A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 11, Wootton Hundred (Northern Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1983.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Nether Worton, a small parish of 734 a. (297 ha.) until its amalgamation with Over Worton in 1932, (fn. 1) lies 3 miles (6 km.) west of Deddington and 9 miles (15 km.) south of Banbury. (fn. 2) In the Middle Ages it was a chapelry of Great Tew, but was later considered a separate parish. (fn. 3) It was sometimes called Little Worton, (fn. 4) presumably because its population was then smaller than that of Over Worton, although its area was larger.
The land is mostly Lower Lias clay, but in the north west, on Iron Down and its outlier Hawk hill where the ground rises to c. 140 m., there are patches of Middle Lias clay and marlstone. (fn. 5) On the north the parish was bounded by the road from Chipping Norton to Deddington, presumably an ancient route, and on much of the east by a small brook; the southern boundary followed the slope on which stands Over Worton village, and the western boundary partly followed a stream, but for a short stretch south of Nether Worton village where it followed the Ledwell road. The right angle formed by the road at that point suggests that it was rerouted to follow inclosure fences, a footpath east of the parish boundary perhaps marking the line of the earlier road. (fn. 6) A road from Great Tew, probably finally abandoned after the inclosure of Sandford parish in 1768, when it was described as an ancient bridle path, (fn. 7) entered Nether Worton south of the right angle. Running north from the village the road to Barford crosses the stream by a bridge which was mentioned in 1588 (fn. 8) but rebuilt in modern times; narrow gated lanes run east from the village towards Duns Tew and south to Over Worton.
A large Iron-Age fortification on the eastern edge of the parish at Ilbury (fn. 9) may have a counterpart at Hawk hill where there are earthworks of unknown date. The Anglo-Saxon name Worton (Ortune), a settlement by a bank or slope, may have been applied first to Over Worton, since Nether Worton lies on fairly level ground, in a wide, remote valley beside a small tributary of the river Cherwell once called Tomwell. (fn. 10) The village retains the characteristic appearance of a shrunk settlement, flanked by pastures with deep ridge and furrow, and comprising only a small church, three or four cottages, Manor Farm, and, within a high-walled park, Nether Worton House. (fn. 11) All the buildings are in local stone. In the mid 17th century the owners of the two large houses, John Parsons and William Draper, having acquired between them all the land in the parish, agreed to inclose it. (fn. 12) Detached farms were built later in the north at Blackpits and in the south east at New House Farm. Apart from a farmhouse on the west side of the village, perhaps first established in the 18th century, (fn. 13) and a schoolroom of 1820 abutting the church, the other buildings are farm cottages of the 17th century and later. In Mill close, west of the park, there seem to be foundations of buildings which presumably included the mill. (fn. 14) A suggestion that 'moats' in the grounds of Nether Worton House and north of the church may once have defended the village site (fn. 15) seems unlikely: the southern sections appear to be fishponds associated with the landscaping of the grounds of Nether Worton House.
The 27 families in Nether Worton in 1279 (fn. 16) probably represent a total population larger than any recorded until the 19th century. The amalgamation of properties in fewer and fewer hands (fn. 17) from the later Middle Ages was probably attended by a steady reduction in population. Parish registers suggest a total population of perhaps 6070 by the 1560s, and in 1642 the Protestation oath was sworn by 18 adult males, but the Drapers and presumably some of their servants were then absent. (fn. 18) Only the Draper and Parsons families were assessed for hearth tax in 1662, but 46 adults were recorded in 1676. (fn. 19) The figure of 57 inhabitants given in 1801 included a disproportionate number of males and as many as 7 families engaged in trade, perhaps because building operations for William Wilson had brought in outside labour. (fn. 20) The population rose to 96 in 1821 and 94 in 1831, falling sharply to 59 in 1841, and varying thereafter between 69 and 29, the low figure (in 1891) perhaps explained by the absence of the principal family and its servants. The combined population of Over and Nether Worton was 114 in 1931 and 108 in 1971. (fn. 21) There were few craftsmen or tradesmen in the village in the 19th century and no shops; 2 victuallers were licensed in the mid 18th century but none thereafter. (fn. 22)
During the Civil War and Interregnum the small community was deeply divided, for the two principal inhabitants, John Parsons and William Draper, though relatives and close neighbours, found themselves on opposite sides. Parsons compounded as a royalist, (fn. 23) while Draper emerged as a prominent local supporter of parliament, serving on sequestration and other commissions, appointed visitor of Oxford University in 1647, governor of Oxford in 1651, M.P. for the county in 1653, and high sheriff in 1655 and 1657. (fn. 24) Prolonged wrangling between the inhabitants and Parsons, the lay rector, over provision for the incumbent (fn. 25) was presumably encouraged by Draper; even so Draper and Parsons co-operated over the inclosure of Nether Worton in 16489.
Draper's brother-in-law, the author Francis Osborne, whose Advice to a Son was one of the popular successes of the period, died at Nether Worton House in 1659. (fn. 26)
Manors and other estates.
All three estates recorded in 1086 in the Wortons (fn. 27) may have lain in Nether Worton. The later descent of hide held by Turstin of the bishop of Coutances and 2 hides less yardland held by Alwi, a king's serjeant, shows that they lay in Nether Worton; both were held before the Conquest by Levet. The third estate, sometimes ascribed to Over Worton, (fn. 28) comprised 3 hides and yardland held of Odo of Bayeux by Adam, son of Hubert de Rys; Levet is not recorded as Adam's predecessor but it seems certain that the holdings of Adam and Alwi once formed a single five-hide estate. The nature of its division, involving the partition of a single yardland, makes it unlikely that it lay in two townships. Moreover the number of yardlands in the three 13th-century estates in Nether Worton thought to represent the three Domesday holdings accords well with the 11th-century hidation, whereas Over Worton contained far too many yardlands to be accounted for by Adam's estate. (fn. 29) Adam's two mills have not been traced in Over Worton, whereas the fee in Nether Worton later held of the Bassets contained two mills.
Adam's estate probably passed to his brother Eudes the sewer, escheating to the Crown on his death in 1120. (fn. 30) In 1242 the fee in NETHER WORTON was held of Fulk Basset as of Kirt lington manor; (fn. 31) it may have been connected with Kirtlington by 1130, when Jordan de Sai, lord of that manor, granted to the Norman abbey of Aunay a chapel and demesne tithes possibly in Nether Worton. (fn. 32) The overlordship of the fee followed the descent of Kirtlington, being held in 1279 by Ela, countess of Warwick, formerly wife of Philip Basset, (fn. 33) in 1351 by William de Bohun, earl of Northampton, (fn. 34) to whom it had been granted in 1332, and then by his son Humphrey, earl of Hereford (d. 1373). (fn. 35) It presumably passed to the Crown with the rest of the Bohun inheritance. The earliest known demesne tenant was Henry of Worton, mentioned as a knight of Oxfordshire from 1207, and holding the manor in 1229. (fn. 36) His son John held it in 1242, but in 1279 and 1285 the tenant was Robert of the Hall, (fn. 37) already the holder of another Nether Worton estate devised from Alwi's holding of 1086.
By 1198 that estate was a serjeanty, the service being defined as bearing a banner before the foot levies of Wootton hundred or, more vaguely, before the people going to the coast. Robert son of Alan was tenant in 1198 and 1236, his son William in 1238 and 1247. (fn. 38) By 1250, when Robert son of Alan was recorded as William's heir, two thirds of the estate had been alienated, mostly to Robert's brothers. (fn. 39) In keeping with royal policy towards serjeanties an additional service of a rent of 13s. 4d. was imposed by the king to be paid to the sheriff and made due from the holders of alienated land; Walter, the brother with the largest share of alienated land, was made responsible for the payment. The distinction between the senior line of the family owing the serjeanty service and a junior line owing rent was preserved in 1279 when Robert and Nicholas of the Hall were the tenants, (fn. 40) but it was lost later and the successors of Robert were held liable for both service and rent.
By 1279 both the fee and the serjeanty had been split up among various freeholders, who shared the burden of scutage and other extrinsic services but mostly paid only a nominal rent. (fn. 41) The lordships were smaller and less profitable than some of the free holdings, and the term manor was not applied to them before the end of the Middle Ages; the descent of both may be traced in the holding of Robert of the Hall.
He gave the serjeanty to Walter of Bicester in 1316, and in 1321 it passed to William Page. (fn. 42) Probably by 1326, and certainly by 1346, Page had acquired the fee, and in 1351 he settled his lands on his son Richard. (fn. 43) After the deaths of Richard in 1375 and his son Richard in 1386 the estate passed to John Norton of Deddington who conveyed it in 1387 to John Hilton. (fn. 44) Hilton settled it in 1409 on his son William and William's wife Catherine. (fn. 45) In 1435 it passed to their daughter Isabel, wife of William Birmingham (d. 1478), and in 1500 her son William Birmingham died holding LITTLE WORTON manor. (fn. 46) It passed to his second wife Margaret and her son Henry, though claimed by the heirs of his first wife, Agnes, who alleged bigamy. (fn. 47) Margaret married Walter Bulstrode, and when Henry Birmingham died in 1532, two years before his mother, a James Bulstrode married his relict, Goodith. (fn. 48) The Bulstrodes were thus able to retain Worton, despite continued opposition, including allegations that Goodith had poisoned her first husband. (fn. 49) Her son William Birmingham was dead by 1554, and a final settlement with the other Birminghams seems to have been made in 1560. (fn. 50) In 1562 Goodith settled the manor on her son-in-law, Thomas Nash, from whom it passed by sale to Richard Purefoy in 1576 and Philip Babington, a junior member of the prominent recusant family, in 1578. (fn. 51) He sold it in 1590 to John Penn of Penn (Bucks.); (fn. 52) William Penn conveyed it in 1636 to Richard Roberts, whose feoffees sold it in 1641 to William Draper. (fn. 53)
The Drapers came from Kent, William having married in 1636 Mary Parsons (d. 1639), whose family held the other chief estate in Nether Worton. (fn. 54) William died in 1671 and the Kentish connexion was broken when lands were sold under the will of his son William (d. 1673); (fn. 55) a third William (d. 1746) moved to Yorkshire after marrying Anne, daughter of Ingilby Daniell of Beswick. (fn. 56) but his eldest son Daniel Draper of Beverley eventually moved back to Worton, was buried there in 1757, and in his will ordered the sale of Beswick and the improvement of the Worton estate. (fn. 57) The Drapers became sole landowners in Nether Worton by acquiring the Parsons estate; (fn. 58) Daniel's son William was high sheriff in 1771, and the family lived at Worton until the death of William's son Col. William in 1797, when the estate was sold to a wealthy London silk manufacturer, William Wilson. (fn. 59) Wilson became sole landowner of both Wortons but seems to have lived at Nether Worton. A division of the estate at his death in 1821 gave Nether Worton to his eldest son Joseph (d. 1855), who settled it on Joseph Henry Wilson in 1854. (fn. 60) In the same year the estate was sold, (fn. 61) part to M. P. W. Boulton of Great Tew, part (Blackpits farm) to John Painter, and the manor and Manor farm to Sir John Warren Hayes; he still held it in 1891, though his son John Beauchamp Hayes (d. 1884) was recorded as lord in the 1870s and 1880s. (fn. 62) The manor passed to John Beauchamp's daughter Annie Ellen Hayes, (fn. 63) from whom it was purchased before 1911 by A. C. Thimbleby of Whitley, in Reading (Berks). Much of the land was purchased in the 1920s by Sir George Schuster, who later acquired the manorial rights, transferring them to his son J. B. Schuster. (fn. 64)
Nether Worton House, built in local stone and stone slate, incorporates a house of the mid 17th century or earlier which had a short central range with crosswings projecting to the north; there is a datestone of 1653. The house was remodelled in the 1920s by Sir George Schuster, its lessee from 1918 and owner from 1927; the house was greatly enlarged by adding a passage and porch across the front, with balancing wings in traditional style on the east and west, forming a walled forecourt on the north side. The grounds include an embanked stream or ornamental canal, perhaps of the 18th century.
The hide held in 1086 by Turstin and valued at 10s. followed the descent of other estates held of Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances, becoming part of the honor of Gloucester; in 1279 it comprised 2 yardlands in Nether Worton attached to Burford manor, held by Richard Parsons (Persona) in socage for 10s. rent to the honor. (fn. 65) The Domesday value was evidently the rent. A John Parsons had witnessed a Nether Worton charter before 1250, and members of the family were recorded in the parish until c. 1360, the estate being held in 1314 by Richard and in 1351 by John Parsons. (fn. 66) A William Parsons who took the oath to observe the peace in 1434 was probably of Nether Worton, (fn. 67) but the family may have moved to Warwickshire, where many Parsonses were recorded at that time, and where the family certainly held estates later. (fn. 68) By the 16th century there were representatives in Nether Worton again. The connexion with Burford was recorded as late as 1552 when a Parsons held of that manor for 11s. rent. (fn. 69) Richard Parsons (d. 1545) and his son Richard (d. 1571) probably held little more than the original estate and an additional 1 yardland, (fn. 70) but a third Richard before his death in 1626 acquired all the land in Nether Worton except for the manorial estate. He left 10 yardlands to his eldest son Robert and 7 to his son Richard. (fn. 71) On his death in 1636 Robert's heir was Mary, who married William Draper; (fn. 72) thereafter that part of the estate descended with the manor. The junior branch of the Parsons family continued to flourish: Richard died in 1634, his son Richard in 1646, which left a second son John, who later compounded as a royalist. (fn. 73) His son William succeeded in 1682 and died in 1715 without male heir. (fn. 74) From 1682 the estate was burdened with annuities, and in 1723 it passed to Mary Wilson, daughter of one of the trustees, who sold it in 1728 to William Bumpstead. (fn. 75) In 1733 Bumpstead and Mary his wife conveyed the estate to John Campbell, duke of Argyll, in whose family it remained in 1760. (fn. 76) By 1786, and probably by 1783, it had passed to William Draper. (fn. 77)
Manor Farm, the house associated with the Parsons estate, incorporates on the south a small, probably 17th-century, house of 3-roomed plan; there was a datestone of 1645. Additions, including a staircase, were made on the north side later in the 17th century. In the 19th century a north service wing was added, and it may have been then that the roof was entirely reconstructed. Twentieth-century alterations included a further addition on the north and a south porch, and the removal of several internal walls.
A freehold of 6 yardlands, held in 1279 by Osbert Giffard, knight, seems to have been acquired by an earlier Osbert Giffard from Henry of Worton in 1229, later becoming the subject of a dispute involving John of Worton and Gilbert Basset, the overlord, apparently over wardship. (fn. 78) The Giffard holding seems to have been dispersed in the later Middle Ages. Another large freehold was built up by the descendants of William of Bray who held 2 yardlands in 1279. (fn. 79) By 1307 Richard of Bray had acquired another 2 yardlands; his son John died in 1349 holding 5 yardlands, and his grandson Richard of Bray (d. 1368) increased the estate to 6 yardlands. (fn. 80) John of Bray (d. 1451) left as heir a daughter Gillian, wife of John Hatclyffe, (fn. 81) and in 1533 Thomas Hatclyffe sold lands formerly of William Hatclyffe to Thomas Hall of Grove Ash and later South Newington. (fn. 82) In 1555 Hall's widow Joan and her husband Henry Higford were in possession, and by 1568 it had passed to Margaret Greswold, Thomas Hall's daughter. Her son Henry gave it up to his elder brother Thomas in 1586, who sold it in 1594 as 'Hall's farm' to Ralph Sheldon of Steeple Barton, who sold it in 1596 to Richard Parsons. (fn. 83)
Between 1240 and 1244 William of Milcombe gave a rent charge of 5s. from a yardland in Nether Worton to St. John's hospital, Oxford. In 1299 Robert of the Hall, lord of Nether Worton, after a dispute with the hospital placed liability for the charge on the tenant of the yardland. From the 16th century the Parsons family was paying the 5s. (fn. 84)
Abundant ridge and furrow, especially in the south of the parish, indicates the probable location of the medieval arable. (fn. 85) There were 24 yardlands in 1279 and 25, including the rectorial glebe, in the 17th century. (fn. 86) Each yardland seems to have contained between 20 and 25 field acres, judging from medieval instances of 2 yardlands made up of 44 a. of arable and 1 a. of meadow, and 1 yardland comprising 36 a. of arable and 2 a. of meadow. (fn. 87) The well watered land provided plentiful meadow, and in 1086 c. 70 a. were recorded; (fn. 88) Inmede, presumably a demesne meadow, was mentioned in 1241, (fn. 89) and in a dispute over grazing rights in 1317 a group of freeholders, headed by Richard Parsons, proved against Richard of Bray that Furrowmede should be common after the hay harvest. (fn. 90)
The marked reduction of population between 1279 and the 17th century, and a statement in 1650 that John Parsons's land had long been under grass, (fn. 91) suggest that well before the inclosure of the parish in the mid 17th century there had been a move towards pasture farming, to which the predominantly clay soil was best suited. In March 1634 Richard Parsons still possessed 3 ploughs but had only 15 ridges of winter corn, while in June 1636 Robert Parsons owned 277 sheep and 180 lambs, though his growing corn was worth 100. (fn. 92) The estimated annual income of the Penn estate in the 1630s was 146, of which as much as 80 came from 'hay in the field'. (fn. 93)
In 1279 (fn. 94) there was a landholding population of 25, excluding the 2 manorial lords, compared with only 16 in 1086. (fn. 95) The demesne land of the two manors, which in 1086 had been worked by 3 of the 8 recorded ploughs, had been reduced to only 3 yardlands out of the 24; the close correspondence between the hidation of 1086 and the yardlands of 1279 suggests that there had been little extension of the cultivated area, and the additional holding had been created largely from the demesne. On the serjeanty estate (7 yardlands) the process of fragmentation, far advanced by 1250, (fn. 96) had continued; Robert and Nicholas of the Hall held 2 yardlands each and the rest was in the hands of 4 free tenants, who were not enfranchised villeins but mostly members of the lord's family. On the fee (14 yardlands) Robert of the Hall held only 1 yardland in demesne while another was held of him by a villein; all the rest was held by free tenants. The large freehold of Osbert Giffard had once comprised 2 yardlands of demesne and 4 held by villeins, but the demesne was divided among unfree rent-paying tenants and the villeins paid 10s. a yardland for all services; the change had probably been effected before 1247, when the estate was rented at 44s. 4d., (fn. 97) almost exactly the same as in 1279. In the whole township 15 of the 25 landholders were freemen, and all labour services had been commuted. Only 4 men had cottage holdings of 2 a. or less, one being tenant of one of the mills; there were 2 holdings of 7 a., another of yardland, but the rest were yardland or more.
Ownership was gradually concentrated in fewer hands. By 1351 Robert of the Hall's estate had been enlarged by two yardlands, (fn. 98) bringing it to the 5 yardlands which seem to have been leased as a whole by 1533 (fn. 99) and were said in 1590 to be commonly occupied with the manor. (fn. 100) A holding called Rimell's farm and yardland called Darrett's were added in the late 16th century, bringing the total manorial holding to 8 yardlands. (fn. 101) By 1368 the Bray family had built up a freehold estate of 6 yardlands, which by the 16th century formed a single farm called Hall's, (fn. 102) worked by substantial tenants: one of them, Robert Paine (d. 1593), also held property in Duns Tew and paid three times as much as any other villager to the subsidy of 1581. (fn. 103) There was still a handful of small husbandmen, such as Richard Tims, with personalty worth only 56 at his death in 1583, (fn. 104) or Richard Norton (d. 1597) whose bequests of 40s. each to three daughters contrasted sharply with Payne's bequests to three daughters of 133 each. (fn. 105) By 1634 the houses and lands of Tims and Norton had been acquired by Richard Parsons, who kept his peas in Norton's barn. (fn. 106) The Deanes, a yeoman family mentioned frequently in Worton in the 16th century, finding the freehold 1 yardland of which they were lessees being purchased by Richard Parsons, tried in vain to buy it from him, but in 1615 Richard Deane was evicted and his house and hovel became another of Parsons's storage places. (fn. 107) The process whereby the junior branch of the Parsons family brought together into a larger agricultural unit the remaining small holdings of which they already held the freehold was only half completed in 1634, but by 1650 John Parsons seems to have occupied all his land. (fn. 108) The owner of the rest of the township, William Draper, was probably exploiting his land directly, since in 1662 the only houses assessed for hearth tax were those of Draper and Parsons, (fn. 109) suggesting that there were no other resident farmers. The shrinkage of the class of small farmers at Nether Worton is reflected in the number of their wills proved in local ecclesiastical courts: in the period 154299 there were 24, but in the 17th century only 10, of which four were of members of the two gentry families. (fn. 110)
The whole township was inclosed by agreement between William Draper and John Parsons probably in the winter of 16489. (fn. 111) Later evidence suggests that Parsons took the land north and east of the village, perhaps the whole area between the brook and the Chipping Norton road. Soon afterwards Parsons ploughed up much of his land, but it was avowedly an attempt to make short-term profit from the current high grain prices, (fn. 112) and there was probably an early return to pasture: 18th-century conveyances describe the Parsons estate as mainly pasture, and in 1733 William Draper stipulated that the greater part of his land should remain under grass. (fn. 113) In 1797 the whole township appears to have been pasture except for a few fields in the north east between Manor Farm and Ilbury, and in the mid 19th century there were only c. 90 a. of arable. (fn. 114)
In 1692 the Draper estate was divided among 10 lessees, of whom four were gentlemen; one holding accounted for about a third of the total rental of 420, and although three houses were let the landholders seem to have lived outside the township. The piecemeal tenure may reflect the recent abandonment of direct cultivation by William Draper on his removal to Yorkshire. By 1700 there were four tenants with land rated at 80 or more, but although the small men holding a single field steadily disappeared the emergence of fixed farms was slow: from 1720 there were usually only half a dozen tenants, but the field tended to be reshuffled when leases were renewed. One landholder usually held the manor house and another a homestead known as Palmer's, but some of the land was worked from outside the parish; when a Steeple Aston man took four fields in 1723 it was agreed that a barn should be built in them for his use. (fn. 115) When Daniel Draper began to take a closer interest in the estate after 1746 he was soon at law with one of the larger tenants, John Davis, who seems to have used his position as unofficial agent at Nether Worton to defraud Draper of large sums. (fn. 116) By 1786, when William Draper was sole landowner in the parish, there were only 5 tenants and from 1788 only 4, (fn. 117) their holdings probably corresponding to the 4 farms of the 19th century.
The farms were Mansion House (c. 164 a.), sometimes let with Nether Worton House but worked from a separate homestead west of the crossroads (now Boultons), Manor farm (c. 190 a.), New House (c. 186 a.), and Worton Grounds, later called Blackpits (c. 172 a.). (fn. 118) The homestead of Mansion House farm and the buildings at New House were marked on a map of 1767, but Worton Grounds seems to have been an early 19th-century development. (fn. 119) The Owen family, prominent among the farmers from the later 18th century, held the lease of both Mansion House and Manor farms in 1854, the latter until the early 20th century. (fn. 120) The few cottages in the township (8 in 1854) were almost all occupied by agricultural labourers or servants; some of the farmers presumably employed labourers from outside the parish. (fn. 121) The farms remained predominantly pastoral; in 1914 the Wortons had a higher recorded density of cattle (33 per 100 a. of cultivated land) than any other Oxfordshire parish, and all but a tenth of the land was under grass. (fn. 122) After the Second World War the chief landowner, J. B. Schuster, converted much of the estate to arable, removing many of the 17thcentury field boundaries. By 1980 only two fifths of the land was pasture, used for dairy farming and horse breeding. (fn. 123)
In 1279 there were two mills in Nether Worton, probably those recorded on Adam's estate in 1086. (fn. 124) A mill house, mentioned in 1634 and between 1692 and 1720, (fn. 125) seems to have been abandoned by the mid 19th century; its site was presumably in a field west of the village called Mill Close.
In 1279 Robert of the Hall had a court at Nether Worton for which he had to demand his liberty twice a year at the hundred court, the bailiff of the hundred visiting Nether Worton once a year to hold view of frankpledge. A remnant of the annual view continued into the 20th century. (fn. 126)
In 1854 Nether Worton had no church wardens, but in the 17th century it had the usual two. (fn. 127) A constable and two overseers of the poor were appointed annually. Pauperism was rarely a problem in such a small community, and most of the overseers' payments were to the sick and aged. (fn. 128) In the 1740s their total expenditure, including the constable's bill, seems to have been only c. 12; (fn. 129) Daniel Draper, though nonresident, arranged for the provision of light employment for a few men and women who might otherwise have become a charge upon the parish. (fn. 130) In 1776 13 was spent on the poor and in 1803 62, when 4 adults were on regular out relief. (fn. 131) By 1813 that number had risen to 8, and the cost of poor relief per head of population had risen from c. 1 to 1 13s.; the cost fell to 14s. a head in 1821, but rose sharply in the late 1820s, bringing the cost to 1 7s. in 1831. (fn. 132) In 1834 Nether Worton was included in Woodstock poor law union, being transferred in 1932 from Woodstock to Chipping Norton rural district, and in 1974 became part of West Oxfordshire district. (fn. 133)
The earliest evidence of a church at Nether Worton is 12th-century work in the building. A chapel and demesne tithes in Tew, granted by Jordan de Sai to the Norman abbey of Aunay in 1130, (fn. 134) may have been in Nether Worton, which remained a chapelry of Great Tew in the 16th century. In 1530 Nether Worton's inhabitants objected to paying for the tolling of the great bell at Tew for their funerals, but they continued to have burial there throughout the century. (fn. 135) In 1576 Worton was described wrongly as a chapelry of Broughton, (fn. 136) perhaps because the link with Great Tew was becoming weak, and the separation of Worton's tithes and advowson from those of Tew in 1604 speeded progress towards autonomy. The reconsecration of the church in 1630 may have marked a change in status, and from 1632 Nether Worton was used regularly as a burial place. (fn. 137) In 1745 the curate was adamant that Nether Worton formed a distinct parish. (fn. 138) In 1928 the benefice was united with that of Over Worton. (fn. 139)
The rectory of Great Tew, presumably including Worton, was acquired and appropriated by Godstow abbey in 1309. (fn. 140) It is not known how Nether Worton was served in the Middle Ages, but in 1526 there was a priest and apparently an endowed living, valued at 5 6s. 8d. and not set as a charge against either Godstow abbey or the vicar of Tew. (fn. 141) After the Dissolution the Crown granted the tithes and advowson of Worton to William Rainsford in 1541, together with Great Tew rectory. (fn. 142) In 1604 Edward Rainsford sold the chapel and tithes to Richard Parsons; (fn. 143) they were settled on the junior line of the family and were thus held in 1745 by Jane Campbell, duchess of Argyll, passing later to William Draper, and successive lords of the manor. (fn. 144)
There was a priest's house and a yardland of glebe, leased in 1551 with the rectory by William Rainsford to James Bulstrode; in 1567 they were seized by the Crown as concealed lands and were not finally recovered by Humphrey Rainsford until c. 1574, (fn. 145) after which they went with the tithes to Richard Parsons. (fn. 146) Uncertainty over the endowments and status of the living continued as the impropriators treated it much as a private chapel, appointing curates with a minimum of formality. (fn. 147) The villagers c. 1650 referred to the living as a vicarage, but all incumbents from the 16th century onwards were curates. (fn. 148) The last known resident curate, William Draper, by will dated 1558 left half his lambs to his successor, (fn. 149) implying perhaps that he had tithe of lambs; later curates, usually provided from among the neighbouring clergy, had no endowment as of right, although the Parsons family seems to have paid a small stipend in the early 17th century. (fn. 150)
The sequestration of John Parsons's estate during the Civil War encouraged the villagers to seek improvement of the living: after a resolution of the Committee of Plundered Ministers to raise a minister's stipend of 50 had come to nothing, Parsons's fine was reduced on condition that he provided 20 to the living, but the inhabitants also pressed in 1648 for the return of the glebe house and yardland. (fn. 151) In 1666 Parsons was again charged, apparently without effect, with unjustly detaining the property. (fn. 152) By then he was paying 10 a year to the church, having at one time paid 12, but he denied having any obligation to pay anything. (fn. 153) In 1686 his son William refused all payment, arousing much indignation for his 'unchristianlike neglect' in allowing the chapel to be void. Opposition was led by William Gannock, guardian of the young William Draper, owner of the other large estate in the parish, and it was probably Gannock's threat to withhold tithes rather than the 'modest advice' of the bishop that persuaded Parsons to accept his obligation and leave in his will of 1715 a charge on his estate of 10 for church purposes. (fn. 154)
The meagreness of the provision was justified partly by the low income from the tithes, probably close to the 20 a year declared by John Parsons in 1650. (fn. 155) Once the parish had become two large estates the tithes seem to have been commuted for an agreed sum which reflected the relative bargaining power of the Drapers and the impropriator: in 1656 John Parsons was leasing the tithes to William Draper for only 10 a year, whereas later the duke of Argyll as tithe-owner received 40. (fn. 156) The insecure income of the living was improved by augmentations from Queen Anne's Bounty in 1745, 1769, and 1791, with which land was purchased in Barford and South Newington. (fn. 157) The living was valued at over 37 in 1808, rising to 50 after further augmentations in 1810 and 1827, but was still no higher in the 1890s. (fn. 158)
The tendency for the cure to be served by the vicar of Great Tew, as in the 1640s, (fn. 159) changed after the Restoration to a close relationship with Over Worton. All the 18th-century curates were rectors of Over Worton, and although the two livings were held separately at times in the 19th century they remained together from 1864. (fn. 160) The parishioners of the two Wortons were treated as a single congregation, and services were held on Sunday morning at one church and in the afternoon at the other. (fn. 161) Church life from the 18th century is described under Over Worton.
The church of ST. JAMES (fn. 162) is a small building comprising nave, short chancel, narrow north and south aisles, and a south-west tower of which the lower stage forms an entrance porch; the west door opens into an attached schoolroom. (fn. 163) The bases of the south arcade piers show that the 12th-century church comprised at least a nave and aisle of three bays, presumably with a chancel. The south doorway, though probably not in situ, was built in the 13th century, but the apparently 13th-century blind arches on the east walls of the aisles may be later, decorative work. In the early 14th century the nave arcades and chancel arch were rebuilt, and square-headed windows inserted in the aisles. In 1630, at the expense of Robert Parsons, a small tower was built into the west bay of the south aisle, (fn. 164) the 13th-century south doorway forming its entrance. At an unknown date before the late 18th century the medieval chancel was demolished and rebuilt as a shallow recess, only 5ft. deep, with a re-used 14th-century east window. (fn. 165) In 1883 it was said that there was 'not a fitting in the church worthy of the House of God', and a restoration was carried out, which included further reconstruction of the east window, (fn. 166) the renewal of the altar rails and pulpit, the creation of a railed choir in the body of the nave, and the reflooring of the church. (fn. 167)
The monuments include 17th-century floor slabs, mostly illegible, to members of the Parsons and Draper families and to Francis Osborne (d. 1659), (fn. 168) an elaborate mural tablet to William Wilson (d. 1821) by Henry Westmacott of London, and memorials to Joseph Wilson (d. 1855), his family, and members of the Schuster family. On the north wall is a large mural monochrome by Grace Wilson, based on a painting by Raphael of Christ bearing the Cross. The font is modern, but the earlier, 18th-century, font, with a small fluted bowl and baluster stem, survives in the north-west corner of the church. There are two bells, the older dated 1601. (fn. 169) The plate includes a chalice of c. 1680. (fn. 170) The 18thcentury clock is said to have been originally in Heythrop House. (fn. 171)
The brief connexion of the Babington family with Nether Worton had its effect in encouraging Catholic recusancy, and 2 of that family and 5 other parishioners, perhaps household servants, were owing fines in 1593. (fn. 172) The Babingtons' successors in the manor, the Penns, seem to have been Catholics, and Griffin Penn was fined in 1612. (fn. 173) A single Catholic was reported at Nether Worton in 1738. (fn. 174) There were 5 Protestant dissenters in 1676 but none in 1682. (fn. 175) A Quaker family was recorded in 1768, and c. 4 nonconformists in 1854 attended meeting houses in neighbouring parishes. (fn. 176)
There was no school until the Wilson family came to the parish in the late 18th century. (fn. 177) A private school mentioned in 1802 was probably the later Sunday school. (fn. 178) In 1808 a day school was started in Nether Worton for the children of both Wortons; the National plan was adopted in 1814 and all the children of school age were taught there largely at William Wilson's expense. (fn. 179) The school house at the west end of the church was apparently built before 1809. (fn. 180) In 1818 there were 32 pupils (fn. 181) and in 1834 there were 15 boys and 20 girls on weekdays, a few more on Sundays; pupils attended between the ages of 5 and 10, and the incumbent taught older children on two evenings a week. A free village library was available to parishioners. (fn. 182) Evening classes had ceased by 1854 when the school, supported by the Revd. J. Wilson, had 25 pupils; the mistress received 5s. a week and a free cottage. (fn. 183) Numbers remained small, (fn. 184) reaching a maximum of only 27 in 1891, although for a time there were two mistresses. In 1891 a single certificated teacher taught infants and juniors under one roof, financed by church collections and parents' contributions, graded according to family size. (fn. 185) A government grant was first received in 1893. (fn. 186) By 1920 only 10 children from the two Wortons attended, and the school was closed in 1937. In 1979 junior children travelled to Steeple Aston and seniors to Bloxham. (fn. 187)
Charities for the poor.