“Brightwell” is derived from the Old English for “Bright Spring“. “Baldwin” is the name of a Family that held the Manor added in the 14thC when Baldwin de Bereford became Lord of the Manor. The earliest known record of Brightwell Baldwin is a Saxon Charter of AD854 in the Cartularium Saxonicum that records the toponym as Beorhtawille or Brihtanwylle. Almost a Century later a Saxon Charter of AD945 records it as Byrhtanwellan. The Domesday Book of 1086 records it as Bretewelle.
Brightwell Baldwin Parish c.1880
Located on a Spring-line at the Foot of the Chiltern Hills, the small rural Parish of Brightwell Baldwin contains Brightwell Baldwin Village and the outlying Hamlet of Upperton. A Medieval Settlement at Cadwell shrank to a single Farm during the later Middle Ages. For much of its history, the Parish had Resident Lords who, with the Rector, dominated its Social & Religious life, and it remains predominantly Agricultural, with little modern development.
The present-day Parish covers 1,612acres (652Ha), the same as in 1881. Its Boundaries derive in part from those of an Estate described in 887; that appears, however, to have excluded both and the modern Parish may not have finally emerged until after the Norman Conquest. Roads form significant stretches of its Eastern, Southern & Western Boundaries, whilst the Northern Boundary follows Chalgrove Brook and (from Cadwell Ford) an ancient Hedgerow North of Cadwell Farm. The outlines of former Arable Furlongs, visible in the Eastern Boundary with Cuxham & Britwell Salome, suggest that those stretches post-date the creation of the Open-fields, and a Boundary Stone beside the Brightwell-Cuxham Road was mentioned in 1797, perhaps replacing a Medieval Cross. The 9thC Boundary-markers East Leah (‘East wood-pasture’) & Strœtforda (‘Street Ford’) referred probably to present-day Ashley’s Wood & Cadwell Ford, while detached Meadow belonging to the 9thC Estate lay near the Strœtforda. Detached Woodland at Scylfhrycg (‘Shelf Ridge’) may have been in Nettlebed, where some Woods were said in 1565 to have belonged to Brightwell Baldwin ‘time out of mind’.
The Parish is characterised by gently undulating Countryside with no dramatic contrasts. Land rises from 75M in the North to 140M in the South-East Corner, with much of the Parish lying between 80 & 110M. A Hillock West of Brightwell Baldwin Village is probably that called Cadandune (‘Cada’s Hill’) in 887, when the adjacent dry Valley called Hollandtide Bottom was known as Holandene (‘Hollow Valley‘).
Two of the Parish’s Medieval Settlements developed close to Springs, recalled in the Anglo-Saxon placenames Brightwell (‘Bright or Clear Spring’) and Cadwell (‘Cada’s Spring’). The Brightwell Spring feeds a Stream flowing Northwards to Chalgrove Brook through 2 Fishponds, which are perhaps of 13thC origin and served later as ornamental features in the Manor House Parkland. Cadwell’s Spring fed a Medieval Moat, and empties directly into Chalgrove Brook. Surface water is absent on the higher ground South & West of Upperton.
The Parish’s varied soils include poorly-drained Alluvium & Gault Clay along the Streams in the North (traditionally supporting Meadow & Pasture), and Upper Greensand around Cadwell & Brightwell Park (providing a fertile loam used for Arable & Pasture). Elsewhere, Lower Chalk with superficial deposits of Sand & Gravel provided well-drained soils chiefly used for Arable. Gravels West of Upperton were being Quarried by 1802 if not earlier, and before Inclosure the Sandy Soils around Brightwell Grove in the South-East were covered with scrubby Heathland & Woods, of which Ashley’s Wood is probably a remnant. Stands of trees are also found near Brightwell Park, where some form of Parkland may have existed in the Medieval Period. Formal Gardens laid out there in the 17thC were swept away in the early 19thC, when the Park was redesigned in the English Landscape Style.
Brightwell House was now the Seat of H Reeves, Esq. An Ancient Priory stood here and a Nunnery of St Clare was set up for some time by French Nuns who fled from the 1st Revolution.
The Main Road through Brightwell Baldwin Village may have formed part of the Lower Icknield Way, a Romanised Prehistoric Trackway which probably entered the Parish at Hollandtide Bottom in the West and Exited at Cuxham Cross in the East, continuing through Cuxham. Cadwell (or Cow) Lane, branching off it close to Brightwell Park, formerly connected Brightwell Baldwin with Cadwell & Chalgrove to the North, and may have also been in use in the Roman Period, since the point where it crossed Chalgrove Brook (known by 1588 as Cadwell Ford) was in 887 called Strœtforda or ‘Street Ford’. Rumbold’s Lane along the Western Parish Boundary (named probably from a 17thC Parishioner) was called a Fildena Weg or ‘Fielden Way’ in 887, while Turners Green Lane in the East (heading South to Britwell Prior) was similarly named in 995, both Routes probably linking the Clay Vale with the Chiltern Uplands. Grove Lane, on the Southern Border with Ewelme, forms part of a Road from Benson to Watlington. Lanes leading North, South-West, & South-East from Upperton are presumably of Medieval or earlier Origin and formed part of a dense Network of Paths rationalised at Inclosure in 1802.
Brightwell Baldwin lacked its own Carrier and had no Public Transport until the late 20thC when a weekly Wallingford Bus Service was established. The Post was delivered through Tetsworth by 1854 & c.1899 the Estate Foreman Joseph Selwood and his wife opened a Village Post Office. By 1911 it was a Telegraph Office, and from the 1920s it included a Grocers Shop, but after changing location several times it Closed in 1985.
OS Map 1919 Sth Oxon XLVII.9 (Brightwell Baldwin; Cuxham)
The recorded Population in 1086 (none of it in Cadwell) comprised 20-Tenants and 2 Servi, perhaps 100 people in all. By 1279 Cadwell had 7-Tenant Households besides its resident Lord, while Brightwell’s Manors & Freehold Estates had c.80 named Tenants, of whom at least 70 were probably Resident. Between 1306 & 1327 the Population may have declined, since the number of Taxpayers fell from 29 to 23 in Brightwell and from 6 to 4 in Cadwell, followed presumably by Mortality during the Black Death. Even so the Poll Tax of 1377 was paid by 104 people in Brightwell, and by 13 in Cadwell. 16thC Tax Records give little indication of the Parish’s Population, but 37 Households were assessed for a Parish Rate in 1587, and 32 for Hearth Tax in 1662. In 1676 the adult Population was estimated at 207, and in 1738 there were said to be around 25 families, although 51 households were reported in 1768. Numbers rose from 237 in 52 households in 1801 to 332 in 1831, falling gradually to 220 (in 58 Households) over the next 50 years. A brief recovery before 1891 was followed by a further decline, the population fluctuating in the 100s until it rose to 199 (in 80 households) in 2001, and to 208 in 2011.
Little evidence of Prehistoric occupation is known, save for a Palaeolithic Flint Hand-axe found at Upperton. Roman Activity is suggested by Antiquarian finds of a Glass Cremation Jar & Pottery Urn at Bushy Leaze East of Cadwell, Tiles between Berrick Salome & Brightwell, and a Pot containing c.1,500 Coins in an Open-field in Brightwell. No Structural evidence has been found, however, and it is unclear whether 11 Coins of late 2nd to late 4thC date recovered at Cadwell Farm are casual losses or indicate Roman Settlement.
Early (5th to 6thC) Anglo-Saxon Burials have been found just beyond the Parish’s South-west corner, close to the 9thC Boundary Marker ‘Ceolwulf ‘s Tree‘, and it seems likely that in the early or middle Anglo-Saxon Period small Communities were established near the Springs from which Brightwell & Cadwell are named. ‘Hyde’ place-names East of Brightwell Park may indicate a lost pre-Conquest Farmstead, and by 1086 Brightwell contained 2 separate Estates, a division perhaps perpetuated in the later Settlements of Brightwell Baldwin & Upperton. The latter was apparently called Upper Brightwell (Brihtewella Superior) c.1150, and the alternative name of Overton is recorded from 1232. Brightwell Baldwin itself was sometimes known as ‘East Brightwell‘, distinguishing it from Brightwell Nr Wallingford, while the affix ‘Baldwin recalls its Ownership by Sir Baldwin Bereford (c.1356–1405).
