North Leigh: 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, 'North Leigh: Economic history', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990), pp. 224-230. British History Online [accessed 16 June 2024].

A P Baggs. W J Blair. Eleanor Chance. Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. C J Day. Nesta Selwyn. S C Townley. "North Leigh: Economic history", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) 224-230. British History Online, accessed June 16, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Blair, W J. Chance, Eleanor. Colvin, Christina. Cooper, Janet. Day, C J. Selwyn, Nesta. Townley, S C. "North Leigh: Economic history", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990). 224-230. British History Online. Web. 16 June 2024,

Economic history

A two-field arrangement seems to have been in use in North Leigh by 1279 when the vicarage was endowed with 10 a. of glebe, 5 a. in one field and 5 a. in the other. (fn. 62) In 1581 (fn. 63) and the 17th century (fn. 64) one field, on the south and east, included Heycroft, Church field, and Over (or Upper) Riding, the other, on the north and west, included North field, Edgings field, and Caden hill. (fn. 65) The two were divided by the tributary of the Evenlode and by field boundaries. There was very little glebe in Over Riding and none in Lower (or Nether) Riding, Bridge field, and Sturt field, possibly because when the vicarage was ordained those fields were not fully cleared. There was probably still a two-field arrangement in the 1370s when, on a demesne of 3 ploughlands (c. 300 a.), c. 150 a. were sown each year. (fn. 66) By 1581 that arrangement had been superseded by one in which seven fields followed a three-course rotation. The divisions were Over Riding, Bridge field, North field; Lower Riding, Edgings field, Caden hill; Church field, Heycroft. The last division was much the smallest and may have included Sturt field for purposes of fallowing. (fn. 67) Sturt field in 1581 was said to belong solely to the demesne farm, Holly Court, but in 1600 William Pope's proposal to inclose his land that lay in compact blocks excluded Sturt field because there 'his lands cannot be inclosed'. (fn. 68) The field was still commonable in the later 17th century, (fn. 69) and it seems to have remained open until the inclosure award of 1759. (fn. 70)

A medieval yardland of 25-30 field acres seems likely. That was the norm for demesne land in 1581, but by then copyhold yardlands ranged from 28 to 80 field acres, averaging c. 40. (fn. 71) Numerous closes were used to augment arable land in the open fields. (fn. 72)

Assarting was probably under way by 1086. The number of tenants and of ploughteams at work, 42 and 14 respectively, was large for an estate reckoned to have land for only 10 ploughteams, and perhaps indicates pressure on resources. (fn. 73) Fines were paid to the Crown for assarts and waste in the late 12th century, (fn. 74) and Netley abbey began to assart land as soon as it obtained North Leigh manor in 1247. (fn. 75) By 1279 the arable seems to have increased by 200-300 a. since 1086, (fn. 76) leaving perhaps a further 200 a. to be cleared in the late 13th century and early 14th. During that last period people from North Leigh were creating assarts in neighbouring Fawler, Finstock, and Hailey. (fn. 77) Medieval assarts in North Leigh lay in the north-east, a large expanse of heath adjoining Hanborough on the east and Eynsham on the south surviving until the 18th century. Cleared land seems to have been grouped into the later Bridge field, Over and Lower Riding (the name meaning cleared ground), and Sturt field. The assarts were held of the manorial lord for money rents and were assimilated into the existing open-field rotation. (fn. 78)

The extensive woodland (1 ½ by 1 league) recorded in 1086 (fn. 79) presumably comprised the north-east quarter of the parish and the heath adjoining Hanborough and Eynsham. Woodland in the north-east had been reduced by the 15th century to coppices. There appears to have been little change in the extent of woodland by the mid 16th century, when 33 a. of coppice and, on the heath, 80 a. of woodland known as North Leigh wood were recorded. (fn. 80) Much of North Leigh wood was felled in the 1640s to raise money for the 'destitute' Thomas Pope, earl of Downe. (fn. 81) A coppice of 16 a. said in 1584 to be 'in or near Wilcote' probably lay mostly in Finstock. (fn. 82) Few made their living entirely from the woodland; only one reference has been found, for example, to a charcoal burner. (fn. 83) The forest was important, however, in supplementing income: in 1272 North Leigh tenants were removing 2,392 cart loads of wood annually from the neighbourhood, and cottagers were taking 'unlimited' branches and underwood. (fn. 84) Netley abbey regularly made £5 or £6 a year from the sale of wood in the 15th century. (fn. 85) North Leigh tenants had the exclusive right to cut fern, thorns, and furze on the heath, which were carefully husbanded: cutting was occasionally abandoned for a year by common consent and in 1602 was forbidden for three years. (fn. 86) Timber, furze, and fern were frequently mentioned in 17th-century inventories, and William Phipps in 1717 had hardwood and faggots valued at £34 10s. in his yard and 2,400 faggots worth £48 at Rewley wharf in Oxford, presumably taken there by river. (fn. 87)

The heath was the principal source of pasture in North Leigh apart from the fallow fields, and pigs, sheep, cattle, and horses were grazed there. A separate demesne pasture mentioned in 1279 (fn. 88) was probably that later known as Horsemoor or Cowmoor, near Holly Court. (fn. 89) The right of tenants from the demesne towns of Woodstock manor to graze animals other than horses in North Leigh was unsuccessfully challenged in 1540. In effect the right was claimed and exercised only by the tenants of Stonesfield and Combe, (fn. 90) and at inclosure those parishes were allotted land in exchange. (fn. 91) Leys had been introduced into the arable by the mid 16th century, (fn. 92) and seem to have become increasingly common. Some may have been used to provide additional hay. (fn. 93) By the late 17th century many leys had been unploughed for 25 years. (fn. 94)

