A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4, the City of Oxford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1979.
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Introduction, p. 3 (Origins of Oxford, p. 3; The Early Middle Ages, p. 9; The Later Middle Ages, p. 15). Development of the Town, p. 22. Economic History, p. 35. Town Government, p. 48 (The Community and the Guild, p. 48; The Development of Liberties, p. 50; The Fee Farm, p. 52; Town and University, p. 53; Town Officers, p. 58; Parliamentary Representation, p. 63). The Townspeople, p. 64.
The Origins of Oxford
Stories of the antiquity of Oxford have circulated since at least the 12th century when Geoffrey of Monmouth invented a Celtic name for the town and included it among the cities of Arthur's Britain. In the 15th century the chronicler John Rous ascribed the town's foundation to a mythical king Mempric in the time of the prophet Samuel, and the origins of the university to a school established at Cricklade by Greek philosophers who had accompanied the Trojan Brutus to Britain after the fall of Troy. Most other accounts of Oxford's early history written before the later 19th century were aimed at proving that it was older than Cambridge, and were similarly mythical in character. (fn. 1) In fact Oxford was not recorded until 911 when Edward the Elder took control of the town and the area dependent on it, (fn. 2) but there is archaeological evidence of earlier settlement and a tradition of an early monastery on the site of Christ Church.
Oxford owes its name and perhaps its origin to its position at a major crossing point of the Thames, a ford suitable for oxen and presumably for the carts that they drew. (fn. 3) From very early times an important north-south route crossed the Thames near the site of Oxford, but the precise route and crossing point may have changed over the centuries. The likelihood of an important east-west route crossing the river at Oxford before the town grew up has been discounted, (fn. 4) on the grounds that there would have been no need for such a crossing, since the river's course was generally from east to west. In prehistoric times the route from the south probably approached the site of Oxford along the watershed between the rivers Thames and Ock, crossing the Thames perhaps at North Hinksey, where several prehistoric finds have been made in the river, (fn. 5) before joining a ridgeway running northwards between the rivers Thames and Cherwell. (fn. 6) In Roman times the route seems to have continued in use, and was partially metalled: in Berkshire the Roman road running north-eastwards from Wantage seems to have turned eastwards at Besselsleigh, passing between Hurst Hill and Hen Wood to North Hinksey; there was probably another branch to the south, over Foxcombe Hill to South Hinksey, crossing the river near the site of the modern Donnington Bridge to join the Roman road from Dorchester to Alchester as it ran through an important pottery works at Cowley and Headington. (fn. 7)
The route northwards towards Banbury may also have been metalled by the Romans, but no major Roman road passed through Oxford. (fn. 8)
In early times any approach to Oxford from south or west involved the use of several fords, but there has been much speculation about which ford gave Oxford its name. In the mid 14th century the ford was identified as an 'Oxenford' at North Hinksey, on a minor branch of the Thames called Bulstake stream, (fn. 9) and that claim, linked with evidence for prehistoric and Roman routes through North Hinksey, led to the assertion (fn. 10) that until the Norman period routes from the south of England entered the town on the west. It has been argued, however, (fn. 11) that the 14th-century claim was perhaps special pleading by townsmen in favour of their title to adjacent land, that the terrain of the western approach was quite unsuitable for draught animals, and that other considerations support the pre-eminence, at least by the Anglo-Saxon period, of a southern approach to the town. The terrace of flood-plain gravel running southwards from Oxford would have provided a surer foundation for vehicular traffic; by the 10th century there were two fords south of Oxford called Maegtheford (Mayweed ford) and Stanford (Stone ford), at points on the river near where the modern Abingdon Road crosses the railway line, and in the early 12th century a mill at the southern end of Grandpont was called, suggestively, Langford; and it was on the southern, not the western approach, that a great causeway was built before the end of the 11th century. If the provisional identification of a clay bank immediately north of Folly Bridge as a late-8th-century causeway is correct the southern route was of major early importance. (fn. 12) The series of stone bridges known as Grandpont was attributed by the monks of Abingdon to Robert d'Oilly (d. 1091 or 1092), (fn. 13) but he may have been responsible only for improving an earlier causeway. Thereafter the road was the major route to Abingdon and the south.
Speculation about the original 'ox ford' should perhaps not exclude a ford on the east side of the town, on the river Cherwell, presumably near the later Magdalen Bridge. Even if there was no major prehistoric east-west route the ford on the Cherwell was of considerable local significance by Anglo-Saxon times, since the royal estate of Headington lay on both sides of the river, and a bridge was built there before 1004. (fn. 14)
The medieval town developed at the southern tip of the secondary gravel terrace known as the Summertown-Radley terrace, which covers most of the area of the modern North Oxford; the site is above flood level, but defended on the east, south, and west by rivers and their often marshy flood-plains. (fn. 15) The Summertown-Radley terrace, like the other gravels of the upper Thames valley, attracted early settlement. Although evidence for Palaeolithic occupation of the site of Oxford is extremely doubtful, men were in the area in Mesolithic times, (fn. 16) and in the Neolithic period seem to have used a site at Christ Church as well as others in North Oxford. (fn. 17) Occupation continued in the Bronze Age when it seems to have extended onto Port Meadow, (fn. 18) and early-Iron-Age settlement sites were scattered over the area of North Oxford. (fn. 19) In the Roman period the pottery industry at Cowley extended as far north as Bayswater Hill, Headington, and its products, which included some fine table wares, were used over a large area. (fn. 20) West of the Cherwell there were scattered agricultural settlements on the gravel of North Oxford (fn. 21) and some settlement, but certainly not an urban one, within the area of the medieval town. (fn. 22)
The pattern of early Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area appears to have been similar to that of the Roman period. (fn. 23) No evidence has yet been found for settlement on the site of the later walled town, but a burial urn of the later 5th century has been found at Oseney. (fn. 24) Even earlier settlement may be suggested by a fragment of a similar type of pot found in association with the Roman kiln site at Rose Hill, Cowley, and presumably produced there in imitation of Saxon pottery. (fn. 25)
In the early Anglo-Saxon period it seems likely that the site of Oxford belonged to a large royal estate centred on the near-by royal vill of Headington, to which ancient corn rents were still paid in 1086 and which was the head of two hundreds. (fn. 26) In the 13th century meadows on both sides of the Cherwell belonged to Headington, (fn. 27) and c. 1222 those between the Bulstake and Hinksey streams were said to be of the demesne of Headington, (fn. 28) as was Bulstake meadow in 1443. (fn. 29) The lords of Headington exercised manorial rights in the area known as Northgate hundred outside the north wall of the town until they granted the hundred away in 1482. (fn. 30)
The earliest tradition of an important settlement on the site of Oxford is contained in the legend of St. Frideswide, who is said to have founded a monastery there about the beginning of the 8th century. (fn. 31) She was mentioned in a charter of 1004 by which Ethelred II confirmed estates in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire to the monasterium in which she was buried, (fn. 32) and in an early-11th-century list of saints and their resting places which stated that she lay at Oxford. (fn. 33) In the early 12th century William of Malmesbury recorded how the saint, a king's daughter, vowed to become a nun, fled from a suitor first to an unnamed wood, and then to Oxford. The suitor tried to enter the city in pursuit, was struck blind, but regained his sight at her prayer. Frideswide then founded a monastery in Oxford where she eventually died. (fn. 34) William presumably derived his information from St. Frideswide's priory, which, although not founded until 1122, may well have preserved the traditions of the older house whose site, endowments, and dedication it had acquired. Later versions of the legend supplied Frideswide with parents and named the wood as Binsey, one of the early endowments of the monastic house, but the details are presumably largely imaginary. (fn. 35) There is probably a basis of truth in the story. The name Frideswide, not otherwise recorded, is a possible Anglo-Saxon name and is unlikely to be an artificial creation since it has no particular meaning. The late 7th and early 8th centuries were a great period of monasticism: elsewhere in England and in Merovingian Gaul nunneries were founded for noble ladies with their attendant chaplains. Nearer Oxford, the first foundation at Abingdon dated from the end of the 7th century, and another house existed in the area in 672 and 681 when land 'at Slæpi' (perhaps Islip) on the river Cherwell, was granted to it. (fn. 36) Two burials of the earlier 9th century found outside the west end of the medieval church of St. Frideswide's priory (fn. 37) might be associated with the early monastery, which like several of the early Kentish nunneries later became a minster church served by a group of priests.
A lay settlement probably grew up outside the monastery gates in the later 8th century. By that date there was some activity, possibly industrial, on the edge of the clay bank or artificial causeway mentioned above. (fn. 38) The settlement's growth would have been encouraged by proximity to the route from the Midlands to Southampton, which was in use in the 8th and 9th centuries, (fn. 39) and possibly earlier. An early-8thcentury sceat found at Binsey, and others from Abingdon, Dorchester, and 'near Oxford' suggest trading connexions between Mercia and Southampton. (fn. 40) If the route between the two was improved at Oxford, as the clay bank and the name 'stone ford' applied to the last ford on the route to Abingdon might suggest, it would be reasonable to attribute the work to one of the Mercian kings. It may be significant that a coin of Offa of Mercia and Archbishop Janberht of Canterbury was found on the line of that north-south road, on the site of the Martyrs' Memorial. (fn. 41)
By 911, when, on the death of Ealdorman Ethelred of Mercia, Edward the Elder succeeded to London and Oxford and all the lands belonging to them, (fn. 42) Oxford was clearly an important place. Its prominence owed something to its location on the north-south road and on the river Thames, which may have become more navigable as the growing number of water-mills controlled the flow of water, (fn. 43) but there are also signs of royal initiative in planning and to some extent planting the town. Oxford's regular street-plan, some later evidence for an area within it called the king's 8 yardlands, and the known incorporation of the town in the West Saxon system of defensive burhs, which elsewhere involved the creation of new towns, are the chief indications of planning; the evidence remains inconclusive, however, partly because so little is known of the nature and extent of the earlier settlement.
Oxford's shape and street-plan were similar to that of other late-Saxon 'planned' towns, (fn. 44) particularly if the original walled area, as argued below, was roughly square. The chief features of the plan are the intersection, at Carfax, of the north-south and east-west streets which linked the four gates of the town, and the establishment of a gridded pattern of minor streets parallel to the main streets. There is evidence that such a pattern was established when the burhs at Winchester and Cricklade were founded, and that may be true of Oxford, although some of the medieval back streets seem to date from the 12th century. (fn. 45)
In Domesday Book it was stated that Edward the Confessor had granted to Walter Giffard's predecessor a house in Oxford out of the 8 yardlands which were subject to custom (consuetudinariae); at Wallingford, another former West Saxon burh, the king also held 8 yardlands, and the houses built thereon rendered gable and special services to royal manors; at Chester the Domesday compilers distinguished between land that was in consuetudine of the king and earl, and land that was not, making it clear that the customary land was what burgesses normally held, the land of the borough. (fn. 46) In 12th-century Oxford the 8 yardlands or terra de Ehteard comprised those properties which continued to pay landgable, (fn. 47) and they seem to have been distinguished from the ara of St. Frideswide's, probably the priory's demesne within the town; if later landgable payments are a reliable guide the 8 yardlands covered an area between the north wall and the river Thames, excluding the area around St. Frideswide's priory, which later became the parishes of St. Frideswide, St. Edward, and St. John the Baptist. (fn. 48) Taken together the evidence for the 8 yardlands suggests that some formerly cultivated royal demesne was set aside by an Anglo-Saxon king for the building of a town; that, as at Wallingford, much of the later borough was built upon those yardlands and, as at Chester, the burgesses continued to pay custom of a special kind for their holdings. Oxford was not, as was once thought, (fn. 49) created upon an entirely empty site, but nor, apparently, was Wallingford. The difficulty of such an interpretation, however, is that there seems no plausible relationship between the area actually covered by the late-Saxon town and its description as 8 yardlands, even if allowance is made for the flexibility of early units of measurement. Some customary land, however, lay outside the walls in 1086, for Robert d'Oilly's houses within and without the walls paid geld and gable, and in the 13th century a house on Grandpont was paying landgable. (fn. 50) The 8 yardlands may perhaps have extended as far north as Green ditch, the modern St. Margaret's Road, which in the later Middle Ages was followed by the mayor in riding the franchise. (fn. 51)
Royal intervention in the laying-out of the town may almost certainly be dated to the late 9th or early 10th century, when Oxford formed part of a general plan to create a line of fortified burhs to defend Wessex against the Danes. The details of the West Saxon defence system are recorded in the Burghal Hidage. (fn. 52) In the form in which it survives the document seems to date from between 914 and 918 and includes the Mercian burh of Buckingham as well as Oxford and the West Saxon burhs south of the Thames; but the figure for the total number of hides of land necessary to support all the burhs seems to have been taken from an earlier version of the 'hidage' which omitted Buckingham but included Oxford. Such a text might have dated from after 911 when Oxford came into West Saxon hands, but it is possible that the system from the first included Oxford, which defended one of the main routes into Wessex from the north. There is some slight evidence to connect its originator, King Alfred, with the town: an early-13th-century chronicler, possibly working at Wallingford, stated that Alfred gave charters to St. Frideswide's monastery, (fn. 53) perhaps a genuine tradition, although the same chronicler's identification of Alfred with St. Frideswide's suitor was clearly impossible. Of more importance are the 'Orsnaforda' or 'Ohsnaforda' coins, which bear Alfred's name and have been attributed to an Oxford mint, (fn. 54) although all the known examples of the type have been found in the Danelaw. (fn. 55) Most of the surviving coins bear the mint name 'Orsnaforda', which cannot be a form of Oxford, but three bear the name 'Ohsnaforda' which is just possible as an early spelling of Oxford; (fn. 56) the remaining coins are badly blundered. All are by the moneyer Bernwald, and all bear the name Alfred, without any title. There are considerable difficulties about the genuineness of the coins and their attribution to Oxford, and most of them are probably Viking imitations. (fn. 57) The fact that Alfred is given no title is suspicious, as is the comparatively low weight of the coins and the resemblance of several of them to the coins of the Viking rulers Siefred and Earl Sihtred. (fn. 58) On the other hand the attribution of the coins to a mint at Horseforth (Yorks.) is not persuasive. Moreover, one or two of the coins (which read 'Ohsnaforda') are similar in style to a southern coin minted by Bernwald for Edward the Elder, (fn. 59) suggesting that the 'Orsnaforda' coins were copied from a genuine coin of Alfred minted at Oxford. (fn. 60)
The text of the Burghal Hidage, which assigns between 1,300 and 1,500 hides to the town, implying a length of rampart much shorter than the later medieval wall, (fn. 61) and the plan of other large burhs built by Alfred and his successors, suggest that at Oxford the original fortified area was smaller and squarer than the medieval town. The street-plan and other evidence (fn. 62) suggest that the western rampart may have run just west of the line of St. Ebbe's Street and New Inn Hall Street, the northern along the same line as the later wall, and the eastern just west of the line of Catte Street and Magpie Lane. No earlier defences have been found under the medieval south wall, nor has the street pattern preserved any trace of them, but a ditch running from north-east to south-west under Corpus Christi College quadrangle might have been part of the south-eastern defences. If so, the south rampart may have been north of St. Frideswide's. (fn. 63) Such a town would have been roughly square, with Carfax fairly centrally placed, and the main streets running straight to the four chief gates; the great curve of High Street begins east of the suggested site of the first east gate, and may represent the natural development of a cartway from the gate to a river crossing on the site of Magdalen Bridge. The churches of St. Michael at the North Gate, St. Mary the Virgin, and St. Peter-le-Bailey would have stood at the north, east, and west gates; St. Aldate's, whose dedication means 'old gate', (fn. 64) may have stood near an early south gate in a wall which ran north of St. Frideswide's.
Like other Saxon towns Oxford may have been divided at first into large plots or enclosures. The Oxford evidence, although slight, accords reasonably with that of Winchester where it is suggested that the walled area was apportioned at first among Saxon thegns, each with a principal dwelling and some with a private church, perhaps providing a refuge for the thegn's rural tenants in times of trouble. (fn. 65) At Oxford a 'court' containing St. Ebbe's church was given to Eynsham abbey c. 1005, and a small estate (praediolum) adjoining St. Martin's church was granted to Abingdon abbey in 1032. (fn. 66) Other examples of enclosures may be the site of Frewin Hall (fn. 67) and a court containing the church of St. John the Baptist, which survived until 1266 when it formed the nucleus of Merton College; by then its area appears to have been c. ½ a. (fn. 68) Magnates certainly held land in Oxford in the 11th century, but the size of their properties is not known. At least 25 Oxford houses were dependent on rural manors, 13 of them on Steventon (Berks.); (fn. 69) it seems unlikely that such attachments arose from early defensive arrangements, since several of the manors, notably Shipton-under-Wychwood, Bloxham, and Princes Risborough (Bucks.), seem too far away to have used Oxford as a place of refuge, and Streatley (Berks.) and Steventon were much closer to another fortified burh, Wallingford. The links may have been created by an original division of the borough among Saxon thegns, but equally could have been formed later, since it was presumably convenient for country magnates to have a house in Oxford, once it became a flourishing market town and an important administrative centre.
The Early Middle Ages
After the unification of England under Edward the Elder and his successors Oxford ceased to be a border town in a military sense. Politically, however, it continued to occupy a position between Wessex and Mercia, while geographically it lay in the heart of the kingdom on important trade routes. This combination of circumstances accounts for much of the town's growth and importance in the later Anglo-Saxon period. It seems to have possessed a royal residence and one of Edward the Elder's sons died in Oxford in 924, as did Harold Harefoot in 1040. (fn. 70) It was the site of four important councils in the 11th century. Like other burhs it was probably a market town from its foundation, and by c. 1100 was the site of an annual fair. Its inhabitants possessed extensive trading privileges in London in the early 12th century and occupied a special place at the coronation banquet, with the men of London and Winchester.
