A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 5, Bullingdon Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1957.
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The ancient parish of Beckley used to reach at its southern end to within four miles of Oxford, and stretched beyond the hamlet of Whitecross Green in the north and included the hamlet of Studley on the east, although it lay over the Buckinghamshire border in Ashendon hundred. The Buckinghamshire part of Studley, by this time a separate civil parish, was transferred to Oxfordshire under Acts of 1832 and 1844. (fn. 1) The part of Studley which had always lain in Oxfordshire, together with Horton, formed another civil parish called Horton cum Studley. (fn. 2) By 1881, when the Census first gives reliable acreages, the areas of the three civil parishes which composed the ancient parish were: Beckley, 3,620 acres; Horton cum Studley, 1,287 acres; Studley, 952 acres. (fn. 3) They had all been enlarged after the inclosure of Otmoor in 1829 when 1,037 acres of the moor were added to the ancient parish of Beckley. (fn. 4) No further changes were made in the boundaries for civil purposes (fn. 5) until 1932, when 2,194 acres of Beckley were transferred to Fencott and Murcott and the whole of Stowood parish was combined with the remainder of Beckley to form the new civil parish of Beckley and Stowood (2,271 a.). At the same time 2 acres of Horton cum Studley were transferred to Stanton St. John, and the whole of Studley was joined to Horton cum Studley, which then covered 2,237 acres. (fn. 6)
The western boundary of the ancient parish used to follow the Roman road from the Royal Oak Inn along the outer edges of Stowood and Noke Wood. The southern boundary ran north of the Woodperry road along the northern edge of Stanton Little Wood and the southern edge of Studley Wood. (fn. 7) The line of the eastern boundary, which included the Buckinghamshire part of Studley, is described in a 14th-century perambulation as going 'along the lane leading from Otmoor to Marlake hamlet, from Marlake to the King's forest of Panshill, following the line of Arnegrove Hedge on the fringe of Boarstall open field as far as Danesbrook, thence along the brook as far as the close of Richard Damory (lord of Woodperry), thence to Earl's Stile and thence to Beckley Park'; (fn. 8) most of these boundary marks can be identified today. On the north-west and north the parish adjoined Otmoor—'the fen of Otta' (fn. 9) —a low-lying stretch of rough grazing ground lying about 190 to 200 ft. above sea-level. At Horton and Whitecross Green, which are in the area of the Oxford Clay, the height is little more than 200 ft., but at Studley and Beckley, which lie on the limestone escarpment, the land rises to 300 and 400 ft. Otmoor covers about 4,000 acres and is drained by the River Ray and its tributaries. The main arm of the river crosses the centre of the moor, while the New River Ray, dug in 1815, flows along its western edge. (fn. 10) The moor served as common pasture ground for the seven Otmoor villages of Beckley, Fencott, Murcott, Charlton, Oddington, Noke, and Islip, and appears to have been extra-parochial until the 19th century, but as the lord of Beckley had jurisdictional control, its history and topography are given below. (fn. 11)
Besides the village of Beckley, the site of the mother church, and the three hamlets already mentioned, there were once settlements at Ash and Marlake. Only the place-names survive to mark the site of these two—Marlake Lane, Marlake House (formerly a public house), and Nash End. (fn. 12) Ash, or 'Esses' as it was frequently spelled in the 13th and 14th centuries, was said in 1390 to be 'commonly called Nashe lately'. (fn. 13) Another name, Pinfold Green, shown on a map of 1641, (fn. 14) probably records the position of the pound at Ash.
From the early Middle Ages much of the land between Beckley and Horton was an inclosed park where the lords of St. Valery and later the kings of England hunted. The earliest record of it occurs in 1175–6; (fn. 15) it was being inclosed between 1192 and 1197 (fn. 16) with a stone wall, the remains of which can still be seen to the east of Beckley, and in 1229 Richard of Cornwall (fn. 17) stocked it with deer and then constructed a deer-leap. (fn. 18) It was frequently in vaded by enemies and trespassers: during the Barons' War (1264–5) the earl's inclosure was broken and the beasts driven out; (fn. 19) again in 1276 and 1281 depredations were committed; (fn. 20) and Oxford scholars were constant poachers, notoriously in 1413 when as a result of their trespasses on what was then royal property the University was threatened with the loss of its privileges. (fn. 21)
When the manor reverted to the Crown, the park continued to be carefully maintained. While on his last Scottish campaign Edward I, for example, directed his keeper at Beckley, to repair the decaying wall, paling, and ditch. (fn. 22) In 1953 the area was occupied by Lower Park Farm (or Beckley Park), Middle and Upper Park Farms.
There are three other outlying farms: Folly Farm (marked on Davis's map of 1797 (fn. 23) as Whistler's Folly) lies on Beckley Common, west of the village; New Inn Farm is on the southern boundary; and Warren Farm lies north of Studley.
Of the parish's ancient woods (fn. 24) the following survive: Blackwater Wood (32 a.), Studley (once Horton) Wood (173 a.), Upper Wood, formerly called the Lady's Gore (23 a.), and Whitecross Green (once Prior's) Wood (99 a.).
Although so close to Oxford, the parish is comparatively inaccessible. Beckley village is connected with the main Islip-London road by a branch road and with its hamlets by a circuitous by-road which continues round the north of Otmoor to Islip. A bus service connects Beckley with Oxford three times a week, and Horton, Studley, and Whitecross Green with Bicester once a week.
Beckley stands on the edge of a ridge of Lower Calcareous Grit and Coral Rag overlooking Otmoor. It is dominated by its church, which stands at the point where the two main village streets meet and are joined by the roads from Elsfield and Stanton St. John. The cottages are for the most part built of the local rubblestone from the Corallian Beds, which is quarried in two small quarries, close to the village. (fn. 25) The thatched stone buildings date mainly from the 18th and early 19th centuries; brick and slate have been used in later times.
The 18th-century house called the Grove was built by Edward Bee, the impropriator of the rectory, who had been a London silk-merchant; (fn. 26) it was altered in the mid-19th century by the Cooke family. (fn. 27) The original house was of six bays with flanking chimneys; its central door has a radiating fanlight under a porch of a simplified Greek Doric design. There is a two-bay extension built in the same style as the rest of the house. Fine yews flank the south front; an 18th-century stable block and large walled kitchen-garden lie to the north-east; to the north a courtyard of 19th-century farm buildings. (fn. 28)
The one-time Manor Farm, an 18th-century building now used as the vicarage, lies in the village street. Farther up is the 'Abingdon Arms', but its original site was across the road, close to the Wesleyan Chapel. (fn. 29) Farther up still lies the Old Manor House (so-called) which has been recently constructed from ancient stone cottages. At the back of the public house is the traditional hill-top site of the capital messuage of the honor of St. Valery, and of Richard of Cornwall's 'Palace'. Traces of foundations and a moat were observed near the present Dovers Field by White Kennett; (fn. 30) a round stone dovecote was still standing there in the 1830's, (fn. 31) and worked stones have been found in nearby cottage and garden walls. Richard of Cornwall acquired Beckley in 1227, (fn. 32) and seems to have begun building soon after. In 1231 the king gave him twenty oaks for his grange, and in 1232 ten more for the building of his house (ad se hospitandum). (fn. 33) At Christmas 1233, however, the earl's property at Beckley was destroyed by Richard Siward as a reprisal for his desertion of the Marshal. (fn. 34) The king later recompensed him with a grant of Siward's buildings at Headington, which were to be taken to Beckley and re-erected there. (fn. 35) The earl's building operations seem to have been at his hunting-lodge on the site of the modern Lower Park Farm, and not on the hill-top site. The choice and continued use of the low-lying site, swampy and difficult of access, and which needed to be defended by triple moats, can only be explained by the owner's passion for the chase. Most probably the house on the hill decayed while the use of the hunting lodge grew, as happened later at Clarendon. The first mention of a 'lodge' in the park occurs in 1347 when it was repaired along with some 'little houses', and must therefore have been already in existence some time. (fn. 36)
In 1375–6, when Richard le Forester of Stanton St. John was engaged to rebuild it for Edward III, it is recorded that the lodge had a great hall, surrounded by a ditch, a mound, and an outer moat. He strengthened the hall with four stone buttresses built up from the ditch. The remains of the hall and buttresses can still be seen today. He built a twostoried wooden gate-house, roofed with slate; and he then employed fifteen men for eighteen days to dig round the whole lodge another ditch and a mound, which he planted with thorn bushes. Some years later a new bridge was built to the gatehouse. (fn. 37) Major repairs were again undertaken in 1380–1, 1397–8, and 1438. (fn. 38) Between 1445 and 1461, Henry VI was himself responsible for the upkeep of the lodge, as he had promised to keep it in repair, when he gave it with the office of keeper of the park to Queen Margaret's carver, Sir Edmund Hampden. (fn. 39) Later keepers were mainly absentees, and the medieval lodge was probably ruinous when Sir John Williams obtained the park in Edward VI's reign.
The red-brick house which still exists may have been Sir John's work. It must in any case have been built by 1600, (fn. 40) when his successor Lord Norreys and his party stayed there for a week's hunting. During the 17th and 18th centuries it was occupied by the Earl of Abingdon's tenant farmers, the Owens and Ledwells. (fn. 41) It is built of diapered brickwork with stone dressings and is surrounded by rectangular moats; it has the normal arrangement of hall, parlour, buttery, and kitchen, but the three massive towers on the north side are an unusual architectural feature. The centre tower, wider than the others, contains a newel staircase. Each of the other towers has a garde-robe shaft descending to the medieval moats, now filled in, and carried upwards to vents under the eaves. The south front is approached by a double-arched stone bridge over the middle moat. In the hall the remains of a screen survived until recently, and the high window to the right of the fireplace contains 17th-century glazing. The parlour has Jacobean panelling. At the screens end of the hall a double-leaved door leads into the buttery, and the posts of it were at some time scooped away near the bottom to allow for the passage of large casks. The kitchen, now the diningroom, retains its original fireplace, including the remains of a device for turning spits by means of the hot air passing up the chimney. (fn. 42)
Upper Park and Middle Park Farms may originally have been built about the same time as the Tudor lodge; Upper Park Farm remains substantially a part 16th- and part 17th-century building, built of rubble and of timber-framed red brick, and is reached by a footpath leading out of the village street. Middle Park Farm, close to the lodge, is built mainly of rubble stone and mostly dates from the 17th century. It has a contemporary stone fireplace and an elm-wood staircase with turned balusters, but it was refronted in the 18th century. The present house has two stories and attics, with five leaded casement windows on the first floor and two on either side of the front door on the ground floor. All have brick surrounds, and the house has brick quoins and a brick string-course.
