A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.
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Little Rissington, anciently called Rissington Basset, (fn. 1) is a parish of 1,475 a. lying on the east bank of the River Dikler. This river, with the River Windrush below the confluence of the two, forms the western boundary of the parish; where the river divides for half a mile the boundary follows the smaller, western arm. The parish is about a mile from north to south and two miles from east to west. Part of the northern boundary is marked by a stream flowing into the Dikler, part of the eastern boundary by streams flowing into Oxfordshire and by the road from Stow-on-the-Wold to Burford. (fn. 2)
From the river, at 400 ft., the land rises at first gently but with increasing steepness to a ridge which crosses the parish from north to south at 800 ft.; east of the ridge the land drops away more gently. The parish lies on the successive and evenly graduated strata of Lower, Middle, and Upper Lias, and Inferior Oolite, with alluvial deposits along the river and Chipping Norton Limestone stretching into the south-east corner of the parish. (fn. 3) The soil is stone-brash and rich clay which provides fertile grass-land; among the fields are scattered several small woods (there was said to be 25 a. of woodland in 1834), (fn. 4) and in the east of the parish beyond the ridge Little Rissington airfield was built in 1937.
The airfield, in 1962 the home of the R.A.F. Central Flying School, soon came to dominate the village and the surrounding area. The residential quarters belonging to it, housing nine-tenths of the population of the parish, together with the workshops and administrative offices, provide employment for the inhabitants not only of Little Rissington village but of villages several miles round about. (fn. 5) The noise of low-flying aircraft has become an inescapable feature of the neighbourhood, and though the airfield is remote and out of sight of the village, the runways, towers, and hangars, and the rows of mid-20th-century houses, have profoundly changed the upland landscape.
Little Rissington village is half-way down the hill towards the river, 'seated on a pleasant slope, with a fine aspect to the south-west'. (fn. 6) Down the north side of the village runs a little brook, and the only building beyond the brook is the church. The church is 200 yards away from the village street: its isolated position and the uneven ground south and south-west of it suggest that the site of the village has shifted southwards, but why all the houses on the north side of the stream should have been abandoned is not clear. It is possible that this part of the village was mainly (though not exclusively) (fn. 7) occupied by the manor-house mentioned in the early 13th century, (fn. 8) for a large house near the church called the court house was demolished in the 17th century, (fn. 9) presumably after the dissolution of the manorial estate. (fn. 10) The tradition that the early 17thcentury building called Manor Cottages was the original manor-house may have arisen because it was the house belonging to the big estate of the parish in the 19th century.
Most of the houses in the village lie along the road that runs up the hill through it, making a rightangle bend at the middle. At the lower end of the village, opposite the old rectory house, a street with some more houses runs south from the road, and then turns uphill to join the main street near the upper end of the village. Unlike most of its neighbours Little Rissington village is built along narrow streets and gives no indication that it ever had a village green. The beasts were pastured on a common northwest of the village, beyond the church, (fn. 11) which perhaps had the characteristics of a village green before the village retreated from it.
The inclosure of the open fields in 1727 (fn. 12) did not result in the rebuilding of many farm-houses away from the village. Rissington Mill and Rissington Farm (500 yards west of the village) existed before inclosure; these, together with the house near Rissington Bridge called Greenfield and Cate Britain homestead on the extreme east of the parish, remained the only houses at a distance from the village in the 18th and 19th centuries, but several large barns were built along the 700-ft. contour, exploiting the springs that rise there. Within the village a good deal of demolition and rebuilding took place in the mid-19th century; (fn. 13) in the 20th there was widespread modernization and enlargement of existing houses but almost no building of new houses.
