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Helmdon Stone

an article by Edward Parry

  Introduction

Northamptonshire is well known for the high quality of its building stone; the quarries at Barnack and Weldon, for example, were of national importance and consequently they have received much attention from historians.1 At the opposite, South Western end of the county in the parish of Helmdon there are the remains of quarries which were once the source of much praised stone. But Helmdon has been little noticed, even in works dealing specifically with Northamptonshire building materials.2 One aim of this paper is to rescue an important stone from such undeserved obscurity. The historical background of the quarries and the uses made of the stone will be examined and an attempt made to determine the effects which stone working had on the local community. A second reason for treating this subject at present is the state of the physical evidence in Helmdon. During the last thirty years the sites of the quarries have been obscured by infilling; during the same period the appearance of the village which owed so much to the local stone has altered. A number of older buildings have been reconstructed, some so radically as to be unrecognisable, and many of the newer houses are built of materials alien to the parish.

Historical Background

Helmdon is four miles north of Brackley and eight miles east of Banbury. The village shares the historical anonymity of hundreds of similar settlements; it was the scene of no great event nor the birthplace of a famous person. For this reason a brief account of its evolution is necessary to provide a background to the origins and growth of the quarrying which gave Helmdon - for a hundred years - more than parochial importance.

Helmdon differs from many neighbouring villages in two respects. The shape of the village is unusual: the church, situated on the highest ground, is close to the parish boundary and far from the centre of the settlement. From the church, houses stretch down the hill to the Green, from where they continue in an arc to a second nucleus, the Square, at the eastern end. (see map, Fig. I.) This linear layout is unlike most local villages which are nucleated and grouped round their church. A second difference is the absence of a large house. There are a number of substantial farmhouses and an imposing rectory, but nothing to suggest that Helmdon was a 'closed', squire-dominated village. The landscape of the parish is still dominated by the arrangements made when Helmdon was enclosed in 1758. The timing and organisation of enclosure was typical of many Northamptonshire parishes but not of Helmdon's immediate neighbours to east and west. Astwell, Falcutt and Stuchbury were the subjects of private enclosure centuries earlier which turned them into 'Deserted Medieval Villages'. How far the survival and success of Helmdon was due to the absence of one powerful landowner and how far to the growth of the quarries must remain an open question for the moment.

The Campiun Window
PLATE 1: MEDEIVAL STAINED GLASS IN HELMDON CHURCH
showing William Campiun, wielding a stonemason's pick
(Photo by E.J. Parry)

It is not easy to establish with accuracy when the quarries were first exploited. The earliest written reference occurs in a charter of the first half of the thirteenth century which mentions a virgate 'qua Rob le Macun ten'.3 This does not prove the existence of quarries but together with other evidence it is indicative. The church is the oldest surviving building for which the stone was used; the nave arcades date from c.1250. More specific information is provided by a remarkable piece of medieval stained glass in the north aisle. This is a donor window with an inscription referring to William Campiun, who is shown wielding a stonemason's pick (see Plate 1). The probable date of the glass is 1313, which makes it the earliest in England to show an artisan at his trade.4 The first proof of the working of the quarries, rather than the existence of masons in the village, comes in 1356. In a Proof of Age it is stated that when one John Janekyn was baptised (i.e.c.1340), 'the church at Sulgrave was destroyed and twenty carts were at Helmydene fetching stone for the repair of the said church.5 The scale of this operation is a significant clue to the importance of the quarries at this date. Topographical evidence supports this impression. The following field names are mentioned in a charter of 1317; 'Tursputte', 'Thorsputweye' and Staindelfpece'.6 That such names were accepted local usage in 1317 implies that the quarries were well established by then.

FIG 1: LOCATION OF HELMDON'S QUARRIES
FIG 1: LOCATION OF HELMDON'S QUARRIES
(David Hall)

The area which was quarried is confined to a few fields on both sides of the Weston road leading north from the village. (see Fig.I.). To the east of the road the medieval ridge and furrow is interrupted by irregular depressions; to the west, pits and spoil heaps are visible extending as far as the Sulgrave road. An Indenture of 1726 is the only document which gives a precise location for the quarries.7 This was an agreement between Worcester College, Oxford, and Edward Bayliss, a 'ffreemason' of Helmdon. It refers to the lease of a 'piece of arable ground lying upon Marwell Hill . . . and abutting the Banbury Highway'. Marwell Hill - now known as Marrow-well - is the field to the west of the Weston road, which was the Banbury Highway in the eighteenth century. Bayliss leased the land so that he could 'dig and cast up all or any of the said arable lands, hades and balks for stones'.

