"I was glad when they said unto me,
Let us go into the house of the Lord." Psalm 122:1
The mediaeval parish of Stowe included the hamlets of Lamport, Dadford and Boycott. It was crossed by two significant roads: the Roman road from Bicester to Towcester, and a road from Buckingham via Dadford and on to Wood Green, Biddlesden and Brackley. This road (or rather, track, since - like most "roads" of the period - it was not paved) was known as the Hey Way. The "way" part may perhaps derive from the Anglo-Saxon weg, which usually implies a route not suitable for wagons - either through being too steep, or having very muddy stretches. The "hey" part probably means "high" - i.e. going over the high ground at Stowe. Its exact route through Stowe until it meets up with Dadford High Street near Vancouver Lodge is unclear, but it must have included a fairly steep slope down from the top of the Stowe ridge. Dadford takes its name from the ford where this road crossed the brook - it was originally "Dodeforde" meaning "the ford of a man named Dodda". By the 18th century, the brook became known as the "river Dad"! A further road ran from south of Stowe via Lamport to join up with the Roman road at the north-east edge of the parish, near where the parish boundary still runs along a remnant of the road which forms part of Holback Lane. The mediaeval drove road, Welsh Lane, runs along the edge of the parish and marks part of the parish boundary.
Although only Dadford now retains a significant population, it is likely that Lamport was the original settlement. Its name derives from Anglo-Saxon and means "long market". It has been suggested that it was an early market place until this function was effectively transferred to Buckingham when the Saxon fortifications there were developed in the early 10th century. In 1086 Lamport was still the largest settlement of the parish, having 11 households compared to 8 in Dadford, 3 in Stowe and one in Boycott. It was also still the most valuable, being assessed in Domesday for tax at 6 geld units, against 4 for Dadford, 5 for Stowe and 1 for Boycott.
"Stowe" as a place name usually denotes a meeting place - either a holy site, or by the 10th century the meeting place of the hundred court. (Hundreds were an administrative subdivision of the county, introduced in the mid 10th century under King Edmund I). Stowe was in the centre of the original hundred of Stotfold, which included the surrounding parishes of Radclive, Water Stratford, Turweston, Westbury, Shalstone, Biddlesden, Akeley, Maids Moreton, Foscote, Lillingstone Dayrell, Lillingstone Lovell, Luffield Abbey and Leckhampstead. For ease of access, hundredal meeting places were frequently sited on or near Roman roads, especially near crossings with other significant routes, and often on high ground. If (as seems likely) Stowe was indeed the meeting place of the Stotfold hundred, its importance as a settlement would have increased as that of Lamport faded. Stotfold hundred was combined with those of Lamua and Rowley into the new, larger Buckingham hundred during the early 14th century.
At the time of Domesday, there were six manors in the parish - two in Dadford, two in Lamport, and one each in Boycott and Stowe. However, the existence of a manor does not necessarily imply the existence of a manor house or a nucleated settlement - much habitation was at this time still dispersed. By the time of the Reformation, five of these manors had passed into the ownership of the church - Osney Abbey in Oxford, and Biddlesden. We know little detail of the parish in mediaeval times. However, a nationwide survey ordered by Edward I took place in 1279, when Dadford was recorded as having 30 cottagers and four free tenants.
The earliest record of the church is in the 13th century, and there is an ancient yew tree just outside the church yard which appears to date from around this time. The chancel and the tower date from the first half of the 14th century, and their construction would imply that the parish was reasonably prosperous at this time. Further evidence is in the detail and quality of the work in a surviving niche over the tower door. The effigy now on the wall in the Penystone chapel is also of this date, and is likely to be associated with a prominent local personage, who possibly sponsored the building work. We do not know who he was, but it is known that in 1330 Osney Abbey maintained a manor house at Stowe occupied by a steward.
