A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 5, the Hundred of Cleley. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
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The parish of Wicken occupies some 2,321 acres (fn. 1) in the extreme south of Cleley hundred on the north bank of the Great Ouse, which here forms the boundary between Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. (fn. 2) The parish is separated by the river from Thornton and Beachampton (Bucks.) on the south, and is bounded on the west by Leckhampstead (Bucks.) and in the north-west by Lillingstone Lovell, formerly a detached portion of Oxfordshire, transferred to Buckinghamshire in 1832-44. (fn. 3) To the east and north-east Wicken has a lengthy boundary with Passenham, running in part through fields between the Ouse and the village of Deanshanger (which immediately adjoins the Wicken boundary) and represented further north by Kings Brook. The modern parish was created in 1587 (fn. 4) by the union of two previously separate parishes, Wick (or Wyke) Dive and Wick Hamon, which were already distinct estates in 1066. (fn. 5) The union has been commemorated annually ever since by a special service, with cakes and ale, in the village on the Thursday in Holy week. (fn. 6) The boundary between Wick Dive and Wick Hamon is apparently marked by the stream which flows from west to east through the village of Wicken to join Kings Brook at Deanshanger. (fn. 7) Wick Hamon lay to the south of this brook, Wick Dive to the north, and each parish had its own church in its respective portion of Wicken village. (fn. 8) The regular outer boundary of the modern parish, as well as the common first element of the two medieval parish names, (fn. 9) suggests that at some date before the Norman Conquest the whole area had formed a single estate that was later partitioned. The only boundary change since 1587 occurred in 1956. (fn. 10)
The south-eastern corner of the parish lies about 250 ft. above sea level. From the river valley the land rises gently to reach about 360 ft. at the north-west corner, about three miles away. The parish is roughly a mile and a half wide on its other axis, although it narrows to a point in the north-west. Large areas of alluvium occupy the flood plain of the Ouse and the higher land to the south of the village and in the west is covered Boulder Clay. In the valley formed by the small stream which runs through the centre of the parish broad patches of Oolitic Limestone are exposed. (fn. 11) Baker described the soil as a cold white clay, or in some parts a brown stone brash loam, overlying limestone. (fn. 12) An earlier writer commented on the excellence of the water supply and the availability of building stone, gravel and sand, as well as 'a good vein of marble'. (fn. 13)
In 1301 40 households were assessed to the lay subsidy in the vill of Wick Dive; there is no entry on the roll for Wick Hamon, (fn. 14) which may be included in this total. In the 1520s the two townships together contained about 35 households assessed to the subsidy. (fn. 15) A total of 58 households were assessed to the hearth tax in 1674, of which 28 were discharged through poverty. (fn. 16) In the early 18th century the parish contained about 70 houses. (fn. 17) A 'general guess' put the population at 273 in 1765 and 294 in 1774. (fn. 18) It had increased to 367 by 1801, including 13 navigators building the canal to Buckingham, (fn. 19) and continued to rise modestly to a peak of 536 in 1821. The parish had a population of 529 in 1861, after which there was a steady decline to 362 by 1911 and only 278 fifty years later. There was then a relatively sharp increase to 378 in 1971, followed by a fall to 317 in 1981.
The modern main road from Stony Stratford to Buckingham, which leaves Watling Street at the crossroads in Old Stratford, runs through the southern part of the parish, some distance from the village of Wicken. This route, which until a bypass was built in the 1980s passed through Deanshanger, (fn. 20) was turnpiked under an Act of 1815. (fn. 21) In the early 18th century there was an alternative road from Old Stratford through Passenham and Wicken, which followed a course closer to the river, thus avoiding Deanshanger. (fn. 22) Although described in 1747 as the best known way and the general highway by which most waggons and travellers went from Old Stratford to Buckingham, (fn. 23) it had disappeared by 1779 (fn. 24) and was probably stopped up when the common fields of Wicken through which it ran were inclosed in 1757. (fn. 25) In the early 18th century two by-roads ran north from these main roads to Wicken village, from where other lanes continued north towards Whittlebury. The main east-west route through the village linked Wicken with Deanshanger and Leckhampstead. (fn. 26) By the early 19th century parts of the north-south route to the south of the village had disappeared or declined into footpaths, leaving the roads from Deanshanger, Whittlebury and Leckhampstead as the main links between Wicken and its neighbours. (fn. 27)
The Buckingham branch of the Grand Junction Canal passed through the southern part of the parish on its way from Old Stratford to Buckingham. Originally projected in 1793 as a scheme to canalise the Ouse from Buckingham to Passenham, from where a short artificial cut would continue to the sidecut aleady agreed on from the main line of the Grand Junction at Cosgrove to a wharf near Watling Street at Old Stratford, (fn. 28) the branch was finally built as a deadwater canal throughout. Digging at Wicken began in October 1800 and the first boat passed from Old Stratford to Buckingham on 7 May 1801. (fn. 29) In July that year Mrs. Prowse of Wicken Park took two of her nieces on a trip on the canal through her estate, and in August she watched the canal company committee pass by on their way from Paddington to Buckingham. (fn. 30) The nearest public wharfs serving Wicken were at Deanshanger, about a mile away. (fn. 31) The branch fell into disuse in the early 20th century and was largely filled in, although in the 1990s a Buckingham Arm Canal Society was established to press for its rebuilding.
LANDCSAPE AND SETTLEMENT
The Impact of Whittlewod.
The pattern of settlement and land usage in Wicken has been considerably influenced by the position of the parish at the southern edge of Whittlewood Forest. Although in 1289 a proposal to reinclose the park at Wick Hamon was investigated by a swainmote court presided over by John de Tingewick, keeper of Whittlewood, implying that the township then lay within the forest, (fn. 32) the detailed perambulation made ten years later, which established the boundary of the forest until the 17th century, clearly places both Wick Hamon and Wick Dive outside Whittlewood. (fn. 33) In 1639, as part of Charles I's attempts to enlarge the forest far beyond the traditional limits, Henry Lord Spencer, the rector and two freeholders were fined for a grant of disafforestation relating to 1,800 a. of land in Wicken and Leckhampstead, and 100 a. of wood in the latter parish. (fn. 34) In reality, as an early 17th-century map of Whittlewood makes clear, no part of either parish was properly within the forest, whose south-western boundary at that date, as in 1299, was marked by Kings Brook. (fn. 35)
A good deal of woodland survived at the northern end of Wicken in the early 17th century, extending over the border into Leckhampstead, most of which was still in existence a century later. (fn. 36) By the early 19th century Wicken Wood had been slightly further reduced in size, although there were still 236 a. of woodland in the parish as a whole, including several parcels to the south-west of the village, detached from the main area further north. Even as late as this, Sir Charles Mordaunt, the owner of the Wicken Park estate, successfully claimed an 18 ft. freeboard along much of the parish boundary with Leckhampstead (including some stretches that were no longer wooded on the Wicken side as well as those that were). (fn. 37) The claim was also accepted by the Ordnance Survey in the 1880s, which accounts for the unusual mereing ('18 ft. R.H.') along much of the western boundary of the parish. (fn. 38)
When Whittlewood was disafforested under an Act of 1853 Wicken successfully claimed that it had enjoyed the right, as an out-town of the forest, to pasture cattle there between St. George's Day and Holy Rood Day (4 May-25 September). (fn. 39) The parish accordingly received an allotment of former forest land in Passenham to compensate for the loss of common grazing, amounting to 72 a. 2 r. 35 p., which was divided between the freeholders in 1861, when Sir Charles Mordaunt received 67 a. 3 r. 24 p., the rector 4 a. 2 r. 27 p., and two smallholders 12 perches each. (fn. 40) The parish also received a sum of money to endow a charity to buy coal for the poor, to compensate for the loss of the right to collect firewood in the forest. (fn. 41)
Early and Medieval Settlement.
Well away from Whittlewood, the earliest evidence for settlement in Wicken is a feature identified as a prehistoric ring ditch discovered on the flood plain of the Great Ouse. Also in the southeast of the parish, on river gravel, remains of a Roman building, including 3rd- and 4th-century pottery, were found in 1965. (fn. 42)
Any woodland that once existed in the central and south-eastern parts of Wicken was presumably cleared in the early Middle Ages when the twin villages of Wick Dive and Wick Hamon with their adjoining common fields were established. Both estates are mentioned for the first time in 1086 and have a separate manorial history until 1449. There was a capital messuage belonging to the manor of Wick Dive, but not Wick Hamon. (fn. 43) Although the two settlements had effectively merged into one by the time they were mapped in 1717, it is clear that they had once been largely distinct villages. Most of the houses in Wick Dive were strung out on either side of a main street running west-east, whereas Wick Hamon developed along a north-south axis to the south of the brook, the two roads meeting towards the north-western end of the village. (fn. 44) By the early 18th century, if not before, the majority of houses lay in Wick Dive, together with St. John's church and the site of the manor house, most of which was demolished in the late 17th century. (fn. 45) Wick Hamon church, dedicated to St. James, was taken down after the union of the two parishes, but its site is marked on later maps as a field named 'Old Church Yard' to the south of the brook. (fn. 46)
Earthworks on the edge of the modern builtup area indicate that both villages were somewhat larger in the Middle Ages than they were in 1717. (fn. 47)
To the south of Wick Hamon village land was imparked in the 13th century, disparked in the 17th, and re-imparked in the 18th, before being finally ploughed up during the Second World War. (fn. 48) Most of the rest of the parish, outside the woodland, was cultivated as common arable in the Middle Ages and, to a reduced extent, until inclosure in 1757. Wick Dive and Wick Hamon each had its own three-field system. (fn. 49)
Apart from the park keeper's lodge, the only settlements outside the village which can definitely be said to have medieval origins are Dagnall, not far from Deanshanger, and Mount Mill, on the Ouse in the extreme south-eastern corner of the parish, both of which are first recorded in the early 14th century. (fn. 50) Mount Mill was a small farm of 17 a. in 1717, (fn. 51) whereas Dagnall was an estate of 128 a., sold off by Henry Lord Spencer in 1640 and repurchased for the Wicken Park estate in 1753. (fn. 52) Mount Mill probably only ever comprised the mill itself and a few adjoining parcels of land but Dagnall may have been a medieval hamlet, with its own open fields, which later shrank to two farms. (fn. 53)
Two other settlements stand apart from the two villages. One is Wicken Hurst (whose name appears not to be recorded in any medieval source), a small farmstead on Kings Brook at the southern limit of Wicken Wood which seems likely to have originated as a roadside assart on the edge of Whittlewood. By the early 18th century, when it was sometimes known as Little Wicken, Wicken Hurst comprised part of a hamlet of four or five houses, the rest of which lay on the opposite side of the brook in Passenham. (fn. 54) There was a brick kiln on the farm during most of the 18th century, in a copse named Brick Kiln Spinney in 1717. This closed down c. 1800 but another works was established at about that date at Old Copse on the Passenham side of the brook, which was in use throughout the 19th century. (fn. 55)
To the south of the 17th-century park keeper's lodge and later mansion, the map of 1717 marks a moated site, which then formed a small freehold outside the Wicken Park estate. (fn. 56) Remains of the moat were still evident in 1838, by which date it belonged to the Mordaunt estate. (fn. 57) Presumably it marks the site of an isolated medieval farmstead, unless it was the keeper's lodge belonging to the medieval park.
Settlement from the 16th to the 19th Centuries.
In 1511 the two manors were purchased by John Spencer of Snitterfield (Warwicks.), whose grandson, Sir John Spencer of Althorp and Wormleighton (Warwicks.), secured the union of Wick Dive and Wick Hamon into one parish in 1587, (fn. 58) from which time the manor was also conveyed as a single estate, generally known as 'Wicken alias Wick Hamon and Wick Dive'. (fn. 59) The Spencers only occasionally resided at Wicken, although in the early 17th century Robert Lord Spencer rebuilt both the capital messuage belonging to the manor of Wick Dive and the lodge in Wicken Park. (fn. 60) Most of the farmhouses and cottages in both villages were also renewed in this period. The redundant church of St. James, Wick Hamon, however, was taken down. (fn. 61)
Wicken changed hands by purchase again in 1716, when it was acquired by a London merchant named Charles Hosier. Whereas during the Spencers' time the parish had formed a small outlying portion of a large estate centred elsewhere, for Hosier it became his principal residence, which he improved through the purchase of the remaining freeholds and the building of a new mansion in the park, in place of the old manor house near the church. (fn. 62) After Hosier died in 1750, Wicken passed to his granddaughter Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Prowse, an amateur architect who, before his death in 1767, began the rebuilding of Wicken church to his own design and in 1765 prepared plans for the enlargement of the mansion. (fn. 63) He also improved the estate by repurchasing in 1753 two farms at Dagnall which had been sold in the Spencers' time, and by inclosing the remaining common fields in 1757, which led to the building of three farmsteads on the new inclosures. (fn. 64)
Wicken passed from Thomas Prowse's widow to their daughter Elizabeth, on whose death in 1810 it once again became part of an estate centred elsewhere and the mansion was let. In 1877, after forty years as a tenant, the 1st Lord Penrhyn purchased the estate, which remained in his family's hands until 1944. (fn. 65) The DouglasPennants' main home was their enormous Caernarvonshire estate centred on Penrhyn Castle, whose chief asset in the 19th century was the extensive slate-quarrying business which dominated the local economy. They appear to have regarded Wicken as a convenient second country estate, only 50 miles from London in excellent hunting country (three generations of the family were masters of the Grafton Hunt), with more congenial neighbours and certainly more amenable tenants than the small farmers and quarrymen of North Wales, amongst whom the family were deeply unpopular. (fn. 66)
There was litle new building in either the 19th century or the first half of the 20th in Wicken, which remained a close community almost entirely owned by a single estate. Sir John Mordaunt provided a schoolroom in 1839, which was replaced by a larger building in 1878, the gift of the 1st Lord Penrhyn, who later met the entire cost of restoring the church. (fn. 67) The 2nd Lord Penrhyn enlarged the mansion in 1913 and provided the village with a piped water supply, but otherwise the Douglas-Pennants did not do much towards modernising, replacing or increasing the housing stock on the estate, or altering the arrangement of the farms. (fn. 68)
The Modern Parish.
The purchase of the Wicken Park Estate by the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol in 1944, including virtually the whole of the parish of Wicken apart from the glebe (which the Society bought six years later), as well as Dovehouse Farm in Deanshanger and Limes End in Leckhampstead, (fn. 69) marked the beginning of change in the community. The mansion was let to a private school, although the buildings were not greatly altered. (fn. 70) In the north of the parish, Wicken Wood, most of which was cleared during the Second World War, was let to the Forestry Commission, whilst the smaller acreage near Wicken Park was retained as amenity woodland.
The cottages in the village were progressively sold (over 60 had been disposed of by 1979) and the farms gradually consolidated. The 10 holdings totalling 2,306 acres in 1944 had been amalgamated into five principal tenancies (3,075 acres) by 1980. (fn. 71) During the following decade the Society began to sell farms to sitting tenants and by 1992 the estate was reduced to 1,877 acres. (fn. 72) As well as a reduction in the number of farms, the half-century after 1944 also saw some amalgamation of fields, although less markedly so than in some parishes in the district. In the 1970s the Society bought the bed of the disused Buckingham branch of the Grand Union Canal, most of which was absorbed into adjoining farms, apart from a short stretch which was acquired by the Northamptonshire Naturalists' Trust as a nature reserve. When the amenity woodland in hand was affected by Dutch elm disease in the early 1980s the Society replanted the spinneys with hardwoods to maintain the traditional appearance of the estate. (fn. 73)
As soon as they acquired a group of estates within reasonable travelling distance of each other in the South Midlands, the Society of Merchant Venturers made regular tours to inspect their property, under the guidance of their land steward. Members of the Society met the tenants, attended church services, and took part in social functions, including cricket matches between the tenants of Wicken and Mentmore. From time to time the tenants were invited back to Bristol to see something of the work of the St. Monica Trust. (fn. 74) As the number of tenants fell over the years, along with the Society's acreage in the parish, and the village lost the unity it had once possessed as a community where everyone depended on the fortunes of a single estate, the style of management became less paternal, although in the 1990s the Society continued to make tours of Wicken and its other remaining properties.
The sale of the cottages and a decline in agricultural employment after the Second World War led to a gradual change in the character of the village, as the older houses were modernised and increasingly from the 1960s became the homes of professional and business people who worked elsewhere, principally Milton Keynes. Wicken proved particularly attractive for such people, since it was within easy reach of the new town but away from any main road and protected by planning policy against large-scale development. Small groups of council houses were built in the village from 1948 (fn. 75) and in the 1970s and 1980s a limited number of high-status private houses were added to the built-up area. During the same period the range of retail and commercial services-never extensive-declined further, although the former rectory was successfully converted into a Japanese restaurant and hotel. The school closed in 1962. (fn. 76)
In 1290 John son and heir of John, who was the son of John son of Alan, lord of Wick Hamon, was allowed to re-inclose his park at Wicken after it had fallen into decay during the time that his mother Isabel had held it in dower. (fn. 77) In 1404 Richard Woodville, then lord of Wick Hamon, made a grant of all the underwood in Wick Park to William Furtho and two others, who were to make a fence round the park at their expense. (fn. 78) A century later, in 1512, Sir John Spencer was granted licence to impark 300 a. of land and 200 a. of wood at Wicken: (fn. 79) even if these figures are notional, they suggest a considerable enlargement of the medieval park and also point to the survival of woodland in this part of the parish, as the survey made for Charles Hosier in 1717 also indicates. (fn. 80) In 1604 Robert Lord Spencer received a confirmation of the grant of 1512, which was confirmed again in 1639. (fn. 81) In about 1651, however, the 2nd earl of Sunderland disparked Wicken, when Sir Peter Temple Bt., an ancestor of the dukes of Buckingham and Chandos, purchased the deer for his new park a few miles away at Stowe (Bucks.). (fn. 82) By 1717 much of the park had been divided into closes, although a large area of lawn survived to the north of the keeper's lodge, as well as the woodland to the west, and a broad avenue which ran roughly south-east from the lodge for over a mile, through the park and the common-field arable near the Ouse to the parish boundary, crossing both branches of the road to Buckingham. (fn. 83)
Charles Hosier, who bought the Wicken estate in 1716, commissioned a detailed survey the following year, when he also built a new house adjoining the keeper's lodge in the former park. (fn. 84) Either Hosier (who died in 1750) or his immediate successor Thomas Prowse (died 1767) re-established a park around the house, on less formal (and possibly less extensive) lines than its predecessor, with stretches of grassland (some of it recovered from closes taken out of the old park), extending on all sides from the house. A broad belt of woodland was retained to the west of the mansion but the avenue was completely swept away. (fn. 85)
Few changes appear to have been made to the park between the early 19th century and the Second World War, when much of the land was ploughed up and remained in agricultural use after 1945. (fn. 86) After the war the mansion, including outbuildings and grounds, were let to a private school. (fn. 87)
There was presumably a keeper's lodge in the medieval park, which was evidently rebuilt in the early 17th century, since the surviving building, later used as stables and in modern times converted into flats, bears the Spencer arms and the date 1614 on the porch. (fn. 88) The former lodge is built of coursed rubble limestone with a plain-tile roof and brick end-stacks on stone bases. It is T-shaped in plan, of two storeys and attics, four bays wide.
Charles Hosier's new house of 1717 appears to have consisted of a seven-bay, two-storey range, in plain limestone ashlar beneath a hipped slate roof. (fn. 89) In February 1765 Thomas Prowse, an amateur architect, prepared plans for additions to the house, including three garrets and probably also the wings, and ordered the existing building to be repaired and the roof re-tiled. (fn. 90) The new roof and the shell of the new building were finished by August that year, (fn. 91) although fitting-up of rooms and work in the grounds continued until at least 1793, during which time new rides were laid out in the park and woods. (fn. 92) In 1792-3 Mrs. Prowse had the library furnished to receive her brother Granville Sharp's books. (fn. 93) One result of the rebuilding was the introduction of coal (brought by road from Northampton until the canal was built) (fn. 94) for domestic use at the house in 1766, whereas previously only wood had been burnt. (fn. 95) Wicken Park was further enlarged by Lord Penrhyn in 1913, chiefly by the addition of a third storey to the main range to accommodate visiting servants. (fn. 96)
In 1945 the mansion was described as being of no architectural merit but in good structural condition, following the alterations of 1913. (fn. 97) Both the main house and the outbuildings, including the 17th-century lodge, were altered to suit the needs of the tenants after Wicken Park became a school. (fn. 98)
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
There were two manors in Wicken, later known as Wick Dive and Wick Hamon, from before the Norman Conquest, although only the latter had a capital messuage associated with it. The two were held by the same family from 1449 and treated as a single estate after the parishes of Wick Dive and Wick Hamon were united in 1587. Several religious houses had small estates in the parish in the Middle Ages.
The Manor of Wick Dive to 1587.
In 1086 Robert d'Oyley held one hide and one virgate in Wick, which Azor had held freely in King Edward's time. (fn. 99) Robert died without male issue and was succeeded in his barony of Hook Norton (Oxon.) by his brother Nigel, whose great-grandson Henry, dying without issue, was succeeded by his sister Margery, the first wife of Henry, earl of Warwick (d. 1229). (fn. 100) Their only son and heir Thomas died without issue in 1242, when he was succeeded as countess of Warwick suo jure by his sister Margery, whose second husband John de Plessis died in 1263 seised of the barony of Hook Norton and the lands of Henry d'Oyley, his wife's uncle, by virtue of a conditional grant, if his wife predeceased him without issue. (fn. 101) Among Henry's lands was one fee in Wicken. (fn. 102) John's first wife was Christian, daughter and heiress of Hugh de Sandford of Hook Norton, by whom he had a son and heir Hugh de Plessis, who was 26 at the date of his father's death, and whose own son Hugh was summoned to Parliament as a baron in 1299. (fn. 103) In 1265, 1272 and 1277 Sir Hugh de Plessis was found to be tenant in chief of the Wicken estate, except (in 1277) for an assart which the undertenant held of the king in chief. (fn. 104) Possibly as a result of confusion between the assart and the manor proper, the same undertenant was said in 1281 to hold the lordship itself in chief. (fn. 105) On the other hand, Hugh de Plessis was the tenant in chief in 1284, (fn. 106) and in 1346, 1384 1398 and 1428 the manor was said to be held of the honor of Hook Norton. (fn. 107)
In 1086 the undertenant of the d'Oyley portion of Wicken was named Roger. (fn. 108) The next identifiable holder of the manor appears to be Guy de Dive of Deddington, who held the manors of Deddington and Ducklington (Oxon.), both members of the honor of Hook Norton, in the reign of John. (fn. 109) In 1216 the sheriff was directed to give full seisin to Eustace de Leon of the land of Wick which was a member of Ducklington, with all the chattels on it, parcel of the lands of Peter Picot, which the king had previously given him under the name of Eustance de Eu, and which were described as the lands of Peter in Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire. (fn. 110)
William de Dive, who held one fee in Wick in 1242, (fn. 111) died in 1261 holding the same estate, when he was succeeded by his son John, (fn. 112) who rebelled against Henry IIII and was killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265. (fn. 113) His lands were forfeited to the Crown and assigned to Osbert Giffard. In 1266 John's widow Sybil recovered their manor and park of Ducklington for her life, but not the Deddington or Wicken estates. (fn. 114) In 1272 John de Dive, presumably John and Sybil's son and heir, died seised of a capital messuage and other premises in Wicken, when his heir was found to be his son Henry, (fn. 115) who the following year redeemed the rest of the family's Wicken estate from Osbert for a fine of 300 marks under the terms of the Dictum of Kenilworth. (fn. 116) Henry appears to have died in 1277, leaving a son and heir John aged three. A year before he had enfeoffed Edelina Corbett in all his lands in Northamptonshire for her life, including the manor of Wick Dive. (fn. 117) In March 1279 the king granted John's wardship and marriage to Queen Eleanor, although two months later a new grant was made to Alice, Henry de Dive's widow. (fn. 118) Edelina herself died in 1281 seised of Wick Dive for her life. (fn. 119) The lands which Alice held in dower in both Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire were taken into the king's hands in 1282, although the Crown appears to have retained only the Oxfordshire estate. (fn. 120)
John de Dive was still a minor in 1283 but had come of age by 1303, when he presented to the living; (fn. 121) in 1305-6 he complained that his servant had been robbed and murdered at Wicken. (fn. 122) John died in 1310, leaving a son and heir named Henry, (fn. 123) returned as lord of Wick Dive in 1315, (fn. 124) who in turn died in 1327, leaving a son and heir named John, aged seven. (fn. 125) Henry's widow Martha held the manor in dower in 1343, when her son John granted the reversion to feoffees, who regranted it to John for his life, with successive remainders to Sir John Lewknor, John's son Henry de Dive, and Henry's wife Elizabeth, Sir John's daughter. (fn. 126) The feoffees held half a fee in Wike Dive in 1346 and presented to the living the following year. (fn. 127)
After Martha, John de Dive and John Lewknor had all died, Henry de Dive and Elizabeth entered into seisin of the manor, which they retained until 1356-9 when Henry demised the estate to Roger de Mortimer, earl of March (d. 1360) and Sir Ralph Spigurnel for their lives. Afterwards Henry released all his right in the manor to Roger and Ralph, and Roger's heirs. Henry died without heirs and his widow later married Sir Edward de Twyford; in 1361 Elizabeth and Edward successfully recovered the manor from Ralph Spigurnel, Earl Roger then being dead. After both Ralph and Edward had died, Edmund son of Earl Roger (1352- 81), who was seised of the reversion, confirmed the manor to Elizabeth. After her death in 1384, the reversion was found to pertain to Roger son and heir of Earl Edmund, a minor in the king's wardship. (fn. 128) Immediately after Elizabeth's death the king committed the keeping of the manor to Roger, the earls of Arundel, Warwick and Northumberland, and John de Neville, Lord Neville, to hold until Roger came of age. (fn. 129)
Earl Roger died in 1398 seised of the manor of Wick Dive, leaving a son named Edmund, who was again a minor. (fn. 130) In 1424 Edmund first leased and then released the manor to William Lucy and his wife Margaret, who were in possession when the earl died the following year. (fn. 131) In 1449 Richard Woodville of Grafton and his wife Jacquetta purchased the reversion of the manor from Richard duke of York and his wife Cecily, (fn. 132) and appear also to have acquired the Lucys' life interest. (fn. 133) Woodville, by then Lord Rivers, had a grant of free warren in Wicken in 1457. (fn. 134) Wick Dive thereafter descended with the Woodvilles' home manor of Grafton to Thomas Grey, 2nd marquess of Dorset, (fn. 135) who in 1511 sold the estate to John Spencer of Snitterfield (Warwicks.) (d. 1522), (fn. 136) the founder of the Spencer family of Althorp. (fn. 137) In 1512 Spencer was granted free warren in his manors of Althorp and Wicken, and the right to create a park of 500 acres at Wicken. (fn. 138) It was John Spencer's great-grandson, Sir John Spencer of Althorp and Wormleighton (Warwicks.), who secured the union of Wick Dive and Wick Hamon into a single parish in 1587, (fn. 139) from which time the manor was also conveyed as a single estate, generally known as 'Wicken alias Wick Hamon and Wick Dive'. (fn. 140)
The Unified Estate.
Sir John Spencer died in 1600 (fn. 141) and was succeeded by his son Robert, created Baron Spencer of Worrnleighton three years later, who in 1604 received confirmation of his ancestor's grants of free park and free warren. (fn. 142) The following year he laid claim to lands in Wicken formerly belonging to Snelshall priory (fn. 143) and in 1609 received a grant of some additional land in the parish. (fn. 144) Lord Robert built new stables at Wicken in 1614 and rebuilt the manor house six years later, although he only visited Wicken occasionally to hunt. (fn. 145) The house may in these years have been the home of Elizabeth, countess of Southampton, (fn. 146) whose daughter Penelope in 1615 married Lord Robert's son and heir William, who succeeded as 2nd Lord Spencer on his father's death in 1627. (fn. 147)
William died in 1636, bequeathing the manor of Wicken and lands there to trustees to help raise portions for his daughters. (fn. 148) He was succeeded by his son Henry, who in 1639 married Dorothy, daughter of Robert Sidney, earl of Leicester, (fn. 149) when the manor and advowson of Wicken and all his lands there were among the property settled on her trustees. (fn. 150) In the same year Henry was fined for a grant of disafforestation freeing Wicken from any claim that it lay within the bounds of Whittlewood and for a grant of a park of 200 acres. (fn. 151) The following year he sold two farms at Dagnall, which were only repurchased by Thomas Prowse in 1753. (fn. 152)
Henry was created earl of Sunderland in June 1643 but was killed at the battle of Newbury three months later, leaving a son Robert (1641- 1702) as his heir. In 1665 Robert married Anne, the daughter of George earl of Bristol, (fn. 153) to whom, by his will of 1695, he bequeathed Wicken and all his other lands in England not settled on the marriage of his son Charles (afterwards 3rd earl of Sunderland). (fn. 154) From 1671 onwards Sunderland raised a series of mortgages on the Wicken estate, which by the time of his death in 1702 totalled £5,000. (fn. 155) The mansion, as well as the rest of the estate, continued to be let in this period. (fn. 156) By her will, dated 17 July 1712, Countess Anne left all her real estate to trustees for sale. Four years later, acting under a Chancery decree, the trustees sold the manor, mansion house and advowson of Wicken, with woods in Leckhampstead and Limes End (Bucks.), to Charles Hosier, a London merchant originally from Berwick, near Shrewsbury, for £11,500, of which £5,063 was due to the mortgagees. (fn. 157)
Hosier's only daughter and heiress Anna Maria married John Sharp of Grafton Park but both died in his lifetime, as did their son John Hosier Sharp. (fn. 158) Therefore, by his will dated 30 November 1747, Hosier left Wicken and his 9/24ths share of the Grafton Park estate to their eldest daughter and coheiress Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Prowse of Axbridge (Som.) in tail general. Thomas had already acquired the remaining 15/24ths of Grafton Park from Elizabeth's father. (fn. 159) Charles Hosier died in 1750, aged about 90. (fn. 160)
Thomas Prowse died in 1767 (fn. 161) and in 1772 his widow Elizabeth demised the Wicken estate to her daughter-in-law, also named Elizabeth, the widow of George Prowse (who also died in 1767), so long as she remained his widow. (fn. 162) At her death in 1780, the elder Mrs. Prowse confirmed the conveyance of Wicken to Elizabeth and also left Grafton Park to her daughter Mary, in both cases for their lives only. (fn. 163)
The younger Elizabeth Prowse (born in 1733), who was the daughter of Thomas Sharp, prebendary of Durham, and the sister of Granville Sharp, the philanthropist and antislavery compaigner, never remarried. On her death in 1810 the Wicken estate, under the terms of her mother-in-law's will, passed to her younger daughter and coheiress Elizabeth and her husband Sir John Mordaunt Bt. of Walton (Warws.), who had acquired Grafton Park in 1802, after the death of Mary Rogers, the other daughter and coheiress. (fn. 164)
After 1810 Wicken once again became a detached portion of an estate centred elsewhere and the mansion and park were let, first to Lord Charles FitzRoy, the second son of the 3rd duke of Grafton, who lived there until his death in 1829. (fn. 165) He was followed by the Hon. Arthur Hill-Trevor (1798-1862), whose mother Charlotte was a daughter of another Lord Charles FitzRoy, a younger brother of the 3rd duke, created Lord Southampton in 1780. HillTrevor succeeeded his father as 3rd Viscount Dungannon in 1837 and gave up Wicken the following year. (fn. 166) The next tenant was Col. Edward Gordon Douglas-Pennant (1800-86), a younger brother of the 17th earl of Morton, who retired from the Army in 1847. After the death in 1842 of his first wife, a daughter and coheiress of George Hay Dawkins-Pennant of Penrhyn Castle (Caerns.), he married in 1846 Maria Louisa, a daughter of the 5th duke of Grafton. He was created Lord Penrhyn of Llandegai in 1866. (fn. 167) In 1877, after forty years as a tenant, Penrhyn purchased from Sir Charles Mordaunt the freehold of the Wicken and Grafton Park estates (fn. 168) and thereafter Wicken Park became one of the family's two principal seats for the next seventy years.
The 2nd Lord Penrhyn died in 1907 and was buried at Wicken, where he was a generous benefactor to the church and parish. (fn. 169) He was succeeded by his eldest son Edward (1864- 1927), who married Blanche Georgiana, a daughter of the 3rd Lord Southampton. (fn. 170) Three of their sons were killed in the first year of the Great War. (fn. 171) The Dowager Lady Penrhyn remained at Wicken Park until her own death in November 1944; the following year the 4th Lord Penrhyn sold the estate (of 3,042 a.) to the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol, acting as trustee of the H.M. Wills Charity for Chronic and Incurable Sufferers, for £92,169. The Society subsequently sold the cottages and some of the farms on the estate, but at the time of writing still owned about 1,800 acres of tenanted farmland at Wicken, together with the mansion, which from 1945 was let as a school. (fn. 172)
The Manor House.
The capital messuage belonging to the manor of Wick Dive (and later the unified estate) stood to the southwest of Wick Dive churchyard. (fn. 173) Included in an extent of the manor in 1272, (fn. 174) the house was said to contain merely a hall, chamber, kitchen and barn in 1427. (fn. 175) It was still known as the Manor House in 1670, when it was let with a farm of about 440 a.; (fn. 176) nine years later, when a new lease of the same holding was granted, the house was called the Porter's Lodge. (fn. 177) This change confirms Baker's belief that the rest of the buildings were demolished during Lord Sunderland's time and only the gatehouse left standing, (fn. 178) to become the nucleus of the modern Manor Farm. The present house, which has 19th- and 20th-century additions, is built of coursed squared limestone with a plain-tile roof, of two storeys and attics, three bays wide. A panel contains the arms of the Spencer family. Never more than occasionally occupied by the Spencers, the manor was superseded as the principal residence on the estate by a new mansion in the park built by Charles Hosier after his purchase of Wicken in 1716. (fn. 179)
The Manor of Wick Hamon to 1587.
In 1086 Maino held three virgates in Wick which in King Edward's time Siward held freely. (fn. 180) In Henry I's reign Mainfelin held two hides at Wick of the fee of Wolverton (fn. 181) and in 1166-7 the sheriff accounted for half a mark from Hamon, son of Mainfelin, from Wick. (fn. 182) Hamon son of Hamon son of Mainfelin held land in Wick in 1185. He was then aged 20; his father had died in May that year and his mother Maud was aged 46. (fn. 183) Wick had briefly come into the king's hands and in 1185 the sheriff accounted for 40s. from the manor. (fn. 184) Hamon was involved in litigation over land in Wick in 1194. (fn. 185) His son William was returned as lord of Wick in 1208, 1235 and 1242, (fn. 186) and in 1213 was acquitted from the service of castle guard at Northampton (by which he held his barony of Wolverton) for the previous year. (fn. 187) William died early in 1248 leaving his brother Alan as heir. (fn. 188) Alan died later the same year, leaving his son John as heir, when the manor was held in dower by Hawise, William's widow. (fn. 189) In 1265 Sir John son of Alan was found to have demised to Michael Tony a fourth part of a knight's fee in Wick, worth £8 a year, for two years. (fn. 190) John held Wick Hamon, as the manor had by then become known, in chief in 1276. (fn. 191) He was dead by 1284, when Ralph de Ardern and Isabel his wife held the manor for the fourth part of a knight's fee, in right of her dower as John's widow. (fn. 192) John and Isabel's son and heir was also named John. He in turn had a son of the same name, who in 1290 was granted licence to reinclose the park at Wicken. (fn. 193)
In 1312, when John de Wolverton (the surname the family had adopted by that date) was allowed to settle the manor of Padbury (Bucks.) on his son John and his first wife, it was found that among the lands that would remain to the father were those in Wick. (fn. 194) The elder John de Wolverton was returned as lord of Wick Hamon in 1316, (fn. 195) and in 1331 settled the manor, held in chief by the payment of 2s. 6d. yearly to the ward of Northampton Castle, on his son John and his second wife Joan in tail male at the time of their marriage. (fn. 196) Sir John Wolverton the elder died in 1341 (fn. 197) and five years later his son, also Sir John, was returned as holding Wick Harnon for the fourth part of a knight's fee as parcel of the barony of Wolverton. (fn. 198)
The younger Sir John died in 1349, leaving by his first wife four daughters, Joan, Sarah, Cecily and Constance, and by his second wife a son and heir Ralph, aged two. (fn. 199) Ralph died two years later, when his two sisters, Margaret the wife of John Hunt of Fenny Stratford (Bucks.), aged 19, and Elizabeth, aged 17, were found to be his heirs. (fn. 200) In 1365, following the death of Margaret and Elizabeth, an inquisition established that under the entail of 1331 the reversion of the manor, in the absence of surviving male heirs of John and Joan, lay with the heirs of the elder John de Wolverton. Accordingly the manor was divided into five parts, three going to the representatives of the surviving daughters of the younger John's first marriage (Constance being dead) and two to the heirs of the elder John's daughters. (fn. 201) Two years later all five heirs sold their shares to Richard Woodville of Grafton and his son John. (fn. 202) In 1382 John Woodville was able to bar the entail of 1367 and settle the manor on himself and his wife Isabel in tail male. (fn. 203) In 1442 Richard and Joan Woodville were fined 40s. for taking a conveyance of the manor from William Furtho, who had been enfeoffed by Richard's father. (fn. 204) In 1449 Richard purchased the adjoining manor of Wick Dive and both Wicken estates thereafter descended with the Woodville's home lordship of Grafton until the sale in 1511 to John Spencer. (fn. 205)
There appears to be no tradition of a capital messuage belonging to the medieval manor of Wick Hamon, presumably because until the sale of 1367 it was held in demesne by a family seated close by at Wolverton and afterwards formed part of an estate centred elsewhere in Cleley hundred.
St. James's abbey in Northampton received at least two small gifts in Wicken, presumably in the 12th or early 13th centuries. Roger Greenworth gave 4 a. land and Robert son of Hamo de Wike 25s. in rent from messuages and crofts held by John de Mauleye. (fn. 206)
In the mid 13th century Snelshall priory (Bucks.) received at least three grants of lands and rent in Wicken, of which the most important was that of 35s. 4d. rent due from 15 tenants given by William de Northampton (together with 24s. 8d. rent from other premises in Wolverton (Bucks.)), which was confirmed by John son of Alan of Wolverton, the tenant in chief. (fn. 207) In 1291 the whole of the priory's lands and rents in Wick Hamon, Deanshanger and Passenham were valued at 48s. 10d.: (fn. 208) unless some of William's gift had been alienated or reduced in value, this implies that the bulk of the estate lay in Wicken rather than the other two townships. (fn. 209)
After Snelshall was dissolved the Wicken, Passenham and Deanshanger lands were leased as a single entity on several occasions between 1540 and 1573. (fn. 210) In 1587 the reversion of all the leases with years yet to come was granted in fee to Sir Francis Walsingham and Francis Mills, (fn. 211) from whom the estate passed through intermediaries to Sir John Spencer, (fn. 212) who in c. 1600 brought an action against John Seaman (or Simmons), one of the two freeholders on the manor, for the recovery of former Snelshall lands. (fn. 213) He was successful and in 1630 Seaman was paying 7s. a year for the premises. (fn. 214) Thereafter they appear to have been merged into the manorial estate.