West of the village the road runs down to cross the Dikler at Rissington Bridge, which was repairable by the inhabitants of Little Rissington in 1536. (fn. 14) Just short of the bridge Leasow Lane (fn. 15) branches off towards Great Rissington. One of these roads was presumably the causeway mentioned c. 1180. (fn. 16) East of the village the road runs uphill, crosses the road along the ridge from Stow to Great Barrington and joins the main road from Stow to Burford on the parish boundary. A short way above the village a minor road branched off towards Fifield (Oxon.), but with the building of the airfield this was stopped at the road from Stow to Barrington. Other minor roads confirmed at inclosure in 1727 were two leading to Wick Rissington and one leading to Great Rissington, which were seldom used in 1962; the pre-inclosure road to Stow, apparently by Rissington Mill and the Foss Way, was closed in 1727. (fn. 17)
Until the building of the airfield the population of the parish remained small. In 1086 22 inhabitants were enumerated, (fn. 18) and in 1381 44 people were assessed for poll tax. (fn. 19) By the mid-16th century there had been an increase, possibly of about half, (fn. 20) and from the early 17th century until the late 18th the population remained fairly constant at not much under two hundred. (fn. 21) In 1801 the figure was 227; this rose to a maximum of 319 in 1841, fell to 186 in 1901, and did not rise again significantly until the thirties, when the airfield was built. Even so, the population off the airfield remained small: in 1951 the population in private households was 180, (fn. 22) about the same as in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Although there are many springs around the village and two stone fountains in the village street, dated 1874 and 1875, there was said to be no adequate supply of piped water c. 1942. (fn. 23) Main water was brought to the village in 1954, (fn. 24) and main electricity was available by 1939. (fn. 25)
Nearly every house in the village is built of stone, and perhaps some of it came from the large number of quarries above the village, (fn. 26) the main uses of which were presumably for road metal and boundary walls. For the houses rubble walls, with freestone quoins on some of the 18th-century houses, and Cotswold stone roofs were used almost without exception. None of the houses is earlier than the 17th century, but about half are earlier than the 19th. In the 17th century gables were frequently used, but only one survives from the 18th; windows with mullions and dripmoulds persisted in the 18th century, and sash windows are uncommon. The small number of dormers surviving from the 17th and 18th centuries is unusual.
Manor Cottages, which looks as though it was originally a single house of considerable size, with two stories and attics, was built in the early 17th century. It has four gables (two with finials) facing the street and two gables on the other side. The dripmoulds above the ground and first-floor mullioned windows are continuous, and are raised over the windows. The chimneys have moulded stone capitals. The house has two doorways on the side away from the street; one was apparently moved from the street side when the new Manor House was built in 1856 (fn. 27) and the existing house was converted to cottages. This is likely to have been the house that, with seven hearths, was the largest recorded in the parish in 1672. (fn. 28)
Two of the smaller 17th-century houses are worthy of note. Porch Cottage, with its windows to the street unusually wide apart, had until c. 1950 a porch with stone pillars that seemed to be modelled on turned woodwork. Adjoining it is a cottage converted from a 17th-century four-gabled dovecot, with the stone ledges for the birds to perch on surviving. The Old Rectory (fn. 29) which is built of ashlar, was repaired and enlarged between 1812 and 1819, (fn. 30) and later in the century was given battlements.
In 1755 there was an alehouse in Little Rissington, (fn. 31) but no record of any inn or alehouse there in the 19th and 20th centuries has been found.
