A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.
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The parish of Westcote lies on the eastern edge of the county, four miles south-east of Stow-on-the-Wold and six miles north of Burford (Oxon.), its eastern boundary coinciding with the county boundary with Oxfordshire. The parish, which is 1,547 a. (fn. 1) in area, is roughly triangular in shape. On the north the boundary is formed by the Westcote brook and on the east by a stream which joins the brook at the north-east corner of the parish. Small streams intersect the parish. Westcote lies on high ground, sloping down steeply from 700 ft. at Westcote Hill in the southwest to the brook in the north at 400 ft.
The south-west part of the parish is largely on the Inferior Oolite, with small areas of Upper Lias and Chipping Norton Limestone; (fn. 2) narrow belts of the Upper and Middle Lias run through the parish east of the village, and the north-east part is on the Lower Lias. (fn. 3) The land has long been used mainly for mixed arable and sheep-farming with extensive sheeppastures on Westcote Hill and the open fields, which partially survived in 1960, lying east of the road from Stow to Burford. (fn. 4) A few quarries, long disused in 1960, could be seen in the parish. Gawcombe Woods, which cover about 50 a. in the north-west corner, may represent the wood of Combe for which licence to impark was granted in 1246. (fn. 5) In the 20th century a small part of the parish formed part of Little Rissington airfield.
In the earliest records the area forming Westcote parish was called Icomb (fn. 6) and later Combe (fn. 7) or, more commonly from the 13th century, Combe Baskerville. (fn. 8) By 1212 the name Westcote seems to have been used, (fn. 9) perhaps for the village rather than the parish, and the name Combe Westcote also was used from the late 13th century. (fn. 10) It was not until the 16th century that the whole parish was certainly called simply Westcote. (fn. 11)
It has been suggested that the earliest settlement in the parish was in the area known as Gawcombe, where the manor-house of the Baskerville family was thought to have been, (fn. 12) and c. 1700 it was said that the foundations of several houses could be seen in Gawcombe Wood. (fn. 13) If there was a village at Gawcombe it is possible that in the early 13th century there were two separate villages in the parish, which may account for the two names Combe Baskerville and Westcote in use at that time, but the settlement at Gawcombe had perhaps disappeared by 1246 when the wood was imparked. (fn. 14) Gawcombe House, built in the 17th century, probably replaced an older house. (fn. 15) Three cottages had been built at Gawcombe by 1857, (fn. 16) and apart from the big house there were six cottages, a lodge, and a bailiff's house there in the 20th century.
The architectural evidence of the church suggests that Westcote village, south-east of Gawcombe on the springline of the Upper Lias, was the main centre of habitation by the 13th century. (fn. 17) The village developed in two parts at each end of the common pasture called Tatwell, (fn. 18) which lies on the minor road from Idbury (Oxon.) to Stow; from the 15th century the two parts were regarded as separate entities (fn. 19) called Westcote, or Over or Church Westcote, and Nether Westcote, which from the 19th century was also known as Chapel Westcote. Church Westcote developed in a triangular formation from the church at the south-east corner which touched Tatwell pasture, part of which remained open land in 1960 when it was known as Tatwell Green or the Tattle. Several houses, including a few large farm-houses, were built in the 17th century and considerable building took place in the 19th century, when the number of houses in the whole village, which had not altered significantly between 1672 (fn. 20) and 1801, doubled. (fn. 21) In the earlier 20th century about six private houses were built in Church Westcote and after the Second World War eight council houses and a shop were built at the south-east end. By 1939 a convent had been established in the village, (fn. 22) belonging to the Church of England Community of Jesus of Nazareth, which is engaged in evangelical work. The convent has a community of about ten whose work is carried on over the whole country. (fn. 23) Hawkwell, a small farmhouse outside Church Westcote on the road to Stow, had been built by the early 19th century. (fn. 24)
A few farm-houses were built in Nether Westcote in the 17th century, but the village may have been very small until the 19th century when a number of houses was built, mainly on one street running downhill in a north-east direction from the Idbury–Stow road. In the early part of the 20th century a few houses were built on the Idbury–Stow road and four houses were built there after the Second World War. In 1960 Nether Westcote included about 15 houses, most of them small. The village stocks, last used about 1840, were on the green at the Nether Westcote end. A well on the green was at one time reputed to be beneficial to the eyes, and people used to come from the neighbouring parishes to use the water. The village washpool, which had been originally on the stream at the foot of Westcote Hill, was also on the green, and was similarly used by other parishes for a small fee. (fn. 25)
The road called Stowway in the 13th century (fn. 26) was probably the road, called the Ridgeway in 1565 (fn. 27) and Burford Way in 1613, (fn. 28) from Stow to Burford, which was turnpiked in 1770. (fn. 29) A few roads and footpaths connecting the village with neighbouring parishes were made by the early 19th century. (fn. 30) Kingham and Stow railway stations are each about three miles from Westcote. The supply of electricity, authorized under an Act of 1927, was available by 1942. (fn. 31) Westcote is well provided with water from the springs around the village, and for a long time the supply came largely from the well on Tatwell Green, (fn. 32) which was disused, however, by 1930. (fn. 33) In 1942 the parish still had no general supply of piped water although there were several separate supplies from springs. (fn. 34)
The number of people mentioned in 1086 in the area which is thought to represent the parish of Westcote was high compared with the number of hides, (fn. 35) and in 1327 both the number of people and the assessment for tax were relatively high (fn. 36) compared with the neighbouring parishes. The 33 taxpayers mentioned in 1381 (fn. 37) suggest a decrease in population during the 14th century. In 1551 there were 56 communicants, (fn. 38) and c. 25 families or households in the mid-17th century; (fn. 39) 140 people were recorded in 1735 and 120 in 1750. (fn. 40) During the earlier 19th century the population almost doubled, from 127 in 1801 to 240 in 1841. From 1871 there was a steady decline; (fn. 41) about that time 31 people from Westcote emigrated to New Zealand. (fn. 42) In the earlier 20th century the population remained constant at a little less than 200, with a slight increase after the Second World War. (fn. 43)
Many of the buildings in Westcote are of stone in the traditional Cotswold style with Cotswold stone roofs, mullioned windows with dripmoulds, and dormers or gables. Several of the larger houses are partly of the 16th and 17th centuries. A few of the buildings have been re-roofed with Welsh slate and some of the barns are of brick.
The largest house in Church Westcote is the Manor, standing in its own grounds on the road to Stow, just outside the main triangle of buildings in the upper hamlet. Tradition associates it with Bruern Abbey, and perhaps it was the tenement belonging to the abbey in 1535. (fn. 44) The house is threestoried, of stone with a Cotswold stone roof. The north-east end is of the 16th or 17th century; the central part was rebuilt in 1722, (fn. 45) and has a garden front of ashlar with sash windows and a central doorway with a coved hood. Extensions were made at the south-west end and at the entrance in the mid-20th century, and alterations included the addition of balustrading brought from Bowood (Wilts.) and an entrance door and doorway brought from Banbury. (fn. 46) In the grounds, some distance from the house, is a building known as the dower house, built in the 16th or 17th century of three stories with a Cotswold stone roof and two gables. The windows have mullions and dripmoulds and leaded lights, and the main doorway has a three-centred arch.
Stayts Farm and the Close, in the north corner of Church Westcote, were built in the late 16th or early 17th century. Standing at an angle to each other and so close together that they give the impression of being one building, they are similar in style, being large Cotswold farm-houses. The Close, behind which extensive outbuildings have been demolished, is said to have been used at one time by a group of weavers. (fn. 47) In the gable-end of the Close is an oven projection and a small window of two pointed lights pierced in a single stone; a similar window is set beside the entrance doorway of the Manor.
Manor Farm at Nether Westcote is a building of ashlar probably dating from the late 18th century; the earlier farm-house, which stands south of it, is of 16th-century origin and retains one window with arched lights and stone mullion, a large stone fireplace, and stop-chamfered ceiling beams.
There is thought to have been a house at Gawcombe since the Middle Ages and c. 1700 it was said that the house had been rebuilt on a slightly different site, (fn. 48) probably by Benjamin Baron. (fn. 49) Gawcombe House was rebuilt c. 1850, incorporating an L-shaped part of the 17th-century house and also a wing which may have been built in the 18th century, the windows having segmental heads. Some of the farm buildings survive from the 17th century.
