Wheatley & Littleworth

Wheatley (1,003a in 1951) lies in the extreme North of the Ancient Parish of Cuddesdon overlooked by Cuddesdon, Shotover & Holton.  Its growth was probably encouraged by the presence of the Ford (OE ‘HerpathFord, i.e. Army Way Ford), over the Thame near the Village, and on the Road from London to Worcester. In the 18thC James Boswell described the Village as a ‘very pretty Country place’, and today its situation on a Coralline Outcrop makes it resemble Headington Quarry with its Stony scars. The Howe, the slope to the South of the Village, is covered with allotments, and the marks of Clay, Ochre & Iron workings.  On all sides, the way out of Wheatley involves a steep climb, whether by the old Road over Shotover, over the Ridge to Horspath, or to the modern London Road.

The Village is centred on 2 roughly parallel Streets, Church Road and the curved High Street (with its continuation, Crown Road), once part of the old Oxford-London Road over Shotover Plain.  Until 1858 a Stream ran along the High Street; it may be traced back as far as 1442, when a man of Danish descent built a House on the highway ‘over the Water there’. In 1858 a Culvert was made, despite opposition from some who thought that the ‘Sluggish Stream’, with its Stepping-Stones, was healthy.  Along this Street are many 17th & 18thC houses built of the silvery grey local Stone & Roofed with Red Tiles. In Crown Road there are 6 houses of the same date, including Rectory Farm, which has Tudor Drip Stones & Chimney; a Well Staircase and fine Bedroom Doors dating from about 1600.

Rectory Farm

The Manor House, in the High Street, probably stands on or near the Site of its Medieval predecessor.  It is a late-16thC building, which was E-shaped in Plan before the disappearance of a central Porch. It retains 5 Tudor Fireplaces, and until recently there was a Tudor Chimney.

Manor House East Wing

In 1601 Abraham Archdale, Lord of the Manor, commissioned large-scale alterations; he added an East Wing with high mullioned windows & Crenellated Bay, and the Hall was given a flat Ceiling with chamfered Beams. Today there are still Plaques with the date 1601, and the initials TA: AA. By 1822 Arches had been erected over the Central windows; but in 1851, when the House had been ruinous for some years, J W Henley, MP, bought it, removed the Interior woodwork, and let it as Cottages. Mrs A G Hassall, Owner-occupier after the House had been reunited, carried out restoration in 1939-40 (F Openshaw, Architect).

Manor House

Other Ancient Houses in the Village include Mulberry Court & Ambrose Farm, which have Tudor Fireplaces, and ‘Wayside‘, dated 1791. There are 9 17th & 18thC Houses in Bell Lane, behind the old Church,  and 9 in Church Road. Wheatley had 7 Inns & Public Houses: the ‘King & Queen‘ is a handsome Tudor building with contemporary Chimneys & Windows, and the ‘Sun‘ and the ‘King’s Arms‘ contain 18thC work.

Wayside, Crown Road (South side – Formerly ‘Sunnyside’) No.32
House. Early/mid 18thC. Limestone rubble with squared Quoins; old plain-Tile Roof with Stone & Brick lateral Stacks. Central Stair plan. 2-Storeys + Attics. 3-window Front has central 6-panel Door with Stone flat Arch & moulded Canopy flanked by 2-light Casements under shallow segmental Brick Arches; at 1st-Floor a single light between 2-light Casements with Brick Dressings to their upper parts. 3 Roof Dormers. Stone outbuildings at both ends. Plain Rear (to Road) has 2 Brick Stacks on Gabled Stone Bases and a Plaque commemorating the Residence there of the 18thC Poet William Mickle.
Interior: not inspected.

Recent losses of Ancient Buildings include a 15thC barn near the ‘Crown‘, and a Tudor Cottage West of the ‘Railway Tavern‘. Thatching still survives on many houses, and on Barclay’s Bank, but is decreasing. Among 19thC buildings are the curious Pyramidal Roundhouse, containing the Stocks, which was built by Cooper, a local Mason, in 1834; and the former Vicarage in High Street, built in 1851 by the Rev Edward Elton; it was eventually bought by the Oxfordshire County Council and in 1953 was being used as a Home for neglected children, under the name of Moreland House. The ‘Old House’, formerly the Site of the Cooper Brickworks, after being Leased by the Oxfordshire County Council as a home for mentally defective children, passed to the Hospital Board in 1948. 20thC Council Houses have been built at the East End of the Village, between the new & the old London Roads. Brick, Tiles & Stone for the old houses were local, but the material for the recent houses is not.

