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Local writers bring history to book.

The Rev. William Cole, who served as the rector of Bletchley from 1753 until 1767.
The diary he kept gives a fascinating insight into the local life at that period

The Shire Horse in Peace And War was published in 1915
by J. Albert Frost who lived at The Homestead, Bletchley Road

In recent months, with the sad passing away of Ted Legge and then Ted Enever, Bletchley has lost two of its most respected resident authors.

However, their wealth of local knowledge has fortunately been preserved within their various writings and publications and perhaps now is an opportune time to glance back at some of the other people who have locally wielded the pen.

As epitomised by the impressive monument in St Mary's Church, after the Norman Conquest the de Grey family came to hold considerable influence and power throughout the district and it was at their manorial home of Water Hall at Water Eaton that Arthur, the 14th Baron de Grey de Wilton, was born and raised.

However, in 1563 he transferred the family seat from Water Hall to Whaddon, and following his appointment by Queen Elizabeth as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, he gained the capable service of Edmund Spenser as his secretary.

In fact, it was whilst staying as a guest at Whaddon Hall before departing with his master for Ireland that Spenser, according to tradition, is said to have composed part of his monumental life's work The Faerie Queene, beneath 'a most venerable oak' on the south side of the garden.

The tree has long since disappeared although an ancient volume of The Faerie Queene was more lately to be seen in the library of Ascott House, near Wing.

Moving on through the years, in 1753 the Reverend William Cole came to live in Bletchley, pursuant to his appointment as rector of St Mary's Church, but it is for his diary dealing with some of the years that he spent in the town that he is best remembered.

In fact, it might perhaps be equated to a modern-day soap opera (for it would certainly make good content for one) since it deals not only with himself and his clerical life but also the local characters - their quarrels, gossip and everyday activities.

In 1767 the Rev Cole left Bletchley for Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire but, regarding his time in Bletchley, The Bletchley Diary Of The Rev William Cole 1765 - 1767 was published in 1931.

As for some of the characters mentioned, under the date Sunday, March 9 1766, is found: "Mr Armstead, the mad and drunken Apothecary of Fenny Stratford, about three or four days ago salivated Joe Holdom for a bad leg and yesterday morn borrowed his horse to go to some other apothecary for drugs, as he has none

Of his own, and has not been here since: so the patient left in a miserable way and not knowing how to proceed, sent his son this afternoon to Leighton to one Mr Pike to come to him."

(Spelt as Armilstead, the burial of the wife of the 'mad' apothecary is recorded on October 30 1782, although there is no mention in the registers of her husband).

Deserving of an entire article is the story of Water Eaton's very own 'mystic', Thomas Lake Harris. Suffice to say that, after his birth in 1823 at Water Eaton Mill, his parents took him at an early age to America where he eventually became minister of a chapel in New York.

He died in 1906, and is still remembered for the 'stirring' poetry that he wrote 'looking forward to an era of love and liberty and peace when there shall be visible signs of brotherhood in Christ among all Christian men'.

Not that there seemed much point in looking during the early years of the 20th century when prevailing imperial tensions would soon erupt in the outbreak of the First World War.

Despite the competition of motor vehicles, this was still an age when the horse remained an important means of travel and the Army swiftly descended to commandeer many from the local district.

These even included the 'hunters' of Lord Dalmeny, at The Grange. If a local expert should be required, then J. AIbert Frost was on hand at The Homestead, Bletchley Road. Indeed at the beginning of 1915 he published his book The Shire Horse In Peace War. which for 2s, was available from the publishers Vinton and Co, 8 Breams Buildings, Chancery Lane, London, or from any local bookstall. Or it could perhaps be had by personally visiting Mr Frost, who was also able to offer Rhode Island Red eggs for sale at 2s 6d per sitting.

As for the future role of the horse, as Mr Frost wrote: "The motor-mad mechanic may think that his chance has come, but generals who have to lead an army over water-logged plains, or snow covered mountains, will demand horses, hitherto - and henceforth - indispensable for mounting soldiers on, rushing their guns quickly into position, or drawing their food supplies and munitions of war after them."

For those who had witnessed the horrific carnage of the First World it would no doubt seem ridiculous that a repeat performance could be staged 20 years later but so it was destined to be.

When the Second World War broke out, a well-known Canadian artist and illustrator, Herbert Sellen, was on a visit to his daughter, Mrs Phyllis Fryer, at 59 Eaton Avenue. Being unable to return to Canada, he instead stayed at her home, where he died in 1962, aged 86.

During the war he ran several art classes in Bletchley as well as providing artwork for the local newspapers but his reputation achieved a far wider renown, and the illustrations for The Story Of Little Greedy' - a salutary tale for the younger generation - are just one example of his artistic talents.

Also to achieve a far wider renown, albeit for reasons of less merit, was Robert Maxwell.

On the site of the old gasworks luring the early 1960s work began in a new printing and bookbinding premises for his Pergamon Press, to be known as the Buckingham Press. But with the buildings having remained unused they came up for sale in February 1966.

The reason, according to the chairman, Robert Maxwell MP, was that it had not proved possible to recruit the staff with the necessary skill.

Nowadays, with the incredible developments in technology it is perfectly possible, via 'print on demand', for anyone to produce any number of their own books to a high quality at an affordable cost and thus anyone can now have the means to preserve their life story for posterity.

An inspiration is undoubtedly Harry Hill, who was featured in the last issue of Local Pages. And conversely, such technology - if at present at the embryo stage - is also capable of 'resurrecting' books which have long been out of print.

In fact, one that must surely qualify is that written by Captain Knight, the grandson of a former rector of Bow Brickhill, who long before the 'Great Escape' broke out of a German prisoner-of-war camp during the First World War and made a 'home run' to England, there to be received by the King at a private interview.

Sadly, as a result of the cruelty and privations that he suffered in Germany, he died from illness on October 30 1919, at 82 Eaton Square.

However copies of Brother Bosche, the story of his adventure, are still to be found and - as with many deserving titles - may soon be accessed by this new technology which will therefore quite literally have the potential to bring the past to life.

Extracts from Brother Bosch. Gazetted to the 3rd Devons in 1914, after much service in the trenches in France Gerald Knight joined the Royal Flying Corps as an observer. He then obtained his pilot's certificate but was brought down in the autumn of 1916 while bombing over the German lines. Taken prisoner, his third attempt to escape proved successful and on landing in England he was received by the King at a private interview.