Sometime after the end of the 12th century, a chapel dedicated to St Thomas à Beckett was established near Luffield Abbey to the north of the parish. Holback Lane then acquired some importance as a route to the chapel. The memory of this chapel is maintained in the name of Chapel Copse, and two of the bends in Silverstone race track - Chapel Curve and Beckett's corner. The lane defines part of the parish boundary for part of its course, and for about half a mile follows the line of the Roman road from Stowe to Towcester. These two facts imply the lane is of some antiquity, like many lanes with names shown on OS maps. "Holback" probably derives from Anglo-Saxon meaning "a stream in a deep hollow", and at one point the track does indeed run close to a stream in a gully some 2 metres deep.
The layout of the main street in Dadford is highly suggestive of a mediaeval planned expansion - possibly established when the common fields were laid out (whenever that was!), or possibly at the time of a later re-organisation. The original plots appear to have been evenly spaced along the road with a frontage of four perches (66 feet - about 20 m). Remnants of this arrangement can still be discerned in aerial photographs and on Google Earth. It is not clear when this layout was established. Many planned villages elsewhere in Whittlewood Forest seem to have been laid out in the 12th century, and none appear to be before around 1100. The number of plots in Dadford seems to be around 30, which is very close to the number of cottagers recorded in the 1279 survey: so the layout was probably complete by this date. A deliberate expansion of the settlement in the 13th century would accord with the apparent prosperity of the parish at this time as deduced from the building of the church.
The earliest positive date in the church is the death of Alicia Saunders, whose memorial brass is in the chancel - she died in 1479. We know nothing else about her, but at the time of her death we know that the manor of Stowe was leased by Osney Abbey to a Thomas Saunders - possibly her husband. Thomas died in 1493, and left a legacy to buy a new bell (which no longer exists). There seem to have been more bells, since in 1520 George Pynnocke of Akeley bequeathed two pence to the ringers of the parish (as well as two pence to the ringers of Moreton and Foscott). Browne-Willis says that the current bells were re-cast from a ring of 4, but there is no corroboration for this.
In 1522, Henry VIII carried out a "muster roll" of the whole country. This was nominally to ascertain the number of able-bodied men aged between 16 and 60 who would be available for military service, together with their classification as pikemen or archers. Gentlemen were assessed as to how much horse harness they could provide. These financial enquiries over harness and weaponry were in effect a thinly disguised means of assessing the possibilities for taxation - a ruse by Cardinal Wolsey. Altogether there were 24 able-bodied men aged between 16 and 60 living in Dadford, 19 in Lamport and 35 in Stowe. This implies that the village at Stowe held about 45% of the population of the parish (excluding Boycott, which does not appear in the Bucks muster roll as it was part of Oxfordshire - whose roll does not survive); Lamport had about 24% and Dadford about 31%. At that time a George Saunders (was he a descendant of Alicia? and / or Thomas?) was the most wealthy tenant of the parish. However, a Thomas Rugston owned land worth nearly as much as all the other landowners, and had income as much as the tenants put together.
At the time of the dissolution of the monastries, one of the two Lamport holdings was held by the Dayrell family. The ownership of the other five manors passed formally to the Bishop of Oxford, and they were leased out to tenant farmers. Stowe was leased to George Giffard, who was succeeded by his son Thomas, and then by the Temples from about 1571. Four of the manors (Stowe, the two Dadford holdings, and one of the Lamport) were then sold to John Temple in 1589 or 90. On his death in 1603 ownership passed to his son Thomas. The Temple family had earlier benefitted from a similar availability of land at Barton Dasset. Settlements there were depopulated to enable enclosure and the consolidation of holdings for very profitable sheep farming.
Baptismal records of the parish now housed at Aylesbury attest to a rapid increase in the young population of the parish in the years after the Temples acquired ownership of the manors. This period corresponds to the presumed date of the building of the Penyston chapel in the church. It seems likely that the new lords of the manor wished to emphasise their status by providing themselves with a (private) chapel, as was frequently the case at this time. Thomas Temple also enhanced his status when he became one of the earliest to purchase a baronetcy from King James I. (There is nothing new in the concept of cash for honours!) In common with most of the landed gentry of the time, his son Sir Peter was jealously protective of his status, and once wrote formally to the churchwardens to complain that the less "gentle" parishoners were so uncouth as to sit too near the front of the church.
