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Friday, February 08, 2013

Stantone-Stantonbury-Stanton Low: From the 12th Century to the Present

"Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor." ~Arnold J. Toynbee, British Historian

   We were moored up on a lovely curve of the Grand Union canal between the 19th century railroad town of Wolverton and the very much older city of Milton Keynes, mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Midletone.
   Les and I took a walk across the overgrown grassland to some nearby ruins for a closer view. Forty mile per hour wind gusts whipped around us, bringing roses to our cheeks as it swept through the dry, dead hummocks of grass. 
Ruins of 12th century St. Peter's Church at Stanton Low with blasted Oak nearby
   As we came upon the ruins we could see it had once been a fine little church. Now though it was surrounded by barbed wire and fencing, with Keep Out signs. As we stood taking pictures a couple of local folks stopped to chat us up.
Closer view of ruins of St. Peters with the rebuilt manor house in the background
   We were told it was called St. Peter's church at Stanton Low--a fine bit of Norman architecture which had been continuously in use as a parish church until 1956, when the roof fell in. After years of entropy having its way, very little is now left. Juvenile delinquents used to bring their boom boxes, designer drugs, and booze to the site for raves, completing the destruction. Locals decided they wanted to try and protect the site and rebuild the church, hence the posted signs and barbed wire. 
    The couple informed us that it had been extended into a keep at one point, and the surrounding area had been the site of a small village, overlooked by a manor house.
   This small bit of local lore whet my appetite to know more and so I began my search online at two sites which have yielded much: The Domesday Book Online and British History Online
The Domesday Books and Chest,
© 2012; National
   For those readers not familiar with British historical documents,
The Domesday Book was commissioned in December 1085 by William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066. The first draft was completed in August 1086 and contained records for 13,418 settlements in the English counties south of the rivers Ribble and Tees (the border with Scotland at the time).
       The original Domesday Book has survived over 900 years of English history and is currently housed in a specially made chest at The National Archives in Kew, London. This site has been set up to enable visitors to discover the history of the Domesday Book, to give an insight into life at the time of its compilation, and provide information and links on related topics. (, accessed online Feb.1, 2013).
   "British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust, we aim to support academic and personal users around the world in their learning, teaching and research." (, accessed online, Feb. 1, 2013). 
   I asked one simple question: How did this ruin come to be located here, near the banks of the Great River Ouse, between Wolverton and Milton Keynes? My question led to a historical thread and I just could not help myself--I had to pull it and see where it led!
   The first mention I found was in the Domesday Book where the village is called Stantone (Norman French). The notation reads, "Ralph from Miles Crispin. Mill (50 eels)." (Domesday Book Online, Contents, Buckinghamshire). Bear in mind we are looking back nine hundred and forty five years!
   What a cryptic entry. One would have thought a clerk seeking to list the details of all the hamlets, villages, towns and cities in William the Conqueror's domain would have been a bit more concise. And who is Ralph?
   I decided to check in the same book under Landowners to see if I could find any mention of Miles Crispin. It said,"Crispin, Miles - Related to Gilbert Crispin, Abbot of Westminster. Married Maud, daughter of Roger d'Oilly. Castle at Wallingford. Lands became Honour of Wallingford. Holdings in Berks., Surrey and five other neighbouring counties."
   An Honour in medieval terms is an estate given as an honor--usually  to a knight to secure his services as a soldier. The one in Wallingford is located in Oxfordshire. Okay, so onward to the next clue: at British History Online I found The History of the County of Buckingham, Vol. 4; William Page, Author, published in 1927. Pages 462-466 yielded a treasure trove of information! 
   Stantone (11th century), Stanton Barry (15th century), Stanton Bury ( 18th century), Stanton bury with New Bradwell (19th century).  This is a small parish of 806 acres, of which 5 acres are arable land,  permanent grass, and 25 acres are woods....the parish is watered by the River Ouse which forms its Northern boundary. 
   According to Mr. Page the village only had four houses remaining by 1736. He wrote, "The old church of St. Peters occupies an isolated position...though local lore has it that it was formerly surrounded by houses on the the North side. The church was restored in 1910 and used throughout the summer...the plan of the house which Sir John Wittiwronge built in the 17th century can still be viewed, between the church and the artificial mound which was a part of the the general enclosures of 16th century Nicholas Vaux, then Lord of the Manor, turned much of the land from arable to pasture, putting some forty folks out of home and livelihood."
   Prior to 1066 a hide was a sufficient amount of land to support a peasant and  his household; eventually it became a unit of measurement to secure taxes, not all hides being the same amount of land. 
   In 1086 Miles Crispin owned the 5 hide manor of Stanton which upon his death went to his widow Maud and from her into the Honour of Wallingford where it was held in ownership until the 16th century by Knight service.  At some time between then and the 19th century this land went into eschat--passing to the Crown because there was no owner named in a will. How did this lovely bit of acreage go from Ralph, to Miles Crispin, to part of the Honour of Wallingford's knight service to the crown?
   A man named Bisi--one of Edward the Confessor's (King of England from 1042-1066) thegns (aristocratic Anglo Saxon) held this land prior to the Norman Conquest. He was succeeded by Ralph de Stanton who paid 100 shillings relief for this land in 1166. He is the Ralph mentioned in the Domesday book.
  In January 1201 Ralph's daughter quit claimed some of this land to a man named Simon de Stanton whose family surname was Barry. He holds the Knight's fee for the Honour of Wallingford between 1201 and 1212. 
   Simon died in 1221 and was succeeded by his son and heir Ralph Barry who paid 10 marks for relief on the land. Simon also had another son named Peter and when Ralph died his brother Peter became owner of Stantone. 
   In 1285 Peter's son Robert confirmed the right of his relative Hugh Barry to three acres of meadow at same. Documents exist showing that Robert paid his own son Thomas the right of ownership to the manor at Stantone for his life, in the yearly payment of one rose! Robert sat in Parliament representing the area in 1297, 1307, and 1312. He and Thomas obtained free warrant to the lands at Stanton by 1317. 
