Benson Manors & Estates

Throughout the Middle Ages much of Benson Parish belonged to the Large Royal Manor of Benson, which derived from a larger pre-Conquest Royal Estate. Exceptions were the small Independent Manors of Fifield &Crowmarsh Battle, created before 1086, while parts of Roke (along with neighbouring Berrick Salome) belonged to Chalgrove Manor from the 11th or 12thC. Benson Manor’s predominance was undermined, however, by its substantial number of Free Tenancies, reflecting its status as Ancient Royal Demesne.  By the 17thC most Benson Holdings owed only small Quitrents, while several Freeholds and Leaseholds had developed into substantial Subsidiary Estates.  Fragmentation was accelerated by the Manor’s Sale to non-Resident Owners in 1628, and though it continued as a Legal Entity, claiming Quitrents, Suit of Court & Rights over Commons, Landownership was dominated by an increasingly complex pattern of Freeholds, Leaseholds & Subtenancies. By the 1840s there were over a 100 separate Owners and, though many were Cottagers or other small Freeholders, a few leading Proprietors had Estates of 100 acres or more. In particular the local Newton Family owned over 800 a. in all, besides Farming the still-separate Crowmarsh Battle Estate. Institutional Owners included Magdalen & Exeter Colleges, Oxford, with 94 a. and 60 a. respectively, while Lincoln and St John’s Colleges owned small Parcels attached to neighbouring Estates. Christ Church, Oxford, held 17½ a. as appropriated Glebe.
Benson Manor – The Manor’s Extent
The Territory dependent on Benson before the Norman Conquest stretched across the Chilterns to Henley, and may originally have encompassed much of the 4½ Chiltern Hundreds.  By the 11thC its fragmentation through Piecemeal Land Grants was well advanced, though in the 1780s the Manor still claimed residual Quitrents from Checkendon in Langtree Hundred and from Henley & Rotherfield Greys in Binfield Hundred, while a Perambulation in the 1820s included Waste along the length of the Dorchester–Henley Road. Within Ewelme Hundred, Quitrents remained due from Nettlebed, Nuffield, Holcombe (in Newington Parish), Warborough, Shillingford & Roke, and in 1826 Jurors alleged that the whole of Nettlebed Parish remained within the Manors jurisdiction.  Earlier Jurors had found the Manor so intermixed ‘amongst adjacent Manors of other Lords’ that they were unable to ‘discern or distinguish [its] certain Bounds or Limits’.

The Estate’s Core was nevertheless substantially reduced by the later Middle Ages. In 1086 (when rated at 11¾-Hides) it probably still encompassed Benson, Warborough, Shillingford, Nettlebed, part of Nuffield (excluding Gangsdown) & part of Holcombe, together with Henley-on-Thames and Wyfold in Checkendon, while other Outliers included ½-Hide of Waste in ‘Fern Field‘ (Verneveld), possibly in Swyncombe.  Three Hides held by prominent Royal Servants imply continuing fragmentation, Nettlebed, Wyfold, Henley, parts of Shillingford & Huntercombe in Nuffield were all Detached over the following 150-yrs, alongside numerous smaller-scale Grants in various Parishes.  In 1279 Henley, Nettlebed, Huntercombe, Wyfold, Preston Crowmarsh, Warborough, Shillingford, & Up Holcombe were still claimed as ‘Hamlets’ and were counted, with Benson itself, as Ancient Royal Demesne.  Most, however, were already effectively independent, and only Warborough & Shillingford (which contained most of the Benson Demesne and Copyhold Land) remained an integral part of the Manor into the 16th & 17thCs, prompting prolonged conflict over Manorial Rights with other Landowners.  In the 19thC the Manor retained a 169-a. Farm in Warborough & 49 a. in Benson, along with Courts, Quitrents, and other Manorial Rights. Surviving Warborough & Shillingford Copyholds were Conveyed through the Benson Manor Court until the 1920s, when the Courts & Lordship Lapsed.
Ownership to 1628
In the later Anglo-Saxon Period direct Control seems to have remained with successive Kings of Wessex or Mercia, as Political Authority switched back & forth. Recorded 9th to 11thC Land Grants were made by Æthelred of Mercia (with King Alfred’s Agreement), Æthelred II, & Queen Ælgifu, followed by post-Conquest Grants by William I, Stephen & Matilda.

From the 12thC all or part of the Manor was sometimes Leased, and from the 13th & 14thCs it was regularly Granted to Royal Favourites or Family Members, usually for a limited term. 12thC Lessees included Geoffrey de Ivoi (d.1178), William of Waltham (1189), Richard son of Renfridus (1190), William d’Aubigny, Earl of Arundel (1191), and William de Sancte Marie de Ecclesia (1194/6), who mostly paid £57-8s a year. At other times the Manor was run directly through Crown Officers.  In 1199 King John Granted the Manors of Benson & Henley as a Knight’s Fee to the Norman Lord Robert de Harcourt, who forfeited his English Estates in 1204; both Manors were briefly restored to John de Harcourt in 1217–18, but in 1219 Henry III gave them at pleasure to the Alien Royal Favourite Engelard de Cigogné (Cigony).  He retained them until his death c.1244 when they were given to the King’s brother Richard (d.1272), Earl of Cornwall, becoming part of the Honour of Wallingford.  Soon afterwards Richard Leased the Benson Rents & Demesne to a Group of Free Tenants for a fixed Annual sum, reserving his Woods, the Lordship and Manorial & Hundredal Jurisdiction. Their payment was reduced in 1278 after some Warborough Lands were given to the Chapel of St Nicholas in Wallingford Castle, but otherwise the arrangement continued until 1438.

Wallingford Castle – During the Civil Wars of Charles I Wallingford Castle was held by the Royalists who wanted to guard the important river crossing. Parliamentarian Forces could not capture the Castle and a Siege only ended when the Royalist Commander Colonel Blagge, surrendered the Castle after Charles had surrendered. In 1652, Cromwell decided that the Castle should be destroyed so that it could not become a threat again.

Both Honor & Lordship reverted to the Crown in 1300 following the death of Richard’s son Edmund, Earl of Cornwall.  In 1302 the Manor (but not the Honour) was Granted to Roger Bigod (d.1306), Earl of Norfolk, and in 1309 both were Granted to the King’s favourite Piers Gaveston (d.1312), Earl of Cornwall.  Queen Isabella held them in Dower from 1317–24 and 1326–30, following which Edward III bestowed them on his younger brother John of Eltham (d.1336), Earl of Cornwall.  The Honour was annexed in 1337 to the newly created Duchy of Cornwall, which Edward III settled on his son Edward, the Black Prince, and on future Heirs to the Throne; thereafter until 1540 Benson belonged both to the Honorr of Wallingford and to the Duchy, generally reverting to the King during Periods when there was no male Heir.  On the Black Princes death in 1376 Benson revenues were Settled on his Widow Joan as Dower,  and on her death in 1385 Benson & Nettlebed Manors were Granted for life to Richard II’s Chamber Knight Sir John Salisbury (executed 1387).  Henry V’s Widow Catherine (d.1437) received Benson and other local Properties in Dower in 1423,  and in 1488 revenues from Benson & 3 other Manors were Granted to a Doctor for attendance on Prince Arthur.  Otherwise both Manor & Honour were Administered through local Crown Officers. 

In 1540 the Honour was separated from the Duchy and absorbed into the newly created Honour of Ewelme.  Benson remained in Royal hands until 1628 when, having formed part of the Prince of Wales’s Endowment from 1619–25, it was Sold as part of an extensive disposal of Crown Lands.
Ownership from 1628
The Purchasers in 1628 were a Group of leading London Citizens acting for the City, who in 1630 sold Benson to the London Merchant & future Lord Mayor Christopher Clitherow (Knighted 1636, d.1641). Clitherow’s son Christopher (as Executor) sold the Manor in 1651 to his fellow London Merchant John Highlord, who the following year Sold it to the elder Christopher’s son-in-law William Paul (d.1665), a future Bishop of Oxford. James & John Clitherow and Thomas Cory, in whose name Courts were held, were Trustees only. A Fee Farm Rent of £28-14s-1½d remained payable to the Crown under the 1628 Sale, but like several similar rents was later sold.

The Manor passed successively to Paul’s sons Christopher (d.1671), of the Inner Temple & James (d.1693), of Bray (Berks.).  Thereafter it descended with the Pauls’ recently acquired Manor of Rotherfield Greys,  passing to James’s son William (d.1711) and granddaughter Catherine (d.1753), who married Sir William Stapleton (d.1740), Bt, and (later) the Rev Matthew Dutton.  Both Manors descended to her and William’s son Sir Thomas Stapleton (d.1781), Bt, and to Thomas’s son Thomas (d.1831), Bt, who became Lord le Despenser. Transactions, however, were sometimes in the name of the elder Thomas’s Widow Mary (d.1835), who was succeeded by her & Thomas’s unmarried daughters Maria (d.1858) & Catherine (d.1863), holding in Common. All of the Stapleton Owners lived at Rotherfield, although their Stewards still held Manor Courts at Benson. Catherine was followed by Lord le Despenser’s son Sir Francis Jarvis Stapleton, Bt, and in 1874 by Francis’s son Francis George Stapleton (d.1899). His nephew Sir Miles Talbot Stapleton was Lord in 1926 when the surviving Copyholds (all in Warborough) were extinguished.
Fifield Manor
By 1086 a 5-Hide Estate at Fifield belonged to the Bishop of Lincoln’s large Dorchester Manor, having presumably been Granted to one of his Predecessors before the Conquest. The Tenants were probably Rainald & Vitalis, who jointly held 5-Hides of the Bishop at an unspecified Location.  By the early 13thC the Manor was held as a Knight’s Fee by Members of the de Hoyville Family, including Richard (d. c.1212),  Geoffrey (fl.1228),  Sir Hugh (fl. 1260) & Sir Philip (fl.1279), who owed Scutage & Suit at the Dorchester Hundred Court.  The Bishops Overlordship was still mentioned in 1396, and the estate was called a Manor into the 18thC, long after it became a single Farm.  Annual Quitrents of 29s-4d to Benson Manor remained due in the 1780s. Philips successors included William (fl.1316–27), Richard (fl.1346),  and John de Hoyvile, who in 1360 sold the Manor to John Bernard of Wooburn (Bucks).  From 1379 the Owner was John James (d.1396) of Wallingford, a Landowner & MP succeeded by his son Robert (d.1432), Sheriff of Oxfordshire & Berkshire. Fifield passed with Boarstall Manor (Bucks) to Roberts daughter Christine Rede (d.1435) and grandson Sir Edmund Rede (d.1489), who left it to John Rede, then a Minor; it reverted to the Main Boarstall Line, however, passing before 1560 to the Dynhams as the Redes’ descendants through marriage.  They and probably the Redes & Jameses Leased the Estate (reckoned at some 790 a.) to resident Farmers, including (from 1575 to 1685) successive members of the Stampe Family.

The Manor was included in the Dynhams’ Transactions with Alexander Denton (d.1577) and his son Thomas, who secured it in 1596, and in 1623 sold it to the Abingdon Lawyer John Blacknail (d.1625), Owner of Preston Crowmarsh.  Blacknail’s daughter Mary married Ralph (later Sir Ralph) Verney of Middle Claydon (Bucks.), who suffered serious Losses during the Civil War, and sold most of Fifield in 1662 to the Wallingford Maltster Richard Sayer or Sawyer.  Sawyer’s grandson sold it in 1708 to Richard Wise (d.1740) of Benson, Gentleman, who moved to Fifield Manor soon after; in 1724, however, he sold the Etate to his Creditor George Lewin (d.1743) of London, who later Mortgaged it. Wise’s son John (then living in Bloomsbury) re-purchased the Freehold in 1747, the House having been briefly occupied by Hatton Tash (d.1725) presumably as Lssee.

John Wise moved to Fifield after 1754 and died there in 1776, leaving the Estate to his wife Anna (d.1779) and then to his nephew John Boote of Stonehouse (Glos).  From 1777 both House & Land were let to the Bonners as Tenant Farmers, while Ownership passed to Bootes daughter Frances, who married Edward Harrington of London. In 1818 she sold the Estate to Thomas Newton (d. 1842) of Crowmarsh Battle Farm, whose son Robert Aldworth Newton moved to Fifield c.1827.  By 1841 Robert’s combined Benson Lands, still focused on Fifield Farm, totalled 398 a., excluding 100 a. of Leasehold.  Following Robert’s death in 1879 the Land was Leased and the House occupied by his daughter Emma, who continued as Tenant after the Estate was sold piecemeal in 1900. The occupant in 1939 (Mrs A G Wainwright) was still called Lady of the Manor, but by 1948 the house was held with only 4 acres.

The Main North Front of Fifield Manor, remodelled by the prominent Farmer Robert Newton.

Fifield House or Manor
Though heavily remodelled in the 18th & 19thCs, Fifield Manor retains a Medieval Core.  In its present form it comprises a thick-walled East-West Range parallel to the Street, with projecting Service Ranges to the South, and 2 Large Courtyards of former Farm Buildings to the West. The main North Front, remodelled by Robert Newton in the earlier 19thC, has a Grand Stuccoed Façade of 8-Bays and 3-Storeys, entered through a central Colonnaded Entrance Porch which opens externally onto a Balustraded Terrace. Tall Sash Windows light the Ground & 1st-Floor rooms, and smaller Sashes the Upper Floor, while the 4 Central Bays are marked by Brackets under the Eaves Cornice and by Bracketed Cornices over the 1st-Floor Windows. The House’s Western part may have begun as a Medieval Upper Hall accessed from a projecting Stair Turret at the Rear: rooms under the Hall were mentioned in 1609, and the present Upper West Room retains an early 14thC Traceried Window (partly reconstructed), with evidence of another stair. A medieval private chapel (recalled in the adjacent field-name Chapel close) may have formerly stood beyond the Hall or physically within the House, whose Westernmost Ground-Floor Room contained a recessed Wall Painting of the Devil destroyed in the 19thC.  The House’s Eastern part may have contained a Storeyed Chamber Block with Ground-floor Service Rooms, whose 2-centred Arched Doorways (one of which survives) led to a narrow Bay containing a Cellar and, probably, more Stairs. A detached Kitchen beyond survived in the 17thC.  The Ewelme stream flows through the Curtilage on the North, but no trace of a Moat survives on the other sides.

By 1612 the Hall contained Wainscoting, Glazed windows, and a Fireplace.  Remodelling before 1685 saw the Ground-floor Rooms converted to Kitchen, Ceiled Hall & Parlour, all with Chambers above, and in the 1660s the House was Taxed on 4 Hearths, implying some Upstairs Heating. The old detached Kitchen stored ‘Lumber’ and had a Granary above, other Outbuildings including a Buttery & Milk-house.  18thC Panelling in the Entrance Hall and Ground-floor West Room Reflects remodelling probably by the Wises, who added a Rear Service Wing, while Newton’s remodellings included addition of the House’s 3rd Storey, creation of the new Entrance Front, insertion in the former Hall of an open-well Staircase with cast-iron Balustrade, and addition of a South-west Domestic Block parallel to the Main Range. An ornamental Fountain was added at the Front in 1849.  Major renovations to the House and Gardens were carried out from the 1980s, and a new Brick, Flint, and Timber Range was added at the rear in 2000

Farm Buildings in the 1630s included a Dovecot to the South & Barns to the West & South-west.  The present Clunch-built rectangular Dovecot was altered for the Wises in 1767, its upper part rebuilt in Flint, and the Interior re-lined in Brick. Robert Newton rebuilt the Farmyard on an imposing scale in 1825/7, creating a Courtyard flanked by Cattle Sheds, a Stable Block, and 4 large Brick-Built Barns with Vitrified Headers, all closely reminiscent of the layout at the Newtons’ Crowmarsh Battle Farm.  The Farmyard became separated during the earlier 20thC, and was converted to other uses from the 1990s.

