the history of Swallowcliffe village... from the year 900 to present day.
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Swallowcliffe in 1891 by Barry Williamson

The Census Enumerators' Books enables us to see below the surface of a community in the past. In 1851 there were 250 people in Swallowcliffe and of those, 128 were born in the village. It must have been a very stable society where most families knew one another. There were 76 children aged 14 and under but only 19 elderly people aged 65 and over. The oldest were Lucy Spencer, a widow aged 80 living in a cottage in High Street and Henry White, also 80 in Common Lane.

Most of the households are listed haphazardly without an address so it is impossible to imagine who lived exactly where. If an address is given it is something not easy to identify. Where for example, was or is Spencer's Cottage, Jubilee Cottage, Best's Cottage, School House, Bradley's Lane and Cross Ways?

As might be expected the job done by most inhabitants was that of agricultural labourer. There were 46 of them. Other occupations were Carter (4), Shepherd (4), Gardener (4), Miller (4), Dressmaker (2), Shoemaker (2), Pondmaker, Baker, Shopkeeper, Wheelwright. Grocer, Engine Driver on the Farms, Letter Carrier and Laundress (all one of each).

The Post Office was kept by Henry Targett aged 71 living with his granddaughter Mary Clarke and James Gould a boarder. The London Elm Inn was run by Arthur Tanner and his wife Mary. There were only eight servants in the whole village, two each (cook and housemaid) at Dean House owned by Martha Blandford. The Vicarage and Manor Farm and one each at Pond Close in Gigant Street and at the Mill.

The largest household was that of Elias Targett, an agricultural labourer at Lower Farm Cottage. He and his wife lived with eight children ranging from 10 months to 24 years.

It was a different world.


In Summary

Swallowcliffe was founded around the year 900. A charter was drawn in 90? for a village fair.
Swallowcliffe is mentioned in the doomsday book.
There are 86 houses in the parish and 152 people on the electoral role.

Origins of the name by Shelag Smith.
When I came to Swallowcliffe thirteen years ago I had a large energetic dog needing exercise. There were clearly many good places and kind neighbourhoods pointed out the best. One of them finished his account of a route with, as far as I remember, "...then right, down the slod and back by the Burma road." That last bit naturally caught my attention and was explained. It wasn't until later that I thought "slod...slod, that must be Anglo-Saxon" and when I got home I fished out my old book and looked for it. A tenth century Northamptonshire charter provided it in the end: "Andlang dic to tham wege thaet scyt to Fealuweslea on tham slade... Along the ditch to the path that runs to Fawsley in the valley."

You wouldn't use it for the Thames valley but for a small stream or a blind combe like the local ones. Readers of the late Laurie Lee will remember that his home village of Slad was in a small valley. That charter was from the same short reign as Swallowcliffe's own of 940AD. The copy hanging in the church porch tells us that: "Edmund, King of the English, gives.. to his servant Garulf 9 measures of land in that place to which the country people have jokingly given the name of "the cliffe of the swallowe" and the signature was witnessed by the prince, his brother and two archbishops. Very good - but the charter quoted above was far more official. Even Sir Humphrey would have to admire it. Dated 944, the royal signature is followed by those of the prince, The Queen dowager, two archbishops and seven bishops.. and sixteen more names.

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