A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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The parish contains about 1,211 acres, of which 498 acres are arable, 702 permanent grass and 6 woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The land gradually falls from about 340 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north of the parish to about 255 ft. in the neighbourhood of Chicheley Brook. The soil is Oxford Clay. The village is on a by-road leading north from the high road from Newport Pagnell to Bedford and, with the rectory and schools, lies near the church. The moated site of the old manor-house lies to the north of the church. The house that stood there was for a long time the residence of the Catesbys, who held the manor in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, and probably succeeded a capital messuage mentioned in 1325. (fn. 2) In a settlement of 1605 certain portions of the house were set apart for the widow's jointure—namely, the great dining chamber and four rooms on the south and west of it on the same floor and places and garrets above them as well as the cellar and store-house below. (fn. 3) Browne Willis states that by his time the biggest part of the manorhouse was pulled down and what was left made into a tenant's house. It had 'never been a good one, being Studd Work and lathed and plaistered under the Roof which is tiled'; there was 'nothing antique in it.' (fn. 4) Even this seems to have been pulled down about the middle of the 19th century, but traces of fish-ponds and a wall, besides the moat, were still to be seen in Sheahan's time. (fn. 5) The present Manor Farm is a 17th-century house with very considerable alterations and additions made during the following century and later.
The parsonage-house in the early part of the 17th century was built of timber and plaster, and stood in about an acre of land inclosed with a moat. Besides the house there were two barns and a hay-house. At the back, within the moat, was a garden plot with fruit trees. There were besides about 15 acres of land attached, ten forming a portion called Parsonage Stocking, and two being in the 'Mill Field.' (fn. 6)
In the 18th century the parish was said to contain 'about 20 houses and 70 souls.' (fn. 7)
Oswi, a man of Alric, held and could sell HARDMEAD MANOR before the Conquest. (fn. 8) In 1086 it was held as a manor of 4 hides by Walter son of Other. (fn. 9) The overlordship passed from Walter to his descendants the Windsors, (fn. 10) of whom Hardmead was held as parcel of their manor of Stanwell in Middlesex for one fee, suit every three weeks, and a rent called wardsilver, said to be 6s. 8d. every twenty-four weeks in 1428, (fn. 11) and in 1486, (fn. 12) for ward of Windsor Castle. In 1542 Andrew Lord Windsor exchanged Stanwell and his lands in Hardmead with the king, (fn. 13) and the services therefrom can be traced as late as 1638. (fn. 14)
Walter's tenant in 1086 was Ralf, (fn. 15) and in the time of Henry III Sarra de Bending held the fee, (fn. 16) which had passed by 1284–6 to William de Bending, (fn. 17) who still held in 1302–3. (fn. 18) In 1315 William de Bending or Bennyng granted about 50 acres of land and 6s. rent to John de Olney, (fn. 19) who was returned as lord of Hardmead in the next year, (fn. 20) and received a grant of free warren in 1318. (fn. 21) He died in 1325, (fn. 22) and his widow Maud, daughter of Nicholas de Haversham, (fn. 23) afterwards held lands in Hardmead in dower. (fn. 24) His son John de Olney, said to be seventeen years old at the time of his father's death, made a settlement of the manor in 1329. (fn. 25) In 1331, however, the overlord, Richard de Windsor, brought a suit against him for having entered the manor while still a minor. (fn. 26) In 1346 Michael Mynot held the fee formerly belonging to William de Bending. (fn. 27) Probably he held as guardian or as the husband of John de Olney's widow, since William de Olney, son of John, (fn. 28) with Isabel his wife, held the manor in 1374. (fn. 29) He died within three years. (fn. 30) In 1418 Thomas Stutfield and Idonia his wife granted it to John Rose or Roose, (fn. 31) who held in 1428. (fn. 32) Before 1452 the tenant of the Windsors was apparently Thomas Rose. (fn. 33) Hardmead was afterwards held by Richard Maryot, who granted it before 1485 to his daughter and heir John on her marriage with Humphrey Catesby of Whiston, Northamptonshire. (fn. 34) Humphrey died in 1503, when