Slapton near Leighton Buzzard - the village as I knew it

One mans fond memories of the village of Slapton in Buckinghamshire between the wars.

The village of Slapton is situated about four miles from the town of Leighton Buzzard which is in the county of Bedfordshire whereas Slapton is in the county of Buckinghamshire, the county border being the River Ouzel which is at the bottom end of the village.

I was born in Leighton Buzzard in 1927, my family moved to Slapton in 1934 when I was seven. However my mother's family were part of the community for at least two generations before my grandparents.

My first recollections of Slapton began when we moved to a new council house Mill Road in 1934. My previous recollections to this are a bit sketchy - visits to grandparents and so forth, which I expect would have had to have been made on foot with a pram for the four miles there and back from Leighton Buzzard. I think there was transport from Slapton into Leighton Buzzard town on a Tuesday. I am certain that that taxi fares would have been far too expensive and out of the question. Once I was settled into the village I became a 'Village Boy'. I went to the village school, which unfortunately, is no longer there. We held Garden Parties and Garden Fetes in the rectory grounds - again, the rectory is no longer there but there have been some houses built and it is known as Rectory Close.

Giant Battery in Leighton Buzzard These Garden Parties! What times we had! Teas and stalls in the big garden, treasure hunts all around the large pond, trees and shrubs. It was a wonderful place for us children to explore. I can see it now... a lovely, big well-kept lawn with stalls all around the edge selling home-made cakes, jams and produce as well as other attractions such as 'Bowling for a Live Piglet!' and Hoopla. Such happy times for the village.

Another venue for our Sunday School parties and Harvest Home events was in the Big Barn at Bury Farm. I understand that the big house still remains but understandably most of the farm buildings have long disappeared.

Shops and the traders to the village

In early 1930 Slapton had three shops, albeit only small cottage shops. One of them was known as 'Charlotte', which was in a cottage, by the School House. If I remember correctly two sisters ran it, Charlotte and Polly James. Theirs was a very small shop, which took up the front part of their house. I think this house is still part of the village but obviously much changed. They owned the one nearest the village; the house next door was kept for the use of the School Mistress.

'Charlotte' was very full of grocery provisions, teas, sugar, biscuits etc. I do remember shopping with my grandma for groceries and we also spent our pennies for sweets on our way to school in this shop.

The second little shop was run by Mrs Hing she and her husband were also landlady and landlord of the Carpenter's Arms and Mrs Hing's shop was part of the pub - which, I am pleased to say, is still there but much altered from my previous visits. This shop again was very small but sold most things that the villagers required.

The third shop in the village was the Post Office which was then in Horton Road - but I am not sure if this is still there. However, it was the Post Office until the late 1930s when Mr and Mrs Keable had the new one built in Church Road but this is now a private home.

Tradesmen that came from Leighton Buzzard by various means, horse drawn carts, vans and later motor vehicles, supplied all other village needs. Bakers, butchers and milkmen came on a regular day, although milk. eggs and other dairy produce could be bought from the local farms such as Turney's and Church Farm.

Woodman Close Traders using one form of transport or another supplied all hardware, brushes and cleaning materials, pharmaceuticals and other remedies.

Of course, there were other trades that were carried out in the earlier times of the village. For example, there was a blacksmith who had had premises and a forge. There was also a brewery - hence 'Brewery Cottages' and 'The Maltings' by 'The Carpenter's Arms'. Bricks were made at the brickyard with clay taken from pits close to the canal. So, there is evidence that the village could well have been self-sufficient at that time.

Going back to the traders and business-men who kept the Slapton villagers supplied with the essential requirements for day-to-day life: Bakers and butchers came on a regular day of the week in all weathers. There were two main bakers - Mr Evans and his sister (Dossy) Dorothy who had a bakery in Little Billington they visited in a little green van and served the village for a great many years. Next was Syd Vasey who had a baker's shop in Northall. As I recall, there were also two butchers, a Mr F R Grace from Leighton Buzzard who had premises in the High Street, he also owned some fields and the mill in Slapton and kept stock cattle there for a few years. His rounds man was a Mr Stan Robinson who first came to the village with his horse and cart but later progressed to a motor van. Then there was Mr Fred Horton, a butcher and stockman from Totternhoe with a Mr Jack Stanbridge as his rounds man. As I have mentioned previously they came in all weathers -- rain or shine!

In the early days, dairy products such as milk, eggs and butter could be obtained from the local farms. The Turneys, for example, Dorothy and Maude and their brothers William and Richard ran the farm. In later years Mr Arthur Holmes a milkman from Eaton Bray supplied many people in the village.

Traders who came in vehicles of various sizes provided household goods and such requirements. Hardware goods and paraffin came to the village courtesy of Mr William (Bill) Turney who ran a business in Bakers Street, Leighton Buzzard and he made one or two visits per week in a Morris Commercial brown van loaded to the roof with every conceivable commodity that could be imagined, especially the much-needed paraffin oil which the villagers needed for lamps and cooking as there was no electricity at that time. Electricity was not supplied to the village until just before the outbreak of World War II. He carried a large tank of paraffin in the back of his van that was kept with the measuring cans. If for any reason he or his man Mr Rollings hadn't got what was needed on the van you could be sure that they would have it on the next visit.

The other van of interest was much smaller and belonged to Mr Durrel a chemist who ran a business in High Street, Leighton Buzzard and it contained all the medicines and remedies and he was a regular visitor once a week.

The boot and shoe salesman, and also repairman, was Mr Janes of Edleborough. I am pleased to say that this business has survived and is still going strong.

I also remember that a fishmonger by the name of Rickard visited the village by bicycle in all weathers - this would never be allowed under today's regulations.

In later years there was a bus on Tuesdays that went to Leighton Market and was always well supported. The journey back was either on foot or by horse and cart if you were lucky. I understand that a gentleman by the name of Mr Pope ran a small bus into town some time after the First World War but I am not certain of this. Eastern National and later United Counties ran the Tuesday bus. Later in the 1950s and 60s there was a bus on a Saturday which was timed so as to allow a visit to the cinema and arrived back comparatively later.

I have now reached the period when a few of the people in the village, myself included, began to think about the need for a village hall which had been talked about for a number of years but had been shelved for one reason or another. Agreement on where it should be built was the main reason. It was finally agreed that it should be built on a piece of ground that was the property of the church authorities. A committee was formed and a few of us got together and organised various fund raising events for the village hall fund. We would have liked to have organised dances and the like but the only spaces we had at that time were the school and Chapel schoolroom neither of which were big enough to hold a dance. In the event we decided to hold a dance in The Maltings Barn at the Carpenter's Arms. These were quite successful but unfortunately they had concrete floors, which were hard on the feet, and a pair of shoes could easily be worn out in one evening!

We gradually got money together with the help of Mr E Griffin who kindly doubled our efforts and so there were enough funds to build 'The Elizabeth Griffin Memorial Hall'.

Once we had our village hall up and running, we were able to hold events to raise more much-needed money for the hall and also other causes. My wife and I were involved in the formation of the first Youth Club. The W.I was started too. With the help of a few others we organised dances for various causes over the years and they were always very well attended with people coming from Leighton Buzzard and other villages close by. So 'The Elizabeth Griffin Memorial Hall' played quite an important part during my time in Slapton.

In conclusion I would like to record all these memories before they become lost forever! If there is anything I miss about the Slapton it is the open skies and being able to walk the fields and see the birds and the wildlife. I will always look back and have wonderful memories of Slapton that way.

Quick Links
My Time with the Sands of Leighton Buzzard
Memories of working on the Leighton Buzzard narrow guage railway in the 1940's.
Leighton Buzzard Past Times
A great site full of facts and pictures including Domesday Book extracts about the town, origins of the Leighton Buzzard name and much more.
Country Views
This site contains many photographs of Leighton Buzzard and local villages including Slapton