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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Eynsham, a former borough and market town and the site of a Benedictine abbey, lies 5 miles north-west of Oxford on the river Thames close to its confluence with the river Evenlode and to an important crossing of the Thames at Swinford. (fn. 25) The ancient parish was large, measuring 5,446 a. in 1876. (fn. 26) Although from 1869 Freeland (505 a. in the north-east quarter of the parish) comprised a Particular District for ecclesiastical purposes, (fn. 27) it remained part of the civil parish until 1932, when 977 a. around the hamlet were transferred to Hanborough, reducing Eynsham to 4,469 a. (fn. 28) In 1948 Freeland became a separate civil parish of 1,122 a. (454 ha.), all transferred from Hanborough. (fn. 29) Thirty acres north of the Witney-Woodstock road were transferred to North Leigh in 1953, reducing Eynsham to 4,439 a. (1,797 ha.). (fn. 30)
The ancient parish was bounded on the south-east by the Thames, on much of the south by the Limb brook, on the west by an ancient track called Wood Lane, on the north chiefly by the Witney-Woodstock road and on part of the north-east by a brook running into the Evenlode. Much of the eastern boundary followed the Evenlode, though diverging near Eynsham mill and Cassington mill along side streams, perhaps the main stream before the mills were built; the detour which took land west of the Evenlode into Cassington was established by the 12th century. (fn. 31) Elsewhere the boundary followed few natural features, and included, east of Freeland, a long straight section; in the south-west its circuitous course from the Limb brook to Wood Lane excluded from the parish the site of the deserted hamlet of Hamstall (later Armstalls). (fn. 32)
Most of the ancient boundary may be identified as that of an estate granted by Aethelmaer to his newly founded monastery at Eynsham in 1005: (fn. 33) that estate was bounded by the rivers Bladon (Evenlode) and Thames, by Bugga's brook (the Limb brook), by the way to the port street (Wood Lane), by the port street (the Witney-Woodstock road), and by the boundary brook, presumably the brook between Eynsham and Hanborough called Caverswell in the Mid dle Ages and Hanborough brook in 1615. (fn. 34) The old ditch near the heath field in the north-east was probably the straight section of parish boundary east of Freeland, (fn. 35) and the swain's croft between the port street and the old ditch probably stood at Cook's corner, which in 1650 as Breach corner was one of the boundaries of Eynsham heath; (fn. 36) in 1298 Oseney abbey had a sheepcot and croft there, on the Wychwood forest boundary, which from the Evenlode to the sheepcot clearly followed the parish boundary, excluding Eynsham from the forest. (fn. 37) In the south-west it seems likely that the Tilgar's ditch at which Aethelmaer's boundary left the Limb brook is represented by the thick hedge on the parish boundary between the brook and the site of Hamstall. The nearby weardstige ('ward sty'), perhaps denoting an enclosure for guarding animals, (fn. 38) may be recalled by a Stywardispath which c. 1360 crossed Eynsham's South field, and by Steward's Bush furlong towards Hamstall recorded in 1615. (fn. 39) Other points on the south-west boundary of Aethelmaer's estate are not identifiable: the parish boundary in that area is unchanged from the 17th century, (fn. 40) and although adjustments may have been made in the Middle Ages after the depopulation of Hamstall, here Eynsham abbey held all the land, (fn. 41) arguments for large discrepancies between the Anglo-Saxon and later boundaries lack foundation.
The land granted by Aethelmaer in 1005 was evidently an amalgamation of two distinct estates, later the manors of Eynsham and Tilgarsley; they were divided by Tilgar's ditch, an estate boundary which probably ran northwards from the Tilgar's ditch near Hamstall past Newfield Cottages to the Chil brook, from Chil brook west of Chil bridge along ditches and tracks still traceable south of the Evenlode Hotel, then eastwards along a well defined, curving track between Evenlode Farm and Eynsham mill. In 1615 that section was called 'Torres grave mere', (fn. 42) and in 1782 the point on Ache Hill where the mere crossed an ancient north-south lane was called Tar's grave. (fn. 43) 'Torres grave' was a corruption of 'Tilgar's', and later the 'Tar's grave' inspired the local legend of a hanged sailor. (fn. 44) Tilgar's ditch presumably defined the lands of an early Anglo-Saxon settler, Tilgar, whose name was given to the forest clearing or 'ley' which became Tilgarsley. (fn. 45) In the Middle Ages the ditch divided the open fields of Tilgarsley on the west and north from those of Eynsham on the east and south, al though after the depopulation of Tilgarsley in the 14th century the boundary lost much of its significance. (fn. 46)
Much of the southern half of the parish is low-lying and flat (c. 65 m.), but in the west the land rises to 84 m. at Twelve Acre Farm, and in the north to 105 m. near Freeland and 120 m. in Eynsham Hall park. Between Foxley Farm in the south and City Farm in the east (the area occupied by Eynsham's pre-inclosure arable) the land is river gravel, with broad alluvial deposits on the banks of the Thames and Evenlode, and the tributary brooks. In the west and north the land is mostly Oxford and Kimmeridge clay, overlain with large areas of unbedded glacial deposits in Eynsham Hall park and around Freeland. (fn. 47) Much of the north (over 1,700 a.) remained uncultivated heath and woodland until the inclosure of the park in 1781 and the main inclosure of the parish, begun in 1800 and completed in 1802. (fn. 48) The soil there was poor, requiring extensive use of lime and fertilizers. (fn. 49) Before it became farmland the heath was exploited for its 'luxuriant furze' (fn. 50) and its deposits of sand, peat, and clay. An early 18thcentury lord, Thomas Jordan, tried with four partners to exploit a coal seam which, though deep below the surface, was expected to yield profits in an area where fuel was 'scarce and dear'; after sinking a shaft some 80 yd. deep he was forced to desist, 'having no fire engine, and water rushing in'. A later lord, James Lacy, a London theatre owner, worked the same site (south of the Witney-Woodstock road) in 1764, but without success: (fn. 51) Lacy's wealth was said to have been 'much lessened by searching for coal mines in Oxfordshire', and his colleague David Garrick remarked that 'the pit of Drury Lane is more profitable than the pit on Eynsham heath'. (fn. 52)
Eynsham's early importance owed much to its position near the crossing place of the Thames at Swinford. To the east a ridgeway has been traced over Wytham Hill (fn. 53) and it remained in use as a road between Oxford and the west until the early 19th century. From Eynsham its line to Witney and the Cotswolds was mostly that of the present main road, though close to the village there have been changes. Until the 18th century traffic seems to have left Eynsham by Mill Street, turning west at Spare Acre Lane (called in 1615 Town's End) (fn. 54) and along a lane (preserved as a footpath until covered by modern housing in the Stratford Rise and Tilgarsley Road area), which joined the present Witney road at its junction with Cuckoo Lane; thence westwards the ancient route is preserved by the present main road, except where that by passes Barnard Gate. (fn. 55) The lane from Town's End to the Cuckoo Lane junction was named in 1615 Honey Cross way, probably a mistake for the later Howling Cross; (fn. 56) a cross, perhaps similar in usage to 'weeping' crosses elsewhere, stood near the lane's western end until the early 19th century, (fn. 57) and may have marked a resting place for early medieval funeral processions from Tilgarsley to the parish church. In the mid 18th century a new route was laid out from the centre of Eynsham to the Cuckoo Lane junction, passing from the west end of Acre End Street on a zig-zag course across the open fields; (fn. 58) its line is largely preserved by the present Witney Road and Old Witney Road.
