A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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This parish covers 2,070 acres, of which about 70 acres are woodland and the remainder is nearly equally divided between arable land and pasture. (fn. 1) Thickthorn Wood in the east of the parish is of some size. The soil and subsoil are both clay, which provides material for the brickworks which exist in the parish. The inhabitants are mainly engaged in agriculture, and the principal crops produced are wheat, beans and roots.
The slope of the ground is from north (where it attains 341 ft. above ordnance datum) to west. The parish is watered by Chicheley Brook, a small tributary of the Ouse. There is in the grounds of Chicheley Hall a never-failing spring, the waters of which formerly supplied the house through the agency of a curious tower three stories high, erected by Sir John Chester, the fourth baronet, in 1725. After serving its purpose for one and a half centuries, the brickwork of the tower gave way and is now an ivy-covered ruin.
The village of Chicheley is small and lies in the centre of the parish on the main road running west from Bedford to Newport Pagnell. It is picturesquely situated in a hollow surrounded by trees. Chicheley Hall, which stands in extensive pleasure grounds, was built at the beginning of the 18th century and replaced a Tudor mansion built by Anthony Cave, of which the foundations may still be traced. (fn. 2) The present house is a rectangular structure of brick with stone dressings and is three stories in height with a basement. The centre of the principal front is raised and slightly broken forward, the angles being marked by fluted Corinthian pilasters standing upon pedestals and supporting an enriched entablature at the level of the second floor. The cornice is dropped on either side of the central projection and supported at wide intervals by similar pilasters carrying detached fragments of frieze and architrave. The windows have moulded stone architraves, and the entrance doorway, which is approached by five stone steps, is crowned by a fantastically designed curved pediment. The main cornice is continued round the other elevations, which are somewhat plainer. Internally some fine 18th-century panelling remains, and in one of the rooms is a beam, brought from the old house, which bears the following inscription: 'Cave ne deum offendas, cave ne proximum loedas, cave ne tua neglentia familiam deseras, 1550.' The date probably marks the completion of the older building.
North-west of Chicheley Hall is the church, with the vicarage, a stuccoed building, adjacent. The vicaragehouse is described in 1639 as '4 Bays built with Stone and covered with Tyle, chambred over and boarded: the whole Building being contrived into 2 Storys and disposed into 3 Rooms, viz.—the Hall, Parlour, Buttry, Kitchen and Milke House. In the yard a Barn of 3 Bays and Lean-to adjoyning a Close called Baldecroft.' (fn. 3) The remainder of the village consists of the school and school-house, red brick buildings erected in 1854 by the Rev. Anthony Chester, (fn. 4) a farm-house, inn and a few cottages. Among the farms scattered over the parish may be noted Thickthorn Farm, a modern red brick building, in the east. Traces of fish-ponds are, however, still visible, and the existence of a homestead moat is also indicated. (fn. 5) Balney Lodge, or the Grange Farm, which may be identified as the ancient manor-house of the Broughtons and their descendands in this parish, has an Elizabethan south wing with the inscription: 'Sobrie Juste Pie, 1601' on the frieze above the lintel of the west front. (fn. 6) The east wing seems to be rather later, and the chimney stack bears the date 1773. Sir John Chester, bart., planted an avenue of elms to the house in 1714 'for a view from the great house.' (fn. 7) A two-storied gabled house, now divided into three and standing in the hamlet of Bedlam about a quarter of a mile north-west of the church, is possibly of Elizabethan date. Near by are some 17th-century half-timber cottages with thatched roofs.
The following place-names have been found in documents connected with this parish: Portway, Gosland (xiii cent.), (fn. 8) Longegosland (fn. 9) (xiv cent.), Webb Mead (xvi cent.) and Anslowe Close, Butlers, Branons, Grabnooks farm, Dean field, and Jeggs (fn. 10) (xvii cent.).
