A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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This parish, lying between Bow Brickhill on the north and Great Brickhill on the west, contains 1,367 acres, of which the surface is a reddish sand intermixed with clay, (fn. 1) the subsoil Lower Greensand. Of this area 199 acres are arable, the chief crops grown being wheat, oats, beans and barley, and 509 acres are permanent grass. (fn. 2) Woodland, of which there are now 568 acres, (fn. 3) has been abundant here since 1086. (fn. 4) At the close of the 13th century there was a park here besides 100 acres of wood, (fn. 5) and the records of the 14th century give the same account. (fn. 6) Three woods called 'Warrensgrove,' 'le Highfrith' and 'Wolsalewode' or 'Woolfall Wood' were amongst the manorial appurtenances from 1472 to 1708, (fn. 7) and the modern Broomhills Wood and Back Wood date from the early years of the 17th century, when the second of the two was also known as 'Ladywood.' (fn. 8) The height of the land rises from 300 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north-west and 400 ft. near the village to 500 ft. in the east of the parish.
Before the advent of the railway Little Brickhill derived importance from its highway, the ancient Watling Street, which runs south-east through the parish. The Roman station Magiovintum is now ascertained to have stood at Dropshort, a hamlet within its borders, (fn. 9) and in later times the situation of the village on the main road and at the extreme end of the county made it a convenient spot for the holding of assizes. (fn. 10) The village, which is built on a long hill and consists of a single street of inconsiderable houses, was a well-known posting town, and thirty coaches or more are said at one time to have passed daily through it. (fn. 11) References to the various inns which once flourished in Little Brickhill are not infrequent. One of these, 'Le Hertishorn,' settled by Humphrey Duke of Buckingham before 1446 on Humphrey Duke of Gloucester and others, (fn. 12) seems to reappear as 'the lord's hospice,' called 'le Harteshed' until 1619, (fn. 13) its name surviving in an acre of meadow as late as 1693. (fn. 14) A new rent of 2d. paid in 1472 for 'the Bear' (fn. 15) was found thirty years later to be due for its licence and fixing a post with the sign. (fn. 16) Another inn, known by 'the sign of the White Horse' in 1520, (fn. 17) appears in 1633 and 1708 in company with 'the Black Bull' and 'the Green Tree'; (fn. 18) 'the Lion' and 'the George,' which gave rise to some litigation near the end of the 16th century, (fn. 19) may be 'the Red Lion' of 1640 (fn. 20) and 'the George' of 1815. (fn. 21)
The church stands at the east end of the village. In its registers are preserved the names of certain persons executed on the heath just beyond. The old assize house was newly fronted before 1902, and then faced the sole survivor of the ancient inns of Little Brickhill. (fn. 22) The Wesleyan chapel dates from 1840.
In the south of the parish 'Battlehills' probably marks the site of the farm and lands called 'Battels,' which were the subject of a Chancery suit in 1570. (fn. 23)
Place-names are plentiful in the records of Little Brickhill. In addition to the woods already mentioned, there was a 'Schereveswode' in 1314, (fn. 24) a 'New Coppice' in 1614 (fn. 25) and 1633, (fn. 26) a 'Nunwood' in the latter year and in 1708. (fn. 27) Some of many early inclosures made before 1798, when 600 acres of common and waste were inclosed, (fn. 28) are 'Backleys,' 'Bullingtons,' 'Lesser Biggins,' 'Buckmasters Biggins,' and 'Timothies Close' (fn. 29) (xvii cent.); 'Teggs Close' and 'Pannells Lane Close' (fn. 30) (xvii and xviii cent.); 'Bawleys' and 'Turfe Close' (fn. 31) (xviii cent.). The 'Cuttedemulne' of 1314 (fn. 32) seems to reappear in the 17th century under the various forms of 'Cuttmilles,' 'Upper, Bushy, Furzin, and Wheaton Cutmills.' (fn. 33) To the 17th century belong 'Lady hills,' a tract of 53 acres with moor adjacent (fn. 34); to the 18th century 'Dole,' 'West Dole' and 'Goose acre.' (fn. 35)
Little Brickhill as a settlement on Watling Street was a convenient stage for travellers, and since burgage tenure certainly existed there in the 15th century (fn. 36) it is possible that a small borough was formed in the 13th century during the time of John de Gatesden, (fn. 37) the king's physician, a considerable buyer and improver of land, or of Philip Lovel, the royal treasurer, whose ill deeds were noted by the Dunstable chronicler. (fn. 38) No early rolls are extant, and by the close of the 15th century the borough had been practically absorbed in the manor. The chief industry was that of victualling man and beast on the Chester Road, but we also hear of brick-making and the existence of a tile-house.