Oxford's importance during the reign of Athelstan is indicated by its apparent possession of four moneyers, a higher number than that assigned by the Grately decrees to any borough except London, which had eight, and Winchester, which had six. The coinage, moreover, shows links with both West Saxon and Mercian forms, demonstrating Oxford's peculiar position between the two provinces. (fn. 71) There was a Danish community in Oxford by the end of the 10th century, perhaps of traders, but many of them were presumably killed in a massacre on St. Brice's day 1002, which culminated in the burning of St. Frideswide's church with the Danes who had taken refuge there. (fn. 72) Oxford was sacked by a Danish army in 1009, and submitted to Sweyn of Denmark in 1013. (fn. 73) The destruction caused by the sack seems to have been serious enough to put the mint out of action for some time. (fn. 74)
The councils at Oxford in 1015, 1018, 1035, and 1065 were all ones at which the interests of north and south to some degree conflicted; in 1035, indeed, the split was between Wessex and Mercia. It may be that Oxford was chosen for the meetings because of its neutral position, having ties with both Wessex and Mercia but being identified with neither. The great council at Oxford in 1015 may have been an abortive attempt to reunite the kingdom after Sweyn's successful invasion of 1013-14, and in the face of the threatened invasion of Cnut. It was attended by nobles from all parts of the country, including Sigeforth and Morcar, thegns from the Danish 'Seven Boroughs', who may have invited Sweyn to England; their death during the council through the treachery of Eadric Streona, ealdorman of Mercia, resulted in a serious split between Wessex and the Danelaw. (fn. 75) The Oxford council of 1018, however, established peace and friendship between the Danish followers of Cnut and the English who had opposed him. (fn. 76) The council of 1035 met to consider the succession to the throne after the death of Cnut when the men of Wessex supported Harthacnut, while the Midland thegns, and the shipmen of London supported Harold Harefoot. (fn. 77) When in 1065 the Northumbrians rebelled against their earl, Tostig, it was at Oxford that Edward the Confessor was forced to accept Tostig's banishment and appoint Morcar, the rebels' choice, as earl. (fn. 78)
By 1066 Oxford had expanded well beyond its original walls, and, with some thousand recorded houses and perhaps eleven churches, was one of the largest towns in England, exceeded in size only by London, York, Norwich, Lincoln, and Winchester. (fn. 79) By 1086, however, the town had suffered a severe set-back and 57 per cent of the recorded houses were 'waste', more than in any other major town except Ipswich with 60 per cent. Even in York, after the Danish sack of 1069, the Conqueror's harrying in 1069-70, and the destruction of a whole ward for the building of two castles, only 30 per cent of the properties were 'waste' and 29 per cent so empty as to render nothing. (fn. 80) Even though 'waste' properties were not necessarily ruined and destroyed, or even completely worthless, Oxford's decline between 1066 and 1086 was considerable. The causes of the decline, which proved to be only temporary, are obscure. (fn. 81) Oxford was not directly involved in any of the Conqueror's military campaigns, and the building of the castle, although it destroyed a number of houses, cannot account for more than a small proportion of the total waste. There may have been some unrecorded natural disaster, such as fire or flood, (fn. 82) and the town's decline may have owed something to its loss of political importance as the division between Mercia and Wessex lost its significance and the king was concerned with the Scottish border or Normandy rather than the west. The general falling-off of trade in the generation after the Conquest may also have affected Oxford which already had strong trading links with London, and perhaps also with East Anglia, in the Anglo-Saxon period. (fn. 83) The increase in the town's farm from £30 to £60 and the activities of the royal officers may also have contributed to the town's impoverishment; Robert d'Oilly, the Conqueror's castellan, was remembered at Abingdon, perhaps with some exaggeration, as a despoiler of churches and the poor until his miraculous conversion. (fn. 84) It may be noted, however, that d'Oilly's own properties in Oxford seem to have suffered as much waste as those of others. (fn. 85)
The Norman kings visited Oxford only rarely and no councils were held there after 1066. William I was at Oxford in 1067, (fn. 86) Henry I in 1114, in 1122 (for the dedication of the new priory church of St. Frideswide), once between 1123 and 1133, and in 1133, when he spent Easter in his newly built hall. (fn. 87) The infrequency of royal visits in the Norman period may have given rise to the story, recorded early in the 12th century, that since the day when St. Frideswide's suitor had been struck blind in Oxford no king had dared to enter the town. (fn. 88) With the building of a royal palace, 'the king's houses', outside the north gate, and with the changing political and military situation of Stephen's reign royal interest in Oxford revived. Stephen probably came to Oxford twice in the first year of his reign. The first visit was apparently marked by a confirmation of liberties granted by the coronation oath, but the king was probably also concerned to gain control of the castle, which he besieged and took that year. (fn. 89) On the second visit he held a council and issued a 'charter of liberties' for the Church. (fn. 90)
During another council at Oxford in 1139 Stephen arrested Roger, bishop of Salisbury, and his nephew Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, following an outbreak of fighting between the bishop of Salisbury's men and Count Alan of Brittany's. (fn. 91) The king came to Oxford again in 1140 (fn. 92) but in 1141 Robert d'Oilly, governor of the castle, declared for Matilda, who spent much of that and the following year in Oxford. (fn. 93) About the end of September 1142 Stephen arrived with an army and quickly captured and burnt the town. The siege of the castle lasted three months, ending with Matilda's escape across the frozen river to Wallingford. (fn. 94) Thereafter Oxford remained in Stephen's hands, under the governorship of William de Chesney, who in 1145 carried on a campaign from there against Philip, son of the earl of Gloucester. (fn. 95) In 1149 Stephen's son Eustace used Oxford as a base for operations against Matilda's supporters, (fn. 96) and Stephen himself was in Oxford in 1145, and probably in 1146, 1149, and 1151. (fn. 97) In 1154 Stephen and the future Henry II met at Oxford and reached the agreement which marked the end of the civil war. (fn. 98)
Despite the civil war, which was presumably the cause of the 'wasting' of the town, for which the sheriff was allowed £7 10s. from his farm in 1155, (fn. 99) Oxford recovered some of its prosperity during the earlier 12th century. There is evidence for extensive rebuilding in the wake of the destruction. (fn. 100) In the same period at least four more parish churches were founded, and three of the monastic houses which were to play a prominent role in the medieval town: St. Frideswide's was refounded as an Augustinian priory in 1122; Oseney abbey, another Augustinian house, on an island in the Thames outside the west gate, was founded as a priory in 1129 and in 1149 acquired the collegiate church of St. George's in the Castle, which had been founded by Robert d'Oilly in 1074. Godstow nunnery, a few miles north of the town, was founded in 1133. (fn. 101) All three houses acquired land in Oxford: by c. 1139, for example, 51 townsmen had made grants to St. Frideswide's, and 18 gave land to Oseney at its foundation. (fn. 102) At least one townsman profited from the civil war. Henry of Oxford obtained a grant of the Castle mill from Matilda, and built up a large estate in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, much of it obtained, perhaps as pledges for loans, from the empress's supporters Brian FitzCount, Geoffrey de Clinton, and Robert d'Oilly; Henry also took advantage of the disturbances to seize several houses in Wallingford. (fn. 103)
The town's rising prosperity in the later 12th and early 13th centuries, based largely on its trade in cloth and wool, is reflected in tallage contributions: in 1176-7 it paid 100 marks, the same as Exeter, Gloucester, Norwich, Bedford, Dover, and Canterbury, but less than London (1,000 marks), Northampton (300 marks), York (200 marks), or Lincoln, Winchester, and Dunwich (£100). (fn. 104) In 1227 Oxford paid 300 marks, the same amount as York, and more than any other town except London. (fn. 105)
Henry II did not spend much time in Oxford, although the king's houses and the royal apartments in the castle were maintained as royal residences. (fn. 106) Councils were held in the town in 1165, 1177, 1180, and 1186, and the king was also there in 1155, 1163, 1175, and 1180 (for the translation of St. Frideswide). (fn. 107) His sons Richard and John were born in Oxford in 1157 and 1167, (fn. 108) and the king's treasure was frequently at Oxford when the king was not. (fn. 109) The town was not directly involved in any of the rebellions of Henry II's reign, although the castle was put into a state of defence in 1173-4 during the revolt of the young king. Richard I is not known to have visited Oxford, but councils were held there, in his absence, in 1193 and 1197. (fn. 110) King John was in Oxford frequently; councils were held there in 1204, 1205, and 1207, and in 1205 the king spent Christmas there. (fn. 111) In 1213 four knights from each shire were summoned to meet him at Oxford, (fn. 112) and during the troubles of 1215 the town was chosen several times as a meeting-place for the conflicting parties, notably in July, when the king met the barons, (fn. 113) and in August, when he refused to meet them because they were in arms. (fn. 114) John was at Oxford once more in the course of the ensuing civil war in 1216. (fn. 115)
The university developed gradually in the 12th century as a loose association of masters and scholars under a magister scholarum. (fn. 116) It emerged in the 13th century as a major factor in the town's economy, masking for a time any decline foreshadowed by changes in the wool trade. It was the existence of the university, too, which attracted the Dominican and Franciscan friars to Oxford immediately on their arrival in England in 1221 and 1224. (fn. 117) As long as its numbers were low there was presumably no great friction between the university and the town, but in 1209 occurred the first of a series of violent incidents which were to have a profound effect on the development of both bodies. The townsmen hanged two clerks for a murder of which they were apparently innocent, and the university dispersed. The matter was not settled until 1214 when the town submitted to the papal legate and suffered severe financial penalties; the mayor, bailiffs, and 50 leading burgesses agreed to take a public oath every year to abide by the settlement. (fn. 118) The university emerged from the incident as a stronger, more highly organized body, under a new official, the chancellor, (fn. 119) but the peace between town and gown was short-lived. In 1228 townsmen attacked and wounded scholars and the town was placed under an interdict. (fn. 120) In 1232 seven townsmen, including the future mayor Adam Fettiplace, were imprisoned for injuring clerks. (fn. 121) There was further violence in 1236, and that year the town was set on fire, apparently deliberately. (fn. 122) No townsmen were involved in the attack in 1238 by a number of clerks on the papal legate who was staying at Oseney; the legate's brother was killed and the legate himself forced to flee for his life. (fn. 123) As a result of the outrage the university was placed under an interdict, scholars had to find sureties for their good behaviour and were forbidden to enter or leave Oxford; their goods were taken into the king's hand by the mayor and bailiffs. Most scholars appear to have had no difficulty in finding townsmen to act as sureties for them, perhaps because even in 1238 the value of letting lodgings and supplying the other needs of the scholars was recognized. (fn. 124) Despite such mutual dependence intermittent quarrels between town and gown continued throughout the 1240s, (fn. 125) resulting in 1242 in the appointment of the sheriff and a former mayor, Peter Torold, to keep the peace in the town, (fn. 126) and in 1248 in the taking of the town into the king's hands after the killing of a clerk. (fn. 127) Another 'great controversy' between the burgesses and the university was recorded in 1251. (fn. 128)
Despite such turmoil Henry III spent some time in Oxford in most years of his reign, and in 1231 refounded the late-12th-century St. John's hospital outside the east gate. (fn. 129) Councils were held in Oxford in 1217, 1218, and 1219. (fn. 130) It was in Oxford in 1227 that Henry declared himself of age. (fn. 131) There were councils in Oxford in 1233, during the troubles associated with the 'return of the Poitevins', in 1247, and in 1254. (fn. 132) In 1231 the king consulted at Oxford the bishops of the province of Canterbury and in 1238 the barons of the Welsh march, about his dealing with Llewellyn ap Griffith. (fn. 133) Ecclesiastical councils were held at Oseney in 1222 and in Oxford in 1250. (fn. 134)
During the period of the Baronial Revolt, from 1258 to 1266 Oxford was, for the last time in the Middle Ages, in the forefront of national affairs. The parliament which approved and carried out the 'Provisions of Oxford' in 1258 met at the Dominican friary in St. Ebbe's parish. (fn. 135) Oxford had been chosen as the meetingplace because the king ostensibly intended to set out immediately afterwards on an expedition against the Welsh. (fn. 136) In the event safe-conduct was given to Welsh envoys to come to Oxford, and a truce was arranged. (fn. 137) In May 1263 Simon de Montfort met his chief followers at Oxford at the start of his campaign, (fn. 138) but for much of 1263 and 1264 the town was in the king's hands. Henry held a council in Oxford in 1263, and during his stay visited St. Frideswide's shrine, an act which was popular with the townspeople. (fn. 139) In February 1264 Prince Edward and his army spent a night at the king's houses on the way west in search of Henry de Montfort; the town gates were shut, presumably against the disorderly soldiery, and when the prince and his army had departed Smith Gate for some reason remained closed. Some clerks on their way to Beaumont fields broke it down and threw it into a ditch; there was a riot, and the town was extensively damaged by the victorious clerks. (fn. 140) Peace was restored by arbitrators, but soon afterwards the king ordered the university to disperse, which it did until the following Michaelmas. Henry planned to hold a parliament in the town, and although his letter to the university suggested that he feared for the safety of the clerks in a town full of soldiers, he may have been anxious to avoid further riots between clerks and laymen during the parliament. (fn. 141)
The whole knight service of England was summoned to Oxford in March 1264 to take the field against Llewellyn of Wales and 'the king's enemies'. During the month which the king spent there before marching to Northampton in April the town was 'the military and administrative centre of England'. (fn. 142) In November, after his defeat at Lewes, Henry was brought back to Oxford for a parliament convened by the baronial leaders. (fn. 143) The younger Simon de Montfort marched through Oxford in 1265 on his way to Kenilworth. (fn. 144) In 1266 the knight service of the kingdom was once again summoned to assemble at Oxford and the burgesses were ordered to defend the town against the king's enemies. (fn. 145)
The presence of large numbers of soldiers and the gatherings of the magnates and their retinues presumably added to the violence and lawlessness of the town. In 1264 the mayor and bailiffs were ordered to take into safe custody those who daily attended illegal gatherings there. (fn. 146) Whether the gatherings were of baronial supporters is not clear, but in 1266 the burgesses paid a large sum to Prince Edward as a penalty for having sided with the king's enemies. (fn. 147) Individual burgesses may not have had much choice in the matter; in 1265 the younger Simon de Montfort was accused of imprisoning Adam Fettiplace until he granted the earl's tailor 10 marks' rent in Oxford; the next year the sheriff was ordered to restore the rent, but in 1279 the tailor still held a large estate in the town. (fn. 148) In 1266, when a renewal of the war by Simon de Montfort's sons was feared, Oxford was placed under a keeper, Osbert Giffard; the repair and strengthening of the defences was ordered, and the townsmen were ordered to oppose the king's enemies. (fn. 149)
Henry III spent Christmas in Oxford in 1265 and again in 1266, when he spent seven days at Oseney abbey celebrating the feast. (fn. 150) Edward I, by contrast, seems to have visited Oxford only twice. In 1275 he stayed at the king's houses, but apparently refused to enter the town itself because of the old superstitition, arising from the legend of St. Frideswide, that it was dangerous for a king to do so. (fn. 151) The king's houses were not used as a royal residence thereafter, and were given by Edward II to the Carmelite friars in 1318. (fn. 152) Edward I seems to have been in Oxford, however, in 1305, when a letter and a licence were dated there. (fn. 153)
In 1279, when the town was fully surveyed in the Hundred Rolls, (fn. 154) it was at the limits of its medieval expansion. There were probably some 1,400 properties of various kinds, no large open spaces, and few vacant tenements. Houses or colleges of most major religious orders had been or were soon to be established in the town or its suburbs. As property-owners these and neighbouring religious houses, chief among them St. Frideswide's priory, Oseney abbey, and St. John's hospital, dominated the town, holding a total of 105 properties in demesne in 1279 and receiving rents from 420 others. The university held only six schools and seven houses in demesne and received rents from five other properties.
The later 13th century was marked by increasing violence between town and gown, and between different 'nations' of scholars. Successive peace settlements and agreements between the parties tended to increase the university's powers at the expense of the town. (fn. 155) The first serious fighting between the northern and Irish 'nations' in the university broke out in 1252, and there were outbreaks in 1267 and 1273-4. (fn. 156) In 1272, after disputes between town and gown, the town was taken into the king's hands and ordered to make amends to the university, and in 1275 the mayor and bailiffs were ordered to preserve the university's privileges. (fn. 157) There were many clashes in the 1280s and 1290s, (fn. 158) notably in 1285, when there was fighting near St. Mary's church and Smith Gate was broken down again and thrown into the ditch, (fn. 159) and in 1298, when a layman and a clerk were killed during four days' rioting, which started when clerks attacked a bailiff at Carfax. Those involved on the town's side included Robert and Philip of Worminghall, who, despite an order for their expulsion from Oxford, served as mayor and bailiff the following year, and John of Coleshill and Thomas of Hinksey, bailiffs for the year, who were removed from office. (fn. 160) For the first time, apparently, leading burgesses were taking part in rioting; their involvement was to be a feature of the troubles of the earlier 14th century.
The Later Middle Ages
In 1334 Oxford (fn. 161) ranked 8th among English provincial towns on the basis of taxable wealth. (fn. 162) In 1377, when 2,357 adults were assessed for poll tax, it ranked 14th in population, and showed signs of recovery after the savage onslaught of the Black Death in 1348-9. (fn. 163) By 1523-4, however, it had fallen at least as low as 29th in taxable wealth, (fn. 164) and was a county and market town of purely local significance, except for the presence within it of the university. Its decline in wealth, population, and political importance was accompanied by great changes in the nature of its economy and government.
Some features of Oxford's decline were common to other English towns, since massive population loss through plague was a national experience and many towns suffered from changes in the wool and cloth trades. Few, however, were so transformed in this period. The town lost its political importance as the resort of kings and the meeting-place of great councils. Its position as the head of navigation on the river Thames was taken by Henley, and the wealthy merchants who had dominated the town's economy and government were replaced by lesser men. Above all, the relative positions of town and university were reversed, and by the end of the period the town's economy depended almost entirely on supplying the university's needs. Growing awareness of a decline in Oxford's fortunes in the early 14th century coincided with a prolonged period of social unrest in the town and its neighbourhood, culminating in a great town-gown riot on St. Scholastica's day 1355; as a result of that and previous conflicts the university's privileges were so increased that it controlled many aspects of town life until the 19th century. The university's monopoly of much of the walled area also dates from the later Middle Ages, when the continued reduction of Oxford's trade and population made possible the acquisition by colleges of central sites, leaving only a much reduced commercial area around Carfax.
The university's population seems to have reached a peak soon after 1300; it has been estimated at c. 1,500 in the early 14th century, c. 1,200 in 1400, and c. 1,000 in 1438. (fn. 165) The number of houses leased to graduates or as academic halls by Oseney abbey and St. John's hospital was highest between 1292 and 1317. Many halls were vacant in the years immediately after the Black Death, and after a brief recovery in the 1360s the number of halls leased to graduates by the abbey and hospital fell fairly steadily from the last quarter of the 14th century. (fn. 166) The numbers licensed by the university fell from 69 in 1444 to 50 in 1469 and 31 in 1501, at a time when lodging in halls or colleges was compulsory for scholars. (fn. 167) The foundation of new colleges and the enlargement of other colleges and halls may have allowed for some increase in university population in the late 15th century, (fn. 168) although the university was described c. 1470 as 'greatly diminished and in decay'. (fn. 169)
In the later Middle Ages the town's suburbs contracted, and within the walls there was structural decay and an abundance of vacant plots. Very little church building or restoration may be dated to the century following the Black Death. The gloomiest picture was that drawn by a jury in 1378 of a thirteen-acre site in the north-east corner of the town: the land, neither built-up nor inclosed, was a dump for filth and corpses, a resort of criminals and prostitutes, and it was felt that the building of New College there would be an advantage to the whole town. (fn. 170) Such indictments, coupled with the townsmen's repeated complaints of poverty, may exaggerate the town's distress. For the reduced population there were compensations: the university, and particularly the expanding colleges, provided immediate employment, particularly in building work, and secure long-term opportunities for a wide variety of tradesmen. Wage-rates were high and rents low. Although the rate of freeman admissions in Oxford is not known before the 16th century, an increase in the entry fee in the later Middle Ages (fn. 171) may imply that the freedom was still attractive to outsiders; the decline in population may have been greatest among the lower ranks of urban society, the proportion of freemen to other inhabitants much higher than before. (fn. 172)
The reign of Edward II and the early years of Edward III's reign were a disturbed period in Oxford. The townsmen's awareness of deteriorating economic conditions; disasters such as the famine of 1315-17; the university's growing control in the market-place; widespread hostility to monastic landlords; a general breakdown of law and order-all probably made some contribution to the disturbances, and there were connexions between some local affrays and the baronial struggles of the time. In 1311 Henry Tyes, later a prominent supporter of Thomas of Lancaster, was appointed keeper of the town. (fn. 173) Although neither townsmen nor clerks responded when Aymer, earl of Pembroke, asked them for help with his plan to rescue Peter Gaveston from Warwick castle in 1312, (fn. 174) the town made an official contribution to offerings for Gaveston's soul when his body was brought to the Dominican friary in Oxford, where it lay for more than two years. (fn. 175) An attack in 1314 on the house in Berkshire of Joan Wycombe, widow of an Oxford burgess, by a gang which included members of the Mymekan family of Oxford, may have been politically motivated: the earl of Pembroke sought a pardon on John Mymekan's behalf. (fn. 176) In 1315 the bailiffs and several other burgesses connived at, if they did not assist, an attack made by Abingdon men on the keeper of the king's horses at Oseney, (fn. 177) and the following year the mayor and bailiffs were among those accused of attacking and imprisoning Thomas of Fencote, an adherent of Thomas of Lancaster. (fn. 178)
An imposter who appeared at the Carmelite friary in 1318 claiming to be the true son of Edward I may have chosen to start his bid for the throne at Oxford because it was a centre of discontent, but it is not clear how much support he attracted; he was fairly quickly arrested and taken to the king at Northampton, where he was executed. (fn. 179) At least two prominent burgesses took part in 1321 in the attack on the manors of John de Haudlo, a retainer of the elder Despenser. (fn. 180) That year the town sent 27 gallons of wine to the two Mortimers at Oseney abbey, when the Marcher barons withdrew to Oxford after the parliament in August. (fn. 181) In 1325 the town sent a gift of pike to Queen Isabella at Islip. (fn. 182)
In 1326 the university was ordered to hold Smith Gate, which was in its custody, against Roger Mortimer and his 'multitude of aliens'. (fn. 183) Presumably the town was similarly ordered to hold the other gates, but Queen Isabella and Mortimer entered the town and heard an inflammatory sermon advocating the removal of the king. (fn. 184) Oxford burgesses again co-operated with Abingdon men in riots against Abingdon abbey in the spring of 1327, which seem to have been partly fomented by the queen and her supporters. The Oxford men, who were involved in the second phase of the violence, were led by Philip de Eu and included the mayor and bailiffs and other prominent burgesses. (fn. 185) There was another dispute with Abingdon abbey in 1328, apparently over market rights, (fn. 186) and in 1331 a number of Oxford burgesses attacked a Berkshire justice in Abingdon, perhaps because he had acted against those involved in the riot of 1327. (fn. 187) Townsmen were involved in attacks on other religious houses in 1333, when, apparently in the course of a dispute over rights of jurisdiction, Rewley abbey's court-house was knocked down, (fn. 188) and in 1336, when they attacked St. Frideswide's priory and forced the prior to swear to observe the town's statutes. (fn. 189)
Although Oxford was chosen as a suitable place for holding royal councils in 1330 and 1336, (fn. 190) there were repeated complaints about the lawlessness of the area, coupled with royal injunctions to the town authorities to forbid illegal gatherings, to forbid the carrying of arms in the town and suburbs, and to take firmer action against gangs of criminals. (fn. 191) In 1329 a court was disrupted and an alderman beaten by malefactors, perhaps the 'pretended scholars' who were said to be committing violent crimes and terrorizing the town and the university. (fn. 192) In 1332 the destruction of hovels and shacks which harboured malefactors was ordered. (fn. 193) John son of Nicholas the spicer, perhaps a member of the prominent Oxford family of that name, was outlawed as a night prowler, disturber of the peace, and holder of unlawful assemblies in 1345. (fn. 194)
There was relatively little town-gown rioting in the earlier 14th century, but ill-feeling between the two bodies arose frequently, particularly over such issues as the control of prices. (fn. 195) Violence erupted within the university in 1334 in fights between northern and southern scholars, which led to the migration of some masters and scholars to Stamford. (fn. 196) Townsmen also appear to have become involved and the authorities were ordered to repeat the proclamation against the carrying of arms. (fn. 197) The mayor and bailiffs were accused of complicity in the murder of Fulk de Lucy, a southern scholar, whose death was celebrated in a Latin poem; (fn. 198) they were said to have allowed the culprits to go unmolested from St. Martin's parish, where the crime was committed, to sanctuary in the Austin friary. At the friary the killers were supplied with food by John the painter, a burgess involved in most of the disturbances of the previous decade, who eventually took them, by force of arms according to one account, to St. Mary Magdalen's church, whence they were allowed to escape. (fn. 199)
The great riot of St. Scholastica's day 1355 lasted for three days. (fn. 200) Trouble started in the Swindlestock tavern at Carfax, when a group of scholars threw wine into the landlord's face and beat him with the empty pot. From such a small beginning violence spread rapidly, townsmen rallying to the innkeeper's support, clerks to the scholars', despite the efforts of town and university authorities to restore peace. On the second day of fighting a large body of countrymen marched into the town to support the townsmen, and their combined forces proved too strong for the scholars who fled the town or took shelter in the academic halls, of which many were sacked. Both sides accused the other of robbing, wounding, and killing; 6 clerks were alleged to have been killed and 21 seriously injured, but no account survives of the town's casualties. (fn. 201) Although the town won the fight, the university won the peace, and most of the powers which it had sought during the previous century and a half were granted or confirmed in 1355. (fn. 202)
The riot and its consequences were a serious blow to a community already devastated by plague. The Black Death reached Oxford in November 1348 and seems to have raged until June 1349. Mortality was high: at least 57 wills made in that period were enrolled in the town's register, (fn. 203) compared with the usual three or four a year, and a further six survive elsewhere. The register was of wills devising real property, and thus illustrates the sufferings of the town's elite. The increase in registrations is remarkable, even allowing for the fact that unusual care was taken to enrol wills during the plague. (fn. 204) Assuming that most wills were made in extremis it seems that mortality was high by January 1349, when 10 wills were made, reached a peak in April (16 wills), and was more or less over by June (2 wills). The victims included two current mayors, Richard Selwood in April and Richard Cary in June. The parish clergy, a group unrepresented in the wills, probably suffered at least as badly as the property-owning burgesses: between April and December 1349 the incumbents of 7 of the 14 parish churches were replaced, at least 5 of the vacancies having been created by death. (fn. 205) The colleges and religious houses may have escaped more lightly, because of better living conditions, but the abbess of Godstow, the prioress of Littlemore, 2 chancellors of the university, and 2 provosts of Oriel College died. (fn. 206)
Although little is known of the mortality among ordinary townsmen it is likely to have been at least as high as that among the parish clergy. Nicholas Bishop recorded in 1403 that his mother had lost her parents and all her friends in the great pestilence, (fn. 207) and Anthony Wood recorded a tradition, doubtless exaggerated, that at the height of the plague as many as 16 bodies a day were buried in one church alone. (fn. 208) Lists of amercements for breaches of the assize of ale, (fn. 209) which seem to have included most brewers and beer retailers in the town, support the impression of very high mortality. Although it was usual for numbers to fluctuate considerably from list to list, the fall from 221 names in October 1348 to 161 in October 1349 was probably significant, particularly since only c. 18 per cent of those recorded in 1348 were named a year later, compared with a survival rate of c. 62 per cent in the longer period between the lists of April 1344 and October 1345.
It seems likely that Oxford lost at least a third of its population in the Black Death. The assize lists suggest that part of the loss was made good almost at once from immigration, and recovery was probably aided by a lower death rate in the years immediately following the epidemic, but the immediate effect was catastrophic. The evidence of the rentals of Oseney abbey and St. John's hospital supports a statement of the burgesses in 1350 that they were greatly impoverished. (fn. 210) A good deal, though not all, of the town's physical contraction seems to date from the years after the plague, and it was in the later 14th century that the colleges were able to obtain large sites within the walls. Even so the Black Death was only one, and by no means the most important, of many factors in the town's decline.
