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.
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
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.
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
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
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
PLATE 2: NORTH WEST FRONT OF EASTON NESTON
faced with Helmdon stone c.
(Photo: National Monuments Record)
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
PLATE 6: HELMDON: SITE OF OLD QUARRY
(Photo by E.J. Parry)
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
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.
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)
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.