The old church in Flaunden.   In 1814 it was partly inhabited by poor families; services were sometimes still held in its ruins up to the 1930s.
The old church in Flaunden. In 1814 it was partly inhabited by poor families; services were sometimes still held in its ruins up to the 1930s.

The village of Flaunden boasts many listed buildings and fine walks.

The first approach to the village from Latimer is dramatic – after travelling along Flaunden Bottom alongside the remains of an old Roman Road, whose dykes can just be made out on the south side, visitors pass up Flaunden Hill, overshadowed by trees, giving the impression of travelling up a rabbit-hole.

A scene from the past in Flaunden village.  (Courtesy of Mrs Macgregor)

A scene from the past in Flaunden village. (Courtesy of Mrs Macgregor)

At the top of the hill, a large wooden dragon peers over the hedge from the garden of the Green Dragon, which dates in part from the 17th century.

The two front rooms were added in 1838, coincidentally the same year as the nearby church was built.

It is suggested that a ghost, clad in a grey cloak, prowls the village. Legend has it that two travellers once saw the ghost, and were so terrified that they dared not leave the pub for several hours. That, at least, was their excuse!

The Green Dragon has played host to other notorious characters – it was there that the infamous traitor, Guy Burgess, was last seen before defecting to the Soviet Union.

On the corner opposite the church is the Old School House, now a private residence. It used to be an infant school with governesses teaching children up to the age of eight, before they moved on to either Chenies or Latimer.

Ruth Cheshire remembers sleeping at the School House, listening to owls hoot in the churchyard, and that her morning task was to cook governess Mrs Baker a rasher of bacon by toasting it in front of the fire instead of frying it!

She also recalls that boys wore dresses until they were about four years old and when they got their first pair of trousers they were ‘britched’ – at last becoming boys officially!

The old village hall also became a private house when a new village hall was built in 1972.

Sharlowes Farm in the centre of the village, no longer an active farm, had a fine 18th century wooden barn.

Ruth remembers the adventure of collecting milk, which cost a halfpenny, when “a barking dog on a long chain had to be passed, and a group of hissing geese followed at our heels”.

The farmhouse itself is one of the oldest buildings in the village and was originally a late medieval ‘hall house’. It has an exterior of red brick, and some historic wall paintings which were found on the interior walls.

Across the road is Oak Cottage, another medieval house, which has some extremely fine beams.

Ruth Cheshire remembers getting water from the pump at the back of Oak Cottage, which was worked by a horse before a piped water supply was laid on to the village in about 1903.

Another of the older buildings is Granary Cottage on the crossroads, said to have been a grain store for Sharlowes Farm in the late 17th century.

Across the crossroads is a fine line of cottages which were built in the 18th and 19th centuries to house farm workers. There was also a post office and shop, but it closed in 1975.

Flaunden House, at the far end of the village, was, until 1907, a thriving bakery and shop, where Ruth Cheshire’s father worked.

When the shop was not using the ovens, villagers made use of the residual heat to cook joints, cakes and cherry pies. It was this shop which provided a gathering place for the young people around the turn of the century.

Returning to the crossroads, a southward turn brings you to the new village hall, used for functions by people from within and without the village.

It stands alongside the playing fields, with a football pitch and swings for the children.

Recently, trees have been planted around the playing fields, which were won by the village for regularly being well placed in the best kept village competition. However, many of these trees have been vandalised.

A northward turn at the crossroads leads into Birch Lane, with Copse Cottage on the right. Further up on the right, is the Baptist Chapel which was built in 1831, thus pre-dating the new village church.

The village was served by lay preachers until 1985, when the congregation was amalgamated with Bovingdon. The chapel is now a private house, although the graveyard remains open.

Moving on to the next crossroads, a right turn reveals Flaunden’s other pub, the Bricklayers’ Arms.

The pub is popular with both locals and visitors and its outside seats are often crowded on summer evenings with families relaxing in the sun.

Cricket matches were once played between the two village pubs – and there was fierce rivalry to recruit the best players!

On the other side of the crossroads, lies Hogs Pit Bottom, or, as some say, Hogpits Bottom.

This road is thought to derive its name from the pits where ‘hoggin’ was dug up to form the base of roads.

Flaunden is still home for many of the families who have lived and worked in the area for generations and it is now also home for many new people.

The village is very different from the days when German bands and dancing bears gathered at the crossroads, as remembered by Ruth Cheshire.

Originally written by Andrew M. Macgregor, June 1988, up-dated by Robin Leach in August 2012 and reproduced by courtesy of Bridget Macgregor and Robin Leach. The booklet on the history of both church and village is available from St Mary Magdalene Church, Flaunden, price £1.