Tuesday 17 September 2019
Autumn sees the launch of two Chilterns festivals which between them, offer a whole array of opportunities through which to learn and explore the history and heritage of this beautiful area. And what a learning experience! Not only are our guides local experts, they're also specialists in their own particular fields.
This festival runs from the 21st September to the 6th October and amongst other events has guided tours of many of the historical houses in the area, each of which has had its own part to play in the story of the Chilterns, as well as offering some of the most spectacular architecture and scenic countryside. Here's a sample of the variety of history on offer...
Did you know that Latimer House, gorgeous as it looks, was crucial to the outcome of World War II? The house was converted for the war effort at a cost of £21m in today's money. Special buildings housed the M Room (a room with listening and recording equipment), several interrogations rooms and an administration block. Latimer held many of Hitler's generals whose private conversations were secretly recorded and translated by our secret services before being sent to Bletchley Park. Currently a hotel, a tour of Latimer takes place 4th October as part of the festival.
The most famous resident of Hartwell House was arguably Louis XVIII, the exiled King of France. But it has been the seat of many important figures including William Peveral the natural son of
William the Conqueror. To find out more about a history that stretches back almost a thousand years and enjoy over 90 acres of superbly tended parkland and gardens, don't miss the Chiltern Society tour on 25th September.
Dorney Court has always been the Village Manor House although it has clearly changed dramatically since it was first referenced in the Domesday Book (1086) as being owned by Miles Crispin, when William the Conqueror was still on the English throne. It is one of England’s most beautiful Tudor Manor Houses, and designated as being of outstanding architectural and historical interest. Both the interior and exterior of the House are well worth exploring. See if you can spot the 17th century priest hole or even the balding spectre of Dorney Court’s ghost! Interior furnishings include family portraits, oak furniture, carved panelling, silks and tapestries; these tell the stories of the history of the families that lived in the house. Referencing such amazing material, the experienced guide will delve deep into the history of the house and adjoining church. The tour takes place on 6th October.
For more details about The Chiltern Society Heritage Festival, please visit The Chiltern Society website at http://bit.ly/2LG14EX
Maybe your interests lie in earlier historical periods? If so, this festival which takes place a little later from 5th to 20th October, has a number of events which centre on pre-historical events and peoples of the Chilterns (as well as historical ones). We're fortunate to have in residence currently a small team of expert archaeologists, all specialising in particular periods. Even better, they have put together some amazing walks which they will be leading, in order to share some of their fascinating knowledge and insight.
Our own Dr Wendy Morrison, Iron Age landscape specialist, is leading a fascinating walk through the scenic rolling countryside around Chesham. The walk explores how people's construction of powerful sites have affected the landscape historically and centres on two locations: Bovingdon Airfield and Whelpley Hill Camp. With its runway over a mile long, Bovingdon was initially the home of RAF Bomber Command during WWII. Several film stars were assigned to the base, including Clark Gable, James Stewart and William Holden, who apparantly quaffed at the nearby Swan Pub! After the war, the airfield was returned to civilian airline use and because of its elevation, was often clear when London Heathrow and Northolt were fog-bound. From the scale and impact of Bovingdon, Wendy will lead the group to Whelpley Hill Camp, a probable Iron Age hillfort (possibly a Late Bronze Age ringfort!). Drawing on recent findings and specialist knowledge, Wendy will outline evidence of pre-historical earthworks and features, and describe the activities that may have taken place at this ancient monument. Walk takes place Saturday 12th October starting (and ending) at the infamous pub!
Sam Johansen, also an archaeologist, is leading a walk around Crowell Parish taking in a variety of different historical routeways and local environments, including sunken lanes, drovers roads, and the Icknield Way. He will discuss how these routes were formed and how they have shaped the lives and stories of the people who settled the area. Join Sam on Sunday 13th October for a fantastic local history lesson and superb walking.
Both these particular walks are free of charge and likely to be popular so book your place to avoid disappointment. For all the details on these walks and many more visit:http://bit.ly/ChilWalkingFest.