A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 7, Dorchester and Thame Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.
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The parish lies some 7 miles south of Oxford in a bend of the River Thames, which forms its chief boundary, and is of special interest on account of its importance in the Anglo-Saxon and early Norman periods. (fn. 1) Geographically the parish divides into three distinct sections: the bulk of it lies between Clifton Hampden and a backwater which branches off from the Thames some 2 miles below Radley and rejoins the main stream at Culham Bridge; Andersey Island, which comprises the area between the backwater and Abingdon; and the Otneys, an area largely meadow land on the right bank of the Thames adjoining the west side of Sutton Courtenay (Berks.). The acreage of the parish is 2,051 and its boundaries appear to have changed but little since late Saxon times when a survey of the parish was made in 940 in the time of King Edmund. (fn. 2) The survey mentions the ford where Abingdon Bridge now stands, and refers to 'barrows' at some point along the parish's eastern boundary, but no traces of these remain. The beating of the bounds of the eastern end of the parish was regularly carried out during the Middle Ages and led in 1416 to the institution of legal proceedings by the Abbot of Abingdon against Sir John Drayton of Nuneham. The abbot complained that the Vicar of Culham and his parishioners had been shot at by Sir John and his men, and further that Sir John had erected a fortalice on Culham territory and used it to prevent the vicar and parishioners from making their procession. (fn. 3)
The only recorded change of boundary occurred in 1894 when some eyots in the river near Abingdon were transferred to the new civil parish of St. Nicholas, Abingdon. (fn. 4)
At its lowest point, in the south east, the parish is 159 feet above sea level, but almost immediately the land rises sharply to 175 feet, thus forming a kind of escarpment along the river bank. Just east of the backwater the ground rises steadily to form Culham Hill, which at its peak is 250 feet above sea level. From the top of the hill the land descends once more until it meets the Thames again 170 feet above sea level. (fn. 5)
The soil is mainly Lower Greensand; but between the Dorchester-Abingdon road and the Thames there is a good deal of Gault, whilst Andersey consists largely of Kimmeridge Clay and Alluvium. (fn. 6)
The main Dorchester-Abingdon road runs through the parish from east to west. This highway is said to have existed from 'time immemorial'. (fn. 7) It crosses into Andersey Island via Culham New Bridge, erected in 1928 by the Oxfordshire County Council. Until then, Culham Old Bridge, which lies slightly to the south of the present bridge, was in use. The old bridge, now scheduled as an ancient monument, was part of a considerable scheme for improving communications between Abingdon and Dorchester. (fn. 8) Between 1416 and 1422 Abingdon Bridge, Culham Bridge, and the causeway across Andersey were erected by the Abingdon Guild of the Holy Cross. (fn. 9) Culham Old Bridge, built across the site of an ancient ford known as Culham Hythe, (fn. 10) is of stone and has five Perpendicular arches. It has been much altered and repaired during the passage of the centuries and was chiefly maintained by Christ's Hospital, Abingdon. (fn. 11) During the Second World War two concrete pill boxes were built on the bridge and part of the parapet was taken down to make room for a concrete platform. These have now been removed and the parapet restored. The causeway also was maintained by the Guild of the Holy Cross and its successor, Christ's Hospital, (fn. 12) yet the expenditure of money was insufficient to keep the road in good condition. In fact, during the 16th and 17th centuries the whole of the road from Dorchester to Abingdon was badly neglected. In 1736 it is described as being in a ruinous state; but in that year the first of a series of Acts was passed (1736, 1755, 1781, 1802, 1821, 1841) establishing a turnpike trust for the area between Abingdon and Henley and empowering it to levy tolls for the repair and maintenance of the roads. (fn. 13) The trust set up toll-gates at Culham Bridge and at the junction of Thame Lane with the main highway. The toll-houses are still standing. Most of the highway was freed from toll in 1873, (fn. 14) but the section between Culham and Abingdon remained liable to toll until 1875. (fn. 15) The highway is joined near one of the old toll-houses by Thame Lane, which after crossing Clifton Heath used to enter the parish near its north-east corner. This road, which is also probably very old, was cut by the creation in 1941 of the Royal Naval Air Station (fn. 16) and terminates at a small railway bridge. The highway is also joined by a road connecting the village with Sutton Courtenay. This road crosses the Thames by a bridge erected in 1807. (fn. 17) The bridge had been suggested in 1802 as part of a scheme for a new turnpike road from Culham to Streatley via Didcot and Hagbourne; (fn. 18) but the opposition was powerful, existing turnpike trusts objecting strongly to the proposal. (fn. 19) When the bridge was at last authorized by Parliament the Act stipulated that it should be built 'at or near' Culham Ferry, empowered the proprietors to raise from £4,000 to £7,000 for building costs, and fixed toll rates. (fn. 20) The bridge, built by Edward Clarke of Barrington (Glos.), cost only £1,765, (fn. 21) although more money may have been spent on the approaches. It has three arches over the main stream and is made of rubble with ashlar dressings. In 1809 it was extended to cover the new Culham Cut. (fn. 22) In 1939 the bridge was purchased from the proprietors for £4,500 by the Oxfordshire and Berkshire County Councils in equal shares. (fn. 23) When the bridge was made the road to it from Culham village was constructed also. (fn. 24) This previously ran to the ferry and was slightly to the west of the present road. Before the building of the bridge the ferry was the only means of direct contact with Sutton Courtenay. The main village street is part of a long loop beginning at the Waggon and Horses Inn and ending at Culham Bridge. The section linking the village green with the bridge is relatively new; it was provided for in the inclosure award and seems to have been first planned in 1808. (fn. 25) Before its construction a road running close to the west side of Culham House linked the green with the main highway and thence continued north-east behind Thame Lane and across country to Nuneham. (fn. 26) This road too was stopped, (fn. 27) but traces of it can still be seen.
