Yarnton: Manor and other estates

Pages 475-478

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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Manor and other estates

In 1005 Ealdorman Aethelmaer granted 10 hides at YARNTON, formerly his cousin Godwin's, to his newly founded abbey at Eynsham. (fn. 63) The land was taken at the Conquest by Remigius, bishop of Dorchester, later bishop of Lincoln, who eventually returned the abbey's other estates but not, apparently, Yarnton. In 1086 Eynsham's estates were held of the bishop by Abbot Columban, but 9 1/2 hides at Yarnton, though said to be Eynsham's, were held of the bishop by Roger d'Ivri. The estate included 1 hide formerly held freely by Maino. Odo, bishop of Bayeux, was lord of the other half hide; it, too, was held by Roger d'Ivri. (fn. 64) Nothing more is known of the half hide, which presumably merged with the larger estate on or before Odo's death in 1097. Yarnton was held thereafter of the bishops of Lincoln as 2 knights' fees, but it became increasingly difficult for the bishops to obtain their dues from the manor, and in the 14th century their claims to overlordship seem to have been abandoned. (fn. 65)

Roger d'Ivri (d. 1089) was succeeded by his sons Roger (d. by 1112) and Geoffrey (d. by 1120). By the mid 12th century Yarnton, with other d'Ivri lands, had become part of the honor of St. Valery, of which it formed one of the five demesne manors. It was held successively by Reynold of St. Valery (d. c. 1162), his son Bernard (d. 1191), and Bernard's son Thomas (d. 1219). Thomas's daughter and heir Annora married Robert, count of Dreux, but their English lands were seized in 1226 by Henry III, who gave them in 1227 to his brother Richard, earl of Cornwall (d. 1272). (fn. 66) Richard's son Edmund granted Yarnton in 1281 to the newly founded abbey of Rewley. (fn. 67) Yarnton remained part of the honor of St. Valery, though by the early 16th century the manor was said to be held of the honor of Wallingford, from which the honor of St. Valery was by then scarcely differentiated. (fn. 68)

Eynsham abbey repeatedly sought to recover Yarnton, but although the abbey's ownership of the church was never challenged it could not regain the manor and in 1294 renounced its claim in return for the payment of tithes, from which Rewley, as a Cistercian house, had been exempt. (fn. 69)

Rewley abbey was dissolved in 1536, and in 1538 Henry VIII sold Yarnton to George Owen (d. 1558), his physician. (fn. 70) Richard Andrews, who had been tenant of the manor since c. 1526 and who was presumably resident at the manor house, retained the tenancy under his friend Owen until 1541. (fn. 71) The freehold passed to Owen's son Richard, (fn. 72) who by 1570 had been succeeded by his brother-in-law John Chamberlain, third son of Sir Leonard Chamberlain of Shirburn. (fn. 73) John sold it in 1574 to John Durant of Cottesmore (Rut.), possibly for the latter's son William. (fn. 74) In 1580 it was bought by William (d. 1609), third son of Sir John Spencer of Althorp. (fn. 75) From William Yarnton descended in the direct male line through Sir Thomas (d. 1622) and Sir William (d. 1657) to Sir Thomas (d. 1685), whose son William predeceased him. The manor was partitioned between William's sisters Jane, Constance, Elizabeth, and Catherine. (fn. 76) Three shares were bought in 1695 by Sir Robert Dashwood of Kirtlington. (fn. 77) The fourth, that of Constance and her husband, George Marwood, passed to their daughter Jane, wife of Cholmley Turner, who sold it in 1718 to Benjamin Swete, formerly army paymaster under John Churchill, duke of Marlborough. (fn. 78) Swete devised it on his death in 1744 to his cousin Francis Fulford, whose son Benjamin Swete Fulford sold it in 1767 to the Revd. Tilleman Hodgkinson (d. 1786) of Sarsden. (fn. 79) Hodgkinson's heirs were his daughters Elizabeth and Jane, who in 1826 sold her moiety of the quarter share to Elizabeth's son and heir Thomas Vowler Short, later bishop of St. Asaph (d. 1872). He devised the quarter manor to his brother William, who sold it in 1875 to Sir Henry Dashwood, thus reuniting the manor. (fn. 80)

The manor was bought in 1895 by H. R. Franklin (d. 1909), a Deddington builder who had worked for the Dashwoods at Kirtlington. (fn. 81) It was sold in 1929 by Franklin's widow Jane to Margaret Hamer, who resold it in 1936 to George Kolkhorst, Reader in Spanish at Oxford University. On his death in 1959 it was bought by the Revd. C. K. F. Brown, headmaster of Cokethorpe School, near Witney. He sold it in 1963 to Richard Bradfield, from whom it was bought in 1973 by the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust. (fn. 82)

Yarnton Manor was built c. 1611 by Sir Thomas Spencer. The house stood 'near to the old one by the church' (fn. 83) and part of an older house seems to have been incorporated as a service wing at the north-west corner of the new house, which was an imposing structure of coursed rubble limestone and ashlar, some of it re-used. The new house was a rectangular block of double-pile plan, with an enriched central doorcase and slightly projecting end bays. The house was renovated in the later 17th century, but by 1718 it was in 'ruinated condition' and the park had 'lately been destroyed'. (fn. 84) Demolition of the south bay and of some of the lower service buildings on the north is usually attributed to Sir Thomas's grandson Sir Thomas c. 1662, but it is more likely that they were removed c. 1756 by Sir James Dashwood. (fn. 85) It was said in the 19th century that the dancing gallery and building materials had been removed in the 18th to the Dashwoods' house in Kirtlington. (fn. 86) Yarnton Manor was used as a farmhouse until 1895. The interior at that time was well preserved, notably the carved hall screen, much panelling, and several richly decorated armorial chimney pieces of the 17th century, (fn. 87) Restoration was begun in 1897 under the direction of Thomas Garner. (fn. 88) The balance of the east elevation was restored by building a library across the full depth of the house, with a slightly projecting east bay. The symmetry of the east front was further enhanced by constructing shaped gables above the end and centre bays. The interior was extensively remodelled, but most 17th-century features were preserved, including the heraldic overmantel of the long gallery fireplace, one of the few in England to retain its original colouring, and the painted graining and marbling on the staircase and in some upstairs rooms. The grounds of the house were also restored, in formal Jacobean style. (fn. 89) There are remains of extensive fishponds of unknown date west of Mead Lane south of the railway line. Yarnton Manor was used c. 1960 as a dormitory for Cokethorpe School, and from 1973 housed the Postgraduate Centre for Hebrew Studies. (fn. 90)

Paternoster farm formed part of the estate purchased in 1718 by Benjamin Swete. Comprising 107 a. in 1845, it was subsequently sold by William Short to William Brain of Kidlington, who sold it in 1876 to Sir Henry Dashwood. (fn. 91) The farm was tenanted for most of the 19th century by the Walker family. (fn. 92) It seems to have been bought in the late 19th century or early 20th by Stephen Howse, and sold by him shortly after the First World War to Edward Harris, whose son Edward was the owner in 1986. (fn. 93) The farmhouse was built c. 1600 on a three-roomed plan with a projecting stair turret in line with the large central chimney stack. Early in the 19th century the parlour was extended and remodelled, and a new staircase installed, the base of the old stair turret becoming an entrance porch.

Frize or Frice farm, comprising c. 150 a. in the south-east of the parish, immediately west of the Oxford-Woodstock road, was, like Paternoster farm, part of the quarter share of the manor. Leased to the Minn family from the later 17th century and probably earlier, it was later known as Minnis farm. (fn. 94) The farm did not pass with the quarter of the manor but was devised by Swete to his cousin Adrian Swete. (fn. 95) On Adrian's death in 1755 it passed to his mother Esther, who devised it in 1771 to a relative, the Revd. John Tripe, who took the name Swete in 1781. (fn. 96) By 1816 the estate had passed to John Swete, presumably a son, and by 1840 was held by the Revd. Benjamin Swete. Benjamin's descendants have not been traced, but the farm was sold c. 1890 by the 'representatives of the Swetes' to George Walton (d. 1900), whose family had been tenants there for much of the 19th century. (fn. 97) George was succeeded by his children George (d. 1926) and Mary, who at her death in 1956 devised half the farm to her sister Fanny and half to the farm manager, Nigel Evans, who bought out Fanny's share soon after. He sold the farm c. 1960 to Arthur Baylis, who renamed it Stonehouse farm. (fn. 98)

An estate said to comprise a house and 2 yardlands was sold in 1576 by Richard Dalby to Robert Townsend of Cassington. (fn. 99) Robert conveyed it in 1592 to Stephen Townsend, whose son Stephen sold it in 1642 to Thomas Standard (d. 1687) of Kidlington. Thomas's daughter and heir Alice and her husband Thomas Smith both died in 1708 and were succeeded by their son Humphrey (d. 1718), (fn. 1) whose widow Mary sold the estate in 1718 to Henry Jackson, a minor canon of St. Paul's cathedral, London. By will proved 1727 Jackson devised the estate, known thereafter as Jackson's farm, to Merton College, Oxford, to provide four scholarships. The farmhouse was built in the 17th century, probably on the site of an earlier house. It was extended at the rear in the 18th, but was still described in 1797 as a 'small farmhouse'. It was said in 1853 to have been 'lately rebuilt nearly', the remodelling apparently including the blocking of the former through-passage by the insertion of a central staircase. The house was sold in 1965. In 1895 the college bought Hill farm, whose land adjoined Jackson's farm, from Sir George Dashwood. Adjustment of the farms' boundaries altered the size of Jackson's farm, which comprised 100 a. in 1939, 80 a. in 1982.

An estate later said to comprise a house and 118 a. was bought in 1574 by Justinian Weller (d. 1577) from John Chamberlain. The estate passed to Justinian's daughter Agnes (d. 1602), wife of Adrian Criche. (fn. 2) Their son Samuel died seised of the property in 1638, but by 1662 it had passed to the Southby family of Appleton (Berks). (fn. 3) The estate followed the descent of the Southby's Appleton property until 1867, when it was bought by Exeter College, Oxford. (fn. 4) The Southby farmhouse, later called Exeter Farm, stands at the eastern edge of the old village, north of the Cassington road. The estate was sold by the college in 1921. (fn. 5)

An estate comprising a house and 2 yardlands, perhaps that held of Rewley abbey in the 1530s by Robert Page, (fn. 6) was among the lands sold c. 1575 by John Chamberlain. (fn. 7) The purchaser was presumably William Phipps, who died seised of the estate in 1610. He was succeeded by his son Robert (d. 1613), by Robert's son Henry (d. by 1662), and by Henry's son Robert (d. 1709), whose heir was his daughter Elizabeth. (fn. 8) She later married John Weston, and they, with their son Phipps Weston, sold the estate in 1739 to Exeter College. The estate, known as College farm, was sold in 1921. The farmhouse, College Mead, is a stone-built house of 1610, partly rebuilt in brick in 1710. (fn. 9)

Eynsham abbey held Yarnton rectory, which comprised the great tithes. (fn. 10) At the Dissolution the rectory passed to the Crown. It was leased to George Owen in 1551 and granted for a time to Cardinal Pole, but in 1565 it was bought from the Crown by Sir William Petre and formed part of his endowment of Exeter College. (fn. 11) The rectory was leased separately to tenants until 1782, after which it was usually leased with College farm. (fn. 12) The tithes were commuted in 1845 for a rent of £250. (fn. 13)


  • 63. M. Gelling, Early Charters of Thames Valley, p. 138; Eynsham Cart. i. p. 22.
  • 64. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 403, 405.
  • 65. Reg. Antiquiss. i (L.R.S. xxvii), 5, 7, 193, 203; Bk. of Fees, i. 40; Rot. Parl. i. 85, 314; Cal. Close, 1302-7, 484; 1313-18, 156.
  • 66. V.C.H. Oxon. v. 60-1; Sanders, Eng. Baronies, 9-10.
  • 67. Cal. Pat. 1281-92, 132; Dugdale, Mon. v. 697-8.
  • 68. Feud. Aids, iv. 156; Cal. Close, 1288-96, 290; Cal. Inq. p.m.. iii, pp. 482, 487; Dom. of Incl., ed. Leadam, i. 387.
  • 69. Cur. Reg. R. iv. 87, 107; xiii. 2; Rot. de Ob. et Fin. (Rec. Com.), 345; Eynsham Cart. i, pp. 61-2, 308, 334; Dugdale, Mon. iii. 18.
  • 70. L. /?/ P. Hen. VIII, xiii (i), p. 328.
  • 71. Ibid. xvi, p. 422; P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/2924, m. 11d.; Ibid. PROB 11/37, f. 134v.
  • 72. P.R.O., C 142/223, no. 75.
  • 73. P.R.O., C 142/191, no. 67; C 142/264, no. 127; Harl. Soc. v. 127-8.
  • 74. Cal. Pat. 1572-5, p. 339; Wood's Life, i (O.H.S. xix), 217-18; Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars. 284-5.
  • 75. P.R.O., CP25(2)/Trin. 22 Eliz.; CP 40/Trin. 22 Eliz., rot. 134.
  • 76. P.R.O., PROB 11/140 (P.C.C. 103 Savile); PROB 11/282 (1653, p. 530); PROB 11/387 (1687, f. 83); Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars. facing p. 285; A. Adcock, Spencers at Yarnton (priv. print. 1981).
  • 77. O.R.O., Dash. XV/i/30-42, 45; Wood's Life, i (O.H.S. xix), 218. For an acct. of Dashwood fam. see J. Townsend, Oxon. Dashwoods (Oxf. 1922).
  • 78. O.R.O., Dash. XV/ii/1
  • 79. P.R.O. PROB 11/736 (P.C.C. 294 Anstis); Blenheim Mun., box 22; O.R.O., Dash. XV/ii/2.
  • 80. O.R.O., Dash. XV/ii/3-8.
  • 81. Townsend, Oxon. Dashwoods, 12, 44; Adcock, Spencers at Yarnton,. 10.
  • 82. Westgate Libr., Oxford, TS. list of lords of manor.
  • 83. Wood's Life, i (O.H.S. xix), 217.
  • 84. Hearne's Colln. vi. 187; Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 506.
  • 85. G. Nares, 'Yarnton Manor', Country Life, cx. 2096-7, and Pevsner, Oxon. 867-8 appear to follow Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars. 291, where an editorial note of 1772 in Life of Ant. Wood, ed. W. Huddesford, 277 that 'a great part' of the house was 'pulled down about 16 years ago' is misread as an entry for 1678 in the diary.
  • 86. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. b 19, f. 156v.
  • 87. Ibid. c 522, f. 19v., drawing of 1868 by A. Cobb; ibid. a 24, ff. 70-80, undated plans by Thos. Garner, c. 1895; O.R.O., DIL. XXIII/7, auction cat. 1889.
  • 88. D.N.B
  • 89. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. a 24, ff. 70-80; O.A.S. Rep. (1896-1900), 140; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. xxxiv. 61; Oxf. Fnl. Illustrated, 4 July, 8 Aug. 1917; Country Life, cx. 2096-9, 2162-5; Pevsner, Oxon. 867-8.
  • 90. Oxf. Mail,. 30 Nov. 1962; inf. from the bursar, Yarnton Manor.
  • 91. O.R.O., Dash, XV/ii/3-8; ibid. tithe award.
  • 92. Ibid. land tax assess.; P.O. Dir. Oxon. (1847 and later ends.).
  • 93. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1920); local inf.
  • 94. Above; O.R.O., Dash, XV/i/6-8, 13, 44.
  • 95. P.R.O., PROB 11/736 (P.C.C. 294 Anstis).
  • 96. R. Polwhele, Hist. Devon, iii. 463; C. Worthy, Devon Pars. 241.
  • 97. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. e 12; Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars. 230.
  • 98. Inf. from Mrs. M. J. Roe, Yarnton.
  • 99. Except where specified, the following acct. is based on Merton Coll. Mun., uncat. deeds.
  • 1. Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars. 46-8, 51.
  • 2. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 185, ff. 534, 580; P.R.O., C 142/267, no. 30; O.R.O., Hodgson VIII/17.
  • 3. P.R.O., c 142/14 Chas. 1, no. 486; ibid. E 179/164/504, m. 45; Exeter Coll. Mun., N.III.6, Southby estate deeds.
  • 4. V.C.H. Berks. iv. 338; Exeter Coll. Mun., N. III.6.
  • 5. O.R.O., tithe award; Exeter Coll. Mun., N.III.6-7.
  • 6. P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/2924, m. 10.
  • 7. Exeter Coll. Mun., N. III. 5, Phipps estate deeds.
  • 8. P.R.O., C 142/519, no. 55; C 142/338, no. 40; Exeter Coll. Mun., N.III.5; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 672, ff. 155, 158, 203, 212.
  • 9. Exeter Coll. Mun., N.III. 5, 7.
  • 10. Above; Eynsham Cart. i, pp. 334-5; ii, pp. lxxiii-lxxiv.
  • 11. Cal. Pat. 1563-6, 251-2; Exeter Coll. Reg. (O.H.S. xxvii), pp. lxxxiv-lxxxvi.
  • 12. Exeter Coll. Mun., N. III. 5, 7; Bodl. MS. Ch. Oxon. 644.
  • 13. O.R.O., tithe award.