Meadow, said in 1086 to comprise 90 a., (fn. 95) lay along the river Evenlode and its tributary in Edgings field. In the later 13th century 'the lord's great meadow' was mown by the villein tenants, who between them received 1 qr. of wheat, a basinful of salt, a cheese, and 32d.; cotland holders spread and stacked the grass, for which service they each received 3 sheaves; cottagers worked without payment. (fn. 96) The 'great meadow' possibly comprised Mychulmead (perhaps the later Langham), between Ashford mill and Stonesford, and Stunsham, east of the ford: both were still mown by customary tenants in the 1370s, whereas the other demesne meadows, viz. Millmead, Clayham, and Spratsham in Sturt field, were mown by hired labour. (fn. 97) Exclusive use by the lord of all those meadows would, however, have left little for others, and it may be that part of each was used by the tenants. Part of Stunsham was shared by those owing mowing services. (fn. 98) Demesne meadow was, moreover, at its most extensive in the 1370s: in the wake of natural disasters and depopulation Netley abbey had difficulty in finding takers for all the available meadow. (fn. 99) In the 16th century 50a. of meadow in Langham, Stunsham, Clayham, Spratsham, and Simersham were common lot meadow, the remainder being held in severalty. Close mead, formerly Millmead, and Fishwell Moor at Holly Court were entirely several. The meadow in Edgings field may always have been common. (fn. 1) Demesne meadow in the common meadows seems by the 16th century to have been amalgamated into compact blocks exempt from lot-drawing but commonable after the grass had been lifted. (fn. 2) Lot-drawing was restricted to specific yardlands and half-yardlands which were represented by symbols such as the 'barrel a-bound', the 'plain ladle', the 'shuttle', and the 'four holes', carved or drawn on markers. (fn. 3) Hurdles were used to fence the allotments. (fn. 4) The system lasted into the 18th century, perhaps until inclosure, but meadow rights were increasingly sold separately from the yardlands to which they had been attached. (fn. 5)

In 1086 33 villani and 8 bordars had 12 ploughteams, and presumably also worked the 2 ploughteams on the demesne, where only one servus was recorded. (fn. 6) The demesne had probably increased to 3 ploughlands by 1195, when the manor was stocked with 24 oxen, (fn. 7) and it remained that size in 1279. By 1279 there had been a marked increase in the number of tenants, provided for mainly by subdividing holdings. On the Netley abbey estate there were 55 villein half-yardlanders, 2 with full yardlands, 11 cotland tenants, and 31 cottagers. For each half-yardland a villein was required to work for the lord every fourth day in summer, except on Saturdays and holidays, to mow grass, to plough, sow, carry, and thresh the lord's corn, and to wash and shear his sheep; he also gave the lord 4 bu. of malt at Christmas. The villein paid a relatively low rent of 2s. 2d., pannage, hidage, and aid, and redeemed his children at the lord's will. One yardlander kept the lord's pigs, and 3 half-yardlanders performed services connected with the lord's ploughs in return for remission of rent, ¼ a. or ½ a. of sown land, and the use of a plough. Cotland tenants worked as required on Mondays in the summer, and owed haymaking duties and 4 bedrips. Rent was 9d., plus a cock and 3 hens. Most cottagers had only ½ a. or 1 a. of assart land and owed help at haymaking and bedrips, although 11 owed no services. The standard rent was 6d. an acre. There were three freeholds. John of the hall held 3 yardlands of the abbey rent-free, a croft for 2s. 6d., and meadow for 2d., and had as tenants a halfyardlander, 4 cotlanders, and 9 cottagers, owing the same services as those on the abbey estate. None of John's tenants held assarts of him, but one of his cottagers held 1 1/3 a. of assart from Netley abbey, which seems to have reserved the rents from all assarted land. The other freeholders were John Kynne, with 1 yardland for 6s., and William of Henton, who paid 1s. for a cotland. (fn. 8)

In the early 14th century many inhabitants apparently lived near subsistence level. In 1306 the 49 taxpayers were assessed at a total of £2 17s. 9d., of which 12s. 1d. was due from the abbot of Netley and 7s. ½d. from John of Leigh. The remaining contributions included 33 of 1s. and under, and 13 of between 1s. and 2s., indicating that the parish was still populated mainly by half-yardlanders and cottagers. (fn. 9) The disparity of wealth was even more marked in 1316, when John of Leigh's contribution of 22s. comprised a fifth of North Leigh's total. (fn. 10) In 1327 North Leigh's taxpayers were among the poorest in the area, with an average personalty of c. 32s. compared, for instance, to c. 50s. in neighbouring Eynsham, itself a poor place. (fn. 11) Fewer than a third of the family names of 1279 occurred in 1306. Some reappeared in 1316, perhaps omitted earlier because of poverty, but the discontinuity was unusual. The Dyray family, for example, with 6 representatives in 1279, had by 1316 apparently disappeared, and of 41 family names recorded in 1306 only 13 remained in 1327.