Westcote parish is unusual in retaining some vestiges of the open fields in the mid-20th century. The village claims that a group of highwaymen, who had their headquarters in Gawcombe Woods, were the last men to be hanged for that offence in England. (fn. 50)
Manor and Other Estates.
It has been suggested (fn. 51) that the lands in Icomb held by Ralph de Tony in 1086 (fn. 52) represent the manor known at different times as COMBE, COMBE BASKERVILLE, and WESTCOTE. In 1086 the lands were held by an under-tenant called Roger. (fn. 53) No later evidence of the overlordship of the Tony family has been found. In 1392 it was said that the manor was held of the heir of W. of Ferrers (fn. 54) and in the 15th century of the Abbess of Syon. (fn. 55)
By the early 12th century the manor was held by the Baskerville family (fn. 56) of Eardisley (Herefs.) from which time it was usually called Combe Baskerville until the family sold it in the 16th century. At that time the manor included the whole of the parish. (fn. 57) Walter Baskerville held Combe before 1216 in which year his wife held part of it in dower. (fn. 58) Another Walter Baskerville held Combe in 1246 (fn. 59) and in 1265 when it was forfeited to Roger of Clifford. (fn. 60) Walter's lands were restored to him in 1278, (fn. 61) and Walter seems to have been dead by 1303 when Sir Richard Baskerville, (fn. 62) perhaps Walter's brother, held the advowson. The manor had passed to Walter's daughter Sibyl (fn. 63) by 1316. (fn. 64) In 1348 Sir Richard Baskerville conveyed the manor of Combe Baskerville to his son, also Richard, (fn. 65) from whom it passed to his son Richard in 1392. (fn. 66) Sir John Baskerville held the manor in 1455 when he conveyed it to his son James (d. 1499). (fn. 67) The manor then passed successively to James's son Sir Walter (d. 1507), to Walter's son James, (fn. 68) and in 1535 to James's son James, (fn. 69) who sold it in 1546 to William Sheldon (fn. 70) of Beoley (Worcs.).
From that period deeds usually refer to the manors of Combe Baskerville, Over Westcote, and Nether Westcote as though there were three separate manors. The manor passed from William Sheldon (d. 1570) to his son Ralph (d. 1613) and then to Ralph's son Edward (d. 1643). (fn. 71) Edward Sheldon's sons William and Edward jointly held Westcote until 1650 when it was sequestered, (fn. 72) but by 1654 it had been restored to the Sheldon family. (fn. 73) The manor was held jointly from 1658 by William's sons Ralph and George, (fn. 74) who sold off a large part of it in the late 17th century. (fn. 75) The greater part of the Sheldon family's estate in Westcote had been bought by Benjamin Baron (who was living in Westcote in 1661) by 1676, (fn. 76) and thereafter manorial rights were only occasionally associated with it. Benjamin Baron's estate passed in 1693 to his son-in-law Thomas Littleton, at one time Speaker of the House of Commons. (fn. 77) In 1715 the estate was bought by John Snell, and by 1746, when it was known as Westcote farm or sometimes as Gawcombe, it was owned by John Snell's son Powell Snell of Guiting Grange. (fn. 78) Powell Snell's son, also Powell, owned the estate in 1810, and by 1831 it had been bought by the Revd. Reginald Winniat. (fn. 79) When the Gawcombe estate was for sale in 1857 the reputed manor of Combe Baskerville was associated with it, (fn. 80) but any claim to manorial rights had lapsed by the late 19th century. Gawcombe Estate was owned by the Nicholls family from the 1880's to c. 1935. (fn. 81) It was later owned by Col. E. B. Studd, who sold it in 1960 to Mr. C. M. Fitzgerald. (fn. 82)
Manorial rights were associated with another estate in Westcote from 1690 probably because the advowson, which had previously descended with the manor, was bought with the estate. In 1690 this estate was bought by Thomas Owen, Rector of Westcote, (fn. 83) and may have passed with the advowson to Abigail Turville and Mrs. Ann Simmons successively. (fn. 84) From 1750 the estate was owned in turn by Thomas Williams (fn. 85) and Thomas Brooks, (fn. 86) both rectors of Westcote, and in 1818 it was bought by W. Pantin, from whom it had passed by 1823 to Thomas Pindar Pantin, later Rector of Westcote. An inquiry was made by Pantin in 1823 about the strength of his title to manorial rights, (fn. 87) and no later evidence has been found of the alleged manorial status of his estate.
