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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Burcot lies on the north bank of the Thames, 1¾ miles north-west of Dorchester. Its historical relationship with Dorchester cannot be precisely defined: for long it has been dependent ecclesiastically on Dorchester (fn. 1) but independent for civil purposes. (fn. 2) In the 18th century it was described as a separate parish, and in the 19th century was placed in a different registration district and rural district from Dorchester. (fn. 3)
In 1932 Burcot civil parish was transferred to Clifton Hampden. (fn. 4) Its area in 1881 was 679 acres, of which 21–6 were detached meadow (Revell Mead) and lay in Clifton Hampden. (fn. 5) The only natural boundary is the River Thames, which has naturally played an important part in the economy.
Burcot's fields lie 169 ft. above sea-level along the Abingdon-Dorchester road, and rise to 210 ft. on Clifton Heath. (fn. 6) The soil is mainly Lower Greensand, although there is some Gault in the eastern part of the hamlet. (fn. 7)
The highway from Abingdon to Dorchester runs through the parish from west to east. Since the 15th century when Abingdon and Culham bridges were built this road ceased to be of merely local importance and became an important highway carrying traffic from London to Gloucester. (fn. 8) The main highway from Dorchester to Oxford also runs through part of Burcot and like the Dorchester-Abingdon road was turnpiked in the 18th century. (fn. 9) Another road, running from south to north-east, links the two main highways and practically bisects the parish. It begins in the south nearly opposite Burcot House and runs past Burcot Farm. The smaller tracks in the parish, such as Occupation Row, immediately opposite the church, which were in use until early in the present century, (fn. 10) have now largely disappeared. Another track just east of the Chequers Inn ran from the Dorchester—Oxford road south to the Dorchester—Abingdon road, and thence continued south to the River Thames. Large flints for the repair of the surface of the Dorchester—Oxford road were brought by barge along the Thames to Burcot and carried along this track until the present century. (fn. 11)
Burcot's position near the River Thames at one time gave it an importance out of all proportion to its size. During the first 30 years of the 17th century the Thames between Burcot and Oxford was virtually innavigable, and consequently goods destined for Oxford had to be unloaded at Burcot and then carried by road into the city. (fn. 12) Similarly Headington stone and timber from Shotover and Stowood forests had to be brought by road to Burcot before being shipped to London. The strain on the road system was therefore heavy. (fn. 13) Hence the establishment of the Oxford-Burcot Commission by the Acts of 1605 and 1624 to improve the river between Oxford and Burcot. (fn. 14) As early as 1606 a scheme of improvements was put forward by James Jessop, (fn. 15) but it apparently came to nothing. Although improvements to the river were made during the 1620's, (fn. 16) the rate of progress did not satisfy the government, for in 1631 Charles I ordered a fresh examination of the river to be made. (fn. 17) The king was concerned with both the cost and the difficulties of shipping timber from Burcot to Woolwich and Deptford. (fn. 18) With the opening of the route to Oxford via Swift Ditch about 1636 (fn. 19) the main difficulties seem to have disappeared, and Burcot lost its temporary importance. Nevertheless, barges continued to stop there until recent times. In 1764 coal was landed at Burcot; (fn. 20) and until about 1914 coal and flints were brought by barge. (fn. 21)
The village of Burcot lies on both sides of the Dorchester-Abingdon highway. (fn. 22) Nearly all the houses are relatively modern, having been built since 1888. The timber-framed and thatched cottages, for instance, once in Occupation Row, were pulled down between 1888 and 1892 by Jabez Balfour and rebuilt on a new site. (fn. 23) About 1880 the area began to attract attention as a desirable Thames-side residential district, and this character it still retains. The compactness which the village no doubt possessed in earlier days has therefore tended to be replaced by a more spreadeagled appearance. Yet the core of the village is still the area between the church and the Chequers Inn where the original hamlet seems to have been concentrated.
