|Subject:||An urban extension to an existing community|
|Original source:||Oxford University, Christ Church Library and archives; 1. D&C vi.a.2, f.21v; 2. ?, ff. 42r-45r|
|Transcription in:||H.E. Salter, ed.. The Cartulary of the Abbey of Eynsham, Oxford Historical Society, vols 49 and 51 (1907-08), vol.1, 60-61, vol. 2, 50-56.|
|Date:||13th and 14th centuries|
1. Charter concerning the new land in Eynsham 
Adam, by the grace of God, abbot of Eynsham and the monks of the same to all sons of Holy Mother Church to whose attention this document shall come, greetings. Know that we, for the benefit and advantage of our house, and at the advice of our friends, have made available for rental all the land, formerly of our demesne, that lies beyond the vill of Eynsham that is, between that vill and the south side of the highway leading to the bridge to Cassington; and similarly all that land, formerly of our demesne, on the north side of the road, extending for a distance of twenty perches to the north. The [rental] terms are that anyone who becomes tenant of an acre of that land is to pay us four shillings annually viz. 12d. at Christmas [25 December], 12d. at the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin [25 March], 12d. at the Nativity of St. John the Baptist [24 June], and 12d. at Michaelmas [29 September]; he who becomes tenant of three-quarters of an acre is to pay us three shillings at the stated due dates; he who becomes tenant of half an acre is to pay us two shillings at the same dates; and he who becomes tenant of a quarter [acre] is to pay us 12d.at the stated dates.
Whoever takes up any unit of those lands for the aforesaid payments is to hold it, without any gainsay, by hereditary right, he and his heirs, in perpetuity both [with access] to road or lane, and [with right] to ingress and egress, from the boundaries of the land assigned freely and quit of all service or secular payment due us. They also are to be permanently quit and free from all foreign service, as much as is our demesne in Eynsham. If tenants should wish to give or sell their tenement to any lay person, they may do so freely, so long as the seller gives us 2d. and the buyer 4d. as an acknowledgement of [it being within] our fiefdom.
These [tenants] may also have a provost whom they may freely elect from their own number, and who is to swear to be faithful to themselves and to ourselves. If anyone commits a wrong, or has a complaint, against someone else in regard to his tenement, the matter is to be tried by a court convened in regard to that property. Whoever is found at fault is to pay an amercement to us commensurate to the gravity of his offence, by the view of his peers; however, amercements may not exceed 10 shillings. Should it happen that any of these burgesses dies having made provision for the disposal of his possessions that are within this fief, it [his will] shall hold good; but if instead he dies without having made provision, his goods shall be divided into three parts: one part for his children, another for his wife, and a third to be [expended] for [the good of] his soul by his closest relatives.
We grant and confirm to them these liberties, along with all good customs we could possibly give them, based on the best and freest held by the burgesses of Oxford, or others in the county of Oxford. In testimony of which we have delivered, to the community of those who shall hold these tenements, this charter, to which an impression of our seal is appended. Enacted in 1215, witnessed by the chapter.
2. [Survey, 1366, of ] Eynsham New Land
Rents of tenements and lands of the New Land, measured by Abbot Geoffrey, 1366.
John de Wygyntone holds one cottage with croft
opposite the Hythe Croft, measuring 2 perches 5 feet
at the end next to the highway and 3 perches at the other end, while along the side
it measures 19½ perches; it thus comprises [an area
of] 1 rood, 11 perches, 3 quarters of a perch,
1 foot, 3 parts of a foot, 2 inches.
Henry Halewy holds 1 cottage with croft and it measures
2 perches 4 feet at the west end, and at 2¼ perches 2 feet at the other end
next to the highway, while along the side 20½ perches 2 feet; it thus comprises
1 rood, 7 perches, three-quarters of a perch, half a foot, 4 inches less a quarter
of a grain.
Thomas Frankeleyn holds 1 cottage with croft
and it measures 2 perches 2 feet at the end next to the highway, and 2 perches 3 feet
at the other end, while along the side 20 perches, one half
[perch], 1 foot; it thus comprises 1 rood,
4 perches, half a perch, 1 foot, 1 inch.
