A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The parish of Stone lies completely in the Vale of Aylesbury. It is well watered by the River Thame and its tributaries which flow through the Vale. There is a spring at Sedrup hamlet. The subsoil is Kimmeridge Clay, Portland beds, London beds, and Gault, (fn. 1) and the surface soil is loam and sand. There is excellent pasture-land to the extent of 1,504 acres, and 892 acres are arable land. (fn. 2) Market gardening and poultry and duck-breeding are carried on by the inhabitants.
The small village of Stone stands on the highest ground in the parish, 368 ft. above the sea-level, at a point where the high road from Thame to Aylesbury is crossed by a small road which runs from Eythorp to Bishopstone. The church is close to the cross-roads, standing on a mound which may be partly artificial, and the houses of the village are grouped round it. The most conspicuous building is the County Asylum, west of the village, with its large modern red-brick and stone buildings facing the main road. It was built in 1852, and has since been enlarged. There is not much timber in the parish, what there is being chiefly on the high ground on which the main road runs. Peverel Court, south-east of the village, is a modern house built in 1862. The nearest station is at Aylesbury, 3 miles away.
Various Anglo-Saxon remains have been found here, the most important being a bronze-gilt brooch of unusual size. (fn. 5)
Two successive vicars of Stone were men of some eminence. Joseph Bancroft Reade (1801–70) held the living from 1839 to 1859, when he was presented to the vicarage of Ellesborough. He was distinguished as a chemist, microscopist, and a photographic discoverer, and at the time of his death was president of the Royal Microscopical Society. (fn. 6) James Booth (1806–78) was presented to the vicarage in 1859. He was treasurer and chairman of the Society of Arts, and was mainly instrumental in establishing its system of examinations. (fn. 7)
The township of Stone was held in two portions before the Norman Conquest, and the same division was continued for several centuries. One-half had been held by Ulf, a housecarl of King Edward, (fn. 8) but at the time of the Domesday Survey it was held by Robert de Todeni, the lord of Belvoir, (fn. 9) Leicestershire, and was assessed at 7 hides of land. (fn. 10) The overlordship of this part of Stone belonged to the lords of the honour of Belvoir for many centuries. (fn. 11)
Before 1086, Robert de Todeni had granted BRACEY'S MANOR in Stone to a sub-tenant named Gilbert. (fn. 12) During the reign of Henry I, William de Bracey granted the church of Stone to the abbey of Oseney, (fn. 13) and was in all probability holding the manor as one knight's fee of the honour of Belvoir. Gilbert, his heir, confirmed this grant and afterwards gave 1 hide of land in addition to the abbey. (fn. 14) Charters also are given in the Oseney Cartulary of Robert de Bracey and Gilbert his son. (fn. 15)
Early in the 13th century this Gilbert held seveneighths of a knight's fee in Stone, (fn. 16) but before 1286 he had been succeeded by Roger de Bracey. (fn. 17) Robert de Bracey in 1316 (fn. 18) and John de Bracey (fn. 19) in 1346 held it in turn, but before 1402 Bracey's Manor in Stone was held by John Glover of Little Kimble, (fn. 20) who probably held it in right of his wife. (fn. 21) In 1415, however, John Barton, sen., held a knight's fee in Stone by Aylesbury of Lord Ros of Hamelake. (fn. 22)
Andrew Sparlyng, presumably holding as a trustee for the widow of John Barton, jun., sold the manor to Sir Robert Whitingham. (fn. 23) After the downfall of the Lancastrian cause, his lands were forfeited and granted by Edward IV to Sir Thomas Montgomery. (fn. 24) Sir Ralph Verney, whose son John had married Margery Whitingham, Sir Robert's heiress, made every effort (fn. 25) to recover her lands for his son. He was successful as far as Bracey's Manor was concerned, (fn. 26) and Sir Ralph Verney, jun., the son of Margery Whitingham, (fn. 27) his son (another Sir Ralph) and two grandsons, both Edmund by name, were seised in turn. (fn. 28) Edmund Verney, jun., sold the manor to Sir Alexander Hampden, (fn. 29) and on his death in 1619 it passed by settlement to the Lees, (fn. 30) and from that time followed the descent of the manor of Hartwell.
