A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 5, Bullingdon Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1957.
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Holton is a small secluded parish of 1,649 acres (1951) some 5 miles east of Oxford and just north of Wheatley. The acreage of the ancient parish was increased in 1878 by the addition of Vent farm, part of Holton Wood, and Pilfrance, which were transferred from Cuddesdon parish. (fn. 1) In 1949 Vent farm was transferred to Forest Hill with Shotover. (fn. 2) The present boundary is well marked. In the north-west it mostly follows Polecat End Lane, probably an old Saxon road, (fn. 3) then it follows the course of the Holton Brook as it flows eastwards between Waterperry and Holton woods and next turns south to join the River Thame by Holton Mill. The Thame itself as it flows towards Wheatley Bridge forms the eastern boundary for a short distance. On the south the parish borders the main London road.
From a height of about 300 ft. above sea-level in the north and west the land slopes gently down to the Holton Brook and the Thame, where the fields are liable to floods. (fn. 4) The parish lies in the area of the Oxford Clay (fn. 5) and the soil, mostly loam with some gravel and clay, is good for growing wheat, barley, and oats, but is most suitable for pasture and meadow-land. (fn. 6) There are still a number of coppices and a fair-sized wood, Holton Wood, in the north. But the woodland has decreased slightly in the last hundred years; in 1847 there were 166 acres and there are now 133 acres. (fn. 7) Holton Wood (123 a.), probably larger in the Middle Ages than at present, adjoined Shotover Forest but did not form part of it, although it is sometimes mentioned in Shotover records. (fn. 8) In 1300 it was not included in the royal perambulation. (fn. 9) There are occasional references to the use of timber from it, as for the Sheldonian Theatre in 1664, (fn. 10) and wild cats lived there as recently as the second half of the 19th century, long after they were supposed to have become extinct in Oxfordshire. (fn. 11)
Two roads cross the parish; one leaves the London road by Lyehill quarries, (fn. 12) and runs northwards to Stanton St. John and Islip; the other, also running off the London road, goes through Holton village and on to Worminghall (Bucks.).
Holton village, now little more than a hamlet, lies roughly in the middle of the parish, on either side of the road which runs north from the church and the edge of Holton Park to Pond Farm and the 17thcentury Old Park Farm. Its cottages are mostly of 17th- and 18th-century date. (fn. 13) Towards the end of the latter century, the rector reported that there were 39 houses, 30 of them fine. They are mostly built of rubble, but some of them are of stone and some timber-framed; they are thatched or have old tiles. A 19th-century cottage built of coursed rubble, with leaded casement windows and a roof of old tiles, continues the traditional style of building. The stocks used to stand at the south-eastern end of the village on the way to the church and rectory. (fn. 14) It is possible that the green was here too but that it was taken into the park at some date. Church Farm just beyond the church was rebuilt in the 19th century, but the traces of its moat, and its 18thcentury farm buildings demonstrate its antiquity.
The Victoria Reading Room of corrugated iron was built by private subscription in 1897 on land given by Dora and Constance Tyndale, daughters of the Revd. H. A. Tyndale. (fn. 15) It commemorates the Diamond Jubilee.
Electricity was brought to the village in 1931, and the first good water-supply was obtained in 1932, when Holton was connected to the Oxford city watersupply. In 1952 the Wheatley sewerage scheme was extended to Holton Park. Eight council houses were built in 1946. (fn. 16)
Until the late 19th century the village mummers performed a play annually which contains allusions to the wars of Marlborough, and in the time of the Tyndale Biscoes cricket matches were regular events. (fn. 17)
Holton Park (once 178 a.) was formerly the deer park of the medieval house (fn. 18) and was a constant attraction to poachers. (fn. 19) It still had a herd of a hundred deer in the 19th century, but all deer were killed off at the beginning of the Second World War. Today, the park is partly occupied by the buildings of the military hospital, originally opened in the Second World War as an American military hospital, and by a girls' school and a farm. As a park it has always been distinguished by its fine elm and oak trees. (fn. 20)
The present manor-house was built in about 1808 by Elisha Biscoe. (fn. 21) It is a large grey block of two stories, ornamented with a castellated parapet and other 19th-century Gothic features; the north-east front has a two-story service wing. It is built of stone from Shotover quarry in Headington; the fabric had already begun to crumble in 1819. (fn. 22) Undistinguished as a building, it is interesting as the home during the 1830's of Lady Lucy Pusey, the mother of Edward Pusey, who often visited her there. (fn. 23) It is now used as a grammar school for girls, and was enlarged in 1952 when some outhouses, which may have been laundries, were pulled down and replaced by the school assembly hall, built of brick and faced with cement. (fn. 24)
