A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The 19th-century parish covered 735 acres, (fn. 1) but since 1932 it has been united with Hardwick to form the parish of Hardwick with Tusmore. (fn. 2) The Ockley Brook formed a natural boundary in the north, and on the south Buckingham Lane marked most of the boundary with Hardwick, and Sheep Walk and the stream draining Tusmore Lake much of that with Stoke Lyne. Hardwick Heath lay on the eastern boundary. (fn. 3) Tusmore lies on the Great Oolite, which is covered by fine flint gravel along the Hardwick boundary. (fn. 4) The soil is mostly stonebrash. Most of the parish lies just below the 400-foot contour line, but it rises to 412 feet in the north. The park is intersected now, as in the 18th century, (fn. 5) by several bridle roads and footpaths which link it with the Oxford-Brackley road, which crosses the west of the parish, and also with Cottisford and Hardwick. A lime and yew avenue runs from Tusmore House to Hardwick. The central and eastern parts of the parish have many trees; the remaining portion, except for occasional clumps, is bare. (fn. 6)
The village, which was the poorest in the hundred in the early 14th century (fn. 7) and probably the smallest, was depopulated by the Black Death. (fn. 8) Tusmore, with its church and a parsonage house, is thought to have been situated to the north of the present Tusmore House. (fn. 9) The 'chapel' was 'quite gone' when Rawlinson visited Tusmore in 1718, (fn. 10) though the field names 'Church yard' and 'Churchyard close' have preserved its memory. (fn. 11) The parson's house was uninhabited at the date of the hearth tax of 1665, when the only taxable house was Henry Fermor's mansion. (fn. 12) There is no visible trace of the hamlet today, and though there were thought to be signs of the site of the church in the late 19th century, it is not visible on the modern air map. (fn. 13) When the Tusmore estate was sold in 1857, besides the big house there were just two farm-houses in the parish. (fn. 14) Both are stone-built and slated, one, Chase Barn, lying a short distance to the north-east of Tusmore House, the other, Pimlico Farm, in the north-west of the parish. (fn. 15)
When Sir Roger de Cotesford obtained his licence to enclose the village in 1358 it was probably with the intention of building a house at Tusmore and enclosing it in a park. (fn. 16) It is not known if any of this medieval building was still standing when Sir Richard Fermor came to live at Tusmore in about 1625. (fn. 17) He or his son Henry may have rebuilt and enlarged it and added the domestic chapel, or possibly it was the already existing medieval chapel which attracted them to the house. At all events it is known that the 17th-century house for which Henry Fermor returned nineteen hearths for the tax of 1665 was built of local stone and rough-cast. (fn. 18) It had casement windows, a chapel and garden (probably a kitchen garden) walled with red brick, (fn. 19) and pleasure-gardens of an outstanding character. After mentioning the famous garden walks at Aston Rowant and Rowsham, Robert Plot says that of all walks the Tusmore one with its fish-pond and hedges was 'the most wonderfully pleasant'. He describes in detail the curious optical illusion it produced. (fn. 20) From a description of the house in James Fermor's time (1703–22) it is known to have had dove-house, malt-house, orchards, gardens, and other appurtenances. (fn. 21) The tradition that it had a priest's hidinghole is more credible than many such traditions. (fn. 22)
In 1758 William Fermor visited Rome and there sought instruction in architecture from Robert Mylne (1734–1811), the Scottish architect and engineer, who is best known for his construction of Blackfriars Bridge. (fn. 23) At Fermor's request Mylne went to Tusmore and later submitted plans for a new house. The shell of the new building was completed by 1770, the date which appears on the frieze of the east portico. Another nine years were occupied in the work of interior decoration, in the laying out of the gardens, which included a lake, a Temple of Peace, dedicated to Pope, and the 'landscaping' of the park. Little was left of the old house except the chapel (which was redecorated), and this remnant was burned down in 1837. (fn. 24)
Mylne's design, though perhaps 'rather stark', possessed balance and dignity. (fn. 25) Views of the east and principal front and of the south elevation are given in George Richardson's New Vitruvius Britannicus published in 1810. (fn. 26) The house was of the Italian villa type with the main suite of rooms placed on the first floor in order to command some prospect in a flat country. A double flight of steps led up to the main entrance, which opened on to a hall and saloon, with the 'best' staircase lying beyond. A plan in the New Vitruvius shows the layout of the piano nobile, the old chapel left standing to the north-east and connected with the parlour and breakfast-room. A basement, a second story of bedrooms, and an attic floor, completed this wellproportioned, unpretentious house. (fn. 27)
Local stone from a nearby quarry at Fritwell was largely used. It contains the russet tint of iron which gives it a warm appearance. Freestone from Tottenhoe, near Dunstable, and from Glympton were used for the columns and pilasters of the east and west fronts. Taynton stone and common stone from Headington were also employed. Bricks were made on the estate, and its oaks were felled for timber. (fn. 28) The total cost of the building, including the architect's expenses, amounted to £11, 305.
