Great Haseley Parish

Great Haseley (St Peter), a Parish, in the Union of Thame, Hundred of Ewelme, County of Oxford, 3¼-miles (West) from Tetsworth; containing, with the Township of Little Haseley, the Hamlets of Latchford & Lobb and the Liberty of Rycote, 786 Inhabitants.  The Parish stretches 6-miles (10Km) along a Northeast – Southwest axis, bounded by the River Thame in the North, Haseley Brook in the South and partly by a Boundary Hedge with Little Milton Parish in the West.   The Living is a Rectory, valued in the King’s Books at £30, and in the Gift of the Dean & Canons of Windsor: the Tithes have been commuted for £800, and there are about 98 acres of Glebe.
Great Haseley Parish Tithe Map 1839

Great Haseley Parish in 1839, showing Boundaries & Land use

Great Haseley lies in the fertile South Oxfordshire Vale c.8Km South-West of Thame & 13Km South-East of Oxford.  At over 3,000 acres, its Parish was the largest in Ewelme Hundred and in the Middle Ages contained separate settlements at Great & Little Haseley, Latchford, Great Rycote, & Little Rycote (Rycote Lane).  Most seem to have had their own fields and were usually taxed separately, while Little Haseley, Latchford, & Great Rycote briefly acquired Parochial Chapels. Nevertheless, by the 16thC, Latchford & the Rycotes were Inclosed and severely shrunken, with population concentrated thereafter chiefly at Great & Little Haseley. For most Civil purposes the Parish was administered as a whole, though in the 19thC Little Haseley, Latchford, & Rycote remained separate Liberties or Tithings with their own Boundaries.

The Parish has always been predominantly Agricultural, with the usual range of Rural Crafts, Trades, & Shops. By the late 20thC its desirable Stone-built houses and the proximity of the M40 Motorway (which cuts through the Parish between Latchford & Rycote) were attracting wealthy incomers, however, altering its social character. The oldest & largest domestic buildings were the former Manor Houses, in particular, the Medieval Haseley Court (remodelled in the 18thC), and the 16thC Rycote House, for which the surrounding Rycote Park was created in the early 1540s.  Great Haseley Church is of notable size & quality for a small rural Village, perhaps in part reflecting Patronage by its high-status (but generally non-Resident) Medieval Lords.

Parish Boundaries
The Ancient Parish incorporates four separate 11thC Estates, of which one (Little Haseley) was described in a Charter of 1002. Their amalgamation into a Single Parish followed presumably from the Foundation of Great Haseley Church, which by the early 13thC seems to have established jurisdiction over all the later Townships.  The 19thC Boundaries partly preserved those of the 11th-century Estates, the Parish’s Southern Boundary with Chalgrove & Warpsgrove following Haseley Brook as in 1002.  The Brooks continuation North-Eastwards formed the Boundary with Pyrton Hundred, while the Eastern Boundary with Thame & Tetsworth (in Thame Hundred) followed former Open-field Furlongs to Rycote Lane, before turning along a Footpath or Causeway bordering North Weston.  The Western Boundary with Great Milton (also in Thame Hundred) similarly ran through Open-fields & Commons, returning to Haseley Brook via the unidentified Wicga’s Ditch (mentioned in 1002).  Probably more recent was the Northern Boundary between Rycote & Albury (in Bullingdon Hundred), which followed an irregular and highly artificial course through Rycote Park before joining stretches of Rycote Lane & the London Road. Possibly that reflected adjustments when Rycote Park was created, and in 1817 a perambulation was needed to clarify it.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is haseleycourt.jpgThe 1002 Charter implies that Great & Little Haseley were separated by Open-field divisions & streams, but by the 18thC the Township Boundary’s North-Eastern stretch followed a possible former Path along the Eastern edge of Haseley Court.  A stream separated Great Haseley from Latchford Tithing, while Rycotes Southern Boundary followed the London Road.  In 1881 the Ancient Parish covered 3,255 acres, and in 1932 it gained 1,094 acres (including the shrunken Settlement of North Weston) from Thame, bringing the total to 4,349 acres (1,760Ha). The Boundaries remained essentially unchanged thereafter.

