A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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This long and narrow parish of 2,308 acres lies two miles north-east of Bicester. (fn. 1) The old parish, which does not appear to have been created until the mid15th century, (fn. 2) probably only covered a little over 2,000 acres, as a part of Stratton village and its open fields belonged to Caversfield parish, and so to the county of Buckinghamshire. (fn. 3) At the inclosure of 1780, as compensation for the loss of its scattered strips, Caversfield was assigned two pieces of ground covering 220 acres on the southern boundary of Stratton. (fn. 4) In 1844 these two enclaves were transferred to Oxfordshire (fn. 5) and they were added to the civil parish of Stratton Audley, increasing its area to 2,308 acres. (fn. 6)
The Roman road from Alchester to Towcester (fn. 7) bounds the parish on the north-west; the Birne, a tributary of the Ouse, on the north-east, while in the south much of the ancient and modern boundaries follow small feeders of the River Ray. The ground rises northwards from about 250 feet to its highest point of 378 feet on Fringford Hill and then falls to 300 feet on the northern boundary.
There was no woodland in 1797 and only some small plantations in 1951. (fn. 8) The village and most of the parish lie on the Cornbrash, bounded on the east by the Oxford Clay. (fn. 9) There have been stonepits on the Cornbrash since the 14th century at least. (fn. 10)
Before the inclosure of 1780 there were only two roads in the parish: the main road from Bicester to Buckingham along the western boundary of the parish, and the road through the village and past the mill to Buckingham, which was only a 'field road'. (fn. 11) The inclosure act ordered the latter to be improved and two new roads to be staked out: one to Bicester and one to Launton Gate. (fn. 12)
The village lies close to the western boundary of the parish, half a mile from the Roman 'street' which gave it its first name. (fn. 13) In the 13th century Stratton acquired the suffix Audley after the family that held the manor. (fn. 14) Until the 19th century the village was remarkable for being divided between two counties: in the Middle Ages the part of it which belonged to the Gargate manor of Caversfield had been attached to Caversfield parish. (fn. 15) Hence in 1242 six inhabitants of Stratton were parishioners of Caversfield, (fn. 16) and in 1755 fourteen houses were said to be in the Caversfield part of Stratton. (fn. 17) Nineteenth-century evidence shows that these lay on the east side of the main village street and included the Plough Inn. (fn. 18)
The village was as comparatively large one in the Middle Ages (fn. 19) and 17th-century evidence indicates that it was still well populated. It had 41 houses listed for the hearth tax of 1662 and there was an unusual number of substantial gentlemen's or farmers' houses. In 1665 three were taxed on 5 to 7 hearths each, and five on 3 or 4 hearths. The Rectory with 12 hearths was the largest house in the village; the Vicarage with 2 was a comparatively mean house. (fn. 20) In the 18th century there were said to be 50 to 60 houses, of which 5 in 1774 were noted as farmhouses. (fn. 21) This estimate is surprisingly close to the official return of 1811 with its 60 houses. There was much building after 1851, and although the population had declined by 1901, there were still 80 inhabited houses. (fn. 22) The village has increased little in size in the 20th century: only six council houses were built between 1945 and 1954. (fn. 23)
Stratton is shaped like the letter H with most of its houses scattered along two parallel streets, connected by a road that passes the church and manorhouse, lying on either side and forming the village's natural centre. South-east of the church in a meadow called Court Close, which lies in the bend of a stream, is the site of the Audleys' medieval castle, (fn. 24) now destroyed. It was to repair this building that James Audley was granted oak from Brill forest in 1263, and it was here that his widow was living in 1274. (fn. 25) The castle was inclosed by a rectangular moat which may be on the site of an earlier Romano-British inclosure. (fn. 26) The angles of the castle's foundations were excavated about 1870. (fn. 27) Near by on the village street were the stocks and the pound. (fn. 28) The Plough Inn, which still survives, was recorded in 1784 and may well be one of the two alehouses licensed in 1735. (fn. 29) The 'Red Lion', now at the west end of the village, was in existence in 1851, but the name at least is comparatively new as in 1784 Stratton's second inn was called the 'Mill Stone'. (fn. 30) Several important additions were made to the village in the 19th century: the school had been built by 1837; (fn. 31) a new 'handsome white brick' parsonage had been recently erected in 1852; the old rectory had been converted into a hunting-box by T. Tyrwhitt-Drake, (fn. 32) and by 1880 the house and stables had been still further enlarged. It was known as Stratton Audley Hall. (fn. 33) To the south of it were and still are (1956) the kennels and exercising-grounds of the Bicester and Warden Hill Pack. The village has a shop and post office.
