A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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This parish covers 1,171 acres, of which 983 are permanent grass and 138 arable land; there are 14 acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The land falls gradually from about 383 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north to a little under 300 ft. in the south, where the ground is liable to flood from a tributary of the Ouse. The Great Central railway crosses the parish.
There is no actual village, but several scattered farms, among them Sunflower Farm, a stone building dating from the 17th century. On the gable of a staircase wing on the north side is the inscription 'T.B.C. 1662, P.H.' Priory House, built on the site of the small house of Austin Canons established here in 1245 by Ralph de Norwich, (fn. 2) stands about the centre of the parish. The only traces of the old priory are found in the church, which superseded the parish church in 1480, the fishponds and moats. In 1285 the priory buildings, except the church which 'contained the Host,' were burnt by 'certain malevolent persons,' (fn. 3) and the canons were thereupon granted protection whilst collecting alms for their relief. (fn. 4) After the Dissolution the house built here was for many generations the home of the Risleys, but the present house dates only from about 1833. (fn. 5)
In 1290 the prior and canons were granted an annual three-day fair to be held at their priory on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary. (fn. 6)
Half a mile north-east of the church is the Manor House, with the site of the old parish church and graveyard near by. A long avenue of trees leads to the road near which, and at a little distance from the gates, is the site of the hermitage of St. Stephen and St. Lawrence.
The house is a brick and stone building of two stories with an attic, consisting of a T-shaped house of about 1600 with substantial 18th-century and modern additions on the east. The original part retains its stone-mullioned windows, some of which are now blocked, and two old chimney stacks, one with diagonal shafts. The kitchen on the south-west has a wide-arched fireplace, and there is a stone moulded fireplace with a four-centred head in a passage on the first floor. Over the kitchen is an oak panelled room with moulded panels, carved frieze, and oak fireplace and overmantel, all dating from the first half of the 17th century. The fireplace is flanked by columns of Doric type supporting a mantelpiece enriched with conventional ornament and lions' heads, and the overmantel consists of a large panel with an heraldic achievement of Chetwode flanked by Corinthian columns and surmounted by an entablature and cornice.
Willis states that in his time the mansion had been neglected for many generations, as the principal residence of the Chetwode family was at Oakley in Staffordshire. (fn. 7)
The Chetwode family enjoyed considerable rights and privileges in Chetwode, the most interesting of which is that known as the Rhyne toll. Tradition asserts that this toll originated in consequence of a Chetwode having killed a huge and very ferocious wild boar, which had long been the terror of the inhabitants, at a date when this district was to a great extent uncleared forest and on the outskirts of the forest of Bernwood. A discovery which certainly bears out this story was made about 1810. There formerly stood in Barton Hartshorn less than a mile from Chetwode manor-house a large mound surrounded by a ditch locally known as Boar's Pond. The tenant of this property, on levelling the mound, discovered the remains of a wild boar of enormous size; some of the bones were well preserved, and were taken possession of by the Chetwodes. (fn. 8) There appears to be no documentary evidence concerning the toll before the 16th century, but in 1577 a suit was instituted between the widow of one of the Chetwodes and her son concerning their respective rights in the manor and in the rhyne toll, and in the records of the suit there occurs a very full and interesting account of the toll. (fn. 9)
It was found that the common of the manor consisted of 2,000 acres in Chetwode, Barton, Tingewick, Gawcott, Preston, Hillesden, Prebend End in Buckingham, and Lenborough, and that the lord had, for three days yearly, between Michaelmas and Martinmas, 'a drift of all cattle that should be found in those three days within the said commons, called the Rhyne, in the manner following: In the begining of the said drift of the common or Rhyne, first at their going forth they shall blow a welke-shell or horn immediately after the sun rising at the mansion house of the manor of Chetwode; and then in their going about they shall blow their horn a second time in the field between North Purcell and Barton Hartshorn in the said county; and shall also blow their horn a third time at a place near the town of Finmere in the county of Oxfordshire; and they shall blow the fourth time at a certain stone in the market town of Buckingham and there give the poor 6d., and so going forward in this manner about the said drift shall blow the horn at several bridges called Thornborough bridge, King's bridge and Bridge Mill. And also they shall blow their horn at the Pounde Gate called the Lord's Pounde in Chetwode. The lord of the manor has all the time been used, by officers and servants, to drive away all foreign cattle that shall be found within the said three days within the parishes and fields aforesaid, to impound the same in any pound in the said towns and to take for every beast 2d. for the mouth and 1d. for a foot for every one of them.' Further details follow concerning the claiming of the cattle during the next three days; if unclaimed at the end of that time they became the property of the lord.