The expansion of the late seventeenth and the eighteenth century.

For a hundred years (from c.1670 to c.1770) Helmdon's stone was used on some of the most important buildings in the country. Morton, writing in 1712, described Helmdon as among the four quarries 'at this time of the chiefest Note with us'.8 He drew attention to Easton Neston, 'built of a fair white durable stone from Helmdon, which is freer from an intermixture of yellowish Spots than is that of Kenton, and is indeed the finest building Stone I have seen in England.9 Bridges, also writing in the early eighteenth century, noted that 'Helmdon is famous for its quarries of soft stone for building and of rag-stone for paving'.10 Few modern writers have been so complimentary, but Nigel Nicholson echoes Morton's praise when he refers to Easton Neston and writes that 'The Helmdon stone is the finest of all building stones, for it is unmottled and unveined., as clear as liquid . . . it can be carved with a crispness that two hundred and fifty years of weathering have not dulled'.11 The stone which inspired these eulogies is a limestone of the Great Oolite. It is a grey, close-grained material which attracted customers by its versatility and durability.12 The increased demand for the stone is reflected in a wide variety of contemporary documents. John Stockley, a village mason, made his will in 1714 and he referred to 'all that ground that is to digg att the quarr and all the stones and all the materials belonging to the quarr . . .13 In 1729 another mason, Francis Blencowe, bought land and the vendor agreed to allow 'free ingress way and passage . . . for the said Francis Blencowe, his heirs . . . their workmen, horses, teams, carts and carriages' to the property.14 The expansion is also indicated by the movement of masons to Helmdon from neighbouring villages. The John Stockley mentioned above was described after his death as 'heretofore of Culworth and since of Helmdon, mason'.15 In 1688 William Wigson, freemason of Eydon, purchased a house and close in Helmdon and his descendants were to become prosperous masons in the eighteenth century.16 The reason for all this activity is that Helmdon stone was being used in the construction of four great houses: Easton Neston, Stowe, Blenheim and Woburn.

PLATE 2: NORTH WEST FRONT OF EASTON NESTON
PLATE 2: NORTH WEST FRONT OF EASTON NESTON
faced with Helmdon stone c. 1700-2
(Photo: National Monuments Record)

PLATE 3: STOWE: "YE LADY'S BUILDING", LATER KNOWN AS THE QUEEN'S TEMPLE
PLATE 3: STOWE: "YE LADY'S BUILDING", LATER KNOWN AS THE QUEEN'S TEMPLE built by Thomas Blencow in the 1740s. It was given the portico thirty years later.
(Photo by E.J. Parry)

The relatively short distances between the quarries and these houses presumably influenced the choice of stone. Helmdon, unlike the quarries at the north-eastern end of the county, is far from a navigable waterway and this must have limited the use of the stone especially in the medieval period. Personal contacts among patrons and architects may also provide an explanation for this sudden prominence. Hawksmoor, who was responsible for the reconstruction of Easton neston between 1700 and 1702, had already worked with Vanbrugh - at Castle Howard - and the two men continued their collaboration at Blenheim. Vanbrugh had been employed by Sir Richard Temple on the first stages of the eighteenth century rebuilding of Stowe. Temple was a political supporter and military subordinate of the Duke of Marlborough. This network of commercial, personal and artistic links helps to explain Helmdon's growing importance as a source of building stone at this time.

Helmdon and the four great houses: Easton Neston.

The only house whose external appearance relies primarily on the use of Helmdon stone is Easton Neston, near Towcester (see Plate 2). It is also, unfortunately, the only one of the great houses drawing on the quarries for which there are no surviving building accounts. Vanbrugh's building of 1700-2 used Helmdon stone for all the ashlar work and it was the stunning effect this created which prompted Morton's praise. There is no direct evidence to connect Helmdon men with the work. However there were masons in the village when the house was remodelled and, by analogy with Stowe, Blenheim and Woburn, it is likely that they were responsible for extracting and supplying the stone and perhaps for some of the work on site as well.