Plague and other epidemic diseases continued to afflict the town in the later Middle Ages. The second outbreak of bubonic plague in 1361 seems to have been much less severe than the first: only 11 wills were enrolled in the town's register, (fn. 211) and the decline in rent levels was smaller and of shorter duration than in 1349. (fn. 212) Plagues or epidemics were reported in 1370-1, in 1406-7, in most years between 1448 and 1463, and in 1478, 1485, 1486, 1487, 1489, 1493, and 1499. (fn. 213) Records of mortuary payments in the parishes of St. Michael at the Northgate and All Saints in seven years between 1476 and 1500 suggest that the outbreak of 1478, when the university proctors were paid extra for the danger they had undergone, (fn. 214) was particularly serious; in 1478 there were 117 deaths in the two parishes, nearly four times the usual number. In 1487 there were only 34 deaths, but the university claimed that townsmen were dying daily and that some members of congregation had also been carried off. (fn. 215) In 1492, not recorded as a plague year, there were 46 deaths; the previous year had been a year of dearth, when, after an exceptionally hard winter, corn prices rose to unusually high levels. (fn. 216)
The comparative calm of later-14th-century Oxford was probably in part a reaction to the violence of the previous half century; St. Scholastica's day, in particular, had shown the futility of violent resistance to the university. There may also have been a slight improvement in the town's economic condition, but in the 15th century declined continued, and Oxford lost what national importance it had retained in the earlier 14th century. Richard II held a council there in 1386, (fn. 217) and visited the town several times; (fn. 218) his stay at the Carmelite friary on his way back from Ireland in 1395 cost the town the comparatively large sums of c. 22s. for fish for the king himself and c. 55s. for scarlet cloth for his soldiers. (fn. 219) Henry VI visited Oxford in 1421, when the townsmen went with torches to Shotover to meet him (fn. 220) and in 1438 when he watched a demonstration of 'wild fire' by a team of German gunners. (fn. 221) When Edward IV came to Oxford in 1481, however, it was to inspect William Wayneflete's new foundation, Magdalen College, (fn. 222) and later visits by Henry VII and Prince Arthur seem also to have been to the university rather than to the town. (fn. 223)
Most of the conflicts of the later Middle Ages were between the town and religious houses. In 1375, however, perhaps in a dispute over rights of jurisdiction, some members of the university overthrew the town gallows at Green ditch in the fields north of Oxford. (fn. 224) A dispute between southern and northern clerks in 1388 and 1389 seems to have been confined to the university. (fn. 225) The first recorded violent incident after 1355 was an attack, for unknown reasons, on South Gate in 1360 by Abingdon men, led by the rector and the vicar of St. Nicholas's church and aided and abetted by an Oxford man, William Bampton. (fn. 226) In 1374-5 there was a dispute over the rights of Oseney abbey and its tenants to buy and sell in Oxford, which seems to have been settled by the chancellor of the university. (fn. 227) There may have been a dispute between the town and St. John's hospital in 1391 about subsidy contributions, (fn. 228) and such contributions figured largely in a prolonged dispute with Oseney abbey. In 1415 the town apparently refused to admit the abbot's attorney to do suit to the town court; (fn. 229) then in 1417 or 1418 the collectors of a subsidy distrained the abbot for a tenth of his moiety of Castle mills, and fighting broke out between townsmen and the abbey servants. The abbot complained that men led by the mayor, bailiffs, and two aldermen, had broken his weirs, fished his fishery, assaulted and imprisoned his men, and carried off his goods; a bailiff and a subsidy collector alleged that the abbot and canons had assaulted them, one attack having taken place in St. Mary Magdalen's church during mass. (fn. 230) A settlement was not reached until 1419. (fn. 231)
Oxford was not immediately involved in any of the political upheavals of the later Middle Ages. The university complained in 1380 of the number of violent criminals who found refuge in the town and its suburbs, (fn. 232) but there were no disturbances during the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, although the townsmen were worried enough to plan to improve the defences by widening the moat. (fn. 233) The army commanded by the lords appellant marched through the town in December 1387 after the battle of Radcot Bridge, (fn. 234) and the fall of Robert Tresilian the next year presumably made an impression in the town which in 1367 had granted him a small yearly pension for counsel given and to be given. (fn. 235) In 1399 an army under Edmund, duke of York, marched through Oxford on its way westward. (fn. 236) In 1400 several rebels against Henry IV, taken when the rebellion of the earls of Kent and Salisbury was crushed at Cirencester, were imprisoned in Oxford guild hall, tried before Henry IV, and executed outside the town. (fn. 237) John Gibbes, son of a former mayor of Oxford, was among the earl of Kent's supporters, but he may have become involved at Cirencester where he held land in right of his wife. He was pardoned by Henry IV and later became an alderman. (fn. 238) Welshmen plotting rebellion in Oxford in 1402, presumably in connexion with Glyn Dwr's rebellion, seem to have included both clerks and laymen. (fn. 239) The same year Oxford was picked as the assembly point for another projected rising against Henry IV, largely organized by Franciscans from the Leicester convent. (fn. 240)
There is no evidence that the town as a whole was involved in the rebellions, nor does it seem to have been greatly affected by the Lollardy which flourished briefly in the university. In 1382 the mayor and bailiffs were ordered to assist the university authorities in rooting out Wycliffe's followers in the town and university, (fn. 241) but an outbreak of the heresy in 1414 seems to have been confined to the university. (fn. 242) Nor does the town appear to have taken part in 1431 in a Lollard uprising centred on Abingdon, although the leader fled to Oxford where he was captured and executed. (fn. 243)
Oxford was one of several towns which speedily forwarded to the Privy Council a letter of 1452 from Richard, duke of York, which came close to inciting rebellion. (fn. 244) The duke raised his standard at Abingdon in 1460. (fn. 245) There was 'insurrection' in the town in 1461 during the period of uncertainty before the establishment of Edward IV, and the Yorkist Lord FitzWalter was attacked by members of an academic hall. (fn. 246) In 1461 and 1462 the chancellor excommunicated those who had drawn gallows and other offensive pictures on royal and other arms, presumably displayed on shields in the university's schools. (fn. 247) The proctors were paid extra for keeping the peace in the week after the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. (fn. 248)
No Oxford men were recorded among the supporters of Lambert Simnel in 1487, although he was the son of an Oxford joiner and had been launched on his imposter's career by an Oxford priest. (fn. 249) There was trouble in the town in 1488 after a disputed mayoral election; in 1489 university men accused the vice-chancellor of neglecting to keep the peace or punish rebellion, and a bedel was sent to the king to apologize for the disturbance caused in the university. (fn. 250) In 1490 George Abery, who had taken part in a rising against Henry VII in the north of England in 1489 and had been 'the head and chief captain' of all the troubles in Oxford, was arrested by a royal serjeant, the bailiffs, and the proctors; he seems to have been a privileged person rather than a townsman. (fn. 251)
DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOWN
By the early 11th century the walled area of the town was fairly densely built up and there were suburbs. If speculations about the original size of the walled town are correct, (fn. 252) the chief area of suburban expansion was on the east, where St. Peter's church was built in the 10th century, (fn. 253) but there were also houses to the west, on the site of the later castle. (fn. 254) Both those areas, but not the earlier suburb outside the south gate, were brought within the walls before 1066, probably when the town was rebuilt after the sack by the Danes in 1009. (fn. 255) Within the original walled area some of the large properties were split up; late-Saxon tenements in Cornmarket Street, already one of the main commercial areas of the town, were c. 73 yards deep with street frontages of only between 7 and 17 yards. The buildings on them seem to have been detached and to have formed an irregular building line along the street; on some tenements buildings lay two or three deep, covering the full length of the plot. (fn. 256) A house behind St. Aldate's Street was built on a site without any street frontage. (fn. 257) Most domestic buildings were timber-framed, apparently with small timber-lined cellars, but there was an 11th-century stone house in High Street, on the site of All Saints church. (fn. 258) Some of the early churches may also have been timber buildings, but by the 11th century most were probably of stone, for example the rubble tower of St. Michael at the Northgate.
The building of early water-mills caused many changes in the branches of the river Thames close to the west and south sides of the town. (fn. 259) Castle mill, probably in existence by the mid 11th century, (fn. 260) was built on the easternmost stream, part of which, below the mill, turned eastwards along the line of the later Trill mill stream, passed under Grandpont at Trill Mill Bow, and flowed across the northern edge of Christ Church meadow to join the river Cherwell; in the section west of Grandpont it seems to have been an important branch of the river, its silt deposits covering an area over 150 feet wide. (fn. 261) Running southwards from it, on the west side of Grandpont, was a mill-stream, apparently artificial, (fn. 262) serving a mill, later Blackfriars mill, first recorded in the early 11th century. A parallel, perhaps natural, stream on the east side of Grandpont served Trill mill, which may also have existed in the 11th century. The provision of water to the two Grandpont mills presumably reduced the flow in the stream across Christ Church meadow, and one branch of it, beneath the wall of St. Frideswide's priory, seems to have silted up by the late 12th century. (fn. 263) The rest of the stream survived, probably as a waterlogged ditch, until the 17th century, when it may have been destroyed by Civil War fortifications, or, if not, was certainly obscured shortly afterwards by the construction of Broad Walk. (fn. 264) By 1279 Trill mill stream seems to have been canalized, and was 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep at Preachers Bridge. (fn. 265)
The branch of the Thames passing beneath Oseney Bridge, in modern times the navigation channel, served Oseney mill; before becoming a mill-stream, probably in the 12th century, this branch may have been a natural stream, since it seems to have been called Aldee ('old river') in 1184 and later. (fn. 266) After Oseney and Castle mills had closed off the two streams nearest to Oxford to river traffic the through route from Port Meadow to Folly Bridge was presumably down the Bulstake and Pot streams. (fn. 267)
Another change in the river, of uncertain date, was the decline in importance of the Shire Lake stream, which branched north-eastwards from the main river before Folly Bridge, crossing beneath Grandpont at Denchworth Bow, and flowing across Christ Church meadow to the river Cherwell. (fn. 268) Perhaps as a result of improvements to a branch of the Thames further south, the present Eights Reach, (fn. 269) the part of Shire Lake stream in Christ Church meadow largely disappeared during the Middle Ages, although it remained the county boundary. By 1423 the road beside it seems to have been more important to the town than the stream itself, presumably for riding the franchises, (fn. 270) and by the mid 17th century its course was marked only by boundary stones. (fn. 271) A surviving drainage ditch in the meadow preserves part of its line. (fn. 272)
The description of Oxford in Domesday Book (fn. 273) is ambiguous, but seems to list 1,018 houses inside and outside the wall in 1066. In addition to St. Frideswide's minster, rebuilt after its destruction in 1002, there were at least five parish churches: St. Peter-in-the-East, St. Ebbe's, recorded between 1005 and 1013, (fn. 274) St. Martin's, recorded in 1032, (fn. 275) and St. Michael at the Northgate and St. Mary the Virgin, recorded in Domesday Book. (fn. 276) It is likely that St. Mildred's and St. Edward the Martyr, dedicated to relatively obscure Anglo-Saxon saints, were also in existence by 1066, and St. Mary Magdalen and St. George in the Castle also may have been pre-Conquest foundations. (fn. 277) As the town walls had been extended by then to take in the early eastern and western suburbs the houses of 1066 outside the walls lay presumably along Grandpont and perhaps outside North Gate; the western suburb was largely a 12th-century development, and there was little building outside East Gate even by the 13th century. (fn. 278) By 1086 583 houses were 'waste'; some of them presumably destroyed in 1071 by the building of the castle, (fn. 279) which also caused the diversion of the main east-west road and the removal of the west gate from near the site of St. George's tower to the south-west corner of the castle. Thereafter the motte, with the adjacent St. George's tower, dominated the town.
The town's prosperity in the 12th and early 13th centuries was reflected in intensive building activity, although there were setbacks through a fire in 1138, which was said to have burnt the whole town, (fn. 280) the sack by Stephen's army in 1142, a fire in 1190, which destroyed, among other buildings, St. Frideswide's priory, (fn. 281) and a fire in 1236, (fn. 282) the last recorded in the Middle Ages. The churches founded in this period were All Saints, converted from a secular building in the late 11th or early 12th century, (fn. 283) St. Michael at the Southgate, recorded in 1122, (fn. 284) St. Giles's, founded c. 1130 in the fields north of the town, (fn. 285) St. Budoc's, recorded in 1166, and St. John the Baptist, recorded in 1206. (fn. 286) The only known secular public building, the guild hall, may have been on the south side of Queen Street, opposite St. Martin's church, before a new hall was established in a house on the east side of St. Aldate's Street near Carfax, formerly belonging to a Jew and sold to the town by Henry III in 1229. (fn. 287) Royal power and interest in Oxford was symbolized by the king's houses outside North Gate, built by Henry I, and by the strengthened and enlarged castle. The building of the castle barbican destroyed the first St. Budoc's church.
There is much evidence of the continued subdivision of tenements and buildings, (fn. 288) and of the continued building up of plots behind street frontages. (fn. 289) Access to such properties was often provided by narrow private passageways between the original plots, but some more substantial minor streets seem to date from the 12th century and early 13th, including Logic Lane, Kybald Street, and St. Frideswide's Lane. (fn. 290) Encroachments on streets were common, and in the later 12th century the sheriff was accounting for several payments for encroachments, presumably of a permanent kind. (fn. 291) Some large landowners, notably Oseney abbey, built houses or shops to improve their property, (fn. 292) others were built by tenants and owners for their own use; (fn. 293) having built on part of a site in St. Mildred's parish, Oseney abbey c. 1198 asked the tenant to put up more buildings to ensure payment of the rent. (fn. 294) Recorded 13th-century tenements varied in size from only 13 feet square to 73½ feet by 33 feet but later evidence suggests that many plots were over 200 feet deep. Shop frontages were sometimes as narrow as 6 feet, but the cellars beneath them often extended almost the whole width of the tenement on which several shops had been crowded. (fn. 295)
Party walls and the maintenance of gutters caused frequent disputes. (fn. 296) In an agreement of 1280-1 the owner of a new house in the shambles undertook to maintain his gutters and to glaze the windows overlooking a plot belonging to Oseney abbey, or, if the abbey built there, to block his windows with stones and mortar. (fn. 297) An early-13th-century grant of land stipulated that nothing built on it should reduce the light reaching a neighbouring house, and a late-13th-century agreement about a party wall provided that no window, smoke-vent, or other opening should be made in it, whereby entry could be made to the damage of the occupant of either house. (fn. 298)
Most 13th-century Oxford houses were probably timber-framed, with walls of wattle and daub, but stone was used frequently for party walls and gables. (fn. 299) The use of stone seems to have increased after the mid 12th century. Large stone cellars were built, as in an extensive rebuilding in Cornmarket Street at that date, (fn. 300) although the earliest surviving cellars are the 13th-century vaults of the Mitre hotel. (fn. 301) A few buildings were wholly of stone, and others were roofed with stone or tile, (fn. 302) although the most popular roofing material was probably thatch. A large stone house outside North Gate c. 1195 comprised a cellar, a solar, a latrine with a tiled roof, and other rooms and outbuildings of stone and of earth. (fn. 303) The frontages of the main streets meeting at Carfax were occupied by narrow shops, often leased separately from solars and cellars above and below them and houses behind. On the east side of Cornmarket there were perhaps 12 shops crowded into the first 70 feet from Carfax. There were shops in front of the early inn, Mauger's Hall (later the Golden Cross), and a little further north there was a group of 12 shops, averaging only 9 feet in width and very shallow, whose standard rents suggest a planned development. There were many narrow shops on the west side of Cornmarket between Shoe Lane and Bodin's Lane. Some of the High Street shops seem to have been wider, but on the site of nos. 6-8 High Street 5 butchers' shops occupied only c. 36 feet of frontage. (fn. 304)
Behind the shops were dwelling-houses, usually comprising a hall and chambers, often with detached kitchens, extra chambers, and other out-buildings. An example of the larger type of dwelling-house was Haberdasher's Hall in High Street, which in 1256 was a 'great stone house' used as an academic hall; it stood behind a row of 7 shops, separately leased out, and comprised a solar and cellar at each end of a hall, a great solar facing the street, presumably above the shops, and a separate kitchen and stable, all of stone. (fn. 305) In 1286 the house which later became the Mitre hotel also stood behind a row of shops and comprised 6 chambers and a hall, and there was an inner courtyard containing a kitchen and a stable. (fn. 306) St. John's Hall, at the corner of Merton Street and Magpie Lane, in 1249 comprised a hall, two solars with cellars, a wardrobe, and a kitchen, all roofed with stone slates; (fn. 307) and in 1307 part of the former Jewish synagogue in St. Frideswide's Lane, then an inn, comprised a hall parallel to the street, flanked at each end by a solar over a cellar; there was also at least one chamber, and a bakery, probably a free-standing building. (fn. 308)
The main areas of suburban expansion in the 12th and 13th centuries were north and west of the town. There is archaeological evidence for 12th-century settlement in Broad Street and at least part of St. Giles's Street, (fn. 309) and the siting of the king's houses in the area behind George Street and Magdalen Street in 1133 may suggest that both streets were established at that date. (fn. 310) There was an agreement to build on what appears to have been a large empty plot on the site of no. 61 St. Giles's Street c. 1195, and the plot had become two tenements by the mid 13th century. (fn. 311) The whole of St. Giles's Street, and of Worcester Street to the west, seems to have been built up by 1279. (fn. 312) The north end of St. Giles's Street retained a partly rural character throughout the Middle Ages, and presumably many of the houses near the edge of the built-up area were used as farm-houses. The width of Broad Street accords with evidence of its use as a market-place; it was called Horsemonger Street by the 13th century, (fn. 313) and North Gate, or the area just outside it, may have been called Horsport in the 12th century. (fn. 314) There is little, however, to connect St. Giles's Street, a similarly wide area, with an early market, (fn. 315) and its shape may owe something to its position at the convergence of two major roads; in the 16th century it had the character of a village green, with a pond in the centre of the road south of St. Giles's church, (fn. 316) and it may have been found convenient from the first to use the space between the converging roads as a green. A western suburb in St. Thomas's parish developed in the late 12th century and 13th, perhaps encouraged by Oseney abbey, which built St. Thomas's church there in the 1180s. An agreement of c. 1220 about a party wall suggests that there was already pressure on the space available there. (fn. 317)
A survey of Oxford in 1279 (fn. 318) listed 466 houses, 147 shops, 32 cottages, and c. 48 other properties (solars, cellars, taverns, schools, etc.) within the walls: there were 62 houses on Grandpont, c. 66 houses and 110 cottages in St. Thomas's parish, excluding the rural settlement at Twentyacre, near the modern Jericho, and 177 houses, 28 cottages, and 8 shops in Northgate hundred, excluding the detached settlement of Walton. The total of c. 1,114 properties should perhaps be increased to c. 1,400 to allow for the incomplete state of the survey for the north-east and south-east wards, and for accidental omissions. (fn. 319) There was more housing in St. Clement's, just across Magdale'n Bridge but outside the town's boundaries; it appears to have been a largely rural community.
The central parishes of All Saints, St. Martin's, St. Aldate's, and St. Michael at the Northgate were the most heavily built up, and the extramural parishes of St. Mary Magdalen and St. Michael at the Southgate were also densely settled. Property values were on the whole highest in the very centre of the town and along High Street, and lowest in the suburbs. There is a suggestion of an inner ring of poorer property on the fringes of the trading area, in the parishes of St. Ebbe's, St. Peter-le-Bailey, St. Mildred's, and St. Michael at the Northgate. In those parishes the average value of properties was only between 6s. and 10s. each, compared with 19s. for St. Mary's parish and 15s. or 16s. for St. Peter-in-the-East, All Saints, and St. Martin's. St. John's parish, however, did not share the characteristics of the other 'fringe' areas; the average property value was 16s. and the parish contained a number of larger houses. Areas of medium wealth were St. Aldate's parish and Grandpont (between 13s. and 14s.); although it was a suburb Grandpont thus appears to have been more desirable than many of the inner parishes, but the other suburbs were poor, with average values of 7s. in the northern suburb and only c. 3s. 6d. in St. Thomas's parish. (fn. 320)
Most of the shops recorded in 1279 were in Cornmarket Street and High Street: there were 77 in the north-east ward and 53 in the north-west, compared with only 8 in the south-west, 7 iri the south-east, and 8 in Northgate hundred. There were more or less clearly defined quarters for the more important trades, the sites of the freemen's permanent shops. (fn. 321) On the west side of Cornmarket, just north of Carfax, lay the drapery, first recorded c. 1220; in 1349 the Cornmarket frontage was called the old drapery, and there were shops in a new drapery in Drapery Lane, which ran west from Cornmarket and turned north into Shoe Lane. (fn. 322) North of the drapery was the cordwainery, recorded c. 1245 and in 1388. (fn. 323) On the east side of Cornmarket was a skinners' quarter, recorded in 1260, on the site of the Golden Cross, and further north, near Market Street, was a corvisery, recorded c. 1261 and in 1326, apparently identical with a cobblers' quarter of 1354. (fn. 324) Lorimers' and furriers' quarters recorded c. 1225 and 1277 were also in Cornmarket, the former in St. Michael's parish, the latter in St. Martin's. (fn. 325)
The shambles were at the west end of High Street, called Butchers' Street c. 1218. (fn. 326) In the 13th century there were butchers' shops on both sides of the street, in both St. Martin's and All Saints parishes. (fn. 327) In front of the shops there seem to have been stalls, which were permanent enough to be bought and sold with the property. (fn. 328) Later references to the shambles relate to the south side of the street, which was still occupied by butchers in the late 15th century; (fn. 329) butchers' shops, like their market stalls, may have been confined to one side of the street, perhaps as a result of successful efforts to reduce the nuisance caused by butchering. (fn. 330) After complaints from the early 14th century onwards much of the slaughtering of beasts was apparently done outside the town wall in Brewer Street, called Slaying Lane by the late 15th century. (fn. 331) On the north side of High Street, east of All Saints church, was a spicery, recorded between c. 1245 and 1406; (fn. 332) further west was a goldsmiths' quarter, recorded in 1259. (fn. 333) In St. Martin's parish were a mercery, probably on the east side of Cornmarket near Carfax, (fn. 334) a vintnery on the east side of St. Aldate's Street, (fn. 335) and a cooks' row, probably on the west side of St. Aldate's. (fn. 336) A cutlery and an armoury of unknown location were recorded in 1298. (fn. 337) The twice-weekly market was held in High Street, from Carfax to St. Mary's church, in St. Aldate's Street, from Carfax to just below the town hall, in the east end of Queen Street, and in the whole of Cornmarket Street; all those streets were fairly wide. (fn. 338) St. Aldate's Street was called Fish Street (fn. 339) because it was the site of the fishmongers' stalls, which, like those of the butchers, became permanent structures. Although corn was sold in Cornmarket Street, that name did not replace Northgate Street until a roofed market-place was built in the street in 1536. (fn. 340)
The Jewish quarter lay in St. Martin's and St. Aldate's parishes, on both sides of St. Aldate's Street. (fn. 341) The house which became the guild hall was probably only one of several substantial stone properties in the area. The synagogue, known as the Jews' school and later Burnel's Inn, was on the east side of the street on the site of the north-west tower of Christ Church. (fn. 342) Between 1180 and 1231 the community also acquired a burial ground outside East Gate. Much of it was granted by Henry III to the hospital of St. John in 1231, (fn. 343) but the Jews retained the area south of the road until their expulsion in 1290. (fn. 344)
The traders who depended on the university for a livelihood were concentrated in St. Mary's parish or St. Peter's-in-the-East. Among the 13th-century householders in Catte Street were 4 bookbinders, 4 parchment-makers, 4 limners, a copyist, and a scrivener; (fn. 345) in Schools Street were a limner, a parchment-maker, and a scrivener. (fn. 346) In the eastern part of High Street there were 2 limners and a scrivener; (fn. 347) another bookbinder held land in Kybald Street, and a copyist outside the East Gate. (fn. 348) Only scriveners, recorded in St. Giles's Street, Stockwell Street, and Holywell, as well as in St. Martin's and St. John's parishes, (fn. 349) were widely dispersed. In 1279 the university's own properties, only 6 schools and 7 houses, lay in the eastern part of the town, all but two in the parishes of St. Mary or St. Peter-in-the-East; most other schools, such as those owned by Oseney abbey, lay in Schools Street or Catte Street, close to St. Mary's church, which was the centre of the university even before the congregation house was built in the early 14th century. (fn. 350) Although few academic halls may be identified with certainty before the 14th century many probably lay close to St. Mary's; some, such as Broadgates and Haberdasher Hall in High Street, were in the commercial area of the town, and were fronted by shops. (fn. 351) Of the five colleges established by 1300 only Merton and Durham had specialized buildings; (fn. 352) and the earliest surviving ranges of what later became Mob quadrangle in Merton suggest that college buildings at that date were not markedly different in scale from other houses in the town.
