Calverton Conservation Area
Character Statement

Draft March 1996.


Calverton is situated in a shallow valley, along which flows a tributary of the River Great Ouse. principal part of the scattered settlement is 1.5 kilometres south of Stony Stratford, a town which has always been closely associated with Calverton. The subsoil is Oxford clay and limestone; and the settlement is situated at approximately 60 metres a.o.d. The Conservation Area was designated by Buckinghamshire County Council on 8th March 1971.

Historic Evolution

The eastern and western boundaries of the ancient parish were defined respectively by the Roman Watling Street, and the River Great Ouse and its tributary. A Roman camp is believed to have existed near the present Calverton Place (formerly The Rectory); and an ancient route running north-east and south-west between Newport Pagnell and Buckingham passed through the settlement. This Ridgeway route survives only as a footpath; and presumably declined in use as the town of Stony Stratford developed. That town grew by virtue of its location on Watling Street, but St Giles Church in the town was originally a chapel of ease, under the mother church of All Hallows, Calverton. The fair and market at Stony Stratford were appurtenances to the manor of Calverton; and even after the parish of Stony Stratford was separately created in the 17th century, a detached area known as Stratford Bridge Meadows remained part of Calverton parish until 1883. In the early part of the 20th century, the part of Stony Stratford south of Horsefair Green was known as Calverton End, one of the four distinct settlements of Calverton, the others being Lower Weald, Middle Weald and Upper Weald. The manor was held early in the 16th century by the Earls of Oxford, and at the close of that century by the Earl of Northumberland. The parish was Enclosed by an Act of 1782. In the 19th century, the Selby Lowndes of Whaddon became lord of the manor, but it was the Honourable and Reverend Charles George Perceval, rector 1821-59, a considerable benefactor to the village, who determined much of the built form which is now within the Conservation Area.

Townscape Quality

The predominant visual characteristic of the Conservation Area is of groups of buildings in a landscape setting, rather than conventional townscape. Trees dominate the area, and their future management will determine whether the character of the Conservation Area will be preserved or enhanced. The enclosing stone walls around Calverton Place and Manor Farm, combined with the fine treescape, limit views within the settlement and contribute to its "secret" character and emphasise the separateness of the groups of buildings.

The entrance to the Conservation Area, from Stony Stratford, remains as described in the designation report:

"The northern approach is extremely good, affording as it does an excellent view of the stone complex of Manor Farm and the church seen on rising ground over an imposing high stone wall, and a terrace of very picturesque thatched cottages."

The southern approach, from Middle Weald, provides a panoramic view across rising pasture to the almshouses and church glimpsed between fine trees. To the left foreground, the red roofs of Charity Cottages appear, and beyond, the buildings of Rectory Farm. Turning the left hand bend at the foot the hill, one gains a full view of the cottages and the converted farm buildings of Rectory Farm. Beyond the cottages, an open field brings the farmland into the centre of the settlement, and provides a fine view of the foursquare Rectory Farmhouse, with further farm buildings (in agricultural use) rising to the south. The street has wide verges with the canalised and railed brook crossing from north side to south side, before disappearing into a culvert at the entrance to Rectory Farm. Terraces of improved cottages face each other across the street, and more, mature trees close the view as the road turns sharp right, northwards. A raised footway is testimony to regular flooding in this part of the village. Westward, beyond the trees, four modern houses, the only "new" buildings in the Conservation Area (garages excepted), are unobtrusive.

Once around the corner, the bosky character prevails, with glimpses of cottage roofs, and the wall around the garden of Calverton Place. The 1971 Designation Report refers to a scene which "suddenly opens out to give a delightful view across a small meadow bounded on the far side by the stream, close to the far side of which face four cottages." This area has a far less open character today, as trees and hedgerows have grown unchecked; and a road-side car parking area has been formed; (this is accepted as a necessity to retain the cottages in viable occupation).

The road curves onward, beyond "Lord Egmont's Laundry", flanked on the west side by the sweeping stone wall bounding Calverton Place, until the village centre is reached. Again, no conventional townscape is formed, but the group of buildings includes Manor Farm and cottages, All Saints Church the former school and (another) Old Rectory. The dominance, in this group, of the working farm is an important element of the character of the Conservation Area. The attractive view of this group of buildings from the north has been identified. There are also important views from the west, where the public footpath drops through the fields north of Calverton Place. From here, too, can be seen the fine avenue of lime trees, to Manor Farm, which from the road are somewhat screened by the stone boundary wall. Beyond the lime avenue are the two northernmost clusters of buildings, at Calverton Cottage, and The Shoulder of Mutton Public House. Again, pasture and parkland trees dominate and the buildings are but a foil in the landscape scene.

