Post-medieval period

In the Historic Environment Record the post-medieval period is defined as between AD 1540 and AD 1798. This is the time when society started to change, when industrialisation took off and when the countryside was changed irrevocably. In the earlier medieval period the land had been farmed in open fields, without fences, but that was all set to change.


Some fields were enclosed in the sixteenth century for sheep grazing. So that the sheep don't wander off, they have to be hemmed in with fences. They also needed large enough fields so that they wouldn't over-graze. This meant that the farmers who had farmed strips of land in different places around their village now had to sell or give up their strips to be part of these larger fields. Many families had to move into towns because they had no way of making money in their village. This meant that towns started to grow. Places where land was enclosed early include Quarrendon parish, just north of Aylesbury. The Lee family moved here in the fifteenth century from Warwickshire and may have started to enclose fields around this time. They were certainly enclosed by the late sixteenth century, when one or more villages seem to have been evicted to make way for sheep-grazing and parkland.


Chenies manorStowe HouseMany more houses survive from the post-medieval period than before. The sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were times of rebuilding and replacing old-fashioned houses. Some of the most well-known properties from the post-medieval period include Stowe House, which is now a school. It was first built in the seventeenth century by William Cleare but much expanded in the eighteenth century by Vanburgh and Gibbs and the south front is based on a design by Robert Adam. Another is Milton's Cottage, lived in by John Milton, in Chalfont St Giles. It is on a different scale to Stowe House, being much smaller. It was built in the seventeenth century. Chenies Manor still contains some of the late medieval building work, but was mainly built between 1538 and 1552, although parts of it have since been taken down.


Oxford Road Mill, AylesburyThe county started to get a bit more industrial, especially as the population in towns rose. A seventeenth century tannery was found at the Oxford Road mill site in Aylesbury. Lots of cattle foot bones were discovered, which suggested that they were being removed after the rest of the meat had been taken by butchers, and the hides were then being cured or tanned to make them into leather. Excavations at the Union Baptist Church in High Wycombe revealed lots of cattle horn cores. The sheath of the horn can be flattened and used in lanterns (they were originally known as lanthorns) or windows instead of glass, which was very expensive. They can also be shaped into drinking vessels.




Three Locks at SoulburyMilestone between Padbury and AdstockTwo innovations in the eighteenth century revolutionised transport. One was toll-roads. Trusts were set up in each parish to look after the roads. They were allowed to raise revenue from those who were travelling and there were toll-houses and gates to collect the charges. Some toll-houses survive, such as Toll Bar Cottage, Great Missenden. The trusts were supposed to set up milestones and sing-posts and a few of this date can still be seen, for instance on the High Street in Whitchurch. The canal was another innovation. They were built wherever the navigable river system didn't go. They transported goods around the country more efficiently, at least until the railways took over. The Grand Junction Canal was constructed in the late eighteenth century. It ran from the River Thames at Brentford to Braunston in Northamptonshire, where there were links to other canal networks, and passed through Buckinghamshire on the way. Three arms flowed through Buckinghamshire as well, to Wendover, Aylesbury and Buckingham. Where there was a steep hill there needed to be more than one lock. Three Locks in Soulbury is one place where there is a steep rise.


However, in the following centuries, what is called the modern period in the Historic Environment Record, the level of industrialisation would expand and the canals would be made redundant with the coming of the railways.