Tetsworth Parish

Tetsworth was one of the Ancient Chapelries of Thame and did not become an Independent Ecclesiastical Parish until 1841.  It was administratively separate from Thame from an early date, however, and covered 1,179 acres in 1932, when the Civil Parish was enlarged to 2,618 acres by the addition of Attington and part of Thame to the West. The Ancient Boundaries followed Haseley Brook in the South and the old Boundary on the East used to run from the Wheatfield Road to Horsenden Hill, some way to the West of the modern Boundary.  On the North & East, where Tetsworth touched Attington & Thame, the Boundary Line made numerous right-angled turns indicating that it was drawn after the layout of Arable Strips.
Attington Parish Tithe Map 1848
Tetsworth Parish Tithe Map 1839

The Ancient Chapelry lay in the Clay Belt,  mainly between the 200 & 300ft contours: it rose in the centre to over 300 ft. and also at Horsenden Hill at the North-east corner. Tetsworth Common lay to the North-west of the Village.

Natural History of Oxfordshire ~ Robert Plot


Michael Burghers – Map Of Oxfordshire 1677
Beautifully embellished Map of the county of Oxfordshire engraved by Michael Burghers for Dr Robert Plot’sThe Natural History of Oxfordshire” published in 1677, a work that contained descriptions and images of Fossils found in the County including the 1st known illustration of a Dinosaur bone. The defining characteristic of the Map is the extensive decoration of the Borders & Cartouches with 178 Coats of Arms of the Colleges of Oxford University, Noblemen and Clergy. Also included is a Key explaining the Symbols used to identify various types of Locations on the Map.

The main Oxford–High Wycombe–London Road runs diagonally across the Parish; it became a Turnpike in 1718.  The records reveal the importance of the High Road in the life of Tetsworth from early times.  The Village is marked on a mid-14thC Road Map of England and in 1447 a Licence was granted to found a Hermitage at Tetsworth and a Chapel of St John the Baptist for the purpose of repairing the Road.  The Hermit was to labour with his hands for the maintenance of the Highways between Stokenchurch & Wheatley Bridge, which had long been a trouble for lack of Repair.  At the Reformation the Hermit disappeared but he was remembered as late as the 19thC by a Field called the Hermitage beside the Thame Road.

In the Wills of Medieval Inhabitants of Tetsworth and the Neighbourhood Bequests were constantly made for the Upkeep of the Highways,  and post-Medieval documents contain many references to Travellers on the Tetsworth Road.  As the Village was 12-miles from Oxford it became a Stage on the Route from London to Oxford for the Postchaises & Carriers, and it was there that Letters from the Capital for the Great Houses such as Rycote were left.

Dr Robert Plot noted in 1677 that the ways were mended with the local Stone called ‘Maume‘. It was so free of Sulphur that it slaked in winter like Lime and Plot thought the local Farmers should much rather ‘mend their lands than Highways‘ with it.  He left a specimen with the son of the ‘ingenious improver, Sir Thomas Tipping‘, as a ‘thing not unworthy of his father’s trial‘.

That the Roads might be dangerous appears from occasional records.  A 16thC Star Chamber case records that an Oxford Carrier, taking Goods and Passengers to London, was attacked at Tetsworth by 4 Armed Men.  They wounded the 8 occupants of his conveyance and opened valuable Chests.  In 1681 Viscount Latimer wrote that he had arrived safely at Oxford without encountering Highwaymen, having paid a visit to Rycote whilst his coach ‘waited‘ at Tetsworth.  Another case is recorded in 1762 of a Highwayman robbing one of the Oxford Coaches near Tetsworth.

