Monks Risborough

Hriseberga (1006); Riseberge (11thC); Parva Risborwe (14thC); Monks Rysborough (16thC).

This Parchment Charter is written on both sides. The Latin Text on one side tells the Story of how the Papers were Lost and the Anglo-Saxon Side describes the Landmarks which define the Parish Boundary.


Saxon Translation of the Landmarks
“These are the Landmarks.  First from the Gore to the Black Hedge. From the Hedge down to the Full (Foul) Brook.  From the Full Brook, on the West side of the Ash Tree on its Bank, to the Old Dyke, west of the Dairy Farm or Stockyard. From the Dyke, to the Wooded (Wealda’s) Ridge on Edric’s Boundary.  And along Edric’s Boundary to the Kimble Boundary.  And along the Boundary to the Icknield Way.  And along the Icknield Way, by the Heathen Burial Bround to the King’s Street.  Up and along the Street to Wyland’s Stock. From the Stock down and along the Deer Hedge”. Thence “to the Hay Field (or clearing).  From the Field down and again to the Gore”.
The Charter was Witnessed in the First Line by King Edward the Elder (son of Alfred the Great), Ethelred & Ethelflaed, the Lord & Lady of the Mercians, and the Archbishop Plegmund of Canterbury. The Second Line is of Bishops and the Third & Fourth Lines the Son, Brothers & Relatives of the King.
Latin Text Translation of the Reasons
In the 903rd year, and the 6th Indication, of the Incarnation of the Son of the Father, Enthroned on High, who Rules and Governs all things in Heaven & on Earth. Seeing that all the Title Deeds of the Alderman Æthelfrith have been destroyed by Fire, the Alderman has been obliged to ask King Edward as well as Æthelred & Æthelflaed, who at this time hold Way over the Mercians, and of all the leading men of the Mercians that they should allow the Writing of new Deeds. They have therefore agreed unanimously that new Deeds should be written as far as he (Æthelfrith) could remember the old ones by Heart. Even if he could remember but very little it might be useful, in confirmation of other Evidence, in preventing his being annoyed by the production of other (forged) Deeds or by Deeds which Relatives or Strangers might produce as having been carried away or Stolen at the time of the Fire or at any other time.  For as we know that all things happen in this World are apt to slip, more or less quickly, from the Memory of Mortal Man unless they are recorded in Documents.  As so we have commanded that in this Deed, there be made known the facts relating to the Land at East Risborough, in quantity 30 Cassata (Hide), which Athulf has Granted his daughter Ethelgyth, as her own hereditary Estate, with Liberty to dispose of by Will”.

The Division of Bucks now known as the Hundred of Aylesbury is formed by the Union of the 3 Ancient Hundreds of Elesberie (Aylesbury), Risberge, (Risborough) & Stane, (Stone), and still retains the formally the Appelation of the “Three Hundreds of Aylesbury.”

The Parish of Monks Risborough lies on the North-Western Slope of the Chiltern Hills, and is remarkably long & narrow in shape.  Near Green Hailey Firs the Land rises to a height of 813ft above the Ordnance Datum, but in the North-West of the Parish, it is under 300ft.  On the Hills the subsoil is Chalk, but in the lower parts it is Upper Greensand & Gault; the surface varies, consisting of hard Chalk, Clay, and Loam. The Parish is well Wooded and contains 520¾ acres of Woods.  The people were mainly occupied in Arable Farming, but there were extensive Watercress Beds near the Village of Monks Risborough. There are 1,128¾ acres of Arable Land and 830½a of Permanent Pasture.

The Small Village & Church stand on the West side of the Main Road (A4010), which runs along the foot of the Slope of the Chiltern Hills, the Church standing back from the Road, with the Modern Vicarage to the South-east.  In the Vicarage Garden, just East of the Church, is a Pool fed by a Spring from the Chalk, from which a Stream runs Northward past a Moated Site, whose Banks & Ditches are now half obliterated.  To the North is a Farm-house, and in the Field between it and the Church stands a square Pigeon-house, the Walls of which are probably Mediaeval.  It has a North doorway of curious pseudo-Gothic detail.

A small Stream runs from Askett Hamlet to Monks Risborough Mill and Alscott.  Domesday Book does not mention any Mill at Monks Risborough, but there was certainly a Mill there by the 14thC. During the 14th & 15thCs the Millward was several times brought before the Manor Court accused of overcharging.  In 1535 the Valuation, made prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, showed Monks Risborough (part of the Property of the Priory of Christchurch, Canterbury) as having 2 Mills, which brought in for the Priory an income of £25-8s-11d a year.  In the 17thC the then Lord of the Manor owned 2 Mills at his death, a Watermill & a Windmill on ‘Brokenhill  Excavations in 2002 -06 found the Site of a former Windmill on the top of Whiteleaf Hill, thought to have been there in the 16th & 17thCs.  The Watermill was at the house still called Mill House in Mill Lane.  The Map attached to the Inclosure Award of 1839 showed this Property, described as ‘The Ham. Mill House‘, with a Millpond behind it and 2 fields marked as Mill Meadow and Mill Mead  It is not known when it had ceased to be used as a working Mill.

