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Episode 29: Buckinghamshire

Where is Buckinghamshire?

In our twenty-ninth episode we mentioned lots of interesting places and things in Buckinghamshire, so here are some pictures and links if you're interested to find out more.

Ascott House

Ascott House presents as an ‘Old English’ manor house of black and white half timber, with red –tiled roofs and shafted brick chimneystacks. Its core is an old farmhouse thought to date from 1606.

The original farmhouse has undergone many changes since being acquired by the Rothschild family in 1873. Ascott houses an exceptional collection of paintings, fine furniture and superb porcelain. The extensive gardens are an attractive mix of the formal and natural with specimen trees, shrubs and beautiful herbaceous borders. 


Eythrope (previously Ethorp) is a hamlet and country house in the parish of Waddesdon, in Buckinghamshire, England. It is located to the south east of the main village of Waddesdon.

It was bought in the 1870s by a branch of the Rothschild family, and belongs to them to this day.

Eythrope is Grade II listed on the National Heritage List for England, and its gardens are also grade II listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Mentmore Towers

In 1836, Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s widow, Hannah, bought a few acres of land at Mentmore in Buckinghamshire for her sons so that they could take healthy exercise away from the city.  In 1850, Nathan's son Mayer Amschel (1818-1874) bought the Manor of Mentmore for £12,400 and commissioned Joseph Paxton and his son-in-law George Stokes to build him a house. 

The resulting plans, while Jacobean in style, incorporated the most modern features, including a huge central grand hall with glazed roof, plate-glass windows and central heating. 

Mentmore Towers stands four-square on a slight rise with towers at each corner, and is the largest of the English Rothschild houses.

Waddesdon Manor

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild wanted an estate where he could escape London in the summer months to entertain family and friends for weekend house parties. The Vale of Aylesbury was already known as ‘Rothschildshire’ for the number of the houses owned by the family in the area.

When he came into his inheritance in 1874 he purchased a bare agricultural estate with a misshapen cone at its centre. The foundation stone was laid in 1877 and six years later the land had been transformed into a beautiful landscape by planting mature trees, bringing in the water supply from Aylesbury and removing 30 feet of soil to create the impressive approach to the house. Ferdinand wanted the exterior of the house to be in the style of the French Renaissance châteaux of the Loire valley and engaged a French architect, Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur.

Hughenden Manor

Set in an unspoiled Chiltern valley with views of ancient woodlands and rolling hills, Hughenden offers a restful retreat from the pressures of everyday life, just as it did for Victorian Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, and his wife Mary Anne.

Outside, the surrounding views of the parkland invite you to explore the estate, following picturesque walking trails that take in the historic landscape of the Chiltern beech woods. In contrast to the exotic trees on the North Lawn, the Italianate formal gardens showcase annual beds full of the bold colours the Disraelis loved. Inside the manor, you can discover the top-secret Second World War operation codenamed ‘Hillside’.

Dorney Court

Dorney Court sits at the heart of the most southerly village in Buckinghamshire and is considered the first rural settlement West of London. The village occupies a practical and convenient position on land which rises above the Thames flood plain within easy reach of Windsor and only 30 miles from Hyde Park Corner. The turrets and ramparts of Windsor Castle float in the distance casting the most poetic of backdrops, while the community enjoys the protection of surrounding pastures and farmland as well as the magnificent sight of Dorney Lake and its celebrated arboretum.

The archaeological record indicates that Dorney, with its prized location neighbouring the river Thames and surrounded by fertile farmland, has long been a settled and active community. Taking its name from the ancient Saxon meaning “Island of Bumblebees’, traces of pre-historic occupation have been uncovered in the peat suggesting that riverborne trade as much as agriculture played dominant roles in the development of the site.


In 1666 Cliveden was acquired by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers. The estate he purchased consisted of 160 acres and just two small lodges. However, Buckingham had grand plans for Cliveden.

A favourite of King Charles II, the Duke wanted a residence close to London, at which he could entertain his mistress, the Duchess of Shrewsbury, and his friends in style. Enjoying a commanding position on a chalk cliff, the name Cliff-dene was given to the estate.

Buckingham chose a site for his house with far-reaching views high above the River Thames. The land sloped steeply and massive amounts of earth were excavated and moved from the north to the south side to create the 400ft-long platform that today we call the Parterre. William Winde, Buckingham’s architect, created a terrace that has formed the foundations of the two subsequent houses at Cliveden and, although altered over time, much of Buckingham’s design remains.

West Wycombe Park

West Wycombe Park is one of the most theatrical and Italianate of all English country houses and the Dashwood family home for over 300 years. Set in 45 acres of landscaped park, the house as we see it today is the creation of the 2nd Baronet in the 18th Century. This Palladian gem is frequently featured in screen adaptations of literary classics such as Cranford and Little Dorrit, in the television series Downton Abbey and more recently Dr Thorne.