The heyday of the Road was after the making of the Turnpike in 1718 until the coming of the Railways in the 1840’s,  when Road Traffic dwindled and one of the principal Hostelries, the ‘Swan‘, was partly converted into a Post-office and the ‘Royal Oak‘ was pulled down.  Hearne records how the Mayor of Oxford and others dined at Tetsworth in 1725 and that Dr Edmund Hailey of Greenwich, the Savilian Professor of Geometry, designed to lie there on his return journey after a visit to Oxford in 1727.  In 1835 Pigot’s Commercial Directory records that 3 London Coaches went daily via Tetsworth and Wheatley to Oxford. There were 2 Vans and Wagons a week from London going by the same route, besides much local Traffic. NPG D21243,Sir Charles Sedley,by; after Michael Van der Gucht; Unknown artist

The Chief Coaching Inn was the ‘Swan‘. In the 17thC when it was the Property of the Sedley Family and of Sir Charles Sedley, the Dramatist and notorious Rake & Libertine, its name was changed to the ‘Sedley Arms‘.  By 1719 the Inn had reverted to its original name.   The present Building is of many dates, but the late 17th & 18thC facade of chequer brick conceals a much older and rather smaller Building.  The original House probably built c.1600, consisted of a timber-framed L-shaped building of 2-Storeys and Attics, with 3 fine brick Chimney Stacks at the back.  The Range parallel with the Road probably contained the Hall, with a Screens Passage and Kitchen or Buttery to the East and a Staircase and Parlour to the West. On the 1st-floor is a Post which shows that the Walls were formerly covered with wall-paintings. About 1700 the whole building was extensively remodelled & enlarged; an Eastern projecting Wing was added, the existing Ranges were encased in brick, a row of Rooms was added at the back, and along the Eastern side of the Western Range was added a 2-Storey Gallery.  The Building now consists of a main block of 2-Storeys & Attics and of flanking Wings projecting towards the Road.  It has a 1st-floor String and the Cornice of moulded wood and plaster is deeply coved.  The Roof is Hipped and tiled.  The South Elevation of the Centre Block has 3 hipped Dormer windows.  There are 8-Bays with mullioned & transomed windows of which the upper ones are original, but the Ground Floor ones were, until recently, sash windows. The building has many contemporary details such as its 6-panelled Door in the Centre Block with a rectangular Fanlight, divided into 4 pointed Arches, and its diamond-shaped Chimney Stacks. There is much 16th & 17thC panelling inside.


At the Hamlet of Tetsworth we noticed its rambling, Brick-built, and time-dimmed old Coaching Inn, and on its Ancient Front a board inscribed “Petrol.” How times have changed—Petrol in place of Corn & Hay for the passing Steed of many HP, even 40 at times; Machinery in place of Muscle!  “The Swan” at Tetsworth is a building of some size, and, though it still entertains Wayfarers, has such a forlorn look that I felt quite sorry for the poor old place. Once it was known as “The Great Inn at Tetsworth,” and was the scene of much noisy Revelry; when we were there we saw no sign of life about the place.
To the Ancient Wayside Tavern
Comes the noisy throng no more.
Even the Motor-car does not appear to have revived its fortunes. There we pulled up for Petrol, not that we required it, but it was an excuse to linger about the Old Inn, for, though I cannot say exactly why, it mildly fascinated me; the Building, old and weather-stained, with its broad Front to the Street, told its Silent Tale of past days and doings as eloquently and plainly as though it were told on the printed page. After much waiting I procured the Petrol I did not want, and, more to the point, I obtained a glance within at the Inn’s Ancient Chambers; they had a faded, Antiquated look, not, to me, altogether displeasing; I think I could have spent the night at “The Swan” quite comfortably had I needed.  It is an Inn of Memories.

Despite the importance of the London Road, the Village as a whole does not border it. It is a Hill village, lying largely on 2 lanes that branch off to the South-west of the main road and climb the Steep Hill to the Church at the Summit. Richard Davis’s Map Of Oxfordshire 1797 shows the ‘Swan‘ and the Pettys’ Manor-House as the only Buildings on the North-east side of the London Road, and even by 1839 this was still the case.  Fields and the Green Common (7a) lay next to the ‘Swan‘.  Tetsworth was a fair-sized Village in the 17thC with at least 43 Householders and some Timber-framed Cottages of this period, many of them Thatched, still survive. ‘Robertlyn‘, for example, has 1-Storey and an Attic, is Timber-framed with brick and rubble fillings; and the Roof is half-hipped and Thatched. Other Cottages of the same period are built partly of flint and partly of brick. The Farmhouse opposite to the former ‘Red Lion‘ is a rubblestone House of 17thC date with Brick additions.  The Village has still some 18thC houses such as the house opposite the ‘Swan‘, which has a characteristic panelled door and a wreathed and enriched Fan-light. The former ‘King’s Arms‘ was also an 18thC building, built on a Terrace above the level of the Road.  Rebuilding was sometimes the result of Fire as in 1736.  19thC additions to the Village included the Church & the Vicarage, built in 1846,  the red-Brick & Gothic School with a Bell-turret, and the Congregational Chapel of red-Brick with Stone facings (1890).  In the 20thC a Council Housing-Estate of 32 dwellings was built at Marsh End after WW2 and in 1952 a Village Hall was erected.

At one time the most important House in Tetsworth was the Manor-House, standing on the site of Mount Hill Farm (The Mount).  It was built early in the 16thC by Maximilian Petty. It is said by Wood that he pulled down the Wool Storage rooms attached to the 15thC house in Thame, which he had bought from Geoffrey Dormer and where he had lived for some time.  He used the materials to build his Tetsworth House.  Here the Pettys lived for several generations. John Petty, grandson of Maximilian, of Tetsworth & Stoke Talmage was Granted Arms in 1570, and some at least of his 10 children were born at Tetsworth.  His son Charnell, ‘an old Puritan‘, lived at Tetsworth from 1614 to 1634,  and in his Will, proved 1661, willed that his wife Ellen should enjoy the Mansion House.  At this time it was a fair-sized house rated at 13 hearths for the Hearth Tax of 1665Robert Plot shows it with 4 Chimneys on his Map of 1677 as he does other houses of the Gentry such as Dormer’s at Ascott Doyley’s at ChislehamptonChristopher Petty sold the House in 1683 to his kinsman Christopher Wood, a relation of the Antiquary Anthony Wood.  Later in the Century it was divided into a Baker’s House and 3 others.  The present house, Mount Hill Farmhouse, stands on the Crown of the Hill (The Mount) with its Gable-end facing the Highway and it’s North Front facing a Lane, from which it is approached by a flight of 12-steps.  The Gable-end has 3-Storeys and an Attic; the North Front has 2-Storeys & an Attic. A covering of stucco mostly conceals the brick and Stone of the old house, and a 19thC Porch & Sash windows have been added.


Michael Burghers – Map Of Oxfordshire 1677
Beautifully embellished Map of the county of Oxfordshire engraved by Michael Burghers for Dr Robert Plot’sThe Natural History of Oxfordshire” published in 1677, a work that contained descriptions and images of Fossils found in the County including the 1st known illustration of a Dinosaur bone. The defining characteristic of the Map is the extensive decoration of the Borders & Cartouches with 178 Coats of Arms of the Colleges of Oxford University, Noblemen and Clergy. Also included is a Key explaining the Symbols used to identify various types of Locations on the Map.

Because of the early Inclosure of Tetsworth Field some of the Parish’s Farmhouses, Latchford (Hole) House, Goldpits, and Spencer’s, for example, were not in the Village.  The only one that still has any Historical interest is Harlesford Farmhouse (Stoke Talmage Rd) and its outbuildings.  The 18thC house is built of Vitreous brick with red dressings; and the outbuildings are partly Brick, partly Weather-boarding, and the Roofs are covered with old tiles.