South of the Dorchester-Abingdon road and near to the river in the west of the parish is a large modern building formerly known as the Croft and now as the Riverside Hotel. Nearby to the east until 1956 was Burcot House. This building, which stood in thickly wooded grounds, dated in part from the 18th century, when it was a farmhouse occupied probably by the Bush family and later, from 1825 to 1886, by the Hannam family, (fn. 24) but it suffered greatly from additions and alterations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The north front seems to have been built about the mid 18th century. In 1886, when it was bought by Jabez Balfour for use as a private residence, the Georgian building was still apparently intact. It was then a two-storied building, consisting on the ground floor of an entrance hall and four rooms; there were also detached stables and a carriage house. (fn. 25) Jabez Balfour between 1886 and 1893 erected an ornamental front overlooking an Italian garden, together with other additions. (fn. 26) The result was to destroy the symmetry and proportions of the structure. Further additions were made in the 1920's and 1930's, when the house was occupied by Dorchester Theological College. (fn. 27) A small chapel was built to the north of the main building and a block of study-bedrooms to the west. In 1940 Cheshunt Theological College was evacuated there. After the Second World War some Serbian refugeestudents lived in the building for a time. After standing empty for some years the house and surrounding property were disposed of in 1954 for building purposes. In 1956 the old building and Balfour's additions were demolished. The coach house and the study-bedrooms have been converted into houses, but the chapel remains. The fate of the dovecot is in doubt.
Two other old buildings, lying close together, are situated just south of the Abingdon-Dorchester highway. The Old Cottage, formerly Burcot Cottage, is a timber-framed structure, perhaps dating from Tudor times. The east side was undoubtedly at one time a separate building. It runs from north to south, the original wattle and daub being replaced by red brick. There is a dormer window on the east side. The remainder of the structure runs from east to west and may be two cottages combined. It is timber-framed, with walls of rubble. A modern addition in Tudor style juts out to the north, and there are other modern additions at the west end. Some of the old windows remain. The house was perhaps originally a farm. The Chequers Inn nearby is a timber-framed structure. It seems to be of 16th-century origin and is traditionally held to have been an inn for more than 400 years. The first specific reference to it, however, is in the Victuallers' recognizances in 1791, when John Drake was the landlord. (fn. 28) In 1950 it was damaged by fire; the roof and ceiling were destroyed, but the fabric escaped destruction. (fn. 29) The building has now been completely restored.
Burcot was not mentioned by name in Domesday Book in 1086, but was undoubtedly surveyed under Dorchester manor like the other outlying estates of the Bishop of Lincoln's manor. (fn. 30) The bishop subinfeudated most of Burcot, but retained part in demesne and the overlordship of the whole until 1547, (fn. 31) When Bishop Henry Holbeche resigned Dorchester and other manors to the king. (fn. 32) Burcot was a member of Dorchester manor (fn. 33) and its overlordship followed Dorchester's descent, when it was granted to the Norreys family and later when it passed to the earls of Abingdon. (fn. 34)
The bishop's demesne lands also passed to the earls of Abingdon, presumably in the same way as the overlordship, and it was from these that they derived their chief interest in Burcot. (fn. 35) Although the property was regarded as part of Dorchester manor, (fn. 36) the Earl of Abingdon was called lord of BURCOT manor in the inclosure award of 1776. (fn. 37) When, however, the estate was put up for sale in 1844 and in 1875, no mention was made of manorial rights. (fn. 38) Ultimately the estate went mainly to Jabez Balfour in 1886, and when he went bankrupt in 1893 to a London merchant, George Hooper. As the result of purchases by the Gibbs family of Clifton Hampden, the principal landowners in the 20th century were the Lords Aldenham. (fn. 39)
