The article contained in the attached PDF appeared in the society’s 2010 Journal Number 25. Written by Gwen McConnachie, it is itself reproduced from a short essay on depictions of the Virgin Mary in medieval art.
St. Mary the Virgin Church, Shipton-under-Wychwood
The building under discussion here, is the medieval church at Shipton-under-Wychwood, dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin. the construction of which dates from around 1200. The south porch is a later fourteenth-century addition, like so many Cotswold church porches.
The pair of low relief sculptures which are the subject of the article are inset in two niches above, and to the sides of the portal.
The niche to the right of the portal shows the Annunciation with the angel Gabriel making known to Mary that she will give birth to the Christ child. Sadly, the sculpture to the left has been mutilated and cannot therefore be identified with accuracy.
In advance of our next evening talk on April 15th 2021, we reproduce here the article by Wendy Pearse from the society’s Journal No 18 published in 2003.
Wendy Pearse had done some research on the experiences of Sergeant Frederick Smith of Ascott in the First World War. She realised that the campaign in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in which he was involved was one of the longest in British history, was virtually unknown to her. The campaign included the Siege of Kut, a name not readily recalled by many when thinking of decisive World War One battles.
Wendy imagined that Fred Smith was probably the only man from this area who was part of this obscure theatre of war. But the more she read about this totally disastrous, badly planned and well concealed episode of the Great War, she discovered that an appreciable number of men from around the Wychwood area were involved.
These were men of the regular army, members of the 1st Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who were serving in the Indian Army before the war, and were sent directly from India, initially to help secure the oilfields of Mesopotamia during the latter part of 1914.
Here is a synopsis of the latest of our regular evening talks.
In the winter of 1842, 16,500 soldiers and civilians fled Afghanistan with a single survivor staggering into a British border fort a week later. Knowing a direct ancestor had been taken hostage during the retreat, Tom Shannon recently visited the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Mumbai, also known as the Afghan Church. Tom chillingly realised that if his three times Great Grandfather’s name was among the many listed in that sad place, he would not have been there to read it.
His ancestor’s narrow escape and our fourth military involvement in Afghanistan drove Tom to research the subject that has resulted in a long story that hangs heavy with overconfidence, misjudgment, betrayal and retribution. He proposes that outside intervention has helped nurture radical, fundamentalist forces including the Taliban to rise, flourish and continue to threaten the stability of that poor country.
About Our Speaker: Major Tom Shannon TD PhD Tom has served as an Australian regular soldier, naval reserve sailor and finally as a Territorial rifleman. He is a founder of the Oxford Metrics plc with over 30 years of international and commercial experience as a practicing engineer and scientist with a focus on the medical applications of computer vision to human motion and shape. Tom also currently holds a Visiting Professorship within the Faculty of Health Sciences at Staffordshire University researching adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. In his spare time he is also a passionate amateur historian, trustee director of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum and a sheep and cattle farmer in Somerset.
The talk was delivered on March 18th 2021 on Zoom.
This article was written in 1988 by John Rawlins and appeared in No. 4 of the Society’s Journal. It is reproduced here as part of our occasional series on Prebendal House.
The activities of the Oxford Archaeological Unit at Prebendal House, coupled with the interest and co-operation of the owners and their contractors, stimulated the Society to research further into its history. A request was made for any old photographs which might add to our knowledge of the property. Initially very few were forthcoming, but on checking an old photograph of the Prebendal staff with Bob Bradley, he produced the wedding photograph shown here. Both his mother and my father appear in the back row, and Mrs Hinde, the owner of Prebendal at the time, sits on the groom’s right. It was obviously taken at Prebendal, but why and when?
The photograph prompted Norman Frost to recall some correspondence he had had with a retired minister of the United Reform Church, the Revd Norman Singleton. With the kind permission of the Revd Singleton (who appears as the pageboy in the sailor-suit in the front row) the letter is now quoted in full.
When war with Germany was declared in August, 1914, the Old Prebendal at Shipton under Wychwood was a lovely ‘stately home’ in the old tradition – dignified, handsome, comfortable, well-staffed with ‘domestics’, gardeners and coachman, and owned by a ‘stately’ pair of occupiers, Dr and Mrs Hinde. Soon, Britain was really at war and our young men were being killed or wounded by tens of thousands, at which Dr and Mrs Hinde offered to turn part of the house into a convalescent home for wounded men, an offer quickly accepted by the authorities.
Beds, medical supplies, and other necessities, plus a nurse or two, quickly appeared at Shipton and were soon followed by a string of young men in blue hospital uniforms. When 1915 became warm enough, the lovely garden took on a new look with groups of blue-clad men – some bandaged, some on crutches ¬enjoying the peace and beauty of it.
At least two romances developed from all this. One had begun previously when Mrs Hinde engaged a new, young assistant gardener named William Sabin. Finding that Will was attracted to her personal maid, Nell Evens, Mrs Hinde thought it best for Nell to go home to Lancashire, which she did, though not surprisingly Will was soon called up for army service. Mrs Hinde was then without either of them and, missing Nell’s invaluable services, she quickly recalled Nell and used her in the convalescent home arrangements. To that end Mrs Hinde bought a motorcar – an Overland ‘tourer’ – which Nell quickly learned to drive and many of the wounded soldiers were met at the station by Nell and the Overland. And what could Mrs Hinde say or do when one of the wounded arrivals was none other than Will Sabin? Thus, a few years later Will and Nell were married, being tremendously happy together for many years and dying within a week of one another in Hertfordshire.
By another coincidence, one of the wounded soldiers turned out to be Nell’s brother, an extremely good-looking young man who, while at the Old Prebendary, quickly ‘fell’ for one of the young housemaids. It was all very sudden, and a great event in the first year of the Shipton ‘soldiers convalescent Home’ was when Levi Norman Evens (aged 22) married Katherine Lilian Alice Wall (21) at the Parish Church on 14 July 1915.
