Bladon: Economic history

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, 'Bladon: Economic history', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) pp. 22-30. British History Online [accessed 24 May 2024].

A P Baggs. W J Blair. Eleanor Chance. Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. C J Day. Nesta Selwyn. S C Townley. "Bladon: Economic history", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) 22-30. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Blair, W J. Chance, Eleanor. Colvin, Christina. Cooper, Janet. Day, C J. Selwyn, Nesta. Townley, S C. "Bladon: Economic history", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990). 22-30. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024,

In this section

Economic history

Agriculture of Bladon Township. There is no direct evidence for the medieval fields of Bladon township. The villein tenants in 1279 owed three ploughing services a year, presumably one for the autumn sowing, one for the spring, and one for the fallow, which suggests a three-course rotation of crops. The suggestion is supported by an analysis of the amount of grain sown on the demesne in the 1240s: between 166 a. and 140 a. was sown each year, an area representing two thirds of a demesne of c. 230 a. or half a demesne of c. 300 a. The lower acreage is the more likely for a demesne of 2 ploughlands, which occupied about a third of the arable, then probably totalling c. 680 a.-700 a. (fn. 91) Unless the demesne was already consolidated in the 1240s, all the arable in the township was cropped on the same threecourse rotation, and was presumably divided into three fields.

In the later Middle Ages the fields were affected by the extension of Woodstock Park and by the consolidation and later alienation of the demesne, (fn. 92) and in 1606 the tenants' land, both free and customary, was divided unevenly between three fields: Burleigh field (c. 221 a.) in the south-west, Church field (c. 165 a.) in the north-east, and Down field (c. 135 a.) in the south-east. (fn. 93) Most of the demesne arable was divided unevenly between two fields north of the Glyme, Bridge field (19 1/2 a.) and Morehill field (60 a., or possibly 78 a.); there may have been a further 24 a. not assigned to any field. Morehill field, which was not recorded after 1606, was presumably merged with Bridge field, which by 1681 seems to have been treated as one of the town's regular fields. By the mid 18th century the fields were: Down field (107 a.), Burleigh field (215 a., including some meadow), Church field (147 a.), and Bridge field (83 a., including some meadow). (fn. 94) There is no record of the arrangement of the fields for cropping, except that in the earlier 17th century part of the heath was set out as extra sheep pasture when the Down field was fallow. (fn. 95) A reference to the wheat field and the stubble field in 1620 suggests that a three-course rotation was still followed. (fn. 96)

There is plentiful meadow along the Glyme and the Evenlode, but only 14 a. were recorded in 1086. (fn. 97) In the 13th century tenants mowed the demesne meadow of Long Acre on the north bank of the Evenlode. (fn. 98) In 1606 there were 175 a. of meadow at Bladon, 110 a. of it at Long Acre which was within Wychwood forest. A total of 25 a. of former demesne meadow was, like the demesne arable, leased to tenants; it lay along the Glyme. The rest of the tenants' meadow lay along the Evenlode in South Mead and the Ham or at Sturt meadow at the confluence of the Glyme and the Evenlode. (fn. 99) By 1628 there was also a small amount of meadow in the south-east, (fn. 1) presumably along the Rowel brook which formed the boundary with Kidlington. The former demesne meadow was held in permanent parcels, but most of the other meadow was lot meadow until the mid 18th century. (fn. 2)

No pasture was recorded in the Middle Ages. In 1606 there were several pasture closes near the village, over 32 a. of leys in the open fields, and common pasture and 108 a. of furze on Bladon heath. (fn. 3) In the mid 18th century the heath comprised 163 a., 29 a. common and the remainder divided into strips. (fn. 4)

Bladon contained woodland 1 league by 1/2 league in 1086, (fn. 5) presumably Bladon wood. It seems to have been assarted in the 1240s, but had been replanted by 1256, and in 1279 was within the regard of Wychwood forest. (fn. 6) In 1551 it was a coppice. It was taken into Woodstock Park in 1576. (fn. 7) Burleigh wood was leased with Bladon manor in 1279 but later confirmed to Godstow abbey. (fn. 8)

In 1086 Bladon was said to contain land for 7 ploughteams, but only 5 were recorded, 2 on the demesne, operated by 2 servi and 3 on the tenants' land. (fn. 9) There seems no obvious reason for the shortfall. Bladon contained woodland, but so did the neighbouring parishes of Combe and Hanborough where there was no such discrepancy between potential and actual teams; it is possible that land had recently been taken into Woodstock Park, but if so that extension or creation of the park had affected only Bladon and not the neighbouring parishes. In 1220 Bladon was assessed on 6 ploughlands, and there were 6 ploughlands or 24 yardlands there in 1279: 2 ploughlands in demesne, 11 yardlands held by serfs or villeins, 3 yardlands held by free tenants, and 2 yardlands of glebe. (fn. 10) The increase in arable over that recorded in 1086 may have been due to assarting, probably from Burleigh wood. John of London had assarted 1 a. there in 1272, and the field names Breach and Breach furlong, recorded in Burleigh field from 1681, imply clearance of new land. (fn. 11) There is no direct evidence for the size of the medieval yardland, but the amount of seed sown in the 1240s on the 2 ploughlands of demesne suggests a yardland of about 26 or 27 field acres. (fn. 12) In 1606 the 14 customary yardlands ranged from 40 a. to c. 20 a., and in the later 17th century the 2 glebe yardlands totalled 41 a. (fn. 13)

By the end of the Middle Ages the demesne had been greatly reduced, consolidated in the area north of the Glyme, and divided among the customary tenants. Sixteenth-century tradition ascribed the division of the demesne among the tenants to an arrangement made to compensate them for land taken into Woodstock Park, (fn. 14) and its reduction and consolidation may have been part of the same recorganization. In 1606 tenants of customary land held the former demesne or bury land by copy of court roll in parcels ranging from 22 a. of arable to 3 a., with 4 a. to 1/4 a. of meadow. (fn. 15) By 1682 the distinction between bury land and customary land seems to have been lost, (fn. 16) and at inclosure in 1766 there were said to be only 16 yardlands, the number of the tenants' yardlands of 1279 and 1606, in the township. (fn. 17)