Little Rissington was the estate held in 1066 by Siward and in 1086 by Robert Doyly. (fn. 32) Little Rissington, like Turkdean which was also held by Robert in 1086, later became part of the honor of Wallingford (fn. 33) (after 1540, the honor of Ewelme), presumably as a result of Robert's connexion with that honor. (fn. 34) Robert's nephew, also called Robert Doyly, gave two-thirds of the demesne tithes of Little Rissington to his foundation of Oseney Abbey (Oxon.) before his death in 1142. (fn. 35) At an earlier date, however, at least part of Little Rissington was held by Ralph Basset, the justiciar, and his son Nicholas, who made grants of property in Little Rissington. (fn. 36) In 1167 Nicholas's possessions were forfeited by his sons, but Little Rissington appears to have passed by then to Robert of Theydon, who had married Nicholas's daughter Agatha, and was succeeded in or before 1201 by his son Henry of Theydon. (fn. 37) Henry's son Paulinus in 1217 received lands in Gloucestershire that had been held by his father, (fn. 38) and on his death in 1233 left as his heir a daughter Beatrice, who in 1235 or 1236 married Robert de Briwes. (fn. 39) Robert, who was granted free warren in Little Rissington in 1252, (fn. 40) held most of the Theydon lands by courtesy after Beatrice's death c. 1253. (fn. 41) After the death of Beatrice's daughter, another Beatrice, (fn. 42) Robert tried to secure these lands in fee for his son by an earlier marriage, John. He had acquired quitclaims from Henry, brother of Paulinus of Theydon, (fn. 43) and from Henry's daughter Beatrice (fn. 44) before he died in 1276 holding, as one knight's fee, the manor of RISSINGTON BASSET, (fn. 45) later known as the manor of LITTLE RISSINGTON. Another daughter of Henry of Theydon, Lettice, who was long an inmate of Godstow Abbey, emerged from that house to challenge the rights in Little Rissington of John de Briwes, and after a protracted struggle was apparently successful. (fn. 46) By 1281, however, the manor had passed to Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells. (fn. 47) The bishop enfeoffed his nephew Robert Burnell c. 1288, but on his death in 1292 that nephew was ejected in favour of the bishop's heir, Philip Burnell, another nephew, (fn. 48) who died holding the manor in 1294. Philip's son Edward, Lord Burnell, a minor at the time of his father's death, (fn. 49) died in 1315, holding the manor jointly with his wife Aline, (fn. 50) daughter of Hugh le Despenser, (fn. 51) who held it until her death in 1363. The manor then passed as the result of a settlement to Nicholas, son of John of Hadlow and Edward Burnell's sister and heir Maud; he assumed the surname Burnell, (fn. 52) and at his death in 1383 was succeeded by his son Hugh. (fn. 53) Hugh died in 1420 having settled the manor on Sir Walter Hungerford (later Lord Hungerford, d. 1449), Walter's third son Edmund, and Edmund's wife Margery, one of Hugh's grand-daughters and heirs. (fn. 54)
Walter Hungerford held the advowson of Wick Rissington, which was appurtenant to Little Rissington manor, in 1436, (fn. 55) but both manor and advowson had passed to William Lovel, Lord Lovel, before his death in 1455; (fn. 56) it is not clear why they should have reverted to the heirs of Maud Burnell, William's great-great-grandmother. (fn. 57) William's wife Alice held the manor at her death in 1474 and was succeeded by her grandson Francis Lovel, (fn. 58) created Viscount Lovel. After Lovel's forfeiture in 1485 the manor was granted to Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, (fn. 59) from whose death in 1495 (fn. 60) until 1517 or later it remained in the hand of the Crown. By 1529 Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (d. 1554), was exercising the patronage of the church, (fn. 61) and Little Rissington was among the manors that he sold to the Crown in 1540. (fn. 62)
In 1544 the Crown granted the manor to Paul Withypool and other merchant tailors of London, (fn. 63) and it was presumably from them that ownership passed to Edmund Cooke, who was dealing with the manor in 1563. (fn. 64) In 1577 it was sold to George Fettiplace of Coln St. Aldwyn, who died in the same year. George's son and heir John (fn. 65) sold the manor in 1616 to his neighbour Henry Powle (fn. 66) of Williamstrip. The manorial estate was sold to the tenants in small parcels (fn. 67) either by this Henry Powle or by his son of the same name, Speaker of the House of Commons in the Convention Parliament; (fn. 68) the sale of the mill in 1663 (fn. 69) may have been one of many sales.