Henry Halewy holds one tenement without a croft and it measures 10½ perches
at the end next to the highway, and half a perch at the other end, while along
the right side 17 perches; it thus comprises half an acre, 13½ perches.
William Sclatter holds 1 tenement with croft
and it measures 7½ perches at the northern end next to the highway,
and 8¼ perches 3 feet at the lower end, while one side next to the highway
is 21 perches and the other side 20¼ perches; it thus comprises 1 acre,
5 perches, a quarter perch, 2 feet, 2 inches.
John Vyncent holds one tenement with croft
measuring 6¼ perches at the end by the highway, and 6 perches 3 feet
at the other end, while along the side 20¼ perches; it thus comprises
half an acre, 1 rood, 6 perches, half a perch, a quarter perch, half a foot,
a quarter foot, 2 inches, 1 grain.
Joan atte Hulle holds one tenement with croft
measuring 4¼ perches at the end next to the highway, and 4 perches 3 feet
at the other end, while along one side 21 perches 3 feet, and along
the other side 20¾ perches; it thus comprises half an acre, 9 perches,
6½ feet, 3 inches.
John Vyncent holds another tenement with croft measuring 3¼ perches 1 foot
at the end next to the highway, and 3½ perches 2 feet at the other end,
while along the side 21½ perches 3 feet; it thus comprises half an acre,
4 perches, 2¼ feet, 1 inch.
William Sclatter holds another tenement with croft measuring 1½ perches,
2 feet next to the highway, and 2½ perches at the other end, while along
the side 27 perches; it thus comprises 1 rood 15 perches 3½ feet 1 inch.
John atte Halle holds one cottage with croft
measuring 2½ perches 2 feet at the end next to the highway, and 2¼ perches
at the other end, while along the side 27 perches. It thus comprises
1½ roods, 5½ perches, 5 feet.
Total acreage of the aforesaid: 5 acres, half a rood, 5¼ perches, half a foot,
a quarter foot, and 1 inch less a quarter grain.
The northern part
Richard Lynde holds a plot only partly built on, with croft, measuring
5 perches 3 feet at the end facing the highway, and measuring five perches
at the end facing Cattesbrayne, while along
the side it measures 22 perches, 1¾ feet. Of which Edith Marche holds
a tenement built on, being 2 perches at the end facing the highway
and 1¾ perches at the other, while in length it is 12¾ perches.
It thus comprises half a rood, 5¼ perches, 2½ feet, 2 inches,
half a grain.
Dionisia Irlonde holds a tenement with croft
measuring 6½ perches 1 foot at the end next to the highway, and 4 perches
at the other end, while it is 21 perches in length; it thus comprises half an acre,
half a rood, 7&190; perches, 3¼ feet, 1 inch, half a grain. Of which
John Bamptone holds 17½ perches in a tenement built on, with
Thomas Schermon holds 1 tenement
known as the hall, measuring 7 perches 3 feet
at the end facing the highway, and 7 perches less 1 foot at the other end,
while it measures 7 perches in length; it thus comprises, with curtilage,
1 rood, 9 perches, 7 feet. One end of the croft of the same measures 7¾ perches,
the other end measures 7 perches 2 feet, while it measures 13 perches 3 feet
in length; thus the croft is half an acre, 19 perches, 5¾ feet.
William Sclatter holds 1 tenement with croft, of which the tenement
measures 3½ perches at the end by the highway, and 3¼ perches
at the other end, while in length 7½ perches. The tenement with curtilage
thus comprises 25¼ perches, 1 foot less three-quarters of a grain.
That croft measures 4 perches at one end, and 4 perches 23 feet at the other end,
while it measures 12½ perches 3 feet in length; thus the croft is
1 rood, 12 perches, 4 feet.
Avicia Lavyntone holds 1 tenement with croft
measuring 2 perches less 1 foot at the end next to the highway, and 1½ perches
at the other end, while in length 7¼ perches 3 feet; the tenement
with curtilage thus comprises 14¼ perches, 1¾ feet, 3 inches.
The croft measures 2 perches at one end, and 2 perches 2 feet at the other end,
while measuring 13 perches in length. The croft is thus 26¾ perches,
1¼feet, 1 grain.