Architecturally Oxford was still dominated by its walls, gates, castle, and churches. Nearly all the parish churches were enlarged by the addition of chantry chapels in the later 13th or earlier 14th century; St. Martin's, the town church, St. Mary the Virgin, and St. Peter-in-the-East were particularly imposing, and Merton College by 1300 had completed the large choir and sacristy of the new church of St. John. The religious houses were mostly around the edge of the town; St. Frideswide's priory, refounded in 1122, was the only monastic house within the walls. Oseney abbey founded in 1129, dominated the western approach to the town, and north of it stood the much smaller Rewley abbey, founded in 1281 as a place of study for Cistercian monks. Outside East Gate was the hospital of St. John the Baptist, its buildings north of the road to the bridge, its cemetery to the south. In the 1240s the Dominican friars built their large church and friary outside Littlegate, and the Franciscans built a little to the west. The Austin friars settled on the site of the later Wadham College in 1268, and the Carmelites moved from Stockwell Street to the king's houses in 1318.
The decline of Oxford's population in the later Middle Ages led to contraction of the built-up area and some physical decay. There are a few references to empty plots and derelict houses in the late 13th and early 14th century, (fn. 353) but such references become commonplace later. In 1370 it was reported that even in the main streets some houses were being pulled down and others were falling down because tenants, particularly those of houses in multiple occupation, were failing to carry out repairs. (fn. 354) The most obvious contraction was in the southern and northern suburbs. At least three houses on Grandpont became gardens, (fn. 355) and tenements in Speedwell Street were not apparently occupied in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 356) Outside North Gate George Street, which had been built up in the late 12th and 13th centuries, became waste ground called Broken Hayes (hedges); (fn. 357) at least seven properties in Broad Street became gardens or waste ground between 1329 and 1373, and there seems to have been little or no 15th- or 16th-century occupation at the east end of the street on the site of the New Bodleian Library. (fn. 358)
Inside the walls decay was worst in the eastern part of the town, but it was masked by the expansion of the university, particularly the newly founded colleges, into vacant areas. Between 1317 and 1412 Merton College acquired much of the land between Merton Street and the town wall. The Queen's College acquired the northern part of its site, in Queen's Lane, between 1341 and 1347, and a frontage on the High Street in 1357. Oriel College obtained its site in Shidyerd Street between 1329 and 1392, and University and Exeter Colleges their sites in High Street and Turl Street between 1332 and 1336. (fn. 359) In 1364 St. Frideswide's priory gave a site, including 9 empty plots, for the foundation of the Benedictine Canterbury College on the site of the later Canterbury quadrangle, Christ Church, (fn. 360) and between 1370 and 1379 William of Wykeham bought 51 vacant plots and a house in the north-east corner of the town for the foundation of New College. (fn. 361) College building slowed in the 15th century, but Henry Chichele bought 9 tenements in Catte Street and High Street between 1437 and 1440 for All Souls, Lincoln College acquired its site in Turl Street between 1430 and 1463, and in 1448 William Wayneflete obtained 9 tenements and 3 gardens between High Street and Merton Street for Magdalen Hall. (fn. 362) In 1427 the university started work on its first major building, the Divinity School and library at the north end of Schools Street. (fn. 363)
A reconstruction of the history of the area between the eastern ends of High Street and Merton Street illustrates several features of Oxford's changing topography in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 364) Some 35 tenements there in the late 13th century appear to have been in full occupation, but by the mid 15th century amalgamation and decay had reduced their number to perhaps 18; there were several large gardens including the sites of Chimney Hall and Hart Hall on Logic Lane, while two tenements and two shops at the corner of Merton Street had been merged into a single academic hall. An inn, the Tabard (later the Angel) had been extended southwards from High Street as far as Harehall Lane, presumably providing stabling on former house sites. It was in that area that Wayneflete was able to acquire the site of Magdalen Hall.
In Cornmarket a hall had become a vacant plot by 1357, and the shops fronting the site needed to be rebuilt in 1376; (fn. 365) by 1374 at least one house in High Street had become a toft. (fn. 366) A large house with 5 adjoining shops at the corner of Jury Lane and Alfred Street had become a garden by 1390. (fn. 367) Halls in Brasenose Lane and Schools Street, and 2 houses in Turl Street, disappeared in the course of the 14th century. A house in High Street was in ruins in 1487, and another, recorded in 1442, had become an empty plot by 1484. In Merton Street a large academic hall became a garden between 1487 and 1517, and an adjacent hall was ruinous in 1513. (fn. 368) In 1496 there was even a vacant plot near Carfax. (fn. 369)
There are fewer references to decay in the western part of the town, perhaps because of inferior documentation. A house in Queen Street had become a vacant plot by 1353 and a garden by 1422; (fn. 370) a house in Beef Hall Lane became a toft between 1376 and 1390 and tenements in Newmarket and Church Street were gardens in 1448 and 1454. (fn. 371) There are indications that the prosperity of St. Peter-le-Bailey parish declined seriously in the later Middle Ages, and it seems unlikely that the area escaped the physical contraction and decay evident elsewhere.
Later medieval tax lists provide only the broadest indications of the relative prosperity of different areas of the town, since parishes varied widely in size and social structure and their population is unknown. In general the earlier lists show, predictably, that taxable wealth was concentrated in the central commercial area, in the parishes of St. Martin's and All Saints, and was spread thinly in the outer suburbs, notably in St. Thomas's parish. Comparison of the lists of 1327 and 1334 (see Table I) with evidence of property values in 1279 suggests that the relatively low assessments of some parishes, which are known to have contained lucrative property, may be explained by the ascendency there of the university, whose members were not likely to be taxed highly on goods. Thus the parishes of St. Peter-in-the-East, St. Mary the Virgin, and St. John's were assessed much lower than might be expected from evidence of property values, and it was in those parishes that the university is known to have been most predominant. Some of the parishes on the fringe of the commercial area, such as St. Ebbe's and St. Peter-le-Bailey, contained some wealthy, but probably many poor, inhabitants; both those parishes ranked highly in 1327 on the basis of average individual assessments, for relatively few people were assessed there. St. Peter-le-Bailey became a place for leading burgesses to live in, although few appear to have favoured it before the second quarter of the 14th century. Of the mayors and bailiffs between 1300 and 1500 whose addresses are known, as many as 28 lived in St. Peter's, compared with 30 in All Saints, only 25 in St. Martin's, 13 and 12 in St. Michael at the Northgate and St. Aldate's, and 10 in St. Mary Magdalen parish; few lived in the university area (only 9 in St. Mary's and 4 in St. Peter-in-the-East, although both contained numerous High Street sites), and none is known to have lived in St. Thomas's parish. (fn. 372)
Despite housing some prominent men St. Peter-le-Bailey parish declined in overall prosperity, and by 1452 its assessment had been reduced to almost half that of 1334, and its actual payments in 1445 and 1452 were less than half its earlier assessments. (fn. 373) By 1524 (fn. 374) it was apparently the poorest parish in Oxford, and St. Michael at the Northgate, also on the fringe of the commercial area, was not much wealthier. By that date the suburban parishes of St. Mary Magdalen and St. Thomas had emerged as centres of population and wealth. Mayors and bailiffs began to live in the northern suburb in the late 14th century, and by 1513 St. Mary Magdalen was assessed third highest among Oxford parishes. (fn. 375) Its improved fortunes may have been associated with the growing importance of victualling, particularly brewing, in the town's economy.
There were several minor changes in the street plan during the later Middle Ages. At least part of the lane between Oriel Street and Alfred Street, known as Shitbarn Lane, was closed before 1306, and the whole of it before 1397. (fn. 376) Rents were paid to the city in 1387 for three other lanes: one between New Inn Hall Street and the castle ditch, one outside South Gate leading to the 'shelving stool', and one in St. Aldate's churchyard. (fn. 377) The lanes were not completely closed then for 'the little lane leading to shelving stool' was recorded in 1481, and permission was given in 1434 to close the lane in St. Aldate's churchyard, provided that a way remained open to a tenement there. (fn. 378) More important changes were made in 1378 when William of Wykeham was allowed to incorporate part of the intra-mural road in the north-east corner of the town into the site of his college, and c. 1390 when he diverted the western end of the surviving road around the college cloister. (fn. 379) In 1447 the town granted to St. John's hospital Harehall or Nightingalehall Lane between Logic Lane and Merton Street; the lane, reputedly a haunt of suspicious persons, was closed and in 1448 included in the site of Magdalen Hall. (fn. 380) A strip along the east side of Queen's Lane was given in 1403 to enlarge St. Peter's churchyard, and in 1435 a strip along the south side of Brasenose Lane was granted to Lincoln College. (fn. 381)
Although the number of houses was reduced there was a considerable amount of building. The name New Rent, later given to houses built near Carfax in 1361, (fn. 382) suggests building for investment. Several landlords, including Oseney abbey, St. John's hospital, and the colleges, built or repaired properties regularly in the 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 383) Sometimes leases included a provision that the tenant should rebuild or extend the house; such leases were made in the 13th century, but became much more common in the 14th and 15th centuries, particularly in the period c. 1350 to c. 1450, from which 24 survive. In 1386 John Gibbes, a wealthy vintner and former mayor, leased a large plot of land from the church of St. Michael at the Northgate, and agreed to build houses on it and let them at farm. (fn. 384) In 1475 and 1477 Magdalen College leased tenements in St. Aldate's to the mason William Orchard, apparently so that he could rebuild them. (fn. 385) Several building leases relate to land in St. Thomas's parish, and it is possible that there was expansion there in the early 15th century; 5 new houses were recorded in the 1420s and 1430s. (fn. 386) It may be significant, too, that the nave of St. Thomas's church was largely rebuilt and extended westwards in the 15th or early 16th century. In 1482 provision was made for the division into several dwellings of a tenement in St. Edward's parish. (fn. 387)
The scale of college building in the later Middle Ages radically altered the appearance of the eastern part of the town, as large stone buildings and high-walled enclosures became predominant. The 13th- and early-14th-century foundations developed piecemeal, the earliest quadrangle, in Merton College, assuming its shape almost accidentally with the building of the library in the 1370s; later colleges followed the example of New College, founded in 1379, arranging the chief buildings around spacious quadrangles. The only medieval college comparable in scale to New College, however, was Magdalen, built between 1458 and c. 1483 on the site of St. John's hospital outside East Gate. (fn. 388) Besides the college buildings there were the academic halls, some of which may have been specially built or enlarged although others were ordinary houses. (fn. 389) Their distribution shows the preference of the university for sites in the eastern part of the town, except for a group of halls in Pennyfarthing Street and Beef Hall Lane and the important Trillock's Inn (later New Inn Hall); the largest groups of known academic halls were between High Street and Merton Street, in Schools Street, and on the east side of Catte Street. (fn. 390) The fall in the number of academic halls to only 8 by the mid 16th century (fn. 391) presumably meant that there were several large, vacant, and perhaps derelict properties in the eastern part of the town by that date.
Later-medieval domestic buildings were mostly timber-framed, but sometimes stone was used for the lower walls or for party walls; no. 28 Cornmarket Street, although much altered, provides an example of late-medieval timber construction. (fn. 392) Building contracts specified good oak or elm timber for walls and rafters, and tiles or slates for roofs. (fn. 393) Shops disappeared from some back streets, but in High Street and Cornmarket the pattern of a row of shops along the street frontage with halls and other buildings behind them continued. The shops, and sometimes the solars and cellars, were still held separately from the rest of the tenement. In 1400 New College granted a lease of a shop and a cellar, each 7 feet wide, and the solar above them which was 14 feet wide and extended over a neighbouring shop in other ownership. (fn. 394) Cellars were frequently semi-basements with separate entrances on the street; one built in 1396 had stone steps leading down to a door facing the street, and windows under what was presumably an open stall at street level. (fn. 395) Most houses seem to have had two storeys above the cellar, but from the mid 14th century onwards extra floors were sometimes added. In 1348 a house called the Garret at Carfax had several solars built one above the other. (fn. 396) Chimneys were first recorded in the mid 14th century, and were usually of stone. (fn. 397)
Many houses, particularly those used as academic halls and inns, were large and complex buildings. Those built behind street frontages were usually entered by gateways between the shops. (fn. 398) Marshall's Inn in Cornmarket, the most imposing house of which account survives, in 1380 was entered by a gateway with two chambers over it; two stair turrets flanking the gateway were linked by a gallery. On the far side of a courtyard, and parallel to the street, was a hall containing an oriel window, and above it a great chamber. The south range of the courtyard contained two chambers and on the north was a 'middle solar' with a cellar beneath it; towards the garden, on the west, were more chambers and a brewery. The house was extensively rebuilt by Oseney abbey in 1458 and 1478, and demolished c. 1550. A smaller, neighbouring tenement survived, incorporated in the Clarendon Hotel, until 1955. It stood at right angles to the street and contained a barrel-vaulted cellar, mainly of 14th-century date but with a 12th-century arch at its west end. On the ground floor was a room 27 feet by 13 feet with two narrow shops on the street frontage; above was a solar with a fireplace, and in the roof a cock-loft. The ground floor had been 6 feet or 7 feet above the medieval street level, and both the ground-floor room and solar were only c. 7 feet high. (fn. 399) The surviving north wing of the Golden Cross in Cornmarket, rebuilt by New College in the late 15th century, was part of an L-shaped tenement, round two sides of a courtyard; the shorter arm of the L, along the street, contained shops with a solar over them, the longer arm, the parlour, hall, buttery, and kitchen. (fn. 400)
Tackley's Inn in High Street, built c. 1320, comprised a hall and chambers leased to scholars, behind a frontage of 5 shops, with solars above and a cellar of 5 bays below. The hall, which was open to the roof, was 33 feet long, 20 feet wide, and c. 22 feet high; at the east end was a large chamber with another chamber above it. The south wall of the building, which survives, was partly of stone and contained a large two-light early-14th-century window; the cellar, of the same date, is the best preserved medieval cellar in Oxford, and has a quadripartite stone vault and carved corbels. Originally it was entered by stone steps from the street. By 1442 the property was divided; the eastern part was an inn, probably comprising two of the shops with their solars, the whole of the cellar, and the large rear chamber, while the western part continued as an academic hall, perhaps comprising the other shops and solars and the great hall. (fn. 401) Another academic hall, on the site of nos. 46-7 High Street, comprised a hall with a principal chamber at one end, 2 upper and 3 lower chambers, a brew-house, and a kitchen; (fn. 402) Broadgates Hall in High Street by 1469 contained 6 upper chambers (of which 4 were over shops), 5 lower chambers, a kitchen, and a latrine; one of the chambers was called Chapel chamber. (fn. 403) The 15th-century Beam Hall in Merton Street comprised only a hall and a solar above the screens passage. (fn. 404) An example of a passage-type house, built at right angles to the street along a narrow court, was an-early-15th-century house in Catte Street; it was of 3 storeys at the street end and 2 at the rear, and the hall was on the first floor at the rear, overlooking the garden. (fn. 405) A 15th-century house in Broad Street contained a hall at right angles to the street, with an entry beside it, over a cellar; behind the hall was a solar, above a semi-basement room. (fn. 406) In the suburbs, where there was more space, it was probably usual for houses to be built parallel to the street; a house built in St. Thomas's parish in 1450 comprised a hall on the street, flanked at each end by a chamber and solar, and a similar house survived in St. Thomas's High Street until the 19th century. (fn. 407)
By the early 10th century, when there were apparently four moneyers in the town, (fn. 408) Oxford was an important centre of commerce, and it remained a minting place until the closure of provincial mints in 1250. (fn. 409) Its continuing prosperity in the early Middle Ages owed much to its location at the centre of a major corn-producing area, (fn. 410) close to the Cotswold wool-producing area, and on trade routes from the Midlands to Southampton, and from London through Gloucester to the Welsh border. In the late Saxon period pottery made in Stamford (Lincs.) and around Bedford and Cambridge was used in Oxford, and the distribution of some 13th-century wares made in the Oxford region, perhaps at Brill (Bucks.), shows the continuing use of lines of communication along the clay vale from Cambridge to north Wiltshire and east Gloucestershire. (fn. 411) River trade on the Thames between Oxford and London was well established by the early 11th century, when merchants from both places joined in persuading the abbot of Abingdon to make a new cut in the river near his abbey to aid navigation. (fn. 412) In the early 12th century Oxford merchants were entitled to view and buy goods from Lorraine merchants in London after the king's chamberlains and the London merchants, but before merchants from Winchester and the rest of England; (fn. 413) the privilege, not recorded in later versions of the rules for Lorraine merchants in London, may have dated from the time of Oxford's greatest economic importance, the early 11th century.
Cloth and leather played an important part in the town's economy. Flax-retting and leather-working were apparently carried on in the Grandpont area c. 800, (fn. 414) and Oxford's privileges, as granted to the new borough of Burford between 1088 and 1107, included a reservation to the inhabitants of the sale of wool and leather. (fn. 415) By 1130 guilds of weavers and corvisers had been established in Oxford. (fn. 416) Henry II and John bought cloth at Oxford, and seven times between 1230 and 1263 the town supplied cloth, mostly the coarser russets and burels, for the king to give in alms; 900 ells were supplied in 1232 and smaller amounts later. (fn. 417) Royal officers bought furs in Oxford for the king in 1250, and shoes to give in alms in 1259 and 1266. (fn. 418) Cordwainers and tanners, some of them important men in the town, were recorded regularly in the 12th and 13th centuries; Oseney abbey possessed a tannery in 1283. (fn. 419) The town's cloth industry, better documented in its decline than at its height, was still profitable enough in the mid 13th century to attract the interest of some of Oxford's leading merchants.
Supplying the needs of local consumers, however, played an increasingly important part in Oxford's economy in the 12th and 13th centuries. The royal palace and the castle created business for builders and for victuallers. Royal visits, of course, cost the town money; the mayor and bailiffs spent c. £80 on the king's expenses in 1216 and 1217, but in 1220 the king spent £100 on Christmas festivities at Oxford. (fn. 420) Although food and drink were sent from other towns and royal estates, much was presumably supplied by Oxford merchants. In 1256, while the king was at Woodstock, 42 tuns of wine were taken from Oxford merchants for his use, and in 1264 10 tuns were taken for the king when he spent Christmas in Oxford. (fn. 421) The need for extra lodgings for the court provided valuable income to townsmen, although in 1255 an Oxford innkeeper was granted that no one should be lodged with him against his will when the king was in Oxford. (fn. 422) In 1312 the provisioning of the castle involved the purchase in Oxford markets of 30 qr. of wheat, 60 qr. of malt, 10 qr. of salt, 10 carcases of beef, 40 pigs, 500 stockfish, and 4 tuns of wine. (fn. 423)
Far more important than such intermittent sources of income was the rapidly increasing academic community. Until the later Middle Ages most students lived in lodgings or academic halls, yielding substantial rents, providing a body of consumers for Oxford tradesmen, particularly victuallers, and attracting to the town specialist craftsmen such as bookbinders. (fn. 424) The economic value of the university was recognized in 1265 when the baronial council ordered the removal of the developing university at Northampton because it might injure the interests of the borough of Oxford. (fn. 425) The monastic houses, too, were significant employers and consumers, buying in the town's markets, and, as the centres of widespread rural estates, attracting men and goods into Oxford; the coming of the friars in the 13th century created building work, as well as deflecting further income, mostly drawn from outside the town, into the pockets of Oxford tradesmen.
Although the number of men engaged in 'service trades' such as victualling probably increased greatly in the 13th century, the cloth and leather industries remained prominent; occupational surnames recorded in 1279 (fn. 426) included 16 leather-workers, 9 cloth-workers, 10 tailors, 6 building workers, 5 mercers and a spicer, and 3 taverners; 15 names were derived from metal crafts, but 8 were of members of the wealthy Goldsmith family, most of whom were no longer goldsmiths. The university's influence accounted for surnames denoting 3 bookbinders, 2 copyists, a limner, and a parchment-maker. No reference was made to many trades, notably fulling, gloving, and drapery, which are known to have been practised in Oxford in the 13th century. (fn. 427)
Jews had settled in Oxford by 1141, and by 1208 the town was one of those in which a Jews' archa or chest for the safe-keeping of their chirographs had been established. (fn. 428) Although the community was small, probably never more than 200 people, some of its members were among the wealthiest Jews in England, and one family made the largest contribution to the Northampton donum of 1194. (fn. 429) Simeon of Oxford, son of Moses of Bristol, lent Henry d'Oilly a sum which, with interest, amounted to £1,015 when it was taken into the king's hand in 1208. (fn. 430) Many prominent Oxford Jews were ruined by King John's financial exactions, and arrears were still being collected in 1220. (fn. 431) In the 1230s and early 1240s David of Oxford who at one time or another worked with other prominent Jews in York, Hereford, and London, had dealings all over the country, and numbered Walter de Lacy and Simon de Montfort among his clients. His initial contribution to the tallage of 1241 was the second largest in England, and on his death in 1244 his widow paid relief of 5,000 marks. Jacob of Oxford, grandson of Simeon of Oxford, in conjunction with his brothers in other parts of the country, carried on a large business; his debtors included men from Lincolnshire and Norfolk as well as local landowners and burgesses. Most of his extensive property in Oxford, London, and York was seized by Queen Eleanor on his death in 1277. (fn. 432) Edward I's repressive measures reduced the Oxford community to comparative poverty. Several of its members were hanged for coin-clipping in 1279, and their property, worth £130, was confiscated. (fn. 433) Only 6 Jewish householders were recorded in Oxford in 1279, (fn. 434) and at the final expulsion in 1290 there were 9, with total assets of only £450, over half belonging to one man. (fn. 435)
Until the mid 14th century there were frequent references to Oxford merchants, particularly those concerned with cloth and wine. A merchant returning to Oxford from London figured in a reported miracle of St. Frideswide c. 1180, and two Oxford merchants supplied cloth to King John in 1204. (fn. 436) In 1226 the abbot of Thorney claimed that Oxford merchants paid toll at his market in Yaxley (Hunts.). (fn. 437) A writ addressed to merchants attending Winchester fair in 1224 assumed that Oxford merchants would be there. (fn. 438) Oxford merchants also attended fairs at Holland (Lines.) in 1226, at Northampton in 1248, at St. Ives (Hunts.) in 1249, 1254, 1270, and 1275, and at Boston (Lines.) in 1310. (fn. 439) Oxford's own fair, St. Frideswide's, attracted merchants from all over England. Foreign merchants came regularly to Oxford: French merchants were expected to be there in 1234, cloth was taken there from merchants from Douai in 1251, and Flemish merchants were exempted from Oxford murage in 1260. (fn. 440)
Many Oxford merchants dealt in both cloth and wine. John of Coleshill, who sold cloth at Northampton fair in 1248, supplied wine to Henry III at Woodstock in 1242 and at Winchester fair in 1259; he imported his wine through Southampton. (fn. 441) William Cutler, amerced in 1242 in Oxford for breaking the assize of wine, sold cloth at St. Ives fair in 1249; he was also proctor of the Friars Minor, who obtained for him a grant of exemption from tallage for life. (fn. 442) Nicholas of Kingston, described as a vintner when he was mayor in 1264, employed weavers in 1275. (fn. 443) Three Oxford men were given licence to export wool in 1272, and one of them, William of Winchester, sometimes called William Spicer, also imported wine at Southampton; in 1273 he was allowed to export 20 sacks of wool. (fn. 444) One of the most prominent 13th-century Oxford merchants, Adam Fettiplace, imported wine at Southampton, apparently in his own ship, but probably had similarly diverse interests; his debtors included Richard Siward, lord of Headington manor, Warin FitzGerald, and Oseney abbey, the last for a loan of as much as £40. (fn. 445)
There were strong trading contacts with London in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. (fn. 446) Oxford's claim to be free of toll in London was disputed in 1232. (fn. 447) In 1292 Oxford burgesses bought wine from 'strangers' in London, contrary to the liberties of the city, and others complained c. 1300 that despite their privileges they were being charged toll and custom in London. (fn. 448) In 1301 the mayor and sheriffs of London were ordered to restore distresses taken from Oxford merchants for non-payment of toll. (fn. 449) In 1328 London citizens complained that they had been prevented from selling their goods freely in Oxford. (fn. 450) In 1330 the Londoners agreed to allow to Oxford merchants the liberties confirmed or granted in their charter of 1327, except that they should pay the custom of tronage on exported wools, woolfells, and hides, and on imported wine; nor might they sell retail in London or buy wines wholesale from foreign merchants. Oxford complained that in spite of London's acceptance of the 1327 charter the mayor and sheriffs continued to disturb Oxford burgesses and make them pay heavy customs, and in 1331 the London husting confirmed its acceptance of the Oxford charter. (fn. 451) There were similar difficulties at Southampton where in 1339 or 1340 Oxford took action to secure recognition of its freedom from barbicanage. (fn. 452)
Most of the town's leaders in the early 14th century were probably merchants, although the trading interests of Robert Worminghall, apparently the wealthiest of them, are not known. William of Bicester and another Oxford burgess were among merchants summoned to London in 1319 to make ordinances for the staple, and in 1328 William was exporting wool through London. (fn. 453) John of Ducklington, a clothier, was dealing with German merchants in 1324; (fn. 454) earlier he seems to have had connexions with Queen Isabella, at whose petition he was exempted in 1310 from serving on assizes or inquisitions or being a town or local officer, although he later served as mayor frequently. (fn. 455) John of Coleshill, grandson of the mid-13th-century Oxford merchant of that name, had dealings with the elder Despenser, to whom he owed as much as £200. (fn. 456) Stephen of Addington, owed a substantial sum by Edward III in 1343, was repaid by a remittance on customs he owed in London. Robert of Bridport owed £60 to Italian merchants in 1344. (fn. 457)
The continuing wealth of Oxford's merchant class in the early 14th century is confirmed by a royal tallage of 1312. (fn. 458) The assessment was based on a fifteenth of movables and a tenth of rent-income, and in Oxford, those with goods worth less than 15s. or rent below 10s. were exempt. (fn. 459) A total of 250 persons, excluding the heads of two religious houses, were assessed on movables, and 41 of those were also assessed on rent; 40, of whom at least 6 were university men, several were widows, and many others presumably lived outside the town, were assessed on rent only. The 290 individual taxpayers were assessed on goods worth c. £1,607 and rent worth c. £312 10s.; several religious houses and a few parish clergy were assessed on rent-income of c. £576, and the university and colleges on rent of c. £39 10s. Wealth was concentrated in the hands of relatively few men, most of them identifiable as merchants: 62 per cent of the 285 taxpayers whose assessments are legible were taxed on less than £5 in rent and goods, and 93 per cent on less than £20. Of the 19 men assessed on more than £20 by far the most prominent were Robert and Philip Worminghall, respectively assessed on goods worth £70 and £50, and rent of £17 10s. and £13. Such assessments were high by national standards: no Bristol merchant, for example, was assessed on goods worth more than £66 13s. 4d., and the slightly lower proportion there of taxpayers assessed on goods worth more than £20 (fn. 460) suggests that Oxford retained its share of wealthy individuals.
