A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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Wlverintone (xi cent.); Wolfrington (xii cent.); Wulvrinton, Wlvregton (xiii cent.).
The parish of Wolverton covers an area of 2,324 acres, and is bounded on the north by the Ouse, on the east by a small tributary of that river flowing from Calverton, and on the south-west by the Roman road called Watling Street. Where Watling Street becomes the main street of Stony Stratford the boundary leaves it and turns north so as to exclude the town from Wolverton. The ancient boundary evidently ran straight down Watling Street to the banks of the Ouse, for till the 16th century at least the 'east end' of Stony Stratford was part of Wolverton. (fn. 1) The ground slopes downwards from a height of about 300 ft. in the south of the parish to 200 ft. on the banks of the Ouse.
The parish is crossed from west to east by the Grand Junction Canal, which is carried across the Ouse valley by a cast-iron aqueduct, (fn. 2) and from north to south by the London and North Western railway. At the opening of the railway in 1838 the company established its engine works at Wolverton, (fn. 3) and a colony of railway workers sprang up round the station and works, which stand on the Grand Junction Canal near the eastern boundary of the parish. There is now a town of more than 4,000 inhabitants called Wolverton or New Wolverton, with the railway works, where the carriages for the line are now made, (fn. 4) on the north. Its streets are regularly arranged at right angles to each other. The church of St. George the Martyr, opened in 1844, (fn. 5) is at its eastern end. A Science and Art Institute was opened in 1864 and a Church Institute in 1908. The town has Roman Catholic, Congregational, Primitive Methodist and Wesleyan chapels.
New Wolverton in 1844 was separated by the canal from the main highway between Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell. A new road was therefore begun in that year, (fn. 6) which runs west for three-quarters of a mile from the town and joins the original road at the south end of the old village, thus providing direct communication with Stony Stratford. A tramway now runs between the two towns.
The village of Old Wolverton, now in its turn standing just off the most important highway, has a wharf on the canal at its north end. To the west is the church of Holy Trinity adjoining the site of the manor-house. The castle here of the mount and bailey type was built probably by the lords of the manor, possibly Meinfelin or Hamon, in the 12th century. Its site is to the north-east of the church. (fn. 7) It was probably never defended by masonry walls, and there is no documentary evidence as to its history. A capital messuage, with a court and garden, existed here in 1248, (fn. 8) and continues to be mentioned during the 14th century. (fn. 9) Two ruinous dove-houses were attached to it in 1349. (fn. 10) The Longville family evidently rebuilt the manorhouse when they came into possession, for Leland states that they lived here and 'buildid fairly.' (fn. 11) A fresh reconstruction is said to have taken place in 1586. (fn. 12) The house was described as a 'fine seat' in 1720, (fn. 13) but a few years later it was pulled down by order of the Radcliffe trustees. (fn. 14) The vicarage-house, near by, was built partly out of its materials (fn. 15) and preserves two early 17th-century doorways; one of them, now the principal entrance, is flanked by Corinthian columns supporting a broken pediment containing the arms of Longville, while the other, which is inside the house, is surmounted by a pediment with the Longville crest of a talbot. Sir John Longville had a park at Wolverton in 1501, which he had increased by inclosing land in 'Barreclose' and elsewhere. (fn. 16) Wolverton Park and Warren Farm, two houses to the south-west of the village, mark its position. Possibly the Longvilles made further additions to its area at the inclosure of the parish about 1654. (fn. 17) The park, which was noticed by the topographer Baskerville in 1681, (fn. 18) was 20 acres in extent in 1713, while the 'Low Park' was 30 acres. (fn. 19) The inclosure of about 1654 is said to have been accompanied by oppressive acts on the part of the Longville family, (fn. 20) whose arbitrary behaviour with regard to the common lands caused more than one dispute with the inhabitants of Wolverton. Sir John Longville (c. 1486–1541) was said to have wrongfully inclosed land 'next the east side of Ardwell.' (fn. 21) His grandson Henry turned 140 beasts on to the pasture called 'The Furzes,' so that there was no grass left for the cattle of the inhabitants, who claimed the immemorial right of pasture there. (fn. 22) Other pasture land in dispute was on Stratford Moor, Wolverton Moor and 'Stacey Buskes.' (fn. 23) The last must have been near the modern Stacey Hill Farm, called in the 19th century Stacey Bushes Farm. (fn. 24)