Netley abbey in 1374 claimed that about a third of its tenements in North Leigh were vacant. Tenants seem to have been willing to engross holdings, and the abbey continued demesne farming, taking grass from 8 halfyardlands to provide winter feed for its flock of c. 500 sheep. In 1374 the sale of wool produced £15 12s. 1d. for the abbey; in contrast, surplus corn fetched only 17s. 3d. and hides 26s. 7d. Demesne livestock included oxen for 3 ploughs, apparently in teams of 8, 70-80 head of cattle, 2 horses, a boar, and poultry. Dairy produce fetched 10s.- 12s. a year, and honey, of which 10 gallons was produced in 1373-4, sold at 1s. a gallon. On the demesne 109 a. were sown in 1372 and 145 a. in 1373 with wheat, dredge, oats, and peas, of which most was used to pay farm servants and some was set aside for those 52 or 53 tenants whose labour had been required. The tenants of 5 yardlands, 10 halfyardlands, and 2 cottages had commuted their services for 101s. in total. (fn. 12)

By 1418 demesne farming had been abandoned and the whole manor, including fines but excluding profits of court, leased to the tenants. In 1418 the abbey received c. £23, but thereafter arrears of rent leapt from £2 in 1420 to £25 in 1421 and to £31 in 1423. Such losses from Netley's most important estate presumably prompted a scheme of 1424 whereby the manor and demesne were let to a single tenant, James Howe, who was to collect rents. From 1445 to 1451 the manor and demesne were leased piecemeal to tenants, Netley being unable to find a taker for the whole. Two tenants took a 9-year lease of the manor and demesne in 1451 at a rent reduced from £10 to £8 a year. Later leases, to one or to two tenants, were for 5 years, on the same terms. Some tenants took holdings on condition that they were free of works, and the abbey sometimes waived fines and arrears. Tenants were found for most holdings, however, and when in 1465-6 the abbey was left with a yardland on its hands it compelled some tenants to plough and sow the land, a costly exercise in seigneurial authority, for the issues covered only half the expense. Arrears remained high, and with rising wool prices may have prompted a return in 1470 to demesne sheep farming. Although the flock was at most c. 240 animals, half its size in the 1370s, the abbey obtained approximately twice as much for its wool, sold at Burford. Exchanges of sheep with tenants suggest co-operation, possibly to facilitate specialization, but in 1475-6 all but 10 of Netley's sheep died of murrain, and the abbey finally withdrew from demesne farming. The effects of the disease are perhaps also discernible in a rise in arrears from £31 to £42 in 1477, after which they gradually returned to c. £30 a year. (fn. 13)

Small parcels of demesne were leased annually to tenants, and from the mid 15th century reference is made to the leasing of yardland, half-yardland, and cotland tenements. By the early 16th century holdings might be at will, for life, or for term of years. By 1581 tenancies seem to have become more varied, with the holders of c. 30 yardlands classed as 'copyholders for life', (fn. 14) and some hereditary copyholds, mainly of cottages and closes. Although the number of yardlands and half-yardlands in the 16th century, 5 and 51 respectively, had altered little since the later 13th century, they were concentrated in far fewer hands: by 1536 they were shared among 25 tenants, only four of whom had merely a halfyardland. The largest holdings, of 2 ½ yardlands, were those of Thomas Ridley and Robert Jakes; 5 tenants had 2 yardlands each, and there were 14 yardlanders. (fn. 15) Besides Wilcote and the earl of Shrewsbury's estate, some freeholds had been created, usually from demesne meadow and small closes. There remained a demesne of 8 yardlands, based on Holly Court and leased to a succession of tenants. (fn. 16) There were also in the later Middle Ages many poor tenants and landless labourers. Netley abbey distributed alms to 'poor tenants' in 1424-5, and later occasionally remitted the debts of tenants reduced to 'poverty and begging'. (fn. 17) In 1524 a small relatively well-to-do group of tenant farmers contrasted with a much larger population assessed for tax at the lowest level or omitted altogether: 33 people were assessed on a total of £8 1s. 11d., of which Thomas Ridley was assessed at £4, Thomas Hethen at 41s., and five others at between 6s. 8d. and 2s. 6d. (fn. 18) Ridley, the 'substantialest man in the township', was able to outface Sir Richard Elyot of Combe, serjeant-at-law, in a dispute about intercommoning. Elyot's son Thomas and Sir Simon Harcourt were overseers of Ridley's will. (fn. 19) The Ridleys moved away from North Leigh in the later 16th century, perhaps to the Witney weaving industry. (fn. 20) Other families, such as the Barfoots, Breakspears, Newells, and Phippses, which had been resident since the 15th century, remained until the 18th, 19th, or 20th but were untypical: of 30 family names recorded in 1536 only 8 remained in 1581, (fn. 21) and between 1581 and 1657 only 5 holdings remained with the same families. (fn. 22) Many copyholders of inheritance built additional cottages, presumably to house an influx of labouring families. (fn. 23) In the later 16th century gentry families became resident in the parish, usually as lessees of demesne farms. The demesne 8 yardlands seem to have been shared from the 1560s until c. 1600 by the Holloway and Greville families. The Holloways and, perhaps, the Grevilles lived at Holly Court. (fn. 24) In 1601 George Berrington took a 21-year lease of the demesne and sold the remainder in 1612 to Robert Thorpe. (fn. 25) Thorpe also obtained the 5-yardland freehold known as King's farm, gaining control of more than a quarter of the parish's arable land. The Lenthalls were at Wilcote only briefly. Of more lasting influence was the family of Simon Perrott, which from the mid 16th century built up an extensive copyhold and leasehold estate. The Martins at Wilcote and the Calcutts at several farms also provided a core of stability to the parish until the 19th century. (fn. 26)

