Wheatfield is a small elongated Parish lying at the foot of the Chilterns between Watlington & Thame. The modern acreage is 740 acres, but until 1886 when Lower Rofford (48½ a.), a detached part of Wheatfield, was transferred to Chalgrove, the Parish comprised 789 acres. The only natural Boundary is the Haseley Brook which separates Wheatfield from Tetsworth and Adwell in the North & East. The Parish lies mostly between 350 & 240ft and is characteriSed by its rich Meadows & fine trees. A Road from Tetsworth to Stoke Talmage, running from North-east to South-west, bisects the Parish and a Branch Road runs Southwards past the Church of Wheatfield and then Eastwards to Adwell. A further Road that runs Southwards from the Adwell Road to South Weston & Lewknor was made in 1860. The alternate Limes & Sycamores along it were planted by the Lord of the Manor, the Rev Charles Vere Spencer.
Today the Church, Park Farm, the Old Rectory or Wheatfield House, as it is now called, and a few Cottages are all that is left of the former Village. It can never have been large and by the early 18thC it was no more than a Hamlet – ‘a pleasantly situated one‘ as Rawlinson noted. William Burgess’s Estate Map, drawn in 1700 for Sir Thomas Tipping, then Lord of the Manor, shows that there were 8 houses in the Village besides the Manor-House. Two Farmhouses of which one is now (1960) Lower Farm, lay in the fields to the North of the Village and 4 Lay in the South-east on the Adwell Boundary. One of these last is at present Upper Farm and another lay close beside it. The Old Village lay along the Road that runs past Wheatfield House and along a Branch Road to the Manor-House, through the Park where Mounds still denote the Sites of a few former Buildings. In 1778 there were said to be 2 Farmhouses & 8 Cottages.
Michael Burghers – Map Of Oxfordshire 1677
Beautifully embellished Map of the county of Oxfordshire engraved by Michael Burghers for Robert Plot’s “The 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.
There is now no Ancient Manor-house, but something is known both of the 17thC House and its late-18thC successor. Since 1594 the Tippings had lived at Wheatfield and when Lady Dorothy Tipping died in 1637 the House is described in her Inventory. It consisted of a Great Parlour, Hall, Great Chamber, Drawing-Chamber, and 5 other Principal Chambers. These seem to have formed the Front part of the House. In addition, there was a Beer Cellar, Buttery & Wine Cellar, and 9 other Chambers, and various Offices such as the Bakehouse & Brewing Kitchen. The Principal Living-rooms, judging from the valuation of the furniture in them – £40 in each case – were the Great Parlour, the Drawing-Chamber, and the 2nd Chamber. In 1662 the Tippings returned 15 hearths for this House; Burghers’s Map of the County depicts it and the Arms of Tipping are given in the Border. William Burgess’s Map of Wheatfield Manor in 1700 shows the House & Flower Garden lying directly to the West of the Church. The West Front of the House, which was T-shaped, faced on to a ‘new pond‘; a Square Flower Garden lay to the North and to the South were a Bowling Green, Wilderness, Warren, Walks, etc. The whole covered 29 acres. In the middle of this Garden was the ‘new Fountain‘; there was a new Dovehouse to the South-west of the House, and beyond the Garden to the North was a Hop Garden surrounded by a Canal. On the Map, an Avenue of trees runs North from the Manor-House to Scholar’s Bridge Meadow on the Tetsworth Boundary, but this seems to have been a project which was never carried out. There is no trace of any such Avenue now, and the fact that on Burgess’s Map Hedges cut across the Avenues makes it probable that it was not then in existence.
John Rudge, Member of Parliament for Evesham and a London Merchant, bought the Manor in 1727 and came to live in Wheatfield. It was he who was probably responsible for rebuilding the Manor-House and the present Stables. On his death in 1740 he was commemorated in the Church by an elaborate Monument. When his son Edward died in 1763 the House was described as having 10 Rooms on a Floor, with a Dovehouse, Coachhouse, and all other convenient Offices. The Gardens & Wood Walks still covered about 30 acres. Edward Rudge and his father were said to have laid out at least £10,000 on the House & Gardens, and it was estimated that its Grounds and the Timber and Underwood, which were worth £500, would fetch at least £3,000 even though the House were pulled down.
There is a sketch of the House by William Burgess on his Stoke Talmage Map, drawn in 1750. It depicts a typical Georgian House of 2-Storeys with Dormer Attics in the Roof, 5 Bays of Building and a Central Doorway.
Early OS Map of Oxford County
Surveyed by a local man, Richard Davis of Lewknor and published in 1797. This large map consists of 16 sheets at an impressively detailed scale of 1:31,680 or 2in to one mile. No more than 200 copies were ever made, the evidence is based on all sets of the Map having manuscript serial numbers – this Image is part of No.34. Very few complete copies survive. In terms of what the Map shows, a clear break has been made from the Saxton-led traditional County Map, as here far more detail than previously is featured. Not only are County & Hundred Boundaries, Rivers & Streams, Towns & Villages, Parks, & Woodland depicted, but here we have Roads, Tracks, Hedges, indeed every Field can be seen, and relief is beautifully represented by the use of hachures. Davis was also Topographer to His Majesty, George III.
It was probably the Rudges who planted so many of the fine trees described in an account of 1853 and of which many still flourish. This account by Mrs Glanville of Wheatfield refers to the Chestnut-tree Walk, a remarkable Silver Fir tree, 110ft high, and an Elm-Avenue leading across the Fields to Shirburn Castle, which had been cut down before 1853 as the large trees interfered too much with the cultivation of the fields. Mrs Glanville also states that Cottages had been pulled down and rebuilt on a new Site, sometime in the 2nd half of the 18thC, with the object of giving Wheatfield House a more extensive view of Parkland. An Embankment was thrown up to conceal the Road from the House’s view.
In 1769 the House was Leased to Lord Charles Spencer, the 2nd son of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough, and as the purchase of Wheatfield Manor was completed in 1770 it may be supposed that the Old Manor-House was then partly rebuilt. An Architect’s Plan shows that a North Wing with a Bow Front facing Eastwards continued up to the 2nd-Storey was added to the Rudge’s early-18thC house and that the older South Wing was altered and adapted internally. The new Wing contained the Drawing Room and Dining-Room with Billiard-Room and Bedchamber above. On the Southside, there was a Library & ‘Bird Room‘.
Lord Charles Spencer was in residence by 1771 and a view of the new House was published in 1787. It is depicted with a Lake in front of it, which must have been constructed since 1700 for Burgess’s Map shows no Ornamental Water. This view later appeared in Picturesque Views of the Principal Seats of the Nobility and Gentry and was accompanied by a brief description that stated ‘that for the beauty of the situation and the charms of nature which owe little to the touch of art, few places exceed this small but elegant Seat‘. Fire destroyed the whole on 1st January 1814. Owing to the severe Frost which had frozen all the Water, the efforts of the Villagers, organised by a French Officer and his men who were Prisoners of War on Parole at Thame, and of the Fire Engines from Shirburn & Watlington, failed to save the Building. The Officer’s proposal to blow up part of the Building to save half was rejected by Lord Charles Spencer as he feared for the safety of the large crowds of people and of the Church. The detached Offices & Stables are now all that remain, though in dry weather traces of the Groundplan of the Mansion are discernible in the grass between the Stables and the Church.
The remaining Brick Buildings, now occupied by Park Farm, form 3 sides of a Square of which the North Range consists of a Square Brick Coach-house with 3 wide Doors framed with engaged Doric Columns of wood. They support an Entablature and Pediment with a Brick Tympanum and Central Circular Window. Above there is a central Clock-Turret of Wood with a Square Base and Octagonal Cupola. These Stables were probably built early in the Century by the Rudges. There are also an 18thC Barn and other Farm buildings to the West.
Wheatfield Park Coach House, Stables & Farmhouse (formerly Park Farmhouse)
Coach House and Stables, part now converted to Farmhouse. c.1730. For John Rudge.
Coach House: red brick to end Walls and rear; wood Doric Columns support red brick Parapet; old plain-tile hipped Roof with Central Wall; Wood Cupola. 3-bay Coach House.
4 Doric Columns support Parapet with moulded stone-dressed False Pediment. Double Plank Doors with round tops between Columns, except 20thC Plank infill to left. Round window to Tympanum of Pediment. Stone Ball-Finials to ends of Parapet. Cupola to centre of Roof, having Square Base; Octagonal, boarded, 2nd stage; Octagonal Dome. Interior not inspected. Flanking Stables, at right angles, connected by Walls with Doorways, forming Courtyard. Stables, to left & right, of red brick, with plum brick panels, and Stone Dressings; old plain-tile hipped roofs. Single-storey, 9-bay Ranges. The central 3 bays project forward. Each Bay has double rubbed-brick Arch on flat Piers. Moulded stone cornice to the base of Parapet. Moulded stone False Pediment with brick Tympanum to centre 3 bays. Moulded stone coping to parapet. Most stable openings have either plum brick infill with Fanlights above or 20thC doors.
Interiors not inspected. Opposing ends of stables to coach house have brick walls with Piers having stone ball finials forming Entrance approach. Formerly the stable block to
Wheatfield Park, destroyed by Fire in 1814.
(Buildings of England; Oxfordshire, 1974, p.837; VCH; Oxfordshire, Vol.VIII, 1964 p.264-5).
The other Gentleman’s House in the Village was the Rectory. It was rebuilt by Adam Blandy (1709–22), the Rector who was so Civil to the Antiquary Rawlinson when he visited the Church in about 1718. The old Rectory must also have been a good House in its day for it was Taxed on 6 hearths in 1662. Blandy’s House was described in 1763 as an ‘exceeding good house and garden in extraordinary good repair‘, but by the early 19thC it was ‘shamefully dilapidated‘. It was ‘much improved‘ in 1807 when C L Kirby was Rector, and it was in this House that Lord Charles Spencer and his Family took refuge at the time of the fire at Wheatfield Park.
Wheatfield – Wheatfield House formerly Rectory
House, Early 18thC, early 19thC addition to Rear, mid 20thC alterations. Rendered Plinth; brown brick with red brick dressings; old plain-tile Roof; brick end Stacks. 2-Storey, 5-window Range. 12-pane unhorned Sashes to all openings, those to 1st Floor with painted wood Architrave surrounds. Left return: 4-panel Door, with 20thC Porch on Doric Columns to centre; regular fenestration of Sashes. Interior not inspected. History: built for Adan Blandy, c.1709-22, enlarged c.1823 for Rector Frederic Charles Spencer and stuccoed – (now removed).
(V.C.H.: Oxfordshire, Vol.VIII, 1964, p.265).
The House is built of Brick with a Central Door under a slender Doric Porch. It was enlarged and partly rebuilt by the Rector Frederic Charles Spencer in 1823 in preparation for his marriage to Mary Ann Bernard-Morland, but incorporates the South Front of Blandy’s Queen Anne Rectory. When the Stucco was removed in 1960 the difference in the Brickwork clearly revealed these 2 Periods of the Building. After Spencer’s early death in 1831, Mrs Spencer married the Rev Edward Fanshawe Glanville, the new Rector of Wheatfield, and continued to live at the Rectory. The Iron Veranda shown in a Watercolour by her was probably a Victorian Addition, which has since been removed. Since 1928, when the Rectory was Sold to Lt-Col Spencer, the Lord of the Manor, it has been used as the Manor-House and has been renamed Wheatfield House. There are a few picturesque Cottages nearby which are also built of Brick and date from the 17th or early 18thC.
Several notable Families held the Lordship of Wheatfield and resided in the Village. In the Middle Ages the Knightly Family of De Whitfield, many of whom were important in the Royal Service, took its name from the Place. From the 16th to the 18thCs the Family of Tipping, originally from Lancashire, but long established in Oxfordshire, was settled at Wheatfield Park. Many of the children of Sir George Tipping (d.1627) were Baptised in the Church, and he and his wife were buried there. During the Civil War, the Family was divided in its Loyalties. The Tippings, on the whole, were Royalists, but Sir George Tipping’s 2nd son, born at Wheatfield in 1598, supported the Parliamentary Party and was known as ‘Eternity Tipping‘ because of his Theological Writings. At this time he was established on the Family Estate at Draycott. Wheatfield was in an area that was hotly disputed between the conflicting Armies and on one occasion when the Royalist Forces passed through, Charles I, according to tradition, breakfasted in the Park there, and Mrs Glanville, writing in 1853, relates how a clump of Beech trees had been planted to commemorate his visit.
At the end of the Century Sir Thomas Tipping, Baptised at Wheatfield in 1653, was Member for the County and for Wallingford. He was said to have supported the Prince of Orange by raising a Regiment for his Service and was afterwards created a Baronet. His eldest daughter made a good match and married Samuel Sandys, 1st Baron Sandys.
Another important Family also had a connection with the Village in the 17thC. Thomas Isham of Radclive (Bucks) and Wheatfield, to whom there is a Memorial in the Church, was the son of Sir Euseby Isham of Pytchley (Northants). In 1649 he compounded ‘in his own discovery‘, doubting whether he was liable to Sequestration for anything said or done in the Civil War. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Thomas Denton of Hillesden (Bucks) and he and his wife are often mentioned in the Verney Letters. A Letter from her to Sir Ralph Verney in 1662 has been preserved. ‘I could wish you here,‘ she wrote, ‘as you might drink some of the Cider as is here about us: it is so good.‘ She informed Sir Ralph that his was made too soon and that the Best Cider is made just before Christmas. The Ishams‘ son Thomas, probably born at Wheatfield, became a Bencher of the Middle Temple.
The Rudge Lords of the Manor, father and son, not only rebuilt the House and landscaped the Park, but also remodelled the Church and refitted the Interior. Their successor, Lord Charles Spencer, made his new Mansion House a centre of Culture. His son John married his cousin Elizabeth, daughter of the 4th Duke of Marlborough. She is depicted in a conversation piece by Sir Joshua Reynolds at Blenheim. A smaller replica of the same picture, also perhaps by Sir Joshua, is in the possession of her descendant, Lt.-Col. Vere Spencer, at Wheatfield House. This Match, the Duchess of Bedford is reported to have said, was the ‘most charmingest match that can be, that Mr Spencer is a good Actor, a good Musician and a good Composer‘. It was he probably who played the Organ at Wheatfield House – a Visitor described it in a letter as ‘Roaring Loudly’ – and his interest in Musicians may be seen in a letter to the Earl of Dartmouth in 1804, asking for Lord Dartmouth’s interest on behalf of Andrew Loder, a Violin Player of Bath. The Family’s attachment to Amateur Theatricals led to the disastrous Fire which destroyed their Home: the House was filled with Guests for a Play to be performed on New Year’s Day 1814 when Fire broke out. This Fire was graphically described by Mrs Glanville, whose 1st husband was Lord Charles Spencer’s grandson, Frederic Charles Spencer, Rector of Wheatfield.
Apart from the eminent Families living at the Manor-House, Wheatfield is of interest on account of the learning of 2 of its Rectors, John Ellis in the 17thC & Henry Taylor in the 18thC.
OS Map – 1919 Sth Oxon XLV11-2 Stoke Talmage; Wheatfield & Adwell
In 1086 a Manor at Wheatfield, assessed at 2-Hides, was part of Robert d’Oilly’s Fief. Subsequently, it was lost to the D’Oillys and by 1166 was in the Honour of Wallingford. Until the 19th century Wheatfield, as a Member 1st of Wallingford and then Ewelme Honour, attended the Honour Courts and paid 2s Cert money. The Demesne Tenant of Wheatfield in 1086 was a certain Peter, who also held 1-Hide in Lewknor of Robert d’Oilly and was perhaps the Peter who was Sheriff in the 1090s. He was one of Robert d’Oilly’s Knights and the Ancestor of the De Whitfield Family. Members of his Family are often found as Witnesses to D’Oilly Charters. Peter was succeeded by his son Robert (fl.1130–35) and by his grandson Geoffrey, probably by 1154. In 1166 Geoffrey was returned as holding 2-Hides, i.e. Wheatfield Manor, of the Honour. His son Robert de Whitfield was a Royal Justice and Sheriff of Oxfordshire from 1182 to 1185. Robert may have been dead by 1193 and he certainly was by 1194 when Henry de Whitfield, his brother and heir, owed 60 Marks as Relief for Robert’s Lands. This Henry, who was buried in Thame Abbey, probably died in 1226, when his son Elias paid 25s relief and did Homage for his ¼-Fee in Wheatfield. Elias, a Knight, was still alive in 1243; his heir was Henry de Whitfield, who was dead by 1264, leaving a young son Elias. It was this Elias who was Lord of Wheatfield in 1279. He also was a Knight and Lord of Bosmer Manor in Fawley (Bucks). He was still alive in 1289, but by 1300 had been succeeded by his son John, who was returned as Lord of Wheatfield in 1316.
There were 2 John de Whitfield’s: the Elder was probably the John de Whitfield who was an adherent of Thomas of Lancaster and was a Member of Parliament for the Shire and had died by c.1345; the other, also a leading man in the County, was dead by 1361, when there was some dispute as to what should be done with the Manor. It was eventually Granted for life to the younger John’s widow Katherine, who married as her 2nd husband Lawrence de Lynford. On her death in 1390 Wheatfield was divided between her 1st husband’s heirs. He had left 2 daughters, whose marriage the Black Prince, who then held the Honour of Wallingford, granted in 1362 to Master John Streatley, one of his Officials and Dean of Lincoln. The Dean was a member of the Streatley Family of Creslow (Bucks) and he immediately married Joan de Whitfield to Hugh Streatley, evidently a younger brother, since he did not inherit the Streatley Lands. He thus became Lord of Wheatfield. Both Joan and Hugh were dead by 1390; their son Edmund Streatley was aged 17 and received his half of Wheatfield with the Advowson when he came of age in 1393. His share evidently included the Manor House, for Wheatfield became the home of this branch of the Streatleys.
Edmund Streatley was followed sometime after 1428 by John Streatley, who was still alive in 1455, and by John’s son Thomas (d.1479). Thomas Streatley’s heir was his uncle, Thomas Streatley, who was succeeded by his son John (d.1515), and by his grandson Edmund. Edmund was obliged to Mortgage Wheatfield in 1536 to William Body, which involved him in subsequent Litigation and at about the same time he Mortgaged and lost Bosmer. His son John later Mortgaged Wheatfield to Anthony Carleton, Esq, of Brightwell Baldwin. Edmund Streatley was alive in 1552, but both he and his son & heir John were dead by 1568 when John’s heirs claimed the Manor against Anthony Carleton. The heirs were John’s 2 daughters: Margaret, who married firstly Richard Lee and secondly, by 1571, William, a younger son of Sir Leonard Chamberlain of Shirburn, and Elizabeth, the wife of Bartholomew Piggott the younger of Aston Rowant. In 1571 the Chamberlains and the Piggotts each held a quarter of the Manor. Robert Lee, who was living at Wheatfield in the 1570s and was the only Contributor to the Subsidy of 1577, may have been Margaret’s son. During these years this part of the Manor was the subject of a number of Chancery Suits, in which the Piggotts, the Lees, George Streatley, John’s brother & Anthony Carleton of Brightwell Baldwin all took part. They came to an end in about 1576, when Thomas Tipping, who was also to acquire the other half of the Manor, bought the Streatleys‘ half.
Meanwhile, in 1390, the other Moiety of Wheatfield Manor had been released to John de Whitfield’s 2nd daughter Elizabeth, probably the Elizabeth, wife of Reginald de Grey, mentioned in a Fine of 1377 by which half the Manor was settled on the Greys. She evidently married as her 2nd husband Baldwin de Bereford, a prominent Knight and after his death in the early 15th century she held a Moiety of the Manor and Advowson until her own death in 1423. Her heir was her daughter Maud (presumably the daughter of her 1st husband, for she did not inherit the De Bereford Lands), the wife of John Barrow and in 1428 he held 1/8-Fee in Wheatfield. The Barrows, whose name is spelt in many ways and eventually became Abarrow, lived at Charford (Hants), and their half of Wheatfield followed the Descent of that Manor until sold in 1571 by Edward and Anthony Abarrow. In 1576 or 1577 it was bought by Thomas Tipping, and the 2 halves of Wheatfield were United.
The Tippings were originally a Lancashire Family. Thomas, a younger son of William Tipping of Merton, bought a number of Manors in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire. On his death in 1601 they were divided among his 2 sons, George the Elder inheriting Wheatfield and several other Manors. Since 1594 Sir George had been living at Wheatfield and on his death in 1626, Wheatfield was inherited by a young grandson Thomas, whose father John was already dead. Thomas, who was Knighted in 1660, lived until 1694. After the death of his Widow Elizabeth in 1698, their son Thomas, a Member of Parliament and the 1st Baronet to be created by William III, came into possession of Wheatfield. He lived at Pyrgo in Havering (Essex), his wife’s Inheritance, and died in 1718. His Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Properties, heavily Mortgaged, were settled on his Widow, and in 1727, after the death of her son Sir Thomas, with whom the male line of the Family came to an end, Wheatfield, Thomley & Worminghall were sold to John Rudge. Rudge was a member of a London Merchant Family & Member of Parliament for Evesham, who was in the fortunate position of having £26,000 left by his mother-in-law, Susannah Letten, for the purchase of Landed Property.
John Rudge (d.1740) was succeeded by his son Edward, also Member for Evesham and a Member of the Royal Society. On Edward Rudge’s death without children in 1763 the Estate reverted to Mrs Letten’s heirs at Law, who in 1769 sold Wheatfield for £21,000 to Lord Charles Spencer, the 2nd son of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough, and for 40 years Member for the County. His son John, who had married his cousin, Lady Elizabeth Spencer, succeeded him in 1820 and died in 1831 a few weeks after his eldest surviving son, Frederick Charles, Rector of Wheatfield. John Spencer’s young grandson, Charles Vere Spencer, was heir to a heavily Mortgaged Estate; he was made a Ward of Chancery and much of the Family’s Land was sold to preserve Wheatfield intact. He later became Rector of Wheatfield and was followed in 1898 as Lord of the Manor by his son Aubrey John Spencer (d.1935), Barrister-at-law and an Examiner of the High Court of Justice, and then by his grandson, Lt-Col Aubrey Vere Spencer, DSO.
The Manor was never Coterminous with the Parish and 6½ Virgates of Wheatfield formed a quarter of the South Weston Fee held by the Fitzwyth Family. From at least 1279, and very possibly from a much earlier date, the Lords of Wheatfield, the De Whitfield Family, were the Demesne Tenants of this Fee.
Agrarian & Social History:
A well-mixed soil on a subsoil of Upper Greensand & Gault Clay, the proximity of an Ancient Trackway, the Icknield Way, the presence of Streams & Sheltering Hills all made Wheatfield a favourable spot for early Settlement. The Anglo-Saxons gave it its name of ‘White’ field, doubtless on account of the productive Crops for which it is still noted. The Domesday survey gives precise details of only one Estate in Wheatfield. The rest of the Township’s land, the ‘Weston Fee‘, was almost certainly Surveyed with South Weston and its Plough-lands and Peasants were included in the total figures for Weston. Thus no clear picture of Domesday Wheatfield emerges. It is recorded that the Lord of Wheatfield Manor had a Plough with 1 Serf in Demesne and that 2 Villani and 2 Bordars had half a Plough-team. It is probable that these Peasants shared a Plough-team with those attached to the Weston Fee, and that the rest of their team is included in the 6½ Plough-teams assigned in the Survey to Weston. The number of Teams is in any case very high for the small fields of Weston, which never covered more than 400 acres. The consequences of this early connection between Wheatfield & South Weston can be traced throughout their Histories. In 1841 South Weston Landowners still had the Right to the 1st Crop on Weston Red Veal, a Meadow in the middle of Wheatfield Parish, and each Parish had small detached pieces of Land lying in the other Parish.
The Hundredal Survey of 1279 makes the position clearer by Surveying the ‘Weston Fee’ in Wheatfield in detail, as well as Wheatfield Manor’s Land, and entering them both under Wheatfield. The Lord of Wheatfield Manor, Elias de Whitfield, was in fact by this time the immediate Lord of the ‘Weston Fee’. This ¼-Fee consisted of 6½ Virgates of which 5½ were held of the Lord in Villeinage and 1 Virgate by a Free Tenant. The remaining 18 Virgates recorded made up Wheatfield Manor and of these Elias had 12 Virgates in Demesne with Meadow and Pasture in addition. As the Arable Land of the Parish is known from later sources to have amounted to about 27 Virgates, including the Glebe which is not mentioned in the Survey, nearly half in 1279 was Manorial Demesne.
The average Villein Holding was a Virgate: there were 5 Virgaters attached to the ‘Weston Fee’ and ½-Virgater. The Virgater paid a rent of 10s and in addition owed moderately heavy services: between Michaelmas and Christmas, he was to do 3 Ploughing Services at his own cost and after Christmas one Harrowing Service. He was to Harrow an acre of Pasture Land; Mow in the Meadow until he had done 7 ‘Sweyes‘ (swathes) in the day at his own cost; find a man to Hoe all the Lord’s Grain; find 2 men to lift Hay; and himself carry the Hay and make a Rick. After Lammas (1st Aug) when the Lord was ready to Reap, he was to find 2 men to Reap for 5 days a week and was to come to the great Boon with his whole Household, except for his wife and Shepherd. He was to be in charge of the Reapers and see that they worked and was to have a Feast with the Lord. With a Horse and Cart, he was to carry the Grain for a half-day. After all the Grain had been Harvested he was to find a man to collect the Stubble or Straw. Other obligations were to find 2 men to collect Apples and to carry Timber from the Wood to the Manor-House. On Christmas Day he ate with the Lord, but the day after he had to make a Present to the Lady of the Manor of 3 Hens, 1 Cock, 2 loaves of Bread & 2 flagons of Beer; on the day after Easter he gave her a Present of 40 eggs and 2 loaves. In addition to these obligations he was bound by the usual restrictions of Villeinage: he must get the Lord’s Licence to marry off his daughter and to sell a Horse or an Ox born on the Manor.
In the Manor itself, there were also 6 Villeins, each holding a Virgate, and a Free Virgater. The Freeman held with his wife for life on condition that if they had an heir the heir should pay a Heriot on Succession, and that if there was no heir the Virgate should revert to the Lord. Each Villein had the choice of paying a high Rent of 22s a year in lieu of all Service except reasonable Aids, when the Lord Knighted his eldest son or married his eldest daughter, or of paying 10s Rent and doing Services. The Services on the Manor were much the same as those on the Fee. Different obligations were that the Villein was to find a man to help in making Cider and when he himself brewed Ale for sale (chepale) he was to give the Lord 2 gallons of Ale as tolcestre. He was also to pay cornbote at Michaelmas (29th September), i.e. 2 sheaves of Wheat & 2 of Oats. If he damaged the Lord’s Corn he was to make amends in accordance with the Judgement of his Neighbours.
Wheatfield at this Period with its Resident Lord, Rector, and at least 12 Villeins and 2 Freeholders with their Households formed a small and prosperous Village. The Tax assessment of 1316, for example, shows that considering the size of the Parish the comparatively large number of 18 Villagers was Taxed. Of these, 8 paid a relatively high Tax of 6s or more and 4 paid over 3s. A class structure was more pronounced here than, for example, in the neighbouring Parish of Stoke Talmage. The Parish’s later assessment of £2-18s-6d was also a large one, and the 60 Adults returned for the Poll Tax of 1377 indicate that the Community, if it had suffered from the Black Death, had largely recovered from its adverse effects.
In the early 16thC, Wheatfield’s economy was drastically disturbed by the Inclosure in 1505 of 160 acres of Arable by John Streatley, Lord of one part of the Manor and Tenant of the other part. It was alleged that 7 Messuages had each had 20 acres of Arable sown with Corn since before the memory of man, that these Tenements had been Inclosed with Hedges and Ditches and converted into Pasture Land, and that 9 Ploughs were rendered useless and 54 Peasants were made idle & homeless. It may have been in connection with these Inclosures that ‘a riot‘ took place and ‘divers murders and felonies‘ were done in Wheatfield of which Richard Grey, a Tenant of John Streatley was suspected. Grey and others fled, but Grey’s wife was arrested. A number of Closes are also mentioned in a Chancery Case in which George Streatley was involved in the 1570s. There is insufficient evidence to say whether these Inclosures in the 16thC marked the end of a considerable movement or the beginning. Wheatfield was not among the Villages with under 10 Households in 1428, but the returns for the Subsidy of 1523 indicate a reduction in the number of Taxable Inhabitants since the 14thC. In 1577 only Robert Lee, Lord of the Manor, was assessed for the Elizabethan Subsidy and there were no Yeoman Farmers of sufficient wealth to qualify. The smallness of the Parish had facilitated the concentration of the Ownership of the Land and encouraged radical changes in Husbandry. It is significant that in a list of the Yardlands on which Wheatfield was Rated in about 1607, out of 9 Yardlands 4 were said to be ‘in pasture‘. However, although Inclosure was extensive and much of it was for Pasture, many Inclosed fields were used for Arable during the 17thC and some open-field land survived until the 19thC. One consequence of Inclosure and the consequent decrease in Population may have been the closing of the Medieval Mill. It belonged to the Lord of the Manor in the early 13thC. He gave it to Thame Abbey with the promise that those using it should have right of way over his Lands, but the Abbey returned it in 1212 in exchange for Land. The last mention found of the Mill is in 1574: it clearly lay on the Pool near Upper Farm, and its memory survived in the Field Names of Great & Little Mill Closes.
From 1594 and throughout the next Century the Tippings were Resident and the life of the Parish was entirely centred around the Great House. Part of the Land was leased to Tenants and part was kept in hand. Some deductions on the influence of the Family and on the Husbandry of the time may be made from the Inventory of Goods valued at over £1,490 made on the death of Lady Dorothy Tipping in 1637. The size of the Manor-House with its Brewing Kitchen, Bake-house, Mill-house, Stables for 11 Horses, Maids’ Chamber & Servingmen’s Chamber gives an indication of the amount of Employment it provided. As for Husbandry the most highly valued part of the Demesne Farm was its flock of over 543 sheep worth £355. Wheat in the Barns and Wheat and ‘fatches‘ (vetches) in the ground were valued at £320. Summer Corn was valued at £36. The Tenant Farmers were Husbandmen of comparatively modest means. One, for example, left goods worth £107 in 1615 and another with goods worth £156 in 1624. In the 2nd half of the Century the returns for the Hearth Tax of 1662 show that in spite of partial Inclosure and the losses which must have been incurred during the Civil War from the Requisitions made by both sides, there was still a small Farming Community. Sir Thomas Tipping’s losses in the War very probably account for the Mortgaging of some of his valuable Wheatfield Meadows in 1663. Besides the Manor-House & Rectory 7 other Houses were Rated, and 3 Householders were discharged from payment ‘because not in the Liberty‘. That these 7 represented the substantial part of the Community is supported by the evidence of the Glebe Terrier of 1685 which was signed by 8 Inhabitants besides the Rector & Sir Thomas Tipping. Of these, Richard White, the Churchwarden and Thomas Minchin were probably the leading Tenants: Closes about the Village are named after them & 2 others and White’s House can be identified on an Estate Map of 1700. It was again 8 Heads of Families, it may be noted here, who attended the Honour Court of Ewelme in 1714. The Map of 1700 shows the whole Parish divided into Hedged Fields and apparently fully Inclosed, but the accompanying Terrier and the evidence of an earlier Glebe Terrier seem to prove that this was probably not so. According to the Glebe Terrier of 1685 2/3rds of the Glebe (10a) still lay in 15 Parcels in the Common fields – in ‘the field next to the Town‘, in ‘18 Acre Field‘ and in the Upper Field. Other Farmers, including Sir Thomas Tipping, also had Land in these Fields although their Holdings were more consolidated than that of the Rector. The Lord held blocks of 5 & 6 acres together, the others blocks of 2 & 3 acres. There was lot Meadow by the Haseley Brook & Common Pasture. These and the 3 Fields can be located on the Map of 1700.
The Traditional Husbandry used on Clay Lands and Land called ‘maumy‘, both of which were to be found at Wheatfield, has been described by Plot, who also noted that a special kind of triangular Harrow was used there, which was considered especially suitable for Ground infested with squitch-grass. Plot also wrote in 1681 of a kind of Wheat ‘plentifully sown in the vale between Thame and Watlington called ‘mix’d lammas‘, which yielded considerably better than most other Wheats and yet was unknown to the Farmers in the North & West of the County. Early in the 18thC, Rawlinson was another Witness to the good Husbandry that had been practised on the ‘very rich‘ soil at Wheatfield.
Until the death of Edward Rudge in 1763, the Rudge Family, who were the successors to the Tippings, remained sole Lords of all the Land in the Parish with the exception of the Glebe and Farmed the Demesne Lands themselves. In 1763, however, the Demesne, except for the Manor-House with 30 acres of Woods and Gardens, was divided between the 2 Tenant Farmers on the Estate. John Webb, Tenant at Will of Lower Farm at £200 a year, Farmed its 236 acres, which were all Pasture and Meadow Land. These lay in a compact group in the North of the Parish and undoubtedly included the Streatley Inclosures of the early 16thC. The Surveyor considered this Farm ‘as good a farm as any in the county‘ although its Tenant, ‘a sloven‘, did not make the best of it. The Rent had been £200 a year for some time, but its value had greatly increased owing to ‘the great rise in the price of butter‘. Webb also had on a 3-year lease 119 acres of White’s Farm, which had been in hand in Edward Rudge’s time. This Farm was mainly Arable and over half lay in ‘Lands‘ in Mousells Common Field, Town Field and Weston Windmill Field. The other Farm, Hall Farm (i.e. the Demesne Farm and the modern Upper Farm), was about a 3rd Pasture and again had ‘Lands‘ in the 3 Common fields. It was Leased to Thomas Cowper on a 9-yr Lease of £240 a year and comprised 264 acres. This Farm and White’s consisted partly of ‘very good‘ Arable Land lying in Closes and in the remnant of the Open fields, which at this date still covered over 140 acres. There had in fact been little, if any, change in the Topography of the Fields since 1700, for the figures given in the Terrier of about 1765 are based on those of the Map of 1700. With one Owner (except for the Glebe) and only 2 Tenants, final Inclosure could not be long deferred. The Act Inclosing parts of Wheatfield, South Weston & Stoke Talmage was not passed until 1854, but the Open fields had been abandoned earlier. The Tithe Award Map of 1841 shows the whole Parish divided into Fields shared between 3-Farms of roughly the same size – Upper & Lower Wheatfield farms & the Manor Farm. Some years earlier they had each been Let for over £200 a year. In 1851 there were 2 large Farms of 280 acres and 233 acres respectively, employing 12 & 8 Labourers, and a Small Holding of 22 acres.
Wheatfield Parish Tithe Map 1839
The utilisation of the Land had changed little since 1700: in 1841 there were approximately 20 acres of Wood, 238 of Arable, and 456 of Meadow or Pasture; in the 1760s there had also been a trifle less Arable and in 1700 perhaps rather more. There were at least 400 acres of Meadow and Pasture in 1700 and the tendency was probably towards an increase of Grassland: 11 acres of grass, for example, are marked on the Map as ‘formerly Arable‘.
After the outbreak of Cattle Disease in 1865 which led London Buyers to seek for Milk supplies in Oxfordshire, Wheatfield Farmers, in common with others in the neighbourhood, probably produced more Milk and less Butter & Cheese than before. In the 20thC, the emphasis continued to be on Milk Production and Friesian Herds were generally kept. In 1960 there were 3 average-sized Farms – Park Farm (172a), Upper Farm (212a), Lower Farm (241a), and the small Glebe Farm (35 a.). Park Farm had a flock of Clun Sheep. There were 188 acres of Arable, 471 acres of Pasture, and some 40 acres of Woodland, Water & Roads.
Until the 19th & 20thCs, no great changes in Population seem to have taken place after the 16thC decrease. In 1676 the Compton Census recorded 48 Adults; in 1738 the Rector reported that there were about 12 houses in the Village, inhabited by Farmers & Labourers; in 1790 besides the Manor-House and Rectory there were 2 Farms & 9 Cottages; in 1801 a census enumerated 89 Inhabitants. After reaching a peak of 105 Persons in 1831 the Population fell to 72 in 1901 and to 40 in 1960.
This decline in Population and other Social changes have led to the disappearance of the Patriarchal Village Life of the early 19thC described by Mrs Glanville, the wife of 2 successive Rectors. She wrote an account of Wheatfield in 1853 for Charles Vere Spencer, her son by her 1st husband, Frederick Charles Spencer, who was about to take up Residence in Wheatfield as Rector, ‘a fit representative of your Father in his House, his Property and his Parish‘. She relates how there were yearly School meetings under a gigantic Walnut tree and other Feasts of which the most remarkable had been those on the occasions of Mrs Spencer’s marriage to Mr Glanville, the Coronation of Queen Victoria, and the coming-of-age Celebrations of Mrs Glanville’s sons George and Vere. In 1838 the Parishioners of Adwell and Wheatfield met for a Dinner given by the 2 Lords of the Manor and the Rev E F Glanville. There was dancing and the old people enjoyed their ‘pipes and snuff boxes‘, and in 1848 on the coming-of-age Celebrations of Vere Spencer, Tents were set up near the Church and Dancing, Cricket, Foot Sports, and Fireworks followed.
The English Village Community, by Frederic Seebohm
There is no mention of a School in Wheatfield before 1784 when the Poor children were said to be ‘schooled by a weekly donation‘. A Sunday School was started in 1790 where boys and girls were still being taught to read in 1808. There were, however, only 8 children of an age to attend the School and by 1815 it was no longer held. The Population at this date was very small and the few children capable of receiving instruction attended a school at Tetsworth kept by a Dissenter. In 1818 it was reported that there was still no School at Wheatfield, but that the Poor who were desirous of education for their children might send them to the neighbouring Parish. A Sunday School supported by Mrs Spencer, the wife of the Rector, was restarted with 20 children in 1824, and a Day School was opened in the same year, wherein 1833 4 boys & 7 girls were being educated at their Parents’ expense. This Day School is presumably the Dame School reported in 1833, where the children paid, although much support was given by individuals both in and out of the Parish. There was also a Sunday School which was attended by all the children: it was held in a Cottage, there being no School-room. The Surate was working to get a proper School-Room and was also active along with the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in supplying Books and Tracts. The Village had a Lending Library.
‘Dame’ Schools were typically run out of the Homes of elderly Women or Widows in the Community. For a small fee (sometimes pennies), the “Dame” would Teach Children what little Reading, Writing, and Math skills she might have as she went about her Household Duties. Children as young as 2 or 3 would attend, and Girls would be taught more domestic skills such as sewing & cleaning, while Boys were given more formal Education. For many Girls, this is the only Education they would receive.
In 1854 a Dame’s School with 6 Scholars was reported and also a Sunday School for 12 or 13 children under a Schoolmaster paid by the Rector. In 1878 2 of the incumbent’s household helped him in the Sunday School and Evening Classes were held on Sundays and on 2 week-days. There is no further mention of any School in Wheatfield after this date and the children have attended Schools at Tetsworth, Lewknor, or Stoke Talmage. In 1956 all were going to Tetsworth, but in 1960 they were transferred to Watlington.
In 1679 Sir Thomas Tipping gave a Rent of £4 to the Poor, charged apparently upon the Estate of Edward Rudge. Distribution ceased during the incumbency of Thomas Cornish (1722–37) and in 1768 the Charity was considered to be Lost. In 1771 the Rector said that he distributed the money to Poor Cottagers, but there is no later reference.