The earliest known records of the Toponym (place name) of Pishill are 13thC. The Book of Fees records Pushulle in 1219 & Pushull in 1247. It is derived from the Latin pisum for Pea and the Old English for Hill, and means “Hill where Peas grew“
The modern Parish of Pishill with Stonor was 1st formed in 1922 and was augmented in 1931 by the addition of Warmscombe (278a), hitherto a detached part of Watlington, and so came to cover 2,890 acres. Before that date Pishill had been a small Independent Parish, comprising 793 acres, since at least the 12thC. The Northern & Western Boundary of both the Ancient & Modern Parish are identical. The Line follows Pishill Bottom & Patemore Lane to Howe Hill, it goes South by Red Lane and then East to Russell’s Water, and from thence it descends by the Ancient ‘Green Way‘ to Maidensgrove and the ‘Five Horse Shoes‘ Public House as far as Lodge Farm.
Maidensgrove – Lodge Farm Cottages & Adjoining Cottage
5 Cottages, now 2-Dwellings. Early 9thC: 3-Bays to right are earlier 18thC. Header bond Grey Brick with Red Brick Dressings on Flint Base to left; Flint Rubble with Red Brick Quoins & Dressings to right. Gabled old tile Roof; Brick Ridge Stacks. 1-Storey & Attic; 8-window Range. 20thC Porches to left & right end. Segmental Arches over Blocked Doors & 20thC Casements except 19thC 2-light Casements to right; Gabled Dormers with 20thC Casements.
Interior: early 19thC Cottages have chamfered Beams & Joists, central open Fireplace with Bread Oven, and Timber-framed Partition & Truss to right.
Cottage to right not inspected. Until early 20thC these Cottages housed Chair-bodgers.
The image that was taken in 1903 at “Lodge Farm” Maidensgrove and refers to Pishill Parish and the 2 Adults, a man with a woman who is holding a child. My 3rd Great Grandfather (Benjamin White) lived at Lodge Farm, as of the 1901 & 1911 Census. He passed in 1912 and is buried at the Churchyard in Pishill along with other members of the Family. The Man in the picture is my 3rd Great Uncle, James White. Benjamin & Emma had 13 children, 11 of which survived. I returned to Maidensgrove in 2018 and visited the Pishill Church and the graves of my Ancestors. – Natalie Mrozek
At Lodge Farm the Ancient Boundary turned abruptly North, leaving Warmscombe to the South, and followed a Zig-zag course Northwards with Stonor on the other side of the Boundary. Stonor is now included in the New Parish so that the County Boundary, once the Boundary of the Ancient Parish of Pyrton to which Stonor belonged, now forms the Eastern Boundary of Pishill. Pishill’s Western Boundary today continues Southwards from Lodge Farm following Warmscombe Lane to join the Stonor to Henley Road. This would seem to be a reversion to the Anglo-Saxon Boundaries of an Estate Granted to Worcester by King Offa, supposedly in 774, and preserved in a Charter forged in the late 10thC. The Account of these Boundaries includes Grenanweg & Stanoranlege. This last is very possibly an allusion to old Stonor Park which until the 18thC lay immediately South of Maiden’s Grove & Doyley Wood in Pishill.
Before the Formation of the Parish of Pishill, which apparently took place soon after the Domesday Survey, Pishill’s Land seems to have been divided between Pyrton & Watlington, and it is likely that the 2 Manorial Estates of the 13thC Parish preserved the old Division, Pishill Venables being the part that was included in the Grant to Worcester and the D’Oilly Manor being the part that was included in Watlington in 1086.
The whole of the Ancient Parish is on the Chalk Hills of the Chilterns and is largely covered in Beech Woods with a little Pasture between the Woods. There is cultivated Land in the centre round Nutall Farm. The South-west edge of the Parish runs along a Spur of the Chilterns which gradually descends from 650ft at Russell’s Water to about 615ft at Maidensgrove. Here is Open Common and the Road commands magnificent views over Bix Bottom towards the Thames. This Road is the Grenanweg mentioned above, and besides being the Parish Boundary was once the Boundary Line between Pyrton & Ewelme Hundreds.
