Although Thame was undoubtedly the centre of a Large Estate supplying Food Rents in the early Anglo-Saxon Period to the Bishop of Dorchester, there is no direct evidence for its Economic life before Domesday Book. It may be noted here, however, that its Economic ties with the Villages of Towersey then in Bucks & Sydenham in Lewknor Hundred, both Daughter Churches of Thame, may once have been much closer than they were by the 11thC, and that though Thame’s Dependent Villages of North Weston, Attington, Moreton & Tetsworth are not mentioned in Domesday, there is no reason to suppose that they were not already in existence. The Fertility of the Soil would encourage early Settlement and the form of the Names of the Villages and the number of Plough-Lands recorded in 1086 supports this view. Attington derives from Eatta’s Hill (OE Eattan dun), Moreton from Mor-tun, Tetsworth from Tætel’s worp & Weston is the West Tun, i.e. West of Thame, with North added to distinguish it from South Weston, a Domesday Village.
In 1086 there were 37-Hides in the Bishop’s Demesne Manor of Thame and Land for 34-Ploughs, but only 24 were in use. The Bishop had 5 in Demesne & 5 Serfs, and his customary Tenants, 27 Villani & 26 Bordars, had 19-Ploughs. There was a Mill, worth £1, and the Meadowland, always highly prized in the rich Thame Valley, was worth £3, a 10th of the value of the whole Manor. The pre-Conquest valuation of Thame was £20, but when received by Bishop Remigius the Estate had so suffered that its value had fallen to £16. Of the 23-Hides held by the Bishop’s Knights, it is said that there were 10-Ploughs in Demesne, and that 16 Viliani with 21 Bordars & 8 Serfs had another 10-Ploughs. These Holdings were in an area that included North Weston, Moreton, Attington & Tetsworth.
The size of the Bishop’s Manor was diminished in the 12thC by a number of Grants: 1st, Thame Abbey received 3-Carucates on its Refoundation in 1139 or 1140, when Bishop Alexander gave his Park at Thame so that the Cistercian Monks of Ottley in Oddington might have a more favourable Site; 2nd, the new Prebend of Thame was endowed with 4-Carucates by Bishop Alexander by 1146, and possibly about this time part of the Bishop’s Demesne was set aside for the Foundation of the Burgus of New Thame. The remainder appears to have continued as a Demesne Manor, administered by the Bishop’s Servants, probably until 1509, when it was farmed to Geoffrey Dormer. Details, however, are lacking except for a few scattered Notices. Apart from an Account of the Sale of Corn in 1181/2, entered on the Pipe Roll as the Manor was in the King’s hands during a Vacancy, there is no further information until the detailed description given of the Manor in the Survey of the Bishop’s Estates made in the 2nd Quarter of the 13thC. The Bishop then had 7-Free Tenants, 5 at Thame and 2 at North Weston, holding between them 14½-Virgates and paying Assized Rents of 73s-2d. The Thame Tenants were also bound to do carrying Services: Roger, son of Lete, for example, held 3 Virgates for 18s Rent and carried the Lord’s Writs as far as Banbury, Buckend (Hunts), Biggleswade (Beds) and Wooburn (Bucks); he also carried, with the Bailiff, the Bishop’s Money.
Of the Customary Tenants of Thame, 10 held 10½ Virgates, 21½-Virgates & 4 Tofts; 16 were Cottars. There were 16 Villein Virgaters in North Weston. No comparison can profitably be made with the number of Tenants in 1086, for the Manor had been reduced in size. The account of the Rents & Services given illustrates the transitional period when the Villein might be doing either week-work or paying a money Rent and doing an agreed amount of Boon-work, presumably according to the Lord’s needs.
The Bishop had 5 Plough-lands in Demesne and could have 200 sheep & 20 cows. He drew some of his Permanent as well as Seasonal Labour from his Customary Tenants. Two of the ½-Virgaters were to be the Lord’s Ploughmen if he wished and for this, they were Quit of all other Services. Two others were liable to keep the Lord’s cows & his sheep, and one of the Cottars was the Lord’s Gardener and was Quit of the Services which the other Cottars owed. Another Virgater was not liable for week-work, because he made the Ironwork for 4-Ploughs, providing the Iron himself. Some of the Tenants may have been famuli, who had been provided with some Land, for 2-men who held Tofts (homesteads) were called Ploughmen (carucarii). Since the time of Bishop William (1203–06) the Cottars had been allowed to Rent a certain Meadow for 3s in lieu of the Hay, they used to receive from the Bishop at Mowing time. All Customary Tenants paid Dues to the Bishop when they succeeded to a Holding or married a Daughter, and they paid Fines for Fornication and gave an ‘Aid‘ when the Lord wished.
