Parishes: Launton

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.

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'Parishes: Launton', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6, ed. Mary D Lobel( London, 1959), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'Parishes: Launton', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Edited by Mary D Lobel( London, 1959), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"Parishes: Launton". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Ed. Mary D Lobel(London, 1959), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

In this section


This large and very irregularly shaped parish of 2,818 acres lies between its market-town of Bicester and the Buckinghamshire border. (fn. 1) No boundary changes are recorded. (fn. 2) The Bicester-Buckingham road, which follows the line of the Roman road north from Alchester, bounds the parish on the north-west, tributary streams of the River Ray on the north and south, and the county boundary on the east. The zigzag line of the boundary with Bicester Market End and Wretchwick fields on the south-west appears to have followed the line of already existing furlongs. Geologically Launton lies mostly on the Oxford Clay, but in the west it lies on the Cornbrash. (fn. 3) The soil is mostly clay, with some very good marl to the north-west of the village. (fn. 4)

The parish, which rises from 208 feet in the south to 270 feet in the north-east, is watered by a number of streams, feeders of the Ray, and connected by minor roads with Bicester and the surrounding village. The Oxford and Bletchley section of the former L.M.S. Railway crosses the parish, and a station, ¾ mile north of the village, was opened in 1851. (fn. 5)

Launton lies in the south-western corner of the parish, on a low ridge between two small tributaries of the Ray. Its Saxon name means the Long Tun, (fn. 6) and the original settlement was probably along the line of Back Lanes, which ran north-east and southwest of the church. It was a large village in the Middle Ages, (fn. 7) and was relatively large in the 17th century, since as many as 46 houses appear in the hearth-tax list. (fn. 8) There was no great house but a number of comfortable gentlemen's houses and farm-houses. These included in 1665 the Rectory, 3 houses which were taxed on 4 or 5 hearths, and 7 taxed on 3 hearths each. (fn. 9) The 18th-century village as shown on Davis's map of 1797 (fn. 10) lay on the south side of the Caversfield road, formerly known as Skimmingdishlane, and on a road crossing it at right angles, which ran from the town green lying to the south of the Caversfield road north-eastwards to Launton Field. (fn. 11) Eighteenthcentury incumbents estimated that there were about 70 houses, (fn. 12) and in 1801 Launton was described as a village of moderate size with about 90 families. (fn. 13) In the 19th century there was a striking increase in population, and instead of the 66 village houses recorded in 1811 there were 163 in 1851. By 1901, however, there were only 129 inhabited dwellings. (fn. 14)

Chief among the new 19th-century buildings were Zion chapel near the green (1807); (fn. 15) the school, built in 1839 and enlarged in 1881, 1896, and 1946; (fn. 16) an Independent chapel with a simple classical facade dated 1850; and the reading-room, erected in 1894 and destroyed in 1919. (fn. 17) Much of the new building, which included a row of stone cottages, was on the outskirts of the village at the east end of Station Road.

Among 20th-century additions are the parish hall in Church Lane (1930) and Sherwood Close to the south-west, which has been built since 1945. (fn. 18) It contains 26 houses built by the County Council. There are also twelve other council houses.

The village still has an unusual number of wellpreserved stone houses and cottages, of which many date from the 17th century. Some are in Station Road, the old way to Launton Field. There is Yew Tree farm-house, a two-storied house built on an L-shaped plan. It has a pigeon-loft built into the upper story of one wing. Laurels Farm and Grange Farm have a similar L-shaped plan. The latter is dated 1683 and has attic dormers, a hipped roof with brown tiles, which are commonly used in the village, and brick chimney-stacks. This farm and the pound opposite marked the eastern limit of the village in 1880. (fn. 19) Box Tree Farm, formerly two houses, is another building which is mainly of 17th-century date. The front has been rebuilt; it bears the inscription m: w.e. 1710 and has a simply moulded eaves cornice.

In the other of the two main village streets Manor Farm and the Rectory, standing on either side of the church, form an isolated group to the north-west over ¼ mile from the cross-roads. The farm-house is built on a long rectangular plan and probably mainly dates from the early 17th century, though one of its doorways is of 16th-century date. It has a large room with walls 2 feet thick which was formerly used as the Court Room, and at right angles to it there is a turret staircase.

The present rectory is in the main a 17th-century building, although some 16th-century work survives. Blomfield states that Henry Rowlands, rector from 1581 to 1600, enlarged the house (fn. 20) and also planted the yew hedge which is still a notable feature of the garden. Bishop Skinner was rector at the time of the fire which was mentioned in 1646. (fn. 21) It was evidently not a large house at this period as it was only taxed on six hearths in 1665. (fn. 22) In 1716 it again suffered from fire and was repaired by Thomas Goodwin (rector 1701–19). (fn. 23) In the early 19th century Dunkin describes it as 'plain and substantial' and considered it the chief mansion in the parish. It was then an L-shaped building of two stories. He admired the fine paintings in the hall, and the garden. (fn. 24) The outbuildings at about this time included two stables, a coach-house, and a large stone barn. (fn. 25)

In 1838 the house was enlarged by James Blomfield at a cost of £1,500, of which about half was borrowed from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 26) The builder was John Plowman. (fn. 27) The plan of the present house is rectangular. The main building has two stories, is built of coursed rubble, and is roofed with brown tiles. The addition is built of coursed rubble and is roofed with slate. There is a fine 18th-century staircase, and some early 17th-century and early 18thcentury panelling in the interior. In 1940 the rectory was used as a Missionary College, and was later requisitioned by the R.A.F. and used as a W.R.A.F. hostel. In the 1950's it was divided and only part is now used as the rectory. (fn. 28)

The village's two public houses may also date from the 17th century. The Bull Inn is a two-story house of coursed rubble with an attic dormer. It has brick chimney-stacks, casement windows, and a roof of part thatch and part tiles. The other public house, the 'Black Bull', forms part of a group of old houses which includes West End Farm and one dated 1697. It was mentioned by name in 1784, but may have been the house licensed in 1735. (fn. 29) The 'Greyhound', which closed in 1900, a two-storied house of coursed rubble, bears the inscription 1682 w.j:d. It has casement windows, tiled roofs, and brick chinmey-stacks. Other public houses were the 'Pheasant' and the 'Fox and Hounds', which closed in the second half of the 19th century and in 1930 respectively. (fn. 30)

A number of houses, such as Box Tree Farm, were modernized and there was some new building in the 18th century. Launton House in West End was the main contribution. It was probably built by John Ashby, a London haberdasher, who was living there in the early 19th century, and it is shown on Davis's map of 1797. (fn. 31) Its plan is rectangular and its three stories are built of red brick on a stone base. The stone dressings of the porch and the window surrounds came from Ambrosden Park (demolished in 1768). The tiled roof is hipped and screened by a parapet. The front door has plain stone pilasters supporting a moulded wooden pediment. The only outlying farm in the 18th century was Hareleys or 'Hoar Leys', as it was called in 1738. (fn. 32) A windmill stood in Great Stone Field in the 17th century (fn. 33) and a water-mill stood on the brook which crosses Church Lane in the 19th century. The site is still known locally as the Sluice. (fn. 34)

The village has had some eminent rectors: Bishop Skinner, rector 1632–63 and Bishop of Oxford 1641– 63, was at the Rectory during the Commonwealth period and wrote in 1662 that he had secretly ordained 400–500 priests. (fn. 35) Philip Stubbs (rector 1719–38) was the author in 1704 of the first report of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. (fn. 36) Canon J.C. Blomfield (rector 1850–95) was the son of James Blomfield, a Launton rector, and was a local historian of some repute. (fn. 37)

The Deeley family may also be mentioned for its long connexion with Launton: two of the family are recorded as early as 1601. For the most part yeomen farmers, like John Deeley of Biggen Farm and William Deely (d. 1688), some of the family rose into the ranks of the gentry. (fn. 38) They succeeded the Oakleys, a 17th-century Shropshire family, as tenants of the manor farm. (fn. 39) There is a local tradition that the last of the Cottesford family, which leased the manor in the 15th and 16th centuries, married one of the Deeleys. (fn. 40) Mr. Deeley is the present lessee of Manor Farm.


Edward the Confessor gave LAUNTON to the Abbey of St. Peter at Westminster at the dedication of the church on 28 December 1065. Three of the documents which record this gift are spurious, (fn. 41) but a fourth—a vernacular writ in the Confessor's name (fn. 42) —is genuine, and the authenticity of Edward's gift to Westminster is not in doubt. (fn. 43) Domesday Book states that Edward gave 2½ hides in Launton, whose soke formerly belonged to Kirtlington, to St. Peter of Westminster and to Baldwin his filiolus. (fn. 44) It has been suggested that Baldwin was a novice or monk of Westminster, and that the purpose of Edward's gift to the abbey was to provide for his maintenance. (fn. 45) Nothing further is known about him. Westminster's title to Launton was never disputed and the medieval descent of the manor is uneventful. Rent of £19 8s. 9d. a year in Launton was assigned to the monks' kitchen by Abbot William de Humez in the early 13th century (fn. 46) and from this date the manor formed part of the convent's lands.

Launton was sequestrated on the surrender of Westminster Abbey in January 1540. (fn. 47) In August 1542 it was granted to the Dean and Chapter of the cathedral church at Westminster. (fn. 48) In 1556 it was surrendered to the Crown and granted to the abbot and convent of the restored monastic foundation. (fn. 49) In 1557 the abbot and convent granted an annuity of £30 for life from their manors of Launton and Wheathampstead (Herts.) to Alphonso de Salynes, clerk, and an annuity of £4 for life from Launton to William Brome, gentleman. (fn. 50) Launton was again surrendered in 1560, and granted to the Dean and Chapter of the collegiate church at Westminster. (fn. 51)

In November 1645 a committee of Lords and Commons was set up to adminster the lands and revenues of the 'delinquent' Dean and Chapter of Westminster. (fn. 52) Launton came under the provisions of this act. In 1644, however, Dr. Thomas Wilson, Prebendary and Treasurer of Westminster Abbey, had obtained from the king at Oxford a warrant to collect the rents due from the abbey lands. (fn. 53) By virtue of this warrant he appears to have collected the rents due from Launton. Accordingly, in 1645, Richard Oakley, Receiver General of Westminster Abbey and lessee of Launton manor, testified that he had received no profit from Launton for over two years. (fn. 54) In April 1649 the lands and revenues of all deans and chapters were vested in a body of trustees appointed by the Commons. (fn. 55) In September 1649 Launton was exempted from the operation of this act and assigned to the maintenance of Westminster School. (fn. 56) Thus its connexion with Westminster was maintained for the greater part of the Interregnum. Finally, in 1860 the lands in Launton belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster were vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 57)

The first lease of the manor was granted in 1526 (see below). A later lease was the subject of a suit in Chancery in the early 17th century. In 1600 Francis Ewer, lessee of Launton, borrowed £1,600 from his brother Edward, who at the same time was granted certain lands in the manor at reduced rents. On the death of Francis, intestate, in 1604, the lease passed to his widow, Joan. Edward Ewer now claimed, however, that the money lent to his brother had in fact been the purchase price of the lease of Launton. In 1604 the court decided in favour of Joan and ordered Edward to pay the arrears of rent for the lands in Launton leased to him by Francis. Further claims by Edward and counter-claims by Joan resulted in a second hearing. Finally, in 1605 it was decided that the lease should remain in Joan's hands, that Roger Mountney, her second husband, should find security for the payment of £1,200 to Joan's children by her former marriage (Edward Ewer having questioned Joan's use of moneys received on their behalf), and that Edward should pay £300 to Roger in discharge of his debts. (fn. 58) In 1608 Mountney himself was granted the lease of the manor.

The following list gives the dates of all known leases of the manor, the names of the lessees, the term for which each lease was granted, and the rent due. No information is available concerning fines paid: 1526, John Manning, yeoman of Westminster, 31 years, 6 marks; (fn. 59) 1542, Thomas Perkin, yeoman of Eynsham, 65 years, 6 marks; (fn. 60) 1576, Ralph Heydon, remaining interest in the above lease; (fn. 61) 1598, Humphrey Moore, yeoman of Bicester, 3 lives, £4, and 8 beeves and 40 muttons or £36 13s. 4d. p.a.; (fn. 62) 1600, Francis Ewer, gent. of Launton*; (fn. 63) 1608, Roger Mountney, gent. of Norfolk*; (fn. 64) 1616, Sir John Dormer, of Dorton (Bucks.)*; (fn. 65) 1620, idem*; (fn. 66) about 1630, Richard Oakley, of Oakley (Salop.), 3 lives; (fn. 67) 1663, William Oakley, of Oakley*; 1672, idem, 3 lives, £4, and 4 beeves and 20 muttons or £18 6s. 8d. p.a.; 1683, idem*; 1697, George Walcot, merchant of London, and John Crump, gent. of Barnard's Inn*; 1704, idem*; 1737, Sir Archer Croft, of Croft Castle, Hereford*; 1747, John Walcot and Andrew Hill, both of Salop.*; 1766, Earl of Jersey*; 1769, Earl of Guildford and George Grenville of Wotton (Bucks.), trustees under the will of the last lessee*; 1810, Duke of Bedford and George Bainbridge of Southampton*; 1826, idem*. (fn. 68)

Economic History.

In 1291 the manor, including rents, meadows, the mill and court, was valued at £16 11s. 2d. a year, its flocks and beasts at £1. (fn. 69) In 1535 the rents and farms of Launton were valued at £17 17s. 1½d. a year, the site of the manor at £4 a year, and the perquisites of the court at £2 1s. 11d. a year. (fn. 70)

Little is known about the topography of preinclosure Launton. A West Field and an East Field are mentioned in the 14th century; Clay Field, Little and Great Stone Fields, Middle Field and Wake Field in 17th-century terriers. (fn. 71) There are indications that a two-field system persisted at least until the end of the 16th century. (fn. 72) From the 15th century onwards two harvest reeves were elected annually, one for the west end of the village, and the other for the east end. (fn. 73) In the 16th century the area of pasture, meadow, and waste land at Launton was estimated at 367 a. 3 r. 25¾ p., measuring 18 feet to the pole. (fn. 74) The medieval area is not known. The common meadows are named in the 17th century as Debden, Padons, Corn Slade, and Quadies. (fn. 75) The common cow pastures are named in the 18th century as Wetherell, Drannell, Peasebridge, Town Slade, and the Stone Pits. (fn. 76) Peasebridge, or Peasebreach, was 45 acres in extent, and in return for their rights of common in it the copyholders paid yearly to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, as lords of the manor, 26s. 8d. for the provision of a boar, and £10 at Whitsuntide for the provision of 20 fat wethers. (fn. 77)

Small inclosures for pasture appear to have been allowed to the individual customary in the 14th century, (fn. 78) but the first extensive inclosure of pasture was made in 1582 by agreement between the copyholders of the manor and Ralph Heydon, farmer of the demesne. (fn. 79) Heydon was allotted 64 acres of pasture and meadow to hold in severalty, half in Stone Field and half in Broadmoor Slade, this allotment to remain to his successors as farmers of the demesne. An additional allotment of 8 acres was made to Heydon in respect of a yardland freehold in his tenure. He was to be excluded from a share in the remaining commons. The copyholders were granted permission to inclose their own share of the commons at the rate of 8 acres per yardland arable. About 150 inclosures, mainly in the south and west of the village, are said to have been made as a result of this composition. (fn. 80)

Claims to intercommoning caused some friction between Launton and neighbouring vills. In 1302 an exchange was made between the Abbot and Convent of Westminster and the Rector and College of Ashridge (Herts.) whereby the latter were to inclose 8 acres of common pasture at Blackthorn, Ambrosden, and the former were to inclose 8 acres in the common pasture at Launton lying between the vill and 'Watebrok' and between 'Bradelakestrem' and 'le Brechedech'. (fn. 81) The rights of each party in Blackthorn and Launton pastures, except in these inclosures, were to continue. A similar exchange was made in 1302 between the Abbot and Convent of Westminster and the Prior and Convent of Bicester, whereby the latter were to inclose 8 acres in the common pasture near their sheep-walk at Wretchwick in Bicester parish, and the former were to inclose 8 acres in the same pasture at Launton. (fn. 82) Memory of these exchanges seems to have faded, for in 1349 the customaries of Launton alleged that the Rector of Ashridge had wrongly inclosed 8 acres of common pasture in Wretchwick and Blackthorn appurtenant to their tenements. (fn. 83) The commoners of Stratton claimed one 'hoke' of meadow every other year at 'Strethambrok' in Launton. (fn. 84) These claims were disputed. The claim of the tenants of Caversfield (Bucks.) to common at Launton was allowed in return for the performance of ploughing services and one harvest boon per tenant, but failure to perform these services caused repeated complaints. (fn. 85) The Abbot of Westminster also disposed of pasture at Podele. (fn. 86)

The prevalence of trespass—in many cases with large flocks of sheep—suggests a serious shortage of pasture in medieval Launton, but the stint of pasture in this period is not known. In the 16th century a cottager was allowed common for one cow and was at liberty to lease common for twenty sheep from a copyhold yardlander. (fn. 87) The inclosure agreement of 1582 allowed for the inclosure of eight acres common pasture and meadow per yardland arable. (fn. 88) In the 18th century a stint of 4 beasts, 3 horses or mares, and 40 sheep for every yardland was in force. It is interesting to note that some 18th-century orders prescribe balks at least 2 feet wide in the Stone Field between 'neighbour and neighbour' and prohibit the use of harrows on the hay growing on balks. (fn. 89)

The following medieval customs are worthy of note. Vacant lands were filled by elections in the manorial court; (fn. 90) exemption from entry fine and from heriot on surrender was sometimes granted to the tenant so chosen. (fn. 91) Widows were allowed their free bench for a year and a day; if they continued as tenants after that term they were obliged to marry or to fine to avoid marriage. (fn. 92) Husbands were elected for such widows and for unmarried female customary tenants, and fines were imposed for the refusal of either party to comply. Thus in 1326 John Alisot and John de Baynton, elected in turn to marry Agnes, widow of William King, paid 3s. 4d. and 1s. 6d. respectively to be quit. Agnes herself refused to marry the third man elected, and the seizure of her lands and chattels was ordered. (fn. 93) Dower amounting to one-third of a customary holding was allowed. (fn. 94) Heriot consisted of the best beast. It was paid at the death of the customary tenant or at the expiry of his widow's free bench. A widow holding for more than a year and a day would also pay heriot on the final surrender. In the case of a conjoint tenancy it was usual to postpone heriot until the death of the survivor. (fn. 95) A tenant in villeinage might not sell his ox or his horse without licence. (fn. 96) The reason given in 1406 for this rule is not that the sale would diminish his wainage, but that the lord must have the first refusal. (fn. 97) Two customs concerning villein tenure are of interest because, but for evidence to the contrary, they might be considered marks only of villein status. A villein might not marry his daughter outside the manor without licence, (fn. 98) and his sons might not receive the tonsure without licence. (fn. 99) Three customs constituted the peculiar disabilities of unfree status at Launton in the later Middle Ages: a serf might not leave the manor; he might not acquire a free tenement, (fn. 100) and he must pay merchet on the marriage of his daughters. The first rule might be relaxed but, in general, was strictly enforced. Chevage, the annual fine paid by a villein living outside the manor, is significantly rare, and would still have been uncommon had the small number of fugitive serfs mentioned in the 14th and 15th-century court rolls been brought under contribution. In 1372 one John Herberd of Brightwell, who was proved subsequently to be a serf of Launton, brought a plea against the Abbot of Westminster in the court of the steward, alleging trespass in that the abbot had arrested him within the verge and imprisoned him for three days. (fn. 101) Herberd's initiative is in no sense typical of villeinage at Launton, however: manorialism here was vigorous in its latter day.

The following customs were agreed in 1582 between the copyholders of the manor and the farmer of the demesne. Guardianship of the heir of a deceased copyholder belongs to the next of kin not in the line of inheritance to the lands, unless the heir's father or mother shall have appointed otherwise; two years' rent shall be paid as entry fine, and the best beast as heriot, when the holding is not less than a cottage or quarterland. If the beast be a horse, mare, or gelding, 40s. shall be paid instead. Heriot for a cottage or holding of less than a quarterland shall be 2s. 6d. Every copyholder may take the woods and trees growing on his land, but when a timber tree is felled two young trees shall be planted. Every copyholder may lease his land for 21 years without licence. (fn. 102)

Two conventional estimates of the area of the demesne survive. The Hundred Rolls state that the Abbot of Westminster had three hides in demesne at Launton. (fn. 103) A 16th-century inclosure agreement mentions 8 yardlands arable in demesne. (fn. 104) Estimates of demesne tillage are given in the ministers' accounts between 1328 and 1373. (fn. 105) The tillage varied between 180 and 140 acres a year, except in the last five years of the period, when it was little more than 100 acres. Earlier accounts covering the period before 1328, although omitting these estimates, state the amount of seed corn used each year. (fn. 106) Calculations using this information show that between 1267 and 1293 an average of 220 acres was sown a year. After 1293 the figure falls below 200 acres. The average annual tillage fell by about 60 acres in the course of the century 1267–1367.

Leasing of demesne acres began in 1332 but did not become extensive. The demesne was thus virtually intact when in 1372 it was farmed for seven years at a rent of £14 a year, including labour services, the dovecot and the mill. (fn. 107) The farm was renewed in 1379 for thirteen years for £12 a year, excluding the mill. (fn. 108) The rent had been reduced to £10 a year including the mill by 1408, and to £4 a year excluding the dovecot by 1423. (fn. 109)

A demesne windmill is mentioned at Launton in 1279. (fn. 110) This was farmed after 1292. (fn. 111)

Throughout the period of demesne cultivation the following full-time servants were employed at Launton: a bailiff, a reeve, four ploughmen (two tenores and two fugatores), a woman servant, a carter, a cowherd, and a shepherd. In some years there were employed also a swineherd, a smith, and a miller. It was usual to employ an extra woman servant, an extra carter, and a harrower for six or eight weeks in the spring, and a messor and reep-reeve for four or eight weeks in the harvest season. A second shephered was frequently employed in the summer, and a shepherd's boy for the lambing season. Of these servants the reeve was the tenant of a servile holding of a half a virgate. The tenores were tenants of servile holdings of half a virgate each until 1319; between 1319 and 1351 one or both were stipendiary; after 1351 both were invariably stipendiary. In 1284 and 1285 the full-time shepherd had a service holding. It appears from the court rolls that there was a number of service holdings at Launton and that the two tenores were chosen from the tenants of these holdings in rotation. Thus in 1297 an inquest named five holdings whose tenants formerly held the demesne plough: 'et sic videtur quod plures alii quam illi decem qui modo ad carucam domini tenendam ordinati sunt pro voluntate domini ad illud possunt assignari'. (fn. 112) In 1325 Richard and Alice de Ambresdon, tenants of one virgate by the service of holding the plough quando accidit, were freed from that service, (fn. 113) and in 1335 John de Baynton, who had been elected to marry a certain widow and hold her land in villeinage, was allowed to fine in the sum of 10s. for refusing to do so, 'et non plus que est de numero tenentium qui tenent carucam domini per annum'. (fn. 114)

The stipendiary, full-time manorial servant was paid mainly in corn: the fugatores and the carter received one quarter every nine weeks (after 1352, every ten weeks), the shepherd, cowherd, and woman servant one quarter every twelve weeks. In addition, a common table was provided at Christmas and Easter. After 1277, however, this was replaced by a payment of 1½d. a head on both occasions. Similarly, payment of a harvest goose to the famuli was arrented at 1½d. a head a year. The stipendiary famuli also shared the produce of 3 acres and 3 roods of wheat and 3 acres 3 roods of oats a year. These sown acres are first mentioned in 1296. The bailiff received l mark a year and a bushel of wheat a week. The smith was paid entirely by the sown acre: he received the produce of l acre of wheat and I acre of oats a year. Supplementary short-term labour usually received a money wage with or without a small livery of corn. The exception is the harrower, who was paid in corn only. In 1350–1 the stipendiary tenor received 1d. for every working day on which his services were required. (He was, in fact, paid for 129 days' work between Michaelmas and Easter.) (fn. 115) This experiment was short-lived, and after 1353 both tenores received the normal liveries of a stipendiary ploughman.

A common table was kept between 1 August and 29 September for the bailiff, the reeve, the women servants, the custos animalium and, in some years, the swineherd—that is, mainly for the supervisory servants. The full-time woman servant received no livery of corn for this period.

The famuli who held service holdings shared the allowances at Christmas and Easter. The reeve shared in the common table in the harvest season. Their payment does not appear to have received further supplementation. The tenores thus received the low remuneration of 3s. rent each a year. This low scale of payment was perhaps made possible by the system of rotation which obtained among the tenants liable to the service.

Freehold tenure does not appear at Launton until the 15th century; the only known freehold is the virgate called Freemansland held in 1416 by John Langeston for 6s. 4d. rent a year and suit of court, heriot and relief. (fn. 116) References to this holding— the tenant of which repeatedly failed to perform suit— occur throughout the 15th and 16th centuries until 1558, when the land was seized. (fn. 117)

In the early 13th century 35¾ virgates and 9 cotlands were occupied by customary tenants. (fn. 118) The description of Launton in the Hundred Rolls is manifestly inaccurate when compared with contemporary ministers' accounts, and must be disregarded in this connexion. (fn. 119) In 1330 35¾ virgates and 8 cottages were occupied; (fn. 120) in 1416 31¼ virgates, 4 cottages and a few miscellaneous holdings of little importance. (fn. 121) No lands were vacant for more than a few weeks at a time before 1349. In 1351 14½ virgates were vacant, only the small closes and crofts appurtenant to them having found temporary tenants. (fn. 122) Leasing began slowly about the year 1353. By this means, and through the reversion of several lands to their old services, vacancies had been reduced to 2½ virgates and 5½ cottages by 1358. (fn. 123) In 1361 they increased to nearly ten virgates. (fn. 124) Leasing now began on a larger scale, and vacancies were kept at about four virgates for the rest of the century and for the opening decades of the 15th century. Between 1421 and 1423 a determined and successful effort was made to eliminate even this deficit, (fn. 125) and vacancies were negligible for the remainder of the century.

The earliest custumal, drawn up in the early 13th century, does not list the individual tenants of the manor and their holdings. The Hundred Rolls give this information but, as suggested above, probably erroneously. The first reliable picture of the tenurial structure is that provided by a custumal compiled in 1416 or 1417. (fn. 126) There were at this date 11 customary virgaters, 3 customary half-virgaters, 6 tenants of composite holdings, and 16 leaseholders. The composite holdings consisted of two or more customary holdings or of customary holdings and leaseholds combined; each such holding amounted to more than 1 virgate. The tenants of these holdings should be distinguished from the ordinary virgaters, even when both held by customary tenure, for, unlike the virgaters, they had built up their holdings gradually, as opportunity offered. The customary virgaters, however, with one exception, held lands which had never been subdivided. Of the leaseholders, 1 held 2 virgates, 3 held 1 virgate each, 7 held halfvirgates, 1 held ¾ of a virgate, and the rest held cottages. Thus the peasant aristocracy at this date was to be found among the leaseholders and tenants of composite holdings. The next list of tenants was compiled in 1449 or 1450. (fn. 127) This is a rental and lists only the name of the tenants, their total holdings and the rent due. Three tenants held 2 virgates or more, 12 held between 1 and 2 virgates, 6 held 1 virgate, 5 held between ½ and 1 virgate, 1 held ½ virgate, and 7 held cottages or quarterlands. A century later, in 1561, there were at Launton 2 copyhold tenants holding 2 virgates or more, 11 holding between 1 and 2 virgates, 9 holding virgates, 6 holding between ½ and 1 virgate, and 5 holding less than ½ virgate. (fn. 128)

Of the prosperous peasant families in 15th-century Launton only one, the Cottisfords, permanently consolidated their position. Three members of this family farmed the demesne at different times in the 15th and early 16th centuries. (fn. 129) In 1448 a virgate and 2 half-virgates were granted at will to John Cottisford senior and to his son, John, and to the latter's wife, Joan. (fn. 130) In 1474 Richard and Agnes Cottisford secured copies in a messuage, curtilage and three quarterlands, a messuage and half-virgate, and a cottage, garden and 2 acres. (fn. 131) In 1561 Thomas Cottisford held copies in 3½ virgates, two cottages and a curtilage, and the freehold of another cottage. (fn. 132) In 1615 John Cottisford, generosus, surrendered the copy of 3 virgates, a half-acre, an orchard and some gardens. (fn. 133) The visitation of 1634 recorded the arms of John Cottisford, gentleman. (fn. 134) John left five sons and two daughters. The bequest of £300 to his second daughter, Mary, caused a protracted family dispute, settled by a Chancery decree of 1678 in favour of Mary. (fn. 135)

In the early 13th century the virgater at Launton owed 5s. rent a year, 1s. customary rent at Martinmas, and the following labour services: 9½ opera manualia (one day's work a month, morning to evening, from 29 September to 24 June), 3 days' ploughing without food, harrowing after the spring ploughing with fodder, 1 day's hoeing, 1 day's mowing with food, and 1 day's mowing without food, lifting, carrying, and stacking hay without food, carrying wood at Christmas, carrying a seam of oats or half a seam of wheat to Westminster in the summer. He was bound to find three men for each of three harvest boons without food, and three men for a fourth boon with food. He and his wife and a helper received a dish of meat or pulse, and cheese and ale at Michaelmas. (fn. 136) In 1416 the virgater owed 5s. rent a year, 1s. customary rent at Martinmas, and the following services: 3 days' ploughing with his own plough without food, harrowing at the winter and spring ploughing with two beasts and two harrows, without food but with fodder in spring, 9½ opera manualia, 1¼ summer works between 24 June and 1 August, carriage of one quarter of oats or half a quarter of hard corn to Westminster at Whitsun, with food provided, 1 day's hoeing, 2 days' mowing, 2 days' lifting hay, ½ day carrying hay and ½ day carrying corn with his own cart, carriage of food from Oxford or elsewhere when the abbot or any monk of Westminster visited Launton (with food provided). He was bound to provide three men for four weeks at the harvest season to perform reaping when required, without food. 'Medshep' of 3s. was paid to the customaries at the hay harvest. These works were valued at 4s. 7½d. a year. A half-virgater owed exactly half these services. (fn. 137)

The services of the customary tenant who was on a labour option thus altered very little in the 13th and 14th centuries. The introduction of summer works should be noted: this took place in the 13th century. These works were always sold, never exacted. After 1358 the customaries of Launton successfully denied their liability for them. (fn. 138) One important development is not shown by the custumals: although harvest works are stated to be 12 per virgate in 1220, the accounts show that the quota was only 8 per virgate in the later 13th century and until 1362; in this year the former quota of 12 per virgate was reimposed. (fn. 139)

In the early 13th century three cottagers owed rents of 1s. and 4 hens a year; six owed rents of 6d. a year and 2 hens. By 1335 each cottar also owed 1 day's hoeing, 3 days' lifting hay and 3 harvest works. (fn. 140) A quota of 4½ harvest works per cottage was reimposed after 1342. (fn. 141)

The total number of services available for the demesne when tenant land was in full occupation was a follows: 107¼ ploughing works, 71½ harrowing works, 339½ opera manualia, 44½ summer works, 35¾ carrying works, 43¾ hoeing works, 71½ mowing works, 95½ works for lifting hay, 18 for carrying hay, 18 for carrying corn, and 310 (after 1342, 337, and after 1362, 465) harvest works. (fn. 142) There were no losses through vacancies before 1349, and the only works lost were those allowed to the manorial staff holding service lands. In the period between 1267 (when the accounts begin) and 1349, all works due at the hay harvest and, with a few exceptions, all hoeing works and works due for carrying corn were used. All ploughing and harrowing works were used until 1340, when the sale of about a quarter of the former and of nearly half the latter began. It was usual to sell the summer works, the carrying works (after 1277), and the great majority of the opera manualia. Harvest works were fully exacted until 1335. After that date nearly all were sold for 2½d. each. Three works were required to reap 1 acre; ten bushels of wheat and 10 bushels of rye were allowed to the customaries in lieu of the one meal to which they were entitled. (fn. 143) The cost of reaping an acre by task labour between 1335 and 1349 was 5d. or 6d. (fn. 144)

By 1351 vacancies had caused the following losses: 43½ ploughing works, 29 harrowing works, 137¾ opera manualia, 19¾ summer works, 14½ carrying works, 15 hoeing works, 29 mowing works, 36 works lifting and 7¼ carrying hay, 6¼ works carrying corn, and 127½ harvest works. (fn. 145) Losses on approximately this scale were perpetuated by the terms on which leases of vacant lands were granted in the second half of the 14th century.

