Hanborough: Local government

Pages 172-173

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


Local government

In 1279 Queen Eleanor, widow of Henry III, who held the manor in dower, had view of frankpledge, return of writs, and the fine for beaupleader within the manor. She and her tenants did not owe suit to the hundred or county court, or to the sheriff's tourn, and did not have to go outside the manor for the coroner or any other officer. Prisoners taken within the manor seem to have been kept there for a short time, as the cottars owed a service of guarding them. (fn. 81) Similar rights were enjoyed by later kings and those to whom they granted the manor, and courts were held until 1897. (fn. 82) In the 15th century, and presumably earlier, some Hanborough men attended the abbot's court at Eynsham; they may have owed suit in return for rights of common in High wood in Eynsham, for which they owed labour services to the abbot, or for similar rights claimed in Tilgarsley. (fn. 83)

In the 17th century some courts for Hanborough manor were held in the hall at Woodstock, presumably Woodstock palace, and others in tenants' houses in Hanborough. (fn. 84) By the 19th century the court leet or view of frankpledge was held at the George and Dragon, the court baron at the park gate at Woodstock. (fn. 85) Although the inhabitants of Hanborough held a messuage called the town house in 1606, it was let to a tenant and does not seem to have been used for meetings of any sort. (fn. 86)

In the 17th century, and presumably earlier, the view regularly elected 2 constables, 3 tithingmen, and a hayward; occasionally 4 or 5 fieldsmen, a cowherd, and 2 aletasters were also elected, and the appointment or resignation of a reeve was occasionally recorded. The 3 tithings were named in 1661 as Church Hanborough, Wood End, and Burleigh End. The court dealt with the usual manorial offences: overburdening the common or putting upon it uncommonable beasts such as donkeys; rescuing animals from the pound; obstructing the highway with dung or, on one occasion, a dead horse; taking furze or stone from the heath without permission; failing to scour watercourses; and taking lodgers or undertenants. In the 1630s the whole vill was amerced several times for not repairing the butts and once for not having a crow net. On two occasions men were presented for assault, once on the town hayward. Like the courts of the other demesne towns, the Hanborough court recorded conveyances of land, registered wills, and heard pleas of land in the forms used at common law. By the 19th century only one tithingman and one hayward were elected, and the only presentments were of encroachments and the deaths of tenants; most conveyances of land were made out of court. (fn. 87)

A vestry held in the church and attended by about six persons was recorded only when overseers' accounts were passed, and seems to have been a select vestry for the poor. (fn. 88) By the 1830s overseers were paid a fee of £5 and rates were set by the overseers and churchwardens; the curate criticized the overseers for wasteful rate increases and the vestry as unfit to decide on allowances. (fn. 89)

The amount raised in rates, almost all spent on the poor, rose from £119 in 1776 to an average of c. £150 in the period 1783-5. (fn. 90) In 1789 the poor were farmed. (fn. 91) By 1803, when £677 was spent, the cost of c. £1 a head of population was not unusually high for the area, but it became so in the period 1810-13 when it was between 51s. and 54s. a head. An attack on the sheriffs officer by a group of Hanborough men in 1811 (fn. 92) may reflect the local distress. In the post-Waterloo depression the parish spent c. 33s. a head, and after a fall in the 1820s (to c. 8s. a head in 1826) expenditure rose again to c. 23s. a head in 1831. (fn. 93) Accounts for the period 1817-35 show a loss of rate income from 'unoccupied houses' during the 1820s, and the duke of Marlborough was a defaulter on his property throughout. (fn. 94)

A workhouse with room for 20 was recorded in 1776; (fn. 95) it may have been the building on the east side of Burleigh Green which the parish owned in 1761. (fn. 96) In 1803 it was occupied by 23 persons (including children) who earned £13, but no workhouse was recorded thereafter. (fn. 97) In 1765 and in the early 19th century c. 6 houses in Long Hanborough and one in Church Hanborough were used to house the poor; they and two other houses at Cook's Corner, maintained by the overseers from 1820 or earlier, were sold in 1839. (fn. 98) Rents of £47 were paid by the parish in 1817, but no further rents are recorded. (fn. 99)

In 1803 there were 26 adults and 140 children on regular out-relief. The parish spent £30 on materials to employ them but they earned only £24, probably from spinning: payments for spinning and buying flax were recorded in later overseers' accounts. In 1813 there were 78 people on regular out-relief (fn. 1) and between 1817 and 1835 from 53 to 80 people received weekly pay. Yardland men (roundsmen) were being paid for in 1817-18 and possibly later. Payments for 'days' to 30 or more persons were recorded in 1826-7; in 1834-5 as many as 67 were paid on that basis for more than half a week, (fn. 2) and were probably employed on road work. The curate said that in the early 1830s in winter the only employment attempted to be found by the parish for a hundred, more or less . . . has been to walk over about four miles of road'. (fn. 3) Some farmers, however, received a few payments for 'lost labour'. At that time the overseers made bargains with some labourers to 'keep off' demanding work from the parish: in 1834-5 a man received 8s. for 'keeping off' the parish from December to February. (fn. 4)

Hanborough was in the Witney poor law union from 1834 and in Witney rural district from 1894. In 1974 it became part of West Oxfordshire district. (fn. 5) The remaining functions of the vestry were taken over by a parish council in 1894. (fn. 6)


  • 81. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 871.
  • 82. Blenheim Mun., B/M/225, p. 54.
  • 83. B.L. Harl. Roll F. 18; above, Eynsham, Econ. (Agric.).
  • 84. Blenheim Mun., B/M/208. f. 347v.; O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 21, ff. 445-449v.
  • 85. Blenheim Mun., B/M/216-25, passim.
  • 86. P.R.O., LR 2/224, f. 107.
  • 87. Blenheim Mun., B/M/208-25, passim.
  • 88. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Hanborough, c 8.
  • 89. 1st Rep. Poor Law Com. H.C. 44, p. 374 (1834), xxxii-xxxiii.
  • 90. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7.
  • 91. Oxf. Jnl. 19 Sept. 1789.
  • 92. O.R.O., Q. Sess. indictments, Trin. 1811.
  • 93. Poor Abstract, 1818, 360-1; Poor Rate Returns, H.C. 556, p. 138 (1822), v; H.C. 334, p. 173 (1825), iv; H.C. 83, p. 161 (1830-1), xi; H.C. 444, p. 157 (1835), xlvii.
  • 94. O.R.O., MSS. d.d. Par. Hanborough, b 8; c 8.
  • 95. Poor Abstract, 1777, 439.
  • 96. Blenheim Mun., 1761 map.
  • 97. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7; 1818, 360-1.
  • 98. Blenheim Mun., E/P/13; Oxf. Chron. 6 July 1839; O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Hanborough c 8, s.a. 1820.
  • 99. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Hanborough, c 8, s.a. 1817.
  • 1. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7; 1818, 360-1.
  • 2. O.R.O., MSS. d.d. Par. Hanborough, b 8; c 8.
  • 3. 1st Rep. Poor Law Com. H.C. 44, p. 374 (1834), xxxii.
  • 4. O.R.O., MSS. d.d. Par. Hanborough, b 8; c 8.
  • 5. Census, 1851; O.R.O., RO 258.
  • 6. O.R.O., Hanborough PC I/1-5.