A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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This small, irregularly shaped parish of 794 acres, which has the appearance of having been carved out of Islip, lies between Otmoor and the hills of Wood Eaton and Stowood. (fn. 1) It lies partly on the Islip inlier of the Cornbrash, but mostly on the Oxford Clay. (fn. 2) The only natural boundaries are those on the north and north-east which follow the River Ray and a tributary brook, which sweeps round the edge of Otmoor. Here the land is below the 200-foot contour and is subject to flooding, but in the direction of Beckley and Wood Eaton it rises sharply to over 300 feet. Noke Wood (52 a.), in the extreme south-east, alone survives of formerly extensive woodland. In the Middle Ages and later Islip woods, Prattle Wood, and Lower Woods bounded the parish on the west and south. (fn. 3)
In the late 17th century Plot found traces of what he took to be a Roman road running south from Noke to Drunshill, but this cannot now be located with certainty. (fn. 4) Today the parish's chief road is a branch of the Islip—Wheatley road. It runs steeply downhill to Noke village and then on to the edge of Otmoor. The Otmoor inclosure award of 1815 provided for roads from this point, Noke Lane end, which ran northwards to Oddington and eastwards to Moor Leys Bridge on the Roman road across the moor. (fn. 5) These new roads, however, seem to have followed the line of an old track, called the Greenway at least as early as the 13th century. (fn. 6) A small close beside the road on the Beckley boundary was called Greenway Piece in the mid-19th century. (fn. 7) In 1492 'Osyat Brugge' in Noke was said to be broken 'in uno se archs' [sic]. (fn. 8) This structure may have carried the Greenway over the Ray towards Oddington. A footpath which provides a short cut to Islip from the western end of Noke village may represent the 'corpse way' which, it was alleged in 1630, had been blocked up when woodland was cleared and turned into Islip cow pasture. (fn. 9) In the early 19th century the footpath to Beckley skirted the western side of Noke Wood, (fn. 10) a narrow strip of which was called Purley Lane in 1843. (fn. 11)
Noke village lines both sides of the parish's chief road, its houses and half-dozen farms being spread out over about half a mile. (fn. 12) There were at least eighteen houses in 1665 including the manor-house and four substantial farm-houses. (fn. 13)
In 1955 there was one inn, the 'Plough', but in the 1840's there was another called the 'Marlborough Arms'. (fn. 14) Neither appears to have been in existence as an inn in the 18th century. (fn. 15) In the centre of the village lies the Old Rectory, and close by are St. Giles's church in its walled churchyard and the old thatched school, now used as a parish room. At the eastern end of the village there is a narrow strip of rough ground which with the field on the south side is called the Green, most of which, however, lies in Islip parish. (fn. 16) East of Noke Lane end is a rectangular and moated enclosure. This may have been the site of the manor-house of the Foliots or their successors in the Middle Ages. (fn. 17) In the early 19th century a water-house or pump-house stood beside Pulley's Lane. (fn. 18) This seems to have used a spring in Pulley's Close. Wells were formerly numerous in the village and did not need to be of any great depth. Frequently the parish has suffered from too much water: the local historian Dunkin noted in 1823 that its lanes were nearly impassable in winter. (fn. 19) The draining of Otmoor improved the healthiness of Noke's situation, previously said to be 'poisoned by the vapours that arise' from the moor. (fn. 20)
Manor Farm is L-shaped in plan, and has two stories, with cellar and attic, built of coursed rubble. The north wing was probably originally built in the late 16th or early 17th century, but has been much altered. It is probably a part of the 17th-century manor-house for which 24 hearths were returned in 1665. (fn. 21) The west wing may be 18th-century, but has been modernized. The tradition that the Duchess of Marlborough pulled down most of the manor-house and converted the remainder into a farm-house at the beginning of the 18th century is of doubtful validity, as the house was the property of the trustees of the Blewbury Charity. (fn. 22) A two-storied gabled projection on the east side probably once housed the staircase, which appears to have been moved southwards. Two original fireplaces and some panelling, probably early 17th century, survive. A short distance to the north-west stands a rectangular two-storied building in coursed rubble with ashlar quoins, roofed with stone slates. It has windows with stone mullions but no fireplaces, chimneys, or proper staircase. It probably dates from around 1600, and is traditionally supposed to have been the stables of the manorhouse of the Bradshaws, Winchcombes, and Halls. (fn. 23)
The Old Rectory, now divided into three flats, consists of a 17th-century central block between a 19th-century extension on the east, built in 1883, and an 18th-century extension on the west. The central block is of two stories of coursed rubble, roofed with stone slates. On the south side there are two gabled projections and one old two-light casement window. The house was extensively repaired in 1899, and was sold in 1926 for £2,000. (fn. 24) The Plough Inn, which may date from the 17th century, is a twostoried building of local stone, with a stone-slate roof and brick chimney-stacks.
