Minster Lovell: Local government

Pages 204-205

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 15, Bampton Hundred (Part Three). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2006.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


Manor Courts

Courts were held for Minster Lovell manor by 1297. Elsewhere in Chadlington hundred view of frankpledge was held by the earl of Gloucester, but in Minster it was held by the Lovels, whose other liberties included infangthief (the right to apprehend criminals within their lands) (fn. 1) and, from 1442, hunting rights in Minster woods. (fn. 2) Courts baron and views of frankpledge, sometimes called lawdays, were still held regularly during the 16th and early 17th centuries; the last surviving court roll dates from 1631, (fn. 3) although in 1711 the Cokes, renewing the Wheelers' tenancy of the demesne farm, reserved the right to hold courts at the manor house once a year, the tenant providing food and drink for the steward, his servants, and his horses, and a dinner for the jury. (fn. 4) Business transacted, apart from copyhold conveyancing, included imposition of fines for nonattendance, for neglect of the landlord's property or of communal property such as the river or bridge, and for the unlicensed sale of ale and disturbances to the peace.

Orders were made against tenants taking wood or hunting illegally, and for repair of roads, bridges and ditches. Courts usually elected a constable and a tithingman, although in 1687 a constable seems to have been appointed directly by the justices at the quarter sessions. (fn. 5)

Parish Government and Officers

During the 18th century, with the disappearance of the manor court, parish government was presumably increasingly taken over by the vestry, though the first evidence is the levying of a poor rate in 1776, (fn. 6) and vestry minutes survive only from 1857. (fn. 7) Officers elected by the vestry in the 19th century included a surveyor of highways or waywarden, two overseers, and two churchwardens, one for the vicar and one for the parish: churchwardens were recorded from 1642, (fn. 8) and existed presumably from the Middle Ages. Until the Parish Constables Act of 1842 the vestry presumably appointed constables, thereafter nominating four candidates to the local magistrate, and in 1866 it appointed an assistant overseer of the poor. (fn. 9)

All officers were drawn from among the chief farmers in the parish, including at least three women in the 19th century. In 1885 the joint surveyor of highways and sanitary inspector asked that his office be divided, since together they were too taxing for one person. (fn. 10)

Until the 1894 Local Government Act the vestry also dealt with repairs of roads and drains, maintenance of the church, approval of accounts, and the setting of rates. Thereafter its few residual civil powers, as elsewhere, passed to a newly established parish council. From 1894 to 1974 the parish belonged to Witney rural district, becoming thereafter part of the new West Oxfordshire District. (fn. 11)


  • 1. Rot. Hund. II, 727, 736.
  • 2. Cal. Chart. 1427–1516, 37; above, econ. hist. (fields).
  • 3. Bodl. MSS Film 14, no. 58; Film 704 (from MSS in Holkham Arch.); ibid. MSS Top. Oxon. d 170, ff. 29–47; c 114, f. 315; d 49, ff. 1–7; Holkham Arch., ct roll 6 July 7 Chas I. Court rolls survive intermittently from 1546.
  • 4. Holkham Arch., lease 27 Feb. 1711.
  • 5. M.S. Gretton (ed.), Oxon. Justices in 17th Cent. (ORS 16, 1934), 33.
  • 6. Poor Abstract, 1777, p. 141.
  • 7. ORO, MS dd Par. Minster Lovell e 2; ibid. c 3.
  • 8. Protestation Rtns and Tax Assess. 93.
  • 9. ORO, MS dd Par. Minster Lovell e 2.
  • 10. Ibid. c 3.
  • 11. ORO, RO 3251, pp. 201–3; RO 3267.