GtHaseleyTowerMill (2)The Parish lies on the edge of the Gault Clay Vale, where it meets the older Limestones & Sands of the Portland Beds.  The latter provided a pale local Limestone which was formerly much quarried.  The relief is undramatic, rising gently from 58M at Rofford (by Haseley Brook) to 85M at Great Haseley, with its Stone-built Windmill just beyond. The ground rises further near Lobb Farm (99M) & Milton Common (103M), falling to 82M at Rycote and to 65M on the Northern Boundary, in the Thame Valley.  The heavy clay soils were fertile but difficult to works and Streams & Springs often made the ground wet & boggy.  The 1002 Charter mentioned Streams, Marsh, and an Open-field headland on Little Haseley’s margins, while the Anglo-Saxon place name Latchford denotes a Ford across a stream flowing through marshy land.  The Woodland from which the Parish was named was mostly cleared by the later Middle Ages, leaving a largely open Landscape which, around the Haseleys, was dominated by large Open-fields until the 1820s. By contrast, Latchford & Rycote were Inclosed early as Pasture, and in the 18thCRycote’s Parkland was refashioned by Capability Brown, superseding the earlier Deer Park & Formal Gardens.  Overhead power-cables between Great & Little Haseley Villages stand out clearly in the flat open Countryside.

Great & Little Haseley and Latchford all lie along what, by the 18th century, were relatively minor West-East & North-South Roads. The Parish was, however, well connected by important early Routes. The Oxford-London Road crosses its Northern part just South of Rycote, and may be of Roman origin: certainly, it was in use by the mid 10thC. The intersecting Thame to Milton Road (Rycote Lane) borders Rycote Park, and was also important from the Middle Ages, defining stretches of Parish Boundary.  Further South, a lost Route called the ‘broad army-path‘ in 1002 crossed Little Haseley’s Northern boundary, probably forming part of a documented Salt Way linking Droitwich (Worcs) with the Chilterns, and continuing down Knightsbridge Lane.  Other early Routes are indicated by Fords mentioned in the 1002 Charter. The Road from Rofford (in Chalgrove) crossed Haseley Brook at Roppanforda, while wearra ford lay on Little Haseleys Western edge, near its intersection with Great & Little Milton Parishes.

In the 1630s the Parish’s Roads were in poor repair, but improvements followed.  The London Road was Turnpiked in 1719 and the Thame Road in 1770, and at Great Haseleys Inclosure in 1822 3-roads linking Great & Little Haseley with the Thame Turnpike were confirmed as 32-ft wide Public Highways, along with several Private Roads & Footpaths.  All remained in use in the early 21st century, when a dense network of Paths in the Parish’s Southern part contrasted with their scarcity around the early-Inclosed Rycote.  The M40 Motorway was built roughly parallel to the London Road in the early 1970s.

Local Carriers existed by the mid-18thC, and in the mid 19thC, a short-lived Service ran to Thame on Tuesdays (Market Day).  It was resumed from the 1890s to 1930s.  A service to Oxford, run in the 1850s by the Publican & Postmaster John Terry, was restarted in the 1880s, and from the mid-1920s operated 3-days a week.  Services declined following competition from motorised buses (running daily from Great Milton), and though the Village suffered a reduction in Bus Services from the 1970s, in 2012 there were still regular Buses to Oxford & Thame.  The Post was delivered through Wheatley by the mid-19thC, and later from Tetsworth, Wallingford, & Oxford. A sub-Post Office in Great Haseley Village was run by John Terry in the 1840s-50s, and by 1903 had become a Money Order Office & Savings Bank, although the nearest Telegraph Office was at Great Milton.  The Post Office closed in the mid-1970s when the Little Milton Postmistress visited weekly.

Settlement & Population
Prehistoric to Anglo-Saxon Settlement
Occasional finds of flint tools suggest a Mesolithic & Neolithic presence, while a group of pits identified near Latchford imply Bronze-Age Settlement & Agriculture.  A Bronze-Age axe head was found at Rycote, and ring-ditches (suggesting burials) and a cinerary urn near Great Haseley Village.  From then on the Parish was probably permanently settled: Iron-Age settlement is known at Rycote and just over the Boundary and scatters of Roman pottery have also been found.  Anglo-Saxon Settlement is attested by sunken-featured buildings of 5th to 8thC date found at Rycote, together with pottery & associated features.  The Hamlets place name (‘cottage(s) where rye is grown) suggests a subsidiary Settlement probably within the Benson Royal Estate, while the place name Haseley (‘Hazel Wood‘) implies an area of managed Woodland or Wood Pasture and possibly embryonic Settlement.  Several field names include Anglo-Saxon elements, and by the mid-11thC (when the area had been carved into 4 separate Estates) there was substantial Settlement at Great Haseley, with smaller Settlements at Little Haseley & Rycote.
Population from 1086
In 1086 the Parish contained at least 49 Tenant households: 33 at Great Haseley, 12 at Little Haseley, & 4 at Rycote.  By 1279 the number had increased to 137, suggesting marked Population growth particularly in the Hamlets: Great Haseley then had at least 48 households, Little Haseley 24, Rycote 39, & Latchford (which may have been settled relatively recently) 26.  Total population probably exceeded 600, with further expansion in the early 14th century when the number of Taxpayers at Rycote rose from 27 (in 1306) to 37.  The other settlements saw similar increases.  Thereafter outbreaks of plague led to population decline. Abandoned cottages were reported on Great Haseley Manor in 1359, and in the Parish as a whole Poll Tax was paid in 1377 by only 239 Inhabitants aged over 14.  Nonetheless, the various Settlements remained sizeable, with 71 Taxpayers at Great Haseley, 44 at Little Haseley, 34 at Latchford, & 90 at Rycote.  A fall to 196 Taxpayers by 1381 may merely reflect evasion, but by the 1520s there had been a considerable further drop at Latchford & Rycote, exacerbated probably by late Medieval Inclosure.  In 1523 the 2 Settlements had only 5 & 7 Taxpayers respectively, with less pronounced contraction at Great Haseley (27 Taxpayers) & Little Haseley (25).

