Little Marlow

Little Marlow parish is located to the east of Marlow town. The earliest evidence in the parish dates to the prehistoric period. A Palaeolithic handaxe was found in Well End or Bourne End gravel pit and Neolithic blades and flakes were found next to a gravel pit south of Little Marlow. Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age flint flakes were found in an evaluation at Abbotsbrook, Bourne End. The Thames is always a good source of prehistoric finds and several were found at the Upper Thames Sailing Club in the 1890s. These included Neolithic flint cores, flakes, axes, and arrowhead and a scraper. Ring-ditches, which may be the remains of ploughed out Neolithic or Bronze Age barrows, are recorded on aerial photographs near Hard-to-Find Farm and north of Wilton Farm. Other cropmarks may be prehistoric, such as the complex at Burroughs Grove and an enclosure, also near Hard-to-Find Farm, but their date is uncertain. Mounds in Warren Wood are also of uncertain date and function.


Three burnt mounds were excavated in advance of sand and gravel extraction west of Little Marlow village on either side of a stream that led to the Thames. These had been used one by one, moving northwards through time. The earliest burnt mound was Late Neolithic in date and the latest was Early to Middle Bronze Age. The burnt mounds were made up of spreads of burnt flint with one or two hollows that may have held water for heating. The latest burnt mound had a few holes where posts had been and may have supported an awning for a sauna. Burnt mounds are usually interpreted either as cooking or bathing sites.


There is limited evidence of late prehistoric or Roman activity within the parish. A Late Iron Age to Roman settlement made up of ditches, pits and post-holes of houses with associated pottery was found in a field north of Fern House. Two Roman pottery sherds were found south of Little Marlow, whilst several Roman coins were found at Hard-to-Find Farm. No Saxon remains have been found at all.


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Little Marlow parish comprises farmland with several different settlements. Many of these can be traced back to medieval times.


The 1086 Domesday survey does not clearly distinguish between Great Marlow and Little Marlow but lists several manors with similar names. It is likely that what we now know as Little Marlow village was called Danvers after the tenant Ralf D'Anvers. His brother Roger had the land known as Losemore which we now call Westhorpe. Monkton was north of Losemore and was leased to the abbot and monks of Medmenham. Monkton Farm is probably the oldest house in Little Marlow parish. The Domesday Book also describes a manor called Berlave. This estate was mainly in Hedsor but had land in what is probably what we now call Well End. It is here that the priory was established so this area has a long history if its own, separate from the rest of\\rds-bu-hbsmr19\d$\HERFiles\LibraryLinkImages\Little_Marlow\St John, Little Marlow (2).JPG the parish.   


The oldest surviving building in Little Marlow is St John the Baptist church, which started life as a chapel in the twelfth century before being rebuilt as a church in the thirteenth. Little Marlow Priory is known from thirteenth to sixteenth century records. When excavated the nunnery was found to date back to the twelfth century. Excavations uncovered lots of pottery and building stone as well as a stone coffin and fragments of stone effigies. The nunnery had its own church, which was also located in excavation, and the complex was surrounded by a moat. There is also a thirteenth century moat in Warren Wood. Monkton Farm was probably a manor house and is of late medieval date. It is cruck-built and timber-framed and was enlarged in the sixteenth century and then altered a great deal in later centuries. A fourteenth century floor tile was unearthed here. Medieval ridge-and-furrow was identified on aerial photographs of a field next to Morton's Hole Cottage. A possible medieval hollow-way was also seen on an aerial photograph of a quarry near Westhorpe House.


Vertical aerial photograph of Westhorpe House and grounds in the 1940s

Little Marlow House is sixteenth century with later alterations. Several other houses in the Conservation Areas of Little Marlow, Well End and Sheepridge have their origins in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Hard-to-Find Farm was built in the sixteenth century but may have reused stone from elsewhere. Fern House was built in the eighteenth century as a workhouse, then turned into a lace factory and is now a house. Westhorpe House was built in the nineteenth century and was the site of a prisoner-of-war camp in the Second World War. Several gravel pits are recorded on nineteenth century maps of the parish. The coming of the railways changed Well End. Abbey Farm was bought by a developer called Robert Haben Tebb who started the building of the Abbotsbrook Estate for commuters and weekend visitors using Bourne End station.


Many thanks to Barbara Wallis who updated this page in 2022.