£156,000 study of Bucks history will boost protection against unwanted development

Aylesbury's historic St Mary's Church
Aylesbury's historic St Mary's Church

The most detailed ever study of the history of Bucks towns and villages has been published at a cost of £156,000.

The Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Historic Towns Project – From Markets to Metroland aims to help planners understand the special character of our towns and villages.

It includes a comprehensive historical library of information and statistics to guide future planning decisions.

The report was commissioned by Bucks County Council with a £156,000 grant from English Heritage and aims to give historic areas extra protection from development.

Normally, planners refer to statutory listed building and conservation area designations, which protect individual buildings or historically and architecturally sensitive sections of towns.

But the historic towns study goes beyond these official designations, providing a comprehensive analysis of towns and villages above and below the ground.

Project leader David Green said: ‘While this doesn’t give statutory protection, it contains a valuable record of our historic environment, and we hope it’ll provide architects, planners and developers with a greater understanding of our heritage - what’s there, and how it came to be there – to help them plan our future sympathetically.’

Over the past five years, the project analysed archaeological data, maps, and photographs as well as documentary evidence and compiled them into an easily accessible database, illustrated with digital maps.

These will be held by the Historic Environment Records for Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

Included are illustrated reports on 30 historic places, ranging from the larger towns of Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Newport Pagnell to villages that at one time aspired to become towns, such as Haddenham, Long Crendon and Hanslope.

It shows that while the county’s earliest towns have origins dating back more than 1,000 years, most were established in the Middle Ages (AD 1066 - 1536). Towns changed very slowly until the 19th and 20th centuries when improved road and rail links stimulated modern development.

Fascinating details include:

> In 1086 Aylesbury’s population was one freeman; 20 villagers, 14 smallholders and two slaves.

> Haddenham’s name is Saxon and is commonly attributed to mean ‘Haeda’s homestead’ or land belonging to Haeda. An alternative meaning has been suggested using a

different spelling of the name as ‘Haeda-hamm’. In this instance, the term ‘hamm’ refers to an area surrounded by marshy land or rivers and the name would then mean ‘Haeda’s land hemmed by water’.

> Wendover’s main industries in the post- Medieval period ((1536-1800) were malting and brewing, fulling and dyeing.

Lesley Clarke, Buckinghamshire County Council cabinet member planning and environment said: “The towns of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes are a defining characteristic of the local landscape. They embody our county’s history, forming an essential part of our identity and sense of place.

“The publication of the reports will raise an awareness of our local heritage and be a useful resource in helping preserve the special characteristics of our towns and villages.”

Buckinghamshire County Council’s historic environment champion, Richard Pushman, said: “The information drawn from this project will be invaluable for managing of Buckinghamshire’s historic towns for the benefit of current and future generations. It also shows how this information can be used for future research, particularly through investigation of archaeological remains and historic buildings, to further our understanding these important heritage assets.”

You can read the study here.