Instances of the assembling here of the commissioners for gaol delivery occur about 1284, (fn. 39) and in 1491, (fn. 40) 1541 and 1542 (fn. 41); pleas of assizes were heard at Little Brickhill in 1432, (fn. 42) justices of the peace met in this place in 1452, (fn. 43) and in 1535 and 1537 there were sessions and assizes here. (fn. 44)
A fair on the vigil, feast and morrow of St. Mary Magdalene (22 July) was granted to John de Gatesden in 1228. (fn. 45) In 1257 the date was changed to the festival of St. Giles (fn. 46) (1 September), in 1318 to that of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (fn. 47) (29 August). Henry VI granted Humphrey Duke of Buckingham two fairs in Little Brickhill, one on the vigil and feast of SS. Philip and James (1 May), the other on the vigil and feast of St. Luke (fn. 48) (18 October). These, which were afterwards prolonged to the morrow of each feast, remained amongst the appurtenances of the manor from that time, (fn. 49) and were still held in 1862. (fn. 50) A Thursday market, which was included in all the royal grants of the fair or fairs, has long been discontinued. (fn. 51)
The liberties of gallows, pillory and cucking-stool with the assize of bread and ale belonged to this manor in 1553, (fn. 52) and remained amongst its appurtenances for more than a hundred years later. (fn. 53) View of frankpledge and courts leet and baron, the former with several tithings, were held on behalf of the lord of the manor from the 14th to the 17th century, (fn. 54) and free warren, granted to Philip Lovel in 1257, (fn. 55) was still enjoyed by his successors in 1820. (fn. 56)
A manor of 5 hides in BRICKHILL which Blacheman, a man of Earl Tostig, had held before the Norman Conquest with power to sell, was owned by the Bishop of Lisieux in 1086. (fn. 57) At the same date another manor, consisting of only 1 hide, which had formerly belonged to Alwin, a man of Estan, without right of alienation from Estan's manor of Brickhill, was found amongst the lands of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. (fn. 58) It is probable that after Odo's disgrace this was absorbed in the larger manor, and that the united holding was henceforward held as one fee of the Crown in chief by the service of defence of Dover Castle. (fn. 59)
The return of 1284–6, whilst betraying some uncertainty as to the actual tenant of Little Brickhill Manor, made it plain that it had hitherto been held in chief of the honour of Dover. (fn. 60) From 1295 until 1460 the overlordship descended with this honour, (fn. 61) though the connexion with both honour and castle, for the defence of which a certain annual payment was due, (fn. 62) was omitted from the return of 1346, (fn. 63) and again four years later. (fn. 64) In 1484 Little Brickhill Manor was described as parcel of the honour of Gloucester, (fn. 65) in 1523 as held of the king as of Dover Castle. (fn. 66) It was held of the Crown by knight service from 1590 to 1641, (fn. 67) when the last mention of the overlordship occurs.
