A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 9, Bloxham Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.
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WROXTON (fn. 1)
The parish of Wroxton (2,543 a.) (fn. 2) lies 3 miles westnorth-west of Banbury and includes the hamlet of Balscott. (fn. 3) It lies on a sandstone plateau covered by red loam, rising at Claydon Hill, its highest point, to 550 ft. Precipitous ravines, like Ragnell Bottom, cut by streams, form natural boundaries to the north, east, and south; the two villages themselves are situated at the head of other gullies that cut deep into the plateau from the south and east. To the west the parish boundary is marked off by no natural feature from the neighbouring parish of Alkerton.
The parish was once traversed by ancient trackways and by the Saltway, a route from the Worcestershire saltworks to London. It has not yet been possible to prove the existence of a Roman road, but there are slight traces of a Roman settlement. (fn. 4) The main road from Stratford-on-Avon to Banbury bisects the parish east and west, passing to the north of Wroxton village and leaving Balscott well to the south. This was always a busy thoroughfare: in 1391 the Prior of Wroxton complained of impoverishment due to the obligation to give hospitality to a stream of travellers on it, and it figures prominently as London Way on maps of Wroxton of 1684 and 1768. (fn. 5) Regular entries in Wroxton estate accounts from 1685 about Banbury market (fn. 6) suggest that there was considerable local traffic on this road. In the mid 18th century, when it was proposed to turnpike it, William Cartwright of Aynho argued that a good road between Banbury and Stratford 'would be a great convenience for bringing coals thence and carrying corn thence'. (fn. 7) The proposed alignment of the road caused disputes, however, and in 1753 30 inhabitants petitioned Francis, Earl of Guilford (d. 1790) asking that the turnpike should follow an existing driftway to avoid loss of good land. (fn. 8) The earl was himself concerned in case travellers might avoid the tollgate by passing through Wroxton Park. (fn. 9) A Bill was brought in in 1753 and work began early in 1754. (fn. 10)
A stone guide-post, which stands on the Banbury road just outside the village, was set up in 1686 by Francis White, whose name is inscribed on it. The New Inn, also on the Banbury road, probably came into existence soon after the road was turnpiked. To the north of the highway is a mineral railway, a branch of the former G.W.R., built to facilitate the exploitation of ironstone in the parish. It was under construction in 1880. (fn. 11)
In the Middle Ages Wroxton was probably a larger settlement than Balscott. (fn. 12) In 1377 148 men and women contributed to the poll tax, but many died from plagues shortly afterwards. (fn. 13) A suit roll of 1569 lists 70 names, 12 of them of widows. (fn. 14) The parish register for 1563–71 shows a continued, if less marked, increase. (fn. 15) The Protestation Return of 1641 recorded an adult male population of 107, and in 1676 there were 219 communicants of 16 and over, both of which suggest a total population of c. 330. (fn. 16) After a period of stability the population began to rise about 1740; (fn. 17) the rate of growth was highest, however, in the second, third, and fourth decades of the 19th century. The total population was 613 in 1801, 652 in 1811, and 792 in 1821. By 1841 it had reached a peak of 819. (fn. 18) It fell steadily to 562 in 1901. In 1961 it was 598. (fn. 19)
Wroxton village lies on the slopes of a valley at a height of c. 500 ft. on the east side of the parish. The earliest spellings suggest an etymology Wroces Stan or the Buzzards' stone. (fn. 20) The extent of the village before the 18th century is unknown, but it can never have been large. In 1738 the vicar returned 50 houses.
In 1797 the village was described as 'tolerably large', and in 1841 there were 129 houses. (fn. 21) The main Banbury-Stratford road forms one side of the triangle in which the village lies. From it the village street descends southwards past the church, which stands high above the road, to the pond and school; it leaves Wroxton Abbey and its out-buildings isolated in their park in the south-east corner, and then ascends again to join the highway. Most of the cottages and houses date from the early 17th or 18th century and so the village has preserved to a remarkable extent its regional character. The cottages are mostly 2-storied, though some have cellars, and are built of coursed ironstone rubble, or occasionally of ashlar. They mostly have brick chimney stacks. Probably all were once thatched, for stone slates were little used in this area. There was still much thatch in 1965. A number (e.g. Ivy Cottage) retain ancient stone-mullioned windows or casements, while others have 18th-century casements. Two are dated: Wroxton Cottage is inscribed 'I.S. 1736' and another, some 30 yards to the west of the old school, has a sundial inscribed 'C:S.E. 1752, 30 May'. (fn. 22) Many were probably rebuilt after a serious fire in 1666. Collections after the fire were made in various parishes and over £50 was distributed among 18 'necessitated poor'. (fn. 23)
The 'White Horse' is first mentioned by name in 1782; the 'North Arms', although a 17th-century house in origin, does not appear to have been licensed until c. 1850. (fn. 24) It is of two builds and has been refaced. There are many farm-houses in the village of 17th- or early-18th-century origin. A barn at Raydon Hill farm is dated 'W.L. 1677'. The 19th and 20th centuries have seen the addition of a few new buildings such as the nonconformist chapels, the vicarage-house, built in 1868 by the architect John Gibson, and the Roman Catholic chapel, (fn. 25) but they lie on the fringe of the old village. Since 1840, when its streets were taken in hand by Colonel North and pig-sties and rubbish dumps cleared away, (fn. 26) Wroxton has been almost a 'model' village.
The medieval village was no doubt dominated by the Augustinian priory founded there in the 13th century. (fn. 27) This brought it into contact with a wider world, and the parish benefited directly from the priory's charitable gifts: on Maundy Thursday bread and fish to the value of 40s. was dispensed to the poor, and at the obit of the founder 14 paupers received alms valued at £5 16s. (fn. 28) The village has also been made memorable by its connexion with Wroxton Abbey, which was built on the priory site in the early 17th century, and with the distinguished members of the Pope and North families who have resided there. Sir William Pope entertained James I, and William's grandson, the royalist Sir Thomas Pope, Earl of Downe (d. 1660), received Charles I and his queen after the two royal armies had joined forces at Edgehill. (fn. 29) Francis North, Lord Keeper, who had married a sister of the last Earl of Downe, was often at Wroxton. He spent much of his vacations at the Abbey with his two brothers and his sisters, a company he styled societas exoptata. In his last illness he retired to Wroxton, being partly drawn by the recent discovery of the medicinal qualities of the waters at Astrop near King's Sutton (Northants.). He took the great seal with him and carried on his work from Wroxton until his death in 1685. (fn. 30)
Among other distinguished members of the family who resided from time to time were the Keeper's brother Roger North, the historian of the family and an amateur scientist, who built a laboratory at Wroxton, and Frederick, Lord North and Earl of Guilford (d. 1792), 13 times M.P. for Banbury, and First Lord of the Treasury 1770–82. (fn. 31) Among the literary friends of the family who stayed at Wroxton were Francis Wise (d. 1767), Wroxton's incumbent, (fn. 32) and Horace Walpole. (fn. 33)
Many of the priory buildings presumably dated from the early 13th century, and in 1304 it was reported that they were out of repair. The prior and convent asked for the grant of three years' indulgence to those visitors who should assist them. (fn. 34) A clause in the first lease of the site to Sir William Raynesford, dated 1536, directed that most of the buildings should be destroyed. (fn. 35) There is a 13th-century arched recess and a 14th-century doorway in the cellars of the present house (fn. 36) and the greater part of the north wing appears to be part of the monastic buildings, the north wall of the existing hall being the original exterior south wall. In 1956 excavations in the grounds uncovered conduits and foundations of some of the monastic out-buildings and further excavations in 1964 revealed the monastic church lying immediately to the north east of the house.
