A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1925.
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Stivelai (xi cent.), Stivelang, Stiuegleg, Stivell, Stivele, Stiveyleka, Stiucle, Stiuekelle, Stivecle (xiii cent.); Styngle, Stiveslegh (xiv cent.), Stukeliffe, Stukeley, Stewkeley (xv–xvi cent.).
Stewkley is a parish of 3,982 acres, 654 of these being arable land and 3,213 permanent grass. (fn. 1) The soil is clay and gravel and the subsoil clay. There are many clay pits and two brick works. Strawplaiting formerly afforded employment to a number of the inhabitants, but ceased about fourteen years ago. (fn. 2) The land is lowest in the south, and runs uniformly to a height of nearly 500 ft. in the north. A ridge of high ground runs through the parish in a northwesterly direction, and on this the village is built, bordering mainly on one long and irregular street. It contains numerous timber-framed houses and cottages with plaster or brick filling of the 16th and 17th centuries. They are for the most part tiled, but many of them have thatched roofs. The church of St. Michael is in the south-east and there are also Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels, built in 1839 and 1903 respectively. At each end the street tapers off into more thinly populated parts, known as North End and South End. In the latter is the church of Holy Trinity, built in 1866.
Beyond North End stands Stewkley Grange, the site of the manor formerly held in the parish by Woburn Abbey, and now, as for nearly a century (fn. 3) past, the property of the Palmer family. The following account is found of the old Grange in the middle of the 18th century, when it was the property of William Wigge. 'There are the remains of several fish-ponds and the house is moated round. It is at present in a most ruinous condition; the old man lies in a room where the ceiling is broken down above a yard square by the rain, for there are no tiles over the hole nor any other covering; he has no curtains to his bed nor any chair in his chamber. His hogs live better than himself, for they serve themselves at the wheat-house and barns, which are not in a condition to keep them out.' (fn. 4) This house was pulled down about 1760; the moat remained a hundred years later. (fn. 5) The present Grange, which is a short distance to the east of the old site, was enlarged and improved shortly after 1825, when it was bought by Mr. Richard Palmer. (fn. 6) A wood, known as Abbot's Wood or Stewkley Wood, yet another trace, doubtless, of the abbot's holding in the parish, was held by the Earls of Carnarvon in the 17th and 18th centuries. The oaks there are said to have been cut down at the time of the Napoleonic wars. The place is still known as the Grove. (fn. 7)
The manor-house of the chief manor in the parish has been converted into a farm. It was originally built probably in the 16th century, but has been considerably altered. It is plastered and has pilaster buttresses. Near it is an old octagonal brick dovecote, which bears the date 1704. An old homestead moat lies near the church and there are traces of a second moat some distance off, towards the north-west. (fn. 8) Sheahan refers to Pitch Green, where are the remains of a 300-ft. long embankment and where human skulls have been dug up, as the possible site of a skirmish during the Civil War. (fn. 9)
The hamlet of Littlecote (Litecote, Litecota, xi cent.; Litlecote, xiii–xv cent.; Lidcott, xvi cent.) lies in the south-west of the parish and consists of a few farms and outbuildings. The old manor-house of Littlecote belonging to the Sheppards was pulled down about 1804, some of the out offices being converted into what is now Littlecote Farm. (fn. 10) This is mainly a 17th-century building of brick, but the east wing is probably modern. The garden is surrounded by a 17th-century brick wall, and near it are two fish-ponds. Stewkley Dean, another very small hamlet, lies north of Littlecote. An act for inclosing the lands of the parish was passed in 1811. (fn. 11) Early names in the parish include Merepeleslade, Smelpor, Hauckeputte, Pusefurlong and Huckmede. (fn. 12)
Brictric, a thegn of King Edward, held a manor in Stewkley before the Conquest; in 1086 it was assessed for 3½ hides and was held by Niel of Miles Crispin. (fn. 13) With the latter's other lands, this was afterwards attached to the honour of Wallingford and passed to the Earls of Cornwall, (fn. 14) the last mention of this overlordship in Stewkley occurring in 1559. (fn. 15)
The second Domesday entry concerning Stewkley shows that Wlward cild, a thegn of King Edward, formerly held a manor which in 1086 was assessed for 3½ hides and was held by William of the Bishop of Coutances. (fn. 16) The bishop's nephew and heir Robert de Mowbray forfeited his lands in 1095. (fn. 17) Stewkley is said to have been granted by Henry I to his natural son Robert, afterwards Earl of Gloucester, who married the daughter of Robert Fitz Hamon, lord of the honours of Gloucester and Bristol, (fn. 18) to which latter honour this part of Stewkley afterwards belonged. (fn. 19) The Earls of Gloucester retained part of this manor in fee until the 14th century, (fn. 20) but subinfeudated the rest, which was held of the honour of Gloucester as late as 1498. (fn. 21)
The process of subinfeudation in Stewkley is by no means clear, as overlordship rights were claimed by both the honours simultaneously in all the manors in Stewkley.
