History of Totternhoe

 

The Village of Totternhoe is situated in the south west corner  of Bedfordshire, bordering on the counties of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, in the lowlands of the Dunstable Downs Chiltern Hills, close to Whipsnade Zoo, and can be located under the OS Map Ref SP985215.

Villages nearby are Eaton Bray, Edlesborough and Stanbridge with the town of Dunstable about 2 miles away.  The Population is about 1172, according to the 2011 Census, mainly older persons of which some have lived in the Village, or  close by, for all their lives, other moving in to the area over the years.

The name has been recorded as long ago as 1086, from the words ‘Totene’ and ‘Hou’, meaning ‘look out house’ and ‘a spur’.  The ‘Knolls’ which form part of the village escarpment at one end had at one time been a Norman Keep and was considered a fine Motte and Bailey castle.  A Roman Villa, dating back to the 4th Century  was excavated in the 1950’s.

The 1881 National Census taken in the month of April recorded that just over 700 people lived in the village of which 54% were females with many large families having up to 6 or 7 children. The main occupation was farm labourers for the males and straw plait work for the wives with most of the land being part of the Ashridge Estate owned by Lord Brownlow. The village in those days was in 3 areas consisting of Lower End by the Knolls, Church End next to the Church and in the centre was called Middle End, these names exist today in 2006. Many of the old houses, public houses and cottages in the village were built from the 15th century onwards and are still being used as homes or the 2 remaining pubs now, having been well preserved and modernised over the years.

 

Totternhoe Stone (or Clunch) at the Knolls end of the village has been quarried for hundreds of years and has been used in the building of many local churches, including St Giles in Totternhoe, together with other buildings such as Woburn Abbey, St Albans Cathedral and Westminster Palace.  Although, not in the plentiful supply as it was, it is still available to support the repair of these buildings.

The railway arrived at the start of the 20th century not in the village but in the cutting between the village and Sewell hamlet with the station at Stanbridgeford, it had a siding into the Lime works, the line was axed in 1963 under Dr Beeching and the track area is now part of the national Sustrans route for walkers, horse riders and pedal cyclists.

As the years moved on the pattern of life in the village changed particularly as the industrial factories arrived in the local towns of Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard, people left the farming life and took jobs in the towns. From the 1930’s up to about 1940 and a little later many people came on the train to Stanbridgeford from the bigger towns and cities for a day out in Totternhoe and the surrounding countryside, it is known that some of the public houses and even local people opened Tea rooms for all these visitors who were coming into the area at weekends and holiday times.

 

 

During the War years the village had many children evacuated into local homes from the big cities and friendships have been maintained. Over the last 50 years the village has seen many changes as old buildings have been removed and new houses been built on the land and infill has taken place, however there has not been any large scale developments so the village is still very much the same shape as it was at the time of the 1881 census and many of the family names as recorded at this census are still in the village. Farming is still a village activity with about 4 working Farms mostly arable and covering most of the fields around and beyond the village boundary.

Today if you climb up the footpaths to the top of the ‘Knolls’ at the site of the old Castle you can on a good day see Whipsnade Zoo, Ivinghoe Beacon, Vale of Aylesbury and Mentmore Towers. On the chalk hills and soil in this area of the village that forms part of the landscape harbour many different types of orchids, including the rare man orchid, cowslips, scabious and knapweed. There are many birds in the area which nest during different times such as skylarks, warblers, finches and buntings also butterflies such as the common and chalkhill blue, meadow brown and marbled white can be found Totternhoe Stone (known as Clunch) was quarried for many years and was used in Westminster and St Albans Abbeys, Woburn Abbey and the local St Giles Church but today is no longer only in very small amounts to support the repair of these buildings.

The Lime Works is still in operation and now just produces different types of hydrated lime from raw materials brought in from other parts of England. The Works still has two of the original old brick Kilns but they are no longer in use.

Up to the late fifties there were 4 Public Houses in the village but firstly the Dukes Head near the Lime Works became a private house then in the late nineties the Old Bell in Church Road was made into a house so there is only The Old Farm in Church Road and The Cross Keys in Castle Hill Road remaining, the Old Farm is more a village type Pub where as the Cross Keys is considered more for the tourist.

There are many tracks and paths for walkers and horse riders in and around the village some have names such as Wheelbarrow Way, Banbury Knap, Drovers Way and Green Lanes, they all formed part of the routes the travellers used with their horse and cart at the turn of the 20th century. Today the village has a very good Lower School with about 110 pupils of which about 50% do not live in the village, the Shop, Post Office and Police House have all been closed down in recent years but there are numerous organisations such as Women’s Fellowship, Garden Club, Jazzercise, Yoga, Children’s Dance Class, Mothers and Toddlers Group and Women’s Institute, these all meet at St Giles Hall In the Memorial Hall the Pre School Group for children meet in the mornings and other activities on some evenings, there is a Social Club Bar which is open on Wednesday and Friday evenings also Sunday lunchtime.

 

There is a local Scout, Cub and Guide group that meets weekly in the Scout Hut at the rear of houses in Castle Hill Road adjacent to Middle End Recreation ground. The village has a very active Parish Council which meets on the third Tuesday of the month in the Memorial Hall except December when it is the second Tuesday and no meeting in August. Many aspects of village management are handled by the Council and it is an open meeting for the public to attend. There is a village police officer who patrols the village at various times during the week on his schedule of looking after about 7 villages in the area.

 

 

 

The village has three Recreation Grounds one at each end and one in the middle in which the Parish Council provide play equipment in each. On the large ground at Church End there is the village football clubhouse and the Team competes in a fairly high level league of local football. In their clubhouse they provide a social side for the members, it also has a Cricket section which again plays at a high level in the local league. In the early nineties Dunstable Town Cricket Club relocated to a field adjacent to the football club and after a lot of work now has one of the best grounds and Pavilion in the county. The club has 3 teams and the cricket played is to a high level with often games against teams from the Minor counties league. The Methodist and Primitive Methodist Chapels have both ceased to exist, the Methodist becoming a private house in the early nineties and the Primitive being demolished in the early seventies to make way for a garden and private house.

The Church of St Giles forms part of the United Benefice with two other local villages of Tilsworth and Stanbridge it has a regular Sunday and mid week service. and is the only Church remaining in the village. The village is surrounded by the Green Belt under the South Beds District Council Rural Plans so the prospect of large scale development taking place in the near future is fairly remote. This has been helped when the A507 Leighton Buzzard bypass was opened in the late nineties putting a line between Totternhoe and the likes of Leighton Buzzard, where there is a large amount of development going on. However the village now has what is known as a ‘rat run’, with motorists using the road through the village in the mornings and evenings to avoid Dunstable congestion.

 

Within the village there is a designated Conservation area which covers parts of Wellhead Road, Church Road, Church Green and Furlong Lane and the Church. The village has a daily bus service which runs at about 1 hour intervals starting in Aylesbury and going around many villages before arriving in Totternhoe before going on to Dunstable and Luton, however the last bus back into the village in the evening is about 2200 hrs.

 

There is a Church Magazine that is published monthly except January and the Parish Council issue a Newsletter every six months so with both these publication the people in the village are kept informed of most things that happen.

 

 

The village has a few people who have taken an interest in its history and one in particular is the Chronicle by Mrs J. Curran and it covers the 1881 census, another by a wartime evacuee Michael Dundrow entitled ‘A Lasting Impression