My Welcome To A Multitude Of New Mayors (31 May 1974)
Hurrah for the new town of Newton Longville. And three cheers for its mayor.
Hurrah, too, for the new town of Woburn Sands, though that has less historical justification.
And hurrah for any other parish that wants to take the same step.
Something is needed to enliven the greyness of the new local government scene. Maybe this is it.
Of course, we do have a new Borough of Milton Keynes. But so far it remains just a grouping of three urban councils and a rural district council. It has no middle, no soul, and for us it will not have arrived until we behold its mayor, in full regalia, proceed down the steps of a central borough hall, accompanied by a clerk in wig and gown and preceded by its mace and uniformed bearer to the tune of “Midst our hearty acclamation, come the mayor and corporation,” played by the borough brass band.
Come to think of it, we have at present a very piquant situation. One not unfraught with great possibilities for future fun. First we have the far-flung new borough. Then, entirely within that borough, but not occupying the whole of it, we have a new city being built. And now, for good measure, we have a parish, which is in the borough but not in the city, becoming a town.
It may be too much to hope that when the city is built it will have a lord mayor to itself in addition to the borough mayor. Yet the erstwhile parish of Woburn Sands is to have a mayor in addition to the borough mayor – a town mayor forsooth.
Not that we begrudge Woburn Sands having to put up with two titular bosses instead of one. But until comparatively recent times there was no parish of Woburn Sands. It was just the “Hog-sty End” of the ancient parish of Wavendon. Apparently the folk there still believe in going the whole one. And good luck to them, say I.
Newton Longville, the proud “Newington Longueville” of former times, is a different kettle of fish. It is neither in the city nor in the borough and wild horses wouldn’t drag it in.
Many times it has been beckoned; always it has refused. Some say it has been getting on quite well, thank you, enjoying Bletchley’s advantages while paying its rates elsewhere, but I am not one of them. After all, it is taking Bletchley’s rubbish. Which is very civil of it.
From time immemorial Newton has maintained a strong streak of independence, even of superiority, anent the world in general and Bletchley in particular.
Until quite recent times this was matched by a similar uppishness as between Bletchley and Fenny Stratford. Thus, as recently as 1906, E. Forbes Oldham wrote: “With the coming of the 18th century Fenny Stratford got another church and divided itself from Bletchley, with which even unto this day it will have nothing to do except officially.”
How to choose between them? All three have produced Roman remains. All three obtained the fundamentals of their present names in Saxon times. One difference is that it was in those times that Bletchley parish was formed to include Fenny, which it continued to do for the next 800 years or so.
Meanwhile, fairly early in that period, the dratted Normans arrived and proceeded to muck things about on their own account – especially the Old English guttural language, which they could not pronounce, much less spell. Yet about the only good thing they ever did was to produce the Domesday Book.
In fear of hellfire for their misdeeds, the new lordings had a craze for endowing abbeys and priories where prayers for their miserable souls could be said “for ever.” Thus the expropriator of the manor of Newington handed it over, along with many other ill-gotten gains, to found a monastery at Longueville in Normandy, with a priory at Newington as a local rent collecting agency, and the prior as the manor factotum.
It is in the records of that priory that we first hear of Bletchley. The place is not recorded in Domesday. Neither is Fenny. They were ~members” of the manor of Etone (Water Eaton) and it is noteworthy that the description of “Eaton cum Membris” was still being used for taxation purposes in the future urban district as late as 1664, whereas Newton had always been listed separately right from Domesday.
All of which, you might say, is one up to Newton and a source of its sense of superiority – at least over Bletchley, if not over Water Eaton.
Then again, in about 1835, when boards of guardians were set up, Newton had a population of 473, while Bletchley’s was only 376, though Fenny by this time boasted 635.
Newton also had several tradesmen, one of whom – Willison, a tobacconist – issued his own trade tokens. And for many years its market town was not Fenny, but Leighton Buzzard.
But what I specially like about Newton’s new move is that after 900 years, and with its priority long since gone, it has at last got its priorities right. By its action it stresses that it is an Anglo-Saxon “ton” (from which “town” is derived), rather than an Old-French “ville” (from which “village” is derived).
It needed those Norman Frenchies to perpetrate a gaff(e) like New Town Village, though I am afraid the place will long be stuck with it because of all those other Newtons.
As His Worship the Mayor is reported to have said: “The trouble is we are halfway between a town and almost too big to be a village”.