A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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BLETCHLEY with FENNY STRATFORD and WATER EATON
Bletchley, which includes the hamlet of Water Eaton and until 1881–91 also included part of the market town of Fenny Stratford, (fn. 1) is a large and lowlying parish, watered on the east by the River Ouzel and the Grand Junction Canal, which run almost parallel through Fenny Stratford and Water Eaton. To the west of the canal the land rises slightly, but its greatest height is 372 ft. above the ordnance datum, reached at Windmill Hill, a little west of Bletchley village. The upper surface is strong clay and the subsoil Oxford Clay.
The London and North Western railway passes almost due south through the parish, and there are important railway works at Bletchley station, the junction of the Bedford and Cambridge and the Banbury and Oxford branch lines with the main line. On the former branch is a station at Fenny Stratford.
Bletchley has an area of 1,308 acres, of which 970 are permanent grass and 185 arable land. (fn. 2) In 1862 it was described as 'scattered and mean-looking—consisting chiefly of poor thatched cottages,' built in two sections, The Green and The Town. (fn. 3) The older houses, still for the most part thatched, are halftimbered with brick filling, and date from the 17th century. Bletchley village is about half a mile west of the station. The church stands a little to the north-west of the village, and is approached by a fine avenue of ancient yews; near it is one of the entrances to Bletchley Park, the seat of Sir Herbert Leon, bart. The park extends as far as the railway. The Rectory Cottages, to the south of the church, incorporate the remains of a small half-timber house of the 15th century. The hall, which is now used as a barn, retains two hammer-beam trusses, one of which is in a comparatively perfect state and has carved heads at the terminations of the hammerbeams. The hall appears to have been originally of three bays, but the easternmost bay has been rebuilt, and now forms part of one of the cottages which occupy the adjoining chamber wing. This portion of the house appears to have been much altered and largely rebuilt in the 17th century, but some moulded beams of original date still remain in the ceiling of the room on the ground floor next the hall. The modern 'town' of Bletchley has grown up round the railway works, and is now practically united to Fenny Stratford. A Wesleyan chapel was built at Bletchley in 1895.
South-east of Bletchley is the hamlet of Water Eaton (fn. 4) (Etone, xi cent.; Eton, Etone, xii–xvi cent.), which has an area of 1,016 acres and a population of 201. Charters were dated from Water Eaton in 1228. (fn. 5) In 1725 there was a great flood here. (fn. 6) On the river bank is a corn-mill. There is a Wesleyan Methodist chapel here.
About one and a quarter miles south of Water Eaton, on the bank of the canal, is Waterhall Farm, probably marking the site of the mansion of Waterhall, formerly belonging to the Lords Grey de Wilton. (fn. 7) In 1711 Browne Willis, the eccentric Buckinghamshire antiquary, built a house on rising ground by Bletchley Church, which, as William Cole says, 'he very absurdly . . . called . . . Water Hall.' (fn. 8) He never lived there, and in 1780 it was put up for auction. (fn. 9) Lipscomb says it was at some time purchased by Earl Spencer's steward, who pulled it entirely down. (fn. 10) About 1862 there were remaining two portions of what might have been the out offices and a great portion of a moat still full of water. It was approached 'by avenues of elm and lime trees from each side.' (fn. 11)
Browne Willis (1682–1760), eldest son of Thomas Willis, (fn. 12) was owner of the Bletchley estate from 1699 to 1760. He was M.P. for the borough of Buckingham from 1705 to 1708, (fn. 13) and was elected F.S.A. in 1718. 'Through his charitable gifts, his portions to his married children, and the expenditure of £5,000 on the building of Waterhall, he ruined his fine estate, and was obliged towards the end of his days to dress meanly and to live in squalor, becoming very dirty and penurious, so that he was often taken for a beggar.' He died at Whaddon and was buried beneath the altar in Fenny Stratford Church; he left a benefaction for a sermon there every year on St. Martin's Day. (fn. 14)
The town of Fenny Stratford lies to the north of Water Eaton, on Watling Street; its area is 1,040 acres. The church stands at the junction of Watling Street and Aylesbury Street, and near it are Baptist, Wesleyan and two Primitive Methodist chapels, built in 1800, 1809, 1866 and 1898 respectively. A cemetery with two mortuary chapels was opened in 1859. There are a few 17thcentury houses and cottages of half-timber with brickfilling.
Among the rectors presented by Browne Willis to the living of Bletchley were Edward Wells (1716), an 18th-century mathematician and geographer, (fn. 15) and William Cole (1753), the Cambridge antiquary and friend of Horace Walpole. (fn. 16)
Lands in Bletchley were inclosed in 1517. (fn. 17) Inclosures were made in Fenny Stratford and Bow Brickhill under an Act of 1793. (fn. 18) The common lands in Bletchley parish were inclosed under an Act of 1810, (fn. 19) the award being made in 1813. (fn. 20)
The following place-names occur: 'Le Cok super le Hope,' 'Le Key sur le Hope' (fn. 21) (xv cent.), Cotmanfield (fn. 22) (xvi cent.), Coketowne End, Madgestewehedge, (fn. 23) Rickly Close (fn. 24) (xvii cent.).
