Cuddesdon Parish

Cuddesdon Parish was originally larger than at present. It included the modern Civil Parishes of Wheatley & Denton as well as the Hamlet of Chippinghurst, part of Littleworth, the deserted Hamlet of Old Wheatley, and the detached ‘Manor’ of the Vent. The earliest reliable estimate of the area of the Ancient Parish was made in 1881, after some changes had been made in its Boundaries: it then covered 2,805 acres.  The area of the modern Civil Parish is 970 acres.  By the mid-19thC Chippinghurst, Denton, & Wheatley had become separate Civil Parishes. The part of Littleworth in the Ancient Parish was in Wheatley, while Vent Farm lay in Cuddesdon Civil Parish. In 1878 parts of Cuddesdon (Vent Farm, part of Holton Wood, Pilfrance) were transferred to Holton and other parts to Forest Hill. Wheatley Civil Parish had become an Urban District under the Public Health Act of 1872.  This was dissolved in 1932 and Wheatley became part of Bullingdon Rural District. At the same time 13 acres were added to Wheatley from Chilworth Civil Parish, Chippinghurst Civil Parish was dissolved and became part of Denton, while 14 acres of Denton were transferred to Cuddesdon.

Ancient Parish of Cuddesdon

The Ancient Parish of Cuddesdon stretched from Holton Brook on the North to Chislehampton on the South; it was flanked by the River Thame on the East, from a point just below Wheatley Bridge where there was a Ford in 956, and, in the West, by the Road from Garsington to Coombe Wood corner, a Straete in Saxon times.

The Northern Boundary followed the present London Road, except where the Road has departed from its Old Route. Thus, owing to the Road’s former alignment on the Ford across the River Thame instead of on Wheatley Bridge, the Boundary excluded the Bridge Hotel. Many points named in the Saxon Bounds can still be traced, as for instance ‘Maerwelle‘, a Spring on the Denton-Garsington Boundary, and ‘Ceorla Graf’ (later Chalgrove) the Site of the Medieval Quarries.  In fact, apart from the separation of Wheatley & Denton, and the transference of the Vent, the Bounds of Saxon times are still largely in force.  The modern Boundary between the new Parish of Wheatley & Cuddesdon is formed by the Cuddesdon Brook, which flows through Coombe Wood, and used to cut the Ancient Parish in two.

A Plateau of Portland Oolite (Egg Stone), rising to 422-ft. above sea-level on the Ridge which forms the Horspath Boundary, extends over most of the Parish but slopes down steeply to Wheatley and the River Thame on the North and Chippinghurst on the South. The soil is largely Sand & Loam, with a subsoil of Clay, Gravel & Sand.

At one time the main Oxford to London Road ran through the North of the Parish, traversing the Village of Wheatley; the later Turnpike, made in 1775 and still in use, skirts its Northern limits. Secondary Roads cross the Parish from North to South, connecting Wheatley with Garsington & Denton, and a Branch Road runs from Cuddesdon to Great Milton. The Railway, constructed in 1864, has a Station at Wheatley, after the Wycombe Company’s proposal to build a Line in 1860 had been stopped by the Vicar because it was to by-pass Wheatley.


The Parish was once well Wooded. Timber on the 17thC Wheatley Estate was valued at £1,000 in 1664, and was still considerable in 1787, while Coombe Wood, today some 23 acres in extent, covered a large area. The latter is the remnant of the Abbot of Abingdon’s Wood, reckoned as half a mile broad and 8-furlongs long in 1086.  In the 12thC the Abbot allotted to its Keeper 30s from the Tithes of Cuddesdon, and the customary receipts of the Office brought in a further 20s.  The Woodland is referred to as ‘Cumbe‘ & ‘Cumbergrave‘ in the 13thC, and the Stream flowing through it along the Valley bottom was known as ‘Cume Brok‘, and was a feeder of the River Thame.  Owing to the proximity of the Royal Forest of Shotover, the Abbot proposed in 1267 to Inclose the Wood with Hedge & Ditch so as to exclude the Royal Deer.

Grants of Abingdon Abbey’s Woodland in the early 16thC to Robert Browne (Goldsmith), Christopher Edmondes & William Wenlowe included 30 acres of Cuddesdon ‘Combe‘, which was probably Inclosed by this time, for there is mention of a Gate in 1593.  In 1638 the Lord of the Manor made 60 acres of the Wood into a Warren, and by 1667 it was Inclosed by a Wall.  The 17thC Gamekeeper’s cottage is still Tenanted, and Magdalen College is the present Owner of Coombe Wood, having bought it from Lord Macclesfield.

In the Civil War, Troops, 1st Parliamentarian (1644), and then Royalist (1646) were Billeted in the Parish.  Cuddesdon Bridge & Wheatley Bridge, both just outside the Bounds, were important strategic points and were carefully Guarded.