Thereafter Baptisms generally outnumbered burials, probably reflecting renewed growth.  In 1662 Hearth Tax was assessed on 35 houses at Great Haseley and 20 at Little Haseley, while Latchford & Rycote had 10 & 8 houses respectively, implying no further depopulation despite the creation of Rycote Park.  In 1676 there were an estimated 269 adults in the Parish, and in 1738 the Curate reported 59 houses at Great Haseley, 28 at Little Haseley, 9 at Latchford, & 5 at Rycote.  By 1801 there were 115 houses & a population of 608.  Growth in the following decades centred on Great Haseley Village, where numbers peaked at 577 (in 107 houses) in 1841Little Haseley’s population was 127, with another 32 at Latchford, 22 at Lobb (in Latchford tithing), & 28 at Rycote, a total of 786.  Separate figures for the Hamlets were last given in 1871, when Great Haseley had 534 inhabitants, Little Haseley 145, Latchford & Lobb 32, and Rycote 34, totalling 745 in 161 households. Thereafter Population fell to 486 (in 137 houses) by 1931, rising by 1981 to 575 in 209 houses. In 2011, 511 people occupied 216 houses.

Great Haseley Village in 1919, showing areas of later infill.

Medieval & Later Settlement
Settlement from the Middle Ages was predominantly nucleated, in contrast to the more dispersed patterns found on the Chiltern Uplands.  Great Haseley Village may have been deliberately planned along a West-East road, which widens in the middle to create a probable Market Place; the Church & adjacent Manor House lie at its Eastern end, and roadside Cottages occupied regularly shaped Plots extending Westwards for c.700M to the edge of the Open-fields.  The date of any such re-planning is unknown but may have occurred on the Lord’s initiative in the 12th or 13thC, perhaps in connection with a Market Grant of 1228.  The Villages western part (around Mill Lane) looks less planned and perhaps grew up around an area of Common Pasture.  Around 12 houses mapped in the 18thC were removed before 1822, including several South of the Manor House; by then, however, infilling was underway, and a new row of Labourers’ Cottages (built c.1793) had extended the Village Eastwards along Latchford Lane.  Further growth occurred in the 20thC, especially on the Village’s South-western edge. Several Council Houses were built there alongside speculative private development, although the layout remained relatively compact.  A surviving Windmill just North of the Village replaced a 14thC predecessor, but otherwise, there were few isolated dwellings.


Little Haseley Green, looking East towards Haseley Court (hidden beyond the trees)

Little Haseley (1-Km to the South) developed where the Road to Standhill meets a minor Lane to Little Milton. Small, compact, and somewhat haphazardly arranged around a large funnel-shaped Green, in 1839 the Village comprised 3 Farmhouses, a possible Tanners’ Yard, and c.20 Workers’ Cottages, while to the East the partly Medieval Mansion House at Haseley Court occupied its own Grounds.  The earlier Settlement appears to have been no more extensive, with little evidence for Medieval or later shrinkage.  During the 20thC the pattern remained largely unchanged, although a Light Industrial Estate replaced the possible Tannery.

Latchford Village was severely shrunken by the early 16thC, its depopulation probably resulting at least in part from late Medieval Inclosure.  By the 18thC it had contracted still further to just 3 Farms, well-preserved Earthworks along the Roadside revealing its former extent.  Similar shrinkage at Great Rycote is reflected in the poor-quality Earthworks which survived near Rycote House & Chapel in the 20th century, while Earthworks & spreads of 13th to 15thC pottery mark Little Rycotes Site 2-mile to the South-West.  Jointers, Lobb, & Rycote Lane Farms were built in areas of old Inclosure before the mid 18th century while Peggs Farm pre-dated Great Haseleys inclosure in 1822.  Lobbersdown Farm on Rycote Lane dates from 1922.

Great Haseley Village Street, looking East towards the 3-Storeyed Church Farm House

The Built Character
The Parish is distinguished by a significant number of good-quality Stone-built houses of mostly 17th & 18thC date, reflecting widespread availability of building Stone.  Several earlier examples nevertheless retain evidence of Timber-framing (mostly in Elm), which was probably common until c.1600.  Part-Medieval buildings discussed below include the Church and former Rectory House, Haseley Court, & Rycote House & Chapel, while a surviving aisled Stone Barn at Church Farm was erected for the Manorial Demesne in 1313, originally comprising 10-Bays.  Its Eastern part was rebuilt c.1495/96 and some Western Bays were removed in 1811, when the surviving 14thC Trusses were reinforced with additional Arcade Posts.  The Crown House on Great Haseleys south-eastern edge includes fragments of a Building of c.1450, substantially rebuilt c.1610 & subsequently used as an Inn.  Surviving roof Timbers imply a Medieval Galleried structure of up to 13-Bays, either unheated or with Chimneys, although if so its function is unknown.

Church Farm Barn
Western Bays

Clearly marked on the 1729 map, the Great Barn was once even longer, as shown by studying the (unusual) Arabic assembly numbers on the Western Bays.  The roof  Structure was in 2 distinct parts: 3-Bays to the West with a Cruck-like structure and 3 to the East with Aisle Posts, Tie-beams and Queen-posts.  The Western Bays had truncated
Principal Rafters which supported a Collar, with additional slightly curved Arch-braces & Spandrel Struts between.  Purlins sat somehow on top of the Collars and had straight Windbraces to the Principals.  These Trusses had additional supporting Posts (some reused) from ground level to the Arch-braces.  They were tied to the Principals by horizontal struts.   The 3 Eastern Bays were a more conventional Arcaded arrangement, the Arcade Posts supporting Tie-beams with the Arcade Plate clasped between.  There were slightly curved Braces from Posts to Tie-beams and from the Posts to the Arcade Plates. Between the Principal Rafters were Collars clasping an upper tier of Purlins and supported by Queen-posts. There was also a lower tier of Purlins below the Arcade Plate and butted to the Principals.  Plank Windbraces were present in most (but not all) Bays.    The tree-ring dating points to the Key Phases of the Building – firstly, a Stone Barn of c.1313 with truncated-principal roof trusses which put enormous pressure on the walls with which even the heavy external Buttresses were inadequate to cope.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is demesnebarngthaseley.jpg

By 1495/96 the entire Framework of the Eastern 3-Bays had had to be replaced with the present Arcaded Structure.  The scarfed extended Arcade Posts of the 1495/96 Phase were shown by dendrochronology to be contemporary with the construction, not a later repair; the need for extra Scotches in these lower Elements may have been for additional Supporting Timbers as the Posts were levered into place in the knowledge that the scarf joints were a structural weak point until the Timbers were vertical & in compression.  The presence of these Scotches, which were on adjacent faces of the Timbers is strong evidence for their use in supporting the Posts during construction, not, as has recently been suggested, for raising the Structure during later repairs.  The Great Barn suffered a partial collapse sometime in the 1st half of the 18thC and the present Stable Block was built on part of the Site.

Amongst smaller houses, Crucks in Rectory Road, Great Haseley is a 2-Bayed Cruck-framed Cottage of c.1550, built initially with a Hall, but apparently possessing a large Chimney from the outset.  It’s Framing (like that of several other houses) was subsequently infilled with Limestone Rubble & Brick, and its Fireplace retains a Bread Oven.
Crucks survive also at John Hampden’s Cottage (Little Haseley).
House. 18thC, extended 17-18thC. Limestone Rubble and some Timber-framing with wattle & daub infill; thatched Roof and brick Ridge Stack. 4-unit Plan. One Storey plus Attics.  Irregular front with slightly recessed central Timber-framed section has plank door to right of centre adjoining a 3-light casement, and 3-light 18thC casements to right & left under concrete lintels; 3 tiny 2-light Dormers. All windows have leaded lights (some old). Stack to left of centre. Left Gable wall is Timber-framed and is half-hipped. Rear has 1st-Floor framing to right in older Bays with renewed casements.
Interior: Right bays have central Cruck frame; clasped-purlin roof; 2 stairs.
Houses of similar or smaller size remained common in the 1660s, when almost 75% across the Parish were Taxed on only 1 or 2 hearths.  An example is Walnut Tree Cottage on Great Haseleys Western edge, in origin a single-cell Cottage extended possibly by incorporation of an Outshut.