The holding which eventually came to be regarded as the manor of STEWKLEY originated in the lands in this parish, appurtenant to the honours of Cornwall and Gloucester as late as the 14th century, (fn. 22) which were given to the abbey of Fontevrault and attached to the English cell of that foundation in Leighton Buzzard, known as the priory of Grovebury. (fn. 23) Neither the date of the gift nor the name of the donor is extant, but it is probable that the transaction had already taken place by 1167. (fn. 24) The main endowment of the priory was the royal manor of Leighton Buzzard, with which since that time this manor of Stewkley, consisting of 3 carucates of land in 1254–5, (fn. 25) has always been held. In 1302–3 the abbess's half fee in Stewkley was held by the son of the king, (fn. 26) and in 1338, owing to the war with France, Maud de Burgh, Countess of Ulster, obtained custody of the lands, (fn. 27) which she still held in 1346. (fn. 28)
In 1413 Sir John Phillips received a grant of the lands for life or for as long as the war with France should last, with licence to cross the Channel to bargain with the abbess for their purchase. (fn. 29) The priory of Grovebury was, however, dissolved in 1414, (fn. 30) and Sir John was enabled to settle the lands on himself and his wife Alice, (fn. 31) presumably granddaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer. After the death of her husband in 1415, (fn. 32) Alice married William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk. (fn. 33) It seems probable that the manor after this date continued to follow the descent of Leighton Buzzard (q.v.). (fn. 34) The manor of Stewkley is not, however, again actually mentioned by name until, having passed with Leighton Buzzard to John Duke of Suffolk, son of Alice, (fn. 35) it was alienated in 1480 by him and his wife Elizabeth, sister of Edward IV, to the Dean and canons of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, (fn. 36) who remained lords of the manor until the 19th century. (fn. 37) According to an 18thcentury account of the manor it was leased by the dean and canons with the Leighton Buzzard lands to Sir Christopher Hoddesdon towards the end of the 16th century, and passed by the marriage of his daughter and heir Ursula to Sir John Leigh of Stoneleigh. (fn. 38) This is borne out by documentary evidence, (fn. 39) and the Leigh family continued as lessees here, except during the Civil War, (fn. 40) until some time after 1831, (fn. 41) when their interest in Leighton Buzzard, and probably here also, was purchased by Col. Henry Hanmer, who acquired the freehold interest of the dean and canons in 1863. (fn. 42) He died without issue in 1868, and the manor passed to his nephew Sir Wyndham E. Hanmer, (fn. 43) of whose descendants it was purchased within recent years by Mr. J. T. Mills of Stockgrove, Soulbury, (fn. 44) the present lord of the manor.
Other lands in Stewkley subinfeudated by the Earls of Cornwall and Gloucester, to whose honours they were attached as late as the 16th and 15th centuries respectively, (fn. 45) afterwards formed the manor or manors called FOWLERS and VAUX or VAUXES or, later, the manor of Vauxes alias Fowlers.