The market town and ancient borough of FENNY STRATFORD (Fenni Stretford or Venni Stretford, xiii cent.) owed its importance to its position on Watling Street, between Stony Stratford and Dunstable. Though the site of the Roman station Magiovintum has now been definitely proved to be at the Auld Fields, Dropshort, Little Brickhill, a short distance to the south of the modern Fenny Stratford and on Watling Street, (fn. 25) yet there is no doubt that Fenny Stratford was afterwards an important place of call on the chief highway between London and the north-west of England. The activity of the townspeople appears to have centred on the bridge over the Ouzel, possibly on the same site as the present threearched bridge of brick with stone coping, and in 1347 a royal writ was issued to the sheriff of the county to cause as many bridges to be made from Leighton Buzzard to Fenny Stratford as used to be there, and to compel all those to come who were bound to construct or repair those bridges. (fn. 26) The Fenny Stratford Bridge may have been included among those in need of repair, for in 1383 a grant of pontage was made to Richard Candeler and Geoffrey Hall of Fenny Stratford. (fn. 27) This was repeated in 1398 (fn. 28) and again in 1401, when the grant was made to the 'good men of the town.' (fn. 29) The town had attained the rank of a borough before 1370, when the burgesses paid 40s. rent to the lord of the manor for half the vill of Fenny Stratford. (fn. 30) There is also a mention of burgage tenements in 1429 (fn. 31) and in 1624. (fn. 32) The organization of the burgesses for judicial and administrative purposes appears to have been of the slightest, and their corporate action was exercised solely, so far as is known, in connexion with the gild founded in 1493 (see below). The Patent granting them licence to found the gild constituted it a corporate body with a common seal. (fn. 33) There is no record of any attempt on its part to usurp authority in regulating town affairs, and the chief control appears to have vested in the lord of the manor. It was to Roger de Caux, the lord, and not to the townspeople, that a weekly market on Mondays was granted in 1204. (fn. 34) The locality specified was the manor of Water Eaton, but it may be safely presumed that the market was held from the first at Fenny Stratford, the position of which on a great thoroughfare with a constant stream of travellers made it a more suitable venue. Moreover, the weekly Monday market at Fenny Stratford is included among the appurtenances of Water Eaton Manor in 1324, (fn. 35) when the tolls and stallage fees for a little over one-third of the year amounted to 7s. 6d. (fn. 36) An annual fair was also granted to the lord of the manor of Fenny Stratford in 1252, to be held on the vigil and feast of the Nativity of the Virgin (8 September) and six following days. (fn. 37)
James I, by charter in 1608, granted to John and Francis Duncombe and the inhabitants of Fenny Stratford a free market on Monday and two fairs on 7, 8 and 9 April and on 12, 13 and 14 October, with tolls and court of pie-powder. (fn. 38) Towards the end of the 17th century, 'by the confusion of the Civil Wars and other accidents that followed,' (fn. 39) the market fell into disuse. It was revived by Browne Willis in 1702, (fn. 40) and was still held in 1792, but by 1888 it had altogether ceased. (fn. 41) In 1792 four annual fairs on 19 April, 18 July, 10 October and 28 November were held. By 1888 an additional fair was held on the second and fourth Thursdays in every month, probably identical with the present cattle market held every alternate Thursday. Fairs are still held on 19 April and 11 October. The Market House, the 'sorry little erection' mentioned in 1819, (fn. 42) was built by Browne Willis in 1716, but destroyed about 1840. (fn. 43)
In 1436 John Peyntour of Fenny Stratford, 'peyntour' and king's approver, and others were indicted of having in 1419 'sweated and clipped genuine English money, to wit, nobles of choice gold, called "Edwardes" . . . and other nobles, . . . pence called "penyes of topens" and of having coined counterfeit money.' (fn. 44) At the same date mention is made of Brabanters, who had settled at Fenny Stratford and taken the oath of fealty. (fn. 45)
Fenny Stratford is not mentioned by Leland or Stukeley, but that it maintained its early importance is shown by the frequent references to its inns. The Swan Inn was standing in 1474, (fn. 46) and is mentioned in 1624 (fn. 47); the George Inn, mentioned in 1459, (fn. 48) was taken down in 1681, (fn. 49) because it hindered the custom of the 'Red Lion.' (fn. 50) The Bull Inn was built before 1609. (fn. 51) The Civil War struck the first note of decay. (fn. 52) Troops were quartered in the town by Sir William Waller in 1644, (fn. 53) and during the war the chapel was destroyed. In 1665 a further disaster befel the town in the shape of a terrible visitation of the plague. (fn. 54) The Bletchley registers show a list of 126 burials in that year, mostly of deaths from the plague. (fn. 55) The road was temporarily diverted and the inns closed. (fn. 56) For many years the market was discontinued. Evidence of the distress occasioned is afforded by a contemporary deed, which, referring to a row of church houses standing in the middle of the town for the poor to dwell in, mentions a messuage much ruined by the poor who inhabited it in the late war and pestilence. (fn. 57) The town has never recovered its former status. It is described by Camden in the 18th century as remarkable only for its inns and market. (fn. 58) A diary of 1768 refers to it as 'a very small disunited village, not sufficiently considerable to deserve observation.' (fn. 59) In 1819 it is described as a small decayed market town, built in the shape of a cross. (fn. 60)
Fenny Stratford was still only a chapelry, partly in the parish of Bletchley and partly in Simpson, in 1831, (fn. 61) but with the opening of large railway works at Bletchley it has once more acquired a measure of prosperity. It was formed into a separate civil parish between 1881 and 1891, and by Local Government Board Order in 1895 was with Simpson constituted an urban district. The Order was extended in 1898 to include Bletchley. (fn. 62) The people are chiefly employed on the railway; brushes are made, and market gardening is an important industry. Formerly strawplait and lace were the chief manufactures, but these trades have died out. (fn. 63)
Bletchley contains two manors, neither of which is mentioned in the Domesday Survey. At that date the first manor was included in the more important one of Water Eaton. It first occurs as a separate manor in 1499, (fn. 64) and has always descended with Water Eaton.
