In earlier centuries some diseases were untreatable and where they were believed to be communicable the standard practice was to isolate those who were infected.
In medieval times leprosy was common enough. it is essentially a bacterial infection of the nasal passages but untreated leads to skin and nerve conditions which get progressively worse. The majority of people are immune to leprosy but those unfortunates who cannot combat the bacterium had no choice in the Middle Ages but to accept their fate.
There was a Leper House in Stratford but its exact location is not known. there is certainly a reference to a leper hospital in 1257 dedicated to St John the Baptist “without Stony Stratford.” In there are further ear1265 a grant of timber (presumably for building purposes) was made to the “brethren of the hospital of St. John, Stony Stratford.” There are further 13th and early 14th century references and it appears from a 1352 reference that it had a chapel attached to it. With no further references after this date it can be inferred that the Black Death decimated the hospital population and it was no longer able to continue.
As I said, the exact location is not known. “Without Stony Stratford” can be interpreted as at the north end, on or near the causeway, or, as some have suggested, old Stratford. In the 19th century there was a field in Old Stratford known as Chapel Close, which may be a clue.
The 17th century was affected by serious outbreaks of “plague”. The precise disease is uncertain but the infection was communicable and deadly. Outbreaks were recorded in 1625, 1641 and 1647 but curiously not in 1665 which was the great plague year.
In 1625 113 people, mostly on the Wolverton side died in October. One Richard martin, as an example, lost his wife, servant, and six children. he succumbed to the next visitation in 1641. Whole families were wiped out. The 1641 plague caused 102 deaths and its return in 1647 caused 43 deaths.
Plague visitations were swift and deadly so there was probably never time to put people in isolation. However, there was a building on Horn Lane (now Mill Lane) that was known as the Pest House. It was said in the 19th century that it was used a a hospital at the time of the 17th century plagues, but this is doubted.The only entries in the Parish Records concerning this place refer to instances of smallpox. The building apparently collapsed suddenly in 1895.
One of the earliest surviving maps of England is the Gough Map, so-named after its 18th century owner, Richard Gough. It is now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
The map is thought to date from about 1360. The orientation is different from today’s maps in that the top is the east rather than the north. Back then it was thought that all maps should point towards Jerusalem.
Of interest to us is that Stony Stratford is marked on the map. The Watling Street is drawn as a straight line with St Albans and Dunstable along the way. From Stratford the road branches to the significant medieval town of Northampton and to Buckingham. The wide green lines represent the rivers – in our case the Ouse and Ouzel.
This 14th century map maker obviously though that Stony Stratford was important enough to be marked on the map. The only other towns of importance in the area, apart from Northampton and Buckingham, are Bedford and Woburn Chapel. Olney and Newport Pagnell are not noted.
At the time this map was made Stony Stratford was about 170 years old, definitely a medieval creation.
The Swan Inn at Stony Stratford can trace its origins to the 15th century. It was in a prominent position on the Wolverton side close to the church of St Mary Magdalene. At least one 18th century reference rated it as the best of the Stony Stratford Inns. It was originally the Swan and in the early 17th century it is referred to as “The Swan with Two Necks“. When it starts to appear in 18th century estate documents it is always called The Three Swans. The inn remained part of the Wolverton Estate until 1802 when it was sold to Thomas Harrison. It did not survive the railway era and was converted to residences.
Extract from Michael Hipwell’s will 1609
The first reference to the building as The Swan with Two Necks is to found in Michael Hipwell’s will, dated 1609. I have copied it above and highlighted the relevant phrase.
Why the change? And what did this mean? The change of pub name I will come to, but let me first explain where the phrase Swan with Two Necks comes from.
Swans were kept in plentiful supply at one time as a source of food and quite early the royal prerogative was asserted over swans, which still prevails today. In the 15th century the King agreed that the Vintners Company and the Dyers Company could keep for themselves a number of birds on the Thames. To distinguish the Royal Swans from the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Swans a system of marking was developed. The Vintners chose to mark the bills of their swans with two notches or nicks. Subsequently they adopted a sign of a swan with two nicks at the entrance to Vintners Hall in London. In time the Swan with Two Nicks became corrupted to The Swan with Two Necks.
Like most guilds the Vintners Company strove hard to regulate and control the trade and they could usually ensure that only their members across the country could deal in wine. So it must have come to pass that the inn holder of The Swan became a member of the Vintners Company and as a consequence may have had a monopoly on the retailing of wines in Stony Stratford. Therefore an inn sign advertising not just a swan, but a swan with two nicks would be a way of asserting his status as a member of the Company.
By the end of the 17th century the Vintners Company had lost influence and exclusive control and possibly the name mattered less. At any rate it appears in early 18th century documents as The Three Swans although the secondary name does crop up from time to time in later 18th century references.
The inn and its associated land were always part of the Wolverton estate and inn holders took out leases. In 1802 the Radcliffe Trust sold it with several other properties to meet a new Land Tax,
The Swan was probably a 15th century foundation. Like many other Stony Stratford properties it was rebuilt after 1742 and it is that building which can still be seen today at 92-94 high Street.
From the north, the first house on the right was The Barley Mow
For a period there was a trend, almost amounting to a craze, to name inns and alehouses The Angel. Quite what prompted this is unclear but there was a period when there was an Angel at the north end of the High Street and another at the south end, causing one wag to observe that Stony Stratford was protected by angels at both ends. There is a long history of an inn on the site of the Barley Mow going back to the 14th century when it was called Grik’s Herber (The Greek’s Auberge). We are not told the location in the deed of 1317 but we an infer it from 17th century documents which locate this parcel of land here and call it “Gregg’s Arbour”. Being on the west side it was part of the Calverton manor but during the 13th century, when there were a number of disputes between the de Veres and the de Wovertons, Sir John de Wolverton acquired a strip of land on the west side to safeguard his market tolls. It was on record as The Angel in 1677 but by 1770 it was known as The Barley Mow – a name it kept until it was converted to a private residence. It is quite possible that its tenure as The Angel did not last long. At the time the manor changed hand in 1713, Gregg’s Arbour was “in Sir Edward’s hands” and in succeeding years it was leased by one of the millers, with mooring rights. So while there has been a long history of an inn on this site, it should not be assumed that there was continuity. We might guess that as roads improved in the 18th century some entrepreneurial spirit decided to try his hand once more and the new inn was named The Barley Mow.
The Plough on the left in the 1930
At the other end of town, on the London Road, was an inn called The Rising Sun. This was on record in 1770. Later it changed its name to The Angel. It probably changed its name to The Plough in the 19th century. It still has this name except that when the school closed in the 1930s The Plough moved into the premises. Thus at one time you could have gone to school in Stony and enjoyed a pint in the same premises a few years later. Actually, since it was a girl’s school, that would have been a gin and Britvic. A late 18th century foundation for this inn seems about right as there would have been no compelling reason to build south of the Wolverton Road before this date.
Which brings me to another curiosity. In 1629 Lettice Ashby, the widow of William Ashby, transferred her lease for The Angel Inn, east side, to Richard Hearne. In the course of this deed we learn that it had been originally leased by Sir Henry Longueville in 1613 to George Walton, a saddler. We can’t necessarily assume that George Walton ran it as an alehouse, although he could have combined both jobs. Richard Hearne does not make a further appearance and there is no mention of The Angel in any early 18th century documents.
However, there is a record in 1713 to a Michael Garment: “The Queen’s Head Inn, has held it 19 yeares without lease, and has it now.” His annual rent was £5 10s. (for comparison the Three Swans was paying £67 14s.) There was no land attached to The Queen’s Head. Apart from it being on the east side it is difficult to place.
The most obvious area to look is that section between New Street (Ram Alley) and the Wolverton Road. To the north they were all older burgage plots with a fair strip of land at the back. On that basis I would be inclined to look for it somewhere in the vicinity of the Rose and Crown. By the same logic The Nag’s Head should be also nearby. Neither establishment would be very grand. They might call themselves inns but they were not in the same class as The Cock or The Bull or The Three Swans. I would consider them to be in the category of alehouses, with limited provision for food and cheap accommodation. The fact that neither of these names survived for very long would suggest that they were businesses operating at the margins.
One last fragment of information: in 1700 Sir Edward Longueville sold n inn known as The Gate to one Joseph Bird. Sir Frank Markham has determined that this lay at 12 High Street and was demolished during rebuilding in 1872. Given its location near the beginning of the town this might well have been the former Angel.
Let me try to summarise this. It is outright speculation, an attempt to join the dots, but with no confidence that any of this is a supportable conclusion.
In 1629 we learn that an inn called The Angel had been operating, probably since 1613. It may have gone out of business at some time in the 17th century. There is no record of any lease to an inn of any name until 1713 when we learn that Michael Garment has been renting a building since 1694; it is known as The Queen’s Head, possibly re-named in 1702 after Queen Anne came to the throne. It may have been in the same building as The Angel or it may have been another converted house. You could even make a case, based on the slender evidence we have, that it was The Angel when Garment took over and he re-named it it 1702. I think it unlikely that this building was across the road where the later Rising Sun/Angel/Plough came to be, partly for the reason given above and partly because we would expect it to have some land attached on the undeveloped side of the Wolverton Road.
On balance I incline to the idea of The Gate being the location of the former Angel. The location does fit in with the reported tale of there being two Angels at the entrance to both towns and it is possible that the Angel survived through various owners in the 17th century before Joseph Bird, coming into a more secular age, decided to modernise the name.
On the right hand side, the location of The Gate and possible site of The Angel.
The third (or even fourth) Angel is one of recent memory. It appears on a street plan of 1806 and operated as a small pub until recent memory.
Documents that refer specifically to The Bull begin to appear in the late 17th century. These have been noted in the Hyde-Markham book on the History of Stony Stratford in the appendix. From that time the Bull is fairly well documented but because of its destruction by fire in 1742 there is no way of identifying an earlier building until some archaeological work is undertaken on the foundations.
Marion Hyde’s map of Stony Stratford circa 1680, drawn over 50 years ago and much reproduced, shows a date of 1609 against The Bull. I cannot trace any documented reference to this date unless it is in one of the several versions of Michael Hipwell’s will and I have missed it. The date 1609 most probably comes from that source. I should also note at this point that the same map suggests a date of 1480 for the Rose and Crown. This does fit in with the belief that many people held 50 years ago that the inn was there when the two Princes were abducted by Richard of Gloucester in 1483. Modern research is less supportive of that idea today. Much of the present building at 26-28 High Street is 18th century although it does contain some 16th century elements.
Back to a date for The Bull. I have come across this document in the Nottinghamshire Archives which was prepared in 1710 for the prospective sale of the Wolverton Manor.
The Bull Inn has been lett for as much this 80 years, no land about the Town of Stoney Stratford but what letts for forty-fifty shillings an Acre, when any to left; several are Courting for it their being not Ground anough to supply the Occasions of ye Towns people.
The italics are mine, but this figure allows us a start date of 1630. By comparison the same writer refers to the Three Swans inn has been lett time out of mind. We know that at the very minimum the Swan was in business in 1526 when it appears in Bradwell priory records, and Browne Willis in the 18th century was of the view that it was this inn where the royal party were staying in 1483. (I have discussed this question in an earlier post.)
If we take this reference as an approximate foundation date for The Bull Inn this does raise the question of what may have been there before? The medieval burgage plots (long strips of land going back from the Watling Street) do continue southwards to approximately where New Street now sits, so there would have been something on the site of the Bull. Was it an inn under a different name? Possibly.
However the innholder lists of 1577 indicate that there were 4 innholders on the east side. If, as I argued in my earlier post about 1577 innholders. we take the Cock, The Three Swans, the Red Lyon as three we know were there in the 16th century and we accept the Rose and Crown as the fourth, then there would have been no place for the Bull in that list – which may support the idea that it was indeed a 17th century foundation.
Nothing is absolute here, but on the basis of what I have showed, you could make a case for The Bull dating back only to 1630
In an earlier post I wrote about the tiny number of large houses that were ever built in Wolverton. Since then I have come across some new information about the manor house at Wolverton built by Sir Henry Longueville in 1586.
In the early part of the 18th Century, Sir Edward Longueville, faced with a mountain of debt, resolved to sell the Wolverton estate. We know that in 1713 he succeeded in this by completing a sale to Dr. John Radcliffe for £40,000. What I did not know was that there was earlier interest from the Duke of Newcastle and there are a number of documents now kept in the Nottinghamshire Archive which show that the Duke’s interest was serious as many details of the estate, the rents, the value of properties, potential taxes were set down together with a number of questions that needed an answer. In the end the Duke decided to offer £30,200 in the year 1710. This was unacceptable to Sr Edward and since the Duke died the following year in 1711, I imagine that negotiations did not continue.
The Wolverton historian can find a great deal of good information in these documents and here I am going to concentrate on what we can learn about the house.
Of the earlier buildings we know next to nothing. It is probable that the Longuevilles improved and enlarged the earlier medieval property during the 15th century. The only reference we have to the building is from the Tudor traveller and writer John Leland, who was passing through around 1540.
The Langevilles of later tymes hath lyen and bilded fairly at Wolverstun in Bukinghamshie (nere Stony Streatford).
We can only interpret “bilded fairly” as that the house was of sufficient size for Leland to take notice.
Later in the century Sir Henry Longueville decided to embark on his own building project at a cost of £12,000 – a very significant sum of money. This was in 1586. Once again we are short of any drawing or description until Thomas Hearne, writing in 1711 tells us this much:
It stood near a large mount, thrown up East of the Church, & it was a magnificent Edifice, being 145 Feet in length & built with good Free-stone. It had 9 large transome windows in the Front, of good polished Free-stone which was very regular; it had in the first Range a spacious lofty Kitchen, Buttery, Hall & Great Parlour, in which last room were painted in the large Escucheons (sic), the Arms of the Longueville Family with their matches quartered & impaled. There were also some arms in the windows of painted glass; particularly of Wolverton & Roche: the first of which bore, B. an Eagle displayed A determined by a Bendlet G. K. the other, viz. Roche, gave G. 3 Roaches A. This front part, as seems to me, built by Sir Hen Longueville in Queen Elizabeth’s time: and Sir Henry & his lady Elizabeth Cotton’s Arms, being placed there in 2 Shields, with this date, 1586, seems as if they were the builders, and that it was begun to be built then; it cost, as I have been informed, above 12 thousand pounds in those days. At each end were several Rooms of an antient tower structure, which were chiefly made use of, & particularly those on the south wing, by Sir Edward Longueville. I visited him in 1711: & several rooms in the new building were never finished, or properly furnished, as appeared to me.(Theses notes made by William Cole a century later.)
The document in the Nottinghamshire archive is able to offer us supporting detail.
The House is 60 yards in front with two Wings about 15 yards in lenght (sic). Built of Stone is very Strong & in perfect good repair. The Gallary which is a very noble one, the floore was never layed down, all offices that are necessary as Wash houses, Brew house, dary house, larders, Granarys, Wood Barns, Stables for 20 horse, Coach House with 20 Bay of Barning with a Worke House, two Duffcoates & several Houses very necessary for any use in good repair.
We can read from this that the house was stone built with a frontage of 180 feet (Hearne says 145) with two wings at each side of 45 feet. It is not clear which of the “offices” are included in the wings of the great house but it is probable, given the size of the stables and coach house, that this building and almost certainly the dovecotes are separate structures. From Hearne’s description we might infer that the kitchen and buttery (larder) made up one wing of the building. I am guessing that a second floor gallery was designed around either the hall or the “great parlour” but that this floor was never completed, although this phrase never layed down is open to different interpretations.
The photograph below is a survivor from that period of Elizabethan building. It was built in 1572 at Trerice in Cornwall and is considered a small house of its type. I am posting it here to offer some general idea of how the Longueville house may have appeared.
When Hearne talks of a south wing we might read into that an eastern or south-eastern frontage for the house, possibly parallel with the course of the Old Wolverton Road. The location of the house may have been that piece of level ground opposite the Rectory, in other words between the present Rectory and the old castle mound.
Hearne’s observations are probably accurate but his interpretations can be modified. the window with the date of 1586 is more likely to have been the completion date rather than the date building began; the windows are usually the last part of house building. His observation that the greater part of the building seemed unfurnished may have more to do with Sir Edward’s straitened circumstances than the fact that the building was not completed and that he had been selling off furniture to pay debts and was confining himself to one wing of the building. £12,000 was an enormous sum of money to spend on a house in Elizabethan times, and even if that sum had been exaggerated, there should have been plenty of money to complete the building to the satisfaction of Sir Henry and his wife.
We are told in the Nottingham Archive document that the building was strongly built, which doen’t quite square with the fate of the building in 1726. It is impossible to say who wrote this document. If it had been prepared by one of Sir Edward’s men as a prospectus then a certain amount of puffery might be expected. In any event, only a few years later, the Radcliffe trustees took a different view. In a letter dated 24th October 1715 William Bromley (one of the Trustees) wrote in a letter that the Great House was:
very ruinous, & since it is now never likes to be used as a Gentleman’s Seat you’l consider whether it may not be advisable that it be taken down, & the materials disposed of.
Many of the buildings on the estate were in poor state of repair and when it came time to rebuild the Rectory this course of action recommended itself to the Trustees. Parts of the old mansion can be found in the Rectory which is still standing today.
The Chicksand Priory at Dunstable was founded around 1150 during that high energy period when there was a rush to establish monastic settlements by the second and thrid generation families of the Norman conquerors. Chicksand was the project of Roais, wife of Payn de Beauchamp, Baron of Bedford and former wife of Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex. Thus there was plenty of money behind Chicksand and it was well endowed from the first, unlike Bradwell Priory, founded at about the same time, which started and continued with meagre resources. It is reckoned that Chicksand may have supported as many as 100 monks and nuns in the early years of the 13th century.
Its connection with Wolverton was that at some time in the 12th or 13th century it acquired some land in Wolverton, which it subsequently referred to as its manor of Wolverton. There are no records in the Wolverton documents aout its purchase or subsequent sale, nor do we know how much land it acquired or its precise location. There are some deeds from the late 13th century which make reference to parcels of land next to the land of the Prior of Chekesande or abutting the land of the Prior of Chekesong and both of these are de le Est, meaning in the east of the manor. One might guess that this was in the region of Stonebridge House Farm, but we would not get any more precise than that. It could equally be in the Bancroft area.
The Priory of Chicksands overreached itself. They acquired too much property and too many debts and in 1325 they had to forfeit the Wolverton land to a “merchant of Genoa” as part payment of their debts – which were huge. It is not known what the merchant of Genoa did withthe land. He must have sold it quickly because had he kept it for some time it might well have acquired a name associated with him. It is likely that it was sold back to the de Wolvertons. Later 14th century documents were still referring to it as the land of thePrior of Chekesond.
Although Bradwell Priory quickly acquired that name it was not, strictly speaking, on land that was part of the Bradwell Manor. Instead it was on land which was part of the Wolverton Manor.
Wolverton Manor was defined by two natural boundaries, the River Ouse to the north and Bradwell Brook to the east, by the Watling Street to the west and by an artificial line to the south. This border follows an east-west line that passes through Two Mile Ash to the edge of Bradwell Brook. This line continues westward and divides Calverton from Shenley.
As you can see from this map Bradwell Abbey Parish recognises the ancient manorial divisions between Wolverton and Loughton and Bradwell Brook separates it from the main Wolverton Manor.
The priory was founded in the will of the second Baron of Wolverton, Meinfelin, in 1155. How much land the priory was given at the outset is not known but it seems clear that at least it was bordered by Bradwell Brook on the north side and Loughton Brook on the east side. Whether or not it extended west to the Watling Street encompassing the area later kown as Bradwell Abbey Parish is not known with certainty, but the geography would suggest that the parish area was in fact the original bequest.
It was considered to be worth 1 hide in 1155. A hide was a land value assessment and although modern commentators take that as an average of 120 acres, it was never an exact measurement of area.
Land represented income, which any religious foundation needed. Meinfelin and his son also granted the priory income from churches at Wolverton, Chalfont, Thornborough, Padbury and Wicken – all of which were under the sway of the baron. Over time some of these sources of income were lost.
The priory settled its buildings on the Wolverton side of Loughton Brook, close by the old village of Bradwell; hence it came to be known as Bradwell Priory rather than Wolverton Priory.
As I said in the previous post Christopher Carter was the innkeeper of the Three Swans inn on Stony Stratford’s High Street. He had been there since 1705. He claimed in the letter of 1726 that his business misfortunes arose from the demolition of part of his building 12 years earlier and a failure to make it new. It is hard to estimate at this distance in time how much of Christopher Carter’s business losses were due to this factor or his own mismanagement.
Anyway, by 1730, Christopher Carter was facing insolvency and was unable to pay his rent. The letter I reproduce below is from Thomas Chapman, who I take to be a Stony Stratford solicitor, to the Trustees. He comes across as a reluctant advocate and is not terribly sympathetic to Christopher Carter. The letter to William Bromley, one of the original trustees and dated March 30th 1730, is transcribed below.
Upon the continued and pressing entreaties of poore Mr. Carter of Stratford, I am prevailed upon (very unwillingly) to give you this trouble, tho I told him, that I am confident that you would not transact anything without the concurrence of some of the other trustees.
He says Mr. Battison (the Radcliffe Trust Land Agent) tells him that unless he can give a further security for the payment of his rent, besides that of his goods to be held already given, he must turn out as soon as any other tenant will come in, which he says would ruin him at once. Not but that, he seems very willing to leave, at any time, if he could have what allowance you gentlemen will pleas to make him, for the great damage, and losses, he sustained by the ruinous condition of his house. for severall years, which (by his lease from Sir Edward Longueville) was to have been supported, and repaired by his Landlord, and was at last done. But he says it lay so long a time in that condition, that for want of convenience, most of his lost guests went away to other houses and his trade could never have been retrieved, which is the occasion of the present meane circumstances; he says also, that you and Sir George (Sir George Beaumont, another trustee) told him that he shou’d have an allowance for his losses but that he may be better able to Settle his accounts to Mr. Battison, he humbly begs to know what that allowance is to be, as that you will pleas to excuse this trouble from
Your most obedient humble servant
The outcome was that the Trustees did give the man relief from his debts and immediately took on another tenant – R. Wilmer in 1730.
The tone of the letter is interesting. Chapman is doing his duty by his client (who is presumably paying him for the letter) but he is clearly anxious not to offend anyone as mighty as as Radcliffe Trustee.
The Three Swans would have been caught up in the great fire of 1742 and was presumably rebuilt. It stayed in business until about 1785 when it was converted into a residence.
Despite Christopher Carter’s apparent neglect, which I wrote about yesterday, there was new building in the early years of the Radcliffe Trust’s tenure. Here is a plan for a new house to house Thomas Durrant and his family. From other documents I gather that Durrant was a sheep farmer who leased about 100 acres in “the sheep walks”, on the higher ground above Warren Farm. He also leased Nash Meadow “fore crop” on the north east edge of the manor and 18 acres of “meadow next the house” plus another 3 acres which included an orchard and Holme Close.
It is for this reason that I think this building must have been on the site where Wolverton House is now to be found. We know that Thomas Harrison built onto an existing building whenhe built his large house in the 1780s. It would be interesting to discover how much of the Durrant House (if any) forms part of the present Wolverton House.
The design of the house was a simple rectangle, “48 foot long at the front, 16 foot in width and 18 foot high above the ground.” It is not clear from this description if the height of 18 feet is to the top of the roof or to the eaves. I would guess the former, since the roof would have a high pitch to include space for sleeping quarters above. There were two partitions to provide for a 16 foot square kitchen, a 16 foot square hall in the middle and a 16 foot square parlour. Upstairs there might be an equal number of bedrooms.
Mr. Durrant was paying £91 a year to the Trust and was therefore one of the more prominent people living in Wolverton in those years. If this was middle class accommodation one can make a good guess at the living conditions of the labouring poor.
The estimated cost of this building was £157 6s 7d. To put this figure into perspective the vicar was only paid £30 a year, so the cost of the building was high. Timber, at 1/2d. per foot appears to be a high cost, presumably reflecting the labour of sawing everything by hand, and amounted to about 1/3rd of the total. “Nails and ironwork” adds up to £10 – another high cost. Bricks were used for the chimney and floor; they appear to be relatively cheap. The timber-framed walls were filled with lath and plaster and the roof was thatched.
If this was indeed the forerunner of Wolverton House it is perhaps no surprise that 60 years later Thomas Harrison wanted to build something better for his family. It cost him over £1800 – over ten times the cost of the Durrant House.