A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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This parish has an area of 1,317 acres of land and 19 of land covered by water, and is mostly pasture, 156 acres being arable, and 994 permanent grass. (fn. 1) The soil is heavy, some clay, with a subsoil of clay and gravel. The ground falls from about 300 ft. above the ordnance datum in the west to about 200 ft. in the east.
Simpson includes a portion of the town of Fenny Stratford, (fn. 2) and is governed by the Bletchley Urban District Council. Watling Street forms the south-west boundary and becomes the High Street of Fenny Stratford in the south. The River Ouzel is the eastern boundary, and the Grand Junction Canal passes through the parish from north to south. The Bedford branch of the London and North Western railway runs through the parish from west to east, and has a station at Fenny Stratford.
The village, which contains a number of old cottages, some much altered, lies at the foot of a hill, in the north-east of the parish, east of the Grand Junction Canal, and along a road branching north from Watling Street. At the eastern end of the village is the church of St. Thomas. To the north is the Rectory house, dating from 1872; the former house was described by Sheahan about 1860 as an ancient brick building. (fn. 3) A little further north is the Rectory Farm, a 17th-century half-timber house of two stories, repaired with later brickwork.
Simpson House, formerly Simpson Villa, lies south-west of the church. It was built about the middle of the 19th century for Mr. C. Warren, and afterwards bought by Mr. Kenet, who renamed it Simpson House. The manor-house, called Simpson Place in the 18th century, (fn. 4) was pulled down early in the 19th century, and the Manor Farm, an old farmhouse at the south-western end of the village, has since been used as a residence by the Sipthorp family. (fn. 5)
A little south of Manor Farm are a wharf and swing-bridge over the canal, with King's Barn about a quarter of a mile west of the wharf. There is a Wesleyan Chapel north-west of the church, originally built in 1842, but rebuilt on a new site in 1870.
The parish contains the Bletchley Urban District and Newport Pagnell Rural District Isolation Hospital, erected in 1907. To the west of the station are Staple Hall and Lodge, and to the north of it are saw-mills west of the swing-bridge over the canal.
The common fields were enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1770, the award bearing date 26 April 1771. (fn. 6)
Among place-names has been found Groveway Farm (fn. 7) (xviii cent.).
Before the Conquest Queen Edith held a manor of 8 hides and 3 virgates in SIMPSON, which in 1086 was entered among the lands of the Bishop of Coutances, who held it in pledge of William Bonvaslet. (fn. 8) By the 13th century this was annexed as one fee to the barony of Wolverton, (fn. 9) of which it still formed part in 1635. (fn. 10)
The manor was subinfeudated before the middle of the 13th century, when Geoffrey de Cauz, who presented to the church in 1231, (fn. 11) was holding it. (fn. 12) Here as in Water Eaton, Bletchley (q.v.), the Cauz family were succeeded by the Greys, probably by marriage, since in 1351, during the Greys' tenure, the lords were described as the heirs of Geoffrey de Cauz. (fn. 13) John de Grey, the first of his family mentioned in Simpson, held in 1254. (fn. 14) About ten years later Bertram du Sulee sued him for Simpson Manor, (fn. 15) a claim which was renewed in 1275 against his son, Reynold de Grey, by Bartholomew de Sulee. (fn. 16) Reynold called to warrant his son John de Grey, (fn. 17) who was called lord of Simpson in 1302 in his father's lifetime. (fn. 18) In 1307 John made a settlement of the manor on his second son Roger, (fn. 19) to whom it passed with Bletchley Manor and Stoke Hammond (fn. 20) (q.v.), and was included in the settlement made of the latter at the beginning of the 16th century. By 1551 the manor had passed to Thomas Pigott, senior, of Doddershall, Quainton (fn. 21) (q.v.), but was sold by his son Thomas in 1578 to William and Thomas Cranwell. (fn. 22)
Thomas Cranwell, with Sir Arthur Wilmot, bart., Robert Saunders and John Hatch, was defendant in 1624 in a suit brought by Robert Dixon of London. He complained that in 1622 Thomas Cranwell had given him the manor as part security for a debt of £165, though it had been previously mortgaged to Sir Arthur Wilmot, who with the other defendants had combined to deprive Dixon of his title in the same by fraudulent conveyances. (fn. 23) Settlements of the manor were made by Sir Arthur Wilmot, Thomas Cranwell, and Fitz Hugh Cranwell in 1626 (fn. 24) and in 1628. (fn. 25) Three years later it was in the hands of Arthur Warren. (fn. 26)
It next appears in the possession of the Hatch family, who had held property in Simpson for some generations. (fn. 27) In 1574 Thomas Pigott and his wife Mary conveyed to Richard Hatch two messuages, lands, and a weir in Simpson, (fn. 28) apparently part of the manor, since this property was likewise held of Wolverton Barony. (fn. 29) The name of Richard Hatch appears in a minute of the Privy Council of 1590–1 as Richard Hatch of Simpson, he having been unlawfully attached by a counterfeit pursuivant. (fn. 30) Richard Hatch in 1604 settled a messuage or farm in Simpson and other property on his son and heir John and his heirs, with remainder to his only daughter Joan, widow of Robert Massingberd, and died seised of this property on 9 December 1605, when he was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 31) On 2 June 1635 John Hatch died seised of a messuage in Simpson, a farm called Britnells, Pillgrove Wood and land, which he bequeathed to his wife Jane for bringing up his children, until his son Thomas, then aged ten, should be twenty-three years of age. (fn. 32) On 1 May 1668 Thomas Hatch and his wife Dorothy, daughter of John Spencer of Windsor, (fn. 33) are mentioned in connexion with land in Simpson. (fn. 34) Spencer Hatch, probably his son, appears to have succeeded him before 1678, (fn. 35) and in 1683 he and his mother Dorothy, William Wellis and Mary his wife, conveyed the manor to John Walden of Coventry. (fn. 36) At his death in 1689 it passed by will to his brother Thomas. (fn. 37) Thomas Walden died in March 1701–2 in London, when the manor came to his only daughter and heir, Susan. (fn. 38) In 1717 she married Job Hanmer, (fn. 39) who died in 1739. (fn. 40) Of their only son Walden, who succeeded him, (fn. 41) Cole wrote in 1760: 'Job Walden Hanmer was my schole-Fellow at Eton, from thence he removed to Oxford and the Inns of Court, and now practises as a Councillor in this County, living at Broughton, as his mother lives in the house at Simpson.' (fn. 42) He was created a baronet in 1774, (fn. 43) and in 1776 barred the entail on the manor, (fn. 44) of which he died seised in 1783, being buried at Simpson. (fn. 45) His son, Sir Thomas Hanmer, who succeeded him, made settlements of the manor in 1785 (fn. 46) and in 1802. (fn. 47) He occasionally resided at the manor-house, (fn. 48) which he sold in 1806 to Charles Pinfold with about 210 acres of land. (fn. 49) Charles Pinfold pulled down the manor-house, and leased the manor farm to a tenant, William Sipthorp, whose son William Sipthorp purchased this estate before 1860 (fn. 50); it is now the property of John Sipthorp. The manorial rights have been for a considerable time in abeyance.
One hide and 1 virgate in SIMPSON were held before the Conquest by Lewin Oaura, who could sell, and this property was still held by him in chief in 1086. (fn. 51) In 1275 it was in the hands of various owners, including John de Grey, and it was presented by the hundred that 32s. rent paid to Henry II had been withdrawn by the Abbess of Fontévrault, but by what warrant was unknown. (fn. 52)
A mill worth 10s. was held with the manor in 1086, (fn. 53) and is mentioned in 1324. (fn. 54) Two watermills under one roof, with the Mill House, Millholmes Meadows, fisheries and ferries, were held by the Hatch family in the 17th century, (fn. 55) and are probably identical with the water-mill attached to the manor in the 18th and 19th centuries. (fn. 56)
The church of ST. THOMAS (fn. 57) consists of a chancel 24 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft., central tower 9 ft. 6 in. by 8 ft. 6 in., north transept 18 ft. by 13 ft., south transept 16 ft. 6 in. by 11 ft., nave 46 ft. 6 in. by 24 ft. 6 in., and a south porch. All these measurements are internal.
No detail of an earlier date than the first half of the 14th century remains in the present structure, which appears to have been almost entirely rebuilt during that period. The somewhat restricted dimensions of the central tower suggest that it was originally designed for a smaller church, and that the reconstruction undertaken in the 14th century consisted in the enlargement of the chancel, transepts and nave of an earlier cruciform building, the existing central tower, the lower portion of which may incorporate work of the previous century, being retained. The arches which pierce the ground stage, however, seem to have been altered in the early years of the 14th century, to which date the responds belong, and again some thirty years later, when the arches themselves were rebuilt. The details of the rest of the church point to the second quarter of the century as the principal period of rebuilding. About 1400 the tower was increased in height, and the nave was re-roofed, the rood stairs built, and several windows altered or inserted in the 15th century. At some time in the same century a north vestry, since demolished, was added on the north side of the chancel. The south porch was built in the 16th century, and the transepts were re-roofed in the 17th century. Restorations of the church were carried out in 1873 and 1904. At this latter date the plaster ceiling of the nave was removed, the east wall of the chancel was rebuilt, and the western archways between nave and transepts were opened out, while the rood-loft staircase was continued up to the belfry in oak, and a new ringers' floor was inserted over the arches of the tower.
The east wall of the chancel, with its window and buttresses, is modern, and there is a modern two-light window in both the north and south walls. In the north wall are a doorway and a window, both blocked, and outside can be seen traces of the vestry wall and a demolished central buttress. The south wall has a buttress in the middle, to the west of which is a high square-headed window, originally of the 14th century, heightened in the 15th or 16th century. It was blocked with brickwork when the Hanmer monument was erected in 1789, and is now visible only from outside.
The tower is three stages in height and has an embattled parapet. Each wall of the ground stage is pierced by a pointed and chamfered arch with semicircular responds, the shafts having moulded capitals and bases, and dating from the early part of the 14th century, the arches being somewhat later. In the west wall high up is a doorway with a four-centred head opening into the nave. The east and west walls of the upper stages show traces of the position of the old roofs of the chancel and nave. The bell-chamber has four windows, each of two lights, probably of early 15th-century date.
The transepts each have angle-buttresses, and are of the same date as the chancel. In the north and south walls respectively is a three-light window with net tracery, of the first half of the 14th century, and below and to the west of each window is a small low rectangular opening, probably of the 15th century, now glazed. The north transept has in its east wall an early 15th-century moulded doorway, with an external rear-arch, formerly leading to the demolished vestry. In the west wall is blocked window, probably of the 15th century, to the south of which are the doorway of the rood-loft staircase and an arched opening giving access to the nave. At the south-east, in the portion of the north wall of the chancel overlapped by the transept, is a trefoil-headed piscina. At the north-east corner of the south transept is a 15thcentury squint blocked by the Hanmer monument in the chancel. In the west wall is a blocked window and to the north of it is a skew-arched opening into the nave, having a small inner arch carried on shafts with moulded bell-capitals. The roofs of both transepts have plain trusses with re-cut tie-beams and struts, and were probably rebuilt in the 17th century.
With the exception of the 15th-century west window, all the details of the nave are of 14th-century date. The only window in the north wall is placed at the east end; it is of two trefoiled lights with tracery in a pointed head. In the normal position, a little to the west of the middle of the wall, is the north doorway, which has a moulded head and jambs. In a corresponding position in the south wall is the south doorway, the external label of which has a foliated finial, and to the east of the doorway are two windows, that nearest the doorway being similar to the north window, while the eastern window is of three lights with intersecting tracery. The west window, which has been much restored externally, is of four lights with vertical tracery in the head. The nave roof, a fine piece of work, has three intermediate and two wall-trusses, with moulded wall-plates, tie-beams and purlins, and chamfered wind-braces, struts and collar-beams. The intermediate trusses each have a tiebeam, and two collar-beams carried by struts; the eastern wall-truss has hammer-beams without the lower collar, but with arched struts, while the western wall-truss has hammer-beams and two collars.
The south porch, which is very irregularly set out, has a pointed and chamfered archway of the 16th century, with jamb-shafts having defaced capitals. In the west wall is a small arched light, now blocked, and in the east wall are indications of another blocked window.
The font now in use is modern; the old font is placed in the north transept. It is probably of the 15th century, and has a tapering circular bowl without ornament, standing on a round stem with a stepped base. The font cover is of the 17th century.
In the chancel are four 18th-century mural monuments to members of the Hanmer family, the largest being that which commemorates Sir Walden Hanmer, bart. (d. 1783), by Bacon. Just outside the north transept doorway is a mutilated slab to William Gale (d. 1638).
There are five bells: the treble was added in 1895; the old second was recast in 1896 at the expense of Miss C. Eaton; the second and fifth, the old treble and tenor, and the fourth, the old third, have been recast by Taylor of Loughborough. (fn. 58)
The registers before the year 1718 have been missing for many years, those up to 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms and burials 1719 to 1805, marriages 1719 to 1753; (ii) marriages 1754 to 1812; (iii) baptisms 1805 to 1813. There are also two books of accounts: churchwardens' 1778 to 1872, and Feoffees' 1783 to 1873.
The advowson was appendant to the manor from the early 13th century and probably before, (fn. 59) but was not alienated with it in 1578, being sold by Thomas Pigott and his son Thomas to William Beeley, sen., of Wooburn in 1587. (fn. 60) He may have been trustee for George Bury, who presented to the church in 1591, (fn. 61) but later conveyed the advowson to Thomas Cranwell, from whom it passed about 1634 to Robert Staunton. (fn. 62) He held the right in 1659, (fn. 63) but conveyed it in 1663 to George Potter, the rector, (fn. 64) doubtless for one turn only, as in 1664 Staunton and his wife were again in possession. (fn. 65) It was purchased from the Stauntons by William Cotton, (fn. 66) who presented to the church in 1667. (fn. 67) According to Browne Willis Cotton sold the advowson about 1690 to John Stannard, then incumbent. (fn. 68) According to the same authority John Stannard's son about 1712 sold it to Mrs. Elinor Hawes, from whom it passed to her son Matthew, the incumbent. (fn. 69) There seems to be some confusion in this statement, since in 1719 Matthew Hawes was presented to the church by his father-in-law Thomas Barrabee, who held in right of his wife Frances, (fn. 70) the Barrabees conveying the advowson to Matthew Hawes the same year. (fn. 71) Mr. Clobury of Marlow, a later patron, is said to have conveyed his right about 1756 to John Cranwell, clerk, (fn. 72) who, with his wife Anne, conveyed it in 1761 to Walden Hanmer. (fn. 73) Sir Thomas Hanmer retained the advowson when he sold the manor, and it is now the property of the present baronet, Sir Wyndham Charles Henry Hanmer.
At the suppression of the chantries a tenement and lands worth 6s. 4d. yearly given for an obit in Simpson Church, and a parcel of meadow worth 16d. given for a lamp in Walton Church, were recorded in Simpson. (fn. 76)
The charity of Thomas Pigott, founded by deed 25 March 1573, is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 20 October 1908. The trust property consists of a farm at Simpson containing 40 a. let at £45 a year, £1,210 16s. 8d. consols in the High Court and £589 10s. 7d. consols with the official trustees producing in annual dividends £45. The scheme directs that the net income should be applied for the general benefit of the poor in one or more of the modes therein specified. In 1912 the payments included the sum of £10 5s. to the nursing association, £8 16s. to hospitals and travelling expenses of patients, £31 15s. to provident clubs and £13 13s. in the distribution of coal.
The charity of Sir Thomas Hanmer, comprised in a memorandum dated 9 April 1817, consists of a yearly rent-charge of £1 issuing out of a piece of land in the hamlet of Fenny Stratford, now belonging to Mrs. T. Pitkin. By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 5 March 1912 the annuity is made applicable in the same manner as the preceding charity.