The Bishop of Lincoln’s Great Estate of Dorchester, assessed at 90 hides in Domesday Book, represented a part of the Ancient Endowments of the See of Dorchester which had been transferred to Lincoln. Of this Domesday Estate, 59 hides and 3 virgates were the Bishop’s Demesne, the remainder was held by under-Tenants. The Bishop’s Demesne and the sub-infeudated parts of the Estate were almost as extensive as Dorchester Hundred and included as well land at Baldon and Little Milton which was outside the Hundred.
In the 2nd Quarter of the 13thC, the Demesne Manor included lands in Baldon, Burcot, Chislehampton, & Drayton as well as in Dorchester. In 1329 the Bishop was Granted Free Warren in his Demesne Lands in these places and they were still listed as part of the Demesne Manor in 1551. When the Manor was held by the Norreys Family and their successors it was reduced in extent and by the 18th & 19thCs comprised lands in Dorchester, Overy, Drayton, Burcot, & Chislehampton only. Homagers from Dorchester & Drayton attended the Courts Baron and Orders were made for Dorchester, Drayton, Overy, & Burcot.
This complex Manor formed part of the temporalities of the Bishopric of Lincoln until 1547 when it was surrendered to the Crown by Henry Holbeach shortly after his translation from Rochester. Between 1558 & 1562 the Manor with lands to the annual value of £108 in Dorchester, Overy, Burcot, Baldon, Chislehampton, & Drayton was twice used as security by the Crown for Loans. Queen Elizabeth granted it to Henry Norreys, later Lord Norreys of Rycote, who was in possession by 1577 at least. He was succeeded in the Barony in 1601 by his grandson Francis, who inherited Dorchester Manor in 1603 on the death of his uncle Sir Edward Norreys, a younger son of Henry. Francis (cr. Viscount Thame & Earl of Berkshire, 1621) committed suicide in 1622 leaving an only daughter Elizabeth Baroness Norreys as heir. She married Edward Wray (d.1658), a gentleman of the Bedchamber, and after her death in 1645 the Courts Baron held between 1646 & 1650 were described as of Edward Wray. Their only child Bridget Baroness Norreys was the 2nd wife of Montagu Bertie, 2nd Earl of Lindsey. She died in 1657 and her husband presumably held her Dorchester Lands as he certainly did her Thame ones until his death in 1666. Their son James Bertie Lord Norreys, who was created Earl of Abingdon in 1682, succeeded to his mother’s Lands. On his death in 1699 the Manor passed to his son and heir Montagu, Earl of Abingdon, and remained in the hands of the Earls of Abingdon until 1876, when it was sold to Sir John Christopher Willoughby of Baldon (d.1918). The Manor & Estate, including Dorchester Field Farm (536a), was purchased by Guy Nevill Eaglestone Kennett Barrington in 1915. No Lord of the Manor was recorded after 1928.
A 2nd Dorchester Manor developed from the Estates held in the Middle Ages by the Abbey. The nucleus of this Estate was the land in Dorchester Granted to the Canons in the 11th century by Bishop Remigius. In the course of the Middle Ages, the Abbey acquired Estates in the neighbouring Parishes of Drayton, Burcot, & Clifton and continued to add to their Lands in Dorchester. Like the Bishop’s Manor the Abbey’s also extended outside the Parish, but not over such a wide area. In 1391 the Abbot & Convent were said to have leased their Dorchester Manor. In the 15thC, however, they continued to hold their Courts for the Property, although they may still have let out the Demesne Land. After the Dissolution in 1536 the ‘late Monastery of Dorchester‘ and extensive Estates in Dorchester & nearby, including Overy Mill, were leased to Edmund Ashfield of Ewelme, and in 1544 this Lease was converted into a Grant in Fee.
Sir Edmund Ashfield died in 1578 in possession of Dorchester Manor which passed to his grandson, Edmund Fettiplace of Swinbrook, eldest son of William Fettiplace & Elizabeth Ashfield, 2nd daughter of Sir Edmund. The Descent of this Manor is thereafter the same as the Fettiplace Manor of Swinbrook and is given here only in outline. On Edmund Fettiplace’s death in 1613 the Manor passed to his eldest son, John, founder of the Free School at Dorchester, who died, unmarried, in 1657. He was succeeded by his nephew, Sir John Fettiplace (d.1672), who was succeeded by his eldest son Sir Edmund, who died unmarried in 1707. The Manor passed in turn to his 3 brothers, Sir Charles who died unmarried in 1714, Lorenzo (d.1725), & George, the Founder of the Fettiplace Charity, who died unmarried in 1743. The Property then passed to a nephew, Thomas Bushell, who was directed in Sir George’s Will to take the name of Fettiplace. He died in 1767 and the Manor passed to his son Robert. In or shortly after 1777 Robert was ‘in distressed circumstances‘ and conveyed his Estates to Trustees for the payment of his Debts. At this time he was believed to be living in Paris. In 1785 his lands at Dorchester were still in the hands of Trustees but by 1787 he seems to have recovered his Rights as Lord of Dorchester Manor, and on his death in 1799 these passed to his brother, Charles Fettiplace of South Lawn Lodge. Charles was succeeded on his death in 1805 by his nephew Richard Gorges, who assumed the name Fettiplace by Royal Licence of 13th January 1806 and died without issue on 21 March 1806. In May 1808 this Fettiplace Manor, with 312 acres of land, etc, was offered for sale by Auction and was purchased by George White of Newington. By 1817 he had been succeeded by Thomas Gilbert White, who in 1861 was one of the Consenting Parties to the Inclosure of Dorchester. No mention of his Manorial Rights was made and there is no further reference to this Manor.
The Medieval Demesne of the Bishops seems to have included Bishop’s Court Farm. By the 16th century at least the Bishop was Leasing this Property and at the time when it was handed over to the Crown, it was held by Richard Beauforest, a local Gentleman. The Crown continued this Policy for a time and the Lease was Granted in 1549 to Roger Hatchman of Ewelme, who also farmed the Rectory and Leased Overy Mills. In 1585 the Queen Granted Bishop’s Court Farm and Queensford Mill to William Dunch (d.1597) of Little Wittenham for £33 16s 4d a year, to be held in Chief. The Property followed the Descent of Little Wittenham, passing to Edmund Dunch (d.1623), to his grandson Edmund (d.1678), to Hungerford Dunch (d.1680) and to Edmund Dunch (d.1719). As at Little Wittenham, the 3 Co-heirs of Edmund succeeded, but in 1755 the Property was conveyed to the eldest Co-heir, Elizabeth Dunch (d.1779), and her husband Sir George Oxenden (d.1775). They were succeeded by their son Sir Henry Oxenden, who in 1783 was termed Lord of ‘Dorchester Manor’. Sir Henry had sold his Dorchester Property by 1787 to William Hallet, the purchaser of his Little Wittenham Estate; and in that year Hallet, as Lord of Dorchester Manor, appointed a Gamekeeper.