Naphill and Walter's Ash Website

History

A Short History of Naphill and Walter's Ash by Rex Leaver, edited by Judy Whitehouse, published 28 June 2010

Extracted from Rex Leaver's book Naphill and Walter's Ash - Looking Back at Village Life, written in celebration of the second millennium and reproduced here with kind permission of Betty Leaver. The book is now out of print but if you ask around you may be lucky enough to find someone who has a copy and would lend it to you - it is a fascinating read and contains lots of photographs together with maps and many memoirs of local people that have not been reproduced here.


Introducing Our Community

This is a history without battles, disasters or famous men. It describes how ordinary people have lived, worked and played on a hilltop in the Chilterns for half a millennium or more. It is about a place that had no official identity for most of that time. Yet those who say they live in Naphill and Walter's Ash have a common understanding of what they mean. Put a map in front of any of them, and, give or take a house or two, each would draw the same boundary line around the place that they call home. They think of themselves as a single community, looking to one village hall and playing field for their local social and recreational activities, and reading the Naphill Gazette to see what their neighbours are up to.
Rex Leaver - 1999

Back to top

Boundaries

Administratively the community contains two distinct places; Naphill and Walter's Ash. Official maps have never precisely matched the boundaries that the community defines for itself. The current administrative boundary of Naphill ward in Hughenden Parish comes close but it excludes some of Walter's Ash.

Before 1948 there were no wards sub-dividing Hughenden Parish and before 1933 the stretch of land that we now call Naphill Common was in the Parish of West Wycombe. Before 1894 most local historical records relate to the ecclesiastical parish and the manor. It seems that the earlier inhabitants of Naphill and Walter's Ash linked the two places together when, side by side, they looked out on the "foreigners" from Bradenham, ownley, Lacey Green, North Dean and Kingshill.

The Bounds of Hughenden Parish in 1774 were describes as being:

  • along Tinker's Lane to Downley Common 5 furlongs
  • continue by the Lower and Upper Common Woods and to the end of Hobbs Scrubs being 6 furlongs
  • and from thence along the Common by Mrs Ives' trees and through David's Hole to Walter's Ash being one mile 5 furlongs and 20 poles
  • turn and go through Mr Janes' late Lane's barn - cross his orchard and through his pond - along by Northfield, Nelly Grove...

Back to top

Before 1738

Before 1738 it is difficult to isolate historical information about Naphill & Walter's Ash from such records that survived for Hughenden and the other parishes of which today's village forms a part. More or less random clues to life in those distant times come from a few other sources.

The man owning and occupying Great Moseley Farm around 1700 was of sufficient substance to play a part in public affairs both inside and outside the parish. However Great Moseley is a rarity with surviving deeds going back to 1636.

Archaeological fieldwork on the Bradenham side of Walter's Ash has revealed a medieval homestead and a possible game park from the same period. The find suggests a degree of luxury in the life of the occupants and dating of AD 1200 - 1400 was indicated by a coin and by "fiddle nail" horse shoes. The homestead and the more recent "park Wood" and "Park Farm" all lie within a large circuit of ditches and this enclosure has many of the characteristics of a medieval deer park. Most parks were enclosed between 1200 and 1350 AD so it is possible to interpret the site as a park lodge.

In situations where records are few or non-existent, historians have increasingly looked to the countryside itself for clues to its own history. One method used is to analyse the species found in hedgerows to provide indications of their age. Trevor Hussey, a resident local historian, has conducted interesting studies developing the original technique to make it more widely applicable. These support the idea that the initial woodland clearance was fairly large scale, to form big fields with woodland relic hedges left chiefly along lanes and tracks.

Grim's Ditch, Grim's Dyke or Grim's Bank is a name shared by a number of bank and ditch earthworks, examples of which are found across the chalk uplands of southern England. Today Grim's Ditch forms a section of The Ridgeway. The origins of Grim's Ditch is unknown but long boundaries of this kind are now recognised as parts of planned landscapes dating back to more than 1000 BC. It suggests that the site of the present village was just inside or just outside an area of some importance.

Back to top


1738 - 1853: Custom and the Common

HUGHENDEN MANOR

In 1738 Charles Savage bought the manor of Hughenden from the fourth Earl of Chesterfield. He was succeeded by his brother Samuel in 1763, followed by his nephew John Norris in 1771, his niece Lady Conyngham in 1786 and a second John Norris in 1816. After his death the estate was sold to Benjamin Disraeli. All these lords of the manor resided at Hughenden and so were likely to have more impact on life in Naphill & Walter's Ash than their predecessors who lived elsewhere and looked at Hughenden merely as a source of income.

Benjamin Disraeli spent much of his youth at Bradenham Manor where his father was a neighbour of the second John Norris at Hughenden Manor. Naphill Common is the most likely place between the two for meeting on horseback.

The court records of Hughenden Manor survive between 1774 and 1847. These record that about half the tenants live in Naphill. None of them paid rent to the owner of the estate as a landlord, but only a quit rent to him as Lord of the Manor. Quit rents were an echo of the tenants medieval duty to pay for his holding by giving up so many days to work on the land farmed directly by his Lord.

