Until the 20thC inhabitants of Rotherfield Peppard depended largely on Agriculture, and numerous Farms were dispersed throughout the Parish’s Settlements & Fields. From the Middle Ages,a variety of Rural Trades & Crafts were practised, and in the 19thC there was a significant Paper Manufactory & Flour Mill by the Thames. Some long-standing Businesses were established at that time, notably the Butler Family’s Building Firm, while in the 20thC some specialised employment in Medicine & Technology was created at Peppard Chest Hospital & Blount’s Court. The Parish’s sub-Post-Offices closed in the late 20thC but in 2007 a few Shops and several Business Parks continued.
The Agricultural Landscape
Peppard’s Landscape was similar to that of Rotherfield Greys, and its inhabitants had access to a similar range of Agricultural resources. Domesday Book suggests that the mixed Countryside & mixed Farming of later periods was well established by the 11thC in 1086 Miles Crispin’s 5-Hide Manor had Land for 7-Ploughteams, 9 acres of Meadow, & Woodland ½-League long and 3-Furlongs broad.
Fields, Crofts & Arable – In the Middle Ages there were presumably irregular Open-fields in Rotherfield Peppard as in other parts of the South-west Chilterns, but little is known of their location or extent. Occasional references to Tenants’ Yardlands between the 14th & 17thCs suggest that some Land was Farmed in common, and in the 1660s several Copyholders on the Stonor Estate held Yardlands of 40 acres. The same sources also reveal numerous Crofts inclosed by Hedges, while there is no mention of the Bylaws & Field Orders typical of Open-field Farming. As early as 1279 Tenants’ Land at Wyfold (on the Peppard–Checkendon Boundary) was mostly described in terms of Crofts & Groves. Most likely the Parish was largely inclosed by the end of the 16thC and in the 1620s the Stonors’ Demesne was divided among numerous Closes. A Landscape of hedged inclosures was also depicted in the 18thC. Arable Land was almost certainly scattered throughout the Parish from an early date. The Tenants at Wyfold presumably grew grain in their Crofts in the late 13thC, while in the 1660s Arable was recorded near Kingwood Common as well as in the Centre & East of the Parish. That pattern persisted in 1840 when more than 2/3rds of the available Land was Ploughed.
Woodland, Commons, Parks & Pasture – From the Middle Ages Woodland dominated the North-western parts of the Parish. In 1263 an Agreement between the Monks of Thame and the Lords of Rotherfield Peppard & Harpsden allowed common grazing in 300 acres of Wood extending from Coldmoor Wood on the North-eastern side of Kingwood Common across the Boundary into Checkendon. The extent of tree cover must have varied over time according to levels of grazing, the management of coppices for Timber & Underwood, and demand for Arable. Numerous inclosures were carved out of the Wood, including that which Francis Gouldar ‘turned into Arable by grubbing up bushes, ferns, briers, hazel stubs & such like from the Waste’ in about 1590. In the 1670s Tenants’ right to cut wood for household use in Kingwood was limited to 2-Loads each, while in the 1770s unlicensed Cottages & Inclosures encroached on the Common. In the late 18thC Kingwood appears to have been an open area of heath & grass, and remained so until the 2nd half of the 20thC when a decline of grazing allowed Woodland to regenerate. Further East, smaller patches of Woodland were Mapped in the 18th & 19thCs, again varying in extent over time, but such that in 1840 most of the large Landowners held at least some Wood. During the 20thC individual Woods were grubbed up, but across the Parish as a whole,the area of Woodland increased.
Ralph Pipard was Granted Free Warren at Rotherfield in 1284 and held an Inclosed Park on his death in 1303. Probably it lay on the South-eastern side of Peppard Common, where later sources recorded Arable Closes called ‘Great Park‘ & ‘Little Park‘, and wood called ‘Park Wood‘ (in all about 60 acres). The Park appears to have been maintained throughout the 14th & 15thCs. In 1355 the Park-keeper was given 10s. by the Black Prince, presumably, after a successful hunting expedition, while Tenants whose animals trespassed in the Park were brought before the Manorial Court in the 1360s. Labourers were hired in 1406/7 to repair the Park’s Boundaries. In 1517 Thomas Stonor enlarged the Park by inclosing 38 acres formerly occupied by Tenants; this may have been Land surrounding the house at Blount’s Court, of which 32 acres was called Parkland in 1840. In the 17thC part of the original Park was converted to Arable, and the process evidently continued, so that only about 14 acres. of ‘Park Wood‘ (later called Spring Wood) survived in 1840.
