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Back to the Past: Coach building on Bristle Hill

An advert taken from an 1881 Buckingham Almanack PNL-140530-173348001

An advert taken from an 1881 Buckingham Almanack PNL-140530-173348001

Bristle Hill is the old, informal market that grew ‘at the Castle Gates’ of Old Buckingham, writes local historian Ed Grimsdale

One imagines that once the Normans designed Buckingham’s magnificent triangular market further east at the end of the ‘via Castelli’ this old market had to specialise to survive.

There was a pig market at the bottom of Elm Street and piggy things became the area’s main concern.

We know that a small factory started to turn pig bristles into paintbrushes and, no doubt, the area developed a name: Bristle Hill.

Over the years this busy community developed a number of trades including stay-making, an old smithy, a wheelwrights, a fireworks factory and some abbatoirs – one of them was in the Crown Inn!

Everything was shaken up or destroyed by the Great Fire of 1725. The Crown Inn at the southern end of School Lane marks the western edge of the fire but most of the property on Bristle Hill was ruined and later rebuilt in Georgian or early Victorian styles.

The Old Smithy was in a courtyard off the top of Bristle Hill.

In 1832, Mr Coles, a canny entrepreneur, had a dream: he turned the jettied loft over its gateway into an assembly room, kept the wheelwrights, added a smart showroom at the front, integrated the nearby timber yard and by dedicating the smithy to produce iron-work, he created a factory ‘outlet’ for a smart range of dog-carts and pony traps.

The sloping area in front of Coles Coach-Builders, which is now littered with parked cars, provided a great forecourt to display the gleaming products.

Mr Coles work was highly respected and in 1856 he was commissioned to design and build a hand-drawn hearse (£20) for the new town cemetery in Brackley Road.

Mr Coles died in 1875 and his widow sold the coach-builders to Charles Collins. Charles was a man of principle. He clashed with the Buckingham Courts because he was an anti-vaccinator: a member of a group that believed the acts compelling parents to have their children vaccinated against smallpox were tyrannical. Coach-building became an endangered trade as cars replaced carts at the start of the 20th century. These days, the coach showroom on Bristle Hill belongs to the West End Garage.

 

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