My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A Walk in Winslow

Winslow is a market town and civil parish in the Aylesbury Vale district of North Buckinghamshire. The town was first recorded in the charter by which King Offa granted it to St Albans Abbey in 792/3 as Wineshauue, which translated into modern English means Wine's Burial Mound. In the Domesday Book of 1086, it was recorded as Weneslai.

My association with Winslow came about through visits to my paternal grandmother Daisy Clara Flitney. I don’t know when granny moved to Winslow, but I feel sure she was there during the 1950s and 60s.  Most of my memories of those visits stem from around the time of my 10th birthday in 1958. 

I have no recollection of my brother Tony or my sister Sue visiting granny with us. There is an age gap of approximately ten years between the three of us, so Tony might have been married by that stage and Sue was probably working. That would explain why I recall long walks around Winslow with my dad without either of my siblings. I loved being with dad and to have him all to myself was a real treat.  Mum and granny were always pleased to have us “out from under their feet” while they chatted about the latest “goings on” in the family. Don’t ask me what those “goings on” were but trust me when I tell you they spent a lot of time discussing them.

Our walks always followed the same route.  Exit via the back door, three turns around the bird bath (me not dad!) a quick dash through the garden to catch up and out through the gate at the end. Turn right on to the footpath, right again past the cricket pitch. Continue along the footpath before turning right once more onto the high street.  Stop at the sweet shop for a sherbet fountain (sherbet with a liquorice dip) or a quarter of cough candy for me and a sugar mouse for dad. These were to be enjoyed as we took a leisurely stroll around the market square and the churchyard before eventually returning home.

In July of this year (2014), Terry and I visited Winslow. We expected to find the footpath gone, and a housing estate where the cricket pitch used to be, but we were pleasantly surprised. The photographs that follow are a record of our visit.
This is such a well remembered view.  As a child, I was always looking out for the pub at the end of the road because that meant we had arrived!  Dad would turn right in front of the pub and park at the back of a row of houses, and that’s exactly what Terry and I did this time.

The footpath still runs along the back of the houses, but I remember trees on both sides, and I don’t think there was a car park back then.

The sports field with the cricket pitch in the background.

Winslow Market Square and George Hotel 2014
July 2014, The Market Square and The George Hotel, Winslow

Winslow Market Square and George Hotel c1930s

and as it once looked

Buckinghamshire; Winslow Market Square and George Hotel

July 2014, St Laurence Parish Church, Winslow

St Laurence Parish Church as I remember it in the 1950s

Sadly, the visitors’ book in the church only goes back to September, 1989.  I was hoping to find an older one as I feel sure we would have signed it.

Shop in the Market Square, Winslow
Fancy T-hat
A colourful shop in the Market Square

even brighter inside.

Houses close to the Market Square, Winslow, Bucks.
One of the streets close to the market square.

The High Street now

and as it once looked.

A Sugar Mouse for Dad
The old sweet shop has gone but the new ‘retro’ one sold sugar mice, so I bought one in memory of dad.

A walk along the high street and back to the house.
High Street Winslow, Bucks.
I couldn't remember the address but thanks to Cousin John and Google maps we found it. The only new additions are the vintage signs otherwise it looks exactly as it did even down to the colour of the paint!

High Street Winslow, Bucks.
The carriage entrance at the side of the house was a source of delight to me as a child. The little door in the centre of the large door was endlessly fascinating. 

Daisy Flitney with Denis Flitney In the garden at Winslow
Granny Daisy and dad in the back garden at Winslow

Daisy, Barbara and Rene Flitney Winslow, Bucks in the 1960s
Granny, me, and mum in the back garden at Winslow

High Street, Winslow, Buckinghamshire
Granny always stood on the pavement to wave us off, dabbing her eyes with a hankie as we drove away.
This time it was me shedding a tear.

If you would like to read more about the history of Winslow there is a very good site here.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Guest Post; My Sister Remembers – Part One

I was born on the 20th May 1942 in the flat at Ibstone House, Ibstone, Nr High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire where my mum, Irene known as Rene, was the housekeeper to Rebecca West and her husband Henry Andrews and my dad, Dennis, was their farm manager.  Rebecca West (Mrs. Andrews) was one of my Godparents, and my full name is Susan Rebecca Irene Flitney.

