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.
OLNEY with WARRINGTON
Ollaneg (x cent.); Olnei (xi cent.); Olnea (xii cent.); Ouneia, Ouneya (xiii cent.); Olneye (xiii–xv cent.).
The ancient parish of Olney covers 3,366 acres (fn. 1) on the left bank of the Ouse and contains the township of Olney, the civil parish of Olney Park Farm, and the hamlet of Warrington. The land for the most part lies low, for the River Ouse, which here suddenly bends northwards, forms both the southern and eastern boundaries of the parish. The highest point, 355 ft., is reached at the extreme north of the parish, but the greater portion of the town stands at about 172 ft. to 200 ft. above the ordnance datum and some 12 ft. to 40 ft. above the level of the stream. The parish lies principally on soil of the oolitic series, but cornbrash is found in the north and the subsoil of the higher land is Oxford Clay. Most of the land is laid down in grass, but 1,227 acres are arable and 33 acres woodland. (fn. 2) Agriculture absorbs most of the labour, although within recent years a large brewery and tanyard have been established and the making of boots and shoes is also carried on. In 1769 the town was famed for its 'considerable Manufacture of Bone-lace' (fn. 3); the trade greatly decreased in the middle of the 19th century, (fn. 4) but has lately been revived.
In the earliest known mention of Olney the boundaries are said to run along a brook to the Ouse and along the river to Wilinford. (fn. 5) It is probably to this ford that Olney owes its origin, for the town runs northward from the river along the road from Newport Pagnell to Wellingborough, and the High Street is but a widening of this highway. The river was crossed by a ford at this point until the reign of Queen Anne, when, according to tradition, the bridge of 'wearisome but necessary length' (fn. 6) was built across the whole valley, thus making communication with the south possible throughout the year, (fn. 7) even when the river was in flood. (fn. 8) The bridge was much dilapidated and was rebuilt in 1832. At its northern end this bridge joined the more ancient one said to have been built in 1619, (fn. 9) and itself the successor of a bridge which was out of repair in 1334. (fn. 10) Near the five old arches an iron bridge was built in 1894.
The town is entered by Bridge Street. The shrubbery on the left of the bridge was a shallow pool in the 18th century, and across the road was the Anchor Inn, usually kept by the toll-keeper, and perhaps built on the site of the orchard next the bridge mentioned in 1425–6. (fn. 11) At its northern end Bridge Street enters the High Street, Church Street running to the east and south, and Weston Road, once Dagnall Street, running west. Still going northward the High Street enters the triangular Market Place at its south-west corner, and then, leaving it at the north, runs straight on for about 600 yds. to an open space, where it divides, one branch going north to Wellingborough, and the other east to Bedford. Modern development, chiefly due to the manufacture of shoes, has occurred in the north of the town, where the station on the Bedford and Northampton branch of the Midland railway stands. Building has also been carried on along East and West Streets, the two 'back lanes' that run parallel with the High Street on either side.
Just north of the open space at the head of the High Street is the Home Close, through which an ancient road running towards Lavendon could still be traced in 1862. (fn. 12) Home Close also contains the 'Chrysten Well' mentioned in 1556. (fn. 13) Near the Home Close in the High Street is the Castle Inn, a 17th-century house, now much restored. The Duke of York Inn, also in the High Street, bears the inscription ME In 1682. In 1860 another house at this end of the town contained some interesting reliefs in stucco work wrought at the expense of 'Mr. John Brunt,' one of the king's messengers, in 1624. (fn. 14) The northern part of Olney was described in 1862 as having 'a much more ancient aspect than the south end,' many of the houses being thatched and having gable ends. (fn. 15) The description is the more remarkable, since a disastrous fire in June 1854 'consumed about 50 houses near the N.E. end of the town, 30 more being damaged.' (fn. 16) Some of the older houses, mostly of the 17th century, still stand in this quarter. The footpath that runs past the houses on either side of the High Street is a comparatively modern improvement. Until about 1790 or 1791 a stream ran from the Yardley Road down the western side of the High Street to the High Arch, a bridge now marked by a slight rise in the level of the ground. Here it was met by a second brook flowing north down the street from Spring Lane, and the combined stream then ran east to the Ouse. (fn. 17) The road was carried on a raised causeway in the middle of the street, and this was kept in repair by the Causeway Charity, which was in existence at least as early as 1556, when the 'Cawse house' is mentioned. (fn. 18)
Standing back from the middle of the High Street, on the east side, is the Cowper Memorial Congregational Church, built in 1879 to replace the Independent Meeting-house built in 1700. (fn. 19) This congregation was formed by a secession from the Baptists, whose old meeting-house, still standing, was built in 1694 and enlarged in 1763. (fn. 20) The Baptist chapel occupies the site of Joseph Kent's barn, licensed for Presbyterian meetings in 1672, (fn. 21) and used until the revocation of the indulgence in 1678, when meetings were held at Northey in Lavendon, close to the border of both Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire. (fn. 22) Nonconformity has always been strong in Olney, (fn. 23) and the town was the scene of the labours of John Sutcliff, one of the founders of the Baptist Missionary Society, who in 1799 established a seminary for the training of missionaries in what is now No. 23 High Street. (fn. 24) William Bull (1738–1814), the Independent, frequently preached at Olney, both at the meeting-house and at the Great House, where John Newton was always glad of his help. (fn. 25) The Wesleyans built an iron chapel here in 1902, and in Silver End is an old meeting-house of the Society of Friends, now used by the Salvation Army. Owing probably to the presence of the Throckmorton family at Weston Underwood, Roman Catholicism has a footing in the neighbourhood, and in 1900 the church of Our Lady, Help of Christians, and St. Laurence was built. Adjoining the church is the convent of St. Joseph, belonging to the congregation of the Holy Ghost.
Around the market-place are several 17th and 18th-century houses of stone with tiled roofs; one on the south side bears on its modern front the date 1622 and the initials G, while another on the north side has two stones built into the south-west wall, inscribed T S and I G respectively. It has altered in appearance since Cowper's day, though a few of the old buildings remain. Then as now the Bull Inn stood on the west, while opposite were the 'Royal Oak' and the 'Swan.' (fn. 26) None of these names occur among the inns of the 15th century, but in 1556 there was an inn called the 'Cross Keys,' and mention is also made of the 'Harteshorne.' (fn. 27) In the centre of the open space stood the Shill Hall, (fn. 28) a stone building lying north and west with a room approached by a double flight of steps. No building of this name occurs in the mediaeval surveys, but there seems little doubt that it represents the 'Mottehale in the market place' of 1440–1, (fn. 29) if not the 'Church House or Town House' of 1556. (fn. 30) In the Shill Hall Samuel Teedon kept his school, though in 1791 the building was threatened; in or about 1816 it was destroyed. (fn. 31) In the middle of the 18th century it was said that there was no market house here, but good shambles, successors of the 'Flescheshalles' that were repaired in 1440–1. (fn. 32)
To the north-east of the Shill Hall stood the Round House or 'lock up,' taken down in 1846. (fn. 33)
The south-east corner of the market-place is called Silver End, the inhabitants of which gave William Cowper the poet so much annoyance and amusement. No mention of Silver End has been found in mediaeval records, but it doubtless takes its name from the Silver Street Lane mentioned in 1556. (fn. 34) Cowper's house, far from being 'deep in the abyss of Silver End,' stands near the centre of the southern side of the marketplace, and in his day was known as Orchard Side. It is an 18th-century building of three stories with a red brick front and slate roof. After varying fortunes, the house was presented to the town by Mr. W. H. Collingridge on 25 April 1900, the centenary of Cowper's death. (fn. 35) The day was celebrated with great ceremony, and the building was formally opened as a Cowper and Newton Museum, the property being vested in eight trustees.
On 16 September 1767, two days after Cowper and Mrs. Unwin reached Olney, Newton wrote to Lord Dartmouth that the house was small and cut 'a rueful appearance, having been for a long time empty and in the hands of very poor tenants.' (fn. 36) His hopes that when it was furbished up it would be 'tolerable considering the place' do not seem to have been fulfilled, for Unwin was shocked when he saw the house and thought it like a prison. (fn. 37) Internally it was comfortable enough. While it was used as the first infants' school certain alterations were made, but some of the rooms have been recently restored. At the back was the greenhouse where Cowper wrote John Gilpin, (fn. 38) and at the end of the garden the summer-house. The garden ran south, and was separated from that of the vicarage by an orchard, now called the Guinea Field, from the circumstance that Cowper and Newton paid a guinea yearly for right of way between the gardens, thus avoiding a walk through the town.
The vicarage, a building of two stories and attics with a dentil cornice and tiled roof, lies on the north side of Church Street and a short distance from the end of Bridge Street. William Johnson rebuilt the house in the middle of the 17th century, but little of this structure remains. The present vicarage is the 'comfortable habitation' built by Lord Dartmouth for John Newton (1725–1807), the former slaver, who was destined to become one of the leading spirits of the Evangelical revival in the Church of England. Newton was ordained deacon in April 1764 and priest two months later, having through the influence of Lord Dartmouth secured a title to the curacy of Olney under the non-resident rector, Moses Brown, author of Angling Sports. (fn. 39) The study in which Newton wrote the Letters of Omicron and Cardiphonia is an attic at the east end of the house. (fn. 40) Over the mantelpiece may still be seen the texts (fn. 41) Newton caused to be painted there when he took possession of the house. (fn. 42) Newton drew round him a distinguished company of friends and with Cowper's aid organized much parish work and many services.
A little beyond the vicarage is the water-mill, probably on the site of that mill which in 1086 was worth to the lord 40s. and 200 eels. (fn. 43) There were two mills appurtenant to the manor in February 1343–4, but only one is mentioned in 1411–12. (fn. 44) The mill was let at farm in 1440–1, (fn. 45) and this policy was continued by the Crown in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Just across the road from the vicarage and between the mill and the church stood the Great House, an E-shaped building of three stories with stone-mullioned windows, built before 1624. (fn. 46) It seems possible that this occupied the site of 'the old parsonage' mentioned in 1503 (fn. 47) and of the tenement of the rector which in 1556 was certainly on this side of the road. (fn. 48) The house was enlarged by William Johnson in the middle of the 17th century, (fn. 49) and with the rectory came into the hands of Lord Dartmouth, (fn. 50) who placed its rooms at Newton's disposal for services and meetings. (fn. 51) It was for these services that Cowper and Newton wrote some of the 'Olney Hymns' (fn. 52) which include 'How sweet the name of Jesus sounds' and 'God moves in a mysterious way.' Later the house was in habited by the Rev. Henry Gauntlett, the Evangelical divine, who was vicar here from 1815 to 1833. (fn. 53) It was afterwards deserted, and, becoming ruinous, was pulled down before 1857. (fn. 54)
Close to the church is a field called The Lordship Close. Though all memory of their origin has been lost, the foundations traceable here are probably those of 'the lordship' which was standing until at least the reign of Charles II. (fn. 55) William Byfield was in possession of a capital messuage in 1302, (fn. 56) and in February 1343–4 it was described as having but a dilapidated dovecote and no garden. (fn. 57)
The extremely restricted character of the site, hemmed in between the river, the high road and the rectory, probably led to the formation of Olney Park by Ralph Lord Basset under licence obtained in 1374. (fn. 58) The tract inclosed now forms the civil parish of Olney Park Farm and contains 206 acres; though formerly extra-parochial, (fn. 59) it is now included in the ecclesiastical parish of Olney. It lay on the extreme northern border of the parish, with 'the beastes pasture' on the south-east and the common arable fields to the south and south-west. (fn. 60) In the reign of Elizabeth the park was paled, and in 1608 contained 3,854 trees. (fn. 61) Sylle woode (Seley wode, xv cent.) lay at the extreme south-west of the park, while 45 acres north of the Lodge were known as the Great Grove. (fn. 62) The park came with the manor into the possession of the Crown, and the office of keeper was granted to various distinguished persons, including Arthur Lord Grey de Wilton (1536–93) and Christopher Lord Hatton. (fn. 63) In 1640 the Earl of Northampton was staying at the Lodge, (fn. 64) which, a few years later, was described as built of timber and stone very strongly and covered with tile. (fn. 65) It contained a hall, parlour and small buttery adjoining; 'above stares in the first Storry three chambers and in the second Storry two chambers and a clossett there, and in another Rainge of Buildings standinge on the West side of the sayd Howse.' (fn. 66) At the time of the Commonwealth Survey there were no deer, but 'all that game of Conneys beinge in the parke' were valued at £10. (fn. 67)
Lying among the fields close to the boundary of Warrington is Olney Hyde. (fn. 68) Though now only a farm, it was evidently of more importance in the middle ages, for it was described as a hamlet in 1353, (fn. 69) and in 1411–12 there were twelve customary tenants as well as freemen and cottagers. (fn. 70)
The township of Warrington contains 1,008 acres and stretches down to the river; it is well-wooded. The hamlet is small, but contains several cottages of interest. The Earl of Lincoln had a messuage here which was broken into in 1285–6. (fn. 71) The house is again mentioned in 1294, when it and its whole inclosure were valued at 13s. 4d. (fn. 72) In the 18th century the hall was the residence of a branch of the Throckmorton family. (fn. 73)
Very little is known of the mesne borough of Olney, the lordship of which followed the descent of the manor. (fn. 74) Though possibly in existence at an earlier date, it is first definitely found in 1237, (fn. 75) and from this date the vill regularly made separate presentments before the justices in eyre. The number of the early burgage tenements seems to have been fifty-six. (fn. 76) Each of these paid 1s. in 1302, (fn. 77) but a readjustment of rents was made in 1425 or 1426. (fn. 78) In 1440–1 the tenements were usually held as half burgages at 8d. or 9d. rent, with a further sum of 6d. for commuted works. (fn. 79) These half burgages were still usual in 1556, but the rents were then very varied and ranged from 3s. 4½d. to ½d., (fn. 80) the amount probably being determined by the quantity of land held beyond the curtilage. The position of these burgages is not known, though they certainly stretched along the High Street, and were also found in Above the Bere Lane, Jeffreys Lane and Silver Street Lane. (fn. 81) From the 18thcentury evidence (fn. 82) it seems probable that the High Arch was the northern limit of the borough. The large number of 13th and 14th-century fines of small quantities of land in Olney would seem to show that the burgesses had power to alienate their holdings (fn. 83); in the 15th century all leases were entered on the rolls of the court of the borough. (fn. 84)
The borough courts or portmotes were held on a Tuesday at intervals roughly of three weeks, a fact suggestive of their origin in the manorial court. (fn. 85) At this court were heard pleas of debt and trespass. Four great portmotes and sixteen portmotes sat in 1497–8, when the perquisites were 22s. 2d. (fn. 86) A great portmote was held on the Tuesdays following the feasts of St. Denis (9 October), St. Hilary (13 January), St. Ambrose (4 April), and SS. Peter and Paul (29 June). (fn. 87) At the first of these courts the officers for the year were elected and sworn in, while as elsewhere presentments were made by each according to his office: thus the constables presented assaults, the ale-tasters presented breaches of the assize of ale, and the tithing men nuisances. (fn. 88) At this court also the holders of burgages paid relief and did fealty. (fn. 89)
The affairs of the borough were administered by two reeves (prepositi), (fn. 90) and there was also a body of twelve who on one occasion ordered the reeves to hale an offender from the vill under penalty of 20s. (fn. 91) The reeves had power to distrain for debt. Two ale-tasters were also appointed as well as two market tasters, (fn. 92) six tithing men, three for the vill and three for the fields, and a hayward. Two constables were also sworn in as officers of the king. (fn. 93)
Though the fact is not definitely stated, it seems probable that the burgesses were the farmers of the toll of the fair and market-place. (fn. 94)
The Monday market was prescriptive and was first mentioned in January 1205–6. (fn. 95) It was still held on Monday in the middle of the 18th century, (fn. 96) but during the second half of the 19th century it fell into decay and is now held on Thursdays fortnightly. The fair on Easter Monday is also prescriptive, but licence for the fair now known as the 'Cherry Fair' on 29 June (fn. 97) was obtained by Ralph Lord Basset in 1316 for the vigil, feast and morrow of St. Peter and St. Paul. (fn. 98)
Although the earliest mention of OLNEY occurs in the grant of 10 hides here in 979 by King Ethelred to his kinsman Elfere, (fn. 99) the only other fact of its preConquest history that has survived is that in the reign of Edward the Confessor the 'manor' here was held by Borret, an important Northamptonshire thegn. (fn. 100) Borret's land here as elsewhere was granted to the Bishop of Coutances before 1086, when it was assessed at 10 hides, of which 3 hides were on the bishop's demesne. (fn. 101) The bishop's lands passed as forfeit to the Crown; Olney was in the king's hands in 1162–3 and until at least 1194–5. (fn. 102) Between that date and January 1205–6 it was granted to Randal (de Blondevill) Earl of Chester. (fn. 103) Randal, who was one of the chief supporters of King John and of Henry III, obtained a quittance of scutage for a fee here in 1214–15, (fn. 104) and was returned as holding two fees in Olney in 1217–18. (fn. 105) Being childless he resigned his earldom of Lincoln to Hawise his sister at some time between April 1231 and his death in October 1232. (fn. 106) His lands were divided among his four sisters (fn. 107) or their descendants, Olney being part of the 500 librates of land that formed the share of Hugh (Daubeney) Earl of Arundel, (fn. 108) surviving son and heir of Mabel wife of William Earl of Arundel, while Warrington passed to Hawise. (fn. 109)
Hugh Daubeney was holding three-fourths of a fee in Olney in or about 1234–5 (fn. 110); he died childless in 1243, (fn. 111) leaving four sisters and co-heirs, Mabel, Nichole, Cecily and Isabel. (fn. 112) Olney fell to the share of Nichole wife of Roger de Somery, but was granted to Isabel, Hugh's widow, in dower, and she held it until her death in 1282. (fn. 113) Meanwhile both Nichole and Roger had died; their son Ralph predeceased them, his inheritance passing to his four sisters (fn. 114) : Margaret widow of Ralph Basset the younger and wife of Ralph de Cromwell, Joan wife of John Lestrange, Mabel (or Elizabeth) wife of Walter de Sully, and Maud wife of Henry de Erdington. (fn. 115) The manor was delivered to the coheirs or their representatives for a season in 1282, but complete livery was delayed perhaps until the full age of all the co-heirs. (fn. 116) It is not evident that the Lestranges obtained any permanent interest here, (fn. 117) for the manor was apparently held for some years in common by the families of Basset, Sully and Erdington.
Henry de Erdington was dead before December 1282, (fn. 118) and by the spring of 1285–6 Maud had married William de Byfield without royal licence. (fn. 119) William seems to have survived his wife and lived until about 1302, when Maud's son, Henry de Erdington, was aged twenty-four. (fn. 120) Henry may possibly have quitclaimed his interests to the Basset family, for no further mention is found of him in connexion with this place. Short-lived, also, was the interest of Mabel and Walter de Sully. Walter died before the beginning of 1285–6, when her land in the hundred of Bonestou was valued at £16. (fn. 121) Before 1310 Mabel and her son Raymond de Sully granted their fourth part of the manor to Philip de Burley for life. (fn. 122) Mabel died in or about 1312, (fn. 123) and Philip was returned as one of the lords of the vill in 1316. (fn. 124) He was still holding at Raymond's death about a year later, when a reversionary interest was inherited by Raymond's daughter Elizabeth, wife of William de Brus (Brewose). (fn. 125) William and Elizabeth were in possession of one-fourth of a knight's fee here in 1346. (fn. 126)
Margaret, the eldest daughter and co-heir of Roger de Somery, (fn. 127) married Ralph Basset, Lord Basset of Drayton, by whom she had a son and heir Ralph. (fn. 128) Her husband died in 1265, (fn. 129) and she then married Ralph de Cromwell, who was living in the spring of 1285–6. (fn. 130) Before June 1293 she had entered the religious life. (fn. 131) Ralph Basset, her son and heir, died 31 December 1299, and was succeeded by Ralph his son. (fn. 132) Ralph was returned as one of the three joint lords of the vill in 1316, (fn. 133) and took a considerable interest in Olney, where he received a grant of free warren in 1330. (fn. 134) Olney was one of the manors included in the elaborate marriage settlement made by him in 1339, (fn. 135) and from this time it followed the descent of the manor of Hanslope (q.v.), coming into the possession of the Beauchamps, Earls of Warwick. With other manors it was quitclaimed by Anne Countess of Warwick in the spring of 1487–8 to Henry VII, (fn. 136) who, however, restored Olney to her for life two years afterwards. (fn. 137) She died before 4 December 1492, (fn. 138) when it reverted to the Crown. (fn. 139) In 1548 Edward VI granted Olney to the Princess Mary for life, (fn. 140) and it was the subject of various leases (fn. 141) until the spring of 1628–9, when it formed part of the vast grant made by Charles I to the citizens of London. (fn. 142)
Some ten years later the manor was purchased from the trustees by Richard Nicoll, a Turkey merchant of London, from whom it passed to his son William Nicoll, and was then inherited by his son Richard Nicoll of Norbiton (co. Surrey). (fn. 143) Richard left two daughters and co-heirs, of whom Judith married George Gounter of Racton (co. Sussex), (fn. 144) and Frances remained a spinster. Judith had one son, Sir Charles Gounter Nicoll, K.B., of Wherwell (Hampshire), but he predeceased his mother in 1733, (fn. 145) leaving no male issue. On her death in or about 1737 Judith left all her Buckinghamshire manors to her daughter Catherine, wife of Sir Henry Maynard, bart., of Walthamstow, with remainder to Catherine's son William and his issue and contingent remainder to Elizabeth and Frances Katharine, daughters of Sir Charles Gounter Nicoll. (fn. 146) Catherine survived her husband and died in 1744, (fn. 147) when her lands descended to her son Sir William Maynard, bart. Meanwhile Frances Nicoll, by her will proved in 1743, had left her moiety of the manors of Olney, Warrington, &c., to Catherine for life, with remainder to Elizabeth and Frances Katharine Gounter Nicoll and their issue. (fn. 148) Elizabeth died shortly afterwards, (fn. 149) Frances Katharine being her heir. In 1755 she married William (Legge) second Earl of Dartmouth, (fn. 150) who is said to have obtained the remaining moiety of the manors from Sir William Maynard at about the time of the marriage. (fn. 151)
Lord Dartmouth's great interest in the Evangelical Revival earned him the name of the Psalm Singer, (fn. 152) and though Colonial Secretary in 1772–5 and Lord Privy Seal in 1775–82 he found opportunity for interest in the schemes of Newton and for correspondence with the leading members of the seriously-minded society of his day. (fn. 153) He died in 1801, (fn. 154) and was succeeded by his son George third Earl of Dartmouth, President of the India Board in 1801, and afterwards Lord Warden of the Stannaries. On his death in 1810 the title and estates passed to his son William, on whose death in 1853 they devolved on William Walter, his eldest surviving son. (fn. 155) The fifth earl died in 1891, when he was succeeded by his son William Heneage, Earl of Dartmouth, sometime member of Parliament for West Kent and for Lewisham. His son and heir William Viscount Lewisham, who since 1910 has represented West Bromwich in Parliament, is the present lord of the manor.
Olney had its full complement of manorial courts. View of frankpledge was held once a year at the close of the 13th century, (fn. 156) and this liberty, together with those of waifs and quittance of suit at the county and hundred courts, was claimed by the lords of the manor in the spring of 1285–6. (fn. 157) In 1411–12 the perquisites of the view were said to be usually 64s. 10d., (fn. 158) but the value greatly decreased within the next hundred years. (fn. 159) Pleas of debt were heard in the halmote, which sat sixteen times in 1497–8, when the perquisites amounted to 103s. 8d. (fn. 160) The number of courts varied, but in 1440 only four halmotes were held, and there was one court leet held on the feast of the Decollation of St. John Baptist, besides ten courts of freemen. (fn. 161) At a later date the courts leet and baron were held once yearly at the Bull Inn.
No mention of WARRINGTON (Wardington, Wardyngton, xiii–xvii cent.) is found in the Domesday Survey, and it appears to have been assessed with Olney, which it followed in descent until the death of Randal de Blondevill, Earl of Chester. It then fell to the share of Hawise, the earl's fourth sister. Margaret, only child of Hawise by her husband Robert de Quincy, married John de Lacy, who was created Earl of Lincoln in 1232. (fn. 162) He died in 1240, and was succeeded by his son Edmund, a minor. On his death in 1257 Warrington passed to his son Henry Earl of Lincoln, (fn. 163) who obtained a grant of free warren in his demesne lands here in 1294. (fn. 164) In this same year Henry received licence to lease the manor for life to whomsoever he would. (fn. 165) On his death in February 1310–11 he was succeeded by Alice his daughter, who married Thomas, son of Edmund 'Crouchback,' younger son of Henry III. (fn. 166) Thomas, who succeeded his father as Earl of Lancaster in 1296, (fn. 167) was one of the three joint lords of Olney in 1316. (fn. 168) His rebellion cost him his head in March 1321–2, and his lands were then seized by the Crown. His brother Henry became Earl of Lancaster in March 1326–7 on the reversal of the attainder, (fn. 169) and had a daughter Mary, whose son Henry Percy Earl of Northumberland was in 1390 overlord of at least a portion of Warrington. (fn. 170) Henry son of Henry Earl of Lancaster succeeded his father in 1345, and was created Earl of Lincoln in 1349 and Duke of Lancaster in March 1350–1. (fn. 171) He died in March 1360–1, when his wide lands passed to Blanche his daughter, wife of John of Gaunt. At some date before 1353, (fn. 172) however, the manor of Warrington came into the possession of the Bassets, who remained in possession until the death of Ralph Lord Basset in 1390. (fn. 173) It was then seized. (fn. 174) unjustly, as it was said, but probably under a writ of formedon or entail by Henry Earl of Derby, evidently in right of his inheritance through his mother, the Duchess Blanche. (fn. 175) Henry succeeded his father in the duchy of Lancaster in February 1398–9, and in September ascended the throne as Henry IV. (fn. 176) From this time Warrington has formed part of the duchy of Lancaster.
In February 1407–8 Henry ordered the manor and vill of Warrington to be delivered to Nicholas Bradshaw, to be held by him for life, (fn. 177) and in 1415 it was vested in feoffees. (fn. 178) In 1604 the manor was granted in fee to Sir George Throckmorton, (fn. 179) lord of Fulbrook in Hogshaw (q.v.). He died seised in 1612, having settled the site of the manor in February 1607–8 on himself for life, with remainder to Raphael his son and Elizabeth his wife for life, with remainder to George their son. (fn. 180) Raphael Throckmorton obtained livery in 1618. (fn. 181) John Throckmorton was in possession of the manor in 1645, (fn. 182) and appears to have been living here in 1675. (fn. 183) He, or another of his name, died at Warrington in 1693, (fn. 184) and was apparently succeeded by another John Throckmorton, in possession of the manor in 1710, when a settlement was made. (fn. 185) Robert son of John was baptized three years later. (fn. 186) The Throckmortons parted with the manor not long afterwards, and in 1767 it was in the hands of Lord Dartmouth. (fn. 187) It was apparently again sold, for in 1798 it was the property of William Farrer of Cold Brayfield (fn. 188) q.v.).
The reputed manor of WHITHILLS (Wightles, xvii cent.) is first mentioned in the 16th century. It seems to have derived its name from the family of Wighthill, lords of Whitehill in the parish of Tackley (co. Oxon.). Robert Wighthill, the first to be mentioned in connexion with Olney, was in 1474 pardoned for having been concerned in the forgery and publication of a deed relating to land in this parish and in Warrington, Weston Underwood and Sherington. (fn. 189) On his second marriage Robert settled the Buckinghamshire lands on Margaret his wife for life, but this arrangement was cancelled in 1523, when the Oxfordshire manor was settled on Margaret, with reversion to Joan wife of Owen Whitton and daughter of Robert and Margaret. (fn. 190) Robert died in the autumn of that year, leaving, by his first marriage, a daughter, Bridget, aged fifty. (fn. 191) Bridget and her sister Elizabeth immediately complained of having been wronged by Margaret and Joan, seeing that the Oxfordshire manor was of greater value than the lands in Buckinghamshire. (fn. 192) It seems possible that some exchange was afterwards made, for no mention of Bridget or Elizabeth's heirs (fn. 193) has been found in connexion with this place, and early in 1569–70 Joan Whitton, widow, conveyed this manor of Whithills to George Whitton. (fn. 194) In April 1575 George sued Thomas Osborne and Edward Bromley for the detention of deeds relating to the manor, (fn. 195) and in 1602 he settled it on John Whitton alias Darling, Mary daughter of John Knottesford, his bride, and their issue. (fn. 196) George, who was lord of Hensington (co. Oxon.), died there in 1606. (fn. 197) John Whitton alias Darling made a conveyance of the manor in 1611, when he was associated with Thomas Parker. (fn. 198) Dorothy Parker, widow, with George Parker and Dorothy his wife conveyed it to Robert Fitzhugh in 1629, (fn. 199) and in 1667 James Parker cut off the entail. (fn. 200) Nothing was known of the manor in 1730, (fn. 201) and there is no evidence to connect it with the reputed manor of Dagnall, now represented by Dagnall House in Weston Road, (fn. 202) for which no records exist.
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL consists of a chancel measuring internally 49 ft. by 22 ft. 5 in., nave 75 ft. 6 in. by 22 ft., north aisle 15 ft. 5 in. wide, south aisle 16 ft. wide, west tower 17 ft. 8 in. square, and north porch. It is built of ashlar, faced both internally and externally, and the roofs are covered with tiles, slates and lead.
A church existed in the parish from a very early period, probably long before 1273, the date of the first known reference, (fn. 203) but the present structure was built during the middle of the 14th century, the chancel being erected first and the other parts of the building some few years later. As there are no vestiges of earlier work, the local tradition that it was built on a new site is probably correct. By 1556 the chancel had become dilapidated (fn. 204) and was probably, with other parts of the building, soon afterwards repaired. A gallery was erected at the west end of the nave in 1723, and another in the north aisle in 1765, but both have been removed. In 1807 the church was extensively restored, particularly on the north side, and the porch was rebuilt, an upper story being added to it to be used as a schoolroom. 'To cover the expense of these operations,' observed James Storer, writing about 1825, (fn. 205) 'it was unfortunately thought necessary to sacrifice a fine carved roof that adorned the interior, and to strip the church of its lead. Accordingly the curiously ornamented work was broken to pieces, and the timber sold by auction in the churchyard. Among the lots were a great variety of figures and heads, some of which are still to be seen in the town as ornaments in gardens or placed upon barns and other buildings. The metal was sold to a Birmingham merchant.' Plaster ceilings were then substituted, and those over the nave and south aisle still remain. The chancel was repaired in 1828 and again in 1832, and the whole building was restored by Sir G. Gilbert Scott between 1870 and 1885. A chapel dedicated in honour of our Lady once stood in the churchyard, but all traces of it have now disappeared.
The chancel is a charming example of 14th-century work, and has preserved its original character despite the various restorations it has undergone. In each lateral wall are three tall windows with delicate tracery under pointed heads, the tracery in each window varying from that in the adjacent bay but corresponding to that of the window directly opposite. These have all been repaired, but, with the exception of those in the eastern bay, are mostly original. Both the north and south windows of the western bay have transoms in line with the sills of the other windows, while their own sills are carried to a lower level, thus forming low-side windows of three lights. An arrangement similar to this occurs in the church at Emberton, which in general character closely resembles this building. The large traceried window in the east wall is modern, though its design is probably similar to that of the original window, (fn. 206) the jambs of which remain. Below the middle window on the south is a pointed doorway with an original rear-arch but modern external stonework, and further east are three sedilia in range with a piscina, divided from one another by circular shafts; these have been entirely renewed with the exception of the east jamb. On the north, opposite the sedilia, is an original wide tomb recess, which was probably used as an Easter sepulchre, while at the east end of the wall there is a plain aumbry; the former, which has been repaired, has a moulded drop arch and contains a flat tomb with a panelled front. The chancel arch is of three moulded orders, which die into the wall on the north side and into a short projection from the wall on the south, the slight irregularity being probably due to the construction of the nave some few years after the chancel was built; the projection is corbelled off a short distance below the springing of the arch. There is an original straight parapet on each of the north and south sides of the chancel resting upon a corbel course embellished with grotesques and flowers.
The nave has north and south arcades of five bays with moulded arches acutely pointed and supported by quatrefoil pillars and responds with moulded capitals and bases. In the west wall is the pointed tower arch which spans the full width of the ground-stage, its three orders dying into the walls on either side. The roof of the chancel is modern, and that of the nave is concealed by a segmental plastered ceiling.
The north aisle is lighted by three windows on the north and one on the west, all of three lights with tracery in pointed heads. The north-west window, with its flowing tracery, is original, but the tracery of all the others is modern. Above the two eastern windows on the north side are the outlines of two windows, which were doubtless inserted in 1765 to give light to the north gallery, and have since been blocked. The inner jambs of both the windows of the western bay are enriched with large filleted edge rolls which rise to intersect the mouldings of the rear-arches, and the lower parts of the jambs of the north-east window have similar rolls, now considerably hacked for plaster. There is no east window, but at the south end of the east wall is an original cinquefoiled piscina niche with a modern sill, which served the chapel here. The north doorway, which is also original, has a pointed head with a deep outer splay, the mouldings of which are continued to the floor; the present large label stops date from the late 17th century and represent a bishop and a priest. The south aisle, which has a flat plastered ceiling, has been much restored, and, excepting the jambs of the south-west window, all the openings are practically modern. The north porch, rebuilt in 1807, has a plain entrance doorway with a two-centred drop arch, and against the east wall is a straight flight of stone steps leading to the upper room. A stone reset on the outside, bearing the date 1686, probably records a restoration of the original structure.
The tower is of three diminishing stages with western diagonal buttresses, and is surmounted by a stone broached spire, the sides of which have a very pronounced entasis. Octagonal pinnacles were added at the base of the spire, probably in the 17th century. The ground stage has an original west doorway with a pointed head of three moulded orders dying into plain chamfered jambs. In the north jamb of the doorway is a hole for a heavy oak bolt, and an original west window of two trefoiled lights with flowing tracery. The second stage of the tower is plain and has a clock face on the west. Both these divisions were designed to form one lofty stage with a stone vault at the top, the wall ribs, springers, and moulded corbels of which still remain. The vault, however, has been removed, the present intermediate chamber formed, and a doorway, obviously of late date, cut through the wall from the turret stairway, which originally ascended directly to the bell-chamber. There is an original pointed window of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery in each wall of the bell-chamber, and the spire is pierced by four tiers of spire-lights.
The font in use is modern, but there is an octagonal font in the north aisle which probably dates from the late 16th century and has a plain stem and base, and a panelled bowl, the upper portion of which appears to have been cut away.
On the north wall of the chancel is a mural monument to Catherine daughter of Thomas Johnson (d. 1680), and on the south wall are two tablets, one to the Rev. Moses Browne (d. 1787), who was vicar of the parish for thirty-four years, and the other to Lieut. William Mason and his brother Robert Valentine Mason, 'who were both wrecked in the Æolus Transport near the Isle of Portland in the memorable gale of wind on the 18th of Novr. 1795.' In the north aisle there is a mural monument to William Gaines (d. 1657). On the west side of the porch is a large iron-bound chest of the 17th century. The Rev. John Newton, who was curate here from 1764 to 1779, and his wife, are buried in the churchyard, where a monument has been erected over their grave. Newton died in 1807 and his wife in 1790, and both were originally buried at St. Mary Woolnoth, London, but their remains were reinterred here in 1893.
The tower contains a ring of eight bells: the treble and second are by Bowell & Sons of Ipswich, 1903; the third by Henry Bagley, 1682; the fourth is inscribed 'God save the Queen 1599'; the fifth is by Henry Bagley, 1699; the sixth is inscribed 'Robert Atton of Buckingham made me, 1631'; the seventh is by Thomas Russell, 1733; and the tenor probably by one of the Bagleys, 1682. (fn. 207)
The communion plate consists of a cup and cover paten of 1726, a cup and cover of 1796, dated 1797, a standing paten of 1719, and a plated flagon.
The registers to 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1665 to 1733; (ii) 1734 to 1787; (iii) 1787 to 1812.
The first mention of the church of Olney is found in the 13th century, when the advowson was in the hands of the lords of the vill. (fn. 208) It followed the descent of the manor until the spring of 1482–3, when Richard Duke of Gloucester and Anne his wife, by licence of Edward IV, (fn. 209) conveyed it to the Dean and canons of the chapel of St. George, Windsor. (fn. 210) The conveyance does not, however, appear to have been effectual, possibly owing to the rights of Anne Countess of Warwick, mother of the duchess. (fn. 211)
The advowson passed with the manor into the possession of the Crown early in 1487–8, but in 1502 was granted by Henry VII to the abbey of Syon, which. at the same time received licence to appropriate. (fn. 212) The nuns let the rectory at farm, £13 6s. 8d. being reserved to the vicar as stipend and 6s. 8d. being given as alms. (fn. 213) In 1531 the abbey granted a twenty-one years' lease to Thomas Lawe, (fn. 214) and the Crown subsequently followed the same policy (fn. 215) until 1606, when the rectory and advowson of the vicarage were granted to Sir John Ramsay, kt., in fee. (fn. 216) Sir John, a Scot and favourite of James I, was in 1606 created Viscount Haddington and Lord Ramsay of Barnes. (fn. 217) In the spring of 1609–10 he conveyed the rectory, advowson and lands here to Michael Throckmorton, Erasmus Cope, Valentine Pigott and Sir Arthur Savage, kt. (fn. 218) Valentine Pigott with Cope and Sir Thomas and George Pigott sold the rectory and advowson in the spring of 1623–4 to Sir Robert Gorges, kt., of Redlynch (co. Somerset), (fn. 219) who retained them until 1633, when he sold them to William Johnson (fn. 220) of Milton Bryant in Bedfordshire. (fn. 221) William Johnson was succeeded in 1669 by his son Thomas, (fn. 222) who exercised the patronage in 1668 and 1671. (fn. 223) His son William Johnson was patron in 1732, (fn. 224) and died four years later, (fn. 225) leaving a son Wolsey Johnson, himself vicar of Olney from 1735 until his resignation in 1753. (fn. 226) He thereupon presented Moses Browne to the church, but as he intended leaving Olney for Lincolnshire, (fn. 227) it seems possible that be alienated the advowson to the trustees of Frances Katharine Gounter Nicoll, since the second Earl of Dartmouth was apparently patron in 1764, (fn. 228) and held the rectory in the right of his wife. (fn. 229) From this time the advowson followed the descent of the manor, the Earl of Dartmouth being the present patron.
By his will made early in 1389–90 Ralph Lord Basset directed that a stipend should be provided for a priest to perform divine service in the chapel of St. Mary in Olney churchyard. (fn. 230) In this chapel (fn. 231) Richard Earl of Warwick in 1465 obtained licence to found a chantry at the altar of St. Mary for the good estate of the king and his soul after death, and for the welfare of Richard and Anne his wife. (fn. 232) This was known as the Earl of Warwick's chantry, and the priest also helped the incumbent. (fn. 233) In 1556 the priest of the chantry held land, two burgages, a half burgage, a cottage and a toft, (fn. 234) one of these tenements being called the Chapel House and another the Catharine Wheel. (fn. 235) Rent from an acre in 'Downefeld' was appropriated to the maintenance of a lamp in the church. (fn. 236) In 1516 Sir Thomas Digby, kt., wished to be buried before the image of the Holy Trinity in this church. (fn. 237) The fraternity of St. Christopher and St. George is mentioned in 1538. (fn. 238)
The Olney feoffee charity, comprising the charity of Richard Pierson, founded by deed 1649, and the Causeway estate, constituted in its present form in 1650, is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 19 February 1886. The property consists of seven cottages on the site of the old churchyard, a cottage in Silver End, two houses in the High Street, a house in Market Place, two cottages and about 8 a. in Weston Road, a close called Fiddle Field containing 5 a. and 9 a. in Olney Pastures, also certain garden grounds. In 1912 the gross income from these sources amounted to about £240. The scheme directs that after providing for the repair and upkeep of the property, and a sum not exceeding £20 yearly towards the repair of the main street, one-third of the net income shall form the endowment of the Olney Educational Foundation, applicable in apprenticing, prizes and scholarships, and the remaining two-thirds to be applied for the general benefit of the poor.
The almshouses founded and endowed by Mrs. Ann Hopkins Smith consist of twelve messuages comprised in deeds of lease and release dated respectively 23 and 24 November 1819, for the accommodation of single women and widows. The donor by her will, dated in 1846, bequeathed £5,200 consols, the dividends to be divided among the inmates, and a further legacy of £700 consols for the insurance and repair of the buildings. The legacies, with accumulations, are now represented by £5,462 8s. 5d. and £942 9s. 3d. India 3 per cent. stock, with the official trustees, producing respectively £163 17s. 4d. and £28 5s. 4d. yearly. In 1910 each of the twelve inmates received 5s. a week and half a ton of coal.
The British school erected by the said Mrs. Ann Hopkins Smith, comprised in a deed of 23 January 1835, was endowed by her will with £1,500 consols now represented with accumulations by a sum of £1,568 0s. 2d. consols, with the official trustees, producing £39 4s. yearly. The school and endowment are regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 17 September 1880, providing for the letting of the school buildings and for the application of the income in apprenticing poor children, any surplus to be applied in prizes and exhibitions.
The same testatrix likewise bequeathed £750 consols, the interest to be applied in clothing to be distributed in January to poor persons usually attending the Baptist Meeting. The stock is held by the official trustees, and produces £18 15s. yearly, which appears to be distributed in gifts of money.
The same testatrix further bequeathed £750 consols for clothing for poor persons usually attending the Independent Meeting. The stock is held by the official trustees, and the annual dividends of £18 15s. are applied in the distribution of tickets varying from 2s. 6d. to 10s.