Wendover, (Wandovre 11th, 12th & 13thC). The Town name is of Brythonic Origin and means “White Water“, referring to the Stream that rises in the adjacent Hills and flows through the middle of the Town, bringing Chalk Deposits on its way.
The Parish of Wendover contains 4,616 acres of Land, of which 6 acres are covered by Water. The subsoil is Chalk. The Chiltern Hills cross the Parish and the Village lies over 400ft above the Ordnance Datum. Still higher levels are found at Bacombe Hill to the South-West (741ft) and Boddington Hill to the South-East, but the latter is largely in the neighbouring parish of Halton. A Branch of the Grand Junction Canal runs from Wendover to Marsworth, but it is now disused. The Town of Wendover is supplied with water by the Chiltern Hills Spring Water Company. The Main Road from London to Aylesbury passes through the Town, which lies at the meeting of this Road with the Icknield Way. The Road from London is called South Street when it enters the Town, and the 2 pieces of the Icknield Way; Pound Street & High Street. Both South Street & High Street are mentioned in 1461, while the North Gate & the South Gate occur in 13th & 15thC documents respectively.
The Main Streets of Wendover are open and picturesque, containing many old houses, usually with Tiled Roofs, and a few Thatched Cottages. The Market House, a modern building with a Clock Tower and Drinking Fountain, stands near the Junction of High Street & Aylesbury Street. Not far off, at the Eastern end of High Street and on its Southern side, are 2 much-altered old houses, each of them now divided into 2 Shops. The 1st of these Houses had a projecting Upper Storey and was probably erected in the early 16thC; in one of the Shops is a Fireplace with Corner seats, now inclosed. The 2nd House was probably built in the early 17thC, the walls being Timber-framed with a later brick casing. The Red Lion Hotel, a half-Timber House with Brick nogging, has been lately restored and the Framing to a large extent renewed. A Tablet inserted in the South End Gable bears the date 1669 and the initials WRF Further up the Street a house of the Elizabethan Period is now represented by a Shop and part of the King’s Head Inn.
Bosworth House, also on the South side of High Street, was the residence of Mr Frederick John Mead, with the adjoining Tenement, is a brick and Timber 2-Storeyed House with Cellar & Attic erected in the early part of the 17thC and largely refronted with Brick at a later period. The 3 circular Shafts of the most westerly of the old Chimney-Stacks rise from moulded bases. A dilapidated Pillar Piscina under the covered Gateway at the East end of Bosworth House has possibly been removed from another Site. The Houses & Cottages on the same side of Pound Street, the continuation of High Street, are also of the 17thC, though much restored. On the opposite side of Pound Street the house now attached to the ‘Shoulder of Mutton‘ & Railway Hotel was probably erected about 1620 and refaced with Brick a Century or more later. The original half-Timber & Brickwork is visible on the East Gable. Adjoining this house on the East is a 2-Storeyed Cottage of half-Timber work inside which is a Beam-Bracket dated 1621. Some other Houses & Cottages on this side both of Pound Street & High Street belong to the same Century, one being possibly of earlier date. On an Island Site between High Street & Back Street, evidently an encroachment on the original Market-Place, are 2 half-Timber Houses now plastered in front, but probably built in the earlier years of the 17thC. One of these is now divided into 2 and the other is the Two Brewers Inn. On the northern side of Back Lane is Vine Tree Farm, a 2-Storeyed Brick & Timber House of late Elizabethan date, but re-Fronted about 1700 or not long after. The original plan was L-shaped.
In the London Road is the King & Queen Inn, a half-timber house of 2-Storeys and an Attic, of 17thC date but much altered. There are also some altered and restored 17thC Cottages on the opposite side of the Road.
In Aylesbury Street, too, there are several houses of considerable interest. Ivy House, on its western side, the residence of Mr James Stevens, is a 2-Storeyed House, the nucleus of which belongs to the time of Elizabeth or James I, additional Wings having been built later in the 17th and early-18thCs; the overhanging Upper Story of the Eastern Front has been built up. There are Chimney-Stacks of old bricks both on the Main Block and the South-West Wing. Other houses on the same side are also of 17thC date. The Grange, on the Eastern side of Aylesbury Street, the residence of Dr Leonard Henry West, JP, is a late 17thC house, but has been much altered. Another earlier house of 2-Storeys may belong to the late 16th or early 17thC. Some of the old Oak panelled Doors, with ornamental Ironwork and other interesting internal Fittings, still remain. Chiltern House, originally a half-Timber house of the early 17thC, was refronted in Red & Black Brick in 1725. A fine Oak Staircase still remains in the Interior.
The present Temperance Hotel on the same side of the street is a 16thC house, principally of half-Timber, with a South-East wing added in the early part of the following century. There are indications that the Upper Story formerly projected. Both in this house and in the partly rebuilt Red House nearby some good original internal panelling is left.
Turning from Aylesbury Street to the Tring Road, the row of 17thC Thatched Cottages known as Coldharbour Row, situated on the North side, is passed. On the opposite side of the Road, Bank Farm is a house mainly of brick, consisting of 2-Storeys and an Attic with Tiled Roofs. The nucleus seems to have formed part of a 15thC House of considerable size, but the Western portion was rebuilt in the 17thC, the Elevation being a fine example of the design of the Period. A South-Eastern Wing was added somewhat later. Inside, it appears that the North-East Kitchen and adjoining passage form part of the original Hall. A ceiling with moulded Beams was evidently inserted in the 16thC. Three trusses of the original Roof are to be found in the North-east Room on the 1st-Floor above the present kitchen. Brook House, on the same side of the Road, was probably built originally in the Reign of James I but has been much altered & enlarged. Hazeldean, on the West side of the road to St Leonards, was apparently built in the late 17thC, partly from older materials, but has been completely altered. The Front is of the 18thC; some 17thC fittings still remain.
Outside the limits of the Town are several houses of Architectural interest. The Marquis of Granby Inn at World’s End is probably of the end of the 16thC but was brick-cased more than a Century later.
Wellwick Farm House
Both The Hale, belonging to Mr A C de Rothschild, and Dean Farm, though originally erected in the 17thC, have been to a great extent altered and restored; but the most interesting buildings outside the Town are to be found in the House & Barns at Wellwick Farm, about a mile Northwest of the Town. The House is of Rectangular Plan and consists of 2-Storeys with an Attic & Cellars. The materials of the original walling are Flint & Brick, with windows & copings of Stone. The date 1616 found on the Chimneys is that of the original building, but the South Front, originally Gabled, was refaced with Brick in the 18thC and latterly there has been extensive restoration. The 17thC main Doorway has a 4-centred Arch in a square head. Above it is an achievement of Brudenell with the Arms, a Cheveron between 3 Hats of Estate; the Helm & Mantle as well as the Crest, possibly an Arm holding a Club, are broken. The Chimney-Stacks of the same date are of handsome design. Inside is a 17thC Oak Staircase with central Rectangular Newel, but without Balusters or Handrails. A 2nd Staircase is later and probably of the 18thC. The 2 Barns near the house are good examples of 17thC work with open-timber Roofs.
Another house of importance in the Parish of Wendover is Halefield, which was in the possession of Sir John Broadbent, Bart.
The Church & Manor-House stand nearly ½-mile from the Town and possibly mark the Site of the Original Settlement, which migrated to the Road when Wendover became a Market Town & Borough. There is the old and not uncommon tradition to account for its position, that the Building of the Church was begun in a Field close to the Town, but when the materials had been collected they were taken away in the Night by Witches or Fairies and found next day on the present site of the Church. The field originally chosen was known as ‘Witches Meadow,’ and in support of the tradition ‘Wychewelle Croft‘ may be noted as an early 14thC Field-name in this Parish. Wendover Church was of considerable local importance in the middle ages, the Rood Cross of Wendover being a place of Pilgrimage. Amongst the Punishments meted out in 1506 to certain people at Chesham, who had spoken against Idolatry & Superstition, was an obligatory Pilgrimage to the Cross. The Rood Screen was not removed till about 1842.
The Manor House, was the residence of Mr C S Routh, is just beyond the Church. Between the Church and the Town are the Vicarage & Bucksbridge House, the latter formerly belonging to the Families of Stace & Hakewill. The Congregational Chapel was built in 1811 and rebuilt in 1903; the Baptist Chapel, in South Street, represents a cause dating from 1683.
The Literary Institute, containing a Reading Room & Library, was given to the Town by the late Lieut General Smith. The Metropolitan & Great Central Joint Railway passes through the Parish with a Station at Wendover. Wendover Dean lies in the Southwest of the Parish, the chief House being Mayertorne Manor, the Residence of Mr Hugh W Massingham.
In 1771 an Act of Parliament for making exchanges within the Parish and settling a Corn Rent on the Vicar in lieu of Tithes was obtained. The Common Fields were inclosed by Act of Parliament, the award being dated 1795.
