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Aylesbury Vale Industrial Exhibition

A few years ago, I went to a talk on the Industrial Exhibition of Aylesbury Vale. I was so fascinated by it that I decided to base my Master’s thesis around it. The chapter included the impact of the Rothschild family on Aylesbury Vale, didn’t make the final cut into my thesis. However, it is such an interesting aspect of Buckinghamshire history, I can’t quite let it fall by the wayside.

The 1851 Great Exhibiton of London, partly bank rolled by the Rothschild Bank, was a great success. What followed was countless Industrial Exhibitons across the country. All the major industrial cities held Exhibitions, mainly showcasing the industry and innovations that were a part of them. The Aylesbury Vale one was not much different, except in one regard, it showcased the talents of the home workers of the Vale. Though industry did feature, so did lace making, straw plaiting, carpentry, to name a few. It took weeks of research to build a picture of the Exhibition, looking at newspapers from across the country, as very little is known about it.

As I was researching, I got the sense of what the intention was behind it. The competition for lace making had moved up a gear by the introduction of machinery in places such as Nottingham. Straw plaiting from abroad was finer and more cost effective, Bucks was in the process of losing two of its main cottage industries. For a time, after the Exhibition, the two industries picked up and managed to survive after other areas had stopped. There was also the issue of Aylesbury, a large town with very little industry. It was only about two years after the Exhibtion that industries moved into Aylesbury, creating more jobs and opportunities for those from the town, and surrounding villages.

How much of this was down to the Exhibition is hard to say. Aylesbury Vale had not been seen as industry worthy before, though Hazell, Watson and Viney had moved out of London prior to the Exhibiton, and into Aylesbury. None of the cottage industries had taken off into factories, as they had done in other parts of the country. With excellent connections to London and Birmingham, it is hard to see why Aylesbury was left until the latter part of the nineteenth century to become an industrial area. It could be argued, that the Exhibition, making the front page of national papers, may have encouraged people to look at Aylesbury Vale with a different view. One thing that is sure, once industry moved in, Aylesbury would never be the same again.

Family History 1

As a break from researching history, I have started looking at my mum’s side of the family tree. This has always fascinated me as my parents trees have turned out to be very similar. Both were born on the outskirts of London (one north, the other south) but without realising, both sets of parents gravitated to the area their grandparents lived, and my parents even closer. I unwittiingly moved into the village my ancestors had lived for hundreds of years, and one of my friends turned out to be a cousin a couple of times removed. Researching local history has meant I have been able to get a closer look at their lives. At some point I would like to research all the places my ancestors lived.

John Horn – POW

Over the last few years some of my work has been on the First World War, but last year it turned to the Second.

I had been in our church for a heritage function and ended up flicking through the books on our village War Memorial. These were put together by the wonderful Vic Sirrett, who is sadly no longer with us. However, there were gaps in the knowledge of a couple of the names, John Horn was one of them. With the help of Find My Past I was anle to track down his records, and find out what happened to him and why he was on our memorial.

John lived with his parents at the Ascott Estate office as his father, Arthur, was the estate manager for Ascott House, Wing. John was a bank clerk, presumably in Leighton Buzzard. By the time his death was reported in 1944, his parents had moved to Bexhill-on-Sea which was why Vic struggled in finding John.

When John enlisted he was placed with the Bedfordshire Yeomanry as part of the Royal Artillery, as a gunner. John was part of the force that was sent out to Singapore in the winter of 1941/42. It was during this period that the Japanese were trying to gain control of the island, and despite desperate attempts by the British forces, Singapore fell on 15 February 1942. John was initially recorded as MIA (Missing in Action), then later this was recorded as POW (Prisoner of War). He was sent to Changi POW camp with most of the British Army. Life would have been quite good at the start as the Japanese were not bothered about the POWs, However, as the weeks went by life became harsher and stricter. The Japanese felt there was no honour in being captured and so became cruel in their treatment. According to the records, John ended up in the Roberts Barracks hospital. This was part of the original British barracks on the island, and was for the critically ill. He finally died on 7 October 1942 from dysentry and a weak heart. John was interred at the Changi graveyard originally, but was repatriated to the Krangi War Cemetery on 26 April 1946.

Now John can have his Commonwealth Grave certificate recorded in our church. If anyone has any other information on this subject, then please let me know.