In the north of the parish between the Grand Junction Canal and the Ouse is the Manor Farm. As a field near this farm was known as the Grange and contained in 1862 the remains of an old dovecot, (fn. 25) it seems probable that it marks the site of the manor or grange held here by Chicksand Priory. (fn. 26) A branch of the Ouse just north of it seems to have formed a mill race, perhaps for that 'Mead Mill' which belonged to the Priors of Bradwell. (fn. 27) John son of Alan in the 13th century granted to Bradwell all the fishery between its mill called Mead Mill and 'Stanebrige,' (fn. 28) the second of these landmarks being represented by the bridge on the eastern boundary opposite the station, close to which is Stonebridge House Farm. There were two mills in Wolverton in 1086, (fn. 29) the second of which was called in the 13th century West Mill. (fn. 30) It seems probable that it occupied the site of the present Wolverton Mill, which stands on the Ouse to the west of the village and to the north of a mansion called Wolverton House. West Mill (fn. 31) seems to have belonged continuously to the lords of the manor. (fn. 32) In 1342 there were two mills on the manor, only one of which would grind. (fn. 33) The two mills attached to it in 1689 (fn. 34) were probably Mead Mill and West Mill. (fn. 35)
Only a fifth of the area of the parish is under cultivation. Most of its inhabitants find employment on the railway. There are disused brickworks in the southern corner, and in 1903 New Wolverton had a manufactory of postal registered envelopes.
Manor and Barony
WOLVERTON was held under Edward the Confessor in a free tenure by three thegns: Godvin, a man of Earl Harold, Tori, a house carl of King Edward, and Alvric, a man of Queen Edith. (fn. 36) In 1086 it was an important manor assessed at 20 hides, the head of the fief of Manno the Breton, who also held land in Ellesborough, Chalfont St. Giles, Aston Sandford, Drayton Beauchamp, Helsthorpe (in Drayton Beauchamp), Lamport in Stowe, Thornborough, Padbury, Stoke Hammond and Loughton. (fn. 37) All these vills had been freely held before the Conquest by various thegns. The whole of Manno's fief in Buckinghamshire, (fn. 38) with his land in Wicken, Maidwell, Draughton and Thenford (co. Northampton), and Lutterworth, (fn. 39) (co. Leicester), formed the barony of Wolverton, (fn. 40) which was held of the Crown for fifteen knights' fees and the service of defending the castle of Northampton. (fn. 41) Wolverton itself is generally said to account for two knights' fees. (fn. 42)
Manno's successor was Meinfelin, (fn. 43) called in one place 'Meinfelin Brito,' (fn. 44) and probably his son. He was the founder of the priory of Bradwell, (fn. 45) and was appointed Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire in 1125. (fn. 46) His son Hamon succeeded him before 1155. (fn. 47) Hamon owed £20 for scutage in 1160–1 and £10 in 1167–8, (fn. 48) and owed £100 for a forest fine in 1176. (fn. 49) He died in 1184 or 1185, leaving four daughters, of whom one was a nun, and a son Hamon. His widow was Maud, apparently a sister of William Mauduit. (fn. 50) The younger Hamon was under age in 1185 and had taken a wife at the king's command. (fn. 51) This was perhaps Agatha, daughter and co-heir of William Trusbut, a share of whose lands Hamon claimed in 1195. (fn. 52) His son and heir was William, (fn. 53) who confirmed the gifts of his father to Luffield Priory. (fn. 54) William was disseised by King John in 1215 and paid 50 marks in the next year to recover his lands. (fn. 55) He forfeited them again under Henry III for omitting to perform his service with the army in Wales, but was reseised in 1223. (fn. 56) He died in or shortly before 1248, (fn. 57) when his brother and heir Alan owed the relief proper to a baron of £100. (fn. 58) His widow was Hawise. (fn. 59) Alan survived his brother by two years at most. His son John in 1249 owed not only his own relief but half of his father's which was still unpaid. (fn. 60) By 1255, when John son of Alan was still lord of Wolverton, the service of ward of Northampton Castle had been commuted for a payment of £7 10s. towards the defence of the castle from the whole barony. (fn. 61) Wolverton was then said to pay 40s. of this, (fn. 62) though in the 14th century it only paid 25s. (fn. 63) Loughton paid 10s., Stoke Hammond 17s. 2d., (fn. 64) Aston Sandford 10s. (fn. 65) John son of Alan de Wolverton was dead in 1274, when his widow Isabel, subsequently wife of Ralph de Arden, had dower assigned to her. (fn. 66) His son and heir John was still under age in 1284–6. (fn. 67) His marriage was granted by Queen Eleanor to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, but John declined to accept the wife chosen for him by the bishop. (fn. 68) The name of his wife is unknown. John was summoned in 1297 and 1301 to perform military service in person beyond the sea and against the Scots, but was exonerated on one occasion after payment of a fine. (fn. 69) He was summoned to Parliament in 1324, (fn. 70) and was sent on foreign service in the next year. (fn. 71) In 1328 he claimed exemption as a tenant in chief holding by barony from being empanelled on an assize. (fn. 72) This John was apparently the last lord of Wolverton to retain the status of a baron. No later lord of the manor was summoned to Parliament, (fn. 73) and there are very few subsequent references to the barony, (fn. 74) the only relic of which was the rent paid to Northampton Castle. John died in or about 1341, when his son John was over forty years old. (fn. 75) The younger John had married first Joan daughter of Bartholomew Pecche, by whom he had four daughters, Joan, Sarah, Cecilia and Constance. (fn. 76) She was dead in 1331, when he was married to his second wife, also called Joan, (fn. 77) by whom he had a son Ralph and two daughters, Margery and Elizabeth. (fn. 78) At his death in 1349 the heir of Wolverton was Ralph, then aged two. (fn. 79) Two years later, however, he died in the king's wardship, and the manor and appurtenant knights' fees were divided between his two sisters of the whole blood. (fn. 80) Margery was betrothed at her brother's death to John Hunt, whom she married within the year. (fn. 81) She was the wife of Roger de Louth in 1365, (fn. 82) and of Richard Imworth in 1377, (fn. 83) when her moiety of the manor was settled on herself and her third husband. (fn. 84) He also seems to have predeceased her, for in 1382, as Margery Wolverton, she had licence to settle her estate on herself and John Hewes for their lives, with remainder to the heirs and executors of John Hewes for ten years longer, and finally to her own right heirs. (fn. 85) In 1393 Margery was dead and John Hewes had licence to grant his interest to John Longville, the husband of her daughter and heir Joan. (fn. 86) John Longville died holding this moiety of the manor by courtesy of England in 1439, and was succeeded by his son and heir George. (fn. 87) Before 1448 George succeeded also to the second moiety of the manor. (fn. 88) This had passed to the Cogenhoe family of Cogenhoe (co. Northampton) through the marriage of Elizabeth Wolverton with William Cogenhoe. (fn. 89) William and Elizabeth granted a life interest in their moiety to John Cheyne of Chenies in 1378, with remainder to themselves in tail and to the right heirs of Elizabeth. (fn. 90) In 1389 William Cogenhoe died seised, leaving a son and heir William, (fn. 91) who died ten years later still a minor. (fn. 92) The heir of the younger William was his sister Agnes, who married John Cheyne of Chenies (fn. 93) (q.v.), and was dead in 1421. (fn. 94) It seems that her only son Alexander died without issue, (fn. 95) and on the death of John Cheyne, which took place before November 1445, (fn. 96) the estate would naturaly pass to George Longville. He settled the whole manor in 1448 on his younger son George, (fn. 97) with remainder to Richard son of his elder son Richard (fn. 98) in tail-male and further remainder to his daughters. (fn. 99) The younger George had livery of the manor from Edward IV in 1461, (fn. 100) his father having died in 1458. (fn. 101) In 1485 or 1486 his cousin John Longville, son and heir of Richard son of Richard, and therefore holder of the reversion on the failure of heirs to George, (fn. 102) made a forcible entry on the manor. (fn. 103) He apparently succeeded in ousting his kinsman or in buying him out, for on the death of George in July 1499 (fn. 104) he held only tenements in Stony Stratford and Wolverton of Sir John Longville as of his manor of Wolverton, (fn. 105) and immediately afterwards (7 August) Sir John had a release from Richard son and heir of George of all his claim on the manor. (fn. 106)
Sir John Longville lived to be eighty-three, (fn. 107) and left one legitimate daughter Anne and several illegitimate sons (fn. 108) on whom he settled the manor. The eldest son Thomas predeceased his father, and the settlement which came into operation gave the manor to Arthur, the second son, and his heirs male. (fn. 109) In 1542 Arthur had a release of all claim on the manor from John Cheyne, son and heir of Drew Cheyne and Anne Longville. (fn. 110) He died in 1557, and his widow Anne held Wolverton for life. (fn. 111) His son and heir Henry Longville, (fn. 112) who was sheriff for the county in 1592 and 1606, (fn. 113) married Elizabeth Cotton (fn. 114) and died in 1618. (fn. 115) The heir was Sir Henry Longville, his son, on whose marriage with Katherine daughter of Sir Edward Cary the manor had been settled in tail-male in January 1597–8. (fn. 116) He died in 1621, (fn. 117) leaving a son and heir Edward, created a baronet seventeen years later. (fn. 118) Sir Edward died in 1661, and was succeeded by his son Thomas, who lived till 1685. (fn. 119) Sir Edward, son of Sir Thomas, (fn. 120) sold the manor of Wolverton in 1713 to John Radcliffe, the famous doctor (fn. 121) and benefactor of Oxford University. Dr. Radcliffe died in the next year, leaving his Buckinghamshire estates, subject to annuities to his family and to a charge of £100 for the maintenance of his library at Oxford, to trustees for charitable purposes. (fn. 122) The Radcliffe trustees are still lords of the manor.