ENCROACHMENT ON THE COMMON

Encroachments onto the Common were made by squatters of the time who hoped to gain permanent rights to the bits of the Common they fenced off. To do so they had to remain undisturbed for 20 years and cases were picked up in all six of the manorial courts held between 1774 and 1847. There were some 50 in this 73 year period and the culprits were fined in court.

Throughout this period mention is made of only four new cottages built on these plots. Those who built them paid a one-off charge of £10 and an amercement of one shilling and were allowed to keep them.

THE DROVERS

Rose Cottage was first bought by one of the old drovers who used the "Clumps" on the Common. The Clumps, whose remains can still be seen over near the Bradenham entrance, were corrals or stockades to hold cattle when Naphill Common was a well-known stop on one of the great trade routes of England, which only ended with the coming of the railways. They came from Wales and the lush pastures of Wiltshire, with sheep from the Berkshire Downs, all destined for the growing metropolis. They travelled the old green roads like the Icknield Way, turning off at Bradenham and then up to the sweet grass on the Common to recuperate.

LADIES MILE

The path on the Common edge used to be quite clear and wide from The Black Lion to the Blacksmith's Arms on the corner of Downley Road. This path was called the Ladies Mile. It is believed that ladies of pleasure plied their trade between the two pubs for the benefit of the drovers, who on their return journey were free from care of the animals and had their pockets full of money. It seems likely that the annual visits of the drovers brought an exotic element into local life for several hundred years before the railways killed their trade.

Back to top


1853 - 1863: Enclosure of the Common

These ten years probably changed the appearance of the village more than any other decade in its history. Benjamin Disraeli bought the Hughenden Estate in 1847 with the aid of a mortgage. Enclosure of the Common over which he had Lordship was aimed to increase its value and was supported by other large landowners who also hoped to benefit from it. The process took nine years and must have been disruptive for the inhabitants while it lasted. In the longer term enclosure gave the village its present overall shape and took away the grazing and other common rights from the majority of its inhabitants.

Enclosure does not seem to have damaged long-term relationships between squire and villagers as it did in some places.

Before Enclosure, Main Road had common land on both sides of it. If the common were to expand again to the extent it had in 1853, more than half the present village population would be homeless.

THE ENCLOSURE PROCESS

An enclosure was supervised by Commissioners who had to ensure that it was wanted by a majority of landowners, but the majority was measured in acreage owned rather than by counting heads, so that a small number of larger owners easily outvoted a large number of smaller ones. In February 1853 an application was made to enclose some 380 acres of common land in a large part of Hughenden including the section of Naphill Common lying within the parish. As Assistant Commissioner held a local enquiry and reported back quite quickly, but the Act of Parliament authorising the Enclosure was not passed until July 1856. A valuer was immediately appointed to make a ward which allotted plots to various parties in compensation for the loss of their former common rights. He was ready to hear objections to his initial proposals at the end of 1859 and the award was confirmed in 1862.

The valuer based the allotments or shares of the common to be given to each proprietor on the value of his existing property and on the possession of ancient messuages (houses or cottages) which had commoning rights attached to them. Before he made these calculations part of the common land was sold to offset the costs of the enclosure process. About 81 acres were allotted to existing proprietors in Naphill. Some proprietors, either for their own advantage or in response to requests made by others, put some of their original land into the general pool for reallocation, and the calculations included compensation for this. The final value of the allotment due to each proprietor was then translated into the acreage of specific plots on the ground. Surviving working papers show the valuer took account of requests for favoured locations for the plots - mostly to be next to existing property or next to the main road.

FENCES

Fencing alongside public roads and round public allotments, like those for the labouring poor, was undertaken by the Valuer at general expense. Quicking was planting a hedge of quickthorn (hawthorn). It is sometimes said that, although the small plots allotted to cottagers were scant compensation for the loss of their commoning rights, at least enclosure was beneficial to the poor by providing local employment in fencing, making roads etc.

Back to top


1863 - 1894: Between the Old and the New

This period is an interlude between the old and the new. In the world that was being left behind those who lived in the village worked in the village, and most of them in something to do with agriculture. Local affairs were governed locally under the general supervision of the local gentry sitting in Quarter Sessions. In this period non-agricultural trades such as chair-making and lace-making flourished in a phase before centres of employment lured the majority of villagers into commuting for a living. The parish vestry operated much as it had done for three hundred years but it had already lost some of its responsibilities for the poor to the Board of Guardians, and national government "interfered" more and more in the years leading up to the Local Government Act of 1894.

The Education Acts of 1870, 1876 and 1880 introduced compulsory education up to the age of 10, when a child could obtain a certificate and leave, but if their attendance or performance was unsatisfactory then had to stay on until they were thirteen.

In these times the Vestry was responsible within the parish, not only for church affairs but also for civil administration. The parish officers included Guardians of the Poor who, using rates paid by property-occupiers, gave financial relief to those who were unemployed or sick. They could be empowered to employ the poor on public works within the parish.

Saunderton Workhouse had been built to serve the Wycombe Union which was formed by combining.

