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Apr 15th, 2011 | Filed under Part 1: The Problems

The Development of Chinnor

Chinnor is a small village dating back to the middle ages and lying just inside the south-east corner of the Oxfordshire boundary with Buckinghamshire. It lies also below the north-west facing escarpment of the Chiltern Hills and at the junction of the Icknield Way with the old road connecting High Wycombe and Thame which crosses at right angles to the escarpment. London is about forty-five miles to the south-east, Oxford about eighteen miles to the north-west and there is no direct means of transport to the latter. The immediately neighbouring country towns are Thame (four miles), Princes Risborough (four miles) and High Wycombe (ten miles). Only the latter has any pretence at sophisticated entertainment such as cinemas and swimming baths but any access by public transport is of insufficient frequency to be in any way useful.

Forming a social and historic unit with Chinnor are the small outlying villages and hamlets of Wainhill, Henton, Crowell, Kingston Blount and Sydenham, all of which are within two miles of Chinnor and in all of which some recent housing development has occurred, though only on a small scale compared to that in Chinnor. Because of their nearness and communications with Chinnor these communities would all tend to look towards Chinnor for leisure activities in the first place if those were available.

Until the beginning of this century the whole community was entirely agricultural in occupation and outlook. Even since then the small industries which have grown up in Chinnor are mainly family owned and managed and the employees are mostly on familiar terms with their employers and each other. There are many families whose names can be traced back for generations.

Though events such as “lace feasts” were held in the village in the last century there has never been any corporate activity such as a weekly market day or annual fair. This is in accord with the small size of the population which has averaged 1200 in Chinnor itself between 1800 and 1961. It is important to realise that the community has always been small enough for each of its members to know all the others fairly intimately. The lack of formal occasions for meeting such as a market day, probably accounts also for the lack of formalised leisure facilities or of places in which these could be held. There was, for instance, no village hall until 1939, Even so, by 1967 there were 32 different organisations in Chinnor alone with enough constitutional continuity to have official secretaries or their equivalent, all organised voluntarily and catering for a wide variety of needs in the community.

The educational background of the pre-1960 inhabitants is mostly at secondary modern level with a sprinkling of former grammar school pupils (or their equivalent). University graduates are only to be found among the professional and retired people who have settled in the village before or since 1960. This does not reflect in any way on the native shrewdness of the original villagers but it does perhaps mean that their concepts of leisure activities are essentially unsophisticated and mainly of the open-air variety – as befits a rural community who have the still-valid pastimes associated with fields and hedges available all around them.

In 1960 sporadic development of houses began to accelerate in Chinnor, at first mainly as in-filling, but latterly in the form of small estates. By 1965 the trend towards estate development was so pronounced that the County Council Planning Authority found it advisable to publish a “Survey and Plan” for Chinnor in which valid sociological observations were based on a door-to-door survey carried out in October 1965. The already existing informal guideline limiting housing development was reaffirmed and has since been adhered to with the additional backing of the Minister of Housing at three appeals against planning refusals. The report on one of these referred to Chinnor as “an inconveniently situated village”. Two formal estates of private housing within this guideline began to be built in early 1964 and one of these will be the subject of some detailed statistical evaluation later in the report.

The plan of 1965 also envisaged a total eventual population of about 4,500 and felt that this figure might obtain as far ahead as 1981. It is worth noting that page 3, para. (c) of this survey states in respect of the new primary school that – “the new site (sic) is expected to cater for all likely education needs in the future” and in para. (d) on the same page – “sewerage facilities and water provision in Chinnor will be adequate for all foreseeable requirements”. Neither of these statements is now true and the statement made later on page 6, para (3) is more accurate when it says “…. a population of a little more than 4,000 …. Although Chinnor’s services are fairly adequate for this size of population they would scarcely cope with much greater development” etc. The survey made no mention of planning for leisure activities in the future, particularly for the teenagers and seemed to assume that the population would remain normally balanced between the age groups. The present position is that Chinnor has a population of 4,200 – calculated from the Electoral Roll for February 1969 – with two estates still not completed (one of them a large one of over 200 houses) and some other in-filling still possible. There are seven estates arranged around the village rectangle which contains the main shopping facilities as well as the school, public halls and probably future centres of community activity. Some parts of these estates are already at the outer margin of what would seem to be reasonable “pram-pushing” distance from the village facilities.

The families moving into Chinnor in the last seven years now outnumber the original inhabitants by about 3 to 1. Their average age is around thirty and they were responsible in 1968 for 80% of the births in the village which have been so numerous that rather more than 1 in 4 of the population is aged ten or under and 1 in 6 aged five or under. This is the unprecedented situation in Chinnor which has given rise to this report. These young families have come for the cheap two and three bedroom houses, in the main from South Bucks towns such as High Wycombe and Slough and also from London itself. Thus they are orientated towards comparatively sophisticated town-based leisure activities and it would be reasonable to assume that their children will be reared with similar expectations. Although no formal survey of the occupations and incomes of the newcomers has been carried out recently, our impression is that their educational standing is often high and many have at least a technical and some a professional education. Many of the wives have been or are teachers, secretaries, medical ancillary workers and so on, while the husbands represent a wide range of business interests, often at management level, or have technical occupations in laboratories, factories or universities.

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