A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 13, Bampton Hundred (Part One). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
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Shifford had its own open fields until the mid 18th century, when it was inclosed by the Harcourts and reorganized as two farms. In the 14th century the demesne was divided fairly evenly between North field, including the area around New Shifford Farm, East field in the south-east, and an unnamed field in the south-west; the arable was differently grouped for cropping, however, two groups of furlongs in the east and west fields following four-course rotations, and North field and a probably adjoining furlong, which together contained the poorest land and had perhaps been brought into cultivation more recently, following a three-course rotation. (fn. 1) By the early 17th century the fields had been reordered, and lay apparently in three broad swathes running roughly south-west to north-east: a holding in 1608 contained 13 a. in Beggar field in the south-east, 17 a. in Middle field, which included the site of New Shifford Farm and the later Broad Fleet, and 17 a. in West or Windmill (later Marsh) field. (fn. 2) The fields were apparently unchanged in 1706, (fn. 3) though Great Common field (470 a.) and Little Common field (46 a.) were recorded c. 1755. (fn. 4) A lease in 1759 (fn. 5) mentioned Beggar and Marsh fields, Little field in the south-west, and Knight Bridge field on the east, perhaps reflecting a division into quarters, but most strips were described only by reference to furlongs, and by then New Shifford Farm had been built (fn. 6) and inclosure and consolidation were probably under way. Payments by the Harcourts for ditching, hedging, grubbing, and roadmaking were made in the later 1750s, (fn. 7) and by 1788 Old and New Shifford farms were fully inclosed, Christ Church's land being consolidated in a small group of closes on the east. (fn. 8) Yardlands were reckoned at 40 a. c. 1360 and at 'above' 35 a. in the early 17th century, when 1/3; yardland comprised 15 a. excluding meadow. (fn. 9)
Meadows, estimated in 1086 at 50 a., lay mostly in the east along the boundary stream. (fn. 10) Demesne meadow and pasture c. 1360 included Claxhurst (35 a.) in the north-east, Shifford mead and 'Russhehammes', both described as pasture, and Addehurst, Chattoksham, and Langhurst in Standlake parish, (fn. 11) the last farmed from c. 1377 and sold with the Aston and Ducklington part of the estate in 1612. (fn. 12) Twelve Acres, variously used as meadow and pasture, was divided into 12 parcels of which 6 belonged to the demesne in rotation and 6 to the tenants of one free and one unfree yardland. (fn. 13) Though a holding in 1706 still carried rights in the common meadows, (fn. 14) by then most meadow seems to have been hams held in severalty: Weirhams and Nineknolls descended with particular farms by the 16th century, (fn. 15) and in 1759 Christ Church's 1/3; yardland included c. 2 a. in New meadow (mentioned in 1586), Withy ham, Thurney (or Turney) mead, and Flexlake, with leys in East mead and in Sandleys or Sanders mead. (fn. 16)
Common pasture, 2 furlongs by 1 furlong in 1086, (fn. 17) adjoined the Thames and Chimney moor in the south, on land said in the early 17th century to be rich and suitable for meadow. (fn. 18) Pasture at Summerford in the township's southeast corner was confirmed to Eynsham abbey in the 1150s, (fn. 19) and cow common or lease, apparently in the south-west, was mentioned in 1332 and c. 1360. All or part of cow lease was then in demesne, but by 1363 it was let to the tenants for 3s. (later 3s. 4d.) a year, and seems later to have been commonable with other pastures. (fn. 20) In 1566 and 1759 there were cow, sheep, and horse commons, (fn. 21) the last lying apparently south-east of the village between two streams of the Thames. (fn. 22) Langhurst and other demesne meadows, pastures, and fallows were commonable in the mid 14th century from 1 August until 25 March, and in the 17th century occasional orders in the manor court regulated grazing in the fields; (fn. 23) the stint per yardland was then usually c. 40 sheep, 8 or 9 cows, and 3 horses, though in some years it was more, (fn. 24) and the most frequently recorded transgression was pasturing animals in the wrong common. (fn. 25) The township intercommoned in the 14th century with Standlake, Brighthampton, and Hardwick from 1 August to 10 November, and with Aston and Cote, Yelford, and apparently Chimney from 29 September to 10 November, (fn. 26) but no later references have been found. A few holdings included pasture closes by the 16th century. (fn. 27)
A withy bed (virgulus) called 'Wodehey' was mentioned in 1459, when a tenant was fined for folding animals there and destroying young trees. (fn. 28) Elms worth £200 in the early 17th century (fn. 29) may have been in hedgerows along the edges of the fields, and no woods were recorded later. Fourteenth-century tenants paid for pannage, not necessarily within the township, (fn. 30) and in 1608 pigs were excluded from the commons between 25 March and 29 September. (fn. 31)
In 1086 eight villani and five bordarii had 5 ploughteams, the number for which there was said to be land, and since no servi were recorded perhaps worked another on the demesne. The estate's value had risen from £4 in 1066 to £5. (fn. 32) There were still 8 villein yardlands in 1279, held for 4s. 8½d. rent and works valued at 10s., though one was divided between two tenants; another 13 tenants held a total of 8 cottages, 4 houses, and 31½ a. for varied rents and services, the largest holding comprising 51/2; a. with a fishery, and 5 cottages being apparently landless. (fn. 33) A ninth yardland was held freely by the 1220s for 10s. a year and service of discharging the lord's and township's suit to the hundred and county courts; the tenant owed heriot and cornbote, and in 1331 claimed unsuccessfully that he did not owe homage or suit to the abbot's court. (fn. 34) The service was transferred c. 1426 to a holding let to the abbey's bailiff. (fn. 35)
Average personalty in 1306 and 1327 was higher than in Bampton's other hamlets, though in 1306 the total included payments for the demesne. The total value of movables assessed rose from £45 17s. 6d. in 1306 to £65 in 1327. The wealthiest tenant in 1306, assessed on 110s., was a villein yardlander; other yardlanders were taxed on between 42s. 6d. and 80s., the two half-yardlanders on 45s. and 52s. 6d., and the free yardlander on 50s. The lowest payment was from a cottager assessed on 20s., and the overall pattern remained similar in 1327. (fn. 36)
Six villein yardlands and the two half yardlands survived c. 1360, (fn. 37) when all but one were held by the same families as in 1279. The eighth yardland, granted to a Chimney tenant in 1332, (fn. 38) had been fragmented, allowing some cottagers, all descendants of 13th-century tenants, to accumulate holdings of ¼ or ½ yardland or more. Some other cottage holdings had been combined, perhaps following the Black Death, though 5 tenants still had 5 a. or less. Yardlanders' rents were still 4s. 8½d., including Peter's Pence, (fn. 39) 9d. fishsilver, and cornbote, but excluding aid, pannage, small payments in kind, and 1d. or a gallon of ale at every brewing. Their services, disputed in 1337, (fn. 40) included works at the winter and Lenten sowings and at Christmas, and heavy harvest works. Rents and services for smaller holdings varied considerably c. 1360, but seem generally to have been lighter than in 1279. Aid, totalling usually between 46s. and 50s., was replaced with a fixed rent by 1380-1, (fn. 41) but some labour services were still demanded in the early 15th century despite partial commutation on a few holdings. (fn. 42) Presumably all labour services were abandoned soon afterwards when the manor and demesne began to be farmed. (fn. 43)
Relative economic stability in the 14th century may have been followed by contraction in the early 15th. Arrears rose from c. £9 in 1391-2 to over £22 in 1407-8, and individual rent reductions were negotiated frequently. (fn. 44) Assize rents generally, which rose slowly during the 14th century, seem to have been reduced c. 1422-3, and by the 1450s total rent from tenants at will and by indenture was lower still. (fn. 45) Entry fines, 100s, or more in the mid 14th century, also fell sharply, (fn. 46) though by 1497-8 when free and customary rents totalled over £12, perhaps partly from former demesne, there may have been some recovery. (fn. 47) Several holdings were divided, amalgamated, or abandoned, (fn. 48) and the process continued in the 16th century apparently at the expense of the smallest holdings: by the early 17th century there were 13 copyhold tenants, of whom 2 held amalgamations of 1½ yardland with various closes and meadows, 4 held yardlands, 5 held half yardlands, and one held ¼ yardland, while another held a house and close. (fn. 49) None of the family names prominent from the late 13th century to the early 15th. survived in the 16th and 17th.
