Ha(m)dena (11thC); Magna Hamden (14thC). – By the 14th century ‘Hamdena’ was split into the 2 Villages, Great Hampden at the top of one Hill & Little Hampden on the next Hill, with the lush Arable land forming the rest of the 2 Parishes spread out in the Valley between them. The Parish of Hampden lies on the slopes of the Chiltern Hills, the greatest height being 711½ft above the Ordnance Datum at Hampden House.
The subsoil is Chalk, and the Surface Clay & Gravel. The inhabitants are chiefly occupied in Farming, 1,128¼ acres being Arable Land and 470¼ Permanent Pasture. There are 408¼ acres of Wood in the Parish. A Road from Aylesbury to Amersham passes through the Parish. There is practically no Village, the people living in scattered Farms & Cottages. The nearest Stations are at Princes Risborough & Great Missenden. There is a Common in the Southern part of the Parish, lying near Blakemore Farm, and various Springs give an excellent supply of Water, but there are, however, no Brooks of any kind. The Earthwork known as Grim’s Dyke can be traced for some distance not far from Hampden House. In 1885 portions of Little Hampden & Stoke Mandeville Parishes were formed into the Civil Parish called Great & Little Hampden by Local Government order, dated 25th March of that year.
The Principal House in the Parish is Hampden House, situated high on the Chiltern Hills in a breezy and open Park-like country. Though rich in associations and possessing many traces of old work, successive additions, particularly those of the 18thC, have left only fragments of the earlier Plans. As it stands now, it is an E-shaped Building facing South, with a large East Wing running North & South. The Principal Entrance to the House is on the North side of the Main Building. The oldest part is the central projection of the E; it is at least as old as the 1st half of the 14thC and according to local tradition was originally a Tower, though the walls, some 3ft thick, do not confirm the idea. It is of 2-Storeys, with a modern embattled Parapet projecting on Corbels, below which is a flat band of trefoiled Arches, probably an 18thC addition, which runs around the whole house at this Level. In the South Face of this Building is a wide 15th-century Entrance Doorway, but the Inner Doorway, which leads to the Body of the House, is of mid-14thC date with the characteristic Wave-mould & Hollow. The rear Arches of the windows of this Room are also of the same date. The Body of the House dates, as far as can be seen, from the beginning of the 17thC and is separated from the older portion by a space of some 18ins or more. It is of 2-Storeys and an Attic, with wooden-mullioned windows, and fine Stacks of Brick Chimneys with Octagonal Shafts, and contains in its Eastern half the Hall and the Great Staircase, both of 17thC date, but greatly altered and ‘embellished‘ in the 18th century, and again later in comparatively modern times. The Hall runs through 2-Storeys, having Balustraded Galleries on all sides on the 1st-Floor Level; its walls are Panelled & Hung with Portraits and it has a coved plaster Ceiling. The Kitchens & Offices lie to the West of the Hall. The large East Wing of the House was completely altered in character by Robert, afterwards 1st Viscount Hampden, about 1760, at which time, or possibly later, almost the whole of the Exterior of the House was coated with cement. This Wing contains the present Dining-Room, with a Bedroom beyond it to the North, a large Drawing-room in the middle of the Wing, with smaller Rooms North & South of it, and at the South end the Old Dining-Room, now a Billiard Room. A Passage runs along the West side of the Wing, being made at the expense of the series of Rooms, which were arranged after the fashion of the day, to open one to another. They contain some fine plaster Ceilings and interesting examples of Chinese wallpapers, the Bills for which were recently discovered amongst some old Documents, and are dated 1740. In the Bedroom at the North end of the Wing is a fine Chippendale Bed, in which tradition says that Queen Elizabeth once slept; the claim has probably been transferred from some older bed formerly here. Hampden House contains many interesting Portraits of the Hampden’s & Hobart’s and also of many great people from the 16th century on. There are full-length Portraits of Queen Elizabeth & Queen Henrietta Maria, of Oliver Cromwell, Bishop Bonner, Sir Kenelm Digby, & others.
Of John Hampden ‘The Patriot,’ with whose name the chief interest of the House must ever be associated, there are several relics. A Silver Cup, dated 1568, is preserved as that from which he received the Holy Sacrament before his death from wounding in June 1643; a Long Room in the Attic Storey is called John Hampden’s Library, and the Room in the Angle between the Hall and the East Wing is said to be the Scene of his Arrest for refusal to pay the Ship-Money Tax. There are 2 Portraits of him in the House, one by Jansen coming from Strawberry Hill, but it seems doubtful whether they or a small Bust also here, are really what they claim to be.
The surroundings of the House are very picturesque, a splendid Avenue of Beech Trees running Eastwards down the slopes from the East Wing, and close by to the South is the Church of Great Hampden, approached from the Road by another Avenue.
There is only one mention of Hampden in Domesday Book, and this in all probability refers to Great Hampden only. Before the Conquest Baldwin, a man of Archbishop Stigand held and could sell the Manor of Hampden, but afterwards, it formed part of the Lands of William son of Ansculf. With the rest of his Lands, it passed to the Somery Family and formed part of the Honour of Dudley. In 1302–3 it was held of John de Bernak of the Honour of Dudley and in 1346 of Galfrid Bernak. William son of Ansculf Granted the Manor to Otbert, or Osbert, who held it at the time of the Domesday Survey. In a 17th-century Pedigree of the Hampden Family, Osbert is said to have been the son of Baldwin, the Tenant in the time of Edward the Confessor, and the descent of the Hampden Family is traced from him.
One name, however, in the Pedigree does not coincide with the Descent obtained from a Lawsuit of the Reign of Henry III. In the Pedigree, Osbert was succeeded in direct succession by Baldwin, Robert and Bartholomew. In the Lawsuit, Alexander appears instead of Bartholomew, his mother being Alice, the daughter and heiress of ‘Remerus le Loherer.’ Alexander was followed by Reginald and another Alexander, who held the Manor, as 1 Knight’s Fee, early in the Reign of Henry III. He was Sheriff of Bedfordshire & Buckinghamshire in 1249 & 1259. He died between 1272–3 and 1302–3 when he had been succeeded by his 2nd son Reginald. John de Hampden, the son of Reginald, held the Manor in 1346 and was a Knight of the Shire in 2 Parliaments of Edward III in 1351–2, and again in 1363. He died in 1375 and his son Edmund inherited the Manor, and, like his father, represented the County in Parliament. He was also Sheriff of the 2 Counties 5 times during the Reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, & Henry V. John Hampden, his son, succeeded him, and obtained, in 1446–7, a Charter of Liberties within his Manor of Great Hampden, Granting him a View of Frankpledge twice a year, with the Assize of bread, wine, & ale, and other privileges. He also had a Grant of Free Warren in his Demesne Lands, and Licence to Inclose & Impark 500 acres of Land and 100 acres of Wood in the Manor. He was Sheriff in 1456. Thomas Hampden succeeded him in 1457–8, and held the Manor until his death, shortly after the accession of Henry VII. His heir was his son John Hampden, but the Manor seems to have been in the hands of Trustees or Feoffees till 1495 when they demised it to John Hampden. He died the next year, and Great Hampden passed to his son John. The 2nd John Hampden was Knighted before 1513 and in that year was with the Royal Fleet in Command of The Saviour. He also may be identified with the Sir John Hampden ‘of the Hill‘ who followed Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and attended him at his meeting with the Emperor Charles V. On his death in 1553 he left 2 daughters as his heiresses, but he left Great Hampden by Will to his cousin John Hampden, the son of William Hampden of Dunton and of Audrey one of the daughters and heiresses of Richard Hampden of Great Kimble. John Hampden left the Manor to his son Griffith in Tail-Male, and the latter succeeded to it on his father’s death in 1558. He died in 1591 and it passed to his son William Hampden, who married Elizabeth daughter of Sir Henry Cromwell and aunt of the Lord Protector. He did not survive his father many years, dying in 1597 and naturally had not taken so much part in the Public Life of the County as some of his predecessors. His Will is interesting and suggests that his life was mainly occupied with Country Pursuits, his horses being carefully described and generally bequeathed by name.
His son & heir John was a Minor at the time of his father’s death. He afterwards became the most famous member of his Family, earning the name of the ‘Patriot‘ by his refusal to pay the Illegal Tax of Ship-Money. He was born in London but probably lived as a boy at Great Hampden. He was sent for 3 years to the Grammar School at Thame, and in 1609 became a Commoner of Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1613 he was admitted as a Student of the Inner Temple, and 6 years later he married his 1st wife Elizabeth Symeon. The next year he was returned to Parliament for the 1st time, and from 1625 to 1628 he represented the Borough of Wendover without interruption. In these years he mainly lived in London, and though sitting on many Committees, did not take a leading part in Parliamentary Affairs. Before the Dissolution of 1629, he retired to the Country and lived at Great Hampden. There are, however, practically no records of his life there, his Private Letters that have been preserved are very few in number. He is said to have been fond of making improvements in his Estates & House, and parts of the present House may have been built by him in 1629 and the succeeding years.
Clarendon describes him at this time as being ‘of ancient Family, and a fair Estate in the County Buckingham, where he was esteemed very much, which his carriage and behaviour to all men deserved very well. But there was scarcely a gentleman in England of so good a fortune (for he was the Owner of above £1,500 land yearly) less known out of the county in which he lived than he was, until he appeared in the Exchequer Chamber to support the Right of the people in the case of Ship-Money.’ The determination, reached in 1636, to oppose the levy of Ship-Money severed the close connection between John Hampden and his own Parish. From that date, he was rarely at Great Hampden, and after 1640 never lived there again. On the Outbreak of Civil War, he raised a Regiment of Buckinghamshire Infantry and Commanded it until his death. At the Battle of Chalgrove Field, where he was mortally wounded, he would not wait for his own Regiment but went as a Volunteer with the Troops that had already come up. Some sources claim in the shoulder by 2 carbine balls, others by fragments from his own Pistol exploding which shattered the Hand and forced him to leave the Field. He reached After the battle Hampden retired to Thame and his Headquarters at the Greyhound Inn.. What at 1st appeared not to be a serious injury soon worsened. Six days and 4 Doctors later Hampden died of Lockjaw.
This account of his death was given by Sir Robert Pye his son-in-law…”That in the action of Chalgrove Field, his Pistol Burst and shattered his hand in a terrible manner. He, however, rode off and got to his Quarters but finding the wound mortal he sent for Sir Robert Pye then a Colonel in the Parliamentary Army – and who had married his eldest daughter – and told him that he looked on him in some degree accessory to his death as the Pistols were present from him. Sir Robert assured him that he bought them in Paris from an eminent maker and proved them himself. It appeared on examining the other Pistol that it was loaded to the Muzzle with several supernumerary charges, owing to the carelessness of a Servant. He was ordered to see that the Pistols were loaded every morning which he did but without drawing the former charge.” An exhumation of Hampden’s Body in 1828 showed that there was no damage to the shoulder but his ‘right hand was shattered by the bursting of his Pistol, and death probably ensued from lockjaw arising out of extensive injury to the nervous system’ It is also worth noting the following: – in the book John Hampden by Frank Hansford-Miller published in 1976, it noted that his death was the result ‘from the exploding of his own Pistol in his own Hand.’ There has also been a Scholarly analysis by the Archivists at Hampden’s School, Thame Grammar, who also conclude that he died accidentally from his own hand.
John Hampden, who had put himself in Captain Crosse’s Troop as a Trooper was shot in the back with 2 carbine balls. The Myth that Hampden’s pistol exploded was a slander written probably under the orders of Sir Robert Walpole in 1721. The exhumation at Great Hampden Church in 21st July 1828 was undertaken by Lord Nugent to resolve this issue.
A description of the Church & Tombs entitled ‘Hampden Magna‘ was written between 1663 & 1675, while Mr John Yates was Rector, this recorded the names & location of the graves & monuments, and indirectly refers to the location of John Hampden’s Tomb. Comparing ‘The Times‘ narrative to ‘Hampden Magna‘ reveals that it was William Hampden who was exhumed, not Colonel John Hampden.
He survived 6 days and died on 24th June 1643. He is supposed to have been buried in Great Hampden Church, but the places of his Death & Burial have been much disputed. Hampden is commemorated at the State Opening of Parliament by the British Monarch each year when the Doors of the Commons Chamber are slammed in the face of the Monarch’s Messenger, symbolising the Rights of Parliament and its Independence from the Monarch.
Something of Hampden’s Fame no doubt is owing to the position which he took up as the opponent of Ship-Money Tax. It is hardly possible that even resistance to Ship-Money would have so distinguished him but for the mingled massiveness and modesty of his Character, his dislike of all pretences in himself or others, his brave contempt of danger, and his charitable readiness to shield others as far as possible from the evil consequences of their actions. Nor was he wanting in that skill which enabled him to influence men towards the ends at which he aimed, and which was spoken of as by those who disliked his ends.
“It’s remembering that you can be a Rebel and you can be a Patriot. That you can stand up for your Country but oppose the Government.”
To Great Hampden, the sons of Sir John Eliot (Statesman) frequently went during their father’s imprisonment in the Tower. Eliot himself received provisions from Great Hampden, one such Present being sent with the following letter: ‘This bearer is appointed to present you with a Buck out of my Paddock, which must be a small one to hold proportion with the place and soyle it was bred in.’ In the County, he was active as a Justice of the Peace for the 3 Hundreds of Aylesbury. In 1634 he was presented at a special Ecclesiastical Visitation for not always attending his own Parish Church. His opposition to the Church of England and the Bishops had not at this time become so pronounced as it did later, and he made his Peace with Sir Nathaniel Brent, the Vicar-General, promising his willing obedience to the Laws of the Church in the future.
Richard Hampden, the son of the Patriot, succeeded his father in the Family Estates and shared his Political opinions. He was, however, an ardent supporter of Oliver Cromwell and voted for his accepting the Crown in 1656. He was nominated in the same year a Member of the Other House, and so incurred the satire of a Republican Pamphleteer, who ascribed his nomination to the desire ‘to settle and secure him to the interest of the new Court and wholly take him off from the thoughts of ever following his father’s steps or inheriting his noble virtues…’ He sat in Parliament, either for Wendover or for Buckinghamshire, in many of the Parliaments after the Restoration. He was a Presbyterian and a great Advocate of the Exclusion Bill. He did not, however, take part in any of the Plots of the time, though his son John was implicated in the Rye House Plot in 1683 and 2 years later joined Monmouth’s Rebellion. Richard Hampden sat in the Convention Parliament in 1689, and on the accession of William III obtained Office, being appointed Commissioner of the Treasury & Chancellor of the Exchequer. He died in 1695 and was succeeded by his son, who had obtained a Pardon for his share in Monmouth’s Rising. John sat with his father for Wendover in the Convention Parliament, but suffered from depression from the time of his Trial for High Treason and finally committed suicide in 1696. He was succeeded by his son Richard, who also represented Wendover or the County in several Parliaments. He was appointed Treasurer of the Navy in 1717–18, but in 1720 a deficiency of £73,706 odd appeared in his Accounts, said to be due to speculations in the South Sea Scheme. His Estates were liable to Sequestration, and a Bill was brought in to enable the Treasury to compound with him. The affair created great excitement, and is mentioned in a Newsletter of the time—‘Hampden’s Petition and the Wycombe Election, both scandalous, are the only subject of talk. I know not what is done on the first, I believe what Sir Robert hinted, but would not propose, will be followed, to take half the Estate to the Public, and to settle the remainder on his wife and brother.’ This was practically the procedure followed, and Great Hampden, which was preserved, passed to John Hampden, the half-brother and heir of Richard, who died in 1728. John Hampden was the last member of the Family in the Male Line to hold Great Hampden, which, on his death in 1753, passed under his Will to the descendants of Ruth, the 2nd daughter of John Hampden the Patriot. She had married Sir John Trevor, and the Hampden Estates came to her grandson Robert Trevor
By Royal Licence he took the name of Hampden for himself and his heirs Male in lieu of his Patronymic of Trevor. He succeeded his brother as 4th Baron Trevor of Bromham in 1764, and in 1776 was created Viscount Hampden of Great & Little Hampden. His 2 sons succeeded him at Great Hampden, but on the death in 1824 of John, the younger son, without children, the Estate passed under the Will of the John Hampden of 1753 to the descendants of Mary, John Hampden the Patriot.
John Hobart, Bart and her descendant, George Robert Hobart, 5th Earl of Buckinghamshire, succeeded to the Hampden Possessions. In 1824 by Royal Licence he took the name of Hampden only but died in 1849 without direct heirs. He was succeeded by his brother, who took the name of Hobart-Hampden, and his Estates are were held by the then Earl of Buckinghamshire, his great-grandson. The Manor of Great Hampden has been enfranchised, but the Earl remained the Sole Landowner in the Parish.