Town and country - Aylesbury and Stone
What was Aylesbury like in the Tudor and Stuart periods? The town was smaller, for one thing. The oldest parts of Aylesbury are around Market Square, Kingsbury and St Mary’s church. There was a royal manor house in Kingsbury in the medieval period which was given to the Earls of Ormonde in 1332. One of the Earl of Ormonde's daughters married Sir William Bullen (their grand-daughter was Anne Boleyn) who sold it to Richard Baldwin, an important man in Aylesbury. One of his daughters married Sir Thomas Pakington, whose family kept the manor for many generations. Sir John Pakington, son of Sir Thomas, entertained James I at his Kingsbury manor house soon after he was crowned. Sir John’s grandson, also Sir John, was a Royalist in the Civil War and so his house was destroyed by the townspeople, who supported Parliament. But, for most of the Tudor and Stuart periods, you must imagine a grand manor house in Kingsbury. Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal to find out exactly where it was and mark it on the map of Aylesbury your teacher gives you.
The Pakington family had a history of bad relations with the town. When Queen Mary gave the town a charter in 1554, the inhabitants were afraid to use it because it might annoy their lord. In fact, Sir Thomas Pakington was so annoyed that he denied the town the right to common land where they could keep their animals. Queen Elizabeth I gave a second charter to Sir John Pakington in 1579 that allowed for fairs in the market on Holyrood Day (14th September) and the Saturday before Palm Sunday.
The fairs and the weekly markets on Saturdays were held in Market Square. Find Market Square on the map you teacher has given you. There were lots of inns around Market Square, which was bigger than it is today. Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal to find out the names of three inns on Market Square in the sixteenth century and mark them on your map. Can you work out which of them are still standing?
There was also a market hall on Market Square that was rebuilt by Richard Baldwin with wood given by King Henry VIII. It was used for markets, law sessions, and elections and there was a gaol underneath it. Market Square still has the name it had in the Tudor and Stuart periods but other streets don’t. Cambridge Street was Baker Street, Silver Lane was Butcher’s Row and Temple Street was Cordwainer Row (cordwainers were shoemakers). Names like this give us some idea of what kinds of trades were going on in the town. Apparently, some people were breeding duck on Castle Street. Mark these areas of work on your map.
Smellier work probably happened further out of the town. Excavations at the Oxford Road Mill after it burnt down in 1993 uncovered lots of sheep foot bones dating to the Stuart period. This suggests that there was a tannery there in the seventeenth century. A tannery is a place where animal skins are turned into leather. Skins would be delivered with just the feet bones still attached as the meat was sold separately for food. The feet bones would be cut off during the tanning process.
One street name that has survived is Friarage Road. Friar’s Square shopping centre also records the previous use of this area of Aylesbury. Friars lived a life of poverty, living from the offerings of the faithful, and went out into the community to help the poor and sick rather than a monastery where the monks stayed in the building and lived apart from the community. The friars at this house were Franciscans, following the teachings of St Francis, and wore grey habits and so were known as the Greyfriars. The friary was also known as Greyfriars and was here up until 1538 when it was closed and the friars dismissed. Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal to find out where this was exactly and mark it on your map.
The man who reported on the monasteries and friaries that were closing down said that Greyfriars was ‘very poor and in debt, their ornaments very coarse, and little household stuff’. There was not enough money from selling all the goods in the house and church to even give the friars a proper pension.
There was another religious organisation that was shut down in the middle of the sixteenth century. Local townsmen and the Archbishop of York set up the Guild or Fraternity of the Virgin Mary in 1450. The Guild had a guild-house in Church Street for meetings and ceremonial feasts, part of which now survives within Buckinghamshire County Museum. The guild supported ten almshouses and four cottages in which poor people lived rent-free. Some of the almshouses were on Castle Street and later almshouses were built in the same place. It also employed priests to say mass for the souls of the dead at a chantry in front of the altar of the Virgin Mary in St Mary’s church. The Guild was shut down in 1547 by Edward VI and their lands and houses were sold off.
What do you think the people of Aylesbury felt about these two religious organisations being shut down? Do some research on the Internet and in books to find out a bit more about people’s reactions to the Dissolution and the Reformation. There was another institution that was closed down at the Dissolution. This was a leper hospital on Market Square. The townspeople were probably happier that this was gone!
One of the manors of Aylesbury was a prebendary. This means that it was owned by a cathedral, in this case Lincoln. Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal to find out exactly where this was in Aylesbury and mark it on your map. Because the manor was owned by a cathedral it had the right to collect tithes. Those farming on the manor’s land paid a tenth of the harvest to a cathedral. A tithe barn was built in the sixteenth century for the storage of tithes before they were taken elsewhere or sold.
Aylesbury played a large part in the Civil War. In 1643 Prince Rupert, on the Royalist side, stayed in Aylesbury after the Battle of Edgehill. His troops had been beaten at the battle and the people of Aylesbury supported the Parliament anyway. As soon as the Parliamentarian army knew Prince Rupert was in Aylesbury, they marched to fight him. Prince Rupert left the town because he was afraid that his army would be attacked by the townspeople anyway, and it is said a battle was fought at a bridge north of Aylesbury.
The old Guild-house on Church Street was eventually turned into a Grammar School. There are records that show it was definitely in existence by 1687 when some money was given to the school, and the first recorded schoolmaster was Obadiah Dumea from 1678. It may have been founded earlier. 120 boys were to be taught there, 100 went for free and were taught reading, writing and keeping accounts and 20 could pay and be taught Latin, Greek and Hebrew, if they were good enough. The children would have to be at school ten hours a day and could start from the age of 5, as long as they could already read.
Most people would be living in timber-framed houses. Sometimes they were divided up into what we would call flats and different families would live on each floor. Several houses would share one well and one cess-pit. Sometimes each floor had its own chute leading down from the toilet to the cess-pit. Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal for all the wells and cess-pits that have so far been found in Aylesbury. Work out which ones would have been in use during the Tudor and Stuart periods and mark them on your map.
Do a timeline of Aylesbury in the Tudor and Stuart periods based on the information above and the research you have done.
Stone was also much smaller in the Tudor and Stuart periods than it is now. Look at the map your teacher gives you. You can tell which areas are new buildings and which are old from their layout. New buildings are more regular and mostly have smaller gardens. They are often off the main road on an estate. Old buildings have larger gardens and are arranged more haphazardly. They are often near the church. Shade where you think the old buildings are in Stone. A map of 1900, which your teacher will also give you, might help. It doesn’t have some of the new houses on.
Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal to find the oldest houses in Stone. Are they where you thought they were? Do any of them date to the Tudor or Stuart periods? Mark them on your map of Stone.
Stone was arranged around the church, which stands out because it is on a large mound, just off the main road between Aylesbury and Oxford. There is a pond at the crossroads where travellers watered their horses and cattle.
The people in Stone would mainly have been farmers. They would have worked in the fields around the village. Look at the aerial photograph of fields to the south of Stone that your teacher gives you. Can you see the marks of ridge-and-furrow left behind by their farming techniques? Draw around the areas of ridge-and-furrow.
The villagers grew crops such as barley and wheat in these fields, harvested it in the autumn and took the grain to the windmill to be ground down to flour to make bread. Do a search for windmills in Stone and mark them on your map.
The only day off was Sunday when everyone had to go to church. Search for the church in Stone on Buckinghamshire's Heritage Portal. Was it standing in the Tudor and Stuart periods? A churchyard cross was put up in the fifteenth century to the south of the church. It may have been used for marking the start or end of outdoor processions, particularly on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter). They were also places for public penance and prayer. Some standing crosses were used as places for preaching and public announcements. This cross was probably knocked down in the Reformation when such activities were banned.
Work in pairs. One of you has to imagine they come from Aylesbury in the Tudor or Stuart periods and the other comes from Stone. You can choose a specific period if you want. Have a conversation about what life is like for both of you.
Go back to find out more about the Rich and poor.