Long Buckby

Long Buckby

Long Buckby is a small village and parish (population about 2300 in 1851 and 3800 in 1991) in the sheep-grazing uplands of Northamptonshire, England.  It in the Daventry District.

The village lies about 1 3/4 miles east of the old Roman Road known as Watling Street.  It is located 9 highway miles northwest of the city of Northampton, which in turn is located 62 highway miles northwest of central London.  The total distance to London is 71 miles.  Rail service is available from London.  There is a Long Buckby station on the Northampton & Rugby Line.

Long Buckby google map
Satellite view

The prefix 'Long' was first added to the name of the town at the time of Queen Elizabeth I, reflecting the shape of the village.  Buckby is a Viking name and would date from the Viking settlement of the eastern part of England.

An aerial view of Long Buckby today

There has probably been some settlement on the site from well before the Conquest.  Remains of an old 'castle' of the motte (mound) and bailey (courtyard) type, built in about 1135, have been excavated.

The remains now consist of an oval ringwork surrounded by a ditch.  The castle is undocumented but may have been built by the de Quincy family, later the Earls of Winchester, who held the manor from the mid 12th to the mid 13th century.

The character of the community of Long Buckby was formed, at least partly, by the presence in the parish of one of the few heaths in Northamptonshire, which made it good sheep raising land.

Sheep are still a familiar site around the village.  It was also an excellent place for rabbit warrens.  The heath afforded a living to poor cottagers, probably from the middle ages.

Geographically, the village lies in a region of drift-capped hill ridges and valleys of Upper Lias Clay known as the Northampton Heights.  The village is some 450 feet above sea level, and on three sides the land falls away in varying degrees of steepness.  To the west it drops away to the plain below the 'Watford Gap', with Watling Street as its western boundary.  The village itself consists of a long straggling street, over a mile and a half in length, and only a few blocks wide.

Towards the western end of the street there is a large market square,
the historic center of the village.

The Grand Junction Canal, which was built in the 1790s, is in the south part of the parish, about 2 miles west of the village on the road to Daventry.  The locks are made of huge timbers and are hand operated even today.

George Stephenson constructed the London and Birmingham Railway alongside the Canal in the 1830s.  This was the main railway line from Euston, on the Northamptonshire border with Suffolk, to Rugby, in Warwickshire.  The railway line near Northampton which provides Long Buckby with its station was not built until 1880.

The parish church, St. Lawrence, is very old.  It is a building of stone, originally in the Early English and Decorated styles.  In 1774 incongruous aisles in a debased Classic style were added, but these were removed at the restoration in 1883-7.  In the front and entry is an Early English, tall, square belltower, dating back to the 12th century and containing a clock and 5 bells dating from 1624 to 1814.

The main part of the church was added later with subsequent alterations to the north and south aisles.  The church was restored internally in 1862, the external restoration of the south aisle was carried out in 1883, and the north aisle was restored in 1885.  Along the sides are high gothic windows.

There is a large cemetery that continues down the slope from the church.  The pre-1800 headstones were placed quite close to the building.  They are so eroded and weathered that it is not possible to read the inscriptions.

It is a very rural village.  An old resident recalled (from his childhood at the end of the nineteenth century) a lush countryside and abundant wildlife.  Kingfishers were common and even otters

were occasionally seen at nearby ozier beds.  Birds of many types were plentiful, often to the extent of being a nuisance, and he describes 'bird hocking' along the hedgerows and the 'clap-netting' of the ivy on houses to catch the birds.

Bats too were numerous and would often flap around the inside of the Church as people gathered for Evensong.  Birds were not only caught to keep their numbers down.  They also formed an important part of the diet.  He recalled eating sparrow pie, blackbird pie and, one of his favorites, moorhen.  He also enjoyed perch which he caught in the canal.

In the middle ages Long Buckby was one of the market towns of Northamptonshire.  A charter dated with the year 1280 provided for two fairs, one in May and one in August.  The August Fair was quite a holiday time when friends and relatives visited.  Families made the Buckby Feast plum pudding, a rich bread pudding baked for about ten hours.

In 1851 the social characteristics of the town were typical of a wide range of provincial market towns.  Ownership of land was fragmented: no-one owned enough to give him an economic and social dominance.  At the Inclosures of Long Buckby in 1766 only seven persons were allotted more than 100 acres.  Richard Hanwell was the largest landowner with 301 acres.

At the land tax assessment of 1818, this picture of fragmentation had not significantly changed.  There is nothing to suggest that this pattern had changed by 1851.  Long Buckby was an 'open' village with a small body of freeholders and a mass of cottagers.  It had no resident squire or gentry, and only a small upper class.  Even today it is a park-less parish surrounded by parishes liberally dotted with country houses.

