Walk 53: Newport Pagnell Town Walk: It’s as keen as mustard

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Only a couple of miles (3.22km)

Time to walk: We lingered over this town walk for a couple of hours as it surprised us – have a sit by the river browse a few shops

Difficulty: Flat & all on hard paths so suitable for all weathers

Parking: On street parking

Public toilets: Cafes, pubs etc

Map of the route: None, but the streets are well named & this walk, courtesy of the local Historical Society’s easy to follow – just watch out for grumpy ‘white van man’ who’s happy to blow his horn to try & make you move – stand your ground walkers…stand your ground…

So what can we tell you about Newport Pagnell – we hadn’t been there for some years & were pleasantly surprised at how vibrant the town seemed. Although it’s grown over the years, it appears to have retained its identity

Situated just over our southern county border, Newport Pagnell was first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Neuport, which is Old English meaning for New Market Town, but by that time the old Anglo-Saxon town was dominated by the Norman invaders. The suffix “Pagnell” came later when the manor passed into the hands of the Pagnell (Paynel) family. It was the principal town of the “Three Hundreds of Newport”, a district that had almost the same boundary as the modern Borough

At one time, Newport Pagnell was one of the largest towns in the County of Buckinghamshire though today, despite its own substantial expansion, it’s been completely dwarfed by the growth of nearby Milton Keynes. The town was at one time the centre of the lace industry, but it was through its importance as a transport centre that it grew, being on direct routes between Leicester & London & Cambridge & Oxford. By the late 17th century over 180 goods & coach services a week passed through the town & it was well provided with coaching inns. Such was the importance of the coaching trade to the town that the Tickford Iron Bridge & the stone North Bridge were erected in 1810 to cater for the heavier traffic

We’ll pick up on a lot more of the local history as we go so…

Let’s Walk!

1. This walk starts at the eastern entrance to the town on the bridge over the fast flowing River Ouse

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On the left is the North Bridge Toll House, a listed building, which was built in 1810 & is now actually the top floor of a private house below. In 1809 there was an accident involving the Manchester Stagecoach on the decrepit North Bridge, in which the driver & guard were hurled into the river. An Act of Parliament then permitted the building of replacement toll bridges & both toll houses survive to this day

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There’s a really good view of the river from the right side of the bridge as it chases through the Mill race which used to feed the corn mills, the last of which was burnt down in 1899…

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2. Continue towards the town passing the impressive 17th century building that now houses the Royal British Legion Club. This was once an ancient manor house. The current building has been home to a private girls’ school, a library, a doctors & a private house

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At the rear are Ousebank Gardens which are open to the public – check for opening times as these vary. The gardens also contain the only remaining arch of the old medieval bridge

3. Continue up the main street to have a look at the church…

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The Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul stands on a hill overlooking the valleys of two rivers, the Great Ouse & the Lovat (also known as the Ousel – we’ve walked along that a few times near Milton Keynes). Since the times of the Normans there’s been a church here &, at one time, a castle too

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It’s open so let’s have a look inside

4. One of the oldest parts of the church, dating from the 14th century is the North Porch through which we’re entering…

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As you enter directly ahead is the Font which is a copy of a Norman one in St Mary’s, Aylesbury

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The Parish Chest is also close by which dates back to 1600, but has parts of an earlier one incorporated into it. As with most Parish Chests, it has 3 locks, each requiring a different key held by the vicar & two churchwardens. It used to contain valuables & documents & obviously couldn’t be opened without all three key holders being present. Some Chests also contained military items…

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The view down the Aisles & Nave is beautiful…

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…as is the roof. Built in 1475, it was found to have been badly damaged by death watch beetle in 1934 & had to be replaced. It was further decorated in 1967 in medieval colours

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Above the arches are 14 figures which represent the 12 apostles & 2 others

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 As with all our churches there are some spectacular stain glass windows…

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The impressive organ was built in 1867 & has 2500 ‘speaking’ pipes i.e. they all make a sound & aren’t just for decoration

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We could have spent longer looking around, but people were waiting to lock up the church

5. Exit & turn right towards the churchyard…

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The building at the end with the spire is the Cemetery Lodge which was built by a local architect, Richard Sheppard in 1860. It’s now a private dwelling, but in the past was the chapel of rest

