A Brief History

Worked flints excavated from the highest ground in Drayton Parslow suggest that there may have been pre-historic activity in the area. The Domesday Book (1086) records a Saxon village and that the larger of the two manors was held by Radulph Passelewe. His descendants were lords of the manor for over three hundred years, hence the village name. After their time the land reverted to the crown.

In the sixteenth century Queen Elizabeth I gave to her kinsman, Sir John Fortescue, who was also her Chancellor of the Exchequer, the three manors of Drayton, Mursley and Salden. He built a great house at Salden, (between Drayton and Mursley), and entertained James l and local dignitaries there in 1603. The family fortunes later declined, and four generations later Thomas Whorwood, whose mother was a Fortescue, was living in Drayton. He was buried in Holy Trinity Church Drayton Parslow and his gravestone can still be seen in the chancel. In the seventeenth century the village was famous for its bell foundry which was situated in what is now Chapel Lane. Three generations of the Chandler family supplied high-quality church bells to all the neighbouring counties. Some of their bells are still in use, for instance in St Michael’s Church, Stewkley.

The eighteenth century saw the building of a new rectory by Reverend John Lord who ran a nursing home for mentally afflicted patients. Some patients spent all their lives there. Many people in the village were employed in maintaining an enterprise with such a variety of needs, ranging from nursing to shoe-mending. The Account Book relating to this establishment, now held in the Bedfordshire Records Office, makes fascinating reading.

In the nineteenth century the village was mainly agricultural, but brick-making and the railways provided alternative employment for the men. For the women there was lace-making and also straw-plaiting for the hat industry in Luton. The population continued to grow until some of the young left in search of better opportunities overseas. However there continued to be enough employment in the near neighbourhood to support the community.

Men and women from the village were involved in both world wars. In the Second World War there was an outpost of Bletchley Park, the secret code-breaking, establishment, on farmland at the eastern edge of the village. After the war this became a training centre for the Post Office and in the late 1980s houses were built on the site that is now known as Prospect Close.

The proposed Third London Airport, to be built very close to Drayton Parslow, threatened an area of twelve square miles, and would have led to the complete demolition of Stewkley and Cublington. The Airport was strenuously and successfully opposed in 1969-71 and again in 1979-80.

Few people now derive their livelihoods from within the community, and the growth of Milton Keynes has provided a wider variety of jobs and facilities. It has at the same time increased pressure for the development of housing in what is still a very beautiful rural setting.

Isobel Smith-Cresswell