A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 8, Lewknor and Pyrton Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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The parish of South Weston was abolished in 1954 when it was united to Lewknor, to which it had already lost 25 acres in 1932. (fn. 1) The ancient parish covered 460 acres and was the smallest in the county. It lay in the plain at the foot of the Chilterns between the parishes of Shirburn, Aston Rowant, Lewknor, Adwell, and Wheatfield. It had no natural boundaries or marked physical features, except for West Brook, the boundary line with Shirburn, and that was so winding that local people, as Rawlinson recorded in about 1718, used ironically to say 'as straight as Weston brook'. (fn. 2)
The parish was divided into three parts by the road running from Lewknor through Weston village to Adwell and Wheatfield and by 'Salt lane', which skirted Adwell Cop to join the London road at Postcombe. The last was a grass road in 1847, and is now a secondary road. (fn. 3)
The village, or rather hamlet, lies about 350 feet up on the West Brook some 3½ miles north of the market-town of Watlington. Its dwellings straggle along the road from Lewknor to the church at the north end and along a branch road running westwards to the Rectory. (fn. 4) In the 17th century there were four substantial farmhouses besides the manorhouse and Rectory. There were four other houses occupied by villagers who were sufficiently well off to be assessed for the hearth tax and probably a few unrated cottages. (fn. 5) At the end of the 18th century there were 24 houses and in 1847 the tithe map shows five farmhouses lying on either side of the road to the Rectory, the manor-house on the Lewknor road and most of the cottages clustering round the church. (fn. 6) The largest of these was a public house, called the 'Salisbury Arms', and next to it, as was so often the case, was the Wesleyan chapel. (fn. 7) Nearby was the village bakehouse. On account of the decline in population many of the old houses have now (1960) gone. Apart from its church, the most important building is the manor-house, built of flint with brick quoins and window surrounds. The original 'mansion house' was a building of four bays with two stories and an attic and was built soon after 1728 for Thomas Cooper, who pulled down the old house. (fn. 8) In 1794 it was said to have two parlours and a study. (fn. 9) It was extensively altered and enlarged in the 19th century. Another bay, matching the others was added at the east end, the attic story was removed and a new slate roof, with a wooden modillioned cornice and new chimney-stacks were added. (fn. 10) The granary of brick and timber standing on staddle stones, close to the house, has on it 1713 R.C.E.
The Rectory was rebuilt in 1842 by the patrons, the Queen's College. (fn. 11) The 17th-century Rectory was an eight-roomed house, which included a hall or study, and stood in an acre of ground, with barns and stables. A hop-garden was added to the original garden and orchard in the 18th century. (fn. 12)
Near the Manor Farm is the site of the Domesday mill and the derelict remains of a 19th-century millhouse and mill. Opposite is an old farmhouse, vacant and derelict in 1960. It dates from the early 17th century and has some interesting plaster work of that period in two of the rooms. The design used consists of fleurs-de-lis and grape vines.
The 'Salisbury Arms' also dates from the 17th century, though it was refaced in the 18th century.
Weston claims no 'worthies' and no events of any importance are known to have occurred there.
Manor. (fn. 13)
In 1086 Hugh d'Avranches, Earl of Chester, was recorded as holding an estate assessed at 9 hides in Weston. (fn. 14) It is probable that part of Wheatfield, Warmscombe (in Watlington), and part of Wormsley were included in this total. (fn. 15) The overlordship, like that of Ardley in Ploughley hundred, descended through the earls of Chester, who were also lords of the neighbouring manor of Pyrton, to the earls of Arundel. (fn. 16) In 1235, for instance, both Weston and Ardley were said to be held of the fee of Hugh d'Aubigny, Earl of Arundel, under his honor of Coventry. (fn. 17) The south Oxfordshire holding was described in 1242 as 1 fee in Weston and in half of Wheatfield. (fn. 18) Warmscombe is not mentioned, but there is little doubt that it was included in the fee as it was in 1279 and in the 14th century, and that this estate and Wheatfield were reckoned as ¼-fee each. (fn. 19) Wormsley, which is also not mentioned, had already been alienated to Abingdon Abbey. (fn. 20) In 1243 Hugh d'Aubigny's lands were divided between his sisters and the Weston fee like Ardley must have passed to Cecile, the youngest sister, and her husband Roger de Montalt, for in 1275 their son Robert de Montalt held 1½ fee in Ardley and Weston. (fn. 21) In 1327 their descendant Robert, Lord Montalt (d. 1329), (fn. 22) sold the reversion of all his lands after the deaths of himself and his wife to Queen Isabella, her son John of Eltham, and the king successively. Ultimately in 1358 the overlordship reverted to the Crown. (fn. 23) In 1346 Fulk de Rycote was returned as lord of the fee in Weston, Warmscombe, and Wheatfield and in 1428 Sir Walter de Beauchamp was said to hold lands described as 'lately Fulk de Rycote's'. (fn. 24) Both men held other land in the neighbourhood (fn. 25) and their tenancies were evidently leases from the overlords.
The mesne tenant in 1086 both at Ardley and Weston was Robert d'Oilly, the first Norman Constable of Oxford castle and lord of many other Oxfordshire manors. (fn. 26) Like other D'Oilly lands Weston became merged in the honor of Wallingford and subsequently of Ewelme. (fn. 27) On Robert's death in 1094 Weston passed to his brother and heir Nigel (d. c. 1115). (fn. 28) Nigel's son Robert (II) d'Oilly gave the church and part of the tithes to Oseney Abbey but apparently no land, (fn. 29) and the mesne tenancy of the manor remained in the D'Oilly family until the time of Henry (III) d'Oilly, when Weston was probably confiscated in 1215 with the rest of his lands. (fn. 30) His estates were restored in 1217, (fn. 31) and on his death in 1232 Weston like Ardley passed to Thomas Newburgh, Earl of Warwick, and the mesne tenancy like that of Ardley followed the same descent as the overlordship of Bucknell in Ploughley hundred. (fn. 32) Weston was held by the De Plescy family from 1263 until 1379, when John Lenveysy, who had taken the name of Plescy, died without heirs. (fn. 33) His rights passed to his widow and through her to her second husband Philip de la Vache. Philip exercised rights of overlordship in 1389 and 1390. (fn. 34) Later the mesne tenancy may have passed to the Suffolks as at Ardley, but there is no record. (fn. 35)
The demesne tenant of the manor in the 11th century was Drew d'Aundeley, lord of Ardley and Hardwick, and of the neighbouring manor of Shirburn, all of which were held of Robert d'Oilly. (fn. 36) Domesday does not actually state that Drew d'Aundeley held Weston, but the fact that he had three houses in Wallingford in 1086 which were said to 'belong' to South Weston and Shirburn implies that he was in possession of these manors. (fn. 37) Moreover, when he became a monk of Abingdon in about 1100, he gave the abbey 1 hide of land in Wormsley, Woodmunslea in Weston, (fn. 38) in fact all the upland part of his Weston manor in this area except for 25 acres. (fn. 39) As at Ardley Drew's successor was his son-in-law, Roger son of Ralph, a nephew of Nigel d'Oilly his lord. Roger had been followed by c. 1145 by his son Ralph, for in a papal confirmation of that date the manor was described as Westona Radulfi cognati. (fn. 40) Weston descended in this family, known after 1268 as Fitzwyth, until the 14th century. (fn. 41) Ralph son of Robert is recorded as presenting to Weston church about 1215 and in 1227 (fn. 42) and his brother Guy, Sheriff of Oxfordshire, held the fee in 1235 and in 1250–1. (fn. 43) In 1279 Guy's son John Fitzwyth was in possession and was said to hold of the D'Oilly barony. (fn. 44) His son Robert Fitzwyth succeeded him in 1309, (fn. 45) but both Robert and his son Guy died in 1316 when Guy's heir was an infant daughter Elizabeth. (fn. 46) In 1318 Hugh de Plescy, the mesne lord, was recorded as having custody of the manor. (fn. 47) A relative, a John Fitzwyth, was in possession of at least a part of the family estate, i.e. Shotswell (Warws.), in 1326 and had been succeeded by 1345 by Robert Fitzwyth. (fn. 48) In 1349 Robert was said to hold Weston, Ardley, Wheatfield, and Wigginton for 3 fees, (fn. 49) and he was in possession in 1354, (fn. 50) but it is likely to have been his nephew Robert who presented to the church in 1360. (fn. 51) This Robert Fitzwyth was murdered in 1362 (fn. 52) and his land and heiress were in the king's wardship in 1364 and 1365. (fn. 53) By 1367 John de Beauchamp, the husband of Robert's daughter Joan by his first wife, had apparently succeeded to the manor for he presented to the church in that year. (fn. 54) A third of Weston was included in the dower of Robert Fitzwyth's widow Joan in 1369 and was among the lands released to Joan de Beauchamp in 1370. (fn. 55) On her death in 1389 her son John de Beauchamp was a minor and was still so in 1398. (fn. 56) In 1420 he was succeeded by his daughter Margaret, wife in turn of John Pauncefoot, John Wysham, and Sir Walter Skull. (fn. 57) John Wysham was lord of Weston in 1422. (fn. 58) Margaret was still alive in 1452, but had died by 1472. (fn. 59) She left three daughters as her coheiresses: (fn. 60) Alice, who married Sir John Guise; Joan, married first to a Westcote and, before 1487, to John Croft; and Elizabeth, wife first of Thomas Croft (d.1488) and then of Nicholas Crowemer. (fn. 61) When Elizabeth Crowemer died in c. 1500 her share reverted to John, the son of Alice Guise, and to Joan and John Croft. (fn. 62) In 1513 John Croft and Elizabeth, presumably his second wife, conveyed their half of Weston manor and advowson to Simon Rice, citizen and mercer of London, (fn. 63) who may have been acting as intermediary for Sir John Williams of Thame. The precise stages by which both halves of the manor and advowson passed to Sir John have not been traced, but he was in possession of both in 1559. (fn. 64) He obtained the Guise moiety in 1539 from John Guise, son of Sir John Guise (d. 1501). (fn. 65)
Sir John Williams (d. 1559) left instructions in his will for Weston manor to be sold to pay his debts and the funeral expenses. (fn. 66) This was done, for Weston came into the hands of the Carletons, lords of Brightwell Baldwin and Britwell Salome, (fn. 67) and in 1571 Anthony Carleton sold Weston 'manors' and advowson to a William Waller. (fn. 68) Waller resold in 1575 to John Oglethorpe, (fn. 69) lord of Newington, who held them on his death in 1578 as of the queen's honor of Wallingford. (fn. 70) The estate was soon on the market again: in 1583 Oglethorpe's son Owen sold it to a Richard Rolles gent.; (fn. 71) an Augustine Rolles, gent., was dealing with South Weston property in 1590, (fn. 72) and in the same year Anthony Rolles of Willye in Bentley (Hants) sold Weston manor to Edmund Cottisford, of Wargrave (Berks.), in return for an annuity, (fn. 73) which was still held in 1648 by Richard Rolles, gent., of Britwell Prior. (fn. 74)
The Cottisfords (fn. 75) seem never to have lived in Weston and the manor's land was farmed by local yeomen, but the family retained the manor until 1711 when Edmund Cottisford of Crowell sold it to Richard Carter, (fn. 76) a member of a local yeoman family that had lived in the parish since the 16th century at least. (fn. 77) Weston was settled on Richard Carter's son Richard (d. 1731) in 1722 when he married Mary Newell, daughter of Christopher Newell of Postcombe. (fn. 78) In 1777 Richard (III) Carter sold the manor and estate to Thomas Cooper for £5,000. (fn. 79) The Coopers again were a rising family of yeoman origin, who had made many judicious marriages with local families, the Carters, Newells, and Stevenses, and now owned much property in the district. (fn. 80) The Coopers had paid quitrents for the manor to Ewelme honor as early as 1718 and may, therefore, have already been leasing it. (fn. 81) Thomas Cooper (d. 1788) settled the manor on his son Thomas on his marriage in 1787, (fn. 82) but the younger Thomas Cooper (d. 1829), a 'money scrivener' and leading townsman in Henleyon-Thames, did not live in the parish. (fn. 83) On his bankruptcy in 1793 he sold much of his property, including an estate for life in Weston manor, for £25 to James Jones, the local miller. (fn. 84) After Cooper's death Weston manor and other property reverted to his son Samuel Cooper, a Henley solicitor, (fn. 85) who in 1853 sold the manor and other land to a relation J. W. Newell Birch of Henley Park. (fn. 86) After Birch's death the property went to his nephew Henry Birch Reynardson (d. 1884), and his nephew's son W. J. Birch Reynardson who sold the estate to Sydney Crees in 1924, but retained the manorial rights. These were held in 1959 by Lt.-Col. H. T. Birch Reynardson of Adwell House. (fn. 87)
Agrarian and Social History.
Anglo-Saxon settlers gave the village its name, perhaps to distinguish it from Aston—the east tun. (fn. 88) The soil, generally Upper Greensand and Gault Clay overlying rag, gravel, and sands, is excellent for growing wheat and other crops, and although no pre-Anglo-Saxon remains have been found it is unlikely that this area was left uninhabited in that period. Field and furlong names like Slade Field (O. E. Slaed) and Hodesacre (O.E. personal name Hod) testify to the early laying out by the Anglo-Saxons of the open fields that surrounded the village until the 19th century. (fn. 89) The Domesday entry is difficult to interpret: for a township of under 500 acres Weston's assessment of 9 hides is very high and the 8 ploughlands and 8½ plough-teams recorded there seem excessive. (fn. 90) The explanation appears to lie in the inclusion of part of Wheatfield and of Warmscombe in Watlington, which were for centuries in the manor of South Weston, and of part of Wormsley in Stokenchurch. (fn. 91) Some of the 12 acres of meadow recorded in Domesday may have been in Wheatfield and much of Weston's pasture land probably lay in the upland parts of the manor, i.e. in Warmscombe and Wormsley. The 4 acres of underwood recorded are also likely to have been in Wormsley which has always been wooded. (fn. 92) The lord, with 2 ploughs on his own demesne, farmed at least a quarter of the land and his tenants could make up 6½ plough-teams. The mill brought in 4s. a year, and the estate had increased in value from £6 in pre-Conquest days to £7 in 1086. (fn. 93)
The survey of 1279 reveals a number of developments. Eight (or possibly nine) villein holdings were recorded in Weston for which 6s. 10½d. a year rent and works were paid. (fn. 94) The virgate was the standard tenement and perhaps consisted of about 21½ acres as it did in the 17th century. (fn. 95) Works were heavy: 3 days a week from Michaelmas to haymaking in July; then 4 days a week until Michaelmas, and 4 autumn boons. But the villeins were evidently quite substantial men; they were expected to bring a horse and cart and another man to the week-work and 3 men to 3 of the boons and 2 to the fourth. Food renders indicate the antiquity of Weston's economy: each villein gave a loaf of bread, 1½ gallons of ale, and 2 hens and a cock to the lord at Christmas, and for churchscot 30 eggs at Easter and 5 bushels of brewing barley. Only one cottar was mentioned: he held a cottage and 3 acres for 2s. rent a year, suit of court, and attendance with 1 man at 2 autumn bedrips at the expense of the lord. As he had the name cocus (cook) he may have been employed in the lord's household. There were two free virgaters paying 4s. and 5s. a year respectively and owing scutage and suit at the manorial court and at Pyrton hundred court. (fn. 96) Their rent obviously did not represent the economic value of their virgates, for in 1275 one virgate was rented for 20s. a year. (fn. 97) John Fitzwyth, the lord, was said to hold 2 hides of ancient hidage, one of which he held in demesne; it is not clear in the survey what land was included in the other hide, but as a total of only 18 or 19 field virgates in all is recorded and the Wheatfield and Warmscombe parts of the Weston fee are surveyed separately it is evident that the land lay in Weston field. (fn. 98) The lord's 10 acres of woodland, however, may have been all or partly at Wormsley. (fn. 99)
An account of tithable land, probably dating from the 14th century, shows that the demesne was distributed in parcels throughout the open fields and not consolidated in one block. (fn. 100) Furlong names of this period also suggest that the parish was fully cultivated. Churchfurlong near the Adwell road, Nastfurlong in the south near Moorcourt in Lewknor, Nottelfurlong near 'le Mer', i.e. the Moor in the south-west, Musehull in the north-west near Stoke Talmage, Puttefurlong in the north-east all show cultivation near the parish boundaries. (fn. 101) Judging from the analogy of neighbouring villages there were probably already three fields. The name Mousehill Field is recorded, (fn. 102) and seems to have been the field in the north-east of the parish later known as Slade Field. The second field, Cop field in 1635, from the evidence of later terriers and maps lay between the Adwell road and the 'Saltway' (i.e. the Postcombe road), and the third field (known as Stoney Field in 1635 or South Field in the 19th century) lay to the south of the village and was bisected by the Lewknor road. (fn. 103)
Early-14th-century tax assessments bear out the picture of a small but prosperous farming community. As Warmscombe was taxed with Weston it is not possible to estimate the number of contributors from Weston alone. The total contribution, fixed at £2 17s. 3d. by 1344, was the smallest in the hundred except for those of Stoke Talmage and Pishill, but that is to be expected, as even with Warmscombe included Weston was small in acreage. (fn. 104) The list of taxpayers for 1316 shows that, besides the lord of the manor, who made the highest payment, there was a group of four substantial lesser tenants, consisting mainly of members of the Est, West, and Hurt families, mentioned in the survey of 1279, who each paid 5s. and over. Only two of the twelve contributors paid under 2s. (fn. 105)
Nine people contributed to Weston's modest assessment of 18s. 6d. in 1523, (fn. 106) a sign that the economy was still organized on conservative lines and that there had been little concentration of wealth. Unlike its neighbour Wheatfield, Weston had not been affected by the movement towards inclosure and conversion to sheep farming, or by the subsequent depopulation. The parish's history indeed well illustrates the rise of the small yeoman farmer to comparative affluence within the traditional system. There was no resident lord of the manor by the late 16th century and the demesne was in the hands of tenants. About 1592 Edmund Cottisford enfranchised the customary tenements and sold them to the tenants for various sums and for an annuity of £15 10s., charged on the individual estates. Yeoman families, the Heybournes, Coopers, Carters, and Stevenses, who dominated South Weston for the next two centurise, can be traced from about this time. Purchases of land show that the more enterprising farmers had already been accumulating holdings: only those of John Heybourne and John Brathwell consisted of single yardlands and a messuage. (fn. 107) William Carter held a messuage and 7½ yardlands for which he had paid £190, (fn. 108) William Stevens 3 yardlands, (fn. 109) and Thomas Cooper 2 messuages and 2 yardlands called 'Wagges', and 2 called 'Hylles', presumably after previous tenants, which he had inherited in 1570. (fn. 110) Four of these families were still in possession in 1648, but Brathwell's yardland had been absorbed into the 5½ yardlands held by the Hill family. (fn. 111) In 1665 these five farmers are found living in substantial houses with five and four hearths apiece, houses which were as large or larger than the Rectory which had four hearths. (fn. 112) Some years later the adult population was recorded as 58 for the Compton Census of 1676. (fn. 113)
Engrossment of holdings continued steadily into the 18th century and the Carters and Coopers, who were in turn lords of the manor, acquired by marriage and purchase the greater part of Weston. (fn. 114) The Carters left their Weston house, Manor Farm, (fn. 115) early in the 18th century, (fn. 116) and in 1777 Richard Carter sold his Weston estate to Thomas Cooper (d. 1788) for £5,000. (fn. 117) By then the Coopers had risen into the ranks of the gentry and had already bought up various properties in Weston: 2 messuages and a half-yardland in 1665, William Stevens's messuage and 82½ acres in Weston in 1761, for which, together with other property elsewhere Thomas Cooper paid £1,700; two cottages and 2 acres in 1770 and another small holding in 1772. (fn. 118) His successor, another Thomas Cooper (d. c. 1828), paid more than half Weston's land tax in 1785; by 1789 he was tenant also of the tithes; (fn. 119) and by 1794 he owned three out of the parish's four farmhouses, six cottages, and a windmill and leased the rector's small holding. (fn. 120) Robert Stone who paid about one-seventh of the tax owned the fourth farm; the remainder of Weston's land was farmed by four smallholders. (fn. 121)
Weston was typical of villages in the Chiltern plain and of many others elsewhere in that its yeoman families usually emigrated after a few generations. (fn. 122) Few of the families who flourished there in the 16th century still resided in the 18th century. The Carters had become London wine coopers, (fn. 123) the Heybournes Fleet Street confectioners, (fn. 124) and the Stevenses had moved to Abingdon. (fn. 125) The Cooper family farmed their land themselves, (fn. 126) until Thomas Cooper's death in 1788, by which time his descendants were settled in Henley and were among its leading inhabitants. (fn. 127) By the end of the century both the Cooper and Stone properties were farmed by two tenant farmers. (fn. 128)
The absence of any resident gentry, either at the manor or the Rectory, at the end of the century was of social importance. It is significant that from 1786 to 1830 the churchwardens' accounts were never approved and signed and it is likely that parish business was largely in the hands of William Hester, who was sole warden from 1806. In 1831 an effort was made to regularize matters: he presented his accounts and they were approved and signed by the curate, Samuel Hester and two other farmers. Thereafter, with sundry lapses, the curate and rector and one or two others signed the accounts. (fn. 129) Most of Weston's inhabitants were persons 'of the meaner sort', (fn. 130) and the burden of 18th-century wars pressed heavily on them. In 1768 ten families lived in pauper houses and another seven rented labourers' houses. (fn. 131) As the population was so small unemployment naturally did not reach the proportions that it did in some neighbouring parishes and the burden of supporting the poor was comparatively small. Although £79 16s. was spent on relief in 1803, more than twice the average expenditure in the 1770s and 1780s, the rate was only 6d. in the £1, well below the average in the hundred and the county. (fn. 132) In 1835 £95 10s. was spent on the poor, but this was not an average figure, for in the next year only £40 was spent. (fn. 133) In 1852, when South Weston was in the Thame Union, £41 was spent. (fn. 134)
The pattern of landholding changed when Thomas Cooper went bankrupt in 1794 and the farms on his estate were let to three tenant farmers by their new owners. (fn. 135) In 1795, therefore, besides several smallholders there were four tenant farmers in the parish, each farming land assessed at between £6 and £11. (fn. 136) As only a life-interest had been sold in part of Cooper's property, (fn. 137) Samuel Cooper had recovered by 1829 over half the old family estate, (fn. 138) and by 1847 he owned 219 acres. (fn. 139) The Loosely and Hester families farmed nearly 400 acres of the four tenant farms. (fn. 140) Eleven other families, six owning their own property, had less than an acre each. South Weston wood (24 a.) near Wormsley was owned by John Fane, lord of Wormsley. (fn. 141)
Methods of husbandry were still conservative: inclosure came very late, in 1856, (fn. 142) and little consolidation of holdings took place before it. Seventeenthcentury glebe terriers and 18th-century farm terriers show that the land was distributed in 1- or 2-acre lots, (fn. 143) and this distribution continued into the 19th century when the whole parish was farmed by two or three farmers. (fn. 144) Old inclosures in 1847 amounted only to about 22 acres, consisting mainly of farm and cottage gardens and closes in the village. (fn. 145) Arable farming was still predominant: there were 407 acres of arable in the three open fields (147, 130, and 130 acres) compared with 21 of pasture and meadow. (fn. 146) Crops were cultivated in the traditional pattern of two crops and a fallow. (fn. 147) Seventeenth-century inventories listed wheat, pease, beans, barley, oats, vetches and hemp, (fn. 148) and 18th-century evidence indicates that the yields were good. The soil was described in 1718 as 'malsny' and productive of 'much corn'. (fn. 149) A loam pit, recorded from the 14th century on, was undoubtedly used by the farmers to enrich their soil. (fn. 150) Some variation in the courses was introduced when in 1763 the three chief farmers agreed to experiment for three years, particularly with the fallow, which they said had 'not produced any or at best but little profit or advantage to the occupier'. It was decided that clover or other grass could be sown among the gratten (i.e. spring) corn and that turnips or other grasses could be sown on the fallow. (fn. 151) In 1847 the three fields were said to be cropped with wheat, beans, and fallow alternately; vetches or clover could be grown occasionally on the fallow by consent. (fn. 152)
The small lot meadow (2 a.) lay by the stream near the Rectory and was divided each year. (fn. 153) In 1777 Carter's farm had shares in Lower, Further, and Middle Amendment Lot meadows, and in Homeward Lot meadow. (fn. 154) Pasture was also short: in 1763 the farmers complained that horses were staked at the ends of the 'lands' and on the highways and balks and that cattle were fed by some owners on the common meadow, grass-ground, and highway. By the three-year agreement made then it was laid down that no horse was to be staked in the meadow or common fields until after fourteen days' notice to other proprietors, and that all were to turn their cattle in together. (fn. 155) Scarcity made cow-commons valuable: in 1677 one was bought for £10 3s. (fn. 156) In 1756 Carter's farm (162a.) had 7 cow-commons, but they had been reduced by the common consent of the parishioners to 3 and 4 in alternate years, i.e. the 'short shut' attached to the farm in 1777. (fn. 157) The same farm had the right to keep 120 sheep all the year round. (fn. 158) In 1847 six estates shared the common rights for 13 cows and 540 sheep. Two estates, 'called 166 and 115 acres', belonging to Samuel Cooper, lord of the manor, had respectively common for 166 and 115 sheep and 3½ and 2½ cow-commons. (fn. 159) Within the parish the commons apparently consisted only of the grass roads in the fields, and of common in the fields and meadows at certain times, when they were cleared of crops. The fallow field was commonable for sheep only until it was 'laid up for wheat', i.e. ploughed for the last time. Grass ways (6 a. 1 r. 8 p.) were commonable to stock in the fields. Lot meadow was open for cows on and from 1 August and the two commons, Aston Mead and the Moor (6 a. each), were broken on 6 June for cows only until 11 October, and for sheep only from then until 25 March. (fn. 160) To provide adequate pasture Weston enjoyed rights over some 30 acres outside the parish. The most important of these were in Wheatfield where there was a meadow (14 a.) called Weston Red Veal (Redville), paying all dues to Wheatfield, in which South Weston had the first crop; in 1777 it was said that whoever went into Red Veal first 'cut which acre he pleased'. (fn. 161) Another 6 acres paid dues to Wheatfield, but were in fact in the common fields of Weston. (fn. 162) The aftermath of 4 acres of grass-land in Stoke Talmage also belonged to Weston commoners, and 5 lands in Lewknor were owned by Weston landowners, but by 1847 they were no longer commonable to Weston commoners. (fn. 163)
In the 1850s J. W. Newell Birch of Henley bought up most of the parish: the Burgess property in 1852 and the Cooper estate in 1853. (fn. 164) Inclosure followed soon after in 1856. Birch received the largest allotments of Manor or Carter's farm (c. 133 a.), Webb's or Old farm (81 a.), and 68 acres of the Burgess property, and purchased 15 acres from the commissioners. Wadham College received 82 acres. Two other allotments of 21 and 23 acres were made and six of under 2 acres. The land outside the parish was also allotted, 13 acres in Wheatfield went to Newell Birch, and the Revd. C. V. Spencer of Wheatfield received 11 acres in Red Veal for its aftermath; another 122 acres of Wheatfield was also dealt with. Four acres in Stoke Talmage went to Lord Macclesfield for the foremath and about 1 acre in Lewknor to Birch. (fn. 165)
Inclosure had no marked effect on the small population of Weston: the highest figure recorded in the 19th century was 118 in 1831, an increase of 24 over the 1811 figure; by 1841 the population had dropped to 104 and it remained at about 98 until the end of the century. A decline set in after 1901 and only 44 persons (or 13 families) were enumerated in the 1931 census. Since then the trend has been upwards and the 1951 census recorded 61 persons, many of whom were employed in industry outside the parish. (fn. 166)
Farming practice in the second half of the 19th century and in the 20th century has followed the pattern commonly found in the Chiltern plain. There has been a noticeable increase in the size of farms and until after the Second World War arable farming predominated. In 1860 all Weston's four farmers were described as 'very poor' and there was no resident gentleman. (fn. 167) In 1924 Manor farm was a prosperous farm of 378 acres. (fn. 168) The chief crops grown there were wheat, beans, and barley for which the heavy soil was well suited. (fn. 169) Though not easy to work it is capable of producing heavy crops when the conditions are right. Government encouragement and Dr. Leo Jacobi's interest in pedigree cattle led to a turnover to pasture after the Second World War. In 1958 about half the land of Manor farm was pasture, and its herd of Dairy Shorthorns was well known. Experiments with crops on this farm have included growing maize for cattle. (fn. 170)
Until the 20th century there were two mills at work, the water-mill, close to Manor Farm, had by far the oldest history. In 1086 it was rendering 4s. to Robert d'Oilly. (fn. 171) It appears to have been given later to Merton Priory (Surr.), for in 1225 the prior established his right to customs and services for the mill from Ralph son of Robert, the lord of Weston manor. It was agreed that 6s. 8d. a year should be paid and all arrears were quitclaimed. (fn. 172) In 1297 the miller, being a tenant of Weston manor, was fined at Wallingford honor court. (fn. 173) When the manor was divided in the 15th century the mill evidently went with the Guise moiety, for in 1539 Sir John Williams purchased it with one half of the manor from John Guise. (fn. 174) In 1887 this mill was driven by steam and water from the mill stream, known as Weston Brook, and was still working at the end of the First World War. It ceased to do so soon after 1915, (fn. 175) and the mill stream has now burst its banks and the buildings are in ruins.
In 1676 a 'wind corn-mill' was built on rising ground in Copfurlong, on the manor estate, by the miller of Cuxham. In 1705 William Newell of Adwell purchased it complete with 'iron bars, gable, rope, sail cloathes, juckes, spindles, hopps, troughs, millbins, brasses, and goeing geeres'. It was on a 99-year lease and it was understood that within that period it might be pulled down or removed. (fn. 176) In 1794 the windmill was sold with the manor estate, (fn. 177) but in 1818 it was described as 'lately pulled down'. (fn. 178) It must have been re-erected, for a windmill in Copfurlong was said to be working in 1852 and it was in use until 1915. (fn. 179) It was pulled down in 1919. (fn. 180)
Weston church, a rectory in Aston deanery, may have been in existence by the early 12th century, if not much earlier, when a grant was made from the tithes. (fn. 181) The first recorded presentation was about 1215, when Ralph son of Robert, the tenant of the manor, presented Gilbert, probably his brother. (fn. 182) The advowson followed the descent of the manor, and presentations were made by members of the Fitzwyth and Beauchamp families from the 13th to the 15th century. Hugh de Plescy presented during a minority in 1318 and the king in 1364 and 1365. (fn. 183) In 1435 John Wysham, the husband of Margaret Beauchamp, presented. On Margaret's death some time after 1452 the advowson may have been divided like the manor into thirds and then into halves, (fn. 184) for in 1460 the Abbot of Oseney presented by grant of Lady Alice Beauchamp of Bloxham, (fn. 185) and the next three presentations (two in 1475 and one in 1476) were by Thomas and Elizabeth Croft, lords of a moiety of the manor, and the fourth in 1511 by John Guise, lord of the other moiety. (fn. 186)
The advowson was purchased with the manor by Sir John Williams and followed the manor's descent until 1593, when Edmund Cottisford of Wargrave (Berks.) sold it for £184 to John Neighbour of Watlington, who resold in 1596 to the Queen's College, Oxford. (fn. 187) In 1858 the college sold it for £2,000 to J. W. Newell Birch, the lord of Adwell manor, (fn. 188) who also bought South Weston manor. In 1866 the rectories of South Weston and Adwell were united, (fn. 189) and in 1959 Lt.-Col. H. T. Birch Reynardson was patron.
For a rectory Weston was, in the Middle Ages, a poor living: in 1254 it was valued at £2 13s. 4d., in 1291 at £4 6s. 8d. in addition to a payment to Oseney Abbey, and in 1535 at £9 2s. 4½d. (fn. 190) By the late 17th century the living was said to be worth £100 and by 1831 it was double that. (fn. 191) In 1849 the tithes were commuted for £195 19s. 9d. (fn. 192) In 1954 the united benefice was worth £336 and it was held with Lewknor. (fn. 193)
In addition to the tithes, the rector had a mediumsized glebe. Terriers of 1635 and 1741 show that it consisted of 1½ yardlands or 25 statute acres divided among the three fields. (fn. 194) By the inclosure award the rector received 21½ acres. (fn. 195)
Before the 18th century one or more unknown donors had given about 5½ acres of land, partly in Wheatfield, for the upkeep of the church fabric. No record remained of the gift, and by the mid-18th century the land had been divided among the principal farmers, who paid 15s. rent, about a third of its value. (fn. 196) Successive rectors complained about the misuse of the lands, which should have brought in enough to make the church 'a very beautiful little parish church', (fn. 197) but at the end of the century, when the rectors became non-resident, the matter was allowed to drop, and by 1849 only a rood of land was left. (fn. 198)
Two-thirds of the demesne tithes of Weston, like those of other D'Oilly manors, were given early in the 12th century to the church of St. George in Oxford castle, which in 1149 with all its possessions was granted to Oseney Abbey. (fn. 199) In 1254 Oseney's share of the Weston tithes was valued at 10s. and in 1291 at 13s. 4d., the same amount as in the early 16th century. (fn. 200) A medieval terrier, inserted in a missal, belonging to Weston church, listed the strips which owed tithes to Oseney. (fn. 201)
Medieval rectors were undistinguished, and before the 17th century few were university graduates: Gilbert, presented before 1219, had not yet been ordained an acolyte, and other 13th-century rectors were in deacons' or subdeacons' orders. Several came from villages owned by the Fitzwyth patrons, such as Wigginton, Shotteswell (Warws.), and Milcombe. (fn. 202) There is no evidence for non-residence and the likelihood that these men in minor orders lived in the parish is confirmed by various instances. One rector, for example, in the late 12th or early 13th century, found his glebe inadequate and rented a virgate in Stoke Talmage. Another, William Ardys (1511–?), who held the living for over 20 years, must also have resided, for it was noted at an episcopal visitation that a woman visited his house daily. (fn. 203)
In the late 16th century the rectory was held with Wheatfield, (fn. 204) but Thomas Greene (rector 1593–1634) lived constantly in Weston, where his children were born and he was buried. (fn. 205) The inventory of his goods, worth the substantial sum of £264, showed that he farmed his own glebe—his most valuable possessions, apart from his books, being his grain, and his animals—5 horses, 8 cattle, and some pigs. (fn. 206) His son Francis (d. 1675) also lived in Weston, where he was one of the leading inhabitants. (fn. 207) Another rector, John Gwyllym (c. 1665–1672), who came to the parish in the Commonwealth period, evidently also farmed his glebe: like Greene he had grain and cattle, but in his case there were very few books. (fn. 208)
After the Queen's College bought the advowson, the rectors were fellows or graduates of Queen's. The first, Gawin Eglesfield (rector 1634–47), was considered by the Provost of Queen's a 'dull, idle, negligent fellow', proficient only in 'good fellowship' (fn. 209) and the college denied his claim to be founder's kin, and refused him a fellowship, but when the Visitor, the Archbishop of York, pleaded for him they gave him South Weston living. As a rector, he gained praise and was described in the register as vigilantissimus rector. (fn. 210) Another rector, John Fisher, was chaplain of the Queen's College and 'lost' the living for 'being in arms for his majesty'. Fisher declared that Barlow, later Bishop of Lincoln, had informed against him and that 'that rascal Guillum for Oliverian compliance' had been given it. (fn. 211) Earlier John Gwyllym had obtained his B.A. at the chancellor's request because he had served with the Earl of Dover's regiment. (fn. 212)
Late-17th- and 18th-century rectors were fellows of Queen's who resigned their fellowships on being given the living. They lived and were buried in Weston, although from 1727, for over a hundred years, the living was usually held with Hampton Poyle, also a Queen's College living. (fn. 213) The bestknown 18th-century rector was the poet William Thompson (1753–66). (fn. 214) Another rector, John Hunter (1728–52), published in 1744 a small treatise on worship as a New Year's gift to his parishioners of Hampton and Weston. (fn. 215)
At this period services were held regularly, with two on Sundays, prayers on many holy days, and communion four times a year. (fn. 216) There were no unbelievers or dissenters, although some were absent from church, the most important being the lord of the manor, Thomas Cooper, who in the late 1760's ceased attending. (fn. 217) Cooper had several times caused trouble, having refused to pay his rate towards repair of the church, (fn. 218) and to follow the ancient customs about 'mounds' and tithes of corn. (fn. 219) As soon as he bought the manor about 1740 'he gave out that he would be troublesome as long as he lived', although later he did serve several years as churchwarden. (fn. 220) In the early 16th century there had been two wardens, but by the 18th there was only one, who sometimes held the position for many years. (fn. 221) The parish clerk, who had no fixed stipend but collected about 30 shillings a year from the parishioners at Easter, sometimes also held his office for many years. (fn. 222) Samuel White, who died in 1730, was the son of a parish clerk, and was himself clerk for about 50 years. (fn. 223) His social position in the 18th century is indicated by the fact that the rector sometimes invited him to eat with his servants. (fn. 224)
In about 1790 the rectors began to be non-resident, and the parish was served by a non-resident curate. (fn. 225) William Benson (1801–40), the last rector to hold both Weston and Hampton Poyle, lived mostly in the latter. By the early 19th century, although the people were said in general to be 'very attentive to their religious duties', the number of Sunday services had been cut to one and the number of communicants, which had been 15 or 20 in 1738, was about half that number. (fn. 226) Not until the 1840s, with the building of the new Rectory, (fn. 227) did the parish again have a resident rector. Two of the few parish records to survive, account books of the choir and the clothing club, indicate the benefits this brought to the parish. In the 19th century Methodism took root and congregations remained small, (fn. 228) although they increased slightly in the second half of the century. After 1866, when the benefices of Adwell and South Weston were united, the rector continued to live at Weston, but gave part of his time to the small parish of Adwell. (fn. 229) He was Henry Fanshawe, a fellow of New College for some years and Rector of Weston from 1862 to 1900. He came of a family which had distinguished itself in both the navy and army, and was himself the father of a number of distinguished sons. Of the three who became generals Sir Hew and Sir Robert lived in the neighbourhood for many years. (fn. 230)
The church of ST. LAWRENCE comprises a chancel, nave, and south porch, and an open central turret with spirelet above. It was rebuilt of flint in 1860 in the Gothic style. Before its reconstruction it was a very simple building with no tower and little external distinction between nave and chancel; there was a Decorated east window of three lights with a statue of St. Lawrence above it in a niche on the outside wall, and there was a Romanesque doorway on the north side. (fn. 231) The statue of St. Lawrence with his gridiron, (fn. 232) still in its original position, a tomb recess, now in the sanctuary, and a medieval tub font (fn. 233) were preserved from this old church. Buckler's drawing of 1822 shows that the chancel was entirely of 14th-century date. (fn. 234)
The chancel walls were said to be ruinous in 1530, (fn. 235) and complaints about the state of the fabric were frequent in the 18th century. The church was said, for instance, to be much out of repair in 1744: the rector stated after a summons to the archdeacon's court that this was owing to the refusal of Thomas Cooper and Robert Stone to pay a rate. (fn. 236) The main fabric had apparently been put in order by 1759 when, apart from the roof and the steps into the church from the porch, the only repairs ordered were to the interior fittings. The seats, floor, readingdesk, and pulpit were all to be 'new boarded' and a new cover was to be provided for the font. The roof was to be repaired 'in good time', but the part round the belfry was to be done at once. (fn. 237) In 1770–1 a payment of over £20 was made for 'rebuilding' the seats and repairing the church. (fn. 238) The state of the walls was giving concern in the early 19th century, when the west and south walls were reported as needing repair. (fn. 239) Some work was done in 1803 and in 1808 a bill of over £49 was paid. (fn. 240) In 1860 the rector wrote that the church was most ruinous, damp, and in a disgraceful state; that it had had no repairs done for more than a hundred years, and that it was proposed to erect on the same site an entirely new, larger, and more seemly church. (fn. 241) In this year £600 was contributed by the neighbouring gentry, especially by the patron and lord of the manor, J. W. Newell Birch of Henley Park, by the Oxford Diocesan Church Building Society, and the Incorporated Church Building Society. (fn. 242) The architect was R. C. Hussey. The diocesan architect G. E. Street approved his plans, on the whole. Street objected to the position of the pulpit, which would obstruct the view of the chancel from the nave, and to the position of the readingdesks, which were facing west and south-west. He noted that there was no credence table and the rector agreed to have this provided and to alter the position of the desks. The latter does not appear to have been done. Street's proposal to retain the 'characteristic west front' led to the reply that it had 'nothing so characteristic as to be desirable to retain it. It being a plain blank wall . . ., a buttress not quite in the middle reaching 3 parts of the height of the gable (manifestly added to sustain the outward pressure . . . of the bells)' . . . and that it had been replaced in the architect's plan 'by a Decorated window in keeping with the other windows as it was wished to make the West front rather more ornamental— as it faces the village road'. (fn. 243)
The chief addition since the restoration is the wooden gates to the churchyard given in 1919 by the Fanshawe family as a war memorial.
In the medieval period the church had an altar to St. Nicholas besides lights to the Trinity, St. Katherine, and the Holy Rood. (fn. 244) It once possessed a missal, but it was sold at an unknown date to Lewknor. (fn. 245) No record of its vestments or ornaments in Edward VI's time has survived, but in 1739 Mrs. Thomasina Carter, widow of Francis Carter, wine merchant of London, gave a handsome green carpet for the communion table. (fn. 246) The present wooden reredos with mosaic panels probably dates from the 1860 restoration. A small organ, made by John Fincham of London, was also installed at that time.
From the parish register it appears that the following were buried in the chancel, two of them under the communion table: Thomas Greene (d. 1634), rector; John Gwyllym (d. 1671/2), rector; Thomas Tomlinson (d. 1689), rector; Allen Fisher (d. 1691); Mr. John Jackson (d. 1727), rector, and John Hunter,rector (d. 1751).
The following memorials are now in the vestry or the church: a tablet commemorating the gift of Richard Carter (d. 1774), citizen of London, of £10 for the poor; tablets to John Hunter, rector (d. 1751), Robert Stone (d. 1778), gent.; Thomas Lowthian (d. 1779), Rector of South Weston; and to R. T. Espinasse (d. 1926), rector for 26 years.
The original register dates from 1558 for burials, 1559 for marriages and 1586 for baptisms. (fn. 247) The churchwardens' account book covers the years 1770 to 1908, and 1873 to 1891 for Adwell. (fn. 248)
There is a chalice with paten cover of 1576 and 1577 and a small silver paten of 1860 presented by the rector. (fn. 249) In 1552 there had been a chalice, but this was presumably confiscated. (fn. 250)
The bellcot contains one bell, inscribed G.C. 1724, i.e. George Chandler, the founder, (fn. 251) but the Edwardian inventory recorded two bells. This second bell may have been the 'old cracked bell' which the vestry agreed to sell in 1864 and devote the proceeds to the church rate. (fn. 252)
The churchyard walls often gave trouble. They were broken in 1530 and were long out of repair in the 18th and early 19th centuries. (fn. 253)
No recusants were listed in the various returns of the 17th century, (fn. 254) or in the 18th-century visitation returns, until 1771, when a farmer's wife was reported as a papist; (fn. 255) and there seems to have been no Protestant nonconformity in the parish until the early 19th century. A Wesleyan chapel was built about 1830: (fn. 256) it seated 58 and in 1851 had an average congregation of 23 in the afternoon and 30 in the evening. (fn. 257) The Wesleyans owned two cottages with gardens as well as the chapel and it may be that the certificate for a dissenting meetinghouse, obtained in 1834, was for the use of a new group. (fn. 258) By 1854 the number of dissenters in the parish was probably decreasing; (fn. 259) by 1866 the Wesleyan Methodist congregation was extinct: their chapel was being used by Primitive Methodists, (fn. 260) and it was closed by 1960.
In 1738 the rector described his parishioners as 'generally illiterate people and of the meaner sort', though 'good christians'. He enclosed in his return to the bishop a small tract drawn up by himself with a view to 'promoting' piety and devotion as his parishioners could neither 'purchase, nor spare time to peruse larger treatises'. (fn. 261) This indicates that some at least were able to read. There was still no school of any kind in 1768, and the rector catechized the children only between Easter and Whitsun. (fn. 262)
In 1808 there was a school for 8 or 10 girls, kept by a woman who lived in the parsonage house, but it was not endowed nor supported by voluntary contributions. (fn. 263) A similar kind of school for boys and girls, kept by 'a very decent woman', was mentioned in 1815, and again in 1818, when a Sunday school attended by about 10 children was being held. (fn. 264) The Sunday school evidently did not go on for it had to be 'restarted' in 1832. It was supported by the rector and the curate: its 27 children used to come at the age of 3 or 4 years and leave when they were 15 or 16 years old. (fn. 265) This school did not apparently survive long, for both in 1854 and 1871 it was said that there had been no schools in the parish. (fn. 266) By 1871 the children were going to Lewknor school, which they have continued to attend. (fn. 267)
It was believed in 1738 that 5½ acres of land, lying mostly in Red Veal in Wheatfield, and then divided into four estates, had been devised in trust, at an unknown date, for 'beautifying' the church. The four occupiers were then paying to a churchwarden 15s. 4d. yearly in rent, though the true value was said to be thrice that amount. The churchwardens were thought to appropriate most of the rent, though they met the cost of the Communion wine from it. (fn. 268) By 1759 even this pious form of expenditure had been discontinued, (fn. 269) and though the payment of the rent is traceable until 1771, (fn. 270) the reputed charity must be deemed lost well before that time.
In 1774 Richard Carter, of South Weston, left in trust to the minister and churchwardens £100 stock, the interest to be used to buy bread and meat for an annual distribution to the poor on 7 June. (fn. 271) Carter's charity was first distributed in 1775, but payment of the interest was withheld about 1815 through an alleged failure of trustees. (fn. 272) Payment had been resumed about 1822 and the income of £3 was then used for bread for the poor at Christmas. (fn. 273) In 1957 bread to the value of £2 10s. was distributed to six families. (fn. 274)