The second part of Stone, known later as ST. CLERES MANOR, reckoned at 7 hides in the Domesday Survey, was held in the time of King Edward the Confessor as a manor by two brothers, one a man of Ulf and the other a man of Eddeva, and they could assign or sell the land as they pleased. (fn. 31) This land, however, was given at the Conquest to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and was held from him by Helto, probably the steward of the bishop, from whom he also held Swanscombe in Kent. (fn. 32) When Odo was deprived of his lands they passed to the Munchesney family, and the overlordship of this part of Stone follows the same descent as the manor of Dinton (q.v.). (fn. 33) The land in Stone, however, does not appear amongst the knights' fees held by Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, at the time of his death. (fn. 34) A certain William Cluppe, however, had held lands in Stone of the earl. (fn. 35)
In the reign of Henry I this manor was probably held under the Munchesneys by William de St. Clere (or Sengler), who granted land in Southcote (q.v.) in Stone parish to Oseney Abbey. (fn. 36) Before 1187 John de St. Clere appears to have held land in Stone, (fn. 37) and a little later he was said to hold one knight's fee as mesne lord of the honour of Swanscombe. (fn. 38) The heir of John de St. Clere had succeeded him in 1284–6, (fn. 39) and in 1302–3 Ralph de St. Clere of Kent held the overlordship of the fee. (fn. 40) John de St. Clere, however, had enfeoffed various sub-tenants to the prejudice of his son Hugh. The greater part of this land (fn. 41) he granted to Simon de St. Clere, whose son Gilbert held it in 1219. (fn. 42) During the 13th century William de St. Clere held in demesne 6 hides and half a virgate of land as three-quarters of a knight's fee. (fn. 43) He was succeeded by his son or grandson Robert de St. Clere, (fn. 44) who made a settlement of his land in Stone on himself and his wife Joan for life with remainder to his four sons and to John Golye and Joan his wife, and finally to the right heirs of Robert. (fn. 45) Robert died before 1346, when Joan de St. Clere held his land in Stone. (fn. 46) On the death of Joan, the four sons of Robert probably held the land in turn, but Thomas, the youngest, is the only one definitely mentioned. (fn. 47) All these sons, as well as John Golye and his wife, had died before 1401, (fn. 48) leaving no direct heirs. In that year the right heirs of Robert de St. Clere, his daughter Amice and the descendants of her two sisters (fn. 49) tried to recover this inheritance, claiming under the settlement mentioned above from various tenants. Of these John Glover and his wife Joan were the most important, since they also held Bracey's Manor. The result of the suit cannot be traced, but the claimants were not successful, since a few years later John Pigot, the grandson of Amice, again laid claim to certain lands in Stone, but a second time the result is not given. (fn. 50) It seems probable that the claimant did not get possession of the St. Clere's lands and that at this time they were held with the other half of the parish. Sir Robert Whitingham held the manor of 'Stone called St. Clere's alias Bracey's,' (fn. 51) a title which suggests that the two were at this time united. The same designation is given in the grant to Sir Thomas Montgomery, but in the struggles of the Verneys to obtain possession of the forfeited lands of the Whitinghams, (fn. 52) St. Cleres Manor was again separated from Bracey's Manor. In some way it came to the Crown and Henry VIII granted it to Sir Anthony Lee, to be held, with other lands, as one-hundredth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 53)
At his death Sir Anthony is said to have held a moiety of the manor of St. Cleres, but this may only refer to its separation from Bracey's Manor. (fn. 54) It was settled on his widow for life, but before 1553 it had passed to the Dormers, Sir Robert Dormer dying seised of a moiety of the manor of St. Cleres. (fn. 55) In 1566 Nicholas Harcourt held a moiety of the manor, which he granted to Sir William Dormer two years later. (fn. 56) Sir William died seised of the whole manor of St. Cleres, (fn. 57) and the Dormers held it till 1662–3. (fn. 58) In that year Charles Dormer, Earl of Carnarvon, sold 2 messuages, 100 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 10 acres of pasture and common of pasture in Hartwell and Stone to Sir Thomas Lee, bart. (fn. 59) This sale may have brought the greater part of the land belonging to St. Cleres Manor to the Lees, who held Bracey's Manor in Stone. St. Cleres Manor is mentioned, however, in various documents of the late 17th and of the 18th centuries, as being in the possession of the Earls of Chesterfield, who inherited the lands of the Dormers. (fn. 60) At the time of the inclosure of the common fields of Stone the Earl of Chesterfield owned certain tithes in the parish, (fn. 61) but there do not appear to have been any manorial rights, which probably disappeared after the sale of the land in 1662–3. There is now only one manor in Stone, the names of Bracey's and St. Cleres Manors having disappeared, and it is held by Colonel Lee of Hartwell.
