View from the top
11:03am Friday 29th January 2010 in Nostalgia
IN the 18 and 19th centuries a traveller from the direction of Oxford would know that he was approaching the village of Stokenchurch when the windmill came into view, above right. This was built in 1736, and was the last working windmill in Bucks when it was blown down in a gale in the spring of 1926.
Some 20 years earlier two of the four sails had become detached, and the then owner had replaced them with two sails of an unusual design. These were considerably heavier than the former sails, which may have contributed to the instability of the windmill. The site of the windmill is now a slip-road to the M40 motorway.
For much of the 20th century a transport café to serve lorry drivers on the A40 London to Wales trunk road was located close to the site of the windmill. This was founded by the grandparents of reader Tom Dean, William and Rose Dean. The early steam-powered lorries needed to recharge their boilers after the long climb up Dashwood Hill, and to do this they stopped at the Swilly Pond, which was near the windmill. The Dean family lived nearby, and Tom’s grandmother used to provide a cup of tea and piece of cake to the lorry drivers. The family soon realised that there was a business in this, which started as an act of kindness, and so acquired a ‘coffee stall’, what we today would know as a mobile café. The business grew, largely because Rose was such a good cook, so the family erected a more permanent structure. The café was at the front, with William’s chairmaking business at the rear.
The café became known as the Swilly Pond Café, and then later as Blunt’s Café, named after their daughter who married a Blunt. It was demolished in the 1980s, when the M40 diverted traffic away from the A40.
After the demise of the windmill in 1926, there would not be another local landmark for over 40 years, when the Post Office tower was built. It is one of 12 British telecommunications towers built of reinforced concrete – the rest are of steel lattice construction – and is 97.5 metres (320ft) high. It is at a key site where the north, west, south and east telecommunications routes come together, before going into London. The tower was opened in October 1968, when the Free Press’s photographer Ron Goodearl was at the ceremony. He climbed to the top of the tower to take a series of panoramic views, above left. See Stokenchurch in Perspective, edited by CJH Starey and PG Viccars, published in 1992.