Walter Ryng holds 1 tenement with croft, one end of which measures 2 perches 3 feet
facing the highway, 3 perches at the other end, 7¼ perches three feet in length;
it thus comprises 19¾ perches, 3 feet less one inch. Its croft measures
2 perches 2 feet at one end, 2 perches 1 foot at the other end. The croft thus
has 27¾ perches, 2 feet, 3 inches.
John Edward holds 1 cottage without croft measuring 1¾ perches 1 foot towards
the highway, and 1½ perches at the other end, while 7 perches 2 feet in length;
it comprises 12 perches 1½ feet, 2 inches.
Henry Deyesone holds one messuage with croft, of which the messuage
measures 2¼ perches 2 feet beside the highway, 2¾ perches
at the other [end], and measures 7 perches
in length; thus the messuage with croft comprises 17¾ perches,
3 feet, 1 inch, 1 grain. The croft measures 4 perches 2 feet at one end,
4 perches at the other end, 13 perches in length; the croft is thus
1 rood, 12¾ perches, 1¼feet, 1 grain.
Elena Riches holds one tenement with croft, of which the tenement measures
6 perches less one foot at the end beside the highway, and 5½ perches 3 feet
at the other end, while 7½ perches in length; the tenement with curtilage
thus comprises 39¾ perches, 1½ feet, 2 inches. The croft measures
5 perches 2 feet at one end, and 5 perches 1 foot at the other end, while measuring
13 perches 3 feet in length; the croft is thus 1 rood, 17½ perches, less one inch.
Robert le Strynger holds one tenement [with] croft
measuring 5 perches by the highway, and four perches 5 feet at the other end,
20½ perches 3 feet along one side, 19&!89; perches along the other side;
it thus comprises half an acre, 13 perches, 2¾ feet 2 inches.
Total acreage of this part: 4½ acres, 1½ roods, 11 perches,
a quarter foot, 1 inch, ¾ grain.
The part across from Elena Riches [tenement]
William Jakkes holds a croft formerly of
Richard's lady Elena, and it measures 30½ perches at the east end facing
the Hythe Croft, 22 perches at the opposite end, 21½ perches along
the northern side next to the highway, 21 perches along the opposite, southern, side;
it thus comprises, hedges included, 3 acres, 1½ roods, 18¾ perches,
1 foot, 1 inch. In that croft, on the south side, is an area
planted with trees, measuring 5½ perches
on the side facing the Hythe Croft, 3½ perches at the other end,
and 12 perches in length; it thus comprises 1 rood 14 perches.
There is one plot there, at the end of that croft, which is in the hands of the lord,
and it measures 5 perches at the end facing the highway, 4 perches at the other end,
and 21 perches in length; it thus comprises in all half an acre, 14½ perches.
Isabella Bollynge holds one tenement with croft
measuring 2½ perches 2 feet at the end beside the highway, 2½ perches
at the other end; it thus comprises 1 rood 12½ perches, and one foot
less a grain.
William le Baker holds one tenement with croft measuring 4 perches 2½ feet
at the end beside the highway, and 3½ perches 2 feet at the other end,
while 20½ perches in length; It thus comprises 1½ roods, 19¾ perches,
1 foot, 3 inches.
John Bamptone holds a tenement with croft
measuring 3½ perches 2 feet at the end next to the highway,
and 4 perches 1 foot at the other end, while 20¼ perches in length;
it thus comprises 1½ roods, 19 perches, 4¾ feet, 1 grain.
Richard Belgrave holds a tenement with croft
measuring 5 perches at the end next to the highway, and 4¼ perches
at the other end, while 21 and five-eighths perches in length; it thus comprises
half an acre, 19½ perches, 3½ feet less a grain. Of which there is,
at the foot of the croft across from the holding of Henry Halewy, a tenement
elsewhere referred to as Pryuyte, and it comprises 12 perches in all.
John Blake holds one tenement with croft, at one time called
Goseford, measuring 1½ perches 4 feet
at the end next to the highway, and 5 perches 6 feet at the lower end of
the curtilage facing the croft, while the right side measures 8 perches;
the tenement with curtilage thus comprises 28½ perches, 1 foot less an inch.