In the 16th century Noke is said to have been used as a refuge for members of Oxford University in time of plague. (fn. 25) There was fighting in the neighbourhood in 1643 and early in 1645 Captain Abercromby surprised royalist forces quartered at Noke, and claimed to have carried off 50 horses and other plunder. (fn. 26) According to the royalists, however, Abercromby's attack on 'Master Irons' house' was beaten off with heavy loss. (fn. 27) In the late 18th and early 19th centuries Noke villagers contributed to the disturbances over the inclosure of Otmoor. (fn. 28)
After the Conquest an estate of 2½ hides in NOKE was given to William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford. (fn. 29) After the rebellion and imprisonment of William's son Roger in 1075 it is probable that his lands in Noke passed like those of Fritwell to Roger de Chesney, and that Roger's granddaughter Maud brought the overlordship of the manor to the Fitzgerold family by her marriage about 1160 to Henry Fitzgerold, chamberlain to Henry II. From Maud's son Warin Fitzgerold (d. 1216) it passed to Margaret, wife of Baldwin de Reviers, and so to the earls of Devon and the Isle. (fn. 30) Margaret's son Baldwin was overlord of Noke in 1235, (fn. 31) and the overlordship followed the descent of the earldom until the death of Isabel, Countess of Aumale, Devon, and the Isle, in 1293. (fn. 32) Like the overlordship of Fritwell it then passed to the De Lisles of Rougemont, who remained overlords (fn. 33) until 1368, when Robert de Lisle surrendered Noke with many other fees to Edward III. (fn. 34) Thereafter the tenants of Noke probably held in chief, although in the reign of Richard II the manor may have been regarded as part of the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 35)
The tenant in 1086 of the estate which had belonged to the FitzOsberns was Rainald, (fn. 36) the ancestor of the Foliot family who in the 12th century probably held Noke—as they held part of Fritwell— under their kinsmen the Chesneys. (fn. 37) Sampson Foliot, who succeeded Henry Foliot about 1233, held ½ knight's fee in Noke of successive earls of Devon and of the Countess Isabel. (fn. 38) His lands in Noke were seized by the Earl of Gloucester in 1265 after the battle of Evesham, (fn. 39) but were probably soon restored. Sampson's sons died during his lifetime and he had been succeeded by 1285 by Henry Tyes. (fn. 40) Henry died in possession of the manor in 1307, (fn. 41) and was succeeded by his son Henry, who was hanged in 1322 for his part in Thomas of Lancaster's rebellion. (fn. 42)
In 1326 Noke was committed to the keeping of Nicholas de la Beche, (fn. 43) but at the beginning of Edward III's reign Henry's sister and heiress Alice, widow of Warin de Lisle of Kingston Lisle, obtained posession. (fn. 44) Alice held the manor until her death in 1347. (fn. 45) She left it to her younger son Warin, who died childless in 1361, (fn. 46) and was succeeded by his nephew Warin, son of his elder brother Gerard. (fn. 47) The younger Warin was the tenant of Robert de Lisle of Rougemont in Noke when the latter surrendered his fees to the Crown. (fn. 48) In 1373, when Warin agreed that his son Gerard should marry Anne, daughter of Michael de la Pole, arrangements were made to settle Noke upon Gerard and his heirs. (fn. 49) But Gerard died in 1381, a year before his father, (fn. 50) who was succeeded by his daughter Margaret, wife of Thomas, Lord Berkeley. (fn. 51) Noke manor was delivered to Margaret and Thomas in 1382, (fn. 52) but Warin de Lisle's widow Joan may have held part of it in dower until her death ten years later as she held a third share of the advowson. (fn. 53) Margaret died in 1392, and after Thomas's death in 1417 (fn. 54) Noke passed to their daughter Elizabeth, wife of Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. Elizabeth died in 1422 leaving three daughters, Margaret, Eleanor, and Elizabeth, who succeeded to her possessions after the death of the earl in 1439. (fn. 55) Noke was in the king's hands in 1440, (fn. 56) but by a partition of the Lisle lands between the coheiresses the manor fell to the share of the youngest sister Elizabeth, wife of George Nevill, Lord Latimer. Elizabeth's husband died in 1469, a few months after his son Henry, who had been killed on the Lancastrian side at Banbury, and who left a son Richard who was only a year old. Elizabeth continued to hold Noke until her death in 1480, when her heir was her grandson Richard. (fn. 57) There is no evidence, however, that Richard or the subsequent Lords Latimer (fn. 58) held the manor, and its history is unknown until it reappears in the 16th century as part of the estate of Henry Bradshaw (see below).
