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 composition of the ancient parish of Dorchester is somewhat obscure. It may have included the hamlet of Overy as well as Burcot, (fn. 1) about 1½ miles north-west of Dorchester, and so have covered an area of 2,263 acres. (fn. 2) For centuries, however, Burcot had a separate economic life, and was long recognized as a separate civil parish. For the purposes of this article, therefore, the history of Burcot will not be included except incidentally. (fn. 3)
The area of Dorchester and Overy was 1,954 acres. (fn. 4) This was still the area of the civil parish in 1959. It then included a new estate of 271 dwellings, made at Berinsfield just north-west of Dorchester and close to the Oxford road. (fn. 5)
The River Thames forms the parish boundary to the south and the River Thame for about a mile to the east. To the south-east the boundary crosses the Thame to include the hamlet of Overy. The northern half of the parish has irregular boundaries with the hamlet of Burcot and the neighbouring parishes of Marsh Baldon, Chislehampton, and Drayton St. Leonard. (fn. 6)
The parish is low lying and flat, sloping gently from 200 feet in the north to 150 feet in the south. (fn. 7) The underlying Gault Clay is covered by gravel (fn. 8) and there are large gravel pits, which extended in 1959 to well over 100 acres, to the north-west of the village. There is no woodland in the parish, and apart from the trees of the village and the riverside there is very little standing timber. In 1551 a survey of what had been the Bishop of Lincoln's manor listed 970 timber trees on the copyhold of Dorchester and 785 on those of Overy. (fn. 9) Shortly after the Dissolution there were 360 elms and ashes growing on the lands of what had been the abbey's manor. (fn. 10)
The oldest known road in the parish is the Roman one leading from Dorchester, where its line is preserved in the main street of the village, to Water Stratford just over the north-east boundary of the county. (fn. 11) It is possible that this road continued across the Thame and crossed the Thames by a ford about half-way between Dorchester and Shillingford. It seems probable that the Thame was bridged here in the Anglo-Saxon period but the earliest evidence of a bridge is in 1146. (fn. 12) In 1381 the bailiffs of Dorchester were granted pontage for three years for the repair of the bridge, (fn. 13) and in the mid-15th century more work seems to have been done on it at the expense of two local landowners, Sir Richard Drayton and John Delabere (Bishop of St. Davids, 1447–60), (fn. 14) whose benefaction was commemorated in an inscription on a cross which stood on or near the bridge in the 16th century. (fn. 15) This cross was removed in or soon after 1781. (fn. 16) Leland described the bridge as 'of a good length; and a great stone causey is made to come well onto it. There be 5 principal arches in the bridge and in the causey joining to the south end of it.' (fn. 17) In the 17th and 18th centuries it was frequently in need of repair, (fn. 18) and by 1781 its condition was so bad that £206 were spent on its repair and widening. In 1808 a grand jury presented that it was again out of repair, narrow, and inconvenient. (fn. 19) It was described as a mean and narrow structure, with recesses on one side to enable foot passengers to avoid the real danger threatened by the transit of carriages. (fn. 20) A new bridge was, therefore, designed by Mr. Francis Sandys and built about 100 yards above the old structure between 1813 and 1815 at a cost of £23, 857. (fn. 21) The new bridge is stone built and with its causeway is 1,160 yards long. The old bridge, which led into the green at Bridge End, was demolished in 1816, but the foundations of its piers are still encountered by boats when the river is low. By 1824 the foundations of the new bridge had been so badly washed away that underpinning at a cost of £3,737 was necessary. In 1847 the ladies of Dorchester complained of the nuisances committed on the seats on this bridge which were said to be a disgrace to the parish. The remedy suggested by Mr. William Cobb was 'to slope them up with brickwork … so that no person can stand or sit in them'. (fn. 22) This was apparently done for the recesses on the bridge are at present 'sloped up' with stone work.
The bridge carries the main Oxford-Henley road which crosses the parish and forms the main street of the village. Since the expiration of the Henley and Dorchester Turnpike Trust in 1873 the maintenance of this road has been the responsibility of the county. (fn. 23) The early 19th-century toll-house still stands at the approach to the bridge. This road, probably always the most important through the parish, was used in the 13th century by the Bishop of Lincoln's tenants who were required to cart corn to Oxford and Wallingford. (fn. 24) In 1816 Dorchester was said to be chiefly known by it. It ran through to Oxford, Worcester, Gloucester, and South Wales. (fn. 25)
A side road of some importance leads via Burcot to Abingdon. (fn. 26) There seems to have been a great deal of concern about this road in the 15th century and the Abingdon Guild of the Holy Cross was established to maintain it. (fn. 27) The road was turnpiked in 1754–5 and was dis-turnpiked in 1874. (fn. 28) In a survey of the Bishop of Lincoln's demesne at Dorchester made in 1348 mention is made of roads or 'ways' to Oxford, Baldon, Drayton, Burcot, and 'Wolden'. (fn. 29) In the mid-19th century the River Thame was crossed by three footbridges, one at the confluence with the Thames, another just above the site of the old bridge, and a third leading to Overy via The Hurst. (fn. 30) The 'Back Lane' on the west of the village is sometimes known as Watlington Lane and this is most likely a corruption of the name of two holdings of Richard Beauforest in the 16th century, Great and Little Wallington. (fn. 31) The track now known as Wittenham Lane was in the mid-19th century called Ferry Road. (fn. 32)
In 1580 and 1585 a weir and a lock were owned by Edmund Fettiplace and a weir, which seems properly to have been in Little Wittenham parish, was owned by William Dunch. (fn. 33) Both Edmund Dunch and Edmund Fettiplace were members of the ineffective commission set up under the Act of 1605 for improving the navigation of the Thames between Burcot and Oxford. (fn. 34) The Dunch interest passed through the Oxendens to William Hallett who in 1789 was given notice to keep the old flashlock shut on the opening of the new poundlock. (fn. 35) This was known as Day's Lock and had been staked out in 1788 and completed at a cost of £1,078; (fn. 36) it was in utter ruin in 1865 and was rebuilt in 1871. (fn. 37) Formerly there was a timber swing-bridge below the lock but an iron bridge was built about 1870 at a cost of £250. (fn. 38)
The village of Dorchester lies about 9 miles southeast by south of Oxford on the western bank of the River Thame, about half a mile above the confluence of that river with the Thames. It was one of the two Romano-British 'towns' in the county. The course of its walls, first erected c. a.d. 125, has been determined in part and seems to enclose an area of about 13½ acres, and there is evidence to suggest that at least in origin this 'town' was a military or paramilitary settlement with the civilian settlement outside the walls. (fn. 39) It continued to flourish into the 4th century and the recent re-examination (fn. 40) of some early Saxon graves from the neighbourhood has led to the conclusion that they are the graves not of invaders but of foederati and their dating to the end of the 4th or the early 5th century suggests that life continued in Dorchester to the very end of the Roman period. Indeed it has even been suggested that the continuance of some sort of sub-Roman life in Dorchester was the reason Birinus chose it for his see in 634. (fn. 41) The name Dorchester itself would support the theory of continuity. It is first recorded by Bede in the early 8th century in the forms Dorcic, Dorciccaestræ. (fn. 42) The second element is the common Old English ceaster meaning a Roman station, but the first is certainly British although its meaning is most uncertain.
Whether or not life continued in Dorchester until the English conquest and after, it is remarkable that both the abbey church, presumably on the site of the earlier church, and the monastic buildings lay outside what seems to have been the line of the Roman walls. The full extent of the Saxon settlement is not known, but after the Norman Conquest and the removal of the see to Lincoln the town may well have declined in importance. William of Malmesbury, writing about 1125, described Dorchester as exilis et infrequens, but he added majestas tamen ecclesiarum [est] magna, seu veteri opera seu sedulitate nova. (fn. 43) Leland, who visited Dorchester in 1542, remarked that 'of old time it was much larger in building than it is now toward the south and the Tamise side. There was a parish church a little by south from the abbey church. And another parish church more south above it. There was a third parish church by south west'. (fn. 44) This was probably the source of the statements made by such later observers as Hearne and Gough that there were three churches at Dorchester besides the abbey church. Gough, writing in the early 19th century, stated that foundations of one of these churches could be seen 'as you turn up to the bridge in the gardens of the clerk's house'. (fn. 45) A few years later J. N. Brewer reported that he could find no trace of such foundations, (fn. 46) but he observed what seemed to be the site of one church in Farm Field. There is now no trace of any of these churches. The walls of the town seem still to have been standing in the 12th century. (fn. 47) Other lost buildings are the Bishop's Palace and 'The Gyld' and the farmhouse mentioned by Gough, who says it was called Bishop's Court Farm and was in the form of a cross. (fn. 48) Bishop's Court is reputed to stand on the site of the bishop's palace. Leland observed old foundations there, and in his time the courts, presumably of the Bishop of Lincoln's manor, were held there. (fn. 49)
Apart from post-war development most of the village may be said to be bounded by the rectangle formed by Back Lane to the west and south and Marten's Lane to the north. The only important extension beyond this is Bridge End, which has become a backwater since the construction of the new bridge.
Most of the buildings in the village are basically of the 17th and 18th centuries. The main 19thcentury additions are the Vicarage, built in 1856–7 to the design of David Brandon, the Beech House Hotel (originally a private residence), and the former Missionary Training College in Queen Street, which was formed out of some older buildings by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1877–8. (fn. 50) There is also some 20thcentury housing in several parts of the village, including an estate called Tenpenny at the southwest end of the village and some varied modern houses at the north-east corner between Queen Street and the river. (fn. 51) Most of the earlier buildings have timber frames, generally with brick filling, while buildings of the 18th century and later are generally of brick. Much of the brickwork of all ages is colour-washed. Other building materials are used, including flint and rubble stone, most remarkably in Mollymops cottage in Bridge End, dated 1715, which is built of alternate bands of flint and brick. Most roofs are tiled but some thatch remains, notably in Bridge End and Malt House Lane. Several buildings in the village have been extensively altered from time to time, but still retain many original features. This is particularly true of High Street where a large number of buildings seem to be originally of the 17th century, but have a variety of later frontages. The most striking of these is on Willoughby House, a timber-framed structure of the 17th century, or perhaps even earlier, which has an early 19th-century stuccoed front with a masonry pattern. The Manor House is another good example of an enlarged house in which the earlier building is largely preserved. It is to almost all external appearances an 18th-century house with Gothic windows on the west front and an early-19thcentury wing added on the north. It contains extensive traces of an earlier house of the 17th or perhaps even the 16th century. This seems to have been a two-story building and now forms the core of the western part of the house. There are some very fine timbers in the ceilings of the cellar and the ground floor, and the tiled roof may be original. This was the farm-house mentioned by Wood in 1657 as belonging to Mr. Clerk 'which some say was part of the abbey'. (fn. 52)
High Street, crossing the village from north-west to south-east, is a most attractive street and contains many groups of buildings of great charm and interest. (fn. 53) It winds through the village and is made up of a variety of cottages, houses, shops, and inns with very irregular roof lines. Perhaps the most striking buildings in this street are the inns: the 'Crown', the 'George', the 'White Hart', and what was formerly the Bull Inn but is now three houses. These are all timber-framed buildings and their upper stories oversail, the carved brackets on 'Bullyn' being particularly good. This house also has some fine panelled rooms. All these inns have yards, the best being that of the 'George' with its open gallery. (fn. 54)
North-west of the village is Bishop's Court. The central part of the present house is an L-shaped timber-framed structure with brick filling, some of it herringbone, and there are 18th- and 19th-century extensions. The interior contains some fine chamfered beams which may date back to the rebuilding of 1552, which, it is said, is recorded in the title deeds. (fn. 55)
With the probable exception of what is now the school-house at the west end of the church, nothing remains of the monastic buildings. The schoolhouse may have been a guest house. It is a timberframed building with brick filling, and on the north side the first floor oversails. The south wall, however, is built of stone and in it there is the cusped head of a two-light mullioned window that has been blocked up. There are also traces of other similar windows and of a stone doorway. Wood speaks of the school-house being built about 1654, and this almost certainly refers to the timber-framed structure. (fn. 56) When the school-house was built some little underground rooms were discovered, some of them paved with hard white stone, and one of them had a central hearth. Digging at the west end of the church in the 17th century also revealed a small vault which Wood seems to have considered a place of punishment. In the early 19th century there seem to have been the remains of an arched entrance to the monastery at the west end of the church, between this school-house and the church. The main monastic buildings were on the north side of the church, the cloister on the north side of the nave. Nothing now remains of these buildings although substantial remains were described by Wood. To the north of the church there were then some 'great slatted barns, that are supported with buttresses' which were probably the wooden barns forming a quadrangle north of the Manor House. (fn. 57) These were recently destroyed to make way for some new houses. Some part of the medieval masonry does, however, still survive.
The hamlet of Overy lies across the river. Its mill, likely to be on the site of one of the two 11th-century mills granted to the abbey, (fn. 58) is a timber-framed building with weatherboarding. All the houses at Overy, including the mill-house and the so-called manor-house, are 18th-century brick buildings. The 'manor-house', long occupied by the family of Davey, (fn. 59) bears the initials and date WHD 1712.
