Modern period

The 'modern' period for the Historic Environment Record lasts from 1800 to the present day. It coincides with the height of the industrialisation of the county and a revolution in the transport system, first with railways and then with modern roads and motorways. Most of our towns expanded hugely in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Much of this was driven by changes that had happened in the preceding post-medieval period, but the pace of change grew ever quicker in the modern period.


Traditionally archaeologists have not paid much attention to the modern period, perhaps digging through Victorian layers in order to get to more interesting archaeology, but that is now all changing. Nineteenth and twentieth century buildings are as likely to be listed as older ones and more recent earthworks, such as First World War practice trenches, are the subject of important projects.


Thorney Lane bridge on the Great Western Railway at IverOne of the most influential developments of the Victorian period was the railway. This allowed ordinary people to travel more easily, to go on holiday and visit relatives. It also transported goods around the country more quickly and in greater quantities than before, allowing people in Buckinghamshire to have slate from Cornwall, Wales or the Lake District for their roofs, whereas local tile or thatch had been the norm beforehand. It also carved up the countryside and meant that previously existing roads and footpaths had to have bridges over or tunnels under the railways provided. One of the earliest railways was Brunel's Great Western, opened in 1838, which passes through Iver and Taplow in the south of the county.


Towns have grown hugely in the last two centuries. Gerrards Cross, for instance, was not even a village before the railway arrived. As the population has grown, so the need for more houses has grown, and the towns is where the work is. During the nineteenth century there was an influx of people from the country to the towns, looking for work. It was at this date that several villages were finally abandoned, such as Lockington in Bledlow-cum-Saunderton parish.


Waddesdon ManorBuckingham's new churchSome of the great houses in the county were built in the nineteenth century, many of them by various members of the Rothschild family. One of the best-known and most visited is Waddesdon Manor, built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. Many of the houses in Waddesdon village were also built by the Baron, to house workers on his estate. Some churches were rebuilt in the nineteenth century, especially in places where the old medieval church was in disrepair. Buckingham's old church had lost its spire, so a new parish church for Buckingham one was built on top of the castle mound.



Gomme's furniture factory in High WycombeBuckinghamshire has bever been an industrial county, but the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought a boom in the furniture industry to High Wycombe in particular. The beech trees of the Chilterns were processed in the woods by bodgers before being assembled into chairs and tables in the factories, such as Gomme's furniture factory on Leigh Street, High Wycombe.


First World War practice trenches in Whiteleaf WoodsThe twentieth century wars have left their mark on Buckinghamshire. Practice trenches were dug in various places around the county for troops to train in before going to the real thing in France. These practice trenches have been identified and surveyed at Whiteleaf Hill and in Pullingshill Wood near Marlow, amongst other places. Some practice trenches may have been dug in the Second World War, as well, before the generals realised that trench warfare would not be play a big part in the war. Aircraft were the new weapon, and airfields were created or requisitioned across the county, from Denham and Langley in the south to Westcott and Wing in the north, and many more. The Cold War has not left such a mark and many of the structures built for this period, such as Royal Observation Corps posts, are now gone, for example the one west of the A413 Buckingham road. Strike Command in High Wycombe is still important.