Another manor seems to have descended from the Burcot fee of the Le Moines, who held in Burcot, Clifton Hampden, and South Stoke from the 12th to the 14th century. The mesne tenancy followed the descent of their Clifton holding. (fn. 40) During the 13th and 14th centuries under-tenants of the Le Moines held the estate. In 1279 Sir Geoffrey de Lewknor, who held another 1/10 fee in Burcot directly of the bishop, held Philip le Moine's 6 virgates and 3 acres in Burcot. (fn. 41) Geoffrey (d. c. 1282–3) held land in many neighbouring parishes and was lord of Harrowden (Northants.). (fn. 42) Sir Ralph de Lewknor held Burcot in 1300, and before 1316 had been succeeded by a Geoffrey de Lewknor and then by Geoffrey's brother John, who was one of the lords of Burcot in 1316. (fn. 43) John de Lewknor was still alive in 1325 (fn. 44) and was apparently succeeded here as elsewhere by his son, another John, described in 1346 as John de Lewknor of Burcot. (fn. 45) There is no later record of the Lewknors of Burcot, (fn. 46) but their estate was apparently the same as the Burcot manor held in 1380 by Sir Hugh de Segrave. The manor was said to have belonged formerly to a John Frylond, but there is no other record of him, (fn. 47) and it is likely that he was in fact the tenant of the Le Moine or Lewknor property. Segrave transferred Burcot manor and John Frylond's other lands in Burcot and Clifton to Bishop William of Wykeham, and they were later, in 1381, transferred to Winchester College for Wykeham's foundation of New College, Oxford. (fn. 48) They were kept until 1390 and a John Waryn farmed Burcot during that time. (fn. 49) Evidently after 1390 they were sold, like Clifton Hampden, to the Draytons, and followed the descent of Clifton Hampden until the end of the 16th century. (fn. 50) In 1597, however, Thomas Hampden sold Burcot manor and 9 yardlands in Burcot and Dorchester, of which 7 yardlands were in Burcot, to Sir Michael Molyns and his son Barentine Molyns. (fn. 51) During the 17th century the property changed hands several times. Sir Barentine Molyns disposed of it to a John Whistler in 1616, who conveyed it in 1627 to a Mr. Mattingley, perhaps the William Mattingley who was dealing with the manor in the 1640's. Mattingley mortgaged the estate to James Yateman in 1633 and in 1641 they both conveyed it to Richard Newdigate; from him it passed to a Roger Styles in 1647. (fn. 52) Styles sold the manor and 7 yardlands to the Trustees of the Poor of Great Haseley parish in 1651. (fn. 53) At first the trustees leased the manor as well as the 7 yardlands, but after 1754 there is no further reference to the manor, (fn. 54) and its fate is obscure.
By 1201 beside the two main estates there was another small military one which an Alexander of Burcot (Bridicot) held of the bishop for 1/10 fee. (fn. 55) He still held c. 1209, (fn. 56) but by 1212 his son William was tenant (fn. 57) and was still in possession in the 1220's. William's immediate successors are unknown, but by 1279 the estate was held by Le Moine's under-tenant, Sir Geoffrey de Lewknor. The military estate was small, only 2 virgates. (fn. 58) It was still recorded separately in 1300, (fn. 59) but there is no later reference to it, (fn. 60) and it may have been merged in the Lewknors' holding under the Le Moines.
In 1166 an estate was held in Burcot by Adelinus de Clifton and formed part of his 2 fees in Clifton and Burcot, the Baldons, and South Stoke, which were later held by the De Baldindon family. (fn. 61) Burcot descended with them for a time, and in 1428 was stated to be held by Robert 'Bradeley' who also held the Clifton lands. (fn. 62) Part seems to have followed the later descent of Bradleys manor in Clifton, for the Pollards, lords of Bradleys, held a tenement in Burcot in the 16th century; (fn. 63) but it is probable that the rest of the estate, which was only 4 virgates, had been divided between under-tenants earlier on. Already by 1279 Nicholas de Burcot held 2 virgates of the De Baldindon property in Burcot, (fn. 64) and like his other lands these may have passed to Dorchester Abbey by the mid 14th century. (fn. 65) The abbey was twice granted licences in mortmain to acquire land in Burcot in the 14th century and its two surviving 15th-century court rolls include Burcot entries. (fn. 66) In 1536 the abbey had rents and farms there, but by 1538 its property had passed to the Crown. (fn. 67)
Economic and Social History.
In the Anglo-Saxon period Burcot was probably one of the villages paying food-rents to the Bishop of Dorchester. (fn. 68) Its Old English name, Br\?\yda's cottage, and its position close to Dorchester suggest that it was originally settled from there possibly at an early date. (fn. 69) Roman remains have been found at Burcot, but it is unlikely that occupation was continuous there, although it seems to have been so at Dorchester. (fn. 70)
In the survey of 1086 Burcot seems to have been included in the account of the outlying parts of the Dorchester estate, by then the property of the Bishop of Lincoln. As later evidence shows that the bishop held part of Burcot in demesne it is likely that some Burcot tenants were included in the 34 villani and 22 bordars listed under the bishop's Dorchester manor. (fn. 71) It is also likely that the rest of Burcot was held by the bishop's knights, perhaps by the English freemen, who in 1086 held 3½ hides of Dorchester land, for at the end of the 12th century three of the bishop's knights were holding Burcot land. (fn. 72)
From a survey of the bishop's estates made in the second quarter of the 13th century it appears that the bishop's demesne estate comprised 28 virgates, and that he had no home farm at Burcot. Seven villein tenants were recorded with unusually large holdings: four had 3 to 5 virgates each, two had 2 virgates each, only one of this group had a single virgate holding. These tenants paid rent at the rate of 5s. 6d. a virgate, and owed services similar to those of the villeins of the bishop's demesne manor of Dorchester. Each was to plough 2 acres at his own cost and 2 at the bishop's; to fallow 1 acre with his own plough, if he had one, and if not by making up a plough-team with others; to go to 2 autumn boonworks at the bishop's cost with all his family except for his wife and daughter, or his nurse if he had no daughter. He was also to carry the bishop's writs, make his distraints and summonses, and accompany the bishop's treasure in transit. His marks of villeinage are seen in his liability to heriot, leirwite, a fine for land on his father's death, and bishop's aids. In addition to these services two of the tenants were to plough an acre of grascherch.
Eight other tenants held single virgates at a rent of 5s. 6d. each and services similar to those owed by the villeins of Chislehampton. These included comparatively heavy agricultural and carrying services. (fn. 73)
The picture of the bishop's estate presented by the hundred rolls is rather different, and it may be that the survey of 1279 is not complete or that in the earlier survey land of one of the bishop's knights was included. In 1279 eleven virgates were held of the bishop for rent and service. A typical virgater paid 5s. rent a year. He did no week-work, but had to plough 2 acres of the bishop's demesne, to lift hay, to reap for 3½ days in autumn when he supplied his own food, and for 2 days when the bishop provided. He carried grain and carted it to Fingest (Bucks.) and to Wallingford. His marks of villeinage were that he could not marry his daughter or sell his horse or ox without the lord's permission. Seven tenants owed these dues. The eighth, Hugh le Frankelyn, was perhaps a descendant of the freemen of 1086, who had gone down in the social scale: he claimed that his ancestors had been sokemen and therefore free, serving 40 days in war with coat of mail, lance, and helmet (chapell' de ferro). He maintained that this service had been taken away by the bishops of Lincoln. Hugh was in any case freer than the others. He paid 17s. a year for his 3 virgates. He still ploughed 2 acres, but only if he had a plough, and was paid 1½d. an acre. All his family except his wife, nurse (nutrix), and shepherd were to go to the two autumn boons. He was to carry letters for one day at his own cost and for another at the bishop's, and he was to be at each hundred court of Dorchester. Hugh's under-tenants were not named in the survey, but the bishop claimed services from them: they were to go to the boons and Hugh was to supervise them. Free tenants in Burcot were to be found only on the subinfeudated estates in 1279, a feature which was characteristic of Burcot for many centuries. The Le Moine fee, with over 6 virgates, was the largest of these. It was held by Sir Geoffrey de Lewknor together with the 2 virgates of his own 1/10 fee. William de Baldindon's 4 virgates were held by Sir Richard de la Hyde. None of these tenants had home farms and the estates consisted of rent-paying virgates. Save for the reeve holding 1 virgate in villeinage, the tenants owed no customary services, but paid varying rents and scutage for their part of the fees. Dorchester Abbey was one of the most important tenants with rights over 2 virgates of the Le Moine fee and 2 virgates of the Baldon fee. Two virgates also paid rents to Goring Priory. (fn. 74) Burcot was a small township: only 23 virgates were recorded in 1279, and the virgate was probably about 22 acres as in Baldon and Clifton. The village's contributions to the early 14th-century taxes were therefore lower than those of the neighbouring villages of Clifton, Drayton, and Baldon. Only 10 contributors paid in 1306, most making comparatively modest payments of under 2s. to the total of £1 2s. 10¾d. In 1327, when there were 17 taxpayers, one of the larger contributions was the 5s. from John le Frankelyn, probably a descendant of the Hugh le Frankelyn of 1279. The small number of 41 adults who paid the poll tax of 1377 suggests that if there was no evasion the population had declined. (fn. 75)
Burcot continued to be divided between three main landowners until quite modern times, but there are few surveys of the village comparable with that of 1279 to give an over-all picture. Between 1381 and 1390 when the chief lay estate (Le MoineLewknor) had come to Winchester College, it was farmed for £5 18s. a year. (fn. 76) Dorchester Abbey was receiving £2 10s. 4d. from rents and farms of its estate in 1536. (fn. 77) A few years later in 1551–2 the bishop's estate, now in the hands of the Crown, was surveyed. Copyholders were still the only tenants. Four held a messuage and 2 virgates each, one a messuage and a single virgate, and one 4 virgates and a messuage. The total rent was £6 2s. The stint for a yardland was 30 sheep, 3 beasts, and 3 horses, and the surveyor estimated that there were 375 sheep on the Burcot estate. The area was well wooded, for there were said to be 936 trees on the tenants' land. (fn. 78) Little is known of the status or life of the villagers, but in 1523 there were 14 inhabitants sufficiently prosperous to contribute to the subsidy. (fn. 79) In 1665 there was only one fair-sized house for which a tax on 5 hearths was paid. It belonged to John Day, who was tenant of the Great Haseley charity lands and manor—the old Le Moine estate. (fn. 80) He held his 7 yardlands on a 12-year lease for £52 a year. (fn. 81) Two other farmers had each paid tax on 3 hearths for their farmhouses, three paid on 2, and one on a single hearth. (fn. 82) About half Burcot (the bishop's old estate) belonged to the Earl of Abingdon by this time. (fn. 83) His tenants were still copyholders with one or two leaseholders and they attended the Dorchester manorial court. In 1685 2 virgates in Burcot were taken up at the will of the lord for £1 2s. 2d. a year. (fn. 84) In 1728 there were 8 copyholders paying rack-rents for holdings ranging from 4 to 93 acres. (fn. 85) In 1783 the annual value of the estate, estimated as over 215 acres, was £214 14s. 4d., but rents came to under £7 a year. (fn. 86)
An early 18th-century survey of the estate shows that the three-field system of farming, 2 crops and a fallow, was used. (fn. 87) Only the name of one field, the North Field, is known. (fn. 88) The soil of the manor was described in 1728 as very good, but the meadows as poor and lying far from the homes. It was suggested then that the laying down of part of the land to grass and the drainage of wet land would be a substantial improvement; (fn. 89) but there is nothing to indicate that the suggestion was put into operation before the inclosure of the parish. In 1783 part of the estate was described as good corn land, but part as 'burning' land, i.e. liable to drought. (fn. 90) The inclosure award shows that Burcot farmers shared their meadow with Clifton Hampden. They took the first crop of Revell Mead (part or all of which was known in Clifton as Burcot Mead), (fn. 91) but the aftermath belonged to the Hucks estate of Clifton.
It is clear that there was a movement towards larger holdings before inclosure. Burcot was inclosed in 1776, (fn. 92) and the principal landowners then were Willoughby, Earl of Abingdon, whose land was mainly held by copyholders, John Bush, the impropriator and owner of a 7-yardland freehold, and the trustees of the 7 yardlands held for Great Haseley poor. The area inclosed was 616 acres. The effect was to change completely the appearance of the countryside: in place of the scattered strips were two large farms, one (c. 236 a.) belonging to John Bush, the other (c. 135 a.) to John Cripps, chief tenant of the Abingdon estate and owner also of 4 freehold yardlands. The Haseley charity lands amounted to about 104 acres. Three tenants of the Abingdon estate were allotted small holdings of 30 to 60 acres and there were 3 small allotments of 1 to 7 acres. Eight inhabitants had no land in the common fields and were to make annual payments in lieu of tithes for their cottages and gardens. (fn. 93) The effect of inclosure on the hamlet is hard to assess. The smaller farmers certainly disappeared after the award was made, but not until the Napoleonic Wars. In 1785 there were nine occupants of land; the Bush and Cripps farms and the Haseley charity lands had the highest and almost equal assessments. By 1797 four of the holdings had been absorbed into the Bush and Cripps farms. By 1805 there were only three occupiers of lands: (fn. 94) John Bush had taken over the leases of three of the Abingdon holdings and now paid over half the land tax. (fn. 95) He apparently farmed the land himself, but in 1807 Gabriel Copland took over the property and let it to a tenant farmer, Charles Tawney. (fn. 96) It is likely that this was the property which Arthur Young said was purchased for £13,000 in 1807 by a Mr. 'Tormy'; he said it had a good house and a fishery in the Thames. (fn. 97) In 1825 Henry Hannam purchased it and from 1826 or 1827 he farmed the land himself. (fn. 98) The Cripps family also increased its lands and by 1805 John Cripps (d. c. 1825) had taken in three other holdings and was paying over a quarter of the total land tax for the parish. (fn. 99) From 1807 the estate was occupied by his son James Cripps. (fn. 100) The Crippses were agricultural improvers, for in 1809 Arthur Young commented on their experiments in sheep-breeding and noted that they folded in the summer for turnips. (fn. 101)
During the course of the 19th century the process of creating larger farms continued and gradually most of the land was absorbed into Burcot House farm. In 1851 Henry Hannam farmed 460 acres, there was a tenant farm (100 a.) belonging to John Cripps, and another small farm (35 a.). (fn. 102) By 1856 the Hannams were farming the Haseley charity lands, (fn. 103) and in 1879 they purchased most of the Cripps property. (fn. 104) By 1889 Jabez Balfour had acquired Burcot House farm and the Haseley charity lands. (fn. 105) In 1928 Lord Aldenham owned 500 acres, mainly farmed by the tenant of Burcot farm. (fn. 106)
Burcot's farming has been mainly mixed, but with the emphasis on arable, as was necessary in an open-field village: sheep and corn are mentioned in most of the surveys. (fn. 107) In 1801 the village contained 29 families living in 29 houses, 136 inhabitants in all. (fn. 108) The only earlier comparable figure is that of the Compton Census which gives 66 adults. The population rose steadily throughout the 19th century. By 1851 there were 40 houses and 189 people and the peak figure of 199 persons was reached in 1881. Numbers of inhabitants have since fluctuated; they were 141 in 1921 with 36 houses and 187 with 38 houses in 1931. The census of 1951 showed a decline in population for the joint parishes of Clifton Hampden and Burcot. (fn. 109)
Some record of the village's craftsmen has survived: in the early 18th century there was a tailor, (fn. 110) a collarmaker, and a whittayer in the village. (fn. 111) The census of 1851 recorded a road labourer (a pauper), schoolmistress, carrier, carpenter, and public house keeper, in addition to the three farmers and their 50 farm labourers. (fn. 112)
In spite of its small size there was a good deal of poverty in the late 18th and 19th centuries. In 1783 three cottages on the waste were occupied by paupers who paid no rent. (fn. 113) The poor rate of 2s. 8d. in 1803 was higher than that of most villages in the hundred, although naturally much smaller than the Dorchester rate. As elsewhere, the years after the end of the Napoleonic War led to an increase in distress: £117 16s. was spent in 1835 compared with £76 15s. 9d. in 1803. (fn. 114) By 1852 expenditure had fallen again to about £76. (fn. 115)
No trace of a church or chapel at Burcot has been found either in the medieval or modern period before 1869, when a chapel-of-ease was built. According to local tradition there was a medieval church at Burcot, but excavations of 1857 in 'Church Field', on the north of the road to Dorchester between Clifton and Burcot revealed no traces of it. (fn. 116) In the post-Re formation period Burcot had its own rectory (as it had had in the Middle Ages), glebe, and churchwardens. In the 17th century it was considered a part of the 'parish' of Dorchester, (fn. 117) but in the 18th-century Vestry minutes refer to the 'parish of Burcot', and Skelton in the early 19th century described it as a parish without a church. (fn. 118) It seems, however, to have been generally accepted in the 19th century that Burcot was in Dorchester parish and when its church was built in 1869 its status was that of a chapel-of-ease. (fn. 119)
From at least the late 16th century Burcot churchwardens, like those of all the churches in Dorchester peculiar, appeared at the peculiar courts. (fn. 120) They made presentments about the township; (fn. 121) they levied church-rates for the upkeep of Dorchester church, their mother church, paying about a sixth of the total amount needed each year, but kept their accounts separately from those of the wardens of Dorchester. (fn. 122) The curate of Dorchester was their minister.
Burcot rectory, like those of the other churches in Dorchester peculiar, evidently formed part of the early endowment of the canons of Dorchester and then of Dorchester Abbey, which was refounded about 1140, (fn. 123) although papal confirmations of the daughter churches of the abbey in 1146 and 1163 do not mention Burcot. (fn. 124) The first evidence about the rectory comes from the 1530's when the abbey was farming it for £4 13s. 4d. (fn. 125) A description of it then makes clear, what is also shown by later evidence, that the rectory was unusual in consisting of all the tithes, both great and small, and of the church dues of the inhabitants. (fn. 126) There was also a small amount of glebe, mentioned in 1663, belonging to the rectory. (fn. 127)
At the dissolution of the abbey Burcot rectory was taken over by the Crown, which in 1538 granted it with Drayton rectory to John Danyster of Chobham (Surr.), probably for a term of 21 years. (fn. 128) Yet in 1542 it was granted to the new bishopric of Oxford. (fn. 129) In 1545 it was sold with Clifton rectory to John Pollard and George Rythe, the former buying out the latter within a few weeks. (fn. 130) Its descent then followed that of Bradleys manor in Clifton. (fn. 131) The history of the rectory in the 17th century is complicated. In 1615 James I licensed Lewis Pollard to sell it to Anthony Peisley and Richard Allam. (fn. 132) In fact Pollard seems to have retained it until 1640, Allam for part of the time being the tenant. (fn. 133) In 1640 it was conveyed to Thomas Dennis of Oxford on a 76-year lease at a price of £180. (fn. 134) The value in 1663 was said to be £50 a year. (fn. 135) In 1666 Thomas Dennis, the younger, and his wife Ursula leased the rectory to Richard Pleydell. (fn. 136) Nine years later it had passed into the hands of Richard Nelmes, who conveyed it to the Earl of Leicester and Algernon Sidney as a mortgage for debt. In their hands it remained until the execution of Algernon Sidney in 1683. In 1684 Charles II granted to Henry Sidney all debts due to Algernon; and in 1687 James II gave the rectory to Henry Sidney, who previously seems to have been entitled only to the interest from it. (fn. 137) Its history for some time to come is obscure. In 1775 John Bush was the impropriator; and as the Bush family came into Burcot probably as early as 1734, they may have been possessed of the rectory then. (fn. 138) The inclosure award of 1776 commuted tithe, John Bush, who owned both the great and small tithes, receiving substantial compensation (c. 115 a.) in land, the equivalent of one-seventh of the parish. The open-field glebe was exchanged for about 4 acres. (fn. 139) The rectory seems to have descended with the Bush property during the 19th and 20th centuries, i.e. through the families of Copland, Hannam, Balfour, and Gibbs, for the title deeds of Burcot Farm, purchased by Alban, Lord Aldenham, in 1919, speak of the rectory or parsonage impropriate of Burcot. (fn. 140)
The present chapel-of-ease was erected in 1869 at a cost of about £700 to serve the dual purpose of a chapel and school. (fn. 141) In 1878 there was said to be a monthly communion service, and other services twice a week were reported. (fn. 142) Since the closure of Burcot school in 1922 (fn. 143) the building has been devoted solely to spiritual uses.
The chapel, dedicated to ST. MARY, is a small brick building, consisting of nave, chancel, and bellturret. It is in the Gothic style of the Victorian era: the chancel, which is apsidal at the east end, has four single-light windows; the chancel arch is in the Decorated style. A wooden screen with a crucifix above the centre part runs across the entrance to the chancel. The architect was George Gilbert Scott. (fn. 144)
The old faith lingered on in Burcot after the Reformation, although it was less strong than in the neighbouring hamlet of Overy. In the early 17th century two yeoman families, the Tulls and the Philpotts, had recusant members. Agnes Tull, who was frequently listed as a recusant, (fn. 145) was in 1624 illegally buried in Dorchester churchyard. (fn. 146) Another recusant yeoman couple that appear in 1625 and 1641 were Augustine Ford and his wife. (fn. 147)
These families do not appear as recusants after the Restoration, but in the later 17th century there were three recusant families in Burcot: the Bonds, (fn. 148) the Nutts, (fn. 149) and the Days, a family which also had a branch in Dorchester. (fn. 150) Elizabeth, the wife of John Day, was listed as a recusant in 1666, (fn. 151) and in the 1670's Robert Day was constantly presented for not attending church. (fn. 152) Two branches of the family were listed as recusants in the 1690's. (fn. 153) In 1706 John Day and his wife were two of the three recusants in Burcot (fn. 154) and in about 1717 Edward Day of Burcot, yeoman and a substantial copyholder, was a Roman Catholic. (fn. 155) No further record has been found of the recusancy of the Burcot branch of the family, and in 1769 the only Burcot recusant was Richard Cherrell, (fn. 156) probably a relative of the recusant Cherrell family of Dorchester.
Protestant dissent apparently did not exist before the 19th century, but was strong enough in 1803 for the house of Eleanor Frewin to be licensed for religious worship. (fn. 157) In 1822 the house of Mary Frewin was licensed, (fn. 158) and others in 1830 and 1847. (fn. 159) There is nothing to indicate to which denomination these worshippers belonged.
There was a day school at Burcot in 1818 where some children were educated at their parents' expense. The poor, it was said, 'would accept any mode of education offered to them'. (fn. 160) A Sunday school was started in 1831 where 18 boys and 16 girls were taught at the expense of one of the parishioners. (fn. 161) In 1854 the Sunday school had 30 pupils and a dame's school with 15 day pupils was recorded. (fn. 162)
A Church of England school for boys and girls was built in 1869. It had 53 pupils in 1871, but the numbers had decreased to 30 in 1887, and to 22 by 1920. (fn. 163) The difficulties of the school teacher in early days are well illustrated in the school's log book: it was impossible to enforce attendance and the children were kept at home for weeks on end to work in the fields. The inspector at the end of the century said that the school was taught with kindness, but commented in 1904 that 'much remains to be done to develop the children's intelligence'. (fn. 164) The school closed in 1922 and in 1934 the children were walking to Clifton Hampden, and since 1956 they have been going to Dorchester St. Birinus. (fn. 165)
Leonard Wilmott, by deed of 1608, gave a rent charge of £2 issuing out of lands in Clanfield, to be distributed on Good Friday to the unrelieved poor of Burcot and like gifts to the poor of other places. The gift was regulated by a charity decree of 1617. About 1823 it was being distributed to some 24 poor according to need. Two further sums of 5s., charged at unknown dates by unknown donors (one of whom, however, appears to have been called Cave) upon lands in Burcot, were distributed at the same time. (fn. 166) By 1887 one of the two latter rents had ceased to be paid. After protracted efforts to recover it, G. R. Huggins and Lady Crawford, the second of whom paid the other rent, agreed jointly to redeem the two rents for £10 stock, an arrangement confirmed by Scheme. (fn. 167) In 1908 the three charities were placed by Scheme under joint trustees, and provision was made for applying the income to subscriptions or donations to the funds of any nearby club or society capable of supplying the poor with coal, clothing, or other necessaries. The sum of £10, representing the accumulated income of the charities, was invested so that it might be applied, if necessary, to the relief of sufferers in epidemics. (fn. 168) Under a new Scheme of 1911 the trustees were authorized to apply the income to subscriptions or donations to hospitals or homes capable of benefiting the poor inhabitants and to clubs or societies supplying coal or clothing, in the provision of nurses and midwives, and in meeting the expenses of poor patients travelling to hospitals or homes. A Scheme of 1937 slightly extended the medical benefits. (fn. 169) In 1931–2 £2 14s. was being paid to the Clifton Hampden Nursing Association. In 1953–5 the accumulated income, amounting to £86, was undistributed. (fn. 170)