A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The parish of Monks Risborough lies on the north-western slope of the Chiltern Hills, and is remarkably long and narrow in shape. Near Green Hailey Firs the land rises to a height of 813 ft. above the ordnance datum, but in the north-west of the parish it is under three hundred feet. On the hills the subsoil is chalk, but in the lower parts it is Upper Greensand and Gault; (fn. 1) the surface varies, consisting of hard chalk, clay, and loam. The parish is well wooded, and contains 520¾ acres of wood. (fn. 2)
The people are mainly occupied in arable farming, but there are extensive watercress beds near the village of Monks Risborough. There are 1,128¾ acres of arable land and 830½ of permanent pasture. (fn. 3)
The small village and church stand on the west side of the main road, which runs along the foot of the slope of the Chiltern Hills, the church standing back from the road, with the modern vicarage to the south-east. In the vicarage garden, just east of the church, is a pool fed by a spring from the chalk, from which a stream runs northward past a moated site, whose banks and ditches are now half obliterated. To the north is a farm-house, and in the field between it and the church stands a square pigeon-house, the walls of which are probably mediaeval. It has a north doorway of curious pseudo-Gothic detail.
A small stream runs from Askett hamlet to Monks Risborough Mill and Alscott. Both the Great Western and the Great Central Railways run through the parish, but the nearest station is at Princes Risborough.
The main road from Aylesbury to High Wycombe passes through the village of Monks Risborough and follows the course of the Upper Icknield Way. Grim's Dyke can be traced here, running in a southwesterly direction across the southern end of the parish.
On the hills to the east of Monks Risborough is cut the probably prehistoric landmark, known as the Whiteleaf Cross, now well cared for by the owner of the Hampden estates. (fn. 4) Two tumuli exist in its neighbourhood. There are four hamlets in the parish: Owlswick, Meadle, Askett, and Cadsdean. At Askett there is a Baptist chapel built in 1839, with a small burial-ground attached. Master John Schorne is said to have been vicar here before he went to Long Marston, c. 1290. In 1701 Humphrey Hody was presented to the vicarage of Monks Risborough. He was appointed Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford in 1697–8, and by his will left various exhibitions to Wadham College. (fn. 5)
The manor of Monks Risborough was granted to the monastery of Christchurch, Canterbury, at an early date. In 995 Ethelred II confirmed a grant of the manor made by Archbishop Sigeric to Bishop Æscwige of Dorchester for 90 'librae' of pure silver and 200 'mancusae.' (fn. 6) In the next year, however, Æscwige restored the manor, (fn. 7) which apparently was only granted as security for the loan of money. (fn. 8) It was confirmed to Christchurch by King Ethelred in 1006, (fn. 9) and by Edward the Confessor. (fn. 10) During the regin of the latter it was held by Asgar the Staller, (fn. 11) with the condition that he could not alienate it from the Church.
In the Domesday Survey (fn. 12) it is said to be held by the 'Archbishop himself'; this was probably because the lands of the prior had not been separated from those of the archbishop, since by the 13th century the manor was held by the Prior of Canterbury of the king in chief. (fn. 13)
The monastery held the manor without interruption until it was seized by the king (fn. 14) at the Dissolution. It was not restored by him to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Church, but was granted in 1541 to Sir Francis Bryan and Thomas Lawe. (fn. 15) In the same year, however, these grantees obtained licence to alienate the manor to Edward Restwold and his wife Agnes. (fn. 16)
Agnes held the manor after the death of her husband in 1548, (fn. 17) but having apparen ly married as her second husband Sir Thomas Waterton, (fn. 18) it was sold by them to Thomas Fletewood, (fn. 19) whose widow Brigit held the manor on the death of her husband, (fn. 20) and was succeeded by her son George. (fn. 21) George Fleetwood sold it in 1569 (fn. 22) to Richard Tredway of Beaconsfield and his son Walter, and Richard Tredway again sold it to Elizabeth Clarke, daughter of George Clarke of Monks Risborough. (fn. 23) She married Henry Ewer, (fn. 24) and they held the manor till 1617, when it was sold to Sir Jerome Horsey. (fn. 25) Before his death he had settled it on Sir John Bonner, Sir John Curzon, and John Hampden in trust for his sons, (fn. 26) reserving only certain tenements to himself. (fn. 27) Very shortly after his death, John Hampden and William and John Horsey sold the manor to John Barber alias Grigge of Wendover. (fn. 28) It again changed hands in 1633, when John Barber and his wife Anne sold it to Edmund West. (fn. 29) The Wests seem to have held it for a longer period than any of their predecessors since the first grant by Henry VIII, for in 1694–5 a Roger West sold it to John Poynter, (fn. 30) in whose family it still remained in 1719. (fn. 31) At the present time the Earl of Buckinghamshire is the lord of the manor.
The hamlet of OWLSWICK was apparently included in Monks Risborough in the early grants to Christchurch. After the Norman Conquest it was held by a military sub-tenant. Three such tenants are mentioned in 1210–12; (fn. 32) Henry de Lawike, Thomas de Berewike, and Humphrey de Rede held one fee in Risborough and Newington. The firstnamed may be identified as a member of the family who held Owlswick of the archbishop some years later. Henry de Owlswick held half a knight's fee there in 1284–6, (fn. 33) and he was the ancestor of the Baldwins who held the manor of Owlswick in the next century. Baldwin son of Baldwin quitclaimed all his right in certain land (fn. 34) which had originally been granted by his ancestor Henry of Owlswick to the abbey of Missenden, (fn. 35) and John Baldwin made an agreement with the abbey as to land in the hamlet. (fn. 36)
Henry Baldwin in 1332–3 held lands and tenements in Monks Risborough. (fn. 37) He also held the manor of Owlswick with his wife Alice, and after his death was succeeded by his son John Baldwin. (fn. 38) William son and heir of this John granted twothirds of the manor to John Grise and Nicholas Bagenhale, excepting a tenement held by a lifetenant. (fn. 39) In 1390 he granted the remaining third of the manor, which his mother had held in dower, to the same grantees. (fn. 40) Nicholas Bagenhale (fn. 41) enfeoffed Edmund Hampden, Thomas Swynerton, Bernard Saunterdon, John Aspley, and Thomas Durham, of the manor, probably in trust for the Hampdens, and they held it in 1401. (fn. 42) Two years later Henry son of John Baldwin, the nephew of William Baldwin, made an unsuccessful claim to the manor as the son of the brother and heir of William. (fn. 43) Nicholas Bagenhale was called to give warranty and the feoffees remained in possession. William Hampden made a settlement of the manor in 1500 (fn. 44) and Jerome Hampden (fn. 45) died seised of tenements in Owlswick in 1541. His son Richard (fn. 46) and grandson Alexander (fn. 47) also held the manor. The heirs of Alexander were his three nieces Anne, Margaret, and Mary, daughters of his brother Edmund. (fn. 48) He provided for the shares in this manor of Margaret and Mary, respectively the wives of Thomas Wenman and Alexander Denton, by a settlement made in 1639 (fn. 49) and left their twothirds to his brother Christopher for life. (fn. 50) The remaining third and the reversion of the bequest to Christopher he left to his eldest niece Anne, the wife of Sir John Trevor. (fn. 51) The Trevors finally obtained possession of the whole manor, (fn. 52) but in 1657 they sold it to William Claydon. (fn. 53) His daughter Bashewell married John Grubbe of Horsenden, and the manor of Owlswick, (fn. 54) under the will of William Claydon, passed to her three daughters, Elizabeth, Lettice, and Hester. (fn. 55) These heiresses, however, sold it in 1716 to Edward Stone, (fn. 56) who had married their half sister Elizabeth Grubbe. (fn. 57) His grandson Edward Stone, rector of Horsenden, (fn. 58) held the manor in 1769, (fn. 59) and it descended to his only daughter and heiress Sarah, the wife of Charles Shard. (fn. 60)
In 1847 it was in the hands of Mrs. Shard of Grimsdyke Lodge, Lacey Green. About 1861, Mr. Grey bought the manor from Mrs. Shard, but in that year he re-sold it to Mr. Humphreys, whose son, Mr. George Humphreys of Brogton Park, Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire, is the present lord of the manor of Owlswick. A small quit-rent is paid to the lord of the manor of Monks Risborough, and the copyhold lands in the manor of Owlswick are also subject to fines payable to him.
