Rotherfield Peppard

Wyfold was a Medieval manor, the name of which is perpetuated by the name of Wyfold Grange, Wyfold Lane & Wyfold Wood to the South-east of Checkendon. The former Mental institution called Borocourt was originally a Victorian Mansion built by R T Hermon Hodge and called by him Wyfold Court.

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Wyfold Court ~ Borocourt Hospital

Borocourt Hospital – Country House, now Hospital, formerly known as Wyfold Court.  Built 1872–78 by George Somers Clarke the Elder for Edward Hermon. Some 20thC alterations. Red Brick with Grey Brick Diaper pattern; plain Tile Roof; Brick Stacks. Complex Plan, French Gothic style. 2-Storeys and Attic with 4-Storey & Attic Wing to right; higher Towers. 14-window Range. Stone porte-cochere to left with 2-Centre Arches to 3-sides. Studded door with Gothic moulded Stone surround. Irregular Fenestration, mostly of Stone Mullion & Transom windows with elaborate carved Hoods.  Complex Gabled Roof with cross-Gables, Towers & Turrets. Ornamental Ridge Tiles & ornamental Metal Ridges to Towers & Turrets. Decorative carved Brick Stacks.  Elaborately carved Stone details.  Other Elevations of same quality & complexity.
Interior: Vaulted Stone Main Corridor to Ground Floor with original light fittings. Open-well Staircase with elaborate carved Balustrade, Armorial glass to windows & fixed Paintings. Many of the interiors survive with some 20thC alterations. Bought in 1932 and became Borocourt Hospital.    Subsequently closed down and converted into upmarket Apartments in the 1990’s

Until 20thC reorganisation the Ancient Parish of Rotherfield Peppard stretched for 5½-miles (9-km) across Binfield Hundred, from the Chiltern Hills in the West to the Thames in the East.  Settlement is scattered, comprising isolated Farmsteads and Groups of houses set around commons or alongside Roads. Formerly supporting a mostly poor Farming population, from the 19thC the Parish was subject to an ongoing process of Gentrification.  Blount’s Court, a minor residence of the Stonor Family from the 15th to the early-18thC, lies in the far South of the Parish, on the North-eastern edge of the 20thC Dormitory Town of Sonning Common.  In the East, the Southern suburbs of Henley-on-Thames extended into Rotherfield Peppard before WW1.  Nevertheless, although Henley lay only 3-miles (5km) to the North-east of Peppard Church, the Town was probably eclipsed as a Market Centre by Reading, 5-miles (8 km) to the South, with which Peppard was connected by regular Carrier & Bus Services from the 19thC. The suffix ‘Peppard‘, from the Chief Medieval Landowners, was added to the place name from the Middle Ages, distinguishing it from neighbouring Rotherfield Greys.

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Peppard’s Parish Boundaries
As with Greys & Harpsden, Peppard’s elongated shape was probably the result of deliberate planning before the Norman Conquest, when an Estate here was hived off from Benson. In the 19thC the Parish’s (& County’s) Eastern Boundary followed the River Thames for about 400M, while the long Northern Boundary with Rotherfield Greys ran along Roads and through Fields as far as Greatbottom Wood.  In the wooded North-west, the Boundaries with Mongewell & Ipsden mostly followed paths & woodland Boundaries; part of the Western Boundary with Checkendon followed similar features, but was largely undefined where it approached and looped around the former Monastic Grange of Wyfold.  The Boundary was also undefined in the wooded South-west, where the Parish bordered Caversham & Sonning for short distances, and where it turned abruptly Northwards into Shiplake.  However, most of the Shiplake Boundary followed the Road from Kingwood Common to Blount’s Court Farm. The long Southern Boundary with Harpsden, several sections of which were also undefined, passed mainly through Fields on its way to the Thames.

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Rotherfield Peppard Parish & Boundaries c.1840

The Antiquity of some of these Boundaries is uncertain, particularly in the West where the area around Wyfold & Kingwood was shared in common by the inhabitants of Peppard, Harpsden Checkendon in the Middle Ages.  The Boundary around Wyfold almost certainly post-dated the Foundation of Thame Abbey’s Grange in the 12thC, although it was probably established by 1452 when the Rectors of Peppard & Checkendon each claimed the Tithes of Wyfold Manor.  By then Wyfold was said to lie in Checkendon Parish.  In 1879 the ancient Parish covered 2,194 acres.  In 1932 Peppard lost 186 acres to Henley Parish & Borough and 4 acres to Harpsden, but gained 2 acres. from Rotherfield Greys, leaving it with 2,007 acres. Changes in 1952, involving Harpsden, Rotherfield Greys, Checkendon, Eye & Dunsden & Shiplake, left it with 1,764 acres. Further minor changes to the Boundaries with Checkendon & Sonning Common left it with 1,759 a. (712 ha.) in 2001.
Rotherfield Peppard Tithe Map 1840

Landscape
The Parish lies chiefly on Chalk overlain by extensive patches of River Gravel, except around Bolt’s Cross in the North & Kingwood in the West where the high ground is capped by a mantle of Clay-with-flints.  Chalk & Gravel Pits are scattered throughout the Parish.  Close to the Thames, the alluvium of the floodplain (at 32M) provided a small area of meadow known as Peppard Mead, which was developed for housing in the 20thC.  From there the ground rises to 75M at Highlands Farm and to 95M at Cowfields Farm, the Church & Blount’s Court, rising still further to 110M at Bolt’s Cross, 120M at Kingwood Common & Wyfold Grange, and 165M in the far North-west of the Parish.  As elsewhere in the area the Parish’s Dry Valleys provided no water, and inhabitants relied on Ponds & Wells until the introduction of Mains Water, which was largely completed by 1926.  As with Greys, the place name suggests that the extensive Commons of the Parish were already cleared of trees during the Anglo-Saxon Period.  A Medieval Deer Park probably lay between the Church & Blount’s Court, in the steep-sided Valley of Stony Bottom.

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Communications – Roads
Two long-distance Roads pass through the Parish: the North–south road from Nettlebed to Reading, and an East–west route from Henley to Goring.  On entering the Parish at Bolt’s Cross, the North–south Road (called Peppard Lane) leads Southwards to Peppard Common.  A Pond opposite the Dog Inn (now a private home) was filled in when the Road was straightened in the 1950s, and a ‘Mound’ opposite the Red Lion was removed to improve visibility.  The Road bends sharply as it descends the Hill on the South side of the Common; part of an alternative Route across the Common was removed in the late 20thC.  The East–west Road (no longer a major Thoroughfare) was a continuation of Pack & Prime Lane (in Rotherfield Greys); the stretch East of Peppard Common was called Dog Lane, and in 2007 was mostly a narrow, unmetalled Path. On meeting Peppard Lane, the Road continues as Colliers Lane & Wyfold Lane, leaving the Ancient Parish at Wyfold Grange.

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Two other Roads formed part of the Parish’s Boundaries, suggesting that they were known in the early Middle Ages.  The Road from Stoke Row to Shiplake enters the Parish at its North-western corner, and loosely follows the Checkendon Boundary before crossing Kingwood Common.  Beyond the Common the Road formed the Ancient Boundary with Shiplake as far as Blount’s Court Farm. In the east of the Parish Dog Lane joins the former Greys–Peppard Boundary Road to the Thames. Three short North–south Roads cross the narrow Eastern part of the Parish, linking Mill Lane to an East–west road in Harpsden.  One provides access to Gillotts, another leads from Henley to Harpsden, while the Easternmost forms part of the former Turnpike Road from Henley to Reading.  Numerous Tracks & Paths criss-cross the Parish, particularly the 2 Commons.  Crosslanes (as its name suggests) lies at the intersection of a Path from Peppard to Henley with one from Greysgreen Farm (in Rotherfield Greys) to King’s Farm (in Harpsden).  Several Paths also meet at Cowfields Farm, while others lead to Sedgehill Spring, South of the Church, an important source of Water in the Parish.

Carriers, Post & Rail
Regular Carriers to Reading passed through the Parish from the mid-19thC, and in the early 20thC 2 (later 3) Peppard-based Carriers operated a Daily Service.  A motorised Bus Service from Stoke Row to Reading, which stopped at Peppard Common, was introduced by British Automobile Traction in 1919, and taken over by the Thames Valley Traction Company in 1920.  A Daily Service was provided by 1924, when only 2 Carriers survived.  A single Carrier, operating 3 days a week, was last mentioned in 1931.  In 2007 regular Bus Services connected Peppard to both Reading & Henley.
A sub-Post Office was recorded in 1847, run by Lucy Reeves, a Baker, probably from a Cottage on the corner of Church Lane.  In 1854 the Parish Clerk, James Crutchfield, took over the Service, but it seems to have closed soon after. Until c.1897 letters were received on foot from Henley, and the only provision within the Parish was a Wall Box, presumably at Peppard Common, and Pillar Boxes at Kingwood Common and on the Greys–Peppard Boundary Road.  From c.1897 a Shop and sub-Post Office at Peppard Hill was run by Maria Bond; it transferred to Ernest Fry’s Grocer’s Shop on Stoke Row Road (in Shiplake Parish) c.1903, the sub-Post Office closing in 1996.  A 2nd sub-Post Office was opened at Kingwood Common c.1911, near Maitland Sanatorium; it transferred to a Site near Colmore Farm in the 1950s, but returned to its original location soon afterwards and closed in the mid 1980s.
The Branch Railway Line from Twyford to Henley, opened in 1857, crossed the narrow Eastern part of the Parish.  A pair of Cottages was built next to the Line on the Southern side of Mill Lane, presumably for Signalmen operating the Level-crossing.  James Drake, a ‘Gateman’ for Great Western Railway, lived there in 1871.  A Road Bridge over the Railway was built in the early 20thC.

Early Settlement & Population
Human occupation in the parish up to ½M-yrs ago is attested by a large number of Palaeolithic Artefacts, recovered from a Gravel Pit at Highlands Farm close to an ancient side-channel of the Thames.  Palaeolithic Hand-axes have also been found elsewhere in the Parish, including Kingwood Common, Peppard Common & Gillotts.  Neolithic occupation is suggested by the discovery of Worked Tools near Crosslanes, by possible Flint-axe production at Peppard Common, and by a chipped Flint-axe found at Wyfold.  Bronze-Age implements have been discovered close to Blount’s Court, and a large Barrow of the same era survives near Crosslanes, while a linear Ditch has been identified in Spring WoodRoman Settlement in the Parish is not well evidenced beyond finds of Coins & Pottery Scatters, but Villas & Pottery production Sites are known close by.  No Archaeological evidence of Anglo-Saxon Settlement has yet been found in the Parish, though the creation of a substantial Estate before 1066 suggests both an Agrarian population and an Estate centre, Sited possibly near Peppard Common in the likely vicinity of the Peppards’ Medieval Manor house.  An 11thC Settlement was probably dispersed as later, though perhaps with a concentration of Estate Workers close to the putative Manorial Site.

Population from 1086
In 1086 there were 17 Tenant Households on Rotherfield Peppard Manor, headed by 10 villani, 5 lower-status bordars & 2 slaves; all probably lived within the Bounds of the later Parish.  Some 8 Landholders were Taxed in 1306, 10 in 1316, and 13 in 1327; each presumably represented a Household, which may suggest that the Parish’s Population was rising.  The Black Death almost certainly reduced numbers: in 1377 Poll Tax was paid by only 31 Adults over 14, suggesting a total Population of around 55–68.  Further depopulation occurred in the 15thC when the number of Rent-paying Tenants fell from more than 30 in 1401 to 19 in 1470.  Population apparently failed to recover in the early 16thC: only 26 Taxpayers were listed in 1523 & 16 in 1543. However, from the 1570s Baptisms consistently outnumbered Burials.  Some 52 men swore the obligatory Protestation Oath in 1642, implying an Adult Population of 104; 23 Houses were assessed for Hearth Tax in 1662, and 94 Adult inhabitants were noted in 1676.  Average numbers of Baptisms increased from the 1720s, but were matched by rising numbers of Burials after 1740, and in the 1770s Burials briefly exceeded Baptisms.  Rectors reported between 35 & 50 Houses in the Parish during the 18thC, almost certainly an underestimate: in 1801, 70 Houses were occupied by 73 Families, a total of 317 inhabitants.  The Population increased steadily to 439 in 1841, occupying 100 Houses, before falling back in subsequent decades.  The 19thC Population peaked in 1881 at 484 persons in 93 Houses, after which it fell again, presumably as a result of Agricultural depression.  In the 20thC, rising prosperity and extensive Housing Development led to an increase of Population from 410 in 1901 to 882 in 1931, occupying 193 Houses.  Following successive Boundary changes, in 1951 there were 1,155 persons in 288 Households, increasing to 1,525 persons in 465 Households in 1971. Thereafter the number of Households continued to rise, reaching 577 in 2001, though the population fell to 1,473.

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Peppard’s Cottage

Medieval Settlement
Medieval Settlement was dispersed, most people living in the Western part of the Parish in Hamlets on the edges of Peppard & Kingwood Commons; there has never been a Village of Rotherfield Peppard.  At Peppard Common Settlement probably grew up where the North–South road from Nettlebed to Reading crossed the East–west Route from Henley to Goring.  The Medieval Church lay 400M East of the Common, along a Lane which seems not to have been built on until the 20thC.  On the Common’s South-eastern edge was the Medieval Park, close to the presumed location of the early Manor House.  A late 13thC Charter, which may refer to Settlement around the Common, describes a group of Houses & Gardens, one of them beside the Street end (le stretende), from which a Way ran to the Curia (or Manorial Site) of Rotherfield.  To the South of the Park lay Blount’s Court, probably built in the early 15thC by a prominent resident Freeholder.  In the West of the Parish, the Medieval Hamlet of Wyfold, which presumably lay close to Wyfold Grange on the Peppard–Checkendon Boundary, may have included part of Kingwood Common. the 14 Tenants named in 1279 held extensive Common Rights in Kingwood, where the Lord, Thame Abbey, appropriated 200 acres of Royal Demesne in the 13thC. About the same time one Andrew of Kingwood was recorded as a Tenant of Benson Manor, of which Wyfold formed part.  A Mill stood on the Parish’s narrow Thames Frontage from the 11th to the 20thC. Further West, Farmsteads were established at regular intervals among largely Arable Fields.  Of these, Cowfields Farm, recorded as Coufold in 1369 & Highlands Farm, named as Hellelane in 1401, were almost certainly of Medieval Origin.

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Settlement 1600–1900
A Settlement called ‘the Village of Pepper Green‘ in 1642 was probably the group of Houses shown on 18thC Maps, at the crossroads of Peppard Lane & Dog Lane on Peppard Common’s North-eastern edge.  Although some 600M from the Church this was probably also the Hamlet called Peppard Green by the Rector in 1814, which he described as comprising ’12 Families contiguous to the Church’.  In 1840 the Hamlet contained 10 Houses on both sides of the apex of the triangular-shaped Common; among them were Peppard & Sadgrove Farms and 2 Public Houses, The Dog and the Red Lion (known briefly as the Anchor at the end of the 18thC). To the South-east, where Church Lane forked on entering the Common, lay 4 more Houses including Slater’s Farm, while on the Common’s North-western edge at Peppard Hill was another group of 6 Houses, including Peppard House & Manor House (formerly a Public House called The Blue Monkey), which appear to have encroached on former Common Land.  The number of Houses and inhabitants in the Parish barely changed between 1840 & 1900 and there was little new Building around Peppard Common.  Exceptions included The Unicorn Public House at a crossroads at Peppard Hill, 1st recorded in 1853, and the National School, opened in 1871 on former Common Land at the West end of Church Lane.

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KingwoodCommon1883Unlicensed Inclosure & Building of Cottages on the edge of Kingwood Common was reported in 1779 and marked on 18thC Maps.  In 1808 the Rector described Kingwood as a Hamlet about a mile from the Church consisting of 20 Houses.  The main focus of Settlement was a group of Inclosures in the Southern part of the Common, where 15 Houses were recorded in 1840. Some 17 more Houses were scattered around the Common, including small groups of 8 on the Common’s North-western edge & 4 (including Colmore Farm) on its South-eastern edge.  Little Development occurred before 1900, apart from the temporary appearance of Tents (occupied by Tinkers & Hawkers) in 1871–81.

Inset – Kingwood Common c.1883, already partly Inclosed.

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Rotherfield Peppard & Peppard Common c.1883. Buildings lie scattered around the Common in characteristically dispersed fashion, separated from the Parish’s Principal Residence at Blount’s Court by the Site of a Medieval Deer Park in Stony Bottom & Spring Wood.  The so-called Manor House was not of Medieval Origin.

In 1840 about 12 Houses were scattered at irregular intervals along the Stoke Row to Shiplake Road, mostly to the South-east of Peppard Common.  Apart from Blount’s Court and the neighbouring Farmstead, these were probably all of 18thC origin or later; they included the Nonconformist Chapel & Manse, and a Gentleman’s Residence called Vine Lodge.  More houses and a Mission Hall were built along the Road on former Arable Land in the late 19thC.

Settlement in the 20thC
Extensive housing development occurred throughout the Parish in the 20thC, principally around the Commons, along the Main Roads, and to the South of Henley.  A number of Commercial Premises were also built, as well as Schools, Farms, and 2 Hospitals.  Nevertheless, in 2007 the Parish’s Settlement pattern remained dispersed, mostly Rural, and relatively remote from the area’s Major Roads & Urban Centres. 

Peppard Common
As the number of wealthy residents increased before WW1, Vacant Plots around Peppard Common were Infilled and former Arable Inclosures developed, though the Settlement pattern remained characteristically dispersed.  Development was less intense during the inter-War years, being mostly limited to scattered Private Houses, and a row of 6 Council Houses along Church Lane, the focus of post-War building activity.  Plots to the North of Church Lane were offered for Sale in 1927 and again in 1938, but were not developed until the 1940s and later, including a further row of 6 Council Houses & 2 Culs-de-sac.  Development of Greenfield Sites and infilling of existing Plots continued into the 1970s, and though activity slowed thereafter, one result of the expansion was a new focus of Settlement between Peppard Common and the Parish Church.  A Secondary School was built on Peppard Lane North of the Common in 1932, but closed in 1962 and was later converted to a Private House. Subsequent development of surrounding Land included the creation (on the opposite side of the Road) of a Trading Estate called Manor Farm.  Nevertheless, in 2007 much of Peppard Lane between the Common and the houses at Bolt’s Cross (mostly built before 1800) remained open.  To the South-east of the Common, some infilling took place along the Stoke Row to Shiplake Road (including a former Builders’ Yard converted to Housing in 2002), but most Development occurred on the Road’s opposite side, on Land formerly in Shiplake Parish but included since 1952 in Rotherfield Peppard.

Kingwood Common
The early 20thC saw the foundation and rapid expansion of a Sanatorium (later the Peppard Chest Hospital) on Kingwood Common’s Southern edge. Less intensive development occurred around the same time on the common’s Eastern side, with the appearance (in former Arable Inclosures) of several large Houses, including Cherry Croft and Great David’s (both built 1912).  During WW2 a Royal Artillery Camp & American Military Hospital were built in the North-western part of the Common, close to the late 19thC Public House the Bricklayers’ Arms (converted to a Private Residence in the early 21stC).  In the early 1950s 72 Huts at the former Camp were used as Housing by Henley Rural District Council.  A controversial proposal by the Council to build a Housing Estate on the Site was defeated in 1956. Some of the Buildings were still marked on a Map of 1960 but were subsequently demolished.  After the War further housing development took place in the main group of Inclosures in the South of the Common, provoking local concern, while at the end of the 20thC Houses were built on the Site of the former Sanatorium (closed in 1980).  Despite the rise in House numbers, however, in 2007 much of Kingwood Common retained a remote & secluded character.

The East of the Parish
Considerable Development occurred to the South of Newtown (in Rotherfield Greys), now part of Henley.  The Henley & District War Memorial Hospital opened in 1923 on the corner of Mill Lane and the Henley–Harpsden Road. A little earlier, large Houses were built in Harpsden Heights along Mill Lane and a new parallel road to the South (Rotherfield Road), while Land near the Railway, belonging to George Shorland, was developed with Houses, a Motor Garage & Filling Station. Houses were also built in the early 20thC on former Meadow near the Thames.  Redevelopment followed the Hospital’s closure in 1984, and in the late 20thC some House Plots were subdivided. The former Shorland Properties were absorbed into an extended Newtown Industrial Estate.

The Built Character
Rotherfield Peppard’s
Buildings are similar in character to those of its neighbours.  Although individual Houses vary greatly in size & style, most are of Brick & Clay Tile, with occasional use of Timber-framing, Flint & Slate Tile.  Since the 19thC Thatch has rarely been used to roof either Houses or Outbuildings.  Except for the Parish Church & Blount’s Court, surviving Buildings are all post-Medieval. Some of the Farmhouses (notably Cowfields & Highlands) may have replaced Medieval predecessors, but the present Buildings date from the 16thC and later.  The Rectory House, too, probably occupies its Medieval Site, although it was 1st recorded in 1562 (in a state of dilapidation), and its present exterior is mid 19thC.  A few 16th or 17thC Cottages survive, among them the Old Cottage on Colmore Lane, which was probably built as a Hall House in the early to mid-16thC. The house is Timber-framed with plastered wattle-&-daub infill and a plain tile Roof, and has 2-Bays and 1-Storey with an Attic, with a rear and a side Outshut.  Most of the present housing stock, however, is 18thC and later.

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Old Cottage – Colmore Lane

During the 19thC the number of Houses rose from 75 to only 100 or so, and as several were often uninhabited demand for housing was presumably low.  There was some speculative building before WW1, notably along the Stoke Row to Shiplake Road, where the Builder Charles Butler owned a number of Houses.  However, in 1914 the Parish Council called for more Cottages to be built for local Labourers & Artisans, and in 1919 gave the names of 14 applicants for houses to Henley Rural District Council. That year the Council agreed to build 18 Houses in the Parish, although only 6 were eventually built, along Church Lane in 1928; a further 6 (adjoining the 1st) were built after the WW2. More important was 20thC private development, which was chiefly responsible for the steady increase in the number of dwellings to 633 in 2001.

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