On the hill, about a mile to the north-east of Lower Park Farm, lies the hamlet of Studley, the 'King's Arms' public house, and a cluster of cottages and almshouses at the gates of the Priory House. The old thatched cottages are mostly timberframed and built with good hand-made bricks of local clay. The almshouses, put up in 1639 by Sir George Croke, (fn. 43) form a single-storied range of buildings of red brick, with stone mullioned windows.
Studley Priory, which is now a private hotel, was built in the 16th and 17th centuries by the descendants of John Croke, who bought the lands and buildings of the dissolved priory in 1539. (fn. 44) This family and its loyalty to the Crown are commemorated in stone on the front of the house. On the two-storied porch is carved a cherub's head with the word [THEOS] and the inscription 'Feare This Glorious and Fearful Name/The Lord Thy God/Honor The King.' Below is a Tudor rose and crown with the monogram E.R., and above the doorway are four shields with the arms of Croke impaling Blount, Cave, Unton, and Bennett, (fn. 45) and the dates 1587 and 1622.
The present building 'lacks the usual symmetry of an E-shaped Elizabethan house', (fn. 46) and was undoubtedly built from the remains of the Benedictine priory, which was founded here about 1176, and of which many fragments were dug up in the 19th century. (fn. 47) At the south end a group of low buildings with high-pitched roofs covered with red tiles was probably part of the domestic offices of the Tudor house; and parts of the central block, which is built in the Jacobean style, with gables and mullioned windows, have Tudor walls of great thickness. Two stone doorways, the passage at the screens end of the hall, the kitchen chimney-stack, and a wooden door-frame, are also Tudor. (fn. 48) Apart from a large room on the eastern side, added in the early 19th century, none of the main building is later than the mid-17th century, but the stables were rebuilt a little later. They bear the date 1666 and the initials of Alexander Croke. In the hall windows and in the east room of the ground floor is some armorial stained glass of the mid-17th century. (fn. 49) About 1639 Sir George Croke converted the north wing of the house into a chapel. (fn. 50) It is a plain rectangular building with square-headed transomed windows and a wooden bell-turret, but it has not been used for worship since 1877, when it was again turned into kitchens and offices. (fn. 51) At that time it still had its original furnishings; the open seats, 5 ft. high, had carved poppyheads; the communion table was plain with the slab still detached; there was a canopied pulpit with an hour glass fixed to the reading-desk. At the west end was a gallery with a screen beneath and balusters above and below; the plaster ceiling was flat with a loft above it. (fn. 52)
At the foot of Studley hill lies the hamlet of Horton with its 17th-century West Farm and handful of cottages; its 19th-century church, school, (fn. 53) and post-office, and its 20th-century garage and council houses.
In 1786 the village had two greens, Budd's green (5¼ a.) and Goose Green (6 a.), and many more homesteads. At the west end, opposite West Hill Farm, there were two large ones belonging to two of the most substantial farmers, John Faulkner and James Ledwell; Thomas Ledwell had the farm opposite on the corner, and there was another substantial house on the corner of the OxfordHorton road. (fn. 54)
The village pound is marked to the west of the National school on the Ordnance Survey map of 1880. (fn. 55)
There are some 13th-century references to the lord's mill. It had a piece of arable land attached to it—an assart from Stowood (13 a.) from which the miller was allowed 5 quarters of maslin in 1277–8. (fn. 56) The mill has gone, but a modern wind-pump on the high ground to the south of Beckley village marks the site of the Mill Field. (fn. 57) There must have been a second mill, for the vicar is reported to have had a 'mill-house' in the vicarage grounds in the 17thcentury. (fn. 58) Studley mill, which John Croke acquired with the priory estates in 1539, (fn. 59) stood in the Mill Field at the end of the present Mill Lane. It is depicted in maps of 1641, 1767, 1797, and 1827–31. (fn. 60)
In the Middle Ages the parish was closely connected with many of the English kings and the leaders of the baronage on account of the excellent hunting it afforded. Richard of Cornwall, his son Edmund, Henry III, (fn. 61) Edward I, (fn. 62) Edward III, (fn. 63) Henry IV, (fn. 64) and Edward IV (fn. 65) were among the many notable people who stayed at Beckley. In June 1643 500 of Prince Rupert's cavalry came to Horton to reconnoitre, anticipating the advance of the Earl of Essex, who a few days later came up from Thame and unsuccessfully attacked Islip. Royalist forces were active in the neighbourhood after Essex's withdrawal, and their troops from Woodperry drove off the sheep on Horton Common. (fn. 66) In the 19th century the parish again came into prominence because of the controversy over the inclosure of Otmoor. (fn. 67) On the occasion of the Otmoor riots the Oxfordshire militia passed through Beckley and the Bucks. Yeomanry through Horton on their way to cope with the trouble. (fn. 68)
R. D. Blackmore, the author of Lorna Doone, was a frequent visitor at the Grove in the 1840's, and made the village the background of his novel Cripps the Carrier, A Woodland Tale. (fn. 69)
Robert d'Oilly acquired BECKLEY after the Conquest, on his marriage to the daughter of the Saxon Wigod of Wallingford, and it became the chief seat of the honor which he gave to his sworn brother-in-arms, Roger d'Ivry, in fulfilment of a compact they had made to divide the spoils of the expedition. (fn. 70) Roger was probably a brother and not, as has been suggested, a nephew (fn. 71) of Hugh d'Ivry the lord of Ambrosden, (fn. 72) with whom he shared the office of butler to the Conqueror in Normandy. (fn. 73) Roger and Hugh took their surname from Ivry la Bataille (Eure), and it is possible that they were sons of Robert and Aubrée d'Ivry, and brothers of the Robert d'Ivry from whom descended the Lovels of Minster Lovell. (fn. 74) Roger married Adeline, daughter of Hugh de Grantmesnil, (fn. 75) and is shown by the Domesday survey to have held Cottisford and Charlton-on-Otmoor of Hugh, presumably in marriage. (fn. 76) He died in or shortly after 1089 (fn. 77) and was succeeded by his son Roger (II), (fn. 78) who also seems to have inherited the lands of his uncle Hugh by 1101. (fn. 79) From this point the history of the Ivry family in England is exceedingly obscure, but it is possible that Roger (II) was succeeded by a brother Geoffrey, (fn. 80) and that both of them had died childless by about 1120.
In 1066 Walter of St. Valery, on the Somme estuary in Ponthieu, had accompanied the Conqueror to England. (fn. 81) By 1138 Walter's grandson, Reynold of St. Valery, is found holding lands in Oxfordshire jointly with John de St. John of Stanton St. John. (fn. 82) Other lands originally held by John alone passed to Reynold after his death, and by 1155–6 it is clear that the latter had possession of the Ivry lands, including Beckley. (fn. 83) How the Ivry barony passed to John de St. John and Reynold of St. Valery, and whether jointly or in turn, is not certainly known, but it is likely that it came to them with an Ivry heiress or heiresses. (fn. 84) Roger (II) d'Ivry had a sister, Adeline, (fn. 85) but little is known of her history. Reynold of St. Valery supported the Empress Maud against King Stephen in the civil wars, and in 1158 went on crusade. He died probably in 1166, (fn. 86) and was succeeded by his eldest son Bernard, who in 1166–7 paid a fine for livery of Beckley and Horton. (fn. 87) He seems to have died shortly after 1191, and was succeeded by his second son Thomas, who paid a relief in 1191–2. Not long afterwards, however, Beckley and Horton, along with his other lands, were seized by the king, and in 1196–7 they appear among the escheats, no doubt as a consequence of Thomas's support of Philip Augustus in Normandy. (fn. 88) Between 1198 and 1215 Thomas changed sides at least three times, alternately regaining and forfeiting his English lands. He finally made his peace with King John in 1215, (fn. 89) and died early in 1219, (fn. 90) leaving as his heiress his only daughter Annora. (fn. 91)
In 1210 or 1211 Annora had married Robert de Dreux, eldest son of Count Robert II of Dreux, and brother of Peter de Dreux, later Duke of Brittany. Robert consistently supported Philip Augustus against King John, (fn. 92) but made his peace with Henry III in 1217. (fn. 93) He became Count of Dreux in 1218 and in February 1219 was awarded the lands which Thomas of St. Valery had held in England. (fn. 94) By the end of 1226, as he had again chosen to side with France, Henry III seized all his English lands. (fn. 95) Although the name of 'the honor of St. Valery' remained attached to the family lands in England, no St. Valery ever possessed them again, for the claims of Thomas's brother Henry and his heirs were passed over, although they continued to hold lands in England. (fn. 96)
In 1227 Henry III granted all Robert de Dreux's English lands to his brother, Richard of Cornwall, during pleasure. (fn. 97) The grant was confirmed by charter in 1231. (fn. 98) Under Richard of Cornwall, Beckley, as the caput of the honor of St. Valery, was the most important of the five demesne manors of the honor in Oxfordshire—the others being Willaston, Blackthorn with Ambrosden, Asthall, and Yarnton: (fn. 99) indeed the honor was sometimes called 'of St. Valery of Beckley', or simply 'of Beckley'. (fn. 100) Richard's tenure of Beckley suffered one brief interruption after his capture by the Montfortians at Lewes in 1264, but he recovered his lands in 1265 after Evesham. (fn. 101) Richard died in 1272, (fn. 102) and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Edmund, (fn. 103) who held the honor of St. Valery, including Beckley and Horton for nearly twenty-eight years. He died in 1300, (fn. 104) leaving no children, and his lands were inherited by his cousin, King Edward I. (fn. 105) Beckley and Horton were among the lands which Edward I granted for life to Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, in 1302, and on Roger's death in 1306 they reverted to the Crown. (fn. 106)
In 1308 Edward II gave Beckley to Hugh Despenser the elder, (fn. 107) who, later in the same year, leased the manor for life (fn. 108) to his follower Sir John de Hadlow, who had been keeper of the manor and park in 1307. (fn. 109) When the honor of St. Valery was conferred upon Piers Gaveston in 1309, Beckley was excepted. (fn. 110) The alliance with Edward II's favourite brought trouble to Hadlow, for when the marchers and their adherents ravaged the Despenser lands in 1321, his manors in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire were looted. (fn. 111) Nevertheless, Sir John avoided sharing in Despenser's fall in 1326, and continued to hold Beckley. (fn. 112) In 1337 Edward III conceded that he should hold the manor for life, although it should have been forfeited to the Crown by Despenser, and that it should then pass to William Montagu, Earl of Salisbury, in fee. (fn. 113) Though Boarstall was Sir John's principal residence, there is evidence that he lived at Beckley, where his granddaughter was christened. (fn. 114) The manor does not appear in the inquisition (fn. 115) taken after Sir John's death in 1346, (fn. 116) and it did not revert to the Earl of Salisbury but passed instead to the Black Prince, (fn. 117) perhaps because as caput of the honor of St. Valery it was considered to belong rightly to the prince's duchy of Cornwall. In 1356 the prince granted Beckley to Sir John Chandos as part of his reward for his good service in France. Chandos was to hold the manor, however, only for the life of Juliana, Countess of Huntingdon, (fn. 118) and Beckley Park remained in the prince's hands. (fn. 119) Juliana died in 1367, (fn. 120) and in 1371 Beckley was granted to Sir Nicholas Bond, a squire of the prince's chamber, (fn. 121) but by 1374 it was back in the possession of the Crown. (fn. 122) Although William Montagu, Earl of Salisbury, secured an exemplification of his father's grant in 1378, (fn. 123) he did not obtain possession, (fn. 124) and in 1382 Richard II gave Beckley to Queen Anne in dower. (fn. 125) In 1346 Richard le Forester had been appointed by the Black Prince to keep Beckley Park (fn. 126) and held his office for nearly forty years. (fn. 127) He lived nearby at Stanton St. John. (fn. 128) In 1394, after the death of Queen Anne, Richard II granted both the manor and the park to Sir John Golafre, a knight of his household, (fn. 129) whose family held a number of manors in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. (fn. 130) After his death in 1396, Beckley was granted to Philip de la Vache, another of the king's knights. Philip served as Chamberlain to the Queen (fn. 131) under Henry IV, who confirmed him in possession of Beckley. (fn. 132) Philip was dead by 1408. (fn. 133) Henry V's grant of Beckley in dower to Queen Katharine was confirmed by his son's first Parliament (fn. 134) and she was recorded as in possession of the manor in 1428. (fn. 135)
For the rest of the 15th century the manor remained in the hands of the Crown, though numerous administrative appointments, some of them sinecures, were made there: the Stewardship of Beckley, for instance, was one of many offices held by the Duke of Suffolk. (fn. 136) Beckley Park, however, changed hands frequently between the death of Queen Katharine in 1437 and 1550, when it was reunited with the manor. In 1438 another John Golafre and Sir Edmund Hampden were appointed joint Keepers of Beckley Park. (fn. 137) The former died in 1442, (fn. 138) and in 1445 Hampden was confirmed as sole keeper for life and seems subsequently to have lived at Beckley. (fn. 139) Sir Edmund, one of the famous Buckinghamshire family, was a Lancastrian. He was consequently attainted on the accession of Edward IV in 1461, and Beckley Park passed into the keeping of a Yorkist. Ten years later Sir Edmund was slain at Tewkesbury. (fn. 140) His successor at Beckley (fn. 141) was John Stokes of Bignell, Bicester, who kept the park until his death in 1476. (fn. 142) From 1465 onwards William Stavely of Broughton Stavely (Bucks.) (fn. 143) was associated with him as joint keeper. (fn. 144) In 1484 Thomas Fowler, a trusted follower of Richard III, was made Parker of Beckley, (fn. 145) but his tenure of office did not survive the change of dynasty in the following year.