The North Weston Villeins owed much the same Services but paid only 5s when they held a Virgate at Farm.
The Hundredal Inquest of 1279 reveals a number of developments on the Bishop’s Manor and in its dependent Hamlets. The Bishop had 4-Plough-lands in Demesne with a Mill & 2 Weirs, and 38 recorded Tenants as against 46 in the earlier Survey. The ½-Virgater Class of Tenant was not mentioned as such and there were now 21 Virgaters & 17 Cottars, who held 4-acres each. No Services are recorded and the whole entry is of the briefest kind since the King had little interest in the Bishop’s Manor. The amount of customary Land under cultivation had remained much the same. The holders of 1-Virgate paid a rent of 5s and their Services were valued at 3s, As at the time of the earlier Survey some 50-yrs before, the Bishop had 4-Free Tenants in Thame besides Geoffrey de Lewknor, Tenant of 1/6th-Knight’s Fee, but the Jurors made no mention of Services other than Scutage & Suit to the Hundred of Thame. Others holding of the Bishop in Thame were the Rector, i.e. the Prebendary, who had 16-Virgates in Villeinage & the Abbey, which had 3-Carucates in Alms. The 4-Carucates assigned to the Church seems to be an error and simply a repetition of the Prebendary’s Holding.
More detailed Accounts are given of the Bishop’s Property in the Hamlets of Attington, Moreton, & Weston. The Bishop had 9-Virgaters in Moreton, although most of the Manor’s Land there had been sub-infeudated: Nicholas de Segrave held 10-Virgates by Military Tenure and had 7 Virgater & 6 ½-Virgater Tenants paying a Rent at the rate of 12s a Virgate. Thame Abbey was the other Chief Tenant, holding Moreton (& Attington) for ½-Knight’s Fee. In Moreton, it had 32-Tenants, but only 5 of these, including the Smith & the Miller, held as much as 10-acres to a Virgate. The rest of the 21-Tenants had only a Messuage or a Cottage, with a few acres attached, and may have been Craftsmen, partly dependent on the Market at Thame for their Livelihood. Among them were at least 1-Weaver & 2-Carpenters. In Attington the Abbot had an Estate of 6-Virgates and 12-Tenants, of whom 1 held 3-Virgates for 30s, Scutage, & Suit of Court; and 3 others held 25/6th Virgates between them and paid Rent at the rate of 10s a Virgate. The Abbot also had 8-Cottagers paying Rents ranging from 2s to 5s. On a 2nd Estate in Attington of over 4½-Virgates, belonging to Alexander de Hampden, there were no Cottagers. The Virgaters, held from 1¼-Virgates to ½-Virgate each and likewise paid Rent at the rate of 10s a Virgate (24a).
In North Weston William Quatremain held the Manor to which were attached 15-Virgates in Ascott, in Great Milton Parish. His 7-Demesne Virgates & Fishery, however, were certainly in North Weston, and he had there 2 Customary Tenants & 5 Free Tenants who owed Small-Rents, Scutage, or Suit of Court. William son of Henry held 8-Virgates and a Fishery of the Bishop, but had Granted them to Subtenants. John Basset, who held a Hide in Socage of the Bishop, had done likewise. The Bishop himself had 8 Customary Tenants & 2 Tenants besides John Basset. These too, held in Socage and owed Suit of Court for a Virgate & ½-Virgate respectively. The Bishop’s Customars held on the same terms as his Moreton ones, but Quatremain’s 2 Customars paid 5s Rent and did Services worth 3s for 1-Virgate. The 3 Customars of William, son of Henry, owed the same Rent & Services; his 3 Cottars paid 4s and their Services were worth 1s.
The early years of the 14thC as elsewhere seem to have been disastrous for the Farming Community at Thame. The Abbey, abler than most to cope with adversity, was heavily in Debt, perhaps owing to bad Seasons & Murrain (redwater fever) among the Sheep.
A Record of a Sale of a Farm & Stock in 1311 for £104-5s provides interesting information both about Farming Practice at this time and on the way in which a rich Thame Landholder, who had invested in Land in the Fields & Town alike, seems to have got into Financial difficulties. The Property, which included Burgage Tenements, belonged to Thomas Elys of Thame & North Weston, a son of Richard Elys, Clerk, a leading man in the Town & Parish. Thomas Elys had 38½-acres sown with corn & wheat; 36½-acres of barley, drage (barley mixed with corn), beans, & oats; and there must have been a certain amount lying Fallow. He also had 142-acres of Meadow & 55-acres of Pasture. There were considerable stocks of grain, malt, & hay in his 3-Granaries, 16 head of cattle, 131 sheep & lambs, as well as poultry & pigs. His Farming equipment was extensive and is listed in detail. In the same year he sold another 92-acres and 7-Messuages & Tofts, but as his son John continued to hold Land in Old Thame & North Weston it is evident that only a part of the Family Property was sold.
Although small flocks of sheep, like Elys’ or the flock of 200 that the Bishop of Lincoln might keep, may have been common form the main emphasis at this period appears to have been on Arable Farming. The Lands of the Cistercian Abbey were possibly an exception. The Order’s addiction to sheep-farming is well known, and the Abbey’s interest in the Wool Trade is exemplified in 1224 by the Grant of a Licence to Export Wool despite the general Prohibition in Force. Although Thame Abbey had other Property besides its Thame Lands, it is likely, particularly in view of the evidence there is for the consolidation of its Open-field Land, and because of the large extent of its Park Land, that much of its Wool came from Thame, where the Soil was so well suited to grazing.
Some light on the relative wealth of the Hamlets in the 14thC is thrown by the Tax-Assessment Lists. New Thame & Old Thame with 67 & 50 Tax Payers respectively in 1327 easily take the lead. North Weston has 27, Moreton 20, & Attington 16 Contributors. The respective totals paid are £6-7s-11d, £5-3s-6d, £3-2s-11d, £2-05s-6d & £2-2s-4d. The reassessment of 1334 led to a somewhat drastic change: the respective totals were then £9-2s-8d for New Thame, £3-7s-9d for Old Thame, and £2-14s-6d for North Weston. Developments at Moreton & Attington cannot be gauged as they were Taxed together in 1344. Whether these reductions should be attributed to the influence of the Bishop or to a real decline in Production is a matter for speculation. In 1354 the comparatively high abatement of 6s for Attington compared with 6s for Weston, 3s for Moreton and 40s for Old Thame & Priestend may indicate that Attington’s Population was already declining. The Poll Tax of 1377 shows that both Attington & Weston with 27 & 49 Adults respectively were small Hamlets compared with Moreton with 69 Adults. At Priestend & Old Thame there were 211 Tax Payers & 325 at New Thame.
Contemporary evidence for the Field System is slight, but it seems that the Arable Fields were divided into 5-Groups, those of Old Thame, North Weston, Moreton, Attington, & Priestend. Four of these sets of Fields, those of Old Thame, North Weston, Moreton, & Attington are apparent from the Account in the Hundred Rolls and references in the Charters, but the 1st explicit mention of Priestend is in a document of 1412 which deals with 7-acres in ‘the Fields of Priestende called Lapersdon‘ (i.e. Lobbersdown). The Priestend Fields lay between Moreton & Weston, from the Cuttle Brook on the East to Lobbersdown Hill (above Map) in the South-West Corner of the Parish, and probably originated in Bishop Alexander’s Grant of 4-Carucates to the Church in c.1146.
Early Deeds give many Furlong and other Field names, but except for East Field & West Field recorded at Old Thame in about 1150 they throw little light on the Field System. The fact that in 1348 the Bishop had 208-acres of Arable in one course & 252 acres in another may indicate that a 2-course rotation was still practised in Old Thame. The evidence in the 14thC is insufficient to say how far consolidation of Strips had gone, but there was certainly some although much of the Open-field Land still lay in ½-acre Strips at the end of the Century. Thame Abbey, for one, had certainly been consolidating its Holdings since the mid-12thC. At that time it made an exchange of Land with the men of Moreton and in c.1190 another Exchange is recorded. A late-13th or early-14thC Account of the Abbey’s Moreton Estate, which was attached to its Home Grange, shows that consolidation was by then well advanced. In one Furlong (stadium) there were 36-lands (‘rugges’), in another 38-lands, and in a 3rd 13-Butts. Later in the 15thC, references to 7-acre Strips described as contiguous (conjuncti) occur.
