Town and country - Buckingham and Thornborough



Tudor or Stuart houses on Market Hill, BuckinghamWhat was it like to live in Buckingham in the Tudor and Stuart periods? Much of the town would still have had medieval buildings and be shaped by events that took place in the medieval period.


One legacy of the medieval period was that, by royal decree, wool could only sold to other countries through a small number of towns. These towns became known as staple towns. Buckingham was a staple town. However, in 1535 Henry VIII decided that all wool trade should go through Calais, which belonged to England at that time. What do you think the merchants of Buckingham felt about this? What was going to happen to their business?


Imagine you are Henry VIII. You have received lots of letters and visits from merchants who have lost a great deal of business. What arguments can you come up with for why all the wool trade should be moved to Calais? Write a letter as if to a merchant explaining why you have moved the wool trade.


When the wool trade ended there was still other forms of industry going on in Buckingham. For instance, there were bell-foundries. The Appowell family were first mentioned in 1556 and accounts in Wing church in 1557 recorded £3 6s 8d ‘payde to John appowell for the bell’. In 1590 the same church recorded £10 0s 7d paid to ‘Bartholomewe Atton of Buckyngham for the casting of the second bell’. He was working with Richard Newcombe at the time. The Attons stopped founding in 1633. Other bells would have been made locally as it was difficult to transport heavy church bells any distance.Stuart house on West Street, Buckingham


There was also a shrine to St Rumbold in the old parish church. Traditionally, St Rumbold was a child of the royal family of the Midland kingdom of Mercia. He is said to have been born at Sutton (now known as King's Sutton) near Banbury. Legend has it that he died when he was only 3 days old, but that in that time he said several times "I am a Christian", expressed his faith in the Holy Trinity, asked for Baptism and Holy Communion, preached on the Holy Trinity and the need for a virtuous life, quoted Scripture and recited the Athanasian Creed. Buried at King's Sutton, he was later moved here to Buckingham.


How would this shrine bring money into the town? Circle one or more answers:

  1. People would donate money to the shrine and church after they died.
  2. Pilgrims would come to worship there and stay at inns and buy food in the town.
  3. Pilgrims would donate money to the church and shrine or buy pilgrim’s badges.

St Rumbold's WellAll of these are correct. However, after Henry VIII set up the Church of England and dissolved the monasteries, pilgrimages and shrines were also discouraged. There is now a well dedicated to St Rumbold on the south-west of the town. The old church spire fell down in 1698/9 and eventually the church was demolished and a new one built on Castle Hill.


Your teacher will give you a map of Buckingham. Colour in where you think the castle might have been (here’s a clue: look for street names and shapes).


The castle in Buckingham decayed and was made into a farmhouse after the Duke of Buckingham was executed in 1521. From 1670 the empty space was flattened for use as a bowling green. Voting would also happen in tents set up temporarily. What kind of people do you think would be using the bowling green and polling booths? Circle one answer:

  1. Aerial photograph of the new church on the site of the castleRich people, landowners
  2. Poor people, tenants

The bowling green was used by gentlemen, who also used the Assembly Rooms on Castle Street. Only landowners whose land was worth more than 40 shillings a year were allowed to vote.


Tudor or Stuart houses on Well Street, BuckinghamCastle House was known as Fowler’s and then Lambard’s House through the Tudor and Stuart periods, after the families that lived there. Edward Fowler was entertaining Katherine of Aragon there, Henry VIII’s first wife, when she heard the news of the victory over the Scots at Flodden Field in 1514. What kind of person do you think Edward Fowler was if he was entertaining the queen? Circle one answer:

  1. A farmer, living in a small cottage.
  2. A gentleman, living in a mansion.
  3. A nobleman, living in a palace.

Katherine of Aragon was very religious and would not think it beneath her to speak to farmers and even visit their houses because it would be charitable to do so. However, it is unlikely that a farmer would be able to provide enough space for the queen and all her attendants. A nobleman would not be allowed to have a house as big as a palace to rival the king and queen’s houses. The queen would be able to visit and stay with gentlemen as long as they could provide enough room and food for a large group. Edward Fowler’s father had been an important official in the government, so the family had previous royal connections.


Queen Mary gave the town its charter in 1554. This granted the town the right to govern themselves and settle disputes within the town. They were also given the right to have a market every Tuesday and two yearly fairs on St Matthew’s (21st September) and St Mark’s day (25th April). These would bring more money into the town.


Buckingham Chantry ChapelIf you were a child in the Tudor or Stuart periods in Buckingham, you had an opportunity to go to school, most children elsewhere didn’t. The Old Chantry Chapel had been a hospital, but it was made into a free school by Isabel Denton in 1540 and continued by Edward VI. A free school meant that those attending didn’t have to pay for their education.


Life in Buckingham was quite difficult for those who had to work after the wool trade and the pilgrimages were stopped. However, after the charter, the fairs and markets brought much needed cash into the town. Adults could also work in the bell-foundry and poor children had a chance of a good education after the school was set up at the old Chantry Chapel. The gentry were treated with visits from the monarchy and were able to indulge in leisure pursuits and influence the government.


Do a timeline of Buckingham in the Tudor and Stuart periods based on the information above and the research you have done.



Thornborough is and was a small village to the east of Buckingham. It had only 49 families in Elizabeth I’s reign and in 1642 only 37 men were named as taxpayers. This does not mean that only men lived there, but women and children didn’t pay tax. Lots of different people owned land or claimed overlordship in Thornborough. The main manor was owned by Luffield Priory in the early Tudor period but after the Dissolution it made its way to the Temple family of Stowe. Barton’s Manor was also sold to the Temple family in 1561. Some land belonging to the Knights Hospitallers was sold in 1456 to the Bishop of Winchester who gave it to Magdalen College, Oxford.House on Church Lane, Thornborough


The sixteenth century village may have been further to the west as there are remains of streets and building platforms there. Draw on this aerial photograph where you can see the older village.

Aerial photograph of Thornborough deserted village





Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal to find out how old the oldest buildings in Thornborough are and fill in this table:












Thornborough churchThe church would have been three to four hundred years old already in the Tudor and Stuart periods. The power to choose the vicar of the church also belonged to Luffield Priory but it was soon transferred to the Dean of Westminster once all monasteries were dissolved. One of the main changes for the residents of Thornborough in the sixteenth century was this loss of Luffield Priory.


There was a windmill in Thornborough in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most people in Thornborough would have been farmers. They would grow their crops and harvest them in the autumn. The grain would then be ground into flour at the windmill and made into bread. They would keep animals too, like pigs, sheep and cows.


Work in pairs. One of you has to imagine they come from Buckingham in the Tudor or Stuart periods and the other comes from Thornborough. Have a conversation about what life is like for both of you.


Go back to the Rich and poor package.