From Hogsty End to Woburn Sands
This Heritage Trail was produced by myself and Woburn Sands Town Council in 2007 to celebrate the Centenary of the Parish of Woburn Sands when the former “Hogsty End” of Wavendon Parish became a civic parish in its own right, holding its first council meeting in April 1907. The Ecclesiastical Parish had been formed earlier in 1867 and includes Aspley Heath where the Parish Church of St Michael stands, serving both Aspley Heath and Woburn Sands.
When Woburn Sands first became a parish, it was part of the Newport Pagnell Rural District Council in the County of Buckinghamshire. It remained a rural parish until 1974 when the facilities of the village far surpassed those in most villages, notably because of the number of shops and businesses, and the parish applied for Town Council status, which was granted and so we are now Woburn Sands Town Council.
With the growth of Milton Keynes, this part of north Bucks eventually became the Milton Keynes Unitary Authority and Woburn Sands part of the Danesborough Ward of Milton Keynes.
Due to continued development and changes since 2007, I have updated some parts where necessary.
We hope you will enjoy this walk around Woburn Sands and part of Aspley Heath. If you are new to the district, it will provide you with some of the history of our town and the stories connected to it. If you are local, we hope you will find something of interest about your surroundings.
The trail starts and ends at the car park behind the High Street, accessed from Russell Street, but the walk is circular, so you can start anywhere on the trail and end up back where you started.
As well as the many food businesses on the High Street, the trail takes in five pubs, so if you time the walk correctly, you can call in for refreshments at one or rush around in just over an hour.
The public toilets are situated in the High Street behind the War Memorial. Please also clean up after your dog if you bring one. There are litterbins situated around the town for your refuse.
One part of the trail has a small number of steps, but an alternative route is given. Please note that dogs are not allowed in the Churchyard. Although one of the footpath passages is quite narrow, there are no barriers at either end.
The name Woburn Sands is derived from “Woburn” the nearest market town in the mid nineteenth century and “Sands” from the Greensand Hills between Woburn and here. The settlement began to grow with the arrival of the railway in 1846, and expanded particularly in the Victorian and Edwardian period due to its closeness to London, its healthy climate, and its delightful wooded surroundings.
The numbers referred to on the map below are listed against the points of interest on the trail.
If arriving by car, you will find the entrance to the Town Car Park in Club Lane, off Russell Street, which is a turning off the High Street, at the northern end of our parade of shops. Please use the signposted “Shoppers Car Park”. Please remember to lock your car and keep your valuables out of sight!
In the carpark, you will see some finger sign posts pointing “To the Shops” and “Toilets”. Follow these signs and leave the car park on foot via the Club Lane, a narrow pedestrian walkway with pretty period cottages which leads up to the High Street. As you enter the High Street, cross at the nearby zebra crossing, to look at:
The Reverend Hay Erskine bought a vacant plot of land beside his Vicarage in 1870, and gave it to the parish for the building of a public hall. It was founded under the “Literary and Scientific Institutions Act” by statutory grant, which gave it the name “Institute”, and was controlled by a body of trustees. The original subscribers list survives, and shows that the Duke of Bedford gave £100, and almost every local citizen contributed. It was well used, with concerts, dances and parish events, as well as its own library of books. The fine pitch-pine floor gave one of the best dancing surfaces in the district. It is now the home of Woburn Sands Library, assisted by many local volunteers, and has a good collection of Woburn Sands history books, if you want to know more.
Walk south along the pavement towards the War Memorial. Look across the road at the shop fronts:
Most of the shop frontages were built out from existing houses and cottages that once stood on this road. At one time, the other side of the road was a large farm estate, so development was limited to this side of the road. Some still have period features. At no.31, now a Tapas Bar, there are Fleur-de-Lys feathers at each end of the shop facade, a symbol used by the Prince of Wales. It is said that a young Prince of Wales shopped there when it was Bathurst’s Chemists for his sweets when staying with friends locally in the early 20th century, so the shopkeeper felt this earned him a self-proclaimed Royal connection!
