Aylesbury boasts some of the most varied architecture in Bucks, with imposing high rise office blocks and coaching inns dating back to the 15th century. County archivist Roger Bettridge has chosen five of the town’s most historically important buildings.
ST MARY’S CHURCH
Perched on a small hill overlooking the old town, this picture postcard church is the oldest building in Aylesbury and dates back from 1271 when it replaced a Saxon place of worship.
By the 1840s the building was in a sorry state of repair, but thanks to Gothic revival artist Sir George Gilbert Scott it was extensively refurbished between 1849 and 1869.
Scott tore out a lot of the old intricate features including pews and windows, but the 12th century font survived and still remains today. St Mary’s is now the town’s principal Church of England place of worship and welcomes visitors for tea and cake in the refectory.
BUCKS COUNTY COUNCIL OFFICES
An iconic part of the Vale’s skyline, the imposing twelve-storey office block was like nothing seen before in Aylesbury when it was unveiled in 1966.
The first foundation stone was laid in 1964 and the craggy tower – home to Bucks County Council – was completed two years later at the cost of £956,000.
A landmark for miles, the 200ft-high tower looms over the roundabout from its position on the corner of Walton Street and although some may say it is not the most aesthetically pleasing building, its concrete and Rubislaw granite cladding is good quality and has stood the test of time.
County architect Fred Pooley is responsible for the building’s simple design of spine corridors linking service towers, with the exterior modelled into a pattern of angled bays to allow light to flood into the large offices within.
An example of Pooley’s first venture into Brutalism, the building is listed for Grade II preservation and the basement is now home to the Centre for Bucks Studies.
QUAKER’S MEETING HOUSE
Aylesbury is recorded as having a dedicated place of meeting for Quakers since 1688. The beginning of the 18th century saw an increased need for a larger place of worship.
The Friends purchased two cottages in Green End – later Rickford’s Hill – in 1704, and the current house in 1726. However, Quaker numbers dwindled due to the popularity of Evangelist churches, and the house ceased to be a meeting place in 1826.
Over the next century, the house was used as a school, a baptist chapel and a YMCA before it was renovated and re-registered as a meeting place in October 1933, and remains so today.
THE KING’S HEAD
This watering hole dates back to 1455 and is one of the oldest public houses with a coaching yard in the south of England. It is believed King Henry VI stayed the night with wife Margaret of Anjou on their tour of the country in the 15th century.
During the English Civil War, Aylesbury was a Parlimentarian stronghold and it is thought Oliver Cromwell visited in around 1650 – though there is no evidence he stayed at the King’s Head.
The Rothschilds donated the pub to the National Trust in 1925 and punters can still sup a pint in much the same way as their ancestors did – just without the horse and carriage tethered in the yard.
The prison was relocated to its current site on Bierton Hill in 1847 after prison inspectors deemed the conditions in the original gaol behind County Hall as ‘inadequate’.
The Georgian brick building houses 287 inmates and cost the equivalent of around £1.7million in today’s money. The prison was at one time a woman’s borstal and accepted females until 1963.
It is now a Young Offender’s Institution, which was featured in a ITV documentary last year, allowing viewers to see what life is like behind the prison walls.