In Stone Hundred, William son of Constantine held at the time of the Domesday Survey 1 virgate and 6 acres of land in Southcote. (fn. 62) This has been identified with SOUTHCOTE in Stone, though the name is now lost. Before the Conquest the land belonged to Ulvric, a man of Archbishop Stigand. (fn. 63) William son of Constantine had granted the land to Suetin. The Domesday entry, however, cannot refer to the whole of Southcote, since at a later date various grants were made to Oseney and Missenden Abbeys. (fn. 64) In the reign of Henry I William Sengler or St. Clere gave 1 messuage with 1 virgate and 2 acres of land to Oseney Abbey, (fn. 65) and Richard le Palmer gave 1 messuage and 1 virgate of land in Southcote and Bishopstone to the abbey. (fn. 66) In the next reign land in Southcote seems to have been granted to Simon de St. Clere with the other land of the family in Stone. (fn. 67) His son Gilbert succeeded him, and in 1254 it was held by another William de St. Clere. (fn. 68) He held 1 hide of land which had apparently been alienated from the serjeanty of Ilmer, (fn. 69) but in 1302–3 it is mentioned as part of the serjeanty of the lord of Ilmer and Aston; (fn. 70) the tenants, however, are not mentioned separately. (fn. 71) Lucy de Brinton, the mother of Simon de St. Clere, held one-sixth of this hide of land in Southcote, and with the consent of Simon, granted it to her younger son Ignarius. (fn. 72) Ignarius granted this land to Missenden Abbey, and the gift was confirmed after his death by his nephew Gilbert. (fn. 73) The abbot paid a rent of ½ lb. of pepper yearly to the St. Cleres, (fn. 74) and when the serjeanty was arrented (fn. 75) he paid 5s. (fn. 76) a year to the Exchequer for 1 virgate of land. One virgate of land was also granted to Oseney Abbey, and the cartulary of the abbey contains a licence from Henry III for the alienation of the serjeanty. (fn. 77) The last time land is mentioned in Southcote is in 1546 in the grant of St. Cleres Manor in Stone to Sir Anthony Lee and John Croke. (fn. 78)
The other half-fee called WEST ORCHARD was held under the Munchesneys by the family of Cloville in the 13th century. In 1234 William de Cloville held half a knight's fee of Warine de Munchesney. (fn. 79) Some years later Savaric de Cloville was the tenant of 2½ hides of land in Stone, (fn. 80) but there is no trace of this land after the reign of Henry III, unless it may be identified with the manor of West Orchard in the township of Hartwell in the parish of Stone. In Hartwell, however, the Bishop of Bayeux (fn. 81) held 4 hides which do not afterwards seem to have belonged to the parish of Hartwell. Three of these were held by the same man, Helto, who was the tenant of the bishop's land in Stone. (fn. 82)
In 1302–3 Hugh de Ver and his tenants held half a fee in Hartwell pertaining to the barony of Swanscombe. (fn. 83) The barony passed to the Earls of Pembroke, and Aymer de Valence died seised of £4 rent in Hartwell and land there. (fn. 84) This was assigned to Mary de St. Paul his widow as part of her dower, (fn. 85) but it belonged to the purparty of Elizabeth Comyn, as one of the heirs of Aymer de Valence. (fn. 86)
In the 15th century Robert Whitingham, who obtained possession of several manors belonging to the honour of Swanscombe, held the manor of West Orchard, and on his attainder the manor was granted to Sir Thomas Montgomery, (fn. 87) and was described as being in the township of Hartwell and the parish of Stone. It was granted with the manor of St. Cleres by Henry VIII and apparently was held with that manor by the Dormers. (fn. 88)
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST consists of a chancel 37 ft. 9 in. by 15 ft. 3 in.; a modern north organ chamber; a nave about 61 ft. long by 19 ft. 9 in. wide; a north aisle 6 ft. 8 in. wide; a north transept 12 ft. by 12 ft. 9 in.; a south transept 16 ft. by 18 ft.; a south porch, and a western tower 11 ft. 8 in. square, all measurements being internal. In the 12th century the church seems to have consisted of an aisleless nave, somewhat shorter than at present, and a chancel, which must have been of about the same width as that now existing, but a good deal shorter. About 1170 a north aisle of three bays was added, and in the first quarter of the 13th century the nave and aisle were carried westward to their present length, the old respond of the arcade being moved and a new pillar set up. In the same century the south transept was added and the chancel was rebuilt to its present dimensions. The north transept and the chancel arch belong to the first part of the 14th century, and towards the close of this century the tower was added. In the 15th century no additions were made to the plan, but the nave walls were heightened and several windows inserted. In modern times the church has been drastically restored, and no doubt much evidence of the earlier work destroyed. The chancel in particular was almost rebuilt in 1843, the north wall of the aisle refaced, and the upper part of the tower greatly modernized. The organ chamber and south porch are quite modern.
