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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Balliol College, Oxford, acquired a large estate in Old Woodstock in the 16th and 17th centuries, based on the house known in the Middle Ages as PRAUNCE'S PLACE. (fn. 9) Henry Praunce sold the house in 1342 to John of the park, (fn. 10) and it was by 1379 in the possession of Thomas Mundy, rector of Begbroke, and his brother Edmund, under the terms of whose will it passed to Nicholas Glover. Nicholas granted the house in 1409 to William Pomeray, from whom it was acquired in 1412 by Thomas Snarestone. (fn. 11) Thomas bought several small freeholds in Old Woodstock, so that Praunce's Place became, apparently for the first time, part of a landed estate. (fn. 12) Between 1458 and 1460 he or another Thomas granted the property to Sir Edward Hampden, and in the later 15th century it was acquired by Richard Nowers, whose daughters Clemence, Anne Grandon, and Eleanor Clement sold it in 1504 to Roger Jakes of Watford (Herts.). (fn. 13) Roger sold the estate in 1507 to Henry Wyatt, from whom it was bought in 1513 by Thomas Harrop (d. 1522), rector of Great Haseley, who devised it to Balliol College. The house seems at some time in the later Middle Ages to have been divided into an east and a west tenement, and it was the former which Balliol received from Harrop. The estate also included a house and 1 yardland called Heynes's and a house and ½ yardland called Juell's. (fn. 14) In 1614 Balliol bought 26 a. in Old Woodstock Sarts from Thomas Elye and Nicholas Lucy of London, (fn. 15) and in 1615 the college bought from Jerome and Richard Nash, its tenants in Old Woodstock, an estate accumulated by the Nash family from the later 16th century, comprising the western part of Praunce's Place and c. 96 a. of free and copyhold land and the remaining 52 ½ a. of Old Woodstock Sarts. The dwelling and perhaps 28 a. of the land had been owned in the mid 15th century by William Frere, whose widow Agnes and son William sold it in 1466 to William Redhead. Redhead later granted it to Woodstock corporation, which in 1504 granted it to William Wise, the mayor. He sold it in 1505 to William Seacole (d. 1527) of Stanton Harcourt, whose son Robert gave it in 1535 to the latter's brother William, who sold it in 1564 to Michael Nash, father of Jerome and Richard. (fn. 16) In 1687 Balliol's Old Woodstock estate comprised 244 a., (fn. 17) and at the inclosure of Wootton parish in 1770 the college received 183 a. of formerly open-field land in Old Woodstock. (fn. 18) In 1922 the college sold the estate, comprising 221 a. in all, to Annie Haynes, whose family had been tenants there from the later 19th century. (fn. 19) The family retained ownership in 1989, when the estate comprised c. 250 a. (fn. 20)
Praunce's Place, called Manor Farm by the later 19th century, stands east of the Chipping Norton road (fn. 21) and comprises buildings of several periods and styles in coursed limestone rubble with stone slate roofs. The oldest part, a chamber block of c. 1300 to the rear, retains in its first-floor north wall a moulded fireplace and a stack topped by an elaborate octagonal stone chimney with a conical cap. (fn. 22) The cap, badly weathered in the mid 20th century, was later replaced by a replica. (fn. 23) On the north is a tall, narrow building, apparently once free-standing, which retains in its west wall a blocked window possibly of the 15th century; the two buildings were linked in the 17th century by the insertion of a half-hipped block. Adjoining those buildings on the south and forming an inverted T shape is the long east-west front range which possibly incorporates parts of a medieval hall, (fn. 24) for the later Nash tenement seems to have comprised the chamber block and free-standing building on the north, and the westernmost two bays of the south range; the Balliol tenement, differentiated by a lower roofline, comprised the remainder of the south range and outbuildings on the east. (fn. 25) Remodelling of the south fronts of both tenements with projecting three-storeyed entrance bays and gables may have been the work reportedly undertaken c. 1560 by Michael Nash. (fn. 26) The more elaborate frontage of the eastern tenement, however, with its imposing doorway, at the centre of the entire south range, and its symmetrical four-light mullioned windows surmounted by drip moulds, (fn. 27) perhaps dated from c. 1615, when the college obtained sole possession. By 1876 much of the east end had been demolished after a fire. (fn. 28)
In the mid 17th century the buildings, said to be 'extremely ruinous', were extensively repaired and in part rebuilt by the lessee, John Harris, fellow of Balliol College. A later lessee, Robert Sheppard, was said in 1698 to have been at 'great charge' in building work and may have been responsible for inserting or rebuilding the half-hipped block at the rear, and for installing some new windows and interior fittings of that period. (fn. 29)
From 1770 until the later 19th century the house was again partitioned, the buildings on the north used as the college farmhouse, the southern range separately leased to tenants including William Mavor, who ran a boarding school there until the early 19th century, and then to glove manufacturers who used the outbuildings for workshops. Extensive repairs carried out in 1769-70, presumably to make the house ready for partitioning, included reslating the roof, replacing windows, and renewing internal fittings. The replacement and rearrangement after 1821 of windows towards the western end of the south front may have been by the glover Richard Taylor, tenant 1823-41. (fn. 30) The roof, described in 1913 as 'very old' and in need of repair (fn. 31) was probably renewed then and gables and attics removed.
Outbuildings at the rear of the house form a small courtyard with, on the eastern side, a dovecot of the 17th century or earlier. (fn. 32) East of the house is a long range incorporating a cottage, formerly a tool house, (fn. 33) at its south-west corner.
St. John's hospital, Oxford, by 1435 owned a piece of arable land called St. John's croft situated at the southern end of the township. (fn. 34) The land passed with the hospital's other estates to Magdalen College, whose estate was said in the 16th century to comprise 6 a. and 2 butts on the north bank of the Glyme. (fn. 35) The land was usually leased to the tenants of Balliol College's Old Woodstock estate, and by the later 18th century comprised a close of 5 a. called Third, or Magdalen, close, east of Manor Farm's home closes. Balliol bought the land in 1806. (fn. 36)
A house and ½ yardland of copyhold land known as Brotherton's held by William Brotherton at his death in 1688 was sold in 1711 by his son James to George Smith, who sold it in 1714 to Samuel Acton (d. 1728), a London grocer. Samuel was succeeded by his son Edward (d. 1750), whose sister and heir Elizabeth seems to have relinquished her claim in favour of Edward's widow Anne, who may have been a cousin since she was succeeded by Edward, son of her brother Thomas Acton. Edward sold the property in 1792 to John and Samuel Churchill, who sold it in 1795 to William Sotham. He immediately sold part of the estate, lying west of the road and including the farmhouse, to William Margetts, after whose death in 1807 the property was dispersed among his children and later further divided and sold off. His daughter Rose Betterton received Brotherton's House and was succeeded by Mary, probably her daughter, wife of Philip Pain. The house apparently stood south of Ladder and Stile Row, and was possibly that later known as no. 33 Manor Road: part of a long row of houses called the Bank, it is of the early 17th century, larger than its neighbours, and formerly free-standing. William Sotham sold the remainder of the Brotherton's estate in 1802 to George Spencer, duke of Marlborough. (fn. 37)
A copyhold estate comprising 1 yardland and a house called Water Close was held by George Knapp at his death in 1711. His son Robert sold it in 1736 to Edward Acton, from whom it descended with that part of the family's Old Woodstock property which passed to the duke of Marlborough. (fn. 38) A copyhold estate comprising 2 ½ yardlands and a house was surrendered in 1717 by Hugh Hopkins to John Freeman, who sold it in 1724 to Samuel Acton. Thereafter it followed the descent of Water Close. (fn. 39)
The estates acquired by the duke were run as a single farm from the house later known as Barn Piece House. The tenants for much of the 19th century were the Prior and Rowles families. (fn. 40) Thomas Whitlock (d. 1927), tenant in the earlier 20th century, bought the farm in 1920 and was succeeded by his son Frederick (d. 1950), whose widow Blanche sold the farm in 1956 to Gaston Genillard. In 1962 Genillard sold the farmhouse to Alan Sharp, and later in the 1960s he sold several acres for housing. Much of the remaining land was sold to B. J. Brooks of Hensington farm. (fn. 41) Barn Piece House is of double-depth plan, with a plain, stone-built block of the 18th century to the front and a red brick extension of the late 19th century to the rear. The house was extensively remodelled internally in the earlier 20th century.