Back to top


1894 - 1937: From Squire to Parish Council

In 1893 Coningsby Disraeli arrived at Hughenden to take up residence at the Manor. A committee of tenants had organised a welcome that included flags and banners in Hughenden Road. The day ended with a seven course dinner at the Manor House for the socially important and a "well-catered meat tea" in a marquee for three hundred people described as cottage and allotment tenants. Benjamin Disraeli had died in 1881 and his nephew was legally a minor when he succeeded to the estate. For twelve years Naphill and the rest of Hughenden has been without a resident squire to speak for them in local affairs or to respond to their requests for help.

In 1894 new Parish and District Councils took on the local administration which since Elizabethan times had been conducted under the watchful eye of the Lord of the Manor, or Squire. County Councils (created in 1888) had already taken over other functions performed in the old system by Justices in Quarter Sessions, who were mostly larger landowners. These changes meant that the residents of Naphill & Walter's Ash now had elected representatives to look after their interests, although in practice the change was gradual and at first the squire was still approached to use his influence on their behalf.

A lady called Mrs Oakeshott later became Chairman of Wycombe District Council and a Magistrate. She and her husband, Major Oakeshott, were leading figures in the village between the wars and they were remembered in the naming of Oakeshott Avenue.

ROADS AND TRANSPORT

Before the First World War there was so little traffic passing through the village that Naphill Brass Band sat in the middle of Main Road to practice. Roads were maintained with cartloads of stones roughly rolled in. After heavy rain there was no surface left on Coombe Hill except a track about two feet wide down the right hand side. Such traffic as there was used this same track, both up and down, which was how an early motorcycle enthusiast met with Naphill's first fatal traffic accident. As road traffic grew it became more and more obvious that Coombe Lane was both too narrow and too steep and in 1899 the Parish Council discussed with Coningsby Disraeli a possible alternative route to Wycombe taking the line of Church Lane. He would consent to it only if the Parish agreed to the stopping up of several existing rights of way across his lands. Negotiations broke down and the council thereafter concentrated their efforts on improvements to Coombe Lane.

In July 1937 a meeting between the County Highways Committee and local Parish Councils discussed a proposed new road across the Common to Downley after both Hughended and West Wycombe passed resolutions in favour the previous year. The war intervened before anything was done and the idea has not been revived since.

WORLD WAR ONE

The war touched the village through official instructions sent to the Parish Council to take measures to boost food supplies, including the payment of rewards for killing rats and sparrows, and the distribution of leaflets on the health risk from flies. The contracts between the civilian's and soldier's experience is starkly shown on the village War Memorial which bears ten names for the First World War compared with two from a larger population in the second. The memorial's stones came from Walter's Ash and the cairn was intended to imitate those raised on the battlefield by the soldiers themselves.

By 1917 the War's impact at home had increased. Children were absent from school being sent by their parents to Wycombe in order to purchase provisions which were increasingly difficult to obtain. In the same year the boys began to grow potatoes on a school Victory Plot. The School's Inspector approved and apparently organised the picking of blackberries in school hours, presumably to make jam for the troops. The children's record was achieved in 1918 when 323lbs of blackberries were picked in a single week.

Village children were involved in the Boer War too as well as young men. A row of six cottages in the village became known as The Barracks because a volunteer enlisted from every one of them.

Back to top


1937-1947: The Arrival of Bomber Command

BOMBER COMMAND

The great event between 1937 and 1947 was the arrival of Bomber Command at Walter's Ash. This did so much to shape the present village that the decade spanning the Second World War is worthy of special attention. A minor building boom in the late 1930s was interrupted only to resume at a faster rate in the post war period.

The first indication to the village that something was afoot was the arrival of a well-dressed townsman asking for lodgings. The stranger came as a consequence of a random remark made the previous year by Wing Commander Oakeshott, whose father lived in Naphill. The Wing Commander was at an Air Ministry meeting charged with finding a permanent site for the new Bomber Command, when he asked "why not hide it among the beech woods of the Chiltern Hills?" Later the area near Walter's Ash was found to be not only suitably wooded, but suitably remote and lacking in features readily identified from the air.

Over 150 acres were acquired in two sites in Bradenham Woods and north east of Main Road. Building work commenced in November 1938, employing 80 specialists and a labour force of 400 men. Each building was planned separately for its own particular location and special care was taken to preserve and protect surrounding trees. Exposed structures were designed to give the appearance of civilian buildings when seen from the air, and the end sloped roofs of some airmen's blocks were meant to give the appearance of haystacks.

Bomber Command took over its new Headquarters in March 1940. In the interests of security the Air Ministry named it "Southdown" and banned all future mention of Walter's Ash. The command's nerve-centre was the Operations Block - a large concrete box fifty feet below ground level which was reinforced against aerial bomb attack. The excavations for this were in an area which had been famous locally for its bluebell woods before the war. All quarters that were built in this first phase of building were used during the war either as offices or as single accommodation. Late in 1946 the first of these quarters were taken over by service families, heralding the large increase in the civilian population of the village that the RAF was to bring in later years.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

In 1939 a number of bungalows were built in Coombe Lane and the upper part of Stocking Lane but from 1940 building was continuing, but at a much slower rate.

