A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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Bacganleah (x cent.); Baggalea (xii cent.).
The tract of land called Bagley Wood, which was extra-parochial in 1831, was in 1900 made part of the parish of Radley, to which it seems to have belonged in the 14th century. (fn. 1) It consists of 390 acres of woodland on a sloping hill-side. There has never been a church there, nor, so far as can be ascertained, any dwelling-houses. In the 13th century men were frequently assaulted and sometimes killed in Bagley Wood. (fn. 2) The rioters of Abingdon in 1327 carried off the prior of the abbey into the wood and threatened him with the loss of his head unless he would do their bidding. (fn. 3)
At the present day Bagley Wood is a pleasant place with an abundance of wild flowers. It was once much frequented by the people of Oxford and the neighbouring villages; but as it became the resort of gipsies and bad characters St. John's College was compelled by the justices of Berkshire to inclose it. Negotiations for the extinction of common rights in the wood began in 1843, and the college finally decided in 1847 to inclose the wood under the provisions of the General Inclosure Act of 1841; an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1848. (fn. 4)
BAGLEY WOOD was never called a manor till the early 19th century, and had no real claim to be so called. From before the Conquest to the Dissolution it was the possession of the abbots of Abingdon, but their title seems to have been less definite than in the case of their other lands. They held it from the king in 'free custody,' and his rights in it, though never apparently exercised, are always implicit in the various grants made to the abbots.
Bagley is first mentioned in Eadred's charter of 955 (fn. 5) as one of the boundaries of the 20 hides of land supposed to have been granted to the abbey by Caedwalla. It is not clear whether or not the wood was included in the grant. In the time of William the Conqueror the abbot's right was well established, and he resisted with his own hand all encroachments on the part of others. The king's reeve of the manor of Sutton on two occasions tried to carry off underwood from Bagley. The abbot drove him from the place, causing him the second time to wade through the river of Ock because he was too terrified to use the bridge. (fn. 6) Henry I freed the woods of Bagley and Cumnor from the interference of his foresters, and granted the abbot 'perpetual custody.' He was to have all roebucks, but was not to take deer without the king's permission. At the same time the king undertook not to grant to anyone else the right of hunting there. (fn. 7) This charter was confirmed by Henry II (fn. 8) and Richard I. (fn. 9)
In 1387 there is an instance of a grant made by the Crown of the office of woodward. (fn. 10) It was revoked, however, in the next year, for the abbot was able to show that he and his predecessors from time immemorial had appointed their own officers without the king's interference. (fn. 11)
At the time of the Dissolution Bagley Wood was regarded as absolutely the property of the abbey. (fn. 12) Edward VI on 18 December 1552 granted 200 acres of it to Lord Clinton and Henry Herdson. (fn. 13) On the following day Lord Clinton conveyed his interest to Herdson, (fn. 14) who on 25 March 1553 sold half of Bagley Common to Sir John Mason of St. Paul's Churchyard. On 31 October 1557 Sir John Mason sold his part of the wood to the president and scholars of St. John's College, Oxford, Sir Thomas White, alderman of London, founder of the college, paying him £270. The other half seems to have come to Anthony Wickes alias Mason of Kew, who in 1584 sold it to John Reade and others, trustees for the president and scholars of St. John's College. In 1610 the college acquired a further parcel of waste land called the Westwood and West Bagley, part of Bagley Wood in Radley, situate between the highway leading from Abingdon on the east and Sunningwell Heath on the west, 'now or late' in the tenure of Francis Lord Norreys. Disputes having arisen with Lord Norreys as to the rights over this land, he surrendered all his claim to the college in 1619 for the sum of £600. (fn. 15) St. John's College is the present owner of Bagley Wood.