Towersey Parish

Eia (11thC); Toureseye (13thC)  Eia, meaning Island. This refers to a dry area of Land in the Marshes of the Aylesbury Vale, a Manuscript of 1174 records Kingsey also as simply Eya, but thereafter both Toponyms gained prefixes to distinguish the 2 Villages. A manuscript of 1194 refers to Kingseie, which has evolved into Kingsey, mid-13thC Records refer to Turrisey & Tureseye, which has evolved into Towersey.  It means Island of de Tours, referring to Richard de Tours

19thC Towersey

Towersey is a Parish on the Borders of Oxfordshire with an area of 1,380-acres, including 320-acres of Arable Land and 911 of Permanent Pasture.  The slope of the Land is from the South-East (271-ft above the Ordnance Datum) to the North-West (219-ft).  The Soil is strong Loam, the Subsoil Gravel, Clay, & Limestone, the chief crops being wheat, beans, barley, clover & grasses.  Towersey, in the Hundred of Ashendon, about 2-miles East of Thame, in Oxfordshire, lies within the County of Buckingham, but is a Hamlet belonging to that Town: it has a Chapel of Ease.  The Manor House has been for some years the Property of George Bowden Esq. it was before in Lord Wentworth’s Family.
OS Map Towersey Area 1881


TowerseyHaltSthThe Wycombe, Thame, & Oxford Branch of the Great Western Railway ran through the South of the Parish from South-East to North-West. The Railway was originally known as the ‘Wycombe Extension’ and was 1rst talked about in the mid-1850’s.  It was designed to connect High Wycombe to Thame via Princes Risborough by a single Track as part of the GWR.  The 1st Sod was cut in Towersey in September 1859 by Mr Edward Griffin who was one of the Directors and lived in Towersey Manor at the time. The Line was opened up on 1st August 1862.  The Service ran 4-Trains daily in each direction between Thame & Paddington. This journey took some 2½-hrs.  A 2nd-Class Single Fare to London from Thame cost 6/3d.  A 3rd-Class Ticket cost around 4/-.  The Line was extended TowerseyHalt&Approachto Oxford and completed in 1864.  Towersey waited 70-yrs for its own Station or Wooden Halt on the Line and it was eventually in place and opened up on 5th June 1933.  No more than 100-ft (30M) long, the Halt was Supervised by the Stationmaster at Thame.  Towersey Halt was situated approximately a ¼-mile from the Village Centre on the Towersey/Chinnor Road.  Access to the Halt was via a Cinder Track down the slope of the TowerseyHaltNthEmbankment on the Village side of the Line.  The Path is still there and provides access to the ‘Phoenix Trail’.  The Halt was lit by 3-Oil Lamps along the Platform. These Lamps had to be lit by one of the Villagers every day.  In 1963 the Line ceased to be used as a Passenger Line. The last Train ran on 6th January that year. However, the Line was still used for goods traffic between Thame & Oxford until 1965.  In 1969 part of the Track was removed but the Line was still used to Transport Oil to the Shell-Mex & BP Terminal until its closure in the 1980’s when the Line was abandoned and the Track remove.  In 1997 the conversion was started to make a Footpath, Cycle-way & Bridle Path to be known as the Phoenix Trail.


The Village is situated on the Thame Road in the West of the Parish.  There are many 16th & 17thC half-Timbered houses, several of which have Thatched Roofs.  The Church stands at the West of the Village, with the Vicarage, built in 1845, on the North-West and the School was on the South-West.  At the side of the Road on the South of the Church were the remains of the Village Stocks. The 16thC house known as the Church Farm, to the North of the Church, may represent the Old Manor-House.  It is a Timber-framed building, much altered, and the portion which contained the Hall is now a ruin.  The present Manor-House, at the other end of the Village, was built in the Italian Style by Mr Edward Griffin in 1858.  In 1899 it was sold by Mr J Whitehouse Griffin, to the Hon Paulyn F C Rawdon Hastings, by whom it was largely rebuilt & sold in 1911 to Mr G J C Harter.  It was since then mainly unoccupied.  The Grange Farm, probably on the Site of the Grange belonging to Thame Abbey, is a 16thC half-Timber house with Brick nogging, altered & enlarged.  Attached to it is the ancient Tithe Barn probably built about 1500.  It is a Stone building of 5-Bays with Aisles having original blocked Doorways, on the Jambs of one of which are 3-Sundials.  The Roof, which is a fine specimen of its kind, is supported by 2 rows of Oak Posts. Upper Green Farm & Lower Green Farm are both 17thC houses with Thatched Roofs.  There was a Baptist Chapel in the Village, and in the North-west of the Parish was a Windmill.  The Parish was inclosed in 1822.

