Kidlington: Local government

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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A P Baggs, W J Blair, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn, S C Townley, 'Kidlington: Local government', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, ed. Alan Crossley, C R Elrington( London, 1990), British History Online [accessed 21 July 2024].

A P Baggs, W J Blair, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn, S C Townley, 'Kidlington: Local government', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Edited by Alan Crossley, C R Elrington( London, 1990), British History Online, accessed July 21, 2024,

A P Baggs, W J Blair, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn, S C Townley. "Kidlington: Local government". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Ed. Alan Crossley, C R Elrington(London, 1990), , British History Online. Web. 21 July 2024.

Local government

In Kidlington in 1279 Hugh de Plessis had view of frankpledge, held without the sheriff or other royal bailiff, and gallows. (fn. 17) His 17th-century successors held courts leet and baron at which constables and tithingmen were elected and transfers of copyhold recorded. The courts seem to have ceased after 1680, probably as a result of the break-up of the manor. (fn. 18) The lords of the manor of Thrupp in 1279 held courts for their tenants, but in 1296-7 amercements totalling 4s. 8d. were paid to the honor court of St. Valery at North Osney, including 3s. 4d. from the tithing of Thrupp for a false presentation. (fn. 19) The manor granted to William Babington in 1555 included court leet and view of frankpledge, and a lease of 1667 required suit to the manor court, (fn. 20) but there is no later record of the court. Courts for the honor of St. Valery were held in Thrupp in the later Middle Ages, and for the honor of Ewelme until 1847. Eighteenth-century courts made orders for the maintenance of watercourses; all courts elected constables, tithingmen, and haywards. (fn. 21) The Hospitallers held a court at Gosford for the tenants of their neighbouring estates. (fn. 22) William Frere held a court with view of frankpledge for a manor which included land in Cassington and Brize Norton as well as Gosford; the court appointed a constable and tithingman and amerced suitors for agricultural offences. (fn. 23)

Oseney abbey held courts, with view of frankpledge, for its manor of Water Eaton, including its estates in Cutteslowe and Fries; the court seems to have dealt chiefly with agricultural matters. (fn. 24) William Frere held similar courts, which regulated the agriculture of the township, ordered the maintenance of watercourses and roads, elected the constable, hayward, and tithingman, and witnessed transfers of copyhold or leasehold land. In 1596 several men were amerced for not wearing woollen caps on Sundays. The court was last recorded in 1622. (fn. 25)

Kidlington and its hamlets were separate units for vestry government and poor-law administration. In the 16th century the four churchwardens, two for Kidlington and Thrupp and two for Water Eaton and Gosford, presented their accounts to the whole parish in December, but each township made its own levies for the church. (fn. 26) Other taxes were levied on the whole parish and divided among the townships, Kidlington paying 53 per cent of the total, Water Eaton 27 per cent, Thrupp 13 per cent, and Gosford 7 per cent, except for a period after the Civil War when Kidlington and Water Eaton each paid 39 per cent and Gosford and Thrupp 11 per cent each. (fn. 27)

In the 17th and 18th centuries there seem usually to have been two churchwardens for Kidlington, who were also responsible for Thrupp, and one each for Water Eaton and Gosford. Kidlington township normally had two overseers of the poor, the other townships one each. (fn. 28) At Kidlington in the mid 18th century the vestry elected 2 tithingmen, a greensman, 2 fieldsmen, 2 surveyors of the highways, a field keeper, and a herdsman. (fn. 29) By the early 19th century the Kidlington vestry met monthly, in public houses except for the annual meeting for the election of officers which was held in the church vestry. (fn. 30)

In 1684, when the surviving accounts begin, Kidlington township spent £23 on poor relief, but by 1696 the total had risen to £70, largely because of increased expenditure on items like clothing and repairs to cottages. A reduction in the early 18th century was followed by a steep rise to £134 in 1728, and continued high expenditure presumably encouraged the establishment of a workhouse in 1735. For the next two years expenditure was almost halved, but the workhouse does not seem to have lasted long, and expenditure rose again. (fn. 31) In 1776 the township spent c. £158 on poor relief, and between 1783 and 1785 an average of c. £205. By 1803 the total had risen to £414, but the expense per head of population, 12s. was one of the lowest in the area. Although the rate per head rose to c. £1 6s. in 1813, when total expenditure was £1,206, and was still c. £1 1s. in 1818, when the total expenditure for a larger population was £976, it remained low for the area. Low corn prices in the mid 1820s reduced the capitation rate to 10s. in 1824, and in 1832, when £721 in all was spent, it was c. 15s., a moderate rate for the area. (fn. 32)

In the late 17th century out-relief was usually given to about 6 people, the number rising to over a dozen at times in the early 18th century. In 1730 there were 15 adults, most of them women, on regular out-relief, and the figure was much the same in 1778. Over 20 adults were getting regular help in the late 1790s, and the overseers' accounts suggest a similar figure in 1803 although only 14 were officially reported that year. The accounts for 1801-10 also show that, unusually, only about a third of those on regular relief were women. In 1813 as many as 90 people were officially reported to be on regular relief although the accounts suggest a total of only 40-50, and a further 110 received occasional help; by 1814 the latter figure had risen to 166. (fn. 33) In 1817 the cost of weekly pay varied from £10 to £19, amounting in all to £372, over half the total poor-relief expenditure. In 1832 relief was being given to 25 aged and widows, 6 families, and 4 bastards; 3 casual sick and 2 labourers were also getting help. (fn. 34) There seem to have been few problems over settlement. (fn. 35)

The overseers rented a stonepit at Hardwick in 1712, and from the late 1770s until 1833 stone digging and roadmaking provided work for the unemployed, who received between 1 1/2d. and 8d. a day from the overseers. At least 32 adults were so employed in 1825, and road making tools were bought in 1807 and 1832. Stone was sometimes sold to other parishes. By 1868 the stonepits were exhausted, and the vestry decided to lease the land. Roundsmen and women were not mentioned until the 19th century, and then only in small numbers; from June to October 1814 the last payments 'by the yardland' amounted to under £7. Work in 1805 included cutting thistles on the green, and in 1806 looking after cows on the Ham. (fn. 36)

The overseers were putting the poor to work spinning and weaving hemp by 1701, 18 ells of linen being produced in 1709. In 1711 they bought a wheel, and wool as well as hemp was spun. The purchase of equipment suggests a workhouse of some sort, but none was recorded until 1735, although in 1738 the vicar reported that within the last 20 years the parish had taken over the old schoolhouse. (fn. 37) The poor opposed the move to the workhouse in 1735, protesting to the justices of the peace at Woodstock about the stopping of their weekly pay, and it was only after being given a week's pay beforehand and compensation for 'loss of time in fetching their work' that they moved in. The workhouse was still in existence in 1740, although weekly outrelief had started again in 1737, but it seems to have closed soon afterwards. In 1754 the vestry agreed to convert the old schoolhouse into a workhouse and appointed a superintendant. (fn. 38) That workhouse too had apparently closed by 1776. In 1778 the overseers bought cards for carding wool, but those, like other wool-carding equipment bought in 1784, may have been for an individual pauper. In 1789 and 1790, however, repairs were made to a workhouse, and from 1791 to 1795 regular payments were made to it. An inventory taken in 1793 shows that it comprised 5 rooms, a garret, and a cellar, contained 9 bedsteads, and was equipped for spinning and carding wool or flax. No payments seem to have been made to the workhouse after 1795. In the early 19th century the overseers several times paid for flax and worsted and for spinning wheels, probably for paupers employed outside the workhouse, like the six girls at Ellis's for whom flax was bought in 1812, and in 1819 nearly £7 was earned from 'stockings and thread'. The workhouse is said to have been enlarged in the 1820s, but was probably then being used to lodge the poor. (fn. 39)

In 1614 the town was renting the poor's houses from the lord of the manor for 10d., (fn. 40) and in 1722-3 there was some business with John Conant of Bayley manor, or his executors, about the 'town houses'. (fn. 41) In 1729 the overseers repaired Louse Hall in Gosford, and in 1734 they sent a pauper there; they were still renting the house in 1759, presumably to lodge the poor. (fn. 42) Housing for the poor, apart from the workhouse, is not recorded again until 1808 when the vestry borrowed money to build 10 cottages whose rents were to be used to service or pay off the loans. In 1810 a builder was paid for five parish houses. In 1831 land in the gravel pits was let to poor people on building leases at 1s. a year. (fn. 43) After the establishment of the Woodstock union, in 1836, Kidlington sold the workhouse, 6 cottages and the coal-house known as the Crescent, 4 houses in Moor End, 2 cottages in Black Horse Lane, and 5 cottages adjoining the workhouse; part of the money was used to pay off the debt incurred for building the houses in 1810 and part was put towards the parish quota for building the union workhouse. (fn. 44)

There are few records of vestry government in the hamlets. Gosford spent c. £2 on poor relief in 1776, an average of c. £12 between 1783 and 1785, and £27, c. 14s. a head of population, in 1803. In 1813 the capitation rate rose to c. £1 10s., but in 1820 it was only 13s. The figures, like those for Kidlington, were low for the area. In 1832 a total of £36 was spent, 16s. a head. Only 2 people were on out-relief in 1803, but in 1811-12 there were 11 or 12, over a quarter of the population of the hamlet. Thrupp spent c. £32 on poor relief in 1776, nearly half of it on rents, an average of c. £11 between 1783 and 1785, and £56, £1 2s. a head of population, in 1803. In 1813 the capitation rate was c. 18s., and in 1819 it rose to a peak of c. £1 4s, but in 1832 when a total of £57 was spent, it was only c. 14s., a low rate for the area. In 1803 only 4 people, all of them infirm, were on out-relief, and between 1813 and 1815 only occasional relief was given, to between 16 and 26 people. At Water Eaton average expenditure between 1783 and 1785 was c. £49, and in 1803 £88 or c. 16s. a head of population. In 1813 the capitation rate had risen to c. £2 16s. and in 1819 to £3 4s.; it remained over £2 for most of the 1820s and in 1832, when total expenditure was £226, it was c. £2 4s., much the highest figure not only in the parish but also, for the second time, in the area. In 1803 there were 3 adults on regular out-relief. Between 1813 and 1815 between 22 and 24 people were on permanent out-relief and between 5 and 7 people received occasional relief. The sums spent on overseers' journeys and legal costs between 1783 and 1785 and again between 1813 and 1815 suggest that the hamlet had many more problems with settlement than the rest of the parish. (fn. 45)

After 1894 the vestry's remaining functions were taken over by a parish council in Kidlington and by parish meetings in Thrupp, Gosford, and Water Eaton. A joint parish council for Shipton-on-Cherwell and Thrupp was established in 1946, and for Gosford and Water Eaton in 1947. In 1960 the Kidlington parish council was enlarged from 9 to 16 members and the parish was divided into 4 wards, North, Central, South and East, each of which elected 4 councillors. (fn. 46) A full-time parish clerk was appointed in 1968. (fn. 47)

Kidlington, Thrupp, Gosford, and Water Eaton were all included in the Woodstock poor law union in 1834, the Woodstock rural district in 1894, Ploughley rural district in 1932, and Cherwell district in 1974. (fn. 48)


  • 17. O.R.O., land tax assess.
  • 18. Exeter Coll. Mun., A. I. 11, p. 180; A. I. 12, pp. 68, 282, 286.
  • 19. O.R.O., Morrell VI/aa/3; Exeter Coll. Mun., N. I. 5.
  • 20. Exeter Coll. Mun., M. III. 5.
  • 21. O.R.O., Morrell VI/aa/3.
  • 22. Exeter Coll. Mun., N. I. 5.
  • 23. Ibid. M. III. 2.
  • 24. Ibid. A. I. 10, p. 131; M. III. 5; N. I. 5.
  • 25. P.R.O., HO 107/890, 1730; ibid. RG 10/1448-9; RG 11/1511-12.
  • 26. O.R.O., D.V. 1/44, VIII/279.
  • 27. Census, 1801; P.R.O., HO 107/890, 1730; ibid. RG 10/1448-9; RG 11/1511-12.
  • 28. Sale Cats. 1930, 1937, on microfilm in Westgate Libr., Oxf.; Social Services in Oxf. District, i. 129.
  • 29. Ibid. MS. d.d. Par. Kidlington b 14, s.a. 1756, 1757.
  • 30. Ibid. K. II/a/2-3.
  • 31. Ibid. K. II/a/1; below.
  • 32. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7; ibid. 1818, 360-1; Poor Rate Returns, H.C. 556, p. 138 (1822), v; H.C. 334, p. 174 (1825), iv; H.C. 83, p. 161 (1830-1), xi; H.C. 444, p. 157 (1835), xlvii. The earlier figures, taken from the overseers' accts., include items omitted from the parliamentary returns.
  • 33. O.R.O., K. II/a/1, 2; Poor Abstract, 1804, p. 407; ibid. 1818, pp. 360-1.
  • 34. Rep. Com. Poor Laws, H.C. 44, p. 367b (1834), xxxi.
  • 35. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406; 1818, 360.
  • 36. O.R.O., K. II/a/1-2; Oxf. Chron. 2 May 1868.
  • 37. Secker's Visit. 92.
  • 38. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Kidlington b 14, end folio.
  • 39. Three Oxon. Pars. 168; Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7; 1818, 360-1; Rep. Com. Poor Laws, H.C. 44, p. 376b (1834), xxxi.
  • 40. Bodl. MS. d.d. Tyrwhitt-Drake c 2, no. 5a.
  • 41. O.R.O., K. II/a/1.
  • 42. Ibid.; Blenheim Mun., E/P/6.
  • 43. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Kidlington d 42: vestry min. bk. 1828-66, s.a. 1831.
  • 44. Ibid. MS. d.d. Par. Kidlington d 42, s.a. 1836.
  • 45. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7; 1818, 360-1; Poor Rate Returns, H.C. 556, p. 138 (1822), v; H.C. 334, p. 174 (1825), iv; H.C. 83, p. 161 (1830-1), xi; H.C. 444, p. 157 (1835), xlvii.
  • 46. O.R.O., RO 137, 229, 604, 1083.
  • 47. Oxf. Mail, 18 Jan. 1968.
  • 48. Census, 1851; O.R.O., RO 15, 263.