The North-Eastern side of the Parish reaches about 700ft. The Road from Watlington to Stonor descends to 370ft at Pishill Village, which lies almost on the Boundary Line with the old detached Parish of Pyrton. The Chief Woods are Doyley Wood, named after the D’Oilly Family which held the Manor in the Middle Ages, Pishillbury Wood & Long Wood. Pishill Village lies in an isolated Wooded Valley which ascends from Stonor to the heights above Watlington. The former nearest Railway Station was at Watlington, 5-miles away.
The Crown Inn was 11thC. The current building dates back to the 1400s, with the Barn (used for many functions) being some 400-yrs-old. Recent renovations of the Grounds revealed Foundations to another Barn and the Field opposite is called Crown Field showing that the Inn doubled as a Farm.
The Crown Inn, Pishill Farm & Bank Farm are on this Road and the mid-19thC School (now closed) and some Cottages, while the Church lies on the Hillside overlooking the Village. The 19thC Rectory (now a Private House) stands above it on the Crest of the Hill. The modern Hamlet is to be identified with Pishill Napper, one of the Parish’s 2-Hamlets that are recorded in the Hundredal Survey of 1279, for the Lord of this Hamlet was once also Patron of the Church. Behind the modern Rectory are the remains of a Medieval Flint Building with a 13thC transomed window of 2-Lights. Within there is a splayed Sill with window seats, which shows that the building was a Domestic one. A door Jamb is visible on the exterior of the South wall. This building may have been part of the D’Oilly’s Manor House, of which there is a record in 1406 when a Private Chapel there was Licensed for Divine Service. In the 18thC more extensive Medieval Buildings may have been standing, for Rawlinson was informed that there was ‘an Abbot & 6 Monks belonging formerly to the Parish‘ and that the Ruins of the Abbey remained. This erroneous tradition of an Abbey’s existence probably originated in the fact that Dorchester Abbey was given the Patronage of the Church and was an extensive Landowner in the Parish.
The Hamlet of Russell’s Water is picturesquely situated around an Open Green on a Ridge of the Chilterns. It is likely to be on the Site of the 13thC Hamlet of Pishill Venables, but it is said to have taken its name from the Brickworks once owned by the Russell Family. The Pool of the Works and the old Kiln-house of Brick, recently converted into a Private House, can still be seen. A Pishill Brickmaker is recorded in 1665 & 1682, and the Brickworks are mentioned as still operating in 1854. The former ‘Beehive Inn’, built of Plaster, is an older House, probably dating from the late 17thC. It was originally 3-Cottages and became an Inn at the end of the 18thC. Other Cottages, Thatcher’s for example, are built of Brick & Flint, and there is a row of these with Gable Porches near an 18thC House at the Southern End of the Common. The House was originally a Farmhouse, but since 1939 it has been a part of the Kathleen Slesinger Home for delicate Children from London. An Open Air Residential School had been built opposite.
Oakhill Cottage – Madensgrove Cottage – Heritage Statement – Pdf
Maidensgrove, another Hamlet, also lies on a Ridge and overlooks Stonor. Maiden’s Grove Farm, now a Private House, dates from the 17th & 18thC. Both Brick-&-Flint mixed & plain Brick have been used in its construction. Near the Hamlet’s 2nd Farmhouse, Lodge Farm, there are a row of Brick-&-Flint Cottages of 1-Storey with Attic Dormers, possibly of late-18thC or early-19thC date and an older picturesque Cottage, possibly dating from the late 17thC. The chief interest of this rural & isolated Parish has been its connection with the well-known Oxfordshire Families of D’Oilly & Stonor, and in the Middle Ages with the Cheshire Family of Grelle which held under the Constables of Chester. In the later Middle Ages, both Manors in the Parish belonged to the Stonors.
