Old Bowling Green and Walled Garden

Former bowling green on map of 1978The Old Bowling Green is now the part of the churchyard adjoining Vicarage Road. The path through the churchyard partly follows its boundary. The Walled Garden is behind the wall to the west of the old churchyard and south of the new. The 1978 map on the right shows their locations. They may be the land called William Hogson's Close in the will of Ann Stevens (d.1708).

Winslow’s Bowling Green and the Walled Garden adjoining date back at least to the 18th century and belonged for many years to two of the town’s premier legal families. They were the "Garden and inclosed Close of pasture Ground" which Francis Collins, grocer (d.1771), left to his servant Elizabeth Newborn along with his house (later The Bank); Francis Collins was one of George Barrett's trustees and may have separated them from the original Barrett's Close. They must have been included when Elizabeth and her husband William Turner sold the house in 1791 to James Burnham of Winslow (1733-1803), a solicitor who lived at what is now Brook Hall. He was Steward of the Manor of Winslow and Coroner for North Bucks. In his will of 7 August 1801, James Burnham left to his wife Mary "All those my three copyhold messuages or tenements [Brook Hall] with a garden mounded round with a brick wall and the Bowling Green lying adjoining to Winslow Churchyard".

James Burnham’s son James Burnham (1773-1836) was also Steward of the Manor of Winslow and Coroner for North Bucks. In his will, made 4 November 1828, he left to his wife Martha his freehold piece of garden ground adjoining the Churchyard of Winslow. The garden was advertised to be sold with other Burnham property in the Northampton Mercury, 17 July 1830, as "a freehold piece of garden ground in Winslow adjoining the churchyard and containing by estimation one rood, in the occupation of Mr James Burnham". The garden was again advertised for sale at The George on 2 February 1838 (Bucks Herald, 13 & 29 Jan), as "a freehold piece of garden ground adjoining the Churchyard in the occupation of Mrs Burnham, 1 rood" [a quarter of an acre].

Map showing bowling green and walled garden
The Bowling Green and Walled Garden on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1880

The Bowling Green was not mentioned in these sales, but in the Bucks Herald of 16 May 1835, it was announced that "the Bowling Green at Winslow was opened to the subscribers on Monday. It is under the able management of Mr Alfred Barton of that town". The Winslow Rate Book of 1838 lists Alfred Barton, the proprietor of the George Inn, renting the Bowling Green from Samuel Greaves Dudley, an auctioneer and brother-in-law of James Burnham jr. Alfred Barton remained as tenant of the Bowling Green until he retired in 1876. The local newspapers report many events held on the Bowling Green, including an annual ball.

The Bowling Green and pavilion
This view shows the Bowling Green from the Vicarage Road side (postcard postmarked 1914)

Both the Walled Garden and the Bowling Green appear to have been bought by Charles Willis, the solicitor who took over from the Burnhams as Steward to the Manor of Winslow. He lived at what is now 24 Horn Street, Winslow. On Charles Willis’s death in 1845, the garden and Bowling Green passed to his son David Thomas Willis of Winslow (1805-1884), also a solicitor. David Thomas Willis had two daughters. In 1859, the elder daughter, Maria Louisa Willis, married Thomas Newham, a surgeon, who lived at Western Lodge, Horn Street. They had a daughter, Ellen Mary, who in 1883 married George Richard Greaves of Western House, a mansion house which stood on the corner of Horn Street and Burleys Road. Greaves was an important figure in the Whaddon Chase Hunt and although his house has been demolished, part of his extensive stables on Horn Street have been converted into several dwellings. George Richard Greaves died in 1899, but his wife Ellen Mary lived on at Western House until her death in 1937. At the auction of Western House, 18 June 1937, Lot 6 was an enclosed kitchen garden adjoining the new churchyard. It was bought by Kenneth Joseph Robson of Western Lodge, Horn Street, for £110. He sold the garden to Charles Edwin Beane, a confectioner, of 14 Market Square Winslow. He in turn sold it, 19 March 1955, to Leslie Harcourt Melville, an estate agent, of The Corner, Hoggeston, for £200. It was described as "All that piece of garden ground containing 25 p[erches] or thereabouts walled around by brick walls and situate near the churchyard and the bowling green ... formerly part of All that enclosed close of pasture ground situate lying and being in Winslow aforesaid containing by estimation 1 acre more or less part of which close of pasture ground was long since converted into a bowling green and the residue thereof into gardens".

In 1868, David Thomas Willis’s younger daughter, Sarah Cowley Willis, married her cousin Thomas Price Willis, another solicitor, who lived at the large white house called The Elms, on the corner of High Street and Greyhound Lane. He died in 1909, but his property was marked on the Valuation Map of 1910. It included the Bowling Green, tenanted by W.S. Neal of the Bell Inn. At the auction of Thomas Price Willis’s property, 29 March 1911, the Bowling Green was described as "A highly attractive freehold enclosure comprising nearly ¾ acre known as the Bowling Green". It was bought by Norman McCorquodale, of Winslow Hall. He gave the Bowling Green to the Church in 1926 as an extension to the burial ground.

Former bowling green from the air
This aerial view shows the Bowling Green in the 1930s after it had gone out of use but before there were any graves on it

Bowling green absorbed by churchyard
By the 1950s the hedge had been removed and the Bowling Green was absorbed into the churchyard. The small hedge in the centre of the photo surrounds the McCorquodale family monument. The building visible on the right of the Church is the Bank.

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