Parishes: Marston

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 5, Bullingdon Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1957.

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'Parishes: Marston', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 5, Bullingdon Hundred, (London, 1957) pp. 214-221. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

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Marston is the last parish which the River Cherwell skirts on its left or eastern bank before reaching Oxford, where it joins the Thames. The ancient parish of Marston was not coextensive with the modern civil parish, which was diminished in 1928 by the Oxford Extension Act. On the north, the boundary between Marston and Elsfield follows the course of the Wash Brook (or Bayswater Brook) from Sescut, on the Cherwell, for a distance of nearly a mile and a half. The southern boundary runs between the ancient parishes of Headington and Marston from the King's Mill on the Cherwell to the nearest point on the Oxford-Marston road. It then follows that road and Copse Lane for about a mile and a quarter, making an eastward loop to take in about 20 acres on the Headington side of the road. The boundary between Copse Lane and the Bayswater Brook follows an arbitrary line. (fn. 1) The area of the ancient parish was 1,227 acres. (fn. 2) In 1928 an area of 216 acres in the south of the ancient parish, in which is included the part of the modern suburb of New Marston which lay in the ancient parish of Marston, became part of the county borough of Oxford. (fn. 3) The boundary between the county borough and the civil parish of Marston now follows the course of a stream immediately north of New Marston. (fn. 4)

The old village of Marston stands on the top and the southern slope of a low gravel elevation, rising to some 200 ft. above sea-level or 40 ft. above the level of the river. All round it is the Oxford Clay, much of it liable to flood, so that occasionally all the roads into the village may be under water. The scenery is like that of the rest of the Cherwell valley, with many elms in the hedges. Until the construction of the northern by-pass road in 1932, no road of importance ran through Marston, but the regular way from Oxford to Elsfield seems to have been through Marston at least from the 13th century. The modern road to Wood Eaton turns out of the Elsfield road and follows the Wash Brook; but it is not shown on any map before Cary's map of 1805, and until then the usual way to Wood Eaton seems to have been on the drier ground through Elsfield. At the nearest point of the Cherwell to Marston village there is a ferry, which leads by a foot-path to Summertown. The first mention of a ferry at Marston is in 1279 in the Hundred Rolls, when it was held as a freehold of the manor by two fishermen of Oxford. (fn. 5) Until the 20th century there was no road-bridge between Magdalen Bridge and Islip, so that Marston was comparatively isolated: the distance by road to Carfax is more than 2½ miles. The old village lay all in a piece along the two sides of the village street or near it. There are only two outlying houses older than living memory, the inn at the ferry and Hill Farm, half-way to Sescut, which seems to have been first built in 1691. (fn. 6) One or two cottages recorded as existing away from the village before the inclosure have disappeared. The church stands a stone's throw down the Elsfield road from the corner where it turns at right angles from the street. This corner is still called 'The Cross' after the village cross which used to stand there. (fn. 7) The only house with notable medieval fragments (beams, &c., presumably 15thcentury) is the much reconstructed Court Place Farm, half-way down the village; but there are several houses with 17th-century walls and details. Of these the most interesting are the two portions into which, after various mischances, the remains of the 'mansion-house' built by Unton Croke in the time of Charles I was divided. These contain some good oak wainscotting, stone doorways, and heraldic tiles. (fn. 8) In the garden is a pair of good gateway-piers.

Except for the Crokes (fn. 9) no one of much note seems to have been connected with Marston except some of the clergy. Among these William Richards (1643– 1705) was something of an author, and William Smith (1651?–1735) was an antiquary; (fn. 10) but they did not reside here, and really belonged to Oxford. Yeoman families like the Ewens, Pernes, and Hopes in the 16th century, or the Simses, Bleays, and Loders in the 19th, (fn. 11) whose fortunes can be traced, never seem to have developed business interests outside farming. Some of them owned or rented land in Elsfield and Headington or elsewhere, so that the Marston records do not give a full account of them or their possessions. Such being the mediocrity of its human population, it may be mentioned that Marston produced one distinguished animal. In about 1815 the sporting parson Jack Russell, in the course of a walk to Elsfield, bought a bitch there which he regarded as the perfect fox-terrier, and, under the name of Trump, it heads the best genealogical tables of the Parson Jack Russell breed. (fn. 12)


Marston was a hamlet or member of the manor of Headington. (fn. 13) It had its own constables, tithingmen, beer-tasters, and hayward, but the manorial business relating to Marston was done in the Headington courts.


In 1279 John de Molendino held a mill at Marston of Hugh de Plescy for life at an annual rent of 11s. In 1398 a mill was said to have been lately built on what was apparently the site of the earlier mill; it was held by Thomas son of Thomas atte Mill. By 1406, however, the mill had passed out of the hands of Thomas son of William atte Mill, and was no longer standing. It may have again been in existence in 1423; it was mentioned in the late 15th and early 16th century, and in 1540 was in the possession of Brasenose College. (fn. 14)

Economic and Social History.