My brother Tony was four years older than me, and I gather, got up to lots of mischief whilst living at Ibstone House. One year he chopped off the entire crop of tulip heads, and another picked all the flowers off the runner beans. I remember dad being very stern and taking his belt to Tony if he was naughty, and that was quite often. I remember parties at Ibstone House and being given home-made ice cream in the kitchen. Princess Margaret, other Royals and people in the literary world visited, but I can’t remember much about it other than mum “shushing” me if I became too noisy in the house. When I was at school we would perform our summer play at Ibstone House, and it was always a wonderful day with lovely food, and the sun always shone. Once I was asked to sing to Rebecca West’s guests, and in my very shaky voice sang ‘Summer time’. The wall around the house was a magnet for children, and I remember I once took some saddles and bridles from the tack room and put them on the wall so we could all play at ‘hunting’, that was another lecture for me and a belting for my brother.

After a while, we moved to Twig Side Farm (see map).

We had a prisoner of war staying with us and working on the farm. I can’t remember his name, but can remember being scared when I knew he was coming, but in fact, he was a really nice person and good fun to have around. The farm sat in the bottom of a valley with a steep track down. Loggers used to pull felled trees out of the woods using horses with chains; I remember being very scared the first time I heard them thinking it was ghosts in the woods. We had geese, pigs, sheep and chicken. I hated the geese because they used to chase me. I would always run and hide in the barn but on one occasion, they came in under the door, I remember screaming until my mum came to rescue me – I still hate geese!

Mum and I made butter with little wooden butter pats, one of my favourite jobs (and there were plenty!). She also made cheese and grew all our vegetables. I suppose it was the good life, but I am sure very hard work for everyone.  My dad would kill the pigs. He loved trotters (pig’s feet) for breakfast with wild mushrooms - it took me a long time to like pork.

Granny Daisy, Uncle Owen, Auntie Jean and Auntie Margaret used to visit in the summer, and we would have picnics in the fields. We were close to the Thames and in the middle of a most beautiful part of the Chilterns. I always thought Ibstone was a funny name, and it was not until I was older that I found out it is an old English name “Ibba Stan” meaning boundary stone of a man called Ibba. I have not been able to find out who Ibbas was, but he obviously staked his claim to a beautiful piece of England.   

Tony and Sue

 My brother Tony and I went to Ibstone Village School. We had a very steep hill to walk up, and it could get extremely muddy. We wore boots and then changed into slippers before going in to school.

Ibstone Church of England School - July 2014

 Mum became really ill with asthma, and the doctor said it was living in the valley, as it was always damp and misty. Mrs. Andrews decided to have a bungalow built for us in the village. This was really exciting! It was a wood faced detached bungalow built in Sonning Field, hence it was called Sonningfield Bungalow.  We had a garage and a utility room with a washing machine and a mangle. The scariest moment there was when we had a chimney fire and the fire spread to the loft. I have had a fear of fire ever since.

[I remember the night of the fire. I was very young at the time – perhaps three or four?  I was woken by the sound of a huge roar and a crackling, spitting kind of noise. In hindsight, I imagine the roar was the sound of the chimney catching fire, and the other noises must have been the wooden beams in the ceiling burning. My only other memory is of someone lifting me out of bed and then being outside watching sparks shooting out of the chimney.  I’m not sure about the last part. I don’t know if it’s something my mind has added in the intervening years but the sounds have stayed with me all this time and like Sue, I’m terrified of fire... Barbara]

Because Tony was older than me, he left Ibstone School first and went on to a school in Stokenchurch about four miles away. Naturally enough he made new friends and didn't want his sister tagging along any more. I really missed his company and decided I hated all boys! 

Sue in the front garden of Sonningfield Bungalow.  

July 2014; Sonningfield Bungalow replaced by a house named Sonningfield.   

To be continued....

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Searching for my Grandfather from Belgium to Butlers Cross

Some years ago Terry and I visited Belgium in search of my paternal grandfather. We had scant information – Private Arthur Denis (Jack) Flitney, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, died in battle 1917. We assumed we would find his name carved on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing in Ypres, but found no trace.

Failing to find his name was a disappointment, but we still wanted to pay our respects at the sounding of the last post. Each evening at exactly 8pm (20:00 hours) buglers sound the Last Post. This is followed by a two-minute silence. The traffic stops, and stillness descends on the town. Or at least it usually does, only on the night we were there our little dog Rosie decided she wasn't at all impressed with the silence and decided to do something about it.  She was a tiny dog with a very loud bark which she used to the best of her ability!  We were mortified and began pulling her away, but people around us were smiling and gesturing for us to stay. 

