Begbroke: Manors and other estates

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, 'Begbroke: Manors and other estates', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990), pp. 5-8. British History Online [accessed 14 June 2024].

A P Baggs. W J Blair. Eleanor Chance. Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. C J Day. Nesta Selwyn. S C Townley. "Begbroke: Manors and other estates", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) 5-8. British History Online, accessed June 14, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Blair, W J. Chance, Eleanor. Colvin, Christina. Cooper, Janet. Day, C J. Selwyn, Nesta. Townley, S C. "Begbroke: Manors and other estates", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990). 5-8. British History Online. Web. 14 June 2024,

Manors And Other Estates.

Begbroke formed part of the post-Conquest estates of William FitzOsbern, earl of Hereford (d. 1071), and after the rebellion in 1075 of William's son Roger it was granted by the Crown to Walter de Lacy and was held in 1086 by Walter's son Roger. (fn. 42) He joined the rebellion against William Rufus in 1095 and Begbroke again escheated to the Crown but was recovered by Roger's brother Hugh. (fn. 43) Following Hugh's death in 1121 the Lacy inheritance was disputed between Gilbert de Lacy, the possibly illegitimate son of Hugh's sister Emma, and Pain FitzJohn, whose wife may have been Hugh's niece. Pain, a prominent supporter of Stephen in the civil war, seems to have acquired some at least of the de Lacy lands, which were confirmed after his death in 1137 to his daughter Cecily, wife of Roger, later earl of Hereford. (fn. 44) Gilbert de Lacy, a supporter of the Empress Maud, apparently regained the estates on the accession of Henry II in 1154, despite a treaty between earl Roger and William, earl of Gloucester, intended to disinherit him. (fn. 45) Gilbert became a Templar, dying abroad in 1163. He was succeeded by his son Hugh, killed in Ireland in 1186, and Hugh's son Walter (d. 1241), who in 1210 joined with his father-in-law William de Braose in rebellion against King John. The Lacy lands escheated once more to the Crown, but were recovered by Walter in 1214. (fn. 46) His heirs were his granddaughters Margery and Maud, and Begbroke passed to the latter. The overlordship descended with the Lacy honor of Ludlow until the death in 1356 of Maud's granddaughter Joan, wife of Roger Mortimer, earl of March (d. 1330). (fn. 47) Begbroke then descended with the estates of the earls of March, whose overlordship was last mentioned in 1428. (fn. 48)

The tenant in 1086 was Ralph, probably the same man who held of Roger de Lacy at Kiddington. In the 12th century Kiddington was held by a family taking its name from the town of Saussay in Normandy; William de Saussay was involved in a land dispute at Begbroke in 1188, and in 1242 Ralph de Saussay was said to be mesne tenant of the whole fee there. (fn. 49) The mesne tenancy seems to have passed to the Saussay heiress Sibyl, widow of Richard of Williamscot, and their grandson Richard was mesne tenant in 1279. (fn. 50) Thereafter the mesne tenancy descended with the manor of Williamscot, in Cropredy, (fn. 51) but no reference has been found later than 1319, when it was held by Richard, son of Henry of Williamscot. (fn. 52)

By the late 12th century the demesne tenancy of the manor had been divided and there were effectively two manors. One was held by Stephen of the park, whose son Denis demised it in 1204 to Roger of Lyons. (fn. 53) He or another Roger held it in 1235-6 and by 1242 it had passed to Maud of Lyons. (fn. 54) Richard of Lyons held ½ knight's fee at Begbroke in 1279, and was succeeded by his son John (d. 1311-12) and grandson John (fl. 1346). (fn. 55) The manor passed thereafter with the family's Duns Tew manor to the Chetwode and Woodhill families. (fn. 56) Begbroke was sold in 1599 by Richard Chetwode to Sir William Spencer of Yarnton, (fn. 57) in whose family it remained until 1695, when three quarters of the Yarnton and Begbroke estates were bought by Sir Robert Dashwood. (fn. 58) The redistribution of the properties in 1714 by Dashwood and Cholmley Turner, owner of the other quarter, seems to have given Turner only a quarter of the Begbroke manor and no land there. (fn. 59) The quarter-manor was bought in 1718 by Benjamin Swete (d. 1744), former army paymaster under John Churchill, duke of Marlborough. (fn. 60) Swete devised it to Anne, daughter of his cousin Francis Fulford; (fn. 61) it presumably formed part of the former Swete estate bought in 1771 by Thomas Walker, town clerk of Oxford and agent to George Spencer, duke of Marlborough, to whom he sold the estate in 1788. (fn. 62) The Dashwood share followed the descent of Yarnton until 1895, when Yarnton was sold. (fn. 63) In 1908 Sir George Dashwood sold the Begbroke estate to Merton College, Oxford, which remained the owner in 1983. (fn. 64)