Copyhold and leasehold were still prevalent in the earlier 17th century, and it was said to be common for a third of the crop to be paid to the landlord as rent. That system seems even then, however, to have been giving place to rack rents. (fn. 27) From the mid 17th century land was enfranchised to meet the financial difficulties of Thomas Pope. (fn. 28) Several small freeholds seem to have been created then and under the Holman family in the 1660s and 1670s, a process halted by the succession in 1676 of a resident lord, James Perrott. (fn. 29) Already owner of King's farm, (fn. 30) he became overwhelmingly the largest landowner in the parish, with a demesne of c. 13 yardlands and most of the rest in the hands of his tenants. (fn. 31) The number of holdings fluctuated, but declined from c. 60 in 1700 to c. 50 in the 1720s, at which level it appears to have stabilized.

Soon after inheriting the manor James Leigh-Perrott began to press for inclosure and induced Bridewell hospital to support him. (fn. 32) A private Act, one of the first for the county, was obtained in 1758, and inclosure began in the following year. (fn. 33) The award allotted 1,310 a. of open-field land and 395 a. of heath; a further 146 a. of heath was set aside for cottagers to continue holding in common. The chief allottees, apart from the vicar, received a proportion of their award as heath land. Leigh-Perrott received in all 545 a., including a broad swathe through the middle of the parish from north to south and Sturt field in the east and 91 a. of heath. Bridewell hospital received 323 a. for tithes and the rectorial glebe. The vicar was allotted 127 a. for his glebe and tithes. William Perrott received 205 a.; Combe and Stonesfield parishes were allotted 15 a. adjoining Stonesfield ford and 40 a., later known as the Demesnes, adjoining Hanborough for common rights. The remaining 369 a. were divided among 30 people whose allotments ranged from ¾ a. to 39 a.

Inclosure of the heath provoked riots and fence-breaking, apparently by labourers and small tradesmen who had traditionally relied on the heath to provide fuel and grazing. By erecting fences before the award was published Leigh-Perrott may have excited rumours that the whole heath was to be inclosed. (fn. 34) Further riots in 1761, directed against Bridewell hospital and William Perrott, alarmed the authorities into sending the Berkshire militia to restore order. (fn. 35) In the wake of the disturbances the manor court met and fixed a stint of 4 sheep or 1 cow or ½ horse for each cottager, who might also cut and remove as much furze as he could carry on his back. (fn. 36) Resentment smouldered on, flaring up in occasional outbursts of destruction during holidays and festivals. (fn. 37) In 1813 cottage owners, led by George Spencer, duke of Marlborough, agreed that inclosure of the heath should be completed, and a new award was made in 1814. The duke was allotted 42 a., Thomas and Anne Bird 41 a., and 12 owners the remaining 60 a. (fn. 38) Popular reaction is not recorded.

Few new farmhouses were built as a result of inclosure. Where possible, allotments of inclosed land adjoined the houses and closes of recipients. (fn. 39) Several houses already lay conveniently in outlying positions amidst ancient inclosure. Bridewell hospital built Bridewell Farm in 1761; (fn. 40) its house at Heath Farm, south of the New Yatt road, is recorded only from the 1840s. (fn. 41)

After inclosure the duke of Marlborough became dominant in North Leigh, buying the manorial estate in 1765 and Perrottshill and its land in 1766. (fn. 42) Some small freeholds were also added and by 1863 the Blenheim estate owned 1,347 a. in the parish. (fn. 43) Other small estates were accumulated by outsiders: Henry North, for instance, a Woodstock lawyer, acquired in 1792 c. 30 a. in East End, later known as Field farm, which became part of the Blenheim estate in 1849. (fn. 44) The number of owner-occupiers declined slowly, from c. 20 in the later 18th century to c. 15 in the earlier 19th, (fn. 45) and the number of separate farms was reduced. In 1764 there were six farms on the manorial estate and two on William Perrott's; by 1799 they had been reduced to four, Holly Court (250 a.), Church farm (210 a.), the older Field farm (190 a.), and, probably, East End farm (230 a.). (fn. 46)

Few major tenant farmers in the later 18th century and 19th were North Leigh men, apparently for want of working capital. The Calcutt family was perhaps the most successful over a prolonged period, holding several of the chief farms at various times, but by 1851 the family, despite its earlier proliferation, had few members in the parish. (fn. 47) Of 13 farms with 50 a. or more in 1851 only two were worked by men born in North Leigh, a ratio that altered little for three decades or longer. (fn. 48)

Agricultural depression in the later 19th century and early 20th led to changing ownership and the break-up of the largest estates. Bridewell's tenant at Heath farm was said in 1881 to have lost money for years, and his rent was rebated; in 1920 the entire Bridewell estate was sold. (fn. 49) Also in 1881 a bailiff was managing 500 a. of the Blenheim estate, presumably for lack of tenants. (fn. 50) Much of the estate was sold and divided in 1886 (fn. 51) and further reduced by sales in the 20th century, notably of Perrottshill farm in 1920 to its tenant, Edgar Woodward, who in 1952 also bought Field farm, East End. (fn. 52) James Mason of Eynsham Hall began extensive purchases in the late 19th century, and the Eynsham Estate Co. was the predominant landowner until it sold much land after 1945. (fn. 53)