The villages prepared themselves for air raid precautions and were asked to give any spare blankets as part of the government's evacuation scheme. Some German POWs were stationed at "Bomber" awaiting repatriation. Some of them were glad to do gardening jobs in the evening and enjoy a cup of coffee in an English home.

In September 1939 the school was closed for two weeks and the Headmaster was assisting in the reception of children evacuated from London. The school became a First Aid Point in case of air attacks, darkening the Infant Room for blackout purposes. When it re-opened it was also used by Western C of E LCC School from Marylebone which evacuated to Naphill. A double shift was worked, with Naphill School having the school in the mornings and Western School in the afternoons. Later the Village Hall was brought into use and full time education resumed.

Large crowds continued to attend the weekly Tennis Club dances, with the number of uniforms present increasing. In April 1940 there were twelve Naphill men serving the forces and the proceeds of a dance in the village were shared out to send them five shillings and sixpence each.

During the war Naphill Common was used as a tank testing ground when tanks were repaired at the Broom & Wade factory in High Wycombe.

Back to top

1947-1999: Growth

To picture the village half a century or more ago we have to remove more than two thirds of today's houses and strip from the remainder their extensions and double-glazing, take down their television and satellite aerials, dig up early all the footpaths along Main Road, restore its hedges and reduce motor traffic to a few well used buses and a handful of pre-war cars running on rationed petrol. With the trebling of the population came most of the side roads in the village and the closing of extensive gaps between the houses along Main Road that had existed since the earliest times.

RAF EXPANSION

Numbers also grew on the neighbouring RAF sites. Married quarters built at Bradenham Beeches during the war were not used as such until after it ended. In the 1950s and 1960s the numbers on this site more than doubled and new estates were built at Greenwood, Parkwood and Templewood. Huts that had housed the WAAF were replaced with more permanent accommodation and the quarters in Woodcock Avenue increased from 15 to 89. The creation of Strike Command in 1968 brought further expansion, most significantly to the village perhaps because it created the expectation that 200 additional children would need school places.

PERSONAL TRANSPORT

A large factor in the housing development of post war years has been the growth in car ownership which enabled people to live further from their place of work. While in 1947 there were already many who worked outside the village, in the main they commuted on foot or by bus to Wycombe and other places nearby.

SOCIAL AND SPORTING LIFE

The large number of "incomers" who came to live in the village after the war joined a community well used to providing its own amusements. Long established sports clubs were based on the Village Playing Fields and thriving social clubs were centred on the Village Hall. Many of the new residents were introduced to this social life by their first experience of the annual Fete which raises money for the maintenance of these two village assets, and they soon swelled the membership of the organisations using them. In this half-century improvements have helped the Village Hall to cope with its increased use and to match the increasing standards of comfort found in villagers' homes. The latest and the largest was an extension to the rear which absorbed the old cricket pavilion and the scout hut into a single enlarged complex.

1991 CENSUS

In the parish of Hughenden in the Population Census of 1991 84% of households had at least one car. 97% of households had central heating and 84% of houses were owned by their occupiers. No homes had more than one person per room.

Back to top

1999 - 2010: The Present

We would invite someone to submit their version of the villages through the last decade since Rex Leaver's book was published.

Place Names

  • In 1925 the name "Naphill" was attributed to a combination of the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon names for a hill
  • Walter's Ash is most likely a boundary marker where four ancient parishes met. The name Walter was introduced by the Normans so the ash would have been named after 1066 although the boundaries themselves may have been there earlier.
  • Louches Lane, which appeared when the common was enclosed, was named after Mrs Louch who lived in a nearby property in the 1840s.
  • Moseley - "mossy clearing".
  • Stocking and Clappins associated with gates that kept the stock in or were clapped shut to keep those grazing on the common out.
  • Pursells meadow was named after a former owner of Great Moseley Farm.
  • Bayley Gardens - named after Dr Bayley and his wife who lived at Plumtree Cottage

Houses

The oldest homes in the village are the larger farmhouses. The earliest surviving document for any of them is dated 1636 but architectural evidence suggests that at least two date back to the previous century. A few cottages from the 18th century survive and more from the 19th.

  • Great Moseley, earliest record 1636 although it was virtually rebuilt in the 19th century
  • Little Moseley, probably once part of Great Moseley and detached in the early 18th century. On the map in 1844
  • Moseley Cottages, 1844 onwards, probably built to house workers on Great Moseley Farm
  • Moseley Lodge, partially rebuilt around 1890, probably the original building dates back to 16/17th centuries
  • Park Farm, illustrates that there was little difference between the smaller farmhouses and labourer's cottages. The RAF took over this farmhouse and modified it for their use.
  • Naphill House - Hunts Hill Lane, built as a gentleman's house around 1670. In the 1840s it was used for a while as a school
  • Coombes Farm - late 16th century but there may have been a medieval hall.
  • Plumtree Cottage - 1753, now part of The Orchard
  • Alma Cottage - earliest record 1881
  • Hunts Hill Cottage - 1712, extended around 1800.
  • Vincent's Farm - 1830s or earlier. Pulled down in the 1960s when Vincent's Way was built.
  • Desburga - Survey of 1910 shows a Mr Armstrong living there. He was an inventor who did development work on model torpedoes.
  • Cherrycroft - A pair of semi-detached houses are shown on this site in 1844. When it became a single house it was first called Maude Cottage.
  • Walnut Tree Cottages - appear on the Tithe Map of 1844 before the enclosure of the Common.

Back to top

Schools

THE DAME SCHOOL

Kathryn Pye's Charity was set up in 1713 to teach 20 boys or girls yearly to "know the letters of the alphabet and to spell English truly - and to get perfectly by heart the Church of England's Catechism and no other". The children came from the wards of Bradenham, Towersey, Princes Risborough, Hughenden and West Wycombe. Boys were also taught the cast accounts. In 1844 the Dame School occupied Naphill House and the schoolmaster was William Grimsdell. By then it was a National School under the control of the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church.

THE NEW SCHOOL

In 1856 the Hughenden Enclosure Award contained an allotment to the Vicar and church wardens of a half-acre plot for erecting a school. Benjamin Disraeli was one of the governors.

The new school was built at the corner of Louches Lane and Main Road in 1862 and was extend in 1875 by which time the capacity was 130. In the 1930s cloakrooms and a timber cycle shed were added.

The Vicar of Hughenden and his wife were frequent visitors, sometimes to check the accuracy of the registers. This was because the School Inspector calculated the government grant for the school based on average attendance. The School Inspector also checked the performance of pupils and the proposed curriculum.

A monitor system was used where older pupils passed on the learning from the master or mistress to the younger pupils. Later this was formalised with a "pupil-teacher" system where former pupils were selected as apprentices, assisting in the classroom by day and studying at night. After five years they took an examination to determine whether they should go to teacher training college. By 1914 the master, Mr Phillips, had three assistants.

After 101 years the "new school" of 1862 became the "old school" and was replaced. Towards the end the "old school" had more pupils than it could accommodate and, even after a Terrapin temporary building was erected, some of its activities had to transfer to the Village Hall. When a new school was built for children up to the age of eleven, the old building remained and served as an Anglican Chapel of Ease for a few years before the site was sold.

ANOTHER NEW SCHOOL

The new school in Purssells Meadow was opened in 1963 by "Black Rod" from the Houses of Parliament. He had a previous connection with the village when he served as the Air Officer Commanding at RAF High Wycombe. Within 8 years the County Primary School was judged to have insufficient capacity, despite the addition of Terrapin classrooms.

In 1971 it was announced that a school was to be built in Walter's Ash for all children in Naphill and Walter's Ash between the ages of 8 and 12+. The reason was based on an expected increase from Strike Command of 130 early in 1973 and an increase of 70 pupils arising from the raising of the secondary transfer age to 12+ in the same year, resulting in a total of 600 village children expected to require schooling locally. The existing Primary School in Purssells Meadow was built for 280 children and this became a First School for children aged between 5 and 8.

After operating for a while on three separate sites the Middle School was united in the new building in September 1974. In 1977 it was clear that the planned for increase in children was not materialising largely due to increasing tendencies for RAF children to go to boarding school and for service families to buy their own homes outside the village rather than live in married quarters. This, combined with local government financial crisis, led to closing the First School in Pursells Meadow and its merger with the Middle School on the Walter's Ash site.

Discussion about finding a community use for the school building in Pursells Meadow came to nothing and in 1992 it was demolished to make way for Brackenwood.

NAPHILL & WALTER'S ASH COMMUNITY COMBINED SCHOOL

Known today as just Naphill & Walter's Ash School, the school still operates from the Walter's Ash site off Kilnwood. In 1998 it was extended to provide extra classrooms for 4-5 year olds. The school now has a net capacity of 420 with around 380 currently on roll. A large percentage of pupils are from the RAF, with a similar number now come from out of catchment as far afield as Downley and central High Wycombe.

In 2008 a purpose built building was erected to provide a home for Little Ash Pre-School which had previously operated from the Village Hall. A thriving Out of School club also operates from the school premises providing care for children before and after school and in school holidays.

Back to top

Religious and Social Life

In earliest times the inhabitants of Naphill, and most of those in Walter's Ash, worshipped at St. Michael and All Angels down in Hughenden Valley. Evidence surviving in other places suggests that this church would have been the focus for them socially as well. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries religious life and social life were still very much related although by then there were three centres, the Methodist Chapel and the Mission Hall as well at the church in the valley. More recently the Village Hall has become the centre for social activities.

METHODIST CHAPEL

The first Methodist Chapel was built in 1851 in Chapel Lane from flints which women and children gathered from the common and surrounding area. The present church was built in 1930 by Mr G Shaw, a local builder. The stone laying was performed by Major Disraeli before a large crowd who later enjoyed a tea in the Village Hall.

EVANGELICAL FREE CHURCH

The Evangelical Free Church (originally known as the Naphill Mission and latterly known as "The Father's House") began in the 1870s. The Trust Deeds were drawn up in 1881. The original building the "Mission Hall" was constructed in 1879 to 1880 out of corrugated iron. For years its bell rang out over Naphill every Sunday. It was eventually replaced in 1968 by the current building in Main Road, which was opened on 15th February 1969.

