An Estate, assessed at 5 hides, at Waterstock was held Freely by the Saxon Alwi in the time of the Confessor. In 1086 it was held by Sawold ‘of the fee of St. Mary of Lincoln‘. This Sawold should perhaps be identified with the Sawold who was one of the Bishop’s Knights and held 4 hides of the Manor of Thame. As later evidence shows that Waterstock was a member of Thame Manor throughout the Middle Ages the identification seems highly probable, and it must be supposed that the Domesday scribes duplicated the entry relating to Sawold. In the early 16th century the Bishop still received a relief of 50s on the death of the Lord of Waterstock.
In the earliest list of the Bishop’s Knights in 1166 the Holder of the Fee is not named. A Richard Foliot, however, had land in Neighbouring Waterperry in about 1190, and the family had held land in Waterstock at an earlier date, for Richard’s father, possibly Bartholomew Foliot, had Granted it to Oseney Abbey. The Foliots’ relatives, the Chesneys, were Overlords of Albury, another neighbouring Parish. As one of them was Robert de Chesney, Bishop of Lincoln (1148–66), it is not unlikely that Bishop Robert enfeoffed the Foliots with Waterstock. Bartholomew Foliot, a Knight, and known to have had a Tenant there in 1218, was certainly in possession of the Manor in 1235 or 1236, when he presented to the Church, and perhaps as late as 1250. He had been succeeded by Sir William Foliot, probably by 1255 and at latest by 1268. The latter was dead by 1276 when his Widow Agnes latter was dead by 1276 when his Widow Agnes claimed a house and ½-Virgate in Waterstock as her Dower. William Foliot’s heir was Katherine, his daughter apparently by his 1st wife, who carried the Estate to the Bruley family through her marriage with Sir Henry Bruley, Knight of the Shire for Oxfordshire in 1297. It remained in the family for 5 generations. Sir Henry was returned in 1279 as Lord of Waterstock and as the holder of a ½-Fee in 1305. He was presumably dead by 1315, when Katherine settled the Manor on her 2nd son John, to be held of her during her lifetime at a Rent of £50 and after her death for a Rose. Her heir was her eldest son (or grandson) William, who inherited the family manor of Aston Bruley in White Ladies Aston (Worcs)
John Bruley was Lord of the Manor in 1316 and 1327. The date of his death is uncertain and his heir according to the Herald’s Pedigree was John. He appears to have been succeeded at Waterstock, however, by a Thomas Bruley: in 1346 John Bruley was returned as holding the Banor, ‘sometime held by Thomas Bruley‘. It is likely that this Thomas was John Bruley’s younger brother whom he had presented to the Rectory, and that he acted as Guardian to John II when he was a Minor. John II, who was probably the husband of Bona Fitzellis and collector of the subsidy in Oxfordshire in 1350, may have been dead by 1361, when Thomas Bruley is said to have presented a certain Thomas atte Fortheye on the death of the Rector Thomas Bruley, but it is more probable that John was still Patron and that the appearance of ‘Thomas‘ as Patron is the result of a Scribal error. By 1372 at all events John II was dead and his heir John III was a Minor. The boy may never have succeeded, as in 1380 Waterstock was in the possession of William and Agnes Bruley. The suggestion that William Bruley was John’s son is hardly possible and he was more probably a cousin, a descendant of Henry, the youngest brother of John (I) Bruley. There seems little doubt that his wife Agnes was his cousin and the descendant of William Bruley, John I’s eldest brother or nephew. The Fine made by Agnes and William in 1380 implies that Agnes had a claim to Waterstock in her own right: they settled the Property first on the heirs of their bodies; secondly on the heirs of Agnes by a 2nd marriage; and 3rdly on the collateral heirs of William.
William Bruley, Knight of the Shire for Oxfordshire in 1395, outlived his wife and their son John, who had married Maud Quatremain, Sister and coheiress of Richard Quatremain of Rycote. Before 1423, however, he had enfeoffed his granddaughter Joan and her husband John Danvers, of Epwell in Swalcliffe and later of Colthorpe in Banbury, with Waterstock Manor. Danvers, who represented the County in 3 Parliaments, and built up a large landed Estate, was returned as Lord in 1428 and appears to have died shortly after 1448. His Widow Joan married as her 2nd husband Sir Walter Mauntell of Nether Heyford (Northants) and they Presented to Waterstock Church in 1467 and 1469. Much of John Danvers’s property went to his sons by his 1st wife, but Thomas, his eldest son by Joan Bruley, succeeded to his mother’s lands. He married twice, 1st a daughter of James Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele, and secondly Sybil Fowler, member of a Family with whom the Danvers Family was already connected by marriage. Danvers died in 1502, leaving the Manor for life to his Widow, who lived until 1511 and outlived both the next heir, her brother-in-law Sir William Danvers (d.1504) of Thatcham (Berks) and the latter’s son John (d.1508). The infant son of John Danvers, also called John, was his father’s heir, but he died in 1517 and his heirs were his 4 sisters. One of these died, and by an arrangement presumably made between the 3 survivors, Waterstock passed to Elizabeth, the 2nd eldest, and her husband Thomas Cave of Stanford (Northants). He obtained Licence to take possession of his wife’s lands in 1522. By a Fine of 1528 the Manor and Advowson were settled on Thomas and Elizabeth with remainder to the heirs of Elizabeth should Thomas and Elizabeth have no issue. The Cave Family, who acquired, in the same way, the neighbouring Manor of Tiddington, became by this marriage Lords of Waterstock for almost a 100 years. Sir Thomas was Knighted in 1553 and died in 1558. One of his younger sons, Edward, appears also temporarily to have held Waterstock. He was living in the Manor-House in 1574 and was probably the Edward Cave of Bampton who Presented to Waterstock Church between 1576 and 1580. However, Roger Cave, Sir Thomas’s son and heir, who married Margaret Cecil, sister of Lord Burghley, held the Manor at his death in 1586 and settled it in Fee Tail Male on his 4 sons. The eldest, Sir Thomas Cave, succeeded, and in 1610 he and his brother Sir William sold Waterstock to George Croke, the grandson of John Croke of Chilton (Bucks), the Purchaser of Studley Priory. Sir George, who became a noted Judge, was buried at Waterstock in 1642, leaving his wife Mary a life interest in the Manor. Since their son died young, Croke’s heir was his nephew George Croke, son of Henry Croke (d.1642), Rector of Waterstock. He married Jane, daughter of the Parliamentary Leader Sir Richard Onslow, and was Knighted in 1660. According to Wood, he ‘ran out his Estate‘ and got into Debt. On his death in 1680 Waterstock, by then encumbered by Mortgages, was divided between his 2 daughters, Elizabeth, wife of Sir Thomas Wyndham, Bt, of Trent (Som), and Sarah, who later married Henry Wigmore.
In 1691 they sold the Manor for nearly £16,000 to Sir Henry Ashhurst, Bt, who already owned the neighbouring Emmington Manor. His descendants lived in Waterstock until the mid-20th century and were prominent in the life of the County. Sir Henry, who served in Parliament for many years, was, like his father Henry Ashhurst, a London Merchant and a friend of Richard Baxter, but he settled at Waterstock and died there in 1711. He was succeeded by his son Henry, who died childless in 1732, when the title lapsed. The Estate was inherited by the latter’s niece Diana, the wife of Thomas Henry Ashhurst (d.1744), a distant cousin and a member of the Lancashire branch of the Family. Their son Sir William Henry Ashhurst (d.1807), a well-known Judge, was succeeded by his son William Henry Ashhurst, MP (d.1846), and his grandson John Henry Ashhurst (d.1885). The son of the last, William Henry, died in 1929 and his daughter, Gladys Mary Ashhurst, JP, was the last member of the Family. On her death in 1949 Waterstock passed to her nephew, Major Henry W. A. Ruck-Keene who lived c.1959 at Waterstock.