A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.
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Great and Little Bourton
Bourton chapelry (1,681 a.) lay in the south-west of Cropredy parish between the River Cherwell on the east and the Hanwell Brook, which for a short distance is the county boundary, on the west; the boundaries with Cropredy on the north and Hardwick on the south were partly artificial. (fn. 1) The boundary of Bourton in 1552 ran from a spring called Arbwell (probably the spring on the modern parish boundary with Cropredy, north of Great Bourton village) to the bridge called Sowbridge (i.e. where the lane from Great Bourton to Cropredy crosses the Sow Brook on the modern parish boundary), then by a hedge called tenseclose to the Cherwell, along the Cherwell to Hardwell (Hardwick) hedge, along the hedge to Hardwick gate (at the top of Hardwick Hill on the Southam road), then to Hanwell gate (at the south-west corner of Bourton, on Hanwell Brook), then along Hanwell Brook to Hills hedge, eastward along the hedge to 'Coventry way' (i.e. the Southam road) and so back to Arbwell. (fn. 2) The bounds correspond closely with Bourton's boundaries in the late 19th century, when the Bourtons came to be regarded as a civil parish; the ancient chapelry became an ecclesiastical parish in 1872. (fn. 3) In 1932 the parish was reduced to 1,578 acres when a projecting portion to the south, containing Little Bourton House and Hardwickhill House, was taken into Banbury borough. At the same time Bourton was designated the official name of the parish. (fn. 4)
A well-marked ridge runs through Bourton from north to south. Various parts of the ridge were known by different names: Catbrainhill and Blakemorehill towards the north, and Stonehill, Hawkhill, and Lousehill further south. (fn. 5) Other similar names were Cockmorehill, Beanhill, and Fullowhill. (fn. 6) The high ground lies on the Middle Lias, and the land in the valleys lies on Lower Lias.
Along the ridge runs the Banbury-Southam road; (fn. 7) the two settlements of Great and Little Bourton stand on the ridge to the east of the road. A road running east and west through Great Bourton (not necessarily the present lane to Cropredy) was called Stoney or Stanwell lane in 1700; (fn. 8) lanes at the north-east and north-west corners of Great Bourton village were called Crockle lane and Og lane in the 19th century. (fn. 9) The lane connecting Great and Little Bourton was called Foxton or Foxden Way from 1697 onwards, (fn. 10) and connects with Mill lane, which runs eastwards past Littlegood and Pewet Farms to the site of Slat Mill; the mill once lay beyond Pewet Farm between the canal and the river. (fn. 11) A side road, running westwards from the Southam road towards Hanwell, was called Hanwell Way in 1703. (fn. 12) The chapelry was crossed from north to south by the Oxford canal and Banbury-Birmingham railway. (fn. 13)
For the poll tax of 1377 121 Bourton inhabitants were assessed, 81 from Great Bourton. (fn. 14) The chapelry probably remained the third most populous of the ancient divisions of Cropredy, although no reliable figures are available before the 19th century. (fn. 15) In 1801 the population was 433; (fn. 16) according to estimates by the Vicar of Cropredy in 1808 there were 61 families in Great Bourton and 31 in Little Bourton. (fn. 17) The population rose, especially in the period 1821–31 when the percentage increase was 28, to a peak of 593 in 1841. Thereafter there was a slow decline (although the effects of the agricultural depression were less notable here than elsewhere in the district) to 406 in 1911. In 1961 the population was 392. (fn. 18)
Great Bourton stands at the north end of the chapelry on high ground between the 400 and 500 ft. contours; to the east of the village the land falls sharply into the Cherwell valley. The water supply came from wells and springs, and there is no stream nearby. (fn. 19) The place-name— tun by a burh'—first occurs between 1209 and 1212, and Great Bourton in 1265. (fn. 20) The predominant building materials in the village were once ironstone and thatch; many of the older buildings have been repaired or added to in brick and blue slate, and few thatched roofs remain. The church occupies a central position in the village, and its tall 19th-century belfry and vaulted gateway dominate the village street. Most of the old houses lie along the south side of Cropredy Lane and on the cul-de-sac running northwards from that lane at the western entrance to the village. The Manor House, an old house but not known to have been a manor-house, stands to the west of the cul-de-sac, and is a two storied, L-shaped building in ashlar with the date 'H.T.M. 1685' (probably for Thomas and Mary Hall or Hitchman) (fn. 21) over the door. The house is a late and well-built example of the regional two-unit plan, extended, probably in the early 18th century, by the addition of a wing with kitchen quarters. The house stands on a moulded plinth, its doorway is dignified by a moulded architrave and a broken pediment, there is a newel stair from cellar to attics in a rectangular projection between the hall and parlour, and there are good mullioned windows on all elevations. (fn. 22)
Parallel to the lane, opposite the Manor House, is Friar's Cottage, a two-storied ironstone house bearing the inscription 'P.W.M. 1685' (possibly for William and Martha Plant). (fn. 23) This house also is built on the two-unit plan, but of a more advanced type with a centrally placed entrance; there is a flat splay five-light mullioned window to the hall, and a fine doorway with rectangular head, moulded architrave, and a label with diamond-shaped stops. (fn. 24) A third house of similar type and date is Spittel's Farm at the opposite end of the village. It too is built on the two-unit plan, with central entrance, and good stone dressings to windows and doorway; its original studded oak door survives. There is a kitchen extension on the east, which bears the date 'W.J. 1787' (for William Jeffs). (fn. 25) The descent of the farm attached to the house suggests that it, or its predecessor, was the residence of John or Thomas Gill, who were assessed respectively on four and two hearths for the tax of 1665. (fn. 26) Crock well Farm is also a 17th-century house, built of ironstone on a similar plan, and there are several other 17th- and 18th-century houses in the village. The most interesting of the smaller houses is Boddington's Cottage, which stands apart from the rest of the village, and is an unpretentious single-cell house of two and a half stories, with a very steeply pitched thatched roof; the entrance is on the lateral wall close to the chimney, and on the opposite wall is a thatched projection incorporating a newel stair and a large bread-oven; there is a four-light stone mullioned window to the hall. The house is not likely to have been built earlier than c. 1690. (fn. 27) Bourton House, which stands on the west bank of the Oxford Canal, facing Cropredy mill, bears the date 'W.H. 1831'. It is a three-storied red brick structure, and belonged to the Hadland family from 1831 until 1931, when J. W. Hadland sold it to Brig. B. N. Sergison-Brooke, who sold it in 1947 to Major E. L. Donner. (fn. 28)
There are several outlying farm-houses built after the inclosure of the open fields. Glebe Farm was built for the glebe land in Bourton belonging to the living of Cropredy; Littlegood Farm took its name from a former furlong. (fn. 29)
Little Bourton hamlet lies about a mile to the south of Great Bourton and straggles eastward from the Southam road towards the railway line. The core of the village lies between 400 and 425 ft., close to the spring line; in addition to springs, water was available from a number of wells. (fn. 30) As in Great Bourton the predominant building materials were ironstone and thatch, the latter usually replaced by blue slate. Most of the older houses are grouped together on both sides of a lane running eastwards, but Old Manor Farm stands alone to the north-east of the main group. It is probably a 17th-century house in origin with a later wing; nothing has been found to connect it conclusively with Little Bourton manor. It is a two-storied house of ironstone rubble with slate roofs; the east range has casement windows, the west range sash windows and an elaborate stone moulded doorway with a four-centered head, moulded hood, and spandrels. On the north side of the lane is an L-shaped farm-house of which the south wing was the original, probably 17th-century, house; it contains a number of threelight stone mullioned windows. At the end of the lane running towards the railway is another 17thcentury farm-house, which is a good illustration of the development of the regional two-unit plan in the late 17th century: it has a central doorway on the south side, a fireplace on each end wall and a staircase projecting from the north wall opposite the door; another staircase beside the western fire-place may be part of the original plan. There are two four-light stone mullioned windows. (fn. 31)
In the late 18th century there were two inns in Great Bourton and two in Little Bourton. (fn. 32) One of the latter survives as the 'Plough' and is still called, as it was from at least 1778, the 'Dirt House'. (fn. 33) An unsuccessful attempt is recorded to remove a corpse, possibly murdered, from a bedroom there in 1804. (fn. 34) The Bourton inclosure commissioners met there on one occasion, although their other local meetings were held at the 'Brazen Nose' in Cropredy. (fn. 35) The Great Bourton inns were the 'Bell' and the 'Red Lion'; the former was thatched until burnt down and rebuilt in the 1920s. (fn. 36) The 'Red Lion' became in 1782 the 'Royal Oak' and then from 1794 the 'Swan'. A third Great Bourton inn, the 'Greyhound', is mentioned in 1817. (fn. 37)
Great Bourton chapel was desecrated at the Reformation and was not revived until the mid 19th century, so that Bourton was more dependent than the other chapelries on Cropredy, sharing in the upkeep of its church, in some of its charities, and (after violent opposition from many Bourton people) in a joint National school. The absence of a church encouraged the growth of nonconformity in the Bourtons and it was in response that the chapel was revived. The Bourtons were rather poor villages in the Middle Ages, and were often described as such later, although there is some evidence to the contrary: certainly for much of its history the chapelry's leading figures have been small farmers paying rents to non-resident landlords.
Manors and other Estates.
In 1086 Bourton was part of the Bishop of Lincoln's Cropredy manor, (fn. 38) but its hidage is unknown. In 1279 no episcopal demesne was reported, (fn. 39) but in 1316 the bishop was returned as lord of BOURTON. (fn. 40) The Bourtons were among the places where the bishop alleged breach of free warren in 1333, (fn. 41) and in 1540–I his temporalities there were worth nearly £19. (fn. 42) From 1547 the episcopal manor in Bourton is followed the descent of Cropredy (fn. 43) and was surrendered to the Crown in exchange by the Duke of Northumberland in 1551: at that time there were two free and fifteen customary tenants. (fn. 44) In the late 16th century the demesne manor was broken up and manorial rights lapsed. (fn. 45)
GREAT BOURTON manor derived from the holding of Maud Wake, who in 1201 held 3 fees of the see of Lincoln; she was the Maud de Bussei who in 1209–13 held 1½ fee in Shutford (in Swalcliffe) and Bourton. (fn. 46) Her successors the Vipont family, descendants of her sister Cecily, held 1 fee in Bourton c. 1225. (fn. 47) The fee passed from the Viponts to the Mowbrays: in 1397 Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, was holding a manor ('Sagesfee') in Great Bourton as of Vipont, (fn. 48) as did his son John, Lord Nottingham, in 1419, (fn. 49) and the latter's son John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk in 1460. (fn. 50) No further reference to the mesne lordship has been found.
The fee was held of the Viponts and Mowbrays in two moieties. In 1279 one moiety was held by John Kachelewe, whose family also held Mollington, and the other by the assigns of William Hall (de la Sale, de Aula). (fn. 51) These moieties were held in 1346 by Elena 'Gasselow' (sic) and Robert Hall respectively. (fn. 52) The Hall moiety passed to the Danvers family, and was held in 1428 by John Danvers and in 1552 by George Danvers. (fn. 53) The Kachelewe moiety passed to the Raleigh family: in 1397 Thomas Raleigh died seised of 'Sagesfee', (fn. 54) and subsequent lords were his son Thomas (d. 1404), Thomas's son William (d. 1419), another William (d. 1460), and Simon (fl. 1552). (fn. 55) Simon Raleigh's rights came to Nicholas and then to Mathew Plant, descendants of Thomas Plant, one of the bishop's copyholders in 1552. (fn. 56) William Plant sold off part of 2½ yardlands in 1697, and more land before 1713. (fn. 57) Later the estate was held by William's son Thomas, citizen, merchant, and cooper of London (d. 1728), who was followed by his surviving child Anna Maria Plant (d. 1742). Her coheirs were Thomas Plant Hemmings, Mrs. Priscilla Allet, Mrs. Alice Warner, and Mrs. Mary Stockley, who in 1768 agreed to sell to William Prowett. Hemmings and Thomas Plant Stockley conveyed their quarters to Prowett in 1771, (fn. 58) and a Private Act of 1777 authorized the sale of the shares of Priscilla Allet and the four children of Alice Warner, deceased. (fn. 59) The estate is first described as the manor (or manors) of GREAT AND LITTLE BOURTON in 1770 and 1771.
William Prowett, then a grocer of Holborn, had already acquired land in Bourton in 1763 on the death of his brother John, who had bought his Bourton land from the Checkley and Hall families. (fn. 60) William (d. 1794) appears as lord of the manor in 1792, his relict Elizabeth (d. 1825) in 1795 and 1799, and their son, the Revd. John Prowett (d. 1851), in 1827. (fn. 61) The latter's surviving son, N. H. E. Prowett, late of the Bengal Civil Service, had a rental of £264 in Bourton in 1876, (fn. 62) and had described himself as lord of the manor in 1866. (fn. 63) A small portion of the estate was eventually added to the Brasenose College estate in Cropredy. (fn. 64)
LITTLE BOURTON manor appears to have derived from the ¾ fee held in Bourton of the see of Lincoln by Robert of Chacombe in 1209–13. (fn. 65) His holding is mentioned c. 1225, and was held in 1279 by his descendant Nicholas of Seagrave, who was said to hold in Little Bourton specifically. (fn. 66) Nicholas's son, John of Seagrave, held the fee in 1300; John died in 1325 and his son Stephen died in possession of the manor two months later. (fn. 67) No later record of the mesne tenancy has been found.
The mesne tenants of both the Chacombes and Seagraves were members of the Danvers family from Auvers in the Cotentin, (fn. 68) whose fortunes originated in kinship and service to Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln. Simon Danvers is the first of the family known to have held land in Bourton, though an ancestor Robert witnessed a grant of the advowson of the nearby Aston-le-Walls (Northants.) before 1222. (fn. 69) Simon is recorded as a tenant of Bourton land in 1272 (fn. 70) and Robert Danvers was holding the Seagrave manor in 1279. (fn. 71) Another Simon Danvers of Bourton occurs from 1316 to 1333 (fn. 72) and held the Seagrave manor or a part of it as ¼ fee in 1325. (fn. 73) John Danvers of Bourton occurs in 1339 (fn. 74) and held the ¾ fee in 1346; (fn. 75) his son Richard held land in Little Bourton in 1369 (fn. 76) and his grandson John held part of the fee in 1428. This John, son of Richard Danvers, also held a moiety of the former Vipont manor in Great Bourton. Part of his grandfather's fee, however, had been alienated, for in 1428 the priors of Chacombe and Clattercote held lands in Little Bourton which were said to have been held by William (rectius John) Danvers. (fn. 77)
It was presumably the same Little Bourton manor with which William Fisher and his wife Anne dealt in 1510, (fn. 78) but no connexion has been established between the families of Danvers and Fisher, or of Fisher and Mathewe, who apparently held the manor in 1565. (fn. 79) In that year William Mathewe, his wife Catherine, and their son Thomas sold Little Bourton manor to Thomas Gardner. Josiah Gardner of London, son of Thomas Gardner of Little Bourton, deceased (both are described as gentlemen), dealt with ¼ yardland in Bourton in 1648; (fn. 80) and there are later references to landowners of the name in Bourton. (fn. 81) Gardner's yardland came to Thomas Wyatt of Cropredy in 1716 (fn. 82) and Charles Wyatt held it at inclosure, (fn. 83) but manorial rights had lapsed.
In 1324 John de Clare died seised of property in Great Bourton held of the Bishop of Lincoln as ⅓ fee; his son and heir was John, aged 14. (fn. 84) No further trace of this property has been found.
Clattercote Priory, Chacombe Priory, and the Hospital of St. John in Banbury all had interests in medieval Bourton, (fn. 85) and their properties were absorbed in various post-Reformation manors. The break-up of the Bishop of Lincoln's demesne manor led to the formation of a number of small family estates. Elizabeth I granted a lease of 'Walker's or Gill's ground' in 1572–3, and granted it in fee (fn. 86) in 1599; in 1610 it came into the hands of Sir Anthony Cope of Hanwell. (fn. 87) Cope in 1612 released a moiety to Christopher Claridge, (fn. 88) whose family had leased a copyhold from the bishop in 1552, obtained a lease of another part of the former episcopal manor in 1576, (fn. 89) and held land in Bourton into the 19th century. (fn. 90) Cope acquired other land in 1613 (fn. 91) and in 1614 sold a house and 2¾ yardlands to Thomas Gill, another Great Bourton husbandman. (fn. 92) Richard Gill had had the highest assessment in Bourton for the 1523 subsidy, and Thomas and William Gill had been copyholders on the episcopal manor in 1552, when William was tenant of Walkers ground. (fn. 93) The Gills were soon styling themselves 'gentlemen'; Thomas Gill the younger bought 1½ yardland of meadow in 1656 and 1658; (fn. 94) Thomas Gill of Great Bourton disposed of a substantial personal estate in his will dated 1659. (fn. 95) The latter's elder son, another Thomas, founded a school in Great Bourton. (fn. 96)
Another Thomas, grandson of John Gill, mortgaged the family property in 1723, and was followed by his son and grandson, both also named Thomas; the grandson sold the estate (82 a. after inclosure) to William Jeffs, a Chacombe butcher (d. 1816) in 1772. Jeffs's son William (d. 1860) was followed by his daughter Mrs. Elizabeth Berner (d. 1864) and her son A. B. M. Berner (d. 1901). In 1902 the property was sold to George Thomas Amos of Great Bourton (d. 1922). The Amos family also acquired a second farm of some size, the nucleus of which (51 a.) was allotted at inclosure to William Hudson of Farnborough (Warws.), grazier (d. 1809), whose nephew was succeeded by his second cousin Edward Mold (d. 1848). G. T. Amos's son G. W. Amos died in 1951 and the latter's brother and son sold the Amos farms to Mr H. L. Cannon of Williamscot. (fn. 97)
At inclosure John Jordan of Armscott, a Worcestershire gentleman, received 87 a. in lieu of 3¼ yardlands; Jordan made subsequent additions from the Clarson, Tims, and Checkley families. His cousin's son, Richard Jordan, made an exchange of land in 1851 with Arthur, Duke of Wellington, who sold his Bourton property in the same year to New College, Oxford. The college built up a compact holding of 232 a. (Bourtonfield) by purchases of a further 35 a. in 1871. It was in 1969 the largest estate in Bourton. (fn. 98) The estate of Brasenose College in Cropredy also extends into Bourton.
John Chamberlin (d. 1816) of Cropredy Lawn, the inclosure commissioner, bought some 115 a. (later Crockwell Farm), of which 44 a. had been allotted to William Prowett at inclosure, 40 a. to Thomas Walford, and another 16 a. to Thomas Gill. Chamberlin's son, W. H. Chamberlin (d. 1852), was succeeded by his kinsman John Chamberlin Eaton (d. 1885) of Ancaster (Lincs.), surgeon; on his window's death 109 a. in Bourton were sold to the lessee Josiah Nichols. The estate was again sold in 1934 and in 1956. (fn. 99)
Richard Wheatley and his son John, both Banbury ironmongers, accumulated over 100 acres (mainly in Little Bourton) by various purchases (1744–86) from the families of Borton (£220), Goode (£122), Varney (£315), and Goodman (£680). Sophia Gunn, only daughter of John Wheatley, tenant of Broughton Castle, sold this farm to William Lovell in 1822, and Lovell to John Elkington in 1835. (fn. 100)
There is no separate survey of Bourton in Domesday Book. Later evidence suggests that those parts of the Bishop of Lincoln's estate which lay in Great and Little Bourton and Hardwick (in Banbury) were closely associated, and probably formed together a single unit, with tenants in all three vills working on the demesne, which appears to have lain in Hardwick. (fn. 101) The size of the bishop's manor in the Bourtons is first clearly distinguishable in 1441 when it amounted to 23½ customary and 2 free yardlands; 14½ of the customary yardlands lay in Great Bourton, 9 in Little Bourton. (fn. 102) By the late 15th century the Hardwick demesne was leased out for money rents to tenants in Hardwick, Bourton, and elsewhere, and the connexion of Bourton with Hardwick ceased when the Copes shortly afterwards inclosed Hardwick and so extinguished Bourton's rights of common there. (fn. 103)
In 1279 the estates of the bishop's vassals amounted to 18 yardlands and one acre in Great Bourton, and 17 yardlands in Little Bourton; this land was much split up into numerous small free tenements under various lords; 14½ yardlands and 6 a. in Little Bourton were held by 11 free tenants, all but one of whom (with 2 a.) held of the Danvers estate. The yardland rents varied greatly. (fn. 104) Only for one estate is there later medieval evidence: in 1324 the de Clare estate in Great Bourton comprised 3 yardlands in demesne, valued at 24s. a year, and 3 a. of meadow worth 10s., and there was one free tenant holding a house and yardland for 10s. a year, and 4 bordars, 3 of whom held a house and ½ yardland each, the other holding 1 yardland; their total rent was 46s. a year, with works valued at 18d. (fn. 105)
In 1552 the Bishop of Lincoln's free tenants (George Danvers and Simon Raleigh) each held 2 yardlands in Bourton, and his 15 copyholders held 26 yardlands there: there was one holding of 3, one of 2½, nine of 2 yardlands, and one of 1½ yardland, and one of 1 yardland; 14 yardlands were each held at a rent of 10s. and the rents of the remainder ranged up to just over 14s. Worksilver was paid at 3d. per yardland. The customary tenants paid c. £17 8s. in rent and the 2 free tenants a further £1 each. (fn. 106)
The Bourtons were relatively poor communities in the Middle Ages. In 1306 24 people in Great Bourton, and 12 people in Little Bourton were assessed for tax at a total of only £1 9s. 5d. and 13s. 11¼d. respectively. (fn. 107) In 1327 24 Great Bourton people were assessed at a total of £2 7s. 6d., six of them at between 3s. and 4s., one man at 2s. 1d., and the rest at less than 2s. In Little Bourton eight people were assessed at a total of 16s., 2d., one of them at 3s. 9d., two at 2s. 3d., and five at less than 2s. (fn. 108) For the later medieval taxes Great Bourton was assessed at £1 8s. 4d. (only a little more than Coton) and Little Bourton at 12s. 2d. The two assessments together were less than those of Claydon or Williamscot, although the Bourtons were well-populated hamlets. (fn. 109) By the 16th century, however, the Bourtons were relatively more prosperous, and in 1523 35 people in the two villages were assessed at £4 11s. 8d., more than the total for Wardington and Coton. This was partly due to one man, Richard Gill, who was assessed at 32s. on goods; nine others were assessed at between 2s. and 4s., 23 at less than 2s. but more than the landless labourers' rate of 4d., at which only two were assessed. (fn. 110)
For the hearth tax of 1665 30 people were assessed on 48 hearths, and eight others, assessed on 10 hearths, were discharged payment on grounds of poverty. Although the number assessed was high only three houses had more than 2 hearths; (fn. 111) and a selection of probate inventories confirms that the villages were dominated by a number of small farmers rather than a few wealthy men. (fn. 112) Although at least two 17th-century farmers left personalty worth nearly £200 the majority left much less; few had many animals, and their wealth lay in their crops. These were chiefly wheat, barley, and peas; maslin and pulse occur less frequently, and oats not at all. There seem to have been comparatively few sheep in Bourton, and many farmers had no sheep at all.
In 1734 there were four quarters in Bourton Field: slightly earlier terriers refer to the upper and lower sides of Bourton Field. (fn. 113) The four quarters of 1734 were: Mill quarter towards Slat Mill, Hills quarter (mentioned in 1666) in the north-west, (fn. 114) Swans quarter south of the village, (fn. 115) and Langland quarter to the north of it. (fn. 116) There were several areas of old inclosure in the field in 1778: (fn. 117) 4 a. in Hills Ground, (fn. 118) adjoining Cropredy, Longcroft Closes at the side of the Southam road, and Hardwick Grounds in the south-east of Bourton. In 1671 it was estimated that there were 65½ yardlands in Bourton, 4 of which were then already inclosed. At about the same date, 17¾ of those yardlands were said to be in Little Bourton. (fn. 119) In 1666 common of pasture was at the rate of 4 cows, 24 sheep, and 2 lambs per yardland. (fn. 120)
An act for the inclosure of 57½ yardlands in Bourton was obtained in 1777; (fn. 121) the award was signed in 1778. (fn. 122) The Cropredy tithe books show that from c. 1670 onwards there was a large number of fairly small estates in Bourton, (fn. 123) and that was still so in 1778: the largest allotment (174 a.) of the 1,464 a. inclosed was that to the Bishop of Oxford and his lessees in lieu of tithe; 120 a. were allotted to William Prowett of Adderbury, who was also lord of the manor. Only two other allotments exceeded 100 a., those to Richard Goodman of Williamscot (104 a.) and John Gunn (102 a.); six other allottees received over 50 acres. There was a large number of very small allotments made mostly to inhabitants of Bourton; and most of the larger proprietors were, and remained, non-resident. The commissioners prescribed the line of a covered drain to carry water from Butterwell Spring (east of Great Bourton village) to the canal, to provide the landowners with watering places for their cattle.
In the post-inclosure period a number of mediumsized estates were formed (fn. 124) and there was a general increase in rents. By the mid 19th century rents were comparable with those elsewhere in Cropredy, whereas earlier they had not been. In 1698, for instance, the Vicar of Cropredy had certified that although the nominal payment per yardland in respect of tithe was 6s. many inhabitants paid 5s., and others what he could get off them. Later it was agreed that some inclosed land in Little Bourton should pay only 4s. per yardland because the land was poor. (fn. 125) It is clear that in the 19th century some of the Bourton farmers made good use of the red land which Arthur Young praised so highly. In 1817 two men William Archer and John Haycock, sentenced to death for burning barley- and haystacks of a neighbour with whom they had quarrelled, were described as 'opulent farmers'. (fn. 126) Between 1851 and 1872 the rent of Cropredy glebe in Bourton was twice increased. Later it was reduced, from 63s. per acre to 50s. between 1880 and 1883, (fn. 127) and further in 1891 and 1898. (fn. 128) The vicar, an interested party, stressed the poverty of Bourton in the 1870s. (fn. 129)
At the beginning of the 20th century Bourton, in common with other townships in the northern corner of Oxfordshire, was predominantly pasture; only 29 per cent. of the total cultivated area was arable. In 1914 the arable was used for wheat (31 per cent.), barley (14 per cent.), oats (12 per cent.). Swedes, turnips, mangolds, and potatoes were also grown in quantity. It is estimated that there were roughly 27 cattle and 34 sheep per 100 a. (fn. 130) Most of the farms in Bourton remained fairly small; in 1939 only 3 out of a total of 13 farms were over 150 a. (fn. 131) At the time, considerable blocks of arable stretched along both sides of the Banbury-Southam road, although there was little or no arable to the east of the two villages. It is probable that, as elsewhere in Cropredy parish, considerable stretches of grassland were ploughed up in the early years of the Second World War. (fn. 132)
The first certain indication of a mill in Bourton is a reference to John the miller in 1225. (fn. 133) The mill towards Bourton called Thoky's mill occurs in a deed of 1370; it existed before 1325; (fn. 134) and probably took its name from William Toky of Williamscot (d. 1349) (fn. 135) or one of his family. It was possibly identical with Slat Mill, but may alternatively have lain in Wardington; no recollection of its existence or name survives. (fn. 136)
Slat Mill, (fn. 137) first mentioned as 'le sclattemylle' in 1482, was probably one of the five mills in Cropredy in 1086. In 1482 John Mitchell of Cropredy granted his rights to it, as tenant of the bishop, to John Kelby of Rycote, whose stepson and successor, John Parnell, citizen and draper of London, sold his rights in it to Thomas Beysand of Wardington in 1521. In 1532 the latter leased it to John Halton, a Banbury draper, for £3 10s. yearly. In 1549 the Malmesbury clothier, William Stumpe, ceded his rights in it to William Barnesley of Banbury, who was the bishop's tenant there in 1552, at an annual rent of £2 10s. 8d. for the mill and two small adjacent pastures. (fn. 138) The tenure was converted to fee farm, and in 1602 the two daughters of John Barnesley sold Slat Mill to Calcott Chambre of Williamscot. (fn. 139) The mill then descended with the Williamscot estate to the Taylor and Loveday families, who paid the fee-farm rent of £2 10s. 8d. to the Crown.
In the 17th and 18th centuries Slat Mill was normally leased with Williamscot windmill; (fn. 140) the two together were leased in 1660 to John Warning, who was 'not to bring any wife to the mill at any time' without William Taylor's consent. In 1663 Thomas Parsons, brother of Timothy Parsons who leased Prescote Mill at the time, leased Slat Mill for 7 years; Uriah Falkner of Warmington (Warws.) replaced Ralph Savage as tenant of both mills in 1706. Falkner was 'killed by his mill' in 1739. (fn. 141) At inclosure in 1778 John Loveday's allotments were 'conveniently' laid out near the mill. From 1775 the Allen family from Cropredy mill leased it until 1851, and the Hadland family of Clattercote from 1860. The mill was shortly before 1966 demolished.
A water-mill and windmill in the Bourtons passed from William and Anne Sharman to George and John Gardner in 1624. (fn. 142) Perhaps this water-mill was the Mose Mill mentioned in Bourton together with Slat Mill in 1636. (fn. 143)
A few Bourton inhabitants were engaged in textile trades: John Claridge (fl. c. 1660) was a weaver, as were another John Claridge over 40 years later, (fn. 144) and three others in 1685, in 1703, and 1715. (fn. 145) Two weavers of Little Bourton (1713 and 1736), (fn. 146) two 18th-century hempdressers, (fn. 147) a collar-maker, (fn. 148) and a plush-weaver (fn. 149) have also been noticed. In 1851 there were nail-makers in the Bourtons, one of whom employed seven men; apart from a few plushweavers and two cordwainers, occupations deserving notice are two machine-makers, an iron founder, and a surveyor. (fn. 150) Otherwise the parish remained mainly dependent on agriculture until the 1930s, when immigrants (including some from South Wales and Tyneside) arrived to work in the Banbury aluminium factory. (fn. 151)
Great and Little Bourton formed a single unit for administrative purposes. In 1776 £183 was raised by the rate; of this nearly £10 was spent on the county rate, nearly £100 on poor-relief, and c. £13 on rents for houses for the poor. The villages had no workhouse. (fn. 152) Less than ten years later the total spent on the poor had more than doubled, compared with an average rise of no more than a quarter in the rest of the hundred. (fn. 153) By the beginning of the 19th century expenditure had again doubled to £479 10s.; (fn. 154) most of the money went on out-relief. In 1803, out of a population of about 430 (fn. 155) 36 adults and 42 children were receiving regular relief and 30 occasional relief; 15 of the recipients were aged or infirm. At 5s. 9d. in the pound the rate was slightly higher than that of other rural parishes in the hundred, and expenditure of about 21s. a head was higher than anywhere else except Wardington. (fn. 156) By 1816 poor-relief costs had gone up still further to £583 and in 1817–18 they rose to a peak figure of £814, over 36s. a head. Thereafter costs were lower: in 1821 expenditure was little over £1 a head but rose again between 1826 and 1831 when the total was £601, although the figure per head remained much the same. In the year before the implementation of the new Poor Law expenditure in the Bourtons was only £394 and in 1835–6 was nearly £100 less. (fn. 157)
Architectural evidence shows that Bourton church was in existence in the 13th century. In 1279 reference was made to Gilbert, son of the clerk of Bourton. (fn. 158) Until it fell out of use in the 16th century, and again from its revival in 1863 until 1872, the church was dependent on the mother church of Cropredy; in 1872 Bourton was constituted a separate vicarage; from 1928 to 1956 the living was held in plurality with Cropredy; and in 1956 the benefices of Bourton and Cropredy were united. (fn. 159)
In the Middle Ages Bourton may have been considered inferior in status to the other daughter churches of Cropredy, for in 1489 Richard Danvers left bequests to the churches of Claydon, Mollington, and Wardington, but to the chapel only of Bourton; (fn. 160) in Roger Lupton's bequest of 1512 the churchwardens of Cropredy and Bourton were coupled together; (fn. 161) and in the 1526 subsidy, Bourton alone was not separately mentioned under Cropredy, and was probably served by the curate or possibly the second priest named under Cropredy itself. (fn. 162) The chapelry had its own curate, however, in 1545. (fn. 163) No reference has been found to a burial ground at Bourton.
It seems that regular services ceased to be held there at or soon after the Reformation, and that the chapel was desecrated. No mention is made of the chapel in a deed concerning the three other chapels of Cropredy in 1564. (fn. 164) Entries for Bourton appear in Cropredy parish registers as early as 1542, (fn. 165) and (more significant) in 1544 four churchwardens appear at Cropredy, (fn. 166) of which two are likely to have been from Bourton, as in later times. In 1549 the chapel was granted to Thomas Hawkins alias Fisher, (fn. 167) and was subsequently used, with the permission of a group of trustees, for various purposes, including a school and a vestry room. In spite of the recollection of Walter Gostelow of Prescote that in his youth (c. 1620) Cropredy had four great churches and one little chapel of ease (i.e. Bourton) (fn. 168) it seems clear that by then the chapel had ceased to be used. In the 17th-century peculiar court the Bourton churchwardens usually made presentments with the churchwardens of Cropredy. (fn. 169) References to the parish church and even to the 'parish church of Bourton' in 1619 and 1621 presumably refer to the church of Cropredy itself. When the churchwardens of Cropredy and of Great and Little Bourton presented their clerk in 1620 for reading divine services without being licensed, (fn. 170) they were probably presenting the parish clerk of Cropredy.
For three hundred years the churchgoers from Bourton used the north aisle in Cropredy church; they paid a half share of the expenses incurred by Cropredy church (in 1611 there is a reference to a yearly contribution of straw), (fn. 171) and received a half share of the Cropredy Bell Land profits. (fn. 172) They continued to maintain their own churchwardens, (fn. 173) and in 1830 the Bourton villagers gave notice that they would pay no bills for their share of repairs to Cropredy church unless their churchwardens approved them. (fn. 174)
In the mid 19th century an effort was made to revive services at Bourton. From 1850 the chancel of the former chapel, which served as a schoolroom, (fn. 175) was used, with the bishop's consent, for a Sunday evening 'lecture' by the curate of Cropredy; (fn. 176) but the chapel remained unconsecrated, though the school moved elsewhere in 1854. (fn. 177) The Anglican church needed to assert itself to stem the advances made by nonconformity in the village. (fn. 178) At a poorly attended public meeting in 1861 it was agreed by seven votes to three to build a church and exchange land with the trustees of Bourton poor for a churchyard. (fn. 179) The vicar, Hoste, was active in raising money both from the parish and outside. (fn. 180) The original scheme to build a new church was changed and the old chapel was rebuilt and consecrated in 1863. (fn. 181)
The chapel was served by the Vicar of Cropredy and his curate. Bishop Wilberforce (quoting Hoste) wrote in 1865: 'I am sure that if we took the field there in force with a resident incumbent and parsonage, the position of the Church would be immensely strengthened.' (fn. 182) In 1866 Hoste purchased a site with £500 given by his curate, C. Cubitt, and in appealing to the Church Commissioners for help stressed his anxiety lest the proximity of Banbury, 'a hotbed of dissent', should affect Bourton. (fn. 183) He appealed to Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1868, stressing the need for 'the permanence of the ministry in that quarter', and to the Diocesan Church Building Society in 1869, when he claimed that the value of land in the area had risen some 15 per cent, since the rebuilding of the church and the 'consequent improvement in the parish'. With the help of subscriptions Hoste was able to build a parsonage in 1869; (fn. 184) it cost about £1,000, but the Vicar of Bourton, Alfred Highton, found it inadequate and 'perfectly mad', for it was built for a bachelor. (fn. 185) It was sold in 1955. (fn. 186)
The living created in 1872 was in the gift of the Bishop of Oxford. Its endowment was meagre, consisting mainly of £33 6s. 8½d. yearly granted by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on a mortgage of the glebe house, and £25 yearly provided, at the bishop's request, by the Vicar of Cropredy. The latter payment ceased when in 1877 the Commissioners endowed the living with a further £264. (fn. 187)
Hoste's curate, Cubitt, became the first Vicar of Bourton, but resigned in a year. In 1878 his successor, Highton, was holding two services with sermons on Sunday, administered the Sacrament monthly and at great festivals to nearly 40 communicants, but noted that church attendance was static; half the parish was habitually absent, and a quarter were professed dissenters. He catechized every Sunday at Sunday school, where he was helped by five voluntary teachers, gave religious instruction twice a week in school, and gave cottage lectures in Lent and Advent. (fn. 188) Perhaps as a result of the labours of Hoste and the 19th-century vicars of Bourton, the village, once a centre of dissent, came to be regarded as a 'Church' village. (fn. 189)
The church of ALL SAINTS (fn. 190) is a small stone building of 13th-century origin, consisting of a nave, chancel, north aisle, and south porch. In 1852 the chancel arch was walled up, the chancel was used as a schoolroom, the nave was a dwelling-house for the schoolmaster, and part of the building was used as a grocer's shop. (fn. 191) In 1862–3 the church was restored by William White, architect, and the north aisle was added to his designs. (fn. 192) Wilberforce thought it a good restoration of the old chapel. (fn. 193) The rebuilding cost £900. (fn. 194) The churchyard wall was constructed between 1877 and 1880 and the detached Gothic campanile, Bourton's principal architectural ornament, consisting of a gabled timber belfry standing on a vaulted gateway, was built at the south-west corner of the churchyard. (fn. 195)
The glass in the east window is a memorial to Mary Ann Gunn (d. 1862), that in the south window to the Revd. Alfred Highton (d. 1906). The small bell housed in a recess in the west wall of the nave was made in 1673 by Henry Bagley. The larger bell in the campanile was supplied by Messrs. Smith and Sons of Clerkenwell, clockmakers, who also made and fixed the clock. (fn. 196) Electric light was installed in 1934, and electric heaters in 1957. The wooden partition dividing the vestry from the church dates from 1935. The slates on the chancel roof were replaced by concrete tiles in 1954–5.
Bourton's share of the proceeds of Cropredy's 'Bell Land' amounted to £16 a year in the early 19th century, and was used partly to pay for ringing the Cropredy church bell, the remainder in aid of the church rate. (fn. 197)
The Bourton register of baptisms begins in 1863, of burials in 1864, and of marriages in 1872. (fn. 198)
Situated near to Banbury and lacking a church and parson, the Bourtons offered a climate in which nonconformity might flourish. Three 17th- and 18th-century Quakers are mentioned, (fn. 199) but it was not until the late 1780s, after a visit by ministers of Lady Huntingdon's Connexion that a dissenting congregation was accommodated there, in the house of one Wimbush. (fn. 200) In 1790 a licence was obtained for a building owned by William Claridge, a Great Bourton butcher. A chapel built by Claridge on his own land was opened in 1792; it contained 92 free and 100 other sittings. (fn. 201) Between 1797 and 1802 the Vicar of Cropredy reported that this was the only meeting-house in his large parish; that the minister, apparently resident, was 'in no repute and his followers few', and that many of the dissenters went occasionally to church. (fn. 202) For a few years there were two dissenting congregations in Great Bourton: the registration of the dwelling-house of John Williams of Great Bourton in 1802 and of a building lately erected on his premises in 1803 (fn. 203) may represent a split in the original congregation; one of the four applicants in 1802 bore the same name, and another the same surname, as the applicants in 1790. A John Williams signed a certificate for an Independent meetinghouse at Wroxton in 1823. (fn. 204) In 1808 one meeting had a resident minister, and about 13 families (12 of them from the larger hamlet) attended; a small school (fn. 205) was kept by the minister, whom the vicar described as a Methodist. (fn. 206) There were still two chapels in 1810 but no resident minister; the following year, however, there was apparently only one chapel and no more than 15 families of 'Methodists'. (fn. 207) In 1814 the vicar reported that about half the inhabitants were dissenters, and that Antipaedobaptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists all attended the same chapel. (fn. 208) A nonconformist source 10 years later reported that the chapel had been 'variously supplied' for some time and had inclined towards Unitarianism, but that c. 1819, after a change of manager, there had been a move towards Congregationalism; a Sunday school had been set up and in 1824 the congregation numbered nearly 300. (fn. 209) A further dissenting meeting-place, the house of William Robbins, was registered in Great Bourton in 1825. (fn. 210) The certificate, signed by the minister of Wellesbourne (Warws.), described it as 'Revivalist' and it was certainly for Primitive Methodists. The congregation was probably responsible for the visit of Joseph Preston, the Primitive Methodist, who preached at Great Bourton in 1835. (fn. 211) No later evidence of Primitive Methodism has been found.
The original society was for several decades Independent, or mainly so; (fn. 212) in 1854 the Vicar of Cropredy described it as such, and in 1866 he said it was Independent in the morning and 'anything in the evening'. He also admitted that half the people in Bourton were dissenters. (fn. 213) In 1851 the afternoon attendance at the chapel on census day was 80. (fn. 214) The chapel remained private property until conveyed to trustees by the Archer family of Little Bourton in 1860; it had come to the Archers by will (1825) of Richard Archer's father-in-law, William Adkins of Thorpe Mandeville (Northants.), who had purchased it from William Claridge in 1803. New trustees were appointed in 1891, but the congregation gradually changed its nature: the local Wesleyan superintendent wrote in 1923 that the Congregational cause had died out, and the chapel was organized as a Methodist society; the average Sunday attendance was then about 35. (fn. 215) The decline in Congregationalism is said to have been due to a change of occupancy and religious affiliation at the farm which ran the chapel. (fn. 216) In 1924 the surviving Congregationalist trustees sold the chapel, then very dilapidated, to Wesleyan trustees. An adjoining cottage, once the property of the Wimbush family and so possibly the original meeting-place, was bought in 1928. There were then 21 members and 35 regular hearers. A new red-brick chapel was built in 1932, and in 1969 was supplied with preachers by Banbury's Methodist minister. (fn. 217)
At Little Bourton the houses of James Varney, John Townsend, and Thomas Cook were registered as dissenting meeting-places in 1821, 1824, and 1843 respectively. (fn. 218) Townsend's house was at first used by Independents and Cook's by Baptists, but neither sect had a permanent influence in the village. The Methodist chapel was erected in 1845 (40 free and 44 other sittings) on land conveyed by the Constable family to local trustees who included two farmers and one baker from Little Bourton, one of the farmers being John Archer, owner of Great Bourton chapel. (fn. 219) In 1851 the attendance on census day was 45. (fn. 220) The chapel was still in use in 1969.
The Bourtons enjoyed the right to send 7 children to the free school at Williamscot. (fn. 221) Under the will of Thomas Gill dated 1666 an endowed free school was set up in Bourton. (fn. 222) Attendance was free to all boys whose parents earned less than £40 yearly; others could attend on payment. The finances were not put in order until 1684 and the school made a bad start: in 1688 George Hunt, lately schoolmaster there, was presented for incontinence. In the same year Hunt accused two others of teaching school without licence, and one of them was shortly afterwards appointed by the trustees 'to the school lately erected in Great Bourton'; another master was appointed within a year. (fn. 223) The original building was superseded in 1709 when the former chapel in Great Bourton was leased to the school's trustees for use as a schoolroom. In 1718 Richard Rawlinson reported that the Revd. Richard Gill, the schoolmaster, had spent more than £50 on repairs and paid £60 for the lease out of his own pocket. (fn. 224) In 1739 the Vicar of Cropredy dismissed this school, along with that at Williamscot, as being 'of little use, through the incapacity of the masters'. (fn. 225) In 1808 it was said that there were rarely more than 20 children, some of whom came from outside Bourton; those from Bourton received their education free, others had to pay. (fn. 226) In 1814 the school was attached to the National Society, and in 1815 it was reported that the master was about to be instructed in Bell's system, and that attendance had risen to about 60. There was also a Sunday school of about 40 children at Bourton, supported by subscriptions of £8 from Mrs. Prowett and £2 from the vicar. (fn. 227)
In addition to Gill's school a 'Methodist' minister was keeping a school for four children in 1808 (fn. 228) and in 1833 three other schools were reported in Bourton: a small mixed day school for 20 children educated at their parents' expense; a Sunday school, which had been set up in 1823, supported by members of the nonconformist chapel; (fn. 229) and a day and Sunday school for girls endowed by John Jordan with £10 yearly. (fn. 230)
When A. W. Noel came to Cropredy as vicar in 1851, he found only one school in Great Bourton besides Gill's, a dame school for girls supported by Jordan's bequest of £10 yearly, which Noel's predecessor 'paid to a poor woman who kept a girls' school in her cottage in Great Bourton'. The endowment of Gill's school, £19 after outgoings, was quite inadequate to provide a good master; there were then about 24 pupils. Noel brought about the establishment in 1854 of a National school built just inside Bourton parish for boys and girls of both Cropredy and Bourton. The 'tacit understanding' was that if Gill's school were closed and its endowment applied to the new joint school, the landowners of Cropredy parish would themselves subscribe towards the new school's maintenance. The people, however, objected to the school's distance from the Bourtons; they held exaggerated notions of the yield of Gill's charity, which they probably felt was being diverted for the benefit of Cropredy people, towards whom they clearly felt some ill-will. They also mentioned another £10 charity given c. 1850 by Thomas Gardner which had not been paid, but which would pay for a schoolmaster. At a meeting in 1857 the Bourton householders voted 86 to 24 in favour of restoring the old school; there were threats to pull or burn down the new school and house, which (as Noel remarked) 'they are very likely to do as there is some very bad characters there'. The Charity Commissioners refused to accept the proposal to restore the old school, which, if successful, might have made the Anglican revival in Bourton impossible. (fn. 231) Ultimately the new school was a considerable success. (fn. 232)
Bourton Infant school was built, following the threat of the establishment of a British school, to accommodate a further 40 children, and opened in 1867; nearly £250 was subscribed, £50 each by Lord Overstone and Bourton's curate, C. Cubitt. (fn. 233) The school was conveyed to the vicar and wardens in 1904. (fn. 234) Up to 1928 there was a fairly consistent average attendance of 21, (fn. 235) but by 1938 attendance had dropped to 10. In 1962 the roll numbered 23; the school closed in 1964. (fn. 236)
Charities for the Poor.
From 1709 the trustees of the ancient chapel received £4 a year for the premises. (fn. 237) It is not known how the rent was applied until 1797, when it was to be used for relieving the poor. (fn. 238) The school moved to new buildings in 1854 and in 1858, after complaints that the chapel rent, then £7 a year, had not been distributed for many years, the Banbury County Court settled that the income should be applied to the provision of fuel and other articles for the deserving poor. (fn. 239) This charity came to an end in 1863 with the reconsecration of the chapel.
A Mr. Chambre gave £20 before 1786, the interest of 18s. to be distributed among the poor of Great and Little Bourton. (fn. 240) The £20 was thought to have been laid out on the Cropredy Bell Land charity (fn. 241) for in 1825 18s. was paid to the Bourtons out of the interest. The money was distributed to poor widows at irregular intervals. (fn. 242) In 1915 18s. was being distributed at the rate of 1s. each to poor widows and widowers. (fn. 243) The money was still distributed in 1969.
A gift of unknown date by Miss Walker of £20 a year for the benefit of 15 poor people was administered in 1966 by the Amos family, relatives of the benefactor. (fn. 244)