The second manor, known as OVER (fn. 65) or WEST (fn. 66) or OLD (fn. 67) BLETCHLEY, or 'le Westmanirade' (fn. 68) (xiv cent.), was perhaps included in the adjacent manor of Great Brickhill in the Domesday Survey, for, like Brickhill, it was afterwards attached as half a fee to the honour of Giffard or Gloucester, (fn. 69) which descended in the Earls of Gloucester and Stafford, to whom an annual rent of 2s. was paid from this manor. (fn. 70) By the early 17th century the tenure was unknown. (fn. 71)
Early in the 13th century this manor was held by John Grey, (fn. 72) who was accused of withdrawing at Bletchley a hide of land which before was geldable and did suit at the county and hundred courts. (fn. 73) He was also lord of Water Eaton, with which place Bletchley formed one vill, the estate being known as the vill of Eaton cum Bletchley in 1284–6 (fn. 74) and as Bletchley cum membris in 1316. (fn. 75) It descended with Water Eaton until the death of John Grey in 1323, when, in accordance with a settlement of 1311, it passed to his younger son Roger, (fn. 76) Henry, the elder son, renouncing all claim in 1328. (fn. 77) Roger was summoned to Parliament as Baron Grey (de Ruthyn) from 1324. (fn. 78) He died in 1353, (fn. 79) having settled Bletchley on his son Reynold and Eleanor his wife. (fn. 80) Reynold died in 1388, (fn. 81) and Eleanor held the manor till her death in 1396. (fn. 82) Their son Reynold (fn. 83) was a privy councillor to Henry IV, with whom he was in great favour. He died in 1440, and, his son John having predeceased him, he was succeeded by his grandson Edmund. (fn. 84) He was created Earl of Kent by Edward IV in 1465, (fn. 85) having deserted Henry VI at the battle of Northampton, 1460. He died in 1489, succeeded by his eldest surviving son George, (fn. 86) who had been knighted at the coronation of Richard III. (fn. 87) On the death of George in 1503 Bletchley descended to his son Richard, who died without issue in 1524, 'when he had greatly wasted his estate.' (fn. 88) His half-brother and heir Sir Henry Grey (fn. 89) never assumed the title, nor did his grandson Reynold till 1572, ten years after his succession. (fn. 90) He died in 1573, succeeded by his brother Henry, who in 1601 dealt with the manor of Bletchley, (fn. 91) probably in settlement on his nephew Henry on his marriage with Lady Elizabeth Talbot. (fn. 92) Henry Earl of Kent died without issue in January 1614–15, (fn. 93) and his brother and heir Charles in 1623. (fn. 94) Charles's son Henry sold Bletchley in 1630 (fn. 95) to Katherine dowager Duchess of Buckingham, (fn. 96) whose son George sold it to Thomas Willis in 1674. (fn. 97) Since that date Bletchley has descended with Water Eaton.
The manor of FENNY STRATFORD is first mentioned in 1252, when it was held by John Grey, (fn. 98) with whose manor of Water Eaton it has always descended.
