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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Manors and other estates
In 1086 South Leigh formed part of the 26-hide manor of Stanton Harcourt held by Odo, bishop of Bayeux. (fn. 83) When in the earlier 12th century the estate was divided most of the land in South Leigh, including the site of the chapel, was granted by Queen Adela to her cousin Millicent with the manor later held by the Harcourt's. The rest was included in 2 hides of land granted by Richard I to Henry de la Wade, which later became the manor of Stanton Wyard, (fn. 84) and South Leigh remained divided between the two main Stanton Harcourt manors throughout the Middle Ages. (fn. 85)
In 1604 Sir Walter and Robert Harcourt sold the manor of SOUTH LEIGH to John Skinner of Grays Inn. (fn. 86) Although described as a manor and conveyed with manorial rights, the estate was actually a detached township of Stanton Harcourt, (fn. 87) and only after repeated litigation lasting until the 1630s did Skinner establish South Leigh's status as an independent manor with clearly defined boundaries. (fn. 88)
In 1628 Skinner sold the manor to Sir Henry Marten, judge of the admiralty court and M.P. for Oxford University; (fn. 89) it was leased back to him for 21 years, however, with the right to sublet any part for three lives, (fn. 90) and it seems unlikely that Marten exercised much direct influence locally. In 1637 South Leigh was settled in tail male on George Marten, Sir Henry's younger son, following his marriage to Frances Weld, (fn. 91) but in 1641 George and his elder brother Henry, the parliamentarian and regicide, (fn. 92) sold the manor to a London merchant, William Gore of Morden (Surr.) and later of Barrow Gurney (Som.). (fn. 93) The estate was sold free from encumbrances, but during the next 30 years William and his successors faced several actions from creditors claiming rights in the manor as security on unpaid loans. (fn. 94) The Skinners' interest continued until after 1651, when George Skinner of Colmers, in King's Norton (Worcs.), John Skinner's son, surrendered the manorial records in his possession in return for the continuation of leases granted by him before 4 May 1643. (fn. 95)
Later the Gores controlled the manor directly, but were usually non-resident. (fn. 96) On William Gore's death in 1662 South Leigh passed to his son Sir Thomas Gore of Barrow (d. 1675); in 1692 the manor was held in trust by Thomas's son William and others. (fn. 97) William died seised of the manor in 1718, (fn. 98) and by his will left South Leigh to his uncle William Gore, his brother Edward, and others, in trust for discharging specified debts and encumbrances which were the subject an action the following year, with reversion to William's eldest son Thomas and his heirs. (fn. 99) Thomas died in 1728 leaving two under-age sons, (fn. 1) but by 1741 the manor was held by Thomas's younger brother William, who died without issue in 1769. (fn. 2) The manor then passed with the Barrow estates to his cousin John Gore, who having little interest in business affairs leased it to his brother, Edward Gore of Kiddington; in 1786 Edward bought the estate outright. (fn. 3)
In 1792 Edward sold the manor to John Sibthorp, M.D., Regius Professor of botany at Oxford University. (fn. 4) Sibthorp had acquired lands in South Leigh, Stanton Harcourt, and Sutton from the Bosviles the previous year, (fn. 5) partly in the hope of exchanging them with Lord Harcourt for lands in North Hinksey, but primarily as a speculation; (fn. 6) an Act for inclosing South Leigh was already in progress. (fn. 7) During 1793 Sibthorp spent much time in South Leigh supervising the enclosure, (fn. 8) but thereafter was mostly abroad until his death in 1796; (fn. 9) most of his estates, including South Leigh, then passed to his father Humphrey (d. 1797), former Sherardian Professor of botany at Oxford. (fn. 10) From Humphrey they descended through the male line of the Sibthorps of Canwick Hall (Lincs.), being held by Humphrey Waldo Sibthorp (d. 1815), Coningsby Waldo Waldo-Sibthorp (d. 1822), Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorp (d. 1855), M.P. for Lincoln, Gervaise Tottenham Waldo Sibthorp (d. 1861), and Coningsby Charles Waldo Sibthorp. (fn. 11) None lived in South Leigh, although several maintained a close interest, Humphrey Waldo supporting a day school, (fn. 12) and the second Coningsby contributing to the restoration of the church and new parsonage. (fn. 13)
In 1875 South Leigh was sold, (fn. 14) the larger part (c. 1,430 a.), including the village, being bought by James Mason of Eynsham Hall, who had already acquired extensive lands in the region partly in order to pursue scientific agricultural research. (fn. 15) After his death in 1903 his son J. F. Mason sold off parts of the estate piecemeal, including Tar Farm in 1911, (fn. 16) Bartlett's Farm in 1919, (fn. 17) and several cottages. (fn. 18) Homan's Farm and South Leigh Manor, near Station Farm, were sold c. 1958. (fn. 19) The rest of the estate was still held by the Mason family, latterly through the Eynsham Estate Co., in 1987. The smaller part of South Leigh in 1875, comprising c. 530 a. of arable land and meadow and six cottages in the village, was bought by Brasenose College, Oxford, (fn. 20) the lands being consolidated into a single estate centred on the newly built College Farm. (fn. 21) Most of the land and all the cottages were sold to private individuals in 1945, leaving a residue of only 108 a. (fn. 22)
The manor house in the 18th century was that later called Church Farm, (fn. 23) built during the later 16th century perhaps for one of the Harcourt family, and presumably the house in South Leigh mentioned in 1630 which John Skinner occupied when not in London. (fn. 24) It was let to bailiffs from the mid 17th century, (fn. 25) and acquired its later name before 1835, when the attached farm was no different from those of other tenant farmers. (fn. 26) The house, of unusual size and quality for the area, is of eight bays and is the only timber-framed building in the parish. On the north were formerly a two-storey porch and a two-storeyed bay window to the hall; a service room, and a large stack and screens passage, separate the hall and parlour. The upper floor extends the house's whole length, both ends being originally jettied. (fn. 27) By 1957 the house was roughcast, but in 1974 it was restored and the timbers exposed; early, possibly original decoration survives at the south end of the first floor. (fn. 28)
Much of the land held by Henry de la Wade in the 13th century remained part of Stanton Wyard manor until the late 18th century, (fn. 29) although on William Boswell's death in 1638 five farms in South Leigh passed to his younger son Edward Boswell or Bosvile of Temple Cowley, and later to Edward's son William, who in 1664 sold them to Sir Thomas Gore to discharge numerous debts. (fn. 30) Sharpes Farm, with 2 yardlands, 2 closes, and a pasture ground, was sold c. 1693 by William's brother Thomas to Charles Cottington of Fonthill Gifford (Wilts.), from whom it was bought by William Gore in 1706. (fn. 31) In 1791 the remaining Stanton Wyard lands in South Leigh, comprising Herle's Wood farm, the Loanes, and Foots, were sold by the executors of John Bosvile to John Sibthorp with the rest of Stanton Wyard manor, which thus became incorporated into the main South Leigh estate. (fn. 32) A small farm with 6 lands of arable in Budcroft Close and ½ yard of meadow, also sold by Thomas Bosvile c. 1693, was held as an independent freehold by the Harper family during the early 18th century and by John Nalder, to whom it had descended through marriage, in 1793; (fn. 33) an allotment of c. 25 a. awarded to him in South Leigh down at enclosure was sold to Brasenose College in 1917. (fn. 34)
In the early 17th century c. 75 a. of land and a yard of meadow were bought from John Skinner by Richard Parmee of Beard Mill in Stanton Harcourt. Before 1654 the land was sold to William Gore by Parmee's son Richard, who continued to hold it, for a yearly rent, with other lands in South Leigh formerly parcel of Beard Mill. (fn. 35)