The Earl of Cornwall appears to have subinfeudated land to the family of Pipard in the 12th century, for William Pipard held six fees of the honour of Wallingford in 1166. (fn. 46) William father of Gilbert Pipard, who was apparently alive in 1186–7, (fn. 47) is mentioned in connexion with Stewkley before 1178. (fn. 48) Robert Pipard held a fee here in 1278–9 (fn. 49) and Ralph Pipard held half a fee of the Earl of Cornwall in 1284–6, (fn. 50) The Clinton family seem to have been tenants under the Pipard family from the time of Geoffrey de Clinton in the late 12th century (fn. 51) until after the death without issue of his grandson Henry de Clinton. (fn. 52) In 1249 Warin de Bragenham and Agnes his wife, a sister and heir of Henry de Clinton, (fn. 53) granted all their holding in Stewkley, amounting apparently to two knights' fees, to the Earl of Gloucester, (fn. 54) whose successor held under the Pipards in 1279 and 1284. (fn. 55) After this date the mesne lordship of the Pipard family disappears, the Earl of Gloucester holding of the honour of Wallingford direct. (fn. 56) The Earls of Gloucester already held as a manor, of the king in chief, part of the lands which had come to them from the Bishop of Coutances, (fn. 57) and these two estates now united to form Stewkley Manor, although the dual overlordship was acknowledged as late as 1363. (fn. 58) Gilbert de Clare Earl of Gloucester granted the manor for life to Bartholomew de Burghersh, (fn. 59) but on the death of the earl in 1314 his widow Maud claimed dower. (fn. 60) Burghersh held the manor (fn. 61) until his death about 1355, when it reverted to Hugh son of Ralph Earl of Stafford and Margaret Audley, (fn. 62) the latter's mother, Margaret, being sister and co-heir of Gilbert de Clare; Hugh being under age, Stewkley was held by Ralph Earl of Stafford for £8 per annum (fn. 63) until Hugh's majority in 1363. (fn. 64)
By 1392 the manor was in the possession of John de Chastillon, kt., and his wife Margaret in right of the latter (fn. 65); they quitclaimed it in 1418 to John Barton senior and John Barton junior. (fn. 66) The latter died in Jan., 1433–4. (fn. 67) His widow Isabel, (fn. 68) in 1435, quitclaimed her rights to Sir Walter Lucy, kt., in whom the reversion was vested, for an annuity of £10. (fn. 69) Walter Lucy was also lord of Cublington (q.v.), with which Stewkley descended (fn. 70) until 1500, when, on the fresh division of the Lucy inheritance, Sir Nicholas Vaux of Harrowden was awarded the whole of Stewkley, renouncing any claim to Cublington. (fn. 71) Sir Nicholas, who was raised to the peerage as a baron in 1523, (fn. 72) died in that year seised of the whole manor of Stewkley, (fn. 73) which his son Thomas (fn. 74) conveyed in 1535 to Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex. (fn. 75) His son-in-law William Parr, Earl of Essex, (fn. 76) sold it in 1544 to Sir Anthony Lee, kt., (fn. 77) of whom it was purchased in 1545 by William Jakeman. (fn. 78)