Now you reach Woburn Sands War Memorial:
Our War Memorial holds the names of 43 World War One and eight World War Two casualties from this area. The Memorial used to stand in the Square, in the main road junction at the top of the town, further on in front of you, but weight of traffic and a series of accidents caused it to be moved to this site in 1972 by fork lift truck.
Walk a little way down the road by the side of the Memorial to view the frontage of:
This imposing building was probably built by the Denison family, who were lords of the Manor of Wavendon, and who lived there for several generations. The Denisons funded an early school in buildings connected with The Swan, and William Denison was one of the first Churchwardens when St. Michaels was built on Aspley Heath in 1868. He also handed this building over to be used as the Vicarage, which it remained until about 1968. The main entrance is at the rear of the house. William died during a service at St. Michaels in 1890.
Back at the High Street, turn right and next to Shelton House stands:
Alfred Pettit retired to Woburn Sands sometime before the First World War, to a house in Aspley Heath. He was a Churchwarden from 1915 to 1923, and was a director of the Aspley Guise and Woburn Sands Golf Club when it was formed in 1913, and his house, “Croylands”, was where the first Directors’ Meetings were held. When his wife died in 1927, he funded the building of this hall in the grounds of the then Vicarage in her memory. Alfred died in 1934.
Next you come to:
Originally called The Coach and Horses, this inn can be found in the Bucks Register of Ale House which starts in 1753. It became The Swan in 1809. The road through Woburn Sands was turnpiked and used as a major route northwards by coaches, which would have needed inns to change horses and accommodate travellers. The inn was once part of the Higgins farm, as was most of Woburn Sands. Some of the boundary walls and beams in the cellar are original parts of the old building, but it was rebuilt c.1840 and extensively remodelled several times since. An out-building on the corner of Hardwick Road was demolished in 1960 to widen the junction. There used to be a bowling green beside the pub, which is now used as the car park.
The War Memorial you saw earlier used to stand approximately where the first mini roundabout is. Re-cross the High Street by the island in the road in front of The Swan. Walk further on, across the turning into Aspley Hill and you have crossed into Bedfordshire. You are now at:
A landlord brought the name of the inn with him from another inn, which was further south on the road to Woburn, in about 1850. Three generations of the Lee family, all called Francis, were landlords of these pubs of the same name, but on two different sites. Very confusing! The building you see today was erected in 1889. The original coach block has now been converted to hotel rooms, and the stabling at the rear of the car park is now storage & offices.
Continue past the pub in the same direction. In the little cottages just after the pub, a gruesome murder occurred in 1899, when a lodger killed his landlady and committed suicide with a cut throat razor. Just beyond this, a short distance straight on up Woburn Road at the edge of the Duke of Bedford’s woods, stands:
This lodge was erected by the Duke of Bedford in 1811. It was built as a model of what gothic lodges would have looked like in the 13th and 14th centuries. Inspiration was taken from a collection of period buildings far and wide, and the original gardens just before the house were laid out with intricate mazes and topiary, which Queen Victoria visited in the 1840’s. Mostly hidden by the gardens now, you can find it by looking for the ornate chimney pots. The lodge features on many pieces of commemorative china made over the years, and dozens of postcards views have been taken of it.
Turn around to face Woburn Sands again, and trace your steps back a little. Once back at The Fir Tree, cross the road using the traffic island. Aspley Court, in front of you, is a warden-assisted flats development, but once here stood:
Here once stood a large Victorian school, that had several additions over the years. It was built in 1868, and opened a week before the Church, both of which were funded by The Duke of Bedford. An 1890 directory records it had space for 240 children, with an actual average attendance of 220. It survived until the early 1980’s, when a new school was built at the other end of the town.
When you arrive back at the main junction, follow the footpath around the sharp corner to your left, and enter Church Road and Aspley Heath. There is a plaque on the garden land on your left hand side, beside the 1977 Jubilee bench, giving some history of Aspley Heath. Continue on this footpath until Sandy Lane appears in front of you. You need to cross the road to the pavement on the right and continue to climb into Aspley Heath via Church Road. On the left was:
The building pictured here was demolished in 2018, and replace by two new dwellings. We cannot trace the original date of the original building, but the earliest occupiers were the Summerley family in the 1851 census. They were bonnet makers, and the large windows used to dry the hats in the sun could be seen in the upper storey, but many of them had been bricked up since that time.