The Settlement remains concentrated on the 3 Medieval Sites of Brightwell Baldwin, Upperton, & Cadwell, save for Establishment of an outlying House & Farm at Brightwell Grove following Inclosure in the early 19thC Brightwell Baldwin is now a Linear Village on the Southern edge of Brightwell Park, its houses arranged in 2 semi-regular rows North & South of the Village Street. The North Row contains the Medieval Church and the Site, relocated to the Streets Southside in 1804. Brightwell Baldwin Manor House (Established by 1300) stood within the modern Parkland, which may be of Medieval Origin, and a Manor House for the separate Parks Manor was probably also in the Village. Two Lodges serving Brightwell Park were Built after 1802, and some Buildings were demolished in the following decades, including Houses immediately East & West of the Church. In 1891 the Estate gave materials from 2 old Cottages to be used in building the Parish Room. New Estate Cottages erected in the late 19th & 20thCs included a Brick semi-detached pair opposite the Church (by 1900), and 2 Bungalows on Cadwell Lane (by 1955). A small 16thC Farmstead on the Road towards Upperton may have succeeded a Medieval one owned by the Blome Family, but was probably removed by William Lowndes Stone c.1820.
Upperton itself, c.750M South of Brightwell Baldwin developed probably as a loose cluster of houses near the junction of Lanes leading South to the Grove and South-Eastwards to Britwell Salome. An early Focus may have been Uppertown Farm, which formerly had a large Farmyard and which probably occupies a Medieval Site. A 15thC Cottage survives to its North-East, and others date from the 17th & 18thCs. In 1801 the Lord William Lowndes Stone built a Terrace of 6-Brick Cottages for his Tenants, and further expansion followed before 1900 when additional Estate Cottages were erected. A house owned by the Church was built in 1908 & in the 1920s 3 semi-detached pairs of Council Houses were erected beside the Road to Brightwell Baldwin. In the later 20thC the number of dwellings in Upperton increased substantially, as new Bungalows were built and Barns belonging to Uppertown Farm were converted for habitation. Electricity was brought to both places in 1947, and Mains Water in 1952. At Cadwell a small planned Village developed probably in the 12th or 13thC, its Earthworks still clearly visible East of Cadwell Farm in the 1940s, but subsequently Ploughed out. Their outline suggests one or perhaps 2 rows of Tofts & Crofts, with a larger, apparently Moated Enclosure at the East end, almost certainly the Site of the Medieval Cadwell Manor House. Tax records show that the Settlement was still occupied in the late 14thC, but probably it shrank to a single Farmstead by the 16thC, when Property there was subject to a series of Lease’s. The surviving Cadwell Farmhouse dates mainly from the 1st half of the 18thC, with Barns added over the following decades.
The Built Character
For a Parish with only 86 dwellings in 2011, Brightwell Baldwins older Buildings display a surprisingly varied range of materials. Limestone Ashlar features in the Medieval Church, and at Brightwell Park and its associated Cedar Lodge. Several Red-Brick Cottages survive from the late 19th & early 20thCs, whilst most older Farmhouses & Cottages employ a mixture of Brick & locally-sourced Flint, Chalk (Totternhoe Stone), & Limestone rubble (Coral Rag). The oldest vernacular Buildings are Timber-framed, and several were originally Thatched before Roofs of locally-made Clay Peg-tiles became popular in the 18th & 19thCs. Welsh-Slate Roofs survive on the ‘polite’ Classical Buildings of Brightwell Park, its 2-Lodges, the Old Rectory & Brightwell Grove, of which the last 2 have symmetrical Stuccoed Façades.