In 1327 425 people were assessed for the lay subsidy at a twentieth of movables worth a total of c. £1,246. (fn. 461) Such a rise in the number of taxpayers between the tallage and the subsidy was apparently unusual, (fn. 462) although partly explained in Oxford by the reduction of the minimum value of taxable goods to 10s. An apparent fall in overall wealth was common, however, and it seems likely that methods of assessment had changed and that neither tax gives a reliable indication of real wealth. The most significant change in Oxford seems to have been the death of the two Worminghalls, Philip in 1314 and Robert in 1324; (fn. 463) no-one of such outstanding wealth had taken their place, and Oxford's highest individual assessment was on goods worth £30 compared with £43 and £40 in Bristol. (fn. 464) The distribution of wealth, allowing for the much lower assessments, was similar to that of 1312, with over 70 per cent of taxpayers assessed on less than £3, 83 per cent on less than £5, and 10 men assessed much higher than the rest at over £20. There was considerable turnover among leading families between 1312 and 1327: of the top 10 per cent of taxpayers the family names of fewer than two-thirds survived, and of the top 10 per cent of taxpayers in 1327 two-fifths were from families unrepresented in 1312.
The town's decline in population and overall prosperity, revealed in abundant signs of physical contraction and decay, and by a dramatic fall in its taxable capacity compared with that of other towns, (fn. 465) was a gradual process, perhaps at its most severe after the Black Death but possibly beginning in the later 13th century, despite the survival of a small group of prosperous merchants well into the 14th century. Oseney abbey's income from its Oxford property was falling steadily in the later 13th century, largely because of arrears. (fn. 466) In the early 14th century some rents were formally reduced, others were allowed to 'decay', the abbey agreeing to accept less than the nominal rent for a property. Nevertheless arrears of rent accumulated and many properties fell vacant. A sharp decline in the early 14th century coincided with, and was probably caused by, a time of high food prices which culminated in the European famine between 1315 and 1317. (fn. 467) A slight recovery in rents after 1317 was checked by a further period of dearth in the early 1320s, (fn. 468) marked by a low point in the rentals of both Oseney abbey and St. John's hospital. No Oseney rentals survive for the period between 1327 and the Black Death, but the hospital's rental increased again in the 1330s and 1340s, reaching c. £112 in 1346, compared with c. £99 in 1325. (fn. 469) Oseney abbey, St. John's hospital, and St. Frideswide's priory all took action to recover arrears of rent between 1300 and 1343. (fn. 470)
Contemporaries were aware of a decline in the town's fortunes. In 1334 William of Bicester was accused by a butcher of carrying out his duties as mayor so badly that during his terms of office (9 years between 1311 and 1332) the town had declined faster than ever before. (fn. 471) In 1328 the burgesses blamed the increased powers of the chancellor's court for the town's desertion by 'foreign' merchants, which greatly impoverished the townsmen. (fn. 472) In 1350 the same consequences were attributed to excessive toll and other customs exacted in the town, and, with royal approval if not persuasion, the burgesses gave up their right to toll on wool, wool-fells, and hides for ten years to encourage trade. (fn. 473)
Oxford's decline probably began with changes in the organization of the cloth industry, which affected many other large cloth towns in the 13th century as entrepreneurs became increasingly aware of the advantages of rural cloth production. (fn. 474) In the Oxford area at least the establishment of the industry in the countryside was probably motivated by a desire to escape the restrictive practices and high prices of the weavers' guild rather than to benefit from water-powered fulling-mills: one of the earliest recorded fulling-mills lay on the town's boundary at Seacourt by c. 1200, and there was at least one other, at Oseney, by the mid 13th century. (fn. 475) Although the leading burgesses closely controlled the weavers' guild, it seems clear that by the mid 13th century they felt hampered by its demands and restrictions; in 1275 some Oxford merchants were financing weaving establishments worked by men outside the guild. There were similar workers in near-by villages such as Islip. (fn. 476) The guild's right to control the industry within five leagues of the town may have encouraged weavers to move even further afield. The evidence of personal names suggests that cloth production was established in many Oxfordshire villages by 1279. (fn. 477) In the 1334 subsidy the high assessments of many villages, particularly in the Bampton and Witney area, may indicate the establishment there of cloth manufacture; at Standlake, for example, which was certainly a cloth-producing village in the later Middle Ages, there seem to have been textile workers and a significantly lucrative mill by 1279. (fn. 478) In 1275 the number of weavers in Oxford was said to have fallen from over 60 at the beginning of the century to barely 15, and by 1323 the burgesses claimed, possibly with some exaggeration, that there were no weavers left. (fn. 479) The weakening of a basic industry may not at first have damaged the town's leading men, some of whom benefited from rural cloth production, but its long-term effects were serious; although cloth continued to be made in Oxford, the industry never recovered its former importance, and indeed Oxford has been described, along with Northampton, Lincoln, and Stamford, as a 'permanent casualty' of changes of the 13th century. (fn. 480)
Other factors, however, contributed to Oxford's decline and, equally important, to its failure to recover from the initial setback. Many of the advantages which had influenced its rise were gradually lost. To some extent its decline relative to other towns reflects a comparative decline in the wealth of its county, (fn. 481) but even within its region Oxford appears to have lost ground. Its assessment for subsidy in 1334, although exceeded by that of Bampton and its 10 hamlets, was at least treble those of Faringdon, Abingdon, Bicester, and Banbury. By 1524, however, its assessment was not quite double that of Abingdon and not quite treble those of Burford, Henley, and Chipping Norton. (fn. 482) The growth of the newer towns and markets drew local trade away from Oxford; as early as the mid 12th century there were complaints about the competition of the growing market at Abingdon. (fn. 483) Long distance trade, too, may have decreased somewhat with the decline of St. Frideswide's and the other great fairs in the later Middle Ages.
The cessation of close royal contact with the town and growing difficulties in navigation on the river Thames were probably also important. The significance of river transport may have been exaggerated, (fn. 484) since the Thames seems to have been used more for the transport of food than of merchandise, road transport may have been no more costly, and the river's closure was irrelevant to Oxford's trade with Southampton; (fn. 485) even so the rise in prosperity of Henley in the later Middle Ages suggests that there was considerable economic advantage in being the head of navigation on the Thames. (fn. 486) Associated with the rise of Henley, and with the increasing dominance of the London market, was a change in road traffic which to some extent isolated Oxford; following the construction of a bridge at Abingdon in the early 15th century, (fn. 487) transport from Gloucester and the Cotswolds to London was attracted further south through Faringdon, Abingdon, and Henley, while the north-south route so crucial to Oxford's development probably became much less important than direct routes from the Midlands to London. Nevertheless, enough traffic passed through Oxford to support several inns, and the university licensed carriers to many parts of the country. (fn. 488)
Another possibly ominous trend for the future of the town's economy was the transfer during the 12th and 13th centuries of a large proportion of Oxford's domestic property to religious houses, either by purchase, gift, or grants in return for corrodies. By 1279 11 religious houses held over 100 properties in demesne and received rents from 420 others; in 1312 ecclesiastical corporations held over 62 per cent of the rent-income of the town as assessed for tallage, and another 4 per cent was held by the university and colleges. (fn. 489) Probably no large town other than Canterbury (fn. 490) was so completely taken over by ecclesiastical landlords; according to the tallage of 1312 for Bristol the proportion of rent-income held by ecclesiastical bodies, although there were 41 of them, was less than a quarter. (fn. 491) The loss by Oxford citizens of the control of a considerable volume of their capital assets presumably seriously reduced the scope for individual enterprise by merchants and tradesmen.
With the outbreak of the Hundred Years War Oxford's wine trade, which earlier seems to have been complementary to its trade in cloth and wool, was seriously damaged, (fn. 492) leaving the town even more dependent on supplying the needs of the university. Such a limited economy, while providing secure and profitable employment for a wide range of tradesmen, could hardly support as large a population as Oxford seems to have held in the earlier Middle Ages. If, as seems likely, the number of scholars fell during the later Middle Ages (fn. 493) the town population would have declined accordingly. Moreover few of those engaged in such localized trade were wealthy compared with members of the merchant class which finally died out in the mid 14th century. The constitutional victories of gown over town, almost complete by the mid 14th century, meant the loss not only of much freedom and prestige, presumably discouraging settlement in the town by enterprising men, but of powers and privileges that had been important sources of revenue to the town. In 1442 the townsmen argued that the sources from which the fee farm had once been paid were yielding hardly £20 a year, and that the burden of paying the residue as well as the town's unrealistic assessment for subsidy was driving men from the town; such burdens they claimed, had been laid on Oxford when it contained a large lay population, but now barely a third of the town was occupied by townsmen, the rest having been taken over by scholars and privileged persons who were exempt from payment. (fn. 494) Such complaints of poverty were commonplace among 15th-century townsmen, but the particular arguments of the Oxford burgesses may be significant.
If Oxford had been flourishing in 1348 the Black Death might have caused only a temporary setback, but it struck a town which had already lost or was losing many of its economic advantages. Its immediate effect on the population was catastrophic, and its impact on the number of scholars in the university may also have been serious; (fn. 495) although there was some recovery in the later 14th century, it seems likely that so dramatic a disruption, followed by a succession of epidemics in the later Middle Ages, made some contribution to the further contraction of the town.
The urban rents of Oseney abbey and St. John's hospital reached a low point in the early 1350s, but Oseney's rent-income by the 1380s seems to have been about the same as in the 1320s; although the hospital's rental after 1349 never reached the level even of 1325, which was lower than in the 1340s, it reached c. £89 by 1384, more than double its value in 1351. (fn. 496) Despite evidence of increasing decay in the town, and another complaint by townsmen of their poverty c. 1360, (fn. 497) there was some investment in urban property, notably by the burgess John of Studley (d. 1371); he was able to build up in the aftermath of the Black Death an impressive town estate, including 46 houses and 20 shops, which passed first to the justice Robert Tresilian and then to New College. (fn. 498) A Londoner considered it worth-while to carry on a suit with University College for more than 12 years between 1377 and 1389 over an Oxford estate of 14 houses and a meadow, once belonging to his wife's ancestors, the Goldsmith family. (fn. 499) Even so arrears of rent continued to be commonplace, (fn. 500) and another sign of reduced prosperity was the lack of any substantial building work on churches in the century following the Black Death; against the successful foundation in 1368 and c. 1371 of John Gary's and John of Studley's chantries may be set the collapse of Thomas de Legh's chantry in 1357, because rents from its property would no longer support it, and the failure to establish chantries provided for in 1357, 1359, 1396, and 1415. (fn. 501)
Rental evidence suggests continuing economic stagnation in the 15th century, if not further decline. (fn. 502) Oseney abbey reduced rents on many of its properties between c. 1435 and 1449; the rents of St. John's hospital, later Magdalen College, seem to have fallen later, from c. £88 in 1452 to c. £67 in 1478, rising again to c. £75 in 1487. Although Oseney's rental was raised slightly in the later 15th century, the amount actually paid fell, partly because of substantial temporary reductions allowed to tenants who had improved their properties. (fn. 503) The raising of some rents accords with evidence of increased church building activity to suggest a slight improvement in the town's economy in the late 15th century, but arrears of rent continued to accumulate on both monastic and college properties in the town. (fn. 504) Townsmen complained repeatedly of their poverty, successfully petitioning in 1440 for a reduction in the fee farm, and in 1442 pleading their inability to pay even the smaller sum; in 1450 and 1455 they pleaded their poverty and the desolation of the town in support of a petition to be allowed to take apprentices in the same way as the Londoners. (fn. 505)
Leading townsmen in the later Middle Ages seem not to have been much involved in external trade. The families of some of the wealthy early-14th-century merchants had died out by mid century, and those that survived were represented by mercers, drapers, brewers, and vintners rather than merchants; even William of Bicester's son-in-law, Richard Cary (d. 1349), although wealthy enough to found a chantry, seems to have confined his activities to Oxford. (fn. 506) No Oxford merchants were recorded in the later Middle Ages except Richard Kent, who became bailiff in 1475 and was described as a merchant in 1509. (fn. 507) Almost the only evidence of trading contacts in the later 14th century was the attempt by the mayor and burgesses to secure recognition of their privileges in London. In 1368 Oxford's representatives, having obtained exemption from all custom, were instructed to seek exemption from toll, murage, pavage, and similar exactions; (fn. 508) in 1397, however, the mayor and sheriffs of London, when ordered to allow Oxford men their liberties, and specifically freedom from toll, answered that from time immemorial they had taken toll and passage from Oxford men, who had shown no reason why they should be exempt. (fn. 509) A certificate in a late-15th-century formulary, reciting Oxford's privileges and asking that the bearer might be quit of toll and other customs in London, implies that Oxford eventually won the dispute. (fn. 510)
Although there is evidence of trading contacts with London, Southampton, and Bristol in the 15th century, few of the Oxford men involved seem to have been of the stature of some of the early-14th-century merchants like the Worminghalls. Oliver Urry, apparently a skinner, (fn. 511) who owed money to a Southampton merchant and a London mercer in 1461, and to a German merchant in 1463, (fn. 512) apparently failed in business, since he was given the lowly, but probably salaried, post of mayor's serjeant in 1465. (fn. 513) Thomas Swan, M.P. for the borough in 1427, was also a citizen of London, where he owed money in 1427, (fn. 514) and William Dagville, a grocer, mayor several times between 1465 and 1474, owed money in London in 1449, and bought fruit, dates, rice, and cotton from Southampton. (fn. 515) John Ketyll, taverner and fishmonger, dealt with a London fishmonger in 1465 and with a Bristol winemerchant in 1466; a John Kytsell, perhaps the same man, was a carrier between Oxford and Southampton in 1443 and 1444. (fn. 516) A fairly steady trade in imported wine and luxury goods, and wool and perhaps salt for export, continued between Oxford and Southampton. Most of the merchants were Southampton men, but four Oxford burgesses, notably Robert Walford or Sadler, mayor in 1444, owned consignments of goods, and another Oxford man carried salt in his own cart. (fn. 517) Southampton wine merchants were in Oxford several times between 1436 and 1453. (fn. 518) In 1445 an alderman bought from Genoese merchants at Southampton wine which proved to have been stolen from Venetian merchants. (fn. 519) Contacts with Bristol seem to have been more frequent in the 15th century than in the earlier Middle Ages; (fn. 520) Oxford men owed money to Bristol men in 1404 and 1409, and in 1454 the wealthy Bristol merchant William Canning sued, presumably for debt, in the Oxford bailiffs' court. (fn. 521) Two London mercers and a grocer appeared in Oxford courts in the early 15th century, (fn. 522) and goods brought from London to Oxford included luxury goods such as silk and linen, and fish, including salmon. (fn. 523)
Minor contacts with many other English towns were recorded, particularly the relatively close towns of Henley, Abingdon, and Reading. (fn. 524) A merchant from Newport (Mon.) and a mercer from Ludlow (Salop.) sued for debt in Oxford courts in 1428 and 1459. (fn. 525) Two Oxford burgesses were members of the Trinity Guild at Coventry and one of the guild at Stratford-upon-Avon. (fn. 526) Another Oxford man had a certificate under the Coventry statute merchant seal in 1428, (fn. 527) and men from Leicester appeared in Oxford in 1343 and 1443. (fn. 528) In 1417 Oxford was one of the towns which received a copy of letters patent freeing men of Walsall (Staffs.) from toll, and in 1428-9 the mayor and another Oxford man paid 40s. and 42s. pro materia de Walshale, perhaps in a dispute over the toll. (fn. 529) The members of St. Thomas's guild in St. Mary's church in 1484 included men from Winchester and Norwich, (fn. 530) and a Norfolk merchant was buried in St. Martin's church in 1442. (fn. 531)
The change in Oxford's economic base from manufacturing and commerce to service trades dependent on the university was well advanced by 1381, when the occupations of c. 1,150 householders and servants were recorded in a poll tax. (fn. 532) The servants mostly lived in the masters' households and, except when stated otherwise, have been counted (see Table II) as apprentices or journeymen in their masters' trades, although some women were undoubtedly domestic servants; only a handful of servants were actually called apprentices. The occupations of some men, including some of the aldermen, were not stated; the table also excludes wives and the inhabitants of the outlying hamlets of Walton and Binsey, but includes the immediate suburbs. The food and drink trades were predominant, in terms of both numbers and wealth, but cloth and leather trades were still strong and some of the town's leaders were drapers. The mayor, William Dagville, whose interests included brewing, (fn. 533) and three of the aldermen (a vintner, a draper, and possibly a brewer) were assessed highest at 13s. 4d.; the fourth alderman, William Northern, who may have been a draper or clothier, (fn. 534) paid 12s. Another draper and a spicer paid 13s. 4d. each, a cutler 12s., a brewer 10s., and a weaver and a spicer 8s.; payments of 6s. 8d. were made by 2 brewers, 2 butchers, a taverner, a cook, a fishmonger, a spicer, a tanner, a tailor, a skinner, and a chandler.
By contrast, most of the cloth- and leather-workers paid less than the average of 1s. The privileged persons of the university paid very low sums, but were assessed separately and perhaps to a different standard; the largest group, the manciples, were probably, as later, (fn. 535) much involved on their own account in the food and drink trades. There seem to have been remarkably few representatives of the book trades. Two other large groups whose numbers bear testimony to the presence of the university were the tailors and the building workers. Few tailors and none of the masons or carpenters appear to have been prominent; as with other provincial towns, Oxford may have depended for specialized building work, particularly in the university, on outside masters. Metal-workers were few but some were prosperous, notably John of Deddington, a cutler, possibly a descendant of Richard of Deddington, an ironmonger in the town a century earlier. (fn. 536) Among the leatherworkers the few prosperous men were either skinners or tanners, while the cobblers, translators, and the few cordwainers paid small sums. The large number of skinners accords with other evidence of a thriving guild, but the craft declined in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 537) Among the miscellaneous occupations may be noted the harpmakers; Oxford seems to have been one of the few places in England with specialist makers of stringed instruments, (fn. 538) presumably because the students created an exceptional demand.
Although the general occupational structure revealed by the poll tax is probably accurate, some men, particularly the wealthier, followed several occupations of which only one was recorded; the servants of John Hicks, spicer, included a brewer and a maltman, (fn. 539) and it is likely that William Gingiver, nominally a tailor but known to be a substantial property owner, (fn. 540) employed at least some of his servants in other trades. The largest recorded households were those of Walter Wycombe, brewer, with 11 servants, and William Northern, alderman, with 10; the 12 other households employing 5 or more servants were those of 3 tailors, 2 weavers, both members of the Cade family, 2 spicers, 2 brewers, a tanner, a chandler, and a baker.
Proceedings under the Statute of Labourers in the 1390s (fn. 541) show a similar distribution of occupations; by far the largest group of those accused of 'taking excessive gain' or paying too high wages were engaged in the victualling trades. There were about three times as many building workers as cloth-workers, perhaps because of the nature of the evidence rather than because of a drastic decline in the cloth industry or a boom in building since 1381. That the cloth industry did decline, however, is evident from aulnage accounts taken in Oxford. (fn. 542) In 1354-5 16 men paid on 102 cloths; John of Barford, a former mayor, paid on 25½, William Northern on 21, and John of Studley on 7 cloths; 4 of the remaining 12 men were Oxford burgesses who reached the rank of bailiff, and only one substantial producer seems to have been from outside Oxford. In 1441-2 46 men and women paid on 171 cloths, but none can be proved to have come from Oxford, and certainly none held office there; Robert Butterwick, who paid on the largest number of cloths (c. 51), may have been connected with a university bedel of that name who died in 1416, (fn. 543) and 19 other producers bore surnames recorded in late-medieval Oxford but the leading citizens of Oxford were no longer dealing in cloth. A few weavers and dyers continued to be recorded, including two 'malefactors from Flanders' in 1405, (fn. 544) but in 1439 the weavers' guild was again in difficulties; it was said to have only two members, and was saved by the admission of fullers. By the early 16th century weavers had virtually disappeared from Oxford. (fn. 545) Leather-working seems to have escaped such difficulties and by the early 16th century, although employing only about half the numbers in the victualling trades, was with tailoring and building one of the chief trades in Oxford. (fn. 546)
Sources: cartularies, tax lists, court records. Coverage is uneven, since the occupations of almost all bailiffs serving in the period 1375-99 may be derived from the poll tax and Statute of Labourers presentments, whereas fewer than a third of the occupations of bailiffs before 1350 are known. Men who followed two unrelated trades have been entered twice.