By the mid 18th century, and probably long before, the east-west road through Eynsham and Swinford had ceased to be important. (fn. 59) The Swinford ferry and the road thence to Oxford were difficult, and it seems that heavier traffic from Oxford westwards preferred a northern route along the present Woodstock-Witney road. (fn. 60) That route, an ancient ridgeway linking the Burford-Witney ridgeway with the Oxford-Banbury ridgeway, (fn. 61) was the 'port street' of 1005 on the northern boundary of Eynsham. By the time the Witney-Woodstock road was turnpiked in 1751 the old 'horse road' over Swinford ferry was merely included in the trust as a minor branch. (fn. 62) The Witney-Woodstock road was disturnpiked in 1869. (fn. 63)
In the early Middle Ages the route over Swinford ferry was sufficiently profitable to cause contention between the abbots of Eynsham and Abingdon, who respectively owned the Oxfordshire and Berkshire banks of the Thames at Swinford. In 1299 it was agreed that the ferry belonged solely to the abbot of Abingdon, who, in recognition of the abbot of Eynsham's rights over the Oxfordshire bank, was to pay 1s. a year and make concessions over tolls to the Eynsham monks. (fn. 64) The rent was paid throughout the Middle Ages; (fn. 65) the vicars of Cumnor continued to assert their parish's right to the full width of the river passage by traditional ceremonies at the annual perambulation. (fn. 66) The ferry crossing was frequently hazardous, and in 1636 a party of Welsh sheriffs delivering ship money to Charles I were capsized there, and several of the party drowned. (fn. 67) In 1764 John Wesley was nearly swept off a causeway near the ferry while riding through. (fn. 68) The causeway may have been that mentioned in 1565 as new and evidently on the Eynsham side of the river. (fn. 69)
In 1751 the Oxford and Witney turnpike trustees had found the branch through Swinford dangerous, particularly in winter. Repairs were carried out in 1752 between Barnard Gate and 'Goodenough's turnpike' at the west end of Eynsham, possibly the new section from Acre End Street, and in 1753 the road between the village and the ferry was repaired at the joint expense of the parish and the trustees; the vicar, Treadway Nash, was influential in promoting the improvements. (fn. 70) In 1765 Willoughby Bertie, earl of Abingdon, bought the ferry and adjoining land, and in 1767 Acts were passed for establishing Swinford toll bridge and repairing Botley causeway. The new bridge, probably designed by Sir Robert Taylor, was opened in 1769. By then the road over Wytham Hill had been improved to take carriage traffic, but it remained steep and difficult, and was a haunt of highwaymen. (fn. 71) In 1810 the lower road through Farmoor to Botley was built, but the old road over Wytham was not technically given up by the trustees until 1835. (fn. 72) The whole route from Witney to Oxford was disturnpiked in 1877. (fn. 73) The bridge tolls, abolished for pedestrians in 1835, (fn. 74) caused bitter controversy in modern times. (fn. 75)
Traffic through Eynsham was greatly affected by the construction in the early 1930s of a section of trunk road linking Oxford's northern bypass with the old Witney road at Cuckoo Lane. (fn. 76) Access to the village from the new road was provided along the Cassington road, Mill Street, and a short northward extension of Witney Road which relegated Old Witney Road to minor status. To ease the nuisance caused by the passage through the village of gravel lorries from the Standlake area bypasses were built to the south and east in 1974 and 1983, the former following the track of an abandoned railway. (fn. 77)
A network of ancient lanes linked the village with its fields and with neighbouring parishes: many of those altered or abandoned at inclosure in 1802 survive as footpaths. (fn. 78) Among the more important 'lost' roads was one, called Sutton way in 1615, which crossed South field to Bell Bridge (fn. 79) on a sinuous line south-east of the present Stanton Harcourt road, which was laid out at inclosure. Bag Bridge, mentioned in the 15th century, was evidently another name for Bell Bridge, (fn. 80) and Chil Bridge may be the Hugh's bridge mentioned in 1220. (fn. 81) The medieval road to Cassington followed Newland Street, called in 1215 the great street towards the bridge of Cassington, (fn. 82) then passed along the east-west section of Mead Lane before continuing eastwards in a curving line to cross the Evenlode at Cassington mill; the straight section from Newland Street to Cassington dates from inclosure. In 1361 the abbot of Eynsham was fined for neglecting to repair a bridge and causeway between Eynsham and Cassington mill. (fn. 83) Three bridges may have been involved for in 1615 there was Bow Bridge at the point where the former Cassington road left Mead Lane, another over a brook further east called the Flam, (fn. 84) and presumably a third over the boundary stream.
