A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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The parish lies some eight miles north-east of Oxford and on the western edge of Otmoor. (fn. 1) It has retained its area of 1,363 acres unchanged. (fn. 2) Its curious shape with a northern projection running up almost to a point by Weston Wood is explained by charter evidence, (fn. 3) which shows that Thame Abbey's estate here was bounded by the wood. There can be little doubt that the parish boundary in the north was drawn to follow the boundary of an already existing estate. The River Ray forms a natural boundary on the south and provides an ample watersupply, for its tributaries mark the greater part of the eastern and western boundaries and a branch flows through the centre of the parish. (fn. 4) There are a number of springs noted for their mineral properties and their supposed capacity to cure cattle of a disease known as 'the Otmoor evil'. (fn. 5)
The land is uniformly flat, never rising much above 200 feet above sea-level. Its soil is chiefly loam with clay and brash sub-soil above beds of Oxford Clay. (fn. 6) There is no woodland now to relieve the monotony of the scenery and none was recorded in Domesday, but at the end of the 12th century a wood belonging to the lord of the manor was recorded, and at the end of the 18th century there were 23 acres of woodland. (fn. 7) A plantation is shown on Davis's map of 1797 near Oddington Grange. (fn. 8) Medieval furlong names reveal the former and indeed the present nature of the ground: Morefurlong, Burnesmere, Ruthmere, Chippefen, Russfurlong, and Waterfurlong. (fn. 9)
The Islip—Charlton road, with a branch to Oddington village, follows a course defined in the Oddington inclosure award of 1791. (fn. 10) The Islip—Merton road, which was in part made into a raised causeway by Sir Edward Turner (fn. 11) in the 18th century, crosses the parish. So does the former L.M.S. railway.
There are several disused quarries south of Oddington village which once provided a good quality limestone for house-building and roadmaking. (fn. 12)
The village lies on the parish's eastern boundary, on the edge of Otmoor and about half a mile north of the River Ray: (fn. 13) an inlier of Cornbrash rising out of the surrounding Oxford Clay accounts for its position. (fn. 14) The New River Ray, which now flows parallel to the main village street and ¼ mile to the east, is an outcome of the inclosure of Otmoor in 1815. (fn. 15) The name Oddington indicates early settlement. It means in Old English 'Ot(t)a's hill' and the site was probably first settled by the man who gave his name to Otmoor and to Otley (O.E. Ot(t)a's lē(a)h). (fn. 16) The discovery in about 1815 of a pagan Saxon cemetery in the Rectory garden is proof that there was a settlement here in the 6th century. (fn. 17)
The earliest information about the topography of the village, however, comes from the hearth tax returns of 1662 and 1665. (fn. 18) Out of the nine householders listed in 1665 only one had a moderatesized farm-house with three hearths, while two or one hearth were returned by the rest. In 1662 sixteen householders were listed. In 1738 the village was said to have ten farm-houses and fourteen labourers' cottages besides the Parsonage. (fn. 19)
A map of 1797 shows a circular green with some buildings on it and the church lying to the southwest. (fn. 20) Four roads radiate from the green and houses lie on three sides of it and along three of the roads: only the ground to the north was unbuilt on. In the early 19th century, when Dunkin described the village, the houses were built so as to form a square with the highway on the west side and the green at the south-west corner. At this end was the public house and the better houses. To the north were the remains of the manor-house, which had been occasionally occupied by the lord during the 18th century, but was pulled down at the end of the century. (fn. 21) The size of this house is not known, as it does not appear in the hearth tax list of 1665, presumably because it was then unoccupied. Nothing now remains above ground. (fn. 22) In 1821 a new Rectory was built at the northern end of the village, as the old one had been reported unfit to live in: it stands isolated in its own grounds. (fn. 23) The old one was alleged to have suffered serious dilapidation during the Civil War, and was taxed on only one hearth in 1665. (fn. 24) In a lawsuit of 1676 the parish clerk testified that the Rectory then consisted of a mansion house, a barn, stable, ox-house, and a kitchen 'divided from the dwelling house by a little court'. It was revealed that the seven-bay barn and kitchen had collapsed and had been only partly rebuilt. Eight craftsmen estimated that the cost of these and other repairs would amount to about £60. It is of interest that it was thought that the kitchen roof should be tiled and not thatched and that the cost of building two bays of the barn was estimated at £31 15s. (fn. 25) Another 19thcentury addition was the schoolhouse. (fn. 26) By 1955 all the old stone-built cottages with their thatched roofs were derelict, but three of the old farm-houses remained. Two, Manor Farm and Log Farm, both dating from about 1700, were still roofed with stone slates. Six council houses were built between 1946 and 1954. (fn. 27)
There are a number of outlying farm-houses in the parish: Brookfurlong, shown on a map of 1797 as Cold Harbour Farm, (fn. 28) New House Farm (formerly White House), Barndon Farm, and the Grange. The first three were probably all built in the late 18th century or in the 19th century after the inclosure of the open fields in 1791. The Grange, however, represents the medieval grange of Thame Abbey. (fn. 29) It lies just east of the moated site (fn. 30) of the first house of the Cistercian monks of Thame, close by the ancient road which skirts Weston wood and leads to Westonon-the-Green.
