A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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Finmere lies in the extreme north-east corner of Oxfordshire which is enclosed between Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. The River Ouse, which separates Oxfordshire from Buckinghamshire, forms its northern boundary, and the line of the Roman road from Bicester to Towcester separates it from Buckinghamshire on the east. (fn. 1) There have been no recorded changes in its boundaries or its area of 1,570 acres. (fn. 2) Geologically, the parish lies on the Great Oolite but is nearly all covered by drift gravel; (fn. 3) the soil is stiff clay, gravel, and stonebrash. The height above sea-level nowhere exceeds about 400 feet and falls to about 300 at the Ouse. Except in the south, where there are several plantations, Finmere, Grassy, Widmore, and Diggings Wood, the parish is remarkably bare of trees. It is traversed by the Buckingham-Banbury road, which was made a turnpike in 1744. The Roman road was then left as a bridle-way only. (fn. 4) In 1813 the branch turnpike road from Bicester was formed. (fn. 5) Two lesser roads connect Finmere and Water Stratford, over the Buckinghamshire border, crossing the Ouse by Fulwell Bridge. (fn. 6)
The parish is also crossed by two stretches of railway: one made in 1845–6, and formerly part of the London and North-Western Railway, and the other a branch of the Great Central Railway opened in 1899. (fn. 7) The nearest stations are at Buckingham and Westbury.
The village lies almost on the Buckinghamshire border, just off the main road from Buckingham and less than half a mile from the Roman road which marks the county boundary. Its name Finmere means 'pool frequented by woodpeckers'. (fn. 8) The chief part of the ancient and modern village lies to the north of a small brook, which was covered over in 1872. (fn. 9) The village is unusual in being sited at some distance from its manor-house, which used to lie in the extreme north-east corner of the parish, on land sloping down to the Ouse.
Finmere was among the larger villages in the hundred in the Middle Ages, (fn. 10) and in the 17th century it was among those of medium size: for the hearth tax of 1665, besides the manor and the Rectory, there were nineteen listed houses of which ten were farm-houses, returning mostly three or two hearths. (fn. 11) There seems to have been a steady growth in the size of the village during most of the 18th century, with a sharp increase in the last quarter. (fn. 12) Finmere continued to expand until 1851, when the census recorded 89 houses, but by 1901 had shrunk to 65 inhabited houses. There has been much rebuilding since the Second World War: by 1951 there were 72 houses. (fn. 13)
The present village straggles up the hill from the covered brook to the church. (fn. 14) Below the church, there is also a steep lane which runs down past the old schoolhouse, (fn. 15) built in 1824, to the drive of the 19th-century Rectory. The Rectory, a private house by 1955, was built in 1867 (fn. 16) on a new site when the old one was pulled down. This last house is first described in detail in 1634, when it was a house of four bays, thatched and in good repair. Attached to it was a new barn, thatched and walled, as well as an old pease barn. (fn. 17) In 1662 a violent storm destroyed ten bays of building, perhaps part of the farm buildings, of which the rector re-erected five. (fn. 18) In 1665 the house was taxed on six hearths, but three years later it was partly destroyed by fire. (fn. 19) The terrier of 1685 consequently notes that the rectory consisted of only three bays with barn and stable of four bays. (fn. 20) It had been again enlarged by 1738 when there were six bays and two stables: the terrier of 1805 adds the information that the house was built of stone and was thatched. (fn. 21) Its beautiful garden was described by Lord Selborne. It was laid out or rather improved by 'Capability' Brown at a time when he was working on the grounds of Stowe House (Bucks.), perhaps in the 1740's. (fn. 22) His grouping of trees gave 'the effect of a long perspective and considerable space . . . where there was really little'.
At the point where the street to Fulwell, with a number of cottages and houses on either side, branches off westwards from the main village street, a natural centre is formed, and here are the stump of what is known as the 'cross' tree, and the post office. In the 1880's there was a small green there and the stocks stood beneath the elm. (fn. 23) Many of the old cottages still (1955) have thatched roofs; they are built, some of red or vitreous brick, timber and rubble, others of brick and rubble only. A group of 20th-century council houses borders the Tingewick road to the south.
Two houses on the outskirts of the village are of special note: (fn. 24) Lepper's House, a stone-built house, dated 1638 with the initials 'I.Y.'(ates) and 'E.Y.'(ates), was rebuilt or altered in 1879. This date appears on the east porch with the monogram 'a.t.l.'(epper). When Lepper bought the house it was one story high and covered with a long thatched roof: he raised the walls and turned it into a twostory building. Finmere House with its 18th-century south front of brick dates from about 1600 and is T-shaped. The date 1739 appears on rain-water heads with the crest of a gazing stag, the crest of John Pollard, who bought the house, probably in 1739, from the James family, inheritors of a third of Finmere manor. (fn. 25)
There are several outlying farm-houses: Widmore Farm in the south-west of the parish, Warren Farm to the west of the village, Finmere Grounds to the north, probably built soon after the inclosure, (fn. 26) and Bacon's House in the extreme north-east corner. The last was the former manor-house or Court House, but takes its name from its early 18thcentury owners. In 1887 Blomfield, possibly echoing local tradition, wrote that it had been a house 'of considerable size and pretensions, with . . . a courtyard . . . fishponds . . . a bowling green, garden, and pleasure grounds'. (fn. 27)
In the first half of the 19th century the Duke of Buckingham, lord of the manor, pulled down the greater part of the old house and reduced it to its present proportions, a pleasant small farm-house of stone. At the same time he destroyed the water-mill on the Ouse and built the existing farm buildings. (fn. 28) In 1853 Merton College, Oxford, purchased part of the farm and in 1858 the remainder. (fn. 29) Finmere Grounds is also an ancient house, probably built immediately after the inclosure of the common fields in 1667. It too was bought by Merton College in 1853, whose land in Finmere covers the whole of the north-eastern part of the parish and extends almost to the church. (fn. 30)
For a few years in the early 13th century a house in Finmere was occasionally used by King John. It was built in 1207 at a recorded cost of less than £50 (fn. 31) by the king's carpenters. (fn. 32) As the work was supervised by Hugh de Neville, the king's chief forester, (fn. 33) and the house lay within easy reach of the forests of Bernwood and Whittlewood, there can be little doubt that it was constructed as a hunting-lodge. It was ready by January 1208, when the king ordered wine to be sent there. (fn. 34) He subsequently stayed in it four times. (fn. 35) The overlordship of the manor was in the king's hands at the time, (fn. 36) and the house was built on land belonging to a hermit, (fn. 37) who had a hermitage there. As compensation he was assigned a penny a day for life. (fn. 38) After the king's death, however, he recovered his property, and in 1218 it was described as 'the place where the house of King John was situated'. (fn. 39)
The only other striking event connected with Finmere occurred in 1645, when a party of eighteen royalists, stationed here, was surprised by a force of parliamentarians from the garrison at Newport Pagnell and driven out. (fn. 40) Parliament troops were then quartered in the village. The local tradition that the troopers' horses were stabled in the Rectory was confirmed in 1867, when a quantity of oat-husks was found under the flooring. (fn. 41)
In 1840 the church bells were rung for the Dowager Queen Adelaide as she passed through the village on her way to Stowe, (fn. 42) and two brothers, Dr. James and Dr. Charles Clark, resident at Finmere House at the time, may be mentioned for their services to the community, particularly for the improvement of the sanitary conditions. (fn. 43) But several of the rectors were more outstanding, notably William Cleaver (1742–1815), successively Bishop of Chester, Bangor, and St. Asaph, and the saintly rector, W. J. Palmer (rector 1814–52), (fn. 44) the father of Roundell Palmer, Lord Selborne, and William Palmer, theologian and archaeologist. (fn. 45)
The following old customs survived until modern times: the pancake bell was rung on Shrove Tuesday at 11.30 a.m. and the curfew bell was rung each night from 4 October to 5 April. (fn. 46)
Before the Conquest and for nearly twenty years after it the larger of two estates in FINMERE, assessed at 8 hides, was held by Wulfward the White, a thegn of Queen Edith. By 1086, however, like part of Wulfward's Buckinghamshire lands, it had been granted to Geoffrey, Bishop of Coutances. (fn. 47) On Geoffrey's death in 1093 his lands passed to his nephew, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, who forfeited them by his rebellion in 1095. A smaller estate of 2 hides was held after the Conquest by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, (fn. 48) but was later joined to the larger estate, for the whole of Finmere became part of the honor of Gloucester, possibly as the result of a grant by William II to Robert FitzHamon of some of Robert de Mowbray's lands, (fn. 49) or perhaps by a grant by Henry I to his illegitimate son Robert of Gloucester. The overlordship of Finmere followed the descent of the Earldom of Gloucester, (fn. 50) and after the death of Gilbert de Clare in 1314 passed to Hugh Audley, who married Gilbert's sister Margaret. Hugh's only daughter and heiress Margaret married Ralph, Earl of Stafford, and after Hugh's death in 1347 the overlordship followed the descent of the Earldom of Stafford. (fn. 51)
The tenant of both Finmere estates in 1086 was a certain Robert. (fn. 52) By the mid-12th century Finmere was held by the De Turri family, who were tenants of the nearby Buckinghamshire manor of Tingewick, and were closely associated with the Earls of Gloucester in their lordship of Glamorgan. (fn. 53) Gregory son of Robert de Turri, who may have held Tingewick as early as 1135, (fn. 54) had lands in Oxfordshire in 1158: about 10 hides, which may well have been Finmere. (fn. 55) Gregory had been succeeded by his eldest son William by 1176. (fn. 56) Some time in the reign of Richard I, William son of Gregory remitted to Biddlesden Abbey (Bucks.) the rent of £2 which it owed him for Finmere mill, the abbey undertaking to pay the £4 a year William owed to a Jewess of Oxford. Later, William granted lands in the manor to the abbey in return for the discharge of a debt of 8 marks owed to the Jews. (fn. 57) Gilbert of Finmere, William's elder son, succeeded his father in about 1205; (fn. 58) he was one of the collectors of the carucage in Oxfordshire in 1220, (fn. 59) and died soon after 1225, (fn. 60) leaving three daughters by his wife Emma: Philippa, wife of William de Bois, Alice, wife of Robert de Chandos, and Cecily, wife of David de Bovenden. (fn. 61) The three husbands held Finmere as 1 knight's fee in 1243, but in 1247 Robert de Chandos's portion and in 1251 William de Bois's portion were purchased by Laurence de Broke. (fn. 62) The latter received a grant of free warren in his Finmere demesnes in 1251, (fn. 63) and appears to have acquired the whole manor by 1255. (fn. 64)
On Laurence de Broke's death in 1274 Finmere passed to his son Hugh, (fn. 65) who was holding the manor in 1285. (fn. 66) In 1295, however, the Earl of Gloucester's tenant was said to be 'the heir of Robert of Finmere', presumably the Osbert of Finmere who was named as tenant in 1314. (fn. 67) Robert and Osbert were in fact probably sub-tenants, and Robert may be identical with Robert Peronele who had held ½ hide under Hugh de Broke in 1279 and who was perhaps a son of Pernel of Finmere, (fn. 68) who had been granted 2 virgates by Gilbert of Finmere in 1222. (fn. 69) Hugh de Broke, who was dead by 1300, (fn. 70) was succeeded at Finmere by his son Laurence, but the latter, as he afterwards asserted, was unlawfully dispossessed by Walter de Langton, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. (fn. 71) The bishop was in possession in 1300, (fn. 72) but in 1301 he alienated the manor to Sir William Tuchet. (fn. 73) In 1312 Tuchet granted Finmere to Bartholomew Badlesmere; it was regranted to him with the provision that it should revert to Badlesmere if Tuchet died without issue. (fn. 74) Both Tuchet and Badlesmere took part in Thomas of Lancaster's rebellion and were hanged in 1322 after the battle of Boroughbridge. (fn. 75) Finmere was claimed by Laurence de Broke soon afterwards, (fn. 76) but the manor probably remained in the king's hands until 1333. William Tuchet had died childless and under the settlement of 1312 the manor was claimed for Giles, son and heir of Bartholomew Badlesmere. (fn. 77) Giles received his father's lands in 1333 and at his death in 1338 held two-thirds of Finmere. (fn. 78) A compromise had evidently been reached with the De Brokes, for Laurence's widow Ellen held the remaining third of the manor until her death in about 1341. (fn. 79) Giles's widow Elizabeth was given his part of Finmere in dower, (fn. 80) and she and her successive husbands, Hugh Despenser (d. 1349) and Guy de Brian, held it until her death in 1359. (fn. 81) By a partition made in 1341 the reversion of Finmere had been allotted to Giles Badlesmere's third sister and coheiress Elizabeth, (fn. 82) who had married firstly Edmund Mortimer (d. 1332), by whom she had a son Roger, Earl of March, and secondly William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton. In 1346 Elizabeth and William held the third of the manor which had been Ellen de Broke's dower: (fn. 83) this part William retained after his wife's death in 1356 until his own death in 1360. (fn. 84) Roger Mortimer inherited two-thirds of the manor on the death of Giles Badlesmere's widow in 1359, but also died in 1360, (fn. 85) a few months before William de Bohun. Roger's heir Edmund was a minor, and in 1361 his wardship and the custody of the manor of Finmere were granted by Edward III to his daughter Isabel. (fn. 86)
Edmund was granted his father's lands in 1373 and Finmere then followed the descent of the Earldom of March until the death of Edmund, the 5th earl, in 1425. (fn. 87) Edmund's nephew and heir Richard, Duke of York, son of Richard, Earl of Cambridge, and Anne Mortimer, was a minor and in 1428 Finmere was in the custody of Sir Richard Neville. (fn. 88) Richard, Duke of York, was attainted in 1459 and killed at Wakefield in 1460, but shortly after his attainder Henry VI granted Finmere with other lands to his duchess, Cecily, for her support. (fn. 89) After his accession as King Edward IV in 1461 Richard's son confirmed the grant to his mother, and it was again confirmed by Richard III in 1484. (fn. 90) After Cecily's death in 1495 Finmere reverted to the Crown.
Henry VIII granted Finmere to four of his queens, to Katherine of Aragon in 1509, to Jane Seymour in 1536, to Anne of Cleves in 1540, and to Katherine Howard in 1541. (fn. 91) In 1546 the manor was granted to Leonard Chamberlayne of Shirburn and John Blundell, mercer, of London. (fn. 92) Blundell acquired the whole manor in 1547 and died in possession in 1559. (fn. 93) Finmere was then divided between his three daughters, Elizabeth, wife of Edmund Hogan; Mary, who married firstly Gerard Croker and secondly Richard Lee; and Theodora, who married firstly John Denton and secondly Justinian Champneys. (fn. 94) In 1602 Theodora's son Richard Champneys sold his third part of the manor to John Temple of Stowe (Bucks.). (fn. 95) Mary's son John Lee conveyed his third part to John Croker and others, who sold it in 1614 to John Temple's son, Sir Thomas Temple, Bt. Two-thirds of the manor thereafter followed the same descent as Stowe, (fn. 96) and the Temples held the manorial rights. (fn. 97) In the late 16th century this included the privilege of proving in the court baron the wills of people who died within the manor. (fn. 98) The remaining third of Finmere remained with the descendants of Elizabeth and Edmund Hogan for four generations. Her granddaughter Elizabeth Hogan married Sergeant Thomas Waller, who was in possession in 1667. (fn. 99) Their daughter Dorothy married John James, a barrister and a member of an Essex family. The Jameses were buried in Finmere church, as was their son Hogan James, who died without children in 1725. He bequeathed his share of the manor to his aunt Frances James, who on her death in 1739 left it to Nathaniel Bacon, a kinsman by marriage, who had inherited another part. Nathaniel died in 1746 and his brother Edward sold his share to Richard, Earl Temple, soon afterwards. (fn. 100) Earl Temple's descendant Richard Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, sold the manor in 1848, when the chief purchasers were Merton College, John Warner, and John Painter, and manorial rights lapsed. (fn. 101)
Economic and Social History.
Domeday Book records that on the Bishop of Bayeux's small estate there was land for 2 ploughs, but that the tenant's men had only one at work. On the larger estate of the Bishop of Coutances (fn. 102) there was land for 9 ploughs, although only 8 (2 being on the demesne) were employed. No labourers are recorded for the small estate, but as both estates were held by a certain Robert it is likely that the 4 demesne serfs, 10 villeins (villani), and 5 bordars recorded for the large estate covered the total labour supply. The value of the small estate had sunk to 40s., half of its preConquest value; while the other remained stationary at £8. A hundred acres of pasture are mentioned, also woodland a furlong square and a mill rendering 14s.
The only evidence for economic conditions in the early 13th century comes from a charter of about 1200, which indicates that the canons of St. Augustine's, Bristol, were keeping sheep on their land in Finmere. (fn. 103)
By the end of the 13th century there had been tenurial changes and a considerable growth in population. In 1279 there were 4 free tenants and 29 villein virgaters. The free tenants held 8½ virgates between them and owed scutage and rent, with the exception of one who held his 4 virgates by military service as 1/10 knight's fee. The villeins each paid 4s. and owed works, paid tallage, and were fined if their sons left the manor. Their names suggest a population of comparatively recent growth, many families having come from neighbouring villages such as Hethe, Fringford, Fritwell, and Willaston and being still called after them. An unusual number of them are named after parts of the village: 'ate Tunesende', 'ate Welle', 'ate Broke', and 'ate Church'. (fn. 104)
Two 14th-century extents, of 1338 and 1359, cover two-thirds of Finmere manor, the part held in turn by Giles Badlesmere and his widow Elizabeth. (fn. 105) Their demesne contained some 200 acres of arable, valued at 4d. an acre in 1338 and 2d. an acre in 1359, 5¼ acres of meadow at 2s. an acre, and 4 acres of pasture at 6d. an acre. A park of 80 acres, partly wooded, was worth £1 a year, but the rabbit warren was worth only 2s. as pasture because it had been destroyed before Giles's death. The number of customary tenants in 1338 is not explicitly stated, but there were certainly 9 cottars and possibly 16 villeins. The villeins owed each year 48 ploughing works valued at 1½d. each, 16 harrowing works at 1d., 48 weeding works at ½d., 16 lifting and carrying works at 1d., 16 mowing works at 2d., 306 autumn works at 2d., 16 works collecting stubble at ½d., and 16 works carrying wood at 1d. each. The cottars owed 30 weeding works at ½d., 81 autumn reaping works at 1½d. and 9 works collecting stubble at ½d. each. No indication is given of how many of these works were exacted, if any. Besides these labour services the customaries owed £1 6s. 8d. 'Martinmesgeld', 12s. 11¼d. in loaves and poultry at Christmas, and 9d. Peter's pence on 1 August. The total annual value of the estate was £16 16s. 5d. By 1359 this had fallen to £13 11s. 2d. The mill and dovecote brought in 10s. and 2s. 6d. instead of 13s. 4d. and 4s. 5¾d.; the demesne arable, although increased to 234 acres, was valued at 39s. instead of 44s. 8d. for two-thirds of the arable in 1338. But the most striking difference appears in the receipts from rents and customary works. Rents were worth £6 18s. 8d. compared with £5 18s. 2d. in 1338 and works £1 16s. compared with £5 15s. 3¾d. In 1359 the customaries were holding 18 virgates, a little less than two-thirds of the recorded 29 virgates of 1279; no vacant holdings are noted in the extent, but the decline in the value of the customary payments indicates that Finmere had suffered from the effects of plague, though not so catastrophically as elsewhere.
The only evidence for the medieval field system comes from the extent of 1338. As two-thirds of the lord's arable was then sown it seems that there were three fields. (fn. 106)
Fourteenth-century tax lists show that Finmere was one of the fairly prosperous communities in the hundred. (fn. 107) The names of 21 persons appear on the subsidy roll for 1523, but the smallness of the total contribution (fn. 108) in comparison with other villages and with previous payments in the 14th century suggests that there had been a considerable decline in prosperity and population since the first half of the 14th century. Part of this may have been due to the Black Death. (fn. 109)
The division of the manor into five separate estates in 1574 meant that in the post-Reformation period the village continued to suffer from absentee landowners. In the second half of the 17th century, however, the manor-house was let to three families in succession, the Keats, the Gardiners, and the Payntons, who may have supplied in some measure the place of the owners. (fn. 110) In the latter half of the 18th century the Pollards of Finmere House were the only family of any standing; (fn. 111) their name occurs in the land-tax assessments until 1807, when the Halls supersede them as the leading family. (fn. 112)
The Paxtons, whose name appears in the registers from 1561 onwards, were the chief yeoman family. John, who died in 1615, had a substantial holding which his son William inherited. (fn. 113) The family was prominent throughout the 17th century, (fn. 114) and the rector described Peter Paxton at his death in 1677 as 'the head of the people of our place'. (fn. 115) As late as 1808 a Paxton was serving as a churchwarden and the name occurs on the land-tax list for 1832. (fn. 116)
The small extent of the parish and the comparatively small number of freeholders encouraged early inclosure. It was effected in the 1660's by agreement between the principal owners and occupiers on the grounds of the inconvenience of the existing 'intermediary' which produced 'involuntary trespass'. A survey was made in 1661, and in 1663 the rector, Richard Horn, noted in the register that the field had been inclosed and allotments awarded, Sir Richard Temple and Thomas Waller receiving lands worth £220 and £112 a year respectively. (fn. 117) The rector was accused by Temple and Waller of having made difficulties, and of refusing to comply with the surveyors' award, and a collusive suit followed in Chancery so as to get the agreement formally ratified. In 1667 an inclosure agreement was finally drawn up and ratified in Chancery in 1668. (fn. 118) Of about 1,300 acres inclosed Temple received 556 acres and Waller 414 acres, the former's arable being in 10 inclosures of an average size of 35 acres, and the latter's in 16 inclosures of about 23 acres average size. (fn. 119) Between them they received 19 acres of meadow, at least 17 acres of closes including the mill and its close, and 99 acres of woodland— Finmere Park. Temple received the whole of Finmere Warren, 125 acres. The largest of the resident holders was Peter Paxton with 117 acres, and there were smaller awards to six others including the rector and the trustees of the poor's land. (fn. 120) All proprietors were allowed to kill rabbits on their own land, and the fern on the Warren was to be divided proportionally between them, being allotted by 1 September and carried away by 18 October each year. The fern was not to be destroyed save by ploughing.
The Temples acquired the Waller estate of 1667 in the 18th century, (fn. 121) and in 1786 the Marquess of Buckingham's estate was by far the largest in Finmere, and was assessed for land tax at £66 compared with the £20 and £16 paid by the two next largest of a total of seven estates. There were then 11 occupiers. There had been little change by 1832, when there were 8 estates and 14 occupiers, 7 of them tenants of the Duke of Buckingham. (fn. 122)
The Vestry Books (1815–33) give much information about conditions after the Napoleonic War. (fn. 123) In 1818, 2s. a week was enough to keep a girl of under ten years. In 1817 labourers were to get 17s. a week in haytime; in 1826 this was reduced to 8s. a week, although the Duke of Buckingham paid his men 9s., in his view the minimum subsistence wage. The lowness of wages in general is evident from the fact that in 1821 23 persons were forced to apply for relief because of the rise in the price of bread. The vestry's chief business was to cope with the severe unemployment in the parish, and the methods adopted show the advantage to the village of having a good landlord and a conscientious rector. The Duke of Buckingham, as 'open hearted' as he was wealthy, and the Revd. William Palmer were most active.
Details of the 'roundsmen system'—an effort to give work to the many able-bodied men living on parish relief—are first recorded in 1818, when there were 24 such men. The men and boys were divided into four groups according to their age and were allocated to employers in proportion to the value of their land. The overseers gave applicants for relief work, either on the highways or in the Duke of Buckingham's woods. The number of unemployed increased rapidly: in 1820 there were 33 men on the rounds and 55 in 1822. By 1826 nearly the whole village was living on relief; out of 90 able-bodied men with families only 19 were in regular employment—of these 5 were in trade and 7 in service, and women and girls were obliged to do lace-making. The average expenditure on the poor in the 1820's was £473. In September 1826 the vestry submitted to the Duke of Buckingham a number of resolutions dealing with the problem. In spite of great overcrowding the vestry, for fear of encouraging increases in the population, refused to recommend the building of new cottages. It recommended, however, letting land to the poor. The plan of letting small allotments of land to agricultural labourers for spade husbandry was, therefore, tried here at a comparatively early date. From 1826 to 1833 the Duke of Buckingham rented Poor's Plot from the churchwardens and let it to the poor at cheap rates with the aim of eradicating pauperism. Then in 1834 he subdivided a farm into allotments, but this scheme was not very successful, as the allotments were too large for spade husbandry and too small to be successful as smallholdings. Meanwhile the rector, William Palmer, had drawn up a new code of rules for the management of Poor's Plot. His scheme was still working in 1887. (fn. 124)
Another remedy recommended in 1826 was to use money from the rates to apprentice children, £15 to be spent in the first year, £75 and £90 in the two following years. Ten children were apprenticed between 1826 and 1831 to men outside the parish, but in 1832 an attempt to apprentice nine boys, mainly to Northampton cordwainers, failed as the parents were unwilling to part with their children. Only three were sent. The vestry also agreed in 1826 that no new-comer should be given legal settlement in the village; that no relief should be paid to persons living outside the parish; that a premium of £2 should be paid to any man finding work outside the parish, and that the overseers should not give relief to anyone who refused work.
A proposal made in 1829 to adopt the workhouse system was abandoned on account of the too great expense of building a workhouse. In 1831 money from the rates was paid to help families to emigrate. The first family to go was that of Paxton, one of the leading farmers, and in 1832 four more families left for New York. In 1832 there were still 54 ablebodied men out of work as well as 43 boys under 21, and 12 older men. The vestry, therefore, agreed that farmers should employ two labourers for every 100 acres owned, and that the parish should employ one man to every mile of road, two men on the turnpike, and two older men to keep the village streets and paths tidy.
Other questions dealt with by the vestry included the administration of the parish's charities and applications for special help. These seem to have been treated sympathetically: for instance, in 1823 £2 15s. was spent on sending a man to London to have his eyes cured. The overseers paid a surgeon to look after the village poor and also sent a subscription to the Oxford infirmary.
The vestry normally consisted of 2 to 8 members; an attendance of 33 in 1830 was quite exceptional. The rector or his curate was always present. In 1815 and 1832 a professional valuer was employed to survey the parish for the poor rate. In 1828 a salary of £15 was offered to the overseer. (fn. 125) The rector's work was outstanding. Palmer owned at least eighteen cottages himself, which he let at uneconomic rents but at the same time enforced strict rules of conduct on the tenants. He also looked after the health of the villagers and saw to it that they had sufficient heating and food. He organized a coal society and sold faggots at cost price. There were free dinners on rent day for the parents and children; there was a school-tea on 1 May and a school-dinner at Christmas. Soupdinners were also provided twice a week for six weeks in the year. There was a Finmere Provident Clothing Club and the schoolchildren's clothing was provided. The hair of boys and girls alike was cut short once every six weeks. Lace-making was discouraged and finally forbidden because of its ill effects on health. (fn. 126)
Milling was for long the chief village trade. A mill is mentioned in Domesday Book and in the 14th century, and one was working in the 17th century when the inclosure agreement contained provisions safeguarding its flow of water in summer. (fn. 127) There may have been a blacksmith in the 13th century: a Robert filius Fabri is mentioned in 1279. (fn. 128) In the mid-19th century there were two in the village, when other tradesmen included seven butchers, carpenters, and shoemakers, a cattledealer, a cooper, a brickmaker employing three labourers, and an innkeeper-brewer. (fn. 129) In 1826 98 women and 48 girls above the age of ten had been engaged in lacemaking, which was carried on in almost every cottage. It was still being carried on in 1851 by eighteen women. (fn. 130) Clay was dug and bricks were made in Finmere in the 19th and early 20th centuries; (fn. 131) two coal merchants' businesses were established after the coming of the Great Central Railway. (fn. 132) There were seven farmers in the parish in 1853 (fn. 133) and in 1920, when five of them held farms of over 150 acres. (fn. 134)
There seems to have been a steady growth in population from the late 17th to the first half of the 19th century. The Compton Census of 1676 recorded 81 adults, while the rector returned 34 houses in 1738, about 40 with 219 inhabitants in 1768, and 46 families in 1778. (fn. 135) In 1801 there were 308 inhabitants and this increased to a peak figure of 399 in 1851. During the second half of the century as the consequence of the agricultural depression there was a steady decline, and by 1901 the population was 226. In 1951 it had risen to 265 and was beginning to increase fairly rapidly. (fn. 136)
The first evidence for the existence of a church at Finmere dates from the late 12th century. The advowson was granted before 1189 by William, son of Gregory, to the abbey of Augustinian canons at Bristol. (fn. 137) The abbey's plan to transfer the church in 1200 to the Hospital of St. John and St. James at Brackley (Northants) never materialized, (fn. 138) and it held Finmere until its dissolution in 1539. (fn. 139) In 1546 the king sold it with the manor to John Blundell.
After Blundell's death in 1559 there was a long period of confusion about the advowson. His heirs failed to present, for in 1560 the Archbishop of Canterbury presented after a vacancy of several months, (fn. 140) and in 1576 there was again a presentation through lapse, this time by the queen. (fn. 141) The next year the three owners of the three thirds of the manor presented, as they did again in 1592, when Robert Higgins became rector. (fn. 142) On his death the situation was more complicated: by this time two-thirds of the manor belonged to Sir Thomas Temple, and the other third to the two Hogan coheiresses, who were wards of the king. In 1632 the king presented Lewis Wemys, (fn. 143) but a few months later, after a case before the royal court, the right to present was recovered by Thomas Fowkes of Buckingham, (fn. 144) who seems to have been acting for Sir Thomas Temple, for Richard Horn, who then became rector, called Temple his patron, (fn. 145) and Sir Thomas held twothirds of the advowson at his death. (fn. 146)
The advowson, like the manor, continued to be divided into a third and two-thirds, but the owners do not seem to have presented in turn, and there were several sales of presentations. In 1678 Pope Danvers and Ambrose Holbech were patrons, after having bought the right from both Sir Richard Temple and the Wallers, who owned the other third of the manor. (fn. 147) William Chaplin, who in 1704 presented his son, probably acquired his right in the same way. (fn. 148) Richard Temple, Viscount Cobham, presented in 1726, and Francis Edwards of Tingewick (Bucks.) in 1734. (fn. 149) From 1771 until 1848 the Earls Temple and the Marquess of Buckingham were patrons. (fn. 150) The advowson was then bought by John Walker, who in 1853 presented his son. In about 1865 it was sold to W. Ashwell, who presented his son in 1866. (fn. 151) In 1931 the livings of Finmere and Mixbury were united, (fn. 152) and the Misses Ashwell now (1955) present for two turns and the Bishop of Oxford for one.
In 1254 the rectory was valued at £5 6s. 8d (fn. 153) and in 1291 at £8. (fn. 154) By 1535 its value had only risen to £8 9s. 4d., (fn. 155) but in the second half of the 16th century it rose sharply, for in 1595 the rector was leasing most of the tithes for £34, (fn. 156) while perhaps farming the glebe himself. In 1667 the tithes were commuted at the inclosure for a rent charge of £80. (fn. 157) When prices rose in the 18th century this fixed sum was very disadvantageous to the rector. In 1808 the value of the living was only £126, (fn. 158) but as the result of a new valuation of the tithes in 1814, (fn. 159) the value of the rectory was nearly trebled. (fn. 160) In 1842, after a third valuation, the rent charge was fixed at £457, (fn. 161) and this with the glebe made the living worth about £500.
A terrier of 1601 shows that the glebe then consisted of 80 separate pieces of arable land in the open fields, three plots of meadow, and common for 8 beasts, 5 horses, and 60 sheep; (fn. 162) a terrier of 1634 lists an even larger number of strips; (fn. 163) but by the inclosure award of 1667 (fn. 164) all were exchanged for a compact area of 45 acres adjoining the rectory and 'distinctly mounded'. (fn. 165) In 1760 the rector, Thomas Long, gave the church half a yardland in Tingewick (Bucks.), thus increasing the size of the glebe to the 56 acres mentioned in 1808. (fn. 166) There was no glebe in 1955. (fn. 167)
There is a detailed 17th-century record of the tithe payments. (fn. 168) It was the custom to give a shoulder when a lamb was killed, the tenth penny if it was sold, and a halfpenny when it was weaned. At Easter the rector received a penny offering, and a penny from every garden; tithe eggs on Good Friday; tithe wool at shearing time; cream at a christening, and a mortuary at a death. His small tithes included the tithe of hemp, pigs, bees, rabbits, fruit, tithe milk, and tithe lambs. Some parts of Finmere Field were free of hay tithes and it was thought that the parson had been allotted in lieu of these lands by the riverside called Tythe Meadow and Parsons Holmes (2 a.).
The living changed hands very frequently in the Middle Ages: there were 24 pre-Reformation incumbents of whom only four are known to have died in office. (fn. 169) The first known rector, Roger de Cherlecote (oc. 1200), was a graduate with a son. (fn. 170) In about his time Finmere also had a hermit, a monk called William, who had been granted the hermitage by King Richard. (fn. 171) In 1213 the king ordered that he should have 1d. a day for life in exchange for land on which the royal hunting-lodge had been built. (fn. 172) In the next year it was proposed to give the hermitage, if William had died, to Roger, a former Prior of Wallingford Priory. (fn. 173) In 1216 another monk called William was installed at the hermitage, now called the chapel of Finmere, on condition that he provided with necessaries the hermit (William or Roger presumably) who was already there but by now decrepit with age. (fn. 174) In 1218 the king gave instructions to pay 1d. a day to William 'our chaplain of Finmere' for serving the chapel, (fn. 175) and in 1228 William was enjoined to return to his monastery, the Benedictine priory of Bradwell (Bucks.). The king's forester was to take the chapel into the king's hands and see that services were continued there. (fn. 176)
A rare piece of evidence about an early 13thcentury parson, probably John de Langton (1299– 1306), occurs in a letter from Bishop Langton to the Abbot and Convent of Bristol, saying that his clerk wanted to resign Finmere because of its poverty and asking that they would present someone chosen by himself. Langton's successor was Richard de Abingdon, a former Fellow of Merton, and another graduate, Geoffrey Damport, was instituted in the early 15th century. (fn. 177)
In the post-Reformation period Finmere was fortunate in being spared the evil of absenteeism: during three centuries, out of twenty incumbents fourteen resided from their institutions to their deaths. (fn. 178)
One of the most notable rectors in the 17th century was Richard Horn (or Horne) of Hart Hall, Oxford (1632–77). It was his practice to record in Latin in the registers the chief contemporary events both national and local. (fn. 179) Typical of his irregular entries are the opening of the Civil War (1642); the intrusion of a Presbyterian, Richard Warr, into his office (1647); and the deaths of Oliver Cromwell (1658), Thomas Appletree, Horneromastix, the magistrate resident at Deddington, who had taken an active part in the rector's ejection (1666), and Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans (1670). The comments are often trenchant. Horn continued to reside at Finmere during the Commonwealth and regained his rectory after the Restoration. (fn. 180)
Thomas Long (1734–71), 'a man of the most exemplary piety and charity', (fn. 181) is the most interesting of the 18th-century rectors and a marked contrast to the better known and less desirable type of 18th-century parish priest. The memorial to his sister Mary Turner and her husband in Finmere church shows that he was a man of good family, one 'of the Longs of Wiltshire'. Like Richard Horn, Long believed in keeping records, and instituted the Rector's Book for notes on matters of local importance: his first entry is a useful abstract of the deed of inclosure. It is characteristic of him that his answers to the episcopal visitation questionnaires, unlike those of many of his colleagues, are extremely full and careful. He resided constantly at his parsonage, held two services every Sunday, celebrated Holy Communion five times a year, and duly observed festival days, as also Lent and 'the passion week'. (fn. 182) Long's special concern seems to have been for the children of Finmere. He kept a school, (fn. 183) and excelled as a catechizer. In 1759 he claimed that he catechized every Sunday and every other day of the week except in the harvest season, and he gave details of his system. (fn. 184) In his latter years, owing to illness, he was obliged to have a curate and substituted for his own catechitical method Crossman's Introduction to the Christian Religion. In 1762 he printed The Holy Scripture the best Teacher of Good Manners and Civility, his last lecture on the catechism, which he presented to the youth of Finmere and their elders as a permanent memorial of his teaching. (fn. 185) Happily, his work at Finmere was followed up by that of the younger William Cleaver, rector from 1783 to 1787 and afterwards a bishop. (fn. 186) Among other things, Cleaver instituted eight celebrations of Holy Communion, introduced musical instruments into the church services, and patronized a resident schoolmaster. (fn. 187) Finally, mention must be made of William Joscelyne Palmer, of whose devoted cure (1814–52) Dean J. W. Burgon wrote a vivid sketch. (fn. 188)
The church of ST. MICHAEL, which has been much restored, comprises a nave and chancel, separated by a chancel arch, a western tower, south porch, and north aisle. The north wall of the chancel, the battlemented tower of three stages and most of the windows are the only survivals of the 14thcentury church. By the mid-17th century the fabric was in a precarious condition, for an entry of 1651 in the registers records that the walls 'were propt with timber'. In 1664 the churchwardens reported that their church was 'in decay and ready to fall', and that the two lords of the manor had covenanted with the parishioners to rebuild it. (fn. 189) In 1668 the churchwardens stated that they 'had been at extraordinary charges (wth ye whole towne) about repairing their church which is now done'. (fn. 190) A stone with the date 1666 and the name of a mason (?) formerly in the south porch may commemorate this work. (fn. 191) In 1695 further work was carried out, according to Blomfield, and was commemorated by an inscription with the date 1695 and the names of the two churchwardens. (fn. 192) Blomfield states that at this time the roof of the chancel was covered with a low plaster ceiling, which concealed the upper part of the east window, and the walls were covered with plain painted woodwork. (fn. 193) But this may have been done in the 1760's when a considerable amount of work was in progress, for the rector refers to a period 'when no Duty could be done by reason of being embarrassed by much scaffolding employed in repairing and ornamenting my church and chancel'. (fn. 194) It was probably at this time that the western gallery was built. Some years earlier the north door of the nave had been blocked up. (fn. 195)
Repairs to the fabric were executed in 1833 and 1840, those in the latter year costing £70. (fn. 196) But the great restoration of the 19th century was begun in 1856; the south and east walls of the chancel were then rebuilt, a new south-west window inserted (fn. 197) and the east window restored. The plaster ceiling was removed. In 1858, following the plans of G. E. Street, the south wall of the nave and the chancel arch were rebuilt, a new nave roof was erected, a north aisle was built, and the western gallery was removed; new seating was also provided. (fn. 198) A vestry was added in 1868 and the south porch rebuilt in 1876. (fn. 199)
The plain circular font may date from the 12th century. (fn. 200) The clock, placed in the tower in 1697, was altered and re-erected in 1859. (fn. 201) A new mahogany communion table was put in in 1755. (fn. 202) The organ, pulpit, reredos, and tower screen are late-19thcentury work. (fn. 203) The statue of St. Michael in the gable of the south porch was placed there in 1894.
There is a series of 18th- and 19th-century mural tablets and gravestones commemorating members of the manorial families. (fn. 204) They include Mrs. Frances James (d. 1739), Nathaniel Bacon (d. 1746), Francis Turner (d. 1752) and his wife Mary, who have a cartouche with coat of arms, and William Long (d. 1780) and family. A number of rectors have inscriptions: William Chaplin (d. 1726), William Cleaver (d. 1783), W. L. Bennett (d. 1790), and Robert Holt (d. 1802). There are 20th-century memorials to Capt. C. Symes-Thompson (killed 1914) and to H. E. Symes-Thompson (d. 1952), father of R. E. Symes-Thompson (killed 1941). (fn. 205)
At the Reformation the church had the minimum of plate. (fn. 206) In 1955 the plate included a silver chalice, inscribed 'Finmere, Oxfordshire' (1699), and a paten (1840) given by the Right Hon. Thomas Grenville. (fn. 207) Besides this chalice the church had a pewter flagon in the 18th century, and in 1758 a flagon and paten of French plate were given. Other possessions of the church recorded at that time were a carpet, and table and pulpit cloths, dated 1699, and a damask napkin, dated 1737. In 1757 these were replaced by a further gift of furnishings costing over £13, and made of 'very fine purple cloth, and ornamented with yellow silk fringe', the gift of John Pollard. (fn. 208) The old parish chest was destroyed about this time. (fn. 209)
As at the Reformation, there was a ring of three bells in 1955. The inscribed tenor is a fine example of a 15th-century bell; the treble, which is also inscribed, is 16th century, and the second was recast in 1754. (fn. 210)
The registers date from 1662, with four pages of entries from an earlier book, which began in 1560. (fn. 211)
William Keat (d. 1667) and his family are the only Roman Catholics known to have lived in the parish. (fn. 212)
The diocesan returns of the 18th century record the absence of Protestant dissent, but an Anabaptist was excommunicated in 1685, (fn. 213) and in 1738 there was a family of poor Quakers. (fn. 214) In the 1830's two houses were licensed for worship, (fn. 215) and in 1854 there were about seven dissenters in the parish. (fn. 216) By 1866 dissent had disappeared. (fn. 217)
There was a schoolmaster living in Finmere in 1784, but there is no record of his school. There was a Sunday school by 1806, (fn. 218) and in 1808 the parish clerk was teaching 24 children reading and the catechism, in a house provided rent free by the Marquess of Buckingham. (fn. 219) This school had 25 pupils—the rector paying for 8—in 1815, (fn. 220) and 30 in 1819. (fn. 221)
In 1824 a National school was built by the Duke of Buckingham on a piece of waste ground. The rector and churchwardens accepted responsibility for its upkeep. A cottage near by was rented from the duke for the schoolmistress, and was bought in 1848. (fn. 222) There were 42 pupils in 1833, (fn. 223) and 60 in 1854, when it was reported that evening classes to teach boys writing held in the spring had been unsuccessful: Sunday evening classes for girls were being tried with better results. (fn. 224) Attendance figures were 43 in 1889, 40 in 1906, (fn. 225) and in 1937 there were 20 pupils. In 1926 pupils over 11 years old had been transferred to Fringford school; in 1948 Finmere school was closed, the infants being transferred to Mixbury and the juniors to Fringford. (fn. 226)
By his will dated 1666 William Keat (fn. 227) left a rent-charge of 45s. a year on about 10 acres of land in Breach Furlong, of which 25s. was to be distributed annually to five poor people of Finmere. This charity has been regularly distributed (fn. 228) and five people received 'Keat's Crowns' at Christmas 1954.
At the inclosure of 1667 12 acres of furze, set aside at some earlier date for the use of the poor, were assigned to trustees. The plot was producing a yearly rent of £3 in 1786, and of £7 2s. 6d. in 1823, when the income was used to enable poor families to buy 1 cwt. of coal a week at a reduced price from Christmas to Easter. (fn. 229) From 1827 to 1834 the Duke of Buckingham rented the Poor's Plot and sub-let it as allotments at 3s. the chain. The duke's allotment scheme broke down, but was successfully revived by the rector, who paid the rent—£16 in the mid-19th century—into the village coal club funds. (fn. 230) In 1954 the rent was £10 12s., and after the payment of expenses the balance was paid to the coal and clothing clubs.
The Revd. Richard Ells, by his will dated 1701, left Rickyard Close (1 a.) in trust, the rents (fn. 231) to be used for apprenticing one poor boy or girl of Finmere whenever a sufficient sum had accumulated. From 1715 onwards the close was leased to the rector for £2 10s. a year and became part of the rectory garden. (fn. 232) In 1867 it was purchased from the Charity Commissioners and was added to the glebe. The proceeds were invested in stock, (fn. 233) which in 1954 produced an annual income of £3 5s. 4d. The charity is still applied when needed for putting out apprentices. William Baker of Rousham, by a codicil to his will dated 1770, left £100 in trust for the payment of an annuity, and after the death of the annuitant for such poor people of Finmere as were not receiving alms. Baker's executors transferred £100 in stock to the rector and churchwardens in 1782. It proved impracticable to limit the distribution of the charity as intended by the founder, and by 1824 the income was being used in the same way as the rents from the Poor's Plot. (fn. 234) The annual income was £3 9s. 6d. in 1954. Stephen Painter bequeathed £100 to the Sunday schools of the parish in 1834. (fn. 235) In 1954 an income of £2 13s. 4d. was paid into the Sunday school funds.
Roundell Palmer, Lord Selborne, by deed dated 1872 gave the interest on stock then amounting to £1 17s. 6d. a year to the parochial clothing club, or to be divided among five old men. (fn. 236) In 1954 the stock produced £1 11s. 4d. which was paid to the clothing club.
Corbett Charles Barrett by his will proved in 1928 left three cottages in Finmere to be converted into almshouses, and £500 in stock the income of which was to be spent on the cottages. The latter proved unfit for the founder's purpose, and were reclaimed by his executors after an order made in 1929 had transferred the stock to the Official Trustees. The annual income of £20 has since been distributed in quarterly payments to three poor people towards their rent. (fn. 237)