The medieval road to Woodstock followed the line of the present Hanborough road, called Bladon way in the 13th century; (fn. 85) in 1615 the road crossed Tilgar's ditch at Stonend Bridge and the boundary brook at Token Bridge, perhaps the Chere Bridge of the 13th century. (fn. 86) A more direct route to Church Hanborough, partly preserved in field paths near City Farm, branched north-westwards from Mill Lane close to its present junction with the Oxford-Witney road, crossing the boundary brook by a footbridge north of City Farm; by the 18th century it was a bridleway. The lane may be ancient, and prehistoric sites in Eynsham and Hanborough seem to be related to it. (fn. 87) Several lanes in the north converged near Bowles Farm, where, as argued below, the hamlet of Tilgarsley may have stood. The most important, Cuckoo Lane, was presumably named from a Cuckoo well on the heath north of Bowles Farm. (fn. 88) Another ancient lane followed Spareacre Lane, passing north-wards over Ache Hill and past 'Tar's grave' along the line of a surviving track: in the 18th century, at a triangle of waste called Turner's Green, the lane turned westwards towards Bowles Farm.
Before the heath was inclosed (partly in 1781 and wholly in 1802) it was crossed by several tracks in addition to the perimeter ways, Wood Lane on the west and the modern main street of Freeland on the east. A central north-south trackway running from North Leigh to South Leigh and crossing the Witney road near Eynsham Hall's South Lodge is preserved for much of its course as a path on the eastern edge of the park. Another central trackway linked North Leigh with the northern end of Cuckoo Lane, crossing an area later covered by the grounds of Freeland House. (fn. 89)
Throughout the 19th century Eynsham was served by carriers visiting Oxford and Witney several times a week. Local carriers declined with the introduction of bus services in the 1920s but in 1939 the village was still served by carriers travelling to Oxford from North Leigh and Witney. (fn. 90) Communication by river to Oxford and beyond was important in the Middle Ages, and again from the early 17th century when Thames navigation was greatly improved. By the early 13th century there was a wharf near Swinford, on a side stream of the Thames known later as the Wharf stream; it remained in use until the 20th century. (fn. 91) A canal wharf established on the Cassington road c. 1800, (fn. 92) although outside the parish, was also important to Eynsham's economy. Proposed railways through Eynsham in 1822, 1836, and the 1840s came to nothing, (fn. 93) but the establishment of the Oxford-Worcester line in 1853, with such nearby stations as Hanborough, affected Eynsham's waterborne coal trade long before the village acquired its own station. (fn. 94) In 1861 Eynsham station was opened on the Witney Railway Co.'s line to the Oxford-Worcester railway at Yarnton. (fn. 95) The line was closed to passenger traffic in 1962, and ceased operation in 1970. (fn. 96)
Abundant evidence of human occupation from Palaeolithic times has been found in the parish, especially on the river gravels. (fn. 97) In the south, in a heavily crop-marked area between the village and Foxley Farm, finds included a Bronze Age cemetery of the Beaker period, and many other Bronze Age features; (fn. 98) a supposed henge south-east of the Stanton Harcourt road, however, is not now thought to be man-made, (fn. 99) though the site, called Deadman's Burial by the early 17th century, (fn. 1) perhaps contained a barrow. Bronze Age burials and other features have been discovered north of the village, notably in the New Wintles Farm area, (fn. 2) while the importance of the Thames crossing at that period is suggested by the discovery of shields at Swinford Bridge. The Foxley Farm area included an early Iron Age settlement, and another settlement of that period lay on the boundary with Hanborough north of City Farm. (fn. 3) A large earthwork in Eynsham Hall park probably dates in part from the Iron Age; a smaller, oval earthwork close to the eastern boundary of the park has been ploughed out. (fn. 4) A Romano-British settlement, with attached fields, has been identified north of Foxley Farm, and Romano-British artefacts have been found there, at New Wintles Farm, further south between Cuckoo and Mill Lanes, north of Newland Street near the primary school, and in the village itself, notably at the Gables and on and near the abbey site. An important Romano-British coin hoard, buried c. 330, was discovered in the fields in 1935, but the precise location was not recorded. (fn. 5)
Early Anglo-Saxon bone implements were discovered just south of the railway station and an early Saxon settlement with sunken hut floors north of Newland Street; nearby, at Wytham View, was a pagan cemetery. Another extensive area of early settlement west of New Wintles Farm included framed buildings and sunken floors, and there were signs of weaving. (fn. 6) Neither settlement, however, seems to have comprised, at any one date, much more than a farmstead with associated buildings, and it seems likely that the principal early settlement was at Eynsham itself: an early enamelled escutcheon and quantities of early Anglo-Saxon pottery, as well as prehistoric and Romano-British wares have been found on the abbey site, (fn. 7) and similar evidence of Romano-British and early AngloSaxon occupation has been found at the Shrubbery and near Tanner's Lane.
Eynsham (Egonesham)) was mentioned as one of four widely dispersed places which fell to Cutha after a battle with the Britons at Biedcanford, allegedly in 571. (fn. 8) British occupation could hardly have survived so late in the south Midlands, (fn. 9) and the reference perhaps reflects only that Eynsham was well known by the time the Chronicle was compiled. Another of the places annexed by Cutha was Benson, also a major crossing point of the upper Thames, and the river's importance as a boundary is implied in 779 when Offa of Mercia, after defeating Cynewulf of Wessex at Benson, allegedly built a fortress on Wytham Hill, protecting the Swinford crossing. (fn. 10)
There are indications that by the 9th century Eynsham was an important royal estate. In 821 King Coenwulf of Mercia, demanded that Wulfred, archbishop of Canterbury, surrender to him 300 hides at Iognes homme, which has been identified as Eynsham. (fn. 11) Certainly the Mercian kings seem to have retained an interest in Eynsham in 864. (fn. 12) There is evidence that Eynsham had an early minster church with a large parochia encompassing at least the southern part of the later Wootton hundred. In 864, when Burgred, king of Mercia, granted to Bishop Eahlhun of Worcester an estate at Water Eaton (on the eastern boundary of the hundred), he freed it of all tribute except for the large payment of 30s. to the church at Eynsham ((Egenes homme). (fn. 13) Likewise Cogges (on the western boundary of the hundred) seems to have belonged to Eynsham's parochia, since in the early Middle Ages, by an ancient arrangement, Eynsham abbey received the crop of part of the Cogges demesne to compensate for the loss of burial fees there. (fn. 14) By then only a few closer neighbours of Eynsham were directly dependent upon its church, (fn. 15) the parochia presumably having been broken up in unrecorded grants of the Anglo-Saxon period.
The possibility that Eynsham's early parochia stretched westward to Bampton is suggested by a payment of 13s. 4d, noted from the 17th century to the early 19th, to the vicar of Eynsham when preaching in Bampton church at the feast of the Assumption. (fn. 16) In 1291 Eynsham abbey was in receipt of 13s. 4d. a year from Bampton, presumably for the same service. (fn. 17) The origin of the custom, and of the substantial annual payment, is unknown, though it may have arisen out of an agreement over the tithes of the abbey's estates in Bampton. (fn. 18) The annual visit on Bampton church's dedication day, however, suggests closer links: (fn. 19) if indeed it reflected some former dependence of Bampton upon Eynsham as a mother church it was of great antiquity, for Bampton itself was the site of a pre-Conquest minster. It is not implausible, however, that Eynsham was the earlier centre.
A further possibility that in the 10th century Eynsham belonged to a succession of closely related members of the West Saxon royal household depends upon its identification as the Inggeneshamme, Incgenaesham, or Igenesham of several surviving wills. The forms have been attributed usually to Inglesham (Wilts.), although the 10th-century Latin chronicler Aethelweard used the very similar form Ignesham for the undisputed Egenesham of 571 in his translation of the Chronicle. (fn. 20). Aethelweard, whose son Aethelmaer founded Eynsham abbey, may have known Eynsham, since it possibly already belonged to a kinsman. In the mid 10th century Wynflaed, probably grandmother of King Edgar, by will gave Inggeneshamme to her son Eadmaer. (fn. 21) Later Aelfheah (d. c. 971), ealdorman of Hampshire, by will gave Incgenaesham to King Edgar, to whom he was related. (fn. 22) The chronicler Aethelweard, as a descendant of Ethelred, king of Wessex, was related to both Wynflaed and Aelfheah. (fn. 23) Aelfheah's successor as ealdorman of Hampshire, Aethelmaer (d. 982), by will gave Igenesham to an unnamed elder son, (fn. 24) and before 1005 Aethelmaer, son of Aethelweard the chronicler, acquired Egnesham by exchange from another Aethelweard, his son-in-law. (fn. 25a) The son-in-law's antecedents are not known, but it is possible that he was a descendant of Aethelmaer, ealdorman of Hampshire, and that the Igenesham bequeathed in 982 was the Egnesham of 1005. Interpretation of the place-name Eynsham, which compounds with hamm (river meadow) a personal name which is either AngloSaxon or Celtic, depends upon which early forms are accepted. (fn. 26a)
A minster or abbey already existed when its foundation was confirmed by King Ethelred in 1005, (fn. 27a) a date that may represent only the endowment and establishment of a Benedictine community there. The appointment as abbot of Aelfric, a prominent spiritual leader of the period, presumably brought fame to Eynsham but the abbey was not recorded until the Conquest when the monks fled and their house was devastated. (fn. 28a) Its estates were used to endow the see of Dorchester (later removed to Lincoln), but it had probably been re-established by 1086 when Eynsham was held of the bishop by Columban, a monk, and elsewhere in Domesday Book the abbey was referred to expressly. (fn. 29a) In 1091 Columban and the abbey's endowments were transferred by Bishop Remigius to Stow (Lincs.) but that decision was reversed by Robert Bloet, who was nominated as bishop in 1093. After a period of uncertainty, perhaps lasting into the early 12th century, the abbey recovered its old endowments; by the end of the Middle Ages it was one of the richest religious house in Oxfordshire. It received royal patronage because of its proximity to Woodstock. Henry I excused the abbot's men from service to the royal hunt whenever his household was lodging at Eynsham, (fn. 30a) and there seem to have been regular royal visits. In 1175 and 1186 bishops were elected there when the king was at Woodstock. (fn. 31a) Royal writs were issued at Eynsham in 1291 and the king and chancery were there in 1329-30. (fn. 32a) The abbey bakehouse was repaired in preparation for a visit by Richard II in 1389 and Prince Arthur visited Eynsham in 1501. (fn. 33a)
Although the abbot complained frequently of the burden of entertaining the 'concourse of magnates' (fn. 34a) such visitors probably enriched the abbey by stimulating trade. Eynsham was a borough, and some of its inhabitants held of the abbot by burgage tenure and were governed by a separate court, the portmoot. (fn. 35a) The town was probably flourishing long before it was granted a market in the 1130s. (fn. 36a) Whereas Aethelmaer's estate there had comprised 30 holdings or houses ((mansiuncult)), by 1086 there were 70 tenants, each perhaps representing a household. (fn. 37a) When Henry II confirmed the market and added two annual fairs one was in the week of Pentecost, when Eynsham was the focus of processions from local deaneries bringing pentecostals or 'smoke farthings', originally payable at the bishop's seat but granted to Eynsham abbey by Bishop Alexander in 1138. (fn. 38a) Large crowds were thus attracted to the town and its principal fair. The processions seem to have continued in the later Middle Ages, for in 1391 the pope granted indulgences to any visitors giving alms in St. Leonard's chapel (Eynsham's parish church) in Whitsun week. (fn. 39a)
