The hundred of Stoke: Colnbrook

Pages 246-249

A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1925.

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Colebroc (xi cent.); Colebroke, Colbrook (xiv– xvi cent.).

Colnbrook is a small town lying in the civil parishes of Horton, Langley Marish and Iver in Buckinghamshire and of Stanwell in Middlesex. (fn. 1) From the middle of the 14th century it was a chapelry attached to the parish of Horton, (fn. 2) and was made into an ecclesiastical parish in 1853. (fn. 3) The parish boundary was altered in 1873 to include parts of Iver parish. (fn. 4) With the exception of these the north side of Colnbrook forms a detached part of Langley Marish, divided from Horton by a gutter. The town stands on four channels of the River Colne, over each of which there is a small bridge, one being an old county bridge between Buckinghamshire and Middlesex.

There are several old houses and cottages on either side of the long, narrow street which forms the town. Most of them are of the 17th century, and of timber and brick, but have been much restored. The most noticeable is the Ostrich Inn, which with the two shops adjoining formed an old inn built probably about 1500. It is of timber and plaster with a tiled roof and has a projecting upper story with gables at either end, and a gateway in the middle to the yard behind, the doors to which still remain. Inside there is a good deal of 17th-century panelling and a staircase of the same date. In a room on the first floor are the remains of a curious arrangement whereby a flap could be let down from the window to enable passengers to enter the room directly from the top of a coach. In a room on the first floor of one of the shops there is a shield above the fireplace with the arms: Argent a fesse dancetty sable. In a book written by Thowe of Reading, and quoted by Lipscomb, (fn. 5) there is a description of the murder of thirteen persons by the landlord of the Ostrich Inn and his associates and the circumstances which led to their apprehension. (fn. 6) In 1624 (fn. 7) and 1666 this inn belonged to Maud wife of Thomas Langley, and was valued at £4 yearly. (fn. 8) It is called Eastridge or Ostridge in 1682. (fn. 9) There is preserved in the inn a pistol said to have belonged to Dick Turpin who used the house. The George Inn, which still has remains of 16th-century work, is said to have derived its name from a statue of St. George carved in wood which a clothier removed from the porch of the parish church of Dursley, Gloucestershire, and dropped from his wagon at Colnbrook on his way to London. (fn. 10) The Princess Elizabeth stayed a night there in 1558, on her removal from Woodstock to Hampton Court as a prisoner. (fn. 11) The 'Catherine Wheel,' where Henry VIII is said to have stayed in 1516, (fn. 12) is named in a letter to Cromwell in 1536. (fn. 13) Over a century later Prince Rupert put up there for the night. (fn. 14) Another inn, the 'Talbot,' was valued at £3 yearly in 1624. (fn. 15) Many deaths from plague are recorded as having taken place there in the following year, (fn. 16) when the town of Colnbrook was decimated, whereas in 1665 it passed unscathed. (fn. 17) Another inn, the 'King's Arms,' also dates from the 17th century.

The Ostrich Inn, Colnbrook

The station is on a branch line connecting the South Western railway with the Great Western at West Drayton. The parish church of St. Thomas stands near Richings Park, on an acre of land purchased from Mr. Sullivan in 1847. (fn. 18) Near it is the vicarage with 4 acres of glebe. The approach from Colnbrook is through a pleasant avenue of lime trees called Church Road. There is a Baptist chapel in Colnbrook and also a Primitive Methodist chapel.

The first mention of Colnbrook occurs in 1106 in connexion with an inn kept there by Ægelward on the London road. (fn. 19) In recognition of the skill of Abbot Faricius as a physician, Miles Crispin then gave the inn with the adjacent land in alms to Abingdon Abbey. (fn. 20) It has not been found possible to trace the history of this property further, but its site may be connected with the Spitel Bridge mentioned in 1443, (fn. 21) and with Spital or le Spittle House, to which there are references in 1605 (fn. 22) and 1635. (fn. 23) The name survives in Spittle Farm. On the site of the 'Golden Cross' near Spittle Farm formerly stood a home for cripples called Cripple House, founded by David Salter.

The name of Colnbrook is associated with various events in national history. The conspirators against Henry IV in 1400, whose names are familiar through Shakespeare's tragedy of Richard II, met at Colnbrook. (fn. 24) It is named in connexion with Queen Jane's funeral in 1537. (fn. 25) After the battle of Edgehill in 1642 the petition of the Lords and Commons for proposals of peace was presented to the king at Colnbrook. (fn. 26) Soon afterwards Prince Rupert is said to have plundered the town and imprisoned 'all the well-affected to King and Parliament.' (fn. 27) This incident took place after the battle of Brentford and the withdrawal of the king's troops to Oxford. (fn. 28) Constant mention is found of troops in the neighbourhood of Colnbrook during the Civil War. (fn. 29)


Colnbrook is on the main road to Windsor by way of Slough, and was thus a convenient halting-place for travellers before the introduction of railways. Taking this into consideration, with its situation on the Colne when that river was navigable, its temporary rise to importance as a borough in the 16th century can be understood. In the charter of 1543, by which Colnbrook was incorporated as a borough, it is expressly stated that such charter was granted to ensure the highway and three bridges. (fn. 30) In 1635 an additional charter of incorporation was granted to remedy certain defects in the previous charter, which it recites. (fn. 31) The new charter enacted that the town should be incorporated under the title of bailiff, burgesses and commonalty of Colnbrook. Twelve chief burgesses, of whom the bailiff was to be one, were to form the common council, appoint a councilhouse and hold a court for the government of the town, with power to acquire lands not exceeding £20 in value and to make laws. The names of the members of the first council are given, and of them David Salter was to be the first bailiff. The bailiff held office for a year and the common councillors for life. The retiring bailiff nominated two chief burgesses, from whom the bailiff for the following year was chosen by the common council. If he died during the year his place was to be filled by the chief burgesses from their number. When a chief burgess died or resigned one of the inhabitants was to be elected in his place by the council. The bailiff and commonalty were also to elect a steward, to continue in office during their pleasure. In 1636 Andrew Meale succeeded David Salter, and was instructed to enforce the plague regulations of his predecessor, (fn. 32) but the Civil War proved disastrous to the new corporation. According to Lipscomb, in 1653 there was no bailiff, and the causeways and bridges were out of repair. (fn. 33) Thomas Burcomb was appointed by two former burgesses to receive tolls in order to defray the expense of necessary repairs. (fn. 34) The corporation was never revived, but local matters were transacted by the chapel-wardens, overseers and bridge-wardens, who were elected annually by the inhabitants. (fn. 35) The accounts and elections of the wardens, interspersed with various local items, were jotted down indiscriminately from time to time in a volume called the Old Town Book, which was bought by a Colnbrook butcher from a lawyer at Windsor, and was said in 1862 to have been preserved since 1810 in the Town Box. (fn. 36) The first date in it is 1612 and the last 1821. (fn. 37) It contains copies of the two charters of incorporation, but does not record any meetings or accounts of the corporation as such. (fn. 38) Gaps in the entries occur between the years 1635 and 1655, from 1738 to 1745 and in 1770. (fn. 39) In 1667 the houses were rebuilt on the Horton side of the town, (fn. 40) and in 1699 the highway from the bridge, near the Angel Inn to the west end of the 'Ostrich,' was paved by public subscription. (fn. 41) In 1833 James Lawrence, chapel-warden, gave the dates of incorporation, but reported that Colnbrook was not in possession of the charters, and that the corporation seal was lost, though an impression had been found. (fn. 42) The seal was a fine oblong silver seal, on which was a representation of the old chapel, (fn. 43) with the inscription: 'Sigill' Comune Burgi de Colebroke in Com. Bucks. et Midd.' (fn. 44) It had been entrusted to the care of Thomas Burcomb mentioned above, and in 1773 was in the hands of his grandson, who lived near the George Inn. (fn. 45) It was sold later by one of his descendants, and in 1847 an impression of it belonged to Mr. Ashton of Colnbrook. (fn. 46) The municipal borough of Colnbrook never returned members to Parliament, and was dissolved under the Reform Act of 1832, as it contained less than 2,000 inhabitants.

The boundaries of the town (with which those of the borough were conterminous) are run every twenty years, and are given as follows in 1635: 'From a bridge called Madbridge, in Stanwell on the east of the town, to another bridge called Graybridge, also in Stanwell on the south of the town; from there by a certain stream or gutter, called Horton Allowance in the parish of Horton, to a house called le Spittle House on the west of the town, and from there by another stream or gutter called le Shire on the north of the town to Madbridge.' (fn. 47)

Under the charter of incorporation of 1543 a grant was made to the inhabitants of Colnbrook of a weekly market on Tuesdays and of two annual fairs, one on the eve of St. Mark and the two following days (24, 25, 26 April) and the other on the eve of St. Simon and St. Jude and the two days following (27, 28, 29 October). (fn. 48) The grant of 1635 included a market every Thursday and two additional fairs on the day and morrow of the Annunciation (25, 26 March) and of St. James the Apostle (25, 26 July), with toll, stallage and other similar rights, and a court of pie-powder. (fn. 49) Later in the 17th century the profits of the fairs and the market tolls were leased and realized from £10 to £20 yearly. (fn. 50) In 1773 a small market was still held on Tuesdays. (fn. 51) In 1799 the recognized fair days were 5 April and 3 May (fn. 52); in the 19th century 16 October had been substituted for 3 May. (fn. 53) This latter fair has been discontinued, but a small cattle fair is still held on 5 April.

Colnbrook has no separate manorial history of its own. Colnbrook in Horton was included under Horton Manor (fn. 54) (q.v.). Colnbrook in Langley was appurtenant to Langley Marish Manor (fn. 55) (q.v.), and follows the same descent, the present owner being Sir Robert Grenville Harvey, bart. The extension of the manorial rights of Stanwell, Middlesex, into Colnbrook is mentioned in connexion with the overlordship of Horton (q.v.).

A mill in Colnbrook is named in 1274. (fn. 56) In the 16th and 17th centuries two water-mills and the Tanhouse there belonged to the Bulstrodes. (fn. 57) In 1697 John Lee of Wyrardisbury, who had purchased them from Thomas Berenger, (fn. 58) sold or leased them to John Midgley and Thomas Gilbert. (fn. 59) The old flour-mill at the end of Mill Street belonged to Mr. Mark Westaway in 1862, (fn. 60) but has since been burnt down.


Thomas Purchaceour, or Purchase, obtained a licence in 1340 to build a chapel at Colnbrook, (fn. 61) which was consecrated in 1342. (fn. 62) It is usually called the free chapel of St. Mary Colnbrook, and several institutions to it are recorded in the 15th century. (fn. 63) In 1442 a grant was made in free alms of 12 ft. of land at the eastern end of the chapel in order to enlarge it. (fn. 64) At the end of the 15th century the advowson was appurtenant to Parlaunt Manor, Langley Marish (q.v.), and follows the same descent until 1547, when the chapel lost its endowment, (fn. 65) which was stated to be of the gross yearly value of £7 6s. 1d. (fn. 66) The town then maintained the chapel, supplied the incense and wax, and owned the ornaments, (fn. 67) and allotted some of the profits of the markets and fairs to its maintenance. (fn. 68) The money thus obtained was not sufficient to keep it in proper repair, and since the wardens had no power to levy a church rate the chapel was constantly in a state of dilapidation. Private benefactors, including Sir John Kidderminster (Kedermister) of Langley Park, also contributed to its upkeep during the 17th century. (fn. 69) It had been pulled down some years prior to 1773, (fn. 70) and another chapel dedicated to St. Mary was built on a different site in Horton Parish (fn. 71) by Thomas Fennel of Colnbrook and consecrated in 1794. (fn. 72)

The building was still in existence in 1862, (fn. 73) but has since been demolished. The donative from 1683 was vested in the trustees of the Townshend Lectureship at Pembroke College, Oxford, (fn. 74) in accordance with the will of George Townshend of Lincoln's Inn, who endowed it with half the profits of some tenements in Drury Lane. (fn. 75)

The church of ST. THOMAS, erected in 1849, (fn. 76) became the parish church in 1853, when Colnbrook was ecclesiastically separated from Horton. (fn. 77) The advowson belongs to the diocese of Oxford, and the stipend of the present vicar is supplemented by the income, £90 yearly, at the disposal of the Townshend trustees. The building is of flint, and consists of a chancel, nave, north aisle and west porch and bellcote, in which is an old clock brought from the former church.

The plate is modern and consists of a modern silver gilt chalice and paten and a silver flagon. 'A large silver cup' was stolen by the clerk in 1692.

The registers begin in 1760.

In 1340 licence was granted to Thomas Purchase to found a chantry in the chapel of Colnbrook (q.v.). In 1548 the lands for its endowment were worth £8 3s. 8d. yearly. (fn. 78) Land in Iver and Horton was given by John Fenwick for an obit for ninety-nine years and there was a sum of money for the maintenance of a light. (fn. 79) A general grant of the chantry lands was made in 1549 to Richard Hall and Edward Barbor of London. (fn. 80) George Bulstrode, one of the tenants of the chantry lands in 1547, (fn. 81) appears to have acquired them, transferring them to Elizabeth Bowser, (fn. 82) who at her death in 1558 (fn. 83) left them to her younger son John. (fn. 84) He died in 1608, when they consisted of eleven cottages and two barns. (fn. 85)


The Chapel Land, comprised in an indenture of 2 April 1604, consists of 2 a. 3 r. or thereabouts, producing £10 a year, which is applied towards the maintenance of the chapel or church.