According to philologists the name of Marston is derived from the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Marsh-town, and it would appear to be very appropriate. (fn. 15) The various fields in the strip of low ground on the eastern side have long had such names as Marsh Field, Marsh Ditch, and the Common Marsh; at least until the late 14th century some of the land on the Elsfield side of the boundary was under water almost all the year round; (fn. 16) and the scouring of ditches occupies even more than the usual space in the local records. The Domesday hidage of Headington, of which Marston was a hamlet or member, does not appear by any means large enough for Marston to be included in it. Except for two palaeolithic finds (fn. 17) we know, in fact, nothing about the place before the first certain occurrence of the name, which is in 1122, (fn. 18) and there is nothing in the form of the word to justify us in supposing that it was an old name then. In default of other evidence it seems right to infer that until the early 12th century or thereabouts, all the low ground was awash, and the site of the village an island among marshy courses of the Cherwell. Regular settlement and the laying-out of the fields may well have been made possible then by better ditching and draining. This is compatible with the history of the manor of Headington. The great, composite royal manor included water-meadows beyond the Cherwell as far as Oseney and Binsey on the Thames, and fisheries in both rivers. Marston, although a separate agricultural community, was presumably never an independent manor or anything like it, but was a new settlement in the wide, wet region over which the manorial rights of Headington extended. Like the rest of the manor it was in the forest. There is nothing to indicate that there was ever any considerable woodland in the parish, but the tenants had rights of common in the rest of the forest-area, and these, no doubt, were of value to them. After the disafforestation of Shotover and Stow Wood in 1661 the inhabitants of the parishes bordering on it were compensated for their lost rights of commoning cattle and cutting furze, fern, and deadwood in the forest. This compensation was granted in the form of land, and Marston got no less than 90 acres, whereas the share of Wick, Wood Eaton, Islip, Beckley, and Noke was only 20. Even so none of the parishes was satisfied and they all petitioned for more. (fn. 19)

In 1279 the Hundred Rolls enumerated 46 unfree tenants besides the vicar and two freeholders. (fn. 20) Only six of the tenants in ancient demesne held a whole yardland each, the rest having smaller portions down to an eighth of a virgate or less. The eight men who shared a virgate lived in the 'Buriende', a name which may imply the previous existence of a fort at some point which cannot be identified. One virgate was held by a freeholder who possibly resided at Court Place. The other resident freeholder was the miller. The Hundred Rolls mention that one piece of ground had a three-year course of husbandry, so that it is fair to infer that there were three fields; and it appears also that the demesne land lay all in a piece. (fn. 21) The first surviving record of the commutation of labour-services for a money rent dates from 1423. (fn. 22)

From the middle of the 14th century there is evidence of the joining of holdings by purchase. In 1406 John Hyze bought the mill. He was then described as 'forester of Stow Wood'; from 24 years earlier he, or a namesake, had received pay from the issues of the county as 'ranger of Shotover and Stowood', which rose to 6d. a day, the highest rate for a skilled labourer. He had a son, Thomas Bastard, who held land in Marston, (fn. 23) and the legitimate line of Hyze, Hye, or Hay added field to field until they had more than three and a half yardlands and three cottages. They lived at Court Place. A few years before the end of the 15th century their land was sold, and in 1525 it was acquired by Brasenose College. (fn. 24) Brasenose was not the first Oxford college to acquire Marston land: an acre of the lot-meadows was given to Oriel in 1349. (fn. 25) In 1458 the 42 acres of the King's Mill meadows passed to Magdalen, on its foundation, from the former owners, the Hospital of St. John, who had held them for more than two centuries. (fn. 26) The colleges were the most stable of the various buyers of land from outside the parish; no family within it seems ever to have built up more than a substantial yeoman's holding, though there was much buying and selling on a small scale.

In 1451 the benefices of Headington and Marston were united by a papal bull on the ground that the two parishes were too poor to maintain two vicars: (fn. 27) for Headington there is evidence of impoverishment from nine years earlier; (fn. 28) but not for Marston, and we know nothing of its nature and causes nor how long it lasted. The field-system of Marston seems to have improved in the reign of Henry VII: it was probably at this time that a fourth and smaller arable field was formed along the southern brook, where the drainage had very likely improved. It appears as if there had been irregular cultivation in this part, and various exchanges of land were carried out, so as to make it possible to lay out a field and allot the strips to the various existing holders. Not long afterwards, in 1520, there was a beginning of inclosure, when Magdalen began to buy out the common rights in its meadows from the other tenants of the manor. Individual tenants were paid in cash, and the college covenanted to give annually to the churches of Headington and Marston one of the best sheep from the meadows, or, if the churchwardens so chose, 3s. 4d., and a bushel of malt or 10d. The Marston churchwardens seem to have taken their sheep and their malt for consumption at the churchale, which was held until 1594 or later. (fn. 29) Their accounts show that, besides their church duties, they discharged various functions in the economic life of the village. The manorial court enforced on the tenants their duties of keeping up hedges and scouring ditches; but the churchwardens managed and paid for such work about the commons. They looked after the pound and a bridge and the gate at the town's end and they kept the parish bull. They let several small closes and the grazing on the green roads and, more important, the fishing in the Cherwell. In 1330 the fisheries held by the two men named in the Hundred Rolls of 1279 were granted for their lives to the under-tenants of Godstow Nunnery; (fn. 30) but the Marston fishery proper was in the control of the churchwardens from at least as early as 1532 until 1720 and possibly later. By the end of the 18th century angling was 'permitted', presumably because it was no longer valuable enough to yield a rent, and was 'a favourite diversion with the gentlemen of the university'. (fn. 31)