After 1349 the sale of summer and carrying works and the exaction of all available hoeing works and of works due at the hay harvest continued. Policy regarding the other works shows interesting changes. Sales of ploughing and harrowing works ceased in the decade after 1349, the number of defects being greater than the number of surplus works previously sold. Between 1359 and 1364 all, or the great majority, of both works were sold. By 1366 all available ploughing and harrowing works were being used again. Sales of opera manualia continued until 1363. For the next four years all or the great majority of these works were used for threshing corn. After 1367 sales were resumed. All harvest works were sold before 1351. After 1351 all were used. The cost of reaping an acre by task labour was now 9d. or 10d. (fn. 146)

From the point of view of the diminishing number of ordinary customary tenants at Launton the longterm effect of the Black Death was to restore the situation obtaining in the early 14th century before the sale of harvest works and of surplus ploughing works began. As far as manorial administration is concerned its main effect was to alter the proportion of the two great agricultural operations, sowing and harvest, performed respectively by customary labour and by hired labour (seasonal and permanent). Before 1349 two demesne ploughs were used and about 100 customary ploughing services each year. Between 1349 and 1352 the work was done by three demesne ploughs and about 60 services; after 1352 by two ploughs and the same number of services, except between 1359 and 1364, when all ploughing was done by the two demesne ploughs. No task labour was used for ploughing. In the decade before 1349 all reaping was done by task labour. (The famuli were employed for stacking and the later stages of the harvest.) For some twelve years after 1349 about half was done by customary labour and half by task labour. After 1362 the quota of harvest services was increased and the area of the arable demesne reduced; consequently, no task labour was required between 1366 and 1372, the last years of demesne exploitation.

In the early 14th century the total assessment for the subsidies of 1316 and 1327, when 49 and 54 people respectively were assessed in Launton, show that the place enjoyed a prosperity comparable with that of Islip or Kirtlington. (fn. 147) Its fixed tax assessment after 1334 confirms this view. (fn. 148) There are suggestions of depopulation in the 14th century. The first extant presentment of a fugitive serf was made in 1330. (fn. 149) Eleven fugitives were presented in 1334, and after this date three to five persons were usually presented each year as being fugitives or lawfully outside the manor. (fn. 150) The mortality rate during the Black Death was severe: 14½ virgates were still vacant in 1351; 10 virgates were vacant in 1361. (fn. 151) The poll-tax return of 1377 is missing. In 1416 there were 37 landholders, and in 1449, 34, compared with the unreliable list of 64 in the Hundred Rolls of 1279. (fn. 152) In the 16th century, 33 people were assessed for the subsidy of 1525, when only six other parishes in the hundred had a larger number. (fn. 153)

Small inclosures for pasture are found at Launton in the 14th century, but the first extensive inclosures were made in 1582. (fn. 154) The parliamentary inclosure, however, shows that inclosure for arable had made little progress before this date. At the inclosure in 1814 there remained about 1,650 acres of open field arable and waste, principally to the north of the village and along the Poundon road. There were about 1,080 acres of old inclosures, of which some 230 acres were redistributed under the award. The principal awards were to Lord Jersey, who received 724 acres in all for his freehold, leasehold, and copyhold estates, and to the rector, who received 312 acres apart from his 477 acres in lieu of glebe and tithes. There were five other awards of over 100 acres and five of over 30 acres. Twenty-six proprietors in all received awards; another 28—who had only cottages and small closes—received nothing. (fn. 155)

In 1760 there were two principal estates—those of Richard Oakley, lessee of the manor, assessed at £57 for the land tax, and of the rector, assessed at £26. Of the other estates, two were assessed at £16 and £14 respectively, and another nine at more than £5. In 1786 Lord Jersey's estate was assessed at £58, the rector's at £38; one other estate was assessed at more than £10 and seven were assessed at more than £5. The rector's estate was increased by the inclosure award, and was assessed at £48 in 1816. Lord Jersey's estate was assessed at £60 at this date, and six estates were assessed at £5 to £10. No significant change took place before 1832. (fn. 156)

In 1955 there were nine farms in Launton, most of them with between only 30 and 80 acres, although the largest, the Grange, comprised some 300 and Manor farm had over 200 acres. Mixed farming was practised and flocks of sheep, chiefly Border Leicesters, were kept on most of the farms. The chief crops were wheat, seeds, mangolds, kale, and potatoes. The produce was mainly sent to the markets at Banbury, Bicester, Oxford, and Thame. (fn. 157) There were about 1,730 acres of grassland and 1,123 acres of arable. (fn. 158)

In the 19th century there was a great increase in population. The Compton Census of 1676 had recorded 151 adults, (fn. 159) and by 1801 the total population had risen to 372. It was 706 in 1851, (fn. 160) and in the following year Bicester Board of Guardians sanctioned the payment of £32 for the emigration to Australia of poor persons from Launton. (fn. 161) The population continued to rise steadily until 1871, when, at 746, it was double the 1801 figure. It then declined to 458 in 1931, but by 1951 had risen to 550. (fn. 162)


There is documentary evidence for a church at Launton in 1157, (fn. 163) but it is probable that it existed about a hundred years earlier and that its advowson was given to Westminster Abbey with the manor by Edward the Confessor. It was certainly in the abbey's possession before 1213, by which date it had made the first known presentation. (fn. 164) The abbey retained possession of the advowson until it was dissolved in 1540. In 1534 the abbot and convent granted the next presentation to Sir Thomas Audley, the Lord Chancellor. (fn. 165) In 1542 the advowson was granted to the Abbot of Westminster, (fn. 166) and in 1554 to the Bishop of London, with whom it remained until 1852, when it was transferred to the Bishop of Oxford. (fn. 167) Throughout the Middle Ages the Abbot and Convent of Westminster claimed a pension of 2 marks a year from the Rector of Launton. The claim was allowed by the bishop in the 13th and 14th centuries, (fn. 168) but attempts to exact the pension caused much friction between the abbey and successive incumbents. (fn. 169) The pension was assigned to the almoner. (fn. 170) After the Dissolution it was separated from the advowson. In 1556 it was granted to the abbot and convent of the restored monastic foundation, and in 1560 to the dean and chapter of the collegiate church. (fn. 171)

The rectory was valued at £4 13s. 4d. in 1254, at £8 in 1291, and in 1535 its net value was £11 9s. 4d. (fn. 172) In 1601 the glebe consisted of about 200 acres, of which 18 lay in five closes allotted to the rector at the inclosure of common in 1582. (fn. 173) The living was a valuable one until the 19th century. The tithes were commuted for land, supposed to be equal to about a fifth of the arable and a ninth of the meadow and pasture, at the inclosure award of 1814. (fn. 174) The rector received 477 acres in lieu of tithes and glebe. (fn. 175) However, tithes continued to be paid on 91 acres of early inclosures consisting of meadow, pasture, and cottages, mostly in the south-west of the parish along the Bicester boundary, until 1850, when they were commuted for a rent charge of £52. (fn. 176)

The church of Bicester claimed certain rights over the church of Launton, and until the 15th century the latter was in the position of a chapel of ease, the parishioners of Launton being obliged to take their dead to Bicester for burial. In 1435, however, an agreement was made between the Prior and Convent of Bicester and the rector and parishioners of Launton whereby the latter were granted the right of sepulture in the church and churchyard of Launton, with all oblations, on condition of paying 1s. a year to the church of Bicester. (fn. 177) The Edwardian chantry certificate for Launton mentions an obit worth 1s. 8d. given by an unknown person. (fn. 178) This may be the obit founded by Thomas Cottisford in 1522. (fn. 179)

The first recorded institution—that of Master Simon de London in 1213—was made saving the perpetual vicarage of Henry de Colewell. (fn. 180) In 1214 a dispute between Simon and Henry was settled by papal judges delegate: Henry was granted the vicarage for life, saving 2 marks a year to be paid to Simon, and 16s. 8d. a year to be paid to the almoner at Westminster in Simon's name. (fn. 181)

Continuity was preserved in the religious changes of the 17th century by the incumbencies of two men of high church sympathies: Theodore Price (1609– 31), the Laudian sub-dean of Westminster, and Bishop Robert Skinner (1632–63). (fn. 182) In the 18th century the rectors were for the most part conscientious pastors. Philip Stubbs (1719–38) resided for only half the year, but employed a curate for the other half at 'the full rate of £40'. (fn. 183) Richard Browne (1750–79) was usually resident, (fn. 184) and his successor, W. F. Browne (1779–1837), prided himself on being but rarely absent. (fn. 185) Services were held twice each Sunday, but only one sermon was given. Prayers were said on Christmas Day and Good Friday, and the sacrament was administered five times a year (Christmas, the Sunday before Easter, Easter, Whitsun, and Michaelmas). (fn. 186) By 1831, however, there were only four administrations a year. (fn. 187) The number of communicants was given as 20 to 50 or more in 1759, 'decent' in 1768, 5 to 20 in 1805, and 6 to 20 in 1811. (fn. 188) With the institution of James Blomfield in 1838, the year of Queen Victoria's coronation, a 'new order of things' was begun. Sunday schools were opened; the schoolroom was built; the church repaired, and a decent order intro duced; church services were increased; a coal and clothing club and a lending library were started; allotments of land were made to the villagers; pastoral visiting became customary. All these innovations gradually led to an improvement in parish life. (fn. 189) In 1850 the Revd. T. W. Allies, who had been rector since 1842, resigned to enter the Church of Rome. (fn. 190)

The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN consists of a nave, chancel, north and south aisles, south porch, and western tower. (fn. 191)

A chapel is mentioned in 1157. (fn. 192) Aisles and a tower were added in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The tower and part of the south aisle survive in the present building and the foundations of a semicircular apse exist beneath the floor of the chancel. The church was enlarged in the 15th century, when the apse was replaced by a rectangular chancel. In the present building the chancel arch, the north and south walls of the chancel, the windows and the sedilia date from the 15th century, as do the north nave arcade, the east window of the south aisle, the truncated east window of the north aisle, the blocked doorway in the north aisle, and the porch. The clerestory was probably added at the same period.