Jakeman died in 1555 and Benedict, his son, succeeded, (fn. 79) but died three years later, his heir being his son John, (fn. 80) who held until 1574, (fn. 81) when he conveyed to Richard Jakeman. (fn. 82) From the latter the manor passed in 1608 to Joseph Maine. (fn. 83) Maine demised the premises in 1619 on a fifty-one years' lease to William Deane, after whose death Isabel his widow, and afterwards their daughter Dorothy, held his interest. (fn. 84) Deane, however, was said to have demised the premises to John Maine, and in 1631 Dorothy Maine, widow, brought a suit against Dorothy Deane and Feild Whorwood, executor of the will of Isabel Deane. (fn. 85) Whorwood stated that he believed the bargain to have been made either in trust for Joseph Maine or to deceive creditors, and that John Maine had never held any interest in the manor. In 1638 the manor was still in Whorwood's hands, (fn. 86) but must have passed soon after to John Yate, two-thirds of the estate being afterwards sequestered for his recusancy. (fn. 87) His son, John Yate, jun., inherited, and in 1655 Edith Chafin, widow, begged a discharge for the manor or manors purchased from him. (fn. 88) John Seagrave held in 1682, (fn. 89) but by 1687 the manors had passed to John Gurney. (fn. 90) Isaac Gurney, son of John, was seised of the estate during his father's lifetime, and in 1701 both parties joined in selling the manors to Anne Robinson, widow, of Stepney. (fn. 91) During the 18th century the property frequently changed hands. William and Martha Rowse held a moiety in 1737 and apparently conveyed it in that year to William Mason. (fn. 92) Ann Child, widow, held the whole in 1746. (fn. 93) Thomas Foster and Ann his wife were seised in 1789–91, (fn. 94) and sold to the Rev. Edmund Wodley, at one time curate of Soulbury, who died in 1808. (fn. 95) William Wodley was lord in 1811. (fn. 96) About the middle of the 19th century the estate belonged to Mr. Joseph Woodman. (fn. 97)
Under the Clares' overlordship a fee was held by Henry Danvers between 1230 and 1262. (fn. 98) In 1278–9 small portions of land had been subinfeudated to John de Passelewe and John de Braybrook. (fn. 99) By 1302–3 Robert de la Warde held a fee under the earl here, (fn. 100) and it afterwards passed to Bartholomew de Burghersh (fn. 101) and became amalgamated with the latter's other lands here (vide supra).
An estate in Stewkley held by the abbey of Woburn and assessed at 6 carucates in the middle of the 13th century, when 3 were held of the Earl of Gloucester and 3 of the Earl of Cornwall, (fn. 102) originated in land granted to the abbot in free alms in the 12th or early 13th century by Henry de Clinton. (fn. 103) In 1218 Amice, widow of Henry de Clinton, claimed 2½ carucates and half a virgate of land in Stewkley of the abbot as her dower and obtained the half virgate, she and her son Henry de Clinton renouncing in return all right to the rest of the land. (fn. 104) In 1276 the abbot claimed assize of bread and ale and was said to have appropriated a warren on this estate, (fn. 105) afterwards known as the manor of STEWKLEY GRANGE. In 1331 Richard de Aythrop, a tenant, was charged by the abbot with waste, sale and destruction in his lands in Stewkley. (fn. 106) It was stated, amongst other things, that he had sold a hall (aula) there with two upper rooms and two cellars, a chapel with two garderobes, a kitchen with dairy attached, a stable with 'pressurhous' and hay-house, an ox-house, a sheep fold, two large gates (portas) with dwellings built over them, two other gates (portas) and a pig-sty. He had also cut down and sold apple trees, oaks and ash trees.