The Thames has always been an important means of communication for Culham though little is known with certainty about its history before the Tudor period. Until the early 11th century the arm of the river between Andersey Island and Culham was apparently the main route for transport; but the flow of water is said to have been diverted by Abingdon Abbey into the branch or branches of the river by Abingdon so that the stream ran closer to the abbey. (fn. 28) Leland when writing of this noted that the 'other arme' of the Thames that flowed under Culham Bridge was then the lesser of the two streams and that at floodtime the old bottom of the Thames was filled and that there were then three streams. (fn. 29) Obstructions on the river rendered navigation increasingly difficult in the Middle Ages and probably increased the use of the highway. Stone from Taynton quarries, for instance, for the building of Eton College passed through Culham by road and was not loaded upon barges until it reached Henley. (fn. 30) In the 16th century the river was certainly navigable from Henley to Burcot; and from there, although with some difficulty, to Culham. The wharfage for Abingdon, in fact, was at Culham, (fn. 31) for the passage from Culham to Abingdon via Sutton Courtenay was very tricky. Stones and lead from the dissolved abbey of Abingdon were brought by road to Culham wharf for loading upon barges. (fn. 32) But the increased size of barges during the Tudor period meant that the Thames between Oxford and Burcot was virtually innavigable by the end of the reign of Elizabeth I. Hence the establishment of the Oxford-Burcot Commission by Acts of 1605 and 1624 to improve the river between these two places. (fn. 33) The commission did not make use of the present course of the river via Abingdon; instead the barge traffic was carried along the backwater between Andersey and Culham Hill, known in early Tudor times as Purden's stream, (fn. 34) and from late Tudor times until the early 19th century as Swift Ditch. This passage was deepened, and a pound lock was built about 1636 in a new cutting at the north end. (fn. 35) The old lock can still be seen. There was a flash lock about half way along Swift Ditch, which is mentioned about 1585. (fn. 36) The passage along Swift Ditch, however, seems to have been difficult near Culham Bridge, and in 1641 there was talk of constructing a lock or weir there. (fn. 37) The project never materialized, perhaps because of the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. Swift Ditch remained the main navigation channel until 1790, when the present route through Abingdon was brought into use by the Thames Navigation Commissioners. (fn. 38) Extensive alterations were made in 1790 involving the construction of a pound lock near Abingdon, the building of a towing path along the Thames and the consequent blocking of several streamlets and eyots, and the dismantling of the tackle at Swift Ditch lock. (fn. 39) The water passage through Culham was further improved by the construction of the Culham Cut and lock in 1809, which enabled the difficult route through Sutton Courtenay to be avoided. (fn. 40) The Cut was made partly along the line of the old Speel Ditch, a straggling channel that left the Thames at the head of the present cut and turned south near the site of Culham lock to rejoin the river close to Sutton Mill. (fn. 41) The Cut was first suggested in August 1801. (fn. 42) In 1806 the estimated cost was £5,485, but the actual amount spent was £9,000. (fn. 43)
The railway line from Didcot to Oxford runs through the eastern fringe of the parish. The railway, first considered in 1833, (fn. 44) was not constructed for some years, largely owing to the opposition of the University and City of Oxford. (fn. 45) It was completed in 1844. The station, originally called 'Abingdon Road', was renamed Culham in 1856. (fn. 46)
Culham village is situated chiefly on both sides of the southern part of the loop road. (fn. 47) It got its Old English name (Cula's hamm) from its position in a bend of the Thames. (fn. 48) The church lies at the west end of the village green and just south of it is the manor-house. The village was rebuilt in 1869–70 (fn. 49) and therefore contains few old houses or cottages. In fact, only one of the original cottages remains, now the village store. It is of 17th-century origin and was refronted during the 18th century. A new housing estate of 26 houses at the east end of the village was completed in 1952. At the extreme western end of the parish, by the side of the Maud Hales Bridge, Abingdon, are two gabled houses apparently erected between 1685 and 1694. (fn. 50)
The oldest building in the village is Culham Manor, which was originally the medieval grange of the Abbots of Abingdon. (fn. 51) The house is largely of 15th-century date, but in 1610 the north front was rebuilt by Thomas Bury, (fn. 52) who had the date and his initials carved on his new classical central porch. The present north front of two stories is the surviving portion of Bury's facade and ends just to the left of his porch. There was formerly a left wing to match the present 15th-century right wing, and though it was pulled down, perhaps during or after the Civil War, traces of it remain. There is a ground-floor north window of this date in a semi-detached cottage now joined to the main building by a low modern wall, and others of the same date in a garden wall. Whether the medieval grange was as large as the 17th-century house it is now impossible to say, but it seems certain that there was an earlier building on the site of Bury's east wing which may or may not have been connected to the main 15th-century building. Part of the tracery of a Perpendicular window remains. Skelton writing in 1823 said there were 'cruciform openings … such as are common in ancient castellated walls', but did not state where these were; (fn. 53) and there was no trace of them in 1959.
From the existing remains of the 15th-century building it seems certain that the kitchen was at the north end of the present west wing: its open fireplace and chimney-stack remain. A contemporary hatch leads into what must have been the medieval hall. This was open to the roof. Mortice holes for the medieval floor joists and the wall-plate of the old roof remain where Bury raised the roof and put in the present first floor. On the first floor behind the porch there is a finely proportioned room with Jacobean panelling which was later used as a court room. The south front and the west wing, once covered with plaster, have been restored to their original 15th-century condition: the structure is stone built up to the first floor and is then half-timbered. The windows of the left wing, although mostly restored, are in their original positions and the wooden mullions of two of them are ancient. According to tradition the abbots of Abingdon used the house as a place of retirement, and the room at the head of a 15th-century ladder staircase, made of rectangular blocks of oak built into the walls one above and beyond the other, is known as the abbot's chamber and once had some heraldic glass depicting the arms of Abbot Coventry (d. 1512). (fn. 54) A portion of the linenfold panelling in one of the upper rooms was found in the house, but the rest of the Tudor panelling in the house has been brought from elsewhere.
The walled garden on the north side has a cobbled path leading from the north porch to the church opposite, which is probably contemporary with Thomas Bury's house. There is also an early-17thcentury sundial on a stone column which appears to be considerably older than the sundial. On the south side there was once an avenue of walnut trees leading down to the river. In the grounds is a dove-cot, reputed to be one of the three largest in England. It bears the initials C.B. (Cecil Bisshopp) and the date 1685. (fn. 55)
When in the 1660's the manor passed from the Bury family to the Bisshopps the manor-house, which in 1665 was assessed on ten hearths, (fn. 56) gradually became dilapidated. Until about 1749 it was apparently occupied by the lord's steward; after that it became a farmhouse, occupied in turn by the Welch and Mundy families. (fn. 57) The present occupier, Sir Esmond Ovey, has restored it as far as possible to its original state.
Culham House or Rectory, now the largest house in the village, stands to the north of the green. It is a Georgian mansion, and was probably built by John Phillips (1709–75), who was lay rector of Culham and a master builder in London. (fn. 58) It is a threestoried structure of red brick with a hipped roof of tiles. It now consists of seven bays, but originally there were only five. The extension took place either at the end of the 18th century or in the early 19th, when the doorway was moved to a new centre bay. The interior has contemporary staircases, overmantles, and doorcases. To the north-east is a stable block. The grounds are surrounded by an early 19th-century brick wall, erected after the inclosure of the parish when the road system was altered. There are traces in the grounds of the old rectorial mansion, presumably demolished by John Phillips; (fn. 59) it was not a large house, for it returned only four hearths for the hearth tax of 1665. (fn. 60) A pond at one time stood in the grounds before the main entrance. (fn. 61) The house was once noted for its collection of china, ancient painted glass, and pictures. (fn. 62)
The Vicarage stands between the main highway and the village street. It is said to have been built by Benjamin Kennicott, Vicar of Culham (1753–83), about 1758, (fn. 63) and is undoubtedly of 18th-century origin. In 1816 it was reported to be dilapidated, and was accordingly refronted on the south side during that year. (fn. 64) It was enlarged in 1849. (fn. 65)
The Diocesan Training College for Schoolmasters stands on the main Abingdon–Dorchester highway close to the junction with Thame Lane. Designed by Joseph Clarke of London, it was erected in 1852. (fn. 66) The college consisted at first of a three-sided block and a practising school in the grounds, but substantial additions have been made during the present century. The old building, which is in the Gothic style, has been much altered and adapted in recent years. (fn. 67)
An old tithe barn was demolished in 1849. (fn. 68)
The parish now has three inns. The 'Waggon and Horses' was apparently rebuilt in the early 1800's, but can be traced back to at least 1795. (fn. 69) The 'Lion', formerly the 'Sow and Pigs', is a fairly modern building, but it too can be traced back to 1795. (fn. 70) The 'Railway Hotel' was built about 1846. A fourth inn, the 'Nag's Head', on Abingdon Bridge, was in Culham parish until 1894 when it was transferred to Abingdon. It was built about 1714. (fn. 71) In the later 18th century there were five or six malt-houses in Culham, some no doubt in cottages. (fn. 72)
Of the outlying farmhouses Rye Farm is historically the most interesting. Its Old English name means 'at the island', i.e. Andersey Island. (fn. 73) Its buildings, except for an 18th-century barn, are of 19th-century date, but it is possible that they are on the site of the palace of the Anglo-Saxon kings (see below). Leland says that in his time there was a barn on the site of this palace and that the common people still called the place the 'Castelle of the Rhae'. (fn. 74) The farm's land is mentioned in 1375–6, in 1440–1, and in Tudor times; (fn. 75) a farmhouse was certainly in existence by 1633, when it was tenanted by William Bostock, and was probably there in 1614. (fn. 76) About 1724, and again in 1766, it suffered severely from fire. (fn. 77)
Warren Farm, lying to the north of Thame Lane, is another 19th-century building, but it must have replaced an older house, for about 1752 William Pead was living there. (fn. 78) Both Rye Farm and Warren Farm, therefore, lay outside the village long before inclosure. Zouche Farm, on the other hand, was probably one of the consequences of inclosure. It did not exist at the time of the award of 1813, (fn. 79) but is marked on Bryant's map of Oxfordshire of 1823. Its name suggests that it was built after 1815, for in that year Sir Cecil Bisshopp (1753–1828), 8th baronet and lord of the manor, became Baron Zouche. (fn. 80)
Culham was an important place in the AngloSaxon period and enjoyed special privileges throughout the Middle Ages. Partly because of its close connexion with Abingdon Abbey, partly because of the charm of its situation, and partly because of the excellent sport it provided, the place was especially favoured by the royal houses of Mercia and Wessex. (fn. 81) Offa was the first to build a royal residence on Andersey Island and there his son Egfrith died in 796. (fn. 82) The sisters of the Mercian king Coenwulf retreated to Culham to lead a holy life, (fn. 83) and c. 1050 a church to St. Andrew was built on the island, which thus acquired its name of Andresia or Andersey. (fn. 84) Although a few Roman remains have been found by the river near Zouche Farm (fn. 85) no Saxon remains have yet been found.