Bishops Palace

Cuddesdon itself, on account of the Bishop’s Palace (see below) has had some interesting historical associations. It was visited by Charlotte M Yonge (Novelist),  and many other distinguished people were entertained by the Bishops, notably by Wilberforce, Paget & Gore.  The historian Freeman was a frequent Visitor in the time of Bishop Stubbs.

As Cuddesdon & its Hamlets have followed very diverse lines of development, their History will in the main be treated as separate Units. Sections on Roman Catholicism, Protestant Nonconformity, Schools & Charities, which cover the whole of the Ancient Parish, are followed here by separate sections on the Topography, Manors, Economic & Social History & Churches (where appropriate) of Cuddesdon, Denton & ChippinghurstWheatley & Littleworth, and on Coombe (a lost Village), and the Vent.

Roman Catholicism did not survive long in the Ancient Parish of Cuddesdon, though members of the Archdale Family were returned as recusants in 1577.  In 1607 Maria Horseman and in 1608 Frances Webb were Fined for non-attendance at Church. In 1624 there were 3 recusants; Elizabeth Horseman lived in the Parish (1603–30) and acquired notoriety at her death.  In 1676 there was one Papist, in 1738 two, in 1759 four, and in 1768 there were two aged ones described as ‘quiet & inoffensive’. In 1771 the only Papist was a poor Gardener.

Protestant Nonconformity – A Protestant dissenters’ meeting-place at Wheatley, apparently Congregationalist, was registered in 1796.  The Mission work of the Rev James Hinton, who Preached at Wheatley from 1797 to 1802, laid the Foundations of Congregationalism there, though Hinton himself was a Baptist. He was followed by John Thomas Smith, a Congregationalist, who from about 1836 Preached to attentive audiences from Wheatley and the surrounding Villages. He found the greater number of his listeners ‘deplorably ignorant of divine things’ and their moral & spiritual condition ‘truly lamentable’. In 1841 the Oxford & West Berkshire Congregational Association established a Mission; in the following year a Chapel was built for £335 and from 1843 was organised as an offshoot of George Street Church in Oxford. In 1884 the Congregationalists complained of competition from the Salvation Army and the Wesleyans (see below), but in 1891 they had Sunday attendances of 150 and attendances of 50 at what were probably Night Classes. In 1909 a Sunday School was also opened. William Faith was an outstanding Minister. After the turn of the Century the congregations averaged only 50, but in 1906 the numbers were reported to be increasing. In 1927 the Chapel, which had been restored in 1877 at a cost of £106, was again renovated for £317. In 1929 electric light was installed.

During the 19thC the Wesleyans established themselves at Cuddesdon (once visited by Wesley himself), and built a Chapel there in 1887. In 1953 it was pulled down as there were insufficient numbers. A Wesleyan Mission Room was opened at Wheatley in 1884, but closed in the following year.

The Plymouth Brethren acquired Granary Hall (Church Road, Wheatley) in 1928.

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The Granary Church

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Granary, now Church. Mid 18thC. Coursed limestone rubble with Ashlar Dressings & flush banding; Welsh Slate Roof. Gable-fronted Plan. Front has central Entrance with Stone flat Arch & Keyblock, & 2-light Casement in Gable with segmental Head. Both Gables have Stone Parapets & Ornamental Kneelers. Side Walls have 2-tiers of 2-light leaded Casements, the lower with segmental Heads. There is a Stone eaves Cove and, at Basement Level, semi-circular Brick Arches with Stone Keyblocks, formerly Open.
Interior: – not inspected.
The Building is reputed to have been a Grain Store in the time of Oliver Cromwell and the Civil War (1642-1651). The 1st Official Documents that are known to exist date only from 11th January 1882 when the building which was then Owned by John Rogers was conveyed to Joseph William Rose & John George Rose. It later passed to other members of the Rose Family. One Document states that the building was erected on a piece of ground being part of a Garden formerly belonging to The George Inn (now The George Gallery). The earliest known reference to The George Inn is in a document which is owned by Mr Young of The George Gallery which states that a Landlord of The George Inn died in the bedroom above the Kitchen in 1577. It is therefore presumed that The Granary is at least 350-yrs-old.

Schools – There were 2 Private Schools in Cuddesdon in 1818, with 40 pupils each, half of whom were taught at the expense of the incumbent, but the Poor were reported to have insufficient facilities for Education.  One of these Schools survived in 1833 when 16 boys and 40 girls attended, the fee being 3d each a week, but half this sum was paid by the Bishop of Oxford.  In 1841 a Site for a National School was obtained and the School was opened in 1847. It consisted of 3 Classrooms, where in 1853 a Master & Mistress taught about 100 pupils. Some 30 infants were then taught by Miss Rebecca Allen in a Cottage in Church Road. Later the infants too were taught in the National School, which accounts for the high attendance figure of 111 in 1904.  But in 1906 the average attendance was given as 59.  The School was, until 1951, a voluntary Church of England School, but then became a Primary School under the Local Education Authority. It is known as Cuddesdon Junior & Infant School.

