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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BAMPTON, (fn. 1) the centre of an Anglo-Saxon royal estate and hundred, site of a late Anglo-Saxon minster, and formerly a market town, lies close to the river Thames c. 12½ miles (20 km.) west of Oxford and 4½ miles (7½ km.) south-west of Witney. (fn. 2) The ancient parish, part of a much larger parochia dependent on Bampton minster, (fn. 3) was the largest in Oxfordshire, comprising 11,238 a. in 1877 (fn. 4) and including the townships or hamlets of Bampton, Weald (from an early date physically part of Bampton), Lew, Aston and Cote, Shifford, Chimney, and Lower Haddon, the last three all shrunk or deserted settlements. All those townships are treated below, and Brighthampton, divided between Bampton and Standlake until the 20th century, is treated under Standlake. Bampton, Weald, and Lower Haddon, called townships in the Middle Ages (fn. 5) and each with their own fields, were combined for most civil purposes from the 17th century, and in the 19th became a civil parish of 4,491 a. (fn. 6) Shilton meadow (36 a.) by the Thames, a detached part of Shilton parish (formerly Berks.), seems to have been included in Bampton for civil purposes by the early 19th century, (fn. 7) and detached meadows belonging to Brize Norton (12 a.) and Black Bourton (27 a.) were added in 1886 under the Divided Parishes Act, bringing the total acreage to 4,530 a. (1,832 ha.). (fn. 8) Aston and Cote, a single township with a shared field system, became in the 19th century a civil parish of 2,997 a.; Lew (1,642 a.), Shifford (775 a.), and Chimney (668 a.), all independent townships, became separate civil parishes. In 1931 Aston and Cote was united with Chimney to form a new civil parish of Aston Bampton, enlarged to 4,440 a. (1,797 ha.) in 1954 by the addition of Shifford. Lew (664 ha.) remained unaltered in 1981. (fn. 9) Burroway, an area of meadow by the Thames also treated below, was artificially delineated in 1851 as an extraparochial area of 31 a., evidently less than its earlier extent. It was added to Clanfield c. 1886. (fn. 10)
The boundaries of Bampton's perhaps already diminished parochia were described in 1318, when they coincided only partly with later parish boundaries and included Clanfield, Black Bourton, parts of Alvescot and Ducklington, Yelford, Standlake, part of Northmoor, and a small area later in Stanton Harcourt. Presumably those boundaries reflected earlier arrangements, though they departed in some details from known pre-Conquest estate boundaries, and by 1318 seem to have been tendentious; by then some later parish boundaries within the former parochia were already hardening. (fn. 11) The later ancient parish of Bampton (fn. 12) was bounded on the south and south-west by the Thames, as in 1318, and by Burroway, Sharney, and Black Bourton brooks; at the south-west corner the boundary through intermixed meadows between the brooks was defined by the inclosure commissioners in 1839 and 1851, and was revised in 1886. (fn. 13) The rest of the western boundary followed furlongs and old inclosures, and, further north, Norton ditch, evidently the Marsh Haddon brook mentioned in the boundaries of 1318. (fn. 14) The ancient parish's northern boundary followed part of an ancient route called Abingdon Lane, and, by 1767, a zig-zag line between Lew and Curbridge heaths, which ran to Elm Bank ditch; in 969, however, the boundary seems to have run from the lane (then called the 'old way') to the ditch along a lost branch road, which continued across a stone bridge or ford mentioned in 10th-century charters. (fn. 15) That part of the boundary may have been adjusted before 1044 when an account of Witney's contiguous boundaries ignored both the ford and the road and mentioned only a 'new ditch', but the account seems to have omitted several boundary points (fn. 16) and it seems more likely that the later parish boundary resulted from a post-medieval division of common pasture. Horninga maera (the boundary of the Horningas), mentioned in descriptions of Witney's bounds both in 969 and 1044, was preserved in the medieval name Horningmere, denoting land apparently in Lew; Lew slade, also mentioned in 1044, may have been an alternative name for Norton ditch. (fn. 17) 'Annieslou', mentioned in 1318 and referring probably to a marshy place (O.E. sloh), was apparently at the intersection of Norton ditch and Abingdon Lane. (fn. 18)
Elm Bank ditch formed the north-eastern boundary as far as the southern edge of Barley Park wood (in Ducklington parish) in the 10th century and later, (fn. 19) though in 1318 deponents alleged that the boundary of Bampton's parochia followed a path, apparently Abingdon Lane, which met the ditch (then called 'Bernelesdych' or Barley ditch) apparently also near the wood. The boundary described may thus have excluded the north-eastern corner of the later parish, but there is no further evidence for boundary changes in that area, and deponents may, as in Ducklington, have cited a convenient road merely as an approximate landmark. (fn. 20) From Elm Bank ditch, called the brook of Aegel's spring in 958, the boundary of the ancient parish followed a complex series of field boundaries between the later Claywell and Newhouse Farms, partly described in a 10th- century account of Ducklington's boundaries; (fn. 21) from there it followed the line of early roads towards Shifford and Brighthampton, preserved in a notably straight stretch of Aston township's eastern boundary near Yelford, and in Shifford township's straight northern boundary. (fn. 22) The ancient parish's eastern boundary with Standlake remained ill defined until the 19th century except through Brighthampton hamlet, where it followed tenurial divisions; a new boundary was established at Standlake's inclosure c. 1853, and detached parts of Bampton parish defined at that date were transferred to Standlake or Hardwick c. 1886. (fn. 23) Combe Hill, in Lew township's southern part, was said in 1708 to be tithable to Yelford, but remained part of Bampton and later of Lew parish. (fn. 24)
The ancient parish was mostly flat and low lying (c. 65-70 m.), though a steep rise near Lew's southern boundary, reflected in early furlong names, (fn. 25) attains over 80 m., and Lew barrow stands at 107 m. There are smaller hills south of Lower Haddon Farm, north of Bampton town, and south-east of Weald Lane. Much of the parish's southern part lay on alluvium, (fn. 26) which flooded frequently but provided some rich meadow and pasture; a large tongue of alluvium between Aston and Cote, used as commons until inclosure, reaches the parish's north-eastern edge. Along the southern boundary, the Thames splits into numerous small streams, a feature which has prompted comparison with the Dutch polderlands, and which was reflected in medieval fieldnames such as Rowney, described with adjoining meadows in the 13th century as an 'island'. (fn. 27) The parish's northern part, including most of Lew and Lower Haddon townships, lay chiefly on Oxford Clay, which caused drainage problems but provided some 'strong corngrowing land', (fn. 28) and there are smaller areas of Oxford Clay around Weald Lane, north of Aston village, and immediately north of Old Shifford. Lew village, Lower Haddon Farm, and houses along Weald Lane lie on clay, though most settlements, including the core of Bampton town and the outlying sites of the castle and the Beam, are sited on gravel terraces composed of Summertown-Radley or Flood Plain Terrace deposits. Gravel also underlay some of Weald's and Aston and Cote's open fields, and in the 19th century provided soils of varying quality. (fn. 29)