North Leigh: 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, 'North Leigh: Local government', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) pp. 230-231. British History Online [accessed 23 May 2024].

A P Baggs. W J Blair. Eleanor Chance. Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. C J Day. Nesta Selwyn. S C Townley. "North Leigh: Local government", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) 230-231. British History Online, accessed May 23, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Blair, W J. Chance, Eleanor. Colvin, Christina. Cooper, Janet. Day, C J. Selwyn, Nesta. Townley, S C. "North Leigh: Local government", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990). 230-231. British History Online. Web. 23 May 2024,

Local government

The tenants of North Leigh, like others in the honor of St. Valery, had by 1255 had their suit at Wootton hundred court withdrawn by Richard, earl of Cornwall (d. 1272). A twice yearly view of frankpledge was held instead by the earl's bailiffs, who increased the payment demanded from the tenants from 5s. to 20s., by far the largest sum in the whole honor. (fn. 4) The view was granted in 1330 to Netley abbey by Edmund, earl of Cornwall. (fn. 5) It became attached thereafter to the manor court, which seems to have sat two or three times a year in the 14th century, and only twice a year, in spring and autumn, thereafter; the view of frankpledge was held with the spring court. (fn. 6) Fragments of court rolls survive for 1392 and 1398, (fn. 7) and records are increasingly common from the 16th century. (fn. 8)

In the late 15th century and earlier 16th separate tithingmen were elected for New Well End and Church End, but a single constable served for the whole manor. (fn. 9) From the later 16th century there was a single tithing only. (fn. 10) The manor court, usually called a court baron, appointed aletasters, haywards, and surveyors of the fields, heard presentments of encroachments, nuisances, and breaches of the assize of bread and of ale, and regulated the fields and the transfer of copyholds. (fn. 11) From the later 18th century the court was predominantly concerned with land transactions. The last admission to a copyhold was in 1925. (fn. 12)

Holly Court was in 1540 and 1622 the 'usual and accustomed place' for holding manor courts. (fn. 13) When James Perrott became lord in 1676, the court may have been moved to his house, the old manor house. (fn. 14) In 1871, and presumably on other occasions, it met at the Mason Arms. (fn. 15)

In the 1770s and 1780s the parish spent c. £130 a year on poor relief, but, as elsewhere, expenditure rose rapidly in the late 18th century, and stood in 1803 at £686, at c. £1 6s. per head of population one of the highest in the area. (fn. 16) A peak was reached in 1814 at £1,109, representing £2 a head. (fn. 17) Expenditure declined thereafter in an irregular manner, and in the twenties and thirties varied from c. £380 to c. £580, still above average. (fn. 18) Spending on settlement cases was consistently high. (fn. 19)

A parish workhouse was from 1768 farmed to local men. In 1776 the overseers agreed with Thomas Brooks, a North Leigh cordwainer, that in return for £ 120 a year and the profits of the paupers' labour he was to find a suitable house and provide for the inmates. Another contract specified nursing the infirm and teaching pauper children. (fn. 20) In 1777 the house could take 35, (fn. 21) perhaps then almost all the paupers in the parish. In 1800, when there were 24 inmates including 3 children, there were only 12 beds. Tools and working materials were provided for the able-bodied in the workhouse, who were chiefly employed in carding and spinning for Witney factories: in 1800 eight spinning wheels were kept. The house at that time was managed by the overseers, not a contractor, and in 1803 earnings of £20 were recorded, of which £5 was profit. (fn. 22) The workhouse was last recorded in 1815, and in 1831 there was said to be no workhouse. (fn. 23) A local tradition identifies the Mason Arms as the workhouse. (fn. 24)

In the later 18th century contractors seem to have farmed all the poor, in and out of the workhouse, but by c. 1800 the overseers had resumed direct management. (fn. 25) By 1803 when the workhouse, with 28 inmates, was almost full, there were 40 adults and 69 children receiving regular out-relief; (fn. 26) more than a quarter of the population was in receipt of relief. Those on out-relief were, like those in the workhouse, employed in textile out-work, and no reference has been found to roundsmen. Although the numbers receiving relief later declined regular out-relief continued to be given. (fn. 27)

In 1834 North Leigh became part of the Witney poor law union and in 1894 part of Witney rural district. In 1974 the parish was incorporated in West Oxfordshire district. (fn. 28)

Osney Hill was extra-parochial until c. 1871 it was made a civil parish. (fn. 29) Grouped with North Leigh from 1894 for poor law purposes and for the election of district councillors, (fn. 30) it was in 1932 annexed to North Leigh civil parish. (fn. 31)


  • 4. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 34, 47, 868; L. Midgley, Accts. of Earldom of Cornwall (Camd. 3rd ser. Ixvi), 143.
  • 5. Cal. Chart. R. 1327-41, 169.
  • 6. P.R.O., SC 6/959/6-7, 17 sqq.
  • 7. Ibid. SC 2/197/52-3.
  • 8. Ibid. 54-5; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 769; ibid. MSS. North Adds. c 2, c 7; Blenheim Mun. B/M/265-78.
  • 9. e.g. P.R.O., SC 2/197/54; SC 2/197/55, ct. of 31 Mar. 1525.
  • 10. e.g. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 769, ff. 3v.-5v.
  • 11. e.g. P.R.O., SC 2/197/54-5; Bodl. MSS. North Adds. c 2, ff. 108v.-9; c 7, f. 11.
  • 12. Blenheim Mun., B/M/270, 275-8.
  • 13. P.R.O., E 321/37/8, f. 5v.; ibid. C 3/384/6.
  • 14. Above, Manor and other estates.
  • 15. O.R.O., Rob. VII/i/4.
  • 16. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7.
  • 17. Ibid. 1818, 360-1.
  • 18. Poor Rate Returns, H.C. 556, p. 138 (1822), v; ibid. H.C. 334, p. 174 (1825), iv; ibid. H.C. 83, p. 161 (1830-1), xi; ibid. H.C. 444, p. 157 (1835), xlvii.
  • 19. Poor Abstract, 1777, 439; ibid. 1804, 406-7; ibid. 1818,
  • 20. O.R.O., NP 1/7, 10; NP XI/1.
  • 21. Poor Abstract, 1777, 439.
  • 22. Ibid. 1804, 406-7; O.R.O., NP IX/14, 16-17, 20, 30, 32-7, 50, 68-9; NP XI/1.
  • 23. Poor Abstract, 1818, 360-1; O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. b 38, f. 151.
  • 24. Local inf.
  • 25. O.R.O., NP I/7, 10; NP IX/14, 16-17, 20, 30, 32-7, 50, 68-9; NP XI/1.
  • 26. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7.
  • 27. Ibid. 1818, 360-1.
  • 28. O.R.O., RO 3251, p. 203; RO 3267.
  • 29. Census, 1871.
  • 30. O.R.O., RO 258; RO 3251, p. 203.
  • 31. Census, 1931.