The known occupations of town bailiffs (see Table III) confirm the dominance of the victualling and distributive trades, and suggest a rise in status of leather-workers in the 15th century, probably associated with the growth of gloving, for which the town quickly acquired some reputation; (fn. 547) 4 of the leather-working bailiffs recorded in the period 1425-75 were glovers, and the glovers' guild was active in the later 15th century. The spectacular increase in the number of brewers and taverners among the bailiffs after 1350 probably owed much to changes in the organization of brewing in the town. Records of the assize of ale (fn. 548) suggest that in the early 14th century most burgesses did some brewing, but the numbers involved declined fairly steadily in the period before 1355; the university's acquisition that year of complete control of the assize of ale seems to have provided a further stimulus to the reorganization of brewing through the establishment of a rota system. (fn. 549) The result was that from the later 14th century brewing probably tended to be done on a commercial scale by a strictly limited number of increasingly wealthy specialists rather than being a profitable sideline for many traders and craftsmen. The apparent lack of brewers among the bailiffs between 1400 and 1424 may be due largely to lack of evidence of occupations in that period. The bailiffs engaged in distributive trades included 14 spicers or apothecaries, 11 mercers, 3 chandlers, and a grocer. Among the metal-workers in the town the ironmongers, who might also be classified with the distributive trades, most often reached bailiff's rank, but the two who occur between 1400 and 1424 were goldsmiths. Of the textile-workers 9 were drapers and 4 dyers. The other occupations recorded were a clerk in the period 1300-24, a gentleman and an esquire 1400-24, a husbandman 1425-49, and a gentleman 1475-99. The prominence of the drink trades is even more marked when the occupations of those bailiffs who became mayors are considered: 10 brewers, vintners, or taverners served the office between 1350 and 1499 compared with 5 men from the distributive trades, and 4 from the other victualling trades. There were no leather or metal workers and the textile trades were represented only by 3 drapers; a hosier and a tailor were recorded between 1400 and 1424.
The Community and the Guild
The inhabitants of Oxford had developed some sense of corporate identity by the mid 11th century when the reeve and all the citizens (omnes cives) of Oxford witnessed a lease by St. Alban's abbey. (fn. 550) Although monastic communities commonly attested their own leases such attestations by borough communities are unusual: the only other examples are from Lincoln and Canterbury. (fn. 551) The lease was perhaps made before the borough court, or the citizens may have been organized in a guild, like those in London, Winchester, Dover, and Canterbury. (fn. 552) A pre-Conquest guild at Canterbury seems to have developed into the later merchant guild, (fn. 553) and Oxford's merchant guild, in existence by c. 1100, (fn. 554) may have had a similarly early origin.
'All the burgesses of Oxford' held pasture in common, the later Port Meadow, in 1086 and presumably in 1066. (fn. 555) Before the end of Henry I's reign they were able to grant part of it to Godstow nunnery, (fn. 556) an act which implies both a degree of organization among the burgesses, and a recognition of that organization as in some sense a legal entity. The concept, however, was not without difficulties. In 1138-9 the burgesses granted the island of Medley, part of their common meadow, to St. Frideswide's priory in exchange for stalls in Oxford. (fn. 557) In 1147 'the citizens of Oxford of the commune of the city and of the guild merchant', meeting in the portmoot, granted the island to Oseney abbey; but in a second deed of the same year the citizens made the same grant through William de Chesney, constable of Oxford Castle and alderman of the guild, who declared that they had granted the island to him and had consented to the further grant to Oseney. (fn. 558) Clearly in 1147 a deed executed by the citizens alone was not sufficient security for Oseney abbey, particularly as the land could also be claimed by St. Frideswide's. (fn. 559) When, in 1191, the burgesses confirmed the grant of Medley to Oseney and reached a final agreement with St. Frideswide's over the earlier grant to that house no such intermediary as William de Chesney was necessary. The agreement with St. Frideswide's was made by the burgesses of the vill of Oxford and sealed with the seal of the alderman of the guild. (fn. 560) The grant to Oseney, made a few months later, was by the citizens of Oxford of the commune of the city and of the merchant guild, and was sealed with the citizens' communal seal. (fn. 561) The citizens in their commune and guild were, in 1191, able to act alone as a corporate body, and to execute a charter which would provide sufficient security for Oseney abbey.
The citizens of the commune of the city and of the merchant guild who granted Medley to Oseney abbey in 1147 and confirmed the grant in 1191 were clearly the successors of the 'burgesses' of 1086, for they held the burgesses' common pasture; but it would be hasty to assume (fn. 562) that the word 'burgesses' always meant 'members of the merchant guild'. Indeed, the use of the words citizens or burgesses 'of the community of the city and of the merchant guild' in both 1147 and 1191 suggests that there was some distinction, in origin at least, between the two bodies. (fn. 563) The merchant guild may at first have been a smaller and more exclusive body within the larger community of the town, whose leadership it supplied. In 1168-9 and succeeding years, for instance, a firm distinction was made between the burgesses and the minuti homines of Oxford, who contributed quite separately to an aid for the marriage of the king's daughter. (fn. 564) There seems to have been an attempt in the mid 13th century to extend the guild to include all the inhabitants of Oxford; a townsman, Walter of Milton, complained c. 1253, probably with some exaggeration, that the mayor and fifteen jurats had forced all the workmen (operarii) living in the town (including some unfree servi) to join the merchant guild. (fn. 565) Walter considered this a device for extorting money from the poor, but it may have been an attempt to gain greater control over craftsmen and lesser traders and perhaps also to weld all the inhabitants of the town into one body; admission to the guild involved taking oaths and giving sureties as well as paying a fee. (fn. 566) The attempt, if such it was, to make the guild co-extensive with the town, failed; but the mercantile privileges of the guild do seem to have been extended between the early 12th century, when no one might do business as a merchant without being a member, and 1327, when no one might sell anything at retail without belonging to the guild. (fn. 567)
In the early 14th century admission to the guild gave exemption from toll and other customs in the market and fairs. (fn. 568) The entrance fees of 3s. or 11s. in the early 14th century (fn. 569) had risen to 9s. 6d. and 19s. by the mid 15th century; (fn. 570) the lower fee was presumably paid, as later, by those who had served an apprenticeship there or were qualified by patrimony. Membership of the guild was not restricted to residents within the walls; lists of c. 1385 named nine men 'of the liberty' who lived outside the north gate, and thirteen 'foreigners in the guild' including four men from Abingdon and one each from Banbury, Chipping Norton, Dudley (Worcs.), Woodstock, and Kennington, and one London citizen, who held property in Oxford. (fn. 571) Widows and married women might be admitted to the guild if they traded on their own. (fn. 572) A man could be deprived of his freedom for refusing to serve an office to which he had been appointed, (fn. 573) or for prejudicing the liberties of the town by such acts as prosecuting freemen or residents in courts other than the town ones; (fn. 574) in such cases the freedom might be recovered on payment of a fine.
The Development of Liberties
The first known charter to Oxford was granted by Henry II c. 1155, probably in consideration of a gift of 117 marks for which the sheriff accounted in 1159. (fn. 575) Although preserved only in an inspeximus of Elizabeth I there is no reason to doubt the charter's authenticity. It confirmed to the citizens the liberties they had enjoyed under Henry I: their guild merchant with all liberties and customs, so that no one who was not a member of the guild might carry on any business as a merchant in the city or its suburbs; quittance of toll and transport dues (passagium) throughout England and Normandy; all the customs, liberties, and laws of London; the right to serve the king at his feast with those of his butlery; the right to enjoy trading privileges with Londoners within and without London; the right not to be impleaded outside Oxford in any lawsuit, but to settle all disputes according to the law and custom of London; the rights of sac and soc, toll and teme, and infangthief. Most of those rights can be shown from other evidence to have been enjoyed by the burgesses in Henry I's time. They had a guild by c. 1100, and there is some evidence that they had enjoyed trading privileges with the Londoners in the early 12th century. (fn. 576) The feast at which the citizens were to serve the king in his butlery was presumably the coronation banquet. There is no record that Oxford so served before the coronation of Edward III; (fn. 577) the right was not exercised at the coronation of Richard I in 1189 or of Queen Eleanor in 1236, although the citizens of London and Winchester assisted at both banquets, (fn. 578) and although the right had been confirmed to Oxford in 1229. (fn. 579) The fact that Winchester as well as London held similar rights suggests, however, that the right to serve the king at his coronation banquet dates at least from early Norman, and perhaps from Anglo-Saxon times; (fn. 580) by the end of the 12th century the citizens of Oxford may not have considered it worth while to perform an expensive and relatively unprofitable service, although their right to do so continued to be confirmed by royal charters and was exercised at later medieval coronations. (fn. 581) The other important right granted or confirmed by Henry II, the liberty of the vill of Oxford of not pleading in any way except according to the law and custom of London, was successfully claimed in 1203 by the prior of St. Frideswide's, who produced Henry II's charter in support. (fn. 582) In 1177 the burgesses made fine of 100 marks for a man whom they dragged to the gallows and hanged, (fn. 583) which casts doubt perhaps on their possession of the franchise of infangthief, but the man may have been caught outside the liberty.
In 1199 King John granted the borough to the burgesses to hold at a higher farm than they used to pay in the time of Henry II and Richard I, and confirmed their privileges generally. (fn. 584) The farm of £63 0s. 5d. gross was paid to the sheriff, who accounted for it at the Exchequer; the bailiffs of Oxford began to account at the Exchequer, and so became completely free of the interference of the sheriff, in 1257. (fn. 585)
In 1229 the burgesses paid £100 for a confirmation of their liberties in a charter almost identical with that of Henry II. (fn. 586) A charter of 1257, as well as allowing the burgesses to account at the Exchequer for the fee farm and aids from the borough, granted further privileges: the return of all writs touching Oxford and its liberties; the right to plead in the town all pleas belonging to the town and its liberty which could be determined outside the eyre; the power to distrain, for an acknowledged debt, the chief debtor and his pledges within the city or its suburbs; and the right not to answer outside the town any plea or assize arising from a tenure in or a trespass committed in the town or its suburbs. Another charter of the same date granted that burgesses' goods should not be seized anywhere for debt, except when they were the principal debtors or their pledges, or when the debtors were of 'the commune and power' of the borough and the burgesses themselves had failed to do justice; that burgesses should not lose their goods as a result of any trespass committed by a servant; and that if any burgess died within the kingdom, whether or not he had made a will, the king would not confiscate his goods until notice had been given to his heirs. (fn. 587)
In 1279 the burgesses claimed to hold the town at farm of the king as freely as the men of London, (fn. 588) and in 1285 the jurors at an eyre presented that the borough was ancient demesne of the crown, and that Henry II had granted it and its suburbs to the burgesses in fee farm. (fn. 589) The latter claim was certainly false, for the fee farm was granted by John, but the claim may reflect an ad hoc arrangement whereby the burgesses accounted to the sheriff for their farm during Henry II's reign as they did of right after the grant of John's charter. (fn. 590) The jurors also claimed return of writs, the right to hold pleas of vee de naam, and to have gallows, pillory, and tumbrel, and to hold the assize of bread and of ale. (fn. 591) They also claimed to keep approvers and those appealed by them in the borough gaol until the next gaol delivery but the justices ruled that approvers could be kept only two or three days; those appealed outside the liberty could not be kept in the borough gaol at all without special warrant. (fn. 592)
Edward I in 1301 confirmed the charters of 1229 and 1257. (fn. 593) The burgesses tried to get another confirmation and amplification of their charters c. 1315, possibly in the context of a dispute with the university, (fn. 594) but did not succeed until 1327 when, in return for a fine and the promise of 50 men for the Scottish wars, Edward III inspected and confirmed the earlier charters with a detailed account of the laws and liberties of London, which his predecessors had granted but not specified. (fn. 595) The charter, which marked the end of the growth of Oxford's liberties in the Middle Ages, granted that burgesses should not be impleaded outside Oxford for lands in the borough, or about trespasses or agreements, done or made within the borough; all such pleas should be heard before the mayor and bailiffs, unless they affected the king or the community of the borough collectively; burgesses were not to be placed with foreigners on assizes or other inquests arising from any foreign business, nor were foreigners to be placed with burgesses on similar inquests dealing with tenements or other business within the borough; in other pleas arising within the borough burgesses were to be convicted only by their fellow burgesses. Within the borough and its suburbs the mayor and burgesses were to make executions of all property judicially recovered and acknowledged and damages adjudged before them. In all actions about tenements, rents, and tenures, the burgesses might plead by writ of right patent. The king's clerk of the market was not to interfere in the borough or its suburbs. The burgesses' right to buy and sell freely throughout the kingdom and their exemption from toll, murage, pavage, pontage, piccage, stallage, and other customs were confirmed. Merchants coming to Oxford were to buy and sell only in the market, and no one was to expose goods for sale until he had paid custom. No one who was not of the guild might sell at retail within the borough. The burgesses were to be quit of murdrum within the borough and its suburbs, and they were exempted from trial by combat. Pleas of the Crown were to be decided according to the law and custom of London; the husting court was to be held weekly, and the aldermen were to hold view of frankpledge twice a year in their wards. Nothing in the charter, however, was to prejudice the liberties of the university.
The charter of 1327 was confirmed in 1378, 1401, and 1423. In 1453 another charter was issued in the name of Henry VI, confirming most of the privileges granted in 1327, but not, like the earlier confirmations, in the form of an inspeximus; it may have been issued by Richard, duke of York as protector of the kingdom, and it was not referred to in later charters. Further confirmations of the 1327 charter were granted in 1463, 1484, and 1490. (fn. 596)
The Fee Farm
The privileges granted to Oxford were not granted from purely altruistic motives, for the king had a strong financial interest in the town and its prosperity. In 1066 the town paid a yearly farm of £20 and six sestiers of honey to the king and £10 to the earl of Mercia; in addition it was bound to supply 20 men when the king embarked on a military expedition, or else pay £20. By 1086 the fee farm had been raised to £60, all of it paid to the king. (fn. 597) When King John granted the fee farm to the burgesses in 1199, he raised it to £63 0s. 5d. (fn. 598) In 1351 the farm was reduced by £5, the value of the assize of bread and of ale which had been taken from the burgesses in 1285, (fn. 599) but nevertheless the burgesses found it increasingly difficult to find the money. In 1442 the king sanctioned an arrangement with Oriel College, a royal foundation which had also pleaded poverty, whereby the town was to pay the college £25 a year from the farm in exchange for decayed property, allegedly worth £30 a year, which the college could not afford to keep in repair. The arrangement, which was of doubtful benefit to the town, was cancelled in 1450. (fn. 600) In 1470 the farm was £47 10s. in arrears. (fn. 601) In 1484 Richard III reduced the farm by 20 marks to £44 13s. 9d., (fn. 602) but the reduction was presumably annulled on the accession of Henry VII, for in 1486 it was again £58 0s. 5d. (fn. 603)
The sources from which the fee farm was paid were described in the mid 14th century as 20 marks from the town's moiety of Castle mill, £17 for the stalls of butchers and fishmongers, and for bakers' baskets, £2 for regrators' windows, amercements of £5 for breaches of the assize of bread and of ale, 10 marks for perquisites of court, £4 5s. 8½d. for rents (probably landgable), and c. £10 in tolls. Total receipts were £58 5s. 8½d.; presumably the bailiffs reckoned to collect a higher sum if they were to meet their expenses, for the above figures were produced in support of an application for a reduction of the farm. (fn. 604) The profits of the assize of bread and of ale seem to have been farmed by the town reeves or bailiffs as early as the late 12th century; (fn. 605) the moiety of Castle mill was probably granted to the town with the fee farm in 1199. In 1245 the bailiffs were allowed towards the farm c. £13 from the issues of the market which had been paid into the wardrobe, (fn. 606) but in the 14th century payments for market stalls were received by the chamberlains who were not the officers responsible for paying the farm. (fn. 607)
The Crown made grants from the fee farm from time to time. The earliest recorded was Henry I's grant to St. Bartholomew's hospital of £23 0s. 5d., that is, 1d. a day plus 5s. a year for clothing to each of the 13 inmates. (fn. 608) The payment passed with the hospital to Oriel College in 1328, and like the other part of the farm was often in arrears in the later 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 609) Grants of the remainder of the fee farm (£40, reduced in 1351 to £35) were made to Eleanor, relict of Henry III, in 1290, (fn. 610) to Margaret, queen of Edward I in 1299, (fn. 611) to the king's household in 1450, (fn. 612) and to Elizabeth, queen of Edward IV, before 1470 (fn. 613) and again in 1486. (fn. 614) Smaller grants were made: £20 to Edward, duke of Cornwall in 1337, (fn. 615) and £20 to the Dominican friary of King's Langley (Herts.), which was being paid in 1356 and 1357. (fn. 616)
Town and University
While the privileges granted by royal charters were considerable, in practice the burgesses' independence and freedom of action was checked from the early 13th century by the growth of the university, which, protected and encouraged by successive kings, gradually acquired considerable power in the day to day running of the town. Relations between the two bodies in the 13th and early 14th centuries were marked by violent conflicts, each of which left the university strengthened at the expense of the town. A settlement by the papal legate in 1214 provided that for ten years half the rents assessed on clerks' hostels were to be remitted, and for the following ten years the rents were to be those assessed by clerks and laymen before 1209; the town was to give 52s. a year to poor scholars and to feed 100 poor scholars on St. Nicholas's day each year; food and other necessities were to be sold to scholars at reasonable prices; arrested clerks were to be delivered to the bishop, the archdeacon, or the chancellor of the university; 50 leading burgesses and their heirs for ever were to take an oath to observe the settlement, and each Michaelmas, on taking office, the mayor and bailiffs were to swear the same oath before the archdeacon and chancellor. (fn. 617)
In 1248, after fighting during which a clerk was killed by townsmen, the university was granted further privileges. It was ordered that if a burgess killed or wounded a clerk the town community was to be amerced and punished, the bailiffs being amerced and punished separately if they had been negligent; the chancellor or his representatives were to be present at the assize of bread and of ale, and the provisions of 1214 for the mayor and bailiffs' annual oath to the university were repeated. (fn. 618) Three years later the chancellor was given the right to punish clerks for all offences except atrocia crimina. (fn. 619)
Continuing disputes between townsmen and clerks seem to have led the king to reorganize the town's government and grant further privileges to the university in 1255. Four aldermen assisted by eight law-worthy burgesses were to be responsible for keeping the peace and holding assizes; two of the more law-worthy men in each parish were to be sworn to inquire each week whether any suspects had been harboured in the parish, and anyone who received such men for more than three nights was to be responsible for them. A layman who injured a clerk was to be imprisoned until he paid compensation; a clerk who injured a layman, until delivered by the chancellor. To protect the scholars' interests in the market regrators were forbidden to buy or sell victuals before 9 a.m.; wine was ordered to be sold to clerks and laymen alike; the provision of 1248 that the chancellor must be present at the assizes of bread and of ale was confirmed, and punishments for breach of the assize were laid down. (fn. 620)
Apart from the control of the market, the most frequent cause of dispute was the jurisdiction of the chancellor's court. The court, an ecclesiastical one, presumably came into existence c. 1214 at the same time as the office of chancellor. (fn. 621) In 1244 its jurisdiction was extended to cases involving clerks and arising out of the taxation or renting of houses, or contracts involving movables, such as sales or loans of clothing or victuals, entered into in the town or suburbs. (fn. 622) In 1260 the chancellor successfully claimed jurisdiction over personal actions between scholars and Jews, (fn. 623) and in 1275 scholars were granted the right, during pleasure, to cite burgesses before the chancellor in personal actions. (fn. 624) The latter grant was renewed in 1309 and made permanent in 1324. (fn. 625) The chancellor successfully claimed similar jurisdiction over clerks in Northgate hundred in 1288. (fn. 626) At times, however, he exceeded his powers: in 1285 Thomas Bek, chancellor 1269-70, was pardoned for having allowed a clerk who had killed a layman to abjure the town, and for preventing the coroner from seizing as a deodand a house from which a clerk's servant had fallen to his death. (fn. 627) The burgesses' refusal to deliver imprisoned clerks to the chancellor contributed to an outbreak of violence in 1264. (fn. 628)
The renting of houses in the town by clerks was another source of friction. Before 1209 rents had apparently been assessed by agreement of clerks and burgesses, and the settlement of 1214 stipulated that houses rented to clerks for the first time should be assessed by four masters of arts and four burgesses. (fn. 629) In 1256 it was laid down that all houses occupied by scholars should be reassessed every five years, a provision resented by the town but nonetheless repeated in 1269. (fn. 630) In 1290 the town claimed that reassessment should be made only every seven years and the clerks for their part tried to force the townsmen to grant leases for a minimum of ten years. (fn. 631) Resentment seems to have been caused not only by artificial restriction on rents, but also by the removal of much property from the urban market. The tendency for properties once rented to clerks to remain in their tenure is illustrated by the formal declaration of the chancellor and proctors in 1276 that although a house in St. John's parish had been rented to a master and scholars for three years it would not be assigned to scholars again at the end of that term. (fn. 632) University statutes included provisions that houses once used as schools should continue to be made available for lectures unless completely occupied by households. (fn. 633)
In 1290, after more fighting, an agreement was drawn up whereby the chancellor obtained cognizance of all trespasses in which scholars were involved, except pleas of homicide and mayhem, but he was to take only reasonable fines from laymen imprisoned by him; he was to give townsmen a day's notice to appear in his court, instead of summoning them at an hour's notice; he was not to summon transients to answer for offences committed outside Oxford; and he was not to deliver a clerk imprisoned for seriously wounding a layman until it was known whether or not the layman would live. The mayor, bailiffs, aldermen, and their assistants, and 50 burgesses (fn. 634) were to take their oaths to the university for themselves only, not for their heirs, and saving their faith to the king. The chancellor and mayor were to have joint cognizance of bad food, the forfeitures and amercements going to St. John's hospital. Clerks were not to insist on minimum leases of ten years, and their houses were to be reassessed every five years. The agreement also defined for the first time those eligible to share the privileges of the university, later known as privileged persons: clerks and their families and servants, parchment-makers, limners, scriveners, barbers, and others who wore clerks' livery. (fn. 635) An arbitrators' award which followed the riot of 1298 gave to the university almost all that it had demanded: the townsmen agreed to respect the university's privileges and to restore those imprisoned by the chancellor whom they had freed; certain townsmen were forbidden to have any dealings with the university and others were expelled from Oxford; the bailiffs were removed from office and debarred from holding office in future, and the mayor, aldermen, and bailiffs swore to preserve the university's privileges. (fn. 636)
The jurisdiction of the chancellor's court continued to be a source of grievance to the townsmen. In 1318 they gained a small point when the king forbade the chancellor to hear cases in which a layman had ceded to a clerk an action, usually for debt, against another layman; (fn. 637) and in 1324 and 1328 the king seems to have supported the burgesses when they complained that the university was usurping their privileges by attracting cases to the chancellor's court. (fn. 638) In 1331 and 1336, however, the king, at the petition of the university, confirmed the chancellor's right to try cases in which one party was a clerk. (fn. 639) The university seems to have made some concessions in 1348 when it agreed that townsmen might appoint proctors in the chancellor's court, except in cases of violence, breach of the peace, or those touching the university as a corporate body, and that a layman accused of breach of the peace need find only two pledges. (fn. 640)
The agreement of 1290 was confirmed in 1315. (fn. 641) A charter of 1336 confirmed and extended the university's powers, granting that the royal prohibition should not run in any case involving clerks. It also strengthened the peace-keeping provisions of the charter of 1255 by reiterating that the chancellor and mayor should receive the oaths of the aldermen and their assistants yearly at Michaelmas, and providing that the two men from each parish who were to assist them in controlling suspicious strangers might be chosen and sworn more often than once a year. (fn. 642)
After the great riot of St. Scholastica's day 1355 both town and university surrendered their charters. (fn. 643) A charter granted to the town in July that year restored all the burgesses' liberties except custody of the assize of bread and of ale and of weights and measures, the power of inquiry into forestallers and sellers of bad meat or fish, the punishment of those carrying arms in the town, the keeping clean of courts and streets, and the taxing and assessing of 'scholars' servants'. (fn. 644) The loss of control of the market and of the streets and peace-keeping was a serious blow to the town; in the later 14th and 15th centuries the university's deputy judges or masters of the streets were concerned with keeping the peace as well as street-cleaning. (fn. 645) Equally important were some other aspects of the settlement. From the beginning of the affair the king had taken the university's part, (fn. 646) and the settlement reached in the summer of 1355 included the deposition of the mayor and bailiffs, the restoration of all property taken from scholars, and the payment of an additional £250 damages. The mayor, John of Barford, was imprisoned. (fn. 647) The town remained under an interdict until 1356, (fn. 648) and a final settlement was not reached until 1357 when the burgesses agreed to hold a mass in the university church yearly on St. Scholastica's day, at which the mayor, bailiffs, and aldermen, and all those who had sworn to the university were to offer 1d. each. (fn. 649) Presumably those who had sworn to the university were the leading burgesses of the settlement of 1214, whose number appears to have risen from 50 to 60 including the aldermen, perhaps because after 1255 the four aldermen and their eight assistants had been substituted for the bailiffs as the officers who were to take the oath. The town was bound in 100 marks to fulfil the conditions. (fn. 650) The annual humiliation of St. Scholastica's day, in addition to the oaths imposed in 1214, left neither party in doubt as to who held the real power in Oxford, and kept fresh for centuries the bitterness and sense of grievance of the townsmen.
