A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.
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The parish of Bledington lies in a valley in the Cotswolds, at the eastern edge of the county, four miles south-east of Stow-on-the-Wold. (fn. 1) The parish, which is 1,539 a. in area, (fn. 2) is regular and compact in shape. Most of it is flat, at a height of about 380 ft. rising to 425 ft. at the highest point, Pebbly Hill. Its eastern boundary, the River Evenlode, is also the county boundary with Oxfordshire, and in the south the parish and county boundary is formed by the Westcote Brook. Another stream runs south-east across the parish to join the Evenlode. (fn. 3) Near these watercourses there are deposits of alluvial soil, but most of the land is heavy clay, the parish being almost entirely on the Lower Lias. (fn. 4) The farming is mixed, but with an emphasis on pasture rather than arable land; (fn. 5) most of the land is too wet for sheepfarming. (fn. 6)
The village lies in the south-east corner of the parish. It is connected by main roads with Stow and Chipping Norton, and by smaller roads with Icomb (this may be the ancient road known as Bledington Way) (fn. 7) and, through Idbury, with the Stow-Burford road. The road to Chipping Norton crosses the Evenlode by a bridge that is apparently on the site of Longford Bridge, which it was ordered should be built or rebuilt in 1421. (fn. 8) In 1862 the Bourton-onthe-Water railway, which runs north-west across the parish from Kingham station (a mile east of the village), was built. (fn. 9) The supply of electricity to the village was authorized by an Act of 1927. (fn. 10) About 1900, when the village green was subject to frequent flooding, there was concern in the village about drainage and sewage disposal. (fn. 11) In 1913 the water from the wells was suspected of impurity, (fn. 12) but it was not until 1937 that Bledington received a main water supply from the North Cotswold R.D.C. (fn. 13)
The population seems to have increased during the 14th century: in 1327 18 people were assessed for subsidy, (fn. 14) in 1355 there were 32 tenants of the manor, (fn. 15) and in 1380 67 people were assessed for poll tax. (fn. 16) By the mid-16th century, however, the number of tenants had dropped to 21 (fn. 17) and in 1563 there were said to be 20 households (fn. 18) and 100 communicants. (fn. 19) Twenty-nine names were listed in the hearth-tax assessment of 1671. (fn. 20) During the 18th century the population was about 250, and the number of houses about 60. (fn. 21) During the 19th century the population increased steadily, except for a slight decrease after 1871, until 1911 when it reached a peak of 403. By 1921 it had dropped to 340, and thereafter has remained constant, showing a slight increase up to 1951. The number of houses had increased by about one-third from the beginning of the 20th century to 1951. (fn. 22)
The village is built round a rectangle of streets, with the church in the south corner, and the green, with most of the older houses near it, on the northwest side. Houses also extend along Chapel Lane, leading off from the north corner of the rectangle. On the road to Foscot (in Idbury, Oxon.) the village has developed extensively since 1920 with the building of two groups of council houses. The village green is a large uninclosed stretch of grass, with a stream running through it. Poplar trees around it were taken down in the early 20th century; about the same time the stocks which had stood on the green were removed. (fn. 23) There was still a maypole there in 1960, erected in 1953 to replace an earlier one, (fn. 24) and the parish water pump, though disused, could still be seen.
Manor Farm, the largest house in the village, popularly said to be the site of a rest-house used by the monks of Winchcombe, (fn. 25) is partly 16th- or 17th-century, but has been extensively altered and enlarged in the 20th century. (fn. 26) It belonged to the Lord family in the 17th and 18th centuries, and later to Ambrose Reddall, to members of the Stayt family, and to Richard Gibbs. (fn. 27) Home Farm is also partly 17th-century. It is of two stories and attics, built of rubble with a Cotswold stone roof, and has mullions and dormers. Banks Farm is another fairly large house, with a Cotswold stone roof and mullions. It bears the initials es and the date 1736. A 17thcentury stone house in Chapel Lane, by 1960 divided into two cottages, is said to have been the manor-house at one time. (fn. 28) It has two stories and attics, with three small gables to the front. Some of the original interior features can be seen, including a fine fireplace. A building opposite the church, called the Five Bells Cottages, was said to have been an inn, at one time called the 'Five Tuns'. It is mainly 17th-century, but was extensively repaired in the 20th century. (fn. 29) There are several later stone houses, including Beckley House facing the green, which has a symmetrical ashlar front dating from the late 18th or early 19th century. There are several brick buildings of the 19th century, when there was a brickworks in the parish. These include the vicarage, some groups of cottages, a few substantial houses on the road to Kingham, and several barns, as well as the school and the chapel. Cromwell Cottage, in Church Street, is the only house with a thatched roof. Of the two groups of council houses, eight were built in the 1920's, (fn. 30) and 26 in 1953. (fn. 31)
Outside the village, Bledington Ground, standing back from the road to Stow, is a large late 18thcentury stone farm-house. It has two stories and dormers, with a stone roof. The keystone over the present garage has the date 1771. Some of the interior decoration is 18th-century. Jay Farm, near the same road, is a 19th-century house, with a large brick barn. By the road to Icomb there are two more houses, probably 19th-century, Mickland's Farm which is small, and Pebbly Hill Farm, which has a number of barns. On the other side of the village, Bledington Mill, on the road to Kingham, consists of a disused stone building with a brick cottage attached.
There is one shop and post office, and a private hotel in the village. The village hall, which stands near the centre of the village, is a converted 18thcentury barn of rubble with a Cotswold stone roof. A trust was formed and the building was bought in 1920 for the use of the people of Bledington and Foscot hamlet. (fn. 32)
The village is noted for the unusually large number of folk dances associated with it, though by 1960 these were no longer performed by the inhabitants. (fn. 33)
Manor and Other Estates.
The manor of BLEDINGTON is said to have been among the gifts of Coenwulf of Mercia to the abbey of Winchcombe. (fn. 34) It belonged to the abbey in 1086 when it consisted of 7 hides. (fn. 35) Winchcombe retained the manor until the Dissolution; it formed half a knight's fee with the manor of Sherborne. (fn. 36) In 1251 the abbey was granted free warren in Bledington, as in its other manors. (fn. 37)
In 1553 the manor was granted to Sir Thomas Leigh, later Lord Mayor of London. (fn. 38) It passed from him to his eldest son Rowland and his descendants, the Leigh family of Adlestrop. (fn. 39) Early in the 17th century the manor was divided into a number of freehold estates, (fn. 40) and though reference to it continued, there seems to have been no true manor after this time. About 1700 it was stated that the freeholders were lords at Bledington, and although it was also said that Mr. Leigh had sold the manor to a Mr. Whitmore, who was described as the lord of the soil, (fn. 41) the Leighs apparently retained their connexion with Bledington and continued to be regarded as lords of the manor until the 18th century. (fn. 42)
In 1722 the so-called manor was acquired by Lawrence Lord (fn. 43) of Bicester, the brother and heir of William Lord whose family had held lands, including the mill, from the early 17th century, and had bought another estate in Bledington by 1690. Some time before 1770 it was purchased by Ambrose Reddall, (fn. 44) a clothier who had acquired several estates in Bledington and in neighbouring parishes. On Reddall's death in 1791 the manor passed to his son-in-law Nathaniel Osborne, to whom it was already mortgaged. (fn. 45) The whole of Reddall's estates had to be sold to meet his debts and in 1810 the manor was bought by Sir John Chandos Reade of Shipton Court (Oxon.) and Oddington. (fn. 46) In 1870, shortly after Reade's death, the reputed manor was put up for sale with the estate known as Bledington Ground which was held on lease by James Ady at this time. (fn. 47) The manorial rights, in so far as they existed, continued to be associated with Bledington Ground estate. The owners from the late 19th century to the 1930's were a Mr. Michael Waterer, and, after his death, his trustees. (fn. 48) In 1935 it was owned by Miss Celia Gaskell, who was regarded as the lady of the manor. (fn. 49) By 1960 her nephew Mr. Stephen Gaskell was farming the land though the estate had been sold to Mr. E. Marsh. Mr. Gaskell was consulted about activities on the village green, (fn. 50) but there was no other survival of the lordship of the manor, which was thought to be defunct.
The rectory of Bledington was appropriated by Winchcombe Abbey in 1402. (fn. 51) Its value was given as 8 in 1535. (fn. 52) In 1546 it was granted to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford. (fn. 53) The farm of the rectory with tithes and offerings, a cottage with a small amount of land, and pasture for 300 sheep had been leased to Thomas Freeman, the king's bailiff and collector of rents in 1537. (fn. 54) About 1700 the rectory was said to be worth 140 including great and small tithes, all of which belonged to the dean and chapter. (fn. 55) At inclosure in 1770 they received 144 a. and 195 a. for glebe and tithes respectively, and 6 a. and 12 10s. d. a year for tithes of old inclosure. (fn. 56) The dean and chapter were among the principal landowners in Bledington in the 19th century, (fn. 57) but by 1960 most of their land had been sold piecemeal and only part of Village Farm was still owned by them. (fn. 58)
In 1086 Winchcombe Abbey's estate at Bledington amounted to 7 hides, with 2 ploughs in demesne and 8 servi and 2 ancillae. There were 8 villani and 4 bordars with 5 ploughs. The value of the whole estate had fallen from 4 to 3. (fn. 59) By 1291 the abbot had 3 carucates in demesne, and stock worth 60s.; the assized rents with the mill were worth 100s. (fn. 60) There were two free tenants at this time, (fn. 61) and this seems to have been the usual number up to the 16th century. (fn. 62)
Of the 18 tenants assessed for tax in 1327 13 paid between 1s. and 1s. 6d. (fn. 63) A rental of about 30 years later gives the names of 32 tenants. The two free tenants held a messuage and two yardlands each and paid an annual rent of 6s. The other tenants were copyholders, of whom 15 had a messuage and one yardland for which they paid 15s. rent and four bedrips; three others with apparently the same tenements owed only 6s. 8d. a year. There seems to have been little uniformity among the remaining tenants. The total rent amounted to 16 14s. 6d. (fn. 64) A holding of a messuage and one yardland persisted as the most usual type in the 15th century. In 1453 a free tenant paying 6s. rent seems to have been liable for payment of a heriot also. (fn. 65)
At the Dissolution the tenants, free and customary, were paying a total rent of 28 and a further 10 for the farm of demesne land. (fn. 66) The two free tenants each had half a messuage and one yardland for a rent of 3s. and an unknown service. There were about 17 copyholders. A few tenants still held a messuage and one yardland each for 15s., but the majority had holdings of various sizes and rents, which seem to bear little relation to each other. (fn. 67) Sheep-and-corn husbandry was the usual practice in Bledington at that time; most holdings included pasture for anything between 30 and 75 sheep, the number of sheep-pastures to a yardland being 30 or more. (fn. 68)
With the division of the manor, in the early 17th century, into a number of freehold estates, (fn. 69) 300 a. of manorial common land were divided into 44 parts, each freeholder holding a number of parts proportionate to his share of the demesne. (fn. 70) It seems unlikely that the 44 parts indicate the number of tenants who acquired free holdings. There is evidence of nine of them, excluding the tenant of the mill estate, and by the early 18th century there were said to be 21 freeholders in Bledington. (fn. 71) In the early 17th century the estates of Thomas and John Guy, who each seem to have held a moiety of a single estate, and that of Richard Baker each included 27 a. that had been part of the demesne land, described as 'a petty farm, a berridale, and a half berridale'. (fn. 72) Others who acquired freehold estates about the same time were Thomas Loggins, Andrew Phillips, Thomas Holford, John Ruck, and John Hulles, (fn. 73) mostly yeomen whose ancestors had been customary tenants in the 16th century. In 1714 Francis Mace held a yardland which was called copyhold: (fn. 74) this presumably indicates only that the distinction still survived between former copyhold and former demesne land. Similarly, part of the estate which came to be known as Lords was, in the 18th century, described as having been part of the customary lands of the manor, and another part of the same estate was still described as a berridale, a half berridale, and a petty farm, with 3 parts of the 44 of common land. (fn. 75)