   Robert dies sometime before May 1321 where his widow Maud held one third of the manor in dower until 1326. Thomas Barry held the remaining two thirds until his own death in 1325 when his share passed to his son Robert, a minor of fifteen, who also succeeded to his grandmother Maud's share when she died in 1326. This is a time when women are chattel and cannot legally own anything outright for themselves. Maud's third held in dower was for a future husband or male relative to claim, which is exactly how her Grandsons Robert came to ownership of Stanton.
   At this time the manor is called Stanton Barry and included a large garden, the local acreage around the manor, a dovecote, a broken down watermill, and 3 acres of wood--all Ash which means Thomas the younger could make no money on it. Rents in kind for those feudal peasants working his land were 10 cocks, 6 capons, 1 lb. of pepper, 1 lb. of cumin and a pair of spurs!
    In 1332, the year of Robert's majority, an inquisition is held to determine his right to the Honour of Wallingford. Twelve witnesses of good character come forward on his behalf.  He marries a wife, Cecilia, who survives Robert, dying herself in 1349. Their seven year old son William Barry inherits and in 1377 he and his wife Margaret made a settlement on the manor for themselves and their issue subject to rent to a man named Robert de Kyngsfolde.
   William is dead by 1399 and Hugh Boveton of Yardley Gobion and his wife Parnel--daughter of William Barry--now make a settlement to the manor on behalf of Parnel's heirs. Somehow a man named Sir William Thirning becomes entwined in this story. Thirning I think was somehow tied to the little chapel of St. Peters, as documents exist indicating his will dated 1413 left funds to dedicate masses for William Barry's soul. In 1408 Sir William Thirning made a settlement on two men--John Fever and Reynolde Boveton--trustees of the church, and Chaplain, respectively.
   Somehow or other a family with the surname of Vaux gains access to Stanton Barry manor and its lands. It is highly likely they are related to Sir Thirning. In 1491 the lands pass by eschat to the crown as William Vaux somehow having brought a corruption to his name and family, loses right to the land by attaint.
    The manor was granted by the Crown to Ralph Hastings and Richard Fowler who held the lands until Nicholas Vaux secured a reversal of his father's attainder in 1486, gaining restoration of Stanton Barry and the rest of his father's lands. This is the man whom William Page mentioned in his History of Buckinghamhshire, Vol 4, who enclosed the commons of Stanton Barry, turning the peasants out of their homes and livelihood, ending feudalism on the manor and its properties. Nicholas was created Lord Vaux of Harrowden in April 1523 and died after only three weeks possession of land and manor!
   His son Thomas, Lord Vaux made a settlement on the land in 1535 just prior to selling much of it to Thomas Pope. Just one year later The land and manor house are sold to the Crown who granted it eleven years later to Sir Thomas Carwardine. He held onto the manor for a few years and then sold it 1551 to John Coke. In 1570 his son Robert conveyed the manor and lands to Robert Ashfield, who died in 1578. Stanton passed to his daughter Avice and her husband John Lee. Avice survived her husband, dying in 1599.
   Two daughters are left as heirs: Dorothy and Mary, both minors. Women still cannot legally inherit property for themselves, unless they stay forever single. Even then it is likely any property they might have had will go to male relatives.
   Dorothy eventually married Sir John Temple, bringing him half the title to Stanton Barry. Sister Mary with her husband John Claver conveyed his half of the title to Sir Thomas Temple, Barton of Stowe--father of Sir John Temple, Knight, on whose behalf the transfer was made. At this time a viscount Purbeck lived on the premises. He was known to be a lunatic under the treatment by a Dr. Napier, rector of the nearby parish of Great Linford. 
   Sir John Temple died in 1632 and Stanton Barry passed to his son and heir Peter, aged nineteen. In 1653 Sir Peter Temple made a settlement of the property to Sir John Wittewronge, Knight. Four years later Sir John was raised to the title of Baronet, being enrolled at Stantonbury. Aha! The name has changed again due to Sir John finding many human remains buried about the parish! He died and was buried there under the chapel floor in 1697.
   His son and successor also named John, served as a colonel in Flanders with his own named regiment--the Wittewronges. He died in January 1722 and Stantonbury was settled on his son John who had no chance to enjoy the land as he fled the country for the murder of a mountebank named Joseph Griffiths at the Saracen's head in Newport Pagnell. 
   In 1727 after returning to England John sold the property to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, the sale being confirmed by an Act of Parliament. The Duchess died in possession of the manor in 1744 and under her will it passed to her grandson--John Spencer whose descendant Lord Spencer is now Lord of the Manor.  This then is the 9th Earl Spencer, Charles, AKA Viscount Althorp, brother of Princess Diana.
  In 1851 a census indicates there were the following living on the lands of Stanton Low: Widow Ann Bennett, an agricultural worker, aged seventy lived there with her four grown children William, Timothy, Hannah, and Maria. Will, aged thirty-nine is also a farm worker. His sisters are thirty and twenty-seven. Hannah is a lace maker and Maria is a scholar! All four are unmarried. 
  Also in residence at this time is a widowed farmer named Martin Thomas, aged sixty, owner of 440 acres. 
   In 1068 there was a mill in this parish worth 10 shillings, 8 d (53 pence/ 80Cents) and fifty eels! At last the fifty eels mentioned by the Domesday Chronicler have relevance!
St. Peter's Church, Stanton Low, 1927
©William Page
   The Chapel withstood all these changes over the centuries. Housed under floor slabs in it aisles are the bodies of Temples, Wittewronges, and several rectors as well as their wives. Just outside the chapel are many gravestones too old and worn to read.
   The chapel was an endowed gift in 1181 by brothers William and Ralph Barry. The vicarage was separate from the manor house and lands until sold by the crown in 1578 to Edmund Lee. Thereafter it descended with the manor, to his family and so on down to Sir Charles Spencer, the present patron.
   His father John, the 8th Earl Spencer was called upon in the 1950's to petition the Church to recognize a dozen or more marriages which had taken place at this historic chapel after a new church was built in Stantonbury located nearby and made the new seat of the Parish. It seems someone neglected to tell the rector of St. Peter about the change! Today we are told there is a local movement afoot to try and raise funds to restore the chapel.

