STOWE, in the hundred and deanery of Buckingham, lies nearly three miles to the north-west of the county town. The manor was given by Robert Doyley to the abbot and convent of Oseney. King Henry VIII. granted it to Robert King the first bishop of Oxford, who had been abbot of Osney, and his successors in that see. In 1590, the bishop of Oxford having previously surrendered it to the crown, it was granted to Thomas Crompton and another person, who immediately conveyed it to John Temple esq. whose family were originally of Sheepey, in Leicestershire, and afterwards of Burton-Basset in Warwickshire. His father, Peter Temple esq. was the first of the family who settled at Stowe about the year 1554, probably as lessee under the bishop of Oxford. Sir Thomas Temple of Stowe was created a baronet in 1612. His great-grandson Sir Richard, who distinguished himself by his military skill and bravery in the wars in Flanders, was created baron Cobham in 1714, and in 1718 advanced to the rank of a viscount, with the same title. Having no issue, and his younger brother having died unmarried, he procured an entail of the peerage on his sister Hester, the wife of Richard Grenville esq. and her heirs male. On the death of Lord Cobham the title of baronet descended to a younger branch of the Temple family, in which it still remains. Mrs. Grenville became Viscountess Cobham, and was soon afterwards created Countess Temple: her eldest son, Richard Earl Temple, dying without issue in 1779, was succeeded in title and estates by his nephew George, who, in 1784, was created Marquis of Buckingham.
Stowe, the seat of the Marquis of Buckingham, has long been esteemed the chief ornament of this county. The approach to it from Buckingham is very grand, particularly as you pass through a Corinthian arch 60 feet in height. From this spot you have a most favourable view of the noble mansion and its surrounding scenery. The house was origanally built by Peter Temple esq. in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and rebuilt by Sir Richard Temple K.B. who died in 1697. His son Lord Cobham built a new front and added the wings; but it was improved to its present magnificence by the late Earl Temple, who again rebuilt the front; and the present noble owner, under whose direction the several stately apartments which it contains have been designed and completed. The whole front now extends 916 feet: the central part is 454. The saloon is a very singular and magnificent room of an oval form 60 feet in length and 43 in breadth: on the frieze is a Roman triumph and sacrifice, extending all round the room, executed in alto relievo by Valdre; the principal figures are copied from the pillars of Trajan and Antonine and other public buildings at Rome. The state drawing room is 50 feet by 32; the state gallery 70 feet by 25; the library, recently fitted up, occupies the space which was before filled by the drawing room and dining room: it is of the same size with the state gallery. This noble mansion contains a numerous and valuable collection of pictures by the old masters, and many portraits. Among the most remarkable of the latter are the brave Sir Beville Grenville, who fell at Lansdown, in 1643; Lord Cobham; Mrs. Hester Sandys (daughter of Sir Thomas Temple) the lady mentioned in the account of Latimers as having lived to see 700 of her own descendants; a whole length of Oliver Cromwell, with Sir Peter Temple, as a boy, tying on his sash, by the elder Richardson (given by Sir Peter to Lord Cobham in 1685); Richard Desborough, Cromwell's brother in law, and his wife, by Dobson; Mons. De Vieuville the French ambassador who lost his life at the battle of Newbury, by Vandyke; Camden the antiquary; Dean Swift; Pope by Hudson; and Addison by Sir Godfrey Kneller. The gardens, which occupy 400 acres , exhibit an extraordinary specimen of what may be effected by art with scarcely any assistance from nature. Their varied surface having been produced almost entirely by the labour of the hand upon the ground which was originally nearly level. They were first designed by Lord Cobham, assisted by Bridgman and Kent; to the latter, whose taste was much superior, to that of Bridgman, they owe most of their present beauty. Some of the various temples and other buildings which adorn these gardens were designed also by Kent; others by Vanburgh, Gibbs &c. Launcelot Browne, who afterwards attained such celebrity for his skill and taste in laying out of grounds, came into Lord Cobham's service as a boy, in the year 1737, and was employed in his gardens till 1750; but he had no share, as generally has been supposed, in any of the improvements, they having been completed before he came to Stowe. The good taste which he evinced whilst employed by the Duke of Grafton, to whom he was recommended by Lord Cobham, laid the foundation of his future fame and fortune. It would not be consistent with the intention of this work to enter into a more minute description of this celebrated house and its gardens, which have been so often described , and which have been described very much at large in a quarto volume lately published at Buckingham with numerous plates. The beauties of Stowe have been extolled in poetry by Pope and West, who spent many festive hours with its noble owner, Lord Cobham, and some of the most celebrated of their literary contemporaries. Hammond, the elegiac poet, died whilst on a visit to Stowe in 1742.
The manor of Dodford, a hamlet of this parish, belonged in part to the neighbouring monastery of Bittlesden: it has long been annexed to that of Stowe.
The site of Boycot, a depopulated hamlet, is within the Marquis of Buckingham's grounds. The manor which belonged to the priory of Luffield has long been annexed also to Stowe.
In Langport, a hamlet of Stowe, there are anciently two manors, one of which was given to the priory of Oseney, and has passed with Stowe; the other seems to have belonged to the priory of Luffield. An estate held under this priory was, as early as the year 1350, the property of a family who took their name from the hamlet, and passed by marriage, in the year 1416, to the Dayrells. It is now the property of Edmund Dayrell esq. whose house adjoins the Marquis of Buckingham's pleasure grounds.
The parish church contains no monument of the Temple family excepting that of Hester Lady Peniston, daughter of Sir Thomas Temple, who died in 1619: several of the family nevertheless lie buried here, as appears by the parish register. Wotton is the burial place of the Grenvilles. In the churchyard was a large yew tree with a remarkable extent of spreading branches, which is now paled off, and stands within the Marquis of Buckingham's grounds. The great tithes, which were appropriated to the priory of Oseney, were granted with the manor to the bishop of Oxford, and having since passed with it are now the property of the Marquis of Buckingham, who is patron of the vicarage. Sir Richard Temple endowed the vicarage with 50 l. per ann.
At Luffield, on the borders of Northamptonshire, just beyond the limits of the Marquis of Buckingham's park, Robert Bossu Earl of Leicester, about the year 1124, founded a priory of Benedictine monks, which was dissolved by King Henry VII. on account of their poverty, and given in 1500 to Westminster abbey. Camden says, that it had been before forsaken by the monks on account of the plague. The site was granted by King Edward VI. to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, and having passed by marriage to the Temples, is now the property of the Marquis of Buckingham. There are no remains of the conventual buildings; the site is occupied by a farm-house which is extra-parochial, but assessed with Stowe. Browne Willis says that the house, though considered as extra-parochial, stands locally within the parish of Lillingstone-Dayrell, and that there was formerly a chapel at that place dedicated to Thomas à Becket, and given to Luffield priory by the Dayrells. The county of Northampton extends within fifty yards of the house. Browne Willis mentions a part of the ruins as remaining in his time, and standing within the adjoining parish of Silveston in Northamptonshire.
In the reign of King Edward III.. the prior claimed the privilege of holding a fair at Luffield for three days, at the festival of the Exaltation of the Cross, and view of frankpledge in Silveston