Adwell Parish

Adwell is a Village & Civil Parish about 3-miles (5 km) South of Thame in South Oxon. The Parish covers 443-acres (179 ha)

LewknorHundredThe Ancient Parish lies South-east of the main London Road, some 13-miles distant from Oxford, and for the greater part of its History has probably covered about the 443 acres recorded by the Ordnance Survey in 1882.  Until the Lewknor Inclosure Award of 1815 part of Adwell’s Land lay scattered in Postcombe Field.  By the award the Boundary between Lewknor, in which Postcombe Township lay, and Adwell was defined: it was the main London Road from Tetsworth Lane and then the Road to South Weston, in fact the old Boundary between Postcombe Township & Adwell.  The Cottages, Ggardens & old Inclosures in Postcombe belonging to Adwell Manor were left in the Parish of Adwell. Adwell Farm in Postcombe was, therefore, a detached part of the Parish until 1882, when it was transferred to Lewknor.  The Postcombe portion of it comprised the Farmhouse, Buildings & 9-acres. A recent Boundary change has reduced Adwell to 340-acres, for in 1953 Lewknor received another 94-acres, lying just North of the Road from Postcombe to South Weston.  This last Road formed the Southern Boundary of the Ancient Parish.  The London road, running from Northwest to North-east, separated it from Postcombe & Lewknor, and a small Stream, a tributary of a feeder of the Thame, formed the Northern and part of the North-west Boundary. In the South-west, an artificially made Boundary divided it from Wheatfield & South Weston.
OS Map 1919 Sth Oxon XLVII.3 (South Weston, Postcombe)
Adwell lies on sloping ground that rises from 299-ft to over 490-ft on Adwell Cop which is crowned with a Bronze Age Barrow.  On the Summit of Adwell Cop, well preserved, 350-ft circumference, 12-ft high.  Plot observed Entrenchments on the South-east side and erroneously attributed them to the Danes.  This Tumulus is probably referred to in the name Copinghemewey which occurs in a Document of about 1230.  It means ‘the way of the People at the Cop‘.  The Cop was for long the object of local Folklore.  It was associated with Fairies and the 18thC Antiquary Delafield records the Story of the Traveller who saw them dancing there & singing:-
‘At Adwell Cop there stands a Cup.
Drink the drink and eat the sop,
And set the Cup on Adwell Cop.’
Small Woods & Coverts still abounded in the Parish in 1959 though they had been considerably reduced from the 8 to 9 acres in Spring Covert and 11 acres in Piccadilly and other Woods that existed in 1840.
Adwell Parish Plan 1840
A Minor road from Wheatfield & Stoke Talmage ran Eastward past the Church & Adwell House to join the London Road but this has been truncated by the M40; another to the South Salt Road (Saltway) runs from South Weston to the London Road (A40) at Postcombe.  In 1797 a 3rd Road branched off the London Road and traversed the Northern half of the Parish, but this must have fallen into disuse by 1840, for it is not shown on the Tithe Award Map.

Adwell House and what remains of the Village lie in a sheltered Valley, beside the Stream.  This Stream, which rises in Spring Covert, gave the place its name of Ead(d)a’s Spring.  The Village can never have been much more than a Hamlet with 15 or so Dwellings. There was a slight decline in Population in the 14thC and thereafter little change until the 19thC.  Of the few remaining houses, the 2-Lodges belonging to Adwell House were built in the Gothic style in the 2nd half of the 18thCLawn Lodge, mainly built of Brick & Flint, was one room through before it was enlarged in 1940.  The Old Rectory, now 2-Cottages, is a 17thC or older House with a modern Wing added in about 1908.  Some of the other Brick Cottages also date from the 17thCRobert Plot relates how a whitish earth called ‘which-earth(Wychert), found at Adwell, was mixed with Straw and used for building Sidewalls & Ceilings; mixed with horse dung it was used for laying Stones.  It appeared to be a natural mixture of lime & sand, and slaked in water without the application of heat.
Walls were Built by piling the subsoil in heaps and were then thoroughly soaked, mixed with chopped straw (to make the glutinous mix workable) and laid in ‘raises‘ or ‘berries‘ each about 18-ins or 500-mm high.  The walls have a base plinth of rubblestone, this is called the grumpling. On top of the grumpling the Wychert is built up in layers called Berries, these must be left to dry before adding the next Berry.  The Walls are then topped with Clay-Tiles for weather protection.
Natural History of Oxfordshire ~ Robert Plot


