A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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This small rectangular parish of 1,460 acres lies nearly three miles to the north-east of Bicester. There have been no recorded changes of boundary. (fn. 1) A tributary of the River Ouse separates it from Hethe and Newton Purcell on the north; the old Roman road from Alchester, now the main Buckingham—Bicester road, forms the eastern boundary, and a small brook divides Fringford from Stratton Audley on the south.
Most of the parish is a high tableland standing within the 300-foot contour, and rising to 368 feet at Fringford Hill in the east. It lies mostly on the Cornbrash with an outcrop of limestone on the north-western boundary, while around Fringford Hill the Cornbrash is covered with drift gravel. (fn. 2) It is naturally a treeless region but in 1881 there were two small coverts and a third has since been planted. (fn. 3) The ancient moor-like character of the country is indicated by many of its field names: Popes meare, Dodmoore, Whitemore, and Coatmore, for example. (fn. 4)
The parish is still (1955) roughly quartered, as it was in the 18th century, by two secondary roads, one running from Cottisford through Fringford village to Caversfield, and the other from Stoke Lyne to Stratton Audley. (fn. 5)
Fringford village lies on sloping ground in a loop of the river close to the parish boundary, with Fringford Bridge on the north-west and the corn mill and Fringford Mill Bridge to the east. (fn. 6) Blomfield noted traces of a ford in the late 19th century and says that once a road ran from the village green west of the Rectory down to the stream and that a stone-paved way went on to Willaston. (fn. 7) His suggestion that there was a second ford where the road to Hethe is now bridged, which was used after the hamlet of Willaston had become depopulated and its traffic diverted to Hethe and Cottisford, is credible. Towards the middle of the 19th century a narrow bridge with a single arch was replaced by the present Fringford Bridge. (fn. 8)
The Mill Bridge, which is built of Hornton and local stone, is 44 feet long and was repaired by the Bicester and Enstone Turnpike Trust until 1877, when it became the liability of the Bicester Highway Board. (fn. 9)
The 17th-century village was of a medium size for Ploughley hundred, as it had been in the Middle Ages. (fn. 10) It had 35 and 24 houses listed for the hearth taxes of 1662 and 1665. (fn. 11) There was no large manor-house, but a good Rectory, (fn. 12) two more than usually large farm-houses with six and five hearths apiece, and two farm-houses belonging to the Addington family with four hearths each. In the early 18th century incumbents recorded 34 houses, four of them farm-houses and the rest cottages: by 1768 there were 42 houses, but of them, one farm-house, the mill, and a cottage lay outside the village. (fn. 13) Houses continued to increase and numbered 52 by 1811. (fn. 14) By 1851 new building had raised the number of dwellings to 80 and there were as many as 94 in 1901. (fn. 15) The 20th century has seen an equally startling housing development. Thirty-four houses were built between 1945 and 1954. (fn. 16)
The village was originally built round a large green, mostly inclosed in 1760. (fn. 17) The church and former manor-house lie at its northern end, and until the end of the 19th century the pound was here also. (fn. 18) Many old cottages of one or two stories survive: they are built of rubble and have thatched roofs or stone slates. The 'Butchers' Arms', although refronted in the 19th century, is a survivor from the 17th century, and was possibly the ale-house that was licensed in 1735. (fn. 19) In 1774 it or another inn was called the 'Bricklayers' Arms'. (fn. 20) At the western edge of the ancient green is a large pond and a 17thcentury house, for many years a bakery. (fn. 21) Across the road a 19th-century school building stands on the site of the 16th-century house of the Wenmans. A part of this house was used in the 19th century as a parish house, known as the 'Barracks': it was inhabited by four or five families and also used as a school. It was pulled down in 1830. (fn. 22) In 1851 the number of 'good farm-houses' in the village impressed the visitor. (fn. 23) In 1955 it was the concrete council houses on the outskirts of the ancient village which struck the eye.
The only old house of any size now surviving is Hall Farm, formerly the home of the Addington family. (fn. 24) It is a rectangular-shaped building of about the year 1600, but much altered at later periods. The main part of the house is built of rubble and rough-cast; it has three stories and casement windows, and is roofed partly with Welsh slate; the two-storied addition on the south-west side has a tiled roof and is probably of late-17th-century date; a pigeon loft is built into the house. Inside the house there is a 17th-century (?) plaster carving of a royal coat of arms, and an oak staircase. The present Rectory is mainly a 19th-century house, though the kitchen wing belongs to an earlier building. In 1598 (fn. 25) the kitchen was reported to be 'decayed'; in 1665 (fn. 26) the house was listed with five hearths for the hearth tax but by the end of the 18th century was described as only a thatched cottage. Additional rooms were added in 1818, when the house was refaced, (fn. 27) and in 1873.
There are three out-lying farms: Glebe and Waterloo Farms (built in the 19th century) (fn. 28) in the centre of the parish and Cotmore Farm near the southern boundary, where there are the remains of a medieval moat, (fn. 29) probably denoting the site of the manor-house of the De Greys. There are also two other houses of note: Fringford Lodge, built before 1814 (fn. 30) near the Roman road at the south-eastern end of the parish, and standing on the site of a Roman villa, (fn. 31) and Cotmore House, built in 1857 (fn. 32) and lying in its own park north of Fringford Lodge.
In 1645 a small force of royalist troops retreating from Finmere was overtaken and forced to surrender at Fringford. (fn. 33)
Anthony Addington (1713–90), a doctor to William Pitt the elder, was born and buried in Fringford. (fn. 34) His son Henry, the first Lord Sidmouth and Prime Minister in 1801–4, kept up his family's long connexion with the village. (fn. 35) Their descendant the 6th Lord Sidmouth still owned Hall farm in 1955.
In the 1890's Flora Thompson was an assistant in the village post office. She has described her life there in Candleford Green. (fn. 36)
After the Conquest the two Saxon settlements at Fringford, assessed at 10½ hides in all, were granted to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and were held of him in 1086 by his retainer Wadard. (fn. 37) When Odo was exiled many of his fees were redistributed by William II and were henceforth held by the service of doing castle guard at Dover. FRINGFORD was among the 18½ of the bishop's fees granted to William Arsic, (fn. 38) and until the death of John Arsic in 1205 followed the descent of the Arsic barony of Cogges. (fn. 39) The manor was then assigned in dower to John's widow, Margery de Vernon. (fn. 40) Margery was remarried in the same year to Thomas de Stok, and after his death in 1213 (fn. 41) she took as her third and fourth husbands Robert Picher (fn. 42) and then William Buzun. (fn. 43) In 1233 and again in 1243 William was recorded to be holding Fringford as his wife's dower. (fn. 44)
In the meantime the male line of the Arsic family had come to an end with the death in 1230 of Robert, John's brother and successor. Robert left as his coheiresses two daughters, Joan, wife of Eustace de Grenevile, and Alexandra, wife of Thomas de la Haye. (fn. 45) While the greater part of the Arsic possessions was partitioned between Joan and Alexandra, Margery de Vernon continued to hold Fringford for life. In 1245 Walter de Grey, son of Robert de Grey of Rotherfield and nephew of Walter de Grey, Archbishop of York, purchased from Joan Arsic and her second husband Stephen Simeon their right to half of Fringford after Margery's death. (fn. 46) Margery was still alive in 1251, and the date of her death is unknown. (fn. 47) In 1255 the manor was still described as her dower, and the whole of it was held at farm by Walter de Grey (fn. 48) of William de Lille—possibly a kinsman of Margery, possibly William de Chabbeneys who had been granted the reversion of Margery's manor of Freshwater in the Isle of Wight in 1249. (fn. 49) By 1263 Alexandra, wife of William de Gardinis and daughter of Alexandra Arsic and Thomas de la Haye, was suing Walter de Grey, presumably for the half-portion of Fringford, which legally should have gone to her. (fn. 50) By 1279 the manor had been divided into two parts, one held by the Greys and one by the De Gardinis family. (fn. 51)
Walter de Grey had married Isabel de Duston, the ward of his uncle the archbishop, (fn. 52) and was succeeded in 1268 by his son Robert, (fn. 53) who in 1279 held the half of Fringford purchased by his father. (fn. 54) Robert married Joan de Valoines, and on his death in 1295 (fn. 55) was succeeded by his son John (d. 1311). (fn. 56) The Grey portion of Fringford, however, was held in dower by Joan until her death in 1312. Her heir, her grandson John (II), was a minor, (fn. 57) and until 1322 the manor was in the custody of Hugh Despenser the elder. (fn. 58) In 1330 John received a grant of free warren in all his demesnes, including Fringford. (fn. 59) In 1338 he became the first Lord Grey of Rotherfield; after a distinguished career he died in 1359. (fn. 60) He had been married twice, firstly to Catherine Fitzalan, by whom he had a son John (III), who became his heir, and secondly to Avice Marmion, who received Fringford in dower. (fn. 61) Avice was still living in 1379, having survived her step-son, John (III), and his two eldest sons John (IV) and Bartholomew, all of whom had died by 1375. In 1380 a third son, Robert, got Fringford settled upon himself and his wife Joan (fn. 62) and their heirs. Shortly before his death in 1388 Robert took a second wife Elizabeth, widow of John de Bermingham, but left as his heiress an only daughter Joan, the child of his first wife. (fn. 63) Fringford was assigned in dower to Robert's widow Elizabeth, who within the same year was married a third time to John de Clinton. (fn. 64) Joan Grey had married Sir John Deincourt by 1401, but died in 1408 leaving a son William (d. 1422) and two daughters, Alice and Margaret. (fn. 65) When Elizabeth died in 1423 the Grey lands she had held in dower were partitioned between Alice and her husband William, Lord Lovel, and Margaret and her husband, Sir Ralph Cromwell. (fn. 66) The Grey manor of Fringford was therefore divided into two portions (fn. 67) until 1455, when Margaret died without issue and Alice as her heiress (fn. 68) reunited it. After the death of her husband William Lovel, also in 1455, (fn. 69) Alice married Sir Ralph Butler, (fn. 70) later Lord Sudeley. Alice's son by William, John, Lord Lovel, died in 1465, so that when Alice died in 1474 the heir to the Grey and Deincourt estates, including Fringford, was her grandson Francis, Lord Lovel. (fn. 71) Francis, one of the Yorkist lords who opposed Henry VII to the last, was probably killed in 1487 at the battle of Stoke. (fn. 72) He had been attainted in 1485, and in the following year some of his Oxfordshire estates, including Fringford, were granted to Thomas Lovel, (fn. 73) son of Sir Ralph Lovel of Barton Bendish (Norf.). Thomas, although possibly a kinsman of Francis, fought on the Lancastrian side at both Bosworth and Stoke, and was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Henry VII and Henry VIII. (fn. 74) Thomas died childless in 1524 and in accordance with the terms of his grant Fringford reverted to the Crown. (fn. 75) It was subsequently granted to Sir Thomas More, and after his attainder and execution in 1535 to Henry Norreys, a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. (fn. 76) In the following year Henry was beheaded on a charge of adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn, and the manor came once more into the king's hands. (fn. 77) It may be noted that Thomas Lawless or Lawley, who was appointed bailiff of Fringford by Thomas Lovel in 1524, (fn. 78) was still holding his office in 1541. (fn. 79) In 1545 the manor was granted to Christopher Edmondes and Sir Richard Long, (fn. 80) and in 1548 to Sir John Williams, later Lord Williams of Thame. (fn. 81)
