Biddlesden

(including the hamlet of Evershaw)

"Biddlesden (Brackley, Oxfordshire, 3 1/2 m.; Buckingham 6 m.) is on the Northamptonshire border in the NW of the county. It was at one time a place of importance, for here was a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1147 by Ernald de Bosco. Remains of the Abbey existed in 1712, but it was demolished about fifteen years later, and the house of Biddlesden Park stands on its site.[Buckinghamshire by E.S. Roscoe]

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Bibliography

The following reference sources have been used in the construction of this page, and may be referred to for further detail. Most if not all of these volumes are available in the Reference section of the County Library in Aylesbury.

"Buckinghamshire", Roscoe E.S., London Methuen & Co. Ltd, 6th edition, 1935
"Buckinghamshire Returns of the Census of Religious Worship 1851", Legg E. ed., 1991, ISBN 0 901198 27 7.
"Dictionary of English Place-Names", A.D. Mills, Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0 19 28131 3
"Magna Britannia: Buckinghamshire", Lysons S. and Lysons D., 1806.
"Royal Commission on Historical Monuments - An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Buckinghamshire", H.M.S.O, 1912/3.
"The History and Antiquities of the Town, Hundred and Deanry of Buckingham", Browne Willis, London, 1755.
"The History of Buckinghamshire", Reed Michael, 1993, ISBN 0 85033 637 6.
"The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Buckinghamshire", Page W. ed., 1905-1928

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Census

In 1798 the Posse Comitatus listed 36 men between the ages of 16 and 60 in Biddlesden. When Browne Willis, wrote his book he reported that there were only 17 houses in the whole parish, and that three or four of these were in a village called Evershaw.

Census Year Population
1801* 147
1811* 160
1821* 175
1831* 184
1841 169
1851 144
1861 169
1871 150
1881 125
1891 124
1901 84

* = No names were recorded in census documents from 1801 to 1831.
** = Census documents from 1911 to 2001 are only available in summary form. Names are witheld under the 100 year rule.

Microfilm copies of all census enumerators' notebooks for 1841 to 1891 are held at the Local Studies Libraries at Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, as well as centrally at the PRO. A table of 19th century census headcount by parish is printed in the VCH of Bucks, Vol.2, pp 96-101.

Availability of census transcripts and indexes.

  • 1851 - Full transcripts and indexes for Buckinghamshire are available on CD-ROM, hard copy and microfiche from the Buckinghamshire Family History Society.
  • 1861 - Available on CD-ROM with advanced search and mapping capabilities etc. from the Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society.
  • 1881
    • Available on CD-ROM from the Church of the Latter Day Saints, as part of the National 1881 Census Index.
    • Available on CD-ROM for Buckinghamshire, with advanced search and mapping capabilities etc. from Drake Software.
  • 1891 - Available on CD-ROM with advanced search and mapping capabilities etc. from the Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society.

Churches

You can also perform a more selective search for churches in the Biddlesden area or see them printed on a map.

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Church History

Biddlesden Abbey

In 1147, Ernald de Bosco, the steward to the Earl of Leicester, founded an abbey of the Cistercian Order, to the honour of St. Mary and St. Nicholas. Hence, with the earl's permisiion, the abbey was made subject to Gerondon Abbey in Leicestershire. The monks remained in quiet possession of the abbey until the dissolution, when it was finally surrendered in 1539. In Browne Willis's book, "The History and Antiquities of the Town, Hundred and Deanry of Buckingham", he details the returns made by the King's Vistors at the Dissolution as follows:

"Value by the first survey 130l. 4s. 3d.
By the second Survey, 138l. 7s. 8d.
Monks there 11, whereof Priests Nine, Incontinent none, desirous Capacities One. An Abbat quodam having a Pencyon by Convent Seal 13l. 6s. 4d.
Servants 51, whereof Hinds 24, waiting Servants 13, Boys and Children 9, Women for the Dairy 4, Bells, Lead, and other Buildings worth there by Estimation 51l. 6s. 8d.
The entire Value of the moveable Goods 61l. 5s. 4d. Stocks and Stores none. Woods there 400 Acres."

Browne Willis also lists the 'Names of the Religous' at surrender together with their pensions as follows:

"To Richard Green, Abbat 40l.
To Thomas Todd, Sub Prior 6l.
To Robert Weston alias Bartlet, Richard Brackley alias Mayo, John Northampton alias Dawkins, Robert Northampton alias Tayler, John Shalleston alias Colles, John Aukland alias Robinson, John Bradley alias Keeling, Richard Shepshed alias Palfrey, or Palfreyman 5l. 6s. 8d. each. Here was also a pension of 20 Marks paid to Richard Benet, a quondam Abbat during Life, as certified by Dr. John London, one of the Visitors, who calls him a very honest Man, and says that divers of the Monks were very Aged Men."