On the right you will come to:
This was originally a cottage, but became a pub in about 1869, when the Woburn lawyer John Green purchased it. It would have been used by the miners who worked on the Heath, extracting Fullers Earth, by hand, for the wool trade. Green sold out to Newlands, brewers, in 1877, but for many years it remained a simple ale-house with a beer-only licence.
When the houses to your right stop, there is an iron gate into St. Michael’s churchyard. Enter via this gate and walk through the burial grounds, staying to the left of the church. Beware some sharp-leaved plants! Please note: No dogs are allowed in the Churchyard. If you have brought your dog with you, please continue along the pavement to the main church gate.
In 1865, Aspley Guise parish decided to form a new parish out of parts of its own and Wavendon’s land. The most influential supporters were William Denison, the churchwarden of Wavendon, and John Vaux Moore, the Rector of Aspley Guise. The 9th Duke of Bedford provided the land and financed the building. The architect was Henry Clutton of London, and work started in 1867. The Consecration Service took place on 22nd September, 1868. It was enlarged in 1889 with seating for 100 more worshippers.
Leave via the main gates of the church, and turn immediately right, down the lane called Bishops Walk. N.B. There are some steep steps on the next part of the walk. If you would rather stay on level ground, turn left out of the gate here and descend Church Road the way you came. At the bottom of the hill, follow the pavement around the left hand corner and down into Hardwick Road. If you can navigate the steps, follow the dirt track to the end, past some houses, and into the footpath. This was known as Zig Zag Lane at the time of the 1881 census. After the steps, bear right, and in front of you is Hardwick Road. Please cross the road (which takes you back into Buckinghamshire) and turn right, walking a short way up the hill to:
This was once a Wesleyan Chapel, until their new building was erected in the High Street in 1879. It was then sold off to Thomas Hudson, a local tradesman, who demolished the front part, and converted the rest to a house.
Walk back down the hill to the corner opposite where you crossed Hardwick Road.
This building was originally a Friends Meeting House used by the Quakers. It stands on the site of an earlier Quaker building which has been traced to 1674, when the Quakers needed somewhere to meet without fear of persecution and prosecution. There is a large burial ground behind the building, where many interments have taken place, including Jeremiah Wiffen, the poet, and his brother Benjamin Wiffen, the translator, both notable local literary men, as well as the How family of Aspley Guise. You can still see some of the gravestones behind the building, which is now used as a nursery.
Cross Hardwick Road, and follow the footpath along the left edge of Mowbray Green:
There was once an imposing residence here, called Hardwick House, another home of the Denisons, but it was last occupied by the Mowbray sisters, Mary and Edith. After their passing, the house became uninhabitable, and was demolished in 1962 to realign Hardwick Road. This parkland was opened in 1977 and stands on the site, and is the location of the Millennium bandstand and the Holocaust Memorial. We also have the distance measured out that Greg Rutherford jumped in the 2012 Olympics, 8m 31cm, as he lives locally.
On your left is:
For many years a working small-holding, it has been purchased by Woburn Sands Council and is now open to the public. There are entrances at either side, but please be aware that animals may be grazing in any one of the fields.
Continue around the edge of the Green, and when houses start again, the road straightens out in front of you, and you will see on the right of the road:
These terraced cottages were once provided as homes for the workers in the local brickyards of Woburn Sands. The two larger residences at the far end, The Leys Villas, were reserved for the brickyard supervisors!
