A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 8, Lewknor and Pyrton Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The parish is a small one of 869 acres and so far as is known its boundaries have not changed since at least the 8th century: (fn. 1) it is long and narrow in shape and lies between Watlington and Thame to the north of the Chilterns. It stretches from Haseley Brook on the north to Weston Brook on the south and is separated by these streams from Great Haseley and Shirburn. Between the two lies Poppet's Hill, probably deriving its name from the Old English words for 'goblin's pit' and reaching to a height of 347 feet. There is also a low ridge rising from 234 feet by Wheatfield Park to 433 feet at Gilton Hill or Gyldon as it was called in 1517 (fn. 2) and continuing to above Clare where it reaches over 370 feet. (fn. 3) There is comparatively little woodland: in 1881 there were 33 acres which included Cornwall Copse in the north and part of Wheatfield Wood on the eastern boundary, and the acreage has been considerably reduced since. (fn. 4) The countryside, however, has by no means a bare appearance, for there are many fine elm and oak trees in the hedgerows which give it a park-like aspect. Eight of these fine trees were planted by the rector on the glebe in 1840 on Queen Victoria's wedding day, the marriage being solemnized by his cousin, the Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 5) From the northern slopes of the ridge, on which the hamlet of Stoke stands, the prospect commands Wheatfield Park to the north-east and the vale of Haseley to the north-west—a typical south-Oxfordshire landscape.
Along the ridge runs a secondary road that links the main roads from Stokenchurch and Watlington to Oxford. This route must have been of some importance in the Middle Ages as it was the chief link between Thame and Wallingford, and Wallingford was on the water route to London and until it was superseded in importance by Abingdon in the early 15th century was one of the main stages on the London road to the west. (fn. 6) Wallingford Way is conspicuous in contemporary documents, even a Stoke footpath being described as the way to Wallingford. (fn. 7) It was this route which was probably the cause of bringing violence to Stoke on at least two occasions. In 1224 it was alleged by the widow of Ralph Talemasch that during the barons' war her property had been severely damaged by Richard Foliot and Vivian fitz Ralph over a period of three weeks. They had carried off 26 armed servants, a plough-team of oxen and 2 young oxen, everything in her housechest, and the bedclothes. They had put locks on her barns and handed the keys to Robert Druval so that she could not have the keys and have her chattels without paying 40s. (fn. 8) In the 16th century two yeomen of London and a Gloucester man were pardoned in 1528 for breaking into the houses of a widow at Stoke and robbing her and her servant, and for mortally wounding William Pangbourne. (fn. 9) As one of the Londoners was said to be also of Doncaster and Painswick (Glos.), both places in wool-producing areas, he was probably a woolman journeying from London to the west country.
Stoke itself lies in the centre of the parish at a height of about 320 feet. (fn. 10) It is 5 miles southwest of the market town of Thame and 3½ miles north of Watlington. Never a large village, it has now dwindled to a small hamlet, and there is only one farmhouse, Stoke Farm, left in it. In 1960, besides this house there were the Rectory, the 'Red Lion', the 19th-century school-house, and school of chequer brick (then used as a private house), a few old stone cottages bordering the churchyard, four red-brick cottages built by Lord Macclesfield in 1902, and two new Council houses. In an account of about 1700 of the manor estate, besides Stoke Farm there were three other houses described as farms, together with the Place House belonging to Mr. Tipson, five dwellings with orchards and closes or other land, a house and smith's shop, and three cottages, of which two were on the waste. (fn. 11) In addition to the houses and cottages listed the Rectory and Stoke Grange Farm, which lay outside the village, certainly existed then. (fn. 12) In 1738 the rector reported that there were 23 houses in Stoke and this roughly corresponds with the details given on an estate map of 1750. (fn. 13) The map shows that the village was clustered round the church and lay entirely off the main road and along the branch road to Stoke Talmage and a parallel lane ending in the village, whereas later houses have been built along the Lewknor road. The 18th-century 'Red Lion' on the Lewknor road, therefore, dates from the second half of the century. The 1750 village consisted of Stoke or Manor Farm, the Rectory, and next to it Place House, the most important building in the village. Besides fourteen small dwellings and cottages the map depicts two farmhouses. Hedged closes lie to the west of the houses, a vineyard at the north end of the village, a common of 18½ acres lies on the Wheatfield boundary, and the open fields lie to the south with Stoke Grange Farm in an isolated position to the north-west of the village and on the eastern boundary of the parish.
Stoke Farm is shown as an L-shaped house of two stories, with a large yard surrounded with outbuildings, on the south corner of the village street. John Taylor, the constable and farmer of the manor farm, was living in this house in 1665 and returned five hearths for it, but this was probably before the rebuilding: a lease of 1697 to Ralph Taylor speaks of it as having been 'newly erected'. (fn. 14) In 1796 it had stabling for 13 horses and its outbuildings were of brick, weather-boarding, and lath and plaster. (fn. 15) Today the brick facade of the house conceals an earlier, possibly 16th-century, building of chalk and timber, which has been enlarged at later dates.
The Place House no longer exists. It may have been built in 1588, for Rawlinson noted that it had an inscription on the outside of the gateway which ran: 'Get all thi goods justli Spend them moderateli Relive them daili. Anno dni 1588 Optime mors veni Pessima vita vale'. On the inside of the gateway, facing the house, was another inscription: 'Serve God ever duli'. (fn. 16) This house was probably the one for which seven hearths were returned in 1665 by Thomas Quatremain, or it may have been the one with five hearths owned by William Baker, 'gent. by my owne view', who can be identified with William Barker of Sonning, the patron. (fn. 17) The 1750 estate map shows Stoke Place as the most imposing house in the village: it is depicted with two stories and attics and a central projecting bay. It is mentioned in the inclosure award of 1811, but only Place House close is shown on the map. (fn. 18) The house had presumably been recently pulled down.
The Rectory dates from 1752 and was built by the rector, William Wilson. (fn. 19) It replaced a house of six low rooms with chambers above and was built some 40 yards away in the orchard of the old Rectory, then ruinous. (fn. 20) The new house was of two stories with garrets above. There were originally four rooms on each floor, but by 1820 the house was considered too small and various offices were added at a cost of £560. The architect was Daniel Harris of Oxford. (fn. 21) The house has an elegant interior and there have been no recent alterations to the exterior.
Stoke Grange Farm is on the site of one of the four Oxfordshire granges of the Cistercians of Thame, and there is still a right of way leading across the fields, formerly all Thame Abbey land, from the farm to Thame Park. The land given for its site in the 12th century was part of the waste land of Stoke manor called the Marsh, (fn. 22) and the monks must have expended considerable labour on draining. Today the farmhouse standing above the brook is a 19th-century building. Traces of the medieval moat surrounding the original grange survive, and in 1850 a medieval barn was still standing. (fn. 23) Although all the ancient grange buildings have since been destroyed by fire a number of inlaid tiles once on the floor of one of the buildings have been preserved at the farm. One of these tiles bears a crowned head between two hands raised—a design common in the neighbourhood. (fn. 24) A few early hand-made drains have also been found beside the causeway built across the marsh to Stoke village. (fn. 25)
At the extreme southern end of the parish lies Stokefield Farm. It, too, is in an isolated position, but this was a consequence of the inclosure of the open fields in 1813 and the creation of separate farms.
