A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Middleton Stoney is a parish of 1,853 acres, bounded on the west by the Aves Ditch, (fn. 1) and on the east by the Gagle Brook, a tributary of the River Ray. Geologically, most of the parish lies on an outcrop of the Cornbrash, at this point forming a plateau between 300 and 350 feet above sea-level, (fn. 2) and it is to the presence of this stone that it probably owes the second part of its name, which is first recorded in 1552. (fn. 3) There are several stone-pits from which material for dry stone walling has in the past been obtained. The parish is crossed from east to west by the road from Lower Heyford to Bicester, and from north to south by the main road from Oxford to Brackley.
Until the early 19th century the nucleus of the village lay to the south-west of the Lower HeyfordBicester road, in the vicinity of the church and castle, although references to an 'Old Churchyard Furlong' about 1,000 yards south-west of the present churchyard suggest that there may have been an earlier church on a different site. The castle is of the motte and bailey type: it is first mentioned in 1215, after the death of Gerard de Camville, but it may well have been in existence in the time of his father Richard. (fn. 4) King John ordered its destruction in 1216, and there is no evidence that it was ever refortified. When Leland saw it in the 1530's, it was already 'over growne with bushys', but he recorded that 'sum peces of the walls of it yet a litle apeare'. (fn. 5) There are now no signs of masonry, but the mound has been partly dug away on the west, and is covered with trees. (fn. 6) Immediately to the west of the castle stood the old manor-house of the Harmans, which survived as a farm-house until the early 19th century. (fn. 7) To the north was the Rectory, with its barn and stables, (fn. 8) and, at a point approximately half-way between the latter and the road to Heyford, the village cross, whose base is now preserved close to the churchyard. (fn. 9)
The desertion of the old manor-house in favour of an isolated mansion standing in its own grounds appears to have taken place in the time of Sir Edmund Denton (1698–1712), to whom the building of 'Middleton Park House' is attributed by Rawlinson. (fn. 10) A map of 1710 shows it in miniature as a three-storied house with a symmetrical front set in a rectangular park of 67 acres walled round and planted with trees. Soon afterwards it was considerably enlarged, for two wings flanking its southern facade are shown in plan on a map of 1736: (fn. 11) they were presumably built by Lord Carleton. The house was again enlarged by the 3rd Earl of Jersey soon after his acquisition of the estate, but was destroyed by fire in 1753. (fn. 12) A new house, described as 'a handsome brick structure', took its place. No satisfactory representation of it appears to exist, but a sketch (fn. 13) shows that it had a dome, and that the wings were connected to the body of the house by quadrant colonnades. In 1806–7 this Georgian mansion was altered and enlarged by the 5th earl to the designs of Thomas Cundy of Pimlico, who faced it with stone and added an Ionic portico forming a porte cochère. (fn. 14) In this form it survived until 1938, when the 9th earl demolished it in order to build a new house designed by Sir Edwin and Mr. Robert Lutyens. (fn. 15)
Until the end of the 17th century the only enclosed part of the parish was the park. Its formation was authorized by King John at the same time (May 1201) as the grant of the market to Gerard de Camville, (fn. 16) and two years later he gave Gerard 10 bucks and 40 does from Woodstock Park to stock it. (fn. 17) It is described in an extent of 1328 as surrounded by a stone wall half a league in circuit, (fn. 18) and its original limits are now indicated by the bank and ditch surrounding the Home Wood. In 1280 the king gave Henry de Lacy 15 does from Woodstock in order to stock Middleton Park, (fn. 19) and in 1295, soon after the earl had obtained a grant of free warren in the demesne lands of the manor, (fn. 20) it was stocked with 36 deer from Beckley Park, Woodstock Park, and Wychwood Forest. (fn. 21) At the same time 11s. 8d. was paid to the king's huntsman for catching wolves in it. According to the extent of 1311, it was worth 10s. a year in pasture and underwood if not stocked, but nothing if it held deer. (fn. 22) The creation of the modern park which occupies nearly half the parish was the work of the 5th Earl of Jersey in the early 19th century. In 1814 he came to an agreement with the rector whereby the latter's glebe of 72 acres, valued at £106 13s. 5d. a year, was added to his park. (fn. 23) In exchange the rector received 106 acres of land between the Bicester and Oxford roads valued at £125 14s. 8d. a year, besides a new parsonage designed by Thomas Cundy in the Tudor-Gothic style. (fn. 24) This arrangement was confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1816. (fn. 25) The eastward extension of the park was completed in 1824–5, when the old manorhouse and the adjoining cottages were demolished, leaving the church in isolation half-way between the mansion and the park gates. (fn. 26) New cottages were built elsewhere under Lady Jersey's personal direction, each with a rustic porch and a small flower garden, conveying to a contemporary observer 'an idea of comfort and respectability seldom enjoyed by the lower classes'. (fn. 27) It was also in the time of the Countess Sophia (who died in 1867 at the age of 82) that the 'Eagle and Child' changed its name to the 'Jersey Arms'. This inn is of some antiquity, though the existing buildings were reroofed and otherwise modernized in about 1892. It stands at the junction of the Lower Heyford-Brackley roads, in what is now the centre of the village. Few of the adjoining cottages show evidence of being of an earlier date than the 19th century, and the village as a whole, though wellbuilt and not unpleasing in appearance, lacks architectural distinction. The former rectory on the east side of the Oxford road is now occupied as a private residence, a new and smaller rectory having been built on the Bicester road soon after 1920.
A village reading-room was built in 1884 at the expense of the 7th earl, (fn. 28) who also established a cooperative shop managed entirely by local people, and did much else to improve the conditions of his tenants. It was he who made the earliest attempts to increase the water-supply of both village and mansion by sinking new wells, who extended the schools and enlarged their scope, provided pitches for cricket and football, gave an annual harvest-home dinner to all his employees, and distributed beef and game at Christmas. (fn. 29) Allotments had already been instituted by the 5th earl in 1832, (fn. 30) and the 7th earl built a barn for the benefit of those who rented them. Few Victorian landlords, in fact, set a better example than the earls of Jersey did at Middleton, and their benevolent régime is still remembered with gratitude by those who had the good fortune to be their tenants.
In 1086 MIDDLETON was held by Richard Puingiant, a Norman tenant-in-chief of whom nothing is known beyond the fact that he also held Godington and had other estates in Wiltshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, and Bedfordshire. Of his Saxon predecessor, Turi, it is recorded only that he had held Middleton freely in the time of King Edward. (fn. 31) The subsequent history of Richard's estates is obscure, but in the 12th century his Hampshire and Bedfordshire manors are found in the possession of the Chamberlain family, while those in Oxfordshire and Berkshire had passed to the Camvilles. Godington is known to have been in the hands of Richard de Camville by the middle of the century, (fn. 32) and he was evidently seised of Middleton in 1130, when he was excused the payment of 20s. danegeld in Oxfordshire, (fn. 33) for, at the rate of 2s. per hide, this implies a tenement of 10 hides, which is in fact the number of hides at which Middleton is assessed in Domesday Book. The tenure of Middleton by the De Camville family is in any case carried back to the reign of Henry I by Richard's Carta of 1166, in which he is said to owe the king the service of one knight for the fee in Oxfordshire which he holds of him of the 'old enfeoffment'—that is, an enfeoffment made before 1135. (fn. 34) Middleton and Godington were, with Avington in Berkshire, the only manors which Richard de Camville held in chief, and the existence at Middleton of a characteristic 12th-century castle suggests that it may have been the head or caput of his barony, though there is no definite proof that this was the case. (fn. 35) He died in southern Italy in 1176 or 1177, while accompanying the king's daughter Joan on her journey to Palermo to be married to King William II of Sicily. (fn. 36) His manors passed to his elder son Gerard, who is recorded on the Pipe Roll for 1186–7 as owing ½ mark for waste in Middleton. (fn. 37) Gerard married Nichole, heiress of the Lincolnshire family of Hay, thus bringing into his family the castellanship of Lincoln castle which was their hereditary possession. (fn. 38) In the reign of Richard I he supported Count John in his rebellion, and Middleton was no doubt among the lands for whose restoration he paid 2,000 marks in 1194. (fn. 39) In 1201, however, his attachment to John was rewarded by the grant of a weekly market of two days at Middleton. (fn. 40) He died shortly before January 1215, when the king ordered the Sheriff of Oxford to render to his son Richard the castle of Middleton, which was of his inheritance. (fn. 41)
Richard de Camville's relations with John appear to have been less cordial than those of his father, for in December 1215 his castle of Middleton was committed to the keeping of Engelard de Cigogné, one of the king's most hated, if also most trusted, servants, (fn. 42) and in the following May a royal order was issued for its destruction. (fn. 43) Moreover Richard's daughter and heir Idoine was by now in royal custody in Corfe castle. (fn. 44) Her wardship was sold to William, Earl of Salisbury, who arranged that she should be married to his son William Longespée, then, like his fiancée, a child under age. With her he obtained the custody of all the lands which belonged to her by right of her mother Eustachia, the daughter of Gilbert Basset, lord of Bicester. (fn. 45) In view of these circumstances it has been supposed that Richard de Camville died within a few months of his father. (fn. 46) But there is evidence that he was still alive in 1217 and 1218, and the forfeiture of his castle and the granting away of his daughter's marriage in his own lifetime can only be explained on the assumption that he had taken up arms against John in 1215. In February 1217, however, protection was granted to him and to his mother Nichole de Hay, (fn. 47) and in 1218 he is recorded on the Pipe Roll for Northamptonshire and Berkshire as owing 300 marks for having the lands which belonged to his father Gerard. (fn. 48) But there is no entry to this effect under Oxfordshire, and in a list of royal escheats drawn up in 1219 it is stated that 'the heir of Richard de Camville is of the gift of the lord king and she is in the custody of the Earl of Salisbury, and her land in Middleton is worth £15'. (fn. 49) Richard de Camville's death must have taken place between 1218 and 1225, for in the latter year the Earl of Salisbury is recorded as owing the 300 marks previously debited to Richard de Camville, as well as £729 3s. 4d. and 16 palfreys for having the custody of his daughter. (fn. 50) She had married his son and attained her majority before June 1226, when the king rendered to William Longespée and his wife Idoine the lands late of Richard de Camville her father. (fn. 51) Soon afterwards the Sheriff of Oxford was ordered to desist from demanding an ox for giving them seisin. (fn. 52)
William Longespée was killed while crusading in Egypt in February 1250, and in October his widow obtained seisin of the lands which she had inherited from her Camville ancestors. (fn. 53) She died in 1251 or 1252, (fn. 54) and Middleton then descended to her son William Longespée the third, who on 19 October 1252 did homage to the king for all the lands which his mother had held in chief in Oxfordshire, (fn. 55) paying for them a relief of 50s. Two years later, however, it was decided by the barons of the Exchequer that he should pay the full baronial relief of £100 on the ground that he had inherited the barony of Richard de Camville. (fn. 56) He died early in 1257 from injuries received in a tournament at Blyth, (fn. 57) and his estates, including Middleton, passed to Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, who married his daughter and heir Margaret. (fn. 58) On the earl's death in 1311, the manor of Middleton was described as held of the king in chief as 'parcel of the honor of Pontefract', of which the Lacys were lords. (fn. 59) By the marriage of his daughter and heir Alice to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, Middleton became part of the great accumulation of fiefs held by the house of Lancaster. After the execution of her husband in March 1322, Alice was allowed to retain her inheritance, but she sold many of her estates to Edward II for the benefit of the Despensers, and although Middleton was restored to her in July 1322, it was with remainder to Hugh Despenser the younger. (fn. 60) In 1324, however, she forfeited her lands on her marriage to Sir Ebles Lestrange without the king's licence, and although she was allowed to retain Middleton, among other manors, it was only for her lifetime, and as the tenant of Hugh Despenser. (fn. 61) Upon the fall of the Despensers in 1327 their reversionary interest in Middleton was extinguished, the situation being that on the death of the Countess Alice, the manors would come into the king's hand. But on 28 November 1328 Edward III granted several of her manors, including Middleton, to Ebles Lestrange for life, (fn. 62) and in 1331, in return for the latter's 'good service', the king settled them on Ebles and his heirs. (fn. 63) Ebles predeceased his wife, dying in 1335, and on her death in 1348 the manor passed to Roger Lestrange, lord of Knockin, in whose family it remained for over a hundred years.
To the Lestranges, whose main estates were in Shropshire, Middleton presented itself as a manor which could conveniently be assigned in dower, and it was so held, first by Joan, the widow of Roger Lestrange (d. 1349), (fn. 64) then by Alice, widow of Roger Lestrange (d. 1382), (fn. 65) and thirdly by Maud, widow of John Lestrange (d. 1398). (fn. 66) In 1479 on the death of John, the grandson of John Lestrange, the manor came into the possession of the earls of Derby, by the marriage of his only daughter and heiress Joan to George Stanley, son of the 1st earl. (fn. 67) In 1597 the 6th earl sold Middleton to Richard Cox, a citizen and Merchant Taylor of London, (fn. 68) who in 1602 sold it to John Harman of Lewes for £1,100. (fn. 69) Harman died without issue in 1629, having settled the manor on his cousin Nicholas Harman of Chelsea. (fn. 70) Nicholas is said to have erected a 'commodious residence' near the site of the castle, in which he resided until his death in 1668. (fn. 71) He was High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1648. His only daughter Hester married in 1673 Alexander Denton of Hillesden (Bucks.), whose eldest son, Sir Edmund Denton, sold the manor to the Hon. Henry Boyle for £12,500 in February 1712. (fn. 72) Boyle was the third son of Charles Boyle, Lord Clifford of Lanesborough. He had a successful political career, holding office as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Principal Secretary of State under Queen Anne, and was created Lord Carleton in 1714 for his services to the Whig party. (fn. 73) He died unmarried in 1725, leaving his estates in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire to his nephew the 3rd Duke of Queensbury. In 1735 the duke obtained an Act of Parliament (fn. 74) permitting him to dispose of the Middleton estate in order to buy other lands adjoining his Wiltshire property. In March 1737 his trustees sold the house and park with the immediately adjoining lands to William Villiers, 3rd Earl of Jersey, for £6,000, and in June they parted with the 426 acres of Wilson's Farm to William Leigh of Southwark for £3,850. In 1740 Lord Jersey bought Abraham's Farm for £4,300, and in 1748 he acquired the manorial rights and the Duke of Queensbury's remaining lands for £2,780. In the same year he purchased the greater part of the Priory Farm from the executor of John Kinge for £1,900. (fn. 75) Finally, in 1765 he was able to buy Wilson's Farm from Thomas Leigh (brother of the original purchaser, who had died in 1740) for £5,200. (fn. 76) Thus for a total expenditure of some £20,000 Lord Jersey became the proprietor of almost the whole parish. In the time of his grandson the 5th earl (1805–59), described by 'Nimrod' as 'the hardest, boldest, most judicious, and perhaps the most elegant rider to hounds whom the world ever saw', Middleton became celebrated for its kennels and its stables, and the village gave its name to the Derby winner of 1825. Middleton Park remained the principal seat of the Jersey family until 1946, when the 9th earl sold the house and estate to Mr. A. C. J. Wall.