The demesne, 2 ploughlands in 1279 and taxed on goods worth over £13 in 1306, may have been reduced to one ploughland by c. 1360, when it included 161 a. of open-field arable and 99 a. of meadow and pasture. (fn. 50) In 1397-8 c. 114 a. were sown, but in 1404-5 only 97 a. (fn. 51) Small parcels of land were occasionally leased at will, and in the early 15th century meadows and pastures were sometimes 'sold' for the year, (fn. 52) but otherwise the demesne was still managed directly through the reeve or bailiff, misleadingly called 'farmer' in 1379 and 1391. (fn. 53) Permanently employed labourers usually included a ploughman and one or two drovers, and additional labour was hired at harvest time to complement that of customary tenants, who in 1398 harvested only 23 a. (fn. 54) Demesne farming seems to have been chiefly arable: c. 12 to 14 oxen and 2 or 3 horses were usually recorded, besides capons, geese, and hens which mostly went to Eynsham as customary renders, and no sheep were mentioned. The most usual course c. 1360 was (1) barley, (2) pulse or peas, (3) wheat, and (4) fallow, (fn. 55) and in 1397-8, a typical year, c. 43¼ a. on the demesne were sown with wheat, 34¾ a. with dredge, 21 a. with pulse, and 15¼ a. with oats. Some produce was consumed within the manor, some dredge being malted and brewed, but varying quantities were sold and significant amounts of wheat and dredge went to the abbey's grange. (fn. 56)
By 1427 part of the demesne seems to have been farmed by tenants for annual renders of 6 qr. of barley and 6 qr. of wheat, still accounted for in the 1440s, (fn. 57) and from 1434 the whole manor, including rents, perquisites, and agricultural buildings but excluding the house, the ferry, wards and escheats, and Langhurst meadow, was farmed for £11 6s. 8d. a year to the former bailiff. (fn. 58) By 1458 rents and perquisites were again administered directly, but the demesne, including the 'site' of the manor, continued to be let in parcels, much of it to the Stokes family. (fn. 59) By the late 16th century 1½ yardland of former demesne was held with a chief house and various tenements and closes by the Ford family, the remaining land having apparently been absorbed into other holdings. (fn. 60)
Tenant husbandry by the late 16th century was mixed but predominantly arable. (fn. 61) The chief crops remained wheat and barley followed by pulses and vetches, and oats and dill were mentioned in 1681. (fn. 62) Flocks of 60 sheep or more were mentioned in the late 14th century and mid 15th, (fn. 63) and in 1601 four tenants were fined for wrongly depasturing flocks of between 14 and 30; (fn. 64) one of the culprits left none at his death in 1611, however, (fn. 65) and sheep were mentioned in only a few 17th-century probate inventories. Flocks of 63 in 1681 and of 41 in 1702 were exceptional, and both were owned by especially wealthy mixed farmers who kept other livestock. (fn. 66) Dairying and cheesemaking were recorded in the 17th century and early 18th, several testators kept a few pigs, and poultry and bees were mentioned occasionally.
Some moderately prosperous yeomen were recorded in the 16th and 17th centuries, and a few leading families, notably the Farrs, Harrises, Darbys, and Gilletts, and later the Keenes and Bannisters, survived for several generations. (fn. 67) Most 16th- and 17th-century testators left goods valued at between £20 and £80, and nearly all inhabitants in 1662 were taxed on 2 hearths, only William Keene (3 hearths) and Thomas Sperrinke (4 hearths) being taxed on more, and 3 others, probably cottagers, on one only. (fn. 68) Until the 18th century there was little further consolidation of holdings: in 1699 there were 4 or more cottagers, and most copyhold tenants still held a yardland or less, (fn. 69) the chief exception being an amalgamation of 3¾ yardlands, 60 a. of meadow, and various closes, composed partly of former demesne and held in 1688 by John Pearce (d. 1702) and Henry Harris. Christopher Keene (d. 1681), who left goods worth nearly £300 and lived in a house with at least 8 rooms, was perhaps an earlier tenant. (fn. 70) Copyholds persisted in 1707, but by the mid 18th century Shifford contained 4-6 farms, some of them evidently quite large, held at rack rent, and half a dozen cottages. (fn. 71)
From 1755 the Harcourts administered the estate directly, and from c. 1760 let it as two farms of c. 435 a. and 338 a. centred on Old and New Shifford Farms. (fn. 72) Both tenants seem to have failed before 1769, (fn. 73) but from c. 1770 to 1890 the farms remained with the Williams family and their relatives the Wallises. (fn. 74) Improvements carried out by the Harcourts in the 1750s included ditching and drainage, notably through installation of floodgates at the 'Clexes' (formerly Claxhurst) in the northeast, and farming remained mixed, with sheep again important: 500 were mentioned in 1757, and in 1758-9 receipts from four years' wool exceeded £230. Pigs, horses, and horned cattle were also reared. The chief crops remained wheat and barley, with beans, peas, vetches, oats, and, by then, turnips and clover; some stock and produce went to the Harcourts' estates at Cokethorpe and Nuneham, but most was sold piecemeal to local buyers, and in 1755 some pulse was carted to Burford presumably for sale. (fn. 75) Tenants practised similar husbandry, including dairying, in the early 19th century, though in the later 1840s after tithe commutation there may have been a shift towards arable farming, the proportion of pasture and meadow falling from c. 45 per cent on both farms to 37 per cent at New and to 28 per cent at Old Shifford. (fn. 76) By 1871 the proportion of pasture and meadow was even smaller, though both farms were described as sheep and dairy farms: Old Shifford Farm included piggeries, and Oxford Down sheep were mentioned in 1860. Steam power was used on the arable by the 1870s. (fn. 77) Drainage remained difficult, and in 1829 flooding caused serious losses. (fn. 78)
Difficulties during the agricultural depression of the 1870s and 1880s, (fn. 79) following which the whole estate was again administered directly from 1890 until its sale in 1898, (fn. 80) perhaps contributed to a renewed emphasis on pastoral farming. Livestock in 1893 included 72 cattle, 7 hogs, and, though none was mentioned in 1890, 712 sheep; 106 a. were under wheat, 91 a. under barley, 53 a. under beans and tares, and 42 a. under black oats, and winter feed and other crops included mangolds, swedes, turnips, vetches, rye grass, and maize. (fn. 81) By 1906 the two farms, run as one with a bailiff at Old Shifford, were 64 per cent pasture, supporting over 100 cattle and a flock of Hampshire Down sheep of 'exceptional quality and size', which in 1904 won prizes at the World's Fair exhibition at St. Louis (Missouri). Horses were bred also. (fn. 82) The bias towards pastoral farming continued in 1914 despite a sharp reduction in the number of sheep, (fn. 83) but during the 20th century arable farming revived: in 1991 the chief crop was winter wheat, and only a few beef cattle were pastured near the river. (fn. 84)
There was a clothworker in Shifford in the early 1650s, (fn. 85) but no other trades were recorded. A windmill worth 20s. a year existed by the early 14th century, when Eynsham abbey's tenants in Shifford, Aston, Cote, and Claywell owed suit; in 1331 those from Shifford and Cote were freed from grinding corn there in return for 3 qr. of toll corn a year. The mill was derelict in 1332 when a former miller's son took a 20-year lease and agreed to rebuild it at his own cost using the lord's timber, but no later references have been found, and by c. 1360 it had evidently been demolished. (fn. 86) A mill mentioned in 1459 and sold c. 1460 lay outside the parish. (fn. 87)
Two weirs in the Thames mentioned in 1005 were either near Great brook, or near a smaller side channel which formerly left and rejoined the Thames south-east of the hamlet. (fn. 88) In 1086 the manor rendered 250 eels. (fn. 89) In 1279 Eynsham abbey had a weir and free fishery in the Thames worth 13s. 4d., and a cottager shared another fishery for rent and services; two other tenants had fisheries with their holdings c. 1360, and then as in c. 1338 tenants collectively paid 6d. a year for common fishing in 'Hammeslake' and 'Estelake'. (fn. 90) The lord's fishery, still distinguished in the 16th century, (fn. 91) seems usually to have been leased, and was not accounted for with the demesne in the 14th and 15th centuries. Illegal fishing was periodically reported in the manor court: 8 tenants were fined in 1336 for fishing with contrivances (ingeniis) other than shovenets, and in 1615 a Witney man was fined for fishing in the common waters. In 1525 it was agreed that no tenant should fish the common waters except on Fridays. (fn. 92) Fishing rights in backstreams as well as in the Thames were still leased piecemeal in the 17th century, (fn. 93) but by the mid 18th were held by a Standlake fisherman, and from the 1760s were let with Old Shifford farm. (fn. 94) In 1766 the Harcourts' rights over the whole width of the Thames opposite Black ham, where the river had evidently altered its course, were upheld against landowners on the Berkshire side, though Shifford weir, further upstream above Great brook, remained outside the lordship. (fn. 95)