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DETAILS RESPECTING THE PARISH AND MANOR OF HARTWELL : LOCALITY,
GEOLOGY, PRODUCE, AND GENERAL STATISTICS.
\ 1. CHOROGRAPHICAL SITUATION.
NEARLY in the centre of the inland county of Buckingham, and forty miles to the north-west of London, stands the ancient borough-town of Aylesbury; a place of great consideration, some rights of which are still held by a singular tenure of William the Norman, which enjoins the lord of the manor to provide straw for the king's bed and chamber on royal visits; “I hope,” says Camden, “the nice part of the world will observe this.” Besides the litter, the said lord was also bound to furnish his majesty with three eels whenever he should come in winter; and in summer he was to furnish sweet herbs with the straw, and two green geese (Aylesbury ducks ?) for the royal table. The name of the town is imparted to a large and fertile vale, which extends along the northern flanks of the Chiltern Hills, from the borders of Hertfordshire__in what Aubrey's MS. terms, an “eastish and westish direction”-into the limits of Oxfordshire. The royal antiquary, Leland, gives extravagantly capacious boundaries to it in his Itinerary, saying, “This vale goeth one waye to the forrest beyond Tame Markett. It goeth otherwayes to Buckingham, to Stonye Stratford, to Newport Painell, and alonge from Alesbury by the rootes of the Chilterne IIilles almost to Dunstable.” Mostly formed of a rich black loam on a calcareous subsoil, its teeming fruitfulness has been acknowledged for ages. Nearly two hundred and fifty years
ago, it was thus described by old Michael Drayton, in the XVth song of his elaborate topographical work the Poly-olbion :—the “ rich and goodly” district being therein represented under a personification, as a party to the marriage of the rivers Thame and Isis :
“For Aylsbury's a vale that walloweth in her wealth,
And (by her wholesome air continually in health)
But before the poet thus chaunted the vale of Aylesbury in numbers, the learned Camden had already celebrated its fertility in set Latin; and a passage selected from the Bishop of Lincoln's translation runs—“The vale is almost all champain, the soil is chalky, stiff, and fruitful. The rich meadows feed an incredible number of sheep, whose soft and fine (tenuissima) fleeces are sought after, even from Asia itself. In this most fruitful vale, one (lately) entire pasture called Beryfield, (part of the inheritance of Sir Robert Lee, Baronet,) in the manor of Quarendon, lets yearly for eight hundred pounds; and the lordship of Crestow is no less remarkable, which, consisting not of above five hundred acres, hath yielded a rent of eight hundred pounds a-year and upwards.” The Berry Fields are about two miles and a quarter north of Hartwell House; and the land before alluded to was situated between Fleet Marston and Quarendon.
In the northern portion of this celebrated vale, and at about one mile to the west of the town of Aylesbury, on the high road to Oxford, commences the parish of Hartwell; lying directly opposite the fine chain of hills called the Chilterns, the Crown-hundreds of which are so noted in parliamentary fiction. The name of this manor, as usual, has given rise to inquiry and discussion. Some
consider it to have been derived from herde-welle, a spring for flocks to drink at; while others insist that it comes from hart and well. The latter is highly possible, for even the county itself, instead of being named, as is popularly asserted, from the abundance of its beech trees, is more likely to have deduced its designation from the British buch, Saxon buc* or bucca (cervus); “it being very probable,” says Camden, “ that those woody parts abounded with deer.” At all events, a rebus-seal of the hart and well appears on some of the old documents of the muniment-room of Hartwell House, which is strongly indicative of the then prevailing opinion. Thus an early parchment roll entitled “The rentall of Mycaell Hampden for the halfe yeres rente of his manor,” is ratified with six waxen seals, which were carefully wrapt in tree-leaves, some of which I opened, and found one with a deer drinking at a well on it: and immediately above the ferret fastenings is written—“In wytnes herof this Rentall ys trew the pties whos names herafter doth follow have sette theire handes and sealles the xxij. daye of Marche in the yeare of our Lorde God MDLXVIJ.”
Upon another small but boldly-written parchment, in Latin, wherein the same Michael Hampden grants land to William Flameborow, 21st August, 1570 (12th Elizabeth), this seal is attached, where, on the back of the animal, the erased peacock's head appears, that being the crest of the Hampdens of Hartwell: and this may have been the cause, that so many of those gorgeous creatures have immemorially been cherished in the vicinity of the mansion.
On mentioning these particulars to my friend, Sir Charles Young, Garter, he produced a variation of the same rebus, which he found on a Visitation Record of the date 1613; but he has no doubt of its being of a still earlier origin. The following is from the drawing which he kindly sent me;
By accepting this derivation, the sarcasm of Charles V. becomes pointed and racy. When this emperor heard that the Duke of Buckingham was beheaded by Henry VIII. at the instigation of Cardinal Wolsey, whose Ipswich origin was well known, he observed that “the butcher's dog had run down the finest buck in England."