Inventories from the 16th century to the earlier 18th indicate that mixed farming was the norm. Wheat and barley were the principal crops, with peas, vetches, and oats. (fn. 54) Occasional references have been found to rye, hemp, and hops. (fn. 55) Most farmers kept cattle, and herds were relatively large, averaging 7 or 8 animals throughout the period. The median size of 21 sheep flocks recorded in inventories before the mid 17th century was an unexceptional 16 animals. As elsewhere, the size of flocks increased sharply thereafter, although rather fewer farmers kept sheep: the median size of 14 flocks noted in the later 17th century and earlier 18th was 64. (fn. 56) Sheep rearing, however, was never on a scale to render the parish wealthy, as is witnessed by the unremarkable houses of the period. Two-thirds of North Leigh inventories were of goods valued at less than £100, and more than half were below £50. In 1662 as many as 43 out of 109 houses seem to have been exempted from payment of hearth tax because of poverty. (fn. 57) Some of those exempted lived above subsistence level: William Franklin (d. 1667) left an estate valued at £30, including £18 in cash and clothing. (fn. 58)

Following inclosure the amount of arable in the parish seems to have increased. (fn. 59) Probably the greatest single change was the ploughing up of the heath south of the New Yatt road. The broad band of clay on the high ground from New Yatt round to East End seems to have remained grassland. In 1801 the parish was almost evenly divided between arable and grass. (fn. 60) By 1876 two thirds of cultivated land was arable, (fn. 61) although the amount was reduced thereafter until by 1914 almost half the cultivable land in the parish was again permanent pasture, only 40 per cent arable. Of three types of soil, the clay was difficult in wet weather and gave a poor crop of grass, the reclaimed heath was 'cold and late country of bad reputation', and the predominant cornbrash was excellent for sheep and barley. Nevertheless the parish in 1914 had few sheep, a greater number of dairy cattle, and many pigs. Barley, wheat, and, to a lesser extent, oats were the main crops. Potatoes and mangolds were grown extensively. (fn. 62a) In the early 20th century James Francis Mason of Eynsham Hall established the North Leigh Land Co. to sell to cottagers on advantageous terms c. 30 a. of land that he had given for the purpose. The land, off Park Road, was extended by c. 1920 to 100 a., and 5 per cent of the purchase money was reserved for communal use. In 1909 the county council took over a number of allotments, demand for which was said to be high. Small holders and allotment holders seem to have grown a wide variety of crops including barley for pigs and wheat. (fn. 63a) As elsewhere, arable production increased in the later 20th century and several farmhouses such as Holly Court Farm, Puddle End Farm, and East End Farm were converted to purely domestic use. Perrottshill farm and Field farm, East End, were thrown together and almost entirely given over to raising beef cattle. On other farms beef cattle or arable crops replaced dairy cattle. Part of Church farm was used to grow wheat by 'old-fashioned methods' to provide straw for thatching and handicrafts. (fn. 64a) In 1982 Field farm, North Leigh, started breeding horses, mainly Arab and Welsh, and in 1986 there were c. 50 animals. (fn. 65a) In 1983 a Scots farmer, Stuart Hamilton, introduced the farming of red deer on Ashford Mill farm; in 1986 the herd numbered 300. In 1984 and 1985 red and fallow deer from outside the parish were wintered at New Yatt farm. (fn. 66a)

Osney Hill was in the 18th century and early 19th still heavily wooded and valued for its shooting. (fn. 67a) From the later 19th century, as part of the Eynsham Park estate, it was a farm, varying in size from c. 70 a. to c. 200 a., raising corn and cattle until in the 1980s it was given over entirely to winter wheat. (fn. 68a)

North Leigh's most important market from the 16th century to the 18th seems to have been Witney. In 1587 the Privy Council, to prevent forestalling, ordered five North Leigh farmers to bring wheat, barley, malt, and peas weekly for sale at Witney; one was also ordered to bring malt monthly to Woodstock. (fn. 69a) North Leigh's links with Oxford market appear to have been slight (fn. 70a) before the city's rapid expansion in the 19th century. Improved rail links with London in the later 19th century probably encouraged the expansion of dairy farming.

