A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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THE BOROUGH OF ABINGDON
Abendon to xvi cent.
The borough and market town of Abingdon lies in the angle made by the Thames with its little tributary the Ock. According to the chronicler of Abingdon Abbey, a town called Seuekesham or Seouechesham stood here before the building of the 7th-century abbey, (fn. 1) after which its name was changed to Abingdon. If such a place existed, it must have suffered severely through the ravages of the Danes, who almost entirely destroyed the abbey in the 9th century. (fn. 2) King Alfred and his immediate successors held Abingdon in their own hands, (fn. 3) and it had evidently risen again to some importance before 926, when Athelstan received there an embassy from the King of France. (fn. 4) There is nothing to show what was the condition of the town at the refounding of the abbey in the middle of the 10th century. Its present form suggests, however, that it sprang up afresh as a dependency of the later abbey, with trade as the reason for its existence. The nucleus is a market-place roughly square in shape in front of the abbey gates, with streets diverging from it to the other important points in the town. The names of nearly all these streets can be traced back for six centuries.
The remains of the abbey lie at the east end of the town on the main arm of the Thames, which divides a little higher up to form the isle of Andersey. A smaller branch of the stream was turned right through the abbey grounds by one of the abbots, probably in the 12th century. (fn. 5) The existing buildings are few. (fn. 6) Nothing is left of the towered church described by Leland, (fn. 7) which in 1538 was the only building of the monastery in good repair. (fn. 8) It had a central and two western towers, and the main dimensions are preserved by William of Worcester. In 1922 sufficient remains of this church were uncovered to fix its position immediately east of the gardens of Abbey House. Under the presbytery were found the remains of a small Saxon apse, and the position of the cloister was also determined. The great gatehouse still stands, and has been in constant use since the Dissolution, first as the borough prison, (fn. 9) and afterwards as part of the corporation buildings. It connects the town hall with St. Nicholas' Church on the other side of the lane, and is an embattled building of two stories and of late 15th-century date. (fn. 10) The lower story is pierced on each side by a larger arch and two smaller archways flanking it. The southern pair of smaller arches is modern, but the others are original, and those on the outer or western side are rebated for gates. The main arch on the west is four-centred with the arms of England and the abbey (a cross paty between four martlets) in the spandrels. The spandrels of the smaller arch have Tudor roses in quatrefoils. The upper story on this side has two restored squareheaded windows of two lights, flanking a rich canopied niche containing a figure of the Virgin with a modern head. The east face of the gate-house has four-centred arches and two modern windows; the mitreing of the hoods of the original windows is, however, visible in the cornice. The two northern bays of the gate-house have an ancient stone vault with hollowchamfered ribs, foliage bosses and angel corbels; the southern bay has modern vaulting and was originally part of the porter's room, which extended further north. A stone vice in the original south-west angle still remains, with two doors, showing the former existence of a floor at half the present height.
The buildings on the south side of the abbey precincts, which may represent the guest-house, were acquired by the corporation on lease in 1895 (fn. 11); they had previously been used as malt-houses and brewery stores. (fn. 12) They consist of a square stone block with a long wing extending to the east. The square block is a late 13th or early 14th-century building of two stories with massive gabled buttresses at the angles. The basement has a stone vault resting on a central octagonal column without capital or base; the vault is quadripartite with chamfered ribs and wall ribs. In the south-east corner is an acutely pointed door, and next to it are the remains of a 15th or 16thcentury window with a square head. The present entrance is a wide 13th-century door on the north, of two pointed orders, with the head cut away. There is a second, but plainer, door or window on this side. The upper floor is entered by a pointed and moulded doorway on the north, formerly approached by a long outside staircase of stone; the head has a label and head-stop of the 14th century. Flanking it on either side are two-light 14th-century windows with traceried heads. This floor is divided into two rooms by a cross wall immediately opposite the entrance, the end being carried on a small triangular vault. The west room has a very handsome fireplace on the west side; the lofty stone hood has fallen, but the supporting corbels still remain and rest on octagonal shafts with richly foliated capitals. The flue is carried up in a single tall circular shaft with a conical cap and a series of vent slits below it, a rare survival in this country. The fireback is curved and built of thin tiles. At the south end of the same room is a pointed two-light window of the 14th century and a small door to the east of it, both blocked. In the west wall is a 15th-century door with a four-centred head, also blocked. The east room has a pointed door and a square-headed two-light window of the 14th century at the south end. The timber roofs of this floor are original and have curved braces to the principals and curved wind-braces. The long wing to the east is mainly of 15th-century date and appears to have had an additional bay at the east end. The south side is of stone, but the north face is timberframed. The ground floor has windows of Elizabethan character in the south wall and a four-centred fireplace; further west is a three-light square-headed window. The upper floor is reached by a modern stair in the north-east angle. In the south wall is a fireplace with a moulded and depressed four-centred head, and there is a second further east; both have the bases of stone chimney stacks visible outside. This side is lighted by three two-light windows of the 15th century with square heads and transoms. The timberframed north wall is open at breast height, each bay being divided into eight lights. A short distance back is set a line of nine oak posts, forming an aisle and supporting the roof timbers. The roof has tiebeams with curved braces springing from moulded corbels.
The Abbey Mill close by has lasted longer than the house it served. Two mills 'within the court' were built by Ethelwold, (fn. 13) and are mentioned in the Domesday Survey as paying no dues. (fn. 14) In the 16th century they were known as the Abbey Mills or the Byn Milles, (fn. 15) and consisted of three water-mills under one roof and a fulling-mill in ruins. (fn. 16) They were granted to the corporation in 1556. (fn. 17) Abingdon Lock, a little higher up the river, seems to have been constructed in the 14th century. In 1316 the men of Oxfordshire and Berkshire complained that the abbot had made 'lokes' of such a height that ships could not go to and from Oxford as they used to do. (fn. 18)
The spacious Market Place west of the abbey gatehouse has been the centre of town life since the time of Edward the Confessor. (fn. 19) It had its market-house in the 14th century, a building which, as it was called the New House, (fn. 20) probably replaced an older one. It contained stalls for the market and probably a room above for holding the abbot's courts. The New House was burnt down in the riots of 1327, and its successor was probably the market-house that Leland saw: 'a fair house with open pillars coverid with a rofe of leade for market folkes.' (fn. 21) There was a 'Doungeon' in this house, (fn. 22) and the usual cage and stocks before it. (fn. 23) The charter of 1556 granting it to the corporation describes it as 'All that House or Gaole . . . scituate and being in the middle of the Markett in Abingdon . . . in which said house as well the View of Frankpledge as the court of Port rive and Pye Powder have been . . . accustomed to be holden.' (fn. 24) It seems to have been replaced before 1569 by the 'New Market House,' which is mentioned in the chamberlain's accounts of that year. (fn. 25) This building was pulled down in 1677 (fn. 26) to make way for the fine hall standing at the present day, one of the most successful buildings of the school of Wren. It is attributed to Christopher Kempster, whose name appears as 'undertaker' in the building accounts. Built as a sessions-house, it was begun in 1678 and is a twostoried building of stone with a hipped lead roof. The four bays in front and two at each end are divided by tall pilasters of the composite order supporting a continuous entablature. Each bay contains one open semicircular arch to the ground floor and a roundheaded window, with a voluted keystone, to the first floor. In the roof is a row of small pedimented dormers, and the flat top is surrounded by a wooden balustrade with turned balusters. From the centre of the roof rises a polygonal wooden cupola with an ogee capping and vane. The staircase, with moulded handrail and good turned balusters, is inclosed in a square projecting tower at the back. It is lighted by square-headed windows and finished with a cornice and parapet, surmounted by eight pinnacle-shaped vases. The ground floor forms an open flagged space, and the roof over it is strengthened with curved braces.
The gildhall, with council chambers above it, adjoins the gate-house on the south side. It incorporates part of the chapel of St. John Baptist, which, with a hospital for six poor men, is said to have been built by Abbot Vincent (1117–30). (fn. 27) The hospital buildings were sold to the corporation in 1561, (fn. 28) and the 'Yelde Hall' is mentioned in 1563. (fn. 29) In 1624 an order was made that 'whereas the Mayor Bayliffs and Burgesses hath heretofore been at great charges in Repairing and amending the glasse windowes, benches, and pavements of the Guild hall, by reason playes there suffered to be plaied . . . no Mayor shall permit plays in the Guild hall without consent of eight of the Principal Burgesses.' (fn. 30) In 1683 Richard Greenwood had a lease of 'the old Guildhall' every Monday and Friday for the laying and placing of cheese for the cheese market. (fn. 31)
The municipal buildings now form an L-shaped block, the western wing of which was the hospital chapel. Between 1731 and 1735 the building was raised one story and considerable additions made behind. The present front to the street has a 15thcentury ground floor and an upper story of Renaissance design. The chapel, about 60 ft. long internally, is now the court room, and has in the north wall three original windows of two lights under a square head, but the wall has been refaced. In the south wall are two 15th-century windows of three lights under four-centred heads, with modern tracery and mullions. The jambs of a third blocked window are visible further west, and between this and the next window is a door with a four-centred head. The door opening from the court room to the staircase is also of the same date. The council chamber above, built in 1759, contains some valuable paintings, including George III and Queen Charlotte, by Gainsborough, a St. Sebastian, &c. The staircase is of the well type with good carving and turned and twisted balusters. The small council chamber has a good 18thcentury window with Ionic columns of oak between the lights. Preserved here is an interesting early plan of the town on vellum and a view of the old market cross, an octagonal structure five stages high; in the background is represented the old market hall, a half-timber structure with brick filling standing on oak posts. The corporation possesses a fine collection of ancient plate; the more important pieces include a large silver-gilt mace with repoussé ornament of the time of Charles II; a small mace with the arms, supporters and initials of Queen Elizabeth; another with the royal arms of the Stuarts and a fourth with the initials I.R.; two cups, the gift of Lionel Bostock (d. 1600); a tankard (London, 1651), given by Richard Wrigglesworth; another (1653) with the quartered shield of Lenthall, given by Sir JohnLenthall in 1658; a tankard given by Sir George Stonehouse in 1675; another (1691) bearing the arms of the borough; a very large tankard (1698), the gift of Martha Stonehouse in 1700, with the Stonehouse arms impaling Briggs and a couchant dog on the lid; four large punch-bowls, 18th-century saltcellars, rat-tail spoons and other pieces. The old seals are also preserved, one of which is dated 1605, and there is a large pewter service bearing the borough arms, the large pieces being the gift of Clement Saxton, Mayor of Abingdon in 1725. The standard gallon is inscribed 'Elizabetha Regina 1600' and the standard quart 'E.R. 1601.' There are also fourteen dozen wood platters.
Another part of the premises of St. John's Hospital was used in 1562–3 for the free grammar school endowed by John Roysse. (fn. 32) The school has now been moved to the west end of the town, but the old schoolroom still stands. It is a timber-framed building with a low modern plaster ceiling. Much of the woodwork, including a gallery at the south end and some panelling, is of late 17th- or early 18th-century date, but the structure is earlier, and on the west wall outside is the inscription, 'Johannes Roysseus hanc scholam instituit Anno Domini 1563 Thoma Orpwood Practore.' The building is entered by a stone gateway at the west end of the town hall, erected by the Earl of Abingdon in 1811. It is apparently built of re-used fragments of ancient work, and above the arch are the arms of John Roysse. The old school was repaired by Mr. A. E. Preston and Mr. W. J. Sedgefield in 1911.
