The first mention of a Rectory in Finmere is in 1601. It stood in what is now the garden of the Old Rectory and was destroyed by a ‘tempestuous hurricane from the west’ in 1661. Rebuilt, it burnt down in 1668. The replacement building was still standing in the 1850s:
It was really a picturesque old structure; roomy, rambling, and irregular, as all such tenements should be… A spacious projecting window on the south side admitted you into an umbrageous garden, which was simply delicious. (John Burgon writing in Blomfield's History.)
Lancelot (Capability) Brown designed the garden while he was working at Stowe in the 1740s. Here, by careful grouping of trees, he was able to create “the effect of a long perspective and considerable space … where there was really little.”
The Rectory was known as the Parsonage or Parsonage House until 1852, at which date William Jocelyn Palmer first describes it as Finmere Rectory. The Rectory was replaced by Seymour Ashwell's Rectory in 1867.
The 'Old Rectory' from Blomfield's History
From Memorials. Part I. Family & Personal. 1766-1865. Roundell Palmer (from which the picture above is also taken):
To Finmere, a pleasant footpath led across the fields [from Mixbury]. That village lay chiefly in a dip between rising ground on both sides; the church, smaller than and architecturally inferior to that of Mixbury, standing at the highest point, at the north-east end. The Rectory house, a picturesque rambling thatched cottage, nestled below the church, on the slope from the east to the main street. Finmere had been much better cared for than Mixbury. It was not far from Stowe, the lords of which were at that time patrons of the church, and owners of nearly all the land in the parish. They were desirous that the benefices in their gift should be held by men of education and good social position as well as character. Some of those whom they presented to Finmere had been tutors in their own family: one, William Cleaver, became Principal of Brasenose, and afterwards a Bishop; and my Father's predecessor there, with whom he exchanged from Beachampton, was Sir George Lee, then owner of Hartwell House, in which Louis XVIII resided during his exile in England.
When the pleasure-grounds of Stowe were laid out by “Capability” Brown, he was instructed also to try his hand at making as much as was possible of the garden attached to Finmere Rectory, and he did so to admiration. The house, standing at the foot of a slope of green turf, looked out upon cedars, spruce firs, groups of other well-chosen trees and shrubs, and pretty flower-beds; all so disposed, as to produce the effect of a long perspective, and of considerable space where there was really little; altogether pleasant to the eye. The place is now changed; the thatched cottage has disappeared; the new Rectory is, doubtless, more convenient; it stands higher, so as to overlook more of the surrounding country, and is not so close to the village; but, to my eyes at all events, the old charm is gone.
Roundell Palmer was the son of William Jocelyn Palmer.