Stowe.

The building work carried out at Stowe from the 1670s to the 1770s was the most important project which involved the use of Helmdon stone. It gave the local masons the chance to work on a scale and at a level of sophistication beyond their normal experience. The house of c.1680 built by Sir Richard Temple was 'a very fine thing of its kind and typical of its period; red brick, hip-roof, stone quoins, thirteen bays wide.'17 It was the construction of this house and the laying out of the impressive gardens to the south that produced the first contacts between Stowe and Helmdon.

Stone had been brought from Eydon, six miles north-west of Helmdon, in the early 1670s but on the 4th May 1677 Sir Richard Temple instructed Mr Miller, his master bricklayer, how to proceed with the building. The advice was that 'Helmdon men [are] to consider going below the present course of stone since what they found already is without ragg and better stone.'18 Thirty years later another Sir Richard, later Viscount Cobham, began the work which transformed the modest seventeenth century house into the palace of the Dukes of Buckingham. Helmdon men were closely involved in most stages of this metamorphosis between 1710 and 1777.

The Stowe manuscripts mention frequent payments to Helmdon men for quarrying and working their stone. A telling indication of the scale of the enterprise occurs in 1726 when the carters were paid for eighty-three journeys made from the quarries to Stowe during the year up to the 31st October. It is significant that in the same year Edward Bayliss negotiated the lease from Worcester College, Oxford, referred to earlier, in order to extract more stone. His brother Nathaniel is mentioned many times in the building accounts; he was a regular worker on the site between 1719 and 1729. The other local family employed at this time were the Stockleys. William Stockley first appeared in 1711 and he was, until 1719, the Helmdon man most closely connected with the house. In 1719 he was joined by Nathaniel Bayliss and the two men co-operated on numerous commissions during the next decade. Among these were the Stables, Coach-house, 'House of Office' (lavatories) and, on an altogether different plane, the Summer House. This building, later known as the Temple of Bacchus, designed by Vanbrugh, was demolished when the school chapel was built in the 1920s. William Stockley's second son Robert joined the Helmdon masons in the 1720s and in 1729 he was working on the pedestal for the equestrian statue of George I which stands at the north front of the house.

Unfortunately the Stowe papers provide no evidence for the work done in the 1730s, but two isolated pieces of Helmdon material suggest that the village's connection with the house was sustained. Francis Blencowe's purchase of land in 1729 has been mentioned, and it is most probable that this investment was bound up with work at Stowe. His will, made in 1741, reinforces this impression: he left to his son Nathaniel, also described as 'mason', 20 out of ye Lord Cobham's money when the work is accomplished.'19 Nathaniel was instructed to complete the task and his name duly appears in the building accounts until 1747 when the balance of his bill was paid. But before this happened another generation of the Blencowe family was working at Stowe. Nathaniel's son Thomas was employed in the early 1740s on 'ye Lady's Building' - better known by its later name, the Queen's Temple (see Plate 3). In June 1743 the project is referred to as 'Blinchon's Building' which implies that the Blencowes were the masons in overall charge. The Temple was remodelled in the 1770s and given the impressive portico it has today. The Blencowe link persisted. In 1773 among the items on a 'Bill for stones Sarv'd by Nathaniel Blencowe mason from helmdon Quarry' occurs, 'for 36 foot of Colloms at 12s ye foot Ladys Building 21 12s 0d.'

In the interval between these two periods of work on the Queen's Temple much more had been done to both house and grounds and Helmdon men were involved in some of the major schemes. The rebuilding of the South Front was preceded by the erection of the Corinthian Arch. The men employed on the Arch were later to work on the house and it has been suggested that 'in retrospect the building of the Corinthian Arch seems like a trial run for the building of the mansion.'20 Edward Bayliss supplied Helmdon stone to the value of 108 12s 1d but the construction and carving was in other hands. From the late 1740s the Batchelors, Edward and Richard, from Buckingham are noted in the accounts and they were responsible for the building of the Arch and for much of the subsequent work on the house.