The manor house of the Spencer and Dashwood estate seems to have been that later known as Hall Farm, at the west end of the village. It is a large, two-storeyed building with stone slate roof, extensively remodelled in the early 19th century and enlarged at various times in that century. It retains, however, the chimney stacks and parts of the walls and floor-carpentry of an earlier, probably 17th-century, house.

No evidence has been found relating to the other manor or moiety until the earlier 13th century, when the demesne tenant was John of the Exchequer de Scaccario). He borrowed heavily from Jacob son of Moses of Oxford on the security of his estates at Begbroke and Toot Baldon; the debt was made over to John Giffard of Twyford (Bucks.), who by 1265 had obtained possession by distraint. (fn. 65) Giffard's son John held the manor in 1279, (fn. 66) and it passed thereafter with Twyford manor until the death in 1558 of Ursula, daughter and heir of Thomas Giffard and wife of Thomas Wenman. (fn. 67) Begbroke seems to have been settled on Ursula's daughter Anne when she married John FitzHerbert. It passed to their son Humphrey (d. 1617) and grandson Robert FitzHerbert (d. 1636), who was succeeded by his nephew John FitzHerbert (d. 1658). (fn. 68) John was succeeded by his sons Francis (d. 1672) and Thomas (d. 1700), and Thomas by his sons Robert (b. 1675) and John (d. 1727). The early death of eldest sons and their succession by younger brothers, a feature of the FitzHerbert inheritance, continued when John's son John died in 1733 and was succeeded by his brother Robert (d. 1735). Robert's son, also Robert, died childless in 1754, and of the former's six brothers and sisters only one, Jane (d. 1752), wife of William Cockin, produced an heir, Elizabeth. (fn. 69) Elizabeth married William Taylor but had no children, and devised the estate on her death in 1804 to four relatives. (fn. 70) A house and land later known as Orchard farm, west of the church, were devised to Anne Bayliss (d. 1823), whose son Edward held it in 1844; it seems to have been acquired in the later 19th century by Sir George Dashwood. (fn. 71) A house, garden, and orchard south of the village street passed to Anne Morris, whose husband James held them in 1844. (fn. 72) That was the house known as the Elms in the later 19th century. (fn. 73) Two cottages along the footpath to Bladon, and four closes west of the path and Dalton Lane were devised to Elizabeth Parry; (fn. 74) they were bought in 1812 by Thomas Robinson (d. 1848), partner in the Old Bank, Oxford. (fn. 75) The bulk of Elizabeth Taylor's estate, comprising the manor, manor house, and adjoining land passed to William Young. He was succeeded by 1841 by his son William, (fn. 76) who in 1843 sold the estate to Thomas Robinson, from whose executors it and the Parry estate were bought in 1849 by George Spencer-Churchill, duke of Marlborough. (fn. 77) The estate was sold in 1926 to George Partridge, who since 1891 had been the tenant. It remained in his family until 1960, when it was bought by the Agricultural Research Council for the Weed Research Organization. (fn. 78)