The village was in the middle of the battle area before the siege of Oxford in 1645; (fn. 31) in 1845 it was involved in a minor conflict with the surveyors for the Buckinghamshire Railway. They were attacked by a tenant farmer and several others, including the village constable, and the Riot Act had to be read. Proceedings were begun by Charles Sawyer, the lord of the manor, but the affair was settled out of court (fn. 32) and the railway was eventually made across the parish.
The village has had a number of notable residents: Randall Catterall, an antiquary of repute, lived there from about 1570; (fn. 33) Gilbert Sheldon (1598–1677), the future Archbishop of Canterbury, (fn. 34) and Thomas Browne (1604–73), a noted royalist divine, (fn. 35) were two of several outstanding rectors; William Cureton (1808–64), a Syriac scholar, was a curate of Oddington. (fn. 36) Princess Maggie Papakura, a Maori of Rotorua, New Zealand, lived in the village for some years and was buried there in 1930. (fn. 37)
In Edward the Confessor's time Oddington, assessed at 3 hides and half a virgate, was held freely by a certain Alwi, (fn. 38) but by a charter dated 1065 the Confessor granted this estate together with Islip to the Abbot of Westminster. The king died before the abbey had taken possession, (fn. 39) and William the Conqueror appears to have granted ODDINGTON manor to Hugh de Grantmesnil, Sheriff of Leicestershire, from whom it passed to his daughter Adeline, the wife of Roger d'Ivry. (fn. 40) In 1086 (fn. 41) she was holding it from the king, in commendatione as it was said, perhaps while the claims of Westminster Abbey were being investigated. (fn. 42) These were eventually recognized, for on Adeline's death about IIII the manor did not descend either to her heirs or to those of Roger d'Ivry. (fn. 43) The abbey remained overlord from the 12th century until the Dissolution: (fn. 44) it administered the manor as a part of its liberty of Islip, and Oddington's lord therefore owed suit of court twice yearly at Islip. After the Reformation the manor was granted to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, (fn. 45) and in the early 17th century was known as 'Westminsterside'. (fn. 46)
The exact date when the Poure family, who were to be lords of the manor until the early 17th century, first became tenants of Westminster is not clear. The earliest record of the family's connexion with Oddington dates from the latter half of the 12th century, when William Poure of Oddington agreed to an exchange of land near Otley Grange with the monks of Thame. (fn. 47) It is possible that he was the son of the distinguished civil servant Roger Pauper, Chancellor between 1135 and 1139, and son of the famous Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, by his mistress Maud of Ramsbury. (fn. 48) Roger was styled pauper because of the contrast between his own poverty and his father's wealth. (fn. 49) William Poure was succeeded by his son Gentischieve some time after 1180 and certainly before 1194. (fn. 50) At about this time Gentischieve is found confirming grants of land, and himself making grants, to Thame Abbey. (fn. 51) He is known to have been alive in 1237 (fn. 52) but by 1243 his grandson John, the son of Richard Poure, held the manor. (fn. 53) John was still alive in 1253 and possibly later, (fn. 54) but by 1279 his son William was lord. (fn. 55) The latter's widow Joan, the daughter of John Mulant, (fn. 56) was in possession in 1285, (fn. 57) and by 1307 her son Walter. (fn. 58) Walter had married Katherine, the sister of Sir Richard Damory of Bletchingdon, before 1312; (fn. 59) he was still alive in 1330, when he presented to Oddington church, (fn. 60) but must have died soon after. In 1337 his son Thomas was lord; (fn. 61) he died before 1346, when his eldest son John was in possession. (fn. 62) John died childless, (fn. 63) leaving Oddington to his brother Richard, who granted it in 1376 (fn. 64) to his younger brother Hugh, the lord of Bletchingdon. (fn. 65)
From this point until 1630 the descent of Oddington manor followed that of Bletchingdon. (fn. 66) In the early 17th century the two marriages (fn. 67) of Francis Poure (d. 1619) involved the family in a ruinous series of Chancery suits over the two properties. (fn. 68) In 1613 his prospective heir, Richard Poure, borrowed £3,000 from Edward Ewer, his brother-inlaw, (fn. 69) to redeem the manors, which had both been mortgaged to Sir John Lenthall. (fn. 70) In 1614 it was agreed that Lenthall should sell his interest in Oddington to a fourth party and that after three years it should pass to Ewer. (fn. 71) In 1621 the Court of Chancery ordered Ewer to reconvey Oddington to Richard Poure, who had by now repaid his debt, but in 1630 Poure sold it to Edward Ewer for £4,100. (fn. 72) In the following year it was settled with Bucknell and Bainton manors on Ewer's son Francis on his marriage to Jane Savage. (fn. 73) In 1638 on his father's death Francis Ewer inherited a heavily encumbered estate and his attempts to raise money plunged him into another interminable series of Chancery suits which completed his ruin. A moiety of Oddington had been mortgaged in 1633 to Samuel Trotman, and in 1666 the interest on the mortgage of £2,660 was said to amount to over £159 a year. In 1671 Francis Ewer wrote from the Counter prison in Wood Street, saying that Lady Katherine Pasley and her brother had saved him from starvation. Lady Katherine was the daughter of Sir John Lenthall and in 1669 had redeemed the moiety of Oddington for £900. (fn. 74)
In 1673 Francis Ewer conveyed the manor and the advowson of Oddington to Dr. Edmund Dickinson for £50 and his promise to pay the mortgage to Lady Pasley and other debts. Francis was to have a cottage worth £8 a year for his life. Later in the year Lady Katherine sold her moiety of the estate to Dr. Dickinson for £2,220. (fn. 75) The doctor was the son of William Dickinson, Rector of Appleton (Berks.), and physician-in-ordinary to the king from 1684 to 1688. He died in 1707, (fn. 76) leaving his estates to his daughter Elizabeth, who had married a foreigner, Charles, Baron Blomberg, for her life, and afterwards to her son Edmund Charles Blomberg. Elizabeth appears to have lived at her estate at Kirby Misperton (Yorks.), but her son lived at the manor-house at Oddington at least before 1732, when he became equerry to the king. Baroness Blomberg died in 1744 and her husband in 1745. (fn. 77) The Blomberg family probably held Oddington until 1771, when William Blomberg appears to have sold (fn. 78) the estate to Anthony Sawyer of Heywood (Berks.). Anthony died in 1784 at Heywood, where he and his successors resided. The lordship of Oddington manor descended from father to eldest son for three generations of the Sawyers of Heywood, to Anthony's son John (d. 1845), and then to Charles (d. 1876) and Lieut.General Charles Sawyer (d. 1892). General Sawyer, who lived at Little Milton, (fn. 79) was succeeded by his nephew Edmund Charles Sawyer (d. 1920). In 1924, on the death of Edmund Sawyer's son Charles Anthony, the manor passed to his brother John Sawyer, who was lord of the manor in 1939. (fn. 80) The present (1956) lord is R. S. Hall, Esq. (fn. 81)
Only one estate in Oddington is mentioned in Domesday Book, but a second known as OTLEY GRANGE or ODDINGTON GRANGE was formed later. In the 12th century a quarter of the vill was held by the Gay family of the Earl of Gloucester and was part of one of the ½-fees of the manor of Hampton Gay. (fn. 82) About 1137 Robert de Gay gave all his land in Oddington for the foundation of a new Cistercian abbey, but the chosen site, called Otley, was soon found to be unsuitable and the new house was established at Thame. (fn. 83) About 1138 Reginald de Gay, with the consent of his overlord the earl, confirmed his father's grant and by 1179 Otley, with the consent of Reginald's son Robert, had become the site of one of the abbey's granges. (fn. 84) Between 1243 and 1249 Oseney Abbey gave up all claims to scutage from the lands which Thame held in Oddington of Oseney's fee of Hampton Gay. (fn. 85)
Thame Abbey's estate was increased by various gifts (fn. 86) and extended into the two neighbouring parishes of Weston-on-the-Green and Charlton. (fn. 87) In 1291 it was worth £9 1s. 3d. a year in lands and rents. (fn. 88) Thame held the Grange until the Dissolution, when it was bringing in £13 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 89)
In 1543 (fn. 90) the Grange, together with many of the other manors previously held by Thame Abbey, was granted to Sir John Williams, later Lord Williams of Thame. (fn. 91) He died in 1559 leaving two daughters, Isabel and Margaret. (fn. 92) He left his Oddington estate to his wife Margaret for life, with reversion to his younger daughter Margaret. (fn. 93) The elder Margaret and her second husband Sir William Drury had alienated a part of the estate by 1561, (fn. 94) but by 1582 the remainder had apparently passed to Margaret and her husband Henry, Lord Norreys, who in that year sold property in Oddington, (fn. 95) perhaps the manor, (fn. 96) together with the manor of Sunningwell (Berks.) (fn. 97) to Margaret's sister Isabel and her second husband, Richard Huddlestone. The subsequent descent of the manor is uncertain until 1625, when Sir Thomas Chamberlayne of Wickham died in possession. (fn. 98) It may have descended to Isabel's grandson Richard Wenman, Viscount Wenman of Tuam: the latter and Sir Thomas Chamberlayne married sisters, Agnes and Elizabeth, daughters of Sir George Fermor of Easton Neston (Northants). (fn. 99) Alternatively, Chamberlayne may have acquired it from Henry Norreys' successor Francis, Earl of Berkshire. (fn. 100)
Sir Thomas's son and heir Thomas was created a baronet in 1643 and died in the same year. His son Sir Thomas died in 1682 and his lands were divided between his daughters Katherine and Penelope. (fn. 101) Oddington Grange fell to Penelope's share, and passed to the Dashwoods of Kirtlington on her marriage to Sir Robert Dashwood (d. 1734). It remained in the family for over a century, (fn. 102) but was eventually sold in 1804 by Sir Robert's great-grandson, Sir Henry Watkin Dashwood, to the Revd. William Frederick Browne, Rector of Launton. (fn. 103) The latter's daughter Anne married Moses William Staples of Broughton Gifford (Wilts.) and Norwood (Surr.) in 1811, and in 1842 her son Richard Thomas succeeded to his grandfather's entailed estate and assumed the surname of Browne. (fn. 104) He was one of the chief landowners in Oddington in 1852, (fn. 105) but by that time manorial rights had lapsed.
