Abandoned Communities ..... Stowe
The parish of Stowe lies in north Buckinghamshire. At the beginning of the seventeenth century it contained four villages, but only one of them, Dadford, is still there today. The other three, Lamport, Boycott, and the village of Stowe itself, have disappeared.

In this section we will be interested in the parish of Stowe as a whole, but we will focus in particular on the village of Stowe, the people who lived there, and the clearance of their village.

Mark Page has supplied a summary of the history of the village of Stowe and described its fate at the hands of the Temple family in Destroyed by the Temples: The Deserted Medieval Village of Stowe, Records of Buckinghamshire, 2005, 45, 189-204. Alternatively, go to the website of the Whittlewood project, which has two sections on Stowe.

At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 there were six manors in the parish, but the total population was still very low. The number of people gradually increased over the next few centuries, and by the 1500s we can get evidence about individual inhabitants, and their status and wealth, from tax returns. In 1524, for example, during the reign of Henry VIII, the lay subsidy roll for Buckinghamshire indicates that there were 32 tax payers in the village of Stowe. Easily the most wealthy person was Thomas Langston, squire, who owned goods worth £200.

His goods may have included furniture and other household possessions, and also livestock and farming equipment. A transcription of the 1524 subsidy roll can be found in A C Chibnall and A V Woodman (Ed.), Subsidy Roll for the County of Buckinghamshire Anno 1524, Buckinghamshire Record Society, Volume 8, 1944.

Other people listed in the 1524 lay subsidy include two widows, one of whom, Jane Gyfford, owned land worth £30. 14 people are described as servants, with estimated annual wages of £1 each. Out of the £1 they had to pay 4d in tax. The rest had to pay tax on their goods, most having goods worth between two and four pounds. George Sawnders, gentleman, however, owned goods valued at £40. As well as George two other residents had the surname Sawnders. John Sawnders was a servant, and another John Sawnders had goods worth £4.

These three men may have been descended from Anna Saunders, who is commemorated in a small, crudely engraved brass memorial on the chancel floor in the parish church. She died on 1 September 1454.

Other surviving documents that tell us about the people of Stowe include court records and wills. From a manorial court roll of 1512 we learn that Joan Church and Margaret Spencer were fined for brewing ale for sale. A miller of Stowe was fined for charging excessive fees and for unsatisfactory grinding of grain. A miller in Boycott was fined for allowing water from the mill stream to overflow and flood a meadow. Then in 1569 a shepherd was in trouble for letting his sheep graze amidst the growing grain. In 1601 Edward Seare was fined for keeping a bullock in the field more than his stint, while in 1625 tenants were fined for not grinding their grain at the lord’s mill and for not repairing the stocks.

The will of William Sherytt, accompanied by an inventory of his belongings, can be seen at the Buckinghamshire Archives (ref. D/A/Wf/4-320). It is dated 1558, but I am not sure whether that is the year of William Sherytt’s death or the year when the will was drawn up. The will is especially difficult to read, but with the help of Julie Bowring I can see that the inventory includes a mare and a colt, two sheep, three hens and a pullet, three flaxen sheets, all the apparel that pertained to his body, a table, a form and a chair, a frying pan, a spit and a pair of pothooks, a feather bed and a bolster, and three pounds of hemp.

The Buckinghamshire Archives are now part of the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies.
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Stowe parish, showing medieval roads, Dadford, Lamport, Stowe village (assumed location), and the area in which Boycott would have been
The will and inventory of William Sherytt
Memorial to Anna Saunders