A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 15, Bampton Hundred (Part Three). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2006.
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MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES
From the Middle Ages virtually the whole parish was included in two principal manors, of which the larger belonged to the resident Lovel family from the early 12th century until the late 15th. The smaller, centred on Little Minster, was absorbed into the main Minster estate in the early 15th century. From the 17th century to the 19th the owners were the non-resident Cokes of Norfolk, earls of Leicester, who let the manor house and most of the land to tenants and bailiffs; the estate was largely broken up during the 19th century.
Minster Lovell Manor
In 1086 Minster Lovell, assessed at 7 hides, was evidently in royal hands, having been formerly held by Earl Aubrey, the Conqueror's appointee as earl of Northumberland from 1080 to 1081. (fn. 1) Probably it was among lands granted by Henry I before 1124 to William Lovel (or Lupellus), one of a family with estates near Ivry in Normandy, which retained it until 1485. (fn. 2)
Overlordship may have been acquired by William's brother-in-law Robert de Beaumont (d. 1168), earl of Leicester, (fn. 3) since in 1253 the manor was held by his successor Simon de Montfort (d. 1265), earl of Leicester, (fn. 4) and later by Edmund Crouchback (d. 1296), the king's son. (fn. 5) Thereafter, however, the overlordship was associated with the de Quincy share of the barony of Leicester, passing to Alan la Zouche (d. 1314), and in the 1340s being reportedly in the king's hands as part of the de Quincys' forfeited honor of Winchester. (fn. 6) In 1408 the overlord was the duke of Lancaster, the future Henry V, following whose accession the manor was held in chief as of the duchy. (fn. 7) Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries the manor was assessed at ½ knight's fee, (fn. 8) but in the mid 15th century at 1/20 or 1/30 and in the mid 16th at 1/40 knight's fee. (fn. 9)
William Lovel (d. by 1170) was succeeded presumably by his son Waleran d'Ivry (d. c. 1177) and by Waleran's brother William Lovel (d. 1213), who, with his wife Isabel, held property in Minster Lovell in 1197. (fn. 10) The younger William's son John Lovel, a minor in 1213, briefly forfeited his lands in 1216 and 1223 and died in 1252, when his widow Katherine received a third in dower; the rest passed to their son John (d. 1287), knighted by 1265. (fn. 11) Following John's death the manor passed through the male line to John (d. 1310), 1st Lord Lovel, to John (d. 1314), 2nd Lord Lovel, and to his posthumous son John (d. 1347), whose lands remained in the king's wardship until 1333. (fn. 12) Two thirds of Minster Lovell were granted to Hugh Despenser in custody in 1325, (fn. 13) the rest being presumably held in dower by John's mother Maud (d. by 1341), who, with her second husband Sir John de Haudlo, received the two thirds in 1327. (fn. 14) John Lovel's son John died a minor in 1362, the manor having meanwhile been held by his mother Isabel (d. 1350) (fn. 15) and by the king's daughter Isabella. (fn. 16) It subsequently passed to the younger John's brother and heir, also John Lovel, who married Maud, daughter of Lord Holand, and who by 1380 was styled Lord of Titchmarsh and Holand. (fn. 17) Following his death in 1408 the manor passed to his widow Maud (d. 1423), grandson William Lovel (d. 1455), and great-grandson John (d. 1465), whose widow Joan (d. 1467) received it in dower. (fn. 18) Their son and heir Francis, of age in 1477, was created Viscount Lovel in 1482, but having fought for Richard III at Bosworth he was attainted in 1485 and his lands escheated to the Crown. (fn. 19)
In 1486 Henry VII granted the manor for life to his uncle Jasper Tudor (d. 1495), duke of Bedford. (fn. 20) Under an Act of 1495 the manor passed on Jasper's death to Henry, duke of York (later Henry VIII), and reverted to the Crown in 1502. (fn. 21) In the 1520s it was administered by various keepers and stewards appointed by the Crown, among them Sir William Compton and the courtier Sir Henry Norreys. In 1549 Edward VI granted it to John Dudley, earl of Warwick and later earl of Northumberland; (fn. 22) it was evidently exchanged with the king in 1550–1, however, (fn. 23) and was granted to Dudley's brother Andrew, a knight of the Privy Chamber. (fn. 24) Following the Dudleys' execution in 1553 their lands were forfeited to Queen Mary, who seems at first to have allowed Northumberland's widow to retain them, but who subsequently received Minster Lovell in exchange for lands elsewhere. (fn. 25) In 1560 the Crown sold the manor to Robert (later Sir Robert) Kelway and his wife Cecily, lessees from 1553 of the house and demesne farm, (fn. 26) from whom it passed to Robert's daughter Anne, who married Sir John Harrington. (fn. 27) Following a dispute in 1597, after Harrington tried to sell the entailed manor, it was settled on their daughter Lucy and her husband Edward Russell, earl of Bedford, and in 1603 the Harringtons, having finally broken the entail, sold it to Sir Edward Coke, Attorney General to Elizabeth I and later chief justice of the King's Bench. (fn. 28)
From Sir Edward (d. 1634) the manor passed to his nephew Robert (d. 1673), and to Robert's son Edward (d. 1707). (fn. 29) Edward's son Thomas (d. 1759) was created Baron Lovel and, in 1744, Viscount Coke and earl of Leicester, but his son Edward having predeceased him, the Coke titles became extinct and the estate was settled on Thomas's sister's son Wenman Roberts, who took the surname Coke. (fn. 30) He came into possession in 1775, the estate having meanwhile been held by Thomas's widow Margaret. (fn. 31) Wenman Coke died in 1776, to be succeeded by his son Thomas Wenman Coke, MP, earl of Leicester of the second creation from 1837, and known also as 'Coke of Norfolk'. (fn. 32) An Act of 1812 enabled the family to sell much of the manor the same year: (fn. 33) some farms were bought by occupying tenants, and in 1812–13 the manor farm and lordship were sold to the lawyer William (later Sir William) Elias Taunton, recorder of Oxford and later a justice of the king's bench. In 1821 he bought another lot from Henry Leake of Witney, and in 1825 acquired most of the land and cottages still belonging to the Cokes, who retained only 355 a. of woodland in 1840. (fn. 34) The woods, excepted from the sale of 1812, were sold in 1854 to J. R. Kimber and Robert Abraham, (fn. 35) thus ending the Cokes' connection with Minster Lovell.
Taunton was succeeded in 1835 by his widow Maria (d. 1872), (fn. 36) whose heirs or trustees sold the reduced estate to Robert Raikes in 1874. He sold it to a farmer, John Deane, in 1875. (fn. 37) It then comprised some 677 a., with two farmhouses (including Windrush Farm), the Swan Inn, fishing rights, and 26 cottages, as well as the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall (the medieval manor house) and the nearby Manor Farm. Deane's daughter Emily succeeded in 1887, (fn. 38) and in 1917 sold Manor Farm and its land, the ruins, and the lordship to Col. F. B. de Sales La Terrière. In 1934 his widow sold the Manor Farm estate, then less than 300 a., to J. R. Groome, owner of Minster Lovell Estates Ltd, who later sold it to University College, Oxford; (fn. 39) the ruins were given in 1935 to the Ministry of Works, (fn. 40) succeeded in 1984 by English Heritage. In the 1970s Manor Farm was bought by Sir Peter Parker, then Chairman of British Rail, who owned it at his death in 2002. Most of the land had by then been detached. (fn. 41)
Depite mention of a curia in 1197 (fn. 42) there is no unequivocal evidence that the Lovels were permanently resident before the 15th century. There was presumably a house in 1279 when land was held in demesne, and a house with a hall, four chambers, and farm buildings, including barns and a stable, was mentioned in 1423. (fn. 43) Probably that was the house whose foundations were discovered under the east and west wings of the present house in 1937–9, (fn. 44) and foundations discovered under the present barns may also relate to this earlier complex.
The surviving U-plan house (Figs 66–9), abandoned and partially dismantled in the mid 18th century, was built for William Lovel in the 1430s, probably by remodelling the earlier one. Built of coursed limestone rubble with ashlar on the main façades, it stands on a gently sloping site immediately south-east of the church, and was originally open to the river Windrush on the south side. (fn. 45) The main entrance was on the north side facing the church, along an elaborate cobbled path which led through a vaulted gateway beneath the chapel into the screens passage at the east end of the hall. In addition to the gateway, there were two rooms below the chapel, at least one of which was heated; the chapel itself apparently had windows similar to those in the church.
The principal rooms were on the north side of the courtyard behind the chapel. The hall was placed in the centre and had exceptionally high walls (40 feet) to allow for windows on both sides; those on the north were positioned above the roof of the chapel. The main chamber was located immediately to the west of the hall, and had a large solar above. The cobbled path through the gateway continued south towards the kitchen and stable located in the east wing, ending near a secondary gateway which apparently provided access to the farmyard. Only the foundations of the west wing survive, but it was apparently largely devoted to chambers, many of which were heated. A three-storeyed tower, with oriel windows on the upper floors facing south across the river, was added to the south-east corner of the west range in the later 15th century, and at the same time a wall was built across the south side of the courtyard, enclosing it completely.
Possibly the enclosing wall was partly defensive, but the house was primarily a high-status and imposing aristocratic residence used for entertaining on a grand scale: Richard III stayed there in 1483 as a guest of Francis Lovel, (fn. 46) and Henry VII visited in 1494, (fn. 47) while the nearby Minster woods were imparked in 1440 presumably for hunting. (fn. 48)
A complex of farm buildings immediately north-east of the house was probably built or rebuilt at the same time as the domestic buildings; those surviving include a circular dovecot and two large barns, all of coursed limestone rubble. The remains of at least one other structure, probably another barn, were discovered near the dovecot during excavation of a garden pond. (fn. 49) In the Middle Ages the farmyard probably extended further south alongside the house's east range, where yards (including a garden and hop yard) were mentioned in the early 18th century, together with a wood yard and another hop yard apparently west of the house adjoining the vicar's close. (fn. 50) Remains of fishponds survive south of the house near the river. (fn. 51)
Following the Lovels' forfeiture in 1485 the house was presumably occupied by bailiffs or lessees; the Kelways lived there in the mid 16th century, (fn. 52) but by 1602 it was again leased with a demesne farm of up to 700 a., at first to Robert Williamson, (fn. 53) by the 1620s to the Ewre family, (fn. 54) and from the mid 17th century to the Wheelers, who occupied house and farm until c. 1700, and the house alone until the 1730s. (fn. 55) In 1665 John Wheeler was taxed on 18 hearths there. (fn. 56) Some work was carried out about 1607, in preparation for a visit by members of the Coke family: the work was largely repairs, (fn. 57) but may have included the construction of two new wings on the north side of the house at right angles to the main range. Both were of two storeys and were lit by cross-mullioned windows, but neither appears to have been heated. (fn. 58) Also during the early 17th century the two barns were reroofed, and a new granary and other outbuildings were constructed.
By the early 18th century the Wheelers were apparently subletting the demesne to farmers occupying Manor Farm north of the churchyard, and in 1712 John Wheeler agreed to partition the farmyards and farm buildings, retaining for his own use the house and its courtyard, a stable in the south-east range, part of the yard to the east, and the wood yard and hop yard to the west, together with land south of the 'pool yard' (presumably near the river) and the 'old dog kennel'. (fn. 59) One of the family still occupied the house (with only 3½ a.) in 1730, when the main domestic ranges seem to have been in good repair, (fn. 60) but in 1747 the house was partially dismantled by the Cokes, who held an on-site sale of the materials. (fn. 61) The private room west of the hall was subsequently used as a barn and later as a cottage, before being entirely abandoned, and in the early 19th century the hall was unroofed and the site largely derelict. (fn. 62) The ruins were given to the Ministry of Works in 1935, (fn. 63) and remained open to the public in the early 21st century.
Francis Lovel, lord of Minster Lovell manor in the late 15th century, was a close associate of Richard III and a leading rebel against the Tudor regime, reportedly killed at the battle of Stoke in 1487. A legend was circulated from the 1730s that he escaped and fled to Minster, and that a skeleton, supposedly his remains, was discovered in a hidden underground chamber during building work in 1708. That Lovel should have fled to Minster seems inconceivable, and no such vault has ever been found. (fn. 64)
In the mid to late 16th century the 12th-century chapel of St Cecilia, north of the churchyard, was converted into a small house known later as Manor Farm, presumably by lords of Minster Lovell manor: successive lords had been patrons of the chapel until its suppression at the Reformation, and the house belonged to the manor thereafter. (fn. 65) Possibly it was occupied in the 17th century by some of the Cokes' manorial bailiffs, (fn. 66) but no tenants are known before the early 18th century when the Wheelers (as lessees of Minster Lovell Hall) sublet it to a local farmer with all or part of the demesne. In 1712 most of the Hall's farmyards and agricultural buildings (including the dovecot and barns) were formally transferred to Manor Farm, which became the farmhouse for the former demesne, (fn. 67) remaining a working farmhouse until the late 20th century. The lessee in the mid 19th century was the prominent farmer John Gillett, who worked the manorial farm for the Tauntons; a succession of tenant farmers followed until, in the 1970s, the house was bought by Sir Peter Parker and separated from most of its land. (fn. 68)
At the house's conversion in the 16th century the large 12th-century arch which formerly gave access to the churchyard was blocked (Fig. 70), and a new entrance with a small pent-roofed porch was created on the north. The house was originally arranged as a hall with an east cross-wing projecting slightly to the north; the cross-wing was apparently heated only on the ground floor, and retains a carved stone fireplace with a fourcentred opening in a traceried square surround, surmounted by a plain triangular pediment. The eastern end of the hall, and the passage between the hall and the cross-wing, were lit on the south by tall two-light windows with diamond-shaped mullions. Probably soon after its conversion the hall was floored and a stack inserted inside the west end, serving the rooms on both ground and first floors; fireplaces with depressed fourcentred heads survive on both levels. In the 19th century the house was extended to the east to provide additional kitchen and service accommodation, and probably at the same time the north gable end of the cross wing was partially rebuilt to extend it around the formerly external stack, and some new windows were inserted. The house was renovated about 1973, when dormers were added to convert the previously unused attic space into living accommodation, and new stairs were built. A large conservatory was added on the south-east side in the late 20th century.
Little Minster Manor
In 1066 and still in 1086 the 3-hide manor of Little Minster was held in chief, with numerous other lands, by the English thegn Saewold. His tenant was Robert d'Oilly, (fn. 69) whose family subinfeudated it to the Chesneys before 1110, when Roger de Chesney granted tithes at Little Minster to Eynsham abbey. (fn. 70) The overlordship descended with the d'Oilly barony of Hook Norton, passing to Henry d'Oilly (d. 1232), his widow Maud and her second husband William de Cauntelo, and to the d'Oillys' heir Margaret, countess of Warwick, and her husband John de Plessis (d. 1263), who succeeded after Margaret's and Maud's deaths in 1261. (fn. 71) The overlordship remained in the de Plessis family at Hugh de Plessis's death in 1349, (fn. 72) but was not mentioned later. The manor was usually assessed at ½ knight's fee, (fn. 73) and a part of it at ¼ fee in 1324. (fn. 74)
From Roger de Chesney the manor presumably passed with other Chesney lands to Hugh de Chesney (fl. 1163), Ralph de Chesney (d. c. 1195), and his daughter Lucy, who married Guy de Dive (d. 1218). (fn. 75) Between 1240 and 1250 it was held of the earl of Warwick by John and Margery de Cantelupe (i.e. Cauntelo?), and in 1279 by Margery alone, who seems to have leased some of it to Walter de Leckhampton. (fn. 76) In the 1320s Henry de Dive (d. 1327) still retained an interest, (fn. 77) but in 1302 and 1320 the lord was William de Cantelupe; he was succeeded before 1324 by Walter de Cantelupe, parson of Snitterfield (Warws.), who that year granted land and a mill at Little Minster to Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, for life, with reversion to Thomas West, who held them about 1325. (fn. 78) By 1346 John Laundels (d. 1361), sheriff and escheator of Oxfordshire, held the manor, and a Laundels was still in possession in 1362. (fn. 79)
Part passed to the Lovels probably by 1408, when John and Maud Lovel held land in Little Minster called 'Laundelles'. (fn. 80) John and his grandson William Lovel increased their holding, and by 1465 John Lovel owned the manor with that of Minster. (fn. 81) Thereafter the two were regarded as a single manor.
