A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 13, Bampton Hundred (Part One). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
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In 1279 the lord of Ducklington manor had view of frankpledge conducted by the bailiff of Bampton, presumably a franchise acquired from the lord of Bampton manor. (fn. 1) The lord of Ducklington was exempted from the biannual view at Bampton which his freeholders were expected to attend; presumably, therefore, the Ducklington view was for unfree tenants. (fn. 2) In 1423 the two Ducklington views were held with the manor by service of suit to the hundred court. (fn. 3) In the 17th century Ducklington retained, within the Bampton frankpledge, a 'law day of itself', (fn. 4) and in the 1670s Bampton's steward was holding the residual annual view in Ducklington at Michaelmas; a constable, and tithingmen for Ducklington, Clay well, and Cokethorpe, were appointed and field orders issued. (fn. 5) The annual court continued into the 19th century. (fn. 6)
In 1279 both free and unfree tenants of Ducklington manor owed suit to the lord's three-weekly court. (fn. 7) Perquisites of Ducklington manor courts were mentioned in the earlier 16th century, (fn. 8) and when Sir Christopher Brome turned all his copyholds into leaseholds in 1587 he agreed to maintain one court baron a year near Lady Day, presumably chiefly to regulate the fields. (fn. 9) Courts both baron and leet continued to be conveyed with Ducklington manor, but few references to sittings have been found: in the 1740s courts baron of Elizabeth, Dowager Lady Harcourt, held in October, appointed grass stewards and a hayward, (fn. 10) and in 1876 Catherine Strickland as lady of Ducklington held what seems to have been an annual court leet, baron, and view, to which all residents were expected to pay suit. (fn. 11) In the 18th century ancient freehold quitrents payable at Michaelmas, and leasehold quitrents payable then and at Lady Day, (fn. 12) were presumably paid in Ducklington manor courts. It was claimed in 1912 that payment of quitrents had long ceased. (fn. 13)
In 1279 the Claywell tenants of Eynsham abbey held of Ducklington manor but owed hidage to Bampton, a payment presumably reserved when that part of Claywell was first separated from the royal manor. (fn. 14) Eynsham abbey may have held separate courts for Claywell in the 13th century but by the early 14th the homage attended the abbot's Shifford court. (fn. 15)
In 1279 the Greys' manor of Hardwick, Brighthampton, and Yelford was said to be ancient demesne and claimed large liberties, notably view of frankpledge, gallows, and tumbrel, and probably then, as later, the assize of bread and of ale. (fn. 16) In the 1540s the view was usually held biannually in April and near Michaelmas, (fn. 17) but in the later 16th century the few April courts seem to have been courts baron only. By the 17th century there was only a combined court leet and baron at Michaelmas. The manor was divided into three tithings, Hardwick, Brighthampton, and Yelford, which paid certainty money of 3s. 9d., 3s., and 3d. respectively. The court elected one tithingman for each, and constables for Hardwick and Brighthampton; by the late 16th century no tithingman for Yelford was elected. Freehold suitors were fined for non-appearance and the jury made regular presentments of woundings, breaking the lord's park, and neglect of butts and archery practice. Punitive instruments, notably stocks and cucking stool, were frequently lacking or ruinous. In 1579, 'for the confirmation of the liberties and royalty' of the manor, the lord gave an elm for a gallows, to be built by the tenants and erected in the 'old place' near Knight Bridge on the Shifford brook, where the AstonBrighthampton road entered the liberty. (fn. 18) Repair of highways and watercourses was ordered regularly. Two fieldsmen (sometimes called wardens of the Great Moor) and a hayward were appointed, and bylaws were issued regulating the commons and common fields; there was an autumn meeting in the fields to set merestones and decide other matters. Copyhold transfers provided much of the court's business until the 18th century, when St. John's College turned much to leasehold. After inclosure separate haywards were appointed for Hardwick and Brighthampton and a few heriots were paid, but at the last recorded court in 1867 no jury was impanelled because of lack of business. (fn. 19)
Parish officers appointed annually in Ducklington's vestry in the 17th century included 2 churchwardens, 2 overseers of the poor, and 2 surveyors of the highways. In 1668 the vestry agreed to pay a hayward at the rate of 2s. a yardland, and 'parishioners' made decisions about the seasonal fencing of roads through the open fields. (fn. 20) Hardwick was separately responsible for its poor, and later had its own churchwardens.
Poor-relief expenditure in Ducklington rose steeply from c. £30 a year in the 1780s to almost £240 in 1803, or 15s. per head of the population; almost all was spent on out relief. During the Napoleonic wars expenditure per head on the poor rose to over 17s., falling thereafter to only 10s. in 1825; there was another sharp rise to 18s. 3d. in 1827, but by 1832, when £263 was spent, the cost was only 13s. per head. (fn. 21) In 1803 regular out relief was given to only 8 adults and 9 children, and 43 persons received occasional relief. In 1815 there were 27 persons on out relief. (fn. 22) The outcome of a plan of 1817 to farm out the poor of Ducklington, Witney, and Curbridge to a single contractor is not known. (fn. 23) In the 1830s labourers were said to have sufficient summer work, but in winter many required relief. (fn. 24) Although in 1804 no workhouse was recorded £48 worth of flax was spun into thread by the poor and sold for £73 which was shared among the ratepayers. (fn. 25) A group of church houses rented to the poor may have included a short-lived workhouse before 1831, but again in 1834 no workhouse was recorded. (fn. 26) The church houses continued to be used as poor houses until sold in 1872. (fn. 27)
Hardwick in the 1780s was spending c. £21 a year on the poor, and a similar amount in 1803 when four adults and four children were on regular out relief, and 19 were occasionally relieved. Expenditure per head rose from 3s. 4d. in 1803 to over 12s. in 1818, falling sharply in the early 1820s but again over 8s. in the 1830s. (fn. 28)
After 1834 Ducklington and Hardwick belonged to Witney union. Ducklington's vestry continued to appoint officers, including the parish churchwarden, 2 overseers, 2 highway surveyors, a constable, and later a waywarden. It approved accounts, set rates, regulated church matters, and made orders for road repair, payments for sparrows, and the impounding of strays; meetings in the mid 19th century were in the Strickland Arms, but later in the church and from 1869 in the National school. By the later 19th century business was almost entirely confined to church matters. (fn. 29) In the mid 19th century a Hardwick vestry was meeting in Cokethorpe chapel, usually only to elect an overseer and waywarden; later it met in the parish room at Hardwick. In 1873 the rector chose a churchwarden to assist a parish warden who had served for many years. Thereafter the vestry was concerned largely with church rates, church repair, and charitable administration. (fn. 30)
In 1894 the residual secular powers of Ducklington's vestry were taken over by a parish. council. Ducklington and Hardwick became part of Witney rural district, and in 1974 of West Oxfordshire district. (fn. 31)