The town was presumably flourishing in 1215 when the abbot provided for more traders by laying out Newland. (fn. 40a) By the end of the 13th century, however, some of the new, burgages were regranted as ordinary freeholds and there are other indications that Eynsham failed to establish itself as a successful town, probably because of its proximity to Oxford and other market centres. Though retaining its market and a small trading community, it ceased to grow, and remained dependent upon agriculture. A survey of 1279 enumerating only 49 tenants in Eynsham and Tilgarsley apparently omitted the trading community but early 14th-century tax assessments confirm that Eynsham was in decline: indeed by 1334 its assessed wealth was the lowest of all Oxfordshire towns, and much lower than the hamlet of Tilgarsley. (fn. 41a) After the parish was ravaged by the Black Death of 1349-50 Tilgarsley was abandoned, its fields were mostly inclosed, and the surviving population regrouped at Eynsham. In 1377 only 211 adults were assessed for poll tax, placing Eynsham among the smallest Oxfordshire market towns. (fn. 42a) By the early 16th century, though apparently more populous than some market centres such as Charlbury or Bampton, Eynsham's tax assessments indicate a village community dominated by small farmers and monastic servants. (fn. 43a) It retained the institutions of a borough in the 15th century, including the portmoot and officers, of whom the chief was sometimes called mayor, but by the later 16th century the borough institutions were moribund. (fn. 44a)
In the mid 17th century there were c. 115 village tenements, some of them perhaps in multiple occupation, and a half dozen outlying houses and cottages. Probably there were far fewer than 150 households. (fn. 45a) In 1662 only 91 people were assessed for hearth tax on a total of 188 hearths, and for later hearth taxes exemption and evasion reduced the number of taxpayers by two thirds. (fn. 46a) The 300 conformists reported in 1676 and the 200 houses and 2,000 people estimated in the early 18th century are round and unreliable figures, but in 1738 the vicar reckoned that there were 160 houses and 153 families. (fn. 47a) Baptisms averaged only between 15 and 18 a year in the four decades from 1660, compared with between 27 and 42 a year in the period 1770-1810: (fn. 48a) the population supporting the last figure was, in 1801, only 1,116 divided between 208 families occupying 183 houses. (fn. 49a) It seems likely that the population in the late 17th century was not much more than 500. In most decades in the period 1660-1809 the number of baptisms far exceeded the burials, except for the 1720s when smallpox caused great mortality; in the winter of 1714-15 over 40 smallpox deaths were recorded, and there were more serious outbreaks in the winter months of 1728-9 and 1729-30. Losses in those years perhaps account for the fall in baptisms to only 18 a year in mid century, after a rise to between 20 and 24 a year in the first four decades. From the 1760s the rise in baptisms and in the excess of baptisms over burials was steep and continuous. A serious 'epidemic fever' recorded in 1801 resulted in far fewer deaths than the early 18th-century outbreaks of smallpox. (fn. 50a) Cholera, frequently recorded, caused heavy mortality in 1832 and there was a serious typhoid outbreak in Crown Crescent in 1875. (fn. 51a)
The population rose rapidly to 1,705 in 1821, then more slowly to a peak of 2,177 in 1871. A steady decline reduced the population to only 1,644 in 1921. The expansion which transformed Eynsham into a dormitory town began in the 1920s, for by 1931 the number of houses had risen from 406 to 483, and the population to 1,963. By 1951, though Freeland had been removed from the parish, there were 588 houses and 2,373 people. After only a modest increase in the 1950s intensive house-building caused a rise in population from 2,628 in 1961 to 4,427 in 1971. The population in 1981 was only 4,449 but rapid growth was then resumed. (fn. 52a)
The town was established where the route from the river crossing reached higher ground on a gravel terrace. After Tilgarsley was abandoned Eynsham was for long the only centre of settlement in the parish. There were a few small farmsteads near Freeland, and Twelve Acre Farm was established by the later Middle Ages; (fn. 53a) otherwise the only outlying settlements until the late 18th century were the mill and a scattering of heathside cottages. (fn. 54a) Eynsham Hall was built in the 1770s and its park laid out after a partial inclosure of the heath in 1781. (fn. 55a) The main inclosure of the parish in 1802 led to the establishment of many outlying farms and the development of a substantial hamlet at Freeland.
Eynsham's early street plan centred on the intersection of the road from Swinford ferry with a north-south road, now Mill Street and Abbey Street. In the Middle Ages the parts of the settlement were distinguished as Acre End, Mill End, and Hut (i.e. hythe or wharf) End. (fn. 56a) Within the town the ferry or Oxford road was later called Thames Street until the 19th century, then briefly George Street, (fn. 57a) and by 1851 High Street; in 1851 the name Thames Street was evidently used by some for the part of High Street running along the north side of the Square, (fn. 58a) a practice continued in modern times. The name Abbey Street for the southern end of Mill Street was first recorded after the 17th century, (fn. 59a) while the names Church Street, for the short section between the Square and Abbey Street, and Lombard Street for the section between Mill Street and Abbey Street, were late 19th-century innovations: the name Lombard Street was presumably inspired by the bank established there by the Gibbons family of grocers and wine merchants. (fn. 60a)
The central crossroads was called Carfax by the 16th century, perhaps in imitation of the Oxford street-name. (fn. 61a) Immediately to the east was a large market square, which included the area between Church Street, Lombard Street, and Thames Street as well as the surviving square, reduced to its present size before the mid 18th century. (fn. 62a) The Co-operative stores seems to have been the site of a detached medieval building, (fn. 63a) and other encroachments in the original square probably began as temporary structures, perhaps as a shambles: there were shops (selds) in the middle of the street by the 14th century and several butchers were established in the market place. (fn. 64a) Although in the 16th century two 'butchers' houses', apparently part of a shambles, (fn. 65a) were said to be in Mill Street, they may have been at the west end of the original square. The badly weathered market cross is probably of the 14th century. (fn. 66a) The shaft bore carved figures in four canopied niches, while on the base were arches with crockets and finials, and, in four corner niches, small carved figures. The original head was replaced by a sundial, perhaps in the 1560s when a levy was made to repair the cross. (fn. 67a)
The last major encroachment on the square was the building later called the Bartholomew Room, which was built c.. 1703. (fn. 68a) In 1701 the site was granted from the manorial waste for a court house and other purposes. (fn. 69a) Probably it was already intended to house the charity school endowed in 1701 by John Bartholomew, and in 1703 a subscription raised £87 for 'the school of Eynsham', (fn. 70a) presumably to finance the new building. Thereafter the school remained in the court house until 1847. (fn. 71a) The building's lower storey was arcaded, (fn. 72a) and presumably from the outset it served as a market house. The parish fire engine was housed beneath it from the early 19th century until 1949. In the later 19th century the arcade was blocked, the lower floor serving partly as a lock-up. (fn. 73a) The upper floor continued in use as a court room and general meeting room, and the building was sometimes referred to as the town hall. For a time in the 20th century it served as a Roman Catholic church. (fn. 74a) In 1983 the building was bought by the parish council and restored. The carved stone shield above the entrance, removed from a barn in Back Lane in 1963, may be from the demolished abbey. (fn. 75a)
The abbey stood south of the market place in a large precinct which probably included the site of the later parish church and churchyard. The cramped nature of the church site between the abbey and market place suggests that the trading area had been defined before the church was built. How soon the new church was provided for parishioners after their minster was taken over by monks in the early 11th century is not known, but it was not recorded until the late 12th century. (fn. 76a)
By the 13th century there were tenements some distance from the town centre, on both sides of the ferry road and south of the Chil brook on the Stanton Harcourt road. (fn. 77a) Some tenements south of the ferry road were later taken into the abbey precinct and those on the Chil brook seem to have been abandoned during the Middle Ages. (fn. 78a) The alignment of back lanes and early tenement boundaries along Acre End Street suggests that its development preceded that of Mill Street. Mill Street was built up at least as far north as Newland Street before the early 13th century, since plots then laid out in Newland Street clearly respected existing boundaries. (fn. 79a) Until the early 13th century Abbey Street continued south across the Chil brook towards Stanton Harcourt, but it was closed c. 1217 and a new road (later Station Road) provided further west so that the abbey precinct might be enlarged; the northern section of Station Road, linking with Acre End Street, may date from 1290. (fn. 80a)
In 1215 the abbey attempted to stimulate its market and increase its rental by founding a new borough. By a charter granted to the communa of prospective tenants, all the abbey's demesne between the town and the Cassington road, together with a strip half a furlong deep north of that road, was assigned for division into plots of nominal acres, half acres, and quarter acres; the plots were to be held by burgage tenure at rents of 4s. an acre. (fn. 81a) The new borough, so called in 1294 (fn. 82a) but usually known as Newland, acquired its own court and officers, and though it soon failed as an urban community and lost its burgage tenure it maintained its identity as a separate manor until the 20th century. (fn. 83a) The plots laid out in the early 13th century were surveyed with great precision in 1366, (fn. 84a) and some 14th century plots may be traced in detail in later maps.
They were laid out on both sides of Newland Street and Queen Street. The generous width of Newland Street suggests that it was intended as the site of a market or fair. Queen Street, called Puck or Pug Lane in the Middle Ages, probably already existed as an access road into the fields, crossing a small stream at Gosford (goose ford) near the present Queen's Head inn. (fn. 85a) It was there, perhaps, that Puck Bridge was built, later giving its name to the annual Powkebridge court at which pannage of pigs was levied. (fn. 86a) When Queen Street was renamed, probably in the 18th century, (fn. 87a) the name Pug Lane was transferred to the perimeter lane running along the south and west sides of house plots in Newland Street; in 1650 the lane had been called Love Lane. (fn. 88a) In modern times the lane was renamed Newland Close and Queen's Lane, but the name Pug Lane was retained for the footpath from the perimeter lane to High Street.
On the south and west Newland stretched to the edges of the existing built-up area, defined by the perimeter lane. On the north side of Newland Street the western boundary of the plots was in line with Newland Close, (fn. 89a) and a perimeter lane survived there until the 19th century. The northern boundary was marked by another back lane, reputedly a medieval salt way: it seems to have provided a bypass in the 19th century for carts passing from Mill Street to Mead Lane and the wharf, (fn. 90a) whence salt was certainly transported, but it is unlikely that the lane was an early route.
An 'ancient holding' (probably an existing freehold of Eynsham manor in 1215) lay roughly half way along the north side of Newland Street, flanked by the new plots; because its frontage escaped measurement in 1366 the eastward extension of the new borough on that side cannot be defined precisely. Later, however, Newland manor extended as far on the north side of the street as on the south, where the eastern boundary, as in 1366, followed that of the large corner tenement (later the Gables and its garden). (fn. 91a) Immediately to the east, flanking the Cassington Road, were two closes, Chatterholt (charter hold) and Mortar Pits; the name of the one and the shape of the other (half a furlong deep), and the fact that both were former abbey demesne, (fn. 92a) suggest that they, too, may have been assigned for the new borough but were never divided into house plots.
In 1366 the measured area (fn. 93a) of the new tenements was c., 18 ½ a., divided into 27 holdings, of which a few contained subordinate plots, while two had evidently formed a single half-acre plot. Most plots clearly represented nominal fractions of an acre, but their area was remeasured to the nearest part of a barleycorn, and the rent recalculated at 4s. an acre. Most plots were near to 20 perches deep, but in the south-west, where Newland abutted the irregular outline of the old borough, there was greater variety, while elsewhere some of the corner tenements were of unusual size or shape. The width of frontages varied, but many plots of standard depth were also roughly 2 or 4 perches wide, yielding a nominal quarter- or half-acre area. Most plots were divided into a curtilage (containing a house or cottage on the street front) and behind it a larger close. On the north side of Newland Street the third tenement from the west, described as a hall aula and possibly the court house of the new borough, may be identified as the White Hart inn, while the 'ancient holding' became the site of Newland House. (fn. 94a) The site of the Gables was an unusual plot in 1366, comprising an unbuilt 'place' in the lord's hand, and a large, almost square, close of nearly 4 a., partly planted with trees; in the earlier 13th century it had been held by manorial servants, including John the porter, who was commemorated in the later name, Porter's Close. (fn. 95a) The shape and early history of the holding again suggest that the demand for urban plots in Newland was satisfied before the remoter parts of the site were developed. After 1366 Newland changed little; the revised rental then was c. £3 14s., and in 1518 it was still only £3 16s., though it rose for a time in the mid 15th century to c. £4 10s. (fn. 96a) In 1650 there were only 31 separate holdings in Newland, (fn. 97a) and widespread subdivision of plots did not take place until the 19th century. (fn. 98)
After the addition of Newland Eynsham expanded little during the Middle Ages, although a 'new row' in Thames Street mentioned in the late 15th century (fn. 99a) and encroachment in the square suggest that space was restricted in the central area. The dissolution of the abbey in the 16th century stimulated building activity in Eynsham, and even before the abbey was finally demolished in the later 17th century its masonry was used widely in local buildings. (fn. 1a) By 1650, in addition to the 31 Newland tenements, there were 41 separate holdings in Mill Street (including Abbey Street), ranged along both sides of the street from Abbey Farm to Spareacre Lane, although there was little building on the east side north of Newland Street. In Acre End Street there were 25 holdings, the buildings ending well short of Witney Road. There were 18 holdings (of which one was the churchyard) in 'Thames Street and Carfax', stretching eastwards only as far as the Elms and the Shrubbery. (fn. 2a) Most houses probably had wells, but there was a conduit house at the west end of Conduit Lane in 1615. (fn. 3a) By 1762 there had been almost no expansion, except for the addition of a few houses at the west end of Acre End Street. (fn. 4a)
The shops and principal inns were close to the centre. In 1587 three innkeepers in Eynsham were recorded as brewers, one of them, Robert Browne (d. 1604) holding the Angel, which later in the 17th century belonged to the Wise family. (fn. 5a) Later, as the Red Lion (a name acquired in the 18th century), (fn. 6a) its central position made it an obvious choice for events such as inclosure meetings or cock fights between the 'gentlemen' of Oxford and Burford. (fn. 7a) It was bought by the Oxford brewers, the Morrells, in 1800. (fn. 8a) Also in the Square in 1650 was the Green Dragon, on the site of the Co-operative Stores. (fn. 9a) In the later 18th century, as the George and Dragon, it was held by the Meades family and seems to have closed by the 1780s. (fn. 10a) Another early inn, the Eagle and Child, probably on the north side of the Square, has not been traced after the late 17th century. (fn. 11a) By then the Swan in Acre End Street was the meeting place for the Eynsham manor courts, (fn. 12a) and it flourished after the turnpike was diverted along that street in the later 18th century. The building contains 16th- or 17th-century features (fn. 13a) and was greatly enlarged in the 19th century as coaching traffic increased after the improvement of the route from Oxford to the west. In 1844, when bought by Samuel Druce, a prominent Eynsham farmer, the inn had stabling for 36 horses. The Druces sold it in 1862 to a relative, J. W. Clinch, the Witney brewer. (fn. 14a)
From the later 18th century there were usually ten or more licensed houses in the parish, including those at Barnard Gate and Freeland. (fn. 15a) The White Hart in Newland Street was recorded as the Haunch of Venison from the 1780s until 1835. (fn. 16a) There was an inn at the wharf by the late 18th century; it was called the Horse and Jockey (fn. 17a) and seems to have acquired its present name, the Talbot, on the closure of an untraced inn of that name c. 1845. (fn. 18a) The Queen's Head in Queen Street appears to have been a private house until the earlier 19th century. (fn. 19a) The Railway inn at the corner of Acre End Street and Station Road was probably built as the Britannia by the brewer James Gibbons c. 1850. (fn. 20a) The Star on the Witney road dates from the 1860s. The Newlands (earlier the Newland) inn formed two cottages until becoming an inn in the 1860s. (fn. 21a) The Jolly Sportsman in Lombard Street, a house of the 17th century or earlier, became a public house c. 1870. (fn. 22a) The Evenlode Hotel was opened in 1936 on the new Oxford-Witney road (fn. 23a) and the Board Hotel (later a restaurant) in Lombard Street was opened after the Second World War. (fn. 24a) Lost inns include the Malt Shovel (later Maltster and Shovel) at the corner of Thames Street and Mill Street, recorded from 1774 until the early 20th century; (fn. 25b) the Royal William, established probably in the 1830s at no. 24 High Street (later Lynwood), by the 1870s called the King's Arms, and closed in the later 19th century; and, from the 1860s until the earlier 20th century, the Fountain in Crown Crescent (no. 18 Acre End Street) and the New Inn (no. 3 Mill Street). (fn. 26b)
Eynsham lost much of its urban character after the early Middle Ages but retained features that distinguished it from a rural parish. Its abbey and market made it a local centre, and later, particularly when the turnpike was improved, it attracted some small industries. Access to Oxford by road and river influenced its history, and prominent Oxford citizens, such as the alderman John Barry and Henry Dodwell in the 16th century and William Bailey and Roger Griffin in the 17th, were involved in Eynsham in various ways. (fn. 27b) Eynsham retained a substantial population, with a large poorer element. The great extent of former woodland and heath, in which many of the poor retained a stake until inclosure in 1802, perhaps contributed to the growth of an independent spirit, which was further encouraged by the absence, after the early 17th century, of a truly resident squire, for the owners of Eynsham Hall remained fairly aloof. Even when, from the 1920s, the village became something of a satellite to Oxford, it preserved many independent features. (fn. 28b)
Social unrest was recurrent in Eynsham's history. In 1296, when the town was crowded during the Pentecostal fair, there was a riot in which Oxford scholars were wounded and killed. (fn. 29b) In 1344 townsmen were presumably involved in the conflict between rival abbots of Eynsham which on one occasion brought 1,500 armed men to the abbey gates. (fn. 30b) In 1350, shortly after the Black Death had ravaged the parish, the inhabitants 'like madmen' attacked the justice, Thomas Langley, apparently because, as royal forester, he was claiming that the fields of Tilgarsley belonged to Wychwood. (fn. 31b) In 1398 Eynsham men were prominent in a treasonable uprising in west Oxfordshire. (fn. 32b) A violent attack on the abbey by Sir Robert Harcourt's retainers in 1503, however, seems largely to have involved outsiders. (fn. 33b) Royalist troops were quartered at Eynsham in 1644. (fn. 34b) Attempted inclosure of commonable land led to riots and fence breaking at Twelve Acre in 1615. (fn. 35b) There were riots on Eynsham heath in 1696, when Thomas Jordan, lord of the manor, may have been attempting to inclose land around his new house there, and again in 1780 when a later lord, Thomas Langford, began to inclose. (fn. 36b) In the 19th century parochial life was frequently turbulent, especially during the incumbency of W.S. Bricknell (vicar, 1845-88), whose quarrels with his parishioners became notorious in the county. (fn. 37b)
The annual perambulation of parish boundaries at Rogation was mentioned as early as 1449, when the vicar and parishioners were accompanied by the abbot and convent. (fn. 38b) An ancient custom, recorded in the 17th century, may recall the inhabitants' traditional rights in the forest: on Whit Monday, a day on which many similar forest customs were observed, (fn. 39b) parishioners were allowed to cut as much timber as could be drawn by hand into the abbey yard (the churchwardens having marked suitable trees), and thereafter they might retain as much as they could cart away 'notwithstanding all the impediments could be given the cart' by the lord's servants; some of the timber was apparently for church repair, but the origin and details of the custom were by then uncertain. (fn. 40b) Certainly in the mid 17th century the churchwardens annually received and sold 'Whitsun wood', sometimes distributing money 'when the wood was brought in'. (fn. 41b) The custom was presumably riotous, and seems to have been given up in the 1670s, partly because little timber survived and it was feared that the custom would discourage replanting. (fn. 42b)
'Jovial doings' at Whitsun, (fn. 43b) deriving from the medieval Pentecostal fair, continued into the 20th century. Whitsun ales were recorded in the mid 17th century, and after the Restoration a 'summer pole' was reintroduced and a feast held in the church house (presumably in the Square) and nearby houses. (fn. 44b) The Whitsun ale was recorded in 1738 and was banned by local magistrates in 1789. (fn. 45) In the early 19th century a club feast took place at Whitsun, which the vicar alleged to be a modern practice associated with the formation of the Sunday schools. (fn. 46b) The Whitsun celebrations included a custom, apparently dying out in the late 18th century or early 19th, whereby a lady of the lamb was chosen. (fn. 47b) Morris dancing was not recorded expressly before 1856, but probably was an element in the Whitsun ales from an early date. (fn. 48b) Thereafter morris dancing at Whitsun and Christmas, and a mummers' play, were recorded regularly; (fn. 49b) the morris side, whose style and costume were particularly distinctive, visited large houses in the neighbourhood such as Blenheim Palace and Eynsham Hall. After the 1930s there was little dancing until the Eynsham tradition was fully re-established in 1979. (fn. 50b)
In addition to the Whitsun celebrations a club feast was held at Easter in the 1830s, presumably the 'revels' recorded in 1832 which involved sports and races. (fn. 51) In the late 19th century a popular event was an annual Temperance fete at Eynsham Hall park. (fn. 52b) From the late 19th century pleasure fairs were re-established in the town, (fn. 53b) and after the Second World War, when the fair declined, the annual Eynsham carnival, held in July, was established, first on the Bartholomew school site in the Witney road and later on the recreation ground.
Some 85 parishioners belonged to friendly societies by 1815; box clubs were founded at the Red Lion in 1807 and at the Swan in 1828. (fn. 54b) In 1829 a benefit society was founded with 58 families contributing 3d. a week: perhaps it was the Penny Club recorded from the 1830s which at one time had as many as 360 members. (fn. 55b) The Eynsham Loan Fund was established in 1836 and ended in 1866. The original subscription of over £100 was lent in small sums at low interest, and during 30 years nearly £6,000 was lent to 3,250 persons. The fund was also used to buy coal, and there was an annual dinner for subscribers. (fn. 56b) Self-help of a different kind was represented by the Eynsham Association for the Prosecution of Felons, established in 1784 and still active in 1816; its funds were used to supplement statutory rewards to informants. (fn. 57b) Eynsham was active in the agricultural trades union movement of the 1870s. (fn. 58b) There was a flourishing cricket team by the late 19th century and a football club was established in 1897. (fn. 59b) A recreation ground was acquired in 1939, and a pavilion was opened there in 1978. (fn. 60b) A social club, the Institute, in Swan Street was started after the First World War with help from the Mason family of Eynsham Hall; it served as a village hall and picture house. (fn. 61b) The former Methodist chapel in Thames Street became the parish room for St. Leonard's church.
Henry of Eynsham (fl. 1301-43) was a prominent master mason engaged on royal works. (fn. 62b) The celebrated beauty Venetia Stanley (1600-33), wife of Sir Kenelm Digby, was allegedly brought up at Eynsham. (fn. 63b) A noted divine, John Rogers (1679-1729) was son of Eynsham's vicar of that name and was buried in the church. (fn. 64b) Treadway Nash, the historian of Worcestershire, was vicar of Eynsham (1751-61) and his relatives held the advowson into the 20th century. (fn. 65b) The Druce family, prominent farmers in Eynsham in the 19th century, played a major part in the evolution of the Oxford Down sheep. (fn. 66b) Several surviving Eynsham families, including those of Wastie, Pimm, Ayres, and Buckingham, were established in the parish by the 17th century or earlier. (fn. 67b)