West Wycombe is a historic village with bags of charm. Its streets are lined with cottages and inns of varying architectural styles, dating from the 16th century through to the 18th century.

Explore the village and then make your way up West Wycombe Hill for breathtaking views over the surrounding Chilterns countryside and designed landscape of West Wycombe Park and village. Other delights in the village include churches, a mausoleum, caves and a variety of gift shops and stores.

Claydon House

In the 1750s at his family seat in Buckinghamshire, Ralph Verney set out to create a country house of extraordinary grandeur that would dazzle his wealthy neighbours and outdo his political rivals. Thirty years on he was facing financial ruin.

Today the interiors that remain are among the most ambitious and lavish ever created in the eighteenth century. Claydon has been occupied by the Verney family for more than 550 years; the place is a testament to their fascinating fluctuating fortunes, from their close involvement in the English Civil War to the family connection with Florence Nightingale.


Chequers is the country house of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. A 16th-century manor house in origin, it is near the village of Ellesborough, halfway between Princes Risborough and Wendover in Buckinghamshire, at the foot of the Chiltern Hills, 40 miles (64 km) north-west of central London. Coombe Hill is two-thirds of a mile (1.1 km) northeast.

Chequers has been the country home of the serving Prime Minister since 1921 after the estate was given to the nation by Sir Arthur Lee by a Deed of Settlement, given full effect in the Chequers Estate Act 1917. The house is listed Grade I on the National Heritage List for England.

Boarstall Tower

Fourteenth-century moated gatehouse, built by John de Haudlo and once part of a fortified manor house, set in gardens.

Find out more about Boarstall Tower's seven centuries of history on this week's episode!

Bletchley Park

Once the top-secret home of the World War Two Codebreakers, Bletchley Park is now a vibrant heritage attraction.

Work at Bletchley Park began in the Mansion and its outbuildings, with a staff of around 150 people. As more and more people arrived to join the codebreaking operations, the various sections began to move into large pre-fabricated wooden huts set up on the lawns of the Park. For security reasons, the various sections were known only by their hut numbers. 

The first operational break into Enigma came around the 23 January 1940, when the team working under Dilly Knox, with the mathematicians John Jeffreys, Peter Twinn and Alan Turing, unravelled the German Army administrative key that became known at Bletchley Park as ‘The Green’. Encouraged by this success, the Codebreakers managed to crack the ‘Red’ key used by the Luftwaffe (German air force). In addition to German codes, Italian and later Japanese systems were also broken.

Newlands Tree Cathedral

There is a unique cathedral in Milton Keynes, not made of bricks and mortar but of bark and leaves. The Tree Cathedral at Newlands is based on the outline of Norwich Cathedral and was designed in 1986 by landscape architect Neil Higson.

Different species of trees were chosen to represent the different sections of the Cathedral. Hornbeam and tall-growing lime for the nave, evergreens to represent the central tower and spires and flowering cherry and apple as a focus in the chapels. In springtime colourful bulbs represent the sun shining through stained glass windows onto the ground. The Cathedral has a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees, meaning it's visually stunning throughout the year.

St Lawrence's Church, Broughton

St Lawrence's Church is a redundant Anglican church in Broughton, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. The church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building,and is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. The church stands on the eastern periphery of Milton Keynes. It is listed at Grade I because of its "remarkable series" of medieval wall paintings.

Buckingham Chantry Chapel

Tucked away in a cosy corner of the market square, discover the oldest building in Buckingham. It’s had many uses and today it’s a thriving second-hand bookshop and community space. While away the time in this atmospheric and tranquil setting with a good book and good company. Built in the late twelfth century as part of St John’s Hospital, the chapel was granted to the Master of the House of St Thomas of Acon in London, who converted it into a chantry chapel.

In 1540 the chapel became the home of the Royal Latin School. It was a school from 1552 until 1907. By 1781 it was also a Sunday School, said to be only the second such school in the country. The chapel was twice restored by public subscription, in 1857 and again, under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott, R.A. in the 1870s. In 1912 the chapel was bought by public subscription and given to us.

St Michael's Church, Chenies

St Michael's Church at Chenies, Buckinghamshire, is a Grade I listed Anglican parish church in the Diocese of Oxford in England. It is not of great architectural interest but stands in an attractive position in the Chess Valley near the Chenies Manor House.

The church is famous for its Bedford Chapel , the mausoleum of the Russell family (Dukes of Bedford of Woburn Abbey) which is private and not open to the public.

Cymbeline's Mount

Cymbeline's Castle is a good example of a smaller motte and bailey castle with both the major components extremely well preserved, and having additional features such as the entrance and approach. The interior of the baileys and top of the motte will retain buried evidence for former structures, including the foundations of timber defences strengthening the earthworks. The surrounding ditches contain deep deposits of accumulated silts from which may be recovered both artefacts relating to the period of use, and environmental evidence illustrating the developing appearance of the landscape around the castle during its construction and occupation.

The buried land surface beneath the motte and ramparts is of particular importance in this respect, demonstrating the former land use, and perhaps retaining evidence of Roman or prehistoric occupation suggested by surface finds. The commanding location of the castle demonstrates its strategic role in the years following the Norman Conquest, in particular dominating the communication routes which followed the edge of the Chiltern escarpment. It also lies in close proximity to a large medieval moated complex at the foot of Little Kimble Hill, allowing comparisons between the castle and this less defensive settlement which will provide valuable information about the changing lifestyle of the medieval aristocracy.

Soulbury Standing Stone

Located some 50 yards or so north of the church, at the junction of High Road and Chapel Hill in Soulbury, near Leighton Buzzard, this stone looms from the tarmac like a walrus breaking from the sea.

There are no give way signs, or other warnings, and yet no sign of collision damage, which is a minor miracle of some kind! Don't look for this one at night.

The Hand of St James at St Peter's Church, Marlow

An interesting relic said to be the mummified hand of St. James the Apostle is said to be preserved at the church. This relic had been in the keeping of the Reading Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.

It passed through many vicissitudes after that, until it was purchased by Scott Murray in 1856 for his private chapel at Danesfield. It was finally brought to the church of St Peter when the estate was sold.

Cholesbury Camp

The large multivallate hillfort known as Cholesbury Camp stands on a broad plateau in the Chiltern Hills near the border between Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, to the east of Cholesbury Common, and to the north of Cholesbury Lane and the modern village. The hillfort is roughly oval in plan and measures approximately 310m north east to south west by 230m north west to south east. The interior of the hillfort is quite level.

The earthen ramparts lie mostly within a wooded belt which encircles all but the southern quarter of the hillfort, where the banks and ditches have been obscured by houses and gardens. A large ditch flanked by internal and external banks runs throughout the woodland belt, forming the sole defensive boundary to the north east and north west, but accompanied by further banks and ditches to the west and south east.

Grim's Ditch

Grim's Ditch, Grim's Dyke (also Grimsdyke or Grimes Dike in derivative names) or Grim's Bank is a name shared by a number of prehistoric bank and ditch linear earthworks across England. They are of different dates and may have had different functions.

The purpose of these earthworks remains a mystery, but as they are too small for military use they may have served to demarcate territory. Some of the Grims Ditches may have had multiple functions.

The Whiteleaf Cross

The chalk hill-figure of Whiteleaf Cross has dominated the local landscape for several centuries, becoming a cultural focus associated with many aspects of local life.

It was first officially noted by Francis Wise in 1742, but its full history is unknown and is the subject of much local speculation and folklore.

Sir John Schorne

Apart from the immediate heritage, within easy travelling distance there are many places to investigate a little further away, and one such village is North Marston, famed for its association with the miraculous Master John Schorne. He first came to North Marston in 1290, and his most celebrated achievement was to supposedly ‘conjure the devil into a boot.’ According to the story, having been called to ‘exorcise’ an epileptic woman he proceeded to cast out the devil and imprison him in a boot, and with the superstitious villagers quite happy in this belief, the deed is thought to have been the origin of the Jack in the Box.

As further emphasis of his powers, when during a severe drought he tapped the ground with his staff a spring began to bubble forth, and this - never failing nor freezing - gained such a reputation for miracle cures that, bringing much prosperity to the village, North Marston became a place of medieval pilgrimage. As decreed by his will, Sir John Schorne was buried in 1314 in the north chancel of North Marston church, but so many miracles were said to occur at his tomb that this also became a revered shrine for pilgrims, and indeed it was due to such fame that in 1478 the Bishop of Salisbury, Richard Beauchamp, obtained a licence from the Pope to have the shrine moved to ‘where he pleased.’

In consequence it was removed to the rebuilt St. Georges Chapel, Windsor, to be placed in John Schorne’s Tower. As for North Marston, only a statue of Sir John blessing a ‘bote’ (boot) was left, placed in the chancel of the church. Nevertheless the village still had the Holy Well (sometimes known as the Town Well) and for centuries physicians from the locality would include the water in their medicines. When visiting the well, those seeking to benefit drank from a chained gold cup, and when in 1835 several neighbouring villages suffered from a cholera epidemic, North Marston escaped without a single fatality.

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