The present house was built in the second decade of the 17th century by Sir William Pope, later Earl of Downe (d. 1631), at a reputed cost of £6,000. (fn. 37) The doors of the chapel bear the date 1618, by which time it may be presumed that the work was virtually complete. The house is of 3 stories, with stonemullioned windows and numerous gables. The west front forms a symmetrical composition, with a central porch running up all 3 stories and flanked by projecting north and south wings. Though a south wing was clearly intended from the first, it was not in fact built until 1858–9. Eighteenth-century drawings show the house ending abruptly where the wing now joins the main structure. (fn. 38)
Of the original fittings the most remarkable are the carved wooden doors of the chapel already mentioned, the wooden gallery in the hall, elaborately carved with strapwork cartouches, caryatides, and other Jacobean motifs, and the glass, some by the brothers Van Linge, in the east window of the chapel. There is also a good deal of 16th- and 17th-century woodwork scattered about the house. Some of this was removed in the 18th century from the North family seat of Kirtling (Cambs.), and some was bought abroad by Colonel North in the early 19th century. At one time there was much 16th-century heraldic glass in the windows of the hall, some of which was original and some taken from other houses by the Norths. None of this now remains: some went long since to the Gothic Temple in the grounds of Stowe House (Bucks.), more was removed in 1901 to the Roman Catholic church at Kirtling, and the rest was sold to an American collector in the 1920s. (fn. 39) Of the moveables, such as pictures, furniture, and tapestries, (fn. 40) nothing now remains at Wroxton, as the entire contents of the house were sold by auction in 1933. (fn. 41)
Towards the end of his life Lord Keeper North (d. 1685) carried out some extensive works at Wroxton with the assistance of his brother Roger who was an architect of ability. Roger records that the Lord Keeper erected 'a large order of stabling very stately and convenient; and built from the ground a withdrawing room and back stairs and finished up the rooms of state, as they were called, and shaped the windows, which before had made the rooms like birdcages', all at a cost of over £2,000. (fn. 42) When Celia Fiennes visited the house about this time, she approved of the alterations 'all the new fashion way'. (fn. 43)
Further alterations were carried out in the 1740s by Francis, later Earl of Guilford (d. 1790). (fn. 44) In 1747 he invited Sanderson Miller to design a new Gothic east window for the chapel. (fn. 45) Apart from the erection of a new entrance gateway in 1771 (fn. 46) no further changes took place for nearly a century. A Gothic library designed by Sir Robert Smirke was added on the east side of the house in the second quarter of the 19th century (fn. 47) and in 1858–9 Colonel North employed John Gibson (1817–92) to design the south wing in a Jacobean style matching the rest of the house. (fn. 48)
The gardens were laid out in 1733–48 by Francis, Earl of Guilford (d. 1790). (fn. 49) Alterations had been started even earlier, in 1728, when Francis, while his father was still alive, commissioned Tilleman Bobart, a member of the Oxford family of gardeners, to construct a rectangular pond, 240 ft. x 40 ft., and improve the terrace. In 1730 Bobart submitted a design for the kitchen garden, and was still at work at Wroxton two year later. (fn. 50) It is not known whether he was also responsible for the major alterations that then began. The main features of these were a dam, creating a large artificial lake; a cascade falling down 20 ft. and a serpentine river running through woods from the dam to the stream at the end of the park; a pillared Gothic rotunda on a mound, designed by Sanderson Miller in 1750 and equipped with 'curtains that, by turning screws, let down so as to afford shelter whichever way you please'; (fn. 51) a Chinese summer-house, that was in being by 1749; (fn. 52) a Chinese bridge and a small Chinese shelter for a seat; an obelisk erected on a prominent position to commemorate the visit of Frederick, Prince of Wales, for the Banbury Races of 1739; (fn. 53) a hot house, and extensive planting of trees, shrubs, and flowers. (fn. 54) The result was greatly admired at the time, for example by Horace Walpole and Dr. Richard Pococke, but many of the features of the Georgian layout, including the shelter, rotunda, and summer-house, have since disappeared. (fn. 55) The house was modernized in 1964–5 and opened in 1965 as a college for American students of the Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey. (fn. 56)
Balscott hamlet lies in the south-west of the parish at the head of a steep gully leading south. The earliest spellings are Berescote or Belescote, and the name probably derives from Baelles cot or the homestead of Baell. (fn. 57) The site, 500 ft. up, seems originally to have been triangular, the houses built round a green, with the church almost in the centre. Balscott was a hamlet of moderate size in the Middle Ages; (fn. 58) in 1738 the vicar returned 20 houses and in 1841 there were forty-eight. (fn. 59) In the 19th century a Wesleyan chapel was built in the apex of the triangle. The school of 1840, enlarged in 1867, was built of stone in the Gothic style. (fn. 60) It was not until the 20th century that the introduction of new building materials, yellow brick and concrete, began to make much effect upon the character of the village. The cottages are mainly 2-storied and of 17th- or 18th-century date. They are built of local ironstone, and, although thatch remains, Welsh slate is also common. The 'Butchers Arms', now much altered, dates from the 17th century.
Three farm-houses are of considerable architectural interest. Of these Grange Farm and the Priory Farm retain windows and doors of medieval date. (fn. 61) Wroxton Abbey had property in the hamlet and perhaps at least one of these houses and possibly both were originally built for the priory's tenants in the 14th century. In 1535 Richard Burden, a salaried official of the priory and general receiver of all its rents, farmed the priory's grange farm. (fn. 62) His family remained in Balscott and for the hearth tax of 1665 Robert Burden (d. 1677) was assessed on 5 hearths. (fn. 63) He lived in a house on the northern edge of the hamlet, bordering on the common. The priory also had a bailiff at Balscott, Richard Taylor. He was the receiver of rents for Balscott and Wroxton, (fn. 64) and he may have occupied Priory Farm. The occupant in 1665 may have been Edward Atkins who was assessed on 5 hearths for the tax. (fn. 65)
Priory Farm is set back from the road behind its farm-buildings. Its original medieval hall, though now subdivided, can be identified. It was unusually large (17 ft. x 19 ft.) and in the south wall there is a window of 4 lights, of which the heads have fine curvilinear tracery of the 14th or early 15th century. The walls are of medieval thickness and the roof is in part medieval although much altered in the 17th century. The house itself was much altered c. 1500 when the main entrance through a wide doorway with a 4-centred arch, contained within a square label, was constructed and a new service bay was added, separated by a through passage from the hall. There was a major rebuilding in the 17th century when the north wall of the hall was completely rebuilt and its roof structure altered. A stair-case was added and mullioned windows were inserted. In the mid 18th century there was a complete reorganization of the one-time service end of the building: the 17th-century parlour became the service room and the hall became the kitchen, a new canopied door was added to the south front, and sash windows were inserted.
The architectural history of Grange Farm is very similar. It can be identified with the house with two wings shown on a map of 1684, near to Grange Close from which it is separated by Grange Lane, and was then occupied by Walter Garner. (fn. 66) It lies close to Priory Farm and is entered by a fine and unusually large doorway with a 4-centred moulded arch of 15th-century date. A large window of 2 lights, once lighting the medieval hall, remains. It has a stone mullion and transom and Perpendicular tracery contained within a square head. There is a door at the rear with a 4-centred arch. A bread oven was built out into the road at a later date.
Manor Farm, once the manor-house, has an Lshaped plan and dates from the 17th century, though it was much altered in the 18th century. It was the chief house in the village in the 17th century and was occupied by the Sacheverell family. It was assessed on 7 hearths in 1665 (fn. 67) and it figures on maps of 1677 and 1684. (fn. 68) The present house has an 18th-century front, while the rear wing is mainly 17th-century with mullioned windows of moulded stone and a 2-storied stair-case projection. The stable with a pigeon loft over it is also of 17thcentury date. The house is approached through a 17th-century gateway and ascending stone steps.
Balscott House, another 17th-century house, consists of 2 stories and an attic. It was originally built on a 2-unit plan but was added to at later dates. A spiral stair-case is contained in a projecting square block at the back of the house. The hall chimney was placed against the screens passage and a large open fire-place still remains.
Outside the village there is another 17th-century house, Balscott Mill, a further illustration of the great revival in agricultural prosperity of this period. Home Farm, of late-18th-century date, is also of some architectural interest. It is built in the local style and with local materials.
Balscott and Wroxton have been chiefly distinguished by their connexion with Wroxton Abbey and its inhabitants. Thomas Pope's estate suffered damage during the Civil War, (fn. 69) but the parish played no prominent part in events.
Manors and Other Estates.
In 1089 Wroxton, assessed at 17 hides, was held in chief by Guy de Reinbeudcurt, lord of Chipping Warden (Northants.). His son Ingram was holding of him, (fn. 70) but neither at Wroxton nor elsewhere is anything further heard of this son and by 1120–30 Wroxton had passed with the barony of Chipping Warden to Richard, another son. WROXTON MANOR followed the descent of the barony of Chipping Warden, known also as the honor of Rockingham. (fn. 71) Held as 1 fee of the lordship in the late 13th century and probably before, it made payment for castle-guard at Rockingham. (fn. 72) The overlordship passed from Richard to his daughter and heir, Margery, and to her husband Robert Foliot. In 1173–4 Foliot became a monk at Old Warden (Beds.) and was succeeded by his son Richard who came of age c. 1177 and died in 1203. Through his marriage with Richard's daughter and heir, Margaret, Wischard Ledet (d. 1221) then inherited the barony. His daughter Christine took it to her first and second husbands, Henry de Braybrooke (d. 1234) and Gerard de Furnival (d. 1241–2), and so probably to her third husband Thomas de Grelley (d. 1262), lord of Pyrton. Both in 1235 and 1242, however, for some unknown reason, Wroxton was said to be held by Wischard (II) Ledet, Christine's son by her first marriage, who died on crusade in 1241–2. (fn. 73) Christine died in 1271, seised of the barony, including Wroxton. Her heirs were Christine and Agnes, grand-daughters of Wischard (II) Ledet; Christine, to whose share of the barony Wroxton belonged, married Sir William Latimer. (fn. 74) The overlordship of Wroxton descended from Christine to her son Thomas Latimer (d. 1334). In 1335 his wife Laura was given dower of a third of the rent of Wroxton. (fn. 75) The connexion between Wroxton and the overlords probably became increasingly tenuous, but 6s. 8d. quit rent for Rockingham castle-guard was still being paid to the king in 1536. (fn. 76)
From at least the early 12th century the Belets were under-tenants at Wroxton. (fn. 77) Hervey Belet, the first recorded member of the family to hold Wroxton, was excused payment of danegeld for his Oxfordshire lands in 1136. (fn. 78) His son Michael, hereditary butler to Henry II and a prominent judge, (fn. 79) held Oxfordshire lands in 1155, and Wroxton was probably included in his 1166 return of 4 fees of the old enfeoffment held under Robert Foliot. (fn. 80) He was holding the Oxfordshire fee in 1199 (fn. 81) but was probably dead by 1201. (fn. 82) In the office of royal butler and in his Oxfordshire lands at least he was succeeded by his son Master Michael Belet, civil lawyer and canonist. (fn. 83) Michael's rights in the property of his grandfather were confirmed by King John in 1205. (fn. 84) Like his father he too had a successful career as a royal servant, although he temporarily incurred the king's displeasure in 1211 and his property was confiscated for a few months. (fn. 85) The Belet family were pious benefactors of religious houses (fn. 86) and c. 1217 Michael founded a house of Augustinian canons at Wroxton and endowed it, among other properties, with his Wroxton manorhouse and demesne. (fn. 87) His heirs, his sister Annora and her husband, Walter de Verdun, disputed the grant, (fn. 88) but apparently became reconciled to it later, for Annora herself endowed the priory with a mill and 6½ yardlands in Wroxton in 1263. (fn. 89) The priory was returned as under-tenant of Wroxton, holding of the honor of Rockingham in 1242 and 1271. (fn. 90) Wroxton Priory retained the fee throughout the Middle Ages and gradually extended its holding in the parish, acquiring the Clements' estate in 1242 (fn. 91) and other small parcels of land. (fn. 92) In 1411 the priory was given a grant of free warren in all its Wroxton demesne lands, and by 1536, when it surrendered to the Crown, it held nearly all the land in the parish. (fn. 93)
In 1536 the Crown granted a 21-year lease of the site and demesne of the two manors of Wroxton and Balscott to William Raynesford of Wroxton. (fn. 94) In 1537 Thomas Pope, the Treasurer of the Court, obtained a reversion of Raynesford's lease in return for an exchange of land and some money, and a grant in fee of the two manors in exchange for Clapton manor (Northants.). (fn. 95) In November Pope bought out the remainder of Raynesford's lease for £200 and thus acquired full possession of the manors and demesnes. (fn. 96)
In 1551 he gave his brother and heir John a 99year lease of the manors. (fn. 97) Shortly afterwards Thomas Pope conceived the idea of founding Trinity College, Oxford, and in 1554 he conveyed the manors for ever to the new foundation. (fn. 98) Pope's arrangements, however, were singularly unbusinesslike for so able and astute an administrator. He agreed with his brother John that his own steward should hold the manorial court, while John took the profits and signed the copies, a wholly illegal arrangement which caused much trouble for Trinity when it took over from Thomas Pope. (fn. 99) Worse still, the day after he transferred the property to Trinity he is alleged to have settled it in tail male on his brother John. (fn. 100)
The conveyance attesting the settlement has not survived, but the fact that John Pope's son William proceeded to spend £6,000 in the early years of the 17th century in erecting the existing mansion suggests that it was a reality. Some such arrangement for the manor house of Fyfield (Berks.) was certainly made at about the same time by Thomas Pope's old friend Thomas White in his foundation of St. John's College, Oxford, (fn. 101) and it is therefore probable that the Wroxton property was so entailed and that Trinity accepted the obligation to renew the lease to the heirs male. Created Earl of Downe in 1628, William Pope died 3 years later, by which time the remarkable situation had arisen of a great English land-owner whose main residence was held on lease. On the first earl's death his younger son Sir Thomas Pope seized Wroxton and Balscott, the evidences to the property, and the personal estate of the late earl, claiming it on the strength of a death-bed will. The heir to the title was the first earl's grandson, Thomas, aged 8, the child of his eldest son William who had died in 1624. It was alleged on the minor's behalf that Trinity College had made a 'confidence or agreement' with the first Sir Thomas Pope that the lease was to be renewed only to the heir male of the family, this document having been seized by Sir Thomas Pope. The President of Trinity College denied all knowledge of any such agreement and 9 years later took a surrender of the old lease from Sir Thomas Pope and issued a new one for 21 years. (fn. 102) Thus Thomas, Earl of Downe (d. 1660), never possessed Wroxton; on his death without issue in 1660 his uncle Sir Thomas (d. 1668) succeeded to the title. When the latter's son also died in 1668 there was a failure of the male line, and the property, including the Wroxton leases, was divided between 3 daughters. The second daughter Frances married the rising lawyer Francis North, later Lord Guilford, who in 1681 bought out the shares of the other two in the leases of manors and rectories for £5,100. (fn. 103) By this means the property, still held on 21-year leases from Trinity, passed into the hands of the Norths, Barons and later Earls of Guilford, where it remained until the failure of the male line in 1827. It then passed to Maria, Marchioness of Bute, the eldest daughter of George Augustus, Earl of Guilford (d. 1802), until her death in 1841, when it descended to the second daughter, Susan (d. 1884), who inherited the title of Baroness North. She married Colonel J. S. Doyle (d. 1894), who changed his name to North, and their son William, Lord North, continued to hold the estate on lease until his death in 1932. In that year the family found itself in financial difficulties, the lease was surrendered to Trinity, and the long connexion of the Popes and Norths with Wroxton manor ended. (fn. 104)
The Wroxton and Balscott manors, when given to Trinity in 1554, formed a very substantial portion of the college endowment, being £80 out of a total of £191 8s. 4d. (fn. 105) The lease was surrendered in 1640 and from then onward was issued for 21 years at a time, at a rent of £24, 24 qr. of barley malt and 18 qr. of wheat, a fine being paid for each renewal. After 1680 the lease was regularly renewed every 4 years. The fine was set at £120 from 1684 to 1752, and rose to a peak of £1,162 in 1812. (fn. 106) The rent, with its substantial proportion fixed to the price of malt and wheat, also rose greatly in the late 18th century, reaching £248 in 1817. In 1860 a new agreement was entered into, providing for a rack rent to begin in 1881. (fn. 107) In that year a new lease was granted but in 1894 the agricultural depression obliged William, Lord North, to return to the college the 403 a. of agricultural land which he had rented at £725, leaving himself only the mansion and park at a rent of £510. In 1921 he took a 14year lease of the mansion and park at a rent of £742, the unexpired portion being surrendered at his death in 1932. (fn. 108)
In 1086 BALSCOTT, assessed at 5 hides, was a part of the fief of Bishop Odo of Bayeux and was held by Wadard, one of his most influential and wealthy tenants. (fn. 109) Like other of Wadard's lands Balscott afterwards formed part of the barony of Arsic, of which Cogges was the head. (fn. 110) The later manor, not recorded until the 16th century, descended from the knight's fee for which Balscott was held under this barony, and as late as 1535 the Prior of Wroxton owed suit of castle-guard at Dover, part of the service for which the barony was held. (fn. 111) The overlordship was held by the Arsic family in the 12th and 13th centuries. (fn. 112) After the death in 1230 of Robert Arsic it formed part of the inheritance of Joan, one of his two daughters and coheirs, and was returned as held of her in 1242. (fn. 113) In fact Joan had granted her rights in Cogges to Walter de Grey, Archbishop of York, in 1241, and in 1244 she and her second husband granted the homage and services of tenants, identifiable as tenants in Balscott, to Walter son of Robert de Grey, the Archbishop's nephew, who obtained the barony and the knight's fees in Oxfordshire and elsewhere. (fn. 114) The overlordship is not recorded again until 1536. (fn. 115)
An under-tenant, William Leuke, perhaps the son of the Robert Leuke who held land in Balscott in 1200, was mentioned in 1204. He claimed to hold 1 carucate in Balscott by service of ½ fee of John le Pahier. (fn. 116) John le Pahier's connexion has not been traced further but from later evidence his land was clearly part of the Arsic fee. William Leuke granted it in 1206 to Walter of Sarsden (Cerceden) and his wife Gillian, (fn. 117) but the Leuke family had other land for in 1241 William Leuke's son William acknowledged the customs and services he owed for a ¼ fee in Balscott to Joan Arsic and acknowledged the payment of a due for castle-guard at Dover. (fn. 118) He was recorded as one of 4 co-parceners in the fee in 1242, and a Roger Leuke was one of the Arsic tenants in 1244. (fn. 119) The connexion of the family with the fee is not recorded further and in 1306 a William Leuke of Balscott, presumably the man who was accused of a killing in 1299, paid a very small tax. (fn. 120)
The Sarsdens, who were granted the ½ fee in 1206, had a longer connexion. The family seems to have already had land in Balscott, for a Richard of Sarsden was accused of unlawful disseisin there in 1204. (fn. 121) Walter of Sarsden, either the original grantee or his son, was a verderer of Wychwood in 1232, and a Robert of Sarsden was a co-parcener in the Arsic fee in 1242 and 1244; (fn. 122) John of Sarsden contributed to the tax levied in 1306, and was returned as one of the lords of the village in 1316. (fn. 123) By 1346 a John atte Halle held the ½ fee, said to have been formerly held by the heirs of Walter of Sarsden, but by 1428 it was again in the possession of the Sarsden family, as Thomas of Sarsden was lord. (fn. 124) There is no later record of his family's connexion with the ½ fee.
Another under-tenant of the fee was Master Simon of Walton, who held 1 yardland in Balscott in 1228 and 6 yardlands in Balscott and Tysoe (Warws.) in 1239–40, and was a co-parcener in 1242. (fn. 125) He was later Bishop of Norwich, and became lord in 1247 of an Alkerton manor also, with which his Balscott lands must have descended. His successors at Alkerton in 1277 held 4 yardlands and rent in Balscott. (fn. 126) No later reference to this family's holding at Balscott has been found.
The Prior of Wroxton was the fourth co-parcener in 1242 under Joan Arsic. He was joint lord in 1316, and it is likely that the abbey obtained the other holdings in the course of the Middle Ages. (fn. 127) In 1536 the abbey held Balscott grange, 5 yardlands, and the mill. (fn. 128) The manor, if manor it was, descended with Wroxton to the Popes. It seems likely that there was no medieval manor in the strict sense. By the time the records begin in the early 16th century there was certainly no manorial court.
In 1086 2 hides in Wroxton were evidently included in Miles Crispin's holding assessed under Alkerton. (fn. 129) The overlordship of this part of Wroxton followed the descent of the overlordship of Alkerton and was included in the 2 fees held under the honor of Wallingford. (fn. 130)
Richard Fitz Reinfrid, the mesne tenant of Alkerton, likewise held these 2 hides and before his death in 1115 or 1116 promised them to Abindgon Abbey, a gift which was confirmed by his son Hugh in the presence of the overlord Brian Fitz Count and his wife Maud. (fn. 131) Hugh presumably promised to do the foreign service for the holding, for although his immediate successors are not recorded as having any connexion with Wroxton, the manor was included in the 2 fees of Wallingford honor held in 1297 by Master Robert de Stokes, who had possession of this estate by 1293. (fn. 132)
Abingdon Abbey appears only to have drawn rent from its Wroxton holding and the undertenant of Wroxton in 1115, William Clement, continued in possession. (fn. 133) He was probably followed by Ingram Clement (fl. 1154–61), lord of Dunchurch (Warws.), and by his grandson William (II) Clement, lord of Balscott and of Dunchurch. (fn. 134) Until at least 1244 this estate followed the descent of the Clements' estate in North Newington. (fn. 135) It may then have passed to Wroxton Priory which certainly before 1256 bought 3½ yardlands formerly held by Alice Clement. (fn. 136) About the same time Alice Clement, called of Wroxton, granted 15s. rent from 2 yardlands held of her in Wroxton to Abingdon Abbey. (fn. 137) The abbey's rights were acknowledged by Wroxton Priory who agreed to give 3s. a year to the abbey. (fn. 138) The estate thus acquired by Wroxton Priory was merged with its main manor, and the payment due to Abingdon Abbey was probably included in the annual pension paid to it by Wroxton Priory in 1536. (fn. 139)
Before 1219 Michael Belet granted the rectory estate to Wroxton Priory. (fn. 140) It then followed the descent of Wroxton manor (fn. 141) until in 1544 Thomas Pope made a 99-year lease to his mother, Margaret Bustard, and her heirs of all the tithes of Wroxton and Balscott except those of the manor and demesne. (fn. 142) He then professed himself dissatisfied with the Crown auditor's valuation of the rent for the rectory (fn. 143) and in 1545 sold the tithes back to the Crown, less the tithes of manor and demesne, (fn. 144) although he himself remained the reversionary lessee as inheritor of the Bustard lease. Eighteen months later Henry VIII granted the estate to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, who thereupon became the lessors of Margaret Bustard. (fn. 145) Margaret died in 1557 and the lease passed to Thomas Pope's heir, John, who assigned it in 1560 and again in 1583. (fn. 146) In 1623 Christ Church challenged Sir William Pope to show his title, and took the case to Chancery. For 2 years he prevaricated, said he had lost the lease, launched a counter-suit against Christ Church accusing them of stealing it, and then finally produced it. The court upheld the lease in view of the long time it had passed unchallenged, but decreed that the property should return to Christ Church on its expiry. In 1631 the lease was surrendered and a new one granted to Sir Thomas Pope for 21 years; it was renewed to the lessee of the manors for 21 years in 1649, 1659, 1667, and thereafter every 7 years until the inclosure award of 1805. (fn. 147) After inclosure the property was leased to the North family as before.
Before the Dissolution the rectorial tithes of Wroxton were valued at £10. (fn. 148) From 1631 the rent of the estate consisted of £10 old rent taken twothirds in cash and one-third in kind in the form of 4 qr. of best wheat and 8 qr. of malt at current Oxford market prices. (fn. 149) This relative fixity of rent was compensated for by a fine at will for renewal of the lease. Starting at £40 in 1667 it rose to £100 in 1729 and by 1799 had reached £383. In 1813 it reached a peak of £772, which was not surpassed until 1841; between 1848 and 1864 it was over £1,000. At the same time the rent fluctuated with the corn prices, reaching a maximum of £77 17s. in 1799. (fn. 150) In 1805 Christ Church and its lessee, Lord Guilford, were awarded 326½ a. for rectorial tithes. (fn. 151)
The grant of the church to Thomas Pope in 1537 (fn. 152) included glebe, which probably belonged to the rectory. In 1623 William Pope was holding a house called the Parsonage, with a garden or orchard and a close. (fn. 153) In 1625 Chancery ordered that a search should be made for any glebe or parsonagehouse which the Popes might have absorbed. (fn. 154) No further reference to rectorial glebe is known.
Manorial records are largely lacking, but it is known that the Prior of Wroxton had the assize of bread and ale for his manorial tenants, and also view of frankpledge. Trinity College succeeded to the prior's rights and was still holding the view with court baron in 1804. A copyholder was admitted in that year and a heriot taken. (fn. 155) Wallingford honor, later Ewelme honor, had the view for the 2 hides in Wroxton that belonged to its Alkerton fee, and suit was owed to the honor court down to 1720. (fn. 156)
Apart from some late 19th-century minutes, and the churchwardens' accounts of Balscott, (fn. 157) no vestry records have survived. The vicar recorded in 1751, however, that there were 2 overseers who acted jointly for the poor of Wroxton and Balscott, though the churchwardens of Wroxton and of Balscott kept separate accounts; each hamlet had a constable, though the vicar was unable to say whether they acted jointly or separately, and, as each hamlet repaired its respective highways, (fn. 158) each presumably had its own highways' surveyor.
In the early 18th century and probably earlier the burden of poor-relief seems to have been alleviated by the intervention of the manorial lords: in Lord Guilford's estate accounts for 1709 there occurs an entry of £11 as an allowance for 22 weeks for the poor, (fn. 159) which suggests some kind of regular payment. In 1775–6 poor-relief cost the parish £232, but between 1783 and 1785 the average for some reason was only £140. (fn. 160) By 1803 there had been a sharp rise: £507 was raised at the rather high rate for a rural parish of 5s. 3d. of which £353 was spent on out-relief and £104 on in-relief. (fn. 161) A workhouse, consisting of 3 cottages, was first mentioned in 1768, (fn. 162) and in 1802–3 it had 14 permanent inhabitants. At that date 18 people were receiving permanent out-relief and 10 occasional relief. (fn. 163)
As a large proportion of the expenditure at Wroxton went on in-relief the 1834 Poor Law Act had little immediate effect. In 1834–5 £447 was spent and although there was a fall to £371 the following year this was proportionally a much smaller drop than in most other parishes in the county. (fn. 164) Expenditure was still at this level in 1851–2 when the parish was part of the Banbury Union and Wroxton's poor were being sent to the Union workhouse. (fn. 165)
In 1086 there were 24 recorded tenants at Wroxton (2 serfs, 12 villani, and 10 bordars) and 9 at Balscott (3 villani and 6 bordars). There were 8 ploughs owned by the peasants and 3 on the demesne farm at Wroxton. At Balscott there was 1 plough on demesne while the tenants had 2 ploughs. There were 14 ploughlands and 60 a. of meadow at Wroxton and 5 ploughlands and 20 a. of meadow at Balscott. Wroxton was valued at £16 and Balscott at £6. (fn. 166)
Fourteenth-century tax lists suggest that Balscott was a slightly wealthier community than Wroxton. In 1316 9 out of 19 contributors were assessed at more than 2s. 6d. while at Wroxton only 1 out of 44 contributors was assessed at more than 2s. 6d. The richest man at Balscott was assessed at 6s. (fn. 167) In 1327 8 out of Balscott's 19 contributors were assessed at more than 2s. while at Wroxton only 13 out of 40 were assessed at more than 2s. One woman at Wroxton was assessed at 5s. (fn. 168) To what extent the villages were affected by the Black Death of 1349 is unknown; the population in 1377 was comparatively large (fn. 169) but in 1391 Wroxton Priory alleged that its lands were barren and almost uncultivated through the death, caused by epidemics, of cultivators. (fn. 170) No direct evidence has been found of the stock kept or the crops grown in the open fields in the Middle Ages, but it is likely that the priory kept large flocks of sheep in Wroxton as on its other estates. In 1217 its demesne contained a vineyard, (fn. 171) which presumably disappeared in the later Middle Ages like most other English vineyards.
Information about the economic history of Wroxton becomes fuller in the 16th and 17th centuries. For the second subsidy of 1523, to which there were 52 contributors, there were 24 assessed at the lowest amount of 4d. and even the 3 richest farmers were assessed only at 3s. 6d. and 4s. on goods worth £7 and £8. (fn. 172) The peasant farmer, however, profited from inflation, and his comparative prosperity is reflected in the rapid growth of population (fn. 173) and in wills and inventories. Terriers of 1571 and 1604 show little marked gradation of wealth in the village and no change except in the names of holders. The tendency of the open-field system to prevent capital accumulation thus receives further confirmation. In 1571, of 25 customary tenants 11 held under 3 yardlands, 7 just 3, and 7 over 3; in 1604 the pattern was 10, 5, and seven. (fn. 174) Holdings were divided into the usual multitude of small strips, marked out where necessary by merestones. In 1604 Thomas Burden, the largest copyholder, held 5½ yardlands in 117 separate pieces. (fn. 175) A substantial part of the manorial demesne, known as 'the abbey lands' and consisting of 30 yardlands, was scattered throughout the open fields and worked by tenants. By 1751 consolidation had taken place in each furlong, and the abbey lands consisted of a number of blocks, known as 'Abbey Piece', of 4 to 15 'halfs'. (fn. 176) As late as 1804 these blocks, still known as 'Abbey Piece', were separated from the rest of the open-field strips by wide green balks. (fn. 177)
Wroxton adhered to a 2-field system to a comparatively late date: in 1537 there is mention of Town Field and in 1571 of South Field or South Side of Wroxton Field, (fn. 178) but it is likely that, as in neighbouring parishes, the furlong was more important than the field. Experiments in crop rotation were being practised and leys farming had been introduced. At some time between 1604 and 1654 the 2-field system was altered into a 4-field system in which crops were grown 3 years out of 4, the quarters being known in the 17th century as Padgeon, Courseway, Rudon Hill, and Rowlow. (fn. 179) Owing to the unequal distribution of the strips this change could not be accomplished by a simple process of dividing the 2 fields into 4, and as a result some quarters consisted, at least by 1768, of detached blocks scattered over the parish. (fn. 180) It is not known whether any exchange of strips took place to assist this division but it does not seem unlikely.
Along with the open fields was the usual accompaniment of meadow lands, in small lots in the Great and Little Meadow. It is evident that originally these parcels had been allotted annually, but by the 16th century the lots were firmly attached to each copyhold. In 1571 one tenant held a house, 80 strips of open-field land, 13 lots on the Great Meadow, and 7 lots on the Little Meadow, the whole comprising 2½ yardlands. (fn. 181) In addition there were common leys, and common or waste ground, amounting in 1768 to 120 and 216 a. respectively. Each holder of a yardland by the custom of the manor had the right of common for 3 horses or other beasts, and 20 sheep in winter and 30 in summer, while the poor had the right to cut furze on the common. (fn. 182) Thus the tenants of Wroxton alone had the right to keep about 1,300 sheep, and a series of orders issued by the manorial court in 1580 and the almost universal possession by the tenants of sheep-houses or sheep-cotes shown in the terrier of 1604 indicate that they were fully exercising this privilege in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Indeed from the court orders it is evident that the pressure of sheep population in the village was threatening the smooth working of the openfield system, and limitations were placed on the number of lambs permitted on the fields between Lammas and Michaelmas, upon the right to employ shepherds, and upon the times of sheep shearing. (fn. 183) In addition to tenants' sheep there were 2,200 kept on the demesne in 1631 by William, Earl of Downe. (fn. 184) Probate inventories drawn up in the later 17th century show that tenant farmers usually kept sheep. Flocks were usually very small but some of the wealthier farmers had flocks of between 100 and 140. (fn. 185)
Copyholders in the 16th century held at fixed rents for 1, 2, or 3 lives, with the fine at the lord's will; they also paid heriot. By the early 17th century some heriots had been commuted for payments of 3s. 4d., 6s. 8d., or 13s. 4d. (fn. 186) A 1537 rent roll refers to day-works in addition to rent, but no details are given and there is no mention of them again. (fn. 187)
Comparatively little is known about the cottagers: a rental of Wroxton and Balscott of 1525 shows 10 cottagers and 25 tenants; an undated rent roll of the late 16th century or early 17th century 15 cottagers, 27 copyholders, and 4 leaseholders. (fn. 188) It was alleged in 1650 that the Popes had converted their copyholds into leaseholds during the Civil War, and had turned their tenants out so as to let their land and houses to others. The government was petitioned to restore the former position, but the outcome of the suit is not known. (fn. 189) By the early 18th century the term 'day labourer' was being used: a suit roll of 1718 lists 31 names, presumably tenants, and 21 day labourers. (fn. 190)
The largest and most continuously prominent tenant family in both Wroxton and Balscott was that of Lucas, records of which are continuous from the earliest court roll of 1514. (fn. 191) Other families, such as the Atkinses, were prosperous: Edward Atkins, 'yeoman' of Balscott, had 6 yardlands in 1633, of which 2 were leased out, and goods valued at over £168. (fn. 192) In 1686 another Edward Atkins, 'gentleman', and his wife had goods worth c. £394. (fn. 193) The latter's wealth, however, falls short of that of some of the Lucases. Edward Lucas, who was leasing out 2 yardlands in 1661, also farmed a good deal himself, for his crops were valued at £160 while the total valuation of his goods came to £518. (fn. 194) Joseph Lucas's goods amounted to over £370 and another Edward Lucas, who had evidently retired from active farming by 1681, had £258 in bonds. (fn. 195) Above them all, however, towered John Burden, 'yeoman', who was living in Balscott in 1684. (fn. 196) In 1687 he was farming 9½ yardlands and left goods valued at £645. (fn. 197)
A selection of some 30 inventories (fn. 198) suggests that the main wealth of the Wroxton farmer in this century came from his crops. Wheat, barley, pease, and hay were the chief crops grown, while oats and maslin were also mentioned. Sheep, cattle, and horses were kept in varying numbers in accordance with the wealth of each farmer; a herd of 20 cattle including calves was large. Some members of the Lucas family appear to have kept a common herd at Withycombe Grounds. John Lucas had a quarter of a 'stock of cattle' valued at £17 and Joseph Lucas apparently had another quarter.
William, Earl of Downe (d. 1631), appears to have devoted his land in the main to sheep and beasts. His inventory lists 2,200 sheep worth £1,300 and beasts and horses worth £400, while his crops (barley, maslin, pease, and oats) were worth only £66. (fn. 199)
From at least the end of the 17th century experiments began to be made in the cultivation of new crops. Cinquefoil was being grown by William Sacheverell on his inclosed ground in 1684. (fn. 200) In 1685 the purchase of a hop ground and mustard seeds were entered in the estate accounts; (fn. 201) in 1709 there is a reference to rape ground, in 1765 to turnips, in 1769 to Dutch clover and trefoil, and in 1757 and 1759 to rye grass. (fn. 202) Inclosures called Upper and Lower Rye Grass are also mentioned in the inclosure award of 1804. (fn. 203) Cape wheat was another crop which, as Arthur Young records in 1809, was grown with much success by a local farmer. (fn. 204)
Leases occasionally throw some light on farming practice. In 1765, for instance, the new tenant of a farm covenanted not to break up any old sward, or to mow any of the meadow twice in a year under penalty of £5 a year; and to fallow a quarter part of the arable each year or sow it with turnips or grass seeds; and if he sowed with grass seed he agreed to take no more than one crop a year. (fn. 205)
The 18th century also saw a renewed interest in forestry. The Popes had done a great deal in this respect. When Sir Thomas Pope leased Wroxton Abbey to his brother John in 1551, the latter covenanted to plant within 20 years 2,000 oaks and 1,000 elm and ash trees, and to make the copyholders plant also. (fn. 206) Wroxton's woods, however, no doubt suffered like the rest of Oxfordshire from spoliation during the Civil War. A map of 1768 shows that all the woods in Wroxton parish had vanished, except those planted in the park. But the park itself had absorbed many of the old woods, whose names survived as Home Wood, Mill Wood, and the Great Wood. Extensive planting was undertaken by Lord Guilford in the first half of the century and by 1778 a fine growth of timber had developed. After long negotiations Lord Guilford finally bought the standing timber from the college for £3,553. (fn. 207) In 1805 a total of 633 trees, oak, ash, elm, and beech, were marked for sale. (fn. 208)
The final inclosure of the open fields did not come until 1804. There had long been some inclosed land, some at least dating from the Middle Ages. By the time of the Dissolution the priory had inclosed for pasture that part of the demesne that was concentrated to the east of the priory buildings comprising, according to a survey of c. 1535, 8 closes of 209 a., together with an orchard. (fn. 209) This inclosure may have been carried out by the early 14th century, judging from the amount of wool levied by the Crown from all the priory estates in 1339. (fn. 210) The estimate of 209 a. seems unduly low since the 1768 survey put the abbey inclosures at 342½ a., the 1778 terrier of house and park alone included 228 a., and an 1823 survey of the park and demesne included 359 a. (fn. 211)
Besides the abbey inclosures there were small inclosures round the two mills in 1571, and on the western extremity of Balscott field there were 11 yardlands, known by 1583 and probably at a much earlier date as 'inlands'. (fn. 212) In 1684 they measured 156 a. without the mill closes (5 a.) and comprised 19 closes. They were in the hands of Lord Guilford, William Sacheverell, and 2 others. (fn. 213) In 1710 there were 3 owners. (fn. 214) Later these inclosures passed almost entirely to the Copes: in 1728 Anthony Cope leased 130 a. of closes, Smith's close, and 6 yardlands in Balscott, (fn. 215) and in 1768 the Revd. Sir Richard Cope, Bt., was in possession and had recently 'taken in' from the open field another 27½ a. (fn. 216) By 1804, on the eve of inclosure, the old inclosures amounted to a total of 552½ a., of which c. 350 a. comprised the park and demesne, out of a total area in the parish of 2,495 a. (fn. 217)
As freeholders were never either numerous or prominent at Wroxton from the 14th to the 19th centuries, the bulk of the land was held by the lord of the manor, who was in possession of demesnes, abbey lands, mills, and extensive copyholds in the open fields. In 1768 a survey disclosed the following situation: Trinity College held 1,183½ a., comprising abbey inclosures (342 a.), abbey lands (293¼ a.), and other lands (547¼ a.); Brasenose College held 8 yardlands of open field or 75¼ a.; 10 freeholders (of whom 3 held between them 120 a. or 83 per cent.) held 145¼ a.; and common, leys, and waste totalled 336 a. In all there were said to be 1,741 a. (fn. 218) By the inclosure award of 1805 (fn. 219) 2,251 a. were redistributed. The award allotted to Trinity College 1,603 a., to Christ Church 326½ a. for rectorial tithes, to 11 freeholders 194 a., to Brasenose College 101 a., to the poor 17 a., and to the churchwardens 10 a.
One of the effects of inclosure was to give great impetus to the break up of the old social pattern. In 1804, of the 65 copyholders of Trinity College other than Lord Guilford, 10 held 644 a. and the remaining 55 only 315 a., (fn. 220) but by 1880 a life interest in 32 of Trinity's 74 copyholds was held by 2 men. (fn. 221) In 1894 most of the land was let at a rack rent, and only 36 unexpired copyholds for life remained. (fn. 222)
After inclosure the method of assessing the copyholders' fines, formerly paid at the will of the lord subject to heriot, was altered and they were calculated at 2 years' value. Heriots, which by the late 18th century seem to have been assessed at 2½ guineas a yardland, were not affected by inclosure. (fn. 223)
In 1851 there were only 2 large farms of 270 a. and 310 a. and 14 others of 50 a. to 120 a. The rest were small-holdings — 12 of 40 a. and under. The large farms employed 7 and 12 labourers each. One miller and farmer combined had 7 labourers. (fn. 224) In the 1860s the land was mainly under arable though the soil was better suited to grass and a 5course rotation was used. Many sheep were kept and fed on turnips in the winter. (fn. 225) Labour conditions were somewhat better than elsewhere. Colonel North employed no boys under 12 years, no girls at all, and women only at special times. Though there was overcrowding in the cottages there was a good water supply and all married couples had an allotment of ¼ a. from Colonel North. (fn. 226)
The disastrous effects of the agricultural slump may be traced in the rents received by the Norths for the rectory estate. In 1864 gross rents had reached £633, falling off to £597 15s. eight years later. By 1883, however, Colonel North was only able to find tenants for 105 a. the remaining 221 a. having been untenanted for 2 years and farmed by himself. (fn. 227) As late as 1943 it was considered that the land in this area was not being used to full advantage and that more should be devoted to grass and to arable sheep. (fn. 228) Since then there has been some improvement, though progress is retarded by the ironstone mining mentioned below. Some farms have increased their acreage, notably Laurels farm (425 a.) and Grange farm at Balscott (277 a.), and 4 have around 200 a. There are, however, still 5 holdings of between 15 a. and 100 a. (fn. 229)
Despite close proximity to Banbury with its weaving and other industries, Wroxton seems to have been chiefly an agricultural village before the 19th century. In 1571, however, 5 out of 25 tenants listed possessed kiln-houses, possibly used for smelting. (fn. 230) A Wroxton Quaker was apprenticed to a clothworker of South Newington in 1673, a member of the Lucas family was a silkweaver in 1698, and a weaver is mentioned in 1718–22. (fn. 231) Quarrying for building stone had been carried out on a small scale, as required locally, in the 18th century and probably before, but transport costs without easy water communication prevented its growth. (fn. 232) In the early 19th century the majority of the inhabitants of Wroxton, even if they did not farm land themselves, had occupations dependent on farming. The parish registers (1813–57) indicate that about half the population were labourers, and that there were the usual rural craftsmen such as blacksmiths and carpenters. (fn. 233)
In the 1851 census, besides such craftsmen, there were 2 masons, a lacemaker, a glover, a cork-seller, 2 plush-weavers, and a linen-weaver. (fn. 234) At the end of the 19th century came the large-scale exploitation of ironstone quarrying. Since 1917 the Oxfordshire Ironstone Co. Ltd. has been the lessee, and Christ Church and Trinity College have leased ground as the need for it arose. The company extracts ironstone at the rate of 30,000 tons an acre for conversion into steel; it works 45 yards at a time, preparing a third, digging a third, and restoring the level of a third. In 1963 it was employing 135–140 men, but at the height of the steel boom had employed 200. The product was sent to South Wales and to the Brinberg steel works at Wrexham (Denbighshire). (fn. 235)
A miller held land in Balscott in the early 13th century. (fn. 238) In 1504 'Ballam Mill' in Balscott was granted to the priory by Thomas Sidnell, Chaplain of Wroxton. The grant was disputed and in 1512 the priory began a lawsuit with Robert Wandell which ended with Wandell granting the mill to the priory in return for £20 in cash and a 30-year lease to himself at the old rent. (fn. 239) In 1535 Balscott mill, valued at 40s., was tenanted by John Sergeant, and Wroxton mill, valued at 26s. 8d., was let to Thomas Coventry. (fn. 240)
After the Dissolution the mills followed the descent of the manors and so passed to Trinity College, Oxford. (fn. 241) In 1536 John Pope, brother of Sir Thomas, leased the mills to John Burton for 24 years at a rent of £2 each yearly; (fn. 242) by 1686 one of the mills was let for £12. (fn. 243) In 1709 one was rebuilt, (fn. 244) and in 1768 the mills were valued at c. £12 and c. £16 and included 13 a. and 9 a. of land. (fn. 245) In the early 19th century the mills were said to have little value, having only 2 pairs of stones each and poor water supply. Trinity College carried out improvements at Balscott mill in 1824–8, and at both mills in 1852–4. (fn. 246)
In 1894 the agricultural depression and the advance of mechanized milling forced Lord North to surrender the lease to the college after it had been held in his family for at least 350 years. Because of failing water supply it was reported in 1914 that it was no longer a paying proposition to work the mills. Balscott mill has been a private house since the 1920s. In 1931 Wroxton mill was pulled down. (fn. 247)
The earliest documentary evidence for Wroxton church dates from 1217 when its rector was mentioned. (fn. 248) The dependent chapel at Balscott dates from the 12th century, however, (fn. 249) and it is likely that the mother church of Wroxton was still earlier.
When Michael Belet, Rector of Wroxton, founded the priory there c. 1217, he appears at first to have granted to it the advowson only. (fn. 250) In 1219 the Bishop of Lincoln confirmed that Wroxton Priory should appropriate the rectory, Michael Belet retaining his rights in it for life. (fn. 251) The chapel of Balscott was also included in Belet's grant. (fn. 252)
A vicarage had been ordained by 1219. (fn. 253) The vicar was to have a chaplain and clerk, the chaplain to serve at Wroxton and Balscott successively. (fn. 254) In 1395, however, the Prior and Canons of Wroxton petitioned that on the death of the vicar they might serve the church with one of their canons, or with a secular priest removeable at their pleasure. (fn. 255) The petition seems to have been granted for thereafter the living was treated as a perpetual curacy, the vicarage's endowments were lost, (fn. 256) and incumbents were paid a stipend by the impropriator (fn. 257) and were not instituted. In the 16th and early 17th centuries incumbents were called curates; (fn. 258) later incumbents called themselves indifferently curate and vicar; (fn. 259) the term 'minister' is also used. (fn. 260) In the early 19th century the Bishop of Oxford complained that the Norths had frequently done nothing more than nominate vicars orally; that vicars had no security of tenure and no real means of exacting their stipend; and that for some long time past incumbents had had no legal title since they had been unlicensed. The incumbent, however, supported the Norths, claiming, however mistakenly, that the living was a curacy since it carried with it not a foot of land. (fn. 261) In the course of the 19th century the vicarage once more received endowments (fn. 262) and any confusion over its status disappeared.
When the vicarage was ordained it was valued at £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 263) In 1395 it was worth £10 a year. (fn. 264) In 1526, however, the incumbent was paid only £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 265) In 1710 Lord Guilford was paying the vicar £30 a year, which had increased to £50 by the 1790s and to £60 in 1829. (fn. 266) In 1827 the living was endowed with £1,000 from Queen Anne's Bounty, and large private benefactions brought the total income of the vicar in 1862 to £133; (fn. 267) in 1879 Christ Church added a further £50 and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners granted an annual £50 out of the common fund. (fn. 268)
In 1226 the glebe comprised 2 yardlands to the east of the church, part of a hide held by Adam, clerk; the vicar was also granted a meadow, a house and other buildings, and all profits of the altar. (fn. 269) The vicar had only to supply sufficient altar lights and to pay the synodals; in 1395 the Prior and Canons of Wroxton agreed to continue paying the bishop's dues and other burdens of the church. (fn. 270) Although in 1625 Chancery ordered that a search should be made for any glebe or parsonage-house which the impropriators might have absorbed, it was reported in 1829 that the incumbent had neither land, tithes, nor fees, save for marriages; the churchyard, however, belonged to him. (fn. 271) Plans for a vicarage-house were set on foot in 1848 but the house was not completed until 1868; it was built on land given by Trinity College, Oxford. (fn. 272) In 1887 the glebe amounted to 1 a. (fn. 273)
The dependent chapelry of Balscott never acquired parochial status; it had no churchyard in the 16th century but had one by the beginning of the 18th century. (fn. 274) It is not certain that the stipulation made in 1226 that a curate should serve Balscott alternately with Wroxton was ever complied with. There was no separate curate at Balscott in 1526. (fn. 275) After the Dissolution the lessees of the rectory were to provide 2 chaplains for the parish, but in 1544 Thomas Pope was trying to get permission to demolish Balscott chapel and so obviate the need for more than one chaplain. (fn. 276) Between 1581 and 1594 the Rector of Alkerton served Balscott. (fn. 277) During most of the 18th century there was no curate, although in 1738 the incumbent of Wroxton was preaching there once a week, whereas his predecessor had held only one service there a month. (fn. 278) From 1754 a curate was intermittently employed; even so the number of times Holy Communion was celebrated there fell from 3 to 2 a year. (fn. 279) In 1834 the weekly Sunday service at Balscott was taken by the Curate of Horley. (fn. 280) In 1864 Christ Church made a grant of £80 a year for the stipend of Balscott's curate (fn. 281) but in 1900 the appointment finally lapsed. (fn. 282)
Three of Wroxton's late medieval incumbents, Thomas Balscott (fl. 1441), John Banbury (fl. 1526), and Robert Hanley (fl. 1540), were canons of Wroxton. (fn. 283) After the Reformation there is evidence that the Wroxton clergy were always on the move, shifting from one parish to another. In 1593, for instance, the curate was not returned in the Certificate of Oxford Clergy, and between 1565 and 1603 no incumbent stayed for more than two years. (fn. 284) From 1681, when the Guilfords became established at Wroxton, the church seems to have been treated by the family like a private chapel. (fn. 285) The connexion between the North family and the incumbent was especially close in the time of Francis Wise, philologist and antiquary, who was presented to the living by Francis, Lord Guilford, who had been his pupil at Oxford. (fn. 286) He held the living from 1723 until 1746, but for part of the period seems to have been non-resident. After 1726 he was Radcliffe Librarian and held the donative of Elsfield, also by gift of Lord Guilford, and was occupied with the collation of manuscripts in the Laud collection in the Bodleian Library for his edition of Plutarch's Lives (1729). (fn. 287) At various times, however, he certainly resided with the North family at Wroxton Abbey and his letters show that when there he acted as a steward of the estates, in the absence of the family. (fn. 288) It is evident that he was also an energetic incumbent. In 1738 he reported to the bishop that he took prayers twice every day at the Abbey; he preached every Sunday at Wroxton, and had increased the services at Balscott. He claimed, and the parish registers show, that he converted about 10 Anabaptists. (fn. 289)
At the beginning of the 19th century, too, the incumbent, besides serving Wroxton and Balscott, acted as chaplain to Lord Guilford, sleeping at his house 2 or 3 nights a week. (fn. 290) In 1834 the number of communicants had dropped from 30 to 20 and extra services were held only on Christmas Day and Good Friday. (fn. 291)
The influence of the Oxford Movement made itself felt in the second half of the century. By 1854 morning prayer was being celebrated every Wednesday and also on Saints' Days. (fn. 292) Psalms were first chanted in 1872 and in the same year candles were placed on the screen and altar for the harvest festival service. In 1885 the choir was seated in the chancel, and began to wear surplices; ten years later cassocks were added. In 1893 daily matins were begun and there were Holy Communion services on Sundays and the principal Saints' Days. A year later Holy Communion began to be celebrated chorally. These changes and increased parochial activity by the vicars resulted in a steep rise in the annual number of communicants in the 2 churches; between 1865 and 1872 numbers rose from 393 to 570. In 1941 the communicants numbered 1,048, but since then numbers have fallen off. (fn. 293)
The parish church of ALL SAINTS, (fn. 294) Wroxton, consists of nave, chancel, north and south aisles, south porch, and western tower. Structurally there is no sign of anything earlier than the 14th century, when the whole fabric appears to have been refashioned or altogether rebuilt. (fn. 295) In the 15th century the clerestory was added to the nave, and the nave aisles were given wooden roofs, substantial portions of which still survive. Traces of a medieval wallpainting remain above the chancel screen.
Some work must have been done on the tower in the early 17th century, to judge by a stone dated 1636 on the inside wall, but by 1748 it was in a perilous condition. With the assistance and encouragement of Lord Guilford, Sanderson Miller was employed to design a new tower. The work was carried out by his mason William Hitchcox of Ratley (Warws.) and the foundation stone was laid in April 1748. The tower was originally crowned with an 'octagon of stone', the squinches for which are still visible beneath the present roof. This octagon blew down almost as soon as it was erected, much to Horace Walpole's satisfaction. (fn. 296)
A gallery had been added at the west end of the church in 1738 by J. Banister; (fn. 297) in 1755 the chancel roof was repaired and the open medieval interior ceiled; (fn. 298) and between 1738 and 1823 the church was re-pewed. (fn. 299) In 1823 it was recorded that an annual income of £24 was used for painting the pews and that the church was in an excellent state of repair. (fn. 300) In 1845–6 the font was entirely recarved and the church was re-seated; an organ (by Halmshaw & Sons) was erected in the west gallery in 1879 (fn. 301) and new heating apparatus and electric light were installed in 1932 and 1936. (fn. 302)
In 1885 Colonel North gave stained glass panels of the twelve apostles by Clayton & Bell in the chancel, and in 1884 and 1894 the windows by Burlison and Grylls at the east end of the north and south aisles. During the late 19th century Colonel North made extensive purchases of 16th- and 17th-century continental carved woodwork from different countries. These, some of which are very fine, are to be found let into the pulpit, on the back of the chancel screen, which mostly dates from the 15th century, on the front of the chancel pews, and as a frieze behind the altar at the east end of the chancel.
The church contains some notable monuments. In the chancel is a huge canopied tomb to Sir William Pope, Earl of Downe (d. 1631), and his wife Anne (d. 1625), with kneeling children. Among other monuments the most noteworthy are an elegant wall slab to Lord North, the Prime Minister, (d. 1792) carved by John Flaxman in 1800, (fn. 303) and another to the three wives of Francis, Lord Guilford (d. 1790), by Joseph Wilton (1783). (fn. 304) There are grave stones to Sir Thomas Pope, Earl of Downe (d. 1668), and to Francis, Lord Guilford (d. 1685), Lord Keeper. Among the local gentry and their wives who are commemorated are Thomas Sacheverell (d. 1675), son of the Rector of Tadmarton, Robert Burden of Balscott (d. 1677), and John Burden (d. 1687).
Among the brasses in the chancel is one to Margaret Bustard (d. 1557), wife first of William Pope of Deddington and then of John Bustard of Adderbury, and mother of Sir Thomas Pope, founder of Trinity College, Oxford. (fn. 305)
There are 5 bells, all cast by Henry Bagley in 1676. (fn. 306)
The plate includes a silver paten given by the Hon. Mrs. Ann North in 1722, and bought back by Lord North after its sale with other surplus communion plate by the vicar and parishioners in 1885. (fn. 307)
In 1805 c. 8 a. in lieu of open-field land were allotted to the churchwardens for church repairs; in 1823 the rent was as much as £24 a year. In the period 1941–c. 1955 the land was leased for mining and the royalties were spent mostly on reducing a debt of over £5,000 incurred in church restoration. (fn. 308) In 1902 Henry Fox vested Ragnell's Close (5 a.) in the vicar and churchwardens for the maintenance of the church clock and the upkeep of the churchyard. In the period 1941–c. 1955 the land was leased for mining, and in 1960, Trinity College were renting it for £189. (fn. 309)
The chapel of ST. MARY MAGDALENE, Balscott, consists of chancel, nave, south aisle, and a slender south tower. It appears to have been rebuilt in the early 14th century, but retains a tub-shaped font and part of a tympanum, both of which may be late-12th-century. The tower has an octagonal parapet, and the lowest stage serves as a porch. In the period 1800–23 the chapel was 'completely repaired' and given new pews and a gallery (since removed). (fn. 310) A small piece of land, administered by the Balscott churchwarden and leased in 1734 for £1 6s. and in 1801 for £8 8s., had been sufficient to pay for all repairs in the 18th century; in the 19th century, however, the churchwarden was often in debt. (fn. 311) In 1849–50 the chancel roof was repaired at a cost of some £200 by Franklin. (fn. 312) There were extensive restorations in 1873; (fn. 313) in 1921 the chancel roof and in 1926–7 the nave and tower were restored. In the interior are two 14th-century piscinae and a pulpit made up of 16th- and 17th-century woodwork from the continent given by Colonel North. (fn. 314)
In 1805 the churchwarden of Balscott was allotted c. 2 a. for the church land held in the open field; the income was used as before for chapel repairs. In 1941 a mining lease was granted; some of the royalties were used for restoration of the chapel, but the greater part was invested. (fn. 317) A sum of £200, invested in 1923 and yielding £8 14s. 4d. a year in 1963, is said to derive from the Henry Gardner Trust for the upkeep of the churchyard. (fn. 318)
The Wroxton registers begin in 1548 but there are many gaps during the 16th century. There are transcripts for the period 1670–1865. (fn. 319)
No Roman Catholics were recorded at Wroxton before the late 19th century, except for a Flemish servant who was a recusant in 1706 and a woman who was said to be a papist in 1817. (fn. 320) Colonel North (1804–94) and his son, Lord North (1836–1932), were Roman Catholics and services were held in the chapel at the Abbey. In about 1883 a mission was established, the priest and chapel being located first in the 'North Arms' and later in an adjoining building. (fn. 321) In 1887 the chapel of ST. THOMAS OF CANTERBURY was built in the village by the Norths; (fn. 322) it is registered for marriages, and is served from Banbury. (fn. 323)
The Compton Census of 1676 recorded 16 Protestant nonconformists in the parish, but this may well have been an underestimate, particularly for Balscott where there were both Quaker and Anabaptist communities. The Quaker registers for the Banbury neighbourhood give the names of 9 families in the parish in the 17th century, half of them living at Balscott. (fn. 324) Three of these persisted into the 18th century, (fn. 325) but the community was then a dying one. John Shelswell (d. 1717), who was distrained on for non-payment of tithes in 1717, (fn. 326) was one of the last of this Quaker family: the last Wroxton Quaker in the burial register was recorded in 1735, (fn. 327) and in 1738 the parson was probably correct in reporting that there were no Quakers in the parish. (fn. 328)
Anabaptists were not recorded until 1738 when they too were a dying community. The incumbent then said that there had been a licensed meeting house which had fallen out of use 15 years before; that he had baptized 'half a score of adults of that persuasion with their children'; and that there was only 1 left and this man's children often attended church. (fn. 329) One Anabaptist was reported at the beginning of the 19th century (fn. 330) and in 1834 the vicar said that there were Baptists in the parish but there is no record of any chapel. (fn. 331) Two or 3 Presbyterian families were mentioned in 1759, (fn. 332) but in 1778 there was only one. (fn. 333) In this year the first evidence of Methodism appears: 'a sort of Methodistical preacher, a drummer in the Northamptonshire Militia' came sometimes to Balscott and preached in a farm-house there, (fn. 334) but there was no meeting-house nearer than Banbury. There was a dissenting teacher with a licensed meeting in his house at Balscott in 1805 (fn. 335) and 3 years later there were 10 'Calvinistic Methodists' in the hamlet, though they had no resident teacher. (fn. 336) The farm-house of a Mr. Williams was licensed. (fn. 337) but in 1814 was disused as a meeting-house. (fn. 338) It is not possible to be certain whether Williams lived in Wroxton or Balscott or whether he is connected with the Williams who in 1822 offered facilities to the Independents. (fn. 339) In 1822 William Gardner's house in Wroxton was registered as a meetinghouse by a Methodist minister of Banbury (fn. 340) and in 1834 the vicar said there was a Methodist place of worship in the parish, though he believed it not to be set apart for that purpose; the teacher was not resident. (fn. 341) William Gardner as steward returned in 1851 a Methodist congregation of 78 in the morning and 43 in the evening. Wroxton Methodist chapel was rebuilt in 1864. (fn. 342) There was also a Methodist chapel at Balscott, built in 1850, with a congregation of 57 in the morning and 95 in the evening. (fn. 343)
An Independent minister of Banbury, Thomas Searle, who had begun to preach in Wroxton in 1819, registered a small room as a meeting-house there the following year; immorality was said to be prevalent and 'gross darkness' to cover the people. (fn. 344) In 1822 Williams, a local farmer, offered part of his premises to be fitted up as a chapel which was registered in 1823. (fn. 345) It was said originally to hold 150, but to have been enlarged in 1824 to hold 200. (fn. 346) A church was formed in 1824 consisting originally of eight members but by the end of the year there were 28. (fn. 347) In 1825 the sect founded a flourishing Sunday school. (fn. 348) At the time of the 1851 Census there was a congregation of 60–70. The vicar, commenting on the Census figures for all the parish nonconformists, said that, as he could manage only one service in church, the Church people went to chapel as well and were counted in the dissenters' return. He also said that one of the churchwardens was a dissenter thrust into office against his will. (fn. 349) In 1878 there were reported to be 16 professed dissenters in the parish. (fn. 350) The Independent chapel disappeared between 1877 and 1883 (fn. 351) but in 1965 the Methodist chapels at Wroxton and Balscott had memberships of 16 and 17 respectively. They were served by ministers from Banbury and Brailes. (fn. 352)
In 1709 there was a school at Wroxton, whose master was paid £20 a year by Lord Guilford. (fn. 353) For most of the 18th century there was no school at either Wroxton or Balscott. (fn. 354) By 1808 there were 2 unendowed schools, each supported by Francis, Earl of Guilford. There were about 20 children, of both sexes, in each school, the boys being taught reading and writing and the girls needlework. (fn. 355) To these another 'common school' had been added by 1815, but heavy taxation made the inhabitants disinclined to support a Sunday school; the National Society's new plan could not be put into effect, since the master and mistress were not capable of doing it. (fn. 356)
These difficulties, however, were overcome. In 1817 the Earl of Guilford leased 3 cottages, later 4, for the use of a school, and in 1818 it was reported that the two schools, with 44 children, supported partly by the earl and partly by voluntary subscription, were affiliated to the National Society. (fn. 357) A schoolmaster was appointed in 1821 (fn. 358) and by 1833 the schools had been amalgamated, to form a National day and Sunday school. It was attended by 60 children between 6 and 12 years and had a master and mistress, who were paid £26 a year by Lady Georgiana North and £5 by Trinity College. There were also 2 small day schools, one kept by a churchwoman, the other by a dissenter, each with c. 12 pupils. Their instruction was paid for by their parents. Besides these there was a Sunday school, founded in 1825 by Independent dissenters, consisting of 22 boys and 20 girls, who were taught, free, by members of the sect. (fn. 359) In 1855 new buildings were erected for the National school, which was then managed by the vicar and a school committee. Graded fees were paid by the pupils. (fn. 360) The school had 67 pupils in 1860, and 20 attended an adult evening school, supported by the vicar, which was held in the winter months with moderate but steady success. (fn. 361) Attendance at the National school had risen by 1866 to 70 in the day and 85 in the Sunday school, (fn. 362) but though the schoolmaster was pensioned off in that year and a certificated schoolmistress appointed, to qualify the school for a government grant, this had still not been received by 1871. (fn. 363)
The school had been rebuilt in 1868, with accommodation for 112 children, though the average attendance up to 1906 was between 50 and 60. (fn. 364) The school building and site were handed over to trustees by a deed of 1871. (fn. 365) Annual and fee grants were received by 1894, and an aid grant by 1900, which provided most of the income, though some still came from voluntary contributions. (fn. 366) The school's status was that of a Controlled school in 1962 and it took about 50 pupils. (fn. 367)
Balscott school, with a teacher's residence attached, was built in 1840 largely through the efforts of E. J. Middleton, curate of the parish. A mistress was put in charge. (fn. 368) There were 68 pupils in 1860 and the school was supported by subscriptions. There was only one room for boys and girls and in 1862 the condition of the school was said to be 'very bad'. (fn. 369) By 1866 it was in receipt of a government grant, was affiliated to the National Society, and was managed by a committee instead of, as previously, by the vicar. (fn. 370) Then there were 48 boys and girls in the day school, and 30 in the Sunday school, since many children came from Shutford and elsewhere to the day school, and remained in their own parish for the Sunday school. (fn. 371)
The school premises were conveyed to trustees in 1866 and were rebuilt in 1867 when a playground was added. (fn. 372) There was accommodation for 45 in 1871, with an attendance of 6 boys and 29 girls. (fn. 373) A new school-house was built in 1888, with accommodation for 54 children. (fn. 374) Attendance, however, fell rapidly at the end of the century. In 1894 it was 41 and in 1904 nineteen. In 1931 the school was closed. (fn. 375)
By the inclosure award of 1805 c. 17 a. were allotted to the poor in lieu of fuel rights vested in the inhabitants. The rent was to be applied to buying fuel, clothes, and necessities for parishioners, whether receiving relief or not. (fn. 376) In 1851 the land was let for £36 10s. which was spent entirely on fuel. Between 1884 and 1895 the rent was gradually reduced to £16 and coal was distributed by tickets worth 3s. 6d. each. (fn. 377) In 1941 a 36-year lease of the land was granted to the Oxfordshire Ironstone Co. Ltd., which relinquished the property c. 1955; the stock was then £3,050 and the interest £97 10s. (fn. 378) The land was subsequently held at a gradually increasing rent. In 1960 the money was spent on coal for the needy, on help for the sick and bereaved, and on educational expeditions to London. (fn. 379)
By the terms of Henry Fox's grant of 1902 for the upkeep of the church and churchyard any surplus was to be spent on relief of the poor. (fn. 380)