The lands in Brickhill which belonged to the Bishops of Lisieux and Bayeux were held of them in 1086 by their sub-tenants Robert and Turstin respectively. (fn. 68) In the reign of Henry II Robert de Turnham, lord of the manor of Turnham in Kent, (fn. 69) owned Little Brickhill, (fn. 70) which afterwards came to his younger son Stephen. (fn. 71) Stephen, who was in the king's service in 1212, (fn. 72) died in or before 1214, when Mabel, the eldest of his daughters and co-heirs, declared herself willing to undertake the payment of her father's debts to the Crown if she were put in possession of his lands. (fn. 73) Her action seems to have induced her sisters to reconsider their refusal to share in this burden, and in 1216 the lands in Brickhill once of Stephen de Turnham were granted to Adam de Bendeng and his wife Alice, Ralph de Fay and his wife Beatrice, and Mabel de Gatton. (fn. 74) In 1218 all the above, with Henry de Braiboef and his wife Clemence, and Roger de Leiburn and his wife Eleanor, were found to owe five palfreys for their shares in the manor of Brickhill, besides the debt to the king of Stephen de Turnham the father. (fn. 75) The whole seems to have been afterwards acquired by John de Gatesden, to whom eight years later Thomas de Bavelingham and his wife Mabel, presumably once Mabel de Gatton, sold the fifth of a knight's fee in Brickhill, to be held by him of Mabel and her heirs. (fn. 76) The tenure of John, lord until c. 1242, (fn. 77) seems to have ceased by 1253, when Nicholas de Wauncy and his wife Alice granted the manor of Little Brickhill to Philip Lovel. (fn. 78)
In 1257 or 1258 Philip transferred Little Brickhill to Richard Earl of Gloucester, who at Philip's death in 1258 (fn. 79) put his son, another Philip Lovel, in possession of the manor for a few months and then took it to farm of him for ten years. (fn. 80) The earl had been dead about fifteen years, (fn. 81) when Gilbert Earl of Gloucester, his son and heir, (fn. 82) became absolute lord of Little Brickhill in 1277 by an exchange with John Lovel, (fn. 83) possibly another son of the elder Philip. (fn. 84) It was one of the manors which the earl surrendered to Edward I in 1290 and which were regranted in the same year to him and his wife Joan, the king's daughter. (fn. 85) At his death in 1295 Little Brickhill descended to his son and heir Gilbert, (fn. 86) who was slain at Bannockburn in 1314. (fn. 87) In the partition of the last earl's lands between his sisters and co-heirs this manor was assigned to Margaret wife of the younger Hugh Audley. (fn. 88) They held together until 1321, when the lands of Hugh Audley, one of the 'contrariants,' were in the king's hands, (fn. 89) and Hugh was lord after Margaret died until his death as Earl of Gloucester in 1347. (fn. 90)
The Audleys had also obtained Easington Manor, Chilton parish (fn. 91) (q.v.), with which Little Brickhill henceforward descended through the Staffords to Humphrey Duke of Buckingham, killed at the battle of Northampton in 1460. (fn. 92) A grant of Little Brickhill to his widow Anne made by Henry VI in the same year (fn. 93) was confirmed by Edward IV in 1461. (fn. 94) She held alone in 1464, (fn. 95) in 1468 with her second husband Sir Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy. (fn. 96) It was perhaps after her death in 1480 (fn. 97) that Richard III gave this manor to the Dean and canons of the free chapel of St. Mary of Barking, London, (fn. 98) a gift which was never carried into effect.