Lord Temple's large-scale rebuilding of the 1770's is well documented. 21 Almost half of the new stone used, worth 444 14s 8d, came from the Helmdon quarries. Between June1772 and March 1773 Nathaniel Blencowe and Edward Bayliss were working for Temple. Blencowe's role was as supplier of stone and there is no reference to him working on the site; Bayliss supplied and worked the stone. The accounts detail the particular uses to which the stone from the various quarries was put. Three examples will illustrate the versatility of Helmdon's stone. "To carving of 56 flowers in the Planceer at 2s per flower'; 'Setting the 2 Dubble Corinthn Capitals'; and 'Ashlar work and set under ye Boycott stone for weather stones'.

The work done in the 1770's marks the end of the century-long association between Helmdon and Stowe. No other building exercised such an influence over the quarries and the masons of the village. For the owners of Stowe the attraction of Helmdon stone was not only in its intrinsic quality but also the proximity of the source to the site. This combination of advantages ensured that the eighteenth century was the most productive period in the quarries' history. Although Helmdon has provided little building stone since 1800 it is pleasing to note that the connection with Stowe lasted into modern times. In 1947 half a dozen men from Helmdon and neighbouring villages were employed on restoration work at the school, but there were no Bayliss, Stockley or Blencowe among them.22

Blenheim.

The connection between Stowe and Helmdon was closer and lasted longer than that with any other house. But before the work undertaken by Viscount Cobham was begun, the quarries were contributing stone to the most prestigious, controversial project of the early eighteenth century: the building of Blenheim Palace.23 Most of the stone used at Blenheim came from nearby Cotswold quarries, particularly Burford and Taynton. Helmdon was a subsidiary, but nonetheless significant source of stone and given the problems of transporting stone overland there must have been particular reasons for going twenty miles for the stone. Perhaps Hawksmoor, who made such effective use of Helmdon stone at Easton Neston, recommended it to Vanbrugh who is known to have been 'meticulous about using the best possible stone in the most prominent places'.24 Temple, who had already made use of the quarries, reinforced his close connection with Marlborough during the building of Blenheim; great quantities of timber were purchased from Stowe in the early stages of the work at Woodstock.25

Between 1705 and 1710 Helmdon occurs ten times in the monthly accounts which detail the building costs.26 These references are concentrated in three years; 1706, 1709 and 1710. The total value of the stone supplied - and this included the cost of transport - was just under 600. This represents a small proportion of the total amount spent on stone; the Burford quarries, for example, supplied over 770 worth in just two months of 1706. Unfortunately the accounts give no indication of the particular uses to which Helmdon stone was put, except that on three occasions John Phillips was paid for 'paving stone'. Otherwise the entries refer simply to 'stone' or 'freestone'. Six men are named as suppliers and with the exception of Phillips they are men whose names are know from other projects. No carriers or carters are mentioned, and the village masons are paid in full for the stone and its transport to Blenheim; e.g. 'To John Stockley for f1053 of Helmdon Stone and Carriage at d13p. foot Cubll. 57-00-9.' [April 1706]27

The Blenheim evidence is important for the history of the quarries principally because it proves that they were in production on a significant scale in the earliest years of the eighteenth century. This can be inferred from the example of Easton Neston but there the manuscripts have not survived. Also, for the first time we have some indication of the names and numbers of men involved in stone working. The six men noted above came from four families, three of which were to play an important part in the history of the quarries in the eighteenth century.28

Woburn.

The fourth great house with which Helmdon was connected was Woburn. Here as at Blenheim the stone from the village was of relatively minor importance. The main quarries drawn on were Ketton and Totternhoe with additional material coming from Collyweston and Oakley. In 1749-50 and in 1754 some Helmdon men were employed at Woburn chiefly, it would appear. As suppliers of paving stone. In March 1749 Edward Bayliss was paid 27 11s 0d 'for paving stone'.29 During the next five years the Bayliss family was paid just over 120 for their services. In none of the entries in the building accounts is there any reference to the village by name, but the details given in the carters' accounts point to Helmdon. 'Dec 17 1750 Paid Wm. Granborough for Carriage from Helmdon.30 That there can be no doubt about the commodity that was carried is made clear by the next entry: 'Dec 17 1750 Paid Do [John Adams] for Do [Carriage] of Stone from Helmdon.'31 One of the carriers was Thomas Burbidge, the village mason who otherwise only appears in Helmdon deeds. None of the later account books refers to Helmdon stone or to any of the masons so far identified. However the connection probably continued. Between 1775 and 1780 substantial sums were paid to a Martha Bayliss 'For stonemasons work on account'.32

Minor Commissions.

