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The Village, Yesterday & Today

The following article is taken from Doris Stephens' Memories of Sherington, c1969

Sherington, this village is typical of those small communities in north Buckinghamshire and elsewhere, which have grown up over the years and made their living from the land. Although industrial employment now plays a far larger part in the life of the community, it is still essentially a farming village, unlike such places as Hanslope, Castlethorpe, Haversham, and certain villages near to Bletchley which depend to a far greater extent upon industrial undertakings near to hand.

With a population of about 500, Sherington has changed but very little in general appearance since the turn of the century. Houses divide very sharply into the old stone and thatch (or tile) cottages of past days, and post-war building. Apart from a council estate of some 40 houses slightly apart from the village, the total number of houses is approx. the same, new building simply replacing demolition. In spite of the additional council houses, the population figure is not much greater than in 1900, for then families were larger, and the 5 or 6 large houses were well staffed with domestic labour, a circumstance not possible today. Such labour is not available and in any case the present occupiers of such houses could ill-afford the necessary wages!

Figures given below indicate general trends of employment between 1900 and 1914 (subject to the failure of human memory!)

There were:

By this time Wolverton Works was making its influence felt on the neighbourhood in general and some 20 men from the village had found employment there. As the daily hours were then 6 am to 5-30 pm. these men needed to cycle or walk into Newport Pagnell for transport, often leaving home before 5 am. Bread was delivered twice weekly from Olney and a new service of daily delivery began from Newport Pagnell toward the end of the period. Similarly a motor bus began to operate between Newport Pagnell and Olney offering 4 journeys daily. Previously all transport had been on foot or by horse and trap.

The mineral water factory employed several men and sold it products over an area as wide as Deanshanger and Yardley to the north, to Stony Stratford and south to Wooburn Sands. Half pint bottles were sold at one penny each to the general public or 8d per dozen to the retailer. Delivery was by horse and van. A similar firm operated in Wooburn Sands and at one time ventured to set up in opposition in the village, but although its roundsman had a double horse van it did not prosper and was forced to withdraw, no doubt due to the force of old established patronage.

A doctor, policeman, midwife & schoolmaster were resident in the village, only the last named remains today! There were also several members of the local 'gentry' who lived upon income from estates.

Cottage rents were in general 2/6 per week for the average type of dwelling and up to 4/- for the few better types. Wages ranged from 16/- for a farm labourer, 18/- for a herdsman, while Wolverton Works were paying 16/- to a labourer and 24/- to a mechanic. In general people worked hard , low wages were often supplemented by extra work at harvest time, lace-making, dress-making, daily domestic work in larger houses (washing), easy & cheap farm produce and so on.

Today by far a larger number of the male population are engaged in industry, as well as quite a few females. There are around 20 men employed the various farms, 2 or 3 have small holdings, 6 men go to the brickworks at Bletchley, 12 to Tickfords Newport Pagnell, up to 30 to Wolverton Works, 10 to Stanley Woods, Olney, several to the Vauxhall at Luton, while the rest find employment as lorry drivers, garage hands, council employees, builders and maintenance, casual labourers to Laings, RAF at Cranfield and so on. Several places provide transport eg. RAF. Laings, Brickworks, Vauxhall, and a potato crisp factory at Turvey. Of the village craftsmen none remain, save the builder! The wheelwrights premises is now a large garage.

There are still only 2 village shops and a sub-post-office but several larger concerns in Newport Pagnell deliver grocery once or twice weekly, while the Co-operative Society sends a travelling shop. There is one delivery of bread but two firms supply the shops. The village milkman is the son of the family quoted in the 1900s; the Co-op also delivers. Various other travelling vans visit during the week , including a fishmonger, a butcher and the local seeds merchant and cattle food retailer. In spite of greater industrial earnings income is supplemented by pig-keeping, chicken farming and gardening. There is a firm of haulage contractors and an agricultural implements retailer. There is a sharp decrease in the number of landed 'Gentry', only one person seems wholly capable of living in this way today and he also owns land in Scotland and Northern England. One other is also a retired civil servant with a far from rosy standard of living, compared with past days.

In general, the village presents a picture of prosperity. Few families appear poor - to the need of assistance. Standards of clothing and general living and entertainment are high, especially among manual workers. (Today the Rector and Schoolmaster do not rank among the wealthy). Farmers vary in prosperity, hard work and modern methods generally pay greater dividends.

Services to the village are plentiful. there is gas, electricity, water, flush sanitation available to all houses. Water is supplied from Bow Brickhill; this is general within the Newport Pagnell rural area now. Bus services between Stony Stratford and Bedford are plentiful as well as additional services to Northampton and Oxford.

D.S.

Subsequent notes by SHS

Up until the arrival of Carters Close the building, within the village envelope, was confined to replacement buildings and infilling. Since then there have been some small estates of 4-6 houses, but still built as infilling. The village envelope has not been allowed to expand. Also there are now numerous listed buildings that cannot be changed or removed.

At the turn of the century there were at least 70 wage earning people employed by the various industries in the village, this does not include the establishments, such as the 4 public houses, small holdings etc. that were self employed family businesses. This could bring the total up to in excess of 100 people working full and part time in Sherington, from a total population of around 500, this almost makes the village self supporting, but Sherington always has been a 'working village'.

The Wolverton Railway works, 'The Works', has now ceased to be a major employer in the area.

Oldhams mineral waters ceased trading in circa 1935.According to an old employee, the company also delivered, by horse and van to the town of Bedford. This meant a 4 am. start, as the round trip had to be done in one day.

The brickworks in Bletchley has now ceased to produce bricks.

Aston Martins (Tickford Works) now only employs a few men from the village.

Stanley Woods (reproduction furniture) moved away from Olney.

Vauxhalls are on the point of closing.

RAF Cranfield is now a civil employer.

Laings were only an employer while the M1 was being built in the 60s.

The confection shop (The Corner Stores) has closed its doors, after falling derelict in the 60s. Being bought back to life and having several owners, all in the antique trade, closed finally due to retirement, in 1993.

The Co-op in Newport has closed its doors.

Rents at 2/6 equate to 12 pence, wages of 80p to 1-20p per week. But from that you can see that, the rent was always the greatest factor to be considered, where-ever you were living, 15% of the wage went to the landlord.

N.A.

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