Of the other buildings in the Market Place, the most important is the corn exchange, a modern and unpretentious building set up in 1886. (fn. 33) When Leland visited the town a 'right goodly crosse of stone with fair degres and imagerie' stood in the market. (fn. 34) This cross was among the most famous of market crosses, and served as a model for the cross of Coventry. (fn. 35) It seems to have been set up as a symbol of their order by the fraternity of the Holy Cross in the reign of Henry VI, (fn. 36) and Waller's Roundheads sawed it down in 1644. (fn. 37) Also in the Market Place stood the 'Inn or Hospice' called the New Inn, which appears in the abbey accounts of the 15th century. (fn. 38) The abbot probably had at this date, as he had in the reign of Henry I, (fn. 39) the monopoly of the right of entertainment in the town, and the New Inn was perhaps supplementary to the guest-house of the abbey. It was still in existence in 1538, (fn. 40) and was used in the 16th century for public dinners. (fn. 41) It was apparently the same as the hostelry called the 'Antelope' (fn. 42) in the Bury, which in 1553 was granted to the Master and Governors of Christ's Hospital. (fn. 43)
The old name of the Market Place, and sometimes of the part of the town immediately adjoining it, was the Bury, (fn. 44) and the modern Bury Lane was called for centuries Little Burie Street. (fn. 45) The long thoroughfare that runs westward from the Bury towards the River Ock has always been known as the Ock Street (fn. 46); it connects the abbey with the Ock Bridge and Mills. There was a bridge here before 1101, when the Abbot Faritius entered the town at this point and unshod himself to walk barefoot to his abbey. (fn. 47) It may, perhaps, be the 'First Bridge' mentioned in the abbey rules of the late 12th century. (fn. 48) There is another, however, called 'Brandenbridge,' mentioned at that date (fn. 49) and again in the early 15th century, (fn. 50) which has not been identified. The present Ock Bridge, originally a 15th-century structure, has been altered and widened on the west. It is of rubble and consists of seven irregularly spaced arches, only one retaining the original ribs. Two arches are semicircular and the rest four-centred. In the 14th century there was a hospital on the Ock Bridge dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. (fn. 51) A chapel 'on the south end of Oke bridge in Abingdon towne' is mentioned in 1547. (fn. 52)
The Ock Mills, a little higher up the stream, are of very ancient date. There was one mill here in the time of Abbot Adelelm. (fn. 53) King Henry I granted to the Abbot Faritius a mill called 'Einore' near the Ock Bridge, because the miller constantly shut off the water lest it should work the abbot's mill lower down, and so submerged the meadows near it belonging to the abbey. (fn. 54) Nearer the town there was formerly the Chapel of St. Edmund, which was pulled down before 1554 (fn. 55); no doubt it stood where St. Edmund's Lane branches off from the street. A messuage adjoining it was used as the chaplain's house. (fn. 56)
Tomkins's almshouses in Ock Street, founded in 1733, inclose a small courtyard with a range of onestory tenements on each side. At the end is a gate way surmounted by an inscription in a pedimented composition and forming an effective finish to the court. A short distance further west is an interesting brick fountain in the wall of a house. It is inscribed 'Mr. R. Ely 1719' and bears the town arms. The semi-domed recess is surmounted by a moulded brick pediment.
By the riverside, where the Ock flows into the Thames, is the church of St. Helen, perhaps the most interesting building historically that is left in Abingdon. A church on this site existed as early as the 10th century, (fn. 57) and has always been peculiarly the people's church. (fn. 58) It was in St. Helen's that the fraternity of the Holy Cross set up their stately rood (fn. 59); they held their meetings in a little room over the north porch, (fn. 60) and it seems that the nave of the church was in the 14th century the public meeting-place of the whole population. (fn. 61) Two ancient streets connect it with the centre of the town. East St. Helen's Street runs north-east from the church into the Market Place; West St. Helen's Street (fn. 62) leads in a northerly direction into the High Street. In West St. Helen's Street there is an old house formerly called Banbury Court, after John Banbury, a prominent member of the Gild of the Holy Cross. In this house the fraternity kept its yearly feasts till it acquired a house of its own in East St. Helen's Street. (fn. 63)
The almshouses built by the gild and by the Governors of Christ's Hospital stand in a little group to the south-west of St. Helen's churchyard. The chief of them is the Long Alley Almshouse erected in 1446, (fn. 64) a beautiful range of chambers running north and south. It forms a long rectangular block, the gabled south end being of the 15th century, but the rest of the building bears evidence of alteration in the following century and later. Along the whole of the east front runs a covered gallery with an open front, consisting of a series of narrow lights with oak frames and rounded heads; projecting from it are three porches, the central one with fluted Doric pilasters at the sides and a gabled roof. The other two are hoods only, and all three appear to be of the Jacobean period. In the centre of the range is a small hall with a stone mullioned bay window projecting at the back.
It contains several interesting portraits of benefactors to the hospital.
An older house known as the 'Almshouse over the Water' stood on the bank of the Thames. (fn. 65) It seems to have been built by Geoffrey Barbour in the early days of the gild. (fn. 66) In 1554 it was described as the 'old Almeshouse standing upon the Ryver of Thamys within the whiche is one hall and seven severall chambers where ben twenty poore creatures.' (fn. 67) In 1797 the Old Almshouse was rebuilt by the Master and Governors of Christ's Hospital. (fn. 68) In 1884 it was pulled down (with the Anchor Inn adjoining it) to widen the roadway, and was replaced by the Double Almshouses, which adjoin the garden behind the Long Alley. (fn. 69) A third set of almshouses, called the Brick Alley, on the south side of the churchyard, was erected by the hospital authorities in 1718. (fn. 70) It is a red brick building and has a pleasing elevation, with open arches, a gallery and a central pedimented bay towards the north. Twitty's Almshouses, on the north side, form a single-story range of red brick with a tiled roof and modillioned eaves cornice, built in 1707. (fn. 71) In the centre is a large pediment with a square timber cupola or lantern rising above it.
On the west of this group of buildings is St. Helen's Mill, which belonged to the hospital in 1554. (fn. 72) There was formerly a stone bridge, known as St. Helen's Bridge, over the river at this point, (fn. 73) but it was removed probably on the construction of the Berkshire and Wiltshire Canal, which was began in 1793. (fn. 74)
South from the Market Place down to the riverside runs a street which has borne several names at different points in its history. It was first 'Burford Street,' from the 'Boreford,' (fn. 75) at the foot of it. The Warden and brethren of St. John's Hospital had licence in 1280 to inclose a waste place, 13 perches long and 13 ft. wide, lying between the wall of the hospital and the 'highway leading to Boreford,' (fn. 76) and to hold the same, provided that they did not build shops or houses with egress towards the highway. Before the 16th century the street seems to have been lined with shops, for the most part butchers' shops, and in 1556 it had an alternative name of Butcher Row. (fn. 77) In 1557 the corporation ordered that all those shops in Butcher Row not in the occupation of butchers already should be emptied of their tenants and let only to butchers. (fn. 78) Not until they were all full might butchers' stalls be set up in the street itself. The street is now known as Bridge Street, from the river crossing at its southern end.
The great bridge over the Thames, known as Abingdon or Burford Bridge, the causeway over Andersey Isle and Culham Bridge over the further arm of the Isis were built in 1416 of Bessels Leigh and Sandford stone. (fn. 79) They replaced the old dangerous way by ferry over the river, and turned through the town the traffic from London to the west. (fn. 80) The southern part of Burford Bridge consists of six spans, of which four are original 15th-century work, with four-centred arches and chamfered ribs. The arch over the main stream is elliptical, and is probably an 18th-century reconstruction, and another span is of the same date. The northern part of the bridge has seven spans, all four-centred and of 15thcentury date. For its whole length the bridge was widened in 1829. Projecting on the east side is a brick cottage, which, from its unusual form, may perhaps follow the lines of a former chapel, though there is no definite evidence of the existence of such a structure. A curious old poem in the hall of Christ's Hospital celebrates the building of the bridges, and gives due praise to the benefactors. (fn. 81) Three arches at the south end, which were added to Burford Bridge by William Hales and Maud his wife about 1430, (fn. 82) are still known as 'Maud Hales' Bridge.' The bridge itself has been called New Bridge, (fn. 83) and White Hart Bridge, (fn. 84) taking the latter name from an old inn which stood for many centuries at the river end of Bridge Street, (fn. 85) and was finally sold by the corporation in 1803 (fn. 86) as a site for the county gaol, a building which is now used for a corn store.
The continuation of Burford Street on the north side of the Market Place is called Stert Street, from a little stream which has been gradually bridged over and covered in. 'An arch over the Stoerte' is mentioned as early as the end of the 12th century, (fn. 87) and in 1448–9 a new bridge over the Stert was built and an old one repaired. (fn. 88) The floodgates of the Stert are mentioned in 1770, (fn. 89) and a contribution towards the covering in of the northern part of the street was made by the corporation in 1791. (fn. 90) At its northern end Stert Street turns into a road running northeast called the Vineyard, which finally becomes the Oxford Road. The monks cultivated their vines (fn. 91) probably on the land to the south of the street, where there were houses at an early date. The 'Consuetudines' of the 12th century mention the 'great street (magnus vicus) at the Wineerde.' (fn. 92) St. John's Hospital was placed here on its removal from the abbey gate and was rebuilt in 1800 by the corporation and Bernard Bedwell. (fn. 93)
A short distance to the west of the Market Place the High Street or Ock Street broadens out into a small open space called the Square, formerly known as the Sheep Market. (fn. 94) From the Square a road runs northward, roughly parallel with the Stert. The modern name is Bath Street, the old was Bore Street (Barghstrete, Borwestret, Borwstret and Borewstrete). (fn. 95) On the east side of the street is Fitzharris House or Farm, which seems to have borne that name since the 14th century. (fn. 96) It was granted to the corporation in 1556, (fn. 97) when it was held on lease by Thomas Teasdale. (fn. 98) Subsequently it was the residence of the well-known local family of Bostock. (fn. 99) The present house is probably a rebuilding by one of the Bostock family about 1600, but has been entirely refaced. The south-west room on the ground floor has a fine fireplace with fluted Ionic pilasters and a handsome overmantel in three bays divided by terminal figures; the panels are richly carved with figures and conventional foliage. In the centre is a shield of Bostock of Abingdon impaling Fettiplace. The walls of the room are panelled to the ceiling with an enriched frieze and Ionic pilasters. In the room above is a second fine fireplace with Doric side pilasters, and a richly carved overmantel with a repainted shield of Bostock in the centre. This room is also panelled. On the west side the basement walls are original, and have two semi-octagonal bay windows with stone mullions. The original entrance also remains here and has moulded imposts. Lacies Court, also in Bath Street, has been entirely reconstructed. It was granted in 1553 to the Master and Governors of Christ's Hospital, (fn. 100) and was sold by them in 1902. (fn. 101) From 1653 to 1660 it was the residence of Dr. Peter Heylyn, a well-known Anglican clergyman, historian and Royalist. (fn. 102)
Broad Street, which runs from east to west, connecting Bath Street and the Stert, has been called by its present name at least since the beginning of the 15th century. (fn. 103) 'Ottewell Lane,' first mentioned in the reign of Edward III, (fn. 104) is the modern Queen Street.
The town contains numerous examples of domestic architecture of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. East of St. Helen's Church is a house occupied by Mr. C. A. Pryce apparently incorporating some mediaeval portions. The early 18th-century mansions scattered about the town include Stratton House on the west of Bath Street, 57 East St. Helen's Street, dated 1732, Twickenham House in the same street, and several others. Near the park is a stone conduit house possibly of the 17th century.
It is clear that the modern town is not very different from the Abingdon of 1555, and has many streets and buildings in common with the Abingdon of a century earlier. The boundaries of the borough as given in the charter of 1556 (fn. 105) are very much the same as those of the present day, except that the area has been extended on the west from Spring Road to Larkhill Stream, on the north so as to take in Northcourt and on the south-west from the Ock to the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal. The north-western part of the borough till 1860 was mostly an open field. The grammar school was moved there in 1870, (fn. 106) and in 1864 the Governors of Christ's Hospital laid out the Albert Park. Since then St. Michael's Church has been built on the south side of the park, and Park Road has been made to run westward across the open space to meet the road running north from the Ock Bridge. The railway station of Abingdon lies at the north-east of the town, and is the terminus of a branch line running to Radley junction. In 1837 the corporation refused to allow the main line of the Great Western to run through Abingdon. (fn. 107) The branch line was opened in 1855–6, (fn. 108) and ten years later the corporation had repented and was trying to persuade the railway company to establish its carriage works in their town (fn. 109); but it was too late, and Abingdon lies out of the main stream of traffic.