For a brief period in the early 19thC, the Parish had a Curate of some eminence, Henry Gauntlett (1762–1833), a close friend of Rowland Hill (of Penny Post Fame) and an important Supporter of the Evangelical Revival.
Pishill Napper, the Chief Estate in Pishill in 1279, was probably represented in Domesday Book by an Estate assessed at 3½-Hides in Watlington. In 1086 this Estate, although belonging to the Fief of William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford (d.1071), was in the King’s Hands, because of the Rebellion in 1075 of the Earl’s Son. It was never restored to the Family but was attached to Wallingford Honour. This was no doubt because the Tenant in 1086 was Robert d’Oilly, Lord of Watlington, and Watlington with many other of his Manors was attached to the Honour after his death.
By the mid-12thC, the Demesne Tenant was a Stephen of Pishill who gave Pishill Church to Dorchester Abbey some time between 1146 & 1163. He may have been the same man as the Stephen Fitz Riulf who was Joint Tenant with Philip de Westmordele of a ½-Fee of Wallingford Honour in 1166. Philip de Westmordele’s successors held a ¼-Fee in Wormsley later and it has been suggested that Stephen Fitz Riulf’s portion was in Pishill. A Stephen son of Ralph, perhaps the same man, was alive in 1195, but by 1201 Robert Napper (Le Napier) held Pishill for 1-Fee by Service of a Napkin. In 1212 it was explained that he held by Right of his wife, who may, therefore, have been Stephen of Pishill’s daughter. The Fee was said to have been turned by a Royal Charter into a Tenure by Serjeanty, the Tenant being bound to provide a Napkin (nappa) or pay 3s a year to the Exchequer. Robert Napper was still in possession in 1219 but by 1236 Thomas Napper had succeeded and was returned in 1240 as holding 1-Carucate in Pishill. He was still in possession in 1247 and was presumably the Thomas Napper, described as the King’s Sergeant, who was alive in 1249, but nothing further is heard of him or of this Family in connection with Pishill. By 1276 a John d’Oilly held the Serjeanty & Carucate of Land, and it is possible that he had acquired the Property through marriage with the Napper Family. In 1279 his brother Robert d’Oilly held the Serjeanty and 2/3-Carucate and paid John d’Oilly’s daughter Eva 21s a year for half the Estate and all Services. In 1284 Eva and her husband Quitclaimed half the Rent due from Pishill to Robert d’Oilly & his wife Christiana, and probably gave up all Rights in the Estate about this time. Robert d’Oilly held the Serjeanty in 1285, but the date of his death is unknown. Richard d’Oilly, said to be Robert’s son, presumably succeeded his father, and he may have been the Richard d’Oilly who was a Juror of Bixbrand in 1341. He was still alive in 1357. His son Thomas, who bought Ewden in Hambleden (Bucks) which later became the Family Seat, succeeded and was holding in Chief on his death in 1384. Thomas’s son William seems to have settled Pishill as Dower upon his mother Alice, for in 1406 she received Licence to have Divine Service in her Chapel at Pishill. William apparently lived 1st at Hinton near Brackley (Northants.) and later at Ewden, but in 1420 he was described as ‘of Co Bucks, Esq., alias William Doille of Picell, Co Oxford‘, and in 1423 he was still in possession. On his death in 1424 his heir was his 2nd son Richard (d.1435), who was succeeded by a son William (d.1449) and a grandson John (d.1492), but whether they in fact held Pishill is not known. Sometime before 1474 a Geoffrey d’Oilly (Doyley), whose exact connection with the Family has not been traced, sold Pishill Manor to ‘my cossyen Thomas Stonar‘. This Sale may have been connected with the negotiations by which Thomas Stonor sold Greenlands Manor in Hambleden to the D’Oillys (Doyleys) and thus enabled both Families to consolidate their Estates. From this time until the present day Pishill Napper has followed the Descent of Stonor and the other Pishill Manor – Pishill Venables which the Stonors acquired in 1335, although it was several Centuries before the 2-Pishill Manors came to lose their separate identities.