NAPHILL VILLAGE HALL & CRICK

In 1882 Mrs Emma Grace, an in-comer to Naphill from Loosely Row, offered a plot of land to the Naphill Temperance Society for the building of a "Coffee Room". This room gradually became a home for all kinds of activity apart from the fortnightly temperance meetings, including baby clinics, social events and committee meetings. The first meeting of the WI in Naphill was held there and from 1909 the Naphill Brass Band used it as a band room.

Eventually it was not large enough and the old school was also used.

When the 1894 Act gave parish councils the powers to acquire land for recreation, the lads of Naphill asked for a proper cricket ground. Hughenden Parish Council started to look around for a suitable field but was saved the expense when it was pointed out that land was already allotted for recreation when the Common was enclosed.

The land was donated in 1928 in an agreement with Coningsby Ralph Disraeli, Harold Alan Oakeshott and two other un-named second parties. It was vested in the Official Custodian for Charities on 19th September 1930.

The "Crick" was donated in March 1931 in an agreement with Coningsby Ralph Disraeli, Anthony Gustav de Rothschild and two other un-named second parties, plus Harold Alan Oakeshott and two other un-named third parties. It was vested in the Official Custodian for Charities on 22nd September 1931.

The Village Hall and Crick is the centre of community life. Most of the village organisations use it as their meeting place and it is also widely used for other activities such as dancing, health & fitness, Mothers and Toddlers group and other social events as well as being the centre for the three big community events of the year, the Summer Fete, the Fireworks and the Christmas Fayre.

Back to top

Agriculture

FARMING

The majority of today's residents commute to work outside of Naphill & Walter's Ash. Their predecessors up to the last quarter of the nineteenth century worked in the village where they lived. In earlier times most of their work was in a variety of agricultural trades. While other trades came and went, agriculture survived, although it employed fewer and fewer people.

Between 1841 and 1871 some 70 to 75 men and boys in the village were employed by local farms, but in 1881 there was a sharp drop to around 50, coinciding with the nationwide agricultural depression of the time, and also with a growth in opportunities for alternative employment.

Generally over the years village farms have kept their places within a broad classification : LARGE (over 150 acres) - Coombes, Cookshall, Naphill; MEDIUM (50 - 120 acres)- Walter's Ash, Hall's, Little Moseley, Great Moseley, Bradenham Hill; SMALL (under 50 acres) - Rolfe's, Ash, Allen's, Moseley Lodge, Little Moseley Holding, Vincent's Park

From the mid 1800s there has been a long-term trend in local farming away from growing crops towards rearing livestock. When village farmland was measured and classified for the Hughenden Tithe map in 1844 by far the major part was arable. Even allowing for the additional grazing on the Common, this contrasts sharply with the predominance of cattle in more recent times. It seems likely that this was largely due to the general agricultural depression which began in the 1870s when grain arrived from America. The last cows at Great Moseley were sold in 1964 when it ceased to be a working farm.

GRAZING ON THE COMMON

Rights for Great Moseley from a Marriage Settlement in 1736..."and also those 60 acres of waste ground lying near the said message being part of the Common called Moseley Common as the same was heretofore abutted and sett out, that is, beginning at a pond called Davy's Hole lying all along the procession way of the two parishes of Hugendon and West Wycombe and shooting down to a hedge called Marlets Hedge (etc etc).

Waste means common land , so this suggests rights to a specific part of the Common rather than to graze a specified number of animals on it generally (a more usual arrangement). Either way exercising the right would entail employing a man or boy to prevent the stock from straying too far. The procession way was the boundary "processed" regularly by each parish in a ceremony which handed down from generation to generation the boundary that the ancient line took.

FRUIT GROWING

Between the wars Little Moseley Farm was owned by the Aldridge family who had extensive interests in the local fruit trade. They had large orchards down in the valley between the bottom of Coombe Hill and the Harrow. All the village farms had orchards of apples, pears, plums and damsons.

Back to top

Trades

EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES

Earlier inhabitants of Naphill and Walter's Ash made a living by digging on the Common and in the fields - digging for clay to make bricks, for chalk to make agricultural lime and for stone to shape as building and road making materials. The records show this going back from the 1950s to the early 1800s, and such activity may have started many years before that. The three digging activities were closely related. Trade directories show Frederick West as a brick maker in 1847 and 1853 and a coal, brick and lime merchant in 1876. Thomas Free was a stone cutter and had a brick and lime kiln in 1876.

In the 1970s the brickyards of Frederick West and Thomas Free were described as being to the West of Walter's Ash. North of Walter's Ash there was also two brickfields. James Brown began at one of them (Wells) in 1896 and was there until 1920. Trade directories from 1924 - 1949 show the field operated by Brown Brothers (his sons) and specialising in multicoloured wall facings. Both the Free and Brown yards closed around 1950 and are now built on by the RAF. No brick makers were shown in the 1851 census returns but this probably reflects the lack of fine detail recorded at the time. A decade earlier there were 10 bricklayers living in the village.