By 1346 the abbot's estate had been considerably reduced, half of his original fee here having been obtained by Bartholomew de Burghersh and another quarter by the Abbess of Fontevrault. (fn. 107)
After the Dissolution the manor was granted in 1538 to Charles Duke of Suffolk, with licence to alienate to Edmund Peckham in fee simple. (fn. 108) These latter deeds refer to the 'manor of Stewkley and the farm or grange there called Stewkley Grange.' In 1541 Edmund Peckham alienated to Thomas Duncombe, (fn. 109) who died in 1548 leaving a son Richard. (fn. 110) John Duncombe, son of Richard, inherited in 1556. (fn. 111) The manor apparently passed to Henry Barker, who conveyed it to William Wigge in 1599. (fn. 112) Wigge died seised in 1626 and was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 113) The manor remained in the Wigge family until about 1760, (fn. 114) when it was sold to — Ward, (fn. 115) whose son or descendant died in 1822. (fn. 116) Three years later the estate was purchased by Richard Palmer, and the manor-house, the manorial rights, and part of the land descended after his death to his eldest surviving son Mr. Charles Palmer, the present owner, whose brother Mr. Montague Palmer owns the remainder of the land. (fn. 117)
The site of this manor, first mentioned after the Dissolution, called the Grange, was held with the manor by the Duncombes until 1565, when John Duncombe alienated it to William Webbe, (fn. 118) on whom it was settled in 1566, (fn. 119) a further settlement apparently taking place in 1568. (fn. 120) On William Webbe's death in 1579 his heir was said to be Edmund son of Thomas, son and heir of William, (fn. 121) but by the settlement of 1566 the reversion had been vested in John, also called son and heir of William Webbe, (fn. 122) who accordingly entered into possession. (fn. 123) Though the sheriff was ordered to give Edmund Webbe seisin in 1580, (fn. 124) John remained in possession, (fn. 125) and conveyed the site in 1590 to Mary May, widow. (fn. 126) By 1626 it was once more the property of the family holding the manor. (fn. 127)
The Earls of Gloucester and Cornwall held view of frankpledge, assize of bread and ale, gallows, free warren and other privileges in their lands in the 13th century. (fn. 128) View of frankpledge was attached to the manor of Vaux in the 17th century. (fn. 129) Bartholomew de Burghersh received a grant of free warren in his demesne lands in Stewkley in 1342, (fn. 130) and a grant of a court leet to be held twice a year was made in 1619 to Joseph Mayne. (fn. 131)
A windmill was included among the appurtenances of the manor held by the Earl of Gloucester in 1307, (fn. 132) and a water-mill and a windmill stood on this manor in 1638. (fn. 133) A dovecote belonging to it is mentioned in 1682. (fn. 134)
Before the Conquest Wiga, a thegn of King Edward, held 2½ hides which in 1086 Robert held of Walter Giffard as a manor in LITTLECOTE. (fn. 135) The overlordship passed as in Great Missenden (fn. 136) through the Earls of Gloucester to the Earls of Stafford, and is last mentioned in 1420. (fn. 137)
In 1249 Robert de Loering conveyed one carucate of land and a mill in Littlecote to Hugh de Dunster (fn. 138); this property represented the manor, as Hugh was certainly lord here after that time. (fn. 139) His widow Alice was concerned in a suit against Robert le Veel and Robert his son regarding a tenement here in 1275, (fn. 140) at about which date the entire holding evidently passed to Robert, (fn. 141) and he or the son still held in 1284–6. (fn. 142) From this time its descent is identical with that of the Veels' manor in Swanbourne (fn. 143) (q.v.), with which it passed to the Missendens (fn. 144) of Overbury Manor in Great Missenden (q.v.), and descended with the latter manor (fn. 145) until its alienation in 1630 by Thomas Elmes and William his son and heir to Thomas Sheppard (fn. 146) and others. It remained in the Sheppard family, (fn. 147) descending with the lands they afterwards obtained in Cublington (q.v.) to Mr. Lionel de Rothschild, who is now one of the principal landowners in the parish.
Herch, a man of Brictric, held and could sell a hide of land in Littlecote which belonged to Miles Crispin's lands in 1086, being held of him by Robert. (fn. 148) In 1371 land belonging to the honour of Wallingford in Littlecote was held by Henry de Chalfont, kt., (fn. 149) and descended with Dunton (q.v.), with which it was alienated in 1388 as 'the manor of Littlecote' by John Jarconville to Roger Marshall. (fn. 150) This land appears to have afterwards passed to the Missenden family, (fn. 151) and was probably the 'manor of Chalfont' in Littlecote and Stewkley which was held by Baldwin Sheppard in 1610, (fn. 152) and by Thomas Sheppard in 1620. (fn. 153) Doubtless it became amalgamated with the main manor of this family in Littlecote.