Both the Great Western & the Great Central Railways ran through the Parish, but the nearest Station was at Princes Risborough.  The Single Track Railway Line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury, was constructed in 1863 and converted from Broad Gauge to Standard Gauge in 1868, but there was no Station at Monks Risborough until 1929.  Monks Risborough Railway Station opened on 11th November 1929 as Monks Risborough & Whiteleaf Halt.  It has been called Monks Risborough since 1974.

The Main Road from Aylesbury to High Wycombe (A4010) passes through the Village of Monks Risborough and follows the course of the Upper Icknield WayGrim’s Dyke can be traced here, running in a Southwesterly direction across the Southern end of the Parish.

On the Hills to the East of Monks Risborough is cut the probably prehistoric Landmark, known as the Whiteleaf Cross, now well cared for by the Owner of the Hampden Estates.  Two Tumuli exist in its neighbourhood. There are 4 Hamlets in the Parish: Owlswick, Meadle, Askett, & Cadsden.  At Askett there is a Baptist Chapel built in 1839, with a small burial-ground attached.  Master John Schorne is said to have been vicar here before he went to Long Marston, c.1290. In 1701 Humphrey Hody was Presented to the Vicarage of Monks Risborough. He was appointed Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford in 1697–8, and by his Will left various Exhibitions to Wadham College.

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Christchurch, Canterbury Azure a cross argent with the letters [IX] sable thereon.

Manors: the Manor of Monks Risborough was Granted to the Monastery of Christchurch, Canterbury, at an early date.  In 995 Ethelred II confirmed a Grant of the Manor made by Archbishop Sigeric to Bishop Æscwige of Dorchester for 90 ‘Librae’ of pure Silver & 200 ‘Mancusae.’  In the next year, however, Æscwige restored the Manor, which apparently was only Granted as Security for the Loan of money.  It was confirmed to Christchurch by King Ethelred in 1006  & by Edward the Confessor.  During the Reign of the latter, it was held by Asgar the Staller,  with the condition that he could not alienate it from the Church.  In the Domesday Survey, it is said to be held by the ‘Archbishop himself‘; this was probably because the Lands of the Prior had not been separated from those of the Archbishop since by the 13thC the Manor was held by the Prior of Canterbury of the King in Chief.

The Monastery held the Manor without interruption until it was seized by the King at the Dissolution.  It was not restored by him to the Dean & Chapter of the Cathedral Church, but was Granted in 1541 to Sir Francis Bryan & Thomas Lawe.  In the same year, however, these Grantees obtained Licence to alienate the Manor to Edward Restwold and his wife Agnes.  Agnes held the Manor after the death of her husband in 1548, but having apparently married as her 2nd husband Sir Thomas Waterton, it was sold by them to Thomas Fletewood, whose Widow Brigit held the Manor on the death of her husband, and was succeeded by her son George.  George Fleetwood sold it in 1569 to Richard Tredway of Beaconsfield and his son Walter, and Richard Tredway again sold it to Elizabeth Clarke, daughter of George Clarke of Monks Risborough.  She married Henry Ewer,  and they held the Manor until 1617 when it was sold to Sir Jerome Horsey.  Before his death he had settled it on Sir John Bonner, Sir John Curzon, & John Hampden in Trust for his sons, reserving only certain Tenements to himself.  Very shortly after his death, John Hampden, William & John Horsey sold the Manor to John Barber alias Grigge of Wendover.  It again changed hands in 1633, when John Barber and his wife Anne sold it to Edmund West.  The Wests seem to have held it for a longer period than any of their predecessors since the 1st Grant by Henry VIII, for in 1694/5 a Roger West sold it to John Poynter, in whose Family it still remained in 1719.  At later the Earl of Buckinghamshire was the Lord of the Manor.

