A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 9, Bloxham Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
THE HUNDRED OF BLOXHAM
In 1841, before the addition of Shenington, Bloxham hundred had a population of 9,044 and an area of 27,710 acres. (fn. 1) It lies intermingled with Banbury hundred in the valleys between the Cherwell and the Cotswold crest along the modern Warwickshire border, and exhibits the chief characteristics of a wider region centred on Banbury. The Marlstone of the Middle Lias on the higher ground underlies the muchpraised corn-producing 'red land', (fn. 2) and the clays of the Lower Lias in the valleys of the Cherwell and its tributaries give excellent pasture. The presence of easily worked Marlstone has given the villages striking architectural homogeneity, and the hundred is rich in survivals of vernacular architecture; (fn. 3) the 'uncommonly good soil' encouraged a type of mixed farming praised by visitors from Leland onward, (fn. 4) and only in three parishes (Adderbury, Broughton, and Drayton) was there extensive early inclosure for specialist farming. Two characteristic features of north Oxfordshire agriculture were a system of convertible husbandry (found at Bloxham from 1552), through leys intermingled with arable strips, and the cultivation of the open field in four quarters. The prosperity derived from agriculture was reflected in three notable houses, Wroxton Abbey, Broughton Castle, and Hanwell Castle, in the rebuilding of local churches in the late 14th century, and particularly in the great medieval churches of Bloxham and Adderbury. The rise of prosperous independent farmers was reflected in their houses, in their opposition to taxes in the early 17th century, (fn. 5) in the strength of Puritanism, and the growth of Quakerism in the area. Religious opposition owed much to the leadership of larger landowners, the Copes of Hanwell, the Fienneses of Broughton, and Bray Doyley of Adderbury; the proximity of Banbury was also an important factor. Parliamentary inclosure, beginning in the 1760s, transformed the landscape, and the first influx of 'foreign' building materials came with the completion of the Oxford Canal in 1790. With the growth of Banbury in the 19th century the area ceased to be exclusively agricultural, and in recent years the villages have become 'dormitories' for Banbury and other nearby towns. Since about 1860 large open ironstone workings have become a feature of the landscape.
The hundred is not named in Domesday Book but under the entry for the composite royal manor of Bloxham and Adderbury is the sentence 'the soke of two hundreds belongs to this manor'. (fn. 6) There is some evidence of a connexion with a 7th-century Mercian princess, and these two hundreds, like the manor to which they were attached, were probably once royal, as they were again in 1086, though earls Tostig and Edwin had held the manor, apparently in turn, in King Edward's day. (fn. 7) Bloxham hundred is first named in 1189–90 in connexion with murder fines. (fn. 8) The hundred is not systematically covered in the Hundred Rolls of 1278–9, but the following places are then mentioned as being in the hundred: Bloxham itself, Barford, Wigginton, Wroxton (no doubt including Balscott), Horley and Hornton, Sibford, and Adderbury. (fn. 9) Later medieval taxation returns add Alkerton, Bodicote, Broughton and (North) Newington, Drayton, Hanwell, Milcombe, Milton, Tadmarton, the Sibfords (in Swalcliffe), and the Oxfordshire part of Mollington (in Cropredy). The Sibfords and Mollington, however, were omitted in 1306 (fn. 10) and again in the Protestation Returns of 1642, when they were included in Banbury hundred, to which the rest of Swalcliffe and Cropredy belonged. (fn. 11) A list of certainty money of 1651 once again included the Sibfords and Mollington, (fn. 12) and the stated composition of the hundred was unchanged in 1841. Shenington (1,628 acres), previously a detached part of Gloucestershire, was added to Bloxham hundred in 1844. (fn. 13) The hundred is composed of three separate portions: Epwell, Shutford, and Swalcliffe, none of which is named in Domesday Book, separate the main part of the hundred from the Sibfords and are part of Banbury hundred, although Epwell was part of Dorchester hundred until the 18th century; (fn. 14) a projection of Warwickshire separates Mollington from the rest of Bloxham hundred.
It is probable that the two Domesday hundreds dependent on Bloxham and Adderbury already included all the later components of Bloxham hundred. It has been noted that the three entries for Bloxham and Adderbury give a total hidage of 50 for those two places combined; (fn. 15) the Domesday hidage of all other later constituents of Bloxham hundred appears to be 162, a total with the 50 for Bloxham and Adderbury of 212. This near approximation to 200 suggests a double hundred of a familiar type. How these two hundreds were made up it is impossible to say, though it may be worth noting that the Sor Brook divides the 162 hides mentioned into two almost equal parts. In any case nothing is heard after 1086 of these twin hundreds; they appear to have coalesced into one, dependent on Bloxham alone. (fn. 16)
The region contains a number of Roman sites and ancient trackways and bears many marks of relatively early English settlement. The personal names which lie behind many of the place-names in the hundred are suggestive of early date. (fn. 17) Two villages, Adderbury and Tadmarton, are recorded in the 10th century. (fn. 18) Moreover, the Domesday assessment proves to be of considerable symmetry. The later hundred contained 5 places assessed in 1086 at 5 hides; these were Balscott, Bodicote (divided into 3 holdings), Drayton, and Hanwell. Wigginton was assessed at 10 hides, and 3 others at about 10 (Alkerton 9½, Barford 10½, Horley and Hornton 11); the total assessment of Mollington (3 holdings) was also 10 hides. Two places (Tadmarton and Broughton) were each assessed at 20 hides, and one (the Sibfords) at 31; the 50 hides of Bloxham and Adderbury have already been mentioned. Only Wroxton, with 17 hides, and Milcombe, with 8, seem to stand outside this pattern. Various permutations of these figures give larger round numbers still. As so much of this kind of calculation is arbitrary it is enough to point out that the 20 hides at Tadmarton with the 31 at Sibford would give a second 50-hide unit in the hundred. The Domesday assessment of Mollington, however, raises a difficult problem: 5 hides are assigned to Warwickshire (Kineton Hundred), 1 to Oxfordshire, and 4 to Northamptonshire, a shire from which Mollington was separated by parts of Cropredy. Part of Mollington is assigned to Northamptonshire on only one other occasion, in 1395, (fn. 19) and the Domesday attribution of 4 hides to that county rather than to Oxfordshire may simply be an error; on the other hand it has been thought possible that even this 'extraordinary division' of Mollington between 3 counties may represent 'a complicated piece of administrative geography'. (fn. 20) In any case it seems that the division of Mollington, which held good for the next 800 years, must have been subsequent to the creation of this particular 10-hide unit.
The hundred has been held by only three families. The king early lost it; in 1283 Amaury de St. Amand alleged that his family had held it since before 1189. (fn. 21) In 1235 Annora de Verdun was granted her dower from the revenues of the hundred as she had it in the time of Ralph de St. Amand. (fn. 22) The hundred was briefly taken into the sheriff's hands in 1267 propter defectum ballivorum. (fn. 23) Amaury de St. Amand held the hundred at farm in 1278–9 for 50s. yearly; rents of 4s. were payable from Barford and from Wigginton, 10s. from Wroxton, and 21s. 8d. from Horley and Hornton. (fn. 24) The St. Amand family held the hundred until 1418; John de St. Amand leased the bailiwick before 1333 for a rent of 20 marks. (fn. 25) In 1418 Eleanor, relict of Amaury de St. Amand (d. 1402), conveyed the manor and hundred to Thomas Wykeham. (fn. 26) From this family they passed by marriage to the Fiennes family, and in 1477 Margaret grand-daughter of Thomas Wykeham and relict of William Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele (d. 1471), died seised. (fn. 27) The Fiennes family of Broughton Castle (Lords Saye and Sele) have held the hundred ever since.
According to the Parliamentary survey of 1651 the issues of the hundred were £5 3s., and the whole profits £11 8s. yearly. (fn. 28) 'Certainty money' was payable in varying amounts from each village at Lady Day; the Hanwell 'certainty money' is mentioned as late as 1904. (fn. 29)