A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 8, Lewknor and Pyrton Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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The ancient parish lies south-east of the main London road, some 13 miles distant from Oxford, and for the greater part of its history has probably covered about the 443 acres recorded by the Ordnance Survey in 1882. (fn. 1) Until the Lewknor inclosure award of 1815 part of Adwell's land lay scattered in Postcombe Field. (fn. 2) By the award the boundary between Lewknor, in which Postcombe township lay, and Adwell was defined: it was the main London road from Tetsworth Lane and then the road to South Weston, in fact the old boundary between Postcombe township and Adwell. The cottages, gardens and old inclosures in Postcombe belonging to Adwell Manor were left in the parish of Adwell. Adwell Farm in Postcombe was, therefore, a detached part of the parish until 1882, when it was transferred to Lewknor. (fn. 3) The Postcombe portion of it comprised the farmhouse, buildings, and 9 acres. A recent boundary change has reduced Adwell to 340 acres, for in 1953 Lewknor received another 94 acres, lying just north of the road from Postcombe to South Weston. (fn. 4) This last road formed the southern boundary of the ancient parish. The London road, running from northwest to north-east, separated it from Postcombe and Lewknor, and a small stream, a tributary of a feeder of the Thame, formed the northern and part of the north-west boundary. In the south-west an artificially made boundary divided it from Wheatfield and South Weston. (fn. 5)
Adwell lies on sloping ground that rises from 299
feet to over 490 on Adwell Cop which is crowned
with a Bronze Age barrow. Plot observed entrenchments on the south-east side and erroneously attributed them to the Danes. (fn. 6) This tumulus is probably
referred to in the name Copinghemewey which occurs
in a document of about 1230. (fn. 7) It means 'the way of
the people at the Cop'. The Cop was for long the
object of local folklore. It was associated with fairies
and the 18th-century antiquary Delafield records
the story of the traveller who saw them dancing
there and singing:
'At Adwell Cop there stands a cup.
Drink the drink and eat the sop,
And set the cup on Adwell Cop.' (fn. 8)
Small woods and coverts still abounded in the parish in 1959 though they had been considerably reduced from the 8 to 9 acres in Spring Covert and 11 acres in Piccadilly and other woods that existed in 1840. (fn. 9)
A minor road from Wheatfield and Stoke Talmage runs eastward past the church and Adwell House to join the London road; another to the south runs from South Weston to the London road at Postcombe. One of these used to be called the Saltway. (fn. 10) In 1797 a third road branched off the London road and traversed the northern half of the parish, but this must have fallen into disuse by 1840, for it is not shown on the tithe award map. (fn. 11)
Adwell House and what remains of the village lie in a sheltered valley, beside the stream. This stream, which rises in Spring Covert, gave the place its name of Ead(d)a's spring. (fn. 12) The village can never have been much more than a hamlet with fifteen or so dwellings. There was a slight decline in population in the 14th century and thereafter little change until the 19th century. (fn. 13) Of the few remaining houses, the two lodges belonging to Adwell House were built in the Gothic style in the second half of the 18th century. Lawn Lodge, mainly built of brick and flint, was one room through before it was enlarged in 1940. The old Rectory, now two cottages, is a 17th-century or older house with a modern wing added in about 1908. Some of the other brick cottages also date from the 17th century. Plot relates how a whitish earth called 'which-earth', found at Adwell, was mixed with straw and used for building side walls and ceilings; mixed with horse dung it was used for laying stones. It appeared to be a natural mixture of lime and sand, and slaked in water without the application of heat. (fn. 14)
The manor-house, Adwell House, was rebuilt in the late 18th century on the site of the earlier house, some traces of which have been observed in the interior walls in the course of structural alterations in 1935 and 1960. The stuccoed south front is of two stories with five bays of which the centre bay projects slightly. There is a moulded cornice, a low parapet, a hipped roof, and a central doorway under a Doric porch, which was remodelled in 1960. The marble chimney-pieces in the front rooms are contemporary with the late-18th-century house. A conservatory added at the west end in about 1820 was demolished in 1960. (fn. 15) A notable feature of the interior of the house, the staircase and skylight with Greek Revival detail, appears to have been inserted in the early 19th century. (fn. 16) Miss Webb and her brother continued to live at Adwell after the death of Mrs. Jones in 1818 and they presumably were responsible for these alterations.
