Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More on Stantonbury

On Sunday I paid my first visit to the ruin of St Peter's Church at Stanton Low since 1955. In 1955 it was not a ruin, although it had been disused for a number of years. In 1956 the roof fell in and since then much of the interior has been dismantled and placed elsewhere. My companion wondered why anyone would live in such a remote place. Good question! All I could answer was that in those times people could comfortably live in relatively remote locations. There was no electrical grid to connect to or a gas pipeline. All you needed was a water supply. You could build a house anywhere and be self sufficient.
The ruined Church from the East. The Mansion probably stood beyond this.




After the 16th and 17th century land enclosures Stantonbury had become quite depopulated and remained so until Milton Keynes started to develop.The Stantonbury Manor extended from the river to the highlands beside Linford Wood, almost into Milton Keynes Centre. What remains in the meadowland below the canal is typical of what you might have found in the Stantonbury landscape even as little as 40 years ago.


George Lipscomb in his 19th century history of Buckinghamshire writes this about Stantonbury.
Sir John Wittewrong was created a Baronet 2 May 1662; and having made a purchase of this estate (certainly before 1667), he built a mansion-house, and settled it on his eldest son, John Wittewrong Esq. (p347).
This is very much the only evidence we have of the mansion on this property. It would appear (again from Lipscomb) that it was sited to the west of the church.
The whole fabric (of the church)has been much contracted, and part of the west end of the church yard taken into the court of the Mansion-house. (p.349)
This does make some sense because there is some more-or-less level ground to the west of the church which could have been a site for a big house. However there has not been evidence for it since the late 18th century when it was probably pulled down, most likely after Thomas Harrison has completed Wolverton House in 1786. There are no surviving drawings of the house so it is anyone's guess as to its appearance. I would guess that it was brick-built, which would explain why it was easy to dismantle.It is possible that Wittewrong's building succeeded a medieval building on the same site.

When Thomas Harrison came to manage the Spencer estate I imagine that he and his family moved into this mansion and certainly regarded it as suitable for a middle-class family, but after he became land agent for the Radcliffe Trust in 1773 (in addition to his other activities) he turned his attention to Wolverton. The 90 year old Wittewrong house at Stantonbury may have been in a decaying condition, and although Harrison could have afforded the cost of restoration he may have felt that Wolverton, near to Stony Stratford was a better location. Thomas Harrison had a growing portfolio of interests and Stony Stratford, with its better communications may have presented him with a better base for his business than Stantonbury. In addition, Wolverton was on better arable land and he quickly assembled a farm of 400 acres which he was able to put under the management of a bailiff who probably lived at what later became Warren Farm.

So it was through Thomas Harrison that Wolverton and Stantonbury had a connection. Thomas Harrison was an enthusiastic promoter of the Grand Junction canal and saw to it that the canal proceeded through both the Wolverton and the neighbouring Bradwell and Stantonbury estates. He built the wharf at Stantonbury and the first viaduct over the River Ouse. He also had interest in other canal companies.


2 comments:

Andrew said...

I have read somewhere in the past that the big house near Stanton Low was destroyed by fire. I will try and dig out the text.

My understanding was that it was to the West of the church, and if you look there now there are eathworks - although some of these are WW1 rifle butts. I still have a lead bullet that I dug out of the butts here.

Bryan Dunleavy said...

Yes, to the west.
I've looked at the 19th century histories by Lipscomb and Ratcliffe but neither of them mention a fire. It may be that more recent archaeological discoveries show evidence of a fire. I would certainly be interested to know.
There was a fire at the church, circa 1960, started by arsonists after the roof had caved in in 1956.