The Hamlet of Owlswick was apparently included in Monks Risborough in the early Grants to Christchurch.  After the Norman Conquest, it was held by a Military Sub-tenant.  Three such Tenants are mentioned in 1210-12;  Henry de Lawike, Thomas de Berewike & Humphrey de Rede held one Fee in Risborough & Newington. The 1st named may be identified as a Member of the Family who held Owlswick of the Archbishop some years later.  Henry de Owlswick held ½ a Knight’s Fee there in 1284–86, and he was the Ancestor of the Baldwins who held the Manor of Owlswick in the next Century.  Baldwin son of Baldwin Quitclaimed all his Right in certain Land which had originally been Granted by his Ancestor Henry of Owlswick to the Abbey of Missenden,  and John Baldwin made an Agreement with the Abbey as to Land in the Hamlet.

Henry Baldwin in 1332/3 held Lands & Tenements in Monks Risborough.  He also held the Manor of Owlswick with his wife Alice, and after his death was succeeded by his son John Baldwin.  William son & heir of this John Granted 2/3rds of the Manor to John Grise & Nicholas Bagenhale, excepting a Tenement held by a Life Tenant.  In 1390 he Granted the remaining 3rd of the Manor, which his mother had held in Dower, to the same Grantees.  Nicholas Bagenhale Enfeoffed Edmund Hampden, Thomas Swynerton, Bernard Saunterdon, John Aspley & Thomas Durham, of the Manor, probably in Trust for the Hampdens and they held it in 1401.  Two years later Henry son of John Baldwin, the nephew of William Baldwin, made an unsuccessful claim to the Manor as the son of the brother & heir of William.  Nicholas Bagenhale was called to give Warranty and the Feoffees remained in possession.  William Hampden made a Settlement of the Manor in 1500 and Jerome Hampden died Seised of Tenements in Owlswick in 1541.  His son Richard & grandson Alexander also held the Manor.  The heirs of Alexander were his 3 nieces Anne, Margaret & Mary, daughters of his brother Edmund.  He provided for the Shares in this Manor of Margaret & Mary, respectively the wives of Thomas Wenman & Alexander Denton, by a Settlement made in 1639 and left their 2/3rds to his brother Christopher for life.  The remaining 3rd and the reversion of the Bequest to Christopher he left to his eldest niece Anne, the wife of Sir John Trevor.  The Trevors finally obtained Possession of the whole Manor,  but in 1657 they sold it to William Claydon.  His daughter Bashewell married John Grubbe of Horsenden, and the Manor of Owlswick,  under the Will of William Claydon, passed to her 3 daughters, Elizabeth, Lettice & Hester.  These heiresses, however, sold it in 1716 to Edward Stone, who had married their half-sister Elizabeth Grubbe.  His grandson Edward Stone, Rector of Horsenden, held the Manor in 1769, and it Descended to his only daughter & heiress Sarah, the wife of Charles Shard.  In 1847 it was in the hands of Mrs Shard of ‘Grims Dyke’ Lodge, Lacey Green.  About 1861, Mr Grey bought the Manor from Mrs Shard, but in that year he re-sold it to Mr Humphreys, whose son, Mr George Humphreys of Brogton Park, Aspley Guise, Beds, was the Lord of the Manor of Owlswick.  A small Quit-rent is paid to the Lord of the Manor of Monks Risborough, and the Copyhold Lands in the Manor of Owlswick are also subject to Fines payable to him.

The Prior of Christchurch held the Manor of Monks Risborough in Frankalmoign of the King in Chief.  He held a View of Frankpledge for his Tenants and claimed to have Waifs & Strays, the Chattels of Felons & Outlaws, and to receive the Fines of his men when they were Fined in the King’s Courts.  He also had Gallows, Tumbrel & a Pillory in the Manor.  The King’s Counsel, objecting to the Claim, said that there was no Pillory at Monks Risborough.  It is said that the Cadsden Road used to be known as Gallows Lane and the Crossing of the Upper Icknield Way with Cadsden Road as Gallows Cross.

When called upon by Edward I to show his Warranty for these Rights he quoted a Charter of William the Conqueror confirming the comprehensive Rights & Regalia Granted to the Archbishop of Canterbury by Edward the Confessor.  The Prior held the Assize of Ale within the Manor, and he obtained in 1316 a Grant of Free Warren in his Demesne Lands in Risborough, which was confirmed by Edward III.  No Mills are mentioned at Monks Risborough in the Domesday Survey.  In the 14th & 15thCs, however, the Millward was continually presented in the Manor Court for taking excessive Tolls from the Manorial Tenants.  At the Dissolution of the Monastery, there were 2 Mills at Risborough, which were occupied by Leasehold Tenants.  These were the same 2 Mills presumably which were described in the next Century.  Sir Jerome Horsey kept these in his own hands when he settled the Manor on his Sons, and at his Death, he died Seised of a Windmill on Brokenhill, and a Watermill, both of which had been formerly Parcel of the Manor of Monks Risborough.

Reproduced from VCH Oxfordshire XVIII (2016), available online at

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