The village of Stoke Mandeville was not always where it is today. Today the original village
site, in fields half a mile to the south of the present village centre, is deserted.
Not much is known about the original village, though it was there in Saxon times before the Normans invaded
England in 1066. In Domesday Book, 20 years later, there were at least 24 families living there, with three slaves. It had its
own mill, valued at 10 shillings.
Domesday also records that before 1066 the manor was held by the Anglo-Saxon Bishop Remegius
of Dorchester on Thames.
There was also something unusual about ‘Stoke’, as it was then simply
known. The manor's entry in Domesday records that every freeman in the ‘eight hundreds’ around
Aylesbury had to pay ‘one load of corn’ to the bishop.
The recording of this corn levy here may indicate that the manor at Stoke – and the
bishop's watermill there – played an important economic role locally in the Saxon period.
THE RUINED CHURCH
The Church of St Mary the Virgin served as parish church until 1866, and the last burials were
made in its churchyard in 1908.
|A plan of the deserted village site, showing the churchyard (the
hatched area to the rigtht og Mill House Farm), surrounded by the three man-made watercourses
or ‘leats’. These must have driven the original bishop's mill – but where was it?
By then the village centre had long migrated northwards to its present position
and the new parish church built. The new turnpike road of 1822 avoided the old village site, so this was
probably deserted by then.
The old church gradually fell into disrepair, then into ruin. What was still standing was pulled down in 1966.
It has never been excavated, nor even surveyed in any detail. It isn't a ‘scheduled ancient monument’ so is
unprotected by legislation.
But from surveys made 100 years ago we do know that the church had a very narrow and plain chancel arch,
only 5ft 10inches wide. This narrowness indicates that the chancel was constructed at least in the Norman period and
may even be Saxon. The surveys also showed that the church had been built in the 12th century, extended in the 14th, and
given a brick-built tower in the 17th century.
But the ruins can still tell their story. Much of the archaeological evidence for the history of the old
church lies buried in the rubble we see today.
Even to the untutored eye it is clear that this is a man-made landscape. The whole lie of the land
indicates that the site may have been selected originally to take advantage of the two streams that fed this narrow valley.
The courses of both have been changed to serve as ‘mill leats’.
But where was the bishop's mill? A detailed study of the three watercourses may lead to its site and allow
excavation – but only if HS2 can be hald at bay.
READ OUR PAMPHLET:
For a more detailed history of the deserted village, and the impact that HS2 will have on it, read the