Westbury's story was hundreds of years old when the Normans conquered England in 1066. There has been a significant house here for over a thousand years. Through ancient wars and agricultural changes, the people making a living here have seen many owners and their stories speak for many small farms in this part of the country.
Westbury is an out of the way place on a south-facing slope. There's land for crops and woodland. Water from a small stream. A good vantage point.
People were here in prehistory and worked with flint. The Iron Age inhabitants of the area saw the Romans arrive in 43AD and a cavalryman lost part of his horse's harness nearby. There were local villas and a settled landscape. When the Romans left the area declined until the Anglo-Saxons came. They grew flax and wove linen. A rich lady was buried here, face-down - indicating some misdeed that perhaps led to her death.
The first named holder of Westbury Manor was Wulfward the White, a Saxon lord. The Domesday Book of 1086 tells that Westbury was given by William the Conqueror to a Norman artificer. His name was Richard Engaine - a craftsman, possibly military, skilled at making things. Westbury was tenanted in Wulfward's time and has been for much of its history.
By the 12th century, the manor in Shenley Brook End was joined with Westbury. However, just 100 years later, in the reign of Henry III, Westbury became a subtenant of Shenley, and never became a great manor in its own right.
However, the house at Westbury was largely rebuilt in 1670 by a member of the Stafford family. A substantial building, it had two floors and the chimneys you see today were built then.
Despite this, Westbury became something of a backwater. Tenant famers came and went. In the 19th century the Clarke family, who started their tenancy in 1841, were tenants for 40 years - but in all that time their contract was never for more than a single year. In the agricultural depression that started in the 1870s Westbury was marketed as a sporting estate. The sale documents tell us much about the size of the estate and the local farming practices of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Westbury in the early 20th century was primarily part of hunting lands and the farming was hard. Anyone who lives in this area will be familiar with the heavy clay and Westbury is no exception!
The last owners before Milton Keynes was established had to sell the farm to Milton Keynes Development Corporation in December 1986.
The Commission for New Towns offered to lease Westbury to the Silbury Group, a not-for-profit artists' organisation. They agreed, and so for 30 years Westbury has been home to various artists and their work. Once the spoils of war for a Norman craftsman, the site is now home to many modern craftspeople, and its tale continues.