A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 13, Bampton Hundred (Part One). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
In 1086 Walter son of Ponz held of the king 3 hides in YELFORD, together with estates in Westwell and Alwoldsbury (in Alvescot or Clanfield) and a piece of land belonging to the royal manor of Bampton, probably the 40 a. given before 1279 to Robert Pogeys by the lord of Yelford. (fn. 1) Walter also held Eaton Hastings (Berks.) and estates in Gloucestershire, notably Southrop. (fn. 2) Later Walter's Domesday estate, sometimes described as the honor of Hastings, was held by the Hastings family for 5 knights' fees, of which the Oxfordshire portion comprised 1½ fee. (fn. 3) Walter was probably a direct ancestor of the Hastings family, (fn. 4) of which, in Yelford, the earliest recorded representative was Philip, patron of the living in 1221. (fn. 5)
The overlordship of Yelford, held by William of Hastings in the 1240s, (fn. 6) passed on his death c. 1278 to a daughter Joan, wife of Benet of Blakenham, (fn. 7) and in 1279 Benet held Yelford in chief as ½ knight's fee. (fn. 8) By 1285 he had been succeeded by a minor son, (fn. 9) presumably the Benet who in 1297 conveyed the overlordship of the honor to his sister Alice, wife of Hugh de St. Philibert. (fn. 10) Their son John, a minor, held Yelford in 1305; (fn. 11) John de St. Philibert died in 1333 and was succeeded by his son John, a minor, who was recorded as lord of Yelford in 1346. (fn. 12) In 1428 the rector of Edington (Wilts.) was recorded as the holder by writ of John de St. Philibert's former estates in Westwell, Alwoldsbury, and Yelford. (fn. 13) John had sold Westwell in 1351 to William of Edington, founder of Edington monastery, but Yelford was not mentioned in that or other conveyances of the St. Philibert lands in Oxfordshire. (fn. 14) In 1401–2 Yelford was not listed among the possessions of Edington, (fn. 15) and it seems that the overlordship had effectively ended.
Philip of Hastings, patron of the living and presumably lord of the manor in 1221, was apparently of a junior branch of the family: certainly his successor Miles, probably his son, held Yelford as an undertenant of the main line represented by William of Hastings (d. c. 1278) and Joan of Blakenham. Miles, a supporter of Simon de Montfort, suffered temporary confiscation of his estate after the battle of Evesham in 1265. (fn. 16) In 1279 he held Yelford of Benet of Blakenham, and in 1281 granted it to his son Thomas, retaining a life interest. (fn. 17) On Miles's death c. 1305 it therefore passed not to his heir, his grandson Miles, son of Philip, but to his son Thomas. (fn. 18) Thomas may have been dead by 1306 when Reynold (probably an error for Roland) of Hastings was listed as the principal taxpayer in Yelford. (fn. 19) In 1310, when Thomas's relict Agnes held a life interest in Yelford, Roland, probably their son, conveyed the reversion to Hugh Golafre. (fn. 20) Roland, however, seems to have retained or recovered the property, and was lord in 1316 and 1333; (fn. 21) he died c. 1335. (fn. 22) His heir, Thomas, died in 1361 leaving a son, Bartholomew, who came of age in 1368; both Thomas and Bartholomew seem to have made their principal residence at Daylesford (Worcs.), although retaining Yelford. (fn. 23)
A Thomas Hastings, holding Yelford in the early 15th century and said to be Bartholomew's son, (fn. 24) was presumably the Thomas who held Daylesford by 1408. (fn. 25) Before 1455 Thomas was succeeded by his son Edward who remained patron of Yelford rectory in 1498. (fn. 26) Edward witnessed a conveyance at Northmoor in 1461 (fn. 27) but there is no firm evidence that the Hastings family was resident at Yelford until later. In the 1490s Edward was still lord but his son John appears to have settled in Yelford, his father perhaps remaining at Daylesford. (fn. 28) Yelford's manor house and church seem to have been rebuilt about that time, and John was certainly 'of Yelford' in the early 16th century. (fn. 29) He was listed as the only taxpayer there in 1523–4. (fn. 30) He died in 1542, having bequeathed YELFORD HASTINGS to his son John. (fn. 31)
John enlarged his Yelford estate in or after 1554 by purchase of the Walwyn manor there. (fn. 32) On his death in 1585 he was succeeded by his son Simon. (fn. 33) Simon (d. 1628) later lived at Daylesford, (fn. 34) and by 1610 Yelford was occupied by his son John. (fn. 35) Under a settlement of 1618–19 parts of Yelford were granted as portions for the use of Simon's younger sons and daughters, (fn. 36) an arrangement which caused prolonged dispute. John succeeded Simon and died in 1629, leaving an infant son John, child of his third wife Mary (Pudsey). (fn. 37) During John's minority, which did not end until 1648, Yelford was held for a time by Mary and her second husband John Berrow. (fn. 38) By 1651 John Hastings, living at Daylesford but allegedly owing the Berrows for costs incurred during his minority, was raising money by mortgaging Yelford. In October of that year he sold it to William Lenthall, Speaker of the Commons, to whom he was related by marriage. (fn. 39) A later tradition that Hastings, ruined by fines imposed on him as a royalist, was taken advantage of by Lenthall remains unsubstantiated; it ignores evidence that the estate was heavily encumbered as a result of earlier settlements. (fn. 40)
Yelford descended in the Lenthall family for almost three centuries, the owners living at Burford Priory and later at Bessels Leigh (then Berks.). (fn. 41) William (d. 1662) was succeeded by his son Sir John (d. 1681), John's son William (d. 1687), and William's infant son John. In 1727 John seems to have settled Yelford on his son William, although occasionally acting as lord or patron thereafter. (fn. 42) John died in 1763 and William, unmarried, in 1781. (fn. 43) He was succeeded by his brother John (of Burford), after whose death in 1783 Yelford descended to John's second son William John (of Bessels Leigh). (fn. 44) During his lifetime W. J. Lenthall (d. 1855) conveyed Yelford to his son Kyffin John William Lenthall, lord by 1840, (fn. 45) on whose death in 1870 it passed to his son Edmund Kyffin Lenthall. He enlarged his Yelford estate by acquiring Wadham College's farm there, (fn. 46) and died unmarried in 1907. Yelford passed to a cousin Edmund Henry Lenthall, great grandson of John (d. 1783), who died in 1909 leaving Yelford to a sister Katherine (d. 1915). She was succeeded by her sister Edith, whose husband Henry Ball adopted the surname and arms of Lenthall by royal licence in 1916. (fn. 47) Edith Lenthall sold her Yelford property in 1949, Manor farm being purchased by F. E. Parker of Barley Park, Ducklington, who sold the manor house to B. Babington Smith in 1952. (fn. 48) Of the Lenthalls' tenants at Yelford from the mid 17th century few were long-established except for the Bakers, who farmed the manorial estate for some sixty years from the 1760s. (fn. 49)
Yelford Manor, 'the best and certainly the most picturesque large timber-framed house in the county', (fn. 50) stands on a partly moated site some 100 m. east of the church. (fn. 51) It was built in the later 15th century by Edward or John Hastings on the site of an earlier house. (fn. 52) It has a central 3-bay range flanked by cross wings (originally 3-bayed) projecting on the east and jettied on the west; the principal, west, front measures c. 21 m. Originally the central range comprised a 2-bayed hall, open to the roof and with a central hearth, at the north end a screens passage, and above it a gallery room extending into the hall and lit by an oriel window. The wings were 2-storeyed, the northern, service, wing having an original stone stack, presumably for a kitchen, and retaining external signs, near the north-west corner, of a timber-framed extension, probably a garderobe. The southern, solar wing, much rebuilt and lacking its eastern bay, probably had similar features. The three main ranges of building were not tied together structurally. Wall timbers were close-studded throughout, resting on a coursed limestone plinth. Roofs were of arch-braced tie-beam construction with no ridge piece, and there were two rows of arched wind braces between double purlins; the central truss of the open hall was arch-braced to the collar, presumably for decorative effect. Almost the entire construction was of elm. Roof timbers in both cross wings retain vestiges of painted decoration up to the level of the lower purlins. Externally the solar wing was more ornate than its counterpart, and there are indications on its west front of former barge boards, decorated bressumers, and oriel windows to both floors; that on the upper floor survived in 1825. (fn. 53)
In the later 16th century or early 17th the plan of the house was substantially altered by flooring over the open hall at gallery level, adding a timber-framed staircase turret, originally entered from the hall, in the re-entrant angle between central and service range, and building in the centre of the rear wall a massive stone chimney with fireplaces on both floors; a 2-storeyed hexagonal bay window was added on the west front. The surviving chimney overshadows windows in the staircase wing, and presumably post-dates it, but there was probably an earlier, narrower chimney to which the staircase turret related more easily; the chimney may have been rebuilt because of the structural problems mentioned below. A door frame between the staircase and gallery room bears the initials of John Hastings, suggesting that the instigator of the rebuilding was either John, lord from 1542 to 1585, or his grandson John, resident by 1610 and dying in 1629. (fn. 54) The latter was responsible for the fine carved overmantel in the parlour in the south wing; it bears his initials, those of his third wife Mary Pudsey, and a shield of arms with the Hastings maunche impaling a cat and a stag's head, punning allusions to Pudsey (pussy) and to Rowe, the surname of John's earlier wife. (fn. 55) John's house, as depicted on a map of 1625, seems to have had a courtyard on the front, approached through a central gatehouse on the west and flanked by buildings on the north and south; that on the south, possibly a dovecot, survived in 1825. (fn. 56)