Greater provision was made for Wheatley. In 1724 the Parish had a Charity School for 12 children, which was probably in Wheatley; in 1759 the Bishop was paying a Schoolmaster to teach 6 children reading & writing at a rate of 12s a year each, but this was a voluntary arrangement and there was no other endowed School.  But in 1791 other arrangements had been made, as the Churchwardens then paid Joseph Calloway £4-2s-2d ‘for Schooling’, and the Overseers are found paying the expenses in 1813.  Dr Moss, Bishop of Oxford, bequeathed £3,000 in 1811, the bulk of which was to be used to Found, but not to Endow, Schools at Wheatley & Cuddesdon on the Bell plan, which were to be supported by the National Society. A school at Wheatley was accordingly opened in 1819 and was held by Trustees under the general control of the Bishop. Alterations & extensions provided accommodation for 95 boys & 55 girls and a House for the Master & Mistress. The Endowment produced an income of £45, and the difference between this and the running costs of the School (estimated at £100 in 1819) was met partly by Private subscriptions and partly by Payment by parents . Writing, Arithmetic & Needlework (for the girls), were taught.  In 1833 it had average attendances of 64 boys & 33 girls  which had risen by 1866 to 90 boys & 95 girls, with a staff of 3 Masters & 4 Monitors.  Children then came to the School from Cuddesdon, Denton & Holton, though the Vicar complained that respectable children tended to go to Cuddesdon.  The old Site was sold and a new Site conveyed to the Trustees in 1857.  By 1906 attendance had fallen to 131.  An Infants’ School was Founded in 1841 by the Misses Tyndale of Holton; it was managed by the Trustees of the National School and in 1853 had an attendance of 30, which had doubled by 1906.  Today these Schools survive as the Wheatley Church of England Mixed, and Wheatley Church of England Infants’ School. In 1833 there were 3 other small Paying Schools in Wheatley. In 1854 a small Parish Library was opened.  The Congregationalists had opened a Night School about 1836, and by 1892 their Working-men’s Classes had an attendance of 80. A new Congregational School with accommodation for 50 pupils was completed in 1898 at a cost of £600.

A County Modern Senior School was opened in 1950 with an average attendance of 255 in 1953.

In 1640 John Child of London gave to the poor of Cuddesdon Parish not in receipt of relief £4 a year secured on a House. The Rent charge continued to be regularly paid by the Owner of the Property and was distributed in small sums soon after Lady Day. In 1734 Francis Saunders of Denton bequeathed a rent charge of £3 a year to be laid out in clothing for 4 Poor persons of Denton on Easter Monday. The money, less Land Tax, was paid each year until 1812 when the Owner of the Land out of which the rent issued refused Payment. The Charity Commissioners found that the Estate was in the hands of a Mortgagee, and threatened a Suit in Chancery, but the Charity appears to have lapsed.

Abraham Archdale saved one Wheatley Charity from the rapacity of John Gadbury & Endowed another with £100 in 1631.  In the 17thC the interest on this was allowed to accumulate and by 1686 Pollin’s Meadow in Wheatley had been purchased, and was added to Land already held for the use of the Poor. In 1630 Thomas Westbrooke of Horspath left £15 to Wheatley Poor, and in 1686 15s. was paid annually from a House in Horspath. In 1824 it was collected every 4 or 5 years and paid out in bread for the Poor. A Close called Simon’s Close, held by Sir Sebastian Smythe in 1686, was then charged with £5 a year, which was allotted to the Poor in equal portions at Christmas & Easter.

In 1688 Elizabeth Curson of Waterperry gave £100, the interest on which was to be used for Apprenticing or Schooling Poor Children in Wheatley. In 1692 orders were given to invest this in Land, but nothing appears to have been done until in 1773 the Bequest, together with £100 given by Mr Sims of Wheatley, was used to purchase Land, which in 1824 produced £15 a year. All the Wheatley Charities were at this date merged, and in the early 19thC were mainly used to supplement the Poor-rate, thus defeating the intentions of the Donors.

In 1816 Dr Cyril Jackson gave £100, which was invested and produced £5 a year in 1824, which was expended in clothing for the Poor.

The Westbrooke, Town Meadow & Simon’s Close Charities are now regulated by a Scheme of 1863, and the others by one of 1887. The Town Meadow Property was Leased every 3-yrs by Candle Auction. There is, in addition, the Wheatley Common Allotment Charity which is regulated by a Scheme of 1879.  All the money from these Charities is now distributed at Christmas to about 70 old people.

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