Village Street in 1904, looking East towards the Green & Crown Pub and a beer delivery Cart (G Bruce Clarke of Wallingford, Wine & Spirit Merchants)
Chalgrove occupies the flat Clays & Gravels between the Thame Valley and the Chiltern Scarp, c.5.6Km North-West of Watlington and 15.3km South-east of Oxford. The Village developed along a narrow Stream-valley South of the Oxford-Watlington Road, and became one of the Hundreds more populous Settlements, growing substantially in the 1960s when new building Quadrupled the number of households. An outlying Hamlet at Rofford shrank considerably in the later Middle Ages but remained the centre of a separate Liberty until the 19thC. By then the Parish was usually administered as a whole, and in 2013 Rofford comprised just 2 Houses.
The Parish was predominantly Agricultural until the 20thC, its large Open-fields remaining mostly un-Inclosed until 1843. From the 15thC, it was largely owned by Magdalen College, Oxford, which sold its Estate in 1942.
The Airfield at Chalgrove was not ready until late 1943 and at the Outset it was a USAAF Base, being Station 465. However, Before formal use it was used informally for trials of Towed Target Gliders being developed by Toy Makers Line Bros. Chalgrove, being near Benson & Mount Farm, was used by Photographic Reconnaissance Squadrons of the 10th Photographic Group between February 1944 and the summer of that year when the Squadrons moved on to France. Then a Squadron of the 7th Photographic Wing moved in from overcrowded Mount Farm and from the Summer to Autumn 1946 the Mosquitoes of 8-OTU at Benson used Chalgrove for Training. A more bellicose unit, the USAAF 653rd Bomb Squadron also brought Mosquitoes here in late 1945. Shortly after the end of Hostilities the Martin-Baker Company arranged with the Ministry of Supply to use the Airfield for the Development & Testing of Ejection Seats. The 1st live Ejection was from a Meteor Jet Fighter was on 24 June 1946 and Testing continues to this day still using a Hybrid Meteor Jet. At the time of writing no fewer than 7,650 Lives have been saved using MB Ejection seats and some 17,000 Units are in Service Worldwide.
The Military Airfield was built over former Farmland, its Huts & Barracks providing temporary post-War Accommodation pending larger-scale House-building. A late 20thC Industrial Estate provided further employment, although by then most inhabitants worked elsewhere.
The Ancient Parish (2,385a) comprised the Manors of Chalgrove & Rofford, whose Boundaries (with those of neighbouring Estates) were probably established before 1066. The Northern Boundary along Haseley Brook was mentioned in 1002, while the Western Boundary with Newington was apparently established soon afterwards. The Western Boundary with Ascott (in Great Milton Parish) followed that of the Hundred, diverting Westwards along Chalgrove Brook to include an area of Meadow, while the indented Eastern Boundary with Easington followed Open-field Furlongs as far as the detached Meadow belonging to Lewknor, continuing in a more or less straight line to take in Chalgrove Common. The Southern Boundary with Cadwell (in Brightwell Baldwin) is probably also pre-Conquest.
The Liberty, Tithing, or Township of Rofford covered 363a in the Parish’s North-Western corner, bordering Southwards on the Oxford-Watlington Road. On its Northside an isolated dwelling called Lower Rofford lay in a detached part of Wheatfield Parish (48½a), which probably originated in the 12th or 13thC when the Lord of Wheatfield held Rofford Manor. The Wheatfield Land was added to Chalgrove Parish in 1886, bringing the total area to 2,433 acres. In 1932 the Parish was United with Warpsgrove but lost 12a to Stadhampton, leaving it with 2,756a (1,115 Ha.) in 2013.
Chalgrove lies chiefly on Gravels of the 2nd (Summertown-Radley) Terrace, with areas of underlying Gault Clay in the Village, and in the North-East & South-West. The red, gravelly soil is easily worked, and with sufficient rainfall produces large yields, whereas the heavier Clays are better suited to grass. Chalgrove Village occupies a slight dip, above which rises the squat Church Tower, and generally the relief is undramatic, falling gently North-Westwards from c.75M on the Boundary with Brightwell Baldwin to 70M at Chalgrove Airfield & 58M at Rofford (by Haseley Brook). Only at the Easington Boundary does the ground climb higher towards ‘Esa’s Hill‘ (107M).
The Parish is watered by Tributaries of the River Thame, its plentiful Marsh & Meadow reflected in Medieval field names incorporating the elements eg, lag, mœd, & mersc. Chalgrove Brook flows South of the village, passing near the Church and formerly powering several Mills, including that at Mill Lane. A separate channel (controlled by a Sluice Gate) runs along High Streets Northside and until the 20thC houses there flooded regularly Continued flooding of surrounding fields prompted flood alleviation schemes in 1981–4 and formation of a Chalgrove Flood Alleviation Group in 2008. Woodland was largely confined to hedgerow trees, contributing to the landscapes flat & featureless aspect. The large plain North of the village was the scene of a Civil War Battle in 1643, and from 1943 the Military Airfield covered some 700a of the same level ground. Water supply was mostly from Wells & Streams until Mains Water arrived in 1950.
Settlement & Population
Prehistoric to Anglo-Saxon Settlement
Neolithic activity is suggested by finds of polished stone axes, but the earliest Settlement evidence is a Bronze-Age Roundhouse with associated pottery & flint scatters South-East of the modern Village. Iron-Age finds include a Gold coin and a few pottery sherds, while more striking is the discovery of 2 Roman Coin Hoards and a 2nd-century cornelian intaglio (gem) personifying rustic prosperity. Cropmarks & pottery finds indicate extensive Romano-British Settlement, some of it West of the Modern Village.
Chalgrove’s Anglo-Saxon place name may refer to Chalk or Limestone Pits, highlighting a relatively rare resource in the lowland Clay Vale. Later Anglo-Saxon Settlement was most likely concentrated on the Modern Village’s Southern edge close to Chalgrove Brook, around the Site of the Church & nearby Harding’s Field. Pottery sherds & 2 9thC strap ends were found in the vicinity, and there are residual Earthworks. By the mid-11thC a sizeable Chalgrove Estate (probably still focused on that area) supported a substantial Population and a striking concentration of Watermills along Chalgrove Brook, while a separate Settlement had developed at Rofford (Hroppa’s Ford) by Haseley Brook. Recorded Anglo-Saxon field names suggest both Open-field cultivation & clearance of land for tillage.
Population from 1086
By 1086 there were at least 52 Tenant households in the Parish, 42 at Chalgrove and 10 at Rofford. By 1279 the number of households had more than doubled to 110, with growth-focused exclusively on Chalgrove: there 99 Tenants (52 of them Free) held land from one or both of the 2 main Manors, while Rofford had only 8 Villeins & 3 Free Tenants. Total Population may have approached 500, and further expansion probably followed in the early 14thC, when the number of Taxpayers rose from at least 63 in 1306 to 80 in 1327.
14thC Plague reduced Population particularly at Rofford, when in 1377 only 6 households (including 13 inhabitants aged over 14) paid Poll Tax. Chalgrove had 185 Taxpayers in 74 households, suggesting a total Parish Population of perhaps 450. By the 16thC, Population was apparently growing again, despite occasional epidemics including (in 1557–9) a Nation-wide outbreak probably of Influenza. Sixty houses were assessed for Hearth Tax at Chalgrove in 1662/4 at Rofford, and in 1676 there were an estimated 260 adults in the Parish.
Medieval & Later Settlement
A predecessor of Chalgrove Church existed apparently by the late 11thC, and excavation has revealed late 12th & early-13thC occupation of the neighbouring Manorial Site at present-day Harding’s Field. The Medieval Village developed some distance to the North & West, along High Street & Mill Lane: High Street itself may follow a former headland in the Open-fields, since curving Croft Boundaries on its Northside suggest that they were laid out on Open-field Strips. Some of those changes may have followed from the Manors division in 1233 and the creation of an additional Manorial complex on Mill Lane, which provided a secondary focus and perhaps involved some reorganisation of Tenant housing. The chronology of the shift is uncertain, however, and other factors (including general population increase) may have played a part. By the mid-14thC the Village was divided into 3 ‘ends‘ called Langehull (from a significant [Langley Hall] Freehold Estate at Mill Lane), Bour or Bower End, and East End, implying some gaps in the over-all Settlement pattern. The name ‘Bour‘ suggests an area of lower-status Tenants, and in the 15thC, each end was secured by Gates, presumably to control Livestock. The Moated Manorial Complex at Harding’s Field, expanded during the 13th & 14th centuries, was abandoned by c.1500, but the Moated Mill Lane Complex is marked by present-day Chalgrove Manor, opposite a Medieval Mill Site on the Lane’s Eastern side.
Apart from some infilling between the ‘ends‘ the picture was probably little changed by the 18thC when the Village contained 60–80 households. High Street remained its principal focus, extending for a kilometre from its junction with Mill Lane to the Warpsgrove Road, with a small Green at its centre where the Village Stocks and a Stone Cross formerly stood.
In the 18thC, the surplus of Baptisms over burials gradually increased, the estimated number of houses rising from 60 in 1738 to 80 by 1790. By 1801 Chalgrove’s 117 occupied houses accommodated 509 people, & Rofford’s 2 a Population of 9. The 1830s saw a significant increase, the 19th-century population peaking in 1841 at 668 in 136 houses at Chalgrove, and 23 in 5 houses at Rofford. Thereafter numbers declined steadily to 359 people in 90 houses in 1921, with notable falls in the 1840s-50s & 1880s-90s. Some houses were later removed, notably along Frogmore Lane, and the rapid increase in the number of households by 1841 must have been largely achieved by subdivision. As the population declined in the late 19th & early 20thCs several older Cottages were demolished, and a row of Council Houses was built on Monument Road (1928–30). Otherwise, the shape of the Village remained largely unchanged until after WW2. From 1948 abandoned Nissen Huts at Chalgrove Airfield attracted large numbers of incomers creating a sizeable ‘squatter colony‘ which was eventually adopted as temporary housing by Bullingdon Rural District Council accounted for a rise to 910 (in 231 dwellings in 1951). A School (housed in similar accommodation) was provided in 1950, and the Site, known as the Hampden Estate, was only finally cleared in 1958. Some families moved to new Council houses on Chalgroves North-Western edge, and in the 1960s development spread Eastwards along both sides of High Street, serviced by new residential roads, shops & other amenities. Residential development in the 1960s increased the population from 652 (188 houses) in 1961 to 2,433 (730 houses) in 1971. Further expansion was limited by the new Bypass to the North, the Brook to the South, and roads to the West & East, but the whole of that area was infilled by the end of the 20thC. Development elsewhere focused on Warpsgrove Lane, where a Light Industrial Estate, Depot, & Poultry Farm were constructed East of the Airfields surviving Buildings, on the Site of the Hampden Estate. The Road to Berrick Salome & Benson also acquired additional dwellings. Further building swelled the population to 2,909 (1,089 houses) in 2001, & 2,830 in 2011.
OS Map 1919 Sth Oxon XLVI.8 (Chalgrove)
The Medieval Village at Rofford probably comprised no more than 12 households c.1300, and after the Black Death gradually declined to the 3 or 4 isolated houses marked on 18th & 19thC Maps, including Rofford Farm, Rofford Hall, and (in the detached part of Wheatfield) Lower Rofford. The Site of the Deserted Village was bulldozed in 1959 when pottery of the 12thC onwards was found.
Until its diversion in 1943 the main Oxford-Watlington Road ran North-East of Chalgrove Village, connecting with Roads to Rofford & Warpsgrove, and intersecting the Road to Benson & Wallingford which runs close to Chalgrove Church. Probably it was of pre-Conquest origin and may have been the ‘Broad Way‘ mentioned in the Middle Ages. In the 1770s it was frequently impassable especially in Winter, and the Parish Surveyors were ordered to repair it. The Rofford Road (in poor condition in 1688) continued to Little Milton, crossing Haseley Brook at Roppanforda (Hroppa’s Ford), which was mentioned in 1002 and where a Bridge was broken in 1285. Lesser Lanes mentioned in the Middle Ages included Mill Way (‘mulewei’), ‘Medecroftlane’, & ‘Wauscherdeswey’.
At inclosure in 1843 the Watlington, Rofford, Warpsgrove, & Wallingford Roads were confirmed as Public Highways, but in 1943 creation of the Airfield stopped up the 1st 2, with Watlington Traffic diverted along Chalgrove Village Street. A Bypass (the Modern B480) was built in 1966–7, running between Village & Airfield. Several Footpaths South of the Village were also confirmed at Inclosure, although Residential Development from the 1960s caused some diversions.
A Carrier (Ralph Upshaw) died in 1704, and 2 Carriers were mentioned in 1841, one of them running to Thame, Wallingford, & Oxford. The Business continued in the 1860s, but from c.1900 was gradually reduced to twice-weekly visits to Wallingford. Motor Buses ran to Wallingford & Thame on Market days by 1924, with a Daily Service to Watlington started soon afterwards. Weekly Buses to Wallingford & Thame continued in 1990, and hourly services to Oxford in 2013.
The Post was delivered through Wallingford or Tetsworth in the 19thC. A sub-Post Office on Chalgrove High Street was run in 1851 by the Carriers daughter, and in 1899 (when run by the Farmer Frederick Mander) it was a Money-order Office & Savings Bank. Telegraph facilities were briefly added c.1911, and the Post Office remained open in 2015.
The Built Character
Chalgrove is notable for its stock of Timber-framed & Thatched Cottages, of which some are of late Medieval origin. Crucks survive at 68–70 Mill Lane (originally a small 2-Bay Cottage on the Villages Western fringe), the Red Lion on High Street (its Medieval Plan obscured by a major 17thC remodelling), and Apple Tree Cottage, while Brook Cottage (113 High Street) incorporates a former 2-Bay open-Hall. As elsewhere Upper Floors & Chimney Stacks were inserted in the late 16th or early 17thC, with some Chalgrove Buildings showing signs of a transitional phase. No.1 The Green built probably on a traditional open-Hall plan in the late 16thC, seems to have been modernized only a decade or 2 later, while 159 High Street was apparently started on traditional lines in the early 17thC, but was given a Chimney, Lobby entry & Upper Floor during construction. Despite such improvements over 70% of those paying Hearth Tax in 1662 were still assessed on only 1 or 2 hearths, suggesting modest single or 2-Storeyed dwellings of 2 or 3 Bays. Church Cottage may have been typical, with its 3-Bay Plan with Attics, chamfered ogee-stopped Beams, & Ridge Stack. It was extended 1-Bay Eastwards in the 19thC, probably acquiring its Flemish-bonded Brick Front at the same time.
Unlike neighbouring Great Haseley or Little Milton, Chalgrove lacked building Stone, and Timber-framing continued into the later 17thC. A high-quality example (built c.1610 probably for a prosperous Yeoman) is the present-day Lamb Inn, a lobby-entry house with moulded Beams, at least 3 heated rooms, and a well-lit Upper Floor. Jinnetts, on the Villages Western edge, may have been one of the last Timber-framed Cottages to be built, probably c.1690. Its Timbers of light Scantling include a central Timber-framed Partition with Carpenters Marks, rising to a closed Truss with straight Windbraces and like other houses in the Village, it was later extended, modernised, & improved rather than replaced. Brick Chimney Stacks are widespread and Brick fronts were sometimes added as at Church Cottage, though more commonly Brick was used as infill, preserving the visible Timber-framing. Some new building in Red & Grey Brick appeared by the 19thC, the Village Post Office bearing the date 1869 in patterned Brickwork in its Gable wall.
Vicarage, now House. Mid 18thC. Roughcast; Gabled 20thC tile Roof; Brick Ridge & left end Stacks. Double-depth plan, 2-Storeys & Attic; symmetrical 7-window Range. 6-panelled (4 glazed) door with brackets. Late 18thC 6-pane sashes. One-storey L-shaped Service Range to right; of Limestone rubble with roughcast front & end Stack.
Interior: late 18thC shutters. Hall has jewel-stopped chamfered Beam, timber-frame wall to left and 2-Bay screen to rear dog-leg Staircase with turned Balusters on closed string. Left room has 2 similar Beams, moulded plaster cornice and mid 18thC panelling. 1st-Floor inspection not possible but likely to be of interest.
Few of the villages 17th & 18thC houses display social pretension, the most notable exception being the former Vicarage House (rebuilt in 1702 and remodelled in 1885). Rofford Hall, too, is an impressive double-pile Farmhouse of 18thC date, built of un-coursed Limestone rubble with Brick Quoins, Dressings, and a Parapet. The symmetrical 3-Bay Front is lit by 8-over-8 sash windows, and the central door has a decorative fanlight. Otherwise, the absence of grand houses reflects the relatively modest status of most inhabitants, combined, perhaps, with Landlords’ unwillingness to pay for expensive rebuilding. In 1910 Magdalen College, Oxford, the single largest Landowner, controlled around a 3rd of the housing stock. Absentee Lordship may nevertheless have provided opportunities for squatters & labourers to build Cottages on the Waste. A possible example is John Hampden Cottage, a tiny 2-roomed dwelling built on the Village’s Southern edge in the late 17thC, with a single Gable-end Stack.
No.73 Mill Lane, John Hampden Cottage (East side)
Cottage. Circa late 17thC or early 18thC. Light scantling Timber-frame with painted brick infill Panels. Straw Thatch Roof with Gabled and half-hipped Ends. Large painted stone rubble Gable-end Stack with set-offs and brick Shaft.
Plan: Probably a 2-room plan, the left room unheated, the right-hand room heated from a Gable-end Stack. In late 19thC or early 20thC a single-Storey Outshut was added at the left end.
Exterior: single-Storey & Attic. Asymmetrical 2-window front. Small 20thC casements. Attic window in small eaves Dormer. Central plank Door with 20thC wooden Gabled Porch, apparently made from earlier material. Over the Ground Floor windows a corrugated sheet steel Pentice. At the right [South] Gable-end a large projecting Stone rubble Stack with set-offs, the verges of the Gable project and enclose the Stack and are supported on a long Brace. At the left [North] end a single-Storey weatherboarded Outshut with a corrugated sheet steel Roof.
Interior: said to have exposed ceiling Beams and a winder Staircase.
By the mid-20thC Chalgrove presented an attractive mix of Timber-framed Cottages & Brick & Tiled Victorian Houses, but in the 1960s the pressing need for new housing led to intensive infilling along High Street, with new access Roads leading to additional housing behind. Several older Properties were demolished. Following a survey in 1966 further expansion was discouraged, and in the 1970s Chalgrove twice won the County’s ‘Best Kept Village‘ competition. In 2015 it remained well cared for, though Architecturally its numerous 20thC buildings were unremarkable.
The Parish remained predominantly Agricultural until the 20th century, combining sheep-&-corn husbandry with cattle rearing & dairying. Rofford was inclosed by c.1600 and divided among 3 or 4 Farms, although its Agriculture remained little different from elsewhere in the Parish. Chalgrove, by contrast, was un-Inclosed until 1843, supporting numerous small-scale Farmers & Cottagers who benefited from Common Grazing Rights. Parliamentary inclosure promoted no immediate consolidation of Landholdings there, and only after WW2 were some large and increasingly mechanised cereal Farms created.
The Village also supported the usual range of Crafts & Trades, and from the 1960s residential development encouraged further expansion of Shops & Businesses, while the Martin-Baker Aircraft Co occupied Chalgrove Airfield from 1946. Watermills were established by 1086, the last of them closing in the 1960s.
Social History & Community Life
The Middle Ages
Chalgrove & Rofford remained distinct Communities throughout the Medieval Period, notwithstanding that some Rofford Inhabitants held land in Chalgrove. Rofford’s failure to expand after 1086 was untypical, and the Black Death exacerbated the gap, making it more vulnerable to Inclosure by non-resident Lords. By the 16thC, it may already have been divided amongst 3 or 4 largely Inclosed Farms.
By contrast, Chalgrove’s Population more than doubled between the late 11th & late-13thCs, much of the increase generated by the creation of Freeholds: 52 Free Tenants occupied land at Chalgrove in 1279, whereas none was mentioned in 1086. Their presence had a long-term impact, creating a complex & constantly changing Tenurial pattern. Some (including William Quatremain) had their own Subtenants, while regular sales, leases, and exchanges allowed outsiders to acquire Chalgrove holdings. Other newcomers acquired Land through marriage, amongst them Thomas Curtis of Birmingham & Thomas Page of Dorchester, who in the 1330s married into the Maynard & Blackbird Families. Some Land purchases before 1290 may have been financed by Jewish money-lending.
The number of unfree Customary Tenants apparently changed very little between 1086 & 1279, when 39 Villeins (mostly Yardlanders and ½-Yardlanders) & 8 Cottars were the likely successors to the 23 Villani, 10 Bordarii, & 9 Servi recorded in Domesday Book. The division of Chalgrove Manor in 1233 saw the Customary Holdings almost equally divided between the Barentin & Plessis Manors, with few Customary Tenants holding Land from both, while Chalgrove’s separate ‘ends‘ may have helped to preserve social as well as physical divisions within the Village, with Tenants at the ‘Bour End‘ generally occupying smaller Holdings. Nevertheless, the Vill remained United for Tax purposes, and the whole Community cooperated in Open-field Farming.
Lords of Chalgrove’s 2 Main Manors maintained substantial Houses (at opposite ends of the Village) from the 13thC, but were probably often away on Royal Service. Both Drew Barentin & John de Plessis were regularly employed by the King in the 1230s-60s and received Royal Gifts including Timber (from Bernwood Forest) for their Chalgrove building works. In the 1240s the King allowed them to Levy Tallage at Chalgrove, provoking disputes with Tenants, confiscation of Livestock, & Court Hearings, while in 1293 an attempt to impound cattle led to an assault on one of the Lord William de Bereford’s Servants. In 1340 Thomas Barentin faced encroachments on his Demesne by inhabitants & outsiders including John Stonor & the Abbot of Osney, although such incidents were probably untypical. The Barentins & Berefords were of similar wealth & social standing, though from the 1320s it was the Barentins who maintained the closest local links, particularly with Chalgrove Church. The Berefords apparently developed stronger ties with their nearby Manor of Brightwell Baldwin.
Tax Assessments reflect wide social & economic stratification. In 1306 the Lords of Barentin’s & Plessis’s Manors were among only 7 occupiers (11%) paying more than 3s, while 20 people (32%) paid between 13d & 3s. Amongst them were John Botte, possibly a ½-Yardlander mentioned in 1279, and the Freeholders John Quatremain & John Brian. Another 36 inhabitants (57%) paid 12d or less, the Cottar Robert Whiting contributing only the 4d minimum. Several families (both free & unfree) remained present both in 1279 & 1327, although others were undoubtedly newcomers. Pressure on resources, particularly amongst poorer Inhabitants, is reflected in Royal & Manorial Court records, which suggest widespread illegal grazing & trespasses by livestock. Other efforts at social control included a prohibition against visiting Inns at night, which an unnamed Innkeeper swore to support.
The Black Death’s immediate impact on Chalgrove seems to have been relatively limited judging from Court Rolls of 1348 & 1352, which recorded routine business including the election of Harvest Overseers. By the early 15thC, however, the effects of long-term population decline were evident, including abandoned buildings, larger Landholdings (often transferred outside the family), and increased migration. At least 2 Villeins left the Manor in the 1370s, while others fought in the French Wars. Newcomers were presumably attracted by the easier terms available, an entry fine of 2 capons for a Yardland in 1434 contrasting starkly with the 5 marks (£3 6s 8d.) charged for a ½-Yardland (in 8 instalments) in 1340. Nevertheless, several families remained in the Parish for more than a century after 1377.
The Barentins continued as resident Lords until the 1440s, Thomas Barentin (d.1400) serving as Sheriff & MP, and enjoying friendly relations with Oxfordshire Gentry such as Sir Ralph Stonor & John James of Wallingford, the Lord of Rofford. The Family’s fortunes were transformed in 1415 when Reynold Barentin inherited Haseley and numerous other Estates from his uncle Drew, a London Goldsmith. After Reynold’s son Drew (d.1453) moved to Haseley Court the Family gradually withdrew from Chalgrove, although they continued to be buried in the Church until 1474. Late-Medieval Lords of the Plessis Manor (divided into 3 in 1356) may have never resided and latterly leased their Estates, while Rofford, too, belonged to Absentee Landowners. With the subsequent Sales to Magdalen & Lincoln Colleges, social leadership devolved presumably upon the Parish’s more important Farmers.
In the early 16thC Chalgrove’s Cottagers, Smallholders, and larger-scale Farmers occupied a wide variety of Free, Copyhold, & Leasehold Tenancies displaying little regularity, and occasionally combining Open-field Strips with some small private Closes. Tax Assessments suggest a broad range of prosperity, with few markedly wealthy inhabitants. In 1523 12 people (43%) paid between 4d & 12d, 8 (28.5%) paid 18d to 3s, and 8 others (including several members of the Quatremain & Wiggin Families) paid 4s or more. Twenty years later 25 inhabitants were assessed on goods worth £1-£2, 11 on goods worth £3-£4, & only 5 (12%) on goods worth £6-£20.
On both occasions, the Parish’s highest Taxpayer was Roger Quatremain (d.1549), whose Family were prominent in Chalgrove from the Middle Ages to the 18thC, and whose goods at death were worth £94 6s 8d. His Widow Alice (d.1559) owned silver spoons, pewter dishes stamped with a maker’s mark, & a painted cloth above her bed, and as befitted their status both were buried in the Church’s Middle Aisle. Most other inhabitants were far less wealthy, the median value of goods itemised in Wills for the period 1531–59 totalling only £13 8s 8d. Fairly typical were members of the long-standing Burnham, Cave, Child, Simms, & Wiggin Families, who like the Quatremains were interconnected by marriage & friendship, left money to the Church & Poor or for mending Roads, and had links with the nearby Market Town of Watlington. Church Court Records point also to the petty disputes typical of most close-knit rural Communities. A similar picture prevailed in the later 16thC, when Ralph Quatremain (d.1594) left £180-worth of Agricultural Stock and a little under £40-worth of Household Goods in his Hall, Parlour, Buttery, 3 Chambers, Milkhouse & Brewhouse. Few others’ goods were worth more than £100, however, and a weaver with only a hall and chamber left possessions worth under £4.
The more transient population included servants, labourers, and (in 1545) an Itinerant Miller, with Servants (several of whom lived in) being occasionally remembered in Employers’ Wills. Beggars & Vagabonds (amongst them a ‘poor wandering old man and a ‘travelling boy’) were mentioned intermittently, perhaps reflecting the Village’s proximity to the Oxford-Watlington Road, which presumably brought more welcome Trade to the Village’s Craftsmen & Shopkeepers. An Alehouse was kept by William Slatter (d.1660), and slightly later ones were probably run by Thomas Taylor & Walter Haines.
During the Civil War, the Parish was the scene of a Violent Battle. On 17th June 1643 Parliamentary Forces from Thame were repulsed at Islip near Oxford, prompting a Royalist Counter-attack against Chinnor. Returning to Oxford the following day, Prince Ruperts Cavalry routed pursuing Parliamentary Forces in Closes near Warpsgrove, numerous Parliamentarian casualties including John Hampden, who was mortally wounded & died later at Thame. More routine Civil War disruption included demands for grain & supplies: Royalist Troops camped around Wheatley pillaged food from the surrounding countryside in 1643 & in 1644 grain was taken from the Parish for the Royalist Garrison at Oxford. A Monument to Hampden was unveiled on the 200th Anniversary of the Battle by George Grenville, Baron Nugent, and was later enlarged by the addition of an Obelisk. A brick pedestal faced with Stone has a Roundel of Hampden on one side, and inscriptions (including Donors) on the others.
The 17thC saw social continuity in the Parish, the long-standing Families of Burnham, Cave, Child, Quatremain, Simms, & Wiggin featuring prominently in the Hearth Tax of 1662 when 24 householders (40%) still had 1 hearth only. Another 19 (32%) paid on 2 hearths, and 9 (15%) on 3 or 4, with only 8 (13%) paying on 5 or more. Of those Robert Quatremain (d.1681) was assessed on 7 hearths probably at Langley Hall, though several other family members occupied much smaller houses. Wealthy newcomers included the Hobbses and their friends the Adeanes of Watlington – related by marriage to the Wiggins and to the Vicar Francis Markham (1656–68) – but during the 18th century, most of the Parish’s longest-standing families departed, including the Burnhams, Childs, & Quatremains. The Adeanes, too, went elsewhere, leaving the Parish (according to the Vicar in 1790) with ‘no person of opulence‘. New families rising to prominence included the Collinses, Kings, & Whites, though Landholding in Chalgrove remained too fragmented to allow any individual or group to dominate.
Chalgrove’s Lords made relatively little impression, although in 1685 the Halls (Owners of Manor Farm & the Langehull Estate) disputed Richard Child’s erection of a new Pew in the Church’s North Aisle. Magdalen & Lincoln Colleges’ more distant Lordship may have fostered an independent spirit, reflected in sometimes difficult relations with Vicars. Both George Villiers (Vicar 1723–48) & Paulo Tookie (1758–83) complained that the Church’s Charitable Estate had been ‘misapplied for many years‘, and Tookie’s attempts at reform led allegedly to ‘odium and abuse‘.
By the 1750s the village had 4 or 5 Licensed Pubs or Inns, and 2 remained in 1800. Other entertainment included the Whitsun Feast, combining communal merrymaking with Maypole Dancing and a Court of misrule, while an August Feast was mentioned in the 1720s. As in most rural Communities occasional crime & disorder were endemic. An Alehouse Keeper was banned from keeping an Alehouse (possibly the Wheatsheaf) in 1708, and in 1687 a labourer was accused of sheep stealing. Later cases of theft, fraud, extortion, or violence included accusations in the 1720s against the Schoolmaster John Trumble, while in 1761 a Gypsy & Ratcatcher stripped & robbed a girl in Chalgrove’s fields. More routine offences included swearing & withholding of wages. Strangers & Vagrants continued to seek shelter & sustenance, although the Parish repeatedly removed non-residents under the Settlement Laws.
Chalgrove’s Feast (or ‘wissenail’) was last held c.1805, though the reasons for its demise are unclear. Possibly rising Nonconformity brought it into disrepute, prompting removal of the Maypole into the Rafters of an Old Barn. In other respects, Chalgrove’s social character changed only slowly before Inclosure in 1843. Poverty & Crime remained prevalent, with several incidences of violence, theft, & poaching. Even the Farmers were mostly poor according to the Vicar in 1838, with ‘scarce a halfpenny to spare‘, and in 1841 few inhabitants were employed outside Agriculture or its related Trades. In 1840 a Friendly Society was established for Workers aged 14–45, meeting at the Red Lion as one of 4 Pubs then operating in the Village. Its annual Club Dinner was held at Whitsun, perhaps recalling the former Wissenail.
Inclosure ended Common grazing, depriving Cottagers of part of their livelihood. The loss may explain an increase in the number of recorded Paupers from 13 in 1841 to 43 in 1851, during a time of over-all population decline. Presumably, the larger Farmers benefited from Inclosure, although the Vicar complained in 1857 of their great parsimony’, and bemoaned the ‘want of a resident family of the highest order‘. Farm workers were hired at local Fairs, which may have involved local merriment; certainly, the Vicar disliked the Whitsun meeting of the Friendly Society (whose membership rose from 71 in 1855 to a peak of 106 in 1865) and disapproved of a late-summer Fair marking the Church’s Patronal Festival. Villagers also gathered on Mid-Lent Sunday at a former Clay-pit or Hollow, traditionally the Burial Site of those killed in the Civil War Battle, where they indulged in games, drinking & fighting.
In 1861 72% of inhabitants were still native to the Parish, with only 10% born outside the County. Poverty & poor housing may have encouraged some to leave, while others looked to Agricultural Trade Unionism, inviting Fabian Society Speakers to the Red Lion. The rise in Trade Union support may have adversely affected the Friendly Society, which was last mentioned in 1880 with 99 members; though re-formed in 1892, it was finally dissolved (with 74 members) in 1913. Late 19thC Agricultural depression prompted further out-migration, reducing the proportion of Parish-born inhabitants to 62% by 1901. By then there were 5 Pubs & Beerhouses including the Mousetrap on the Oxford-Watlington Road, and it was perhaps to challenge their influence that the Vicar J H Swinstead (1902–12) raised funds for a Village Hall, named in Memory of John Hampden and opened in 1906.
A Temperance Band was formed around the same time, succeeding an earlier Village Brass Band. Members played at the Village Feast in August, when Fairground Rides & Stalls were set up on the Green. Sports and other activities were popular: Clubs & Groups included football & cricket teams and a Mothers’ Union, while one-off celebrations included a Pageant hosted by the Vicar to mark George V’s Coronation. During WW1 the Village Hall was occupied by the Military, and in 1921 a Memorial was raised on the Green to commemorate the 12 Villagers killed.
During the 1920s-30s Chalgrove remained a working Village with few resident Professionals or Gentry, dominated by Farmers & Shopkeepers such as the Nixeys & Croxfords. The Villages 1st Council Houses were built in 1928–30, and soon afterwards a number of Industrial Workers were given temporary accommodation in the Parish. The Military Airfield built in 1943 was handed to the USAAF in 1944 and used for Photographic Reconnaissance, with friendly relations developing between Villagers and Service Personnel. The Military occupation of the Airfield ended in 1948, its abandoned Nissen Huts attracting a sizeable ‘squatter colony‘ into the Parish, and later providing inadequate interim Council Housing until its residents were re-housed in Berinsfield, Marston, Littlemore, & Chalgrove during the 1950s. The abandoned Huts were initially replaced by Chicken Houses, and later by small Industrial Units. In 1963 the Airfield itself was offered to the Martin-Baker Aircraft Co on a 99-year Lease, reneging on earlier Government pledges to return it to local Landowners and prompting Village protests.
Further housing development from the 1960s accelerated the social changes already evident. By 1966 (when the population was c.1,150), around ½ of Chalgrove’s 345 households comprised recent incomers, most of them from Oxford or neighbouring Parishes. The chief attractions were the Village’s rural location, new affordable housing, & proximity to Oxford, with almost 90% of inhabitants commuting to work. Many were employed in the Cowley Motor Works, which was linked by a dedicated Bus Service. Car ownership was relatively high and increased further in the late 20thC when the still-expanding Village became part of the London Commuter Belt. Even so, Chalgrove retained a strong sense of Community. Clubs & Societies were established, National & Local events (including the 350th Anniversary of the Civil War battle) were Commemorated, and in 1989 the Parish Council built a Village Hall (enlarged in 2000), providing an alternative to the still-functioning John Hampden Hall. A flourishing local history group was established in 1973.
A Schoolmaster was mentioned in the 1670s and a School c.1685, perhaps that at which John Trumble taught in 1728. By then children were occasionally catechised by the Vicar or his Curate and c.1800 a Sunday School supported by subscription taught 50–60 children, continuing in 1818 when the Teacher received £8 a year. A separate Day School established in 1815 proved short-lived, but in the 1830s the Vicar R E Laurence (1832–85) started another in a Vacant Cottage next to the Vicarage House, anticipating attendance by 60–70 children (similar to the Sunday School) at 7s each a year. In the event that too closed after barely a year (in 1837), partly because the Church’s Patron & tithe Owner (Christ Church, Oxford) refused to assist with funding. Laurence reopened it in the 1850s, but irregular attendance and continued financial difficulties led to its final closure in 1871, apparently along with the Sunday School. Competition from rival Schools may have been an additional factor: Jesse Crake ran one in 1841, and in the 1860s there were 2 small Private Schools and a Wesleyan Sunday School.
Chalgrove Board (later Primary) School
A School Board covering Chalgrove, Rofford, Warpsgrove, & Easington was elected in 1875, and in 1877 a School was built on High Street on Land donated by Magdalen College, Oxford. Accommodating c.111 children (who paid 3d a week), it was funded primarily from Rates & Parliamentary Grants. In 1881 the Master William Harvey occupied the adjoining School House with his sister (1 of 4 other Teachers then living in the Village), and before 1899 was succeeded by Robert Lunn, who taught c.80 infants and older children with his wife and 1 other Assistant. Despite declining Population and static attendance the brick & tiled building was enlarged in 1905 when inspectors reported approvingly. Laurence’s successor as Vicar taught Religious Instruction there in the 1880s-90s when the Anglican Sunday School was successfully re-established.
Later School Reports were mixed, and though the Master Bernard Swift was praised in 1913 there were concerns in the early 1920s, by which time the Sunday School had closed. Swift resigned in 1925, and the following year the School was reorganised (despite local opposition) as a Junior School, with children over 11 transferred to the Senior School at Watlington. The new Headmistress quickly raised standards, although the School was disrupted in 1931–3 by a temporary influx of Industrial Workers into the Village.
In the mid-1950s c.50 pupils aged 5–11 were taught by 2 Staff, and following the closure of the Hampden School and the onset of major housing development, an additional Classroom was provided in 1960. Further expansion followed in the 1960s-70s, and in 1980 (when 12 full-time Staff taught 332 pupils) Inspectors praised the school’s ‘many excellent features’. Educational weaknesses were alleged in 1999 & 2011, but improvements were underway in 2012 when the School had 189 pupils aged 3–11.
Hampden Estate Primary School (1950–8)
In 1950 a 2-class Primary School opened on Chalgrove Airfield to serve children living in temporary housing there, a large Nissen Hut and other Camp buildings being converted into an un-weatherproofed Hall, Dining Room, Kitchen, & Classrooms. In 1955 it accommodated 55 pupils aged 5–8, the older children attending the Village School. The Headmistress struggled to teach the ‘wild & uncontrolled’ 7–8 year-olds, of whom only 3 out of 21 could read ‘tolerably well’; her Assistant performed better with the infants, but given the children’s poor living conditions, irregular attendance, and previous changes of School, the Inspector judged that ‘normal standards of attainment’ could not be expected. The School closed in 1958 following clearance of the Estate.
Local Government – Manor Courts & Officers
In the 13thC, Manor Courts were held at Chalgrove for Barentin’s & Plessis’s Manors, with a separate Court at Rofford. All 3 probably continued in 1377 when Chalgrove had 2 Constables & Rofford one, presumably each representing a separate Court. Rofford’s Court ceased in the 15thC after Reynold Barentin acquired the Manor: a Rofford Landholder owed Suit to Barentin’s Chalgrove Court by 1420, which by then probably met irregularly 2 or 3 times a year. The subdivision of Plessis’s Manor may initially have generated separate Courts for the Argenteins, St Clares, & Ellesfields, although Joint Sessions were sometimes held in the 1430s as Manor-Court Business declined. Separate Courts resumed following the Manors’ Sales to Magdalen & Lincoln Colleges, which both held Independent Courts in Chalgrove until the 19thC Magdalen’s yielded 27s 4d in 1507, typical business including Copyhold Grants & punishment of Agricultural misdemeanours.
Chalgrove’s Tenants also owed Suit to the Honour of Wallingford’s annual View of Frankpledge, Sessions for which were held in the Village by the 13thC In 1296/7 inhabitants paid 6s 8d cert money, plus 17s 4d for 43 Brewing Offences. Similar payments were made in the 1530s when Chalgrove was represented by 2 Constables, 2 Tithingmen, and an Aletaster; complaints included a Miller taking excessive Tolls, Theft of Wool, and disrepair of the King’s Highway. By then Rofford’s Tithingman also attended the Court, paying 1s cert money. Until the late 15thC Rofford’s Tenants additionally attended the Ewelme Hundred Court, presenting Brewing Offences, Assaults, & Stray Livestock.
From 1540 Chalgrove’s & Rofford’s inhabitants owed Suit to the Honour of Ewelme’s Court leet and view of frankpledge, which succeeded those for the Honour of Wallingford. Sessions for the Chalgrove Division were still held in the Village, typical Business in 1723 including Grazing, cleaning of Ditches, & Furze cutting, with 4 Fieldsmen appointed to enforce the Orders. The Courts continued until 1847.
Parish Government & Officers
For parochial purposes, Chalgrove & Rofford were usually administered together. A Churchwarden (procurator ecclesie) was mentioned in 1365, with a 2nd Recorded from 1402, and by the 17thC their successors administered the Church Estate and other Charities, often serving in the 18th & 19thCs for several successive years. As elsewhere 1 Warden was elected by the Vicar and one by the Parishioners, R F Laurence (Vicar 1832–85) enduring a difficult relationship with the Parish Churchwarden, possibly following disputes over misuse of Church Funds. Two Overseers of the Poor were mentioned from the 18thC, and a Surveyor of Highways in the 19thC, who at Inclosure in 1843 was allotted 2a to supply Stone for Road repairs. The Churchwardens were allotted 22a for the Church Estate, and (with the Overseers) a 5a Recreation Ground on the Parish’s South-Western edge. A Parish Clerk was mentioned in 1617 but was reportedly ‘ill paid’ in the early 19thC.
From 1920 a Parochial Church Council took over the Vestry’s role of electing Churchwardens, overseeing Church Expenses, & maintaining the Fabric, continuing in 2015. A Parish Council was established in 1894, its 11 Councillors remaining responsible in 2013 for the Village Hall, Recreation Ground, & Allotments, besides advising on Planning & Transport. A Village plan was completed in 2010 following lengthy consultation, identifying priorities and proposing a series of Volunteer-led projects.
The Parish belonged from 1834 to Thame Poor Law Union, from 1894 to the newly formed Thame Rural District, and from 1932 to Bullingdon Rural District, becoming part of the new South Oxfordshire District in 1974. The latter designated the Village Green a Conservation Area in 1992.