Queensford Mill, to the east of Dorchester, is partly built of brick, partly timber-framed and weather-boarded. The Mill House and Barn are both brick structures of the 18th century. (fn. 60)
During the Civil War, as Dorchester lay so near Oxford and on the main road to Henley, troops were constantly in and about it. Sir Samuel Luke records that in May 1643 Sir John Byron and his forces lay there; that two regiments of the king's foot left it in September, and that the royalists intended to keep garrison there during the winter. In March of the next year all Prince Maurice's foot were said to be at Dorchester as well as some of the king's horse from Oxford. In March 1646 the Committee of Both Kingdoms was informed that 1,000 royalist horse and 500 foot were at Dorchester and intended to quarter there. Colonel Fleetwood was ordered to remove them. (fn. 61)
Among residents of interest the 16th-century family of Beauforest (fn. 62) and the Roman Catholic Daveys of Overy, (fn. 63) who were especially prominent from the 17th to the 19th centuries, may perhaps be singled out. In the 19th century W. C. Macfarlane was a notable curate. (fn. 64)
The Bishop of Lincoln's great estate of DORCHESTER, assessed at 90 hides in Domesday Book, (fn. 65) represented a part of the ancient endowments of the see of Dorchester which had been transferred to Lincoln. (fn. 66) Of this Domesday estate 59 hides and 3 virgates were the bishop's demesne, the remainder was held by under-tenants. (fn. 67) The bishop's demesne and the subinfeudated parts of the estate were almost as extensive as Dorchester hundred and included as well land at Baldon and Little Milton which was outside the hundred. (fn. 68)
In the second quarter of the 13th century the demesne manor included lands in Baldon, Burcot, Chislehampton, and Drayton as well as in Dorchester. (fn. 69) In 1329 the bishop was granted free warren in his demesne lands in these places (fn. 70) and they were still listed as part of the demesne manor in 1551. (fn. 71) When the manor was held by the Norreys family and their successors it was reduced in extent (fn. 72) and by the 18th and 19th centuries comprised lands in Dorchester, Overy, Drayton, Burcot, and Chislehampton only. (fn. 73) Homagers from Dorchester and Drayton attended the courts baron and orders were made for Dorchester, Drayton, Overy, and Burcot. (fn. 74)
This complex manor formed part of the temporalities of the bishopric of Lincoln until 1547, when it was surrendered to the Crown by Henry Holbeach shortly after his translation from Rochester. (fn. 75) Between 1558 and 1562 the manor with lands to the annual value of £108 in Dorchester, Overy, Burcot, Baldon, Chislehampton, and Drayton was twice used as security by the Crown for loans. (fn. 76) Queen Elizabeth granted it to Henry Norreys, later Lord Norreys of Rycote, who was in possession by 1577 at least. (fn. 77) He was succeeded in the barony in 1601 by his grandson Francis, who inherited Dorchester manor in 1603 on the death of his uncle Sir Edward Norreys, a younger son of Henry. (fn. 78) Francis (cr. Viscount Thame and Earl of Berkshire, 1621) committed suicide in 1622 leaving an only daughter Elizabeth Baroness Norreys as heir. (fn. 79) She married Edward Wray (d. 1658), a gentleman of the Bedchamber, and after her death in 1645 the courts baron held between 1646 and 1650 were described as of Edward Wray. (fn. 80) Their only child Bridget Baroness Norreys was the second wife of Montagu Bertie, 2nd Earl of Lindsey. She died in 1657 and her husband presumably held her Dorchester lands as he certainly did her Thame ones until his death in 1666. Their son James Bertie Lord Norreys, who was created Earl of Abingdon in 1682, succeeded to his mother's lands. (fn. 81) On his death in 1699 the manor passed to his son and heir Montagu, Earl of Abingdon, (fn. 82) and remained in the hands of the earls of Abingdon (fn. 83) until 1876, when it was sold to Sir John Christopher Willoughby of Baldon (d. 1918). (fn. 84) The manor and estate, including Dorchester Field Farm (536 a.), was purchased by Guy Nevill Eaglestone KennettBarrington in 1915. (fn. 85) No lord of the manor was recorded after 1928. (fn. 86)
A second DORCHESTER manor developed from the estates held in the Middle Ages by the abbey. The nucleus of this estate was the land in Dorchester granted to the canons in the 11th century by Bishop Remigius. (fn. 87) In the course of the Middle Ages the abbey acquired estates in the neighbouring parishes of Drayton, Burcot, and Clifton and continued to add to their lands in Dorchester. (fn. 88) Like the bishop's manor the abbey's also extended outside the parish, but not over such a wide area. In 1391 the abbot and convent were said to have leased their Dorchester manor. (fn. 89) In the 15th century, however, they continued to hold their courts for the property, although they may still have let out the demesne land. (fn. 90) After the dissolution in 1536 the 'late monastery of Dorchester' and extensive estates in Dorchester and nearby, including Overy mill, were leased to Edmund Ashfield of Ewelme, and in 1544 this lease was converted into a grant in fee. (fn. 91) Sir Edmund Ashfield died in 1578 in possession of Dorchester manor which passed to his grandson, Edmund Fettiplace of Swinbrook, eldest son of William Fettiplace and Elizabeth Ashfield, second daughter of Sir Edmund. (fn. 92) The descent of this manor is thereafter the same as the Fettiplace manor of Swinbrook and is given here only in outline. On Edmund Fettiplace's death in 1613 the manor passed to his eldest son, John, founder of the free school at Dorchester, (fn. 93) who died, unmarried, in 1657. (fn. 94) He was succeeded by his nephew, Sir John Fettiplace (d. 1672), who was succeeded by his eldest son Sir Edmund, who died unmarried in 1707. (fn. 95) The manor passed in turn to his three brothers, Sir Charles who died unmarried in 1714, Lorenzo (d. 1725), and George, the founder of the Fettiplace charity, who died unmarried in 1743. (fn. 96) The property then passed to a nephew, Thomas Bushell, who was directed in Sir George's will to take the name of Fettiplace. (fn. 97) He died in 1767 and the manor passed to his son Robert. (fn. 98) In or shortly after 1777 Robert was 'in distressed circumstances' and conveyed his estates to trustees for the payment of his debts. At this time he was believed to be living in Paris. (fn. 99) In 1785 his lands at Dorchester were still in the hands of trustees (fn. 100) but by 1787 he seems to have recovered his rights as lord of Dorchester manor, (fn. 101) and on his death in 1799 these passed to his brother, Charles Fettiplace of South Lawn Lodge. (fn. 102) Charles was succeeded on his death in 1805 by his nephew Richard Gorges, who assumed the name Fettiplace by royal licence of 13 January 1806 and died without issue on 21 March 1806. (fn. 103) In May 1808 this Fettiplace manor, with 312 acres of land, &c., was offered for sale by auction and was purchased by George White of Newington. (fn. 104) By 1817 he had been succeeded by Thomas Gilbert White, (fn. 105) who in 1861 was one of the consenting parties to the inclosure of Dorchester. (fn. 106) No mention of his manorial rights was made and there is no further reference to this manor.
The medieval demesne of the bishops seems to have included Bishop's Court Farm. By the 16th century at least the bishop was leasing this property (fn. 107) and at the time when it was handed over to the Crown it was held by Richard Beauforest, a local gentleman. (fn. 108) The Crown continued this policy for a time and the lease was granted in 1549 to Roger Hatchman of Ewelme, (fn. 109) who also farmed the rectory and leased Overy mills. In 1585 the queen granted Bishop's Court Farm and Queensford mill to William Dunch (d. 1597) of Little Wittenham for £33 16s. 4d. a year, to be held in chief. (fn. 110) The property followed the descent of Little Wittenham, passing to Edmund Dunch (d. 1623), to his grandson Edmund (d. 1678), to Hungerford Dunch (d. 1680) and to Edmund Dunch (d. 1719). (fn. 111) As at Little Wittenham, the three co-heirs of Edmund succeeded, but in 1755 the property was conveyed to the eldest co-heir, Elizabeth Dunch (d. 1779), and her husband Sir George Oxenden (d. 1775). (fn. 112) They were succeeded by their son Sir Henry Oxenden, who in 1783 was termed lord of 'Dorchester manor'. (fn. 113) Sir Henry had sold his Dorchester property by 1787 to William Hallet, the purchaser of his Little Wittenham estate; and in that year Hallet, as lord of Dorchester manor, appointed a gamekeeper. (fn. 114)
Queensford mill, first mentioned by name in 1146, was undoubtedly the mill recorded on the bishop's estate in 1086. (fn. 115) It remained part of the bishop's estate during the Middle Ages and in 1545 was included with the fishery in the lease of Bishops Court farm to Richard Beauforest. (fn. 116) It passed to the Crown in 1547 with the rest of the Dorchester estate, but continued to be leased. (fn. 117) In 1585 Queen Elizabeth included the mill in the grant of Bishops Court farm to William Dunch. (fn. 118) It followed the descent of the Dunch estate: in 1630, for example, Edmund Dunch leased 'Queeneforde Millnes' and appurtenances for fourteen years for £26 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 119) In the 18th century their successors, the Oxendens, held it. (fn. 120) The descent of the mill is not clear after it passed from the Oxendens at the end of the 18th century, (fn. 121) but it was in use as a mill at least until the 1870's. (fn. 122) At the end of the century it was part of Jabez Balfour's estate of Queensford Mill farm and was sold in 1897. (fn. 123) By then it is said to have been used as a store for some time. (fn. 124)
There were two water-mills on the abbey's estate in the Middle Ages, said to have been granted to the canons by Bishop Remigius (1072–92), (fn. 125) although neither was mentioned in the Domesday Survey. One called Cudicah in 1163 (fn. 126) was on the Thames, the other was on the Thame. (fn. 127) Both were known as Overy mills. They followed the descent of the abbey's Dorchester manor until the Dissolution, (fn. 128) when the Crown leased them to Roger Hatchman of Ewelme at first (fn. 129) and later included them in the grant of the Dorchester Abbey estate to Sir Edmund Ashfield. (fn. 130) Only one mill was mentioned among Sir Edmund's property on his death in 1578, (fn. 131) but in the 17th century his successors, the Fettiplaces, received rent from 'the grist mills', presumably the two Overy mills. (fn. 132) At the sale of the Fettiplace estate in 1808, no mention was made of the mills, which perhaps had already been sold. (fn. 133) One Overy mill continued to function until the early 20th century; (fn. 134) the fate of the other is not known.
Fisheries and Locks.
Fishing rights belonged originally to the bishop. (fn. 135) In 1397 he granted all his fishing rights in the Thame and Thames at Dorchester to the abbey. (fn. 136) These rights descended to the abbey's successors. In 1538 the Crown leased the Thame fishery to Sir Edmund Ashfield and later included the fisheries in the grant of the manor. (fn. 137) Ashfield's heir. Edmund Fettiplace, owned the weir and lock on the Thames in 1580 and 1585, (fn. 138) and in the 17th century the Fettiplaces held the free fishery in the Thame and Thames. (fn. 139) In 1691 their tenant held the ferry, fishery, and lock for £4 a year. (fn. 140) In 1707 Sir Charles Fettiplace released to Edmund Dunch Wittenham Ferry House on an island in the Thames, the ferry between Dorchester and Wittenham, and fishing rights between 'Cowcutt and Feasants Eyot'. (fn. 141) The Dunch interest presumably passed to their successors (fn. 142) but no further mention of the fishing rights was made.
Social and Economic History.
Dorchester's fields have been occupied from Neolithic times and although many of the prehistoric sites have been excavated, many are only known by aerial photography. Among the more important discoveries made in recent years are an extensive Neolithic complex between the Abingdon and Oxford roads and an early Iron Age site in the same area. (fn. 143)
Domesday Book shows that at the end of the Saxon period Dorchester was the chief of a group of estates in this part of Oxfordshire which stood in a special relationship to the town and which supported the bishop and his household. (fn. 144) The town had lost much of its former importance by the time of the Norman Conquest and lost more when the bishopric was removed to Lincoln. (fn. 145) It retained, however, its position as the centre of the bishop's neighbouring estates. In 1086 the bishop held 59¾ hides on these estates while his knights had 30¼ hides. (fn. 146) None of his knights was enfeoffed in Dorchester itself, which was said in 1086 to be entirely in the bishop's own hands. (fn. 147) There was a home farm which had land for 4 ploughs and the rest of the land was in the hands of the bishop's peasants, 34 villani and 22 bordars. The bishop was himself said to have only 3 ploughs and his tenants had 15 ploughs between them. Some of the English freemen who held of the land of Dorchester may have held in Dorchester itself but the survey does not make this point clear. (fn. 148) The estate had almost doubled its preConquest value of £18 and was worth £30 in 1086, together with a number of assets not included in this estimate: the mill rendered 20s., the fisherman paid 30 sticks of eels, and a ½-hide of land brought in 12s. Meadow-land was worth 40s. a year and there was underwood 6 furlongs by three. (fn. 149) There is no mention in Domesday of the estate of the Dorchester church, the later abbey, which Bishop Remigius (1072–92) gave the canons on the transference of the see. (fn. 150) These lands were described in charters of 1146 and 1163 as the land once held by Hunfredus the priest, i.e. the later Humfrey's mede, Brademera with its meadow and pasture, the curtilage and croft which had belonged to Hunfredus the priest, 10 bordars, the episcopal houses and whatever was within the wall. Outside the wall they were granted the land between it and the road going to the house of a certain Dunning, the whole circuit (ambitus) of the episcopal granges and the croft beyond them, the garden and furlong beyond it that stretched to Queensford mill and comprised 100 acres, and the meadow bordering the river by this same land and 'suiftlac' meadow on the other side. Most of the meadow and pasture in fact belonged to the two mills which were also granted. (fn. 151) The one was undoubtedly Overy mill, described as to the east over the bridge on the Thame. The other, called Cudicah in 1163, was described as on the Thames. (fn. 152)
Dorchester's importance as a demesne manor is clearly shown in a survey of the bishop's estates of the second quarter of the 13th century. (fn. 153) Not only did the bishop frequently visit the township, but he maintained a demesne farm which was expected to provide for his needs in residence and also supplied produce for him at his other manors. A certain amount was evidently sold, for his tenants had to carry grain to Oxford and Wallingford where it was taken on by boat to London. (fn. 154) His demesne land in the whole hundred of Dorchester was 5 carucates, but it is not stated how much lay in Dorchester itself. (fn. 155) He must have had a fair-sized farm there for 8 of his Dorchester tenants were required to act as ploughmen, which would mean that he had at least 4 plough-teams. (fn. 156) Small parcels of the demesne meadow and pasture were let out to tenants, but no large-scale leasing of the demesne was recorded. (fn. 157) The list of labour-services shows that the farm was expected to produce a good quantity of grain and that a number of sheep and pigs were kept on it and neighbouring manors. (fn. 158)
The tenants' rents and dues were organized round the needs of the home farm. Only 4 were free tenants, who together held about 2 hides. One, Geoffrey de Verley, held 1 hide, which, however, the jurors claimed had been customary land in the time of Bishop Robert de Chesney (1148–83). (fn. 159) The rest of the bishop's tenants were unfree, holding in all about 31 virgates. All paid merchet, heriot, leirwite, an entry fine for their land, and aid. Working virgaters owed pannage and 'tolsest', four hens at Christmas, and 6d. rent; cottars and groups of carucarii (ploughmen) and 'gavelmen' owed the same dues except for the rent. These dues and the whole organization of rents and labour services indicate that the agricultural system at Dorchester was of considerable antiquity. The virgate was the standard holding for about half the tenants, while the cottars held an acre each. Most tenants were expected to attend the autumn boons, but some were completely free of week-work and the more arduous services; others were still liable although arrangements existed for them to pay rent if the bishop did not need their services. Thirteen villeins had no week-work, but paid rent at about 5s. 6d. a virgate and did ploughing and harvest works, usually by ploughing so many acres for the bishop and attending the boons. Six of them owed somewhat heavier services, as well as the same elaborate carrying and carting services which the Chislehampton virgaters owed. They carted the grain from the field until it was all in; carried it to Oxford and Wallingford to be shipped to London, and went on the boat with it if necessary; and also carried the bishop's food to various places. Like the Chislehampton virgater they also owed 'wudeway' and each had to feed one of the bishop's horses whenever the bishop came to the town at Martinmas and Hocktide. (fn. 160) There was a group of 7 cottars, 1 half-virgater, and 8 tenants renting small parcels of the demesne who likewise had no week-work. The other tenants of the bishop were liable to week-work. These were 11 villeins with 10 virgates between them, the 8 carucari and 2 half-virgaters, and about 18 of the 28 cottars. The virgaters owed three days a week of farm work and a fourth day when they did carrying and carting services. The ploughmen and cottars did two days a week each with one man. If the land was held at rent or 'farmed' the virgaters each paid 5s. 6d., the carucarii 2s. each, and the cottars 1s. or 1s. 4d.; they still had also to perform certain agricultural services.
Their services, whether farmed or not, illustrate the agricultural life of medieval Dorchester. The farmwork on the demesne was divided among the various tenants. The working virgater did ploughing and boon services like the rent-paying virgater. He had to stack and toss the hay ready for his rentpaying fellow to cart; similarly he cut and prepared the wood for carting; stacked and covered haycocks and reaped a half-acre of the bishop's grain each day until it was all reaped. The bishop, when he was at Dorchester, also had his services for two days threshing whether his works were commuted or not. Two works were taken up in making hurdles for the bishop's fold and others were devoted to making the byres and fetching wood from the Abbot of Eynsham's wood at Woodcote for the fencing of the bishop's court. When the bishop sent grain to London the virgaters were to steer the boat and help with transport at their own expense. If a man made a quarter of malt from the bishop's grain it was reckoned as two works. The cottars did similar services. Each carried a quarter of a quarter of grain to the ship when it was sent to London, carried eggs, and drove pigs and cattle to neighbouring manors. They helped with the brewing of the bishop's ale. The bishop reserved some of their services for the sheep-shearing which each had to attend. Seven other cottars did no week-work, but among their dues it was stated that if they had sheep they were each to keep 5 in the bishop's fold from Hocktide to Martinmas and to pay 1d. for every 4 in their own fold. One group of tenants was tied closely to the demesne. Eight carucarii or ploughmen held 4 virgates between them and were to be the lord's ploughmen. It was also their business to brew the bishop's ale and, with the help of the cottars, they were to guard any thieves and, if necessary, hang them. When the bishop's hay or grain was in the fields they and the hayward were to watch over it nightly. Two others with a ½-virgate each were to be the bishop's shepherd and swineherd, but they could commute this service for rent and lighter services, while a third had in fact commuted his service of being cowherd. (fn. 161) The whole tenor of the survey indicates that, even if conditions were changing in the 13th century, the bishop had in the past cultivated his farm by the labour services of his tenants and still expected to use them.
Dorchester's hamlet of Overy was not mentioned by name in this survey, but there were evidently some houses there by this time. Its mill, described as 'beyond the bridge' (ultra pontem) was working in 1146. (fn. 162) The bishop also had a 13th-century tenant Reginald, distinguished as of ultra aquam de Dorchester, i.e. of Overy. (fn. 163)
It seems that no survey of 1279 of Dorchester or Overy has survived. The rolls of the hundredal inquest for Dorchester hundred are defective and the first entry concerns Stadhampton. (fn. 164)
A survey of the bishop's demesne in 1348 listed about 720 arable acres, 150 acres of meadow, and 40 acres of pasture. Some furlongs lay in townships near Dorchester, but certain of them can be identified as Dorchester lands: the furlong under the Dyke (42 a.), Dyke Furlong (38 a.), Quenford Furlong (9 a.), Whalley Meadow (27 a.) and Horsecroft (in Overy), and 'Erdiche medewe' (later Ardiche). (fn. 165) The arable was described in three 'seasons' indicating a three-field system. (fn. 166) It is clear that the meadows and pastures of the Thames and Thame played an important part in the bishop's economy. Warborough inhabitants claimed common of pasture in Overy fields, meadows and pasture and there were many disputes over this claim in the 14th century. (fn. 167)
No survey exists of the abbey's estate which was administered from its grange. A fire there was mentioned in 1277. (fn. 168) In 1298 the lands, rents, and meadows of the abbey were valued at £15 8s. 4½d. a year, and fruits, flocks, and animals at £2 10s. (fn. 169) Fourteenth-century records show that the canons continued to build up their estate in Dorchester: in 1397 the bishop granted them the Conynggere (4 a.), pasture called 'Le Hurst' (24 a.), and all the bishop's fishery in the Thames and Thame at Dorchester, together with coneys and other profits, for an annual rent of £2 13s. 6d. (fn. 170) At the end of the century, the abbey was leasing its Dorchester estate for a term of years. (fn. 171)
The fortunes of the lay people in medieval Dorchester are less well documented. The 14th-century tax lists show that Dorchester paid the largest contribution in the hundred (£3 10s. in 1306), (fn. 172) but as Overy and Fifield may be included in the return the figure is of little help in assessing the wealth of Dorchester itself. (fn. 173) In 1327 there were 39 contributors to the 20th, (fn. 174) but the largest contributor, William de Hoyville, perhaps paid his 13s. 4d. for Fifield in Benson. (fn. 175) Except for Hugh Dammory, who paid half this amount, no one in the community had more than very modest wealth. Thirteen paid between 2s. 6d. and 5s., and 25 under 2s., most of them 1s. and under. Neither the bishop nor the abbey were included in the list. (fn. 176) The total contribution in this year was £4 9s. 10d., but in 1334 it was reduced to £3 19s. 8d., which remained the standard assessment. (fn. 177) In 1354 Dorchester was allowed an abatement of 16s. 8d. perhaps because of the effects of the Black Death. (fn. 178) There were 215 adults listed for the poll tax of 1377, the fourth highest figure in this part of Oxfordshire, after Henley, Thame, and Great Milton. (fn. 179)
Dorchester remained in ecclesiastical hands until the 16th century when both bishop and canons still had substantial farms. At its dissolution in 1536 the abbey owned 7½ arable yardlands in Dorchester field, an 8-acre close sown with corn, an orchard, and about 80 acres of meadow and pasture. Certain waters and eyots also belonged to it as well as Overy mill, which was farmed for £6 a year. (fn. 180) One tenant, Richard Beauforest, a substantial local man, had a large holding for which he paid 76s. 4d. rent a year. The other tenants were 20 cottagers, holding by copy and at rents varying from 3s. for a single cottage to 12s. for a cottage and parcel of meadow. When Edmund Ashfield took up the lease of the lands, rents, and site of the monastery and rectory the total yearly value was stated to be £34 17s. 4d. Herbage and trees—360 elms and ash of 60 to 80 years' growth—were valued at £6. (fn. 181) The bishop's farm of Bishop's Court (323½ a.) consisted in 1545 of 95½ acres of pasture, 64 acres of meadow, and 164 acres of arable. Its rent was nearly £20 a year. (fn. 182) There were also 23½ virgates held by customary tenants in Dorchester and 7 virgates in Overy, besides other small parcels of land. (fn. 183) The bishop's tenants, like those of the abbot, were copyholders and usually took their lands for 2 or 3 lives. Most still had only a single yardland, but four had 3 or 4 yardlands. Their annual rent brought in about £23 a year. (fn. 184)
Some local families prospered in the conditions of the 16th century. Out of the total tax from the 47 contributors to the 1523 subsidy Richard Beauforest paid over a third. (fn. 185) In 1545 he evidently took over the lease of Bishop's Court, (fn. 186) and a few years later he also held of the bishop 3 customary messuages and virgates and a moor called 'Les Tanne house'. (fn. 187) Both his sons were termed gentlemen and one had the highest assessment for the 1577 subsidy, paying on £10 worth of goods. (fn. 188) Another of the bishop's tenants, Roger Hatchman, a gentleman of Ewelme, who held two cottages and 2 virgates by customary tenure, was able to obtain the reversion of Bishop's Court in 1550 from the Crown for a rent of £14 13s. a year. (fn. 189) He had been the Crown's bailiff for the abbey lands and also lessee of the bishop's land for a time. (fn. 190) In the subsidy list of 1577 the Cherrills, a yeoman family of Overy, stand out among the sixteen contributors as substantial men. (fn. 191)
There is no certain evidence for the medieval and pre-parliamentary inclosure of Dorchester, but some clearly took place. By the 18th century the open fields lay solely in the northern part of the parish and round Overy. (fn. 192) It appears that by the 16th century some of the bishop's land was inclosed; it was certainly partly consolidated, for a lease of Bishop's Court in 1545 described land lying in blocks of 50 and 30 acres and of 10 to 20 acres in certain furlongs. (fn. 193) The right of the lessee, Richard Beauforest, to hold these lands in severalty was disputed in 1554, when a yeoman and several labourers of Dorchester tore down the gate of Whalley meadow and other inclosed land, including 30 acres of arable. They drove off his cattle and put in their own. (fn. 194) In the 17th century tenants claimed that they had once had common rights in Bishops Field and it looks as if the land here had first been consolidated and then later inclosed. (fn. 195) The abbey's arable, on the other hand, certainly still lay in the open fields in the 16th century. (fn. 196) There is little doubt that much of the meadow and pasture, belonging both to the bishop and to the abbey, lay in separate closes. New close (8 a.), Mill Close (30 a.), and Swannesneste (5 a.) were described amongst the bishop's meadow and pasture; and amongst the abbey's pasture were the closes Great Mayns (21 a.) and Little Mayns (4 a.), and Connygger (1½ a.). (fn. 197) There is no evidence that this arose from any movement to convert arable into pasture in the 16th century. Many of the abbey's pasture and meadow closes are recognizable in medieval grants (fn. 198) and the lease of Bishop's Court in 1545 specifically laid down that arable was not to be converted into pasture. This proviso, however, which appears in other of the bishop's leases at this time, may have little special relevance to conditions in Dorchester. (fn. 199) Two large pasture closes described in the 17th century as containing 40 and 50 acres respectively indicate that there had been some conversion and inclosure perhaps later in the 16th century. (fn. 200)
In the 17th century there were three open fields in Dorchester itself: West Field, Middle Field and East Field were mentioned in contemporary documents. (fn. 201) Two can be identifield from furlong names as lying in the north of the parish. (fn. 202) It is not known how far south the fields extended but in 1728 they were said to 'lye far from home'. (fn. 203) In the 17th century a three-course system was probably followed, two crops and a fallow: contemporary court rolls speak of the summertilth (i.e. fallow) field and of the Wheatfield and Lent field. (fn. 204) By this time, however, experiments in cropping were being tried. Early 17th-century inventories speak of hitches and it is evident that part of the fallow was being used for growing pulse. (fn. 205) By 1728 the fields were said to be 'lately' divided into four and the course was three crops and a fallow. (fn. 206) This new system was much criticized by the Earl of Abingdon's surveyor in 1728 on the grounds that the soil was dry and 'burning' in a drought (a modern criticism also), and required constant 'mucking and manuring'; he implied that three crops would exhaust the soil and advocated one part being laid down to permanent grass. (fn. 207) Overy had only one field, which in the 18th century was cropped annually. (fn. 208) The land was said to be good, but the surveyor thought that a fallow should be incorporated. (fn. 209) Later surveys show that his advice was not followed and in 1785 Overy was called 'every year's land'. (fn. 210)
Hemp was among the crops cultivated in Dorchester from the 16th century at least, when the hemp crofts or 'Les Hempelands', which lay behind the villagers' cottages, were mentioned. (fn. 211)
Although some meadow was inclosed by the 16th century, the records suggest that certain meadows were still common in the 16th and 17th centuries, i.e. Henpoole, Roundel, and Lot meadows and Overy mead. (fn. 212) Despite its rivers Dorchester meadows were said to be poor: in 1728 the surveyor maintained that they did not produce 'more than half a turn to an acre'. (fn. 213) There were common pasture rights attached to each tenement. In the 17th century the commons were the Moor (probably the common in the north of the parish), the Cow Lease, Bridge Common, the road from Thame to Chislehampton, and the road to Drayton and 'Rundellaway'. (fn. 214) The fields also were common when cleared. (fn. 215) Regulations about the use of the commons were constantly made by the manorial courts. In 1632 the stint was stated to be 30 sheep and 3 beasts to a yardland and fines of 3s. 4d. per month for every extra gross of sheep and 6d. for every extra cow kept on the commons were imposed. (fn. 216) Only lambs which had been lambed on the commons were to be kept on them. (fn. 217) In 1634 presentments were made for keeping hogs in the cornfield, sheep in the cow leaze, and beasts from the common herd. (fn. 218) Two fieldmen were appointed each year to 'drive' the commons and to impound cattle. (fn. 219)
Another of the chief agricultural matters dealt with by the courts were disputes over boundaries of holdings in the open fields. Homagers were frequently called in to settle disputes between tenants, as in 1691 when seven homagers were ordered to meet at the 'Three Cups' in Dorchester and go into Overy field to set out mere or boundary stones 'for the preventing of controversies for the future'. (fn. 220)
