Gawcott is a compact village standing on elevated ground south of the Great Ouse and west of Claydon Brook.
The oldest parts of the Village, which have remained largely unchanged over the years, extend principally along Main Street, Church Street and Back Street. Newer developments run off from Main Street and along the roads from Preston Bissett, Radclive, Hillesden and Buckingham.
The centre of the Village consists of mainly two-storey terraced houses and cottages fronting directly onto footpaths which run the length of Main Street. These buildings, the majority of which are eighteenth and nineteenth century in origin, are constructed mostly of brick, with some of roughcast and colour-washed. The few older sixteenth and seventeenth century properties are of rubble stone, some with newer brick facings. Despite its small size, the almost continuous line of brick and stone buildings along Main Street gives it an urban character, distinguishing it from the rural feel of surrounding villages. There is a fine collection of listed buildings close to the junction of Main Street and Radclive Road, particularly Red Lion House, Westcott House and Old Eagles Farmhouse. The centre of the Village and its buildings are protected by Conservation Area status established in 1990.
The estate known as Prebend End Manor, alias Buckingham with Gawcott Manor, formed part of the endowment of Buckingham Church at the time of the Domesday survey. It remained largely unchanged until the Enclosure Acts when blocks of land were allocated to The Marquis of Buckingham and several farmers, including William Eagles. Old Eagles farmhouse remains today in Main Street. The hamlet of Lenborough was separately assessed at the time of the Domesday survey.
The foundations for the Holy Trinity Church were first laid in 1802, with the chapel and burial ground being consecrated in 1806. The Reverend Thomas Scott was the first vicar and was the father of George Gilbert Scott, the renowned architect. Unfortunately, the original church became unsound following a long spell of dry weather in the early 1800s and had to be demolished, being replaced with the current building in 1827.
The Village School opened in 1839 adjoining the church and was enlarged in 1894, moving to its current location at the end of Church Street in 1976. A merger of Gawcott and Tingewick Schools to form a new entity – Roundwood School – was completed in 2007 and Roundwood now offers education to children between the ages of 4 and 11 from buildings in the two Villages.
The Village Methodist movement started in a cottage on Main Street before moving to the present building in 1868. The Sunday School was in existence in the early days and continues successfully today.
Gawcott used to have five Public Houses, four of which are now private residences, including the former Red Lion, The Royal Oak and The Cuckoo’s Nest. The latter opened as the Chequers in 1742 before becoming the New Inn and finally the Cuckoo’s Nest. The original Crown Inn was known to be trading in 1737 but became a private house in 1805. However, in the same year a new Crown public house was opened in the current premises.
Gawcott’s best known son is George Gilbert Scott. Born in the Village in 1811, he became a world famous architect, building and restoring over 1,000 churches and cathedrals and designing many well-known structures including the Albert Memorial and St. Pancras Station Hotel. George’s grandson, Giles Gilbert Scott, designed the iconic red BT telephone box and is famous for the design of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool as well as many other buildings around the country.
The Gawcott Labourers’ Movement became headline news in 1867 when they went on strike for higher pay. Subsequently, the Gawcott Sick and Benefit Club was formed and remnants of the Club’s banner still exist, having been partly restored by the late Mr Henry Hodding.
The 1881 census confirms that the majority of residents were agricultural workers, a situation that would have prevailed for generations. From the 1700s, perhaps as many as a quarter of the Village womenfolk were involved in lace making, Gawcott being well- known for the making of black lace. Lace making as a cottage industry continued throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. As late as 1951, lace was still being made in North Buckinghamshire and was exhibited at the Festival of Britain.
The Village Hall was opened in 1924, financed by local subscription and, soon afterwards, the Buckingham Road houses were built, extending the developed boundary of the Village. The Hall is a registered charity and is managed for the benefit of the Village by a Board of Trustees.
In 1940 a government radio station was established at Signal Hill and this was extended a year later, the increasing number of military personnel living in Gawcott and the surrounding villages. The shortwave radio transmitters were used to broadcast highly secret ’black’ propaganda programmes which were made at Milton Bryan Bedfordshire, and the Gawcott facility also worked in conjunction with facilities at Potsgrove, Hanslope and Bletchley Park. The station remained operational, apart from a period of dormancy in the 1970s, until it was closed and sold in 1994.
The administrative Parish of Gawcott with Lenborough was established as a separate entity from Buckingham in 1982 and has functioned separately for the last 34 years. The Parish Council owns the Playing Field at Lenborough Road, donated to the Village by Richard Roper, with the extension subsequently being donated by the Faccenda family.
The allotments and Hodding Wood make up some of the 14 acres of land originally donated for the benefit of the poor of the Village by John West. As a result of the amalgamation of local charities overseen by the Charity Commissioners, this land is now owned and administered by the Buckingham Almshouses and Welfare Charity. The Parish Council has a short lease of Hodding Wood and wishes to take ownership of the land, thereby returning it to the Village as intended by the original benefactor in the seventeenth century.
The Lenborough Hoard
This archaeological hoard of 5,252 coins was discovered in the village of Lenborough in December 2014.
The coins were found wrapped in a lead sheet and buried in the ground for safekeeping. The coins are of Æthelred II (978-1016) and Cnut (1016-35), and were buried towards the end of Cnut’s reign. They include one specimen of the excessively rare and historically important ‘Agnus Dei’ type, probably issued in 1009 as part of a programme of prayer and penitence to ward off Viking attacks.
The lead wrapping provided protection against the elements, while the hoard was in the ground, with the result that the coins are very well preserved. The hoard contains coins from over forty different mints around England and provides a rare source of information on the circulation of coinage at the time the coins were buried.
The hoard comes from a period when re-coinages were being undertaken frequently, recycling the bulk of the currency although, as in this case, collections of earlier coinage would sometimes be held back as savings or for private usage. The Lenborough find may shed light on how and why some coin-users retained earlier currency. Unfortunately, there is no obvious clue about the identity of the owner or the context of its collection, concealment and non-recovery.
It was no small sum as 5,252 pennies amounted to £21.17s 8d [£21.88] in contemporary currency. A single penny at the time had considerable value – probably tens of pounds sterling - and the total content of the hoard was more than most estates recorded in Domesday Book would be expected to produce in a year. It is clearly a lot more than most of the population would ever have handled on one occasion.