After 1780 Helmdon's role as a supplier of stone on more than a local level came to an end. However it is likely that during the eighteenth century the quarries provided stone for a number of buildings of secondary importance for which documentary evidence is lacking or incomplete. The work done at Canons Ashby House will serve as an example. The rather sketchy account books for 1709-12 include familiar names.33 Members of the Wigson family worked at the house in those years and at least one, Joshua Wigson, appears at Blenheim and later emerges as a prosperous mason in the 1730s. The same is true of James Stockley, who worked at Canons Ashby in 1712. These records give no evidence for the use of Helmdon stone on the site. The only reference to a quarry is to Culworth. This is unsurprising, given the Stockleys' connection with that village and also the easier communications with Canons Ashby.

The only other commission undertaken by Helmdon men outside their village was for the Purefoys in their house at Shalstone, Buckinghamshire. In 1739 Henry Purefoy wrote two letters to Edward Bayliss 'a ffreestone mason at Helmdon' about setting up a 'Turkey marble mantle piece'.34 The most significant point is made at the end of the first letter: 'If you can't come yourself you may send one of your men who is skillfull in the businesse.' This underlines those other pieces of evidence which show the masons as employers and, in this case, employers of skilled labour.

Apart from the work they did for aristocratic or gentry patrons the Helmdon masons were much involved in vernacular building. All the surviving houses and agricultural buildings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are constructed of the local stone. They must have been the 'bread and butter' business for quarries and men but few have left any manuscript evidence. However, two houses can be connected with eighteenth century masons. The Old Cross and Wigson's Farm are both decorated in unusually grand style for such comparatively humble buildings (see Plates 4 and 5). This together with some circumstantial documentary evidence suggests strongly that these houses were owned or occupied by masons. Many anonymous examples of the stonemason's craft are to be seen on the older houses; their fine chimney stacks, kneeler stones and other embellishments testify to the enduring quality of the local stone and to the skills of masons.

The Masons and the Local Community.

Such men comprised an important social and economic group in the village. Before examining the evidence for their familial connections and administrative activities it is necessary to define their occupation more exactly. What does the word 'mason' mean at this period? Although this is the only label given in documents, their range of skills and occupations was broad. There are no 'quarrymen' in the records but it is clear that John Stockley and Francis Blencowe were extracting stone from the ground they owned or leased. Whether they themselves dug the stone or employed men to do so is not stated. The stone had to be moved from Helmdon to the building sites and some of the masons arranged or provided transport. In the Blenheim accounts they are paid for 'carriage'. Thomas Burbidge worked as a mason and carrier. Some of the men also worked the stone when it reached its destination. The Stowe references to 'Blinchon's building' and to other specific commissions make it clear that some of the village men were masons in the sense that they carved the stone.

The door of the Old Cross
Window from Wigson's Farm - now called Dunelm
PLATES 4 AND 5: LOCAL BUILDINGS: The Old Cross, Helmdon (left) and a detail from Wigson's Farm (right), probably both local mason's houses
Site of old quarry
PLATE 6: HELMDON: SITE OF OLD QUARRY
(Photo by E.J. Parry)
Such men occupied a social position alongside the yeomen and the farmers of the middle rank. Some idea of their wealth and possessions can be gleaned from wills and miscellaneous deeds.35 From 1729 to 1739 Francis Blencowe spent at least 250 on property; this included land he bought for quarrying and two houses. The Stockleys and the Wigsons combined stone-working with farming. It is as farmers and landowners that the sons and grandsons of the men who worked at Stowe and Woburn are described; William Stockley in 1752, William Bayliss in 1804 and Thomas Blencowe in 1813 are referred to as yeomen. Members of these families could afford to make generous bequests. For example in 1714 John Stockley left his three children 40 each, while Joshua Wigson in 1735 disposed of land in Helmdon and Eydon as well as 100 in cash, which included a legacy of 5 to the poor of Helmdon.36