A third Domesday holding in Littlecote, consisting of 1½ hides, belonged before the Conquest to two men of Brictric, but in 1086 Payn held it of William Fitz Ansculf. (fn. 154) Its descent is unknown, but possibly it passed, with Payn's holding in Soulbury (q.v.), to the families of Maunsel and Pever. (fn. 155)
The church of ST. MICHAEL (fn. 156) consists of a chancel 19 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. 9 in., south vestry, central tower 19 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. 6 in., nave 47 ft. 6 in. by 21 ft. 9 in., and a south porch.
The building, which dates from the middle of the 12th century, is a particularly well-preserved example of the best style of architecture of that time, the few alterations which have been made having affected the original detail to a very slight extent. The parapet of the tower with the pinnacles at the angles was added late in the 15th century. A gallery was erected in the tower about 1621, but this was removed in 1833, while in 1684 the roofs of the chancel and nave were lowered and made flat. At some date near 1707 a porch was added on the south side, but was replaced by the present porch in 1867. The church was repaired in 1844, and the stone shell of the vaulting of the chancel was replaced by the present brick-work and plastered. There was a complete restoration in 1862, a steeple which had been added to the tower being removed, while the roofs of the chancel and nave were restored to their original pitch, the stucco removed from the east and west walls, and some brick buttresses which had been added in 1844 were replaced by buttresses of stone. The south vestry, and the passage to the south door of the chancel, were added in 1910. (fn. 157)
The walls are of stone rubble with ashlar dressings, the north and south sides and the tower being coated with Roman cement. The roofs are covered with tiles.
The east window of the chancel is a single light, and forms the centre bay of an external wall arcade of three bays with semicircular arches of two cheveron enriched orders, the outer continuous, the inner springing from attached shafts with scalloped capitals and moulded abaci and bases; the external label is enriched with paterae Internally the jambs and head are splayed and enriched on the inside with two continuous orders of cheveron moulding. The north and south walls have each a single semicircular-headed window, treated in a similar way internally and externally, of two continuous orders, the inner plain and the outer enriched with cheveron moulding. At the west end of the south wall is a doorway, modern internally, the chamfered segmental head and jambs of which externally may be of the 13th century. At the east end of the wall is a piscina, of 13th-century date, with a two-centred head, and beneath is a stone sedile of the same period, with a shaped arm-rest at the west end. Near the east end of the north wall is a long rectangular recess or aumbry, and along the walls beneath the windows runs a double indented stringcourse. In each angle of the chancel is a circular shaft with a scalloped capital and a moulded abacus and base, from which spring the diagonal stone vaulting ribs. These are of semicircular elevation, and are ornamented with a treble band of cheveron forming a lattice enrichment. Above the vaulting is a chamber lighted by a rectangular loop in the east gable. Beneath the eaves externally on both the north and the south wall is the original corbel table and beneath the windows a cheveron moulded stringcourse runs round the walls, rising over the south doorway.
The central tower is of two stages with a plain moulded parapet, a north-east projecting stair turret stopping at about two-thirds of the height of the lower stage, and low shallow buttresses at the other angles. The eastern tower arch is semicircular; it retains the mortices for the former rood-beam and is rebated on the east side. On the west side it has a cheveron-moulded label and is of two recessed orders, the outer cheveron moulded and the inner beaded and enriched with a series of carvings, mostly beak heads, but including two human heads. The jambs are square on the east side and of two recessed orders on the west side with circular columns having moulded abaci which are carried round the jambs, carved capitals and moulded bases; on the north jambs are cut two crosses. The western tower arch is similar to the eastern, but is of two recessed orders on the east side, while the carvings on the west side are more elaborate and varied and include several heads of cats. The label and jambs are also similar, but the former stops above the abaci upon head-stops. On the soffit of this arch traces of mediaeval red painted foliage are visible. The north and south walls each have internal and external string-courses and a window similar to those of the north and south walls of the chancel, the western splay of the north window being carved with a mason's mark, a large M. The north wall has in addition at the east end a doorway with a semicircular head to the stair turret, above which is the doorway to the former rood-loft, probably of late 14th-century date, with a two-centred head. The east and west walls each have high up a semicircular-headed opening to the roofs of the chancel and nave respectively, while high up in the south wall is a small semicircular-headed loop. The stair turret is lighted by two similar loops. The upper stage has on each external face, above a plain stringcourse, an arcade of seven recessed interlacing semicircular arches, all cheveron moulded and springing from small shafts with cushion capitals and bases. In the middle arch of each arcade is a small semicircularheaded opening. Above is a moulded cornice with a gargoyle at each angle and in the centre of each face, those on the south and west being carved with the symbols of the four evangelists, viz.: a lion, an eagle, an angel and an ox. At each angle of the parapet is a pinnacle with a square shaft and a gabled and crocketed finial.
The north and south walls of the nave each have two windows similar to those in the north and south walls of the chancel, and to the west of the windows a doorway, that in the north wall having a cheveronmoulded semicircular outer arch which springs from square jambs with attached shafts having moulded bases and carved capitals with moulded abaci; the label is carved with a reversed embattled ornament and its stops are carved as grotesque animals. The segmental inner arch and jambs are modern. The south doorway is similar, but the inner order is original and the abacus of the outer order continues round it. On the wall to the east of this doorway are the remains of three semicircular finger dials. On the external face of the west wall is an arcade of three bays; the middle bay, which contains the doorway, is wider and loftier than the others. Its arch is semicircular and of three recessed orders, the innermost being continuous and enriched with a double band of cheveron moulding. The curiously shaped tympanum has a long central keystone between two small semicircular arches, above which are crude sculptures including vine-leaf ornament and dragons. The outer orders of the arch are both cheveronmoulded and spring from jambs with pairs of attached shafts, the inner shaft on the north side having a cable enrichment, and that on the south side a billeted cable. The shafts have moulded bases and carved capitals. The two outer bays have semicircular arches of a single cheveron-moulded order springing from plain shafts, and all three arches have moulded labels. Above the doorway is a window similar to those in the north and south walls, and in the gable a modern circular window. All the walls have internal and external stringcourses similar to those of the chancel, rising over the arches of the doorways; the north and south walls have a similar series of corbels beneath the eaves, a few of which are carved.
The font is probably of 12th-century date, and has a plain circular tapering bowl with a moulded base.
Two small alabaster figures, which perhaps formed part of the former reredos, and five 15th-century tiles discovered in 1862, are now built into the north wall of the chancel. There is a 17th-century chair in the chancel.
There are six bells: the treble by Mears & Stainbank, 1902, the second by Richard Chandler, 1636, the third of the latter half of the 16th century, the fourth by Anthony Chandler, 1661, the fifth by Edward Hall, 1735, and the tenor by W. & J. Taylor, 1837. There is also a sanctus bell of 1686 from the Drayton Parslow foundry.
The plate consists of a silver chalice of 1654, given to the church in 1671 and inscribed with the names of the rector and churchwardens; a paten, the gift of Elizabeth Gurney, 1744; a paten given by Rev. J. E. Smith-Masters 1906; and a plated flagon.
The registers begin in 1545.
The church of the HOLY TRINITY, built in 1866 by the Rev. C. H. Travers, is a small building consisting only of nave, with bellcote over the western entrance. It is a chapel of ease to the parish church.
Geoffrey de Clinton (temp. Henry II) is said to have granted the church of Stewkley to the priory which his father had founded at Kenilworth. (fn. 158) This grant was confirmed by Henry his son (fn. 159) and subsequent confirmations made to the priory mention Geoffrey de Clinton as the donor. (fn. 160) Another of the priory's charters, however, records that William Pipard, who was apparently contemporary with Geoffrey, (fn. 161) with the consent of Gilbert his son, granted to the priory the patronage of 'the church of St. Mary of Stewkley which belongs to me with half a hide of land and 7 acres of my demesne with tithes and all liberties. I also grant that as many as ten oxen of the canons may have pasture in my demesne wherever my oxen graze.' (fn. 162) It seems probable that William Pipard's charter was given just before he subinfeudated his lands to Geoffrey, and this, coupled with the fact that Kenilworth Priory was founded by the de Clinton family, led to the assumption in later years that Geoffrey de Clinton was the original donor. A vicarage was ordained about 1271. (fn. 163) In 1291 the church was taxed at £12, (fn. 164) and remained in possession of the priory until the Dissolution. (fn. 165) In 1547 Edward VI granted the rectory and advowson to the Bishop of Oxford and his successors, (fn. 166) with whom the patronage has since remained. (fn. 167)
In 1652, in obedience to the ordinance of 1646 for selling the lands of the bishop for the good of the Commonwealth, the parsonage house of Stewkley was sold to Thomas Miller. (fn. 168) In 1652 and 1678 the rectory was held by the Dormer family and others, (fn. 169) apparently on lease.
The chapel of St. Giles of Littlecote was founded before 1266, the founder apparently being Hugh de Dunster. (fn. 170) Before this year Hugh, with Alice his wife, had granted land in Thornborough to Biddlesden Abbey in return for which gift the monks, among other services, were to keep the chapel at Littlecote in repair. (fn. 171) Hugh also granted a further 20 acres of land on condition that the abbot and his successors should pay the priest whom they should procure to celebrate in the chapel of St. Giles 'as the charter formerly made witnesses' three quarters of grain yearly and a gallon of oil and offerings sufficient for a year. (fn. 172) These obligations were later acknowledged by the abbot, who also declared his house responsible for paying 5 marks annually to the chaplain of St. Giles whom they had appointed to say mass for the souls of John Bretasche, Hugh de Dunster and Alice, and Richard Staunton, (fn. 173) the said 5 marks being a rent formerly due from the abbot to Hugh de Dunster. (fn. 174) The chaplain provided was required to celebrate mass in the chapel every day of the year; if lacking in the necessary qualifications he was to be replaced by the abbot. (fn. 175) Hugh and Alice also gave the abbot mass books and vestments in trust for the chapel. (fn. 176)
Hugh de Dunster's successors in the manor of Littlecote claimed the advowson of the chapel in the 14th (fn. 177) and 15th centuries, (fn. 178) but the abbey retained possession and still paid an annual pension of £4 to the chaplain of St. Giles in 1535. (fn. 179)
Edward VI, in 1553, granted to Edward Cooper, clerk, and Valentine Fairweather and their heirs all the 'land called Chappell yarde in Littlecote and a little chapel there.' (fn. 180) Probably it was destroyed soon after, as the remains of it were evidently only just distinguishable about the middle of the 18th century. (fn. 181)
The town lands charity, comprised in an award under the Inclosure Act, consists of 14 acres, let in allotments to labourers, producing £15 a year or thereabouts, and is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 22 January 1893. By an order of the same commissioners of 5 August 1902 £5 a year, or one-third of the income, is directed to be set aside to form the endowment of an ecclesiastical charity to be applied in maintenance of the fabric of the church and of the churchyard, and by another order of 11 February 1910 £5 a year, or one-third of the income, to form an educational foundation to be applied in prizes to school children. The residue of the income is distributed in blankets. (fn. 182)
The poor's land, allotted upon the inclosure in lieu of the right of getting fuel from the common, consists of 9 acres or thereabouts, situate at Old Dean, and is let in allotments.
The widows' land, the origin of which is unknown, consists of 2 acres, also situate in Old Dean.
The net income of the poor's land and widows' land, amounting to about £10 a year, is distributed in coal to widows and other poor.
The poor are also entitled to a rent-charge of 10s., given by a donor unknown, issuing out of land known as Norton's Close.
An annual sum of 10s. is received by the churchwardens out of land called the Great Oat Close, together with 3s. 4d. a year as dividend on a sum of £6 13s. 4d. 2½ per cent. annuities held by the official trustees, arising from the redemption of an annuity of 3s. 4d. charged upon the Little Oat Close. These sums are carried to the church repair fund.