Bletchley

(including Fenny Stratford and Water Eaton)

"Bletchley. A brick-built Victorian railway town merging into Fenny Stratford, with modern developments on its edges." [Murray's Buckinghamshire Architectural Guide]

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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 Contributions for Ireland 1642", Wilson J., 1983.
"Buckinghamshire Returns of the Census of Religious Worship 1851", Legg E. ed., 1991, ISBN 0 901198 27 7.
"Magna Britannia: Buckinghamshire", Lysons S. and Lysons D., 1806.
"Murray's Buckinghamshire Architectural Guide." editors John Betjeman & John Piper, London, 1948
"Royal Commission on Historical Monuments - An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Buckinghamshire", H.M.S.O, 1912/3.
"Saint Martin's Parish Church Fenny Stratford - A Short Illustarted History", Edward Legg, 1986
"The History and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham", Lipscomb G., 1847
"The Place-Names of Buckinghamshire", Mawer A. and Stenton F.M., 1925.
"The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Buckinghamshire", Page W. ed., 1905-1928
"War Memorials and War Graves: Milton Keynes and Wolverton area, Volume 6", Peter Quick

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Cemeteries

The following Monumental Inscriptions are available as publications or as part of a Society library:

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

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Census

In the 1642 tax returns for contributions for Ireland, there were 62 people named in Bletchley itself, 61 in Fenny Stratford and 45 in Water Eaton and as a whole it was assessed at £9.19.3 and of these Mr Edward Tayler contributed £3.0.0.

In 1798 the Posse Comitatus there were 78 men in Bletchley, 97 men in Fenny Stratford, and 47 men in Water Eaton between the ages of 16 and 60.

In the earliest government census of 1801, there were the following recorded:
Bletchley 355 inhabitants in 77 families living in 64 houses.
Fenny Stratford 469 inhabitants in 96 families living in 81 houses.
Water Eaton 214 inhabitants in 41 families living in 41 houses.

Census Year

Population of Bletchley
with Fenny Stratford

Population of
Water Eaton

1801*

824

214
1811* 916 187
1821* 884 276
1831* 1011 243
1841 1183 267
1851 1303 241
1861 1416 242
1871 1619 243
1881 2184 248
1891 3070 241
1901 4068 201

* = 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.
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Church History

St. Mary, Bletchley

The Parish Church of St. Mary is at the north east of the village standing on higher ground and is built of limestone rubble. The south doorway is the remaining detail from the 12th century and has been reset in the south aisle, probably taken from the aisleless nave of that date. Between the end of the 13th century and the 15th century many enlargements and much rebuilding took place, the first, being the chancel, in the 13th century, which was rebuilt and enlarged to its present size. This was followed by the addition of the south aisle, circa 1300, and the north chapel early in the 14th century. Later in this same century, the first three bays of the north aisle were built. The 15th century saw the building of the west bay and the west tower and the reconstruction of the clearstorey. The south porch is believed to have been built possibly in the 14th century but has been either completely rebuilt or restored since.Subsequently the whole building has been restored twice, first in the 18th century and again in the 19th.

The font is of uncertain date, not medieval, but possibly 17th century. It has a circular bowl and an octagonal spire shaped font cover, with arabesque panels.

In the chancel, under the north arcade, is a particularly fine 15th century alabaster effigy of a knight in armour resting upon an altar tomb.

Under the north east window in the north chapel is a 14th century, much defaced, recess for a tomb, with segmental pointed head of two moulded orders. There is another recess, of the fifteenth century, in the north aisle at the east end for an altar, the wall is cut away from the floor for three or four feet, the overhanging part carried on moulded corbel-course.

In the chancel there are four, 13th or early 14th century, recesses, much scraped and restored, one was probably originally a piscina, the the three seats of the sedilia are divided by circular columns with moulded capitals and bases.

There is a small opening with trefoiled head, now blocked, in the chancel between the north doorway and the east respond of arcade. Scratched onto the butress east of the north doorway, in a small circle, is a sundial.

Carved on the parapet of the east wall is a chalice and wafer in low relief.

St. Martin's, Fenny Stratford

The parish church of St. Martin stands in the middle of the town. The original chapel, erected in 1726 by Browne Willis replacing an older derelict chapel, was later, in the mid 1900s, incorporated into a larger church, Browne Willis's chapel now being the north aisle of the new building and his tombstone has been moved and is now affixed in the north east corner of the aisle, on the east wall.

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Church Records

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

Event Dates covered
Christenings 1577 - 1971
Marriages 1577 - 1960
Banns 1755 - 1986
Burials 1577 - 1937

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

Event Dates covered
Christenings 1730 - 1978
Marriages 1730 - 1972
Banns 1754 - 1987
Burials 1730 - 1975

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

Event
Society Library*
Dates covered
Society
Marriages - Bletchley
1744 - 1908
Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society
Christenings - Fenny Stratford
1730 - 1853
Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society
Marriages - Fenny Stratford
1730 - 1876
Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society
Burials - Fenny Stratford
1730 - 1909
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 Bletchley showed the following numbers:

Church Attendance
Parish church - Bletchley 153 - Morning General Congregation
28 - Morning Sunday Scholars
181 - Morning Total

160 - Afternoon General Congregation
18 - Afternoon Sunday Scholars
178 - Afternoon Total

Wesleyan Methodist - Bletchley 72 - Afternoon General Congregation
12 - Afternoon Sunday Scholars
84 - Afternoon Total

150 - Evening General Congregation
150 - Evening Total

St. Martin's Chapel - Fenny Stratford 180 - Afternoon
Baptist Chapel, Aylesbury Street
- Fenny Stratford
120 - Morning General Congregation
80 - Morning Sunday Scholars
200 - Morning Total

140 - Afternoon General Congregation
98 - Afternoon Sunday Scholars
238 - Afternoon Total

166 - Evening General Congregation
166 - Evening Total

Wesleyan Methodist, High Street
- Fenny Stratford
170 - Morning General Congregation
84 - Morning Sunday Scholars
254 - Morning Total

70 - Afternoon General Congregation
70 - Afternoon Total

Wesleyan Methodist Chapel
- Water Eaton
26 - Morning General Congregation
26 - Morning Total

96 - Afternoon General Congregation
96 - Afternoon Total

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Description and Travel

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Gazetteers

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Historical Geography

You can see the administrative areas in which Bletchley 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

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

Bletchley, which includes the hamlet of Water Eaton and until 1881-91 also included part of the market town of Fenny Stratford, is a large and low-lying parish, watered on the east by the River Ousel and the Grand Junction Canal, which run almost parallel through Fenny Stratford and Water Eaton. To the west of the canal the land rises slightly, but its greatest height is 372ft., above the ordnance datum, reached at Windmill Hill, a little west of Bletchley village. The upper surface is strong clay and the subsoil Oxford Clay.

The London and North Western railway passes almost due south through the parish, and there are important railway works at Bletchley station, the junction of the Bedford and Cambridge and the Banbury and Oxford branch lines with the main line. On the former branch is a station at Fenny Stratford.

Watling Street, which passes south-east through Fenny Stratford, is the chief thoroughfare...

... Lands in Bletchley were inclosed in 1517. Inclosures were made in Fenny Stratford and Bow Brickhill under an Act of 1793. The common lands in Bletchley parish were inclosed under an Act of 1810, the award being made in 1813." [© copyright of the editors of The Victoria Histories of the Counties of England]

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

Blechley, or Bletchley, in the hundred and deanery of Newport, lies about a mile and a half to the south-west of Fenny-Stratford. Walter Giffard, earl of Buckingham, possessed by grant from William Rufus the whole landed property of this parish, which was inherited by Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford, who married his grandaughter Roesia. Helena, daughter of the Earl of Hertford, brought it in marriage to John de Grey, whose great grandson, Reginald, bequeathed the manor of Over or Church-Bletchley, with those of Water-Eaton and Water-Hall, both in this parish, to his eldest son, John Lord Grey, of Wilton, and the manor of West or Old Bletchley, to his younger son Roger, who became Lord Grey of Ruthin. The manor of Water-Eaton was held by the service of keeping a falcon, for flight, for the king's use; and for the charges of keeping it, the lord was entitled, on the day that he carried it in to court, to a horse with its equipage, the king's table, with the tressels and table-cloth, all the vessels with which the king was served on that day, and a cask of wine, as soon as the king had tasted it. The manor of Water-Hall was held by the service of finding a man on a horse without a saddle, a bow without a string, and an arrow without a head. The descendants of Lord Grey, of Wilton, continued to possess these manors, and that of Church-Bletchley, above 400 years, until the attainder of Thomas Lord Grey, in 1603. King James granted them, in 1606, to George Villiers, afterwards Duke of Buckingham. In Oliver Cromwell's time they were sold, as confiscated lands, to Sir Philip Skippon. George Villiers, the younger, Duke of Buckingham, recovered them at the restoration, and, in 1674, sold them to Dr. Thomas Willis, a very eminent physician, grandfather of Mr. Browne Willis, the celebarted antiquary. The other manor (West Bletchley) was purchased of Henry Grey, Earl of Kent, by Catherine, Duchess Dowager of Buckingham, whose son, the second duke, having sold it to Dr. Willis, all the manors became again united.

The Lords Grey, of Wilton, had in ancient times a seat at Water-Eaton, and another at Water-Hall, both long ago destroyed. Browne Willis, in 1711, built a house for his own residence at Water-Hall, which has been lately pulled down by its present owner, Mr. Harrison. Browne Willis's grandson, the late John Willis Fleming esq. [footnote: He was the son of his eldest son, Thomas Willis esq. of Water-Hall, and took the name of Fleming] sold the manors of Bletchley, Water-Eaton, and Fenny-Stratford, (which is also in this parish,) to the Rev. Philip Barton, of Great Brickhill, and they are now the property of his devisee, Ph. Duncombe Pauncefort esq.

The parish church, a handsome Gothic structure, was repaired and ornamented at the expence of Mr. Browne Willis, who added the pinnacles to the tower, re-cast the bells, and gave a new font. The internal decorations, on which he expended a large sum, but ill accord with the style of the building; the altar-piece, and the screen between the nave and chancel, are Græcian, and the pillars painted to resemble veined marble. It appears by a book of memorandums, bequeathed by Mr. Willis to the rectors of Bletchley, that he expended in the whole, 1346 l. on the repairs and ornaments of the church, to which he was induced, he says, by the circumstance of his father and mother having been there interred, esteeming it a greater act of piety, and as great a respect to their memory, as if he had erected a costly monument over their remains. Mr. Willis made it his solemn request to the future rectors of Bletchley, that they would, out of rememberance to his many benefactions to the parish, either preach an annual sermon themselves, or cause it to be preached by their curates, on the 8th of Spetember, being the anniversary of the dedication of the church, exhorting the parishioners in what manner they ought to celebarte the wake or feast, as had been done by his cousin, Mr. Archdeacon Benson, then rector (afterwards Bishop of Gloucester,) and his predecessor, Dr. Wells.

In the chancel at Bletchley is a remarkable tablet, in memory of Dr. Sparke, rector of the parish, who died in 1616, with his portrait very neatly engraved on copper, and extremely well preserved, being inclosed within a wooden case. It seems by the style to have been the work of Dr. Haydock, the same artist who engraved the portrait of Erasmus Williams, ( a contemporary of Dr. Sparke's) in Tingewick church. There is a remarkable monument also, in memory of Mr. Edward Tayler, and his wife Faith, with their portraits (full faces) sketched in white on black marble, and ornamented with various devices. The inscription is very quaint, with anagrams, &c. There are memorials on flat stones for Mr. Browne Willis's father and mother, and others of his family. In the north aisle is a monument for his wife, a bad imitation of an ancient altar-tomb: it appears by the inscription, that both Mrs. Willis and himself were descended from the ancient lords of the manor of Bletchley, whose arms are placed around the aisle, painted on wooden tablets: in this aisle also is the tomb of Richard Lord Grey, who died in 1442, at Water-Hall; the effigies of the deceased was repaired and re-cut, by Weston the statuary, at Mr. Willis's expence.

William Cole, the Cambridge antiquary, was rector of Bletchley from 1753 to 1767: the rectory is in the patronage of John Willis esq. to whom the advowson was bequeathed, with other property, by his cousin, the late John Willis Fleming esq.

Fenny-Stratford, a small decayed market-town, situated on the road to Liverpool, (the ancient Watling Street,) 45 miles from London, stands partly in the parish of Bletchley, and partly in that of Simpson. The chapel, which is in Bletchley, having been dilapidated ever since the reign of Queen Elizabeth, was rebuilt by subscriptions, procured by the exertions of Mr. Browne Willis. The first stone was laid by Mr. Willis, in 1724, on St. Martin's day, and the chapel was dedicated by him to that saint, for a reason which strongly indicates that whimsical disposition for which he was remarkable, because his grandfather died on St. Martin's day, in St. Martin's lane. [See footnote]

The ceiling of Fenny-Stratford chapel is adorned with numerous coats of arms, being those of nobility and gentry who subscribed towards the building. Within the rails of the communion table lie the remains of the celebrated antiquary, who may justly be considered as the founder. On his tomb is the following inscription:- Hic situs est Browne Willis, antiquarius, cujus cl. avi æternæ memoriæ Tho. Willis archiatri totius Europæ celeberrimi, defuncti die Sancti Martini A.D. 1675, hæc capella exiguum monumentum est: Obiit 5o die feb. A.D. 1760 Ætatis suæ 78. O Christe, soter, & Judex, huic peccatorum primo, misericors & propitius esto." Mr. Willis's corpse was attended to the place of internment, at his own request, by the corporation of Buckingham, to which town he had ever borne a singular affection. By his will, he bequeaths a benefaction for a sermon in this chapel on St. Martin's day, and he requests that the rector of Bletchley may never have the cure of Fenny-Stratford; but he directs that if the rector will contribute 6 l. per annum towards his salary, he shall have the appointment of the curate, and he request his heirs to augment the curacy: it does not appear that this has ever been done; nor has the rector acquired the patronage of the chapel, which still belongs to Mr. Willis's family. To the manuscript collections, as well as to the printed work of Mr. Willis, we have been much indebted in our brief notices of this county. His printed work contains only the history of the town and hundred of Buckingham, but he had made large collections towards a history of the whole county, now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. These collections have been found extremely useful, particularly in tracing the history of landed property, a department of topography in which he evinces much industry and skill. His church notes are chiefly valuable, as recording many monumental inscriptions, which have since his time been either removed or obliterated. In taste he was certainly deficient, for he passes over without mention the most beautiful specimens of ancient architecture, while he dwells with minuteness on the dimensions of the buildings, the number of bells, their inscriptions, &c.

Fenny-Stratford had from time immemorial a market on Mondays, which was confirmed by charter in 1609: during the civil war it was discontinued, but revived after the restoration. In 1665, this small town was much depopulated by the plague, of which 139 persons died; the inns were shut up, and the road turned for a while into another direction: this misfortune proved also fatal for the market, which has never flourished since, and has now been many years wholly discontinued. John de Grey, in 1269, procured a grant of a fair to last seven days, at the festival of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary; the charter of 1609 grants a fair to be held on the 7th, 8th, and 9th of April, and another on Michaelmas-day: there are now four annual fairs, April 19th, July 18th, Oct. 11, and Nov. 28: the fair on the 19th of April is chiefly for barren cows; that of Oct. 11, chiefly for hiring servants.

There was anciently a gild or fraternity at Fenny-Stratford, dedicated to St. Margaret and St. Catherine, which was founded in 1494, by Roger and John Hebbes. In consisted of an alderman, two wardens, and an indefinite number of brethren and sisters: the Brotherhood-house is now the Bull-Inn: the Swan at this town was an inn bearing the same name in 1474.

The hamlet of Fenny-Stratford was inclosed by an act of parliament, passed in 1790: the lands were not exonerated from tithes.

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Names, Geographical

The name of Bletchley is believed to mean a clearing (leah) belonging to a person named Blæcca.

The name Fenny Stratford derives from a marshy, or fenny, ford on a Roman road (i.e. Watling Street).