The break-up of the manor probably made little difference to the use of the land. The 300 a. of common land, which may have been divided up for the purpose of cutting fuel, as in Oddington, (fn. 76) was still used as common pasture. The usual number of sheep-pastures seems to have increased to 50 to a yardland. By the early 18th century there were usually orchards attached to the estates. (fn. 77)
In 1770 six open fields called the Upper and Lower Oars, Quickham Field, Pebbly Hill, Claydon, and Dunstall were inclosed, a total of 1,343 a. In all, 16 landowners received allotments; Ambrose Reddall had 393 a. for his various estates, and the only other large allotment was that of 345 a. to the impropriator for glebe and tithe. Nine allotments ranged from 83 a. to 35 a. and five were less than 30 a. (fn. 78) Although there was a certain amount of exchanging of land after inclosure, on the whole the lands belonging to each farm remained scattered. At a second inclosure in 1831 Far Heath and Cow Common, a total area of 179 a., were divided between nine proprietors: (fn. 79) Reddall's estate, later Bledington Ground, and that of Christ Church, Village farm, continued to be the only large farms; there were 8 other farms in 1870. (fn. 80) By 1939, besides the two mentioned above, Home farm was also more than 150 a., and there were 11 smaller farms. (fn. 81) The only large farm in 1960 was Bledington Ground; the rest of the land was divided between some 10 or 11 farms, mostly between 50 a. and 100 a., though there were a few holdings of less than 20 a. The land belonging to even the small farms was still scattered, only two, Manor farm and Banks farm, forming compact estates. (fn. 82)
The arable land, which amounted to 393 a. in 1801, was used, at this time, mainly to produce wheat, oats, and barley. (fn. 83) By the late 19th century turnips and apples were also among the chief crops, the latter being used for cider-making. (fn. 84) By 1960 this industry had stopped owing to the cost of labour and lack of facilities for making cider locally, (fn. 85) and the orchards, still a prominent feature of the landscape, were used for little except feeding pigs.
From the 17th century there is some evidence of people in Bledington engaged in occupations other than husbandry. In 1608 there was a shoemaker, Edward Hathway, whose family had been freeholders there in the 16th century, and who had two servants. (fn. 86) There was also a butcher, a tailor, and a smith. (fn. 87) In 1764 there was a cutler, (fn. 88) and, about the same time, a blacksmith and a cordwainer. (fn. 89) At the beginning of the 19th century of 69 families, 13 were engaged in trade, manufacturing, or industry, and 49 in agriculture. (fn. 90) Towards the end of the century there were two smiths (one of whom was a wheelwright also), a carpenter, a shoemaker, and a decorator, besides several shopkeepers. (fn. 91) There were two alehouses in 1775, (fn. 92) and there were still two inns in 1870, but by 1889 the 'King's Head' was the only one. (fn. 93) About this time there seem to have been several cider retailers too. (fn. 94) In 1960 the 'King's Head' was still the only inn. From c. 1889 there was a general shop and post office. (fn. 95) There were gravel pits being worked from about this time, (fn. 96) but by 1960 they were worked out. (fn. 97) By 1884 a brick and tile works was operating in Bledington. (fn. 98) In 1919 there was still a brickmaker in Bledington (fn. 99) but by 1922 the works seem to have closed down. (fn. 100) By 1960 only about half the working population was employed on the land. Since the opening of Kingham Junction several people have worked on the railway; in 1960 others worked at Little Rissington airfield and factories some distance from Bledington. (fn. 101) After the Second World War a pickle factory was opened, but closed down within a short time. (fn. 102) A few retired and professional people lived in the village in 1960.
A mill at Bledington was recorded as part of Winchcombe Abbey's estate in Domesday, where it was said to be worth 5s. (fn. 103) In the 14th and 15th centuries the miller was a copyhold tenant, paying a rent of 12 quarters of tollcorn and a heriot of 6s. 8d. (fn. 104) He had the right to fish in the lord's stream, (fn. 105) and in 1405 he was given, with the mill, timber for beams, and millstones, with carriage, as often as he needed them. (fn. 106) The miller at this time had only a small estate of one cottage, 3 a. of land, and pasture for 2 beasts, which seems to suggest that he derived his living mainly from the mill, not from farming. (fn. 107) By the Dissolution the estate was larger, including also a messuage and half yardland called Walkers. It was held as copyhold for a rent of 33s. 4d. (fn. 108)
The mill passed to Sir Thomas Leigh with the rest of the manor after the Dissolution. It was sold by the Leigh family to William Lord in 1624, with one messuage and lands, (fn. 109) and the Lord family still owned it in 1707. (fn. 110) By 1731 it had come into the possession of Thomas Stayt (fn. 111) whose family apparently had it until 1820 when it passed to Richard Gibbs. (fn. 112) It was occupied by Richard Gilbert in 1843, (fn. 113) though he may have been only a tenant. There was a miller in Bledington up to 1935, (fn. 114) but by 1939 the mill had ceased to be used. (fn. 115)
In the early 13th century Bledington was included in a grant to Winchcombe Abbey of quittance from suit of shire and hundred court in all its manors. (fn. 116) Although this grant was confirmed five times in the next 20 years, (fn. 117) it may have lapsed when Slaughter hundred was granted to the Abbot of Fecamp, as there is no indication of Winchcombe Abbey's holding view of frankpledge for Bledington. By the 16th century Bledington was attending the Slaughter hundred court. (fn. 118)
A few court rolls survive for the periods 1341 1466 and 155361. The earlier ones show that a court was held at Bledington at least twice a year, not at any regular time. (fn. 119) The 16th-century rolls differ little in scope from the earlier ones, but the court appears to have been held only once a year. It appointed between two and four overseers, who performed the function of fieldsmen, holding office for a year. (fn. 120)
Churchwardens' accounts survive from 1771 and vestry minutes from 185695. Of the two churchwardens one was chosen by the vicar. There may have been some property qualification as the office seems to have been held usually by members of the families holding small estates. The accounts were signed by two or more people in addition to the retiring churchwardens and the vicar. At the end of a year any deficit owing to the churchwardens was met by a levy, to be collected by the wardens, which varied from 1s. 6d. a yardland in 1771 to 7s. in 1777. From 1779 there was a paid parish clerk. In 1797 both wardens were appointed by the parish, and, perhaps because the vicar was non-resident, from 1798 to 1806 there was only one. After 1806, though still non-resident, the vicar again appointed one of the wardens. (fn. 121)
Poor-relief expenditure in Bledington in the late 18th century and early 19th appears to have followed similar trends to those in the other parishes in the area. A small workhouse was opened, in which there were seven people in 1803, when another 15 were receiving regular outdoor relief. (fn. 122) Bledington became part of the Stow-on-the-Wold Poor Law Union under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, and subsequently of the Stow-on-the-Wold Rural Sanitary District. (fn. 123) In 1935 it was transferred to the newly created North Cotswold Rural District. (fn. 124)
The earliest known reference to the church of Bledington is in a confirmation of 1175, by the Pope, to Winchcombe Abbey, of all its churches. (fn. 125) In 1275 the abbot was ordered by the bishop to maintain the rector, Richard of Studley, because of his age and infirmity, and to receive his rents in return. (fn. 126) In the early 14th century, and perhaps later, Bledington rectory was used to provide for the abbey's proctor, (fn. 127) and in 1300 the cure was being served by a vicar. (fn. 128) In 1401 the abbey was licensed by the Crown to appropriate the rectory, and by the Holy See to take possession of the rectory and appoint one of its own monks or a secular priest to serve the cure, without reference to the bishop. (fn. 129) In 1406, however, the bishop and the abbey agreed that a vicarage should be endowed with the former rectory house and a pension from the abbey of 10 marks. The abbey was also to pay a pension of 3s. 4d. to the bishop and 6s. 8d. each Lent for distribution among the poor of the parish. (fn. 130) In 1546 the rectory was granted to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, who continued to hold it. (fn. 131)
