An ancient parish occupying 3250 acres in South East Northamptonshire which was abolished in 1951 being divided between Deanshanger (Puxley) and Old Stratford (Passenham).
The parish church and manor house of the old parish were located in Passenham. Passenham was previously heavily wooded to the north and was within the boundaries a then royal forest of Whittlewood.
The use of old English names Passa's Hamm, Dynnes Hangra (Sloping Wood) and Pucca's Leah (woodland clearing) indicates medieval settlements, however fragments of pottery from around the 5th century indicate potential of Roman activity in Passenham.
The earliest reference to Passenham is in 921AD where Edward The Elder, son of Alfred the Great, stationed his army there, suggesting Passenham was a 10th Century royal estate meaning it could host the King or royal household. It is possible the Church of St. Guthlac’s was established around this time – St. Guthlac’s being an 8th Century Mercian royal saint, who was popular in the 10th and 11th Centuries.
Passenham was a royal manor at the time of the Doomsday Book with a mill, meadows, six ploughs and a recorded population of sixteen. It seems that it was religiously and culturally a key administrative centre in Northamptonshire at this time. By the 14th Century Deanshanger became the centre of population, however Passenham was still being cited as the contributor of tax.
Medieval Passenham was a linear settlement 500 metres long with the mill, manor and church located to the east. Population shifts or the contraction of the settlement which continued into early modern times.
Today there are no houses on the north side of the village although evidence of houses remain visible and are depicted also on maps of around 1608. The medieval manor house moved during the history of Passenham, originally being on the east side of the village. Some evidence suggests a manor to the east in the 13th and 14th Centuries though documents of 1566 prove it had moved to the west of the church. The movement is thought to coincide with many changes in ownership that saw it become property of the crown in 1399 and construction of a new manor was recorded in 1566.
Old Stratford grew up on either side of the Watling Street where it crossed the River Ouse into Buckinghamshire, with Stony Stratford also developing on the other side. The latter part of both names refers to a river crossing. Early 17th Century maps name the village as Old Stow. As many as seventeen households were assessed to the half tax in 1674 so it is not known if this was the whole population. In the 1830s there were 39 houses in Old Stratford with an estimated population of 150 to 200. By World War I this was closer to 260 and in common with most parishes and the district it grew steadily through the 1950s, 60s and 70s to pass 1,000 people.
The designation of Milton Keynes prevented further major growth until more recent times. It is partly true that Old Stratford has always been a suburb of the larger Stony Stratford, however it has significance and historic focal points in the crossroads. Before the building of the M1, Old Stratford was the point at which all Northampton traffic left the A5, or Watling Street. The village remains a busy junction despite being bypassed on both sides in the 1980s.
As mentioned, both Stony Stratford and Old Stratford derived their names from a river crossing that has been subsequently replaced by a bridge, the first mention of which was in the 13th Century. By the early 17th Century a bridge crossed the Ouse in a single span however this was said to have been partially destroyed in the Civil War and fallen into disrepair. In 1834 the two counties shared responsibility for the building of a new bridge and for tolls to be collected for the next 21 years; tolls having been variously collected since the middle ages.
Old Stratford also lies on the now defunct Buckingham arm of the Grand Junction Canal. This can be seen around the Community Hall and more notably Canalside where there is the remains of the wharf. This heritage is very obviously reflected in street names such as Wharf Lane, Wharf Close and of course Canalside.
In 1885 the Stony Stratford light railway company began building a line from Deanshanger to Wolverton. The section from Wolverton to Stony Stratford opened in 1887 and was extended through Old Stratford to Deanshanger in 1888. A depot was built to the south east of the crossroads and passengers were hauled in double decker carriages by a small steam locomotive. The tram remained in service until 1929 when the Stony to Deanshanger track was lifted.
Other Dates and Events of Interest
1919: The Memorial Hall built to honour those who died in World War I.
1920 – 1925: Gradual expansion in housing; Willow Terrace on Cosgrove Road
1930: Building extended fully along London Road and eastern Deanshanger Road
1950s: Land south of Deanshanger Road released for development which saw the extension of Mounthill Avenue amongst other buildings
1955 – 1960: The installation of street lighting and traffic lights at the crossroads
1966: The establishment of the Old Stratford Primary School
1980s: The village was bypassed by the A5 trunk road that replaced the Watling Street through Milton Keynes, severing the canal from the basin and Old Cosgrove Road
1999: Tram shed demolished at crossroads and replaced by housing
2000: Old Stratford Community Hall built and opened
It is believed that the indigenous economy of Old Stratford has derived from its position as a junction of major routes.
The village has played host to four inns, the only survivor being The Swan that is first listed in directories from 1847. It is also known that a carrier named Edward Ball was making weekly trips to London in the 1660s and that there was always at least one coal merchant in operation throughout the 19th Century.
Pot-ash kilns were in operation from 1713. A mill on the Cosgrove side of the Watling Street, powered both by wind and steam is also known to have operated around the 1820s and 30s. The village has also housed a number of trades, most obviously a blacksmith but also a matting manufacturer, a coach builder, a wheelwright and a number of garage businesses. It is assumed that many residents found employment in Stony Stratford and in Wolverton in the railway works. Now Old Stratford is mainly residential with villagers employed in Milton Keynes and further afield as well as embracing the trend in home working.
The Parish Council
As a result of local resident pressure, Old Stratford gained a Parish Council having previously been parts of adjoining Parishes. Old Stratford Parish Council represents 1334 acres and encompasses Passenham Village. The creation of the Parish became effective on the 1st April 1951.
As with most Parishes that adjoin Milton Keynes, much of the work of the Old Stratford Parish Council is devoted to planning issues that balance the needs of the village with regards to housing and amenities with the challenge of an ever-expanding neighbour in Milton Keynes and the challenges that that presents.
Described in 1875 as a sadly neglected place without a church or a school it took almost a century for the village to get its own primary school in 1966 with children having variously attended Cosgrove, Deanshanger and Stony in the meantime. The school began with three classrooms and 53 pupils in two classes. By 1970 there were 120 children due to the number of couples moving into Old Stratford. By 1974 there were 158 children and five staff including a head and deputy head. At present the school has 222 and over 15 staff.