The Parliamentary Troops came to Aylesbury in August 1642, and passed through Wendover, where they refreshed themselves after marching ‘4 long miles,’ burnt the Rails & accidentally Shot a girl, one of the Soldiers forgetting that his Musket was loaded. Prince Rupert and his Troops were there the next year and did far more damage, while 2-yrs later the Town suffered from the Raids of the Garrisons at Boarstall & Oxford.
The Antiquities found at Wendover are very few in number, the most important being an uninscribed British gold coin. There are, however, 2 Moats 2 miles West of the Town, and a Moated site in Brays Wood. Grims Dyke runs near King’s Ash in the Parish.
The following Place-Names appear, amongst others, at different times during the History of Wendover: Medecroft, Colham, le Belges, Holtmede, Hageleyne, le Napeye, Bomondescroft, Northbrech, le Maline, Socchfeld, Oswynedene, Fastyngdych, Peronescroft, Comyngescroft, Dame Agnes Lane, Casteldytchmede, Fowleslodene, Stonybrech, Crowmerschstokkyng, Gloversacre, Oxpennyng, Personespynnyng (14thC); Haspang, Buryfeld, Paradise, Harperhanger (16thC).
Wendover was a Borough by Prescription, but it never attained to any degree of self-government and always remained in the hands of the Lord of the Manor. There is no trace of a Borough in the entry in Domesday Book, but there are distinct traces of a local Dyeing & Fulling Industry in the early 13th century, and it is possible that Burgage Tenure may have been Granted by the Lord about this time, especially as Wendover, from its position at the mouth of one of the Gaps in the Chilterns, was favourably situated for a Market Town. The Borough was 1st mentioned in 1227 or 1228 when it made Presentments at the Assizes separately from the rest of Aylesbury Hundred. In the Reign of Edward I, the Tenants of the Borough all held by Burgage Tenure, some of them having Shops as well as Burgages, and in 1461 John Barker held certain land according to the custom of the Borough. The yearly Assized Rent due from the Tenants varied very considerably during the 14th & 15thCs; it was returned at £12-14s-4d in 1302, £6-15s-1d in 1337, £11 0s 3½d in 1340, £15-3s-5¼d in 1411, and £11-6s-8d in 1417. A 13thC extent gives 121 Burgages, 76 of which paid a Rent of 18d, the remainder varying between that sum and 5s. It would seem to have been the custom to remit Burgage Rents while a Burgess held Office, for in 1411 the Collector of Rents had his Rent of 18d remitted per consuetudinem, and similar references to remittance of Rent for the Bailiff of the Borough during Office have been found. This may account for the statements in the ‘Customes of Wendover Borough,‘ quoted by Lipscomb, that a Bailiff held Office for a year and then became a Burgess, that is, again took up the financial responsibilities temporarily dropped. The Chief Official was the Bailiff, who appears in the 14thC, and held Office for a year. There were also 2 Constables, who were the Returning Officers from the 17thC, and Dozoners, who collected the Headsilver. These Officials had no powers outside the Borough, except in regard to the Church of Wendover, which was common to the Borough and the Forrens Manor, and to which they appointed 2 Churchwardens, who made the Church Ale and kept their Book of Accounts. The Lord of Wendover held a special Court of the Borough, which is mentioned in 1298, and 2 Views of Frankpledge each year for the Borough Tenants; the Court-House of the Borough appears in 1461. Separate Courts Leet, Baron and the 3 weeks Court are mentioned in the ‘Customes of Wendover Borough.’ In the Reign of Edward VI, all inhabitants who owned a Plough were bound to Find & Cart Flints and other materials for the repair of the Roads. The Tenants in 1556 claimed the Right to sell by a Free Deed the Burgages that they held by Copy of Court Roll and to hold their Lands in the Borough by Burgage Tenure, paying Rent without Heriot or Relief. As a matter of fact, however, they mostly held at this time by Charters, in which Suit of Court & the Payment of Relief were stipulated. The Common at Beacon Hill also appertained to the Borough Tenants, but the Tenants of Halton Manor also had Common Rights there. The Chapel of St John Baptist (qv) belonged to the Borough, the Rent of the Land and other Property belonging to it being paid to the Burgesses, who were not bound to give any Account of it. The Borough consisted of about 30 to 40 acres of Land, almost all of which was covered with Buildings. It probably reached Northwards to the end of North Street (now Aylesbury Street), where the Wharf Road joins it, Eastwards along East Street (now the Tring Road) to Holly House or Cold Harbour, Westwards along West Street (now Pound Street) to about where the ‘Shoulder of Mutton‘ stands, and Southwards down South Street nearly as far as the Baptist Chapel.