The advowson of the rectory and afterwards of the vicarage belonged to Winchcombe Abbey until the Dissolution. (fn. 132) It passed with the rectory to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church in 1546, (fn. 133) and they were still the patrons in 1960. (fn. 134)
In 1291 the total value of the rectory was 5 13s. 4d., from which Winchcombe Abbey received a titheportion worth 6s. 8d. and an annual pension of 1, (fn. 135) granted in the early 13th century. (fn. 136) The vicar's pension, fixed at 10 marks in 1406 when the rectory was appropriated, was still the same in 1535; the vicar's house was then said to be of no value. (fn. 137) In 1726 the living was augmented by Queen Anne's Bounty (fn. 138) and by 1750 was receiving 20 a year from Christ Church. (fn. 139) It was again augmented in 1805, 1814, and 1843 (fn. 140) and was valued at 135 in 1864. (fn. 141) The amount increased only slightly before the 20th century. (fn. 142) At inclosure in 1770 the vicar's allotment amounted to 4 a. (fn. 143) By 1829, in addition to these 4 a., the vicar had 11 a. in the parish of Westcote and 120 a. in Nantmell (Radnorshire). (fn. 144) The vicar's house was usually described as a cottage and c. 1840 a new one was built.
In 1551 the incumbent, John Cooke, was found wanting in doctrine, (fn. 145) and was enjoined to desist from 'superstition'. (fn. 146) The vicarage had been vacant for more than a year in 1563 and the church was served by a curate, (fn. 147) though in 1566 the churchwardens claimed that there was never a curate there, (fn. 148) which suggests that he was not resident. Towards the end of the 16th century complaint was made that the chancel was not paved, there had been no sermon for 15 years, and the catechism was not taught. (fn. 149) During the later 16th century and in the 17th the incumbents were referred to indiscriminately as vicars and curates, possibly because the church was a poor one. By the 18th century they were called vicars. (fn. 150)
Towards the end of the 18th century the vicar lived at Icomb, serving the cure from there. (fn. 151) Between 1799 and 1839 the incumbent, John Allen, was licensed to be absent, on the grounds that the house was not suitable to live in, and he was master of a school in Crewkerne (Som.). The church was served by a curate living near but not in Bledington, whose salary at this time was raised to 60. (fn. 152) In 1825 services were held on Sunday afternoons, and the children received religious instruction during Lent. (fn. 153) From 1839 John Allen performed the duties himself while living at Stow. (fn. 154) In the later 19th century, when the new vicarage had been built, it seems to have been usual for the vicar to be resident. The congregation had dropped to between 40 and 60 by the mid-19th century. (fn. 155) The size of the congregation was much the same in 1960, when there were three services every Sunday. (fn. 156)
The church of ST. LEONARD is of stone, with roofs of lead and of Cotswold stone, and comprises chancel with a sanctus bellcot, clerestoried nave, south aisle, south porch, and embattled west tower. The church was lavishly rebuilt in the 15th century, though it retains earlier parts, and the 15th-century painted glass surviving in some of the windows is a notable feature. The east and west walls of the nave are said to be 12th-century. The sanctus bellcot has also been ascribed to that period, (fn. 157) and however doubtful this may be the bellcot clearly existed before the rebuilding of the nave roof in the 15th century.
The chancel, the nave arcade of three bays, and the south porch were built in the 13th century, and some new windows were added in the 14th century. In the chancel is a trefoiled piscina. The east window consists of three graded trefoil-headed lancets under a single rear-arch, and in the north wall of the chancel is a single 13th-century lancet and a 14th-century window of two lights with tracery. The west window of the nave has 14th-century tracery. In the 15th century, before the main rebuilding, the tower was built with the west wall of the nave serving as the base of the west wall of the tower and with arches standing within the nave to support the other walls of the tower. The tower thus cuts through the nave roof, and parts of the roof that preceded the building of the tower survive in lean-to form on the north and south sides of the tower. The tower is of three stages, and has an external stair-vice rectangular on plan.
The main rebuilding in the late 15th century included the raising of the nave roof, the insertion of a clerestory and parapets, and the refenestration of the nave and aisle. Most of the new windows were square-headed, with Perpendicular tracery, and five have canopied image-brackets in each reveal. A recess with a three-light window was built leading from the south-west corner of the chancel into an archway to the south aisle. It has been suggested that this was a chantry chapel; (fn. 158) although there is a simple piscina at the east end of the aisle, there is no documentary evidence of a chantry in Bledington. The 15th-century south doorway, with moulded arch and headstops, retains part of its early door. The 15th-century north doorway also has a moulded arch with headstops.
The eight windows of the north wall of the nave and the recessed window in the south wall of the chancel were filled with contemporary painted glass. The glass survives in some cases as fragments pieced together but in others as nearly complete panels. It has been suggested that it was made by John Prudde of Westminster, glazier of the similar windows in the Beauchamp chapel in Warwick. (fn. 159) Some of the inscriptions and names of donors can still be seen, and on one the date 1470.
It seems that the church was neglected for several centuries, (fn. 160) and it was restored in 1881 by J. E. K. Cutts. (fn. 161) It was reseated in 1904, (fn. 162) but some of the panelled bench-ends survive from the 15th century. The tub-shaped font is 12th-century, the Communion rails 17th-century, and beside the pulpit is an ancient wrought-iron hourglass stand. There are six bells: (i) and (ii) 1639, James Keene of Woodstock (Oxon.); (iii) 1651, James Keene; (iv) 1695, Richard Keene; (v) 1811, James Wells of Aldbourne (Wilts.); (vi) 1630, a sanctus bell, Humfrey Keene. (fn. 163) In 1960 the second bell was standing in the chancel. The registers of baptisms begin in 1703, of burials in 1710, and of marriages in 1712.
In 1676 there were said to be 5 nonconformists in Bledington, (fn. 164) and in 1825 none. (fn. 165) By 1847 there was a small community of Protestant dissenters there, and the house of one of them, John Benfield, was registered as a place of religious worship. (fn. 166) This was presumably the house used in 1851 as a Methodist meeting, which was served from Chipping Norton and provided for congregations of up to 80. Three services were held on Sundays, the evening service being held only occasionally in the summer. (fn. 167) In 1851 a small red brick chapel was built. (fn. 168) About 1870 it was extended by the addition of a Sunday school room, (fn. 169) though there seems to have been no Sunday school since the 19th century. (fn. 170) The chapel, still part of the Chipping Norton circuit, had congregations of 6 or 7 people in 1960; services were held every Sunday evening. (fn. 171)
In 1819 there were two schools in Bledington, a day school financed by the parents of the pupils, who numbered about 30, and a Sunday school, supported by voluntary subscription, attended by 7080 children. (fn. 172) Another small day school was opened in 1821, and a day and Sunday school, supported by voluntary subscription and parents, was started in 1832. (fn. 173) By 1871 there were two schools, of which one was associated with the Church of England, and the other was non-denominational. (fn. 174) A school board for the parish was established in 1874, (fn. 175) and Bledington Board School was opened by 1876. The building consisted of one schoolroom and one classroom, attached to the master's house. (fn. 176) The average attendance in 1877 was about 74. From that year the school received a state grant. (fn. 177) The fees were 2d. and 1d. (fn. 178) The attendance had increased by 1904 to 125 boys and girls and 49 infants. (fn. 179) In 1960 the school, for children up to the age of 11 only, had about 35 pupils, (fn. 180) and the older children went to school at Moreton-in-Marsh or Chipping Campden. (fn. 181)
In the early 18th century it was recorded that John Grayhurst and William Andrews had given 5 each to be invested and the interest used for the poor; (fn. 182) but there is no further trace of these gifts.