William Fitz Ansculf held 9 hides 3 virgates in Chicheley in 1086, (fn. 11) and his descendants, who held the barony of Newport Pagnell (q.v.), are subsequently found exercising overlordship rights. (fn. 12) This property was divided into three manors. The first, of 3 hides, had been held by Baldwin since the time of Edward the Confessor. (fn. 13) The second, also of 3 hides, was held by Andrew, who had dispossessed Edestan, a man of Alnod Chentis. (fn. 14) The third, of 3 hides 3 virgates, was held by Payn, who succeeded nine thegns with power to sell without licence. (fn. 15) Three manors are found later in this parish, but it is impossible to state with certainty the exact origin of each. Two of them are later found belonging to Tickford or Newport Pagnell Priory, founded by Fulk Paynel, lord of Newport Pagnell, at the close of the 11th century, the more important being probably CHICHELEY MANOR, which takes its name from the parish. (fn. 16) Lands in Chicheley granted by Fulk Paynel are mentioned in confirmation charters to Tickford Priory, (fn. 17) and in the early 13th century the priory was said to hold a fee here. (fn. 18) Oliver, Prior of Newport Pagnell, obtained lands in Chicheley in 1255 (fn. 19) and the prior and his tenants are returned for a fee held in perpetual alms in 1302–3. (fn. 20) On the suppression of Tickford Priory in 1525 this manor was granted to Cardinal Wolsey for the endowment of his college at Oxford. (fn. 21) After the fall of Wolsey Chicheley was resumed by the Crown and granted to the college refounded as Henry the Eighth's College in September 1532. (fn. 22) The college was again surrendered to the Crown in 1545 (fn. 23) and in September of that year Anthony Cave, who had acquired wealth as a merchant of the Staple at Calais, petitioned for a grant of Chicheley and Thickthorns Manors, with other property of the dissolved priory of Tickford. His petition states that he was already lessee of the manors for a term of seventy years at a rental of £33 17s. 11½d., (fn. 24) and he now offered £632 5s. for the purchase of the fee simple. (fn. 25) This offer was not accepted, but on 4 December of the same year, in consideration of the sum of £788 18s. 9d., he received a grant in fee of the manors, rectory and advowson to be held by one-twentieth of a knight's fee and £3 10s. 7d. per annum. (fn. 26) Anthony Cave lived at Chicheley, where he built a mansion, which was until the 18th century the residence of his descendants. (fn. 27) He died without surviving male issue in 1558, (fn. 28) and by his will, dated 31 May 1555, his manors in Chicheley were bequcathed to his daughter Judith Cave, subject to his wife Elizabeth's life interest. (fn. 29) Elizabeth Cave married shortly after her husband's death John Newdigate, (fn. 30) whose son John Newdigate, a wellknown 16th-century scholar, married Martha Cave, one of her younger daughters. (fn. 31) John Newdigate, sen., died on 16 August 1565, (fn. 32) and the year after his widow married Richard Weston, a judge of Common Pleas. (fn. 33) She died in 1577, when the Chicheley property reverted, in pursuance of her husband's will, to Anthony Chester, aged eleven and a-half, son of Judith Cave by her marriage with William Chester. (fn. 34) Anthony Chester is said to have raised a troop of horse at his own expense in 1588 to repel the threatened Spanish invasion, and to have accompanied Queen Elizabeth to Tilbury Fort at the head of his troops. (fn. 35) He was sheriff of the county in 1602, (fn. 36) and in March 1619–20 was created a baronet. (fn. 37) He was in 1628 Sheriff of Bedfordshire, (fn. 38) where he had recently purchased the Tilsworth estate, (fn. 39) and received royal licence to reside outside the county at Chicheley Hall during his year of office. (fn. 40) Sir Anthony Chester, bart., died in 1635. (fn. 41) He married twice; by his first wife Elizabeth daughter of Sir Henry Boteler, kt., he had five sons and seven daughters, (fn. 42) and by his second wife Mary daughter of John Ellis, one son Robert. (fn. 43) His eldest son and natural heir Anthony was at this time fortytwo years of age, (fn. 44) and by his father's will, made on his death-bed and bearing date 26 November 1635, both he and his brothers and sisters were passed over in favour of Henry Chester, their father's third son by the first wife. (fn. 45) The Chicheley estates were indeed entailed on Sir Anthony Chester by settlement of 1628, (fn. 46) but his father's partial disinheritance appears to have embarrassed his circumstances, for in 1638 he obtained a warrant to admit his son Henry, then thirteen years of age, to levy a fine of these manors in order to enable Sir Anthony to lease the property for twenty-one years, 'whereby to pay his debts of £2,500 