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At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Stoke Bruerne had a manor - held by the Englishman Swain, son of Azor - which consisted of four hides, 14 villagers, 7 smallholders and a water mill. It reverted to the Crown shortly afterwards and was then granted to the Mauquency family, but later passed back to the Crown. King John granted it to the Warenne earls of Surrey, whose undertenants held the manor. By the early 14th century the manor had passed through the hands of the earls of Pembroke to the Greys of Ruthin. When William de Combemartin died in 1316, his three daughters were his co-heirs. Each daughter married three times and the complex co-ownerships of the manor of Stoke Bruerne passed through a number of families including the Knightleys, the Harrowdens, the Longevilles and the Woodvilles till they were inherited by (in the case of the Woodville portions) or conveyed to Henry VIII, who incorporated them all into the honor of Grafton in 1541 and 1542. The manor then descended with the rest of the Grafton Estate till 1987, when the title of Lord of the Manor of Stoke Bruerne was offered for sale.
The coming of the canal in the late 1790s changed the character of the village forever. It radically altered the layout of the village, necessitating as it did the closure or realignment of lanes, the severance of contiguous land such as the glebe land (the rector insisted on an accommodation bridge being built to provide him with access), and a set of seven locks to lift the canal from the Ouse valley floor. Two of the locks were in the village and a new bridge had to be built there too.
The canal reached Stoke Bruerne from the south in 1800. Barring its northward progress was the massive bulk of Blisworth Hill. The canal had been completed from its northern terminus in Braunston as far as Blisworth (on the other side of the hill) in 1796. Plans had existed for a deviation round the hill, but these involved 29 locks and a reservoir. Abandoned as unfeasible, a road was built over Blisworth Hill in 1797, and this was used to carry goods from Stoke to the wharf at Blisworth. So heavy was the tonnage involved, however, that it proved beyond the capacity of the road, and in 1800 Benjamin Outram of Butterley Ironworks in Derbyshire was contracted to build a double-track horse-drawn railway along the towpath and then over Blisworth Hill. In its five-year life it was probably the most intensively worked line of its kind in Britain.
Last Update 13 MAY 2012
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