Chinnor Economic & Social History

Chinnor Tithe Map c.1840

The Chinnor area was occupied at an early date, perhaps in the 4thC BC: excavation has shown that there was an Iron-Age Settlement on the Chalk of the Chiltern Ridge at the South end of the Parish.  Traces of later Romano-British occupation, which include a Roman Villa, have been found at the Foot of the Hills on the Icknield Way & at Sprigg’s Alley on the Plateau.  A twin Barrow containing the Weapons of an Anglo-Saxon Warrior found on the Line of the Icknield Way suggests that the Anglo-Saxons may have settled here at least by the 6thC.  They called the Village, which lies at the highest point where Water is to be found below the Chilterns, the ‘slope (ora) of Ceonna’.

By 1086 there were 5 Estates in Chinnor and its Hamlets of Henton & Wainhill, and another at the Village of Sydenham, which was reckoned a Member of Chinnor Manor throughout the Middle Ages, though it eventually became a separate Parish at an early date.  It is possible that Oakley, which is not mentioned in Domesday and was 1st recorded in 1215, was Settled later when the Wood on the lower Slopes of the Chilterns was cleared.  The total Hidage of this Large Estate, excluding the 15-Hides of Sydenham, was 24¾-Hides.  Lewin’s Manor of Chinnor itself was the Largest Estate: it does not appear to have been fully cultivated for although it had Land for 11-Ploughs, only 10-Ploughs were in use.  The Demesne on which there were 2-Ploughs worked by 4 Serfs was small.  Eight Ploughs belonged to 26 Villani & 2 Bordars.  This Estate had risen steeply in value since the Conquest, from £6 to £10,  as a result perhaps of the clearance of Woodland.  After Chinnor, Henton was evidently the largest Settlement.  On one Holding there was Land for 6-Ploughs and only 4 were in use.  Two of these were on the Demesne where 5-Serfs were recorded, 8 Villani & 2 Bordars had the other 2-Ploughs.  The place appears to have been devastated for the Estate, worth £8 before the Conquest, had fallen in value to £2 in 1066.  It has been suggested that the Ravages of the Armies of Harold & the Northern Insurgents were responsible.  The value of the Estate had recovered somewhat by 1086 when it was worth £5.  On the small 1-Hide Estate at Henton, Edward of Salisbury had a Ploughland in Demesne with one Serf & 4 acres of Meadow.  It’s value of 20s remained unchanged.  At Wainhill there were 2 small Estates held by Rainald, one with Land for 1-Plough and the other with Land for 1½-Plough.  They were valued at 10s & 40s. respectively and neither had changed in value since the Confessor’s day.  Rainald had a Plough in Demesne on each and on the larger Estate there were 2 Bordars.  Meadow is recorded at all 3 Villages: 20 acres at Chinnor, 46 at Henton & 7 at Wainhill. Woodland was also recorded and it continued throughout the History of the Parish to be an important part of the Economy.

Towards the end of the 12thCChinnor & Sydenham were forfeited to the King, and entries in the Pipe Rolls throw some light on the Economy of the Manors, which were sometimes treated as one Estate, at the end of the 12thC.  In 1195 to 1196, for instance, out of a Farm of £12-4s-6d it was recorded that £10-10s-6d had been paid into the Treasury and 35s had been paid for stocking the Manor.  Stock included 16-Oxen bought for 64s in the preceding year and 50 sheep & 2 cows.  In 1199 the Sheriff rendered an Account of 58s-1d from the fixed Rents of Chinnor for half a year.  Sydenham Rents amounted to 65s-6d for the same period.  Some years later in 1219 Chinnor was valued at £9 & Sydenham at £11.  Henton & Wainhill were separate Manors and were not included in the valuation, but Oakley, always a part of Chinnor Manor, certainly was.  In the next year, Chinnor & Sydenham were rated at 35½-Carucates for the Carucage Returns, Oakley at 10½, Henton at 8, & Wainhill at 1½.  In valuations of 1237 & 1255 Chinnor & Sydenham together were worth £27 & £30 respectively and in 1264 the Manor was extended at £55-8s-11d.
Carucate is the extent cultivated by one Plough in 1-year and a day (120 acres)

After 1255 the main Chinnor Manor was split up: Sydenham was given to Thame Abbey before 1264 & by 1279 the remainder of Chinnor had been divided into 2, – 2/3rds forming the Ferrers Manor & 1/3rd the Zouche Manor.