A Terrier of the mid-15thC (1441–53) of Attington lands held by the Abbey & Drew Barantyne also shows some consolidation. Attington Field contained 477½ Field acres and was divided into 3-Inclosures separated by Ditches. The 1st South Close (141½a & 1 gore), lying between Attington Village & Copcourt, contained 8-Furlongs, varying in size from 13½ to 42 acres. The 2nd Inclosure was a little Close called North Close, containing over 92-acres. It lay between Attington & Horsenden Hill. There were 7-Furlongs in it varying in size from 1¾ to 23-acres. The 3rd Inclosure, ‘the other great Close‘, was called West Close; it lay between Attington Village and the London-Tetsworth Road and contained 70-acres, 3 roods in 12-Furlongs, varying in extent from 1½ to 23-acres. There was also a number of Furlongs, totalling 35¼-acres, described as lying outside the West Close, of which over 5-acres belonged to Tetsworth Grange (i.e. the Abbey’s Farm in Tetsworth). Although much of the Land was held by the 10-Tenants of the Abbot & Drew Barantyne in scattered ½-acre Strips, there were many blocks of 2 to 4½-acres, and much of the Abbot’s Demesne was held separately and had been so held since the ‘Foundation’ (i.e. 1139). In Broke Furlong in the North Field Thame had 19 out of 20-acres separate all the year except from 1st August to 25th March; in ‘Le Combes‘ Furlong 20-acres of separate Land. The Abbot held in all 214-acres, 3 roods and Drew Barantyne had 180-acres, 2 roods. There was also a piece of Pasture called Mede acre lying between Wallingford Way & Tetsworth Field. This was divided into 13-Lots of which the Abbot held 52/3 and Barantyne 7½ Lots.
Considerable changes occurred in the last Quarter of the 15thC, when Geoffrey Dormer, Wool Stapler, was building up a large Estate. In 1473 he acquired Baldington Manor in Thame & Attington Manor at about the same time. From then on he steadily accumulated Land in all the Thame Fields, mostly by purchases of a few acres at a time. In 1498 his Manor comprised 7-Messuages and over 700-acres of Arable, Meadow, & Pasture. In 1509 his son, Geoffrey Dormer acquired the Lease of the Bishop’s Demesne Manor of New Thame and continued to buy up more Land. By 1552 Baldington’s Manor was said to comprise 2,200-acres, and although this figure cannot, perhaps, be taken at its face value it may be accepted that the Property was unusually large for this part of the Country and that the emphasis laid on Meadow & Pasture (1,100a) has some significance. The Dormers were noted Inclosers elsewhere and had almost certainly been Inclosing at Moreton & Attington at the end of the 15thC or in the early 16thC. Geoffrey Dormer was Presented, for instance, in 1481 for Inclosing a Common Pasture at Moreton to the great inconvenience of the other Tenants. In 1481 his Attington Manor had 3-times as much Pasture as Arable, and early 16thC Deeds state that the Dormer Manor was commonly called Attington Pasture and that its appurtenances were ‘Meadows, Leasurs, & Pastures’. In this connection, furthermore, the names Dormer Leys Farm & Dormer Leys Great Ground are also significant. The information given in a 1557 Lease that the Manor had formerly been Leased to Owen Robotham, a Butcher, suggests that the rich Meadow Pastures were being used to fatten beasts for the Thame & Oxford Markets. Again, in 1592 when Baldington Manor was Sold, 30-acres of ‘Inclosed Several Ground‘ were mentioned and other new Closes are recorded about the same time.
Thame Abbey or its Lessees were certainly active Inclosers: its Estate valued in 1535 at £19-6s-8d in Thame, at £46-16s in Moreton & at £21-6s-8d in Attington, then all Leased out, consisted mainly of Pasture & Meadow Closes. Some of these dated from the late 15thC or before: in 1477/8 the Abbey was Leasing 3-Pasture Closes to Tenants for £4 each, a high price compared with the Rent of £10 it was receiving for the Home Grange at Moreton; in 1480 the Abbot was Presented for encroaching on the Lord’s Common in Moreton called ‘Somerlake‘ & ‘Redelond‘, and in 1535 ‘le Reddlands‘ are listed as Inclosed Pasture. Other Inclosed Pastures in Moreton & Thame were listed and the name of Shepecott Farm testifies to the Abbey’s one-time interest in the Wool Trade. In 1544 the Bishop Leased Sheplease Meadow for £4 a year.