Tusmore House as created by Mylne and William Fermor lasted for less than a century. After 1857 when Henry Howard, 2nd Earl of Effingham, bought the estate, the symmetry of the original design was spoilt by the addition of a barrack-like office wing to the north on the site of the chapel, and the main entrance was lowered to the basement story, an interior staircase being substituted for the exterior flight of steps. These alterations were carried out by William Burn in 1858. In 1929, however, Tusmore was bought by the late Vivian Hugh Smith, afterwards Lord Bicester. Assisted by his architects, Messrs. Imrie and Angell, he was responsible for a thorough restoration. The Victorian wing disappeared from sight, only the screened base being retained, and extending screen-walls terminating in four pyramidal-roofed pavilions at the corners were added in order to relate the house to its surroundings. The basement entrance was retained, but the arcade that once supported the steps was kept in the form of a porte cochère. The floor of the original entrance hall was removed, and a large staircase hall of two stories, with a double flight, was constructed. Nevertheless, in spite of its maltreatment in the Victorian period and the subsequent extensive 20th-century alterations, enough remains of the 18th-century conception for the elegance of the original design to be appreciated.
Smith also made drastic changes to the grounds, and nothing now remains of Mylne's landscape gardening except the lake, already mentioned, and a temple at its northern end. The park of over 150 acres in extent is entered from the Brackley approach through a triumphal arch of free-stone, erected in 1906 by the 4th Earl of Effingham.
During the Howard ownership, a fine collection of portraits, chiefly of members of the Howard family, was housed at Tusmore. (fn. 29)
The half-timbered granary and dovecote stood in the farmyard to the north of the old manor-house and was incorporated within the area north of the new house, which contained the offices and stables. Judging by the mouldings of the bressumers and the brackets and shafts supporting the overhang, the granary cannot be later than the beginning of the 16th century. (fn. 30) The building is formed of oak posts, studs, and panels, and formerly rested on rude stone supports which have now been replaced by concrete blocks. It is rectangular in plan and has an overhang and entrance at the west side. There are three floors, of which the two lower ones are used as a granary and the top as a dovecote: the stone-slate roof contains a louvre. This is an unusual construction to find surviving in stone country.
