A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.
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The chapelry of Mollington covered 1,442 a., of which 783 a. lay in Oxfordshire and 659 a. in Warwickshire; (fn. 1) The Oxfordshire portion belonged to Bloxham hundred, the Warwickshire portion to Kineton hundred. In 1895 the county boundary was changed to bring the whole of Mollington into Oxfordshire. (fn. 2) Earlier it had passed along the edge of Mollington village, making detours around houses and gardens on the western side of the settlement, while a detached segment of Warwickshire took in about half the houses on the eastern side of the village. (fn. 3) A map of 1725 shows the village simply divided down the middle by the county boundary. (fn. 4) In 1086 Mollington was divided between three counties, one hide in Oxfordshire, four in Northamptonshire, and five in Warwickshire; (fn. 5) part of Mollington was apparently still regarded as being in Northamptonshire in the late 14th century. (fn. 6) In 1654 a Warwickshire J.P. was required to make sure that a Mollington house destroyed by fire was rebuilt in the same county as before. (fn. 7) In 1730 about half the houses in the village lay in Warwickshire. (fn. 8) Outside the village the boundary between the two parts of the chapelry, although largely artificial, followed the hedges of the inclosed fields, which suggests that it did not change after inclosure in 1798. (fn. 9)
The external boundaries of the township have probably remained unchanged from the earliest times. On the north the county boundary followed a small brook (later diverted into Clattercote reservoir), and on the north-east another small stream; on the east and south, however, Mollington was divided from Cropredy by no natural feature and the boundary was probably marked by the Mollington ditch mentioned in a 14th-century charter. (fn. 10) The boundary of the Warwickshire portion of Mollington (i.e. the county boundary after 1895) followed the Hanwell Brook on the south and the contours of Deddington Hill (in Warmington, Warws.) on part of the west, and was elsewhere artificial. The land is hilly, falling steeply from over 550 ft. in the eastern half of the chapelry to c. 360 ft. on the floor of the valley of the Hanwell Brook.
The Banbury-Southam road crosses the chapelry close to the east side of the village, which lies on both sides of a minor road running westwards from Cropredy to Warmington. Charles I led his army from Cropredy to Edge Hill by this road on 23 October 1642; (fn. 11) a map of 1725 locates 'Prince Rupert's tent' in Mollington. (fn. 12) Other roads lead to Farnborough and Shotteswell in Warwickshire, and to Claydon; the lines of the Shotteswell and Claydon roads were laid down at inclosure in 1798. The Clattercote reservoir, which serves the Oxford Canal, just enters the chapelry; a few acres were sold to the canal company before 1800 by William Holbech. (fn. 13)
The village stands on a steep slope between the 400 and 525 ft. contours and overlooks a portion of the Vale of the Red Horse to the south-west. It is the only settlement in the ancient parish of Cropredy which is mentioned in a reliable source before 1086: it was given by will in 1014–15. (fn. 14) The name means Mol(l)'s farm. (fn. 15)
The village was of moderate size in the Middle Ages and in 1642 there were 77 men aged 18 and over. (fn. 16) At the first official census of 1801 there were 322 inhabitants, 199 of them being in the Oxfordshire part. (fn. 17) In 1814 the Vicar of Cropredy estimated the population as 70 families, (fn. 18) Mollington being thus the next largest portion of his parish after Wardington, the Bourtons, and Cropredy. The peak figure of 385 (283 in Oxfordshire) was reached in 1841 and thereafter there was a decline to 176 in 1911. The population has since fluctuated, and in 1961 numbered only 167. (fn. 19)
For the hearth tax of 1662 17 people from the Oxfordshire portion of Mollington were assessed, mostly on one or two hearths, (fn. 20) but the first accurate indication of the size of the village comes from the statement that there were 42 houses in the village in 1730. (fn. 21) More houses were built in the 18th century and in 1814 it was estimated that there were rather fewer than 70. (fn. 22) Since 1939 there has been more building at the west end of Mollington and along the short lane leading to Lower Farm. As a result of the building of a private housing estate of 42 houses the population in 1965 had reached c. 300 and more houses have been built.
