Steeple Claydon Local History Society
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The History of Steeple Claydon

Lying some 12 miles to the north west of Aylesbury, evidence suggests that the earliest setters began the creation of the village around 660 AD on a site close to St. Michaelís church.

The name Claydon derives from the Anglo-Saxon for clayey hill with Steeple thought to have been added in recognition of a tower or steeple on the church.

Below is a sketch by Mike Wells which he produced for the millenium exhibition. It depicts how Steeple Claydon may have looked in medieval times. This sketch is based on old aerial photographs where many of the building positions can still be seen left in the ground. The style of the buildings are based on those that have appeared in books of the the area and should be fairly representative. Although we cannot be certain of the individual houses, we are fairly sure that the church would have been similar to that shown.


At the turn of the 20th century, this rural village population had only slowly increased to around 800 people with their occupations mainly centered on working on the land,  railways or in-house activities such as lace making. The opening of the Brickworks at Calvert in 1900 (which was to become the second largest in the Country) was to have an increasing effect on the employment situation, with an estimate of 90% of village male worker population employed there, it also contributed to the expansion of the village. There were only around 200"dwellings" in the village, mainly centered on North End, West End and Church End. These were a mix of mainly thatched cottages and late Victorian buildings. The village layout was based around the centuries old road structure of, what is now, Buckingham Road, Chaloners Hill, Vicarage Lane, Addison Road (previously Bull Lane). West Street and North End. Within the village, there remained a good deal of open land with allotments available for villagers.

The surrounding countryside continued to be pastureland with very little of the land turned over to crops.  There were very few tractors and horses to  provide any required motive power.  Dairy farming was the mainstay with only a few sheep being kept.  For an agricultural worker, the wage was around £1.50 per week- there was considerable poverty.  Additionally, practically every farm and cottage had their own pigsty and chickens. With the War requirement for food, there began a reversal with the growing of crops beginning its predominance.

Local travel was by horse/ cart, on foot or by bicycle.  The area was criss-crossed by paths used for many centuries.  There were very few motor vehicles; a taxi service was not introduced until the early 1930s.  The Village Railway station had been opened in 1851 on the Oxford/Cambridge line however if you wished to go further afield, connections locally were available to London/Buckingham (at Verney Junction) and London/Sheffield (at Calvert).  

Services we now take for granted were slow in coming.  Lighting in dwellings was provided by oil lamps and heating by coal/wood fires.  Electricity became available around 1930 and by 1937, there were 16 street lamps in the village- only used in the winter period.  There was no Gas supply, this coming in 1988.  Water was provided by wells, both private and public.  There were reputedly 365 wells within the village, one remains on Chaloners Hill, residents had to pump the water out and carry it to their homes.  A mains supply was first laid on in the late 1930s. 

Local shops and visiting trades people serviced the needs of the residents. There was little need to leave the village for provisions; as for shops-there were a Bakery, a Co-operative Society, and a Bicycle shop, Cobblers, Butchers- along with a Blacksmith. The milk was delivered to your door. The village was visited by all manners of tradesmen -selling bread, meat, fish, wood, oil & candles, drapery, clothes, elastic/cotton, and coal.  After the war, the visiting tradesmen gradually ceased to call at the village. There were no shops selling vegetables, as villagers grew their own.  What you did not grow yourself could be obtained by trading items of your "crop" with neighbours. The Village boasted six Public Houses. There was a Post Office, a Bank, A Doctor's surgery, a Garage, Petrol Station, and Bus Company.

St Michael's Church (dominating the skyline), the Methodist Church and the Mission Hall were the religious focal points. Upon the completion of a new School, a free Library and Public Hall was opened in the extended old school building in 1902 provided reading matter and leisure space for villagers. A good number of Clubs/Societies/Groups were active in the village.


Following the end of the war. It is thought that up to 40 thatched cottages were demolished. In 1946, plans were laid to build 77 houses. Over the ensuing decades, further estates, in-filling and individual developments were completed to accommodate an increasing population. By 1971, the population had reached 1275 but the 1991 census numbers recorded a significant rise to 2269- 860 dwellings being noted. The once green areas in and around the village have now been almost filled. Time will tell how far development will be allowed to take the present village "boundary"

Local Parish employment opportunities have decreased. The Brickworks, once the major local employer with over 1000 workers, has closed and been demolished. This land is now being converted into a housing estate - Calvert Village. The Railway line is closed for passenger traffic and the station is demolished. Agriculture has the benefit of mechanisation and requires less manpower. A new Recreation Ground and pavilion have been created. Allan Shaw School was opened in 1977, the old one demolished to make way for housing. An outdoor swimming pool was built. There remains three Public Houses, a Bakery, the Garage, the Co-op, Newsagents/general store, Post Office, Hairdresser and a Fish and Chip shop. There are also Doctors and Dentist's practices.

Like many rural communities, village business and commerce has receded as residents' mobility and surrounding choice has increased. In many respects. Steeple Claydon has become a "commuter" village.



The history of Steeple Claydon Firework Displays  

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