The church was repaired during the incumbency of Henry Rowlands (1581–1600), afterwards Bishop of Bangor. Rowlands restored the clerestory in the nave, whitewashed the nave walls and filled the nave with open seats, put a pulpit and prayer-desk near the screen, put a new roof with a low lath and plaster roof in the chancel, destroyed the north vestry and inserted a doorway in the south side of the chancel. The clerestory, certain old timbers in the nave roof, the north and west windows of the north aisle, and the masonry of the south windows in the south aisle survive from this period. A stone on the south parapet commemorates a bequest by Rowlands of £9 6s. 8d. to the church. (fn. 193)

In the course of the 18th century a number of box pews were erected. The largest—belonging to the Ashby family—extended from the east wall of the north aisle to the first column of the nave arcade. A gallery was erected by the family in compensation for this encroachment. In the early 19th century the medieval screen was covered with lath and plaster and a doorway inserted. James Blomfield (rector 1838–42) removed the box pews from the chancel and the lath and plaster from the screen; subsequently, however, the latter was discarded. Blomfield's successor, Thomas Allies (1842–50), removed the gallery and the box pews in the nave, inserted oak pews, a prayer-desk, and a new stone altar. Major restorations were undertaken by James Charles Blomfield (1850–95) and William Miller (1895–1915). Blomfield at once restored the chancel, removed the ceiling, reinstated the upper portion of the east window, and presented new choir stalls, altar furniture, and a reredos. He also made a three-light window in the porch and filled it with fragments of medieval glass. (fn. 194) Flying buttresses were added to the tower in 1891 (architect R. Blomfield). (fn. 195) Miller restored the nave and aisle roofs, renewed the floors, built the organ loft, and installed a new chancel screen and pulpit (architect J. O. Scott). (fn. 196) The altar stone now in the Lady Chapel was discovered under the chancel floor and put in its present position by Dr. Burton (1915–24). Electric light was installed in the church between 1931 and 1939.

The plain octagonal font is medieval. (fn. 197) Most of the many monuments and memorial tablets are of recent date, but there is an early 16th-century brass in the east wall of the nave commemorating Sir Matthew Shaw, priest, 17th-century heraldic ledgers on the nave floor to the Oakley and Deeley families, and tablets on the south wall of the nave to the Jones and Deeley families. In the churchyard is the tomb of Lancelot Jackson, Rector of Bletchingdon (d. 1750/1). There was once a brass to Thomas Cottisford (d. 1522), who founded an obit in the church, his two wives, and twenty children, among them Master John Cottisford, rector 1535–40, and a brass inscription to Richard Glasier, priest. (fn. 198)

The church possesses a Laudian chalice with paten cover dated 1633 and some 18th-century silver and pewter. (fn. 199) In 1552 the church possessed two latten crosses, one silver chalice, and three tin cruets. (fn. 200) There is a ring of six bells. Four were cast in 1701 and a fifth in 1712 by the Chandler family. In 1552 there were three bells and a sanctus bell. A sanctus bell dated 1325 (fn. 201) is still in use. Notes scribbled on a custumal of the manor dated 1416–17, refer to the purchase of two bells weighing between them 12 cwt. 11 Ib., and to the existence of a third bell weighing about 3½ cwt. (fn. 202)

The early parish registers were destroyed by fire in 1716, but entries of baptisms from 1648, burials from 1681, and marriages from 1671 were later compiled from other sources by Philip Stubbs (rector 1719–38).

In the churchyard is the base and broken shaft of a medieval cross.


There has been little Roman Catholicism. Susanna, wife of William Ewer, was fined in 1592–3, (fn. 203) and in 1676 there was one papist. (fn. 204)

Although the rectors throughout the 18th century reported no dissent, in 1772 a Presbyterian meetinghouse was licensed. (fn. 205) Dissent was reported to have died out by about 1800, (fn. 206) but in 1806 another house was licensed, (fn. 207) and in 1807 a Presbyterian meetinghouse called 'Zion' was built in the west end of the village on land given by William Freeman. (fn. 208) Richard Fletcher, a Presbyterian minister from Bicester, used to hold services there on Sunday evenings, and the greater part of the parish, as well as many from Bicester and other villages, were said to attend, but, according to the rector, mainly from curiosity. (fn. 209) The occasion for an increase of dissent is alleged by William Ferguson, the extravagant historian of dissent in this district, to have been a demand for increased tithes by the rector, W. F. Browne. (fn. 210)

In 1850 an Independent chapel, but a successor to the Presbyterian one, was built by subscription on land given by a local farmer. (fn. 211) It was located nearer the centre of the village and was called 'Bethel'. (fn. 212) Ferguson, the minister, reported in 1855 a 'large' dissenting congregation with a day school and circulating library, (fn. 213) and the chapel had its own burial ground. In 1866 the rector reported about 100 professed dissenters. (fn. 214) 'Zion', which in the later 19th century was used as a school, (fn. 215) has disappeared; 'Bethel' is now a member of the North Buckinghamshire and North Oxfordshire Congregational Union and has 25 members. (fn. 216)

There were also a few Methodists. A house was licensed for them in 1822; (fn. 217) they were connected with the Bicester Methodists and for many years were on the Brackley Circuit. (fn. 218) By 1866 they were said to be almost extinct, (fn. 219) and services ceased in about 1895. (fn. 220)


In 1738 two boys from Launton were attending what was evidently the grammar school in Bicester: (fn. 221) the rector paid £2 a year, and had been supporting pupils in this way since about 1718. (fn. 222) In Launton itself, however, there was no endowed school (fn. 223) until John Henn (d. 1803) left £50 in trust for setting one up. (fn. 224) It was reported in 1808 that two or three poor women, supported by the interest on Henn's bequest, occasionally looked after labourers' children for 2d. or 3d. a week, and taught reading, the catechism, and lace-making. (fn. 225) Soon afterwards Lady Jersey (d. 1867) took over this dame school, which became known as 'Lady Jersey's Free School', although it is said that the children who attended it had to pay 6d a week. Some pupils received clothing from Lady Jersey. (fn. 226) In 1815 the school was attended by 56 boys and girls who were instructed on Lancaster's plan. (fn. 227) About 1826, when Lord Jersey sold his property in Launton, Lady Jersey is said to have withdrawn her support, and so caused the school to close. (fn. 228) But John Ashby, a trustee of Henn's bequest who died in 1827, left a further £50 for a school, (fn. 229) and by 1833 a day school, endowed with the £100 and further supported by £10 a year from Lady Jersey, had opened and had 15 pupils. In the same year 25 children were attending a fee-paying school. (fn. 230)

With the Henn and Ashby bequest, augmented by public subscription, a new school, Launton Church of England School, was built in 1838 at the instance of the rector, James Blomfield, and enlarged in 1846 at a total cost of about £450. The school was affiliated to the National Society in 1846; (fn. 231) had two teachers by 1852, when it was receiving an annual government grant of £15; (fn. 232) and a master and two mistresses in 1864, when there were three departments, boys, girls, and infants, in separate rooms. A master's house was built and the school improved in 1867 (fn. 233) and again enlarged both in 1872 (fn. 234) and 1896. (fn. 235) The number of pupils rose from 100 in 1871 (fn. 236) to 118 in 1887. (fn. 237) In 1906 there were 112 pupils in two departments, mixed and infants, and a staff of three. (fn. 238) After reorganization in 1928 senior pupils were sent to Bicester, and there were henceforth two departments, junior and infants and a staff of two. The school became controlled in 1951, and the number of pupils on the roll was 41 in 1937 and 61 in 1954. (fn. 239)

Launton Congregational Day School was estab lished in 1845 and was held at first in the old chapel Zion. (fn. 240) It was run on British School lines. (fn. 241) A new school, built in 1852 and enlarged in 1877, was erected on ground given by two local men, of whom one was Thomas Deeley. (fn. 242)


In 1786 it was stated that £14 given to the poor by an unknown benefactor had been spent on a house producing £1 1s. a year. (fn. 243) In 1824 it was reported that a cottage and garden called the Town House had been let for the benefit of the poor at a rent of £1 1s. 'at least as far back as 1759'. (fn. 244) The charity referred to was at least as old as the 16th century, however, for in 1575 a cottage and garden called the Town House were granted to trustees for the use of the inhabitants of Launton prout ab antiquo usitatum fuerit, at a rent of 8d. a year. It was described as the house 'next to the stone cross'. (fn. 245) In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the rent of £1 1s. was distributed to the poor, but after 1814 the cottage was occupied rent-free by poor widows. The Charity Commissioners recommended in 1824 that the rent should either be taken or paid by the parish and distributed as before, (fn. 246) but the charity had apparently lapsed by 1852. (fn. 247)

Henry Rowlands, Bishop of Bangor and sometime Rector of Launton, by will proved 1616, left £9 6s. 8d. to form a church stock for the benefit of the poor of Launton. This charity was said to have been lost in the time of the Civil War. (fn. 248)

In 1866 or 1867 Richard Wootten of Launton bequeathed £56 a year to be distributed in pensions of £14 a year for four old people. (fn. 249) Weekly payments of 8s. to seven old people were substituted about 1920, and were still being made in 1955. (fn. 250)


  • 1. O.S. Map 6", xvii, xxiii (1884); ibid. 2½", 42/52, 62 (1951).
  • 2. Census, 1881, 1951.
  • 3. G.S. Map 1", xlv SE.
  • 4. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1939); local inf.
  • 5. W. L. Steel, Hist. L.N.W.R. 185.
  • 6. P.N. Oxon. (E.P.N.S.), i. 228. Roman coins found to the north of the village are the only evidence for earlier occupation (V.C.H. Oxon. i. 340).
  • 7. See below, p. 239.
  • 8. Hearth Tax Oxon. 236 for 1662 tax.
  • 9. Ibid. 208.
  • 10. Davis, Oxon. Map.
  • 11. The 'greene' is mentioned in 1601 (Oxf. Archd. Oxon. c 141, p. 385). It is not marked on 19th-cent. maps and was presumably inclosed in 1814.
  • 12. Oxf. Dioc. d 553, d 556.
  • 13. Ibid. c 327, p. 300.
  • 14. Census, 1811, 1851, 1901.
  • 15. Dunkin, Oxon. i. 304.
  • 16. School minute bks.
  • 17. Inf. Mr. F. Sharpe, Launton.
  • 18. Inf. Ploughley R.D.C.
  • 19. O.S. Map 25", xxiii (1881).
  • 20. Bodl. dep. b 63.
  • 21. Walker Rev. 12.
  • 22. Hearth Tax Oxon. 208.
  • 23. Bodl. dep. b 63, f. 158b. The registers were lost in this fire (Par. Coll. ii. 197).
  • 24. Dunkin, Oxon. i. 303–4.
  • 25. Oxf. Dioc. c 449, f. 4. For an illustration see plate facing p. 241.
  • 26. Oxf. Dioc. b 70, f. 459.
  • 27. Details of the work done by him over and above the contract are attached to Bodl. dep. b 63.
  • 28. Inf. Mr. F. Sharpe.
  • 29. O.R.O. Victlrs.' recog.
  • 30. Inf. Mr. F. Sharpe.
  • 31. Davis, Oxon Map.
  • 32. Oxf. Dioc. d 553.
  • 33. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. c 141, p. 387.
  • 34. Inf. Mr. F. Sharpe.
  • 35. Walker Rev. 12. For him see also D.N.B.
  • 36. D.N.B.
  • 37. Foster, Alumni; for James Blomfield see below, pp. 240, 241.
  • 38. Par. Coll. ii. 198; MS. Top. Oxon. c 49, f. 107.
  • 39. Dunkin, Oxon. i. 316. The church formerly contained memorials to Samuel Oakeley, gent. (d. 1638), and Richard Oakeley, esq. (d. 1653) (Par. Coll. ii. 198).
  • 40. Dunkin, Oxon. i. 316.
  • 41. Dugd. Mon. i. 293–5; Westminster Domesday, ff. 43b– 45b; R. Widmore, Enq. into Time of 1st Foundation of Westm. Abbey (1743), App. 2.
  • 42. Anglo-Saxon Writs, ed. Florence Harmer, p. 360.
  • 43. Ibid. pp. 323–4.
  • 44. V.C.H. Oxon. i. 400.
  • 45. H. Ellis, General Introduction to Domesday Book (1833), i. 304 n.
  • 46. Westm. Domesday, f. 629.
  • 47. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xv, p. 24.
  • 48. Ibid. xvii, p. 392.
  • 49. Cal. Pat. 1555–7, 349.
  • 50. Westm. Abbey Reg. Bk. iv, ff. 17–17 b.
  • 51. Cal. Pat. 1558–60, 397.
  • 52. Acts and Ords. of Interr. ed. Firth and Rait, i. 803–5.
  • 53. Westminster Abbey Muniments (henceforth cited as W.A.M.) 15756.
  • 54. Ibid. 15751, 15755; see also 15753.
  • 55. Acts and Ords. of Interr. ii. 81–104.
  • 56. Ibid. 261.
  • 57. Lond. Gaz. 24 Feb. 1860.
  • 58. Reg. Bk. x, ff. 198–201; Bodl. dep. b 63, 102–4. See also Cal. Chan. Proc. (Rec. Com.), i. 279.
  • 59. Reg. Bk. ii, f. 225b.
  • 60. Ibid. iii, ff. 5–6.
  • 61. Ibid. vi, ff. 170b–172b.
  • 62. Ibid. viii, ff. 37–40. The terms of this lease are common to many of the leases. Hereafter they are indicated by an asterisk only.
  • 63. Ibid. ff. 101–3.
  • 64. Ibid. x, ff. 192–4. This lease was part of the settlement of the lawsuit arising from the previous lease.
  • 65. Ibid. xi, ff. 311–14.
  • 66. Ibid. xii, ff. 90b–94.
  • 67. W.A.M. 15747, 15753.
  • 68. Reg. Bk. xvii, ff. 59b–62b; xix, ff. 147b–150b; xxi, ff. 254–256b; xxiv, ff. 233b–236; xxvi, ff. 64b–67; xxxvi, ff. 119–121b; xxxviii, ff. 180–183b; xliii, ff. 71–76; xliv, ff. 340–346b; lvii, ff. 212–14b; lx, ff. 179b–182b.
  • 69. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 45.
  • 70. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 416.
  • 71. W.A.M. 15346–7; Westm. Abbey, Recent Chapter Office (henceforth cited as R.C.O.), Launton box 1.
  • 72. W.A.M. 15549.
  • 73. Ibid. 15498.
  • 74. Ibid. 15728.
  • 75. R.C.O. Launton box 1.
  • 76. Field orders 1726 (ibid.).
  • 77. W.A.M. 33246, f. 125; R.C.O. Launton box 1 (field orders 1726); ibid. box 2.
  • 78. W.A.M. 15345–7.
  • 79. Ibid. 15728.
  • 80. Bodl. dep. b 63, f. 101b.
  • 81. W.A.M. 15690; see also 15422.
  • 82. W.A.M. 15692.
  • 83. Ibid. 15435.
  • 84. Ibid. 15441.
  • 85. Ibid. 15427, 15431, 15457.
  • 86. Ibid. 15423; see above, p. 149.
  • 87. W.A.M. 15533, 15548.
  • 88. Ibid. 15728.
  • 89. Field orders 1726 (R.C.O. Launton box 1).
  • 90. Ibid. 15428.
  • 91. Ibid. 15449.
  • 92. Ibid, 15446.
  • 93. Ibid. 15429. At the next court Agnes was allowed to surrender her lands to the use of her daughter.
  • 94. Ibid. 15421, 15428.
  • 95. Ibid. 15457–8.
  • 96. Ibid. 9287.
  • 97. Ibid. 15466.
  • 98. Ibid. 9287.
  • 99. Ibid. 15424.
  • 100. Ibid. 15448.
  • 101. Westm. Domesday, f. 277.
  • 102. Ibid. 15728.
  • 103. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 832.
  • 104. W.A.M. 15728.
  • 105. Ibid. 15336–69.
  • 106. Ibid. 15286–335.
  • 107. W.A.M. 15369.
  • 108. Ibid. 15376.
  • 109. Ibid. 15402, 15408.
  • 110. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 832.
  • 111. W.A.M. 15420.
  • 112. Ibid. 15421.
  • 113. Ibid. 15428.
  • 114. Ibid. 15433.
  • 115. Ibid. 15346.
  • 116. Ibid. 15716.
  • 117. Ibid. 15538.
  • 118. Ibid. 9287.
  • 119. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 832. See W.A.M. 15291 sqq.
  • 120. W.A.M. 15339.
  • 121. Ibid. 15716.
  • 122. Ibid. 15345.
  • 123. Ibid. 15355.
  • 124. Ibid. 15358.
  • 125. Ibid. 15406–8, 15481–2.
  • 126. W.A.M. 15716.
  • 127. Ibid. 15717.
  • 128. Ibid. 15722.
  • 129. Ibid. 15410–15.
  • 130. Ibid. 15510.
  • 131. Ibid. 15523.
  • 132. Ibid. 15722.
  • 133. Ibid. 15583.
  • 134. Oxon. Visit. 284.
  • 135. C 78/1759/9.
  • 136. W.A.M. 9287.
  • 137. Ibid, 15716, supplemented by works accounts (ibid. 15339 sqq.).
  • 138. Ibid. 15359–60.
  • 139. Ibid. 15358.
  • 140. Ibid, 15340.
  • 141. Ibid. 15342–3.
  • 142. Ibid. 15340. The following paragraphs on labour services are based on ibid. 15286–369.
  • 143. W.A.M. 15338.
  • 144. Ibid. 15340–4.
  • 145. Ibid. 15345.
  • 146. Ibid. 15348–50.
  • 147. E 179/161/8, 9.
  • 148. E 164/7.
  • 149. W.A.M. 15430.
  • 150. Ibid. 15433.
  • 151. Ibid. 15345, 15357.
  • 152. Ibid. 15716–17; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 832.
  • 153. E 179/161/176.
  • 154. See above, p. 235.
  • 155. O.R.O. Incl. award and map; cf. Davis, Oxon. Map (1797).
  • 156. O.R.O. Land tax assess.
  • 157. Inf. Miss G. Freeman.
  • 158. Inf. Oxon. Agric. Executive Cttee.
  • 159. Compton Census.
  • 160. Census, 1801, 1851.
  • 161. Bicester U.D.C. office: Bd. of Guardians min. bk. 1851–3, pp. 138, 147.
  • 162. Census, 1861–1951.
  • 163. See below.
  • 164. W.A.M. 15683.
  • 165. Reg. Bk. ii, f. 292.
  • 166. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xvi, p. 244.
  • 167. Cal. Pat. 1553–4, 120; Lond. Gaz. 4 June 1852.
  • 168. Westm. Domesday, f. 646; see also ibid. ff. 644–644b.
  • 169. W.A.M. 15686–7, 15689, 15698, 15703.
  • 170. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 413.
  • 171. Cal. Pat. 1555–7, 352; 1558–60, 401.
  • 172. Lunt, Val. Norw. 311; Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 31; Valor Eccl. ii. 162.
  • 173. Oxf. Archd. Oxon. c 141, pp. 385–92.
  • 174. Cf. above, p. 239.
  • 175. 50 Geo. III, c. 89 (priv. act); O.R.O. Incl. award.
  • 176. Bodl. Tithe award.
  • 177. Kennett, Paroch. Antiq. ii. 321; Dunkin, Oxon. i. 309, citing Linc. Reg. Gray, f. 174. Cf. above, p. 40.
  • 178. Chant. Cert. 37.
  • 179. Dunkin, Oxon. i. 306.
  • 180. W.A.M. 15683.
  • 181. Ibid. 15684. The payment to the almoner was evidently part of the pension due from the rector.
  • 182. For Price see D.N.B.; for Skinner see above, p. 233.
  • 183. Oxf. Dioc. d 553.
  • 184. Ibid. d 556, d 559, d 562.
  • 185. Ibid. d 572.
  • 186. Ibid. d 553, d 556, d 559, d 562, d 568, d 570, d 572.
  • 187. Ibid. b 31.
  • 188. Ibid. d 556, d 559, d 568, d 572.
  • 189. Bodl. dep. b 63: Blo. MS. Hist. Launton, f. 181.
  • 190. H. J. Buxton and F. Sharpe, Handbook to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Launton (1952), 2, 6.
  • 191. For accounts of the church see ibid., and Bodl. dep. b 63.
  • 192. Westm. Domesday, f. 5.
  • 193. Oxf. Dioc. d 553 and inscription on stone on outside wall of church. Dunkin (Oxon. i. 307) wrongly gives the bequest as £17 6s. 8d.
  • 194. There are drawings by J. Buckler of the church before restoration from NW. and SE. (1824) in MS. Top. Oxon. a 67, ff. 365–6. For the last see plate opposite. There is a view from NE. (1820) in MS. Top. Oxon. b 220, f. 177.
  • 195. Clarke MS.
  • 196. Ibid.
  • 197. Buckler drawing in MS. Top. Oxon. a 67, f. 364.
  • 198. For list of inscriptions once there and blazons and tricks of arms see Bodl. G.A. Oxon. 16° 217, pp. 178–9; ibid. 4° 686, p. 198; ibid. 4° 688, p. 198; Bodl. 2194 c 15, f. 277.
  • 199. Evans, Ch. Plate.
  • 200. Chant. Cert. 83.
  • 201. Ch. Bells Oxon. ii. 195–6.
  • 202. Ibid. 196; W.A.M. 15716.
  • 203. C.R.S. xviii. 258.
  • 204. Compton Census.
  • 205. Oxf. Dioc. c 644, f. 12.
  • 206. Ibid. c 327, p. 300.
  • 207. Ibid. c 644, f. 89.
  • 208. Oxf. Dioc. c 644, f. 90; Wing, Annals, 93.
  • 209. Oxf. Dioc. d 570.
  • 210. W. Ferguson, Facts Three Hundred Years Ago and Facts Now: or the Trials and Triumphs of Nonconformists (priv. printed, Oxford 1855), 33.
  • 211. Gardner, Dir. Oxon.
  • 212. Wing, Annals, 93.
  • 213. Ferguson, op. cit. 35.
  • 214. Oxf. Dioc. c 332.
  • 215. Wing, Annals, 93.
  • 216. Congregational Yearbook 1955, 113.
  • 217. Oxf. Dioc. c 644, f. 262. Another house was licensed in 1832: ibid. c 645, f. 200.
  • 218. Brackley Circuit Plans, 1833, 1851.
  • 219. Oxf. Dioc. c 332.
  • 220. Inf. Revd. A. S. Valle, Bicester.
  • 221. See above, p. 51.
  • 222. Oxf. Dioc. d 553.
  • 223. e.g. ibid. d 556, d 559.
  • 224. Bodl. dep. b 63, f. 192b; Wing, Annals, 92.
  • 225. Oxf. Dioc. d 707.
  • 226. Wing, Annals, 92.
  • 227. Oxf. Dioc. c 433; cf. Educ. of Poor, 726.
  • 228. Bodl. dep. b 63, f. 201.
  • 229. Ibid.; Wing, Annals, 92.
  • 230. Educ. Enq. Abstract, 749.
  • 231. Bodl. dep. b 63, f. 202; Wing, Annals, 92; Vol. Sch. Ret.
  • 232. Gardner, Dir. Oxon.
  • 233. Bodl. dep. b 63, f. 202.
  • 234. Ibid.
  • 235. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1903).
  • 236. Elem. Educ. Ret.
  • 237. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1887); cf. Ret. of Sch.
  • 238. Vol. Sch. Ret.; List of Sch.
  • 239. Inf. Oxon. Educ. Cttee.
  • 240. Wing, Annals, 93.
  • 241. Gardner, Dir. Oxon.
  • 242. Wing, Annals, 93; see above, p. 234.
  • 243. Char. Don. ii. 990.
  • 244. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 307.
  • 245. W.A.M. 15555; see also ibid. 15575, 15588.
  • 246. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 307.
  • 247. Gardner, Dir. Oxon.
  • 248. Oxf. Dioc. d 553, d 556.
  • 249. Wing, Annals, 93; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1887).
  • 250. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1920); inf. the Revd. E. S. Tarrant.