Queen Edith, the daughter of Earl Godwin and wife of King Edward the Confessor had a hunting lodge at Mentmore, between the site of the present Mentmore Towers and the hamlet of Crafton at a site known as Berrystead. The well of this lodge is marked today by a wood still known as Prilow, derived from the Norman French pres l'ieu ("near the water").
In 1808 Magna Britannia reported:
MENTMORE, in the hundred of Cotslow and deanery of Muresley, lies about eight miles to the north-east of Aylesbury. The manor was anciently in the families of Bussel and Zouche: in 1490 it was granted to Sir Reginald Bray, from whom it descended, by a female heir, to the family of Sandys: in 1729, it was purchased with the manor of Leadbourne, by Lord Viscount Limerick, of a Mr. Legoe, who inherited them from the family of Wigg. They are now the property of Richard Bard Harcourt esq. who purchased them of Lord Limerick's son, James Earl of Clanbrassil. In the church are some memorials of the families of Theed and Wigg.
The village manor house, built by the Wigg family as a 16th century half timbered structure, was re-faced in redbrick, with a Georgian front extension in the mid-18th century. The Wiggs were lords of the manor from the 16th to 18th centuries.
The ownership eventually passed to the Harcourt or D'Harcourt families, until it was brought in 1850 from the trustees of three Harcourt sisters who had been left insolvent on the death of their father. The purchaser was Baron Mayer de Rothschild.
The Baron employed the leading architect of the day Joseph Paxton to build a new grandiose mansion; the site chosen because of its fine elevation, was that of the village itself. To a Rothschild this was no problem, the village was moved to the site it occupies today. In fairness to the Baron the villagers were living in semi-derelict hovels, and were probably only too pleased to be rehoused.
Of particular note, is the cottage ornée style Old Dairy; this building was designed by George Stokes in 1859, it is a pastiche of the Petite Hameau at Versailles. While intended as a functioning dairy, its verandas were also designed as a setting for Baroness Mayer de Rothschild's afternoon tea parties. This is one of the last buildings still to be owned by the Rosebery Estate and was restored in 2007.
At this time Anglo Saxon remains were found near the site of the present front drive of Mentmore Towers. The drives to the mansion are the original public highways, which were also re-routed at this time.
By 1880 the village and its new approach roads were more or less finished and looked much as they do today. The late 6th Earl of Rosebery who died in 1973 was fond of saying nothing had been built in Mentmore in his lifetime. While this was not strictly true, as both he and his father had built stable blocks at the stud farms, one could believe what he said. The only buildings not owned by him were the church and the vicarage. The vicarage, an austere high gabled Victorian building, built in the 1880s, was sold by the Church Commissioners in the 1960s and is now a private house.
In 1977, Towers, village and farms were put up for sale in their entirety. Today the village retains much of its Victorian character. The stable blocks are now developments of new housing, and executive style homes have been built in the village, yet Mentmore would still appears predominantly unchanged.
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