Facing the house is the island site of the medieval manor-house with its surrounding moat. It has been calculated that the work of making this moat entailed the excavation of some 24,000 cubic yards of oolitic rock. It is half cut out of the rock on the higher side, and retained on the opposite or north-eastern side by an artificial bank some 12 ft. high which carried a road. The moat was probably once much deeper than now; its width is 25 yds. on the north-east side and 10 yds. on the south-west; and it incloses an area of nearly 2 acres of land. (fn. 25) No clue to the date of this considerable work or to the building of the medieval house or castle has been found. Perhaps the most likely date for its construction is when the manor was in the hands of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, or his son. (fn. 26) The earliest documentary record of a manor-house with its dovecote occurs in 1317. (fn. 27) In 1461 in the Bromes' day (fn. 28) it is called 'Halleplace'. (fn. 29) The 17th-century house on this site, the home of the Whorwoods, was clearly a large building, for it had eighteen hearths in 1665. (fn. 30) It stood in the south-west corner of the island, and was built in the shape of an L, one arm facing north and the other west. A courtyard lay between the two wings of the building and the water. It must be substantially this building which is depicted in a pen-andink drawing of Holton House, dated 1801, which shows a rambling and ruinous building of three stories with a pent-house roof, apparently of 17thcentury date, with traces of an earlier 15th-century building. (fn. 31) The sketch seems to be of the back parts of the house and to have been done when demolition was in progress. An oil painting of about the same date, made of the front of the house, portrays a Gothic façade in the style of the second half of the 18th century. (fn. 32) The old bridge across the moat on the north-west side is shown. This house was pulled down in about 1805, (fn. 33) and the stone presumably used for the new one, for there is now hardly a trace of the ancient building. The steps from the courtyard down to the water were dug out in about 1890 and are still visible; the winch of the drawbridge was in situ in the late 19th century. (fn. 34)
Apart from the village and Holton Park, there are some scattered buildings. Warren Farm, lying isolated in the fields to the north-west of the village instead of in the village street, is probably a witness to the early inclosure of the parish. The present building of five bays dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. It has a roof of old tiles with brick chimney-stacks, and retains an original fireplace and staircase. Its fish ponds indicate the existence of an earlier medieval house. In the south-west of the parish at Lyehill there are some two-storied cottages built of rubble and thatch, dating from the 17th century. On the banks of the Thame at the other side of the parish lies the 17th-century mill-house, now modernized. (fn. 35)
The area of Holton was inhabited in the RomanoBritish period, (fn. 36) but the Anglo-Saxons gave the village its name of the 'hidden nook', (fn. 37) or 'the tun in the hollow', and continuous settlement probably dates from the 10th century. (fn. 38) Always a farming community, the village has nevertheless been connected with some memorable events. In 1643 parliamentary troops lay there. (fn. 39) In the park there is a striking earthwork which may have been thrown up during the Civil War as the emplacement of a battery commanding the approaches of Wheatley Bridge. (fn. 40) After the surrender of Oxford, Ireton in January 1647 married Cromwell's daughter Bridget in the manor-house, (fn. 41) which was the headquarters of Fairfax's army. The Whorwoods were strong royalists, (fn. 42) but old Lady Ursula Whorwood was in the house when Ireton and Bridget were married, for Ireton gave her, in return for her hospitality, an embossed silver cup which had been given him by Cromwell. (fn. 43)
The village should also be remembered as the home of Jane Whorwood, (fn. 44) 'a tall, well-fashioned and well-languaged gentlewoman', who unsuccessfully tried to rescue Charles I from Carisbrooke Castle in 1648. (fn. 45) She was described by her contemporary Anthony Wood as 'the most loyal person to King Charles in his miseries, as any woman in England', (fn. 46) and the king referred to her with confidence in his correspondence. (fn. 47)
In 1086 HOLTON was one of the many manors held by Roger d'Ivry. (fn. 48) On the failure of the d'Ivry line (c. 1112) Holton with the other manors escheated to the Crown, and was granted to the St. Valery family. Henceforward, it formed part of the honor of St. Valery, and then of the honor of Wallingford. (fn. 49)
Unlike most of the manors of the honor of Wallingford in the 13th century, Holton was not held by hereditary tenants, but by life-tenants of the Earls of Cornwall, who held the honor in the 13th century.