The Giffard and FitzHerbert manor house possibly stood on the site later occupied by Orchard House, west of the church. (fn. 79) A new manor house, later called Begbroke Hill, was built in the south-east corner of the parish ½ mile east of the Oxford-Woodstock road, probably by Humphrey FitzHerbert, who was accused in 1604 of ruining Begbroke's roads by his 'late carriages for his buildings'. (fn. 80) In 1662 the house was assessed at the high number of 13 hearths. (fn. 81) It has a symmetrical south front of five bays with a three-storeyed central porch. (fn. 82) The principal rooms were to either side of an entrance passage, and there was a kitchen wing on the north-west and a staircase in the angle between that wing and the front range. A cellar behind the main east room is not built over and may have been constructed soon after the house was built. (fn. 83) A stone barn and other farm buildings of various dates west of the house were incorporated into the office and laboratory buildings of the Weed Research Organization.

Richard son of Mayne sued William de Saussay about land in Begbroke in or before 1188, and was said to have enfeoffed his brother Walter with ½ ploughland and 4 yardlands there. On Walter's death his sister Gillian allegedly occupied the land; her grandson Andrew son of William succeeded in claiming the land against Richard's grandson Richard c. 1230 and in resisting a claim in 1231-3 by Robert of Rycote, grandson of Walter's sister Maud. (fn. 84) In 1279 it belonged to Richard of Lyons (fn. 85) and passed thereafter with the family's Begbroke manor.

In 1279 Studley priory held 3 yardlands of Richard of Lyons. (fn. 86) It formed part of the Studley priory estates bought in 1540 by John Croke of Chilton (Bucks.) (d. 1554). (fn. 87) He was succeeded by his son John, whose younger son William succeeded to Begbroke on his father's death in 1608. William was succeeded by his younger son Francis of Steeple Aston, who sold the estate in 1652 to John Butler of Woodstock. In 1597 the estate was said to comprise 2 houses and 2 yardlands, but in 1652 there were 3 houses and 90 a. It was bought in 1662 by Charles Nott, who sold it in 1667 to Anthony Eyans. The latter's son John sold it in 1718 to Benjamin Swete, who devised it to Anne Fulford. The estate still comprised c. 90 a. in 1771, when it was bought by Thomas Walker, who sold it in 1788 to George Spencer, duke of Marlborough. The main house and the land were frequently let separately thereafter, the land being rented by local farmers, notably by John Bellenger of Kidlington. The house was used as a country residence, notably by Thomas Walker before he bought it, by his relatives the Treachers of Oxford in the earlier 1780s. (fn. 88) and in the 1850s by Alan, third son of George Spencer-Churchill, duke of Marlborough. (fn. 89) From c. 1860 it was held by Michael Steel (d. 1865), a Kingham man who had emigrated in 1823 to Van Diemen's Land, Australia, and amassed a large fortune from land. (fn. 90) From 1786 to 1819 and in the mid 1870s the house was used for a school. (fn. 91) Thomas Robinson was the tenant for nearly twenty years until his eviction in 1838 for political opposition to the duke. (fn. 92) In 1881 the house and 14 a. adjoining were bought by Gerald Smith of Swerford, (fn. 93) and in 1896 they were bought by Charles Robertson, who gave them to the Roman Catholic Servite Order, which in 1897 opened the house as St. Philip's Priory. (fn. 94)

St. Philip's Priory, formerly Begbroke House, is commonly regarded as Begbroke's chief ancient manor house, and its position, in its own grounds 100 yd. east of the church, to which it is connected by a private path, is conventional for the leading house in a village. It seems, however, to have belonged to the non-manorial estate of Studley priory, which perhaps obtained the site as part of a grant of former demesne land. There was an 'ancient dwelling house' there in 1662, presumably removed soon after since a 'new built' house stood next to it. (fn. 95) It is not known which of those houses was assessed at 9 hearths in 1662. (fn. 96) The outlines of foundations under the lawn east of the present house are said still to be visible in exceptionally dry weather. (fn. 97) The new house was built of stone taken during the Civil War from the royal palace at Woodstock, and Charles Nott, the purchaser in 1662, obtained a bond 'to secure me from being questioned about the building with the king's stone by Mr. John Butler'. (fn. 98) Within the older, central part of the priory there remains a 17th-century building of uncertain plan whose status is suggested by a fully panelled room of the later 17th century on the ground floor and a mid 17th-century overmantel on the first floor. By the mid 18th century the house had been enlarged to a double-depth rectangular plan with three rooms on each front. Most windows were renewed at that time and a two-storeyed canted bay was added to the east front. There was some internal refitting in the early and mid 19th century, and a conservatory was added to the north and outbuildings to the south. Following its conversion to use as a priory those additions were replaced by more extensive accommodation blocks. Most of the former farm buildings to the south were also removed, and a chapel, opened in 1899, was added on the south-west. (fn. 99)

In 1221 Maud Hareng granted to Ralph Hareng a tenement in Begbroke held by Roger of Lyons. (fn. 1) Ralph granted it shortly after to Godstow abbey; (fn. 2) the abbey held it in 1291. (fn. 3) but seems to have disposed of it before the Dissolution.

John Adderbury (d. 1346) was reported to have held a messuage and 1 yardland in Begbroke of John of Lyons. (fn. 4) The estate presumably followed the descent of other Adderbury lands, passing to John's uncle Thomas Adderbury (d. by 1362), and to the latter's son Sir Richard (d. by 1401). Sir Richard was probably succeeded by his brother Thomas, whose son, also Sir Richard, sold several estates in 1415 to Thomas Chaucer (d. 1434), son of Geoffrey and Speaker of the House of Commons. (fn. 5) Begbroke was apparently included in the sale, for Thomas and his wife Maud (d. 1436) held land there (fn. 6) which passed to their daughter Alice (d. 1475), wife of William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk (d. 1450), and seems to have descended to Alice's and William's son John, duke of Suffolk (d. 1491); (fn. 7) no later descent has been traced.


  • 42. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 388, 425; D.N.B.
  • 43. Sanders, Eng. Baronies, 95.
  • 44. Complete Peerage, ix. 425; Anct. Chart. (Pipe R. Soc. x), 35-6; Medieval Studies Presented to Rose Graham, ed. A. W. Clapham, 16 n. 5; D.N.B.
  • 45. 35th Dep. Kpr's. Rep. no. 4; W. St. C. Baddeley, Cotteswold Manor, 60, 62.
  • 46. D.N.B.; Pipe R. 1210 (P.R.S. N.S. xxvi), 123; 1212 (P.R.S. N.S. xxx), 41; 1214 (P.R.S. N.S. xxxv), 123; R. Eyton, Antiq. of Salop. v. 240, 264.
  • 47. Sanders, Eng. Baronies, 95-6; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 857.
  • 48. Cal. Inq. p.m. xii, p. 340; Cal. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Com.), iv. 86.
  • 49. T. Warton, Hist. Kiddington (1815), 38; Pipe R. 1188 (P.R.S. xxxviii), 155; Bk. of Fees, i. 822.
  • 50. Warton, Kiddington, 40; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii.857.
  • 51. 51 V.C.H. Oxon. x. 215-16.
  • 52. P.R.O., CP 25(1)/189/15.
  • 53. Pipe R. 1204 (P.R.S. N.S. xviii), 18; Oxon. Fines, p. 28.
  • 54. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 216; Bk. of Fees, i. 447, 822, 840.
  • 55. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 857; Feud. Aids, iv. 164, 178; Cal. Chart. R. 1327-41, 342; Cal. Inq. p.m.viii, p. 417.
  • 56. V.C.H. Oxon. xi. 212.
  • 57. P.R.O., CP 25(2)/198/East. 41 Eliz. I, no. 12; CP 25(2)/198/Mic. 43-4 Eliz. I, no. 14; ibid. C 142/315, no. 173.
  • 58. Below, Yarnton, Manor.
  • 59. Act confirming Partition made between Rob. Dashwood and Cholmley Turner, 3 Geo. I, c. 22 (Priv. Act).
  • 60. O.R.O., Dash. XV/ii/1.
  • 61. P.R.O., PROB 11/736 (P.C.C. 294 Anstis).
  • 62. Below.
  • 63. Below, Yarnton, Manor.
  • 64. Merton Coll. Mun., uncat. deeds.