Before the Conquest of King Edward, the Confessors Thegns held Eye Manor.  In 1086 it was assessed at 9-Hides 1-Virgate among the Lands of Niel Daubeny and was attached to his Barony of Cainhoe, Bedfordshire.  Niel Wast was Sub-Tenant in Eye in 1086, and by the middle of the 13thC Ralph Pirot was holding the Mesne Lordship in Towersey, which continued in his Family and was still held by his descendant, another Ralph Pirot, in 1337.  No later reference to it has been found.

In the middle of the 13thC Richard, son of Robert Towers (de Tours), Probably a descendant of John Towers, whose name occurs in the late 12thC, was holding the greater part of Eye Manor corresponding to Land which was afterwards distinguished by the name of this Family as Towersey Manor. He and his descendants bearing the same name were holding later in the Century, and in 1302 & 1316Richard Towers was living in 1329  and died before 1337 when his son Richard Granted the Reversion of a 3rd of Towersey Manor then held in Dower by his father’s Widow Agnes, and of Lands in

Thame Abbey Sable a chief argent with 2 croziers.

Towersey held for life by Henry Towers, to Thame Abbey.  At the same time, this Abbey also received a Grant of the remaining 2/3rds of this Manor from Edmund de Berford.  A Rent-charge on the Manor of £10 yearly was surrendered by Richard Towers‘ wife Agnes, his daughter Elizabeth & her husband Richard de Leming in 1338Towersey Manor remained with Thame Abbey, which received a Grant of Free Warren there in 1365, until the Dissolution.  In 1542 it was Granted to the Dean & Chapter of the Cathedral of Christ & St Mary, Oxford, and afterwards in 1545 to Christopher Edmunds and others with Rights in the Manor extending into Oxfordshire.  It was afterwards apparently acquired by Sir John Williams, Lord Williams of Thame, and was conveyed in 1566 by Daniel Snow to Edward Lord WindsorTowersey Manor Descended with Bradenham to Thomas, Viscount Wentworth, who sold it in 1788 to George Bowden of Radford, Oxfordshire.  His son George who succeeded in 1791 left 3-daughters Mary Elizabeth, Elizabeth, & Anne Frances, who were Ladies of the Manor in 1822.  About the middle of the 19thC, it was purchased by Mr Edward Griffin, JP & County Alderman, who died in 1879.  His son & successor, Mr James Whitehouse Griffin, was then the Owner of Towersey Manor.

The remainder of the Domesday Eye Manor Estate corresponding to that part of the Vill of Towersey called Little Eye was held of Ralph Pirot in 1254 by John de Morton.  In 1265 he, with his wife Sarah, alienated this Estate in Free Alms to Thame Abbey, for the Service of a pair of White Gauntlets or 1d at Easter.  This Abbey continued to hold Little Eye, which is not distinguishable from the Principal Manor in Towersey after 1346.

The 11-Hides at which Towersey was assessed in 1254 comprised, besides the Domesday Eye Manor, an Estate of 7-Virgates, apparently part of one of Gilbert Pinkney’s Fees in Bucks and held of him in 1166 by Robert de Wauci.  In 1254 Muriel de Weston held it in Socage and by the Service of 20s yearly for Ward of Windsor Castle of Robert’s descendant, Robert de WauciHenry de Weston, probably her son, Granted it in 1275 to Thame Abbey,  when it became absorbed in the Principal Manor.