The Account in the Hundred Rolls of 1279 gives a clearer picture of the changes which had taken place.  On the Ferrers Manor the Tenant Robert de Musgros had a Carucate (i.e. 80-acres)  of Arable in Demesne, 8-acres of Meadow & 32-acres of Wood & a Warren.  His 18 Villein & 4 Cottar Tenants held 16½-Virgates & 4-acres, but more than half the Land was held by Free Tenants, of which some held Land in Sydenham.  Nine of them with Holdings of from ½ to 6½-Virgates together held 29½-Virgates & 4½-acres of Meadow. The largest Holding of 6½-Virgates held by Littlemore Nunnery was certainly in Sydenham and so probably were those of the Families of Savage, De la Pole, Grimbaud & Bussard, although their Land may well have spread into both Townships. 
One free Tenant, Robert of Oakley, with 5-Virgates, was probably settled at Oakley.

On the Zouche Manor 3 Free Tenants held 6 Virgates between them and a 4th, John Lovel, held 8-Virgates for 1/20th-Knight’s Fee & Suit at Oliver la Zouche’s Court. The Demesne consisted of 3½ Virgates (70 acres), 4 acres of Meadow & 16 acres of Wood and 7-Villein Tenants held 6-Virgates. There were also 3-Cottars with a Cottage & an acre of Land apiece, paying a rent of 11d and performing works.
The Virgate, Yardland, or Yard of Land was a varying English Unit of Land. Primarily a measure of Tax Assessment rather than Area, the Virgate was usually (but not always) reckoned as ​¼-Hide and notionally (but seldom exactly) equal to 30-acres.  It was equivalent to 2 of the Danelaw’s Oxgangs

At Henton, now described as a Vill, 9-Virgaters & 7-half-Virgaters held 12½-Virgates in all and 2 Cottars each held a Cottage & 2 acres with appurtenant Meadow.  The large Demesne consisted of 16 Virgates, 4 of which had once been part of the Chinnor Demesne. There was a Warren, the Gift of Henry III, and a Watermill.  The 7-Free Tenants with 8½-Virgates between them had noticeably small Holdings and were perhaps the descendants of Pioneers who had made Clearings in the Woodland for themselves. Here too a Religious House had benefited from past Piety, for Wallingford Priory received a Rent of 4s from one of the Free Tenants.

The Villein Services on the Chinnor Manors generally consisted of hoeing for 2-days with one man, reaping for 2-days in Autumn with 2 men & ploughing for 3-days.  Two Villeins & the Cottars owed slightly different Services: they hoed, lifted hay, cocked hay & ploughed for a day respectively as well as reaping with 1-man for 2-days. All the Villein Tenants had to Scythe the Lord’s Manor for a common payment of 40d and all had to Cart Hay.  On this last occasion, they were provided with food (jentaculum), on others they had to provide their own. It is of interest that the Services on both Manors were, for the most part, the same.

At Henton, however, which was a member of the Honour of Wallingford, the Villein Services were heavier.  Nine of them had to work on alternate days with 1 man at the Lord’s Will from Midsummer to Lammas (1st August) and from Lammas to Michaelmas (29th September) every day except Saturdays & Sundays with 1 man. They and the ½-Virgaters owed 2 Bedrips at harvest time with 1 man.  They were burdened with a Tax for Brewing Ale and might not marry a daughter without the Lord’s Licence.  The ½-Virgaters besides their Bedrips owed 2 days’ work a week with 1-man at the Lord’s Will during the Hay Season & 3-days’ work a week with 1-man during Harvest. All the Villeins Scythed the Lord’s Meadow for a common payment of 3s.  They provided their own food on all occasions.
Bedrip Work on the Harvest performed by Tenants as part of the Customary Dues to their LordThis was usually for a specified amount of time1 or 2days.