After the execution in 1483 of Henry Duke of Buckingham, grandson and heir of the last duke, (fn. 99) Little Brickhill was forfeited to the Crown, and Richard III made a life grant of its stewardship to his esquire, Thomas Fowler. (fn. 100) A receiver was appointed in the following year on behalf of the Crown for this manor, (fn. 101) which was afterwards restored to Edward Duke of Buckingham with Easington (q.v.). The two manors passed from the Marnys to the Carys, Henry Cary obtaining royal licence in 1553 to alienate Little Brickhill to Robert Brocas. (fn. 102) Four years later he was succeeded by his son Bernard Brocas, (fn. 103) who, being in money difficulties, leased the manorhouse to William Hamond and certain lands to other lessees. (fn. 104) His lease of the whole manor to his brother William Brocas, on condition that William should discharge his debts, (fn. 105) seems to have been made before or in 1583, in the spring of which year he mortgaged Little Brickhill to Thomas Wren and John Bale. (fn. 106) In the following autumn he was sued in Chancery for payment of his debt to the late Peter Tichborne. (fn. 107) He and his wife Anne settled Little Brickhill on their son Pexall early in 1585, (fn. 108) William Brocas surrendering his rights to his nephew for the sum of £1,000. (fn. 109) On Bernard's death in 1589, (fn. 110) however, Thomas Cheyne, his son-in-law, who was found to be enjoying the issues of the manor by lease from Bernard and Anne, (fn. 111) paid £300 to William Brocas for redemption of the earlier lease. (fn. 112) Thomas was then bought out by William Washborne, husband of Bernard's widow Anne, who died shortly after her second marriage. After her death William Washborne was not only evicted by her son Pexall, (fn. 113) who had obtained pardon within six weeks of his father's death for acquiring Little Brickhill without licence, (fn. 114) but was arrested for the non-payment of an annuity from the profits of the lease of which he had been deprived to Anne Persey, widowed daughter of his late wife. (fn. 115) The history of Pexall Brocas's tenure is another record of debts. In or before 1601 Little Brickhill was extended to satisfy his creditors (fn. 116); it was redeemed by Pexall Brocas, then a knight, in 1611, (fn. 117) but was in the king's hands three years later for £500 owing to the Crown. (fn. 118) In 1615 the manor was granted to William Jervis in consideration of money paid to him by Pexall, (fn. 119) on whose behalf four years later an inquiry was made as to rents raised after that date. (fn. 120) Sir Pexall leased Little Brickhill to Sir Robert Cotton and others in 1628 (fn. 121) and died seised two years later. (fn. 122) His son and heir Thomas, (fn. 123) in conjunction with his mother Margaret Brocas (fn. 124) and his wife Elizabeth, sold the manor to Anthony Abdy, alderman of London, in 1633. (fn. 125) In 1638 Anthony and his wife Abigail settled it on the marriage of their son Thomas with Mary daughter of Luke Corsellis, (fn. 126) who entered into possession on Anthony's death in 1640. (fn. 127) Thomas, who received a baronetage in 1641, (fn. 128) held Little Brickhill until his death in 1686, (fn. 129) when he was succeeded by his son and heir Anthony, (fn. 130) who with his wife Mary sold Little Brickhill in 1693 to Charles, afterwards Sir Charles, Duncombe. (fn. 131) He settled it on himself and his 'first son to be begotten' in July 1708, (fn. 132) but died unmarried and intestate three years later. (fn. 133) His property descended to his nephews, Anthony son and heir of his brother Anthony Duncombe, and Thomas son and heir of his sister Ursula by her husband Thomas Brown. (fn. 134) It would seem that Little Brickhill ultimately fell to the share of Thomas, who assumed the surname of Duncombe, since Thomas his son and heir (fn. 135) was lord in 1764. (fn. 136) It came afterwards by marriage with Frances daughter of the second Thomas Duncombe (fn. 137) to Sir George Henry Rose, lord in 1796 (fn. 138) and 1820. (fn. 139) He was succeeded in 1855 by his eldest son, Sir Hugh Henry Rose. He was created Lord Strathnairn of Strathnairn and Jhansi in 1866 for his services in the Indian Mutiny, and died unmarried in 1885. (fn. 140) Little Brickhill was inherited by Admiral the Honourable George Henry Douglas and passed in 1888 to Lieut.-Col. Alexander Finlay, the present owner.
A messuage which belonged to the manor from 1277 to 1314 (fn. 141) may be the capital messuage of 1324, (fn. 142) which had probably fallen into decay before 1503, when amongst other houses rebuilt on the site of the manor was one dwelling-house of two bays with two cross chambers at each end, covered with tiles. (fn. 143) This was probably the capital messuage, called 'Little Brickhill' or 'the manor-house' near the end of the 16th century; (fn. 144) the garden is mentioned in 1633. (fn. 145) Dovecotes varying in number from one to three were appurtenances from 1321 to 1820, (fn. 146) and there was a horse-mill in 1520. (fn. 147)
The church of ST. MARY MAGDALENE consists of a chancel measuring internally 27 ft. by 17 ft. 6 in., south chapel 15 ft. by 12 ft., nave 48 ft. by 18 ft., south aisle 12 ft. wide, south porch, west tower 7 ft. 6 in. square and small chamber south of the tower. It is built of rubble with stone dressings; the roof of the porch is covered with tiles and the other roofs are slated.
A church, probably built a little before the middle of the 12th century, when the advowson was granted to the priory of Combwell in Kent, consisted apparently of the present nave and a chancel, but the only detail of that period now remaining is a fragment of the north doorway. A transeptal chapel was added on the north side of the nave about 1330 and a few years later the chancel was rebuilt. At some time in the 15th century the tower was built at the north end of the west wall and towards the end of the century a chamber, roofed continuously with the nave, was added on the south side of the tower, giving it the appearance of being built within the north-west angle of the nave. The south chapel and aisle and the south porch were added about a century later. In 1703 the north transeptal chapel and part of the chancel were blown down; the former has not been rebuilt, but the arch (now blocked) opening from it to the nave, and a piscina set in what is now the external face of the north wall of the nave, still remain. The fabric of the church was at this time repaired, and a second restoration was undertaken in 1864, when the chancel was practically rebuilt.
All the windows of the chancel are modern; the only ancient feature is a four-centred arch to the chapel at the west end of the south wall, which probably dates from the end of the 16th century. The pointed chancel arch, however, is of the mid14th century and has two chamfered orders, the outer continuous and the inner supported by semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases. The south chapel has been considerably restored; there is an original four-centred arch to the aisle on the west, a restored doorway and a modern window on the south, and a restored three-light window on the east. A trefoiled piscina, dating probably from the late 13th century and now without a bowl, has been reset very low in the south wall, and in the east wall are a moulded bracket and a locker.
On the south side of the nave there is a late 16thcentury arcade of four pointed arches, supported by octagonal pillars and responds with moulded capitals and bases, and at the south-east is a trefoiled piscina of the 14th century with a circular bowl, doubtless for the nave altar. On the east wall are two plain corbels which supported the rood beam, and there is a head corbel at the east end of each of the north and south walls. At the east end of the north wall is the blocked arch to the destroyed north chapel, which now forms a recess. It dates from the first half of the 14th century and has a pointed head and responds with moulded capitals and bases. In the wall outside, formerly inside the chapel, is a trefoiled piscina of the same period. There are three windows in the north wall, a modern one set in the blocking of the chapel arch, and two restored square-headed 15th-century windows, the western of two and the other of three lights. The north doorway, now blocked, has a depressed arch under a square head and dates from the 16th century; in the walling outside to the west of it is a fragment of a round arch which was probably the head of the original doorway. At the north end of the west wall is a narrow and lofty 15th-century arch opening to the ground stage of the tower, and to the south of it is a pointed doorway to the chamber adjoining the tower on the south, which is lighted by two loop holes on the west.
All the windows of the south aisle are modern, but the pointed south doorway is of about 1280 and has been reset in its present position. A large blocked window with a four-centred head can be traced in the walling west of the doorway. The south porch has a four-centred archway and is lighted from either side by a restored window of two trefoiled lights in a square head.
The tower is of three stages, with massive western buttresses, and is surmounted by an embattled parapet. In the west wall of the ground stage is a partially renewed 15th-century window of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery in a four-centred head. The second stage is lighted from the north by a cinquefoiled light with a square external head and label; the windows of the bell-chamber are modern.