Westminster Abbey's manor, the second of the two principal Noke estates, is not mentioned in the Domesday survey, but since its connexion with Islip was so close throughout the Middle Ages it is possible that it was included with Islip among the lands held temporarily in commendatione by Adeline d'Ivry. Edward the Confessor's gift of these lands to Westminster Abbey was not confirmed until 1204. (fn. 59) Like the Lisle manor the abbey's estate in NOKE was ½ knight's fee, (fn. 60) though in area it was a little smaller. (fn. 61) In practice it was administered like the abbey's lands in Fencott and Murcott as a member of the liberty of Islip, (fn. 62) and it was not separately listed in the accounts of the abbey's possessions made after the Dissolution. (fn. 63) When the abbey was refounded in 1556 Noke manor was restored, and four years later passed to Queen Elizabeth's foundation of the collegiate church of St. Peter. (fn. 64) Dunkin recorded that as late as about 1800 the Dean and Chapter of Westminster still claimed the overlordship of Noke, and that within living memory the villagers had been summoned to Islip church to hear certain documents read. (fn. 65)
From the 13th to the 15th century the tenants of Westminster's ½-fee at Noke were members of the Willescote or Williamscote family, who took their name from Williamscot near Cropredy. The first of the family to be definitely associated with Noke was Richard de Williamscote, who was the tenant in 1279. (fn. 66) Richard's grandfather of the same name had obtained Over Kiddington manor about 1220, (fn. 67) and the family's ½-fee in Noke followed a similar descent until the end of the 15th century. Richard the younger was Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1290 and died soon afterwards, (fn. 68) being succeeded by Henry, probably his son, who held Kiddington in 1308. (fn. 69) Henry was dead by 1316, and his successor Richard, Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1354, (fn. 70) lived until about 1360, (fn. 71) when he was followed by Thomas de Williamscote (d. 1373) and by Thomas, son of Thomas, who was a minor. (fn. 72) The latter was holding Kiddington and presumably Noke in 1398, and was still alive in 1424, (fn. 73) but by 1428 Elizabeth de Williamscote was holding both Williamscot and Kiddington in dower. (fn. 74) According to an inquiry made in 1497 the last of the male line to hold Kiddington and Noke was Ralph de Williamscote, possibly son of Thomas and Elizabeth. Ralph was said to have left a daughter Elizabeth, who brought the manor to her husband Robert Babington, (fn. 75) the fourth son of Sir William Babington of Chilwell (Northants). (fn. 76) Robert was certainly in possession by 1454. At his death in 1464 he left Noke with Over Kiddington and Asterleigh to his son William, (fn. 77) who two years later settled Noke on himself and his wife Ellen, daughter of Sir Richard Illingworth, chief baron of the Exchequer. (fn. 78) William was succeeded by three sons in turn, Richard, Edward who died in 1497, and William. (fn. 79) William died about 1535, but although his successors continued to hold Kiddington until the early years of the 17th century, (fn. 80) there is nothing to show that they retained any holding in Noke, and it is possible that they lost their lands there at the Dissolution.
The steps by which all estates in Noke eventually passed into the possession of Henry Bradshaw are not clear. The Oseney lands (see below) were granted to him by the king in 1544, (fn. 81) and he and his successors paid to the Crown an annual farm of 1s. 5d. (fn. 82) While a royal grant of the manor was made to Henry within the same year, he had in fact purchased the Westminster Abbey lands from a certain Michael Ashefield in 1539. (fn. 83) Henry Bradshaw, possibly the eldest son of William Bradshaw of Wendover (Bucks.), was successively Solicitor-General (1540), AttorneyGeneral (1545), and chief baron of the Exchequer (1552). He witnessed the will of Edward VI in favour of Lady Jane Grey, but avoided the possible consequences by dying soon after the succession of Queen Mary in 1553. (fn. 84) Henry's only surviving son Benedict, a minor, died shortly afterwards, and the family property was eventually divided between Benedict's sisters Christian and Bridget. (fn. 85) Christian married Thomas Winchcombe of Chalgrove, a descendant of the famous clothier 'Jack of Newbury', (fn. 86) and Bridget married first Henry White and second Thomas Fermor of Somerton (d. 1580). (fn. 87) Henry Bradshaw's widow Joan held Noke manor until her death in 1599, (fn. 88) when it passed to her grandson Benedict, son of Christian and Thomas Winchcombe, who in 1576 had agreed with Bridget and Thomas Fermor for the partition of the Bradshaw property. (fn. 89) Benedict Winchcombe died in 1623, having settled Noke upon his nephew Benedict, son of his sister Mary and William Hall of High Meadow (Glos.). (fn. 90)
The Halls were staunch Royalists as well as Roman Catholics. (fn. 91) Benedict garrisoned High Meadow for King Charles and took part in the siege of Gloucester in 1643. (fn. 92) In 1653 Noke was held by lease from the commissioners for sequestrations by John Harper, a member of a family of substantial yeomen of Noke, (fn. 93) but Benedict Hall recovered his lands at or before the Restoration. (fn. 94) On his death in 1668 his property descended to his son, Henry Benedict Hall, who died in 1687, and to his grandson Benedict Hall. The latter sold much of his property to pay his debts and to provide a marriage portion for his only daughter and heiress Benedicta. (fn. 95) In 1707 part of the Halls' estates in Noke—about 570 acres—was purchased for £9,776 by the trustees of William Malthus. In accordance with the will he had made seven years before, the rents of these lands were henceforth applied to the maintenance of Reading Blue Coat School and a new school at Blewbury (Berks.). (fn. 96) The trustees of the Blewbury Charity remained one of the principal landowners in Noke throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. (fn. 97) The remainder of Benedict Hall's estates was sold about the same time to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, (fn. 98) whose descendants were lords of the manor (fn. 99) until 1886, when the Marlborough estates in Noke were sold to Henry Williams of Oxford by George Charles, the 8th duke. Manorial rights were not subsequently claimed. (fn. 100)