Tetsworth’s position on the London Road and in one of the main Battle Areas of the Civil War meant that Troops were frequently passing through.  In 1643 Hampden visited Major Gunter’s Cavalry which were Quartered in and about Tetsworth; Prince Rupert went through on his way to Chalgrove Field, and Parliamentary Scouts often picked up news there, particularly from Travellers from London or Oxford.  It was reported in October 1643, for example, that some of the King’s Foot & Horsemen were Quartered in the Village; in January 1644 that the King & Queen themselves were there, and that the French Ambassador had also passed the night there, his Coach having broken down.

Of its Inhabitants, the Petty Family achieved a local position of some importance and one George Pettie (1548–89) made his mark on Literature as a Minor Writer of Romances.  Among Churchmen Eliezer Williams (1754–1820), Historian & Genealogist had a brief Association with Tetsworth as Curate, and J W Peers (Vicar 1841–76) was responsible for Building the Church, Vicarage & School.

There is no record of any School at Tetsworth before the 19thC.  Two Private Day-Schools existed in 1815, of which one was kept by Isaac Caterer, who later became the Congregational Minister.  The Dissenters had also established a Sunday School in 1812, and in 1818 there were about 30 children attending it.  Only one Day School was returned in 1818,  but more Schools were established in the next decade, a Girls’ School in 1827 and a mixed Infants’ School in 1829. The 2 last had 6 and 28 pupils respectively in 1833.  In that year there were also 2 other Day Schools which together took 30 boys and 8 girls.  All these schools were supported by Parents.  There is no later record of them, and in 1847 a new School with accommodation for 90 pupils was built in the Centre of the Village at the cost of John W Peers and other Contributors.  Each child paid 2d a week and the Teacher’s salary was raised by subscription.  It was a Church of England School and later became affiliated to the National Society.  There were 81 pupils in 1854, 25 less than the number attending the Sunday School.  By 1871 attendance at the National School was only 51 children.  The reduction in numbers must have been at least partly caused by the existence in 1871 of another School, about which nothing is known as it omitted to make a Return after its Transference in 1879 to the new School Board for Tetsworth and Attington which had been set up in 1877.   Attington children in the 19thC appear always to have attended Schools in neighbouring Parishes, and when the Board School for the School Board District of Tetsworth & Attington was opened in 1881 children from both Villages attended.  The average number of Pupils was 74 in 1889 and 69 in 1903–4.  The School was reorganised in 1938 as one of the Thame Schools for children up to 11 years, and Senior children were sent by bus to Thame.  In 1955 they were attending the John Hampden School there and Thame Secondary Modern School.  Tetsworth School had 30 pupils in 1943 and 68 in 1954, when it was known as Tetsworth County Primary School, and was attended also by children from Stoke Talmage & Wheatfield.

Miss Mary Elizabeth Cozens, of Brighton, by Will proved 1920, left to the Patrons of Tetsworth Church £2,000, Duty free, to be applied in Augmentation of the Benefice, subject to the requirement, so far as the Law allowed, that the Sepulchral Monuments of the Cozens Family in Church and Churchyard should be maintained by the Patrons or Incumbent.  The Residue of her Estate she left in Trust, as ‘the Cozens Bequest‘, the Income to be paid once yearly or oftener to needy Women of Tetsworth or adjacent Parishes, not being Roman Catholics.  By Scheme made in 1924 the neighbouring Parishes were defined as Thame, Great Haseley, Stoke Talmage, Wheatfield, Adwell (with South Weston), Lewknor, Aston Rowant, and the Benefits defined as cash payments, by loan or otherwise, in cases of sickness or special distress; weekly allowances of between 1s 6d & 5s for those unable to support themselves; and Pensions.  The Capital then held in stock was £5,557.  Besides this, the sum of £555 was owing on Security of Mortgages, and there were expectancies on the death of a person then living.  In fact, the Capital was not fully paid over until 1953 when £405 was added to the original Stock.  In 1955 & 1956 the annual income was £395 and was distributed in weekly Pensions of 6s or 10s per head, in Christmas Gifts amounting to £9 in the 1st year and £10 10s in the 2nd, and in a special Grant of £5 5s in 1956