That croft measures 5 perches 6 feet at its upper end, 13 perches at
the lower end next to Hythe Croft, while along the right side, towards the south,
it measures 21 perches; the croft thus comprises 1 acre, half a rood,
13 perches, and half a foot.
Total acreage of the entire New Land: 18 acres, 1½ roods, three-quarters of a perch, 1½ feet, 1 inch, 1½ grains.
Eynsham is today a large Oxfordshire village in the Upper Thames Valley, not quite within the orbit of its county town; the Thames runs east of Eynsham and is met, to the north-east, by the River Evenlode. That it once aspired to borough status is reflected in the above documents the first of which is part prospectus and part borough charter, the second a view of the tenements laid out to form the borough. It is also reflected in the continued presence of a High Street with associated market square, and in a lane (immediately north-west of the borough) once known as Town's End for the main road westwards left Eynsham there which gave rise to a local toponymic surname. The Victoria County History account of medieval Eynsham consistently refers to it by the terms 'borough' and 'town', though a little too liberally, and partly because of the tendency of authors of that series to render villata as town, often without due consideration. That it has long been of at least some small significance is suggested by a reference in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to it as one of four Romano-British settlements falling into the hands of the Saxons in 571 and by the suspicion that it was the site of a minster by the eighth century. However, its main interest, from the perspective of urban history, is as the location of one of the numerous small planned towns planted during the High Middle Ages; and particularly as a foundation that illustrates how new towns were not guaranteed to prove successful.
Settlement grew up at Eynsham on land rising above the flood-plain that has always separated village and river, at what should have been an advantageous location near a crossing of the Thames (Swinford). Archaeological evidence indicates at least modest industrial activity of some kind in the Saxon period. Eynsham was a royal estate, of some consequence, by the ninth century. But only five miles away lay the future site of Oxford, on another Thames crossing, and it would rise to a prominence eclipsing, and acquiring borough status earlier than, Eynsham. A Benedictine abbey was founded there by 1005 by the Earl of Cornwall, a member of the royal family, who endowed it with Eynsham manor and several others, as well as properties in Oxford, whilst its later acquisitions included tenements in Banbury, one of the county's more important wool markets; the abbey was re-founded in the late eleventh century by the bishop of Lincoln, with some of the old and some new endowments, accumulating enough lands to become moderately wealthy. Its location lay on a route from London to Wales and close to Henry I's hunting lodge at Woodstock, which Henry II turned into a palace; one consequence was regular and burdensome demands for hospitality from members of the royal entourage, although another was improved access to the king, to request favours.
King Stephen, in the opening years of his reign, granted the abbey a Sunday market if, that is, we may trust the authenticity of a charter known only through a text copied into the abbey cartulary and two fairs were licensed by Henry II ca. 1160, when he confirmed the market grant. The settlement was focused around a junction of the road coming from the Swinford crossing and nearby wharf, and continuing westwards a little further north, with another (Mill Street/Abbey Street) connecting the abbey, immediately south of the village, to its mill at the north end of the manor, on the Evenode, a tributary of the Thames. A dedicated marketplace was just east of this junction, which had before the close of the Middle Ages become an actual crossroads (known later as Carfax, as at Oxford). The junction of these two routes had long been of some importance, for archaeologists have found a Bronze Age enclosure beside it, though whether used for secular settlement or religious ceremonies is not clear; this was the site of the later abbey.
At the opening of the thirteenth century the volume of commerce taking place in Eynsham's market may have seemed promising; one of its fairs took place at the important festival season of Pentecost, when there was traditionally a procession from Oxford to Eynsham, and the other around a festival of the Virgin Mary, to whom the abbey was dedicated. A century later we see Eynsham's wharf, connected to the Thames by a canal utilising the flow from local brooks, being used to send agricultural produce and construction materials grain, hay, malt, timber, stone by barge to Oxford, and watermen are recorded as living in its vicinity, while the abbey's fishery in the Thames supported a small group of local fishermen. Such may have been elements of the local economy by 1215, in which year Abbot Adam (1213-28) tried to move developments forward a step further by laying out a new town, called Terra Nova, to the north of the abbey on land almost uninhabited, promising any who settled there the same local regulations as had the burgesses of Oxford; in a handful of deeds dating between ca.1220 and 1294 were hear of a novo burgo or novo burgagio [Salter, vol.1, pp. 166, 189, 245, vol.2, p.177] , which is assumed to be another way of referring to the Newland. For his purpose Adam allocated a rectangular area of abbey arable that sat around an existing east-west road; the rough size of this area extended 20 perches on either side of the road (40 perches making a furlong), and two furlongs along the road, beginning at its junction with a north-south road; this would have made for 20 acres of land but, allowing for the streets and other anomalies, the 1366 survey calculated the rentable land to be a little over 18 acres. This size and shape suggests that existing defined areas of ploughland strips, which were measured in furlongs, were designated for transfer to the new use.