Later structural repairs included bracing the central truss of the hall, which had been cut through on the east side when the upper fireplace was inserted; that had caused serious damage to the chimney stack and probably to the lower fireplace, and the whole central range had tilted to the west. (fn. 57) Probably in the earlier 19th century the south wing, presumably after a collapse, was partially rebuilt in stone, losing its eastern bay. (fn. 58) In the later 19th century the house was usually occupied by farm bailiffs and labourers, and in the earlier 20th century was subdivided to provide for three families. (fn. 59) From 1952 the derelict house was extensively restored by the Babington Smiths. Roger Rosewell, owner from 1984, restored the roof, removed modern partitions, planted formal gardens, and created an enclosed courtyard with a cloister linking outbuildings to the house. (fn. 60) A plaque in the courtyard commemorates the bicentenary of the acquittal in 1795 of Warren Hastings (d. 1818), governor-general of India, descendant of the John Hastings who sold Yelford in 1651. (fn. 61)
South-west of the house is a water-filled moat or ditch of unknown date, its main section running north and opening westwards into a small irregular pond. In 1876 the pond was sharply rectangular, the ditch broad and straight-edged, and a narrow ditch ran north from the pond along the edge of the lawn fronting the house; the whole had the appearance of an ornamental garden feature. (fn. 62) The stream running south through the village was evidently diverted at various dates, and there may once have been a complete circuit of water around the house. Arguments that the moat formed part of a single design with a ditch or moat around College Farm (on land historically quite separate) are unpersuasive, although both houses were depicted in 1830 with at least a 3-sided moat. (fn. 63) An eastern section of Yelford Manor's moat seems to have been largely filled in when the road between the house and College Farm was realigned to the west. (fn. 64) The uncertainty about the moat's extent suggests that it was never a substantial defensive feature, and perhaps provided drainage and protection for a garden or orchard.
Part of Yelford, attached to the royal manor of Bampton and centred on Brighthampton or Hardwick, was granted in 1131 by Henry I to the priory of Sees (Orne) and was regranted by the priory c. 1245 to Walter de Grey, archbishop of York; the estate, later usually called Hardwick manor, was held by the Greys as 1/20 knight's fee. (fn. 65) In 1279 its Yelford portion, described as 'Yelford de Grey', comprised some 5 yardlands held of Robert de Grey, and at least another ½ yardland held of him by Robert of Yelford; other land in Yelford held of Isabel de Grey belonged to a separate, Standlake, manor. (fn. 66) The Greys' Yelford estate followed the descent of Hardwick manor, passing to the Lovels in the 15th century, to Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk in 1514, and to his son Thomas, who sold it to the Crown in 1540. (fn. 67)
In 1544 part of the manor, centred on Yelford, was among lands sold to a speculator, Alexander Unton; (fn. 68) when Unton sold in 1545 to the tenant, Richard Edwards, the estate comprised a house and 3 yardlands in Yelford, together with two other houses and a total of 2½ yardlands formerly occupied by John Thurward and William Hyatt in Yelford and Hardwick. (fn. 69) In 1570 William Edwards, son of Richard, added two houses and 2 yardlands in Hardwick, acquired from Peter Ranckell. (fn. 70) On the death of William's grandson William in 1613 (fn. 71) an infant daughter Elizabeth became a ward of the Crown since part of the estate was thought to be held in chief; wardship was granted to Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth, and her second husband Edward Smith. (fn. 72) In 1633 the daughter Elizabeth and her husband Ambrose Sheppard were granted livery of Yelford, which they sold to Wadham College in 1636, although, following disputes between the college and its warden, the conveyance seems to have required confirmation as late as 1642. (fn. 73)
The Wadham estate was later let in two portions, a Yelford farm, and a smaller Hardwick farm. (fn. 74) In 1904 the college sold the Yelford farm to E. K. Lenthall, owner of Yelford manor. (fn. 75) When the Lenthall estate was sold in 1949 College farm was bought by its tenant, A. G. Weeks. (fn. 76)
The chief house of the estate was depicted on a map of 1625 as Mr. Smith's house, immediately east of Yelford Manor on the site of the surviving College Farm; Smith was Edward Smith, guardian of Elizabeth Edwards. (fn. 77) The 17th-century house, perhaps that of which the roof was derelict in 1863, (fn. 78) seems to have been entirely rebuilt thereafter, certainly before 1898. (fn. 79) The garden south of the house was edged on three sides by a moat or ditch of pre-19th-century date, similar in character to that at Yelford Manor; there is no indication that it continued on the north side of the house. (fn. 80) The moat was backfilled in the 1980s.
A prominent local family taking its name from Yelford but by the 13th century having its principal holdings in Lew and Cote (fn. 81) held land freely at Yelford from three lords. In 1279 Robert of Yelford, also called the forester, held ½ yardland and 9 a. (later reckoned to be 2/3 yardland) of the Hastings manor, a house and ½ yardland of Robert de Grey's Hardwick manor, and a house and yardland of Isabel de Grey's Standlake manor. (fn. 82) At his death in 1293 Robert of Yelford was succeeded by his son Robert, (fn. 83) principal taxpayer in Yelford in 1306 and perhaps the Robert the woodward assessed to pay tax there in 1316. (fn. 84) In 1328 Robert died holding the same Yelford estate of three lords. (fn. 85) His son Robert, prominent in the service of the Black Prince, (fn. 86) was found in 1367 to have granted his estates without royal licence to Edmund of Yelford: Edmund's property in Yelford was reported to be a house and ½ yardland held of the Greys' Hardwick manor and 1½ yardland held of Standlake manor. (fn. 87)
Its descent thereafter has not been traced directly, but in or before 1373 Edmund of Yelford, clerk, and Philip Walwyn were acting jointly over rent from Boys wood in Standlake, (fn. 88) and the bulk of the Yelford family's estates elsewhere passed to the Walwyns. Land in Shilton (then Berks.), for example, granted in 1347 to Robert of Yelford by Robert at Hall was evidently the Hall Place in Shilton attached to the Walwyns' Yelford manor in the 16th century; (fn. 89) the Walwyns' manor also included the Lawns, south of Boys wood and in Standlake, which as Boys breach had been granted in 1355 to Robert of Yelford by Robert Corbet. (fn. 90) An Edmund Walwyn was of Yelford in 1433 (fn. 91) and at his death in 1439 his son Edward was a minor. The Walwyn estates were said variously to be held of William and Alice Lovel, as of Hardwick, or to be held in chief as 1/20 knight's fee. William and Alice Lovel were disturbed in their wardship of Edward Walwyn by Crown grantees, but in 1446 successfully counter-claimed that Yelford was held of them for ¼ fee; perhaps the confusion arose because the Walwyns, like the Yelford family, held Yelford land attached to both Hardwick and Standlake manors, which by then were both held by the Lovels. (fn. 92)
In 1545 Nicholas Walwyn died holding what was described as Yelford manor, later YELFORD WALWYN, again reckoned to be held in chief for a knight's fee. (fn. 93) No mention was made of any holding from Hardwick manor, and suit paid to Hardwick's court from the mid 16th century 'for Walwyn's land' by the Edwards family, owners of the Yelford estate formerly part of Hardwick manor, suggests that there had been a recent sale. (fn. 94) The Walwyns were not resident, but their tenants the Moseleys were one of the three families paying tax in Yelford in 1542–3. (fn. 95) Until 1554 Nicholas Walwyn's son John was a minor, and the king committed his wardship to Roger More. (fn. 96) In 1554 John was licensed to sell the site of his Yelford manor, the closes called the Lawns, and all his demesne in Yelford and Standlake to John Hastings. (fn. 97) It seems that John Walwyn, who married Hastings's daughter Dorothy, retained an interest in the estate for some years, (fn. 98) but John Hastings at his death in 1585 held both Yelford Hastings and Yelford Walwyn manors, the latter said to be held in chief for 1/6 knight's fee. (fn. 99) Thereafter the manor followed the descent of Yelford Hastings, although the Lawns seem to have been separated in 1651, let by Edmund Montfort on a 99-year lease, but held by the Lenthalls in 1710; (fn. 100) by the mid 18th century they had been acquired by the Harcourts and thereafter formed part of their Cokethorpe estate. (fn. 101)
There seems to have been no manor house on the Walwyn manor in 1554. (fn. 102) The site presumably formed part of the Hastings estate mapped in 1625, perhaps the close north of Yelford Manor containing scattered buildings, of which none survived by the 19th century. (fn. 103)