The predecessor of this house was comparatively modest; in the 1660's it was rated on seven hearths. (fn. 17) It is likely that William Newell, High Sheriff, first remodelled the house in about 1700 and that what was practically a rebuilding took place just before or after the marriage of Elizabeth Newell to James Jones in 1787. (fn. 18)
In common with other gentry of the period the Newells improved the natural beauty of the surroundings of their house by skilful planting of trees and landscape gardening. When the water-mill and the miller's house were pulled down and the mill-stream incorporated in the grounds of Adwell House is uncertain. The mill is shown on Davis's map of 1797, but it had probably ceased working during the second half of the 18th century. (fn. 19) When Brewer wrote his guide in 1819, he described Adwell as one of the most remarkable seats in the county. (fn. 20) The pleasure gardens were doubtless further improved by Miss Webb, for it was she who added the conservatory and evidently devoted great care to it for she left it by will, dated 1843, to her niece, to be removed or disposed of as she thought fit. (fn. 21)
The parish has been connected with a number of gentle families of local interest from the medieval period on, but it was never the principal seat of any of its medieval owners either of the De Sulhams or their successors. They presumably visited it on occasions and several deeds concerning it were witnessed at Adwell by a number of local knights: in 1359 by Sir John de Wheatfield, for instance, and in 1385 by Sir Edmund de la Pole, Sir Gilbert Wace, and Sir Thomas Blount. (fn. 22) At least one member of the knightly family of Marmion seems to have resided in the 16th century, though the house was certainly leased outside the family for part of this period. John Allnut, for one, had a lease in 1539. (fn. 23) Dorothy Marmion, Anthony's daughter, was granted a lease in 1548 with the proviso that she should put up her father and three horses on an annual visit, (fn. 24) and Anthony's son John Marmion also resided at Adwell after the sale of the manor to Nicholas Bethom. (fn. 25)
In the early 17th century David Ballowe, gent., lived at the 'mansion house' (fn. 26) and later Henry Franklin, a gentleman of some culture, for his inventory mentions his books and silver and a considerable amount of clothing. (fn. 27)
The Franklins intermarried with the Newells of Pophley (Bucks.) and there began the close connexion of that family with Adwell. Through the 18th century they were not only lords of the manor, but often rectors as well, and over 40 of the family, of which there were many branches settled in the neighbourhood, were buried in the church. (fn. 28) Since the late 19th century Adwell House has been occupied by the Birch Reynardson family, the lords of the manor. (fn. 29)
Before the Conquest the Saxon Wulfstan held ADWELL freely: he was doubtless the Wulfstan who held the neighbouring Aston and Britwell Salome. (fn. 30) By 1086 the manor had passed into the hands of Miles Crispin and so became a part of the honor of Wallingford, which escheated to the Crown in 1300 and subsequently became the honor of Ewelme. (fn. 31) Its overlords were therefore the holders of the honor and Adwell men attended the honor's frankpledge courts up to the 19th century. (fn. 32)
Miles's tenant at Adwell as in Henton, Britwell Salome, and Chesterton in Oxfordshire, was a certain William, (fn. 33) who can be identified with the William de Sulham who was lord of Sulham and other Berkshire and Buckinghamshire manors and who gave tithes to Abingdon Abbey in 1104. (fn. 34) This identification provides an illustration of the tenure of many manors in an honor by a single person. His successor was Aumary, perhaps a son or a son-inlaw, who died before 1130, having divided his possessions between his two sons Ralph and Robert. (fn. 35) The elder son received 4 fees which included Adwell and Sulham, the family's chief seat. Ralph's son Aumary II of Sulham was holding these in 1166. (fn. 36) His tenants may have been the Geoffrey of Adwell and the William of Adwell who were each fined in 1176 and 1177. (fn. 37) Aumary died in 1186, and the king took custody of his land during the minority of his heir, (fn. 38) but in 1189 and 1190 Thomas Basset was acting as guardian. (fn. 39) Aumary's heir Robert (d. before 1211) was followed by his son Aumary (III) Fitz Robert of Sulham. (fn. 40) This Aumary was out of his mind by 1236 when the sheriff was ordered to see that he made no more gifts or sales of his lands, thereby disinheriting his heirs. (fn. 41) Before 1241–2 William de Sulham, probably his son, was in possession of Sulham and presumably of Adwell. (fn. 42) He was dead by 1250 (fn. 43) and in 1255 it is recorded that Adwell, held by the service of one knight and suit of court at Wallingford, was in the custody of the overlord, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, as guardian of William's heir. (fn. 44) The heir, John de Sulham, was of age in 1269, was granted free warren in Adwell in 1277, (fn. 45) and was dead by 1279 when the four fees had been equally divided between Richard de la Hyde and Hugh de St. Philibert, a minor, who was described as John de Sulham's heir. (fn. 46) The connexion between the families of Sulham, Hyde, and St. Philibert had long been close. By 1233 at least Roger de la Hyde was Aumary de Sulham's tenant for Hyde manor in Purley (Berks.), (fn. 47) and in 1249 Hugh de St. Philibert appears as overlord of the De Sulham's manor of Carswell in Buckland (Berks.). (fn. 48) The Richard de la Hyde of 1279 held Adwell in right of his wife Philippa, (fn. 49) who was probably the daughter of John and Joan de Sulham. The young Hugh (III) de St. Philibert's claim to Adwell must have come through his mother Euphemia, since it is known that he held Sulham as her inheritance. (fn. 50) She was the wife of Hugh (II) de St. Philibert, and almost certainly John de Sulham's daughter and the great-granddaughter of Aumary and Euphemia. (fn. 51) Thus John de Sulham's successors in the ½-knight's fee at Adwell were his grandson, who was his heir, and his son-in-law.
The manor was still divided in 1300 between Richard de la Hyde and Hugh de St. Philibert. (fn. 52) Hugh having fought in the French and Gascon wars died in 1304, (fn. 53) and was succeeded by his son John, a minor, who came of age in 1314. (fn. 54) In 1317 John was granted free warren at Adwell and in his many other manors: (fn. 55) he died in 1333 leaving a child, another John, as his heir. (fn. 56) John (II) received seisin of Adwell in 1348, when he was serving in France as a member of the retinue of the Prince of Wales. He was later knighted and made Mayor of Bordeaux. (fn. 57) Before his death in 1358 he disposed of the bulk of his inheritance, (fn. 58) including Adwell which he apparently sold in 1349 with the advowson to Edmund Bereford, clerk, lord of Rush Court manor in Clapcot (Berks.), (fn. 59) and son of the judge Sir William Bereford. (fn. 60) Sir Edmund died in 1354, leaving his three sisters as coheiresses to the family estates. (fn. 61) Joan had married Sir Gilbert de Elsfield, Margaret was the wife of Sir James de Audley, and Agnes of Sir John Mautravers. (fn. 62) Adwell was apparently divided equally between the three heiresses for in 1358 the Mautraverses were in possession of a third. (fn. 63) By 1359 all three sisters had granted their portions of Adwell to feoffees and the manor had been conveyed to John Motte, who was probably acting, as was his custom, for John James of Wallingford. (fn. 64)
James was a rising man who is known to have been accumulating land in the neighbourhood since 1350. He was perhaps steward to Joan, Princess of Wales, and was burgess for Wallingford in several Parliaments between 1363 and 1376. (fn. 65) The first definite evidence, however, for his connexion with Adwell occurs in 1372 when he presented to the church. (fn. 66) In 1378 James settled Adwell and other lands on himself, his wife Christine, and his son Robert. (fn. 67) He died in 1396 and in the same year his widow and son Robert took possession of the manor. (fn. 68) Robert James by his marriage with Katherine, daughter of Edmund de la Pole and a considerable heiress, had greatly added to his Oxfordshire estates. (fn. 69) In 1397 he settled on his wife his own half of Adwell manor and the reversion of the other half on the death of his mother Christine. (fn. 70) In 1429 another settlement was made, this time on Robert James's daughter Christine and her husband Edmund Rede, son of the lawyer John Rede of Checkendon, and their heirs. (fn. 71) Robert James died in 1432 and Christine, her husband having died in 1430, obtained sole possession. (fn. 72) On her death in 1435, (fn. 73) her son Edmund succeeded.