The new estate greatly changed the general appearance of the village, which earlier consisted largely of traditional stone houses, variously reconditioned with modern roofs and brick stacks. Manor Farm, which stands at the south-east corner of the village, was clearly a manor-house, but it is not known to which manor it belonged. It is a two-storied building, comprising a long main range on the north, with a gabled wing on the west. Originally the house seems to have been a 17th-century two-unit structure, but it has been much altered, particularly in the 19th century. A near-by barn, dated 1599, is one of the oldest dated structures in the district. (fn. 23) A little to the west is the Garden House, originally a twostoried, 17th-century building of coursed ironstone with ashlar quoins, attics, and a cellar under the hall. The house is small, on the two-unit plan, but has lateral fireplaces and two six-light windows with stone mullions and transoms—features not normally associated with houses humbler than manor-houses. The walls are panelled, the work probably dating from the mid 17th century. (fn. 24) The house was formerly the post office. Other houses of similar date are the Poplars, a two-storied house in coursed ironstone at the corner of the lane leading to Lower Farm and Church Farm, which was modernized in the 18th century. Although Lower Farm, a 17th-century house, stands isolated to the south of the village, it was not the farm-house of an early inclosed farm since, when Mollington was inclosed in 1798, there was hardly any old inclosure. Mansion House Farm, a late-17th-century house on the northern edge of the village, is probably the most notable building in Mollington. Local tradition is emphatic that it was there, and not in Manor Farm, that members of the Holbech family lived; the Holbeches were lords of a Mollington manor, but the family seat was at Farnborough (Warws.) and only junior members lived in Mollington. Mansion House Farm, however, cannot have been the house of the Holbeches' predecessors, the Woodhulls, since it lay formerly in Warwickshire, whereas in 1662 and 1665 Anthony Woodhull was assessed on 7 hearths in Oxfordshire. (fn. 25) The house stands apart from its neighbours and is approached through elaborate stone gateposts; it is a fine example of a large three-unit yeoman dwelling, with two entrances. The lower entrance perhaps gave access to a screens passage, but the lower partition has gone and the rear doorway has been blocked by a re-used medieval two-light window; the second entrance opens into a stair bay between hall and parlour. The house also demonstrates a transitional stage in the development from the cock-loft towards a full third story. It was altered in the 18th century when the interior was largely rebuilt and red tiles were used, probably in place of thatch. The west front is twostoried, in ironstone, with stone copings, kneelers, and three gables; the two-storied stone porch has a four-centered arch and a square label. There are three-and four-light stone mullioned windows with plain chamfers and square labels. The gate piers at the entrance and in front of the house provide more evidence of its former status. (fn. 26)
The main survival of 18th-century building in Mollington is a row of seven two-storied cottages in coursed ironstone rubble on the corner of the lane leading to Lower Farm.
Two inns, the 'Green Man', and the 'Bull', are recorded between 1753 and 1774, and in 1762–3 a third, unnamed, inn is mentioned. (fn. 27) The 'Green Man' was one of the places where the Mollington inclosure commissioners met in 1797–8; (fn. 28) Petty Sessions also sometimes met there, (fn. 29) and it flourished in 1969.
A playground for the children of the village was endowed by Margaret Mary Hewitt, who in 1929 left an orchard (sold in 1940) and £100 stock for the purpose. (fn. 30)
Manors and other Estates.
A manor descended from an estate willed in 1014–15 by the atheling Athelstan to his father, King Ethelred II. (fn. 31) There is no certain evidence of any royal ownership in Mollington in 1066, when the chapelry was divided between three tenants and three counties. The holder of the hide in Oxfordshire is unnamed, the five hides in Warwickshire were held by the mother of the prominent thegn Lewin of Nuneham (Courtenay), and the four in Northamptonshire were held by Gitda, a free woman, who may have been the Countess Gytha, Edward the Confessor's niece. (fn. 32)
In 1086 the hide in Oxfordshire was held of the king by his kinsman William, Count of Evreux, apparently in demesne. William granted it to the Norman priory of Noyon (a dependency of St. Evroul), and his grandson Count Simon confirmed the grant between 1140 and 1157. (fn. 33) There is no subsequent trace of the holding, which at some time presumably became absorbed in an adjacent manor.
The four hides in Northamptonshire in 1086, but later in Oxfordshire, were in 1086 held in chief by William Peverel. The manor, reckoned as 1 fee, was held of the honor of Peverel in 1242–3, but shortly afterwards the Peverel overlordship disappeared; in 1284 Mollington was held in chief. (fn. 34)
The tenant in 1086 was Ambrose and the estate, called MOLLINGTON or SPALDING FEE, was held as 1 knight's fee by his successors. His representatives (not necessarily his daughters) were later two sisters, of whom Ivicia married Robert, son of Amaury, who was excused danegeld on 4 hides in Oxfordshire, presumably at Mollington, in 1130. (fn. 35) Robert was succeeded by his son Robert, who died before 1173 and was succeeded by his brother Ralph. (fn. 36) In 1174 Ralph was pardoned 20s. for the fee. (fn. 37) He died in 1188–9 and was succeeded by his son Robert of Chesterton, who entered a monastery in 1222, and then by Robert's son Ralph of Chesterton. (fn. 38) Ralph was recorded as lord in 1235–6 (fn. 39) and 1242–3; (fn. 40) he was dead by 1272, leaving a daughter Sarah, wife of John le Bret. (fn. 41) By 1284 the fee appears to have been held by William of Spalding, (fn. 42) who in 1299 made a grant for life from his estate there, (fn. 43) but he appears to have conveyed it before 1314 to John Raleigh of Farnborough (Warws.). In 1314 the latter obtained pardon for acquiring property in Mollington from William of Spalding without licence, (fn. 44) and he was returned as lord in 1316. (fn. 45) John was succeeded in turn by his son John, the latter's son Thomas (d. 1397), who was accused of an attack on Clattercote Priory in 1388, Thomas's son Thomas (d. 1404), and the latter's son William, who died in 1419 leaving as heir his sister Joan, who with her two successive husbands held the manor. She was succeeded by her cousin, William Raleigh (d. 1460), whose son and grandson, both named Edward, followed him. The grandson held Mollington at his death in 1513, (fn. 46) but Mollington is not mentioned in the inquisition on his son George in 1546. (fn. 47)
In the 13th century the families of de Bereford and Wandard of Shotteswell (Warws.) were the mesne tenants of the Chesterton fee. Roger de Bereford was already tenant of the Warwickshire fee in Mollington in 1195. (fn. 48) In 1236 Robert de Bereford conceded 4 yardlands in Mollington (Warws.) to John de Bereford. (fn. 49) John Wandard occurs about the middle of the century; (fn. 50) and in 1272 the Chesterton fee was divided between Hugh de Bereford (½ fee), Robert Wandard (¼ fee), and William FitzIvo, who was lately dead (¼ fee). (fn. 51) Ralph de Bereford occurs at Mollington in 1316 (fn. 52) and Robert de Bereford in 1327. (fn. 53) In 1342 John (II) Raleigh had licence to enfeoff Robert de Bereford with a house and ploughland in Mollington (Oxon.), said to be held of the king in chief; (fn. 54) three years later Robert de Bereford was licensed to enfeoff Thomas of Badby, a king's clerk, with an identically described estate in Mollington. (fn. 55) In 1346 Thomas of Badby, Robert de Bereford, and Simon of Pillerton held 1 fee in Mollington (Oxon.), described as formerly held by William of Spalding, Ralph de Bereford, and Simon of Pillerton. (fn. 56)
Probably all or most of those holdings came to the Waldyff family. Edmund Waldyff (Waldeyeve) of Mollington is mentioned in 1382. (fn. 57) He died in 1395, when he was said to hold in chief Mollington manor in Northamptonshire and a tenement in Mollington (Warws.), held of the inheritance of his wife Margery; she was the daughter of Robert Bereford of Mollington, who had died the previous year. Edmund also held a tenement in Milcombe; his and Margery's heir was their son Thomas, (fn. 58) who in 1428 held of the king lands and tenements in Mollington (Oxon.), formerly of Thomas Badby and others, for the service of one knight. (fn. 59) Lands in both Mollington (Oxon.), and Milcombe were in 1464 (fn. 60) and 1481 (fn. 61) held by Humphrey Willingham; his daughter and heir Grace and her first husband Robert Halse conveyed the manors of Mollington and Milcombe to trustees in 1506; (fn. 62) as Grace Saunders she was assessed on lands worth £11 in Mollington in 1523. (fn. 63) In 1532 Roger and Alice Becket enfeoffed Robert Dormer with their moiety of Mollington, Milcombe, and Bloxham, (fn. 64) and in 1551 John Dormer, citizen and mercer of London, and his wife Elizabeth, conveyed their manor in Mollington to Fulk Woodhull, (fn. 65) who already held another manor there. (fn. 66)
A second manor derives from the five-hide estate in Warwickshire which in 1086 was held by Osbern son of Richard of Richard's Castle (Salop.). The overlordship passed to Osbern's descendants of the Say, Mortimer, and Talbot families; (fn. 67) Hugh de Say Osbern's great-grandson) disposed of ½ fee in Mollington in 1195. (fn. 68) In 1235–6 William de Stuteville (d. 1259), third husband of Hugh's daughter Margaret, held 1 fee in Mollington, as of Richard's Castle; (fn. 69) the overlordship is again mentioned in 1242–3, (fn. 70) and at about that date William de Stuteville quitclaimed scutage and ward in Mollington for his life to Kenilworth Priory, (fn. 71) his tenant for half of the Stuteville fee there.
Robert de Mortimer, grandson of Margaret by her second husband of that name, died seised of the manor in 1287, (fn. 72) and his son Hugh (d. 1304) and Hugh's widow Maud (d. 1308) held the estate in turn. (fn. 73) The estates of this Mortimer family were divided between Hugh's two daughters, of whom the eldest (Joanna) was given the overlordship of Mollington. She was born in 1291 and in 1315 was apparently in ward to Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who died in possession of half of the former Richard's Castle fee in Mollington. (fn. 74) Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, a ward of the king, was lord of a disputed ¼ fee in Mollington in 1331. (fn. 75) Joanna's moiety was later held by her grandson, John Talbot (d. 1375), (fn. 76) but the overlordship then disappears.
In 1195 Hugh de Say granted ½ fee in Mollington to Kenilworth Priory, and the priory conceded 5 yardlands there to Roger de Bereford to be held as ¼ fee. (fn. 77) Probably the transaction was associated with those by which Gillian of St. Remigius, cousin of Henry de Clinton, gave all her land in Mollington (described as a quarter of the whole village, i.e. presumably half of the Richard's Castle fee) to Kenilworth, and Roger de Bereford quitclaimed to Kenilworth all his rights in the land so given on condition that the priory gave him, to hold of it in fee, half its villeinage (medium vilenagii, i.e. 5 yardlands and half the service from ½ hide held by three tenants). (fn. 78) Kenilworth Priory received other grants in Mollington, where by the mid 13th century it owned a grange, a canon's house, and a water-mill. (fn. 79) The priory retained its estate until the Dissolution. (fn. 80)
In 1545 Fulk Woodhull, whose family already held land in Mollington, obtained a grant in fee-farm of the manor and manor-house lately held by Kenilworth Priory, to be held as 1/40 fee; (fn. 81) six years later he bought from John and Elizabeth Dormer the interest in Mollington formerly held by the Willingham family. Fulk died in 1574 (fn. 82) and his son Leonard in 1575. (fn. 83) Leonard's sons John (d. 1589) and Anthony succeeded in turn; the latter made a settlement of the manor in 1619; (fn. 84) and was involved in a family dispute concerning Mollington under Charles I. (fn. 85) Anthony Woodhull the elder and his son Anthony conveyed the manor and main estate in Mollington to Ambrose Holbech and his son of the same name in 1662. (fn. 86)
The Holbech family held Mollington until 1950. (fn. 87) The younger Ambrose of 1662 was 'very eminent in the law, particularly in the art of conveyancing, which he practised with great integrity'. (fn. 88) Mollington became the seat of junior members of the family. William Holbech owned seven-eighths of the chapelry at inclosure in 1797; (fn. 89) he was M.P. for Banbury in the period 1794–6, and his grandson C.W. Holbech, Archdeacon of Coventry, was a prominent figure in the district for many years. The archdeacon's grandson, R. H. A. Holbech, broke up the family's property in Mollington in 1950.
A third manor descended from the other half of the Richard's Castle fee which was held in 1242–3 by Thomas Ardern, (fn. 90) and in 1287 by another Thomas Ardern. (fn. 91) In 1242–3 the moiety was held of Thomas by Agnes Kachelewe (Cagchelewe). (fn. 92) William Kachelewe of Mollington occurs earlier in the century; John Kachelewe held land in MOLLINGTON in 1262, (fn. 93) and figures in various deeds of the period, as does Robert Kachelewe. (fn. 94) It was apparently the Ardern interest which then came to Eleanor de Clare, who held half the fee of Mortimer overlords in 1308, (fn. 95) and from the Earl of Warwick as guardian in 1315. (fn. 96) Eleanor's kinsman, John de Clare, aged 22, sought his inheritance in 1331, when he claimed in Mollington (Warws.) a house, a plough-land, and 2 marks of rent, held as ¼ fee. (fn. 97) John de Clare the elder disposed of houses in Mollington (Warws.) in 1377; they were then held of Clare for life by John Hardwick of Mollington, (fn. 98) apparently a man of some substance. (fn. 99) The subsequent history of these interests is obscure, but Sir William Mountford held courts for Mollington in 1450 and 1451, (fn. 100) and before 1472 released his manor of Mollington (Warws.) to Maurice Berkeley of Uley (Glos.). (fn. 101) Before 1541 George Kebbell held a manor, also in Mollington, Warwickshire, and died seised of it in 1588, when he was succeeded by his grandson Thomas, (fn. 102) who sold the manor to Richard Gostelow in 1593; (fn. 103) the Gostelow family also held Prescote. In 1732 John Gostelow conveyed this manor to Robert Sparrow. (fn. 104)
A fourth manor in MOLLINGTON appears to have been created when the Woodhulls sold the main manor in 1662: land in the Warwickshire part of Mollington, formerly held by Edward Woodhull (d. 1621), was described in the 17th century as a manor. The Woodhulls retained the property; Edward's successor was his son Thomas, (fn. 105) and Thomas and Anthony Woodhull conveyed a manor of Mollington (Oxon.) to Edward Adams in 1691. (fn. 106) The manor was apparently conveyed in 1694 to William Wilkes, (fn. 107) to Thomas Bryan in 1757, (fn. 108) to Francis Wheeler in 1772, (fn. 109) and in 1774 to Joseph Nicholls. (fn. 110) The Woodhull family continued to appear in local registers until after 1700, and in 1709 Elizabeth Woodhull married Hugh Holbech. (fn. 111)
Small estates were mentioned in the village at various times. Some of the Woodhull property passed to Edmund Greville of Shotteswell (Warws.), who died at Mollington in 1606 seised of a house and land in the Warwickshire part; he was succeeded by his son Francis, (fn. 112) who at his death in 1658 left several sons. (fn. 113)
In 1086 Mollington was divided into three estates totalling 10 hides (1, 4, and 5 hides), and containing land for 10 ploughs. Forty acres of meadow were divided among the three estates in the proportion of 4 a. to each hide so exactly as to suggest artificiality.
Two of the estates were fully cultivated: the Oxfordshire estate (1 hide) had one plough in demesne with a serf and two bordars and had risen in value since the Conquest from 10s. to 20s. The Northamptonshire estate (4 hides), which had two ploughs in demesne with three serfs, and two others held by four villeins and five bordars, had retained its pre-Conquest value of £4. The 5-hide Warwickshire estate, however, had only one plough in demesne and another held by four villeins and five bordars; although its value had increased from 40s. to 60s. there was clearly still room for improvement. (fn. 116)
Of the 23 people from the Oxfordshire portion of Mollington assessed for tax in 1316 a high number (13) paid small sums of 1s. 6d. or less; Ralph de Bereford, lord of one of the manors, and John of Brailes paid the comparatively high sums of 6s. 8d. and 8s. (fn. 117) In 1327 only 13 people, of whom 9 paid 1s. 6d. or less were assessed, at a total of 20s., (fn. 118) but the assessment did not include the Warwickshire portion of the village, from which 15 people were assessed for tax in 1332. (fn. 119) The tax assessment in 1344 and later (£2 8s. 2d.) suggests that Mollington was richer and more populous than the other hamlets, except for Wardington and Cropredy itself. (fn. 120) In 1523 9 people were assessed for the subsidy, Lawrence Woodhull at 6s. 6d., Grace Saunders at 5s. 6d., and, at the other end of the scale, two at the landless labourer's rate of 4d. (fn. 121)
Little is known about medieval agriculture in Mollington, (fn. 122) although it is probable that the fields bore close relationship to the 18th-century layout. Mollington remained for much of its history divided among a number of small estates, and there was almost no early inclosure. (fn. 123) The tenurial structure was probably fairly stable, with families such as the Woodhulls and Grevilles remaining dominant, though not outstandingly prosperous: the farmhouses seem to have been modest for the area, since for the hearth tax of 1665 the Grevilles were assessed on only 3 hearths, Thomas Woodhull on 2, and the houses of the Robbins and Elkington families also on 2; only Anthony Woodhull occupied a large house assessed on 7 hearths. (fn. 124) A selection of 17th-century probate inventories, however, shows that the leading families were more prosperous than their houses would suggest, and members of the Kilby, Elkington, and Robbins families, for instance, each left personalty at their deaths valued at over £120. Farming was mixed, and the chief crops were barley, wheat, hay, peas; there was a wide range of stock. A large amount of dairy equipment was kept, a sign that butter- and cheese-making were carried out for sale and not only for home use. (fn. 125) Richard Robbins (d. 1624) seems also to have had a weaving interest since he left woollen and linen yarn and 16 lb. of spun hair in his garner. (fn. 126)
Before inclosure in 1797 there were five 'quarters' in Mollington field, Farnborough quarter north of the village, Claydon and Cropredy quarters to the north-east and east, Mill quarter to the south, and Beyond Brook quarter in the south-west of the chapelry, beyond the small brook which flows south across Mollington. (fn. 127) Mill, Cropredy, and Claydon quarters and part of Farnborough quarter lay in the Oxfordshire portion of Mollington: Farnborough quarter and Beyond Brook quarter between them represented a post-inclosure area of nearly 700 a., nearly twice as much as did the other three quarters combined; Claydon and Cropredy quarters each represented a later area of between 150 a. and 200 a., and Mill quarter one of only 50 a. Possibly the last three quarters were cultivated together in the rotation. West of Mollington on the Warmington lane was Cow Pasture Gate, and between it and the small brook mentioned above were the cow pastures.
Mollington was the last part of Cropredy to be inclosed. The only old inclosures were some meadow closes, Mill close in the south-east of the parish and a close belonging to William Holbech called the Lent. An Act for the inclosure of Mollington was obtained in 1792, (fn. 128) but only in September 1796 was a meeting of proprietors held, at which William Holbech proposed a scheme. No other proprietors objected: the only proprietors apart from Holbech, his lessor the Bishop of Oxford, and the Vicar of Cropredy, were the feoffees of the poor of Knightcote (Warws.) and John Gardner. The bishop's consent was readily given, for it was expected that inclosure would much increase the value of the living of Cropredy. The two commissioners (John Chamberlin of Cropredy was one) held fifteen meetings between June 1797 and July 1798 (fn. 129) and the award was signed in 1798. The cost of inclosure was £1,708, of which Holbech paid as much as £1,583. The total acreage inclosed amounted to 1,125 a. (40½ yardlands), of which 549 a. were in Oxfordshire and 576 a. in Warwickshire. Holbech was allotted 842 a., the Bishop of Oxford 155 a., the Knightcote feoffees 44 a., the Vicar of Cropredy 33 a., and John Gardner 24 a. (fn. 130)
The sub-division by fences of the large Holbech allotment and its allocation to the existing farmhouses were, of course, effected by the owners although they built no new farm-houses, either outside the village or in its immediate vicinity. Even in 1966 the fields of Church farm were not contiguous with the farm-house, and Chestnut farm lay in two parts. Mill Farm was the only farm-house outside the village.
The effect of inclosure on Mollington, where so much of the land was in the hands of the Holbeches, was comparatively slight. By the award only 180 a. of waste were brought into production. As wheat production decreased slightly, better use was presumably made of the pasture land and dairy farming was extended. Later Mollington suffered during the agricultural depression. Between 1871, when there were already six unoccupied houses, and 1911 the population fell from 324 to 176. (fn. 131) The 1890s, in particular, were a difficult time: a Cropredy tenant of Brasenose College, Oxford, wrote in March 1897 that 'Archdeacon Holbech's farms have been again reduced [in rent] within the last few weeks'; the rent of one farm had declined from 45s. an acre to 25s. an acre in 20 years. Early in the 20th century there was further emigration. (fn. 132)
By 1914 the Mollington area had been largely turned over to stock-raising and dairy farming, and only about 16 per cent of the land was in corn and 77 per cent was under permanent pasture. Small quantities of swedes, turnips, and mangolds were grown. Flocks of Oxford Down sheep were kept: in 1909 the number of sheep to every 100 a. was 58. (fn. 133) This was the type of farming to which the soil was best suited, but large tracts of arable on the high land on the east side of the Banbury road were ploughed up between 1939 and 1940. (fn. 134) The parish in 1966 remained one of comparatively small farms. Six farms were listed in 1915, compared with 7 in 1854, and in 1939 there were again 7, of which only Lower farm, the Chestnuts, the Poplars, and Manor farm were over 150 a. and none exceeded 270 a. (fn. 135) The Holbech estate was broken up in 1950 and the chief lots then sold, mostly to the sitting tenants, were Lower farm (262 a.), Chestnut farm (175 a.), Mansion House farm (143 a.), Church farm (69 a.); Manor farm was not sold. At that date four of the farms practised mixed farming, and one (Poplars) was a dairy farm. (fn. 136)
The village has always been dependent on agriculture. In 1851, apart from one lace-maker, the villagers worked as farmers, farm labourers, or in the usual village trades. (fn. 137) There are earlier references to a weaver (1638), a salter (1676), and to a woolcomber (1758). (fn. 138) The village smithy, on the north side of the road through the village, went out of use in the 1930s; it was last supplied by a blacksmith travelling over from Farnborough (Warws.). (fn. 139)
Mollington mill is first recorded c. 1300, when William of Spalding received from Kenilworth Priory the lease of a site on which a mill stood; it was plainly a water-mill, (fn. 140) but it seems doubtful whether it was the water-corn-mill mentioned on the Holbech property in 1795. (fn. 141)
A windmill granted with Kenilworth Priory's manor in Mollington to the Woodhull family in 1545 (fn. 142) appears, since a mill was among the property sold by Woodhull to Holbech in 1662, (fn. 143) to be the Mollington mill mentioned in 1722, (fn. 144) 1756, when Thomas Lambert, senior, occupied it, (fn. 145) and 1851, when it consisted of four dwelling houses. (fn. 146) The field on the west side of the Southam road, immediately south of Mill Farm, is called Mill Close; Windmill Close is the field on the opposite side of the main road, across the boundary with Cropredy. 'Windmill house' stood south of Mollington village in 1725. (fn. 147)
For poor law purposes the Oxfordshire and Warwickshire portions of Mollington were separately administered. In 1776 the Oxfordshire portion spent only £13 14s. on poor relief with an extra £5 for paupers' rents, but the Warwickshire portion had what must have been an exceptionally bad year, spending over £70, whereas its average expenditure in 1783–5 was only £25. (fn. 148) In 1797 the parish officers (fn. 149) were unwilling to give information about their poor because they thought that a discovery of the smallness of the rate (2s. in the pound) in Mollington might oblige them to contribute towards easing the heavy burdens of neighbouring parishes. Apparently it had been the practice in this neighbourhood to impose a fine on anyone settling a newcomer, 'so a servant is rarely hired for a year', and 'parishes regularly using this technique are more lightly burdened with poor'. (fn. 150) In 1803 Oxfordshire Mollington spent £191 on poor relief, 19s. 8d. per head of population, while Warwickshire Mollington that year with a smaller population spent £134, just over £1 a head. Expenditure per head and rates were about average for north Oxfordshire. (fn. 151) The Oxfordshire part of the parish, with a population of 199 had 13 adults and 14 children on out-relief, Warwickshire Mollington 7 adults and 1 child out of a population of 123. (fn. 152) Oxfordshire Mollington had an exceptionally bad year in 1813 when it spent £395 (over £2 4s. a head), but despite rising population its expenditure reflects neither the general distress following the Napoleonic wars nor the economic crisis of 1826. In 1831 only £212 (11s. 9d. a head) was spent, although as elsewhere there was a sharp increase in the following year, with a steady fall later. Figures for Warwickshire Mollington show a noticeable rise in 1818–20, but not in 1826. (fn. 153) In 1834 six families in Oxfordshire Mollington were receiving relief together with 3 single men, 19 single women, and 10 widows. Families with three children and over received an allowance in winter. There were 39 labourers available, but the returning officer said there was work for only about 24. Nevertheless all were employed in the summer, and in winter there were only 5 who were 'allotted' or given work on the roads; the extra labourers were apportioned according to the poor rate in summer, and to the occupiers in winter. (fn. 154) Both parts of Mollington were included in Banbury Union in 1834.
Although Mollington was a dependent chapelry of Cropredy until 1851, it had two churchwardens by 1609, (fn. 155) a burial ground by 1566, (fn. 156) and curate's house by 1738, (fn. 157) and probably much earlier. In 1851 the perpetual curacy of Claydon-withMollington was created; (fn. 158) the living was in the gift of the Bishop of Oxford and was endowed with glebe. (fn. 159) In 1863 the net value of the joint living excluding the new glebe-house was c. £234 of which £109 came from Mollington glebe and tithes. In that year Mollington was created a separate perpetual curacy, and the endowment of the joint living was divided. In 1877 Mollington benefice was valued at £178 gross, of which £172 came from glebe rents—a precarious situation, especially as a tenth of the glebe rent due on Lady Day 1879 had later to be remitted. (fn. 160) Besides the glebe the vicars were entitled to tithe rent charges, ordained in 1843, from seven cottages, a public house, and one malt-house (3 a. in all) in Mollington. (fn. 161) Small additional grants made between 1877 and 1926 brought the value of the living to £211 yearly, of which £92 came from glebe rent. (fn. 162)
In 1928 the benefices, but not the parishes, of Mollington and Claydon were reunited; the living remained in the gift of the Bishop of Oxford and in 1931 its total endowment was £470. (fn. 163) In 1965 the living retained most of its glebe of 60 a., of which 55 a. lay in Cropredy. (fn. 164)
In 1526 the curate's stipend was £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 165) During the Commonwealth period an attempt was made to augment it: in 1650 Captain George Raleigh of Farnborough (Warws.), the lay rector, as a precondition for the reduction of his fine for delinquency in 1646, assigned half the rectorial tithe in Mollington, valued at £100 a year, to trustees for maintenance of a minister. (fn. 166) The improvement did not survive the Restoration. In 1739 the curate, who since the 1670s had served Claydon also, was receiving £30 a year. (fn. 167) In 1808 the stipend for serving both cures was £32 10s. and in 1814 £35. (fn. 168)
The names of only two medieval curates are known, Ralph Caton (1457) and Roger Norman (1526). (fn. 169) In the post-Reformation period the provision of curates for Mollington was no more satisfactory than for other Cropredy chapelries. It is possible that in 1557 William Rowse was curate of Mollington only; (fn. 170) but William Saunderson, who occurs between 1598 and 1604, was certainly curate of Mollington and Claydon, (fn. 171) as were most subsequent curates. (fn. 172) In 1678 the Vicar of Cropredy was ordered to serve Claydon and Mollington with one stipendiary curate and that arrangement seems to have held good in general until the 19th century. (fn. 173) In 1813–14, however, the curate served Warmington (Warws.) as well as Mollington. (fn. 174) It is not known when the curates ceased to reside, but the 'vicarage house' was sold in 1814, (fn. 175) and was not replaced for forty years. Mollington's church attendance was similar to that in other parts of the undivided parish of Cropredy: in 1808 there was one service each Sunday, and the average attendance at the three annual celebrations of Holy Communion was 20. (fn. 176) By 1814 there had been some improvement: there were four celebrations with an attendance of 50. (fn. 177)
After the creation of the perpetual curacy in 1851 the new incumbent, Thomas Henry Tait, first resided at Wardington, but in 1852 the Holbeches gave a two-acre site for a parsonage, which was finished in 1854. (fn. 178) In Bishop Wilberforce's view it was 'ugly outside, but comfortable in and very well situated'. (fn. 179) By 1854 there were two services each Sunday, and a third service every other Sunday; the average afternoon attendance was 100; Communion was held monthly instead of quarterly and the average number of communicants at the more frequent celebrations was twelve, or seventeen on great festivals. (fn. 180) Tait was responsible for the restoration of the church in the 1850s. (fn. 181)
In 1875 A. M. Sugden, incumbent since the separation of Mollington and Claydon in 1863, complained that his parishioners resisted all attempts to induce them to become communicants, attributing his failure partly to the great influence of the Primitive Methodists and partly to neglect by former curates. He preached three sermons on Sundays and appears to have had an attendance of over 100 at either the morning or the evening service; he administered Holy Communion every Sunday and on two festivals, but 22 was the highest number of communicants. (fn. 182) In 1872 he again deplored the poverty of the parish, the small attendance, and the difficulty of teaching the children. (fn. 183) By 1878 a new vicar had reduced the Sunday services to two and the number of communion services had been cut to once a month in winter. Even so attendance was only slightly increased. (fn. 184)
After the benefices of Mollington and Claydon were reunited in 1928 the vicar resided at Mollington, except between 1934 and 1958 when he resided at Claydon. (fn. 185)
The church of ALL SAINTS (fn. 186) consists of a chancel, nave, north aisle, south porch, and west tower. The chancel and nave were built in the 14th century, the only feature of an earlier date being the font, which is decorated with dog-tooth ornament of the 13th century. The west tower was built c. 1500. The north aisle was rebuilt in 1855 on the site of an aisle that existed by the early 14th century; it is separated from the nave by an arcade of four bays, above which is a clerestory of two two-light windows. On the north side of the chancel a blocked arch indicates the existence of a former north chapel, whose piscina survives in what is now the outside wall. An adjoining doorway, also blocked, presumably gave access to a vestry.
In 1715 the churchwardens reported that they had pulled down the porch and were rebuilding it: (fn. 187) it was evidently reconstructed with the old materials, as its features are all characteristic of the 14th century. In 1786 the north aisle and chapel were 'taken down' or dismantled, the arcades were built up, (fn. 188) and for seventy years the church consisted only of nave, chancel, and tower.
In 1855 the nave was restored and the north aisle rebuilt by G. E. Street. (fn. 189) A gallery was removed, and the 15th-century chancel screen of crudely carved wood was placed beneath the tower arch. (fn. 190) Though the repair of the chancel was considered in 1854, nothing was done until 1922, when its masonry was restored. (fn. 191) The roofs of both nave and chancel were releaded in 1929, (fn. 192) and extensive repairs to the timbers were carried out in 1965. Electric light was installed in 1953, and electric heaters in 1958. (fn. 193)
There are tablets to the memory of Anthony Woodhull and his wife Mary (both d. 1669) and of Elizabeth Woodhull (d. 1657). In the chancel are brass inscriptions to the same Anthony and Mary Woodhull, Anthony Woodhull (d. 1675), and his wife Ann (d. 1678), and Francis Woodhull (d. 1700). There are memorials to various members of the Holbech family, (fn. 194) namely Ambrose the elder (d. 1701) and the younger (d. 1737), Elizabeth (née Woodhull, d. 1732), wife of Hugh Holbech, Hugh's sister Finetta (d. 1758), another Hugh Holbech (d. 1763) and his wife Catherine (d. 1753). The glass in the east window (1877) commemorates Harriet Mavor.
The bells were reported as unsatisfactory in 1868; (fn. 195) the ring of five dates from 1631, 1789, and 1875, when the treble and second were added and the tenor recast; there is, in addition, a sanctus. The bells hang in an 18th-century oak frame. (fn. 196)
The church clock is a two-train striker, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century; its anchor escapement has been modified in the same way, and probably by the same smith as that of the original Cropredy clock, now at Horley. (fn. 197) The organ is by T. C. Bates & Son, Ludgate Hill. The church plate, which is modern, includes a silver chalice and paten made by John Keith in 1852 and bought in 1855. (fn. 198)
The Holbeches gave land for small additions to the churchyard in 1891 and 1908. (fn. 199) The rent of an allotment of under 1 a., assigned at inclosure in 1796 to the repair of the church, was still creditied in 1966 to the church account. In 1909 Jeremiah French gave allotments, and Mrs. Hyems £20, for the repair of the church; the charities were amalgamated by 1927. (fn. 200)
The registers begin in 1561; there are no entries for the period 1614–16 and few for the Civil War period. (fn. 201)
Apart from the burials of two Quakers, Thomas Claridge and Anne Tims, in 1670 and 1677 (fn. 202) there is no evidence of Protestant dissent in the chapelry until William Gibb's house was registered for meetings in 1817. (fn. 203) In 1821 the house of Thomas Quiney and in 1828 that of Richard Quiney were registered by the Methodist minister of Banbury. (fn. 204) Mollington was one of the villages at which Joseph Preston preached in the Primitive Methodist interest during 1835. (fn. 205) A chapel of that denomination was erected in 1845 with 120 sittings. In 1851 the manager was John Frost, a Mollington shoemaker, and the average attendance during the preceding year was returned as 100, probably a slight exaggeration. (fn. 206) In 1854 the incumbent referred to 'long established dissent' and estimated that about twenty families in Claydon and Mollington attended the 'Ranters' and Chapel'. (fn. 207) In 1860 he reported that his parishioners (who had had only one church service a week before his time) were in the habit of going to both church and chapel, and that there were several 'Ranting' preachers living in Mollington. He complained that they were very well organized, and though very civil to him were always trying to lure away his 'singing children' when his back was turned; he concluded that although at least half of the labourers were dissenters and most of the other half went to chapel, the upper classes went to church 'because it is more genteel or because they have been accustomed so to do'. (fn. 208) In 1866 and 1869 there were said to be about 120 professed Primitive Methodists, (fn. 209) and in 1872 it was said that nearly half the parishioners were dissenters. (fn. 210) After a period of decline the chapel closed in 1947, and in 1950 was acquired for the use of the Brethren by Mrs. Fuller, whose son-in-law was tenant of Manor Farm. The chapel became the centre for Brethren from a wide area, (fn. 211) but by 1969 it had been closed.
Mollington enjoyed the right to send 4 children to the school at Williamscot. (fn. 212) In 1808 the Vicar of Cropredy reported that a private, unendowed school had just been set up, which taught reading, writing, and arithmetic to about 15 children. There was also a Sunday school where from 30 to 40 children learnt to read. (fn. 213) In 1814 a Sunday school was mentioned (fn. 214) and in 1818 a small dayschool, supported by subscriptions, for about 20 children and also a Sunday school of about 50; (fn. 215) in 1833 there was a day-school for 25 boys and girls, supported by William Holbech and the Vicar of Cropredy, and a mixed Sunday school where 52 children each paid the master ½d. every Sunday. (fn. 216) A schoolmistress lived in Mollington in 1851. (fn. 217) In 1852 there was an infant school supported by William Holbech. (fn. 218) In 1854 the bishop was told that a mixed school (average attendance 46), supported by Holbech and the vicar, had been started within the last six months; there was also a Sunday school attended by an average of 65 children. The vicar hoped soon to start an evening school. (fn. 219)
Twelve years later evening classes were being held in the winter months, but only those devoted to music were considered by the vicar to be really successful. The room used by the day-school, then attended by 70 children, was said to be entirely unfit with its poor situation, low ceiling, and very bad ventilation. The Sunday school was attended by 35 children, most of whom attended also during the week. Financial support for the schools came from Mr. Holbech, who gave £10, the Calcott charity £2 5s., and from childrens' pence which amounted to £12 a year. The incumbent made up the deficiency himself. In 1868 the evening school was no longer in being and numbers at the day and Sunday schools had diminished to 50 and 30 respectively. The Primitive Methodists had started a Sunday school which had been attended by 16 boys and 16 girls in 1851. (fn. 220)
The National school was built in 1872 with accommodation for 63 children; (fn. 221) in 1894 average attendance was only 28. (fn. 222) It had risen to 40 in 1902. (fn. 223) Mollington school in 1962 had 22 children but by 1970 the number was once again 40; (fn. 224) the older children travelled to Banbury.
Charities for the Poor.
Calcott Chambre of Williamscot, Fulk Green, Anthony Woodhull the elder and younger, Ambrose Holbech the elder, and John Gostelow gave various sums of money amounting to £75 for the benefit of Mollington poor; with this, and a further £5 12s. 6d. lent by Ambrose Holbech the younger, three fee-farm rents in Bourton were bought in 1679, and Anthony Woodhull (at an unknown date) gave Hugh Holbech a further £20 for the poor of Mollington. Hugh Holbech also left a rent-charge of 6s. 8d., and a rentcharge of 2s. 6d. was left by an unknown person before 1734; both rent-charges in 1824 were being paid on land owned by the Holbeches. (fn. 225) John Bray of Horley (d. 1725) left a rent-charge of 5s. on land in Horley to be distributed to 20 poor persons of Mollington. (fn. 226) William Alcock bequeathed £100 for the poor. (fn. 227) In 1824 the income from all the charities, £7 11s. 6d., was laid out by the churchwardens in coal which was distributed free to the poor of Mollington. One of the rent-charges was redeemed in 1956. (fn. 228) In 1969 the income of the charities, £7 4s. 4d., was distributed in coal vouchers to widows and old age pensioners. (fn. 229)
Ambrose Holbech the younger left £50 in 1701 to purchase land, the profits from which should be used to apprentice a poor child of Mollington in every second year. The bequest was not invested in land, but by 1824 it amounted to £100, because the charity could seldom be used. In 1908 it was the practice to allow the charity to accumulate so that £5 could be paid yearly for two years to apprentice one cripple or invalid to a sedentary trade. The Holbech family in 1966 retained partial control of the charity. (fn. 230)