A Brief History of Fenny Stratford

In 1764 the Duke of Buckinghamshire sold the manor of Water Eaton with Fenny Straford and Bletchley to the noted London physician Thomas Willis. His grandson, Browne Willis, inherited the manor in 1700.

From 1704 Browne Willis restored St. Mary's church, Bletchley. He served as a member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire from 1705-1708. An obsessive antiquarian, Browne Willis was a revivor of the Society of Antiquities in 1717.

In 1724 he bought the site of the former chantry chapel in Fenny Straford to build a new church for local residents, using funds he raised himself. Completed in 1730 this church was dedicated to St Martin in memory of Thomas Willis who died on St Martins Day in the parish of St Martin-in-the-fields. Browne Willis provided for the Fenny Poppers, to be fired on St Martin's Day- a custom still upheld every November 11th along with a St Martin's Day feast.

In his later years Browne Willis devoted more time to his antiquarian interests and writings which were mostly of an ecclesiastical nature. Having spent much of his personal wealth on local churches he was reduced to living a basic existence, appearing unclean and unkempt. He now seldom left his home at Whaddon Hall and it was here that he died in 1760. Continue..

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