How important were these prospering masons in the economy of the village? Any answer must be tentative because of the incomplete evidence. Even trying to establish how many masons there were at any one time is not a straightforward matter. The Militia Lists for 1762, 1777 and 1781 give very useful, but not comprehensive, surveys of the occupations of the village.37 Each list names only three masons, although two of those mentioned in the first are apprentices. Masons represented 8% of the occupations given; few villages in the county had more than three in their list. Where there were five, at Kings Cliffe, they represented a small proportion of the total than in Helmdon. But by the time these lists were drawn up the quarries were past their peak. In c.1730, when they were probably at their most productive, ten masons can be identified. In addition there were workmen or labourers employed by the masons which meant that stone working was second only to agriculture in the village economy. It is therefore not surprising to find the masons prominent in local administration. Edward Bayliss was an Overseer of the Poor in 1739, 1745 and 1748; he was also a Churchwarden in 1737 and 1746. Earlier in the century William Stockley had been severally Constable, Churchwarden and Overseer.38

Decline.

When the railways reached the village the quarries were once more of only parochial importance. References to the last use of the stone for building are contradictory. According to Baker, 'the quarries have not been worked for architectural purposes in the present [i.e. nineteenth] century'39 But an enigmatic letter dated 1829, written to the Rev. Sir Henry Dryden of Canons Ashby begins, 'Honoured Sir . . . we shall begin drawing the stone from Helmdon next week.'40 The letter contains no information about the use to be made of the stone. Four masons are listed in the Census Returns for 1841, all members of the same family - the Bransons. In the same year the south porch of the church was repaired and local stone was used.41 By 1871 the only mason noted in the Census was Martin Humphrey and presumably he employed the 'Mason's labourer' included in the Returns. By the middle of the century the monopoly which stone had enjoyed for so long as a building material was being challenged. The earliest brick building is the Church School dated 1853. Thereafter brick was used in increasing quantities. The two railway companies whose lines traverse the parish built in brick; red for the stations, sheds and houses; blue for the bridges and for the major artefact, the viaduct of the Great Central.

Despite the encroachment of brick the stone continued to be worked on a small scale until the present century. A number of houses at the eastern end of the village are of local stone and one of them is dated 1916.42 Twenty years earlier Mr W P Ellis, who farmed the land on the right of the Weston road wrote a letter in which he referred to the problems presented by the quarries, 'I have mounded in the stonepit with thorns & I had barbed wire sufficient belonging to me and an old gate . . . I have not hung it but put an old chain round it & lock it as people lookd on it as their right & fetchd stones without my knowing . . . '43 During the inter-war years stone was burnt for lime and dug for road metalling.44 However by the late 1950s the quarries had become overgrown, waterlogged and dangerous; consequently the deeper pits were filled., leaving only the surface signs of stone working to be seen today (see Plate 6).

Whether Helmdon stone is as fine a building material as some writers claim must remain a matter of opinion, but it certainly deserves greater recognition. This paper should go some way towards establishing that recognition. Helmdon now takes its place in the list of notable Northamptonshire quarries which includes Weldon, Barnack and Kings Cliffe.

References.

1. See for example, D Purcell Cambridge Stone (1967); A Clifton-Taylor The Pattern of English Building (1962); N Pevsner The Buildings of England, Northamptonshire (2nd Edition revised by Bridget Cherry) (1973).

2. J M Steane, 'Building materials used in Northamptonshire and the area around', Northamptonshire Past & Present Vol. IV 1967/68 No.2.

3. MS. Top. Northants. c 29, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

4. I am grateful to Dr Richard Marks, Keeper of the Burrell Collection, Camphill Museum, Glasgow for information about the stained glass. Dr Marks supervised the conservation of the window and he has published an account of the work, 'An English stonemason in stained glass' in The Vanishing Past, edited by Alan Borg & Andrew Martindale. B.A.R. International Series III, (1981).

5. Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Vol X No. 270, pp 237-8, (1921).

