Combe: Local government

Pages 91-92

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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Local goverment

Profits of the manor court and view of frankpledge from the mid 13th century to the early 14th were a valuable source of income to the Crown, ranging from 21s. in 1248-9 to 63s. in 1276-7. (fn. 65)

The court's jurisdiction matched that of the other demesne towns, as did the customs enforced in the court, except that in Combe alone heriot was due from free land if it had meadow rights. (fn. 66) The court conducted the usual business of transferring copyholds, registering wills, dealing with offences, and appointing manorial officers, normally a constable and two tithingmen. (fn. 67) At a court in 1627 the underbailiff of Woodstock manor attempted to enforce a royal warrant for the impressment of horses to carry venison to Enfield (Mdx.) for the king, an extension of customary service resisted by the tenants, apparently successfully. (fn. 68) From the later 17th century the court also appointed fieldsmen and haywards, the latter usually acting also as mole catchers and crow keepers. Combe farmers used the court to regulate agriculture in the parish, setting stints, arranging the haining and breaking of pasture and meadow, and agreeing on crop rotation. (fn. 69) In the 19th and 20th centuries the court seems to have met at the Cock inn, but usually little business was transacted. (fn. 70) The court roll books were continued after the abolition of the court's jurisdiction in 1925, but only as a record of property transactions. (fn. 71)

In 1661 as many as 12 people attended the vestry held to appoint the two new overseers and to scrutinize the previous year's accounts, but vestries were not usually so well attended. (fn. 72) In 1661-2 a total of £22 was spent on the poor, and £26 in 1664-5, but costs were very variable and often less than £10 a year. From the 1690s expenditure rose rapidly, and the earlier 18th century in particular was a period of heavy expense, the overseers generally spending £40-£50 a year between 1710 and 1736, although £78 was spent in 1714-15. The period was one of high mortality, and there may have been a large number of destitute dependents, although expenditure in similar circumstances at other times was not so high. (fn. 73) As elsewhere, expenditure rose again in the later 18th century, from £69 in 1776 to an average of £103 a year between 1783 and 1785. In 1803 it stood at £204, representing c. 11s. a head of population, rather a low rate for the area. In 1818, the peak year, the overseers spent £674. (fn. 74) The rate of £1 4s. a head was again relatively low, but the burden at about that time fell largely on the duke of Marlborough, who had acquired most of the land in the parish, and on a handful of his more substantial tenants. The duke seems always to have paid his share, but in 1821 some leading farmers defaulted, and the hostility engendered played a part in the events leading up to the 'Combe riot' of 1822. In 1831 the rate remained relatively low at 15s. a head. (fn. 75)

In 1735 the parish agreed to send paupers to Kidlington's new workhouse, paying half its rent. (fn. 76) The workhouse closed after a few years, and by 1774 Combe had its own workhouse with accommodation for 20 people, on the site of the house later called the Old Stores, south of the village green. (fn. 77) There was in 1778 a close at the east end of the parish called Workhouse close, part of Bolton's farm, but no building is known to have stood there, and no reference has been found to a rent chargeable on it. (fn. 78) In 1791 a contractor was employed to maintain the workhouse poor for £10 a year. (fn. 79) Repairs were carried out until 1820 and possibly later, but official reports of the earlier 19th century make no mention of workhouse poor, and it seems likely that the building was being rented out as cheap pauper housing. (fn. 80)

Expenditure in the later 17th century and in the 18th seems to have been entirely on maintenance for widows and children, the sick, and the aged. In 1662-3 there were 4 children and 3 adults in receipt of regular relief. In the 1730s there were often 8 or 10 women, 2 or 3 men, and an unspecified number of children, in addition to people in the Kidlington workhouse. (fn. 81) In 1803 there were 25 adults and 25 children on regular out-relief, and in the period 1813-15 the numbers rose sharply to 39 and 45 respectively, almost a sixth of the total population. In the late 18th century and early 19th paupers seem usually to have been found some employment, notably in spinning flax, and 5 men and a boy employed 'by the yardland' in 1791 were presumably roundsmen. (fn. 82) During the 1790s the overseers regularly contracted with a doctor for attendance on the poor, and made additional payments for inoculation against smallpox. (fn. 83)

Combe formed part of the Woodstock poor law union in 1834 and of Woodstock rural district in 1894. In 1974 the perish was transferred to West Oxfordshire district. (fn. 84)


  • 65. P.R.O., SC 6/962/4; SC 6/962/6-20.
  • 66. B.L. Lansd. MS. 758, f. 15v. For the court and customs see below, Woodstock, Blenheim (Woodstock Manor).
  • 67. Blenheim Mun. B/M/208, passim.
  • 68. Ibid. f. 128 and v.; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 345, ff. 8-9.
  • 69. Blenheim Mun. B/M/210-11; ibid. boxes 69-70; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 172, f. 28 and v.
  • 70. Blenheim Mun. B/M/218-28, passim.
  • 71. Ibid. 228, 289, passim.
  • 72. Para. based on Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 23, ff. 114-202.
  • 73. O.R.O., par. reg. transcript.
  • 74. Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7; 1818, 358-9; Poor Rate Returns, H.C. 556, p. 138 (1822), v.
  • 75. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 23, ff. 317v.-320; Poor Rate Returns, H.C. 334, p. 173 (1825), iv; H.C. 83 (1830-1), xi; H.C. 444, p. 156 (1835), xlvii; above, Intro.
  • 76. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 23, ff. 198-9; below, Kidlington, Local Govt.
  • 77. Poor Abstract, 1777, 439; inf. from Mr. E. Busby.
  • 78. Blenheim Mun., E/P/22, f. 25; ibid. Combe map (1778).
  • 79. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 340, f. 19.
  • 80. Ibid. d 23, f. 279; Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7; 1818, 358-9.
  • 81. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 23, ff. 116, 194-202.
  • 82. Ibid. c 340, ff. 19-21; Poor Abstract, 1804, 406-7; 1818, 358-9.
  • 83. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 340, ff. 19-20; d 23, f. 259.
  • 84. O.R.O., RO 263, 3251.