Six Street Lamps were erected in 1887, though as late as 1923 the Women’s Institute complained that none were lit. Electricity came in 1929 & Gas about the same time. Though Rock hindered Draining in Crown Road, 3 out of 4 houses had Main Drainage by 1892.  A Sewage Plant is the legacy of an American Military Hospital at Holton.

On the Howe, South of the Village, stands an 18thC Windmill. There are no records of its Medieval predecessor, but it is known that a Mill was bought, probably on this Site, in a ruinous condition in 1671.  In 1748, the Eagle Foundry, Oxford, re-equipped it, but it was burnt down in 1760 and had to be rebuilt in 1763.  When sold in 1807, its capacity was 8 Loads of wheat weekly. It has not been used since 1915. A Wooden Mill near by was burnt about 1875.

The Hamlet of Littleworth (now divided between the Parishes of Wheatley, Horspath & Forest Hill with Shotover) lies to the North of Cuddesdon, on the Boundary of the Ancient Parishes of Cuddesdon & Horspath. In 956 the Boundaries of these 2 Parishes with the Forest of Shotover were here marked by a Spring and a Stream which ran along the Boundary. The Medieval history of this area is not known, but there was evidently a small Community living at Littleworth in 1625, when Cuddesdon Church claimed 5 Communicants there, and the building of additional Cottages is mentioned soon after this date.  A few Ancient Cottages built of rubble with Thatched Roofs still survive. One has a Hall reaching the Roof at one end, while at the other end a Floor has been inserted to make a Solar. The Munts & Currills, Morris-dancing Families, occupied 2 of these Cottages for more than a Century. Another Thatched Building was erected in 1834 as a Workhouse for Wheatley, and a row of Brick Cottages along the Wheatley-Horspath Road was built in 1892-93 by the Wheatley Minister; there is a Public House, the ‘Cricketers Arms‘, which replaced the ‘Woodman’s‘; and a Grass-Drying Factory. The Hamlet has its own water-supply.

Cricketers Arms

The emergence of Wheatley as a Distinct Manor within the Abingdon Estate may date from the time of Abbot Athelhelm (1071-83) who had to provide Knights to Guard Windsor Castle, and virtually lost much of Wheatley & Denton in assigning them Land for their support.  The existence of a separate Manor is supported by Wheatley’s exemption in the Reign of Henry I from the obligation to entertain Royal Hunters & Marshals. An Estate in Wheatley of 1½-Hide, held by Sueting of Abingdon Abbey, is mentioned in a list of 11thC Tenants of the Abbey.  This Estate seems to be the same as Sueting’s 1½-Hide given in Domesday as part of Garsington, and it is possible that there was some confusion between the Abbey’s Estates in Garsington & Wheatley. Although it is more probable that Sueting’s Estate was the same as the later Estate in Garsington held by the Nuns of Godstow, there is a chance that Sueting’s Estate was Wheatley Manor.

In the 12th & 13thCs the Wheatley (‘Watele’) Family were the Chief under-Tenants. William & Matthew are mentioned respectively in 1166 and 1242-43 as Holders of ½-Knight’s Fee; and in 1279 Henry of Wheatley was recorded as holding 2-Hides in Wheatley of the Templars of Sandford who were the Mesne Tenants of the Abbey.  Hugh Choch & John Eustace were also important Tenants.  These men held by Military Service, owing Castle Guard at Windsor, and the 3rd owing it at the Abbot’s Chamber at Abingdon.  The de Loucheses of Great Milton were the Abbey’s Tenants by the early 14thC.  By 1300, Richard de Louches was Lord of Great Milton and in 1318 was Granted Free Warren in his Demesne Lands, which at that date included Wheatley.  He was imprisoned for opposing the Despensers, but his Lands were restored to him in 1322,  and when he died (before 1327) he was succeeded by his son, Sir John, and later by his grandson, Sir William.  The latter, who was dead before 1367, left as Heir his daughter Elizabeth, who brought her inheritance to her husband, Sir Thomas de Camoys.  Wheatley Manor thereafter came to be called Camoys Manor.  Sir Thomas de Camoys was succeeded (a son Richard having predeceased him) by his grandson Hugh in 1421. Hugh died childless in 1426, leaving as heirs his 2 sisters and their respective husbands, Sir Roger de Lewkenor and Ralph Radmylde.  In 1443 the latter devised his Moiety to his son Robert, who was succeeded by his son William in 1457.  It is not known whether the Radmyldes sold their Moiety, or whether it went to the Lewkenors by marriage, but after William Radmylde’s death in 1503 the whole Manor appears to have Descended through the Lewkenors. Sir Roger de Lewkenor Granted it to Edmund Dudley for life. It was forfeited to the King on the latter’s Attainder, but on his Execution in 1510 the Lewkenors regained possession, and Jane, daughter of Sir Roger, brought the Manor to her husband Sir William Barentine.

