A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1949.
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Oxhill is an irregular parish, roughly shaped like a V. The narrow point of the V is occupied by the village, with the church at its southern extremity. Most of the land lies between 270 ft. and 300 ft., rising at Herd Hill, a mile north-east of the village, to 400 ft. A small stream runs northward along the east side of the village, and then turns west and again south to form the parish boundary. This was the 'torrent of Oxhill' mentioned in 1183, (fn. 1) and on it must have stood the mill mentioned in the Domesday Survey. (fn. 2) In 1241 John de Wauton conveyed a water-mill here to Master Simon de Wauton, (fn. 3) who gave it, with its pond and sluice, to Bordesley Abbey. (fn. 4) There was probably once a windmill on Herd Hill above Windmill Farm.
The soil is chiefly clay with a blue lias subsoil which, near the boundary by Whatcote, was formerly worked for road metal. (fn. 5) The land is mainly pasture, though some wheat is grown. The main road from Stratford to Banbury crosses the northern part from west to east, from which one fenced and one unfenced road branch, joining before they reach the village, whence there are roads to Whatcote and Tysoe. There is a Wesleyan chapel, erected in 1814, enlarged in 1839, and restored in 1878. It has been presumed that Peter Smart, the puritan divine, was the son of the Rev. Daniel Smart, (fn. 6) presented to this living in 1624, (fn. 7) who had a son William baptized here on 31 March 1642, (fn. 8) but there is no evidence that this was his father. Wood merely says that he was the son of a Warwickshire minister. (fn. 9)
Before the Conquest OXHILL was held, with Whatcote, by Toli, but by 1086 it had passed to Hugh de Grentemaisnil. (fn. 10) It then contained 10 hides, worth £11, and a mill valued at 16d. In 1185 Engelram de Dumart was dead and the sheriff accounted for 2s. 11d. from his land in Oxhill; (fn. 11) it was probably in connexion with this estate that Engelram had paid 20 marks not to be impleaded in 1174. (fn. 12) He also held land here from the Earl of Stafford in 1183. (fn. 13) In 1186 Henry II returned Oxhill to Engelram's sisters Emma and Alice, (fn. 14) and after the death of Emma in 1211 it was held by her son Egelin de Dumart. (fn. 15) It was seized into the hands of King John, who in 1216 ordered the sheriff to deliver possession to Terry, or Theodoric, de Whicheford. (fn. 16) However it was subsequently restored to Egelin and he held it at his death, after which it passed in 1219 to Thomas de Periton as nephew and heir of Egelin de Dumart. (fn. 17) This Thomas died in 1227 leaving his son Adam as his heir, (fn. 18) who in 1242 held one knight's fee of the king in chief. (fn. 19) Adam was succeeded in 1266 by his grandson Robert de Keynes (fn. 20) son of his daughter Margaret, the wife of Sir William de Keynes of Dodford (Northants) and Coombe Keynes (Dorset) and coheir with Isabel de Welles and Katherine Paynel, Adam's other daughters, between whom the property was divided. Robert retained Oxhill (fn. 21) and in 1272 gave up his right to the Northumberland estate to his aunt Isabel, now married to Sir William de Vescy. (fn. 22) He died in 1281 and was first followed by his eldest son Robert, (fn. 23) who died childless in 1306, and then by his second son William, whose son John succeeded to Oxhill in 1344, (fn. 24) when 18 virgates of land were held of the king in chief. John's son and heir John, aged one month on succession in 1366 (fn. 25) and placed under the wardship of John de Beverly, (fn. 26) lived only until 1375 (fn. 27) and was followed by his sister Wentilian, aged 12, and then by his father's sister Elizabeth de Keynes, who both died during the next few months. (fn. 28) The manor apparently passed to Margaret, widow of William de Wotton, one grand-daughter of Elizabeth's father's sister Lettice de Keynes, (fn. 29) and subsequently to her sister Maud, mother of Sir John Cressy, and he granted it for life to Sir William de Brantingham. (fn. 30) But Alice