In the 18th century there were several references to holdings that included one-seventh of the manor. (fn. 70) Most or all of these were probably accumulated in the estate of the Bennett family, which may have descended from the millers of the 16th century (fn. 71) and whose estate was the largest in the parish in the early 19th century. (fn. 72) In 1834 it amounted to half the parish. (fn. 73) In 1856 John Bennett was described as lord of the manor, and so later was his son George (fn. 74) who owned 900 a. out of the 1,475 a. of the parish. The estate had been reduced by 170 a. by 1890; (fn. 75) c. 1910 it passed from George Bennett's trustees to A. McN. S. Moore. Moore sold it c. 1920 to Major C. A. S. Warner, who was held to be lord of the manor and had been living in the manor-house built in 1856 since 1906. (fn. 76) In 1956 the executors of Warner's widow sold the house and some land to Sir Newton Rycroft, Bt., the owner in 1962. (fn. 77)
Nicholas Basset granted to the nuns of Godstow, c. 1139, one hide of land at Little Rissington, and this estate was enlarged by subsequent grants. (fn. 78) By 1291 the abbey had 5½ yardlands, and in 1292, though it was recorded incorrectly or not at all in the return of 1291, (fn. 79) a rent of £10 a year from the Burnells' manor. (fn. 80) In 1535 the estate comprised the £10 rent and a farm; apparently without the rent, it was granted in 1542, as the manor and farm of LITTLE RISSINGTON, to Richard Andrews and Leonard Chamberlayne who sold it the same year to Thomas Wenman, who had been bailiff for the estate in 1535. (fn. 81) Wenman died holding the manor in 1577; his son and heir Richard (fn. 82) was dealing with it in 1596. (fn. 83) In 1604 it was bought from Paul Garway and his wife Alice by Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset, (fn. 84) whose grandson Richard Sackville, Earl of Dorset, sold the manor with four yardlands to Thomas Wyncote of Kingham (Oxon.) in 1619. (fn. 85) Since 1535 the estate had been occupied by members of the Truby family: in that year William Truby had acquired a 54-year lease, (fn. 86) and in 1609 a life tenure was held by Thomas Truby and his son John. (fn. 87) In 1620 John Truby bought the freehold from Thomas Wyncote. (fn. 88)
John Truby was succeeded in or before 1634 by his son Giles, (fn. 89) who in 1649 added another four yardlands to the estate by purchase from Thomas Slaughter of Upper Slaughter, (fn. 90) whose family had owned land in Little Rissington since the 14th century. (fn. 91) Giles Truby's son, another Giles, in 1664 settled some land on Edward Truby, uncle of Giles Truby (d. c. 1731), brother of John (fl. 1750), father of William. (fn. 92) William Truby and his son William held a manor of Little Rissington in 1797, (fn. 93) and other members of the Truby family continued to farm in Little Rissington until the 1870's, (fn. 94) though their relationship and the amount of land they owned is not known.
The reduction in the value of Little Rissington from £10 in 1066 to £8 in 1086, together with the fact that ten hides supported only nine ploughs, suggests some decline in agriculture there at that period. Four of the ploughs were on the demesne, the other five being shared between 12 villani and 2 bordars. (fn. 95) In 1276 the demesne was three plough-lands; (fn. 96) the reduction may be accounted for by the grants of land to Godstow Abbey. Between 1292 and 1316 the demesne arable appears to have shrunk from 288 a. to 140 a., but the difference may result from computing all the arable land in 1292 and only the half that had been ploughed in 1316. The demesne then also included several pasture and several meadow. (fn. 97)
A reference in the early 13th century to one named tenant and the bondmen of Little Rissington (fn. 98) suggests that there was only one free tenant on the manor. In 1276 the rents of the freeholds were worth more than the rents and services from the 6½ hides held in villeinage; (fn. 99) in 1316 there were eight free tenants, (fn. 100) and there is a record of a freehold estate of one yardland in the same period. (fn. 101) There were 22 customary tenants in 1316, each holding one yardland and owing for it 6s. rent, 28 works, and 6 bedrips; there were also two cottagers. (fn. 102)
At some time before 1542, and probably much earlier, the demesne was divided into parcels held by the tenants and known as berridales: in 1542 a tenant held at will (and not by copy) three yardlands and a berridale. (fn. 103) Later in the 16th century John Fettiplace, the lord of the manor, tried to enter upon some of the berridales on the assumption that they were demesne, not customary land. In 1587 the tenants brought an action against him, maintaining that all the land in the manor was customary land demised by copy for one, two, or three lives in possession or in reversion (what had happened to the freeholds held of the manor is not clear), and that some of the land happened to be called berridale land but was nevertheless ancient customary land. Fettiplace admitted that he had been mistaken, and judgement was entered for the tenants. (fn. 104) It is clear, however, that there had been demesne land in Little Rissington, no matter how far back in the past, and unless it was that land that was distinguished as berridale land it is impossible to understand why the distinction should have been made, and particularly why the name berridale, used in nearby parishes for a parcel of demesne, (fn. 105) should have been used. In size a berridale may have equalled a yardland, for the commoning rights reach of were the same. (fn. 106)
In the 16th century the copyholders were probably paying heriots in kind: the best beast was due as a heriot for the tenant at will mentioned above (fn. 107) and for the copyholder of one yardland in Little Rissington (fn. 108) held of Bruern Abbey's estate in Great Rissington. (fn. 109) Copyhold was extinguished in the mid-17th century when the manor was split up as mentioned above. Fourteen tenants had sued the lord of the manor in 1587, (fn. 110) and 13 owners of land are distinguished in a glebe terrier of 1680. (fn. 111) Most of the estates were small, the largest being that of the Kench family: William Kench was churchwarden in 1566 (fn. 112) and was the first of the plaintiffs of 1587; (fn. 113) Robert Kench lived in the largest house in the village in 1672; (fn. 114) Richard Kench owned four yardlands and two berridales in 1683; (fn. 115) and his grandson Thomas received at inclosure in 1727 an allotment second in size only to the rector's. (fn. 116)
Before inclosure the arable land was divided in two by the road running through the village, and on both the 'north side of the town' and the 'south side of the town' the lower field and the hill land were differentiated. (fn. 117) This quartering of the parish, the most natural arrangement, can be seen in a grant of land of c. 1200, where two fields are mentioned: in each field part of the land is identified as on the hill, and in one field the remainder is clearly low-lying. (fn. 118) In 1292 half the land lay fallow each year. (fn. 119) Until inclosure the land of each estate lay scattered in small parcels: the two yardlands of glebe, for example, contained 82 half-acres, quarter-acres, and butts of arable land lying in 74 parcels. (fn. 120) The yardland is likely to have been c. 20 statute acres (in the late 13th century 3 plough-lands, or 12 yardlands, apparently contained 288 a.), (fn. 121) and most of the strips of arable were described as half-acres or fardels (quarter-acres). (fn. 122)
The parish contained much meadow-land in the Middle Ages, held until inclosure partly in severalty (fn. 123) and partly as lot meadow. (fn. 124) The largest piece of several meadow, the 28 a. of Temple Ham lying between the two arms of the Dikler north of Rissington Bridge, had been granted to the Templars of Temple Guiting by 1264, (fn. 125) and passed with other property of theirs to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. (fn. 126) Some of the land in the east of the parish, beyond the crest of the ridge, is likely to have been rough pasture before inclosure, and there was a beastcommon on the far side of the church from the village. (fn. 127) Although shepherds were named in 1327 (fn. 128) and 1624, (fn. 129) and although there were up to 40 sheep-commons to each yardland in the 17th century, (fn. 130) sheep-farming was perhaps of less importance in Little Rissington than in most neighbouring parishes. In 1535 the value of the tithes of corn and hay amounted to more than half the rector's income and was more than twice that of the tithes of wool and lambs. (fn. 131)
Under an agreement of 1726 (fn. 132) 1,376 a. of Little Rissington, including c. 40 a. of old inclosures, were allotted for inclosure in 1727. Apart from the 242 a. allotted to the rector and the 221 a. to Thomas Kench, nine people received between 55 and 135 a., and seven received between 7 a. and 32 a. (fn. 133) The absence of any smaller allotments is unusual.
The effects of inclosure are difficult to assess because of the lack of 18th-century records. That a large part of the former arable fields were not ploughed after inclosure is suggested by the amount of ridge and furrow visible in 1962. In the early 19th century a large part of the parish was meadow or permanent pasture: the return of 1801, giving 430 a. (one-third of the parish) as under crops, with high proportions of oats and peas and a low proportion of barley, (fn. 134) may be an underestimate, but it is to some extent confirmed by other evidence. In 1788, for example, only a little over half the Trubys' 90 a. estate was arable, (fn. 135) and on the glebe in 1819 there was 100 a. of grass to 74 a. of arable. (fn. 136) In 1834 the grass-land and pasture of the parish was estimated at c. 700 a., the arable at under 600 a.; improvements were then being attempted through clay-draining and breast-ploughing, and while there was said to be too much labour available in the parish, agricultural wages were relatively high. (fn. 137) From the middle of the century the quantity and richness of the meadow-land was thought worthy of note, (fn. 138) and by 1886 the amount of arable had contracted: less than a third of the 900 a. of the largest estate was arable. (fn. 139) Up to the Second World War grass-land accounted for more than half the parish (fn. 140) and the proportion was about the same in 1962. Most of the farming was then dairying and beefraising.
