Curbridge: Local government

Pages 221-222

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 14, Bampton Hundred (Part Two). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2004.

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Manorial Government

In the Middle Ages Curbridge inhabitants were governed through Witney manor court. (fn. 1) At the biannual view of frankpledge, sometimes called the tourn or court leet and held at Hockday and Martinmas, Curbridge paid tithing silver or cert money of 12s. 6d., (fn. 2) its share of 26s. 8d. originally levied on the tithing of 'Upland', which comprised all three Witney townships. (fn. 3) A tithingman and constable for Curbridge were appointed each year at the Martinmas court. (fn. 4) The business of the manor courts, which met some ten times a year in the 14th century, included criminal offences, breaches of the assises of bread and of ale, regulation of the open fields, and transfer of manorial holdings. The courts, which by the 18th century were concerned almost exclusively with appointment of officers and copyhold conveyances, continued until abolished in 1926.

Parish Government and Parish Officers

Curbridge township contributed to Witney's church rates and was represented in the parish vestry. By the 16th century the vestry appointed a churchwarden and sidesman from Curbridge, and two highway surveyors. (fn. 5) In the 17th century Curbridge had only one collector (later called overseer) of the poor, but later two were elected. (fn. 6) In 1714 a special rate was levied on the township, apparently after its failure to repair its highways, and in 1732 and 1739 Curbridge was reported for refusal or reluctance to pay poor and church rates. (fn. 7) The township's roads were frequently reported in the 18th century, and the surveyors occasionally satisfied the county magistrates over their maintenance. (fn. 8)

Poor Relief

By 1775 and probably much earlier the township's overseers accounted separately for Curbridge's poor. (fn. 9) Between 1807 and 1814 there were three proposals to unite with Witney and in 1814 Curbridge's representatives agreed to the abortive plan, whose failure was probably due to the high cost of poor relief in the hamlets. In 1816 and 1817 Curbridge contributed from its rates to Witney's guardians, perhaps indicating shared use of the town's poorhouse, and in 1817 there was a scheme, possibly abortive, to manage the poor of Curbridge, Ducklington, and Witney jointly. (fn. 10)

In 1733 two former Curbridge overseers were accused of allowing an aged pauper to starve, but were discharged by magistrates who were assured later that good care of the poor was being taken. (fn. 11) In 1775 Curbridge spent £87 on poor relief and in 1783–5 an average of £142. (fn. 12) As elsewhere poor-relief costs rose sharply in the late 18th century: by 1803 the expenditure of £507 (nearly 29s. by head of population) was raised by an exceptionally high rate of 15s. in the pound. In 1813, a bad year, expenditure rose to 50s. a head, and by 1817 to over 51s. As elsewhere in the parish expenditure fell in the 1820s, and was only about £1 a head in 1824, rising by 1834 to over 30s. a head, a total of £645. (fn. 13) There was no workhouse in Curbridge and in 1803 there were 35 adults and 45 children on permanent out-relief, with a further 36 occasional recipients. In 1813–15 there were 20–30 permanent, and a similar number of occasional, recipients. (fn. 14)

Local Government From 1834

In 1834 responsibility for Curbridge's poor passed to the new Witney union; (fn. 15) the union workhouse, built within Curbridge township, is discussed above. (fn. 16) The vestry continued to appoint officers for the townships, although it was noted in 1857 that churchwardens represented the parish, not its townships. (fn. 17) At inclosure in 1845 the highway surveyors were allotted three small quarries to assist road repair, but a recreational allotment for the poor was vested not in township officers but in the manorial lord, causing later misunderstandings. (fn. 18) Under the Local Government Act of 1894 Curbridge civil parish became part of the new Witney rural district, residual local powers being vested in a parish council. In 1974 Curbridge became part of West Oxfordshire district. (fn. 19)


  • 1. For the court, above, Crawley, local govt.
  • 2. e.g. Hants RO, 11M59/E1/85/1/7; 11M59/E1/85/3, f. 25v.; ORO, Misc. Je. I/1, passim.
  • 3. Above, Crawley, local govt.
  • 4. e.g. ORO Misc. Je. I/1, ff. 71v., 79; Blenheim Mun. B/M/144, f. 47v., where a Curbridge man was fined 40s. in 1615 for refusing office.
  • 5. ORO, MS dd Par. Witney c 9, passim.
  • 6. Ibid.; Protestation Rtns and Tax Assess. 2; ORO, Cal. QS, i, p. 265b.
  • 7. ORO, Cal. QS, iv, p. 78; viii, p. 48; ibid. MS Oxf. Dioc. c 456, f. 156v.
  • 8. Ibid. Cal. QS, viii, pp. 580–2, 590, 597, 608, 624, 627.
  • 9. Poor Abstract, 1777, p. 140.
  • 10. ORO, MS dd Par. Witney b 14, ff. 31v., 36, 42v.–43.; above, Witney, local govt (poor relief).
  • 11. ORO, Cal. QS, i, p. 265v.; iii, p. 428.
  • 12. Poor Abstract, 1777, p. 140; 1787, p. 188.
  • 13. Poor Abstract, 1804, pp. 398–9; 1818, pp. 352–3; Poor Rate Rtns (Parl. Papers 1822 (556), v), p. 135; (1825 (334), iv), p. 170; (1830–1 (83), xi), p. 157; (1835 (444), xlvii), p. 153. For population, Census, 1801–41.
  • 14. Poor Abstract, 1804, pp. 398–9; 1818, pp. 352–3.
  • 15. ORO, RO 3251, pp. 201–3.
  • 16. Above, Witney, intro. (public bldgs); local govt (poor relief).
  • 17. Blenheim Mun., shelf C1, box of 18th- and 19th-cent. pps., 'Notes on Hist. Witney Manor', p. 4.
  • 18. ORO, Curbridge incl. award; below, charities.
  • 19. ORO, RO 3251, pp. 201–3; RO 3267; Census, 1881–1991.