From the Middle Ages to the late 20thC Great Haseley remained a largely Agricultural Parish. Arable Farming was especially prominent around the Villages of Great & Little Haseley, whose Open-fields remained un-Inclosed until the 1820s. Latchford & Rycote were Inclosed for Pasture in the late 15th or early 16thC, however, and there sheep grazing gradually gave way to Stock-breeding & Dairying. Wood Management was relatively unimportant throughout, despite the creation of Rycote Park in the 1540s. By the 19thC there were more than 12 Farms, and until the 20thC, the Villages supported the usual range of crafts and trades. A locally significant Quarrying Industry existed probably from the Middle Ages, and a small ironworks was established in the 1870s, while Windmills existed from the 14thC.
The Agricultural Landscape
Open-fields probably covered much of the Parish by 1086, when it contained 32 ploughlands. A headland in Little Haseley was mentioned in 1002, and marked indentations in the Parish boundary probably preserve the outline of Open-field Furlongs. Nevertheless, much of Great Rycote was apparently uncultivated in the 1080s, suggesting that the long-standing distinction between the Haseleys‘ largely Arable Landscape and a more Pastoral one further North was already apparent. Open-field Farming may have reached its greatest extent c.1300, when Rycote, too, supported a large Arable Demesne, & Manorial Tenants owed extensive Harvest Services. Three Little Haseley fields were mentioned in 1279, and in 1360 there was a 2-field System at Great Haseley.
Streams provided extensive Meadow, and the marshy ground from which Latchford was named may have been used as Pasture before the emergence of a separate Settlement there. Possibly that was also the location of Great Haseley’s 11thC Woodland, whose apparent clearance by the later Middle Ages left the Parish largely unwooded. Grants of Free Warren (allowing limited Hunting of small game) were made to local Lords in the 13th & 14thCs, but there were no Medieval Parks.
Latchford’s & Rycotes late Medieval Inclosure and the creation of Rycote Park marked a major change in land use, which persisted there until the resumption of large-scale Arable Farming in the late 20thC. Pasture in those areas was coarse & boggy but was profitably grazed by sheep and later by dairy cattle. More limited early Inclosure took place at Great Haseley, especially along the Streams, which had to be cut to prevent flooding. Following Parliamentary Inclosure in 1820–2 the Haseleys’ Arable was sown on a 4-course rotation, but in the 1830s the loamy soils were still considered mediocre, while the Meadow & Pasture were coarse and liable to waterlogging.
Woodland remained scarce, confined to Rycote Park and the area around Milton Common & Haseley Court. Only 86a (under 3% of the total) were reported in 1801, and though Rycote Park provided Underwood for sale it was ‘not very thick or productive’. Coverts for Hunting & Shooting were planted piecemeal during the 19th & 20thCs, but with little impact on the overall acreage.
Medieval Tenant & Demesne Farming
In 1086 the large & profitable Manor of Great Haseley contained land for 18 Plough Teams, Woodland 2 Furlongs square, and 60a of Meadow, and yielded £15 including Tenants’ Rents. Little Haseley Manor (with land for 9 Plough Teams and 30a of Meadow) yielded £6 but had only 8 Ploughs in use. The combined Rycote Manors had only 5 Plough Teams and a recorded 5a of Meadow, and were worth little: Little Rycote yielded 55a, while Great Rycote (which had reportedly been worth £4 a year in 1066) yielded nothing, apparently because the Land was uncultivated. Nevertheless, the figures suggest extensive Arable Farming in the Parish as a whole, contributing to the total valuation of £26 5s before the Norman Conquest and £21 5s in 1086. Both of the Haseley Manors included sizeable Demesne Farms run partly by Servi and between them had 39 Tenants comprising 23 Villani & 16 bordars. Sewel of Osevilles tiny Little Rycote Manor was Farmed directly with one Villanus.
Intensive Arable-based mixed Farming continued on the Demesnes in the 13thC. In 1279 Great Haseley’s Demesne totalled 4 hides (c.400a), and 10 Villeins owed ploughing, harrowing, weeding, reaping, carrying, & mowing services besides their cash Rents. Similar Services were performed by the Cottars and Free Tenants and by Tenants of the Parish’s other Manors. Great Rycote’s Demesne Arable (160a) was worth the fairly typical sum of 3d an acre in 1302 when Labour Services other than reaping seem to have been commuted to cash Rents. Pastoral Farming is suggested by the Tenant surnames Cowherd, Hogshaw, & Shepherd, and horses, oxen, cows, & pigs (but apparently no sheep) were mentioned at Little Haseley in 1347–8.