The parish has been associated with two families of interest—those of Talemasch and Petty. The first was of knightly rank and gave Stoke its second name in the 12th century, and the second is interesting as a local example of a yeoman family that rose into the ranks of the gentry in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 26) Mary, the daughter of John Petty of the Stoke branch of the family who lived at Stoke Grange, rose even higher. She married James Ley, Earl of Marlborough (1550–1629). (fn. 27) A son of John Petty, George Petty or Pettie (1548–89), acquired fame as a romance writer and translator. (fn. 28) As his cousin Anthony Wood said, he was 'excellent for his passionate penning of amorous stories'. (fn. 29) His translation of Guazzo's Civile Conversation has a further local interest in that it was dedicated to Sir Henry Norris, who was later to become lord of Rycote. Stoke Grange had passed out of the Pettys' hands by the time of Charles I. (fn. 30)
Rather earlier in the 16th century two boys, William Gardner and his brother, were lodging with a tutor at Stoke, very probably with the rector, Master Edward Chamber (fl. 1505–26). (fn. 31) A letter from William to his parents in London has been preserved: he asks that he and his brother may be sent 'shoes against Easter for we have none except what we wear everyday', also a cap each and points for their hosen, the last being 'naught and rotten'. (fn. 32)
One other local item may be recorded here, since the scientist Lord Macclesfield advised the parson to make a note of it in the parish register. It concerned the remarkable weather of the years 1777–9, particularly the first month of 1779 when the season was so mild that the blackthorn was in full flower before the end of March and the whitethorn in full leaf: 'that has not been experienced in the past 60 years.' (fn. 33)
In 1086 STOKE (Stoches), rated at 10 hides, was held by Roger d'Ivry, the sworn brother in arms of Robert d'Oilly. (fn. 34) In the early 12th century the D'Ivry barony passed to John de St. John of Stanton St. John and Reynold of St. Valery, either jointly or in succession. (fn. 35) Reynold de St. Valery was overlord when Henry II confirmed a grant of Stoke land in 1165 and Bernard and Thomas de St. Valery later granted charters of confirmation. (fn. 36) From the Valerys the barony passed in 1219 to the counts of Dreux; it was forfeited to Henry III, and granted by him in 1227 with all the English lands of Robert de Dreux to Richard of Cornwall. Thus, the St. Valery lands, although they kept their separate identity, henceforward formed a part of the honor of Wallingford. (fn. 37) Stoke was held for 2 fees, and paid a rent of 60s. to the honor. (fn. 38) In 1282 Earl Edmund gave this rent to Rewley Abbey, (fn. 39) and the abbey later remitted half of it to Thame. (fn. 40) In 1302 Margaret, the earl's widow, brought an action for her widow's third against Thame with regard to this rent. (fn. 41) According to a confirmation by Edward II Rewley remitted first 30s. and then the remaining 30s. which was owing for the lordship of the vill, and also suit of court and hundred, which the earl had granted it, both from the Abbot of Thame and other free tenants, along with view of frankpledge. The king further confirmed that no bailiff of the earl might take distraint or intermeddle in Stoke in any way. (fn. 42) Thus it was that in 1535 no payments were being made to Ewelme honor. (fn. 43)
The tenant in Stoke in 1086 was a certain Hugh (fn. 44) from whom the Talemasch family probably descended. The first of the name to be recorded in Oxfordshire is Hugh Talemasch, perhaps a son of the Domesday Hugh, who occurs c. 1130–1150. He was evidently in the entourage of John de St. John: he was fined in 1130–1 for liberating a sum of money to him without the royal precept, (fn. 45) and is found as a witness to the charters of his overlord, John de St. John. (fn. 46) It was from him presumably that the village took its second name. He was the father of at least three sons, Peter his heir, Robert, and William, all of whom are found witnessing charters with him. (fn. 47) He was also the lord of (?) Hampnett (Glos.) which he gave to the Benedictine Abbey of Gloucester when he became a monk there in his old age. (fn. 48) His heir Peter (I) married Maud, the daughter of Aucher Chevaushesul of Tetsworth, (fn. 49) and so succeeded to knight's fees in Tetsworth and Epwell, held of the Bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 50) He continued the pious tradition of the family and gave before 1155, with the consent of his wife, mother, brothers, and sisters, over 2 hides at Stoke in free alms to Thame Abbey; he also gave 10 acres to the parson of Stoke, (fn. 51) and one of his sons became a lay brother of Thame. (fn. 52) Peter was dead by 1181 and a son Richard was in possession. (fn. 53) This Richard was one of four knights appointed by the county in 1199 to choose twelve to make a great assize in a dispute over land in Stoke; (fn. 54) he married Avice, the daughter of Richard Taillard, one of his adherents, and they had a daughter and at least four sons, of whom one Ralph became a monk of Thame. (fn. 55) Peter (II) Talemasch had succeeded his father by 1205, (fn. 56) and a suit of 1207 reveals that he held 4 knight's fees in Stoke and Chilworth. (fn. 57) In 1208–12 he was returned as one of the knights of the honor of St. Valery presumably for his Stoke fees, (fn. 58) but he was granting away more of his demesne land in Stoke about this time (fn. 59) and may have alienated most of his rights there soon after. The Talemasch grange at Stoke seems to have been disused by 1220 and replaced by the monastic grange. (fn. 60) Other Oxfordshire land was certainly being alienated: a ½-fee in Finstock was granted to Eynsham in 1205; (fn. 61) Fawler land was granted in 1220–2, (fn. 62) and before 1223 the Chilworth and Coombe estate was sold. (fn. 63) Peter was followed by 1241 by his heir William, (fn. 64) who figures in various suits over Stoke land in 1261, (fn. 65) but the family's remaining rights were soon transferred. In the survey of 1279 there is no reference to any Talemasch overlordship over Thame's holding which had increased since about 1240 to 4½ hides. (fn. 66) In 1296–7 the earl was said to receive 40s. from the abbey for land formerly held by William Talemasch and 20s. from that formerly held by Sewaly of Stoke, (fn. 67) a tenant of whom nothing is known. In 1316 the abbot alone was returned as holding Stoke Talmage; (fn. 68) the place was included among the abbey's demesne lands in a grant of free warren in 1365, and Thame retained possession until the Dissolution in 1539. (fn. 69)
In 1542 Stoke Talmage was granted with Tetsworth and other manors to the Bishop of Oxford, Robert King, who had been the last Abbot of Thame, (fn. 70) but in 1547 the new bishopric ceded it with five other manors to the Crown. (fn. 71) In 1553 Edward VI sold the manor, advowson, Stoke grange, and other land as 1/40th knight's fee to John Petty (Pettie), gent. (d. 1578), for a cash payment of £564. (fn. 72) John Petty had held the manor from Bishop King (then Abbot of Thame) in 1538. (fn. 73) The Pettys were a widespread Oxfordshire family of lesser gentry and had long held land in Tetsworth. (fn. 74) John Petty of Stoke Talmage, the son of John Petty of Tetsworth, received a similar royal grant in 1611–12. (fn. 75) He and his wife and other members of the Petty family conveyed the manor to John Symeon, Esq., and Edmund Symeon, gent., in 1612, and in 1612 and 1614 the two Symeons are described as lords of the manor. (fn. 76) The grant, however, evidently did not include all the Petty property in Stoke for John Petty still held Stoke grange and Stoke farm at his death in 1621. (fn. 77)
The Symeon family were lessees of Pyrton, where they lived. Edmund Symeon died in 1622 and his brother Sir George of Brightwell Baldwin became heir to the manor and advowson of Stoke. (fn. 78) He received these in 1623, and immediately sold them to Katherine Litcott, widow, and William Barker, gent. (fn. 79) In court rolls of 1628 'Lady Litcot and Mr. Barker' occur as lords, (fn. 80) but the Litcott interest ended with Lady Litcott's death. The Barkers were a Sonning family. William Barker (d. 1676) married twice; (fn. 81) his two daughters by his first marriage, Frances and Ann, married respectively Richard Howse of Whitley (Berks.) (fn. 82) and Sir Pope Danvers; (fn. 83) his son William by his second marriage succeeded to Stoke and died without heirs in 1694. (fn. 84) The legatees of William Barker, junior, were Mary Howse, daughter of Frances Woodward (formerly Howse) and wife of Sir William Kenrick, and Ann, the wife of Sir Pope Danvers. (fn. 85) Stoke manor in consequence was divided at one time in sixths and at another in quarters among their descendants. (fn. 86) Sir William Kenrick's will, proved in 1699, left a life interest in his part of the property to his wife, which was thereafter to be divided between his three daughters, Frances, Mary, and Grace. (fn. 87) By his wife's will, proved 1705, the division was to be equal. (fn. 88) An agreement of 1708 about the share of Sir William's eldest daughter Frances Child related to 1/6 of the manor, (fn. 89) and another agreement of 1716 made between Daniel Danvers, son of Sir Pope Danvers, and Grace Kenrick, spinster, related to one-quarter. (fn. 90) In 1720 Grace, by then married to William Wykes of Hazlebeech (Northants.), and her husband sold their quarter of the manor of Stoke and Sonning to Thomas, Lord Parker, Baron of Macclesfield. (fn. 91) The second quarter of the manor was purchased in 1769 from the guardians of Elizabeth Hill, a granddaughter of the eldest daughter of Frances Child, and from John Gutteridge, whose wife, the youngest daughter of Frances Child, had a twenty-fourth part. (fn. 92) The Danvers half of the manors had descended to Daniel Rich, who mortgaged his estate to Robert Palmer, who ultimately acquired them. (fn. 93) In 1772 Palmer exchanged his half of Stoke, paying also £6,000, for the half of Sonning owned by Lord Macclesfield. (fn. 94) Thus the whole Stoke estate was united in the hands of Lord Macclesfield of Shirburn castle with whose descendants it still remained in 1960.