After the Conquest both William I and William II used to stay at the royal hunting lodge on Andersey. The Conqueror in particular delighted in the island's green meadows and recuperated there from blood-letting, (fn. 86) but Henry I was persuaded by Queen Maud to return the island to Abingdon and to allow the abbot to use the lead from the many houses on the island for the roof of the abbey church. It appears from the chronicler's account that the stone buildings on the island were already in decay, (fn. 87) but local memory of them was still strong when Leland visited Culham. He says that there was once a 'fortres or pile lyke a castle in Andersey' and that it lay almost exactly between the old and new courses of the Thames. (fn. 88)
In Stephen's reign Culham was plundered by William Boterel, Constable of Wallingford, although he had taken a bribe from Abbot Ingulf in return for a promise not to attack the abbey's property, (fn. 89) and despite the privileged position which Culham undoubtedly enjoyed, both on account of its ancient rights of sanctuary and its immunity from royal and ecclesiastical control, other than that of the abbey. This privileged position may be illustrated by the fact that a claim to exemption from taxation in 1291 was successfully vindicated, and that Culham does not appear on later medieval taxation rolls. (fn. 90) Its rights of sanctuary seem to have derived from a wide interpretation of the charter of King Coenwulf of 821. (fn. 91) By the late 14th century there was evidently popular opposition to these rights: in 1394 the 'Commons' of Essex petitioned the Crown against the abuse of sanctuary both at Culham and at Colchester, (fn. 92) and in 1442 Pope Eugenius IV issued a mandate to the Bishop of Lincoln and others to inquire into abuses at Culham and elsewhere. (fn. 93) In 1486 Humphrey Stafford and his brother Thomas, after an abortive attempt at insurrection against Henry VII, sought sanctuary at Culham; but Humphrey was later arrested and the claim disallowed. (fn. 94) Despite the decision of the court in Stafford's case men still claimed sanctuary at Culham, a case being recorded as late as 1507. (fn. 95)
In the 17th century the proximity of Culham to Abingdon and Oxford meant that the village was inevitably affected by the Civil War, for the bridge across Culham ford was of considerable strategic importance. In the spring of 1643 the royalists had an encampment on Culham Hill; (fn. 96) but this was abandoned about 12 June when the troops were withdrawn to Oxford. (fn. 97) After the king's forces had left Abingdon in May 1644 the parliamentarians seized Culham Bridge, from which they harried royalist food convoys moving into Oxford. (fn. 98) An unsuccessful royalist attempt to recapture and demolish the bridge in January 1645 led to a sharp engagement known as the battle of Culham Bridge, in which the king's commander, Sir Henry Gage, was mortally wounded. (fn. 99)
On Culham Heath the Abingdon Races were held annually from the early 1730's until 1811, when inclosure compelled their removal to land west of Abingdon. (fn. 100) The site of the course was probably in what is now a large field bounded by the railway line and lying immediately to the north of Thame Lane.
In 1941 a Royal Naval Air Station was commissioned as H.M.S. Hornbill. It was closed in 1956, but reopened in the same year as an Admiralty Storage Depot. The depot covers 592 acres and extends into the parishes of Clifton Hampden and Nuneham Courtenay. (fn. 101)
A few noteworthy men have been associated with Culham: Nicholas of Culham was Abbot of Abingdon (1289–1306) and left some money for the poor of the parish; (fn. 102) Benjamin Kennicott (vicar 1753–83) was an eminent Hebrew scholar and librarian of the Radcliffe Camera, Oxford; (fn. 103) and three other clergymen of some distinction were curates of the parish for a time in the 19th century. They were Augustus Short, first Bishop of Adelaide; (fn. 104) Herbert Kynaston, hymn-writer and High Master of St. Paul's School; (fn. 105) and Henry Octavius Coxe, Bodley's Librarian 1860– 81. (fn. 106) The blind philanthropist, Elizabeth Margaret Gilbert, was a granddaughter of Robert Wintle, vicar 1797–1848. (fn. 107) A 20th-century vicar (1911–17) was the Oxfordshire antiquary W. J. Oldfield. (fn. 108)
According to tradition the connexion between Abingdon Abbey and the Culham region was already in existence in the late 8th century. The abbey was then in possession of Andersey Island in Culham and exchanged it for Goosey (Berks.) at the wish of Offa (d. 796), King of Mercia. (fn. 109) The Mercian kings used the island as a hunting seat and this caused such inconvenience to the abbey that Abbot Rathanus gave King Coenwulf (796–?821) Sutton Courtenay (Berks.) in part exchange for Andersey. (fn. 110) The abbey seems later to have lost possession, for both Athelstan, King of Wessex, and the early Norman kings are said to have resided there. (fn. 111) It was not until 1101 that a grant by Queen Maud and another by Henry I restored Andersey to the abbey. (fn. 112) The account in the Abingdon Chronicle may be inaccurate in detail, but there is no reason to doubt its general content.
Culham itself is first mentioned during the reign of Coenwulf. It was then a royal vill and was granted to the king's two sisters who wished ultimately to bequeath the island to Abingdon Abbey. (fn. 113) In the Chronicle are two charters, dated 811 and 821, in which King Coenwulf confirmed the abbey's possessions, including Culham: these charters are certainly spurious, but the weight of tradition in favour of the events described is strong. (fn. 114) A second charter of 821 is not mentioned in the Chronicle. Yet this second charter of 821—probably as spurious as the first—is really the more important, for it was confirmed by the Crown on several occasions, viz. in 1336, 1380, 1423, 1470, and 1478. (fn. 115) In 940 King Edmund is said to have granted Culham for life to Ælfhild, a royal matron. Abingdon Abbey's consent was obtained by the promise to confirm it in its possession of Watchfield (Berks.) (fn. 116) On Ælfhild's death Culham was returned to the abbey and Edmund confirmed the grant. (fn. 117)
During the Danish invasions of the 10th century Culham was one of the few possessions which Abingdon Abbey retained. (fn. 118) The abbey seems to have lost at least part of Culham at or soon after the Conquest, for about this time William I is stated to have imprisoned Abbot Aldred and to have seized properties of the manor. (fn. 119) If so, the properties must soon have been restored, for it was said that Abbot Rainald (d. 1097) was in possession of Culham and that Abbot Faritius got part of it back in about 1101 from Henry I. (fn. 120) This part may have been Andersey, which Henry certainly gave back. (fn. 121)
The manor remained in the ownership of the abbey until the dissolution of the abbey in 1538, when it was seized by the Crown, John Hyde being appointed bailiff. (fn. 122) In 1539 John Wellesbourne of Mixbury was appointed keeper of the site of Abingdon Abbey and of Culham manor. (fn. 123) In 1545 William Bury, a London wool merchant and second son of Edmund Bury of Hampton Poyle, received a grant of the manor of Culham in exchange for Calehill in the Isle of Sheppey and £600. (fn. 124) It was to be held as a knight's fee at an annual rent of £51 14s. (fn. 125) William Bury died in 1563, (fn. 126) and was succeeded by his son John. The latter was buried in Culham church in 1572, (fn. 127) leaving as his heir a son Thomas, aged four. Thomas, who refronted the manor-house in 1610, (fn. 128) died in 1615, leaving half the manor, including the manor-house, to his widow Judith for life. (fn. 129) She was the daughter of the well-known Protestant theologian, Lawrence Humphrey, President of Magdalen College, Oxford, and Dean of Winchester; (fn. 130) and after Thomas Bury's death she twice remarried, her third husband being Sir Edmund Cary (d. 1637), a member of a prominent official family, (fn. 131) who served at the courts of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I. (fn. 132)
Thomas Bury, Judith's son, died early in 1615, a few months after his father, (fn. 133) and was succeeded by his brother William, who died in 1632. (fn. 134) He in turn was followed by his son George, at whose demise in 1662 (fn. 135) the direct male line of the Burys came to an end. The Burys retained possession of the manor until 1666 when by the marriage of George's daughter and heiress Sarah to Sir Cecil Bisshopp, Bt., of Parham (Suss.), Culham passed to the Bisshopp family. (fn. 136) The Bisshopps lived part of the time at Culham, at least until Sarah's death in 1680; (fn. 137) but in the 18th century they lived at Parham and were mainly connected with Sussex. Sir Cecil, the 4th baronet, died in 1705, and was succeeded in turn by three namesakes. (fn. 138) Sir Cecil Bisshopp, 8th baronet, who succeeded to the baronetcy in 1779, successfully claimed the dormant peerage of Zouche de Haryngworth in 1815; (fn. 139) but dying without heirs male in 1828 his estates were divided between his two daughters, the younger, Katharine Arabella, wife of Sir George Brooke-Pechell, Bt., (fn. 140) receiving the Oxfordshire lands of Culham and Newington. The deed of partition is dated 1830. (fn. 141) An earlier agreement of 1826 declared that if Lord Zouche died without male heirs the entail male on the Bisshopp estates should be cut off. (fn. 142)
Economic and Social History.
The medieval economic history of Culham is less fully documented than that of other Oxfordshire parishes, for Abingdon Abbey's special rights over it led to its not being included in Domesday Book, the hundred rolls or the tax lists, and few manorial accounts have survived. (fn. 145) Part of the manor (fn. 146) was granted in the early 12th century by Abbot Faritius to the lignar. (fn. 147) An account roll of the lignar for 1355–6 gives some details about farming in Culham: he received £14 13s. 7½d., of which by far the largest part (£12 19s. 11½d.) came from the sale of grain: 13 qrs. of wheat (frumentum), a little over 17 qrs. of rye, 27 qrs. of barley, 11 qrs. of drage, and 5½ qrs. of pulse. (fn. 148) The sale of cheese and butter produced 21s. (fn. 149) Expenses amounted to £4 6s. 1d., part of which was for salaries: 7s. to John Day (perhaps the bailiff), 3s. to the keeper of the animals, 2s. 6½d. to the dairy-keeper, and 9½d. to the pig-keeper. (fn. 150)
There is no direct evidence that the parish had a mill of its own, and it may well be that the villagers had to take their corn for grinding to the abbey mill in Abingdon. On the other hand the fishery, which was probably shared with the neighbouring parish of Sutton Courtenay, was of some importance both in medieval and later times. In the 12th century the abbey got 20 sticks of eels from it and a rental of 3s. (fn. 151)
Disputes arose with Sutton over the fishery and the mill. Abbot Faritius obtained a declaration in full shire-moot against turves being taken from Culham for the repair of the king's mill and fishery in Sutton. The order, however, was secretly disregarded, the Sutton miller, one Gamel, crossing the river at night to take turves. For this he was fined 30s. in the hundred court. It was more than 100 years before this dispute was finally settled. Between 1230 and 1232 Abbot Robert de Hendreth gave to Robert de Courtenay, lord of Sutton, an angle of an island in the Thames immediately opposite the manor-house in Sutton for digging the required materials. (fn. 152) When the abbey was dissolved the fishery was leased to John Wellesbourne for 21 years at £15; (fn. 153) whilst in the early 18th century Hearne speaks of numerous large fish being caught just below Culham Bridge. (fn. 154)
The manor seems to have comprised the bulk of the land in the parish. It is not possible to calculate the exact acreage from the survey of 1539, but the manorial land was then at least 1,136 acres, and almost certainly more. The value of the manor and appurtenances was £115 13s. 9d. There seem to have been 54 cottages in the village at the time. Freeholders were scarce, but there were 18 copyholders. (fn. 155)
In the post-Reformation period the manor was administered in the usual way by the manor court. Seven court rolls of the later 16th and of the 17th centuries survive. (fn. 156) They refer to the rights of copyholders and regulate the use of the common land. In 1686 every yardland had customary commons for 5 beasts and 60 sheep. The common called Culham Heath was to be used for horses and cows from 1 May and for sheep from St. Thomas's Day; it was to be hained from 2 February to 1 May. There were similar regulations for other common land; names mentioned are Culham Moor, between the river and the canal, East Mead, North Mead, Barnes Meadow, and Bury Croft, along the river north of the canal. The officials in 1686 were a constable, one or two tithing men, four cowmen ('kerman'), and a hayward; (fn. 157) in the 16th century there was also a herdsman. (fn. 158) In 1717 the lord of the manor agreed with the tenants to destroy a coney warren in return for the tenants releasing their right to common pasture in certain parcels of pasture-land. The aim was to improve the common. (fn. 159) But later in the century manorial rights seem to have been neglected, (fn. 160) and copyholding became less common. By the time of inclosure only cottages were held by copyhold. (fn. 161) Copyhold tenure was still in existence in 1856, (fn. 162) but the important tenants had long ceased to hold their farms by this method. The population seems to have been engaged almost entirely in agriculture, a few families attaining a moderate degree of prosperity as yeomen farmers. In the 16th century the families of Carpenter, Mayott, and Wilmot were of this kind; in the 17th century the families of Mayott, Barnes, Pead, and Reston; in the 18th century the families of Pead, Peck, and Welch; in the 19th century the families of Welch and Mundy. Most of the earlier families appear to have died out or to have left the parish by the 19th century. (fn. 163)