Cardigan, a descendant of Hawise de Keynes, a sister of Sir John and Elizabeth, claimed the manor as her inheritance, of which she had been disseised by Sir William de Brantingham, (fn. 31) at whose death it was stated further that he granted it to John de Brantingham and his heirs, who had continued in possession of the manor until Lewis and Alice Cardigan entered into it in the right of Alice and ejected John de Brantingham. (fn. 32) It is alleged by Baker that this Alice had been disinherited by her father, Sir John de Ladbroke, the son-in-law of Hawise de Keynes, for marrying Cardigan who was his cook. (fn. 33) However, in 1452–3, Sir John Cressy, the son of the John Cressy who had granted the manor to Brantingham, died unmarried (fn. 34) and Isabel, the wife of Sir Thomas Chaworth, and Eleanor, the wife of Sir Humphrey Stafford, of Grafton, were found his heirs, (fn. 35) as coheirs of Sir Thomas Aylesbury, a descendant of Luke, alleged to be brother of the William de Keynes who had married Margaret de Periton (v. supra) but apparently in fact his cousin. (fn. 36) Evidently they regained possession of the manor after the death in 1456 of Katherine Hathewyk, the daughter of Lewis and Alice Cardigan, (fn. 37) and received the revenue until 1462–3 when Katherine's son, John Hathewyk, recovered the estate as heir of Keynes (fn. 38) upon an assize of novel disseisin from Eleanor Stafford, as Isabel and Thomas Chaworth had died. (fn. 39) He commuted his interests in the Northamptonshire property for £10 (fn. 40) and in 1482 sold the manor and advowson of Oxhill for £200 to John Catesby of Lapworth in this county (q.v.), (fn. 41) who immediately devised it to Thomas Truman for forty-one years. (fn. 42) As Catesby was attainted in the first parliament of Henry VII, the manor then escheated to the Crown, and was granted to Sir David Owen and his heirs. (fn. 43) At this time the estate included a messuage and 40 acres of arable, which Sir David allowed to fall to ruin. (fn. 44) Sir David was followed by his son John, who in 1547 leased the estate to John Boughton (fn. 45) for 41 years at an annual rent of £6 12s., though the lordship of the manor remained with the Owens. But in 1568 Henry Owen, his son, sold the manor and the advowson to Simon Walwyn, gent., (fn. 46) who died in 1578 leaving his son Matthew heir. (fn. 47) He died in 1609 (fn. 48) and by his will settled it on the male issue of his brother Francis, in default of which on Ursula daughter of Francis and her heirs. (fn. 49) Francis was dealing with the manor in 1612, (fn. 50) but probably died soon afterwards. Ursula in 1611 married Mathew Clarke (fn. 51) by whom she had a son William, (fn. 52) who had a son also named William, who dying without issue, the estate passed to his uncle Mathew Clarke, who apparently had supported the Royalist cause as he paid a fine of £15 in 1650. (fn. 53) He died, without issue living, in 1659 (fn. 54) and the estate passed to his younger brother Walweyn Clarke, rector of Oxhill. He conveyed the inheritance of the manor to Sir William Bromley of Baginton in this county, (fn. 55) in whose family it remained (fn. 56) until about 1874, when it was sold to Mr. J. Gardner, (fn. 57) by which time the manorial rights, if any existed, had lapsed. In the Gamekeepers' Deputations, (fn. 58) only in 1792 was William Davenport Bromley returned as lord of the manor; in all other years from 1718 to 1932 it is stated that the Shirley family of Ettington held the lordship of (the other) manor of Oxhill (see below). At the inclosure of the parish in 1797 (fn. 59) no lord is mentioned, though both families are named as landowners there and William Davenport Bromley is referred to as the patron of the living. Still earlier, in a return to questions circulated c. 1625 by Sir Simon Archer, the reply from Oxhill said: 'Their is noe Lord of the Manor but divers Freeholders doe Inheritt the Towne.' (fn. 60)
The family of Stafford held a knight's fee in Oxhill, apparently as a subinfeudation of their manor of Tysoe. In 1372 this was held of Ralph, Earl of Stafford, at the time of his death by the heirs of John Keynes and the Abbot of Bordesley. (fn. 61) The same subtenants are returned as holding it of succeeding earls in 1386, 1392, and 1399. (fn. 62) The Keynes portion is represented by the 2 virgates, parcel of the main manor, which John Keynes at his death in 1376 held of the Earl of Stafford by knight service. (fn. 63) It appears again as held by Katherine Hathewyk of the Duke of Buckingham as of his manor of Tysoe in 1456. (fn. 64) It seems later to have passed into the possession of John Shirley, who died in 1485 seised of 3 messuages, 3 tofts, 3 virgates of land, and 8 acres of meadow in Whatcote and Oxhill, worth 30s., held of the Duke of Buckingham. (fn. 65) This estate was called the manor or reputed lordship of Oxhill in 1541, when Francis Shirley leased it with Ettington (q.v.) to Edward and Thomas Underhill, (fn. 66) and in 1778, when George Shirley and his brother Evelyn made an agreement about the property. (fn. 67) Members of the family constantly appear as lords of the manor of Oxhill from 1718 onwards, (fn. 68) and any manorial rights that exist seem to belong to the present representative of the family. (fn. 69)
The family of Shirley already held land in this and neighbouring parishes in 1318, (fn. 70) and part of it seems to have been held of them, with land in Fullready (q.v.), by the families of Weston and Dymmok. (fn. 71) In 1353 John Dymmok and Alice his wife, who seems afterwards to have married John de Somerton, (fn. 72) were apparently still in possession. (fn. 73)
As already noticed, (fn. 74) the overlordship of Oxhill was disputed in the 12th century between the Earls of Warwick and Leicester. The claim of the former may have been concerned with the hide of land in Oxhill which Roger, Earl of Warwick (1123–53), gave at the founding of the Abbey of Bordesley, to which it was confirmed by the Empress Maud and her son Henry II. (fn. 75) No more is heard of this claim, but the abbey also held one-eighth of a knight's fee of the Honor of Leicester in Oxhill; this was held of Edmund of Lancaster in 1296 (fn. 76) and continued in the Duchy of Lancaster, (fn. 77) to which an annual payment of 12d. was due from the abbey's estate here in 1535. (fn. 78) Robert de Stafford, part of whose fee was later held, as we have seen, by Bordesley, gave the monks in 1183 in frankalmoin 12 acres 'on the torrent of Oxhill where my oxherds dwelt'. (fn. 79) Other grants were made within the parish, (fn. 80) and by 1275 the abbot had at least 7 virgates here, of which one was of the gift of 'Robert Dumbard' (? Egelin de Dumart) 'of the fee of Robert de Keynes', and 'half a knight's fee' had been sold by Geoffrey de Beningworth; (fn. 81) the latter had been confirmed to the monks by William de Keynes (fn. 82) and probably corresponded to the 6 virgates within the king's forest which Henry III in 1267 released from payments to the sheriff. (fn. 83) The value of the abbey's manor or grange of Oxhill was returned in 1535 as £7 15s. 7d. (fn. 84)
At the Dissolution the grange, which had been leased in 1535 to Thomas Ward for 50 years, (fn. 85) came into the hands of the Crown, and in 1554 it was sold, as a manor held in chief by service of 1/60 knight's fee, to Peter Temple, of Burton Dassett, and Richard Petyver. (fn. 86) They sold it in 1559 to George Bishop and his son John. (fn. 87) George died in 1589 and, John having predeceased him, it passed to George's son Richard, (fn. 88) and then to the latter's nephew (fn. 89) Anthony, who sold it in 1631 to William Loggins, who died seised of the manor in 1635. (fn. 90) By his will he directed that it should be sold, (fn. 91) and it was probably bought by a member of the Townsend family, who had held land in the parish since at least 1588. (fn. 92) In 1664 Martin, William, and John Townsend were dealing with the manor, (fn. 93) as were William Townsend the elder and younger in 1701. (fn. 94) In 1798 Joseph Draper and Mary his wife and Margaret Townsend, spinster, conveyed the manor to Joseph Sherbourne, (fn. 95) after which date no more is known of it.
Hugh de Grentemaisnil, the Domesday lord of Oxhill, granted a villein and two-thirds of the tithes of his demesne there to the Abbey of St. Evroul. (fn. 96) These tithes were confirmed in 1176 to the Priory of Ware, (fn. 97) a cell of that abbey founded by Hugh, and the priory's estate here was worth £1 6s. 8d. in 1291. (fn. 98) In 1414 the priory was suppressed and its property bestowed on the Carthusian Priory of Sheen (Surrey), (fn. 99) to whom Bordesley Abbey paid 10s. yearly for the tithes. (fn. 100) In 1543 these tithes were sold to Geoffrey Shakerley. (fn. 101)
Both nave and chancel date from about the middle of the 12th century, but the south wall of the chancel has been considerably repaired several times, and the east wall was entirely rebuilt in the 17th or 18th century.
The nave retains its original doorways, one north window, and the chancel arch, but the south wall has been largely restored in later periods. The clearstory was added early in the 16th century. The west tower and the north porch were early-15th-century additions. Dated restorations are 1865 (chancel), 1877–8, and 1908.
The chancel (about 25 ft. by 17½ ft.) has a modern east window of 14th-century character of three lights and tracery. In the north wall are two windows of the 12th century, widened in the 16th or 17th century. The ancient splays are of ashlar, the round heads, also splayed inside, have cheveron moulds which appear to be later restorations. At the west end of the wall is a 14th-century low-side window with a trefoiled head; the jambs are deeply splayed externally and the internal splays are unequal, the western being the wider. It has an iron grille and hooks outside for a former shutter.
The south wall has features of various periods. Opposite the Norman north-west window is the bottom quoin of the west splay of a contemporary window. Of the two windows the eastern, probably early-16th-century, is of three cinquefoiled ogee-headed lights and vertical tracery in an elliptical head with an external hood-mould and human-head stops. The jambs are of two hollowed orders and the masonry partly yellow and partly grey. The western, probably late-15th-century, is a much smaller and lower window, of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and vertical tracery, including a transom to the middle light, in a four-centred head with an external hood-mould, all of grey-white stone not coursing with the walling. The priest's doorway between them is probably 14th-century: it has hollowchamfered jambs and an acutely pointed head and segmental rear-arch. Near the east end is reset an early14th-century piscina with a trefoiled pointed head and square basin in a projecting sill. The wall is recessed below the south-east window for a sedile, partly restored.
The east wall is of coursed yellow rough ashlar of the 17th or 18th century with the diagonal buttresses at the angles. In the gable head is a narrow loop-light. The north wall has a low chamfered plinth and is of 12thcentury yellow-brown rubble, roughly squared and coursed. In the middle is a shallow buttress or 16-in. pilaster of ashlar that stops about 5 ft. below the eaves and probably marks the original wall-height, the masonry above it being of the 14th or 15th century and having a hollow-chamfered eaves-course.
The south wall is mostly of yellow ashlar like the east wall, but older: the east jamb stones of the south-east window course with the walling, but west of the window the masonry is rougher 14th- or 15th-century work. The original wall seems to have been pressed outwards by the roof and was refaced vertically about the time the windows were inserted. The masonry below the south-west window is of the original rubble, but above, west of the window, the wall face is stepped and curved back to agree with the plumb vertical wall east of it. On a stone east of the doorway is a scratched circular sundial. Inside the north wall below the windows is an original chamfered string-course: a scrap of the south string remains by the fragment of the original window, with another piece reset above it.