The Hundred Rolls record one Free Tenant, Robert Foliot, compared with the 2-Tenants of Domesday Book and state that there was 1-Carucate of Arable & 5-acres of Meadow in the Demesne of Nicholas de Cotteley but give no further details.  There can be little doubt, however, that at this time a small Hamlet existed at Wainhill.  One Charter of about 1270 describes Land in Wainhill Field (the Manor had its own Field system) as lying West of the Village, and Messuages with Gardens & Orchards are mentioned in other Charters of the late 13th or early 14thC.  There was a Windmill and the substantial House with its Gatehouse of the Romayns who were the leading Family there for some generations.  This Family, originally from Bledlow, appears to have settled in Wainhill after John le Romayn of Bledlow had been Granted Wallingford Priory’s Holding in Wainhill.  He or his son obtained in about 1290 a Plot of Land with a House on it; in 1292 John & Isabel le Romayn bought for 5-Marks a part of the Holding with a Garden of another Free Tenant, Robert Wlfriche of Wainhill, who is not mentioned in the Hundred Rolls, and in the following year they bought his Chief Messuage with a Garden and other appurtenances for £5.  From Henry the Miller they obtained more acres & Houses & 14-acres for 28-Marks from Henry de Schenholte.  A Charter of 1303 shows John le Romayn making an exchange of Land in order to consolidate his Holding in the Open-fields.

It is clear from the Hundred Rolls that the Tenurial structure on all the Manors had increased in complexity by 1279. On the Chinnor Manors, for instance, Nicholas Bussard held of John de Bekeswelle, who held of Robert de Musgros, the Demesne Tenant of the Ferrers Manor. On the Zouche Manor, Ralph Grimbaud held of John de Bekeswelle, who held of the Lord; and 2-Tenants held a Virgate each for rents of ½d & 5s of Peter de la Pole, who held 4-Virgates of John Lovel for a Rent of 6s-8d to the Abbot of Thame & John Lovel held 8-Virgates of the Lord for 1/20th-Knight’s Fee. There was also considerable variation in Rents. Those of the Villeins varied from 5s-8d to 7s-4d a Virgate, while the 7-Cottars at Chinnor each paid 11d for their 1-acre of Land.  At Henton one of the 2-Cottars paid 5s for his 2-acres of Land & 1-Rood of Meadow.  The Rent of the Free Tenants ranged from 8d to as much as 13s-4d a Virgate.

The surviving Medieval Deeds of Henton & Wainhill give other details about Tenure. There are some early Leases for a term of years. A Messuage and a ½-acre, for example, were Leased for 10-yrs for 7s-8d in 1298 and in 1334 there was a 9-yr Lease of a ½-acre in return for its being manured.  Leases for 1, 2, or 3 Lives occur in the early 14thC.  A Lease for Life of 1350 Granted a Messuage, Land, and a Robe or ½-Mark a year in return for the Services of a husband & wife.  Another Lease of interest at this period was made by John le Romayn of Henton: he Leased his Farm for Life to the Rector of Ewelme in return for 40s a year; sufficient & suitable food for himself, his wife & son; for the upkeep of their houses & the payment of Church Dues to Chinnor.  No Medieval Conveyances for the main Properties in Chinnor have survived, but an Oakley Conveyance of 1338 reveals that there was Burgage Tenure at Chinnor.  In it, Burgage Land with a Cottage built on it, lying between 2 other Tenements of which one was John the Tailor’s, was Granted for 2s a year & Suit of Court once a year at Chinnor.  It is tempting to attribute the laying out of Burgages at Chinnor to the influence of the 11thC Gilbert de Breteuil, who held Sydenham, a member of Chinnor Manor.  The only evidence for the stage of development reached by Oakley in the following Century comes from an extent of Elizabeth Ferrers’s Dower Lands made in 1451.  Apart from some Woodland in Chinnor and a few Rents from Tenants in Sydenham & Chinnor her 3rd of the Ferrers Manor in Chinnor consisted of the Rents of 9-Tenants at Will, who held Land in Oakley.  It is probable that she was assigned the whole Township.

The number of recorded Tenants in 1279 was 70, but the Deeds indicate that the Account in the Hundred Rolls is far from complete. There were certainly, for instance, more Tenants at Wainhill than the 16-Recorded.  Further light on the number of inhabitants in the Villages is thrown by a document of about 1300, which lists 36-persons at Henton from whom Wool was collected, and by the early-14thC Tax Lists. The Henton Lists contain 27-different Families of which only 9 can be identified with Families listed on the Hundred Rolls as Members of Henton ManorWilliam Osborn, however, is probably the son of John Osborn, who was Free Tenant of a Virgate held of Chinnor Manor.

The Tax Lists give some indication of the relative Wealth of the Villages & Hamlets and indirectly of their size, although evasion may have distorted the picture. In 1306 there were at least 25-Contributors at Chinnor (the List is incomplete), 19 at Henton, 9 at Oakley, which was by now sufficiently important to have a separate List, & 3 at Wainhill.  In later assessments, for Tenurial reasons, Sydenham, Chinnor, Oakley, & Wainhill were grouped together & Henton was Grouped with Britwell Salome so that little can be learned about the Assessments of the Individual Villages.  The Poll Tax of 1377 provides the 1st information of any value about Population . At Chinnor, which probably included Oakley & Wainhill, there were 122 adults over 14 & 79 at Henton.  These comparatively high figures were in spite of the Economic setback which the Parish was suffering at this time through Pestilence.  It is known that Rents were in arrears in 1378 on Land once held of the Prior of Wallingford by Simon de Chinnor, Herbert of Wainhill & William of Henton.  The Tudor Subsidy of 1525 appears to indicate that Henton was on the decline and that the Population of the Parish was beginning to centre mainly in Chinnor & Oakley.  There were 20-Contributors to the Subsidy of that year at Chinnor, 4 at Oakley & 13 at Henton.  The Elizabethan Subsidy of 1577 reveals clearly the disintegration of the Peasant Community, and the emergence of a few Yeoman Families.  At Chinnor, the members of the Stevens Family paid more than half the Total Tax, and only 10-Farmers in all were Taxed.  At Henton, the Bygge Family also paid nearly half the Tax.


The Parish had 3-different sets of Open-fields in the Middle Ages: Chinnor Field, Henton Field, & Wainhill Field. There is no Medieval evidence for the arrangement of the Fields at Chinnor, but later Field names and a study of the Map suggest that there may have originally been 2 Fields, UpperLower and that a 3rd Field, Littlemore, was created later.  In 1598 the 3-Main Fields were named Upper, Littlemore, & ‘Rainhill‘, but later evidence shows that the part of Rannall Field lying North of the Lower Icknield Way was known as Lower Field.  The small Breach Field, which lay between the Village & the Wainhill Boundary, must date from early times, but its name 1st occurs in 1645.  At Henton there were 3-Fields at least by the early 14thC, West Field, which is frequently mentioned in 13thC Charters, North Field, & Marsh Field; East Field is also mentioned in 1323.  In a Conveyance of 1357 14-acres of Arable were divided more or less equally between these 1st 3-Fields & Henton ‘Hull’.  At Wainhill there is evidence for a 2-Field System in the late 13thC and for its continuance into the 14thC.  The Hamlet had an East & a West Field, and in 1334 Land in Wainhill was described as lying Fallow in alternate years.  Meadowland was valued highly: in 1336 it was worth 2s an acre compared with 6d for Arable.  Indeed there are indications that Meadow was unusually important at Henton.  Of the 77- acres recorded in the Parish in 1086 50 acres were at Henton, and in 1279 the Villeins’ Hay Services were almost as arduous as at Harvest.  In the surviving Charters of the 13th & 14thCs, single Roods of Meadow were normally exchanged and exchanges of larger Parcels were rare before the 15thC.  At least some of the Meadow was distributed by Lot: there was Meadowland called ‘Brodidole‘ at Wainhill; ‘Lotmead‘ & ‘Long Dole‘ in Henton.  At Chinnor, even into the 19thC, Tenants were holding ‘Swarths‘ of Meadow in Littlemore Lot Mead.

Since Domesday, the Woodland on the Chilterns undoubtedly formed an important part of the Economy of the Parish.  In 1086 a Wood (5 x 3 Furlongs) was recorded on the Chinnor Estate & at Henton there was a Coppice (1-Furlong Square); Woodland (48a) was also mentioned in the Survey of 1279, and Medieval valuations of the Ferrers Manor included Underwood & Rent for Wood.  Moreover, names of Woods such as Ash Hanger, occur frequently in the Records.  Scattered references indicate the value set on the Woodland; Andrew le Blount of Kingston in 1241 claimed in the King’s Court 6-Cartloads of wood weekly from a Wood in Chinnor; in about 1254 part of Maud of Chinnor’s Dower was 2-loads of Firewood and in 1407–08 Kingston Manor was Granted 3-Cartloads of wood a week in the Chinnor Wood called ‘Fernor‘, perhaps the later Vernice Wood.  The Inclosure of certain Woods at the end of the 16thC by Sir George Fermor led to a dispute in 1623 with Sir John Dormer, the Fermors’ successor. The Tenants then objected to the Inclosures although according to Sir John the majority of the Tenants had been agreeable at a Court of Survey 30-yrs earlier.