he held about 200 acres of land in Hardmead. (fn. 35) His son and heir Anthony, who died in 1553, left Hardmead to a younger son Francis. (fn. 36) At his death four years later Francis left his estate in Hardmead to his wife Mary with reversion to his younger son Anthony. (fn. 37) He appears to have sold the manor, which was held in 1580 by Thomas Ardes, (fn. 38) and was purchased of him before 1583 by Thomas Catesby, (fn. 39) elder brother of Anthony. (fn. 40) A settlement of the manor was made in 1605 by Thomas on the marriage of his son Francis Catesby with Susan Brocas. (fn. 41) Thomas died in 1620, his widow Katherine afterwards holding a jointure in the manor. (fn. 42) Francis died in 1636, leaving a son and heir Thomas, (fn. 43) who made a settlement of the manor in the following year. (fn. 44) This Thomas Catesby was sheriff of the county in 1659, (fn. 45) and 'by his great Profuseness in his Office and Equipage ran this Estate (Hardmead) in Debt,' (fn. 46) so that, although he continued to hold the manor for some time longer, (fn. 47) he and his son Thomas were obliged to join in selling it in 1679 to Sir John Maynard, kt. (fn. 48) Sir John was already possessed of the manor of Clifton Reynes, with which Hardmead descended until 1792, (fn. 49) when Alexander Small, then lord of both manors, sold Hardmead, then called Hardmead Halfspenny, to Robert Earl of Kinnoull. (fn. 50) The earl was succeeded in 1804 by his son Thomas, who sold the manor to Robert Shedden. (fn. 51) He died in 1826, when Hardmead passed to his son George Shedden. After his death in 1855 the Buckinghamshire property appears to have been divided into equal portions between his sons William George, Roscow Cole, and Edward Cole, rector of Clapton (Northants), (fn. 52) whose names are given as landowners in 1873. (fn. 53) On the death of the eldest son without issue in that year Roscow Cole inherited his portion, which passed at his death four years later to his son George Shedden, the present lord of the manor, the interest of the Rev. E. C. Shedden, who died in 1876, being now vested in his widow.
A windmill is mentioned among the appurtenances of the manor in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 54)
A second manor in HARDMEAD, consisting of 1 hide all but half a virgate, was held before the Conquest by Godwin, a man of Ulf, in 1086 by Hervey of William Fitz Ansculf. (fn. 55) William was succeeded in his holding by the Paynels, (fn. 56) founders of Tickford Priory, and in 1187 a charter of Gervase Paynel, grandson of Fulk the founder, confirmed to the monks of Tickford the gift of a hide of land at Hardmead. (fn. 57) The priory continued to hold this land until the Dissolution, (fn. 58) and also received a grant of free warren here in 1311. (fn. 59) After the Dissolution it shared the fate of Chicheley, with which manor and that of Thickthorns, partly in Hardmead, it was granted in 1545 to Anthony Cave. (fn. 60) Lands here followed the descent of the Chicheley manors in the 17th century, (fn. 61) but no record of them appears after that time.
Perhaps the half virgate excepted from this hide of land in 1086, and afterwards apparently restored to it, was that which Godric, a man of Oswi, had held before the Conquest, but which was held of William Fitz Ansculf by Payn in 1086. (fn. 62)
Another hide in Hardmead, held as a manor before the Conquest by three brothers, one a man of Tochi and the other two men of Baldwin, was held in 1086 by Baldwin of William Fitz Ansculf. (fn. 63) Half a virgate of this land belonged then, as it had in the time of King Edward, to the church of St. Firmin of North Crawley. (fn. 64)
Another holding in Hardmead in 1086 was that of 1 hide and 1 virgate which Morcar held of the Countess Judith. (fn. 65) This may be the land afterwards held in Hardmead by the Butler family, since they held a manor named after them in Clifton Reynes, which was similarly among the possessions of the Countess Judith in 1086. (fn. 66) William Butler and Alice his wife held land here in 1275, (fn. 67) and in 1302–3 Isabel, widow of William Salet, recovered seisin of half an acre in Hardmead against William Butler and Eleanor. (fn. 68) There is mention of William Butler in 1316, (fn. 69) and William son of William Butler of Hardmead was accused of trespass in 1323. (fn. 70) Francis Butler was pardoned for assenting to the counterfeiting of coin in 1326, (fn. 71) but there is no further record of their lands here.
A further entry in the Domesday Survey records that Alric son of Godin held a manor assessed at 2½ hides in 1086, and then held by Hugh of Walter Giffard. (fn. 72) This Hugh may have been Hugh de Bolebec, the most important of Walter's tenants in this county; he also held half a virgate in Hardmead as his own land which Ulgrim, a man of Earl Lewin, had held before the Conquest. (fn. 73)
There is no certain evidence of the descent of this manor, for it does not appear among the lands of the honour of Giffard unless William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, is meant by the William Marshal, custodian of Gilbert son and heir of Hugh le Heyr, whose widow Avice in 1223 claimed one-third of 12 acres in Hardmead as dower against John le Enfant. (fn. 74) Or it may perhaps be traced in the half virgate in 'Harewemede' which Robert son of Anketill exchanged with John son of Hugh in 1194, (fn. 75) or in the fee in 'Harewemede' for which William de Willen paid scutage in 1234–5. (fn. 76)
The church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel measuring internally 32 ft. by 14 ft. 6 in., nave 35 ft. by 16 ft. 6 in., north aisle 8 ft. wide, south aisle 8 ft. 6 in. wide, west tower 10 ft. by 9 ft. 6 in. and a south porch 8 ft. square.
Evidence of the existence of a church here in the 12th century is given by the fragments of a font of that date now fixed in the wall on either side of the south doorway, but no other detail of that period survives. The west tower was added to this church about the middle of the 13th century, and some thirty years later a south aisle was built, the arcade opening to which still remains. The north aisle was added early in the 14th century, and towards the middle of the same century the chancel was rebuilt. About 1400 new windows were inserted in the north wall of the north aisle, and a few years later the south aisle was remodelled and the south porch added. Late in the 15th century the clearstory was added to the nave. The east wall of the chancel has been rebuilt, probably during the 19th century, and in 1861 the church was restored. The walling generally is of rubble, and the roofs, with the exception of that of the chancel, which is tiled, are leaded.
The east window of the chancel has modern threelight tracery, but some original 14th-century stones seem to have been used in the rear-arch. There are two windows in each side wall; the eastern windows have been almost entirely renewed, but those at the west end are substantially original. Each is of two trefoiled lights with leaf-tracery in a two-centred head, the design of the tracery being very similar to that of the south aisle windows at Haversham Church. In the west jamb of the north-west window is a small rectangular blocked opening, measuring about 14 in. by 2½ in., probably that of a squint from the outside; no trace of the external opening, however, is now visible. Between the two windows in the south wall is a restored 14th-century doorway with a shouldered rear-arch and a two-centred external head inclosed by an original moulded label with headstops, one a mitred head and the other that of a man in a liripipe hood. At the east end of the south wall is a modern piscina recess with a trefoiled ogee head, perhaps a copy of an original piscina, and in a corresponding position in the opposite wall is a modern credence table. The 14th-century chancel arch is two-centred and of two chamfered orders dying into the side walls.
The early 14th-century north arcade of the nave is of two bays with two-centred arches of two chamfered orders, supported by a central pier of quatrefoil plan, and responds repeating the half plan of the pier. The capitals and bases of the pier and responds are moulded, and the arches have labels on both faces, those on the north face having a head-stop at their intersection over the pier. The south arcade is of the same number of bays and has similar arches supported by a pier and responds of the same form, but the mouldings of the capitals and bases are of late 13thcentury section. The arches have labels with maskstops on both faces. Above the east respond is the upper doorway of the rood stairs, which are carried up in the thickness of the wall and were entered from a similar doorway at the north-east corner of the south aisle. The late 15th-century clearstory windows, three on either side, are each of two trefoiled lights under a four-centred head.
In the east wall of the north aisle is an early 14thcentury window of two trefoiled lights with quatrefoil tracery in a two-centred head. The tracery is of somewhat unusual design, and the heads of the lights are semicircular. The two windows in the north wall are insertions of about 1400. The eastern window, which has been considerably restored, is of two trefoiled lights with a vertical-sided quatrefoil in a two-centred head; the western is of the same number of trefoiled lights and has a two-centred head with quatrefoil tracery, but the window is much smaller and the lights have ogee heads. The north doorway seems to have been inserted about 1420. It has a two-centred external head continuously moulded with the jambs, and was blocked when the church was restored. To the east of the doorway is a plain pointed stoup recess. The windows of the south aisle, which have escaped renewal, are of the early 15th century. The east window has a four-centred head and is of three cinquefoiled lights, the central light rising into the apex of the opening, while the side lights are acutely pointed. The southeast window is of two cinquefoiled lights with a vertical-sided quatrefoil in a two-centred head. The south doorway is similar in date and design to the north doorway. The south-west window is modern. At the south-east is a 14th-century piscina with a trefoiled ogee head and a basin of sexfoiled form, the projecting portion of which has been cut away.
The west tower is of two receding stages with an embattled parapet. A slight set-off above the windows of the bell-chamber shows that the tower was slightly heightened when the embattled parapet was added in the 15th century. The tower arch is two-centred and of two chamfered orders, the outer order being continuous, while the inner order rests upon modern corbels. The west window of the ground stage is modern, but some original 14th-century stones survive in the inner jambs. Above the head of this window is a small original light with a label and external rebate. The windows of the second or bell-chamber stage afford interesting examples of plate tracery. Each is of two trefoil-headed lights with a foiled piercing under a containing two-centred label brought down nearly to the level of the springing of the heads of the lights. In the case of the windows on the north and south the lights are divided by a shaft with a moulded capital, that of the north window having also a moulded base, but the other windows have only a broad mullion. The early 15th-century south porch has a continuously moulded outer entrance and is lighted from each side wall by a window of two trefoiled lights with quatrefoil tracery in a twocentred head; at the southern angles of the porch are diagonal buttresses.
The roofs of the chancel and nave are modern, as is also that of the south aisle, though some old timbers have been re-used. The roof of the north aisle is of original late 15th-century date; it is of the lean-to type and is supported by principals alternately straight and cambered, having carved bosses at their intersections with the purlin. The westernmost boss bears a shield charged with a voided cross between what appear to be four engrailed saltires; another boss has the crown of thorns.
At the east end of the south aisle is preserved an early 17th-century communion table. Some original 14th-century glass remains in the tracery of the north-east window of the chancel, and the south-west window of the south aisle contains pieces of 15thcentury glass. Nine late 15th-century seats with buttressed uprights and moulded top rails, and three desk-fronts of the same date, are preserved in the nave and north aisle. In the tower is a fine oak bier bearing the following inscription: ROBERD HEARN AND FRANCES PVRNNY CHVRCH WARNS T C 1670 W S W C.
At the south-east corner of the north aisle is a brass with figure and inscription commemorating Francis Catesby (d. 1556). The inscription is as follows: 'Of your charyte pray for the soule of Francys | Catesby of hardmeede Gent' the yongest sonne of Antony Catesbye of whyston Esquyer decessyde; | whyche francys decessyd the xxj day of August in | the yere of oure lord God a M'ccccclvj On | whose soule and all Christen god have mercy amē.' At the east end of the north wall of the same aisle is an elaborate mural monument of stone and marble, erected in memory of a later Francis Catesby (d. 1636). The design is peculiar and consists of a recess built up of piles of books and containing a small recumbent effigy of Francis Catesby, with kneeling figures of a son and two daughters. The whole is flanked by Corinthian columns supporting a curved broken pediment in which is a shield of arms. Upon a tablet below the recess is inscribed: 'Epitaphium in memoriam Francisci | Catesby armigeri qui decessit die 3° Novembris an° Domini 1636.' A copy of laudatory Latin verse follows. On the west wall of the north aisle is a marble tablet commemorating Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Catesby and wife of Sir Thomas Hanbury, kt. (d. 1665); her father Thomas Catesby (d. 1679); Thomas son of the same Thomas Catesby (d. 1681), and, lastly, Elizabeth, 'Relick' of the elder Thomas Catesby (d. 1699). On the north wall of the chancel is a large marble tablet commemorating Robert Shedden, who sailed in his yacht Nancy Dawson to search for Sir John Franklin. He died on board his yacht in 1849, on the Pacific, and was buried in the Protestant burial ground at Mazatlan. A second tablet commemorates his father, William Shedden, who died in 1820.
There are three bells. The treble is inscribed in black letter, 'Vox Augustini Sonet In Aure Dei.' It was probably cast in the first half of the 15th century by Robert Crowch. It is now broken in two and is placed on the floor of the intermediate stage. The second, an early 16th-century bell, is inscribed in black letter, 'Sancta maria ora p[ro] nobis.' The tenor is inscribed in Lombardic capitals, 'Vocor Johannes.' It was cast probably in the 14th century by William Rufford. (fn. 77)
The church of Hardmead was in possession of the priory of Merton in Surrey at an early date, Gilbert, a sub-deacon, being presented by the prior in 1223. (fn. 78) The church was valued at £5 6s. 8d. in 1291 and paid a pension of £1 to the prior and also £1 6s. 8d. to the Prior of Tickford. (fn. 79) In a fine between the Prior of Merton and G., rector of Hardmead, the latter acknowledged his obligation to pay the pension of £1 at Easter. (fn. 80) In after years William de Bending laid claim to the advowson and obliged the prior to establish his right in the law courts in 1316. (fn. 81) In 1358 the king presented to the church, owing to 'the temporalities of Merton Priory being lately in his hands.' (fn. 82) Some protest was evidently made, as in 1359 the same incumbent was again presented by the Crown, (fn. 83) and in 1360 an order was made for the arrest of all persons prosecuting appeals against the decision of the judges whereby the king lately recovered the said presentation against the prior and John Tybotes, chaplain. (fn. 84) Possibly this quarrel is responsible for the subsequent confusion in the descent of the advowson. According to Browne Willis the Priors of Merton continued to present until the Dissolution. (fn. 85) At that time, or as late as 1535, they certainly still received their pension from the rector, (fn. 86) but in the accounts of their possessions at this date there is no mention of this church. Moreover, in 1374, William de Olney levied a fine of both manor and advowson, (fn. 87) while, after the Dissolution, the church was stated to have been a possession of the late monastery of Lavendon, (fn. 88) and was granted as such in 1543 to Thomas Lawe in fee. (fn. 89) He alienated it in 1545 to Edward Ardes of Sherington, (fn. 90) who died in 1570, having settled the advowson on his second son Thomas. (fn. 91) Thomas Ardes sold it about 1595 to John Smythe and Thomas Tyllyard or Tyllyer, agents for Mardoch Bownell, clerk, who arranged to pay the purchase money by instalments and gave up his living at Hanwell. (fn. 92) In 1598 Bownell brought an action against the agents, (fn. 93) stating that he had been deceived as to the age of the then incumbent and the value of the living, and, further, that he had been obliged to make a new purchase from Thomas Ardes's son and heir John. Smythe replied that Bownell had gone to Hardmead, had conferred with the incumbent and satisfied himself about his age and had viewed the parsonagehouse and glebe lands, becoming, thereupon, very anxious to purchase. But he seems never to have actually held the living, and shortly afterwards, in 1604, Thomas Catesby, lord of the manor, presented to the church. (fn. 94) The advowson then passed with the manor until 1877–8, (fn. 95) when it was conveyed to the Rev. R. Hawthorn. His executors sold it to Mr. C. E. Lamplugh, in whose representatives it is now vested.
Town Land.—It is stated in the Parliamentary Returns of 1786 that an unknown donor gave land, then producing £2 a year, to the poor. The land in question was inclosed, and in lieu thereof an annual sum of £2 is now received from the Hardmead estate. This sum is distributed in coal to about ten recipients.