BUCKINGHAM, which gives name to the county, as well as to the hundred and deanery in which it is situated, is about 57 miles distant from London: it is surrounded, excepting on the north, by the river Ouse, over which it has three bridges. At a very early period this town became a place of much celebrity, as containing the bones of Rumbald, an infant saint, the son of a Saxon king, (born in the neighbouring village of Kings-Sutton,) who died three days old, and was canonized in an age of blind superstition. A shrine was erected at Buckingham, over his remains, which became the resort of a great multitude of pilgrims, to the small advantage of the town. St. Rumbald's shrine was rebuilt with a sum of money bequeathed for that purpose, by Richard Fowler, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster in 1477.
Ralph Higden says that the Danes made fortresses on both sides of the Ouse at Buckingham, in 913; other authors, on the contrary, speak of these fortresses as having been made by King Edward the elder, who remained with his army at Buckingham for four weeks, some say in 912, others in 915, and others in 918. Browne Willis, in his history of Buckingham, says (but on the authority of what ancient historian does not appear) that the Danes committed great outrages at Buckingham in 941, and that in 1010, after having plundered the neighbourhood, they possessed themselves of the town as a place of great strength.
In the month of June 1644, Buckingham was for a few days the head quarters of King Charles I. the neighbouring towns of Aylesbury and Newport-Pagnell being at the same time garrisoned for the parliament. Sir William Waller was at Buckingham with his army after the fight at Cropredy-Bridge. Fairfax marched thither after his repulse at Borstall-House in May 1645.
Buckingham suffered greatly by a fire, which broke out on the 15th of March 1725, and consumed 138 dwelling-houses, being more than one third of the whole town: the damage was computed at 40,000 l.
It is supposed from the circumstance of King Edward III. having fixed one of the staples for wool at Buckingham, that it was in his reign a flourishing town. It is certain that upon the removal of the staples to Calais, this was one of the towns for whose relief (as having fallen to decay) an act of parliament was obtained in 1535. Buckingham was nevertheless considered as the county town; there is evidence that the public gaol was there in 1545, and Browne Willis supposes it to have been on the site of the old castle: it is probable that the assizes had been generally held at Buckingham, before Lord Chief Justice Baldwin procured them to be removed to Aylesbury, although it appears that they wer occasionally held at Little-Brickhill, so early as the 15th century. In 1758, Lord Cobham procured an act of parliament to fix the summer assizes at Buckingham, and built a gaol there at his own expence for the use of the town and county; the Town-hall had been built many years before, (about the year 1685,) at the expence of Sir Ralph Verney: it is a large brick building, at the top of which is a gilt swann, the cognizance of the town.
Buckingham is an ancient borough, and is described as such at the time of the Norman Survey, in which it is said to have had 26 burgesses, all under the protection of foreign lords. It does not appear, nevertheless, that the town sent members to parliament before the year 1544: the right of election is in the bailiff and burgesses. Browne Willis, the antiquary, was chosen one of the representatives for this borough in 1705, and Dr. Radcliffe, the celebrated physician, in 1713.
The town of Buckingham was governed in the reign of Edward III. by a mayor and two bailiffs, in that of Henry VIII. by a bailiff and burgesses, but they were not incorporated till the year 1553, when Queen Mary, as a reward for their steady adherence to her in the Duke of Northumberland's rebellion, granted them a charter of incorporation by the style of bailiff, principal burgesses, and steward. King Charles II. gave them a new charter, changing the style of the corporation to that of mayor, aldermen, and steward. This charter had been acted upon only four years, when the old establishment was revived, and the corporation still continue to act under the former charter. There are four incorporated companies in Buckingham, the Mercers, Tanners, Butchers, and Merchant-Taylors: such as are made freemen of the town must be members of one of these companies.
Buckingham has had a large market on Saturdays, from time immemorial: the charter does not appear on record. There are now ten fairs, Jan. 12th and 30th, March 6th, May 6th, Thursday in Whitsun-week, July 10, Sept. 4, Oct. 2, Saturday after Oct. 11, and Nov. 8 - It appears by Mr. Willis's account, that there were 387 houses in the town of Buckingham, when the fire happened there in 1725. According to the returns made to parliament under the population act in 1801, there were then only 229 houses (of which four were uninhabited) in the town, exclusive of 97 in Prebend-end, and 217 in the hamlets of Boreton, Boreton-hold, Gawcot, and Lenborough. The total number of inhabitants in the parish was 2605; of these, 1180 were males, 1425 females; 194 were employed chiefly in agriculture, and 313 in trade, manufactures, or handicraft.
The manor of Buckingham was anciently in the noble family of Giffard. Walter Giffard, the second Earl of Buckingham, died without issue in 1164, when his lands being divided among his sister's heirs, this manor passed successively to the families of Clare and Breose; it is supposed to have been sold before the year 1323, to Hugh Audley, whose daughter brought it in marriage to the Staffords; Humphrey Stafford was created Duke of Buckingham in 1445. The manor of Buckingham having been forfeited by attainder in 1460, was granted to Richard Fowler, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; in 1485 it was restored to the Staffords. It was again forfeited in 1521, when Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, was beheaded on Tower-hill: after this, the manor of Buckingham was granted successively to Lord Marney, and to the Careys: Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, sold it in 1553, to the Brocas family, by whom, in 1574, Browne Willis tells us that it was granted on lease (together with the tolls of the markets and fairs) for a term of 999 years, to the corporation of the town, subject to a quit-rent of forty shillings [footnote: See his History of Buckingham. In his Notitia Parliamentaria, he says that the manor Buckingham was granted in fee to Babbington, and by him sold to Sir Peter Temple, under whose family it has since been held on lease by the corporation. We learn by inquiry, that the other account is more correct, but that the term of the lease granted to the corporation, was 2000, instead of 999 years.], now paid to the Marquis of Buckingham, who is considered as the Lord Paramount.
It is supposed that the castle, which occupied the site of the present church, was anciently a seat of the Giffards, Earls of Buckingham. Camden observes that the great banks of the castle, of which there were scarcely any other remains, divided the town almost in half: a part of the county gaol which stood on its site remained in Brown Willis's time, divided into tenements for poor people. In 1670 a bowling-green was made on the castle-hill, much resorted to by the gentlemen of the county. Mr. Willis says, that the polls for knights of the shire was taken on this hill, and he had heard that the assizes were formerly held there in booths put up for the purpose. All traces of the castle and its banks are now destroyed, the ground having been levelled when the church was built.
The manor of Boreton or Bourton, a hamlet of Buckingham, was held, with the manor of Buckingham, by the Giffards, and passed with it to the family of Brocas, of whom it is supposed to have been purchased by Ferdinando Poulton, an eminent lawyer, well known as editor of a book of statutes. Mr. Poulton resided many years in a capital mansion, which had been a seat of the families of Frome, Barton, Fowler, Lambard, and More: his son conveyed Bourton to Sir Richard Minshull, who suffered great persecution for his loyalty in the civil war, his estates being sequestered, and his house plundered of valuables to the amount of 2000 l. Sir Richard's son dissipated the greater part of what remained of his father's fortune, and died in the king's bench; this manor was sold to the Verney family: Andrew Douglas esq. the present proprietor, purchased it a few years ago of the trustees of the late Earl Verney.
The manor Lethenborough or Lenborough, another hamlet belonging to this parish, passed with the manor of Buckingham till the attainder of the unfortunate Edward Stafford, in 1521, after which it continued in the crown till the early part of the following century. About the year 1611, it became the property of the Dormers: in 1704 it was sold to Mr. Rogers, who in 1718 conveyed it to Edward Gibbon esq. of Putney, in Surrey, grandfather of the historian, of whose family it was purchased by the late Bridger Goodrich esq. and is now vested in his trustees.
Lenborough house, in 1445, became a seat of the Ingoldsbys, an ancient Lincolnshire family. John Ingoldsby of this place was made one of the Barons of the Exchequer in 1463. Sir Richard Ingoldsby, about the year 1617, inclosed the park at Lenborough; his son, Sir Richard, married Oliver Cromwell's aunt, by whom he had a numerous family, all born at Lenborough-House. The history is very remarkable; Francis the eldest son represented the town of Buckingham in parliament, during the protectorate of his cousins, Oliver and Richard. After the restoration he was well received at court, and his name inserted in the list of intended knights of the royal oak. His estate which was then valued at 1000 l. per annum he soon dissipated, disparked the ground which his grandfather had inclosed, sold Lenborough House to Mr. Robinson, his steward, and died a pensioner in the Charter-House. Richard, the second son, was an officer of much note and trust in the parliamentary army. He was one of the commissioners of the High Court of Justice for the trial of his sovereign, signed the warrant for his execution, was one of the chief confidants of his cousin Oliver, governor of Oxford Castle, and one of the lords of the upper house. When he found the cause of his cousin Richard desperate, he strenuously exerted himself in promoting the restoration of the exiled monarch, and so effectually recommended himself to his favour, that he not only procured his pardon, being the only one of the regicides who had a free pardon, but was made a Knight of the Bath. He died in 1685, and was buried at Hartwell, near Aylesbury. Sir Oliver Ingoldsby, the next brother, who was also a distinguished officer in the parliamentary army, was slain at Pendennis Castle. John, the next brother, had the command of a regiment in the parliamentary army. Henry, the fifth son, who was also of rank in the army, rendered great services to his relations, the Cromwells, and, like his brother Richard, was equally zealous in paving the way for future favour with the exiled monarch, whose restoration he foresaw: with this view he hastened from ireland, where he had a command, took possession of Windsor Castle, then in the hands of the republicans, and garrisoned it for the parliament, who appeared to be favourably disposed towards the restoration of monarchy. For this service he was created a baronet in 1661, being described as of Lethenborough (Lenborough,) then the seat of his elder brother Francis. He had been advanced to the same rank by his cousin Oliver, not long before his death in 1658. Sir Henry Ingoldby died in 1701, being one of the oldest officers in the service. The title is extinct. There were three other brothers, who are all supposed to have been in the parliamentary army, in which one of them is known to have lost his life. Lenborough-House, the seat of the Ingoldsbys, was sold by the Robinsons to Mr. Rogers, who conveyed it with the manor to Edward Gibbon esq. A great part of it has been pulled down, the remainder is fitted up as a farm-house.
A capital mansion in the town of Buckingham, called Fowlers and Lambards, was the seat of John Barton, who in the reigns of Richard II. and Henry IV. was one of the knights of the shire [Correction/Addition at the end of Magna Britannia states "Richard Fowler, the ancestor of this family, was an eminent soldier in the crusades."]. It came by marriage to the Fowlers, a family of considerable property and consequence in the 15th and 16th centuries. At this house, Edward Fowler, in 1514, entertained Henry the Eighth's first Queen, Catharine of Arragon, who received there the joyful news of the defeat of the Scottish army at Flodden-field: in 1592 this house passed by purchase to the Lambards: in 1644, being then in the occupation of Sir Edward Richardson, it was for a few days the residence of King Charles the first: the room in which he lay is still called the king's chamber. A female heir of the Lambards brought this house in marriage to Sir Edward Bagot: it afterwards passed by purchase to the Rogers family. In Browne Willis's time the judges always lodged in it on their circuit: it is now the property and residence of Mr. Box.
The old church at Buckingham had a lofty spire, the height of which, from the ground, was 163 feet. It fell down on the 7th of February 1699: the tower which supported it remained till 1776, when that also fell down just after Mr. Pennant had quitted the church, which was not long afterwards wholly taken down and rebuilt on another site. The old church had on its south side a small chapel, dedicated to St. Rumbald, and an aisle built by the family of Fowler, in the reign of Edward IV. The chancel was built about the same time by John Ruding, Prebendary of Buckingham. On the north side was an aisle, which was the burial place of the Poultons and Ingoldsbys, but had no monument of either family. There were some memoirals in the church for the Cliffords of Frampton, in Gloucestershire.
Browne Willis, in the History of Buckingham, laments that the church still remained destitute of its spire, which had been the glory and ornament of the town and county. In his account of Stowe, he again laments that the beautiful grounds belonging to that mansion should be deprived of one of their chief ornaments, the spire of Buckingham, and hints to the noble owner how much it would redound to his honour, should he rebuild it, and how consonant to his family motto, "Templa quam dilecta." This motto is now appositely placed on the front of the new church, to which the late Earl Temple was a considerable benefactor. This church, which was completed in 1780, is a handsome freestone building, and stands on an elevated spot, being the site of the old castle. The spire nearly equals in height that of the old church, (being 150 feet from the ground,) and is a very conspicuous object to the surrounding country. Over the altar is a copy of the Transfiguration of Raphael, given to the parish by the Marquis of Buckingham. There are no monuments in the new church.
In the survey of Domesday the church of Buckingham is said to have belonged to Remigus, bishop of Lincoln. Before the year 1445, Buckingham was a chapel of ease to the neighbouring church of King's-Sutton, in Northamptonshire, the birth-place of St. Rumbald: it was then made an independant vicarage. The great tithes, together with the manor of Gawcot, a considerable hamlet in this parish, were appropriated to a prebend in the church of Lincoln, called the prebend of Sutton cum Buckingham. This prebend was surrendered to the crown in 1547, and made a lay fee: it was held under the crown, on grants for life, by the Duke of Somerset and Sir John Mason, and afterwards by others for terms of years. About the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign, it was granted to Robert Johnson: before 1612 it became the property of the Denton family. The manor now belongs to their representative Mrs. Coke, (widow of the later Wenman Coke esq. of Holkham,) who is patroness of the vicarage; the great tithes have been seperated from the manor, and are for the most part of the property of the Marquis of Buckingham. The vicarage is excempt from the archdeacon's juridiction, but subject to that of the bishop of Lincoln. The hamlet of Gawcot had formerly a chapel dedicated to St. Andrew; in Browne Willis's time it contained 100 houses, which is nearly the present number. The hamlets of Gawcot and Prebend-end have been inclosed by an act of parliament, passed in 1801, when allotments of land were assigned to the impropriators, and to the vicar, in lieu of tithes, and an allotment to the poor for furze.
There was a gild or brotherhood in the town of Buckingham, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, which possessed lands of considerable value, and a chantry chapel, founded by Matthew Stratton, archdeacon of Buckingham, (who died in 1268,) and dedicated to St. John the Baptist and Thomas à Becket. This chapel was repaired in the reign of Edward IV. By John Ruding, archdeacon of Lincoln and prebendary of Buckingham; the pews which were then erected still remain, and the door of the original structure, which is of Saxon architecture: it has long been converted into a free-school, said to have been founded by King Edward VI. and endowed with a stipend of 10 l. 8s. 03/4d. per annum, payable out of the exchequer; the master's house having been burnt down, was rebuilt at the expence of Alexander Denton esq. in 1696.
Queen Elizabeth, in the year 1597, founded an alms-house at Buckingham for seven poor women, called Chist's Hospital, supposed to have been built on the site of an ancient hospital, dedicated to St. Lawrence, which existed as early as the year 1312. It is but slenderly endowed, chiefly by the benefaction of Mr. Harris, who gave the profits of the Wool-market and Wool-hall, and two fairs. John Barton, in 1431, founded a hospital for six poor persons, to each of whom he gave a groat a-week to pray for his soul. This alms-house or hospital seems to have been again given to the poor, with the same endowment, by Mrs. Dayrell in 1583: it was probably seized by the crown, as having been appropriated to superstitious purposes, and came into the Dayrell family either by grant or purchase: it is still called Barton's hospital.
The Presbyterians, Unitarians, Quakers, and Methodists, have chapels or meeting-houses at Buckingham.