Walk 77: Middleton Cheney Circular: No Bull

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Just over 1 mile (1.61 km)

Time to walk: You’ll see from the photos that the light was fading fast & we did this walk on a mid November afternoon. It still took over 1 hour as there’s lots to see plus, as it’s a historical trail, lots to read about too

Difficulty: Easy & flat, all on hard paths/roads

Parking: We parked on-road in an area known as ‘The Washie’ which is just off the A422 bypass

Public toilets: Pubs within the village

Map of the route: © Middleton Cheney Heritage Trail

MC map

Middleton Cheney lies in the far south of Northamptonshire, on the border with Oxfordshire. Traces of Neolithic, Bronze Age & Roman settlements have been found in the parish. An open field system of farming prevailed until the 18th century. In 1847 Parliament passed a bill for the Buckinghamshire Railway to build an extension to Banbury. It was built through the south of Middleton Cheney parish, & Farthinghoe railway station was opened in 1851. British Railways closed the station in 1952 & the railway in 1963

We’ve taken this walk from the Middleton Cheney Heritage Trail, which gives more detailed history etc than we’ve put on here

The light’s fading fast so…

Let’s Walk!

1. We’ve parked just off the bypass at the top of Washie Drive, so leaving the car walk back up the hill to the junction. This area was thought to be the area of the ‘Wash Hole’ where villagers did their annual clothes washing in the stream that ran at the bottom of the hill

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…turning left along Main Road

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2. There’s some very impressive properties along Main Road, as there are through the rest of the village

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The very large Middleton House on the right sits on land known as Manor Farm. There are no Manor Houses left in the village today, but this could be where it once was. The land can be dated back to 1274 when it was owned by Walter de Merton, Bishop of Rochester & Lord Chancellor of England. He also founded Merton College, Oxford

3. We head further along Main Road &, on the left, come to Lower Green…

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The Heritage Trail tells a lovely tale of a certain Fred Penn, who lived in one of the cottages on the right. Children used to follow his horse & cart & try to steal oranges from the wooden boxes he was carrying. Fred’s friends would call out “whip behind” at which point Fred would flick his whip behind him to stop them

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4. There’s a very nice looking pub just past the Green….

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The New Inn used to be a farmhouse & also probably the meeting place for the first Baptist Community in the village around 1740. We’ll see the Baptist Church later in this walk

5. Turn left into Salmons Lane…

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The beautiful old house on the left used to be the bakery

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The oldest parts date back to the 16th Century. The baker. Edward Killpack used to deliver bread by hand, until he later bought a horse & cart

6. As the lane bends left there’s some newer properties…

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…so follow it as it turns left then right & become Braggintons Lane

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7. Most of the old properties along here have been demolished, but the one remaining ahead on the left has a rather grisly history…

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A man called Fred Bayliss lived here & in 1930 married Blanche Warner who was a teacher in the village. Blanche was the victim of an attempted murder when one of her suitors shot at her 3 times. Unbelievably she didn’t suffer serious injury as 2 bullets bounced off her steel corset. The suitor was jailed

8. At the top of Braggintons Lane turn right into the very narrow Royal Oak Lane…

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Along here were once a chapel, a grocers & coal & wood merchants. Further along the Lane is the old carpenters house…

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…& the last house on the right used to be the grocers

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During some repairs an old sword was found hidden in the wall. It’s thought it could date back to a brief fight that took place in the village during the English Civil War in 1643

9. Turn left & carry on along Main Road…

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…looking out for Rose Hall Lane on the left

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The pretty two old cottages at the top of the Lane were built in the 17th Century

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10. Back to Main Road & on the right’s Middle Green (remember we saw Lower Green earlier)…

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There’s some stunning properties here which we’ll have a look at on the way back. There’s also some impressive topiary

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11. Cross Horton Road & Main Road’s now entering the area known as Church, or Upper Middleton. There’s some impressive Alms Houses that were built by Mary Ann Horton, Lady of the Manor, for retired workers on her estate…

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To get a house the minimum age was 50 for a man or 55 for a woman & the youngest female was expected to act as nurse to all the residents. Mary Ann Horton also bequeathed the money for the Horton Hospital in Banbury, with the proviso that there would always be at least one bed available for a resident from Middleton Cheney

12. Keep straight on towards the centre of the village – it was good to see an honesty box seller!

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The road bends to the right passing a small row of convenience shops – wonder if they sell a torch?

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13. Approaching the traffic lights on the right’s the village primary school

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The school was built in 1856, although the original school started in what’s now the churchyard in 1750

Panto time!