Edmund had been a minor when his father Edmund Rede died, but he came of age in 1434 and married Agnes, daughter of John Cottesmore, the Lord Chief Justice. (fn. 74) In 1440 the young Redes parted with Adwell to Richard Marmion of Checkendon (fn. 75) and it remained in his family for the next 150 years. Marmion was alive in 1455 but his son John Marmion of Stoke Marmion had succeeded by 1466 and was still alive in 1478. (fn. 76) William Marmion was in possession in 1494 and in 1504 William Marmion of Easton (Glos.), who in 1513 settled Adwell on himself and his wife Isabel. (fn. 77) William died in 1530, leaving a son Anthony Marmion as his heir. (fn. 78) Before his death in 1549 Anthony made three successive dispositions of Adwell, (fn. 79) which resulted in many legal disputes between the various beneficiaries. In 1553 Anthony's younger son Arthur Marmion, then an apprentice to a London alderman, agreed to settle the manor on his elder brother John for life, (fn. 80) but in 1564 Arthur and his sister Elizabeth, the wife of John Parker, were disputing John's right; the court decided that Anthony Marmion should hold the manor until Parker and Arthur Marmion could show a better title. (fn. 81) In the meantime John Marmion, who was heavily indebted to Nicholas Betham, a Roman Catholic gentleman of Long Crendon (Bucks.), sold the manor to him, but retained for himself a lease of the mansion house, water-mill, and demesne lands. (fn. 82) Before his death in 1557 Betham settled Adwell on himself and his wife Sybil with remainder to their son Christopher. (fn. 83) Although the settlement seems to have been disputed by Edward Betham, Nicholas's heir, Christopher had acquired possession by 1566. (fn. 84) He married Margaret, the daughter of Edmund Symeon of Pyrton, a neighbouring Roman Catholic squire, (fn. 85) and in 1580 and 1581 Betham and his wife sold the manor and advowson for £1,500 to John Franklin, a gentleman of Canons (Mdx.), who already had a lease of both. (fn. 86) In 1591 John Rolles and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Anthony Marmion, who claimed to have a lease of the manor, sold their rights to Franklin. (fn. 87)
John Franklin's brother Richard succeeded to the manor in 1597 and was followed in 1615 (fn. 88) by his son Sir John, sometime M.P. for Middlesex. (fn. 89) On Sir John's death in 1647 his widow, Dame Elizabeth, who lived at Willesden (Mdx.), had Adwell as her dower. (fn. 90) In 1658 by agreement with her son Sir Richard Franklin of Moor Park (Herts.), son and heir of Sir John Franklin, and her son George Franklin, merchant of London, she sold the manor and advowson for £5,000 to Henry Franklin of Bledlow (Bucks.). (fn. 91) Henry Franklin had married Anne, the daughter of Christopher Newell of Pophley's manor in Stokenchurch, a family of 'long continuance'. (fn. 92) Newell, a yeoman farmer, already had a connexion with Adwell for he had purchased lands there before 1668. (fn. 93) The Franklins so far had never lived at Adwell and at the time of the sale Daniel Ballowe was leasing the manor-house and farm (c. 351 acres). (fn. 94) The heirs of Henry Franklin (d. 1663) were his three daughters Anne, Mary, and Frances. (fn. 95) Mary was the wife of Francis Carter, a yeoman of South Weston, and Frances of William Newell of Pophleys. (fn. 96) In 1680 Anne Franklin and Mary Carter sold their twothirds share in Adwell to the Newells for £1,400. (fn. 97) William was dead by 1698, having devised the manor to his second son William, a High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, and a man of some wealth. (fn. 98) By his will (proved 1729) Adwell went to the eldest of his five children the Revd. William Newell, Rector of Adwell and Ickford (Bucks.). (fn. 99) This William Newell (d. 1747) left Adwell and other lands to his wife Esther for life, with remainder to her daughter Elizabeth. (fn. 100) Elizabeth Newell was in possession by 1785 and two years later she married James Jones of Stadhampton. (fn. 101) It is possible that the Newells had made their money in the service of the East India Company, for Elizabeth Jones had an Indian servant—Hyder Ally—to whom she left a legacy. She outlived her husband and on her death in 1818 all her property passed by will (dated 1806) to her friend Frances Webb of Stoke Bishop (Glos.). (fn. 102) Elizabeth Jones had left instructions in her will that Miss Webb should leave the whole property to one person who should take the name of Newell. Frances Webb accordingly left Adwell and Radnage to a relation, John W. Birch, clerk assistant to the House of Lords, (fn. 103) and he took the name of Newell Birch. On his death the manor passed to his nephew Henry Birch Reynardson, son of General Birch Reynardson, formerly Thomas Birch, who was related to the Newells and who took the name of his wife's family in 1812. (fn. 104) From Henry Birch Reynardson (d. 1884) the manor passed to his son W. J. Birch Reynardson and then to his grandson Lt.-Col. H. T. Birch Reynardson, C.M.G., who was lord of the manor until 1959. (fn. 105) All these three Birch Reynardsons held the office of High Sheriff of Oxfordshire.