Large Barns built on Great Haseley’s Demesne in the 13th & early 14thCs suggest long-term investment. One built in 1244 incorporated 6 Oaks from Brill (Bucks), contributed by the King, and a surviving Barn built in 1313 originally measured 125ft x 30ft (38M x 9M). Tenants were obliged to Cart produce from the Fields to the Barns, and in some cases to Market, while in 1359 hired Carters carried grain to Henley, from where it was shipped to London by Boat. A weekly Market and annual Fair were licensed at Great Haseley in 1228 but failed to prosper, probably reflecting competition from neighbouring Thame.
The Black Death appears to have had little immediate impact on Haseley’s Farming practices. An agreement of 1350 (concerning Little Haseley Manor) Granted an annual allowance of crops & stock, including wheat, maslin, malt, oats, hay, cows, & pigs, while at Great Haseley a Reeve was employed in 1360 to manage 200a of Demesne Arable (worth 4d an acre when sown), Pasture for 12 oxen, & 200 sheep, and 16a of meadow worth 1s an acre. Receipts of over £107 in 1359 included c.£34 from sale of wheat in London, while other grain was sold in Henley, Dorchester, & Watlington. Tenants’ Labour Services were still being exacted, while crops & stock were transported between the Lord’s various Manors.
During the 15thC, the parish’s Taxable wealth was maintained or even increased, based partly on the continuation of the Haseleys’ Open-field Farming. Great Haseley’s Demesne Farm was leased in 1485–6 for £18 6s 8d a year, although the Dean & Canons of Windsor continued to maintain the Great Barn and other buildings, and the Manor Court regulated the Open-fields as earlier. On the wetter lands around Latchford & Rycote, however, the area under grass was extended. Latchford’s Demesne was leased following William Lenthall’s death in 1496, possibly to Nicholas Beale, and the same year the Tenant inclosed 60a of Arable and converted it to Pasture. Thomas Lenthall followed suit, and by the mid 16thC both Latchford & Rycote were wholly inclosed.
Farms & Farming 1500-1800
The new inclosures of Latchford & Rycote brought a greater emphasis on sheep grazing, despite the continuation of Open-field mixed Farming: c.1540 the Parish’s ‘champion countryside remained ‘somewhat plentiful of corn‘, but ‘most was laid to pasture‘. Latchford’s Lord William Lenthall (d.1587) leased grazing grounds to sheep farmers from outside the Parish, John Bowyer of Tetsworth & Jeremy Howster of Watlington each pasturing 300 ewes in the Manor by the early 1580s. Local farmers also benefited, however, Thomas Beale (d.1581) of Latchford bequeathing several sheep including 40 ‘of the best’ to his wife. Plough beasts & dairy cattle were also grazed, and though Latchford’s Inclosure created some friction it was more peacefully resolved than at Rycote, where Lord Williams’s activities contributed to major uprisings.
By contrast, the Haseleys’ traditional Open-field Agriculture continued, with horses, cattle, & sheep grazed on the fallow. Fairly typically Thomas Good (d.1581), a prosperous Great Haseley Yeoman, left 18a of Land sown with wheat & rye, 6a sown with pulses, & 6 quarters of barley. Equipment included a plough, cart, & dung-cart, while livestock included horses, cattle, sheep, & pigs. The much larger Demesne Farm was leased to the Bowldry Family and later to William Lechlade of Haddenham (Bucks), still at £18 6s 8d annually, and usually for 30 years. Lessees were obliged to provide the Lord’s Steward with food & lodging on his twice-yearly visits when he presumably held Manor Court Sessions. Similar Farming continued throughout the 17thC, Thomas Smith (d.1619) leaving barley, wheat, & hay worth £116 (more than half the value of his Inventory), and owing wages to his day Labourers and a Debt to a Chalgrove Plough-maker. Thomas Adams (d.1631) of Little Haseley left both crops & 60 sheep, folded presumably on the fallows, while John Gresham (d.1662) evidently specialized in Arable, sowing c.8oa with wheat, barley, rye, oats, beans, peas, & vetches. Even Latchford & Rycote saw some Arable cultivation, John Plater (d.1699), probably of Rycote Lane Farm, leaving ploughs, carts, & crops as well as 130 sheep. Probably he practised ley farming (alternate cropping & pasture).