Early in the 17th century the amount of arable land in the parish, calculated from two excellent maps of the Corpus estate, dated 1605, was about 600 acres, or nearly half the whole area. Brasenose College had added to its holding, and Corpus Christi College had held two half-yardlands and one quarter since 1529. If the ordinances were obeyed, and if the reckoning of twenty yardlands for the parish was correct, the commons carried not more than 200 beasts and 800 sheep: Corpus at any rate had a right to common 15 beasts and 75 sheep, and had an acre and a half in the lot-meadows for every 20 acres of its arable land, which amounted to 46 acres, 2 roods, and 4 perches in all. (fn. 32) This was the state of things when the most considerable family which ever lived in Marston made its appearance. (fn. 33) In the reign of James I Unton Croke, a rising lawyer and a younger son of a legal family, the Crokes of Studley Priory, married Anne Hore, the heiress to a messuage and half a yardland in Marston. Nicholas Hore, perhaps her grandfather, had the third highest assessment in the parish in goods for taxation in the first year of Queen Elizabeth, and the highest in the 23rd year. (fn. 34) Unton Croke rebuilt the house on a grander scale, and, though he never owned anything but copyholds, he added to the land his wife inherited, and, as a master in Chancery, serjeant-at-law, justice of the peace, and so forth, became very much the principal inhabitant. In 1645 when the parliamentary forces laid siege to Oxford he had to make room in his house for Fairfax's headquarters, and Oliver Cromwell came there to meet the commander-in-chief. In the next year the headquarters of the besieging army were at Headington, but when the city surrendered Unton Croke's house was the place appointed for the meeting of the commissioners from the two sides. (fn. 35) Unton Croke was openly and not unprofitably committed to the parliamentary side; his second son and namesake became prominent as a commander of horse, and at the Restoration the father had to give a bond for his peaceable demeanour in the large sum of £4,000.

In 1655 Unton Croke was the leading figure in the inclosure of the two open fields by agreement of the landholders. They gave two reasons for the change. First, Marston lay low in a very dirty and waterish heavy soil to plough, very near to the walls of Oxford, and far more fit and convenient for pasture than for tillage. Secondly, the Civil War had interrupted cultivation and manuring; many trees had been felled and turf had been taken from the meadows for building breastworks, and cattle had been plundered and taken away. The second reason is not by itself very impressive. The first might be put more plainly by saying that there seemed to be good prospects for several farming, predominantly in pasture, for the Oxford market. The land was surveyed and divided up into well over 100 closes. The agreement enumerated 38 tenants of the manor, including the three colleges. The lord had in demesne only a 4-acre plot in Brook Field. The number of copyholders who had 1 yardland each was 7, the same as in the time of Edward I; but there was one who had 2 yardlands, and among the rest the number who had as much as half a yardland was considerably diminished. If the two surveys can be compared at all, it looks as if, roughly speaking, the total number of the community was not very different, but the number of landholders had decreased from nearly 50 to nearly 40, and the inequalities between them had become greater. As the extent of cultivation had probably increased, there must have been an increase of landless labourers, and we know from the court rolls that there were some such men, but we cannot guess how many.

Unton Croke died in 1671. His elder son Sir Richard, who became Recorder of Oxford, leased the Corpus land (fn. 36) and kept house in Marston, probably at what is now Cross Farm. He did not survive his father long, and with his son Wright Croke, who lived into Queen Anne's reign, the Marston Crokes came to an end. Cross Farm and some of the Croke lands were bought by Thomas Rowney, an attorney, who, like his son of the same name, sat in Parliament for the city of Oxford, but one of their descendants disposed of their holding of over 100 acres in the time of George III. During the 17th century the Crokes and Rowneys were not the only Marston residents whose livelihood did not come from the soil: Dr. John Speed, grandson of the historian, held a lease from Brasenose. (fn. 37) From some point in the 18th century, however, and probably not long after the death of the elder Rowney in 1727, Marston became a village where no one lived who pretended to the rank of gentleman. No large property was brought together. On the contrary, the holding of the Rowneys was dispersed as were the 2 yardlands once held by Sir Sebastian Smythe of Oxford, and some smaller accumulations. Some of the resident yeomen purchased land, but most of the purchasers lived in Oxford or farther away, and apparently they were all middle-class people of almost every grade, who bought for investment, as others, for instance various clergymen, held for investment after they married the daughters and heiresses of the small landowners of the place. (fn. 38)