Apart from its architectural interest, Tusmore House is noted for its connexion with the Fermors, a Roman Catholic family. One of them, Ursula the daughter of Richard Fermor, was the mother of two well-known Jacobites, John and Francis Towneley, (fn. 31) although otherwise the Oxfordshire branch of the family seems to have played no active part in the movement. Arabella, the daughter of Henry (II) Fermor, achieved some distinction as the heroine of Pope's Rape of the Lock. William Fermor, the builder of the new house, was a keen huntsman, and this side of his activities is commemorated in an oil painting at Aynho Park (Northants). Furthermore, he was frequently the host of Mrs. Fitzherbert in the 1790's, and tradition has it that she married George IV at Tusmore House. (fn. 32) After William Fermor's death in 1806, his eldest son left Tusmore and the house was let to a succession of tenants for most of the period from 1810 until 1857, when it became the home of the earls of Effingham and later of Lord Bicester, who for more than half a century was one of the outstanding business men in the City of London. He played an active part in Oxfordshire, being Lord Lieutenant from 1934 until his death in 1956, chairman of the Bicester Hunt Committee, and a well-known race-horse owner. (fn. 33)
In 1086 3 virgates in TUSMORE and 3 in Stoke Lyne were held by a certain Turald of Walter Giffard, later Earl of Buckingham, who was lord of the remainder of Stoke Lyne. (fn. 34) The overlordship and mesne lordship of Turald's estate seem to have followed the same descent as Stoke Lyne, (fn. 35) and its division into two parts in Domesday Book is reflected by the attachment in the 13th century of a part of Tusmore to each of the two manors in Stoke Lyne. In 1199 Guy of Tusmore held 6 virgates of Otwel de Lisle, (fn. 36) and it was probably this estate, then rated as 1 hide, which was held of Giles de Lisle by Richard, son of Guy, in 1279. At the latter date another hide in Tusmore was held of John de Cokefield, tenant of the smaller Stoke Lyne manor, by Morand de Pichelesthorn, and of him by Alan of Tusmore, (fn. 37) who appears as a witness to deeds in the neighbourhood from about 1250. (fn. 38) The descent of these properties after 1279 is not known, but the connexion with Stoke Lyne was maintained into the 14th century, for in 1327 part of Tusmore was grouped with the hamlets of Bainton and Fewcot in Stoke Lyne for the assessment of a 20th. (fn. 39)
It is reasonably certain that 2½ hides of the 7½ hides in Hardwick held by Robert d'Oilly in 1086, (fn. 40) and which Robert had obtained by an exchange of lands with Walter Giffard, (fn. 41) subsequently became part of Tusmore. (fn. 42) In 1242–3 ½ knight's fee in Tusmore was held of the honor of D'Oilly by Guy son of Robert, lord of the manor of Ardley and the descendant of Drew d'Aundeley who had been Robert d'Oilly's tenant of Hardwick in 1086. (fn. 43) The lords of Ardley (fn. 44) may well have held this half-fee since the Domesday Survey, and they continued to be recognized as mesne lords until the mid-14th century. (fn. 45) In the 13th century they were also mesne lords of a manor in Cranford St. Andrew (Northants), where their tenants were the D'Aundeleys, descendants of Maurice d'Aundeley who had held it early in the 12th century (fn. 46) and who was no doubt a kinsman of Drew d'Aundeley. Maurice had been succeeded at Cranford by Ralph (living 1189), Maurice, Ralph (living 1228), and a third Maurice, the first of the family to be definitely associated with Tusmore, where he was Guy son of Robert's tenant in 1243. (fn. 47) In 1265 after the battle of Evesham, Maurice's lands in Tusmore were seized by the royalists, but either he or his son Hugh recovered them, for the latter was holding the half-fee in Tusmore in 1279 and 1284–5. (fn. 48) By 1316 it had passed to Hugh's son John, (fn. 49) perhaps the same John who was holding in Tusmore in 1346 and who was dead by 1349. (fn. 50) Although John's grandson William may have brought some claim to the Tusmore estate (fn. 51) it is likely that the former was the last of the D'Aundeleys to hold it.
