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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The medieval king's houses and park at Woodstock formed part of a conglomerate royal manor. Woodstock manor and its members, sometimes described as an honor, (fn. 35) comprised several contiguous royal estates 'commonly called the demesnes of Woodstock', (fn. 36) sharing customs usually associated with ancient demesne and administered from the manor house in Woodstock Park. The 'demesne towns' were Bladon, Combe, Hanborough, Hordley, Stonesfield, Wootton, and, from the 16th century, Old Woodstock, which earlier had been treated as part of Wootton. The borough of New Woodstock, created out of Bladon parish in the 12th century, was for long answerable to the bailiffs and farmers of Woodstock manor, but finally achieved independence; the park, although usually held with the manor, acquired separate officers and administration. The formation of Woodstock manor was gradual: of its constituents only Wootton, with its hamlets of Hordley and Old Woodstock, may be identified with certainty as a pre-Conquest royal estate, and even that passed out of royal hands until 1233; (fn. 37) the other demesne towns had escheated to the Crown by the late 12th century. (fn. 38)
In the 12th and 13th centuries arrangements for administering the manor and its dependents varied. In the 1190s Combe, Hanborough, Stonesfield, and Hordley paid a farm to the custodian of Woodstock manor, but later the same four estates were directly administered by the sheriff, Fawkes de Breauté, who was answerable in 1224 for stock and implements there acquired with Woodstock manor. (fn. 39) Bladon was granted for life to various royal officers for much of the 13th century, while Hanborough was sometimes granted at farm to royal officials, was sometimes, as in the 1240s, administered directly with Woodstock manor, and for much of the late 13th century and early 14th formed part of the dower of successive queens. Wootton and the associated Wootton hundred were treated similarly. Combe was held with Stonesfield at a combined farm in the late 12th century, but was directly accounted for by the keeper or bailiff of Woodstock manor for most of the 13th century and early 14th. The farms of Hordley and Stonesfield were for long held by the men of those vills. (fn. 40)
In the 1230s the manor and park were held with Hanborough, Combe, Stonesfield, Hordley, and Barrington (Glos.) at the 'old farm' of Richard I's time of £39 4s., from which £ 15 was allowed for the custody of the king's houses and park; the newly escheated Wootton and Wootton hundred were added in 1233 for a farm of c. £25. (fn. 41) In the 1240s, however, the bailiffs of Woodstock manor answered in the Exchequer merely for the farms and court profits of New Woodstock, Hordley, and Stonesfield, but in full detail for the park and king's houses and the directly administered Hanborough, Combe, Bladon, and Wootton. (fn. 42) In 1251 a new policy was tried, whereby the constituents of the manor were granted at farm for 6 years to various individuals or groups: John of Hanborough, keeper of the king's houses, for example, shared with Peter of Leigh the farm of Bladon, Combe, Hanborough, and Stonesfield. The total farm was much increased to £180, including the farm of the royal manor of Bloxham but excluding the park. (fn. 43) In the 1260s arrangements were similar to those of the 1240s, but later in the century Bladon and Hanborough ceased to be accountable to the Crown. Again in the early 14th century the bailiff of Woodstock was answerable for the farms only of Hordley and Stonesfield but in detail for Bladon, Wootton, and Combe, as well as the borough, the king's houses, and the park. (fn. 44)
In 1194 William de Sainte-Mère-Eglise, a royal clerk and later bishop of London, (fn. 45) was accountable for Woodstock manor, but William de Breteuil held the house and park with its allowance of £15 a year; from 1195 William de Breteuil accounted in person for the whole manor. (fn. 46) Geoffrey Savage succeeded him in the house and park in 1202, and in the manor in 1203. (fn. 47) From 1204 until 1216 the manor and park were in the custody of the prominent royal official, John FitzHugh, (fn. 48) and thereafter until 1236 they were held with the county and Oxford castle by successive sheriffs. (fn. 49) Later keepers or bailiffs of Woodstock manor, such as William of St. Owen (from 1242), John le Poure (in the 1260s), and Richard Chamber (early 14th century), (fn. 50) may have been royal clerks; some, such as Walter of Tew (from 1236), (fn. 51) John of Hanborough (in the 1250s), (fn. 52) Robert le Eyr (in the 1260s), (fn. 53) and Ralph Mauduit (in the 1270s) (fn. 54) seem to have had strong local connexions.
In 1313 Woodstock manor was granted in dower to Queen Isabella; (fn. 55) the grant expressly mentioned Wootton and Wootton hundred, but all the demesne towns except Hanborough seem to have been included. The grant was confirmed in 1318, when the farm was £100. (fn. 56) In 1317 Isabella appointed a keeper or bailiff of the manor, (fn. 57) but she was deprived of her estates in 1324 and Woodstock was granted to Walter Beauchamp at the farm of £100. (fn. 58) Even though Hanborough was separately farmed it was by then considered one of the members of Woodstock manor. (fn. 59) In 1330 William de Montagu, later earl of Salisbury, was granted Woodstock manor with the addition of Hanborough, for which the total farm was £ 127 16s. 6d., (fn. 60) a sum unchanged until the later 15th century.
In 1344 Robert de Ferrers was granted Woodstock and Hanborough for life, and in 1349 Robert de Elmrugge, king's yeoman, was granted Woodstock and in 1352 Woodstock and Hanborough. (fn. 61) At his death in 1375 he was succeeded by Philip la Vache, (fn. 62) who was confirmed in his keepership in 1379 at the old farm, even though a survey had valued the manor at c. £217. (fn. 63) From 1382 the manor formed part of the dowry of Queen Anne, and in 1403 it was assigned in dower to Queen Joan, but the rights of Philip la Vache as keeper were preserved. (fn. 64) In 1408 Joan granted the keepership to John Norbury and William Wilcotes (d. 1410), and in 1411 Joan granted Woodstock to her esquire, Thomas Chaucer, Speaker of the House of Commons (d. 1434). (fn. 65) John Golafre, long associated with lesser offices within the manor, succeeded as farmer. (fn. 66) On the death of Queen Joan in 1437 the king granted Woodstock to his uncle, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester (d. 1447), who was succeeded in turn by William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk (d. 1450), and Ralph Boteler, Lord Sudeley. In 1457 Woodstock was regranted jointly to Ralph and to John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury. (fn. 67)
When Edward IV came to the throne in 1461 he granted Woodstock to his kinsman George Neville, bishop of Exeter and later archbishop of York, to whom it was confirmed by Henry VI in 1470. (fn. 68) From Neville's fall in 1472 Woodstock was placed in the care of Richard Croft as 'receiver and approver'. (fn. 69) In 1475 the manor was granted for 7 years to Queen Elizabeth and others, and has not been traced thereafter until granted in 1486 to Richard Croft. (fn. 70) In 1495 it was confirmed for a term of 15 years from 1492 to Edmund Hampden, who in 1486 had been rewarded for his services to Henry VII by a grant of the stewardship and other offices at Woodstock. (fn. 71)
From 1508 the keepership of the manor was committed for 15 years to Sir Edward Chamberlain of Shirburn (d. 1543), to whom it was confirmed for 30 years in 1521. (fn. 72) Like the stewardship, it presumably passed through Edward's son Sir Leonard (d. 1561) to his grandson Francis, (fn. 73) who was farmer until at his death in 1570. (fn. 74) The manor and stewardship were then granted to the courtier and poet Edward Dyer (d. 1607). (fn. 75) Dyer retained the keepership into the 17th century, perhaps until his death, but seems to have assigned the responsibility for Woodstock to Thomas Peniston, who acquired the reversion of the manor in 1571 and was called deputy lieutenant, and then to Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley (d. 1611), who had acquired Peniston's interests by 1573. (fn. 76)
In 1611 the manor was assigned to Henry, prince of Wales (d. 1612), and in 1617 to Charles, prince of Wales, (fn. 77) but Philip Herbert, earl of Montgomery and later of Pembroke (d. 1650), who had held the reversion of the stewardship since 1604, was farmer and keeper during that period; (fn. 78) in 1626 he was formally granted the manor. (fn. 79) During the Civil War Philip supported parliament, and in 1643 the king seems to have granted Woodstock to Montagu Bertie, earl of Lindsey, but Philip resumed his rights in 1646. (fn. 80) By 1649 it was intended to sell off Woodstock along with other royal estates, (fn. 81) and from then until 1652 the manorial courts were held for commissioners for the sale of Crown lands. (fn. 82) In 1652 Woodstock manor, the king's houses, the park, and Wootton hundred were sold to Griffith Lloyd of St. Ives (Hunts.) and others, (fn. 83) probably acting for Lt.Gen. Charles Fleetwood, who was lord of the manor 1652-9. (fn. 84)
At the Restoration Montagu Bertie, earl of Lindsey, regained the manor. (fn. 85) At his death in 1666 it was granted to Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, after whose fall it was granted to John, Lord Lovelace, in 1668, and to his son and heir John in 1670. (fn. 86) In 1675 the reversion was granted to the trustees of Edward Henry Lee, earl of Lichfield, and his wife Charlotte, daughter of Charles II. (fn. 87) Lovelace's custody of the manor was confirmed in 1676, but for political reasons his patents were revoked in favour of the Lichfields in 1679. (fn. 88) In 1690 the Lichfields' custody of the manor was challenged unsuccessfully by Thomas, later Lord Wharton. (fn. 89) The Lichfields settled the manor on Benedict Leonard Calvert, later Lord Baltimore, on his marriage to their daughter Charlotte in 1699. (fn. 90) Although courts continued to be held in the name of the Lichfields' trustees it was Calvert who received compensation when parliament granted the honor and manor of Woodstock to John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, in 1705. (fn. 91)
The grant was in recognition of the victory at Blenheim on 13 August 1704. The manor was to be held of the queen in free socage by service of presenting at Windsor Castle, on the anniversary of the battle, a standard bearing the fleur-de-lys of France. (fn. 92) Supplementary Acts conferred the estate on the duke's heirs general, barred entail, and confirmed an annual pension of £ 5,000 from the Post Office revenue, which was commuted in 1884. (fn. 93) After the duke's death in 1722 Sarah, duchess of Marlborough, retained a life interest in the estate until 1744, while the title passed to the duke's eldest daughter Henrietta Godolphin, suo jure duchess of Marlborough (d. 1733), and then to Henrietta's nephew Charles Spencer (d. 1758), conventionally regarded as the 3rd duke. He was succeeded by his son George Spencer, the 4th duke (d. 1817), whose son George, the 5th duke, took the additional surname Churchill in 1817 and died in 1840. Thereafter the manor descended from father to son, through George, 6th duke (d. 1857), John Winston, 7th duke (d. 1883), George Charles, 8th duke (d. 1892), Charles Richard John, 9th duke (d. 1934), John Albert Edward William, 10th duke (d. 1972), to John George Vanderbilt Henry, 11th duke. (fn. 94)
From the early 14th century various lesser offices within Woodstock manor and park became the subject of direct Crown grants; the most important were the office of steward or lieutenant of the manor, and that of comptroller and surveyor, treated elsewhere. (fn. 95) The stewardship may perhaps be traced to 1334 when John of Hanborough, rector of Bladon, was appointed to look after the king's houses, the stud, and the park, and to pay various minor officers, receiving £ 5 a year from the farmer. (fn. 96) Until 1705 a 'patent fee' of £ 5 a year was paid to the lieutenant or steward, (fn. 97) whose chief responsibilities were probably holding courts and paying wages.
Several offices within the manor were sometimes held by one man, or within a family. In 1399 Richard Wyatt was steward, while John Wyatt held the comptrollership and lesser offices in the park. (fn. 98) Ralph Boteler, Lord Sudeley, was steward by the 1430s, long before acquiring the keepership in 1450. (fn. 99) Thomas Croft was briefly steward in 1467 and recovered the office in 1478, (fn. 1) while his brother Richard was comptroller and parker for many years before becoming receiver and approver in 1472. (fn. 2) In 1486 Edmund Hampden acquired the stewardship and most other offices held by the Crofts, (fn. 3) and thereafter the stewardship was usually held with most of the principal park offices other than that of comptroller. (fn. 4) For much of the 16th century the Chamberlain family combined the stewardship and the associated park offices with the keepership of the manor. (fn. 5)
During the keepership of Edward Dyer the stewards emerged as the principal officers of the manor: his deputy Thomas Peniston was an active and troublesome figure in the early 1570s, (fn. 6) and it was as steward and parker, not as farmer of the manor or 'ranger', that Sir Henry Lee dominated affairs at Woodstock for over thirty years until his death in 1611. (fn. 7) In 1604 Sir Philip Herbert was granted the reversion of the stewardship jointly with Sir James Hay, (fn. 8) and presumably took up the office on Lee's death. Apparently Herbert later settled the stewardship on Robert Dormer, earl of Carnarvon (d. 1643), who married his daughter Anna Sophia in 1625, but a claim to the stewardship by Dormer's son, Charles, in 1660 was unsuccessful. (fn. 9) After the Restoration the stewardship was held by successive keepers or farmers. (fn. 10)
By the later 17th century there was official confusion over the significance of the various manorial offices. The Treasury seems to have treated allowances once made to the farmer or keeper of the manor as an appurtenance of the lieutenancy, and indeed referred in error to the office of lieutenant of the park. (fn. 11) There was uncertainty, too, over the office of ranger of Woodstock Park, a creation of the early 17th century. (fn. 12) In 1706 the title of 'lord warden of the bailiwick or honor of Woodstock within the forest of Wychwood', perhaps referring back to a short-lived bailiwick of Woodstock created c. 1638, (fn. 13) was assigned to the duke of Marlborough to avoid his possible subjection to the officers of the forest. (fn. 14)
Courts and Customs.
In the 13th century the profits of courts and views of frankpledge were recorded for each member of Woodstock manor, including Hordley, (fn. 15) but by the mid 16th century Hordley and Old Woodstock (treated as an integral part of Wootton for most of the Middle Ages) (fn. 16) shared a single court with Wootton. (fn. 17) Court rolls for the whole of Woodstock manor survive from 1618 until courts ceased in 1925. (fn. 18) A deputy steward, sometimes the town clerk of Woodstock or another resident lawyer, (fn. 19) held and recorded all the courts, including those of the attached Wootton hundred, whether held in Woodstock itself or in the demesne towns. Usually a court leet and view was held in each town in the autumn or spring, and constables, tithingmen, and sometimes fieldsmen were appointed there. For each town the courts baron, by then concerned largely with transfers of copyhold, were called as required, meeting sometimes in local public houses, sometimes at the park gate; a court baron for Hanborough held in the great hall of the manor house in 1633 may have been exceptional. (fn. 20) By the 18th century the courts baron were sometimes called private courts, in contrast to the general courts leet held annually in the autumn. (fn. 21) The hundredal courts meeting near Easter and Michaelmas in later times and known as Park Gate courts were survivors of the great hundreds of the Middle Ages when the sheriff viewed the frankpledge; (fn. 22) a three-weekly hundred court, by then dealing mostly with small debts, survived into the early 18th century. (fn. 23) Courts baron and hundredal courts continued to meet in the lodge at the park gate until 1925. (fn. 24) Although in the 14th century the hundred court met in Old Woodstock, (fn. 25) the park gate referred to in later times was the main entrance to the town. The chamber over the gate, or an adjacent building, probably served as a court house, for when the entrance site was redesigned in 1723 a new court house was built near the Triumphal Arch, probably on the site of the later Woodstock Lodge. (fn. 26)
The demesne towns, with minor variations, enjoyed common customs and privileges. (fn. 27) Tenants of Woodstock manor were quit of toll in all fairs and markets, and were not to be impanelled on juries outside their liberties. Felons taken within the manor were to be delivered by local inhabitants only to the park gate, where responsibility would pass to the manorial steward. Free tenants were sued in the manor court by writ of right close, customary tenants by a plaint naming the action in the form of which they were to sue; the court then followed the procedure of the central courts, often leading to a formal recovery. Free land was quit of heriot and liable to relief of only one year's rent. It was devisable by will or before witnesses, provided that the transaction was enrolled in court within a year and a day; descent was to the heir as at common law, and widows received one third of the rent but no land in dower. Customary lands descended by brough English to the youngest son or daughter, who paid a relief of one year's rent; such lands passed by surrender or were devisable by will, and were subject to heriot but not dower, except by the husband's gift. Surrenders could take place out of court before two or three customary tenants, (fn. 28) provided that enrolment followed within a year and a day.
A third category of tenure within the manor was that of bury land, or former demesne, which was held for a money rent only and at will; of the demesne towns in 1551 only Stonesfield seems to have lacked such land. No rights were attached to bury tenure, except common on all the demesnes for the six weeks between Michaelmas and Martinmas. (fn. 29) Sir Leonard Chamberlain (d. 1561) and in the 1570s Sir Henry Lee ejected some bury tenants (fn. 30) who felt that by long custom their tenure was inviolable; in a petition to the Lord Treasurer they claimed that the bury land had been granted by a king (unnamed) to his tenants in compensation for an enlargement of Woodstock Park, and that thereafter, like customary land, it had descended to the youngest son or daughter. Sir Henry Lee produced evidence that in the past bury land had been kept in hand or let out at will by the farmers of the manor. (fn. 31) In 1580 it was decided to grant the bury land in writing to the occupiers for reasonable fines. (fn. 32) Bury land remained divided among tenants in the 17th century, and by then it was accepted that it should be held as copyhold. (fn. 33)
Tenants of the demesne towns were entitled to share in the common and waste throughout the manor, and also claimed common rights in Eynsham, in North and South Leigh, and in the assarts in Charlbury, Fawler, Ditchley, Kiddington, Glympton, and North Leigh. (fn. 34) Some of the claims seem to be related to ancient grazing rights in Wychwood forest, (fn. 35a) and in the 16th century several disputes over the commoning of Woodstock manorial tenants outside their liberties came before a forest court variously known as a 'swanymout' or 'swalmouth', perhaps a 'swinemoot'. (fn. 36a) There is no record that Woodstock's claims in South Leigh, for example, were ever pressed, and in practice such rights were probably exercised mostly by nearby townships, as at Eynsham, where intercommoning by Hanborough men caused prolonged friction, and at North Leigh, where only the rights of Combe and Stonesfield men seem to have been at issue. (fn. 37a) In 1723 tenants of the demesne towns complained to Sarah, duchess of Marlborough, that recent inclosure of assarts in Ditchley, Fawler, Kiddington, and Glympton had deprived them of important common rights. (fn. 38a) In the 16th century tenants had common in various coppies close to Woodstock Park, which were fenced for seven years after coppicing and then thrown open; by 1706, however, it was the practice to prevent commoning by coppicing more frequently. (fn. 39a)
The services of all customary tenants in the demesne towns included driving deer in Woodstock Park whenever a view was taken and carrying hay to the king's barn in the park from the royal meadows there. (fn. 40a) The obligations upon individual demesne towns to perform services in the park and the king's houses are described elsewhere. (fn. 41a)