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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In 1005 Aethelmaer gave an estate comprising the whole of Eynsham to his newly founded abbey there. After the Conquest the abbey's lands were used to endow the bishopric of Dorchester, later transferred to Lincoln, and in 1086. EYNSHAM manor was held of the bishop of Lincoln by Columban, a monk. After a period of uncertainty (fn. 67) the re-established abbey held the estate undisturbed until the Dissolution. The manor included Tilgarsley and Newland, and in later times was sometimes described as the manors of EYNSHAM, TILGARSLEY, and NEWLAND. (fn. 68)
In 1538 the abbey was dissolved (fn. 69) and in 1539 Eynsham was granted to Sir" George Darcy. Darcy sold it in 1543 to Sir Edward North who surrendered it to the Crown in 1545. It was granted in that year to Edward Stanley, earl of Derby (d. 1572), as part of an exchange to settle the family's debts. (fn. 70) On the earl's death Eynsham, subject to the dower of his relict Mary (d. 1580) who married Henry Grey, earl of Kent, (fn. 71) passed in accordance with a settlement to his second son Sir Thomas Stanley (d. 1576) and then in moieties to Sir Thomas's relict Margaret for life and son Edward. (fn. 72) Margaret married William Mather who sold her interest in Eynsham to Sir Thomas Peniston of Bampton, who insisted on a strict partition of the manor; the life interest continued until 1595 or later. (fn. 73) Edward, who married Lucy Percy and became a knight of the Bath in 1603, (fn. 74) was probably the Edward Stanley esquire who with his wife was living at Eynsham in 1582. Also living there then was Sir Edward Stanley, (fn. 75) possibly the third son of the earl of Derby (d. 1572); although he is thought to have been knighted only in 1586, he is alleged to have succeeded Sir Thomas at Eynsham and to have died there in 1609, but the evidence is conflicting. (fn. 76) Other Stanleys were also concerned in Eynsham: in 1584 William Stanley, younger son of Henry, earl of Derby (d. 1593), caused a disturbance in Eynsham church by seeking to prevent Sir Thomas Peniston's son from using the manorial pew; he was still in Eynsham in 1586. (fn. 77) William became earl of Derby in 1594 on the death of his brother Ferdinando: an agreement that Eynsham should revert after Edward Stanley's death to Ferdinando's daughters seems to have been overturned by an Act of 1606, under which Eynsham was to revert to the earldom. (fn. 78) Sir Edward Stanley, son of Sir Thomas (d. 1576), survived until 1632; (fn. 79) meanwhile the reversion was settled on Charlotte de Tremoille on her marriage with James, son of William, earl of Derby. (fn. 80) In 1634 the manor was confirmed to James, (fn. 81) who in 1642 succeeded to the earldom. In 1649 he forfeited his estates as a delinquent, and parliament granted Eynsham to Col. Henry Marten, the regicide. (fn. 82)
In 1651 Marten sold Eynsham to Orlando Bridgeman and others acting for Charlotte, countess of Derby, (fn. 83) who a year later was appealing for discharge from the sequestration on her Eynsham estate. (fn. 84) In 1653 the estate was granted to her son-in-law Henry Pierrepont, earl of Kingston-upon-Hull, and in that year he and Charlotte sold the furze and bushes on Eynsham heath to Thomas Jordan, a Witney clothier; in 1657 Jordan purchased the rest of Eynsham. (fn. 85) He was succeeded in 1666 by his son John (d. 1692), whose son Thomas (d. 1716) (fn. 86) heavily mortgaged the estate to Sir Robert Jenkinson of Walcot. By 1714 Jordan owed c. £2,500 and was pleading for time in the vain hope that his coal mining on the heath would prove profitable. (fn. 87) Henry Perrott of North Leigh had acquired the mortgage by 1717 and in 1719 bought the freehold. (fn. 88) He died in 1740 and his daughters Cassandra and Martha sold Eynsham in 1763 to James Lacy. (fn. 89)
Lacy, a co-patentee with David Garrick of the Drury Lane theatre, died in 1774. (fn. 90) His son Willoughby fell into financial difficulties (fn. 91) and in 1778 sold the estate, including the newly built Eynsham Hall, (fn. 92) to Robert Langford, a London auctioneer and newspaper proprietor. (fn. 93) On Langford's death in 1785 the estate was put up for sale but seems to have been retained by his brother-in-law and chief legatee James Duberley, to whom Langford had mortgaged Eynsham in 1782. (fn. 94) On Duberley's death c. 1790 his estates passed to trustees for his five daughters, who in 1799 sold Eynsham to the Revd. John Robinson, formerly archdeacon of Armagh. (fn. 95) In 1805 Robinson sold the estate to Thomas Parker, younger brother of George, earl of Macclesfield. (fn. 96)
The Parkers retained Eynsham until 1862. (fn. 97) Thomas succeeded to the earldom in 1842 and his son Thomas Parker seems to have lived at Eynsham (fn. 98) until succeeding to the earldom in 1850. On the death in 1862 of his mother Eliza, dowager countess of Macclesfield, Eynsham was sold (fn. 99) to Sir Thomas Bazeley, M.P., a prominent Lancashire cotton manufacturer. (fn. 1) Bazeley sold the estate in 1866 to James Mason, (fn. 2) a mining engineer who had made his fortune in Portugal. (fn. 3) The Mason family retained the estate in 1983; James (d. 1903) was succeeded by his son James Francis (d. 1929) and grandson Michael (d. 1982). (fn. 4) Residual manorial rights were finally extinguished by agreement in the 1930s. (fn. 5)
The Stanleys and their successors held Eynsham and Shifford manors for a fee farm rent of £70 15s. 8d. payable to the Crown, but when they sold Shifford in 1600 they transferred the charge entirely to Eynsham. (fn. 6) In the 17th century the Crown sold the fee farm, which by the early 18th century was payable to Peter Joy. (fn. 7) Later, when it was sometimes known as Joy's charity, the rent was paid to Sion College, London, as trustees of Joy's school. (fn. 8)
After the Dissolution the Stanleys were sometimes resident in part of the abbey buildings. (fn. 9) After the death in 1632 of Sir Edward Stanley lords were usually non-resident, although Thomas Jordan (d. 1716), built a house, perhaps intended as a manor house, on Eynsham heath. In 1696 the new building seems to have inspired a riot when 200 local men forced Jordan's wife Ursula to seek refuge there, threw rabbits at her taken from a nearby warren, and threatened to destroy both house and warren. (fn. 10) Presumably the house or its associated enclosure was seen as a threat to the villagers' common rights; the warren, and therefore the house, seem to have been in Woodleys coppice, which soon acquired the alternative title Freeberry coppice. (fn. 11) The house seems to have been demolished, for there is no later record of the Jordans living in Eynsham, and in 1769 there was no building near Woodleys nor anywhere else on the heath proper. (fn. 12)
The first Eynsham Hall was built by James Lacy (d. 1774) (fn. 13) or his son Willoughby: (fn. 14) when the estate was sold to Robert Langford in 1778 it included a newly built mansion, to which, before 1782, Langford made several additions. (fn. 15) The house, 'yet building' after his death in 1785, stood in a large park created by the inclosure of the heath in 1781. It was described as tolerably planned and built and profusely furnished with the spoils of the auction room, (fn. 16) an allusion to Langford's principal occupation. Before 19th-century alterations the house comprised a two-storeyed block with east and west cross wings, the south facade dominated by a large classical portico. (fn. 17) Its style, and that of several fireplaces preserved in the later Eynsham Hall, was that of Robert Adam; Adam is not known to have worked at Eynsham but was an acquaintance of the Lacys, rebuilding Drury Lane theatre for James Lacy and also working for Garrick. (fn. 18)
Thomas Parker lived at Eynsham Hall in the early 19th century, but by 1814 he was leasing it as a hunting box to Sir John Jervis, (fn. 19) and in the 1820s John Ruxton had the hall. (fn. 20) By the 1830s the Parkers were again sometimes resident, (fn. 21) and the remarriage of Thomas Parker in 1842 may have been the motive for an enlargement of the hall in 1843 to the designs of Sir Charles Barry. The principal change was the addition of an upper storey over the whole house, and Barry also built a north porch and may have been responsible for the stone balustrading of the garden terrace and the arms of the Parkers carved in the head of the portico. (fn. 22)
The hall was much altered in the early 1870s by James Mason, to the designs of Owen Jones (d. 1874), whose earliest plans date from 1871; the builder was a local man, Walter Wilkins. (fn. 23) Jones added a fourth floor to the existing structure, a west wing which included a conservatory, and an east wing containing a billiard room, fernery, and kitchens. The north porch and the hall to which it gave access were rebuilt, but plans to add a single storey ballroom projecting from the south portico were not fulfilled, perhaps because of Jones's death. Jones redesigned the interiors of the principal rooms, and some of his designs are preserved in the present house. (fn. 24) In 1878 the house was described as magnificently furnished. (fn. 25)
Eynsham Hall was demolished by J.F. Mason shortly after his father's death in 1903, and a new and larger house on the same site was completed in 1908 to the designs of Ernest (later Sir Ernest) George. (fn. 26) The house is late Elizabethan in style and built in local grey stone with yellow Taynton stone dressings. It was built on the grand scale, and its equipment included its own waterworks, gas plant, electricity generating station, and private telephone links with all parts of the estate. Few features of the earlier hall were retained, but there are several 18th century fireplaces, and two rooms were designed to house Jones's interiors. The outbuildings include a rustic hexagonal game larder designed by C.H. Howell in 1883. (fn. 27)
The owner from 1929, Michael Mason, disliked the new hall, describing it as a 'vulgar barracks', (fn. 28) and from the late 1930s the family occupied Scott's House (formerly Home Farm) in the grounds. During the Second World War the hall was leased first to Barclays Bank, then to the Air Ministry, and from 1946 until 1981 it was used by the Home Office as a police training college. (fn. 29) Thereafter it was used as an accountancy training college and conference centre.
The park, (fn. 30) comprising c. 780 a. within a belt of trees, was laid out immediately after the inclosure of the heath. The Act of 1781 empowered Robert Langford to inclose only 472 a. but from the outset the park was much larger, (fn. 31) presumably because part of the heath was al-ready free of common rights. The Act also empowered Langford to lay out a road from Lodge Bottom to the Witney turnpike and to line it with ornamental trees, suggesting that, as later, the formal approach to the hall was by the south drive. Peripheral entrance lodges were built. Blindwell coppice, the site of the hall, was grubbed up almost entirely and great lawns laid out to the north and south. (fn. 32) The west side of the park was preserved as woodland, Woodleys coppice (c. 210 a.), and the original garden also included ornamental clumps, a fishpond, and a small lake south-west of the hall; near the lake was a building called the Hermitage, and west of that a monument which was the focus of several paths. (fn. 33) Much of the land within the ring fence continued to be farmed, chiefly from buildings (later Home Farm) in a circle of trees south-east of the hall. Home Farm was rebuilt in the mid 19th century. (fn. 34) The north lodge was rebuilt in 1845 to the design of Richard Tress and the south lodge, also of the mid 19th century, was by Charles Moreing. (fn. 35)
In 1862 the park proper comprised 232 a., and the remaining land within the ring fence was farm land. Woodleys coppice had been reduced to 168 a., while near the house were pleasure gardens, a pheasantry, a conservatory, and a grotto. (fn. 36) Changes during the brief occupancy of Sir Thomas Bazeley (1862-;6) included the rebuilding of the conservatory, and the grubbing up of c. 150 a. of woodland, mostly in Woodleys coppice: (fn. 37) Bazeley was long remembered locally for his hatred of holly. (fn. 38)
Soon after 1866 James Mason created a large lake in Black Pit vale, south-east of the hall; (fn. 39) the lake was used to supply water to the estate and surrounding villages. Mason planted extensively with American redwoods and other imported trees, and created new areas of woodland at Lodge hill and around the lake: (fn. 40) the landscape designer was probably Robert Marnock. (fn. 41) Mason may also have added a parterre with or namental ponds on the south side of the house and a walled courtyard on the north; both were altered before 1876, (fn. 42) possibly by Owen Jones after he had altered the proportions of the hall. When the new hall was built the terraces, courtyard, and pleasure gardens were redesigned, apparently by Thomas Garner. (fn. 43) After much tree felling during the World Wars Michael Mason replanted heavily, mostly with oaks. (fn. 44)