Preston Crowmarsh (Cromarsh Battle) Manor
A 5-Hide Estate at Preston Crowmarsh was Granted to Harold Godwinson before 1066, rejoining Benson Manor on Harold’s accession as King. William I gave it to Battle Abbey (Sussex),  which retained it until the Abbey’s Dissolution in 1538.  In 1279 the Estate included a 240-a. Demesne and 9½ Tenanted Yardlands, perhaps 520 a. in all, and had its own Manor Court. In 1540 the Crown sold the Manor to Sir Thomas Pope, who returned it in Exchange 5-yrs later.  In 1590 it was Sold via Agents to William Spencer (d.1609) of Yarnton, whose Heirs sold it in 1617 to Thomas Freeman, Lessee of the Manor House & Farm. Freeman sold it in 1619 to John Blacknall of Abingdon, and it descended with Fifield until 1664 when Sir Ralph Verney sold it to a Clerkenwell Brewer, Henry Knight or Brothers.  In 1696 it was bought by Thomas Cowslad of Newbury, whose son William sold it in 1742 (as a Manor) to the Southwark Brewer Ralph Thrale (d.1758) with 5 Houses, a Dovecot, and 490 acres.  Ownership passed thereafter to Ralphs son Henry (d.1781) and granddaughter Hester Maria (d.1857), later Viscountess Keith, followed by her nephew Bertie Mostyn (d.1876) and daughter Georgina Augusta Osborne Elphinstone (d.1892).  Under Augustas Will the Estate was offered for Sale in 1893 as a 433-a. Farm,  but passed instead to her relative the Dowager Marchioness of Lansdowne (d.1895), succeeded by the 5th Marquis. He sold it in 1909–10 to the Farmer F P Chamberlain (the Tenant since 1894), whose Family still farmed there in 2015. Earlier Owners were non-Resident, and from the 16th to 19thCs the Manor House, Demesne, and later the whole Estate were Leased to prominent local Farmers including the Freemans, Stampes, Symeses, Lovegroves, and (from c.1796) the Newtons.  Manor Courts in the 1590s–1610s were held in the Stampes‘ or Freemans‘ names.

A Smaller Estate focused on Lower Farm  may have originated with Thomas Freeman’s sale of 62 a. to Anthony Phelp (alias Janes) of Preston Crowmarsh in 1617.  The Phelps remained at Lower Farm in 1724, but by the 1780s the Estate was owned with Fifield and let to Philip Padbury, until sold to the Newtons c.1799.  They ran it with Crowmarsh Battle Farm, and in the early 20thC the land passed to the Chamberlains.
Manor House (Crowmarsh Battle Farm)
A Manorial Complex on the Site of Crowmarsh Battle Farm may have existed by 1086, and in the 14thC included a Hall, great Chamber, Chapel, Bakery, and numerous Farm Buildings including Stables, an Oxhouse, and a Pigsty. A Tile-Coped Wall with a South Gate enclosed the Curtilage.  The Premises accommodated Abbey Officers or Bailiffs until 1362, when the Buildings were presumably Let with the Demesne.

Crowmarsh Battle Farmhouse

The existing 2-Storeyed Farmhouse, rendered save for a Clunch-&-Brick West Front towards the Farmyard, reflects successive remodellings from the 17th to 19thCs, but contains hints of an earlier House.  The Roof includes numerous re-used Medieval Timbers, some of them Smoke-blackened, and the large central Brick-built Stack may have originally been an insertion into a North-South Timber-framed open Hall.  Remnants of a possible West-east Cross Passage towards the House’s Southern end may also hint at a Medieval Plan. The Brick-&-Clunch West Front was built probably in the late 17thC, perhaps by the Tenant Bartholomew Symes, whose initials (with the date 1684) formerly appeared on the adjacent Brick-built Dovecot.  Sash Windows were inserted a few decades later, and the Range extended at the North end. The House’s Rent appearance dates primarily from a remodelling c.1820, presumably for the prominent Tenant farmer Thomas Newton (d.1842): the Eastern Front was substantially rebuilt with new windows and a projecting Wing, a new main Staircase was inserted, and (then or earlier) the Roofs were reconstructed, combining Softwood with the re-used Timbers. Piecemeal 19thC additions on the North include a Larder, Scullery & Dairy mentioned in 1893.

Farmhouse Rear & Granary

The Farmyard lay South-west of the House by the 1620s, flanked by Barns & Stables and including a predecessor of the present Dovecot.  The Farm Buildings were rebuilt on a Grand Courtyard Plan c.1790–1820 presumably for Newton, the Barns & Shelter-sheds predominantly Timber-Framed, and the Stables of Brick-&-Flint, while a Timber Granary dated 1800 is raised on Staddle-Stones. All were converted to Commercial use c.1998/9.
Granary. Probably mid 18thC Staddle stones; Timber-framing; weatherboarding; plain-Tile half-Hipped Roof. Central Plank Door. 2-light Casement to left & right.
Interior: not inspected. Part of a good group of Farm Buildings.
Dovecote. 10M West of Farmhouse. Probably late 17thC. Red Brick; plain-Tile hipped roof; sheet metal covered Glover. Octagonal Plan. Segmental headed Doorway with Plank Door. Round opening above. Dentil Cornice to Eaves. Brick Nests to Interior. Post has early 20thC painted inscription referring to date 1684 on Upper Beam now obscured.
Stables. 15M West of Farmhouse. Probably mid-18thC. Rendered Base; coursed Limestone Rubble & Knapped Flint Bands with Brick Dressings; plain-Tile Half-hipped Roof. Single Storey & Attic; 4-window Range. 5 Stable Doors to Centre. Two 2-light casements to left, two 2-light casements to right of Centre. Stable Door to right. Dentil cornice to eaves. Gabled Half Dormer to Centre with Plank Door.
Interior: not inspected.

Barn, Shelter-sheds & Engine House 15M South of Farmhouse
Barn. Probably mid-18thC with 20thC alterations. Rendered Base; large Timber-framing; 20thC Weatherboarding; plain-Tile Roof. Aisled Barn of 20 Bays with 4-Bay Wing to Right return. 4 Hipped Midstreys with double Plank Doors. Roof hipped to right. Hipped Midstrey to right return with Double Plank Doors. Curved principal roof with some Windbraces. Most Common Rafters replaced. Subsidiary shelter sheds to left return with some blocked openings. Probably former 19thC Engine House attached to Shelter Sheds.

Turners Court Manor
An Inclosed Estate near the Benson–Nuffield Boundary existed by 1316, when Robert Breton gave Tornorleslonde & Tornorescrofte to William Marshall, Lord of Crowmarsh Gifford.  An associated house called Turners Court existed possibly by the 1330s and certainly by the 1550s, when the Estate was usually called a Manor.  Ownership passed to the Royal Administrator John de Alveton (d.1361), whose Goods at Turners were posthumously seized by the Black Prince.  By 1409 the Estate belonged to Thomas Chaucer, and though formerly Held of Benson  it became associated until the 17thC with Chaucer’s neighbouring Manor of Ewelme, passing in 1501 to the Crown, and from 1525–34 to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.  By then it was regularly let to Resident Yeomen on 21- or 31-yr Leases at £5-3s-11d Rent, 16thC Tenants including Richard Dewbury (by 1515), John Collins (d.1559), Stephen Smith (d.1606), and Stephen’s son Richard. In 1609 it comprised 300 a. of mostly Inclosed Land in Benson, Nuffield & Newnham Murren, occupied with the House & Farm Buildings.

In 1628 the Crown sold Turner’s with Benson Manor to Representatives of the City of London, who sold it to John Wise of Nuffield. Richard Wise (Owner of Fifield Manor) sold it in 1712 to Richard Jennings (d.1718) of Badgemore near Henley, whose brother William (d.1732) left it to his sister Margaret Sharpe. Following Family disputes she & her son sold it in 1736 to the London Brewer William Hucks (d.1740), who had interests in Wallingford & Ewelme; the Huckses retained it until 1814 when Robert Hucks (declared a lunatic in 1792) was succeeded by his niece Ann Noyes (d.1841), who left her Oxfordshire Properties to her Cousin G H Gibbs (d.1842).  None of the post-1628 Owners Resided, and both House & Land were let to Resident Farmers including the Hardings, Harfords or Harwards & Greenwoods.  By 1841 the Estate covered c.444 a. in Benson (55 a.), Nuffield (67½ a.) & Newnham Murren, Held with 67 a. of additional Woodland. In 1878 Gibbs’s son sold the Estate to the Resident Farmer W H Deane, who in 1897 sold it to the Farmer William Purves (d.1906). In 1911 it was bought by the Christian Service Union, which opened the Wallingford Farm Training Colony there the following Year. By 1941 the Farm covered 850 a., but Piecemeal sales followed and in 1993, after the School’s Closure, the remaining Land and Buildings were sold.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wallingfordfarmtrainingschool.jpg
Wallingford Farm Training Colony – later ‘Turners Court‘ – which opened a Century ago. Founded by a Group & Train them on the Land and send them off to the ‘Dominions’.  During its 80-yrs, Turners Court’s Clientele, Training Programme & Lifestyle all changed radically

Turner’s Court: Originally in 1628 an old Timber Building’ of 4- Bays, Tiled, with an Orchard, Garden, Barns, Stables & Malthouse.  In 1662 it had 5-hearths, and in 1706 included a Hall, Parlour, Kitchen, Best & Maid’s Chambers, Cellars & Outbuildings.  Extensive Farm School Buildings were erected to the East & South from 1912, but were mostly replaced by Upmarket Housing in the 1990s.  The much-altered former Farmhouse (Brick & Render with some Oak Beams and an Inglenook Fireplace) was Demolished.
Monastic & College Estates
Several Religious Houses acquired Land in Benson Manor during the Middle Ages, though only a few Minor Holdings (Fifield and the Rectory excepted) lay within the Parish.  Dorchester Abbey held 12 a. there as Lessee in 1279, and a Grant to it in 1324 may have included Property at Benson or Roke, where the Abbey Owned 8s-6d Rents in 1535.  Osney Abbey received a 24s Prebend in Benson Manor from King Stephen c.1140, but exchanged it soon after for Land at Warborough & Holcombe (in Newington Parish).  Small Parcels held by Littlemore Priory & Godstow Abbey in 1279 were most likely in Brightwell Baldwin & Shillingford, while Weirs or Fisheries held by Wallingford Priory, the Bishop of Lincoln, and Canterbury Cathedral Priory lay all or partly in the Shillingford–Dorchester stretch of the Thames or in Newington.
Magdalen College, Oxford, acquired premises in Roke in 1485/9 as part of Chalgrove Manor, and subsequently expanded its Holdings. In 1569–70 it acquired an apparently substantial Estate from John Marmion of Ewelme, who had inherited from his wife Cecily Slythurst: a 16thC Fine estimated it at over 400 a. including 6 houses, 2 tofts & 2 dovecots, although the acreages were probably inflated, and not all necessarily lay in Benson.  By the 18thC the holding was focused on College Farm North of High Street, and totalled c.70 a.; another 34 a. was separately Leased, and in 1833 the Colleges combined Benson & Berrick Salome Estate covered 312 a. (109 a. in Benson, 193 a. in Berrick, and 10 a. in Ewelme or Warborough).  Another 231 a. was added from the Fifield Estate in 1900/1, but the Colleges Benson Holdings (including College Farm) were mostly sold to the Tenant in 1920/2, and Roke Farm (192 a.) in 1986.
Exeter College, Oxford, acquired a Freehold at Benson in 1486 from Robert Bray of Henley, built up piecemeal by the Brays and their Ancestors the Meriets.  In 1606 (when it owed Quitrent to Benson & Ewelme Manors) the Estate was reckoned at 63 a., and was focused (as later) on a Farmstead on the Site of Brookside, at Brook Streets Eastern end.  The Farm was Leased throughout, and sold in 1878.
Rectory Estate
Between 1140 & 1142 Empress Matilda Granted Benson Church (with its Tithes and a Yardland of Glebe) to Dorchester Abbey, which informally appropriated the revenues.  In 1542 (following the Abbeys Dissolution) the Crown Granted the Rectory Estate to Oxford Cathedral, and in 1546 to its successor, Christ Church College, which Leased it to local Gentry & Farmers including, for much of the 18thC, the Wises of Fifield, and in the 19thC the Newtons.  The Rectorial Glebe then comprised only 17½ a., although the Great Tithes were valued in 1771 at over £630 a yr gross.  A ‘Barn and other Houses’ mentioned in 1544 stood probably on the Northside of Castle Square, where the Estate retained a Farmyard, Barn & Stabling in the 19thC.
In 1841/2 Christ Church was Awarded an Annual Rent charge of £1,046 in Lieu of Great Tithes, and at Inclosure in 1863 it received Allotments totalling c.19 acres, sold in 1919.  Tithe Rents totalling £102 were Conveyed to the Vicar in 1927.
Bensington Tithes Map 1841

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: