Yarnton: Local government

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, 'Yarnton: Local government', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) pp. 482-484. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp482-484 [accessed 23 May 2024].

A P Baggs. W J Blair. Eleanor Chance. Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. C J Day. Nesta Selwyn. S C Townley. "Yarnton: Local government", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) 482-484. British History Online, accessed May 23, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp482-484.

Baggs, A P. Blair, W J. Chance, Eleanor. Colvin, Christina. Cooper, Janet. Day, C J. Selwyn, Nesta. Townley, S C. "Yarnton: Local government", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990). 482-484. British History Online. Web. 23 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp482-484.

Local government

Yarnton, as part of the honor of St. Valery, had by 1255 been withdrawn from suit at the hundred court of Wootton by Richard, earl of Cornwall. Earl Edmund held courts for his villeins at Yarnton, but free tenants owed suit at the honorial court at North Osney. Villeins as well as free tenants were, unusually, expected to contribute to the lord's scutage. (fn. 15) The 'hundred' of Yarnton, so called in 1279, seems to have been the name given to an annual view of frankpledge at Yarnton attended by tenants from St. Valery manors in Steeple Barton, Cassington, Hampton Gay, Rousham, and Whitehill (in Tackley). (fn. 16) That Yarnton was referred to as a hundred suggests its importance as an honorial centre, perhaps related to its status as a demesne manor. (fn. 17) Yarnton remained quit of shire and hundred after 1281, under its new owner Rewley abbey. (fn. 18) The last known meeting of the manorial court was in 1720, to regulate agricultural matters. (fn. 19)

The two churchwardens were financed in the later 16th century and early 17th by malt or malt money received from the parish's farmers. (fn. 20) By 1800 and probably earlier a rate was raised instead on the yardland, (fn. 21) an anachronism that persisted into the 19th century; church, poor, surveyors', and constables' rates were all so assessed. (fn. 22) Vestry meetings were held in the Spencer aisle of the church and were usually attended by c. 6 parishioners. (fn. 23) Two overseers of the poor were chosen annually by rota from the parish's leading farmers. In 1828, 1831, and 1835 both overseers were women. (fn. 24) The parish paid for dinners after the Michaelmas and Easter vestry meetings. In 1810 the vestry increased its dinner allowance from 20s. to the unusually high figure of 30s., and set an upper limit as high as £3 10s. (fn. 25)

In 1776 Yarnton spent £32 on poor relief, rising to an average of £76 between 1783 and 1785. (fn. 26) From the mid 1790s there was a sharp increase in expenditure, to a peak of c. £480 in 1800-1. The total fell thereafter, to c. £250 in 1810, but it began to rise again towards the end of the French wars. Expenditure per head of population was higher in Yarnton than elsewhere, even when total expenditure was falling; in 1803, for example, expenditure of £1 10s. per person was notably the highest in the area. In 1815 and 1818 the capitation rate was £1 12s., and although it fell to 11s. in 1825 it was always among the highest. (fn. 27) Yarnton's proximity to Oxford on the Woodstock road presumably accounts for the very large numbers of nonparishioners obtaining poor relief; most of the 150 non-parishioners relieved in 1803 were likely to have been travelling to or from the city. (fn. 28) In the later 18th century and early 19th between 6 and 12 adult parishioners regularly received poor relief for periods longer than 13 weeks a year; many more were given casual relief. In the second decade of the 19th century the number of those receiving regular allowances began to increase. The totals fluctuated, but there were 20 such recipients in 1818 and 27 in 1834. (fn. 29)

The payment of wages to roundsmen was well established by the later 18th century. Ten or twelve were employed initially, at a cost to the parish of £8-£12 a year, a small proportion of total poor relief expenditure. In 1802-3 there were 13 men and 11 women so employed, and the cost had risen to c. £37. The effects of the post-Waterloo depression seem to have reached a peak in 1817-18, when £68 was paid to roundsmen, and in an attempt to prevent further settlement in the parish the vestry ordered a register of hirings to be kept. After £56 had been spent in 1829-30 the vestry sought to limit its share of the cost by ordering that every farmer should take his 'proper proportion' of labourers out of work, 'being one day for every yardland'; farmers were to pay the 'usual rate', unspecified, for wages in Yarnton. There was another year of crisis in 1834-5, when the vestry's share of wages was £74. (fn. 30)

The parish owned an unusual number of cottages, including a block of seven known as the College standing on manorial waste south of Cassington Lane, south-east of Southby's, later Exeter, Farm. (fn. 31) New parish cottages were built in 1795 and 1806. (fn. 32) In 1839 all 16 parish cottages, said to house 84 people, 'half the labouring poor' in Yarnton, were sold to Sir George Dashwood. (fn. 33)

Casual relief was given in money and kind. (fn. 34) In 1830 a pauper was paid 4s. to stop him 'from having a wife'. (fn. 35) Ploughs, presumably breastploughs, were bought for labourers in 1795 and 1800, and a labourer's plough was redeemed in 1799. (fn. 36) A few apprenticeship indentures have survived. (fn. 37) Paupers were paid to spin flax throughout the period, and in the 1780s hemp was also spun; in the 1820s worsted stockings were being knitted. Proceeds generally amounted to a few pounds, but £25 was earned in 1803 and 11 in 1806. (fn. 38) The parish paid a subscription to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. Smallpox sufferers were taken to isolation hospitals at Hensington and Wolvercote, and in 1794 and 1815 the vestry paid for the parish's children to be inoculated. (fn. 39) Although elsewhere it was a general complaint that, on appeal, magistrates were too generous in the granting of allowances, Yarnton vestry seems not to have hesitated to refer cases to them in the early 19th century, perhaps to avoid the odium of refusal. (fn. 40) The vestry may also have been confident of the support of Yarnton's vicar, Vaughan Thomas, an influential figure on the local bench. (fn. 41)

In 1834 Yarnton became part of Woodstock poor law union. In 1932 it was transferred to Witney rural district, and in 1974 to Cherwell district. (fn. 42)


  • 15. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 34, 48, 855.
  • 16. Ibid. 836, 854, 858, 863-5.
  • 17. W. O. Ault, Private Jurisdiction in Eng. 194-6.
  • 18. Cal. Close, 1288-96, 290.
  • 19. O.R.O., Dash. XV/i/49.
  • 20. Ibid. MS. Oxf. Dioc. d 15, ff. 37v.-40v.; Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars. 263.
  • 21. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. e 12, f. 29.
  • 22. Ibid. ff. 21v. sqq.
  • 23. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Yarnton d 3.
  • 24. Ibid. b 9-10.
  • 25. Poor Abstract, 1787, 656; O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Yarnton b 10.
  • 26. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7.
  • 27. O.R.O., MSS. d.d. Par. Yarnton b 9-10, passim; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. e 12, f.
  • 28. Poor Abstract, 1818, 360-1; Poor Rate Returns, H. C. 556, p. 139 (1822), v; H.C. 334, p. 174 (1825), iv; H.C. 83, p. 161 (1830-1), xi; H.C. 444, p. 157 (1835), xlvii. 28 Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7.
  • 29. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Yarnton b 9, passim.
  • 30. Ibid. b 9-10, passim; d 3, ff. 300-301v.
  • 31. Ibid. b 9-10, passim; Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars. 279-80. O.R.O., Dash. XV/iv/1, map of 1839, shows all the parish cottages.
  • 32. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Yarnton b 9, s.a. 1794-5, 1795-6, 1806-7.
  • 33. Ibid. b 10, pp. 315-21, where only 15 cottages are mentioned; O.R.O., Dash. XV/xiv/1.
  • 34. e.g. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Yarnton d 3, ff. 7v., 11-12v.
  • 35. Ibid. b 10, s.a. 1830-1.
  • 36. Ibid. b 9, s.a. 1795-6, 1799-1800, 1800-1.
  • 37. Ibid. s.a. 1799-1800; b 10, s.a. 1812-13; four indentures survive at Yarnton Vicarage.
  • 38. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Yarnton b 9-10, passim; Poor Abstract, 1804, 407.
  • 39. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Yarnton b 9, s.a. 1787-8, 1794-5; b 10, s.a. 1824-5; d 3, ff. 21v.-22.
  • 40. Ibid. d 3, passim.
  • 41. D. McClatchey, Oxon. Clergy 1777-1869, 192, 196.
  • 42. O.R.O., RO 15.