Aston Rowant Parish

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1768 Estate Map of Aston Rowant
Based on an Estate Map of (1768), the Inclosure Award (1832), the Tithe Award (1842), and a Kingston Blount Schedule (1829) & Leases (Bodleian Library Ms. d.d. Clerke Brown c 2/9, etc.) from which the approximate position of the Kingston Fields has been plotted.
The Ancient Parish of Aston Rowant was exceptionally Large for an Oxfordshire Parish: it then included most of the modern Parish of Stokenchurch and must have covered an Area of about 7,298 acres.  It stretched for about 6-miles from the Northern end of Lewknor Hundred to the Hundred’s Southern Boundary with Bucks, and contained the Hamlets of Copcourt, ChalfordKingston Stert in the North; Aston Rowant itself and the large Village of Kingston Blount in the centre; the Hill Village of Stokenchurch and its Hamlets at Beacon’s Bottom & Water End in the South.  In 1895 Stokenchurch, which was a separate Civil Parish by this time, was transferred to Bucks.  Thus Aston Rowant’s Southern Boundary, although still the County Boundary, now runs to the North of Stokenchurch, and its area has been reduced to 2,924 acres.  Its only natural Boundaries are the small Streams in the North & East, whose Courses are followed as they Flow Northwards to the River Thame.  One of these is the Holbrook which is frequently referred to in 16th & 17thC Deeds, and in which the Lords of Aston Manor had Fishing Rights.
Richard Davis’s Map Of Oxfordshire 1797

In 1055 the Diocese of Winchester held the Manor of Aston Rowant.  Bishop Stigand of Winchester had promised to Grant Aston Rowant to the Benedictine Abingdon Abbey but failed to do so.  Just before the Norman Conquest of England a Saxon called Wulfstan held the Manor.  The Domesday Book records that in 1086 Estone (East Tun or Aston Rowant) belonged to Prominent Norman Baron Miles Crispin, son-in-law of Robert D’Oyly.  Crispin died in 1107 & his Widow Maud was married to Brien FitzCount.  FitzCount & Maud supported Empress Matilda during the Anarchy, and when King Stephen defeated Matilda both FitzCount & Maud entered Religious Houses, the latter to Wallingford Priory to whom the Grant of the Church (Churchlands & Advowson) was made, subsequently appointing its Vicar until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  Stephen gave their Estates to Henry, Duke of Normandy, thus making Aston Rowant part of the Honour of Wallingford.  Aston Rowant later became part of the Honour of Ewelme.

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Miles Crispin (d.1107), also known as Miles or Milo of Wallingford, was a wealthy Norman Landowner, particularly associated with Wallingford Castle in Berks (now Oxon). The Domesday Book records Miles as a major Landowner with Holdings in Berks, Bucks, Oxon, Surrey, Wilts and 2 other neighbouring Counties as well as being Tenant-in-Chief in a lengthy list of Places. Miles is believed to be a Member of the Crispin Family of Neaufles in Normandy: suggestions include son of William Crispin, Baron of Neaufles (Neaufles-Saint-Martin or Neaufles-Auvergny), part of William the Conqueror’s Invading Force, and a relation of Gilbert Crispin, Abbot of Westminster, but this is uncertain. Miles married Matilda, daughter of Robert D’Oyly, in 1084.  While D’Oyly is generally credited with Building Wallingford Castle, it has also been suggested that Miles Crispin was its 1st Castellan of Wallingford, and Owner of the Lands of WigodMatilda later married Brien FitzCount. During the Rebellion of 1088, Miles Crispin was a supporter of William II, and was in the Army that later Arrested William de Saint-Calais.
To the North of Aston, the Land is mostly within the 200–300ft Contour, but Prospect Hill (or Briar’s Hill as it was called in the 19thC) in the extreme North-west of the modern Parish rises to 300ft.  This Landmark, which was planted with Douglas Firs by 1878, may well be the Old English ‘Trendle‘ or ‘Trindhulle‘ meaning Roundhill, recorded in the 13thC.  In the South, the Crest of the Chiltern Ridge rises to 800-ft above Hill Farm.  Part of Aston Hill was given to the National Trust in 1956 & 70 acres on Beacon Hill were made a Nature Reserve in 1958.  The Northern Triangle of the Parish lies on Gault, the Centre is mostly on the Lower Greensand, and the Upper Fields & Hill Slopes on Chalk.

