Thousands of years before the parish of Maids Moreton was created the River Great Ouse played a fundamental role in the land use of this area. Early populations may have used its floodplain or the ridge of high ground above as an east-west travel corridor. They may have settled nearby, having access to water and prey, or they moved higher up the valley slopes in times of danger. An early flint tool was found in a test pit in 2003.
Close to the river a prehistoric enclosure, a ring-ditch, and a later Iron Age hillfort have been identified on aerial photographs of Maids Moreton. An iron socketed axe on display at Buckingham’s Old Gaol museum was recovered from the hillfort. The axe is the largest known example from Britain.
Settlement and farming continued during the Roman period. A high-status villa (in neighbouring Foscote) was situated by the river/track close to the hillfort mentioned above. Its impressive mosaic floor was removed in 1840 and reused at Stowe, home of the Duke of Buckingham. The boundaries of the Roman villa farm are unknown, but evidence of Roman pottery - spread in manure suggests widespread agricultural practice and was found by fieldwalking in the parish between 2002 and 2004. A sample of 7 of the 13 fields surveyed found 34 sherds of Roman pottery, compared to 1 sherd of Saxon pot. The finds are stored at the Discover Bucks Museum.
An archaeological evaluation carried out to the north-east of the village in 2015 suggested the presence of a complex of ditched rectangular field boundaries and trackways of early Roman date. The works identified probable Iron Age to Roman pits, enclosures and the sites of roundhouses. Another possible Roman farmstead was found in 2016 in evaluation near College Farm.
The Anglo-Saxon settlement is probably underneath the present village and it is likely that by 914, when King Edward the Elder created defensive strongholds at Buckingham against the Danes, Moreton was already established in some form. The name of Moreton, meaning ‘farm on the swampy ground’, is first recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 and has different spelling in later documents. Domesday lists a watermill at the river, probably on the same site as the existing mill.
The north part of Moreton may have looked to neighbouring Stowe during the Norman era due to Stowe’s overlord, Robert d’Oilly, High Sheriff and Constable of Oxford Castle, owning land in Maids Moreton. His family donated two hides of land to Oseney Abbey, Oxford in 1074. This created a close connection between the village and the Abbey that lasted until the Dissolution of the Monasteries (and continued thereafter with Christ Church College). Land transactions for Moreton can be followed in the Cartulary of Oseney Abbey for the period 1175-1278. The Archdeacon of Buckingham, Matthew Stratton, ensured that the Abbey eventually owned almost half the village.
This documentary evidence is supported by recent archaeological excavations between 2014 and 2017. A mound/building platform off the Moreton to Buckingham road was possibly the site of a second manorial estate in the village. Pottery sherds indicate that the main phase of use of the site was in the twelfth century to early thirteenth century. There is evidence of a fire which may have ended the occupation. The medieval Old Manor House today lies directly opposite the mound on the other side of the A413 road.
A third manor was listed in Domesday Book in 1086. This was adjacent to today’s Main Street which runs north-south. The regular planned cottage plots can still be identified along the street.
The first St. Edmund’s Church occupied a high position overlooking the Great Ouse valley. The church was rebuilt in c.1470 thanks to an arrangement between the de Morton family and the Pever/Broughton family who held the advowson. Thereafter the village adopted the name Maids Moreton after the reputed benefactresses, Alice and Edith de Morton.
In 2001 evidence of names, dates, and outlines of villagers’ hands and shoes that had been inscribed on the lead covering St. Edmund’s Church tower was recorded as wax rubbings. The earliest given date was 1601, but some graffiti were earlier.
The village retains over 20 timber-framed, thatched (or tiled) cottages dating from the 1500s, sometimes concealing even earlier, Medieval houses. Wills from this time confirm the residents’ attachment to the land and their animals and give the occupations of those supporting an agricultural way of life, such as blacksmith, shoemaker, weaver, husbandman. The 1595 estate map of All Souls College illustrate the field strips and pastures of the village with the tenants’ names inscribed on individual strips. (The college was granted the estate in the fifteenth century). England Peece (Well Moore Close) was part of the original landholding depicted on the estate map and is still identifiable today. The college’s estate remained largely intact until its sale and disposal in 1928.
Earthworks of the Medieval ridge and furrow strip cultivation survive in fields north of the village and some traces of village earthworks also survive near the church.
Noteworthy personages of Maids Moreton include Dr George Bate, physician to King Charles I, Oliver Cromwell and King Charles II. Also noteworthy is Miss Margaret Burrowes who led an important revival of lacemaking in north Bucks from 1893 for about 15 years. Much of her lace collection is held at the Discover Bucks Museum in Aylesbury.
Two turnpike roads passed through the parish. The Tingewick and Buckingham turnpike was constructed in 1815 and is now the A422, whilst the Buckingham to Towester turnpike was constructed in 1824 and is now the A413.
On May Day 1801 the Buckingham branch of the Grand Union Canal opened. It followed the course of the Great Ouse on the southern parish boundary of Maids Moreton, with a lock and lock-keepers cottage at Maids Moreton. The chief organiser of the canal was the Marquess of Buckingham, who also supported parliamentary enclosure within the parish 1801-1803. Farmland was re-distributed and new farming techniques were introduced. The social structure of the village was transformed, creating an imbalance of prosperity and poverty. With the village only one mile away from Buckingham, Maids Moreton attracted wealthy families who upgraded the manor houses or built new houses, but gradually jobs and shopping increasingly looked to Buckingham and then Milton Keynes.
Maids Moreton currently (2021) has a population of 847, and supports a church, primary school, pub and leisure activities.
Many thanks to Lyn Robinson who updated this page in 2021.