Dorchester in the late 17th century was evidently rather larger than the average village, and appears to have been a market town. Seventy-nine householders were returned for the 1662 hearth tax. (fn. 221) But in 1728 the Earl of Abingdon's estate there was said to consist mainly of small buildings and Dorchester was described as 'a poor town without any manner of trade nor likely much to improve'. (fn. 222) The land of the two chief manors, i.e. the Abingdon and Fettiplace estates, was entirely let out to tenants at this period. In 1691 the Fettiplace manor had two tenants at will who held the parsonage house, the demesnes, and tithes for some £285 a year. Three tenants held by lease and their rents brought in £135 a year; 27 tenants were copyholders, paying only small rents. The lord of the manor received only about £19 a year from these tenements as against £169 if he had held them in his own hands. The ferry, mills, and six inns also belonged to him. (fn. 223) The Abingdon estate likewise had a preponderance of copyhold lands held at low rents. In 1728 there were 67 copyholders, 18 leaseholders, and 2 rackrenters in Dorchester, and 15 copyholders and freeholders in Overy. (fn. 224) The old value of the estate in Dorchester was £448 15s.; the real value was £564 3s. 8d. and quitrents were £24 10s. 4d. In Overy the old value was £104 16s. 8d. as against £170 12s. real value; quitrents were £4 5s. 3d. (fn. 225) On both estates most customary tenants held for a term of two or three lives or on long lease. (fn. 226) Resident freeholders were comparatively few: in 1754 only 9 out of 16 40s. freeholders occupied their premises. (fn. 227)
A large number of small and medium farms remained typical of Dorchester throughout the 18th century. In 1757 only 4 farmers paid over 10s. to the church rate of 1d. in the £1, while 23 inhabitants paid between 1s. and 6s. and 36 paid under 1s. (fn. 228) In 1785 there were again only 5 large contributors to a rate and the land tax for that year shows that there were about 9 medium-sized farms and 32 occupiers of land or cottages assessed at under £2. (fn. 229) In 1808 Arthur Young listed 50 rateable farms. (fn. 230) Nevertheless the Abingdon estate accounts show that the smaller holders were being gradually eliminated. By 1754 the number of leaseholders and copyholders in Dorchester and Overy had dropped to 75 and by 1813 there were about 9 rack-renters, and 50 leaseholders and copyholders. (fn. 231) The sale of the Fettiplace estate further improved the position of the larger farmers. By 1808 four of the largest farms were owned, at least partly, by their occupiers and their farmers were able to buy the tithes in that year and purchase a good part of the 312 acres of the estate which was sold off at the same time. (fn. 232) They paid good prices and the sale realized £16,840. (fn. 233) The land tax of 1832 shows that some farmers had taken in the holdings of as many as five or six previous tenants. (fn. 234) The chief changes in ownership since 1785, when the Earl of Abingdon, the trustees of the Fettiplace estate, and Sir Henry Oxenden had divided most of the parish, was that several of the larger farmers now owned a fair proportion of the parish. (fn. 235)
Part of the prosperity of the larger farmer in Dorchester was due to a readiness to experiment with new agricultural methods. The Daveys of Overy were foremost in this. Already by 1757 William Davey (d. 1767) paid the highest contribution to the Dorchester church rate and was clearly farming most of Overy. (fn. 236) His farm accounts show that he was producing wheat, beans, and barley for local markets: in one year the wheat crop fetched £438 and the barley £412. (fn. 237) In some years dealers came from as far afield as Hereford. (fn. 238) His grandson William Davey (d. 1831) paid over £8,000 for land and tithes at the Fettiplace sale in 1808; (fn. 239) Davey was a founder of the Oxford Agricultural Society and was highly praised by Arthur Young as 'one of the most intelligent farmers' and 'one of the best' in Oxfordshire. (fn. 240) His contemporary Thomas Latham, who farmed at Clifton and Dorchester, was also much quoted by Young. (fn. 241) Between them they established such a reputation for Dorchester agriculture that Young advised other farmers to visit the town (fn. 242) and George III is said to have driven over from Nuneham to see Davey's model farm. (fn. 243) Davey used a varying four-course rotation with the emphasis on beans, peas, and turnips. He was one of the few farmers who, according to Arthur Young, realized that beans should precede wheat and used root crops to clean the ground. (fn. 244) Sheep were an essential part of his farming. He had a flock of 600 sheep and lambs, which by 1808 were mainly South Downs. (fn. 245) His ploughing was much praised, but it is evident that his success depended on careful husbandry and experiments with crops. Young noted that he had little faith or success with the new drills and horsehoes. (fn. 246) In the next generation his son George Davey was also a noted agriculturalist and a successful exhibitor at Smithfield. (fn. 247)
The tithe awards of 1840 for Overy and of 1846 for Dorchester show that most of the land was arable. If Davis's Oxfordshire map of 1797 is accurate the land on the east of the parish had been converted to arable since that date. (fn. 248) In the 1840's only about one-eighth of the parish was meadow or pasture; some 1,447 acres were arable. (fn. 249) Sixty-four acres in Dorchester and 7 acres in Overy were common lands. (fn. 250) Three farms were over 300 acres: George Davey's Overy farm (c. 345 a.), the Lathams' Bishop's Court farm (428 a.) and Vincent Cherrill's Manor farm (312 a.). There were 2 farms of 87 and 112 acres respectively and 6 of 20 to 50 acres. Over 100 people had only cottages and houses and under 10 acres of land. (fn. 251) In 1851 four farms over 300 acres were described including James Shrubb's Queensford Mill farm of 600 acres, some of which probably lay outside the parish. (fn. 252) One hundred and fiftyseven labourers were employed on these farms. (fn. 253) Six hundred and eighty-one acres of Dorchester still belonged to the Abingdon estate, about half held as 'lifeholds' or leaseholds at low rents and the rest held on yearly tenancies. (fn. 254) In 1844 it was said that inclosure would greatly increase the value of this land. (fn. 255) Nevertheless, there was no inclosure award until 1861, (fn. 256) partly perhaps because most of the land was in the hands of a few farmers. By the award the Earl of Abingdon received the largest allotment of 533 acres in Dorchester and 123 acres in Overy; he was also given 3 acres 3 rod 36 perch for his manorial rights. (fn. 257) Vincent Cherrill and Robert Davey received about 60 acres each. There were 22 other allottees in Dorchester and 5 in Overy but most received under 1 acre, 6 of them for cow commons or horse common rights only. (fn. 258)
There were considerable changes of ownership at the end of the 19th century, but the larger farms, mostly on the fairly big estates, continued to be a marked feature. The Bertie property was sold and Queensford Mill farm became part of the Jabez Balfour estate which extended into Burcot. (fn. 259) The Davey farm in Overy was purchased by St. John's College, Oxford, by 1874 and formed part of their 1,000 acre estate in Overy and neighbouring parishes. One man farmed 550 acres of this estate. (fn. 260) By 1916 the six farms in the parish were each under different ownership, two of them being owneroccupied. (fn. 261) The rest of Dorchester was divided among a large number of small owners and tenants. (fn. 262) By 1959 there had been further amalgamation and there were only four farmers in Dorchester. (fn. 263)
A combination of arable and pasture farming remained typical of Dorchester farming in the beginning of the 20th century. When Dorchester Field farm (536 a.) was sold in 1914 over 470 acres of it were arable. (fn. 264) Some of the best holdings were to be found between the hills and Dorchester, particularly if sheep were kept to counteract the tendency of the gravel soil to dry out and burn the crops. (fn. 265) In 1909 there were over 60 sheep per 100 acres in Dorchester. (fn. 266) In the same year Frank Shrubb of Overy farm, who sold 551 sheep off the farm, besides fat beasts and pigs, maintained that sheep breeding was 'his industry'. (fn. 267) Following the usual trend in 20th-century Oxfordshire sheep gave way to cattle on this farm and in 1959 beef stock were kept on 70 acres of permanent pasture. (fn. 268) Otherwise, little stock was kept in Dorchester, which remained predominantly arable. Over 100 acres have been lost to agriculture in the 1950's by gravel workings in the north of the parish and by the building of the new village of Berinsfield. (fn. 269)
The population of the parish rose steadily in the 19th century from 901 in 1811 to 1,097 in 1861. (fn. 270) It then declined until in 1901 it stood at only 944 persons. (fn. 271) The trend was reversed in the 20th century: in 1951 the population reached 1,500 and has continued to increase because of the settlement at Berinsfield. (fn. 272)
The high road has added considerably to Dorchester's prosperity. At the beginning of the 19th century the place was described as 'now humble in buildings and depending chiefly for its precarious resources on the traffic of the high road on which it is situated'. (fn. 273) The Census of 1851 shows the predominance of the innkeeper in the small group of shopkeepers recorded, (fn. 274) and the names of many of their inns are known from the early 16th century. (fn. 275) In 1691 the Fettiplace manor (i.e. the former abbey manor) owned the 'Plough', the 'Saracen's Head', the 'Talbot', the 'Crown', the 'George', the 'Swan', and the 'White Hart'. (fn. 276) The 'Bull', first recorded early in the 16th century, occurs again in 1728 and was on the Abingdon estate. (fn. 277) Ten inns were recorded in the 18th century, (fn. 278) and in 1792 the keepers of the 'George' and the 'White Horse' were important enough to have their own pews in the church. (fn. 279) Seven inns were licensed in 1821: the 'Fountain', the 'George', the 'White Hart', the 'Fleur de Lis', the 'Horse and Hounds' and the 'Castle'. (fn. 280) A 'Queen's Arms' was mentioned in 1854. (fn. 281) Six or seven inns were regularly recorded in the 19th and 20th centuries. (fn. 282) Dorchester's inns still flourished in 1959 when the 'George' was one of the leading hotels in the county.
Only two medieval rolls, those of 1401 and 1463, of the manorial courts held for the abbey's manor are known to exist. (fn. 283) They deal with admissions, fines, and heriots, but a court roll of 1539, when the abbey's estate was in the king's hands, contains some open-field regulations. (fn. 284) Court rolls and court books for the manor of the bishops' successors have survived for many years between 1624 and 1718 and there is evidence for courts being held up to 1769. (fn. 285)
Three courts entered for April 1648, March 1649, and April 1650 were views of frankpledge. (fn. 286) In 1649 the view and court baron were held on the same day, each with their separate homage. (fn. 287) In the mid-17th century three or four courts baron a year are recorded; (fn. 288) in the later part of the 17th century and in the 18th century only one or two a year; (fn. 289) and it may be that courts where no business was transacted were not written up. The courts dealt with changes in holdings and with the maintenance of highways and drains and with problems of openfield agriculture. (fn. 290) The following points of interest may be noted: a typical heriot paid by a copyholder was half a year's rent, (fn. 291) but in 1685 one tenant gave a horse worth £3 as heriot for 1 messuage and 1½ virgates; (fn. 292) in 1625 orders were issued in court forbidding anyone to build cottages on the lord's waste without licence, an indication perhaps of a growth of population; (fn. 293) and tenants were constantly admonished to scour ditches and drains in Dorchester street and in the open fields. (fn. 294)
There are no surviving court rolls for the Fettiplace manor for this period, but the Fettiplaces were said to have a court leet in the mid-17th century. (fn. 295)
In the 17th and 18th centuries the vestry and its elected officers, the churchwardens, constable, and overseers, came to play the predominant part in parish government. Overseers' accounts exist, with some gaps, from 1680 to 1835, (fn. 296) vestry minutes from 1733 to 1837, and churchwardens' accounts from 1757 to 1794 and 1824 to 1882. Vestry meetings, of which the Easter vestry was the most important, were held as required. In 1736, for example, there were eight vestries entered in the minute book, but in 1740 there were only two. (fn. 297) In the later part of the century, when the problem of poor relief had become serious, it was customary to adjourn the vestry to a later date at the 'White Hart' or at a parishioner's house. (fn. 298) Except on rare occasions the vestry was composed only of the minister, the churchwardens, the overseers, and one or two of the 'principle inhabitants and parishioners', such as the Daveys and Cherrills. (fn. 299) In 1735 it was definitely stated that besides seven who signed the minutes there was only one other who attended the vestry. (fn. 300) In 1738, on the other hand, a proposal to change the way of raising church rates caused an attendance of sixteen. (fn. 301) The Easter vestry appointed the three churchwardens of Dorchester. The principal business of the vestry was to authorize the churchwardens' and overseers' rates and to decide the policy about expenditure. (fn. 302) Apparently no regular sum could be paid to any pauper without the due authorization of a vestry meeting, (fn. 303) and the more frequent vestry meetings called in some years can usually be accounted for by decisions of this kind.
The churchwardens were mainly concerned with the maintenance of the church fabric. They had also the statutory duty of paying for the destruction of vermin and payments for polecats, sparrows, and hedgehogs occur frequently in their accounts. (fn. 304) From 1784, however, the charge, save for hedgehogs, was to be met out of the poor rate. (fn. 305)
The overseers' accounts present a clearer picture of the problems confronting the vestry. (fn. 306) Poverty and unemployment in the parish were not serious in the 17th century and in 1680–1, the first year of the surviving accounts, disbursements totalled only £17 10s. 2d. (fn. 307) The War of the Spanish Succession perhaps accounts for the increase in expenditure which at the beginning of the 18th century reached £60 and by the 1740's totalled some £90 a year. (fn. 308) There was no remarkable increase, however, until after 1772, and between 1794 and 1801 expenditure reached £1,000. (fn. 309) This change was due to the lack of employment and the strain of the wars. In the earlier part of the century the overseers had usually only to support the aged, the sick, and the fatherless families who were given regular allowances. They paid out other miscellaneous sums for schooling, rent, fuel, funeral expenses, and for soldiers or, as in 1732, to help to keep a parishioner out of gaol. (fn. 310) In these years there were some 13 to 24 villagers on the rates, receiving fairly regular payments, (fn. 311) but by 1818 there were 53 receiving relief. (fn. 312) As early as 1740 the vestry was coping with the problem of poverty by making up workmen's wages, (fn. 313) a system subsequently known as the Speenhamland system. In the 1780's and 1790's work was often found for able-bodied paupers on the roads, in the gravel pits, and in clearing away snow. (fn. 314) In the crucial year 1795 the magistrates ordered that cheap bread should be sold to the poor and at an adjourned meeting of the vestry 'the churchwardens, overseers, and principal inhabitants' agreed to make a 6d. rate in order to give the poor bread at 1s. 5d. the gallon loaf. (fn. 315) In 1799 the vestry agreed to make an allowance to the poor who had large families. (fn. 316) The roundsmen system was mentioned as early as 1740, when payments of 8d. or 6d. a day were made to various people who were to 'go on their rounds' to everyone paying £10 to the parish rates for 1 day's employment. (fn. 317) The system was not mentioned again until 1814–15, (fn. 318) but was perhaps adopted more frequently than the accounts reveal. Expenditure on poor relief again reached four figures after 1818 and wages were regularly made up. In the 1820's emigration became a popular way of helping the poor. (fn. 319) In 1829 the overseers spent £26 17s. in sending two men to America, the passage itself costing £17. (fn. 320) In 1832 a family of seven emigrated at a cost to the parish of £30. (fn. 321) There was still extensive unemployment in the parish, however, in 1834: 21 able-bodied men and 16 women were being given regular payments and there were also 52 needy children and 39 infirm or totally disabled people. (fn. 322) Nevertheless, the last years of the old poor law were easier ones for the parish and the average expenditure was about £750. (fn. 323)
Other aspects of the overseers' work also throw light on contemporary conditions. There were smallpox epidemics in 1741–2, 1753, 1773, and 1774 (fn. 324) and expenses were heavy. In 1741–2 the parish doctor was given £10 in addition to his normal salary for treating cases of this sort. (fn. 325) In 1780 some parishioners were inoculated and many more in 1794. In 1799 it was decided to inoculate the whole parish at a cost of £23. (fn. 326) The new vaccine treatment was applied in 1812. (fn. 327)
The parish workhouse seems to have been established in 1742 when the parish officers were to be allowed reasonable charges in seeking a workhouse for the poor. (fn. 328) The workhouse was managed at first by a woman, who in 1755 was paid by the overseers £33 7s. 4d. (fn. 329) In 1764 John Wallis took charge at 30s. a week and the parish paid the rent of the house. He was to maintain the poor in a decent fashion and was responsible for all save smallpox patients, those with broken bones, or bastards. Wallis was to buy three beds and bedding, seven bedheads, and three spinning wheels, the cost of which the parish would refund when he left. He was not to be responsible for the expenses of resettlement. (fn. 330) Payments were made for hemp seed and digging up the ground which the town rented: presumably the paupers were set to prepare and spin the crop when grown. (fn. 331)
Another aspect of the overseers' work is shown by the payments made for an incurable lunatic. In 1763 the parish paid about £20 for looking after her and transferring her to Bedlam and the vestry agreed to pay 2s. 6d. a week for her maintenance, a charge which recurs in the accounts until 1788. (fn. 332) After the establishment of the Radcliffe Infirmary the overseers subscribed 3 guineas a year for which they were entitled to send two in- and two out-patients. (fn. 333)
No surveyors' or constables' accounts have survived, but payments to both are recorded in the overseers' account books. (fn. 334) In the 19th century, when the constable was appointed by the vestry, he was paid for visiting the public houses on Sundays during services. (fn. 335)
Dorchester, which was the seat of a bishopric intermittently from the 7th until the 11th century, is now a vicarage in Cuddesdon deanery. Since 1939 the church has given its name to the Bishop of Dorchester, a suffragan of the Bishop of Oxford. The ecclesiastical parish includes the hamlet of Overy and that of Burcot, which since 1869 has had its own chapel. (fn. 336) From the early Middle Ages until the mid-19th century Dorchester was the head of a peculiar jurisdiction which consisted of eleven parishes.
The history of the church begins at the same time as the ecclesiastical history of Oxfordshire. When St. Birinus began to convert Wessex in 634, he was given Dorchester by Cynegils, King of Wessex, and Oswald, King of Northumbria, as his episcopal seat. He built several churches in the diocese, including that of Dorchester, in which presumably Cynegils was baptized in 635, and his son and grandson soon afterwards, and in which Birinus was buried. (fn. 337)
In the late 7th century the West Saxon bishopric was transferred to Winchester, but in the late 9th century Dorchester became the seat of a Mercian bishopric, (fn. 338) and Dorchester church for the next 200 years remained a cathedral, Wulfwig, the last AngloSaxon bishop, being buried in it in 1067. (fn. 339) His successor, Remigius, a Norman monk, had ambitious plans for the church, but he had only begun to carry these out (fn. 340) when in 1070 it was decided to move the see to Lincoln. (fn. 341)
Before the Norman Conquest the cathedral was served by secular canons, whose prebends were endowed with the chapels of the surrounding villages. (fn. 342) After the see was moved to Lincoln, Dorchester and its chapels continued to be served by secular canons until about 1140 Bishop Alexander of Lincoln dissolved them and founded an abbey of Augustinian canons. (fn. 343) In 1146, when Eugenius III confirmed the abbey's possessions, he included the church of St. Peter in Dorchester, with its liberties, its tithes, and its chapels. (fn. 344) In 1163 there was a similar papal confirmation. (fn. 345)
In 1146 six chapels were confirmed: the five which had formed part of the ancient endowment of the cathedral and had been served by the prebendaries (Chislehampton, Clifton Hampden, Drayton, and Stadhampton, in Dorchester hundred, and Toot Baldon in Bullingdon hundred), and Benson, which had recently been given by the Empress Maud to the abbey. (fn. 346) By 1163 two more had been added, Pishill and Marsh Baldon, (fn. 347) while Nettlebed and Warborough, which later were included among the ten Dorchester chapels, had originally been chapels of Benson. (fn. 348)
Except for Clifton Hampden, whose parishioners were buried at Dorchester until 1819, (fn. 349) these chapels from the time their records begin had independent ecclesiastical status, that is to say, all the sacraments could be performed in them. Some at least, however, showed their ancient dependence on Dorchester by contributing towards the upkeep of its church building. In 1625 the wardens of Warborough, Drayton, and Clifton were cited for refusing to pay rates towards it. The wardens of Clifton answered that they had never been compelled to contribute, while the others failed to appear and were excommunicated. (fn. 350) At the same period the Dorchester wardens were trying to force the wardens of Warborough and Drayton to keep up their portions of the Dorchester churchyard rails. (fn. 351) The wardens of Warborough contributed toward those until the 19th century. (fn. 352) In the 18th but not in the 19th century the wardens of Stadhampton made an annual payment of 6s. 8d. to Dorchester church. (fn. 353)
From the early Middle Ages Dorchester and its ten chapels (all of those belonging to the abbey in 1146 and all except one of those the abbey held in 1163) (fn. 354) formed an ecclesiastical peculiar, which probably had its origin in the 'ancient dignity of the secular minster which at the time of the Norman Conquest had contained the bishop's stool'. (fn. 355) The confirmation of 1146 makes it clear that Remigius had allowed the church to preserve some of its liberties after the see had been transferred to Lincoln. (fn. 356)
The peculiar, which was in the abbey's jurisdiction, (fn. 357) was exempt from that of the archdeacon, although not entirely free from that of the bishop. The bishop did not visit the peculiar (fn. 358) but he instituted to Marsh Baldon, the only endowed living there, while inductions were made by the Abbot of Dorchester. (fn. 359) The peculiar survived the abbey's dissolution in 1536, and descended with the abbey's manor and the rectory to the Ashfield and then to the Fettiplace family. (fn. 360) It is not mentioned in the grant of 1544 to Edmund Ashfield, (fn. 361) and at a later date its holders and officials relied on long usage rather than on documentary proof of their rights. (fn. 362) By 1581 it had its own seal (fn. 363) and its records begin then. (fn. 364) From this time at least jurisdiction was exercised by the commissary or official, always a clerk, appointed by the lay rectors. (fn. 365) He took the place of both bishop and archdeacon (except that the bishop continued to institute to Marsh Baldon) (fn. 366) and he held annual visitations in Dorchester church, which were attended by the ministers and churchwardens of the parishes in the peculiar. (fn. 367)
In the late 18th century the Bishops of Oxford were trying to bring to an end all peculiar jurisdictions in their diocese. (fn. 368) A case concerning Marsh Baldon, which was heard in 1799 in the peculiar court, led to an appeal. This gave Bishop Randolph grounds for hope that the whole jurisdiction might be dissolved. (fn. 369) The end of the case has not been traced, but the peculiar continued. When in 1808 the Fettiplace estate was split up, instead of following the descent of the advowson or the rectory, it followed that of the manor, being 'appendant' to one of the lots, and was acquired by George White. (fn. 370) The peculiar acts continue until 1836, (fn. 371) but the next year the last official, George Scobbell, died (fn. 372) and no successor was appointed. By 1845 the parish was said to be in an 'extraordinary position', forming a 'sort of ecclesiastical oasis'. (fn. 373) As it had been visited by the bishop since 1834 (fn. 374) the trouble arose from lack of the archdeacon's jurisdiction. The payment of yearly visitation fees, beginning in 1847, probably marks the complete end of the peculiar. (fn. 375)
It is evident that by 1146 the parish's ecclesiastical revenue belonged to the abbey. (fn. 376) No vicarage was endowed, and the abbey was responsible for seeing that the church was served. After the Reformation the living was a curacy, (fn. 377) sometimes called a donative and sometimes a perpetual curacy. (fn. 378) Appointments were made by the lay rectors. (fn. 379) From 1788 the curates were licensed by the official of the peculiar (fn. 380) and from 1838 by the bishop. (fn. 381) In 1868 the living became a titular vicarage. (fn. 382)
The rectories of Dorchester (to which was attached the serving of the church) and of Overy remained with the abbey until its dissolution in 1536. Overy rectory was granted by the Crown in 1542 to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, (fn. 383) who still held it in 1840. (fn. 384) In 1544 Dorchester rectory, with the right of presentation, was sold with the site of the abbey and its manor to Edmund Ashfield, (fn. 385) and then descended with the manor to the Fettiplaces. (fn. 386) In the 17th century the Fettiplaces leased it to Sir Edward Clarke of Reading, (fn. 387) and after his death in 1638 (fn. 388) to his widow and then to his son Edward, (fn. 389) the 'Mr. Clerk' mentioned by Anthony Wood in 1657, (fn. 390) who lived at Dorchester and who married a daughter of Thomas, Viscount Wenman, of Thame Park. (fn. 391)
When the Fettiplace estates were broken up in 1808 the rectory and the right of presentation were separated. In 1828 the latter was sold by Diana Frances Gorges, a relative of the Fettiplaces, for £480 to Henry Burrows, a London lawyer. (fn. 392) Burrows, who died in 1829, made complicated legal provisions for it in his will and during the 19th century presentations were made by his trustees. (fn. 393) In 1883 his nephew, Henry William Burrows, Canon of Rochester, and the Revd. John Burrows, the latter's son, granted the presentation to the Bishop of Oxford. (fn. 394) The bishop is still patron.
In 1808 not only was the advowson separated from the rectory but the rectory itself was split up. The tithes were sold in small portions; some (on about 800 a.), became merged with the land, others continued to be paid, (fn. 395) until in 1847 they were commuted and a rent charge of £331 9s. 2d. was awarded to a number of holders. (fn. 396) When the rectory was divided, the liabilities on it (the payment to the minister and the upkeep of the chancel) were attached to one small lot of 31 acres called the Hurst, (fn. 397) formerly part of the abbey demesne, (fn. 398) which was bought by William Davey. (fn. 399) From this time the Davey family, although they were Roman Catholics, (fn. 400) were responsible for the chancel, (fn. 401) repairing it as late as 1860. (fn. 402) The land later became part of Queensford Mill farm, and when this was sold in the 1890's, in spite of the vicar's protests, the liability for the chancel was repudiated although payments to the vicar continued. (fn. 403)
No early valuations of Dorchester rectory exist, for in 1254 and 1291 it was valued with its chapels, first at £20 13s. 4d. and then at £41 6s. 8d. (fn. 404) By 1535 this had risen to £134 0s. 6d., of which Dorchester rectory was worth £10 and Overy £3 6s. 8d. (fn. 405) The latter consisted of all the tithes of Overy, which were commuted in 1840, Christ Church and its lessee, George Davey, being awarded a rent charge of £96. (fn. 406)
Dorchester rectory consisted of all the tithes of Dorchester as well as some land. Litigation of 1665 shows that by then it was worth £200 a year above the 'reserved rent', (fn. 407) although a terrier of the same period estimates its value at £140. (fn. 408) It is impossible to estimate its value after its division in 1808 (see above).
Before the 19th century the living, as opposed to the rectory, had no settled endowment, the minister being paid by the rectors. In 1526 the abbey paid him £5 6s. 8d. a year (fn. 409) and in the 1540's he received £8. (fn. 410) By the second half of the 17th century he was receiving £26 a year from the Fettiplaces (fn. 411) and by the mid-18th century £32. (fn. 412) This was still being paid in 1882. (fn. 413) From 1716 the curate also received £10 a year from a bequest left by Robert South, Canon of Christ Church. This £42 was increased by the rent of the parsonage (£10) in the early 19th century. (fn. 414) In 1813 and 1814 Queen Anne's Bounty augmented the living by £1,200 (fn. 415) and later augmentations were made in 1842 and in the sixties and seventies, (fn. 416) but Dorchester remained a comparatively poor living especially as the minister was expected to help support the schools and local charities. (fn. 417)
There were once, according to Leland, three parish churches in Dorchester, two to the south of the abbey and a third to the south-west. (fn. 418) No other evidence has been found for these, but Burcot and Overy each had their own rectories and were separately tithed, (fn. 419) and it is not unlikely that at one time they had their own churches. They are not recorded, however, in the papal bull of 1146 which confirmed Dorchester's rights in its other churches (capellae). (fn. 420) Whatever the history of Dorchester's early churches may have been, the parish was using the nave of the abbey church as its parish church in the late Middle Ages. (fn. 421)
The parish was closely associated with the abbey in other ways: it was in its ecclesiastical jurisdiction (see above); and its parish priest was a chaplain appointed by the abbey or perhaps at times a canon. (fn. 422) Nothing, not even their names, is known of the clergy before the 16th century. The opening of the tomb of St. Birinus in 1225 and the alleged discovery of his bones must also have affected the life of the parish. (fn. 423) The abbey became an official place of pilgrimage and in the next century a shrine was built over the saint's tomb. (fn. 424) The offerings at this shrine brought the abbey £5 a year in 1535, (fn. 425) but by the 1540's these offerings were 'in decay'. (fn. 426)
When the abbey was visited by the bishop in 1441 and 1445 conditions were far from satisfactory (fn. 427) and it is unlikely that the parish, which was not included in the visitation, was unaffected. Among the complaints were that the canons spent much of their time in the local taverns, and that parishioners often walked through the cloister on their way to church. (fn. 428) At a visitation in 1530 similar conditions were found. (fn. 429)
One effect of the abbey's dissolution in 1536 was that the chancel, formerly reserved for the use of the abbey, was acquired for the use of the parishioners. (fn. 430) At that time the parish church was not served by canons, for by 1526 Dorchester had its own curate. (fn. 431) In the later 16th century there is little doubt that there were resident ministers, one in the 1580's being described as 'no preacher'. (fn. 432) At times there appear to have been two priests serving the church. (fn. 433)
The peculiar acts, beginning in 1581, tell something of parochial life: besides the usual moral charges, parishioners were accused of not going to church, not receiving communion, and working on Sundays. (fn. 434) The 1620's were a troubled time. The parish was a recusant centre; (fn. 435) and both the chancel and the church were in a state of neglect, (fn. 436) probably partly because the church had become too large for the parish to maintain. Rates of 2s. a yardland in 1624 and 1s. in 1625 were levied for its upkeep, and in 1629 a demand for a 3s. rate produced much opposition. (fn. 437) One of the three wardens refused to take part in its collection, for he said he knew it would not be paid; (fn. 438) another warden, John Day, also showed himself unco-operative; (fn. 439) while a parishioner, when asked to pay the rate, accused the curate, William Winchester, of being responsible for it. Religious differences may have been involved, for he considered as 'baubles' the scripture phrases with which it was planned to adorn the walls. (fn. 440) The wardens were ordered to demand publicly the payment of the rate. (fn. 441) Troubles continued into the 1630's, Day again being accused of refusing to cooperate with the other wardens and of irreverent behaviour in church. (fn. 442)
After the break in the peculiar records in 1637 little is known of the history of the church. Winchester remained as curate until his death in 1655. (fn. 443) His successor William Read probably had parliamentary sympathies, for in 1657 the Trustees for the Maintenance of Ministers ordered an increase of £20 in his stipend. (fn. 444) By 1662 he had been succeeded by David Thomas, 'a good loyalist', (fn. 445) who had come to the parish in the 1650's as the master of the new school, and who, when he became curate, began the custom of holding both church and school. (fn. 446) Anthony Wood, a former pupil of his at Thame, visited him at Dorchester. (fn. 447)
In the second half of the 17th century the difficulties of the first half were repeated. Recusancy continued and to it was added dissent; (fn. 448) the church rate, apparently 4s. in 1666, was difficult to collect; (fn. 449) and the parish clerk had difficulty in collecting his wages, a payment from each householder. (fn. 450) Later there was another financial dispute: from 1707 a number of people whose relatives were buried in the churchyard refused to pay the 1s. due claimed by the minister, at this time a local man, Philip Keene (1690–1714), (fn. 451) denying that it was the custom of the parish. The decision, which was left to the official of the peculiar, is not known. (fn. 452) Churchwardens' accounts (1757–94) show that there were three wardens, as there had been in the 1620's, who changed every year. (fn. 453) One was probably chosen by the curate and the other by the parishioners of Dorchester, (fn. 454) while the third may have been from Overy. They also received the money collected from Burcot, although the Burcot wardens evidently kept separate records. Most of the wardens' income came from a yearly rate on Dorchester and Burcot; by this time it was levied on the pound instead of the yardland, and usually ranged from between 1d. and 3d., a penny rate producing £6 17s. 9d. in Dorchester and £1 7s. 9d. in Burcot. (fn. 455) Expenditure in the first part of the period usually varied between £8 and £15 although towards the end of the century it often rose to over £20. Almost all the money was spent on the church building.
This pattern continued into the 19th century except that from the 1820's there were only two wardens. The church rate usually continued to vary from 1d. to 3d., but by 1840 the same rate produced about three times what it did in the 18th century. Expenses were usually between about £20 and £40. After the abolition of compulsory church rates in 1868 money was collected by an offertory and the church's income somewhat increased. (fn. 456)
In the middle of the 18th century the curate ceased acting as schoolmaster (fn. 457) and in the second part of the century he stopped living in the parish. (fn. 458) James Roe (1788–1838) never did so, being resident for many years at his Berkshire rectory. In his time the parish was served by a succession of assistant curates, many of whom lived in Oxford, (fn. 459) while the 'very small' parsonage was let. (fn. 460) Roe paid his curates £50, almost the whole income from the living, and two services were held on Sundays. (fn. 461) In the 1820's the assistant curate began to live in the parish, (fn. 462) and after Roe's death the ministers were again resident, although the parsonage was no longer used. By 1853 it was 'in ruins'. (fn. 463) In the 1830's congregations of 250 in the morning and 350 in the afternoon were reported, with about 100 communicants at Christmas and Easter, and a Sunday school had been started. (fn. 464) By the 1850's daily services were held, with three on Sundays, and there were two Sunday schools and a night school for boys. Nevertheless dissent was strong and congregations, numbering up to 400, were not considered large enough. (fn. 465)
In the second half of the 19th century Dorchester had a devoted and generous minister with a private fortune, W. C. Macfarlane (1856–85), who was interested in the church's history (fn. 466) and who improved its buildings and extended its activities. He completed the restoration of the church building, which had been begun in 1845, both he and his family contributing towards it. (fn. 467) In 1857 the new parsonage was built; (fn. 468) in 1869 the chapel at Burcot was opened; (fn. 469) and in 1878, largely through his efforts, the Missionary College was founded. (fn. 470) He continued holding frequent services, and began the practice of having weekly communions. He placed great emphasis on education, believing that neglect of religion was largely owing to lack of it, (fn. 471) and was a liberal supporter of the parish schools. He also built a parish room and a reading room. (fn. 472) He belonged to the High Church party, and at once made Dorchester its local headquarters, (fn. 473) thus arousing some opposition. The congregation, for instance, had been used to singing the psalms, which in 1861 began to be chanted by the choir. (fn. 474) Great emphasis was laid on the choir, which numbered over 100, (fn. 475) and choral festivals were often held in the church. (fn. 476)
Macfarlane's successor, N. C. S. Poyntz (1886– 1920), who began giving daily communion, also met with opposition because of his High Church sympathies, but his devotion to the parish made him much loved. (fn. 477) He started the parish magazine (fn. 478) and it was probably he who founded the mission in the north of the village. (fn. 479) Dorchester has continued to have High Church vicars and some religious differences have continued in the parish. (fn. 480)
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL is a large building consisting of a chancel with north and south aisles, a nave with a south aisle, a western tower, and a south porch. (fn. 481) Without the tower the church is nearly 200 feet long, and it measures nearly 80 feet across the aisles. With the exception of Oxford Cathedral it is the only surviving monastic church in the county. No trace now remains above ground of the pre-Conquest church founded by St. Birinus in the 7th century, but its foundations presumably exist beneath the floor.
The existing church was built by the Augustinian canons established by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, in the middle of the 12th century. (fn. 482) Owing to the loss of all the abbey's archives its architectural history before the Dissolution depends almost entirely on structural evidence, which in some respects is not easy to interpret. (fn. 483) The earliest portions of the present building date from the late 12th century, and appear to have formed part of a cruciform building without aisles. The north wall of the nave, the western sides of both transepts, the lower part of the south wall of the south transept, the western arch of the crossing, and the eastern angles of the original presbytery all belonged to this late Romanesque church. The western arch of the crossing was probably matched by a similar arch to the east, but appears insufficient to have supported a central tower of any magnitude. The plain unmoulded lateral arches are of uncertain date. As they cut through the string-course which marks the 12thcentury work internally they cannot be earlier than the surviving west arch, and in their present form they may even be of post-Reformation date. On the other hand their western responds rest on chamfered bases continuous with those of the western arch, thus demonstrating their 12th-century origin. The east end of the 12th-century church is marked on the north side by a pilaster now partly cut away, but still visible in the angle between the north transept and the chancel, and on the south side by the remains of an ornamental angle-turret, now concealed behind a modern rainwater head, but illustrated by Freeman. (fn. 484) The north wall of the nave was originally lighted by a range of tall single-light windows of which one remains complete, and traces of a similar window can be seen at the west end of the south wall. The cloister stood on the north side of the nave, access to it being by a Romanesque doorway (now blocked) in the west wall of the north transept. This entrance appears to have been superseded in the 14th century by another doorway in the north wall of the nave. Adjoining this there are traces of a larger arch or recess of unknown date and purpose. Of the cloister itself nothing now remains, but the ends of its roof-timbers can be seen embedded in the north wall of the nave, and its foundations, seen and sketched by Anthony Wood in the 17th century, (fn. 485) were located by excavation in 1882. (fn. 486) Some moulded spandrels and capitals preserved with other fragments in the church may well have formed part of the cloisters.
The original plan of the east end of the church is a matter for conjecture. There are likely to have been one or more transeptal chapels north and south of the choir, and the foundations of one such chapel, perhaps of 13th-century date, are known to exist on the north side. The present north aisle appears to represent the eastward extension of the inner chapel on the north side. In its present form it dates from the second half of the 13th century, but externally a fragment of string-course, and internally a series of vaulting shafts with Early English mouldings are evidence that the aisle was begun on a smaller scale early in the 13th century, and later remodelled with its present buttresses and windows. It is not unlikely that a similar aisle formerly existed on the south side, but all trace of the 13th-century arrangements here were destroyed in the following century. The earlier work in the north aisle may perhaps have formed part of a building programme connected with the translation of the relics of St. Birinus, for which papal approval was obtained in 1225, (fn. 487) while its later remodelling must have taken place within a few years of the granting in 1293 of an indulgence in aid of the abbey's fabric. (fn. 488)
The corresponding aisle on the south side extends to the full width of the transept, and dates from the early years of the 14th century. Its two eastern bays are vaulted, and were probably intended to form the setting for the handsome new shrine in which the relics of St. Birinus were shortly to be placed. (fn. 489) At the same time uniform arcades were built on both sides of the choir. The northern arcade at least presumably replaced one of 13th-century date, but it is possible that hitherto the north aisle was separated from the choir by an unpierced wall, for the capitals of the vaulting-shafts in its north wall are placed so low as almost to preclude a normal arcade on the south side. A doorway was also inserted in the former west wall of the south transept, now the west wall of the aisle. This doorway has an external dripmould, thus indicating that at the time it was built there was no aisle on the south side of the nave. It was, however, not long before a broad aisle was added in this position for the use of (and presumably at the expense of) the parishioners, to whom this part of the church was allocated. Externally this aisle forms a continuation of the south choir aisle, and its windows correspond closely in design to those immediately to the east. Its later date is, however, demonstrated both by the existence of the doorway already referred to, and by the difference in the mouldings of the buttresses. The buttress at the south-west angle requires special notice, for it incorporates an early 13th-century niche, with characteristic mouldings and capitals, which must originally have adorned some other part of the church. St. John Hope's suggestion that it stood originally at the south-west corner of the south choir aisle (fn. 490) cannot be accepted, as it must antedate that aisle by something like a century, and it is perhaps more likely that it formed part of a 13th-century west front, displaced by the erection of a west tower at about the same time as the building of the aisle. As the construction of the aisle involved a considerable encroachment on the churchyard, a vaulted charnelhouse was built beneath the altar in order to receive such bones as were disturbed in the course of the work. Above the altar there is an arched recess in the wall which may represent the blocking of a former window. After the construction of the nave aisle the parish church was separated from the monastic church by a screen, part of which can still be seen in the eastern bay of the nave aisle. In 1530 the bishop directed that the gates between the two parts of the church were to be kept locked at night. (fn. 491)
Somewhat later—probably about 1340—the presbytery was extended eastwards by the addition of a rectangular bay lighted by three large windows of unconventional design. The east window is remarkable both for the unusual character of its tracery, (fn. 492) and for its division into two by a central buttress. The north window is so designed as to exhibit the Tree of Jesse, the central mullion representing the trunk of a tree, its branches crossing over the intermediate mullions as far as the jambs. At the base is carved the figure of Jesse, and at each intersection occurs the sculptured figure of one of his descendants, others being represented in stained glass in the intervening lights. The whole composition culminated in a figure of Christ, now mutilated, placed at the point where the central mullion divided. Sculpture and stained glass were similarly combined in the south window to tell what appears to have been the story of St. Birinus. After the south window was in place its cill was cut away to allow the insertion of elaborate sedilia and piscina with crocketted canopies. Behind the seats the wall is pierced by three glazed openings in the shape of spherical triangles. Externally one of the 14th-century buttresses presents a curious architectural anomaly in the form of a niche decorated with 'dog-tooth' moulding in the style of the late 12th century. Unlike the one at the south-west corner of the south aisle, this niche appears to be an integral part of the structure in which it is set, and not an earlier feature re-used. Its presence would seem therefore to be another symptom of the somewhat eccentric taste which is characteristic of the whole east end.
Only two other additions to the fabric are known to have occurred before the dissolution of the abbey. One was the building of a west tower, the other the addition of a south porch. The latter appears to date from the late 15th or early 16th century. Of the medieval west tower only the stair-turret survives. The mouldings of its doorway indicate that it was built in the 14th century.
When the abbey was suppressed in 1536 the chancel was bought for £140 by Richard Beauforest, a 'great rich man' of Dorchester, and the whole building was made available for parochial use. (fn. 493) In his will Beauforest left the chancel or abbey church to the parish on condition that the parishioners did not sell or change the 'church implements' without the consent of his executors. (fn. 494)
In 1602 a new west tower was built in place of its predecessor, but incorporating the 14th-century stair-turret. It is of traditional design, with octagonal buttresses and flint chequer-work in the style of several late medieval towers in the Thames valley. The date 1602 and the initials J. W. are carved on a stone near the top of the south-west buttress, and an entry in the parish register records 'The tower of Dorchester rebuilt by J. W. 1602.' (fn. 495)
This was the only post-Reformation addition to the church, and for the last 300 years the maintenance of so large a fabric has proved a serious problem to successive churchwardens. Evidence of this is to be found both in visitation complaints about the need for repair, (fn. 496) and in the demolition of the greater part of the north transept and transeptal chapel, which seems to have taken place in the 17th century. The truncated transept was incorporated in the north aisle by means of a roughly built wall containing an ill-made 'churchwardens' Gothic' window. In 1633 a double ridged roof was made over the south nave aisle. This involved blocking up the west window of the aisle, and it may have been at the same period that the roof of the porch was raised in such a way as to obscure part of the window behind it. The possibility that the arches north and south of the crossing owe their present unmoulded appearance to post-Reformation alterations has already been mentioned. By the early 18th century the whole church was in serious need of attention, and in 1737 estimates for repairs amounting to over £2,500 were submitted to the Justices with the object of obtaining a brief. This was granted, and resulted in the collection of £714. (fn. 497) In 1739 Robert Speakman of Oxford and Benjamin Leasonby of London, carpenters, contracted to repair the roof of the southeast aisle, and Charles Wheeler of Dorchester, plumber, was engaged to cover it with lead. (fn. 498) It was probably at this time that the vaulting was taken down and a flat plastered roof inserted in its stead. In 1747 Richard Phillips of Nettlebed, carpenter, engaged to take down and rebuild the roof of the 'middle isle from chancel to the arch'. (fn. 499) In 1746 the chancel was repaired at the expense of the Fettiplace family, who owned the great tithes, and a classical altar-piece was set up. (fn. 500) The west end of the nave was repaved in 1747, and the north aisle in 1765. No other major repairs appear to have been carried out until the 19th century, and by then the church was 'in some parts in a very unsound and dilapidated state'. (fn. 501) The whole of the medieval roofing had been destroyed and replaced by plastered ceilings or 'rough open timber work', the upper part of the east window had been removed in order to accommodate a flat plaster ceiling, and the nave was divided into two by a plastered partition. The south window of the chancel was held together only by iron bands, the sedilia were 'sadly broken and dilapidated', and the whole church was 'far from being in the state of cleanliness and decency in which it ought to be kept.' (fn. 502)
In 1844 the Oxford Architectural Society took the initiative in raising money for a general restoration. The fabric was first examined by James Cranstoun, an Oxford architect, who estimated that a complete restoration would cost £3,970. By 1846 £500 had been raised, and the north and south windows of the chancel and the sedilia were repaired under Cranstoun's direction. The restoration of the east window and the re-roofing of the chancel were, however, entrusted to William Butterfield. These works, together with the clearing and reseating of the nave, were accomplished between 1846 and 1852. (fn. 503) Between 1858 and 1874 the repair of the church was resumed under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott, who restored all the roofs to their original pitch and rebuilt the vaulting at the east end of the south aisle. (fn. 504)
Until the Reformation the most important tomb in the church was that of its founder and patron St. Birinus. Papal authority to translate his body to a more fitting place was obtained in 1225, (fn. 505) and a 14th-century chronicler records that a new and magnificently carved marble shrine (feretrum marmoreum stupende sculpture) was made in 1320. (fn. 506) Large portions of an early 14th-century canopied shrine were found in the 19th century built up into the filling of the blocked doorway in the west wall of the north transept, and are now displayed in the south aisle near the spot where in all probability they originally stood. The lower part of the shrine appears to have been of Purbeck marble, the canopy of freestone, elaborately carved and painted.
There are four medieval effigies, three of stone and one of alabaster. The oldest, one of the stone effigies, is a large recumbent figure of a cross-legged knight dating from the reign of Edward I. (fn. 507) It is possible that he may represent 'one Holcum, a knight', who was buried in the church according to a statement by a 16th-century Abbot of Dorchester. (fn. 508) A Robert of Little Holcombe held ⅓ hide in Holcombe of the abbot in 1241 and the effigy may represent him or his heir. (fn. 509) The abbot told Leland that he thought 'Holcum' was buried in the alabaster tomb, but this supports the effigy of a late 14thcentury knight with the lion rampant of Segrave on his breast, and the arms of Segrave and Botetourt were formerly painted on the sides of the tomb. (fn. 510) The person commemorated cannot be identified with certainty, but it seems that he must have been a member of the Segrave family descended from a marriage between Segrave and Botetourt. (fn. 511) A third effigy, representing a man in legal robes, with the arms of Stonor on the side of the tomb, is probably that of the judge John de Stonor (d. 1354). (fn. 512) The fourth effigy is that of a bishop in the style of the early 14th century. (fn. 513) It was discovered under the floor in the 18th century and may be the 'image of freestone' with an inscription to Bishop Æschwine (d. 1002) seen by Leland, (fn. 514) which had disappeared when Wood visited the church in 1657. (fn. 515)
The church once had a large number of brasses and memorial slabs: Wood noted in 1657 that there had been eighteen inscriptions in the south aisle alone and that all but one were defaced. (fn. 516) The majority of the memorials have now gone. Of the brasses those that remain are mutilated or have only matrices left. Of the brass of Abbot John de Sutton (d. 1349) the matrices of a man holding a crozier and of the inscription remain. (fn. 517) Roger Smith, who resigned as abbot in 1523 and who was also Bishop of Lydda, is commemorated by a much-worn incised alabaster slab with his figure on it. (fn. 518) Abbot Richard 'Beweforest' (temp. Henry VIII) has a brass with his figure, a Latin scroll, and an English inscription. His name and crozier are also carved on one of the ends of the choirstall-desks. (fn. 519) Abbots are probably also commemorated by two matrices, one of a kneeling figure with a scroll, the other of a floriated cross. (fn. 520) Another abbot's brass, seen in the 17th century, has now gone, (fn. 521) and so has the inscription to the last abbot, John March (d. 1553). (fn. 522) The matrices of brasses to two canons remain: to Brother Ralph, under the north wall of the nave, and to an unknown canon kneeling opposite an angel. (fn. 523)
Of the remaining non-clerical brasses or matrices of brasses the oldest is perhaps the indent under a triple canopy in the chancel. The canopy resembles those on the Drayton tombs and the figure may have represented, as Wood thought, a contemporary of the Draytons, Sir Gilbert Wace of Ewelme, who in his will of 1407 provided that the abbot should have services said for him, and may well have been honoured by being buried in the chancel. (fn. 524) Leland had earlier identified him as a 'gentleman' named 'Ways'. (fn. 525)
The oldest remaining brass is a large one to Sir John Drayton (d. 1417), who asked in his will to be buried in Dorchester church. (fn. 526) The figure of his wife Isabella and the arms of Drayton quartering Segrave have gone. (fn. 527) Leland and Wood both noted two other Drayton slabs, but were unable to identify them precisely. One must have been to Richard Drayton (d. 1464), who in his will asked to be buried in the abbey between the tomb of William Drayton and the south wall, and the other to William Drayton. (fn. 528) Two shields of Drayton and the indent of a man in armour remain and presumably represent one of these Draytons. (fn. 529) Of the brass to Margaret Beauforest (d. 1523/4) and her two husbands (one of them named Richard Beauforest, the other William Tanner) (fn. 530), and their children, the figures of the woman and a man remain. (fn. 531) The shield of Ideley and part of one of Drayton quartering Segrave are all that remain of the brass to Pers[e] Ideley and his two wives, one a Drayton. (fn. 532) The indent of the figures was there until the 19th century. (fn. 533)
The only other remaining parts of brasses are an early 16th-century merchant's mark over the matrices of a man, his wife, and two children; and the small figure of a woman, perhaps Jenit Shirrey. (fn. 534) The figures of five girls, detached from some brass, though recorded in the 19th century, could not be traced in 1959. (fn. 535) There were once memorials to Gilbert Segrave; William Yonge (d. 1430) and his wife Alice with shield of arms; Robert Bedford (d. 1491) and his wife Alice; William Bedford (d. 1516) and Agnes Bedford (d. 1518/19). (fn. 536)
There are a number of 17th-century and later memorials, some of them apparently removed from the churchyard. They include those to William Whinchester (d. 1655), pastor for 40 years; Agnes Clerke (d. 1661), wife of Edward Clerke, Esq.; the 'matchlesse' Mrs. Anne Carleton (d. 1669); Francis Dandridge, 'Pharmacop of London' (d. 1714); Jonathan Granger (d. 1774), merchant, citizen and draper of London; Philadelphia Cherrill (d. 1796), daughter of Francis Cherrill; Vincent Cherrill (d. 1807) and his wife Margaret (d. 1791); Mrs. Sarah Fletcher, who 'died a martyr to excessive sensibility' in 1799 in her 29th year; (fn. 537) Thomas Latham (d. 1843); and Richard Sheen, Mayor of Oxford (d. 1840).
The church is still rich in medieval painted glass. Four medallions in the openings over the piscina and the sedilia, representing scenes from the life of St. Birinus, date perhaps from the early 13th century. (fn. 538) They have been in their present position since 1808 at least, but in 1657 they were in the large south window above. (fn. 539) The east window contains a number of panes of 14th-century glass portraying biblical scenes and scenes from the lives of saints, as well as one pane of armorial glass and the figure of a canon, Ralph de Tew. (fn. 540) This glass was assembled about 1814 by Colonel or Captain Kennett from other windows and also from a glazier's shop. (fn. 541) The glass in the circle at the top was inserted when the window was restored about 1847, (fn. 542) and there is later 19th-century glass by Clayton & Bell, placed there in 1874. (fn. 543)
Kennett also had placed in the south window of the chancel most of the present collection of armorial glass, part of which had been in the east window. (fn. 544) These 21 armorial shields and five in other windows, almost all of which can be identified as those of noble families holding land in the neighbourhood, date from about 1300. They include the arms of Edward I and of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, who died in that year. (fn. 545) In 1574 (fn. 546) and certainly as late as 1657 (fn. 547) most of the armorial glass (more than double the present quantity) was in the east window of the choir and one of the east windows of the south aisle of the choir.
The glass in the north window of the chancel, showing the descent of Christ from Jesse, has probably always been in its present position. Wood noted about 27 figures, some of which had been defaced by the soldiers during the Civil War, and there are now sixteen. (fn. 548) They were repaired under the direction of the architect. F. E. Howard in 1926.
The modern glass at the east end of the south aisle to members of the Cripps family is said to be by Hardman. (fn. 549)
The chancel walls according to Wood were painted 'very gloriously' with all kinds of beasts, of which a lion, a griffin, and a leopard remained. (fn. 550) A medieval wall-painting depicting the Crucifixion was restored by Clayton & Bell in 1862–3. (fn. 551) It is on the west wall of the nave.
