A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1968.
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Oxenton lies 5 miles north of Cheltenham on the west side of Oxenton Hill, a northern outlier of the Cotswolds. The parish was united with the neighbouring parish of Woolstone in 1935. (fn. 1) The ancient parish, to which the account here printed relates, contained 1,113 a., and was compact in shape. (fn. 2)
The western half of the parish is low-lying at c. 100 ft.; to the east there is a steep rise to the flattened northern spur of Oxenton Hill, and beyond that a further steep rise to the summit of the hill. The name of the village originated in the use of the upper hill for an ox-pasture; that area was referred to in the 11th century as 'oxna dunes cnol', (fn. 3) and the Knolls survives as the name of the Iron Age fortification on the summit of the hill. (fn. 4) The Tirle brook flows northwards through the lower part of the parish. Two small springs rise on the hill and flow north and south. The lower part of the parish lies on the Lower Lias; the Oxenton Hill area is on the Middle Lias, with two small areas of the Upper Lias on the south, and is capped by the Inferior Oolite. (fn. 5) Stone was quarried on the hill for roadmending from the 15th to the 19th century, (fn. 6) and a quarry allotment was made at inclosure in 1775. (fn. 7) In the 18th century the limestone was also used to provide fertilizer. (fn. 8) A wood of 33 a. on the hill was mentioned in the 15th century, (fn. 9) but in the 18th century the parish was said to contain little timber, (fn. 10) and in the mid-20th century there were only a few small copses on the hill. The land of the parish has been used mainly for agriculture. Before inclosure the western and low-lying area of the parish and the flattened top of the northern spur of Oxenton Hill lay in open arable fields, and in 1966 the pattern of ridge and furrow was clearly visible in a large part of both areas, which were then almost wholly pasture. The lower and upper slopes of the hill, divided by the flat land of the northern spur, have always been rough pasture. (fn. 11)
The village lies on the right bank of the Tirle brook. It appears to have taken shape round a rectangle of roads, but since 1824 (fn. 12) the road forming the southern side has disappeared. The long northern side, called Silver Street in the 18th century, (fn. 13) has most of the houses. The village has no recognized focus, although one may have existed earlier by the Harrow alehouse (later the Old Millhouse) at the west end of the village, (fn. 14) and perhaps it was there that the pound green mentioned in the late 17th century was situated. (fn. 15) In 1966 the elements of the village remained as they were described in 1779: a church, one or two ordinary farm-houses, and a few cottages. (fn. 16) It seems likely that the grouping of all the cottages in Silver Street on the south side of the street dates from medieval times, as the former manor-house probably occupied the site of Middle Farm, a 19th-century brick building, and had its park and demesne closes extending along the north side of the street. (fn. 17) The other three farm-houses which existed in 1966 also occupied pre-inclosure sites: Hill farm at the east end of the village is a timber-framed 17th-century building partly faced with brick; Lower Farm, mainly faced with brick in the 19th century but with one end of stone, was mentioned in 1775; (fn. 18) and Humphries Farm, a modern brick building to the south of the main street that incorporates some 17th- or 18th-century work, takes its name from an 18th-century Oxenton farmer. (fn. 19) The Old Millhouse on the west of the village, built of stone with a brick upper story, is the only other house of any size. Five cottages are timber-framed, probably of the 17th century; the others are of brick. Three cottages at the west end of the village were rebuilt in brick by the Earl of Ellenborough c. 1845. (fn. 20) Farm buildings are timberframed or brick. The only outlying buildings in the parish, the 19th-century Hill Barn and a cottage, standing by the well on Oxenton Hill, were severely damaged in a gale and remained in ruins in 1966. (fn. 21)
The Cheltenham-Bredon road, running east of the village, was turnpiked in 1755. (fn. 22) A toll-house survives at the former southern boundary of the parish. One of the landmarks on the turnpike was the Oxenton Elm, which by the early 18th century had given its name to the large open field west of the road, (fn. 23) and stood at the junction with the lane running east to Oxenton village. (fn. 24) A road formerly ran west from the junction on the line of the footpath to Claydon Farm in Pamington, and was described as the Oxenton-Tewkesbury road in 1775. (fn. 25) Before the turnpike was built the footpath from the south-west corner of the village to Woolstone is likely to have been part of a through route. The track leading from the village up Oxenton Hill formerly continued east to the quarry allotment near the Knolls. (fn. 26)
