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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AN estate at Chimney, identical with the later township (668 a.), existed probably by the 950s and certainly by 1069, when its boundaries followed the Thames on the east and south, and streams on the west and north. A small deviation from the Thames, near Duxford, presumably represented the river's earlier course. (fn. 1) The name Chimney, meaning 'Ceomma's island', reflects its low-lying position surrounded by watercourses, and in the Middle Ages and later much of the township flooded frequently. (fn. 2)
The road northwards to Aston followed its later course by 1767 and was confirmed in 1855, (fn. 3) though then and earlier the township was sometimes cut off by floods for several weeks. (fn. 4) A track leading southwards to Duxford, where there was a river crossing by the 11th century, was presumably early, but must often have been impassable and was not always shown on early maps. (fn. 5) In 1317 demesne produce was carried to Oxford by river, (fn. 6) and in the 16th and 17th centuries several testators owned boats; (fn. 7) in the early 19th century harvest produce was transported in punts along side streams from the Thames, and in 1896 free lock passes were issued to inhabitants travelling to Shifford chapel along Shifford lock cut, constructed 1896-8. (fn. 8) A ferry from Chimney was claimed in 1261 to have sunk with loss of life; (fn. 9) the Duxford ferry, outside the township in Berkshire, was marked on a map of 1767 and continued into the 20th century. (fn. 10)
Little evidence has been noted of early occupation, (fn. 11) though 2nd-century Roman pottery was found west of Chimney Farm, and a 3rdor 4th-century coin east of the existing hamlet. (fn. 12) Part of an exceptionally large late Anglo-Saxon burial ground, in use from the mid 10th century and established presumably from Bampton minster, was excavated immediately west of Chimney Farm: in all it covered probably over 2,400 square metres, and the inferred number of burials (1,500-2,000) suggests that it served a wide area. No excavated burials were later than the mid 11th century, and presumably the cemetery was abandoned in favour of that at Bampton after the church passed to Exeter cathedral. (fn. 13) No evidence was found for a pagan cemetery, despite 19th-century reports of burials with 'swords and armour'. (fn. 14)
Chimney was not separately noted in Domesday Book, though some of the 17 tenants (excluding servi) listed on Bampton Deanery manor may have lived there. (fn. 15) By the late 13th century and early 14th there were c. 18 peasant households including 2 cottages, (fn. 16) and the population may have been increasing: 16 landholders were taxed in 1306, 19 in 1316, and 25 in 1327, though in the last year especially some may have been entered under Chimney in error. (fn. 17) As in Shifford the impact of 14th-century plague may have been relatively limited, but by the early 15th century the population was clearly falling (fn. 18) and seems never to have recovered fully: 4 inhabitants were taxed in 1524 and 7 in 1542-3, and in 1642 only 14 male inhabitants were listed, suggesting an adult population of c. 28. (fn. 19) In 1634 the lessee of the manor claimed that there had been no more than 7 inhabitants, presumably meaning households, within living memory, (fn. 20) and 7 houses were taxed in 1662. (fn. 21) By 1775 there were only three farms and by 1841 two; (fn. 22) three houses were recorded in 1801 when the population was 25, and six, including four labourers' cottages, from the 1820s to early 1840s. From 46 in 1821 the population fell to 36 in 1841 and to 24 ten years later, remaining under 30 until 1911 when it reached 33; in 1931, the last year for which separate figures are available, it was 24. (fn. 23)
The medieval hamlet occupied the southern edge of a narrow gravel island in the alluvium. (fn. 24) Finds immediately west of Chimney Farm included scattered pottery of the 12th to 15th centuries and at least two undated hearths, (fn. 25) and rectilinear earthworks noted east of the surviving hamlet include house platforms, croft boundary ditches, and hollow ways. (fn. 26) Decayed peasant houses were mentioned frequently in the 15th century, (fn. 27) and by the early 17th some closes east of the surviving hamlet were pasture. (fn. 28) By 1789 settlement was concentrated chiefly around the 17th-century manor house, then a farmstead, south-west of modern Chimney Farm, with a few agricultural buildings east of Lower Farm; there were then three farms, all including adjacent tofts and homesteads. (fn. 29)
Most of those buildings were demolished in the 19th century and early 20th, leaving Lower Farm, which is of late 17th-century origin. Chimney Farm Cottages were built apparently in the early 19th century, and Chimney Farm, further south on part of the demolished manor house's orchard, in the late 19th, replacing a short-lived farmhouse further west. The Little House, northeast of Chimney Farm Cottages, is of the early 20th century. (fn. 30)
Timber construction may have been common in the Middle Ages, but surviving houses in 1866 were of stone (presumably limestone rubble) with tiled or stone-slated roofs, and only a few agricultural buildings were thatched. (fn. 31) Chimney Farm Cottages incorporate earlier stone-mullioned windows with hoodmoulds, perhaps from the manor house. Both Chimney Farm and the Little House are of brick.