A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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In this section
Cocheswelle (xi cent.); Great Cokewell, Cokeswell (xiii–xiv cent.); Cokeswylle, Cokyswell (xv cent.); Coxwell (xvii cent.).
This parish covers 1,435 acres on the northern slope of the Valley of the White Horse. The village itself lies on the Corallian Beds, but the land to the north is in turn on Kimmeridge Clay, Lower Greensand and Oxford Clay. The soil is various, and wheat, beans, barley and turnips are grown; 699 acres are laid down to permanent grass, 341 acres are arable land and 151 acres are woodland. (fn. 1)
The village, which contains few houses of interest, straggles down half a mile of a lane running south from the Highworth road. The church of St. Giles lies back from the road near the southern extremity, the school being further north. A little beyond is the Independent chapel, built in 1875. The reading room was opened in 1801, the site having been given by the late the Hon. Duncombe Pleydell-Bouverie.
The Court House Farm at the northern end of the village is the residence of Mr. Arthur Gerring. Across the road, probably on the site of the grange of Beaulieu Abbey, (fn. 2) is a farm-house with two projecting 16thcentury wings at the back having stone-mullioned windows and an ashlar-faced chimney stack. The front is all 18th-century work. At this house Francis Morris lived in 1580, when mass was said there secretly. (fn. 3) The manor-house has not followed the descent of the manor: Lady Pratt by her will of 1697 directed it to be sold, and in 1700 it was bought by her grandson George Pratt Richmond alias Webb. (fn. 4) In the early 19th century it was the property of Mr. John Richmond Webb. (fn. 5) Adjoining is a magnificent stone barn, formerly the property of Beaulieu Abbey. It is a 14th-century structure, seven bays long, with a projecting 'transept' in the centre of each side. The walls are of rubble with ashlar-faced buttresses and a stone slate roof. At the end of each transept is a fine segmental-headed doorway of two orders with a moulded label, and at either end of the barn is a modern doorway. The interior is divided into a centre and side aisles by massive oak posts standing on square stone piers about 6 ft. high, with chamfered bases.
Just west of the village is the important prehistoric camp of Badbury Hill. (fn. 6)
The North and East Fields are referred to in the 13th century, when mention is also made of Bunhulle behind the curtilage of the vill, the Hardweye, Cokhemesweye, Arnebournesdich, Herediche, and Blundewell. In the East Field were 'Normandie' and 'Fraunce,' Pexifurlong and Chaldewell. (fn. 7)
Land in GREAT COXWELL, assessed at 20 hides, was held by Harold before the Conquest; in 1086 this was royal demesne and not subject to geld. (fn. 8) In 1205 Great Coxwell was granted as a member of the manor of Faringdon (q.v.) to Beaulieu Abbey, (fn. 9) and the manor was henceforth held by the abbey. (fn. 10) By the 16th century it seems to have been let at farm to William Morris (Morys), (fn. 11) and in 1535 the lease of part of the abbey lands was renewed for ninety-six years in favour of Thomas Morris. (fn. 12) In 1540 Thomas purchased the manor from the Crown. (fn. 13) He died in 1556, leaving a son Thomas Morris, (fn. 14) who died at Great Coxwell in 1570, having bequeathed the mansion there to Joan his wife. (fn. 15) His son and heir Francis Morris (fn. 16) made a conveyance of the manors of Great and Little Coxwell and tithes there to Hugh Stukeley in 1572 (fn. 17) and to Edmund Wyndham before February 1579–80, (fn. 18) perhaps as safeguards against the working of the recusancy laws, for the Morris family remained Roman Catholic. (fn. 19) Morris sheltered Father Campion, and in 1581 was sent to the Fleet for this offence. (fn. 20) He died three years later, leaving a son Thomas, eight years old. (fn. 21) Thomas Morris with Dowsabel his wife made a settlement of the manors in the spring of 1621–2. (fn. 22)
In 1638 Thomas Morris and Thomas his son sold the manors and rectory to George Pratt, (fn. 23) purchaser of the manor of Coleshill (q.v.), which the manors of Great and Little Coxwell henceforth followed in descent.
A messuage and 600 acres of land were held by Edmund, second son of Thomas Morris, (fn. 24) at his death in 1588 (fn. 25); these were inherited by his posthumous son Edmund, (fn. 26) but no further history of this estate has been found.
The church of ST. GILES consists of a chancel 23 ft. 6 in. by 13 ft. 6 in., nave 51 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft., west tower 12 ft. square, and north porch. These measurements are all internal.
The nave was apparently built about 1200, and the north wall of the chancel is perhaps of about the same date. The chancel arch is of the 13th century, and about 1290 the south wall and most of the east wall of the chancel were rebuilt. In the 15th century the west tower was added and the west wall of the nave rebuilt. The church has been restored in modern times.
