Roman, Medieval & 16th/early 17th-century Winslow

There have been occasional finds of Roman material in and around Winslow but no direct evidence of settlement. One such find was reported to the Bucks Archaeological Society in 1873 (Bucks Herald, 2 Aug):

  The Rev. C. Lowndes then exhibited some Roman articles found between Great Horwood and Winslow by a lad, while ploughing.  There was an engraved silver spoon, and at the end of the handle of the spoon were two sharp pointed hooks.  These hooks were originally straight, but had, no doubt, been bent, as they now appear, for the purpose of getting them into the small metal vessel in which they were found.  They were used for extracting snails from shells, and the bowl end of the spoon was used for eating them.  The Latin inscription, done into English, read thus:- “I am beneficial for snails, nor am I less useful for eggs.”  (Laughter.)  The silver vessel also contained a silver ring and some pins, apparently used for pinning a toga or any flowing garment.  The boy who found them took them to his mother, and said they were hair pins.  The mother sold the five pins, with the ring and brooch, for 12s.

Winslow is recorded in Domesday Book of 1086, and there are some earlier documents too.

St Laurence Room excavation report

The detailed report has now been published: Carina Summerfield-Hill with a contribution by Paul Blinkhorn, "Excavation at St Laurence's Meeting Room, Market Square, Winslow", Records of Bucks 53 (2013), 93-101.

5 late Anglo-Saxon / early medieval burials (one has a radiocarbon date of 900-1160) indicate that the boundary of the churchyard was further south than now. Two parallel ditches mark property boundaries showing that the north side of the Market Square encroached on the churchyard. Two burials from the late medieval / early post-medieval period (radiocarbon date 1400-1620) were also found: either unconsecrated burials or a temporary re-extension of the churchyard. There were 9 sherds of 13th-/14th-century pottery, and a cast copper alloy buckle of c.1350-1450.

The article can be downloaded from the Archaeological Services & Consultancy Ltd website.

On 2 August 1147, Pope Eugenius III confirmed the estates of St Albans Abbey, including Wineslawe ("by the gift of King Offa") and Greneburga ("by the gift of Ethelwine the Black"). See: Crick, J. Charters of St Albans (Anglo-Saxon Charters) (OUP/British Academy, 2007), App.1. Her no.14 is the grant by Ethelwine the Black of 5 hides at Grenebeorge to St Albans, along with land at Redbourn, Langley and Fawn Wood, dated 1042-9.

Winslow's market charter was granted by Henry III. "The king granted to the Abbot of St Albans by his charter that he and his successors in perpetuity should have a market at his manor of Wyneslawe every week on Thursday, and a fair in the same manor every year to last two days, that is the eve and day of St Laurence, unless the market and fair are to the injury of neighbouring markets and fairs. And the Sheriff of Bucks was ordered that he should have the said market and fair proclaimed and held through his whole bailiwick, as stated above. Witnessed by the king as above [Westminster, 28 Jan 1235]." Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry III: volume 3: 1234-1237

A manuscript in the British Library, Harley Charter 58F30, contains some extracts from court rolls of the reign of Henry III (they are usually said to cover 1237-1246), including St Mark's Day in his 24th year (25 April 1240) and some entries from his 27th-30th years (1242/3, 1245/6). It is in very poor condition and no complete entries are legible but names and details include:

The Hundred Rolls of 1279 (a survey similar to Domesday Book but more detailed) have full entries for Winslow and Little Horwood.

A small borough, the New Town of Winslow, was created in Winslow in the 13th century and survived into the 14th.