A 2nd Domesday Estate in Pishill, called Pishill Venables in 1285, must have been included in 1086 in the 40-Hides of Pyrton, for it was one of the later dependent Manors of Pyrton, owing Suit at the Manor Court. It counted as one of the 4½-Fees for which Pyrton Manor was held and the Overlordship & Mesne Tenure were that of Pyrton Manor, being held by the Grelles and their successors under the Earldom of Chester. Pishill Venables was closely connected with Stonor which it adjoined, being owned by the Stonors from the 14thC, and this no doubt accounts for the absence of its name from the Court Rolls of Pyrton Manor. Instead, Stonor occurs as being held for 1-Knight’s Fee, although it was not previously held as such. It is likely that the Stonors did Homage for both Pishill & Stonor and that the Fee was, in reality, owed for Pishill. In the early 16thC Pishill Venables was said to be ‘now known & called the Manor of Stonor‘.
From the 12thC, at least, this Pishill Manor was held by under-Tenants. The Venables who gave the Manor its name left no other trace of their Tenure, but it is likely that they were a Lancashire or Cheshire Family connected with the Overlords or with the later under-Tenants who also held Land in Cheshire. It is significant that a Roger Venables Witnessed a Grant in Cheshire to Adam de Dutton of Warburton Dutton (Ches), a Tenant of the Constables of Chester and who seems to have been an under-Tenant of the Manor. The Duttons certainly held Pishill under the Grelles in 1279. It is not clear when this under-Tenancy was created, but it seems likely that it was in existence at the end of the 12thC when Adam de Dutton married a daughter of Roger Fitz Alured of Cumbray, from whom he obtained Warburton. Fitz Alured (fl.1163), the 12thC Tenant of Shirburn, was Demesne Tenant of Pishill and was also a Dependent of the Constables of Chester. His son Ralph Fitz Roger held Pishill Property and Granted Dower there to his mother Maud de Frodsham in 1204, but reserved his Demesne Land. The Property, however, both in Pishill & Shirburn descended to his sister’s heirs, the Duttons. Adam de Dutton, who became Seneschal of the Constable, died towards the end of John’s Reign and was followed by his son Geoffrey (d.1248) and his grandson Geoffrey. The younger Geoffrey was still alive in 1275, but dead by 1279 when 1-Fee in Pishill was held of his heirs by Thomas Salley, who also held in 1282. Dutton’s heir was his son, Sir Peter de Dutton, with whom the alternative Family name of Warburton 1st came into use. He granted the Manor to John Stonor of Stonor, the Lord Chief Justice, at a yearly Rent of 40s sometime before 1315, when Stonor was Granted Free Warren there. In 1335 his son Geoffrey (III) renounced all claims to the Rent. The Descent of Pishill Venables, therefore, has followed the Descent of Stonor up to the present day. It was among the Lands put in Trust by Ralph Stonor in 1390 and received back by him in 1393. From 1420 to 1422 the Manor was Leased out, but in general, the Stonors kept the Manor in Demesne and after 1474 Pishill Napper as well. In the 16thC, the Pishills were among the Lands disputed by Sir Adrian Fortescue. Both were part of the Dowry of Lady Cecily Stonor in 1566, and in all late Stonor Deeds the 2-Pishills invariably appear together. The Family continued to hold the Lordship: in 1960 Major the Hon Sherman Stonor, the son of Lord Camoys, was Lord of the Manor.
