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Bledlow-cum-Saunderton

Aerial photograph of ring-ditches at Milon's WorksThere was a great deal of prehistoric activity in this parish. One reason that is often put forward for this is the presence of the Icknield Way, but the existence of this prehistoric track has recently been called into question and it looks as if it was a medieval invention. A lot of prehistoric flint has been found in fieldwalking surveys, such as near the Warren, where Mesolithic to Early Bronze Age flint flakes, Neolithic and Bronze Age flint scrapers and two Neolithic to Bronze Age axeheads were found; and a field near the Icknield Way contained a Neolithic flint scatter made up of a hammerstone, forty scrapers, a fragment of an axehead and a borer. The earliest artefact in the parish is a Palaeolithic handaxe found at Grange Farm. Other flints have been found around the parish. They seem to tie in with several round barrows that are known from aerial photographs, field survey or excavation.

 

Barrow at The Cop, Bledlow, possible Bronze Age or SaxonThere are at least two round barrows at Lodge Hill, one of which was excavated in 1933. Beaker fragments, flint, animal and possible human bone were found. Two of the six barrows that form a small cemetery at Molins Works in Saunderton, were opened in 1858, but with no results. Round barrows were constructed in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age to cover burials. Ring-ditches, possible ploughed out barrows, are also known from aerial photographs near Home Farm, Grange Farm and Slough Farm, at Saunderton Lee and by the railway line to Princes Risborough. The other possible Bronze Age round barrow at Bledlow Cop may actually have been Saxon. The excavations in 1933 uncovered an empty pit that, on later re-examination, had cut through a Saxon burial. The original excavator had thought that the Saxon burial had only been cut through when barrow-diggers in the seventeenth century had robbed the central Bronze Age grave. As there were no Bronze Age goods in the central area at all, this seems unlikely. Early Bronze Age pottery was found scattered in the mound, but this may have been from pits disturbed by later Saxon construction of the mound. There was also some Late Bronze Age settlement activity and a few burials.

 

Infant burial at the Lodge Hill excavationsA possible Early to Middle Iron Age settlement was found in trenches on Chinnor Hill in the 1940s. Pottery was found on the ground and some excavation followed, in which pits and a hearth were found. Some of the pottery may be Saxon, however. A few Iron Age hut circles surrounded by an enclosing bank were also excavated at Lodge Hill. Lots of Late Iron Age and Roman artefacts and a cremation cemetery were found digging a pond at Rye Close near Lodge Hill Farm. There is also thought to be a Roman villa at Lodge Hill Farm and in the excavations around the earlier barrows on the hill, lots of Roman material was found, including pottery, animal bone, a spindle-whorl, quern stone and metalworking slag.

 

Another Roman villa is known at Church Farm, Saunderton. Part of this was excavated in the 1930s. What the original excavator thought was the main villa building may actually have been an outbuilding, perhaps a granary, though it did have a hypocaust. Three infant burials were excavated here as well. Adults had to be buried outside the settlement when they died, according to Roman law, but this did not apply to infants. Another structure was excavated and interpreted as a corn-drying kiln but experimental work done in the 1980s found that these structures would not have been very good at drying corn, but may have been used as malting ovens instead, the first stage of beer brewing. Another ‘corn-drying kiln’ was found in an excavation at Cuttlebrook/Wainhill Spring, suggesting the site of another Roman villa. There is also plenty of other evidence of Roman activity in the parish.

 

Apart from the Saxon burials and barrow at Bledlow Cop, only a few scattered Saxon artefacts have been found. Much of this is metal-detected metalwork. A possible Saxon cemetery was found digging a pit on Hemly Hill in Saunderton and another in a rag-pit on the Warren. A Saxon or medieval cross-dyke was surveyed at Bottom Farm. This may have been a territorial boundary of some kind.

 

St Mary's church, SaundertonHoly Trinity church, BledlowThere were several different manors in this parish in the medieval period. These were Saunderton St Nicholas, based on the old church; Brown’s Manor, recorded from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century; and Druels Manor. St Nicholas’ church was united with St Mary’s in Saunderton in the fifteenth century and thereafter probably left to decay. It may have been somewhere on Church Farm as a medieval cemetery was found in the excavations of the Roman villa, as well as the medieval manor house with surrounding moat and a motte and bailey castle. A twelfth to thirteenth century font inside St Mary’s suggests there was a church here at that date, and it was rebuilt in the nineteenth century using fourteenth century windows. Holy Trinity Church in Bledlow is twelfth century with many later alterations and some surviving medieval wall paintings inside. There is evidence of a medieval chantry chapel in Bledlow Ridge from the field-name Chapel Close.

 

Other medieval remains are known from earthworks around the parish, such as the moat, fishpond and ridge-and-furrow surveyed in Roundabout Wood. Cultivation terraces are also known from aerial photographs at Parsonage Farm and north of Bledlow Ridge. Medieval floor tile and pottery was found in the garden of Manor Cottages. A medieval ditch, well and a gully, all containing animal bone, tile and pottery sherds, were found in trial trenching on the south-east side of Cross Lanes.

 

A few of the listed buildings in the parish date back to the fifteenth century, such as Old Callow Down Farm, The Cottage and The Old House, Oddley Lane. Many of the others date to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as Grange Farm, which was a grange in the medieval period, though some are later. St Paul’s church dates to the nineteenth century.

 

Bledlow Ridge windmillThere were quite a few mills in the parish in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries though most stood on the site of earlier mills. There was Bledlow Mill on Perry Lane; the mill house is still standing. This was used to make paper in these later centuries, as was Saunderton Mill. There are records and pictures of a post-mill on Bledlow Ridge that ceased working in 1913. A windmill probably stood in the field marked as Windmill Bit on a nineteenth century map of Bledlow.

 

Bledlow CrossThe railway also made quite an impact on the parish. The Risborough to Thame railway was opened in 1906, though the Watlington branch railway was opened much earlier in 1864. It was the latter that led to the building of Bledlow Bridge Halt station and Bledlow Station, the bridges on Perry Lane and West Lane, a level crossing at The Ford, and a railway cutting at Saunderton.

 

Other later monuments include a village called Lockington that is recorded on 1770 and 1825 maps but no later than that and remains of some houses have been seen in woods south of Ilmer. There was also a workhouse in the parish, known as the Wycombe Union School as it housed a school and children’s home as well. Another monument at Bledlow Cop is, of course, Bledlow Cross, a chalk-cut figure. Like Whiteleaf Cross nearby, it is not documented before the post-medieval period, in this case, 1827 is the earliest date it is mentioned. A very modern monument is the former Royal Observation Corps post on Hemley Hill.