Although Wheatley was still termed a Manor in the Legal Transactions of the 17th & 18thCs, there is little doubt that Manorial Rights ceased to be exercised during the 17thC, if not earlier. In 1590 the inhabitants declared that they had never heard of a Manor,  and in 1724 the oldest Inhabitants averred that they had heard neither of a Court Baron nor of a Manor.  Furthermore, the ‘Lord‘ was unable to substantiate any claim to the Waste either in 1684 or later.  Confusion had been caused by the fact that the Hundred Courts for Bullingdon were actually held at Wheatley from the time of Sir Christopher Brome (1558-89).  No Manorial Records survive, save for the year 1546.  The few remaining Quitrents were sold by William Chillingworth in the 19thC. The Descent of the Manor therefore, from the end of the 18thC, becomes merely the Descent of the Manor-House. It was Rented with 286-acres of Land by Tenants of the Whalley-Smythe-Gardiner Trustees in the late 18th and early 19thC. Their last & most notable Tenant was John Chillingworth.

Economic & Social History
The Cuddesdon Charter of 956 indicates that there was Arable Land above Littleworth, close to Wheatley, in the Saxon Period; moreover, the name Wheatley (‘the Wheat Lea’) is itself testimony to Arable Farming.  By the 13thC the Land was divided between 3 Chief Tenants, who held of the Templars of Sandford, the sub-Tenants of Abingdon Abbey. Henry of Wheatley held 2-Hides with 7 Cottagers paying money rents & 10 Cottagers at will. Hugh Choch had 1½-Hide, with 19-sub-Tenants paying money rents & 5-cottagers. John Eustace, the 3rd Chief Tenant, held another Hide, with 4 under-Tenants. In addition, 5 smaller Tenants held Cottages of the Abbey (4 of William de Coudray as Mesne Tenant) and the Abbey itself farmed 18-Virgates by the Labour of the Tenants at will, whose number is not specified. In 1322 Richard de Louches, Tenant of the Manor, had Free Tenants whose Rents came to 13s-7d, and also Bondsmen & Cottars holding of him. The Stock on the Manor included 6-oxen, 11 other cattle, 3-mares & 24-pigs.  By the 15thC the extent of the Demesne had probably decreased, since a 1429 Inquisition mentions 90-acres of Arable in Demesne, 10 of Meadow & 60 of Pasture, and its value some years later was only £4.

Very little is known about the Medieval Agrarian Economy. There were 4-Fields by 1593 at latest: Upper (near Cuddesdon), Middle, Lye (on the North) & West.  The Villagers had Rights of Common in the Forest of Shotover.  The type of Farming at Wheatley may be illustrated from the Will of John Collys, made in 1530, whose Goods included 4-steers valued at 48s, 2-kine, a bull, 2-heifers, 2-yearlings, 5-calves, 5-horses, 2-mares, 40-hogs, 13 score sheep valued at £33, 3-carts, 2-ploughs & ‘3-Stokkes of Bees’. The grain in his Barns included wheat, rye, pulse & barley. Sheep-farming continued to be important throughout the post-Reformation period; in the 19thC the Chillingworth’s were noted sheep-farmers, but modern Farmers concentrate more on Arable & Dairy Farming. They grow mainly wheat, beans & barley, and produce Milk for the London Market.

Arthur Young noted the Open Fields of Wheatley, and on the eve of the Inclosure Award (1813) 90% of the Township’s 920-acres were un-Inclosed, although some 100 acres South of the Village were Closes.  Under the Award, Sir James Whalley-Smythe-Gardiner received 416-acres, including the Village Green (Inclosed mainly between 1797 and the date of the Award), which he obtained in lieu of Rights to Waste.  William Juggins received an Allotment of 97-acres. Thomas Armborough 87 acres, Samuel Palmer 70 acres, the Bishop of Oxford 62-acres, including 41 in lieu of Tithes & William Davis 57-acres. The remaining 7-Allotments were all considerably less than 50-acres, and there were 6 Cottagers who received some compensation. Cuddesdon Tithe Map

Post-Reformation Wheatley had more than one period of expansion. The 1st for which there is evidence was in the last quarter of the 16thC. In 1583 31-cottages were newly built & sub-Letting & unauthorised Building were problems a few years later.  By 1625 32-houses lined the South side of High Street & Crown Road, and 45 the North. Nine new Cottages were built upon the Waste about the same time. The main period of Wheatley’s expansion, however, was the era of the Stage Coach. Crown Road, until 1775 the ‘way from Oxford to London‘, lay along the main Coaching Route, and the year 1669, when the Oxford Flying Coach reached London in a day, in spite of the roughness of the Road, marks the beginning of a period of prosperity.  Wheatley was also a Stage on the Journey from Islip to Tetsworth, a Route which was actually more important in 1742, but which was of secondary importance as early as 1790, when 6-Coaches ran daily from London to Oxford.  By 1802 it was totally eclipsed by the Oxford-London Traffic & Wheatley Toll was worth £1,305 – 10-times as much as Islip’s.

