12 – Lewknor Hundred

LewknorHundredIn the early 19thC Lewknor Hundred had an Area of 19,780 acres and a Population of 5,416.  Throughout the greater part of its History its Villages have been principally engaged in Agriculture, and until the 19thC, Open-field Farming was generally practised.  Arthur Young, writing in 1809, described the Country at the foot of the Chilterns between Tetsworth & Stokenchurch as Open-field with ‘exceedingly good soil’, a brown, strong loam & moist bottom which gave good Wheat crops.  Sheep Farming was extensively practised since the Hill Slopes provided plenty of rough grazing. The marginal character of some of the Hill Land probably accounts for the early disappearance of several Medieval Hamlets such as Linley, Plumbridge, & Studdridge.

The connection of the Area with the Anglo-Saxon Kings and the Abbey of Abingdon gives the early History of the Hundred a special interest. Throughout the Middle Ages, although the influence of the Honour of Wallingford was predominant, many powerful Feudatories such as the Earls of Devon & Hereford and the Lord of the Honour of Peverel had interests in the Hundred. After the Reformation the Villages were peopled by many prosperous families of Yeomen & Gentry, such as the Belsons, Ellwoods, Fanes, Hampdens, & Scropes, the last of which included the Regicide Colonel Adrian Scrope.  Several members of these Families played a prominent part in the Religious Life of their neighbourhood either as Roman Catholics or Protestant Reformers.

There were no big Houses apart from Wormsley, which is now in Buckinghamshire, but many pleasant Stone Houses, dating from the 17th & 18thCs, have survived and there are a number of Medieval Churches of interest.


The Hundred took its name from the Village of Lewknor.  The name means ‘Leofeca’s Slope‘, and the Hill now called ‘The Knapp‘, just South of the Village, where remains of an early Iron Age Settlement and of an Anglo-Saxon Cemetery have been found, is a likely site for early Meetings of the Hundred.  It also lies near the Icknield Way, one of the early Lines of Communication in the Chilterns. This Hundred is one of the few Hundreds named in the Oxfordshire Domesday Book, and was one of the 4½ Hundreds in the Soke of the Royal Manor of Benson: the others were Binfield, Langtree, Pyrton & the half-Hundred of Ewelme.  The grouping of Hundreds in connection with Royal & Episcopal Estates is found elsewhere, but this is the largest of all the Groups in Oxfordshire until the 13thC. It has been demonstrated that this System was itself descended from a far older System, antedating the formation of Hundreds & Shires, by which Royal Estates were the centre of a wide Territory supplying them with Food Rents.

Local Oxfordshire Hundreds c.1808

Records of the 3-weekly Hundred Court and of the View which were administered under.

From the 14th to the 19thC the Hundred consisted of the Parishes of Adwell; Aston Rowant with its dependent Hamlets of Chalford, Copcourt, Kingston Blount, Linley, Stokenchurch, & Wormsley; Britwell Salome; Chinnor and its Hamlets of Henton & Wainhill; Emmington; Lewknor and its dependent Townships and outlying parts of Abbefeld, Ackhampstead, Nethercote, Plumbridge, Postcombe, Studdridge, and Padnells or Padnal’s Fee in the Parish of Rotherfield Greys; Sydenham; and Tythrop in the Parish of Kingsey.  With the exception of the Township of Cadmore End and of the Parish of Britwell Salome, which was not Surveyed, all these places are mentioned in the Hundred Rolls as in Lewknor Hundred.

Map of the County of Oxford, from Actual Survey, by A Bryant, in the year 1823. Inscribed by permission to the Rt Honourable the Earl of Macclesfield, Lord Lieutenant, and to the Nobility, Clergy & Gentry of the County.

Lewknor (St Margaret)
A Parish, in the Union of Wycombe, partly in the Hundred of Desborough, County of Buckingham, but chiefly in that of Lewknor, County of Oxford, 3½-miles (SSE) from Tetsworth; containing, with the Tything of Postcombe, 847 inhabitants, of whom 221 are in Lewknor Uphill. The Living is a discharged Vicarage, valued in the King’s books at £11 17s; net income, £320; Patrons, the Warden and Fellows of All Souls’ College, Oxford. The Great Tithes of Lewknor Uphill have been commuted for £89, and the small for £188: the Vicar has a Glebe of 10-acres. The Church is an Ancient Structure, partly in the Norman Style, and contains some interesting Monuments and a beautiful Effigy in Stone; it is the Burial-place of the Scroop Family, and also of the Fanes, whose Estate of Wormesley is partly in the Parish. There is a Chapel of Ease at Ashampstead.
Cadmore End Manor, originally part of Fingest Manor and situated in a Hamlet of the same name, 1st appeared in the 16thC in the possession of Sir Edward Unton, husband of Ann Countess of Warwick (daughter of the Duke of Somerset who had owned Fingest Manor for a while).  The Manor passed through various hands, eventually coming to Thomas Taylor of Aston Rowant House whose interest passed to Lord Parmoor of Frieth in 1860.  The Boundaries of the Manor are not clear, but it is apparent from the records that Cadmore End was a Township, and has been settled for some time.  Cadmore End Common is a more dispersed settlement situated on poorer land and may have grown up around small-scale Brickworking, while Wheeler End Common has connections with the Chairmaking Industry.  These Villages & Hamlets once lay in Oxfordshire in the Hundred of Lewknor together with the now disappeared Settlement of Ackhamstead further to the South. They formed 3-detached portions of Lewknor Parish, known as Lewknor Uphill and totalled around 2000-acres. These portions were relinquished to Bucks in 1844 and Cadmore End was made a separate Civil Parish in 1852.    Ecclesiastically Lewknor Uphill, Stokenchurch, and part of Fingest were consolidated into a Chapelry in 1851 & in 1896 this Ecclesiastical Parish was also transferred to Bucks.  The original Chantry Church for the area, dedicated to St Mary-le-More and known as Moor Chapel, was located at Ackhamstead and had been in existence since 1241. When this Church was taken down in 1849 some of the materials were reused to build St Mary le Moor in Cadmore End. The remains of Ackhamstead Church can still be seen at Moor Farm 2-miles to the South of the new Church.
The Domesday Hidage of the Vills known to be in the Hundred at a later date comes to 131¼ Hides.  Several of the Vills are assessed at 5-Hides or multiples of that unit, and doubtless represented original units, but the divergence of the total from 100-Hides presumably results from alterations in the original composition of the Hundred. Britwell Salome (6-Hides), for instance, may well have been transferred to the Hundred of Lewknor in the 11thC when the original Britwell Estate (i.e. Britwell Salome & Britwell Prior), once probably all in Ewelme Hundred, was divided between 2-Lords, Britwell Salome becoming eventually a Fee of Wallingford Honour & Britwell Prior going to Christ Church, Canterbury.  Again, 1-Hide in Wormsley Granted to the Lords of Lewknor between 1086 & 1106, was perhaps transferred at that time from Pyrton Hundred to Lewknor Hundred.  The 3-Hides of Ibstone also appear to have been a late addition. Their connection with the Hundred may be sought in the fact that Tovi, the pre-Conquest Lord of Ibstone, which lay on either side of the Oxon-Bucks Border, can probably be identified with the Danish TheignNovitovi‘, whom the Abingdon Chronicler says Granted Lewknor and its members to Abingdon Abbey.  In later Records, Plumbridge in Ibstone was an outlying part of Lewknor Manor.  Part of Wheatfield was Surveyed under the Hundred in 1279 as one of the Fees of Wallingford Honour, but the Village itself may have been once wholly in Pyrton.  Bolney (Harpsden), on the other hand, which was one of the few places entered in Domesday Book as being in Lewknor Hundred does not appear in later Lists but was included in another Chiltern Hundred, Binfield.

In the Middle Ages Lewknor and the other Chiltern Hundreds usually, though not invariably, followed the Descent of Benson Manor.  Until the end of the 12thC the King seems to have kept them in his own hands, but in 1199 John gave Benson Manor and its appurtenances, which evidently included the Chiltern Hundreds, to Robert de Harcourt, who held them until 1204.  They were given with Benson to John de Harcourt in 1218, but in the same year the Manor was Granted to Engelard de Cygony, and in 1220 the Sheriff was Ordered to give him Seisin of the 4½-Hundreds.  On Cygony’s death between 1243 & 1244, Henry III gave Benson and the 4½-Hundreds to his own brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, on his marriage. The Earl was already Lord of Wallingford Honour, of which many of the Villages in the Hundred were Members, and the connection between the Hundreds & Wallingford Honour, and its successor Ewelme Honour, was maintained until the mid-19thC. Although the 4½ Chiltern Hundreds were not always mentioned specifically in Grants of the Honour they apparently passed with it.  They certainly passed to Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, in 1272 and reverted to the Crown on his death in 1300.  In 1309, Edward II granted them to Piers Gaveston whom he also created Earl of Cornwall.  After Gaveston’s death in 1312, they were again in the King’s Hands until 1317 when he Granted Wallingford Honour with its Hundreds, Views, Knights’ Fees & other appurtenances in Dower to Queen Isabella.  Although her Estates were resumed in 1324, the Queen again acquired them when her party obtained the Great Seal in 1326 and held them until Mortimer’s fall and her own disgrace in 1330.  Edward III Granted Wallingford Honour and its Members in 1330 to his brother John de Eltham (d.1336) to support him as Earl of Cornwall.  In 1337 the Honour of Wallingford was among the Properties formerly annexed to the Duchy of Cornwall, which was settled on Edward of Woodstock the Black Prince and on future Heirs to the Kingdom with the limitation that they reverted to the Crown when there was no Heir.  After the death of the Black Prince in 1376 the Duchy was therefore held by his son Richard as Heir to the Throne and later as King; by Henry V when he was Prince of Wales and later when King; and by Henry VI.  The Duchy of Cornwall and with it the Honour continued to be held by the various Heirs to the Throne in the 2nd half of the 15thC, but since most were under age the administration was generally in the King’s hands.  Henry VI‘s son Edward, born in 1453, was Duke of Cornwall, but in 1460 in the Civil Wars Richard, Duke of York, who died in the same year, was Granted the Duchy as Heir to the Throne. The young Prince of Wales, later Edward V, held it from 1471 to 1483; Edward, son of Richard III, from 1483 to 1484; Prince Arthur from 1486; and on his death in 1502 it went to his brother Henry, later Henry VIII.  In 1540, however, Henry VIII separated Wallingford Honour from the Duchy of Cornwall and united it to his newly created Honour of Ewelme.  The 4½ Chiltern Hundreds were included in the new Honour also and henceforth followed its Descent.  Until 1817 it seems to have been usually in Royal hands although James I is said to have Granted it to the Queen as Dowry & later to Prince Charles.  In 1817 the King sold the Honour to Jacob Bosanquet of Brosanbury (Herts), who resold it in 1821 to George, 4th Earl of Macclesfield (d.1842).  The Steward of the Honour stated in 1847 that the Lord of the Honour was immediate Lord of certain Manors in the Honour, and was considered ‘Lord Paramount‘ of other Manors in it which were the Property of the Mesne Lord.  The several Parishes &and Tithings which owed Suit to the Courts Leet were understood to be within the extent of the Honour.  The Macclesfield’s were still Lords in 1847 when the last Courts were held, but a number of Dues had not been paid for some years and it was evidently difficult to command attendance there.

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The 13thC and later Medieval evidence show that for Administrative purposes the Villages within the Hundred fell into 2 Main Groups, those which as Fees of Wallingford Honour attended the Honour Courts and those which attended the Hundred Court. In 1220 the Honour included Adwell; Aston Rowant with its Townships of Copcourt, Stokenchurch, & Wormsley; Britwell Salome; Henton in Chinnor; Kingston & Linley; Nethercote in Lewknor; and a Wheatfield Fee (i.e. Lower Wheatfield).  Since the Lord of the Honour had the return of Writs, Pleas, Right to a Gallows, and the Assizes of Bread & Ale as well as other Royal Rights, these Members of the Honour were exempt from the jurisdiction of the Hundred Court at Lewknor.  Their Lords attended the monthly Honour Court at Wallingford and the Tithings went to one of the 6-Annual Views of the Honour held locally.  By 1296, however, if not before, the 4½ Chiltern Hundreds were organised with Benson, Watlington & other Manors in the Bailiwick of Wallingford Honour.

The surviving Court Rolls of the Honour preserve the distinction between the 2 groups for Annual View and the 3-weekly Hundred Court.  In the 15thC, these Courts were held for the Hundred at Lewknor and were attended by Crowell, Emmington, Lewknor and its Townships of Ackhampstead, Cadmore End, Plumbridge, Postcombe & Studdridge, by Tythrop & by Wainhill, a Township of Chinnor.  Chinnor itself with its member Sydenham attended a special View held by Officers of the Honour at Chinnor, under an agreement which can be dated back to 1248 at least.  There are Records of 18-Hundred Courts in 1412–13 for Villages attending at Lewknor.  View of Frankpledge was held Annually in April or May: 2-Tithingmen from Lewknor and one each from each of the other Tithings attended to pay Cert ranging from 2s to 8s.  From about 1535 the Views for Lewknor & Pyrton Hundred were combined and held for a few years at Shirburn, but later on at Lewknor.


No Records of a 3-weekly Court survive for the Tithings in the Villages which were Fees of the Honour, although it is possible that the monthly Honour Court or the Manorial Courts performed this function.  The View for the Honour’s Fees in Lewknor Hundred was held in 1300 at Kingston,  but by the 15thC at Aston Rowant, save for Britwell Salome which went to the View of the Honour held at Chalgrove, which was nearer and therefore more convenient.  In 1431 one Tithingman each from Adwell, Britwell Salome, Henton & Wheatfield attended; Aston & Stokenchurch were each represented by 2 Tithingmen; and there were 3 Tithingmen from Kingston & Linley, representing the 3 Fees of Blounts, Verneys, & Narnetts.  Cert money ranging from 1s to 4s-4d was paid.  Chalford, originally an Estate of the Honour, does not appear in any of the Honour Court Records since it was Granted in Free Alms to the Priory of Wallingford in the early 12thC. The Prior claimed in 1276 to have View by Warrant of Earl Richard, then Lord of Wallingford Honour.

The above arrangement of the Leet Courts continued down to the 18thC when Pyrton & Lewknor Hundreds attended the same Court Leet at Lewknor, except for the Fees of the Honour which attended at Aston Rowant or Chalgrove. By the late 18thC the Courts met usually once a year in March or April, and by this time the chief purpose of the Annual Courts Leet was to appoint certain Officers of the Peace and others, such as Haywards, and to receive payment of Quitrents & Cert money.  There was a Stokenchurch or Postcombe Division (instead of Aston Rowant), a Chinnor Division to which Crowell, Emmington, Henton & Tythrop had been transferred, and Lewknor & Chalgrove Divisions.  Further changes were made in the 19thC: Padnal’s Fee, for instance, was transferred from Lewknor to Ipsden Division in 1842.

In the Middle Ages, the Office of Steward of the Honour was one of considerable importance and was often given to influential local men.  Thomas Chaucer obtained the Stewardship of the Honour & of the 4½ Chiltern Hundreds in 1399, and after him it was held in Survivorship by his daughter Alice & her husband William, Earl of Suffolk, & later by her son John, Duke of Suffolk & his wife; in 1489 it was Granted to Sir William Stonor & Sir Thomas Lovell.  In the 18thC lesser Gentry held it, as, for example, Richard Carter in 1725, Edward Simeon in 1749, & William Lowndes in 1793.  The last Steward of the Honour was George Davenport.  The Bailiff of the 4½ Hundreds was subordinate to the Steward and administered the Hundreds with the Bailiwick of Wallingford.  As late as 1640, it was complained that the Bailiwicks were Granted by Patent to Persons of Great Rank, whose Representative had little or no dependence on the Sheriff.

For ordinary administrative purposes, another Grouping existed.  Since the 17thC at least there was a South Division and a North or East one, each with a Chief Constable. The South Division comprised the Parishes of Adwell, Aston Rowant with its Hamlets, including Stokenchurch & Wormsley, Britwell Salome, & Lewknor. The North or East Division comprised the Parishes of Chinnor, Crowell, Emmington, Sydenham & the Village of Tythrop (Kingsey). The Chief Constables, who were responsible for returns to Quarter Sessions, were drawn from the ranks of the Yeomen or Gentry, such as the Hesters of Kingston Blount & the Newells of Adwell.

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Map of Oxford County
Surveyed by a local man, Richard Davis of Lewknor & published in 1797.  This large Map consists of 16 Sheets at an impressively detailed Scale of 1:31,680 or 2-in to 1-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 & 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.

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