Wolvercote: 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, 'Wolvercote: Economic history', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, ed. Alan Crossley, C R Elrington( London, 1990), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp314-320 [accessed 25 July 2024].

A P Baggs, W J Blair, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn, S C Townley, 'Wolvercote: Economic history', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Edited by Alan Crossley, C R Elrington( London, 1990), British History Online, accessed July 25, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp314-320.

A P Baggs, W J Blair, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn, S C Townley. "Wolvercote: Economic history". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Ed. Alan Crossley, C R Elrington(London, 1990), , British History Online. Web. 25 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp314-320.

In this section

Economic history

St. Frideswide's estate at Cutteslowe was administered independently of Wolvercote from the Middle Ages; its economic organization is described below. There is no early evidence for the open fields of Wolvercote, which seem to have been completely reorganized in the later Middle Ages, probably in the later 14th century, when Godstow abbey consolidated much of its demesne land in Wolvercote and St. Giles's parish into a single block of land straddling the parish boundary. An exchange of land with St. Frideswide's priory in 1358 may have been part of the process: in return for land at Ailmerswell, Horestone, and Hawsland ditch in the north end of St. Giles's, Godstow gave to St. Frideswide's its land in St. Clement's parish and at Twisdelowe (40 a. in 1545) in the north-east corner of Wolvercote field. The 9 ½ a. titheable to Water Eaton in 1765, which bore no relation to the 18th-century furlongs, may have been part of Twisdelowe. (fn. 89) By the 1380s most of Godstow's land in St. Giles's was consolidated in the north end of that parish, one close extending into Wolvercote, and at the Dissolution the demesne in both parishes lay mainly in a large block of land extending from the Cherwell to Port Meadow. (fn. 90) Most of the land between the Woodstock road and the Cherwell (over 250 a.) was sold to George and William Ryves between 1611 and 1614, and was thereafter included in St. Giles's parish. (fn. 91)

In 1636 the open field arable, on the higher ground in the east, was divided into four fields: Blindwell (107 a.), Churchcroft (119 a.), Fries (101 a.), and Cowhill (75 a.). West of Cowhill field and north of Lower Wolvercote village was Wolvercote Leys (36 a.), presumably former arable and perhaps including the mill furlong recorded c. 1540. (fn. 92) The field boundaries remained the same until inclosure in 1834, but the furlongs in Cowhill and Fries fields were considerably altered between 1731 and 1765, their total number being reduced from 8 to 7 in Fries field and increased from 4 to 5 in Cowhill field. The name of Churchcroft field had been changed to Horslow field by 1765, and in 1811 the four fields were, unusually, called North, South, East, and West. (fn. 93) The arrangement of the fields or furlongs for crop rotation before the 19th century is not known, but in 1592 a tenant had wheat in King's Bush furlong and barley at Fuller's Well, both in Churchcroft field, (fn. 94) suggesting that at that date the furlongs rather than the fields were the units of rotation. In 1832 Upper and Lower Churchcroft furlongs were cultivated with Cowhill field, Horslow field was sown with two separate crops, and only part of Fries field was arable. (fn. 95)

There was extensive meadow along the streams of the Thames in the south and west. In 1086 there were 120 a. of meadow, excluding Port Meadow which was described under Oxford. (fn. 96) Among the original endowments of Godstow abbey were 3 hams of meadow (Boieham, Henringesham and Wereham, the last by King's Weir), Lambey in the south-east, and part of Pixey in the north; Northmead, later Wolvercote Mead, was recorded between 1236 and 1247. (fn. 97) At the Dissolution, Godstow held 40 customary acres in Pixey and 25 in South Mead, both commonable after hay harvest, and 31 a. in small inclosed meadows or hams along the eastern edge of Port Meadow and in Wolvercote Mead. (fn. 98) Wolvercote Mead (96 a.) was lot meadow in 1583 and remained so until 1696 when it was divided permanently among 11 landowners and tenants, the largest allotment (39 ½ a.) being made to the lord of the manor, Sir John Walter. The meadow remained common from 21 September to 24 February. (fn. 99)

The pasture 6 furlongs by 3 ½ furlongs recorded in 1086 presumably included the later Wolvercote Moor and Hurst, then more clearly divided from Port Meadow than they were later. By 1636 the amount of pasture had been increased by the conversion of 36 a. of former arable at Wolvercote Leys. The leys had been increased to 45 a. by 1765, but the extra land had been acquired by improved drainage in the south part of the leys not by further conversion from the arable. (fn. 1)

In 1086 Wolvercote was said to contain land for 6 ploughteams although only 5 were recorded, 1 on the demesne and 4 on the tenants' land. In 1279 a total of 28 ½ yardlands, 8 in demesne, 20 in villeinage, and ½ yardland freehold, were recorded, suggesting an increase, particularly in the demesne arable. (fn. 2) The inclosure of the demesne in the later Middle Ages seems to have been for pasture, although Shepen piece and part of Hudlowe, on the Woodstock road, were arable in 1482. (fn. 3) At the Dissolution there were 121 a. of inclosed pasture in demesne, most of it on the west side of the Woodstock road; tenants held a total of 22 ½ yardlands: 17 yardlands copyhold, 1 ¾ yardlands at will, and 3 ¾ yardlands and an unspecified amount of other land, presumably former demesne, on lease. (fn. 4) By 1636, however, there were 26 ¾ yardlands, 14 ½ yardlands copyhold, 1 ¾ leasehold, and 10 ½ freehold, and later 18th-century rates were levied on 26 ¾ yardlands. The increase in the number of yardlands between 1541 and 1636 was presumably due to alienation of parts of the demesne not measured in yardlands in 1541. There is no evidence for their size until 1636 when yardlands ranged from 25 customary acres of arable to 13, averaging 19 a., smaller than in some neighbouring parishes; some quarter yardlands contained as little as 1 ½ a. (fn. 5)

The 16th-century field names Shepen piece, Ox leys, Lamb leys, and Cow leys (fn. 6) suggest the importance of sheep and cattle in the later Middle Ages, at least on the demesne, but in 1408-9 Godstow's bailiff sowed a total of 465 a. of demesne land in Wovercote and Walton with dredge (275 a.), wheat (145 a.), and pulse (47 a.); no oats were sown that year but 64 qr. were bought. The livestock comprised horses and cattle, including 40 bullocks, but much of the abbey's meadow and pasture had been leased to tenants. The only grain sold was 39 qr. of dredge; presumably the rest was used in the abbey, some certainly for the wages of the abbey's servants who included 7 ploughmen, 4 carters (3 at Godstow and 1 at Walton), 2 reapers, 2 shepherds, a cowherd, and a dairyman. (fn. 7) By c. 1540 the demesne had been considerably reduced, comprising 540 a. in all, and the meadow and pasture were all in hand. (fn. 8) In 1636, after the sale to George and William Ryves of over 250 a. east of the Woodstock road, the remaining demesne meadow or pasture comprised c. 70 a. in closes on or near the site of the monastery, 53 a. of Lammas land in Pixey mead, and 160 a. on the west side of the Woodstock road. (fn. 9)

Sixteenth- and 17th-century inventories (fn. 10) suggest a mixture of arable and dairy farming on the tenants' land, most testators having a few cows and some cheese-making equipment. John Howell in 1683 had 22 cows, at £126 his most valuable asset, Richard Hall in 1680 had 41, worth only £87, and Richard Collins's herd, worth £64 in 1662, was presumably also large. At least 11 people had sheep, one as many as 124, but only two of them, one with a flock of 19, the other with 10, had any wool. Mary Hall (d. 1715) had 27 cows and a bull, worth £108, as well as 61 sheep. Three people kept bees. The usual crops were wheat, maslin, barley, and beans or pulse, although rye, oats, vetch, and peas were also grown and two men left hemp. The inventories imply that the four-course rotation of (1) fallow, (2) wheat, (3) beans, (4)barley recorded in 1832 (fn. 11) was already being followed. In 1636 all but six of the houses in the parish had orchards. Some of the land near the river was planted with osiers and other bushes, and there may still have been some trees on Wolvercote Hurst. In 1502 a Wolvercote man supplied a fellow of All Souls College with nearly 600 bundles of firewood, and in 1650 two osier hams were leased to an Oxford basket-maker. (fn. 12)

There was some conversion of former demesne pasture to arable in the late 17th century and the 18th. A lease of 1687 gave liberty to plough Hudleys, and 10 a. or 12 a. of Gravel Pits had been ploughed by 1696. In 1765 there were 143 a. along the Woodstock road under plough. (fn. 13)

In 1832 the stint for Wolvercote leys was one cow for every estimated acre, in force from the first Monday in September until 11 November when the leys were stocked with sheep without stint. The fields were similarly stocked with sheep without stint, but never with cows. Only those with land in the common fields, the meadows, or the leys enjoyed rights of common; owners of old inclosures only had no such rights. (fn. 14)

Wolvercote also had rights of common on Port Meadow, derived from vicinage and, perhaps, from the close connexion with Godstow abbey, whose site, like Port Meadow itself, was within the ridden boundary of Oxford and may thus once have been part of the burgesses' common pasture. (fn. 15) In 1279 Godstow was said to include Port Meadow, common to all who wished to common there. (fn. 16) In 1493, however, the mayor and bailiffs of Oxford seized 10 cattle which William Thornbury of Wolvercote had put on the meadow, successfully showing that Port Meadow was part of Oxford, not of Wolvercote, and the city won a similar dispute with Richard Owen over 3 horses and 2 colts in 1561. (fn. 17) A settlement reached in 1563, after a series of disputes between the Owens and the city, established Wolvercote's right to common on Port Meadow and the freemen's right to common on Wolvercote Moor and Hurst; both parties agreed not to inclose any of the meadow and not to keep sheep on it, although sheep might be kept on Wolvercote Moor and Hurst between 1 November and 11 April, and Owen agreed to continue to pay the city 6s. a year from Wolvercote manor. (fn. 18) There were discussions over the 'division' of Port Meadow, presumably abortive attempts to end intercommoning and inclose the land, in 1579, 1614, 1630, 1645, and 1651, but there were no serious disputes until 1795 when the city accused Wolvercote of stocking sheep on the meadow. (fn. 19)

Rights of common on the meadow did not originally belong to all houses or land in Wolvercote. They were specifically included in sales of freehold in 1610, and in 1611 George Owen conveyed common rights in Port Meadow by a separate deed to the purchaser of freehold land. (fn. 20) In 1636 all the copyhold tenants of the manor, except one man who held only a house, had rights on the meadow, as had 7 out of the 10 leaseholders who held fractions of a yardland, but no cottagers had any rights. (fn. 21) Two leases of cottages, however, made by David Walter in 1650 included rights in Port Meadow, and in 1831 the owners of 17 houses, cottages, or old inclosures had rights nowhere else. (fn. 22) By 1910 anyoneliving in Wolvercote, even in a new suburban house, enjoyed rights of common. (fn. 23)

In 1563 Richard Owen agreed to stint his own and his tenants' cattle by the yardland, a provision which presumably led to discussions on the stint with the city in 1565, 1583 and 1586. (fn. 24) The Wolvercote commoners' stint, like the freemen's, presumably varied, but there is no record of it except in 1663 when it was 12 horses or beasts for a yardland. (fn. 25) In the early 19th century the tenant of the St. John's College property in Wolvercote, 4 ¼ yardlands in 1636, claimed the right to lease to 'foreigners' 48 cattle commons on Port Meadow, and in 1843 the commons were said to be additional to those belonging to the college's Wolvercote farm, and to have been leased for 60 years or more, (fn. 26) but there is no earlier reference to the right. The 48 commons may simply have been those for the 4 ¼ yardlands of the property, or St. John's may originally have claimed them as part of one of their Walton manors. Despite the city's attempts in 1823 and 1842 to declare the leasing of the 48 commons unlawful, the right survived, being recorded in 1910. (fn. 27) The management of the common, which was originally in the hands of the lords of the manor, was assumed by the parish council in 1895 and by the Wolvercote commoners' committee in 1929. (fn. 28) Plans made in 1913 to draw up a Scheme for the regulation of the common under the Commons Regulation Act of 1899 seem to have foundered on the opposition of the freemen. (fn. 29)

Port Meadow, Wolvercote Common (74 a.), and Wolvercote Green and Goose Green (12 a.) were registered as common land under the Act of 1965; as no lord of the manor claimed ownership, the Oxford city council was temporarily registered as the custodian. One hundred and twenty six owners or occupiers of properties, most of them modern suburban houses, in the former parish of Wolvercote registered rights of common for 524 cows, 238 horses, and 511 geese, individual claims ranging from 50 cattle and 4 horses to 2 or 3 geese. Apart from the 48 commons registered by St. John's College, none appears to have been based on any traditional stint. (fn. 30) The excessive claims had led by 1984 to fears that the common might be dangerously overstocked.

In 1279 the abbess of Godstow held the whole of Wolvercote. There were 8 yardlands in demesne; one free tenant held ½ yardland, and the remaining 32 recorded tenants, 8 yardlanders and 24 half-yardlanders, held in villeinage, working, being tallaged, and redeeming their sons at the abbess's will. The 8 yardlanders each paid 3s. 4 ½d. rent, the 24 half-yardlanders 20d each. (fn. 31) Works, including mowing the abbess's meadow, reaping, binding, and carrying corn for one day, and an autumn boon work, were still being exacted in 1408-9. The customary tenants took hens and eggs to the abbey on 26 December and were given a dinner by the abbess on 29 December. Some works were still performed in 1453. (fn. 32) Fourteenth-century subsidy assessments suggest greater variation in wealth than does the survey of 1279. In 1316 a total of 25 people was assessed at £4 19s., individual assessments ranging from 6s. to 1s., and in 1327 the 37 assessments ranged from 6s. to 6d. The population seems to have been fairly stable; 16 names recorded in 1316 and 19 in 1327 were among the names of villein tenants in 1279. (fn. 33) In 1334 Wolvercote was assessed at £5 1s. 5d., a sum exceeded in the southern part of Wootton hundred only by those of Kidlington and Sutton (in Stanton Harcourt). (fn. 34)

The assessments of the 18 men taxed on their goods for subsidy in 1524 ranged from 9s. to 7d., and 8 men were assessed at the labourer's rate of 4d. (fn. 35) The most prosperous man in the parish was Hugh Weller, probably already, as he was in 1541, tenant of the mill and fishery; in 1543 he was assessed on £20 worth of goods. At his death in 1558 he held land in Hanborough, Chipping Norton, and Coventry (Warws.), in most of which he was succeeded by his nephew Jasper (d. 1593). (fn. 36) In 1619 Hugh Weller held 1 ¼ yardlands in Wolvercote; his son Ethelbert held the estate in 1636, but sold it in 1654. (fn. 37) He or another man of the same name still lived in the parish in 1665, (fn. 38) but the family was not recorded thereafter. Richard Thornbury, assessed on £8 worth of goods in 1543, was the customary tenant of 3 ¾ yardlands, and presumably the descendant of William Thornbury whose cattle were impounded on Port Meadow in 1493. He died, apparently without heirs, in 1549. (fn. 39)

In 1636 the largest of the five freeholds, all of which derived from sales of land by George Owen between 1610 and 1612, was the St. John's College estate, held by Richard Bull of Oxford university, perhaps a college servant. (fn. 40) Richard Collins, who held 2 yardlands freehold and 2 ¾ yardlands copyhold, was presumably the successor of the Richard Collins of Wolvercote who died in 1587 leaving goods worth £119 and property in Thame as well as a tenement and 1 yardland, presumably copyhold, in Wolvercote. (fn. 41) Collins's freehold derived from 1 ¾ yarlands which had been sold by George Owen in 1611, which Collins acquired in 1626, and a further ¼ yardland, presumably also sold by Owen, which he acquired in 1623. Richard Collins died in 1662, leaving goods worth over £300; his property descended to Francis Collins who sold it in 1693 to John Bishop who had already acquired Ethelbert Weller's 1 ¼ yardland. (fn. 42)

Matthew Cheriton of Gloucester Hall, Oxford, held 1 ¾ yardland freehold, which he had bought in 1625, and 1 yardland copyhold; he was succeeded by his son Reynold who sold the freehold in 1659. (fn. 43) The Cheritons were recusants and associated with the holder of the fifth freehold in 1636, Mr. (presumably William) Napper of Holywell, who held 1 ¼ yardland and whose family had farmed the great tithes since 1533. His son Edmund sold the property in 1643. (fn. 44) Both estates passed to Dorothea Dashwood in 1742. (fn. 45)

Sir John Walter created a few small freeholds between 1708 and 1710, the largest being 18 a. of arable and 3 ½ a. of meadow sold to Dr. Robert South in 1708 for the endowment of his charity at Islip, (fn. 46) but otherwise the pattern of landholding changed little in the 18th century and the early 19th. The duke of Marlborough, the lord of the manor, was by far the largest landowner in the parish, followed by Worcester College, St. John's College, and the Dashwood family, all of whose lands were leased to tenants. The largest single farm was probably the Worcester College estate; its tenants in the late 18th century and the early 19th, members of the Hicks family, also rented land and tithe from the duke of Marlborough. The duke's land was usually divided among 8 tenants, so individual farms were comparatively small. (fn. 47) Some farms, indeed, appear to have been uneconomic; the duke distrained on 4 tenants between 1795 and 1832. The land may well have been wet: in 1795 meadowland and arable near the newly-cut Oxford canal was said to have been damaged by water leakage, some of the meadow being halved in value, and the churchwardens paid for some under-draining in the open fields between 1806 and 1815. (fn. 48) In 1831 St. John's College opposed the inclosure of the parish, arguing that their estate was small and its tenants 'in extremely straitened circumstances' so that inclosure threatened them and the other farmers in the parish with ruin. (fn. 49)

There was some inclosure around the villages of Upper and Lower Wolvercote in the 16th century and the earlier 17th, notably in the area immediately north of Lower Wolvercote. Seven closes were recorded on the tenants, land in 1541, Fuller's Well close east of the Woodstock road was recorded in 1612, and Blindwell close in the north-east in 1636. (fn. 50)

In 1834 a total of 550 a. in the open fields, Wolvercote leys, and Wolvercote mead were inclosed and distributed among 12 owners. Merton College received 73 a. for great tithes, the curate 35 ½ a. for small tithes, and the duke of Marlborough 20 a. for manorial rights; a total of 46 a. was sold to cover the expense of inclosure. The largest allotments were made to the duke of Marlborough (176a.), Worcester College (70 a.), St. John's College (46 a.), and Sir George Dashwood (30 a.). The inclosure created large compact farms for the major landowners: the duke of Marlborough's land lay in two blocks, a larger one in the north and a smaller one east of Upper Wolvercote, most of Worcester College's land was in the north-east, in the former Blindwell and Horslow fields, while most of the St. John's College land adjoined the college's old inclosures in Upper Wolvercote. (fn. 51)

Inclosure had little immediate impact on the pattern of landholding. There were still six farms in the parish (probably including the detached parts of Godstow) in 1841; in 1851 the six farms ranged in size from 175 a. and 170 a. (two tenants of the duke of Marlborough who also held land from Merton) to 34 a. for the curate's glebe. James Rowland who farmed 70 a. seems to have held of five different landlords, including Sir George Dashwood, the duke of Marlborough and the trustees of the poor. (fn. 52) By 1871 the largest farm, presumably on the duke of Marlborough's land, was 200 a.; John Rowland had increased the family holding to 127 a., the St. John's tenant held 100 a., presumably including the extra-parochial Wycroft and Lamb leys, and the four remaining farms ranged from 60 a. to 25 a. The farms had changed again by 1881 when the largest was 214 a., another 197 a., and a third, farmed by Henry Osborn of Church Farmhouse, 176a.; the remaining three were under 100 a. (fn. 53)

Mixed farming predominated for much of the 19th century. In the early 1860s the duke of Marlborough's estate, let in three farms, comprised 133 a. of arable and 173 a. of pasture, as well as 51 a. of meadow in Pixey Mead. (fn. 54) In 1875 John Rowlands's 127-a. farm contained 52 a. of arable planted with wheat, barley, and beans. (fn. 55) Towards the end of the century there was a shift towards dairy farming, presumably for the Oxford market. The number of dairymen in the parish rose from 1 in 1883 to 4 in 1887, 6 in 1899, and 8 in 1907, but fell to 7 in 1911 and 2 or 3 in 1915. (fn. 56) In 1914 most of the parish was permanent grass for cattle; wheat, barley, and oats were the chief crops on the arable, but the fodder crops swedes, turnips, and mangolds were also grown in some quantity. (fn. 57) In the mid 20th century the small amount of land in the parish not occupied by houses, roads, railways, or the canal was permanent grass, but in 1980 Merton College's Peartree farm in the north had 63 a. of arable. (fn. 58)

There may have been some cloth industry in Wolvercote in the Middle Ages. The high value of the mill in 1541 suggests that it was already a fulling mill, as it was by 1616; a small amount of wool was taken in 1341 from John Cabbel of Wolvercote who had had one of the highest assessments for subsidy in the parish in 1316 and 1327, and in 1457 four members of the Oxford guild of weavers and fullers lived in Wolvercote. The field name Fuller's well, recorded in 1592, is probably also significant. (fn. 59) An Irish tailor lived in the parish in 1394. (fn. 60) A Wolvercote chapman had dealings with a London merchant in 1452 and received goods from a Salisbury chapman in 1453. (fn. 61) Men surnamed Parmenter (tailor, robe-trimmer, or furrier) in 1306, Tailor and Skinner in 1316 and 1327, and Cooper and Brewster in 1327 (fn. 62) may have followed those trades.

Although a weaver died in the parish in 1729, (fn. 63) Wolvercote's connexion with clothmaking probably ended in the 1670s or 1680s when the mill was converted from a fulling mill to a paper mill, attracting paper-makers to the village. (fn. 64) Otherwise the recorded occupations, shoemaker in 1654, tailor and wheelwright in the 1760s, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters, and sawyers in the earlier 19th century, (fn. 65) were fairly typical of a rural parish, despite the proximity of Oxford. The mill supplied paper to the Oxford University Press from the late 17th century, and expanded in the late 18th century. The parish registers record 9 or 10 millwrights, 7 paper-makers, and 3 printers between 1815 and 1840, and several of the labourers in the parish were probably employed in the mill. In 1841 the mill employed 19 people from the parish. Railway building in the early 1850s accounted for the 74 railway labourers in the otherwise largely agricultural parish in 1851 (the mill was not working that year). In 1871 agriculture was still the largest employer; there were 62 agricultural workers compared with 46 people at the paper mill and 10 railway workers; other occupations included 9 masons, 3 butchers, a compositor, a printer, a boat builder, and a clock-maker. In 1881 the paper mill with 78 workers was by far the largest employer; 48 men worked on farms, 21 on the railway, and 10 at the brickworks. (fn. 66) There was a brickmaker in the parish in 1831, but the main brickworks were opened by the Oxford and Berkshire Brick Co. on a site off Five Mile Drive in 1869; by 1871 they were producing 1 ½ million bricks a year, mainly for the building of workers' housing in Summertown and the new east and west suburbs of Oxford. The works, which were for many years associated with the Oxford builders Kingerlee's, closed c. 1934. (fn. 67)

About 1142 the empress Matilda granted to Godstow abbey a fair on St. John the Baptist's day (24 June) and the two following days, a grant confirmed by Henry II c. 1182. (fn. 68) The fair, which gave its name to Fair close between Godstow bridge and Toll Bridge, was recorded in 1279; it was presumably still being held in 1390 when a man was robbed of 100s. worth of woollen cloth between Godstow and Witney between 24 and 29 June, (fn. 69) but there is no later record of it.

In 1139 John of St. John gave to Godstow abbey a mill at Wolvercote, rented for the large sum of £4 a year. In 1239 the mill was a double one, and in 1316 John at Mill had one of the highest assessments for subsidy in the parish, suggesting that the mill was still particularly valuable. (fn. 70) In 1541 the mill was a double and its associated fishery, was again the most valuable holding in the parish, rented for £4 6s. 8d. (fn. 71) It passed, with the manor, to the Owens, the Walters, the earl of Abingdon, and finally to the dukes of Marlborough who sold it to Thomas Combe, superintendent of the Clarendon Press, Oxford, in 1855. Combe sold it to the university in 1872. (fn. 72)

In 1608 there were four mills, (fn. 73) but in 1616 the mill comprised two corn mills and an adjoining fulling mill. (fn. 74) Part of the mill was used to grind swords in the Civil War. (fn. 75) By 1674 it was making some sort of rough paper, and by 1683 paper suitable for books; it was rebuilt about 1686, and in the 1690s seems to have been operated by members of the paper-making Quelch family, including John, who leased a cottage from Sir John Walter in 1698, and Thomas whose initials appear on some late 17th-century paper used by the Oxford press. During the 18th century the dukes of Marlborough leased the corn and paper mills to a succession of millers and paper-makers. John Beckford, a local man, was tenant in 1708. William Faichen, tenant 1752-71, carried out some repairs to the roof and walls of the mill. When the tenant became insolvent in 1782 the mills contained both paper-making and flourmilling equipment. The mills and their machinery were repaired and improved for the new tenant William Jackson, proprietor of Jackson's Oxford Journal and a partner in the university's Bible Press. John Swann, one of a family of paper-makers, took over Jackson's lease in 1792 or 1793 and greatly enlarged the mill, ending the corn grinding business, to produce the extra paper required by the Clarendon Press. He probably installed the first steam-driven machinery and by 1811 coal was being brought weekly by barge via the Oxford canal and the Duke's Cut. (fn. 76) John Swann was succeeded by John, Charles, and finally James Swann, who further improved the mill between 1818 and 1826. The firm went bankrupt in 1848, and the mill was not used again until after its sale to Thomas Combe in 1855.

The mill was completely rebuilt in 1856, on a site slightly north of its old one, and equipped with new machinery. It was enlarged before 1872 and again in 1898, the last extension enabling the output to be doubled. Steam- and gas-driven machinery were installed in 1898, electricity in 1920, although some water power was used until 1943. Further work, including the demolition of the 'old mill' of 1856 and the building of new offices, was carried out in 1953, and the mill's capacity was increased in 1957 to c. 240 tons of paper a week. The mill had the world's first on-line computer-controlled papermaking process by c. 1965. In 1978 it was separated from the university press, becoming part of the Brittains Group of paper mills. Brittains went into receivership in 1979, and in 1980 the Wolvercote mill was bought by Star Paper Ltd. of Blackburn (Lancs.), which increased production. In 1984 the mill specialized in on-machine coated papers for printed labels. (fn. 77)


The St. Frideswide's estate in Cutteslowe may have been cultivated with a detached part of Water Eaton on the south-west, later called Cutteslowe field. Gyberiche in Cutteslowe field, recorded in 1359 and held by St. Frideswide's, may have been in the detached part, for there was a Gybberish furlong on the northern boundary of St. Giles's parish in the late 14th century. (fn. 78) Nothing is known of the organization of the field for cropping.

Although only arable was recorded at Cuttes-lowe in 1086, before 1530 the whole estate seems to have been inclosed as sheep pasture. (fn. 79) In 1636 two closes of 17 a. each had recently been ploughed for corn, but the remainder of Cuttes-lowe was meadow or pasture, and the importance of sheep was confirmed by the field names Ewe lease and Ram close and by the presence of a shepherd's house. (fn. 80) Mid 17th-century leases contained the usual provision for extra rent to be paid for each acre of grass ploughed, and by 1771 most of the duke of Marlborough's 101 a. farm was arable. (fn. 81) The Christ Church estate remained predominantly pasture; in 1755 the tenant was reduced to bankruptcy by the loss of cattle in a distemper, and in the 19th century the estate contained only 33 a. of arable to 111 a. of grass. (fn. 82) The arable on both estates was cropped on a four-course rotation; in 1834 about half the small amount of arable on the Christ Church estate was under wheat, the remainder under barley, tares, beans, oats, and potatoes. (fn. 83) The lack of arable on the Christ Church estate caused problems for successive tenants who needed straw for thatching and manuring, and in 1844 the tenant planned to increase the arable by draining and ploughing some of the poor grassland. (fn. 84)

Farmers on both estates got into difficulties during the agricultural depression of the earlier 19th century, their problems often being aggravated by the small size of the farms and poor treatment of the land by earlier tenants. In 1789 meadow on the Christ Church estate, 32 a. farmed by a Wolvercote man, was in poor condition due to 'continual mowing and inadequate manuring'. (fn. 85) Drainage was a constant problem, but little seems to have been done until the mid 19th century when the Christ Church tenant under-drained 85 a. (fn. 86) In 1831 the duke's tenant, whose farming methods had been criticized in 1810, was distrained on for unpaid debts, and the Christ Church tenant was unable to pay his rent between 1832 and 1838. (fn. 87)

The tax assessments of 1306 and 1316 suggest a fairly even distribution of wealth, at least among those liable to subsidy; the eight assessments in 1306 (excluding the prior of St. Frideswide's) ranged only from 3s. 3d. to 2s. 2 ¾d., the six of 1316 from 7s. to 5s., but in 1327 the eight assessments ranged from 6s. 8d. to 1s. The population appears fairly static, all but one of the six surnames of 1306 being recorded in 1327, when there were only two new names. (fn. 88)

Until the mid 17th century the estate was kept in demesne by the priors of St. Frideswide's and their successors, apart from a brief period after 1532 when it was leased to Richard Andrews who bought it in 1545. (fn. 89a) By 1651 it had been leased in two parts, one at £129 a year, and the other at £80 a year, (fn. 90a) and thereafter it was leased in several parcels, often to Wolvercote men. (fn. 91a) The Christ Church estate, which was let in two parts for much of the 18th century, was let to a single tenant from c. 1794. (fn. 92a) Francis Gregory, who acquired the duke of Marlborough's Cutteslowe estate in 1811, was by 1823 also tenant of the Islip charity land. (fn. 93a) Thereafter Cutteslowe was farmed as two farms; in 1871 the Gregory estate, Cutteslowe farm, was farmed with land outside the township to make up a 350-a. farm, but by 1881 it was only 150 a. (fn. 94a) Since the sale of Cutteslowe farm in the 1930s there has been only one farm, Christ Church's St. Frideswide's, usually farmed with land in neighbouring parishes.


  • 89. Cart. St. Frid. i, p. 472; L. & P. Hen. VIII, xx, p. 220; Blenheim Mun., map of 1765.
  • 90. Early Hist. St. John's Coll. (O.H.S. N.S. i), 511, 514, 524.
  • 91. St. John's Coll. Mun., LXXXIX. A, passim.
  • 92. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 334, ff. 27-53; P.R.O., SC 11/550.
  • 93. Blenheim Mun., box 150; ibid. E/P/12; St. John's Coll. Mun., XXIX. 22.
  • 94. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 189, f. 239.
  • 95. Oxf. City Arch., N.3.9: meeting 23 Jan. 1832.
  • 96. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 398 (re Port Meadow), 416, and below.
  • 97. Godstow Eng. Reg. ii, p. 573; B.L. Add. Ch. 10639.
  • 98. P.R.O., SC 11/550.
  • 99. Bodl. MS. Ch. Oxon. 231; O.R.O., Dash. XVI/i/a/24.
  • 1. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 416; Blenheim Mun., E/P/12; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c. 334, ff. 51-3.
  • 2. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 416; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 857.
  • 3. St. John's Coll. Mun., XI. 9, 6.
  • 4. P.R.O., SC 11/550; ibid. E 318/824.
  • 5. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Wolvercote b 5; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. 334, ff. 7-25.
  • 6. P.R.O., SC 11/550.
  • 7. St. John's Coll. Mun., V.B. 15 (ii).
  • 8. P.R.O., SC 11/550; ibid. E 318/824.
  • 9. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 334, ff. 1-5; Blenheim Mun., E/P/12.
  • 10. Oxon. Inventories (O.R.S. xliv), pp. 223-6; O.R.O., Wills. Oxon. 179, f. 230; 180, f. 144v.; 184, f. 28v.; 189, f. 239; ibid. 17/4/23; 17/4/35; 18/2/11; 30/1/41; 31/3/32; 34/1/33; 34/2/11; 50/2/22; 78/1/51; 133/4/42; 144/1/14; 159/4/15; 297/3/64; 297/4/113; cf. ibid. MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 23, ff. 16v.-18v., 30-1.
  • 11. St. John's Coll. Mun., XXIX. 27 (vi).
  • 12. Reg. Canc.1498-1506 (O.H.S. N.S. xxvii), 140-1; Bodl. MS. d.d. Dew c 38.
  • 13. Blenheim Mun., box 149; ibid. E/P/12.
  • 14. Oxf. City Arch., N. 3. 9: meeting 24 May 1832; St. John's Coll. Mun., XXIX. 27(vi).
  • 15. V.C.H. Oxon. iv. 260.
  • 16. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 857; for Port Meadow see V.C.H. Oxon. iv. 279-82.
  • 17. Mun. Civ. Oxon. (O.H.S. lxxi), 233; Royal Letters addressed to Oxf. ed. O. Ogle, 195-7.
  • 18. Royal Letters to Oxf. 201-11.
  • 19. Oxf. City Rec. ed. W.H.Turner, 404; Oxf. Council Acts 1583-1626 (O.H.S. lxxxvii), 236; 1626-65 (O.H.S. xcv), 27, 128, 183; 1752-1801 (O.H.S. N.S. xv), 232.
  • 20. Worcester Coll. Mun., box F; St. John's Coll. Mun., XXIX. 9.
  • 21. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 334, ff. 7-20.
  • 22. St. John's Coll. Mun., XXIX. 27 (v).
  • 23. Oxf. City Arch., Freemen's Proc. in Common Hall, 1883-1923, meeting 8 Oct. 1919.
  • 24. Royal Letters to Oxf. 208-9; Oxf. City Rec. 308-9, 430; Oxf. Council Acts 1583-1626, 25.
  • 25. H. Carter, Wolv. Mill (1957), 65.
  • 26. Oxf. Fnl. 31 May 1823; Oxf. City Arch., green tin box of Port Meadow papers.
  • 27. St. John's Coll. Mun., XXIX. 61.
  • 28. Oxf. City Arch., Y. 3. 6-7; Wolv. Commoners' Cttee. min. bks. 1929-1981, in possession of Mr. R. Bateman, 48 Rosamund Rd., Wolvercote.
  • 29. Oxf. City Arch., Y. 3.7: meetings between 10 Feb. 1913 and 27 March 1915; cf. V.C.H. Oxon. iv. 281.
  • 30. Oxon. C.C. Reg. of Common Land.
  • 31. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 857.
  • 32. St. John's Coll. Mun., V.B. 15 (ii); P.R.O., C 139/78, no. 44.
  • 33. P.R.O., E 179/161/8, 9. The list for 1306 (E. 179/161/10) is torn, and only 11 names, including the abbess of Godstow, remain.
  • 34. Subsidy 1334, ed. R.E. Glasscock, 242.
  • 35. P.R.O., E 179/161/198. E 179/161/175 is similar but illegible in many places.
  • 36. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 183, f. 17v.; 187, f. 265v.
  • 37. O.U.P., deeds, uncat.; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 334, ff. 23-4.
  • 38. Hearth Tax Oxon. 117.
  • 39. Mun. Civ. Oxon. (O.H.S. lxxi), 233; O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 179, f. 230.
  • 40. St. John's Coll. Mun., XXIX. 2-16. Bull does not appear among members of the university in Alum. Oxon.
  • 41. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 10/4/26; Oxon. Inventories, pp. 223-6.
  • 42. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 78/1/51; Worcester Coll. Mun., box F.
  • 43. O.R.O., Dash. XVI/1/a/1-20; XVI/1/c/1-22.
  • 44. Cal. Cttee. for Compounding, iv, p. 3057; Reg. Ann. Coll. Merton. i, ii (O.H.S. N.S. xxiii, xxiv), passim.
  • 45. O.R.O., Dash. XVI/1/a/1-20; XVI/i/b/1-14; XVI/ i/c/1-22.
  • 46. Blenheim Mun., box 150.
  • 47. O.R.O., land tax assess. for Wolvercote and Godstow.
  • 48. Blenheim Mun., box 151; O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Wolvercote b 5, ff. 53, 57v., 63v.; O.R.O., unref. misc. pps. from Dioc. Registry, estimate of value of lands belonging to char. school at Islip.
  • 49. Blenheim Mun., box 151.
  • 50. P.R.O., E 318/824; O.R.O., Dash. XVI/i/a/1; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 334, f. 23.
  • 51. O.R.O., incl. award.
  • 52. P.R.O., HO 107/1730; Oxf. City Arch., P. 5. 26.
  • 53. P.R.O., RG 10/1449; RG 11/1512.
  • 54. Blenheim Mun., E/P/12.
  • 55. Poster in Westgate Libr. OXFO 633 WOLV.
  • 56. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns.).
  • 57. Orr, Oxon. Agric., statistical plates.
  • 58. [1st] Land Utiliz. Surv., sheet 105; Merton Coll. Mun., estate papers.
  • 59. Oxf. City Arch., D. 5. 1, f. 67; P.R.O., E 318/824; Cal. Close, 1341-3, 334; O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 189, f. 239.
  • 60. Cal. Pat. 1391-6, 458.
  • 61. Ibid. 1446-52, 485; Cal. Close, 1447-54, 441.
  • 62. P.R.O., E 179/161/8-10.
  • 63. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 151/2/27.
  • 64. Below.
  • 65. Worcester Coll. Mun., box F; P.R.O., HO 107/890; Oxf. Jnl. Synopsis, 14 May 1768.
  • 66. P.R.O., HO 107/890, 1730; ibid. RG 10/1449; RG 11/1512.
  • 67. Oxf. Jnl. 21 May 1870; 18 Nov. 1871; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns.); 'Reminiscences of Wolvercote', TS. in Westgate Libr. OXFO 944 WOLV.
  • 68. Godstow Eng. Reg. ii, pp. 651, 662.
  • 69. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 857; Cal. Pat. 1388-92, 264.
  • 70. Godstow Eng. Reg. ii, pp. 574-7; P.R.O., E 179/161/8.
  • 71. P.R.O., E 318/824.
  • 72. Carter, Wolv. Mill, 33, 38.
  • 73. P.R.O., C 142/304. no. 47.
  • 74. Except where otherwise stated, the following paragraphs are based on Carter, Wolv. Mill, and Blenheim Mun., boxes 150-1.
  • 75. Royalist Ordnance Pps. (O.R.S. xliii), 28.
  • 76. H.J. Compton, 'The Link', Jnl. Rly. and Canal Hist. Soc. x (4), 53.
  • 77. Oxf. Mail, 11 Feb. 1972; Clarendonian, xxxiii (1); inf. from Star Paper Ltd., Feniscowles, Blackburn, Lancs.
  • 78. Cart. St. Frid. i, p. 77; Early Hist. St. John's Coll. (O.H.S. N.S. 1), 518--19; above, Kidlington, Intro., Econ.
  • 79. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 409; L. & P. Hen. VIII, iv (3), p. 3065.
  • 80. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 334, f. 6.
  • 81. Ibid. MS. d.d. Dew c 38; Blenheim Mun., box 149.
  • 82. Ch. Ch. Arch., MS. Estates 69, f. 5 and v.; ibid. map Cutslow 1.
  • 83. Ibid. MS. Estates 69, ff. 34-41, 46; Blenheim Mun., box 149.
  • 84. Ch. Ch. Arch., MS. Estates 69, ff. 46, 48.
  • 85. Ibid. ff. 16-17.
  • 86. Ibid. ff. 22-4, 34, 46, 48.
  • 87. Ibid. ff. 27-8, 34, 37, 39v-41; Blenheim Mun., box 151.
  • 88. P.R.O., E 179/161/8-10.
  • 89a. P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/2931; L. & P. Hen. VIII, xx, p. 220.
  • 90a. P.R.O., E 134/1651-2/Hil. 8.
  • 91a. e.g. Blenheim Mun., box 150.
  • 92a. Ch. Ch. Arch., MS. Estates 69, f. 17; O.R.O., land tax assess.
  • 93a. O.R.O., land tax assess.
  • 94a. P.R.O., HO 107/890, 1730; ibid. RG 10/1449; RG 11/1512.