You will have just passed the end of cul-de-sac on the right on your way to see the Leys, return to it, and use this road to walk around the other side of Mowbray Green. Once at the other side of the Green, Chapel Street rises ahead of you. Walk up the left hand side of this road, past the period cottages. Once at the top, there is:
To replace the smaller one in Hardwick Road, this semi-Gothic styled Chapel was erected in 1879 and was built to hold 250 worshippers with 3 school rooms to teach 100 children. This was done to a budget of £1000. Once it was completed, the Ministers house beside it was commissioned. The names of those concerned with the building are recorded in stone tablets on the wall to your left
Turn the left hand corner in front of the Chapel and follow the pavement to the end of the High Street, where it becomes Station Road. Carry on walking down into Station Road. This is the site of the:
In an 1858 book called “The Topography and Climate of Aspley Guise and their influence on Health and Disease”, Dr. James Williams described how the local conditions around Aspley Guise and district were on a par with the best European spa health resorts. This, in combination with the coming of the railway in 1846 and the prosperity it brought to the area, meant it was an ideal location to have a grand residence built, to your own design, such as No.16 once the home of a ropeworks, or buy one from one of the speculative builders. Many of the houses are the same as they were built 120+ years ago.
Cross over the entrances to Theydon Avenue, then Spring Grove, and continue. Just after West Road, opposite the fish & chip shop stands:
The neat little Almshouses were built by Frederick Down, a local entrepreneur in 1902, but he died before they were finished. His business partner, William Needham, completed them, and a period guide book described them as “..well built with a sitting room, bedroom and scullery all on the ground floor … with a good garden. The tenant gets rent-free accommodation with a 5/- allowance for maintenance”.
Further along Station Road, the area on your left was once:
Originally several brickworks, a sawmill and blacksmiths and other small cottage industries occupied this site. In 1945, James Summerlin and Rohan Sturdy established the Plysu plastics factory here. The lakes in this area come from the excavation of clay used in the brickyards. This whole area has been redeveloped into residential use as Parklands, with a community hall and some plaques to record of the past history of the site. It was in the brickyards in this area that in 1908, George Smith attempted a heroic rescue of a colleague who had fallen into a hot brick kiln. Although unsuccessful, Smith was awarded the Royal Humane Society Stanhope Medal and the Albert Medal for his bravery.
Continue on the same pavement, and you will eventually come to:
In the 1872 Ale House Register, The Station is listed as only a Beer-House, which was first licensed in 1856. It was rebuilt in 1874, and was connected to the Goodall family for many years, who also owned the nearby sawmill. For 35 years it was run by J. T. Luttman, who died at the Hotel in 1911, a year after his son had been killed in an accident on the railway.
& and across the car park is:
As previously stated, the arrival of the railway in 1846 helped put Woburn Sands on the map. The scheme was backed by the Duke of Bedford, and much of the local track ran on his land. He had wanted a station for Woburn, but the engineers explained that the hilly country around his park made that impossible. The closest they could get was Woburn Sands. The line originally connected Oxford with Cambridge, but both ends were closed in the cuts of 1967, leaving the middle part of Bletchley to Bedford. The original signal box stood just across the road, but this was demolished in 2005, and signalling is now done remotely.
Plans to reinstate the link to Oxford again are now underway, and possibly right through from Didcot to Cambridge one day, as part of the East-West Rail Line.
On the opposite side of the road stands:
The buildings opposite the Station were once used as the Fire Station. After closure, they were converted to a youth club in 1998 and remain as a community resource. During the conversion, a Fire Brigade Occurrence book was found, covering 1959 – 1964. This listed how they had had a tour of the new M1 motorway in 1959 to see how they would cope with high speed traffic accidents. Many of the firemen worked in the Plysu factory opposite; hence one of the new roads is called “Firemans Run”, as it was the route they took to the fire station when the bells rang!
The recreation ground beside the ex-fire station buildings stands on land that was awarded to the Surveyors of the Highway under the 1790 Wavendon Enclosure Award, to extract gravel for the upkeep of the road.
Trace your steps back up Station Road a short way to where the recreation ground is on the other side of the road. Cross over the road at the pedestrian crossing, and you are now in Bedfordshire again. Keep to this side of the road, and you will come to:
An inn called The New Inn is mentioned in the Wavendon church register in 1708, and in deeds about this site in 1758, there was a house called The Thatched Inn, but The New Inn name appears again before the end of the 1700’s. It later passed to the Orlebar family of Crawley House, and then to the Hoare family at Wavendon House. Possibly the earliest use of the name The Weathercock came in 1791. The inn stands in Bedfordshire, but its bay windows were said to have overhung the border into Bucks. When mains electricity came to Bucks first, before Beds, the landlord negotiated to have the power cable come into this window, and have the meter there, so he could light the pub!