Robert Plot ‘s Illustrator’s Map of Oxfordshire 1676

The Parish has been connected with a number of Gentleman Families of Local interest from the Medieval Period on, but it was never the Principal Seat of any of its Medieval Owners either of the De Sulhams or their Successors. They presumably visited it on occasions and several Deeds concerning it were Witnessed at Adwell by a number of Local Knights: in 1359 by Sir John de Wheatfield, for instance, and in 1385 by Sir Edmund de la Pole, Sir Gilbert Wace Sir Thomas Blount.  At least one member of the Knightly Family of Marmion seems to have resided in the 16thC, though the House was certainly Leased outside the Family for part of this Period.  John Allnut, for one, had a Lease in 1539.  Dorothy Marmion, Anthony’s daughter, was Granted a Lease in 1548 with the Proviso that she should put up her father & 3-horses on an Annual visit, and Anthony’s son John Marmion also resided at Adwell after the Sale of the Manor to Nicholas Bethom.  In the early 17thC David Ballowe, Gentleman, lived at the ‘Mansion House‘ and later Henry Franklin, a Gentleman of some Culture, for his Inventory mentions his Books & Silver and a considerable amount of Clothing.
OS Map 1919 Sth Oxon XLVII.2 (Adwell; Stoke Talmage; Wheatfield)
The Franklins intermarried with the Newells of Pophley (Bucks) and there began the close connection of that Family with Adwell.  Through the 18thC they were not only Lords of the Manor, but often Rectors as well, and over 40 of the Family, of which there were many Branches settled in the Neighbourhood, were buried in the Church.  Since the late 19thC Adwell House has been occupied by the Birch Reynardson Family, the Lords of the Manor.

The Manor-House, Adwell House, was rebuilt in the late 18thC on the Site of the earlier House, some traces of which have been observed in the Interior walls in the course of Structural Alterations in 1935 & 1960.  The Stuccoed South Front is of 2-Storeys with 5 Bays of which the Centre Bay projects slightly. There is a moulded Cornice, a low Parapet, a hipped Roof, and a central Doorway under a Doric Porch, which was remodelled in 1960.  The Marble Chimney-pieces in the front rooms is Contemporary with the late-18thC House.  A Conservatory added at the West end in about 1820 was demolished in 1960.  A notable feature of the interior of the House, the Staircase & Skylight with Greek Revival detail, appears to have been inserted in the early 19thC.  Miss Webb & her brother continued to live at Adwell after the death of Mrs Jones in 1818 and they presumably were responsible for these alterations.


The Predecessor of this House was comparatively modest; in the 1660’s it was rated on 7-Hearths.  It is likely that William Newell, High Sheriff, 1st remodelled the House in about 1700 and that what was practically a rebuilding took place just before or after the marriage of Elizabeth Newell to James Jones in 1787.  In common with other Gentry of the Period, the Newells improved the natural beauty of the surroundings of their House by the skilful planting of Trees & Landscape Gardening.  When the Water-mill & the Miller’s House were pulled down and the Mill-stream incorporated in the Grounds of Adwell House is uncertain. The Mill is shown on Davis’s Map of 1797, but it had probably ceased working during the 2nd half of the 18thC.  When Brewer wrote his Topographical & Historical Guide in 1819, he described Adwell as one of the most remarkable Seats in the County.  The Pleasure Gardens were doubtless further improved by Miss Webb, for it was she who added the Conservatory and evidently devoted great care to it for she left it by Will, dated 1843, to her niece, to be removed or disposed of as she thought fit.

Click to Enlarge

Map of Oxford County 1797
Surveyed by a local man, Richard Davis of Lewknor and published in 1797.  This large Map consists of 16 sheets at an impressively detailed scale of 1:31,680 or 2-ins to 1-mile. No more than 200 copies were ever made, evidence is based on all sets of the Map having manuscript Serial No.s – this Image is part of No.34.  Very few complete copies survive.  In terms of what the Map shows, a clear break has been made from the Saxton-led traditional County Map, as here far more detail than previously is featured. Not only are County & Hundred Boundaries, Rivers & Streams, Towns & Villages, Parks & Woodland depicted, but here we have Roads, Tracks, Hedges, indeed every Field can be seen, and relief is beautifully represented by the use of hachuresDavis was also Topographer to His Majesty, George III.