The font has a plain circular bowl dating probably from the 13th century, and a modern, or possibly recut, stem and base. There is a 17thcentury communion table in the south aisle, and an alms shovel dated 1664 is preserved in the south chapel. On the east wall of the aisle is a wood-framed monument to William Benett, who died in 1658.
The tower contains a ring of three bells: the treble, inscribed 'KPCI na an na an an na an,' the smalls in black letter, probably dates from the 16th century; the second, inscribed 'Ad Convocandum cœtvm 1639 I.K,' is by James Keene; and the tenor is inscribed 'Chandler made me 1669.' There is also a small bell, probably of the 17th century, but with no inscription.
The church, which has probably always been dedicated in honour of St. Mary Magdalene, (fn. 148) was given by Robert de Turnham to the priory of Combwell, which he founded in the reign of Henry II. (fn. 149) In or before the early years of the 13th century it was appropriated and a vicarage was ordained, which originally consisted of the altarage, lesser tithes, 11 acres of land and a competent manse. (fn. 150) This provision seems to have been found in sufficient, and in the early years of the reign of Henry VIII the vicar claimed the tithes of corn in accordance with an agreement said to have been made a century before between the predecessors of himself and the present prior, by which the rights of the priory had been commuted for a pension of 20s. (fn. 151) The parsonage of Little Brickhill with its glebe lands and rents was reckoned amongst the possessions of this house in 1535, (fn. 152) and remained in the Crown after its suppression in that year (fn. 153) until 1537, when it was included in a grant of the site of Combwell Priory and its possessions to Thomas Culpepper. (fn. 154) In 1542 this advowson with other property once of Combwell, which had reverted to the Crown on the attainder of Thomas, was granted to Sir John Gage, Comptroller of the Household, (fn. 155) whose son and heirapparent Edward, with Sir John Baker, received the reversion rather more than six months later. (fn. 156) An exchange shortly afterwards effected between Sir John Gage and Cranmer vested the church of Little Brickhill in the see of Canterbury, (fn. 157) the primate and his successors being afterwards exonerated from the rent reserved, (fn. 158) which had been granted to Sir John in 1546. (fn. 159) It was a peculiar of the archbishop until 1852, (fn. 160) since which year the living has been in the gift of the Bishop of Oxford. (fn. 161)
There is said to have been an ancient chantry chapel on the north side of the church. (fn. 162) Possibly this was served by the chaplain of the lord of the manor, who in 1503 received 66s. 8d. a year. (fn. 163)
1. Charity of Anthony Abdy, founded by an indenture 10 April 1699. The property originally consisted of ten cottages with small gardens, situate in Little Brickhill. It was sold in 1872, and the proceeds invested in £150 13s. 4d. consols. The endowment, augmented by accumulations of income, now consists of £333 11s. 5d. consols. The sum of £208 consols, part thereof, was in 1904 set aside to provide £5 4s. a year for bread, to be called 'Abdy's Charity for the Poor.' The remainder of the stock, £125 11s. 5d. consols, entitled 'Abdy's Educational Foundation,' producing £3 2s. 8d. yearly, is applied for educational purposes.
2. The church and poor charity, comprised in an indenture 12 April 1705, trust fund, £906 0s. 4d. consols, arising from the sales in 1873 of a dwellinghouse and three cottages and in 1888 of about 6 acres of land. One moiety of the stock, £453 0s. 2d., forms the endowment of the ecclesiastical charity, the income, £11 6s. 4d., being applicable towards the repair and ornaments of the church, and the other moiety constitutes the poor charity, the income of £11 6s. 4d. being distributed in coal.
4. The poor's allotment originally consisted of 15 a. 3 r. 18 p. at Little Brickhill, allotted under the Inclosure Award of 1798. The land was sold in 1901, and the proceeds invested in £739 15s. 7d. Metropolitan 3 per cent. consolidated stock, producing £22 4s. yearly. The income, together with that belonging to the poor charity, is distributed in coal to about thirty-three recipients.