The White Hart, Wheatley

Many Inns sprang up to meet the needs of Travellers. Already in the 16thC there is documentary evidence for the ‘Signe of the Crowne‘ (1544), which belonged to John Parsons of Cowley and was worth £30, and the ‘George‘ (1576), the Property of the House Family.  The ‘White Hart‘ is mentioned in 1677, and the ‘Bell‘ in 1703.  Their Owners were prosperous, and in some cases married their daughters to Gentlemen. The Innkeeper of the ‘White Hart‘, for instance, had one for his son-in-law in 1677; and the profits of the ‘Crown‘ and of another Inn ‘The King & Queen‘ soared between 1702 & 1763. The diversion of the Traffic along Back Street (now Church Road) in the 18thC led to the opening of other Inns—the ‘Sun‘, for example, and the ‘King’s Arms‘ (1758), the ‘Royal Oak‘ by Frampton’s Lane, and the ‘Crown Tap‘ in Church Road. All the Ancient Inns, however, except the ‘Bell‘ had, or could arrange, access to Back Street, and could thus attract Customers from the new Route. In 1734 Wheatley was described as ‘the properest place to Bait at between Beaconsfield & Woodstock‘, and so it remained throughout the Coaching Era. This prosperity led to a Housing shortage, and in 1721 18-cottages known as ‘Blenheim‘ were built near the Green.  By 1759 140-dwellings housed some 800-Inhabitants, and there was much over-crowding among the poorer families.

The George Gallery

The George, with origins back to 1570 and belonging to the House Family, was a Packhorse Inn in the 16thC, being on the Old Coaching Route and thus attracting passing Trade. Inspection of the Wall Line opposite the George suggests that this was set back to allow Coaches to swing into its Courtyard. After Coaches were re-Routed along the London Road, it closed as an Inn by or before 1852, it was converted into 3-Tenements, the middle one completely blocking the former Arch, and the large Inn Rooms divided up. It remained so until 1959 when it was converted to 2-homes. Any Stable block at the Rear of the Property has long-since disappeared.  The remains of a Wooden Gallery is shown in the photos. Tudor Wall Paintings were uncovered in 1979. Mr & Mrs Young inherited the House c.1980 and it took them 1½-yrs to restore the fine Stone Building to its original appearance, and it became their Home, with a Gift Shop in the former Tap-Room. At one stage it Traded as The George Gallery.

Crown Inn

Crown Inn or Crown Hotel. Part of the Parsons Family Tree referring to William Parsons of Church Cowley, Victualler, of the ‘Signe of the Crowne‘ (1556). Crown Inn dates from 1544. Stage Coaches used to travel down High Street from Oxford & Wycombe to the Crown, where there was space for changing of Horses & Stabling. Heresay has it that there were 4-Stables for ‘Heavy Horses’ which were made available with a Groom and at a price (allowing the Owner’s Horses to rest) for pulling the Coach to the Top of Shotover Hill, after which they were returned to the Crown. As was often the case the earlier Owners combined the Businesses of Farming & Owning an Inn.

Rear Approach to the Crown Inn

The Crown was located on the Coaching Route until this changed at the end of the 18thC when the Business declined and the Crown Inn, in the early 1800s, built the Crown Tap on Church Road accessed from the new London Road Route by ‘Office Lane‘ as this was where the Auctioneer’s Office was in the little Lane opposite the Doctor’s House and the Horses & Carts used to come down there from the Main Road to the Auctioneer’s Office. There was a Track from Church Road to the East of the Crown Tap which was used by Steam Engines, and the like, attending the Fairs held at the back of the Crown Inn in the early 1900s. Until 1909, there was a Livestock Market held once a month in the Crown Yard on a Tuesday, and a Circus visited from time to time. In 1910, the Crown Inn was owned by Halls of Oxford and let to William Tombs. The Crown Inn is understood to have given up its Licence in 1938. It was converted into 2-Dwellings. 

The Railway Inn, or Railway Tavern Later the ‘Sandpiper’, High Street
Crown Inn, Wheatley

The Village’s prosperity, however, was seriously affected by the new Turnpike Road (1775) from Oxford to London by way of Headington Hill, which replaced the older Route by way of Wheatley over Shotover, and threatened many Inns with ruin. The dwindling rates of the ‘George‘ (closed by 1852) and the ‘White Hart‘ tell their Story; the ‘Crown‘, too, though it arranged access to the Turnpike could not fill its ample Stables & declined. But the loss of the Coaching Trade did not lead to the end of all Wheatley Inns, for there were still 8 in 1852. By 1864 the Railway had emptied the Roads except for a few Carriers,  and the Railway Hotel & the Railway Tavern (to which the ‘Crown‘ Licence passed in 1938) were symbolic of the new age. A return to Road Traffic in modern times has produced 4-Cafés, 2-Garages & 2-Cycle Repairers.

Although Agriculture has always been the main Village Industry, one other, the Quarrying Industry, has been of considerable importance since Medieval times. The Site of the Medieval Quarries was at Chalgrove (‘ceorla graf‘ in the 956 Charter) which, although part of Wheatley, lay within the Bounds of Shotover Forest.  Consequently Royal Licences to Quarry were needed: they were Granted for such diverse purposes as the repair of ‘Harpeford’ bridge (1286), for Merton College (1290), for the Oxford Dominicans (1304), the Augustinians (1316), and the Franciscans (1346). Wheatley Stone, of which there were 4-distinct types, was also used at Windsor (1344–69), Cuddesdon Church (1375-76), the Queen’s College (1378-79), Exeter College (1383), New College (1386), Magdalen College (1474) & Christ Church (1525). Stone for Abingdon went by water from Sandford.  There are occasional references to Workmen; in 1358 2-Overseers were given authority to impress Labour for the Royal Quarry,  and in 1360 Nicholas Harald & William Pollard were appointed Masters & Wardens of the Quarry, with powers to employ Masons to dig & cut Stone for Windsor Castle, and to apprehend Objectors.  The Quarries were still in use as late as the 19thC, but by this time the Stone was mostly used for Road-making. The Quarry became the Refuse Pit and then was covered over to become the Recreational Ground.

From the 18thC at least Local Clay was used for Pottery & Bricks. We hear of Richard Griffin’s Pottery Kiln declining in value in the Period 1763 to 1796;  a Kiln belonging to one Cooper in 1742 and of his Bricks in 1793.  The Cooper’s long continued to make Bricks & burn Lime (largely for the Oxford Gasworks) at the ‘Old House‘, where a Chimney stood until 1903. A new Brickworks, serving North Oxford & Didcot, was Built in 1892, was bought by the London Brick Co and stopped work in 1939. Ochre was found Locally and Ground at the Windmill until the late 19thC, some being peddled round the Country by Packhorse.  Paint, chiefly used for Oxford Wagons, was manufactured at the Barn near Mulberry Court, and Ironstone (ore), found on the Plateau to the South of the Village on a Site called ‘Bishop’s Piece‘, was exploited by a Mining Company in 1875.  The Company also had a Calcining Furnace for Ochre, but the venture failed.

There are scattered references in the 18th & 19thCs to other occupations. There was a Mercer in 1707, and a Peruke-Maker (Wigs) in 1738.  Noah Crook (d.1823) was Maker of Parchment for the Government; Robert Chapman glazed Church Windows from Beckley to Henley; Cullum, later a General Builder, was one of 3 Wheelwrights in 1852, whose Firm had started in 1834. In this period Wheatley women made Lace, but few of such Local Industries now survive. Avery’s, however, Founded in 1881 and extended in 1912, still existed in 1953. They then Manufactured Chair-backs & Seats for High Wycombe Firms, Coffin Boards and Tin-plate Boxes. Stocks & Fellies, once made for Chelsea Wagons Works, are no longer made.

The end of the prosperous Coaching days & the Agricultural depression of the 19thC, brought difficulties concerning Employment. Haymakers would Travel as far as Middlesex in search of work, and in the late 19thC Emigration was fostered, 80-Villagers sailing together for Queensland on one occasion. In 1953 there were Market-Gardeners, a Faggot-maker & 15-Shopkeepers; others found work in Oxford & Cowley.

In 1327 41-people in Wheatley were assessed for Taxation, which suggests that by then the Village was comparatively large & prosperous. In 1377 110-people over 14 were returned for the Poll Tax.  The expansion of Wheatley’s Trade from the late 16thC onwards seems to have led to an increase in numbers. The Hearth Tax Return of 1665 records 35 fairly substantial householders. One householder, perhaps the Tenant of the Manor-House, had 12-Hearths, 2 had 10 & 9 respectively, 7 had 5 or 6 or 7 & the remainder had between 1 & 4 each. Three were discharged by poverty.  These figures make a sharp contrast with those of the average Rural Village. In 1759 the incumbent estimated the population at not less than 800, living in about 140-houses,  but the 1801 Census gives a more conservative figure of 685. During the 19thC numbers rose to 1,041 in 1871, but declined again to 872 in 1901. The Census of 1931 showed an increase to 1,268, the result of the Overflow from Oxford. The 1951 Population was 1,532. Six Council Houses were built in 1921 and 50 in 1929 to house the newcomers. More building down Roman Road and towards Littleworth was in progress in 1951.

With a Community of this size, Local Government was of more than average importance. It had been customary for the Hundred Court at Wheatley to elect the Constable, the Tithing Man & Hayward, and conduct other Leet Business, but by the mid-17thC much of their Business was in the hands of the Overseers, whose Accounts for Wheatley are roughly complete from 1638 to 1661 and from 1701 to 1836. Throughout most of this period 2-Overseers were appointed annually by the Justices; but from 1641 to 1647 they ceased to make Appointments, and the 2-men appointed in 1639 remained in Office until 1646.

The Disbursements during the 1st Period reflect the Social Chaos of the Civil War. In 1639 £24 was spent, but during the following years payments dropped to £16, and in 1646, when only £4 was given in casual Relief, they virtually ceased. In 1647 they were resumed with an expenditure of £10, and during the following decade the amount paid out varied from £18-7s-9d (1652) to £31 (1659), with 6 to 13 people receiving regular Relief. During the 1st 2-decades of the 18thC expenditure varied from £80 to £90 a year. Originally the money was raised by one annual Town Rate, but after 1658 3 additional rates were levied annually. Apart from the regular weekly payments for Relief, money was paid out for Funerals & Clothes; for repairing & Thatching houses; and in the 18thC there were regular payments for a doctor from Headington. In 1684 £4 was spent on Apprenticing a girl for 7-yrs, but though generally the Overseers arranged for a number of Apprenticeships in neighbouring Parishes, they do not appear to have paid the Premiums. Unusual entries relate to Lodgings for the Constable and his wife (£2-7s) in 1653, and to William Plat, who was paid 10s per annum from 1654 as compensation for eviction from he house he had built himself on the Common. One of the significant features of these accounts is the high cost of Litigation – in 1702 £2-11s at Abingdon Sessions and £6-16s at Newbury – and the amount of journeying & work undertaken by the Overseers.

A number of entries suggest an increase in pauperism in the early 18thC. In 1704 6s was spent on making ‘Badges for the Poore’; in the following year £3-18s was spent on cloth to provide work for them; and in 1710 & 1711 Meetings were held to discuss this problem of Unemployment. Possibly the entries for repairs to the Highways in 1711 were the result. The total expenditure on the Poor in 1776 was £143-12s-2d; the average for the years 1783-85 £218-16s-6d; while in 1803 it was £386-5s-6d with an average rate of 7s in the £1, a shilling higher then the next highest rate in the Hundred. Some 14 persons were relieved in the Workhouse at Littleworth & 17 outside, while as many as 40 persons received casual relief.  An inventory of the Workhouse Goods in 1813 shows that it had 8 Spinning Wheels, 5-Flock Beds, 1-Bolster Bedstead & 1-Feather Bed. By 1829 the more complex problems of Poor-law Administration, such as the scale of relief, eligibility, or methods of dealing with Pauperism which had so ‘greatly accumulated in recent years‘, were dealt with by the Select Vestry. In 1830 an Assistant Overseer was appointed at a Salary of 18s a week; he was also responsible for the Workhouse, where the cost of maintenance was 3s a week, any additional earnings by the Poor being paid to the Workhouse Master. The Poor were employed by the Parish and received a loaf & 3d a day, which compared favourably with 10d paid 10-yrs previously; and the Vestry considered the Poor ‘better off now than at any time during the last 20-yrs‘. There was, however, so much unrest that mounted & Foot Constables were organised.

In 1831 a Meeting considered means of lowering the very high Poor-rates, and in 1832 it was agreed that the Poor should be farmed for a year to a Contractor who would be responsible for Clothing, Lodging, Maintaining & Burying them, and would undertake to repair the Turnpike Road with Parish Labour. It was estimated that the necessary repairs would cost £150, and a man was employed at 2s-6d a day to Supervise the Workers. In 1833 a Labour Rate was adopted, by which every Ratepayer assessed at over £5 Paid 1s-6d to help provide Employment. But after the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act plans were drawn up at the end of 1834 to reduce allowances & induce men to be independent. In 1835 only £5-6s-9d weekly were paid for the support of 8 widows, 5-Widowers, 6 old Couples, 4-Impotent persons, 5-children & 6- families.  Wheatley became an Urban District under the Public Health Act of 1872. In 1932 it became part of Bullingdon Rural District.