In 1486 he was replaced by Ralph Verney, (fn. 146) the Lancastrian grandson of the prominent Yorkist of the same name. (fn. 147) Henry VIII renewed Ralph's grant in 1513 and included in it his son John, (fn. 148) of whom nothing seems to be known. (fn. 149) Ralph died in 1525, (fn. 150) and John must have predeceased him, for in 1526 Beckley Park was to be let. (fn. 151) In 1530 Sir John Wellesbourne of Fulwell (Oxon.), squire of the body to Henry VIII, received a lease for 21 years. (fn. 152) Then in July 1547 the Protector Somerset acquired Beckley Park in augmentation of his honor of Ewelme, (fn. 153) but later granted its reversion to Sir John Williams. (fn. 154) In March 1550 Beckley manor was granted to the Princess Elizabeth in accordance with Henry, VIII's will, (fn. 155) but in April Sir Walter Mildmay, a surveyor of the Court of Augmentations, obtained a grant of it, (fn. 156) and conveyed it to Sir John Williams, (fn. 157) later Lord Williams of Thame, (fn. 158) who reunited park and manor.
Lord Williams died in 1559, and devised Beckley and Horton to his daughter Margeret and her husband Sir Henry Norreys, (fn. 159) who became Lord Norreys of Rycote in 1572. (fn. 160) In 1580 Beckley was held of Lord Norreys by Christopher Edmonds and Richard Huddlestone, for an unknown term of years, but in 1598 Lord Norreys and his wife alienated the manor to Sir Anthony Powlett and others for certain uses, perhaps connected with its settlement upon their grandson and heir Francis, (fn. 161) son of Sir William Norreys. Horton had been held with Beckley by Edmonds and Huddlestone, (fn. 162) but in 1589 it was separately conveyed to Lord Burghley and others as security for a loan made to Lord Norreys. (fn. 163) Francis succeeded to his grandfather's title and estates in 1601. (fn. 164) In 1602 he conveyed Beckley and Horton to his uncle, Sir Edward Norreys, (fn. 165) but regained possession on the latter's death in the following year. (fn. 166) In 1621 Francis was created Viscount Thame and Earl of Berkshire, but in 1624 he closed a notably violent career by committing suicide. (fn. 167) Beckley next passed to Francis's daughter, Elizabeth, Baroness Norreys, and her husband Edward Wray, a Groom of the Bedchamber to James I. (fn. 168) On Elizabeth's death in 1645 her title and lands descended to her daughter Bridget, whose first husband, Edward Sackville, died a prisoner in the hands of the parliamentary forces a year later. (fn. 169) Bridget married as her second husband Montagu Bertie, Earl of Lindsey, a prominent royalist, and on her death in 1657 her estates passed to her son James Bertie, Lord Norreys, (fn. 170) who was created Earl of Abingdon in 1682. (fn. 171) Beckley and Horton remained part of the possessions of the successive earls of Abingdon (fn. 172) until 1919, when the estate was sold, mostly in small lots, by Viscount Bertie, son of the seventh earl. (fn. 173) The principal landowners in Beckley parish in 1939 were Lord Tweedsmuir and Captain the Hon. Wilfrid Holland-Hibbert. (fn. 174)
Studley or Ash. In 1086 Roger d'Ivry held 2 hides of land at 'Lesa' (Ash), and Picot held of him. Before the Conquest Ash had been held by Azor, son of Toti, Queen Edith's man, (fn. 175) who had also held Iffley, Lillingstone Lovell, and lands in Marsh Baldon and Chastleton. (fn. 176) Like Beckley, Ash became part of the honor of St. Valery and followed the same descent until 1300. (fn. 177) Between 1190 and 1200 three brothers John, William, and Walter of Ash, held lands in the manor of the St. Valerys, (fn. 178) and another part was held by their kinsman William de Bosco, whose lands in Ash were assessed at 4 carucates in 1220. (fn. 179) In 1242–3 John of Ash held the manor of Richard of Cornwall 'of the fee of Beckley', (fn. 180) and in 1278–9 Nicholas of Ash held 10 virgates there of Edmund of Cornwall by military service. The Prioress of Studley, (fn. 181) William Lock and Peter of Ash were mesne tenants at Ash for 6 of the 10 virgates. (fn. 182) In 1300 Nicholas's lands were described as three parts of a knight's fee belonging to the honor of St. Valery. (fn. 183) Niel of Ash was said to hold Ash with Marlake in 1316. (fn. 184) Roger, son of Nicholas of Ash, is mentioned in 1323, (fn. 185) and the manor eventually passed to Roger's son John, who in 1361 (fn. 186) enfeoffed John Appleby, lord of Boarstall, (fn. 187) and his wife Margaret, granddaughter of Sir John de Hadlow. (fn. 188) Four years later, John and Margaret granted Ash to trustees; (fn. 189) they in turn enfeoffed other trustees, who in 1389 (fn. 190) were licensed to alienate the manor to the Prioress of Studley. (fn. 191) In 1391 Margaret Appleby, whose husband had died in 1371, (fn. 192) quitclaimed her rights. (fn. 193)
The lands of Studley Priory, including Ash, were purchased in 1539 (fn. 194) by John Croke, son of Richard Croke of Easington (Bucks.). (fn. 195) Henceforth the manor was usually called Studley, though in the court rolls of the 17th and 18th centuries the Croke family described it as Studley alias Ash. (fn. 196) John Croke died in 1554 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir John, (fn. 197) who in 1583 conveyed Studley to trustees for his eldest son, another Sir John, (fn. 198) who became a judge and was Speaker in Elizabeth I's last Parliament. (fn. 199) In 1598 the younger Sir John alienated Studley to his brothers, George, Henry, and Paul Ambrose Croke, (fn. 200) but in 1610, one year after the death of the elder Sir John, George and Paul Ambrose conveyed the manor back to their elder brother, (fn. 201) who probably held it until his death in 1620. (fn. 202) In 1621 Studley was purchased from his son, a third Sir John, by George Croke, (fn. 203) then a knight, who defended Hampden in the ship-money case. (fn. 204) Sir George died in 1642, having settled Studley upon his wife for life, (fn. 205) with reversion to his eldest son Thomas, and then if Thomas died without issue, to his youngest brother William Croke and his son Alexander, an arrangement confirmed by his will. (fn. 206) Thomas Croke was a royalist, and in 1644 the Croke estates were sequestrated, though they were discharged two years later. (fn. 207) William Croke had died c. 1642, (fn. 208) and when Thomas died in 1648 Lady Croke sold Studley to Alexander, though it was not until six years later that the latter proved his title to the satisfaction of the Committee for Compounding. (fn. 209) Alexander Croke died in 1673, and by his will Studley passed to John, son of his eldest son Richard, who had died in 1663. (fn. 210) On John's death about 1714, Studley was given up by his eldest son John, who was incapable of managing his affairs, to his second son James in return for an annuity. When James died in 1726, John gave the estate to his sister Charlotte, wife of William Ledwell. (fn. 211) Charlotte (d. 1763) settled Studley on her husband for life, with reversion to Alexander Croke, greatgrandson of William, second son of the Alexander who had died in 1673. (fn. 212) Studley was held by Alexander from 1766 until his death in 1777, and then by his only surviving son, Sir Alexander, a distinguished lawyer, and author among many other works of the history of the Croke family. (fn. 213) After his death in 1842 Studley passed in turn to his sons George (d. 1860) and John. (fn. 214) In 1877 John Croke sold it to John Henderson, (fn. 215) whose grandson Captain John Henderson was lord in 1953.
Marlake. In 1542 John Croke added to his lands at Studley a messuage or tenement called 'Merelake', formerly part of the possessions of the preceptory of St. John of Jerusalem at Sandford. (fn. 216) It is possible that the Hospitallers' estate at Marlake in Ash was formed by lands granted to the Templars between 1190 and 1213 by the Ash and De Bosco families. (fn. 217) On the other hand the Templars may have parted with these lands before 1279, for the Hundred Rolls do not record that they had any holding in Beckley parish. (fn. 218) The court rolls of the Croke family described Marlake as a separate manor, and stated its bounds independently of the manor of Studley. (fn. 219) Recoveries of the 18th century described it as the manor of Marlake in Studley in the parish of Beckley. (fn. 220) It passed to the Hendersons together with Studley.
Economic and Social History.
There may have been a British settlement at Beckley, for Leland records a local tradition that a British saint Donanverdh was buried there. (fn. 221) There was certainly some Roman occupation, as the site of a villa has been found just east of Beckley village; and the Roman road from Dorchester to Alchester, which can still be traced as it passes through the modern parish before it crosses Otmoor, (fn. 222) doubtless encouraged Saxon settlement. The name, which means either the 'lea' of Becca or simply a beck or stream, (fn. 223) clearly indicates the presence of an Anglo-Saxon community, but the belief that King Alfred had a palace here seems to be based on a misreading of his will, which mentions only a Sussex 'Becchanlea'. (fn. 224)
The curious narrow and elongated shape of the later parish, with the mother church at Beckley at its southern end, suggests that the centre and the northern end of the parish were cultivated and settled at a comparatively late date. By the time of Domesday there was a hamlet to the north-east of Beckley at Ash with 2 serfs on the demesne and 4 villeins and 2 bordars. (fn. 225) Beckley itself had 6 serfs on the demesne, 11 villeins, and 6 bordars. (fn. 226) So perhaps there may have been 100 or more people in the two villages.
Domesday Book does not mention Horton by name, but a charter of 1005–11 proves that it not only existed but was assessed at 5 hides while Beckley was only assessed at 1 hide. The hamlet's name is derived from OE. horh-tūn, the 'dirty' or 'muddy tun'. (fn. 227) It is possible that the village had suffered some disaster, and that its recovery, combined with assarting from the woodland and improvement of the low-lying marshy land in the parish, accounts for the economic progress shown by the Domesday valuations of £5 before 1066 and £8 in 1086. (fn. 228) The 12th and 13th centuries saw great changes. Studley Priory was founded about 1176 and acquired most of the land of Ash manor, with the result that Studley hamlet (the name means 'pasture for horses'), grew up at the gates of the priory and the village of Ash ceased to be inhabited. (fn. 229) There are only brief references to Ash in the Hundred Rolls.
Economic progress was probably accelerated at Beckley and Horton after they came into the hands of Richard of Cornwall. In 1279 his son had a free tenant, 3½ virgates held by an unspecified number of villeins, and 9 cottagers, and there were 8 cottagers living on the church land at Beckley. At Horton there were 11 villein virgaters, 11 cottagers and 1 free tenant. (fn. 230) Manorial documents of the 13th century tell the same story of the more rapid development of the good soil in the Horton fields than of Beckley's fields on the ridge: Horton land has a higher value than Beckley's land. (fn. 231) Much the same distribution of wealth is found in the 14th century: a tax list of 1327 shows that of the 13 Beckley contributors only 4 paid as much as 3s. to 4s., and of Studley's 11 only 1 passed the 3s. level with his 6s. contribution; but at Horton 14 out of 23 contributors paid between 3s. and 6s. 6d. (fn. 232) The 1377 poll tax figures show the same trend. They give an adult population of about 79 to Beckley, 96 to Horton, and 53 to Studley. (fn. 233) Thus Horton was still the largest hamlet. A tax list of 1582 (fn. 234) records 35 taxpayers at Beckley, but Horton with Studley, which had 47 taxpayers, still maintained the lead, as it did in the 17th century. In 1665 the comparative prosperity of the hamlets is indicated by their greater number of double and treble assessments for the hearth tax than Beckley, where few had more than one hearth. (fn. 235) Eleven years later there were said to be 336 churchgoers over sixteen in the parish. (fn. 236)
This increase must be attributed to the energy and enterprise of the Crokes and Norreys, lords of the two manors for over a century. Their inclosing and improving activities, by increasing yields, gave more work.
According to the reports of the 18th-century vicars there were about 135 families, (fn. 237) but with so scattered a population, this figure may well be an under-estimate. The first census report of 1801 gives the figure 691; it had reached 825 by 1821 but thereafter declined steadily to a total of 513 for Beckley, Horton, and Studley in 1901. (fn. 238) The inclosure of the open fields between 1827 and 1831 and the agricultural depression must have been the primary cause. In the 20th century, the motor cycle has enabled many to work at the Morris motor factories at Cowley and the decline has been halted, the population in 1951 being 398 in Beckley and Stowood and 242 in Horton and Studley. (fn. 239)
Post-reformation data show a number of substantial families of the yeoman class. John Weston of Beckley, (fn. 240) yeoman, for instance, was taxed for the subsidy of 1524 on £8 worth of goods; (fn. 241) members of the Biggs family, though less well off, were subsidy payers in 1524 and thereafter steadily improved their fortunes. Thomas Biggs was assessed on £10 of goods in 1559; (fn. 242) in 1563 he was left property at Woodstock and Handborough (fn. 243) by the widow of John Coventre, gentleman, who appears to have come from London to Horton in the service of Sir John Croke. (fn. 244) Thomas Biggs, styled yeoman, was still holding it at his death in 1611. (fn. 245) Among the other copyholders and leaseholders of the parish who were 'subsidy men' from the mid-16th century on were members of the families of Vicars, Brown, Badger, and Chillingworth, of Horton, and Mathews of Beckley. (fn. 246)
The parish no doubt always had its craftsmen, but evidence of their activities is not found until the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, in the early 18th century a lapidarius is mentioned, and a carpenter and weaver were accused of riotous assembly. (fn. 247) In 1852, in Beckley there were two blacksmiths, three shoemakers, a carpenter, and a wheelwright; in Studley a mason, a carpenter, and a blacksmith. Early-19th-century registers mention in addition to a cordwainer, a tailor, and a basketmaker. The last-named craft throve as a result of the plentiful supply of osiers from Otmoor, and in 1851 five people were engaged in it. (fn. 248)
After Beckley Park had been divided up into farms, (fn. 249) their rack tenants were usually prominent in village life. In 1628 Samuel Hayward, yeoman, of the Park, paid 4s. to the subsidy, the highest payment after Edmund Shillingford, (fn. 250) who paid as much again. But he was owner of the rectory lands. (fn. 251) and tenant of much other property. Since the middle of the 16th century the Shillingfords alias Izards had been the only substantial freeholders in the parish. In 1559 (fn. 252) Edmund and Alice, a widow, had topped the list of contributors to the subsidy. In 1665 the family had two fair-sized houses, one occupied by Edward Izard with seven hearths and one with six hearths by a widow, perhaps his mother. (fn. 253) The Ledwells were another family of tenant farmers with a long history. They are in evidence in the Beckley records as churchwardens (fn. 254) and officers of the manorial court from the early 17th century. In 1647–8 a William Ledwell was appointed to take charge of marking the cattle before they were turned out to graze and to assess damages for trespasses in the fields; in 1654 he was presented for building and fencing a haystack on the common. (fn. 255) By 1728 the family was farming 344 acres: Thomas Ledwell was tenant of a 300-acre farm in the park, and William held three copyholds of the Earl of Abingdon. (fn. 256) In 1787 (fn. 257) there was still a Thomas Ledwell at the Park Farm and three of the Ledwells were the largest proprietors save for the gentry. The Survey Book of 1786 shows that James and Thomas Ledwell held 47 and 43 acres respectively in Horton manor. (fn. 258)
Of the Croke tenants, two families may be noted. The Coxheads have left their mark on Sargeant's map of 1641. John Coxhead's homestead at White Cross Green and his strips in the Mill Field are shown. It was he who made a survey of the arable land in the manor for the Crokes in 1639 and was probably their bailiff. (fn. 259) Edward and Robert, whose homestead is shown close by the Lady's Gore on Sargeant's map, were 'subsidy men' in 1647. (fn. 260) Next to Coxhead's close and homestead, the map of 1641 shows the close of Richard Gomme, (fn. 261) a subsidy man in 1647, at the eastern corner of Nash Field. His descendants occupied a cottage on the same site in 1952. In 1641 Robert Sanders held the windmill and the 'greene slad' on which it stood in Studley Mill Field. (fn. 262) In 1765 William Ledwell leased the mill for three lives to another Sanders, (fn. 263) perhaps the William Sanders who held it in 1786. (fn. 264)
For conditions at Beckley in the mid-19th century we have an account written down by H. W. Cannon, the tenant of Manor Farm. (fn. 265) In the 1840's, the big house—the Grove—was occupied by the vicar, Theophilus Leigh Cooke and his family; he also managed the Home Farm. Respected but humbler figures were Wells the schoolmaster, who had fought at Corunna and married a Ledwell, and the village carrier, who was the original of the hero of R. D. Blackmore's novel. (fn. 266) There were eight other tradesmen—three shoemakers, two blacksmiths, a wheelwright, a baker and a basket-maker who also kept the inn. Other itinerant tradesmen made a yearly round of the farms—a harness-maker, a clockmaker from Brill, a chimney-sweep with his boy, and a buyer of horse hair. The agricultural labourers, man and maid, often came from far afield, being hired at the Michaelmas hiring fairs of Abingdon, Bicester, and Thame. The great mobility of labour at this time is further shown by the custom for parties of young men to tramp to Middlesex for the haymaking and return in time for haymaking at Beckley, where the season was later. Low wages were supplemented by the highly valued gleanings of wheat and barley, and by the Otmoor game. Flocks of wild fowl, including geese, were then a common sight over Beckley. Instead of the high-priced tea, the villagers drank a brew made from stingingnettles, and beer from the 'Abingdon Arms'. On the whole agricultural practice was conservative. The sickle was still used along with the scythe, and although the new horse-operated threshing-machine had reached the village, the flail was still widely used. The round of work was enlivened by winter skating on Otmoor, by sheep-shearing and harvest feasts, Morris dancing and mummings, and bellringing parties. (fn. 267) The annual club feast, organized by the local Benefit Society, began with a procession to church service led by the Marston band, continued with a fair outside the 'Abingdon Arms', and ended with a dinner in the club opposite. (fn. 268)
Beckley and its hamlets have always lived by farming. By the second half of the 13th century there is evidence for a two-field system at Beckley. There was a Mill Field, lying on the high ground to the south, in addition to Beckley Field, which extended from the northern side of the village to the edge of Otmoor. (fn. 269) By 1580 Mill Field had become Upper Field, while old Beckley Field had been divided into Middle and Lower Fields. (fn. 270)
Thirteenth-century terriers show how one large field at Horton, surrounding the hamlet from the south-west to the north-east, had been divided into smaller fields—Westfield, Morefield, and Eastfield, later known as Nash Field because of its proximity to Ash—as the amount of arable land grew by assarting from Otmoor and from Bernwood Forest. (fn. 271) The names of two such assarts recorded in 1292 (fn. 272) are 'Newland' and 'Northcroft'. By the late 16th century there were four open fields at Horton. (fn. 273) The northern part of Beckley Park, known as Parkmede or Parkfield, (fn. 274) which lay between the open fields of the two settlements, was farmed out as grassland from about 1300 onwards to the tenants of Beckley and Horton, but not to those of Studley. (fn. 275)
The demesne lands at Beckley in 1272 were some 160 acres of arable land worth 6d. per acre and 30 acres of meadow worth 8d. per acre. At Horton there were 145 acres of arable worth 1s. per acre. (fn. 276) Six years later Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, commuted the services of his villein tenants for money rents and then remitted these sums as part of a bargain whereby they took to farm at current prices all the demesne lands of the manor. (fn. 277) Of the seven freeholders on the manor at his death in 1300 only William the Parker of Beckley and Walter at Hull of Horton, who had earlier been freed from villeinage by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, (fn. 278) had a virgate of land or more. The five others had cottages only. The bulk of the land was held in 32 villein holdings, each consisting of a house, a curtilage, and ⅓ virgate to 1 virgate of land. (fn. 279)
The timber in the park was an important manorial asset. Edward I realized 400 marks by sales in 1301, (fn. 280) and royal gifts of timber were frequent. The Black Prince in particular made many such gifts. (fn. 281) In the next century All Souls College (fn. 282) received twelve oaks to help with its building in 1457, and later (1479–80) Edward IV sold timber worth £38. (fn. 283)
From 1278 until 1475 changes in the value of the manor were due to the varying issues of the park lands in sales of timber, pannage and agricultural produce, for the rents, based on land prices of 6d. and 1s. per acre, which were stated to be current prices in the late 13th century, remained unchanged. In 1300, after allowance of £6 10s. had been made for services commuted and rents remitted, the manor was worth £37 15s., (fn. 284) including £11 for the value of the park. Towards the end of the 14th century it had fallen to £30 10s. After a rise of over one-third at the end of Henry IV's reign it again fell, but showed some recovery towards the end of the century. These figures do not include the cost of repairs, wages of officers, and pensions charged on the manor, charges which had caused a heavy accumulation of arrears in payments by the mid-15th century. (fn. 285)
It is uncertain when the tallage of villein tenements actually ceased, but in 1456 the reeve was allowed some twenty years' payments in his account, because there had been no serfs on the manor during that period. (fn. 286)
In the mid-16th century rents began to rise. From 1670 to 1673 the Park estate alone was let at £385 a year. (fn. 287) In a valuation of 1728 the manor was considered to be worth £1,100 a year, and in 1856 rents totalled some £1,400. (fn. 288)
The rolls of private courts from 1580 onwards give a detailed picture of the agricultural calendar. In addition to the hayward, moormen, and swineherd, there was a molecatcher who was paid 30s. a year, contributed by the tenants. References to village customs include an injunction of 1646 that 'everyone that shall be absent at the dinner and the revell on mead day there used according to the ancient custome of Horton' should pay 10s. for default.
To turn to the organization of the northern part of the parish, there were in 1292 two open fields at Ash ('Esses'). These were Essemfield, later Asham field, and Holdburyfield, later represented by Great and Little Oberry. There were also several crofts and inclosures (paroci). At Marlake, in the manor of Ash, there was common land at White Cross Green, and piecemeal assarts from Otmoor and Bernwood—Fattingsacre, Blackred, Middle furlong, Beyneeshall, Six Acres, and two strips called East and West. (fn. 289) Stoneyfield, the later Mill Field of the hamlet of Studley, which by 1639 had split into Great and Little Mill Fields, (fn. 290) also existed in 1292. These three open fields, with a croft called Badmore, were all cultivated in strips at the end of the 14th century, and probably Great and Little Marlake Fields too, for the field names on George Sargeant's maps and surveys of 1641 suggest that there had once been a separate field system for Marlake. (fn. 291) By 1609 the entire manor, with the exception of Mill Field, was inclosed in compact farms. Rents of holdings in the fields totalled £54 18s. 3d., of which part was for strips in the Nash and Cut Fields of Horton. By contrast, rents of inclosed farms totalled £330. The yearly sum of £140 was paid for Marlake and Asham Fields and Oxvent, and £45 for Middle Marlake. The rent of Warren Farm was 300 couple of conies valued at £40. (fn. 292)
George Sargeant's map of 1641, and the terrier (fn. 293) he drew up, show that Studley manor fell into two distinct parts. The first, the Ash and Marlake section, was largely taken up by inclosures, (fn. 294) the pattern of which seems to have been dictated by the layout of the fields and 'vents' or 'fences' (formerly assarts) of the vanished hamlets of Ash and Marlake. The second, or Studley, part was mostly taken up by Studley Mill Field, though there were some small inclosures around the manor-house.
The area of the common fields of Studley was estimated as 107 acres, but about a third of this lay in Prior's Piece and elsewhere in the common fields of Horton. Mill Field was divided into Great and Little Mill Fields, and Great Mill Field was further divided into three larger furlongs—Goosehurst and Southwell furlongs and Homer Piece—and some small furlongs and butts. At least 670 acres, about two-thirds of the manor, were inclosed. Most of the inclosures were large: eleven were more than 20 acres. Most of the woodland of the manor, 150 out of 160 acres, lay in the compact belt formed by Upper and Lower Prior's Wood, the Lady's Gore, and Oriel College Wood. There were 142 acres of common land, nearly all in the Ash and Marlake part of the manor.
In 1641 Sir George Croke, lord of the manor, held nearly 240 acres in his own hand; 52 acres in the common field including the whole of Little Mill Field (13 a.); four closes near the manor-house and one large detached close, some 50 acres in all; and all the woodland except Oriel College Wood. The Marlake estate of 323 acres, held by John Dickerson and John Coxhead, and the Warren estate (fn. 295) of 218 acres, held by Richard Dolbey, were leased from Croke. The first estate comprised most of the manor north of the lane from Asham marsh to Prior's Wood, and the second lay between that lane and the Studley-Boarstall road. The rest of the Ash and Marlake part of the manor was divided between the small leasehold estate of John Vaughan (14 a.), and estates leased for life by John Coxhead (34 a.), Thomas Vicars (14 a.), and John Coxhead the younger and Richard Coxhead. There were 25 copyholders, most of whom held small parts of the common fields besides their homestalls. The largest of these holdings was that of John Parker (33 a.), who had lands in Nash and Cut Fields as well as in Mill Field, but only three of his fellows held more than 5 acres.
An estate map of 1786 shows that considerable changes had taken place in the area of the old inclosures. (fn. 296) Groups of small closes and small adjacent meadows had been amalgamated. In the large fields of 1641 the opposite process had been going on and was probably still in progress. (fn. 297) Several fields had been divided into two, Great Marlake had been divided into four, and Asham Field had been divided into six. Ox Fence and Over Fence had been merged and then redivided into six. The result was to produce a pattern of fields of an average size of about 15 acres. In Mill Field there had been much simplification of boundaries. Southwell furlong and most of Little Mill Field were no longer divided into lands; a line of small closes had appeared on the side nearest Nash Field; and it appears from the map that a separation of Great and Little Mill Fields and Goosey (the former Goosehurst furlong) by hedges had either been effected or was to be undertaken. (fn. 298)
It would be very difficult to draw an exact boundary between Studley and Horton manors, for both in Prior's Piece, in Nash Field, and in Great Mill Field strips belonging to the Crokes' manor of Studley were interspersed with strips belonging to Lord Abingdon's manor of Horton.
Whereas in 1641 most of the manor had been divided between two large estates, it was now split up into seven farms. Marlake House is not marked on the 1786 map, and the Marlake estate had been divided between four of the new farms, three of whose tenants, Hewett, Coates, and Clark, had farmhouses beside White Cross Green, where there had been signs of a new hamlet growing up in 1641. Hewett farmed 88 acres, the northernmost part of the old Marlake estate; Coates 54 acres, the former Great Marlake Field; and Clarke 123 acres, the former Asham Field with Asham Mead and some small closes. Moses Blake held 155 acres, made up of the remaining fragments of the Marlake estate, the estate held for life by John Coxhead in 1641, and part of the old Warren estate, with a farm-house at the west end of the Warren. William Tipping held Warren Farm with 180 acres, all of which Richard Dolbey had held in 1641. James Meers held 33 acres, including a homestead and close at the southern end of the Lady's Gore, and three closes between the Warren and Studley village. The seventh tenant, John Faulkner, held an estate of 130 acres, mostly of lands held by Sir George Croke in 1641, which may be called Studley farm estate. Of this, 100 acres lay in the common fields, in Mill Field, Nash Field, and Holland Field. Faulkner held besides 32 acres in the fields of Horton and Studley leased by Alexander Croke from Lord Abingdon, and as a result held very nearly the whole of Mill Field; which explains the simplification of boundaries, the disappearance of the division into lands in much of the field, and the disuse of many of the old furlong names.
In 1641 there had been 25 copyholders with 85 acres in Studley manor. In 1786 there were 21 'tenants', probably copyholders, the majority of whom held only cottages and gardens. Between them they held less than 10 acres in the common fields. Three other tenants with leases for life held about 7 acres in all. Presumably most of these cottagers worked as labourers for John Faulkner. One other tenant, Richard Budd, held some 9 acres of land leased by Alexander Croke from Lord Abingdon.
In 1786 the manor of Horton consisted of about 1,140 acres. Most of its northern part consisted of the four common fields, Vent Field (c. 65 a.), Holland Field (c. 203 a.), Cut Field (c. 76 a.), and Nash Field (c. 168 a). Of the total area of about 520 acres, some 60 acres were leased to Alexander Croke. It is clear from the furlong names (fn. 299) and from references in the survey book that the common fields included strips of meadow beside Otmoor and on either side of Harrow Marsh.
