Lewknor-up-Hill ~ (Ackhampstead)
The Ackhampstead Chapel’s Enclosure is still easily found, on the opposite side of the Lane a little to the south-east of Moor Farm; it is approached from the Lane by steep rough Steps formed from Stones of the former Chapel. These Steps also form a part of the adjacent Footpath, which starts from a point on Moor Common where the Private Road to Moor Farm leaves the Frieth to Lane End Road and goes to Finnamore or Chisbridge. It is advisable to use this Footpath when going to the Chapel Site because the Farmer takes exception to approaches from other directions, including the Lane.
In 1912 the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments described the Chapel:
“Only low remains of the Flint Walls are visible. The Building is said to have been Rectangular with Lancet windows. Condition – bad; grass & trees are growing in and around the Ruins”. The last Curate at the Chapel, Rev Frederick Menzies, wrote: “It had no Architectural interest, nor were there any Graves found within or without”.
It was said that the new Chapel at Frieth was only 6 or 7ft larger than that at Ackhampstead: this gives an idea of the size of the latter.
In 1949, Dr Morley Davies found the Ruins to be “still in much the same condition as in 1912“, adding that “the walls, of rough Flint, are only 2 or 3-ft high and largely buried in Mould. The Site is fenced in, and forms a thicket of Cherry, Holly & other Trees, with much Bramble & Ivy. Two shaped blocks of what appears to be Aylesbury Limestone represent the remains of the Doorway”.
In 1965, Mr S J Smith & Vincent North dug a hole before the Altar and at a depth of about 3½ft found what appeared to be a beaten Earth Floor with about ¼-inch of Lime Plaster above it. They recovered a Brick in ‘mint’ condition; it measured 8 x 4¼ x 1¾ ins, which seems to be right for the latter part of the 13thC. Having been promised help by a number of people, Mr Smith obtained permission from the appropriate Authorities to tidy up the & Vincent North. It took them 32-working hrs to clear the blackthorn, hawthorn, holly, ash, bramble, wild cherry & wild clematis. Little more than the Foundations of the Chapel were then to be found.
The Rev Menzies wrote that when he was Curate “there was no Road whatever“, This is strange because, like many Ancient Roads, the existing Lane is sunk deep beneath the level of the surrounding fields as if worn down by Centuries of traffic. Moreover, on Bryant’s Map of Buckinghamshire (1825), only a little before Menzies‘ time, the Chapel is shown at the crossing of 4 tracks: the land is shown as a “good cross or driving Road” and is better than any other Track in the immediate neighbourhood.
In 1849 Lewknor-up-Hill was described as “an extensive District in the midst of a wild part of the Country, intersected to a great extent with clumps of Beech Trees, and with a settled Population living in small Hamlets or Villages. One of these Villages where some portion of the Inhabitants are collected is called Ackhampstead, the Population of which has been differently stated – but this point has been set right by the affidavit of a Reverend Gentleman, who stated that the Population consisted of 58 Individuals. They inhabit 2 Farm-houses, the Moor Farm, the Finnamore Farm, & 10 Cottages. The Parish of Hambleden adjoined Ackhampstead so closely that there was some doubt whether a certain Cottage is in the one Parish or the other. Presumably, this is the Cottage “at the corner of Ackhampstead Wood” that is said to have had formerly the unique privilege of being in 2 Counties, Oxford & Bucks, and 3 Parishes, Hambleden, Lewknor & Fingest. On the days when ‘Bounds were beaten’ a boy was passed through the Oven! In 1845 the 2-Landowners and “15 Inhabitants & Owners of Cottages in the District – comprised all the Owners of Property in the District in which the Chapel was situated.“
Until late in the 19thC Ackhampstead had been situated immemorably in a Detached part of Oxfordshire known as Lewknor-up-Hill, being a part of Lewknor Hundred, and the Chapel was the responsibility of the Vicar of Lewknor. It has been suggested that this state of affairs may have arisen because at an early date Lands in each place had a common Owner: in support of this idea is the fact that when the Jodrell Family owned Land in Lewknor-down-Hill they exercised the Manorial Rights of Ackhampstead.