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The History of Chartridge

Chartridge in Buckinghamshire is approximately 34 miles northwest of London. The village occupies a finger of high ground extending from the Chiltern scarp and the Vale of Aylesbury in the west, towards Chesham in the south east. A crescent of villages surrounds Chartridge from the south to northeast. To the south, across the Vale of Pednor, are Hundridge and South Heath and beyond is Hyde Heath. The Lee (which has connections with the Liberty family) and Ballinger occupy higher ground to the west of Chartridge and, to the northwest, is St Leonards. The ancient village of Cholesbury lies to the north and, to the northwest, Asheridge and Bellingdon sit atop similar ridges to the one occupied by Chartridge. Most of the farms and houses that make up the village of Chartridge are scattered along Chartridge Lane. Before the age of the motorcar this was the most direct route from Chesham to Wendover.

Like many Chiltern hilltop villages and hamlets Chartridge is not mentioned in William the Conqueror's Doomsday survey of 1068. It may be that the hamlet of Chartridge was yet to take shape or that it was too small to be mentioned by name. Before the Norman conquest it is likely that the fertile ridges above Chesham were inhabited by people living in scattered farmsteads. Earlier still, before the Romans occupied England in the 1st century AD, there is some evidence to suggest that the ridges may have been inhabited. During the Romano-British period villa farms occupied the low ground in and around Chesham, but a few traces of Roman activity have also been found on higher ground. Later, in the medieval period, moated farm houses dotted the Chiltern ridges, including one overlooking the Vale of Pednor.
The name 'Chartridge' or 'Charteridge' is thought to have its origins in a Saxon personal name 'Caerda' - Caerda's ridge. Bellingdon, Pednor and Hundridge may have been similarly formed - Bella's valley (or perhaps wooded pasture), Peada's slope and Huna's ridge (or perhaps Hounds ridge). Asheridge is often written as Ashridge (not to be confused with Ashridge in Hertfordshire)in the records and may be a purely topographical name meaning 'ash-tree ridge' or perhaps 'eastern ridge' or it could perhaps have a connection with the parish of Aston Clinton which bounds Asheridge to the northwest.

By the early 13th century 'de Charderugge' or 'de Chardrugge' appears as a personal name in charters and other documents recording transfer of land and property. Several members of the family are mentioned in records dating from the late 12th century and these people may have lived or owned land in the area we now know as Chartridge. Names such as Richard de Belindene (Bellingdon) and Lefwin de Esrigge (possibly Asheridge) also appear so it is probable that other ridges around Chesham were also inhabited at this time.

Farming in Chartridge

In the early 1900s several Chartridge farms took up pheasant breeding. Shooting was a very popular sport at the time and the railway station at Chesham would have made Chartridge easily accessible from London for weekend shoots.
By the 17th century Chartridge and the surrounding ridges supported at least 15 farms. Several of the farmhouses survive and are now Listed Buildings. 'Charteridge' or 'Chartridg' appears on maps dating from the late 17th century onwards. Robert Mordon's map of 1695 shows 'Chartridg' as a substantial village stretching along both sides of the road between Chesham and Wendover (now Chartridge Lane). The size of the village drawn by the cartographer may be misleading - the scale of the map is about 5 miles to the inch so a good deal of artistic licence must be allowed for.

Until the late 19th century the most people who lived in Chartridge were farm workers. Farms are evident from the earliest records and managed woodlands provided valuable materials for fuel, building, furniture and the manufacture of a variety of small items. Conditions on the Chiltern ridges and in the dry valleys between meant that mixed farming could be practiced successfully.

Livestock and people need a reliable source of water and before the coming of piped water to Chartridge in the 1930s people and animals were dependent on rainwater collected mostly during the winter months. Only two wells are marked in Chartridge on the Ordnance Survey map of 1883, one at Maple Tree Farm and the other at Raymonds. To reach the water table wells had to be made very deep and so it was not practical for every property to have its own well. Instead, most houses had a brick tank or cistern built underground to collect rainwater from the house roof. Some of these cisterns survive but are mistakenly thought to be wells. Water for livestock was collected in ponds which occur at frequent intervals all the way along the ridge. Volunteers from the Chartridge Green Pond Project have recently cleared and reinstated a large pond close to the Bell public house.