Great Haseley & Latchford Manors were brought together by William Lenthall (d. 1702), who in 1662 took a 21-year Lease of Great Haseley for £44 165. 8d. a year. The Manor’s real value, however, was substantially greater: in 1663 the Demesne Farm alone was leased for £135 & various Closes for £240, while copyholders’ rents totalled £100 excluding entry Fines. Lenthall’s successor Charles Robartes commissioned a major Survey of the Estate in 1701, the resulting Map confirming the long-established contrasts between the Townships. Great Haseley Village lay surrounded by its 4 large fields (Church, Grove, Round & Windersey and Windmill), while smaller Arable or Pasture Closes extended Eastwards into Latchford. The latter’s names (Ewes Ground, Rams Closes, & Tegg Hill) reflect the continued primacy of sheep grazing on that part of the Estate.
By the 18thC, the Great Haseley Demesne lay consolidated & Inclosed South-East of the Village, covering c.365a and divided into 3 Farms and a few smaller pieces. Around 18 Copyholders held Open-field Land (with a Yardland reckoned at c.20a), while 48 Cottagers enjoyed common rights but had little or no land. Tenancies were typically for 3 lives, the Tenants receiving Timber for repairs and enjoying specified grazing rights. Similar conditions prevailed at Little Haseley, where in 1703 the Lord reorganised the Land into 2 Farms and several smaller Parcels, which were leased for 7-year Terms. By the 1780s the Township had 3 main Leasehold Farms, though with little continuity of occupation from the earlier period. Rycotes farms may have still been held for lives, since the Families of 2 mid-18thC Tenants remained in possession in the early 19thC, while a Bailiff managed the Rycote Park Demesne, buying cattle & selling wood.
Tenant Farmers continued to prosper, John Greening (d.1730), possibly of Church Farm House in Great Haseley, leaving horses, cattle, sheep, & crops worth £213. Matthew Hall of Little Haseley owned harrows & a seed drill in 1742, ploughing one Parcel of Land 4 times and another twice, and growing wheat, barley, & beans, as well as keeping a small dairy herd and producing milk & cheese. Dairying remained more prominent at Latchford, where a later member of the Family worked as a Dairyman, while Latchford’s & Rycote’s meadows produced valuable hay stocks which were sometimes sold at Auction.
Farms & Farming Since 1800
Great Haseley’s Fields were Inclosed in 1822 under a Private Act of 1820, promoted by the Dean & Canons of Windsor and their Lessee. Around 495a were allotted, including 276a to John Blackall of Latchford as Freeholder & Copyholder. The Rector received 87a, & 5 Landholders a total of 123a, while 9 Smallholders each received 2a or less. Two new Inclosed Farms were created, focused on Farmhouses in the Village: the largest (161a) belonged to Blackall and lay to the South-East, while the Rectors Glebe Farm (91a) covered part of Windmill Field. Most of Church or Spartam Field remained unfenced in 1839, and was notoriously boggy. Little Haseley’s fields were never formally Inclosed, a Tithe Commissioner observing in 1838 that the Township remained partly open. Presumably, its Open-field Holdings were consolidated piecemeal, and few fences were shown on 19thC Maps.
In 1839 the Haseleys remained over 2/3rds Arable, compared with 85% under Grass at Latchford & Rycote. Little Haseleys Court Farm (269a) & Stones Farm (455a) were Leased, though the Townships Woodland (35a) was kept in hand by the Owner Walter Long. At Great Haseley the 3 post-Inclosure farms were run alongside the earlier Peggs Farm (158a) and Church Farm (101a), the last of which was occupied with Latchford Farm (99a) by Edward Franklin for £272 10s a year. Latchfords other Leasehold Farms were Lobb (296a), Charity (161a), Latchford House (124a), and Jointers (91a), while Rycotlane Farm totalled 206a held of the Earl of Abingdon. The Earl additionally Leased out Pasture closes extending into Albury & Thame, but kept in hand Rycotes 95a of Woodland. Farm sizes changed little during the 19thC and turnover of Tenants was generally slow, with Families such as the Atkinsons & Shrimptons at Great Haseley and the Lewins at Charity farm continuing from the 1830s to the 20thC.