and to raise portions for his seven younger children.' (fn. 47) Sir Anthony was an ardent Royalist, and greatly distinguished himself for courage and bravery at the battle of Naseby in 1645, (fn. 48) in which same year Chicheley Hall was plundered and sacked by Parliamentary troops. (fn. 49) He was eventually obliged to take refuge in Holland in 1646, and previous to his departure sold 658 acres in Chicheley to his brother Henry Chester, leaving the remainder of his estate to him in trust in order to secure it from sequestration. (fn. 50) There is still extant a letter written by Sir Anthony to his brother on the eve of departure begging him to be 'as a husband to my wife and a father to my children during my absence for I have no friend in the world that I dare trust in as yourself,' and proceeding to state that if the estate 'be in your hands, then I hope there will be no danger ensue to me or mine.' (fn. 51) Sir Anthony Chester returned from exile in 1650 and died the following year at Chicheley. (fn. 52) By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Peyton, bart., who survived him forty years, he had thirteen children—five sons and eight daughters. (fn. 53) Of them Anthony, second and eldest surviving son, succeeded to the Chicheley estates, which were at this time greatly encumbered. (fn. 54) He acquired, however, an increase of fortune by his marriage in 1657 with Mary daughter of Samuel Cranmer, a wealthy alderman of London, (fn. 55) while on the death of his uncle Henry Chester in 1666 he inherited under his will the 658 acres in Chicheley alienated by the late baronet in 1646, and also the Bedfordshire property. (fn. 56) In 1685 Anthony, eldest son of the baronet, died unmarried at the age of twenty-two, (fn. 57) and two years later his father made a settlement of Chicheley, (fn. 58) which passed on his death in February 1697–8 to John his second son. (fn. 59) Sir John Chester did not settle until 1714 at Chicheley, which remained the dower-house of his mother until her death in 1710. Previous to this date he caused the old building to be demolished, and the present house was erected. (fn. 60) He died and was buried in February 1725–6 at Chicheley, leaving eleven children by his first wife Ann, daughter of William Wollaston. (fn. 61) William, his eldest son, succeeded to the title, but under his father's will, though he acquired the Chicheley estate, should he have no son it was to revert to the testator's favourite son John, who also acquired the more valuable Bedfordshire property. (fn. 62) Sir William Chester had six daughters, (fn. 63) so that on his death (which took place thirty-two days after his father) not only the title but also the Chicheley estate passed under this will to his heir male, the above John Chester. (fn. 64) Penelope, widow of Sir William, thereupon brought a suit in Chancery disputing the terms of her father-in-law's will, but the suit was brought to an unsuccessful close in 1730, the judges being unanimously in favour of Sir John Chester, bart. (fn. 65) He married Frances daughter of Sir Edward Bagot, bart., by whom he had two sons and one daughter. (fn. 66) He died intestate in February 1747–8, and letters of administration of his estate were granted to his elder son Sir Charles Bagot Chester, bart., in 1748, (fn. 67) when he also suffered a recovery of the Chicheley estates. (fn. 68) Sir Charles Bagot Chester, bart., is described by Cole as 'a thorough accomplished gentleman and universally esteemed by his acquaintance,' (fn. 69) but appears to have been a profligate of the worst description, and died in a fit of delirium tremens without legitimate issue in 1755. (fn. 70) By his will, dated 21 May 1755, he alienated the whole of the Chester estates, both in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, from that family. Chicheley passed to Charles Bagot, son of his uncle Sir Walter Wagstaffe Bagot, bart., and his heirs in tail-male on condition that he should assume the name and arms of Chester. (fn. 71) Charles Bagot accordingly assumed the name of Chester and lived at Chicheley, where he was frequently visited by the poet Cowper, till his death in 1793. (fn. 72) Charles Chester, his son and heir, did not live at the Hall, which he leased about this date to Charles Pinfold, lord of Walton. (fn. 73) He died unmarried at Hampton Court in 1838, (fn. 74) and in accordance with the entail Chicheley passed to Anthony son of his brother Anthony Chester. (fn. 75) He died without male issue in 1858, and Chicheley became the property of his first cousin, Charles Montague son of William Chester. (fn. 76) The Rev. John Greville Chester, the present lord of the manor, succeeded his father, Charles Montague Chester, on the latter's death in 1879.
A second manor in this parish, known as THICKTHORNS MANOR, belonged to Tickford Priory, and is mentioned in the confirmation by Edward II of the founder's gifts. It was then said to be in Chicheley and Hardmead, and to comprise 317 a. 1 r. of land with meadow, pasture and wood. (fn. 77) This manor has always followed the same descent as Chicheley, and still gives its name to a farm in the east of the parish.
The right to hold a court every three weeks for both manors of Chicheley and Thickthorns is mentioned in the confirmation by Edward II of the founder's charter to Tickford Priory. (fn. 78) The view was held at Thickthorns, (fn. 79) and was confirmed by the overlord of the manor in 1310. (fn. 80) A grant of free warren in both manors was also obtained in 1311. (fn. 81)
A third estate in this parish was the titular BROUGHTONS MANOR, which appears in the 15th century. In 1420 John Fitz John and Amice his wife received a quitclaim from Richard Hulcote and Agnes his wife (on behalf of the said Agnes) of messuages and land in Chicheley, (fn. 84) and in the same year transferred the property to John Andrew and John Webbe. (fn. 85) They were probably trustees, for in 1451 John Barley and Agnes his wife (fn. 86) made two settlements, in both of which the name of John Andrew, jun., appears. (fn. 87) The second settlement seems to represent a genuine transfer to John Broughton, (fn. 88) and this property henceforward follows the same descent as the manor of Broughton (q.v.) (being described as Chicheley Manor in 1504 (fn. 89)) until 1573, when William Paulet, Lord St. John, transferred Chicheley Manor, called Broughtons, to William Chester, (fn. 90) whose son Anthony Chester inherited Chicheley Manor four years later from his grandmother (see above). No further separate mention has been found of Broughtons Manor by name. (fn. 91)
Various estates in neighbouring parishes had lands extending into Chicheley, notably the manor of Pateshull or Little Crawley in North Crawley (q.v.), which is indeed sometimes called the manor of Crawley and Chicheley. (fn. 92) In 1384 John de Burton, parson of North Crawley, received licence to sue the Prior of Tickford, who had seized tithes and obventions from Little Crawley and lands in Chicheley which John said had been from time immemorial within the metes and bounds of his parish. (fn. 93)
A younger branch of the family of Mansel or Maunsell, of which Sampson Maunsell was the head in the 13th century, was settled in Chicheley from the 13th to the 17th century. Reference to them is infrequent. In 1273 Sampson Maunsell held of the honour of Newport a fee in Chicheley (fn. 96) which had passed to William Maunsell by 1284–6. (fn. 97) It is mentioned a few years later as belonging to the 'heir of Sampson le Maunsel.' (fn. 98) In the middle of the 14th century Hugh Maunsell's name occurs in a list of Chicheley jurors. (fn. 99) In 1400–1 John Maunsell of Wendlebury (Oxfordshire), smith, and Joan his wife quitclaimed a messuage and land in Chicheley to Richard Maunsell, belonging to the parish. (fn. 100) An old pedigree together with a rhyming chronicle of the family is preserved at Thorpe Malsor, the seat of the Northamptonshire family of Maunsells, who claim descent from the Chicheley branch. According to these ancient records a Maunsell having slain his brother with a longbow, the family suffered reverses and disappeared from this parish until Almighty God 'of his Grace
Again in Chicheley did us place.' (fn. 101) There is certainly a gap of nearly 200 years in the history of the family at this date. The name reappears in the person of Thomas son of Richard Maunsell, (fn. 102) who by his will, bearing date August 1581, left his lands in Chicheley to his son John. (fn. 103) John Maunsell died and was buried at Bromley in Kent in 1625. (fn. 104) He had two sons, John and Thomas, (fn. 105) who appear to have sold their property in Chicheley shortly after this date to the lord of the manor, for in a schedule of lands belonging to Sir Anthony Chester, bart., lord of the manor, made in 1646, occurs mention of 'all that capitall messuage with the appurtenances called Mansells, situate and being in Berry End in Chicheley aforesaid.' (fn. 106) The Maunsell lands have since followed the same descent as the manor, while the family removed to Thorpe Malsor, where it is still established. (fn. 107)
A family of Horton was settled in Chicheley for several generations in the 15th century, or possibly earlier. Richard son of John Horton (fn. 108) in his will proved in 1461 refers to his grandfather Thomas Horton, whose silver spoons he bequeathed to his sister Joan. (fn. 109) Some years after his death his widow Millicent disputed his will with Richard Horton and other trustees. (fn. 110)
The church of ST. LAWRENCE consists of a chancel 21 ft. by 14 ft., central tower 15 ft. 6 in. by 12 ft., nave 35 ft. by 18 ft., north aisle 52 ft. by 15 ft. 6 in., and south porch; all the measurements being internal. It is built of rubble, and the roofs are covered with lead.
The plan of the present building appears to be the result of successive additions to a 12th-century church consisting of the existing nave and a small chancel. A north aisle, extending the full length of this building, was added about 1325, while about 1480 the original chancel was replaced by the tower, and a new chancel was built to the east of the tower. In the 16th century the south porch and the nave clearstory were added, and in 1708 the chancel was again rebuilt. The aisle and tower have been recently restored.
The chancel is a pleasing example of the Queen Anne period. At the eastern angles and against the tower are Corinthian pilasters, while the side walls are crowned by a moulded cornice and plain parapet with carved urns at the corners, the east wall being finished with a pediment. Neither the north nor the east wall is pierced, but externally in the east wall are two large semicircular niches with shell heads and carved pedestals. On the south is a square-headed doorway, flanked on either side by a window of two lights with Gothic tracery in a square head. The windows have moulded architraves, which are carried down to inclose blank panels below the sills, and are surmounted by pulvinated friezes and segmental pediments, while above the doorway is a moulded cornice supporting the shield of John Chester, fourth baronet, Chester with Wollaston in pretence. The walls are plastered internally and have a wood-panelled dado; at the east end, occupying the full width of the wall, is a marble reredos with Corinthian pilasters, supporting a deep richly foliated frieze with a moulded cornice, above which, in an architectural setting, is a tablet with the inscription 'Gloria in Excelsis.' The fine plaster ceiling has a foliated cornice and a central oval wreath of flowers and fruit. The chancel is entered from the west through an oak screen of three round arches with Roman Doric columns and responds on tall pedestals. The pedestals of the middle arch form posts to a charming wrought-iron gate surmounted by scrollwork and foliation. A lead rain-water head at the north-west corner of the chancel bears the arm of John Chester and the date 1708.
The ground stage of the tower opens to the chancel on the east, to the nave on the west, and to the aisle on the north, by pointed arches of the 15th century, supported by semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases. Part of the south respond of the western arch has been removed, and the upper part of the arch to the chancel is now blocked. On the south is a tall 15th-century window of three lights with tracery in a pointed head, and at the south-east is a newel staircase to the bell-chamber, the original entrance to which is blocked, a new doorway having been opened externally. High in the wall is a doorway which opened originally from the staircase to the rood-loft, but now admits to an 18th-century gallery forming an upper floor to the ground stage of the tower. The oak rood with figures which now stands upon this gallery was erected in 1904.
On the north side of the nave is an early 14thcentury arcade of three pointed arches supported by clustered pillars and responds with moulded capitals and bases. On the south are a three-light window and a plain doorway, both of which were inserted in the 15th century. In the west wall is a threelight traceried window of about 1350. The clearstory is lighted from either side by four 16th-century windows with depressed heads. On the south side of the nave is a 15th-century stoup with a cinquefoiled head, and near the west end of the wall are traces of painting which probably date from the 16th century. The aisle is lighted from the north by two windows, only the jambs and rear arches of which are ancient, and from the west by a modern window. The east window, now blocked, dates from the 14th century, and the pointed north doorway is of the same period. The aisle was reroofed in the 16th century.
The porch is of two stories and has a pointed archway on the south and a square-headed window of two lights in each lateral wall, all of the 16th century. The upper chamber was originally lighted by a small window in the gable, but this is now blocked. The tower rises two stages above the church roof and is surmounted by an embattled parapet. The second stage has two small windows, one of which is partly covered by the clock face, and the bell-chamber is lighted from all sides by long twin windows, each of two trefoiled lights with a transom midway in their height.
On the floor at the east end of the aisle is a brass with the figures of a man in plate armour and his wife in clock and veil head-dress, and an inscription commemorating Anthony Cave, merchant of the Staple of Calais, who died in 1558; two shields remain, one of Cave impaling Lovett, and the other of the Staple, while two others are lost. On the east wall of the aisle is a 16th-century brass with the figure of a shrouded skeleton, an inscription in verse, and a shield of Cave. In the nave are a brass inscription with an achievement of arms to William son of Henry Shelley of Patcham, Sussex (d. 1638), and an inscription to Elizabeth Noke (fn. 111) (?) (d. 1658). Against the east end of the north wall of the aisle there is also a stone monument to the Anthony Cave mentioned above, erected by Elizabeth (Lovett) his wife in 1576. It consists of a sarcophagus flanked by caryatides standing on pedestals and supporting an entablature and pediment. On the sarcophagus is the recumbent figure of a corpse, above which in high relief are figures of two sons and six daughters; in the pediment is an achievement of the arms of Cave, while above the figures of the children are the shields of Cave and Lovett. At the east end of the aisle is a large monument to Sir Anthony Chester, knight and first baronet (d. 1635), and Dame Elizabeth (Boteler) his first wife (d. 1629). Their kneeling figures are represented below a canopy formed by an entablature and cornice supported by tall Corinthian columns; above the cornice are the shields of Chester, Chester impaling Boteler, and Chester quartering Cave and Boteler. On the north wall of the chancel are two elaborate marble monuments; one, surmounted by the arms of Chester impaling Cranmer, in memory of Sir Anthony Chester, third baronet (d. 1698), and Mary his wife (d. 1710), daughter of Samuel Cranmer, London; and the other, with the arms of Chester impaling Wollaston, to Ann, first wife of Sir John Chester, fourth baronet (d. 1704), daughter of William Wollaston of Shenton, Leicestershire. There are several 17th-century floor slabs in the north aisle. The communion table and rails are of the 18th century, the former being dated 1755, and the carved ends of a wide seat in the chancel are of the same period. At the west end of the church is some 17th-century panelling, and there is a Bible box of that period in the aisle.
The church of Chicheley, which formed part of the original endowment of Tickford Priory, follows the same descent as the manor, (fn. 112) and is at present in the gift of the Rev. John Greville Chester. In the taxation of 1291 the vicarage was assessed at £6, (fn. 113) and at the Dissolution is entered at £8. (fn. 114) The rectory follows the same descent as the advowson.
In 1318 Richard Burgess alienated land in mortmain in Chicheley towards the maintenance of a chaplain in the church of Newport Pagnell. (fn. 115)
The charity of John Maunsell, mentioned in the Parliamentary Returns of 1786, consists of an annuity of £2 12s. issuing out of 2 acres of land in the parish which is distributed among poor widows and widowers.
The Rev. Samuel Thomas Townsend by his will in 1874 bequeathed £500, which was invested in £536 3s. 10d. consols, the annual dividends, amounting to £13 8s., to be distributed equally among twelve aged sick or infirm poor.