Michael Burghers – Map Of Oxfordshire 1677
Beautifully embellished Map of the county of Oxfordshire engraved by Michael Burghers for Dr Robert Plot’sThe Natural History of Oxfordshire” published in 1677, a work that contained descriptions and images of Fossils found in the County including the 1st known illustration of a Dinosaur bone. The defining characteristic of the Map is the extensive decoration of the Borders & Cartouches with 178 Coats of Arms of the Colleges of Oxford University, Noblemen and Clergy. Also included is a Key explaining the Symbols used to identify various types of Locations on the Map.

A small Estate called Brittons Manor appears in Towersey in the later 16thC, when it was held of the President & Scholars of Magdalen College, Oxford.  In 1564 Nicholas & Alice Collingridge conveyed it to John GoodwinRichard Belson died Seised of it in 1569.  His wife Elizabeth held it for life and was alive in 1575 when her eldest son Bartholomew died.  Thomas Belson, another son, claimed it in 1585 against his elder brother Augustine under their father’s Will and obtained Judgement in 1586.

In 1623 John, Thomas & Richard Porter with Mary & Robert Whitfield surrendered their interests in Brittons Manor to John Harman and his heirs.  John Harman of Towersey, deceased, is mentioned in 1646, but the later descent has not been traced.

A small Estate in Towersey called in the later 16thC Parage Manor corresponds to the Property conveyed in 1341 by Walter, son of William Audlaf of Stoke, to Edmund Parage and his wife Agnes.  This Property reappears in 1577 when Parage Manor was conveyed by Francis & Katherine Bertie to William Fleetwood & John White, but no other reference to it has been found.

Towersey Windmill (Corn Mill) was off Windmill Road nr Kingsey Road, Towersey

BlackhorseTowerseyUp until the 1950’s, Towersey had 3-Public Houses; The White Hart, The Black Horse & The 3 Horseshoes. The latter is now the only Public House remaining, the others have all been converted to Private Residences.  In the past Public Houses were used as meeting places for many purposes, for local groups, those included local Inquests, Village Guardians etc.  The 3-Horseshoes Building, probably dates back to as far as the 12thC, the original building with its central Chimney being built in the typical style of a Yeoman Farmers House.  Some of the original Timber Frame & Witchert was uncovered during re-decoration in the 1980’s but was destroyed in 1999 when the Kitchen & Dining Room were enlarged. The Building was probably originally used as a Dairy, hence the Portland Stone flooring in the Lounge Bar. It was certainly used by Cordwainers (Harness Makers) during the last Century.  The Barn which is alongside the Pub is as old and may have been used as a Tithe Barn.  It is made from Timber-Frame & Witchert construction with high slit windows. During the exceptionally cold Winter of 1981 the whole of the South facing end Wall Collapsed but was rebuilt.


NPG x36660; Stanley Arthur Charles Anderson by BassanoDespite living through some of the most dramatic changes of the 20thC, Stanley Anderson CBE (1884-1966) created a vision of an essentially timeless English Rural Tradition in his Etchings & Woodcuts. Anderson became a Master of his Craft and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers & Engravers.  He was a key figure in the revival of Engraving in the 1920s.   Stanley Anderson was born in Bristol, in 1884 and died in Towersey, England in 1966.  In 1933, Anderson bought a Holiday Home Cottage (“Old Timbers“) in Towersey which would become his permanent Home when he was Bombed-out of London during the Blitz.  He began producing the Engravings of Country Crafts for which he is best known. Each was based on detailed preliminary sketches and sold in a Limited Edition of around 40 or 60, at the Royal Academy or other Exhibitions.  In many cases, background biographical information is known about the Craftsmen featured and their Tools & Techniques.

AndersonStudioAnderson often knew them personally and saw them as his Equals. His depictions are of real people carrying out their day-to-day work with the actual Tools they used.  Anderson was a traditionalist in his working methods, in his taste (he disliked Modern Art) and in his concern for the threat to Rural Crafts.  There is a high level of consistency between the laborious Craftsmanship of the men Anderson depicted and the painstaking methods that he used in his Engravings, making both Subject & Method examples of Traditional English Craft. It was for this body of work that Anderson was awarded his CBE in StanleyAnderson19331951.  After developing Neuritis in his right Hand & Arm, line engraving on copper became increasingly painful for Anderson. He Engraved his last Plate in 1953 and thereafter concentrated on Watercolour Paintings of Country Scenes which were sold at the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts. one features a Watercolour depicting a packed Thame High Street one Market day in 1940, and a Caricature of Towersey Milkman, Jack Copcutt, making merry with a Pint of Beer.  Humphrey Brooke, Secretary to the Royal Academy until 1968, recalled in The Times that there was a “Stampede” each year to buy Anderson’s Paintings which often sold out within minutes of the Opening, one Collector being seen in Running Shoes to beat the competition.  Anderson died at his home at Darobey, Church Lane, Chearsley, Bucks, on 4th March 1966.


The Church of St Catherine consists of a Chancel measuring internally 17ft-6ins x 13ft, Nave 56ft x 24ft with North Transeptal Recess 12ft wide x 4ft deep, and South Tower; it is built of rubble with Tiled Roofs.  The Chancel dates from the early 13thC and the Nave from about the middle of the 14thC.  The Chancel is 2 separate buildings, one inside another joined only at the Windows, the outer one probably Saxon.  The original Roof Line can be seen on the outside of the Nave Wall and was probably Thatch.  The Tower added in 1854 replaced a 14thC Porch, the Archway of which was re-used in the Lower Stage.  The Church was restored in 1850 & again in 1877.  The 1850-55 restoration under the direction of the Architect James Cranston, was carried out at the expense of Edward Griffin, Lord of the Towersey Manor, who also planted the Lime Trees along the Path.  Cranston added the Bell Tower in its slightly unusual position on the Southside of the Nave to the original Office of the Churchwardens & Overseer of the Poor above the Porch. Cranston also replaced the Roof of the Nave.  There is evidence that the Churchyard has been in use for well over a 1,000-years for burials.

The Chancel has in each side wall an early 13thC Lancet, the rear Arch of which, originally Round, has been subsequently made roughly Pointed. In the East wall is a 2-light traceried Window of the mid-14thC, and at the South-West is a late 2-light Window. Under the Lancet in the North Wall is a round-headed Recess, and in a square Recess on the South is a 12thC Piscina formed in a scalloped Capital.  The Chancel Arch, which dies into the side Walls, dates from the 14thC. The high-pitched Roof over the Chancel, with curved Wind-braces & moulded Wall-plates, is of the 15thC.


In the East wall of the Nave, on either side of the Chancel Arch are 2 traceried 14thC windows each of 2-lights with Labels linked to that of the Arch. In each side wall are 2 Windows of the same number of lights, all renewed, except the heads, which date from the 14thC. In the West wall, which appears to have been rebuilt, is a modern 3-light Window with a 14thC Label and a contemporary outer order, reset, to the external Jambs. The North & South Doorways, with Arch mouldings continuous with the Jambs, are also of the 14thC, and the Strap-hinges on the South Door are probably of the same period. The Transeptal Tecess has been considerably restored and its North wall, which contains a 3-light window with a 14thC rear Arch, may have been rebuilt inside the line of the original wall; the Archway in the Nave wall is similar to the Chancel Arch.  The Tower is of 3-Stages surmounted by Pinnacles and an embattled Parapet; its Lower Stage forms a Porch in which the 14thC Archway of the former Porch has been reset.

The Font is of a plain cylindrical shape with no detail by which its date can be determined, though it is probably Ancient. The Panelled Hexagonal Pulpit, which is enriched with foliage & scroll ornament, dates from the early 17thC; the Sounding-board support is original though the Sounding-board itself is modern. There are also 4-16thC Bench Ends with poppy heads.

In recent years major works include the replacement of the under-floor beams & new flooring.  The Tower Stonework was urgently repaired after the Slate Louvres started falling out. Also, the entire Electrical system was replaced after sudden failure and the entire Stonework of the Building was raked out and repointed.  A new Heating System and a PA System were installed and the Roof & Ground Drainage Systems have been replaced recently.

TowerseyBellThe Tower contains a Ring of 4-Bells: the Treble by Richard Keene 1695; the 2nd & 3rd, inscribed ‘This Bell was made 1627‘, and the Tenor ‘Prayes the Lord. 1627,’ by Ellis Knight; and a Sanctus Bell.  The bells are of conventional design, but retain the original bearing system of Cast-Iron gudgeon pins into Brass sleeve Bearings, the Bearings being adjusted by opposing Dovetails within the original Cast-Iron Pillow Blocks. The clappers are suspended from the Crown Staples on an Iron to Leather bearing surface, in the original manner.  Sanctus: No inscription. Date 1800; possibly from the Foundry of Henry Penn about 1700, but certain features of its construction suggest a more likely date of 1800. Weight 1-cwt.  Cranston had the original Bell Tower at the West end of the Nave removed and the 4-Bells and a Sanctus bell rehung in the new Bell Chamber over the South porch.

The Communion Plate includes a late 16thC Cup, the date letter of which is partially obliterated, and also a modern Chalice & Paten.  The Registers begin in 1589.

Towersey was a Chapelry Appendant to the Church of Thame, Oxfordshire, and as such the Advowson appertained to the Prebend of Thame, founded by Bishop Grosteste in Lincoln Cathedral in the middle of the 13thC.  The Prebend of Thame was alienated to Edward Duke of Somerset in 1547 and sold by him in 1561 to Sir John Thynne.  It descended in his Family to Thomas, 3rd Viscount Weymouth.  His brother Henry Frederick Thynne, Lord Carteret, sold the Advowson of Thame with the Chapel of Towersey in the early 19thC to John Blackall, who owned it in 1822.  His Heirat-Law Walter Long, with his wife Mary Long, conveyed it about 1830 to Richard Harrison, apparently Agent for Dr Slater of High Wycombe.  He vested the Advowson of the Vicarage of Towersey, which was separated from Thame in 1841, in Trustees & their successors, known as the Peache Trustees, are the present Owners.

In 1822 the Great Tithes of Towersey were in the hands of Henry Bowden, George & William Frith, and other Assignees of the Estate of George Bowden, and all other Tithes in the Parish belonged to the Vicar of Thame.  Land given for the maintenance of lights in Towersey Church was Granted to Edward Downing & John Walker in 1578.

The Charity of Christopher Deane, founded by Will proved in the PCC 16th March 1695, is Regulated by a Scheme of 28th October 1879, made under the Endowed Schools Acts.  The Endowment consists of 20 acres, or thereabouts, at Gayton (County Lincoln), let at £30 a year. Under the scheme £5 a year is payable to the Minister of Towersey, £20 for Educational purposes & the Residue of the Income for Apprenticeships.
OS Map 1881 – Albury, Crowell, Emmington, Kingston Stert, Moreton, North Weston, Stoke Talmage, Sydenham, Tetsworth, Thame, Towersey

TowerseySchool1910Towersey Village School was built in 1848. The school was located next to St Catherine’s Church on the crossroads by Manor Road. There were 2-Schoolrooms and a Schoolhouse which had places for 84 children. In the early years the attendance was about 60-70, though during times of bad weather, bean & potato planting/picking, harvest time etc, the attendance fell to only a few Pupils.  The children not only helped with Harvest Time but also Lace-making and with Laundry at the Manor.  The School was examined in 1878 for the 1st time.  During the years the School was here the Teaching Staff comprised of the Certified Mistress, Assistant Mistress & a School Monitor. The School had a somewhat chequered history with many changes to Staff and poor attendance, this was mainly due to the fact Towersey was a Rural Village, because of this children played an important role in the Sowing & Harvesting of Crops.  The girls were mainly involved in Lace-making for which Towersey was, famous.  In 1885 the total Grant received by the School was £60-10s and was allocated by the School Guardians of which Mr Whitehouse Griffin was the Honorary Treasurer. This Grant was made up of a Basic Principle Grant, a Population Grant, with the balance being allocated based on the attendance over the School year and the results of Examination as Certified by the School Inspector.  The School was eventually closed down in the 1950’s, with the children now attending the Main Schools in Thame. The Schoolhouse was converted into 3 Private Residences.

Towersey is entitled to a Share of the Charity of Mrs Katherine Pye, Founded by Deeds of Lease & Release, dated respectively 13th & 14th November 1713.

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