The hundred of Banbury

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.

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Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. N H Cooper. P D A Harvey. Marjory Hollings. Judith Hook. Mary Jessup. Mary D Lobel. J F A Mason. B S Trinder. Hilary Turner, 'The hundred of Banbury', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred, (London, 1972), pp. 1-4. British History Online [accessed 23 June 2024].

Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. N H Cooper. P D A Harvey. Marjory Hollings. Judith Hook. Mary Jessup. Mary D Lobel. J F A Mason. B S Trinder. Hilary Turner. "The hundred of Banbury", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred, (London, 1972) 1-4. British History Online, accessed June 23, 2024,

Colvin, Christina. Cooper, Janet. Cooper, N H. Harvey, P D A. Hollings, Marjory. Hook, Judith. Jessup, Mary. Lobel, Mary D. Mason, J F A. Trinder, B S. Turner, Hilary. "The hundred of Banbury", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred, (London, 1972). 1-4. British History Online. Web. 23 June 2024,


In 1841 Banbury hundred had an area of 21,164 a. and a population of 12,314. (fn. 1) It comprised two parts, one lying intermingled with Bloxham hundred in the extreme north of the county, the other lying 14 miles to the south-west on the River Evenlode. In origin the hundred seems to have been made up of the north Oxfordshire estates of the Anglo-Saxon see of Dorchester, which was later transferred to Lincoln. (fn. 2) In the 11th century, however, the southern part ceased to belong to the see of Lincoln, (fn. 3) and by the end of the Middle Ages had lost most of its administrative connexions with the northern. In character, too, it was distinct, its soil poorer, its farming generally less prosperous, the architecture of its smaller houses less ornate. The northern part shared the chief characteristics of the comparatively rich agricultural area centred on the market-town of Banbury, (fn. 4) an area notable for good stone farmhouses and fine churches. The hundred contained only four ancient parishes, but there were 22 settlements in the Middle Ages (one of them extra-parochial); a further 11 settlements outside the hundred belonged to one or other of the four ancient parishes. The pattern and incidence of the settlements is characteristic of north Oxfordshire, but the size of the parishes is unusual. The continuing dependence of so large a number of chapelries and hamlets may be explained by the fact that the parishes became part of a large episcopal estate at an early date, the bishop's power and protection establishing more firmly than elsewhere the claims of the mother churches. (fn. 5)

The hundred is touched by several ancient routes, including the Jurassic Way, which crossed the Cherwell at the site of Banbury, and the Cotswold Ridgeway, which passed along the edge of Swalcliffe parish. A major Roman Road, Akeman Street, formed part of the southern boundary of Charlbury parish, and the route from Droitwich to Princes Risborough, known in the Middle Ages as the Salt Way, ran close to Banbury. Some stone implements have been found in Charlbury, but the earliest known settlement in the hundred was at Madmarston Camp in Swalcliffe, a late iron age hill camp. In the Roman period there was a settlement at Lower Lea, and in Charlbury parish there were two villas and a farmstead. Fewer finds have been made in the area of Banbury and Cropredy, and the only habitation site discovered is at Wickham Park, Banbury. (fn. 6) No part of the hundred seems to have been settled in the very earliest part of the Anglo-Saxon period. Place-name evidence implies that there were probably early settlements at Banbury, Charlbury, and Wickham. (fn. 7) Most of the remaining villages and hamlets were settled in the course of the Anglo-Saxon period, but Williamscot probably after the Norman Conquest. (fn. 8)

The hundred was not named in Domesday Book, but the Bishop of Lincoln's two manors of Cropredy and Banbury were each assessed at 50 hides, and together they almost certainly formed a separate hundred. A reference to Banbury and Cropredy cum suo hundreto et libertatibus suis occurs in 1139, (fn. 9) and the hundred is first called Banbury hundred in 1193. (fn. 10) It probably represents two ancient estates exempted from royal dues for the benefit of one of the early bishops of Dorchester; (fn. 11) its position in the northern half of the county suggests that it may have been part of the endowment of the Mercian bishopric in the late 7th century, rather than of the earlier West Saxon see. In 1284 the Bishop of Lincoln, summoned to say by what warrant he held the hundred, replied that he and his predecessors had held it from time immemorial. (fn. 12)


The bishop's rights in the hundred were extensive. In 1242 his bailiffs would not allow the sheriff to enter the hundred to hold an inquisition into the fees there. (fn. 13) In 1279 it was stated that the king had no fee, demesne, or escheats in the hundred as long as the bishop was alive; the bishop held the hundred in chief, as a baron, and was entitled to all sheriff's pleas, view of frankpledge, and return of writs. (fn. 14) In addition the bishop's bailiff took certain monies from each vill in the hundred at the view of frankpledge for beaupleader and amerced the vills at will, but he had only recently started to do so. (fn. 15)

The manors of Banbury and Cropredy in 1086 probably included all those places known to be in the hundred in 1279, namely, Banbury, Cropredy, Hardwick, Great Bourton, Little Bourton, Neithrop, Calthorpe, Coton, Wardington, Williamscot, Prescote, Claydon, Shutford, Wickham, Swalcliffe, Swalcliffe Lea, Charlbury, Cote, Finstock, Fawler, and Tapwell. (fn. 16) Although the extra-parochial district of Clattercote was first included among the vills of Banbury hundred in 1665, (fn. 17) it had formed part of the Bishop of Lincoln's estates and seems to have been included as part of Claydon in 1279. (fn. 18) In the late 18th century Epwell, formerly part of Dorchester hundred, began to be included in Banbury hundred. (fn. 19) The abbots of Eynsham early acquired many of the rights in Charlbury formerly belonging to the bishops of Lincoln, including by 1363 a three weeks' court and a portmoot. (fn. 20) The payment of 3s. 4d. to the hundred bailiff recorded in 1372–3 (fn. 21) was perhaps made in connexion with the view of frankpledge, at which the constable of Banbury had to be present as well as the abbot's steward. (fn. 22)

The hundred remained with the bishops of Lincoln until 1547 when it was among the properties which Bishop Holbech sold to Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. (fn. 23) Somerset granted it in 1550 to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, (fn. 24) who in 1551 sold it to the Crown. (fn. 25) In 1552 the hundred was included in a survey of the royal possessions in Banbury. (fn. 26) In 1595 it was leased with Banbury castle to Richard Fiennes. (fn. 27) The lease remained in the Fiennes family until at least the early 18th century; a half-share of it was among the properties mortgaged in 1717 by Robert Mignon and Cecil his wife, (fn. 28) grand-daughter of James Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele (d. 1674), later Baroness Saye and Sele. (fn. 29) The property leased to the lords Saye and Sele, however, was only a half hundred, and did not include Charlbury, Fawler, and Finstock, where the rights of the lord of the hundred had already lapsed.

In 1853 Edward Cobb was lord of the hundreds of Banbury and Bloxham; (fn. 30) the Cobb family may have obtained the hundred when they bought the site of Banbury castle in 1792. (fn. 31) Between 1862 and 1869 the hundred was leased, with Calthorpe House, Banbury, to Thomas Draper; (fn. 32) and in 1875 it was included with the house in an auction, (fn. 33) but apparently was not sold, for in 1896 Edward Cobb was said to be lord. (fn. 34)

In 1247 the hundred was valued at £5 a year, (fn. 35) and a few details of the profits of court are recorded later. (fn. 36) In 1441 certainty money due from the northern part of the hundred was 89s. 8d., made up of payments from Shutford, Claydon, Swalcliffe, Great and Little Bourton, Prescote, Hardwick, Calthorpe and Neithrop, Wickham, Wardington, Williamscot, Swalcliffe Lea, and the former prebend of Banbury; in 1568 the same payments were due, except that the amount of certainty rent from Wardington was not specified. (fn. 37) Certainty money amounted to 69s. 4d. in 1652, when the total profits of court were valued at 103s. 4d. a year. (fn. 38) In 1875 payments were made only by Williamscot, Swalcliffe, Prescote, Great and Little Bourton, Neithrop, Claydon, and Shutford. (fn. 39)

The hundred court (fn. 40) was held in Banbury castle until its demolition, and later in a house on the castle site. (fn. 41) In 1652 the court was able to try all actions of debt under 40s., (fn. 42) but by 1839 it had no jurisdiction worth recording. (fn. 43)


  • 1. Census, 1841. The figures include the extra-parochial Cornbury Park (632 a., 50 persons), not usually regarded as part of the hundred.
  • 2. See below.
  • 3. See p. 135.
  • 4. Cf. V.C.H. Oxon. ix. 1; R. B. Wood-Jones, Dom. Archit. Banbury Region, passim.
  • 5. That explanation may not, however, apply to Charlbury parish: see p. 135.
  • 6. See pp. 6, 128, 226.
  • 7. Banbury and Charlbury probably contain personal name elements, on which see F. M. Stenton, Introduction to the Survey of English Place-Names (E.P.N.S. i, pt. 1), 40–54. On the element ham see A. H. Smith, English PlaceName Elements (E.P.N.S. xxv), 227.
  • 8. On the personal name William see Thorvald Forssner, Continental Germanic Personal Names in England (Uppsala, 1916), 255–6.
  • 9. Reg. Antiquiss. i. 191.
  • 10. Pipe R. 1193 (P.R.S. N.S. iii), 127.
  • 11. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 378.
  • 12. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 667.
  • 13. Bk. of Fees, 824.
  • 14. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 705.
  • 15. Ibid. 32.
  • 16. Ibid. 32, 705–7.
  • 17. Hearth Tax Oxon. 155.
  • 18. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 707.
  • 19. O.R.O. victuallers' recogs.
  • 20. See p. 146.
  • 21. B.M. Harl. Roll B 32.
  • 22. Eynsham Cart. ii. 28.
  • 23. Cal. Pat. 1547–8, 184; E 326/10707; Linc. Chapter Acts, 1536–47 (L.R.S. xiii), 150–2.
  • 24. E 326/10652.
  • 25. Cal. Pat. 1550–3, 117–18.
  • 26. L.R. 2/189, ff. 182–183v.
  • 27. L.R. 2/196, f. 183v.
  • 28. O.R.O., Misc. Pe. XII/4, 5.
  • 29. Complete Peerage, xi. 492.
  • 30. Rusher's Banbury Dir. (1853).
  • 31. O.R.O., S. & F. colln. 72 F.
  • 32. Rusher's Banbury Dir. (1862–9).
  • 33. O.R.O., S. & F. colln. 72 F.
  • 34. Rusher's Banbury Dir. (1896).
  • 35. Bk. of Fees, 1396
  • 36. e.g. E 317/Oxon. no. 2.
  • 37. Bodl. MS. dep. b 7; Cal. Pat. 1566–9, p. 153.
  • 38. E 317/Oxon. no. 2.
  • 39. O.R.O., S. & F. colln. 72 F.
  • 40. Meetings of the court in the Middle Ages are difficult to distinguish from the borough halimote court: see p. 71.
  • 41. See p. 41.
  • 42. E 317/Oxon. no. 2.
  • 43. The court was not included among surviving hundred courts in Rtns. of Co., Hund. and Boro. Courts, H.C. 338 (1839), xliii.