The chancel is lit on the east by a modern triplet of lancets, probably reproducing the original arrangement, of which only portions of the relieving arches remain. On the north are two modern lancets, and between them the arched entrance to the organ chamber, which is entirely modern. In the south wall are three lancets, also modern, but showing traces of the ancient openings, and between the second and third is a blocked south door, which retains a little 13th-century masonry. The east gable has been rebuilt together with the upper parts of the north and south walls, and there are traces of a lower steep-pitched roof. The chancel arch is of two chamfered orders with a defaced label on its western face, the inner resting on half-octagonal shafts with moulded capitals and bases; it appears to date from c. 1330. On the north side of the nave is an arcade of four bays, the three eastern of which, c. 1170, have semicircular arches of two square orders, with square capitals and circular columns. The abaci are moulded with a hollow between two rolls, and the capitals, which are shallow and spreading, are worked with boldly projecting foliate volutes on broad stems in very low relief. The respond of the western arch is of the same character, having been moved one bay westward when the arcade was lengthened, and the pillar which takes its place has a simply moulded circular capital of 13th-century date, the arch in this bay being pointed of two chamfered orders. Above the crowns of the arches are traces of square clearstory openings of uncertain but probably late date. The south wall of the nave is in part of 12th-century date, and the position of its original south doorway is to be seen in the masonry a little to the east of the present doorway, which is made up of the materials of its predecessor. The nave walls have been heightened, the line of an older steep-pitched roof showing on the east face of the tower. The north transept appears to be an early 14th-century addition, and has a north window of two uncusped lights, with a plain circle over, and a 15th-century east window of two cinquefoiled lights with a sixfoil over. In its west wall is a small square-headed 17th-century opening, now blocked, and the transept opens to the aisle by a plain pointed arch whose southern respond is built against the first column of the north arcade. The south transept is considerably larger than the north, and was doubtless the Lady chapel. It has three lancets on the south and one on the west, nearly all modern, the head of the western window being cut out of an old stone carved with a rosette. The arch from the nave to the transept is a very rough piece of work with chamfered orders, the inner of which springs from clumsily moulded circular capitals resting on circular shafts; it may be the work of untrained local masons in the 13th century, but cannot be dated by ordinary rules. The east window of the transept is 15th-century work of two lights.
The north aisle is lighted by two square-headed two-light windows on the north, of 15th-century date, and between them is a small four-centred north doorway of the same period. The west window of the aisle is a small lancet, which may be in part of the 13th century, but both its head and sill are modern.
In the south wall of the nave are two two-light windows with a sixfoil in the head, both being to the west of the south doorway. They are of 15th-century style, the first being quite modern, and the other having modern tracery. Between the doorway and the south transept is a blocked 17th-century window of three square-headed lights, high in the wall, which must have formerly lighted a gallery or pulpit. The south doorway has a semicircular head of two orders with late 12th-century detail, zigzag and a keeled roll, only a few of the voussoirs being old, and nook-shafts with capitals of poor style, but of 12th-century date. The old work in the doorway is about contemporary with the north arcade, and if, as seems possible, it has been taken from the older doorway a little further to the east after the lengthening of the nave, it must be assumed that a still earlier doorway formerly existed here, belonging to the aisleless 12th-century church. The south porch is entirely modern, but has at its north-east angle a holy-water stone.
The tower is of mid-14th-century date, but has been very much repaired. It is of three stages with a tiled roof, gabled east and west, and plain parapet resting on a corbel table, carved into ball flowers and grotesques. The belfry windows are of two lights with modern tracery, but the opening and labels are original, and over each is a gargoyle. The tower stairs are in a square south-east turret entered through a 14th-century internal door, and have recently been capped with a pyramidal stone roof. The west window of the ground stage is of two trefoiled lights with tracery over and an ogee label. Below it is an original dcorway very much restored, and with continuously moulded jambs and head, and the east arch of the tower is of three wave-moulded orders with a label returned as a string to the side walls of the nave.
The roofs and the fittings throughout are largely modern, though there are a few old bench ends of simple design and 15th-century date. The font is a very remarkable piece of work, with a heavy circular bowl on a short stem, and a spreading base; the stem, which is ornamented with interlacing patterns, is modern, but the bowl is of the 12th century, perhaps c. 1140, and has round the top a band of interlacing ornament, and on the sides a series of knotwork patterns, all most elaborately enriched with pellets and small carved heads or foliage in the interstices. The principal subject, however, is the figure of a man standing on a serpent between a lion (or wolf) and a dragon, and holding a sword over the head of the former. His left hand is in the mouth of the dragon, who is being attacked from behind by a bird, and in front by a small human figure. Behind the lion is a large fish. The smaller details of carving, heads of beasts, &c., worked into the knotwork patterns, are so unlike ordinary 12th-century work that it must be concluded that much of the carving has been re-worked. In the floor of the nave is a brass to William Gurney of Bishopstone, 1472, and Agnes his wife, the date of whose death is left blank, with their five sons and three daughters. The figures of the wife and children remain, but that of the husband has been lost and replaced by the mutilated early 15th-century figure of a lady.
The tower contains a ring of six bells and a sanctus, the latter by Richard Chandler, 1699. The treble was re-cast in 1883 by Warner & Sons; the second is inscribed 'I as trebll beginn'; the third was cast by Chandler in 1726; the fourth is inscribed 'I as third ring'; the fifth is by Thomas Mears, 1839; and the tenor was re-cast by Warner in 1883. The second and fourth were cast by Ellis Knight in the 17th century, and, as their inscriptions show, formed the treble and third of a former ring.
The first book of the registers contains all entries from 1538, baptisms running to 1752, burials to 1753, and marriages to 1754, while a separate book has burials in wool between 1678 and 1730. The second book contains baptisms and burials between 1753 and 1812, and two books of marriages by banns contain entries between 1754 and 1771, and between 1771 and 1812.
The church of Stone was held in the 12th century with the fee belonging to the honour of Belvoir. In the reign of Henry I William de Bracey granted it to Oseney Abbey, (fn. 89) and his son Gilbert confirmed the grant, and himself gave a messuage and 1 hide of land to the abbey. (fn. 90) This grant was confirmed in the charters of Edward II and Edward III. (fn. 91) The vicarage was ordained before 1271. (fn. 92) At the Dissolution the abbey held the rectory and advowson of the church, which were granted in 1542 to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford. (fn. 93) In 1545 they were, however, given to Sir Anthony Lee, together with St. Cleres Manor. (fn. 94) He must have alienated half the rectory and advowson before his death in 1550, since he then held only one moiety. (fn. 95) In 1553 Sir Robert Dormer died seised of half the rectory, and he probably held half the advowson as well. (fn. 96) His son and heir Sir William Dormer obtained the share of the Lees in 1559, (fn. 97) and afterwards held the whole advowson. (fn. 98) The Lees, however, obtained possession of the rectory and advowson, and in 1662–3 Sir Thomas Lee, bart., obtained a quitclaim from Charles, Earl of Carnarvon, of the advowson and land and tithes, for £100. (fn. 99)
The Lees held the advowson (fn. 100) till 1844, when John Lee, LL.D., then lord of the manor, gave it to the Royal Astronomical Society. He was an original member of the society, and became its president in 1862. (fn. 101) The gift of the advowson was made with a view to the promotion of astronomy in connexion with theology.
Colonel Lee, the present lord of the manor, has, however, lately re-purchased the advowson of the vicarage of Stone. (fn. 102) The ecclesiastical parishes of Stone and Hartwell were united by an Order in Council, dated 18 August 1892, Little Hampden having previously been separated from Hartwell.
The rent from a close of land was surrendered in the reign of Edward VI, having been given for the keeping of an obit in Stone. The land lay in the hamlet of Bishopstone, the rent being 16d. a year, and the clear value being 14d. a year. (fn. 103)
A chapel at Bishopstone is mentioned in a grant of Queen Elizabeth to Sir Edward Stanley. There had been one close of land attached to it, and both had been in the occupation of the vicar of Stone; there seems, however, to be no trace of its origin or date of foundation. (fn. 104)
Sir William Plomer, kt., by will dated 22 October 1800, bequeathed £100 stock, now £100 consols, with the official trustees, the dividends to be applied by the minister and churchwardens in the distribution of bread or meat. In 1906 the sum of £2 10s. was given towards tickets for meat to twenty-eight sick and necessitous persons.