Ladies and Gentlemen,
We present to you in Pageant a few of the most interesting events which have made history in Stowe-Nine-Churches during the last 1000 years, and we ask for your indulgence if the dates are not absolutely correct.
Our story commences about the year 951AD, when the Thane of Stowe, feeling no doubt in a generous mood, presented a piece of land for the building of a church.
Most of you have heard the legend told by your parents or grandparents:- A building was commenced, but when the workmen returned the next day it had been razed to the ground, this happened 8 successive times, it was believed that Satan removed the stones; at the 9th attempt they were left untouched. There were many reports as to the reason of their success; perhaps the presence of the Holy Monk kept Satan away. And so even today many will tell you that Stowe-Nine-Churches gets its name from the attempt to build a Church 9 times.
Well! This may be a legend but what is not legend is that the tower which you can all see was built by the Saxons 1000 years ago and probably used as a watch tower during the many invasions.
After the coming of the Normans in 1066 much of the lands were taken from the Saxons and given to the Normans. Many of the Clergy were deposed, and their rights transferred to the Norman priests.
In the year 1080 a nephew of William the Conqueror named Gilbert of Gaunt, who was Lord of Stowe, and lived at the Manor, wanted to improve the parish, so he presented 4 hides of land (about 400 acres) to the Church.
During the next 100 years Stowe saw many changes; Walter De Gaunt, son of Gilbert, was a man of eminent piety and courage. He was an officer in command at the famous engagement against the Scots, called the battle of the Standard [22nd August, 1138]. Next came John De Armenters, and his son Henry. Henry paid £60 to have lands enclosed to make a deer park. Park Farm today stands on a portion of that land.
About 1310, during the reign of Edward II, Warrien De Lisle (who was at that time Lord of Stowe) took up arms against the King, under the command of the Earl of Lancaster. He was taken prisoner and executed.
Stowe Manor, with its farms, deer park and cottages were seized, and for many years held by the King. The Widow of Warrien and her son were exiled and for a number of years lived with relatives, probably in Yorkshire. Young Gerald (unlike his father) was a loyal subject of the King, and eventually joined the Crusades in Palestine. We see him now in full armour.
For a number of years after the ending of the last Crusade, Gerald de Lisle lived a quiet country life, but with no particular estate of his own, Edward II apparently never forgave the family for the treachery of Warrien de Lisle.
In 1326 the King’s thoughts turned to the mother Church of Stowe, St Andrew’s Northampton, and in trust for the church the King presented Stowe to Gilbert de Middleton, Archdeacon of Northampton for life.
The Archdeacon was for a very short time the Great Lord of Stowe, he died in the following year (1327) and Edward was murdered about the same time in Berkeley Castle. And so began an era under Edward III. He showed keen interest in the various Lords who came to do him homage, among them was Gerald de Lisle, now a middle aged man. Shortly after, the King restored Gerald to his father’s possessions at Stowe.
Stowe changed hands many time in the next 150 years, Warrien (son of Gerald) had no sons, so the Manor and all the lands of Stowe were held first by Margaret, wife of Lord Berkeley, and afterwards by Elizabeth, wife of the Earl of Warwick, in the 17th year of the reign of Henry VI, 1439.
After the death of the Earl of Warwick, his estates were divided between his three daughters, and Elizabeth, wife of Lord Latimer was bequeathed Stowe. One of the descendants of Lord Latimer was John, Lord Latimer, whose second wife Catherine was the daughter of Sir Thomas Parr. Catherine, as we all know, made history by daring to become the wife of Henry VIII, so we can imagine Henry in the quiet gardens of the Manor making love to Catherine.
John, the last Lord Latimer had no sons, and Stowe was left to Lady Elizabeth, who married Lord Danvers. Her second son succeeded to the Manor of Stowe, and was created Earl of Danby by Charles 1st about 1630. We owe much to the Earl of Danby who completely repaired and beautified Stowe Church at his own expense in 1639. We are all acquainted with the monument of Lady Danvers in Stowe Church, she must have looked something like this when taking her walks in the garden.
From the family of Danvers the Manor passed to Lord Wharton, who sold it, together with other Manors, to the Executors of the Revd. Thomas Turner, President Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1716, who had bequeathed £15000 in trust for the purchase of lands for the governors of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy.
In that same year Dr Williams was instituted as Rector of Stowe, he only lived at Stowe for four years, but in that time was very progressive. Perhaps the most outstanding was the founding of a day school for village boys and girls.
In the year 1811 came the Enclosures Act, and the story is yet told in Stowe of the lands that were taken from the people and other lands taken from the Rector and enclosed. A party of villagers were so angry that they burnt the corn growing in the enclosed land; they were seized and dragged into Northampton prison. But right was on their side and eventually they were released without trial. By mistake one man was left in prison, his wife took him food till such time as he was released.
In 1849 Henry Crawley was instituted Rector of Stowe, we was one of the Govenors of the Sons of the Clergy, and the last Squire Rector of Stowe. In 1916 the Estate of Stowe was sold as separate farms, and so the history of Stowe took another turn. One more event should be mentioned; during the second Great War in 1944 a battle school for Army Padres was held at Stowe, the headquarters being the Rectory. Their training, under Major Whitaker , was a severe one.
God Save the King