Little Haseley

LtHaseleyCottage.jpgLittle Haseley, a Township, in the Parish of Great Haseley, Union of Thame, Hundred of Ewelme, County of Oxford, 3½ miles (West by South) from Tetsworth; containing 127 inhabitants.  Period Cottages line the Lanes of Little Haseley.  The Barrentin’s, Goldsmiths of London, also bought up much Monastic Land when Henry VIII turned out the Monks at the Reformation.

In 1391 Little Haseley was bought by the wealthy London Goldsmith Drew Barentin in and his brother Thomas, the Lord of neighbouring Chalgrove.  After Drew died childless in 1415 the manor passed to the main Chalgrove Line, going first to Thomas’s son Reynold (d.1441), and later to Reynold’s son Drew (d.1453) & grandson John (d.1474), who by the mid-15th century were making Little Haseley their Principal Seat.  John’s widow Elizabeth retained custody during the Minority of their son John Barentin (d. 1485), whose own son William came of age only in 1502. Like many of his predecessors William served as MP, and died in 1550, to be succeeded first by his son Francis (d.1559), and later by Francis’s sister Mary (d.1581), the wife of Anthony Huddleston. Little Haseley passed to Mary and Anthony’s son Richard and grandson Ferdinando Huddleston, who was living at Haseley Court in 1665.  In 1681 the Estate was Mortgaged to Sir John Cutler, and in 1703 it was sold to Edmund Boulter, whose nephew’s daughter married John Woolfe (d.1764). Following the death of their son Charles Woolfe in 1768 the Manor was bought 1st by Andrew Foley (d.1817), & c.1819 by John Blackall (d.1829) of Latchford; thereafter it descended with Latchford & (later) Great Haseley. In 1971 Haseley Court was sold by Nancy Lancaster to the 18th Viscount Hereford, who sold it with 85a of Grounds in 1981 to Desmond & Fiona Heyward, the owners in 2012.

At Little Haseley in the 15th Century, the Barrentin Family had what was described as a ‘fair Mansion and marvellous fair walks with Orchards, Pools and Topiary‘ (clipped Yew Hedges in the form of Birds or cutting in the form of Chessmen as one can see now at the Court is mentioned about 1580).

The Stone Effigy by the Church Font may be of one of this Family, though one authority claims it as that of William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, who died about 1220. The gloves and tilting helmet in the North Aisle certainly belonged to one of the Barrentin Family and the Altar Tomb at the East end of the North Aisle is theirs.

The Barrentin’s had about 50 people working on their land, of 4 kinds: Freemen, who paid rent for their land in money or Services e.g: one Maltida Tyrell had to Cart Hay & Wood for the Lord of the Manor 6 days in the year and was entitled to meals in the House on those days.  Others had to do a week’s Ploughing on the Lord’s land with their own Oxen, or to give geese, capons, honey etc, at certain times: Villeins, Cottars or Cottagers, & Serfs, were bound to the land and had to work for the Lord when he required, e.g. Walter of the Beard, Villein of Haseley, held a Cottage & 10 acres, but had to help Plough, Cart Hay and do Threshing on the Estate ‘at his Lord’s Will‘.   Villeins had Strips in various places, some up by the Windmill, others in the Grove or along Back Lane, others in Little Haseley.  Lots were drawn each year to decide which Strips were to go to which man.  Pictures were drawn on the Strips to show to whom they were allotted, as most people could not read.  Land raised into a sort of Bank where the plough turned at the end of Strips was known as the ‘Baulk‘.  This is still to be seen below the Windmill and in the Grove.  The Hayfield of the Parish was near Haseley Court, and the Common Land, where people could graze animals was here also.  A record of 1380 tells of a quarrel when a man in Warpsgrove brought his Geese on to Haseley Common and in the evening drove off a number of Geese belonging to Haseley Folk, and in 1460 another record tells of someone stealing part of the Rector’s Harvest.  The thief had to give the Rector 3 times as much barley as he had stolen.


Haseley Court, on the Village’s Eastern edge, seems to have been substantially rebuilt by the Barentin’s from the late 14th or early 15th century, and presumably occupies the site of earlier Manorial Buildings. Thereafter it was occupied at least occasionally by the Huddlestons, Boulters, Woolfes, Foleys, & Blackalls.  Additions were made in the 16th century when it was described as ‘a right fair Mansion place’, and a large South-Western Block built by Edmund Boulter in 1710 was further extended in 1754, presumably for the Woolfes. From 1847 the house was occupied by the Scottish Muirhead Family, who later inherited the Estate from the Boultons.  Part of the 14th & 15th-century house survives in a 2-Storeyed wing running back from the main 18th-century block. The Range retains some high-quality 15th and possibly late 14th-century windows, some of them with cusped Heads under square Hoodmoulds, and the Doorway has a plain chamfered Arch. Some ostensibly Medieval features may reflect a Gothic-style remodelling in the 18th century, however, when an embattled Parapet was added, and the complete reworking of the Interior makes it difficult to judge what function the Range may originally have fulfilled. A converted 15th-century Barn with slit windows and original Buttresses survives a little way North-west of the House. Additions were made to the Medieval Range’s Northside in the 16th century, and the erection of the new South-West block in 1710 (presumably replacing earlier buildings) was followed by successive remodelling both inside & out: the existing Interior is largely 18th-century, and contains little evidence of earlier features. The main South-West block is of 3-Storeys, built of squared coursed Limestone with Ashlar Dressings and a tiled Roof, and presents an imposing symmetrical Façade.  The 4 outermost Bays (added in 1754) break forward slightly, and the central 3-Bays are surmounted by a Triangular Pediment over the central entrance with its double-leaf Door. The whole front is lit by 6-over-6 sash windows to the Ground & 1st-Floors, with smaller sash windows above.  The Entrance Hall is dominated by a Stone Fireplace of c.1710 attributed to William Townesend of Oxford, which has delicate Rococo details below a Baroque Overmantel and broken Pediment. Flanking the Hall are a Parlour & Dining-room, the latter with a pair of fluted Doric Pillars on either side of a grey Marble Fireplace, and to the rear of the Hall is a small room in exquisite Palladian style, lit by a Venetian window and containing Ionic Columns and elaborate eared Doorcases. The 1754 extensions include a double-height Drawing Room with deeply-coved Ceiling and delicate plasterwork, reflecting the influence of James Wyatt, while an Adam-style Ballroom said to have been created in 1790 was destroyed by Fire in the 20th century. In the older Wing, a range of 18th-century Gothic features include Fireplaces, ribbed Stuccoed Vaulting, and (on the long Upper Floor) a Georgian Gothic Corbel Table. In the 1540s Leland reported ‘marvellous fair walks’ of Topiary work (topiarii operis ) and ‘Orchards & Pools’, and in the 19th century a newly-planted Topiary Garden lay to the South of the House. New gardens were created after 1955 by Nancy Lancaster, who also carried out wide-ranging renovations to the Building, including new trompe l’oeil decoration by John Fowler. North-East of the Main House, 2 small Pavilion-like buildings with hipped Roofs were added in the 18th century as a Laundry and Brewhouse, closing off part of the North-east Courtyard; a 3rd was added in the 20th century by Mrs Lancaster.

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