The Prior of Christchurch held the manor of Monks Risborough in frankalmoign of the king in chief. (fn. 61) He held a view of frankpledge for his tenants (fn. 62) and claimed to have waifs and strays, the chattels of felons and outlaws, and to receive the fines of his men when they were fined in the king's courts. (fn. 63) He also had gallows, tumbrel, and a pillory in the manor. (fn. 64)
When called upon by Edward I to show his warranty for these rights he quoted a charter of William the Conqueror confirming the comprehensive rights and regalia granted to the Archbishop of Canterbury by Edward the Confessor. (fn. 65) The prior held the assize of ale within the manor, (fn. 66) and he obtained in 1316 a grant of free warren in his demesne lands in Risborough, (fn. 67) which was confirmed by Edward III. (fn. 68) No mills are mentioned at Monks Risborough in the Domesday Survey. In the 14th and 15th centuries, however, the millward was continually presented in the manor court for taking excessive tolls from the manorial tenants. (fn. 69) At the dissolution of the monastery there were two mills at Risborough, which were occupied by leasehold tenants. (fn. 70) These were the same two mills presumably which were described in the next century. Sir Jerome Horsey kept these in his own hands when he settled the manor on his sons, and at his death he died seised of a windmill on Brokenhill, and a water-mill, both of which had been formerly parcel of the manor of Monks Risborough. (fn. 71)
The church of ST. DUNSTAN consists of a chancel 36 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 6 in. with a modern organ chamber on the north; a nave 47 ft. 7 in. by 21 ft. 8 in.; a north transept 16 ft. 8 in. by 13 ft. 3 in.; north and south aisles respectively 9 ft. 10 in. and 10 ft. 2 in. wide; a south porch and a western tower 10 ft. by 10 ft. 8 in., all measurements being internal. Owing to extensive rebuilding in the late 14th and in the 15th centuries the early history of the church is somewhat obscure, but the tower is of fairly early 14th-century date, and at the time of its building the church consisted of a nave of the same plan as the present one, roofed with a high-pitched roof, the traces of which are clearly visible on the east wall of the tower, and presumably a chancel within the lines of the present chancel. There is nothing to show whether the nave had aisles at this time, but the north transept evidently existed before the present north arcade was built, and is possibly of 13th-century date. Towards the end of the 14th century a period of rebuilding and addition was entered on which lasted well into the 15th century. The first work taken in hand was the north aisle with its arcade, the eastern bay of which is wider than the other three, in order to suit the plan of the north transept. At the beginning of the 15th century the south aisle was built, and a little later on the chancel was rebuilt and the chancel arch inserted. At the same time, or a little later, the south porch was built, while the last work undertaken was the clearstory and present nave roof. In modern times the north organ chamber was added and a certain amount of restoration carried out, including the re-roofing of the chancel.
The east window of the chancel is quite modern and of three trefoiled lights with tracery of early 14thcentury detail. In the north and south walls of the chancel are two 15th-century windows of three cinquefoiled lights with tracery over, with four-centred arches. Between the pair on the north is the modern opening to the organ chamber, and between the south windows is a small modern priest's door. The sill of the south-east window is carried down to serve as a seat. The wide chancel arch is of two hollow-chamfered orders which are continuous, being stopped on a large broach stop about 4 ft. above the floor.