Private Pasture held by the Lord of the Manor was broken into in 1351, and Arable Closes must regularly have been put down to grass to replenish the Soil, as on the Blount’s Court Estate in the 19thC. Such Closes may have been used to supplement the extensive but poor-quality Common grazing available in the Woods & Commons in the West of the Parish. An Agreement in 1211 between Walter Pipard and Thame Abbey allowed the tenants of Rotherfield to Pasture their animals and collect wood for fuel & repairs over a wide area around Wyfold Grange, rights which were reinforced in 1263 when pannage was recorded. Both Lord & Tenants were concerned to protect the Manor’s Common Pasture from Outsiders, as in 1456 when a Caversham man was fined for pasturing sheep in the Parish.
The right of Common grazing on Peppard Common (54 acres in 1840) and Kingwood Common (140 acres) persisted into the 20thC. In 1906 occupiers of Cottages in the Parish were entitled to take undergrowth & scrub for fuel & litter, and to graze up to 50 cattle, sheep & donkeys. When the Commons were registered in 1965 no-one came forward to claim Common rights, although some inhabitants continued to graze cattle & gather wood.
Meadows – Lack of water meant that Meadow in Rotherfield Peppard was largely confined to the narrow Thames frontage in the extreme East of the Parish. Only 9 acres belonged to the Manor in 1086 and 4 acres ‘that can be mowed’ in 1303. In the early 15thC a watercourse was mended ‘from the Lord’s Ditch to the Lord’s Meadow’, but this was not necessarily privately inclosed. In the same period, the Lord regularly leased 6 acres ‘lying in the Common Meadow’, together with 1 acre called Shabbydacre which belonged to the Mill. Some Medieval Tenants held small pieces of Meadow, such as Robert Wheeler who occupied a House, ½-Yardland, and a ½ acre of Meadow in 1457. In 1465 a Miller was fined for allowing his horses to graze in the Lord’s Meadow. Three Closes of Meadow called Peppard Mead, Mill Mead & Mill Close, were recorded in 1840, divided into 9 pieces and amounting to about 11 acres. The area was probably larger in the Middle Ages before part of the River-bank was built on, and in the 20thC the whole of the former Meadow was developed for housing.
Medieval Agriculture – Medieval Demesne Farming
Two Hides (around 240 acres) of Land were in Demesne in 1086, worked by 2 slaves with 2 Ploughteams. By 1303 & 1338 the Demesne was only 60 acres., perhaps reflecting the Pipards’ & Butlers’ non-residence and their lengthy absences in Ireland. The Land may have been directly managed c.1300 when Tenant labour-services were available to reap & carry crops, but by 1338 these had been commuted, and by the end of the Century the Demesne was Leased. In 1398/9 John White paid 3s-4d for the ‘Buildings & Close of the Manor of Rotherfield‘, while others Leased Arable Fields, the Park, Meadows, Mill & Fishery. However, Tenants’ Rents were collected by a Reeve and delivered to the Manorial Lords, William Faukener & John Drayton, who retained control over the Manor’s Woodland & Court, and were responsible for the maintenance of some Manorial Buildings. Their successors, Thomas Stonor, father & son, appear to have followed the same policy in the late 15thC, Leasing the Land but collecting the Rents.
Although the Pipards and their successors almost certainly practised mixed farming, little is known about their Demesne management. A low valuation of 2d an acre in 1303 & 3d in 1338 suggests that the Arable was not farmed intensively and may not have been kept in good heart. Presumably, any surpluses were sold at Henley, which was also the most likely destination for the Manor’s Woodland produce – the Woodland was not Leased in the Middle Ages, suggesting that it was regarded as a valuable resource. Pannage (money for grazing pigs in Woodland in autumn) was regularly collected in the 14thC. Trespassers in the Manor’s Woods were prosecuted, as when 4 young Oaks were felled without Licence in 1366. Other trees felled included Beech & Ash. In the early 15thC various Woodland products were sold or used on the Manor, including Timber for repair of the Mill, loppings, talwood (which may have been shipped to London for use as fuel) & charcoal. The demand for Wood tempted a Manorial tenant to fell Oaks and cart them to Henley, for which he was fined in the Manor Court in 1461.
