A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1925.
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Parva Herewode, Horwude (xiii cent.); Parva Horewode (xiv cent.); Harwood Parva (xvii cent.).
The parish of Little Horwood contains 1, 948 acres, comprising 203 acres of arable land, 1,671 acres of permanent grass and 26 acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is gravel and clay with a subsoil of clay and gravel, and produces crops of wheat, barley and roots. The clay is worked in a pit in the northeast, with brick, tile and pipe works adjacent, and there is a disused clay pit in the neighbourhood. There are gravel pits in the north-west and south of the parish, and others lie a few hundred yards to the south-west of the village. Near them is a stone quarry, and there is a sand pit near Whitehouse Farm.
The lowest ground lies south of the parish and is watered by a stream which divides Little Horwood and Swanbourne; the land rises to a height of 500 ft. above the ordnance datum at a point near Warren Farm, in the north of the parish. The village, which is small and contains several 16th and 17th-century half-timber houses, now much altered, is built along both sides of the road to Great Horwood, and the northern portion is known as Wood End. The church stands at the Great Horwood entrance to the village, and beyond on rising ground is a reservoir. There are several outlying farms. The old Moat Farm, now demolished, was surrounded by a homestead moat. (fn. 2)
Horwood House, in the south of the parish, is a modern building recently erected by Mr. F. A. Denny, who pulled down the ancient house formerly standing on the site. (fn. 3) The grounds, which are of considerable size, are skirted on the south by the Oxford to Bletchley branch of the London and North Western railway.
There is a Baptist chapel in Little Horwood, built in 1867.
The Inclosure Award, dated 30 May 1767, under the Inclosure Act of 1766, (fn. 4) is in the custody of the clerk of the peace.
In 795 'the wood which is called Horwudu' was granted by King Offa to St. Albans Abbey. (fn. 5) It was later said that he also gave the manor of LITTLE HORWOOD, and this seems probable. (fn. 6) Little Horwood is not mentioned by name in the Domesday Survey. It was probably included in the manor of Winslow, which was assessed at 15 hides, belonging to the Abbot of St. Albans. (fn. 7) Little Horwood was held in chief until the Dissolution, (fn. 8) but attached to the honour of Grafton on its creation in 1542. (fn. 9) In the 17th century it was held of the king's manor of East Greenwich. (fn. 10) It was first spoken of as a separate manor in the time of Henry III, (fn. 11) but it is always mentioned in conjunction with Winslow (q.v.), the abbey's more important manor, with which it has descended to the present day, Mr. William SelbyLowndes of Whaddon Hall being now lord of the manor. The abbots enjoyed at Little Horwood the same liberties as at Winslow, and were granted there by John son of John in the reign of Edward I four days' hunting a year in the woods. (fn. 12) There was an ancient mill on the estate in the 13th century. (fn. 13)
In the reign of Edward I 2 virgates of land, afterwards known as AYNELLS FEE, were held by Adam Aynel for a rent of 12s. per annum of the manor of Little Horwood, to which the overlordship always belonged. (fn. 14) A mesne lordship was created for a short time in the 14th century, when the Aynels transferred their right to the Fitz Neels, (fn. 15) but it soon lapsed. In 1302–3 John Aynel, probably the son of Adam, held land in Little Horwood, (fn. 16) and about 1316 William Aynel, perhaps the son of John, demised all his land in Little Horwood to Hamon le Newman, (fn. 17) who in 1341 conveyed land in Little Horwood to John atte Asshe. (fn. 18) This John was possibly the father of Bartholomew de Asshele, who in 1346 held in Little Horwood the land formerly John Aynel's. (fn. 19) The demise was probably for a term only, and John Aynel seems to have alienated the lands in perpetuity to Robert Fitz Niel, who died in 1331, (fn. 20) for in 1349 Grace his daughter and heir died seised of these lands. (fn. 21) Her heir was John son of John de Nowers, and possibly the son of Grace. In 1369 John quitclaimed to the king and to the Earl and Countess of Bedford, daughter of the king, and to the king's heirs all his right in this land. (fn. 22) In 1402 the king granted it to John, afterwards Duke of Bedford. (fn. 23) The latter died childless in 1435, leaving all to his wife for life with remainder to his nephew Henry VI. (fn. 24)
For over 100 years there is no trace of this property, but it reappears in the 16th century in the Cook family, and passed from Richard Cook to his brother Edmund and to the latter's son Thomas. (fn. 25) In 1547 Thomas Cook surrendered his right to the land, which was then obtained by George Williot, from whom it descended to his son Robert. (fn. 26) Some time in the early part of Elizabeth's reign John son and heir of Thomas Cook tried to establish a claim to the property, (fn. 27) but Robert Williott remained in possession and conveyed his interest in what was then known as Aynells Fee to John Grange, who died seised of it in 1634 and left it by will to his second son Robert. (fn. 28) By his will, dated 18 October 1649, Robert Grange empowered his executors to sell a messuage built by him in Little Horwood, but in 1653 his widow Elizabeth, pleading on behalf of their young children, John, Robert, Richard, Elizabeth and William, sued the executors for non-fulfilment of their trust. (fn. 29)
There is no further trace of this property.
The church of ST. NICHOLAS consists of a chancel 23 ft. 3 in. by 15 ft. 6 in., nave 39 ft. 3 in. by 18 ft., south aisle 9 ft. 6 in. wide, west tower 10 ft. by 9 ft. 6 in., and a south porch.
It was built about 1200, and originally consisted of a chancel and nave with a south aisle. During the 14th century the chancel was probably rebuilt. Its axis is to the north of that of the nave, and has an inclination towards the south. The south aisle was possibly rebuilt about 1400, and towards the end of the 15th century the west tower was added, a number of windows being inserted in the church about the same time. The church was restored in 1830, when the south porch was probably added, and was again repaired in 1889.
The walls are of limestone rubble with ashlar dressings, the latter being generally much restored. The tower is built of large squared blocks of limestone, the topmost stage being covered with roughcast and the battlements repaired with 18th-century brickwork. The south porch has cemented brick walls.
The roofs of the chancel and nave are tiled, that of the south aisle is covered with lead and that of the south porch with slates.
Both the east and north-east windows of the chancel have modern tracery and external stonework, but the inner jambs and rear arches may be of the 14th century. At the west end of the north wall is a low-sided window of the 15th century with a two-centred drop head, modern externally, and a flat internal lintel of oak. The south wall contains two modern windows, the inner jambs and rear arches of which are of 14th-century date, the sill of the eastern one being carried down to form a sedile. Between them is an entirely restored or modern doorway, and at the east end of the wall a 14th-century piscina with a trefoiled ogee head. The chancel arch, which is probably of 14th-century date, has its centre to the north of the axis of the chancel. It was probably originally two-centred, but has now settled approximately to a four-centred form, and is of two chamfered orders, the outer of which is continuous except on the north-east side, where it dies into the wall, while the inner springs from semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases.
In the north wall of the nave are two large windows of 15th-century character which are much restored. They are each of three cinquefoiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head; the rear arches are possibly of 14th-century date. Between them is a blocked doorway, probably of the early part of the 13th century, with a two-centred head. The whole of the upper surface of the wall between the windows is occupied by an exceedingly interesting series of paintings which were discovered on the removal of a crust of whitewash during the restoration in 1889. There are at least three series of subjects of different periods painted one on another. Of the earliest, which is apparently of 13th-century date, only a small part is visible, and this seems to represent two episodes in the life of St. Nicholas. The eastern subject shows three mail-clad figures, one with a spear, entering a building, and perhaps illustrates the legend of the three knights claiming the hands of the daughters of a nobleman who had, in answer to the prayer of St. Nicholas, each received a bag of gold, and thus been saved from an immoral life. The western scene consists of two figures, a third being evidently hidden by the later work, emerging from a tub, on the west of which is the figure of a bishop, and on the east another figure. This probably represents the legend of the miraculous restoration to life of the three murdered students. Very little is now decipherable of the second series of paintings, which seem to date from the middle of the 14th century; a small part of a figure in armour and the lower limbs of a second figure can, however, still be traced. The latest series is the most complete and interesting of the three, and probably dates from about 1500. It includes three subjects, the eastern of which is rather indistinct, but represents the legend of St. Christopher. To the west of this is a large representation of the purging of the Seven Deadly Sins; it comprises a large nude figure, around which are portrayed the several sins connected to it by a series of scrolls. Above this painting is another part of the third series, which is, however, now indecipherable. Another large painting was discovered on this wall further towards the east, but was unfortunately not preserved. On the south of the nave is an arcade of four bays with pointed arches of two plain orders. The arches spring from circular columns and semicircular responds with moulded capitals and bases, the capitals of the two eastern columns being octagonal. The arcade dates probably from about 1200, but the western bay seems to have been rebuilt; it is rather narrower than the others, and the capital of the respond is more elaborately moulded and apparently of a date some 100 years later. The south aisle has in the east wall a grotesquely carved bracket probably of the 15th century, and in the north wall east of the arcade a blocked opening, possibly the outer end of a former squint to the chancel. In the south wall are two 15th-century windows, the eastern of which is restored externally, each of three cinquefoiled lights in a square head. Between these windows there is a doorway, probably of late 14th-century date, with a two-centred head and jambs of two continuously hollow-chamfered orders. The west wall contains a much restored 14th-century window of three cinquefoiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head and an external label with mask stops. On one of the external jamb stones is scratched a finger dial.