Thereafter most houses in the Haseleys seem to have been substantially rebuilt or remodelled. Most are small 1 or 2-Storeyed Cottages of Limestone rubble, roofed in Thatch or Tile, and often featuring brick dressings.  Fairly typical is No.13 Little Haseley, its off-centre doorway (now enclosed within a 20thC Porch) flanked by irregularly spaced 2 & 3 light casements set in openings with Brick Quoins & Arches. Large Stone & Brick Chimney Stacks project from both Gable walls, to which weatherboarded outshuts have been added.  Many other houses have been similarly extended or improved, although several retain a generally unaltered appearance.

Larger houses are especially marked in Great Haseley Village, where the 3-Storeyed Church Farm House was built probably in the early 18thC for St Georges Chapel, Windsor, or one of its Lessees, possibly a prominent Tenant Farmer.  Double-pile with a symmetrical Front, it features a central Porch with Doric Columns, flanked at the Ground & 1st Floors by tripartite sashes.  Rendered brick bands separate the Storeys, and the 2nd Floor is lit by 5 small 2-light casements. Sundial House has a 2-Storeyed symmetrical Front conspicuous for its Baroque style, featuring giant Pilasters and a moulded Stone Cornice beneath a plain Parapet, while its main rooms retain some 18thC features.
Sundial House. Early 18thC, extended mid 18thC.  Limestone Ashlar and coursed rubble; old plain-tile Roof and brick Gable Stacks. L-plan. 2-Storeys plus Attics.  Symmetrical 3-window Baroque Front with giant Pilasters and a moulded Stone Cornice below a plain Parapet.  Central Niche at 1st-floor with segmental head and keystone over Doorway with moulded Stone Architrave flanked by Pilasters.  Double segmental-headed windows and Stone Canopy on Columns are c.1850.  Roof has 2 hipped roof dormers and is flanked by large projecting stacks. Right stack has small Dovecote on rear.   Rear of main Range has 2 original segmental-headed openings with later sashes.  Rear Wing has a half-hipped roof with heavy plaster Cove and a large Stone Sundial on the Gable wall.
Interior: Main rooms have fielded Panelling, Arching over original openings, one room in plaster and another in wood. A Fireplace has an eared Architrave; another in Rear Wing has a wide stone wedge Lintel and a Bread Oven. 18thC Stair.
Cast-iron Railings to Front run between Stone Piers with moulded caps and bases.
Great Haseley is commodiously and pleasantly situated on an easy ride, extending from East to West about ?? furlongs.  And to Passengers that come to it from the East, South and South West, affords a handsome Prospect. It hath a good Air and a pretty cleanly scite,  being founded on natural rock and is (in short) an Healthful and agreeable place of Habitation. – Thomas Delafield 1730


The Church is in the decorated English style, with a West entrance of elegant design: on the right hand, under the Tower, is the figure of a Crusader in a suit of Chain Armour, and at the East end of the South Aisle is the Trunk of another Figure; in the Chancel are some handsome Stone Stalls, and a window of fine proportions, enriched with Tracery. John Leland, the Antiquary (1503-1552), was for some time Rector of the Parish, to which he was Presented by Henry VIII, in 1542. cay, but an appeal was launched to put it in order. None of the 180 different Coats of Arms were replaced but the Muirhead Family, who lived at Haseley Court, and who traced their Ancestry back to Roger le Bigod, had their Coat of Arms (with Norman Ships & Shells) placed in a window of the South Aisle. The Muirheads took their responsibilities as Squires of the Village very seriously and were liberal Benefactors to the Church.

During the 19thC, the Church fell into decay, but an appeal was launched to put it in order. None of the 180 different Coats of Arms were replaced but the Muirhead Family, who lived at Haseley Court, and who traced their Ancestry back to Roger le Bigod, had their Coat of Arms (with Norman Ships & Shells) placed in a window of the South Aisle. The Muirheads took their responsibilities as Squires of the Village very seriously and were liberal Benefactors to the Church.

Near the Church stands a spacious Manor-House, built by a younger Branch of the Ancient Family of Pipard, 2 members of which performed Deeds so Valiant in the Scottish Wars that Edward I summoned one to Parliament as a Baron & conferred the Honour of Knighthood on the other.

A School is partly supported by an allowance of £31 from the Trustees of Charity Lands.

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