The 18th century saw the formation of large farms. During this century it is possible to assess roughly the size of farms from the rating assessments. (fn. 164) From 1718 until 1761 rates were assessed on the yardland. The parish was rated at 115 yardlands and until about 1750 between 25 and 30 people were usually rated. In 1731, for example, besides the demesne lands of the manor (about 18 yardlands), there were two large farms, one of 14 and one of 12 yardlands; eleven of between 3 and 9 yardlands, eight of between 1 and 2. Some of the smaller estates may have been held by tradesmen. From the 1750's the number of those rated declined to about 20, and the basis of assessment was changed in 1761 from the yardland to the pound. In that year the annual value of the parish was estimated at £1,342 5s.; three farms had an average annual value of over £150, four of about £100, and there were three between £50 and £65. This trend towards large farms continued and by 1805 there were three farms of about 400 acres or more and six others of which two were between 150 and 200 acres. (fn. 165)
Arthur Young describes some of the farming practices of James Welch, tenant of one of the large farms. He used what was basically a four-course rotation of crops, but with a variation: turnips, barley, clover, wheat, and then, turnips, barley, beans or vetches, and wheat. (fn. 166) He kept a cross of Berkshire sheep, the ram being half Gloucester and half Leicester, and he penned them, moving the pens each day, first on his barley land, then on his turnip land, and finally on his wheat land. A pen of 75 hurdles, each 6 ft. long, penned 340 sheep. (fn. 167)
There were over 800 acres of inclosed land at this date, but there were still 700 acres in the four open fields; earlier there had been, successively, two and three open fields. The survey of 1539 speaks of Town and Costard Fields, but by the mid-17th century there were three fields. The Parliamentary Survey of 1650 mentions Upper, Middle, and Lower Fields, and in 1685 the vicar's glebe was divided between Culham, Middle, and Cositer Fields. (fn. 168) Although in 1810 the glebe was still divided among these three fields (then called Ham, Middle, and Costard), (fn. 169) it would seem from Arthur Young's account that during the 18th century there had been a change from a three-course to a four-course rotation. The inclosure award of 1813 mentions Costard, Ham, and North and South Middle Fields. Costard Field formed a triangle between the turnpike and Thame Lane; south of the turnpike, along the river and the Clifton Hampden boundary, was Ham Field; while Middle Field lay to the west of the village. The northern part was mostly above the turnpike and Thame Lane, and the southern part was south of the turnpike. (fn. 170) Culham Heath (c. 270 acres) was a large tract of land lying in the north-east of the parish south of Nuneham Park and along the Clifton boundary, where it ran as far south as the turnpike. (fn. 171) Together these amounted to about 1,000 acres and there were also about 100 acres of uninclosed meadowland. (fn. 172) The inclosure award covered 1,890 acres, so that the area of earlier inclosure, excluding the Otneys, which were also inclosed earlier, was about 790 acres.
The date of the early inclosure is not known, but there was probably some by the mid-16th century. The grant of the manor in 1545 includes a number of meadows and pastures leased to individual tenants, (fn. 173) and it is likely that these no longer formed part of the parish's common lands. By the early 19th century the two detached farms, Warren and Rye Farms, were surrounded by small inclosed fields, and there was also inclosed meadowland along the river in the north and south of the parish and along the sides of Swift Ditch. (fn. 174)
Inclosure took place under an Act of Parliament between 1810 and 1813. (fn. 175) The award covered all the land in the parish, both inclosed and uninclosed, except for the Otneys. The purpose of including the old inclosures was probably to allow for the commutation of the tithes. Sir Cecil Bisshopp, the lord of the manor, received 1,588 acres and a few more for cottages held by life-hold tenure; almost all the rest went to the lessee of the rectory, the vicar, and the poor. (fn. 176)
The new rectory and vicarage estates formed by the inclosure award were probably the smallest farms in the parish, for after inclosure the other small farms tended to disappear. According to the Census of 1851 there were five large farms in Culham: the Manor farm of 400 acres, employing 15 labourers; the Home farm of 300 acres, with 16 men; Zouche farm of 400 acres, with 20 men; Warren farm of 300 acres, with 18 men; and Rye farm of 207 acres, with 9 men. (fn. 177) Otney farm across the river was not included. In the 20th century farms grew still larger, for in 1958 most of the land in Culham was divided between three large farms. (fn. 178)
Before inclosure perhaps about half the parish had been arable. (fn. 179) After inclosure the proportion increased, for Culham Heath was turned into large arable fields. (fn. 180) In the 20th century land in Culham has been about 60 per cent. arable and the rest meadow or pasture. (fn. 181)
The earliest evidence relating to the population of Culham comes from the late 17th century: it was a village of medium size. In 1676 132 adults were returned for the Compton Census, and in 1700 its total population was estimated at about 270. (fn. 182) During most of the 18th century there were said to be some 50 houses in the village, (fn. 183) but by 1801 there were probably more, for there were 364 inhabitants. Inclosure may have been responsible for a temporary depopulation, although the clearance of land for arable purposes may have increased the demand for labour. Between 1811 and 1821 population fell from 389 to 359, but it then continued to rise steadily until 1871, although the total of 579 included 93 students. (fn. 184) It afterwards fell to 344 in 1901, but has since increased slightly. The figure of 1,007 recorded in 1951, however, included 630 naval personnel, but did not include the members of the training college. (fn. 185)
By the early 19th century there was a small community of tradesmen in Culham. In 1811, out of the 88 families in the parish, 60 were mainly engaged in agriculture and 19 in trade or handicrafts. (fn. 186) In 1851 tradesmen in the village were a blacksmith, with one employee and two journeymen blacksmiths, two tailors, a tilemaker, a wheelwright, a brickmaker, and a carpenter. There were also two rag-dealers and a 'slop' warehouse, which made clothing and employed seventeen women. Other women worked as dressmakers, laundresses, and hemp-spinners. In all there were 94 houses, 12 of them at Abingdon Bridge. (fn. 187) A small brickworks also existed from about the middle of the 19th century until about 1932.
Various surviving accounts kept by the parish officers, who all regularly levied rates to cover their expenses, throw light on local administration in the 18th century and after. Constables' accounts (1748–67) show that the constable was usually changed every year. (fn. 188) His duties included keeping the pound and stocks in repair, and transporting malefactors to gaol. 'Gaol money' is a common item in his expenses account.
There were two highway surveyors, usually prominent men in the parish, such as John Phillips, the lessee of the rectory, and later the vicar, Robert Wintle, and they held office for many years. (fn. 189)
The most hard-worked parish officers were the overseers of the poor, who were chosen from among the 'substantial householders' by the vestry. (fn. 190) They were elected every year, but because of the small number of suitable men, each one served fairly frequently. There seems to have been a good deal of poverty during the 18th century, especially as the century went on, when rates had to be levied three or four times a year instead of the more normal twice. From 1726 to 1770 the parish supported between about nine and twelve paupers. The number rose in the 1770's and in 1795 and 1796 there was a serious crisis; over £420 was spent in the latter year, as compared with £80 in 1775. There was again a serious crisis in the winter of 1800–1 when there were 40 paupers supported by the parish, and over £1,000 was spent in 1801. In 1815 there were still over 30 paupers.
Outdoor relief normally took the form usual at the time: grants of money and clothing, and the provision of spinning-wheels for the women; but the crisis of the 1790's led to modifications, and flour had to be distributed to the poor on a considerable scale. (fn. 191) Apart from the relief of the poor the overseers had the additional burden of paying for militia substitutes if the parish could not provide suitable men and of paying allowances to militiamen's families. (fn. 192) Throughout the 18th century there are constant references in the overseers' accounts to medical treatment received by the poor, payment being made for such diverse ailments as smallpox and dog bites. (fn. 193) Culham, like other Oxfordshire parishes, made use of the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, and paid 1 guinea and later 2 guineas a year subscription fee. Further, the apprenticeship of pauper children was often an expensive item. (fn. 194)
In 1834 the parish came under the Abingdon Poor Law Union for relief purposes, although local organizations such as the parish clothing-club continued to make provision for the poor. (fn. 195) In 1872 the Abingdon Rural Sanitary Council took over the management of Culham's sanitation. As a result of the Local Government Act of 1894 the Culham Rural District Council and the Culham Parish Council were set up. (fn. 196) The Culham Rural District Council came to an end in 1932, when it was replaced by the Bullingdon Rural District Council.
Culham's first church may date from the reign of Coenwulf (796–?821), when the king's two sisters retired there from the world so as to devote themselves to the service of God. (fn. 197) The proximity of Abingdon Abbey undoubtedly prompted the choice of Culham. (fn. 198) There is a later tradition that the royal matron Ælfhild obtained in 940 a grant for life of Culham for a similar purpose. The chapel that she built, dedicated to St. Vincent, and in which she was buried must have been there. (fn. 199) Another tradition relates how Edward the Confessor permitted a rich priest, Blacheman by name, to live on Andersey Island and build a chapel there dedicated to St. Andrew. (fn. 200) After the Battle of Hastings Blacheman fled from England (fn. 201) and in 1101 the chapel, by then no longer used for religious services, was granted by Henry I to Abbot Faritius, who took its materials for rebuilding the abbey church at Abingdon. (fn. 202)
Twelfth-century papal confirmations of Abingdon's property do not mention any church in Culham. (fn. 203) The tithes of Culham are mentioned in the time of Abbot Hugh (1189–1221), (fn. 204) but the first known reference to Culham church is found in a bull of Gregory IX (1227–41), confirming to Abingdon Culham manor with the chapel belonging to it. (fn. 205)
By this time Culham formed an ecclesiastical peculiar and was free from the jurisdiction of the bishop. According to the Abingdon Chronicle this freedom had its origin in the grant of King Coenwulf to his sisters, which guaranteed that neither bishop, official, archdeacon, or dean had the right to enter the parish. (fn. 206) Coenwulf is also said to have been granted wide ecclesiastical freedom for Culham by Pope Leo III (795–816). The account of these privileges is written at a much later period, but evidently sums up the position of the parish in the early Middle Ages and later. Culham was entirely under the jurisdiction of the abbot, who could hear and decide pleas, both ecclesiastical and criminal. No other ecclesiastical person might try to exercise jurisdiction or claim a pension from the church. The abbot had the right of presentation to the living and did not need to present his nominee to the bishop. If the abbacy was vacant, this right devolved upon the prior and convent. Finally, the priest serving Culham received the chrism from the sacrist of Abingdon on Easter eve in Abingdon church. (fn. 207) Culham remained a peculiar until the abbey's dissolution in 1538, but in the post-Reformation period it was in Cuddesdon deanery and under the jurisdiction of the bishop and the archdeacon.
Because it was a peculiar, no reference to medieval Culham appears in the bishop's records. The church was evidently appropriated to Abingdon by the time of Gregory XI, (fn. 208) but it is not clear whether or not there was an endowed vicarage in the Middle Ages. No record of the endowment of a vicarage has been found, but the incumbents from the 14th century at least were known as vicars. (fn. 209) Soon after the Reformation there was a vicarage, for presentations were made to it from 1564. (fn. 210) On the dissolution of the monastery in 1538, the Crown took over the advowson with the manor; and when the manor was granted to William Bury in 1545 the Crown specifically reserved the advowson and no doubt also the rectory to itself. (fn. 211) They were retained by the Crown, although granted to Cardinal Pole for a time, (fn. 212) until 1589 when the bishopric of Oxford was endowed with them. (fn. 213) The Crown had already granted the right to present for one turn or more to William Hull, who in 1564 presented Richard Maddocke. (fn. 214) In 1614 Gregory Slade, a yeoman of Long Wittenham (Berks.), who had been granted the advowson for one turn only by the bishop, presented William Prowse. (fn. 215) There is no further instance of the bishop's not collating, the advowson remaining in his hands and being specifically excepted from leases of the rectory.
The rectory consisted of the great tithes, some glebe, and, at least after the Reformation, the Rectory house. It had a customary right to commons for 60 sheep and 5 beasts, but it lost this right in 1656 after a lawsuit between George Bury, lord of the manor, and John Reston, the impropriator. (fn. 216)
In the Middle Ages Abingdon Abbey received the great tithes and allocated some of them for specific purposes. Some were used for repair of the abbey buildings; some were given by Abbot Hugh (1189– 1221) to the almoner; and in 1272 the tithes of sheaves and hay were given to the lignar. (fn. 217) The abbey also received a pension from the vicar of 3s. (fn. 218) After the Reformation this pension was charged on the rectory and was paid to the lord of the manor. (fn. 219) In 1813 the tithes were commuted at the inclosure award for a fifth of the arable and a ninth of the other land in the parish. The bishop received 167 acres for the great tithes and the rectorial glebe. (fn. 220) Tithes continued to be paid on the Otneys until 1847, when they were commuted for a rent charge of £29 5s. (fn. 221) The inclosure award did not affect the rector's obligation to repair the chancel. The rectorial estate, subject to liability for the upkeep of the chancel, was sold by the bishop in 1869. (fn. 222)
Shortly before the Dissolution, if not earlier, the abbey had begun to lease the rectory. In 1535 Thomas Hyde received a lease of it for 35 years at £14 a year. (fn. 223) In 1564 Prudence Denton was granted the rectory for 35 years as from 1572; (fn. 224) but he died in 1567, leaving his interest in the rectory to Lady Knollys and his cousin Edward Cary in equal shares. (fn. 225) By 1587 the rectory had got into the hands of the Reades of Barton, near Abingdon; for in that year Thomas Reade surrendered the letters patent granted to Denton. (fn. 226) In return new letters patent were issued conferring the rectory on Mary, wife of Thomas Reade, with contingent remainder to her sons John and Richard; (fn. 227) it was in fact held by Richard, (fn. 228) apparently until 1615, when the Bishop of Oxford leased it to John Reston (fn. 229) for three lives. Leases continued until at least 1860 to be for three lives at the usual rental of £14 a year. A heriot was exacted on the death of a tenant and fines were no doubt paid, although these are not recorded in the leases. (fn. 230) From at least 1662 the lessee also paid £10 a year to the vicar. The Restons, a yeoman family, held the rectory until 1732, when the family died out. (fn. 231) Later it passed to the Phillips family, who came from East Hagbourne (Berks.), but who also had London connexions. (fn. 232) George Phillips, the eldest son of Thomas Phillips, a London carpenter, acquired the lease in 1745; (fn. 233) in 1763 it passed to John Phillips (d. about 1775), also a London master carpenter and builder, (fn. 234) and then to the latter's nephew John. (fn. 235) His descendants held the rectory until 1935. (fn. 236)
The value of the living has always been small. Neither the rectory nor the vicarage is included in the usual medieval valuations, although the vicarage was valued at £8 in 1526, when it is mistakenly called a rectory and wrongly associated with Dorchester. (fn. 237) The value of the vicarage in the early 17th century was £26 13s. 4d., and in 1739 £32 15s. (fn. 238) By 1814, however, the gross value of the living had been increased to £140. (fn. 239) In the latter part of the 19th century the Ecclesiastical Commissioners granted £140 a year to the vicarage as from 1877, which was further increased by a grant of £50 in 1927. (fn. 240) The endowment of the vicarage consisted of the small tithes and some glebe, and according to a terrier of 1685 the vicar had by custom commons for 60 sheep and 5 beasts, (fn. 241) but this right seems to have lapsed during the 18th century, probably during the period of non-resident clergy, for in 1796 the vicar was trying to discover whether he was legally entitled to commons. (fn. 242) When tithes were commuted in 1813 the vicarage received some 44½ acres of land in compensation. A piece of land (c. 5 acres) was also set aside for the vicar in lieu of the yearly pension of £10 previously paid by the impropriator. (fn. 243) The glebe, which formerly consisted largely of strips in the open fields, was exchanged for 13 acres and reorganized as compact fields. (fn. 244) Some of it has since been sold. (fn. 245)
The names of only a few pre-Reformation vicars survive: in 1323 the name Walter occurs; in 1358 John Attehalle; in 1416 one William. (fn. 246) In 1526 the church was served by a curate who received £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 247) In 1738 a curate was paid £20 a year; in 1790 £26; in 1805 £40. (fn. 248) The parish was usually served by curates in the 18th century, the vicars living elsewhere; for even Thomas Woods, vicar 1739–53, was as head master of Abingdon School non-resident. Benjamin Kennicott, vicar 1753– 83, lived in Oxford; and his successors, George Turner, 1783–97, and Robert Wintle, 1797–1848, were usually absentees, Wintle until 1816. After that non-residence came to an end. Services were held twice on Sundays, and the Sacrament was administered four times yearly during the 18th and early 19th centuries. (fn. 249) By 1854, however, Holy Communion was celebrated monthly. (fn. 250)
The ecclesiastical parish is slightly larger than the civil parish, for the boundary change of 1894 affected only the civil parish. (fn. 251)
The church of ST. PAUL comprises a chancel, nave, north and south aisle, south transept, west tower, and south porch. It is a relatively modern edifice, replacing a medieval Gothic building which stood on the site from the late 12th or early 13th century to the middle of the 19th century.
A statement that the original dedication was to St. Andrew (fn. 252) seems to be without foundation. The mistake may have arisen through the confusion of Culham with the chapel on Andersey (i.e. St. Andrew's island), but more probably with Colne (Essex) where Abingdon Abbey had a cell and where the church was dedicated to St. Andrew. (fn. 253)
The ancient church was about the same length as the present edifice, but had a narrower nave. The chancel measured 33 ft. 4 in. by 14 ft. 3 in. and was rectangular. The nave was 46 ft. 8 in. long by 15 ft. 2 in. wide; the north transept 15 ft. 2 in. by 13 ft. 7 in.; the south transept 7 ft. by 13 ft. 3 in.; and there was a south aisle 10 ft. 3 in. wide. The chancel, except for the north wall, had been so extensively repaired by 1846 as almost to be new. There was a door on the south side with a fanlight over it and a brick chimney. The nave had on the south side five small arches, pointed and recessed, and Early English in style. There was a Decorated window of two lights in the wall of the south aisle. (fn. 254) The south transept had a Decorated window of two lights on its east side and another of three lights at the end; above this window was a sundial. A sketch of the south side of the church shows that the original porch added in 1638 was much closer to the south transept than the present porch, and that the line of the roof was lower. (fn. 255) The north side of the building seems to have been poorly lit: it had only a single lancet window in the wall, although above was a range of four clerestory windows of two lights. In the north transept, however, in 'a little chapel' was the chief glory of the old church, the east window, which was filled with heraldic glass, the jambs containing chains of heraldic shields with the arms of different families; on each side was a two-light lancet window. This glass was inserted in 1638 and was part of the design of Sir Edmund Cary's monument (see below) erected by his widow. The principal arms were those of Cary and Humphrey. (fn. 256) When the church was rebuilt much of the glass was placed in a window of the north aisle, where it now is.
A high window on the north side of the church at one time contained the arms of an Abbot of Abingdon, It is not known when this window disappeared, but it was there when Rawlinson visited the parish in 1717. (fn. 257)
The tower arch is described as lofty, well proportioned, pointed but plain. It was boarded up and had a gallery in front of it dated 1721. (fn. 258)
In the churchwardens' accounts are constant references to the repair of the fabric, and there seem to have been major repairs in 1792 and 1817, (fn. 259) but the building was in such a state of decay in 1852 that there was no alternative but to rebuild it. (fn. 260)
The nave was rebuilt in the Early English style in 1852 (architect, Joseph Clarke of London; builder, G. Wyatt of Oxford) at a cost of some £1,600. It could seat 290 persons. (fn. 261) The chancel was rebuilt in 1872 (architect R. P. Spiers of London; builder, Groves) at the expense of the lay rector J. S. Phillips. (fn. 262) It has an apsidal east end. The tower is the only part of the old church remaining and apparently dates from 1710, this date being inscribed on the leadwork. (fn. 263) It is a plain battlemented structure of stone rendered in cement. There was certainly an earlier tower. There is a reference to the steeple in 1552; and in 1704, and again in 1705, the churchwardens were ordered to arrange for the repair of the tower. (fn. 264)
A stone font was given in about 1845 by J. S. Phillips. Before that time a baptismal font of gilded base metal (now used as an alms-dish), resting on a mahogany stand, was used. (fn. 265) On either side of the altar there are 19th-century wooden panels with painted figures of saints.
There were once the following memorials to the Bury family: John Bury (d. 1571/2); Elizabeth Wilmot (d. 1607), formerly wife of John Bury; William Bury (d. 1632), son of Thomas Bury, with arms; William Bury (d. 1657/8) and George Bury (d. 1662), under an achievement; Thomas Bury (d. 1671); and Anne Bury (d. 1672/3). There was also the ledger stone of Thomas Rawlins, vicar (d. 1704). (fn. 266)
In 1958 the following memorials were in the church: a tablet to Thomas Bury (d. 1614/5); (fn. 267) a wall monument with arms to Sir Edmund Cary (d. 1637), the third husband of Judith, formerly wife of Thomas Bury (d. 1614/5); a similar wall monument to Lady Judith Cary, the third wife of Sir Edmund, erected by herself in 1638; a tablet to Sarah Bury (d. 1650), wife of George Bury. A memorial to the Welch family includes John Welch (d. 1807) and his son John (d. 1827). Other memorials are to John Phillips of Culham House (d. 1824); Mary Phillips (d. 1829); Jonathan Peel (d. 1843), signed Godfrey, Abingdon; Robert Wintle, vicar (d. 1848); John Shawe Phillips (d. 1859) and other members of the Phillips family.
A war-memorial tablet to eight parishioners killed in the First World War was designed by Denis Godfrey of Abingdon and was erected in 1919. An inscription to those killed in the Second World War was added in 1950.
There are painted-glass windows in the nave and transept to the memory of James Morrell (d. 1863); and one in the chancel to Montagu Phillips (d. 1874), an infant; two painted achievements of the Phillips family are in the chancel and a royal arms of Queen Victoria is over the door.
In 1958 the plate consisted of a silver Elizabethan chalice dated 1575; a silver flagon with heraldic arms given by the Revd. Thomas Woods in 1752; (fn. 268) a silver plate, hallmarked 1726, given by the Revd. Benjamin Kennicott in 1761; and a silver paten, hallmarked 1829, given by the Revd. Robert Wintle in 1829. (fn. 269)
In 1552 the church possessed three bells and a sanctus bell, and it had a ring of three bells until 1921. These consisted of a tenor of 1597 by Joseph Carter; and two Aldbourne bells, one of 1729 by John Corr and the other uninscribed. These were recast in 1921 by Mears and Stainbank and two smaller bells were added. In 1926 a larger bell was given in memory of G. H. Gillam, vicar. There is a sanctus bell dated 1774 which is hung for chiming. It was cast by Edne Willis of Aldbourne, a noted ringer, and is the only bell known to be by him. (fn. 270)
The churchyard was extended in 1887 and again in 1921. (fn. 271)
The registers date from c. 1648 for baptisms, 1662 for burials, and 1666 for marriages, but the early ones are irregularly kept. There are churchwardens' accounts from 1718. (fn. 272)
There is nothing to suggest that Roman Catholicism was strong in Culham after the religious settlement of 1559. One or two papists are mentioned as living in Culham in the 1620's, (fn. 273) but by about 1685 there was apparently only one left. (fn. 274) This may have been Mrs. Greenwood. Rawlinson, writing in 1717, says that she was a Romanist, who had founded a charity. (fn. 275) In the early part of the 18th century there was a brief revival of Roman Catholic influence, which was centred in the manorhouse. Elizabeth Dunch of Newington, wife of Sir Cecil Bisshopp (d. 1725) of Parham, was certainly a convert to Rome, and she had at one time possession of the manor-house, (fn. 276) although it is unlikely that she lived there much. The Roman Catholic family mentioned in 1738, with whom the Jesuit Peter Ingleby lived, (fn. 277) may be that of Robert Gainsford, who was probably Lady Bisshopp's steward. (fn. 278) Earlier in the century John Young had been steward to the family and had lived in the manor-house. (fn. 279) He was presented for recusancy in 1706 (fn. 280) and failed to appear at Wheatley in 1714 to take the oaths of allegiance to George I. (fn. 281) When Lady Bisshopp died in London in 1751 Roman Catholic influence in Culham seems to have come to an end.
The growth of Protestant dissent appears to have affected the parish only very slightly. An ejected minister, Maurice Griffith, made his home in the village for a few years and died there in 1676. (fn. 282) No application for the licensing of a meeting-house has been recorded; and the 18th-century visitation returns suggest that nonconformity was not strong. In about 1685 only one dissenter is mentioned; (fn. 283) and during the next 130 years the returns never give more than nine. (fn. 284) Eighteenth-century dissenters are usually referred to as Presbyterians, but there are occasional references to Independents and Baptists. They probably worshipped in Abingdon. (fn. 285) In 1854 there were about ten dissenters living in Culham, and in 1878 thirteen were returned. (fn. 286)
In 1808 there was no endowed school in Culham, but the younger children were taught to read and write in two small schools with about 10 to 20 pupils each. (fn. 287) A Sunday school, established in 1815, paid its master from the parish rates while the other expenses were defrayed by voluntary contributors. (fn. 288)
By 1818 the dames' schools had disappeared, but two ladies had set up a school for 24 girls, and 60 children were taught in the Sunday school by a poor man of the parish who was paid 2s. 6d. a Sunday. The vicar reported at this time that there were not sufficient means of education for the poor. (fn. 289) The situation was distinctly improved in 1833, by which time two day schools had been started, one with 33 children, supported by subscription, and the other with about 20, educated at the expense of their parents. The numbers of the Sunday school had also increased to 75, and this too was supported by voluntary subscription. (fn. 290) The vicarage and the rectory gave books to form a parish library the following year. (fn. 291)
The village Church of England school was built in 1850 at a cost of £438. (fn. 292) It was erected on glebe land and in 1897 the vicar gave more glebe so that additions might be made to the schoolroom and teacher's house. The cost was £300. (fn. 293) When the practising school at Culham College was built in 1853 the boys apparently attended there, for in 1854 there were only 38 girls and infants in the village school. (fn. 294) In 1890, however, the average attendance was 66 (fn. 295) and probably included boys since in 1906 the school, with a smaller average attendance of 53, was described as an all-age mixed school. (fn. 296) In 1924 it was reorganized for infants up to eight and girls only, (fn. 297) but in 1931 the senior girls were transferred to Dorchester. In 1948 the school was temporarily closed, but was reopened in 1951 for children up to the age of eight. (fn. 298) In 1954 it had the status of an aided school, and a roll of 26 children. (fn. 299)
The practising school was built in 1853 as part of the Diocesan Training College scheme (fn. 300) at a cost of £735. (fn. 301) From 1853 to 1856 it was a mixed school, but the girls seem to have been excluded in 1856. (fn. 302) In 1904 it came partially under the control of the Oxfordshire Education Committee, (fn. 303) and in 1924 received senior boys from the village school. The school was closed in 1931, the building being taken over by the college. (fn. 304)
An evening school was in existence in 1854 when it was described as 'tolerably successful' and in 1867 there were 11 pupils. (fn. 305)
The Diocesan Training College for Schoolmasters is built on glebe land purchased from the Vicar of Culham in April 1851. The foundation stone of the chapel was laid on 28 October 1851 by Bishop Wilberforce and the main building was erected in 1852. The cost was £19,487. There was accommodation for 90 students. (fn. 306) The college really dates back to 1840, for it is a continuation of a Training Institution established at Summertown, Oxford, by the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education in that year. (fn. 307) Until the 20th century building improvements were few. In 1901–2 an assembly room with a laboratory above it was added; in 1907 part of the old building was extended eastwards; and in 1939 a new block was added on the north side of the quadrangle, consisting of a gymnasium and fourteen study-bedrooms. Between 1947 and 1949 extensive alterations were made, three new wings of study-bedrooms and a tutorial block being built to the north of the main structure. The college now has accommodation for 240 students. The chapel was extended in 1954–5. The extension is at the east end and is a tower-like structure of unusual design. The interior has been redecorated and partly refitted.
The college was closed during the First World War and again in 1941. It was reopened in 1920 and 1946. (fn. 308)
In 1606 Joan Whitfield left £10 for the poor; (fn. 309) in 1608 John Robinson and William Carpenter gave £5; (fn. 310) in the 1640's Maurice Griffith £10; (fn. 311) and before 1717 Mrs. Greenwood, a 'Romanist', left a legacy of £20 to be used for distributing 20 twelve-penny loaves to the poor every Good Friday. (fn. 312) The churchwardens' accounts, beginning in 1718, speak of this charity and of the Bowles charity, which also appears to have originated in the early 18th century. (fn. 313) It was believed in 1738 that the capital value of the charities had once amounted to £50, but by then, thanks to the negligence of the churchwardens, only £20 remained. (fn. 314) In the 18th and early 19th centuries the interest on this £20 was distributed in small annual, biennial, or triennial doles to the unrelieved poor. (fn. 315) In the 1820's the interest (£1 yearly) was being allowed to accumulate. (fn. 316) The charity was lost by 1883. (fn. 317)
By the inclosure award of 1813 19 acres in the north-east of the parish were set aside for the poor in place of their right to furze. (fn. 318) This area, the Poor's Allotment, was being let about 1820 for £40, and the rent arising spent on coals for the poor. (fn. 319) In 1847 the land was sold to the G.W.R., and the proceeds invested in £2,016 stock. (fn. 320) Until 1883 the income was distributed in coals, often to all the inhabitants regardless of need. (fn. 321) A Scheme made in 1883 stipulated that it should be spent in subscriptions or donations to hospitals or homes on such terms as would secure the benefits of the institution to the objects of the charity, in aid of provident clubs supplying coal, clothing or other necessaries, in purchasing coals for the schools, in contributions towards outfits, and in the supply of clothes, fuel, medicines, or food. (fn. 322) By a Scheme of 1932 the objects of the charity were slightly modified. (fn. 323) In 1955 the income was £51 and was being distributed for unspecified purposes in 39 separate sums ranging from £1 to £5. (fn. 324)