The common fields and most of the inclosures were held by tenants of Lord Abingdon on leases for life. Seventeen tenants shared some 460 acres of the common fields and 90 acres of inclosures, while 4 of them with 18 other tenants held 47 acres of small closes and homestalls—holdings which did not include any part of the common fields. The largest holding was that of John Faulkner (95 a.), and 9 other tenants had over 30 acres. Apart from Horton Wood, which Lord Abingdon held in his own hands, there were only about 10 acres of freeholdings.
There are few signs of unusual farming practice in the parish after the Reformation. Crops grown early in the 17th century included wheat, maslin, rye, barley, pease, and oats. (fn. 300) The open fields were cultivated on the system of two crops to a fallow, (fn. 301) and there had been no change when the surveyor of 1728 recommended that new heart might be put into the land by laying it down to grass (seeds) for a season. (fn. 302) Carr and Butler of the 'New Inn' were praised by Arthur Young in 1813 for their use of the new drill. Young also noted the successful cultivation of the turnip crop on the reddish sand of the higher parts of Beckley (fn. 303) —land which was of little use for corn as the surveys of 1728 show. They had valued it at 8s. an acre compared with 15s. an acre for the low-lying land at Horton. In the mid-19th century Sir Alexander Croke incorporated in the leases of his tenants a stipulation that their farms, divided into four parts each, must be cultivated on a four-course rotation—roots, summer corn, grass seeds, winter corn. (fn. 304)
The proximity of Beckley and its hamlets to Stowood, Bernwood Forest, and Otmoor, together with the many woods in the parish itself, meant that forest and moor played a vital part in the economy of the hamlets. The Domesday survey records a wood at Beckley measuring 1 league by half a league, (fn. 305) and one at Ash for 200 swine. (fn. 306) The latter may probably be identified with the Prior's Wood of Studley Priory, mentioned in 1539–40. (fn. 307) The priory also had a wood called Lynhale, lying outside the bounds of the forest of Shotover and Stowood. The extensive woodland at Horton, afforested by Henry II, (fn. 308) and measuring 200 acres in 1589–90, (fn. 309) belonged to Beckley manor.
Forest rights were valuable and they may have been commonly augmented by minor encroachments. In 1338, for instance, the rector of Beckley was caught keeping 100 sheep in Stowood (fn. 310) to the king's loss and the destruction of pasture for wild beasts. (fn. 311) Forest inquisitions show that pigs were continually grazed by Beckley and the hamlets in Bernwood, whose foresters were accustomed to receive refreshment from the lord of the manor of Beckley. (fn. 312) In 1363–4 Studley paid a mark, and Marlake and 'Ashende' ½ mark to Sir John Appleby, keeper of the forest, for agistment, as they had no right of common in Bernwood. (fn. 313)
Rights of common pasture in the waste land of the parish were also of great value, and records of some 16th-century disputes over these have been preserved. In 1567 the ownership of the waste land on the north-west fringes of the parish was hotly disputed between Norreys and Croke. Their improving zeal led both to claim the right to inclose Asham Marsh, Pinfold Green, Long Lane, Short Lane, Hangers Lane, and Arnegrove. (fn. 314) A royal inquiry held at Beckley found that seven Otmoor villages had common of pasture in these fields; that they were the queen's hereditary possessions, and that John Croke was occupying them. Croke compiled a book of evidences to support his claim; Henry Norreys obtained in the Exchequer a 21-year lease of most of the disputed land and tried to shift Croke by the verdict of an Aylesbury jury (1577–8), but Croke secured a Queen's Bench verdict in his own favour. (fn. 315) The inhabitants of Beckley were similarly involved in 1576, when disputes arose over 'a great parcell' of woods and waste ground known as the Quarters, and another called Stonehurst (400 a.), used as common by Horton, Studley, Stanton St. John, Worminghall (Bucks.), Brill (Bucks.), and Beckley. The chief offenders were the lords of the manors of Waterperry, Boarstall (Bucks.), and Oakley (Bucks.), who had taken the woods for their private use, grubbed up some of the land, built houses on it, and inclosed part of it for sheep. (fn. 316)
Probably the most important of all the common lands was Otmoor. Sir John Croke commented on the absence of any reference to Otmoor, even in the very full inquisition of 1300, which otherwise set out every feature of Beckley manor. He stated that the inhabitants of Beckley, Horton, and other townships enjoyed this 'necessary and beneficial common' without anyone of them 'claiming any pre-eminence or greater right of interest than the rest'. (fn. 317) Nevertheless, court rolls of the lords of Beckley manor show them regulating the grazing rights on Otmoor from their court, and even amercing in 1582 'a servant of Master Croke for keeping sheep-dogs on Otmoor contrary to the court orders'. (fn. 318)
Orders controlling the moor's use became more numerous and lengthy between 1580 and 1662. The fullest were in 1647 and 1656. The court chose two moormen each for Beckley, Horton, Fencott and Murcott together, Charlton, Oddington, and Noke; regulated rights of common which always went with the occupancy of a house; laid down a stint for sheep and geese; exacted very heavy penalties for keeping diseased horses on the moor; fixed rules for the ringing of hogs and pigs and so on. All cattle had to be branded with an iron kept at Beckley, which was also the site of the moor pound. Fines for breaches of the orders were normally shared between the lord of the manor of Beckley and the hayward and moormen. (fn. 319) Forfeits went to the lords of Beckley, as in 1657, when John Coxhead's cattle and 60 sheep which he had on the moor were declared forfeited after he had 'murthered himselfe'. (fn. 320)
The first suggestion that the moor should be properly drained and inclosed seems to have come from the surveyor of the Abingdon estates in 1728, when it was his chief proposal for improving the value of the manor. (fn. 321) Some small inclosures had already been made, but he said that they were so ill used that they were chiefly overrun with bushes. No action followed, but in 1787 Sir Alexander Croke put forward a scheme for drainage and inclosure. (fn. 322) Arthur Young also thought it 'a scandal to the national policy' that Otmoor, within five miles of Oxford and the Thames, should remain uninclosed; and considered that its 'good loam would form valuable farms, if drained, for tillage or pasturage'—certainly for the latter. (fn. 323) Opposition, however, from the Earl of Abingdon, who was supported by the representatives of 340 families of the Otmoor villages, defeated the plans to secure a parliamentary bill. (fn. 324)
The next proposal to inclose came to Parliament from George, Duke of Marlborough, and others, in 1801, but this time Croke and John Mackarness claimed that their interests as landowners had been disregarded, and the bill failed in committee. (fn. 325)
On 12 July 1815 an inclosure bill, including a major drainage scheme, was at last passed. The final award was not completed until 15 April 1829, though in the law suits which followed, the proprietors claimed to have enjoyed fourteen years' peaceful possession of their new lands before 1830.
Beckley parish interests received the following allotments: Beckley township, 303 a.; Horton hamlet, 262 a.; Studley hamlet, 200 a.; the Earl of Abingdon, for the lord paramount's right of soil, 107 a.; Sir Alexander Croke for tithes, 102 a.; and the Revd. Theophilus Cooke for tithes, 63 a. The commissioner was empowered to split up the communal awards among individuals if those entitled to the major part in any village desired it. But the Beckley parish awards were not apportioned until the general inclosure of the parish. Beckley's allotment went almost entirely to Abingdon and Cooke, Horton's to Abingdon except for a small amount to Cooke, and Studley's to Sir Alexander Croke. (fn. 326)
The open fields of Beckley parish were inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1827, (fn. 327) though the award was not completed until January 1831. (fn. 328) The Earl of Abingdon, as lord of the manor of Beckley with Horton, Sir Alexander Croke, as lord of Studley and lay impropriator of most of the tithes in the parish, George Leigh Cooke, rector of Cubbington, as the impropriator of Beckley rectory, and his nephew, Theophilus Leigh Cooke, as perpetual curate of Beckley, shared the award between them and bought in almost all the land which was sold to defray the expenses of the award. The only other freehold allotments, four in number, were all small. Ralph Butler of the New Inn bought 8 acres under the sales. There followed many exchanges among the three main beneficiaries to consolidate their holdings, in the course of which Horton Wood was acquired by Sir Alexander Croke of the Earl of Abingdon.
In the meantime, the Otmoor inclosure had been having unexpected consequences. The immediate social effects were distressing: contemporary evidence shows that the small-holders and cottagers had been able to make £20 a year out of keeping geese on the coarse aquatic grass of the moor, and that the fowling and fishing had provided valuable food. Inclosure deprived them of these sources of income, while the mitigation of the chronic disease called the moor evil, possibly foot and mouth disease, of which the improving landlords had complained, was perhaps more advantageous to the large farmer than to the small one. Furthermore, the sanguine hopes of the 'improvers' were not realized. It seems that the flood water which they had considered the moor's chief bane may have given it what fertility it possessed. Instead of the land becoming worth some 30s. or 40s. an acre, as Arthur Young had predicted, it was considered dear, some ten years after inclosure, at 5s. an acre. (fn. 329) Also the vast amount of hedging, ditching, and major drainage operations involved made it one of the costliest of parliamentary inclosures, and only the large landowners could afford to take up their allotments.
General discontent came to a head in 1830, when much valuable land was flooded because the commissioner had cut a new channel for the River Ray at a higher level. Twenty-nine farmers who had suffered considerable loss united to cut the new dykes to allow the river to return to its ancient course. They were sued by the rectors of Oddington and Beckley; indicted for felony at Oxford Assizes, and acquitted. (fn. 330) This verdict was followed by wholesale uprooting of fences and mass perambulations of the moor. The summoning of troops, the arrest of 44 men, the attempt to convey them to Oxford castle through the midst of St. Giles' Fair and their rescue by the mob, were fully described in the local newspapers. Some of the rioters were later sentenced at the assizes to imprisonment and fines, but recommended to mercy. (fn. 331) Subscriptions were opened in aid of the Otmoor villagers by an Oxford wine merchant, who was later successfully sued for libel by Sir Alexander Croke. A pamphlet war ensued (fn. 332) and associations, called Otmoor Associations, were formed to fight for the rights of Otmoor commoners. (fn. 333) As late as 1833 two men were indicted for malicious destruction of a bridge built by order of the trustees of the Otmoor drainage scheme. (fn. 334)
Reynold of St. Valery gave Beckley church to the Templars at Cowley in about 1146, at the time of the second Crusade, for the salvation of the souls of himself and his relatives and all those who desired to strive with him to reach Jerusalem. (fn. 335) The Templars never possessed, or were unable to keep the advowson, for in 1226 Robert, Count of Dreux, granted it to the Prioress and Convent of Studley. (fn. 336) They, in their turn, after struggling to keep the advowson, had lost it by the end of the 13th century. In 1230, after litigation, Studley's right to present to the church was upheld. (fn. 337) But between 1258 and 1279 the nuns transferred this right to the Bishop of Lincoln, ostensibly because of the 'frailty of their sex' and because, being women, they felt unable to choose a suitable rector. The true reason was probably their inability to maintain their claims against the Earl of Cornwall, the overlord of Beckley manor and their patron. (fn. 338) When Earl Richard died in 1272, he was declared to have held the advowson, (fn. 339) and his son presented in 1291 (fn. 340) and 1299. (fn. 341) In 1316 and 1318 John de Hadlow, the lessee of the manor, presented, (fn. 342) but when in 1351 the Black Prince attempted to fill a vacancy with his chaplain, his right to do so was contested by the Prioress of Studley. The priory was found to be the rightful patron because Bishop Grosseteste's register showed that it had been so in 1230. (fn. 343) In 1352 the question was finally settled, for the church was appropriated to the priory and a vicarage ordained. (fn. 344)
The rectory consisted of both land and tithes— 2 carucates of land and 8 cottages—according to the survey of 1279. (fn. 345) Studley held the church until its dissolution in 1539, when the advowson and the impropriate rectory passed to John Croke. (fn. 346) In 1568 his son and his wife Elizabeth sold the rectory to William Shillingford alias Izard, (fn. 347) whose family lived in the parish and held the rectory for over a hundred years. (fn. 348) William Izard's grandson John died in 1657; (fn. 349) his great-grandson John Izard, a 'Spanish merchant', died in 1694, (fn. 350) at about which time the rectory was sold. (fn. 351) It was then called a manor, and included view of frankpledge and other manorial rights. (fn. 352)
In 1717, when the antiquary Rawlinson visited Beckley, the owner of the rectory was Edward Bee, 'a silkman on Ludgate Hill', who was said to have bought it from the Duke of Bedford. (fn. 353) The rectory and advowson descended to his daughter Ann, who married Dr. Theophilus Leigh, Master of Balliol 1726–85. (fn. 354) Their daughter Cassandra married Samuel Cooke, vicar of Bookham (Surrey), (fn. 355) and their descendants, the Cooke family, held Beckley rectory and advowson until the 20th century. Mrs. H. M. Cooke was patron of the church in 1953, but in 1925 Grove House and 30 acres of the rectory lands had been sold to Captain Wilfrid Holland-Hibbert. (fn. 356)
The earliest evidence shows that the question of ownership of the tithes was complicated, and it remained so until they were commuted for land in 1831. (fn. 357) In the 13th century the rector only held part of them; the rest were divided between Oseney Abbey, Studley Priory, and St. Frideswide's Priory.
Robert d'Oilly is said (c. 1127) to have given two parts of the demesne tithes in Beckley, Horton, Ash and half a hide in Studley to his church of St. George in Oxford castle, (fn. 358) which he had founded with Roger d'Ivry. Henry I's confirmation charter indicates that the grant had been made at an earlier date and it is probable that these demesne tithes formed a part of the church's original endowment in 1074. In 1149 St. George's church, with Beckley and other possessions, was granted to Oseney Abbey. (fn. 359) The latter met with difficulty on occasions over the collection of its Beckley tithes; in 1260, for example, the Earl of Cornwall's steward had to appoint a safe place for their custody, and obtain a promise from the rector of Beckley, Michael of Northampton, not to hinder their collection or make a claim upon them. (fn. 360) Again in 1292 it was necessary for Oseney to make an agreement with the rector Philip of Hedsor, about which strips in the common fields owed tithes to Oseney, and to acknowledge the rector's right to the tithes of all assarted land. (fn. 361) It is probable that the Oseney tithes about this time were commuted for a pension, for from 1291 until its dissolution the abbey received a pension from Beckley church. In 1291 it was £1 6s. 8d.; (fn. 362) in 1535 £1 2s. (fn. 363) In 1540 all Oseney tithes were granted by the king to John Croke with Studley manor and the rectory. (fn. 364)
The Rectors of Beckley and St. Frideswide's Priory were also occasionally at war over tithes. In 1329 a rector was unsuccessful in his claims to the tithes of Godstow Wood in Oakley parish, which went to St. Frideswide's by right of their appropriated vicarage of Oakley. (fn. 365) A dispute, which continued from 1234 until 1303, for possession of the tithes from the Mill Field assart in Beckley and from the issues of the mill, was also finally settled against the Rectors of Beckley in favour of St. Frideswide's by right of their chapel at Headington. (fn. 366) These tithes, which were valued at 5s. (fn. 367) in 1535, were granted to Christ Church in 1532, (fn. 368) which held them until 1831.
Studley's claim to tithes dates from 1230, when the Bishop of Lincoln granted the priory the tithes on 5 hides in Horton and 2 in Ash, to be collected by its own servants and applied to its own use. (fn. 369) These must have been part of the tithes originally granted to Oseney, and it is not clear why they were lost. By the 14th century they may also have been commuted, for in 1341 Studley was receiving a pension of 13s. 4d. from the church. (fn. 370) The remaining tithes in the parish belonged to the rector. At the time of the appropriation of the church the rectorial tithes went as a matter of course to Studley Priory, and were bought by John Croke (fn. 371) on the priory's dissolution. In 1568 his son sold the tithes of Beckley, together with the rectory estate and the advowson, to William Izard (see above); (fn. 372) the tithes of Horton and Studley he kept, (fn. 373) and they remained in the Croke family until 1831.
When the inclosure award was made in 1831, all the tithes were commuted for land. The Cookes as lay rectors of Beckley received 92 acres for glebe and 87 for tithes; Christ Church 15 acres; and the vicar 19 acres. Sir Alexander Croke, who was called the lay rector of Horton and Studley, received 33 acres for glebe and 170 for tithes. (fn. 374) By the Otmoor inclosure award of 1829 the Cookes had received 29 acres, Sir Alexander Croke 102 acres, and the vicar 63 acres for vicarial glebe. (fn. 375)
Although Beckley had been a fair sized parish before its division in 1880, (fn. 376) the medieval rectory was not a rich one, presumably because of the alienation of the tithes. It was assessed at £8 in 1254; (fn. 377) at £10 in 1291; (fn. 378) in 1341 it was said to be taxed at £13 6s. 8d. and to be worth that; (fn. 379) but in 1428 it was again assessed at £10. (fn. 380) Its value at the Dissolution is hard to estimate because of the complex division of the tithes, but it was about £10. (fn. 381) Accurate post-Reformation figures are not available, but in 1642 it was claimed in a case brought by the vicar against John Izard, the lay rector, that the rectory was worth between £200 and £300. This was probably an exaggeration. (fn. 382)
When the vicarage was endowed in 1352, it was ordained that the vicar should receive 10 marks yearly, and that Studley Priory should build a suitable house for him, with hall, two bedrooms, kitchen, stable, fish-house, and brew-house; with a room for guests as well. The vicar was also to have a garden and a courtyard. (fn. 383) Although the priory's financial position was not good, (fn. 384) no complaints were made about its conduct towards Beckley (fn. 385) during the episcopal visitations of 1520 and 1530. Indeed by 1526 it had raised the vicar's stipend to £8. (fn. 386) His curate received £5 6s. 8d.
After the Reformation the living at Beckley, known as a perpetual curacy notwithstanding the prior ordination of a vicarage, was a decidedly poor one, as the vicar's stipend remained at £8, (fn. 387) while the value of the rectory increased with rising prices. The vicars were not university graduates, (fn. 388) and probably supplemented their income by farming. There is mention of the vicar's hogs, turkeys, and a cart horse.
It is presumed that the vicars were normally resident, but John Foxley, presented in 1564, is known to have been absent round about 1590 to 1595 owing to some 'error or misdemeanor'. (fn. 389)
Relations between the vicar and the lay rector were not always amicable, perhaps partly on account of the disparity in their incomes. There was dissension, for instance, in 1642 when the vicar brought a suit against John Izard about the boundary between rectory and vicarage and a 'low squatt building' once used by the vicar, but taken over at the end of the 16th century by the rector's son-in-law and raised two stories. A former vicar, Thomas Blades (presented in 1602), had threatened to pull it down. (fn. 390)
During the 18th century the living became too poor to support a resident minister. Hearne, who went to a service at Beckley in 1714, noted the poverty of the incumbent, Mr. Eustace—'an honest gentleman' and 'well-beloved' with several children. He added that he preached 'pretty well'; that he also officiated at Studley on the same day; and that both churches provided a 'poor maintenance'. (fn. 391) For this reason the living was usually held in combination with another; Richard Carter, to take one case, was chaplain in 1738 at New College, where he resided. (fn. 392) In 1752 the living was reported to be the third poorest in the county, (fn. 393) and Gilbert Stephens, the rector of Noke, (fn. 394) who unofficially performed the services at Beckley, used the income to repair his rectory. On the appointment of a new vicar he complained to the bishop, relating how much he had done for the church at Beckley, which had been 'destitute of divine service merely on account of the smallness of its income'; (fn. 395) and declaring that he was capable of serving both cures. In 1764 he was made vicar, (fn. 396) but in 1767 the churchwardens accused him of neglecting his duty. (fn. 397) Meanwhile the vicarage house decayed; in the middle years of the century the churchwardens presented it 'as ready to drop down' or as 'ruinous'; by 1764 it was 'quite demolished'. (fn. 398) As a consequence of non-residence, a minimum number of services was held—one on Sundays and communion three or four times a year, and the number of communicants was small, varying between ten and twenty. (fn. 399) Each vicar regularly complained in his return to the bishop of the absence of some of his parishioners. The vicars thought that those few who professed to disregard religion did so from ignorance, and that though several persons were 'sincerely pious', 'many of the lower sort' seemed to have 'no notion that God is to be worshipped', and only attended funerals. (fn. 400)
In about 1780 the vicar, Richardson Wood, who was also chaplain at Magdalen College, undertook to have two services on Sunday 'in consideration of a subscription among the parishioners', and the provision of a dinner. But as the subscription was withdrawn and 'the dinner grudgingly given', he later accepted the curacy of Forest Hill, and had services there and at Beckley alternately morning and afternoon. (fn. 401) Thus, in spite of the increase of the value of the vicarage with help from Queen Anne's Bounty in the middle of the 18th century, (fn. 402) it was still difficult to secure a resident parson.