The number of farms had shrunk to six a hundred years after inclosure, (fn. 141) and apart from the Bennetts there were only five landowners, owning between 100 a. and 200 a. (fn. 142) While the Bennetts' land in the parish increased the number of farms also grew and had reached 11 by 1897. The number of farms had by 1939 fallen to seven, none of them large and only three over 150 a.; (fn. 143) the position was much the same in 1962. (fn. 144)
The only non-agricultural trades recorded in Little Rissington before the 19th century are those of tailor (1608), carpenter (1608 (fn. 145) and 1640–54), (fn. 146) and maltster (1779); (fn. 147) a member of the Truby family, John (d. 1742), was a surgeon and apothecary, but though buried at Little Rissington (fn. 148) he is not known to have practised there. In the early 19th century one family in seven was supported mainly by trade or manufacture. (fn. 149) In the late 19th century occupations included smith, wheelwright, carpenter, plumber, tailor, shoemaker, and shopkeeper. Only the shopkeepers are recorded in the 20th century, when the less usual callings of music-teacher, skindealer, dog-breeder, and water-cress grower were also followed in the village. (fn. 150) After 1937 employment for the inhabitants was readily available on the airfield.
Mills and Fishery.
Two mills (possibly two wheels in one building) were recorded in Little Rissington in 1086. (fn. 151) In or before 1133 Nicholas Basset gave two mills there to Elstow nunnery (Beds.). (fn. 152) They may have reverted to the lords of the manor, for the only mill recorded thereafter was the water-mill held with the manor by the Burnells, which was mentioned as belonging to the manor in 1279, (fn. 153) 1292, 1294, (fn. 154) and 1316; in 1316 it was let at farm. (fn. 155) Millers are mentioned in 1327, (fn. 156) 1381, (fn. 157) 1437, 1548, 1550, (fn. 158) and 1608; (fn. 159) at the last three dates the miller was a member of the Bennett family. In 1665, two years after its sale by the lord of the manor, (fn. 160) the mill was called Bennett's Mill, (fn. 161) and Bennetts were millers in 1706 and 1755. (fn. 162) The mill, still used as a corn mill in 1881, (fn. 163) was known as Rissington Mill from the early 19th century. (fn. 164) By 1886 milling may have been of secondary importance, for the mill house was called Mill Farm; (fn. 165) only the house and farm buildings survived in 1962.
The manorial estate evidently included a fishery, perhaps attached to the mill, for in 1731 eight separate owners of the fishery, including the rector and people who are known to have owned oneseventh shares of the manor, resigned their rights in the fishery for 10 years to Sir John Dutton of Sherborne so that the fishing might be improved. (fn. 166)
Leet jurisdiction in Little Rissington belonged to the honor of Wallingford, of which the vill formed part. In 1292 it was said that Edmund Earl of Cornwall (in right of the honor) held view of frankpledge at Little Rissington once a year. (fn. 167) The court continued to be held there yearly (fn. 168) until 1716 or later and was also the frankpledge court for Turkdean; records of the court survive for 1422, 1437, 1520, 1536, 1539, 1542–3, 1545, 1547–8, 1550, 1661, 1664–5, 1669, (fn. 169) and 1715– 16, with a list of constables 1676–1716. (fn. 170) The only manor court rolls known to survive are those for the spring and autumn courts of 1542, (fn. 171) when the manor was in the Crown's hand by purchase from the Duke of Norfolk.