In 1086 the only tenants recorded were 8 villani and 18 bordars. By 1279 two small freeholds had been created, but the larger, of 2 yardlands, was already divided between 3 people. Eight servile yardlanders were presumably the successors of the 8 villani of 1086, and there were also 6 half-yardlanders and 5 cottars. They held by rent of 3s. 9d. a year and heavy services for each yardland, working daily from the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (24 June) to Michaelmas, performing 3 boon works in autumn with 2 men, at only 1 of which the lord provided food, and ploughing 3 times a year. In addition they had to make hay in Long Acre and mow Law mead in Woodstock Park, and in winter they had to cut fodder for the king's deer. Each man was allowed a bundle of herbage, as much as he could lift on his scythe, each day that he mowed, a sheaf of corn each day that he reaped, and a faggot of wood each day that he cut fodder. (fn. 18) The obligation to mow a meadow within the park was recorded in 1551, when the tenants of Bladon received 6d. or 2 gallons of ale for the service, and again in 1649 when the payment was 6d. (fn. 19)

In the mid 13th century and again in the earlier 14th the demesne was farmed by bailiffs. In the 1240s and 1260s its cultivation was exclusively arable, the chief crops being oats, sown on about half the land under crop, wheat, and barley. Some of the wheat and most of the oats were sold; the remainder were used for seed or consumed on the manor, except in 1263 when 18 qr. of wheat was sent to Oxford to the king's baker. (fn. 20) There were five servants, including four men to look after the oxen. A stray sheep, perhaps from a tenant's flock, was sold in 1246 and honey in 1247. Payments for pannage, presumably in Bladon wood, were received in most years. Some livestock was kept by 1310 when sheep and 32 hurdles for the sheepfold were bought and the sheep house was roofed. Crops that year included peas and dredge, and a hayward, two ploughmen, a carter, and a shepherd were employed on the demesne. (fn. 21)

Fourteen people were assessed for subsidy in 1306, at sums ranging from 8s. 6 1/2d. to 7d.; at least 9 of them, assessed at 5s. or less, seem to have been descendants of unfree tenants of 1279, and 1, assessed at 7s. 3d., of a free tenant. In 1327 the 14 assessments ranged only from 3s. 6d. to 1s., and only 5 surnames borne by 6 people were the same as those recorded in 1306 or 1279. (fn. 22) Bladon's low assessment in 1334, £3 1s. 8d., suggests that the township was poorer than most others in the area. (fn. 23)

A total of 15 men was assessed for subsidy in 1523 and 1524, only 9 of them in both years; the highest assessment was 5s. on £5 worth of goods. Four men were assessed on wages in 1523, only one in 1524. The assessments suggest a village in which a bad year could reduce many people to a level at which they were exempt from subsidy. There had been some improvement by 1535 when at least 16 people were assessed on goods valued at between £7 and £1. (fn. 24) In 1606 the largest estate in the township was 3 1/4 yardlands of free and customary land held by John Symons, whose uncle Thomas Symons had been one of two men assessed for subsidy on £5 worth of goods in 1581. It was divided after John's death in 1638 when 2 yardlands passed to his brother-in-law Thomas Woodward of New Woodstock. (fn. 25) An estate of 2 1/2 or 3 yardlands held by Thomas Heathen in 1606 was split up soon afterwards. (fn. 26) The 3 copyhold yardlands held in 1606 by Robert Heynes, who had inherited them from his father John, passed intact before 1630 to William Hopkins, apparently a newcomer to the parish, who at his death held another yardland in Bladon and land in Hanborough and Great Rollright. (fn. 27) His sons and grandsons were among the most prosperous Bladon men in the 17th century, and one, Richard Hopkins (d. 1681), described himself as a gentleman. Some of the family remained in the parish until 1692 or later. (fn. 28)

Later 16th- and 17th-century wills suggest mixed farming. The rector Robert Kirkby (d. 1570), who farmed his glebe at Bladon as at Stonesfield, made bequests of at least 18 sheep, 2 cattle, and small quantities of wheat, maslin, barley, and rye. (fn. 29) Most others who farmed a yardland or more left crops worth rather more than their cattle and sheep. Even Edward Busby (d. 1714), who had 8 cattle and 112 sheep worth c. £40, left wheat, barley, peas, and beans worth £46. Thomas Slatter (d. 1694), farmer of 1 yardland, left a large flock of sheep worth £42 and cattle worth £30, but his wheat, barley, peas, and beans were worth £110. (fn. 30) Richard Hopkins (d. 1687) and his son Richard (d. 1681), who farmed 2 yardlands, left stock worth slightly more than their corn, and John Symons (d. 1638) had apparently ceased to cultivate his 3 1/4 yardlands in Bladon; his corn, worth only £10, was on his 1/2 yardland in Hensington, but he left 6 cows and 4 calves worth £25 and 152 sheep worth £66. (fn. 31) Smaller farmers or craftsmen similarly seem to have concentrated on animal husbandry, perhaps because of the availability of pasture on the heath. One cottager in 1621 left 18 sheep, a cow, and 6 stocks of bees; he also had a linen wheel, yarn, and cloth, the only evidence for flax working in the township. (fn. 32) A hen ostrich was offered for sale in 1757, presumably as a curiosity rather than as a supplier of feathers or eggs. (fn. 33) The stint on Bladon heath in 1606 was 12 cattle and 60 sheep to the yardland, but it was said in 1620 to be 8 cattle or horses to the yardland. By the later 18th century, although it was properly 6 horses or 12 cows and 60 sheep, the stint had been halved by agreement. (fn. 34) The cattle, looked after by a cowherd, were kept on the heath until Lady Day, on the nearby Hunmore in early May, and apparently on the heath again until after harvest. Sheep were not kept on the heath until 30 November. (fn. 35)

There were 26 small closes in Bladon in 1606, containing c. 40 a. in all, the largest of them, Sheephouse close, being only 3 1/2 a. All were pasture, and all, except Hanborough Bridge close at the confluence of the Glyme and Evenlode, adjoined the village. (fn. 36) There was little, if any, further inclosure before parliamentary inclosure of the township in 1767. In the years immediately before that inclosure the duke of Marlborough bought out most of the copyholders. The duke had no land in his own hand in Bladon in 1760, but before 1765 he had acquired 157 a. (fn. 37) In 1765 the duke bought 53 a. himself and John Moore, presumably acting for him, acquired another 53 a.; the following year the duke bought c. 202 a., including more than 2 yardlands (probably 152 a.) from Edward Ryves of Woodstock. (fn. 38) Thus when the duke and the rector petitioned for inclosure in 1766 they claimed to hold between them 13 of a total of 16 yardlands in the township. (fn. 39) The award, made in 1767, divided 727 a. among 12 landowners, the rector receiving 53 a. for glebe and 113 a. for tithe. By far the largest allotment was made to the duke of Marlborough for his 11 1/4 yardlands, 427 a., including all the land north of the Glyme and most of the south and west parts of the township. The remaining allotments ranged from William Maylard's 59 a. for 1 1/2 yardlands and Elizabeth Cockin's 39 a. for 1 yardland to less than 1 a. for one odd land without common; most of the small allotments adjoined their owners' houses or old inclosures. (fn. 40)

The dukes bought Maylard's estate from his son William in 1798, and Elizabeth Cockin's from her successor H. J. North in 1833. They continued to buy smaller properties, mainly cottages and gardens, until by the mid 19th century they controlled practically the whole township, renting the glebe farm from the rector and Burleigh wood from the Dashwoods. (fn. 41)

A three- or four-course rotation of crops continued after inclosure. In 1771 the tenant of the glebe farm was required not to sow more than three of the five arable fields with corn each year, the other two fields being sown with grass or turnips or left fallow. Another farmer in 1775 was to pay an extra £5 an acre for land from which he took more than three crops of corn in succession, besides the usual extra rent for ploughing meadow or pasture. (fn. 42) Wheat, oats, barley, beans, peas, clover, and sainfoin were grown, and at least one farmer kept cows and dairy equipment. (fn. 43) In 1801 the cultivated land in the township was evenly divided between arable and grass, but more than half the township was wood or plantation, 278 a. in Burleigh wood, the heath, and Blenheim Park. (fn. 44) Mid 19th-century improvements carried out by the Blenheim estate included draining arable fields and digging ditches for the 'floating' of Long Acre meadow to improve the hay. (fn. 45)

In the 19th century much of the land, with land in Blenheim Park and elsewhere, was farmed directly by the Blenheim estate, probably from Home Farm in the south-west corner of Hensington. In 1853 Bladon farm, presumably based on the same farmstead, comprised 600 a.; it was a mixed farm growing corn and keeping 660 sheep and 88 pigs. (fn. 46) In 1851 there were only two farmers in Bladon, one (at Rectory farm) farming 96 a., the other farming 150 a.; in 1871 and 1881 there was only one, in 1871 farming 170 a., probably Manor farm, (fn. 47) which in 1880 comprised c. 134 a. of arable and c. 30 a. of pasture. In the 1890s the chief crops were wheat and barley, and the livestock cattle, sheep, and hens. (fn. 48) From c. 1900 there were generally two farms in the township, Manor and Rectory farms, but their acreages varied from tenancy to tenancy. (fn. 49) About half the land under cultivation in 1914 was arable and half grass. The main crops were barley (26 per cent), wheat (20 per cent), and oats (14 per cent); cattle and sheep were kept, although the number of sheep had declined since 1909. (fn. 50)

In the 1950s the tenant of Manor farm (178 a.) kept a herd of dairy cattle and a flock of c. 150 sheep and lambs; his main crops were still barley, wheat, and oats, but he also grew sugar beet and other root crops. Rectory farm (c. 104 a.) was a dairy farm with a herd of Guernseys. Home farm (109 a. in Bladon, c. 320 a. in Blenheim Park, Kidlington, and Thrupp) was another mixed farm; barley and wheat were the chief crops and there was a herd of Ayrshire, Aberdeen Angus, and Hereford cattle. (fn. 51) By 1967 Home farm had been reduced to 362 a., most of which was under barley; there was also a herd of 50 Jersey cows. (fn. 52). Manor farm was mainly arable. The farmhouse for Manor farm was sold in 1972 and the Rectory farmhouse shortly afterwards, and in 1985 all the land in the parish was farmed from Home Farm and from Burleigh Farm in Cassington. (fn. 53)

Agriculture of Hensington

In the late 12th century and the 13th the arable in Hensington was divided into north and south fields, one on either side of the village. (fn. 54) The arrangement may have persisted into the early 16th century when north and south fields were recorded, although at the same date 1/2 yardland was said to be dispersed in the four fields of Hensington. (fn. 55) By 1584, however, there were three fields, one called Hordley Hill and the Homeward field in the extreme north, the field north-east of the town, and the field south of the town. (fn. 56) The name of Hordley Hill and the Homeward field suggests that it had once been two small fields, and those may, with the north-east and south fields, have made up the four fields recorded in the early 16th century although four fields of such uneven size cannot have been cropped on a four-course rotation. Hordley Hill lay between the Glyme and the old Banbury road, adjoining Hordley in Wootton parish, and the Homeward field included the land south of the hill, on both sides of the Banbury road. The north-east and south fields were separated by the Woodstock Shipton road. In the extreme south-west, adjoining Bladon village, was the Hide, which, although it formed part of the south field, was by the 16th century separated from it by Woodstock Park and the Grove closes. (fn. 57) In 1606 the king's yardland lay only in the north and north-east fields, (fn. 58) but there is no evidence that other yardlands were similarly placed. The extension of Woodstock Park during the Middle Ages may have affected Hensington's fields, but it seems that most of the land taken into the park was already woodland. (fn. 59)

A comparatively large amount of meadow, 1 furlong by 1/2 furlong on the manor and 3 a. each on the two smaller estates, was recorded in Hensington in 1086. (fn. 60) It presumably lay along the Glyme on the western boundary. Meadow at Inmead towards Stratford was recorded c. 1200 and three demesne meadows in 1512. In 1338 the Hospitallers' manor contained 30 a. of meadow leased at 3s. an acre. (fn. 61) By the late 16th century the meadow, along the Glyme and a small tributary in the north, was held in permanent plots, many of them inclosed. (fn. 62)

A total of 17 a. of wood and underwood was recorded in Hensington in 1086, presumably the Hensgrove which was taken into Woodstock Park during the Middle Ages. (fn. 63) Four pasture closes near the park wall, called the Grove closes in the 16th century, had originally been wood. (fn. 64) No pasture was recorded in the Middle Ages, but in 1512 there was a common pasture called Hensington down, whose whereabouts are unknown, and another, smaller, pasture called Starting grove (2 a.) east of Woodstock borough and south of the Woodstock-Banbury road. (fn. 65) Hensington down was not recorded again; Starting grove was acquired by George Whitton, and he or his successors seem to have extinguished the right of common by 1688. (fn. 66)

In the earlier 16th century the inhabitants of Hordley claimed rights of common in Hordley Hill in Hensington, rights which they maintained had been given to them as part of a general reorganization of the demesne towns following an extension of Woodstock Park in the Middle Ages. (fn. 67) From 1689 or earlier the right of common in the hill, later 74 a., was leased by the owners of Hordley to the owners of Hensington. (fn. 68)

In 1086 Hensington was said to contain land for 4 1/2 ploughteams, 2 1/2 on Roger d'lvri's manor and 1 each on Ansger's and Robert d'Oilly's land. Roger d'Ivri's tenant, William, had 2 teams in demesne, operated by 2 servi, and 4 villani had the remaining half team on their land. Robert d'Oilly's tenant, Peter, had his 1 ploughteam in demesne, operated by 1 servus; the 1 villanus and 2 bordars on that estate apparently had no team. No further information was given for Ansger's estate which was presumably cultivated by the fourth team. (fn. 69) By 1279 the estate which Roger d'Ivri had held in 1086 was reckoned at 10 1/2 yardlands, all of which were held by the Templars' villein tenants; one man held 1 1/2 yardland, 6 held 1 yardland each, and 4 held 1/2 yardland each. The abbot of Oseney's 3 1/2 yardlands were let to 1 free and 2 villein tenants, and the king's yardland to 1 free tenant. William Langhals may have retained 2 of his 5 yardlands in demesne; 2 yardlands were held of him by the Templars, and the remaining yardland was held in free marriage by 2 tenants; 6 other tenants held odd acres or cottages. The Templars' tenants paid only 3s. 2d. or 4s. a yardland, redeemed their sons, and were tallaged at the lord's will, but the abbot of Oseney's 2 villeins paid 10s. a yardland, performed an autumn boon work with 1 man, the abbot supplying food, and gave 2 hens for churchscot and a heriot of their best animal. (fn. 70)

Only three men, including Robert of St. James who held the king's yardland, were assessed for subsidy in 1306, at less than 1s. each; the low figures perhaps suggest some disaster in the township before that date. By 1316, when nine people were assessed at 2s. or 1s. 6d. each, the township had recovered somewhat, although in 1327 the ten individual assessments still ranged only from 1s. 10d. to 6d.; Hensington's assessment in 1334, 13s. 10d., was the second lowest in the hundred. (fn. 71) Only four men were assessed for subsidy in 1523-4, one on wages, and only seven were assessed in 1535. By far the highest assessment in both years was John Warren's, on goods worth £12 in 1523-4 and £16 in 1535. He, or another man of the same name, held 4 yardlands of the Hospitallers in 1512 and 1546. (fn. 72)

The king's yardland contained 30 a. of arable in 1606, and the Merton College yardlands in the late 16th century and the early 17th varied between 22 1/2 a. and 32 a. The figures suggest that the 21 1/4 a. and 27 a. given to the Templars c. 1200 and in the mid 13th century may also have been yardlands. (fn. 73)

The field names Peas and Bean furlongs recorded c. 1200 (fn. 74) are the only evidence for medieval crops. The few surviving 16th- and 17thcentury wills suggest mixed farming, the chief crops being wheat and barley; in 1628 a woman left 1 a. of vetches. (fn. 75) A 22-a. close belonging to George Whitton was planted with peas or pulse in 1604 and with wheat the following year. (fn. 76) Sainfoin was grown by 1721. (fn. 77) On the larger farms sheep and cattle were more important than crops. Walter Edwards in 1607 had 100 sheep worth £28 and 4 cattle worth £7, compared with wheat and barley worth only c. £16; Robert Tassell in 1600 left 51 sheep and lambs worth £12 and a tod of wool worth 18s. besides 3 cattle worth £6 and 24 cheeses worth 8s., compared with wheat and barley worth c. £11; Margaret Ayres in 1628 left 43 sheep worth £13 and 6 cattle worth £8, compared with crops worth c. £11. (fn. 78) In 1750 a farm which Sir William Thompson had kept in hand comprised c. 25 a. of wheat, c. 53 a. of barley, c. 27 a. of peas, c. 6 a. of vetch, c. 11 a. of oats, and c. 4 a. of rye grass; there was a flock of 236 sheep, but no cattle. (fn. 79) Despite the emphasis on livestock, the stint seems to have been low; in 1606 the king's yardland had common for 30 sheep and 4 cattle, and later evidence suggests a stint of only 2 cattle or horses and 32 sheep to the yardland in the late 17th century and the 18th. (fn. 80)

Mr. Whitton, presumably George Whitton of Hensington, was one of the targets of the projected uprising against inclosures in 1596. (fn. 81) In 1578 he had the Grove close, between Woodstock Park wall, the Oxford road, and the Witney road; in 1583 he was accused of stopping two lanes or paths in Hensington, one of them running through closes, and in 1604 he had a 22a. arable close. (fn. 82) The concentration of land in the hands of the Nappers during the 17th century probably led to consolidation of holdings in the fields, if not to permanent inclosure. By 1663 the park north of the manor house (c. 6 a.) had been inclosed; the Great Close (later 15 a.) and six closes called the grounds were recorded in 1686, and by that date Napper seems to have consolidated his land in Woodstock piece (40 a.) and Little field (30 a.). By 1688 as much as 10 a. in Park Wall furlong and 34 a. in Mead's piece and Crabtree furlong had been consolidated, as had 44 a. in the Hide by 1714. (fn. 83) Consolidation obscured boundaries within the fields: as early as 1616 a jury found it impossible to distinguish definitely between Merton College's 2-yardland freehold estate and 2 1/2 yardlands held by lease with it, and terriers of 1584, 1602, and 1616 vary in their description of the college yardlands. (fn. 84) In 1680 Merton sent men to settle the bounds of their Hensington estate, but there were further problems in 1709 when the college asked Napper to hold a court to review and note the bounds of its land. (fn. 85)

In 1748 Merton agreed to the 'setting out of the quantity of land which belongs to the college at Hensington', and in 1752 paid a Mr. Wright for 'his extraordinary trouble over the estate at Hensington'. (fn. 86) The setting out may have been the final inclosure of the township, for a survey of the college estate c. 1750 listed 9 old inclosures totalling 25 a. and 14 new inclosures totalling 129 a., and a map of the township in 1750 shows it completely inclosed. (fn. 87)

From 1753 the whole of Hensington was owned or controlled by the dukes of Marlborough, who usually let the land in three farms of 100 a.-200 a. and several smaller parcels. (fn. 88) A tenancy agreement of 1755 provided that the arable should be divided into four 'seasons', no more than two of which should be sown with corn each year, and that no more than two crops of corn should be taken in succession from one 'season'; wheat was to be preceded by a fallow. An almost identical agreement of 1756 provided that no more than two thirds of the arable was to be sown with corn each year. In 1760 a tenant was instructed to sow one field with turnips in 1761, with barley in 1762, and thereafter to allow it to revert to cow pasture. By 1772 the practice seems to have been to plant three quarters of the arable with corn, taking three crops in succession from each field. (fn. 89) At least two farmers kept sheep in the 1780s; one of them in 1788 also kept c. 46 pigs, a number of hens, and 13 turkeys. His crops included wheat, barley, oats, clover, rye, turnips, and vetches. Another farmer in 1817 had 120 ewes and lambs, fields planted with sainfoin and clover, and ricks of barley, oats, and wheat. (fn. 90)

In 1801 Hensington contained 351 a. of arable, 217 a. of permanent grass (including some small meadows in Woodstock), and 7 a. of wood or plantation, presumably in Blenheim Park. (fn. 91a) The proportion of arable to grass was similar in 1847, 336 a. of arable to 180a. of grass, with 23 a. of woodland. (fn. 92a) There were two farmers in the township in 1841 but only a farm steward in 1851. In 1871 one farmer had 236 a., employing 6 men, 3 boys, and 3 women, but in 1881 there was again only a farm bailiff, and in 1911 there were two farms, of 231 a. and 122 a. (fn. 93a) Husbandry has on the whole been similar to that of Bladon, but in 1985 was mainly arable.

Trade and Industry

In 1086 Bladon manor included a pottery worth 10s., one of only three recorded in the country, and presumably a fairly large commercial operation. It may have produced the calcareous, gravel-tempered, pottery found on 11th-century sites in Oxford. (fn. 94a) There is no later record of pottery making at Bladon, but by 1677 there was a lime kiln perhaps associated with a brickworks, in the Hide in Hensington, and in 1714 a Bladon lime burner had 5,000 bricks at his kiln. (fn. 95a) The lease of the kiln site in the Hide, which by 1729 included a brick kiln, (fn. 96a) was held in 1759 by Martin Maylard, a lime burner. It passed in 1765 to James Nixon, a mason who by 1768 was also a lime burner. Nixon acquired the freehold of the kiln site in 1768. In 1793 his son, another James, surrendered land called the claypits to his brother John who in 1800 held of the duke of Marlborough the brick and lime kilns, a brickyard, the claypits, and liberty to dig clay at Hanborough bridge as his predecessor had done. (fn. 97a)

There was an earthenware dealer in Bladon and a brickmaker in Hensington in the early 19th century, and two brickmakers in Hensington in 1841; in 1847 the brickyard, on the southern edge of the Witney-Bicester road, was in the duke of Marlborough's hands. (fn. 98a) There were still two brickmakers in Hensington in 1851, and in the 1850s clay from near High Lodge in Blenheim Park was used for bricks and tiles. (fn. 99a)

The Forest Marble in Bladon and Hensington has been quarried for building stone since the Middle Ages. A quarry in the Hide, perhaps near the later kiln site, was recorded c. 1200, and a mason held land in Hensington in the mid 13th century. (fn. 1a) Twelve cartloads of stone from Bladon were used for Merton College library in 1378, and there was at least one mason in the township in 1415. (fn. 2a) Several masons were recorded in both Bladon and Hensington in the 17th century and the early 18th. They included three generations of the Damary family, the first of whom, Anthony (d. 1614), worked on Woodstock palace from 1570 to 1605, and at least three members of the Nixon family, all called James (d. 1739, 1762, and 1792). A Hensington mason, Edmund Hanks, held land in the Hide in 1662. (fn. 3a) Bladon stone was used in Oxford, at the Sheldonian Theatre in 1666, at New College, Queen's, and All Souls in 1700, 1713-15, 1730, and 1745, and in 1695 it was recommended to Sir William Trumball for work at Easthampstead (Berks.). (fn. 4a) At least 10 masons were recorded in Bladon and 2 in Hensington between 1813 and 1838, 7 in Bladon and 2 in Hensington in 1841, and 11 in Bladon and 1 in Hensington in 1851; there seems to have been a slight decline later in the century, only 3 masons, a quarryman, and a stone cutter being recorded in Bladon and none in Hensington in 1871 and 5 masons and a stone cutter in Bladon in 1881. (fn. 5a) Bladon stone was much used by T. G. Jackson at Oxford, in the Examination Schools 1876-8, the Boys' High School 1880, Brasenose College 1882-1889, Lincoln College 1883-4, Trinity College 1883-1887, and Hertford College 1908. (fn. 6a)

The most important quarries in Bladon were in a field north-east of the church, beside the Witney-Bicester road. Pit furlong and Mortar Pit furlong in Church field were recorded in 1620 and 1682, and in 1661 and 1665 men were accused of digging mortar pits in the common highway. (fn. 7a) About the same date there were short-lived stone pits in the north end of Hensington township, in a small area of Forest Marble there. (fn. 8a) There were other short-lived pits near Hanborough bridge in the 18th century. (fn. 9a) In 1774 there were 31 stone pits at the Church field site, but only 12 were being worked and 3 of those were nearly exhausted. (fn. 10a) A few of the pits were being worked in 1876, but they seem to have been exhausted by the end of the century. (fn. 11a) In 1922 H. A. Tolley, who worked a quarry in Hanborough, reopened the quarry in Park Lane, Hensington, but it produced only poor quality stone and was worked out by 1940. Tolley opened Diamond quarry in Grove Road in 1931, but that too produced inferior stone and was worked out by 1952. (fn. 12a) The stone called Bladon stone used in several 20th-century buildings in Oxford and elsewhere came from quarries in Hanborough parish. (fn. 13a)

Apart from the fulling mill in 1310, (fn. 14a) there is no evidence for cloth working in the parish. One man was surnamed 'le tanner' in 1320, and three glovers were recorded in the later 16th century and a fellmonger in 1682. (fn. 15a) Bladon also contained a locksmith in 1700 and the usual local craftsmen, including a carpenter in 1640, a blacksmith in 1706, and a cordwainer in 1782; (fn. 16a) tailors were recorded in 1619, 1651, 1700, and 1730, and a collar-maker died in 1724. (fn. 17a) Hensington, however, seems to have relied on craftsmen in Woodstock; none was recorded in the township.

Earlier 19th-century Bladon craftsmen included blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, a butcher, a baker, 2 horse dealers, and a bacon dealer, besides 3 glovers, 3 grounders, and a leather dresser, presumably working for Woodstock factories. A carpenter, a cooper, a millwright, and 2 glove workers were recorded in Hensington, but throughout the 19th century the hamlet was economically part of either Woodstock or Bladon. (fn. 18a) Most working men in both villages were agricultural labourers, many no doubt working on the farms of the Blenheim estate. The 38 railway labourers in Bladon in 1851 were presumably temporary residents. That year there were 53 gloveresses, the wives and daughters of labourers or craftsmen, in Bladon and 13 in Hensington. The 2 wood cutters and a wood labourer at Bladon were presumably employed in Blenheim Park. (fn. 19a) In 1871 the influence of Blenheim Palace on Bladon was clearer. Although about half the working men were still agricultural labourers, there were also 8 gardeners, 6 woodmen, 3 gamekeepers, a groom, a footman, and 2 housemaids in the village. The number of gloveresses had fallen to 29, and there was 1 leather presser. In 1881 there were 10 gardeners and 3 gamekeepers, 6 men worked on the railway, and there were only 19 gloveresses. (fn. 20a) In 1891 the rector commented that most of his parishioners were farm labourers or worked in the Blenheim gardens. (fn. 21a)

There were few changes in the early 20th century, although by 1907 the Bladon shops included a cycle agent, and the quarry owner was also a builder. Most men were still farm or garden labourers, or were employed in Woodstock glove factories; women did out-work for the glove factories. (fn. 22a) By 1955 there were 4 building firms employing over 20 people, whereas the 3 farmers employed only 10 men; 9 people were engaged in gloving, only 3 of them full-time, and 6 were employed in the Blenheim gardens. There were 4 grocers' shops in the village and 2 newsagents. Seven men, 3 of them at or near retirement age, worked in the quarry at Hanborough. Many people, however, worked outside the parish, 51 in Oxford factories. (fn. 23a) In 1985 the shops reflected the increasing importance of the tourist trade, including two antique shops and a pottery besides a general shop and post office.


There were two mills, probably a double mill, in Bladon in 1086, paying 14s. and 125 eels, and one on Robert d'Oilly's estate in Hensington. (fn. 24a) The Hensington mill was not recorded again, but the field name Milnepat, in the north field c. 1200, suggests that it lay north of the village. (fn. 25a) Repairs to Bladon mill were carried out, and two millstones bought, in 1247-8, and from 1249 the miller was paid 5s. a year wages. Eels were still received from the mill in 1245-6, but not in 1279, when the mill seems to have been in the hands of the farmer, John of London, and the fishery was leased to William the fisherman for 9s. a year and labour services. (fn. 26a) Further repairs were made in 1310, by which date the mill included a fulling mill. (fn. 27a)

In 1606 the mill, a corn mill, was held by copy of court roll by Thomas Symons, who had inherited it from his father, another Thomas. (fn. 28a) Before 1629 the freehold seems to have been acquired by Jerome Kyte (d. 1631) of Woodstock, who left it to his daughter Elizabeth, wife of Edward Say (d. 1647); (fn. 29a) it later passed to Robert Say (d. 1691), provost of Oriel College, Oxford, and to Robert's nephew Edward Say, who in 1692 sold it to Thomas Slatter of Bladon. Slatter (d. 1694) left the mill to his son Richard who in 1717 conveyed it to another Thomas Slatter, probably his brother, a maltster. Thomas Slatter left the mill to his son, another Thomas, who in 1769 sold it to the duke of Marlborough. The duke, having diverted the Glyme away from the mill, demolished it. (fn. 30a) In 1611 the lessee was John Johnson, who left it that year to his wife and his son Philip. Philip died in 1666, leaving the mill to his son, another Philip; from the younger Philip the mill passed to his son, a third Philip Johnson, who was the miller in 1729. (fn. 31a)


  • 91. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 851; P.R.O., SC 6/962/4; discussed by A. Ballard, 'An Oxon. Village in the 13th cent. The Antiquary N.S. iii. 129. Acreages are deduced from a survey of 1606: P.R.O., LR 2/224, ff. 40-53.
  • 92. B.L. Lansd. MS. 27, ff. 94v.-95; below.
  • 93. P.R.O., LR 2/224, ff. 40-53; figures for glebe added from O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. b 40, f. 65.
  • 94. Blenheim Mun., box 9, terrier 1681 and pre-inclosure survey c. 1765.
  • 95. Ibid. B/M/208, f. 24.
  • 96. Ibid. f. 24 and v.; O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 34/1/35.
  • 97. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 405.
  • 98. P.R.O., SC 6/962/4; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 851.
  • 99. P.R.O., LR 2/202, f. 36v.; LR 2/224, ff. 40-53.
  • 1. Blenheim Mun., box 5.
  • 2. Ibid. box 9.
  • 3. P.R.O., LR 2/224, ff. 40-53.
  • 4. Blenheim Mun., box 9, survey c. 1765.
  • 5. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 405.
  • 6. P.R.O., C 143/3, no. 34; E 32/251; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 851.
  • 7. B.L. Lansd. MS. 758, f. 17; P.R.O., E 101/670/28.
  • 8. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 851; P.R.O., E 318/7/256; below, Cassington.
  • 9. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 405.
  • 10. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 851; for the glebe, unre corded in 1279, see O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. b 40, f. 65.
  • 11. P.R.O., E 32/137; Blenheim Mun., boxes 5, 9, 10.
  • 12. P.R.O., SC 6/962/4; Antiquary, N.S. iii. 129.
  • 13. P.R.O., LR 2/224, ff. 40-53; O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. b 40, f. 65.
  • 14. B.L. Lansd. MS. 27, ff. 94v.-95.
  • 15. P.R.O., LR 2/224, ff. 50-3.
  • 16. Blenheim Mun., box 5.
  • 17. C.f. xxx. 489
  • 18. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 405; Rot. Hund (Rec. Com.), ii. 851.
  • 19. B.L. Lansd. MS. 758, f. 17v.; O.R.O., CH IV/1.
  • 20. P.R.O., SC 6/957/5; SC 6/962/4, 6; Cal. Lib. 1260-7,154.
  • 21. P.R.O., SC 6/962/22.
  • 22. Ibid. E 179/161/9, 10; there is no assessment for 1316.
  • 23. Lay Subsidy 1334, ed. R. E. Glasscock, 244.
  • 24. P.R.O., E 179/161/175, 198; E 179/162/235.
  • 25. Ibid. LR 2/224, f. 45; ibid. E 179/162/345; O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 200, f. 67; Blenheim Mun., box 4.
  • 26. P.R.O., LR 2/224, f. 44.
  • 27. Ibid. f. 47; ibid. PROB 11/180, f. 112v.
  • 28. Blenheim Mun., B/M/208, ff. 157, 409 and v.; O.R.O., DIL V/c/4; ibid. MS. Wills Oxon. 34/1/35; below, Charities.
  • 29. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 165, f. 56.
  • 30. Ibid. 116/3/34; 150/1/8.
  • 31. Ibid. 34/1/35; 167/3/13; 300/1/57.
  • 32. Ibid. 296/1/108.
  • 33. Oxf. Jnl. Synopsis, 19 Nov. 1757.
  • 34. P.R.O., LR 2/224, ff. 46-49v.; Blenheim Mun., B/M/208, f. 23v.; ibid. box 10.
  • 35. Blenheim Mun., B/M/208, ff. 23v.-24.
  • 36. P.R.O., LR 2/224, ff. 40-53.
  • 37. O.R.O., land tax (QSD L 41); Bodl. map (MS) C 17: 49 (240).
  • 38. Bodl. map (MS) C 17: 49 (240); Blenheim Mun., boxes 4, 5, 9, 10.
  • 39. C.J. xxx. 489.
  • 40. O.R.O., incl. award.
  • 41. Ibid. land tax; Blenheim Mun., boxes 6-9.
  • 42. 42 Blenheim Mun., box 10.
  • 43. Oxf. Jnl. 26 Oct. 1776; 11 Nov. 1786.
  • 44. P.R.O., HO 67/18.
  • 45. Blenheim Mun., E/P/42; J. E. G. Sutton, 'Floated Water Meadows adjoining Blenheim Park', Top. Oxon. no.9.
  • 46. Blenheim Mun., E/A/9.
  • 47. P.R.O., HO 107/1730; RG 10/1448; RG 11/1511.
  • 48. Bodl. MS. Dep. b 158, item c, p. 105.
  • 49. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1899 and later edns.).
  • 50. Orr, Oxon. Agric. statistical plates.
  • 51. Bodl. MS. Dep. b 158, item c, pp. 100-105.
  • 52. Oxf. Times, 3 March 1967.
  • 53. Local inf.
  • 54. Sandford Cart. ii, p. 72; Oseney Cart. iv, pp. 149-50.
  • 55. Corpus Christi Coll., Oxf., MS. 320, ff. 24v., 25v.
  • 56. Merton Coll. Mun., 6675.
  • 57. P.R.O., REQ 2/26, no. 20; Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 103.
  • 58. P.R.O., LR 2/224, f. 191
  • 59. B.L. Lansd. MS. 27, ff. 94v.-95.
  • 60. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 405, 416, 425.
  • 61. Sandford Cart. ii, p. 272; Corpus Christi Coll. MS. 320, f. 25v.; Hospitallers in Eng. (Camd. Soc. [1st ser.],lxv), 26.
  • 62. Merton Coll. Mun., 6675; Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 103.
  • 63. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 405, 416, 425; B.L. Lansd. MS. 27, ff. 94v.-95.
  • 64. Merton Coll. Mun., 6675; Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 103.
  • 65. Corpus Christi Coll. MS. 320, f. 25v.; P.R.O., E 134/25 Eliz. 1/Hil. 4.
  • 66. P.R.O., STAC 5/W 77/7; Blenheim Mun., box 89,
  • 67. P.R.O., REQ 2/12, no. 137; B.L. Lansd. MS. 27, ff. 94v.-95.
  • 68. Blenheim Mun., boxes 10, 89.
  • 69. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 405, 416, 425.
  • 70. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 874.
  • 71. P.R.O., E 179/161/8-10; Subsidy 1334, ed. R. E. Glasscock, 242.
  • 72. P.R.O., E 179/161/175, 198; E 179/162/235; E 318/21/1156; Corpus Christi Coll. MS. 320, ff. 24v-25.
  • 73. Merton Coll. Mun., 6675; Sandford Cart. ii, p. 272; Oseney Cart. iv, p. 149.
  • 74. Sandford Cart. ii, p. 272.
  • 75. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 1/5/33; other wills indexed in D. M. Barratt, Oxon. Probate Rec. 1516-1732 (Index Libr. xciv).
  • 76. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 24, f. 444.
  • 77. Blenheim Mun., box 89.
  • 78. O.R.O., MSS. Wills Oxon. 20/1/51; 65/2/26; 1/5/33.
  • 79. Blenheim Mun., box 10.
  • 80. Ibid. boxes 5, 10, 89 (deeds of 1689, 1769, 1794); P.R.O., LR 2/224, f. 191.
  • 81. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1595-7, 316, 343.
  • 82. P.R.O., REQ 2/26, no. 20; ibid. E 134/25/Eliz. 1/Hill. 4; O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 24, f. 444.
  • 83. Blenheim Mun., boxes 87, 89
  • 84. Merton Coll. Mun., 6675.
  • 85. Ibid. Reg. 1.3, pp. 541, 683.
  • 86. Ibid. Reg. 1.4, pp. 149, 162.
  • 87. Blenheim Mun., box 10; Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 103.
  • 88. O.R.O., land tax (QSD L 150); Blenheim Mun., box 87 (survey 1747); Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 103.
  • 89. Blenheim Mun., boxes 10, 88.
  • 90. Ibid. box 10; Oxf. Jnl. 21 Feb., 9 Oct. 1784.
  • 91a. P.R.O., HO 67/18.
  • 92a. O.R.O., tithe map (S) 46. Figures are taken from the schedule.
  • 93a. P.R.O., HO 107/889, 1730; ibid. RG 10/1448; RG 11/1511; O.R.O., D.V. X/22.
  • 94a. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 405; Oxon. Potters (County Mus. pamphlet 13), 4.
  • 95a. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 116/3/34.
  • 96a. Ibid. Cal. Q. Sess. viii, p. 578.
  • 97a. Blenheim Mun., boxes 5, 7, 10, 88.
  • 98a. Par. reg. transcript, baptisms 1818-38; O.R.O., tithe map (S) 46; P.R.O., HO 107/889.
  • 99a. P.R.O., HO 107/1730; E. Hull, Geol. of Country around Woodstock (Memoirs of Geol. Surv. sheet 45 SW.), 26.
  • 1a. Sandford Cart. ii, p. 272; Oseney Cart.
  • 2a. W. J. Arkell, Oxf. Stone, 112; Reg. Repingdon, iii (L.R.S. lxxiv), p. 73 n.
  • 3a. O.R.O., MSS. Wills Oxon. 17/3/32; 18/2/32; 33/4/42; 34/1/23; 48/3/24; 52/1/11; 125/3/24; 139/5/20; 143/3/22; 143/4/18; Bladon par. reg. transcript, baptisms 1699, burials 1701; Blenheim Mun., B/M/208, f. 102v.; ibid. box 5; King's Works, ed. H. M. Colvin, iv. 353.
  • 4a. Arkell, Oxf. Stone, 112-14; Hist. MSS. Com. 75, Downshire, i, p. 501.
  • 5a. Bladon par. reg. transcript, baptisms 1813-38; P.R.O., HO 107/889, 1730; ibid. RG 10/448; RG 11/1511.
  • 6a. Arkell, Oxf. Stone, 110-11.
  • 7a. Blenheim Mun., B/M/208, f. 27; B/M/209, ff. 28, 72; ibid. box 5.
  • 8a. Merton Coll. Mun., 6675; W. J. Arkell, 'Geol. Map', in D. Green, Blenheim Palace, 294.
  • 9a. Blenheim Mun., box 6.
  • 10a. Ibid. box 10.
  • 11a. O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Oxon. XXVI. 12 (1880 edn.); Bodl. MS. Dep. b 158, item c, p. 145; O.R.O., D.V. VIII/279, X/22.
  • 12a. Bodl. MS. Dep. b 158, item c, p. 146.
  • 13a. Ibid. p. 144; Arkell, Oxf. Stone, 114.
  • 14a. Above.
  • 15a. Bodl. MS. d.d. Ch. Ch. O.R. 127; O.R.O., MSS. Wills Oxon. 189, f. 318; ibid. 37/1/5; 120/4/25; par. reg. transcript, burials 1580.
  • 16a. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 114/1/17; par. reg. transcript, baptisms 1698, 1700; burials 1640; Blenheim Mun., box 6.
  • 17a. O.R.O., MSS. Wills Oxon. 26/3/30, 130/1/13, 147/3/50; ibid. MS. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. c 118, f. 278v.; par. reg. transcript, baptisms 1700.
  • 18a. Par. reg. transcript, baptisms 1818-38; O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Woodstock b 1, p. 51; ibid. b 2, pp. 8, 59.
  • 19a. P.R.O., HO 107/889, 1730.
  • 20a. Ibid. RG 10/1448; RG 11/1511.
  • 21a. 21 Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 105, ff. 63v.-64.
  • 22a. Ibid. c 777, f. 102; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1895-1907).
  • 23a. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1895-1939); Bodl. MS. Dep. b 158, item c, ff. 135-6.
  • 24a. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 405.
  • 25a. Sandford Cart. ii, p. 273.
  • 26a. P.R.O., SC 6/962/4; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 851.
  • 27a. P.R.O., SC 6/962/22.
  • 28a. Ibid. LR 2/224, f. 53.
  • 29a. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 39/3/12; Oxon. Visit. 252; Par. Colln. 353.
  • 30a. O.R.O., MS. Wills. Oxon. 150/1/8; Blenheim Mun., box 5.
  • 31a. O.R.O., MSS. Wills Oxon. 37/2/35; 37/4/13; 137/1/19; Blenheim Mun., box 5.