There is a Roman Catholic church and convent dedicated to St. Mary and St. Edmund of Canterbury in the Oxford Road; it was built in 1865. (fn. 110) The Baptist chapel in Ock Street was built in 1841, and the chapel in the same street formerly belonging to the Wesleyans, and now to the Primitive Methodists, in 1845. The Congregationalists have a building in the square which dates from 1862, and the Wesleyans one in Albert Park built in 1875. The Salvation Army buildings in Broad Street were erected in 1890. The Anabaptists seem to have had a considerable following here in the 17th century, and John Pendarves, a minister of their congregation, was buried in their burial-place in Ock Street amid scenes of much turmoil in 1656. (fn. 111) Licences for meeting-houses were granted to Anabaptists and Presbyterians as early as 1672, (fn. 112) and the Baptists, Presbyterians and Quakers built themselves houses in 1700. (fn. 113)
Notable events that have happened at Abingdon have for the most part been connected with warfare. Alfred's struggle with the Danes found a centre here, (fn. 114) and 800 years later the town was an important point in the movements of Parliamentarians and Royalists. (fn. 115)
The neighbouring isle of Andersey is said to have been a royal residence in the 8th century, and William I and William II used it occasionally. (fn. 116) Numerous royal visits were paid to the abbey. In 1518 Henry VIII came here from London to escape the sweating sickness. There are many complaints from his retinue about the meagre accommodation afforded by the little town. (fn. 117)
Of the great men born here the most famous is Edmund Rich, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1234 to 1240, and was canonized shortly after his death. (fn. 118) St. Edmund's Chapel and St. Edmund's Fair perpetuated his memory. Sir John Mason, who attracted the notice of Henry VIII on one of the king's visits to Abingdon, and subsequently held high office under Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth, was noted as much for his benefits to the town as for his achievements outside it. He obtained the charter of incorporation of Christ's Hospital from Edward VI and that of the town from Philip and Mary. (fn. 119) The remaining Abingdon worthies were known to the town alone. The munificent merchant Geoffrey Barbour, who gave 1,000 marks to the building of the bridges of Burford and Culham, should perhaps be mentioned. The people of Abingdon so respected his memory that at the Dissolution they removed his body from the deserted abbey with great pomp to the church of St. Helen. (fn. 120)
The earliest stage in the development of the town of Abingdon began with the charter of Edward the Confessor, which separated the abbot's hundred of Hormer from the ordinary administration of the county, and constituted it a liberty. (fn. 121) The privileges granted by the Confessor to the abbot included sac and soc, toll and team, and infangentheof 'infra burgum et extra burgum.' (fn. 122) The chroniclers of the abbey always maintained that the same king established Abingdon market, (fn. 123) but no copy of the charter remains in the records of the abbey. The entry in the Domesday Survey of 'ten traders dwelling in front of the door of the church and paying 40 pence' (fn. 124) forms the only indication of a commercial community in 1086, but it points to the existence of a market at that date. The rest of the inhabitants were mostly villeins and 'coliberts,' (fn. 125) and as far as the agricultural organization of the abbey lands was concerned Abingdon was within the manor of Barton. (fn. 126) In the reign of Edward III the holder of a so-called manor within the town did suit at the courts of Barton and 'Portmote' (fn. 127); at the former no doubt for his lands in the fields of the manor, and at the latter for tenements in the borough.
The market rights were put on a more satisfactory footing in the 12th century. In the reign of Henry I the supposed charter by Edward the Confessor was impugned, but the abbot produced a present of 300 marks for the king by stripping the 'table of St. Ethelwold' of its gold and silver, and received in return a charter of undoubted authenticity. (fn. 128) Its terms, however, were vague, and an attempt was made to limit the market rights of Abingdon in the reign of Henry II by the inhabitants of Wallingford and Oxford. (fn. 129) After a riot, in which the townsmen of Abingdon drove their rivals out of their marketplace, (fn. 130) the matter was referred for judgement to a jury of Berkshire men. Their verdict was not accepted, and finally the king, upon the evidence of the Earl of Leicester that he had known a full market in the time of Henry I, granted a new charter. By this he gave the abbot a full market, stipulating that no produce should be carried by water, the abbot alone having barges for his personal use. (fn. 131)
Abbot Ingulf (1130–58) granted the town to the kitchener of the abbey, who held it 'with every kind of liberty,' and appears to have let out the profits to a reeve to farm. (fn. 132) If he did so it was to an official appointed by himself, not elected by the townsmen. In all the centuries during which Abingdon was held by the abbey the inhabitants never succeeded in winning the privilege of choosing their own bailiffs. The weekly market and the two annual fairs which came into existence in the 13th century (fn. 133) were under the control of bailiffs appointed by the abbot. (fn. 134) They held a portmote or borough court every fortnight (fn. 135) and a court of pie-powder dealing with questions arising out of the market. (fn. 136) They also held a court leet or view of frankpledge, (fn. 137) probably twice a year, at which suit would be paid by the holders of burgage tenements who had replaced the villeins of the Domesday Survey. There was, besides, the court of the hundred of Hormer, generally held at Bagley, to which the men of Abingdon in the 14th century sent their 'decenners' or tithing men. (fn. 138)
The profits of all these courts, as well as the piccage and stallage of the market and fairs, went to the kitchen of the abbey, (fn. 139) an arrangement which the prosperous trading community of Abingdon soon began to resent. During the 14th century there was a series of revolts against the authority of the abbey. The primary object of the townsmen was to gain control of the market and fairs, but they also desired to obtain some voice in their own government. They are found acting in a body as early as 1202, (fn. 140) and the organization necessary for their concerted attempts at self-government seems to have developed during the 13th and 14th centuries. Its centre was probably the religious gild called the fraternity of the Holy Cross, which came into existence in the reign of Henry III or earlier apparently for the purpose of raising a rood in the church of St. Helen. (fn. 141) Though the gild is not mentioned in the accounts of the revolts, the fact that St. Helen's Church was the meeting-place of the rebels and the base of all their actions (fn. 142) makes the connexion very probable.
The first of the townsmen's 'ples for fraunchese,' as Leland calls them, (fn. 143) was made in 1296, when a number of townsmen attacked the abbot's bailiffs as they presided at St. Edmund's Fair, broke their wands of office and proceeded to hold the fair themselves outside the abbot's liberty of the town of Abingdon. (fn. 144) Twenty years later they went further, and not only prevented the abbot from holding this fair, but deprived him of the stallage from the stalls on market days. (fn. 145) They assaulted his bailiff, moreover, as he was going to hold the leet, and 'usurping authority held it themselves.' The 'decenners' of the town, who ought to have attended the hundred courts, were prevented by the rebels from making their presentments. (fn. 146) Distraints were rescued, and thieves attached by the bailiffs were allowed to depart. (fn. 147) There was, in fact, no part of the jurisdiction of the abbot with which the rebels did not interfere, and finally—a very bold step towards independence—their leaders laid tallages on the men of the town 'as if there had been a commonalty and it ought to be obedient to them,' and boycotted by proclamation all those who would not pay. (fn. 148)
Each attempt of the inhabitants to become a selfgoverning community was followed by an inquiry by the king's commissioners of oyer and terminer, and probably by the punishment of the ringleaders. Nevertheless in 1327 they proceeded to a fiercer attack than ever, and called in help from outside. (fn. 149) The commonalty of Oxford, headed by their mayor, marched upon Abingdon, and they and the townsmen together sacked the abbey and burnt down the market-house. The prior, for fear of his life, was obliged to grant the charters they presented to him. (fn. 150) By these the abbot and convent, according to one account, were to release all the right they had in the town of Abingdon. (fn. 151) Certainly they were to permit the townsmen to have a reeve and bailiffs annually elected by themselves (fn. 152); and by another charter the men of Abingdon were to have the right, strictly belonging to the lord of the manor, of making profits of the waste before their houses. (fn. 153)
The privileges thus violently extorted were not of course held for long. The abbot was placed under the protection of the Crown, (fn. 154) and received licence to crenellate the whole site of his abbey. (fn. 155) Twelve of the offenders were hanged, (fn. 156) and many others were more lightly punished. A rebellion on a smaller scale in 1348 (fn. 157) was equally unsuccessful. In 1369 an attempt was made to show that Abingdon was a royal borough and that the abbot had no right to toll, stallage, piccage and pavage. (fn. 158) It failed, (fn. 159) and an appeal to violence in the next year was also fruitless. (fn. 160) The bitterness of the townsmen broke out in a petition to Edward III in the latter part of his reign, representing that the abbot was arrogating to himself royal powers and was oppressing the commonalty (fn. 161); and it is reflected in the lines of Piers Ploughman, (fn. 162) in which the Abbot of Abingdon is taken as a type of all monastic tyrants.
In the next century Abingdon was still a centre of anti-monasticism. William Maundeville, the bailiff of the town, in 1431 headed a Lollard rising, calling himself Jak Sharpe of Wigmoresland in Wales. (fn. 163) One of the petitions which he issued has been preserved, and demands the expropriation of bishops, abbots and priors. (fn. 164) Maundeville was executed at Abingdon after the failure of the insurrection, (fn. 165) the interest of which, from the point of view of borough history, lies in the fact that such a revolutionary held the post of bailiff under the abbot.
