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Brackley in 1836

BRACKLEY, a borough and market town in the hundred of King’s Sutton, Northamptonshire, 56 miles N.W. from London, and 18 miles S.W. from Northampton. Brackley is said to derive its name from the brakes with which the district was once overspread. Although it has long been a poor place, it seems to have been in a very flourishing condition both before and after the Conquest, being particularly eminent for its share in the wool trade. It existed as a corporation in the 56th of Henry III, although the place was not governed by a mayor until the 7th of Edward III, at which time it was required to send up three merchant staplers to a council concerning trade held at Westminster. It never again sent representatives until the last parliament of Henry VIII, after which it continued to send two members till it was disfranchised by the Reform Bill. The market is first distinctly noticed in 1217. It is now held on Wednesday ; and there are nominally five fairs, of which only that on St. Andrew’s day is of any importance. The population of the borough amounted, in 1831, to 2,107 persons, of whom 1,094 were females. The town, which is chiefly built with unhewn stone, extends up a gentle ascent on the N. bank of the Ouse, which is here a small stream, crossed by a bridge of two arches.

Brackley is divided into two parishes, ecclesiastically united, but otherwise distinct. The parish church is dedicated to St. Peter. When erected is not known; but the vicarage was endowed in 1223. The living is in the diocese of Peterborough, and is worth £359 per annum. The other church, dedicated to St. James, is regarded as a chapel of ease to the former ; it was considered old even in Leland’s time. The living is a curacy, not in charge, subject to the vicarage. There was an hospital here, founded somewhere between 1146 and 1167, by Robert Bossu, Earl of Leicester. The estates with which it was endowed were afterwards given to Magdalen College, Oxford, on condition of maintaining a priest there to say mass for the soul of Lord Francis Lovel ; a duty which at the Reformation was exchanged for that of supporting a free school. This school still exists. It is held in a plain building erected in 1787, the master receives £18 per annum from Magdalen College ; and £1 per annum has been left to be distributed in prizes among the free scholars. The chapel of the old hospital had fallen into a very ruined condition ; but was thoroughly repaired about the middle of the last century, by Mr. John Welchman, who also provided a stipend to enable divine service to be performed therein every alternate Sunday. The son of the same person left £100 for the education of four poor boys and as many girls. Since the establishment of a national school in 1818, the interest has been paid over to its treasurer, in aid of voluntary contributions. There are almshouses founded by Sir Thomas Crewe in 1663 ; and there have been various bequests of rents and money, applicable to the repair of churches, the apprenticing of boys, and the relief of the poor. There is a handsome town-hall.