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Great Horwood: Fire, Pests & Pestilence
THE CROWN FRONTING THE GREEN: Despite its past reputation as the 'Fever Village,'
Mrs Edward Sear, who lived in a cottage on The Green, lived for more than 100 years

After the Norman Conquest, the manor was granted to Walter Giffard, as a reward for his military assistance, but he then gave it to the priory of Newton Longville, with which it passed in 1441 to New College, Oxford.

As for the parish church, this dates from the late 13th century, and of the subsequent rectors one would become Archbishop of Canterbury. Several memorials commemorate the Barker family, who for many years were resident at the early 17th century Manor House, but during the later century they were probably succeeded by John Harris, who had previously rented Calverton Manor Farm.

As for the less privileged inhabitants, in 1693 a woman had her parish relief reduced from 5s to 2s 6d when her husband, who was supposed to be a soldier, was discovered to be living in London, 'and gets a sufficient liveihood by his trade.' As for the lady's response, this was to use 'insolent language towards the officers of the said parish,' whereupon the court ordered that she should 'keep herself and her children at hard work and behave herself.' Some hope, for in 1701 she was committed to the bridewell at Newport Pagnell for a month, since inhabitants had cause of suspicion that she 'may in her passions commit some rash and violent act.'

As for her husband, in January 1706 he was handed over to the Regiment of Foot commanded by Sir Richard Temple. In fact with the advent of the Napoleonic menace an urgent need for men would arise, and in consequence in 1798 a list of males aged 15 to 60 was compiled, 'capable of acting in a military capacity.' However, at Great Horwood it seems that an allowance would have to be made for John Cox, for he had 'rhumatism.'

As for another menace, in less than two hours on Monday, May 28 1781 a great fire destroyed 16 farmhouses, four malt houses and 40 cottages, whereupon the 'poor sufferers (whose loss upon the most moderate computation when all Insurances are deducted amounts to the Sum of Seven Thousand Four Hundred and Forty-four Pounds) are reduced to the utmost distress'. Thus the subsequent reconstruction accounts for the several Georgian brick cottages in the village, whilst the Crown dates from about 1795, built by John Harris. And on the subject of ale, when the Reverend John Adey came to the village, around 1823, he encountered such drunkenness that he began to preach on the Green.

Then a farmer, Mr Hogg, presented a brick barn in Wooden Lane, and this duly became an independent chapel. In fact there would be such a marked improvement in local behaviour that chapels of other denominations would also be established.

As for the parish church, in June 1874 this reopened after a restoration, during which consecrated earth was used to fill in the pond on the Green. Indeed, this was a blessing long overdue, for, with farm animals turned out on to the Green twice a day, dead beasts floating on the surface had been a common sight.

Yet this didn't deter the village baker from washing his oven mop in the water, until eventually the pollution became so bad that the pond was pronounced detrimental to health.

However, the wells were little better, for with the farmers throwing stable manure into the streets the gutters flowed with black water, and pigs wallowed in the fetid mud. Indeed, in 1858 a virulent form of typhoid broke out, and with Great Horwood becoming known as the 'Fever Village' many locals died.

But nevertheless perhaps a few still retain a local presence, at least to judge by the recent Citizen 'ghost hunt' at the Swan Inn.