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6. Continue round the edge of the church to emerge back on the High Street. That’s not the white van we referred to earlier – that pleasure’s still to come…

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Earlier as we turned into the church we passed an interesting building

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This dates back to Victorian times & for many years was an ironmongers owned by the well known local Odell family. Click on this link to learn more…

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Have a look at the step in the doorway. It’s been worn away after years of use. The doors are curved & were once covered with other ones that were used during funerals at the church

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7. We’re moving into the main part of the High Street now…

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Over the road’s the Post Office which was previously Barclays Bank. It was built in 1872 for Buckinghamshire’s oldest banking business, Bassetts Bank Ltd

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8. Reminders of Newport Pagnell’s past as a staging post are evidenced by The Swan Revived Hotel which was once one of the town’s principal coaching inns dating back to roughly 1597

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Up until the mid 19th century there were in excess of 30 coaches per day stopping in the town. Once known as the White Swan, in the 1820s it was updated with a Georgian front. Famous guests have included Samuel PepysDavid Niven & Sophia Loren

 9. Opposite is a 17th century half-timbered property. The timber frames are now exposed, but for many years were cladded over

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The name of the pottery painting cafe nearby made us smile…

Kilning me Softly

Kilning me Softly

10. Turn left into St John Street, which is named after a medieval hospital that was once here. Little has changed in this area of town over the years & there’s some interesting buildings, the first of which is an excellent music shop…

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This was for many years the offices of the local newspaper, the Bucks Standard. Next door is the Tickford Arcade…

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Originally the town’s cinema, The Electra which opened in 1912. It was set up by the owner of Salmons Coachworks to provide entertainment for his employees & their families. It closed in 1983 & reopened as an arcade in 1991. Here’s how it looked in its heyday – interestingly the shop next door still has the same design but with different words

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11. The quirky, wonky building slightly further along was formerly known as ‘Ye Olde Kiosk’ when it became a sweetshop in 1971. Sadly today it has become an estate agents

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Dating back to possibly Tudor times, this is said to be the town’s oldest houses. Prior to becoming a sweetshop it was a cobblers for many years

The large, ancient stone house almost next door was the Vicarage until 1875. Apparently at the back is the remains of a Tudor wall

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12. Next door’s some almshouses known as Queen Anne’s Hospital which are the 4th buildings on this site – the earliest were in the 13th century. Originally built in 1615 as The Hospital Of St John The Baptist, the structure we see now dates only from the 19th century. It was whilst taking this picture, standing just off the pavement in the lay-by, that we were almost run down by a honking ‘white van man’

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The inscription above is on one of the original beams & dedicates the hospital to the people of the town from Queen Anne, wife of James I

13. We’re now approaching Newport Pagnell’s jewel in the crown…Tickford Bridge over the River Lovat

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The oldest cast iron bridge in the world that still carries traffic, dates from 1810, when it replaced an earlier bridge. It’s known that there was a bridge here as early as 1167. Walk out onto the nearby footbridge to get the best view…it is rather fab!

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14. We need to continue along St John Street to look at another Newport Pagnell institution…

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If you fancy a stop then The Bull’s on the left…

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Or, if you fancy a ‘top-up’ of a different kind then head next door

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But on the right’s the world-famous Aston Martin factory

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Aston Martin Works is the historic home of Aston Martin with a heritage stretching back almost 60 years, whilst Newport Pagnell has an even longer association with bespoke & luxury vehicle making, being the home to Salmons Coachworks since 1830. During the 52 years that Aston Martin sports cars were made at Newport Pagnell, a total of just over 13,300 cars left the factory destined for customers all over the world. Among the many iconic models designed & built here are: DB4, DB5 & DB6, V8 Vantage, the William Towns Lagonda & the original Vanquish. The cars are now sadly built in Warwickshire. For us, as a James Bond fan, there’s only one…the DB5

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15. Right…indulgence over lets head back across the bridge to the High Street once more…

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Directly over the road’s The Cannon

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The pub was originally called the Wine Vaults & there was a brewery at the rear in 1860

16. Let’s continue down the High Street towards Market Hill…

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The massive house on the right is early 18th century Queen Anne style property & for most of the 20th century was home to Newport Parnell Urban District Council