The inhabitants of Chinnor & the neighbouring Village of Kingston Blount had Rights of Common in certain or perhaps in all the Woods.  The local word for this was ‘Hillwork‘. As early as 1388 -Rod of Wood in ‘le hilwerk‘ was Conveyed and a Lease of 1579 includes a Grant of a ‘lode of wood in the Common of hylwarkes when it is felled‘.  In the 18thC the word was still being used both for Common Rights and for the Wood itself: in a Court of 1717 Orders were laid down that no one was to ‘cut or take away any of our Common Wood or Hillwork belonging to Chinnor… except it be for repairing of the Highways of Chinnor‘; in 1740, 1761, & 1817 there were again Orders against ‘cutting Hillwork in our Hillwork‘ during the Spring.  The Rev James Musgrave enjoined his Tenant of Manor Farm in 1777 to remember that ‘the Hillock is Common to all and any person may cut wood therein, but it is chiefly understood to belong to the Poor‘.  He thought it encouraged the Poor not to ‘meddle’ in the other Woods ‘where they have not a Right to set a foot‘.  The safeguarding of his Woods was, in fact, his chief preoccupation in his Leases, and in 1777 the Tenant had to promise to dismiss at once any Farm Manager ‘who shall maim, steal or cut the wood‘.

Although Chinnor Township’s Open-fields remained intact until the 19thC, there was much early Inclosure at Henton & Wainhill, on the Hill and near the Boundaries of the Parish. The earliest evidence for Inclosed Land comes from the 15thC Records of Henton: 3-Closes called Astfeld (Eastfield), Vytle & the Breach are mentioned in 1432, the Grove Closes in 1450, Grove Furlong Close in 1487 & the Great Close called Whyttleys in 1500.  Some of these can be located on the Map (above) as lying East of Henton where the old Inclosures are marked, and it is therefore likely that the whole of this ‘old Inclosed‘ Land may have been already Inclosed by the later 15thC.

The large ‘New Close‘ (now New Close Farm), containing 120 acres of Pasture, was 1st recorded in 1481 when it was sold by Dame Elizabeth Botiller to Thomas Danvers.  Even today New Close Land is Marshy and this large Inclosure on the Northern Boundary of Henton probably denotes the cultivation of the Lord’s Waste.  The Depositions in about 1500 of 2 of the oldest men in Chinnor also point to there having been some other Inclosure at this date.  They said that they knew when the ‘Moor‘ was taken out of the ‘Great Close‘ called ‘Whyttleys‘ and that ‘Contyle Close‘ was also taken out of the ‘Great Close‘.  The Closes on the Western Boundary of Oakley called Menley and listed as Ancient Inclosure in the Award of 1854 may also date from this Period or even earlier.  The Family after which they were named flourished in the 13thC.  How early the Wood on the Northern Slopes and on the Ridge was cleared is not known, but clearance is likely to have been going on at least by the 13thC.  The earliest evidence comes from an Extent of 1451, which states that Thomas Stephens, a Tenant of the Ferrers Manor, had a Toft & Land called ‘Shayllor on the Hill‘ and it may be that the Land around the Hamlet now called Sprigg’s Alley was already cultivated in the 15thC.  References to clearings in the Wood are frequent in the 16thC.  A Lease of 1591, for example, mentions Hilltop, Bald Field, & Waterpit Closes on Chinnor Hill, and in 1600 the 8-Yardlands of Overcourt’s Farm (the former Ferrers Manor) included 3-Parcels of Land ‘above the Hill‘.  17thC Lease’s Record other Arable Closes in the extreme South of the Parish.  Goldsmith’s Close, for instance, was in the neighbourhood of Scrapelor’s Wood, and it may be that the Goldsmith Family were Pioneers in the Settlement of this part.  The Goldsmiths were leading Free Tenants of Henton Manor in the 13th & 14thCs, and in 1451 John Goldsmith was the only Free Tenant in Chinnor assigned to Elizabeth Ferrers as a part of her Widow’s 3rd of the Manor.  By the early 18thC ‘Sprigg’s Ally‘ was noted as a Hamlet by Rawlinson and in the 1770s it had 8 Houses.  The 1st reference so far found to the place occurs in 1704, when it was called Alliver’s Alley, presumably after the Oliver Family which owned several adjoining Closes, which can be located on the Inclosure Map.

Little is known of the Crops grown or the Stock kept in the Middle Ages.  Flax was evidently cultivated since Flaxland is mentioned in a Grant of c.1225 and Beans were grown.  Sheep played an important part in Crop production.  In 1334, for example, a ½-acre in Wainhill Field was Leased for 9-yrs on condition that it was manured with sheep every Fallow year or Ploughed in alternate years when it lay Fallow.  Horses, judging from the Field names, were an important part of the Economy.  Special Pastures for them such as Horse Leys Mead are frequently mentioned in the Charters.

Although the division of one of the Main Fields into Rannal & Lower Field, and the existence of the Breach Field may denote that experiments in rotations were being conducted, it seems that a 3-course rotation was generally practiced until at least the 1770s.  The Lord of the Manor, the Rev James Musgrave, insisted that his Tenants at Manor Farm on Chinnor Hill used ‘the regular course of Husbandry in Chiltern Lands’, i.e. Wheat, Gratten, or Lent Corn, then Fallow, in a 3-year rotation.  They were not to cross-Sow or cross-Plough. By 1791 he was experimenting in rotations, for a Lease of Manor Farm (140a), which included Brown’s, Bennell’s, & Dormer’s Farms in 1799, said that the Tenant should not take 2-Crops of Corn & Grain in successive years without summer Fallowing or planting the same with grass, sainfoin, clover seeds, or turnips.

What little evidence there is for the 17th & 18thCs indicates that Crop yields were heavy.  This was to be expected, as the richness of the Soil, even on the Hill, was frequently commented on: in 1699 a Witness stated that Lands in the Common Fields of Chinnor usually Sold for 25 or 30-yrs’ Purchase, and that good Lands sold for 40-yrs’ Purchase; a few years later Rawlinson commented favourably on the ‘short gravelly‘ nature of the Soil; Richard Davis stated in 1793 that it was ‘deep and good in the Plain‘ and Arthur Young at the end of the Century noted that the great number of Flints found in the Topsoil on the High Land, which to a stranger gave the appearance of miserably poor Land, were in fact found in some of the very best dry Loams.  He described the Land below the Chilterns as exceedingly good & yielding great Crops of Wheat.  What other evidence there is for the 17th & 18thCs supports this account.  The Land was strong enough to grow wheat as its predominant Crop and unusually large quantities of Beans as well as barley, oats & peas.  In 1685 the Rector had a Barn each for wheat, barley, beans, & peas as well as for oats & hay, and in the next Century the Accounts kept by the Rev James Musgrave of his Tithe Receipts for the years 1755 to 1759 also give an idea of the relative amounts of each Crop grown.  The average annual Receipts were 100-qtrs of wheat, 60-qtrs, each of barley & beans, and 15-qtrs each of oats & peas.  Early in the 19thC Arthur Young remarked on the suitability of the Hill slopes for turnips & sainfoin (forage legume), which were much grown.

Although Sheep must have been commonly kept, as in the 19thC, little evidence of this has survived.  It is known that in 1664 one Capital Messuage and an Arable Holding of 148 acres had Common Pasture for 13-beasts & 510-sheep and Courts Baron held in 1740 & 1761 laid down that no one was to Pasture on the Commons more than 25-sheep for each of his Yardlands, or turn out sheep on certain Fields until 4-days after the Harvest had been carried.  Musgrave received between 1756 & 1759 an average of 160-lb of Tithe Wool a year from the leading Farmers.  Richard Davis, writing in 1793, noted that the poorer Soils on the Hill Slopes, consisting of a ‘poor white manon, being a mixture of white earth & chalk‘, were largely used as Sheep Pasture.  Pig-keeping was probably also common practice: Musgrave’s Accounts contain numerous entries for foods for fattening Hogs; the Court Records of this period frequently mention Fines for unringed Hogs on the Common & Lord’s Waste; in 1817 Chinnor men were Presented for erecting 14-Pig-styes there.

The Parish was remarkable in the 18th & early-19thC for its unusually large number of small Farms & Smallholdings, many of them owned by their Occupiers, who were in many cases, Tradesmen. This was perhaps the result in part of the selling off of the land of Bulkeley’s Manor in the late 16th & early 17thC.  When Robert Dormer (d.1689) was Lord of Chinnor, the Tenants were all said to be enfranchised.  In 1817 there were 48-Quit-rents paid to Chinnor Manor, most of them being under a shilling and bringing in a total of only £2-12s-d.  24 40s-Freeholders lived in the Parish in 1754, but many Owners of small Freehold Properties were Absentees.  In 1786 in Chinnor Village itself there were 24 Owner-Occupiers, 13 of them little more than Cottagers and the rest having Land assessed at under £5.  Of the 28 other Landowners only one, the Rector & Squire, James Musgrave, farmed any himself, and the 4-Chief Farmers in Chinnor were Tenant-Farmers.  With the growth of Population small Owner-occupiers increased in number: there were 40 in 1816, but by 1832 they were on the decline.  There were then 38-Landowners Leasing small Properties & only 2 fairly large Tenant Farmers.  An analysis of the 1841 Tithe Award confirms this Picture: there were 38 people owning under 25-acres of Land, and 45 with Cottages, Gardens, & Orchards; and 5 who had 50 to 100-acres. The only substantial Landowners were the Rector, W A Musgrave, with 336 acres of Land & Wood, and Samuel Turner of Grays Inn with 381-acres of Land & Wood.

Inclosure at Chinnor came later. Attempts to Inclose Common Land there had been made early in the Century.  Two persons were presented in 1761 and 12 at the Court Baron in 1817 for Inclosing and all were ordered to throw the Inclosures open.  A Bill was obtained in 1847, but the Award was not made until 1854.  The prime mover in the campaign for Inclosure appears to have been Samuel Turner.  He inherited an Estate in Chinnor in 1830 & before 1854 he had purchased a number of other Holdings in the Parish.  The Award gives the names of 28-persons who had recently sold their Smallholdings of under 30-acres, and all but 7 of them had sold to Turner.  He also bought while the Award was being transacted 3 fair-sized Farms totalling 283-acres. In addition, he had acquired 42 of the 64 Chinnor Cow-Commons and 13 of the 105-Estovers (Right to take Wood). It is of interest that 21-persons with Common Rights, 9 of them Landless, had disposed of their 36-Estovers & 45 Cow-Commons before the Award was made.  Turner appears never to have lived in the Parish and to have acted solely as a Speculator in Land values.  The other Chief Landowner, the Rev William Musgrave, already had 121½-acres of Ancient Inclosure on the Hill North of Sprigg’s Alley and most of the rest of his Estate consisted of 183-acres of Wood.

By the Award Turner was allotted 472 acres, 3 others, Ann & Charles Greenwood and the Rev Edward Arnold, received 90, 60, & 56-acres respectively. Of the 49 other Allottees 28 received between 1-acre & 21-acres each. In all 940 acres including 160 acres of Common were Inclosed.  The Meadow & the Cow-Commons were all Allotted, but the Hill Common and the Green at Henton remained un-inclosed. Common Rights, 105-Estovers, in the Woodland were extinguished and Land was Allotted in compensation.

Inclosure undoubtedly encouraged the amalgamation of Holdings and by 1873 Samuel Turner held 700-acres as well as many Cottages.  But enough small Farmers remained to make the Smallholding a distinctive feature of Chinnor’s Economy as compared with surrounding Villages, even into the 20thC.  In 1890 there were 16-Smallholdings under 5-acres and another 10 under 50-acres in the Parish.  The break-up of the larger Estates brought further changes: in 1925 the largest Farm was 386-acres in Oakley & Chinnor; there were 3 other Farms of 90 to 140-acres, and 18-Small Holdings of 50-acres & under.  In 1939 of 8-Farmers listed in Chinnor & Oakley only 2 had Farms over 150-acres. 

Inclosure made no striking change in the use of the Land. There was a reduction of Waste & Common from 6.1% to 2.4%, but the traditional devotion of the area to the production of corn, sheep, & cattle continued, although the emphasis on Arable Farming, except on Turner’s Farms, was slightly decreased.  Towards the end of the Century, both Arable Farming & sheep breeding began to give way to cattle rearing and the production of Milk.  This trend continued in the 20thC in between the Wars, but after the end of WW2 beef production was encouraged by the Government.

Watercress was cultivated in the Henton & Chinnor Brooks as early as 1897 at least, and this Side Line had been greatly developed in the 20thC.

Lower Road Chinnor

Although the Main Industry of the Parish has always been Farming its comparatively large Population has meant that there were always many Craftsmen.  There is little direct Medieval evidence about them. A Family of prominent Free Tenants in the 13thC was named Goldsmith and may have followed that Craft; the name of an early-13thC Vintner in Henton and those of 2-14thC Tailors have been preserved; there were Millers in the Parish from early times.  In the 17thC a Painter, William Goldfinch, was important enough to have a Trade-Token.  In the 18thC, there is a record of a Tallow-Dealer, a Lace-Merchant, a Mercer, and at the turn of the Century of a Gingerbread-Baker, whose son later set up in London.  Women, as in the neighbouring Bucks Villages, were largely engaged in Lacemaking.  There were 3-Schools in Chinnor where the Craft was taught and by the mid-19thC it had become an organised Home-Industry.  A Lace-Feast was held every Fortnight and was attended by Lacemakers from the adjoining Villages and by Purchasers from different parts of the Country.  The full importance of Chinnor’s Crafts & Industries is 1st revealed by the 1851 Census; it enumerates 101 men engaged in Trade in Chinnor itself as against 141 engaged in Agriculture.  At Oakley occupations were almost equally divided, 19 being employed in Trade & 18 in Agriculture.  At Henton, on the other hand, 57 out of 62 were on the Land. Professional people included a Lawyer & 6 Schoolmasters & Schoolmistresses. There were 24-Blacksmiths, Shoemakers, Cordwainers, Tailors, & Carpenters in the Parish, 8-Carriers, 5-Bricklayers, 4 each of Wheelwrights, Butchers, Bakers, & Grocers, 2-Millers, 2-Saddlers, 2-Straw-Bonnet Makers, a Handweaver, a Basket-Maker, a Plumber, a Painter & a Watchmaker. There were 3 General Dealers as well as a Tea-dealer, a Lace-dealer, a Wood-dealer, a Corn-dealer, a Victualler, a Draper & a Road Contractor.  Apart from Lacemaking, which was mainly a part-time occupation, Chinnor’s most important Craft at this time was Chair-turning: 43-men were engaged in it, and the Craft gave its name to a Public House, the ‘Chairmakers’ Arms‘.


High Wycombe was the centre of the Industry & Chinnor’s Products were taken there by Carrier in the 19thC.  Mass Production, however, and the cost of Transport later ruined the Trade. No Leg-turners were left in Chinnor by 1957.  Besides its Beech Wood, which was the raw material of the Chairmaker, Chinnor had other Products used in Local Industries.  The Fine Straw grown in the Plain attracted the Hatmakers from Luton. Straw-drawers lodged in Chinnor for several days a year to select the best Straw for this purpose; it is recorded that in 1854 they paid £8 to £10 a Ton for it.  Local Wheat & Barley were naturally used by the Millers & Maltsters, but these men have left singularly little record.  In 1828 & later Benjamin Britnell was working the Windmill, which still (1958) exists to the West of the Village; and in 1851 2-Millers were recorded in the Census.  By 1841 there were 5-Publicans & 8-Beer Retailers, but perhaps none of these Brewed.  There were 7-Publicans & 10 Retailers in 1864 and in 1957 there were 7-Publicans.


This large Post Mill was built in 1789. It was reputedly moved from Chatham, Kent. It had a Brick Roundhouse hiding a Six Quarter-bar Trestle. The Mill had Patent Sails, Ladder & Fantail and was grinding Flour until 1923. it remained in working order up to 1938. The Mill was dismantled in 1960 but was bulldozed in 1967 to make way for Housing. It is now being lovingly re-Built on a New Site off Mill Lane .
Original Location of Chinnor Windmill with the Windmill Ringed in Blue and the Steam Mill Building in Orange and Houses in Cherry Tree Road shown in Yellow.

Chinnor Windmill in 1901 with Cloth Sails, and a Winch to turn the Mill (photo courtesy of the Wilkinson Family, the Mill’s last Millers)
Chinnor Mill in 1913 with Patent Sails & Fantail to turn the Mill into the Wind
Chinnor Garage

Chinnor Garage – Lower Road – Alfred Edward Church Proprietor born 10th October 1891, leaning on the left c.1930s – A Castrol Agent & simply a Corrugated Iron Shack.  Alfred later became a member of the Bucks Special Constabulary and held the Rank of Sergeant between 1938-1959.

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