Michael Burghers – Map Of Oxfordshire 1677
Beautifully embellished Map of the County of Oxfordshire engraved by Michael Burghers for Robert Plot’s “The Natural History of Oxfordshire” published in 1677, a work that contained descriptions and images of Fossils found in the County including the 1st known illustration of a Dinosaur bone. The defining characteristic of the Map is the extensive decoration of the Borders & Cartouches with 178 Coats of Arms of the Colleges of Oxford University, Noblemen & Clergy. Also included is a Key explaining the Symbols used to identify various types of Locations on the Map.
The only known Medieval domestic building is Ivy Cottage in Upperton, a Cruck-framed and originally 4-Bay Open-hall House of the 15thC. Timber-framing may have been employed in the Medieval Brightwell Baldwin Manor House, which, on the basis of excavated evidence, had a Tiled Roof & Chalk rubble walls or Dwarf Walls. In the 16th or 17thC the remodelled Manor House may have had a Brick & Stone Façade, perhaps not dissimilar to the surviving Dovecot, which has Mullioned windows and a round-arched Doorway, both with decorative Hoodmoulds. A building of similar date is Glebe Farm, a square-framed House of 3-Bays with a Thatched Roof and Herringbone Brick infill.
Buildings with 17thC phases include Rectory Cottages (a former Farmhouse with a Beam dated 1652), Uppertown Farm, the Lord Nelson Pub & Shepherds Cottage, a 3-Bay House which (with Glebe Farm) is one of only 2 remaining Thatched dwellings. All are Timber-framed, with the possible exception of The Lord Nelson, which was remodelled in the early 18thC to form a U-plan. Its decorative wooden Arcade reputedly re-uses Timbers from the Manor House burnt down in 1788. Cadwell Farmhouse may have been of similar size & plan to Shepherds Cottage in 1669, when it included a Hall, Kitchen, & Milk House, each with Chambers above. The present Farmhouse, of 3-Bays with walls of Limestone & Brick, dates primarily from the early-18thC, although it may have been rebuilt around an earlier core, perhaps including the Central Chimneystack. Its Range of 3-Barns (which employ cranked inner Principals) was probably added towards 1800. Uppertown & Brightwell Farms were also rebuilt in the 18thC, each being provided with new Barns & other Outbuildings, and some Cottages were renovated or constructed anew, including the Old Forge. The major building project of the late 18thC was Brightwell Park, where the new House was completed c.1790.
Farmhouse, now House. c.1820-30, remodelled c.1980 by David Hicks.
Stuccoed Front: rest of coursed Chalk rubble with Brick Quoins & Dressings; Gabled Welsh Slate Roof; Brick Ridge & end Stacks. Double-depth Plan. 2-Storeys & Attic; symmetrical 3-window Range. Wide-span Gabled Roof with deep eaves encloses one-bay projections with broken Pediments in outer Bays. 20thC Door with trellised Porch in left Bay. 2-light Casements in outer Bays: central decorative lunette over tripartite Sashes & Verandah of c.1980. 2-Storey Range to left of similar materials with 2-window Front of blind Gothic windows.
Interior: 19th & 20thC doors. Room to rear contains fine Murals by Rex Whistler, 1937, of Grisaille on a blue ground with silver enrichments: originally a room painted for Lady Mountbatten, at Brook House in London, it was removed to Brightwell House and thence Brightwell Grove by David Hicks & Lady Pamela (nee Mountbatten) Hicks.
The 1st decade of the 19thC saw the erection of ‘polite’ houses at the Old Rectory & Brightwell Grove. A rear Wing of Chequered Brick was added to Brightwell Farm in 1824, and the Castellated and ‘Gothic‘ Keeper’s Cottage near Ashley’s Wood may be of similar date: clearly, it was designed as an eye-catcher to be viewed from Brightwell Grove. Another ‘Gothic‘ building is the Stable & Coach House added to the rear of Glebe Farm, probably by the Rector Samuel White (1801–41). Most late 19thC buildings (including the former School and various Estate Cottages) are entirely Brick-built, and several, display decorative Diaper work, perhaps suggesting a single Architect or Builder. The 20thC Council Houses & Bungalows are unremarkable. David Hicks spent the last years of his life at The Grove, Brightwell Baldwin, where he created a Garden.