The heavily planted grounds of Calverton Place, which comprise almost one third of the total Conservation Area, mask the house from all public view. Some of the associated outbuildings lie to the west of the house, just outside the Conservation Area.

Elements of Townscape

Archaeology: Roman finds in the vicinity of Calverton Place identify this as a potentially significant archaeological area. Elsewhere in the village, despite its Saxon associations, the impact of 19th century development may have substantially diminished much of the archaeological interest of the settlement.

Trees: The significance of the extensive tree planting throughout the Conservation Area has been identified above. The future management of the trees will be the principal determinant as to whether the character of the area is preserved or enhanced.

Buildings: The village essentially comprises the "big house" originally the Manor House, subsequently Calverton Place - farms and their agricultural buildings and labourers' cottages, plus the church and school.

Styles: With the exception of the church and Calverton Place, all is vernacular, with a strong flavouring of Victorian Gothic applied by the Percevals. The parish church has a neo-Norman west tower, but the remainder was "thoroughly Gothicised" in the mid- 19th century. The school and schoolhouse, below the church, has Gothic windows and porch and the almshouses, south of the church, are "Tudorish", (although altered in 1976): all these buildings were for the Honourable and Reverend C.G. Perceval. Charity Cottages with multi-gabled roofs and dominating chimney stacks are typically Victorian-Gothic. In contrast, the 18th century cottages "modernised" by Lord Egmont in the early 20th century are undistinguished: the thatched roof and attic floors were swept away, and a tile hung first floor, with tiled roof, added. The appearance before alteration would have been similar to the surviving Manor Farm Cottages. Calverton Place, Calverton Cottage and a couple of other buildings feature shallow hipped slate roofs such as were fashionable circa 1820.

Materials: There is a limited range of materials used in the village. The older buildings are in coursed rubble limestone with plain clay tile roofs. Later buildings introduce brick and slate, some stucco, and some brickwork has been painted. The rubble limestone of the walls, which are up to two metres high in places, has a significant impact on the character of the Conservation Area.

Listed/Unlisted Buildings: Manor Farmhouse and the parish church are the two buildings of greatest architectural and historic interest, and this is reflected in their Grade 2* listings. Despite not being in public view, Calverton Place is an important Grade 2 listed building, which, together with two listed bridges and the listed park wall, forms an important ensemble within the Conservation Area. There are 22 separately listed entries within the Conservation Area, and an additional four items are recognised as being of local interest. This demonstrates the fact that every pre-20th century building in the Conservation Area is of importance because of the way it punctuates the landscape. Within this landscape setting the few 20th century buildings are remarkably unobtrusive.

Activity: Whilst the predominant activity within the village is residential, there are two farms still operating from within the Conservation Area. The contribution of this activity to the character of the village has been identified above, and should not be underestimated.

Patterns of Movement: With a single road through the village, patterns of movement are necessarily simple. They are internally generated by the farms and houses within the village: and externally generated, principally by the public house. There is also some external commuting traffic through the village, using the route as an alternative to Watling Street, or the B4033, route to Winslow.

Room for Improvement: The designation report identified four "defects requiring remedy". The overhead wires and pole mounted transformer remain: and their removal is still desirable. The approach to the church was described as unkempt and showing signs of dilapidation; but has subsequently been improved. Mention was made of further action to protect historic buildings and trees. In respect of buildings, the number statutorily protected has increased from seven (in 1971) to twenty two.

A Tree Preservation Order on 130 trees at Calverton Place was made in 1949; and no further TPOs have been made in the Conservation Area. However, all trees within a Conservation Area are protected, insofar as six weeks notice must be given to the Local Planning Authority before carrying out any work to a tree. This control allows the LPA to protect, advise and, where appropriate, require replanting. The importance of the trees in the Conservation Area has been emphasised above and notwithstanding the controls available, the greatest threat to the trees is likely to arise from a lack of management, rather than wilful damage. It is therefore desirable that a tree condition survey be undertaken and appropriate management programmes introduced.

Home pageLast updated 9th April 1996.