A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.
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Barnard Gate and Freeland
The heathside cottages which developed into the settlements of Barnard Gate and Freeland were mostly postmedieval, though there were a few earlier farmsteads near Freeland. In 1738 the vicar mentioned 'near twenty' houses on the heath, which presumably included both settlements. (fn. 76) In 1763 Eynsham manor included several cottages 'taken from the heath'; one was expressly stated to be held on a lease from Mr. Jordan, whose family ceased to hold the manor in the early 18th century. (fn. 77) Probably the Jordans, who from the mid 17th century sold off much manorial property, also sanctioned small encroachments on the heath, but there had been a few houses at both Barnard Gate and Freeland in 1650 before the Jordans became lords.
Barnard Lane and Barnett Close were mentioned from the 16th century and Barnard Gate in the early 18th. (fn. 78) Similar gates on the periphery of the heath were Cuckoo and Freeland gates. (fn. 79) Barnard may be a corruption of barnyard, and the lane may have led to the abbot's grange near Bowles Farm. (fn. 80) By 1650 there were at least two houses at Barnard Gate, one of them on the site of the later Barnard Gate Farm. (fn. 81) By the mid 18th century and at inclosure in 1802 (fn. 82) there were a few houses alongside the Chil brook and on the site of the Britannia inn; the inn, first recorded by name in 1836, was probably one of several houses licensed at Barnard Gate during the later 18th century as turnpike trade developed. (fn. 83) After inclosure some outlying farmhouses were established near Barnard Gate, and in the early 20th century a corrugated iron Methodist chapel was built there. (fn. 84)
Freeland developed from a medieval freehold, probably worked from the site of the present Elm Farm, near the wood called the Frith (later Thrift coppice); several residents of the Frith were mentioned when a man was killed there in 1241. (fn. 85) Other early heathside farmsteads near Freeland, at Cook's Corner, Little Blenheim, and Heath Farm, lay just outside Eynsham's boundary, (fn. 86) but they probably worked the various early encroachments on Eynsham heath known as the Breaches on the eastern edge of the parish.
By the 16th century the ancient freehold was called Frithlands or Freelands, and Freeland was named as an address by the late 17th century. (fn. 87) In 1650, besides the house at Elm Farm, there were at least two leasehold cottages at Freeland, one of them at the south-west corner of the later Blenheim Lane. (fn. 88) In 1762 there were fewer than a dozen cottages at Freeland, mostly south and east of the perimeter lane round the heath, the present main road from Eynsham through Freeland; one group lay close to the Green, another in and near Blenheim Lane. (fn. 89) Several cottages were owned by the Buckingham and Merry families, (fn. 90) Pigeon House Lane was formerly Merry Lane. (fn. 91) At inclosure most of the land west of the heath road was awarded to W. E. Taunton, becoming the park of Freeland Lodge (later Freeland House), built in 1807, (fn. 92) but a few new cottages were inserted between the park and the road. Employment provided by the Taunton and Eynsham Hall estates and by several small brickworks (fn. 93) stimulated the growth of the hamlet, and by 1869, when Freeland became an ecclesiastical district, there were 52 houses with a population of 241. (fn. 94)
Until the 1870s the buildings of Freeland were mostly small cottages, apart from Freeland Lodge, Elm Farm, and Upper Farm, an early 19th-century building on the main road south of Broad Marsh Lane, built to work the outlying parts of the Taunton estate. (fn. 95) In the absence of a church the Methodist chapel of 1817 was central to the hamlet's life in the early 19th century. Several unidentified public houses were recorded in Freeland in the later 18th century. (fn. 96) The Royal Oak, mentioned in 1836 but not thereafter, was probably in one of the cottages on the east side of the main road, north of Blenheim Lane. (fn. 97) The New Inn, Freeland's only licensed house for most of the 19th century, is dated 1842 and bears the initials of William Merry, who sold it to Morrell's brewery in 1846. (fn. 98) In 1974 the restored inn was renamed the Oxfordshire Yeoman. (fn. 99) Roslyn, a house dated 1738, once standing alone on the North Leigh road close to the former boundary of Eynsham parish, was the 'Wrostling House' in the 19th century, reputedly an inn and a meeting place of pugilists. (fn. 1) The North Leigh road, formerly Hicks Lane, (fn. 2) is now Wroslyn Road. South of the hamlet, in the angle of the Freeland road and that leading towards Eynsham Hall, was a pest house, recorded as Lower Farm and Pest House Farm from the mid 19th century and demolished in the early 20th. (fn. 3)
The Taunton family transformed the village by building the church and associated parsonage in 1869 and the school and schoolhouse in 1871. The new buildings, all by J. L. Pearson, provided a unified centre to an otherwise scattered hamlet. St. Mary's House was built in 1875-6, presumably for Sarah Percival Taunton (d. 1896) after the family sold Freeland House. (fn. 4) In the earlier 20th century it served variously as a home for invalid ladies and as a retreat, (fn. 5) and in 1950 it became an enclosed convent for the Community of St. Clare (Anglican). (fn. 6) The house is of stone, with irregular, half-hipped roofs and sash windows; a Gothic chapel was added in 1960. (fn. 7) The Taunton connexion with Freeland was kept up long into the 20th century by the Misses Taunton who lived at Taunton House, built in the 1890s at the south-east corner of the park. (fn. 8)
Freeland's population fell from 232 to 160 during the 1880s, (fn. 9) presumably because of the agricultural depression, and in 1932, when Freeland was transferred to Hanborough parish, the population was only 214. In 1951 the newly formed civil parish of Freeland contained 140 houses and a population of 530; (fn. 10) the increase was partly because of the inclusion of houses in the north and east which before 1932 belonged to Hanborough, partly because of extensive post-war building of detached houses and bungalows north of the old centre. Houses lined Wroslyn Road on the west side as far as Parklands, and on the east there was ribbon development south of Roslyn. (fn. 11) The population rose to 654 in 1961, 961 in 1971, and 1,374 in 1981, when there were 435 households. (fn. 12) Most new houses were north of the old centre, but Pigeon House Lane and Blenheim Lane were also built up. Until 1935, when mains water became available, supply was from wells or from a pump near Freeland House gate supplied from the Eynsham Hall lake. Mains electricity was connected in 1935. The first village hall, an army hut north of the old school, was opened c. 1920; the present hall dates from the 1960s and the adjacent playing fields were opened in 1958. (fn. 13) A large new school was opened on Wroslyn Road in 1964 and an industrial estate on Broad Marsh Lane in the 1970s.