By his marriage, Sir Peter acquired the manor of Luffield, which adjoined the Stowe lands, and laid out ridings by 1625. Sir Thomas sold lands in Warwickshire which Sir Peter thought belonged to him, and sued his father. To settle the claim, Sir Thomas transferred the ownership of Stowe to his son in 1630. Sir Peter promptly followed the example of his ancestors by progressively enclosing the common grazings, arable fields and woodlands of his manors. He was not so much interested in sheep farming as in creating a deer park - a status symbol for the nouveau riche which was already going out of fashion among the old nobility. The parish records show that in the 1630s the number of baptisms in the parish plummeted by 50% - down to below the level in the 1590s, when the Temples had first obtained the lordship. This seems to indicate that the displaced inhabitants were not simply rehoused (e.g. in Dadford) as is often said, but left the parish altogether. By the time of the civil war in the mid 17th century, the ancient village of Stowe had effectively disappeared. Browne-Willis states that there were still 32 houses in Stowe in 1712, but this was the number of houses in the whole parish - not the old village.
Sir Peter's enclosures did not proceed unopposed. Besides the displaced tenants, significant resistance was provided by the owners of the remaining Lamport manor, the Dayrell family (who would have had common rights over at least some of the enclosed land). Around 1642 the Dayrells and others petitioned parliament, claiming that over the preceding 16 years (i.e. since around 1626) the Temples had depopulated 10 - 12 farms in Stowe. To protect himself against this claim, Sir Peter asked his father for any records which might indicate that some tenants had agreed to enclosure in Sir Thomas' time. Sir Thomas declined to co-operate. Before the civil war, there were numerous other appeals to Parliament over the Temples' activities, and the Dayrells' employees were wont to go out at night and remove the deer palings which the Temples' employees had erected during the day. On several occasions this resulted in fisticuffs and the employment of cudgells. There is a certain irony here, in that the Dayrells had earlier depopulated Lillingstone Dayrell by enclosure for sheep farming in the same way that the Temples had enriched themselves at Barton Dassett.
Boycott remained as a separate holding until the manor was purchased by Viscount Cobham in 1717, after which the land was subsumed into his ownership. However, the land of the ancient manor was still a detatched part of Oxfordshire, and so retained some sort of independent identity until the local government reforms of 1844. It is interesting to note that the tithe apportionment map of 1850 shows that the territory of the ancient hamlet was still tenanted as a recognisable unit. If there ever was a mediaeval manor house of Boycott, it would have been situated somewhere near the present Boycott Farm on Welsh Lane (another ancient route). The present day Boycott Manor bears no relation to the mediaeval manor, but was established after the Stowe bankruptcy sale of 1848 on premises known until then as Hogspool Farm. The premises now known as Lower Boycott were at that time a brick kiln, and what is now the lake there was presumably the clay pit. The earlier incarnation of Lower Boycott is remembered in the name of their woodland - Kiln Spinney.
The Dayrells retained ownership of their Lamport holding until 1824, when they sold the manorial rights to the first Duke of Buckingham. However, although the conveyance went ahead on payment of a deposit, the Dayrells did not receive the balance of their money until after the old Duke's death in 1839 - ancient enmities clearly persisted to the end. At the time of the tithe apportionment map, there were still about a dozen dwellings in Lamport. Interestingly, almost half the plots in Dadford had no house upon them at this time.
Significant changes to the layout of the mediaeval road system in the parish took place after 1850. Before then, the major change had been the re-alignment of the Roman road from Bicester and the opening of Stowe Avenue to replace the old road from Buckingham. The re-alignment to form Oxford Avenue and the south-western entrance drive to the park seems to have taken place around 1760, as the Oxford bridge, the Boycott pavilions and the Oxford lodge all date from then. Within the park, the original line of the old road is preserved in Nelson's walk and the ha-ha. In mediaeval times, this road was known as "Bugge road" - which derives from "Burghilde's road" - the road associated with a person called Burghilde, who was an Anglo-Saxon noble or princess.
Stowe Avenue was opened up in around 1775, facilitated by the reallocation of lands by the Parliamentary Enclosure Act of Radclive-cum-Chackmore in 1774. The road from Buckingham had been slightly further East, entering the parish at what is now Dances Farm in Chackmore, and then on to the Bell Gate. The line of this old road is preserved as a hedge between Dances Farm and New Inn Farm, and a length of it still forms part of the parish boundary. From the Bell Gate the old road - the Hey way mentioned above - crossed the river just west of the confluence of what are now the Octogan Lake and the Worthies river, in the region of the island of Lord Chatham's urn. From there it ran past the east end of the church, over the ridge and down into Dadford, entering the village near Vancouver Lodge. From near the church another road known as the Kings road ran east to Lamport.
The major changes since 1850 can be summarised as follows:
The road from Radclive to Chackmore used to continue from the T junction at map reference 677357 across Park Farm, along the parish boundary past the Corinthian Arch to New Inn Farm and then onwards via Stowe Castle to Akeley, with a fork left to Lamport just East of New Inn. This was replaced by the present straight road from Chackmore (which until then had effectively been a cul-de-sac) to Bycell crossroads and beyond, joining the older road at map ref 697372 where it crosses the parish boundary.
From the Corinthian Arch, a further road used to run almost straight to Boycott Farm, from where another ran towards Dadford, crossing Oxford Avenue about 200 metres southwest of the current crossroads at the Stowe entrance.
Much of the present road from Chackmore to Dadford dates from after 1850. The "new"section probably joins the older direct route from Boycott Farm somewhere near the old brick kiln (now "Lower Boycott") around 666373.
Further minor roads led from the kiln to Dadford, joining Gorrel Lane around 665379; from the kiln past Boycott Manor Farm (then known as "Sheep Shear") and on to Hill Gate Spinney at 652377; from Hill Gate Spinney to Gorrel Farm. Amusingly, Boycott Manor Farm appears on the 1837 Ordnance Survey map as "Chip shire" - one can almost see the puzzlement on the surveyor's gentlemanly face as he struggled with the Buckinghamshire accent.
The changing fortunes of the Temple family and their descendents have thus produced two periods of major upheaval in the parish. The depopulation of the ancient village of Stowe resulted from Sir Peter Temple's activities as described above. The great bankruptcy sale of 1848 led to major changes in land ownership in the parish, which were a significant factor in the alterations to the road network.
A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927. Pages 229-237
Stowe Parish Church - a guide. Michael Bevington 1995, updated 2014.
Medieval villages in an English Landscape. Richard Jones and Mark Page, Windgather Press 2006
Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names. Mills, A. D., OUP 2003
A little history of the English country church. Sir Roy Strong, Jonathan Cape 2007.
The Certificate of Musters for Buckinghamshire in 1522, ed A C Chibnall (1973). Buckinghamshire Record Society vol 17.
Parish Register of "Stowe cum membris Lamport Dodford and Boycott", held in Aylesbury county record office.
Dan Beaver, "Bragging and daring words": honour, property and the symbolism of the hunt in Stowe, 1590-1642. in "Negotiating power in early modern society", eds Michael J Braddick & John Walker, Cambridge University Press 2001.
Page, M. (2005), "Destroyed by the Temples: the deserted medieval village of Stowe", Records of Buckinghamshire 45, 189-204.
Website: "Open Domesday - the first free online copy of Domesday Book". http://opendomesday.org/hundred/stotfold/. Date accessed 2/6/16.
Website: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred_%28county_division%29#Etymology
More information on the Bells, Penyston Chapel and Piscina
There is a detailed Guidebook available in the church .