The following has been derived entirely from A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 5: Bullingdon hundred by Mary D Lobel (editor)(1957), accessed 13 January 2011.
It provides detailed information on life at the turn of the first millenium in England where people who farmed the 'warland' were working for their lord on his manor, a life repeated all over England at the time.
Cowley was a wooded area originally inhabited by a person by the name of Cufa ('Cufa's Wood') and his men in around 500 AD. Cowley had three distinct areas: (a) Church Cowley, (b) Temple Cowley, and (c) Middle Cowley (Hockmore Street). The word 'warland' appears in relation to the area of Hockmore Street.
The neighbourhood of Cowley was inhabited early; the Roman road passed nearby and several Roman pottery sites and settlements have been found here.
The main settlements grew up on a west-facing slope at the east end of the parish some two miles from Magdalen Bridge, where the Corallian ridge rises out of the Oxford Clay.
The canons of St. Frideswide's held land in Temple Cowley, apparently attached to their court of Bruggeset. The church probably held land in Temple Cowley from the time of Ethelred, whose charter of 1004 describes the bounds of Cowley and says it contains 3 hides. This is much smaller than the Domesday Cowley, which contained over 11 hides, yet the bounds in so far as they are intelligible include a large part of the present Cowley; from Cherwell Bridge eastward by Haklingcroft to a brook (perhaps that in Cowley marsh), round to Hockmore, then to Iffley, back to the brook, and then back to the Cherwell. This does not mean that St. Frideswide's ever owned all this land, since bounds described are not necessarily descriptions of the actual grant. (fn. 162) The holding is not explicitly mentioned in Domesday Book, but is probably included in the privileged 'four hides close to Oxford' held by the canons, which would cover the Bruggeset lands.
In 1086, the Domesday Book gives about 47 tenants of which 33 or more were probably in the later Church Cowley.
In 1086, Roger d'Ivry held 2 hides and ? virgate.
In 1086, the estate which the Templars later acquired in the 12th century was said to have 6 villeins (villani) and 3 serfs. Temple Mill was presumably the mill rendering 35s. in the 3 hides of Boulogne in Domesday. It was given with that manor to the Templars, and recorded in their 1185 inquest as two mills, probably a two-wheeled mill.
Boy Mill was probably Lewin's mill in 1086, rendering 40s; it must have been detached from the estate before the estate was joined to Iffley manor.
Hockmore Street was the chief settlement in 1086. It was referred to as 'Cowley', not just as 'in Cowley', and, possibly together with a bit of Littlemore, it had more tenants and ploughs than any other Cowley estate: 25 tenants with eight ploughs, and a hide of demesne taken in from peasants' land (refers to 'warland') with two serfs and a plough.
By the 12th century Church Cowley lay round the parish church and Temple Cowley round the Templars' preceptory.
In 1122, at the real foundation of the priory, Henry I granted or confirmed ½ hide in Cowley, and this is included in episcopal and papal confirmations, sometimes with an extra virgate. King John's confirmation mentions a hide in Cowley, and a late entry in the cartulary interprets this as a new grant and claims 1½ hide altogether; the 13th century confirmations and the Hundred Rolls seem to refute this.
Before about 1127 Roger d'Ivry gave his 2 hides and the church to the church of St George in Oxford Castle, funding by him and Robert d'Oilly jointly. In 1149, St. George's and its endowments were given by Henry d'Oilly to Oseney Abbey, probably with the d'Ivrys' consent. By the Middle Ages, because of its connection with the church, this area became known as 'Church Cowley'.
Godstow Abbey had acquired Boy Mill with attached lands and meadows by 1138, when a papal confirmation says it was given by Bishop Roger of Salisbury. A note in St. Frideswide's Cartulary maintains that he took it, with other lands, from St. Frideswide's and gave it to Godstow; but this claim is based on the bounds in Ethelred's charter, which are probably not the bounds of his grant. Godstow had also a little land in Bruggeset, perhaps going with the mill; about 1250 the nuns gave up some of this to St. Frideswide's in an exchange, but reserved their route to Boy Mill.
In 1139 Stephen's Queen, Maud Countess of Boulogne, gave all her Cowley land to the Templars. Temple Cowley manor was made up of two separate holdings. The larger and earlier acquired was 3 hides in the fee of Boulogne, including a mill.
In the Middle Ages there was, besides the parish church, a chapel attached to the Templars' preceptory, dedicated soon after 1139.
The church was granted to Oseney Abbey in 1149 by Henry d'Oilly. Bishop Hugh de Welles included Cowley in his ordinance about vicarages for Oseney's appropriated churches. The vicar, really a perpetual chaplain, was to have 2 marks for his clothing, a share in the offerings, meals at the canons' table, a clerk, a boy, and a horse when he went on the canons' business, while the canons were to bear all expenses.
Oseney Abbey probably rebuilt the church of ST. JAMES after acquiring it in 1149. The oldest parts of the present church, the eastern part of the nave and the chancel arch, are late-12th-century; there may have been an apse or a short and narrow chancel. The north and south doorways are also plain Romanesque work of the late 12th century, both reset.
About 1170–80 the ½ hide at Church Cowley was leased for life to Sired of Cowley for 5s. per annum; by 1200 it had probably been granted in fee to Amaury de Cowley, whose descendants held it: Andrew in 1225, Geoffrey Amory in 1255, and Andrew Amory in 1279, still at 5s. per annum. At least 1 messuage was kept by the canons and leased for lives. The priory had the tithes, which involved it in disputes with Oseney Abbey as rector; Andrew Amory's tithes were surrendered to the abbey.
The Templars' inquest of 1185 reports 4 hides of Queen Maud's gift, but the assessment later was still 3 hides.
By 1185 the Templars had 16 half-virgaters, though services were reckoned by the virgate, and 21 cottars.
The Templars' tenants in 1185 owed rent and work: for each virgate, 6s. rent; two days' work a week most of the year, ploughing, sowing, and harrowing an acre both winter and spring; daily week-work in the usual three summer months, providing their own food; three boon-works in autumn with four men, with food provided by the Templars for one day of the three; and on Saturdays carrying corn to market if required. Each villein tenant, then, owed half of all this.
The cottars in 1185 owed rents ranging from 9d. to 3s., together with a day's work a week most of the year, two days in August and September, boonworks like those of the half-virgaters, and hen-rents at Martinmas—four for a couple, two for a widow or single man.
A skinner and a tanner had cottages in 1185; there was another skinner a little later, and Richard the Franklin's son was a tanner with a shop near East Bridge.
The Templars were assarting in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, 'between Shotover Forest and Cowley': as much as 40 acres by 1189. This was probably mostly what became East and Wood Fields, where the name Newland occurs later.
There were a few substantial freemen in Cowley, with their own cottager tenants. The earliest found by name are Sired and Osbert in the later 12th century, holding in the honor of Wallingford; Sired also held the St. Frideswide's ½-hide for life. The family soon disappeared and their land came to the Templars.
In the late 12th and the 13th centuries the tenants at Cowley were the Chissebeches, who seem to have lived in Buckinghamshire, perhaps at Chisbidge in Hambleden. Geoffrey de Chissebeche acquired the land through his wife Alice.
Osbert de Cowley was perhaps sub-tenant in the later 12th century; later the land was disputed between William de Cowley, probably Osbert's son, his sister Alice, Henry de Kersinton or de Cowley, and the Chissebeches. William quitclaimed I virgate to Geoffrey de Chissebeche in 1197; later Henry de Kersinton and his wife Denise Talemasch, Alice de Cowley's daughter, established their claim to hold the other 5 virgates of the Chissebeches for 15s. a year. From Denise this land somehow came to John, son of Hugh, lord of Tidmarsh in the honor of Wallingford, who sold it in about 1217 to John Marshal of Ireland, kinsman of the Earl of Pembroke. Marshal probably bought the land in order to give it to the Templars, which he did about 1220. The Templars already held some of this land, the lane leading to their mill, under Osbert de Cowley, confirmed by John son of Hugh.
The de Kersinton (or Cassington) family lived probably in Hockmore Street and were lords of most of it, under Iffley manor. William de Kersinton and his son Henry were witnesses of the hundred in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Henry was a knight; he married Denise, a descendant of Osbert de Cowley, and went to law about her land.
During most of the Middle Ages the men of Temple Cowley were mostly tenants of the Templars, later the Hospitallers; but some held directly or indirectly of St. Frideswide's Priory. Those of Church Cowley were mostly Oseney Abbey's tenants; while some, including most of the men of Hockmore Street, which was regarded in the Middle Ages as part of Church Cowley village, held directly or indirectly of Iffley manor; and some held of the Templars, both in Iffley manor and in their Boulogne fee. The Templars' houses and lands in Church Cowley were perhaps 'Westbury'.
By East Bridge there was another settlement of houses and shops from at least the early 13th century, which was partly in Cowley parish and partly in St. Clement's. The two Cowley Mills, Temple and Boy Mill, were here, close together on the lefthand branch of the Cherwell, just below East Bridge: Temple Mill a little below the bridge, Boy Mill farther down. Before Anthony Wood's time there was a bridge and causeway across both branches of the Cherwell, from Boy Mill to near the end of Broad Walk. Wood thought it was built by Wolsey for carrying timber and stone to his college. There must always have been a crossing for Cowley haycarts and cattle to Milham, the big eyot, and perhaps as a way to Boy Mill from St. Frideswide's grange by the city wall. In Wood's time and later this was only a ford, and probably in the Middle Ages, for 'Milhamforde' is mentioned in 1512. A lane led to Boy Mill from St. Clement's Church, and a branch of that to Temple Mill, often mentioned in medieval charters. Near Milham Ford was St. Edmund's Well, sacred to Edmund of Abingdon.