The nature of the toll has changed slightly since that date. During the 19th century the custom has been, after the blowing of horns at 9 a.m. on 30 October, to levy a tax of 2s. per score on all cattle or swine driven through the said districts between that time and midnight on 7 November. The local farmers usually compound for immunity for 1s. per annum. The right of the lord to collect has more than once been upheld legally against those refusing to pay. The proceeds of the tax, amounting earlier in the century to £20, greatly diminished after the advent of the railway. It was rented at 25s. per annum in 1863. (fn. 10) It appears to have lapsed for a period about the year 1884, (fn. 11) but was afterwards renewed. (fn. 12)
An Inclosure Act for this parish was passed in 1812. (fn. 16)
The first mention of land at CHETWODE occurs in a charter of 949, in which it was stated that Ælfstan had sold to Æthelflede 20 'manentes' at Chetwode and Hillesden. (fn. 17) At the date of the charter the land appears to have been held by Eadred, King of Northumbria. (fn. 18) The boundaries of this land are given; they began at the 'holy oak,' and stretched towards Chieveley in Berkshire. (fn. 19)
Later Chetwode was held as a manor by Alnod Chentisc, a thegn of Edward the Confessor, and in 1086 it was among the possessions of Odo of Bayeux. (fn. 20) In the 13th century the overlordship belonged to the Say family, (fn. 21) and was held by them as late as 1531, (fn. 22) when the last mention of it occurs.
Robert de Thame was the bishop's tenant at the time of the Survey. (fn. 23) In 1166–7 'Robert,' possibly Robert de Chewod or Chetwode mentioned in 1199, (fn. 24) rendered account of half a mark for Chetwode. (fn. 25) This was probably the father of Robert de Chetwode, who held the manor in 1224, in which year, his son Robert having predeceased him, he settled half the manor on Annora, the widow, as dower. (fn. 26) He appears to have still held in 1234–5 (fn. 27); between 1235 and 1247 Ralph de Chetwode was lord. (fn. 28) Robert de Vitteney held Chetwode in wardship in 1254–5, (fn. 29) and in 1284 Robert de Chetwode was lord. (fn. 30) John de Chetwode, who was knight of the shire in 1298 and 1302, (fn. 31) had succeeded before 1302–3. (fn. 32) He married Amice, and made a settlement of the manor in 1313. (fn. 33) Apparently he married a second wife Jane, as John de Chetwode, sen., and Jane his wife held the manor in 1324. (fn. 34) He was succeeded by another John before 1346. (fn. 35) Later in the reign of Edward III Nicholas de Chetwode, son of John, was lord of the manor. (fn. 36) He married Elizabeth de Lyons, and was followed by his son John, (fn. 37) who was knight of the shire in 1386 and 1395, (fn. 38) and by his grandson Thomas, (fn. 39) the last-named being alive in the reign of Henry VI. (fn. 40) His two daughters died without issue, (fn. 41) and the manor passed to his sister Elizabeth, wife of Thomas de Wahull or Wodhull, kt. (fn. 42) She died holding it in 1475 and was succeeded by her grandson John, son of Thomas. (fn. 43) John was followed by a son Fulk and grandson Nicholas. (fn. 44) At the death of the latter in 1531 Chetwode became the property of his son Anthony, (fn. 45) who married Ann Smith and died in 1542, leaving a daughter and heir, Agnes, aged only seventeen days. (fn. 46) She married Richard Chetwode, a distant relation, a younger son of the Chetwodes of Oakley in Staffordshire, a younger branch of the original family, (fn. 47) whose name thus became again associated with the place.