Straight ahead of you, at the junction of Weathercock Lane and Station Road, once sat:
This little thatched building was used as a café by cyclists. Sparks from a passing steam wagon in 1906 caught in the thatch and burned it to the ground.
Walk into Weathercock Lane as far as the turning for Burrows Close. Take the footpath opposite between the houses. This was originally a short cut from the main road to the windmill which stood nearby on land that is now used by Aspley Guise and Woburn Sands Golf Club. This footpath, which marks the county boundaries of Beds and Bucks, will bring you back to Station Road, and Buckinghamshire. Turn left and continue up Station Road, opposite to the way you came down it.
Among the large Victorian houses are:
This is an excellent example of the Victorian buildings along this road. It was probably built for Emma Down, the widow of Henry Down, the Woburn chemist. She, and her sons, Henry and Frederick, the prosperous local business owners, were living there by 1877. A newspaper scrap found was dated from 1872.
Charles Pole Stuart bought this empty plot in 1867, and built this large residence. At that time there was very little else built in the immediate area. The Stuarts were very much involved in the affairs of the town, and he was a local magistrate for 37 years. It was here that the first recreational club met, the forerunner of the later Social Club. After transferring several times, the house was restored in the 1960’s and became business premises. The site has now been converted back into living accommodation and another six large houses erected in the grounds.
Continue to walk up the hill to the corner of Russell Street becomes the High Street again. The wine merchants building on this corner of Russell Street was:
The Eagle Malting was the home of Down and Needham, maltsters, pub-owners, soft drink dealers and general local business men. The partnership was formed after the death of Henry Down, when his younger brother Frederick needed a new business partner. The Downs stood on just about every committee and group in Victorian Woburn Sands, and employed many local people. But Frederick himself died in 1904, and William Needham inherited much of the estate. He was able to retire, and periodically sell off the land and buildings, including a field where Downham Road now stands, which is a corruption of their two names. The original shop front has been built out from and the ornate signboard cut away. The original malting buildings behind have been shortened and converted to houses.
Across the road is:
This shop has been an ironmonger for the whole of its existence. William Needham started there, before joining Fred Down at the Eagle Malting across the road. Then it was held for many years by George Popple, who was said to be so lazy, that if he couldn’t immediately reach the goods customers asked for, then he would refuse to sell them! Gibson Andrews were an old established Woburn firm, and their name has stayed with the shop even after it changed hands.
Turn left into Russell Street, and walk down to the half timbered building on the right:
Russell Street was the first of the side streets in Woburn Sands. In 1870, the Higgins farm was sold off at auction. The buyer for the four lots of the Russell street area, which was just a field at the time, was William Milligan, a Dunstable hat manufacturer. He immediately laid out a road down the middle of his lots to join the High Street to Weathercock Lane, and divided up the area into smaller lots. It is thought that Frederick Down had this building built, as it matched others in the district he commissioned. It was used for some years as the Woburn Sands Recreational Club, and later a bakery and an antique shop, before becoming private residences.
Half way down Russell Street you will find the entrance to the car park, and you are back where you started.
We hope you have enjoyed this tour of some of the heritage of Woburn Sands, and come back soon to explore more of our town.
And finally, a grateful “Thank You” ..
Woburn Sands Town Council wishes to thank the following without whose hard work and assistance this work would never have been produced:
Paul Cox for all the historical research, most of the script and photographs.
Woburn Sands District Society, for some of the postcards and photos
Cllr. Jacky Jeffreys for co-ordinating the project.
Fulbrook Middle School, Year 7 Pupils 2007, for the front cover design.
Milton Keynes Heritage Association for their generous grant which has allowed us to provide a free copy of this booklet to every household in the parish of Woburn Sands.
& Northward Press, the original printers.
© Woburn Sands Town Council & Paul Cox 2007
Page last updated Dec. 2018.