The manor of WATER EATON was held before the Conquest by Edith; she could sell it to whom she wished. At the Conquest it was given to Geoffrey Bishop of Coutances, who held in 1086. It was then assessed at 10 hides. (fn. 99) The bishop rebelled against William II in 1088, (fn. 100) and his estate of Water Eaton is said to have been given to Walter Giffard Earl of Buckingham about 1092. (fn. 101) The chief authority for this grant is the confirmation by Walter Giffard, his son, (fn. 102) to the priory of Newton Longville of the tithes of the demesne of Bletchley. (fn. 103) The younger Walter died without issue in 1164, and this manor is said to have passed to his aunt Rose, (fn. 104) wife of Richard Fitz Gilbert, grandfather of the first Earl of Pembroke. (fn. 105) The head of the Giffards' Norman honour was Longueville in the Pays de Caux, (fn. 106) and it was possibly as the Fitz Gilberts' tenant that Roger de Caux held Water Eaton in 1204. (fn. 107) It may, however, have been granted to Gerard de Caux by Henry I along with land in Ludgershall, (fn. 108) as it was held by the same tenure, by a serjeanty of falconry mentioned for the first time in 1210–12. (fn. 109) In 1284–6 the kind and number of falcons were stated to be unknown (fn. 110); in 1308 the service was given as that of keeping the king's gerfalcons at the king's expense, (fn. 111) and in 1324 of keeping one gerfalcon only. (fn. 112) In 1343 Water Eaton was stated to be held by service of keeping one falcon until the time of flight. Upon taking this falcon to the king the tenant received the king's riding horse with trappings, and the table with trestles, linen and all vessels from which the king was served that day, and a tun of wine immediately after the king had tasted it. (fn. 113) This service is again mentioned in 1370 (fn. 114) and in 1511. (fn. 115) The last reference occurs in 1563. (fn. 116)
The Caux family had an interest here in 1212, (fn. 117) and Roger de Caux presented to the church in 1219. (fn. 118) Before 1235 John Grey was returned as holder of Water Eaton, (fn. 119) and there is no further mention of the Caux family in this place. John Grey was Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1238 (fn. 120); he is said to have married Helen the daughter of Richard Fitz Gilbert and his wife Rose. (fn. 121) In 1243 he had a grant of free warren in his demesne lands of Water Eaton and Bletchley, with licence to hunt the fox, wolf, hare and cat in all the royal forests, except in the king's demesne warrens. (fn. 122) His manor of Water Eaton was broken into by malefactors in 1265 and his cattle were carried away. (fn. 123) He died in 1266, and was succeeded by his eldest son Reynold, (fn. 124) who in 1284–6 was lord of the vill of Water Eaton. (fn. 125) From 1295 he was summoned to Parliament as Lord de Grey. (fn. 126) He died in 1308 (fn. 127) and his son John in 1323. (fn. 128) John's son Henry in 1337 settled the manor of Water Eaton on his eldest son Reynold, (fn. 129) who succeeded him on his death about 1342. (fn. 130)
Reynold died in 1370. (fn. 131) His son Henry was summoned to Parliament from 1377 as Lord Grey de Wilton (fn. 132) and died in 1396. (fn. 133) Richard, son and successor of Henry, mortgaged the manor of Eaton in 1441 to William Burley and others. (fn. 134) He died in 1442. (fn. 135) His widow Margaret appears to have married Sir Thomas Grey, with whom in 1448 she renounced her life interest in this manor to her first husband's son, Reynold Grey. (fn. 136) In 1454 he settled this manor in fee-tail on himself and his wife Tacina (fn. 137) and died in 1493, being buried at Bletchley. (fn. 138) His son John died in 1499, (fn. 139) and in 1501 Elizabeth widow of John, then the wife of Sir Edward Stanley, sued his son Edmund Grey for her dower in Water Eaton. (fn. 140) Edmund settled the manor of Water Eaton on his wife Florence for life, (fn. 141) and died in 1511, his will directing his burial to be at Bletchley. (fn. 142) As his first three sons George, Thomas and Richard successively died as minors without issue, his fourth son William succeeded to the title in 1520 (fn. 143) and soon afterwards sued John Abrahull for the retention of deeds relating to Water Eaton, (fn. 144) which he inherited on the death of Florence in 1536. (fn. 145) He was one of the peers who attempted to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne, and, though pardoned, was attainted and his honours forfeited. They were restored to him in 1559. (fn. 146) He died in 1562, (fn. 147) having in 1560 quitclaimed this manor for £1,000 to the Marquess of Winchester, (fn. 148) to whom it was granted by the queen in 1563 (fn. 149) and quitclaimed by Arthur son and heir of William Lord Grey in 1564, (fn. 150) both grant and quitclaim to be void if Arthur paid £3,000. (fn. 151) As he effected this in 1572, Elizabeth regranted the manor to him in that year, (fn. 152) and from this date until 1674 Eaton followed the descent of Giffard's Manor in Whaddon. (fn. 153) In the spring of 1674–5 it was sold by the Duke of Buckingham (fn. 154) to Thomas Willis, M.D., (fn. 155) who died the following November. (fn. 156) His son Thomas was in possession in 1681 (fn. 157); he died in 1699, (fn. 158) and was succeeded by his son Browne Willis the antiquary. (fn. 159) A settlement of Water Eaton was made in August 1735 on the marriage of Thomas, eldest son of Browne Willis, with Anne daughter of John Hulme. (fn. 160) She had a son Thomas, and died sometime before February 1747–8, when Thomas Willis the elder married Frances Robinson, by whom he had a son John. (fn. 161) Thomas Willis the elder died in June 1756, (fn. 162) and his elder son Thomas proved the will of his grandfather, Browne Willis, who died in 1760. (fn. 163) Thomas Willis took the name and arms of Fleming on inheriting North Stoneham, Hampshire, on the death of a distant cousin, William Fleming. (fn. 164) He is still called Thomas Willis, however, in his will proved after his death in July 1762, (fn. 165) but his half-brother John, who inherited under the terms of the will, procured an Act of Parliament in 1767 enabling him to adopt the name of Fleming. (fn. 166) By this John Fleming heretofore Willis the Bletchley and Water Eaton estate was sold to the Rev. Philip Barton of Great Brickhill, (fn. 167) with which manor it has since descended to Sir Everard Philip Digby Pauncefort Duncombe, bart., the present owner.