Although the De Camvilles were considerable benefactors to Bicester Priory and other religious houses, their grants did not include any land in Middleton, nor did their successors part with any of their demesne in this way. In 1349, however, three messuages and 200 acres of land in the manor were conveyed to the Prior and Convent of Bicester under a general licence in mortmain obtained in the reign of Edward II. The nominal grantors were three chaplains, but the real donor was Thomas de Stapenhulle, who had conveyed the lands to them a few months earlier. (fn. 77) The gift was confirmed by royal letters patent on 3 October 1350. (fn. 78) After the dissolution of Bicester Priory in 1536 these lands, valued at £2 a year. (fn. 79) were among those granted by Henry VIII to Roger Moore of Bicester for £187 17s. 2d. (fn. 80) The 'Priory Farm' was subsequently acquired by Thomas Martyn from Moore's coheirs, Mary, the wife of Sir Michael Blount, and Elizabeth, the wife of Sir John Brocket of Brocket Hall (Herts.). (fn. 81) On Martyn's death it passed to his sister and heir Marian, the wife of Henry Standard, whose son Thomas is said also to have acquired a small estate in this parish formerly belonging to Oseney Abbey. (fn. 82) In the inquisition taken after the death of Thomas Standard in 1623, his estate in Middleton Stoney is described as a 'manor' comprising 3 messuages, 1 dove-house, 2 cottages, 3 tofts, 200 acres of land, and some acres of meadow. (fn. 83) It is also reputed a manor in an earlier conveyance of 1590. (fn. 84) Thomas Standard's son Henry settled at Middleton and lived at the Priory Farm during the greater part of his life. Henry's son Henry, a Fellow of All Souls, died in 1670 at the age of 23, and in the following year he sold the estate to Gabriel Merry of Heyford Warren for £800. In 1679 Merry sold it to William Kinge of Lilbourne (Northants) for the same price. After the death of William Kinge's son John in 1742, the latter's executor sold 24½ acres known as the Moor Ground to Lord Jersey for £290, and in December 1748 Lord Jersey purchased the capital messuage and 153 acres known as King's Closes for £1,900. (fn. 85) Thus the greater part of the property came into the possession of the Jersey family, and the mansion house, being no longer required, was demolished or allowed to fall into decay. (fn. 86)
In the absence of a continuous series of manorial records, the economic history of Middleton before its inclosure in the early 18– century depends almost entirely upon the meagre documentation afforded by the Hundred Rolls, two surviving account rolls, and a series of extents made in connexion with the inquisitions held after the deaths of successive lords of the manor.
In 1086 (fn. 87) much of the parish was occupied by woodland (8 × 8 furlongs). There was, however, land for 16 ploughs; 3 were in demesne and 13 in the hands of 25 villeins (villani) with 7 bordars. There is no reference to any meadow or pasture. Its omission is significant, for in the 14th-century extents (fn. 88) there are said to be only 5 acres of meadow belonging to the manor, 3 in King's Sutton, 8 miles away in Northamptonshire, and 2 in Lower Heyford. The circumstances in which this unusual arrangement arose are not recorded, but the connexion between Middleton and King's Sutton was a feudal one, the latter manor having been granted to Richard de Camville by Henry II in or before 1155. (fn. 89) In 1241, when William Longespée, as Camville's successor, granted the manor of King's Sutton to his brother Stephen, he was careful to reserve 'a certain meadow in Sidenham which my men of Middleton were wont to mow' and to stipulate that Stephen and his heirs should provide food and drink for 25 men of Middleton on the day when they came to mow it. (fn. 90) The surviving account for 1295–6, in recording the expense of providing bread and beer for 36 villeins and cottagers raising hay for one day, duly notes that 'the lady of King's Sutton finds food for the mowers'. (fn. 91)
William Longespée's charter implies that the number of villeins was the same in 1241 as it had been in 1086. This is confirmed by the account of Middleton in the Hundred Rolls of 1279, which gives the names of 27 villein tenants, each holding a single virgate, and paying 3s. 9d. a year, besides performing unspecified 'works and customs'. There were in addition 4 free tenants holding a total of 9 virgates, and 14 burgage-holders, 10 of whom paid 1s. a year, the other 4 paid 6d. (fn. 92) The existence of these 'burgesses', coupled with the grant of a weekly market in 1202, and of a market and annual fair in 1294, (fn. 93) indicates an attempt on the part of the lords of Middleton to establish there something more than a purely agricultural community, as Robert Arsic had done at Cogges. (fn. 94) By 1295–6 the burgage rents received had risen to £1 1s. 11d., while the profits of the 'market court' amounted to 3s. 10d. The burgages are not mentioned as such in the extent of the manor drawn up after the death of Roger Lestrange in 1349. (fn. 95) But their occupants may have been among the free men formerly rendering £2 15s. 9½d. a year, whose holdings were reported to have come into the lord's hand owing to the death of the tenants, and whose lands were 'lying untilled and uncultivated and worth nothing'. Their tenants had in fact perished in the Black Death, as had 'certain villeins who also died in the same pestilence', and whose lands and tenements were likewise lying 'uncultivated and in common'. No one, the jurors stated, would take them up, 'because almost all the men there are dead'. The perquisites of the court and view of frankpledge, valued at 24s. in 1328, were now worth only 6s. 