In 1086 ½ hide of waste land in Noke was held by Robert d'Oilly and Roger d'Ivry, (fn. 101) but its subsequent descent is unknown. In 1388 Richard II was found to hold a messuage and 80 acres of land in Noke. (fn. 102) This may have been a carucate of land once held by John Marshal, Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1328–30, which had been seized by Edward III in satisfaction of John's debts. In 1368–9 this land had been held by John de Bekke at a farm of 20s. a year, and in 1412 it was granted for a term of 20 years to William Tristur and William Craule at an increased farm of £1 6s. 8d. (fn. 103) It is uncertain when Oseney Abbey acquired an estate in Noke. In 1509 it was receiving 16s. a year from John Toller for lands and tenements there, and was paying 2s. a year to the king, of whose lands in Noke the estate was presumably part. John Toller seems to have been an assign of Thomas Andrew of Islip, to whom the abbey had let the estate for 80 years from 1506. (fn. 104) At the Dissolution it was held for the same rent by John Andrew. (fn. 105)
The place-name 'at the oak trees' suggests that Noke had its beginnings as a clearing in extensive woodlands. (fn. 106) It may have been a comparatively late Anglo-Saxon settlement, for there was little arable land in the eastern half of the parish—the only part surveyed—in 1086. Although there were 2 ploughs on Rainald's estate, one of them on the demesne of 5 virgates, there was land for only one. An increase in the value of Rainald's lands from 30s. to 40s. since the Conquest may indicate that clearance of the forest was continuing. There was a wood (4x3 furls.) besides pasture (3x2 furls.). On the estate were 3 villeins (villani), 6 bordars, and 2 serfs. The ½ hide of waste in Noke held in 1086 by Robert d'Oilly and Roger d'Ivry may later have belonged to the Westminster Abbey manor. (fn. 107)
In 1279 Sampson Foliot, tenant of the De Lisle manor, held 4 virgates with meadow and pasture land in demesne. Under him 11 villeins—2 virgaters and 9 half-virgaters—held for rents of 5s. a year a virgate, and owed labour services and tallage at his will, and had to pay fines if their sons left the manor. Three free tenants held half-virgates, two for rents of 3s. 4d. and 6s. 8d. respectively, while the third did suit at the county and hundred court for Sampson Foliot, and a fourth held a virgate for 1d. a year. On Westminster's manor Richard de Williamscote held 3 virgates in demesne for 30s. a year. Four villein virgaters paid 1s. 6d. and 6 cottars, each with 6 acres, 3s. a year. Two free virgaters paid 6s. and 3s. a year respectively, and 2 others paid 1s. 6d.—one for a half-virgate and one for 4 acres. In the whole parish then there were about 23 virgates of arable, 8 freeholders, and 21 unfree tenants. (fn. 108)
In 1390 Thomas Berkeley held in demesne 4 virgates in the De Lisle manor and, like his predecessor Sampson Foliot, paid 2s. 6d. a year to the Abbot of Westminster for husbote and haybote in Islip Wood. On the abbot's manor Richard de Williamscote, with a demesne of 4 virgates, paid 30s. a year; while of tenants who owed rents and services direct to the abbot, one held a messuage and croft, owed boon works in the autumn, and paid 3s., a hen and 9 eggs a year, and 8 others owed 1d., a hen and 12 eggs each. The annual rents received by Richard de Williamscote amounted to about £6. 16s. (fn. 109) The estate which Oseney Abbey held before the Dissolution contained about 66 acres of meadow and 55 acres of the woodland which covered most of the south-east of the parish, but no arable. (fn. 110) The abbey lands were let on long leases in the early 16th century. (fn. 111) With the total of 29 tenants in 1279 may be compared the number of contributors to taxes in the early 14th century, 22 in 1306 and 1316, and 29 in 1327, (fn. 112) figures which are not likely to represent the total number of householders in any case; and at Noke Westminster Abbey's lands were exempt from taxation. The village may not have suffered heavily from the Black Death, for in 1377 there were 43 contributors to the poll tax on the De Lisle manor alone. (fn. 113)
The population of Noke probably varied little from the mid-15th to the mid-16th century. The customary tenants on the Westminster Abbey manor, who attended the view of frankpledge at Islip, were organized in two tithings throughout the period. The tithings were never full, and the sums of head-silver paid annually at Islip at the rate of 1d. a head averaged 1s. 2d. In 1435, when only 9d. was paid, 5 cottages and 8 messuages were in the lord's hands. (fn. 114)
The Islip court rolls give no hint of the number of open fields in Noke in the Middle Ages: a reference in 1485 to stadium vocatum Cammsffild (fn. 115) probably indicates the whole of the common field arable. There appears to have been only one common field, or group of fields, in which the lands of the two Noke manors lay intermingled. The 238 common field 'lands' out of a total of 517, which in the 18th century paid tithes to Islip, (fn. 116) probably represented the share of the Westminster Abbey manor, and the remainder, save 14 glebe 'lands', the share of the De Lisle manor. The Common Field or Town Field, as it was called, lay in the north-western part of the parish—on the good Cornbrash land (fn. 117) —and in the 16th century was bounded by Islip Wood and cow pasture, by the crofts lining the village street, and by the meadows bordering the River Ray and Otmoor. Its area would have been about 240 statute acres. In the mid-18th century it was divided into 28 furlongs and butts, of which the 7 furlongs in the north-east corner were called Log Field (fn. 118) —the name survives. If, besides the 7 furlongs, Log Field once included adjoining land, called after inclosure New Ground, its area would have been about 80 acres, a third of the whole Common Field, and it may originally have been one of a group of three open fields.
The lot-meadows of the parish lined its northern and north-eastern boundaries, and Back of Town, pasture ground south-east of the common field, was still divided into leys in the 18th century. Together with their neighbours of Islip, Beckley, and Wood Eaton the tenants of Noke had common for sheep and pigs in Westminster's Islip Wood. Sheep might graze in 'Hasylbede' and 'Old Sale' from Michaelmas to Lady Day, and elsewhere in the woods in the summer. Pigs might feed in the woods but no pigstyes were to be put up there, and the tenants of Noke had to help in making a hedge between the woods and Sart Field in Islip. (fn. 119)
In 1498 a Westminster Abbey tenant was alleged to have encroached upon the lord's soil in Noke and to have inclosed it from the field, (fn. 120) while a few years before two other tenants had allowed the destruction of two cottages and may have inclosed a small area of arable. (fn. 121) Inclosure on a large scale may have begun with Henry Bradshaw's acquisition of both manors and the Oseney lands in the 1540's, but the only evidence there is suggests that inclosure took place mainly in the 17th century. In 1634 the rector had only one 2-acre close, but by 1685 he had inclosed 7 acres, Pulley's Close, from the common field. (fn. 122) The demesne lands which descended to the Hall family covered 394 acres, more than half the parish, and it is significant that all this and all the old Oseney estate had been inclosed by the end of the 18th century. Two large pieces of the common field which had also been inclosed appear to have been demesne consolidated by an exchange of strips. (fn. 123) By 1767 New Ground had been inclosed at the south-east corner of the Common Field, and the 7 furlongs called Log Field had all been acquired and inclosed by the Blewbury Charity trustees by 1829. (fn. 124) The estate which the Charity Trustees had bought from the Halls in 1707 formed one large farm bringing in a gross annual rent of £420 until about 1791, when a second farm was created. Between 1787 and 1791 the trustees spent £600 on a new house and farm buildings, and between 1787 and 1812 they sold nearly £1,500 worth of timber, mostly ash and elm but some oak, off their Noke estate. (fn. 125) It is therefore likely that the fields immediately north of the present Noke Wood—Upper, Lower, and Great Wood Ground, Paddock Ground, and Great and Little Ash Grove—were inclosed from former woodland between 1787 and 1797, when Richard Davis showed them and 'New Farm', to which they belonged, on his map of Oxfordshire. (fn. 126) Inclosure advanced more slowly on the Duke of Marlborough's estates in the western part of the parish, but a couple of small closes had appeared by 1767 (fn. 127) and all the meadows north of the common field had been inclosed by the beginning of the 19th century.
Under the Otmoor inclosure award of 1815 the Blewbury Charity Trustees and the Duke of Marlborough—the only proprietors in Noke—received 54 and 18 acres respectively, and the trustees purchased another 53 acres of the lands sold to defray the expenses of inclosure. (fn. 128) Before the inclosure award of 1829 there remained about 130 acres of common field arable in Noke. Under the award the Duke of Marlborough received 115 acres and the Charity Trustees 12 acres, (fn. 129) the latter having previously exchanged many of their strips with the duke for a compact block of meadow-land. (fn. 130) Under neither award did the cottagers of Noke receive any compensation for loss of rights of common. But as in Charlton (fn. 131) the movement in 1829–30 to reclaim Otmoor as common was not confined to the poorest class. The chief organizer of the systematic destruction of fences on Otmoor in September 1830 was John Ward of Noke, tenant of the Charity Trustees' new farm of 280 acres. (fn. 132)
In the Middle Ages the lords of Noke seem seldom to have resided in the village and it was only in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the time of Joan Bradshaw and Benedict Winchcombe, that the parish benefited from the presence of a wealthy family. A few yeoman families, the Johnsons and Harpers in the 16th and early 17th centuries, the Tippings, Lipscombes, and Steeles in the late 17th and 18th centuries, (fn. 133) enjoyed comparative prosperity, but throughout the 18th century the rectors reported that there were no families of note in the parish. (fn. 134) The poor became a serious burden in the late 18th century, when the population was probably increasing. In 1676 there had been 43 adults, (fn. 135) and incumbents reported in 1738 and 1759 that there were about 20 houses, but by 1811 there were 31. (fn. 136) The poor rate rose from 2d. in the pound in 1752 to 3d. in 1780, 6d. in 1800, and 1s. 3d. in 1806. Three levies in 1730 had raised only £10 8s. 1½d., but receipts rose to £46 in 1780, £116 in 1800, and £216 in 1815. (fn. 137) The poverty of the village naturally made the villagers strongly opposed to the proposed inclosure of Otmoor, with the consequent loss of their common rights. (fn. 138) Their rector, Alexander Litchfield, on the other hand, was on the side of the 'progressive' farmers. (fn. 139)
In the 19th century population increased from 150 in 1801 to 187 in 1831. Thereafter it dropped to 116 by 1861 and to 88 by 1901. (fn. 140)
Even before the inclosures of 1815 and 1829 most of the inhabitants must have been labourers on the half-dozen farms of the parish. In 1823, 28 out of 31 families were engaged in agriculture and only two in trade. (fn. 141) In 1850 there were only three tradesmen, the innkeeper, a blacksmith, and a carpenter. (fn. 142) There were then six farms, two of 280 acres each on the Charity estate, and four of 120, 86, 81, and 33 on the Marlborough estate. (fn. 143) The village had a carrier and a shoemaker by 1854 and a shopkeeper by 1864. A brick-kiln was built shortly before 1870. (fn. 144) Since 1880 farms have changed hands frequently, and have seldom remained in the same family for two generations. There were at least six farms in 1920, and four in 1939, the latter all of more than 150 acres. (fn. 145) As in much of central Oxfordshire arable farming has been largely abandoned in favour of dairying. Whereas in 1849 there were about 320 acres of arable to 370 acres of meadow and pasture, (fn. 146) in 1939 there were only about 90 acres of arable—Great Warren and Noke Field (part of the old common field)—and most of the parish was permanent grassland. (fn. 147) By 1955 agriculture was no longer the predominant occupation, and many of the villagers—who numbered 95 at the Census of 1951—worked in Oxford. One craft at least, thatching, was still practised by the Shirley family. (fn. 148)
There was a church at Noke at least by 1191, when a priest was first recorded. (fn. 149)
In the Middle Ages the advowson normally descended with the Foliot-Lisle manor. Some exceptions may be noted. In 1346 Warin de Lisle, who was to inherit the manor from his mother, recovered in the king's court his right to present against his elder brother Gerard of Kingston Lisle. (fn. 150) In 1371 Richard Mercer of Oxford, attorney of Robert de Grendon, possibly a distant relative of the De Lisles, (fn. 151) was patron. After the death of the Earl of Warwick in 1439, while the manor went to his daughter Elizabeth, the advowson went to another daughter Margaret, wife of John Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury. The king presented in 1440, and the bishop collated through lapse in 1451, but Margaret presented in 1455 and 1461. After her death in 1467 (fn. 152) the descent is not clear. The next known presentation was a collation by the bishop in 1511, and in 1520 Ralph Massy was patron.
After the manors were united by Henry Bradshaw, the advowson remained in the hands of the lords of the manor, except that in 1698 Benedict Hall, who was in financial difficulties, evidently sold it for one turn to Martha May of Kidlington. (fn. 153) From the early 18th century the dukes of Marlborough were patrons until 1884, when the advowson was sold for £430 to J. C. Holder of Birmingham. (fn. 154) In 1915 it was sold by J. H. Redcliffe to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, (fn. 155) also patrons of Islip, with which Noke is usually held.
In the Middle Ages Noke was in Bicester Deanery, (fn. 156) but its position on the boundary between Cuddesdon and Bicester deaneries later led to confusion. In 1526 there was a question of its being in Cuddesdon, (fn. 157) but in 1535 it was considered in the Deanery of Oxford. (fn. 158) By the 17th century it was in Cuddesdon Deanery, (fn. 159) and when the Deanery of Islip was formed in about 1852, Noke was placed in it. (fn. 160)
It is possible that Noke was originally a chapel of Islip, for the parishes were closely connected. Westminster Abbey's land in Noke certainly formed part of Islip parish: it paid tithes to the Rector of Islip. (fn. 161) On the other hand 63 acres in Islip, mostly consisting of Noke Cow Pasture, paid tithes to the Rector of Noke. (fn. 162) Those who paid tithes to Islip, seven or eight households in the 18th century, (fn. 163) were no doubt buried at Islip. In 1630 there was a case in the church court about Church Way from Noke to Islip, running through Lyehill Copse, along which Noke parishioners had carried their dead for burial in Islip. Witnesses stated that it had been used up to about 50 years before, but had become a cow pasture and was impassable, and in 1768 it was stated that the minister of Islip never does 'duty of minister' to any inhabitant of Noke. (fn. 164) As late as about 1800 Noke villagers in the liberty of Islip were called on to hear the reading of documents in Islip church, (fn. 165) which probably concerned the payment of tithes.
An early 13th-century parson of Noke, Walter Foliot, was styled rector and was affluent enough to be able to appeal to the Pope. (fn. 166) On the other hand, John, who was instituted rector in 1247–8, was bound to reside in person like a vicar. (fn. 167) It seems therefore that Noke was by this time an independent parish, although its church was called a chapel until the late 13th century. (fn. 168) It was valued at 13s. 4d. in 1254 (fn. 169) and was, with Stonesfield, the poorest in the county. The assessor, indeed, commented non valet servicium. The church was not taxed in 1291, being worth less than 5 marks, but in the 14th century it was taxed at £3. (fn. 170) By 1535 its value had greatly increased to £7 19s. 7d. (fn. 171)
In the 16th century the living of Noke was sometimes held with that of Oddington: Master Edmund Horde, who became a canon of Oseney in 1520, was Rector of Oddington, as was his successor, Master John Leicester, who had a curate at Noke, to whom he paid £2 13s. 4d., (fn. 172) not enough for a full-time minister. At the episcopal visitations of about 1520 and 1530, apart from the usual complaints about dilapidated buildings, there were none of importance. The chancel, barn (horreum), and cemetery walls were in need of repair; (fn. 173) although the inhabitants were supposed to contribute to the upkeep of the church, it was said that some failed to do so. (fn. 174)
In the post-Reformation period Noke became a very poor living. The fact that the rector's house was taxed on only two hearths in 1665 is significant, and in 1707, the date of the earliest recorded valuation of the church, the value of the living was £42. (fn. 175) By 1808 the value had risen to £96, (fn. 176) but it failed thereafter to keep pace with rising costs.