In 1801 there were 45 dwelling-houses and 264 inhabitants. The chief man was the innkeeper of the 'White Hart', who was also a farmer and had a bakery. There were a blacksmith, a carpenter, a weaver, and a fisherman. The farming was miscellaneous, as it usually is close to a town, and it was untidy. Although the fields are too wet to suit them, there were still sheep, chiefly of the Berkshire kind, and a considerable number of house-lambs were raised. Fruit and much excellent bacon were sold to Oxford; there were good crops of all kinds of corn and pulse, especially beans. There is as yet no mention of selling milk to Oxford. The 'poor' were numerous and expensive. Six families of paupers were accommodated in the house built by Unton Croke. (fn. 39) We know that two years later the poor-rate was nearly double the average for the hundred of Bullingdon. (fn. 40)

Early in the 19th century the population began to increase noticeably, and by the middle of the century it was well over 400. In one respect the character of the community had not altered: the land was still held in small parcels. There was only one owner of more than 100 acres, Brasenose College. Altogether there were 49 other owners besides the other two colleges, and of these rather less than half lived in the parish. The blacksmith and one labourer were among them. The main reason why small landowning persisted in this parish seems to have been that Oxford afforded a good market for the characteristic produce of small-holders, whether owners or tenants. Nor was there any nucleus round which a residential estate was likely to grow. The lords of the manor had never lived in the parish. The colleges were only interested in drawing rents or fines on the renewal of leases; the Croke family had never been of much account as landlords; there were neither woodlands nor anything else to attract the sportsman, and there was no site obviously suitable for a mansion. The small men were land-hungry and tenacious, and they could protect themselves against the risk of farming by by-occupations. By this time one of the farmers was described as a bacon-factor; there were 3 dairywomen and 2 or 3 dairymen and, though the weaver had disappeared, there was now a wheelwright as well as the blacksmith, and there was a shoemaker. Three masons and a veterinary surgeon who lived in the village presumably found work outside it as well as within. There were 6 or 7 farmers with 50 acres or more; but the amount of arable land was less than half what it was before the inclosure, and so the growth of population cannot be explained by greater employment on the farms. (fn. 41)

The growth of Oxford increased the demand for garden-produce and the like, as did no doubt the rise in the standard of living in both town and university. Possibly men who worked in Oxford or its suburbs were already coming to live in Marston. There were various other ways in which the prosperity of the world in general enabled more people to live here. The roads were given a metalled surface. In 1851 the first elementary school was built. This meant not only that there was work for schoolteachers and cleaners, but in time it meant that others had to do work which the children had done before. In the middle of the century, however, one phase of increase ended and until 1871 there was a slight decline in numbers. From then the census records no marked increase for twenty years. The establishment of the Workman's Hall in the Oxford Road in 1871 marks a change in the village and in its relation to Oxford. (fn. 42)

Shortly before the census of 1891, the workingclass suburb of New Marston was built on the Oxford road, partly in the parish and partly outside it. From about that time the pressure of Oxford on the village became more and more severe in every direction. Business men and university men built houses or modernized old ones. Colleges took one meadow after another for playing-fields. Arable farming declined with the agricultural depression, but the farmers and small-holders prospered on their milk-rounds. Brasenose had money to invest, and by purchases in the 20th century increased its holding to more than 400 acres. No other large holding was built up, and the rest of the property was still raggedly held by a very mixed, if continually changing, company of owners. After the end of the First World War, the internal combustion engine completed what the bicycle had begun, and the town came down on the village, almost blotting it out. The northern by-pass road bridged the Cherwell and gave new access to Summertown and Headington. Private enterprise and municipal rehousing schemes filled up the interval between the old village and New Marston, where new streets preserved the lines of the old furlongs and green roads. The old village changed comparatively little, but it is now not much more than a museum piece, and only the intervention of two public-spirited trusts has preserved the green fields to the north and west. The Oxford Preservation. Trust bought those between the village and the river, including the holding of the last of the yeoman family of Sims; the Pilgrim Trust bought fields along the by-pass road.


The first mention of Marston church is in a charter of 1122, by which Henry I granted the chapel of Marston, among others, to the canons of St. Frideswide's. (fn. 43) Headington, Marston, Elsfield, and Binsey hamlet formed a peculiar, the rights of which were confirmed to the canons of St. Frideswide's by a number of bishops and popes. (fn. 44) Continual reference to the church as a chapel in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries indicate that it was probably once dependent on Headington, though Marston seems to have been independent by 1122. The parishes of Marston and Headington were united by papal bull in 1451, (fn. 45) and were not separated until 1637. (fn. 46)