Panto time!

14. Cross the traffic lights towards The Dolphin pub, stopping to have a look at the War Memorial in the middle of the road…

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The memorial was donated by a Mr & Mrs Barnett whose son had died of meningitis aged 16 whilst training to be an officer. During World War I, 185 men from the village served their country, 22 failed to return

15. The Dolphin looks a lovely, cosy, welcoming pub…

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Apparently it was once owned by Arthur Mold, a local fellow who played cricket for Lancashire & England in the 1880s

Click on this link to see a fantastic film of Arthur bowling in 1901

16. Facing The Dolphin turn right & head into the heart of the village along the High Street…

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After about 200 yards is the building that was once the Red Lion pub…

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…& then just a bit further on is the old village Forge

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Machinery from farms was brought to the Forge to be mended & sharpened

17. Continue along the High Street as it bends right – it really is getting dark now…

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…but on the right’s an interestingly named close…Bull Baulk

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This name may relate back to stories from Middle Green that we saw earlier. One of the houses there was a butcher’s shop which had its own slaughterhouse. Apparently on more than one occasion a bull managed to make a dash for freedom causing mayhem in the village…hence maybe Bull Baulk!

18. Turn left into Rectory Lane…

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Rectory Farmhouse on the left once had a farmyard & there’s memories of sheep being driven along here for dipping…

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The old Rectory on the other side is now a Residential Home

19. Pass the Church – we’ll have a look at this & the churchyard in a bit…

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20. As the road bends turn sharp left. The last cottage on the right here used to be a pub called The Snob & Ghost – apparently ‘Snob’ is a Northamptonshire term for a shoemaker

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The church door on the left’s pretty ornate…

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21. At the bottom of the lane go through the gate into the churchyard…

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All Saints Church is early 14th-century & was restored under the direction of George Gilbert Scott in 1865. During the restoration notable stained glass windows were added that were designed by the Pre-Raphaelite artists William Morris, Philip Webb, Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown & Simeon Solomon & made by Morris & Co. There are also mosaics made by James Powell & Sons, one of which was designed by Henry Holiday

Head round to the north side to see the World War I Memorial. This was erected on the site of the graves of Roundheads who were killed in the English Civil War at the Battle of Middleton Cheney on 6th May 1643

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22. Back at the south entrance note the large ornate tomb…

IMG_4333This is the Horton family mausoleum & is a Gothic Revival monument designed by William Wilkinson & made by Thomas Earp in 1866–67

23. Exit through the South Gate…

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…passing the Methodist Church on the right

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24. Continue along Queen Street past the Baptist Chapel on the left…

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The Baptist congregation in Middleton Cheney may have been formed in 1740. The site of its original chapel is not known, but may have been in the Baptist burial ground in Queen Street. The present Baptist Centre was built as a chapel in 1806

“An extract from the parish records notes ‘a passing bell goes if a desired, for every death in the parish; but no bell on the day of the funeral if the corpse is to be interred at the Baptist Meeting House’ ”

Apparently a large number of the church emigrated to Australia in 1845 on a ship called ‘Templar’. The descendants of the emigrants still return to the village on a regular basis

25. On the right’s the old entrance to ‘Fenlands’ the old site of the Manor house built by Mary Horton in the 1860’s. All that remains now are the gate posts…

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26. Carry straight on to the junction with Main Road again…

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…turning left at the end

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27. Pass over the crossroads past the school. The first two houses used to be the village workhouse

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The allotments along here are pretty good too…

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28. We’re soon back at ‘Middle Green’ so turn left & let’s have a look…

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The last house on the left was ‘The Five Bells’, an old coaching inn..

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29. The thatched cottage below was originally two cottages. One was the home of Thomas Pinfold, a clock & watch maker in the 1760’s. He’s probably best known for making the church clock in Chipping Warden

Continue round the Green..

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The next house we pass used the be the village bakery…

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As with a lot of villages, the people would bring their pots here to be cooked once the baker had finished his daily chores

30. Further along this side of Main Street’s Lexton House…

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There’s a bit of history attached to this house as Frederick Croome was a surgeon who used to live here. His sister was the god-daughter of Edward Jenner who was the smallpox pioneer & father of immunology

31. Let’s head back to where we left the car. Main Road used to be the Turnpike Road running from Buckingham to Banbury. There’s one of the original milestones on the left along here…

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So that’s it…a mad dash in fading light around a village right on the southernmost border of our stunning county. We’d recommend you allow more time than we did & maybe combine it with our walk round Aynho

It’s a beautiful place with some incredible history, so…

Go Walk!