Nineteen inhabitants of Oxenton were enumerated in 1086, (fn. 27) and in 1327 24 people were assessed for tax. (fn. 28) There were c. 77 communicants in 1551, (fn. 29) and the figure of 41 communicants in 1603 was probably an underestimate. (fn. 30) The adult population of the village was estimated at 120 in 1676, (fn. 31) but in 1712 the total population was put at the same figure. (fn. 32) The inhabitants numbered 150 in 1801, although apparently the number of houses was smaller than in 1712. (fn. 33) There was a slight rise in population to 178 in 1821, but then a gradual fall to 136 in 1851, and to 91 at the end of the 19th century. The population was 92 when Oxenton was amalgamated with Woolstone in 1935, and in 1961 the combined parishes had a population of 154. (fn. 34)
In the mid-19th century Lord Ellenborough installed a system that brought water to stand-pipes in the village from a spring on Oxenton Hill. (fn. 35)
There was an alehouse in the village in 1543 (fn. 36) and in 1662. (fn. 37) The Harrow alehouse at the Old Millhouse at the west end of the village was mentioned in 1775, (fn. 38) and was in existence until c. 1890. (fn. 39) A malthouse and orchard adjoined the 'Harrow', (fn. 40) where in the 19th century beer and cider were made, (fn. 41) and the owner also ran the mill and bakery. (fn. 42)
For most of its history the life of Oxenton has been based on the four or five larger farms. No lord of the manor was resident after the 13th century and most lords, with large property in other parts of the country, probably took little interest in their Oxenton estate : for a period in the early 16th century the receiver of the manor for one of the Scrope family was able to waste the demesne and oppress the tenants; (fn. 43) and the indifference of the lord of the manor, Edmund Lechmere, was noted in 1736. (fn. 44) Sir John Fastolf (d. 1459), who supported the interests of his tenants against Tewkesbury Abbey and enriched their church with gifts, was perhaps an exception among early lords, (fn. 45) and in the 19th century the improvements which Lord Ellenborough (d. 1871) provided for the villagers included education for their children. (fn. 46)
Oxenton was the scene of a small skirmish in September 1643 when Sir James Ramsey, quartered there with a detachment of the Earl of Essex's army after the seige of Gloucester had been raised, was attacked by royalist cavalry. (fn. 47)
In the mid-15th century Oxenton was visited at least twice by the antiquary, William of Worcester, in his capacity as steward to the lord of the manor, Sir John Fastolf, and a surviving letter written by Worcester in 1456 deals with Oxenton affairs. (fn. 48)
Manors and Other Estates.
In 1066 5 hides at Oxenton belonged to Brictric's manor of Tewkesbury. (fn. 49) The Oxenton estate passed with Tewkesbury manor to the Crown and then presumably to Robert FitzHamon, (fn. 50) who probably granted the chapel at Oxenton to Tewkesbury Abbey. (fn. 51) Godric of Didcot, who sold land in Oxenton to Tewkesbury Abbey some time before 1106, may have been an under-tenant of FitzHamon. (fn. 52) William Trian was described as lord in 1176; (fn. 53) the Oxenton estate still formed part of Tewkesbury manor at that time, and in 1194, on the rebellion of John, who held Tewkesbury manor, it was forfeit to the Crown with his other possessions and was farmed by William de Buketot. (fn. 54) The overlordship later belonged to the de Clares, as lords of Tewkesbury, and on the division of their estates in the 14th century was assigned to Hugh de Audley and his wife Margaret. (fn. 55)
Robert Trian held the manor of OXENTON in the early 13th century, and it passed to his sister Eustachia whose husband, Robert de Neville, took seisin of the manor in 1214. (fn. 56) It may have been Eustachia, or perhaps her daughter of the same name, who later became the wife of Ralph de Hay, and Ralph and Eustachia held the manor from some time before 1232 (fn. 57) to 1246. In 1246 they granted the manor to John de Hay, (fn. 58) who secured a quitclaim of his right from Philip de Neville in 1251. (fn. 59) John de Hay put the manor to farm in 1258, (fn. 60) and in 1287 claimed to have free warren there. (fn. 61) He conveyed the manor to William of Louth, clerk, in 1290, (fn. 62) and William presumably conveyed it to Roger de Mortain and Isabel his wife, who granted Oxenton and other lands, including the manor of Louth (Lincs.), to William Tuchet in 1299. (fn. 63) William was granted free warren in Oxenton in 1300, (fn. 64) and in 1312 granted his right in the manor to Bartholomew de Badlesmere who re-granted it to William. (fn. 65) In 1322 William fought against the king at Boroughbridge and is said to have been hanged at York. (fn. 66) By the terms of William's agreement with Bartholomew de Badlesmere in 1312, Oxenton should have reverted to Bartholomew or his heirs, as William had no heirs. (fn. 67) The manor was forfeit to the Crown, however, because of William's rebellion and was granted to Hugh le Despenser the younger. (fn. 68) In 1327 the Crown held the manor during the minority of Bartholomew de Badlesmere's heir, Giles. (fn. 69) Giles died in 1338 and Oxenton passed to one of his coheirs, his sister Margaret, who married John Tiptot. (fn. 70) John died in 1367 and was succeeded by his son Robert. (fn. 71) On Robert's death in 1372 Oxenton was held in dower by his wife Margaret, (fn. 72) and on her death in 1380 it passed to Millicent, one of the daughters and coheirs of Robert. (fn. 73)
Millicent married Stephen Scrope, whose father, Richard Scrope, had the wardship of Robert Tiptot's heirs and lands. (fn. 74) Stephen died in 1409, (fn. 75) and by the next year Millicent had married Sir John Fastolf, who held Oxenton for his life. (fn. 76) After Fastolf's death in 1459 (fn. 77) the manor reverted to Stephen Scrope, son of Stephen and Millicent, who died c. 1470 leaving his son John in the wardship of John Newburgh and others. (fn. 78) John Newburgh held the manor as guardian until at least 1483, (fn. 79) and John Scrope until his death in 1517. (fn. 80) The manor then passed to successive sons: Richard (d. c. 1572), (fn. 81) George (d. 1604), and John (d. 1645). (fn. 82) John was succeeded by his grandson, also John (d. 1714), (fn. 83) whose son Charles held Oxenton in 1709, in his father's lifetime. (fn. 84) Charles Scrope died in 1714 and next year the manor was sold to Edward Cooke of Highnam, who later conveyed it to Nicholas Lechmere. (fn. 85) Edmund Lechmere held the manor from c. 1729 to c. 1766, (fn. 86) and was succeeded by his son Anthony; Anthony sold the manor some time before 1775 to John Darke of Bredon and John Parsons of Kemerton, who held equal parts at inclosure. (fn. 87) John Parsons's share passed to John Darke between 1794 and 1803, (fn. 88) and the Revd. Richard Darke had succeeded to the manor by 1809. From him it passed in 1831 or 1832 to Edward Shepherd, (fn. 89) and from Shepherd in 1846 to Edward Law, Earl of Ellenborough. (fn. 90) On Ellenborough's death in 1871 (fn. 91) the Oxenton estate passed to Capt. Edward Richmond. (fn. 92) Richmond died in 1891 and the estate passed with his lands at Southam and Prescott to the wife of Col. Edward Noblett. (fn. 93) Mrs. Noblett sold the estate in 1922. (fn. 94) Middle Farm and Lower Farm, two of the three farms which made up the estate, were then bought by the tenants, and the owner of Middle Farm later also bought Hill Farm. (fn. 95)
There was a hall on the manor in 1066, presumably a residence of Brictric, lord of Tewkesbury, (fn. 96) and the chief house of the manor is last mentioned in the late 14th century. (fn. 97) It probably stood on the site of Middle Farm; a close on the north-east of the farm was called the Park in the 18th century, (fn. 98) and the lord's park was mentioned in the 15th century. (fn. 99)
Two small freehold estates were held of the manor of Oxenton in the early 14th century. One, described as 1/8 knight's fee in Oxenton and Ashton under Hill, was held for a cash rent in 1339 by John le Power. (fn. 100) The other, 1/6 knight's fee in Oxenton and Pamington, was held by John le Eyre, (fn. 101) who was living at Oxenton in 1327. (fn. 102) After the death of Giles de Badlesmere in 1338 the overlordship of both estates was held in dower by his wife Elizabeth, and after her death in 1341 passed to Maud, one of Giles's sisters and coheirs, and her husband, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. (fn. 103) John's son, Thomas de Vere, Earl of Oxford (d. 1371), held the overlordship, and Thomas's son, Robert de Vere, seems to have succeeded to it, (fn. 104) but by the late 15th century it had reverted to the lord of Oxenton manor. The estate in Oxenton and Pamington was probably the one held of Oxenton manor by John Cole of Northway in 1472, (fn. 105) and by his son, also John, at his death in 1524. (fn. 106) The Oxenton and Ashton estate was probably that later held of the manor by knight service by the Abingdons. John Abingdon was involved in a dispute with the lord of the manor, Sir John Fastolf, over trespass with his beasts on the several pasture of the demesne in 1453; (fn. 107) a John Abingdon, probably his son, (fn. 108) died c. 1472 and was succeeded by his son, William. (fn. 109) The estate seems to have passed to John Freeman, whose heir held a chief house and 2 yardlands, called Abingdon's Land, in 1550. (fn. 110) Part of Humphries farm was called the Abingdons in 1966. (fn. 111)
One hide in Oxenton was sold to Tewkesbury Abbey in 1106 by Godric of Didcot, (fn. 112) and at the Dissolution the profits of the estate, with the Oxenton tithes, formed part of the income of the abbey's almoner. (fn. 113) In 1545 the Crown sold the estate, usually also known as the manor of OXENTON, (fn. 114) to James Gunter, (fn. 115) who sold it in the same year to William Higford of Dixton. (fn. 116) John Higford, William's son, granted the land in 1553 to John Darke, (fn. 117) who sold it in 1587 to John Powell. (fn. 118) Two years later John Powell sold the estate to William Swaine, (fn. 119) whose nephew William succeeded to it in 1614 (fn. 120) and sold it in 1627 to Sir Thomas Coventry. (fn. 121) Sir Thomas's descendants, the Earls of Coventry, (fn. 122) held it until inclosure in 1775, when it was granted together with Lord Coventry's titheestate to John Darke and John Parsons, the lords of Oxenton manor, in return for an annual rentcharge. (fn. 123) The charge was still being paid in 1966 from the 3 farms which made up the former estate of the main Oxenton manor, (fn. 124) and it is probably as a result that the Earl of Coventry has sometimes been regarded as lord of the whole manor. (fn. 125) Tewkesbury Abbey's manor-house was occupied by the abbey's farmer before the Dissolution, and in 1563 was described as having farm buildings joined to it and the tithe-barn of the abbey standing within its precincts. (fn. 126)
After the Dissolution Crown grants created two main estates in the Oxenton tithes, formerly held by Tewkesbury Abbey. The great tithes of corn and some of the hay tithes together with the abbey's tithe-barn, usually known as the Almoner's Barn, were granted in 1560 to Richard Oakham and Richard Bettenson. (fn. 127) They had passed by 1563 to Daniel Peart, who was involved in that year in a dispute with John Darke, lord of the former Tewkesbury Abbey manor, over access to the barn which adjoined Darke's manor-house. (fn. 128) In 1597 Edward Peart granted the great tithes to John Powell, (fn. 129) and he granted them in 1616 to William Swaine, (fn. 130) lord of the abbey manor. The tithes then passed with that manor, and were held from 1627 by the Coventry family. (fn. 131) In 1680 no composition had been made for the tithes except for land given instead of hay tithes, presumably as the result of a 13th-century agreement between the lord of Oxenton and Tewkesbury Abbey. (fn. 132) At inclosure in 1775 the Earl of Coventry granted his great tithes to the lords of Oxenton manor, John Darke and John Parsons, who received an allotment of c. 180 a. for the great tithes of land then inclosed and rents for the tithes of cottages and ancient closes. (fn. 133)
In 1544 the Crown granted the small tithes of Oxenton, with other possessions formerly of Tewkesbury Abbey, to Thomas Stroud and others, who were licensed the same year to sell them to William Read (fn. 134) (d. 1558), whose son Giles (fn. 135) held them at his death in 1611. (fn. 136) In 1695 Richard Read apparently gave them in trust for the Bredon almshouses, (fn. 137) which at inclosure in 1775 received 16 a. and rents for its small tithes in Oxenton. (fn. 138)
In 1086 there were 12 servi and ancillae on the 5-hide estate at Oxenton belonging to Tewkesbury manor, and the demesne was cultivated with 5 teams. (fn. 139) In the early 14th century the demesne comprised 160 a. of arable and 20 a. of meadow. (fn. 140) In 1380 a several pasture was also mentioned, (fn. 141) probably the 61 a. of pasture on the summit of Oxenton Hill recorded in the 15th century, when the demesne also included 4 other pastures, a wood, and a small park. (fn. 142) In the mid13th century (fn. 143) and early 14th the manor was let at farm, (fn. 144) but during the rest of the 14th century and the early 15th it was kept in the lord's hands and the demesne was managed by his bailiff. (fn. 145) In the mid14th century the demesne was cultivated partly by the labour-services of the customary tenants — in 1346 77 works were used for the hay-harvest and 224 for the corn-harvest — and partly by wagelabourers, including a ploughman, a pigman, and shepherd. (fn. 146) In 1474 over 100 a. of the demesne, described as pennyland, were leased among the tenants of the manor, (fn. 147) and in 1574 7½ yardlands, probably all of the demesne arable, were leased among 8 copyholders. (fn. 148) John Carter, Rector of Alderton, acted as receiver for the lord of the manor, John Scrope, in the early 16th century, and was said to have pulled down buildings and felled trees on the demesne and to have oppressed the tenants. (fn. 149)
There were 2 radknights and 5 villani with 7 teams on the manor in 1086. (fn. 150) Free tenants were mentioned in the early 13th century; (fn. 151) in 1338 the Oxenton free tenants paid a total rent of 54s.; (fn. 152) and in the mid-16th century there were 8 freeholds. (fn. 153) There were 8 yardlanders on the manor in 1338, (fn. 154) and in 1474 7 yardlanders and 3 half-yardlanders. There were also 8 smaller holdings, 4 of them held in conjunction with larger holdings. (fn. 155) In 1574, when there were 9 tenants holding by copy for up to three lives, the average holding was 1½ yardland and most copyholders held 2 houses. The copyhold of Nicholas Barker contained 4 houses and 2½ yardlands and comprised 4 former holdings. (fn. 156) In the 14th and 15th centuries cash heriots were paid for divisions of former holdings. (fn. 157) In the mid-15th century the usual heriot was 2 best beasts, presumably because most tenants had two or more former holdings. (fn. 158) Widows had right of freebench. (fn. 159) The labour-services of some of the customary tenants had been commuted by 1338 for a rent of 16s. 8d. a yardland, and those tenants who still did labour-services were allowed to deduct from that rent ½d. a day, and during August and September 1½d. for each day's work. (fn. 160) By 1474 all labour-services had been commuted; all the yardlanders paid the full 16s. 8d. rent, and the half-yardlanders 8s. 4d. (fn. 161)
At the Dissolution the demesne of the abbey manor comprised 73 a. arable, 8 a. pasture, 7 a. meadow, and common of pasture for 60 sheep and 10 beasts. There were 3 copyhold tenants on the estate, 2 holding c. 6 a. with some meadow and pasture, and one c. 30 a. The demesne and some of the tithes were being farmed by one of the copyholders in 1539. (fn. 162)
In 1338 a three-course rotation of crops was being followed in the parish. (fn. 163) In the 15th century wheat, barley, and pulse were being grown, (fn. 164) which may indicate that the change to a four-course rotation, mentioned later as the practice on the manor, had taken place by then. (fn. 165) At that time the total arable of the main manor was 270 a. lying in 3 large fields, to the north, to the west, and on Oxenton Hill to the east of the village. (fn. 166) By the late 16th century the arable was in 4 fields. (fn. 167) In 1066 there were 24 a. of meadow on the manor, (fn. 168) and in the 15th century the common lot meadow, known as Singlemead, in the north of the parish, contained 32 a. (fn. 169) The upper part of Oxenton Hill, known as the Rotherhill, was used as a common pasture. (fn. 170) There were also leys of pasture in the open fields. (fn. 171) In 1473 the stint on the common pasture of the parish was 60 sheep and 10 draught animals to each yardland. (fn. 172) The right of gathering fuel and cutting furze on two-thirds of the common hill belonged to the free tenants, on the other third to the customary tenants, and one copyhold had a several right on part of the Lower Hill. (fn. 173) Orchards were mentioned in the village in 1558, (fn. 174) and hemp was being grown in 1539. (fn. 175) In the 16th century 2 overseers of the fields were chosen in the manor court. (fn. 176)
In the early 18th century the lord of the manor, Edmund Lechmere, although not resident, retained one farm in his own hands (fn. 177) and purchased additional pasture rights, (fn. 178) but all his land was let on lease in 1759. (fn. 179) In the mid-17th century there were 14 freeholders on the manor, (fn. 180) but in 1764 only five. (fn. 181) In 1661 2 fewer yardlands were held by copyhold than a century earlier, and reversionary grants had been made to the sons of two of the 7 copyholders. Two best beasts was still the usual heriot, although some heriots were commuted; the Barker copyhold, then held by Katherine Barker, a widow, owed 2 best beasts for two of the holdings which it comprised, and a cash heriot of 3s. 7d. for the other two. (fn. 182) Some heriots were apparently being paid in kind as late as 1736, (fn. 183) although most were commuted for 6s. 8d. (fn. 184) In the mid-18th century there were 5 copyholders and 5 tenants at rack-rent on the manor. (fn. 185)
A four-course rotation was being followed in the 18th century, (fn. 186) with wheat, barley and pulse as the main crops. (fn. 187) There were 4 main fields: the largest, Elmfield, lay west of the Cheltenham-Bredon road, with Furzon and Meadow Field north of it; on the east of the road was Northfield, and on Oxenton Hill above the village, Hill field. (fn. 188) Part of Hill field, probably the area which lay along the stream running south to Woolstone, was so steep as to endanger the animals ploughing it. (fn. 189) A proposal in 1736 to change the rotation to two crops and a fallow and use 'the new method of husbandry by clover or turnips' was not put into effect. (fn. 190) The common meadow had increased to 100 a. by 1764. (fn. 191) The hill pasture, estimated at c. 300 a. in 1735, (fn. 192) lay in two separate parts divided by Hill field, the Sheep Hill on the slopes above the village, and the Beast Hill between Hill field and the summit of Oxenton Hill. (fn. 193) The stint on the hill in 1766 was 20 sheep and 2 cows for each yardland. (fn. 194) In the early 18th century the farm formerly held by the Barker family comprised c. 14 a. in each of the 4 fields, 7 a. in the common meadow, 5 cow-pastures on the hill and 5 in the meadow, 3 pasture closes, 50 sheep-commons, and leys of pasture. (fn. 195) In the open fields the usual size of individual strips was c. ½ a. (fn. 196) In the 1720's and 1730's agriculture was still being regulated in the manor court. (fn. 197)
Two proposals for inclosure by private agreement put forward in the 18th century, a scheme in 1736 to inclose the common pasture, and one in 1764 to inclose the whole parish, (fn. 198) were not carried out, possibly because of lack of initiative from the absentee lord of the manor. (fn. 199) The parliamentary inclosure of 1775 affected c. 1,000 a. Almost all the land was allotted to the joint lords of the manor, John Darke and John Parsons, who received c. 420 a. each, including c. 180 a. for the great tithes and c. 100 a. for Lord Coventry's estate. Two other proprietors, the Revd. John Darke and David Graham, received c. 50 a. each, and there were 8 small allotments. (fn. 200)
In 1836 there were 7 farms at Oxenton, (fn. 201) but for most of the 19th century there were 4 main farms, Middle, Lower, Hill, and Humphries. (fn. 202) Inclosure brought little change in the crops grown; in 1801, when 225 a. of arable land were recorded, half was growing wheat, and the rest divided among barley and peas and beans, with only 2 a. of potatoes. (fn. 203) Sheep remained a factor in the economy of the parish: in 1806 one farm had a flock of 179. (fn. 204) There was a rise in the arable acreage during the 19th century: in 1873 the two largest farms, Middle and Upper, had c. 250 a. arable out of a total combined acreage of 625, (fn. 205) and in 1901 there were 313 a. arable land in the parish. (fn. 206) In 1927, however, Middle and Upper Farms had only 88 a. arable out of a combined acreage of 520, and most of the former open fields in the south of the parish were pasture. (fn. 207) In 1966 most of the parish was still pasture, mainly devoted to sheep and to cattle-rearing. There were about 8 fields growing wheat and oats.
No earlier mention has been found of the cornmill at Oxenton marked on a map of 1824. (fn. 208) It was situated on the Tirle brook at the west end of the village street and in 1836 shared its site with a malthouse and the Harrow alehouse. (fn. 209) In 1894 the miller was also a baker and kept the alehouse. (fn. 210) The mill seems to have ceased working soon after 1900, (fn. 211) and the building was later pulled down and the mill pool filled in. The outflow of the mill on the northern side of the street was used until the mid-20th century as a sheep-wash. (fn. 212)
Trade surnames of villagers recorded in 1327 included smith, spicer, and tailor. (fn. 213) In 1608 two shoemakers were the only people recorded in nonagricultural occupations, (fn. 214) and there was a shoemaker in the village in 1679. (fn. 215) In 1811 only 3 families, probably those of a carpenter, a blacksmith, and a mason, were supported by trades whereas 29 depended upon agriculture. (fn. 216) Two carpenters were mentioned in the early 18th century, (fn. 217) and there was a carpenter's shop in 1873. (fn. 218) Three blacksmiths of the same family worked in the village between c 1739 and 1788, (fn. 219) and the blacksmith's shop mentioned in 1872 (fn. 220) was probably that which still stood in 1966 on the bend of the main street at the west of the village. In the early 20th century a blacksmith from outside the village visited the shop about once a fortnight. (fn. 221) Two Oxenton masons recorded as doing small repairs to the church, David Peart in the late 18th century, (fn. 222) and John Peart in the mid-19th century, (fn. 223) probably belonged to a family of masons of the same name at Kemerton. (fn. 224) In 1966, apart from the farmers and one or two labourers, the inhabitants comprised some retired people and about 12 people who worked outside the village. (fn. 225)
Court rolls for Oxenton manor survive for 1472–3 (fn. 226) and 1514, (fn. 227) for several years in the period 1554–1679, (fn. 228) and for some in the period 1729–36. (fn. 229) Two courts a year were held in the 14th and 15th centuries, and one during the earlier 16th century; (fn. 230) later they were less regular, (fn. 231) but in the early 18th century there was again one a year. (fn. 232) Manor courts were held until at least 1762, (fn. 233) and continued to regulate agriculture. (fn. 234) Frankpledge jurisdiction was exercised by the Tewkesbury hundred court in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, (fn. 235) and in the 18th century a common fine of 8s. 2d. was paid by the manor to Tewkesbury Borough Corporation. (fn. 236) In the 1720's and 1730's Edmund Lechmere, the lord of the manor, held a court leet for Oxenton in conjunction with the manor court, (fn. 237) but his right to do so was questioned. (fn. 238) A constable and tithingman for Oxenton were elected in the Tewkesbury hundred court in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, (fn. 239) and in the early 18th century in Edmund Lechmere's court leet at Oxenton. (fn. 240) The constable in 1598 was said to have extorted extra money for parish assessments from the men of Oxenton. (fn. 241) The office survived until at least 1871. (fn. 242)
There were two churchwardens from the 16th century. (fn. 243) Members of the Hobbs family held the office for considerable periods between the late 16th and early 19th centuries. (fn. 244) Churchwardens' accounts survive from 1785. (fn. 245) In 1831 they included an account for repairing the stocks. (fn. 246)
Overseers' accounts survive from 1788 to 1836. Among other forms of relief, help was given with the payment of rent and the repair of houses, and some paupers were provided with tools with which to carry on a trade. On two occasions spinning-wheels were bought for village women. There were also some houses belonging to the parish, which were used in 1788 as dwellings for the poor. Relief was supplemented between 1809 and 1830 by an annual gift of 6 tons of coal from the lord of the manor, the Revd. Richard Darke. (fn. 247) An agreement in 1772 of terms for the admission of some of the Oxenton poor to Winchcombe workhouse was probably never put into effect, and if it was had lapsed by 1788, (fn. 248) and a contract of 1788 made with a weaver of Upton upon Severn for the complete management for a year of all the poor was not executed. (fn. 249) Oxenton shared in the usual rise in the cost of poor relief from c. 1790, but after reaching a peak in 1801 expenditure decreased steadily. (fn. 250) In 1835 Oxenton became part of the Tewkesbury Union, (fn. 251) but in the 1840's and 1850's small payments — for the cost of a burial, for rents, and for the provision of a bed — were still being made by the Oxenton churchwardens. (fn. 252)
Records of the surveyors of the highways survive from 1821 to c. 1850. (fn. 253)
Oxenton chapel was included among grants to Tewkesbury Abbey by Robert FitzHamon (d. 1107) and others, which were confirmed c. 1145. (fn. 254) The chapel was possibly founded by FitzHamon for his Oxenton tenants, and later granted by him to the abbey. Oxenton remained a chapel of ease to Tewkesbury until the Dissolution; the chapel was probably served by priests specially appointed rather than by abbey priests in general, for the parish priests mentioned in 1317, 1363, and 1456 were described as parson or rector of the parish. (fn. 255) After the Dissolution perpetual curates were appointed by the holder of the great tithes, (fn. 256) and when Lord Coventry granted the tithes away in 1775 he retained the right of nomination. (fn. 257) In 1928 the living of Oxenton was united with the rectory of Woolstone, the parishes remaining distinct. (fn. 258)
About 1220 an agreement was made between the Abbot of Tewkesbury and the lord of Oxenton manor, Ralph de Hay, about the carriage of the tithes of the manor to the abbey's tithe barn there, and a piece of meadow land was given to the abbey in exchange for tithes of hay. (fn. 259) In 1456 a dispute about the payment of tithes was in progress between the almoner of the abbey, to whose office the tithes were assigned, and the men of Oxenton supported by their lord, Sir John Fastolf. (fn. 260) The parson of the time seems to have angered Sir John and his tenants, presumably by taking the abbey's side in the dispute, and his attitude dissuaded Fastolf from making Oxenton church the gift of a new cope. (fn. 261) In the late Middle Ages the tithes were farmed by a tenant of Tewkesbury Abbey's manor. (fn. 262)
In 1540 the tithes were being farmed and the salary of a curate paid by Edward Tyndale, (fn. 263) and in 1544 by Richard Freeman. (fn. 264) When the great tithes were granted by the Crown in 1560, they were charged with £6 for the curate's salary. (fn. 265) The £6 was still being paid out of the tithe estate in the 19th century, (fn. 266) but the value of the living was augmented in 1746 by Queen Anne's Bounty, (fn. 267) and by 1807 a small farm of c. 15 a. in Tirley and other land in Pendock (Worcs.) had been purchased. (fn. 268) In 1851 the income of the benefice was £84. (fn. 269) In 1680 it was said that there had once been a large priest's house at Oxenton, but the curate was then living in a house of one bay built at the cost of the parish on land that belonged to Lord Coventry. (fn. 270) In the early 19th century there was said to be no house for the curate. (fn. 271)
Sixteenth-century perpetual curates of Oxenton seem to have been mainly satisfactory, although none stayed for more than a few years, probably because of the poverty of the benefice. (fn. 272) The curate in 1584 was a pluralist, and was rebuked for failing to wear a surplice and neglecting to instruct the young. (fn. 273) The curate in 1650 was described as a reading minister. (fn. 274) All incumbents after 1690 appear to have been nonresident and usually held other cures, although most resided within a few miles of Oxenton — in 1690 at Woolstone, (fn. 275) in 1784 at Great Washbourne, (fn. 276) and in 1826 at Alderton. (fn. 277) An exception was J. A. Perry in 1812 who held a curacy in London. (fn. 278) From 1855 the living was held with the rectory of Woolstone, and the two incumbents between that date and 1906 were members of the family of the patron, Lord Coventry. (fn. 279) There was also a stipendiary curate from the late 18th century, but in 1814 he also lived outside the parish holding the perpetual curacy of Great Washbourne, (fn. 280) and in 1906 the stipendiary curate lived at Bishop's Cleeve. (fn. 281) When the living fell vacant in 1906 the parishioners of Oxenton petitioned unsuccessfully that the stipendiary curate, A. B. Macfarlane, should be appointed. (fn. 282) In the 18th century services were usually held at Oxenton once a fortnight and once a month in winter; on other Sundays the parishioners went to Woolstone church. (fn. 283)
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST (fn. 284) comprises nave, chancel, north aisle, west tower, and south porch. A splayed window-opening in the south wall of the nave is possibly a survival of the fabric of the Norman chapel which formerly occupied the site. (fn. 285) There is some 13th-century work, including a piscina with a cusped head in the south-east of the nave, but the rest of the fabric dates mainly from the 14th and 15th centuries.
The chancel is elevated and there is no chancel arch; chancel and nave are covered by the same tie-beam roof. Over the chancel the roof has the original timbers and is arch-braced and supported on stone angel-corbels of the 15th century; over the nave the roof was much restored in the 19th and early 20th centuries. (fn. 286) The tower is embattled in 15th-century style with crocketed pinnacles at each corner, and has windows with ogee-heads at the belfry stage. The tower stands inside the west end of the nave, supported on three arches. The north aisle, which has a separate ridged roof, was probably added in the 14th century and has windows and a north doorway of that period. The mausoleum of Lord Ellenborough (d. 1871) stands against the north wall of the aisle. The arcade dividing the aisle from the nave consists of three double-chamfered arches; the arches have round heads, which indicates a 12th-century or earlier date, but the absence of capitals and the fact that the orders of the arches are carried down to the foot of the piers has led to the suggestion that the arcade is 15th- or early 16thcentury. (fn. 287) The windows of the church are mainly 14th-century but a south window in the chancel is in 15th-century style. The east window of the aisle contains fragments of medieval glass, and its west window has 19th-century glass given by Lord Ellenborough. (fn. 288)
The 16th-century pulpit and chancel partition are of wood with linen-fold panelling. A different linen-fold design decorates the choir stalls, which are of roughly the same date. Some of the pews in the nave are possibly 15th-century or earlier, and the font is 14th-century. The carved oak altar-table is Elizabethan. There was formerly an open fireplace, later blocked up, in the north wall of the chancel, (fn. 289) and its chimney remains against the outer wall; the purchase of coal for the church is a frequent entry in the 19th-century churchwardens' accounts. (fn. 290) In the chancel are two pieces of wood carving, probably of the 15th century, one of the Resurrection, the other of the Virgin and St. Anne. They were presumably a gift to the church in the late 19th or early 20th century. (fn. 291) Before the Reformation the church had an alabaster reredos depicting its patron saint, which was bought by the parishioners in the mid-15th century with the help of the lord of the manor, Sir John Fastolf. (fn. 292) The walls of the church were formerly covered with paintings of which considerable traces remain. They were mostly of the 17th and 18th centuries and included at the west end three representations of the favourite 'wheel of life' subject of that period; one to the south of the west window is fairly well preserved. Traces also remain of texts in strapwork frames, and, on the south wall of the nave and around the north doorway, medieval subjects and decoration. (fn. 293)
The church was repaired by the patron, Lord Coventry, c. 1850, (fn. 294) and in 1905 a thorough restoration, promoted by the stipendiary curate of the time, was carried out with funds raised by public subscription. (fn. 295) In 1966 an organ was installed. The tower contains two bells both dated 1765, one cast by T. Rudhall; (fn. 296) one hangs in an opening in the south wall of the tower and was apparently formerly rung by an outside rope. (fn. 297) The plate includes a 17thcentury paten and an 18th-century chalice and flagon. (fn. 298) The registers begin in 1679, but have a considerable gap in the mid-18th century.
Twelve Protestant nonconformists were recorded at Oxenton in 1676, (fn. 299) and c. 1718 a congregation of 40 Seventh-Day Baptists, under one of the Pursers of Ashchurch, (fn. 300) was meeting in the village. (fn. 301) In the mid-18th century, however, the native Baptist community numbered only ten. (fn. 302) In the 1820's there were said to be no nonconformists in the parish, (fn. 303) but in 1851 a cottage was being used for dissenting worship, (fn. 304) and in 1865 a chapel was built at Oxenton and served from Highbury Congregational church, Cheltenham. (fn. 305) In the 1870's the community met with opposition from the incumbent, who tried to dissuade children from attending the chapel. (fn. 306) The chapel, which stood on the south of the village street near the school, (fn. 307) continued to be used for a weekly service until c. 1911, but later fell into decay and was demolished. (fn. 308)
A Sunday school was begun at Oxenton in 1830, and in 1833 had an attendance of 32. (fn. 309) A day school was founded c. 1847 (fn. 310) by the Earl of Ellenborough, and moved to a new building in 1862. (fn. 311) The school, supported by contributions and school pence, (fn. 312) was visited regularly by the local clergy. (fn. 313) The average attendance in 1876 was 24, (fn. 314) and 29 in 1907. (fn. 315) The school was closed in 1929 (fn. 316) when only c. 12 children were attending, and the building became the village hall. (fn. 317)
Mary Coventry (d. 1890) by will proved 1891 gave £700 stock for bread, beef, and coal for the poor of Oxenton and Woolstone. The charity, regulated by a scheme of 1906, (fn. 318) yielded £24 in 1964; the distribution of bread ceased in that year, as had the distribution of beef during the Second World War, so that the money was spent on coal, mainly for the inhabitants of Oxenton. (fn. 319)