Had Rosie not barked we would probably have left without speaking to anyone, but as it was several people came over to make a fuss of her. Two of those people turned out to be members of a WW1 historical association. They took what little information we had and promised to find out what they could.  A few weeks later this arrived;

In memory of Private Arthur Denis Flitney 26273, 6th Bn., Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry who died on 16 August 1917. Remembered with honour Tyne Cot Memorial.
Cemetery Tyne Cot Memorial. Panel 96 to 98. 

Via Wikipedia; the stone wall surrounding the cemetery makes-up the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.  Upon completion of the Menin Gate in Ypres, builders discovered it was not large enough to contain all the names as originally planned. They selected an arbitrary cut-off date of 15 August 1917 (the day before my grandfather died) and the names of the UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot memorial instead.  Additionally, the New Zealand contingent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission declined to have its missing soldiers names listed on the main memorials, choosing instead to have names listed near the appropriate battles. Tyne Cot was chosen as one of these locations. Unlike the other New Zealand memorials to its missing, the Tyne Cot New Zealand memorial to the missing is integrated within the larger Tyne Cot memorial, forming a central apse in the main memorial wall. The memorial contains the names of 33,783 soldiers of the UK forces, plus a further 1,176 New Zealanders. It was designed by Sir Herbert Baker, with sculptures by Joseph Armitage and Ferdinand Victor Blundstone.

We've not been back to Belgium yet, but it is on our 'to do' list.  We have, however, found and visited the memorial where grandad is remembered in Butlers Cross, Buckinghamshire. We discovered the whereabouts of the memorial through the excellent work of the members of the Buckinghamshire Remembers website.  Through them, we also learnt of the existence of a further memorial in Ellesborough church (yet to be visited).  

As far as I can make out Arthur Denis (Jack) Flitney was born in Ellesborough in 1884/85 (the source documents I have give differing dates).  He and my grandma Daisy (Daisy Clara Stopps) married on the 22nd November 1910 in Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Daisy had five children -  Mary Daisy, born on the 12th January, 1911, Dennis William (my dad) born on the 1st September, 1912 (Princess Risborough, Buckinghamshire), Owen Arthur, born on the 30th July, 1914, Margaret Primrose Ellen, Born on the 10th March, 1916 and Jean Clarabelle Henrietta, born on the 10th November, 1924.

Arthur Denis was working as a postman in 1911 so it's likely that was still his occupation when he left for the Great War in 1916. 

Arthur (Jack) Denis Flitney wearing his postman's uniform (with thanks to John Flitney)

Photograph of members of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry taken somewhere on the Western front. It's hard to tell if Arthur Denis is among them.  Pte George Webb is holding the newspaper he was killed in the Febraury of 1917, while the regiment was at a village called Gillemont on the Somme.  Photograph David Webb (grandson of George).

6th Battalion, Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry 1916.

The War memorial in Butlers Cross (Photographed in July, 2014)

The old memorial (removed around 2006)

Close up of the new memorial
How sad to discover four members of the Flitney family on the same memorial. 

The following information is from the Buckinghamshire Remembers website

Abel FLITNEY Private G/12022 Royal Sussex Regiment   13th Battalion Date of death 02 Aug 1917 Cemetery La Brique Military Cemetery No 2, Leper, Belgium.
Parents Eli & Ellen Flitney, parents occupation farm labourer. Parents last known address Butlers Cross, Ellesborough

Arthur Denis FLITNEY  Private 26273 Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry 6th Battalion Date of death 16th August 1917. Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Parents Eli & Ellen Flitney, parents occupation farm labourer. Parents last known address Ellesborough

Leonard FLITNEY Aircraftman 247280 Royal Air Force Date of death 8th May 1919  Cemetery Longuenesse (St. Omer) LONGUENESSE Pas de Calais France.
Parents Albert & Emily Flitney, parents occupation carter on farm. Parents last known address High St, Great Missenden. 

Sidney FLITNEY Private 266342 Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry 1st Bucks Battalion Date of death 12th Feb 1917. Cemetery La Neuville Communal Cemetery, Corbie, Somme, France.
Parents Eli & Ethel (Ellen) Flitney, father’s occupation farm labourer. Parents last known address Southfields Cottages, Butlers Cross.