In 1849 the remaining tithes were commuted. The land which had belonged to Oseney Abbey (122 a.) had always been exempt from tithe; the tithes on the 393 acres belonging to the Blewbury Charity had already long been commuted for a modus of £13; those on the 120 acres belonging to Islip were now commuted for £26, and those on the rest of the parish (138 a.), belonging to the Rector of Noke, were commuted for £57 14s. (fn. 177) The rector had already been awarded £16 a year for the tithes on 63 acres (fn. 178) in Islip, when the tithes of that parish were commuted in 1843.
The glebe was small. After inclosure in 1829 it consisted of about 14 acres, (fn. 179) half of which had been added as a result of the inclosure of Otmoor in 1815. (fn. 180) The 17th-century glebe had consisted of twelve 'lands' in the open fields. (fn. 181)
So poor a parish naturally did not attract able rectors, and its spiritual history is not inspiring. After the death in 1571 of John Daniel, who had also been Rector of Oddington, there was serious neglect. It was complained that the non-residence of his successor, Thomas Langley, was 'to the harm of the souls of his parishioners', and in 1574 the revenue of the parish was sequestrated and put into the hands of two parishioners. (fn. 182) Robert Warland, who became rector that year, was not a graduate and was only considered 'tollerable', (fn. 183) yet he remained for 62 years. (fn. 184) All that is known of his ministry is that he began the parish register, and that in 1584 he was several times summoned because his chancel was ruinous. (fn. 185) He left at his death in 1636 an estate of over £171, (fn. 186) but he was a married man with children and his neglect of the church fabric may have been due to his family obligations. Two of his successors, Hugh Holden (1636–67) and Richard Vesey (1698– 1732), both Fellows of Magdalen, were noted for their strong political views rather than for their work as country parsons. Holden as a royalist was expelled from his Noke living in 1648 and restored in 1660. (fn. 187) Vesey, also Rector of Brightwell Baldwin, was a leading opponent in 1688 of the President of Magdalen chosen by James II. (fn. 188) Hearne, who was certainly prejudiced, said that he was a 'long and dull' preacher. (fn. 189) Vesey probably had a curate to serve Noke like his successor Charles Hall (1732–9), who had a curate from Oxford. (fn. 190) Gilbert Stephens (1739–73) took a more active interest in the parish. In 1745 (fn. 191) he came to live in the Rectory House, described in 1635 as one of four bays, (fn. 192) but it was presumably too small for an 18th-century family and Stephens repaired and enlarged it. (fn. 193) In 1752 he protested to the bishop against the appointment of a new vicar to Beckley, which he had been serving, stating that even with the additional money he had barely enough to live on; (fn. 194) he was consequently allowed to go on serving Beckley and in 1764 (fn. 195) became its vicar. It was perhaps partly for financial reasons that he complained in 1768 (fn. 196) that those who paid tithes to Islip never went to church. He was also a strong anti-Romanist. In 1767 he wrote that 'if the beneficed clergy would reside in their parish, throw away their cards and forbear to act in the commission of peace', they might then be able to inspire among their parishioners 'a rational and well-grounded abhorrence of Popery'. (fn. 197) He was followed by Alexander Litchfield (1773–1804), (fn. 198) a philosopher, who divided his time between Noke and Wadham. (fn. 199)
The history of the 19th century was uneventful, except that in 1837 a Mr. Latimer, probably the curate, was accused of being a habitual drunkard. (fn. 200) In 1854 John Carlyle (1840–63), the first rector for many years to hold no second benefice, held two services on Sunday, with a sermon in the afternoon, and gave three communions a year. He reported that the number taking this was 'lamentably small', not more than seven or eight; that because of the decrease in population the congregation was also small, but that someone attended from almost every family. (fn. 201) Although his Rectory was reported on his death in 1863 to be 'in so bad a state of repair, and so ill arranged' as to be unusable, (fn. 202) he had at his own expense built and endowed a village school. (fn. 203)
The church of ST. GILES is a small stone building which has been much restored but dates originally from the first half of the 13th century. (fn. 204) It comprises a nave with a small bell-cote above the western gable, chancel, and south porch. Both the chancel with its double lancet window in the south wall and the chancel arch, which is of poor proportions, are probably 13th-century. On either side of the arch are two 14th- or 15th-century niches. The nave roof is well constructed and the timber beams are old. On the north side of the nave there was a mortuary chapel, built by Joan Bradshaw (d. 1598/9) for herself and members of the Winchcombe family. Her grandson Benedict Winchcombe repaired it and left money to repair the church, (fn. 205) the chancel of which had been ruinous in 1584. (fn. 206) In 1745 the Winchcombe chapel, whose upkeep had become the responsibility of the Hall family, was so dilapidated that it was endangering the chancel: (fn. 207) it was pulled down and its door in the north wall stopped up. (fn. 208) Further repairs to the church were ordered in 1758, (fn. 209) and it is thought that the square-headed east window of the chancel was inserted in the early 19th century. (fn. 210) By the middle of the century there was a western gallery, since removed, and the church was described as being 'neatly paved with extraordinary good stone'. (fn. 211) By 1870 the rector considered that it should be rebuilt, especially as it was 'deficient in design and workmanship'. (fn. 212) However, restoration was delayed until the end of the century and was then limited to removing the plaster, repointing the walls, and replacing the square wooden belfry with its tiled roof by a stone belfry (architect W. Wilkinson of Oxford). (fn. 213)
The cylindrical font is 13th-century and rests on a circular base; (fn. 214) the lead basin is marked 'Noke 1773'. There is a Jacobean pulpit and the remains of an iron hour-glass stand.