The Coaching Trade & the Quarry Industry, together with a constantly changing population, made Wheatley in the 18th & early 19thCs more turbulent than its purely Agricultural neighbours. Another reason for instability was the Plurality of Landowners – the Lord of the Manor owning but a portion of Wheatley Land and consequent absence of the normal Hierarchy of Village Society. In addition, until the time of the Rev Edward Elton (1849-84) the moral influence of a resident incumbent was lacking. Of 24-names of the Chief Villagers in the Period 1638-61, only 8 recur in the period 1701-17 and 6 are by then Classed as Paupers.  In 1759 only one Gentleman, Whorwood Adeane, is noted, and the biggest Farmers of this Period (the Juggins Family) produced Paupers and a Rioter in 1771.  Ten out of the 21-recipients under the Inclosure Award of 1813 received under 15-acres each, and by 1845, only 3 of the 40 Owner-occupiers had Parcels of more than 1-acre.

The absence of Residents of a ‘Superior Class’, the small Tenements, the High Road and the Public Houses made the Village notorious to its neighbours even in Victorian days. ‘The inhabitants lived much as they pleased‘ wrote the Rev Edward Elton, who described it as ‘a refuge for all the worst characters in the neighbourhood’ – a state of affairs for which ‘the present & former Owners of Estates near must be held responsible’.  There is indeed evidence that the latter were anxious to foist any ‘bad characters‘ from their own Estates on this ill-famed Village . Elton thought the Tradesmen who had long Governed the place ‘little above the very poor in morality or good character’.  Drunkenness was prevalent; the annual ‘Feasts’ were notorious for it, and often Residents dared not venture out at Night unarmed.  The appearance of a Temperance Hotel (now the ‘Merry Bells‘) in 1887 is significant.

Ye Merry Bells, Wheatley

Cricket was played from the mid-18thC at least, for in 1764 the Townsmen played the Gentlemen’s Servants on the Green.  Bull-baiting, for which Crowds came from Oxford, was a Sport until 1824, when it was stopped through the appeals of the Rector of Holton.  The Garlanded Bulls were Baited by Bulldogs in the Stonepits.  Another annual Sport, Badger-baiting, was put an end to by the Rev Edward Elton, who noted in his diary that his foe Juggins was ‘head of a clique who had set an evil example and managed everything in the Parish in his own way – noted Cock-fighter & Pugilist’.  In 1834 the Poor had been forbidden to have Guns & Dogs, but Poaching long remained a source of Food & Sport.  In 1950 the Playing Field was taken for the Site of the new Senior School.  A children’s Playground has recently been opened on the Site of the Quarry Pit formerly used for Bull-baiting, since levelled & planted with Grass.

In the 18thC a Fair was held on 29th September, but it had been discontinued by 1888.  A Cattle Market held at the ‘Crown’ was discontinued in 1909, when Oxford Market became weekly. To the end of the 19thC there were Mummers, May-Day celebrations & Morris Dancing.  The last Wheatley Processional Dancer was Alfred Currill of Littleworth (d.1927). The annual Feasts, held on the Sunday after 11th October, lapsed in the 20thC. In 1953 a Women’s Institute, a Men’s Club, and a Cinema (1949) were among the Village activities, and since the Senior School was built there has been a wide choice of Evening Classes.

Wheatley, although a separate Tithing, was in the Middle Ages part of Cuddesdon Parish, and therefore appropriated to Abingdon Abbey.  At the Reformation the Great Tithes, which were being Farmed for £6-6s-8d and which, with the Glebe, in Wheatley, formed what was called the Lay Rectory, were taken over by the Crown, and became separated from the Rectory of Cuddesdon. The Rectory passed through various Lay hands. In 1589 Anthony Mollens died possessed of a 3rd of the Rectory or Tithes of Wheatley & ‘Groveleyse‘, a piece of Land near Wheatley Bridge. Anne, one of his daughters, inherited as co-Heir, and her husband John Symeon died in 1616 Seised of half the Rectory. The Rectory came to the Jackson Family in the late 17thC, and remained with it until 1809, when it was sold to Sir James Whalley-Smythe-Gardiner. In 1813 he obtained 133-acres in Lieu of Tithes.  This Land no doubt formed the basis for Magdalen College’s Rectory Farm.