The Priors of Chicksand had land in Wolverton in 1291, probably by grant of the lords of the manor. (fn. 123) In 1325 the manor of the priory was granted to John de Puisaquil of Genoa and Joan his wife for their lives, free of all service. They were to keep the manor in repair and were to have timber from the prior's wood at Chicksand for the purpose. (fn. 124) At the Dissolution this manor was worth £4 a year. (fn. 125) It was granted in 1543 to Arthur Longville, (fn. 126) who left it to his younger son Arthur in 1557. (fn. 127) It subsequently followed the descent of the manor of Bradwell Abbey in Bradwell parish (q.v.), and seems to have been known as the Grange. (fn. 128)
The priory of Bradwell acquired various possessions in Wolverton from the lords of the manor, besides Meinfelin's initial grant of the church. (fn. 129) The most important were the mill called Mead Mill (fn. 130) and 31 acres of land next Watling Street granted by William son of Hamon. (fn. 131) In 1272 Henry Hyntes and Amice his wife added a messuage and a virgate and 10 acres of land. (fn. 132) In the early 16th century some of this land was inclosed and turned to pasture. (fn. 133) The whole of the possessions of the priory in Wolverton, except the church and rectory, were given to Sir John Longville just before the dissolution of the house in exchange for a farm which he held within its precincts. (fn. 134)
Michael Rote, a tenant of William son of Hamon, granted half a virgate in Wolverton to Biddlesden Abbey. (fn. 135) An acre of meadow was given to the same house by William Visdelou. (fn. 136) No possessions here appeared among the lands of Biddlesden at the Dissolution.
The Prior of Luffield received from Hamon son of Meinfelin a grant of the tithe of the bread of his house, wherever he might be, in exchange for a claim on the priory of Bradwell. (fn. 137) William son of Hamon subsequently gave in exchange for this tithe a rent of 10s. from West Mill in Wolverton. (fn. 138) The rent was still paid at the Dissolution. (fn. 139)
A small amount of land here belonged to the gild of St. Mary and St. Thomas at Stony Stratford. (fn. 140)
The church of the HOLY TRINITY consists of a chancel, nave, transepts and west tower. The tower dates from the 14th century and the rest of the structure from 1815, when the church was rebuilt and the tower encased, the work being carried out in the Norman style. The chancel and nave were redecorated in 1903.
The ancient church dated from the 12th century, (fn. 141) but had doubtless undergone various later alterations. It was described in the mid-18th century as consisting of a chancel, central tower, nave and south aisle. (fn. 142) At the rebuilding of the church the tower was preserved at the west of the new structure, a third stage was added, and the pointed arches on the north and south sides of the ground stage, originally intended to communicate with transepts, were blocked. These arches were completely hidden till 1903, when they were exposed internally. An incised cross has been rebuilt in one of the tower arches and a grotesque head, perhaps of the 12th century, in the stair turret. The internal walls of the second stage bear traces of having had a gabled roof.
Refixed on the north side of the chancel is a large marble monument with a recumbent effigy in memory of Sir Thomas Longville of Wolverton, second baronet (d. 1685). He married first Mary daughter and co-heir of Sir William Fenwick of Northumberland (d. 1683), and secondly Katherine daughter and co-heir of Sir Thomas Peyton of Knowlton (Kent); on the monument are the arms of Longville impaling Fenwick and Longville impaling Peyton. A 17thcentury stool is preserved inside the church, and some old floor slabs with matrices for small brass plates have been relaid outside the south doorway.
The tower contains a ring of six bells, all by John Briant of Hertford, 1820.
The plate consists of a chalice of 1867 made from a cup given in 1686 by Catherine Longville, and a paten and flagon of 1837 given by the trustees of Dr. Radcliffe.
The registers begin in 1535.
The church of ST. GEORGE THE MARTYR was built in 1843–4, and a district was assigned to it in 1846. (fn. 143) It is a building of stone in the 13th-century style, and now consists of a chancel, nave, south porch and north-east tower with spire containing one bell. The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Radcliffe trustees.
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN, Wolverton End, was built in 1864, and a district was assigned to it in 1870. (fn. 144) It is a stone building in the 13th-century style, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, and now consists of an apsidal chancel, nave with aisles, south porch and bell-turret. The living is a vicarage in the same gift.
The church of Wolverton was granted to the priory of Bradwell by Meinfelin the Breton, (fn. 145) and a vicarage was ordained in the 12th or early 13th century. (fn. 146) The presentation belonged to the priors till the dissolution of the house in 1526, (fn. 147) when it was granted to Cardinal Wolsey. (fn. 148) He gave it to his new college at Oxford, (fn. 149) the possessions of which were taken into the king's hands on his fall. In 1531 the advowson was granted with Bradwell Priory in exchange to the priory of Sheen, (fn. 150) which appropriated the church two years later. (fn. 151) After the general dissolution it was granted to Arthur Longville, (fn. 152) and subsequently descended with the manor of Wolverton. (fn. 153)
The rectory followed the descent of the advowson till the dissolution of Sheen Priory, (fn. 154) after which it was retained by the Crown till 1568. In that year it was granted to Anthony Rotsey to farm for twentyone years. (fn. 155) He transferred his interest to Michael Coles, who had a new lease for twenty-one years in 1577, (fn. 156) and in 1583 a grant for the lives of himself, Mary his wife and Humphrey their son. (fn. 157) The Coles conveyed their life interest in 1601 to Henry Longville. (fn. 158) Meanwhile the rectory had been granted in fee in 1599 to Sir John Spencer, (fn. 159) whose daughter and heir Elizabeth was the wife of William Compton, afterwards Earl of Northampton. (fn. 160) It was sequestered in 1647 for the delinquency of James Earl of Northampton, her grandson, (fn. 161) who was directed by the committee for compounding to settle its revenues on the ministry. (fn. 162) The Earls of Northampton continued to own it till the middle of the 18th century, but it was held from them on a continuous lease by the lords of the manor. (fn. 163) Sir Edward Longville sold his interest along with the manor to Dr. Radcliffe. (fn. 164) The rent-charge reserved was sold by the Earl of Northampton about 1737 to Brasenose College, Oxford. (fn. 165)
About 1661 the stipend paid to the vicar by Sir Thomas Longville, then lessee of the rectory, was £40 a year. Some of the parishioners were dissatisfied with this sum and claimed that his due was £50. (fn. 166) The Radcliffe trustees augmented the vicarage in 1757 by a gift of £2,000. (fn. 167)
In 1345 the Bishop of Lincoln granted John Wolverton licence to have an 'oratory' in his manorhouse. (fn. 168) No further reference to a domestic chapel has been found.
The charity of Catherine Featherstone, founded by will dated in 1711, consists of 4 a. 1 r. 15 p. in the parish of Whaddon, allotted on the inclosure of that parish in lieu of lands purchased with the original legacies. The land produces about £5 a year, which is applicable in the distribution of coal, blankets, clothing, etc., among the poor attending church, a proportion being payable to the parish clerk.
The charity of Mrs. Elizabeth Miles, founded by will proved at London, 22 January 1872, is endowed with £247 19s. 6d. consols with the official trustees, the annual dividends of which, amounting to £6 4s., are applied in the distribution of blankets and clothing in the week proceding Christmas among the agricultural poor, a preference being given to widows.
The Congregational chapel and trust property comprised in indentures of 30 April 1875 and 10 November 1880 were, by an order of the Charity Commissioners of 7 November 1890, vested in the administering trustees thereby appointed upon the trusts of a scheme thereby established.
An account of the county school has already been given. (fn. 169)