Two parks were included in the extent of the manor of Water Eaton in 1308: 'there is a park in which are deer . . . and another park of great wood (de grosso bosco), containing 20 acres, in which is no underwood.' (fn. 168) Further references to these parks occur during the 14th century. (fn. 169)
A park at Bletchley is first mentioned in 1563. (fn. 170) It is said to have been inclosed after Lord Grey removed from Water hall to Whaddon. 'It had a keeper's lodge in the middle, and was moated about . . . and came down to the great road at Watling Street way.' It was disparked before 1735. (fn. 171)
A mill was on the bishop's demesne in Water Eaton in 1086. (fn. 172) Browne Willis in his MSS. quotes an undated deed by which Sir John Grey enfeoffed Herman de Eaton and his heirs of the water-mill of Eaton with the whole suit to the mill of the tenants of the honour of Giffard. (fn. 173) There was a water-mill on the manor in 1308, (fn. 174) while two water-mills are mentioned in 1324 (fn. 175) and again in 1370. (fn. 176) Eaton Mill is mentioned in 1596. (fn. 177) There was a water gristmill here in 1705 (fn. 178) and two water-mills in 1735. (fn. 179) There is a corn-mill at Water Eaton now.
At the British Museum there are Court Rolls for the manor of Eaton for the reigns of Edward III and Richard II. (fn. 180)
In 1308 the lords of the manor had two views of frankpledge on Hock Day and at Michaelmas, (fn. 181) pleas and perquisites being assessed at 30s. in 1324 (fn. 182); a dovecote and a fishery worth 13d. a year are mentioned at the same time and on other occasions in the 14th century. (fn. 183) A free fishery in the Ouzel was among the manorial rights in 1681 (fn. 184) and 1735. (fn. 185)
The church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel measuring internally 30 ft. 3 in. by 18 ft. 2 in., north chapel 30 ft. 9 in. by 13 ft. 6 in., nave 48 ft. 2 in. by 19 ft., north aisle 13 ft. 6 in. wide, south aisle 10 ft. 6 in. wide, west tower 14 ft. by 12 ft. 9 in., and a south porch 11 ft. 6 in. by 9 ft. 6 in.
The earliest part of the church which can be definitely dated is the late 13th-century chancel, but evidence of an earlier building is afforded by the late 12th-century voussoirs reset over the south doorway of the south aisle. The size of the stones suggests that they formed part of a former chancel arch, and it is possible that the existing nave walls incorporate those of the structure to which it belonged. The south aisle was built about 1300, when clearstory windows were pierced in the wall over its arcade, and about twenty years later the north chapel was added to the chancel. A north aisle of three bays was thrown out about 1330, and somewhere about this period the original lean-to roof of the south aisle appears to have been superseded by a high-pitched gabled roof, now gone, a new east window being inserted of more lofty proportions than the earlier arrangement would have allowed. Early in the 15th century the west tower was added and the north aisle and arcade were extended one bay westwards. Previous to these alterations it is probable that the west wall of the nave lined with the west wall of the south aisle, as the south-east angle of the tower curtails the westernmost bay of the south arcade, hiding the respond and cutting short the western limb of the arch. Late in the 15th century the chancel and chapel were reroofed and new windows were inserted in the chapel and north aisle, while early in the 16th century a new clearstory was added to the nave and the walls of the south aisle were raised, a new roof being constructed above the old clearstory windows. Between the years 1704 and 1707 the church was 'repaired and beautified' largely at the cost of Browne Willis, the roof of the chancel being ceiled and painted with figures of the twelve Apostles in the Verrio manner. In 1868 the church was restored.
The chancel windows are modern; a print of 1794 (fn. 186) shows three windows, apparently of the 15th century, and a doorway of the Browne Willis period in the south wall, but these features have been replaced by two windows and a doorway. At the south-east are three late 13th-century sedilia in range with a fourth recess, doubtless intended for a piscina. The recesses have hollow-chamfered two-centred heads, springing from shafts with moulded capitals and bases attached to the partitions and jambs. At the east end of the north wall, opening to the north chapel, is an early 14th-century doorway with a continuously moulded two-centred head and to the west of it is a small blocked niche with a trefoiled ogee head continously rebated with the jambs, perhaps originally a locker, but subsequently cut through to open into the piscina recess in the chapel. The remaining portion of the north side of the chancel is occupied by an interesting early 14th-century arcade of two bays, dividing the chancel from the chapel. The arches are two-centred and of two broach-stopped chamfered orders, with labels on both faces, and are supported by a central octagonal column and semi-octagonal responds. The capital of the column has ball-flower ornament, while that of the east respond has a late form of dog-tooth. The late 13th-century chancel arch is two-centred and has an outer order continuously chamfered with the responds, the inner order, which is also chamfered, being carried by moulded corbels. There is a label on the east face, but only a fragment of the label on the west face remains, the rest having been cut away for the rood beam. The timbers of the roof are probably of the late 15th century, but they are now concealed, with the exception of one tie-beam, by the early 18thcentury painted ceiling. Externally an original late 13th-century dwarf buttress with a weathered and gabled head remains at the north end of the east wall, but the diagonal buttress at the south-east angle is probably of the 15th century. The original walling is of neatly worked ironstone rubble where undisturbed, and both here and elsewhere may be distinguished from the limestone rubble of the later alterations. The parapet, like those of the nave and aisles, is embattled.
