A Short History of Naphill and Walter's Ash (Part Two)

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.

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 do 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.

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 crown 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 Nap[hill 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.

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 contrast 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.

Trades

Extractive Industries

Earlier inhabitants of Naphill and Walter's Ash made a living by digging on the Common an d 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 neat the Bradenham turn. It seems to have petered out in the reign of Edward VII.

An earlier memory recalls that he 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-plated 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.

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 can be on the Naphill Gazette page.

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.

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 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.

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Latest News

Last call for items to be included in the February edition of the Naphill & Walter's Ash Gazette please!
Posted: Sat 14 January, 1:25pm

Please see our updated calendar page for forthcoming events.
Posted: Sat 14 January, 1:24pm

Christmas Greetings from the Naphill & Walter's Ash Gazette team. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!
Posted: Fri 23 December, 10:50am

CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT - tomorrow, Sunday 11 Dec, 4pm, Naphill Village Hall. Mulled wine, mince pies collection for Wycombe Homeless
Posted: Sat 10 December, 11:43am