The chancel arch has 12th-century responds of two square orders on the west face, the outer with nookshafts, the inner with larger half-round attached shafts: the capital of the north nook-shaft is carved with zigzag ornament below a grooved and hollow-chamfered abacus enriched with hatch ornament; and that of the south nook-shaft with enriched scallops, below a moulded abacus. The capitals of the inner shafts have been cut back, the southern retaining the slightest nail-head ornament. The large window east of it is a traces of original scallop-work. The bases are moulded. Most of the pointed head is a 13th-century reconstruction of two chamfered orders with small voussoirs, but the lowest 7 to 10 voussoirs of the outer order above the responds are the 12th-century square stones with the original chamfered hood-mould.
The nave (about 42½ ft. by 21½ ft.) has two north windows. That in the middle of the wall is a 12thcentury round-headed light with a chamfered hoodmould inside: the external hood-mould is a make-up of contemporary cheveron ornament, from this window or another, with a roll-mould and an outer edging of 14th-century insertion of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and net tracery in a two-centred head of yellow masonry. It is like the chancel east window, which was evidently a copy of it. The wall is recessed inside below the sill and fitted with a stone seat: against the east splay is a reset piscina with a round basin and drain.
The north doorway has a round head of three plain square orders. The outer two orders of the jambs have nook-shafts with carved capitals, the eastern with upright foliage and the western with human faces spouting foliage from the mouths; the abaci are grooved and hollow-chamfered. The bases are worn away. The inner order is chamfered. The chamfered external hood-mould had heads, now defaced, carved on the lower ends. The round rear-arch is of square section, the double-chamfered string-course that passes along this wall being lifted over it to form a hood. The wall at the doorway is a foot thicker than the 2 ft. 11 in. main wall and there are three steps down from the porch to the nave floor.
The south doorway is original but the round head has been rebuilt. It is of three orders, the innermost plain, the middle with cheveron ornament on both face and soffit: the outer order is zigzagged on the soffit, each voussoir forming one cheveron, but the face is carved with shallow circular flowers. The jointing east of this order shows that there was originally a hood-mould: evidently the head had lost its semicircular form, which was restored at the sacrifice of the hood-mould. The two nook-shafts in each jamb have carved capitals, the outer two with masks and foliage, the inner with foliage only: the bases are perished. The rear-arch, of square section, is depressed to a three-centred arch and the string-course is lifted over it as a stilted hood-mould. Above the doorway outside is reset a length of a 12thcentury corbel-table—a range of 8 small arches of peculiar form and 7 corbels carved as human faces, except one which is a grotesque mask.
The walls are of 12th-century yellow ashlar with some later repair and low chamfered plinths. The north wall, east of the porch, has a double-chamfered string-course, cut by the 14th-century window, and is divided into two bays by an original shallow buttress, and there is another at the east angle. There is a length of straight joint near the west end marking the rebuilding of the west wall in the 15th century with the northwest diagonal buttress. The south wall has been much repaired and the original string-course survives only at the east end, where there is also an original shallow buttress with a later buttress against it. Three other buttresses divide the wall into four bays and are probably of the date of the clearstory as they rise above its string-course. They and the lower south-west diagonal buttress have moulded plinths like that of the tower. The masonry in the easternmost bay is mostly modern with the window; that in the second bay is coeval with the buttresses, destroying the 12th-century window that doubtless existed here opposite the other. Near the west end is a vertical seam and near it below the clearstory string-course a reset 12th-century stone with cheveron ornament. On the easternmost buttress is scratched a circular sundial.
The clearstory has three north windows, each of two plain ogee-headed lights under a square main head, probably of the 16th century. The wall face sets back above a double weather-course and is of small irregularly squared yellow rubble. On the south side are four similar windows, but with trefoiled heads and all restored except the jambs. The wall is of regular coursed yellow rubble and also sets back. The embattled parapets are modern.
The low-pitched roof is divided into four bays by moulded main beams. Each bay is panelled with moulded ribs. Some part of it may be 16th-century but it has been renovated. It is covered with red tiles.
The 15th-century north porch has an entrance with jambs and pointed head of two moulded orders (rebated later for a door), with an external hood-mould. The wall has diagonal buttresses and a low-pitched gable with an ancient string-course and coping and three weatherworn pinnacles. The sides have narrow lights, and in the parapets are gargoyles. The masonry is ashlar of brown and red stones and the plinths are like that of the tower.
The west tower (about 10 ft. square inside) is of three stages with plain string-courses. The walls are of coursed yellow ashlar. The plinth has a moulded and splayed top member and chamfered lower. The parapet is embattled, with returned copings to the merlons, and has crocketed pinnacles at the angles: in the stringcourse are carved faces and gargoyles. At the angles are diagonal buttresses rising to the parapet.
The two-centred archway from the nave is of three hollow-chamfered orders, the outer two continuous, the innermost with a late-15th-century moulded capital. These stop on acutely splayed bases about 5 ft. high, which are probably earlier forms of the responds. The head and upper stones of the responds are of whitish stone, perhaps an old restoration or heightening, the lower stones being brown.
In the south-west angle is a stair-vice entered by a doorway in the splay, the threshold of which is 7 ft. above the floor; it has chamfered jambs and a segmental-pointed head. At the third stage the wall is thickened out as wide pilasters to take the stair and it is lighted by west loops.
The west window is of three cinquefoiled lights and vertical tracery in a pointed head with a hood-mould. It has been restored two or three times but some of the yellow jamb-stones are original, the rest being of greywhite stone. In the second stage is a south rectangular light. The south window of the bell-chamber is of two cinquefoiled pointed lights and a quatrefoil in a twocentred head. The other three are of two cinquefoiled acutely pointed lights under a two-centred head, the line of the mullion being continued up to the apex. All have hood-moulds.
The 12th-century font is of unusual design. It is a stone bowl of flower-pot shape with the sides carved in low relief in 16 bays formed by pilasters and interlacing round arches. In two of the bays are figures of Adam and Eve, the other 14 contain conventional trees, flowers, &c.
Now refixed in the tower archway are remains of the 15th-century chancel screen, including the segmentalheaded doorway with carved cusp-points, over which are two traceried bays: there are also two open traceried side bays with restored foils to the trefoiled heads: the lower part has four closed bays (two to the door) with traceried heads below the middle rail, which is enriched with a series of quatrefoil circular panels. The door itself has double trefoil-headed bays with rosette cusppoints.
There are floor slabs, of 1710 to Margaretta Perletta, infant daughter of Thomas and Perletta Bewchamp, 1714 to Thomas Pippin, 1715 to the Rev. Nicholas Meese, Rector, and others with defaced or hidden inscriptions.
Of the five bells two are by William Bagley, 1701, and the others of 1878 by John Taylor. (fn. 102) There is also a small sanctus bell without marks.
The advowson follows the descent of the main manor until the present century. In 1276 Robert de Keynes presented to the church; (fn. 103) in 1456 Katherine Hathewyk died seised of the advowson of the church of St. Lawrence; (fn. 104) and although Anthony Bishop, who held the Bordesley manor, presented in 1624, it was by reason of a grant from Mathew Walwyn. (fn. 105) The Bromleys presented during the 18th and 19th centuries, (fn. 106) but sold the advowson with the manor to Mr. J. Gardner, who was patron in 1889. (fn. 107) Early in the 20th century the advowson was acquired by H. O. Soutter, and in 1938 the patron was Capt. J. C. Soutter, R.N. (fn. 108)
The rectory was valued in 1291 at £5 6s. 8d., apart from the tithes received by the Prior of Ware, which were worth £1 6s. 8d. (fn. 109) In 1535 the clear issues of the glebe, tithes, &c., were estimated at £14 10s. (fn. 110)