Occupations

Those who could not work, usually through age or infirmity, were the responsibility of the parish. Relief for the poor was collected by parish officers, the Overseers of the Poor, and distributed in the form of money or goods to the needy. In many localities additional resources were supplied by charities. Land in Chartridge and Hundridge was used to generate income for two charities: one set up in 1624 as a result of an endowment by Thomas Wedon and another established for the poor by the Earl of Devonshire in 1630. In 1838 the Amersham Poor Law Union combined the administration for several parishes, including Chesham, into one under a Board of Guardians. In 1899 the new parish of Chartridge was admitted to the Amersham Union.

Cottage industries such as straw plaiting and lace-making were common occupations in the area in the 19th century, especially among women and children. Carpenters, builders and blacksmiths also lived in the villages and each community had at least one beer seller or licensed victualler. In the later 19th and early 20th centuries many village people, who would in earlier times have worked on the land, moved to industries centred on Chesham, for example, boot and shoe manufacture and brush making.

The Pest House...

The Overseers of the Poor were also responsible for the sick and Chartridge Hamlet had a pest house within its boundaries, at least from 1783 onwards when it appears in the Land Tax Returns.

Churches...

Chesham town benefited from many improvements during the late 19th century. In 1875 the parish of Chesham was formed into an Urban Sanitary District and sewerage and waterworks for the town followed in 1882. In 1895 the streets in Chesham were paved for the first time. All this came at a cost to the ratepayers, but those who lived in the rural parts of the parish saw little return for the rising financial burden placed on them by the rapidly expanding town. Following a petition the rural areas to the west of Chesham town were removed from Chesham Parish and formed into the new parish of Chartridge in 1898. Latimer, to the east of the town, became a parish in its own right at the same time.

Until 1898 Chartridge, Asheridge, Hundridge, Pednor, Hyde Heath and Bellingdon hamlets were part of the parish of Chesham. A rate book from the 1820s details the amounts owed to the Church by the occupiers of land in Chesham Parish. The rate for this 'vicarial tithe' was 1 shilling in the pound calculated on the value of the property occupied. A tithe map of 1843 shows that the parish church, St Mary's, was actually located in Chartridge Hamlet, as was The Bury, William Lowdnes' 19th century house near to the church. St Mary's baptism, marriage and burial records survive from the late 17th century and many of these records have been transcribed.

The Franklin Family

In 1919 a wealthy local resident, Mrs Caroline Franklin (1863-1935), founded the Chartridge Women's Institute and established a Reading Room in Chartridge Lane. The Reading Room was converted from a blacksmith's shop and is now used for meetings and village events such as the Chartridge Horticultural Society Show. Mrs Franklin, her husband Arthur and their six children came to Chartridge in 1899. They lived at Chartridge Lodge, now the Chartridge Conference Centre, at the time a small cottage and poultry farm. Over the next 14 years the Franklins extended the house and grounds as well a building other properties in the area.

Transport

The coming of the Metropolitan railway to Chesham in 1889 made the surrounding countryside attractive both for recreation and for housing development: from the end of the 19th century the population of Chartridge Parish grew steadily, from just over 700 people to over 1200 in the 1950s. In 1996 the estimated population for the parish of Chartridge was just over 1600.

Country areas like the Chilterns were regarded as safer places to live than cities during WWII. Even so, Chartridge and the surrounding area did not entirely escape enemy action. On the night of 18th September 1940 incendiary bombs fell on Threegates Farm near Chartridge and Wood Farm, Asheridge. The Lee, Buckland Common, Frith Hill and Chivery also suffered damage.

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