The lead bowl of the font is of 12th-century date. It is decorated with a continuous arcade of eleven semicircular arches, in each of which is a seated figure. (fn. 552)
The stall-desks in the choir date from the early 16th century. (fn. 553)
The Dorchester bells, which are famous for their tone, are unusual in that, with one possible exception, all the original castings have been preserved. The two largest are of the late 14th century: one, the gift of Ralph Restwold (d. 1383), is dedicated to St. Birinus, the other to St. Peter and St. Paul. Except for a sanctus bell and a lych bell these were the only two bells in 1552. (fn. 556) Of the other bells, four are dated 1591, 1603, 1606, and 1651. They were described by Hearne in 1711. (fn. 557) In 1867 two more were added to make a ring of eight. (fn. 558)
The church had a chiming clock in the 1620's. (fn. 559) Repairs to it are frequently recorded in the 18thcentury churchwardens' accounts and in the parish register. (fn. 560) In 1868–9 a new clock, by Moore of Clerkenwell, was put up and quarter chimes were added in 1901. (fn. 561)
A comparatively large number of Dorchester families remained loyal to the church of Rome. From 1603 the names of many are known; in 1641 nine were assessed for the subsidy; and the churchwardens made constant presentments of recusants and of people who failed to attend church. (fn. 562) From a list of thirteen people who in 1666 failed to receive Easter Communion, almost all can be recognized as members of Roman Catholic families. The figure of six papists given in the Compton Census in 1676 is therefore almost certainly an under-estimate. (fn. 563)
Roman Catholicism in the parish has an unusual history in that it centred around several yeoman families. The only members of the gentry listed as recusants in the early 17th century were George Beauforest and a female relative. (fn. 564) Of the yeoman families the most important were the Days and the Daveys of Overy. One branch of the Day family appears to have been Dorchester lock-keepers, and the old Wittenham ferry lock was called Day's Lock after them; another branch lived at Burcot. (fn. 565) In the early 17th century Walter Day, fisherman, and his wife Grace, and also Richard Day, fisherman, were listed as recusants; (fn. 566) from the 1620's to the 1670's members of the family were constantly presented by the churchwardens for absence from church. (fn. 567) Six were assessed for the subsidy of 1641, and in the 1666 list of abstainers from Easter Communion five were Days. (fn. 568) One member of the family served as churchwarden at about this time, but it is by no means certain that he was an Anglican and this may simply be evidence for the family's predominant influence in the village. (fn. 569) Several Days were returned as papists in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, (fn. 570) and in 1769 four Days were members of the Britwell Prior congregation to which the Dorchester Roman Catholics belonged at this period. (fn. 571) In the early 19th century the Dorchester branch of the family died out. (fn. 572)
Other 17th-century recusant families were the Smiths, beginning with Hugh Smith, tailor; (fn. 573) the Coldrells (or Cowldwells); (fn. 574) the Cherrills, who were not all Roman Catholics but intermarried with Roman Catholic families; (fn. 575) and the Princes, who were widespread in the neighbourhood and were sufficiently important in Overy to give their name to a group of buildings. (fn. 576) They first appear as recusants in Dorchester in 1666, after the marriage in 1663 between John Prince and Grace Day, (fn. 577) but by the early 18th century when two papist members of the family were 'labourers' (fn. 578) they had declined in social importance, and the family died out soon after. No Princes were listed among the Roman Catholic congregation of Britwell Prior in 1769. Many of the family were buried in Dorchester churchyard, where their tombstones can still be seen marked with the Cross as a sign that they commemorated Roman Catholics. (fn. 579)
The survival of Roman Catholicism in Dorchester was eventually due, however, to the Davey family. This family had been in Dorchester since at least 1566 (fn. 580) but Ann, the wife of Richard Davey, was the first of the family to be listed (in 1641) as a Roman Catholic. (fn. 581) About 1670 both she and her husband were recusants, (fn. 582) and about 1717 William Davey, yeoman, who rebuilt Overy House, (fn. 583) registered his copyhold estate as a papist. (fn. 584) The family intermarried with other yeoman families of their faith in Dorchester and in neighbouring parishes. Although the community was only intermittently served by a resident priest, it is probable that there were always visiting priests. In the middle of the 18th century mass was being said about seven times a year in a room, fully equipped with altar furniture, in the farmhouse in Overy which had been the home of the Daveys before they moved in 1712 to Overy House. (fn. 585) The Jesuit Father Gilbert Wells lived with the Daveys from 1752 to 1758, and Father Bernard Cassidy, S.J., head of the Oxford District, was there in 1773. (fn. 586) At other times the congregation was looked after by the priest from Britwell Prior, which was for long a centre of Roman Catholicism. In 1769 Dorchester, with nine members, formed (except for Britwell itself) the largest group in the Britwell congregation. (fn. 587) Besides the Daveys and Days the Dorchester group had two members of the well-known local family of Collingridge (fn. 588) and it had so prospered by 1780 that it had eighteen members. (fn. 589) It was accustomed to be served by a 'missioner', but in about the 1770's there appears to have been some difficulty in finding a priest for it and it was described as 'now destitute'. (fn. 590) In the 1790's, however, the community was being served by a French priest living with the Daveys. (fn. 591) Later it was served from Thame and in the early 19th century from Oxford, services being held in each place on alternate Sundays. (fn. 592)
The increasing prosperity of the Davey family was an advantage to the community. William Davey, a successful farmer and a speculator in government stocks, died in 1831, leaving £20,000. (fn. 593) One son, George, was a large-scale farmer, who made his home at Overy House a centre for his co-religionists; (fn. 594) another son John built the 'chapel' of St. Birinus at Dorchester in 1849. (fn. 595) The chapel's first priest was Robert Newsham, a schoolmaster, who moved his school from Oxford when he settled at Dorchester. (fn. 596) In 1851 his congregation was said to average 60, an exaggeration according to the vicar. (fn. 597) In 1856 the chapel was registered for marriages and from 1871 it had its own churchyard. (fn. 598)
The influence of the Davey family continued to be strong. (fn. 599) When John Davey died in 1863 he left his home, Bridge House, to his nephew, Henry Davey, who was priest at the chapel from 1864 to 1878. (fn. 600) Henry Davey's brother Robert, who died without children in 1901, was the last of the family to live at Overy. He left £200 to the chapel on which he had also settled 32 acres of land. (fn. 601) In the same year Bridge House was settled in trust on the priest serving the chapel. (fn. 602) In 1958 it was still being used as the presbytery. The congregation had increased to about 150. (fn. 603)
The small church of ST. BIRINUS at Bridge End, built in 1849 in the Decorated style (architect W. Wardell), (fn. 604) consists of nave, chancel, and south porch, and has a bell-cote. On the west front is a statue of St. Birinus. Inside are brass tablets to members of the Davey family and one to the Revd. Robert Newsham (d. 1859). The chapel possesses a pre-Reformation (c. 1500) chasuble (fn. 605) and a small ciborium of much later date, which may have been taken from the chapel in the Daveys' house at Overy. (fn. 606) There is another chalice inscribed 'given by Lady Fettiplace to the Oxfordshire Mission for herself and her family'. (fn. 607) The cross on the high altar is also old.
The evidence for Protestant nonconformity dates from 1672 when the house of Lawrence Overy was registered as a Congregational meeting house. (fn. 608) In 1675 and 1678 the churchwardens presented Stephen Coven as 'a common seducer and leader of a conventicle'; (fn. 609) he was the ejected Rector of Samford Peverell (Devon), who was licensed to 'teach' as a Presbyterian in London and as a Congregationalist in Watlington. He was described earlier as 'a wandering seditious seminary … who goes about from place to place'. (fn. 610) In 1680 another preacher at this conventicle, John Coomb, was presented. (fn. 611) Most of the thirteen nonconformists returned for the Compton Census of 1676 probably belonged to this conventicle, (fn. 612) but in 1668 there had also been a Quaker, Henry Towerton. (fn. 613)
In the absence of 18th-century visitations information about the progress of nonconformity is meagre. In 1699 the house of William Thompson, a baker, was registered as a dissenting meeting-place, (fn. 614) and in 1796 a labourer's house in West Back Lane. (fn. 615) The denomination is not recorded, but it is likely in the case of the last-named registration to have been Baptist, for the next registration in 1820 was of Robert Cox's house, (fn. 616) and when a Baptist chapel was finally built it was on land belonging to Sarah Cox. (fn. 617) This chapel, next to the Port House, was built about 1837; the 1851 Census recorded its congregation as 75 in the afternoon and 120 in the evening, (fn. 618) but the vicar claimed that this was an exaggerated figure due to the special activity of the Baptists at the time of the Census. (fn. 619) A Primitive Methodist chapel at Bridge End was built in 1839 and its congregation numbered eighteen in 1851, when it was served by a minister from Wallingford. (fn. 620) Both chapels were in use in 1866, but by then dissent was said to be declining (fn. 621) and they appear to have been closed by 1882. (fn. 622) Both buildings were in use as private houses in 1958.
There had been an endowed grammar school in Dorchester since 1652, but by the middle of the 18th century it had ceased to provide effective education. (fn. 623) In 1801 a Mr. Paget advertised that he would re-establish 'Dorchester School' which had long been vacant, and offered to board 8 young gentlemen at 20 guineas a year, with dancing and French included in the curriculum. (fn. 624) By 1833 the school had 50 pupils. (fn. 625)
No record of any elementary education has survived from before the 19th century. In 1815 there were three day schools providing elementary instruction, (fn. 626) but these were fee-paying schools and three years later the poor were said to be still 'completely destitute' of the means of education. (fn. 627) The first Sunday school was started in 1819. In 1826 a newly established day school, where 7 children were being taught, was recorded, and by 1833 there was yet another school with an attendance of 28 pupils. (fn. 628) The Sunday school had an attendance of 64 boys and 48 girls by 1854. (fn. 629)
The National girls and infants school was established in 1836 on land given by the Earl of Abingdon; it was to be a free school and the perpetual curate was to be trustee. (fn. 630) It had an attendance of 50 in 1854. (fn. 631) In 1872 the present buildings were erected to the designs of Sir George Gilbert Scott; they were enlarged in 1900 to hold 150 children. (fn. 632) There was an average attendance of 85 in 1904. (fn. 633)
The old grammar school was converted into a boys' National school in 1858 and had an average attendance of 46 in 1887. (fn. 634) A new building was erected in 1896–7, (fn. 635) and the average attendance was 61 boys in 1906. (fn. 636) Later in 1928 it was amalgamated with the girls' National school and was classified as an amalgamated grade III school. It was attended by 219 boys, girls, and infants in 1938. In 1947 the senior department was reorganized as a separate voluntary school, known after 1953 as the Abbey School. In 1954, as a controlled modern school, it had 233 pupils on the roll. It was closed in 1959, when the new school at Berinsfield was opened. The junior department became a primary school in 1947—the St. Birinus Church of England controlled school—with 97 pupils. (fn. 637)
Another primary school, the Field Farm Estate County School, was opened in 1952 with 76 children. (fn. 638)
A County Secondary Modern School for boys and girls was opened at Berinsfield, a new council estate, in September 1959. It replaced the Abbey School in Dorchester. There was a head master, a full-time staff of twelve, and two part-time staff, and 293 children on the roll. (fn. 639)
SS. Peter and Paul's Theological College for Missionary Students was established in 1878, largely through the exertions of W. C. Macfarlane. It trained sons of clergymen and professional men for work in the colonies and mission field and offered a four-year course. By 1881 there were 15 students. Extra accommodation was provided in 1905 by taking over Church House and by 1908 there were 28 students in residence. (fn. 640) In 1929 new buildings were provided in Burcot but some students were still in Dorchester in 1939. (fn. 641) The number of students fell at the outbreak of war and in 1940 the Burcot premises were let to Bishop's College, Cheshunt (Herts.), and the remaining Dorchester College students went to Launton. In 1942, there being only 4 students, the college was closed. After the war the premises were sold and the proceeds of the sale and existing endowments were formed into a trust, entitled SS. Peter and Paul's Theological Endowment for Missionary Students' under a scheme made by the Minister of Education. (fn. 642)
Hungerford Dunch, by will dated 1680, left £200 to the poor of the parish. In 1698 the money was invested in two closes in St. Clement's, Oxford, and about 1823 the £20 rent from these was given to the poor annually on St. Stephen's Day in sums varying from 1s. 6d. to 6s. according to need. (fn. 643) In 1856 the lands were exchanged for 11 acres at Oseney, in St. Thomas's parish, Oxford. (fn. 644) In 1898 the income was being distributed in doles to nearly every wage-earner in the parish. (fn. 645) A Scheme made in 1906 provided that the income should thenceforth be applied to the maintenance of a nurse to attend poor residents. It stipulated, however, that those who had long been accustomed to receive gifts in money or kind should be entitled to continue to do so. This Scheme was much opposed locally. Accordingly, after a local inquiry by an Assistant Charity Commissioner, a new Scheme was made in 1910 which provided that the income might be applied (i) to subscriptions to hospitals and the like in which the disabled were taught trades; (ii) as grants towards the provision of nurses, midwives, and medicines, in subscriptions to provident societies on behalf of subscribers who through sickness had been forced to allow their payments to lapse, and in providing outfits for those taking up new occupations; (iii) as grants to the sick or distressed; and (iv) in making weekly allowances of from 1s. 6d. to 3s. to persons over 60 wholly or partly unable to support themselves. By a new Scheme of 1912 the distribution of necessaries in kind, in lieu of money payments for the purposes specified at (ii) and (iii), was authorized. In 1934 the lands were sold and the proceeds invested in £1,306 stock. (fn. 646) In 1932 £33 of the income was spent in coal, food, and clothing for 30 beneficiaries, and in 1955 a somewhat larger sum, about half the income, in vouchers for goods. (fn. 647)
Sir George Fettiplace, by will proved 1743, left a sum of money in trust for charitable purposes in various places. Of the annual income of £200, £10 was appropriated to the poor of Dorchester to be distributed by the vicar and churchwardens in 6d. loaves between Michaelmas and Lady Day. (fn. 648) Because of financial difficulties involving the Fettiplace estate, the charity was not distributed for several years in the 1770's, but by 1787 distributions were again being made. (fn. 649) In 1908 it was being distributed at the same time and to the same persons as Dunch's charity. (fn. 650) In 1931 the income amounting to £10 was being spent in bread. (fn. 651)