Stone masonry was carried on side by side with the better known brick yards of Walter's Ash. The sandstone side was run by J Smith and Sons. Stones were commonly found in the deep pits from which the brick makers clay had been extracted. Sometimes the stone blocks were found by probing the ground with long instruments called "snipers". Population Censuses do not identify stonecutters until 1861 but the trade seems to have arrived in the village earlier than that. In North Dean Estate sale catalogue of 1894 Mr John Hall of Walter's Ash Farm is said to have been in the stone industry for 50 years. The farm was bought by John Smith and he and his four sons built up a very large business in stone and similar products.

The last of the chalk miners remembers the workings under Forge Road. The centres of this industry in Victorian times were in the Forge Road area and up near the Bradenham turn. It seems to have petered out in the reign of Edward VII.

An earlier memory recalls that the main chalk-mining and brick making centre used to be at "Mr Clifford Smart's Naphill Cottage, just up Short Road from the butcher's shop". Short Road was the old name for Forge Road.

CHAIR MAKING

"Downley is an obscure village but it has a chair manufactory which employs nearly 40 people".

This comment of 1835 shows that larger chair-making factories had already developed close to the village before Victoria came to the throne. By the time of the 1871 census as many village men were employed in chair-making as in agriculture. Of the 45 in trade twenty years later only eleven were labelled simply as chair-makers. The others were separately identified as framers, back-makers, carvers, bottom-makers, turners, polishers and caners - reflecting steady growth in specialisation. In the early years the majority of chair-makers in the village were young (half under 20) as might be expected in a rapidly growing industry.

Village chair-makers are first identified in the censuses of 1851. Then they were most likely "bodgers" making turned parts for the chairs of Windsor style. Because they used a pole lathe on wet green wood to make these, they worked in the woods. The beech trees were self-planed and management was by continual thinning. The bodger used the timber when 20ft high and 1ft wide. The seller's agent felled the trees and the trunks were covered to keep them moist. Saw pits were used to cut the timber into manageable size. Chair-making was exclusively piecework and parts were assembled in Wycombe.

"The true chair-maker was a superior craftsman and Naphill bred. Perhaps the greatest of all of them was Jack Goodchild who could take a log of wood and, doing all the work himself, create a Windsor chair of exquisite beauty."

LACE-MAKING

It is not known if lace-making was deliberately introduced to Naphill and Walter's Ash through a "lace school", but it was well established in the village when the census first picks it up in 1851. Around one hundred women and girls were engaged in this home industry for the following two decades. They ranged in age from Julia Wooster aged 6 to Sarah Dean at 75. In 1881 there was a sharp drop in the number of lace-makers to 34 and in 1891 there were only 13 of them. However a few were still practicing the craft after the First World War. The village shop near The Wheel was the local connection with the trade.

Back to top

Naphill Gazette

The Gazette began in the 1930s when a Headmaster by the name of H.J. Adlam came to the village school. A man of many parts, he financed, wrote, printed and sold copies of this little paper round the village.

When Mr Adlam moved away in 1940 the Gazette ceased publication until it was revived in 1953 and, despite the occasional financial crisis, it has continued to support the social life of the village.

Back issues from 1937 to 1974 and 2002 to date can be on the Gazette Back Copies page.

Back to top

Modern Conveniences

"In 1921 we moved to from a London suburb and found Naphill truly rural. No piped water, electricity or gas; no buses, no telephone. Church, school, chapel and our homes were lit by paraffin lamps and candles. Our oil man came from Stores shop in Wycombe and his van was drawn by two piebald ponies."

WATER

In the past the water supply which we take for granted was of great concern to those living on a hilltop a steep 300 feet above the nearest natural source. In parish notes 1898 record that "All through last month the dry weather continued and the want of water on the hills has caused great inconvenience. Even the wells in the valley have threatened to run dry, and not for many years have the springs been known to be so low. So far as was possible, water has been sent up to Naphill but the fact that there is now no water in the stream in the park has made it a more difficult matter than usual".

Before the coming of mains water the villagers depended on rainfall collected from their gutters and stored in underground tanks from which pumps drew up water as required. Before there were gutters, rainfall was gathered in ponds and by sinking a well where the occasional layer of clay among chalk trapped water above the water table.

Two memories of the 1920s:

"Everyone depended on rain water tanks. It was about 1926, after a dry summer, that the village was nearly "dry", and the Council sent a tanker of water which was run into a tank which was then in from of the old Mission Hall, and in the mornings we went with buckets to get our supply. One elderly gentleman used to appear with a wooden yoke on his shoulders to make the job easier."

"I can remember by father saying in that year "If I can't but water tomorrow my cows will die" But I think it was that lover of animals Mr Will Brown who put a tank on his coach lorry and came to the rescue. I can also remember the women queuing up at the Mission Hall with their buckets."

Hopes of bringing a piped water supply to the village waxed and waned for many years. Hughenden Parish Council made unsuccessful attempts to interest the Amersham Waterworks Company as far back as 1905 and in 1917 negotiations switched to the Rickmansworth and Uxbridge Valley Waterworks Company. In 1927 they concluded that "nothing could be done about water supply to Naphill". However as a result of more vigorous campaigning in the five years from 1929 the village was finally connected.

