Tag Archives: Marlow

Richard of Cornwall, Lord of Marlow and King of the Romans

Following our AGM on 31 May, AIM Chairman Andy Ford gave a talk on “Richard Cornwall, Lord of Marlow and King of the Romans”.

Andy explained that the origin of the talk was in the research that he has been conducting over the last few months into Warren Wood.  As part of that he came across an entry in the medieval Close Roll document for 14 April 1233 which, roughly translated, reads as follows:

“Peter de Rivall is ordered to give eighteen fallow deer from the royal forest of Windsor as a gift from the king to Richard, Earl of Cornwall for the establishment of his park in Marlow”.  Andy has therefore been exploring both the life of Richard of Cornwall and trying to identify the location of the deer park.

Andy explained that Richard was born in Winchester in January 1209 and was the second son of King John.  He was only six years old when his father died and his elder brother Henry succeeded to the throne.  Henry III spent much of his reign trying to assert his royal authority over the powerful barons, often through controversial means such as promoting outsiders and foreigners.  His younger brother Richard was, by contrast, a far more able and sensitive politician who was known during his lifetime for his diplomacy and his strengths as a negotiator.

Although Richard was a member of the royal family and heir to the throne until 1239, he had to make his own way in the world and did so with remarkable success.  He became reputedly the wealthiest man in England and one of the richest in Europe.  He acquired much of that wealth through land granted to him by Henry III, including the Earldom of Cornwall in 1231.  Many of the subsequent grants were made after the brothers had quarrelled and were often, in effect, a bribe to keep Richard from siding with the barons.  During the course of his life, Richard built up an extensive portfolio of estates in Cornwall, the Thames Valley and Buckinghamshire, Middlesex, Suffolk, the East Midlands and Yorkshire, as well as enjoying wealth from tin mines in Cornwall and Devon, and presiding over a highly lucrative recoinage across the country.

Once he had secured his position both financially and politically at home, Richard became increasingly active overseas, for example joining the Sixth Crusade between 1240 and 1242.  The success of his contribution to the Crusade and the increasingly close links with leading European families fuelled Richard’s ambitions and he became heavily involved in European politics.  This culminated in his being elected King of the Romans in 1256, although in truth this meant that he became effectively not much more than overlord to a number of German states concentrated around the Rhine.  Richard spent a considerable proportion of his wealth to acquire the title and visited his new kingdom on four occasions during his fifteen year reign, albeit spending less than four years in total there.

Richard’s focus on his overseas ambitions coincided with increasing unrest at home.  Marginalised barons, frustrated by Henry III’s increasingly autocratic and aloof kingship, found an effective champion in the form of Simon de Montfort who led them in open revolt in 1263.  In May of the following year, his army comprehensively defeated the royal forces at the Battle of Lewes where both Henry III and Richard were taken prisoner.  The situation was reversed in August 1265 when royalist forces under Henry III’s son defeated the rebels at Evesham and restored Henry’s position as king.  Richard played a key role in re-establishing peace in England after the rebellion and remained a central figure at court until he died in April 1272.  He was buried in Hailes Abbey (Gloucestershire), which he had founded after surviving a shipwreck in 1243.

There is no evidence of Richard of Cornwall having any association with Marlow until 1231 when two separate events established firm links with the town and the area.  The first was his marriage in Fawley in March 1231 to Isabel Marshal who was a member of one of the leading baronial families of the time.  Isabel already had connections with Marlow through her former husband, the Earl of Gloucester who had died in the autumn of 1230.

It seems the new family spent quite some time in Marlow in the first years after the wedding.   Isabel gave birth to four children during her marriage to Richard.  Their first, John, died in Marlow in September 1233 and may have been born in the town in the preceding year.  He was buried in Reading Abbey, as was the second child, Isabel, who was born in 1233 and died in the following year.  It is possible that Isabel also was born and died in Marlow.  Coupled with the establishment of a deer park by Richard in Marlow in 1233, these births and deaths suggest a close association by the family with the area over a short but intense period.  Unfortunately, we can’t say for sure where the family were resident when they stayed in Marlow.

What is also notable is that Richard did not gain control of the estates of the former Earl of Gloucester including Marlow, except perhaps for temporary custody of them during the period 1239-43.  Instead, Richard did acquire land in Little Marlow, also in 1231.  In that year, one of a series of royal charters granted him the honour of Wallingford that brought with it an estate in Little Marlow.  Given this, it is highly likely that the location of Richard of Cornwall’s deer park is to be found in Little Marlow rather than Great Marlow.

Deer parks were a common feature of the landscape during the medieval period.  It is possible that over 3,000 existed at various points during the period and 50 have been identified to date in Buckinghamshire alone.  These were typically enclosed areas of land preserved for the purpose of the local lord being able to hunt deer, both for food and for sport.

Andy suggested that Warren Wood, which is located in Little Marlow, may be the site for the deer park for a number of reasons.  Firstly, it shares many of the characteristics of other known deer parks in terms of both location and features, in that it is a sloping, wooded site some distance from the main village settlement, on the edge of the parish/manor boundary and on a site that would have been difficult to cultivate.

In addition, the various finds from our investigations to date on the site suggest that it was highly likely that there was a medieval dwelling at Warren Wood, the dating of which is consistent with the establishment of Richard’s deer park in1233.   Dwellings of this type for a park-keeper would have been common in deer parks at this time to help with maintenance and security.

A further clue is offered by the name of the site.  For some time, it has been assumed that the name of the wood derived from the local Borlase Warren family who were prominent local landowners during the eighteenth century.  However, the first record of a map for the wood identifies it as “The Warren”.  Andy explained that the term “warren” had a number of different meanings during the medieval period, but all in some way were associated with the hunting or rearing of animals.

Andy explained that there were some challenges with this interpretation, for example the lack of evidence of a boundary around the Warren Wood site which would have been necessary for keeping the deer in the park.  It is also possible that the name refers to the prior existence of a rabbit warren.  In the early medieval period, rabbits were extremely rare and highly prized, both for their meat and their fur.  They were farmed in specially developed “coneygarths”.  There is documentary evidence showing that Richard maintained rabbit warrens at his other estates so it is possible that Warren Wood also served that purpose.  Interestingly, rabbit warrens were elsewhere maintained alongside deer parks.

There are no further records relating to the deer park in Marlow after Richard’s death.  By the turn of the next century, the number of parks across the country was at its peak and for various reasons it declined after that.  Due largely to the effects of the Black Death and the subsequent labour shortage, it became more and more difficult to maintain the hunting parks and many gradually fell into disuse and were leased out.

Iron Age Hillforts of Marlow and Taplow

As a landscape archaeologist, Dr Paul Tubb considers that Bockmer lane (adjacent to Medmenham Camp) is probably an ancient North-South route as it continues in field boundaries beyond the lane itself, and that both Medmenham and Danesfield Camps are there to control this access to the River. This doesn’t necessarily imply that hillforts are always about defence; it is difficult to adequately defend so large an area and so we should regard these structures as a statement in the landscape. It’s all about being seen and saying ‘I am here’.

As Archaeology in Marlow have surveyed Medmenham Camp, both dimensionally, and partially with geophysics, Dr Tubb went on to consider these results. There is certainly a suggestion of a ring ditch, implying that the site may have been of some importance before the hillfort was constructed. The area on the geophysical results thought to have been a dewpond, Dr Tubb thinks is probably more like to be as the results of quarrying, as it looks to have gone down to the bedrock.

The location of Danesfield was probably picked because of the naturally steep cliff and its position in a reentrant valley. Not much can be said about the site in terms of previous archaeological reports as they do not seem to be available, but Danesfield and Medmenham are unusual in that both seem to have their entrances in the Northwest quadrant, whereas a significant proportion of hillforts (40%) have their entrances to the East. There has been no Early Iron Age pottery recorded and this ties in with the theory that hillforts in the Chilterns tend to be more Middle Iron Age, than Early Iron Age.

Medmenham and Danesfield are peculiarly close together. It has been suggested that they were constructed by two different tribes, but Dr Tubb points out that just South of Swindon, there are two hillforts, Barbury and Liddington, similarly close together, but not contemporary. Liddington is earlier than Barbury. So it is possible that the two Marlow hillforts represent a shift from one site to another, rather than the two sites being contemporary. More work needs to be done to establish dating evidence.

Further down the river, Taplow suffered from being misidentified as a garden feature. It’s not clear how this happened as it was identified on the maps.
Oxford report findings show enclosures small early and larger later one, with the mound inside the bottom of the later enclosure and lots of metal finds.

There was a series of fencelines and postholes, parallel, following approximately same course. All aligned, but using different construction techniques, sometimes inheriting features from previous constructions, notably a v-shaped ditch lined with trees similar to Boscombe Down lines of postholes. There was then a period of abandonment 500 years and then u-shaped ditches that don’t respect the old palisade lines, eventually replaced with a huge earth rampart, replacing the timber.

Wittenham clumps similar to Taplow as there’s an inner late bronze age enclosure, middle ironage round it, and outside (in car park) black earth site. Black earth sites are areas of darker, greasier soil with feasting debris and deliberate deposits of domestic material. Sometimes these sites can be several feet thick and spread over a large area. To call them middens is missing some of their symbolic purpose. Blewburton hill has black earth rampart-outlines, covered in chalk, underneath the earth ramparts, possibly using the past to validate their present by incorporating this older material into their new structure.

Generally hillforts usually have associated field systems and these have not been yet located for the Marlow hillforts and it would be interesting to see where they were. It is important to remember that not all hillforts were occupied and could in fact have been a location to assess what is “on the hoof” as cattle were an important resource in prehistory, as now.

Balksbury has intact delta enclosure shallow ditch with bank inside it. During the Bronze Age the area inside of the hillfort was probably used for cattle (black earth etc in one corner particularly), but in the Early Iron Age it was completely empty, and was reused and settled in the Late Iron Age.

When looking at hillforts, it’s important to consider the activity that occurs outside the hillfort. As well as black-earth sites, other evidence exists outside the ramparts of hillforts. Outside Cherbury fake copper vessels were found (copper becoming scarce by this point) and some new-fangled iron pins for decoration. Iron was not used in the same way as bronze, initially, it was a material of decoration, of special status-indicating items.

Dr Paul Tubb is a landscape archaeologist with 30 years experience, mostly in the chalklands of Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire. He is particularly interested in Bronze and Iron Age settlement. He is a tutor on the Part-Time Archaeology degree course at Bristol University and also teaches Continuing Education courses at Oxford and Reading.

Historic Towns Project

To assist co-ordinator David Green with his efforts on the Marlow section of the Historic Towns Project, we will be inviting both local photographers and collectors of photographs in an attempt to accumulate a selection of new and older photographs that will give an accurate feel for the Town of Marlow. So why not come along to see the pictorial records of the Town and, if you have any of your own, please bring them along too. We will gather in the Garden Room, Liston Hall, Liston Road, Marlow at 8.00pm.

Anglo-Saxon Marlow

Tony Reeve is a well know local historian, who has published leaflets and booklets and also leads town walks for the Marlow Society. This talk was Part 1 and covered the period up to Domesday. The second part of the talk, about Marlow in Domesday Book, will be given to the Local History Group, on Monday 20th October in the Garden Room at Liston Hall at 7.30 p.m. They assure us everyone will be welcome (cost £1).

Tony Reeve
Tony Reeve

Tony commenced by showing a map of Britain in mediaeval times and mentioned that on average the temperature was around 10 C warmer, with vines being grown for wine, including at Bisham. From c 900 it was also drier than now. Another map of 6th century showed Roman roads in the area, Tony said we should remember that the Romans left England in 407 and the early Anglo Saxons were not literate and had no calendar for instance, so used the lives of local kings to record years, which was not accurate.

In 571 at the Battle of Biedcanford, Cuthbert defeated the Britons and captured several towns around the Chilterns. The first time Anglo Saxons were in the area was before 600AD. The indicators of Anglo Saxons near Marlow include a 6th C spearhead found at Marlow and another at Temple Lock. A 6thC brooch is in Bucks Museum and of course the burial at Taplow of about 600 and a burial dating from c 650 at Castle Hill in Wycombe. At Wooburn, spearheads and a sword blade from 7/8th C have been found; a 7th or 8th C cemetery with weaponry was in Bourne End and skeletons and weapons have been discovered at Cookham. The people of the area were called Chilternsaete – people of the Chilterns.

In the 7th century, the Tribal Hidage listed territories and the number of hides each contained – similar to a tax code assessment to define the amount of contributions that should be expected from each area in times of war for example.

In 1086 the population of Chilterns and the Thames Valley was 10 people per sq mile, adjoining areas was about 5 – 9 people per sq mile. Starvation kept the population down, as did plagues, drought and flood and in 1046 there was an earthquake. This allied with the constant battles did not give the population any time to recover.

Land use was for growing grain, as well as grazing for cattle, pigs and sheep. Tony told us how a few Celtic names still survive e.g. Freith, Wendover.

Marlow was fortunate to be sited on the Thames, but the river formed the boundary between Mercia and Wessex and there were frequent squables between the two territories which ceased when they united to defend themselves from the Vikings in 832. The next map showed local Danish settlements, including Danesfield, Westhorpe, Coldmoorholm and Addlestrop (near Marlow mill). Others were in the Hambleden valley at Coldthorp, Fingest and Skirmett.

Alfred fought back against the Vikings and became England’s first King. He formed the burhs to fight the Vikings. These included forts at Sashes Island (Cookham), Wallingford, Oxford and Buckingham.

Tony told us of AEthelflaede, the daughter of Alfred, she is not well–enough–known, but fought and won many battles.

There was peace for 60 years, giving time for hamlets such as Marlow to develop by people co-operating with each other in agriculture and to be able to defend themselves from attack.

In the 10th century there were more attacks and in 1011 the King begged for peace and promised tax and provisions, but many burhs were still burned down by the Vikings. The hamlet of Marlow was probably burned at this time. The counties began to be formed, each with its own King’s Sheriff and Court.

In 1017 the Anglo Saxons were defeated and the Viking Cnut became King, giving the country some years of stability during which time burgage plots probably started to be established, such as those measured by AIM in Marlow.

The main mention of Marlow is in the will of the aethling AEthelstan in 1014 where he mentions his estate at Merelafan “I bought from my father AEthelraed”.

Another mention is of St Wulfstan’s visit to the church on the site of the current All Saints church in 1070 where he lost his shoe in the mud.

Thanks to Tony for his interesting talk and we hope to hear part 2 on 20th October.

The History of Local Charities

On Thursday 12th June we were delighted to receive Rachel to illuminate us on the history of local charities. Rachel informed us that a law passed in Elizabeth the first’s reign (1597/8) introducing the ‘poor rate’, was the first complete code of poor relief. The poor rate was administered by Overseers appointed by the Vestry of the Church, but the monies were sometimes allocated to public building repairs, instead of benefiting the poor.

Wealthy people sometimes left land and properties to the ‘Poor Estate’ which generated an income to help the poor of Marlow. Some bequests, stating their provisions, can still be seen on the walls of All Saints Parish Church. These bequests have been grouped together as the Marlow United Charities. Legacies and bequests funded various requirements from apprenticeships, to flannel gowns and warm stockings.

In 1608 John Brinkhurst left land to build four almshouses in Oxford Road. Although demolished in 1971, the replacement complex is still run by the Trustees. A few years later, Sir William Borlase founded his school to teach 24 boys to read, write and cast accounts. Later the school paid for boys to be apprenticed.

Dr Rachel Brown
Dr Rachel Brown

Last century Edward Riley endowed the Riley Recreation Ground (between Riley Road and Cambridge Road). The other Recreation Ground in Gossmore Lane is administered by Marlow Parish Council acting as Trustees.

The Marlow Education Foundation was set up in 1961 and provides people under the age of 25 with financial assistance for education, outfits, tools, etc. to enter a trade, or profession and to provide for recreational facilities not normally provided by the local education authority.

The Myers Benevolent Trust was set up in 1980 to provide school uniforms, carpeting, household appliances and to help the elderly.

All in all, there is still a proliferation of charities in Marlow, only some of which are mentioned above.

Many thanks to Rachel for a most enjoyable and informative talk.

Buckinghamshire’s Industrial Heritage

On Saturday the 6th of October, the BLHN had their Local History Fair and Conference at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. Four members of AIM attended this event which was entitled Buckinghamshire’s Industrial Heritage.
The day was split in to three sessions with two speakers giving presentations in each session.
Dr David Thorpe started with an overview of the various industries that had grown (Furniture) and sometimes disappeared (Lace Making) in Bucks over the last few centuries.
We were then treated to a fascinating history of brewing within Bucks, by Mike Brown who took us back to the times when Ale Houses sold the beer they produced, up until the times that the larger breweries took over, and usually closed, their smaller competitors (RIP Wethereds).
After a break, we heard from Mike Hammett who explained the history of brick making from the Romans to the present day. The 100, or more, brick works in Bucks have now dwindled to three, but Dunton & Bovingdon are one of them, and they were demonstrating their craft on the ground floor below the conference.
Mike was followed by Trevor Dean who gave an animated slide presentation on Paper Making in Bucks. The information on Paper Mills was stimulating, with a profusion of moving graphics complimenting the sound content that Trevor had obviously researched so well.
Following a tasty buffet lunch, we reassembled to listen to Dr Clive Edwards who spoke about the Furniture Industry in High Wycombe. The famous photograph of the ‘chair arch’ in High Wycombe started this interesting talk. Of course, more information on Wycombe’s furniture past can be gathered at the Museum in Priory Road, High
John Brushe concluded the presentations speaking on the industrial history of Wolverton. When John’s talk ended, various groups embarked on visits and walks around local places of interest, with ‘Penn village and Tile making’ being the top attraction.
During the breaks between speakers, we were able to see the many exhibitions that were present. Various Local History Societies exhibited, including Marlow Society’s Local History Group.
About 200 people attended this well organised event held in spacious surroundings (and High Wycombe is much closer than Aylesbury!).

AIM Brick Survey

18 months ago AIM embarked on its Brick Survey project. During this time nearly 80 buildings and walls in Marlow had their bricks measured.

The object was to date buildings and walls of unknown date by comparing the size of their bricks with brick sizes from buildings of known dates.

On the 22nd of July 2007, we organised a ‘Brick Day’ in Marlow. Members and guests surveyed 25 buildings, with 10 bricks from each structure being measured in order to obtain an average size.

Bricks at rear of the Art Culture shop in 37 West Street – date on brick 1746
Bricks at rear of the Art Culture shop in 37 West Street – date on brick 1746

Prior to the AIM Brick Day, and following it, over 50 more buildings and walls were measured.

So, the survey has been completed, the report has been produced and a copy sent to the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) in Aylesbury.

The report will be available to be inspected at AIM meetings, but if you would like your own copy, either bring along £2.50 to one of our meetings, or send a cheque to our Membership Secretary (see membership page), made out to AIM.