The agricultural history of the parish may well go back to the 6th century. (fn. 106) The Saxon settlement there was manorialized by the time of the Domesday survey. (fn. 107) The manor then had sufficient land for 3 ploughs, but in fact possessed 4; 2 belonged to the demesne which had 2 serfs, and 2 to the customary tenants, 10 villeins (villani) and 4 bordars. There were also 40 acres of meadow and a stretch of pasture, 3 by 2 furlongs. Although the estate had risen in value very considerably since 1066, from £2 to £3, it was still a poor manor. The increase in value, together with the fact that there were more ploughs than were necessary for the amount of land under cultivation, suggests that the settlement was expanding. It must be remembered, however, that Oddington is on clay which is heavy and difficult to work. The ratio of population to land was higher than in some other places in Oxfordshire, for only about 240 or 250 acres were probably under cultivation. (fn. 108)
The survey of 1279 shows that considerable expansion had taken place. (fn. 109) Poure's manor had 3 carucates of land in demesne and also a mill worth 13s. 4d. and a wood of 3 acres. There was one free tenant, a widow who held a virgate, and thirteen customary tenants, ten of whom held ½ virgate each and three who held ⅓ virgate each. The division between villeins and bordars of 1086 had been retained, but in 1279 there was one fewer of the latter class. The demesne and the land of the customary tenants appears to have increased by 6 virgates, but the real expansion lay outside the Poure manor.
Thame Abbey's estates had been built up gradually. (fn. 110) Some of their land had come from the Poures themselves, but the major grant was that of Robert de Gay, who gave 3 carucates of land. (fn. 111) The extent of Thame's estate in Oddington, including the 95 acres which it had received from Thorold of Oddington and his son Martin, was probably about 340 acres. (fn. 112) This family held a large freehold in the parish which must be taken into account in an estimate of the amount of land cultivated at the end of the 13th century. It is known to have granted away 150 acres: only the part granted to Thame appears in the Hundred Rolls, but Martin also made a series of grants, probably in the 1230's and 1240's, to the Hospital of St. John, Oxford, whose property later passed to Magdalen College. (fn. 113) These four estates, and a small property belonging to Balliol College, which also dates from the early medieval period, (fn. 114) were still the only freehold properties at the time of the inclosure award in 1791.
Reference to North, South, and East Fields make it probable that a three-field system was worked in the early 13th century. (fn. 115) The fields were divided into strips of sometimes less than ½ acre. (fn. 116) At the end of the 13th century the manor was certainly not as large as it was in 1791, when the owner received 735 acres under the inclosure award. (fn. 117) It seems to have contained only about 400 acres in 1279.
Two detailed accounts have survived for the period from November 1296 to Michaelmas 1298. (fn. 118) The neighbouring manor of Islip was a demesne manor of Westminster Abbey and the accounts show considerable co-operation between the two. Money was transferred to Oddington from Islip; barley, beans, drage, and oats were sent for the sowing; and on one occasion men came from Islip to help with reaping. Most of the normal villein services were exacted at Oddington. The Hundred Rolls show that merchet was paid, (fn. 119) and it is known that a tallage was sometimes taken. (fn. 120) Labour services were partly performed in the two years covered by the accounts. The situation in Oddington may have been similar to that in Islip at this date, where 3s. a year was paid by the half-virgaters as commutation of week-work, but if the lord exacted the work the remission of rent was entered under expenses. (fn. 121) The ten half-virgaters at Oddington paid a rent of 3s. a year, but their land was described as operabilis. The total rents from the customary tenants, as set down in the Hundred Rolls, was £1 16s., but the rent received in 1296–7 was £4 0s. 11½d. The difference may lie in rents paid in commutation of week-work, but in this case the tenants must have paid more than those at Islip. In 1296–7, £1 of rent was debited as expenses; for example, for 4 virgates terre operantis from St. John Baptist to Michaelmas, 6s. (fn. 122)
In the account for the following year there is no mention of week-work, but in both years boon-works were done; in 1296–7 48 ploughing-works were done in Lent and in 1297–8 there were 94 men reaping at one boon. Most of the other reaping in this year was done ad tascham, at either 5d. or 4½d. an acre.
The chief evidence for the economic life of the community during the next few centuries comes from taxation returns. In 1377 72 adults paid the poll tax. (fn. 123) The amounts paid by Oddington in the 14th century to other levies show that the village enjoyed moderate prosperity. The lord of the manor and the Master of St. John's Hospital were assessed most highly, but there were usually two or three others who paid sums above the average. Twenty-six persons were taxed in 1316, 32 in 1327, and the village's assessment was slightly raised at the re-assessment of 1344. (fn. 124) The records of the subsidy raised in 1523 and 1524 (fn. 125) are more informative. In the first year 17 persons paid the tax, and in the second, 20; of these 11 were assessed on wages and the rest on goods. William Gryden, who was probably the lessee of the manorial demesne, was assessed at three times the rate of some of the others. Thus, there were considerable differences in wealth between one farmer and another. It is worthy of note that none of the names listed appear in the hearth-tax returns of 1665. (fn. 126)
A lease of the manor-house and farm in 1578 (fn. 127) shows that the farm then consisted of 135 acres and so was smaller than the demesne in 1279; it was leased for 21 years for £3 6s. 8d. a year. During the 17th century the evidence in a series of Chancery suits (fn. 128) indicates that some of the land attached to the manor may once have been part of Thame Abbey's Grange. A schedule of the manor estate, made in 1624, valued the properties said to have belonged to the Grange at £3 16s. 4d. out of a total valuation of £132 8s. 6d. (fn. 129)
The inclosure of the open fields came in 1791. (fn. 130) Certain old inclosed grounds and woods belonging to the Grange were expressly excluded from the inclosure. It is likely that Thame Abbey had made its scattered field strips into a compact estate by exchange and inclosure at an early date. (fn. 131) The abbey was amongst those accused of inclosing by the Crown in Tudor times. In 1517 it was alleged that a messuage with 80 acres of arable leased by the abbot in 1513–14 was in ruins, that four persons lacked houses, and that the land had been converted to pasture. (fn. 132) In the 18th century the Grange was reckoned as 27 yardlands and was virtually tithe-free. (fn. 133) There was also a number of old inclosures belonging to the manor, the parsonage, and other holdings. Among these possibly were the 40 acres which had been inclosed for animal pasture in the early 16th century by a freeholder, a William Aleyn. (fn. 134)
Unsuccessful attempts at inclosure in order to increase the value of the estate had been made in 1613 and 1614. (fn. 135) The question was reopened in the 1760's. The patron of the living, Trinity College, Oxford, considered in 1766 that inclosure would benefit the living and the rector agreed to it provided that he received one-fifth of the arable and one-ninth of the pasture in lieu of tithes. (fn. 136) In fact, this plan was not followed.
At the time of the award in 1791 there were four main fields, being worked on a rotation of wheat, barley, beans and fallow. (fn. 137) Their names in the award are Wood Field, Middle Field, Bandon Field, and Islip Field, but the rector used the older names of Bax Mill Field for Bandon Field and Log Field for Islip Field. Each of these fields contained a proportion of 'greenswerd', which appears to have been permanent grassland. Log Field is said to have had 159 acres of arable and 83 of grass. It is not clear whether this grassland was pasture or mowing grass. There are indications that there had long been a certain concentration on sheep-farming: besides Otmoor, where the people of Oddington had rights of common, there was the 'great common' to the north-west of the village. The pastures of the Grange manor moreover were said to be worth £160 a year in 1624. (fn. 138)
The meadow probably lay mostly along the River Ray and its tributaries: there was meadow in North and South Fields; Wivering meadow was said to lie near the village; and 'doles' of meadow lay near the 'greteford' and beneath 'la Grave' which bordered on Otmoor. (fn. 139) One charter grants 1 acre in Oddington with the whole crop and the head of mead belonging to it. (fn. 140) With this may be compared the '2 parcels of mead called Bamstollease and Saguinne', of which one at least went with a large holding in the open fields. (fn. 141)
Out of a total acreage of 923 the award gave the rector 47 acres in Woodfield 'as near as may be to the parsonage'. Magdalen College received 99 acres in Woodfield, Middle Field, and Bandon Field; Balliol 21 acres in Woodfield; John Sawyer, the lord of the manor, 735 acres. He appears to have received all of Islip Field and some land in each of the others. The Sawyers divided their estate into six farms whose gross rental in 1824 was £1,059; three of these were under 100 acres, the others 151, 206, and 445 acres. (fn. 142) The creation of larger farms was probably responsible for the drop in the number of farm-houses in the village. Instead of the ten farm-houses of 1738 there were said to be poor cottages and only four farmhouses in 1808. (fn. 143) How far inclosure affected the rise in the poor rate from £36 in 1776 to £86 in 1803 is uncertain. (fn. 144)
In 1829 the inclosure of Otmoor, where Oddington had rights of common, took place. (fn. 145) Oddington's share of the moor was 311 acres; (fn. 146) Balliol, Magdalen, and the rector received small allotments and John Sawyer and the Revd. W. F. Browne, the proprietor of the Grange, received 189 and 44 respectively; 31 acres were sold to a Thomas Packer. Browne exchanged his part of the moor for 63 acres of land belonging to Sawyer, which adjoined Oddington Grange. Sawyer, following Arthur Young's opinion, obviously thought the moor land to be better farming land. The large allotments at Oddington are a marked contrast to the numerous small ones at Charlton and Murcott and Fencott. The loss of common rights, combined with a general agricultural depression, was probably responsible for the disturbances of 1845, when there was a riot involving more than 100 persons. (fn. 147)