Medieval Tenants & Farming – In 1086 there was Land for 7 Ploughs, although only 5 Ploughteams were recorded: 2 on the Demesne and 3 shared by 15 Tenants (10 villani & 5 bordars). Nevertheless, the Estate’s value had increased from £7 in 1066 to £10 in 1086. There was apparently little growth in the number of Customary Tenants during the 12th & 13thCs: their annual Rents were worth only £2-7s-10d in 1303, while those of the Cottars amounted to £1-4d. By contrast, Free Tenants paid a total of £17-2s-1d, their appearance perhaps indicating that Settlement in the Parish was spread by the Inclosure & Cultivation of Common Land.
In 1341 it was claimed that all but 3 Carucates (about 360 acres) lay uncultivated on account of the poverty of the Parishioners, which may be reflected in the low Tax Assessment of 1334 and a decline in Free Tenants’ Rents in 1338. Probably that was a result of the early 14thC Agrarian Crises, which also affected other parts of the Chilterns. In the 1350s & 1360s, both Customary & Free Tenants occupied a variety of Holdings: Cottages & Crofts & Land measured in acres & yardlands, some for life, others at the Lord’s will or for a term of years. In the aftermath of the Black Death, some Holdings remained vacant, and a few buildings fell into ruin, but a number of Tenants also took the opportunity to accumulate Land. In 1358, for example, John de Alveton held at least 5 formerly separate Holdings, amounting to 4¼_Yardlands.
The number of Tenants may have continued to fall during the 15thC. In 1470 only 19 Tenants paid Rents compared with more than 30 in 1401. Rents were also reduced, indicating a falling demand for Land, as allowances to the Reeve in the early 15thC make clear. At Courts in the 1450s & 1460s, Tenants were frequently chastised for not repairing ruined buildings, among them Joan Taylor, whose walls & plasterwork needed attention, while in another house the Timber & Roof were decayed. Although some Holdings lay vacant, and individual buildings were destroyed, Free & Customary Tenants continued to hold Land of the Manor, and there is little to suggest that the pattern of Settlement was radically altered. Tenant agriculture probably resembled the mixed farming of the Lords. In the mid-14thC Tenants grew grain, including dredge & probably barley (which they brewed into ale). Neighbours’ animals sometimes strayed into their Crops, amongst them horses, oxen, cattle, sheep & pigs, of which some Tenants held large numbers: in 1364 both John Chapman & John Cowherd were fined for allowing flocks of 160 sheep to graze illegally. A few Tenants may have supplemented their diet by poaching, especially rabbits in the Lord’s Warren.
The names of many Tenant Holdings were recorded in 1401, though most individual Farms cannot be identified. A probable exception is Hellelane, an early spelling of Highlands, a Farm in the East of the Parish. Similarly, Lands called Coufold in 1369 almost certainly formed part of the later Cowfields Farm.
Farming From 1500 to 1800 – Estate Management
Apart from their enlargement of the Deer Park in 1517, little is known about the Stonors’ management of the Manor in the 16thC. Presumably, the Estate was Leased as in the early 17thC, when the Family employed a Bailiff, John Benwell, to oversee the Leasing of the Demesne (then about 300 acres) and to manage the Woods. A Survey of the 1660s records the Lease of 322 acres of Demesne, 68 acres of Leasehold Land & 234 acres. of Copyhold Land, although 331 acres of Woodland was kept in hand. All those Lands extended into the neighbouring Parishes of Harpsden & Shiplake; within Peppard itself, the Demesne extended as far East as Gillotts but was concentrated in the South of the Parish near Blount’s Court. The Demesne brought in over £109 a year in Rents, but the Leasehold & Copyhold Lands less than £10, despite a valuation of £142.
The Survey was made shortly after the Stonors recovered control over the Manor in 1660, following an 8-year Lease forced upon them by the Cromwellian Government’s demand for Recusancy Fines; possibly it was made in preparation for a subsequent Lease. In 1662 the Lessees held an estimated 250 acres of Arable, 30 acres of Meadow, 30 acres of Pasture, 200 acres of Wood & 100 acres of Furze & heath, together with houses, cottages, gardens, orchards, a dovecot & 3-Watermills. In the 1670s Thomas Stonor began to improve the soil around Blount’s Court by applying Marl (Clay & Lime); in the 1680s, however, most of the Estate in Peppard was sold, so that in 1725 the Stonors’ Land was confined to the area between Peppard Lane & Kingwood Common. At that time most of the Land was Leased to John Clark, although the Woodland was still in hand. An Account Records the cost of felling different types of Wood in the Parish, including ‘Town Billet’, ‘Water Wood’, ‘Stackwood”, and Bavins, most of which was probably intended for sale as fuel.
Tenant Farming – The mixed farming practices of the later Middle Ages continued throughout the period 1500-1800, the chief crops being barley & wheat, with some rye, oats, mixed grains & legumes. Livestock included horses, oxen, cattle, sheep, pigs & poultry. Stores of grain, cheese,& bacon were frequently kept, in some households alongside other meat such as beef, together with malt & hops for brewing, honey & fruit. There is little evidence of specialisation for the Market, but some Farmers evidently engaged in Trade: for example, the Yeoman Griffin Jemott (d.1676) held £80-worth of cash & grain at Henley.
As well as the implements of husbandry, many (but apparently not all) Farmers owned tools for felling & working wood. John Benwell (d.1635) kept Bills & Axes, which he no doubt used in 6 acres of wood purchased in Rotherfield Greys in 1631, while William Blackall (d.1694) Bequeathed to his wife the right to fell, cut & take firewood for her own use for life. BothFfamilies retained Woodland in the 18thC (mostly in Peppard), of which some was intended for sale: thus Robert Blackall (d.1745) specified that his wife could cut & sell Wood worth £10 a year in 3 named Coppices. Many households must have owned gardens & orchards, valued both as a source of produce & pleasure, although they are not well documented. Walter Clark (d.1675) left his wife a ‘garden plot against the Hall window next to the Lane and so down to the Pond’s side with the fruit growing on it’, while John Blackall (d.1670) left apples growing worth £2-10s.
When the Stonor Estate was surveyed in the 1660s, the Demesne was Leased to 6 different Tenants in Parcels ranging from 20 acres to 92 acres, for terms of 7 or 21-yrs, and at Rents of between 5s-10d & 10s an acre. Eight other Leaseholders held a total of 68 acres, on terms of 99-yrs determinable upon lives, for low Annual Rents amounting to £2 19s-4d, while 11 Copyholders (4 of whom were also Demesne Lessees or Leaseholders) held a total of 234 acres, mostly for 3 lives, for Rents amounting to £6-8s-8d a year.
By this time a number of the Parish’s Farms can be identified. Henry Round held Gillotts, in the East of Parish, while the Copyholder John Clark occupied Land belonging to Colmore Farm (near Kingwood Common). The Farms of Cowfields (Cuffalls) and Highlands (Hellons), both Stonor Properties, were mentioned in a list of Dues collected by Eldridge Jackson (Rector 1673–97), alongside other holdings which cannot be located. Throughout this period, most Farms in the Parish were Leased, either from the Stonors or their successors. Only occasionally were Farms Owner-occupied: Highlands, for instance, was bought in 1684 by Robert Hanson, who died as a Yeoman of the Parish in 1711. Even the eponymous Farms owned by the Sadgrove & Slater Families were Leased to Tenants in the late 18thC.
Cowfields Farmhouse – Late 17thC, with 18thC, and early-20thC additions. Timber-framed with Brick infill and some render to centre, Brick to left & right. Plain Tile Roof, Brick Stacks. 2-Storeys with Attic to left. 5-window Range. Queen-post cross-Gable to left, 2 mullioned & transomed windows to Ground Floor. 3-light Casement to 1st-Floor. Casement window to Attic. 2-Storey angled C20 bay under Gabled King-post Roof. Casement window to 1st-Floor, C20 panelled & studded Door with flanking windows. Two Queen-post cross-Gables to right. One of 2-window Range with casements to all openings except 1st-Floor right, projecting wooden Oriel under lean-to Roof. Right cross-Gable with single window to Ground Floor.
Interior: not inspected.
Insets- Cowfields Farm from the north, with (right) a Conjectural Reconstruction of its original Form, with a central Open Hall & cross-Wings. Successive remodellings reflect the prosperity of the House’s Yeoman occupants.
A number of families lived in the Parish for several Generations, among them the Benwells, who occupied Cowfields Farm from the late 16thC to the early 19th. William Benwell (d.1669) was assessed on 5 Hearths in 1662 (one of the highest assessments in the Parish) and Leased Land from the Stonors; in the 18thC the Farm covered 226 a, including Wood in Kingwood and Meadow in Peppard Mead, and was held on 11-yr Leases at £116 a year. The Farmhouse’s irregular 4-Bay North Front reflects successive rebuildings by the Family and their successors, most of whom appear to have been prosperous. Part of the original open Hall survives in the central Bays, although limited smoke-blackening suggests that a Ceiling, at Collar-beam height, was probably inserted in the 17thC. At about the same time the end Bays were replaced by 2 Timber-framed & Brick Wings, of 2-Storeys, with a Cellar & Attic on the Eastern side. The infill of the Timber-framed central Bays, originally of wattle & daub, has been partly replaced by Bricks with added Timber Studs. In other places, too, the fabric has been repaired, including the 4-Gabled South Front, which was extended in the 20thC. The house lies on the South-eastern side of a large square Courtyard bounded by substantial Outbuildings, including a 6-Bay Barn of 18th to 20thC date.
Alice Clark of Kingwood (d.1561), who left Bequests of grain & livestock and owned a harrow, is the earliest known member of a Family who probably lived at Colmore Farm until the mid-18thC. The descendants of Griffin Jemott (d.1676) occupied Peppard Farm until the 1780s, while the Sadgrove Family owned Sadgrove Farm from the late 17th to the early-19thC. At Sadgrove the surviving 18thC House forms a long, narrow Range of 5-Bays and 1½-Storeys; originally Timber-framed, it was later rebuilt in Red Brick with blue burnt Headers & Stretchers.
By the end of the 18thC the Parish contained 8-Farms: from East to West, Gillotts (40 a.), Highlands (140 a.), Cowfields (226 a.), Blount’s Court (318 a. in Peppard, Harpsden, & Shiplake), Slater’s (75 a.), Peppard (205 a.), Sadgrove (34 a.) & Colmore (104 a.). In addition, Kingwood Farm (in Shiplake) and Wyfold (in Checkendon) held Land in the South-west of the Parish, while Harpsden Court Farm & Sheephouse Farm (both in Harpsden) held Land in the far East. There were also a number of Smallholdings.
Farming in the 19th & 20thCs – Land Use
When Mapped in 1840 the Parish’s Farms were relatively compact. Some (such as Cowfields Farm) were confined to the Parish, while others included Land in neighbouring places. All were predominantly Arable: more than 1,500 a. were ploughed in 1840, about 70% of the available Land. Permanent Pasture (including the Commons) amounted to little more than 300 a. (15%), and Woodland occupied 275 a. (13%). As at Greys, the chief crops in the late 19th & early-20thC were wheat, barley, oats, & root crops (especially turnips & swedes).
The tide of Arable Farming turned in Rotherfield Peppard at the onset of Agricultural Depression in the 1870s. By 1879 the Arable acreage fell to 1,364 a. (about 62% of the Parish), while that of grass & wood increased. Thereafter, as in other parts of the Oxfordshire Chilterns, livestock (especially dairy) farming increased at the expense of Arable husbandry. As at Greys, cherry orchards flourished, especially around Kingwood Common. Three Fruiterers were recorded in 1851 & 1871, while in 1881 Peter Butler was listed as a Fruit Farmer. The changes were particularly noticeable on those Farms bought by George Shorland in the late 19th and early 20thCs from the Blount’s Court & Mackenzie Estates. When offered for Auction in 1927, Cowfields Farm included 95 a. of Arable, 108 a. of Grass, and 11 a. of Wood, compared with more than 220 a. of Arable in 1840. In 1938 the Arable acreage was even smaller at 58 a., and there was 145 a. of grass. Shorland’s Rectory Farm (71 a., made up of former Glebe & Land belonging to Blount’s Court Farm) was wholly under grass, and included pigsties, a cowshed & a stable.
In the West of the Parish, Park Farm included 46 a. of Pasture in Peppard in the 1930s, which in 1840 had been Arable. The Tenants were Pig Farmers engaged in breeding & fattening, and the Buildings included a Danish-type Pig House. Much of the Pasture was ‘badly rootled’ by pigs, and although by 1940 some Land had been Ploughed to meet Wartime demands, a Government Inspector thought it would require ample manuring to produce successful crops. During WW2, the amount of Arable in the Parish undoubtedly increased. Rectory Farm, for example, was described as practically all Arable in the early 1940s, though it suffered from lack of attention at vital periods. Most Farms at this time were mixed, although the emphasis remained on dairying, poultry & pigs, and some Farmers lacked experience of growing crops. At Colmore Farm, which sold milk for retail, the Farmers had little knowledge of Arable management and no Arable equipment, though a few acres were under wheat, oats & other crops. By contrast, at Highlands Farm, where the buildings and 12 a. were occupied by a Poultry Farm in the 1930s, other Land (about 58 a.) was Ploughed and the crops were described as looking remarkably well.
Mixed farming continued in Peppard in the 2nd half of the 20thC. At Cowfields Farm (250 a.), purchased by R S Green in 1956, livestock included cattle, sheep & poultry, while the Arable produced oats, wheat & barley. In 1964 Wyfold Grange (254 a. in Peppard & Checkendon) was a highly productive mixed Farm, used mainly for barley growing & cattle rearing, and well known for its pedigree herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle. In 1970 5-Farms were recorded in the Parish; the principal crop was barley & livestock still included dairy cattle, pigs, poultry & sheep. Thereafter both Arable & Livestock Farming declined, although an Organic Farm near Littlebottom Wood was established in the late 20thC.
Landlords & Tenants
Until the break-up of the large Landed Estates in the early 20thC most Farms in the Parish continued as Leasehold, either on yearly Tenancies or for longer terms not exceeding 21-yrs. For example, Blount’s Court Farm (318 a.) was leased to Thomas Stevens in 1837 for 21 yrs at an annual Rent of £465. Rents fell during the Agricultural Depression, which may have encouraged Landlords to sell. Thus Peppard Farm (314 a. in Peppard & Harpsden) was Leased by K R Mackenzie to Charles Butler for a term of 3-yrs in 1904 at the ‘inadequate’ Rent of £104-10s a year. Not all Rents were so low, however: on the Fleming Estate, sold in 1913, Colmore Farm (75 a.) & Sadgrove Farm (111 a.) were held on yearly Tenancy Agreements for annual Rents of £66-10s & £82-14s respectively.
The Sale of Estates had a number of effects on Farming in the Parish, including the (re)appearance of Owner-occupiers, changes in the size, shape & number of Farms, and the separation of Farm Buildings from the Land. The increase in Owner-occupation began before WW1. Colmore Farm & Sadgrove Farm were purchased in 1913 by their respective Tenants, Thomas Pollock & George Ford, whose Families still farmed them in the 1930s. Other Owner-occupiers included H W Hooper, who farmed part of the former Mackenzie Estate at Highlands (58 a.) & Gillotts (27 a.) & George Shorland, who purchased former Glebe & Land belonging to Blount’s Court and Sheephouse Farms. Nevertheless,some large Landowners remained, including Lord Knollys, Owner of the Blount’s Court Estate & Mrs Pipe Wolferstan, who in the 1940s sold Peppard Farm (150 a.) to the Tenant, Harold Long.
The Boundaries of the Farms Mapped in 1840 changed over time as a result of Sales and the decisions of Landlords. Even Farms which retained roughly the same acreage experienced Boundary changes, such as Cowfields, which gained Land on the East from Highlands Farm and lost it on the West to Crosslanes, to create the more compact holding Sold in 1938. The Farmhouse at Blount’s Court, sold by the Knollys Family to the Crowsley Park Estate with 103 a. in Harpsden & Shiplake, was wholly divorced from its Land in Peppard, part of which was taken into George Shorland’s newly-created Rectory Farm; the remainder (after its Sale to Shorland) was Farmed from Kidmore. The smallest of the late 18thC Farms were amalgamated with their neighbours early on, Highlands Farm & Gillotts, for instance, being combined under Daniel Piercy in 1802.
The creation of larger Farms, and changing Farming Practices, meant that some Farm Buildings & Residences were no longer required and were detached from the Land. Before 1851 the House at Gillotts was transformed into a desirable Residence by W D Mackenzie, with extensive Landscape Gardens, and later became a School. Slater’s Farm (75 a. in 1881) was broken up in the early 20thC and the House became a Private Residence. Buildings at Highlands Farm were separated from the Land when it became a Poultry Farm after WW1, and in the early 21stC, the Site was occupied by a Business Park. Colmore Farm ceased to be a working Farm after WW2. Despite the trend towards larger Farms, some Smallholdings survived into the mid-20thC, although many were in a poor state in the 1930s. City Farm, for example, was the rather grand name for 3 a. held by Jesse Butler at Kingwood Common, on which he grew cherries and kept 5 cattle and 28 poultry in the early 1940s.
Rural Trades & Industry
The usual Trades & Crafts were practised in Rotherfield Peppard from the Middle Ages, often alongside Agriculture. Tenants with surnames such as Carpenter, Cooper, Smith, Tailor, Tanner, Turner & Wheeler were presented before the Manorial Court in the 14th & 15thCs. In 1295/6 6-Brewers were fined for breaking the Assize, while in 1405/6 a Carpenter was paid for repairing the Mill. Blacksmiths were recorded in the Parish from the 16th to the 20thC, including the Perrins and later the Pigdens of Crosslanes, who built the surviving House. The Burgess Family of Kingwood were Wheelwrights in the 18th & 19thCs. William Crutchfield (d.1758) was a Cordwainer, and about the same time, Edward Sadgrove was a Cooper.
In 1811-31, 18 or 19 families (about 20% of the total) were employed in Trade, Manufactures or Handicraft, and in the later 19th & 20thCs a wide range of Trades & Crafts were recorded, most notably those concerned with the preparation & sale of food & clothes, and others which involved working with Wood, Stone & Brick. Women worked as Dressmakers & Seamstresses and in various other capacities, while Travellers living in Tents on Kingwood Common included a Basket-maker. A considerable number of Bodgers, who made chair legs & spars and later tent pegs, lived in nearby Settlements in the late 19th & early-20thCs, including Stoke Row, Highmoor, & Witheridge Hill. Surprisingly, none are known in Peppard, perhaps because the Owners of the Parish’s Woods did not permit them to practise their Trade there. Certainly,some Landowners held Sporting Rights and employed Gamekeepers to protect their Woods.
Small Chalk & Gravel Pits were dug throughout the Parish, mostly by local Farmers for improving the Soil and for mending Roads. From the early 20thC, more commercialised Gravel extraction also took place, including at Littlebottom Wood, Highlands Farm, & in the far East of the Parish.
Milling & Paper Manufacture – A Mill worth 20s in 1086 stood presumably on the Site of its late Medieval successor on the Thames. In 1289 it belonged to Ralph Pipard and was used for grinding grain; called Marsh (Mersche), it lay opposite a Mill on the other side of the Thames in Remenham. The 2-Mills shared a Weir called Marsh Lock, where a Winch hauled Boats travelling upstream from London through the Flashlock. In about 1395 William Drayton (presumably a relation of the Lord of the Manor John Drayton) was alleged to have neglected to carry out repairs at the Mill, then called Meadow Mill (Meedmelle), with the result that ‘the said Lock is now stopped up with sand, gravel & the increase of the water, and the Winch altogether taken away so that Boats & Shouts cannot be drawn or navigated there’. The complaint produced the desired effect: in 1405/6 Timber & Iron were bought to repair the Winch. The Carpenter employed to carry out the work, Robert White, leased the Mill & Fishery from Faukener & Drayton, and thereafter the Lock at Rotherfield Peppard was passed without difficulty.
In 1462 Robert West Leased the Watermill from Richard Drayton for a Term of 10-yrs at a Rent of £2 a year and agreed to build anew 2-Mills, the Weir, Waterworks, and Bridge, and to repair the Millhouse. The Mill belonged to Francis Stonor in 1585, but little is known about its management until the late 17thC when it was held by Bartholomew Quelch (d.1679), whose goods included 20-meal sacks. By that time the Mill was known as New Mill, and after expansion as New Mills: in 1705 the Stonors held 5-Water Corn Mills there. Thomas Quelch (d.1716) succeeded to the Family Milling Business, but his sons pursued different careers, and Thomas Harris (d.1751) took over the Lease.
In 1786 4-Water Corn Mills occupied by Messrs Westbrook & Whiting were destroyed in an arson attack, and when rebuilt shortly afterwards were replaced by a Flour & Paper Mill. Those were burnt down 10-yrs later but evidently replaced, and in 1798 the Timber-built & Tiled Mills were acquired by John Elsee, a Paper Manufacturer & Miller. Charles Elsee (d.1855) took over the Business c.1820, and in 1841 sold the Mills to William Thomas Knollys.
Paper & Flour were manufactured at New Mills throughout the 19thC, employing 30–40 people in 1840. In 1861 the Paper Manufacturer James Allen employed 11 men and 4 boys, including several Paper-makers & Engineers who lived in nearby tied Cottages. The 2-Mills straddled a single Millrace, one lying on the River-bank, the other on a small Island in the Thames. C H Smith & Sons were still Paper-makers there in 1903, but the buildings were ruinous in 1915, and by 1925 both Mills had been demolished.
A Horse Mill was recorded in 1432, when the Miller charged excessive Tolls; in 1470 it was held of the Stonors for 6d Rent. That or another Horse Mill was among properties in Peppard, Mongewell & Lewknor disputed between Thomas Stonor & William Lendall in 1532.
Shops – No references to Shops in Peppard survive until the 19thC, although presumably goods were sold from Houses & Workshops or by itinerant Salesmen, such as the Cheesemonger William Warner (d.1680). From the 18thC Local Publicans also acted as Victuallers, and a Shopkeeper was recorded in 1847. After 1860 there were at least 2 Shops: a Baker’s near Peppard Common, and a Grocer’s near Kingwood Common. In the early 20thC their role as General Stores may have been assumed by the 2 sub-Post offices. However, as at Grey’s, most inhabitants probably travelled to Reading or Henley for the bulk of their Shopping.
A Commercial Garage, later called Hillcrest Motors, was established by Albert Butler about 1920 along Blount’s Court Road and remained open in 2007. A similar Business on Reading Road was part of the Shorland Estate sold in 1938. In the 19thC the Butler Family also established a Building Firm in the Parish, whose former Yard was developed for housing in the early 21stC. In 2007 Business Parks were located at Newtown (in Henley), Highlands Farm & Peppard Lane.
Medicine & Technology – Local innovations in Medical Care were largely due to Dr Esther Colebrook (1870–1957), who began a General Practice in the area, and in 1902 founded a Sanatorium (later the Peppard Chest Hospital) for the open-air treatment of Tuberculosis. The Hospital expanded rapidly in the early 20thC, becoming part of the NHS in 1948. It employed a considerable number of Medical and other Staff before closing in 1980.
Technological breakthroughs in the Parish followed the conversion of Blount’s Court into Laboratories in 1960, by its new Owners, American Machine Foundry Ltd. In 1964 Brooke Bond Tea Ltd bought the Premises, and in 1975 the Site was acquired by Johnson Matthey & Co, the Owners in 2007. The Firm developed the Catalytic System to control Car Exhaust Emissions and later worked on Platinum anti-Cancer Drugs.