Adwell House. Probably early 18thC, with alterations including Staircase of c.1760 and Staircase Dome of c.1830; 19thC Billiard Room; 20thC alterations. Lined render on Brick; Slate hipped Roof; various rendered-Brick Stacks. Double-depth Plan. 2-Storey, 5-window Range; 2:1:2, the Centre Bay projecting forward. Glazed double Doors to centre with square Stone Porch on Doric Columns. Side lights to left & right, flanked by Pilasters of c.1960. 12-pane unhorned Sashes to all openings, that to 1st-Floor Centre has rendered Architrave surround. Moulded rendered Cornice to base of plain Parapet to Eaves.
Left Return: 2-Storey, 3-window Range.  Tripartite Sash with glazing bars to Ground Floor left. French window with Overlight to right. 12-pane unhorned Sashes to other openings.
Rear: 2-Storeys & Attic; 9-window Range. Sash Door to right of centre. 12-pane unhorned Sashes to all openings, except Tripartite Sashes with glazing bars to Ground & 1st-Floor right and to Ground & 1st-Floor left of centre. Flat-roofed Dormers to Attic.
Interior: Stone open-well Staircase in Apse-ended Hall; with early 19thC Cast-iron Balustrade, Acanthus Frieze, shallow ribbed-half-Domes to apse-ends, glazed Dome over centre with plaster Floral moulding to Vault. Late 18thC Fireplaces to most Ground Floor rooms.  19thC Billiard Room to right of Entrance front. Single-Storey, 6-window Range. Lined render on Brick; Slate Roof, hipped to right. 12-pane Sashes to all openings except Sash Door to left.

Before the Conquest the Saxon Wulfstan held Adwell freely: he was doubtless the Wulfstan who held the Neighbouring Aston and Britwell Salome.  By 1086 the Manor had passed into the hands of Norman Baron Miles Crispin and so became a part of the Honour of Wallingford, which escheated to the Crown in 1300 and subsequently became the Honour of Ewelme.  Its Overlords were, therefore, the Holders of the Honour & Adwell men attended the Honour’s Frankpledge Courts up to the 19thC

Miles’s Tenant at Adwell as in Henton, Britwell Salome Chesterton in Oxfordshire was a certain William, who can be identified with the William de Sulham (hence Salome) who was Lord of Sulham and other Berks & Bucks Manors and who gave Tithes to Abingdon Abbey in 1104.  This identification provides an illustration of the Tenure of many Manors in an Honour by a single person.  His successor was Aumary, perhaps a son or a son-in-law, who died before 1130, having divided his Possessions between his 2 sons Ralph & Robert.  The elder son received 4-Fees which included Adwell & Sulham, the Family’s Chief Seat. Ralph’s son Aumary II of Sulham was holding these in 1166.  His Tenants may have been the Geoffrey of Adwell and the William of Adwell who were each fined in 1176 & 1177.  Aumary died in 1186, and the King took custody of his Land during the Minority of his Heir, but in 1189 & 1190 Thomas Basset was acting as Guardian.  Aumary’s heir Robert (d.before 1211) was followed by his son Aumary (III) Fitz Robert of Sulham.  This Aumary was out of his mind by 1236 when the Sheriff was ordered to see that he made no more Gifts or Sales of his Lands, thereby disinheriting his heirs.  Before 1241/2 William de Sulham, probably his son, was in possession of Sulham & presumably of Adwell.  He was dead by 1250 & in 1255 it is recorded that Adwell, held by the Service of one Knight & Suit of Court at Wallingford, was in the custody of the Overlord, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, as Guardian of William’s heir.  The heir, John de Sulham, was of age in 1269, was Granted Free Warren in Adwell in 1277,  and was dead by 1279 when the 4 Fees had been equally divided between Richard de la Hyde & Hugh de St Philibert, a Minor, who was described as John de Sulham’s heir.  The connection between the Families of Sulham, Hyde & St Philibert had long been close.  By 1233 at least Roger de la Hyde was Aumary de Sulham’s Tenant for Hyde Manor in Purley (Berks) & in 1249 Hugh de St Philibert appears as Overlord of the De Sulham’s Manor of Carswell in Buckland (Berks).  The Richard de la Hyde of 1279 held Adwell in Right of his wife Philippa, who was probably the daughter of John & Joan de Sulham. The young Hugh (III) de St. Philibert’s claim to Adwell must have come through his mother Euphemia, since it is known that he held Sulham as her Inheritance.  She was the wife of Hugh (II) de St Philibert, and almost certainly John de Sulham’s daughter and the great-granddaughter of Aumary & Euphemia.  Thus John de Sulham’s successors in the ½-Knight’s Fee at Adwell were his grandson, who was his heir & his son-in-law.

The Manor was still divided in 1300 between Richard de la Hyde & Hugh de St Philibert.  Hugh having fought in the French & Gascon Wars died in 1304 and was succeeded by his son John, a Minor, who came of age in 1314.  In 1317 John was granted Free Warren at Adwell and in his many other Manors: he died in 1333 leaving a child, another John, as his heir.  John (II) received Seisin of Adwell in 1348 when he was serving in France as a member of the Retinue of the Prince of Wales.  He was later Knighted and made Mayor of Bordeaux.  Before his death in 1358 he disposed of the bulk of his Inheritance, including Adwell which he apparently Sold in 1349 with the Advowson to Edmund Bereford, Clerk, Lord of Rush Court Manor in Clapcot (Berks) & son of the Judge Sir William Bereford Sir Edmund died in 1354, leaving his 3 sisters as coheiresses to the Family Estates.  Joan had married Sir Gilbert de Elsfield, Margaret was the wife of Sir James de Audley, and Agnes of Sir John Mautravers.  Adwell was apparently divided equally between the 3 heiresses for in 1358 the Mautraverses were in possession of a 3rd.  By 1359 all 3-sisters had Granted their portions of Adwell to Feoffees and the Manor had been conveyed to John Motte, who was probably acting, as was his Custom, for John James of Wallingford.

James was a rising man who is known to have been accumulating Land in the neighbourhood since 1350.  He was perhaps Steward to Joan, Princess of Wales, & was Burgess for Wallingford in several Parliaments between 1363 & 1376.  The 1st definite evidence, however, for his connection with Adwell occurs in 1372 when he presented to the Church.  In 1378 James settled Adwell and other Lands on himself, his wife Christine, and his son Robert.  He died in 1396 and in the same year his Widow and son Robert took possession of the Manor.  Robert James by his marriage with Katherine, daughter of Edmund de la Pole and a considerable Heiress, had greatly added to his Oxfordshire Estates.  In 1397 he Settled on his wife his own half of Adwell Manor and the reversion of the other half on the death of his mother Christine.  In 1429 another Settlement was made, this time on Robert James’s daughter Christine & her husband Edmund Rede, son of the Lawyer John Rede of Checkendon & their Heirs.  Robert James died in 1432 & Christine, her husband having died in 1430, obtained sole possession.  On her death in 1435,  her son Edmund succeeded.

Edmund had been a Minor when his father Edmund Rede died, but he came of age in 1434 & married Agnes, daughter of John Cottesmore, the Lord Chief Justice.  In 1440 the young Redes parted with Adwell to Richard Marmion of Checkendon and it remained in his Family for the next 150 years.  Marmion was alive in 1455 but his son John Marmion of Stoke Marmion had succeeded by 1466 and was still alive in 1478.  William Marmion was in possession in 1494 & in 1504 William Marmion of Easton (Glos), who in 1513 settled Adwell on himself and his wife Isabel.  William died in 1530, leaving a son Anthony Marmion as his heir.  Before his death in 1549 Anthony made 3 successive dispositions of Adwell, which resulted in many Legal disputes between the various Beneficiaries. In 1553 Anthony’s younger son Arthur Marmion, then an Apprentice to a London Alderman, agreed to settle the Manor on his elder brother John for life, but in 1564 Arthur and his sister Elizabeth, the wife of John Parker, were disputing John’s Right; the Court decided that Anthony Marmion should hold the Banor until Parker & Arthur Marmion could show a better Title.  In the meantime John Marmion, who was heavily indebted to Nicholas Betham, a Roman Catholic Gentleman of Long Crendon (Bucks), sold the Manor to him but retained for himself a Lease of the Mansion House, Water-Mill, & Demesne Lands Before his death in 1557 Betham settled Adwell on himself & his wife Sybil with remainder to their son Christopher.  Although the settlement seems to have been disputed by Edward Betham, Nicholas’s heir, Christopher had acquired possession by 1566.  He married Margaret, the daughter of Edmund Symeon of Pyrton, a neighbouring Roman Catholic Squire, and in 1580 & 1581 Betham and his wife sold the Manor & Advowson for £1,500 to John Franklin, a Gentleman of Canons (Middx), who already had a Lease of both.  In 1591 John Rolles and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Anthony Marmion, who claimed to have a Lease of the Manor, sold their Rights to Franklin.

John Franklin’s brother Richard succeeded to the Manor in 1597 and was followed in 1615 by his son Sir John, sometime MP for Middlesex.  On Sir John’s death in 1647 his Widow, Dame Elizabeth, who lived at Willesden (Middx), had Adwell as her Dower.  In 1658 by agreement with her son Sir Richard Franklin of Moor Park (Herts), son & heir of Sir John Franklin & her son George Franklin, Merchant of London, she sold the Manor & Advowson for £5,000 to Henry Franklin of Bledlow (Bucks).  Henry Franklin had married Anne, the daughter of Christopher Newell of Pophley’s Manor in Stokenchurch, a Family of ‘long continuance‘.  Pophleys, a 16thC Red-Brick Farmhouse Built on the Site of a former Convent.

Newell, a Yeoman Farmer, already had a connection with Adwell for he had purchased Lands there before 1668.  The Franklins so far had never lived at Adwell and at the time of the Sale Daniel Ballowe was Leasing the Manor-House & Farm (c.351 acres).  The heirs of Henry Franklin (d.1663) were his 3 daughters Anne, Mary & Frances.  Mary was the wife of Francis Carter, a Yeoman of South Weston, and Frances of William Newell of Pophleys.  In 1680 Anne Franklin & Mary Carter sold their 2/3rds share in Adwell to the Newells for £1,400.  William was dead by 1698, having devised the Manor to his 2nd son William, a High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, and a man of some Wealth.  By his Will (proved 1729) Adwell went to the eldest of his 5-children the Rev William Newell, Rector of Adwell & Ickford (Bucks).  This William Newell (d.1747) left Adwell and other Lands to his wife Esther for life, with remainder to her daughter Elizabeth.  Elizabeth Newell was in possession by 1785 and 2-yrs later she married James Jones of Stadhampton.  It is possible that the Newells had made their money in the Service of the East India Company, for Elizabeth Jones had an Indian Servant – Hyder Ally – to whom she left a Legacy.  She outlived her husband and on her death in 1818 all her Property passed by Will (dated 1806) to her friend Frances Webb of Stoke Bishop (Glos).  Elizabeth Jones had left instructions in her Will that Miss Webb should leave the whole Property to one Person who should take the name of NewellFrances Webb accordingly left Adwell & Radnage to a relation, John W Birch, Clerk Assistant to the House of Lords & he took the name of  Newell Birch.  On his death the Manor passed to his nephew Henry Birch Reynardson, son of General Birch Reynardson, formerly Thomas Birch, who was related to the Newells and who took the name of his wife’s Family in 1812.  From Henry Birch Reynardson (d.1884) the Manor passed to his son W J Birch Reynardson and then to his grandson Lt-Col H T Birch Reynardson, CMG, who was Lord of the Manor until 1959.  All these 3 Birch Reynardsons held the Office of High Sheriff of Oxfordshire.

Agrarian & Social History
The Site at Adwell was favourable for early Settlement: a Spring & Streams, a sheltered Dip in the Hills and underlying Rocks of Gault, Clay & Greensand, so productive of good Crops, were all present. There are indications that Bronze Age Settlers recognised this, and that the Saxons took Possession at an early Period. The name of the Village means Ead(d)as Spring and it is generally recognised that Placenames derived from Personal names & Topographical features belong to the older Settlements. The Spring was the source of the Brook, known farther North in its course as Haseley Brook, and by its side, the Church, the Manor-House & Mill were built.

By the time of Domesday a small Estate at Adwell assessed at 3-Hides was being fully cultivated.  There was said to be Land for 3 Plough-teams, but there were 4 at work, perhaps on account of the steep gradient of the Cop, which has been one of the Chief Arable Fields since Medieval Times.  Two Teams worked by 3 Serfs were on the Demesne & 1 Villanus with 6 Bordars shared a further 2 Teams.  Meadow, a Furlong square, and a Water-Mill rendering 6s are mentioned.  The Manor was worth £6 as it had been in pre-Conquest times.  The Mill & the Estate are mentioned slightly later in a Grant of 1110 when the Lord gave a 10th of the Annual produce from lambs, cheese, fleeces, skins, piglets, calves, pannage & the Bill to the Foreign Abbey of Bec.  The Mill itself was later Granted to Reading Abbey, and a Charter (dated c.1211–55) of Aumary Fitz Robert records that William son of Richard was then the Miller, that all the men of the Lord of the Manor had to grind their corn at the Mill, and that the corn of the Lord’s Household was also ground there.  Aumary promised at the same time that he would not Build a 2nd Mill or interfere with the Course of the Stream to & from the Mill.  He also Granted the Service (i.e. 2-Marks of rent) owing from the Miller for the Mill and 11-acres to the Abbot of Reading.

IAnthropicFarmUnitst is possible that it was between Domesday & the Payment of the Carucage of 1220 that the expansion of Adwell Manor by the inclusion of part of Postcombe Field took place. Carucage, at all events, was paid on ‘6 Carucates and a part‘ in Adwell, whereas in 1086 only 3-Carucates are recorded.  The increased figure may, however, represent a financial assessment rather than real Ploughlands.

By 1255 the value of the Manor had increased to £10 and the Hundredal Survey of 1279 gives some details about its management.  There were 2 Farms, one belonging to Richard de la Hyde, the other to Hugh de St Philibert; each had a Carucate (i.e. about 120 Field acres) of Arable Demesne & 2 acres of Meadow, together with Right to Free Warren (Game).  On the Hyde half of the Manor there were 5 Villein Virgaters and on the St Philibert half 2.  They each paid 6s-9d a Virgate and owed similar Services: they were to work with one man at their own cost during 3 summer months, except on Saturdays & Sundays; they were to have their Lord’s Licence before marrying a daughter and to pay Toll when they sold Ale.  In addition, all the Villeins were to mow the Meadow of the 2-Lords, and be paid 20d in Common.  Since 1086 there had been a change in nomenclature of the different Classes of Villagers and perhaps of status. In place of the single Villanus & Bordars of 1086, there were Villeins and 2 Free Tenants; one Free Tenant rented a Virgate for 10s; the other, Henry the Miller, held a Messuage with 10 acres & the Mill for 26s-8d rent paid to the Abbot of Reading.

Later Medieval Records give the extent of the St Philibert Manor as a Messuage & 2 Carucates in 1333, and its valuation in 1432 as £6-13s-4d.  No Court Rolls have survived for either Manor, but there are Records of Adwell’s View of Frankpledge, since it was a Member of the Honour of Wallingford. Its Tithingman had to attend the Views held by the Steward of the Honour at Aston Rowant and pay 1s Cert money.

Adwell’s Medieval Population can only be conjectured. It’s Agricultural Land was so limited that it cannot have supported many Families, but there were certainly more than those of the 9 Tenants recorded in 1279 in the Hundred Rolls.  The incomplete Tax Assessment of 1306 lists at least 10 contributors, 13 for that of 1316 13, and there are likely to have been some who escaped Taxation through Poverty; and for the Poll Tax of 1377, 26 persons of 14 & over were listed, a figure which again may not include all the Taxable Inhabitants.  In 1349 and later it looks as if Plague may have affected the Village, for in 1354 after Adwell had been reassessed in 1344 for Taxation at a fixed rate of £1-10s-6d (an increase of 6d on its 1327 Assessment), an abatement of 6d was allowed and in 1428 the Village was returned as having fewer than 10 Inhabited houses.  Adwell’s total contribution to 14thC Taxes was small compared with other Parishes in the Hundred, but this is to be expected in view of its small acreage.

There is no certain information about the Medieval Field System of Adwell, but the evidence of Field names from the Terriers combined with a study of the Tithe Maps of Adwell & Lewknor suggest that the original Fields were North Field, lying North-west of the Parish’s principal Road, and ‘Copt‘ Field, lying to the South of it, and that these were converted into a 3-Field System by the formation of Middle Field.  Adwell also had detached Land in Postcombe Field, lying partly to the East on the Aston Rowant Boundary and partly in the North of the Township, though most of Postcombe was in Lewknor Parish.  There is evidence that Medieval Tenants held acres both in Adwell Field & in Postcombe Field, that Tithe was paid to the Rector of Adwell on Land in both Fields & that the Glebe was dispersed in both.

Perhaps because of Labour shortage following the Black Death and because of the high price of Wool, there was some early conversion of Arable to Inclosed Pasture, particularly on the Demense Land.  By 1621 Farm Field (c.60 a.), an area that can be identified with some certainty with the Farm Field & Stampe Green shown on the Tithe Award Map of 1840, was Inclosed; also the Miller’s Land (c. 12-a.) and a number of other Pasture Closes, totalling 82-acres in all.  Judging from the names these Closes were in the West & North of the Parish, precisely where the Pasture Closes were in 1840; the names of some, Home Pen, Home Close, Stampe Green are identical, while Mill Furlong, Long Meadow, & Further Pen are obviously likely to be in this area.  Nevertheless, traditional methods of Agriculture continued alongside Inclosure.  Some of the Demesne Strips were consolidated by 1621Upper Copt & Nether Copt were blocks of 16 & 30 acres respectively, but 103 acres still lay in 16 pieces ‘dispersedly‘ in Copt Field, 17 Pieces in the Field ‘shooting on Adwell Town‘ and 9 acres in 17 Pieces ‘dispersedly‘ in Townsend Field & Lamsworth Field (i.e. in Postcombe Field).

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Adwell Farmhouse. Early 18thC, extended in late 18thC. Flemish Bond Red Brick with glazed Headers; Gabled Welsh Slate Roof; Brick symmetrical end Stacks. 2-Unit Plan, extended to L-Plan with rear left Wing. 2-Storeys; symmetrical 5-Window Range. Mid-19thC 4-panelled Door in early 19thC Frame with Overlight & Hood. Gauged Brick segmental Arches over mid/late 19thC 2-light casements; Gauged Brick flat arches over similar 1st-Floor casements. Raised Storey band; coved plaster cornice. Rear right Outshut adjoins late 18thC rear Wing of random Bond Brick with gabled old Tile Roof, and Brick Gable-end Stack.
Interior not fully inspected and likely to be of interest.

The Subsidy of 1523 throws some light on the Social structure of Adwell.  There was only one contributor of substance, William Allnut, the Tenant of the Manor, and the 5 other Persons listed all paid the Labourer’s rate of 4d.  In 1649 when Dame Elizabeth Franklin owned the Manor the Demesnes were leased on a 21-yr Lease at a Rent of £83 a year.  Agnes Cornish held the Water-Mill with a House & 12 acres of Closes at a rent of £3 a year, also on a 21-yr Lease.  Five Tenements of various sizes were Leased on 3 or 2 Lives: most had a yard or ½-yard of Land in the Common Fields of Adwell & Postcombe, and Heriots were owed on the death of a Tenant.  Three Tenants held at will Pasture Closes & 6 acres of Arable each, the former Leases for 21 or 19-yrs having expired.  There were 5 holders of Cottages at will; in the case of 4 of them with Rents of 3s-4d to 8s each no Land is mentioned, but one is said to have had Common of Pasture for 20 sheep & 2 cows in Adwell & Postcombe.  The most prominent Members of the Village Community belonged to the Family of Clarke.  Members of this Family held between them 3 of the Tenements and 2½-Yardlands, and one John Clarke appears on the Hearth Tax list of 1665 where his Farmhouse was rated on 2 Hearths.  Widow King, a member of another Family of small Tenant Farmers, was discharged from payment on account of Poverty.  She died in the next year and it is of interest that her Goods were valued at nearly £17.

At this date there were 2 larger Farmhouses that were rated, like the Rectory, on 3 Hearths, while 17thC inventories of Adwell’s men & women demonstrate the great variety of Farming practised in this small Community: in 1639 John Clarke, a Husbandman with goods valued at £32, had £20 worth of wheat, peas & hay, a cow, 2 bullocks & a pig worth £5.  Another small Husbandman Richard Swinburne (d.1640), with goods worth about £13, had cheeses, but curiously enough no cows, a Loom, Farm & Hemp valued at 21s, and corn & hay valued at £4-10s.  His son Richard Swinburne described himself as a Weaver. Another man, a Labourer, also had goods worth about £13, which included cheeses, but his wealth was mainly in Stock – 10 sheep & 3 lambs, 4 kine & a sow.  His wheat & hay were valued at only £1-6s.  His son Christopher Jeffery (d.1675) was a Shoemaker with a Shop, but also kept 2 cows & a pig, and grew grass & corn. The total valuation of his goods, £23, included £5-5s of ‘desperate debts‘ owing to him.  Nearly half of Widow King’s (d.1666) goods consisted of corn in the barn and wheat & ‘gratten‘.

At the other end of the scale with Goods worth £302-10s. was the Lord of the Manor, Henry Franklin.  Although he had 10 bullocks, 5 cows & a calf, a flock of 105 sheep & 30 lambs, 13 hogs & pigs worth in all £62-10s., his corn crops were the most valuable part of his goods, being worth over £100. What his growing Crops were is not specified, but he had small quantities of beans, malt, peas & wheat in store.  Richard Clarke (d.1682) also grew a little Barley & Peas and corn Sown in the ‘tylth‘ & ‘gratten’ Fields are mentioned.  Nearly half his goods, however, consisted of ‘money upon bonds‘ worth £65.  The Miller must always have been an important member of the Village, and at this Period the Mill was described as 2 common Water Grist-Mills under one Roof.  Fourteen acres of Closes belonged to the Mill and were Leased with it in all the surviving Leases.  When Richard Hollyman, a Quaker, was Miller, he also had a Windmill in Cop Field which he had erected in 1695.

Either in the late 17thC or during the early 18thC the remainder of Adwell’s Open-fields must have been Inclosed by Agreement.  In so small a Parish which was almost entirely owned by one Person, such a change must have been simple enough. The earliest record of it comes in 1786, when the Lady of the Manor was herself Farming all the Land of the Parish, including the Rector’s Glebe and the small Property belonging to the Lybbe Powys Family that was once the Property of Bec Abbey.  In 1818 she only had 99-acres in hand and a Tenant was Farming about 310 acres, and this was roughly the position in 1866 when the Parish was divided between the Home Farm (109 a.) & Adwell Farm (284 a.) and the Glebe (15 a.).  At the time of the Tithe Award in 1839 more than half of the Agricultural Land was Meadow or Pasture and there were 30 acres of Wood including a new Plantation of 9 acres.

The Terms of a Lease of Postcombe Farm made in 1846 may be taken as an illustration of Agricultural Practice in Adwell Parish.  It was to be Farmed according to the ‘best rules of husbandry preached in the neighbourhood‘; the Tenant was to fallow 1/5th of the Arable every year; have 1/5th in clover or another green crop; not to take more than 2 white corn crops in succession and that only once in 5-yrs; and not to break up any Meadow or Pasture under penalty of £50 an acre.  At this date, Home Farm (105 a.) had nearly twice as much Meadow & Pasture as Arable.  At the time of the Tithe Apportionment there were 225 acres of Arable and 164 acres of Meadow & Pasture.  In 1851 there was one large Farm of 300 acres in the Parish on which 12 Labourers were employed.

Adwell like other Parishes was badly affected by the Agricultural Depression. One sign of this is the drop in Population in the decades ending in 1871 & 1881, and another that Allotments were laid out in 1886 by the Lord of the Manor in order to alleviate the Poverty of the Cottagers; the Rents were 4d a Pole and the Land was not Ploughed up again until 1890.

Adwell did not share in the late-18thC increase in Population which is generally found in the Neighbourhood.  In 1676 there had been 35-Churchgoers over 16,  and in the 1st 3 Census Returns of the 19thC, there was an average of 40-Inhabitants.  A sharp rise took place in the decade after 1841 when numbers rose from 46 to 75.  This is probably to be explained by the letting of Adwell House to the Thornhill Family which with its 12-Employees totalled about 20 persons.  The number of 12-Houses recorded was the same as in 1781.  In the 20thC, the number of Inhabitants rose slightly from 64 in 1901 to 71 in 1951, but the change of the Boundary in 1953 had now left Adwell with only 41-Inhabitants.

Church. c.1865, incorporating some earlier features. By A W Blomfield for H Birch Reynardson.
Knapped Flint with Stone Dressings; old plain-Tile Roof; Stone Bellcote; Stone Chimney Stack to Ridge of Chancel Chapel. 4-Bay Nave; Chancel with Chancel Chapels. Gothic Revival style. Porch to left of Nave with re-set Romanesque Doorway of moulded round Arch on Columns; 19thC plank door. 2-light windows of reticulated Tracery to Nave. 2-light Y-Tracery window to Chancel Chapel.
Rear: lancets to Nave, except 2-light window of reticulated Tracery to right. 2-light Y-Tracery window to Chancel Chapel.
Eastend: 3-light intersecting Tracery window.
Westend: central Buttress, supporting Ornate Stone Bellcote, with flanking Lancets.
Interior: scissor-braced Roofs to Chancel & Chapels; arch-braced collar-truss Roof with King-posts to Nave; Minton encaustic Tile Reredos; Sedilia with re-set Early English Tracery; Gothick-style Monument to Frances Webb, c.1846 to North Chancel Chapel; Effigy of Knight holding his heart, partly covered by Chield, c.1300, to North Wall of Nave. 19thC Font on cluster columns; East window by H Hughes.

Adwell’s Original Parish Church is believed to have been Built late in the 12thC, although the earliest Documentation of it is dated 1254. It had only a Nave & Chancel. The latter may have been enlarged in the 13thC, judging by its East window which was early Decorated Gothic. In the 14thC new windows were inserted in the Nave and a new West Door was added. In 1553 the Building was recorded as having a Bell-cot with 2-Bells. All of the Walls were repaired around 1800, but by the early 1860s the Building was considered too weak to be restored. The old Church Building was Demolished and in 1865 it was replaced with a new Church of England Parish Church of St Mary designed by the Gothic Revival Architect Arthur Blomfield.  Blomfield’s design replicated the early Decorated style, but the new Building retained the South Doorway of the Old Church, which is in the transitional style between Norman and Early English Gothic. The new Church also retains the Memorials from inside the old one, including a Stone Effigy of a Knight from about 1300. The new Building has no Aisles, but has North & South Chapels arranged as Transepts either side of the Chancel. There is no Tower, but a Bell-cot with 1-Bell. The Bell dates from about 1350 and so may be from the old Church Building. St Mary’s Parish is now part of the Benefice of Thame.

Reproduced from VCH Oxfordshire XVIII (2016), available online at

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