Agrarian and Social History.
The site at Adwell (fn. 106) was favourable for early settlement: a spring and streams, a sheltered dip in the hills and underlying rocks of Gault, Clay, and Greensand, so productive of good crops, were all present. There are indications that Bronze Age settlers recognized this, (fn. 107) and that the Saxons took possession at an early period. The name of the village means Ead(d)a's spring (fn. 108) and it is generally recognized that placenames derived from personal names and topographical features belong to the older settlements. The spring was the source of the brook, known farther north in its course as Haseley Brook, and by its side the church, the manor-house, and mill were built.
By the time of Domesday a small estate at Adwell assessed at 3 hides was being fully cultivated. There was said to be land for 3 plough-teams, but there were 4 at work, perhaps on account of the steep gradient of the Cop, which has been one of the chief arable fields since medieval times. Two teams worked by 3 serfs were on the demesne and 1 villanus with 6 bordars shared a further 2 teams. Meadow, a furlong square, and a water-mill rendering 6s. are mentioned. The manor was worth £6 as it had been in pre-Conquest times. (fn. 109) The mill and the estate are mentioned slightly later in a grant of 1110, when the lord gave a tenth of the annual produce from lambs, cheese, fleeces, skins, piglets, calves, pannage, and the mill to the foreign Abbey of Bec. (fn. 110) The mill itself was later granted to Reading Abbey, and a charter (dated c. 1211–55) of Aumary Fitz Robert records that William son of Richard was then the miller, that all the men of the lord of the manor had to grind their corn at the mill, and that the corn of the lord's household was also ground there. Aumary promised at the same time that he would not build a second mill or interfere with the course of the stream to and from the mill. He also granted the service (i.e. 2 marks of rent) owing from the miller for the mill and 11 acres to the Abbot of Reading. (fn. 111)
It is possible that it was between Domesday and the payment of the carucage of 1220 that the expansion of Adwell manor by the inclusion of part of Postcombe Field took place. Carucage, at all events, was paid on '6 carucates and a part' in Adwell, (fn. 112) whereas in 1086 only 3 carucates are recorded. The increased figure may, however, represent a financial assessment rather than real ploughlands.
By 1255 the value of the manor had increased to £10 and the hundredal survey of 1279 gives some details about its management. (fn. 113) There were two farms, one belonging to Richard de la Hyde, the other to Hugh de St. Philibert; each had a carucate (i.e. about 100 field acres) of arable demesne and 2 acres of meadow, together with right to free warren. On the Hyde half of the manor there were 5 villein virgaters and on the St. Philibert half two. They each paid 6s. 9d. a virgate and owed similar services: they were to work with one man at their own cost during three summer months, except on Saturdays and Sundays; they were to have their lord's licence before marrying a daughter and to pay toll when they sold ale. In addition all the villeins were to mow the meadow of the two lords, and be paid 20d. in common. Since 1086 there had been a change in nomenclature of the different classes of villagers and perhaps of status. In place of the single villanus and bordars of 1086 there were villeins and two free tenants; one free tenant rented a virgate for 10s.; the other, Henry the miller, held a messuage with 10 acres and the mill for 26s. 8d. rent paid to the Abbot of Reading.
Later medieval records give the extent of the St. Philibert manor as a messuage and 2 carucates in 1333, and its valuation in 1432 as £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 114) No court rolls have survived for either manor, but there are records of Adwell's view of frankpledge, since it was a member of the honor of Wallingford. Its tithingman had to attend the views held by the steward of the honor at Aston Rowant and pay 1s. cert money. (fn. 115)
Adwell's medieval population can only be conjectured. Its agricultural land was so limited that it cannot have supported many families, but there were certainly more than those of the 9 tenants recorded in 1279 in the hundred rolls. (fn. 116) The incomplete tax assessment of 1306 lists at least ten contributors, that of 1316 thirteen, (fn. 117) and there are likely to have been some who escaped taxation through poverty; and for the poll tax of 1377, 26 persons of 14 and over were listed, (fn. 118) a figure which again may not include all the taxable inhabitants. In 1349 and later it looks as if plague may have affected the village, for in 1354, after Adwell had been reassessed in 1344 for taxation at a fixed rate of £1 10s. 6d. (an increase of 6d. on its 1327 assessment), an abatement of 6d. was allowed and in 1428 the village was returned as having fewer than 10 inhabited houses. (fn. 119) Adwell's total contribution to 14th-century taxes was small compared with other parishes in the hundred, but this is to be expected in view of its small acreage. (fn. 120)
There is no certain information about the medieval field system of Adwell, but the evidence of field names from the terriers combined with a study of the tithe maps of Adwell and Lewknor suggest that the original fields were North Field, lying north-west of the parish's principal road, and 'Copt' field, lying to the south of it, and that these were converted into a three-field system by the formation of Middle Field. (fn. 121) Adwell also had detached land in Postcombe Field, lying partly to the east on the Aston Rowant boundary and partly in the north of the township, though most of Postcombe was in Lewknor parish. (fn. 122)
There is evidence that medieval tenants held acres both in Adwell Field and in Postcombe Field, (fn. 123) that tithe was paid to the Rector of Adwell on land in both fields, and that the glebe was dispersed in both. (fn. 124)
Perhaps because of labour shortage following the Black Death and because of the high price of wool there was some early conversion of arable to inclosed pasture, particularly on the demense land. By 1621 Farm Field (c. 60 a.), an area that can be identified with some certainty with the Farm Field and Stampe Green shown on the tithe award map of 1840, was inclosed; also the miller's land (c. 12 a.) and a number of other pasture closes, totalling 82 acres in all. (fn. 125) Judging from the names these closes were in the west and north of the parish, precisely where the pasture closes were in 1840; the names of some, Home Pen, Home Close, Stampe Green are identical, while Mill furlong, Long Meadow, and Further Pen are obviously likely to be in this area. (fn. 126)
Nevertheless, traditional methods of agriculture continued alongside inclosure. Some of the demesne strips were consolidated by 1621. Upper Copt and Nether Copt were blocks of 16 and 30 acres respectively, but 103 acres still lay in 16 pieces 'dispersedly' in Copt Field, 17 pieces in the field 'shooting on Adwell Town' (fn. 127) and 9 acres in 17 pieces 'dispersedly' in Townsend Field and Lamsworth Field (i.e. in Postcombe Field). (fn. 128)
The subsidy of 1523 throws some light on the social structure of Adwell. There was only one contributor of substance, William Allnut, the tenant of the manor, and the five other persons listed all paid the labourer's rate of 4d. (fn. 129) In 1649 when Dame Elizabeth Franklin owned the manor the demesnes were leased on a 21-year lease at a rent of £83 a year. (fn. 130) Agnes Cornish held the water-mill with a house and 12 acres of closes at a rent of £3 a year, also on a 21year lease. (fn. 131) Five tenements of various sizes were leased on three or two lives: most had a yard or ½yard of land in the common fields of Adwell and Postcombe, and heriots were owed on the death of a tenant. Three tenants held at will pasture closes and 6 acres of arable each, the former leases for 21 or 19 years having expired. There were five holders of cottages at will; in the case of four of them with rents of 3s. 4d. to 8s. each no land is mentioned, but one is said to have had common of pasture for 20 sheep and 2 cows in Adwell and Postcombe. The most prominent members of the village community belonged to the family of Clarke. Members of this family held between them three of the tenements and 2½ yardlands, (fn. 132) and one John Clarke appears on the hearthtax list of 1665 where his farmhouse was rated on two hearths. (fn. 133) Widow King, a member of another family of small tenant farmers, was discharged from payment on account of poverty. (fn. 134) She died in the next year and it is of interest that her goods were valued at nearly £17. (fn. 135)
At this date there were two larger farmhouses that were rated, like the Rectory, on three hearths, while 17th-century inventories of Adwell's men and women demonstrate the great variety of farming practised in this small community: in 1639 John Clarke, a husbandman with goods valued at £32, had £20 worth of wheat, peas, and hay, a cow, 2 bullocks, and a pig worth £5. (fn. 136) Another small husbandman Richard Swinburne (d. 1640), with goods worth about £13, had cheeses, but curiously enough no cows, a loom, farm, and hemp valued at 21s., and corn and hay valued at £4 10s. (fn. 137) His son Richard Swinburne described himself as a weaver. (fn. 138) Another man, a labourer, also had goods worth about £13, which included cheeses, but his wealth was mainly in stock—10 sheep and 3 lambs, 4 kine and a sow. His wheat and hay were valued at only £1 6s. (fn. 139) His son Christopher Jeffery (d. 1675) was a shoemaker with a shop, but also kept 2 cows and a pig, and grew grass and corn. The total valuation of his goods, £23, included £5 5s. of 'desperate debts' owing to him. (fn. 140) Nearly half of widow King's (d. 1666) goods consisted of corn in the barn and wheat and 'gratten'. (fn. 141)
At the other end of the scale with goods worth £302 10s. was the lord of the manor, Henry Franklin. (fn. 142) Although he had 10 bullocks, 5 cows and a calf, a flock of 105 sheep and 30 lambs, 13 hogs and pigs worth in all £62 10s., his corn crops were the most valuable part of his goods, being worth over £100. What his growing crops were is not specified, but he had small quantities of beans, malt, peas, and wheat in store. Richard Clarke (d. 1682) also grew a little barley and peas and corn sown in the 'tylth' and 'gratten' fields are mentioned. Nearly half his goods, however, consisted of 'money upon bonds' worth £65. (fn. 143) The miller must always have been an important member of the village, and at this period the mill was described as two common water grist-mills under one roof. (fn. 144) Fourteen acres of closes belonged to the mill and were leased with it in all the surviving leases. When Richard Hollyman, a Quaker, was miller, he also had a windmill in Cop Field which he had erected in 1695. (fn. 145)
Either in the late 17th century or during the early 18th century the remainder of Adwell's open fields must have been inclosed by agreement. In so small a parish which was almost entirely owned by one person such a change must have been simple enough. The earliest record of it comes in 1786, when the lady of the manor was herself farming all the land of the parish, including the rector's glebe and the small property belonging to the Lybbe Powys family that was once the property of Bec Abbey. (fn. 146) in 1818 she only had 99 acres in hand and a tenant was farming about 310 acres, and this was roughly the position in 1866, when the parish was divided between the Home Farm (109 a.) and Adwell farm (284 a.) and the glebe (15 a.). (fn. 147) At the time of the tithe award in 1839 more than half of the agricultural land was meadow or pasture and there were 30 acres of wood including a new plantation of 9 acres. (fn. 148)
The terms of a lease of Postcombe farm made in 1846 may be taken as an illustration of agricultural practice in Adwell parish. It was to be farmed according to the 'best rules of husbandry preached in the neighbourhood'; the tenant was to fallow one-fifth of the arable every year; have one-fifth in clover or other green crop; not to take more than two white corn crops in succession and that only once in five years; and not to break up any meadow or pasture under penalty of £50 an acre. (fn. 149) At this date Home farm (105 a.) had nearly twice as much meadow and pasture as arable. (fn. 150) At the time of the tithe apportionment there were 225 acres of arable and 164 acres of mead and pasture. (fn. 151) In 1851 there was one large farm of 300 acres in the parish on which 12 labourers were employed. (fn. 152)
Adwell like other parishes was badly affected by the agricultural depression. One sign of this is the drop in population in the decades ending in 1871 and 1881, (fn. 153) and another that allotments were laid out in 1886 by the lord of the manor in order to alleviate the poverty of the cottagers; the rents were 4d. a pole, and the land was not ploughed up again until 1890. (fn. 154)
Adwell did not share in the late-18th-century increase in population which is generally found in the neighbourhood. In 1676 there had been 35 churchgoers over sixteen, (fn. 155) and in the first three census returns of the 19th century there was an average of 40 inhabitants. A sharp rise took place in the decade after 1841 when numbers rose from 46 to 75. (fn. 156) This is probably to be explained by the letting of Adwell House to the Thornhill family which with its twelve employees totalled about 20 persons. (fn. 157) The number of twelve houses recorded was the same as in 1781. (fn. 158) In the 20th century the number of inhabitants rose slightly from 64 in 1901 to 71 in 1951, but the change of the boundary in 1953 has now left Adwell with only 41 inhabitants. (fn. 159)
It is likely that Miles Crispin built and endowed the church after the Conquest, (fn. 160) although there is no documentary evidence for its existence before 1254. (fn. 161) The earliest part of the medieval church building dates from the Norman period. Later evidence shows that Adwell's tithes, church land, and glebe lay in the townships of Adwell and Postcombe, and Crispin was lord both of Adwell and of part of Postcombe. (fn. 162) On account of this ancient arrangement Adwell parish, a rectory in Aston deanery, included part of Postcombe, the rest being in Lewknor parish. In 1768 the incumbent reported that two houses in Postcombe were in Adwell parish, and early in the 19th century most of Adwell's parishioners were said to live there. (fn. 163) In 1841 a farmhouse (Adwell Farm) and six out of 33 Postcombe cottages were in Adwell. (fn. 164) Strips in Postcombe fields also belonged to Adwell until an exchange was made by the inclosure award of 1815. (fn. 165) Postcombe lay much nearer to Adwell church than to its parish church of Lewknor, and in the 19th century at any rate Postcombe people often went to church at Adwell. (fn. 166) In 1881 houses in Postcombe still formed part of Adwell parish, but by 1931 this was no longer the case. (fn. 167)
The first recorded presentation was by Richard de la Hyde in 1279, (fn. 168) and the next by Gilbert Wace in 1312, probably during the minority of John de St. Philibert. (fn. 169) Since then the advowson has followed the descent of the manor. In 1866 the rectories and the ecclesiastical parishes of Adwell and South Weston were united, (fn. 170) and Lt.-Col. H. Birch Reynardson was the patron in 1959.
Adwell in the Middle Ages was a poor rectory valued at £1 in 1254 and at £4 6s. 8d. in 1291, in addition to Bec's share in the tithes (see below). (fn. 171) In 1535 it was still only worth £4 13s. 10d., making it one of the poorest benefices in the deanery. (fn. 172) By the early 18th century it was worth about £40, and in 1775 the living, including tithes, glebe, and parsonage, was leased for £70, the same amount as in the early 19th century. (fn. 173) In 1841 the rector's tithes were commuted for £117. (fn. 174) In addition to the Adwell tithes, the rector had in the 17th century at least, the tithes of hay of Weston Harn Meadow in South Weston. (fn. 175)
The glebe, when first described in the late 17th century, consisted of 24 acres in the common fields of Adwell, Postcombe, and Lewknor. (fn. 176) When the parish was inclosed, these were exchanged for a field of 15 acres along the Lewknor boundary known as Glebe Field. (fn. 177)
In the late 11th century Miles Crispin gave twothirds of the small demesne tithes of Adwell, including those of the mill, to the Norman abbey of Bec. (fn. 178) These tithes were valued at 10s. in 1254, at £1 in 1291, and at 6s. 8d. in 1535. (fn. 179)
In 1297 Bec contributed 2s. from its Adwell tithes to the subsidy for the Holy Land and in 1307 its agent in England, the Prior of Ogbourne, contributed a portion to the clerical subsidy imposed by Pope Clement V. (fn. 180) In the 15th century the tithes of Adwell, with much of Bee's other property, were given to the Dean and Chapter of St. George's Chapel, Windsor. (fn. 181) In 1566, when they were leased, Windsor received 5s. a year for them and they were known as 'Beckharlewins' or Beck harvest tithes, a name for which the 18th-century antiquary Delafield of Haseley could find no explanation. (fn. 182) In 1841 when Windsor's tithes were commuted for a rent charge, it was receiving two-thirds of the tithes of 71 acres in Adwell. (fn. 183)
An unknown benefactor left a small piece of land in Postcombe fields, afterwards known as Church Acre, for the repair of the church. In the 18th century it was usually rented to the churchwarden for 7s. or 8s., but at the end of the century, when James Jones and after him his widow Elizabeth were lord and lady of the manor, they took over the land. They paid no fixed rent, but kept the church in repair, rebuilding a large part of it. (fn. 184) At the inclosure this acre was transferred to Adwell. (fn. 185)
Perhaps because of its poverty, Adwell was a hard living to fill in the Middle Ages, as is shown by the long and incomplete list of some 30 rectors between 1279 and 1535. In the late 14th century the living was several times exchanged, usually for a vicarage rather than a rectory.
During the Middle Ages only two university graduates are known to have held it, both in the 15th century. Few rectors stayed for many years, although there were certain exceptions: Jordan de Luda (1279–1312) was rector for over 30 years, and so was Christopher Stanyern (1504–c. 1540). Stanyern was certainly resident, for an old woman was said to visit his house daily. His powers may have been failing, however, for the church was somewhat neglected. It was reported in about 1520 that the chancel needed repair and the sedilia were broken, that the Abbot of Reading failed to support two church lamps although he took his customary 2s., and that the churchwarden had not given an account for seven years. (fn. 186) The religious confusion of the mid-16th century is reflected in the will of Henry Collman (rector 1556–60), who left 10s. to buy a cope for the church, if such vestments were allowed; if not, the money was to be used for the highways. (fn. 187)
Little record remains of the 16th and 17th centuries. Delafield, studying the early churchwardens' accounts, now lost, noticed that communion was given four or five times a year in the 17th century. (fn. 188) During the Interregnum even the name of the rector is not known, (fn. 189) but from the 1660's there was a resident rector. (fn. 190) His house was of medium size, rated at three hearths, and considered in 1685 'a very good parsonage house': it consisted of seven rooms including a study and had a stable and a barn of three bays; next to it was an orchard and a large garden. (fn. 191) During the 18th century, when the rectors either lived in the manor-house or were non-resident, the house was not enlarged to meet the rising standard of living and became unsuitable for a rectory.
George Rye (1705–28), who in 1717 became Rector of Islip and Archdeacon of Oxford, was perhaps Adwell's most distinguished rector, but he never lived in the parish. He was a Fellow of Oriel and according to Hearne a 'sly, low Churchman', whose sermons were dull, heavy, and sad. (fn. 192) He was succeeded by several members of the Newell family. The first member of the family to be rector was Christopher Newell (rector 1677–8), who had been ejected from Bloxham for his nonconformity. He left 10s. to the poor of Adwell and was buried in the church. (fn. 193) In the 18th century the living became very much a family one. John Newell (rector 1729–31), the younger son of William Newell, the lord of the manor, (fn. 194) was killed on Shotover by a fall from his horse while riding between Adwell and Oxford. (fn. 195) He was succeeded by his elder brother William (rector 1732–47), who was at the same time lord of the manor. On his death the living was promised to a young nephew but given in the meantime, with that of Ickford (Bucks.), also in the patronage of the Newells, to a relative, John Rigby (1748–75). He lived at Ickford but came over every Sunday and took the services at Adwell to please Mrs. Newell, who 'did not like strangers' there. She never asked him to resign, but on his death she presented her husband's nephew, Samuel Newell (rector 1775–1802). He was 'not quite the character a clergyman ought to be,' but being too old to enter another profession and burdened with eight children and many debts, continued in the ministry. (fn. 196) In the second half of the 18th century the general standard of church life probably declined: in 1759 the provision of a Bible and parish book were ordered; (fn. 197) and in Newell's time the two Sunday services which had been held earlier were reduced to one, for he also held afternoon services at Tetsworth, and the number of communicants declined from ten or twelve to six or seven. (fn. 198) It is significant that in 1796 he did not appear at the visitation or send any answer. (fn. 199)
In the late 18th century the lack of a suitable Rectory was given by the rectors as the reason for non-residence. By 1775 the house had been divided into two cottages and let to labourers, (fn. 200) and in 1790 it and the barn were considered so old and ruinous that they were not worth repairing, and permission was given to take them down. The Joneses, who owned the whole parish, offered to endow the rector with a suitable house and barn with a ¼-acre of land. (fn. 201) The whole plan seems to have come to nothing. James Way (1803–16), a relation of the Newells, (fn. 202) described the house some years later as a pauper's cottage and after vainly searching 'the country for a dozen miles round' for a suitable house gave up the idea of residence. (fn. 203) The parish was therefore served by a non-resident curate, who received £35, exactly half the value of the living, which the rector thought far exceeded 'the general stipend of very superior Oxfordshire curacies'. (fn. 204) Way's interest in the parish was apparently slight, for he refused to pay the parish clerk the 5s. a year which rectors had long paid. The clerk received very little income in other ways; there were few burial fees, for example, for the parish was so small that sometimes years passed without a funeral. His resignation was a serious matter, for he was the only man in the congregation able to read the responses, except for a the labourer who could read well enough, but was deaf. (fn. 205) By this time the two churchwardens usual in the 16th and early 17th centuries (fn. 206) had long since been replaced by one and the churchwarden at the beginning of the 19th century was illiterate. (fn. 207)
During the long incumbency (1817–62 ?) of W. L. Buckle, son of the Vicar of Pyrton, the parish was served first by the rector, who lived three miles away (probably at Pyrton), and held one Sunday service and a Sunday school; (fn. 208) and later, when Buckle had gone to Surrey, (fn. 209) by a curate, who usually held another living. In 1854, for example, it was the Rector of Wheatfield who held services alternately in the morning and afternoon at Adwell and Wheatfield. (fn. 210) When Adwell was united to South Weston in 1866, a similar arrangement continued, the new rector dividing his time between the two. He lived at Weston, while the parsonage house at Adwell continued to be let to one or two labourers. (fn. 211) Congregations and communicants, averaging about 50 and 10 in the middle of the century, increased a little towards the end. (fn. 212) Since 1927 the rector has also held Lewknor.
The small stone church, dedicated to ST. MARY, comprises a nave, chancel, transeptal chapels, and a slender bell-cot at the west end. It is a 19th-century building except for the Romanesque south doorway, the only survival of the medieval church.