The north arcade of the nave is of four bays. The arches are of two chamfered orders, the inner of which is stopped with a cone-shaped stop, the outer with a broach stop. The columns are octagonal with moulded capitals and bases. There is no west respond, but in its place a half-capital upon a corbel. At the east end is the upper door to the rood-loft, which was originally entered from the transept. The south arcade, of the same number of bays as the north, has arches identical with those on the north, but the detail of the capitals and bases is somewhat later in character. The east bay, as in the north arcade, is wider than the rest; perhaps in this case in order to correspond to the north arcade. In both cases it appears that the walls above the arcades were rebuilt. The clearstory has four 15th-century windows a side, each of three cinquefoiled lights under square heads, with deep hollowmoulded external reveals.
The north transept has a very good 15th-century east window of three cinquefoiled lights with tracery under a four-centred head. In the north wall is a similar window. To the south of the east window is an image bracket of 15th-century date with a carved head corbel, and on the north a mutilated niche, also of 15thcentury date, with shafted jambs, a foliated projecting bracket, and the remains of a crocketed canopy. The arch to the north aisle is of the same detail as the north arcade, and rests on the south upon the first pier of the latter and on the north on a corbelled half-capital.
The north aisle has two windows to the north, the first of three cinquefoiled lights, like the windows of the transept but of later detail and date, and with a straight-sided four-centred head. Following on this is the north door of the same date as the aisle, with an external label and continuously moulded jambs. West of the door is a 15th-century window of three cinquefoiled lights under a square head. The west window of the same date, or slightly later, is small, placed high in the wall and of two trefoiled lights under a square head.
The south aisle has a modern east window of three cinquefoiled lights with uncusped spandrels, of early 14th-century detail. In the south wall are two twolight windows. The first of these is of early 14thcentury detail, and having been apparently reset, is probably one of the old nave windows moved out when the aisle was built. The internal jambs are doubly shafted and have circular capitals and bases, while the rear arch is elaborately moulded. There are both internal and external labels, and the latter is finished with mask drips just above a string-course in which are worked two grotesque heads forming secondary drips. The second window, also presumably re-used, is of later 14th-century date and much restored; it is of two trefoiled lights with two trefoils and a quatrefoil over. The south door, between these windows, is of early 15th-century date, continuously moulded in two double-ogee orders with a hollow between.
The south porch has in its north-east angle a mutilated holy-water stone, with a rounded bowl upon a short square stem. There are small cinquefoiled lights in the east and west walls, and the outer archway is of two hollow-chamfered orders with sunk spandrels and an image niche over.
The tower is of three stages, with a plain parapet and a large square south-east staircase turret. The tower arch is of three continuous chamfered orders, with an internal label which is continued as a string to the north and south nave walls. The external string between the first and second stages is carried round the east wall of the turret, which now forms part of the west wall of the south aisle, showing that the turret stood free at this height in the first instance. The belfry openings are of two cinquefoiled lights with sharp two-centred heads. Below the parapet is a corbel table, which is carried round the stair turret which rises some feet above the tower. The west door, of 14th-century date, has a two-centred head of two richly-moulded orders, the inner of which is continuous, while the mouldings of the outer die out at the springing. The west window has modern tracery of the same detail as the south-west window of the south aisle.
The chancel has a modern high-pitched tiled roof, while those of the aisles, transept, and nave are of low pitch and leaded. The last is of 15th-century date with moulded principals, purlins, ridges, and wallbrackets with cusped spandrel tracery, resting in some cases upon grotesque stone corbels. The transept roof is similar but perhaps earlier. The porch roof is also of early 15th-century date, but is of steep pitch, and a good deal of 15th-century work is incorporated in the aisle roofs. There is a much-restored roodscreen in position, and on the jambs of the chancel arch are faint traces of the coved soffit of the roodloft. The screen itself is of 15th-century date with five wide arched bays, from the heads of which the wooden vaulting has been removed, the spandrels being filled in with modern tracery. The lower panels are solid, and painted with figures of bearded saints wearing ermine-trimmed hats and tippets; the drawing and colour can only be called barbarous, and they appear to be 18th-century repaintings of earlier work. It is quite impossible to identify any of the figures. There is a considerable quantity of 15thcentury work incorporated in the seating of the church, four bench-ends in particular having well-designed finials carved with figures standing or kneeling upon two faces, back to back, or in one case upon two pelicans. The oldest monument is the brass figure of Robert Blundele, priest, 1431, in mass vestments, and there is another brass of a civilian and his wife, c. 1460, with two sons and five daughters. The children, however, do not belong to the same monument as the two larger figures. In the eastern window of the south aisle are some fragments of 14th and 15th-century glass, the most perfect piece being a small figure of our Lady and Child. There is also some 15th-century glass in its original position in the upper lights of one of the north windows of the chancel.