Very soon after the Dissolution the church was demolished and then according to Browne Willis, the five large bells were sold, or given away by Sir Robert Peckham, to Denham parish, where they were used until 1683, when the 5 bells were were run into 8.

In 1712 Browne Willis visited the site of the Abbey ruins, and found a good proportion still standing (see 'Descriptions and Travel'). However, by the time he actually wrote his book he reported that all traces of the Abbey's existence had been removed, by the then owner Mr. John Sayer, the site being used for the building of the current house of Biddlesden Park.

St Nicholas

The chapel of St Nicholas was allegedly sited in an orchard near the principal house in Evershaw. However, by the early 18th century there was no trace left of it.

St Margaret

The original chapel of St Margaret's was built in the 13th Century, and was according to Browne Willis, approximately 40 to 50 feet long and 16 to 17 feet wide. The church reportortedly had a Bell Turret, and contained virtually no paintings or ornaments. After the destruction of the Abbey building this was used as the village church until 1730 when it was demolished and replaced when Biddleden Park was built.

The present church of St Margaret was built about 1730 by Henry Sayer. It is plain brick building with stone dressings and has a bell turret with one bell. There is a 14th century gravestone in the churchyard which came from Biddleden Abbey.

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Church Records

The original copies of the Biddlesden parish registers have been deposited in the Buckinghamshire Record Office in Aylesbury, and they hold the following years:

Event Dates covered
Christenings 1695 - 1980
Marriages 1695 - 1836
Burials 1695 - 1987

Copies or indexes to the parish registers are available from societies as follows:

Event
Society Library*
Dates covered
Society
Christenings
1686 - 1837
Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society
Burials
1686 - 1837
Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society
Marriages
1685 - 1837
Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society

* = material held in a Society library is generally available for loan to all members either via post, or by collection at a meeting

An ecclesiastical census was carried out throughout England on 30 March 1851 to record the attendance at all places of worship. These returns are in the Buckinghamshire Record Office and have been published by the Buckinghamshire Record Society (vol 27). The returns for Biddlesden showed the following numbers:

Church Attendance
Parish church 55 - Morning general congregation
25 - Sunday scholars
80 - Total

75 - Afternoon general congregation
25 - Sunday scholars
100 - Total

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Description and Travel

In 1927 "The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Buckinghamshire" states as follows:

The area of Biddlesden parish, which was formerly 1630 acres, increased to 2052 acres between 1871 and 1881, probably under the Divided Parishes Acts of 1876 or 1879. A further extension, which gave the parish its present area, 3201 acres, was made before 1891, doubtless under the Local Government Act of 1888. A 16th-century account of the bounds of the manor shows that the extensions have been made in the east of the parish; it contains many field-names still to be found. The bounds ran by Homewood, Earlswood, Briary Coppice, Newridinge, Whitfield Wood, Evershaw, Westbury Corner, Smallye mead, Walkemead, Evershaw Bridge, and along the banks of the Ouse.

The River Ouse forms part of the western boundary, separating Biddlesden from Northamptonshire. The land is lowest in this part, under 400 ft. Towards the middle it rises slightly and reaches a height of a little over 500 ft. in the north-east. There are 560 acres of arable land with 2215 acres laid down in grass on a soil of gravel with a subsoil of limestone, and agriculture forms the main employment of the population. The numerous woods and coppices still existing, about 337 acres in extent, are evidence of the time when the woodland in the parish was probably far more extensive than at present, since the royal forest of Whittlewood in the next county lay on its northern borders. Certain woods in the manor belonged to the king as part of the forest, and he had the right of fowling and hunting throughout the manor. In 1536 Sir Francis Brian, anticipating the suppression of the foundation, desired to have the abbey of Biddlesden for himself, 'as it adjoins the forest and the king's game might be injured by another man'. [© copyright of the editors of The Victoria Histories of the Counties of England]

Biddlesden was described in 1806 in "Magna Britannia" as follows:

