Fenny Stratford is a constituent town of Milton Keynes, ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire, England and in the Civil Parish of Bletchley and Fenny Stratford. Originally an independent town, it was included in the Milton Keynes "designated area" area in 1967. From 1895 it formed an urban district with Bletchley, until 1974 when it became part of the borough of Milton Keynes (since 1997 a unitary authority). It is located at the south east edge of the city and is its gateway to northbound travellers on the A5.
The town name is an Old English language word that means 'marshy ford on a Roman road'. The Roman road in this case is the Watling Street. There are traces of the Roman settlement Magiovinium on the edge of the present day occupation. (Possibly the oldest known gold coin in Britain was found here, a gold stater of the mid-second century BCE). The town was recorded in manorial rolls in 1252 as Fenni Stratford, though previously it was just known as Stratford: the prefix being added to distinguish the town from nearby Stony Stratford.
Being an ancient market town, Fenny Stratford was the location of a weekly market for many years until 1665 when the town was badly hit by the bubonic plague. As a result the main road that ran through the town was diverted away from it, and the market died as a result. The market was never reinstated: the town was very much in ruins by the early eighteenth century, and had by this time joined with both Bletchley and Simpson, being commonly considered a hamlet of the former.
On St Martin's Day 1724 the first stone was laid of the new parish church of Fenny Stratford, marking a fresh start in the town's history. Browne Willis, a historian of the day, had raised the funds for the reconstruction. The Church was built on the site of the old Chantry Chapel of St. Margaret and St. Catherine at Fenny Stratford. He erected the church as a memorial to his grandfather Dr. Thomas Willis, a famous physician, who lived in St. Martin's Lane in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, and who died on St. Martin's day, 11 November 1675. To perpetuate his own memory, Browne Willis arranged for a sermon to be preached at St. Martin's Church on each St. Martin's Day, for which a fee was payable. During his lifetime, he also celebrated the occasion with a dinner attended by local clergy and gentry, an event which has continued to the present day.
The Fenny Poppers
The Fenny Poppers are six small ceremonial cannon which date from this time and are still fired ceremonially (with blank charges) today.
There is no record of their first use. In 1740, Browne Willis bought a house in Aylesbury Street, Fenny Stratford and the rent from this was used to pay for the sermon and gunpowder. Following his death in 1760, the traditions were carried on and later documented.
All six Poppers were re-cast by the Eagle Foundry, Northampton in 1859, after one of them burst. It is these that are still in use today and they were recently examined and x-rayed to ensure there are no cracks. During their long history, many sites have been used for this battery. These include; the Canal Wharf, land behind the Church, St, Martin's Hall, the Churchyard and now the Leon Recreation Ground that was once part of the lands belonging to the Chantry.
The Poppers each weigh about 19 pounds (8.5 kg). The , 6" by 1¾" (152 mm x 44 mm) will take one ounce (28g) of gunpowder, which is plugged with well-rammed newspaper. They are fired three times on St. Martin's Day (11 November); noon, 2.00pm and 4.00pm precisely. There is of course no connection with Remembrance Day (also 11 November). In 1901 they were fired to mourn the death of Queen Victoria; the 81 salutes were heard as far away as Olney. On 1 January 2000, at 11.00am the Poppers were fired to mark the beginning of the Second Millennium. At 2.00pm on 4 August 2000, a salute of six Poppers was fired to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Queen Mother. On 5 June 2012 six of the Poppers were fired at 14:00 for Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee.
The Diesel Engine
The world's first successful heavy oil engines were invented and built by Herbert Akroyd Stuart in Fenny Stratford. There is a plaque commemorating this at the westerly end of Denmark Street in Fenny Stratford opposite The Foundry public house – though the location of Akroyd Stuart's workshop is usually given as "Bletchley", which is a larger town adjoining Fenny Stratford. These engines were precursors to what is now known as the Diesel engine: Rudolf Diesel based his designs (1892) on Akroyd Stuart's proven inventions (1890) of direct (airless) fuel injection and compression ignition. An experimental model was tried out at the offices of the Fenny Stratford Times Newspaper, and the first production models were installed at the nearby Great Brickhill Waterworks where they were in operation from 1892 to 1923. (It has been argued that engines of this type might have become known as "Akroyds", had Diesel not been a rather paranoid person not prone to giving other inventors credit.)
Birth, marriage and death certificates can now be ordered online from Buckinghamshire County Council. The full postal address is Buckinghamshire Register Office, County Hall, Walton Street, Aylesbury, HP20 1YU.
The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies (County Hall, Walton Street, Aylesbury, HP20 1UU) holds
In Buckinghamshire, as with other counties in England and Wales, the location of offices where Births, Marriages and Deaths were registered has altered with other changes in local government. A list of the location of Registration Offices since civil registration began in 1837 has been prepared by GENUKI (Genealogy: United Kingdom and Ireland). The table also gives details of when each Registration Office was in existence. In the case of Buckinghamshire, the same registration offices were used for the censuses since 1851.
Nineteenth Century Local Administration
English Jurisdictions is a webpage provided by FamilySearch which analyses every ecclesiastical parish in England at the year 1851. It provides, with the aid of outline maps, the date at which parish records and bishops transcripts begin, non-conformist denominations with a chapel within the parish, the names of the jurisdictions in charge: county, civil registration district, probate court, diocese, rural deanery, poor law union, hundred, church province; and links to FamilySearch historical records, FamilySearch Catalog and the FamilySearch Wiki. Two limitations: only England, and at the year 1851.
During the 19th century two bodies, the Poor Law Union and the Sanitary District, had responsibility for governmental functions at a level immediately above that covered by the civil parish. In 1894 these were replace by Rural and Urban Districts. These were elected bodies, responsible for setting local property assessments and taxes as well as for carrying out their specified duties. Thses districts continued in operation until 1974. Urban districts for larger municipalities were called "Municipal Boroughs" and had additional powers and obligations.
Poor Law Unions, established nationally in 1834, combined parishes together for the purpose of providing relief for the needy who had no family support. This led to the building of '"union poorhouses" or "workhouses" funded by all the parishes in the union. The geographical boundaries established for the individual Poor Law Unions were employed again when Registration Districts were formed three years later. In 1875 Sanitary Districts were formed to provide services such as clean water supply, sewage systems, street cleaning, and the clearance of slum housing. These also tended to follow the same geographical boundaries, although there were local alterations caused by changes in population distribution.
Online Historical References