No medieval manor house is known, though William Cantelupe, taxed in 1316 on goods worth 13s., may have had a demesne farm, and the 'site of the farm of Little Minster' was mentioned in 1588, when it was held by copy with 6 yardlands. (fn. 82) Possibly that was the 'mansion' or 'manor house' of Little Minster leased in the 17th century to Edward Heylyn (d. 1636) and his son Henry (d. 1695), who lived there; (fn. 83) Edward was brother of the Royalist theologian Peter Heylyn who, during the Civil War, took refuge in Little Minster. (fn. 84) Eighteenth-century lessees included the Peacocks of Asthall, and John, Earl Grandison, all of whom presumably sublet it. (fn. 85)
The house has not been identified, but may have been that called the 'Old Manor House' by 1935, when sold to Mrs Bouverie-Pusey. (fn. 86) The present stone-rubble house has two storeys, with a long front range with several short projecting wings to the rear, and appears to be largely of two builds. The earlier part, which may date from the later 16th century, comprises a backwards L-shaped block on the south, encompassing the present drawing room, hall, and study. The rear room (the present study) was almost certainly heated from the outset, but the fireplaces in the hall and drawing room are probably later additions. Probably in 1616, when a datestone reset next to the present main door was carved, the house was extended northwards with a range apparently comprising two heated rooms on the ground floor, and a single large, heated great chamber above. A stair tower in the angle between the new and older ranges at the rear was probably added at the same time, as were stacks and fireplaces in the older range, and the entire house appears to have been reroofed. A dairy was added to the north of the 17th-century block in the 18th or early 19th century, and a stable bears a datestone of 1823 with the initials JW, whose owner has not been identified. (fn. 87) During the mid 19th century the farmhouse was ocupied by the Hale family, as tenants of the Tauntons; (fn. 88) renovations were carried out in the 1920s for a member of the Batts family, and the house was extended at the rear at each end in the late 20th century.
In 1183 X 1185 Maud Lovel, with her son William's approval, granted Minster Lovell church and half its endowment to Ivry abbey in Normandy, the other half being reserved for the vicar. (fn. 89) In the 1290s the abbey's estate, then held by the so-called prior of Minster Lovell as the abbey's local representative, was valued at £4 13s. 4d.; (fn. 90) as later, it comprised a yardland of glebe (32 a.), 12 a. of meadow later called Monk Ham, and half the tithes. (fn. 91) As the land of an alien priory it was seized repeatedly by the king during the wars with France from 1337, and in 1414 it was confiscated. (fn. 92) Joan of Navarre held it from 1409 to her death in 1437, when it was leased for 10 years to Sir William Lovel, the rent being received from 1438 by Humphrey, duke of Gloucester; in 1441, however, the estate, with reversion of the leases, was given by Henry VI to his newly-founded college at Eton (Bucks.), the grant being confirmed the following year. (fn. 93)
From the 16th century or earlier the college leased the estate together with the tithes, of which some were commuted to a modus in 1589. (fn. 94) In the 1590s the Rankells, rich clothiers of Witney, rented the estate; (fn. 95) in 1628 the lessee was Edward Heylyn, and in the mid 18th century John, Earl Grandison, and his widow, each of whom sublet it. (fn. 96) In 1840 Eton's share of the tithes was commuted for an annual rent-charge of £119; the estate then comprised some 25 a. of arable and meadow, with adjacent fishing rights. (fn. 97) The estate was sold by Eton College in the early 1920s. (fn. 98)
A 'rectory house' for the estate, mentioned from 1608, was apparently a predecessor of Bridge Cottage, at the entrance to the bridge leading into the southern end of the village. (fn. 99) Possibly it occupied the site of the former 'priory', whose site is otherwise unknown, though the priory is perhaps more likely to have stood near the church and vicarage house.
Tithes of Little Minster manor were granted by Roger de Chesney to Eynsham abbey before 1110, a grant confirmed by Henry I that year. (fn. 100) They were estimated at 6s. 8d. in 1254 and at 10s. in the 1270s. (fn. 101) Though still recorded in 1390 the tithes were not mentioned later, (fn. 102) perhaps indicating that the abbey had exchanged them with Eton College for property elsewhere.
Godstow abbey held a yardland in Minster by 1200, and still had farms and rents there at the Dissolution. (fn. 103) In 1545 the Crown granted the land to William Goodwin; it was sold to the Kelways in 1556, becoming part of the chief manor. (fn. 104) Its origins were still remembered in 1671, when John Wheeler settled on his son a piece of land called 'Godstow Close'. (fn. 105)