The old church comprised a nave and chancel only. (fn. 213) It was apparently built late in the 12th century, but the chancel may have been enlarged in the 13th century. Buckler's pre-restoration drawing of 1823 shows an early Decorated east window, two of the same period in the south wall of the chancel, and a steeply pitched roof. (fn. 214)
In the 14th century new windows were inserted in the nave and a west doorway was made. A bell-cot may have been added in this century, for the present medieval bell dates from about 1350. Buckler's drawing shows the bell-cot with four slender spirelets, possibly later additions. (fn. 215)
No record has been found of alterations to the fabric during the next two centuries. The archdeacon's orders of 1759 reveal some neglect. (fn. 216) Banks of rubbish against the church walls and on either side of the porch were ordered to be moved. A new door was to be made, the pavement of church and chancel were to be newly laid, the roof of the chancel was to be made good, the font was to have a new cover, and the floor of the reading desk was to be repaired. High box pews were the fashion for it was ordered that none of the seats was to be made higher without a faculty. The Creed, Lord's Prayer, and 'chosen sentences' were to be put up.
Unevenness in the pavement had evidently been caused by the practice of making graves both in the church and in the chancel without making a brick arch over them. This was in future forbidden. It was also ordered that further repairs to the roof, the walls, and the interior were being carried out in 1800. (fn. 217) The work was done at the expense of James Jones, the lord of the manor. According to his widow's letter to the bishop he had rebuilt both the side walls and the east end wall. Since his death she had rebuilt the wall at the west end. Jones also had the church new pewed and new glazed the windows, buying painted glass for the four windows. (fn. 218) This last was evidently the 'French glass' of c. 1700 that was recorded in 1850 by Parker. (fn. 219)
In the early 1860s it was stated that the church was 'much dilapidated' and J. Newell Birch of Henley Park gave £500 for its repair. The walls, however, were found to be too weak to be repaired and his nephew H. Birch Reynardson and his sister rebuilt it in 1865. The architect was Arthur Blomfield and the new building is a competent example of 19th-century Gothic in the Decorated style. It has an open timber roof. The builder was Joseph Castle of Oxford. The painted glass of the east window in memory of John Newell Birch, was executed by H. Hughes of Frith Street, Soho. All the internal fittings, including wooden altar rails, choir seats, desk, and pulpit were renewed. (fn. 220)
A medieval stone effigy is preserved on the north wall of the nave. It commemorates a heart burial, and represents a knight in armour of c. 1300 standing behind a shield and holding an object intended to represent a heart. (fn. 221)
The following memorial inscriptions are in the church: Christopher Newell of Pophleys, gent. (d. 1737); Elizabeth Newell (d. 1772), daughter of Christopher and Elizabeth Newell; Thomas Newell, Esq. (d. 1777) of Henley-on-Thames, son of William of Adwell; William Newell, gent. of Henley (d. 1778), son of Christopher and Elizabeth Newell; Samuel Newell (d. 1802), Rector of Adwell and Ickford; Edward Webb (d. 1839 at New York); Frances Webb (d. 1846); Henry Birch Reynardson (d. 1884); and Aubrey H. Birch Reynardson (d. 1935).
The inscriptions noted by Rawlinson in 1717 to Henry Franklin (d. 1663) and his wife Anne (d. 1708/9) and to Christopher Newell, rector (d. 1678), are no longer to be seen. (fn. 222)
When a new burial vault was made in 1747 at the west end of the church to receive the body of the rector William Newell, a stone coffin and a pewter cup were found. (fn. 223)
The Edwardian Commissioners listed in 1553 a silver gilt chalice without a cover, and two bells. (fn. 224) In 1958 the ancient plate consisted of a silver chalice of 1620 with no paten cover, a larger silver paten dated 1722, two 18th-century pewter plates of about 1760, and a small silver flagon of 1872. (fn. 225) There were still two bells; one inscribed 'Ave Maria I.H.S.', dating probably from c. 1350, and a larger one inscribed 1640. (fn. 226)
The registers date from 1539 (fn. 227)and churchwardens' accounts from 1873.
There is no record of Roman Catholicism, and the only known Protestant dissenters were three members of the Hollyman family, who were returned in about 1685 as Quakers. (fn. 228) Richard Hollyman, the head of the family, had been miller of Cuxham and he appears among the householders there who contributed to the hearth tax of 1665. (fn. 229) According to his own account he had been a drunkard and a keeper of 'vain and evil company' before his conversion to the tenets of the Friends. He was thereupon persecuted for his views by his landlord, who was also a justice of the peace. On his refusal to attend church or to pay fines for nonattendance, his goods were distrained on and finally he was evicted in 1676 from his mill, with his wife and six small children. His case is given in detail in the book of 'Sufferings of Friends in Oxfordshire'. The account ends with the words 'the Lord made it become as a providential mercy to him, for he is in a likely way to have a more comfortable subsistancy than formerly they had'. (fn. 230) This is perhaps an allusion to his tenancy of Adwell mill, which he was certainly leasing in 1698. (fn. 231) In 1702 he was distrained for non-payment of tithes. (fn. 232)
Adwell was too small a parish to support a school of its own for long, and none was recorded by 18th-century incumbents. In the 19th century a Sunday school, begun in 1814 and supported by the lady of the manor, Mrs. Jones, was attended by 25 boys, but not all came from Adwell itself; it still flourished in 1833. It was not run on National Society lines as there was no support in the parish for the plan. (fn. 233) In 1854 Adwell children were attending the Sunday school at Postcombe. (fn. 234) A day school for 10 children was set up in 1829 and was supported by the children's parents. (fn. 235) This was presumably the 'Dame school' with about 10 children which was reported in 1834 and 1854. (fn. 236) There is no later mention of a village school. In 1871 the children went to the National school in Lewknor or to a school at Tetsworth, and they continued to attend schools in these parishes in the late 19th and early 20th century. (fn. 237) In 1958 primary school children went to Lewknor and secondary children to the Icknield Secondary School, Watlington. (fn. 238)