The church plate consists of a modern jewelled chalice of mediaeval design, hall-marked for 1877; a chalice inscribed as the gift of William Quarles in 1726, hall-marked for 1710, and a salver, standing paten and flagon similarly inscribed, the first hall-marked for 1697, the second with no date-letter, and the third with the date-letter for 1725.
The first book of the registers contains all entries from 1587 to 1802, except in the case of marriages, which cease at 1754. There is also a recent and beautifully-made copy of this book. Baptisms and burials are continued in another book from 1803 to 1812, and marriages, after a gap, in a third from 1778 to 1812.
The church of Monks Risborough was one of the two benefices belonging to the deanery of Risborough, within the exempt jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 72) The deanery was abolished in 1841 at the renewal of the rural deaneries, and the church of Monks Risborough was assigned to Wendover (first division). (fn. 73) In 1865, however, it was again transferred, and now belongs to the rural deanery of Aylesbury. (fn. 74) The church does not seem to have been assigned with the manor to the monastery of Christchurch, Canterbury, when the division of estates between the archbishop and the monks took place. (fn. 75) No vicarage was ordained, and the rectory was not amongst the possessions of the monastery at its dissolution. (fn. 76) The archbishop collated to the living, since during the vacancy caused by Archbishop Morton's death, the Crown instituted a new rector in 1500. (fn. 77) His successors (fn. 78) collated to it until 1837, when with the rest of Buckinghamshire, the ecclesiastical parish of Monks Risborough was transferred to the diocese of Oxford, and the Bishop of Oxford became patron of the living. (fn. 79)
A chapel at Owlswick existed in the 14th century, since in 1368 Robert Testyf was 'vicar of the church of Olneswyk.' (fn. 80) Tithes were set apart for the chapel by John Wakeman, rector of Monks Risborough, in the 15th century. (fn. 81) In 1631, (fn. 82) and again during the Commonwealth, (fn. 83) there were difficulties as to the payment of the tithes to the vicar of Owlswick. The rectory of Monks Risborough was sequestrated in 1646, and Nathaniel Anderson had thereupon been admitted to the benefice, and had undertaken to find a curate for the chapel to whom he was to allow about £30 a year, a vicarage house, and certain tithes. (fn. 84) Whether, under ordinary circumstances, the curate of the chapel was provided by the vicar of the parish church or by the patron does not appear, since the chapel was destroyed during the Civil War. There is now a school chapel in the hamlet, built in 1866.
The charities of the Rev. Humphrey Hody, D.D., and the Rev. William Quarles, D.D., for apprenticing, are endowed with 14 acres, purchased with £100 left by will of Dr. Hody, 1706, and with £150 left by will of Dr. Quarles, 1727, and with 8 acres allotted in 1830 under the Inclosure Award.
The said Dr. Quarles likewise devised his close called Ives Heath to the rector in trust to pay 40s. a year for instruction of poor boys in writing English and to read their Catechism. The annuity is paid towards the support of the Sunday school.
The Poor's Allotment consists of 27 a. 3 r. 36 p., allotted under the Inclosure Act, 2 Geo. IV, cap. 17 (Private), to the poor, in satisfaction of their right of cutting and taking beech and other brushwood or fuel from the waste called the Scrubbs, the rents and profits to be laid out in the purchase of fuel to be distributed among the poor. The land is let at £50 a year, which is applied by the parish council in the distribution of coal.
An annual sum of £1, issuing out of land in Barnes Field, is paid by Mrs. Jaques of Horsenden House, in respect of a gift by a donor unknown, which is applied by the parish council in the distribution of stockings.