Beside the main estate there were a number of lesser freeholdings in 13th-century Stoke. The chief of these seems to have been the ½-fee held of the Talemasches by the De Turs or De Turri family. (fn. 95) The curia of Richard de Turs in Stoke is mentioned in the first decade of the century and so is his land in the open fields; (fn. 96) he was a man of local importance and is often found as a witness of the charters of Peter Talemasch, about the second decade of the 13th century. (fn. 97) He was probably of the same family as, if not identical with, Richard de Turri, who held a Bledlow fee in Buckinghamshire, and with the Richard le Thurs who was Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1202 to 1206. (fn. 98) In 1222 this ½-fee, then held by Peter (II) Talemasch, was the subject of a dispute between Roger de la Hyde, the husband of Avice, a daughter of Richard and Agnes de Turs. Roger was claiming the fee against the widowed Agnes because of her pregnancy; it was decided that if her child proved to be a boy he should surrender the whole property, if a girl the moiety of it. (fn. 99)
In a suit in 1261, when Agnes de Turs was 'lady of the fee', a Thomas Talemasch, son and heir of a Ralph Talemasch, who must have been some relation of William Talemasch, the head of the family, seems to have been overlord of the De Turs fee. Ralph Talemasch had, it seems, recently bought all or part of it (8½ virgates) from Richard de Turs (le Thous). (fn. 100)
There is no record, however, of this Talemasch holding in the hundred rolls and the only member of the Talemasch family recorded there was holding a virgate in Clare of Margery de Bruys. It is probable that right of overlordship had been granted to Thame Abbey with the other Talemasch land: a Richard de Turs quitclaimed to the Abbot of Thame for 100s. in a fine over a ½-virgate in 1247 and in 1279 7 virgates were said to be held of Richard de Turre 'de Heye', for 5 marks and 11s. and for suit to the abbot. (fn. 101)
It was probably before 1211 that Peter Talemasch gave a ½-hide of his demesne and 4 acres of mead to the Templars with his body for burial. (fn. 102) In 1210 the Master of the Temple, Amaury, lost an assize of novel disseism against Peter's mother Avice about a virgate of land in Tetsworth, as Peter failed to warrant his charter granting the land to the Templars. (fn. 103) Peter, therefore, gave the Master 3 acres in Stoke in exchange, during the lifetime of Avice. On her death the virgate in Tetsworth was to revert to the Templars and the 31 acres to Peter Talemasch or his heirs. (fn. 104) At about the same time Peter gave another 5 acres in Stoke, and Maud the daughter of Ralph of Shirburn gave c. 1225 'all the land' in Stoke which Peter Talemasch had given her father; and this was confirmed by Robert de Burghfield, who may have been Ralph of Shirburn's successor or mesne lord. (fn. 105)
There is no record of the estate in 1279, but the hundredal survey for Stoke is defective. (fn. 106)
This Templar property evidently passed to the Hospitallers in the 14th century, although there is no specific mention of Stoke Talmage in a survey of their estates, dated 1338. (fn. 107) It is likely, however, that the land was included in their Warpsgrove and Easington property, which was held at farm by Sir John Stonor. (fn. 108) In 1512 Stoke, worth 13s. 4d., was held at farm with Easington and Chalgrove. (fn. 109) In 1542 part or all of the Stoke property, described as Temple Lake, passed by royal grant to Richard Andrews and Leonard Chamberlain of Woodstock. (fn. 110) There are frequent references to Temple Lake in the Chamberlain deeds and it is marked on an 18th-century estate map as a large piece of inclosed pasture. (fn. 111)
Agrarian and Social History.
As Stoke was rated at 10 hides in 1086 and was thus one of the many 5-hide units in the country, (fn. 112) the boundaries of the township may be taken to be at least as ancient as the 8th century, when this system of hidation was probably imposed. The geology of the area certainly favoured early settlement: there is a mixture of soils, well adapted to mixed farming, and two brooks. Near Haseley and Weston Brooks the soil is heavy clay, but on the ridge it is composed of flint and chalk with a sub-soil of clay. At the time of the Domesday survey the estate appears to have been fully cultivated. There was land for 6½ ploughs: nearly half was demesne with 3 plough-teams and 3 serfs at work, while 10 villani and 9 bordars shared another 3½ plough-teams. The record makes a comparatively rare reference to meadow (97 a.) and pasture (13 furl. × 1 furl. 12 per.). There had been a considerable rise in value from £7 to £10 since the Conquest. (fn. 113)
Twelfth-century evidence reveals radical changes. In a charter of c. 1150 the land of the 'francolensii' is mentioned (fn. 114) and later evidence shows that apart from the principal estate in Stoke held by the knightly family of Talemasch there were a number of freeholds belonging to their adherents, among them the Le Grant, Sandwych, De Stoke, and De Turs families. (fn. 115)
An important development occurred in the middle of the century when Peter Talemasch granted 2 hides, 8 acres of his land to the Cistercians of Thame Abbey and land in the marsh (in merse) by the spring for building their grange. (fn. 116) References to the furlong next to Cripsehulla (i.e. Cripshill in Clare), to Peter's demesne lying between this furlong and the water (i.e. Haseley Brook), to the Marsh, and to Wallingford Way and the lane from Wheatfield make it clear that most, if not all, of the land granted lay at the northern end of the parish. (fn. 117) Although the land lay in 11 or 12 furlongs in the open fields, much was already consolidated. (fn. 118) For instance, the whole cultura of 25 acres and the whole of Mers furlong (except 35½ acres), la Breche, and most of another furlong were among those given. The demesne meadow granted was clearly inclosed and another piece of meadow belonging to 1½ hide of arable land was said to lie together. It is likely that an inclosed estate was contemplated from the beginning. This low-lying and badly drained part of the parish, described as late as 1842 as 'indifferent pasture', was eminently suitable land for improving farmers such as the Cistercians. A grange was built, (fn. 119) and the property was added to by other grants of land from free tenants. (fn. 120) The location of the new pieces of land, all in the same furlongs as the land of the original grant, or close to the grange, or to the Wheatfield boundary, point to the consolidation of the estate. About 1195 a further step in this direction was taken when Lawrence de Stoke made an exchange of land with the monks. (fn. 121)
Early in the 13th century the Talemasch family added more than another virgate to their original grant, and this land, too, was in the north of the parish, some on the Clare boundary. (fn. 122) By the mid-13th century the abbey held 4½ hides out of the 10 hides in the parish. (fn. 123) As the virgate was about 22 field acres, they held about 396 field acres. (fn. 124) The rest of Stoke's land, however, was still in the hands of small freeholders, and apart from the De Turs fee no sizeable property seems to have been built up. In a list of tenants, drawn up about 1240, this fee comprised 7½ virgates. The next largest holding belonged to the Templars, who had acquired 3½ virgates of their one hide holding from Peter Talemasch; (fn. 125) four tenants held a ½hide each, and five others, including the parson, held about a ½-virgate or a virgate. (fn. 126) One of these tenants was indebted in the sum of 36s. 8d. to Abraham the Jew. (fn. 127)
Athough much of the account of the parish in the hundred rolls is defective there is no doubt that in 1279, apart from the abbey's manor, small freeholds were the chief characteristic of the tenurial pattern. There were now some 31 different holdings, though not all were held by different persons. The abbey itself had superseded the Talemasch family as lords of the manor and had sixteen tenants, who were clearly freemen: they paid rents of varying amounts, though 8s. a virgate recurs several times, did suit at the abbot's court and usually at the hundred of Pyrton as well. Most of them owed scutage and none owed labour services. (fn. 128) A few free tenants held of other lords: two owed suit to the court of Lawrence de Sandwich, two held of Robert de Stoke, and both of these men seem to have held directly of the honor. So also did Richard de la Hyde, the lord of the neighbouring manor of Adwell and of many others. In fact the last fifteen entries relating to Stoke apparently concern his property and it seems that the only two tenants recorded as owing boon-works were his. (fn. 129)
The account in the hundred rolls is supplemented by a contemporary record in the Thame Cartulary, which states that the 8½ virgates once belonging to Richard le Turs had been bought by Ralph Talemasch and were divided into 4 half-virgate holdings, 4 virgate holdings, and one of 2½ virgates. (fn. 130)
As so many of the names of tenants are missing in the 1279 survey it is impossible to calculate their number, but it can be said with certainty that many of those named, like Richard de la Hyde, did not live in the parish. It may be hazarded that the growth of the population in the 12th and 13th centuries, which was a familiar phenomenon in other neighbouring villages, was checked at Stoke by the arrival of the Cistercians. Only 11 persons were assessed for the tax of 1316 and 9 in 1327, and only 38 adults were listed for the poll tax of 1377. (fn. 131) The small size of the population may be attributed to the Cistercian interest in sheep-farming, for which the Stoke meadows and rough pasture were well suited. The small number of tenants taxed in the early 14th century may be a consequence of the system, which was almost certainly in use, of employing resident famuli at the grange, who would escape taxation. When the parish's tax assessment was revised in 1344, it was fixed at the relatively low sum, considering its acreage, of £1 19s. 10d. (fn. 132) and this, too, one must suppose was owing to the influence of the abbey which was able to bring pressure on the tax assessors. (fn. 133)
Almost no evidence has survived about the administration of the grange. An indication of the type of farming adopted by the Cistercians and a sign that there had been complaints by other tenants may perhaps be detected in a confirmatory charter of Peter Talemasch's overlord, made some time between 1166 and 1190, where it is laid down that the monks must not overstock the land. (fn. 134) On the other hand a Talemasch charter of c. 1210 suggests that they may have practised mixed farming: they were to cultivate or use how they would a grant of pasture land. (fn. 135) The income derived from the farm in 1291 was £16 6s. 3d., of which £14 10s. 3d. came from lands, reliefs, and the dove-cote, 6s. from the herd of cattle, and the rest from rents. (fn. 136) In 1477–8, when the abbey was leasing the demesne for £10, it received £10 12s. 11d. from rents of assize and customary tenants, and in 1535, in addition to the £10 for the farm of the demesne, it was getting £15 15s. 5d. from tenants. (fn. 137) The post-Reformation history of the grange, which alone of the Stoke farms was inclosed and tithed separately, (fn. 138) in conjunction with the evidence of medieval charters, makes it likely that the abbey here, as in its other nearby properties, had succeeded in building up a compact estate. (fn. 139) One of its tenants, moreover, was accused in 1517 of inclosing 40 acres of arable and of allowing the farmhouse to fall into disrepair. (fn. 140) It appears also that the Templars, or possibly the Hospitallers, had consolidated their holding in Stoke. Temple Lake Close and Temple Mead are mentioned in a terrier of 1685 (fn. 141) and can be located on the map of 1750, Temple Mead then being called Mr. Toovey's mead. (fn. 142)
In the rest of the parish open-field farming was practised in the medieval period and after. Three fields are recorded by 1211: they were the North, South, and West (or Chelfield) Fields. When Peter Talemasch granted a ½-hide to the Templars the land was equally divided between these three fields, though unequally as regards furlongs. In the North Field they were distributed in 3 furlongs, in the South Field in 5 furlongs, and in the West among 14 furlongs, many of them in ½-acre strips. (fn. 143) Fieldnames indicate that, besides the staple crops, flax, beans, and pease were grown. (fn. 144) There is also mention in c. 1211 of a reed bed of 4½ acres, measured by the perch of 15½ feet. (fn. 145) Some furlongs were laid down to grass: a cultura of pasture in the early 13th century contained 15½ acres. (fn. 146) Holdings in general were probably in small parcels, at least in the early medieval period. Ten acres of the rector's glebe, for example, were divided into nine parcels. (fn. 147)
Evidence for agrarian changes in the 16th century is lacking except for what can be deduced from the tax assessments and a survey of 1551. The list of contributors to the subsidy of 1524 is not as informative as in most cases, for Stoke Talmage and Wheatfield were taxed together. There were fourteen contributors in all. (fn. 148) In 1577 there were six contributors at Stoke compared with one at Wheatfield: all six of the Stoke farmers were taxed on £4 or £3 worth of goods—a common sum for the small yeoman farmer. (fn. 149) The fact that there is no outstanding contributor suggests that the manor estate, like the grange, was at this time held by more than one tenant and was divided into several small farms. The family names of the taxpayers in 1577 recur on lists of tenants drawn up in 1607 for supplying wheat to the king and for making the common payments to the hundred of Pyrton. In the latter case there were eight names, including that of the parson and the lord of the manor. All were rated on 1 or 2 yardlands with the exception of Richard Chapman, perhaps the tenant of Stoke manor, who was rated on 5 yardlands out of a total of sixteen. (fn. 150) In payments of wheat, however, Ralph Quatremain contributed seven quarters and Mr. Petty three to Chapman's two.
It is not until the second half of the 17th century that evidence becomes rather more plentiful. It is not known whether the Grange was by this time farmed as a unit or whether it was still divided, but Manor farm or Stoke farm had certainly become a large farm. It consisted of 214½ acres in the open fields. (fn. 151) The rent in 1628 was £80, in 1647 and 1669 £92 and 6 bushels of wheat, and in 1693 it was raised to £102 and 6 bushels of wheat after a new malthouse had been built. (fn. 152) John Taylor, the tenant, was clearly the leading farmer in Stoke. (fn. 153) The Manor farmhouse was used for the courts, held twice a year by the lord's steward, and Taylor was bound by his lease to provide dinner for him and his company up to the number of six. (fn. 154) The tenant of Stoke Grange farmhouse at this date is not known for certain, but it is likely that he was John Fletcher, who returned three hearths for the hearth tax of 1665. (fn. 155) The building as it appears on an estate map some 100 years later was certainly a comparatively modest one. (fn. 156)
Court rolls of the period show that copies were usually for three lives, and that heriots were exacted and occasional works. In 1671, for example, the son of a deceased tenant was admitted to 55 acres of land for a fine of £2, the best beast as heriot, and an obligation to plant 4 oaks, elms, or ash. He was also bound at the request of the lord to work yearly two days with his plough in ploughing and sowing, to plough yearly by the direction of the lord the land of one cottager, taking not more than 12d. for each acre, and to carry one load of wood for the lord for a distance not exceeding 8 miles. (fn. 157) Another tenant had to find a labourer and one woman to reap at harvest time. (fn. 158) Another, occupying a house that returned one hearth for the hearth tax, had to find one man to work 2 days in autumn or forfeit 2s.; at a court baron of 1686 the homage presented that the executors of a copyholder ought to have an 'executor's year', viz. if the tenant died before Lady Day they were to enjoy the land until the following Michaelmas; if after, they were to enjoy it for a whole year from the Michaelmas following. The next tenant might enter on the fallow arable and on the meadow and pasture at Lady Day. It was also stated that customary tenants ought to have the timber growing on their tenements for necessary repairs.
A note about the manor land explained that the greensward lying among the farm's arable, was what is left unploughed. It lay chiefly in Westcut Field, at Park Corner, and Temple Lake. (fn. 159)
Inventories attached to wills show as one might expect in a parish with much good soil and within easy access of both London and Oxford that the emphasis, at least on the larger farms, was on cattle and wheat-growing rather than on sheep rearing. On Stoke farm in 1633 there were 13 sheep and lambs, worth £4, compared with £40 worth of cattle and £36 of horses. (fn. 160) This emphasis was more pronounced at the end of the century. When the tenant, John Taylor, junior, died in 1696 his chattels, together with those of his son, were worth £546: they included 10 horses and colts, 28 cattle, some hogs and pigs, but no sheep. Their crops, consisting mainly of wheat and barley, were worth £270, and their malt and malt-mill £40. The total acreage sown with corn amounted to 141 acres. (fn. 161) Other late-17th-century wills make no mention of sheep, (fn. 162) though most small farmers probably kept some. Commons for sheep as well as cows were still allotted in the proportion of rather more than 1 sheep common for every acre in the common fields. The total in about 1720 was 475 sheep commons as compared with 67 cow commons, (fn. 163) valued at 6s. 8d. or 7s. each. (fn. 164) A few large farmers, moreover, such as Robert May, who died in 1695 and was described as a grazier, also kept sheep. May had a flock of 122 sheep, 11 milking cows and 7 horses, valued at £208 as against crops worth £121. (fn. 165) Another, John Gibbs (d. 1713), kept 102 sheep and lambs in the common fields of Benson and had crops worth over £139, nearly twice the value of his stock. (fn. 166) Daniel Tipson (d. 1699) had a flock of 75 sheep and other animals worth £134 10s. as against crops (wheat, beans, pease, barley, hay) worth £337 15s. (fn. 167)
The chief crop grown was wheat, but barley, pease, and beans were also commonly sown. Oats appear to have been less popular in the first half of the century, but they figure more commonly in later inventories. (fn. 168) A yeoman who died in 1626, for example, had 20 acres of wheat, 12 of barley, and 12 of pease and beans, and the prosperous tenant of Stoke farm, Thomas Quartermain, with chattels worth £322 had the same crops in 1633. (fn. 169) To take another example from the end of the century, Joseph Tucker had his crops evenly distributed in 1696 between wheat, barley, and beans. (fn. 170)
The clause in a lease of Stoke farm in 1697 that the tenant was to pay £10 for every acre of grass ploughed up indicates that war and the high price of corn had made arable farming profitable and that it was necessary to safeguard the comparatively scarce grassland. (fn. 171)
Various changes took place in the 18th century. Copy-holding, for instance, gave way to renting and leasing. In about 1720 of the sixteen tenants of the manor five held by copy for 1, 2, or 3 lives and the rest rented or leased their land for 1, 2, or 3 lives, (fn. 172) but there were two major changes: farms became larger and open-field farming was abandoned.
An estate map of 1750 shows that the southern part of the parish was still largely given over to the open fields. (fn. 173) There were three fields as there had been in the 13th century, but inclosure had considerably altered their arrangement. Now called Westcut (155 a.), Middle (87 a.), and Temple Lake Fields (136 a.), they lay for the most part south of the village. There were two large inclosures in the south: Temple Lake Close (15½ a.) in the middle of the open fields and 'Mr. Toovie's' mead (9 a.) on the southern boundary, which was Lammas ground. Westcut was divided into two, the main part (117½ a.) lying along the Weston boundary in the southeast of the parish, the smaller part (37½ a.) lying along the Clare boundary, north-west of the village. With the exception of this detached piece of Westcut Field, and two large commons, Cow Leyes (36 a.) and the Marsh (18½ a.), everything north of the village was inclosed and mostly formed a part of the 'liberty' of Stoke Grange. Ten hedged arable closes, varying in size from 1¼ acre to 9¼ acres, lying next to Cow Leyes were the only inclosed fields not belonging to the Grange.
Since the total area of the manor estate, including the waste, was 627½ acres, the inclosed land in the parish belonging to the Grange must have amounted to over 200 acres. Some of it lay to the south of Grange farmhouse between the Marsh on the east and the detached part of Westcut Field on the west, but most of it lay to the north-east along the Wheatfield boundary and across the northern end of the parish between the boundary of the manor estate and the Haseley Brook. This boundary can in fact be clearly seen on the Ordnance Survey map of 1883, where it is indicated by a double track running north from the Grange and then north-west just north of Cornwell gorse. (fn. 174) At the end of the 18th century the farm consisted of 220 acres, of which 18 were in Wheatfield, and was divided into fields mostly of between 10 and 25 acres, but the two largest were of about 45 acres. (fn. 175)
By the end of the 18th century the small farmer had been eliminated and the open fields were mainly divided between the tenant of Stoke farm and two other tenant farmers of the earl of Macclesfield, while the inclosed north of the parish was farmed by the tenant of Stoke Grange. (fn. 176) In 1778 the incumbent, in making a return of the houses in the parish, stated that there were four farmhouses and about sixteen cottages. (fn. 177) Stoke farm had increased in size to 350 acres by 1796 and its land was to a great extent consolidated. The whole of Westcut and Middle Fields belonged to it and more than half, if not all, the common pasture had been divided up among the farmers into separate holdings. (fn. 178) The creation of Stoke Fields farm (210 a.) some time before 1811 carried the process of amalgamation a stage further. (fn. 179) A map of 1811 shows the new farmhouse near the southern boundary and the whole of the former open fields inclosed. (fn. 180) Since then the parish has never had more than three farms, this one, Stoke Manor and Stoke Grange farms. (fn. 181) Crops grown at this period were wheat, oats, barley, pease, and beans. (fn. 182)
Parliamentary inclosure in 1813 was mainly a confirmation of existing arrangements. (fn. 183) The award covered about 500 acres: the rector received 15 acres, Lord Charles Spencer of Wheatfield 1 acre, and the rest, except for roads and footpaths, went to Lord Macclesfield. The effect of inclosure on population in these circumstances can hardly have been very great. The amalgamation of farms during the 18th century is likely to have resulted in some decline. Fifty-two adults were recorded in 1696 for the Compton Census. Incumbents recorded 23 houses in 1738 and 18 in 1774, (fn. 184) but the general increase in the county in population at the end of the century and in the early 19th century was also witnessed at Stoke. About 115 persons were recorded in 1768 and 153 in 1801. The peak of 140 was recorded in 1821, but this figure fell to 127 in 1831 as paupers had been removed to the workhouse at Thame. (fn. 185) The decline continued and in 1951 the population numbered sixty-nine. (fn. 186)
The effect of inclosure on the use of the land was probably also slight, though it doubtless contributed along with other factors to the decrease in arable land in the 19th century. Arthur Young mentioned 'much good grass' in the plain early in the century and 'good loam' arable on the high land. (fn. 187) In 1842 Lewis's Topographical Dictionary gave 252 acres of arable as against 580 of pasture. (fn. 188) This trend had been reversed by 1914 when, before the outbreak of war, two-thirds of the parish was laid down to arable and one-third to grass. (fn. 189)
The early history of the church is confused. The first clear reference to it is in 1219, but the history of the advowson suggests an 11th-century origin at the latest.
In 1219 the right of presentation was claimed in the king's court by Walter son of Robert de Wooburn, and Peter Talemasch, whose family had been lords of the manor, was summoned to show why he had hindered the presentation. (fn. 190) A claim was also made by the Benedictine Abbey of Ivry in France: Walter's right was recognized for one turn only and the abbey retained any rights it might have had. (fn. 191) Walter presented to the church in 1219 and again in 1223. (fn. 192) He is probably the Walter de Wooburn, Archdeacon of Richmond, who presented to Stoke Talmage in 1237 or 1238. (fn. 193)
Walter's father, Robert de Wooburn, may be identified with Robert 'le Glorius', sometimes called 'of Stokes', a Buckinghamshire and Stoke Talmage landowner. (fn. 194) He may have died soon after 1235, the year he was exempted from being put on assizes and the like, (fn. 195) for in 1242 a John 'le Glorie' or 'de la Gloria', presumably his heir, held a small manor in Wooburn (Bucks.) known as Glory Manor or Glory Mills, and at about the same time a half hide in Stoke. (fn. 196)
The claim of Ivry Abbey may have derived from a grant by Roger d'Ivry, who founded it in 1076, and who was lord of Stoke at the time. (fn. 197) The abbey's claim to the presentation and to a pension of 10s. from the demesne tithes was admitted in 1218. (fn. 198)
Later Ivry Abbey appears to have recovered its right to the advowson and the pension from the Wooburns and to have granted them to the Benedictine nunnery of Little Marlow (Bucks.). Gunnora, the prioress from 1265 to 1271, (fn. 199) at all events gave both, together with the services of a villein, to Thame Abbey, which made the first presentation in 1294 and usually presented throughout the rest of the Middle Ages. (fn. 200) An exception occurred in 1317, when the patron resigned its right to the papal nuncio, who presented to the church; and in 1474, when Thame sold the right of presentation to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 201) Although in 1398 Thame had papal permission to appropriate the church (fn. 202) it never did so.
The advowson was granted with the manor to the bishopric of Oxford in 1542 and then followed the descent of the manor, going with it to the Barkers in 1623. (fn. 203) This family presented throughout the 17th century, except in 1666, when there was a collation by the bishop. (fn. 204) Frances, the widow of William Barker, presented in 1688, (fn. 205) but in the early 18th century the advowson was divided and like the manor was the subject of a confusing series of transactions. The history of the presentation, however, was simple: that of 1732 was sold for £270 to Francis Blandy, gent., (fn. 206) and from after 1751 until 1928 the Earl of Macclesfield was sole patron. (fn. 207) Since the union of the rectories of Stoke Talmage and Wheatfield in 1928 (fn. 208) the Earl of Macclesfield and Lt.-Col. Vere Spencer have presented in turn.
The rectory was a poor one in the early Middle Ages: in 1254 it was valued at 5 marks (£3 6s. 8d.), and in 1291 at £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 209) By 1535 its value had increased to £12 17s. (fn. 210) No mention is made in 1535 of the pension to Thame: it was originally 10s., but by 1291 it had been increased to 13s. 4d., a sum which Thame was still receiving in 1428. (fn. 211)
The rector's right to tithe from the parish was limited by the exemption from tithe of the lands of the Cistercian Abbey of Thame. At least one Rector of Stoke disputed the abbey's claim to be tithe-free: John Belgrave, a late-14th-century rector, (fn. 212) instituted proceedings in the archbishop's court, but as the abbey's Proctor claimed that Thame as a Cistercian house was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury's court the result of the case is not known. (fn. 213)
It is of interest that the rector was entitled to tithe on 3 acres in Wheatfield next to Stoke. (fn. 214)
By the late 17th century the living was worth £100, and a hundred years later about £140. (fn. 215) At the inclosure award of 1813, when the Earl of Macclesfield's property was inclosed, the rector was awarded a corn rent charge of £194 3s. 5d. in place of the tithes. (fn. 216) In 1843 the tithes on the rest of the parish (mainly Stoke Grange farm) were commuted for £57 15s. (fn. 217) In 1954 the united benefice was worth £546. (fn. 218)
Until about 1900 part of the rector's income had been derived from his glebe, and there is an unusual amount of information about its early history. In the 13th century it consisted of 14 acres of which about 10 acres had been given to the church by Peter Talemasch. (fn. 219) In 1220 the rector claimed warranty from Peter for this land and said that he had Peter's charter for it. (fn. 220) In 1222 Peter confirmed this land to the church, including a messuage with a croft which had belonged to Peter's mother. (fn. 221) In 1260 there occurred another suit over 1½ acre which the rector claimed from a free tenant, and William Talemasch was also summoned by the rector to confirm his father's grant. (fn. 222) The rector alleged that he had been distrained by the bailiff of Wallingford to do suit at Wallingford through William's neglect to do the suit, but this was denied. By 1685 the size of the glebe had increased to 29 acres in the common fields. (fn. 223) At the inclosure award of 1813, the rector's open-field portion of the glebe was exchanged for about 15 acres, consisting mostly of Church Furlong, a field near the rectory, and a few small closes. (fn. 224) The rector still owned his glebe in 1870 but it has since been sold. (fn. 225)
The two earliest incumbents known, those presented by Walter de Wooburn, were priests, but thereafter many medieval ones were clerks, chaplains, or acolytes; only occasionally before the 15th century were they graduates. (fn. 226)
In the 13th century, when the rector's house is mentioned (fn. 227) he may have been living in the parish, but it seems unlikely that he was doing so in the later Middle Ages. At any rate, in the second half of the 14th century the living was frequently exchanged, always for churches in other counties, and by the 16th century, when the living began to be held regularly by graduates, the rectors were certainly non-resident. Master Thomas Harrop (1488–1522), for instance, was rector of Great Haseley, where he lived. He was presented in 1504 by the Pyrton homage for cutting down trees in Queen Wood, (fn. 228) and in his time Stoke church was badly neglected. In 1520 the chancel needed repair, the glass in the windows and the sedilia were broken, the walls of the church were ruinous, and three people were in debt to the church, including one who owed 6s. to supply a light before the image of the Virgin, and another who had not paid a legacy of 3s. left by his woman servant. (fn. 229) Harrop's successor, Master Edward Chamber (1522–35), was serving the church with a curate in 1526, but he may have been contemplating residence in 1530 when he began to repair the ruinous Rectory. (fn. 230)
The most striking of the 17th-century rectors was Nathaniel Barker (rector c. 1629–c. 1664), a younger son of Sir Anthony Barker of Sonning (Berks.), (fn. 231) and therefore the brother of the patron and lord of the manor. His was an unquiet ministry. Whether for political or other reasons, his relations with his parishioners were not always happy: one man complained in 1633 that he had brought his servants to church and there was no one to catechize them; another that his children refused to go to church to be catechized; and the next year while going to fetch hay the rector was assaulted by a parishioner and nearly throttled. (fn. 232) Politically Barker was an ardent supporter of the king and after the parliamentary victory suffered at the hands of the victors. In 1647 he was brought before the County Committee on the charge of enlisting in the royal army and living as a soldier in Oxford. He was further accused of ordering royalist soldiers to plunder some of his parishioners who supported Parliament and of having them removed to Boarstall House until he had extracted £200 from them. He was also said to have vexed his parishioners with tithe prosecutions; to have read out in church a 'book of curses against Parliament'; to have read 'royal proclamations clearly but Parliament's unintelligibly'; to have 'frequently entertayned lewd roguish fellows from Wallingford Garrison'. It was alleged that he had had 'private consultations with them in the twylight' and had met them when in ale-houses with his wife and daughter. As a result of these charges he was sequestered in 1647 for scandal of life, superstition, and delinquency. (fn. 233) Later he was obliged to borrow £400 from his brother-in-law Bartholomew Price, Rector of Holton, and in 1652 Price petitioned to be given Barker's estate as security for the debt. In 1655, however, the County Committee denied ever having had the management of the estate. (fn. 234) The needs of Barker's parishioners in the meantime were attended to by John Richardson. (fn. 235) At the Restoration Andrew Pauling, formerly royalist Vicar of Benson, was installed, but by 1664 Barker was again in possession of the living. (fn. 236)
For the greater part of the 18th century the living, though a small one, avoided the evils of plurality and enjoyed resident rectors. Samuel Thornby (1732–51), however, though he took an interest in his parish, catechized the children, and offered to pay for a teacher if a qualified person could be found, preferred to live, for reasons that he would not put in writing, in the neighbouring village of Tetsworth. (fn. 237) His successor, William Wilson (1751–63), built a new parsonage house, but it was not used by William Wickham, rector from 1763 to 1770, as he lived at Garsington where he was lord of the manor. (fn. 238) Stoke church was served by a curate who rode out from Oxford. (fn. 239) With the appointment of John Hyde (1770–1805), the village once again had a resident parson. (fn. 240) In 1771 it was reported that the children were regularly catechized, but by 1790 it was said that catechism had ceased on account of the ignorance of the children, (fn. 241) and this was in spite of the bishop's complaint in 1787 that as the rector was resident he should have made efforts to establish a charity school. (fn. 242)
During the 19th century, as in the 18th century, the rectors, who were men of private property, largely took the place in the parish of the nonresident lords of the manor. Cranley Lancelot Kerby (1820–57) who enlarged the Rectory was a cousin of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Howley. (fn. 243) His long incumbency was disastrous. Francis Pigou, later Dean of Bristol, who came to Stoke as a curate in 1855 gives a graphic account of the state of the parish. Bishop Wilberforce told him that the hamlet had been for years 'sadly neglected', that the rector had long been incapacitated by old age—he was in fact 92 years old—that services had been conducted by a non-resident 'hack', and that religion had been kept alive by a local Methodist preacher. Pigou found that except for one or two farmers all his parishioners, about 100 in number, were poor and that scarcely any of the older ones could read or write. No one had visited them ministerially for about 30 years. The church was shamefully neglected and fowls roosted in the pulpit during the week. He held two services and a Sunday school on Sunday. He does not say how well these were attended, but even under the 'hack' curate there had been an attendance of about fifty. As for the choir, he was forced to admit that although it was 'awful' to a musical ear, it practised enthusiastically at the village inn and even instructed other choirs. It consisted of a violin, a flageolet, and French horn. His attempt to substitute a harmonium was a failure: the choir agreed to perform in the morning only and allow the harmonium to be used in the afternoon, with the result that no one came to the second service. The rector was chiefly noted for the excellence of his port wine, and was finally prevented from taking part in the service after an occasion when he read a prayer four times over.
The account given by Pigou of his own life as a young curate is also of some interest. His stipend was £100 a year, and he took two rooms in a farmhouse, but found the lack of intellectual society and companionship of his own age in so isolated a parish difficult. His social life consisted of occasional visits to his neighbours, Vere Spencer and Charles Conybeare at Wheatfield and Pyrton, and the patron and his wife, Lord and Lady Macclesfield, at Shirburn. The two last, Pigou says, did what they could to help the parish by building a school and by general kindliness. (fn. 244)
Kerby was followed by the Revd. the Hon. William Byron (rector 1857–74), the restorer of the church and a cousin of Lord Byron the poet. (fn. 245) At the end of the century Charles Prescott de Coetlogon was rector for nearly 30 years. He planted the yew trees in the churchyard and beautified the church. (fn. 246)
After 1775 there was one churchwarden instead of two and Robert Webb, the principal farmer in the parish, served as warden for 30 years. (fn. 247)
According to an ancient custom, the parish clerk claimed some rights of common in the common pasture. Probably during the 18th century this right was exchanged for a yearly sum of money, and in 1813 by the inclosure award the clerk was awarded £1 a year. (fn. 248)
The church of ST. MARY MAGDALEN is a small stone building comprising a chancel, nave, north aisle, south porch, vestry, and low western tower with a pyramidal roof. The medieval church was largely rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries; the tower is mainly 18th-century work, but the belfry windows may be older.
A few records of the medieval church have survived. In 1520 the chancel needed repair, and the walls of the church were dilapidated, (fn. 249) in 1637 the chancel was again out of repair, (fn. 250) and finally in 1758 an appeal was made for help in rebuilding the whole church. The brief of 1758 stated that this very ancient structure was greatly decayed 'in the foundation walls and roof'; that despite repairs it was so ruinous that it needed to be rebuilt; the estimated cost was £1,069. (fn. 251) There is a view by Buckler of the restored church in 1823: it shows the church as it now is except for a three-light east window and no south porch. The small dormer window in the roof was probably a comparatively recent addition, evidently to light a gallery at the west end of the nave. (fn. 252) Francis Pigou (later Dean of Bristol), curate from 1855 to 1856, describes the church at that date. He says that it bore 'every trace of neglect', had 'square pews for the farmers, more like loose-boxes', rough benches for the poor, a west-end gallery for the choir and Sunday school, and no vestry. The church was unlighted and Pigou borrowed lamps from the dissenting chapel for his winter services. Without getting a faculty Pigou ordered the village carpenter to cut down the high pews to a lower level. (fn. 253)
In 1860, on the initiative of the rector, the Hon. William Byron, plans for building a new church were made. The work done on the old one in the 1750's was considered 'poor'; the windows had been restored in a 'debased' style; and there was insufficient seating accommodation. The architect, E. Lamb, was commissioned to make plans. His estimate was for £1,000, and a faculty for replacing the 'dilapidated' old church was obtained and application was made to the Diocesan Building Society for help. (fn. 254) The architect's plans were severely criticized by G. E. Street, the diocesan architect, who considered them 'to be very objectionable . . . full of eccentricity, unlike any ancient building', and liable to be expensive. (fn. 255) G. G. Scott was next consulted and submitted plans for which the lowest estimate obtainable was £1,400, As Byron was unable to raise more than £1,000 the plan for a new church was abandoned. As many of his subscribers were prepared to allow their money to be used for a restoration he proposed to make 'our present building look more church-like by as thorough a restoration' as he had funds for. (fn. 256) An extensive restoration was carried out by G. G. Scott and the interior was redecorated; coloured tiles were laid on the floor; the flat ceiling was removed, and a north aisle, vestry, porch, and buttresses were added. (fn. 257) Subsequently two stained-glass windows by Hardman were inserted in the east window by the Hon. William Byron, and in 1906 the stained glass in a window in the south wall of the nave, made by Morris & Sons of London, was dedicated to the memory of the rector, C. P. de Coetlogon. (fn. 258)
In 1907 a faculty was obtained to rebuild the east window and move the two stained-glass figures from the east window to a side window; to panel the east end in oak, and erect a new altar. The architect was to be J. E. Coleridge of London. (fn. 259) In fact, only one figure was moved from the east window, and in 1909 four shields of arms were added to it by George Byron as a memorial to his father, the Hon. William Byron (d. 1909). The shields bore the arms of Byron, Macclesfield, St. Mary Magdalen, and the Oxford diocese.
There is a Victorian font, (fn. 260) and in the vestry a finely carved royal arms. The carving appears to be of 17th-century date, but the royal arms are Georgian.
There are brasses of John Adeane (d. 1504) and his wife Joan, and of John Pettie, Esq. (great uncle to Anthony Wood), and of his wife Elizabeth (Snappe), with an inscription to their ten children. (fn. 261) Pettie (d. 1589) is in armour and beneath the inscription are four shields with the arms of Charnel, Williams, Pettie, and Snappe. (fn. 262) The kneeling figures of the children are now missing.
There are only two memorial tablets, one to R. T. Winter (d. 1835) and his wife, and another commemorating the four men of the parish who died in the First World War.
The church still has two medieval bells: one was cast c. 1350 by John Rufford and is inscribed XTE: Audi: Nos; the other was cast at the Wokingham foundry c. 1360. (fn. 263)
In 1552 the church owned two, possibly three, silver chalices and several vestments. A second return made in the following year mentioned only one chalice without a cover. (fn. 264) In 1960 the church owned a silver chalice and paten cover (1612) and a Victorian tankard flagon of silver, given in 1857 in memory of the rector, Cranley Lancelot Kerby. (fn. 265)
The registers date from 1754 for marriages and 1764 for baptisms and burials. (fn. 266)
The yew tree and fir trees in the churchyard were planted by the rector, C. P. de Coetlogon (1877–1904). (fn. 267)
In 1676 one Roman Catholic was recorded as resident in the parish. (fn. 268) No Catholics were reported in 1738 and in 1767, (fn. 269) but by 1787 there was a woman papist with four daughters and one son, and in 1802 four papists were recorded. (fn. 270)
There is no evidence of any Protestant nonconformity until the mid-19th century, and according to the incumbent's report no dissenting place of worship existed in 1854. (fn. 271) In 1855 Bishop Wilberforce told the young curate, Francis Pigou, that religion in the parish had been 'kept alive by the local Methodist preacher, a pork-butcher', and advised him to live on good terms with this 'bitter Dissenter'. (fn. 272) Pigou relates that he 'was not a little gratified to learn that he (the Methodist preacher) retailed my sermons, as he constantly attended the parish church'. The Methodist lent the lamps out of his 'chapel' for the afternoon service in winter time, and although he was annoyed by an evening service, which interfered with the attendance at his meeting, he was often seen 'listening outside a window close to the pulpit'. (fn. 273)
There is no record of any elementary school in Stoke until the second half of the 18th century, but children were being at least catechized in the 17th century, for in 1633 there were citations for failure to bring servants and children to catechism. (fn. 274) A hundred years later, in 1738, catechizing was said to be 'pretty regular', and in 1771 children were being catechized during the greater part of the year. (fn. 275) There was no school in 1738 and although the in cumbent himself offered to pay for an instructor, no one sufficiently qualified could be found. (fn. 276)
A voluntary charity school for teaching children to read was recorded in 1768, but it no longer existed in 1771. (fn. 277) The minister in 1774 gave the absence of a school as one reason why no children were able to say their catechism and why he had not yet expounded it. (fn. 278) No improvement had been made by 1778 and, although in 1781 there was said to be hopes of improvement by next Lent, in 1787 there was still no voluntary charity school. (fn. 279) The rector, who then resided in the village, again complained of the ignorance of the poor children and in 1790 said that they were too ignorant to be catechized. (fn. 280)
This situation continued for many years. In 1818 the rector once more reported that there was no endowment for education and no Sunday school; that the poor would 'readily embrace the means of education'; and that schools of industry for girls would be highly beneficial. (fn. 281)
The first mention of a school in Stoke Talmage in the 19th century was in 1833, when there was an infant school with 10 to 20 children for whom the parents paid, and a Sunday school with 6 boys and 12 girls supported by subscription. (fn. 282) The vicar reported in 1834 that infants of both sexes attended the Dame's school for as long as their parents could maintain them at 3d. or 4d. a week, and that 10 boys and 16 girls attended the Sunday school until their confirmation. (fn. 283) By 1854 only the Sunday school survived, (fn. 284) but Lord Macclesfield promised to build a school. This was done in 1858 at his private cost and in 1871 it had an attendance of 46 children. (fn. 285) No school board was formed and the school continued for some time through the support of Lady Macclesfield, with an average attendance of 30 to 34 children. (fn. 286) Twenty-eight children were attending the school in 1938 and in 1946 it was reorganized as a junior school, the seniors going to Thame secondary school. (fn. 287) Stoke Talmage school was finally closed in 1954, the children being transferred to Tetsworth school. (fn. 288)
Thomas Harroppe, by will dated 1521, left an annual rent charge of 2s. issuing out of 'church lands', otherwise 'concealed lands', owned by him in Great Haseley for distribution among the poor of Stoke Talmage at the discretion of the curate. (fn. 289) The rent had remained unpaid during the 40 years before 1625, by which time the land out of which it issued belonged to William Beale. By a charity decree of 1625 Beale was directed to settle the rent in trust upon ten householders of the parish. These trustees were thereafter to pay it each Christmas to such poor persons of the parish as they with the incumbent and parish officers might choose. The trustees were also directed either to pay into the trust £3, being 30 years' accumulated arrears, or else to double the rent. (fn. 289) Presumably, in either case, they were to recover the cost from Beale. It seems as though they chose the second course. At any rate, in 1738, a rent of 4s., charged upon an estate at Crawford, was being paid to the poor. (fn. 290) It continued to be paid until 1754 when Robert Hall, the owner or occupier of the Crawford estate, withheld it. (fn. 291)