Brightwell Baldwin pursued the Arable-based mixed farming typical of the Vale. Its Open-fields were Inclosed in 1802, and thereafter the proportion of Arable increased yet further, as the former Heath (used primarily for sheep grazing) was converted to Tillage. Dairying was practised in the North of the Parish, where Streamside Meadows provided Hay, and Watercress was grown from c.1860, in Beds fed with Spring Water. By 1850 there were 6-Farms, all (except the Rector’s Glebe Farm) belonging to the Brightwell Estate. The Parish also supported a typical range of Rural Crafts & Trades including a long-lived Forge, while Gravel was dug near Upperton.
Mills, Trades & Retailing
In 1086 the future Parks Manor included a Watermill worth 2d annually Possibly it stood on the Stream running North from Brightwell Baldwin Village, where Geoffrey Langley obtained permission from the Abbot of Dorchester to build a Watermill in 1248. Presumably, that was the ‘new Mill‘ for which Langley’s son Geoffrey owed Rent in 1279, but no further record of a Mill has been found, and probably Brightwell’s corn was ground at neighbouring Sites such as Cuxham’s Cutt Mill.
A few Tenants Brewed Beer in 1279, while occupational surnames included Tailor, Smith, & Potter (crok). Walter Smith was a Blacksmith, occupying a Holding on Huscarls Manor by Service of shoeing the front hooves of 2 Draught animals & repairing the Lord’s Plough. Later Family members evidently continued the Trade, & John Smith held ‘le Smythous‘ (presumably a Smithy) in 1371–2, besides acquiring Holdings elsewhere. A Brightwell Butcher bought 3 Cows & a Heifer in 1309–10.
By the 16th & 17thCs the Smith Family worked as Wheelwrights and several Carpenters were recorded, of whom one helped repair the Kings Mill at Ewelme in 1548. Another in 1660 left Beech & Ash Poles worth £1-4s., an Oak Pole & Hop Poles worth 17s, and a Parcel of Brush Faggots valued at £1. A Tailor died c.1582, and a Mason & Shoemaker were named in 1661. The Blacksmith Henry Newell died c.1681 leaving moveables worth £142, including £33-worth of ‘iron, coals, tools, & nails‘ in his Shop, and £61 ‘due upon the Shop Book’. The Family continued as Smiths until the 1840s, perhaps at the Old Forge on the Village Street, which dates from the mid to late 18thC. In 1731 a Brightwell man was Licensed to practise Surgery, and 2 Dealers were Fined in 1757 for forestalling the Oxford Market. A Pub (probably the later Lord Nelson) was Licensed by 1753.
Lord Nelson Inn. 17thC, remodelled early 18thC. Colourwashed coursed Limestone rubble with Limestone Ashlar Quoins & Bands; Gabled old Tile Roof; Brick Ridge Stacks. U-plan. 2-Storeys; symmetrical 5-window Range of Gabled projecting Wings flanking 3-Bay centre. Central 20thC Door set in garlanded pulvinated Architrave, flanked by 3-light Casements set in acanthus-leaf Architraves: 20thC 1st-Floor windows, except blocked round-Arched window to Right. The right Wing has 20thC window over 2-light Casements set in similar Architrave; left Wing has 2-light over 3-light Casements set in similar Architraves: moulded decorative wood Cornices under eaves of Front Gables.
Interior: chamfered & stopped Beams, open Fireplaces. 1st-Floor not inspected but likely to be of interest.
In 1831 only 15 out of 95 adult males in Brightwell were employed in Retail & Crafts, the rest working mostly in Agriculture. Commercial premises in 1833 comprised 2-Public Houses, 2-Grocers Shops, a Forge, and a Bakery: of those, one of the Grocers Shops was in Upperton, which later acquired a Boot & Shoemaker. Members of the Goode & Coles Families worked as Thatchers in the 1840s, while the Forge passed to William Huggins, a Master Blacksmith who employed 1 Man & 2 Apprentices in 1851, & in 1854 also worked as a Grocer. Both the Forge & Upperton’s Grocers Shop continued into the early 20thC, the former closing in the 1930s, and the latter moving to the former Lord Nelson Pub in Brightwell after 1905. By 1924 the Shop also housed the Post Office, and in the 1950s both moved to a Cottage on the Village Street, before closing in 1985. The Lord Nelson reopened as a Pub in 1971.
A Gravel Pit mentioned in 1635 was perhaps West of Upperton, where a Pit was being worked in 1802. Some of the Parish’s Poor were set to work there in 1835, and a Man was killed in the Pit in 1886. In the 1850s and still in 1942 the Owner of the Brightwell Estate ran it directly, and in the latter year (when it covered 2a) it was said to contain a large quantity of Gravel suitable for Road & Path-dressing. By 1960 it was disused, but Commercial Extraction recommenced from 1968 until the mid-1970s, when the Site was used for Landfill.
Manor Courts & Officers
Courts were held for Cadwell, Parks, & Huscarls Manors by 1279 when the Lord of Cadwell and one of his Free Tenants also owed Suit at the Hundred Court. The newly established Brightwell Baldwin Manor may have had a separate Court from c.1300, but no evidence survives. By the late 16thC the combined Brightwell Manor probably had a single Court, while Cadwell’s Tenants may have attended the Court at Ewelme, with which Cadwell was then administered. Nevertheless, Cadwell continued to be regarded as a separate Manor, and a tradition survived c.1720 that Courts had formerly been held in Cadwell Farmhouse. Stewards of the Brightwell Manor Court are recorded from the mid 17thC, and its Field Customs were rehearsed in 1647 & again in 1722, when a Bailiff maintained a Pound. At a Joint Session of the Court Baron & Court Leet in 1756 2 Tenants were appointed Drivers of the Commons and 3 were charged with overseeing the Furze. Courts were still occasionally held by William Lowndes Stone, Lord from 1789–1830: one in 1789 oversaw the creation of a new furze allotment for the Poor, and the 1797 & 1830 Courts included Boundary Perambulations. No Courts appear to have met after 1830.
The Hundreds Leet Jurisdiction belonged by 1300 to the Honour of Wallingford, at whose annual Views Cadwell & Brightwell made fixed payments of 15s & 25s-6d. By the early 15thC Tithingmen from Cadwell, ‘Parks Fee’, and ‘Berefords Fee’ attended the Honours Ewelme View, whilst Brightwell & Upperton (‘Overton’) were represented at its Chalgrove View. The pattern continued until the Views lapsed in 1847, Parish Constables in the 18thC regularly paying the Tithingmen’s Expenses.
Parish Government & Officers
By 1530 the Parish had 2 Churchwardens, who by 1587 raised a Rate for Communion Bread. Accounts survive from 1628 when their Income came from Rates & from Rents of Church Land & Houses. Expenditure primarily concerned Church Fabric and Furnishings but included periodic payments for repairing Church Houses, Ringing Bells, controlling Vermin, and distributing charitable gifts to Vagrants. Constables‘ Accounts begin in 1728 when 2 were appointed each year by the Vestry. Besides maintaining Law & Order they drew up Militia Lists, collected Taxes & Rates, mended Gates & Field Boundaries, and (until 1840) repaired Highways. Two Overseers of the Poor were also appointed annually by 1761 (when they levied a Poor Rate), and presumably much earlier; Accounts survive only for 1832–48, however, and became much less detailed after 1835 when the Parish joined Henley Poor Law Union. A Guardian of the Poor assisted with Poor Relief from 1847. Responsibility for Highway Repair was transferred in 1840 from the Constables to 2 Surveyors of Highways, replaced in 1864 by a single Waywarden. The Parish Clerk received £4 a year in 1852.
In 1894 Brightwell Baldwin became part of Henley Rural District, the Vestry’s Civil Powers being transferred to a Parish Meeting which met in the Parish Hall. One of its 1st Actions was to Petition the Postmaster General for a Post Office. The Vestry continued to administer Church Affairs, becoming a Parochial Church Council in the 20thC, and by 1895 it appointed a Sexton. The Civil Parish was transferred to Bullingdon Rural District in 1932 and to the new South Oxfordshire District in 1974.