Rectory Farm Plan


There was a Chapel at Wheatley by 1427, for Thomas Mockyng, Clerk, of London then made it a Bequest.  In 1523 a Friar celebrated Mass there on Festivals for a Stipend of 40s a year paid by the Parishioners, and in 1526 the Curate was receiving 33s-4d.  After the Reformation Wheatley continued as a Chapelry of Cuddesdon, although it elected its own Church or Chapel Wardens, of whom there were 2 in the 16thC, but later only one.  Relations between the Mother Church and its offshoot were not always happy. There was friction, for instance, in 1628, when the Vicar of Cuddesdon saw 8 good reasons why Wheatley Chapel should not be Consecrated; and in 1630 when Wheatley refused to contribute to the repair of Cuddesdon Church and its Pews on the ground that there were no specific Wheatley Seats.

In the 18thC Wheatley began to break away from Cuddesdon. In the 1750s the Chapel was Licensed for Burials, although not until the early 19thC were they usually held there, and when the new building was Consecrated in 1795, it was for all Religious Ceremonies.  Surplice Fees continued for the most part to be paid to the Minister of Cuddesdon, and although by the early 19thC Wheatley was virtually a separate Parish, it continued to pay Church Rates to Cuddesdon until 1854, when it was made into a separate Ecclesiastical Parish.  The Vicar wrote that all ‘links’ had ‘now happily been – entirely severed‘.

Wheatley was served by a Curate, probably chosen by the Vicar of Cuddesdon in the Middle Ages and later by the Bishop of Oxford. The Curacy had no Endowment, since the small Tithes of Wheatley belonged to the Vicar of Cuddesdon, and were appropriated in 1637 with those of Cuddesdon to the Bishop of Oxford.  In 1813, he received 41-acres in place of them, which he exchanged for Land in Cuddesdon.  The Curate received a ‘voluntary contribution’, partly from the Bishop and partly from the Parishioners. In 1745, and again in 1749 & 1755, the Living was Endowed with £800, partly from Queen Anne’s Bounty, and the Bishop also paid the Curate £10, which was exchanged in 1852 for a Tithe-rent Charge of £208-12s-9d from Cuddesdon.  Bishop Secker began in 1746 the custom of Licensing Curates to Wheatley, and in 1854, when it was separated from Cuddesdon, the Living was made into a Perpetual Curacy (although it is often called a Vicarage) in the Patronage of the Bishop of Oxford, who is still Patron. In 1953 the net annual value of the Benefice was £566.

The Medieval Chapel was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and lay on the South side of the High Street, presumably where the War Memorial now stands.  In 1629 Archibald Archdale failed to get it Consecrated as a Church.  In 1644 the Antiquary Richard Symonds found no Monuments or Arms, ‘onely in the East window the Picture of St Nicholas with his Arms under’ but a Century later the Antiquary Browne Willis noted that this had long since disappeared. The building was repaired in 1715, but was pulled down in 1785 to make way for the new Church.

In 1785 Thomas Sims of Denton, a native of Wheatley, left a Bequest to build a new Church. The Lord Chancellor and others considered that the upkeep of the building, which was 1st proposed, would be too expensive and a cheaper building was planned by Stephen Townsend & Henry Tawney (Oxford Builders). It was to cost £500–£800 and was to have ‘a Diminutive Chancel, Great Round-headed windows, and Hipped Roof of Slate; in fact nothing but a Tower to distinguish it in outward appearance from a Meeting-house’.  In 1835 James Rose added a Vestry Room at the South-east Angle, and in 1854 the Gallery was removed and other repairs carried out by George Watts of Oxford

Bishop Wilberforce, however, in spite of the wishes of the Vestry, which, as he put it, ‘was not sufficiently friendly’, had the Building replaced as ‘it was of such a hopeless Conventicle pattern’.  The Vicar, the Rev Edward Elton, raised £3,500, mostly in small contributions from University men.  A new Site above the Village was chosen where the Architect, G E Street, raised ‘a good specimen of Early English Architecture’. The Spire was built by Holland of Thame, and has been described as ‘unusual but very effective’.  The New Church, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, was Consecrated in 1857. The glass in the South Chancel windows dates from 1850 & 1856, that in the East window from 1875.  The Organ was built in 1871. A Lych-Gate was added by P H Keys in 1910.

St Mary’s Church

The Church retained the Plate belonging to the 1st Chapel, consisting of a Silver Chalice (1702) inscribed ‘Wm Heart Churchwarden of Whately 1702’, a Silver Tankard Flagon given by Thomas Bray, Curate in 1766, and a Silver Plate given by Mrs Ann Juggins in 1775. It also acquired a Silver Chalice dating from 1850.  By 1953 all had been Lost. The Registers date from 1835.

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