A statute passed in 1558–9 for restoring to the Crown its ancient ecclesiastical and spiritual jurisdiction has a proviso by which Richard and Agnes Chetwode—who had appealed to Rome against Cardinal Pole's decision that their marriage was invalid—were allowed to abide by the decision of the papal court, 'any lawe, costume, usage, canon, to the contrary notwithstanding.' (fn. 48) After the death of Richard his widow married Sir George Calveley; at her death in 1576 her heir was her son Richard Chetwode, a minor. (fn. 49) In 1613 the latter presented a petition to the king claiming the ancient barony in fee of Wahull, as sole lineal heir of the Wahull barons; a full account of this claim and of similar ones made later by his descendants is given in the history of Odell in Bedfordshire. (fn. 50) Richard Chetwode's son Richard married Ann Knightley, but died during the lifetime of his father. (fn. 51) Valentine Chetwode, grandson and heir of the latter, held the manor in 1634–49. (fn. 52) He did not die until 1685, but before this time the manor appears to have been sold to the Chetwodes of Oakley, descendants of the elder brother of Agnes Wodhull's husband Richard Chetwode. (fn. 53) John Chetwode of Oakley and Eleanor his wife held this manor by 1666, (fn. 54) and were succeeded by their son Philip, who married Hester Touchet. (fn. 55) John Chetwode, son of Philip and Hester, was created a baronet in 1700. (fn. 56) He dealt with the manor by fine in 1728 (fn. 57) and died in 1733. (fn. 58) His descendants continued to hold Chetwode, (fn. 59) and the seventh baronet, Sir Philip Walhouse Chetwode, is now lord of the manor.
A mill worth 30d. was among the appurtenances of the manor in 1086, (fn. 60) and is again mentioned in 1223. (fn. 61) No further record of it appears until the 16th century, when Robert Harris and James Bradshaw were successively millers of Chetwode. (fn. 62) The latter achieved some notoriety in his time, being implicated in an intended rising of the people in Oxfordshire in 1596. (fn. 63) The plans were discovered, and Bradshaw, as one of the ringleaders, was sent up for examination—his hands pinioned, his legs bound under his horse's belly, speech forbidden, and guarded at night at the inns where they lodged. He, 'being a miller and travelling the county,' had undertaken to persuade others to join in the riot, the cause of which appears to have been mainly the high price of wheat, so that he 'wondered what poor men would do,' and with his comrades, judging that 'it would never be well till the gentlemen were knocked down,' he had proposed attacking Lord Norreys' house and securing the armour and two field pieces which stood there. (fn. 64) The water-mill was still held by the lord of the manor in 1641, and is mentioned as late as 1785. (fn. 65)
In 1226–7 Ralph de Norwich acquired the following parcels of land in Chetwode: 1 virgate from William le Nenu, (fn. 66) 4½ virgates from Sibyl Gargate of Caversfield, (fn. 67) and 2 virgates 2 acres from Robert de Easington and Sibyl his wife, to be held for a pair of gauntlets. (fn. 68) In 1231–2 he acquired, further, 1 virgate from William son of Ralph to be held for a pair of white gloves or 1d. (fn. 69) and 1 virgate from William Perdun (?). (fn. 70) In 1235 he received a life exemption from suit at the county and hundred courts, and from sheriffs' aids and hidages due from his lands here. (fn. 71) In 1241 Sibyl Gargate quitclaimed to him a further 4½ virgates. (fn. 72) In 1245 he received licence to found the priory of Chetwode, (fn. 73) and in 1246 conveyed to the prior 10 virgates of land in Chetwode and elsewhere, (fn. 74) which probably included the main part of the above grants, and which became known later as the MANOR OF CHETWODE PRIORY. Ralph reserved to himself for life a capital messuage, paying annually 2 lb. of wax, with reversion to the prior at his death, the whole to be held by the priors of Ralph and his heirs. (fn. 75) In the same year Sibyl Gargate quitclaimed 4 virgates, saving to herself for life the capital messuage, for which she gave the prior 4 lb. of wax annually. (fn. 76) In 1254–5 the priory lands in Chetwode amounted to 2 hides and half a virgate (fn. 77); in 1284 the prior was found to hold the site and 8½ virgates of Robert de Chetwode. (fn. 78) In 1540, after the dissolution of Nutley Abbey, to which the priory and its possessions had been annexed, (fn. 79) the site of the priory was granted as a manor to William Risley and his wife Alice in fee. (fn. 80) He died in 1552, leaving as heir his son William, (fn. 81) who died in 1603, his son Paul succeeding to the manor. (fn. 82) Paul married Dorothy Temple and died seised in 1626, his eldest son and heir being William. (fn. 83) William, however, did not succeed to the property. His father, by deeds of 1623 and 1626, had provided out of the estate for his younger children, Anne, Dorothy, Mary, Elizabeth, Crescens, Paul and Peter, and had granted an annuity to William. The remainder was held by trustees to the use of his son Thomas in tail, (fn. 84) and Thomas afterwards held the manor. (fn. 85) He was sheriff of the county in 1666 (fn. 86) and died in 1671, his son and heir being John, who married Cristiana. (fn. 87) John's only child, a daughter, died young, and as his cousin and heir Henry, son of his uncle Paul, mentioned in the settlements of 1623 and 1626, was alien born, as were Henry's two sons, John Risley at his death in 1682 left Chetwode to trustees until the heirs were naturalized, when Henry was to hold for life and his sons in tail-male. (fn. 88) Paul son of Henry Risley (fn. 89) was in possession by 1696 (fn. 90) and still held in 1735, (fn. 91) but had been succeeded four years later (fn. 92) by his sister's son Risley Brewer, who took the surname of Risley. (fn. 93) He made a settlement of the manor in 1741, (fn. 94) was sheriff of the county in 1744, (fn. 95) and died in 1755, (fn. 96) when letters of administration were granted to his widow Anne, since his father Thomas Brewer, whom he had made his sole executor and universal legatee by a will of 1739, had predeceased him. (fn. 97) In 1767 the manor was held by William Jesson and Hannah his wife and William Wither. (fn. 98) William Jesson was the grandson of the granddaughter and heir of the Anne Risley mentioned in the deeds of 1623 and 1626, (fn. 99) and apparently by this date the heir of the Risley family. His daughters and heirs were Hannah Freeman, wife of William Pearson, and Elizabeth Pudsey, wife of Thomas Grosbeck Lynch. (fn. 100) Ann Jesson, spinster, probably a third daughter, quitclaimed a moiety of the manor to the former couple in 1788, (fn. 101) and later in the same year both co-heirs and their husbands quitclaimed a moiety to Abraham Bracebridge, husband of Mary Holte, niece of William Jesson. (fn. 102) William Jesson Pearson, son of William and Hannah, (fn. 103) held a fourth part in 1805 (fn. 104) and 1808, (fn. 105) and Henry Gratian Lynch was seised of a like portion in 1816. (fn. 106) Before 1829, however, the whole manor had become the property of Walter Henry Bracebridge and Mary Holte Bracebridge his wife, (fn. 107) nephew and daughter respectively of Abraham Bracebridge. (fn. 108) They had held a part at least of the manor in 1812. (fn. 109) The priory estate was held by the Bracebridge family as late as 1883, (fn. 110) after which it passed to its present possessor, Major G. F. Green.
The church of ST. MARY AND ST. NICHOLAS consists of chancel and nave in one rectangular building, measuring internally 57 ft. 6 in. by 24 ft., north chapel 21 ft. by 16 ft. and north-west tower 8 ft. 6 in. by 8 ft.; it is built of stone rubble and roofed with slate.
The chancel and nave, which formed the quire of the priory church founded here in the 13th century, date probably from about 1250, (fn. 111) and the north chapel was added during the first half of the 14th century. The priory was dissolved in 1460, and while the quire and north chapel were preserved as the parish church, the nave and other conventual buildings have since disappeared. A rough sketch plan of the buildings, made during the reign of Elizabeth and preserved in the Bodleian library at Oxford, (fn. 112) shows a transeptal church with the cloister and conventual buildings on the south and a churchyard on the north, a nave about the same length and width as the quire, and a tower at the north-west of the nave. After the Dissolution a wall was built across the west end of the original quire and the present tower was added at a later period. The church was very considerably restored and partly rebuilt early in the 19th century, and has since been further restored.
Practically the whole of the east wall is occupied by a graceful group of five tall lancets of the original date of the quire, (fn. 113) with internal jamb shafts having moulded capitals and bases, edge rolls with foliated capitals, and richly moulded rear arches; the lancets increase in height to the centre, and as the capitals are all on the same level the central arches are stilted. In each of the north and south walls, near the east end, is a triplet of similar lancets, the shaft capitals of which are enriched with foliage and grotesques. Below the southern group is an arcade of four richly moulded arches of the same period. The eastern recess probably contained the piscina, while the other three formed the sedilia; the divisions and responds are formed of grouped shafts with moulded bases and foliated capitals, and, like the arches, are enriched with dog-tooth ornament. The third arch from the east, which is wider than the others, has been repaired, and the back has been opened out to form a doorway. At the west end of the south wall, in that part of the old quire now used as the nave, are two windows of about 1300, placed close together and high in the wall, each of two lights with tracery under a pointed head; in the north wall opposite is a two-light window of about the same period, the traceried head of which has been replaced by a modern lintel. Between the latter and the north-east lancets are a 14th-century pointed arch to the chapel and a 13th-century pointed recess, the former being of two orders, the outer continuous and the inner springing from crowned head corbels. At the back of the recess there is some contemporary painting. The tower arch at the north end of the west wall springs from 17thcentury moulded corbels, and is coated with plaster; south of it are a two-light window of about 1300, with interlacing tracery, which has been reset in the wall, and another two-light window, which is probably modern. In the southeast window is some fine mediaeval glass, removed here from the east window and restored. The central lancet is filled with 13th-century grisaille, including two vesicae, one a beautiful panel of St. John Baptist on a blue background, holding an Agnus Dei, and the other inclosing the figure of an archbishop in mass vestments; at the foot of the light is a shield of England. The upper part of the eastern lancet is filled with 13th-century grisaille, including a green and red cross, and in the lower part is a 14th-century figure of a saint in an architectural setting; the west light is similarly divided, the upper including a circular panel representing the Crucifixion and the lower three 14th-century figures—the Blessed Virgin, St. Peter, and a bishop, the latter being at the foot of the light with the fragmentary inscription 'Amicus dei Nicholaus.'
The north chapel has an original two-light traceried window in the west wall, but the east window, of two square-headed lights, is modern. Both the east wall and the north wall, which is pierced by a modern doorway, have been rebuilt.
The low tower is of two stages, coated with roughcast, and is surmounted by a pyramidal tiled roof. The ground stage has a modern west doorway and a late two-light window above with a square head. The bell-chamber is lighted by square-headed windows similare to that on the ground stage.
On the north wall of the chancel is a mural monument, flanked by weeping figures and surmounted by an urn, to Mary daughter of Paul Risley, who died in 1668, and on the chancel floor are a 15th-century marble slab with matrices for brasses, and three 17thcentury slabs to members of the Risley family. Below a door, in the wood floor near the organ and at the original floor level, is a stone slab of about 1350 with an incised foliated cross and the following marginal inscription, now somewhat indistinct: 'Sir Jon Giffard gist icey De sa alme Dieu pur pyte ait mercy.'
A table in the north chapel, part of another in the tower, and an oak chest in the chapel, all probably date from the 17th century, while some panelling of the same period has been re-used in the chapel.
There are two bells. One inscribed in Lombardic characters, 'me tibi xe dabat i chetwode quern peramabat,' probably dates from about 1350, and the other is a small bell with no inscription, but apparently of 18th-century date.
The church of Chetwode is mentioned in 1223, at which date the advowson was held by Robert de Chetwode. (fn. 114) The dedication to St. Martin is mentioned in an institution of 1234–5. (fn. 115) It remained appurtenant to the manor (fn. 116) until the end of the 14th century. The Prior and convent of Chetwode obtained licence in 1349 to acquire the church in mortmain and to appropriate it (fn. 117); the appropriation, however, did not take place until 1389–91, when a further licence from the Crown (fn. 118) and from the bishop (fn. 119) was obtained; a conveyance of the advowson from John de Chetwode to the prior was made in the latter year. (fn. 120) It was surrendered with the priory to Nutley Abbey in 1460. (fn. 121) In 1480, owing to the state of decay into which St. Martin's Church had fallen, an agreement was made between the Abbot of Nutley and the parishioners by which the priory church was finally given to the inhabitants of Chetwode for parochial use, save fourteen times a year, when service was to be held in the old parish church. (fn. 122) Since that time the priory church has been regarded as the parish church, and the advowson has descended with the priory estate, being at present held by Major G. F. Green and annexed to the living of Barton Hartshorn.
By the agreement of 1480 (fn. 123) the bishop decreed that the old church of St. Martin was to be regarded as a chapel depending on the sometime conventual, now parochial, church as long as the said chapel should be kept in repair by the parishioners. The Abbot of Nutley, however, was at liberty to remove to the parish church, for which he was responsible, the font of St. Martin's, with timber, lead, &c., for repairs, 'leaving enough to inclose the east end of the said chapel.' Neither party was to cut down trees in the old churchyard; the lord of the manor was to keep it in repair and have profits of grass there, while he and all the parishioners were to have right of way through the abbot's 'Church-breche close' and Town-breche, by which dwellers in the manor of Chetwode had been wont to come to the priory.
These arrangements led to disputes after the Dissolution. About the middle of the 16th century, after the Risleys had obtained the possessions of Nutley Abbey in Chetwode, the inhabitants of the parish lodged a series of complaints against the family. (fn. 124) It was alleged that the Risleys had entered the old church and had 'rased and plucked down all the stones, timber, iron, glass, lead and bells and all trees in the churchyard and taken it to their own use.' On a recent occasion, moreover, they had come upon the complainants, who were sitting listening to divine service in the parish or priory church and had driven them out so that 'now they durst not come to the said cell or priory as their parish church, but go to other towns instead.' They also complained that William Risley had made a well-house in the said cell and had 'appointed well-winders there to wind his well to the nuisance of your said orators during divine service.' He had also built a lime-house in the church and had put his cattle in the churchyard, making it very dirty. Risley, in his defence, denied the riot and said that it was the parishioners themselves who had desecrated St. Martin's by removing materials, but that, in any case, he had a right to it since, by the deed of 1480, St. Martin's, a much smaller building than the priory church, had become a chapel at the disposal of the abbot, and thus was now his property. He also claimed that the bigger church was, similarly, his private property, and as a result of this or a later quarrel appears to have taken part of the south cross aisle or transept into his house. (fn. 125) It was at this time probably that the nave and transepts were destroyed.
The north cross-aisle or transept belonged in Willis's time to the Chetwode family. (fn. 126) In 1480 the abbot guaranteed to the lord of Chetwode that the abbot and his successors should cause mass to be said daily for the souls of the Chetwodes in the parish church, in place of the canon whom the family claimed to have continually 'found singing in the said Priory of Chetwode.' (fn. 127) This right may have originated when the Chetwode hermitage or chapel fell into disuse. There is, however, no other connexion between it and the priory. (fn. 128)
The hermitage of St. Stephen and St. Lawrence was founded by Robert de Chetwode in the 12th or early 13th century, (fn. 129) and presentation was made by the lords of Chetwode until 1359. (fn. 130) In the register of Bishop Grosteste (1235–52), when presentation was made to the 'hermitage and chapel,' it was stated that the said hermitage had afterwards been properly dedicated and was now only called a hermitage by the laity on account of its solitude, and not because a hermit had ever lived there; but the chaplain serving there was wont to wear secular dress and live there with his family, having 24 acres of land to sow. (fn. 131) After the presentation of 1359 there is no further mention of the foundation.