Such stability through a time of Agricultural Depression was apparently achieved by renewed conversion of Arable to Pasture, which in the Thame region was largely driven by the London Market. In 1870, when the Parish contained 10 farms over 100a and a similar number of Smallholdings, around 2/5ths of its Farmland remained under crop, growing mostly wheat, barley, oats, beans, & fodder crops. By 1900 the figure was under a 3rd, and cattle numbers had increased from 567 to 828; a corresponding fall in sheep numbers (from 3,139 to 1,529) probably partly reflected their reduced importance for manuring the Arable. By 1911 the Earl of Abingdon’s Rycote Estate was entirely Pasture, his 2 dairy Farms yielding annual rents totalling £790 even so that was considerably less than the Rents paid a century before.
Similar patterns continued in the 1920s-30s when most Farms were still Leased from the Parish’s large Landowners. Three exceeded 300a in 1930 & 3 others were 100–300a, complemented by over 12 Smallholdings and by extensive Allotments in Great Haseley Village. A total of 56 Farm Workers were still employed, several of them occupying tied Cottages, & land use was little changed, with c.30% of farmland sown with wheat, barley, oats, & fodder crops, and pasture gave over to dairying & grazing. Nevertheless, the historic differences between the Parish’s various parts continued, Great Haseley’s Church Farm remaining over 2/5ths Arable in 1941, compared with only a 5th at Lobb & Rycotelane Farms. Cattle rearing & dairying were widespread, but only the larger Arable Farms carried sheep, most others concentrating on pigs & poultry. Farming standards generally were high.
Dairying continued in the 1960s, with Friesian & Ayrshire herds kept at Great Haseley and milk exported daily in churns. A total of 1,194 cattle were grazed on the Parish’s 1,880a of grassland in 1960, the remaining 700a sown with wheat, barley, oats, & kale. Poultry numbered 12,850, but sheep & pig numbers were low, and widespread Mechanisation had reduced the Workforce, on one Farm from 9–10 men a generation earlier to only 3 men and a boy. Even so, Little Haseley’s 625a Court Farm retained 13 tied Cottages in 1964. During the 1970s-80s the acreage under wheat & barley increased significantly while cattle numbers fell: in 1988 only 1 dairy and one cattle-rearing Farm remained. Four others were mostly Arable, and at Rycote a cereal, oilseed rape, & linseed rotation was practised in 2000. The fall in animal numbers probably contributed to dereliction of some Farm buildings, although at Rycote the Taylors re-introduced a herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle and a flock of Castle Milk Moorit sheep in the early 21stC.
Trades Crafts & Retailing
Occupational surnames suggest a relatively wide range of Medieval Trades, including those of butcher, carter, chapman, skinner, souter (or shoemaker) & possibly potter, alongside the more common carpenters, smiths, & tailors. Brewing was also widespread by the 13thC perhaps reflecting the proximity of the Oxford-London Road. A Fishery was mentioned in 1302, and William Smith held a Forge in the late 15thC.
16th-century Tradesmen included a tailor, shoemaker, & currier, and in the 17thC, some of the Gresham Family were Colliers or Charcoal-makers. The Hurst family were Blacksmiths from the 17thC to the 20thC. Several of the Parish’s Inns & Beerhouses are documented from the early 18thC, while an Ironmonger & a Clockmaker became established a few decades later. Even so, most inhabitants were still employed in Agriculture and looked probably to Thame for a wider range of shops & services.
In 1811 c.17 Families in Great Haseley Village (about a 5th of the total) were employed chiefly in Trade or craft, rising to 20 families (around a 6th) in 1831. Amongst them were blacksmiths, carpenters, cordwainers, grocers, masons, publicans, & wheelwrights, while a baker, butcher, dressmaker, machine-maker, tailor, & turner were mentioned in 1841. A grocer & a plumber lived at Little Haseley and a cheesemonger at Lobb. By 1861 a little over a 10th of Great Haseley’s inhabitants were Tradespeople, including 3 Publicans who worked additionally as a mason, tailor, & plumber. Others combining occupations included a grocer employed as an iron & brass moulder. An Ironworks, established by 1871 on the Great Milton Boundary, belonged from the mid-1870s to John Gibbons, who in 1889 bought an acre of Glebe to enlarge the Site. In the 1890s the Works were bought by Thomas Jarmain, who specialised in producing Agricultural Tools and formed a Limited Company in 1908.
Around 1900 Great Haseley still supported 3 Pubs, a Post Office, & a Grocers, Butchers, Bakers, & Blacksmith’s, but thereafter increasing Motor Transport probably undermined local demand. A motor repair Garage was opened in the Village before the WW2. Three Shops (including a Grocers, Bakers, & Post Ofice) remained in 1965 when the Plough was the only surviving Pub. A butchers van delivered meat daily, and local farms supplied eggs. Traditional Craftsmen included a Thatcher and a Farrier, and the Smithy continued, while the Ironworks was undergoing transformation into a Light Industrial Estate. The Shops closed over the following decade, while the Plough was bought by the Villagers in 2012. Great Haseley’s industrial estate provided some local Employment, and in 2012 accommodated a Lawnmower Manufacturer; another part of the Site and a smaller Industrial Estate in Little Haseley were then vacant, however.
Freestone was Quarried from the area’s Portland Beds from Anglo-Saxon times, as indicated by the local place name Standhill (Old English stan gedelf meaning ‘stone quarry‘). Stone Masons were mentioned from the 17thC, presumably digging Stone Pits mentioned in Great Haseley’s Open-fields, on the Village’s northern edge, and between Peggs Farm & Standhill. Other Quarries lay near the Great Milton Boundary.
By the 18th century, the Cooper’s were particularly prominent: John Cooper supplied paving Stone to All Souls College in Oxford in the 1730s, while Ferdinando Cooper (d.1764) amassed a considerable fortune before dying from Smallpox. Three of the 5 Masons living at Great Haseley in 1841 were from the same Family and included the Lessee of the Glebe’s Quarry & Stone Yard. In 1871 the Master Mason William Cooper employed 3 Masons & a Stone Sawyer, and the Family remained in Business in the early 20thC By 1928 the Quarry nearest the Village was disused, although the Cooper’s continued as Stone Masons until WW2.
A Horse-Mill at Little Haseley (mentioned in 1432) was probably short-lived, but Windmills at Great Haseley & Rycote proved longer-lasting. Rycote’s was ‘broken-down (debile) in 1302 when it was worth 5s. a year, but a Family surnamed Millward was Taxed at Little Rycote in 1377–81, and in 1433 William Long (presumably a Miller) was fined for taking excessive Tolls. That or another Mill at Rycote continued in 1507, but its location is unknown, and possibly it was removed when Rycote House was rebuilt a few decades later.
Great Haseley’s Windmill lacked Millstones in 1360, but was still worth 3s-4d a year and in 1433 was run by Robert Millward. Probably it stood in Windmill Field on the site of the present Mill, though its history may not have been continuous. In the 16thC it paid tithes, but in the 18thC only the Millhouse was mentioned, and the Mill was not marked on contemporary Maps. The present Stone-Built Tower Mill dates probably from the early 19thC, and in 1839 was run by its owner-occupier John Billings. Subsequent Millers may have included Lessees, though Gabriel Billings ran it directly in 1871, employing a man & a boy. From the mid-1880s it was leased first to William Cross and later to Robert Warner, before closing c.1910.
The building subsequently fell into decay: in 1967 the cost of repairs was estimated at £2,000–£3,000, and in 1969 thieves stripped copper from its Roof. By 1975 most of the Sails had gone, though the Owner undertook some essential repairs and an open day was held for Villagers. A complete restoration (including installation of new machinery) was carried out in 2009, Overseen by a Trust established in 2005.
Recently Restored Tower Mill at Milton Common
Milton Common Tower Mill, Great Haseley
This Tower Mill still survives. Originally built in 1760 (a date-stone stating 1806 misleads), it had common Sails, & 2 pairs of Millstones. It was in working order in the early 1900s and then fell into disrepair. In 1925 it was almost derelict and had become partly overgrown with Ivy. The Cap was repaired in the late 1970s. Sails & Fantail fitted 25th June 2014. Sails turning for National Mills Weekend – 14th May 2016.
Dave Empringham – vastly experienced in Mill Restoration. Originally worked as a furniture Designer. Drawn into Millwrighting through volunteer work at Lacey Green Tower Windmill in the late 70’s. Formed a Millwrighting Company with like-minded individuals and pursued this full time. Now self-employed.
Steve Empringham – Dave’s son! Worked as a Forensic Scientist for 15 years before leaving the Rat Race. Now learning the Mill Restoration Trade and using recently learnt welding skills.
Karl – another vastly experienced Millwright. Fascinated by Mills from a young age, cycling the Country to spot them! Trained at College whilst working with Dave and has worked on many Projects with him since.