The riot of 1355 marked the end of a century and a half of intermittent violence between town and gown. Perhaps because of exhaustion on both sides, perhaps because the ascendancy of the university seemed so firmly established, relations between the two bodies seem to have improved in the later Middle Ages. The question of the liability of the university to payment of 15ths and 10ths caused concern in the town in 1389 and 1410, despite formal agreements with some colleges in 1384, and led to two petitions to parliament; in 1410 the university and colleges were ordered to pay subsidies on lands acquired since 1291-2. (fn. 651) Friction over the respective jurisdictions of the town and chancellor's courts presumably continued; in 1395 and 1401 the chancellor claimed cognizance of cases in the mayor's and the bailiffs' courts. (fn. 652) In 1406 Henry IV granted that scholars and privileged persons arrested for treason, felony or mayhem committed in Oxfordshire or Berkshire might be claimed by the chancellor and tried before the chancellor's steward by a mixed jury of laymen and privileged persons; (fn. 653) in 1407 the mayor and bailiffs, supported by the men of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, petitioned with at least partial success for the revocation of the grant as contrary to law, common right, the king's regality, and their own liberties, (fn. 654) but the privilege was confirmed in 1461 and later charters. (fn. 655) At other times, however, individual burgesses, including several mayors and bailiffs, and also craft guilds were keen to use the chancellor's court, particularly for the recovery of debts. (fn. 656)
There was further trouble in 1458 in the course of which one of the bailiffs was punished by the chancellor for imprisoning a scholar. (fn. 657) A settlement was reached the following year on that and other disputed points. (fn. 658) It was agreed that the chancellor and scholars might release a member of the university within four weeks of his imprisonment, provided that they gave the mayor and bailiffs an acquittance for the prisoner and tried him within twelve weeks of release; felons' goods were to be given to the mayor and bailiffs towards the fee farm. (fn. 659) Correction for breaches of the peace was to belong to the chancellor if one offender was a member of the university; if both were laymen, correction was to belong to the mayor and bailiffs or the chancellor, whoever arrested them first. Finally, categories of allowable privileged persons were defined: the chancellor, doctors, masters, graduates, students, scholars, and clerks living within the precincts of the university and their daily servants; the steward and 'feed men' of the university with their menials; bedels with their daily servants and households; stationers, bookbinders, limners, scriveners, parchmentmakers, barbers, the university bell-ringer, with their households; all caters, manciples, spencers, cooks, launderers, poor children of scholars or clerks within the university; all servants taking clothing or hire by the year, half year, or quarter at a rate of 6s. 8d. a year from any master, doctor, graduate, scholar, or clerk; and all common carriers, bringers of scholars or their money or letters to or from the university, for the time of their stay within the university. If, however, any member of a privileged person's household sold merchandize, he was to be tallageable with the town for that merchandize.
Despite the agreement of 1459 the position of privileged persons, particularly of scholars' servants, continued to be abused. As early as 1383-4 a list of 145 privileged persons had included a harp-maker and a shepster among the scriveners, barbers, cooks, and manciples, (fn. 660) and between 1461 and 1470 representatives of most trades in Oxford were admitted. (fn. 661) Quite prominent burgesses might find privileged status convenient: Thomas Haville, for instance, bailiff in 1458, became a scholar's servant in 1466, (fn. 662) as did the former bailiff Thomas Shereman in 1467. (fn. 663)
The later medieval pattern of government by a mayor, two bailiffs, and four aldermen, aided by a council, developed in Oxford during the 13th century; earlier the government was in the hands of two reeves, who were at least nominally royal officials, while the chief spokesman for the burgesses was the alderman of the merchant guild. The first recorded reeve of the city was Godwin; with Wulfwin the earl's reeve, whose jurisdiction may have extended beyond the town, he witnessed a lease between 1049 and 1052. (fn. 664) Raymond the reeve, presumably of Oxford, occurs alone between 1138 and 1154, (fn. 665) but by the later 12th century there were always two reeves. (fn. 666) The grant of the fee farm in 1199 brought with it the formal right to elect the reeves, (fn. 667) who by the mid 13th century, in common with similar officers in other towns, were becoming known as bailiffs. They were responsible for paying the fee farm at the Exchequer, and for maintaining law and order; they presided over the bailiffs' or king's court which dealt with breaches of the king's peace and disputes over real property. (fn. 668)
The first recorded alderman of the guild was the knight William de Chesney in 1147; (fn. 669) he seems an unlikely alderman for a merchant guild, and may have been installed as a powerful man able to protect the guild during Stephen's disturbed reign. In the later 12th century there were usually two aldermen, but in 1191 there seems to have been only one, a powerful and wealthy burgess John Kepeharm. (fn. 670) John's son, Laurence, was sole alderman c. 1200, and between 1205 and 1209 he was described as mayor. (fn. 671) There was some doubt initially whether mayors should be elected annually or serve for a longer period, (fn. 672) and the first mayors seem to have held office for life. (fn. 673) By the mid 13th century, however, annual election was the rule, although the same man might be elected several years running. The newly elected mayor had to take an oath to the king before being admitted to his office, a long and difficult undertaking if the king were in a remote part of his realm; the charter of 1229 granted that the mayor might take his oath in the Exchequer as the mayor of London did, if the king was far away. The charter of 1327 added that if both the king and the barons of the Exchequer were away from London the mayor might be presented to the constable of the Tower and admitted to office by him, as long as he presented himself again to the king or the barons on their return to London. (fn. 674) In 1292, because the newly elected mayor waited until mid November to present himself, the mayoralty was taken into the king's hand, and the town had to pay a fine of 20 marks to recover its liberties. (fn. 675) The mayor presided over his own court, and also sat in the bailiffs' court and husting; in 1390 he was on the commission of the peace for the town. (fn. 676)
Aldermen in the later sense of officers in charge of wards first appeared in the mid 13th century, and their title, like other aspects of Oxford's government, may have been borrowed from London. There seem to have been eight such aldermen in 1237, (fn. 677) and the eight leading men in whose presence an agreement was reached in the portmoot c. 1185 (fn. 678) may have held a similar office. The first reference to an aldermanry in the sense of 'ward' occurs in 1241. (fn. 679) In 1248 two aldermen were ordered to be chosen to dispense justice when the reeves were absent, (fn. 680) which indicates the judicial aspect of the alderman's office and that they were junior to the reeves at that date, but does not necessarily imply that there were only two of them. (fn. 681) The charter of 1255 fixed the number of aldermen at four and laid down that they should be assisted by eight of the more law-worthy burgesses in keeping the peace, holding assizes, and searching out malefactors and vagabonds; all twelve were to take an oath of fealty to the king yearly, and to swear to give aid and counsel to the mayor. (fn. 682)
By 1255, then, the senior town offices were established, and the structure persisted, despite occasions later in the century when, perhaps in response to temporary exigencies, extra officers seem to have been appointed: in 1298 there seem to have been eight aldermen, and in 1256-7 and 1290-1 four men who may all have been bailiffs witnessed deeds. (fn. 683) The eight assistants to the aldermen were among the officers listed in the concordat with the university in 1290 (fn. 684) and in the charter of 1336; (fn. 685) but they are not referred to again until the 16th century, unless the 'twelve of the worthiest and saddest of the council', mentioned in connexion with the chest of five keys in 1448, were in fact the aldermen and their assistants. (fn. 686)
In the later 13th century it became common for men to serve as bailiff several times: Ellis the Quilter held the office at least eight times in the decade 1270-80, and Philip de Eu served at least five times between 1267 and 1286, when he became mayor. (fn. 687) The impression of an increasingly narrow oligarchy is strengthened by the survival of two complaints by the 'lesser' or 'middling' burgesses against the greater burgesses who supplied the town's officers. Walter of Milton c. 1253 wrote a long complaint about the unjust assessment of tallages, misuse of funds, and economic restrictions imposed by the greater burgesses; his use of the word 'commune' for both groups suggests that each was a distinct and formal body, but he himself made no distinction except of wealth, and of the 32 greater burgesses whom he named only 15 are known to have been mayor or bailiff. (fn. 688) In 1293 John Log and Philip the Spicer brought a suit in the Exchequer against Henry Owen and other former mayors alleging unjust assessment of tallages and misappropriation of murage and other funds. (fn. 689) Although a jury declared, perhaps under pressure, that there was no truth in such allegations, they suggest continued tension between the ruling body of wealthy merchants and the lesser tradesmen.
By the mid 14th century the mayor was always chosen from among the aldermen. By that date the office of alderman, which appears from the available evidence to have been an annual one in the later 13th century, was coming to be held for life, although the form of annual election continued. Richard Cary, who was alderman in 1327, held no office in 1329 or 1336, but was mayor or alderman every year from then until his death in 1346; William Northern served as alderman or mayor every year from 1366 until his death in 1383. (fn. 690) Not until 1422, however, was an alderman, John Otteworth, described as such in his will. (fn. 691) In the 14th century the number of men serving as bailiffs increased; in the earlier part of the century half the bailiffs served only once, and over half the remainder only twice, compared with an average of between two and three times in the later 13th century; after 1350 no bailiff served more than thrice, and there was a growing tendency to serve only once, until in the early 16th century one year of office had become the rule. (fn. 692)
Even in the 13th century it was usual for men to serve as bailiff before becoming mayor, and by the end of the century the office of alderman probably ranked above that of bailiff. After 1350 it is clear that a man normally served as bailiff before becoming an alderman, and was an alderman at the time of his election as mayor. There seem to have been only four exceptions: Robert Mauncel (in 1352), Thomas Fowler (in 1462), and John Edgecombe (in 1483) became alderman without serving as bailiff, and William Dagville (in 1380) became mayor before becoming alderman. John FitzAlan, a civil lawyer and possibly a royal servant, (fn. 693) who became mayor in 1449, served in the previous year as both bailiff (from October to January) and alderman (from February to September), an indication of the importance attached to serving those offices, and it is possible that Mauncel, Fowler, Dagville, and Edgecombe had likewise served for a few months only.
Below the bailiffs in the hierarchy of town officers were two chamberlains, financial officers whose earliest known accounts date from 1306-7. (fn. 694) Chamberlains do not appear on an apparently complete list of officers for 1289. (fn. 695) The constables, later the most junior town officers, were first recorded in 1305; (fn. 696) by 1321 there were four of them, presumably one for each ward. (fn. 697)
All the officers were elected annually. The mayor was elected at Michaelmas by the 'community of burgesses' and travelled at once to London to be admitted in the Exchequer. (fn. 698) At the end of the 15th century the bailiffs were elected at the same time as the mayor. (fn. 699) The other officers were elected in one of the town courts early in October on the mayor's return from London. (fn. 700) All did not always go smoothly: in 1448 'the commons' complained that the aldermen and chamberlains were chosen by 'making of feasts and dinners', (fn. 701) and in 1489 a dispute over the mayoral election caused such disturbance that the king seems to have intervened. (fn. 702) Minor officers were elected at the same time as the aldermen and chamberlains. (fn. 703) In 1289, the earliest known list, (fn. 704) there were four taxers of houses, later reduced to two, whose office had been confirmed by the legate's award of 1214. (fn. 705) Four surveyors of nuisances first appear in a list of 1321, (fn. 706) and like the taxers of houses were all former bailiffs. The legal officers included the court officials called bailiffs in 1341 (fn. 707) and under-bailiffs in the later 14th century; (fn. 708) they may have been the same as the bailiffs' assistants recorded in 1214. (fn. 709) The officers of the 13th-century courts included a number of serjeants; (fn. 710) later there was a mayor's serjeant, first recorded in 1321, (fn. 711) and the bailiffs' serjeants, of whom one was recorded in 1327 and both in 1451; (fn. 712) four 'town serjeants' were recorded in 1397-8. (fn. 713) In 1466 Oliver Urry, the mayor's serjeant, was described as his key-keeper or treasurer. (fn. 714) None of the serjeants, however, occurs on any surviving list of elected officers, unless they were equivalent to the sub-bailiffs. There was a town crier by 1407, and in the same year two clamatores custume appear for the first and only time. (fn. 715) In 1457, the earliest year for which an original list survives, two further sets of officers were recorded: two keepers of the common chest, whose office, like the chest itself, may have dated from at least 1238, (fn. 716) and five keepers of the chest of five keys, founded in 1448. (fn. 717)
The office of town clerk seems to have developed in the earlier 13th century. (fn. 718) William the clerk and William of Milcombe, who wrote many deeds in the periods 1225-52 and 1229-c. 1270 respectively, may have held the office; Jordan the clerk, who wrote deeds between 1234 and 1244 was called the reeves' clerk in 1240. (fn. 719) The title town clerk was first used c. 1252. (fn. 720) Most medieval town clerks held office for life, and although most were connected with the leading families in the town, only two held other offices: Richard of Walden (clerk 1298-1304) became bailiff in 1304, and Thomas Tanfeld (clerk 1454-c. 1487) had been bailiff in 1449 and surveyor of nuisances in 1452. (fn. 721)
The town appears to have had its own coroners in 1234, and in 1236 they were ordered to be present with the county coroners at a special gaol delivery. (fn. 722) In 1327 the sheriff was ordered to replace the county coroners Thomas of Grandpont and William de Wetwang, who were in fact the town coroners. (fn. 723) From 1375 writs de coronatore eligendo were addressed to the mayor and bailiffs, (fn. 724) in accordance, it was said, with the town's charters and liberties, although in fact Oxford had no chartered right to choose its own coroners. There seem to have been four coroners in 1285, but only two from c. 1296 onwards except in 1300 when three names occur. (fn. 725)
The earliest record of what appears to have been a permanent council is Walter of Milton's complaint of c. 1253 about the activities of the fifteen jurats, apparently a fixed body of greater burgesses from whose number the bailiffs were chosen. (fn. 726) The jurats are not recorded again, but the limited number of men serving as bailiff in the later 13th century suggests that such a body may have existed until c. 1300. Twenty-four men sworn in 1238 to assist the mayor and reeves in keeping the peace in the town (fn. 727) may have been councillors, but as there is no further reference to a group of 24 until 1448, (fn. 728) they were perhaps an ad hoc body. In 1261 ten burgesses, including three former mayors and six former bailiffs, who may have been councillors, acted with the mayor and bailiffs in reaching an agreement with St. Frideswide's priory. (fn. 729) The first express reference to councillors, however, occurs in the list of officers for 1289-90, where, besides the mayor, aldermen, and bailiffs, nine sworn councillors were named, (fn. 730) including four former mayors and three former bailiffs.
Brian Twyne, the antiquary, saw lists of 8, 12, and 13 councillors among officers elected in 1321, 1351, and 1407, but did not copy out their names. (fn. 731) A list of councillors who concurred with the mayor and bailiffs in a judgement in 1409 names four aldermen, nine former bailiffs (roughly in order of seniority) followed by the parliamentary burgess (Hugh Benet, a former chamberlain), the town clerk, the chamberlains for the year, one former chamberlain, and one other man who is not known to have held office. (fn. 732) Twenty-two burgesses, who in 1384 gave bond and mainprise not to harm the university, (fn. 733) may have been councillors; they included the aldermen, the bailiffs for the year, seven former bailiffs, and two former chamberlains.
The evidence suggests, then, that from the later 13th century there was a council composed largely of former bailiffs; it was presumably that body which was referred to in 1448 as the town council. (fn. 734) In 1448 an ordinance founding the chest of five keys created a separate body, composed of 24 of the 'eldest, saddest, and most discreet' of the commons, which was to consent to the use of money from the chest, (fn. 735) and which appears to have developed by the late 15th century into the common council. (fn. 736) The council of former officers, presumably to distinguish it from the common council, was later called the mayor's council, a name first recorded in 1465. (fn. 737)
Lists of members of the mayor's council elected in 1468, 1469, and 1474 (fn. 738) contain 27, 28, and 35 names, arranged in order of seniority, starting with the four aldermen followed by the former bailiffs, then two or three other men, presumably former chamberlains; in 1474 the names of the bailiffs for the year are inserted after those of the aldermen. Comparison of the three lists indicates that they were revised each year and that the composition of, and order of seniority within, the council was fairly rigidly fixed. The lists for 1468 and 1469 are almost identical; the name of Thomas Haville, who seems to have died during the mayoral year 1468-9, (fn. 739) has been removed, one of the bailiffs for 1468-9 (the other served as bailiff again in 1469-70) has been added at the end of the list of former bailiffs, and John Adam, presumably a former chamberlain, who was to be bailiff in 1470-1, has been added at the end of the whole list. A former chamberlain who had not served as bailiff has moved to the bottom of the bailiffs' list; he may have bought a bailiff's place, although there is no clear evidence of that practice until c. 1490 when 'such chamberlains as have bailiffs' liveries' were mentioned. (fn. 740) The list for 1474 shows more losses, presumably because of death or departure from Oxford, and the addition at the end of the list of former bailiffs of the names of the bailiffs for the years 1469-73. At the end of the whole list are the names of the two men, presumably former chamberlains, who were to be bailiffs in 1475-6. A change of order among the former bailiffs seems to have been a correction of an error in the earlier lists, and one former bailiff, omitted from both the earlier lists, has been inserted in his correct position. The mayor's council, it seems, had assumed more or less the shape it was to have in the 16th century; all that was lacking was any substantial body of former chamberlains.
The bailiffs were not responsible to the town for their accounts, since they had only to produce the annual farm at the Exchequer. The chamberlains, and presumably the key-keepers, accounted annually to the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses. (fn. 741) The chamberlains' expenses included the upkeep of the town wall and ditch and the maintenance of the prison and other town property, and of the butchers' and fishmongers' stalls. Presents were sent to the king, the chancellor of the university, and other dignitaries. The heaviest expenses were incurred in lawsuits, usually against the university; disputes in 1429-30 and 1458-9, which necessitated several visits to London, cost £21 17s. and £13 11s. respectively. The chamberlains also seem to have paid the expenses of the St. Scholastica's day mass and offering. The mayor's journey to London to take his oath was a regular expense, and his attendance at coronations cost £10 3s. 4d. in 1327 and £4 15s. in 1429-30. From 1391-2 onwards the expenses of perambulating the liberty were paid regularly. Among unusual payments was 6s. 8d. paid in 1398-9 to a herald proclaiming revels and jousts at Lichfield.
The chamberlains' main sources of income were the payments made by men entering the guild (i.e. taking up freedom), which ranged from £21 15s. in 1344-5 to £11 8s. in 1458-9, and rents from town properties. Money was also made occasionally by the sale of fish from the town fishponds, as in 1318-19, or of other items such as an old door which produced 6s. in 1393-4. The chamberlains also accounted for the profits of butchers' and fishmongers' stalls and bakers' baskets, money which apparently belonged earlier to the bailiffs for the fee farm. The chamberlains do not seem to have accounted for the other revenues belonging to the farm; it may be that some stalls paid rent to the chamberlains, or that the money was in fact an extra tax levied to cover the cost of specific repairs. The major expenses of lawsuits were probably covered by special collections, like that taken in 1429-30 for a plea between the town and the university. The town property, the rent from which rose from £13 5s. 8d. in 1344-5 to £18 13s. 9d. in 1387-8 (fn. 742) comprised the town 'waste', that is the streets and the area behind the walls on which the earthen rampart had stood until the rebuilding of the wall between 1226 and 1240; (fn. 743) the guild hall given to the town by Henry III in 1229; (fn. 744) a school at the corner of Little Jewry (Bear Lane) and Shidyerd Street, bought by the chamberlains before 1364; (fn. 745) and the 'hermitage' on Grandpont, probably bought c. 1360. (fn. 746) By 1387-8, the date of the only rental copied in full by Brian Twyne, most of the waste on the inside of the walls had been built up, as had some small lanes, and the city was leasing plots outside the gates and between the inner and outer town walls against New College. Some of the turrets on the wall were also let, as were the cellar and shops, described in 1324 as two taverns, (fn. 747) under the guild hall.
Oxford burgesses were summoned to parliament in 1268 and regularly from 1295 onwards. (fn. 748) They were also summoned to other meetings: two were ordered to meet the king in 1296 to advise on the ordering of a new town; (fn. 749) William of Bicester and Thomas of Alston went to London in 1319 to draw up ordinances for the staple in England, (fn. 750) and two wool-merchants, apparently John Mymekan and John son of Walter Bost, went to treat with the king at York on the same subject in 1328. (fn. 751) In 1337 John Mymekan, Andrew Worminghall, and Stephen of Addington were chosen to discuss urgent business with the king at Westminster. (fn. 752)
The parliamentary burgesses were drawn from the same ruling élite as the town officers. Of the 96 known M.P.s in the period 1295-1487, 74 held the office of bailiff and 34 became mayor. (fn. 753) Election, in the early 15th century at least, was by the mayor and bailiffs with the consent of the whole community or freeman body. (fn. 754) Later the practice seems to have been for the choice to be made by the members of the mayor's council, whose names were appended to the returns; (fn. 755) but presumably then, as later, their choice was ratified by the freemen. (fn. 756) Re-election was common, particularly in the early 14th century; John son of William Bost served fourteen times, Andrew de Pirie and John de Falle twelve times each, and Andrew Worminghall and John Goldsmith nine times each. Later in the century Edmund Kenyon served nine times and William Dagville eight (assuming that the Walter Dagville returned twice was an error for William), and in the 15th century Thomas Coventry served ten times. As a rule, though, late-14th- and 15th-century burgesses served only once or twice.