Agrarian & Social History
The Soil is mainly Chalk with some areas of Loam & Gravel, and much of it has always been covered with Woods or uncultivated Common. The name of Pishill, meaning ‘the hill on which peas grow‘, suggests that in Anglo-Saxon times its Soil was considered unsuitable for most Crops. The Parish consequently can never have been thickly populated. Nevertheless, in the Middle Ages, there were 2-Hamlets, Pishill Napper and Pishill Venables, which were the centres of the 2-Manors. No separate Survey of the Townships was made at the time of Domesday, and they were probably included in the accounts of Pyrton & Watlington. The Pyrton part of Pishill cannot be distinguished in the Domesday Account from the rest of the Pyrton Estate, but there is little doubt that the Land held by Robert under the Earl of Hereford in Watlington, which was rated at 3½-Hides, represents a part of the later Pishill Parish. There was Land for 3-Ploughs there, which was worked by 8 Villani with 2 Bordars & 2 Serfs. The steep rise in value from 40s to 100s suggests that there had recently been much clearing of Woodland.
In the Hundredal Survey of 1279 the Hamlets are only partially Surveyed. Thomas de Salley, Lord of a Fee in ‘Pishill Hamlet‘ (or Pishill Venables), held 3-Hides in Demesne, of which 6 acres were Woodland. He had 4-Free Tenants, one being the Abbot of Dorchester, who held 3¼-Virgates between them. Allowed Service at Pyrton for 1 day with 1 man, and 3 owed a money payment in lieu of Ploughing-Service for the Lord of Pyrton. There is no mention of the Services of Villeins of the Lord’s Pishill Demesne. The Abbot of Dorchester held 1-Virgate in Demesne and had 8-Tenants of which 3 themselves held of 2 other Tenants. The Account is defective, but these Tenants held 15-Virgates, 13 acres at least. Four owed Services at Pyrton.
On the Manor of Robert D’Oilly in Pishill Napper Hamlet there were 22/3-Virgates in Demesne and the Abbot of Dorchester had 1⅓-Virgate. It is of interest that all this Land, which was held of the Honour of Wallingford, was not Hidated. Robert had 6-Free Tenants and the Abbot one. Some of them owed Rent & Suit, or Rent or Payments in kind only. Richard Stonor and 3 others owed the Services of 17 men for 1 day at the Lord’s Custom in Autumn and of 1 man for Washing & Shearing the Abbot’s Sheep. At this date, there were apparently 24 Villeins at least in the Hamlets and possibly 8 of the Free Tenants lived in Pishill. 14thC Tax Assessments provide little information about the relative Wealth or Population of Pishill as the place does not appear to have been Taxed separately until 1334: one of its Manors may have been Taxed with Pyrton and the other with Watlington. In 1334 the Village was assessed at the very low figure of 24s 6d. In 1377 only 24 adults were Taxed and in 1523 there were no more than 11 Contributors to the Subsidy.
The absence of a Tithingman for Assendon seems to be explained by the fact that Pishill, as on other occasions, includes the Tithings of Pishill Venables & Assendon: later Records sometimes refer to ‘Pishill alias Assendon‘. Also Stonor cum Assendon in Tax Assessments.
Pishill Tithe Map 1840
There is little evidence for the Agricultural History of the Parish: the Management of its Woods & Fields is closely connected with that of neighbouring Estates in Pyrton & Watlington and since the 15thC particularly with the Stonor Estate at Assendon. Portions, however, belonged to other Manors such as Minnygrove in Bix and to Shirburn. The extent of the 18thC Stonor Estate in Pishill may be seen on an Estate Map of 1725: the Family held a Farm Leased to William Holand in 1698, which spread into Pyrton as well & Pishill Farm. At the Tithe Award of 1847, out of 759 acres of Tithable Land 360 was Arable, 250 Common, 134 Woodland & 10 Meadow. Lord Camoys held 105 acres of Wood in hand & 312 acres of Farmland. As late as 1849 Lord Camoys held 7-Holdings in the Parish of which one was a large Farm of over 312 acres.
The population of Pishill over 16-yrs of age was registered as 54 in 1676. In the 19thC it rose from 96 in 1801 to 217 in 1871, and then declined to 139 in 1901. The advent of the Motor Car reversed the decline and in 1921 the Population numbered 147. Later Census figures are uninformative since the Parish was United with Stonor in 1922.
Reproduced from VCH Oxfordshire XVIII (2016), available online at www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol18