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
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.
PRIOR TO THE SECOND WORLD WAR (1939-1945)
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
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.
POST WAR THROUGH TO THE MILLENIUM
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.
COMING SOON... The history of
Steeple Claydon Firework Displays