  • 65. Cal. Pat. 1258-66, 445; Cal. Plea Rolls, Exchequer of Jews, ii. 26, 297-8; C. Roth, Jews of Medieval Oxf. (O.H.S.N.S. ix), 71; V.C.H. Oxon. v. 50.
  • 66. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 857.
  • 67. V.C.H. Bucks. iv. 255-6; V.C.H. Oxon. xi. 149.
  • 68. P.R.O., C 142/379, no. 36; B. Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars., pedigree facing p. 340; mem. inscr. in Begbroke ch.
  • 69. Oxon. Visit. 243; Wood's Life, i (O.H.S. xix), 254; ii (O.H.S. xxi), 252; Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars. pedigree facing p. 340.
  • 70. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Begbroke, c 4(c); Blenheim Mun., box 26.
  • 71. Blenheim Mun., box 26; Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars. 350; O.R.O., tithe award; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 674, f. 30.
  • 72. Blenheim Mun., box 26; O.R.O., tithe award.
  • 73. Above, Intro.
  • 74. Blenheim Mun., boxes 26, 29.
  • 75. Ibid. box 26; shelf B2.
  • 76. P.R.O., HO 107/889.
  • 77. Ibid. CP 43/918, rot. 144; O.R.O., Sh. IX/ii/1; Blenheim Mun., box 26; shelf B2.
  • 78. Oxf. Mail, 24 Feb. 1956; Twenty One Years of Achievement (A.R.C. Weed Research Organization booklet, 1981).
  • 79. Above, Intro.
  • 80. P.R.O. STAC 8/142/16.
  • 81. Ibid. E 179/255/4, f. 274.
  • 82. Pevsner. Oxon 450; D. Sturdy, 'Houses of Oxf. Region',Oxoniensia, xxvi/xxvii. 332-5.
  • 83. Sturdy, op. cit., suggests that the cellar is medieval. No reference has been found to a medieval house on the site.
  • 84. Pipe R. 1188 (P.R.S. xxxviii), 155; 1190 (P.R.S. N.S. i), 13; Close R 1227-31, 577; Cur. Reg. R xv, p. 165.
  • 85. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 857. One of Ric. of Lyons's tenants was Adam Mayne: ibid.
  • 86. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 857; below, Econ.
  • 87. L. P. Hen. VIII, xv, p. 115.
  • 88. Blenheim Mun., box 21; shelf GI; O.R.O., land tax assess.; ibid. MS. d.d. Par. Begbroke e 4, ff. 85, 103v.
  • 89. P.R.O., HO 107/1730; Stapleton, Three Oxon. Pars.349.
  • 90. Inf. from Mrs. G. Dow, Victoria, Australia.
  • 91. Below, Educ.
  • 92. Blenheim Mun., box 29; below, Woodstock, Parl. Rep.
  • 93. Blenheim Mun., shelf B 2.
  • 94. Inf. from Bro. Stewart Foster, St. Philip's Priory. Stapleton, Cath. Miss. 196 dates the purchase 1895.
  • 95. Blenheim Mun., box 21: indenture of 1662.
  • 96. P.R.O., E 179/255/4, f. 274.
  • 97. Inf. from the prior.
  • 98. Bodl. MS. Dep. e 286, f. 7; Blenheim Mun., box 21..
  • 99. B.L. Add. MS. 36372, f. 137: drawing of 1826; Pevsner, Oxon. 450.
  • 1. Oxon. Fines, p. 62.
  • 2. Godstow Eng. Reg. i. 213.
  • 3. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 44.
  • 4. Cal. Inq. p.m. viii, p.471.
  • 5. V.C.H. Oxon. vi. 304; ix. 115.
  • 6. Cal. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Com.), iv. 160, 178; Cal. Close, 1429-35, 335; 1435-41, 91.
  • 7. Cat. Anct. D.. v, p. 70