A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In the 11th century Moulsoe gave its name to the hundred of Moulsoe, which was later absorbed in the hundred of Newport. (fn. 1) It is stated with regard to the parish in an inquisition taken c. 1341 for the purposes of a general taxation throughout the country that Moulsoe was only valued at 7 marks 3 shillings and 4 pence, the low sum being due to the fact that a dry summer had that year spoilt the bean and pea crops, and so deprived the inhabitants of their principal means of livelihood. (fn. 2)
At the present day Moulsoe has an area of 1,654 acres, of which 569 acres are arable and 928 acres permanent grass. (fn. 3) The soil is mixed, principally strong loam, the subsoil clay and gravel. The principal crops produced are wheat, barley, oats and beans. The slope of the land varies from 354 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north-west to 200 ft. in the south-west. The parish is watered by Claydon Brook, and is well-wooded, containing some 147 acres of woodland; Moulsoe Old Wood in the north and Drake's Gorse in the west may be noted.
A terrier of 1639 thus describes the rectory: 'The parsonage dwelling-house contains six bays tiled, one corn barn of five bays and one lesser of three bays, both thatched, one hay barn of three bays thatched, a stable with a gate house, and other houses for other uses contain five bays; one other little house contains three bays thatched.' (fn. 4)
The Civil War, which raged specially in this neighbourhood, did not leave Moulsoe untouched, for it appears from the parish registers that two Parliamentarian soldiers were buried here in 1643. (fn. 5) Moulsoe was inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1802. (fn. 6)
In 1086 MOULSOE MANOR was among the lands of Walter Giffard, and was assessed at 10 hides. (fn. 7) Like other of his lands, (fn. 8) this manor became attached to the liberty of the Earl Marshal, (fn. 9) and was so held of the Talbots in the 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 10) When the mesne manor fell to the Crown in 1542 Moulsoe became part of the king's honour of Ampthill, (fn. 11) and so remained (fn. 12) until the grant to Sir John Spencer, Moulsoe being then attached to the manor of East Greenwich. (fn. 13) Last mention of the overlordship has been found in 1632. (fn. 14)
Eight thegns were tenants of Moulsoe Manor under the Confessor, the 10 hides being subdivided into two manors of 2 hides each, held by Ulf and Alwin respectively; Algar held another manor of 1 hide and a half, the remaining 4½ hides being divided among Elsi, Turchil, Lodi, Osulf, and Elric. (fn. 15) By the time of the Survey all these holdings were united in the ownership of one man, Richard. (fn. 16) Who were his immediate successors has not been established, but by 1185 the king was guardian to two widows, both owning considerable property in Moulsoe. Emma de Langetot, described as 'de genere illarum de Chedney et Josceline Crispini,' was sixty years old and had land worth £4 per annum. Her heirs were the wife of Alan de Dunstanville and the wife of Alard son of William. (fn. 17) The second royal ward was Ida widow of William de Sherington (Schirintone) and daughter of Hugh de Bulli. Her children were three sons and three daughters, the eldest thirty years of age. (fn. 18) There must have been some connexion between these very considerable owners of land and the family of Coudray, who are found as lords of the manor barely a generation later, though the missing link has not been discovered. The first of the Coudary family to whom reference has been found in Moulsoe is Peter de Coudary, who is said to have presented to the church in the time of King John. (fn. 19) Fulk de Coudary held a fee here in demesne c. 1240, (fn. 20) and died about 1251 seised of Moulsoe Manor, which was then of sufficient importance to have five of the Earl Marshal's knights' fees in Buckinghamshire and one in Bedfordshire attached to it. (fn. 21) Peter son of Fulk de Coudray was under age at his father's death. (fn. 22) In 1262 Richard de Sifrewast relinquished his right in the manor (obtained by an agreement with Fulk) to Peter de Coudray, (fn. 23) who is returned as holding one fee in Moulsoe in 1284–6. (fn. 24) Peter de Coudray died about 1303, (fn. 25) having leased Moulsoe and other manors in 1297 to his eldest son Thomas de Coudray at an annual rent of £100. (fn. 26) Thomas de Coudary's name is found in connexion with Moulsoe in 1302 (fn. 27) and 1304. (fn. 28) In 1310 he made a settlement of the manor on his son Thomas and Lucy, the latter's wife. (fn. 29) Thomas de Coudray was part lord of the vill in 1316, (fn. 30) but died in 1349, when the manor descended to his 'cousin and heir' Fulk de Coudray, son of Thomas de Coudray, (fn. 31) who held in 1355 with Jane his wife. (fn. 32) Between 1367, in which year the last mention is found of Fulk de Coudray, (fn. 33) and 1397 Moulsoe appears to have passed to the Whittingham family, of whom the Bammes and others appear to have held on long leases. In 1397 Adam Bamme was responsible to the overlord for the fee by which this manor was held, (fn. 34) and in 1420 had been followed by Richard Bamme. (fn. 35) In 1452 the will of Sir Robert Whittingham contains mention of Moulsoe Manor, which he bequeathed to his younger son Richard, with remainder to his eldest son Robert. (fn. 36) The manor eventually came to Robert Whittingham, and on his attainder for adherence to the house of Lancaster fell with other of his estates into the possession of the Crown. (fn. 37) Meanwhile a continuance of the interest of the Bammes in the manor is still to be found. Richard Bamme died in or about the year 1452, when his will was dated. (fn. 38) It contains no mention of Moulsoe by name, but in 1462 his son John acquired licence to enter into the manor, then stated to be under forfeiture on account of Robert Whittingham's attainder. (fn. 39) The Bamme interests had passed by August of the following year to Robert Honyngton, who was declared to have died seised at that date of the manor of Moulsoe, (fn. 40) and whose nephew and heir Thomas Honyngton (fn. 41) had apparently married Margaret daughter of Richard Bamme. (fn. 42) Thomas Honyngton acquired possession of Moulsoe Manor in the same year, (fn. 43) but no further reference to his holding has been found. Moulsoe was still in the king's hands in 1477, being then granted to Thomas Grey, who was to render 2d. yearly at Michaelmas. (fn. 44) The Whittinghams appear to have obtained eventually a reversal of the forfeiture of their lands here as elsewhere, for in 1497 Moulsoe Manor is found in the possession of Margaret daughter and heir of Sir Robert Whittingham and wife of Sir John Verney. (fn. 45) In that year she transferred the manor to Thomas Heyron. (fn. 46) From him it passed to John Marsh, who sold it to the Crown in 1542. (fn. 47) Princess Elizabeth held it during her brother's reign, (fn. 48) and when she came to the throne made it the subject of various grants. Thus Robert Power received a temporary grant in 1550, renewed in 1560, (fn. 49) and again in 1577. (fn. 50) Finally, in March 1599–1600 Sir John Spencer, kt., received a permanent grant of Moulsoe Manor. (fn. 51) He died in 1610, and the manor next passed to his daughter Elizabeth, wife of William Lord Compton, (fn. 52) who was created Earl of Northampton in 1618. (fn. 53) He died in 1630, (fn. 54) in which year Spencer Earl of Northampton, his son and heir, made a settlement of Moulsoe Manor (fn. 55) which his mother Elizabeth retained till her death in 1632. (fn. 56) Spencer Earl of Northampton was an ardent supporter of Charles I in the Civil War, and was slain at Hopton Heath on 19 March 1642–3 fighting on the Royalist side. (fn. 57) In 1647 his widow compounded for her estate in Moulsoe, James Earl of Northampton, his son and heir, also compounding for his reversionary interest. (fn. 58) He suffered a recovery of the manor in 1658. (fn. 59) He died in 1681, and his eldest surviving son George succeeded to the family title and estates. (fn. 60) George, fourth Earl of Northampton, was in turn succeeded in 1727 by his son James, (fn. 61) who made a settlement of Moulsoe in 1730. (fn. 62) He died in 1754, when his estates devolved on his brother and heir male George Compton. (fn. 63) He also left no direct issue, and in 1758 the title and estates passed to his nephew Charles Compton, who in the year following his accession suffered a recovery of Moulsoe Manor. (fn. 64) In 1781 this manor appears to have been temporarily in the possession of John and Frances Bowater, (fn. 65) but it was retained by the Earls of Northampton until 1801, when it was purchased from Charles Earl of Northampton by Lord Carrington, (fn. 66) in whose family it has since been retained, the Marquess of Lincolnshire being the present lord of the manor. (fn. 67)
Part of Walter Giffard's Domesday property went to form a second MOULSOE MANOR, which follows the same descent as that part of his adjoining manor of Broughton (q.v.) retained by Robert de Broughton in 1334. Only very occasional reference is found to it. In 1316 Joan widow of Ralph de Broughton held part of Moulsoe, (fn. 68) described in 1409 as two cottages. (fn. 69) John Broughton died seised of lands and rents here in 1489, (fn. 70) while in 1596 Thomas Duncombe died seised of lands in Moulsoe attached to the Broughton manor which he had acquired from William Paulet, Lord St. John, and Ann his wife. (fn. 71) This estate passed with Broughton to a younger son Francis, (fn. 72) who in 1599 made a settlement of the property. (fn. 73) The land in Moulsoe is termed a manor in 1635, (fn. 74) but it is not mentioned in the will of Thomas Duncombe, who died in 1672, (fn. 75) and in 1748 it appears to have been regarded merely as an appurtenance to Broughton Manor. (fn. 76)
In 1324 Nicholas de la Husee held by knight's service in Moulsoe of the heirs of the Earl Marshal. (fn. 77) In 1346 this fee was said to have formerly belonged to Thomas de Coudray, (fn. 78) but nothing further has been heard of it.
The family of Mordaunt appears to have held land in Moulsoe, for at the time of the release of the advowson by Lord Mordaunt to Sir John Spencer in 1602 mention is also made of a manor in Moulsoe. (fn. 79) This so-called manor is mentioned in 1610 (fn. 80) and again in 1632, (fn. 81) but after that date becomes absorbed in Moulsoe Manor.
In the 13th century the Abbess of Elstow acquired land from Walter de Cordel (fn. 82) worth £1 10s. in 1291. (fn. 83) In 1304 Roger Jory and Alice his wife augmented this grant. (fn. 84) In 1517 the abbess was said to hold one messuage and 20 acres in demesne there. (fn. 85) At the Dissolution the Elstow Abbey lands in Moulsoe were worth 18s. (fn. 86) Lavendon Abbey also had a small estate here worth 3s. 3d. in 1291, (fn. 87) and 13s. 4d. at the Dissolution, (fn. 88) which was granted to William Lloyd and Anthony Gooch in January 1609–10. (fn. 89)
The church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel 18 ft. by 15 ft., nave 47 ft. by 17 ft., north and south aisles 11 ft. wide, west tower 11 ft. by 10 ft., and a south porch; these measurements are all internal.
The present building has probably been developed from a 12th-century church, consisting of a chancel and nave. The first stage in the evolution of the plan appears to have been the addition of north and south aisles in the 13th century. Considerable alterations were made in the 14th century, when the nave arcades were raised, the aisles rebuilt, and the tower and south porch added. In 1885–90 the chancel and porch were rebuilt and the church restored.
The chancel is entirely modern, except for the chancel arch, which is of the 13th century, rebuilt or recut about 100 years later. It is of two chamfered orders, and rests on semi-octagonal jambs with moulded capitals and bases. Under the arch is a modern oak screen incorporating the moulded principal mullions and two of the traceried panels of a 15th-century screen; the posts at the north and south ends of the screen are also of the 15th century, and the former contain part of a squint of the same date.
The north and south arcades of the nave are each of four bays, with pointed arches of two chamfered orders; the columns are octagonal and with the responds have capitals and bases similar to those of the chancel arch. There are four clearstory windows on the north side and three on the south side, all with plain square openings and wooden lintels, and a few courses of brickwork over the heads outside; they appear to be insertions of the 17th century. The nave roof is hidden by a barrelvaulted plaster ceiling with wooden cornices. In the south-east corner of the nave is a small square bracket much broken.
The windows of the north aisle are all of the 14th century. In the east wall is a window of three lights, while the two north windows and the west window are each of two lights. Only the inner arch of the north doorway is old. At the east end are traces of a piscina. The remains of a 16th-century screen which formerly inclosed a small chapel at the east end of the aisle are also preserved. The northern portion of the screen up to the sill level, with part of a doorpost, remains; the sill retains its mortises for the upper mullions, and there are plain panels below. There are a few fragments of old tiles on the floor.
The south aisle has a modern east window and two 14th-century windows of two lights in the south wall. The moulded south doorway is of the 14th century, but has been much restored. The east end of this aisle is inclosed by a modern oak screen to form a lady chapel. In the east wall are a trefoil-headed piscina of 14th-century date with a modern basin and a small deep locker with chamfered opening, and to the south of the east window is a chamfered stone bracket much broken. On the modern altar-pace are several much-worn 15th-century tiles of various patterns; one bears the inscription 'Richard me fecit,' which is also found on a tile at Milton Keynes. Fixed against the west wall of the nave and the south wall of the south aisle are some early 17th-century panels and framing, probably from old pews. At the west end of the south aisle, loose on the floor, is a large stone 16½ in. square and 19 in. high, with chamfered angles, sunk trefoils on the sides, and a bowl sunk in the top. Its use is unknown, but it may have been meant to hold charcoal for burning incense.
The west tower is of two stages, with diagonal buttresses, south-west stair turret, an embattled parapet with a moulded string-course below and stone gargoyles at the angles. The tower arch is chamfered and dies into square jambs, and the ground stage is lighted by two-light windows in the north and west walls. Over the arch is a trefoiled light opening into the nave. The door of the staircase is made of old battens with strap hinges, and the chamfered doorway has an ogee head. The bell-chamber has two-light windows on the north, south, and west sides, the east window being of three lights.
In the north aisle are the brass figures of a man and woman; the man is represented in plate armour with a mail skirt and large knee-cops and shoulderguards, and has a long sword hanging from his belt, while the woman wears a long gown and a pedimental head-dress. A brass shield has the arms: a cross engrailed between four martlets and a quarterly chief charged with two roses for Ruthall of Wolverton, impaling a fesse between three crescents. There are also indents of a marginal inscription, groups of sons and daughters, and three shields. At the north-east corner of the chancel is a stone with the indents of the figure of a priest and an inscription. Partly covered by the alter steps is a slab to George Goodman (d. 1695), and at the east end of the south aisle is a coffin-slab bearing traces of a cross flory on a stepped base, and dating probably from the 14th century.
There are a few small fragments of 14th-century glass in the west window of the tower. At the west end of the north aisle are two chests; one, of about 1300, has iron bands and two hasps, the other, which is probably of the 17th century, and is smaller, has a fleur de lis strap-hinge. Near the south door is a 17th-century oak poor-box. The modern litany desk in the nave has a front partly composed of two open traceried panels with ogee heads, crockets and finials, probably part of the 15th-century chancel screen. Many of the seats in the nave date from the early 17th century, and have panelled and moulded backs and parts of bench-ends. In the chancel are four 17th-century coffin-stools with turned legs. The oaken bier is a fine dated example, and has turned drophinged handles, guilloche ornament carved on the legs, and lettering carved on the rails, which have shaped brackets under each end. The inscription in capitals gives the names of the churchwardens, one of which is partly hidden by a modern iron strengthening band. The legs are worm-eaten in places, but otherwise the bier is in good preservation. The inscription reads: '… oughton and William Kent, Churchwardens, 1651, Thomas Larratt,' and concludes with a text.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms and burials 1560 to 1788, marriages 1559 to 1788; the parchment covers have an old brass clasp stamped with five fleurs de lis; (ii) marriages 1754 to 1811.
The advowson of Moulsoe was granted towards the close of the 12th century to the priory of Goring, Oxfordshire, by Geoffrey son of William and by Emma de Langetot. (fn. 90) An unsuccessful suit to recover the advowson was brought in 1252 by the guardian of Peter de Coudray, (fn. 91) and the priory remained in possession until the beginning of the 16th century, when a grant was made to John Mordaunt, who presented in 1518. (fn. 92) The advowson was retained by the Mordaunt family until 1602, in which year Henry Lord Mordaunt alienated it to Sir John Spencer, (fn. 93) lord of Moulsoe Manor, with which its history is henceforward identical, the right of presentation at the present day being vested in the Marquess of Lincolnshire.
About 1536 the rectory of Moulsoe was worth £18. (fn. 94)
Mary Countess Dowager of Northampton by her will in 1719 devised a yearly rent-charge of £5 out of lands in Moulsoe to the poor on St. Thomas's Day. The annuity, known locally as St. Thomas's money, is received out of land belonging to the Marquess of Lincolnshire and is distributed equally among about thirty recipients.
The same testatrix directed by her will that land of the clear yearly value of £6 should be purchased and employed towards the maintenance of a schoolmaster. The land purchased in 1721 consists of two closes containing 14 acres. (fn. 95)