In 1294 Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, was legally separated from his wife Margaret de Clare. (fn. 50) He granted her £800 a year in lands, (fn. 51) and revenue from Holton may have formed part of this, for in 1303 she was claiming ⅓ as dower. (fn. 52) She died in 1312, (fn. 53) and in 1317 the manor, then worth £7, was granted by the king to Roger Damory of Bletchingdon on his marriage to the wealthy Elizabeth de Burgh, (fn. 54) the king's niece, widow of the Earl of Ulster's son, and sister and coheir of the Earl of Gloucester. (fn. 55) Roger died in 1322 after being mortally wounded at the battle of Tutbury, (fn. 56) and Holton descended to their daughter Elizabeth. In 1326 she married John, Lord Bardolf, of Wormegay (Norf.). (fn. 57) He died in 1363, leaving a son William as his heir. On his death in 1385–6 (fn. 58) his son Thomas, Lord Bardolf, was a minor and so only obtained Holton in 1395. (fn. 59) It was soon confiscated with his other estates after he had joined the unsuccessful rebellion of 1405 against Henry IV. (fn. 60) In the same year Holton was granted to Parnel Brocard for life; (fn. 61) in 1408 the grant was revoked because of a decision in favour of the claim of the two daughters of Lord Bardolf. (fn. 62) They therefore obtained joint possession. (fn. 63)
Anne Bardolf, first married to Sir William Clifford (d. 1441), took Reynold Lord Cobham of Sterborough as her second husband. Her sister Joan, wife of Sir William Phelip, who took the title of Lord Bardolf, died in 1447, leaving a minor as her heir, her grandson William Beaumont, the son of her daughter Elizabeth (d. 1441) and John, Viscount Beaumont. (fn. 64) Having thus inherited from his grandmother half of Holton, he inherited the other half in 1453, on the death of his great-aunt Lady Cobham, who died childless. (fn. 65)
William Beaumont inherited the Bardolf title, and on his father's death in 1460 at the battle of Northampton, he became Viscount Beaumont. A Lancastrian, he was attainted in 1461 after the battle of Towton, and his lands forfeited. Although pardoned in 1470, (fn. 66) he appears never to have recovered Holton, which had been granted in 1467 to Richard Quatremains of Rycote, in exchange for the manor of Great Hambleton (Rut.). (fn. 67)
Some time before his death in 1477, Quatremains sold Holton to Richard Fowler, (fn. 68) a prominent Yorkist lawyer, the nephew of his wife Sybil Englefield, and son of Sybil's sister Cecily and William Fowler. Richard settled Holton for life on his wife Joan or Jane, daughter of John Danvers and great-niece of Richard Quatremains, (fn. 69) who petitioned in 1485 against the resumption of the manor by John Viscount Beaumont. (fn. 70) On her death it went to her son Richard Fowler, who also inherited Rycote when Sybil Quatremains, formerly Englefield, died in 1483. (fn. 71) He lived at Rycote and probably died in 1502, leaving as heir his son, a third Richard Fowler, who had licence to enter his father's lands in 1505. (fn. 72) It is presumably this Richard whom Leland calls 'a very onthrift', who sold 'al his landes leving his children ful smaul lyvinges'. (fn. 73) In 1513 Holton was sold (the advowson excepted) to William Brome, citizen and alderman of London. (fn. 74) He left Holton for life to his wife Alice and then to his son and heir William. (fn. 75) After this the descent of the capital manor of Holton can no longer be traced, and it is probable that it was sold to Sir John Brome, the holder of the other manor. (fn. 76)
During the Middle Ages the capital manor at Holton was held by subtenants, or later leased, and it is unlikely that any of its lords lived there. In 1086 the tenant was named Godfrey. (fn. 77) In 1237 Peter Gaudin was holding it of the Earl of Cornwall; (fn. 78) and at the end of the century Bartholomew of Kent, a fairly prosperous man, who qualified for knighthood, was the life-tenant until his death in 1317. (fn. 79) In 1340 the Bardolfs granted it for life to Nicholas Damory, (fn. 80) and later a cousin of the Bardolfs, Robert Bardolf, held it for life. (fn. 81)
It is not clear when Holton was divided into two manors. The second manor, known in the Middle Ages as the SEINTLICE manor, (fn. 82) must have originated in the holding of the Senlis family, the largest freeholders in Holton in the 13th and early 14th centuries. In 1248 Simon de Senlis held a carucate of the Earl of Cornwall; (fn. 83) in 1279 Simon de Senlis, probably his son, held 1½ hide, a property called 'le Frith', and a croft called 'Kyriecroft', for 3/8 of a knight's fee and a rent of 34s. 3d., (fn. 84) and in 1317 Simon de Senlis held 1 hide. (fn. 85) This was probably the property held in the 15th century by the Bromes, who were lords of the manor and benefactors of the church. (fn. 86) In 1461 William Brome was said to hold it in socage of Lord Beaumont. (fn. 87)
William Brome, the first Brome connected with Holton, was the son of John Brome of Brome (Warws.), (fn. 88) and came of a family of burgesses of Warwick. He seems to have been a London merchant. (fn. 89) He married Agnes, daughter and coheir of Thomas Baldington of Albury, who died in 1435 (the arms of Brome quartering Baldington may be seen in Holton church), and through her he inherited Albury, and perhaps also the land in Holton. (fn. 90) He was known as 'lord of Holton' by 1446. (fn. 91) He died in 1461 and was succeeded by his son Robert, (fn. 92) who died in 1485. (fn. 93) Robert's son Christopher, born in 1475, was baptized at Holton, and his birth entered in a missal belonging to the church. (fn. 94) He may have acquired more land in Holton, for by his death in 1509 the Seintlice manor of Holton, now held in chief as of the honor of Wallingford, had doubled in value. (fn. 95) His son, Sir John Brome, a minor at his father's death (fn. 96) continued to live at Holton. It is likely that he also bought the capital manor from the London Bromes. His heir Sir Christopher succeeded in 1558, (fn. 97) and died in 1589, (fn. 98) leaving two sons by his second wife Eleanor, daughter of Lord Windsor of Bradenham. George, the elder, inherited Holton. He was the last Brome to hold it, since his young son William, whose brass is in the church, died in 1599. (fn. 99) On George Brome's death in 1613, Holton passed to his only daughter Ursula, wife of Sir Thomas Whorwood of Sandwell (Staffs.), (fn. 100) then living in Headington. They later moved to Holton, where Sir Thomas died in 1634. (fn. 101) He was succeeded by his son, Brome Whorwood, made D.C.L. in 1642. (fn. 102) He and his wife Jane were royalists. (fn. 103) In 1645, when he was in France, his lands were sequestrated, and in 1648 he compounded for them for £872, a tenth of their value. (fn. 104) By 1649 (fn. 105) the Whorwoods were back in Holton, where Lady Ursula Whorwood, who had evidently been there throughout the war, died in 1653. (fn. 106) Brome Whorwood and his wife died in 1684 (fn. 107) leaving one daughter, Diana, for their only son Brome was drowned in 1657. (fn. 108) In 1677 she had married Edward Master, Chancellor of Exeter diocese, (fn. 109) bringing him £2,500 'on the nayle'. (fn. 110) He died in 1692, and Diana lived until 1701; she left no children. She held Holton during her life, (fn. 111) but on her death it went to Thomas, her father's illegitimate son by Mary Katherine Allen, a servant of the Whorwoods. (fn. 112) In accordance with his father's will, which was contested by the Masters, he took the name of Whorwood, (fn. 113) and succeeding Whorwoods are descended from him.
Thomas Whorwood died in 1708; (fn. 114) his son Thomas in 1736, and his grandson, another Thomas Whorwood, who married Penelope Schutz of Shotover, died childless in 1771. Holton then passed to the latter's nephew, Henry Mayne Whorwood, who in 1801 sold it for £54,000 to Elisha Biscoe, (fn. 115) a lawyer's son. (fn. 116) He died unmarried in 1829, leaving the estate to his sister Anne, the widow of Timothy Hare Earle, of Swallowfield Place (Berks.).
Mrs. Earle and her daughters took the name of Biscoe. After her death in 1834, her two younger daughters Elizabeth and Frances Biscoe succeeded, and lived first at Holton cottage, and then at the manor-house after about 1845. They died, both at the age of 88, in 1863 and 1865 respectively, and the property went to their nephew, William Earle Tyndale, son of the Revd. T.G. Tyndale, Rector of Holton (fn. 117) and of Mary Anne Earle, elder sister of Elizabeth and Frances Biscoe. William Tyndale, under Elisha Biscoe's will, also took the name of Biscoe. He died in 1895, and was followed by his son, Henry Stafford Tyndale Biscoe. (fn. 118)
In about 1910 the latter sold the manor. The purchaser, Alexander Crundall, broke up the estate, and in 1913 put it up for sale in lots. (fn. 119) Holton House and the park were bought about this time by Mr. H. Briggs, but manorial rights had now lapsed. (fn. 120)
There was another small manor in Holton, called GROVE; its position has not been identified, but it seems to have been near 'Harpesford', or Wheatley Bridge. (fn. 121) It is not mentioned in Domesday Book, unless it was one of the 2 hides in Kirtlington held by Herbert of Robert d'Oilly. (fn. 122) This is probable as the manor was later part of the d'Oilly fee, and descended with land in Kirtlington. (fn. 123) In the 13th (fn. 124) and 14th centuries (fn. 125) it was listed among the d'Oilly lands, after which the overlordship disappears.
Between 1121 and 1130 Jocelin, possibly a descendant of the Herbert of Domesday Book, gave two-thirds of the tithes of his land in Grove to Abingdon Abbey. (fn. 126) His son Ranulf, who was probably the Ranulf, son of Josce, who witnessed a d'Oilly grant to Thame Abbey in 1137, (fn. 127) was alive about 1160. (fn. 128) His grandson, Fulk de Grave, (fn. 129) whose wife was Margery, (fn. 130) was healed in 1180 at St. Frideswide's shrine, (fn. 131) and by 1185 had given 2 acres of land ad fontem Haroldi to Oseney Abbey. (fn. 132) He was no doubt dead by 1200, when his son Thomas was holding Grove and land in Kirtlington. (fn. 133) This Thomas, a benefactor of Oseney (fn. 134) and St. Frideswide's, (fn. 135) was dead by 1237, when his widow Orenga sold several acres, a part of her dower in Holton (i.e. ⅓ carucate) to Gilbert de Bamburgh. (fn. 136)
This Gilbert may have been a relative, for the whole manor as well as land in Kirtlington came to him. In 1242–3 he was holding Grove as ¼ knight's fee, (fn. 137) and his son Henry de Grove, a benefactor of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, (fn. 138) outside Oxford, held it in 1279. (fn. 139) He was probably the last in the male line, for in 1284 his daughter Alice, wife of Henry de Bueles of Kirtlington, (fn. 140) exchanged land in the parish of St. Mildred, Oxford, for land in Kirtlington. (fn. 141)
In 1349 Grove was held of the d'Oilly heirs by Robert Lelham and Isabel his wife as a knight's fee. (fn. 142) William Lelham of Grove and Cecily his wife were transferring property in Oxford in 1390. (fn. 143) He was dead by 1418, (fn. 144) and in 1422 William Lelham, goldsmith, his son and heir, leased Grove, with 7½ acres in the fields of Holton, to Roger Perye of Wheatley for twelve years, with reversion to Richard Gelote and Maud his wife. (fn. 145) The Gelotes obtained possession, for later in the century Maud Gelote, then aged 80, widow of Richard Gelote, brought a suit in Chancery to have the reversion settled on her daughter Joan. (fn. 146) After this the descent cannot be traced.
Economic and Social History.
Holton never seems to have had a large population. The poll tax returns of 1377 give the names of 89 people over fourteen, (fn. 147) and in 1676 96 people over sixteen were reported to be churchgoers. (fn. 148) In 1802 the rector reported that there were 49 families, consisting of about 215 people: (fn. 149) his estimate agrees roughly with the census figure of 1801, namely 238. Numbers had risen to 289 by 1841, but by 1901 had decreased to 193. Since then they have risen to 615 in 1951. (fn. 150)
At the time of Domesday Book the manor's fields were cultivated by 17 peasant tenants; 4 of them were serfs on the demesne, while there were also 10 villeins and 3 bordars. (fn. 151) In 1279 their successors are described as 20 cottars, and tenants at will of 10 virgates of land. By then there were also 4 free tenants, the most prosperous of whom were the Senlis family, (fn. 152) who held by military service and paid 34s. rent, and William of the mill, who held the mill. (fn. 153) In 1317 there were still 20 unfree tenants, but there was an additional free tenant. (fn. 154) The 5 free tenants held between them the mills, 2¼ hides, and 3 roods of assarted land, which had evidently once been forest land. Twelve customary tenants held approximately a messuage and a virgate each, at rents of 1s. 6d. and 3d. for commutation of service; and 8 cotterelli held a cottage and a croft each, for which they paid 8d. The services of customary tenants were commuted by this time, but the cotterelli may still have been liable for service.
The assessment of 1327, (fn. 155) which gives the names of 27 people liable to taxation, suggests that the people of Holton were relatively prosperous. This is borne out by the taxation list of 1337, in which Holton is rated at £5 10s. 11d., (fn. 156) a relatively high figure for its area. Early-16th-century subsidy returns also show a community where wealth was comparatively evenly spread. Of the 36 people returned as liable to taxation in 1524, (fn. 157) only John Brome, lord of Seintlice manor, held land valued at £40; 6 people had goods of £5 and more in value, and 15 were taxed on their gains or wages.
Before the Conquest Holton had land for 7 ploughs or possibly about 840 field acres under cultivation, but by 1086 only six ploughs were working, (fn. 158) and consequently perhaps only about 720 acres were being cultivated, a much smaller amount than the modern acreage. These calculations do not include the small manor of Grove, whose extent is not known, but which may have been assessed at a hide in 1086. (fn. 159) Holton had a wood of 1½ by 2 furlongs, 15 acres of meadow, and 12 acres of pasture. The value had been, and still was, £4. There were two plough-teams on the demesne, which in 1279 still consisted of 2 plough-lands, a meadow by Harpesford (Wheatley) Bridge, and a wood called 'Chille'. (fn. 160) The rest of the cultivated area consisted of 10 virgates held at will, 9½ virgates held by free tenants, and 1 virgate belonging to the church; in all 20½ virgates are recorded.
An extent of the manor of 1317 (fn. 161) shows that the demesne had decreased to 100 acres of arable land, worth 3d. an acre, or £1 5s. in all, six acres of meadow, worth 18d. an acre or 9s. altogether, and pasture worth 5s. It is impossible to calculate accurately the rest of the area, but it was probably about 25 virgates, more than half held by customary tenants. The yearly value of the manor was £7 1s. 6d.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, when there were two manors, it is difficult to estimate their extent and value. When the capital manor was sold by Richard Fowler in 1513, it was said to consist of 160 acres of arable, 20 of meadow, 100 of pasture, and 20 of wood; there were 12 messuages, and the annual rent was £10. (fn. 162) In 1461 the Brome manor was said to consist of 10 virgates, probably in demesne, 70 acres of meadow in Holton and Wheatley, and 10 messuages and 3 cottages. (fn. 163) Its value in 1509 was £9 6s. 8d. (fn. 164) by one estimate and £8 by another. (fn. 165)
After the Reformation, when the manors had been united, the lord of the manor continued to be almost the only landowner. (fn. 166) In 1754, for example, the only two 40-shilling freeholders were Thomas Whorwood and the rector. (fn. 167) The manor was finally broken up in 1913. (fn. 168)
The fields must have been inclosed at an early date. There is record of some inclosure in 1536, when Sir John Brome inclosed 14 acres with ditches and railings, which had always been ploughed and sown. (fn. 169) He is known to have promoted inclosure elsewhere, (fn. 170) and this was almost certainly not all that he inclosed in Holton. Arthur Young noted that the parish was inclosed at the end of the 18th century, and as there is no parliamentary inclosure award, inclosure must have been completed at the latest by about 1760. (fn. 171) Arthur Young also noted that the land was mainly arable, but that there was some rich pasture. This is surprising in view of the position in 1513, when the capital manor had a high proportion of meadow and pasture—120 acres, against 160 acres of arable (fn. 172)—and again in 1847, when there was almost twice as much meadow and pasture: 445 acres of arable and 917 acres of meadow and pasture. (fn. 173) If Arthur Young's statement is correct it may be accounted for by the Napoleonic War and the great demand for wheat.
The inhabitants in the 16th and 17th centuries were to a large extent tenants of the manor: in the early 18th century they were said to be all copy- and leaseholders of the Whorwoods. (fn. 174) The leases, it seems, were long: in 1617, for example, John Stampe leased Holton farm for 70 years, (fn. 175) and in a Chancery suit in 1693 it was said that copyholds were usually granted for one life in possession and for one or two lives in reversion. (fn. 176) Many of these copyholders were fairly prosperous; in the hearth tax returns of 1665, for example, in addition to Brome Whorwood and the rector, the names of 20 people are given, 11 of whom had 3 or more hearths, while the rest had 2 hearths each. (fn. 177) Yet by 1785 there were only five people, besides Henry Whorwood, holding enough land to be liable for land tax. (fn. 178) Progressive farming had evidently led to the amalgamation of holdings and the disappearance of the yeoman. In the 17th- and early-18th-century parish registers there are references to yeomen, but early-19thcentury ones, as is commonly the case elsewhere, mention almost only labourers. By 1847 most of the land belonged to four large farms, two of over 200 and two of over 300 acres; there were also 17 small tenants, most of whom held under an acre. (fn. 179) When these four farms, the Vent farm, (fn. 180) and most of the rest of the parish except for the manor-house (1,523 a. in all) were up for sale in 1913, the annual rental was £2, 129. (fn. 181)
Quarrying and milling were the chief village industries. The Lyehill quarries, (fn. 182) which belonged to the manor, are not known to be mentioned in the accounts of Oxford building, except when Wolsey used stone from them for Christ Church. (fn. 183) But according to the 17th-century historian, Dr. Robert Plot, their stone was mixed with Taynton stone and used extensively for college buildings; he gives a list of fourteen where it was used. (fn. 184) What was commonly called Wheatley stone in college accounts probably, therefore, often included Holton stone.
Wheatley Bridge was rebuilt in 1809 of 'good, large, squared stones', probably from Holton quarry; and Cuddesdon Mill Bridge was repaired in 1877 with Holton stone. (fn. 185) In 1913, when the annual rent of the quarries was £30, their area was 9 acres, (fn. 186) and they had been gradually moving to the east. In 1954 no stone was being quarried. (fn. 187)
A water-mill, probably on the site of the present mill, is mentioned in 1279, when William of the mill held it with ½ virgate of land for a rent of 52s. and 10 sticks of eels. (fn. 188) In 1317 two water-mills are mentioned, both held by a free tenant, who paid £2 a year, more than a quarter of the total value of the manor; (fn. 189) this is the only mention of a second mill. John Almond, the miller in 1665, had two hearths; (fn. 190) Ralph Simpson was the tenant in 1701; (fn. 191) and in 1847 Edward Robbins rented the mill house and 9 acres of land. (fn. 192) In 1913 Mr. Gale was tenant with 39 acres of land. (fn. 193)
The subsidiary village industries are recorded in isolated pieces of evidence; John le Iremonger, John le Charpenter, and Alexander le Sutere (cobbler) were tenants in 1317; (fn. 194) in 1524 Ralph Howse (tanner), Thomas William (carpenter), and John Basset (shoemaker), paid a subsidy; (fn. 195) and Richard Packley (tailor), gave evidence in the archdeacon's court in 1616. (fn. 196) In the 19th century, though the village probably depended mainly on Wheatley tradesmen, it had a shoemaker of its own in 1826, (fn. 197) and in 1854 a baker and a shopkeeper, in addition to the farmer-miller. (fn. 198)
The advowson of Holton, which has always been a rectory, descended with the manor. In the 15th century, when there were two manors, the Fowlers held it. Richard Fowler excepted it from his grant of the manor to William Brome in 1513, (fn. 199) but Gabriel Fowler sold it to Christopher Brome in 1563. (fn. 200) Thus the Bromes presented to the church at the end of the 16th century, and the Whorwoods in the 17th and 18th. In 1934 the advowson was transferred to the Oxford Diocesan Board of Patronage by Mr. Melville Balfour.
The church was valued at £5 6s. 8d. in 1254 (fn. 201) and £6 in 1291; of this Abingdon Abbey received a pension of 10s. (fn. 202) This sum, which the abbey continued to receive until the Dissolution, (fn. 203) was from 2/3 of the tithes of the land of Grove manor. (fn. 204) They were granted to the abbey between 1121 and 1130 by Jocelin; his son Ranulph between 1158 and 1165 tried to limit the gift, but finally confirmed it. (fn. 205) These tithes, which were originally worth 5s., were used for the care of sick monks. (fn. 206) By 1535 the net value of the church was £12 19s.; (fn. 207) in the early 17th century its value was about £60, (fn. 208) and in 1847 the tithes were commuted for £427, including £7 tithe on the glebe. (fn. 209) In 1953 the net value of the benefice was £328. (fn. 210)
In the Middle Ages there was a virgate of land belonging to the church, (fn. 211) probably the same as the 25 acres which it held at the time of the tithe award in 1847 and was still holding in 1954. They were then farmed by a tenant of the rector, who also used the old tithe barn of the rectory. (fn. 212)
The earliest recorded rector, a chaplain of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, was presented in 1263, (fn. 213) and there are other rectors of interest. (fn. 214) One, John Coldhale (1479–94) had an academic hall in Oxford (fn. 215) and was a university official. (fn. 216) He is known to have had a curate in Holton. (fn. 217) It is possible that after about the mid-16th century there was no rector, and that the Bromes collected the tithes, for only the names of curates are known, (fn. 218) and there is evidence suggesting that the Rectory was not being used. It was said to be in need of repair in 1540, (fn. 219) and to be uninhabitable later. In 1584 Christopher Brome presented Master Bartholomew Price, and made the following unusual 'bargain by articles' with him. The Bromes were to have the parsonage and tithes, and pay Price a yearly rent of £17 and provide him with 'a gowne cloth, four loads of wood yearly, a chamber to lodge in in the manor-house of Holton, the keeping of a nagge winter and somer'. After Christopher Brome's death in 1589 Price disagreed with his son George Brome and began a suit in the bishop's court in 1594 for the restitution of his tithes. (fn. 220) A final settlement does not seem to have been reached until 1610, when it was agreed that Brome should have the tithes, except those from the glebe, for a payment of £60 a year and the provision of a common bull and boar for the parish. (fn. 221)
In 1630, when Bartholomew Price was still rector, the parish was involved in a sensational cause in the bishop's court when a recusant and excommunicated woman, Mrs. Horseman of Wheatley, was clandestinely buried at night in the chancel under the communion table. It appears from the very detailed deposition that she was related to the Powell family of Forest Hill. Edward Powell was called as a witness, together with several Wheatley inhabitants who were alleged to have carried out the burial. (fn. 222) After a ministry of nearly fifty years, for part of which he had also served Forest Hill and Elsfield, Bartholomew Price died in Holton in 1633. (fn. 223)
The most distinguished 17th-century rector was Dr. Edward Rogers (1665–84), who started the village school. (fn. 224) He was a Fellow of Magdalen College, and like the Bromes a royalist. After the Restoration he held many offices, (fn. 225) but lived at least part of the time in Holton, where his house was one of the largest in the parish. (fn. 226)
The names of some of the later rectors show that Holton was used as a family living. William Master (1684–1703) was the brother of Dr. Edward Master, Brome Whorwood's son-in-law. (fn. 227) In the 18th century two members of the Whorwood family, Edmund (1724–35) and James (1751–8), were rectors. (fn. 228) Eighteenth-century visitation returns give the impression of a well-conducted parish: the rector resided, services were held twice on Sundays and on many holy days; in 1768 it was possible to report that there was no one who 'professed to disregard religion'; (fn. 229) and two late examples of whitesheet penance in 1766 and 1772 testify to village piety. (fn. 230)
From 1768 until 1815 the parish was in the charge of curates. A Mr. Gage looked after both Holton and Waterperry until his death in 1794. (fn. 231) He was succeeded by Godfrey Faussett, a Fellow of Magdalen and later Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford, (fn. 232) who was curate for the non-resident rector William Stratford, Master of Thame Grammar School and Vicar of Thame. (fn. 233) Faussett lived in the parsonage and received a stipend of about £70. (fn. 234)
During most of the 19th century the living was held by the Tyndales. George Tyndale, who married Elisha Biscoe's niece, became rector in 1820, (fn. 235) and was noted as 'an earnest evangelical clergyman'. His influence was felt outside his parish, for many came from neighbouring parishes to hear him preach, and he was largely responsible for the suppression of the bull-baiting at Wheatley. (fn. 236) Although he did not agree with the high church views of Edward Pusey, (fn. 237) he frequently invited him to preach in the church in 1833 when Pusey was visiting his mother at Holton. (fn. 238)
In 1854 the congregations were large: about 100 in the morning and 150 in the afternoon, and the rector believed that if morning service were shortened the number attending would be still larger. (fn. 239) But by then the 'good old rector', as Bishop Wilberforce called him, was so deaf that he could no longer take the Sunday school classes. (fn. 240) He therefore resigned the living to his second son, Henry A. Tyndale, (fn. 241) who held it until 1891. (fn. 242)
The church dedicated to ST. BARTHOLOMEW is a small cruciform building without aisles, with a western tower, originally built in the 12th century but mainly rebuilt in the 14th. (fn. 243) The transept and chancel arches, as well as the northern door of the nave, are Romanesque; the latter is decorated with zigzag and dog-tooth ornamentation and probably dates from the late 12th century.
The chancel was rebuilt in the late 13th or early 14th century with an eastern window of three lights, and two southern windows, one of one light and one of two lights; there is also a small piscina of the same date. The northern transept has a Romanesque and a 14th-century window. The nave, which has two square-headed windows, was restored in the mid-15th century, probably by William Brome (fn. 244) who also rebuilt the southern transept, now known as the Brome chapel. A brass to his memory is inscribed: 'Hic jacet Willielmus Brome qui hanc capellam fieri fecit et multa bona huic ecclesie erogavit et obiit . . . anno domini mcccclxi.' The western tower dates from the 15th century; the tower arch is pointed and recessed, the inner arch resting on carved corbels.
In the middle of the 19th century the church was extensively restored. In 1844 the western gallery was rebuilt and enlarged, a small western window added, and the staircase moved from inside to outside the tower. The nave was fitted with new pews, the roof receiled. (fn. 245) In the following year Elizabeth Dorothy Biscoe paid for the rebuilding of the walls of the northern transept; and Mr. and Mrs. Earle (fn. 246) for the restoration of the southern transept and for fitting a new window.
At the beginning of the 19th century a mausoleum was built by Elisha Biscoe in place of a small room at the base of the tower. (fn. 247) This was pulled down in 1886 and the present vestry was built. Until 1860 there was no organ; music was provided by an orchestra in the gallery, consisting of fiddle, 'cello, and clarinet. (fn. 248)
In 1868 the eastern wall of the chancel was rebuilt, and a new roof that revealed the old rafters was put up for £60. (fn. 249)
There is a large 15th-century stone font. In the western window of the tower are some fragments of old glass which depict the quartered arms of Brome and Baldington. (fn. 250)
The Brome chapel contains memorials to the Bromes: a marble monument, surmounted by the Brome quarterings, to Sir John Brome (d. 1558) and his wife, and to their son Sir Christopher (d. 1589) and his wife; also two brasses, one to William Brome (d. 1461) and another to William Brome, a child (d. 1599). In the chancel there is an inscription to the brother-in-law of the last of these, Sir Thomas Whorwood (d. 1634), and another to his daughter Elizabeth (d. 1633). A widow, the 'worshipful' Elizabeth Brome, left money for a pulpit, erected in 1639 and now removed. John Elstone (d. 1669) and his wife are also commemorated, but their connexion with the parish is otherwise unknown. (fn. 251)
The Edwardian inventory of 1552 shows that Holton church was poorly furnished; its one chalice was surrendered to the Crown in the following year, and it was left with a latten cross, a pair of brass candlesticks, one pyx of brass and one of latten; one red damask vestment, two old ones, and one red, and one blue silk cope. (fn. 252)
In the 19th century Mary Cheney, sister of the local school-master, gave a communion cup. (fn. 253) In 1953 the plate included an Elizabethan silver chalice given by Lady Pusey in 1839, another dated 1606, and a richly ornamented one-handled German tankard of late-17th-century date, once used as a flagon; a Cromwellian saucer and a plain silver paten dated 1714. (fn. 254)
There is a ring of three bells. The treble, dating from 1662, is the work of Richard Keene of Woodstock and the second is a fine medieval one. (fn. 255)
A few Roman Catholics are recorded, their presence possibly being accounted for by the nearness of the Roman Catholic centre at Waterperry. The following were fined as recusants: in 1625, Anne, wife of Richard Astley, gentleman, and the wives of two yeomen; (fn. 256) in 1708, a tailor, and in 1714 Thomas Christmas and Mary Matham. (fn. 257) In 1767 there were five papists living in the parish, including a gardener and his family. (fn. 258) In 1802 no papists were recorded. (fn. 259)
In 1684 Edward Rogers, Rector of Holton, left £200 for educating the poor children of the village. The money was invested in land. (fn. 260) There is no record of the exact date of foundation, but Richard Rawlinson (d. 1735) mentions a free school at Holton. (fn. 261) In 1738, 20 to 25 children received free education from a master appointed by the rector according to the terms of the legacy. (fn. 262) In 1771 the master's salary was reported to be £10 a year, and in 1787 this sum was paid to a Mr. Davis for teaching children at his school at the 'King's Arms', Wheatley. (fn. 263)
In 1790 the curate reported that a school had lately been built by the parishioners and a master, John Sawyer, the clerk, had been appointed at a salary of £10 yearly. (fn. 264) In 1808 he was teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic to about 20 children. (fn. 265) By 1818 the numbers had dropped to 8, (fn. 266) evidently on account of Sawyer's incompetence, as in 1821 he was reported to be so old and deaf that he had lost all his pupils. The school continued empty for three years, while Sawyer, by continuing to draw his salary, saved the parish the expense of having to support him. Finally, in 1824, after repeated remonstrances by the Brougham Commissioners, a new school-master was appointed (fn. 267) and by 1833 the school had 18 boys. One child from each family received free education, while the others were charged 1d. a week. In 1835 two girls' schools and an infant school were opened. (fn. 268) By 1854 these schools had combined and both boys and girls were taught by a school-mistress. Most of the boys over ten went out to work in the fields, and the few who did not were sent to Wheatley National school. (fn. 269)
In 1861 the old school was pulled down and a new one built by the Misses Biscoe, and a school-mistress was appointed at a salary of £30 a year. (fn. 270) Between 1893 and 1915 the attendance varied between 30 and 40. In 1895 the curriculum included dumb-bell exercises, cookery, and shoemaking. The Misses Biscoe provided free soup twice a week. (fn. 271) In 1915 the Oxfordshire Education Committee decided to close the school, as the numbers had dropped to 13. The managers agreed with this move and the children were sent to Wheatley. (fn. 272) In 1921 an application to reopen the school was rejected. (fn. 273) The old schoolroom is now used as a village hall. (fn. 274)
In 1948 Holton House and 30 acres of land were bought by the Oxfordshire Education Committee to be a county grammar school for girls. In 1953 the attendance was 165. (fn. 275)
In 1701 Diana Master bequeathed £100, the interest on which was to be used to apprentice poor boys chosen by the rector. In 1771 the rector received £51 13s. 6d. accumulated interest from his predecessor, but this was never applied to the charity and in 1825 the Charity Commissioners regarded it as beyond hope of recovery. (fn. 276)