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The 5-Weyes at Aston Rowant
The old Woodway Road from Stokenchurch (No.1) led off to the Right from the represent Route of the new Turnpike Road at the Crest of the Chilterns and went down Aston Hill past Warren Farm & Woodway Farm into Aston Rowant & Church Lane then on the meet the Lower Icknield Way (No.s 2 & 3) leading East to Chinnor & West to Nethercott House & Moor Court Farm between Lewknor & South Weston.  Heading North-west the Road divides leading to both Copcourt (Church Way) & Chalford (Church Way – No.s 4 & 5).  A Footpath also leads to Postcombe (nr the New Inn later The Pig & Whistle) from this Junction Point.   Church Lane had Church Poor Houses along it and beyond was the lost Hamlet of Penn.  Amid the Trees Waste Stadway – Stad is    Old English for Stopping Place or Town.  The Stadway carried on as the Droveway to the North-east
Map of the County of Oxford, from Actual Survey, by A Bryant, in the Year 1823. Inscribed by permission to the Rt Honourable the Earl of Macclesfield, Lord Lieutenant, and to the Nobility, Clergy & Gentry of the County.
Coaching In & Out of Oxford
The Road System has seen a number of changes. The Main London Road forms a short part of Aston’s Western Boundary; it was known as Via Regis or ‘London Weye‘ in the Middle Ages and became a Turnpike in 1718.  At that time it passed the present Warren Farm which was the original ‘Drum & Plough’ Inn in the 18thC, but in 1824 this Route was ‘found inconvenient‘ and was diverted to the West so as to be more ‘commodious to the Public‘.  The new Turnpike, (which was de-Turnpiked in 1877), and the old Turnpike are shown on an Estate Map of 1828.  An important Minor Road in the 18thC, but now no longer used, branched off the Main Road South of Tetsworth, ran through Copcourt, along Copcourt Church Way to Aston, and then joined the Highway at the foot of Aston Hill (Stokenchurch Road).  Copcourt Church Way had been made by Order of the Bishop of Oxford in 1620;  Chalford Church Way running from Chalford Green to Aston may have been laid out at the same time. Both the Icknield Way (Akemannestrete in 1298 & Hacknall Way in 1768), at the Foot of the Chilterns & the Lower Icknield Way to the North were well-defined Roads in the 18thC, but are now Grass Tracks.  In 1958 there were 3-Chief Lines of Communication, all partly Ancient ones: a Minor Road from Postcombe to Sydenham, which has always Linked the Hamlets of Chalford & Kingston Stert; another Minor Road from Kingston Stert by Kingston Blount to the Stokenchurch Road; and the Road from the ‘Lambert Arms‘ on the London Road to Chinnor, which Links all the Villages at the Foot of the Chilterns. The last used to pass close to Aston Manor House & the Village, but it was straightened, probably shortly after 1768, and made to run further to the South.

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South Wing Face of Aston Manor House with Conservatories

The Manor was ‘one of the remarkable Seats in the County’, with its Park & Gardens and a 2½-acre Lake. The House was Built in 1352 but eventually Burned down in the mid-20thC.
OS Map 1919 Sth Oxon XLVII.4 (Aston Rowant, Kingston Blount, Crowell)

Now the Park & Walled Kitchen Garden have been Built on the Kingston Road was also diverted: it used to enter the Village from Stokenchurch, close by Kingston House, but in 1835 it was made to pass West of the ‘Red Lion‘ so as to bypass the Main House and was then continued in a straight Line to Kingston Stert instead of along Pleck Lane, its former Route.

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The only other outlying Farmhouse of interest is Warren Farm, Aston Hill: it was the ‘Drum & Plough’ on the old London Road before the new Turnpike was made.  It is the 18thC House of Flint with Brick Facings and has Ancient Wooden Barns adjoining. The place now belongs to the Manor Charitable Trust and was used as a weekend house for boys from the East End of London, and for Summer Camps for 40 or more Boys. Sir Edward Cadogan acted as Warden.  He in the Army during WW1 and was Knighted in 1939 and fought with the RAF during WW2.  He died both unmarried & childless in 1962.
OS Map Sheet 159 – The Chilterns 1961