The east window of the north chapel has jambs of the early 14th century, but the tracery is modern. In the north wall are two late 15th-century windows, each of three cinquefoiled lights under a square head. The sill of the eastern window cuts into the head of a 14th-century tomb recess, leaving only the jambs with a portion of the eastern limb of the arched head and the springing of the western limb. In it is placed a late 13th-century tomb slab carved with a floreated cross and a hunting horn. To the east of this recess is a double locker. On the south side, between the doorway from the chancel and the east respond of the arcade, is the piscina recess, the back of which must have been pierced by the opening in the back of the niche in the chancel above described. It has a trefoiled head and is contemporary with the original building of the chapel. A two-centred arch of two chamfered orders, with moulded corbels supported by heads carrying the inner order, opens into the slightly later north aisle. Externally part of the head of one of the original windows is visible to the west of the eastern window of the north wall. In the parapet of the east wall has been reset a stone carved with a chalice and wafer, probably part of a tomb slab. The low-pitched roof is of the late 15th century.
The north arcade of the nave is of four bays with two-centred arches of three chamfered orders supported by octagonal columns with moulded capitals. The two eastern columns with the three eastern arches, which are of the 14th century, are of limestone; the two outer orders of the easternmost arch die upon the east wall of the nave, the inner order being carried by a moulded corbel supported by a carved head. The westernmost column and arch are contemporary with the early 15th-century west tower, and, with the exception of the base of the column, are of clunch. The semi-octagonal west respond has been moved westwards from its original position in the 14thcentury arcade, and, like the other work of that period, is of limestone; the capital is sculptured with fourleaved flowers at the angles and a ball-flower in the centre of each face. The late 13th-century south arcade is of four bays with two-centred arches of two chamfered orders and octagonal columns with moulded capitals and plain splayed bases. The arches have plain labels on both faces, and the chamfers of the inner orders are stopped at their springing. The east respond has a moulded corbel, but the west respond is hidden by the southeast angle of the tower which partially blocks the westernmost bay, cutting short the western limb of the arch. Immediately above the arcade, and now looking into the heightened south aisle, are the three circular quatrefoiled windows of the late 13th-century clearstory. The later clearstory above this level has four square-headed windows on either side, each of three lights with four-centred heads. Above the east respond of the south arcade, about 9 ft. above the present floor level, the upper doorway to the roodloft has recently been uncovered and the filling removed, exposing the upper portion of the staircase. The doorway measures about 5 ft. 6 in. by 2 ft., being the full width of the staircase, and the stonework, which is very rough, appears to have been always plastered. No door seems to have been hung in it, the east jamb, which is flush with the east wall of the nave, having been plastered and painted continuously with the adjoining wall surface. The nave roof, probably of the early 16th century, is lowpitched, and has moulded timbers and carved wall brackets.
In the north wall of the north aisle are three late 15th-century windows like those in the north wall of the chapel, and the west window is of the same date and type. Between the two western windows in the north wall is a good 14th-century doorway, with a two-centred head moulded continuously with the jambs and inclosed by a label with spirited head-stops. The position of the aisle altar is shown by the cutting back of the lower part of the north respond of the arch to the chapel. The lean-to roof must be of the early 15th century, and contemporary with the addition of the western bay to the aisle. It is supported by five trusses with curved braces forming two-centred arches; these spring from wall-posts with moulded feet resting upon stone corbels, some of which have been renewed. With the exception of that at the south-west, the original corbels are carved with grotesque heads. Externally a change in the walling to the west of the north doorway shows the commencement of the 15th-century extension.
The east window of the south aisle, an insertion of c. 1340, is of three trefoiled lights with leaf tracery in a two-centred head. The height of the window, taken in conjunction with indications in the masonry of the external face of the wall, suggests that previous to the raising of the roof in the 16th century a high-pitched gabled roof was constructed over the aisle when this window was inserted, as the head would otherwise have risen considerably above the original lean-to roof, the level of which is shown by a weather-mould below the late 13th-century clearstory. The two windows in the south wall are modern, but the west window is a late 15th-century insertion of the same type as those of the north aisle and chapel. The south doorway is contemporary with the aisle and is of two continuously moulded orders externally, the outer order being inclosed by an arch of reset late 12th-century voussoirs moulded with the beak-head and engrailed ornament. The early 16th-century roof has cambered principal timbers and moulded purlins and wall-plates.
The early 15th-century west tower is of three stages with buttresses at the east ends of the north and south walls, a diagonal buttress at the northwest, and a vice turret at the south-west. The tower arch is of two moulded orders separated by a casement, and springs from responds with well-moulded capitals. Above the west doorway, which has been almost entirely renewed, is a window of four trefoiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head. The ringing-chamber has a single light in the south wall, and the bell-chamber is lighted on all four sides by windows of two lights with traceried two-centred heads, all entirely renewed. The south porch, though much repaired and altered, is substantially of the 14th century. The outer entrance is of two moulded orders, the jambs of the outer order being shafted, and in each side wall is a two-light window, unglazed; that in the west wall is modern, while the lower part of the east window, the lights of which have uncusped segmental heads, has been blocked.
The font, which has a shallow cup-shaped bowl, is probably of the early 17th century, and the pyramidal wooden cover is of the same period. Against the middle column of the south arcade is a poor-box on a baluster stem, bearing the date 1637.
In the east bay of the north arcade of the chancel is the monument of Richard Lord Grey de Wilton (d. 1442), a fine altar tomb with an alabaster effigy of a man in plate armour. (fn. 187) The head rests on a helm and the feet on a lion, round the neck is a collar of SS, and the sword and gauntlets hang from the left side. The north and south sides of the tomb have each three quatrefoiled panels containing shields, and between them are narrower cinquefoiled panels. The middle shield on the north side has the arms of Grey of Ruthyn, while the arms in the panels on either side are those of Grey of Wilton; the two eastern shields on the south side bear the same arms, but the western shield is blank. The present inscription seems to have been added by Browne Willis, who had the monument thoroughly restored. On the north wall of the chancel is a marble-framed brass commemorating Dr. Thomas Sparke, a former rector, who died in 1616. The design, which is very delicately engraved, represents a table tomb bearing on the front a portrait of Dr. Sparke in an oval inscribed panel flanked by figures, those on the dexter side representing three sons and two daughters, while those on the sinister side appear to be intended for his congregation. On the top of the tomb is a quaint medley of allegory. Death as a skeleton is filling an urn from which Fame has succeeded in snatching the books written by the doctor, all with their titles inscribed upon them, while above all is an angel with a trumpet; the figures are surrounded by scrolls with inscriptions in Latin verse. On the east wall of the north chapel is a tablet to Rose, the daughter of Andrew Ickforby, and wife of Dr. Sparke, who died in 1615. On the same wall are the coloured alabaster effigies of a man in armour of the late 16th century and those of eight children. The monument, which has no inscription, is said to have been brought by Browne Willis from Deptford Church. (fn. 188) At the north-east corner of the chapel is a table tomb commemorating Katherine, the daughter of Daniel Eliot of Port Eliot in the county of Cornwall, and wife of Browne Willis, who died in 1724. In the floor at the east end of the chancel are slabs to Thomas Willis and his wife Alice (Browne), the parents of Browne Willis, both of whom died in 1699.
There is a ring of eight bells: the treble and second cast by Abraham Rudhall in 1717 and 1713 respectively; the third, fourth, and fifth by the same, but bearing the date 1712; the sixth by Robert Stainbank of London, 1867; the seventh by R. Taylor & Sons, 'Oxfod,' 1827; and the tenor by Gillett & Johnson, 1893.
The plate consists of a silver-gilt flagon of 1697, inscribed: 'This Flaggon was Given by Mrs. Katherine Willis to the Church of St. Mary, Blecheley in Buckinghamshire, A.D. 1711'; a silver-gilt standpaten of 1698, inscribed: 'Ex dono Tho. Sparke S Theologiae Professoris et Ecclesiae de Blechlye rectoris'; a large silver-gilt plate of 1710, given, like the flagon, by Mrs. Katherine Willis in 1711; and a silver-gilt cup of 1716, given by Paul Collins and Frances his wife in 1717.
The church possesses a very fine copy of the 1638 Cambridge edition of the Bible, bound up with the Prayer Book and Sternhold and Hopkins's metrical version of the Psalms. The book, which is said to have belonged to Charles I, was given to the church by Browne Willis, and received its present binding of red velvet with silver mounting in the early 18th century. (fn. 189)
The church of ST. MARTIN, FENNY STRATFORD, when erected on the site of the former chapel of St. Margaret in 1730, was a very small building. In 1823 a south aisle was added, which was demolished in 1866, a large new nave and chancel being built in its place, and the former nave became the north aisle. A new south aisle was added in 1908, and the building now consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch and tower. (fn. 190)
The church of Bletchley was built before 1212, (fn. 191) in which year Gerald de Caux was parson of the church. (fn. 192) Roger de Caux held the advowson in the time of Bishop Hugh of Wells, (fn. 193) and it descended with the manor of Water Eaton. (fn. 194) It was bequeathed with other property by John (Willis) Fleming, who died in 1802, to his cousin John Barton Willis on condition of his taking the name of Fleming. (fn. 195) His son John Browne Willis Fleming, who succeeded in 1844, alienated the advowson in 1860 to Joseph Bennitt, by whose family it is still held.