Land in the South-West at ‘Chelyngdon‘ had also been inclosed by 1490, when 7-acres there were said to be ‘several at all times‘, though men might go through with cattle by Licence. On the Eastern Boundary there had been Inclosure at Cotmore Wells, for it was probably the ‘Cotnour‘, where 11-acres were Inclosed for Pasture and a Messuage destroyed in 1493; and Inclosure of Commons was reported in Old Thame in 1503. At North Weston Inclosure may have been completed in the 16thC: in 1538 Sir John Clerke, Lord of the Manor, obtained a Pardon for Depopulation (‘ruins, decays, and voluntary devastations’) and Inclosure for Pasture both at North Weston & in New Thame, and in 1542 Nicholas Clerke’s Lease of North Weston Manor to Sir John Williams included 2,900 sheep & cattle. Inclosures such as these and the high price of corn produced the discontent which led to the Agrarian Rising of 1596. An Armourer from Thame was one of the Ringleaders and Lord Norreys of Rycote was one of those especially singled out for Attack.
Inclosure at Priestend & Old Thame continued into the 17thC. In 1623 every Tenant who had Land in a certain part of Priestend Field was ordered by the Homage to make a Quickset Hedge round his Holding. In the same year, the Leys which had become widely scattered and intermixed were redivided and allotted on a permanent basis. The Stints at this date are interesting on account of the large number of sheep allowed; the Holder of a Yardland could put on the Commons 60-sheep, 8-cattle, & 6-horses. The result was that there were complaints of the Commons being overburdened. More extensive Inclosure took place in 1651 when some 23-Tenants agreed to exchange their Strips and to fence off their land for Pasture in Lobbersdown Field, one of the Priestend Fields. The Chief Promoter of the Scheme was Edward Wray, Lord of the Manor. The Tenants’ reasons are of interest: they complained that the Field, about 2-miles from Priestend, was too far away to be manured, and so should be laid down to Pasture; they also claimed that Inclosure with Ditches & Hedges would increase the supply of Wood, which was very scarce. Other Tenants conspired to throw down the Inclosures and combined in ‘a violent manner‘, but eventually agreed with the Majority. Common Rights were abandoned and a certain amount of Common was set aside for Cottagers. The Agreement was confirmed by Chancery Decree & Enrolled.
The Period was undoubtedly one of great prosperity for the Country’s Yeoman Farmers in general and Thame Farmers were no exception: John Woodbridge, Yeoman of North Weston, for example, left Goods valued at over £1,739 in 1647; in 1662 the Tenant of Thame Park Grange left about half that sum; and in 1699 the Tenant of Old Thame Manor Farm paid £400 for a renewal of the Lease. This prosperity is reflected in the Hearth-Tax returns of the 1660’s. Moreton appears to have been a Village of Small Yeoman Farmers or Husbandmen with Houses Taxed on 2-Hearths or less, but in North Weston, Old Thame, & Priestend there were many substantial Farmhouses Taxed on 4-Hearths and more. New Thame also had its Farmhouses, but here wealth may have come more from a combination of Trade & Farming. The Tax Returns also reveal some of the effects of Inclosure: North Weston, for instance, has shrunk in size and only 10-persons were listed there for the Tax of 1662, when the fullest returns were made. Attington had virtually disappeared; only Richard Cornish, the Tenant of part of the Manor, paid Tax either in 1662 or 1665.
Information about conditions in the early 18thC is provided by a Survey made in 1728 of the Earl of Abingdon’s Estate in Old & New Thame and in Priestend. He was one of the successors to Lord Williams’s Manors. He owned 1,487-acres in Old Thame and 831 acres in Priestend; the old value of the Farmlands in Old Thame is given as £878-4s-2d and its real value in 1728 was estimated at £1,075-16s-2d; the old value of Priestend Lands was £668 and the new £769-12s-6d. Five-sixths of Old Thame was Arable. All the Field Land was described as good on the whole. It was usually let at 10s an acre, but the Bailiff noted that the times being now bad for Farming the Tenants begin to scruple at that price. He recommended that one source of increased Rent would be to Inclose those Meadowlands which still remained Common, as this part was the better Land and the Inclosures would be of particular value to the Town ‘for the convenience of keeping horses, as well others as their own‘. There were about 60-Copyholders & 10-Leaseholders with Land in Old Thame: nearly half of these held Small Holdings of between 10 & 36-acres, and about a 3rd held under 5 acres. One Leaseholder, the Tenant of Thame Farm, held as much as 486-acres of which 424-acres (or 12-Yardlands) were Open-field Arable.
History of Moreton Village
Part of Moreton was included in the Survey (4-Copyholds), but the Rent of Land there, which was partly a poor Clay, was only about 8s an acre. At Priestend a higher proportion of Land, 3/7ths, was Meadow & Pasture. Part of Lobbersdown Hill, where Priestend Inclosures lay, was described as ‘a parcel of Land lying together‘ of which the Soil was naturally poor and had been made worse by Overploughing. The Land was used as Pasture and rented at 20s an acre, but the Bailiff considered it worth no more than 12s. Stints were very much reduced compared with the figures given in 1623: in 1728 only 20-sheep were allowed to the Yardland, 4-cows & 4-horses. The rotation practised in the Priestend Open-fields was 2 Crops and a Fallow. The yield was good as the soil was good, although badly drained. The Rent was 10s an acre, but the Bailiff considered that the acre must be a small one or the Rent very low, for similar, but Inclosed Land, was let for 20s an acre and the Common difference between Field & Inclosed Land was reckoned as a 3rd. Meadowland was Rented at 40s an acre and was ‘very good‘. The Land was Tenanted by 33-Copyholders, 1-Leaseholder, & 1-Freeholder. Eleven Tenants held between 30 & 70 acres, and the rest under 30-acres. Rents ranged from 4s to £2 a year.
There is no comparable description of Attington & North Weston, but the North Weston Estate was Sold for £4,000 in 1749. The Hamlet’s Field was completely divided into Closes by this time and over half of it was estimated to be Pasture & Meadow. Attington, also completely Inclosed and mostly Pasture & Meadow, was largely Farmed by the Cornish Family. Richard Cornish had been the only substantial Tenant in the 1660’s, and in 1754 a Cornish was the only 40s Freeholder. In 1785 members of the Family were Tenants of the Main Estate (the former Abbey Manor) and paid 1/6th of the Total Land Tax for their Freeholds. Their House, Dormer Leys Farm, is the only one shown on Davis’s Map of 1797.
Map of Oxford County
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 2in to 1 mile. No more than 200 copies were ever made, the evidence is based on all sets of the Map having manuscript serial numbers – 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 & 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 hachures. Davis was also Topographer to His Majesty, George III.
Variations of Soil and of Farming Practice in the various parts of the Parish are reflected in the Land-Tax Valuations at the end of the 18thC and at the beginning of the 19thC. North Weston & Thame Park had higher valuations (£160 & £127 respectively) than the Open-field Hamlet of Moreton (£61-12s) and the partly uninclosed Priestend (£93-6s). In North Weston the 2 Landowners had 6-Tenant Farmers between them. Thame Park was Owned & Farmed by the Wenmans and there were only 3, and later 2, Tenant Farmers occupying Wenman Land outside the Park. In other parts of the Parish the Land was mostly in the hands of Small Tenant-Farmers. Several like the Loosleys, Hedges, Barnards, & Eustace occupied Land in several Hamlets and had in fact fair-sized Farms. There were still some men, however, who held only a Yardland or a half-Yardland. One of the largest Farms in the Parish was Manor Farm at North Weston, which was Leased by the Rev Thomas Plaskett, whose Views & Experience were frequently Cited by Arthur Young. Plaskett used a 5-course rotation and grew turnips, swede & rape, but only 1/3rd of North Weston was under Plough at this time (i.e. 1809). Plaskett himself kept a flock of 300-sheep of the New Leicester Breed, and milking cows were no doubt also kept, for, as Young remarked, the Land round Thame was good for Dairy Farming.
Davis’s Map of 1797 shows that it was mainly the Pasture Land that was Inclosed and that the Arable was still Open-field Land. Another 18thC Map shows that there had been some consolidation of Strips in Moreton Field: groups of 3 or 4-acres were Common and there were 30-acres in the largest Block, the Earl of Abingdon’s. Pasture & Meadow were scarce judging from the Lease in 1795 of Balliol College’s small Property, which specified that a yearly Rent of £5 must be paid for each acre converted to Arable. In 1817 the high price of corn led to this Rent being increased to £20 an acre. Although Attington had been long Inclosed. Inclosure of the Old Thame, Priestend, & Moreton Fields did not begin until 1823 and was not completed before 1826, but in the preceding years, many Tenants were, in fact, cultivating part of the Open-fields separately in ‘hitches‘. There had also been some further Inclosure of Meadowland and some Land had been taken in from the Waste since 1797, but there remained 2,180 acres in the Open-fields, old Inclosure amounting to 2,857 acres. In addition to the Open-field Arable & Meadow 150-acres of Waste were allotted. Priestend & Moreton each had 3 Open-fields and Old Thame had 4; West Field, Barley Hill Field (a Division of West Field), Black Ditch Field & Little Field, which had developed out of East Field.
To meet the expense of Inclosure the Commissioners sold 126½ acres, 80 acres of which Miss Wykeham bought. Two of the Chief Allottees were the Earl of Abingdon, Lord of Thame & Priestend Manors & Miss Wykeham, who held Moreton Manor & the Prebendal Tithes. They received 4½ & 5½-acres respectively for Manorial Rights (equal to 1/10th of the Waste). Miss Wykeham was allotted 532-acres for the Impropriate Tithes and about 185 acres for her Freehold Estate in Moreton. The Earl of Abingdon received 110½ acres for his Freehold Estate and another 62 acres for the Copyhold Estates of 9 Tenants, which had come into his hands since the Inclosure Act. The Vicar received some 113-acres for his Vicarial Glebe & Thame Tithes. Allotments were made to about 57 other persons in respect of 39 Abingdon Leasehold & Copyhold Estates (797½a) and 23 Freehold Estates (c.400a). Of these, the Trustees of James Meadowcroft, one of the Abingdon Estate Tenant Farmers, received 272 acres, & Joseph Way received 137 acres. About 22-Allottees, among them Balliol College & Thomas Philip Wykeham, were Awarded between 10 & 50-acres. The other Allotments were under 10-acres and included 2½-acres for Moreton Poor and 6-acres for the Thame Churchwardens.
Thame Tithe Map
A Survey of the Earl of Abingdon’s Estate in 1827 shows the position immediately after Inclosure. The Land is described as ‘in Hand‘ or ‘out on Lives‘. Thus in 1827 1,503-acres in Thame & Priestend were Leased for Lives as against 388-acres ‘in Hand‘, and the annual values are given as £2,130 & £678. In North Weston, as a result of earlier Inclosure, all Lord Abingdon’s Land (220a) was in Hand, and was worth £278 a year. The totals are 609-acres in Hand and 1,680 acres on long Leases or for Lives.
By 1844, however, many of these Leases had fallen in and the major part (1,413a) of Lord Abingdon’s Land was let on yearly Tenancies at a total Rent of £2,372. The 958-acres valued at £1,750 a year, still let on Leases for Lives, produced £44-16s in Quit-rents. In spite of these changes in the form of Tenure, there were still a large number of very small Holdings, even amongst the Tenants who paid Rack-rents. Lord Abingdon owned only 4-Farms over 200-acres. Fifteen of his Tenants held between 51 & 100-acres, and only 3 had 100 to 200-acres. This was roughly the position in the Parish as a whole. The 1851 Census showed that most Farms were between 100 to 250-acres, but that many still had under 100-acres. There were 3 Large Farms of over 250-acres and one of 870, employing 37 Labourers.
By the late 19thC there were only 19 substantial Farmers in the Parish and one at Attington, and by the early 20thC most holdings under 100-acres had disappeared. The North Weston Farms of the Abingdon Estate were all over 200 -cres in 1913 and another North Weston Farm was 325-acres.
The outstanding advantage of Inclosure was that it enabled Farmers for the 1st time to put to the best use the mixed Soils of the Area. Kimmeridge Clay, Portland Beds, Lower Greensand & Gault made a variety of Farming possible, but the suitability of the District for Grazing & Dairying could now for the 1st time be fully exploited. Along the River towards Waterstock the Clay, modified by Sand & Gravel, produces some of the best Grazing in the County and the Meadows along the Cuttle Brook are of almost equal value. After Inclosure, therefore, the trend was towards a conversion from Arable to Pasture. In 1844 the proportion of Pasture to Arable was already 139 and by 1914 ¾ of the Farmland in the Parish was Permanent Pasture. The new emphasis on Dairying & Stockbreeding was greatly assisted by the opening of improved communications, especially those with London. Until 1865 Butter & Cheese were the main Products of the Dairies, but the Rinderpest Disease that broke out in that year caused London Buyers to seek suppliers farther afield. Thame Farmers very largely turned over to the production of Milk, which was sent by Rail to London from Aylesbury & Tiddington Stations until Motor Transport superseded the Railways in the 20thC. All types of Farmers were encouraged by the Formation of such Societies as the Thame Agricultural Society in 1855 and the Heavy Horse Society in 1914, and advances were made, particularly on the larger Farms, in the breeding of Stock. Another characteristic of 19thC Farming in the Thame area, as elsewhere, was the increased use of Machinery of improved types. Threshing-mills were replaced by the Steam Threshing Machine, while Iron ploughs, harrows, drills, and so on came into general use. This change combined with the turn over to Pasture and the amalgamation of Farms bore hardly on the Agricultural Labourer. Less Labour was needed and Unemployment resulted. It was noted in the report of the Poor Law Union in 1892 that where one Farm had Employed 10 regular men it then Employed 2 only although it had been amalgamated with 2 other Farms.
In the 20thC, Farming continued, on the whole, to be of a very varied and individual character, but mixed Farms with the emphasis on sheep & cattle and occasionally Horse-breeding prevailed. The rich Pastures along the River Thame are still given over purely to Grazing. In 1935 on the Arable Land a 4 or 5-course rotation was almost universal; wheat, oats, barley, & leguminous crops were those mainly cultivated, but there were notable exceptions. By 1952 one Farmer used a 3-course rotation, another no rotation at all, using Dung instead; one grew Sugar Beet, another Kale; one grew Crops only for Fodder, one sold half his Crops, one sold only wheat and so on. As a consequence of Government Subsidies the Land put down to wheat has tended to increase, and root crops & barley have diminished. In 1952, however, most of the Land (76%) was still Permanent or convertible Pasture & Grass. The total number of cattle to the 100-acres had risen from 28 in 1914 to 42 in 1952; cows & heifers had risen from 11 to 18. The number of Sheep fell from 51 to 33, and fewer Pigs were kept than in 1914 although the efforts of the Pig Marketing Board had done something to encourage the small local Farmer. Thame Farms were of moderate size: in 1952 out of 22 Holdings in the Parish and 3 in Attington 7 were Farms of over 150-acres and 8 were over 100-acres. About half were occupied by Tenants. Since the WW1 Thame Show has become the 2nd largest single-day Show in the Kingdom, but its Social importance is its Chief aspect. The County Agricultural Show, which is of far greater value to Farmers, was held every 10-yrs at Thame before 1939.
There was 1-Mill worth 20s a year on the Bishop’s Thame Estate in 1086. By 1225 there were 2-Mills on his Thame Manor, worth £17-10s-10d a year, but as his Manor extended over several Villages, it is not certain that they were both in Thame. Peter the Miller, recorded in the Survey of about this time, was a Thame man who had to make 1-quarter of Malt from the Bishop’s own Grain as well as pay various Agricultural Dues. In 1279 the Bishop is said to have a Mill & 2 Weirs in Thame, & Thame Abbey presumably had another Mill as it had a Miller among its Tenants. By 1509 both of the Bishop’s Mills were farmed out for £5 a year; the same Rent was paid for them in Queen Elizabeth’s time when the Estate was held by the Norreys Family. In 1594 the Homage of Old Thame said that the Lord’s Malt Mill was an Ancient Mill and that the greater part of Thame Town had used the Mill for Grinding their Barley, but whether they did so of their own choice was not known. The Tenants of Old Thame were said to have been accustomed to use the Lord’s Watermill and it was maintained that they would wish to do so in the future if the Miller did his Duty by them.
The 1st record of a Wind Driven Mill on this Site dates from 1594. A 2nd was Built in the early years of the 17thC. Maps from 1797 & 1880 indicate that there were 2 adjacent Mills on the Site of West Field. Photographs from the end of the 19thC show 2-Tower Mills, both 4-Sailers, one of which was possibly Built of Brick. There are reports that one of the Mills at one time was an 8-Sailer driving 3-Pairs of Stones.
The Watermill in Old Thame on the Aylesbury Road seems to have been called Lashlake. The Tenants in the 1st half of the 18thC were the Cripps Family, Millwrights of Haddenham (Bucks), who also held Thame Windmill. They held the Watermill together with the Malt Millhouse and 1-acre of Land on a 99-yr Lease for £10 a year. The Earl of Abingdon agreed in the Lease to assign Timber for the repair of the Mill; the Tenant was to keep the Earl’s Spaniel or Greyhound at the Millhouse when it was sent. This Mill continued in use until the 20thC. By 1920 it was Driven by both Water & Steam. In 1924 it ceased working and shortly after was converted into Thame Mill Laundry.
Bernard Cripps of Kingsey (Bucks) built the Windmill in Barley Hill Field in the early 17thC. It was still held by his descendant John Cripps of Haddenham in 1739 when it was apparently Granted to Thomas Juggins. It may have been one of the Mills recorded in the 1st half of the 19thC, but was not in use later.
There was another Mill in West Field which was 1st recorded in 1594 when Robert Dormer was Ordered to move his Mill in the West Field. It was marked on Maps of 1797 & 1880. It ceased to function at the end of the Century and the Buildings were later incorporated in the Isolation Hospital.