The west tower is of three stages with a stair in the south-west angle, diagonal western buttresses and an embattled parapet. All the detail is of the late 15th century. The tower arch, which is of twocentred drop form, is of two hollow-chamfered orders, the outer continuous on the nave side, while the remainder die into the walls. There is a label on the nave side with shield stops, each of which is charged with a cross. The west doorway has a continuously moulded four-centred head and jambs. The window above is of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head. The second stage has a small loop in the west face, and in each face of the top stage there is an opening similar to the two-light west window; the mullion of that in the western face is missing. The stair is lighted by two loops in the west wall of the tower.
The south porch has a cemented two-centred entrance arch.
The roofs are modern with the exception of that of the south aisle, which is probably of 15th-century date and has moulded and cambered tie-beams and moulded purlins.
There is a floor slab in the chancel to Ann wife of William Gibbins, who died in 1741, with a shield of arms, a tau cross between three molets with a crescent for difference. The chancel also contains wall tablets to Sir Stephen Langston and Rebecca his wife, who both died in 1797, to Hannah, 1789, and Anne, 1791, their daughters, and other memorial tablets to members of the Langston family.
The oak pulpit is of early 17th-century date and consists of five sides of an octagon, each of which is panelled in two heights, the stiles, rails and panels all being elaborately carved. The stone base is modern.
On the wall of the nave to the south of the chancel arch is a brass tablet engraved with verses, texts and an abbreviated form of the ten commandments, and dated 1641.
There are five bells and a sanctus, of which the treble, second, third, and tenor are by Chandler, 1672, the fourth by Thomas Mears, 1793, and the sanctus by Chandler, 1690.
The plate includes a cup, 1562, with bands of incised ornament; a cover paten to match of 1569; a large flagon; a large paten; two cups and an almsdish, all of which are plated and were given by the Rev. Stephen Langston in 1797.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1568 to 1716; (ii) baptisms and burials 1717 to 1780, marriages 1717 to 1740 with one entry of 1746; (iii) marriages 1754 to 1776; (iv) baptisms and burials 1780 to 1812; (v) marriages 1776 to 1812.
The church of Little Horwood was a chapel to the church of Winslow in 1291, and belonged to St. Albans Abbey till the Dissolution. (fn. 30) From the 16th century, however, it always appears as an independent church, (fn. 31) and was assessed separately in 1535 at 106s. 8d. (fn. 32) A vicarage was no doubt ordained at Little Horwood at the same time as at Winslow (q.v.).
In 1553 the advowson was granted to David Vincent and his heirs and was said to be worth £7 1s. (fn. 33) By 1586 it had been acquired by Nicholas West of Goldingtons Manor, Marsworth (q.v.), who died seised of it in that year, leaving a son and heir Edmund. (fn. 34) Edmund settled it to the uses of his will in 1610, (fn. 35) and died in 1618, when he was succeeded by his son, another Edmund. (fn. 36) In 1632 Edmund West conveyed the advowson to John Grange, (fn. 37) who bequeathed it with Aynells Fee (q.v.) to his second son Robert. (fn. 38) The name of a later Robert Grange occurs as patron in 1676, 1701 and 1740. (fn. 39) By 1765 the advowson had passed to John Sandon and Katherine his wife, (fn. 40) and in 1772 it was vested in Kidgell Sandon, but alienated by him in 1777 to Stephen, afterwards Sir Stephen, Langston, (fn. 41) sheriff for the county in 1788. (fn. 42) On his death in 1797 (fn. 43) Langston was succeeded by another Stephen Langston, probably his son, who in 1813 was both patron and incumbent, (fn. 44) and died in 1816. (fn. 45) In 1846 the advowson was still in the family of Langston, (fn. 46) but in the following year was exercised by the Rev. J. Bartlett of Marnwood (fn. 47) (co. Salop), who held it for about fifteen years, when the living passed into the gift of the Church Patronage Society, who still possess the advowson. (fn. 48)
Little Horwood Rectory passed at the Dissolution to the Crown, by whom it was granted in 1540 to Richard Bream and his wife Margery. (fn. 49) By 1586 it had passed to Nicholas West, (fn. 50) who was also patron of the church, and descended with the advowson until about the end of the 18th century. In 1847 it was the property of Mr. Dauncey, (fn. 51) from whom it passed to Mrs. Dauncey. Mr. Frederick Anthony Denny, of Horwood House, is now lay rector.
The church lands consist of 3 a. 2 r. 2 p. of land let at £6 a year, and 8 p. of garden ground let at 10s. a year. The income is applied towards the expenses of the church.
The recreation ground, consisting of 2 a., acquired in 1877 by an award made under an Inclosure Act, is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 9 December 1902. The income of about £5 a year is at present accumulating.