In the north of Stratton are two large fishponds connected by sluices; near them are traces of excavations made early in the 19th century by Sir John Borlase Warren, Bt., in the vain hope of finding coal. (fn. 34)
The oldest house in the village is the manorhouse. It retains a 16th-century block on the west corner, the rest of the house having been repaired and enlarged in 1878 and again modernized and rebuilt early in the present century. The ancient west range is known as the 'Court Room' and was probably built by John Borlase in about 1545. (fn. 35) It has walls of coursed rubble (2 ft. 3 in. thick). The first-floor room is lined with early 17th-century panelling and has a contemporary plaster cornice of enriched vineleaf design. The moulded 16th-century ceiling beams remain but the plaster ceiling is modern. In this room was found a stone achievement of the Royal Stuart arms probably inserted by Sir John Borlase on his return to the house in 1672; it is now set in the east wall of the room below. Reset in the modern north porch is a shield of carved stone bearing the arms of Audley. In the 18th century the mansionhouse and gardens covered 52½ acres. (fn. 36)
The houses of West farm, Elms farm, and Manor farm lie in the village, but those of Oldfields farm and Pool farm, built in 1871, are outside. So also is Stratton Audley Park, built in 1860 for the banking family of Glen. (fn. 37) The mill lies in the extreme north of the parish on the Buckinghamshire border: there is no mention of a mill in Domesday Book, but there was probably one on this site by 1279 at least, when a miller was recorded among the tenants of the manor. (fn. 38)
The parish is notable for various incidents which occurred during the Civil War in the 17th century; for its association with fox-hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries; and for the modern R.A.F. dormitory site, a dependant of the R.A.F. station at Bicester. (fn. 39)
During the Civil War Mainwaring's Red Regiment was quartered at Stratton in 1643; (fn. 40) troop movements were recorded in the parish in the following year when the king's forces were quartered in the village, (fn. 41) and in 1645 the parliamentarian Captain Abercromby was defeated and fatally wounded in a skirmish near it. (fn. 42) It is possible that the small circular earthwork lying north-east of the village and known as 'Stuttle's Bank', which has been thought to be some kind of military or defensive work, belongs to this period. (fn. 43)
Stratton became the centre of the Bicester and Warden Hill Hunt when T. Tyrhwitt-Drake lived there and built the Stratton Audley kennels. He was Master for most of the period 1851 to 1866, and between 1872 and 1893 two other well-known Masters, Viscount Valentia and Lord Chesham, successively rented Stratton Audley Hall. (fn. 44)
Like many other Oxfordshire villages, Stratton had its team of Morris dancers until at least 1860. (fn. 45)
Robert d'Oilly held 5 hides in STRATTON at the time of the Domesday survey, (fn. 46) possibly, as in many other estates, as the successor of Wigod of Wallingford. Stratton was among those fees of D'Oilly which later formed part of the honor of Wallingford, perhaps passing to Miles Crispin on his marriage to Robert d'Oilly's daughter. (fn. 47) The overlordship of the manor followed the descent of the honor of Wallingford and was in turn merged in the Earldom and the Royal Duchy of Cornwall, (fn. 48) and later in the honor of Ewelme. (fn. 49)
In 1086 Robert d'Oilly's tenant at Stratton was Alward, (fn. 50) who was succeeded by Gilbert Basset, possibly the brother of Ralph Basset the justiciar. (fn. 51) Gilbert, who held 7 fees of the honor of Wallingford, was in possession of Stratton by 1109. (fn. 52) On his death in about 1154 his son Thomas succeeded. Thomas was Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1163–4 and died in 1180, when Stratton passed to his eldest son Gilbert, (fn. 53) the founder of Bicester Priory. (fn. 54) Gilbert's only daughter Eustachia married firstly Thomas de Verdun, lord of Hethe, (fn. 55) and secondly Richard, son of Gerard de Camville of Middleton Stoney and Godington. (fn. 56) Gilbert Basset died in 1205, and in the following year Richard succeeded to his wife's considerable inheritance, including Stratton. (fn. 57) In 1215 he succeeded to his father's estates, (fn. 58) but died in 1216 or soon afterwards. (fn. 59) William, Earl of Salisbury, had obtained from the king the wardship of Richard's daughter and heiress Idoine, (fn. 60) and she was subsequently married to his son William, who received her inheritance in 1226. (fn. 61)
In 1244 William and Idoine gave the manor in marriage to their daughter Ela and her husband James Audley. (fn. 62) A mesne lordship was thus created which descended after William's death in 1250 to his son William (d. 1257) and then to his granddaughter Margaret and her husband Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. (fn. 63) On Henry's death in 1311 it passed to his daughter Alice, Countess of Lincoln and Salisbury. (fn. 64) Stratton Audley was then accounted to be ⅓ knight's fee, the whole fee being made up by Bicester and Wretchwick. (fn. 65) Alice de Lacy died in 1348 leaving part of her possessions, including Bicester, to Roger Lestrange, Lord Strange, nephew and heir of her second husband Sir Ebles Lestrange, (fn. 66) and Roger's descendants claimed that Stratton was held of them as of their manor of Bicester. (fn. 67) In 1460, however, Stratton was said to be held of the king in chief. (fn. 68)
James Audley received a grant of free warren in Stratton in 1252 (fn. 69) and held the manor until his death in 1272. (fn. 70) In 1273 his widow Ela settled Stratton upon her fifth and youngest son Hugh Audley, who was lord of the manor in 1279. (fn. 71) He later took part in the Scottish and French wars of Edward I, (fn. 72) was summoned to Parliament in 1321, joined in Thomas of Lancaster's rebellion in 1322, but surrendered before the battle of Boroughbridge. He died while a prisoner in Wallingford castle, (fn. 73) probably early in 1326. (fn. 74) Stratton Audley, as the manor was now called, was then in the king's hands, but was restored to James, son of Hugh Audley, in 1327. (fn. 75) In 1330 James Audley with Eva, described as his wife, made a settlement of the manor by fine. (fn. 76) Eva was mistress of James Audley, having been already twice married, firstly to Thomas Audley, James's first cousin, and secondly to Sir Thomas de Ufford, who died in 1314. The irregularity of their union may have been due to some difficulty in obtaining a dispensation on account of their blood relationship, or to a wish to avoid the heavy fine Eva would have to pay on marriage. (fn. 77) The settlement of the manor in 1330 mentions James and Peter their sons, and Katherine, Anne, and Hawise their daughters. James Audley died without legitimate issue in 1334, (fn. 78) and Stratton did not descend to either of his sons but passed to his younger brother and legal heir Hugh Audley, who certainly held the manor in 1335, when various persons were accused of breaking into his house at Stratton Audley, assaulting his servants and carrying away his goods there. (fn. 79)