Meanwhile the townsfolk had begun to exercise a considerable power in the affairs of the town, through their gild of the Holy Cross. Several prominent members, of whom the chief was the merchant Geoffrey Barbour, saw that the trade of the town could be largely increased if it lay on the main route from London to the west. They therefore asked licence from the Crown to build the two bridges at Burford and Culham and construct a causeway between them. (fn. 166) The licence was given in 1416, (fn. 167) and the fact that the movement was recognized as a corporate one on the part of the town appears in the terms of the grant. John Huchion, John Brite 'and the commons of Abingdon' were to build the bridges at their own cost and charges and out of the alms of the town and the benevolence of well-disposed persons. (fn. 168) The land had to be bought from the abbot, (fn. 169) who, if he was not hostile to the project, at least gave it no assistance. Twenty-five years later the gild received its charter of incorporation (fn. 170) and licence to acquire land in mortmain to the value of £40 a year. (fn. 171) Four masters were to be elected from year to year by the brethren and sisters of the fraternity. The gild was to possess a common seal and a meeting-place, and to have as its object the support of thirteen poor men and women, the maintenance of two chaplains in St. Helen's Church, and the repair of the high road to Dorchester through Burford and Culhamford. (fn. 172) A considerable income might have been made by taking toll at the bridges, but these were free from the first. (fn. 173) In 1484 the gild received a new charter of incorporation, by which the number of masters was raised to twelve (fn. 174) and the licence of mortmain extended to £100. (fn. 175)
In 1520 the masters of the gild received a grant of a yearly fair on the vigil, feast and morrow of St. Andrew, for the benefit of the fraternity. (fn. 176) Possibly the gild would gradually have superseded the abbey as controller of the trade of the place if both had not fallen. The abbey was surrendered in 1538, (fn. 177) and in 1547 Edward VI seized the revenues of the Holy Cross. (fn. 178)
The surrender of the abbey made the king lord of Abingdon, and John Wellesbourne, who was put in as keeper and bailiff, (fn. 179) pressed for a commission to enable him to hold the law days and courts. (fn. 180) A few of the Court Rolls for the period during which Abingdon was under royal control are still extant and show some municipal development since the 14th century. (fn. 181) By this time Abingdon seems to have been separated from the jurisdiction of the hundred, as the 'decenners' of the town appeared at the leet or view held for the town alone. Three were elected, one for the Bury, another for the west part of the town, and a third for the 'upwath.' (fn. 182) There were also two constables elected at the view, two 'testers of food,' two 'testers of beer,' two 'examiners of hides,' two keepers of the Stert, and, curiously enough, four keepers of the New Bridge, which was under the control of the gild of the Holy Cross. (fn. 183)
According to the reports of John Wellesbourne, the people of Abingdon were very well satisfied with the royal rule, and both town and country felt the relief of the small house he kept in the abbey. (fn. 184) But there are many indications that the loss of the large monastic community had brought disaster on the markets, and the surveyor of the abbey reported that 'the town ys sore decayed and lyke dayley more to decaye.' (fn. 185) It was at this unfortunate moment that the revenues of the Holy Cross were seized, some of the lands of the fraternity were granted away, and the responsibility for the highway and bridges which had brought Abingdon fortune was removed from the local authorities. (fn. 186) The inhabitants appealed to the Crown through Sir John Mason, (fn. 187) and obtained the two charters of 1553 and 1556. It might have been supposed that the new corporation would unite in itself the functions of the old gild and of the abbey, but as a matter of fact the dual control was perpetuated. In 1553 twelve inhabitants of the town were incorporated under the name of the Master and Governors of Christ's Hospital, with the old functions belonging to the gild, (fn. 188) and three years later Philip and Mary set up a new corporation of mayor, bailiffs and burgesses, (fn. 189) which took over the powers of the abbey. The two have existed side by side down to the present day, though both have been reorganized. The only connexion between them was a claim made in 1628 that the auditor of Christ's Hospital had a statutory right to be the recorder of the town. (fn. 190) This cannot be supported by any charter, though the recorder did, in fact, usually become auditor ex officio. (fn. 191)
The new governing council of Abingdon, setting Christ's Hospital on one side, consisted of a mayor, two bailiffs, nine other principal burgesses and sixteen secondary burgesses. (fn. 192) The first holders of these offices were named by the Crown, and vacancies in the burgess body were in the future to be filled up by the corporation. The highest offices, however, were allotted by the vote of a much wider electorate. Not only the council, but 'men of the inferior sort in the Borough,'were to meet together annually for the election of a mayor. (fn. 193) The secondary burgesses and the 'inferior sort' were to nominate two principal burgesses, of whom one was to be chosen mayor by the other principal burgesses. The mayor so elected might nominate any inhabitant to be one bailiff, but this appointment had to be ratified by the electorate. The second bailiff was elected by the whole body, with the limitation that he must be a secondary burgess. The other officials, the town clerk, the chamberlain, the serjeants-at-mace, and after 1609 the recorder, were appointed by the corporation. (fn. 194)
This democratic constitution no doubt preserved Abingdon from the decay attending many corporations. There was no complaint in 1835 of the way in which offices were attained or held. 'Men of the inferior sort' were by usage taken to be inhabitants paying scot and lot and not receiving alms, or, as they were called, 'potwallers,' (fn. 195) and this electorate was still voting for the town officials in 1835. (fn. 196) A body of 'freemen,' who were intermediate in standing between the burgesses and the 'potwallers,' was called into existence by the corporation during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, but their duties and functions were connected with the trade of the town, and there is nothing to suggest that an inhabitant was disqualified from voting in any election because he had not taken up his freedom. Orders made by the corporation in 1599 provided that freemen should be made by the council, and that none but freemen should exercise trades and occupations within the borough. (fn. 197) This rule was constantly re-enacted, (fn. 198) and was no doubt difficult to enforce. With the 17th century began the organization of the freemen into companies, all of which were finally included in the three companies known as grocers, butchers, and skinners. (fn. 199) Each company had a master and two wardens to discover and punish any infraction of its rules, and no doubt to prevent the dreaded 'foreigner' from exercising his trade in the town without paying a large fee and enrolling himself a member. In 1768 the corporation was again trying to force 'all who kept open shop within the Borough' to become freemen, which seems to indicate that the hold of the companies was slackening. (fn. 200) All the companies except that of the skinners seem to have died out not long afterwards, (fn. 201) and in 1835 the commissioners reported that there were no freemen. (fn. 202)
The organization of companies was only one side of the strict hold kept by the corporation of Abingdon on trade; they also attempted to limit the number of traders within the borough, (fn. 203) and the charge to the jury at the grand leet shows that this court dealt not only with the 'regrater, forestaller and ingrosser,' but with all combinations either of employers or employees. (fn. 204)
The corporation took over the old courts of the manor without much change. The leet was held twice a year, at Easter and Michaelmas, (fn. 205) but as its functions passed to the sessions court it came to be used for little but the swearing in of the three constables, six tithingmen and four watchmen, who constituted the police of the borough. (fn. 206) The original charter granted a court of record dealing with cases of debt, to be held weekly before the bailiffs. (fn. 207) This arrangement proved very unsatisfactory, for as an ex-mayor could not be elected bailiff the townsmen were obliged to elect to that post persons unfit to decide the cases heard in the court. (fn. 208) In 1565, therefore, Elizabeth granted that the court of record should be held before the mayor. (fn. 209) James I in 1609 provided that there should be a recorder elected during pleasure by the mayor, 'bailiffs and principal burgesses. (fn. 210) He also made Abingdon a borough of the peace, in which the mayor, ex-mayor and recorder were to be justices. (fn. 211) About this time, too, the town began to have an official called a high steward, (fn. 212) whose appointment was complimentary, and whose yearly stipend seems always to have been devoted to some public purpose within the borough. (fn. 213) The office has been held since 1709 by the Earls of Abingdon.
The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 gave Abingdon its present constitution, in which the corporation consists of a mayor, four aldermen and twelve councillors. The recorder has since that date been appointed by the Crown. During the 19th century the corporation had a long struggle to retain for their town its ancient honour (fn. 214) of being the capital town of Berkshire. An attempt on the part of Reading in 1818 to supersede Abingdon as the centre for the county elections was stoutly resisted, (fn. 215) and many protests were made by the corporation against the disuse by the county justices of the county gaol at Abingdon. (fn. 216) It was finally closed, however, in 1868, (fn. 217) and Abingdon ceased to be an assize town in the next year.
The market at Abingdon seems to have been held on Monday from the first; this was the market day in 1328, (fn. 218) and there is no reason to suppose a change.
The 1556 charter granted the Monday market and its profits to the corporation. (fn. 219) A table of fees for stalls drawn up in 1557 shows that linen-drapers and woollen-drapers, tanners, ironmongers and smiths, ropers and 'colle-makers' displayed their wares there. (fn. 220)
James I in 1609 established a new market on Friday for corn, grain and victuals, (fn. 221) and a wool market on Monday, (fn. 222) though the old market still continued. In 1739 the corporation obtained from George II a grant of four more corn markets, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, in addition to those on Monday and Friday. (fn. 223) These do not seem to have prospered. In the early years of the 19th century only the Monday and Friday markets were in use, and the latter was for the delivery of corn bought on Monday. (fn. 224) At the present day the Monday market is still held, and is well attended.
The date of the first grant of a fair to the Abbot of Abingdon is not known. The fair was in existence, however, in 1240, when the king sent his messenger to buy oxen there for his larder. (fn. 225) Some years later he sent two men to make purchases there to the use of the queen. (fn. 226) It was held on the vigil, feast and morrow of the Nativity of St. Mary and the four days following. (fn. 227) In 1290 a new fair was granted which lasted for a week from the vigil of the Translation of St. Edmund. (fn. 228) These were still held at the Dissolution, (fn. 229) when the abbot had besides two fairs on St. Andrew's Day and the first Monday in Lent. (fn. 230) There was also the fair on St. Andrew's vigil, feast and morrow, which belonged to the gild of the Holy Cross. (fn. 231) Philip and Mary in 1556 granted to the corporation a fair on the first Monday in Lent and four three-day fairs, (fn. 232) one at the feast of St. Margaret the Virgin and the rest at the feasts on which the other ancient fairs had been held. James I added in 1609 two fairs on the vigils, feasts and morrows of St. Mark and St. James. (fn. 233) Before 1741 St. Margaret's fair had been given up and one on the Monday before Michaelmas Day substituted, (fn. 234) and since that date St. James's fair has been discontinued. At the present day there are six fairs; the Michaelmas fair is now chiefly for pleasure, (fn. 235) but the old custom of hiring servants there still exists, though on a small scale.
The earliest traders of Abingdon were probably wool merchants. The town has always been a centre for the purchase of wool, (fn. 236) and in 1327 sent representative wool merchants to York to confer with the king about the wool trade. (fn. 237)
The manufacture of the wool into cloth was established as early as the reign of Henry III. An account of a judicial duel of that date states that 'a party coat of cloth of Abendon and Burell of London' (fn. 238) had been stolen. In 1315 the Exchequer paid carriage for divers cloths purchased at Abingdon to cover the palace at Westminster. (fn. 239) John de Bruyn, a burgess of Ghent, was living in Abingdon and making woollen cloth there in 1343. (fn. 240) In Leland's time the town 'stood by clothing,' (fn. 241) but the manufacture was on the wane. In 1538 the fulling-mills were in ruins, (fn. 242) and the surveyor of the abbey lands begged Cromwell to make provision for setting the people to work to 'drape cloth.' The first mayor, however, and several of the worthies of the incorporated town were successful woollen-drapers, (fn. 243) so the industry must have been revived. In 1558 the admiralty made an indenture with Francis Owdrey of Abingdon, 'poldarvis weaver,' by which he received a loan of £100 for 'setting up againe the arte of weaving and making poll davys and sale clothes for shippes within the town of Abingdon.' (fn. 244) The Crown was to have the monopoly of cloth so manufactured. Francis Owdrey subsequently moved to Ipswich, (fn. 245) but the industry he founded seems to have taken root. During the 18th century the weaving and spinning of hemp and flax flourished in Abingdon. (fn. 246) In 1835 there was an increasing manufacture of sacking, (fn. 247) which still exists, and employs a few home workers in the neighbourhood.
The manufacture of malt is also of very old standing, as appears from the accounts of the abbey. (fn. 248) In 1567 and onwards malting was a 'very gainful course' in the town, (fn. 249) and large quantities were sent by barge to London. (fn. 250) The industry still exists. There are also in Abingdon a carpet manufactory and engineering works. The chief importance of the town, however, is as the centre of an agricultural district.
Abingdon had no regular right of representation in Parliament till 1556, but in 1337, at the time of its preeminence in the wool trade, it had an isolated summons to send representatives to a council at Westminster. (fn. 251) The right to choose a burgess of Parliament was given by the charter of 1556 to the council alone—that is, to the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses (fn. 252); but it was usual, probably from the first, to take the vote of all those who voted in the election of town officials (fn. 253) —that is, scot and lot men not receiving alms. This interpretation of the charter was supported by committees of the House of Commons in 1660 and on subsequent occasions. (fn. 254) The doubt as to the nature of the electorate was the cause of frequent petitions. One in 1709 unseated Simon Harcourt, afterwards Viscount Harcourt, who had sat for the borough from 1690 to 1705 and had been re-elected in 1708. (fn. 255) Concerning his election in 1702 there is an amusing pamphlet, entitled 'The Statesmen of Abingdon,' in which an anonymous writer rebukes the presumption of the inhabitants. They had not only passed resolutions concerning the actions of the late Parliament, but had dared to make suggestions to their representative about his future course of action.
The Distribution of Seats Act in 1885 deprived Abingdon of its member and merged its representation in that of the county.
ABINGDON was originally a member of the abbot's great manor of Barton (q.v. for its early history). No separate manor of Abingdon is mentioned till the Dissolution, when the king's 'manor or lordship' there is made to include much that had formerly belonged to Barton. (fn. 256) It is generally held that Philip and Mary, by bestowing on the corporation the market rights and considerable property in the town, made them lords of this manor, (fn. 257) but land was held of the king 'as of his manor of Abingdon' in the reign of James I, (fn. 258) and at the date of the Inclosure Act of 1841 there is no definite claim to the manorial rights in Abingdon. The corporation and the Master and Governors of Christ's Hospital were looked upon, apparently, as equally likely candidates. (fn. 259)
The site of the monastery was granted in 1547 to Lord Seymour of Sudeley. (fn. 260) He was attainted in 1549, (fn. 261) and it was put into the hands of Sir John Mason to hold for life with a salary of 4d. a day. (fn. 262) Four years later the site was granted to Sir Thomas Wrothe, (fn. 263) to whom Sir John Mason surrendered his office of keeper. (fn. 264) Sir Thomas sold the premises at once to William Blacknall, (fn. 265) whose family held them for some time. William died in 1585, (fn. 266) leaving a son and heir also named William. (fn. 267) The latter died in 1613, and his son John Blacknall succeeded him. (fn. 268) His daughter Mary ultimately inherited his estates, (fn. 269) and carried them into the Verney family by her marriage with Ralph Verney. (fn. 270) By the beginning of the 19th century the remains of the monastic buildings had been sold to various proprietors. (fn. 271)
The manor of BISHOPS was so called after the Bishop family, which first appears holding land in Abingdon in the reign of Edward I. Richard Bishop and his wife Alice dealt by fine with messuages here in 1299 (fn. 272) and 1304. (fn. 273) Thomas Cok held land in Abingdon of Richard Bishop in 1332. (fn. 274) John Bishop of Abingdon, son of Richard, died in 1361 possessed of two messuages and 2 carucates of land there with a dove-house, which he held of the abbot by suit of court. (fn. 275) His daughter and heir Alice married William Golafre, (fn. 276) and with her husband made a settlement of the 'manor of Bishops' in 1396. (fn. 277) After their deaths it was to revert to their issue, with remainder to Richard Alderton and his heirs by his wife Joan. (fn. 278) The manor is next mentioned in 1410, when it was in the possession of Thomas Beek or Beekes and Alice his wife, (fn. 279) who conveyed it to the Bishop of Durham and other feoffees. (fn. 280) In 1440 Thomas de Chichele, Archdeacon of Canterbury, and Robert Danvers had licence to grant the manor in mortmain to the Abbot and convent of Abingdon, (fn. 281) with whom it presumably remained.
A knight's fee in Abingdon and in Hill, Warwickshire, seems to have descended from father to son in the 12th and 13th centuries, the tenants being Henry son of Oin, (fn. 282) Pain son of Henry (1166), (fn. 283) Henry son of Pain (c. 1200), (fn. 284) and Hugh son of Henry. (fn. 285) Abbot John de Blosmevile in 1248 purchased the lands of Hugh son of Henry for the abbey. (fn. 286)
The manor of ST. HELEN'S is treated under the parish of that name.
The church of ST. HELEN consists of quire and nave without structural division 86 ft. 6 in. by 20 ft. 9 in. The two north aisles are the same length by 16 ft. 9 in. and 18 ft. respectively; of the two south aisles the inner is the same length and 21 ft. 6 in. wide and the outer is 59 ft. long by 21 ft. 6 in. wide. The tower on the north side measures 13 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft., and there are north, south and west porches and two vestries.
The earliest parts of the existing structure are the tower and the east wall of the two north aisles, which date from the first half of the 13th century, but at this time the church was probably a wide aisleless building with the tower adjoining at the east end of the north wall. In the 14th century the north wall appears to have been largely rebuilt, and the church was perhaps lengthened towards the west. In the 15th century the whole building was reconstructed, the pre-existing church being made into two aisles, a new chancel and nave built to the south of them and the south aisle added. During the same century the north and west porches were built and a small priest's lodging added between the north porch and the tower. In 1539 the outer south aisle and porch were built under the terms of the will of Katherine Audelett. Probably the vestry was added to the east of the aisle. In 1625 the spire was rebuilt, in the 19th century the whole church was restored under Sir Gilbert Scott, and in 1888 the spire was again rebuilt.
The chancel has a modern east wall and window, and its limits are only defined by the modern rood screen. There are arcades of seven bays dividing the quire and nave from the aisles on each side. The two arches of the quire are almost entirely modern, and those of the nave have octagonal columns with concave faces and moulded capitals and bases. The arches are moulded and four-centred and have hood moulds with stops carved with heads and musical instruments. The clearstory has 16th-century squareheaded three-light windows, all much restored and having modern pierced rear arches. The west wall has a pointed six-light window, which is mostly modern, as the original window was of seven lights with a transom. Below it is a pointed doorway with panelled internal spandrels and an embattled cornice, also internal; it is fitted with plain panelled doors. The roof is modern.
The east wall of the two north aisles is apparently of the 13th century, and is divided into three bays by thick buttresses. In the central bay is a blocked lancet window immediately behind the respond of the arcade. The inner north aisle has a north arcade of seven bays, of which the two eastern are modern restorations; the remainder are of the 15th century and similar in general character to the main arcade of the nave, except that the concave faces to the piers are more pronounced. The four-light east win- dow is of the 15th cen- tury, much restored. It has a four-centred head, and the recess is carried down low, prob- ably to form a reredos The west window is of similar character with five lights. The roof of the two eastern bays is very elaborate, and is boarded below the collar; the boarding is enriched with flowing traceried panels, cusped and divided by diagonal ribs. The sides of the roof are divided into thirteen compartments by crocketed pinnacles, and each finished with an ogee crocketed head and finials. Each divi- sion incloses two cinque- foil-headed panels, each originally painted with a figure of a saint, prophet, or king. These are largely intact on the north side, but on the south only traces of the twelve eastern remain. The names of Moyses, Josyas, Jeremyas and Jeconias are still visible on the north. The prophets and kings are in pairs, the prophets each bearing an in- scribed scroll. On the purlins of the roof is a long Latin inscription. This roof was probably not intended for its pre- sent position, as it in no case corresponds with the bays of the arcade. The western portion of the aisle has an early 15th- century roof with carved and moulded principals spring- ing from moulded wood brackets. The main timbers are all moulded, and there is a frieze of quatrefoil panels each inclosing a shield. The outer north aisle has a modern east window flanked by modern niches. In the north wall the modern arch at the east end opens into the tower. The priest's lodging is closed by a solid screen, also modern, and to the west of it is a 15th-century doorway from the north porch with a four-centred arch and square external head with quatrefoil spandrels. On the east of it are remains of the base of a stoup, and further west is a blocked door- way to the staircase of the parvise. The three western bays of the north wall have each a two-light 14th- century window, much restored, and in the west wall is a large modern window. The roof is probably of the 14th century, and is of the trussed rafter type, extending from end to end of the aisle.
The inner south aisle has a four-light 15th-century east window with a segmental head, much restored. The western part of the south wall has an early 16th- century arcade of five bays, which is rather simpler in character than the other arcades. To the east of it is a blank wall pierced by the vestry doorway. The door has a good cusped and traceried head. In the west wall is a pointed five-light window of the 15th century, apparently original. The 15th-century roof has a low-pitched tie-beam with moulded main timbers and curved braces. These rest on the north side on a succession of carved corbels, including St. Margaret, a male head with a cross on a shield, a mitred head with a crozier, a crowned head with a sceptre and a head with St. Katherine's shield. The roof of the two eastern bays is modern. The outer south aisle was built in 1539. In the first bay of the south wall is a four-light pointed window of that date with a small foliated bracket in the east jamb. The pointed south doorway with a segmental rear arch is of the same date, and further west are three uniform windows, all of three lights with vertical tracery. The roof of the outer south aisle is similar to that over the inner south aisle, and rests on angel corbels on each side, each carved with the initials I.A. or K.A. (fn. 287) or the date 1539 on shields. One shield in the south bay has a cross paty.
The tower is of early 13th-century date and of four stages. In the ground stage is a north doorway with a moulded main and sub-arch, and between them a small trefoil-headed window. The jambs have each four shafts two free and two attached, with foliated capitals. Flanking the door is a wall arcade of one bay on each side; the shafts and jambs are much restored. The third stage or ringing chamber has a single tall lancet windows in the east, north and west faces and two lancet windows in the south face. The last window is of two orders, the outer with a roll on the angle. The bell-chamber has coupled lancets in each face, and the buttresses finish at the base of this stage. The 15th-century parapet is enriched with square octofoil panels with a four-leaved flower in the centre of each, and at the angles are large octagonal crocketed pinnacles from which spring four small flying buttresses, supporting the base of the spire. The spire is octagonal in form with rolls at the angles, and has at the base four gabled spire lights facing the cardinal points. These appear to be of 15th-century character, and may be earlier than the spire rebuilt in 1625. Above them an embattled band is carried down round the spire.
The north porch has a four-centred outer archway with a square label and quatrefoil panels in the spandrels; the parvise above has a two-light square-headed window, and on either side and above it is a canopied niche with crocketed hood, side pinnacles and an embattled cornice: all are filled with modern figures. The porch has a good flat roof with small ribs forming sixteen panels; the outer and inner doors are plainly panelled, the former being inscribed A.D. 1637. The south porch has a pointed outer archway, much restored, and diagonal buttresses crowned with modern figures. Above the outer door is a canopied niche, apparently restored, and in the side walls are twolight square-headed windows. The roof is mostly modern. The inner door is elaborately panelled with three ranges of traceried panels in the height, all with cusped heads and of early 16th-century date. The west porch has a four-centred outer door with a row of trefoil-headed panels above it under a square label. The buttresses are crowned by modern figures, and in the side walls are two-light square-headed windows. Between the north porch and the tower is a small building formerly two stages high, and probably a priest's lodging. The floor has been removed, and the outer wall has a large three-light square-headed window very much restored. A small modern window lights what was originally the upper floor. The vestry at the east end of the inner south aisle has a late 15thcentury or early 16th-century tie-beam roof.
The old communion table now at the east end of the outer south aisle is of the 17th century and has turned legs. The organ is said to have come from Salisbury and to be by Father Bernard Smith. The carved case is of late 17th or early 18th-century date, and is enriched with cherubim, foliage and a figure of David playing upon the harp. In front of the organ is a chained Bible and behind is a large and poor painting of Christ bearing the cross, formerly the altar-piece. The font is a modern copy in marble of that at Sutton Courtenay, and the old font is buried below it. The cover is octagonal with spire-form top, the latter with good vine-leaved panels and the base enriched with a rose, thistle, fleur de lis and Prince of Wales's feathers, and the date 1634. It has apparently been restored.
The various parcloses of wood and stone dividing the former chapels are all modern. There are three fine brass candelabra, of which the most handsome hangs in the central aisle, and is inscribed, 'St. Hellens, Abingdon, 1710.' One in the inner north chapel is probably of 16th-century date with two tiers, each of six branches, the lower having grotesque and the outer mitred heads. The larger one further west is inscribed, 'The gift of Mary Eversfield, late wife of Charles Eversfield, Esq., to the church of Horsham in Sussex, 1713.' A fourth in the outer north aisle is uninscribed. The pulpit is Jacobean with Doric columns at the angles and pedimented panels in each face, each face enriched with a perspective arch. The cornice bears the painted inscription, 'Ad haec idoneus quis, 2 Cor. 2, 1636.'On the south side of the mayor's pew are a lion and unicorn of 1717, when, according to a painted board near by, 'These seven seats were rebuilt' for the corporation. On the west pier of the third arcade is a modern bracket and figure of St. Birinus under an ancient vaulted canopy.
At the east end of the outer north wall is a panelled altar tomb with a carved achievement on the slab, inscribed 'I.R. 1571,' for John Roysse, with his arms, Gules a griffon argent charged on the shoulder with a red rose. The modern stone screen forms an enriched arch over it. On the second pier of the arcade is a brass inscription to Tobias Garbrand, M.D. (1689) and Susannah his wife (1688), with a coat of arms, a spear and a battle-axe crossed saltirewise and in chief an arrow. Against the outer wall near the west end is a marble monument to Mrs. Elizabeth Hawkins (1780), and near it is a small panelled altar tomb to Richard Curtaine, gentleman (1643), a benefactor to Christ's Hospital, Abingdon. This monument was restored in 1826. On the floor at the east end of the inner north aisle is a matrix of a brass to an abbot or bishop in mass vestments, and on the west wall of the same aisle is a demi-figure in brass to Geoffrey Barbour, merchant of Abingdon, and formerly 'Ballivus' of Bristol, 1417. On the same wall is a brass inscription to Thomas Mayott (1627), with the arms of Mayott, a cheveron between three boars' heads, and of Mayott impaling Lydall of Sonning, a saltire with a fesse over all charged with three roundels. At the east end of the inner south aisle is a brass on the wall to William Herward, a priest in academic costume. A tablet with a quartered coat of arms commemorates Edmund son of Lionel Bostock (1605), and upon the vestry door is a framed wooden painting bearing the coat of arms of Oliver Hyde (1565) and Thomas and his wife (1658). Near it is a curious framed painting of a genealogical tree of William Lee (1637) and bearing the arms of Lee of Hartwell repainted. On the second pier of the outer south aisle is a square tablet to Robert Payne (1627) and Martha his wife (1626).
The bells are ten in number, seven being of 1764, including the tenor, and the other three of 1886. There is also a ting-tang.
The plate includes a cup and cover paten, the former of London, 1567, the bowl, foot and cover being subsequently repousséed in the late 17th or early 18th century. Three flagons and patens, one flagon and a plated stand paten are all modern. The almsdish was given in 1829.
The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1538 to 1596; (ii) 1573 to 1679; (iii) 1640 to 1666 (this volume has been transcribed in volume ii); (iv) all entries 1635 to 1688 (portion missing); (v) baptisms 1686 to 1761, marriages 1688 to 1754, burials 1688 to 1756; (vi) baptisms 1761 to 1812, burials 1756 to 1812; (vii) marriages 1754 to 1778; (viii) marriages 1779 to 1801; (ix) marriages 1802 to 1812. The churchwardens' accounts contain a number of interesting entries connected with the occupation of the town by the Royalists and Parliamentary troops during the Civil War.
The church of ST. NICHOLAS consists of a chancel 45 ft. by 21 ft. 3 in., north organ chamber and vestry, nave 70 ft. by 22 ft., west tower 13 ft. 6 in. square, standing within the nave, and south porch.
The nave dates from c. 1200, but the south wall with the chancel appears to have been rebuilt in the 14th century. Many of the windows were altered in the 15th century, when the great gate of the abbey was rebuilt against the south wall. The west lower was built within the nave during the same century and the side wall to the south thickened to form a porch. The church has been considerably restored in modern times, when the organ chamber and vestry were added and a small chapel built out in the northeast angle of the nave.
The chancel has a much restored 14th-century east window of four lights. In the north wall is a three-light 15th-century window with a four-centred head, and further west a modern arch to the organ chamber. In the south wall are two small windows, uniform with that in the north wall, and just to the east of the chancel arch is a modern doorway opening into the abbey gate-house. On the south of the altar is a plain pointed piscina with a trefoiled niche above it; further east is a niche with a cusped head containing a 15th-century carving of the Crucifixion, and on either side are smaller niches with figures of the Virgin and St. John. The sill of the eastern window on this side is carried down to form a sedile. The chancel arch of two chamfered orders is of the 14th century, but the southern respond is modern; the responds have semicircular attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The hammer-beam roof is modern.
The nave has a small projecting chapel at the east end of the north wall with a single-light window on the west and a five-light window on the north side, both square-headed and stopping immediately under the flat ceiling. The chapel is said to have been built out during the 19th century, but some parts of the windows are apparently of early 16th-century date. Immediately to the west is one jamb of a blocked 13th-century window, and beyond it a three-light 15th-century window with a four-centred head. Further west are two single lancets, widely splayed, and the first has a curious cross form in the sill. At the east end of the south wall is a pointed two-light 14th-century window, the traceried head of which is blocked. A square head has been inserted below to the vaulting of the gate-house outside. Next to it is a square-headed piscina with a broken bowl. The second window on this side is similar, but it has not been altered. The third and fourth windows are of the 15th and 14th centuries respectively, both of three lights much restored. The west end of this wall has been thickened, both internally and externally, in the 15th century, to form a small porch about 4 ft. square. It has a ribbed vault and a pointed outer archway with a square label. The west front has a round-headed doorway of circa 1200 recessed in four moulded orders, the jambs have each three shafts with moulded bases and capitals. The door forms the centre of a wall arcade with one bay on each side, having slightly pointed arches of one order resting on attached shafts. Immediately above this arcade were five lancet windows, one of which remains, and traces of two others are visible. The remaining window has attached jamb shafts. The central and the two southern windows have been cut away for a much restored 15th-century window of four lights under a pointed head.
The west tower stands within the church and apparently rests upon the original west wall. It opens into the nave by pointed arches on the north, south and east. The two former die into the west wall, but the inner order of the east arch has an attached shaft to each respond with moulded capital and base. The tower is of three stages and was built in the 15th century. The second stage has a single-light squareheaded window on the west and south sides, and the bell-chamber has a pointed two-light window much restored. The upper stages are approached by a vice in the north-west angle of the nave, which lands in a small chamber adjoining the tower on the level of the second stage. This chamber is gabled towards the north and has a three-light square-headed window in the west wall. The tower is finished with an embattled parapet, mostly modern. Immediately within the west door is a stone lantern resting on a stone bracket, and having a semi-conical cap.
The font has an octagonal bowl with a quatrefoil panel in each face. The stem is buttressed and has traceried panels on the sides. The Jacobean pulpit is hexagonal with arched panels to the base and sides. The desk rests on carved eagles.
In the tracery of the second window of the south wall of the outer south aisle is a contemporary shield of stained glass, which seems to be intended for the arms borne by Elizabeth of York, queen of Henry VII. In the tracery of the windows of the chapel on the north of the nave are pairs of hands holding inscribed scrolls which are perhaps ancient.
In the north nave chapel is a much restored altar tomb with a monument behind, having kneeling figures of a man, his wife and two daughters under a double-arched canopy, commemorating John Blacknall and Jane his wife, who both died on 21 August 1625. Upon the canopy is a coat of arms, Blacknall impaling Blagrave, and near the pulpit is a brass inscription to Edmund son of William Bostock (1669). On the north wall of the nave is a marble tablet with Corinthian side columns to Walter Dariell (1628), with a quartered shield of arms.
There are six bells, all cast by Abel Rudhall in 1741.
The plate includes a flagon, two cups, large and small, a cup and a plate of London, 1786, and inscribed, 'The gift of William Moore, 1786.' There are also three pewter plates with the date 1785 and the arms of the town.
The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1603 to 1639, marriages 1538 to 1611, burials 1558 to 1607; (ii) mixed entries 1622 to 1703, burials 1625 to 1691 only; (iii) mixed entries 1704 to 1812; (iv) marriages 1754 to 1812.
The church of ST. MICHAEL, opposite the entrance to Abingdon Park, was built in 1867, and is a cruciform stone building in the late 13th-century Gothic style; it consists of a nave of four bays, with north and south aisles, transepts with large windows in the end walls, a chancel of two bays, a south porch, and a gabled bellcote on the west wall containing three bells. It serves as a chapel of ease to St. Helen's.
The earliest mention of a church of St. Helen is shortly before 995, when a felon took sanctuary there. (fn. 288) It is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, but appears again in the late 12th century, when it paid 3 marks to the keeper of the infirmary. (fn. 289) The rectory did not at this date belong to the abbey, though the advowson apparently did. In 1225 the rectory was held to farm by the abbot from Stephen de Colonna, the pope's sub-deacon, and the abbot in that year promised the Bishop of Salisbury that he would not acquire any fresh rights in the church when the lease fell in. (fn. 290) In 1248 the abbot exercised his right of patronage in circumstances of some difficulty, having to choose between the nominees of the king and the pope. He chose to please the king, and then, as he did not receive the protection he expected in return, he was forced to travel to Rome to make his peace with the pope. (fn. 291)
The church was appropriated to the abbey in 1261, contrary to the disclaimer addressed to the Bishop of Salisbury. (fn. 292) In 1284 the respective tithes and duties of the rector and vicar were very carefully arranged. (fn. 293) The vicar's portion included the oblations and obventions of the altar of St. Helen, the small tithes of the town, and, with certain exceptions, of the four chapels of Radley, Drayton, Shippon and DrySandford, and all the traders' tithes. The vicar was to see that St. Helen's was served by two chaplains, of whom he might be one, and to provide one chaplain each for Radley and Drayton and one for the two chapels of Shippon and Dry Sandford. In 1291 the rectory of St. Helen's was worth £48 (fn. 294) and the portion of the vicar £5. (fn. 295)
By the settlement of 1284 the abbot had a right to all mortuaries within the parish. (fn. 296) The burial dues seem to have been considerable enough to make this very profitable; and when at the end of the 14th century the vicar of St. Helen's tried to secure a cemetery for the parish church he was obstinately resisted. The matter was tried at length, and the abbot was eventually successful. (fn. 297) No doubt it was made plain in this decision that St. Helen's was a chapel dependent on the abbey church, as it is called in 1401. (fn. 298)
In 1508 the vicarage of St. Helen's was united with that of St. Nicholas', and a single vicar had charge of the two parishes down to the 19th century. (fn. 299) The advowson and rectory passed at the dissolution of the monastery to the king, and the Crown continued to present (fn. 300) till 1854, when the patronage was transferred to the Bishop of Oxford. (fn. 301)
There was a chantry of St. Mary the Virgin in the church of St. Helen in 1356. (fn. 302) It is mentioned in 1428, (fn. 303) and was still in existence in the reign of Henry VIII. (fn. 304) It was dissolved by Edward VI, and some of its property was granted to the corporation of Abingdon by the charter of 1556. (fn. 305)
The church of St. Nicholas is first mentioned in the late 12th century, when it appears to have been a chapel to the abbey church. The chaplain was entitled to an allowance of food from the abbey. (fn. 306) The rector of the church is mentioned twice between 1230 and 1250 (fn. 307) and the vicar in 1372. In that year a dispute as to the boundaries of the parishes of St. Helen's and St. Nicholas' was settled in favour of St. Nicholas'. By this award the abbey officials were counted parishioners of St. Nicholas'. St. Helen's had the much larger part of the town which lay to the west of the Stert. (fn. 308) Statutes and ordinances concerning the vicarage of St. Nicholas' were confirmed by the pope in 1400. (fn. 309) They provided that the vicar should have the oblations of the altar and certain tithes, which, with a corrody in the abbey, barely amounted to £5. Portions of tithes in Sugworth were therefore added; and it was provided that the vicar and his successors should continue to have a hall near the church with two rooms and a kitchen. (fn. 310)
During the 15th century the rectors seem to have fulfilled the duties of their office without appointing a vicar. (fn. 311) In 1508, however, the vicarage was annexed to that of St. Helen's, (fn. 312) and the post of the rector became a sinecure. Some difficulty was caused by this arrangement during the 18th and 19th centuries, since the vicar of the large parish of St. Helen's had little time to perform services at St. Nicholas'. In 1625 John Blacknall left money to endow a readership there (fn. 313) which had previously depended on the subsidies of the corporation. (fn. 314) From 1643 to 1870 this office was looked upon as belonging to the head master or usher of the grammar school near by. (fn. 315) In the latter year the school was moved, and the readership has since been held by the parochial clergy. (fn. 316) The presentation was decreed by the Commissioners for Charitable Uses, in 1628, to belong to the bishop. (fn. 317)
A Sunday lectureship, which with the readership provides for the services at St. Nicholas', was founded in 1804 by the Rev. Richard Bowles. (fn. 318) It is in the gift of a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford.
A fragment from a lost chronicle of Abingdon states that Abbot John de Blosmevile (1241–56) built at his own cost a chapel dedicated in honour of the Holy Cross and St. Edmund and St. Guthlac, Confessors. (fn. 319) As it was the burial-place of Mabel mother of St. Edmund, the chapel was commonly known as the 'chapel of St. Edmund's mother.' The same abbot established a chaplain there to celebrate divine service for the souls of past and future Abbots of Abingdon, and for the dead buried in the cemetery. (fn. 320) There seems to be no other reference to this chapel. The better known chapel of St. Edmund was founded in 1288 by Edmund Earl of Cornwall. (fn. 321) It was served by chaplains maintained by the Abbot of Abingdon. (fn. 322) A pension of 5s. was paid for it to the vicar of St. Helen's, in whose parish it lay. (fn. 323)
The chapel of the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin is mentioned as the burial-place of Abbot John de Blosmevile. (fn. 324) Accounts of the 'Trinity Warden' for the 15th century have been preserved, and show payments for the celebration of divine service in the chapel, and for the obit of Abbot John. (fn. 325)
For Abingdon School, formerly known as Roysse's School, see article on schools. (fn. 326)
The municipal charities are regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 22 July 1892, as amended by a scheme of 13 August 1902, being divided into the almshouse branch and the general branch.
The almshouse branch comprises the following charities:—St. John's Hospital for six poor men and women, situate in The Vineyard, Abingdon, trust funds, £1,249 15s. 10d. Corporation of London 2½ per cent. stock, representing the redemption of an annual payment of £31 4s., and £200 like stock for repairs; John Fountain's charity, will 1710, trust fund, £2,761 5s. 2d. like stock arising from the sale in 1879 of land originally devised; Edward Beasley's charity, deed 1817, trust fund, £600 16s. 10d. like stock; John King's charity, will proved at Oxford 25 May 1861, trust fund, £383 9s. 2d. like stock; Bernard Bedwell's charity, will proved in the P.C.C. 1 August 1843, and gift of Philip Bedwell, his executor, trust fund, £170 2s. 9d. like stock.
The several sums of stock are held by the official trustees, producing together in annual dividends £134 2s. 6d.
Each almsperson receives a stipend of not less than 5s. weekly, with nursing and medical attendance, and £10 a year is set aside for repairs, any surplus income to be applied in augmentation of the general branch.
The general branch comprises the following charities:—Robert Mayott's charity, will 1676, endowed with 27 a. 2 r. called Middle and Picked Bury Meads, in the parish of Radley, Berks., the remains of the abbey of Abingdon, containing 2 r., and the Old Fuel House adjoining the abbey buildings, and wayleave for sewer through the abbey buildings, producing a gross income of £48 yearly. The net income is applicable as to one-third for the benefit of the poor and two-thirds for educational purposes.
Edward Bedwell's charity, will proved in 1823, trust fund, £255 14s. Corporation of London 2½ per cent. stock; Thomas Knapp's charity, will 1730, trust fund, £100 12s. like stock; Sir Thomas Smith, founded prior to 1611, trust fund, £100 12s. like stock; Edward Beasley's charity for sick poor, deed 1825, trust fund, £700 17s. 5d. like stock; Frederick Klein's charity, will proved in the P.C.C. 9 May 1825, trust fund, £1,034 0s. 4d. like stock.
The several sums of stock are held by the official trustees, producing £55 16s. yearly.
In 1912 the sum of £3 was also received from the trustees of Blacknall's charity. A payment of £25 was made to the cottage hospital and £25 for providing a district nurse for the sick and infirm, and £5 5s. was applied in clothing for men, and the same amount for women's clothing.
Christ's Hospital and subsidiary endowments.—This foundation, formerly the gild of the Holy Cross, was, under Letters Patent of 1553, reincorporated. (fn. 327)
By the charter there were granted to 'the Master and Governors of the Hospital of Christ of Abingdon' certain properties which had been in the possession of the then late monastery of Abingdon and other lands and tenements, out of the revenues whereof certain payments were to be made for the support of the inmates of the 'New Almshouses' thereby re-founded, and the residue to be expended on the repair of bridges and of certain highways and on the sustaining of the poor and indigent of the town of Abingdon.
The charity was in or about 1840 the subject of protracted proceedings in Chancery on an information filed by the attorney-general which resulted in the establishment of a scheme of the Court on 29 April 1859. The costs and expenses of the entire proceedings exceeded £4,000. In pursuance of the scheme the governors in 1861 laid out a recreation ground in the Conduit Field, appropriating for the purpose 14 acres now known as the Albert Park. A site was also granted to the vicar of Abingdon, on which a church known as St. Michael's was erected, and subsequently an acre for a vicarage-house.
In 1884 the almshouses, formerly known as the 'Almshouses over the Water,' which had been in existence prior to the almshouses re-founded by Edward VI, were pulled down, and new almshouses were erected on part of the garden behind the Long Alley Almshouses (see below), the new almshouses so erected being known as the Double Almshouses.
In 1895–6 a public library and reading room was erected at a cost of £2,000 and upwards.
A new scheme was established by the Charity Commissioners, 17 November 1899, whereby, as amended by schemes in 1900 and 1902, the charity is now regulated.
The subsidiary endowments, consisting of the following charities, were thereby directed to be applied as follows:—
John Morris's charity, by codicil to will 1681, and Richard Mayott's charity, will 1715 (see under St. Helen's parish); Richard Green's charity, will proved in the P.C.C. 1689, being an annuity of £5 for clothing five poor boys in Abingdon; Robert Morris, will proved in the P.C.C. 1707, being an annuity of £2 10s. for five poor widows or ancient maids; seven annuities, amounting together to £41 12s., distributable in bread, derived under the gifts of John Parkin, deed 1606; Mawde Tesdale, will 1616; Lydia Clayton, will 1683, and Robert Morris, will proved in the P.C.C. 1707; Lionel Bostock, will 1600; Thomas Bostock, origin not stated; Mary Chickins, will 1644; and John Coxe, will 1644. The said Lionel Bostock also by his will gave an annuity of £1 6s. 8d. for a sermon on Christmas Day; and Thomas Mayott, by will 1625, gave £1 6s. 8d. yearly for two sermons on Palm Sunday, 6s. 8d. for clerk and sexton, and 14s. for poor in the Old Almshouse; Thomas Barton, by will 1612, gave an annuity of 8s. and William Lee, by deed 1628, gave an annuity of £1 for bread and beef at Christmas; Thomas and Margaret Denton, by gift in 1855, gave an annuity of £1 6s. 8d. for two sermons on Easter Day; Richard Curtyn, by will 1641, gave £100 consols and 39 acres in Oakley, Bucks., and land at Sutton Wick, the income to be applied as to £15 12s. for providing 1s. a week each to the six almsfolk in the Double Almshouses, £28 12s. for 1s. a week each for eleven poor men and women, £1 16s. for a dinner to almspeople in the New Almshouses in Easter week, 10s. for the poor of Milton, and any balance in the distribution of bread; Hannah Hawkins, will prior to 1786, trust fund, £53 7s. 2d. consols for sermon and poor; John Rawlins, will proved in the P.C.C. 1730, trust fund, £166 13s. 4d. consols for coals for the inmates of the New Almshouses; Thomas Prince, will 1824, trust fund, £21 consols for inmates of the Old Almshouses at Christmas; Charles King, will proved in the P.C.C. 1842, trust funds, £405 1s. 6d. consols for clothing for almspeople in the Double Almshouses and £200 consols for the nurse of Twitty's Almshouses (see under St. Helen's parish); Fanny Pickman, will proved in the P.C.C. 1852, trust funds, £200 consols for almspeople in the Double Almshouses, and £200 consols for Twitty's Almshouses.
The above-mentioned sums of consols, amounting in the aggregate to £1,346 2s. consols, were in 1911 sold out and reinvested in £1,368 12s. 4d. London Corporation 2½ per cent. stock, producing £34 4s. 4d. yearly.
Robert Orpwood's charity, will 1609, being an annuity of £3 for wood and fuel for inmates of the Old Almshouses; Edward Beasley's charity, deed 1825, being a yearly payment of £16 18s. for providing 13d. per week and 18s. a year for coals for the six almspeople in the Double Almshouses; and Thomas Knight's charity, being a gift in 1836 of a yearly payment of £15 12s. for providing 1s. per week for each of the same almspeople and £4 10s. for meat and coals.
The original trust properties have undergone considerable changes by sales, purchases and exchanges, and by allotments under certain Inclosure Acts. In 1904 the sum of £11,800 consols was transferred to Roysse's School in satisfaction of the liability of the governors to contribute £295 yearly to that school, and in 1908 a sum of £1,295 consols was transferred to the Abingdon Exhibition Foundation.
The real estate in hand includes the old almshouses and garden, generally known as the Long Alley Almshouse, for six women and six men and a nurse; the new almshouses, erected in 1718, generally known as the Brick Alley, for five men and thirteen women, including the nurse; the Double Almshouses, built in 1884 on part of the garden behind the Long Alley Almshouses in place of the 'Almshouses over the Water,' reserved for three married couples; and the recreation ground.
The total income from the real estate amounted in 1911 to £3,239 16s., including £1,529 from houses and land, fishery, &c., £291 from ground-rents (Albert Park), quit-rents and tithes, £1,419 from rents of cottages and allotments.
The personal estate consists of £1,202 17s. 8d. Corporation of London 2½ per cent. stock, £1,368 12s. 4d. like stock, belonging to the subsidiary charities above mentioned, and £1,565 19s. 8d. India 3 per cent. stock held by the official trustees on remittance accounts.
The principal items of expenditure in 1911 were £506 for rates, &c., £660 in connexion with the almsfolk, £113 in respect of the subsidiary charities, £93 for nursing and medical aid, £1,088 for expenses on the properties, including repairs of bridges and roads, £366 for maintenance of the recreation ground, &c., a grant of £25 for a free library, and £276 for establishment charges. There was a surplus of £96 available under the scheme for educational purposes, &c.
At the beginning of 1912 the following sums of stock were also held by the official trustees on investment accounts, the dividends on which were accumulating for the purposes specified, viz.: £3,713 16s. 10d. London Corporation 2½ per cent. debenture stock under the title of the Special Repair Fund, £5,424 13s. 9d. stock to be attained; £987 7s. like stock as General Repair Fund, £2,037 7s. stock to be attained; £853 0s. 6d. like stock, to accumulate till £1,583 10s. stock is reached to replace overdraft incurred in 1902 in improvement of bridges and highways; £3,094 19s. 9d. like stock for cost of a free library, £4,064 stock to be attained; £597 5s. 7d. like stock to replace stock sold to pay for construction of sewers and roads, £1,098 stock to be attained.
The charity of Richard Wrigglesworth, founded by will proved in the P.C.C. 23 March 1648, is now also administered by the governors of Christ's Hospital. The charity is regulated by a Chancery scheme of 25 June 1883, as varied by schemes of the Charity Commissioners of 7 November 1899 and 27 May 1904. The trustees were empowered by a scheme of the court, 1883, to apply out of their accumulated funds £750 towards the erection of a cottage hospital and £50 a year towards its support (see below). The trust property consists of two houses in Ock Street, 6 acres of land in Convent Close and building land adjoining, two cottages and gardens, being 77 and 79 The Vineyard and building land adjoining, and land tax redeemed at £3 8s. 9d. yearly, of the gross yearly value of £130.
The official trustees also hold £5,633 4s. 6d. Corporation of London 2½ per cent. stock, arising mainly from sales of land from time to time, and producing £140 16s. 6d.
After payment of £15 a year to the vicar of St. Helen's towards the stipend of a curate and £1 to the parish clerk, and £15 a year to the vicar of Marcham, and £9 for the poor of the same parish, and £40 a year to the cottage hospital, the residue of the income is made applicable for the benefit of the poor of St. Helen's, including the hamlets of Sandford, Shippon, Northcourt and Barton and the parish of St. Nicholas, in any of the following modes:
As to a moiety, which in 1911 amounted to £78, in pensions not exceeding £15 a year, in making contribution not exceeding £15 a year towards the purchase of annuities, in assisting the sick and infirm poor to obtain the benefits of a convalescent home, &c., and in providing nurses for the sick poor.
As to the other moiety, which in 1911 amounted to £78, to be known as the Wrigglesworth Educational Foundation, in payments not exceeding £5 a year to children for continuing their attendance at school, in exhibitions not exceeding £10 a year each, and in grants not exceeding £10 a year towards outfits.
The charity of John Blacknall, created by will 1625, is now administered by the governors of Christ's Hospital under the provisions of a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 6 May 1910. The original property has been varied by awards under the Marcham Inclosure Act, 1818, and the Abingdon Inclosure Act, 1842, and by sales of land from time to time. The real estate now consists of 50 acres or thereabouts, houses, shops and cottages and tithe rentcharges, in respect of which £220 was received in 1911, and the personal estate of £351 3s. 10d. London Corporation 2½ per cent. debenture stock with the official trustees, on remittance account, producing £8 15s. 6d. yearly, and £612 3s. 9d. like stock on an investment account, which is being accumulated until a sum of £573 19s. stock has been attained for the replacement of part of the cost of rebuilding 30 and 32 Stert Street. The yearly sum of £12 formerly paid to Roysse's School was in 1904 commuted by the transfer to that school of £480 consols. Under clause 10 of the scheme certain fixed payments are made to the rector of St. Nicholas' for divine services and prayers on the donor's birthday and death day, amounting together to £23 12s. 8d., of which £1 is payable to the vicar of St. Helen's, £10 10s. for weekly distribution of bread, £1 10s. to the sexton of St. Nicholas' for keeping clean the founder's tomb, &c., £1 to the churchwarden for bread and wine for communions on the four commemoration days, £4 to the preacher of Queen's College, Oxford, for sermons on those days, and other gifts for the poor of St. Nicholas' and St. Helen's. The residue of the income, which in 1911 amounted to £72 19s. 8d., is divisible in moieties, one to be called the Church Branch for the maintenance of St. Nicholas' Church, and the other moiety to be called the Poor Branch, to be applied for the benefit of the poor of the borough, with a preference for the poor of St. Nicholas'.
The Cottage Hospital was erected on two plots of land in Bath Road conveyed in 1885 and 1886 for the purpose at the sole cost of Mr. J. C. Clarke, M.P., and is endowed with a sum of £2,000 consols with the official trustees, which includes the sum of £750 received from Wrigglesworth's charity (see above) and a sum raised by subscriptions, the trusts whereof were declared by deed poll dated 21 September 1886. It is further endowed with a sum of £714 4s. 5d. consols, representing various bequests, and £100 in 4 per cent. debentures of the Abingdon Gas Light and Coke Company in the names of trustees, known as the Thomas Townsend Memorial Fund. The annual income from these sources amounts to £71 17s. Contributions are also received from Wrigglesworth's charity, Christ's Hospital and the municipal charities.
St. Nicholas' Church Lands.—This property was the subject of an inquisition taken at Abingdon on 13 March 1617–18. (fn. 328) The present endowments consist of two houses in Stert Street and a house in Ock Street, producing a gross income of £73 a year. The official trustees also hold £300 consols, producing £7 10s. yearly, arising from the sale in 1902 of a piece of land adjoining the 'Black Bull' public-house. The same trustees also hold £778 15s. 10d. consols on an investment account arising from the sales in 1872 of the 'Oxford Arms' publichouse and the 'Barley Mow' public-house. The interest is being accumulated until it reaches a sum of £500 expended in 1881 towards the cost of purchasing and removing the 'Two Brewers' public-house, which was built against the wall of the church. The net income, subject to the payment of £3 yearly to the rector as reader of St. Nicholas, is applied with the general funds of the church. An annual payment of 15s. is also made for a sermon on the last Sunday in July, when 5s. is also distributed in bread for the poor. The annuity, derived under the will of William Cheney, is charged upon the 'Lion Hotel' (formerly the 'King's Head' public-house).
Nonconformist charities.—Tomkins's and Buswell's charities.—The following charities, founded by will of Benjamin Tomkins the elder, proved in the P.C.C. 7 April 1733, and by Benjamin Tomkins, the grandson, by will 1751, are administered by a body of trustees appointed by deed 17 January 1907, namely:
The almshouses in Ock Street, consisting of eight tenements occupied by four poor old men and four poor old women. Endowments, a farm at Weald near Bampton, Oxon., containing about 73 acres, let at £78 a year, and a small meadow at Weald purchased in 1912, let at £1 a year; also £1,662 0s. 6d. Corporation of London 2½ per cent. stock and £942 6s. 3d. like stock, representing the gift of William Finch Smith, by deed 14 January 1896, producing in annual dividends £65 2s.; also £299 2s. 8d. consols purchased in 1912 as a reserve fund, producing £7 9s. 6d. yearly. The almsfolk receive 6s. a week each in winter and 5s. a week in summer.
Benjamin Tomkins's charity for the poor of Abingdon, commonly called the Bread charity, trust fund, £571 4s. like corporation stock, producing £14 5s. 6d. yearly, which is applied in the weekly distribution of bread to about twelve poor persons.
The charity of Benjamin Tomkins, senior, for poor Dissenters of Abingdon and for poor Baptist ministers. Endowments, a farm known as Blenham Farm near Northmoor (Oxon.), containing 47 a. 2 r., let at £45 a year, and £566 7s. like corporation stock. The poor are entitled to 40 per cent. of the net income and the ministers to 60 per cent. In 1912 pensions of £4 were granted to three poor persons and special grants amounting to £17 to thirteen poor persons, and the sum of £33 was applied in grants to thirteen poor Baptist ministers, who are chosen from all parts of the country.
Joseph Tomkins's charity for Baptist churches, founded by will proved in the P.C.C. 1 March 1754, namely, for Abingdon Baptist Church, trust fund, £140 3s. 4d. like corporation stock, producing £3 10s. yearly; for Stratton Baptist Church, trust fund, £223 6s. 9d. like corporation stock, producing £5 11s. 8d. yearly; for Newbury Baptist Church, trust fund, £140 3s. 4d. like corporation stock, producing £3 10s. yearly.
William Buswell's charities, founded by will proved in the P.C.C. 26 November 1829, namely: for the poor of Abingdon, trust fund, £656 5s. 3d. like corporation stock, producing £16 8s. yearly, applied in 1912 in pensions of £1 per quarter to two poor persons and £5 in special grants to four poor persons; for poor Baptist ministers, trust fund, £1,095 15s. 4d. like corporation stock, producing £27 8s. yearly, applied in 1912 in grants to eight poor Baptist ministers; for education of poor children at Cirencester, Gloucester and Oxford, trust fund, £1,128 4s. 6d. like corporation stock, producing £28 4s. yearly, applicable as to one-third in each town; for education of children of any other Baptist congregation, trust fund, £125 7s. 3d. like corporation stock and £58 11s. 10d. consols, as a reserve fund, producing £4 11s. 6d. yearly, applied in 1912 in maintenance of grants at the Girls' High School, Stroud.
The several sums of stock, with the exception of the reserve funds, are held by the official trustees, and the establishment expenses are charged against the charities in proportion to their income.
The Ock Street Baptist Chapel, founded by will of the above-mentioned Benjamin Tomkins the elder, is endowed with a sum of £1,072 19s. 10d. conso's with the official trustees, arising from the sale in 1912 of a piece of meadow land, the dividends of which are received by the minister.
The above-mentioned Benjamin Tomkins the younger also charged his premises in Stert Street with £1 a year for a sermon on 1 August yearly, in commemoration of the deliverance of the nation from popery by the accession of King George. The minister also receives the dividends on £116 12s. 9d. consols derived under the will of the same testator, and of £139 8s. consols under the will of Joseph Tomkins, proved in the P.C.C. 1 March 1754, and of £314 2s. 6d. consols, arising under gifts of John Tomkins, Nicholas Whitby and Elizabeth Dee, of which no particulars are known.
The dividends from these sources amount together to £41 1s.
The trustees also hold a sum of £204 6s. 10d. consols and £1,000 on mortgage at 4 per cent. derived under the wills of John Tomkins and Sarah Tomkins, proved in the P.C.C. 28 May 1846 and 11 February 1850 respectively, the incomes of which are applicable for the minister and the services at the chapel.
The same trustees likewise hold £188 7s. 6d. consols, representing the charity of John Tomkins for the poor of the congregation, and £209 8s. 6d. consols, representing the charity of Sarah Tomkins for the same purpose, producing together £9 18s. 8d. yearly.
Joseph Butler, by his will proved in the P.C.C. 9 August 1776, bequeathed £100, the income to be applied amongst the poor members of the Baptist meeting. The legacy is represented by £121 8s. consols with the official trustees, who also hold a further sum of £19 18s. 6d. consols, supposed to have been derived in or about 1855 under the will of Elizabeth Winsmoor. The annual dividends, amounting together to £3 10s. 4d., are applied in gifts of money.
Endowments of the Congregational Church.—Charity of Edward Pearson, will 7 March 1716. Endowment 40 acres in Bessels Leigh, with cottage and stabling, let at £35 a year, of which £10 is paid to the minister and £2 12s. is distributed in bread to six windows of the congregation, and the residue of the net income is paid into the general funds of the church.
Charities of John Payne, will dated 3 March 1724, and Elizabeth Baker, will 3 April 1836, trust fund, £1,589 12s. 11d. consols with the official trustees, arising from sales in 1862 of land in Sutton Wick and allotments in Sutton Courtenay, formerly belonging to the charities. The annual dividends, amounting to £39 14s. 8d., are applicable for the benefit of the minister.
The chapel property consists of the chapel erected in 1862, a house and three cottages, producing an income of £64 10s. yearly, the net income being applied towards the general purposes of the church.
The deeds in the possession of the trustees record other gifts for the benefit of the minister, &c., the trust funds of which cannot now be traced.
The charity of Richard Belcher, founded by will proved in the archdeaconry of Berkshire on 2 July 1715, is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 11 August 1905.
The endowment consists of the Chapel Farm, containing 21 acres, and buildings at East Hanney, let at £32 a year, the net yearly income to be applied as to £14 for the purposes of education, £3 yearly in providing Bibles and books of devotion for scholars attending the Sunday school attached to the Congregational chapel at Abingdon, £5 yearly to be paid to the minister of the Independent chapel at Abingdon, and £4 yearly to the minister of Aston Tirrold Presbyterian Church, and the residue (if any) towards defraying the expenses incurred in the support of the Independent chapel at Abingdon or in clothing poor of the congregation of the said chapel.
The annual sum of £14 has been dealt with by the scheme of the Board of Education for the minor educational charities of Abingdon.
The Minor Educational charities.—The following charities are administered under a scheme of the Board of Education of 17 June 1907, namely: Robert Mayott's educational foundation (fn. 329) (see above under municipal charities, general branch), being two-thirds of the net income amounting to about £30 a year.
John Provost's foundation. (fn. 330) —Endowment 42 a. 2 r. at Oakley, Bucks., about £50 a year.
Richard Wrigglesworth's educational foundation (above), about £78 a year.
The incomes of these charities are made applicable in the maintenance of exhibitions at a public secondary school, to be awarded equally between boys and girls, subject as in the scheme mentioned.
John and Sarah Tomkins (see under Nonconformist charities), trust fund, £1,037 4s. 6d. consols.
Joseph Tomkins (see above), trust fund, £139 8s. consols.
Buswell's foundation for the education of poor children (see above), trust fund, £498 14s. 2d. consols.
Educational foundation of Richard Belcher (fn. 331) (see above), being a yearly sum of £14.
The British School, trust fund about £200, representing the balance of proceeds of sale in 1902 of school buildings and furniture after payment of mortgage.
Buswell's foundation for village schools in Berkshire (see above under Nonconformist charities), trust fund, £84 9s. 4d. consols.
The incomes of these charities, amounting together to about £65 a year, are also made applicable in exhibitions or bursaries, the recipients of which are to be nominated by the minister or deacon of any registered Nonconformist place of worship.