The Pubs The two village public houses, The Crown and the Swan Inn, have provided leisure activities as well as food and, of course, liquid refreshment for at least the last two hundred years. Activities that have or do take place in the pubs include, Dominoes Club, pool, Poker Club and a Lunch Club for the retired as well as live music and special events.
The Swan Inn, by Chris Horwood (Dorset).
The Crown by Monica Jones
The Village Hall
Two minutes’ walk down the High Street from the church stands the Village Hall, For over 90 years, this building has served the community as a meeting place for clubs and organisations and available to hire. Its worth is probably not fully appreciated as so much happens in this building each week. Today (2017) the regular users of the hall include the Great Horwood Silver Band, W.I., art and craft club, whist club and Wednesday coffee and Post Office mornings. The Hall is managed by a committee who also organise events to raise funds to keep this facility going. It is hired out for parties, dinners, social and serious meetings and is used as a polling station whenever needed.
The hall was erected in 1923, funded by public subscription. The indenture shows the land was sold in 1921 for £100 to the Reverend David Cymmer Owen (the then Rector), Frederick Mason (a farmer) and Samuel Thomas Moxhay (otherwise known as Fred Cary, a comedian and local resident), representing the community. Residents bought individual bricks for the construction of the building at the then considerable sum of £1 each. The Village Hall later became a charity.
The Village Hall, 2018
The front of the Village Hall c. 1930 showing the door in the middle.
The layout of the hall was changed in 1969 to what we know today. The photo shows that originally the main entrance door was in the middle, with wrought iron gates made by William Elmes’s son Joe, a blacksmith like his father. Inside, a balcony was at the south end over where the kitchen is now and the kitchen was at the rear. In fact the site of the hall has changed, for it was originally planned to be half-way down School Lane, before residents decided it would be better on the High Street.
The interior of the village hall (north end), c. 1930s(?). There was no permanent raised stage at this time and there was no ceiling/enclosed loft space.
Some of the groups that meet in the village hall have been started in the more recent past:
Art and Craft Group This group was set up in fairly recent years. It meets once a week in the Village Hall, bringing people together to paint, sew, embroider, knit, make greetings cards and jewellery – whatever takes your fancy. It’s an easy-going gathering, helping one another with different skills and enjoying a quiet chat over coffee. ‘You don’t have to be good at anything in particular and it’s therapeutic’ Jeannie Marshall informs us.
An Art & Craft Group morning session, 2012.(clockwise) Sue Spittles, Robert Adams, Gill Wood, Margaret Michalski, Brian Holliday, Rosemary Birch (part hidden), Monica Jones (part hidden), Pat Tucker, Jeannie Marshall.
Whist Drive A fortnightly whist drive has been a successful innovation in quite recent years. About sixteen people attend for a friendly evening of progressive whist in the Village Hall, fuelled by tea, coffee and homemade biscuits. Of course, whist drives have been organised in the past and one resident remembers that young airmen, billeted in the village during the war, treated them as part of their social activities. This in turn attracted the young ladies, resulting in a packed hall, sometimes with over twenty tables spreading onto the stage. Profits from these gatherings helped to fund the renewal of the church bells.
An annual event that has been recently revived is the produce show. Every September, the village hall is filled with an impressive array of homemade and homegrown produce, from jams to giant onions. There is always a competition for the children and often a photography category as well as a raffle and refreshments.
Taking full advantage of the Horwode Pece play equipment, 2009.
A very welcome addition to village facilities is Horwode Pece Recreation Ground, providing ‘unprescribed’ play. For 35 years, groups of residents in Great Horwood tried vainly to create a recreation ground but without success. In 2006 our Parish Plan questionnaire established there was a great need and much support for this. So it was a wonderful surprise when Mike Sheldon and Ben Boughton of Greenway Farm donated a two-acre field to the parish, whereupon the Great Horwood and Singleborough Recreation Trust was set up as a charity to receive the land and a management committee was formed. Two further specific consultations were held to ask residents what they would like to see on the recreation field and replies came from all ages. Amazingly, a zip-wire was at the top of the children’s requests, so one was purchased. Many residents volunteered; clearing scrub and planting trees and the recreation ground is still maintained by volunteers.
The formal opening of Horwode Pece by Mike Sheldon, May 2009. The pedestrian entrance to the recreation ground was decorated with a traditional, floral archway.