 Undated letter sent by Arthur Denis (Jack) to Daisy

The letter ends with this poem;

May life for you be beautiful I dare not say all fair
For clouds will come oer every sky and sometimes linger there.
But sweetest flowers are those that bloom when wintry days are past
And oer a sad and dreary world their dainty perfume cast
And if the rain comes in your days may still the sun shine through
Your sorrows pall like April showers each year a smile renew.

Commemorative memorial plaque (Dead Man’s Penny) handed down to me after the death of my dad. These were issued to the relatives of all the men and women whose deaths were attributable to the Great War of 1914 – 1918.

This is very much a work in progress. Having set out to look for one member of the family I'm now on the trail of four. Odd to think I had no knowledge of the others prior to the visit to the war memorial. My dad didn't mention any other relatives who died in the Great War, or perhaps he did, and I've forgotten. 

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, Tower of London 2014 
Arthur Denis (Jack) Flitney (1884 – 1916)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

West Wycombe Park and the Hellfire Caves

Memory has a habit of playing tricks on me these days – did things happen the way I remember? Many of my memories are more than 60 years old. Would my sister and brother remember them in the same way? I have no idea, so all I can do is tell the stories as I recall them with a little help from cuttings, photographs and letters.

High Wycombe is another of those familiar sounding places that I don't really remember. This entry from my 'baby book' might give a clue;
Have you ever noticed when someone dies their handwriting doesn't change? Well, it wouldn't would it, but you know what I mean.

I don’t have any recollection of the shopping trips to High Wycombe, but I vividly remember conversations about West Wycombe Park, and the Hellfire caves. So a visit there felt like the next logical step.

West Wycombe Park on a beautiful sunny morning in July (2014)

West Wycombe Park is one of the most theatrical and Italianate of all English country houses and the Dashwood family home for over 300 years. Set in 45 acres of landscaped park, the house as we see it today is the creation of the 2nd baronet in the 18th century.

More from the National Trust website here

The grounds and house are frequently featured in screen adaptations of literary classics such as Cranford and Little Dorrit and more recently in the television series, Downton Abbey.

Polo in the grounds of West Wycombe Park 

After a lovely morning in the sunshine, it was on to the Hellfire caves and a very different experience. 

Located in West Wycombe the Hellfire Caves have a notorious history and are reputed to conceal many mysteries.  They are actually a man-made network of tunnels carved out of the chalk and flint of West Wycombe Hill commissioned by Sir Francis Dashwood. 
 Read More; The Hellfire Caves

The caves and the terrible deeds that supposedly went on there were discussed at great length when I was a little girl.  Mutterings of dark deeds, devil worship and debauchery were not intended for my small ears – but I heard, and I remembered!  So an opportunity to visit was not to be turned down.

Words on a plaque in the caves

My first impressions of the caves were a little disappointing. Too many people making too much noise, but as the saying goes ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ and ghostly noises sound so much better when you are deep underground. As we got further into the tunnels, much of the chatter and squeals died away, and then it began to feel a little cold and distinctly creepy.  I was, however, unprepared for some of the images picked up by my camera.  I would hate to be alone down there, especially if the lights went out! 

The two photographs that follow have not been photoshopped or played around with in any way, they are just as they came out of the camera. They were taken in a particularly dark part of the caves, so I have no idea why they are so much brighter than all the rest. The camera settings were untouched during our visit. 

I make no claims about what they might show – I leave that to you. Suffice to say I find them very creepy!

Terry and I didn't notice a thing while in the caves, but my camera did. Had we seen this we would have left in a hurry!

The ghost hunting team from the TV programme Most Haunted carried out an over-night vigil within the caves during December 2003. They spent the night without lights and members of the team said the caves were the darkest place they had ever visited. During the night, they had many paranormal experiences, seeing orbs of light and hearing noises. Without prior knowledge of the mysterious Hellfire caves Derek Achora, the medium, felt the presence of a young girl dressed in white, and of females dressed in nuns' habits. “Ladies of the night” were said to have worn such attire to disguise themselves whilst entertaining members of the Hellfire Club in the caves.

Someone has an interesting sense of humour! Spooky toilet roll holder in the ladies loo at the Hellfire Caves.

Thank you for visiting. I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment.   

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