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A new ‘Drum & Plough’ had been opened at the Junction of the new Turnpike with the Upper Icknield Way but was supplanted in about 1834 by the ‘Lambert Arms’, which was built at the Junction of the then Lewknor-Chinnor Road with the Turnpike at a point once known as ‘Aston Cross’ just North of the Inn.  Its Ornamental style of Building is an early example of Mock-Tudor.  It became an important Stopping Place for the London Traffic and a Traveller on the ‘Mazeppa(Byron’s Cossack) Coach in about 1840 said that after descending the Steep Hill they stopped there for a glass of ‘excellent Thomas Wethered’s Marlow Beer‘.  The Railway brought about the Inn’s temporary Eclipse, but with the growth of Motorised Road Traffic it became once again a Busy Centre both for Travellers and the Parish, and an adjoining Hall had been built (now the Dining Room).
Entry in the Domesday Book

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  • HundredLewknor
  • CountyOxfordshire
  • Total Population: 50 households (very large).
  • Total Tax assessed: 20 geld units (very large).
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 20-geld units.
  • Value to Lord in 1066 £15 Value to Lord in 1086, £20. Value to Lord c.1070 £15.
  • Households: 26 Villagers. 3 Smallholders. 6 Slaves. 15 Free Men.
  • Ploughland: 33 Ploughlands (Land for). 3 Lord’s Plough Teams. 30 men’s Plough Teams.PoorLawUnion.jpg
  • Other resources: Woodland 10.5 leagues.
  • Lords in 1066Aelfric; Wulfstan.
  • Lord in 1086: Baron Miles Crispin.
  • Tenant-in-Chief in 1086: Baron Miles Crispin.

Location information
M40
(J6) & Oxford Tube 1-mile

Watlington 4-miles
Haddenham & Thame Parkway 6-miles
(London Marylebone 35 mins)
Henley 15-miles
Oxford 17-miles
Heathrow Airport 31-miles
London 43-miles
Gatwick Airport 67 miles

OS Area Map c.1882

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Aston Rowant GWR Station– note Milk Churn Delivery – probably destined for London

A Single-Line Railway from Princes Risborough to Watlington was constructed in 1872 and was taken over by the Great Western in 1884.  It used to follow the Line of the Upper Icknield Way.  It had a Halt at Kingston Blount and a Station at Aston Rowant that achieved fame in the 1950s by being used in the Films ‘My Brother Jonathan – 1948‘ & ‘The Captive Heart – 1946‘.  The Line was closed for Passenger Traffic in June 1957, by British Railways.
Oxon 1897 OS  Map XLVII.8 (Aston Rowant Station, Warren Farm, Grove Farm)

OldFlail

Very few people will understand the meaning of the old English word “Flail,” because it is almost 2 Centuries since that old-world Agricultural Implement was in general use.  Until Steam was introduced as a Labour-saving Appliance in Agricultural work, Corn was invariably Threshed out of the Ear by wooden Instruments like that illustrated here, consisting of 2 unequal lengths of rounded wood of the size of an ordinary Broomstick, connected by Leather Loops.  The Farmhands who used this primitive contrivance grasped hold of the Longer Stick, and, brandishing it about over their heads, brought the Hinged End down repeatedly on the Wheat spread out on the Threshing Floor; thus, with the expenditure of considerable time & muscular strength, separating the Grains from the Ears. As the “Business-end” of the Flail is constructed so as to swing in every direction, it is obvious that the Mastery of it was only acquired with practice, and at the cost of sundry Whacks on the Head brought on himself by the clumsy Novice.  Indeed, it is an Instrument requiring particular dexterity in manipulation.
Aston Rowant –   A Romano Cremation-Burial, apparently of the late 2ndC, consisting of a narrow-necked, wide-bodied Urn that would hold 2 Quarts found intact & stopped with Lead but Smashed in the vain hope of a Treasure Find but which contained Bone Fragments, a small-footed Beaker & a Samian Patera stamped SEXTVS . FE – Potters Name (F Oswald, Index of Potters’ Stamps (1931) was found in 1693in Kingston-Field – at the bottom of a small Stream called Colebrook, about a Furlong from the Lower Branch of the ‘Ikenild-Street Way‘, thus not far from the foot of the North Scarp of the Chilterns.

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Aerial View of Aston Rowant 1937 showing Aston Manor House & Serpentine Lake

The Aston Rowant Parish has played no prominent part in National Events. It may be significant of local feeling that in 1557 Aston Rowant’s Bell-ringers were put in the Stocks by Sir Henry Bedingfield for Ringing to welcome Princess Elizabeth on her Church Passing Journey from High Wycombe to Rycote.  In the 17thC both Royalist & Parliamentary Troops probably made Levies on the Inhabitants: a Royalist Troop at Aston was reported to have ‘fetched away a Gentleman’s Coach’ and to have taken Horses from the Country around about.  In July 1643 a Great Body of the King’s Horse was Billeted under Aston & Kingston Hills, and there was also a Parliamentary Garrison uncomfortably near at Thame.

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Dr Robert Plot ‘s Map of Oxfordshire 1676 (showing Chinnor & South Weston Windmills)

It is important to realise that in the 19thC & earlier Horses were everywhere. On an average Farm the Farmer would have a Horse to Ride round the Farm & possibly to go Hunting.  There would be a different Horse to pull the Trap that took the Family to Town or to Church on Sundays.  In addition there would be Heavy Horses to Plough and pull the Farm Carts. Someone would need to look after the Horses.  On a large Farm with a well-to-do Farmer every Member of the Family might have their personal Riding Horse (or Pony for the younger children), there would be a number of Working Horses, and possibly some Brood Mares with Foals.  In such a situation some of the more experienced Agricultural Labourers would be employed as  “Horse-Keepers” working Full Time with the Horses.
Aston Rowant lay near on my left, with a Towered Church, a Big House, and men upon a Rick, at the edge of the Elms. To cross the Aston Road my way made a slight crook to the left and then skirted the hay of Aston Rowant Park, with Elms & Sweet Limes amidst the Hay: it was a good grass & clover Track, not deeply rutted. Presently in the mowed & cleared Fields on both sides cattle were walking out from milking. With another slight crook to the left the way crossed the High Wycombe, Stokenchurch & Oxford Road, where yellow-hammers were singing in the Beeches alongside the Telegraph-Posts. My way was now a hard Road bordered by Beeches & Firs, through which I could see the Tower of Lewknor Church across a Hayfield. A Willow-Wren, with a voice like the sweet voice of someone a 1,000-yrs away, was singing among the tops of the Trees. Below, briers & thorns were interwoven, and silver-weed grew at the edge of the dust. Some Country people say that silver-weed is good for the feet, a belief which might well have no better foundation than the fact that it grows commonly close to the Road which is cruel to the feet. On the right I passed a little deserted Lodge with pointed windows and doorway gaping blank, and on the left a wood of Beech, Elm & Chestnut shadowing a Wall in which there was a door barricaded almost to the Lintel by nettles.  This cool Wood was full of the chiding of Blackbirds and one Thrush’s singing. Near the end this piece of Road turns decidedly to the left; but over the Wall on the right are some signs of a Track which had not this Southward bend. At the end of the present Road, but a little way to the right along the road to Wheatfield, which it enters, is Moor Court, a small Old House of Bricks & Tiles, with Wings at each side, and a massive Stone Chimney at the Road end; and it has a range of Thatched Farm Buildings and a line of Lombardy Poplars all enclosed in a Wet Moat. A little farther up, a Farm Road, which might have continued the Track on the right of the Road just quitted, turns out to the left and with a short break leads to Pyrton, Cuxham & Brightwell Baldwin and so to Wallingford; or from Pyrton the Route might be to Watcombe Manor, Britwell & Ewelme. But the Lower Icknield Way is, to judge from the Map, supposed to give up its individuality at Moor Court and make straight away through Lewknor and by Sheepcote Lane to join the Upper Road. There seems no good reason why this connection between the 2, if it were such, should have been more than a convenience for a few Travellers, unless we suppose that the very Hilly & Uneven portion of the Upper Road, between the beginning of the separation & Chinnor Hill, so frequently became impassable that it was abandoned for short or long periods or altogether. But as a Road close to Ewelme was known in the 17thC as the Lower Icknield Way, I was determined to go by Ewelme. From Moor Court I went down to the pretty group of a Smithy, a “Leather Bottle,” and Lewknor’s Towered Church at the Crossing, where I entered the High road, making past Shirburn Castle to Watlington. At Watlington the Road bends sharp to the right, and so comes into Line with the Lower Icknield Way, as it was near Moor Court. Icknield Way by Edward Thomas 1916

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OS Map of Oxford County 
Surveyed by a Local man, Richard Davis of Lewknor & 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 being 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 hachures.  Davis was also Topographer to His Majesty, George III.

The Aston Rowant & Kingston Manors

Reproduced from VCH Oxfordshire XVIII (2016), available online at www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol18