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History of the Parish & Village

Situated two miles south of Olney is Weston Underwood, formerly a hamlet belonging to Olney. There are many reasons why Weston Underwood is so very interesting. It is a deceptively sleepy looking village in which houses are rarely seen for sale. The local community is well - grounded, long established and extremely protective of their village and, as you read on, you will understand why.

The strong links and traditions that Olney now has and what we take for granted, such as the Olney Coat of Arms, originate from Weston Underwood. The Coat of Arms or the Town Crest was found many years ago on a brass grave plate belonging to Elisabeth, wife of Sir Walter Hungerford and later the wife of Robert Throckmorton. The crest, which represents both families, was adopted for general use by Olney Town Council until in 1977, in the year of the Silver Jubilee, Olney Town Council encouraged local artists within the area to recreate and update the crest. A design submitted by C. R. Perkins was selected and approved as the new town crest and was later incorporated into the medallion of the Mayor of Olney's Chain of Office.

Weston Underwood is also abundantly full of interesting features connected with William Cowper, poet, translator of Homer and one of England's great letter writers. Cowper moved from Olney to Weston Underwood in November 1786 as a resident guest of the Throckmorton family, and stayed with them until a few years before his death. The house is now known as Cowper's Lodge and is situated in the High Street.

Back in the 1400's floods often made roads in and around Olney impassable for many weeks, sometimes months. This caused problems for local people: one being how to bury their dead as all burials were carried out in Olney, as there was no church in Weston Underwood at the time. An application was made to the Pope to make Weston Underwood an Independent Parish and to provide the townsfolk with their own church. This was quickly granted and ever since, Weston Underwood has been on its own and has had no problems with burials.

In 1381, John de Olney purchased land at Weston Underwood and record show that he had his own private chapel in his home at the Old Mansion, which was later demolished in 1827. All that remains of the house today are the Clock House, Weston House, The Chapel and the Laundry Cottage, all of which are now privately owned residences. John de Olney died in 1405 and is buried in the churchyard at Weston Underwood. In 1446 the Weston Underwood Estate passed into the hands of the Throckmorton family. As you enter the village through the stone pillars, known locally as the Knobs, they bear a strong and silent reminder of the family and their existence. They also give us an indication of just how grand and prestigious the estate once was, even the Knobs at one time had their own gates , which were manned and locked at night.

The Throckmorton family spared no expense in creating wonderful gardens and park areas in Weston Underwood, many of which caught William Cowper's attention and are mentioned in several of his works. Some of the areas of interest today are on privately owned land and not open to the visiting public.

On the 4th December 1894 , the Parish Council was formed and meetings were held in the local school. Mr Thomas Dart was chosen as Chairman and the following were nominated as members:

Mr Charles Adams Gardener
Mr Alfred Fisher Shoemaker
Mr William Higgins Farmer
Mr Stephen William Stewart Farmer
Mr Frederick George Stokes Priest

In the early years the Council seemed to meet only once a year. The main purpose was to discuss the amounts in the Parish Charities - Dudley, Feoffee, Spinks and Maids Meadow, which today are collectively known as the Weston Underwood Charities. Ancestors of more well known village family names of Stewart, Covington and Graves all appear as members of the Parish Council in the early years. In the early 1950's Stan Clarke and Fred Foster both became members of the Parish Council. Reprinted by kind permission of Mr Mark Covington.