The Commons are bounded on the south side by the villages of Hawridge and Cholesbury, which are in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are many attractive buildings of historic interest, some going back to the 16th Century. Some, such as Tall Chimneys and Cholesbury Village Hall have featured in television series.
Tall Chimneys featured in Midsomer Murders as the residence of Martin Barrett in ‘Down Among the Dead Men’ and in an episode of East Enders when Dot visited her nephew, supposedly in Essex. An exterior shot of the Village Hall was used in the 2013 BBC television comedy ‘Up the Women’.
Cholesbury Camp, just off Cholesbury Commons, is the remains of an Iron Age Hillfort and is one of the most impressive prehistoric settlements in the area. It was constructed some time between the 2nd and 1st Centuries BC but thought to be on the site occupied since the Bronze Age. Internally it is approximately 10 acres (4 hectares).
Chris Brown, Chairman of the Local History Group, says ‘Cholesbury Camp was in use for no more than 250 years before being abandoned due to the arrival of the Romans nearby at Tring Gap. Re-occupation, albeit on a temporary basis, started again just over a thousand years ago. A small community gradually settled from the 13th Century inside the Camp, close to the newly constructed stone church, spreading outside during the next 200 hundred years.
The local windmill was originally a tower mill built in 1863 for the processing of cereals but ceased working about 1911. It was later rented by Gilbert Cannan and his wife Mary, the former wife of JM Barrie. They were visited at the mill by members of the Bloomsbury Group and many other artists, writers and poets including DH Lawrence and Katherine Mansfield.
Brick built, and once tarred, the windmill has been converted to a house and is now painted white. The current owners are sympathetically restoring its cap and sails to its original Victorian splendor.
THE FULL MOON
The Pub is thought to have been an alehouse since 1693 and has been known as the Half Moon, the Moon and now the Full Moon. It has been extended over the years but remains an attractive pub in a picturesque setting.
CHOLESBURY CHURCH, ST LAURENCE
The 13th Century church was re-built in 1872, using many of the building materials from the original church.
An interesting headstone in the churchyard is that of David Newton.
David Newton, who was born at The Lee, worked as an agricultural labourer until he joined the Royal Marines, aged 18 and served as a private on the battleship ‘Revenge’ at the Battle of Trafalgar. In the midst of the battle, hearing that the ‘Revenge’ was under attack by four ships, Nelson ordered two ships to go to her aid. Newton was slightly injured in the battle.
When David Newton left the service he married a farmer’s daughter from Whelpley Hill and by 1818 he was living in Cholesbury and the birth of Charlotte, the first of their seven children was recorded. In 1861 he was still living in Cholesbury but by now his wife had died, he was blind and being looked after by his son James. David Newton died in July 1878 in his late 90’s.
HAWRIDGE COURT RINGWORK
Hawridge Court, a privately owned residence which was frequently the home of past Lords of the Manors, is surrounded by a dry moat and a ringwork, thought to date back to shortly after the Norman Conquest. The site is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
ST MARY'S CHURCH, HAWRIDGE
The first recorded priest of St Mary’s was Thurston Basset in 1227 and there is a list of all known incumbents to the present day, inside the door of the Church. The present church was rebuilt in 1856. It is similar to, but larger than, the thirteenth century one and is now a Grade II Listed Building. During the rebuilding, a bassoon dating from 1810 was found (now held in the Bucks Museum). It would have been used in the Church band before an organ was installed. Other items of interest are the 13th century Font; a memorial slab in black marble to John Seare, the first Lord of the Manors of both Hawridge and Cholesbury, on the floor of the aisle; a mural tablet to his son, Richard Seare, High Sheriff of Bucks; and a brass plate with the inscription:
Here lyeth buried the body of Dame Dorothe Pakyngton: A Daughter of Sr Thomas Kytson, late of London, Knight, and wyfe, first, of Sr Thomas Pakyngton, Knight, and last of Thomas Tasburgh, Esquier. She lyved very vertouosly, and departed this lyfe a mooste faythfull and godly Christian, the 2de of Maye, when she had lyved xlvj yeare and vij monethes, Anno dni 1577.
CELEBRATIONS & MEMORIALS
The Commons have been used to celebrate many national events such as Coronations and Jubilees.
QUEEN VICTORIA’S JUBILEE STONE
A stone obelisk, on the boundary between Hawridge and Cholesbury, was erected to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (1897). The actual event was celebrated by a slap-up meal for all of the local residents.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II'S DIAMOND JUBILE
Three puddingstones were placed by the local villagers on the site of a beacon lit on 4th June 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Puddingstones, so named because they resemble old-fashioned plum pudding, were formed about 50 million years ago from intermittent rivers in a desert. They are composed of flint pebbles with sand, held together in a tough, quartz cement. The rock became broken in the Ice Age two million years ago but still remains close to the place where it was first formed.
Two of the three puddingstones once marked the entrance to the Fort, now the entrance to the church. It is thought that they were moved from there because the then Lord of the Manors, Henry Turner, believed that, as pagan symbols, they were inappropriately placed by the church. They were moved near to the Cricket Pavilion and then, in 2012, to their new site. The third stone, recently dug out of a nearby clay pit, was kindly donated by HG Matthews, the local brickworks in Bellingdon.