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