The open fields to the east and south were Broad Field (or Southfelde in 1512), East or Far Field or the field next to Horspath, and Wood Field; the last two perhaps formed the Over Cowley Field of 1512. To the west and north were three more: Bartholomew's, near the Hospital; West or Ridge Field or the field next Oxford; and Campus or Compass Field (or North Field?). The Nether Field of 1512 covered Bartholomews and West Field. Near the villages there were Catwell and Pipley (the medieval Pippelowe), later covered by Church Field, and Lake Field. There were furlongs between Rymers or Rymans Lane, Pile Road, and Temple Road, some giving names to modern streets; inclosures were early carved out here.
The three main Cowley meadows, Milham, Long Mead, and Sidenham, lay along the Cherwell and Shire Lake, probably once the Cherwell's main stream. They were mostly distributed by lot from at least the 13th century, when an acre in Milham was given 'to hold according as it lies among the men of Cowley by lot', (fn. 68) until the inclosure; but part, especially in Sidenham, was held severally from the 13th century, (fn. 69) and by 1605 some of this was inclosed. Sidenham was reached by a driftway, Drove Acre, across Wallingford Way.
The common pasture nearest the village was the Marsh, which probably included the 15th-century Westmore and Lakemore. West Moor appears later; and there was meadow and pasture in Lake Field. Bullingdon Green, part of which was in Horspath, was a large common pasture probably from the Middle Ages; the university and town regiments mustered there on 21 May 1644 to prepare for the defence of Oxford; in the 18th century it was used by the university for games and riding. On the green, near the Roman road, there used to be a rectangular earthwork, regarded as a Roman camp in the 19th century, and also attributed to the Civil Wars. It is certainly earlier than that, for it appears in 1605 as 'Bullingdon Penn'. Hearne calls it a 'little hill', where popular tradition spoke of a lost village and castle; and there was a tale of a giant of Bullingdon who stood hereabouts and 'shot over' Shotover Hill. But 'Penn' here probably means not a hill but a sheepfold; perhaps the Templars' sheepfold, and the 'Cowley sheepfold' where a Hundred was held in 1240.
On the outskirts of Shotover Forest, and arising out of medieval forest rights and inclosure of pasture, were the commons of the 'Hundred Acres' and, beyond the parish boundary, Open Magdalen and Brasenose and Elder Stubbs, where fuel was cut until the inclosure.
In the 13th century the chancel of the church of ST. JAMES was built, or rebuilt and widened. The east window of three lancet lights, one north window and two south windows, square-headed, one south window extending below the sill as a 'low side', are original, as are the three dwarf-buttresses of the east wall. A higher wall arch encloses the original chancel arch on the east face, perhaps to support a bell-cote. The nave was probably extended westwards at this time, and the south doorway moved.
Early in the 13th century the Templars built a new sheepfold on Bullingdon Green, probably for their outlying pastures, perhaps the later Bullingdon Pen. Their older fold was perhaps the sheephouse mentioned in 1512, with a shepherd's cottage nearby, on the west side of Temple Street, near the site of the Templars' preceptory. The preceptory itself, however, was disused when the community moved to Sandford after 1240.
In 1217–18 Temple Cowley constituted 1½ knight's fee, held by the Templars of Baldwin de Austruy, Constable of Boulogne. It appears in the Hundred Rolls as 3 hides in the fee of Boulogne or of Queen Maud's gift. The Templars had a charter for a virgate in Cowley from Ralph Danvers, of mid- or late-12th-century date; there is no trace of this land, and it was probably a grant of what he did not possess, like that to Oseney. The second holding was a ¼ knight's fee in the honor of Wallingford composed of 6 virgates, of which 5 came to the Templars. This was the 1½ hide and ? virgate in Domesday, held by Toli, who had held it T.R.E., of Miles Crispin, whose lands became the honor of Wallingford. In 1166 and later it was held by the Chauseys, substantial knightly tenants of the honor, with their caput at Mapledurham.
In the late 12th century these villeins and cottars had to work 1 hide, or possibly 2, of demesne; but about 1219 the Templars acquired an extra hide of demesne; together with a freeman's rent, but apparently no villeins. This suggests that the original tenants and the Templars must have needed extra wage labour. The Templars' villeins of Littlemore, where there was no demesne, may sometimes have performed their boon-works here, but owed no weekwork. The Templars also acquired in the 13th century more cottagers and a villein, from the fees of neighbouring freemen, but apparently all rent-payers.
In 1220 John Marshal was sued for a virgate of land by Gunnilda daughter of William, perhaps William de Cowley. She quitclaimed, and was granted a small holding by East Bridge for her mother, to hold of the Templars.
One sign of development is that by 1225 some land which had once been common pasture in the marsh, near St. Bartholomew's Hospital, had been turned to arable—probably drained—by St. Frideswide's Priory.
Henry de Kersinton may have had a son who was neither his nor Denise's heir in Cowley; a Richard Gupill sued the Templars in 1238 for a hide in Cowley, and Richard son of Henry in 1245 for 5 virgates, almost certainly this estate. He quitclaimed for 40 marks.
The big pastures of Bullingdon Green and Hundred Acres may already have been taken in by 1246, when there was a boundary hedge of Cowley near what was later Magdalen Wood. Beyond, in the forest itself, the villagers had common rights by the 13th century.
In 1247 two final concords were made, after pleas, about this land. They show that the Templars held it of William Marshal, John Marshal's successor, who held it of Geoffrey son of John son and heir of John son of Hugh of Tidmarsh, who held of Reynold de Chissebeche, who held of Geoffrey de Chausey. The outcome of these fines was that William Marshal and Geoffrey son of John renounced any rent; the Templars were to pay the 15s. direct to the Chissebeches, and the ¼ knight's service to the Chauseys.
The Church rectory was assessed at 10 marks in 1254, and at 12 marks in 1291.
The 1255 Hundred Rolls correctly say that the abbot held 2 hides of the prebend of St. George of the honour of St. Valery — the old d'Ivry lands; the 1279 Rolls less accurately say it was 'of the gift and fee of Robert and Henry d'Oilly'.
In 1255 the Templars were reported to hold in Cowley 1½ hide of the honor of Wallingford, under Reynold de Chissebeche: this includes in error the sixth virgate.
Some individual initiative seems to enter the agricultural arrangements in the 13th century. In 1269 Andrew Amory leased two strips, not far apart, in West Field to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, to be held until twenty crops had been taken. One acre was to be sown for two years and fallow the third; the other to be sown for three years and fallow the fourth. If Andrew's neighbours round the second acre made 'inhok'—a temporary inclosure for arable within a field lying fallow in the ordinary rotation— this was not to count as one of the twenty crops.
There were one or two weavers in Cowley throughout the Middle Ages; one Agnes was sued by the Oxford websters in 1275.
In 1279, more accurately, the Templars are said to hold 1 hide in demesne and 5s. rent from a virgate held by Thomas le Franklin, both given by John Marshal and paying 15s. to John de Chissebeche; while the sixth virgate was held by Richard le Franklin direct of Chissebeche for 3s. The whole 6 virgates paid scutage as ¼ knight's fee to John de Chausey.
The 1279 jurors merely said that the (Templars) serfs held 8 virgates, probably still about sixteen holdings, for rent and work at the lord's will.
By 1279, the Templars still had roughly the same population as in 1185, with the addition of 2 freemen and their estates with several cottagers, successors of 2 villeins (villani) and 3 other tenants in 1086. The St. Frideswide's estate too had a free tenant here with several cottagers under him. But Temple Cowley, where most of these men lived, was always the smaller settlement, and was called Little Cowley in the mid-13th century.
Of the 1279 cottars, if the jurors were right, 10 owed rent and apparently no work, while 13 others owed 52 cocks (the 1185 rate for 13 couples), week-work like their predecessors, and apparently no rent apart from any commutation of these dues.
Henry (the Knight) of Hockmore Street was succeeded by a grandson or nephew William Burgan, a freeman but not a knight, with a brother and tenant Ralph, both leading men of the hundred from about 1240 to 1280. Ralph was a clerk, and probably provided for professionally; William too must have had other means of livelihood than this land, which he held as a ½-hide in 1279 for a pound of pepper and of cumin. He can have had little demesne, for his tenants held some 68 acres; his successors had 9 acres of arable and a little meadow in demesne. Most of his tenants held for small services, none specifically for labour, and apparently none in villeinage; he and his predecessor had alienated at least two villeins. Much of the fee, including ten out of twelve cottages, had been alienated by piecemeal grants, partly of demesne, by the family to the local religious houses. One of William de Kersinton's grants was for the souls of the last three lords of Iffley; one of Henry's was for a loan of 10 marks to free his land from the Jews. He was in debt a few years earlier, when he and his lord, Reynold Basset, applied for relief from usury on their debts to two Oxford Jews.
What was later Oseney Abbey's manor had only four bordars and two serfs; there were no villeins (villani), and the whole 2 hides and a bit were apparently demesne. But the abbey must have developed the land and encouraged settlers, for by 1279 only 1 hide was in demesne, while the rest was in the hands of some fifteen villeins and cottagers; while the Hockmore Street bit of Iffley manor had hardly grown at all: there were perhaps ten or twelve villeins and fifteen or twenty cottagers.
The 1279 Hundred Rolls give about 94 tenants probably with some duplication. The services of the Oseney tenants are not recorded in the Hundred Rolls. There were probably about eight of them, occupying a hide, with at least one given with his ½-virgate from a neighbouring fee; and there were seven cottars each with 7 acres, who each paid the substantial services of 4s. rent and work at the abbot's will.
In 1279 both manors had freedom from suit to the hundred, and the common franchises of hue and cry, assize of bread and ale, and view of frankpledge. Later, there are scattered rolls of Oseney's courts, including views of frankpledge, for Cowley by itself or jointly with other properties, but usually held at Cowley. The St. Frideswide's tenants were probably attached to the canons' Bruggeset court.
There were several Franklins in the early 13th century. From about 1240 to about 1280 Richard and Thomas Franklin are often found as witnesses. They were not originally as rich as the Burgans or Amorys. Each held freely a virgate in Cowley. Thomas was the Templars' only free tenant, paying 5s. rent and scutage. Richard held direct of the Templars' overlord, for 3s. and scutage. They perhaps inherited from the two villeins in 1086; they had each a few cottagers paying rents of from 1s. to 3s. Richard had a son Miles, a tanner; Thomas's grandson Thomas, a clerk, was a frequent witness and juror in the 14th century.
In the 13th century the Templars had barns and byres in Church Cowley just north of the church (cf. the later Westbury Close), while Oseney Abbey had farm buildings nearby: 'below Cowley vill', probably downhill from Church Cowley, perhaps where the later 'Kames' sheephouse stood. The abbey was building a 'new house' in Cowley in 1280.
In 1290 and 1291 there were complaints that the Templars and St. Frideswide's had raised the pond of their mills in Cowley, and narrowed the sluices, to the injury (i.e. flooding) of lands in Marston, the Oxford suburbs, and the king's manor of Headington, which stretched down to the Cherwell. But there seems to be no other evidence of a mill here belonging to St. Frideswide's at that time; and indeed there could hardly have been three mills on so small a stretch of the river. Probably the prior was leasing one wheel of Temple Mill.
Another free family which must have impoverished itself by debts and piety were the Amorys, the descendants of Amaury de Cowley in the late 12th century. In the 13th century they held the bulk of St. Frideswide's fee, a ½-hide, for 5s. rent. They had at least one villein, and several rent-paying cottagers, who lived in a row along Pile Road, at the east end of which was the Amorys' own house. In the early 14th century they had at least three small free tenants, perhaps originally villeins. They seem to have had no labour services, and were probably employers of wage labour. They made grants to the local religious houses. Andrew Amory, an outstanding freeman of the hundred in the later 13th century, sold land to St. John's Hospital for £4 'for my most important business' — probably debt; and he gave the Templars his row of cottages to maintain a light in their chapel at Sandford. His son William sold rents and lands; and got in debt to the lord of Iffley.
On the Templars' suppression in 1308, all their Cowley land was probably temporarily held by Queen Margaret, but soon went to the Hospitallers: who allowed some or all of the rents for life to Robert Fitzniel, lord of Iffley, who died in 1331.
In 1338 the 15s. was still paid, to Richard de Chissebeche.
In 1338 Temple Mill was worth 30s.
The villein William Moth held land of both the Amory and the Burgan fee, until he was given with his land to the Templars by both his lords; the free Fennes held very small holdings of various lords; and the Stubs, also probably free, held in Littlemore as well as Cowley. The free Herts in 1323 held some land freely of the Amorys and some in villeinage of Oseney Abbey. The Randolph family was in the same position in 1328; they held land once Andrew Amory's until at least 1388 and also appear in Oseney court rolls. The small-holders and cottagers were thus perhaps less numerous than they seem; but from them must have been drawn a fair amount of wage labour, probably already needed by all the lords.
Plague may have helped to change the pattern of society. It probably struck Church Cowley in 1349: a few Iffley villeins died, two of them, Liripin and Herny, in Hockmore Street. They were two doors apart, and between them was a freely held house which that same year changed hands, perhaps by the tenant's death. There are also hints of depopulation by East Bridge in the 14th century.
In 1358, Godstow surrendered Boy Mill to the St. Frideswide's canons, for whom it must have been a coveted addition to their Bruggeset lands. But St. Frideswide's may possibly have had a mill there already.
The 1377 Poll Tax gives 63 taxpayers over 14 for Temple Cowley and 93 for Church Cowley, almost certainly too few.
In 1428 these lands were reported held 'of whom is not known', which suggests that the Chausey and Chissebeche lordships had been lost sight of.
By 1512, conditions were changing for the villeins and their successors the customary tenant. There had been much commutation on what had been the Templars' and was now the Hospitallers' manor. The customary tenants normally owed 20s., instead of 6s., for a virgate, and only two 'bederepes' (reaping boon-works); amongst them were cottagers with varying holdings, paying rents of 2s. and upwards, and sometimes 'bederepes'. The demesne had been much reduced. In 1338 there had been 280 acres of arable and 18 of meadow; by 1512 there seem to be only 53 acres of arable and 14 of lot meadow. No several meadow is mentioned though there had been some earlier. Some of the demesne had evidently been granted in villeinage; instead of 8 virgates of villeinage and a few cottagers' acres, there were about 13½ virgates of customary land; and whereas in 1338 there had been 80 acres of demesne in Westbury, in 1512 there were large customary holdings of 'Westbury land' (60, 36, and 20 acres). These partly new holdings had lower rents: 20s., 19s. 2d., and 6s. 8d., with no 'bederepes'.
There were also more free tenements in 1512, held in socage with double rent for relief: three small-holdings, perhaps old cottagers' holdings, including Byrtsplace; and two holdings of 1¼ virgate, one of them the old Franklin tenement, still rendering 5s.; the other, rendering only 1d., may have been sold out of demesne but was perhaps the other Franklin tenement, somehow brought into the manor.
Something may have been left out of the 1512 survey, for the estimated receipts then came to only about half what they were in fact fourteen years later, i.e. £28.
There were apparently in 1512 only twelve customary tenants on this manor, ranging from cottagers, including a Franciscan friar, to substantial men with 2 virgates or more. Some of these tenants may have been freeholders as well, or have held also of Oseney's manor, of which much less is known. Certainly some customary tenants on both manors had reached yeoman standing and wealth.
For instance, in the 15th century, Walter Pulker, holding of Oseney Abbey, was a big sheep farmer who was fined for carrying crops and cattle across other tenants' land, and for overburdening the pasture by 300 sheep. A later Pulker was the Hospitallers' customary tenant in Littlemore, as was John Pulker in 1512 in Church Cowley, holding Westbury Close. To these holdings the family added big leases. In 1518 John Pulker leased from Oseney the Cowley demesne and rectory; next year he and an Oxford man leased the Hospitallers' commandry of Sandford, with the obligation to provide a priest for the Temple Cowley chapel. He left small bequests (1545) to Cowley and Iffley churches.
Another flourishing customary tenant was Richard Cholsey in 1512, holding Hospitallers' lands amounting to some 130 acres, largely of Westbury land, partly perhaps new pasture; with two houses in Temple Cowley. Twelve years later he was the richest man there, assessed at £9 a year for the lay subsidy, of which he was the collector. Richard Colls had also combined customary lands on a smaller scale; he paid the subsidy on 40s. Richard Lirpyn, with a little farm near Butcher's Lane— 1½ virgate of copyhold—was of an old villein family. The Redheads were probably customary tenants of both manors in the 14th and 15th centuries.
The Parsonses of Church Cowley were prosperous farmers in the 16th century, though it is not clear whether they had any copyhold or inheritance in Cowley. John Parsons leased the Cowley rectory after John Pulker, whose relative he married. His will of 1544, like Pulker's, left his body to be buried in Cowley church, small bequests to Cowley, Iffley, and other churches, and 3s. 4d. to the President of Corpus Christi College for mending the road between Cowley and St. Bartholomew's. In 1524 he was the richest man in Cowley, assessed at £19 a year, and collector of the subsidy for Church Cowley. His son William Parsons had a 30-year lease from Brasenose College, and tried to get the Littlemore tithe farm.
Some time before 1512 Temple Mill was leased for 20s. per annum to the Prior of St. Frideswide's, who by this time owned the other mill; but in 1512 it was in decay and probably disused. Wood said it had been 'plucked down several ages since'.
The Hospitallers had it in hand in 1512; but by 1517 the manor of Sandford with large attached lands including Cowley was held at farm by Sir William Bedyll of London, and in 1519 the whole was leased to John Pulker of Cowley and Michael Heath of Oxford. In 1528 the Hospitallers granted the manor in fee farm to Cardinal's College, whence it passed to the king. In 1541 the Hospitallers were dissolved.
Part of Church Cowley was probably called Westbury in the Middle Ages. The messuage just north of the church was Westbury Close; the Templars had extensive demesne in Westbury, and two big holdings in 1512 were of 'Westburye lande, in diverse fields', so it was evidently not just a furlong in Church Field.
After the move to Sandford, and even after the Hospitallers' succession, the chapel was evidently kept up; in 1519–20 the tenants of the Sandford commandry had to provide a priest to say mass here three times a week. It probably had the right of sanctuary; Leland mentions the father of Sir Humphrey Stafford who 'had such a route in Worcestershire in King Edward IV's and Richard III's dayes; and at last for fere of Henry VII fled to Cowle, a certain obscure sanctuary betwixt Oxford and Abingdon'. But this must have been a mistake for Culham, a well-known sanctuary.
The medieval chaplains of St. James's Church were not all as poor as their stipends would suggest. One was able to buy a corrody at Oseney; two others had property in Oxford. And the abbey was evidently prepared to raise the stipend with rising prices. But there was neglect in 1517 or 1520, when the chancel was reported ruinous, choir stalls broken, and the divine offices not held at the customary hours.
In the early 16th century the church was leased, with the demesne of the manor and a rent, for £12, to John Pulker in 1518, and to John Parsons by 1535. Some time between 1450 and 1470 Oseney was paying 26s. 8d. as in the original ordinance, but to two chaplains, in the early 16th century 40s. to one, and in 1535, 53s. 4d. Although the abbey still paid the chaplains, John Parsons was said in 1535 to lease not only the rectory but the vicarage; in fact there was really no vicarage.
There were nineteen substantial subsidy-payers in Church Cowley and thirteen in Temple Cowley in 1524. They include several of the Hospitallers' tenants of 1512, but as many new names—presumably mostly Oseney tenants, freeholders, or sub-tenants. The richest after Parsons and Cholsey was William Mede, who held about 20 acres of Westbury land, leased a good freeholding, and perhaps had land in Iffley. Two of the Temple Cowley men are called Hosteler; perhaps there was already an inn there.
About this time much of the speculation in freehold was ended. It brought considerable estates to Brasenose and Corpus Christi Colleges, whose tenants several of the Cowley husbandmen thus became. Robert Forman, a Cowley gentleman who speculated in land, bought up John Smyth's estates in Temple Cowley manor and sold them to Sir John Brome of Holton; who sold them to Brasenose between 1534 and 1539. Forman also bought, and sold to Brome, the old 'Franklyns' holding in Temple Cowley, which Brome sold to the first President of Corpus in 1532. It probably became the farm known as 'Lewis's homestead' in the 19th century, with two very old cottages, said to be the original farm-house. Corpus also acquired much land in Church Cowley, mostly in Hockmore Street; this included both the old Hye estates, which had passed from a daughter and her two successive husbands to one of her coheirs and her husband, the Masons, who sold to Corpus Christi College, and also, after the Dissolution, Kenilworth Priory's virgate.
Alongside these new accumulations were older subtenancies, now more or less independent. Oriel College had land and a house or houses somewhere near the junction of Cruel Lane and Hockmore Street, which had belonged to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, mostly in the Burgan fee, and which had been let out at long leases by the hospital and later the college. Magdalen had a few acres in Temple Cowley which had been St. John's Hospital's, mostly from the Amorys. Some of the old Burgan fee had come to Lincoln College; and Godstow Abbey had a little land, from unknown sources.
On the suppression of St. Frideswide's in 1524, the Cowley land passed to Cardinal College, thence to the king, and in 1532 to Christ Church. In 1535 Christ Church had a close worth 20d. in Cowley, possibly the holding that St. Frideswide's had retained. It was probably kept as part of Church Cowley manor. What remained of the old Amory fee may have become an obscure freehold.
The Act of Supremacy (1534) confirmed the break from Rome, declaring Henry to be the Supreme Head of the Church of England.
In 1535 and 1537, the last abbot made a long lease of the whole manor, probably including the rectory, to Henry Royse, though a lease of the demesne and rectory then in the hands of John Parsons to John Pulker and his wife and son had still to expire. This was one of those 'long leases at low rents granted out by abbots who foresaw the Dissolution'. Henry Royse sold the lease to William Napier.
The Protestant Anne Boleyn had the motivation, the power and the intelligence to push reform as far as it would go. She also had the means: Cranmer and Cromwell. In the Orwellian atmosphere of the Tudor state, Cranmer was the thought, Cromwell the police. Thomas Cromwell combined managerial genius with Machiavellian ruthlessness. The years to 1540 saw his hitsquads travel the country, assessing the church's wealth. Once he knew how much to take, he took.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries lasted four years to 1540. Two thirds of all the land was sold to the laity and the money squandered in vanity wars against France. With the destruction of priceless ecclesiastical treasures it was possibly the greatest act of vandalism in English history but also an act of political genius, creating a vested interest in the Reformation: those now owning monastic lands were unlikely to embrace a return to Catholicism.
About the time of the Dissolution the lead in local life was taken by the Pulkers and Parsonses, as chief tenants of Oseney, although they were only yeomen. Their successors at the rectory farm were gentlemen farmers with interests not confined to Cowley, and men of property before they acquired their Cowley leases. Henry Royce (d. 1557), successor to Parsons and the last of Oseney's tenants, held leases at Binsey, Malton (Glos.), and Hendred (Berks.), besides his farms of Church Cowley and Medley. They were followed by the Napiers of Holywell manor, the Holloways of Oxford, the Wasties of Eynsham and Great Haseley (Oxon.), and the Lockharts of Sherfield House (Hants): all gentlemen farmers and sometimes professional men.
Further doctrinal reform was halted by the Act of Six Articles in 1539 and following Cromwell's sudden fall the next year the court hung between religious conservatives and radical reformers with the Reformation stuck in the mud. But on the quiet, Henry's young son, born to Jane Seymour (wife number three), was being educated by Protestants. Edward was only ten when he became king in 1547 but his two regents accelerated the pace of Protestant reform considerably. The 1539 Act was repealed, priests were permitted to marry - creating another vested interest - and more land was confiscated. Altars and shrines were all removed from churches and the stained glass was smashed.
When Edmund Powell received a grant of the manor of Sandford and other possessions of the hospital in 1541, Cowley was not included. It remained in royal hands until 1564, when Elizabeth I rented to Sir Francis Knollys the manor of 'Church Cowley' and 'Temple Cowley', along with the manors of Horspath, Littlemore, and Garsington. Knollys had been M.P. for Oxfordshire and chief steward of Oxford since 1562. His son, Sir William Knollys, comptroller of the queen's household and plaintiff in the Chancery suit of 1602 concerning manorial rights at Cowley, inherited the manor in 1596. He rose rapidly to eminence and died in 1632 as Earl of Banbury, leaving all his property to his wife Elizabeth. The original grant of the Hospitallers' lands had been made to his mother and father and the heirs male of their bodies. There was much dispute about the paternity of the two sons born to Elizabeth during the lifetime of Sir William Knollys, but they were finally acknowledged to be his heirs. In 1627 Charles I transferred the rights to the fee farm rents of these lands to his queen Henrietta Maria as part of her dower, and it was as the queen's possessions that the Commonwealth government drew up a bill of sale for them in 1650, exempting the remainder in fee in any sale made.
The manor and rectory seem to have formed one estate, sometimes known after the Dissolution as the rectory manor.
After the Dissolution the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church kept the patronage of the living in their own hands and normally appointed from among their own students.
In 1542 the advowson and rectory were given with Church Cowley manor to Christ Church.
The college's tenants regularly farmed the tithes in Church and Temple Cowley, or let them to a lesser farmer, until they were commuted for rent in 1846. The total area subject to tithes in kind was then estimated at over 1,008 acres, and their total value at £293 14s. 3d. They all belonged to Christ Church with the exception of 4½ acres, valued at £1 18s., which a subsequent award acknowledged to belong to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners by right of the Archdeaconry of Oxford. Martha Burford was the Christ Church lessee and her rent charge, excepting some 178 acres of glebe lands, was fixed at £212. The 'Hundred Acres' and some 22 acres which formerly belonged to the Templars were exempt from tithes.
In 1597 the dean and chapter brought an action in Chancery to enable them to raise the rents. Although witnesses for Christ Church agreed that the land was worth £72, the rent of £12 3s. a year remained unchanged until 1874. A fair return was obtained by shortening the leases and increasing the fines for entries and for lives added. Throughout its possession of the manor, the college reserved to itself the manorial rights in all leases made—courts leet and baron, fines, heriots, rents of customary and freehold tenants. Rawlinson recorded that Christ Church was lord of the manor in the early years of the 18th century. They were stated to be so as late as 1931, but their rights have now lapsed.
The Roman Catholic family of Napier held the Christ Church rectory farm until 1671, when a new lease was made to Richard Holloway, sergeant-at-law.
The population seems to have been little larger in 1676, when 195 communicants were reported, and to have changed little by 1801, when it numbered 345.
The Holloways were followed as tenants in about 1721 by the Wasties, who came from Eynsham. Francis Wastie (d. 1775) was the most prominent of the family. His son, although still a tenant of Christ Church, was described in 1806 as lord of the manors of Great Haseley and Church Cowley. His relative John Lockhart, a later tenant, changed his name to John Wastie in 1831, was M.P. for Oxford from 1807 to 1818 and from 1820 to 1830 and recorder of Romsey and Oxford in 1835.
At the beginning of the 18th century George Phipps was lord. The manor, henceforth usually called Temple Cowley, remained in the Phipps family until the Revd. James Phipps, sometime scholar of Pembroke College and rector of Elvetham (Hants), devised it to the Master and Fellows of Pembroke College in his will dated 1763, subject to a life-interest for his wife. He died in 1773 and his wife in 1778.
Many of Cowley's 18th-century curates became eminent in academic and church life. As curates, however, they were undistinguished and appear to have had little contact with their parish. They resided in college and performed the minimum amount of parochial duties—two services and a sermon on Sundays; prayers and communion services on the 'solemn festivals', i.e. six times a year. They also catechized in Lent and occasionally on Sundays. The number of communicants fell from between 30 to 50 in the first half of the century to about 20 in the second half. In 1774 the curate reported that there were too many who absented themselves from public worship through negligence, chiefly servants and children. He feared the number had increased lately and he reckoned the communicants as not more than 20; an entry in the churchwardens' book in 1783 that persons were not to be buried without leave of the minister and a fee of 5s. suggests past laxity. In 1808 the incumbent estimated that the congregation, including children, numbered between 120 and 180, but failed to give the number of communicants, only noting that the communion service was less regularly attended. The picture is quite different by 1854. Father Benson was resident; he had an assistant curate; two services were held on Sunday and on saints' days and two sermons preached; there was morning or evening service each day of the week; children were catechized in school and church. The congregation had risen to 250, though, as he commented, it still did not bear a fair proportion to the population on account of the 'people's extreme indifference to religion, the want of comfort in the church', and their distance from it.
Page created 1985. Last updated 9 April 2020. Copyright Andrew Warland.