At the end of the 12th century Hugh de Pluggenait, lord of the manor of Headington and a benefactor of St. Frideswide's, endowed the church of St. Nicholas at Marston (the first reference to the dedication) with half a hide of land. (fn. 47) At the beginning of the 13th century the gross value of the church was £12 a year. (fn. 48) The rectory was valued at £5 6s. 8d. in 1291. (fn. 49) In 1535 the farm of the combined rectories of Headington and Marston was worth £12. (fn. 50) The church and its possessions were held by the priory of St. Frideswide's from 1122 until the priory's suppression in 1524, (fn. 51) when it became part of the endowment of Cardinal College, and in due course of Christ Church. (fn. 52) It was sold in 1545 or 1546 by Henry VIII, along with other lands and churches conveyed to Christ Church, (fn. 53) and in 1547 the rectory, vicarage, and advowson of Marston and Headington were bought by Sir John Brome, lord of Headington manor. (fn. 54) The rectory estate then became merged with that manor. From the end of the 17th century the rectorial tithes belonged to the several landowners. (fn. 55)

A vicarage was instituted by Hugh of Welles, Bishop of Lincoln, probably between 1213 and 1218; the vicar had £3 6s. 8d. a year, houses and a court formerly used by the chaplain, the lesser tithes of all the parish, all the tithes from one yard land, and the altar offerings. (fn. 56) The vicars were presented by St. Frideswide's Priory, and in the first quarter of the 15th century two of the canons served as vicars. (fn. 57) After the union of Marston and Headington parishes in 1451 vicars were instituted to Headington, but from 1481 there is no record of the institution of a vicar to either church until 1636. (fn. 58) In 1520 the two parishes were being served by one of the canons of St. Frideswide's; it was complained that a woman and two girls were occupying the vicar's house at Marston. (fn. 59) In 1529 the parish was being served by a Dominican friar from Oxford. (fn. 60) In 1535 Christ Church was receiving £2 from the farm of the vicarial tithes of Marston, as well as the farm of the rectory, (fn. 61) and it seems that Sir John Brome acquired not merely the advowson of the vicarage but the endowment itself. It has been plausibly suggested that at the time of the purchase it was stipulated that the purchaser should always find a man to serve the church. (fn. 62) The names of clergy who officiated in Headington between 1550 and 1585 are known, but none can be shown to have been vicars, and one is expressly named as curate of Marston. (fn. 63)

In 1637, perhaps as an incident of the Laudian ecclesiastical revival, a vicar was instituted on the presentation of the Crown, and Marston became once again a separate parish from Headington. The circumstances of this institution after a gap of 150 years are obscure. Presentations were made in 1686 by members of the Whorwood family, in 1690 by the king and queen pro hac vice, in 1705 by Robert King of Oxford pro hac vice, and in 1717 by the Bishop of Oxford. Thereafter the right of presentation was exercised by the lords of Headington manor until 1872. The Revd. E. Evans presented in 1888; his widow, who presented in 1899, devised the advowson to the Bishop of Oxford, who presented in 1905. (fn. 64)

The vicarage was discharged from paying firstfruits and tenths and the clear yearly value was given as £26 in 1707. (fn. 65) In 1835 the yearly value was estimated at £195 of which £50 was paid to a curate. At that time the parsonage house was uninhabitable, (fn. 66) and in 1887 there was said to be no glebe in the parish. (fn. 67) In 1844 the vicarial tithes were commuted for an annual rent-charge of £200. (fn. 68) A parsonage house was said to have been built in the forties, but that used in 1954 was not acquired until 1912. In 1953 the net income of the benefice was £300. (fn. 69)

From early in the 18th century until 1849 the vicars of Marston were non-resident. The list of vicars who were regularly instituted does not coincide at any point with such a list as can be made out of the clergy who actually officiated. The parish was served by curates and, in the second half of the 18th century, by university clergy, chiefly fellows of Oxford colleges, who rode out to Marston on Sundays. As time went on they seem to have become less active. In 1758 there were two sermons on Sunday; there were four communion services a year and about 31 communicants. Thirteen years later there was only one Sunday sermon and the number of communicants had dropped to 10 or 12; by 1808 there were only two communion services a year. (fn. 70) A magazine-writer of 1799 gives a favourable account of the curate in charge, John Curtis, Fellow of Magdalen, and of the enthusiasm of the parishioners. (fn. 71) In 1849 Richard Gordon, already Vicar of Elsfield, became Vicar of Marston, (fn. 72) and for some time held the two livings in plurality. A curate performed the Sunday duty at Marston but the vicar visited the sick and his incumbency began a period in which the standard of assiduity was much higher than it had been. In the middle of the century there were 15 to 25 communicants at the monthly celebration. (fn. 73)

In the 15th century a John Chichele endowed the roodlight with land worth 4d. a year. Armorial tiles in the church suggest that he was a kinsman of Archbishop Chichele. This endowment was taken by the Crown in the early years of Edward VI. (fn. 74)

A mission chapel at New Marston was dedicated in 1911: (fn. 75) the ecclesiastical history of the district after its incorporation in Oxford City in 1928 is reserved for inclusion in a volume on the history of the city.

The church of ST. NICHOLAS (fn. 76) consists of a chancel, a clerestoried nave with aisles, a south porch, and a low western tower. The oldest parts of the building, the chancel arch, the seven arches of the nave arcades—four on the north and three on the south —and the south door, appear to date from the time of Henry II or Richard I. It is probable that the south aisle was originally the same length as the north and was shortened later. Inside the church, on what is now the east wall of the tower, may be seen the steep pitch of the old roof of the nave. In the 15th century the aisles were widened, the nave roof raised, and a clerestory built. A modest west tower and a new chancel completed what must have looked almost like a new church. The chancel is well proportioned, and there is attractive carving in the spandrels of the hood moulding over a doorway on the south side. In the deep external hollow moulding of the three-light east window is carved some unusual leaf ornament. The recess of the first window on the south side has been carried down to form a sedile, and to the east of it is a small square piscina. A hagioscope looks into the chancel from the south aisle, and above the present pulpit is the blocked entrance to a vanished rood loft. There are fragments of glass and some encaustic tiles with floral and heraldic patterns which date from the 15th century. The plain oak benches and bench-ends and the remains of the chancel screen and return stalls may have been put in shortly after the rebuilding. In 1520 the chancel was reported to be out of repair. (fn. 77) In 1562 there were considerable repairs to the fabric, especially to the south porch and the south aisle, which was largely rebuilt, only one of the old windows being retained. The pulpit probably dates from the first half of the 17th century. In the early 19th century the tower and the nave roof were repaired, and in 1883 the church was intelligently restored, the architect being H. G. W. Drinkwater of Oxford, at a cost of £1,400. A new roof was built over the chancel, and the south wall of the chancel and the buttresses of the north aisle were rebuilt. A western gallery was removed, a new floor was laid, the tower arch was opened, and the ground floor of the tower became a vestry. In the course of the work an aumbry was discovered in the north aisle and traces of wall-paintings were uncovered. In the chancel are memorials to Richard Croke (d. 1683) and Unton Croke (d. 1670/1) and a brass to the latter's wife Anne (d. 1670). (fn. 78)

Plan of St. Nicholas's Church

In 1552 there were three small bells and a sanctus bell. (fn. 79) At present there are five bells hung in the western tower, and an inscription on the tenor records that they were recast in 1823 by W. & J. Taylor of Oxford. About 1930 they were rehung in a new oak frame by Mr. Richard White. Their predecessors may have been either medieval bells or bells recast about 1620–30. (fn. 80)

In 1552 Marston church possessed three vestments, one of blue velvet, one of black worsted, and one dornick, a surplice, a rochet, five altar cloths, three of them of diaper, a chalice and paten with their inner surfaces gilt, and a cross, a pyx, and two candlesticks of latten. (fn. 81) The medieval cup now used as a chalice may have come to the church in the late 15th century, but the point is disputable, and it is uncertain whether it came for that purpose or for some secular use as the 'town cup'. (fn. 82) The churchyard was enlarged in 1894. A cross was removed in 1830 to mend a wall, and has been replaced by a similar cross as a war memorial. The lych-gate was erected in 1927 in memory of H. A. Cumberlege, a former vicar.

The surviving series of registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials starts in 1653 and is complete save for marriages between 1753 and 1814. There are churchwardens' books covering the period 1540– 1610, and some earlier years, and churchwardens' accounts from 1669 to 1732.

The church of ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS in New Marston is reserved for description in a later volume. (fn. 83)


There is no evidence of Protestant nonconformity in the parish until 1871, when trustees who are believed to have been Congregationalists established a mission hall, called the Workman's Hall, in the Oxford Road. At the beginning of the 20th century this was no longer used for its original purpose and seemed likely to become derelict. (fn. 84) About 1932 a scheme was established by the Charity Commissioners, under which the hall was being leased to the British Legion in 1954. The only traces of recusancy before Catholic emancipation are the mentions of one or two Roman Catholics and later of one Roman Catholic family, in the reign of George III. (fn. 85) Developments in New Marston after 1928 are reserved for treatment in a volume on Oxford City.


A privately owned school for 20 children existed in 1816. (fn. 86) A new building was erected in 1851, the running expenses of which were largely borne by the vicar, Canon Gordon, with aid from the National Society. This provided accommodation for 145 children, (fn. 87) and was an 'all age' mixed school until September 1947, when the seniors were removed to Gosford Hill Secondary Modern School. It now continues as a Junior and Infants' School. (fn. 88) The building was modernized and improved in various ways in 1926. (fn. 89) New Marston primary school (Church of England) was opened in 1927, at first in temporary premises, a permanent building being opened in 1928 on land presented by Mrs. George Herbert Morrell. In 1929 this school was transferred from the county authority to the City. (fn. 90) Later developments are reserved for treatment in a volume on the City of Oxford.


The only ancient charity given by an individual donor is that of Mary Brett. She was the widow of a 17th-century squire of Elsfield, and after marrying a second husband she died in 1671, leaving a house and land (valued in 1816 at 12s. 6d. and 10s. respectively) for bread for the poor of Marston. One of the many shares in the Forest Farm granted in lieu of common rights in the forest was held by the churchwardens and overseers for the poor of the parish. In modern times this was used for a distribution of coal and it is usually called 'the forest coal'. (fn. 91) In the inclosure, twelve cow-commons were set aside for poor men. Either then or later it was laid down that one was to be held by the parish clerk, and that men in receipt of parish relief were not eligible. Twelve poor inhabitants are still elected by the landowners to share the rent of the 20-acre field so allotted, in the north-east corner of the parish.


  • 1. O.S. Map 6", sheet xxxiii, SE. (1922).
  • 2. Census, 1921.
  • 3. Census, 1931.
  • 4. O.S. Map 2½", S.P. 42/50 (1952).
  • 5. Rose Graham, Collectanea (O.H.S. xlvii), iv. 68 sqq. The position of the ferry in 1279 cannot be identified, and no ferry is shown on any map prior to the O.S. Map of 1876.
  • 6. See G. N. Clark, Open Fields and Inclosure at Marston, near Oxford (O.R.S. vi), 20. This study is supplemented by the same writer's 'Inclosure by Agreement at Marston', E.H.R. xlii (1927), 87 sqq. After these two studies were written the Bodleian Library acquired a number of Headington Court Rolls (now MS. Rolls Oxon. 120–140) intermittently covering years between 1388 and 1716: these have been used for the present article.
  • 7. See the engraving after J. C. Buckler in Gent. Mag. 1816, lxxxvi (2), 577, and water-colour: MS. Top. Oxon. a 42, f. 23, reproduced opposite.
  • 8. Some of these 17th-century tiles, with badges of the Croke family, have found their way into the B.M. and they are mistakenly included among the illustrations of L. Haberly, Medieval English Paving-tiles (1927).
  • 9. See below, p. 217.
  • 10. D.N.B.; O.A.S. Rep (1930), 284.
  • 11. Churchwardens' Accounts of Marston, Spelsbury, and Pyrton, ed. F. W. Weaver and G. N. Clark (O.R.S. vi), 9–35 passim; Clark, Open Fields at Marston, 18.
  • 12. C. L. B. Hubbard, Dogs in Britain, 312; Memoir of the Rev. John Russell (1883), 61–62.
  • 13. See below, p. 216.
  • 14. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 711; Public Works in Medieval Law (Selden Soc. xl), ii. 123; O.R.S. vi, supp. 5–6; Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 125; C 1/318/10. The form of the mill's name varies: 1279, Scitepilche; 1398, Shutpulche; 1406, Pulchermulne; late 15th cent., Shippulche.
  • 15. Alexander, P.N. Oxon. 150–1; E. Ekwall, Oxf. Dict. Eng. Place-Names (1936); P.N. Oxon. (E.P.N.S.), i. 181.
  • 16. G. N. Clark, Manor of Elsfield (1927), 4, 25.
  • 17. P. Manning and E. T. Leeds, 'Archaeological Survey of Oxon.', Archaeologia, lxxi. 249.
  • 18. The grant of a half-hide of land at 'Mersc' by Edward the Confessor to Westminster Abbey (B. Thorpe, Diplomatarium Anglicum, 368; Dugd. Mon. i. 301; Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, ed. H. W. C. Davis, no. 18) cannot be related to anything else in the history of Marston and may refer to some other place; in any case it only takes the story two generations farther back.
  • 19. Cal. Treas. Bks. 1660–7, p. 154; 1681–5, p. 1551.
  • 20. In the middle of the 17th century the land was reckoned at 20 yardlands and there had probably been no substantial change since 1279.
  • 21. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 711.
  • 22. Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 124: 1 Apr. 1423.
  • 23. Ibid. 120: court roll of 1388.
  • 24. A. J. Butler, Brasenose Quatercentenary Monographs (O.H.S. lii), no. vi, 22.
  • 25. Oriel Coll. Mun. S (636).
  • 26. Magdalen Coll. Deeds, especially Headington, 24, 33, 59. Merton is mentioned as a landowner in 1489: Bodl. Libr. MS. Rolls Oxon. 126.
  • 27. Cal. Papal L. x. 527.
  • 28. Cal. Fine R. 1437–45, 213, 324.
  • 29. Churchwardens' Accts. of Marston, &c. ed. Weaver and Clark, 8, 13; Par. Rec., MSS. Accts. for 1594.
  • 30. Godstow Reg. ii. 401–2, 652–3. The Marston part of these fisheries seems to have been distinct from the 'common water': C.P. 25(2)/197, East. 32 Eliz.; C.P. 43/324, rot. 122.
  • 31. Gent. Mag. 1800, lxx (1), 108.
  • 32. Bodl. MS. Rolls Oxon. 129 (7 Apr. 1562); ibid. 132 (14 Apr. 1601); legend on estate map (C.C.C. Mun.).
  • 33. The Marston Crokes are to be found in the D.N.B. under the name of Sir John Croke (1553–1620); see also Sir Alexander Croke, Genealogical Hist. of Croke Family (1823).
  • 34. E 179/162/322; E 179/162/352.
  • 35. The Copy of a Letter . . . dated at Marston . . . May 24th, 1645; The Passage of the Treatie for the Surrender of Oxford . . . 15 May 1646; F. J. Varley, Siege of Oxford, 138; a letter in Rushworth's hand signed by Fairfax at Marston is summarized in Cal. S.P. Dom. Addenda, 1625– 49, 679.
  • 36. Recital in lease of 1718: Bodl. MSS. acquired from Wilts. Arch. Soc. (uncat.).
  • 37. Par. Rec., Churchwardens' Accts.; cf. lay subsidy of 1663 in Hearth Tax Oxon. 246–7.
  • 38. The references given by Clark, Open Fields of Marston, may be supplemented by O.R.O. Land Tax Assess. for 1786 and 1798, which confirm the picture there given, but give the college lands under the names of the lessees, who sublet to tenants. Transcripts of these were supplied by Mr. Evan Davies.
  • 39. Gent. Mag. 1800, lxx (1), 105–8; the Brasenose Bursar's Memoranda of c. 1760 mention a bakehouse and an inn named 'The Coach and Horses' (ff. 21–22).
  • 40. Poor Abstract, 400.
  • 41. Bodl. Tithe Commutation Award and map are nine years earlier than Gardner, Dir. Oxon.: both have been used for this paragraph, and also the list of occupations in H.O. 107/1727.
  • 42. See below, p. 220.
  • 43. St. Frideswide's Cart. i. 10. For a fuller account of the history of the church see G. N. Clark in O.A.S. Rep. (1930).
  • 44. St. Frideswide's Cart. i. 10, 23, 30, 31, 32, 33, &c.
  • 45. Cal. Papal L. x. 527.
  • 46. O.A.S. Rep. (1930), 269.
  • 47. St. Frideswide's Cart. ii. 37.
  • 48. Rot. Hugonis de Welles, i. 181.
  • 49. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 31.
  • 50. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 250.
  • 51. V.C.H. Oxon. ii. 100.
  • 52. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iv (2), pp. 655, 971; v, p. 587.
  • 53. Ibid. xx (2), p. 544.
  • 54. Cal. Pat. 1547–8, 98–99.
  • 55. e.g. E 134, Mich. 12 Wm. III, no. 23.
  • 56. Liber Antiquus Hugonis Wells, pp. x, 9.
  • 57. O.A.S. Rep. (1930), 280–3.
  • 58. Ibid. 282–3. For a list of medieval incumbents, see MS. Top. Oxon. d 460.
  • 59. O.A.S. Rep. (1925), 116.
  • 60. O.A.S. Rep. (1930), 282.
  • 61. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 250.
  • 62. O.A.S. Rep. (1930), 270 n.
  • 63. Ibid. 282.
  • 64. Ibid. 269, 285–7.
  • 65. J. Bacon, Liber Regis (1786), 797.
  • 66. Rep. Com. on Eccl. Revenues, H.C. 54, pp. 782–3 (1835), xxii.
  • 67. Return of all Glebe lands in Eng. and Wales. H.C. 307, p. 120 (1887), lxiv.
  • 68. Return of Tithes Commuted, to 1887, H.C. 214, p. 162 (1887), lxiv; ex inf. Tithe Redemption Commissioners.
  • 69. Crockford (1953–4); ex inf. the vicar.
  • 70. Oxon. Dioc. Pp. d 556, d 559, d 562, d 565, d 571.
  • 71. Gent. Mag. 1799, lxix (2), 1097–8.
  • 72. O.A.S. Rep. (1930), 286; Clergy List, 1859, 73, 149.
  • 73. Wilberforce Visit. 91–92.
  • 74. Chant. Cert. 39; tiles illustrated in L. Haberly, Medieval Eng. Paving-tiles.
  • 75. Crockford (1953–4).
  • 76. This account is condensed from G. N. Clark, 'Marston Church', O.A.S. Rep. (1930), 263–78; see also Parker, Guide, 185–7.
  • 77. O.A.S. Rep. (1925), 116.
  • 78. Paroch. Collect. 203–4; for blazons of arms in the church see Bodl. G.A. Oxon. 4° 686, pp. 203–4; ibid. 4° 688, pp. 203–5.
  • 79. Chant. Cert. 70, 131.
  • 80. Ch. Bells Oxon. 205.
  • 81. Chant. Cert. 70.
  • 82. Evans, Ch. Plate, frontispiece and pp. xii, 104.
  • 83. See above, p. 219.
  • 84. Kelly's Dir. Oxford (1939).
  • 85. Return of papists (Stonyhurst papers) 1706, in Hist. MSS. Com. 10th Rep. 181; Episcopal Visitations 1768– 1808: Oxon. Dioc. Pp. d 559, d 562, d 565, d 571.
  • 86. Educ. of Poor, H.C. 224, p. 727 (1819), ix (2).
  • 87. Educ. Returns [C. 7529], p. 494, H.C. (1894), xlv.
  • 88. Oxon. Educ. Cttee. Minutes.
  • 89. Ibid.
  • 90. Ibid.
  • 91. Charitable Donations, 1786–8, ii. 978.