FUEL

The Common was the main source if fuel until coal became available in the 19th century.

The campaign for an electricity supply was relatively short and straightforward. In 1927 a deputation sent from Hughenden Parish Council to the Wycombe Electric Light and Power Company discovered that Naphill and the rest of the parish would be connected if they could guarantee sufficient installations to justify laying the cables. A public meeting held in Naphill secured twenty signatures to add to the thirty already collected in Great Kingshill. Printed leaflets attracted more, and by the following year there was enough to interest the Electric Company. By the early thirties electricity was generally available throughout the village, although the supply was not without its problems.

GAS

Gas pipelines spread through the village fairly quickly after World War II although parts of the common were not connected until the late 1980s.

MAIN SEWERS

Sewers came in two distinct stages. Those who lived along the common were the first to receive the benefits after a main was laid in 1947 for the benefit of the RAF. The rest of the village awaited the District Council's Hughenden Sewerage Scheme which by 1961 had most of the mains in place but much work remained to be done on individual properties. The sewers were not useable until well into the following year.

Before sewers, villagers mostly used a cess-pit at the bottom of the garden which was emptied periodically by a council tank-lorry - known by some as Dirty Dennis from its manufacturer's name. In 1946 there were complaints about the sewage tank carts discharging their contents near Hunts Hill Lane.

TELEPHONES

A proposal to install telephone call offices at the post office at Cryers Hill and Naphill was first mooted by Hughenden Parish Council in 1920. There was some delay after the Council's initial approach, however in the end the lines were laid specifically for the call offices, and at a full Parish Meeting was called to authorise the Council to sign as guarantors for the telephone connection. The call office at Naphill was operating in 1922 and the Post Office became a popular place for eavesdropping on your neighbours' business. After complaints an attempt was made to have secluded partitions erected and eventually the public phone was installed in an outside kiosk.

Back to top

Shops & Pubs

SHOPS

Until fairly recently most villages supplies were bought in the village or brought to the village. In earlier times "shops" were converted houses and villagers were self-sufficient far many basic needs.

The house-cum-shop which stood opposite the Crick is said to have been Naphill's first shop. It must be where John Hussey appears in Censuses between 1841 and 1871 as a grocer and baker. His claim to be the first village shopkeeper might well be challenged by John Hall at Walter's Ash who in trade directories of the same period is shown as farmer and grocer.

John Hall's sale of groceries at his farmhouse door is at a time when a family's weekly needs would not fill a supermarket trolley and fewer of them were met in shops. Even 70 years later men used their muscles as well as their wages to feed their families. Growing vegetables in a garden or allotment was more of a necessity than a hobby.

Between the wars two bakers each delivered to the village from Downley. More recently bread was brought in a motor van from Speen. Until 1966 milk was delivered direct from Moseley Lodge Farm.

In 1938 the Post Office was located at the corner of Downley Road before it moved next door in the 1980s to make way for the butcher's shop, which itself moved from the corner of Forge Road when Willow Court was built.

Alma Cottage, on the site of the present Russel Court was a shop between the wars. For many years newspapers were delivered retail from a private house before the retailer made a newsagent's shop out of what had been a branch of the Co-Operative Society (and now is again!). The County Stores opposite the newsagents started by selling fruit from a small-holding on which Ash Close was built. At the other end of the village it is said that Batchelor's Store started as a barn converted for the sale of hardware.

PUBS

In the past there was self-sufficiency for alcohol too. Social historians reckon that until about 1780 nearly everywhere in the countryside brewed its own beer. After this, breweries, which had already established themselves in market towns, began to seek their business in surrounding areas. Eventually they bought up rural public houses in order to secure their sales through these outlets.

Two hundred years ago Naphill & Walter's Ash had one victualler between them. On circumstantial evidence he is more likely to have been at The Wheel than The Black Lion. Both these pubs were in use by 1841 and The Wheel had at that time already been acquired by Wheelers, the Wycombe brewers. In the nineteenth century the longest tenure at either of these pubs was by William and Mary Dean at The Black Lion. Including Mary's 14 years as a widow it spanned more than 50 years, and she was still the licensee in 1891 at the age of 80.

The 1830 Beerhouse Act allowed any ratepayer who bought a 2-guinea licence to retail beer from his own house. It was intended to discourage the working classes from drinking spirits, which were sold alongside beer at existing public houses. The first evidence of two village pubs sharing the trade with the new beerhouses does not appear until 1851, but thereafter there are two or three in the village right up to 1914. The Royal Oak was in the Main Road opposite Clappins Lane and it continued to operate until World War II. The Blacksmith's Arms was near the Common at the end of Downley Road. In 1910 Wheelers owned this as well as The Wheel and The Black Lion, whilst the Welsh Ale Company in Princes Risborough owned The Royal Oak. The third was remembered by a previous generation as The Rag and Louse. Names of beerhouses do not seem to have been officially recognised so a local nick-name may be all that it ever had.

Back to top