Nonconformity has been a strong feature of the village.  The Parish Register contains only one or two retrospective entries for the years of the Great Rebellion, 1641-1652.  That and other indications suggest that Long Buckby was perhaps a center of puritanism in this troubled period.  The English Civil War was ultimately settled by the victory of Cromwell's Ironsides in 1645 at Naseby, about 8 miles north of Long Buckby.

There are two nonconformist churches in Long Buckby.

The United Reformed Church was formally constituted in 1707 as the independent chapel and the present building was erected in 1773 and enlarged in 1819.

The Baptist Church on the market place was founded in 1759 with the present church being built in 1846.

In 1851 the nonconformists were numerically much stronger than the Churchmen (Church of England).  For the Religious Census of 1851, 'the vicar disapproves of the census therefore declined to fill up the form.'  His attitude is reflective of the strength of the nonconformists.

In the eighteenth century Long Buckby was a centre of woolcombing and worsted weaving, noted for making 'harateens', a type of worsted cloth.  The cloth industry collapsed in the seventeen nineties, ousted by competition from the increasingly mechanized Yorkshire worsted industry.

The demise of the textile industry, combined with the high price of wheat following the bad harvests of the 1790s and a growing population, led to great hardship in the period of the Napoleonic Wars, and in the years of agricultural depression that followed.

In the early nineteenth century there were too many people for the village's employment opportunities, and the Overseers of the Poor had to levy high rates and evolve schemes of some complexity to relieve the unemployed and the destitute.  One of the schemes in 1830 involved paying the passage for some paupers who wished to emigrate to America.  Another was the building of a workhouse, called Daventry Union.

There were a number of bankruptcies filed during this period, including at least one by a person with ties to the Dickens family: John Wadsworth, grazier (bankruptcy reported 5 Jul 1817, Northampton Mercury) is probably the John Wadsworth (or a son) who, along with his brother and sisters leased a farmhouse in 1786 to William_A Dickens, father of Mary_1 Dickens.  In his letters home, Henry_2 York reflected the economic concern of the family.

Long Buckby later became known for its shoemakers.  The pioneers of the shoe industry were the hand-sewing craftsmen who sat in little sheds in their gardens transforming rough-cut uppers and bottoming leathers into boots and shoes of such quality that the village gained a reputation nation-wide.  Shoemakers were literate before most craftsmen and were noted for their strong interest in politics.

The 1777 Militia List for Long Buckby includes only six shoemakers, or cordwainers as they were then called.  (They probably repaired shoes as well as made them.)  Of those six, two were William_A Dickens and his brother John.  Since the list only includes men aged 18-45, the number may have been slightly higher, but the six were probably enough for the needs of the village.

In the eighteen thirties, the trade of handsewn shoe-making began to expand in the village and in time began to offer a viable alternative source of employment.  In 1841 there were some 131 hand-sewn shoemakers in the village.  By 1851 the number had grown to 314.  This reflects an industrial village in the immediate pre-factory phase of development.  In the northeast part of town, behind some Victorian terraced houses (behind Swan Terrace and East Street), are the shops where the hand-sewn shoemakers formerly worked.

However, shoemaking developed in the village against a background of trade depression and political unrest, particularly in the years 1838 to 1842, and 1848.  There was an industrial tradition in the village; radicalism was traditional in shoemakers; and Buckby became one of the livelier Chartist centers in the county.

Roy_5 Yorke reported that as of 1989, there was one remaining shoe factory in Long Buckby, making special handcrafted shoes and boots for the disabled.  During World War II, they made special knee-length boots for British military regiments stationed in London.

The factory is called "George York & Son", but no connection to Thomas_1 York and Mary Dickens has been found.  George, the founder, was followed by a Fred York, then a Ron York.


  • Victor A. Hatley, Northamptonshire Militia Lists, 1777. Northamptonshire Record Society, 1973. p.60-1, 188.
  • R. L. Greenall, editor, The Parish Register of Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, 1558-1689.  Vaughan Papers in Adult Education No. 17, University of Leicester Department of Adult Education, March 1971.
  • R. L. Greenall, "The History of Boot and Shoemaking at Long Buckby," in Northamptonshire Past and Present, Vol. 5, No. 5, 1977 p.437-445, Northamptonshire Record Society.
  • The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales.  A. Fullerton & Co.  1867.  Vol. 1.
  • June Swann, Shoemaking.  Shire Album 155.  Shire Publications Ltd.  1986.
  • Kelly's Northamptonshire Directory, 1894, p.40-41.
  • Photographs by Roy Yorke (in 1989) and Kay (Hilton) York (in 1994).

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