Another hide in Tusmore, also held of the honor of D'Oilly, appears in the 13th century as part of the manor of Bucknell, (fn. 52) held by Guy of Tusmore of Simon de Turvill, who held it of Roger Damory. In 1236 Simon conveyed the rent and homage owed by Guy to Hugh Pateshull, while Guy became responsible for the service owed to Roger. (fn. 53) Hugh Pateshull, Treasurer of the Exchequer and later Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, died in 1241 and was succeeded by his nephew Sir Simon, son of Walter Pateshull (d. 1232). Sir Simon died in 1274 and in 1279 the hide in Tusmore was held of his successor Sir John (d. 1290) by Richard, son of Guy. (fn. 54) It is uncertain when the Pateshull connexion with Tusmore ended: no estate there is included in the inquisitions post mortem of Sir John's successors Simon (d. 1295), Sir John (d. 1349), or Sir William (d. 1359), (fn. 55) and no lands in Tusmore were included in the partition of the Pateshull inheritance between William's sisters and coheiresses, (fn. 56) although the advowson was. (fn. 57)
In the mid-14th century a single manor of Tusmore appears in the possession of Sir Roger de Cotesford, who seems to have acquired the D'Aundeley half-fee between 1346 (fn. 58) and 1357, and possibly before 1349. (fn. 59) In all probability Sir Roger acquired the Pateshull estates and the lands of the manor of Giffard in Tusmore about the same time: his successors certainly held a manor which was said to include lands in Stoke Lyne and Fewcot. (fn. 60) Sir Roger died in 1375 (fn. 61) and was succeeded by Sir Thomas de Cotesford. (fn. 62) By 1417 the latter had conveyed the manor to John Ralegh of Wardington, who in that year conveyed it in turn to John Danvers of Calthorpe. (fn. 63) In 1418 Sir Thomas quitclaimed the manor to Danvers, (fn. 64) but shortly afterwards (fn. 65) it passed from the latter to John Langston of Caversfield, whose son John married Danvers's daughter Amice. John Langston the elder died in 1435, and his son in 1506, (fn. 66) the latter being succeeded at Tusmore by his younger son Thomas. By Thomas's will made in 1525 the manor passed to his niece Catherine, daughter of Christopher Langston, and her husband Thomas Pigott of Doddershall (Bucks.). Catherine died in 1557 and Thomas, who was Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1552 and 1557, in 1559. (fn. 67) Their son Thomas Pigott the younger conveyed Tusmore in 1572 to Sir John Spencer of Althorp (Northants), (fn. 68) who in 1574 conveyed it to Thomas Williamson and his wife Bridget, (fn. 69) who became resident at Tusmore that year. (fn. 70)
In 1606 Thomas and Bridget Williamson conveyed the manor to Sir Richard Fermor of Somerton. (fn. 71) Fermor probably moved into his new possession not later than 1625, as in that year Somerton Place was settled for life upon Cecily Compton, the widow of his eldest son, Sir John Fermor. (fn. 72)
For seven generations (fn. 73) the Fermors continued as lords of the manor. They were Henry Fermor (1642– 73), son of Sir Richard; Richard Fermor (1673–84); Henry Fermor (1684–1703); James Fermor (1703– 22); Henry Fermor (1722–47); William Fermor (1747–1806); and William Fermor (1806–28). The last-named died without male heirs, and through the marriage of his adopted daughter, Maria, with Captain John Turner Ramsay (d. 1840), of Croughton (Northants), the property passed to the latter. In 1857 the Tusmore estate was sold by the Ramsays to Henry Howard, 2nd Earl of Effingham (1806– 89). (fn. 74) The property was subsequently held by his son, Henry Howard, 3rd Earl of Effingham (1837– 98), and his grandson, Henry Alexander Gordon Howard, 4th Earl of Effingham (1866–1927). (fn. 75) The estate was bought from Lord Effingham's heir in 1929 by the late Vivian Hugh Smith (d. 1956), who was created Baron Bicester of Tusmore in 1938. (fn. 76)
The name Tusmore means 'Thur's pool' (O.E. Thures-mere), or possibly 'a lake haunted by a giant or demon' (O.E. Pyrsmere). (fn. 77) Even by the time of Domesday much of its land may have been uncultivated. Turald's holding of 6 virgates, half in Tusmore and half in Stoke Lyne, was certainly undercultivated: there was land for 2 plough-teams, but only one was in use. Although it is probable that part of Tusmore's land was included in the Domesday account of Hardwick, there is no direct reference to Tusmore apart from Turald's 3 virgates. The estate was still worth 20s. as it had been in 1066. Nothing can be said about the numbers working on it owing to the intermixture of holdings between the three parishes. (fn. 78) The survey of 1279 records considerable advance: of the three lords, Hugh d'Aundeley and Richard son of Guy each held 2 virgates in demesne; none is recorded for Alan of Tusmore. On D'Aundeley's holding there were seven villein (servi) virgaters each paying 6s. a year rent, paying tallage, working and paying fines if their sons left the manor at the lord's will. Two cottagers each held half a virgate for an annual rent of 3s. and owed the same services as the virgaters. On Richard's estate there was one virgater and two half-virgaters paying rent at the rate of 6s. the virgate and owing the same services as D'Aundeley's villeins. Four cottars each held 3 acres at a rent of 2s. 6d. a year. The rector with a half-virgate was the only freeholder. Alan of Tusmore had 3 cottar tenants holding a half-virgate, 3 acres and a messuage, and 1½ acre respectively for rents of 3s., 1s., and 2s. (fn. 79) Fourteenth-century tax lists confirm the above picture of a small community: in 1327 only seven persons contributed to the tax. (fn. 80) The village's normal tax after 1334 was 21s. 6d., (fn. 81) but in 1354 it received an abatement of the whole sum. (fn. 82) The Black Death struck the village with particular severity. A writ of 1358 refers to the death from the pestilence of the bondmen on Roger de Cotesford's fee and implies that the whole village had become deserted. He was licensed to inclose it. (fn. 83) It never seems to have been resettled: it paid no tax in 1428 since there were fewer than ten householders, (fn. 84) and it does not appear on the 16th-century subsidy rolls or in the return for the Compton census of 1676. (fn. 85) Division of the parish into inclosures may have soon followed the depopulation and imparking of the 14th century: Barley Close, Townsend Close, and North Close are mentioned in a deed of 1629. (fn. 86)
In the Middle Ages there may have been a twofield system, for the North Field is mentioned in a charter of 1374. (fn. 87) Field names used in the 18th and 19th centuries (fn. 88) perhaps preserved a little of the topography of the open-field parish—Ox Pasture on the eastern boundary, Barley Field in the south, and Stoney Field in the north-east corner. About 1717 the greater part of the parish was in the occupation of James Fermor, and the remainder was let to two farmers. (fn. 89) In 1857 there were two large farms, Pimlico (155a.) and Chase Barn (382a.); another 30 acres were let to a Stoke Lyne farmer; Tusmore House and the grounds immediately surrounding it (21 a.) had been let in recent years, and the woods and plantations, which were now numerous, amounted to 139 acres. (fn. 90)
The life of the small community at Tusmore has for some centuries revolved around and been dependent on the House, whose inhabitants have made up the majority of the population, which has varied from 16 in 1831 to 51 in 1901. (fn. 91)
The first evidence for the possible existence of a church at Tusmore dates from 1074, when a grant (confirmed c. 1127) was made of a part of its tithes (see below). As the early manorial history of Tusmore was so closely interrelated with that of Hardwick and Stoke Lyne, it may be that the township's tithes belonged to one of these churches, but there is no evidence that this was so. No church building has survived at Tusmore and even its dedication is unknown, so neither can provide any clue to the early history of the church.
The advowson is first mentioned in 1236, when it was granted by Simon de Turville to Hugh Pateshull, who soon afterwards presented to the church. (fn. 92) During the 13th century it followed the descent of the hide in Tusmore held by the Pateshull family. (fn. 93) In 1301, during the minority of John Pateshull, his stepfather, Walter Lord Teyes, (fn. 94) was patron. Sir John presented to the church in 1338, and although in 1354 the bishop collated by lapse, Sir William Pateshull must have held the advowson at his death in 1359, for in 1368 it was awarded to one of his sisters and coheiresses, Catherine, the widow of Sir Robert de Tudenham, (fn. 95) and their son Sir John presented to the church in 1391. The bishop again collated in 1403, but from 1419, when John Langston presented, the advowson followed the descent of the united manor.
After the Reformation, although the church disappeared, presentations continued to be made to the living, and from 1612 the Fermors, who were the patrons, presented on at least two occasions, although Roman Catholics. (fn. 96) In about 1840 the rectory was united to that of Hardwick, and since 1867 it has been held with Cottisford. (fn. 97) The patron in 1956 was Lord Bicester.
The value of the rectory in 1254 was £2, which by 1291 had increased to £6. (fn. 98) By the 16th century it had sharply declined, being worth only £3 5s. in 1535. (fn. 99) At some time between then and the early 18th century the tithes, and whatever glebe there was, (fn. 100) were commuted for a modus of £15, which the rector received from the lord of the manor. (fn. 101) Later, when the tithes had increased in value, the rector could not 'gain information' as to the origin of this arrangement, (fn. 102) which was confirmed by the tithe award of 1852. (fn. 103)
In 1074 Robert d'Oilly granted two-thirds of the demesne tithes of Tusmore, with those of many other manors, to the church of St. George in Oxford castle, and these in 1149 passed, with St. George's, to Oseney Abbey. (fn. 104) They are mentioned in 1374, when an agreement was made between the abbot and Sir Roger de Cotesford whereby the latter acknowledged the justice of the abbot's claim to these tithes, and in particular to those from certain furze lands. (fn. 105) In 1436 they were leased for 20 years to the rector, Nicholas Ridell, for 20d. This arrangement continued, for early in the 16th century the abbey successfully sued the rector for 47 years of arrears. (fn. 106) In 1542 this part of the tithes, now called a pension, was granted to Christ Church. (fn. 107)
Probably from the time of the depopulation of the village in the 14th century (fn. 108) Tusmore ceased to be an ordinary parish church. In the 15th century it is called a chapel or free chapel. (fn. 109) The Fermors did not need it as a place of worship; they, and often their dependants, were buried in the Fermor chapel at Somerton. (fn. 110) The Tusmore chapel probably ceased to be used in the 16th century. (fn. 111)
A church of unknown dedication existed by 1236. (fn. 112) It was at least partly rebuilt at a later date as fragments of 15th-century masonry have been found on the site. (fn. 113) It was probably no longer in use in the 16th century as it was not included in either of the two early 16th-century episcopal visitations, (fn. 114) or in the Edwardian inventories of church goods. (fn. 115) The building had certainly disappeared by 1718, (fn. 116) when Rawlinson visited the village.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries Tusmore was one of the two centres in the hundred of the Oxfordshire Roman Catholic Mission. (fn. 117) The Catholic connexion probably began when the Fermors started to live there in about 1625. They were a strongly Roman Catholic family. (fn. 118) Several of their members entered religious orders, (fn. 119) and in 1693 the Society of Jesus granted Henry Fermor and his family a letter of confraternity. (fn. 120)
The family kept a resident chaplain, often a Jesuit but sometimes a member of another order or a secular priest, (fn. 121) and the domestic chapel (fn. 122) served as the Catholic church for the surrounding parishes. With a few years' exception in about 1770, when Tusmore House was being rebuilt, (fn. 123) this was the case until 1810, when William Fermor left Tusmore and leased the house. Although the chapel was excepted from the lease, (fn. 124) the priest moved to Hardwick.
The inhabitants of Tusmore, consisting of servants and dependants of the Fermors, were probably until then mostly Papists. For the subsidy of 1644, besides Henry Fermor and his wife, six Papists are listed, including a chambermaid, a cook, and a dairymaid. (fn. 125) In 1706 there were six Papist servants; (fn. 126) in the 1767 return of Papists, seven names come from Tusmore; (fn. 127) and in 1808 all the parishioners were said to be Roman Catholics. (fn. 128)
No record of Protestant dissent has been found.