During the 19th century the vicars were members of the Cooke family, who owned the rectory, lived at the Grove, (fn. 403) and were important landowners in the parish, and benefactors of the churches at both Beckley and Horton. Theophilus Leigh Cooke (vicar 1802–46) was a Fellow of Magdalen College and held livings in Norfolk and Essex; (fn. 404) his nephew, George Theophilus Cooke (vicar 1847–93) was also a fellow of Magdalen. (fn. 405) Bishop Wilberforce called the former 'liberal and kind' (fn. 406) and the latter 'liberal and somewhat odd—of the High Church'. (fn. 407) Their influence may perhaps be discerned in the 19thcentury visitation returns, which give the impression that the church was better attended than it had been in the 18th century. There was a sermon Sunday morning and 'catechizing' in the afternoon, (fn. 408) and communion was given twice a month. In 1875 there were about eighty communicants in all. (fn. 409) In 1953 the net annual value of the benefice was £473. (fn. 410)
Beckley's distance from Horton and Studley must have discouraged regular attendance of the inhabitants of these hamlets at their parish church, and they may have had a chapel of their own at an early date. There is record of a chaplain serving Horton in the 13th century, (fn. 411) but no further evidence of the chapel's existence occurs until 1553, when Edward VI's Commissioners listed its possessions—a little bell, an old vestment, an alb, and a pewter cruet. (fn. 412) There was a curate in 1584. (fn. 413) Some 17th-century records of the chapel have been found: on the estate map of 1641 there is a stylised drawing of a church, roughly on the site of the present church; (fn. 414) in a court roll of 1640 (fn. 415) there is a reference to the common way to the church and chapel, and frequent references to the chapel as a point where the inhabitants of Horton assembled to carry out the orders of the court. It fell into disuse after Sir George Croke built his chapel at Studley Priory House about 1639, (fn. 416) and by 1685 it had 'fallen down'. (fn. 417) 'Chappel Close' is marked on the estate map of 1786, (fn. 418) when it was said to be the freehold of the parish officers under Lord Abingdon.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the Crokes' chapel was used by the neighbouring villagers and the inmates of the almshouse. (fn. 419) Twice a day the latter were summoned to prayers in the priory chapel, and if they did not attend on Sunday, they were deprived of half their dole. (fn. 420) This chapel was independent of the parish church, and the Crokes appointed the chaplain. (fn. 421) In 1867 the church of St. Barnabas was built in Horton in 'Chapel Close', (fn. 422) and in 1880, when the ecclesiastical parish was divided into two parts (fn. 423) it became the parish church of Horton cum Studley. The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Vicar of Beckley. The net annual value of the benefice was £168 in 1953. (fn. 424)
The church of THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY consists of a nave, chancel, north and south aisles, south porch, and central embattled tower. It dates from the 14th and 15th centuries, and is unusual in retaining almost all its original stonework, including the tracery in the windows. (fn. 425)
There was an earlier church on the site, of which only part of the north wall of the chancel and the font (c. 1200) (fn. 426) remain. During the early 14th century the chancel and south aisle were rebuilt, and the central tower was probably added at the same time. The north aisle was rebuilt towards the end of the century, and in the 15th century the present nave arches were inserted, with a clerestory above, and the west wall rebuilt. The south porch was added later in the century, and new windows and a doorway were inserted in the south aisle. (fn. 427)
Minor repairs to the fabric, especially the porch, were made about 1758, and in 1788 a gallery was erected by subscription from Horton and Whitecross Green, 'for the use of the singers'. (fn. 428) In 1844 the churchyard was newly fenced, (fn. 429) and a thorough restoration of the church was made in 1845. A plaster ceiling was removed to reveal the original timber roof, the squint on the south side was opened, the gallery taken down, the pews replaced by open seats, the Jacobean pulpit cleaned of its paint and 'let down to reasonable proportions', and a stone altar substituted for the old wooden altar. (fn. 430)
The church has some 14th-century glass in the windows of the north aisle and chancel, depicting the Assumption of the Virgin, St. Anne teaching the Virgin to read, the martyr king St. Edmund, holding an arrow, the legend of St. Thomas and the Virgin's girdle, St. Christopher, and St. Thomas. (fn. 431)
There are considerable remains of wall-paintings which were discovered in 1845: a 14th-century Madonna on the north wall of the south aisle; and scenes depicting the Annunciation, possibly, and the roasting of the damned in hell. On top of these scenes was painted a large 15th-century Weighing of Souls, now largely destroyed. Above the western tower-arch are figures of St. Peter and St. Paul, dating from the 14th century, and a Doom, with an 18th-century Royal Arms painted above its centre. On the west wall are considerable remains of colour decoration, mostly of the early 17th century. (fn. 432)
Above the font, on the north-east pillar of the nave, is an unusual small stone desk supported by a shaft, made to hold the manual. The fine 13thcentury ironwork on the inner door of the porch is another notable survival.
The monuments commemorate some well-known local families, notably those of Croke, Bee, Cooke, Ledwell, and Faulkner. Owing to alterations in the floor levels, most of the 17th-century and early18th-century inscriptions described in 1717 and again in 1823 have since disappeared. (fn. 433) Among the many Izard memorials was one to John Izard, Spanish merchant (d. 1694). There are now inscriptions to Robert Sutton, barber in the University of Oxford (d. 1742); John Thomson, B.D. (d. 1773/4) and Laetitia Thomson (d. 1746); Ann, daughter of John and Mary Faulkner of Studley (d. 1759); William Ledwell, of Woodperry (d. 1779); Mary, wife of Thomas Ledwell of Beckley Park (d. 1783), and to five children, presumably, who died between 1782 and 1804; Edward Bee and Mary, his wife; Ann, wife of the Revd. Dr. Leigh; Cassandra Cooke (d. 1826), wife of the Revd. Samuel Cooke and daughter of Ann and the Revd. Dr. Leigh, Master of Balliol; John Parker (d. 1805); Jenny Parker, relict of John and daughter of Alexander Croke (d. 1814); Alexander Croke, eldest son of Sir Alexander Croke (d. 1818); Le Blount Croke (d. 1827); Alexander Croke (d. 1833). The earliest Croke monument now left is a brass depicting Anne, wife of Charles Croke, kneeling at a prie-dieu. (fn. 434) She died in 1619.
Full inventories were taken in 1552 (fn. 435) and 1553, when the church had four large bells, a sanctus bell and a chalice without a cover. (fn. 436) The chapel light, which had 12d. a year for its maintenance and was removed by Edward VI's commissioners, probably stood in the south aisle. (fn. 437) There are now five bells, two from the 17th, two from the 18th, and one from the 19th century, and also a sanctus bell. (fn. 438) The earliest piece of church plate now left is a silver paten-cover of 1764. (fn. 439)
The church of ST. BARNABAS at Horton was built in 1867 at a cost of about £1,100. (fn. 440) The architect was William Butterfield; it is in his usual style, and the site and materials 'pleased him very much'. It is of coloured brick, and comprises nave, chancel, north aisle, south porch, and a turret containing two bells. (fn. 441)
One papist copyholder was reported at Horton between 1717 and 1746, but otherwise there is no record of Roman Catholicism in the parish. (fn. 442)
In 1676 there were two Nonconformist families, (fn. 443) but by 1738 there was only one Anabaptist (fn. 444) of 'low rank'. During the early 19th century various private homes were licensed as dissenting meeting-houses, e.g. John Busby's in 1832, (fn. 445) and George Robins's in 1835. (fn. 446) In 1878 a brick Methodist chapel with seating for 50 was erected at a cost of £125. (fn. 447)
Margaret Wheatland, wife of the rector of Stanton St. John, left £800 for charitable purposes by her will dated 1740. A Chancery decree of 1769 ordered that the interest from £200 should be paid under this bequest to provide education for ten poor children of Beckley parish. (fn. 448) In 1819 £3 9s. 4d. was being paid to a schoolmaster in Beckley to educate 6 children in reading and writing and £3 to a schoolmaster in Horton to teach 4 children reading. There were also three endowed schools in the parish providing education for 70 to 120 children, some of whom were paid for by public subscription. (fn. 449) In 1833 there was one school at Beckley for 24 boys and 26 girls; 12 children were educated free and 27 were paid for by the rector. Horton had two schools, one for 14 boys and 8 girls and the other for 6 boys and 15 girls. (fn. 450) In 1871 (fn. 451) there was one church school at Beckley with an attendance of 87 and two schools at Horton: an endowed school (attendance 47) and a private venture school for five. In 1893 (fn. 452) the Horton church school had an attendance of 59, and the Beckley school with an attendance of 86 was affiliated to the National Society, from which it received a grant of £40 for new buildings in 1895. In 1906 the numbers rose to 109 but dropped to 30 in 1924 (fn. 453) after the senior children had been transferred to Stanton St. John. Both the Beckley and Horton schools survive today (1952) as church schools with an attendance of 38 and 20 respectively. (fn. 454)
A night school was started in 1854. (fn. 455)
In 1738 the interest on a sum of £10 given to the church was being used to provide bread for the poor. (fn. 456) The only charity in the parish today is the Studley Almshouse Charity. Sir George Croke, by an indenture dated 1631, endowed his almshouses (fn. 457) with an income of £90 from land at Easington, in Chilton (Bucks.), of which £60 was to be paid to the almshouse, £10 to the curate of Chilton, and £20 to the chaplain at Studley. He drew up a set of orders and conditions whereby he and his issue should be the electors of the alms people, or by their default the owners of the manorhouses of Waterstock and Studley. The original bequest laid down that four men of over 60 and four women of over 50 were to be chosen from Chilton, Waterstock, and Beckley parishes, and if none was suitable there, from any other parish within six miles of Studley. It was ordered that each almsperson should receive 2s. a week, half a chaldron of seacoals or two loads of wood, and every two years a livery gown of russet cloth, together with two shirts for the men, and two smocks for the women. The rules also laid down that each person chosen must have resided at least ten years in the above parishes, that he or she must be 'well reputed for religion, and of good character and conversation', and was on Sundays to attend morning and evening service at Studley chapel. Drunkenness and swearing were forbidden and were punished by expulsion at the third offence.
In 1668 the almshouses received an additional endowment of 20s. a year in consequence of a bequest by Sir Richard Ingoldsby, Elizabeth his wife, and Alexander Croke. The gift was confirmed by Thomas Ingoldsby, Richard's heir, in 1763. Under the Otmoor Inclosure Award a small allotment of 2 a. 8 p. was set out for the almshouses, which was yielding an annual rent of 25s. in 1825. Until that time the charity appears always to have been faithfully administered and the donor's conditions carried out. (fn. 458)
The charity was regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 1880 whereby £20 a year is paid to the minister at Horton, £10 a year to the vicar of Chilton, and the residue for the benefit of the almshouses. Under this scheme the almspeople were reduced to two men and two women. (fn. 459) The records and accounts (1777–1933) are in the custody of Capt. John K. Henderson, lord of the manor of Studley. (fn. 460)