Interior drawing of chapel of St. Peter, Stanton Low,
South side of chapel ruins.
Ancient pathway to former chapel door on the West side.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant! lots of history in Milton Keynes.

Have fun Bill the Conk. crossed the Thames at Wallingford and received the English crown in Berkhampstead (Bucks spelling) castle.

Once again brilliant article.

I moor at Cowroast.


Anonymous said...

And we from North America figure
we are talking of ancient history quoting from passages written in 1776 as per the United States and 1867 for Canada. And then we look to where our forefathers originated and realize we are all but young in relation to the mature
parentageof forefathers.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mike,
I'm glad you enjoyed the historical thread!

Les took me to what is left of WC's castle at Berkhampstead and I loved walking around it, imagining life in its younger days. Also, there was a relatively new fish and chips shop in the rail station with the best food I've had over here. The fish was crisp and the chips were too but not greasy at all.

What is the name of your boat? We would love to say hi when we get there.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Bryce,
Yes indeedy. There are so many stories over here and I find them all very fascinating. Folks here tend to just take it in stride or are even unaware of the amazing history sometimes right outside their doors. A few of our friends here though have a great appreciation for it and we have a great time discussing it!

Hope you are well and warm!

lushkarma said...

I live very close to stanton low so am very interested in the area and have been going there for about 30 years. I knew part of the history but was delighted to read your findings! Several years ago i had a wander down the ouse behind st peters and found an area that looked like it had been worked so possibly could have been where the water mill was. Your right that many local people dont know the history of the area and many dont even know it exists!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hello Lushkarma,
Thank you for taking the time to read my post and comment on it.

How fortunate you are to live so close to such magnificent history and a wildlife preserve right on your doorstep. It is one of our very favorite places to moor.

Perhaps someday we will meet in person, walking along the grassy paths back into the history of Stanton Lowe.

Martin said...

Myself, my dear wife and two sons moved from High |Wycombe to Bradville in 2002 and never had the chance to explore the area due to myself working night shifts and just before I retired in 2008 my darling wife started showing signs of Vascular Dementure which rapidly became so much worse. We nursed her at home for ten years day and night which prevented us from getting out and about. We so sadly lost her at Christma 2018 and it left a massive hole in our lives. To help control our deep griev we started walking around the local area every day for an hour or so and this is how we came acros Stanton Low and St. Peter's Church. Now we regularly visit the site and have attempted to learn as much as we can about St. Peter's by reading what history there is avilable and by taking photographs to compare with what has already been documented.
I have looked up the details of the most moden grave (1919) and have carried out a little research of the family.
Since Chritmas, alothough our grief hasn't deminished at all at least we have found the whole site so absorbing and this helps us so much.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs