Magna Britannia description of Amersham.


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

AGMONDESHAM or AMERSHAM, a market town in the hundred and deanery of Burnham, lies on the road to Aylesbury and Buckingham, 26 miles from London. This town is a parliamentary borough by prescription; its right of sending members to parliament, which had been disused more than 400 years, was at length recognized in 1623, through the exertions of William Hakevill esq. of Lincoln's Inn, who was then chosen one of its representatives. Edmund Waller, the poet, who was a native of Coleshill in this parish, sat in two of the parliaments of King Charles I. as member for the borough of Amersham: the celebrated Algernon Sydney was one of its representatives in 1679. The right of election is in the Lord's tenants of the borough, paying scot and lot. King John, in the year 1200, granted a market at Agmondsham, on Fridays, to Geffrey Fitz-Piers, Earl of Essex, and an annual fair on Lady-day: the market is now held on Tuesdays; the present fairs are, Whit-Monday, and Sept. 19. The market-house was built by Sir. Wm. Drake knt. who died in 1682. According to Browne Willis, there were 400 families in the town, about the middle of the last century: the number of inhabitants in the town and parish, in 1801, according to the returns then made to parliament, was 2130; of these, 959 were males, and 1171 females: the number of persons chiefly employed in agriculture was 232; of those employed in trade, manufactures, and handicraft, 1198.

The manor of Agmondesham (called in the Norman Survey, Elmodesham) was given by William the Conqueror to Geffrey de Mandeville, and, with other large estates, descended from him to the noble families of Fitz-Piers, Bohun, and Stafford. After the attainder of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, King Henry VIII. granted this manor to Sir John Russel, ancestor of the Duke of Bedford. In 1665, it was purchased of William, Earl of Bedford, by Sir William Drake knt. and is now the property of Thomas Drake Tyrwhit Drake esq. The family of Drake had been settled in this parish some time before, by the marriage of Francis Drake esq. of East Sheen, in Surrey, one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to King James I. (descended from the Drakes, of Ash, in Devonshire,) with Jane, daughter and heir of William Totehill esq. of Shardeloes, in the parish of Amersham. William Drake esq. was created a baronet in 1641, but dying a batchelor in 1669, the title became extinct: he bequeathed his estates in Amersham to his nephew, William Drake esq. afterwards Sir William Drake knt., in whose posterity they still continue.

Shardeloes, the seat of Mr. Drake, stands about a mile from the town. It formerly belonged to the Brudenells, collateral ancestors of the Earl of Cardigan: this branch of the family terminated in a female heir, who brought Shardeloes to the Cheynes. It was afterwards the seat of William Totehill esq. an eminent lawyer in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who had the honour of entertaining her Majesty at Shardeloes in one of her progresses: Mr. Totehill's daughter married Mr. Drake, as above-mentioned. Among the pictures at Shardeloes is the portrait of a Lord Chancellor, by Cornelius Jansen, supposed to be Sir Christopher Hatton. The gardens, much commended for their beauty by the editors of the Magna Britannia published in 1720, were formed out of a morass by Sir William Drake knt.; they were modernized for the late Mr. Drake, by Richmond.

Mr. Drake has three other manors in this parish, called Woodrow, Wood-side, and Wedon-hill, all of which have been a considerable time in his family: the manor of Wedon-hill belonged anciently to the family of Wedon, and afterwards to Sir John Cobham, who surrendered it to the crown in the reign of Edward III. that monarch granted it, in 1365, to Peter de Brewes:

The manor of Raans, in this parish, takes its name from the ancient family of Raan, from whom it passed by female heirs to the De la Groves and Brudenells. Druce Brudenell, of Raans, was buried in the north aisle of Amersham church (which belongs to Raans-house) in 1489. Raans was at a later period the property and seat of the Probys, several of whom were buried at Amersham, but their monuments have been either removed or decayed. Sir Henry Proby, of Raans, whose monument was formerly to be seen in Amersham church, died in 1662: the manor of Raans was afterwards in the Gower family, and was purchased of Earl Gower, in 1735, by the Duke of Bedford. It is now, by purchase from the late duke, the property of Lord George Cavendish. The manor-house, an ancient building, is occupied as a farm.

The parish church was newly pewed, paved, and rendered very commodious at the expence of the late Mr. Drake, who obtained a faculty for that purpose, in 1778; the galleries were added by the present lord of the manor, in 1800. There are several monuments of the Drake family in the chancel, and an adjoining mausoleum; among the most deserving of notice may be mentioned, that of Montagu Gerrard Drake esq. by Scheemaker, and a very handsome monument in memory of the lady of the late Mr. Drake, said to be by Sir Henry Cheere. In the chancel are monuments of the family of Bent of Leicestershire, who had a seat in this parish, and that of Henry, son of Sir Patrick Curwen bart. who died in 1638, at the age of 14.

The advowson of the valuable rectory of Amersham, to which a manor is annexed, with a Court-Leet and Court-Baron, was purchased of Sir Richard Minshull, by Sir William Drake knt. and is now the property of his descendant, whose brother is the present rector. It belonged formerly to the prior and convent of Brecknock, in South Wales, to whom it was given in 1347, by Humphrey Bohun, Earl of Hereford.

The rectory house, which is large and commodious, stands in a beautiful situation, about a quarter of a mile from the town. The manor of Coleshill in this parish, which was formerly in the Brudenells, and afterwards in the Wallers, having been the birth-place of Waller the poet, is now annexed to the rectory of Amersham: it was purchased of the Wallers, with a sum of money bequeathed by Mrs. Bent, in 1730, to the rector of Amersham, and his successors, on condition of their preaching four quarterly sermons, previously to the administration of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The hamlet of Coleshill , although belonging to this parish, forms an insulated portion of Hertfordshire. The manor Cooks, described in ancient records as being in the parish of Amersham,, partly in Buckinghamshire and partly in Hertfordshire, extends probably into this hamlet. In Queen Elizabeth's time it was in the Windsor family; nothing has been learnt of its subsequent proprietors.

Dr. Robert Chaloner, rector of this parish, who died in 1621, founded a grammar-school, endowed it with a salary of 25 l. per annum,and gave 20 l. per annum for the maintenance of a divinity lecture at Christ-Church College in Oxford, or for exhibitions for three poor scholars from his school at Amersham. A writing-school was founded in this parish by William Lord Newhaven, who died in 1728, and endowed by him with a rent-charge of 20 l. per annum. A Sunday-school in this town, originally established by subscription, has been endowed by the late William Drake jun. Esq. M.P. Sir William Drake bart. who died in 1669, founded and endowed an alms-house for six poor widows, not under 60 years of age, who receive a weekly stipend of four shillings each, besides clothes and fuel.

John Gregory, author of some learned treatises, among which was one on the ancient custom, in the church of Sarum, of electing a bishop among the choristers, on Innocent's day, was born at Amersham in 1607.

The town of Amersham appears to have been peculiarly exposed to the fury of religious persecution, both in the reign of Henry V. when many of it inhabitants were executed for professing the tenets of the Lollard's, and in the reign of Queen Mary.

[The following information was included in Magna Brittania, post publication, as an addition to the above description]

Henry Brudenell of Amersham, who died about the year 1430, had a son, Edmund, who was the ancestor of the Brudenells of Shardeloes; his younger son Robert was ancestor of the Brudenells of Stoke-Mandeville. William Brudenell, brother of Henry, married the heiress of a branch of the Bulstrode family, and inherited Hedgerley. Edmund Brudenell, lord of the manor of Raans, had an only daughter and heir who married Richard Waller esq. of the county of Kent, son of Richard Waller who took the Duke of Orleans prisoner at the battle of Agincourt, and ancestor of Edmund Waller the poet. This match it is probable was the occasion of the Wallers seating themselves at Coleshill.