More about Cromwell’s Garrison Town, by author Jack Reynolds
Oliver Cromwell had good reason to be thankful to the garrison at Newport Pagnell.
In the momentous Civil War of the 17th century, the town’s location was of great strategic importance on the Front Line between the opposing armies.
The controversial General always had an affinity for the place – fighting alongside its troops, sending his son to join the young conscripts, frequently visiting his friend the governor, and selecting it as the muster point for most of his army on the eve of the decisive Battle of Naseby.
Other than 12 days when it was under Royalist control, the fortress stayed faithful to the Parliamentary cause. But for the small market town with its quaint white-washed houses, cobbled streets and a happy mix of stalls and hostelries, being thrust into the national limelight was always going to be a trauma.
Almost overnight, regiments of men were converging on the place with their horses and their helmets and their guns and a way of life that was often violent and frequently brutal.
It was fascinating to be able to piece together, for the first time, what happened during Newport’s tumultuous military occupation; revealing amongst other things, how …
…. The governor was a diminutive, hunch-back who fought with a cut-down sword and made himself indispensible by running a network of battlefield spies and informants;
.… The fortress was base for 1500 troops including Cromwell’s ‘greatest joy’ of a son and John Bunyan, the much-celebrated writer;
…. Martial Law was required to restore order when the restless men turned to vice, gambling and debauchery;
…. Soldiers were paid in worthless IoUs and their officers had to beg, borrow and steal to get by;
…. Radical sects began advocating free love and group land ownership with aims reminiscent of the ‘hippy’ movement of the 1960s.
● The author was grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the help and diligent research of local volunteers in the creation of this work
“Newport Pagnell is synonymous with transportation and it is justly fitting that this handbook celebrates the 200th anniversary of that remarkable heritage which began when Salmons & Sons started producing horseless carriages in the early 19th century and continued through bodying motor cars at the very start of the 20th century
Its proud association with Aston Martin didn’t start until the early 1950s when the David Brown Industries group looked for an in-house supplier of bodies for their cars.
With chassis built near Huddersfield, bodies at Newport Pagnell and assembly in Middlesex, they were soon looking to consolidate production on one site and Newport Pagnell gave the perfect opportunity.
The DB4 entered production in 1958 and a new era of car-making in the town began.
The next 40-odd years were very much a roller-coaster with highlights such as the DB5 (made famous by James Bond) matched by periods of despondency and redundancies.
However, Aston Martin struggled onward, hand-crafting iconic cars with enthusiasm until 2007 when the last - a fabulous Vanquish S Ultimate - rolled off the production line.
Some undoubtedly thought Aston Martin at Newport Pagnell would never be the same again when production moved to Warwickshire and the factory was demolished to make way for a Tesco hyper-market leaving three heritage buildings in splendid isolation.
But Aston Martin at Newport Pagnell has survived in style. Now a thriving business providing sales, service and restoration of new and heritage cars, manufacturing also re-started in 2017 at the Works producing hyper-expensive, very rare and sought-after re-creations of classic models such as the DB4 and DB4GT Zagato. Re-creations of James Bond’s DB5 are planned next.
Long may this continue in what many people consider to be the spiritual home of Aston Martin!
At the Heritage Trust we record everything the marque achieves in our comprehensive archives and much material is on display at the museum (go here www.amht.org.uk for detail.
We see too, just how proud Newport Pagnell is of its association with Aston Martin - so do contact us if you have anecdotes and artefacts that should properly be preserved for future generations.”
Rob Smith, chairman
Aston Martin Heritage Trust
In this extract from Bury Field: a thousand years of history, Sammy Jones asks:
…for all those who yearn every now and then to throw off the shackles and pressures of modern life, is there anywhere better to commune with nature than Bury Field?
The historic Common is a true haven for wildlife – a treat of spectacular flora and fauna across 180 acres where it is possible to enjoy the wonderful valley of the Great Ouse and all its gifts.
Set on limestone and clay with more recent glacial sand, gravel and river deposits, the large expanse of grassland is at odds with much of the farmland nearby. It changes with the seasons, in appearance, and by those that visit too… especially in winter when gulls, ducks, swans and skeins of geese can often be seen in flight.
The birdlife is a joy. Water-filled depressions in the old quarry and along the course of the railway attract many waterbirds, and sometimes snape, a small wader. In summertime, skylarks and swallows, swifts and house-martins can be glanced swooping on the host of insects that live close to the wetter areas.
Magnificent hunting herons and their smaller white relative, the little egret, are frequent visitors to the Ouse and while still too occasional for many, a blue flash of the kingfisher can still be seen.
Little owls and buzzards are commonplace, and while mentioning predators, the Daubenton’s bat, or water bat, so-called because of where it feasts, makes the Common a home, one of several species of bat that have moved in to patrol the area and feed on its insect population.
Among the flora – the wetter areas are usually filled with rushes, sedges and reeds, along with the white flowers of water crowfoot and water plantain.
But the drier grassland impresses too, with its yellow-flowered Lady’s Bedstraw and the lush purple blooms of the rare Great Burnet. The rose family member with its bulbous crimson-red head atop a long green stalk is always a treat and shows itself between June and September.
While the Common itself is largely free of trees and shrubs, hawthorn bushes grow along the course of the railway line, and the bordering hedgerows are largely hawthorn and blackthorn, with wild dog roses, ash and pollard willow trees also present.
Some of the ash boughs have woodpecker holes drilled into them.
In recent years Bury Field has again proved a splendid host for activities including scrambling, a parachute drop, Civil War re-enactment battles, walking festivals, dog shows and even games of American Baseball.
Through it all, the Common remains a beautiful, tranquil space; a living history rich in form and substance, just as it always has been for the past 1000 years.
It has been touched by conflict, visited in peace, used as a place of celebration, enchanted courting couples, hosted fun and laughter…. If ever you need a break from the humdrum, Bury Field will be waiting and welcoming….
Can you spot 007’s real-life characters in this extract from Bond in Bucks ….
Wearing his spymaster overcoat as personal assistant to Admiral John Godfrey, Director of NID and the subsequent model for ‘M’ in his Bond books, Fleming used to travel down from Whitehall every fortnight in World War Two to check out Bletchley Park’s super-human efforts to crack the German codes.
The recent exhibition From Bletchley With Love told how Fleming would visit Frank Birch and his team of German Naval signal specialists in Hut 4, beginning the reporting chain back up to Churchill and the Allied High Command.
He made regular visits too, to stately Woburn Abbey where a covert operation was being run from a studio in the stables by Sefton Delmer, ex Daily Express and BBC broadcaster, who boomed out “black propaganda” bulletins of hoax information and morale-sapping messages to the Germans, often scripted by Fleming himself.
At Newport Pagnell, scene of that earlier training with Colonel Trevor, there was also Salmons, the car body-building business then busily engaged in various activities for the war effort and destined to become Aston Martin’s historic home.
And then there was his pride and joy – the 30 Assault Unit, an eclectic bunch of tough marine commandos and men with “unorthodox” skills like safe-breaking, forgery and explosives who were dispatched on secret missions, usually in advance of the main military, to capture enemy codebooks and equipment and other assignments.
These men, commanded by Fleming and knick-named his “Red Indians”, requisitioned a farm in Buckinghamshire as their practice ground – another little-known fact which, like the full story of Bletchley Park, has only come out in recent years after the ending of restrictions under the Official Secrets Act.
With Fleming known to have based many of his locations, plots and characters on real-life places and people, it is certainly possible that local characters and places can be found, disguised among his Bond books somewhere.
On the other hand, for those who know Newport Pagnell well, it might take a good deal of imagination to visualise the British Legion Club as a glittering Casino Royale, the infamous Dr No in residence at the Health Centre, or Octopussy swimming in the Rivel Ousel. Surely too, the local traffic warden bears only a passing resemblance to Rosa Klebb?
Still, local Bond book and film buffs buffs might conceivably take a little closer look in future to see if there’s anything they recognise………