In 1337 he was created Earl of Gloucester. (fn. 80) Two years later Stratton Audley manor was the security for a debt of 1,000 marks, which Hugh owed a London vintner. (fn. 81) On Hugh's death in 1347 the Audley lands passed to his daughter Margaret, wife of Ralph, Lord Stafford, but she was dead by 1351. Her husband, who was created Earl of Stafford in 1351, survived until 1372, but it is likely that Stratton had already passed to his son Hugh as Margaret's heir. (fn. 82) Hugh married Philippa, daughter of Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and died in 1386, leaving at least four surviving sons, all under age. In 1387 a number of trustees, headed by the Earl of Warwick, was granted the issues of Stratton, (fn. 83) which later seems to have been settled upon Hugh's youngest son (fn. 84) Hugh, who died in possession in 1420, and was succeeded by his nephew Humphrey, Earl of Stafford. (fn. 85)
In 1426 Humphrey granted the manor to a group of no less than sixteen feoffees, (fn. 86) but he evidently retained at his death in 1460 rights of overlordship, (fn. 87) which descended to his great-grandson Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who was executed for high treason in 1521, (fn. 88) and to Edward's son Henry, Lord Stafford. (fn. 89) By 1460 only two of the original feoffees of the manor were still alive, (fn. 90) one of whom was Henry Bourchier, the cousin and heir of Elizabeth, Lady Bourchier, widow of Hugh Stafford (d. 1420). (fn. 91) Though the history of the manor is uncertain during the period of the Wars of the Roses, it clearly remained in the Bourchier family, for in 1517 the lord or perhaps the lessee of the manor was a great-nephew of Henry Bourchier, (fn. 92) John Bourchier, Lord Berners, (fn. 93) who received a formal grant of Stratton from Henry VIII in 1528. Four years later Henry, Lord Stafford, made over his interest in the manor. (fn. 94) Lord Berners died in 1533, and by 1542 Stratton had been alienated by his daughter Jane and was in the possession of Sir John Baldwin. (fn. 95)
Sir John died in 1545 leaving as coheirs his grandsons John Borlase and Sir Thomas Pakington. (fn. 96) The latter gave up his half-share of the manor to John Borlase in 1551, (fn. 97) and the Borlase family continued to hold Stratton for more than two centuries. They were, however, more intimately concerned with Buckinghamshire than with Oxfordshire affairs. (fn. 98) John Borlase died in 1593, having settled Stratton upon his wife Anne, and was succeeded by his son William, (fn. 99) to whom the manor had reverted by 1616. (fn. 100) William died in 1629, (fn. 101) and his son William in 1630. (fn. 102) The younger William's son John came of age in 1640, and was created a baronet in 1642. (fn. 103) He was one of those Members of Parliament who joined the king at Oxford in 1643. All his estates, presumably including Stratton Audley, were sequestrated by the Parliament, but by the end of 1645 he had taken the Covenant, and he finally compounded for his delinquency in 1647. (fn. 104) His son, another Sir John, lived at Stratton Audley and was buried there in 1689. (fn. 105)
The Borlase estates then passed to Sir John's sister Anne, wife of Arthur Warren of Stapleton (Notts.). She died in 1703, but her son Borlase Warren seems to have held Stratton by 1701. (fn. 106) Borlase Warren (d. 1747) was succeeded by John Borlase Warren, (d. 1763) and Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, (fn. 107) the distinguished naval officer. (fn. 108) Sir John died at Stratton Audley in 1822, (fn. 109) and his estates passed to his surviving daughter Frances Maria, wife of George Sedley Vernon. (fn. 110) Stratton, however, remained in the hands of the trustees of Sir John's will until at least 1850. (fn. 111) It was purchased by 1864 by George Glen, and after his death in 1885 it again passed to trustees. (fn. 112) Colonel George Gosling, who purchased Stratton Audley Park in 1889, had acquired the manorial rights by 1903. He was succeeded in 1915 by his son Major George Edward Gosling, who died in 1938. (fn. 113) In 1939 Major Gosling's widow was lady of the manor. (fn. 114)
Part of Stratton Audley was held with the neghbouring manor of Caversfield of the honor of Warenne, and like Caversfield was probably held after the Conquest by Brien or Brienz, who was also William de Warenne's tenant at Gatehampton. (fn. 115) Until the early 14th century the overlordship of this estate followed the descent of the Earldom of Surrey, but by 1317 it had passed to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke. After the earl's death in 1324 it first passed to his niece Joan, Countess of Athol, and her descendants, and then after 1357 to the heirs of his eldest sister Isabel. (fn. 116)
In the 12th century the tenants of the earls of Surrey were the Gargates, whose pedigree has not been completely worked out, although it is clear that they were the same family that held Warmington (Northants). Robert Gargate occurs about 1160, and he was probably succeeded by his elder son Roger. Roger's son Hugh succeeded by about 1189, and died between 1216 and 1220. (fn. 117) Hugh's widow Sybil was said in 1243 to hold ¼ fee in Stratton, (fn. 118) but the estate had already been alienated by Hugh's daughters and coheiresses, Muriel, widow of William de Ros, and Isabel, wife of Gerard de Munbury, who in about 1233 gave their shares of Stratton (described in 1279 as 1½ virgate, enough for the maintenance of three canons) together with half of Caversfield to Bicester Priory. (fn. 119) Another virgate appears to have been given by Robert Gargate, (fn. 120) probably the younger brother of Roger.