The chancel has a late 13th-century east window of three lights with trefoiled heads and doublechamfered rear arch. Flanking it are lancet-shaped niches, and below them two square lockers rebated for doors. On the outside is a moulded stringcourse at the sill level, stopping just north of the east window and continued along the south wall. It apparently shows the extent of the late 13th-century rebuilding. In the north wall there are two early 13th-century lancet windows. In the south wall is a two-light window, with the sill carried down to form a sedile, and further east is a cinquefoil-headed piscina; both are of the end of the 13th century. Further west is a late priest's doorway with a square head and a lancet window similar to those on the north. It is continued down to form a low-side window closed with a shutter, and the sill is cut away to form a bench. The pointed chancel arch of early 13thcentury date is of two chamfered orders, the inner resting on moulded corbels. It is very narrow, and appears to have been repaired at a subsequent date. The trussed rafter roof retains most of its old timbers.
The nave has two lancet windows set high up in the north wall. Between them is an early 13th-century north doorway with a simple label and a pointed head. At the east end of the south wall is a threesided external projection, containing the rood stair; it is entered from inside by a late 15th-century doorway. The upper doorway has been blocked. There are four windows on this side: the first is square-headed and of two 15th-century lights, the second is modern, and the third, also modern, is set in the blocked south doorway. The fourth window, of the 14th century, is of two lights, with a pointed head; the rear arch is sexfoiled and springs from head corbels. There is also a modern window, high up in the wall. At the west end of the nave is a modern timber gallery. The trussed rafter roof is ancient, with tie-beams at intervals.
The 15th-century west tower is of three stages, with diagonal buttresses at the west angles and an embattled parapet with crocketed pinnacles set diagonally at the angles, and large carved gargoyles at the string level. The 15th-century tower arch is pointed and of two orders on the east and three on the west; the responds are semi-octagonal, with moulded capitals. The west window is of the same date and character as the east window and has been refixed in the later wall. The second stage has two square-headed single-light windows at different levels in the north wall; the lower one is blocked. There is a similar window in the west face. The bell-chamber is lighted by a twolight square-headed window of the 15th century in each wall. Set in the gable over the chancel arch is a small sanctus bellcote. The north porch has stone side walls and benches and a massive timber-framed front. It is of uncertain date.
In the nave, near the east end, is a brass to William Morys (Morris), 'sumtyme fermer of Cokyswell,' with a figure and three children below, all of about 1500. On an adjoining slab is a figure of Johane wife of William Morys (Morris). The ancient octagonal font is plain and of doubtful date. The fine oak north door is of early 15th-century date; the panels have feathered cusping. The late 17th-century communion table has turned legs, and the rails are of similar date.
There are five bells: the treble and fourth by Henry Bagley, 1738, with the names of the churchwardens; the second by James Wells of Aldbourne, 1824; the third of 1738, and the tenor by Mears & Stainbank, 1911.
The plate consists of a silver chalice inscribed 'Ex dona Domina Margareta Pratt de Coxwell Magna in comitatu Berks. Anno Domini 1680' and a paten similarly inscribed. There are also a modern silver credence table paten and another chalice and paten, the chalice ornamented with six carbuncles.
The registers begin in 1557.
The church at Great Coxwell in 1086 was endowed with half a hide of land. (fn. 27) In 1204, however, it is described as a chapel, and the advowson passed with the manor to the abbey of Beaulieu. (fn. 28) The house obtained licence to appropriate it in 1232, (fn. 29) and in 1240 a vicarage was ordained. (fn. 30) The church was still in the hands of the abbey of Beaulieu in 1291, (fn. 31) but before 1330 it had come into the possession of the Bishops of Salisbury, (fn. 32) who retained the patronage until 1836, when it was transferred to the Bishop of Oxford, the present patron. (fn. 33)
The rectory has followed the descent of the manor (fn. 34) (q.v.).
The Rev. David Collier, who died in 1723, charged certain lands in Little Coxwell, containing 22 a. 3 r. 30 p., with the payment of 8 bushels of barley annually, for teaching two poor children. The price of the barley is assessed annually and averages about £1 8s., which is paid into the general account of the National school.
The charity of the Rev. John Pinsent, founded by his will of 1705, is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 29 May 1877. One moiety of the income is applicable to the benefit of the parish of Coleshill (hundred of Shrivenham) and the remaining moiety to this parish. The property consists of 34 a. 3 r. 9p. of land called Wood Crofts, let for £34; two fee-farm rents of £16 3s. 2½d. and £19 6s. 3d. respectively; £1,727 2s. 4d. consols with the official trustees; and £200 consols in the names of the vicars of Great Coxwell and Coleshill. The moiety for this parish, amounting to about £58 a year, is applied in the first place in apprenticing, the premium paid in each case being £20, in addition to £5 to the parent for outfit. The surplus income is applied in aid of the general funds of Great Coxwell School.