'and not more in these days on account of the aforesaid pestilence'. Subsequent inquisitions are unfortunately not accompanied by detailed extents, so that it is impossible to say to what extent the economy of the manor may have been permanently affected by the Black Death. It is equally uncertain whether the extinction of the burgage tenements is to be attributed to the same calamity; but no further reference to them has been found, and with their disappearance Middleton became once more a normal agricultural community engaged in the cultivation of its open fields.
The history of the fields themselves is not well documented. In 1348 and 1349 it was stated that of the lord's demesne of 200 acres, half could be sown each year, that each acre when sown was worth 4d., and if not sown, nothing. (fn. 96) In 1355, however, a tenement of 1½ acres is described as lying in three different fields, one ½-acre in the field towards Chesterton, another in the 'Middelfeld', and the third in the field 'towards —'. (fn. 97) It would therefore appear that there was a change from a two- to a threefield system between 1349 and 1355, but only two fields—North and South—are described in an elaborate terrier made in 1554, and still in use in 1639. (fn. 98) According to this, 'every yardland hath 40 acres in the fields in the south field and north field, except three yards for every yardland in the north field only'. The testimony of the 17th-century glebe terriers is ambiguous, for in those of 1679 and 1701 the parson's land is said to lie partly in 'the South Fields' and partly in the North Field, while in 1697 the South Field is referred to in the singular. (fn. 99) In 1554 the total arable land amounted to some 1,986 acres. The demesne, consisting of 9 yardlands, accounted for 352 acres; 330 acres were held by freeholders, and the remaining 1,304 acres were copyhold. These 'acres' were 'not of measure, but as the acres lie, little and big'—that is, they represented the actual 'lands' or strips into which the fields were divided. The amount of grass-land is not stated in the terrier, but in October 1636 Nicholas Harman, as lord of the manor, and Edward Fitzherbert, as 'his farmer of the demesne there', agreed with the parson and the tenants 'to lay down for every yardland of the said farm and demesnes, 6 acres for grass every second year in the North field, and that every one of the said tenants shall lay down for every yardland which they hold 5 acres for grass yearly in the Cornfield'. A similar agreement was made at the court baron and court leet held on 6 October 1656, when it was 'ordered and agreed that every one of the said Manor shall lay down from ploughing 4 acres of land for a yardland in each field and so after that rate for any greater or lesser quantity of land and this order shall continue for four years next ensueing the date hereof'. (fn. 100)
The inclosure of the parish began in about 1686, when part of the glebe—hitherto lying in over 50 distinct 'parcels'—was 'taken out of the common field . . . and inclos'd by a general consent of the inhabitants'. (fn. 101) In 1706 it was stated that this inclosure concerned 'part of a common field which was barren land and lay remote from the town, and is since found a very profitable improvement of the said rectory.' (fn. 102) In the following year, however, the 'three grounds then laid out for the rector' were exchanged for 'two grounds improv'd by Sanfoyn-grass' of slightly greater acreage. (fn. 103) Finally, in November 1709, Sir Edmund Denton and the other proprietors of land in the common fields 'having proposed that some considerable improvement might be made of their said lands by inclosing of some part thereof … came to an agreement and entered into articles', as a result of which the remainder of the parish was inclosed, the rector was freed from the obligation of keeping a bull and a boar 'for the use of the cattle … in the parish', and the lord was to 'hold and enjoy all the rest and residue of the said manor … inclosed and free and discharged of common'. (fn. 104) This agreement was confirmed by a decree in Chancery in July 1714. (fn. 105) A map of the parish made in 1710 shows it as it was 'immediately after the inclosure'. (fn. 106) There were then five principal farms, totalling 1,247 acres. By 1737, however, when another map was made for Lord Jersey, (fn. 107) three of the farms had been bought up by the Duke of Queensbury, and Lord Jersey had begun to make possible the later extension of the park by acquiring lands adjoining it on the south and east. There are now five farms in the parish: Manor (formerly Middleton Grounds) farm, Park farm, Dewar's farm, Rectory farm, (fn. 108) and Copse farm, (fn. 109) the two last being run as a single agricultural unit.
Little is known about the population before the 19th century. In 1676 the Compton census recorded 90 adults, (fn. 110) and in 1759 the rector returned that there were between 30 and 40 houses. (fn. 111) In 1801 there were 309 inhabitants. A peak of 340 was reached in 1821 and this was followed by a steady decline. The more marked fall of 1861 was due to Lord Jersey not being in residence. In 1881 the figure was 293, but this had risen to 324 by 1901. In the early 20th century there was a declining population, but between 1931 and 1951 it increased rapidly from 251 to 477. (fn. 112)
The remains of the existing mid-12thcentury building constitute the earliest evidence for the existence of a church at Middleton. It is not known at what date the advowson was granted to the Abbot and Convent of Barlings (Lincs.), but the donor was probably Gerard de Camville, who by his marriage to Nichole de Hay had become the patron of this Premonstratensian abbey, founded by his wife's uncle Robert de Hay in 1154. (fn. 113) The gift was, however, disputed by William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury, in the time of Bishop Hugh de Welles (1209–35), whose rolls record that in view of the contention between the earl and the abbot over the advowson of Middleton, he had, at their request, presented Gervase de Pavely by authority of the Lateran Council. (fn. 114) The case was evidently decided in favour of the abbot, for he continued to present to the rectory throughout the 13th century. (fn. 115) A further dispute arose when Peter Durand, rector in the reign of Edward I, died at the Roman curia. For the Pope claimed the right to present to all benefices whose incumbents died in his court and proceeded to provide Richard de Celleseye, professor of canon law. The abbot's presentee was induced to resign, and Richard was admitted to the rectory in May 1300. (fn. 116) In 1322 Alice de Lacy, Countess of Lincoln, then lady of the manor, confirmed the gift of the advowson to the canons of Barlings, (fn. 117) but in 1334, for reasons unexplained, the abbot and convent obtained a licence to convey it to the Bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 118) During the vacancies of the see in 1342 and 1424 the king presented. The presentation remained in the hands of the bishops of Lincoln until 1856, when, by an Order in Council, it was transferred to the Bishop of Oxford in accordance with an arrangement made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners whereby livings in episcopal patronage were transferred to the bishop in whose diocese they were locally situated. (fn. 119)
The rectory was valued at £5 in 1254, (fn. 120) at £10 in 1291, (fn. 121) and at £12 16s. in 1535. (fn. 122) Much information survives for its value in the late 17th century, for two of the rectors have left records of tithes received, ranging in value from £62 in 1666 to £116 in 1683, (fn. 123) plus the value of the glebe. At the inclosure of the parish in 1709, the tithes were commuted at the rate of £2 2s. 6d. per yardland, making a total of £100 15s. (fn. 124) In 1842 a new tithe award was made and the tithes commuted for £436 10s., (fn. 125) thus bringing the total value of the rectory to well over £500.
The glebe, valued at 13s. 4d. in 1341, (fn. 126) was rated at 2 yardlands in the 17th century. (fn. 127) At the general inclosure of 1709 the rector received about 70 acres. (fn. 128) In 1749 he and Lord Jersey exchanged about 30 acres of land, (fn. 129) and in 1814 the rector exchanged his entire glebe, including the Rectory house, for a larger estate, which he sold in 1920. (fn. 130)
Owing to extensive alterations in the 19th century, the architectural history of the church of ALL SAINTS is in some respects not easy to follow, and there is little documentary evidence to supplement that afforded by the fabric itself. The earliest parts of the existing church are the chancel and the enriched south doorway, which date from the mid12th century. The latter, however, is not in its original position, having been moved to its present setting when the south aisle was built in the 14th century. Late in the 12th century the existing chancel arch was built, and the nave was enlarged by the addition of a north aisle. The 'Transitional' arcade of three arches is supported on cylindrical columns with carved capitals. The arches are remarkable in that they are moulded on the south side only, their north face being flush with the wall above. There is a north doorway of similar date, with a hood-mould terminating in animal heads. The west tower was added early in the 13th century. Its most conspicuous feature is the arcaded upper stage of 'Early English' character, surmounted by a battlemented parapet. It was rebuilt from the ground in 1858, but the old materials were reused, and comparison with the old engraving of 1846 in A Guide to the Architectural Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Oxford shows that the design of the original was carefully reproduced.
The south aisle and its arcade of two arches were added early in the 14th century. The eastern bay of the aisle appears to have been separated from the nave by a solid wall, the existing plain arch being a modern insertion. The new aisle was lighted by two four-light windows with flat soffits. Similar windows were inserted in the north wall of the north aisle at the same time. Later in the 14th century two windows were inserted in the south wall of the chancel, one of two, the other of three lights. The latter survives, but the other was destroyed when the organ-chamber was built in 1868. Buckler's sketch of 1823 (fn. 131) shows that there was also a 'low-side' window at the west end of the south wall of the chancel. The original high-pitched roof of the nave was replaced by the present clerestory in the 15th century, but the evidence of its former existence remained until 1858 on the east side of the tower. (fn. 132) The south porch in its present form dates from the same period, but it incorporates the moulded jambs and voussoirs of an early 13th-century arch which presumably formed part of an earlier porch.
No medieval fittings survive, but the cutting away of the 'dog-tooth' ornamentation of the chancel arch immediately above the capitals shows where the framing of the chancel screen or rood beam formerly rested. (fn. 133) A cross, two candlesticks, and a holy-water 'stoke', all of brass, are mentioned in an Edwardian inventory, (fn. 134) and in 1545 Richard Smith left 4d. towards the maintenance of the two 'standards' before the high altar. (fn. 135) In 1583 several parishioners confessed that they had portions of a cope and other church ornaments in their possession, and were ordered to restore them. (fn. 136)
Any alterations which may have been made to the fabric of the church in the 16th, 17th, or 18th centuries were obliterated in 1858, and as no churchwardens' accounts survive, no record of them has been preserved. It is known, however, that it was in the time of the Revd. William Offley, rector from 1689 to 1724, that the communion-table was first railed in, for he recorded the fact himself. In 1699 he wrote that 'There are usually five Communions in the year, 1 on Palm Sunday, Easter Day, Whitsunday, 1 after Michaelmas—Christmas Day. All the people come into the chancel, the women kneel on the north side, and the men on the south side of the chancel. I begin the sacrament to those of the north side first, and thence proceed to those on the south side, without any respect of persons, but as they kneel in order, they receive. After the bread and cup are deliver'd, the clark sings a Psalm and then I go on to conclude the office.' But in 1702 he notes that 'Since I rail'd in the Communion Table the people kneel at the rail, only the dark comes with the rector within the rail—to be ready to fetch the wine during the administration of the sacrament'. (fn. 137)
In 1805 the Jersey chapel was built on the north side of the chancel in order to contain the family monuments. It was originally Gothic in style, as can be seen from the engraving in Shelton's Antiquities of Oxford (1823), but at a later date it was given a 'Norman' character by rebuilding the window, archway, and pinnacles, and the interior was decorated with heraldic shields. (fn. 138) The principal monuments are to Anne, Countess of Jersey (d. 1762), George, 5th Earl of Jersey (d. 1859), and his daughters Sarah, Princess Nicolas Esterhazy (d. 1853), and Clementina (d. 1858).
The restoration of 1856–8 was carried out under the direction of S. S. Teulon. (fn. 139) It involved the rebuilding of the tower, the whole of the north aisle, and of the south aisle to the west of the porch. The roofs of both nave and chancel (previously covered by a flat plaster ceiling) were rebuilt, as also were those of the aisles. A new east window was substituted for the plain window with a central mullion shown in Buckler's drawing of 1823. In 1868 a vestry and organ-chamber were added on the south side of the chancel to the designs of G. E. Street, and the interior of the church was completely refitted with a new pulpit, lectern, altar, reredos, piscina, rails, candlesticks, and other furniture. The organ was installed in 1871, and in 1881 the last of the pre-Victorian fittings disappeared when Lord Jersey's private pew at the west end of the nave was removed. (fn. 140)
The present font, which replaces a former marble one of 18th- or early 19th-century date, was presented to the church by Julia, Countess of Jersey, in about 1860. It is said to have come from the King's Chapel at Islip, but before the end of the 17th century it had passed into the possession of the Brown family of Kiddington, who believed that it was the font in which Edward the Confessor was baptized and had an inscription cut on the base to that effect. (fn. 141) Its decoration is of 14th-century character, but it is possible that this has been cut on an older tub-shaped font.
In addition to the Jersey monuments there are two late-17th-century cartouche tablets in the chancel in memory of the children of the Revd. William Offley, and there is a brass on the floor commemorating Elizabeth, wife of John Harman, 'Lord of this towne', who died in 1607. (fn. 142)
In 1552 there were three 'great bells' in the tower, one sanctus bell, and two hand bells. (fn. 143) In 1955 there were five bells, all made by Henry Bagley in 1717 and rehung in 1883, when the tenor was recast. They were again rehung in 1910. (fn. 144) Two of them bear the name of Lord Carleton, who gave a set of silver-gilt communion plate to the church in 1718. This consists of a chalice, with cover, a large paten, and a flagon. There is also a silver chalice dated 1575, (fn. 145) and a silver alms-dish given by Mrs. Susannah Harman shortly before her death in 1688. (fn. 146)
There has been practically no nonconformity, either Roman Catholic or Protestant. In the early 18th century there was one Roman Catholic family, the Williamses. (fn. 147) In 1797 the house of Mary Benham was licensed as a dissenting meeting-place, (fn. 148) but 19th-century reports emphasize the absence of dissent.
Rawlinson mentions that the rector (William Offley, 1689–1724) had educated the poor children of the place for more than 20 years. (fn. 149) In 1724 it was stated that four children were taught at the charge of the minister. (fn. 150) The school had closed by 1738, (fn. 151) and the village was without a school until the early 19th century. By 1808 Sophia, Countess of Jersey (d. 1867), had established three schools, one an industrial school for 12 girls who were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, sewing, and housework during a three- or four-year course of training as domestic servants. In the second school 30 younger girls were taught reading and needlework, and in the third 20 or 30 younger boys were taught reading, net-making, and 'odd jobs'. The rector ran an evening school where about 15 older boys learned the three R's. All four schools gave instruction in the catechism and all were supported by Lady Jersey, who also bore the expense of boarding and clothing the girls of the industrial school. (fn. 152) By 1815 Lady Jersey's three schools had been reorganized into a girls' school with 40 pupils, including the 12 boarders, a boys' school with 34, and an infants' with 18 children. (fn. 153) The separate infants' school was closed by 1819 and its pupils divided between the boys' and girls' schools. (fn. 154) Both schools had Sunday meetings, and in 1833 each had 36 pupils, though there were only 6 boarders. The evening school had 10 to 15 boys attending it. (fn. 155)
New school buildings for Lord Jersey's Church of England School appear to have been erected about 1837 on his land (fn. 156) and the infants became a separate department. In 1854 there were 30 boys, 20 girls, and 15 infants, but the evening school had closed. (fn. 157) By her will, proved in 1867, Lady Jersey bequeathed £4,500 for the endowment of a training school for domestic servants. Six girls chosen from Middleton, Chesterton, and Somerton schools continued to be boarded and clothed at Middleton and were placed under a matron. (fn. 158) In 1871 there were 107 pupils in all, (fn. 159) and by 1887 the departments had again been reduced to two: boys, with 35 pupils under a master; and girls and infants with 68 pupils under a mistress. (fn. 160)
The two departments which had 29 and 38 pupils respectively in 1906 (fn. 161) were amalgamated in 1924, and in 1933 the school was reorganized as a junior school, senior pupils being transferred to Bicester. The school, which was controlled in 1951, had 25 pupils on its books in 1937 and 23 in 1954. (fn. 162) Lady Jersey's foundation of 1867 was regulated by a Board of Education scheme in 1931, and in 1955 when its endowments, amounting to nearly £10,000 in stock, were producing a gross yearly income of £289 6s. 6d., it was proposed that it should be amalgamated with Lady Jersey's Almshouses Charity. (fn. 163)
In the early 19th century it was the custom to purchase coal for the poor out of the poor rates. As this was made illegal by the Poor Law Act of 1834, a parish meeting decided in 1835 'that a sufficient sum to purchase the usual quantity of coals should be raised by voluntary subscription'. (fn. 164) This was the beginning of the Coal Club, to which all the cottagers subscribed 6d. a week throughout the year. At Christmas, with the help of a generous subscription from Lord Jersey, a large quantity of coal was ordered from the colliery and delivered to Heyford station, whence it was carted by the earl's teams and those of his tenant farmers to the homes of the cottagers. The average allocation was about 25 cwt. in the time of the 7th earl (1859–1915). (fn. 165) The club has since been discontinued.
By her will proved in 1867 Sophia, Countess of Jersey, left money to found a charity for the benefit of the occupants of four cottages built by Lord Jersey and known as almshouses. In 1925 the capital, consisting of £1,736 in stock, was producing an annual income of £52. The 'almshouses' were maintained by successive Lords Jersey, but were never handed over to the trustees of the charity. (fn. 166) They were sold with the rest of the Jersey estate in 1946 and were subsequently let as ordinary cottages. In 1955, when the endowment amounted to £2,045 16s. and the annual gross income to £61 7s. 6d., it was proposed to amalgamate the Almshouses Charity with the Countess of Jersey's Foundation. Pensions already authorized by the trustees were to continue. (fn. 167)
The scheme finally established in May 1955 provided that the trustees should apply £30 a year for the benefit of the aged poor in Middleton or its neighbourhood. They were to use the residue of the net income for the benefit of boys and girls of Bicester or the Rural District of Ploughley. First and second preference was to be given respectively to residents of Middleton and to girls. The money was to be applied in a variety of ways: for awards of scholarships, &c., tenable at an approved place of learning; for grants for foreign travel or for studying music or other arts; and for the promotion of the social and physical training of the beneficiaries. (fn. 168)