Western Avenue: topped out for the Festival of Britain

Western Avenue in 1974
Western Avenue in 1974

Back to the Past with historian Ed Grimsdale.

Three of Buckingham’s showpieces reflect different estates of the realm – nobles (Stowe Avenue), clergy (Maids Moreton Avenue), and commoners (Western Avenue).

Western Avenue in 2015

Western Avenue in 2015

Today, I shall write about Buckingham’s post-War Pightle/Overnhill development, built for the third estate.

On Saturday, February 10 1951, it became ennobled by the planting of an avenue of trees created at the foot of its spine road, Western Avenue.

The date was months before the official launch of the Festival of Britain – but in that era of austerity and rationing, Buckingham’s council was replete with ‘men of the soil’ who knew how best to handle bare-rooted trees.

First into bat was Buckingham’s cricketing MP, Aidan Crawley.

He had ‘stumped up’ for the tree that he positioned at the Avenue’s junction with Brackley Road.

Mayor Downer, in full regalia, responded: “In the past Buckingham has often received tribute from its Member. Quite early it received a Town Hall; later the Badge and Chain of its Mayor. Today we are getting a tree.”

Mr T.H. Holton had donated a five roadside oak benches and Mr Crawley noted that one would be sited by ‘his’ tree, and he hoped that many would sit there, and maybe some might become engaged under his tree!

The Mayoress, Dorothy Downer, planted one for which members of Buckingham’s Women’s Institute had subscribed and then a gaggle of young Scouts from the 3rd Buckingham Scout Group gathered round as their Scoutmaster, Mr Dickens, made a hole with the council’s silver plated copper spade.

RLS followed, with Headmaster Embleton beaming on as Diana Durham, a sixth former, planted the second tree bought by the pennies of Latin School scholars.

Other trees paid for by organisations or by residents unable to be present, such as Frank Markham, the prospective Tory candidate, and four donated by Stowe School, were placed in holes to complete the new avenue.

Altogether, 104 ‘Festival of Britain’ trees were added to Buckingham’s stock over the few days that started when the late Helen Walker, the fund’s first subscriber, became the first ‘commoner’ to handle the council spade as she planted an almond on Bourton Road.