A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 17. Originally published by Boydell & Brewer for the Institute of Historical Research, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2012.
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Until 19th-century reorganization the large parish of Broadwell included the contiguous townships of Broadwell, Filkins, and Holwell, together with the detached township of Kelmscott some three miles to the south by the river Thames (Fig. 1). (fn. 1) As with Langford the parish's size, which is unusual for Oxfordshire, reflected its derivation from a large 11th-century manor, which in turn was carved from an even larger late Anglo-Saxon estate. (fn. 2)
The villages were predominantly agricultural, and Filkins and Kelmscott retain some high-quality yeoman farmhouses of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, built chiefly of local limestone with stone-slated roofs. Among the best known is the so-called Kelmscott Manor, famous as the occasional home, from 1871 to 1896, of the designer, writer, and socialist William Morris. During the 20th century all four villages, though increasingly populated by commuters, largely retained their rural character, with only limited building development: of particular note was the erection of several Vernacular Revival buildings at Kelmscott, and of model council houses in vernacular Cotswold style at Filkins, the former by Morris's widow and daughter, and the latter by the Labour minister Sir Stafford Cripps, who lived at Filkins from 1920. At Bradwell Grove, in woodland north of Broadwell village, a gothic-style mansion house built in 1804 by William Hervey, then the dominant landowner, became in 1970 the centre of the Cotswold Wildlife Park. New Anglican churches were built at Filkins and Holwell in the 19th century, the latter replacing a medieval chapel, while Nonconformist chapels built at Filkins reflected its emergence as a focus of Protestant Dissent. (fn. 3)
Farming was traditionally mixed, with some sheep-rearing and dairying. At Broadwell, Filkins, and Kelmscott, open-field cultivation continued until the late 18th century; Holwell, however, was privately inclosed in 1693 by the Trinders, a prominent local family who were notable as Roman Catholic recusants. Local industries, besides the usual rural trades, included quarrying, particularly in Broadwell and Filkins. (fn. 4)
Parish Boundaries and Landscape
In 1882 the ancient parish totalled 5,659 a., comprising the townships of Broadwell (1,725 a.), Filkins (1,834 a.), Holwell (1,063 a.), and Kelmscott (1,037 a.). (fn. 5) Its external boundaries, including those of the detached township of Kelmscott, were probably little altered from the mid 11th century, when Broadwell manor was carved from a larger Anglo-Saxon estate which most likely included Langford, Little Faringdon, Grafton, Radcot, Broughton Poggs, and possibly Kencot. (fn. 6) On parts of the west and east the boundaries followed small streams, of which Broadwell and Kencot brooks divided Filkins and Broadwell villages from the neighbouring parishes of Broughton Poggs and Kencot. Elsewhere they mostly followed field boundaries. A large detour eastwards around Bradwell Grove encompassed an area of ancient woodland, and a narrow tongue of land at the parish's south-eastern tip brought in some valuable meadow and pasture between the two boundary streams. Both those areas were probably intentionally included in the 11th-century estate when it was first created, along with the detached area of Kelmscott with its extensive pasture and rich riverside meadow. (fn. 7)
Until the late 18th century Broadwell and Filkins shared a field system, and the township boundaries between them seem to have been established only at inclosure in 1776 (Fig. 6). Mostly they followed new inclosures, with some 998 a. around Bradwell Grove in the north-east forming a detached part of Broadwell township. Filkins included some 30 a. in three small detached closes near Holwell, near College Farm, and in the south-east. The boundary with Holwell (Fig. 26) followed Akeman Street and was presumably long established, despite some unspecified modifications at Holwell's inclosure in 1693. (fn. 8)
In 1886, under the Divided Parishes Acts, the detached closes belonging to Filkins were transferred to Broadwell, and Bradwell Grove was linked to the rest of Broadwell township by a slim corridor running down the parish's eastern edge, alongside the Lechlade– Burford road. The changes increased Broadwell to 1,778 a. and reduced Filkins to 1,781 acres. Thereafter all four townships, which had long been independent for local government and poor-relief purposes, were treated usually as civil parishes, and from 1894 they had their own parish councils or meetings. In 1954 Filkins was united with neighbouring Broughton Poggs to form a new civil parish of 2,690 a. (1,089 ha.), but Broadwell (719 ha.), Holwell (430 ha.), and Kelmscott (419 ha.) remained unaltered in 2001. (fn. 9) For ecclesiastical purposes the ancient parish was dismembered rather earlier, Holwell and Filkins being separated in the 1850s, and Kelmscott (temporarily) in 1960. Following further changes, all four places belonged in 2011 to a large group ministry which included fifteen west Oxfordshire villages. (fn. 10)
The parish encompassed diverse landscapes, amongs them the Cotswold downlands of Holwell and northern Filkins, the nearby woodland of Bradwell Grove, and further south the flat featureless meadowlands beyond Broadwell mill and around Kelmscott (Fig. 3 and Plate 1). On Holwell's northern boundary the land reaches 155 m., and Bradwell Grove House stands at 125 m.; from there the land slopes gently to 74 m. near Broadwell mill, and to only 68 m. near Kelmscott's eastern boundary. The underlying geology is mostly cornbrash and Forest Marble with some alluvium along the streams, and part of Broadwell village (excluding the church and manor site) lies on Kellaways Clay. (fn. 11) The soils, mostly stonebrash on an inferior oolite, were characterized by a 'loose, dry, friable sand or loam', which in the early 19th century was thought excellent for turnips and wheat. Particularly in the southern clay areas, however, some farms had a much larger proportion of heavy soils. (fn. 12)