children commonly following in their parents footsteps."

Such was probably a picture of Winslow, one hundred years ago, for we find the preacher specially requesting the respectable inhabitants to "pay what attention they can, to prevent people idling about the streets, and prophaning the Lords day," and the children were to be cautioned against "Cursing, Swearing, Pilfering and Sabbath-breaking."

The following extract relating to the Sunday School, is from the "Northampton Mercury" of Sept. 6th, 1788. "We have the pleasure to inform the Public, that on Sunday the 24th. of August last, a Sunday School was opened at Winslow, in the County of Bucks, at which 130 poor children attended, when an excellent Sermon was preached on the occasion, by the Rev. Mr. Owen, Minister of the Parish, from Proverbs the 22nd, and 6th verse. And we have the satisfaction to add that the liberal contributions at that place, have exceded the most sanguine Expectations." It would appear that after a few years this Sunday School was discontinued for a time, for an entry appears in the Church Register for 1808, signed by Jas. Preedy, Vicar, and George Griffin Stone street, (Rector of Honeychurch, Devon,) Curate of Winslow and Grandborough, stating that they had distributed Twenty Common Prayer Books, provided by the Committee of the Sunday School, instituted in this Parish in 1807.

From an old Manuscript Diary kept in 1798 by Paul Parkins, a Land Surveyor at Winslow, we learn something of the manner in which Sunday was spent, even by persons of respectable, position in that day. On Sunday, July 1st. he went to Wingrave Feast. July 8th, went to Winslow Church in the morning, and to Grandborough Feast in the afternoon, saw Moses Gates and J. Cox fight. Sunday, August 12th, went to church twice, and heard Mr. Langstone preach, - then went to Great Horwood Feast. Sunday Sept. 24th, - set my rooms to rights in the morning, and went to Padbury Feast in the afternoon. Oct. 28th. - went to church, the Yeomanry and Cavalry went to church twice to day in their Uniforms. Sunday Nov. 4th.-started Mr. Reads team off to Blisworth to fetch a load of coal - it returned next day - (this entry shows one of the domestic inconveniences of that time. No coal at Winslow without a long and tedious cross country journey into Northamptonshire to fetch it.) On Sunday, Nov. 11th - he writes "I did not go to Church because I was airing my new bed." Parkins also mentions keeping St. Clement and St. Andrews days, but it seems that they were devoted to drinking bouts and festivities among his friends, for drinking habits and customs seem to have been pretty general in those days, the number of Inns in the Town having been greater than at present.

Fuller extracts were published by Clear in the Buckingham Advertiser, 18 Oct 1884:

The following brief diary will perhaps be read with some interest by our readers, as giving some little account of the every-day life of a Winslowite in the year 1798.
Extracts from the diary for the year 1798, of Mr. Paul Parkins, land Surveyor, of Winslow.

March 7 – This is Mr. Pitt’s, the great tax contriver, Fast Day, which I mean to pay no respect to.

April 6 and 7 – At home at Winslow, these two days, doing nothing, or less.

April 28 – Went a fishing to bottom of Great Horwood field, next to Addington, and caught 117 small fish.  Was measured for a new pair of small clothes, &c.

May 16 and 17 – Went from Aylesbury to London by coach.  Went to see the soldiers exercise with cannon, in St. James’ Park.  Went and heard a sermon in Westminster Abbey.

May 23 and 24 – Went about London till about half-past 2 o’clock, and then set out on foot to come home.  Got to Winslow by 5 o’clock the next morning, with spending 4d at Berkhampstead.  Walked all the day about Winslow after.

May 28 – Nothing to do, so went fishing.  A great fire at Blisworth.

June 13 – Mr. Matthews and I put up my new shop board.

June 23 – Went a fishing to Granborough brook, and caught 1 fish, and then went to Horwood brook and caught a few more.

July 8 – Went to Winslow church in the morning, and went to Granborough Feast in the afternoon.  Saw Moses Gates and J. Cox fight.  Fine morning, and a good shower in the afternoon.

July 11 – Begun a reduced plan of Whaddon Chase and bounds.

July 15 – Went to Little Horwood church, and heard Mr. Broadwell preach.

August 3 – Helped Mr. Joseph Dudley to measure a ground in East Claydon Fields.

August 12 – Went to church twice and heard Mr. Langston preach.  Then went to Great Horwood feast.

August 13 – That cursed rogue, J. Mortimer, stood in the pillory.

August 15 – Went to O. Mayne’s christening at night.

August 27 – Dined on venison at J. Harris’s.

September 2 – Went to church twice, and heard Mr. Robert Lowndes preach.

September 5 – Went a nutting in the afternoon.  A shower of rain.

September 24 – Set my room to rights in the morning, and went to Padbury Feast in the afternoon.

October 3 – An illumination and bonfire at night, on account of Admiral Nelson beating the French at sea.

October 28 – Went to church.  The Yeoman and Cavalry went to church twice, in their uniforms.

November 4 – Mr Read’s team set out for Blisworth, for a load of coal for me.

November 5 – Had a load of coals from Blisworth.

November 29 – This was that rascal’s day of thanksgiving for the murder of upwards of ten thousand poor unhappy men.  Such cursed, abominable, detested wretches as Pitt.

December 18 – Had a couple of fowls roasted, and a few friends to supper.  Rather coldish.

December 27 – Most sharp frost I ever remember.

December 31 – Finished this year with doing and contriving some things for myself of several sorts.  Very cold and frosty.

Waterloo celebrations (p.19)

Northampton Mercury, 26 Aug 1815
On Sunday, last, a collection was made on behalf of  the wounded sufferers in the battle of Waterloo, and widows and children of our fallen countrymen. At All Saints Church [Northampton] £28. 3s.2d , [… various other towns and villages (lesser sums)] – At Winslow (Bucks) by the Rev. Jas. Preedy, amounting to £42 6s. 6d, including a donation of £20 from Wm. S. Lowndes, Esq., M.P.
In 1815, Peace was proclaimed with France, after the Battle of Waterloo, and the event was duly celebrated at Winslow, by a Public Dinner on the Market Square. A rhyming account of this event from the pen of Mr. John Hoare of Dunton, has been preserved from which we extract the following.

Hail, lovely Peace ! again thy charms are found,
And grateful Winslow spreads the joyful sound,
Who can describe the pleasures of that day,
Where peace and joy hold universal sway.
With grand procession now they march along,
Joy in each eye, and gladness on each tongue,
God save the King, in tuneful notes resounds,
And "Rule Britannia, rule" in grandeur sounds.
Next plenty does her smiling board expand,
And dines six hundred with a liberal hand,
On the fair "Square" her sons and daughters come,
Like one good family, all seem'd at home.

Poppy cultivation, etc. (p.20)

On the 28th February, 1856, Mr. John Cowley, surgeon, died, aged 78, he was one who had long identified himself with every object for the welfare of the town. In 1821, he cultivated a large crop of White Poppies from which he produced 60 lbs of opium, and was awarded a prize of thirty guineas by the Society, for the encouragement of arts, manufactures, and commerce.

In May, 1865, peace having been proclaimed with Russia, the event was celebrated at Winslow by a public Dinner, etc., on the Market Square. In 1858, the market day was changed from Thursday to Wednesday. In 1863, the new Vicarage was erected. On the 15th September. 1864, the new Baptist Tabernacle was opened for worship, at a cost of £744, and in 1880, the Centenary Hall connected with the same, was built at a total cost of £475. In 1884, the Parish Church underwent most extensive repairs and alterations.

Conclusion (p.21)

And now we have arrived at the end of our pilgrimage (for so I think we may term it) through old Winslow, and I thank you all very heartily for the patience with which you have listened to me, because I know that to many, these old things are very dry and uninteresting, yet when I look round on the goodly company here to night, it is evident that there are some who do take pleasure in looking back to these remote times, in tracing the progress of our town, since the days when the Ancient Britons hunted in the Woods at Whaddon, or fished in the muddy Ouse at Thornborough,-who like to hear about the mighty Romans, with their fortified camps on the heights, their broad roads and luxurious Villas at Fenny Stratford, and some probably much nearer, as the relics found would indicate. Then the sturdy Saxons-the forefathers of us all, the Thanes and Yeomen, cultivating their lands in peace, and in the earlier days enjoying a freedom, aye and a purity of religion which was not to be found in England for many hundreds of years afterwards. Then the Normans, harsh and over-bearing, filling the land with their Castles, those strongholds of violence, of which the nearest was the huge one at Whitchurch. And these Norman Abbots and Lords ruled the people under them with an iron hand! even on our very borders in the adjoining parish of Addington there is a spot still known as the Gallows Field, where the De Molyns ancient Lords of that Manor exercised, their so-called privilege of executing offenders. Then we have watched the dawning of a brighter day, and have seen the people gradually rise up into freemen, staunch Yeomen and Mechanics,-the downfall of the Abbeys-and the struggle between the people and the State in which the men of Buckinghamshire took such a prominent part.

Next the Restoration of Charles II, with his vaunted liberty of conscience under which the worshipers in the little Baptist Meeting-house in Winslow, were rudely interrupted and their Minister dragged off to prison, followed by exposure in the pillory in our own Market Square - now we can worship under our own vine and fig tree, none daring to make us afraid.

Is it not interesting to trace the domestic customs of our forefathers, their fastings and feastings, their joys and their sorrows, how they were married, and how they were buried. And to watch the gradual development of our little town, to see old Shipton, which was once an important part of the parish, gradually dwindle and decay, while on the other side of the Church a new town springs up along the Buckingham Road, and so it is with everything - change and decay, the old giving place to the new.

Now my task is finished and if I have preserved any of these facts and incidents from oblivion, or if I have given any of you a deeper interest in or a greater love for our old town, I shall feel that I have not laboured in vain.

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Copyright 24 February, 2021