On the north wall of the chancel is a brass, decorated with coats of arms, depicting Joan Bradshaw (d. 1598/9) and her two husbands and eight children. There are also inscriptions to Benedict Winchcombe (d. 1623) and an early 17th-century mutilated stone figure of a man. There are inscriptions from a 'fair raised monument of black marble', which bore the figure of a man lying on a cushion, and was erected in the Winchcombe chapel by Benedict Winchcombe's nephew and heir, Benedict Hall. (fn. 215) The memorials to John Gilder, rector (d. 1697/8), and to Alexander Litchfield, rector (d. 1804), have been destroyed, but one to John Carlyle, rector (d. 1863), remains.
In 1552 the church owned a silver chalice, two copes, and two vestments. There was also a lamp supported by lands worth 2d. a year. (fn. 216) In 1596 John Harper of Noke was presented at the bishop's court for having lost the parish's pewter chalice, valued at 6d. or 7d. (fn. 217) In 1955 the church had a chalice (1577) and paten cover (1576), both in their original case. (fn. 218) As at the Reformation, there were two bells, but they were of 17th-century date. In the 19th century there had been a sanctus bell. (fn. 219)
In the 19th century repairs to part of the churchyard wall were the responsibility of the Blewbury Charity. (fn. 220)
In the 17th and 18th centuries there were a few Roman Catholics in the parish: in 1625 two women, a Hatton and a Day, were fined. (fn. 221) Although Benedict Winchcombe (d. 1623), the lord of the manor, was a cousin of the Fermors, (fn. 222) he does not seem to have been a recusant, but his successor, Benedict Hall, apparently was, as in 1654 his estates were sequestrated. (fn. 223) Francis Hall and his wife were also popish recusants. In 1665 it was stated that they would not conform. (fn. 224) No Roman Catholics were recorded in 1676, but by 1706 there was a small community consisting of John Palmer, gentleman, probably the lessee of the manor-house, his family, and members of two yeoman families. (fn. 225) The rector reported in 1767 that a popish priest had visited a house in the parish to baptize and 'mutter dirges over the dead'. (fn. 226) Otherwise no papists are recorded in the later 18th century.
Protestant dissent appeared early, for in 1739 Robert Dorman's house was registered as a meetingplace for Baptists. (fn. 227) Records of dissent are scarce: at the beginning of the 19th century there were two Methodists, in 1811 an 'Anabaptist', (fn. 228) a few dissenters in the following decades; but in 1854 the rector reported that someone attended church from every house. (fn. 229)
There was no school in Noke in the 18th century (fn. 230) but children might sometimes be admitted to Dr. South's school at Islip. (fn. 231) In 1808 there was a dame school where six or seven pupils were taught reading and needlework, (fn. 232) but it had closed by 1815. (fn. 233) The village remained without a day school until 1863, but some children attended schools in Islip (fn. 234) and by 1833 there was a Sunday school with 18 pupils. (fn. 235)
Noke Parochial School was built in 1863, on land belonging to the Duke of Marlborough, by the Revd. John Carlyle who endowed it in the same year with £200. (fn. 236) The average attendance was 18 in 1871. (fn. 237) A certificated mistress was appointed in 1880 and was provided with a cottage. (fn. 238) From 1904, when the County Council assumed responsibility for the school, the Carlyle legacy was applied to the upkeep of the building, and, from 1913 onwards, to paying half the rent of the teacher's cottage. (fn. 239) The average attendance was 29 in 1889, 25 in 1906, (fn. 240) and 15 in 1937. The school was reorganized for junior pupils only in 1931, when the seniors were transferred to Gosford Hill and Marston. In 1946 the school was closed and the pupils have since gone to Islip. (fn. 241)
By deed dated 1560 Joan, widow of Henry Bradshaw, (fn. 242) gave to trustees a rent charge of £3 6s. 8d. on land called 'The Vaches' in Aston Clinton (Bucks.), of which £3 was to be distributed each year on All Saints' Day among ten of the poorest householders of Noke, the trustees receiving the remaining 6s. 8d. for their trouble. If there were not enough poor people in Noke then the number was to be made up from among the poor of Halton (Bucks.). (fn. 243) Joan Bradshaw originally also granted eleven cows to the trustees, to be hired to eleven other poor householders of Noke at 2s. a year each, the money to be distributed to the poor on Good Friday. This gift was amended to giving the trustees £22 which might be lent to eleven householders at 5 per cent. interest. (fn. 244) In 1810 it was resolved that the money should be called in and reissued, but in the following year it was declared that the £22 had been lost for more than 50 years, as the trustees had not taken care to secure repayment. (fn. 245) Despite difficulties in securing payment of the £3 6s. 8d. rent charge, (fn. 246) the £3 seems to have been regularly distributed. (fn. 247) Before 1813 the 6s. 8d. was allowed to accumulate to form a fund for the purchase of cloth for the poor and for church repairs. In 1954, (fn. 248) as in 1824, it was being used to defray expenses connected with the charity. (fn. 249)