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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By the 16th century the arable at Shipton-on-Cherwell was divided between Court field (c. 550 a.) in the south and east and Town field (c. 420 a.) in the north and west. The names suggest a division between demesne and tenants' land, and indeed four fifths of Court field was composed of manorial demesne or glebe while in Town field the lords of the manor had only a few acres. In the north-west corner of the parish was Old field (c. 35 a.), which does not seem to have been part of the Town field by which it was surrounded; the lord of the manor held a block of 15 a. there, the remainder being held by tenants. (fn. 22)
Surviving 13th-century terriers suggest a similar, although possibly less clear cut, division between an area of predominantly manorial demesne in the south and east and the peasants' or cotman land in the north and west. (fn. 23) Old field was recorded only once, (fn. 24) and that in a way consistent with its being distinct from the cotman land. Most terriers which divided land into fields divided it into a north and a south field, but two terriers, one of demesne and one of tenants' land, divided land between east and west fields, (fn. 25) the east field in most respects being equivalent to the north field and the west to the south. As a two-course rotation of crops was practised, (fn. 26) it seems that the demesne and the cotman land were each divided into two fields, the demesne probably into south-east and north-east, the cotman land into north-west and south-west, the parts of each being usually called north and south fields. About 1245, however, 9 ½ a., apparently all of demesne, were divided among north, south, east, and west fields. (fn. 27) The demesne and the cotman land were presumably cultivated separately, so that there were in effect two field systems in the parish. As the demesne lands of both manors lay intermingled with each other in the same field, the division between lords' and tenants' land presumably dated from before the division of the manor in the mid 11th century. Possibly the demesne or Court field was originally the field for a manorial settlement on or near the site of the surviving village, the cotman land or Town field was the field for a separate settlement at Fititrop or Walton (although Walton itself was in the later Court field). If Old field was indeed an old field it may have been associated with a small settlement or house at Bigberry (Bica's burh); such a field apparently once extended into the neighbouring township of Weaveley the south-west corner of which was called Old field in the early 17th century. (fn. 28)
In the 16th and 17th centuries the Town field was usually divided into Copilow field (c. 112 a.), an unnamed second field (182 a.), and the third or Cotman field (125 a.), but in 1623 and 1666 the second field was divided between Fulwell Dap field (c. 60 a.) and Salter's Way field (c. 122 a.). (fn. 29) There is no evidence as to how the fields were cultivated. No divisions were recorded in the Court field, but in 1614 a total of 221 a. out of c. 300 a. of arable on the manorial demesne was under crop, (fn. 30) perhaps suggesting a four-course rotation. Probably soon after 1588, when he acquired the lease of New College's Scorchebeef's farm, John Rathbone inclosed the southern part of Court field, between the village and the river, extinguished rights of common, and converted it to pasture. The inclosure was presumably carried out before 1596 when Rathbone was one of the targets of the abortive uprising against rich inclosing landlords, (fn. 31) and was apparently done without the consent, or at least without the co-operation, of New College, who later complained that Rathbone had merged much of their land with his own freehold. The college was able to prevent further inclosure in 1667. (fn. 32) There was some consolidation of strips in the Town field, reducing the number of yard- (¼ a.) and ½- a. strips in that field. (fn. 33)
The parish contains comparatively little meadow. Nevertheless, the total of only 6 a. of meadow, 4 a. on Hugh de Grantmesnil's manor and 2 a. on Ilbert de Lacy's, recorded in 1086 (fn. 34) appears too low even for demesne meadow. Thirteenth-century grants and leases, mainly by the Scorchebeef family, included 11 ½ a. of meadow, and in 1486 there were 11 a. of meadow, presumably in demesne, on the former Scorchebeef manor. (fn. 35) The demesne meadow of both manors, in the 13th century and later, was in the south-east, in the Hurst (later c. 17 a.) and Pilford (later c. 11 a.); the villein yardlands presumably had meadow in Cotman mead (later North mead, 18 a.) to the north. (fn. 36)
Until inclosure in 1768, most of Pilford and the whole of North mead and Arcram (a small meadow north of North mead) were lot meadow. There were eight lots, belonging to eight yardlands in the fields, so that two yardland tenements owned two lots, tenements of less than a yardland shared lots, which were called the cross, the horseshoe, the ship, the three-score, the two-score, the slit, the hole, and the white loaf. The lots were drawn five times for Pilford, first for acres, then for yards (quarter-acres), then twice for half-acres, and finally once for shrows or small lots; in the draw for yards the three-score, usually attached to Fletcher's tenement, belonged to Christ Church. North Mead and Arcram were divided into five and four draughts of the same lots, for the same tenements. Most of the Hurst, which had been lot meadow in the 13th century, belonged in the 16th century and later to the two manorial demesnes, although Chittam's and Slatter's tenements and the rector also held between 1 a. and 3 a. of meadow there. The New College and Rathbone or Standard demesne meadow there each comprised 5 a., which alternated each year. Two small meadows by the Cherwell south of Pilford, called the Lakes, similarly alternated between the two manors. Cotman Hook, between North mead and Arcram, was divided among four tenants, two of whom held no other meadow, by lot, but not by the same lots as Pilford, North mead and Arcram. (fn. 37)
In 1086 there was said to be 3 furlongs of pasture on Hugh de Grantmesnil's manor but only 3 a. on Ilbert de Lacy's. (fn. 38) Perhaps this was demesne pasture only, for there was later extensive pasture at Campsfield in the south-west, and at Oldfield plain in the north-west, and in 1486 there were apparently 100 a. of pasture on the Scorchebeef manor alone. (fn. 39) Further small areas of pasture, Crowell moor and Chinaddeswell moor, both on the small stream which rises near the northern boundary of the parish, were recorded in the earlier 13th century, and in 1556 there was more extensive pasture at Crowell moor and Bigberry. (fn. 40) By 1588 there were leys, apparently permanent pasture, east of the village in Leys furlong and Cause furlong (later Sainfoin ground) in the Court field, and in the north part of the Town field, near one of the barrows, an area 'always called our sheep common'. Oldfield plain in the north-west was also sheep common, and Campsfield in the southwest was 'common to all'. The Fern pasture in the south-east was several, presumably to the lords of the manors, from Lady Day to Lammas, after which the lord had commons for 18 cattle, New College (for Scorchebeef's farm and another ½ yardland) for 16 cattle, Chittam's for 8 cattle, the rector for 6, and William Slatter's tenement for one. An area in the north-east of the Court field, called the Furze or the Ley Furze, was presumably rough pasture. (fn. 41) Further pasture in the green (recorded in 1558), and in four moors (recorded c. 1623), Crowell moor, Ginger moor, Hog Stye moor, and Fittrope moor, seems to have been omitted from the terrier of 1588. (fn. 42) Between 1588 and 1695 several furlongs in the Town field and the whole of Old field were converted to pasture, and leys were created elsewhere in the field, notably in the north-east in Long furlong and Henning yard furlong. (fn. 43)
In 1607 a half-yardland holding had commons for 20 sheep in the fields, implying a stint of 40 sheep to the yardland, but in 1685 the two yardlands of glebe had common for only 60 sheep. (fn. 44) In 1705 the stint for a yardland was 30 sheep commons, 4 cow commons in the field, and 2 horse commons. (fn. 45) Tenements with cow commons in the Fern seem to have had fewer cow commons in the field; in 1685 the rector had 4 horse commons but only 2 cow commons. (fn. 46)
In 1086 Hugh de Grantmesnil's manor, said to contain land for 4 ploughteams, was cultivated by 4 serfs with 2 teams in demesne and 2 villeins and 3 bordars with a third team on the tenants' land. On Ilbert de Lacy's manor, said to be land for 3 ploughteams, there were 2 teams and 4 serfs in demesne, but none was recorded on the tenants' land. (fn. 47) There are no later surveys of either manor, but the total of 7 Domesday ploughlands is very close to the 29 fiscal yardlands recorded in 1705. (fn. 48) Ten yardlands, perhaps villein or copyhold land, and one freehold of unknown size were recorded on the Paulton manor in 1400, (fn. 49) and it seems likely that the early Paultons, whose main estates lay outside the county, had alienated part of the demesne. Between 1400 and 1441 William Paulton acquired land, perhaps a ploughland, in Bletchingdon, and that land descended with, and was presumably farmed with, Shipton-on-Cherwell until 1596. (fn. 50) The Scorchebeefs and their tenants made large grants, mainly to St. John's hospital and other religious houses, in the earlier 13th century, and although much of the land was restored to the manor when the hospital sold its estate to William Brome in 1457, the demesne remained small, only c. 4 yardlands in the early 16th century. (fn. 51) In the 16th century there were 8 ¾ copyhold yardlands on the Rathbone manor, 5 ½ on the New College manor; the New College yardlands remained stable but those on the Rathbone manor were constantly divided up and recombined into different estates, sometimes being let in fractions of only 1/8 yardland. (fn. 52) A demesne yardland on the Scorchebeef manor contained 45 ½ acres in the early 13th century; in the 17th century most yardlands contained between 30 a. and 36 a., but New College's Chittam's holding, always described as 2 yardlands, was 100 a. (fn. 53)
The name Shipton (sheep settlement) (fn. 54) implies an early specialization in sheep farming, and a large area of common pasture might perhaps explain the excess of ploughlands over ploughteams recorded in 1086. By the 13th century, however, arable farming, suggested by the field names Banlond (bean land), Oat hill, and Flexlands (flax land), seems to have predominated; the furlong called 'filithe' (hay) may have been former meadow. (fn. 55) The unusually large number of field acres to the yardland may have been the result of early medieval conversion from pasture to arable.
Sixteenth- and 17th-century evidence suggests mixed farming, most men having a few sheep, one or two cows, and some corn, chiefly wheat and barley, as well as poultry and bees; a hemp plot was recorded in 1666, and sainfoin was grown by 1695. (fn. 56) The tenant farmers on the whole seem to have relied on crops rather than livestock. William Cecil who held 2 yardlands (c. 60 a.) of New College, in 1625 left 5 cattle worth £9, compared with 20 a. of winter corn worth £16, corn in his yard worth £5, c. 7 a. of peas and vetches worth £3 13s. 4d., horses worth £12, and carts and other implements worth £2 6s. (fn. 57) That same year the rector, Richard Newberry, left wheat and maslin worth £12 13s. 4d., barley worth £10, peas and vetches worth £2, and horses and ploughs worth over £12. (fn. 58) In 1711 Robert Symons, who farmed 4 yardlands (144 a.), left wheat, barley and peas worth £26, oats and vetches worth £5, and horses worth £4 10s., but only 2 cows worth £3 10s. and 30 sheep worth £7 10s. (fn. 59) William Slatter, however, who held 37 a., left 5 cows and 3 calves worth £10, 76 sheep worth £9, and corn worth only £14 at his death in 1610, and Thomas Hayes (d. 1694) left only 8 cows worth £34, 13 sheep and lambs worth £5 10s., and cheese-making equipment. (fn. 60)
On the demesne, the Rathbones and the Standards practised mixed farming with a bias towards sheep. John Rathbone's widow Anne was accused in 1617 of having turned a tenement into a sheephouse, perhaps the Sheephouse close by the Cherwell recorded in 1623. (fn. 61) The remainder of the demesne was under crop: 105 a. of barley, 51 ½ a. of wheat, 30 a. of peas, 21 a. of maslin, and 14 a. of oats in 1614. (fn. 62) Robert Standard in 1660 was said to have left 4,617 sheep (presumably an error for 617 or 417; they were worth only £159) and £40-worth of wool, as well as 9 cows and £50-worth of hay; the total value, £283, was slightly greater than that of his corn, c. £125-worth of barley, c. £85-worth of wheat and maslin, £94-worth of peas, and 40 a. of wheat and maslin in the fields worth £60. (fn. 63) John Rathbone seems to have introduced rabbits on his demesne; sheephouse close was also known as conyger or the warren. (fn. 64)
The parish appears to have been relatively prosperous in the earlier Middle Ages. Fourteen people were assessed for subsidy in 1307, at £1 os. 3d., individual assessments ranging from John of Paulton's 5s. 9d. to 4 ¼d. In 1316, when 20 people were assessed at a total of £2 16s., there was a similar range of individual assessments from Maud Paulton's 12s., by far the highest in the parish, to 9d. In 1327 only 17 people were assessed, at a total of £3 13s. 8d., and individual assessments ranged from 15s. to 12d., but the distribution of wealth was somewhat more even than in 1307 or 1316, with the freeholder Roger Fouk assessed at 12s. and two others at 6s.; John Paulton and John Scorchebeef were both assessed at only 4s. (fn. 65) In 1334 the parish was assessed at £4 10s. 8d., above average for the hundred. (fn. 66) There was a decline in the later Middle Ages; the sale of the St. John's hospital property in 1457, after a century of demesne leases, may be significant; in 1509–10 Oseney abbey leased its small Shipton property at a much reduced rent to John Shepherd, possibly tenant of the Brome manor, because no better tenant could be found, and about the same date the rent of the Hospitallers' small estate was reduced from 4s. to 2s. (fn. 67)
In 1524 one man, Richard Osbaldeston, presumably tenant of one of the manors, was assessed for subsidy on £10-worth of land. The eight or nine men assessed then or in 1523 on between £9- and £2-worth of goods were probably copyholders; they included William Chittam who held 2 yardlands of New College in 1540 and Robert Whiting who held another 2 yardlands of the same manor. Six or seven men were assessed at the labourer's rate. (fn. 68)
The Rathbones and their successors lived in the parish and farmed their demesnes as well as an increasing amount of the copyhold and leasehold land. In 1588 John Rathbone had New College's Chittam's tenement in his own hands, as well as both manorial demesnes, a total of c. 435 a.; the rest of the parish, apart from the c. 61 a. of glebe, was divided among 11 tenants whose holdings ranged from 59 a. to 3 ½ a. (fn. 69) By 1695 Robert Standard had c. 560 a. in his own hands, and six tenants held a total of c. 300 a. in holdings ranging from 144 a. to 3 ½ a. (fn. 70) Robert's successor, another Robert Standard, returned to a policy of leasing, which continued throughout the 18th century under his non-resident successors; in 1705 the demesne, estimated at 15 yardlands, was leased to Edward Eagleton, the other holdings remaining more or less as they had been in 1695. By 1728 the tenants' land had been consolidated into two farms, one apparently equivalent to the 144-a. holding of 1695, the other an amalgamation of three earlier holdings. (fn. 71) By 1762 the parish, excluding the glebe, was let in two farms, the manor farm and Cotman, later Shipton or Shipton Slade, farm, an arrangement which continued until after the sale of the parish to William Turner in 1804. (fn. 72)
Although the Standards and the Meetkerkes in turn controlled virtually the whole of Shipton, they made no inclosures after the late 16th century until in 1768 Adolphus Meetkerke obtained an Act for the inclosure of the entire parish. The Act divided c. 853 a. of former open field land between Meetkerke (444 a.), New College (324 a.), the rector (182 a. for glebe and tithe), Christ Church (5 a.), and the poor (4 a. of furze); it also redistributed 24 old inclosures (156 ½ a.) between Meetkerke, New College, and the rector. (fn. 73) The inclosure, which was carried out at Meetkerke's instigation and expense, raised the value of the New College estate by c. £134 a year, (fn. 74) and presumably raised that of Meetkerke's land in proportion. As Meetkerke had decided by 1785 to sell the estate, (fn. 75) it is unlikely that he invested much money in it in the late 18th century, but William Turner, 'a skilled agriculturalist' who farmed most of the parish himself from 1805 until 1845, carried out improvements, including dressing the soil with lime. His tenant from 1845 to 1860 carried out a programme of drainage and other work, but towards the end of his tenancy allowed the land to deteriorate. Later an undertenant, by cross cropping and other poor husbandry, allowed the land to fall into a 'most foul and dilapidated state'. (fn. 76)
Inclosure may have accelerated a move towards arable rather than mixed farming; a lease of the glebe in 1781 provided for extra rent to be paid for land converted to arable, and by 1803 there were said to be 771 a. of arable in the parish, compared with 88 a. of pasture and 87 a. of meadow. There had been some increase in the area of pasture by 1862 when there were apparently 754 a. of arable, 138 a. of pasture, and 88 a. of meadow. (fn. 77) The presence of three shepherds in the parish in 1871 may reflect an increase in pasture, and in 1914 only half the cultivated land was arable. In 1883 the arable was cultivated on a four-course rotation, (1) two-thirds turnips or vetches, one third beans, peas, or pulse, (2) barley or oats, (3) grass, (4) wheat or other corn or grain; in 1914 the main crops were barley (26 per cent of the cropped area) and wheat (17 per cent), but oats (13 per cent) and potatoes (3 per cent) were also grown. There were over 100 cattle and 400 sheep on the permanent pasture, but the number of sheep had declined since 1909. (fn. 78) The bulk of the parish continued to be farmed in one unit, first by the tenants of the manor house and later by those of Shipton Slade farm. (fn. 79) In 1984 almost all the land was arable.
Until the 20th century Shipton was an agricultural community, served by a few craftsmen such as the carpenter recorded in 1614, the tailor recorded in 1647, the wheelwright who died in 1658, and the weaver, a member of a long established Shipton family, who died in 1706. (fn. 80) There is no further record of the annual threeday fair at the feast of St. Cross, granted to Thomas de St. Vigore in 1268. (fn. 81)
There was a mill on Hugh de Grantmesnil's manor in 1086. Two people surnamed at mill were assessed for subsidy in 1316 and 1327, and a third was recorded in 1341, (fn. 82) but there is no clear record of the mill thereafter. It had probably disappeared by 1400, although mills were listed among the appurtenances of the manor in two 17th-century marriage settlements. (fn. 83) Fisheries on both manors survived into the 17th century; in 1625 Robert Standard was alleged to have taken fish worth 70s., including eels, pike, perch, and roach, from his fishery. (fn. 84)
A wharf was opened at Shipton on the new Oxford canal in 1787; the canal company employed a lock-keeper, and boatmen were recorded between 1813 and 1838. (fn. 85) A few women, two in 1851 and eight in 1881, were employed in gloving, and a further two or three women worked at the Hampton Gay paper mill, but most working women in the 19th century were employed as agricultural labourers. (fn. 86) In 1984 there was a firm in the village hiring small skips.
The rector owned a quarry at Chinaddeswell, perhaps near the Banbury road, in 1226–7. The field name Stanidelve, recorded in 1234 and c. 1245, and the surname Mason (cementarius) borne by two men in the earlier 13th century (fn. 87) confirm that there was early quarrying in the parish. It continued in the 16th century when there were Stonepit and Slattpits furlongs. (fn. 88) In 1881 New College leased two plots of ground near the Cherwell to Benjamin Parrot, tenant of the manor house, to dig stone, and Parrot was still operating the quarry in 1901. (fn. 89) In 1927 the Oxford and Shipton Cement Co. was set up to exploit the land along the Cherwell acquired from New College in 1921. The works were begun in 1928 and started production in 1929; in 1934 they were acquired by Alpha Cement Ltd., which in 1938 was taken over by Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers, which changed its name to Blue Circle Industries in 1978. Numbers employed rose from c. 230 in 1934 to c. 320 in 1968 but had fallen to 124 by 1984. (fn. 90)