They were anxious to marry before Levi’s return to the trenches; Mrs Hinde was anxious that it should be more than just a ‘war wedding’; and so she did all she could to make it a great day for both. Thus, the procession out of the Church was of a ‘white’ bride, a handsome soldier bridegroom, soldier best man, six `white’ bridesmaids, and lastly a very young pageboy dressed in a sailor outfit and carrying a Union Jack which, incidentally, he had dropped with a clatter in the centre aisle during a prayer! (No carpet those days!) Sadly, as the war took its course, Levi Evens was badly gassed and he died very soon after the war ended.
The society’s latest online gathering on Feb 18th, 2021 was another well-attended session. Members and guests continue to support and enjoy these “at-home” evenings. This one was no exception, not least due to the obvious enthusiasm and commitment which our speaker gave to his subject.
The talk – on The Wilts & Berks Canal – was given by stalwart supporter and onetime project director Martin Buckland. It featured a synopsis of the history of the canal’s development. It also covered the canal’s eventual decline (in common with the entire canal network due to the coming of the railways) and then the revival of interest by local communities to revive the waterway for social and tourism development.
We learned that the canal opened in 1810 after 15 years of construction but had a chequered career until its legal closure in 1914. In 1977 restoration of the canal began in a few places.
However, in 2004, a full restoration of the entire 62 miles was decided upon.
Martin’s talk looked specifically at the restoration progress and future proposals for the canal. It focussed in detail on the development and opening of a 150-yard cut near Abingdon at the Eastern end of the canal, named the Jubilee Junction. Running from the River Thames to the edge of a former gravel pit south of the town, it is a key section of the project to reopen the canal for its entire length.
Martin’s talk also showed a tantalising number of images taken from key places along the canal. These were of various projects – past and current. Included was a particularly stunning development at Shrivenham, involving the delivery of vast quantities of ash from the Didcot power station in the days it was operating. All these images represent subject-matter, certainly, for further focus on similar projects. These are, as Martin called them – “pearls” along “the string of pearls” which describes the canal in an apt metaphor
About Martin Buckland
Martin Buckland has been interested in Industrial Archaeology from the age of 4 when watching Great Western trains with his Dad at Iver where he was born.
Nearly seven decades later he is involved with the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre and with the restoration of the Wilts & Berks and other canals.
He gives talks at Abingdon Museum to primary school children and leads walks along the historic and proposed routes of the Wilts & Berks Canal and another covering the rivers of Abingdon.
We were recently preparing to put the History Society’s Second Wychwoods Album (first published in 1990) on the Society’s website, and we came across this rather striking photograph of Maria Matthews. There was little context and we had to think about which part of the Wychwoods she belonged. An approach to one of the Society’s longstanding members, Anne Matthews, clarified things. The following is based on notes which Anne has kindly provided.
The Matthews family came from Warwickshire to Fifield in the early 19th Century. Marmaduke Matthews 1782-1840 moved to Fifield House and farmed locally. His grandson was Frederick Matthews who married Emma Powell (born 1844) in Taynton on October 27th 1863.
Frederick was living in Burford at that time. Emma was the daughter of a farmer in Taynton. (Her father was William 1794 – 1867 and her mother Ann 1802- 1875). They had three children. Frederick farmed William’s farm in Taynton until he inherited a farm in Fifield from his own father.
Their eldest daughter, Maria Matthews, was born in 1864. Their second child was Florence who later married and emigrated to Canada. Their third child was a son, Frederick William Powell Matthews (FWPM) who gave his name to the flour mill built in 1913 close to Shipton Station.
Maria was academically inclined but never went to university, which was not always considered the most suitable place for women. She became a gifted photographer and her photographs illustrated Three Centuries in North Oxfordshire by M. Sturge Henderson published in 1902. She and her cousin Anne Matthews lived in the Cottage in Fifield. They travelled together to France where she took many photographs.
Her brother Frederick was widowed twice when his wives died after childbirth. His first wife had five children. On her death certificate, in addition to medical reasons, it was stated that she died of exhaustion! Each time he was widowed, Maria took over running his house and his six young children.
When Frederick married for the third time, Maria returned to live with her parents in the house they had built then called the Gables. She and her mother gave a reading room to the village. This is now the Parish hall of Fifield.
Her father had started a small business buying and selling grain and seeds from his barn before they decided to build the mill at Shipton. Sadly he died in 1911 shortly before the mill opened.
Maria’s eldest nephew, Donald, married and had three children but he left his wife Nancy. Maria rented a house in Malvern to offer a home to Nancy and her family where they took in paying guests.
Later in life, Maria had a serious fall and broke her hip. She was confined to bed in the care home attached to the Wantage convent where her younger sister Doris was a nun. Nancy moved to Wantage to look after her.
On their wedding day in October 1955 Anne and Ian went to see Maria and gave her Anne’s bouquet as the oldest member of the Matthews family.
Maria never married but gave much of her life to helping her family. She died on 8 June 1963, just two days before her 99th birthday and is still fondly remembered within the Matthews family.
Here is a short item from the very first Wychwoods History journal from 1985. Sometimes it seems we are never far from the curious and mysterious, right under our feet. This article was written by the late Norman Frost.A PDF of the full contents of our Journal No 1 is here to download.
Flight Lieutenant and Mrs Fair of The Hawthorns, Station Road, Shipton are two newer residents in Shipton and in the course of tidying a very neglected garden have made many interesting finds like, for example, Victorian bottle dumps.
Recently they made a most interesting discovery. They found about thirty cigar-shaped objects, each 3-4 inches long which tests proved to be calcareous in origin. They baffled every member of the Society who looked at them and were not identified until they were finally matched with a collection in the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. It appears they are sea urchin spines (Heterocentrotus Mammillatus) which are found in the Indian and Pacific oceans where they were used as a form of coinage or for making necklaces and other decorations.
Pitt Rivers Museum produced a photograph of one of their exhibits – a wooden hat from Polynesia decorated with seashells and sea-urchin spines around the brim. The hat was carved from a single piece of wood and was used as a form of ceremonial headgear by the local kings. It was presented by the King of Sonsoral Island to a visitor when the SS Medora visited the island in 1884. So at last we know what they are! I hope no one asks how they got here.
The following article by Anthea Jones was published in the 1995 Wychwoods Local History Society Journal No10. It asks some interesting questions about the origins of the Shipton prebend, and charts the political background to the development of the Prebendal in Shipton. The article is also available as a PDF here.
The Seventeenth Century Puzzles over Shipton Prebend
The fortunes of Shipton prebend during the seventeenth century provide an insight into national political events. A prebend is a ‘provision’ of income for a cathedral canon. In Shipton’s case, the provision had been made for a canon of Salisbury Cathedral who owned the land and drew the tithe income which had once been allocated to the Rector or Parson. A canon of Salisbury was thus Rector of Shipton, and the Rectory or Parsonage House can also properly be called the Prebendal House.
There are several historical puzzles about the Shipton prebend. One puzzle concerns the statement that the prebend was ‘annexed’ to the Regius Professorship of Civil Law at Oxford by Act of Parliament in 1617. No parliament was called between 1614 and 1621 and so there could be no act of parliament in 1617. James I found parliament an exceptionally difficult institution, and as far as possible he avoided summoning it. He commented that:
‘I am surprised that my ancestors should ever have permitted such an institution to come into existence. I am a stranger and found it here when I arrived, so that I am obliged to put up with what I cannot get rid of.’ (1)
The statement about an act of 1617 being concerned with Shipton prebend is made in a number of books including the Victoria County History of Wiltshire volume III (published 1956), which in turn had drawn the information from the register of office holders of Salisbury Cathedral published by W.H. Jones in 1879. In fact, James I had given the Shipton prebend to the Oxford Professor of Civil Law by his own authority. He issued a Letter Patent or ‘open’ letter on 20 March in the fifteenth year of his reign. The document is in the archives of the University of Oxford held in the Bodleian Library. It is endorsed by the archivist ‘1618’. As James succeeded to the English throne on 24 March, his fifteenth year ran from 24 March 1617 to 23 March 1618, so the grant was made in 1618. (2) The canon of Salisbury who held the Shipton prebend, George Proctor, had died in 1617, which had given James I his opportunity, and hence no doubt Jones’ assumption about the date of the grant.
The Letter Patent recites in Latin how interested James I was in encouraging learning in his University of Oxford, and in particular his special favour towards the Professor of Civil Law, whose stipend he had supplemented with the Shipton prebend. He therefore granted the prebend to the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University, and they were to appoint the Regius Professor to it whenever it should become vacant; the Letter Patent said specifically that the man need not be in holy orders, despite the fact that he was to be rector of Shipton and a canon of Salisbury.
As the King appointed the Regius Professor in the first place, it was a mere formality for the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars to appoint to the prebend, but it was this aspect of the arrangement which was apparently later regularised by an Act of Parliament, because the King had effectively given away his traditional right of appointment. The Regius Professor accordingly enjoyed the revenues of the Rectory of Shipton for the next 237 years, until 1855, when the recently created Ecclesiastical Commission investigated and reorganised Salisbury’s income and the prebend reverted to the church.
The connection of Shipton with Salisbury Cathedral was not broken in 1618, it was merely the nature of the appointment which was changed. As the Bishop of Salisbury wrote later in the century, the Regius Professor was still “presented to the Bishop, obliged to take the oath of canonical obedience to the Bishop, to preach in the Cathedral church, to pay stall wages etc. and to perform all other things, as other Prebendaries are obliged. (3) (Stall wages were paid to vicars choral of the cathedral).
The Professor of Civil Law appointed Shipton’s vicar and was responsible (as rectors always were) for the upkeep of the chancels of Shipton and Ascott churches, and he paid the stipend of ‘such as serve the cure in the church of Ascot’. (4)
The vicar of Shipton was also paid a stipend but in addition had a small estate of land and some of the parish’s tithes for his maintenance. It appears from a lease of 1641 that the rector or prebendary was also responsible for the upkeep of part of the bridge leading to Chipping Norton. (5)
The Regius Professor of Civil Law in 1618 was John Budden and he therefore became rector of Shipton and canon of Salisbury. In 1620 Richard Zouch succeeded him, and he was still in office when the estate was confiscated by Parliament. During the Civil War between Parliament and Charles I, the Church of England was transformed into a presbyterian church, and archbishops and bishops, and deans and chapters of cathedrals were abolished.
The victorious Parliament set about selling the episcopal estates in 1650, to which end they were first carefully surveyed. In Shipton, the five parliamentary commissioners found 40 acres of arable land in the common fields, 25 acres of wood, that is half Stockley coppice, and 14 acres of pasture and meadow, together with the Parsonage house, barns and outhouses valued at £35. The tithes of grain, hay and wool in the parish, ‘which parish doth comprehend the several villages or tithings of Shipton, Milton, Lyneham, Leafield, Ramsden, Langley and part of Ascot’ were worth £303. Dr Fox, doctor of physic of Fetter Lane, London, leased the estate from Dr Zouch for £50 per annum. The vicar’s income was estimated at £40.00 (6)
After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 the Bishop. Dean and Chapter of Salisbury recovered their Shipton estate. In 1661 a new lease was made by the Regius Professor, now Dr Giles Sweit, with James Stocke of Waltham Abbey, yeoman. (7) All the routine expenses, including forty shillings ‘stall wages’, were to be met by the lessee. There was an interesting obligation of hospitality which was also passed on from the prebendary to the lessee. Every Sunday and festival day. James Stocke
‘…. shall invite and entertain and have to his Table att Dinner and supper two couple of honest and neediest persons being dwellers in the said parish, allowing them sufficient Meat and Drink for their Relief to the Intent good hospitality may be kept and maintained within the said Mansion place.’
Was this medieval tradition actually observed?
1 S.R. Gardiner, History o f England 1603-1642 ii, 251.
Prebendal House, Shipton under Wychwood BRIAN DURHAM Senior Field Officer, Oxford Archaeological Unit
Prebendal House and its ancilliary buildings stand in an acre of garden on the east side of the village of Shipton under Wychwood. The plot is roughly rectangular, lying between the churchyard of St Mary’s Church and the flood plain of the river Evenlode. The property was formerly approached from the direction of the modern village green via Church Street, but a new entry from the north-west was established in the mid-19th century and has now become the main approach to the replacement front door in the 20th century east extension.
Following a succession of private owners, the house and grounds have been acquired by Dr and Mrs N. Clarke on behalf of Mitrecroft Ltd for conversion to a complex of sheltered accommodation including residential and nursing care facilities. The necessary alterations are designed to make minimum visual impact on the impression of a Cotswold manor house. There will however, inevitably be major internal works to provide seven suites of bedroom, bathroom, sitting room and kitchen, 24 bedsitting rooms with bathrooms en suite, and various communal rooms. The tithe barn is to be restored and refurbished to provide an indoor swimming pool and concert hall/theatre.
The house itself exhibits several architectural features which indicate medieval origins. The bam has been compared with major Oxfordshire 15th-century barns such as Adderbury, Swalecliffe and Upper Heyford, and there are medieval features in the range of small buildings dividing the two. The complex as a whole is roughly what would be expected of a rectory in any rural parish, with a domestic area and a separate barn area for the storage of tithed produce. Assuming that it is included in the Domesday valuation of £72 for the Royal Manor of Sciptone in 1086, it may indeed have begun life as a rectory, either on this site or nearby.
The first surviving reference which can be seen to relate to this property or its predecessor is between 1111 and 1116, in a writ which implies that Shipton church had been granted to Salisbury Cathedral since the accession of Henry I (ie after 1100). It had been given by Amulf (or Arnold) the Falconer ‘for his son Humphrey’. Amulf was probably a royal officer, and may have been the king’s representative on the royal estate of Shipton. By extension therefore, his son Humphrey may have been the rector, who would have been a wealthy man on the valuation of 45 marks (£30), one of the twenty richest manors of any sort in Oxfordshire on Domesday valuations. Perhaps Humphrey wanted to join the chapter of Salisbury cathedral as a canon, and to pave the way for this his father asked the King to grant the revenue from his rectory to the cathedral in perpetuity. The church, the rectory and the glebe lands would thereby have become a ‘prebend’ of the cathedral, and the canon the first ‘prebendary’ of Shipton. The details are mere supposition, but the story is typical of the way in which cathedrals and monasteries were increasing their revenues in the post-Conquest period by acquiring interests in outlying manors.
The general plan of Prebendal House may therefore date back to a formative period in English history. The new owners were pleased to take advantage of the proposed alterations to learn more about the house, and thereby to provide their future residents with a historical perspective in their new surroundings. The Oxford Archaeological Unit was in turn pleased to conduct a series of small excavations aimed at sampling the deposits beneath the various ranges of buildings, to provide archaeological evidence for a review of its history. The Unit is very grateful to members of the Wychwoods Local History Society for their practical assistance organised by Margaret Ware, to John Rawlins for keeping a regular watch on what was disclosed by the contractor’s work and for his tireless research on the recent history of the property, and finally to Joan Howard-Drake for making available to the Unit her file of papers on its early history.
A small trench in the kitchen was designed to study deposits in the north-west corner of the medieval ‘hall’, which has been identified by the large late 13th/early 14th century blocked window in its west gable facing the church. A second trench in the adjoining lobby was designed to seek similar deposits in the north wing. There was no significant medieval build-up on either side of this wall, Feature (F) 306, but it was instructive to see that the threshold of a small ‘Gothick’ communicating doorway was originally at a level where it could have provided an opening from a medieval hall into a courtyard.
The interpretation of this range as the medieval ‘hall’ rests on the blocked window and the massiveness of the west and north walls. The chamfered course shared by the foundation of the west and south walls was not seen to the north, perhaps because this was a more mundane facade. The east wall of this block (F306/1) was seen in contractor’s excavations for a new partition wall, and alongside it were several human burials on a similar alignment to the church. These add to the many burials reported in the past from this part of the property, and show that the house was built over part of an older churchyard. A second partition footing to the west showed deeper fill of a ditch-like feature which may have divided two parts of the old churchyard; the only burial here was much deeper, and lying along the ditch roughly at a right angle to the church. The ditch may have still been visible when the first stone building was planned, because the footing was taken much deeper here (F306).
The Excavation: the ‘chapel’ and garage building (Figure 1, Area II)
The trenches were designed to look at deposits which are to be disturbed by the proposed dining rooms. By extending trenches within the garage and courtyard it was possible to reveal much of the plan of a late medieval building slightly broader than the existing one (built in 1900) but offset by about 3 metres to the south. The stonework of the foundations had been largely robbed out (F20S, 210, 211/2) but the standing west gable of the garage could easily be a medieval survival (F210/2). Within the medieval building was a thick accumulation of ashy floor yielding minute fragments of Tudor-type pottery, fragments of eggshell and a charred grain of barley (Layers (L) 201, 202 etc). This suggests domestic occupation, although there were three large hollows dug into the floor which might argue that there had been an industrial usage which for some reason had left no material traces (F203, 206, 208). A partition was later added, possibly a screened through-passage (F212).
Most of the medieval finds came from this area. Bruce Levitan (environmental archaeologist, Oxford University Museum) reports that there were many bone fragments, mainly sheep and cattle, but including rabbit, goose, domestic fowl, wild duck and bony fish. Maureen Mellor (pottery researcher, Archaeological Unit) was interested to find that the medieval sherds were thicker, coarser and greyer than previous groups from Shipton, and there was nothing which closely resembled “Wychwood Ware”.
She suggests two possible reasons – either the sherds belong to a period which we have not seen from Shipton before, or they have come from vessels with a specialised function in the barnyard area. The absence of Wychwood ware may mean that the Prebendal household could afford better, either fine vessels from Brill in Buckinghamshire (3 sherds) or even metal vessels. Maureen hopes that her Survey of Oxfordshire Pottery will answer some of these questions.
Most interesting in this area was a substantial north-south wall sealed beneath the building F214 (not on plan), immediately west of F212. It appears to have had metalled surfacing to the west but nothing to the east, and is therefore tentatively suggested as an early curtain wall to the prebendal house at a time when perhaps the flood-free land may have been no more than a narrow strip against the churchyard.
If this was indeed the line of an early boundary wall it was clearly pushed eastwards in medieval times by the tithe bam (cruck trusses circa mid-14th century) and by the excavated building (not earlier than late 13th century on pottery evidence). New buildings of this period would explain the existence of two perpendicular doorways and windows which have been reset in the east facade of the 1900 building. These are reputed to have come from the ‘chapel’, but there is no clear indication where this was. Certainly the later use of the excavated building was domestic and it seems to have been described as a ‘barn’ by the Oxford Architectural and Historical Society in 1870. The description seems to imply that the medieval doorways and windows were originally in the south elevation of this building, ie in the wall F20S, and it was perhaps this which gave rise to the term ‘chapel’.
The Excavations: the ‘Romanesque building’ and farmyard (Figures 1 and 2, Areas I and IV).
Figure 2: The ‘Romanesque’ building; left, internal elevation of west gable; right, external elevation of north wall; top, reconstruction of early 13th-century granary
The most interesting surviving structure in the present north range is a small building with several Romanesque features recognised by John Blair of the Queen’s College, Oxford. The features include two shallow pilasters rising to first floor height (F5/6, S/9), a distorted round-headed doorway (F5/7), and a fragment of an impost which presently supports a timber lintel. Excavation has established that:
1. The pilasters are attached to free-standing piers which themselves rise through two storeys. Their overall height and the presence of supporting pilasters distinguish them from several other examples of square stone columns which support open-fronted farmyard-type buildings on the property.
2. The walls of the building have shallower foundations than these piers, and are therefore in the nature of infill panels between them. Architectural features of the walls therefore cannot necessarily be used to date the original construction of the pier building, even if they were assumed to be in their original location (which is questionable for at least the round-headed arch F5/7).
3. The floor levels within the adjoining range of buildings to the west had been dug at some time to give headroom and drainage for a stable floor which existed by the 18th century (L4). Any pre-existing medieval floors of this range are likely to have been removed in this process and consequently the excavation could not be expected to show original surfaces.
The ‘Romanesque building’ therefore consisted originally of free-standing stone piers 60cm (2ft) square, buttressed by 7cm (3in) pilasters to the first storey (F5/6, S/9). Incorporated in the upper part of each pier is an arrangement of three oak timbers running right through the pier east-west, and a further two running north- south, let into both the east and west faces. These immediately suggest composite supports for a first floor, and their location means they must have been inserted when the upper piers were built. A building raised on such high piers could well have been a granary, but as such it would be very unusual in an area where the familiar type of granary is raised no more than 60-90cm on ‘staddle stones’. This exaggerated height, coupled with the interesting, slightly stylised buttressing provided by the pilasters, could mean that the piers are very rare survivors of a 12th to early 13th-century granary. They survive principally because the infill panel (F5/8) formed a wall which was on a convenient alignment to be reused in successive farmyard buildings.
The granary is assumed to have been two bays wide at least, and subsequent infilling between the piers would have created a useful space. Eventually however it must have been replaced by buildings used for stabling animals, like that now surviving. This may have happened in medieval times, because a drip-course at a high level in the west gable of the adjoining garage building (F210/2) suggests that this was an external wall face, rather than something built against the end of a pre¬existing granary.
The Area IV trench was dug against the churchyard wall with the assistance of the Wychwoods Local History Society. It exposed the foundations (F402) and sloping floor makeup of an agricultural building shown on the 19th-century maps, probably of no antiquity. Most interesting was a ditch (F404), parallel to the churchyard wall, and yielding early medieval pottery. Was this an early division of the churchyard continuing that beneath the hall range? It seems possible.
The Shape of the Medieval Manor House
From the archaeological and topographical evidence it is possible to produce a plan of Prebendal House for the post-medieval period, and to extrapolate back to the medieval without stretching the evidence too far. The house would have occupied the strip of land between churchyard and floodplain, as previously recognised by Paul Drury (Inspector of Ancient Monuments, English Heritage). Early Saxon grass-tempered pottery in secondary deposits implies that there had been early settlement nearby, perhaps associated with a river crossing, but there was nothing to suggest any continuity of settlement through the Saxon period. If there was a rectory at Shipton before about 1100-16, it need not have been on this site, and human burials under the house and elsewhere suggest that part of the property was cut out of the Saxon churchyard. Perhaps therefore in the 12th or 13th centuries the churchyard was reorganised, making space for a house fronting onto Church Street, with a ditch demarcating the boundary between the two.
This gives a historical framework, and means that what is known of the house can be usefully compared with, for instance, the Bishop of Salisbury’s 12th-century houses at Old Sarum and Sherborne Castle. The former is sure to have been known to the incumbent when the property became a prebend of Salisbury in circa 1127. Both this and Sherbourne were built round very compact courtyards of between 30-40 metres outside dimensions.
The two ranges surviving at Shipton in 1839 (tithe map) could reflect a tradition of a quadrangle of buildings around the south lawn. Its proximity to Church Street may be significant. The street leads off the area of the modem village green and is now a cul-de-sac, but has many of the characteristics of a main road through the village leading to a river crossing and up the hill towards Chipping Norton. This would give additional significance to the frontage. No doubt there would need to be an access to the rear part of the property, where there may already have been a barnyard.
The Salisbury houses quoted above are both ‘castles’, and it is important to note that in a 12th-century setting many manor houses of the size of the Shipton prebend would have been fortified against the anarchy of Stephen’s reign (1135- 54). One need look no more than two miles downstream from Shipton to find two sites on the same bank of the Evenlode which were provided with impressive earthworks (Ascott Earl and Ascott D’Oilly).
The lack of earthworks may indicate that the Shipton prebend was comfortably protected by a fortress elsewhere in the village, perhaps the royal manor, wherever that may have been. It might be argued of course that such defensive works were restricted to secular magnates who were involved in the political hurly-burly of the period, but the sheer wealth of the prebend would make it a subject for protection.
On the other hand the lack of defences may simply mean that the rectory was elsewhere in the 12th century, and it is interesting to note that the 1870 visit by the Oxford Architectural and Historical Society concluded that it was the vicarage, ISO metres to the south, which had the defences. Could it be that when Elias Ridell presented the first recorded vicar in 1227, the vicar took over the existing prebendal house, and a new house was built on part of the churchyard? This would fit the assumed dating of the earliest tangible remains, the granary piers.
Tithing of an estate the size of Shipton must have produced large quantities of grain, all requiring storage in dry vermin-free conditions. The granary would have been at least three bays long and probably two bays wide along one side of the barnyard. Since the structures are unprecedented, it is a little difficult to be categorical about their date.
The stone is heavily weathered so that the tooling has almost disappeared, but it is apparently not as consistently diagonal as would be expected of 12th-century ashlar. I am therefore indebted to John Blair’s opinion that such slender pilasters have no place in Gothic architecture.
Even when applied to a free-standing pier as in this case, we agree that they must be Romanesque and hence no later than the early 13th century. In time the ground area beneath the granary could have been used for storing other materials and equipment, leading to the construction of walls between the piers, for weather¬proofing and security. This point may have been reached by the mid-14th century, perhaps the time of a major building programme which saw the construction of the great barn in its original timber form.
The shape of the barnyard would by this time have been well established. The layout was to be completed by a late medieval building continuing the line of the granary eastwards. The contrast between the thick carpet of ash in this building and the cleanliness of the floors of the hall range may indicate a difference in function, but the ash does not necessarily mean an industrial usage. Similar floors occur commonly in medieval domestic buildings in Oxford, and it is not impossible that this was in fact the residence of an official concerned with the administration of the prebendal barnyard.
Conclusion It is ambitious to attempt to tell the history of such a complex building by digging a few holes in one area but this is the way that research on medieval buildings is likely to go in the future, and the exercise must be seen as a challenge.
There can be no doubt that the property has been taken out of the churchyard, possibly in the early 12th century but more likely around 1227. The only building of the period is the putative granary, but the existing hall or chamber block could have been built within a century of the later date, and both the barn in its timber form and the Area II building not long after.
The new discoveries also focus interest on the vicarage site, as a possible predecessor of the prebendal house. The most memorable thing to the writer however is the present north range of buildings.
The western room has been converted from a cowshed or stable, while adjoining it is the extraordinary little square building presently used as a passageway, with a re-set or deliberately faked Romanesque arch for one doorway, while the opposite wall retains two piers of a less ostentatious piece of true Romanesque building, the granary. And the range is completed by a 20th-century double garage, which is known as a ‘chapel’ by virtue of a medieval doorway which has been built into its east end, and which is now to become the kitchen. It could almost have been designed as an archaeological obstacle course.
Sources and References Discussion of the date of the foundation of the prebend is in E. J. Kenley’s Roger of Salisbury (1972), 234-5.
Details of the tithe barn are taken from reports by J. Steane and M. Taylor for Oxfordshire Department of Museum Services (PRN 11755), and by P. Drury for English Heritage.
Notes on the house in the 19th century are from an excursion by North Oxford Archaeological Society in 1870, and Froc. Oxford Architectural and Historical Society N. S. Vol. 2 (1869), 132-5.
For identifications of bone and pottery I am indebted to Bruce Levitan and Maureen Mellor respectively.
The following article by Wendy Pearse appeared in Vol 31 of the Wychwoods Local History Society Journal. It was published in 2016. It focusses in detail on the fortunes of Ascott families and develops the tale around 19th century Wychwoods emigrations, discussed in Martin Greenwood’s book “The Promised Land” which we reviewed recently.
In our affluent world of today, it is very difficult to visualise what life must have been like for the villagers of Ascott in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The Rev. Samuel Yorke, through the pages of the Leafield and Ascott Parish Magazine, and later the Chipping Norton Deanery Magazine, 1880-83, recounts various happenings and events but it is almost impossible to glean the reality of everyday life for the craftsmen and labourers of the village. What were the conditions like within the houses? How did they obtain their food and water? How about sourcing clothing and footwear? Where did they obtain fuel to heat their houses and cook their food? That particular period of the century hit the British countryside hard. Farmers were finding it difficult to compete with increasing imports from abroad. Wheat and refrigerated meat from other parts of the world were increasingly unloaded on British shores, thus lowering the price of the home market. Imported cattle were bringing in diseases to which indigenous breeds had little resistance. And the weather was atrocious, providing climatic conditions totally opposite to those necessary to aid the production of food. Farms were difficult to rent out, resulting in less available work for farm workers. Wages were poor, and the lower down the class system, the greater the problem of providing for a family. For many living in Ascott, daily life may have been dire indeed.
However, primarily for the young, there was a source of hope: the promised lands on the far side of the world beckoned. Apparently, a fair number of Ascott’s born and bred were prepared to seize this opportunity. The possibility of acquiring land of their own, and the chance of setting their foot on an upwardly spiralling ladder, proved difficult to resist. In the early 1870s many people left the Wychwoods to seek a new life in New Zealand, partly with the assistance of the emerging Farm Workers’ Trade Unions. But a decade later Perth and Western Australia appear to have had the most to offer to the youth of Ascott, and through the Deanery, we can follow a number of these youths as they set out on their greatest adventure.
In 1875 when Rev. Yorke and his wife Frances arrived in Ascott, it seems that Mrs Yorke proposed the establishment of a Night School for the village youths. This she pursued, with about 30 students ranging in age from twelve to the middle twenties. Apparently these young villagers were already giving thought to improving their lot in life. Five years later, Rev. Yorke reported that some of the earlier students had already taken advantage of their additional qualifications by joining the Railway Company, the Post Office, the Army or, indeed, by emigrating abroad. Three past students, Frederick White, Raymond Pratley and Jacob Moss had emigrated to Western Australia, where to all intents and purposes they were doing well. Raymond Pratley was the son of a farm labourer and Jacob Moss the youngest son of a shoemaker. They were approximately the same age, born in Ascott, and had probably known each other all their lives. Frederick White, however, was a few years younger than the other two and must have been only about 16 or 17 when he left England. This may have been due to family matters since his father, the village blacksmith, had died in the late 1870s, and his mother was left with other young children and an older stepson, so maybe he decided the time was right to make his own way into the world.
In 1880 in the last issue of the Leafield and Ascott Parish Magazine, Rev. Yorke reported that Mr Hyatt, whose family had farmed at Stone End Farm (now Ascott Earl House) for generations, had recently seen three of his grandsons depart for Australia: Frank Gomm, the son of his daughter living in Tackley, and Alfred and Edwin Townsend, sons of his other daughter Sophia, the widow of Edwin Townsend of Long House Farm in High Street. The Townsends, like the Hyatts, were a family of long-established Ascott farmers. James, an elder brother of Alfred and Edwin, had sailed for Australia in 1876, which was probably an added incentive to his younger brothers’ desire to emigrate. Alfred was 20 and Edwin, like Frederick White, only 16 or 17. The three young men sailed from London on the steamship Potosi on the 29th October 1880.
The S.S. Potosi, built in 1873, had been purchased by the Orient Line from the Pacific Company’s fleet only in the past year. She was considered a good, seaworthy vessel and was known for fast steaming. She had a gross measurement of 4219 tons, length 421 feet, beam 43 feet and the depth of the hold was 33 feet 5 inches. Following her initial arrival in Australia in July 1880, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser reported, ‘ . .it is lit up at night with the new electric process (Siemens), and this is the first vessel that has been in this harbour lit up in such a manner; and the satisfaction the light has given is likely to lead to all the Orient boats being fitted up in a like manner. The second saloon is lighted in the same method, but in a lesser degree of brilliancy. The light in the saloon having been found to be too dazzling, gauze coverings had to be put round the globes to temper it. There are four of these globes, one under each corner of the large skylight in the main saloon. The Potosi is propelled by engines of 600 horse-power nominal, with inverted cylinders; these are two in number.’
In the Deanery of January 1881, Rev. Yorke reported, ‘The ship ‘Potosi’ of the Orient line [with the three Ascott youths bound for Perth, Western Australia] reached Adelaide after a voyage over the 12,000 miles of 43 days from London, including stoppages at Plymouth, St. Vincent and the Cape. In their letters received from the Cape, they say that the voyage thus far had been a most pleasant one, after passing Madeira and the Canary Islands, or about 1,500 miles from home, the weather became so hot that they could not sleep comfortably in their cabins below, and passed the nights on deck; the sight of the flying fish seemed specially to strike them, flying sometimes in the air for a distance of about a chain and a half and then diving again into the sea …. the passengers on board the ship numbered nearly 700, chiefly English, but some from Germany and others from Russia.’
By the time the Potosi reached Adelaide half the passengers had already disembarked, including the Ascott lads, who had reached their destination at Perth. The following June, Rev. Yorke reported, ‘Four other Ascott youths, James and Albert Weaver, George White and Henry Pratley, have sailed in the ship ‘Charlotte Padbury’, for Perth, Western Australia; also Thomas Ward and his newly wedded wife. Let us wish them all a prosperous voyage. With the others who have previously gone out from our Parish there will be quite a little Ascott colony settled in those remote parts. But there is an abundance of room for a very large population; the inhabited portions extend for about 350 miles in length and 200 miles in breadth (or nearly the entire size of England), but the whole population does not at present exceed 10,000 persons and thus many districts are very thinly peopled.’
Brothers James and Albert Weaver had been born in Ascott and were the sons of a shoemaker, Charles. James was 20 and Albert 18 when they left to seek their fortunes abroad. George White, aged 22, was the stepbrother of Frederick White, who had already sailed for Perth, and eighteen-year-old Henry Pratley was the younger brother of Raymond Pratley, who had left at the same time as Frederick White. So it would appear that favourable reports had been winging their way across the world to family members in England. The Charlotte Padbury, which left London on 26th June 1881, was a clipper barque of 636 tons, significantly small in comparison to the Potosi. She was owned by Walter Padbury of Perth, Western Australia (see below), but had been built in Falmouth. Her Commander was Thomas Barber and on this particular voyage he had taken his wife with him. She had been a cabin passenger, together with one other, in what were reputed to be well-ventilated cabins. The saloon was said to be spacious, a bathroom was included and the accommodation was declared superior. The number of steerage passengers, including the six from Ascott, was 24.
In the August issue of the Deanery, Rev. Yorke had reassuring news to impart: ‘The painful rumour that was spread abroad in the Parish, early in last month, of the total loss of the ship containing those who have lately left us for Australia, has happily proved to be unfounded: the owners, Messrs. MacDonald, have written to say that they have every reason to believe that the vessel is quite safe and pursuing her voyage.’
The December issue of the Deanery reported that, ‘Tidings have come of the safe arrival of the ship ‘Charlotte Padbury’ at Perth, Western Australia, on September 18th, conveying, amongst other passengers, James and Albert Weaver, George White, Henry Pratley, Thomas Ward and his bride (formerly Sarah Ann Hone), all from Ascott. The voyage occupied about 12 weeks.’ A newspaper sent to the Vicar from Perth, announcing their arrival, states that it was ‘a pleasant and welcome sight to see the fresh English faces of the emigrants, healthy looking and cleanly dressed.’
The March 1882 Deanery reported: ‘The following is an extract from a letter, lately received from one of the Ascott youths [probably Albert Weaver] who emigrated to Western Australia in the summer of last year: he was a Church bell-ringer and also one of our best cricketers:-
Swan Bridge, December 26th, 1881.
Christmas has come again and found me a long way from the post I occupied, last year, that of ringing the old Church Bell. I am now in the burning sun of our midsummer, while you, probably, are in a land of snow and ice. We travelled up into the bush from Perth with a team, and we felt it rather strange having to roll ourselves up in our blankets and sleep under the wagon; after 5 days we reached our destination but we found ourselves in a very rough place and resolved to leave it as soon as possible. I left the work and took to my trade again (shoemaking) and am doing capital well, but I must tell you that if one comes out here they must not care how they live, or they had better stay at home, though a man can earn more money here, but I would not advise anyone to come out here for I shall not stay for long.”
Four months later there was news of the Townsend family. ‘Tidings have lately come from Mrs Townsend’s three sons, in Western Australia: they seem to be doing well, but the Colony has suffered, in the past summer, from a terrible drought such as has not been known there for 10 years: the pastures have been dried up, and the sheep, cattle and horses have been dying by the hundreds. Mr James Townsend, who left England shortly before his lamented father’s death, in 1876, has married and settled down in Geraldton, in Champion Bay, almost 300 miles north of Perth; he kindly signifies that he will shortly send a few notes giving some account of the country, which may appear in our Magazine. Alfred has gone several hundred miles higher up into the bush, where a white man is rarely seen, near to the pearl fisheries: a Church is not to be found in his district, he seems to feel the want very much, Edwin is with Mr Padbury, in the neighbourhood of Perth.’
WaIter Padbury was a significant figure in Western Australia history. He was born in 1820 at Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, the second son of a small farmer. He emigrated with his father to Western Australia in 1830, intending to send for the rest of the family once they were established. Unfortunately within five months Walter’s father died, and a couple whom his father hoped would look after Walter took his money and disappeared. Walter found work around Perth, eventually becoming a shepherd, until, aged 22, he took to fencing, shearing and droving. He acquired his own stock, which he sold at profit, and eventually secured enough money to bring the rest of his family to join him. In 1845 he married 18-year-old Charlotte Nairn and established a butchery in Perth. He became a property owner, built a flour mill and was very good to his employees. Eventually he went into shipping (his ship, the Charlotte Padbury, was evidently named for his wife) and set up with William Thorley Loton as general store keepers in Perth and Guildford. He was very active in public affairs, long associated with the Agricultural Society; he became a justice of the peace and mayor. He contributed generously to the church, to the establishment of children’s homes, hospitals, to the poor and other charities. He died in 1907, and after legacies to relations and friends, left about £90,000 to be divided amongst named charities.
Padbury had also been a great letter writer and at the end of 1882 appears to have written to Rev. Yorke. ‘Our Magazine obtains a wide circulation: it has readers in America, South Africa and Western Australia. Mr W. Padbury has written from Perth, in the last named Colony, drawing attention to the letter of an emigrant from Ascott published in our parish notes of March last. He does not dispute the facts stated therein, but writes:- “There is ample room in any of these Australian Colonies and New Zealand for half the population of England: but they must not come here with the notion that they can at once make a fortune, or jump into the shoes of those who have been here all their lives; if they are industrious and economical as a rule they will certainly do better than they can in England.” Mr Padbury adds statements of wages given, corresponding with those set forth on the first page of last month’s Magazine in Sydney, New South Wales. On the other side of the question it is only fair to consider the length of the voyage, extending at times, to over 100 days in reaching Perth; the extreme heat of the climate in Summer, and its liability to not infrequent droughts; also the separation from friends and acquaintance, the many hardships to be encountered and the like.’
There is some more evidence about the emigrants, which seems to suggest that mixed fortunes attended the Ascott lads. Of the Townsend family, the only additional information is about Edwin. He married Lucy Ann Drummond in 1887 but unfortunately died in 1900, only thirteen years later, aged 36. Both Raymond and Henry Pratley married in 1884, but nothing further is known. Albert and James Weaver also married in 1884. Albert married Charlotte Staples in Fremantle. They had at least one son, Charles George, born in 1889. Charlotte died in 1914 and Albert in 1938. James Weaver’s marriage to Sarah Hyde was very shortlived. She died the same year, aged only 18, and their son of three months, James Albert, died the following year. It would appear that James married again in 1888 and hopefully fortune then treated him more kindly.
Nothing further is known about Frederick White, but George White married Jane McGowan in 1884. Sadly fate was not kind to them either, since George died the following year aged only 26. However, it would appear that the oldest son of William James White, the Ascott blacksmith, and the brother of Frederick and George, had, like the eldest Townsend son, preceded his brothers to Perth. In 1879 he married Annie Coffin at Yatheroo and in the following years, they produced a family of four sons and three daughters. Three of their sons joined the Australian Expeditionary Force in the First World War. The eldest, George Eustace, named for his uncle who died the year that he was born, joined the Australian Army Medical Corps and served in Egypt. Bason, the youngest, perhaps fortunately for his mother’s peace of mind, was too young to leave Australia before the War ended. The second son, Cecil, married Ivy Derepas in Perth in 1915 and later, as a sergeant in the Australian Expeditionary Force, was shipped to England. On leave, whilst completing his training, he travelled to Ascott to see his father’s birthplace. Then in January 1919 he sent to his cousins, the White family living in Centuries House, copies of the photographs of Ascott which he had taken during his visit. His photographs will be reproduced in a future volume of Wychwoods History.
Wendy Pearse 2016
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