There are references from the 16th century to the usual rural tradesmen and craftsmen. In 1594 a shop, probably a weaver's workshop, was said to have been built recently, probably in Church Road. (fn. 71a) Another, known in the 18th century as the 'old weaver's shop', may have stood near the later windmill. (fn. 72a) North Leigh's proximity to Witney accounts for the presence of weavers and clothiers. Best known is the clothier William Mason, who in 1648 loaned money to Charles 1. (fn. 73a) At his death in 1676 he owned three broadlooms, at Cassington, at New Yatt, and at his own shop in North Leigh. His inventory included wool worth £12, woollen yarn worth £14, and blankets worth £16, at the mill, possibly in Witney where he owned property. (fn. 74a) In the 19th century the parish was heavily dependent on direct employment in agriculture, with many in related trades such as smiths and wheelwrights. There were many gloveresses, presumably working for Woodstock masters: 50 or 60 were usually so employed between 1851 and 1881, and in 1871 there were 94, living mainly at East End, where most households included at least one in the trade. (fn. 75a) A few men worked in quarries. The largest, at East End, was leased first to a local mason then, from 1463 to 1485 or later, to the churchwardens of South Leigh to dig freestone. Another, unidentified, was leased to North Leigh men during the same period, as was the quarry and limepit in Church field at the west end of Boddington Lane. (fn. 76a) In 1595 tenants of the manor claimed use of the quarry at East End for the repair of tenements, and there was also said to be a common mortar pit on the heath, perhaps in the area later known as the Demesnes. (fn. 77a) Stone from East End was much used in the later 18th century by the Oxford paving commission (fn. 78a) and in 1788 to build Oriel College library. (fn. 79a) The quarry was owned and worked in the later 19th century by the Lord family, but seems to have fallen into virtual disuse in the 1890s. (fn. 80a) The Boddington Lane limepit was worked by the Breakspear family until the Second World War, and in the 19th century supplied lime to the gasworks at Witney. (fn. 81a) The quarry there closed c. 1967 and became a refuse tip for the county council. (fn. 82a) Other quarries at various times included those south of Bridgefield bridge, at Whitehill, and at the Demesnes, where sand and gravel were still extracted in the early 20th century. (fn. 83a) There were claypits in the south part of the Demesnes, but no brick kilns have been found in North Leigh, and the eight brickmakers in East End in 1861 presumably worked at Eynsham Park or Hanborough. (fn. 84a) Like other places in the area North Leigh has in the 20th century increasingly become a dormitory for Oxford and elsewhere. A nursery and garden centre opposite the north lodge of Eynsham Park was considerably expanded in the 1980s. A large boarding kennels was at Puddle End Farm, a small engineering business and a firm of motor factors were on the Witney-Woodstock road, a plant hire business was in Green Lane, and there were shops at North Leigh village and at East End.

MILLS. A mill was recorded in 1086. (fn. 85a) It descended with the manor as part of the honor of St. Valery, (fn. 86a) and in 1237 was held of the honor partly by Simon of Pattishall (Northants.), who granted his share in that year to Snelshall priory (Bucks.), (fn. 87a) and partly by Netley abbey, to which the priory sold its share soon after. (fn. 88a) In 1279 the abbey had two water mills in North Leigh; (fn. 89a) Ashford mill may at that time have been a double mill, or a separate mill may have been built, perhaps near Holly Court. In 1306 and 1327 two millers were recorded, apparently living at some distance from each other. (fn. 90a) No other reference to a second mill has been found. Ashford mill seems to have been rebuilt in 1449. (fn. 91a) In the earlier 18th century the mill house was small and its occupants were poor. (fn. 92a) From the later 18th century it also served as a farmhouse. (fn. 93a) The mill was rebuilt in 1839. (fn. 94a) For much of the later 19th century and early 20th the tenant was Emmanuel Jarvis, who by 1881 had increased the farm to 270 a. (fn. 95a) The mill was included in the sale of Blenheim lands in 1886, (fn. 96a) but it was not resold; milling ceased at about that time. Repairs were made and new buildings erected, but thereafter Ashford mill served only as a house for a small farm. (fn. 97a) The mill passed with Wilcote House until 1983, when it was bought by Stuart Hamilton. (fn. 98a)

North Leigh windmill was built by 1833, probably by Joseph Shepherd, baker and miller. (fn. 99a) Its site, at the junction of Common Road and Park Road, formed part of the award made to Thomas Shepherd at inclosure. (fn. 1a) The mill had by 1875 been acquired by the Blenheim estate, which sold it in that year to James Mason. Everard Healey bought it in 1923 and remained the owner in 1986. (fn. 2a) The mill was restored in 1881 and again in 1933. Its top was removed c. 1940 to make an observation post. The building became ruinous, and in 1986 West Oxfordshire district council was trying to compel repairs. (fn. 3a)


  • 62. Rot. Gravesend (L.R.S. xx), 187-8, 235.
  • 63. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36.
  • 64. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. b 41, ff. 52-4.
  • 65. B. Schumer, 'Eliz. Surv. of N. Leigh', Oxoniensia, xl. 310, 314.
  • 66. P.R.O., SC 6/959/6-7.
  • 67. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, pp. 1, 34, 64; Oxoniensia, xl. 313-314.
  • 68. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, p. 34; ibid. MS. North Adds. c 2, f. 82.
  • 69. e.g. Blenheim Mun., B/M/267, man. cts. 1 Oct. 1677, 6 Oct. 1679.
  • 70. O.R.O., incl. award.
  • 71. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, pp. 64-6, 76-82.
  • 72. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 181, f. 112.
  • 73. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 415.
  • 74. Pipe R. 1187 (P.R.S. xxxvii), 48; 1188 (P.R.S. xxxviii), 152; 1190 (P.R.S.N.S. i), 13.
  • 75. Cal. Pat. 1247-58, 8.
  • 76. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 868-71.
  • 77. P.R.O., E 32/137; P. Hyde, 'Winchester Manors of Witney and Adderbury' (Oxf. Univ. B. Litt. thesis, 1955), 285-8, 293.
  • 78. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 868-71.
  • 79. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 415.
  • 80. Blenheim Mun., box 105, copy of grant of 1544. The record in L. & P. Hen. VIII, xix (1), p. 622 is incomplete.
  • 81. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1640-1, 494.
  • 82. Bodl. MS. Dep. d 72, f. 117.
  • 83. P.R.O., E 32/251.
  • 84. Ibid. E 32/137.
  • 85. Ibid. SC 6/959/16-19; SC 6/960/20, 22, 24.
  • 86. Ibid. SC 2/197/55, ct. of 31 Mar. 1525; Bodl. MS. North Adds. c 2, f. 109.
  • 87. O.R.O., MSS. Wills Oxon. 59/4/1; 13/5/5; 14/3/16; 145/2/31.
  • 88. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 868.
  • 89. P.R.O., SC 6/959/22, 24; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, pp. ii, 36.
  • 90. P.R.O., E 321/37/8; ibid. SC 2/197/55, ct. of 1 May 1526; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 60, f. 135.
  • 91. Below.
  • 92. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 769, f. 21v.
  • 93. Ibid. f 36, pp. 2, 15-16, 26.
  • 94. Blenheim Mun., box 110, lease of Feb. 1694.
  • 95. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 415.
  • 96. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 868-71.
  • 97. P.R.O., SC 6/959/6-7, 22.
  • 98. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 868.
  • 99. P.R.O., SC 6/959/6-7.
  • 1. Ibid. SC 6/Hen. VIII/3326, m. 10d.; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, pp. 48-9, 65, 68, 77; ibid. MS. North Adds. c 2, f. 5; O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 8/5/1.
  • 2. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, pp. 48-9, 64; Blenheim Mun., B/M/265.
  • 3. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, p. 71.
  • 4. Blenheim Mun., box 110, lease of Feb. 1694.
  • 5. Ibid. box 105; O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 121/2/23.
  • 6. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 415.
  • 7. Pipe R. 1195 (P.R.S. N.S. vi), 47.
  • 8. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 868-71.
  • 9. P.R.O., E 179/161/10. One assessment is illegible.
  • 10. Ibid. E 179/161/8. John of Leigh was also assessed in Tilgarsley: above, Eynsham, Econ.
  • 11. Ibid. E 179/161/9; above, Eynsham, Econ.
  • 12. Ibid. SC 6/959/6-7; V.C.H. Hants, ii. 147-8.
  • 13. P.R.O., SC 6/959/8-26; 960/1-27; 961/1-3.
  • 14. P.R.O., SC 2/197/54-5; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, pp. 62-3, 65-6, 76-82, 85, 87-90.
  • 15. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 868-70; ct. roll of 1530, since lost, quoted in Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, p. 83; P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/3326, m. 11.
  • 16. P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/3326, mm. 10d.-11; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, pp. 64, 68; above, Manors and other estates.
  • 17. P.R.O., SC 6/959/12; SC 6/960/19-20, 27.
  • 18. Ibid. E 179/161/175, m. 8.
  • 19. Ibid. E 321/37/8, f. 1 and v.; O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 178, ff. 12-13.
  • 20. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 181, f. 112; Witney Ct. Bks. 1538-60 (O.R.S. liv), passim.
  • 21. P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/3326, mm. 10d.-11; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, passim.
  • 22. Oxoniensia, xl. 318.
  • 23. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. f 36, pp. 87-9.
  • 24. Ibid. MS. Trin. Coll. B 83, f. 2; P.R.O., REQ 2/103/78; ibid. C 2 Jas. 1/F1/39; O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. c 118, f. 141; Witney Ct. Bks. 1538-1610 (O.R.S. liv), 70; O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 187, f. 361.
  • 25. P.R.O., C 3/384/6.
  • 26. Above, Manor and other estates.
  • 27. Ibid. MS. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. c 118, ff. 239-40v., 265-6.
  • 28. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. e 184, f. 42; MSS. Ch. Oxon. 2523-5; Blenheim Mun., box 105.
  • 29. Blenheim Mun., boxes 103, 106, 109; Reading Univ. Arch., OXF 22/5/59; above, Manor and other estates.
  • 30. Above, Manor.
  • 31. O.R.O., land tax assess.
  • 32. Bridewell Hosp. Mun., ct. bks. 1757-8.
  • 33. North Leigh Incl. Act, 31 Geo. II, c. 29 (Priv. Act); O.R.O., incl. award.
  • 34. Fence-breaking was reported in March, 6 weeks before publ. of the award: Oxf. Fnl. 3 Mar. 1759.
  • 35. Ibid. 21 Mar., 26 Sept. 1761; O.R.O., Q.S.R. i, ff. 349v.-51.
  • 36. Blenheim Mun., B/M/275, ct. of 6 Nov. 1761.
  • 37. Oxf. fnl. 7 Aug. 1762.
  • 38. Blenheim Mun., box 107, copy of incl. award; box 124, abstract of title (1867), ff. 38-45.
  • 39. O.R.O., incl. award; Reading Univ. Arch., OXF 22/5/61.0
  • 40. Date on ho.
  • 41. Bridewell Hosp. Mun., estate bk. 25 May, 1848; R. Davis, Oxon. Map (1797); A. Bryant, Oxon. Map (1824).
  • 42. Above, Manor and other estates.
  • 43. Blenheim Mun., boxes 105, 108, 124; ibid. E/P/58.
  • 44. Ibid. box 104, abstract of title. The farm is distinct from the older-established Field farm north-west of the parish church.
  • 45. O.R.O., land tax assess.
  • 46. Blenheim Mun., box 124; ibid. B/M/287.
  • 47. B. Schumer, Calcutts of N. Leigh (priv. print. 1970), i. 10 sqq.; ii, figs. 6-15; Blenheim Mun., box 124; ibid. B/M/287; P.R.O., HO 107/1731.
  • 48. P.R.O., HO 107/1731; ibid. RG 9/904; RG 10/1450; RG 11/1513.
  • 49. Bridewell Hosp. Mun., Oxon. Rep. bk. s.a. 1881; above, Manor and other estates.
  • 50. P.R.O., RG 11/1513.
  • 51. Above, Manor and other estates.
  • 52. O.R.O., S.C. 45; Blenheim Mun., duplicate conveyance of Field farm.
  • 53. Reading Univ. Arch., OXF 22/1/108, 121-2, 129-32; 22/2/204-7.
  • 54. Unless otherwise stated the para. is based on wills and inventories in O.R.O., MSS. Wills Oxon.
  • 55. For hops see Bodl. MS. Ch. Oxon. 2523-4; ibid. MS. Top. Oxon. e 184, f. 42.
  • 56. Cf. M. A. Havinden, 'Agric. Progress in Open-field Oxon.' Agric. H. R. ix. 79-80.
  • 57. P.R.O., E 179/255/4, no. 284.
  • 58. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 127/2/14.
  • 59. Blenheim Mun., box 107.
  • 60. P.R.O., HO 67/18.
  • 61. O.S. Area Bk. (1877).
  • 62a. Orr, Oxon. Agric. 179 and statistical plates.
  • 63a. Reading Univ. Arch., OXF 22/5/65; 22/2/432; 22/15/18. A. Ashby, Allotments and Smallholdings in Oxon. 143-5; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1915 and later edns.); O.R.O., Welch XCV/1.
  • 64a. Inf. from Mr. J. Woodward, Perrottshill Farm. Unless otherwise stated, inf. on modern farming has been obtained from a survey conducted for the V.C.H. in 1986 by N. Leigh members of the Assoc. of Students of the Third Age.
  • 65a. Inf. from Mr. A. Mathias, Field Farm.
  • 66a. Oxf. Times, 22 Nov. 1985.
  • 67a. O.R.O., QSD/GI/1, p. 206; QSD/GI/2, p. 30.
  • 68a. Reading Univ. Arch., OXF 22/2/204-7.
  • 69a. P.R.O., SP 12/198, f. 107.
  • 70a. W. Thwaites, 'Marketing of Agric. Produce in 18th-cent. Oxon.' (Birmingham Univ. Ph. D. thesis, 1981).
  • 71a. Bodl. MS. North Adds. c 2, f. 6.
  • 72a. Blenheim Mun., B/M/270, 274; Reading Univ. Arch. OXF 22/5/60.
  • 73a. Cal. Cttee. for Money, ii. 999.
  • 74a. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 45/3/9. J. Milne, Cat. Oxon. 17th-cent. Tokens, pp. x, 13, 41.
  • 75a. Census, 1801-31; P.R.O., HO 107/890, 1731; ibid. RG 9/904; RG 10/1450; RG 11/1513.
  • 76a. P.R.O., SC 6/960/11-27; SC 6/961/1-3.
  • 77a. Bodl. MS. North Adds. c 2, f. 26v.
  • 78a. Oxf. fnl. 1 Jan., 14 May 1774; 30 Mar. 1776; 26 Apr. 1777.
  • 79a. W. Arkell, Oxf. Stone, 80, 88.
  • 80a. P.R.O., HO 107/173; ibid. RG 9/904; RG 10/1450; RG 11/1513; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1895); O.S. Map 25", Oxon. XXVI.14 (1899 edn.).
  • 81a. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1907-39); 19th-cent. Extractive Ind. (County Mus. inf. sheet).
  • 82a. Nor' Lye News, no. 139 (Feb. 1985): copy in Westgate Libr., Oxf.; local inf.
  • 83a. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 45.
  • 84a. P.R.O., RG 9/904; O.S. Map 25", Oxon. XXVI. 6, 9-10, 14 (1881).
  • 85a. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 415.
  • 86a. Pipe R. 1177 (P.R.S. xxvi), 15; 1182 (P.R.S. xxxi), 7.
  • 87a. Cart. Snelshall Priory (Bucks. Rec. Soc. ix), pp. 64-5; fnl. Eccl. Hist. xxx. 15
  • 88a. Cat. Anct. D. iii, D 93.
  • 89a. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 868.
  • 90a. P.R.O., E 179/161/9-10.
  • 91a. Ibid. SC 6/959/24.
  • 92a. O.R.O., MSS. Wills Oxon. 62/2/27; 168/4/8, 13; 137/1/43.
  • 93a. Blenheim Mun., box 124, abstract of title, 1867; ibid. B/M/287, schedule of farms, 1799.
  • 94a. Date on mill.
  • 95a. P.R.O., HO 107/1731; ibid. RG 9/904; RG 10/1450; RG 11/1513; Northants. R.O., S(R) 364.
  • 96a. Above, Manor and other estates.
  • 97a. Northants. R.O., S(R) 364, 390.
  • 98a. Inf. from Hon. Mrs. C. E. Cecil.
  • 99a. O.S. Map 1", Oxon. XLV (1833 edn.); P.R.O., RG 10/904; RG 10/1450; J. Kibble, Wychwood Forest, 88.
  • 1a. O.R.O., incl. award.
  • 2a. Blenheim Mun., box marked 'Hensington and N. Leigh', enfranchisement of copyholds, 1875; Reading Univ. Arch., OXF 22/2/204, p. 153; ibid. 22/5/60; ibid. 22/16/7/13; local inf.
  • 3a. Oxon. Life, Aug. 1980, 6; local inf.