Moreton Hamlet

The name “Moreton” is derived from the Saxon “Mor’tun” meaning low-lying or marshy ground, which in some respects, Moreton remains today.  Always a Hamlet and never a fully-fledged Village, Moreton remains one of the few places in England to have neither a Manor House or a Church and the early History & Ownership, of Moreton go a long way towards explaining this. The “Lords of the Manor” of Moreton were Absentee Landlords who always lived somewhere else and therefore had no need of a House or a Church in Moreton.

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Moreton lies on the Cuttle Brook and is still a sizeable Village with a number of Ancient Cottages & Farmhouses, as well as a 19thC Primitive Methodist Chapel, a former National School, and a number of 20thC Council Houses.  Its appearance was completely altered by the Inclosure Award.  The large Green in the South-West was Inclosed and though some of the oldest Houses are still in this area, the modern Village has spread North-Eastward.  An older part of the Village where there are Timber-framed & Thatched Cottages is grouped around a small Green to the North-East of the old one.

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The Bishop owned only 37/60ths of Moreton, the remaining 23/60ths were held by a Norman Knight – Hugh de Braimuster – who had his principal home at Bledlow Manor.  Hugh went on Crusade to the Holy Land between 1160 & 1180 and Moreton passed to his son Odo who confirmed the arrangement with the Bishop. An early Tenant in Moreton (c.1146) was one Osmund de Moreton who was succeeded, in turn, by Geoffrey de Moreton (described in the records of 1150 as “Hugh de Braimuster’s man”), William de Moreton & Walter de Moreton.  Geoffrey de Moreton appears to have been well connected  – he gave Thame Abbey a “Hide” of Land (about 120 acres) on condition that during his life or until he became a Monk, the Abbey should give him every year “a certain amount of grain, 2s-2d for his hose & shoes and allow him a calf & a half”.  The de Moreton’s seem to have been the Principal Tenants of the de Braimusters until well into the 1300s but with the majority of the Land still owned by the Bishop.  Although the main Ecclesiastical Centre of the time was Thame Abbey the Bishop lived in some splendour in Thame Park where there was also a Monastery and a thriving Academic Community of Monks.

Moreton has been in existence as long as Thame, the latter being mentioned with it in the Domesday Book of 1086.

 

In the past the main occupation of the inhabitants was Farming – there being at least 7 Farms and more than 30 Cottages, the majority housing the Farm Labourers.  A decline in Agriculture greatly reduced the size of the Village and eventually led to the closure of the Methodist Chapel, the School & the Shop. The bottom of the decline came in the 1950s and today there are about 50 houses & Cottages, plus 2 Farms and a Smallholding, all Family-owned & Run.

The majority of Moreton’s older buildings cluster at the East-end of the Hamlet surrounding the Green and the 2-Ponds. They then trail thinly up to the War Memorial which was erected in 1920.  Beyond the War Memorial is a small, but mixed, collection of houses.

Moreton only has one Road in and the same Road out (plus 2 extremely low-grade but passable back Roads, one to the nearby Village of Tetsworth and another to the Oxfordshire Golf Resort), but its Roads were passable once.  Until well into the 18thC, the Main Thoroughfare from Aylesbury to Tetsworth & Wallingford ran through Moreton, via today’s Moreton Lane in Thame.  The Needlemakers of Long Crendon made use of this Road twice a year to send their Goods by Stagecoach for Sale in London.  Before that, it was used by the Roundheads, who would have passed through carrying the mortally wounded John Hampden from the Battle of Chalgrove Field to Thame in 1643.

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Click to Enlarge

1st Series OS Map Of Oxfordshire
Surveyed by a local man, Richard Davis of Lewknor and published in 1797. This large map consists of 16 sheets at an impressively detailed scale of 1:31,680 or 2-ins to one mile. No more than 200 copies were ever made, the evidence is based on all Sets of the Map having manuscript Serial No.s – this Image is part of No.34.  Very few complete Copies survive.  In terms of what the Map shows, a clear break has been made from the Saxton-led traditional County Map, as here far more detail than previously is featured. Not only are County and Hundred Boundaries, Rivers & Streams, Towns & Villages, Parks, & Woodland depicted, but here we have Roads, Tracks, Hedges, indeed every Field can be seen, and relief is beautifully represented by the use of hachuresDavis was also Topographer to His Majesty, George III.

Like many Villages and Towns in Oxfordshire, Moreton was pillaged during the English Civil War.  This era is the one that appears to have produced the ‘Troubled Spirit’ that haunts Brook Cottage. The various happenings were recorded by Mr Ron Mott, who was born in the Cottage. He remembers his parents occasionally referring to hearing the ‘Old Man’s’ rat-tat on the door and heavy footsteps on the Brick Path outside.

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The Old Bell

Until early in the 20th century Moreton had 2 Public Houses: the Bell at one end and the Royal Oak at the other. Both have since closed and are now private houses.  Records show that what we know today as The Old Bell was, in 1851, the “One Bell Inn” and living there were Thomas Lester, a Butcher & Shoemaker who employed 2 men, his wife, Anne, & their 5 children (all under 12). It is assumed that Anne Lester was the Landlady of the One Bell Inn.   By 1881, it had become “The Bell Inn” and the Landlord was Harry Richmond who lived there with his wife Harriet & child.

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Royal Oak now fenced in

At about the same time, Moreton’s Water (drawn from Wells & Springs) was considered to be so good that the Hamlet became the Centre of the local Brewing Industry and this activity is frequently recorded in reference to John North who, around the 1860s, was the Blind Landlord of the Royal Oak and who brewed & served his own Beer.  His Beer was renowned to be of such quality that the saying in Thame at the time and well into the 20thC was “go to Moreton and know the rights of it”.  His culinary speciality was to smear Malt on a piece of Pork, wrap it in old sacking and bury it for 6 months to “Season”!  In 1870 the Royal Oak burned down and was later rebuilt.  It closed its doors & called time for the last time on 24th December 1999 when Paddy McIginty was Landlord ending many Centuries of the tradition of a Village Pub in Moreton.  The Royal Oak Sign used to hang on an Elm tree – c.1900.  There is no record of when Royal Oak was established (presumably after 1651 when the name became popular for Pubs).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is brickworksmorton.jpgIn the latter years of the 19thC and the early part of the 20thC, there was a Brickworks on the north side of Rycote Lane opposite the Road to Moreton, on the Site once occupied by Bennett’s Transport Depot & the Rovacabin Works. The Brickmaker’s was initially known as “The Christmas Hill Brickworks”.  Its precise origins are unknown but it appears that in 1884 one Mr C Blood took over the Works from Mr J E  Humphreys.  The Works seem to have had their ups & downs, having been closed on possibly more than one occasion but subsequently re-opened.  However, at least for a while, the Brickworks were fairly extensive. There were 4-Brick Kilns and a Siding giving access to the Railway, and a further Line running into the Clay Pit.  Historians Brown & Guest who published a History of Thame in 1935 mention that the Brickworks were reopened in 1934, on an extensive scale as the “Priest End Brick & Tile Works”, as a result of the Building Boom.

Folly Cottage