Some concealed lands late of Snelshall discovered by, and granted to, John Mershe in 1576 were said to lie in Wicken as well as Cosgrove and Passenham, (fn. 215) although only those in the latter parish can be traced in later references to the property. (fn. 216)
In 1531 the Carthusian priory at Sheen (Surrey) entered into an exchange with Henry VIII, whereby it received the site and precincts of the former priory at Bradwell (Bucks.), together with lands formerly belonging to Bradwell in nine parishes in Buckinghamshire and two in Northamptonshire, one of them Wicken, in return for its own estates in Lewisham and East Greenwich. (fn. 217) In 1541, after Sheen was dissolved, the king granted the former Bradwell lands in Wicken and elsewhere, together with other premises, to Arthur Longfield of Wolverton (Bucks.) in return for Longfield's manor of Stoke Bruerne. (fn. 218) Henry VIII sold the lands at Wicken to Edward Giffard and his wife Christina the following year; (fn. 219) after she was widowed, she settled them in 1556 to her use for life, with remainder to Sir John Spencer and his heirs. (fn. 220) They were thus merged with the manorial estate in Wicken.
Some land in Wicken which before the Dissolution had belonged to Bradwell priory was granted in 1528 to Thomas Wolsey, who in turn added it to the endowment of his new college in Oxford. (fn. 221)
In 1540 the Crown purchased lands in Wicken, Puxley and Deanshanger from John Heneage and his wife Anne in exchange for premises in London, Lincolnshire and Kingston-uponHull. (fn. 222) The estate had been settled on John by his father Thomas Heneage in 1520 (fn. 223) and in 1542 was among the Crown premises in Wicken annexed to the honor of Grafton on its establishment. (fn. 224) What appear to be the same premises were leased, as parcel of the former Heneage manor of Deanshanger, in 1575 and again in 1583. (fn. 225) The land presumably later passed with the rest of that manor. (fn. 226)
In the early 16th century John Ede owned an estate in several parishes near Stony Stratford, including a messuage and 50 a. in Wicken, which passed first to his sons Jake and Edmund and then, after both died without issue, to his daughters, Margaret and Isabel, and their respective husbands, between whom the estate was partitioned. The Wicken portion was assigned to Isabel and Robert Pigott. (fn. 227)
The Medieval Estates.
In 1086 there was land for 10 ploughs on Robert d'Oyley's manor at Wicken. There were three ploughs in demesne, with seven serfs, and seven villeins and three bordars had four ploughs. There were 10 acres of meadow and wood 11 furlongs in length and six in breadth. The value of the estate had risen from 40s. to 100s. since 1066. (fn. 228) Maine's manor was much smaller, with land for three ploughs, although there were two in demesne (with one serf) and two farmed by five villeins and a bordar. The estate included six acres of meadow and wood 10 furlongs in length and three in breadth. Its value was unchanged since 1066 at 40s. (fn. 229)
John Dive's lands at Wicken in 1272 included four carucates of land in demesne and eight virgates in villeinage, together with 60s. rent from free tenants. (fn. 230) In 1427 there were three carucates of arable and four of pasture in demesne on the same manor, as well as a dovecote, worth 2s. yearly beyond charges. The tenanted land included nine messuages, each with one virgate; there were also 18 a. of meadow and 60 a. of wood, cropped as coppice on a twenty-year cycle. Rents of assize amounted to 37s. yearly. (fn. 231)
Hamon son of Hamon's estate at Wicken was said to be worth £4 10s. yearly in 1185, when stocked with two ploughs, 50 sheep, four cows, four sows and a boar; because there was no stock, it was worth only 37s. (fn. 232) In 1247 there were three carucates of arable worth £8 in demesne on William FitzHamon's manor, his customary tenants had 4½ virgates, and there was pasture worth 4s. (fn. 233)
Wick Dive and Wick Hamon each had their own open fields in the Middle Ages, as, it seems, did the hamlet of Dagnall which later shrank to a single farmstead. The best evidence for this is the survival of an unusually large number of separate fields in 1717, when the Wicken Park estate was thoroughly surveyed and (presumably for the first time) mapped. (fn. 234) At that date there was an extensive area of open-field arable on the south-eastern side of the parish, occupying all the ground between the modern Buckingham road and the Ouse, apart from a strip of meadow alongside the river itself. The open field continued to the north of the main road, taking up most of the land to the south-east and north-east of the village as far as the parish boundary at Kings Brook, apart from some small closes near Dagnall and another block of old inclosure to the east of Wicken Park. Most of the land to the south-west of the village was either wooded in 1717 or was perhaps formerly included in the Spencers' park; the small amount of land between the village and Wicken Wood in the north of the parish seems likely to have been cleared piecemeal from earlier woodland and never cultivated in common. Much of this land was laid down as leys in 1717. The open-field land to the south and east of the Buckingham road is mostly described as the 'Out Field', apart from a small area near the mill called Mount Field. Great and Little Dagnall fields lay on either side of the main road, while to the north of Dagnall itself were Kingdom Field, the Great Field and Wood Furlong Field. Adjoining the village to the south were several smaller pieces of open field, named Hale Hole Fields, Penn Bush Fields, Culver Field and Park Corner Field, of which the two latter may have occupied land which had previously formed part of the park. (fn. 235) The survey groups the larger areas of arable further away from the village together as the 'Out Field' (683 a.), and lists separately another 250 a. made up of Kingdom Field, Stocking Field next Kingdom, Park Corner Field next Culver, and Culver Field. The two fields to the north-east of the village (Wood Furlong Field and Great Field) contained 114 and 127 acres respectively, of which 38 a. in the former and 32 a. in the latter were then laid down to pasture. Elsewhere the Out Field is described as comprising Little Dagnall, Great Dagnall, Mount Field, Out Field next Mount Field, Middle Field, Field next Thornton, and the Out Field next Dagnall Great Field. (fn. 236) Virtually the same names appear in a late 17th-century survey made for the 2nd earl of Sunderland. (fn. 237)
It is impossible to say for certain how the open-field arable, which in 1717 was already in the process of piecemeal inclosure, was distributed in the Middle Ages, especially in a parish whose landscape history is complicated by the presence of a large area of woodland and a 500acre park. Perhaps the best explanation is that the fields to the north and east of the village (Wood Furlong Field, the Great Field and Kingdom Field) belonged to the manor of Wick Dive (although the latter lies to the south of the brook which is supposed to have been the boundary between the two parishes); that a hamlet at Dagnall had its own fields; and that the arable adjoining the village to the south, together with the Out Field beyond the Buckingham road, represented the common fields of the manor of Wick Hamon.
Some piecemeal inclosure, as well as additional imparking, took place at Wicken around the turn of the 16th century. In 1490 Thomas marquess of Dorset converted 30 a. of arable to sheep pasture, displacing four families, and in 1512 John Spencer did likewise with a further 40 a. (fn. 238)
The Wicken Estate in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Spencers let the farms on their Wicken estate on 21-year leases, each typically including a house, buildings, one or more closes of pasture, and land in the open fields and meadows, the latter generally reckoned in half-yardlands. (fn. 239) The manor house and park were also let, (fn. 240) which led to litigation against a tenant in 1590 concerning the alleged cutting down of 400 oaks belonging to Sir John Spencer in the park. (fn. 241) In 1630 the estate was producing a gross income of about £290 a year, most of which came from the park, which appears to have been let in two halves. The Wick Dive farms were worth about £37 a year, those in Wick Hamon £20, and the two at Dagnall a further £22. (fn. 242) The manor of Deanshanger, which the 1st Lord Spencer bought in 1615 and sold a couple of years later, (fn. 243) briefly accounted for a further £29. (fn. 244) There were only two freeholders on the manor at that period, paying a total of 16s. a year in chief rent. (fn. 245) The Spencers' limited interest in the Wicken estate is illustrated by an inventory drawn up in 1628 after the death of the 1st Lord Spencer, totalling £13,950, of which just £35 was represented by a few items of furniture at 'Wicken Lodge', (fn. 246) presumably the park keeper's house. In 1641 the 3rd Lord Spencer sold the Dagnall farms to Anthony Gibbs of Wicken for £1,050. (fn. 247)
What remained of the estate was worth £570 a year in 1662, of which £300 came from the 600 acres of woods, valued as coppice cropped on a twenty-year cycle to produce £10 an acre annually. Anthony Gibbs was paying £86 7s. 6d. for the park (110 a.), three closes of pasture (21 a.), and a farm of 2¾ yardlands (probably about 100 a.), and another 13 tenants had between a quarter of a yardland and 4½ yardlands (about 160 a.) each, with rents ranging from £2 to £38. There were also 19 cottage tenants paying between 3s. and £2. (fn. 248) Gibbs's lease, which included the Park House or Lodge, was renewed for a further 21 years in 1681; (fn. 249) his son Charles surrendered the lease early in 1700 in return for a new one for 24 years at the same rent and a fine of £400. (fn. 250) The other large holding in this period, described as 'The Great Farm all lying together' (440 a., presumably the consolidated manorial demesne), was let with the Manor House in 1679 for 21 years at £130 a year to James Bevin of Deanshanger, (fn. 251) in place of Richard Pease, who had held the farm on a nine-year lease from 1670 at the same rent. (fn. 252) In the late 17th century, besides the Park Lodge and Manor House, there were 18 other holdings which included at least a small amount of land (among them the mill and the farm held by the Gibbses), as well as 17 cottages and seven houses built on the waste. (fn. 253) Several other tenancies, besides the Park Lodge and Manor House, continued to be let on 21-year leases. (fn. 254)
The 18th-Century Estate and Inclosure.
After he bought Wicken in 1716, as well as building a new mansion in the park, (fn. 255) Charles Hosier had the estate surveyed. This revealed that he had about 440 a. in hand, excluding the woodland, with most of the rest let to nine principal tenants, whose holdings ranged from 46 a. to 418 a. around a mean of 140 a. They included Charles Gibbs, who was also the main freeholder, and the tenant with the smallest farm had 13a. of freehold. What is striking, however, is how the long tail of smaller holdings evident in the 17th-century surveys had disappeared. About 300 a. belonged to freeholders, of which Gibbs's Dagnall estate (128 a.) was the most important, and there were 126 a. of glebe. (fn. 256) Hosier's policy over the next few years was to buy up the freeholds. In 1717-18 he paid £331 in two stages to acquire Stocking Close and other premises, which had been the Snoxall family's freehold, (fn. 257) and £1,300 for the farm at Mount Mill, which had once belonged to John Seaman (or Simmons), the other freeholder mentioned in the 1630s. (fn. 258) Hosier also bought 3 a. of arable for £25 in 1718; (fn. 259) two cottages with half a yardland of arable for £200 the following year; (fn. 260) and in 1726 purchased a cottage newly erected on a pightle of land that had once belonged to the Seaman family for £28. (fn. 261) In 1735 and 1741 Hosier bought (in two moieties) 4½ a. in Dagnall Fields for £17, (fn. 262) and appears to have made other small purchases of which the details do not survive. (fn. 263)
Twenty years after Hosier's purchase of Wicken there were still nine farm tenancies on the estate, as well as the woods and a considerable acreage of farmland in hand. There were also 58 cottage tenants, far more than fifty years before, which must reflect either an increase in population or, more likely, a reduction in the status of houses which had once belonged to the smaller farms whose land had been merged into larger holdings by 1717. (fn. 264)
It was left to Hosier's successor, Thomas Prowse, to make the most important purchase for the estate, that of the two farms, a cottage and three yardlands (just over 100 a.) at Dagnall, for which he paid Charles Gibbs of Towcester £3,050 in 1753. (fn. 265) From that date practically the whole of the parish of Wicken, together with about 200 a. of woods in Leckhampstead, belonged to the estate. As Prowse's daughter-in-law Elizabeth later observed, only the parsonage and glebe (including two houses), plus five cottages in the village (one of them the White Lion) were not owned by her family. (fn. 266)
The way was thus open for Prowse to inclose the remaining common arable and meadow in the parish by agreement with the rector and bishop, which he proceeded to do in 1757. The glebe in the open fields was consolidated into a single farm of 126 a. (which was described as a gain of 36 a. to the living) and a composition of £130 a year agreed in lieu of the tithes due from the Wicken Park estate. Although the parties undertook to obtain an Act to confirm the agreement they did not do so. (fn. 267) At the same time Prowse made an exchange with one of the handful of small freeholders in the parish. (fn. 268)
Thomas Prowse gave up Wicken Park to his son George in 1764, (fn. 269) three years before his death. (fn. 270) George also died in 1767, (fn. 271) leaving a widow Elizabeth, who never remarried and ran the estate as a resident proprietor until her own death in 1810. (fn. 272) Both her own detailed accounts (fn. 273) and the comments of others testify to the close interest she took in Wicken and its people. She supported a day school for girls as well as boys, (fn. 274) suppressed any sign of Nonconformity, (fn. 275) and ensured that there was no poverty, no rebellion and no sedition in the parish. (fn. 276) In 1777 a visitor described how Mrs. Prowse entertained the labourers and their families (some 60 people in all) at harvest time with music, large bowls of syllabub, bread, cheese and ale, helping to ensure that they remained the 'happiest set of peasants in England'. She also invited her family and 'select friends in the neighbourhood' to a fête champêtre in the park, which the country people were allowed to watch from beyond the ha-ha, before being invited in by her servants to finish off the food. (fn. 277)
Within twenty years of inclosure a new farm, Little Hill, was established on the former open fields between the Buckingham road and the river, and Mount Mill had been assigned a large acreage of new inclosures. (fn. 278) In 1768 Mrs. Prowse converted all the farms from 'written agreements' (apparently annual tenancies) to leases, losing only one tenant in the process. (fn. 279) The number of separate holdings, however, did not change greatly: in 1778 Mrs. Prowse noted that she had insured nine farmhouses, the maltster's house and kiln, two tiled houses, and 51 thatched cottages, (fn. 280) figures very similar to those of 1717 and 1738. (fn. 281)
The estate was producing about £1,000- £1,100 in rent in the last quarter of the 18th century, from which Mrs. Prowse normally drew around £800 a year for repairs and domestic expenses, including the cost of the school. (fn. 282) One of the farms was kept in hand, although Mrs. Prowse charged herself a notional rent for the holding and carefully accounted for other expenses and income there. (fn. 283) The eight let farms were yielding about £1,250 gross in 1797, when a new survey suggested that advances of around 20 per cent could be achieved on re-letting. The farms, which all had their land in reasonably compact blocks around the house and buildings, ranged from 102 a. to 363 a. around a mean of 200 a., with considerable variation in the proportion of arable and grass between different holdings. Two had between 40 and 45 per cent of their land under the plough; on two more the proportion was exactly half, and on the two others for which the shares can be calculated the figures were 67 per cent and 80 per cent. (fn. 284) In 1796 Sir John Mordaunt of Walton (Warws.), the heir apparent to the Wicken estate following his marriage to Mrs. Prowse's sister-in-law Elizabeth, persuaded the Wicken tenants that they, and not Mrs. Prowse, should pay the tithe composition of £130 due from the estate, rather than face an increase in rent. (fn. 285)
The estate was only slightly affected by the building of the Buckingham branch canal in 1800-1, when Mrs. Prowse sold 2½ acres of land to the Grand Junction, part of which was later sold back to her. (fn. 286) She appears to have accepted payment for the land in shares. (fn. 287) Also in the early 19th century a new house and buildings were erected at Mount Mill, after the mill went out of use, (fn. 288) and a third new farm, Park Farm or Sparrow Lodge, was built midway between Dagnall and the village. Manor Farm and Home Farm, the two main farmsteads in the village itself, were improved. (fn. 289)
An important element in the economy of the estate in this period, and of the local community as a whole, was the large acreage of woodland, from which sales of underwood, faggots and hedgerow wood were producing about £200 a year between the 1770s and Mrs. Prowse's death in 1810, (fn. 290) representing an addition of nearly 20 per cent to income from the farms. This figure was only two thirds of that included in the valuation of 1662, (fn. 291) presumably a reflection of the contracting market for wood as a fuel during the 18th century. By contrast, the farm rental quadrupled over the same period, which also saw a reduction in the number of holdings. During the 1770s and 1780s timber was only occasionally felled for sale, but between 1795 and 1808 annual sales realised an average of £280 a year (including bark). These were made at the request of Sir John Mordaunt, who was to inherit the Wicken and Grafton Park estates after Mrs. Prowse's death; in 1809, exceptionally, timber and bark to the value of £1,635 was sold at Wicken. (fn. 292)
The estate under the Mordaunts and Douglas-Pennants.
In 1810 the Wicken estate passed to Sir John Mordaunt of Walton (Warwicks.), whose wife was a sister of Mrs. Prowse's husband George; the Mordaunts had already inherited Grafton Park in 1800. (fn. 293) At Wicken the mansion and 336 a. were let to General Charles FitzRoy for 12 years from 1812 at £616 a year. (fn. 294) FitzRoy died in 1829 and, after a short tenancy in between, Wicken Park was leased to Col. E.H. Douglas-Pennant from 1838, but with only 35 a. (fn. 295) The rest of the Mordaunt estate in Wicken was divided into seven farms, two of which were held in 1838 by the same tenant. If those are treated as a single holding, the size of farm ranged from 217 a. to 377 a. around a mean of 304 a. (fn. 296) The woodland, of which 236 a. lay within Wicken parish, was kept in hand. (fn. 297) Five freeholders had five acres between them in 1838, of which 4¾ acres were owned by Henry Gurney; another 10 a. belonged to the canal company; and the rest of the parish (131 a.) was glebe. There were two small quarries on the road from Wicken to Deanshanger at work in 1838 but no other industry. (fn. 298) Mordaunt made at least one small addition to the estate during his period of ownership. (fn. 299)
Sir John Mordaunt died in 1845, (fn. 300) leaving a son and heir, Sir Charles, who was a minor and whose trustees immediately announced a reduction in charitable donations on the Northamptonshire estates, expressing the hope that Col. Douglas-Pennant would make up the shortfall. (fn. 301) Since Wicken Park continued to be let to Douglas-Pennant until he bought the entire estate in 1877, the Mordaunts were never resident there. As effectively sole owners in the parish, they appear to have behaved in a conventionally paternalistic manner towards their Wicken tenants, providing land for allotments in 1838 (fn. 302) and a new school the following year. (fn. 303) When Sir Charles Mordaunt came of age in 1857 the usual tea, dinner and sports were arranged for his Northamptonshire tenants. (fn. 304) There are, however, few signs of new investment at either Wicken or Grafton Park to compare, say, with the model farms erected on the Grafton estate in the 1840s, nor any building of new cottages.
Little seems to have changed after the sale to Lord Penrhyn in 1877. (fn. 305) During the sixty-odd years in which the Douglas-Pennants owned Wicken, the income from which was unimportant compared with that from their North Wales estate, they made no attempt to develop its resources or to make it pay, apparently remaining content to subsidise the estate from their income from their Caernarvonshire slate quarries. (fn. 306) The estate was enlarged by the purchase in 1877 of Dovehouse Farm on the edge of Deanshanger village, just inside Passenham, whose land marched with that of Dagnail; (fn. 307) a house and four cottages at the Folly, also just over the Passenham border, in 1878; (fn. 308) and a couple of small additions in Wicken itself in 1882 and 1892. (fn. 309)
The estate after 1944.
After the death of Blanche, Lady Penrhyn, in November 1944 her son, the 4th baron, at once placed the estate (including the lordship and advowson) on the market, seeking a private treaty sale at £100,000 for just over 3,000 acres. At much the same time the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol, acting as trustee of the St. Monica Trust, founded in the early 1920s by Henry Herbert Wills (of the tobacco manufacturing family) and his wife Monica to establish a rest home at Westbury-on-Trym, obtained the approval of the Charity Commissioners to transfer up to a third of the trust's capital (i.e. about £500,000) from government securities into agricultural land. The Society accordingly undertook a programme of purchasing good quality estates, mostly in Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, beginning in 1944 with Mentmore (Bucks.). The following year they were advised that Penrhyn would only secure the asking price for Wicken from a buyer who intended to break up the estate for re-sale, that he would prefer to sell at £95,000 to an institution who would keep the property together, and that an offer of £90,000 would probably be accepted. The Society completed the purchase at the latter figure (£92,169 including costs) in July 1945. (fn. 310) The contents of the mansion were sold by auction four months, earlier. (fn. 311)
When the Society took possession of the estate they found it generally in good order, if run on somewhat conservative lines, with no attempt to make income meet expenditure. (fn. 312) Their agent observed that tenants had been chosen as much for their ability to ride to hounds as their farming skill; rents were low, although few tenants were of longstanding; and, until the Second World War, no mature timber had been felled except to meet the needs of the estate. The estate workshops were well equipped, although the four men employed there were too accustomed to the easy ways of the Penrhyns to be retained.
Of the 3,042 a. making up the estate (including 617 a. in Buckinghamshire), 2,306 a. were let in 10 farm holdings for a total of £2,650 (i.e. 23s. an acre, described as 'on the low side'). The farm buildings, mainly of stone with slate or tiled roofs, were above the general standard of the district and the farmhouses substantially built. Seven had piped water (five from the estate supply, two from the mains) and four had mains electricity. Before the war 628 a. had been arable, to which a further 871 a. had been added by order of the War Agricultural Executive, which the Society's agent felt had brought improvements. Lime was available on the estate and basic slag had produced good results on the pastures. All the tenants followed a system of mixed farming, growing wheat, beans and other cereals, and all had dairy herds, two of them attested. Ditches and drains had been improved, using prisoners of war, although the hedges had been neglected. The tenants were described as 'substantial and competent farmers', some of whom had considerable additional land outside the estate, which itself had 399 a. of accommodation holdings (including Park Farm, 138 a. in hand). Almost all this had been ploughed up by order during the war, whereas before 1939 about 254 a. had been pasture. The let accommodation land produced a further £211 a year.
The estate included 92 cottages in 1945, of which 27 were let with the farms. Of the rest, seven were condemned (although four were occupied under licence), another seven were let on service tenancies, one was the village reading room and club, and another was a better-class property with an acre and a half of land. The remaining 49 were occupied by estate employees, pensioners, widows or descendants of employees. Apart from Glebe Farm, the only property in the parish not owned by the estate was one condemned cottage, the White Lion (a fully licensed tied house), a one-acre housing site acquired by the R.D.C., and the school, which Lord Penrhyn retained. None of the estate cottages had bathrooms and only two had w.c.s: the water supply, provided by the estate, was inadequate to cope with any increased demand should the houses be modernised. In other respects the cottages were in good repair, with many of the thatched roofs recently overhauled. The cottage rental was £411, plus £25 for the village allotments.
As well as Park Farm, the estate kept 267 a. of woodland in hand, of which 200 a. had been clear felled during the war, although at the time of the Penrhyn sale a good deal of mature oak remained in some of the coppices, as well as hedge and field timber.
At the time of the 1945 sale, the Wicken estate was let for £4,074 gross, £2,100 net. The Merchant Venturers were advised that it was a first class investment: although about £1,000 would have to be spent on immediate repairs and wages, and initially there might be no net income, within about five years the estate should be producing 2½-3 per cent. Farm rentals should be raised as opportunity allowed; the mansion should if possible be let, rather than sold, as the Society tended to do elsewhere; and about £7,000 could be raised quite quickly from the sale of timber, after which the woods should be let to the Forestry Commission.
The Society generally followed these recom mendations over the next thirty years and also sold (unmodernised) the cottages not let with the farms. Apart from two cottages built in 1949 for Wicken Park Farm, the Society left the provision of new housing to the local council, to which they sold building land as required. The former estate water supply was also transferred (as a gift) to the R.D.C. in 1948. (fn. 313) The mansion was let almost at once to a private schools syndicate, (fn. 314) and in 1949, after timber to the value of £12,000 had been sold, the woodland was leased to the Forestry Commission for 200 years at £43 16s. 6d. a year. The estate was extended in 1951 by the purchase of 128 a. of glebe land and cottages, bringing the total outlay to £103,000 for 3,170 a. At the end of 1958 the gross income had risen to £9,116, net £5,242, or 4 Per cent on capital invested, better than the prediction made in 1945. The average rent (including woodlands) was then 57s. an acre.
By 1964 only 37 a. had been sold at Wicken for a total of £25,000. This included land for council housing and a new parsonage, the old estate yard, and some of the cottages, which made between £250 and £350 when the first were sold in 1956. Others followed at prices ranging from £900 to £1,350 and by 1970 a total of 52 had been sold. The first major disposals came in 1967, when Manor Farm was broken up and the house and buildings were sold for £13,600, together with 103 a. of land. By 1972 sales had realised £65,000; since the Society had spent £106,000 on improvements, the estate then had a net book value of £144,000 for 3,075 a. By 1961 farm rents had risen to an average of 61s. an acre; in 1974 they reached £10. The net yield on the estate was then 4.6 per cent. There were no further disposals in the 1970s, apart from some cottages (of which over 60 had been sold by December 1979), but farms continued to be amalgamated. In 1980, when the gross rental was £97,600, the estate was let to five principal farm tenants, who were paying an average of £34 an acre. The largest holdings were Hurst Farm, whose 700 a. included most of the farmland of the parish north of the village, and the combined Home Farm & Little Hill Farm, with 678 a. stretching from the village, through the former park down to the Ouse. The others were Mount Mill & Limes End (469 a. in two separate holdings, of which the latter was in Leckhampstead), Sparrow Lodge (299 a. to the south-east of the village), and Dagnall & Dovehouse (445 a. between Wicken and Deanshanger).
In the early 1980s the Society sold the house and buildings at Dovehouse Farm, which were redundant since the land was being worked from Dagnall, and in 1984 offered Wicken Road Farm, a smallholding of 22 a. let for £800, for sale by auction at a reserve of £104,000. The following year Mount Mill & Limes End (274 a.) was sold to the tenant. Continuing a policy of reducing its holding of agricultural estate, the Society accepted an offer from the tenants for the 709 a. of Home Farm & Little Hill in 1986, although one field on the edge of the village was retained, in the hope that planning permission for residential development might one day be obtained. These sales reduced the Society's estate to 1,877 a., let in 1992 for £101,500 gross. The remaining farms were Sparrow Lodge (302 a.), Hurst (702 a.) and Dagnall (442 a.), plus 141 a. of accommodation land at Pig & Whistle, near Hurst. Of these, Dagnall was sold in 1992.
In 1980 the Society's land steward described the overall standard of farm management at Wicken as good, with the tenant of Hurst Farm setting the pace. This was run on an allarable five-year rotation based on winter wheat, barley and oil seed rape, with spring break crops including sugar beet, peas, beans and linseed. The farm also had 60 breeding sows. The system depended on high inputs achieving high outputs, a large investment in machinery and little labour: there was only one full-time man plus seasonal helpers. The farm was well roaded and was virtually all under-drained. Ten years later there was no paid labour besides casuals at harvest time, the under-draining had been completed, and the system of husbandry remained unchanged, apart from a 15 per cent set-aside, which was left as fallow. The other farms were more mixed in character, both in the 1980s and 1990s. At Home Farm & Little Hill winter wheat was the principal crop, with oil seed rape and beans as break crops; there were 500 grey face ewes and 150 Friesian heifers, as well as pigs. Mount Mill & Limes End was growing wheat, barley and rape on a six-year rotation, and also had a herd of 70 bullocks. Sparrow Lodge was a beef, sheep and arable farm, with a flock of 300 breeding ewes; Dagnall & Dovehouse had 280 a. under winter corn, with grass ley breaks, and 200 cattle.
In 1227 Henry son of Robert acquired land and a mill at Wike from Robert de Marisco. (fn. 315) In 1383 John de Wikemill and Alice his wife made a lease for nine years at a rent of 66s. 8d. a year to John Cock of Wick Hamon of all his land, a tenement called Wikemill, the water-mill, dovecote, meadows and pasture in Wick Dive and Wick Hamon, (fn. 316) and in the early 15th century 'Wykemylne' occurs as both a place name and personal name. (fn. 317) In 1662 the mill was let with half a yardland for £14 a year, (fn. 318) probably to Thomas Ashby, who is listed elsewhere as Lord Sunderland's tenant at about that date. (fn. 319) Robert Ashby the younger of Thornton (Bucks.) took a new 21-year lease of the mill and some adjoining land in 1687, when the wheel was noted as undershot. (fn. 320) In 1717 the tenant was still Robert Ashby, who had the mill and 17½ acres (i.e. half a yardland). (fn. 321) The mill was standing when the canal to Buckingham was projected in 1793 (fn. 322) but may have been abandoned when that was built; it had certainly gone by 1827. (fn. 323)
Brickmaking and quarrying.
Much of the underwood cut on the estate in the late 18th century was sold to the Foxley family of Wicken Hurst, where they had a brick-kiln. (fn. 324) The Foxleys also supplied bricks and lime to the estate for repairs. (fn. 325) The kiln was already in existence in 1717, when the tenant was Elizabeth Green, who also had a farm of 63 acres on the estate. (fn. 326) Twenty years later the kiln and 8 a. of land were in the hands of John Foxley, (fn. 327) who described himself as a farmer and brickmaker of Wicken Hurst in his will of 1769. (fn. 328) His widow Anne continued the business until 1778, when she was succeeded by her son Thomas. (fn. 329) He in turn died in 1797, when he described himself merely as a farmer, (fn. 330) and this may have marked the end of brickmaking on the estate. His widow Elizabeth kept the farm at Wicken Hurst until 1817 and left the parish two years later, (fn. 331) but there is no evidence that the brickkiln was still at work in that period. In the 19th century the Foxleys made bricks elsewhere in the district. (fn. 332)
Gravel has presumably been extracted on a small scale over a long period from pits near the river. Wicken was among the parishes in which quarries were opened (or enlarged) in the late 1950s to provide materials for the building of the M1 through the county. (fn. 333)
Other trades and crafts.
Wicken had only a handful of tradesmen or retailers during the century and a half in which the Mordaunts and Douglas-Pennants owned the estate, presumably relying for most services on the much bigger, open village of Deanshanger. (fn. 334) A blacksmith is listed in directories from 1847 to 1940, together with a shoemaker until the end of the 19th century. There were three shopkeepers in the village in 1869, (fn. 335) and four or five from the 1870s until the First World War. (fn. 336) In the early 1920s there were still two greengrocers and a butcher, (fn. 337) but by 1930 only the butcher was left, plus a general store at the post office, which remained the position until the start of the Second World War. (fn. 338) Thomas Green, the schoolmaster, who kept the post office at Wicken from the 1850s until the 1870s, (fn. 339) appears to have been the village's first sub-postmaster. Services were modestly increased in the 1890s but Deanshanger remained the nearest place for most Post Office business. (fn. 340)
Richard Whitton was described as a 'laceman' (i.e. a merchant) of Wicken in 1699 and 1720; (fn. 341) he died in 1741, by which time he was living at Deanshager, where two of his sons were also lace merchants. (fn. 342) As elewhere in the district, lacemaking remained a ubiquitious by-employment for women in Wicken until the early 20th century. In 1891 there were said to be at least 40 pillows in the village, which was one of those which benefited from the interest in the craft shown by Mrs. Harrison, the wife of the rector of Paulerspury. The exhibition organised that year in Northampton helped to raise the price the local buyer paid for Wicken lace, while Mrs Harrison's counterpart in the parish, Mrs. Andrews, tried to revive the craft and Lady Penrhyn agreed to pay for some new designs. (fn. 343)
The White Lion, one of the few freeholds in the village, was kept by the Canvin family from at least the 1840s until it was bought by Pickering Phipps, the Northampton brewer, in 1883 and a new tenant installed the following year. (fn. 344) The pub was modernised in 1906. (fn. 345)
A carrier from Wicken to Stony Stratford on Fridays and Northampton on Saturdays is first mentioned in 1869; (fn. 346) in 1874 he was also going to Wolverton Station on Thursdays, although this seems to have been a shortlived innovation. (fn. 347) In the 1890s there were two carriers (both of whom also had greengrocer's shops in Wicken) to Stony Stratford on Wednesdays and Saturdays but no service to Northampton; one of them was still in business in 1920 but had retired by 1928. (fn. 348) Another carrier continued to go to Stony Stratford one or two days a week until at least 1936. (fn. 349) From about 1930 motorbuses from Stony Stratford to Buckingham passed through Wicken on Tuesdays and Sundays, and there were buses to Wolverton on Friday and Saturday evenings. (fn. 350) The first of these services had been increased to three days a week by 1940. (fn. 351)
No muniments survive to illustrate the working of the two manor courts in Wicken in the Middle Ages. In the years immediately following the establishment of the honor of Grafton in 1542, to which all Crown lands in Wicken were annexed, (fn. 352) the constables of Wick Dive and Wick Hamon did suit at the honor court held at Grafton twice a year, paid a certainty of 13s. 0½d., and reported that all was well. (fn. 353) Charles Hosier, who purchased the Wicken Park estate in 1716, was said a few years later to owe suit and service to the duke of Grafton's court at Grafton Regis. (fn. 354) In the mid 18th century the Wicken constables' expenses included the cost of 'going to Grafton court' each year (fn. 355) to deliver a payment representing 1d. from every male householder in the parish (widows, spinsters, the rector and the patron of the living being exempt), together with a suit roll listing those from whom the payment was due. Mrs. Prowse believed that this was an acknowledgment of the right each parishioner had to turn cattle into the forest between Old St. George's Day (4 May) and Old Holy Rood Day (25 September). In addition, the Wicken Park estate was still paying 13s. 0½d. (plus 4d. for an acquittance), which she described in 1783 as a 'certainty, or assart money' due to the duke of Grafton, and which she understood gave the owner of the estate and the tenants the right to put cattle in Whittlewood at the proper seasons and free them from paying any other tax to the honor. (fn. 356) The final volume of Grafton manor court minutes (1764- 1801) (fn. 357) make no reference to the presence of the Wicken constable, and in 1802 Mrs. Prowse noted that one of her tenants had only paid the 1d. levy once or twice since he was married 21 years before. Another informant told her that no payment had been made for the last ten years. (fn. 358) Wicken had certainly ceased to do suit to the honor by the 1830s. (fn. 359)
In the late 16th century and early 17th the Spencers were holding two courts a year for the combined manor of Wick Dive and Wick Hamon, at which transfers of freehold land were recorded, orders made for the management of the common fields, and various officers appointed, including two constables, presumably one for each of the medieval townships. There is no sign of copyhold tenure. (fn. 360) Much the same picture emerges from rolls of 1661 and 1699-1707 for what was then simply called the manor of Wicken. (fn. 361) Charles Hosier may have given up holding courts as soon as he acquired the lordship, since by the 1740s (ten years before inclosure would have made the court largely redundant) the (single) constable was clearly an official of the vestry, rather than the manor. (fn. 362)
The Vestry and Parish Council.
Overseers' accounts from 1773 to 1820 indicate that the poor of the parish were being maintained entirely by out relief, although at the beginning of that period a small amount was received each year from the sale of lace, presumably made by some of the paupers. (fn. 363) The highways were maintained by a combination of statute duty and the employment of contractors. (fn. 364)
Wicken was included in Potterspury poor law union after 1834 but neither the guardians, nor after 1894 the rural district council, were much concerned with the affairs of what remained very much an estate village. Lord Penrhyn installed piped water in 1896-7 but Wicken lacked a waterborne sewerage system until well into the 20th century. (fn. 365) Mains electricity reached the village in 1930 (fn. 366) and by 1954 the parish council, a seven-member body established in 1894, had adopted the Lighting & Watching Act. (fn. 367) In 1948 Towcester R.D.C., to which Wicken was transferred in 1935 when Potterspury R.D.C. was abolished, completed the first group of council houses in the parish and took over (as a gift) the village water supply from the Society of Merchant Venturers. (fn. 368) The following year the council let a contract for ten more houses, although large-scale development remained impossible until the water supply was improved. (fn. 369) More council houses were built in the mid 1950s after this had been done and a sewerage scheme installed. (fn. 370)
Apart from pressing for more local authority housing, the parish council had few major issues to deal with in the 1950s and early 1960s, beyond protesting at the naming of streets and the erection of speed limit signs at the entrance to the village, both of which were felt to be detrimental to the character of the place; (fn. 371) and ensuring that Wicken kept up its strong record in Northamptonshire's Tidest Village competition, in which it won a pink chestnut tree for the churchyard in 1960. (fn. 372) The council objected without success to the closure of the school in 1962. (fn. 373)
The council first became alarmed at the prospect of new housing in 1967, when the Merchant Venturers sold the house and buildings at Manor Farm and the council strongly objected to residential development on the site. (fn. 374) Two years later came proposals for houses in Deanshanger Road and Leckhampstead Road. (fn. 375) In 1975, a year after the parish became part of the newly established South Northamptonshire district, the local member assured the parish council that Wicken was safe from both council and private house-building because of the limited capacity of the sewerage system, added to which it had the shortest housing waiting list in the district. (fn. 376) By the late 1970s, however, as in other villages in the area, both the parish council and residents generally were concerned about proposed house-building (fn. 377) and in the 1980s and 1990s observations to the district council on planning applications became the most important (and most contentious) aspect of the parish council's work. (fn. 378)
The church at Wick Dive is not mentioned in 1086 (fn. 379) but must have been built fairly soon afterwards, for in about 1130 Henry I confirmed the gift by Robert d'Oyley of two parts of the tithes there to the church of St. George which Robert founded in Oxford castle. (fn. 380) The advowson passed with the manor until the union of the two parishes in 1587, (fn. 381) except for the period of Sir William Lucy's tenure of the manor (1424- 49), when it was granted by Edmund earl of March to Sir John Tiptoft and Richard Wigmore, (fn. 382) although Lucy's successors, Richard and Jacquetta Woodville, had regained possession by 1451. (fn. 383)
A chaplain was presented to the church at Wick Hamon by William son of Hamon in 1218 and another by John son of Alan in 1272, whereas from 1278 the incumbents were rectors. (fn. 384) The advowson passed with the manor throughout the Middle Ages. (fn. 385) Wick Hamon does not appear in the taxation of 1254, presumably because it was not a parish church, but in 1291 it was returned as a rectory, (fn. 386) as it was in 1535. (fn. 387)
In 1587 Sir John Spencer, who as owner of the unified estate formed from the two manors of Wick Dive and Wick Hamon was patron of both churches, together with the churchwardens and others, petitioned the bishop of Peterborough, stating that the living of Wick Hamon was vacant through the death of the incumbent, was worth only the figure stated in 1535, and had the tithes of only three ploughlands. Since the two churches at Wicken were 'not a flight shot asunder' and either was sufficient to hold all the people of both villages, the petition asked that services be held alternately in the two churches. The request was granted and the parishes were united on 1 May that year. (fn. 388) Ever since that time, a commemoration has been held on the Thursday in Holy Week, after a service in the church, under an elm tree near the parsonage, at which Psalm 100 is sung, and cakes and ale given to the congregation. (fn. 389) In 1938, when seven gallons of beer were provided by the White Lion for the occasion, the service was broadcast by the B.B.C. (fn. 390) In 1619 the church of Wick Hamon was taken down and thereafter that of Wick Dive served the whole of the combined parish. (fn. 391)
The advowson of the united living was retained by the Spencers throughout their period of ownership at Wicken, except for a few years after 1696 when Anne countess of Sunderland granted the next presentation to the incumbent, William Trimnell, who assigned the right to Charles Hosier shortly after his purchase of the Wicken Park estate in 1716. (fn. 392) It then remained the property of the estate until 1944, when it was acquired by the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol, (fn. 393) who remained patrons at the time of writing. (fn. 394) In 1794, 1798 and 1806, during the period in which Wicken was settled on her for life, Mrs. Prowse presented to the living, but only with the consent of Sir John Mordaunt, the heir apparent to the estate. (fn. 395)
Income and Property.
The rectory of Wick Dive was valued at £4 6s. 8d. in both 1254 and 1291, on the latter occasion less 26s. 8d. belonging to Osney abbey, (fn. 396) to whom Robert d'Oyley's gift was confirmed in 1267. (fn. 397) In 1535 the living was valued at £10 3s. 5d., less 10s. 7d. due to the archdeacon of Northampton for synodals and procurations. (fn. 398) Wick Hamon, as a chapel, was not included in the taxation of 1254; the rectory was valued at 108s. 11d. in 1535. (fn. 399)
The unified living was certified to be worth £100 a year in 1655. (fn. 400) When the parish was inclosed in 1757 Thomas Prowse, the owner of the Wicken Park estate, agreed with the rector and the bishop that the glebe should be consolidated into a holding of 126 a. and that he should pay a composition of £130 in lieu of tithes previously due from his estate. (fn. 401) In 1780, in addition to the new inclosures and the composition, the living included the parsonage, a house and two cottages let to tenants, a piece of meadow, and the old burial ground belonging to Wick Hamon church. (fn. 402) The glebe was let for about £80 a year in the early 19th century. (fn. 403) The tithes were commuted for £477 10s. in 1838 (fn. 404) and in the 1840s and 1850s the income of the living, including the glebe rent, was about £670. There was a drop in rents in the 1860s but in 1870 the gross income was still £564. (fn. 405) The glebe, reckoned as 133 a. in 1851, was augmented by an allotment of 4½ acres in Whittlewood (exchanged for land adjoining the rest of the estate in Wicken) under the Disafforesting Act of 1853. (fn. 406) In the 1870s the income of the living was stated as £435, including 135 a. of glebe, (fn. 407) which by the late 1890s had fallen sharply to £290. (fn. 408) It was only £250 the following decade (fn. 409) but recovered to between £380 and £400 in the 1920s and 1930s. (fn. 410) After the Second World War the rector augmented his stipend by running a taxi service and opening the rectory as a guest house. (fn. 411)
A new parsonage house, presumably on the site of earlier houses belonging to Wick Dive parish, was built by William Trimnell shortly after he was instituted to the living in 1702, entirely from materials from the demolished Manor House near the church. He is said to have laid out £1,000 on the work. (fn. 412) Similarly, as soon as Henry Jonas Barton began his ministry at Wicken in 1838 he spent about £560 on rebuilding the parsonage, before beginning his campaign of restoration on the church. (fn. 413) His successor, Edward Cadogan, added a new wing at cost of £300 in 1873, not long after his arrival in the parish. (fn. 414)
The parsonage house belonging to Wick Hamon was repaired and improved by the rector who was instituted to the two benefices in 1690. Bridges found it still standing thirty years later but described it as 'a very mean building'. (fn. 415) It is presumably the house which appears in a glebe terrier of 1780 in addition to the parsonage then occupied by the incumbent. (fn. 416)
Incumbents And Church Life.
A number of incumbents held other livings, including three who were also rectors of Great Brington. (fn. 417) At least two incumbents were related to the patron: Charles Hosier presented his nephew to the living in 1722 and Sir John Mordaunt his son in 1798. (fn. 418) Two rectors, Henry Jonas Barton and his successor, Edward Cadogan, were rural deans in the 19th century for an area that included Easton Neston, Paulerspury, Alderton, Grafton Regis, Potterspury, Furtho, Cosgrove, Passenham and Deanshanger as well as Wicken. (fn. 419)
The story and commemoration of the unification of the benefice was subtly altered over the three and a half centuries after 1587. Paul Hoskin, who became rector in 1934, suggested that the two parishes were only separated in 1218 and that there had been a long-running feud between the two churches. Under Hoskin, the feast in commemoration of the union became known as the Peace Feast, commemorating the end of the immemorial feud between the two churches.
The Parish Church Of Wick Dive.
The former parish church of Wick Dive (since 1587 that of the united parish of Wicken) is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and consists of a nave, chancel, north and south aisles, west tower and porch. No medieval fabric appears to survive, although there is a late 12th-century square font-bowl with simple arcading. The present tower, which has a parapet and pinnacles, was erected by Robert Lord Spencer in 1617, at much the same time as he rebuilt the gatehouse of the Manor House and the park keeper's lodge, and (like both those buildings) bears his arms and the date of construction. It measures 16 ft. 6 in. by 12 ft. 9 in. and is 76 ft high. (fn. 420) The belfry stage of the tower is in an accurate Early English style and is either remarkably academic for its date or, perhaps more likely, a careful Victorian rebuilding.
In 1753 the whole of the church, apart from the tower, was found to be dangerously unsafe and permission was granted for it to be taken down and rebuilt using the old materials. The chancel was to be shortened from about 28 ft. in length to 23 ft., with a bigger east window, but was to remain the same width (19 ft.). The nave and aisles were to be rebuilt on the old foundations but with much smaller gothic pillars in place of the what were described as the very large old ones, so that more more seats could be installed. (fn. 421) The whole cost was met by Thomas Prowse, (fn. 422) who is described as the designer of the new church on a tablet in the north aisle. Prowse had in fact partly demolished the old building before seeking a faculty: as he pointed out, the citation would have had to be read in the churchyard, since there was no church to read it in. (fn. 423) Prowse did not live to complete the work, which was finished after his death by his widow and daughter-in-law. (fn. 424) In April 1770 the younger Mrs. Prowse gave directions to John Sanderson concerning the paving of the church and in July he came down again to supervise the completion of the interior. (fn. 425) In October she told Sanderson that the church was finished and that she had paid off the workmen, (fn. 426) who included Joseph Foxley, the local brickmaker. (fn. 427) The cost (£240) was met by her mother-in-law. (fn. 428)
As rebuilt, the nave and aisles were of the same height, separated by tall quatrefoil piers with shaft-bands, rather than shaft-rings. The capitals are decorated with leaves in a late 13thcentury French style. The aisles were groinvaulted, the nave tunnel-vaulted, and the chancel fan-vaulted in plaster with pendants hanging from open-work ribs. (fn. 429) The nave and chancel were 79 ft. 6 in. long and the church 33 ft. wide including the aisles. (fn. 430)
In the early 1830s Baker found the interior 'fitted up with peculiar neatness and taste', floored with freestone and furnished with pews and open benches of oak. A small marble altar piece was presented in 1833 by Arthur HillTrevor, the tenant of Wicken Park, who also restored the old font which had lain neglected in the churchyard since the rebuilding. (fn. 431) Soon after H. J. Barton became rector in 1838 a lengthy campaign of restoration and redecoration began. A new porch was added in 1839 (fn. 432) and in 1842 the stonework of the chancel window was replaced (at a cost of £145 met by Miss Mordaunt) in the style of the window in Abbot Litchfield's chapel in Evesham Abbey. (fn. 433) The following year the reading desk and pulpit were altered, the seating rearranged, and the pews cut down to make open seats. Sir John Mordaunt presented an iron gate for the porch at the same time. In 1845 Edward Holbech presented an oak chair and shared with Barton the cost of a reredos triptych; over the next couple of years new altar cloths, cushions, hassocks and other items were presented (and in some cases worked) by Lady Mordaunt, her daughter, and other ladies. (fn. 434)
In 1865 Lady Louisa Douglas-Pennant presented six stained glass windows designed by her relation the 2nd Lord Sudeley, and in 1867 other members of the family gave a lectern and desk, Bible and prayer book, carpet for the sanctuary, and stained glass for the east window of 1842. (fn. 435) A vestry and organ-chamber 15 ft. square, the gift (together with a new organ) of Lady Penrhyn and designed by E. Swinfen Harris, were added in 1878. (fn. 436) In the same period Lady Penrhyn also gave a reredos, designed by Harris, in memory of H. J. Barton, whose widow presented a corona for the chancel in 1875. The north window of the nave was filled with stained glass (again designed by Harris) in memory of Edward Mordaunt Cadogan, the son of Barton's successor Edward Cadogan, and in 1890 a screen on the east side of the tower and a window on the north side, both by Harris, were presented by the Dowager Lady Penrhyn in memory of her husband. (fn. 437) The rector's wife gave a new altar frontal the same year, which was said to contain old French lace from Laon buried at the time of the Revolution. (fn. 438)
In 1896-7 the 2nd Lord Penrhyn met the entire cost (£2,000) of a thorough restoration and enlargement of the church in memory of his wife, who died in 1869, to the design of Matthew Holding. The chancel, shortened in 1758, was extended one bay to the east, and a south transept added, opening out of the chancel and south aisle. A new boiler-room was added at the west end of the north aisle and new heating apparatus installed. The nave and aisles were refloored in rubbed stone, with oak under the seats, and the chancel in polished Hoptonwood stone, intermixed with marble and tiles. The nave, aisle and transept were reseated with open seats of wainscot oak; new prayer desks and choirstalls were installed, and a new pulpit, the upper part in oak, the base and steps in Hoptonwood stone. New wrought-iron altar rails were also added. (fn. 439)
Stained glass by Eleanor Brickdale was inserted into the north window of the chancel in 1921. (fn. 440)
The church contains a monument to Charles Hosier and his wife by Sir Henry Cheere, erected in 1758, and others to their daughter, Anna Maria Sharp (d. 1747), her father-in-law John Sharp (d. 1726), and her son John Hosier Sharp (d. 1734), as well as Elizabeth Sharp (d. 1810). (fn. 441)
Until 1587 Wick Dive had only two bells but after the union three more were brought from Wick Hamon church and the whole recast by Lord Spencer. (fn. 442) One of the bells was cracked by frost in 1797 and recast the following year. (fn. 443) The bells were rehung in 1882, (fn. 444) and recast as a set of eight and rehung in a new frame in 1931 in memory of the 3rd Lord Penrhyn. On both occasions the work was done by Taylors of Loughborough and the Douglas-Pennants met most of the cost. In 1931 the chiming clock in the tower was also restored as a further memorial to Penrhyn. (fn. 445)
The parish register of Wick Dive (since 1587 the register for the unified parish) begins in 1559.
The Parish Church Of Wick Hamon.
St. James, Wick Hamon, consisted of a nave and chancel about 60 ft. long and 20 ft. wide, and a west tower 10 ft. square containing three bells. (fn. 446) After the union of 1587, instead of services being held alternately at the two churches as intended, St. James was stripped of its bells (fn. 447) and allowed to decay. In 1619 the rector and wardens sought permission to demolish the church, which after a commission had reported on its ruinous condition was granted. (fn. 448) Nothing survived of the fabric in Bridges's day, although he reported that part of the tower had been standing 'not many years ago'. (fn. 449) The churchyard was later let as part of the glebe (fn. 450) and was still known as Old Churchyard or Church Field Close in the 19th century. (fn. 451)
No register survives for the parish.
In 1801 Mrs. Prowse dismissed her dairymaid for attending Methodist meetings (where they were held is not stated), inviting the youth of the village to accompany her, and allowing the preachers to call. (fn. 452) Many years later, in 1833, a house in Wicken occupied by John Foddy was certified as a dissenting meeting house. (fn. 453) This appears to have been a shortlived venture, for a few years later the rector assured the Northamptonshire branch of the National Society that there were no dissenters in his parish and thus no dissenting school. (fn. 454) Any Nonconformists in Wicken probably worshipped at Deanshanger, where there were both Baptist and Primitive Methodist chapels in the 19th century. (fn. 455)
The Village School Before 1870.
From at least 1768 (when the surviving accounts begin) Elizabeth Prowse was paying a master and mistress to teach both boys and girls at a school on her estate at Wicken, as well as providing coal and other items, including worsted cloth for the girls to make up. The cost was charged against income from the cottage rents; Mrs. Prowse kept the proceeds from the sale of finished garments. The master was paid three guineas a year for teaching 12 'Charity Boys', plus 1s. a week for another six boys. (fn. 456) In 1800 Catherline Lamburne was the schoolmaster at Wicken. (fn. 457) When the younger Elizabeth Prowse died in 1810 she left one share in the Grand Junction Canal Company to the rector and churchwardens of Wicken, the dividends on which were to be used to help meet the expenses of both the day school and Sunday school (established in 1788). (fn. 458) In the 1830s the share was producing about £10 a year, three quarters of which was applied to the support of the day school and the rest to the Sunday school. The school house then stood in the Wick Hamon portion of the village. (fn. 459)
The Mordaunts continued the Prowses' work of supporting the schools and in 1818 the day school (the only one in the parish) had 12 boys and eight girls in attendance. (fn. 460) In 1831 the school was admitted into union with the Northamptonshire branch of the National Society. (fn. 461) During the 1830s there were between 30 and 40 boys at the school, but fewer than 10 girls, although over 40 attended the Sunday school. (fn. 462) The contrast was explained by the fact that the girls' day school was in fact a lace school, whose pupils left as soon as they could earn their living. In 1838 the teacher was paid £20 a year, of which £7 16s. was found by the Mordaunts and the rest by the rector. (fn. 463)
Changes soon followed the arrival of H. J. Barton as rector in 1838. (fn. 464) He and Sir John Mordaunt became trustees of the fund endowed with the share in the Grand Junction Canal (fn. 465) and in 1839, having been elected to the committee of the county branch of the National Society, (fn. 466) Barton persuaded Sir John to build a new school at a cost of £200, which the society supplemented with a grant of £20 towards fittings. (fn. 467) The school comprised two rooms, each 21 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. (presumably one for boys and the other for girls), although there was no house for the master. In 1840 there were 32 boys at the day school (but only nine girls), aged between six and 12, and about 60 children of that age in the parish not attending school, who were said to be working on the farms or making lace, for which they could earn between 2d. and 5d. a day. The day schools had an endowment of £10 a year but the master received a salary of £40 3s., the balance coming from Sir John Mordaunt. (fn. 468) His death in 1845 led to a reduction in charitable donations of all kinds on the estate, although both the master and mistress continued to receive a coal allowance in addition to their salaries. (fn. 469)
In the 1850s Barton tried to mitigate the evil of children leaving the school at an early age by establishing an allotment garden for the boys (fn. 470) and ensuring that in the girls' school a certain number of hours were devoted to reading, writing, arithmetic and plain needlework, even if in other respects it was run as a lace school. (fn. 471) Barton also established a night school, to which the local branch of the National Society made a grant of £4 for equipment to meet £2 raised in the parish. (fn. 472)
In the 1860s the boys' school, where the master was 'well-intentioned, but growing infirm', had an average attendance of 30; the same figure was returned for the girls' school, although the pupils only attended for ordinary classes two days a fortnight, the rest of the time being devoted to teaching lace-making. There was a night school and library attached to the girls' school but not the boys'. (fn. 473) A few years later the girls' school, whose premises had been more than doubled in size from the original room of 1839 and could now accommodate over 90, although there were only 33 on the books, was working alternate weeks as an ordinary school and a lace school. This arrangement was criticised by the diocesan inspector, although in other respects he was satisfied. The boys' school had 25 on the books at the end of the 1860s, when it was described as an 'unpretending little school . . . perhaps sufficient for the wants of the population'. The two schools together then had an income of £75 a year from voluntary contributions and £1 10s. from school pence. There was also a night school twice a week during the five winter months, taught by the rector, his family and the schoolmaster, and funded by the rector. (fn. 474)
The Village School After 1870.
From 1871 the school came under government inspection and began to receive a grant; other changes followed the retirement of the longserving master and the arrival in 1872 of a new rector, Edward Cadogan. In 1875 Cadogan claimed that he found the school 'struggling into life and health' but within three years had placed it on a sound footing. He coupled this optimism with an appeal for increased subscriptions, threatening a school board if these were not forthcoming, but at the same time offering to hand the management over to the subscribers or their elected representatives. There were then about 80 children on the books. (fn. 475) During the 1870s the grant was around £50 a year and voluntary contributions some £70. The Grand Junction Canal share continued to pay £4 a year, with the balance coming from school pence, which rose from £3 in 1871-2 to over £20 immediately before they were abolished in 1891-2. (fn. 476) Subscriptions fell off noticeably during the agricultural depression of the 1880s, settling at about £40 a year in the 1890s, although this was largely balanced by a steadily rising grant, which reached £100 by the end of the century. The old master was paid £75 a year in the early 1870s; his successors received £100, which remained unchanged until after 1900. The infants' teacher was paid £25 a year in the 1870s and 1880s, which rose to £45 in the 1890s and later. (fn. 477)
The most fundamental change came in 1878, when the 1st Lord Penrhyn, almost as soon as he bought the Wicken Park estate, met the entire cost (£1,000) of a completely new schoolroom, capable of accommodating 90 children, with a house for the headmaster. A classroom for 50 infants, with a gallery, was added in 1898. At the turn of the century the average attendance for the two departments was between 60 and 70, taught by the head and a part-qualified woman assistant. (fn. 478) In the years up to the First World War the school received reasonably satisfactory reports from H.M.I., although there were repeated complaints about the poor premises and the limited abilities of the staff. (fn. 479)
Edwin Green, who had been headmaster since 1891, retired in 1921 and was succeeded by the first of three women heads, each of whom initially brought new life to the school but were then in turn defeated by similar problems. The number of pupils fell from about 40 during the First World War (fn. 480) to fewer than 30 by the late 1930s, with attendance frequently reduced by illness, (fn. 481) although a suggestion by the L.E.A. in 1926 that children should transfer at 11 to the larger school at Deanshanger was not acted on. (fn. 482)
Numbers rose in 1939-40 with the admission of evacuees from Essex, Kent and Surrey as well as London, who arrived as individuals rather than (as at Roade or Hartwell) complete classes. (fn. 483) In 1941 the school had 19 evacuees but only 16 'natives'. (fn. 484) An annual open day for parents, established in 1939, (fn. 485) was kept up throughout the war. (fn. 486) During the winter of 1942-3 the head, as well as having no cleaner, lost one assistant when she went to work at the munitions factory in Wolverton and another through ill-health; (fn. 487) she herself resigned in the summer of 1943. (fn. 488) Her successor took over with 28 pupils (fn. 489) but left two years later, suffering from shock and worry. (fn. 490) The school received six evacuees (two from Harlesdon and four from Forest Hill) in 1944, three of whom were still at Wicken a month after V.E. Day. (fn. 491)
Another new head tried to make a fresh start at the end of the war but lasted only two years, (fn. 492) defeated in part by the winter of 1947. (fn. 493) Her successor arranged the usual Christmas parents' day in December that year, when the girls of the newly opened prep. school at Wicken Park sent a packet of sweets for each child. (fn. 494) In 1949 school dinners were started. (fn. 495) From September that year Wicken became an infant and junior school, with older children moving to Deanshanger, where a purpose-built secondary modern opened in 1958. (fn. 496) In 1950 H.M.I. recognised that the new head was trying to make up for the problems of the previous twenty years but was not over-generous with praise for the school, which now had fewer than 20 pupils. (fn. 497) Numbers rose to about 30 over the next few years, following the building of a small estate of council houses in the village. (fn. 498)
In 1952 Wicken was designated a voluntary controlled primary, (fn. 499) the rector having recognised that, faced with the need to spend between £4,000 and £5,000 to bring the premises up to date, aided status was not attainable. (fn. 500) Between 1953 and 1957 the county carried out major improvements, installing running water, water closets, a tarmac playground, and new heating. The redundant infants' classroom was converted into a dining hall. (fn. 501) In 1956 the school received a noticeably more favourable report from H.M.I. (fn. 502) By this time numbers were beginning to fall again, and when a new head took over in September 1958 she had only 20 pupils. (fn. 503) There were 12 when she resigned three years later (fn. 504) and in December 1962 the school closed and the 11 remaining pupils transferred to Deanshanger. (fn. 505)
The benefaction of 1810 remained in existence at the time of writing (as Elizabeth's Prowse's Charity), with the income still applied to the expenses of a day school and Sunday School at Wicken. (fn. 506)
After closure the schoolroom became a village hall and the schoolhouse was sold to become a private house.
Wicken Park School.
After their purchase of the Wicken Park Estate in 1945, the Society of Merchant Venturers concluded that the mansion was unlikely ever again to be a private residence and immediately opened negotiations with Allied Schools Agency Ltd., which had interests in a number of leading independent schools. The company took a 21-year lease on the house and grounds from Michaelmas 1945 at £530 a year, plus interest on improvements. The society spent £8,350 on converting the buildings, which in 1946 became a girls' preparatory school, acting for a time as a recognised feeder for Westonbirt (Gloucs.). (fn. 507) The connection with Westonbirt later ended, but Wicken Park remained a girls' prep. until falling numbers forced its closure in July 1970, two years after the original headmistress, Miss A.M. Sharp, retired. There were then 72 pupils aged 8-13, taught by 12 staff, but at least a hundred girls were needed to make the school a paying proposition. (fn. 508)
Allied Schools had taken a new lease of the house and grounds for 14 years from 1966 at £2,500 a year, which in 1970 was assigned to New Learning Ltd. This company reopened Wicken Park as a specialist school catering for about 60 boys of prep. school age suffering from dyslexia. In 1980 a new 14-year lease, including two staff houses as well as the mansion and grounds, was granted to New Learning at £10,000 a year, subject to review after seven years, when the rent was increased to £25,000. In 1989 the company was acquired by W.H. Wilcox, the owner of Akeley Wood School, a private co-educational secondary school near Buckingham, for which Wicken Park became a junior department named Akeley Wood First School. In the early 1990s discussions were in progress between Wilcox and the Society of Merchant Venturers concerning the renewal of the lease of Wicken Park from 1994, or alternatively the outright sale of the premises. (fn. 509) Wicken Park continued to be occupied by a private junior school at the time of writing.
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR
The Bread Charities.
Francis Palmer, rector of Wicken and of Sandy (Beds.), by his will dated 2 September 1680, proved on 15 March 1681, left £52 to be laid out in land, and directed that the yearly rent should be used to buy 52s. worth of bread. One shilling's worth was to be distributed every Sunday throughout the year to 12 poor people of the parish who attended church regularly. (fn. 510) In 1691 his trustee lent the money, which had then risen to £65, to Isaiah Steere of Deanshanger on a mortgage secured on Stocking Close in Wicken. (fn. 511) Mrs. Frances Thompson of the parish of St. Philip's, Barbados, by her will left £25 to the poor of Wicken and ordered that the interest be distributed in the same way as Palmer had directed. A further £10 was left by Mrs. Fisher to the poor of Wicken and in 1745 these several sums were combined, amounting (with the addition of £13 contributed by the parishioners) to £100, which was lent out at interest and the income used to buy bread for the poor. (fn. 512) The principal was later reduced by the insolvency of a person to whom it had been lent, and by the early 19th century the balance was more securely invested in stock. (fn. 513) It continued to be distributed in bread every week. (fn. 514) In 1857 the capital was transferred to the Official Trustee, when the income was £2 10s. 4d. The dividend continued to be used for the same purpose until at least the end of the Second World War, when the income was £2 2s. (fn. 515)
Edward Whitton, who was born at Wicken and died at Northampton in 1774, left £100 to be invested in Old South Sea Annuities in the name of the rector and churchwardens of Wicken. The stock purchased amounted to £114 12s. 3d., the dividend on which was to be distributed in bread, to be given annually on 5 January (Whitton's birthday) by the rector and wardens as they thought fit, to such poor people of Wicken as did not receive alms or other collection from the parish. (fn. 516) The charity lapsed in 1815, following the departure from the parish of one of the wardens, and when the arrears were collected ten years later the extra money was used to buy clothing, blankets etc. for the poor. Thereafter the annual distribution of bread was resumed. (fn. 517) In 1857 the stock was transferred to the Official Trustee. The gross income was then £4 10s. 6d. The income continued to be spent on bread until at least the end of the Second World War, when the amount received annually was £3 15s. 4d. In 1936-7 no fewer than 76 people received bread from the charity. (fn. 518)
The two bread charities, renamed the Wicken Relief in Need Charity, remained in existence at the time of writing. (fn. 519)
Miss Sharp's Charity.
In 1747 Anna Maria Sharp, the daughter of Charles Hosier of Wicken Park and widow of John Sharp, left £100 to the poor of Wicken. (fn. 520) In the early 19th century the capital was in the hands of Sir John Mordaunt, who paid 5 guineas a year to the churchwardens, which was distributed in bread after church every Sunday, in doles of 2s. to each recipient. (fn. 521) After Sir John's death in 1845 the trustees of his heir, Sir Charles Mordaunt, a minor, maintained the payment, although they reduced other charitable subscriptions. (fn. 522) The benefaction was not capitalised when the parish's other charities were transferred to the Official Trustee in 1857, although the payment of 5 guineas continued to be received annually from the Mordaunts and, after 1877, the Douglas-Pennants. (fn. 523) The payment may have ended with the death of Blanche Lady Penrhyn in 1944, since it appears not to have been continued by the Society of Merchant Venturers. (fn. 524)
The Whittlewood Coal Charity.
In 1854 the Whittlebury Disafforesting Commission, following the intervention of the 5th duke of Grafton, accepted that seven local parishes had established a claim to compensation for the loss of the right to collect sere (or broken) wood as fuel in Whittlewood and awarded them a total of £868, of which Wicken, as one of three out-towns, was entitled to £57 17s. 4d. The money was raised by the sale of a parcel of woodland in Passenham near Wicken Hurst. (fn. 525) The following year stock worth £63 3s. 1d. was transferred to the rector and churchwardens to endow the new charity, (fn. 526) which in 1857 was passed the Official Trustee, when the annual income was £1 17s. 10d. (fn. 527) At first, the Whittlewood money, like the three older charities in the parish, was used to buy bread for the poor, but from 1867 the income was handed to a coal club to buy fuel. This arrangement had ended by the 1880s, when the money was being given to the rector. From 1896 it was handed to the parish council but by 1907 it was once again being paid to the rector. In 1936-7 16 individuals received coal but thereafter, until at least the end of the Second World War, no disbursements were made and the annual income of £1 11s. 4d. was carried forward unspent each year. (fn. 528)