In 1623 Richard Goade, as appeared from a tablet in the chapel, gave 2 a. 3 r. 4 p., the rents to be applied as to one-third to the vicar for a sermon on Good Friday and two-thirds in the distribution of bread to the poor on the same day. The land is let at £10 a year, which is duly applied. In 1909 there were about 150 recipients.

The Town Houses.

In 1657 Thomas Pitt conveyed to trustees certain cottages with the lands, buildings and appurtenances thereto to the only proper use and behoof of the poor of Colnbrook within the two several parishes of Horton and Langley Marish to be equally divided between the two parishes. The trust property now consists of 3 a. 3 p., let at £3 5s. a year, a house let at £13 a year and £720 10s. 7d. consols with the official trustees, producing £18 yearly, arising in part from sale of land in 1865 and of five cottages in Mill Street in 1869. The charity is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 19 June 1888. In 1909 the net income was distributed on Christmas Eve in sums varying from 1s. 6d. to 10s. each.

In 1870 Henry Hickman, by his will proved at London 15 August, bequeathed £120 consols, the annual dividends, amounting to £3, to be applied towards the annual expenses of the church of St. Thomas. The same testator likewise bequeathed £120 consols, the dividends to be applied for the benefit of poor members of the congregation of the same church residing between the White Hart Inn and Golden Cross Inn at Colnbrook. The income of £3 a year is distributed in coals.

The George Townshend Lectureship, founded in connexion with Pembroke College, Oxford, is endowed with a sum of £9,866 13s. 4d. consols with the official trustees, producing £246 13s. 4d. yearly, which is applicable as to one-third to the vicar of Colnbrook, one-third to the vicar of Uxbridge and one-third to Pembroke College.


