A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 11, Wootton Hundred (Northern Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1983.
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Heythrop, a parish of 1,763 a. (713.5 ha.), comprises the townships of Heythrop and Dunthrop. Although united early for ecclesiastical purposes and later for civil purposes, the townships lay in separate hundreds. The stream dividing them also formed the hundred boundary before the census of 1811, when Heythrop, formerly in Chadlington hundred, joined Dunthrop in Wootton. (fn. 1) The parish has an elongated shape. Its short northern boundary follows the river Swere and streams mark the boundaries on the south-east, south, and south-west. Part of the north-eastern boundary lies along an ancient lane bordering Little Tew. Elsewhere the parish boundaries follow the lines of field boundaries. In 1884 c. 100 a. of the Heythrop estate in Over Norton parish were transferred to Heythrop parish. (fn. 2)
The land rises from c. 150 m. in the south-east to c. 213 m. in the north-west and east. It lies mainly on Chipping Norton limestone which, in the southern part of the parish, is edged by beds of Clypeus grit and Upper Lias clay, with, around the streams, Middle Lias Marlstone and silt. There are beds of Upper Lias clay north-east of Heythrop village and in the north-west end of the parish, which is crossed by the Swerford Fault. By the river Swere is Great Oolite limestone with Forest marble and cornbrash. (fn. 3) The soil is stonebrash, described in the 19th century as thin and liable to drought and in the 20th as 'poor, sandy soil of bad reputation', (fn. 4) and pasture farming has played a large part in the parish's history.
The road from Chipping Norton to Banbury, turnpiked in 1770, crosses the north-west end of the parish. It was disturnpiked in 1871. (fn. 5) A branch of that road, running to Hook Norton and on to Edge Hill (Warws.) entered Heythrop in the north-west, crossing the river Swere as it left the parish. It was described as a lane in the 18th century. Another branch, part of an ancient drove road known as Green Lane, ran from Over Norton Common east and south-east along the parish boundary. At the inclosure of Little Tew in 1767 the road's line was altered to pass north of a strip of land in Little Tew that formed part of the Heythrop estate. A track from Cold Norton priory to Heythrop village was probably rerouted in the 18th century to run alongside the north avenue of the park before turning north-east to Heythrop and Dunthrop villages. All three roads have been remade in modern times. There were also tracks from Heythrop village and Heythrop House to Enstone and its hamlets, Lidstone and Broadstone. (fn. 6) A bridge across the dammed stream north-east of the house formed part of the landscaping of the park in the early 18th century. Three single-arch stone bridges were built across the stream west of the house. That south-west of the house from Great Cow meadow to Enstone was built c. 1728, (fn. 7) and the others probably date from the same period. That leading to Broadstonehill was rebuilt in 1979. Mr. Albert Brassey, owner of the estate after 1870, built a new access road south from the house to Enstone. He also rebuilt the path along the north-west avenue. A narrow rutted track runs from the house to Heythrop village.
Heythrop, whose Anglo-Saxon name means high farm or hamlet, lies in the centre of the parish 18 miles (29 km.) north-west of Oxford and 3 miles (5 km.) east of Chipping Norton. It overlooks the small, steep valley of a tributary of the river Glyme to the north; Dunthrop, meaning either lower or Dunna's farm, is on the north side of the valley. (fn. 8) The depopulation of Heythrop in the 14th century (fn. 9) reduced the village to church, manor house, and a few cottages. By the mid 17th century the cottages numbered only three. (fn. 10) The building in the early 18th century of Heythrop House at the opposite end of the estate did nothing to regenerate the village, which still had only four houses in 1801. (fn. 11) In 1852 there was reputedly no village at all apart from the church and old manor house. (fn. 12) There were, however, a few cottages within the park. Three on the west side of the park towards Broadstonehill farm had been a slaughterhouse in the 18th century. Known as Kennel cottages in the 19th century they are two-storeyed terraced stone cottages with outhouses. South of them is a pair of stone cottages of similar date, reputedly former laundries. Two cottages, known as Deerpen cottages, south-east of the church were in ruins in 1980. A priest's house, since demolished, stood in the grounds of the Catholic chapel. (fn. 13) Several houses were built in Heythrop village by Mr. Brassey. They are well built detached and semidetached houses of stone, some of which carry the initials AB. In 1873 he built the village school, a large single-storeyed stone building. He demolished the old manor house c. 1880 and replaced it with a new house to serve as a rectory. (fn. 14)
Dunthrop was depopulated even earlier than Heythrop, and no tenants were recorded in 1279. (fn. 15) The site of the original settlement can be seen east of Dunthrop Farm. In the 18th century there was some new building in the hamlet and by 1801 there were 11 houses, compared with Heythrop's four. (fn. 16) By 1870, however, there were only seven cottages. (fn. 17) In 1980 the hamlet comprised Dunthrop Farm and four cottages on the opposite side of the road. The two cottages to the north are stone-built, of the 18th century, and were possibly one house in origin. To the south is an attached pair of stone houses of the Brassey era. North of the cottages is a large stone barn with buttresses and hipped roof, with other farm buildings adjoining. Dunthrop farm has become the largest in the parish as a result of the purchase of neighbouring farmland by Miss Anne Gregory in the mid 20th century. (fn. 18) The farmhouse, a tall house of c. 1700, has a symmetrical west front of six bays with a central stair turret and an east front with central porch and a small wing at the south end. The north end is obscured by a 19thcentury extension. The windows are generally stone-framed and mullioned and are transomed, but those on the west front are all of one light, disguised to resemble sashes.
Castle Farm, east of Dunthrop, probably named after a family who were tenants of the land in the 18th century, comprised only a barn in 1710. (fn. 19) A farmhouse had been built by the middle of the century (fn. 20) but was apparently demolished by Albert Brassey and replaced by a substantial stone house and farm buildings. The farm was bought in 1930 by Arthur Sword, an English settler returning from Argentina, and the house has been greatly enlarged and renovated. Walk farm, presumably named from the sheep walks there, lay in the north west. The farmhouse, beyond the road from Chipping Norton to Hook Norton, was not marked on a map of 1767, and was referred to as the new house homestead in 1790. (fn. 21) It is a two-storeyed stone building with attics and Stonesfield slate roof, and is of three bays; the doorway has a hood on carved brackets. There are extensive outbuildings attached so as to form a south-facing U-shape. Across the road is a pair of semi-detached houses of the Brassey period. The farm may once have been worked from a group of buildings apparently in use in the mid 18th century, but said to be in ruins in 1794; (fn. 22) they were east of the road, but nothing remains, although traces were found in the early 20th century. (fn. 23) The farmland became part of Dunthrop farm in 1961. (fn. 24)
Park farm was taken over by Dunthrop farm in 1977 and the farmhouse sold as a private house. The house is a large detached building constructed entirely of wood c. 1937 and said to be one of the largest wooden houses of its type in the country. (fn. 25)
Twenty-three people were recorded in 1086, (fn. 26) representing a population not equalled again until the 19th century. In 1279 the 11 tenants recorded in Heythrop village represented little change since 1086, but no tenants were recorded in Dunthrop. (fn. 27) The Ashfields were the only family in the parish assessed for 16th-century subsidies, and the muster certificates of 1542 returned only 7 people. (fn. 28) The 10 adult males recorded in 1642 and the 25 adults in 1676 suggest, as elsewhere, a rising population in the 17th century. (fn. 29) For most of the 18th century there were 7–10 houses in the parish, (fn. 30) indicating little further increase, but there was faster growth in the latter part of the century and by 1801 there were 89 people. (fn. 31) The decline to 56 people recorded in 1811 is contradicted by other evidence (fn. 32) and may be unreliable. In 1821 there were 136 people, a growth that stemmed in part from the recent arrival at Heythrop House of Henry Somerset, duke of Beaufort; the high proportion of women was presumably accounted for by domestic servants. Additional houses were required for the servants of the Heythrop Hunt. (fn. 33) Following the fire at the house in 1831 the population immediately afterwards fell to 123, but the continuation of the hunt brought the population to a peak of 198 in 1841. The hunt's decline after 1851 was matched by a fall to 152 in 1871. The revitalization of the parish under Albert Brassey is reflected in the population figures, which rose to 250 in 1881, remaining steady thereafter until after his death in 1918. By 1921 the population had fallen sharply to 167, reaching a nadir of c. 60 in 1924, following the break-up of the estate. (fn. 34) The large increase thereafter was due to the use of Heythrop House as a college by the Society of Jesus, and, later, by the National Westminster Bank. The number of people in private families in the parish rose to 150 in 1931 and 178 in 1951; thereafter the number declined to 138 in 1961 and 100 in 1971. (fn. 35)
Water was obtained from the streams, springs, and wells. In 1923 water was obtained from a spring just east of Dunthrop farmhouse and pumped to a water tower in Heythrop village. (fn. 36) In 1980 spring and mains water were both in use.
The isolation of the villages, lying off main routes, was increased when Brassey built a new access road south from Heythrop House to Enstone, making the house and park more part of Enstone than of Heythrop. Apart from a single dirt track the way from the house to Heythrop and Dunthrop villages is by Enstone. In the 1920s and 1930s schools inspectors reported that the remoteness of the villages hindered children's contact with the outside world and made boys, in particular, timid and distrustful. (fn. 37)
Visitors coming to admire Heythrop House, and acquiring a fleeting acquaintance with the parish, were apt to make remarks about the 'dreariness of the . . . cold, bleak-looking, level fields'. The use of stone walls instead of hedgerows was particularly disparaged. (fn. 38) Many travellers formed their opinions from the tops of coaches travelling between Oxford and Birmingham, and therefore saw little of the valley between Heythrop and Dunthrop or of the pleasantly wooded slopes around the house. Among notable visitors who stayed at Heythrop were Alexander Pope and Matthew Prior in 1717. (fn. 39)
Heythrop's small population was totally dependent for employment on Heythrop House and neighbouring farms and was therefore vulnerable to the effects of the gradual withdrawal from Heythrop of the Shrewsbury family in the early 19th century. (fn. 40) Heythrop men do not, however, seem to have been directly involved in the Swing Riots incident of November 1830, when a mob variously estimated at 70 and 200 allegedly broke into Heythrop House, assaulted Henry Somerset, duke of Beaufort, and damaged farm machinery. (fn. 41) Of the 24 later tried only one, John West, seems possibly to have been a Heythrop man. (fn. 42)
Since c. 1955 disused sawmills north-east of Heythrop House, on the boundary with Little Tew parish, have been used as winter quarters by Chipperfield's circus. (fn. 43)
Manors and Other Estates.
HEYTHROP, along with Kiddington, was given c. 780 by Offa, king of the Mercians, to Worcester priory. It was reputedly lost by the priory in the 9th century, (fn. 44) and in 1086 was held, as was Kiddington, by Hasculf Musard. Assessed at 5 hides and held as ½ knight's fee, the manor descended in the Musard family but, as with their other Oxfordshire estates, the connexion became tenuous in the late 13th century. (fn. 45) In 1279 Ralph Musard was said to be chief lord although he had been dead for 7 years, and the inquisition taken at the death in 1300 of his brother Nicholas, the last of the legitimate male line, made no mention of Heythrop. (fn. 46) Only one reference has been found thereafter, in 1346, to the Musard fee in Heythrop. (fn. 47)
In the early 13th century the Musards' tenant on the manor was Richard son of John. (fn. 48) The wardship exercised by Geoffrey Despenser following the death of Robert Musard in 1239 seems to have been marked by the creation of a short-lived mesne lordship for Hugh de St. Philibert of Cresswell (Berks.), (fn. 49) the family of Richard son of John continuing as demesne lords. By 1259 Richard had joined the Templars, giving Heythrop, along with his Berkshire lands, to his son Maen, who was granted free warren in all his demesne lands. (fn. 50) In 1261 Maen was succeeded by his daughter Beatrice, a minor. (fn. 51) In 1286 she and her husband, William of Luyton, granted the manor to Robert of Lewknor (d. 1332), to be held of them and their heirs. (fn. 52) Robert was succeeded by his son Sir John (d. c. 1356), sheriff and keeper of Oxford castle in 1333, and several times knight of the shire. (fn. 53) Sir John was succeeded by his son, also Sir John, (fn. 54) who may have secured the overlordship of the manor c. 1369 when he obtained the overlordship of neighbouring properties. (fn. 55) Sir John (d. c. 1380) put Heythrop in trust for his wife Elizabeth, who, in 1381, exchanged the manor with her son Robert for the family's Chalford estate. Elizabeth was granted housebote and haybote in Heythrop in return for pasturage of sheep in Chalford. (fn. 56) Robert of Lewknor was still in possession of the manor in 1403, but was apparently in financial difficulties, (fn. 57) and Heythrop passed to John Wilcotes (d. 1422) of North Leigh, sheriff and knight of the shire. Wilcotes presumably obtained the manor c. 1417, when he purchased other Lewknor property in the area. (fn. 58) He left Heythrop to his second wife Elizabeth (d. c. 1446) for the term of her life with remainder to trustees who were instructed to offer first refusal to John Feriby (d. 1441), a royal clerk and former colleague, who had married Margery, stepdaughter of Thomas Lewknor. (fn. 59) Elizabeth took as her second husband Sir Richard Walkstead and in 1434 they granted her life interest in the manor to Walter Walkstead, rector of Charltonon-Otmoor. In 1439 Walter transferred it to John Ashfield and his wife Margaret, Elizabeth's daughter by her first marriage. (fn. 60) John Feriby claimed that the terms of John Wilcotes's will had not been complied with and demanded the right to purchase the manor. (fn. 61) The outcome of the dispute is not clear, but in 1448 Sir John Bourchier and his wife Margery, widow of John Feriby, held the manor, which in 1575 was said to be held of Sir Edward Unton as of his manor of Langley (Berks.). (fn. 62) Sir Edward's wife Mary was the great-great-granddaughter and coheir of Sir John Bourchier and Margery Feriby. (fn. 63) John Ashfield had possession of the manor at his death in 1455, as did his son John in 1506, grandson John in 1521, and great-grandson Humphrey in 1570. (fn. 64) Humphrey Ashfield was succeeded by his son Humphrey (d. 1585), whose son Thomas died without issue in 1600, leaving as coheirs his sisters Mary and Anne. (fn. 65) In 1601 Mary and Anne sold half the manor to Thomas Peniston, a cousin, who died in the same year. (fn. 66) The property seems to have reverted to Mary, who conveyed it in 1608 to Sir Thomas Denton. (fn. 67) In 1618 Denton sold his interest to Edmund Goodyer (d. by 1634). (fn. 68) By 1612 the other half of the manor had been sold to Goodyer's friend Edmund Meese of Over Worton. (fn. 69) In 1617 Meese devised the estate to Goodyer, whose son Edmund married Meese's niece Elizabeth. (fn. 70) Edmund was succeeded by his son Edmund Meese Goodyer (d. 1663) and grandson Thomas. Thomas was succeeded at his death in 1670 by his brother Edmund, (fn. 71) who sold the manor in 1695 because of financial difficulties.
Heythrop was purchased by Ralph Milbank, son of Mark Milbank of Halnaby (Yorks.), and husband of Anne Marten, a member of a prominent Rousham and Steeple Aston family. (fn. 72) There is no indication that Milbank ever lived at Heythrop, and in 1705 he sold the estate to Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury (d. 1718). Heythrop became the principal residence of the earls of Shrewsbury, even though the duke's immediate successor, Gilbert Talbot, 13th earl (d. 1743), a Roman Catholic priest, never lived there. His nephew George Talbot (d. 1787) succeeded to the estate and was followed by his nephew Charles (d. 1827) who resided infrequently at Heythrop and who in 1820 rented Heythrop House to Henry Charles Somerset, duke of Beaufort (d. 1835). (fn. 73) Successive earls continued to hold the estate, but none of them lived there and in 1870 it was sold to Thomas Brassey, the railway engineer, who gave it in that year to his son Albert (d. 1918) as a wedding present. Albert's son, Capt. Robert Bingham Brassey sold Heythrop in 1923 to the Society of Jesus for use as a college. In 1969 it was purchased by the National Westminster Bank as a staff training college. (fn. 74) Manorial rights seem to have lapsed by the late 19th century and no mention was made of them at the sale of 1870.
The old manor house stood north-west of the medieval church, near the site of the Dower house, formerly the rectory. A photograph of 1870 (fn. 75) shows a plain two-storeyed, three-bayed house of early 19th-century appearance adjoined by a smaller two-storeyed extension. The house may, however, have been older, for several features visible in 1870, notably the sash win dows, were installed in 1805 in an existing house. (fn. 76) The house was demolished by 1880 to make way for the rectory. (fn. 77)
Heythrop House and park were begun shortly after the return in 1707 of Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury, from Italy where, in 1704, he had obtained a plan for a house from Paolo Falconieri. (fn. 78) Shrewsbury's architect was Thomas Archer, who had also recently returned from Italy, and the builder was Francis Smith of Tettenhall (Staffs.). (fn. 79) The designer of the landscape is not known, but landscape and house are clearly part of one design and Archer may have been responsible. Stylistically and circumstantially an attribution to Henry Wise could also be supported. As royal gardener he was under Shrewsbury's control, and he designed the landscape at Blenheim, where he occupied a keeper's lodge. (fn. 80)
The house is built of honey-coloured limestone quarried on the estate and is of two storeys on a basement. The entrance front is to the northwest and has 11 bays with a central Corinthian portico in antis; the garden front is of 13 bays, and the sides of nine. The architecture has been shown to combine elements of Italian baroque derived from designs by, among others, Bernini and Borromini. (fn. 81) The principal floor was arranged on each side of a central axis which ran from the hall through an apsidal-sided vestibule, flanked by open courts, into a gallery with nine windows to the garden. Outside the entrance front a forecourt was formed by a two-storeyed stable wing on the north-east and balancing kitchens and offices on the south-west, both joined to the house by screen walls.
The roof was probably completed in 1710, but some building still remained to be done at the time of the duke's death in 1718. (fn. 82) The plasterer Thomas Roberts of Oxford (d. 1771) worked there later in the 18th century. (fn. 83)
The house was gutted by fire in 1831, the flames being visible 40 miles away. (fn. 84) The house had been richly furnished, the drawing room alone costing £6,000, (fn. 85) but it is not clear what was destroyed, for in 1819 it was reported that the house contained only stucco and tapestries. (fn. 86) The house was abandoned until 1870 when it was taken over by Albert Brassey. The interior was restored by Alfred Waterhouse who retained little more than the outer walls of the main block, replanning the interior around a Vanburghian central hall and replacing the wings by larger stables and offices each of which surrounded a courtyard. Both were extended following the purchase of the house by the Society of Jesus which also built two halls of residence in the park. Since 1969 the house has been extensively restored by the National Westminster Bank.
The house lies at the south-eastern end of a spur of level ground between two steep valleys, and the park was laid out to take full advantage of that position. The main avenue ran northwestwards along the spur for almost 2 miles and shorter avenues from the other fronts of the house plunged into the valleys laterally and at their confluence on the south-east. The northwest avenue comprised alternating square and circular clumps of elms and was in existence by 1713; (fn. 87) the other avenues were made later (fn. 88) and were of a more conventional nature, that on the north-east crossing the valley on a bridge and rising again on the opposite slope to end a mile from the house. The south-east avenue was aligned on Enstone church tower. In the neighbourhood of the house the valley slopes were wooded. The eastern stream was dammed at the bridge and converted into a series of lakes and cascades. On the slopes south-west of the house a naturalistic garden was possibly in existence by 1710, if so a remarkably early example of its type. (fn. 89) A small spring there supplied water to an oval bath and a well house. Immediately northwest of the house the main avenue widened out to surround a grassed plain before the forecourt. The formal gardens lay south and east of the house and included a grove pierced by eight walks radiating from a sunken circular bowling green. There was a walled garden and a very large conservatory. (fn. 90)
By 1820, following the withdrawal of the earls of Shrewsbury from Heythrop, the formal gardens were neglected, and after the fire of 1831 vegetation was allowed to come up to the walls of the house. (fn. 91) Much of the original layout, however, is still recognizable. Terraces were reintroduced following the restoration of 1870. (fn. 92) The other major innovation of the later 19th century was a walled garden with greenhouses and flower borders. By then the 18th-century walled garden was used only as an orchard and kitchen garden.
Of the two five-hide estates recorded in Dunthrop in 1086 one was held by William, count of Evreux. (fn. 93) It formed part of the land granted by him to the monastery which he founded in his fortress of Noyon (Oise). (fn. 94) Noyon retained the chief lordship until the confiscation of the lands of alien priories in 1414, when it seems to have been transferred to the new royal foundation of Sheen priory (Surr.); in 1536 Sheen received from Dunthrop a reserved rent of £2 10s., the amount formerly received by Noyon. (fn. 95) The chief lordship passed to Sir Thomas Pope when he obtained the estate and reserved rents from the Crown in 1537 and 1545. (fn. 96)
In the late 12th century and early 13th much of the Noyon estate seems to have been held by a family taking its name from Dunthrop, but by 1242 the demesne tenancy had passed to Bruern abbey, and in 1279 Nicholas son of Savary of Dunthrop was mesne lord. (fn. 97) In 1242 and in 1388–9 the estate was said to comprise 6 hides, perhaps because of the inclusion of Showell, a detached part of Swerford parish frequently held with Dunthrop. (fn. 98) In 1279 Bruern held 4 hides in Dunthrop; the fifth hide, not accounted for in the hundred rolls, was presumably that held in 1292 by Cold Norton priory. (fn. 99)
The other five-hide estate of 1086 had been held in 1066 by Leofwine, passing to Gilbert Maminot, bishop of Lisieux. (fn. 100) By the late 12th century the chief lordship had passed to Ralph de Keynes (fl. 1166) and formed part of the barony of Tarrant Keynston (Dors.), of which it was held, with an estate of 3 hides in Duns Tew, as 1 knight's fee. (fn. 101) Robert de Keynes (d. 1282) was chief lord in 1279, (fn. 102) but no later record of the Keynes interest has been traced.
By the late 12th century and early 13th the estate had become subinfeudated. In 1220 William de Lucy (d. 1250) of Charlecote (Warws.) was mesne lord of 6 yardlands; in 1279 his grandson Fulk (d. 1302) held of a William le Chevalier, mesne lord of all 5 hides of the estate. (fn. 103) The Dunthrop family, demesne tenants of part of the estate in the late 12th century and early 13th, made several grants of land to Bruern abbey, culminating c. 1242 in the surrender by Michael of Dunthrop of all his interest in the estate. The abbey became thereby sole demesne tenant. (fn. 104) From c. 1334 to c. 1366 the estate seems to have been held of Bruern by William Shareshull. (fn. 105) The estate was referred to as a manor, and the court of Ralph de Keynes mentioned, c. 1180. (fn. 106) It was not, however, referred to as a manor in the hundred rolls, and only inconsistently so before the 16th century, by which time it and other land in the possession of Bruern formed a single manor of DUNTHROP.
Bruern abbey's possessions in Dunthrop also included a yardland granted in 1233 by Beatrice, wife of Richard Despenser; (fn. 107) no later mention of it has been found and it was presumably absorbed with the abbey's other land. Following the dissolution of Bruern abbey in 1536 its estates formed part of the extensive purchases of monastic land in the area by Sir Thomas Pope (d. 1559). (fn. 108) It was his initial intention to endow his foundation of Trinity College, Oxford, with Dunthrop but the grant was not effected and Dunthrop passed to his brother and heir John (d. 1593) who was succeeded by his son William, earl of Downe (d. 1631). (fn. 109) William was succeeded in the title and the estate by his grandson Thomas Pope (d. 1660) who, fined £5,000 by the Committee for Compounding in 1645, sold his land, including Dunthrop, in 1651. (fn. 110) Dunthrop and the former Bruern abbey estate in Showell were purchased by Daniel Harvey (d. 1663) of Coombe (Surr.). (fn. 111) Harvey was succeeded by his son Sir Daniel whose son Edward sold the estate in 1710 to Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury. (fn. 112) Thereafter the manor of Dunthrop followed the descent of Heythrop until 1923.
The Ashfield family were tenants of Dunthrop manor in the early 16th century and possibly earlier. (fn. 113) Heythrop and Dunthrop were held in conjunction until the death of Humphrey Ashfield in 1570 when his widow Anne and her second husband John Ashfield, perhaps a cousin of Humphrey's, took Dunthrop, presumably as dower, while Heythrop went to Humphrey's son Humphrey. (fn. 114) In 1616 John Ashfield sold the remainder of the lease of Dunthrop to Francis Gregory of Hordley. (fn. 115) There is no indication that Gregory ever lived at Dunthrop and by 1622 the estate was leased to Edmund Goodyer, whose family held the lease for much of the 17th century. (fn. 116)
In the late 12th century ½ hide at Pinkwell given by William of Dunthrop to his man Geoffrey son of Alan to be held by the service of supplying a champion was granted in free alms by Geoffrey to Cold Norton priory. (fn. 117) In 1229 the priory was said to hold of William of Dunthrop land in Redcombe field in the north-west corner of the parish, beyond the road from Hook Norton to Chipping Norton. (fn. 118) By 1292 the priory's Dunthrop land comprised 1 hide. When the priory was dissolved in 1507 it still held land in the north-west and three closes near the village. (fn. 119) The estate was granted by the Crown to the dean and canons of St. Stephen's chapel in Westminster Palace in 1507 and purchased from them in 1513 by William Smith, bishop of Lincoln, as an endowment for Brasenose College, Oxford. (fn. 120) Land in the north-west end of the parish was still held by the college in 1782. It was not included with other college land on a map of 1791, however, and by 1805 it seems to have become part of the estate of the earl of Shrewsbury. (fn. 121) In 1872 the college sold the remainder of its Dunthrop estate, comprising Kiteney close and Harris's close, to Albert Brassey. (fn. 122)
Heythrop and Dunthrop were cultivated as separate units. Traces of ridge and furrow survive north of Heythrop House, at the south-east corner of the field known as Broad field in the 17th century, (fn. 123) but the building of Heythrop House and extensive landscaping in the 18th century and the 19th have obscured the patterns of earlier land use. Because of the streams around it the manor was well supplied with meadow, of which 40 a. were recorded in 1086. (fn. 124) In 1673 c. 210 a., almost a third of the estate, were said to be meadow. (fn. 125)
In 1086 half the cultivable land in the manor, said to be sufficient for 8 ploughteams, was untilled, and its value had declined from £5 to £4. The land was worked by 5 serfs, 4 villeins, and a bordar. (fn. 126) By the mid 13th century the manor was more fully exploited. A manorial extent of 1261 reported 7½ yardlands of demesne and 10½ of villeinage; (fn. 127) the 5 hides recorded in 1086 for the whole estate were presumably completed in 1261 by the 2 yardlands of non-demesne freehold. In 1279 the demesne, 7¾ yardlands, was little changed. There were 8 villein yardlanders and one half-yardlander, indicating that 1¾ yardlands of villeinage had become freehold since 1261. Most villeins paid 3s. a yardland to the lord and owed 2 days' ploughing, 3 days' hoeing, 4 days' mowing, 3 days' haymaking, 9 boon works in the autumn, 1 carrying service, and 2 carting services. The services had been commuted for a further 3s. a year. One yardlander and a halfyardlander owed slightly different services and paid, for each ½ yardland, a cock and 3 hens at Martinmas; their services were commuted for 7s. 10½d. the yardland. The exact amount of freehold in Heythrop is uncertain, for some of that recorded in 1279 seems to have been at Lidstone, in Enstone, where a hide of land for long passed with Heythrop. In all there were one holder of 1½ yardland, two of 1 yardland, two of ½ yardland, and three tenants shared 1 yardland. The bordar of 1086 was perhaps represented in 1279 by a cottager, surnamed the mason, who held at a rent of 2s. a year. (fn. 128)
Depopulation of the manor in the early 14th century may have been due to natural causes or to conversion to pasture, as had happened already at Dunthrop. By 1316 there were said to be only three tenants in Heythrop, although eight people besides the lord of the manor were assessed for subsidy in that year. (fn. 129) In the 16th century only the Ashfield family and their servants were assessed for subsidies, (fn. 130) and for the hearth tax of 1665 only the manor house of the four houses assessed had more than 2 hearths; of the others one was discharged because of poverty and the remaining houses had but 2 hearths and 1 hearth respectively. (fn. 131) The estate was not given over entirely to pasture; there was still some arable in the late 14th century, and John Ashfield (d. 1521) kept a team of 8 plough oxen. The 1,000 sheep bequeathed by Ashfield to his heir, however, even if not all were kept at Heythrop, reveal his principal farming interest. (fn. 132) For a time in the earlier 17th century 'a great part' of Heythrop was said to be under the plough, perhaps to take advantage of high prices for corn. (fn. 133) In the later 17th century there was probably at least a partial reversion to pasture. In 1681 the rector of Heythrop, suing Edmund Goodyer, lord of the manor, for non-payment of tithes, claimed that in 1679 Goodyer had reaped 30 qr. barley, 80 loads of hay, and 'great quantities' of oats; that he owned 'great numbers' of sheep, cattle, poultry, pigeons, fruit, and honey. The rector's assessment, though not disinterested, indicates a mixture of pasture, dairy, and arable farming. Of 10 tenants in 1679 one occupied 8 a. of garden ground growing cabbages, carrots, peas, turnips, and a little barley; two kept cattle; the others rented meadow for the hay crop. The manor was well wooded, with 85 a. in several coppices, and there were 12 well-stocked fishponds near the manor house. (fn. 134)
Of c. 590 a. surveyed in 1673 c. 410 a. were in hand; the remainder, almost all meadow, was leased to neighbouring farmers. (fn. 135) From 1695 Ralph Milbank, an absentee landlord, seems to have increased the amount of land leased to neighbouring farmers (fn. 136) and it is not known how much of the estate remained in hand when it was sold to Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury, in 1705.
The two Domesday estates in Dunthrop, although each the same size as Heythrop, were less populous. Unlike Heythrop the estate of the bishop of Lisieux had held its value at £3 since 1066, while the estate of the count of Evreux had increased from £3 to £5. The Lisieux estate was worked by only 2 ploughs, one on the demesne operated by 3 serfs, the other by 3 villeins. The Evreux estate was more fully cultivated; 2 ploughs were at work on the demesne, although there was only a single serf, and 2 ploughs were owned by 4 villeins and 2 bordars. Work on the demesne presumably depended on rigorous exaction of labour services from the tenants. There were 15 a. of meadow on the Lisieux estate and 10 a. on the Evreux estate, which also contained 30 a. of pasture. (fn. 137)
Little is known of the field system at Dunthrop. In the early 13th century two fields, north and south, were mentioned, the former possibly known as Redcombe field. A half yardland was reckoned at 12 a. (fn. 138) Conversion to pasture began at an early stage. Cold Norton priory was granted the right to pasture 200 sheep by William of Dunthrop in the late 12th century, and the priory agreed with Bruern abbey in 1187 that there would also be a stint of 25 sheep, 2 cattle, and a pig for every yardland held. (fn. 139) The priory defended its rights and in the late 13th century and early 14th there was a prolonged dispute when Bruern abbey inclosed waste land for conversion into arable. The abbey was eventually compelled to allow the priory's flocks access for grazing. (fn. 140) By 1651 the right of pasture held by lessees of the priory estate had increased to 300 sheep. (fn. 141)
Some arable was always maintained in Dunthrop. Apart from the inclosure made by Bruern, Robert son of Walter of Broadstone leased to Cold Norton in 1215 ½ hide land, yielding hay and corn. (fn. 142) In 1356 there was arable at Pinkwell, in the south east, and in the early 16th century the land beyond the Hook Norton road was also arable. (fn. 143) John Ashfield, Bruern's tenant in Dunthrop, increased the amount of land under pasture; in 1517 it was reported that he had evicted 16 people there and in Great Rollright and allowed buildings to fall into decay. (fn. 144) The commercial exploitation of manorial rights is indicated by a contract of 1600 in which Thomas Ashfield and his warrener agreed to supply 3,000 rabbits in London. (fn. 145) In the 17th century Dunthrop was divided into smaller units with an increased concentration on arable farming. By 1622 Edmund Goodyer, successor to the Ashfields, had reputedly ploughed up most of the 'ancient pasture grounds, which were not within the memory of any man ploughed'. Goodyer denied the charge but did not conceal his belief that the ancient pasture was worn out and barren, overgrown with furze and moss, and that it would be more profitable as arable. (fn. 146) In 1689 William Polton of Dunthrop left an estate valued at c. £500, including barley, oats, and wheat to the value of £103. He also owned 2 waggons, 2 muck carts, 'several' ploughs, more than 200 sheep, valued at half his grain stocks, 12 pigs, and 16 cows. There was a cheese room in the house, churns, a cheese press, and a stock of more than 30 cheeses. (fn. 147)
There were few landholders in Dunthrop. In 1279 no tenants were recorded, Bruern abbey holding virtually all the land and paying all the taxes, as it did in 1306. Cold Norton priory's land in Redcombe field, its ½ hide at Pinkwell, and its pasture rights were not recorded in 1279. (fn. 148) The local importance of the Goodyers was declining by 1673 when Edmund Goodyer was considering a complete withdrawal from the parish. (fn. 149) Some land was leased to small farmers in neighbouring parishes; the manor farm was let in the 17th century to the Poltons and at the end of the century to the Harrises. (fn. 150) Brasenose College, as successor to Cold Norton priory, let most of its land in Dunthrop to the tenant of Dunthrop manor farm, but Kiteney close and the right to pasture 300 sheep were let as part of the Cold Norton estate, for most of the 17th century to the Chamberlains of Oddington (Glos.) who apparently farmed there themselves. (fn. 151)
The duke of Shrewsbury's purchase of Dunthrop in 1710 made a single estate of the whole parish except the land of Brasenose College. (fn. 152) The area around Heythrop village together with the pasture and meadows around the duke's new house were retained as the home farm but most of Heythrop manor was turned over to parkland and plantations. Walk farm occupied the northern part of the parish except for the two fields lying immediately north of the road from Chipping Norton to Little Tew. Comprising 226 a. in 1759 it later expanded as far as the road, and in 1805 comprised 218 a. of arable and 48 a. of pasture. Dunthrop farm, 451 a. in 1759, had been reduced by 1805 to 245 a. of arable, 90 a. of pasture, and 45 a. of meadow, largely because of the loss of the two fields to Walk farm. Castle farm in the east comprised 173 a. in 1759, but as a result of tree-planting by the earls of Shrewsbury it had been reduced by 1805 to 104 a. of arable, 31 a. of pasture, 10 a. of meadow, and 2 a. of woodland. The farm's name probably derived from William Castle of Little Tew, who held land there in 1702. (fn. 153)
In 1838 the parish was said to comprise 694 a. of arable, 716 a. of meadow and pasture, and 234 a. of woodland. (fn. 154) The most important crops in the 18th century and the 19th were wheat and barley, with oats, turnips, beans, peas, sainfoin, potatoes, and hops also grown. There was greater emphasis on livestock at the home farm than there was at the farms held by tenants. (fn. 155) The large amount of parkland and meadow dictated that, but there seems also to have been a decision to move away from direct farming of the arable land. Arable farming had declined sharply by 1820; there was no increase in the number of sheep kept, to indicate conversion to pasture, and it may be that arable land was leased out. The breeding of Merinos as well as the more usual Leicesters shows a desire to improve wool production. The Heythrop farm was run in conjunction with the earls' other estates at Burghfield (Berks.) and Alton (Staffs.), and there was regular movement of animals and materials between the three. After 1820 the Heythrop farm made a loss, and when the family moved to Alton the farm was let and became known as Park farm.
In the 18th century and the early 19th the most important market for Heythrop was at Chipping Norton, where most of the parish's produce was sold. Flocks of sheep were occasionally driven to London for sale in Smithfield market, and venison was sold there. (fn. 156)
Brasenose College's estate was usually leased to the earl of Shrewsbury and sublet by him to the tenant of the adjoining land. The right of the holder of the Cold Norton priory estate to pasture 300 sheep on the former sheepwalks in Dunthrop persisted until 1782, (fn. 157) but no later reference has been discovered.
Tenant farmers were able to achieve some prosperity. In 1815 John Busby of Dunthrop farm left an estate worth possibly £5,000. (fn. 158) Villagers relied exclusively for employment on the farms and on service at Heythrop House. In 1805 the earl employed 18 gardeners, 6 carpenters, and 13 farm labourers throughout the year; in the summer and autumn there was work for up to 25 women, haymaking and picking hops and potatoes. The decline of arable farming on the home farm after 1810 and the consequent loss of employment were partially compensated for by other farmers taking over the arable: in 1851 Thomas Harwood of Castle farm employed 12 labourers, and Stephen Stanbridge of Park farm 6 labourers. (fn. 159) In the early 19th century the Shrewsburys were infrequently resident at Heythrop, and in 1820 the house was rented to Henry Somerset, duke of Beaufort (d. 1835). (fn. 160) Loss of employment at the house was offset by its use as a hunting lodge by the duke before the fire of 1831, and by the use of the estate for hunting thereafter. Many of those directly employed by the hunt in 1851, however, were from outside Heythrop, living in the ruins of the house. One or two of those previously employed at the house or in the gardens were paupers in 1851. (fn. 161) The Heythrop hunt was moribund in the 1850s, (fn. 162) a fact reflected in the decline of the parish's population from 190 in 1851 to 122 in 1861. (fn. 163)
When Albert Brassey became owner in 1870 Walk farm and Dunthrop farm remained much as in 1805. Dunthrop farm had been held in the 1860s by an absentee tenant and the house was occupied by the rector. (fn. 164) Brassey altered its boundaries and those of Castle farm and Park farm, and dissolved a recently created farm of 63 a. that had used the south wing of the ruined mansion as a farmhouse. Walk farm remained little changed.
In the whole parish up to 250 a. were reconverted to pasture between 1870 and 1920, and the flocks of Oxford Downs kept there gained a widespread reputation. The main crops were barley, oats, and wheat; large quantities of root vegetables were also grown. (fn. 165)
Following the break-up of the Heythrop estate in 1923 the most important development was the expansion of Dunthrop farm, bought by its tenant F. H. Gregory. Walk farm was acquired in 1961, its farm buildings sold to become a fertilizer storage and haulage business. Park farm was taken over by Dunthrop farm in 1977. In 1980 the farm was evenly divided between corn and grass. (fn. 166) On Castle farm, renamed Chivel farm c. 1930, mixed farming and crop rotation were abandoned in 1950 in favour of continuous sowing of corn. In 1980 there were also 700 pigs kept, and the farm was affiliated to a group of South Midland farms supplying a third of the pork products of one of the country's largest food distributors. (fn. 167)
There was a mill in Heythrop in 1086 worth 5s. In 1279, called Pepin's mill, it was, with appurtenant meadow, worth 50s. (fn. 168) Windmill field, north-west of Heythrop village, was mentioned from the early 17th century, and it may have been there that a mill house, possibly disused, stood in 1627. (fn. 169) No mention was made of a mill in a survey of 1673 (fn. 170) and no trace of it has been found. No mill was recorded in Dunthrop in 1086. In 1249 Bruern abbey owned a mill situated in a spinney in Dunthrop, but no further reference has been found. (fn. 171)
Manorial courts were apparently held in Dunthrop by Bruern abbey in the late 12th century. A manorial court at Heythrop was recorded in 1279, but no later mention of a court in either place has been found. The bailiffs of Chadlington hundred claimed the right to enter Heythrop manor once a year to hold view of frankpledge. (fn. 172)
Because of the parish's small population the total amount spent on poor relief was low but the increase in expenditure from £37 in 1776 to £158 in 1803 was greater than elsewhere and Heythrop was notable for its high proportion of poor. The cost per head of population, already the highest in the area at 35s. in 1803, increased sharply in the early 19th century to 75s. in 1813 and 60s. in 1818, and was presumably accounted for by the combination of unusual poverty and a small population. There were 10 people on permanent out-relief in 1803; in 1813 there were 20. (fn. 173) In the latter year the overseers paid the rent of perhaps half the cottages in the parish. (fn. 174) The general economic distress was aggravated by a decline in the amount of labour employed on the home farm at Heythrop House and by the infrequent residence of the earl there at that time. (fn. 175) Following the lease of the house by the duke of Beaufort in 1820 the cost per head of population fell to 32s. in 1821 but in 1831 was still high for the area at 24s. (fn. 176) The rent of half the cottages in the parish was still being paid in 1825. (fn. 177) In 1834 Heythrop became part of Chipping Norton poor law union. In 1894 it formed part of Chipping Norton rural district, and in 1974 it was transferred to West Oxfordshire district. (fn. 178)
The old church at Heythrop dates from the 12th century. A chaplain was recorded in the late 12th century (fn. 179) but the benefice was invariably referred to thereafter as a rectory. In the 13th century the church of Asterleigh, in Kiddington, was a dependency of Heythrop, burying its parishioners there and making a payment of 4s. a year. (fn. 180) The association may have originated in the close tenurial connexion between Heythrop and Kiddington from the 8th century; (fn. 181) if so it would indicate the early building of a church at Heythrop. Asterleigh, apparently always a separate living, was united with Kiddington in 1446. (fn. 182) In 1657 a union was effected between Heythrop and the vicarage of Enstone, but it was abandoned after a few months in the face of local opposition. (fn. 183) The two livings were combined in 1964. (fn. 184)
The advowson passed with Heythrop manor until the 16th century. In 1583 and 1604 the bishop and the Crown respectively exercised the patronage by lapse. (fn. 185) The patron was said c. 1630 to be Sir William Pope, lord of Dunthrop manor, (fn. 186) but thereafter the advowson passed once more with Heythrop manor until 1655–60 when incumbents were presented by parliament. (fn. 187) In 1675 the rector was presented by the dean and chapter of Rochester, but it is not known how they obtained the patronage and the rector's title was later challenged. (fn. 188) Following another lapse in 1703–4, at the time of the sale of the manor to the duke of Shrewsbury, the bishop presented the duke's chaplain, Timothy Goodwin. (fn. 189) In 1710 Oxford University challenged the appointment on the grounds that the duke was a Roman Catholic, but the duke successfully resisted. (fn. 190) On Goodwin's elevation to the bishopric of Kilmore in 1714 presentation was made by the Crown. (fn. 191) As Roman Catholics the duke's successors repeatedly sold the right of presentation; in 1722 presentation was made by Other Windsor, earl of Plymouth, in 1770 by Reginald Wynniat, in 1800 by Elizabeth Vernon, and in 1845 by Sarah Goddard. (fn. 192) Following his father's purchase of the manor and advowson in 1870 Albert Brassey presented to the living. In 1923 the advowson was vested in the bishop of Oxford. (fn. 193)
The benefice was valued at only 4½ (or 6) marks in 1254 and at £4 6s. 8d. in 1291, when Heythrop and Asterleigh were the only livings in the Chipping Norton deanery of less than 10 marks whose possessors were not otherwise beneficed. (fn. 194) The value was still £4 6s. 8d. in 1428. (fn. 195) In 1526 the rector was taxed on £11, and in 1535 the value of the rectory was £8 1s. 6d. (fn. 196) In the 1630s the value was £50, but in 1665 the rector was discharged from the hearth tax because of poverty. (fn. 197) During the 18th century the value rose from c. £80 to £120, and in 1838 stood at £150. (fn. 198) In the late 19th century the net value of the living was £227, but in 1924 its income was only £164 and in 1929 Mrs. Matilda Brassey gave an endowment of £3,000 so that a curate could be employed to hold services there more regularly. (fn. 199)
There was a small amount of glebe in 1341, (fn. 200) and in the 16th century it was said to comprise a close in Heythrop and 2 a. in Dunthrop. By 1600 the location of the glebe had 'almost grown out of memory' and in 1805 there was stated to be no glebe. (fn. 201) In 1388 the rector quitclaimed to Cold Norton priory all right to tithes on the priory's sheep feeding in the parish, an agreement upheld in 1686 to the benefit of the priory's successors, (fn. 202) but all other tithes were received. In 1681 it was claimed that a modus of £28 had always been paid by landholders in the parish, but the rector's right to tithes in kind was confirmed by the court. (fn. 203) In the late 18th century and possibly earlier the tithes were leased to the earls of Shrewsbury. (fn. 204) In 1838 the tithes were commuted for an annual payment of £150. (fn. 205)
In 1604 the existence of a parsonage house was dimly recalled, but in 1738 it was stated that there never had been one. (fn. 206) From c. 1860 to c. 1880 the rector rented Dunthrop farmhouse. (fn. 207) A rectory was built south-east of the new church c. 1880 by Albert Brassey. A large, three-storeyed stone building in Tudor style, the house remained in the patrons' ownership, and, when the incumbent ceased to reside in the parish after 1923, it was renamed the Dower house and let privately. (fn. 208)
The lack of a house meant that incumbents frequently lived outside the parish, usually in Chipping Norton. (fn. 209) Before the 20th century, however, only three rectors are known to have been pluralists, one under the Commonwealth and two, non-resident, in the late 18th century and early 19th. In the late 18th century the vicar of Enstone was employed as curate in Heythrop, in which office he was followed by successive curates of Chipping Norton. (fn. 210) In the Middle Ages some rectors, including two members of the Lewknor family, were related to lords of the manor. (fn. 211)
Some incumbents were poor. Christopher Lee, rector 1604–35, left only £44 at his death, including a library valued at £1 10s., (fn. 212) and in 1665 the rector was said to be too poor to pay tax. (fn. 213) James Martin, 1722–70, claimed in 1768 that he was left with only £60 clear a year. (fn. 214) At the other extreme was Timothy Goodwin, 1710–14, chaplain to the duke of Shrewsbury. He was archdeacon of Oxford, and in 1714 was made bishop of Kilmore. (fn. 215)
The non-residence of many incumbents led to accusations that standards of church life suffered. Robert Vicaris, rector 1675–1703, an enthusiastic prosecutor of his rights in the courts, was fined by the bishop in 1691 for neglecting the spiritual side of his duties. (fn. 216) In the 18th century and the earlier 19th incumbents had the difficulty of the recusancy of the earls of Shrewsbury, and the attendance of many parishioners at Roman Catholic services. In 1738 James Martin refused to attempt morning services because to be 'sent on a Sunday morning to Heythrop to read to the church walls . . . is to me a melancholy consideration'. The congregations were made up by 'stragglers' from other parishes who attended afternoon services; morning services were ill attended throughout the period. (fn. 217) In 1872 the rector complained that his parishioners were all 'Protestant Catholics or Roman Catholics'. (fn. 218)
Throughout the 18th century there were four communion services a year and four or five communicants. (fn. 219) The employment as curates in the late 18th century and the early 19th of men whose principal employment lay elsewhere made revival of church life difficult. Samuel Leigh, for example, curate c. 1808–c. 1834, was also curate at Chipping Norton and master of the free school there. (fn. 220) In 1794 the churchwarden complained that there had been no services at all for four weeks. (fn. 221) There was no mention of a Sunday school or catechizing until 1831, (fn. 222) and church life remained depressed until the advent of Albert Brassey. He and his wife Matilda were the driving force behind the revival in the late 19th century and early 20th. The number of communion services increased to 12 a year with 50–60 communicants, and when congregations, largely comprising his own employees, outgrew the church's capacity (fn. 223) Brassey built a new church, consecrated in 1880, and provided a house for the incumbent.
The old church of ST. NICHOLAS is built of rendered rubble with freestone dressing and has only a chancel, but before 1881 also had a small nave. (fn. 224) The 12th-century church contained some notable decorative work on the chancel arch and the north and south doorways. The chancel arch was embellished with cable moulding, as was the north doorway, which was of four orders. The south doorway projected from the nave wall, presumably to provide space for its recessed orders, which included billet and dog-tooth decoration; the projection was later crenellated. The chancel roof was supported by a corbel table, of which traces remain on the north wall. Both chancel and nave were lit by small, round-headed windows. Above the north doorway was a carved relief of two figures with crooks, later reset in the south buttress. The south wall of the chancel contains a relief of the Agnus Dei.
In the 13th century a small window was inserted in the south side of the nave and a piscina with trefoiled head in the south wall of the chancel which was lengthened eastward. In the 14th century an Easter sepulchre was inserted in the north wall of the chancel. In the 15th century the chancel and nave were rewindowed, and it was probably then that the chancel was heightened. In 1755 the roof was heightened again and the bellcot at the west end of the nave built. (fn. 225) The bellcot was rebuilt before 1868. In 1881, following the building of the new church, the nave was demolished and the south doorway reset in the former chancel arch to form the west doorway. Buttresses were built at the south-east and south-west corners. The bellcot was re-used or rebuilt. (fn. 226) After 1881 the church was used as a mortuary chapel.
The church contains a 16th-century tombchest with brass effigies of John Ashfield (d. 1521), his wife Eleanor, and their children. The effigies and inscription on the tomb are repeated in stained glass in the south-east window above, so that tomb and glass form one monument. The window, a bequest in Ashfield's will, (fn. 227) also once included figures of the Virgin, St. John, and St. Christopher. In 1941 the church's windows were blown out by a bomb, and those figures were replaced in the east window. The east window also contains figures of St. Paul and the evangelists. Other, armorial, glass recorded in the 17th century has disappeared. (fn. 228) Among other memorials are a coloured marble obelisk on the north wall commemorating Mary Talbot (d. 1752), and next to it an elaborate coloured marble memorial to her son George Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1787). The entrance to the churchyard has a 17th-century stone arch.
The new church of ST. NICHOLAS, standing north-west of the old church, was designed by A. W. Blomfield and built in 1879–80 at the expense of Albert Brassey. Built in 14th-century style, it comprises nave, chancel, south aisle, and prominent western tower incorporating a porch. (fn. 229) The church was built of stone partly quarried from the estate and partly taken from the Catholic chapel in the park. (fn. 230) The tower of the church was modelled on that of the chapel, and complete windows and mouldings may have been reused. Mouldings on the south doorway of the church probably came from the old church of St. Nicholas.
In 1805 the church plate comprised a silver cup and paten (fn. 231) but in 1928 a chalice, paten, flagon, and plate were all dated 1875, the gift of Albert Brassey. (fn. 232) The tower is capable of holding eight bells but only three were hung. (fn. 233)
In the late 16th century the Ashfield family seem to have had Roman Catholic sympathies and in the early 17th century they were recorded as recusants, together with George Osbaston, who also lived at Chastleton, and a Robert Armstrong. (fn. 234) In 1718 Gilbert Talbot (d. 1743), a Jesuit priest, succeeded to Heythrop as earl of Shrewsbury. He never lived there but in 1738 his understeward Mr. Baskervill, a Catholic, and Bishop John Talbot Stonor, Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District, were living in the parish. The bishop was regularly resident at the old manor house until his death in 1756. (fn. 235) There was a Catholic chaplain in Heythrop House from at least 1739. (fn. 236) The rector reported two converts from his congregation in 1759 and by 1768 there were said to be 32 papists. (fn. 237) Some of them probably belonged to the household of George Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1787), but Heythrop had become a regional centre of Catholicism, drawing worshippers from afar. In the later 18th century Bishop Thomas Talbot and Bishop James Talbot, brothers of the earl, were frequent visitors. (fn. 238) Heythrop's incumbent claimed in the early 19th century that only two or three Heythrop families were Catholics. (fn. 239) They seem, however, to have included some of the more prominent inhabitants such as William Holloway of Castle farm, and the Stanbridge family of the old manor house. (fn. 240) A chapel was begun north-west of the house c. 1810. The tower was nearing completion in 1815 but work on the chapel floor was still in progress in 1821, altar railings were not in place until 1824, and a licence was obtained only in 1826. (fn. 241) The chapel, a substantial stone building in 14th-century style, comprised a single nave and chancel of five bays and a west tower of three stages. The whole building was battlemented and decorated with crocketed pinnacles. There was a priest's house and graveyard adjacent and the whole was walled around. (fn. 242) The first priest at the chapel, Revd. Patrick Heffernan, worked successfully in the area and was responsible for the building in 1856 of the Catholic church at Chipping Norton, which he served in conjunction with Heythrop. In 1880 the chapel was demolished by the new owner of the Heythrop estate, Albert Brassey. The bodies of Charles Talbot (d. 1827), earl of Shrewsbury, and Heffernan were removed to Chipping Norton, together with the altar and reredos. (fn. 243) Materials from the chapel were used in building the new parish church. (fn. 244) Between 1923 and 1969 Heythrop House and park were owned by Jesuits whose local work was concentrated in Enstone. (fn. 245)
In 1682 the rector complained that William Polton and his wife, although attending church, refused to receive communion. (fn. 246) A Presbyterian and an Anabaptist were said to be living in the parish in 1738. The latter was Mr. Young of Dunthrop farm, the leading figure in the parish in the absence of the earl of Shrewsbury. He attended meetings in Hook Norton where he was said to be 'edified by a cobbler'. (fn. 247) There was still a Presbyterian in the parish in 1768 and a Baptist family until 1817, although the Youngs had left Dunthrop farm by the later 18th century. (fn. 248) In the late 19th century there were two or three dissenters in the parish who also attended the parish church. (fn. 249)
In 1805 the Roman Catholic chaplain at Heythrop House was 'the only teacher in the village', (fn. 250) but there was no mention of a school until 1824, when the chaplain's school was supported by the earl of Shrewsbury and run by a schoolmistress. (fn. 251) A Sunday school was started in 1830 and c. 20 children were taught by the parish clerk and a labourer, both of them unpaid. The school was supervised by the curate, who provided as many books as he could afford. By 1831 a day school for 20 of the c. 30 children in the parish had been started; children were taught at their parents' expense, but financial support and books were provided by a Mr. Goddard of Enstone. (fn. 252) By 1854 the school had failed, leaving only that provided by the earls of Shrewsbury. (fn. 253) In 1864 there was a Sunday school, but by 1867 no school at all; children went to school at Chipping Norton. (fn. 254)
In 1873 Albert Brassey built at his own expense a church school for 150 children. The schoolrooms, which were also used in the evening as a village club, were under one roof with a schoolmaster's house attached. (fn. 255) Brassey was paid a nominal rent of 1s. a year for the schoolrooms and a separate rent of £10 for the teacher's house. (fn. 256) A government grant was received from 1880; in that year the average attendance was 56 and children paid 3d., 1d., or nothing, according to their parents' means. (fn. 257) Attendance had risen to 104 by 1902, but following criticism of the school's pupil-teachers the government grant was withdrawn for two years. Generally, however, standards were satisfactory and in 1913 the headmaster was congratulated on the school's remarkable achievement with children of very mixed age and capability. In the 1920s the number of schoolchildren fell sharply and there were only 29 by 1934. Despite concern about the effect of the village's remoteness on the children's development academic standards were consistently above average for the district. (fn. 258)
Following the sale of the Heythrop estate in 1923 the Baynes Benefaction gave £800 to the Diocesan Board to purchase the school premises and ensure the continuation of Church of England teaching in the village. A board of local managers was appointed. (fn. 259) By 1963 the number of children had fallen to 12 and the school was closed in the following year. (fn. 260) The children were transferred to schools in Chipping Norton.