6. Helmdon MS. No.68, Magdalen College, Oxford. 'tursputte' and 'thorsput' mean rock pit or quarry; 'staindelfpece' means the piece of land at the stone quarry.

7. Helmdon MS., Box 13, Worcester College, Oxford.

8. J Morron, The Natural History of Northamptonshire (1712) p 110.

9. Ibid

10. John Bridges The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, Vol 1 (1791), p. 172.

11. Nigel Nicholson, The National Trust Book of Great Houses of Britain (1978), p. 208.

12. I am grateful to Dr Martin Bradshaw for his advice on the geological characteristics of Helmdon stone. For useful comments on the strata still exposed in the 1920s, see Beeby Thompson, Lime Resources of Northamptonshire (1927)

13. Northants. Wills, 5th Series, 1705-1751, Vol.9, 232; at N.R.O.

14. Stockton MS., VIII(XI); N.R.O.

15. Stockton MS., VIII(IV), 10 April 1752.

16. Ibid, 23 July 1688.

17. Michael Gibbon, 'Stowe House, 1680-1779', in 'The Splendours of Stowe,' in Apollo, June 1973.

18. Most of the information about the building work carried out at Stowe between 1670 and 1780 is to be found in the Temple Mss. At the Henry Huntingdon Library, California. I have not consulted this collection personally but have relied on the very generous help of Mr George Clarke of Stowe School. Mr Clarke is working on a history of Stowe and he has made extensive use of the Temple papers; he has passed to me all the references to Helmdon that he has found. Because the Temple Mss. are only roughly catalogued it is difficult to give precise footnotes for the Helmdon items. Therefore it is to be assumed that the following paragraphs are based on the Temple Mss. unless other sources are indicated in the footnotes.

19. Northants. Wills, 5th Series, 1705-1751, April 26th, 1742. N.R.O.

20. Michael J McCarthy 'The Rebuilding of Stowe House, 1770-1777', Huntingdon Library Quarterly, Vol. XXXVI No. 3, May 1973

21. McCarthy, ibid

22. Information based on conversations with Mr Reg. Jeacock and other Helmdon People.

23. David Green Blenheim Palace,(1951)

24. David Green, personal communication to the author, 24/10/79.

25. Green ibid

26. British Library, Add.Mss, 19.592 - 19.601

27. B.L. Add. Mss., 19.593 fol.27 v

28. The three families were the Wigsons, Baylisses and Stockleys; the one leading family not represented at Blenheim was Blencowe.

29. Russell Mss., R5/1092, fol.33, at the Bedfordshire Record office. I wish to thank the Trustees of the Bedford Estates for permission to use the material on Woburn.

30. Ibid, fol 45

31. Ibid, fol 45

32. Ibid, R5/1098, fol.2

33. Dryden (Canons Ashby) 306 & 308 at N.R.O.

34. G Eland, Purefoy Letters, 1735-1753, (1931), No. 81, December 19th 1739.

35. These comments on the masons' social standing are based on their wills and records of property transactions; see Northants. Wills and the Stockton Mss. at N.R.O.

36. For further comments on local testators see E G Parry 'Helmdon Wills, 1603-1760,' in Northamptonshire Past & Present Vol. V. 1975 No. 3.

37. V A Hatley, Northamptonshire Militia Lists, 1777, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1973, p. xx and p. 120. For 1762 and 1781, see the Militia Lists at N.R.O.

38. Churchwardens' Accounts, MS. Top. Northants.c 47. Constables' Accounts, MS. Top. Northants d 8. Overseers Accounts, MS. Top. Northants. d 10. All the above are at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

39. Baker, op.cit., p.627

40. Dryden (Canons Ashby) 387/4, N.R.O.

41. The date is in the porch.

42. Miss Jean Spendlove, a former occupant of the house, thinks that 1916 is the date of the brick extension and that the original cottage is late nineteenth century.

43. I am grateful to Mr Mike Gidman for drawing my attention to this letter.

44. Information from Mr Frank Branson of Helmdon.

Taken from Northamptonshire Past And Present Vol. VII, 1986-87, No. 4, pp 258 - 269
Kindly typed by Judy Cairns.
 
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