South Leigh: Local government

Page 249

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.

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Local government

In the 16th century and probably earlier there were two tithings in South Leigh attached to the manors of Stanton Harcourt and Stanton Wyard. (fn. 75) Tenants of the Harcourt manor owed suit to the courts leet and baron of Stanton Harcourt until the creation of an independent South Leigh manor in 1604, (fn. 76) although from the mid 16th century the courts held separate sessions for South Leigh, which had its own tithingmen, constable, taster, and probably hayward. (fn. 77) In 1604 John Skinner, lord of the new manor, (fn. 78) instituted a separate court leet with view of frankpledge and court baron, held during the 17th century in October and (usually) April; (fn. 79) by 1769, however, there was said to be no court to oblige tenants to clear their drains and watercourses. (fn. 80) In 1605 several grants of copyhold previously made in the court baron of Stanton Harcourt were ratified in the South Leigh court; (fn. 81) thereafter business was confined to the election of officers and regulation of agricultural affairs. (fn. 82) Tenants in South Leigh of Stanton Wyard manor remained in a separate tithing after 1604, owing suit to the Stanton Wyard court baron and view of frankpledge. (fn. 83)

In 1633 South Leigh's manorial officers comprised a constable, two tithingmen, two field overseers, a hayward, a cowherd, and a taster. (fn. 84) The haywards of South Leigh and Stanton Harcourt shared jurisdiction in Lies field and Lies down, where land held of both manors lay intermingled. (fn. 85) Following the separation of South Leigh manor there were several disputes over boundaries and jurisdiction in Lies field and west of Tar wood in Tar field, in which the independence of South Leigh as an ancient township was vigorously defended. (fn. 86)

By the mid 15th century there were two chapelwardens, (fn. 87) one later appointed by the incumbent of Stanton Harcourt, the other by the parish. (fn. 88) Their income derived from sale of herbage in the churchyard and rents from four church houses, supplemented by occasional rates, of which 25 were raised between 1708 and 1799. During the 18th century rent for the houses was occasionally paid by the overseers, who from 1782 to c. 1816 paid a fixed annual sum of £3 3s. for all the houses. (fn. 89) In 1770-1 the wardens' right to dispose of loppage from the churchyard for repair of the houses was challenged by the bishop as rector of Stanton Harcourt, (fn. 90) and from 1772 income from the churchyard was no longer recorded. (fn. 91) The houses were sold in 1881. (fn. 92)

There were two overseers by 1685, when there was a house at Church End belonging to the poor worth 20s. a year. (fn. 93) In 1776 the parish spent £34 on poor relief and in 1783-5 an average of £62. By 1803 expenditure had doubled to £134, or c. 11s. per head of population; the poor were then being farmed, which perhaps accounts for a figure relatively low for the area. In the 1810s, when there was a particularly sharp rise in population, the cost per head rose to peaks of c. £3 6s. in 1813 and 1814, and by 1817 was still c. £2 5s.; total expenditure was £867 in 1813 and £647 in 1817. The rate per head fell to c. 15s. in 1822 and rose to c. £1 4s. in 1831 when the total outlay was £415. Throughout the period of distress in the early 19th century expenditure in South Leigh was amongst the highest in the area. (fn. 94)

In 1803 there were 15 adults on regular outrelief and 10 persons in a workhouse on Green Lane; £10 was spent on materials to employ paupers on outrelief. In 1813-15 there were 29-36 people on regular out-relief and 6-10 in the workhouse. (fn. 95) By 1831 there was no workhouse, (fn. 96) but 60 people supported by the parish were living in adjoining parishes because of lack of houses. (fn. 97)

After 1834 South Leigh formed part of Witney poor law union, and after 1894 of Witney rural district. In 1974 it became part of West Oxfordshire District. (fn. 98)


  • 75. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. b 21 (Stanton Wyard); ibid. MS. Rolls Oxon. 98.
  • 76. P.R.O., STAC 8/257/1; STAC 8/264/14, rot. 2; ibid. E 134/5 Chas. I/Mich. 4; Bodl. MS. Ch. Oxon. 749.
  • 77. Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 98.
  • 78. Above, Manors.
  • 79. Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 97; ibid. MSS. Ch. Oxon. 988-9, 994; O.R.O., Palm I/1; Wilts. R.O., 3/2.
  • 80. Bodl. MS. Ch. Oxon. 1014.
  • 81. Ibid. MS. Rolls Oxon. 97, rott. 1d., 3; above, Econ.
  • 82. Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 97; ibid. MS. Ch. Oxon. 994.
  • 83. Below, Stanton Harcourt, Local Govt.
  • 84. Wilts. R.O., 3/2.
  • 85. P.R.O., STAC 8/264/14, rott. 3-6; above, Econ.
  • 86. P.R.O., STAC 8/257/1; STAC 8/264/14; Bodl. MSS. Ch. Oxon. 759, 999-1001.
  • 87. P.R.O., SC 6/960/11; Visit. Linc. ii (L.R.S. xxxv), 55.
  • 88. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. S. Leigh b 6, s.a. 1726; ibid. MS.
  • 89. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. S. Leigh b 6.
  • 90. Ibid. MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 654, ff. 70, 73-74v.; ibid. MS. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. b 26, ff. 401, 478, 480; ibid. MS. d.d. Par. S. Leigh b 6, s.a. 1772.
  • 91. Ibid. MS. d.d. Par. S. Leigh b 6; cf. ibid., S. Leigh tithe award.
  • 92. Ibid. MS. d.d. Par. S. Leigh b 6, ff. 124v.-126.
  • 93. Ibid. MS. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. c 142, f. 405; ibid. MS. d.d. Par. S. Leigh d 7.
  • 94. Poor Abstract, 1804, pp. 406-7; 1818, pp. 360-1; Poor Rate Returns. H.C. 556, p. 138 (1822), v; H.C. 334 Suppl. App. p. 174 (1825), iv; H.C. 83, p. 161 (1830-1), xi; H.C. 444, p. 157 (1835), xlvii.
  • 95. Poor Abstract, 1804, pp. 406-7; 1818, pp. 360-1; O.S. Map 1", sheet 45 (1833 edn.).
  • 96. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. b 38, f. 181.
  • 97. 97 Census, 1831.
  • 98. Poor Rate Returns, H.C. 147-II, p. 202, (1840), xviii; O.R.O., RO 3251, pp. 201-3; RO 3267.