Population seems to have varied during the 18th century. Although the Compton Census had recorded 105 adults in 1676, there were said to be only 25 houses in 1738, 35 in 1759, and 30 families 'all farmers' labourers or poor' in 1768. (fn. 148) At the official census of 1801 there were 158 inhabitants and there was a gradual rise to 176 in 1831. For the rest of the century the population tended to fluctuate. In 1861 it was 169, but by 1901 it had dropped to 109. There were further fluctuations in the 20th century. In 1911 there were 131 inhabitants; only 90 in 1921. Since 1921 there has been a steady increase, and the estimated population was 118 in 1954. (fn. 149)
The village has remained completely agricultural; in 1939 there were still no shops. The Sawyer family sold their farms, often to their tenants, and in 1899 Staples Browne, the owner of the Grange, and Magdalen College were the principal landowners. (fn. 150) In 1955 there were six farms in the parish, Log, College, Manor, Glebe, and Barndon (200 a.) farms, and the Islip Pedigree Breeding Centre at the Grange (409 a.). The last specialized in beef cattle— pedigree Aberdeen-Angus—and Manor farm in dairying, with a herd of pedigree Guernseys. The other farms practised mixed farming, and kept nonpedigree Frisians and Shorthorns. No sheep were kept, and the chief crops were grass and cereals. (fn. 151)
A papal bull of 1146, confirming the exemption of Thame Abbey from paying tithes on its lands, including those of its Oddington Grange, implies that there was a church at Oddington by the mid-12th century at least. (fn. 152) The church was in Bicester deanery, but by 1854 had been transferred to the new deanery of Islip. (fn. 153)
The first recorded presentation to the rectory was made in 1223, (fn. 154) and from then until the 18th century the advowson usually belonged to the lords of the manor. There were, however, a number of occasions when they did not present. In 1250 or 1251, for instance, the right of presentation was in the bishop's hands, perhaps by lapse, and as he was abroad, the Prior of Bicester presented in his place. (fn. 155)
Later in the century the advowson seems to have belonged to William Poure's wife Joan, for William was said to have presented Richard Poure in his wife's right. This late-13th-century presentation (fn. 156) figured in a long legal case in 1327, when Walter Poure, lord of the manor, and Master Walter de Islip, (fn. 157) a civil servant, who claimed that the manor had been demised to him for life, were at law over the right to present. Poure seems to have won, probably because his mother held the advowson separately from the manor, and the bishop was ordered to admit his candidate, William Poure, but in the meantime after a six months' lapse the bishop had collated. (fn. 158) In 1330 it was Walter Poure who presented. In 1361 Westminster Abbey, the overlord of the manor, was patron, perhaps during a minority. (fn. 159) Other presentations during minorities were in 1483 and probably 1487 during the minority of John Poure, and in 1532 and 1537 during that of Vincent Poure.
The descent of the advowson in the 17th century is very complicated. On the death of the rector Roger Ewer in 1614 there was a three-cornered Chancery case between Sir William Cope and others, the lessees of the manor, Lewis Proude, a claimant to the manor, and Oxford University, (fn. 160) which based its claim on the right to present when the patron—in this case Richard Poure—was a Roman Catholic. (fn. 161) The University evidently won, for Andrew Morris, who resigned in 1623, was its nominee. (fn. 162) The next presentation, in the same year, was by a group, headed by Sir Edward Frere of Water Eaton, of which Poure and Edward Ewer were members. (fn. 163)
With the division of the manor into two parts the advowson also became divided, and was the subject of many legal complications. For example, the Ewers mortgaged half of it to Samuel Trotman in 1633, (fn. 164) but it was the king who presented Gilbert Sheldon in 1636. (fn. 165) This presentation led to a Chancery suit in 1638 in which William Wyck of Mentmore (Bucks.) and William Wyck the younger of Caversfield claimed that the Ewers had fraudulently sold them the next presentation, to which they had no claim, for £150. (fn. 166) In 1639 William Moreton of Winchcombe (Glos.) presented, (fn. 167) and in 1640 Orlando Bridgeman, (fn. 168) who had bought the presentation from Francis Ewer. (fn. 169) The Ewers constantly tried to raise money from the advowson. They sold it (or rather probably only the right of next presentation) in 1664, for instance, for £30 to Samuel Baker, (fn. 170) who later presented a petition in Chancery claiming that the advowson had already been mortgaged to Samuel Trotman. (fn. 171)
In 1673 Baker sold whatever right he had to Edmund Dickinson for £50, (fn. 172) and in the same year, when Dickinson acquired the whole manor, he also tried to get all rights to the advowson. (fn. 173) He was able to present in 1674, (fn. 174) but in 1679, for an unknown reason, the king was patron. (fn. 175) In 1699 Dickinson presented again, (fn. 176) and in the same year sold the advowson for £322 to Dr. Ralph Bathurst, (fn. 177) President of Trinity College, Oxford, who in 1701 gave it to his college, 'considering that there are but few preferments in the gift of the said College for the advancement of the Fellows'. In future the rector, who was to be 'an able and pious minister', was to be chosen from among the Fellows of the college. (fn. 178) Trinity College continued as patron until about 1890, (fn. 179) when it sold the advowson. (fn. 180) Since then there has been a succession of private patrons. (fn. 181)
Oddington was a poor rectory in the early Middle Ages. In 1254 it was valued at £3 6s. 8d., (fn. 182) in 1291 at £6 13s. 4d., (fn. 183) and in 1535 at £12 16s. (fn. 184) A hundred years later it was valued at £100 (fn. 185) and by the early 18th century at £140, (fn. 186) i.e. £110 from the lease of the great tithes and £30 from the glebe. (fn. 187) In addition, the rector seems to have had the small tithes. (fn. 188) During the century the value of the living rose rapidly (fn. 189) and by 1820 it had become a comparatively rich one and was valued at £361 16s. (fn. 190)
Before the inclosure of 1791 the glebe consisted of Home Close (9¾ a.) and of 64 arable acres (fn. 191) with rights of common for 80 sheep, 4 horses, 12 cows, and a bull. (fn. 192) At the award the rector received 47 acres. He also had right of common on Otmoor without stint, (fn. 193) and at the inclosure of Otmoor in 1829 was awarded 12 acres. (fn. 194)
By the Oddington award the rector was allotted a rent charge of £230 in lieu of tithes. (fn. 195) There had long been a composition of £2 on Oddington Grange farm (200 a.), which was confirmed by the tithe award of 1849, while Brookfurlong farm (93 a.) was tithe free. (fn. 196) This exemption must have dated from the 12th century when the Cistercians first held the land. Thame Abbey's claim to freedom from tithes for demesne lands at Otley (fn. 197) was more than once confirmed by the Pope during the 12th century, (fn. 198) probably as a consequence of counter-claims by the rectors. There was certainly constant strife with an early 13th-century rector over the payment of tithe on assarts made by the abbey. (fn. 199) He asserted that the church had lost 100 marks as the result of the abbey's failure to pay the due sums. After an appeal to the Pope, a compromise was arranged in 1231. The rector received a piece of land bordering the village street in return for giving up his claim. (fn. 200) There were further similar disputes: in 1235–6 the bishop decided that certain of the abbey's furlongs were to be tithe free; and the rector received 2 acres of land in compensation (fn. 201) and another 3 acres in 1246, when he gave up his claim to tithes on more of the abbey's assarted land. (fn. 202)
Some of the medieval rectors of Oddington are noteworthy. Roger de Turberville (1223–50), the rector who championed the church's claim to tithes, described himself as of noble birth and educated in the liberal arts and civil law. (fn. 203) In his time, in 1235–6, the bishop allowed Thame Abbey to have a chapel at its Grange and celebrate services there so long as Oddington's normal parishioners were excluded. On Sundays and feast days the abbey's labourers (familia) were to attend the parish church as usual; all obventions from the chapel were to go to the church, unless a bishop or nobleman staying there had services said by his own chaplain. (fn. 204) In 1246 it was decided that if a labourer at the Grange fell ill and had to be taken to Thame, the church of Oddington should still be entitled to mortuary or other dues. (fn. 205) Later in the century a member of the lord of the manor's family, Richard Poure, was rector (by 1286–1327) for over 40 years.
By the 15th century the rectors were mostly university graduates, some of them distinguished ones, which meant that the church was often held in plurality. Master John Beke (1443–7), for instance, was a pluralist and a 'very remarkable personality'. (fn. 206) At the end of the century there were Master Thomas Randolph (1487–99), a prebendary of Lincoln, (fn. 207) and Master Ralph Hamsterley (1499–1507), Principal of St. Alban Hall, (fn. 208) and later of University College. Master Edmund Horde (1516–20) was another distinguished rector connected with the University, (fn. 209) but he appears to have neglected Oddington. When he resigned in 1520, (fn. 210) it was noted that the rectory and chancel were dilapidated and the cemetery not properly inclosed. (fn. 211) During many of the changes of the 16th century the living was held by a member of a local family, Adrian Bury (1549–58), brother of James Bury of Hampton Poyle. (fn. 212)
Some post-Reformation rectors were also outstanding, (fn. 213) but the strong anti-Puritan views of one, Thomas Browne (1640–73), led to the sequestration of the living during the Civil War. (fn. 214) It was given to James Robins (d. 1659), who is described in the parish register as the 'painful minister of Oddington'. (fn. 215) After the Restoration the royalist rector Thomas Browne returned to Oddington and held the living with his Windsor canonry until his death in 1673. (fn. 216)
Close relations between church and manor were established with the presentation in 1699 of Thomas Dickinson, nephew of the lord of the manor. He lived part of the time in Islip, but came to Oddington 'as frequently as there is occasion'. He held two services and preached one sermon on Sundays, and celebrated the sacrament four times a year. (fn. 217)
After Trinity College had acquired the advowson, the living was held by its Fellows or graduates. The first of these, John Bruere (1746–76), was notable for his insistence on his church's rights. He quarrelled with the squire over the cost of repairing the churchyard wall, the payment of tithes, and over some alleged glebe land. (fn. 218) He also had a number of minor disputes with his parishioners over the matter of small tithes, which he collected with an exaggerated care. (fn. 219) Among Bruere's 'many virtues' (fn. 220) was the regularity with which he held services, increasing the celebration of sacraments from four to five a year, an unusually large number for the period. But his influence declined towards the end of his ministry. Whereas in 1759 he was satisfied with his parishioners, (fn. 221) twelve years later he complained that they neglected services because of wakes, and that the sacrament was administered to 'but few'. (fn. 222) From 1795 to 1817 the parish was served by a curate, although one of the two rectors of this period appears to have paid occasional visits, as he reserved for himself the hall, best parlour, and bedroom in the parsonage. (fn. 223) The curate was receiving £30 in 1785 (fn. 224) and £40 in 1808, and lived in part of the Rectory. The bishop considered the stipend insufficient for 'so valuable a living', and advised that it should be raised to £45 clear. (fn. 225)
Philip Serle (1818–57), on the other hand, who built a new Rectory, (fn. 226) was constantly resident. He was unpopular with the parish, however, because of his support of the inclosure of Otmoor, (fn. 227) and also with Bishop Wilberforce, who considered him a sceptic. (fn. 228) The bishop persuaded his successor to have two sermons on Sunday. (fn. 229) By 1866 the 19th-century religious revival had had a modest effect. Communion was being given six times a year; there were sixteen communicants in the parish; the morning congregation numbered 40, the afternoon one 55–60, and by 1878 had 'slightly increased'. (fn. 230) In the 20th century the rectors were high churchmen and introduced much ritual into the services.
The church of ST. ANDREW is a plain stone building, dating mainly from the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries, but much restored. It comprises a chancel, nave, western tower, south porch, and north aisle. The nave of three bays has late 13th-century buttresses; it has been suggested that there may once have been a chapel on the northern side. (fn. 231) The tower with its two stories, steeply-pitched roof of stone slates with no parapet, and lancet windows, together with the south door, are parts of the original church. The chancel retains part of a late 14th-century window and an elegant 14th-century piscina.
Dunkin, writing before 1823, described the church as 'disguised by alterations', and Parker, writing before 1846, as 'mutilated' and 'concealed by plaster'. (fn. 232) Some of the alterations were of recent date: the south porch, once inscribed 'w.w. 1810', was added in that year; the walls of the nave were lowered, a slate roof put on, and the church paved before 1823 and possibly in 1821, when the chancel was taken down and rebuilt. (fn. 233) In 1884–6 a thorough restoration by the architect E. G. Bruton was carried out at a cost of about £1,200. The tower was rebuilt, a north aisle and chapel on the north side of the chancel were added, and some new windows inserted. (fn. 234)
The plain circular font is probably 13th-century, (fn. 235) and the pulpit is Jacobean. The chancel screen with rood-loft, described by Rawlinson as being carved with white and red roses, though still there in 1823, no longer exists. (fn. 236) Fragments of medieval glass, which in Rawlinson's time represented St. Peter, are in the east window. (fn. 237) The royal arms were formerly over the chancel arch.
There is an undated brass in the chancel to Ralph Hamsterley, Rector of Oddington and Fellow of Merton College (d. 1518); he is represented as a skeleton in a shroud, being eaten by worms. (fn. 238) There are also some 17th- and 18th-century inscriptions to other Oddington rectors: (fn. 239) James Robins, minister (d. 1659), Henry Brocker (d. 1679), Thomas Dickinson (d. 1746) and his wife Jane (d. 1733), and to John Bruere (d. 1776). There are stone slabs to Gabriel Braithwaite (d. 1686/7) and William Dickinson, brother to the lord of the manor (d. 1716).
At the west end there is a large carved pietá, supported on a plinth decorated with carved Maori totems. It is a memorial to the Maoris who fell in the First World War.
In 1552 it was recorded that the church owned a silver chalice and an ivory pyx with 'smale spanges of silver'; it was also well provided with vestments, and three bells and two handbells. (fn. 240) In 1955 the plate included an early 18th-century silver chalice and paten cover, inscribed with coats of arms, which was the gift of William Phipps, a maltster of Oxford, who leased the small Balliol property in Oddington in the late 17th century. (fn. 241) The church was very elaborately furnished in the high church manner by the rector, S. H. Scott (1915–49); it was lit by both electric light and candles in candelabra. There were three bells, two dating from the early 17th century, and a sanctus bell. (fn. 242)
The registers date from 1571. Between 1644 and 1651 no marriages are entered. (fn. 243)
In the churchyard there is the ancient base and head of a cross, raised on three steps. (fn. 244) It was restored in 1949.
Before 1605 Richard Poure, son of Francis Poure, the lord of the manor, was 'convicted as a Popish recusant'. (fn. 245) Early in the 17th century John Poure, another son, was fined for recusancy. (fn. 246) In the course of the next twenty years John Foxe, also a gentleman, and the members of two yeoman families were also fined. (fn. 247)
In 1796 the house of Richard Scrivener was licensed for dissenting meetings. (fn. 248) The nonconformists met on Sunday evenings and were visited by a 'teacher from a distance', (fn. 249) perhaps James Hinton (d. 1823), who is said by the Baptists to have started village preaching in Oddington. (fn. 250) There continued to be a few dissenters throughout the 19th century; in 1866 there were about twenty, but many were said to attend church occasionally. (fn. 251)
There was no school in the 18th century, but by 1808 a dame school supported by the rector and the principal landowners had been opened to teach reading and the catechism. (fn. 252) This school had 20 pupils in 1819 (fn. 253) and 27 in 1834, when it was reported that children left school at ten years of age. (fn. 254) It seems to have continued in existence until 1871, when it had 12 pupils, (fn. 255) but to have closed soon afterwards. Children then went to school at Charlton.