In the early 12th century Bernard de Baskerville, on becoming a monk at Gloucester Abbey, endowed it with a hide in Combe Baskerville. (fn. 88) The grant was confirmed by later members of the Baskerville family, by King Stephen and Henry II, and by Archbishop Theobald; (fn. 89) but by 1535 the abbey had apparently lost the land. Similarly 1½ hide granted to the Knights Templar by Henry Husee (fn. 90) has not been traced at a later date. Bruern Abbey had acquired a tenement in Westcote by the 16th century when it was leased to Thomas Smith. (fn. 91) It was granted to Edmund Powell in 1544. (fn. 92)
The 10-hide estate in Westcote in 1086, valued at £6, included 10 ploughs, 3 in demesne and 7 held by 12 villani and 2 bordars. The demesne included 8 servi. (fn. 96)
In 1220 there were said to be seven ploughs in demesne in Combe, (fn. 97) and by 1246 the demesne of the Baskerville manor included an area of woodland. (fn. 98) The demesne had perhaps decreased by 1534 when customary tenants claimed common pasture in two closes which were formerly part of the demesne. (fn. 99) The demesne included two meadows called the Great Leasow and the Great Meadow and sheeppasture called Combe Pasture in the 16th century. (fn. 100) The demesne arable in the open fields was probably inclosed in the mid-16th century when the open fields were divided; (fn. 101) and Combe Baskerville hedge probably marked the boundary of the demesne. (fn. 102)
The number of people who paid tax in 1327 suggests a comparatively large number of tenants (fn. 103) of whom one at least was a free tenant, (fn. 104) and of 33 people taxed in 1381 (fn. 105) most were presumably tenants of the Baskerville manor. In 1534 the manor included at least nine customary tenants, (fn. 106) who were perhaps enfranchised after the division of c. 1565 though some continued to owe the service of carrying hay, apparently the only customary service surviving at that date, until the early 17th century. (fn. 107) Of the tenants taking part in the division of the open fields only one appears to have been a free tenant before 1565. (fn. 108) In the 14th century most tenants probably had small holdings, though a few, including the free tenant, evidently had larger ones. (fn. 109) At least two of the tenants in 1565 had a yardland (fn. 110) and the free tenant had a larger holding. (fn. 111)
No direct reference to the open fields in Westcote before the 16th century has been found, but it seems that the arable land lay in two fields called at a later date the West field and the Nether field, or West hill and Nether hill; (fn. 112) the latter was also called South hill. (fn. 113) The land called Tatwell between the two hamlets included arable land in the 16th century, (fn. 114) and Westcote Hill was common pasture. (fn. 115) The fields were divided into furlongs, (fn. 116) and a yardland apparently included c. 21 field-acres. (fn. 117) It was suggested in the 17th century that the lord of the manor had inclosed the demesne in the 16th century against the wishes of the tenants, (fn. 118) and it may have been soon after, c. 1565, that the division of the open fields among the tenants took place. At least eight tenants received land lying in both fields, and it seems likely that the whole of the arable land in the fields was divided at this time. (fn. 119) Some tenants received one piece of land, but most had several small parcels, (fn. 120) and although it was ordered that the land so divided should be inclosed by the tenants (fn. 121) the division seems to have resulted in a consolidation of land in the open fields rather than a real inclosure of them. A large part of the land which had been part of the open fields was inclosed after the 16th century division, but in the 19th century two small open fields survived. (fn. 122)
Until the 16th century the land was probably largely arable. In 1565, if one holding is typical, the proportion of pasture on Westcote Hill to arable land was c. 4½ a. to a yardland, (fn. 123) and in the 17th century the usual stint was 30 sheep to a yardland. (fn. 124) As a result of the process of inclosure following the division of land in the 16th century there was probably an increase in sheep-farming. Two shepherds were recorded in the parish in 1608. (fn. 125) Closes of land which had been part of the open fields had become pasture in the 17th century, and some estates had more pasture than arable land. A piece of pasture called Wheat Ground in 1682 suggests a change from arable to pasture. (fn. 126) In 1779 it was said that the parish was largely meadow and pasture, (fn. 127) but in 1801 more than half the parish was recorded as being sown, mainly with barley, wheat, oats, and turnips, (fn. 128) and in 1803 it was said that the parish was largely arable. (fn. 129)
In the 1820's the landowners in Westcote wished to inclose the remaining open land privately, (fn. 130) but in 1840 430 a. of arable land was open, lying mainly between the Idbury-Stow and Stow-Burford roads, all the land north of the village being inclosed. The two fields called Church Westcote and Nether Westcote fields, each divided into three furlongs, were roughly the same size. Strips in the fields varied from c. ½ a. to 10 a., but most were more than 1 a. (fn. 131) A yardland consisted of 6 a. in 1823. (fn. 132) The parish included 254 a. of common pasture in 1840, (fn. 133) on Westcote Hill and Tatwell Green, and the proportion of sheep-pastures to a yardland was 16 about that time. (fn. 134) In 1842 Westcote Hill was inclosed and put under cultivation following an agreement between the lord of the manor and six of the principal landowners. (fn. 135) In 1905 part of the open fields remained uninclosed and were said to be farmed in the traditional way. (fn. 136) The strips of land, divided by grass banks, were described as allotments in 1922, (fn. 137) and it may have been as a result of a demand for small holdings in Westcote in 1895 (fn. 138) that they became allotments. In 1960 the strips could still be seen though only a few were small holdings, the others having been bought by the larger farmers. (fn. 139)
The demesne was divided in the later 17th century, when the Sheldon family sold the manor, and Gawcombe Wood was separated from it. (fn. 140) The greater part of the demesne, later called Westcote farm, comprised in 1661 13 closes mainly of meadow and pasture, (fn. 141) and by the mid-19th century, when it was called the Gawcombe Estate, it was 482 a. including Gawcombe Wood, (fn. 142) which had probably been bought in 1845. The estate was 571 a. in 1960. (fn. 143)
In the late 18th century 18 people were holding land in Westcote (fn. 144) (apart from the Gawcombe Estate), and in 1840 18 farms were owned by 13 people. (fn. 145) From the late 19th century the number of farms was usually about eight (fn. 146) and in 1960 the parish included five farms. No evidence of customary tenure has been found later than the early 17th century, and c. 1700 it was said that most of the land had been sold off to freeholders. (fn. 147) In 1672 three people seem to have had substantial holdings, (fn. 148) and the number was the same in 1775. (fn. 149) One farm was more than 200 a. in 1840, four were c. 100 a. and the others were smaller. (fn. 150) Only one farm was recorded as more than 150 a. in 1935; (fn. 151) of the five farms in 1960 one was c. 270 a. and four were c. 100 a., and the parish included a few small holdings. (fn. 152)
About a third of the parish was arable in 1840 and the rest was largely sheep-pasture. (fn. 153) Although the inclosure of Westcote Hill in 1842 represented an increase in arable farming, (fn. 154) sheep-rearing continued to be the more important form of farming during the 19th century. In 1935 the north part of the parish was almost entirely pasture, except for Gawcombe Wood and a small area of arable around Gawcombe House, and south of the village the land was mixed arable and pasture. (fn. 155) In 1960 the land was used for mixed arable and sheep-farming.
Westcote had a weaver and a tailor in 1608, (fn. 156) and a clothier in 1682. (fn. 157) A small weaving industry may have been carried on in the parish at one time, as is suggested by the tradition that one of the houses in the village was occupied by a group of weavers. In 1831 seven families were mainly occupied in trade or industry compared with 28 occupied in agriculture. (fn. 158) The village had a number of small tradesmen and craftsmen in the late 19th century, including a shoemaker, a carpenter, a tailor, a baker, and two shopkeepers. An inn, opened in Nether Westcote by 1870, (fn. 159) was the only one in the village in 1960. A post office was open in Church Westcote by 1906 (fn. 160) but there was no shop there from the early 20th century until the 1950's. (fn. 161) The limekiln, blacksmith's shop, and carpenter's shop on the Gawcombe Estate provided employment in the latter half of the 19th century. (fn. 162) There was a mason in Westcote in 1870 (fn. 163) and a few small quarries in the parish in use in 1882 had closed by 1922. (fn. 164) By 1960 about half the population were employed other than in agriculture, a number of people working at Little Rissington Airfield and in factories away from the parish.
Churchwardens' and overseers' accounts for 1739 onwards, which survived in the early 1950's, could not be traced in 1960. The vestry apparently had a paid clerk from 1769. (fn. 165) In 1803 there were 9 people regularly receiving poor relief and 4 occasionally. (fn. 166) There seems to have been a parish poor-house in the early 19th century, (fn. 167) and there was a large increase in expenditure on poor relief, from £37 to £81 a year, between 1825 and 1834. (fn. 168) Westcote became part of the Stow-on-the-Wold Poor Law Union under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, and part of the Stow-on-the-Wold Rural Sanitary District under the Local Government Act of 1874. In 1935 it was transferred to the North Cotswold Rural District. (fn. 169) In 1960 the parish meeting had not met for some years. (fn. 170)
It is suggested that there was a church at Gawcombe before the 13th century (fn. 171) and that during the 13th century the parish had two churches, at Gawcombe and in Westcote village. (fn. 172) The earliest documentary evidence of a church is in 1268 when the Rector of 'Combe' (i.e. Westcote) was licensed to be absent from his cure. (fn. 173) Although that rector held the living until 1302 or 1303, (fn. 174) in 1286 a chaplain was inducted to the chapel of Combe Baskerville, (fn. 175) which may have been a chapel at Gawcombe for the Baskerville family. No later evidence of a chapel has been found. The benefice of Westcote has remained a rectory throughout its recorded history.
In 1303 the advowson of Westcote belonged to Sir Richard Baskerville, (fn. 176) and the Baskerville family still owned it in 1455 when Sir John granted it to his son James. (fn. 177) The advowson was conveyed with the manor to William Sheldon in 1547, (fn. 178) but in 1567 a member of the Baskerville family presented, (fn. 179) and there is no evidence of presentation by members of the Sheldon family, possibly because most of them were Roman Catholics. In the late 16th century the queen was said to be the patron. William Copie presented in 1672. (fn. 180) The advowson seems to have passed to the Rector of Westcote in 1690 when he bought the so-called manorial estate, (fn. 181) and may have been the main object of his purchase. After 1690 the advowson descended with that estate, and consequently belonged to the rectors during the late 18th and most of the 19th centuries. (fn. 182) In 1898 Miss Nicholls of Gawcombe acquired the advowson, (fn. 183) and by 1935 it had passed to the Bishop of Gloucester, (fn. 184) who was the patron in 1960. (fn. 185)
The church was taxed at a clear annual value of £5 6s. 8d. in 1291. (fn. 186) By 1535 the clear value was £9 7s. 2d., (fn. 187) and in 1650 the living was valued at £87 a year. (fn. 188) The rector apparently had all the tithes in 1535 (fn. 189) but by 1676 it was claimed that the demesne was tithe-free, the rector having a close of demesne land instead. (fn. 190) One other farm was tithe-free in 1840 when the tithes were commuted for a corn-rent of £200. (fn. 191) The rector's glebe, which was described as four selions in 1362, (fn. 192) included 20 a. arable and 6 a. pasture in 1535. (fn. 193) In the 17th and 18th centuries the rector had a house, two yardlands, and 60 sheepcommons, (fn. 194) and in 1840 the glebe was 48 a. (fn. 195) By 1851 the value of the rectory had risen to £230. (fn. 196) The glebe in 1939 was c. 65 a., but in the next 20 years most of it was purchased for the airfield at Little Rissington and in 1960 the few acres still owned by the rector (except the house and garden) were leased to the airfield authorities. (fn. 197)
Several of the medieval rectors were absentees. In 1268 and again in 1278 the rector was licensed to be absent to study, (fn. 198) and in the 14th century too there were similar licences. (fn. 199) In 1539 Dr. Edward Baskerville, the last warden of the Franciscans at Oxford, became rector. (fn. 200) He was non-resident, the church being served by a curate. (fn. 201) Baskerville seems to have been deprived of the living in 1559, but by 1562 was again rector. (fn. 202) The curate's knowledge of doctrine was found to be satisfactory on the whole in 1551. (fn. 203) The next rector, Richard Baskerville, was also nonresident and was excommunicated in 1572. At this time complaint was made that the church and chancel needed repair, (fn. 204) and there was a sermon only once a year. (fn. 205)
There were only two rectors in Westcote from 1630 to 1719; Edward Loggin, (fn. 206) who held the living for 42 years, seems to have been a member of a family owning land in the parish; his incumbency was apparently uninterrupted by the Interregnum and Restoration. Thomas Owen (fn. 207) was rector from 1672 to 1719. (fn. 208) The incumbents were mainly non-resident during the 18th century. (fn. 209) John Davis, rector 171942, was also Rector of Drayton (Oxon.). (fn. 210) In the late 18th century the curates serving the parish usually lived at Shipton-under-Wychwood (Oxon.). (fn. 211) From 1828 to 1866 Thomas Pindar Pantin, the theological writer, was rector. (fn. 212) He seems to have lived in Westcote for part of this time at least; from 1849 his nephew, John Wiclif Pantin, was curate, (fn. 213) and was later rector. (fn. 214) By 1960 the congregation amounted to 20 or 30 people. Two services were held on Sundays. (fn. 215)
The suggestion that the earliest church in Westcote was at Gawcombe and that it was rebuilt at Church Westcote from the old materials in the 13th century (fn. 216) is based mainly on the discovery in the wall of Gawcombe Farm, before the middle of the 19th century, of a stone bearing carved figures of c. 1300 which appears to be the base of a cross. (fn. 217) The stone was moved to the churchyard, where it stood in 1960. The church of ST. MARY in Church Westcote, a stone building comprising chancel with north vestry, nave, and tower, was almost entirely rebuilt from 1876 onwards. The former building had a chancel and nave built in the 13th century (fn. 218) and a tower added in the 15th century. (fn. 219) An ancient carved head was incorporated into the rebuilt church, at the north-west corner of the roof. The chancel and vestry were rebuilt in the late 18th century. (fn. 220)
The chancel was again rebuilt in 1876 and the nave in 1886, both in the style of the 13th century though with little attempt, apparently, to reproduce the features of the old building. (fn. 221) In the north wall of the nave are a 14th- and a 15th-century window, either restored or copied, and a blocked 15th-century doorway. The new nave was built to a height that made the tower, rebuilt a few years later, look unduly short. The chancel was again altered in 1913, when the choir stalls were moved and the chancel panelled. (fn. 222) The tower rebuilt in the late 19th century, allegedly as a careful replica of the earlier one, (fn. 223) is in three stages with battlements; it has two reset narrow lights in the lower stages and reset two-light louvred windows on each face of the top stage. The tower arch survives from the 15th century.
The present church has no pre-19th-century monuments; the one in the chancel commemorating Benjamin Baron (d. 1690) (fn. 224) had gone by 1908. (fn. 225) The 15th-century font has an octagonal moulded bowl and a plain octagonal stem.
Three of the bells are dated 1706, 1614, and 1662 respectively, and the sanctus bell (fn. 226) is said to have been cast by Thomas Hey in the mid-14th century. (fn. 227) The church plate is of the 19th century. (fn. 228) The parish registers begin in 1630, and have a gap in the register of marriages from 1739 to 1758.
At the beginning of the 19th century a small group of Protestant dissenters in Westcote was using a building called the Malthouse for worship. (fn. 229) A small stone chapel was built in Nether Westcote in 1852 for a Wesleyan Methodist community. (fn. 230) In 1960 the chapel, which belonged to the Chipping Norton circuit, had a congregation of about four; services were held on Sunday evenings. (fn. 231)
In 1819 it was reported that there was no educational endowment and no adequate means of education for the poor. (fn. 232) By 1835 two day schools were financed by the parents, and a Sunday school was supported by the rector and the inhabitants. (fn. 233) A National school was established by 1871, (fn. 234) and in 1876 a new National school was opened in a school room built a few years earlier. The fees were 2d. for the first child and 1d. for others, and the average attendance, at this time, was about 35. (fn. 235) The school, which had one mistress, received a grant from 1877; (fn. 236) the average attendance in 1938 was 25 and the school had only one department. (fn. 237) Shortly after the Second World War the school was closed, partly owing to difficulty in obtaining a permanent teacher, as there was no living accommodation attached to the school. Afterwards the children attended schools in Stow and Bourton-on-the-Water. (fn. 238)