  • 1. Census Rep. Bucks. and Midd. 1901; Lond. Gaz. 14 June 1853, p. 1654; 18 July 1873, p. 3398.
  • 2. Horton church is sometimes called the parish church of Colnbrook (Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Bek, fol. 34 d.).
  • 3. Lond. Gaz. 14 June 1853, p. 1654; Census Rep. Bucks. 1901.
  • 4. Lond. Gaz. 18 July 1873, p. 3398. Only two of the houses stood in Iver parish in the early 19th century (Lysons, Mag. Brit. i [3], 590).
  • 5. Lipscomb, Hist. and Antiq. of Bucks. iv, 431. On the title-page is the following inscription: 'Thomas of Reading, or the six worthie yeomen of the west—now the sixth time corrected and enlarged by T. D. London. 1632.'
  • 6. Gyll, Hist. of Colnbrook, 271. Gyll had access to the book and gives an abstract.
  • 7. Lay Subs. R. bdle. 79, no. 279.
  • 8. Ibid. bdle. 80, no. 338.
  • 9. Marcham, Cat. of Bucks. Deeds, i, 17.
  • 10. Rudder, Gloucs. 318. He quotes from Atkyns, but no date is given.
  • 11. John Foxe, Acts and Monum. (ed. 1610), 1900.
  • 12. Gyll, op. cit. 271.
  • 13. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xi, 871.
  • 14. Thomason Tracts, i, 190.
  • 15. Lay Subs. R. bdle. 79, no. 279.
  • 16. Gyll, op. cit. 283, quoting Horton Parish Reg.
  • 17. Ibid. 250.
  • 18. Ibid. 268.
  • 19. V.C.H. Berks. ii, 52.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Cal. Pat. 1441–6, p. 195.
  • 22. Land Rev. Misc. Bks. ccx, fol. 241.
  • 23. Pat. 11 Chas. I, pt. xx, no. 3.
  • 24. Traison et Mort du Roy Richard Deux (Engl. Hist. Soc.), 237.
  • 25. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (2), 1060.
  • 26. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xii, App. ii, 326; Cal. S. P. Dom. 1641–3, p. 405; Whitelocke, Memorials of English Affairs, 65.
  • 27. Thomason Tracts, 1, 190. The pamphlet is entitled 'Horrible News from Colebrooke.'
  • 28. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xii, App. ii, 326; V.C.H. Surr. i, 409. The king's infantry had advanced from Colnbrook to Brentford.
  • 29. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1644–5, pp. 14, 16, 20; 1645–7, pp. 82, 85, 88, 89, 91; 1648–9, p. 81.
  • 30. Pat. 35 Hen. VIII, pt. xvi, m. 2. In 1542 Leland mentions a 'bridge of tymbre' at Colnbrook (Leland, Itin. [ed. 2], ii, 1), evidently the principal bridge at which tolls were taken when the river was navigable, which it had not been in 1773 for some years (Cole MS. xl, 42).
  • 31. Pat. 11 Chas. I, pt. xx, no. 3.
  • 32. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1636–7, p. 138.
  • 33. Lipscomb, op. cit. iv, 431.
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. Gyll, op. cit. 284.
  • 36. Ibid. 283, 284. In 1862, when Gyll had access to it, it was in a dilapidated condition.
  • 37. Ibid. 284. The entries from that date are continued in other books.
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Ibid.
  • 40. Gyll. op. cit., 285.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Rep. to King on Pub. Rec. 1837 (Rec. Com.), 443.
  • 43. Cole MS. xl, 42.
  • 44. Lipscomb, op. cit. iv, 429.
  • 45. Cole MS. xl, 42.
  • 46. Lipscomb, op. cit. iv, 429.
  • 47. Pat. 11 Chas. I, pt. xx, no. 3.
  • 48. Ibid. 35 Hen. VIII, pt. xvi, m. 2.
  • 49. Ibid. 11 Chas. I, pt. xx, no. 3.
  • 50. Gyll, op. cit. 285, quoting Old Town Bk.
  • 51. Cole MS. xl, 42.
  • 52. Ibid.; Priv. Act, 39 Geo. III, cap. 47.
  • 53. Gyll, op. cit. 285; Rep. of Royal Com. on Market Rts. and Tolls, ix, 139.
  • 54. The right of view of frankpledge granted to Henry Bulstrode in 1615 extended into Colnbrook (Pat. 12 Jas. I, pt. iii). It is also named in this connexion in 1686 (Recov. R. Trin. 2 Jas. II, m. 194). It is mentioned again in 1624 (Lay Subs. R. bdle. 79, no. 279) and in 1666 (ibid. bdle. 80, no. 338).
  • 55. Ct. R. (Duchy of Lanc.), bdle. 1, no. 6; (Gen. Ser.), portf. 155, no. 26; Lay Subs. R. bdle. 79, no. 279. Included in the metes and bounds of 1605 (Ld. Rev. Misc. Bks. ccx, fol. 241).
  • 56. Feet of F. Bucks. 3 Edw. I, no. 10.
  • 57. Close, 31 Hen. VIII, pt. ii, no. 49 (Grant of a lease for thirty-five years by John Bulstrode to John Dorset of Colnbrook); Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccliii, 69; Recov. R. Hil. 12 Chas. I, m. 67.
  • 58. Statement in John Lee's will (P.C.C. 174 Ash).
  • 59. Ibid. Indenture confirmed.
  • 60. Gyll, op. cit. 269.
  • 61. Cal. Pat. 1340–3, p. 12.
  • 62. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Bek, fol. 34 d. It is here described as in the High Street. It had an altar of the Annunciation consecrated by Bishop Bck (ibid. fol. 77).
  • 63. Ibid. various bishops, fol. 24; Inst. Chedworth, fol. 152 d., 153; Rotherham, fol. 101, 103 d.; Cal. Pat. 1476–85, p. 424.
  • 64. Cal. Pat. 1441–6, p. 194.
  • 65. V.C.H. Bucks. i, 306.
  • 66. Chant. Cert. 77, m. 7.
  • 67. Ibid. 4, no. 1.
  • 68. Cocks, Church Bells of Bucks. 365.
  • 69. Gyll, op. cit. 288, 289.
  • 70. Cole MS. xl, 42.
  • 71. Lysons, Mag. Brit. i (3), 591.
  • 72. Lipscomb, op. cit. iv, 432.
  • 73. Ibid.; Gyll, op. cit. 290.
  • 74. Lysons, Mag. Brit. i (3), 591; Clerical Guides; Clergy List, 1844; Gyll, op. cit. 287.
  • 75. P.C.C. 132 Drax.
  • 76. Gyll, loc. cit.
  • 77. Lond. Gaz. 18 July 1873, p. 3398; Census Rep. Bucks. 1901.
  • 78. Chant. Cert. 5, no. 93. This corresponds with the estimate of the previous year (ibid. 4, no. 1), but is £1 5s. 4d. more than that of 1535 (Valor Eccl. [Rec. Com.], iv, 225).
  • 79. Chant. Cert. 5, no. 93.
  • 80. Pat. 3 Edw. VI, pt. vi, m. 42.
  • 81. Chant. Cert. 4, no. 1.
  • 82. Chan. Proc. (Ser. 2), bdle. 12, no. 116.
  • 83. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), iii, 5.
  • 84. Memo. R. (Exch. L.T.R.), East. 8 Eliz. m. 66 (with other lands in Langley, Horton and Iver). There is a brass with inscription to his memory in Langley Marish Church (Add. MS. 32490 DDD 18).
  • 85. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cccxviii, 161.