On Lord Williams's death in 1559 his possessions were divided between his two daughters, Isabel and Margaret, and their husbands Richard Wenman and Henry Norreys the younger. Fringford fell to Isabel's share. Although Henry had succeeded in recovering most of his father's estates, an exception had been made of all the former possessions of Francis, Lord Lovel. (fn. 82) Henry and Margaret finally gave up all claims to Fringford in 1561. (fn. 83)
By 1279 the De Gardinis family had gained possession of the half of FRINGFORD which they inherited from Alexandra, the second daughter of Robert Arsic, but though the manor is recorded as part of the possessions of William de Gardinis in the inquest taken after his death in 1287, (fn. 84) it was held by his son Thomas both in 1279 and in 1285. (fn. 85) Thomas held Fringford at his death in 1328, and it then passed to John Giffard the younger of Twyford (Bucks.), son of John the elder and Thomas's daughter Alexandra. (fn. 86) In 1361 John and his wife Lucy settled the reversion of the manors of Fringford and Somerton on their son Thomas (fn. 87) and in 1368 obtained a licence to enfeoff him and his wife Margery with Fringford. (fn. 88) When John died in the following year Thomas succeeded him in all his estates. (fn. 89) In 1383 Thomas arranged to hold Fringford jointly with his wife Sybil. (fn. 90) Thomas died in 1394 (fn. 91) and Sybil then enjoyed sole possession (fn. 92) until her death in 1429, surviving her eldest son Roger by ten years. She was succeeded by another Thomas Giffard, Roger's son by his second wife, Isabel Stretele. (fn. 93) This Thomas died in 1469 and the manor then passed from father to son for a further three generations—to John (d. 1492), Thomas (d. 1511), and Thomas (d. 1550). (fn. 94) This last Thomas Giffard left a daughter Ursula, the wife of Thomas Wenman, a member of a notable family of Witney merchants. (fn. 95) Their son Richard succeeded his mother in 1558. He had married Isabel, the elder daughter of Lord Williams of Thame, and on her father's death in 1559 Fringford manor was reunited after a lapse of more than three centuries. Richard had received the Giffard manor from his mother, while Isabel inherited the Grey manor from her father. (fn. 96)
By 1567, however, Sir Richard Wenman seems to have conveyed the former Giffard manor to his younger brother William, (fn. 97) or it is possible that his mother, Ursula, had settled it on him; William, who certainly lived at Fringford, (fn. 98) in turn settled his portion of the manor on his eldest son Richard. William died at Fringford in 1586 and Richard duly succeeded him. (fn. 99) After the death of the elder Richard in 1572, his widow Isabel seems to have retained the Grey portion of the manor, and to have conveyed it in 1574 to William Risley, (fn. 100) possibly as part of a marriage settlement, since her grandson Ferdinand married a Risley. (fn. 101) This part of the manor passed on William's death in 1603 to his son Paul, (fn. 102) but had come back to the Wenmans by 1624. The William who had died in 1586 had left at least two sons living, Richard and Giles. William's nephew Thomas, Sir Richard's eldest son, had died in 1577, leaving three sons, Richard, who was raised to the peerage as Viscount Wenman of Tuam in 1628, Thomas, and the Ferdinand mentioned above, who seems to have been dead by 1624. (fn. 103) In this year the whole of Fringford was purchased by Fulke Greville, 1st Lord Brooke, (fn. 104) from Richard and Giles Wenman and their kinsmen Sir Richard and his son Thomas Wenman. (fn. 105) From Lord Brooke, who was murdered in 1628, Fringford passed to his cousin and heir Robert Greville. (fn. 106) Robert fought at Edgehill in 1642, on the parliamentarian side, and was killed early in the following year. (fn. 107) He was succeeded in turn by his eldest son Francis (d. 1658) and by his second son Robert (d. 1677), but his widow Catherine held half the manor as her jointure until her death in 1676. (fn. 108) A conveyance of part of the manor to Francis Dashwood in 1664 was probably connected with a marriage settlement, as Fulke Greville, Robert's youngest son, married Sarah Dashwood in the following year. (fn. 109) He succeeded his elder brother Robert in 1677 and died in 1710, when his title passed to his grandson Fulke, (fn. 110) his eldest son Francis having died a few days previously. The Fringford estate was left to the Hon. Dodington Greville, a younger son. (fn. 111) Dodington died in 1738 and the manor descended to his nephew Sir Fulke, son of Algernon Greville. In 1763 Sir Fulke sold it to Henry, Lord Holland, (fn. 112) father of Charles James Fox. (fn. 113) Henry, 3rd Baron Holland, sold Fringford to John Harrison of Shelswell in 1815, and it descended on his death in 1834 to his nephew John Harrison Slater-Harrison (d. 1874). Edward Slater-Harrison, John's only son, then succeeded and on his death without issue in 1911 his nephew Arthur William Dewar-Harrison, son of Augusta Slater-Harrison and William Dewar of Cotmore House, inherited his estates. In 1955 the lord of the manor was John Francis DewarHarrison, Esq. (fn. 114)
Judging from the Old English name, which means 'the ford of the people of Fera', Fringford was among the earlier settlements made by the Anglo-Saxons. (fn. 115) By 1086 there were two estates. One had land for 8 ploughs and was worth £8 as it had been before the Conquest. There were 2 plough-teams and 4 serfs on the demesne and 18 villeins (villani), and 8 bordars shared 6 plough-teams. Two mills rendered 10s. The smaller estate consisted entirely of demesne land; it had 1 plough-land and 1 plough-team with 3 bordars at work on it. Its value had increased from 30s. to 40s. There were thus 33 recorded male workers. (fn. 116)
By 1279 there had been a number of changes: (fn. 117) the two manors, which were not the same as the two estates of 1086, were roughly equal in size and each had a hide of land in demesne. Robert de Grey had 14 villein tenants; 6 virgaters paying 5s. 10½d. each, 4 half-virgaters paying 2s. each, and 4 holders of cottages or cotlands with 4 acres of land in each case, who each paid 1s. 5½d. rent. All owed works and paid fines at the lord's will if their sons left the manor; all except the cottars owed tallage. Thomas de Gardinis had 13 villein tenants holding on almost the same terms: there were 6 virgaters, 3 halfvirgaters, and 4 cottars. In addition there were 3 free tenants at Fringford: Elias the Clerk (fn. 118) held a virgate of Thomas de Gardinis for a rent of 6s. a year and suit twice a year at the county and hundred courts; Juliana de Wappele and Robert de Piry each held a virgate of Robert de Grey for a rent of ½d. a year, one being sub-let for 10s. a year. These virgates had been acquired by Philip de Wappele in 1243 for £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 119)
Extents of 1288 and 1313 add further details about the two manorial estates. The De Gardinis's demesne comprised a house and garden, 120 acres of arable worth £2 (i.e. 4d. an acre), and 2 acres of meadow worth 2s. an acre. (fn. 120) The customary tenants paid £2 8s. rents and owed works, valued at 9s., from 1 August to 29 September. The rents of cottages brought in 20s. 6d. In addition each tenant paid twice a year 2 cocks and 6 hens. On the De Grey manor, there were 9 villeins paying £2 18s. 11½d. in rent and owing works worth £1 10s. 1½d. The demesne consisted of 80 acres of arable worth 4d. an acre and 5 acres of meadow worth 2s. an acre. The gross value of the manor was £19 10s. 6d.
There were two more pieces of property freely held by Cogges and Bicester Priories, which are not mentioned in the Hundred Rolls. In 1103 Manasses Arsic had granted Cogges 2 mills and 2 carucates in Fringford; (fn. 121) the mills they apparently still held with probably about 100 acres of land in 1291, when they were valued at £2 1s. (fn. 122) There is no record of how this land was administered: possibly Walter le Monk, taxed on property worth 4s. in 1316, (fn. 123) was in charge of it, and there is earlier evidence for a connexion in 1241 between Cogges and one of the millers. (fn. 124) After Cogges had been dissolved and its possessions given in 1441 to Eton College, (fn. 125) this land was let to Eton's tenant of its Cottisford manor.
Bicester Priory's property, valued at 1s. in 1291 (fn. 126) and at 2s. in 1434, (fn. 127) appears to have consisted of a mill only. Its site was probably near Poplar Spinney, where foundations of a mill were found in the 19th century. (fn. 128) In the 1560's this property also went to Eton. (fn. 129)
Although the Hundred Rolls only record 30 tenants, (fn. 130) rather less than the recorded Domesday population, there can be little doubt that the population increased during the 12th and 13th centuries, although apparently not so much as in many villages in the hundred. Thirty-one property-holders were taxed in 1316 (fn. 131) including Thomas de Gardinis, and these taxpayers almost certainly do not represent the total number of householders. Ten were fairly substantial men. The tax list of 1525 shows greater concentration of wealth: of the 25 property-holders taxed, by far the richest was John Arden, the tenant of the Eton College estate, who lived at Cottisford. (fn. 132) He was assessed at £16, while the four next richest men were assessed at £6 or £3. Families here as elsewhere seldom throve for more than a hundred years. Not one of the substantial families of the 16th century made a return for the hearth tax of 1665, (fn. 133) and the Addingtons are the only family whose name appears on the 1665 list and the land-tax assessment list of 1786. (fn. 134)
The vicissitudes of the Crosse family will serve to illustrate the history of a family of the yeoman class. They were leaseholders of the manor at least as early as 1618. (fn. 135) During the Civil War John Crosse was 'keeper of the ammunition' in Oxford and a scout for the royalist army, but later fell 'into exceeding great distress'. (fn. 136) Towards the end of the century, another John Crosse, a son perhaps, was forced to mortgage and then sell land to the Addingtons. (fn. 137) The family, nevertheless, remained in the village until the 1760's. (fn. 138)
The Addingtons were living in the village in the 16th century. In 1597 William, yeoman (d. 1600), and Henry, a husbandman and probably his son (d. 1610), acquired 2,000-year leases of 2½ yardlands from the manor. (fn. 139) In the 1660's two members of the family were affluent householders. (fn. 140) Henry Addington was constable in 1662 and churchwarden in 1664; his son William, the first member of the family to be called a gentleman, had a private family pew in the church and described himself as 'one of the principal inhabitants of Fringford'. (fn. 141) He and his brother Richard, who was Rector of Newton Purcell, acquired further small amounts of land in Fringford. William's son Henry, who was buried in the church in 1730, succeeded to the property, and by the early 18th century the family also owned property in Bicester and Bainton. (fn. 142) Henry Addington's son Anthony left the village and became a fashionable London doctor, and his son was the first Lord Sidmouth. (fn. 143) The family long exercised an active interest in the village, (fn. 144) and still retained Hall Farm (fn. 145) and their estate of over 100 acres in 1955. (fn. 146)
No outline of landownership exists before about 1760, when inclosure was being discussed. At that time, out of 1,400 to 1,500 acres in the parish, the manor comprised about 1,000 acres; the Addington and Eton College estates over 100 acres each; and there were a few smaller properties. (fn. 147) There were hardly any resident owners: in 1754, for example, out of seven 40s. freeholders, including the rector, only one lived in the parish. (fn. 148) Although about two-thirds of the parish was divided in small parcels in the common fields, it was all held by a few large farmers, three of whom were tenants of the manor. (fn. 149)
This system of landholding continued into the 19th century. There were the three manor farms, each over 150 acres, known as Manor, Waterloo, and Cotmore farms; (fn. 150) glebe farm of over 200 acres, which had been awarded to the rector at inclosure; and the smaller Addington, Fringford Lodge, and Eton College estates.
Since the 15th century the Eton College estate of 4¼ yardlands with the mill and the meadow around it had been let to the tenant of its Cottisford manor, who in his turn sub-let the Fringford land. (fn. 151) In the mid-15th century the rent for it was about 50s. to 55s., and in the early 16th century about 45s. (fn. 152) The mill, with watercourse and fishing, and the meadows called Milne Hame and Milne Leyes, were an important part of the property. In 1595 they were in the possession of Charles Stookes, miller, and in the late 18th century the Stimson family were millers. (fn. 153) The whole estate typifies the tendency for farms to grow larger. In the 15th century it had five houses, no doubt each with its own land; in the late 17th century it was divided into three farms; and by the 1770's it was rented to one farmer only and the miller. (fn. 154)
Almost the only evidence of agricultural practice in the parish before inclosure comes from records of the Eton College estate and the glebe. Late 17thcentury terriers mention only furlongs, and there is no sign of any division into three or more regular fields. There had been little consolidation of strips. The Eton estate, for example, consisted of about 260, so that there were some 60 strips to a yardland. (fn. 155) The yardlands were of varying sizes; one of Eton's consisted of 15 acres, but the average size of its 4¼ yardlands was about 17 acres, with commons for 2 cows, 2 horses, and 40 sheep. (fn. 156) By the mid-18th century yardlands had grown larger. The open fields of the parish, computed at about 800 acres, consisted of 33½ yardlands, 'which make 23 a. 3 r. 20 p. to the yardland'. The commons for cows and horses remained the same, but only 30 sheep were allowed for a yardland. (fn. 157) It seems possible, therefore, that part of the pasture had been converted into arable. It may be noted, however, that Stephen Mercer, woolmonger, lived at Fringford in 1726. (fn. 158)
Between 400 and 500 acres had been inclosed before the inclosure award of 1762. Of this nearly 400 acres was part of the manor lands, about 45 acres belonged to the Addingtons and 20 to the mill. (fn. 159) The early inclosure lay in three parts of the parish: land, mostly meadow and pasture, bounded by the river, the Buckingham-Bicester road, and the road leading off from it to Cottisford; fields, for the most part arable, in the centre of the parish, on both sides of the road from Caversfield to the village; and the fields in the south-eastern corner of the parish, partly arable and partly grass, lying around Cotmore Farm. There remained 33½ yardlands or, as the yardland was computed at nearly 24 acres, about 800 acres uninclosed. Common for 2 horses, 2 cows, and 30 sheep went with each yardland. (fn. 160) By the award (fn. 161) the open fields were divided up and the lord of the manor received 385 acres, the rector for tithe and glebe 227 acres, Eton College 71 acres, Anthony Addington 89 acres, and two others 39 acres and 59 acres respectively. Three smallholders, only one of whom lived in Fringford, received awards of under 10 acres.
Arthur Young, writing in 1809, considered that inclosure had been 'very beneficial', and that the value of rents and procedure had at least trebled. Although much of the land was pasture, he noted the absence of dairies. (fn. 162) On the arable land he found turnips, barley, clover, wheat, and oats being grown in rotation, the same system as at Stoke Lyne, and one that was very suitable for stonebrash soil. (fn. 163) In the late 19th century these crops, with the addition of peas, were still being grown, and about half of the parish was grassland. (fn. 164) In 1956 there were 742 acres of grassland and 639¾ acres of arable. (fn. 165)
As early as 1676, when the Compton Census recorded 105 adults, the parish was fairly populous. The increase in the number of houses during the 18th century indicates an expanding population. (fn. 166) In 1801 there were 252 inhabitants and this rose to a peak figure of 479 in 1871. The estimated population in 1954 was 356. (fn. 167)
For most of this late period the inhabitants have been farmers and farm labourers with a handful of craftsmen and small traders. The census of 1851 recorded some 15 tradesmen, of whom two were masons and two millers. (fn. 168) Late in the century a brickworks was opened near the claypit on the Bicester—Buckingham road. (fn. 169) In 1955 there were still a number of tradesmen and the mill, run partly by water and partly by steam, was still in use.
The earliest evidence yet found for a church at Fringford dates from 1103, when Manasses Arsic, lord of Fringford, granted it to the alien Priory of Cogges, which he had founded near Witney. (fn. 170) It is uncertain whether Cogges ever exercised the right to present, but in an assize of darrein presentment in 1233 the prior claimed that he had presented the last parson, a certain Robert Lovel, and that a Robert Picher, who had just died, was presented in time of war (i.e. 1215–17) by William and Margery Buzun. (fn. 171) It is implied that the presentation was irregular and that Robert had never been admitted. The Buzuns claimed that they had presented Robert after the war, in fact in the time of the general council at Oxford (i.e. 1222). The evidence of the jury was that Margery, who held Fringford in dower, (fn. 172) presented Robert Lovel 40 years ago and after the death of her husband Robert Picher. Margery brought an action against Robert Lovel, who agreed to grant her son, Robert Picher, a pension of 2s. On Lovel's death Margery and William Buzun (who was her fourth husband) presented Robert Picher. It was decided that William Buzun had recovered his seisin. (fn. 173) No more is heard of Cogges's claim. After Margery's death some time after 1251, the advowson like the manor was divided. (fn. 174) Walter de Grey had acquired the reversion of the moiety of the advowson as early as 1245 when he purchased Joan Arsic's inheritance in Fringford. (fn. 175) The other moiety eventually went to the Giffards who are found presenting alternately with the Greys. (fn. 176) Sir Thomas Giffard presented in 1377, but in 1391 the king presented on the grounds that he had the custody of Joan de Grey, heiress of Robert de Grey, who had died in 1388, (fn. 177) although in fact the Grey portion of Fringford with its share of the advowson was held in dower by Robert's widow Elizabeth until her death in 1423. (fn. 178) Again, in 1406, at the next vacancy but one, Henry IV presented to Fringford although Joan had received livery of her lands five years before. (fn. 179) By 1444, however, the advowson had been recovered by the successor of the Greys, for in that year William Lord Lovel presented. The system of alternate presentation by the two manorial lords was still functioning, for the Giffards presented in 1460 and 1523, and Francis Lord Lovel in 1480. (fn. 180) Sir Thomas More as successor to the Lovels presented in 1528, but in 1549 John Arden (fn. 181) took the turn of Thomas Giffard, who died in possession of the advowson in 1550. (fn. 182) The former Grey manor had been forfeited to the Crown on the attainder of Sir Thomas More in 1535, and in subsequent grants to Henry Norreys and Sir John Williams no mention was made of the advowson: in 1554 the Crown presented, (fn. 183) and the advowson with the manors was in the hands of the Wenman family by 1559, (fn. 184) and in 1561 Henry Norreys the younger gave up any claim he might have to the advowson. (fn. 185) It passed with the manor from the Wenmans to Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke. (fn. 186) In 1635 the king presented through lapse (fn. 187) but in 1697 Fulke Lord Brooke (fn. 188) did so, thereby recovering a right which his family had possessed for over 70 years, but had not exercised. His successors (fn. 189) presented until 1756, when Fulke Greville offered the presentation for sale, but Bishop Secker 'so strictly examined and threatened' those who thought of buying it that the church remained without a rector for seven months and the bishop was able to collate. (fn. 190) In 1763, when Fulke Greville sold the manor to Lord Holland, he apparently sold the advowson also. (fn. 191) A few years later the advowson was bought by Lady Shaftesbury and exchanged with the Crown for Hinton Martell (Dorset). (fn. 192) The Grevilles were evidently uncertain about what had happened, for in 1814 Greville was planning to present 'some person' to the living until one of his younger sons came of age to take it. (fn. 193) Since the exchange, the rectory has been in the patronage of the Lord Chancellor. (fn. 194) In 1924 the living was combined with that of Hethe, also in the patronage of the Lord Chancellor. (fn. 195)
In the Middle Ages Fringford was rather a poor living. In 1254 it was valued at £3 6s. 8d.; (fn. 196) in 1291 at £6, plus a pension to Cogges (fn. 197) (see below); in 1535 the net value was £12 16s. (fn. 198) After the Reformation the rectory increased considerably in value, and by 1685 was worth £188. (fn. 199)
In addition to his glebe, the rector was entitled to all the tithes in the parish, except for those on one acre called Newell's Close. During the 18th century the tithes were being farmed for about £100. (fn. 200) At the inclosure award in 1761 the rector was awarded 209 acres in lieu of tithe from the open fields, (fn. 201) but tithes on the 481 acres of inclosed land continued to be paid until 1848, when they were commuted for £137. (fn. 202) By the early 19th century Fringford had thus become a rich living, considered worth £441 in 1818. (fn. 203)
When Manasses Arsic granted the church to Cogges Priory in 1103, he also gave its land, the tithe on the 'vill', and two mills. (fn. 204) The tithes were evidently commuted for a pension of £1 6s. 8d., which was paid until the dissolution of the priory in 1441. (fn. 205) The church's land did not go to Cogges, but remained as part of Fringford rectory. (fn. 206) In 1341 there was glebe valued at 26s. 8d., (fn. 207) probably the same as the yardland of glebe described in the 17th-century terriers. (fn. 208) This was exchanged for 18 acres of land at the inclosure (fn. 209) and became part of the new rectory estate of about 220 acres. It was agreed then that the lord of the manor should build a house, barn, and stables on the land at a cost of £200, receiving land equal in value in return. (fn. 210) This was the origin of the farm now known as Glebe farm. (fn. 211)
Probably because the living was poor none of the medieval Rectors of Fringford was a university graduate until the end of the 15th century. Several of the 14th- and 15th-century ones kept the living for many years. But long residence might have its disadvantages: Master Thomas Kirby, rector from 1480 to 1523, was found to have neglected the church. It was said that the cemetery was not well closed, the font and chrism were not kept locked, and several people owed money to the church. (fn. 212) On the other hand wills of this period show that parishioners were pious and often made bequests to the church: Roger Copeland, for example, who died in 1532, left in all twelve bushels of barley to the high altar, the altars of St. Catherine and St. Thomas, the bells and the 'torches'. (fn. 213)
The best-known 16th-century rector was Richard Aldrich (1565–1604), (fn. 214) prebendary of Hereford: (fn. 215) in 1590 he was ordered to reside in Fringford and explain to the bishop why he had been absent. (fn. 216) In the last years of his life he had as curate Emmanuel Scott, who succeeded him as rector. As Scott was married and died in Fringford, he presumably resided.
The Civil War saw considerable changes in the village: early in the 1640's (fn. 217) the rector William Overton was sequestered from his living and was succeeded by John Bayley. (fn. 218) Shortly after 1649, having abandoned his earlier Puritan views Bayley was removed from his living, (fn. 219) but at the Restoration he regained possession. (fn. 220)
The early-18th-century rectors have left few records. At least one was non-resident; he paid his curate Daniel Wardle £35 a year. (fn. 221) Wardle, who was also Vicar of Caversfield, became rector in 1735. (fn. 222) John Russell Greenhill (1756–1813), although he never lived in the parish, took an active interest in it. The 17th-century parsonage with a barn and a stable, (fn. 223) which in 1665 had been the largest house in the village, (fn. 224) was described by him as a mere thatched cottage and too small for his family. (fn. 225) After 1767 he lived at Finmere, and later in Cottisford. (fn. 226) He found his parishioners in general 'very good frequenters' of the church; he made a practice of counting them and found there were about 100 and more in summer. In 1768, when the unusually large number of 56 people wanted to be confirmed, he had visited every house and spoken widely on the subject. He catechized every Sunday in summer, but found that after the age of 12 or 13 the children considered themselves too old to say their catechism in public; servants also refused to repeat it. He expounded, as he said, 'by a composition of my own drawing up'. (fn. 227) By 1808, when he was 77 years old and had a curate, receiving £45 and living in the parsonage house, he no longer read the services, but he attended regularly and always visited the sick himself. (fn. 228)
His successor Henry Roundell (1815–52), (fn. 229) who was already curate, was 'possessed of ample means and genial temperament'. He did much for the parish (fn. 230) and earned great personal devotion. (fn. 231) He enlarged the Rectory, was responsible for the rebuilding of the chancel and much of the other restoration; (fn. 232) and he let out part of the glebe in small allotments to the labourers. He was followed by Henry Fane de Salis (1852–73), another man of means and influence, who also did a great deal for the parish. De Salis obtained the living through the influence of his father-in-law, the Rt. Hon. J. W. Henley, a member of the Cabinet. (fn. 233) He completed the restoration of the church, built the schoolroom, and increased the allotment of land for labourers. He attracted a large congregation—an average of 150, with about 50 communicants usually. (fn. 234) Besides the Sunday services there were services on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and prayers every morning. Bishop Wilberforce held several confirmations at Fringford. In 1855 he confirmed for Shelswell, Newton Purcell, Cottisford, and Godington: 'the most attentive set of perhaps any', he wrote. (fn. 235)
The church, dedicated to ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS, is a stone building comprising a chancel, clerestoried nave with three bays, two aisles, and a western tower. (fn. 236) The only remains of the 12thcentury church are a much restored south door and the two northern arches of the nave. The threearched south arcade, of which two of the pillars are decorated with curiously carved grotesque female heads, probably dates from the 13th century. (fn. 237) The south aisle (see below) may have been rebuilt in the 14th century. (fn. 238) At the north-west end of the nave is a blocked-up arch. In the 16th century there were altars to Sts. Catherine and Thomas. (fn. 239) The roughly carved medieval screen has been preserved.
Small repairs are recorded at several dates in the 18th century: in 1739; between 1765 and 1792, when sums ranging from £1 to £9 were paid to local craftsmen; and in 1788 when £14 odd was spent on replastering and painting the interior and retiling the roof. (fn. 240) In the 19th century the church was largely rebuilt: in 1804 and 1809 a total of £60 was paid for work on the fabric; in 1812 £38 on the tower; (fn. 241) in 1821 a new chancel was built at the rector's expense and the parish spent £34 on the main body of the church. In 1829 the north aisle was rebuilt, and in 1831 £237 was spent on replacing the wooden belfry by the present stone tower. The mason was Daniel Mansfield of Hethe. (fn. 242) In 1838 and 1841 the church was reseated; (fn. 243) in 1856 and 1857 the original Early English porch (fn. 244) was taken down and replaced and the south aisle was rebuilt and enlarged by the architect G. E. Street at a cost of £650. (fn. 245)
In 1905 the north aisle was enlarged and rebuilt at the expense of H. J. Chinnery (architect T. B. Carter) and two clerestoried windows on the north were opened. The altar was removed from the chancel to the north aisle to form a chapel and a new altar erected in the chancel. (fn. 246) In 1909 the roof was restored. (fn. 247)
The church has had three fonts in recent times. In the early 19th century there was a plain circular one. (fn. 248) The origin of the fine octagonal font, decorated with four heraldic stone shields, which was presented in the late 19th century, is uncertain. (fn. 249) In 1880 a new font, in memory of Mrs. Anne King, replaced the latter, (fn. 250) but both are now in the south aisle.
In 1842 the church was beautified at the expense of the rector Henry Roundell and Miss Roundell. The clerk's desk was altered and a new pulpit was erected. The pulpit's finely carved 17th-century panels are said to have been bought from the manor-house at Hardwick. Crimson furnishings for the communion table, pulpit, and reading-desk, and kneeling-cushions were provided. A vestry was made in the same year and additional open sittings were provided in 1842 and 1847. In 1855 the Roundell family paid for fitting two of the chancel windows with stained glass. The rector Henry de Salis gave a new organ in 1859; its case was made by John Rogers of Fringford, a local carpenter, who was also responsible for the carved seats in the nave and was church organist for many years. The clock in the tower dates from 1876. (fn. 251)
There is a stone tablet in the chancel to Richard Wenman (d. 1637/8), and two fine marble monuments on the north side of the nave to the Addington family: one to Anthony Addington (d. 1790) and his wife Mary (d. 1778) is signed by Richard Westmacott and is surmounted by arms; the other is to Henry Addington (d. 1729/30) and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1746). (fn. 252)
There are also memorials to Daniel Wardle, rector (d. 1756), John Russell Greenhill, rector (d. 1813), Elizabeth Greenhill, his wife (d. 1807), Richard Gibbs, gent. (d. 1807) and family, Henry Dawson Roundell, rector (d. 1852), Cadwallader Coker, rector (d. 1894), and H. J. Chinnery, J.P. of Fringford Manor (d. 1914). Tablets commemorate the charitable bequests by Elizabeth de Salis and John Mansfield.
In 1552 the church owned a silver chalice and some vestments. There was also a light, the donor of which was unknown, supported by lands worth 6d. a year and five sheep and two lambs valued at 10s. (fn. 253) The church now possesses an Elizabethan chalice and some Victorian silver given by Eleanor Roundell. (fn. 254)
At the Reformation there were three bells, a sanctus bell and two handbells; the present tower has a ring of three bells, one dating from the early 16th and two from the early 17th century. There is an 18th-century saunce. The bells were repaired and a new bell-frame was erected by John Waters in 1832. (fn. 255)
No trace remains of the medieval cross once in the grave yard. As early as 1633 a Fringford man stated that he could not remember any cross there but only a heap of 'rubbidge stone'. (fn. 256)
The registers begin in 1586 for marriages, in 1588 for burials, and in 1596 for baptisms. From 1640 to 1660 they are irregular, and there is a gap 1736–51. (fn. 257) There is a book of churchwardens' accounts from 1751 to 1921.
No recusants are recorded in the early 17th century, but in 1676 there were three. (fn. 258) From this time on occasional recusants are recorded: in 1682 the rector said one man was a reputed papist, 'but unwilling to admit as much'; (fn. 259) in 1706 a Welshman was returned as one; (fn. 260) and in 1738 the millwright's wife was a papist. (fn. 261) In 1780 a Roman Catholic family was living in the village, and in 1808 there was one old woman. (fn. 262)
Protestant dissent is recorded in 1682, when a Quaker from London and an anabaptist lived in the parish. (fn. 263) In 1759 three or four Presbyterians were recorded, (fn. 264) but although only one, a mason, was left in 1768, (fn. 265) in 1772 Daniel Mansfield's house was licensed for Presbyterian meetings. (fn. 266) Presbyterianism died out in the first decade of the 19th century. (fn. 267)
In 1840 some Methodists met in a private house, (fn. 268) in 1854 three dissenting families met occasionally for services, (fn. 269) and this was probably the case during the rest of the century. (fn. 270)
According to the 1851 census, a small Independent chapel was opened in 1844, (fn. 271) but no other record of this has been found.
In 1768 a small school was started by the rector and Dr. Addington, (fn. 272) who provided the house, to teach the children the catechism and reading and writing. In 1808 Lord Sidmouth and the rector still paid for eight children to be educated at the dame school, where the other children were paid for by their parents. (fn. 273) In 1815 the boys and girls were reported to be leaving school at an early age so as to start work on the farms or at lace-making. (fn. 274) In 1833 two day schools with an average attendance of 24 were partly supported by donations from Lord Sidmouth and the rector. (fn. 275) In 1854 there were 35 children at one day school, which was mainly paid for by the rector and held in his barn, and 20 children at an infant school. (fn. 276) A National school was built in 1866 by the rector Henry de Salis. (fn. 277) There was one master and the average attendance was 73 in 1871 (fn. 278) and 51 in 1906. (fn. 279) By 1929 Fringford school was receiving senior pupils from Cottisford, Finmere, Hethe, Mixbury, Newton Purcell, and Stratton Audley. There were 92 pupils on the books in 1943 besides 32 evacuees. After a reorganization in 1948 the school retained its pupils aged 5 to 11, and 13 to 15, while those aged 11 to 12 were transferred to Bicester Voluntary Secondary School. The school was controlled in 1951. It had 84 children in 1954. (fn. 280)
At an unknown date a Mrs. Addington and an Ann Richards, both apparently members of the Addington family, (fn. 281) left £15 for poor widows of the parish. (fn. 282) By 1768 the principal was held by the leading farmers, and 12s. a year interest was distributed by the overseers. (fn. 283) In 1793 Henry Addington, then Speaker of the House of Commons, was holding the £15 and another £25 left to the poor by a certain William Thonger. (fn. 284) Later donations appear to have increased the fund to £55 in all by 1805, (fn. 285) but by the 1820's only the original £15 could still be accounted for. (fn. 286) In 1853 the Revd. Henry Roundell, son of a former rector, augmented the charity fund, bringing it up to £50; in 1870 it yielded £1 10s. a year. (fn. 287)
In 1869 John Mansfield, a member of a family long established in Fringford, left £100 in stock, the interest to be divided between six poor people, (fn. 288) and in 1877 Martha Ann Symonds left £200 for the benefit of poor widows. In 1888 the funds of all the charities were invested in stock. (fn. 289) In 1898 Grace Elizabeth de Salis, widow of a rector of Fringford, left £100 to be distributed in coal to poor widows. (fn. 290) The annual income of the charities was £14 5s. in 1939. (fn. 291)