Biddlesdon, or Bittlesden, in the hundred and deanery of Buckingham, lies about six miles north-west of the county town, on the borders of Northamptonshire. The manor was in the reign of Henry I. the property of Robert de Meppershall, who is said by Camden to have forfeited it, for stealing one of the king's hounds; but other writers say, that it was forfeited as an escheat to the Earl of Leicester, as his lord paramount. The fact, as stated in the original record, printed in Dugdale's Monasticon, appears to be, that Robert de Meppershall having been sued in the King's Court, for stealing a dog, gave the manor to Geffrey de Clinton, the king's Chamberlain, to befriend him in the suit; but having married some time afterwards a relation of the chamberlain's, it was given back to him. After this, going to reside at his native place, Meppershall, in Bedfordshire, he neglected to pay the services due to the Earl of Leicester (as his lord paramount) for the manor of Biddlesdon, whereupon the earl seized the manor into his own hands, and gave it to Ernald de Bosco, his steward. De Bosco, being fearful that he should be obliged at some future period to restore it, gave it, with the Earl of Leicester's permission, to the monks of Gerendon, in Leicestershire, to the intent that they might found a convent of the Cistercian order at Biddlesdon, which was done accordingly, in the year 1147. The revenues of their monastery were valued in the reign of Henry VIII. at 125l. 4s. 4d. per annum. After the reformation, its site was granted, together with the manor, to Thomas Lord Wriothesley: this estate soon afterwards passed by purchase to the Peckhams: having been seized by Queen Elizabeth, in satisfaction for a debt due to the crown, she gave it to Arthur Lord Grey, on the attainder of whose son, in 1603, it reverted to the crown, and was granted in 1614 to Sir George Villiers, afterwards Duke of Buckingham. George Villiers, the second and last duke of that name, sold it in 1681 to Mr. Sayer, of whose family it was purchased by Earl Verney. Biddlesdon-house, which was for a time one of Lord Verney's seats, is now the residence of George Morgan esq. late of Abercothy, in the county of Carmarthen, who, jointly with his brother, Dr. Morgan, prebendary of Gloucester, purchased the estate in the year 1791, of Lady Fermanagh, niece of the late Earl Verney.

Browne Willis, in his history of the hundred of Buckingham, tells us, that in 1712, there were considerable remains of the abbey and conventual church; part of the east side of the cloisters, part of a tower, a small chapel, and the chapter-house, a handsome room, about forty feet square, with a vaulted roof, supported by four pillars: in the chapel was a monument of one of the Lords Zouch. The same author also mentions the tombs of Thomas Billings, Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Common-Pleas, who died in 1481: one of the Lovett family, and some others. All traces of the abbey had been so entirely destroyed by Mr. Sayer, before the publication of Mr. Willis's work, that he had not left any thing that could indicate the site of an ancient building. A modern chapel, built by Mr. Sayer, adjoining the house, serves as the parish church. Mr. Morgan is impropriator of the great tithes, and patron of the benefice, which is a donative or curacy.

The abbot and convent had, in 1315, a charter for a weekly market, at Biddlesdon, on Mondays, and a fair on the festival of St. Margaret: it is now a very small village. At Eversaw, in this parish, was formerly a chapel, dedicated to St. Nicholas.

    You can see pictures of Biddlesden which are provided by:

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    Gazetteers

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    Click here for a list of nearby places.

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    Historical Geography

    You can see the administrative areas in which Biddlesden has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.

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    History

    see also 'Descriptions and Travel'

    Before the Norman Conquest Azor the son of Tored, a thegn of King Edward, held the manor, but afterwards the Conquerer gave it to Earl Aubrey, but in 1086 it was held by King William as 4 hides and 1 virgate. By the reign of Henry I, Robert son of William de Meppershall was lord of Biddlesden. In the reign of Stephen, it was given to the Earl of Leicester, whose steward, Arnold de Bois, founded the abbey here. The abbey continued to hold the manor until its dissolution in 1538.

    1086 there were two mills, valued at 28d, which belonged to the manor. They are mentioned in 1278-9 as standing one within and one without the abbey. By the 13th or 14th century there was a windmill there as well, later called 'Walkermyll'.

    The hamlet of Evershaw, in the time of Edward the Confessor, was held by 'a certain bandy-leg' as 1 hide, and in 1086 it was still held by the same man in 'almoin of the king', although the land was considered to be part of Lewin of Nuneham's holding. in the 12th century it was held by Pain de Beauchamp, and the overlordship was still in this family by the end of the 13th century.

    The family who held under the Beauchamps took its name from the place. William de Evershaw, called lord of Evershaw, flourished in the 12th century.

    Biddlesden continued to hold a portion of Evershaw, including a mill, until the Dissolution, after which date it apparently became merged in the manor of Biddlesden. According to a conveyance of 1540 the Biddlesden estate comprised Evershaw Park.

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    Names, Geographical

    • Biddlesden in 1086 was Betesdene and in the 12th century Bethlesdena. Probably 'valley with a house or building', derived from the old english Bythle + Denu. Or, the first element maybe an old english personal name 'Byttel'.
    • Evershaw - derives its name from the old english eofor-sceaga, and means "boar-wood or -thicket"