Bicester already had an estate in Stratton, given it by Gilbert Basset, the founder of the priory. When he gave the chapel in the 1180's (fn. 121) it was already endowed with a virgate of land and he added another. (fn. 122) By 1279 the priory held 8½ virgates in Stratton, including the chapel's 2 virgates and the 2½ of the Gargates. (fn. 123) The land formed one estate known as the RECTORY MANOR. Sometimes the priory leased it; sometimes it administered it directly. (fn. 124) In 1536 the priory was suppressed, and in 1542 the manor was granted to Christ Church, Oxford. (fn. 125)
Christ Church leased the estate along with the tithes. After 1555–6, when the rectory estate was reconstituted, it consisted of 5½ yardlands or 314 acres, and was the only land in the parish not belonging to the manor. (fn. 126) It was known as Manor farm, and with it went the house called the Parsonage House. The property was usually leased by the same family for many years. The original 16th-century rent of £17 6s. 8d. remained unchanged until the late 19th century, but the great rise in land values in the 18th century is reflected in the size of the fine paid on the renewal of the lease. It was £130 in 1765, £250 in 1779, £517 in 1807, £1,519 in 1815, and £1,025 in 1835. (fn. 127)
In 1535 the lease was held by Thomas Denton of Hillesden (Bucks.), a prominent Buckinghamshire man, and it continued in his family at least until 1596, when Margaret Denton, a widow, left it to her nephew Thomas. (fn. 128) In the first half of the 17th century it was held by the Chamberlayne family, who probably rented the manor-house. (fn. 129) Edward Chamberlayne's estate was sequestered around 1650. In 1661 a new lease was given to Edward Bush. (fn. 130) He was to pay the curate, give him a room, repair the chancel, give the inhabitants such entertainment as had been usual, and entertain the chapter of Christ Church, if it did not exceed ten persons with ten horses, once a year for two days and three nights. (fn. 131) Later, in 1673, he mortgaged the estate for £1,300 to Jasper Scoles of Wroughton (Wilts.), who took possession. (fn. 132) Twenty years later the mortgagee was involved in a long Chancery suit with Bush's son Edmund, one of his complaints being that the Bushes had pulled down part of the Rectory House and used the material to build another house outside the college property. (fn. 133) The Bush family held the rectory intermittently for a hundred years. (fn. 134) In 1779 Richard Arnold, the steward of Sir John Borlase Warren, took the lease, and he also heavily mortgaged the property. (fn. 135) From 1815 it was held by John Perry, a London builder, and his family. (fn. 136)
In 1780, by the inclosure award, Christ Church was allotted 217 acres for its 5½ yardlands, (fn. 137) and in 1865 the estate, which had been increased by 251 acres, awarded for tithes at inclosure, was divided into two farms: West farm (223 a.) and East or Manor farm (249 a.). They were sold in 1939 and 1952 respectively. (fn. 138)
By 1279 Cirencester Abbey had obtained a small estate of 1½ virgate. (fn. 139) It still held it at the Dissolution, when it was receiving 14s. 6d. a year rent from Stratton. (fn. 140) The estate was granted by the Crown in 1544 to Thomas Denton, (fn. 141) then a lessee of the rectory estate.
Economic and Social History.
Because part of the ancient township of Stratton formed part of Caversfield manor there is no full Domesday entry for the later parish of Stratton. A part of it was included in the entry for Caversfield, which had 8 plough-lands, of which 3 were in demesne. (fn. 142) This manor had 21 villeins (villani) and bordars with 5 plough-teams, and some of these with their land must, it seems, have been in Stratton. Stratton's principal manor had 6 plough-lands; in demesne there was 1 plough-team and 1 serf, while 8 villeins and 2 bordars shared 2 other plough-teams. There were 25 acres of meadow, a comparatively large amount. Since the Conquest the value of the Stratton estate had risen from £2 to £3, in spite of the fact that it was apparently not fully worked. (fn. 143)
There is an exceptionally full account of the parish in the Hundred Rolls. (fn. 144) The 55 tenants recorded, almost all villeins, indicate a comparatively large population for a rural village in this hundred. The principal manor had 2½ carucates in demesne; its tenants included 6 villein virgaters, 4 holding ¾ virgate each, and 28 half-virgaters. (fn. 145) All worked at the lord's will. Besides the villeins there were 8 cottagers, who each had 5 acres at a rent of 2s. Of the 6 free tenants, 3 held some 4 virgates, while the Augustinian Abbey of Cirencester had 1¼ virgate leased to 3 tenants. The total number of virgates recorded was about 46, 9 more than in an 18th-century survey. Two unusual features were the large number of half-virgaters and the comparatively high rent of 8s. a virgate or 4s. a half-virgate.
The Prior of Bicester's small manor consisted of 8½ virgates, of which 4½ were in demesne. The manor's six villeins held between them 4 virgates and paid rent at the rate of 6s. a virgate. (fn. 146)
At this date and in the early 14th century Stratton seems to have been at the height of its prosperity, perhaps largely because the Audleys were resident there. (fn. 147) The fact that Hugh Audley was granted in 1318 the privilege of a weekly market in Stratton and a yearly fair for three days at the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14th) shows that it was hoped that the village might develop as a trading centre. There is no later reference to this market, but in spite of its lying within five miles of the market-town of Bicester, it may have prospered temporarily. Unfortunately the early 14th-century tax returns for Stratton are either missing or incomplete. The village's total payment, though not the total number of contributors, has, however, survived for 1306. It was the sixth highest contributor in the hundred and there were at least 45 contributors. (fn. 148) The evidence of the poll tax of 1377 with 144 adults taxed also supports the indications of a comparatively large medieval population. In spite of the heavy death-rate suffered by the neighbourhood in 1349, this figure was one of the highest in the hundred. (fn. 149) A survey of Bicester's small manor made in 1412–13 mentions that before the 'magna mors' it had been leased on account of the increase of villein holdings, and at the date of the survey the number of customary tenants was still higher than in 1279. (fn. 150)
Early 16th-century subsidy lists indicate that Stratton compared with other parishes in the hundred was still a fairly populous and prosperous community: 35 persons were taxed in 1524 and in 1542 there were 56 contributors. (fn. 151) From 17th-century evidence it appears that there were 30 taxable houses in 1665 and 126 adults in 1676. (fn. 152)
The survey of 1412–13 shows that since 1279 villein rents had about doubled on the Bicester manor, the rate for a half-virgate now being between 6s. and 7s. Services had been commuted. In addition to the customary tenants, some 35 tenants rented smallholdings of various sizes on eight-year leases. The priory still kept some demesne, however, and an account of 1409–10 records that its total receipts were £20 16s. 3½d. and that about half its income from its Stratton grange came from the sale of hay and grain. Peas, barley, and wheat were grown. (fn. 153) In 1433–4 the priory received £17 6s. 9d. from the grange, a smaller amount than usual because grain, &c., was sent to the canons; in 1447 it received £20 0s. 9d. and 57 lambs delivered to the priory for stock; in 1452 £15 0s. 7½d. (fn. 154)
The survey further supplies the earliest evidence for the field system. It shows that the early two- or three-field system had broken down, and mentions at least five—Bradenhull, Blakedon, Lantehull, and Langdon Fields and Campus Petri, among which each tenant's land was divided. (fn. 155) A later survey of 1710 records a more complicated division of the fields. (fn. 156) Only two of the 15th-century field names survived: Langdon Field, which lay in the south next to Launton, and Lower, Middle, and Upper Stone Fields (the former Campus Petri), in the west along the Fringford boundary. Other fields were Grislow, Stubb, and Home Fields, and in the northeast next to Godington was Old Field, entirely furze, from which before inclosure the villagers cut furze for fuel. (fn. 157)
There is no evidence about the inclosure of land before the 16th century. In 1517 John Marche was accused of amalgamating two farms, each worth £7 6s. 8d., one in Bainton and the other in Stratton. (fn. 158) In 1542 a copyhold close called Madcrofts is mentioned (fn. 159) and in the 1550's the lord of the manor was allowed to inclose a ground called Manmore south of Fringford Field. (fn. 160) All the early inclosure was meadow, for a record of 1779 shows that at least 300 acres of meadow, but no arable, had been inclosed. (fn. 161) In 1780 the open fields were inclosed. At that time all the land was divided between the manor (31¼ yardlands) and Christ Church, the lay rector, and its lessee (6 yardlands). Of some 2,000 acres belonging to the manor, 919 were arable strips in the open fields, thus making the yardland equal about 29 acres; 740 were common pasture; 50 were common meadow; and 300 were inclosed meadow. (fn. 162) The pasture consisted of the Cow Common (343 a.), the Horse Common (207 a.), and the Sheep Common (188 a.). The Town Meadow was 50 acres, and there was a large inclosed meadow of 217½ acres and a smaller one called the Mill Closes of 74 acres. The inclosure act (fn. 163) awarded 217 acres to Christ Church in place of its 5½ yardlands and 251 acres in lieu of all tithes; 23 acres to Richard Arnold, its lessee, for a ½ yardland; 32 acres to the Vicar of Caversfield in lieu of tithes on 4 yardlands; and almost all the rest to the lord of the manor. The poor, with rents of 40s or below, were allotted four acres for fuel in place of the privilege of gathering fuel from the common lands, and Christ Church was freed from the responsibility of keeping a bull and a boar for the use of the inhabitants.
The effect of inclosure seems to have been to increase the amount of dairy farming, for which the soil, 'rich and well watered', was particularly well suited. In 1780 about half the parish had been arable, but a map of 1797 shows almost all the land south of the village as pasture, while to the north arable and pasture were mixed. (fn. 164) The best meadow-land lay along the Birne and near the mill (see below). Even before inclosure the number of cattle and sheep allowed for every yardland was unusually large owing to the richness of the grazing-land: (fn. 165) 4 cows, 3 horses, 40 sheep, and 22 lambs. The total for the manor was 156 cows, 90¼ horses, 1,250 sheep, and 687½ lambs. In the early 19th century Arthur Young noted that much of the land was under dairies and that 'great tracts have been laid down for cows'. He also noted that rents had quintupled since inclosure, although this seems to have been an exaggeration. (fn. 166) Later in the century Stratton was considered an agriculturally progressive parish, largely on account of a rich and 'spirited resident landed proprietor', George Glen. (fn. 167) It has continued primarily as a grazing parish. In 1891, for example, out of 1,049 acres for sale, 839 were pasture and only 152 arable, (fn. 168) and in 1901 four-fifths of the parish was grazing-land. (fn. 169) War conditions naturally led to an increase in arable in the early 20th century, but in 1939 the land was still chiefly pasture. (fn. 170) In 1956 there were 1,616½ acres of grassland compared with 722½ acres of arable.
It is impossible to be precise about the effect of inclosure on the position of the small landowner as no pre-inclosure list of tenants has been found. In 1851 there were eight farms of over 100 acres, five of them being between 200 and 300 acres, (fn. 171) and in 1891 there were seven large farms. (fn. 172)
Few local government records have survived. The Surveyors' accounts (1719–1811) show that a rise in expenditure had occurred early in the second half of the 18th century. During most of the first half expenditure had averaged about £3 a year, but by 1765 it had risen to £18. For the rest of the century about £15 a year was spent, and it does not appear that inclosure had any marked effect on the problem of pauperism. At the beginning of the 19th century in common with other parishes in the hundred expenditure rose steeply: £25 to £30 was expended annually except for the peak years 1801 to 1802 and 1810 to 1811, when £40 and £50 respectively were spent.
Administration was tightened up in 1797. The surveyor was to state in his book the duty which each person was bound to do and the days on which he performed his duty. The fine for failure to do this was £5. From 1798 until 1809 the amount of duty is duly entered. (fn. 173)
Besides having the usual craftsmen and traders, such as a baker, a blacksmith, a shoemaker, and a bricklayer, in the mid-19th century Stratton was a centre of lace-making, a home industry which was particularly flourishing in Buckinghamshire. Twentyseven lacemakers were counted in 1851. (fn. 174) Since medieval times the parish had its miller. The watermill is first recorded in the early 15th century when it formed part of the manor, (fn. 175) as it continued to do. In 1891 it was let, with 32 acres, for £75, (fn. 176) and was driven by steam and water. (fn. 177) Another mill, perhaps a windmill, was recorded on the Bicester manor in the early 15th century. (fn. 178) Another of Stratton's most important occupations apart from husbandry was quarrying. Field names indicate the prevalence of stone in the parish, (fn. 179) and in the 14th century 'Helmendene' quarry is mentioned. (fn. 180) The quarry lay in the south-west corner of the parish; its stone was used to build Stratton Audley Park in 1860, (fn. 181) and when it was sold at the same time as the manor in 1891, it and a neighbouring limekiln were let for £47. (fn. 182) In 1939 the quarry was being worked by the Bicester Stone Company. (fn. 183)
In the 18th century the parish—which did not include that part of the village which lay in Caversfield—was well populated. In 1738 the curate estimated that there were between 50 and 60 houses and by 1801 there were 379 inhabitants. The population fluctuated until 1861 when it was 378. During the remaining decades of the century it declined and by 1901 it was 263. There were 305 inhabitants in 1911 and there were estimated to be 304 in 1954. (fn. 184)
A grant of tithes before 1109 (see below) may indicate the existence of an 11th-century church in Stratton, but not necessarily, as at that time Stratton was in the parish of Bicester. The church is first specifically mentioned when it was granted with the church of Bicester, of which it was a dependent chapel, by Gilbert Basset, lord of the manors of Bicester and Stratton, to the Augustinian Priory of Bicester at its foundation between 1182 and 1185. (fn. 185) The priory had appropriated the church and chapel by 1220 at the latest, (fn. 186) and it retained them until its dissolution in 1536.
At the ordination of Bicester vicarage in 1226 no mention is made of the chapel at Stratton, but reference to the vicar's chaplain and clerks combined with later evidence (see below) suggests that the vicar was made responsible for Stratton at that date. (fn. 187) In 1455 he was relieved of the duty of supplying a chaplain for Stratton and the burden was undertaken by the prior and convent. (fn. 188) This agreement probably marks the creation of a separate parish of Stratton. After the Reformation it was certainly independent of Bicester, and by 1665 all ties with the mother church had been severed. The Bicester churchwardens then presented those of Stratton for not paying a pension of 15d. to Bicester church, 'the same having been formerly, usually and accustomarily paid', probably as a sign of subjection to the mother church. But the warden of Stratton testified in the bishop's court that during 40 years in the parish he had never heard of any such pension. (fn. 189) In the early 18th century it is stated that Stratton was 'taken out of Bicester parish'. (fn. 190)
In 1542 Henry VIII granted Stratton to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church. (fn. 191) After the Reformation the living remained a perpetual curacy until 1868, when it became a vicarage. (fn. 192) Christ Church continued as patron until 1928, when the living was changed to a rectory and combined with that of Godington. (fn. 193) Since then Christ Church and Corpus Christi College have presented alternately.
Before 1109 Gilbert Basset had given to Eynsham Abbey two-thirds of his demesne tithes in Stratton. (fn. 194) When Stratton chapel was given to Bicester Priory, controversy arose between the two religious houses over these tithes. In 1188 an agreement was reached before episcopal judges sitting in Stanton church (probably Stanton St. John). Bicester was to collect all the tithes, and in return was to give Eynsham a pension of 12s. a year. (fn. 195) This arrangement was soon confirmed by Gilbert Basset, and the pension continued to be paid until the Dissolution. (fn. 196)
It thus appears as if by 1188 Bicester Priory was already collecting the tithes of the parish. If this was so the charter of 1208–9, by which Richard de Camville and Eustachia his wife gave the priory the whole tithe of hay from their demesne in Bicester, Wretchwick, and Stratton, was probably a confirmation. (fn. 197)
Caversfield church from the early Middle Ages had a claim to some of the tithes of Stratton. When Caversfield was appropriated to Missenden Abbey (Bucks.) between 1209 and 1235, these tithes were divided between the abbey and the vicar, each taking half of the tithes of 6 virgates. (fn. 198) A few years later Bicester Priory was resisting this claim, and in 1242 papal judges delegate made a compromise: Caversfield was allowed to continue collecting tithes on 4½ virgates and their holders as well, while the tithes on the rest were given to Bicester. (fn. 199) This arrangement continued until the inclosure of Stratton fields in 1780, when the tithes on 4 yardlands, to which the Vicar of Caversfield was entitled, were commuted for 32 acres. This ancient connexion between Stratton and Caversfield church was not broken until 1928, when the 220 acres in Stratton field which had been assigned to Caversfield at the inclosure of 1780 were added to the ecclesiastical parish of Stratton. (fn. 200) The tithes of Stratton were commuted at the inclosure for 251 acres. (fn. 201)
The tradition that Master William of Drogheda, an eminent Oxford lecturer in canon law in the first half of the 13th century, was Rector of Stratton is ill founded. (fn. 202) The parish was in fact probably partly served by the Vicar of Bicester, who may have come out to say mass, while 14th-century accounts show that there was a deacon at the chapel. His stipend in 1340 seems to have been 15s. 2d.; by 1360 this had been raised to £1. For marriages and purifications Stratton people had to come to Bicester church and they were buried in Bicester churchyard. Fees for marriages ranged from 7½d. to 15d., for purifications from ½d. to 2d., and for burials from 1d., according to the family's wealth. The offerings at the various festivals also formed part of the revenue of Bicester vicarage: in 1340–1, 3s. was collected at Christmas and 4s. 9d. at Easter. (fn. 203)
In 1423 two people were buried in Stratton chapel. This was an infringement of the rights of the mother church, and the Prior of Bicester brought a suit against the parishioners of Stratton. Proceedings were opened in Stratton church by the Bishop of Worcester as judge delegate, who listened to the 'evidences of old men in divers towns' as to whether 'at any time in their day they saw, or in the days of their fathers heard of, any burial made there'. The eventual judgement was that the two bodies buried in the chapel were to be exhumed and reburied at Bicester. Stratton had to pay various costs. (fn. 204)
The costs of this suit, amounting to £22 16s. in 1423–4 and £16 15s. 9d. in 1424–5, show how expensive litigation was; each year's expenses averaged about a year's income from all priory lands and tithes in Stratton. The largest payment was one of £6 13s. 4d. to the episcopal judge, while his officers received gifts and his servants 24 pairs of gloves. Among the many other expenses were those for entertainment on the first day of the trial, when a sumptuous dinner was given at the Rectory.
In 1455, when a new ordination was made of Bicester vicarage, it was agreed that the priory was to take all tithes and other revenue belonging to Stratton, and was to bear the burden of keeping a chaplain there and of administering the rites and sacraments to the parishioners. (fn. 205) Early 16th-century visitations showed certain neglect and irregularities. In about 1520 there were no distributions to the poor, the mass and other services were not celebrated at regular hours, and the sedilia in the choir were broken. The chapel had been served by a canon from Bicester Priory, but he was removed for ill conduct with women. (fn. 206) About ten years later the curate, whose stipend was £5 6s. 8d., did not know how to sing or hold a service with song. (fn. 207)
The income of the living came from a stipend from Christ Church or its lessee and from the glebe, called Parson's Ground (c. 18 a.), in Caversfield. (fn. 208) In 1762 the income was augmented by a £400 benefaction, half from Queen Anne's Bounty and half from Christ Church. (fn. 209) The living, however, was still a poor one, worth only £58 10s. in 1809, £30 of which was paid by Christ Church. (fn. 210) In the 1830's it was again augmented by £1,000, half given by Christ Church. (fn. 211)
From 1542 the curate was normally appointed and paid by the Christ Church lessee. (fn. 212) A tithe case of 1663 between Edward Bush, the new lessee of the rectory, who had the right to nominate, and John Bedwyn, a churchwarden, reveals that there might be friction in the parish over the nomination of curates. It appears that the college's nominee had been threatened in 1660 'by those which kept possession of the parsonage house' (i.e. the wardens) so that he 'did not dare to come to the church'. (fn. 213) Bush presently allowed the churchwardens to select a curate, whom he paid. In 1669, when the lease of the rectory was renewed, Christ Church retained the nomination of the incumbent and raised his salary from £11 to £20. A room in the parsonage house, described as a wainscot chamber over the brewhouse with a cockloft above, was to be reserved for his use by the lessee of the rectory. (fn. 214) Henceforth, the incumbents were graduates of Christ Church.
It is probable that the poverty of the living forced the curates to be pluralists, while residence was certainly made difficult by there being no house. In 1738, for instance, Fielder Hammond (1736–45) reported that he could find no one with whom to board in the summer, and that in winter he lived in one room. (fn. 215) After this, conditions were somewhat improved, for in 1768 William Ellis (1761–95), who was also Vicar of Stoke Lyne, had a house in Stratton belonging to the living. (fn. 216) His successor, Edward Houlditch (1795–1814), nevertheless, was forced to add to his income by holding another living at Speen (Berks.). He lived there and paid a curate £25 a year to serve Stratton, with the result that the parish was neglected. Houlditch's curate said he was underpaid and so too poor to attend the bishop's visitation; (fn. 217) the bishop complained that only one Sunday service was held and that at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. (fn. 218) The vicar's excuse was that this was the custom in many parishes. It was not until after 1834 that there were any marked signs of religious revival. There was then a resident curate who was paid £70 a year. Congregations of 300 to 350 were reported, and two services were held on Sundays; (fn. 219) by 1851 a parsonage house had been built and by 1854 there were daily prayers, two sermons on Sundays, and communion once a month. (fn. 220)
Despite this progress, when John Tweed (1857–98) came to the parish, Bishop Wilberforce found him dejected about it, and it was admitted that it was a difficult one. (fn. 221) The living was still so poor that Tweed had to augment his salary by taking other kinds of work. However, he had the church building restored and was able to report that the congregation was at least 'not decreasing', and that in winter he held an evening school with 'success as great as could be expected here'. (fn. 222)
The church of ST. MARY AND ST. EDBURGA is a stone building comprising a chancel, clerestoried nave, north and south aisles, north porch, and west tower. There is a sanctus bell-cote above the chancel arch. (fn. 223)
The church was largely rebuilt in the 13th and 14th centuries, but a 12th-century doorway (now disused) remains in the south wall of the south aisle. It is probably not in its original position. The north aisle was added early in the 13th century, and the clustered columns which separate it from the nave are of this period. The remains of a blocked-up lancet at the west end of the south aisle imply that this, too, was added or rebuilt during the 13th century, but it was widened in the 14th century, and its arcade is of later date than that on the north side. Early in the 14th century the east window of the north aisle was rebuilt, and towards the end of the century a battlemented west tower was erected within the west wall of the nave.
In the 15th century the chancel was rebuilt and the nave clerestory added. Several additional windows were inserted in the aisles in the course of this century, and the ornate battlemented porch is of the same period.
Few records of repairs to the church have survived. They were ordered in 1757, when a new font-cover was provided, again in 1804, and in 1853 the roof was repaired and the floor relaid. (fn. 224) In 1861 the church was fully restored by the architect Roger Smith. The restoration, which cost about £800, included rebuilding the chancel arch, putting on a new chancel roof, releading the nave roof, removing the chancel screen, and reseating both nave and aisles. (fn. 225)
The church has electric light.
When the church was visited by Wood in the second half of the 17th century the windows of the north and south aisles contained armorial glass. (fn. 226) There are still early 14th-century shields in the west window of the south aisle (Clare) and the east window of the north aisle (Segrave and Sandford or Fiennes). (fn. 227) There is also some medieval glass in one of the chancel windows. (fn. 228)
The ancient octagonal font is of uncertain date; (fn. 229) the pulpit is Jacobean; an elm table given by the churchwardens is dated 1636, and a tower screen of carved oak designed by T. Lawrence Dale was erected in the 20th century.
There is a fine marble tomb to Sir John Borlase (d. 1688/9), represented as a Roman in recumbent position with two weeping figures on either side. There are also tablets to Sir John's brother Baldwin (d. 1678) and to Sir John Borlase Warren (d. 1822). There are inscriptions to Edmund Woodward (d. 1713/14) and family, and to the 18th-century Bush family. (fn. 230) Later memorial tablets are to George Glen (d. 1885), Major-Gen. Charles Cavendish, 3rd Baron Chesham (d. 1907), Lt.-Col. George Gosling (d. 1915), Major-Gen. Merton Beckwith-Smith (d. 1942), and Norman Joseph Goss (d. 1944).
In 1552 the church was richly furnished with a silver chalice gilded within, a silver paten, a number of vestments of velvet and silk, and two copes. (fn. 231) In 1805 it owned a pewter tankard and cup. (fn. 232) The present plate is notable for its fine Restoration pewter service, which is unique of its kind and includes a chalice made by Richard Mastead in about 1665–75, a small flagon (c. 1700), and two plates dating from the late 17th century. (fn. 233) There is also a large silver paten (1777), a chalice (1836), and a silver flagon, all given to the church in 1842 by the curate and churchwardens. (fn. 234)
The tower has a ring of five bells: the second, third, and fourth are late 17th-century; the treble and tenor 18th-century and inscribed with the names of the churchwardens. The bells were rehung in 1902 and part of the original frame, dated 1636, is preserved in the church. In 1552 there were three bells and a sanctus bell. The last was recast in the 17th century and in 1955 was in the tower. (fn. 235)
The church did not acquire a churchyard until after 1455 at the earliest, when the villagers acquired parochial independence of Bicester. (fn. 236) The remains of the medieval cross can still be seen, and there is a cross by W. R. Lethaby to members of the armed services who died in the First World War. (fn. 237)
The register for marriages begins in 1755 and for baptisms and burials in 1813. The earlier ones, which began in 1696 and were there in 1823, (fn. 238) have probably been destroyed. Some of the remaining books have been damaged by fire and water.
Except for a recusant woman in 1643, (fn. 239) there is no record of Roman Catholicism until the second half of the 18th century. In 1768 there was one papist family. Throughout most of the 19th century there were two: early in the century they worshipped at the chapel at Hethe, (fn. 240) and when the chapel at Bicester was built in 1883, they went there. (fn. 241) In 1866 they were said to oppose the payment of church rates. (fn. 242)
There is little record of Protestant nonconformity. In 1759 the incumbent recorded one Presbyterian woman. (fn. 243) Early in the 19th century the Methodists held cottage services; and there were about ten dissenters, (fn. 244) who were described as Presbyterians. But dissent did not flourish; in 1854 there was only one dissenting family, which went to services at Bicester, (fn. 245) and by 1878 there were said to be no dissenters.
In 1802 the parishioners were paying a teacher to instruct their children in reading and the catechism. (fn. 246) A school which opened in 1808 had 20 boys and 20 girls and was supported by Sir John Borlase Warren, who provided a free cottage for the master and paid him £5 5s. a year. (fn. 247) In 1815 this school had 40 day-boys and 6 boarders, of whom 12 were paid for by Thomas Fitzhugh, and there was a dame school with 4 boys and 9 girls. (fn. 248) In 1819 the two schools had 50 pupils in all, but by 1833 only the larger survived with 43 pupils. (fn. 249) A new school with accommodation for 80 pupils was built in 1837 (fn. 250) and was principally supported by the lord of the manor. An infants' school supported by the parents had 15 pupils in 1854. (fn. 251) The average attendance at the new school, which was affiliated to the National Society, was 68 in 1871 and 66 in 1906. (fn. 252) It had one master, and was attended by children from neighbouring parishes. (fn. 253) In 1929 it was reorganized as a junior school and the senior pupils then went to Fringford. It became a controlled school in 1951. The number of pupils on the books was 22 in 1937 and 24 in 1954. (fn. 254)
By a codicil to her will dated 1879 Elizabeth Coles bequeathed £100, the interest to be used each year to buy coal for the poor, preference being given to widows and large families. The principal was invested in stock which in 1955 produced an annual dividend of £2 13s. 8d. Coal was bought and distributed about February each year. (fn. 255)