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The offices of Nationwide occupy a property that once dated back to the 16th century, but following extensive renovations the timbers are the only part of the original building still here

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Across the zebra is The Old Manse which was built in 1702 In 1782 Rev. William Bull founded the Newport Pagnell Theological College, also known as the Academy. When it closed in 1859 it had trained over 100 ministers for the wider church. William Bull was a great friend of the hymn writer John Newton, curate of Olney, & the poet William Cowper

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 The church where Bull was Reverend is through the archway of the house…

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17. Back over the road is another religious building, the Methodist Church which was built to a traditional chapel style in 1815…

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Another of the town’s ancient inns is close by…the Dolphin Inn dates back to the 16th century…

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…& next door is Brewery House, another Queen Anne period house. It used to be home to the owners of the brewery which used to be next to the pub

18. The street opens up here into more of a large open space. There’s an interestingly named Indian restaurant which suggests it may serve up rather fiery curries…

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The large building across the road is the Town Hall Chambers…

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It was actually built as a school in the early 19th century, although later became the Town Hall & from 1937 became known as Church House. The biggest room upstairs could hold meetings for over 200 people plus dances, drama performances etc. After several more changes the building’s now up for development

The impressive front

The impressive front

19. Nearby is another massive & similar building – this one was also built by the same architect in 1845. It became the magistrates court & local gaol. By 1881 it had changed hands to become a Temperance Hall, then the Mission Hall & now a Roman Catholic Church called St Bedes

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20. Walk back to the right of the Town Hall Chambers to find another fabulous pub…the Coachmakers Arms

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Another early 17th century pub constructed from stone & timber & the walls of this property are, in places, up to 4 feet thick.

21. Follow the road round to the left side of the pub into Bury Street. For some reason we had a problem finding this from the instructions we had, but face the pub, turn left & follow the road that bends right

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Looking for the school buildings will tell you if you’re in the right road

22. The school we’re passing is Cedars School whose most famous pupil is probably Letitia Dean…duff duff duff duff

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23. Carry on to the end of Bury Street where it meets with Silver Street

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We’ll explore some of the historical left of this street shortly, but for now turn right…This part of the town has always been liable to flood as it’s one of the lowest parts

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24. Whilst there’s some impressive buildings, let’s have a look at them on the way back, but for the meantime carry on to the junction where across the road’s Lovat Crest, the town’s only remaining exposed thatched house – some of this dates back to the Tudor period

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25. Turn back up Silver Street & let’s see what we’ve missed! Firstly on the left’s No.84 which shows a building from different period of the town, the Georgian era – the slates were imported from Belgium…

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…& next door’s another one of this town’s old pubs…The Rose & Crown

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This pub survived quite a large demolition programme & was originally know as the Red Lion

26. The rather eccentric building we’ve really come to see in this town though is the the right…the magnificent Lovat Bank

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A Victorian mansion designed by Edward Swinfen Harris & built for Frederick James Taylor in 1877, a chemist & member of the mustard manufacturers, Lovat Bank is considered to be one of the finest buildings in town

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Look for the bottles embedded in the windows…

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Having had various uses over the years, Lovat Bank is now used as offices, the lawns are open to the public. We actually met a lovely lady in the street who happened to be a member of the local history society who told us lots about the property

27. We think it was around this point we realised what a lovely place Newport Pagnell is. Follow where we’ve come from &, just before the Bury Street junction look for an alleyway called Chandos Court…

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At the end of the alleyway’s an intriguing little building that was built as the United Brothers Chapel in 1866

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28. Carry on up Silver Street Hill towards St John Street again…

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On the right’s The Hermitage. This large building dates from the 17th century, but it has been extensively modified & was originally 2 houses

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29. Next door is Hatt House, an 18th century property

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Opposite this is another well preserved 17th century property half-timbered house..

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Remember the Arcade? The back entrance’s on the right

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Pass up the side to remove into St John Street again to end the walk

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Well…we have to admit we wasn’t expecting much from this walk, but Newport Pagnell has really surprised up so well done you!

It’s well worth a visit & we hope you’ll be surprised too so…

Go Walk!