2009 saw some play equipment installed and the second phase was completed a year later. More than £100,000 was raised from various bodies to fund drainage, fencing and equipment. A ‘Picnic on the Pece’ was held that Spring to celebrate the official opening of the new ‘Rec’ and, as it was so popular, a similar event has been held every year since. Also, the tradition of an archway has been resurrected with a floral display over the pedestrian entrance to welcome picnickers.
A new annual event at the Pece is the village bonfire night celebration. For many years the fireworks took place in the school grounds but a sudden, huge rise in the cost of insurance a few years ago made that venue prohibitively expensive so it is wonderful to be able to hold the event at Horwode Pece.
Horwode Pece is not only for children. Many residents walk there, especially with their dogs and during school time, it can be a pleasant and quiet place. The Rainbows have planted wild flowers and the Cubs have made and installed bird-boxes. As well as an excellent collection of playground equipment for the children, there are sports goals, picnic tables, barbecue stations and a rain shelter.
Riding Dogs are supposedly a man’s best friend, but here horses must come a close second. There are two studs and in addition quite a few people own horses and exercise them around the parish.
The Whaddon Chase Hunt was long associated with Great Horwood, the hunt meeting on the Green. School records of 1897 note as reasons for absence ‘Fox hunting instead of school’ and in 1899 ‘Followed the stag’. In 1935 Pathé News was present to film the meet, the riders including the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, who later became King George VI.
Pathé News films the Whaddon Chase Hunt’s Meet on The Green, 1935.
During the 1960s Nubar Gulbenkian, the well-known Armenian financier who lived locally, hunted with the Whaddon Chase. He could be seen, resplendent in hunting attire, wearing his monocle and an orchid in his buttonhole, astride a large black horse. He would raise his hat in greeting, ‘even to me as I hung the washing out’ remembers one resident.
Huntsman, by Laila Bray.
Until the Whaddon Chase Hunt amalgamated with the Bicester, due to the loss of hunting ground as Milton Keynes expanded, this area had many livery yards containing hunting horses. It was not uncommon to see local hunters hacking through the village to meets. The livery yards are still here but without so many hunters, horses used for other disciplines having taken their place.
Many older residents will remember the Point-to-Point races that were held in the village after the hunting season had finished. Part of the course was on Manor Farm, Nash Road where Wendy Phillips ran a riding school. Jane Tucker used to work there and recalls that Wendy had a sand arena in the small paddock next to the road, on the south side of the brook where she used to teach her pupils. In the summer months pupils were taken out for hacks along the roads, the B4033 being much quieter then. Point-to-point races have also featured around the parish, the course moving from the Hansons’ farm to the Manor Farm in Little Horwood in 1982.
Unfortunately it can be difficult to find enough volunteers or members to keep groups going. Some of those that are not running at the moment (2018) are:
Youth Clubs have been organised spasmodically in the parish since the 1950s. One such club formed in 1962 and performed a review called Music with Laughter which was so successful that it was taken to entertain some pensioners in London. This was the winter of the big snow and on their way home their vehicle got stuck in a snow drift just outside Whitchurch. They were rescued by the police but had to spend the night in Aylesbury police station. By all accounts, the police were glad to see them go in the morning! The Youth and Activities Club ran from 1986 to 1994, led by Patricia and Geoff Rudkin.
Most recently, The Great Horwood and Singleborough Youth Club met from September 2010 to July 2017. A group of people from St James Church led by Monica Gilbey set up this facility and agreed the aims of the Youth Club to be: to provide a local resource for young people; to support young people at the age of 11+ to sustain their friendship groups; to support and encourage community relations between the young and not so young of the village. Initial funding to set up the Youth Club came from Buckinghamshire County Council, St James Church and the Lord of the Manor. The young people on the Planning Committee suggested a variety of activities to appeal to all tastes and interests.
Wednesday Group Back in 1946 midwife and district nurse Margaret Ashford formed the Mothers Club to encourage new mums to get together and talk about baby care and health issues. They met on the same day as the baby clinic, in the Village Hall, where orange juice and vitamins were dispensed by Phyllis Davies, WVS. It was a lifeline to new mothers. Over the years, it morphed into the Wednesday Group, changing the original format and meeting in members’ homes with the occasional trip out or local walk.