The Ecclesiastical Taxation Assessment of 1291-2 gave the following figures for money due to the church from Winslow (Denton, Jeff et al. Taxatio. Published by HRI Online, Sheffield; 2014):

The church of Wynselowe with the chapels of Horwod and Greneborwe: 18 0s 0d [=27 marks]
Pension of the chamberlain of St Albans in the vicarage of the same, untithable: 13s 4d
Pensio of the same in the vicarage of Greneborwe, untithable: 2s 0d
Vicarage of the same [=Winslow] with the pension deducted: 3 6s 8d
Vicarage of Little Horewode: 2 0s 0d
Vicarage of Greneborwe with the pension deducted: 2 13s 4d
Total assessment: £26 15s 4d  

The Inquisition of the Ninths of 1342 was a national assessment of the taxable value of corn, wool and lambs, in order to subsidise Edward III's war in France; the ninth was really 10% because another 10% had already been deducted for tithes. Inhabitants of rural areas were also liable to a tax of a fifteenth on personal property. The text below is translated from Nonarum Inquisitiones in Curia Scaccarii p.327:

Wynselowe with members [Granborough and Little Horwood] whose assessment is unknown. The value of the ninth in the parish of Wynselowe with members by the presentment of William Broun, Robert ate Hull, John ate Nassche, William Albyn, Thomas Broun & John Martyn: 24 marks and no more, because they say that 400 acres of land lie fallow and uncultivated, and that there are few sheep and lambs, and that there are none who can be assessed for the fifteenth in the aforesaid parish. The value of the ninth: 24 marks.

Court books survive for the periods 1322-1377 and 1423-1460, and some articles based on them are available here:

Oxfordshire Telegraph, 18 July 1883
  THE MANOR ROLL OF WINSLOW, a manuscript preserved at Cambridge, dated in the reign of Edward III, and kept, as became a manor belonging to the Abbey of St. Albans “with scrupulous accuracy and care” is thus referred to in the Times: “The important facts to be learned from this roll are in the first place that the manor was divided into demesne lands (the lord’s home farm), and land held in villenage, at the will of the lord, and at customary services.  Secondly, this land in villenage was the common field, divided into acre or half-acre strips, and held in ‘virgates, ‘ or bundles, of thirty strips each, not contiguous, but scattered promiscuously all over the manor.  The minuteness with which the roll is kept, and the care with which the names of the tenants are preserved, leave no doubt as to this having been the exact method of holding, and there is no doubt on the important point that these holdings were in villenage not, perhaps, altogether held by villani ascripti glebae, but held ‘at the will of the lord’ and ‘subject to services.’  With this Winslow roll for a guide, the otherwise difficult ‘Hundred Rolls’ of EDWARD I which deal with every important manor in five midland counties, become intelligible.

VOLUMES 35-36 (2011)
translated and edited by David Noy
VOL. 35: 1327 – 1377
VOL. 36: 1423 – 1460 + INDEXES
ISBN 978–0–901198–40–2 + 978–0–901198–41–9

The two volumes

The two volumes of Winslow Manor Court Books, totalling over 800 pages, are packed with information about farming, trading, housing, marriage, inheritance, travel, education and the clergy.  They record disputes between neighbours, people punished for sexual misbehaviour, and attempts to resist the Abbot’s authority, and give details ranging from a list of a blacksmith’s tools to the arrangements for elderly people to retire.  Because they cover the period of the Black Death, they provide vivid evidence of how the population halved and how the survivors managed to carry on.

Very few complete sets of manor court records are available in English translation, and these volumes will be a significant resource for research.  Winslow Manor Court Books will be important to people interested in the history of agriculture, crime, economics, law, monasticism and social life, as well as local and family historians.

The price of Winslow Manor Court Books for non-members is £50, or £35 for members.   To join the Society, download and return this form with a cheque for £15. If you are interested in buying the books, please contact d.noy @

Brother William of Winslow was elected Prior of the very small Priory of Beaulieu (Bello Loco, Beadlow) at Clophill, Beds, in 1374. This was a cell of St Albans Abbey. Presumably he was a member of one of the more prosperous Winslow families recorded in the Manor Court Books.

Sources: VCH Beds i, 351-3; Bedford RO, Fasti/1/Mill

In Easter Term 1403, John Wenkele of Winslow was called to the Court of Common Pleas because he owed 43s 4d for iron and herrings to Robert Colbroke of St Dunstan-in-the-East, Tower Ward, London, ironmonger. His sureties were John Katermayne and John Sewell. The case was to be heard by a jury, but John Wenkele defaulted. He could be the John Wencle whose daughter Ellen is recorded as taking over half his lands on her coming of age in the Court Books of 1428; her mother Margaret held the other half.

Source: 'CP40/569: Easter term 1403', Court of common pleas: The National Archives, CP40: 1399-1500 (2010). URL: Date accessed: 25 July 2011.

In 1408 an Inquisition Post Mortem for the Bucks estates of Sir John Lovell was held at Winslow. One of the jurors was Stephen Smyth of Winslow. Details on the Mapping the Medieval Countryside website.

Admissions to the manor of Winslow, 1449 & 1481 (Bucks RO D/19/115). These are two very small documents in Latin referring to the same property, which must be the tenants' copies of their court roll entries. The ink of the first is faded and hard to read. Joan Boveton's death is recorded in the Manor Court Books for May 1449 with the same details as here except for the spelling of the surname.

[In the Easter term?] in the time of Br. William Walyngford, Cellarer, in the 27th year of the reign of King Henry VI [1449]. The jurors reported that Joan Boton had died, who held from the lord a messuage situated between the tenement of Henry Thomlyn on one side and the king's highway on the other, and a cottage situated between the tenement of William Wyght and the king's highway. The heriot for them (is) 6s 8d in money. And they said that Robert her son was of full age to hold the said messuage and cottage with appurtenances for himself, his heirs and assigns, at the lord's will, by rod[?]. Fine 13s 4d, and he did fealty.

Wynslowe. In the Easter term in the time of Br. Thomas Sudbury, Cellarer, in the 21st year of the reign of King Edward IV [1481], Robert Boton surrendered into the lord's hands a messuage situated between the tenement of Henry Thomlyn on one side and the king's highway on the other side. And likewise he surrendered into the lord's hands a cottage situated between the holding of William Wyght and the king's highway. The heriot for them (is) 6s 8d in money. And the lord granted the said messuage and cottage with appurtenances to Thomas Harbard Smyth, to hold for himself and his assigns from the lord by rod according to the customs of the manor, through services due and accustomed for them, etc. And he did fealty, etc. H(eriots) 2, fines 2.

On 25 March 1460, Luffield Priory leased the rectory of Thornborough for 3 years to William Barbour of Winslow (Luffield Priory Charters part II, Bucks & Northants Record Societies 1975), no.695:
This endenture made betwene John Pinchebeke the priour of Luffelde of the monasterie of our lady Marie virgin' and the convent of the same place on the on' partie and William Barbour late of Winselawe in the counte of Buk' yoman uppon' the other partie witnesseth that the said priour and convent have graunted lest and teon' to ferme the parsonage of Thorneburgh in the counte of Buk' forsayde with all the glebe londes medowes pasture' croftes and lesues with the tithes and al other commodites and appurtenances ... Paying yerely to the said priour' and convent or to their assignes xix marc' at iij termes of ther yere by evyn porcion' ...
William Barbour and John Barbour had to provide surety of £40 for keeping the agreement. There is no record of a William Barbour in the Winslow Manor Court Books: either he was a freeholder who was not recorded there or he was known by another surname at Winslow.

Court Rolls, 1485

An undated appeal to Cardinal Wolsey, belonging to 1515-18, concerns a dispute in the Palmer family which was taken to the Court of Chancery. Thomas Palmer, son of Thomas and grandson of Walter Palmer, says that his grandfather’s 3 messuages, 2 tofts, 1 cottage and 100 acres should have descended to him, but instead have been taken by John Palmer (presumably his uncle), who has illegally sold a messuage and 20 acres. Read the full transcription of Thomas Palmer's case.

In another document relating to this case, Thomas Palmer's mother Johanne and stepfather Henry Watts make a similar complaint against John Palmer, saying that Walter Palmer gave Johanne and Thomas senior a messuage called Chues or Chwes and 80 acres of land when they married. Thomas junior should also have inherited 3 messuages, 2 tofts, 1 cottage and 60 acres from his grandfather. Read the full transcription of Henry & Johanne Watts & Thomas Palmer v John Palmer.

Henry Watts took another case to the Star Chamber. He said that Johanne held a close of 8 acres called Cowemede until her second son John reached the age of 21. In 1524 Thomas Grant and many others "riotously and manner of war" assaulted him and put his life in danger, destroyed the hedges and ditches of the close, and let their cows eat the grass and hay. Read the full transcription of Henry Watts v Thomas Grant and others.

An undated appeal to Cardinal Wolsey, belonging to 1515-18, concerns a dispute between Henry Watts and Richard Snowe which also went to the Court of Chancery. William Tomlen held a messuage and 40 acres in Winslow, which were inherited by his daughter Elizabeth. She married John Churchey. After their death their son Richard Churchey sold the holding to Henry Watts. Richard Snowe held relevant documents and sold 1 acre of meadow. Read the full transcription of Henry Watts v Richard Snowe.

A case was taken to Chancery in the Lord Chancellorship of Thomas Audley, dated 1533-8. Joan Willows (Johanne Wyllous) says that her husband Richard had over £100 in gold coins, and in his old age told John Boston where they were hidden.  Richard died, Johanne is his sole executrix, and John refuses to tell her where the coins are, so she asks for a writ of sub-poena. In reply, John says his late wife Elizabeth, Richard’s daughter, only received 120 nobles (£40) from Richard through Thomas Graunt.  Richard discharged John from all actions against him and made him, not Johanne, his sole executor. Read the full transcription of Johanne Wyllous v John Boston.

Another case went to Thomas Audley, dated 1538-44. John Hardyng, son of John Hardyng (place of residence not given), says that another John Hardyng of Whitchurch owed his father £16 6s 8d. After the debtor died, his widow and executrix Lucy married Bernard Pytkyn of Winslow, and then died. Bernard now refuses to pay the debt. In reply, Bernard says that John Hardyng of Whitchurch had goods and chattels worth about £40 when he died, which came to Lucy, and after her death Bernard paid £36 to John's creditors. 15 years ago, John Hardyng the complainant and Richard Stratton, clerk [Vicar of Winslow, but not necessarily at this date], acting as cousins of John's children Thomas, Isabel, Agnes and Elizabeth, made a claim against Bernard, who agreed to pay them £36 for the benefit of the children when they came of age. They then failed to pass this on to the children. He also said the complainant's father died 24 years ago. Read the full transcription of John Hardyng v Bernard Pytkyn.

A dispute about the will of John Palmer (d.1558) ended up in the Court of Chancery, c.1566. In the will, John Palmer bequeathed all his lands and tenements in Winslow and Granborough to his nephew Thomas Palmer and his male heirs, on condition that John's daughter Alice Cocks could occupy them for 14 years after his death. As John was a copyhold tenant, he could not legally do this in his will; the legal device for getting round it was a deathbed surrender (which later became a surrender-to-will). Read the full transcription of Thomas Palmer (the nephew's son) v Robert Hassall and his wife Alice, formerly Cocks.

The Chancery case of Thomas Cooper, butcher v Anthony Jackson, yeoman, comes from 1587-91. Thomas Cooper’s claim was that Richard Cooper held a messuage, toft and 12 acres of land in Winslow and Shipton. They were inherited by his son William Cooper, who died under age. They were then inherited by William's uncle and Richard's brother, John Cooper, who took possession at the court held on 17 August 1585 and then transferred them to Thomas Cooper, whose relationship is not stated. The relevant court rolls were acquired by Anthony Jackson through "evil, corrupt and indirect labours and practices", who now claimed that John Cooper has surrendered the holding to one Bampton who surrendered it to Jackson. Jackson had now sold off various small pieces of the holding in order to make it harder for Thomas Cooper to recover it.

The plea refers throughout to the queen's manor and the queen's steward, indicating that the manor was under direct royal administration at the time.

Anthony Jackson’s reply was altered with a number of insertions and erasures, and is not easy to follow.  John Cooper held a messuage and half yardland in Winslow and Shipton, which he surrendered in 1567/8 to Robert Bampton.  Robert Bampton surrendered them through the steward William Umbervile on 18 July 1569 to Anthony Wendelbrow.  Anthony Wendelborow surrendered the land in 1573/4 to Anthony Jackson, and the messuage and orchard in 1574/5 to Thomas Elborne. Thomas Elborne then in 1573/4 [sic] surrendered the messuage and orchard to William Jackson.  William Jackson, possibly through a third party, then surrendered the messuage and orchard to Anthony Jackson. The document is undated, but Thomas Cooper and Anthony Jackson both died in 1592. Read the full transcription of Thomas Cooper v Anthony Jackson.

William Grace v Robert Tomlyn and Jane Cowper came to Chancery probably in Jan 1588. William Grace of Oving, husbandman, says that about 4 years ago [1583-4] Nicholas Emerton granted him 6 acres of arable land in Windmill Field in Winslow, but he does not know the date or length of the term.  The indenture of lease came into the hands of Jane Caper, widow, and Robert Tomlyns her father, along with other documents belonging to WG, and last December [1588] they took possession of the six acres and other lands, which they disposed of to divers persons unknown. Presumably the lease was not recorded in the court rolls, as WG says he has no witnesses.

Robert Tomlynes denies all knowledge or interest. On 6 Feb 1588, Walter Curson and William Pygott are ordered to take Jane’s statement in person as she is not fit to travel to the court. Her answer is that Nicholas Jeffes held the 6 acres, and demised them to Nicholas Emerton, who then leased them to the complainant.  The complainant granted his interest in the land to Thomas Cowper and his assigns for £5. After Thomas’ death, Jane took possession as his executrix. Read the full transcription of Grace v Tomlyn and Cowper.

Petition to Sir John Fortescue, c.1589 (National Archives, SP46/38/f.160)

To the right hono(u)rable John Fortescue one of her ma(jes)t(y)s most honorable pryvie Counsell.

In most humble wise shewethe unto yo(u)r honor your daylie orators John Hopper of Granborowe Peter Fige of Wynslowe Will(ia)m Plesteede of Wynslowe John Willit of Little Harwoode all in the Countie of Buck. That whereas there ys Controv(er)sye betwene one Mr Umberfylde and one Mr Alexander for the steward shippe of her ma(jes)t(y)s Mannor of Wynslowe, Shipton, Granborowe and Little Harwoode which Controv(er)sye ys to her ma(jes)t(y)s Chardges and to the greate hurte and preiudice of her highnes tenants and other poore inhabitants there dwellinge and likelie to growe to the great hindrance and overthrowe of our Customes and other her Maj(es)t(y)s services due unto her by us Coppieholders. Unles further order by y(ou)r hono(ur) for the stayinge and endinge of this Controversye be taken Wee Humblie therefore Crave of y(ou)r honor to take suche d  order in this case for us and the rest of her ma(jes)t(y)s tenants as shalbe thoughte moste meete to your honor that wee maye not have any Courte kepte duringe this Controv(er)sye Leste that her highnes Commoditie thereby be ympayred and wee her Ma(jes)t(y)s tenants greatly wronged but that the righte stewarde maye be knowen And accordinge to the tyme her ma(jes)t(y)s Courte orderlie kepte And we w(i)th the reste of her highnes poore Copieholders shalbe as wee have ben bounde daylie to praye for y(ou)r honors longe lyffe with increase of honor.

[endorsed] The humble peticion of John Hopper Peter Fige William Plesteede and John Willett
[another hand] Touching the stewardship of Wynslowe

The date is assumed to be about 1589 when Peter Fige came of age and Sir John Fortescue of Salden became Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although he later acquired the manor of Winslow, he was probably approached in this case only because he was the most local man of influence. The manor of Winslow had been under direct royal administration for over 30 years.

Copyright 18 April, 2021