Only four parliamentary burgesses cannot be identified as Oxford men, and only one, William Bedston, M.P. in 1467, is known to have been an outsider. He was a county landowner whose chief estate lay at Heythrop; he was a Yorkist, a royal servant, possibly a lawyer, who had served as M.P. for Bodmin in 1455-6 and for Wallingford (Berks.) in 1460-1. His election for Oxford may have been the result of Yorkist pressure on the town. Another Yorkist and royal servant, Thomas Fowler, a member of a Buckinghamshire family, was elected alderman of Oxford in 1462, not having served as bailiff; he may have been M.P. for the town in 1461 or 1463; he later sat for High Wycombe. (fn. 757) John FitzAlan, apparently a newcomer to the town, who rose rapidly through the ranks of bailiff and alderman to mayor in 1448 and 1449, was M.P. in 1450. He too was a lawyer, (fn. 758) apparently from an Oxfordshire family. (fn. 759) He appears to have been disgraced, perhaps in the political upheavals of 1450-1, for his property was in the king's hands in the summer of 1451 although he lived until late 1452. (fn. 760)
Oxford, like other boroughs, employed its parliamentary burgesses on other business while they were in London. In 1368 and again in 1397 the burgesses were engaged in negotiations with the mayor and sheriffs of London to obtain guarantees that Oxford men might enjoy the trading privileges granted by their charters. (fn. 761)
Among magnates owning houses in Oxford in the Anglo-Saxon period were Ealdorman Athelmer, founder of Eynsham abbey, and Athelwin, who gave St. Martin's church to Abingdon abbey in or before 1032. (fn. 762) In 1086 several tenants-inchief, ranging from the archbishop of Canterbury to minor figures like Jernio the king's thegn, held Oxford houses presumably acquired from their Anglo-Saxon predecessors. (fn. 763) Most of the houses were attached to country manors and seem to have been burdened with the repair of the town walls; (fn. 764) country landowners probably found them convenient for use when the king was in Oxford or as a centre for marketing the produce of their estates. Similar connexions between town and country continued into the early 12th century, when county landowners like Geoffrey de Clinton, chamberlain of Henry I, and Waukelin Hareng held Oxford houses; sometimes such houses were used for courts. (fn. 765) Gradually, however, town properties seem to have lost their usefulness to magnate owners, and most were alienated during the 12th century, usually to religious houses.
As the magnate element in the town disappeared new connexions between town and country were formed by townsmen investing in rural property. The first who is known to have done so was Henry of Oxford (d. c. 1163), who acquired many properties between Oxford and the Chilterns, some of them through his association during the Anarchy with Matilda's supporters; (fn. 766) he became sheriff of Berkshire and Oxfordshire in 1153, and founded a county family: his eldest son, William of Ibstone, had no connexion with Oxford, and his younger son, John, served two Oxford livings before becoming bishop of Norwich; Henry's daughter, however, married a prominent burgess, Geoffrey son of Durand. (fn. 767) Henry Simeon, bailiff of Oxford in 1195, possibly a relative of Henry of Oxford, consolidated his fortunes by marrying the widow of a rich burgess, John Kepeharm, (fn. 768) and his son, Stephen, acquired a large country estate by marrying one of the coheirs of the barony of Cogges. (fn. 769) The mid-13th-century mayor, Adam Fettiplace, founded a county family by passing on his country properties, notably North Denchworth (Berks.), to one son, and his Oxford property to another. (fn. 770) The acquisition of rural properties by Oxford burgesses, often as only a short-term investment, continued to be common enough throughout the Middle Ages. Among the larger accumulations made by 15th-century townsmen were those of the mayors John FitzAlan, whose estate, including extensive north Oxfordshire property, (fn. 771) passed to a burgess John Goylyn (d. 1485), and Edward Woodward (d. 1496), who held property in eight Oxfordshire towns or villages. (fn. 772)
The origins of Oxford burgesses are indicated rarely, but 13th-century surnames suggest that most came only short distances to the town: of place-names employed as surnames by Oxford property-owners in 1279 118 may be identified with reasonable certainty, and as many as 85 lay within 50 miles of the town, scattered fairly evenly around it. Places in the north and east of England were prominent among those lying over 50 miles away; 3 names derived from French places, Paris, Orléans, and Eu (Lower Seine), and there were also 3 men surnamed Irishman, and one Welshman. Some places supplied several names, notably London (5), and the Berkshire towns of Wallingford and Faringdon (4 each). Many men named after places seem to have been recent immigrants, as appears by the relatively high number of them in Oxford in 1279 who had acquired property by purchase or marriage rather than by inheritance. In the borough nearly half of the 477 recorded conveyances were by inheritance or gift within the family, but of the men named after places whose manner of acquiring property is known only 10 out of 46 did so by inheritance; in the Northgate hundred half of the 121 conveyances were by sale, but of the men involved who were named after places, all 23 had acquired their property by purchase or marriage. (fn. 773)
The pattern of immigration suggested by surnames recorded in 1327 is similar to that for 1279, in that the distant places lay mainly in the north-east; places within 15 miles of Oxford were fairly evenly distributed around the town, but those between 15 and 20 miles were concentrated in the west and north, while those between 20 and 60 miles lay mainly in the west, south, and east, towards London, Bristol and Southampton. (fn. 774) Several prominent later-medieval townsmen came from distant places: Robert of Bridport (fl. 1344) who held property in Devon, probably came from the south-west of England; (fn. 775) the early-14th-century mayor and bailiff, John Sprunt and John Forster, may have come from Essex and Shropshire, (fn. 776) and William Brampton, mayor, came from Burford and returned there before his death in 1443. (fn. 777) William Kingsmill, scrivener, (fl. 1425) and Thomas Swan, fishmonger and bailiff (1422), both moved to Oxford from London. (fn. 778)
Most of the evidence for emigration from Oxford derives from London sources. A family named Oxford, involved in skinning in the parish of St. Stephen's, Walbrook, by the late 13th century, produced at least two prominent London citizens (fn. 779) of whom one, John of Oxford, skinner (d. 1362), continued to hold considerable property in Oxford. (fn. 780) John of Oxford, vintner, and mayor of London (d. 1342), possibly from a different family, also maintained an interest in the town, making bequests for Grandpont, Pettypont, and the causeway towards St. Bartholomew's hospital. (fn. 781) John Gonerby, citizen of London (fl. 1346), appears to have been the son of an Oxford burgess of that name, (fn. 782) and the daughter of Thomas Gonerby of Oxford married a London spicer before 1363. (fn. 783) Several other London citizens held Oxford property, and one of them, John of Carlisle, surgeon, in 1349 appointed John of Oxford, skinner (d. 1362), as his son's guardian, probably because of their shared connexions with the town. (fn. 784) Another John of Oxford, sheriff of Nottingham and Derby in the 1340s, owned a house and rent in Oxford. (fn. 785) Other possible emigrants from the town were Roger the forester of Oxford, a royal officer in Boston (Lincs.) in 1348, and John Pollowe of Oxford, collector of a subsidy on wine in Exeter in 1412. (fn. 786)
Throughout the Middle Ages Oxford was controlled by comparatively few families, bound together by kinship, marriage, apprenticeship, and business interests. The 'greater burgesses', subject of a rambling complaint c. 1253 by a 'lesser burgess', Walter of Milton, had no precise constitutional definition but were clearly, in his view, a recognizable and socially exclusive group. Milton not only accused individual greater burgesses of blocking footpaths and objecting to smoke from other men's chimneys, but also made more serious allegations that they ignored restrictions which they themselves had imposed on the weavers' guild, and arranged tax assessments so that almost all the money came from the lesser burgesses. Often, according to Milton, extra money was collected and divided among the greater burgesses; on one occasion it was spent at a drinking party which developed into a brawl, an incident 'not to the honour of the king or his men'. (fn. 787) Similar complaints were made in 1293, (fn. 788) but the divisions between burgesses seem to have been less marked in the later Middle Ages, perhaps because there were no longer such extremes of wealth in the declining town. At the same time opportunities to rise were greater: bailiffs were recruited from a wider field, and apprenticeship came to offer an avenue to success for those without useful family connexions. The growing power of the university may have encouraged greater unity among the townsmen.
The ruling group seems to have been particularly close-knit in the 13th century, and several families, notably the Kepeharms and the Eus (see Table IV) survived for many generations. John Kepeharm held land in Oxford in the 1130s, (fn. 789) another John was sole alderman of the merchant guild in 1190, and his son Laurence was mayor c. 1205. (fn. 790) In 1192 Laurence owed the king £5 for the postponement of his pilgrimage or crusade, and in 1205 John's widow gave the king 100 marks and a palfrey for permission to marry as she pleased. (fn. 791) Although Kepeharms were recorded in Oxford in the mid 14th century (fn. 792) none held office after 1209. The Eu family similarly rose to power after one or two generations in the town. William de Eu was recorded in Oxford c. 1195; (fn. 793) several members of the family served as mayors or bailiffs between 1242 and 1349, and the family was still in the town in 1408. (fn. 794)
The Worminghalls, by contrast, acquired power rapidly: Robert Worminghall settled in Oxford soon after 1279, (fn. 795) but by 1290 was bailiff and by 1298 mayor. Philip Worminghall, possibly his brother, was mayor in 1310, and Robert's son Andrew was mayor in 1327 and 1340. Neither Andrew's nor Philip's sons held office, although one, Thomas Worminghall, was recorded in Oxford as late as 1368; by 1381 the family had died out. (fn. 796) The Worminghalls' pre-eminent position in the town seems to have passed with Philip's widow to William of Bicester, mayor in 1311, perhaps a descendant of Margery of Bicester, who held property in Oxford in 1279. (fn. 797) William died in 1341 and his widow, surviving son, and son-in-law, the mayor Richard Cary, all died in the Black Death of 1349. (fn. 798)
In the later Middle Ages such burgess 'dynasties' became less prominent, perhaps because recurrent plagues killed male heirs, or because the declining town offered fewer prospects to ambitious men. Comparison of the wealthier burgesses assessed for early-14th-century taxes with those paying the poll tax of 1381 (fn. 799) reveals few families in which direct descent can be proved. John Northern, assessed at 13s. 4d. in 1327, was presumably the bailiff who died in 1340; (fn. 800) his sons, John and William, both held office, and another John Northern, probably of the same family, was bailiff as late as 1444. The families of Wycombe and Watlington probably survived in the male line from 1312 to 1381, but in other families, notably the Hamptons and the Addingtons, those recorded in 1312 or 1327 can be shown to have died without direct heirs before 1381. (fn. 801) The surviving wills imply that relationships more distant than uncle and nephew were not significant in the transmission of wealth, so the later Hamptons and Addingtons are unlikely to have owed their position directly to their early-14th-century predecessors. Moreover, the practice of dividing all property, both real and movable, among all surviving children and the need to make provision for the testator's soul meant that wealth passed more or less intact only if there was only one surviving child, or if a childless widow took the property to her next husband.
Wealthy widows tended to remarry within the ruling group. The bailiff John Norton (d. 1373) married Sibyl, relict of the mayor Richard Selwood (d. 1349), and Norton's later wife, Elizabeth, married after his death another mayor, Edmund Kenyon (d. 1414). (fn. 802) Agnes, daughter of John Bost, married the mayor John of Barford, the alderman, John of Bedford, and finally a wealthy scholar, Henry Castell (d. 1376); her daughter Gillian, married three prominent townsmen, John of Hampton, William Dagville (d. 1399), and finally Thomas of Cowley. (fn. 803) William Dagville was one of the wealthiest men in late-14th-century Oxford; (fn. 804) he, his son Thomas (d. c. 1449), and grandson William (d. 1474) all became mayor, a rare example of a later-medieval family retaining power for three generations.
Apprenticeship became an increasingly important factor in the careers of many later-medieval burgesses. John Ludlow, bailiff in 1393, had been apprenticed to Roger Chichester, bailiff in 1375, (fn. 805) and Richard Mercer or Garston, mayor in 1381, had been apprenticed to John of Barford, mayor in 1349. (fn. 806) Robert Atwood, mayor in 1454, left the oversight of his shop to his 'man', Edward Woodward, presumably the later mayor and county landowner, who died in 1497. (fn. 807)
Relations between townsmen and members of the university were often close, despite the frequent conflicts between the two bodies. Nicholas and Roger, sons of the later-13th-century burgess John de Eu, were both graduates; Master Thomas of Alston was the nephew of a bailiff of the same name (d. 1328), and brother of another bailiff, John of Alston (d. 1349); Master William Bustard of All Souls College was the son of a bailiff and former manciple Richard Bustard (fl. 1451, 1466). (fn. 808) Six 15th-century members of New College known to have come from Oxford bore the surnames of leading burgess families, (fn. 809) and other university men who may have been from Oxford included John Blackborn (fl. 1454), perhaps a kinsman of William Blackborn, bailiff in 1461 and 1462, and Master Thomas Gonerby (fl. 1362), probably related to the burgesses, John (d. 1340) and Thomas Gonerby (fl. 1363). (fn. 810) William of Bicester's son, Nicholas (d. 1349), may have studied at the university, for his father had provided him with books. (fn. 811) Master Henry Castell married an alderman's widow, (fn. 812) and Alderman Richard Hughes in 1488 bequeathed gowns to his 'brother', Dr. Thomas Lee, probably his brother-in-law. (fn. 813) University men presumably attracted lay friends or family to Oxford, and there may, for example, have been a connexion between the bailiff, William Abergavenny (fl. 1352), and a man of that name who was chancellor of the university 1341-5. (fn. 814) Religious fraternities and guilds sometimes provided a meeting-point for scholars and townsmen. Members of St. Thomas's fraternity in the university church, St. Mary's, in 1484 included not only three masters of arts and several privileged persons, but also a smith, a cobbler, a corviser, a mason, a goldsmith, and two leading burgesses, Nicholas Croke (bailiff, 1465) and John Hull (bailiff, 1489). (fn. 815)
The surviving townsmen's wills dated between 1231 and 1500 are nearly all of members of Oxford's leading families. (fn. 816) They disposed mainly of real property and household goods, including bedding, tapestries, bowls, chests, clothing, and jewelry; silver spoons were particularly common bequests, armour was recorded fairly frequently, but books only four or five times. Among the more elaborate wills was that of William of Bicester, whose goods in 1341 included silver engraved with his arms, 24 silver spoons, and books of romances; he also bequeathed 4 suits of clothes, one to his private chaplain. (fn. 817) William Dagville (d. 1474), who described himself as a gentleman, left his best psalter to the abbot of Oseney, and another to St. Giles's church, to which he also left a pair of second vestments, suggesting that he may have owned a private chapel; his other bequests included 12 gowns, one of them his town livery gown, and a quantity of silver ware. (fn. 818)
Oxford's merchant guild, and later the town council, the craft guilds, and the religious fraternities, were an important part of the framework of social life, but the basic unit of activity was the parish, with its diverse population of close neighbours, its annual festivities, its administrative demands, and above all its church, frequently the first call on a townsman's charity. Oxford was one of the towns marked by a multiplicity of small parishes, although not nearly so many as York, Winchester, or Norwich. By the 13th century there were 18 churches in the town and its suburbs, and at least one non-parochial chapel as well as the former parish church of St. George in the Castle. (fn. 819) By 1500, after the closure of St. Budoc's (1265), St. Frideswide's (1298), St. Mildred's (1427), and St. Edward's (early 15th cent.), there were 14 parish churches and 3 non-parochial chapels. Although small, the Oxford parishes acquired considerable property during the Middle Ages; the churchwardens charged with administering it were often, if not always, drawn from the upper ranks of parochial society; at St. Michael at the North Gate, for instance, the known medieval wardens included 12 town bailiffs and a mayor. (fn. 820) Oxford was unusual in that at least four of its parishes possessed official seals. (fn. 821)
Despite the proximity of the university the standard of learning among parish clergy in the early Middle Ages does not seem to have been particularly high: only 40 out of the 203 known incumbents before 1400 were masters of arts, and only one held a higher degree. In the 15th and early 16th centuries, however, there were 40 lawyers, 15 theologians, and 41 M.A.s among the 137 known incumbents; some livings, it has been suggested, 'look suspiciously like scholarships for canon lawyers'. (fn. 822) It is unlikely that the more eminent academics gave much time to their parochial duties, particularly as the livings were poor. Apart from the incumbents of the suburban or partly suburban parishes, who could claim tithes from some agricultural land, the clergy were dependent upon personal tithes and offerings, which were small and difficult to collect. From the mid 15th century 'Sunday pence', a payment of 1d. a week from each 'offering house', or house rented for a mark or more a year, was collected in some parishes. (fn. 823)
The choice of the feast of St. Benedict for Oxford's early fair was presumably influenced by devotional as well as economic considerations, as was the change of date in 1228 to the feast of St. Frideswide. (fn. 824) The significance of St. Benedict in early Oxford, however, is not clear; no parish church is known to have been dedicated to him, (fn. 825) and the minster church, presumably the mother church of Oxford and possibly the owner of the fair, (fn. 826) was dedicated to St. Frideswide by the 11th century. (fn. 827)
St. Frideswide was known in the early 11th century to be buried at Oxford, and her name occurs in a mid-11th-century Winchester litany, (fn. 828) but her cult appears to have been a 12th-century creation, reaching its peak at the saint's translation to a new tomb in the priory church in 1180; at that date the prior recorded 85 miracles associated with the saint, but, suggestive perhaps of the cult's narrow appeal, most miracles were worked on people living within 40 miles of Oxford. (fn. 829) The relics were translated again in 1289, (fn. 830) but no further miracles were recorded, nor is there any evidence that the shrine was ever a great place of pilgrimage. (fn. 831) Apart from the priory and its associated parish church the only ancient church known to have been dedicated to St. Frideswide was at Frilsham (Berks.). (fn. 832)
The shrine was probably important to the townspeople, attracting, for example, a bequest in 1282 from Gillian Wyth, a wealthy widow, and a gift of a house c. 1289 from a humbler citizen, (fn. 833) but most recorded devotion to the saint was by the university. Ascension Day processions in the 13th century to St. Frideswide's as the mother church were attended by all the parish clergy, but when a Jew disrupted the procession in 1268 amends were ordered to be made to the university. (fn. 834) By the mid 14th century the university had changed the date of the procession to mid Lent, and a university calendar of that date observed three feasts of St. Frideswide, her deposition (19 Oct.), translation (12 Feb.), and invention (15 May). (fn. 835) In 1398 the bishop of Lincoln ordered the observance of St. Frideswide's day (19 Oct.) throughout the university and deanery of Oxford, offering indulgence to those attending mass in church, praying at the shrine, or giving gifts to the priory. (fn. 836) The feast's observance throughout the province of Canterbury was ordered in 1434 and 1481, (fn. 837) and in 1471 the university asked that greater veneration should be paid to St. Frideswide. (fn. 838) Versions of her life were included in a few later-medieval hagiographical collections, (fn. 839) but the only local reference to the shrine was to the conviction of a scholar for stealing necklaces and precious stones from it in 1469. (fn. 840)
A feature of religious life in the 13th century was the support of anchorites in several parish churches. An anchoress lived at St. Ebbe's some time between 1210 and 1225, and in 1236 a hermit's cell was built at St. Cross in Holywell. (fn. 841) In 1242 an anchoress built a cell on the north side of St. Budoc's church, (fn. 842) and in 1271 there were anchorites at St. Budoc's, St. Peter-in-the-East, St. Giles's, and St. John the Baptist. (fn. 843) Monastic cartularies and the few surviving wills suggest that in the 12th and 13th centuries the monastic houses and friaries were the chief beneficiaries of lay devotion, although the endowment of some of the parish churches dates from the latter part of the period. Burial in monastic or friary churches was requested in 7 of the 11 surviving 13th-century wills. (fn. 844) In 1275 the rector of St. Peter-le-Bailey, anxious for his fees, seized the corpse of a parishioner who had asked to be buried at Oseney abbey and buried it in his own church. (fn. 845)
In the later Middle Ages the trend in personal devotion was away from the monastic foundations and towards parochial cults and chantries, although the four orders of friars retained their popularity up to the Reformation. Parochial devotion centred on the cults of saints, of whom the most popular was the Virgin Mary, whose altar or chapel was to be found in every parish church, and whose feasts were celebrated regularly. (fn. 846) Next in popularity were St. Catherine and St. Thomas Becket, each of whom had five altars or chapels and three lights in Oxford churches; St. Catherine also had statues in St. Aldate's, St. Peter-in-the-East, and St. Thomas's. There were four altars dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and two each to St. Anne, St. Nicholas, and St. Andrew. St. John the Baptist, with one altar in St. Martin's, was also honoured by four statues, and the feasts of his birth and beheading were widely observed. St. Clement, with an altar and two lights, was comparatively popular, but the usually popular St. Margaret and St. Christopher were poorly supported in Oxford. There were statues of St. George in St. Michael's at the North Gate and St. George's in the Castle. St. Frideswide was not commemorated by altars or statues in any of the parish churches and, apart from Becket, only two English saints were commemorated: St. Mildred, with an altar and a statue in St. Michael at the North Gate, which had been closely connected with the lost St. Mildred's church, and St. Dunstan, whose light was in St. Martin's. In the 15th century it seems to have been usual for each church to have an annual mass for its benefactors as well as a dedication festival; lesser feasts observed in Oxford churches included those of the native saints Frideswide, Osyth (Sytha), Hugh of Lincoln, Chad, William of York, Cuthbert, David, and Patrick, as well as of the foreign saints Blaise and Gratian.
Banners and crosses were carried in procession at the major festivals, notably Ascension, Corpus Christi, and Rogationtide. The Ascension Day processions from St. George's and St. Mary Magdalen were a cause of dispute between Oseney abbey and St. Frideswide's priory in the 13th century. (fn. 847) The clerks of the university held a festival in St. George's in the Castle on St. George's Day in the later 13th century. (fn. 848) In 1290 and 1304 the bishop of Lincoln forbade the veneration of St. Edmund's well, outside the town next to St. Clement's church, where miracles reputedly occurred. (fn. 849) Miracles were also associated with St. Margaret's well in Binsey churchyard, and a well near St. Cross church gave the name Holywell to the settlement there. (fn. 850) John of Hampton in 1328 left 6 marks to each man who would go on a pilgrimage for him to the Holy Land when the king went there; (fn. 851) John Bost in 1349 left money for a pilgrimage to Rome, and John Swanbourne, in 1393 left money to a man undertaking a pilgrimage to Canterbury or Walsingham. (fn. 852) In 1303 and 1394 townsmen left money 'to the aid of the Holy Land'. (fn. 853)
Endowed masses in honour of the Virgin were recorded in St. Mary's in 1261, and in seven other Oxford churches before the mid 14th century. (fn. 854) There was a chantry of St. Thomas in St. Martin's church by 1338, and of St. Catherine in St. Thomas's church probably by 1440. Several chantries were associated with fraternities, whose members paid subscriptions to maintain the chantry and to support poorer brethren. In the 14th century fraternities of the Virgin existed in All Saints and St. Ebbe's, and one of St. Thomas in St. Mary's church; there were fraternities or guilds of St. Catherine, St. Thomas, and St. Clement in the churches of St. Thomas, St. Michael at the North Gate, and St. Peter-le-Bailey respectively in the 15th century, and possibly others associated with important chapels or chantries of the Virgin in the churches of St. Giles and St. Mary Magdalen. Some were closely associated with craft guilds, like the tailors' fraternity of St. John the Baptist in St. Martin's church. Most were short-lived, but that of St. Thomas in St. Mary's church survived into the 1530s; like the fraternity of Our Lady in All Saints it was largely the preserve of wealthier citizens.
It was usual for late-medieval wills to make some provision for the testator's soul. Temporary chantries were common and sometimes elaborate, like that of John of Barford (d. 1361) which provided for six priests for one year, four for a second, and two for a third year. (fn. 855) The earliest recorded perpetual chantry to commemorate an individual or family was Robert Worminghall's in St. Peter-le-Bailey, founded in 1323. That and similar chantries founded by John of Ducklington in St. Aldate's and for the Cary family in St. Martin's were long-lived, but many, although provided for in wills, were never founded, and others, such as Legh's chantry in St. Michael at the South Gate, were quickly abandoned. Four chantries endowed in the late 15th or early 16th century survived until the suppression of chantries in 1548.