Tithes of the demesne of Bletchley were given to the priory of Newton Longville by Walter Giffard, first Earl of Buckingham, and his son. (fn. 196) The priory in 1291 had an annual pension of £1 from the church, (fn. 197) and was still in possession of the tithes in the 14th century. (fn. 198) Henry VI gave the priory and most of its lands to New College, Oxford, in 1441, (fn. 199) and at the Dissolution an annual pension of £1 was still paid to that college. (fn. 200)
The chapel of St. Margaret of Fenny Stratford, said to be on the roll of Peter's Pence in 1460, (fn. 201) was probably refounded about 1493, in which year it was endowed by the foundation of a gild or fraternity (fn. 202) which entirely maintained the chapel for the benefit of the district. (fn. 203) Gilbert Ipswell in 1502 left his body to be buried in the chancel of this chapel. His executors were to finish paving the chapel with tiles, work having been begun in the north aisle. (fn. 204) It was valued at £6 at the Dissolution. (fn. 205) In 1550 the chapel with stones, walls, iron, timber, glass, lead, and bells was granted to Thomas Reeves and others (fn. 206) and soon afterwards pulled down. (fn. 207) A church which appears to have had parochial rights (fn. 208) was built on the same spot and visitations were frequently held in it, but it was destroyed in the Civil War. (fn. 209) Browne Willis bought the site and was instrumental in building on it the new church (fn. 210) of which he laid the foundation stone in 1724 and which was consecrated in 1730. (fn. 211) The advowson belonged to his family (fn. 212) till 1859. It has since passed through a number of hands and is now held by the Bishop of Oxford. (fn. 213)
The gild above mentioned, dedicated to St. Margaret and St. Katherine, was founded and endowed by Roger and John Hobbs in 1493. It consisted, besides the brothers and sisters of the gild, of one alderman and two wardens elected yearly on the Sunday after the feast of St. Margaret the Virgin; the members were a corporate body and had a common seal. They had power to acquire lands to the value of £8 for providing two priests to celebrate divine service daily in the chapel of the gild and for other deeds of charity. (fn. 214) In 1547 the fraternity was worth £14 16s. 9d. yearly, of which 15s. was paid to Lord Grey for rent and 5s. 4d. was paid for keeping up the founders' obit. The ornaments and goods were valued at £17 8s., plate '58 once.' There were '2 priests, both well lerned' and with no other living, ministering sacraments and sacramentals. (fn. 215) The chantry estate, with the Brotherhood House, was leased in 1569 to Arthur Lord Grey for twenty-one years, (fn. 216) and in 1579 to Thomas Wake for a similar term. (fn. 217) The Brotherhood House is said to have been converted into the Bull Inn, (fn. 218) but they are referred to as two distinct messuages in 1609 and 1616. (fn. 219)
The following charities comprised in the Bletchley Inclosure Award, dated 21 January 1813, are regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners, dated 7 May 1901, namely: (1) Fuel allotment, consisting of 24 a. 3 r. 2 p. of land in Bletchley Leys; (2) Poor's land for ancient township, 2 a. 2 r. 28 p. of land in Bletchley Leys; and (3) Poor's allotment, 2 a. 2 r. 26 p. in Bletchley Leys, and 30 p. in Windmill Field. These properties produce £20 a year, which is distributed in coal to about sixty recipients. (4) Poor's land for the ancient parish, 1 a. 2 r. 33 p. of land in Upper Field in the parish of Shenley, producing £1 15s. yearly, which is distributed in tea among the poor of the ancient parish.
Chapelry of Fenny Stratford.—William Underwood, by his will proved in the P.C.C. 28 February 1798, gave £100, the interest to be distributed in bread in the chapel on New Year's Day. The legacy is represented by £159 7s. 3d. consols with the official trustees, producing £3 19s. 8d. yearly.
It appears from the Parliamentary Returns of 1786 that David Bryne and Browne Willis gave land for the poor. The property was comprised in an indenture dated 25 March 1808, and then consisted of two tenements. The endowment now consists of £33 18s. consols with the official trustees, producing 16s. 8d. yearly, which, together with the dividends from William Underwood's charity, is applied in the distribution of bread.
On the wall of a house called St. Martin's House there is the following inscription: 'This House was settled on the parish Officers of this town for the annual observance of St. Martin's Day, anno Domini 1752.' This, property given by Browne Willis by deed in 1745, consists of two cottages producing £11 1s. yearly. The net rent is applied in the payment of £1 18s. for a commemoration sermon, and the balance in entertainment to the inhabitants on St. Martin's Day.
In 1864 Sarah Bristow, by deed, gave £657 10s. 8d. stock—now a like amount of consols standing in the names of James Baisley and three others—the annual dividends to be applied in distributing food, blankets and apparel to the fatherless, widows and sick poor of the hamlet of Fenny Stratford and the parish of Simpson. The distribution is made in drapery to about seventy recipients.