The Borough returned 2 Burgesses to the Parliaments of 1300/1, 1307 & 1309, ( but after the last date its Representation ceased for 3 Centuries. In the early 17th century, however, William Hakewill, a Barrister and afterwards MP for Amersham, Presented Petitions in 1621 & 1624 from the Boroughs of Amersham, Marlow & Wendover, claiming the Right of sending Burgesses to Parliament. James I opposed the Petitions on the grounds that there were already too many Members, but finally they were brought before the Committee of the Commons to consider Elections & Returns, under the Chairmanship of Sir John Glanville. From the records found by Selden & Noy the Case of the Boroughs was proved, and from 1625 Wendover returned 2 Members to Parliament. The Franchise, according to a decision of the following Century, belonged to ‘the Inhabitant Housekeepers within the Borough not receiving Alms,’ and by a 2nd decision ‘persons coming by certificate to live in the Borough‘ were excluded from the Privilege. The Borough was one of the smallest in England, and from its dependent position on the Lord of the Manor it became a Proprietary Borough. It was remarkable, however, for the list of distinguished men who represented it, including John Hampden in 1625, Richard Steele in 1722, and Edmund Burke in 1765. After the Restoration Richard Hampden, who purchased the Manors of Wendover Borough & Forrens (qv) in 1660, represented it. Corruption seems to have been rife in the Borough, since in 1672 his colleague Backwell was unseated, and in 1702 the same fate befell Sir Roger Hill, who was found guilty of corruption, Richard Crawley being elected in his place. A 2nd Petition against Sir Roger Hill was brought in 1710 for Bribery, but he was not Unseated. The Constables of the Borough worked openly to return the Candidates brought forward by the Lord of the Manor. The year before this Election an unavailing effort to bring about greater Purity at Election times was made and a Sermon was Preached by the Vicar of Great Kimble before the Society for the Reformation of Manners in Wendover Church, making a great appeal to the Voters of the Borough. Wendover was controlled by the Hampdens, and in 1727 Richard Hampden, who had been ruined in the South Sea Bubble, offered the Reversion of his Seat at Wendover to the Government, but no price is named. The Borough came into the possession of Ralph Verney, 2nd & last Earl Verney in Ireland, presumably by Purchase, since he sat as Member for the Borough from 1754 to 1761, and the Hampdens reserved only the Pamountcy of the Manors of the Borough & Forrens of Wendover (qv). In 1768 the Tenants of the Borough were dispossessed on account of their Politics, and in 1784 there was the most open Bribery at the Election, large sums of money being distributed as a Gift from the Moon. The affairs of Earl Verney had long been in a disastrous condition, his Estates being Sequestered in the Court of Chancery, and in 1774 he was forced to find a Candidate for the Borough who could bear the Election Expenses himself. Burke, who was then Member, retired. He testified, however, to the disinterestedness of the Earl’s friendship and to the fact that he had been entirely his own Master at St Stephen’s. Verney sold the Borough to John Barker Church, who sat as one of its Representatives in 1790. He shortly afterwards sold it to Robert Smith, created Lord Carrington in 1796, who conveyed it with the Manor to his brother Samuel Smith. It remained a Proprietary Borough, belonging to his Family until the 1st Reform Bill. It is interesting to note that in the 1831/2 Election for the Parliament that passed the Bill even Wendover was contested by 2 Liverpool Merchants, though the Smith Candidates, Abel & Samuel Smith, were of course Elected. Wendover lost both its Members in 1832.
There appears to have been a Market at Wendover from an early Period, and the Lords held it until the Manor of Wendover came to the Crown with the accession of Edward IV. In 1464 he confirmed to his ‘Tenants & Residents within the Borough or Town of Wendover … a Market which they have always had weekly on Thursdays, within the said Town or Borough, with all Liberties & Franchises.‘ The Market was still held on Thursday in 1792. It had dwindled into insignificance by 1869 when it was held on Tuesday, and it disappeared before 1888.
As early as the year 1214 Hugh de Gurnay was permitted to hold a yearly Fair at Wendover on the Eve, Day & Morrow of St John Baptist. In 1347 Edward III Granted a Fair at Wendover to Sir John de Molyns to be held on the Eve, Day & Morrow of St Barnabas. This Fair does not seem to have continued for long, but in 1464 Edward IV Granted 2-Fairs to the Tenants of the Borough, to be held on the Vigils, Feasts & Morrows of St Philip & St James (1st May) and St Matthew (21st September) respectively; they were held on 12th May & 2nd October in 1792 & 1888 and at the present day on 13th May & 2nd October.
Reproduced from VCH Oxfordshire XVIII (2016), available online at www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol18