Back to the past with Ed Grimsdale: An outsider’s view of Buckingham

The Old Cross Keys Pub in Buckingham in 1880 PNL-140815-151914001
The Old Cross Keys Pub in Buckingham in 1880 PNL-140815-151914001

This view of Buckingham was seen through Northants eyes and printed in the Northampton Mercury in 1852.

The railway had come to Buckingham in 1850 but its station had no exit on the town side, its main platform was perched above Lenborough Road.

A drawing of the inside of SS Peter and Paul Church in Buckingham in 1770. PNL-140815-151925001

A drawing of the inside of SS Peter and Paul Church in Buckingham in 1770. PNL-140815-151925001

This traveller dropped down to the Cross Keys Inn on its corner with Hunter Street, the latter being the main route to town. The parish church had been rebuilt on Castle Hill in the 1770s and was a rare example of an 18th century classical church, not yet gothicised by Gilbert Scott.

“Buckingham As It Is – Buckingham is one of the few places which has suffered nothing in the way of picturesque approach by the substitution of the railway for the old road. The first glance of it is decidedly pretty:

‘A steeple issuing from a leafy rise,

‘With farmy fields in front an woods between.’

“Descending into the road, the inn has he merit of not being modern, and of having a snug rural aspect, unlike railway inns in general.

“The curve under the railway arch is also very pleasant, and will be much more so when time has toned down the rawness of the arch itself.

“The river which lapses by is well fringed and obstructed by sedge and sallow, and rank vegetation of all sorts. The angler or sketcher might love to linger there a long summer’s day.

“Farther on, the churchyard is not so well, because it somehow looks hemmed in and confined; and there is an ugly red brick building in one corner which suggests the idea of a bone-house.

“A stranger who had not noted the spire from the railway (which, however, it must be admitted, could scarcely happen) would marvel at the scanty religious accommodation afforded to the good people of Buckingham; for no other trace of a church would he see until he was fairly out of the churchyard.

“The church stands at some distance on the site of the old castle. It is a spacious edifice, which is about all that can be said in its favour. It was built at a time when the principles of church architecture were very ill understood, and the spire excepted, has little of ecclesiastical character to boast of.

“The ecclesiologist, as well as the archaeologist, will turn up his nose at it and hurry by. There is something, too, unattractive in its situation, although the height is an advantage at a distance.

“At hand it has a bleak bare aspect. A few pounds would be well spent in ornamenting it with evergreens, and making the walk through it an alley of limes trained over a trellis.

“He unsightly inappropriateness of the building itself might be kindly covered up with ivy. The old church stood in the churchyard and was a considerable structure. It had a spire 163 feet in height, including the tower. The spire fell down in 1699, and the tower in 1776. The latter catastrophe decided the fate of the whole church which was soon after taken down, and the present structure erected in its stead.

“One cannot help lament the £7,000 which it cost had not been devoted to the repair of the ancient edifice, and the castle-hill left to its more appropriate occupation as a bowling green, which, a hundred years before, had made it the fashionable resort of the gentlemen of the county.

“The spot, by the way, has had a singular variety of fortunes. The mound was originally raised for warlike purposes and as the base of a castle. The county gaol afterwards occupied it, which went to ruin and was converted afterwards into tenements for the poor. In contrast to all these was its use as a bowling green, in the courtly days of the Merry Monarch.”

> Pick up a copy of next week’s Advertiser and Review for the rest of this piece.