A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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Towersey is a parish on the borders of Oxfordshire with an area of 1,380 acres, including 320 acres of arable land and 911 of permanent grass. (fn. 1) The slope of the land is from the south-east (271 ft. above the ordnance datum) to the north-west (219 ft.). The soil is strong loam, the subsoil gravel, clay, and limestone, the chief crops being wheat, beans, barley, clover and grasses. The Wycombe, Thame, and Oxford branch of the Great Western railway runs through the south of the parish from south-east to north-west.
The village is situated on the Thame Road in the west of the parish. There are many 16th and 17th century half-timbered houses, several of which have thatched roofs. The church stands at the west of the village, with the vicarage, built in 1845, on the north-west and the school on the south-west. At the side of the road on the south of the church are the remains of the village stocks. The 16th-century house known as the Church Farm, to the north of the church, may represent the old manor-house. It is a timberframed building, much altered, and the portion which contained the hall is now a ruin. The present manor-house, at the other end of the village, was built in the Italian style by Mr. Edward Griffin in 1858. In 1899 it was sold by Mr. J. Whitehouse Griffin, to the Hon. Paulyn F. C. Rawdon Hastings, by whom it was largely rebuilt and sold in 1911 to Mr. G. J. C. Harter. It has since then been unoccupied. The Grange Farm, probably on the site of the grange belonging to Thame Abbey, is a 16th-century halftimber house with brick nogging, altered and enlarged. Attached to it is the ancient tithe barn probably built about 1500. It is a stone building of five bays with aisles having original blocked doorways, on the jambs of one of which are three sundials. The roof, which is a fine specimen of its kind, is supported by two rows of oak posts. Upper Green Farm and Lower Green Farm are both 17th-century houses with thatched roofs. There is a Baptist chapel in the village, and in the north-west of the parish is a windmill.
The parish was inclosed in 1822. (fn. 2)
Before the Conquest seven of King Edward's thegns held EYE MANOR. (fn. 3) In 1086 it was assessed at 9 hides 1 virgate among the lands of Niel Daubeny, (fn. 4) and was attached to his barony of Cainhoe, Bedfordshire. (fn. 5)
Niel Wast was sub-tenant in Eye in 1086, (fn. 6) and by the middle of the 13th century Ralph Pirot was holding the mesne lordship in Towersey, (fn. 7) which continued in his family (fn. 8) and was still held by his descendant, another Ralph Pirot, in 1337. (fn. 9) No later reference to it has been found.
In the middle of the 13th century Richard, son of Robert Towers (de Tours), Probably a descendant of John Towers, whose name occurs in the late 12th century, (fn. 10) was holding the greater part of Eye Manor (fn. 11) corresponding to land which was afterwards distinguished by the name of this family as TOWERSEY MANOR. He and his descendants bearing the same name were holding later in the century, (fn. 12) and in 1302 (fn. 13) and 1316. (fn. 14) Richard Towers was living in 1329 (fn. 15) and died before 1337 when his son Richard granted the reversion of a third of Towersey Manor then held in dower by his father's widow Agnes, and of lands in Towersey held for life by Henry Towers, to Thame Abbey. (fn. 16) At the same time this abbey also received a grant of the remaining twothirds of this manor from Edmund de Berford. (fn. 17) A rentcharge on the manor of £10 yearly was surrendered by Richard Towers' wife Agnes and his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Richard de Leming in 1338. (fn. 18) Towersey Manor remained with Thame Abbey, which received a grant of free warren there in 1365, (fn. 19) until the Dissolution. (fn. 20) In 1542 it was granted to the Dean and Chapter of the cathedral of Christ and St. Mary, Oxford, (fn. 21) and afterwards in 1545 to Christopher Edmunds and others (fn. 22) with rights in the manor extending into Oxfordshire. It was afterwards apparently acquired by Sir John Williams, Lord Williams of Thame, (fn. 23) and was conveyed in 1566 (fn. 24) by Daniel Snow to Edward Lord Windsor. (fn. 25) Towersey Manor descended with Bradenham (fn. 26) (q.v.) to Thomas, Viscount Wentworth, (fn. 27) who sold it in 1788 to George Bowden of Radford, Oxfordshire. (fn. 28) His son George who succeeded in 1791 (fn. 29) left three daughters Mary Elizabeth, Elizabeth, and Anne Frances, (fn. 30) who were ladies of the manor in 1822. (fn. 31) About the middle of the 19th century it was purchased by Mr. Edward Griffin, (fn. 32) who died in 1879. (fn. 33) His son and successor, Mr. James Whitehouse Griffin, (fn. 34) is the present owner of Towersey Manor.
The remainder of the Domesday Eye Manor estate corresponding to that part of the vill of Towersey called LITTLE EYE was held of Ralph Pirot in 1254 by John de Morton. (fn. 35) In 1265 he, with his wife Sarah, alienated this estate in free alms to Thame Abbey, for the service of a pair of white gauntlets or 1d. at Easter. (fn. 36) This abbey continued to hold Little Eye, (fn. 37) which is not distinguishable from the principal manor in Towersey after 1346. (fn. 38)
The 11 hides at which Towersey was assessed in 1254 comprised, besides the Domesday Eye Manor, an estate of 7 virgates, (fn. 39) apparently part of one of Gilbert Pinkney's fees in Buckinghamshire and held of him in 1166 by Robert de Wauci. (fn. 40) In 1254 Muriel de Weston held it in socage and by the service of 20s. yearly for ward of Windsor Castle of Robert's descendant, Robert de Wauci. (fn. 41) Henry de Weston, probably her son, granted it in 1275 to Thame Abbey, (fn. 42) when it became absorbed in the principal manor.
A small estate called BRITTONS MANOR appears in Towersey in the later 16th century, when it was held of the President and scholars of Magdalen College, Oxford. (fn. 43) In 1564 Nicholas and Alice Collingridge conveyed it to John Goodwin (fn. 44) and Richard Belson died seised of it in 1569. (fn. 45) His wife Elizabeth held it for life and was alive in 1575, when her eldest son Bartholomew died. (fn. 46) Thomas Belson, another son, claimed it in 1585 against his elder brother Augustine under their father's will (fn. 47) and obtained judgement in 1586. (fn. 48)
In 1623 John, Thomas and Richard Porter with Mary and Robert Whitfield surrendered their interests in Brittons Manor to John Harman and his heirs. (fn. 49) John Harman of Towersey, deceased, is mentioned in 1646, (fn. 50) but the later descent has not been traced.
A small estate in Towersey called in the later 16th century PARAGE MANOR corresponds to the property conveyed in 1341 by Walter, son of William Audlaf of Stoke, to Edmund Parage and his wife Agnes. (fn. 51) This property reappears in 1577 when Parage Manor was conveyed by Francis and Katherine Bertie to William Fleetwood and John White, (fn. 52) but no other reference to it has been found.
The church of ST. CATHERINE consists of a chancel measuring internally 17 ft. 6 in. by 13 ft., nave 56 ft. by 24 ft. with north transeptal recess 12 ft. wide by 4 ft. deep, and south tower; it is built of rubble with tiled roofs.
The chancel dates from the early 13th century and the nave from about the middle of the 14th century. The tower added in 1854 replaced a 14th-century porch, the archway of which was re-used in the lower stage. The church was restored in 1850 and again in 1877.
The chancel has in each side wall an early 13th century lancet, the rear arch of which, originally round, has been subsequently made roughly pointed. In the east wall is a two-light traceried window of the mid14th century, and at the south-west is a late twolight window. Under the lancet in the north wall is a round-headed recess, and in a square recess on the south is a 12th-century piscina formed in a scalloped capital. The chancel arch, which dies into the side walls, dates from the 14th century. The high-pitched roof over the chancel, with curved wind-braces and moulded wall-plates, is of the 15th century.
In the east wall of the nave, on either side of the chancel arch are two traceried 14th-century windows each of two lights with labels linked to that of the arch. In each side wall are two windows of the same number of lights, all renewed, except the heads, which date from the 14th century. In the west wall, which appears to have been rebuilt, is a modern three-light window with a 14th-century label and a contemporary outer order, reset, to the external jambs. The north and south doorways, with arch mouldings continuous with the jambs, are also of the 14th century, and the strap hinges on the south door are probably of the same period. The transeptal recess has been considerably restored and its north wall, which contains a threelight window with a 14th-century rear arch, may have been rebuilt inside the line of the original wall; the archway in the nave wall is similar to the chancel arch. The tower is of three stages surmounted by pinnacles and an embattled parapet; its lower stage forms a porch in which the 14th-century archway of the former porch has been reset.
The font is of a plain cylindrical shape with no detail by which its date can be determined, though it is probably ancient. The panelled hexagonal pulpit, which is enriched with foliage and scroll ornament, dates from the early 17th century; the sounding-board support is original though the sounding-board itself is modern. There are also four 16th-century bench ends with poppy heads.
The tower contains a ring of four bells: the treble by Richard Keene 1695; the second and third, inscribed 'This bell was made 1627', and the tenor 'Prayes the Lord. 1627,' by Ellis Knight; and a small bell undated.
Towersey was a chapelry appendant to the church of Thame, Oxfordshire, (fn. 53) and as such the advowson appertained to the prebend of Thame, founded by Bishop Grosteste in Lincoln Cathedral in the middle of the 13th century. (fn. 54) The prebend of Thame was alienated to Edward Duke of Somerset in 1547, (fn. 55) and sold by him in 1561 to Sir John Thynne. (fn. 56) It descended in his family to Thomas, third Viscount Weymouth. (fn. 57) His brother Henry Frederick Thynne, Lord Carteret, (fn. 58) sold the advowson of Thame with the chapel of Towersey in the early 19th century to John Blackall, (fn. 59) who owned it in 1822. (fn. 60) His heirat-law Walter Long, (fn. 61) with his wife Mary Long, conveyed it about 1830 to Richard Harrison, (fn. 62) apparently agent for Dr. Slater of High Wycombe. He vested the advowson of the vicarage of Towersey, which was separated from Thame in 1841, (fn. 63) in trustees, (fn. 64) and their successors, known as the Peache Trustees, (fn. 65) are the present owners.
In 1822 the great tithes of Towersey were in the hands of Henry Bowden, George and William Frith, and other assignees of the estate of George Bowden, and all other tithes in the parish belonged to the vicar of Thame. (fn. 66) Land given for the maintenance of lights in Towersey Church was granted to Edward Downing and John Walker in 1578. (fn. 67)
The charity of Christopher Deane, founded by will proved in the P.C.C. 16 March 1695, is regulated by a scheme of 28 October 1879, made under the Endowed Schools Acts. The endowment consists of 20 acres, or thereabouts, at Gayton (co. Lincoln), let at £30 a year. Under the scheme £5 a year is payable to the minister of Towersey, £20 for educational purposes, and the residue of the income for apprenticeships.
This parish is entitled to a share of the charity of Mrs. Katherine Pye, founded by deeds of lease and release, dated respectively 13 and 14 November 1713. (fn. 68)