No records of parochial government are known to survive from before the mid-19th century. Of the parish officers, there were two churchwardens in the 16th and 17th centuries (fn. 172) but only one in 1851; (fn. 173) for their failure to elect a surveyor of highways the inhabitants were amerced in the frankpledge court in 1661. (fn. 174) In the early 19th century the parish relieved a high proportion of the population, but expenditure on the poor, after a sharp rise in the last quarter of the 18th century, remained fairly constant at a level lower than that in several parishes no larger than Little Rissington; the ownership by the parish of 11 cottages occupied by paupers may have helped to keep the level low. (fn. 175)
The parish became part of the Stow-on-the-Wold Poor Law Union under the Act of 1834, (fn. 176) of the Stow-on-the-Wold highway district in 1863, (fn. 177) and of the Stow-on-the-Wold Rural Sanitary District in 1872 (being transferred to the newly formed North Cotswold Rural District in 1935). (fn. 178) A parish council was established in 1895; it was dissolved in 1907 (fn. 179) but re-established in 1949. (fn. 180) The council has unusually large financial resources because the airfield contributes to the parish rate. (fn. 181)
Little Rissington church was among those granted by Ralph Basset, the justiciar, to his son Ralph, a clerk of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and was confirmed to Oseney Abbey in 1151. (fn. 182) Demesne tithes were granted to Oseney c. 1139. (fn. 183) In 1231 the church was served by a vicar, assisted by a chaplain, (fn. 184) but the church was not permanently appropriated to the abbey and later incumbents were rectors. In 1270 the Bishop of Worcester confirmed an arrangement between the abbey and the Rector of Little Rissington (then recently presented by the abbey) by which the rector was to pay to the abbey in respect of two-thirds of all tithes (not merely demesne tithes) a pension of 5 marks, (fn. 185) which was later reduced to £1 a year free of all charges. (fn. 186) The abbey continued to present the rectors until the Dissolution, (fn. 187) when the patronage passed to the Crown. The Crown remained patron in 1962. (fn. 188) In mid-16th century presentations were made by the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, (fn. 189) but the Crown was named as patron from 1584. (fn. 190)
The value of the living was £7 gross (including the pension to Oseney Abbey) in 1291, (fn. 191) and £10 net in 1535. (fn. 192) It rose to £95 in 1650, (fn. 193) £190 in 1743, and over £300 in 1856. (fn. 194) In 1535 tithes produced ten times the income from the two yardlands of glebe. (fn. 195) Some of the tithes of meadow were exchanged for parcels of meadow before 1705, (fn. 196) and at inclosure in 1727 the rector received 66 a. for glebe and 176 a. for tithes, together making the largest estate in the parish. (fn. 197) Some of this estate was alienated, perhaps to meet the cost of inclosing, for by 1819 the glebe amounted to only 175 a. (fn. 198) The glebe house, recorded as comprising seven bays of building in 1680, and in 1819 as having been lately enlarged and thoroughly repaired, (fn. 199) was further altered in the 19th century and sold as a private house (Little Rissington House) in the early 20th. (fn. 200)
Two of the medieval rectors held the living for unusually long periods, John Louches from 1387 to 1429, and Richard Hopkins from 1429 to 1471. (fn. 201) The fewness of institutions to Little Rissington discovered in the bishops' registers may indicate that their predecessors did likewise. In 1498 the rector appears to have been non-resident, and the curate was suspended and barred from the diocese because he was keeping a woman in the rector's house. (fn. 202) Of the four 16th-century rectors, Edward Derby (instituted in 1499) was non-resident, (fn. 203) Edmund Caterall (1543–c. 1569) was found to be unlearned and superstitious and held Wick Rissington in plurality, (fn. 204) and Robert Minchin (1569–c. 1602), a preacher and holding only one benefice though nonresident in 1576, (fn. 205) was probably a member of a Wick Rissington yeoman family. (fn. 206)
Long incumbencies remained characteristic: four rectors spanned the period 1603–1702, and three the period 1702–1810. (fn. 207) The 18th-century rectors appear to have been absentees (the first of them was Knightly Chetwood, Dean of Gloucester), (fn. 208) and the parish was served by curates. Richard Wilbraham Ford, rector 1811–62, was also Vicar of South Cerney, but he lived in Little Rissington and it was he that enlarged the glebe house. His successor, Robert le Marchant, (fn. 209) remained rector until his death in 1915. (fn. 210) From the Second World War the livings of Little Rissington and Wick Rissington were held jointly, though there was no formal union of the parishes or the benefices. (fn. 211)
The church of ST. PETER is built of rubble with a Cotswold stone roof, and comprises chancel, nave, north aisle, south porch, and north-west tower. An arcade of two 12th-century arches separates the nave and aisle, with cylindrical columns supporting overhanging scalloped capitals. The south doorway has a round arch of three orders with roll moulding supported on two orders of cylindrical shafts, and is presumably of c. 1200. Above the doorway a projecting gable of masonry marks the original line of the porch.
The chancel was rebuilt in the 13th century: the north, south, and east walls have each three lancets, and those of the east wall are graduated and have moulded rear-arches on detached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The north wall has external traces of one or two small doorways. (fn. 212) The south wall has a low side window of a single trefoilheaded light, with an inner lintel of three small round-headed arches. At the east end are an aumbry on the north wall and a trefoil-headed 14th-century piscina on the south. The 13th-century chancel arch has been considerably rebuilt. In the nave a lancet survives at the east end of the south wall, and in the north-east corner are a 15th-century stairdoorway, part of the stairway, and a doorway for a roodloft.
In the 14th century the nave was given two twolight windows, and in the 15th century the short and narrow tower was built at the end of the north aisle. The tower, buttressed on the north-west and embattled, is of two stages, with a two-light louvred opening on each face of the upper stage. The southeast angle of the tower rested on the apex of the western arch of the nave arcade; the arch has been flattened, and to support it there is a slender hexagonal column from which springs the arch between tower and aisle. A bellcot over the east end of the nave has an embattled cornice.
In 1850 the church was restored, (fn. 213) but in 1883 there was another extensive restoration with considerable rebuilding. (fn. 214) The nave was lengthened and extensively restored, and the north aisle rebuilt, apparently much wider than before. At the east end of the aisle was placed a 14th-century sepulchral recess, presumably uncovered in the course of rebuilding.
The church contains a 15th-century font. (fn. 215) There is one bell, by Thomas Rudhall, 1767. (fn. 216) The plate includes a chalice dated 1719, and patens of 1706 and 1804. (fn. 217) The registers are continuous from 1543. Part of the churchyard is set aside for the graves and monuments of people who died while stationed at Little Rissington airfield.
A chapel was started in a Nissen hut on Little Rissington airfield at the beginning of the Second World War, and a permanent building was provided three years later. The chapel is served from Stow-on-the-Wold. (fn. 218)
In 1676 Little Rissington was said to hold 14 nonconformists. (fn. 219) The number was probably much larger: in 1682 42 inhabitants were presented for not receiving the sacrament. (fn. 220) In the earlier 18th century there were 30 or 40 Baptists in the parish, (fn. 221) and the dissenting preacher of Little Rissington who took the oath of allegiance in 1716, John Reynolds, (fn. 222) presumably belonged to the family that was later prominent among the Baptists both there and in neighbouring parishes. In 1779 a house was registered, by Baptists as the signatories' names suggest, (fn. 223) for dissenting worship, and other houses were similarly registered by Baptists in 1812 and 1820. (fn. 224) By 1851 the Baptist chapel, under the superintendence of the minister at Bourton, was used exclusively as a chapel; the average attendance at evening service (there was no morning service) was 38. (fn. 225) The chapel remained open as a branch chapel served from Bourton until c. 1960. (fn. 226)
In 1804 there was said to be a school of industry with eight children. (fn. 227) This may have been the same as the day school with 15 children in 1826, when there was also a Sunday school with 33 children. (fn. 228) A new National school was built in 1840 and received a building grant; (fn. 229) in 1850 the whole expense except for £4 from school pence was met by the rector who paid the salary of the single mistress; (fn. 230) attendance was c. 45, and some of the teaching was done by members of the rector's family. (fn. 231) The school was subsequently endowed by the rector. (fn. 232) Attendance was 28 in 1904, (fn. 233) and had fallen to 15 by 1938. (fn. 234) In 1962, with an attendance of 12, the school retained 'aided' status but there were plans for its closure. A primary school on the airfield was opened by the county council in 1955, and in 1962 had an attendance of 140. (fn. 235)
Six acres of land that remained uninclosed in 1834 for the use of the poor (fn. 236) were represented in 1952 by £100 stock. In 1962 this was administered with the £100 stock given by George Bennett Collier by codicil to his will dated 1850 and the £515 stock given by Mrs. Elizabeth Dobson by will proved 1914, (fn. 237) the combined interest being distributed in gifts of 10s. (fn. 238)