Salter [vol.2, p.xli] observed that the rent to be charged, at 4s. an acre, was four times the amount that could be expected from land rented for agricultural use, thus providing the abbey with enhanced revenue in rents once enough of the burgages found takers. In return for this higher but theoretically fixed rent, occupiers would, by acquiring the status of burgesses within their own community distinct from that of the manorial villagers, have the right to dispose of their holding, or part thereof, in a relatively free fashion (so long as not to some other ecclesiastical institution, which would have compromised the abbey's reversion rights), and would be immune from the kinds of payments to the manorial lord to which servile tenants were liable, excepting a nominal fee if the tenement were sold. They could develop their properties, sell or rent them out, pass them down to children or others, and had a high degree of control over their own time and labour, along with freedom of mobility things that servile tenants did not (in theory) enjoy. The conduct of their personal and business affairs would be governed, to a large degree, by their own court, presided over by an elected official and juries composed of fellow-townsmen, administering by-laws in which they themselves had some say. Similarly, burgage rents were to be collected by an officer elected by the burgesses ostensibly another privilege, but as the post was unpaid, it proved unpopular. The advantages offered to prospective settlers by Abbot Adam stopped short, however, of freeing them from all obligations to the abbey, nor did it offer the degree of self-determination or the immunities from outside interference that could be obtained from royal charters of liberties, so that Eynsham could not be a borough in its fullest form of medieval expression. It was only rarely referred to as a borough in abbey records, and then perhaps as an oversight, and its compact size allowed it to be treated, for frankpledge purposes, as a single tithing.
Along this new town's main thoroughfare of Newland Street and a lane running off it, known as Puck Lane (later Love Lane, now Queen Street), twenty-seven burgage plots of varying sizes were laid out. Although Puck Lane ran south to connect the New Land with the Oxford road not far from one end of the marketplace, the width of Newland Street suggests Adam's intent was to relocate the market there, perhaps restricting commerce in the existing marketplace to the fairs; the street narrowed only alongside the easternmost and westernmost tenements. While part of Adam's purpose in creating the Newland is likely to have been providing the abbey with additional sources of revenue, it may equally have been to remove the market from in front of the abbey; the bustle and noise of village life had earlier prompted an abbot to assign a chapel above the north gate of the abbey precinct to the use of the villagers for worship, while reserving the abbey church for the monks. The relocation of the marketplace and settlers serving it appears part of a larger scheme to protect the monks from the distractions of the secular world immediately outside the precinct.
Adam had become a monk at Eynsham around 1190 and his brother Edmund joined him in that community in 1194; they were of an Oxford family, possibly sons of a doctor. Two years later Edmund had a vision of Purgatory that was taken seriously by his fellows and it fell to Adam, by then sub-prior, to reduce this, in his spare time, to a written form. Its survival today in a dozen manuscripts is indicative of the importance attributed it by the ecclesiastical establishment; it was known to Dante and has been proposed as one influence on his own poetical description of the afterlife. Adam was promoted to prior not long after this, but he was soon taken out of the abbey by St. Hugh (Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200), to serve him as his chaplain and general assistant; it had probably been Hugh who had earlier asked Adam to write an account of his brother's vision. Their close association led Adam, after Hugh's death, to write a biography of him (completed ca.1212), which would become Adam's main claim to fame; he may even, as prior (1197), have initiated the compilation of the Eynsham cartulary, as a tool to assist Bishop Hugh in a (successful) legal battle with the king over the right of patronage of the abbey. His removal to Hugh's side meant Adam did not have the management of abbey affairs during an extended period of vacancy in the abbacy, vacancy in the bishopric, and then the absence of a new bishop during the interdict under which John's realm was placed; for part of that time Adam was in Paris. It was soon after the interdict was lifted (1213) and the bishop took back the reins of his diocese, that Adam was chosen abbot. Salter [vol.1, p.xix] describes him as "not only a scholar, but a man of high moral tone." Such men do not necessarily make the best administrators. Yet Adam was not short on ideas, and he must have desired to emulate his mentor Hugh, an energetic and capable man who had, before becoming bishop, taken on the challenge of fostering the foundation of the first Carthusian monastery in England, subsequently began an extensive rebuilding of Lincoln Cathedral, and a few years later launched a project to expand the Oxford church of St. Mary Magdalene.
Inspired by such achievements, Adam aimed at an ambitious expansion of the abbey precinct, of which the opening up of the New Land for settlement could be considered the first phase. He acquired land to the south east and west of the existing precinct, through purchase, exchange, or other means. The new precinct boundaries enclosed a stretch of the Chil Brook to the south, and (to the west) part of what is today Abbey Street, while substituting a new road (the present Station Road) just outside the western boundary, furnished with a new bridge where it crossed the brook; he had obtained royal licence to relocate the street in 1217 and the related entry in the Patent Roll [1216-1225, p.78] gives a fairly detailed account of his plan while ordering the sheriff to see that no-one obstructed its implementation. This diversion of one of the main routes through the village could have provoked some local resentment. But it also provided Adam with additional land to be allocated, and a corrody agreement with a Woodeaton couple shows that the abbot was not averse to granting such as burgage plots, even though there is no reason to think he envisaged the new road as a borough foundation, or as part of his Newland borough. These changes brought the existing abbey farm, to the west of the monastic buildings, within the precinct, and this component of the abbey was subsequently developed into a complex with granges, housing for livestock, and a storehouse for the meat of slaughtered animals. In the new southern part of the precinct Adam had a series of fishponds constructed, fed by the brook, to supply fresh fish. The property development venture at Newland must be understood in the context of this broader scheme to expand the abbey's facilities, relocate displaced residents, and at the same time separate the monastic community more from neighbouring secular activities and from commercial through-traffic. It also seems to have been in the final year of Adam's abbacy that a plan was implemented to raise the height of the dam channelling water into the mill-pool within the Evenlode; for by that period the original grain-mill, mentioned in Domesday, had been increased to three one perhaps being used for fulling and an improved flow may have been required to power them all. Shortly after Adam's time the residents of Hanborough complained to the king, that, by thus raising the level of the mill-pool several inches, their adjacent meadowland and woodland (where pigs foraged) was being flooded.
What went wrong with the new town part of the plan is not fully clear. The proximity of Oxford's thriving market must have been a major factor, while on the opposite side of Eynsham lay Witney, where perhaps only a decade or so prior to Adam's foundation charter the Bishop of Winchester had added an urban component around the green of an existing market village and had obtained a fair licence for it. That there was no legal battle between the owners of Eynsham's and Witney's markets is an indication that both had been in operation before licences included the requirement that new markets not be to the detriment of existing ones in the vicinity. But, thanks in part to Witney's location on the route connecting Gloucester with Oxford, flourishing commerce attracted settlers to Witney, so that the lord of neighbouring Cogges (where there a small castle and priory provided a regular clientele for goods and services) laid out plots on his own Newland around 1213, and Witney itself was extended in 1220 with the addition of 16 new burgage plots, which bridged the gap between the village green and the Cogges Newland. Witney's first fair, licensed in 1202, was around the festival of the Ascension, not so close in date to Eynsham's Pentecost event that the Bishop of Lincoln could complain of unfair competition, but close enough that it could have siphoned away some trade; it was successful enough that a subsequent Bishop of Winchester obtained the grant of a second fair in 1231. Adding to Eynsham's discomfort was that the manor of Standlake, just south of Eynsham, acquired a licensed market in 1230, while the manor of Bampton, a few miles south-west of Eynsham, obtained a market licence in 1241; a market had in fact existed at the time of Domesday and the manor's farmer was complaining about competition from other markets as early as 1187. By the close of the thirteenth century, however, Bampton's owner was earning a respectable 40s. a year from market tolls. This was the competitive environment in which Eynsham's Newland found itself, and Witney despite some downturn in its economy in the fourteenth century and the failure of Cogges' Newland had the advantage over Eynsham.
Another problem facing Eynsham's economy was that the crossing at Swinford could at times be a risky one, and in 1362 was described as having been, for some time, impassable because of the abbots' failure to maintain it; the same inquisition found the causeway between Newland Street and Cassington mill, along with the Evenlode bridge there, both to be in as bad a state of disrepair. The abbot of the time denied responsibility for either, so no remedy for these deficiencies is evident. A ferry that had come into existence to one side of Swinford generated enough income that ownership became contested between Eynsham and Abingdon abbeys, which held the territories on opposite banks of the Thames; the dispute which seems to have entailed obstructionism from both parties was resolved (1299) in favour of Abingdon, in return for a small annual payment to Eynsham (for landing rights on the latter's meadow and passage through it to the highway) and the right for Eynsham's monks, servants and carts to use the ferry free of charge. Furthermore, the road between the crossing and Oxford was not a good one. Consequently many carters came to prefer a different route, bypassing Eynsham on its northern side, but bound for Witney in one direction and in the other a north-south route connecting Banbury and Oxford. Eynsham's market thus became isolated from heavier commercial traffic, though the crossings at Eynsham continued to be used by horses and pedestrians, and river traffic between Oxford and Eynsham was possible.
It appears Adam's new town and other grand plans contributed to driving the abbey deeply into debt, without generating significant new revenues. One of the creditors was a Jewish money-lender of Lincoln, to whom £152 15s. was owed in 1227; a little over a century later the abbey would be contracting more numerous and larger debts, but that was a different time. Adam's depletion of abbey resources may also have taken other forms; for around 1230 his successor made a fine with the king to recover possession of those Oxfordshire woodlands of which the abbey had custody and to obtain immunity from prosecution for past waste of said forest; while the abbey had the right (known as estover) to harvest wood for reasonable needs of fuel and maintaining its buildings, Adam's projects may have placed excessive demand on the forest, including by permitting takers of his burgage plots to cut trees for house-building materials, there being other examples of such a concession [Maurice Beresford, New Towns of the Middle Ages, London: Lutterworth, 1967, p.164-65]; a survey of the woodlands concerned showed that some had been virtually clear-cut (although work on the castle at Oxford bore part of the responsibility). While we cannot fairly describe the Newland as an abject failure, it did not achieve the kind of success that would have justified the effort and expenditure. This, perhaps along with local antagonisms to which his initiatives gave rise, had unfortunate consequences for Adam. A chronicle compiled at Dunstable Priory has an entry for 1228 that reports: "In that year Adam, the Abbot of Eynsham, as a proven perjurer and squanderer, was deposed by Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, and the Prior of Friston was, with solemnity, put in his place." [H.R. Luard, Annales Monastici, Rolls Series, no.36 (1866) vol.3 p.109, my translation]
Whether Adam was really an incompetent manager, or a victim to political opponents within or without the abbey, we cannot know. Hugh of Wells pursued, during his episcopacy, the canonization of his like-named predecessor and must have been appreciative of Adam's biography, which would have supported the effort, accomplished in 1220. Thereafter Bishop Hugh, who had earlier in his career been a royal bureaucrat and judge, may have turned a more critical eye on Adam's other activities. Yet the bishop was no stranger to, nor opponent of, the kinds of secular initiatives Abbot Adam had taken, for Hugh had some experience of operating a market even before becoming bishop, and as bishop not only inherited markets on several of his manors, but obtained a blanket grant from King John in 1214 to establish markets and fairs on all episcopal manors he wished (so long as not detrimental to others already operating in the vicinity). We know that Hugh had done so at Biggleswade (Bedfordshire) by 1227, perhaps founding a small new town there at the same time. Nor does it seem likely that Bishop Hugh could have objected to Eynsham's market as a potential rival to his own market at Banbury, for the two were almost twenty miles apart, and Hugh was not reticent in having the market at closer Chipping Warden suppressed (1227). The story behind Adam's deposition is unlikely ever to be known. Perhaps, after a decade of existence, the new town at Eynsham had simply failed to attract many settlers and antagonistic locals had successfully resisted market activity being transferred to the new location; in a rental of 1389 it is in the original marketplace that we hear of shops and butchers' stalls, and the market cross there, now replaced by a replica, probably dated from the same century. On the other hand, perhaps there was a power-struggle within the abbey; it may or may not be significant that the bishop chose to replace Adam with an outsider, rather than promoting the prior. Again we cannot know whether there is any significance to the fact that the deposed abbot was not given a place within the abbey, but instead retired to its manor of Rollright, some miles northwest of Eynsham, where he spent his final few years, not disgraced but away from any interpersonal hostilities.
Although the new town continued on for a while, and even today is remembered by Newland Street in Eynsham, by the time of the 1366 survey only about thirty tenements are reported as occupied in the borough there having been little further expansion of settlement and only a little of the sub-division of original plots that was rampant in flourishing boroughs in contrast to a much larger number in the original settlement. Some of its burgages, if they came back into the hands of the abbey through purchase, bequest, or failure of heirs were, as early as the 1260s, being re-granted on less generous terms and later as ordinary freeholds or copyholds whose tenants had no power to transfer them. The court rolls, which survive only from 1307 on (and then sparsely), give no indication that trade disputes were dealt with in that venue; this is probably an indication that the market had never taken root in Newland Street. However, certain matters such as the assizes of bread and ale were separately held by the abbot as part of market administration in the portmoot though his right was challenged at the hundredal enquiry of 1275, but defended at Quo Warranto proceedings a decade later as having been held from time immemorial (which may have referred to the market grant by Stephen) and at the view of frankpledge, control of which was also disputed up until 1313 when the abbot was authorized to hold it in his manorial court, or to delegate the right to principal tenants. Through the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries Newland still had its own court, meeting regularly, if infrequently, but perhaps only a shadow of its former self. It also still had its own rent-collector, but there was little increase in the total income from borough rents during that period, suggesting no further population growth in Newland; the total rent in 1366 was not much over &$163;3, while half a century later it had not reached £4, despite the abbey changing the rental terms of a number of tenements.
There are other indications that the new town at Eynsham was not prospering in the way hoped. In the national tax of 1334 Eynsham had the lowest wealth assessment of any Oxfordshire town except Woodstock; low assessments in that and earlier taxations of the century seem due to it having only a relatively small number of residents over the minimum tax threshold, and few of those were notably wealthy. The outbreaks of plague led to an adjacent hamlet being abandoned, with survivors moving into Eynsham, yet by 1377 it still had one of the smallest populations of towns in the county. In 1440 the abbot handed back in the market licence for cancellation, on the grounds it had never proven a success, from the perspective either of the abbey or of the residents of Eynsham; a new licence for a Monday market was issued in compensation options being limited, as Wednesday to Friday were already allocated to the markets of Bampton, Witney, and Standlake. Abbey accounts of the Late Middle Ages make no reference to any income from market tolls; whereas by 1218 the tolls, stallage, and seldage from the Witney market and fair were generating large enough amounts to warrant separating out those items within the manorial accounts, and in the 1220s tolls were totalling over 80s. annually, though declined in the latter half of the century, despite some increase in stallage and seldage profits mid-century. The impression is that the peak of success for Witney's market and fairs was occurring precisely in those decades when Eynsham's Newland was trying to find a footing; during that period the bishopric of Winchester obtained toll exemptions for Witney's tenants, an advantage the abbey tenants lacked. That in 1476 the portmoot had to remind residents of their duty to keep the streets clean in front of their houses might be interpreted as a weakening resolution to keep the place inviting to whatever commercial travellers were still coming through. Eynsham's market and fairs limped on into the sixteenth century, and the concept of a borough was transferred from Newland to central Eynsham as a whole. Yet the change had little effect on Eynsham's economic viability; taxation records of the sixteenth century show it somewhat more populous, but still lacking wealthy taxpayers the largest assessments were those of farmers, and the kinds of tradesmen present in the town were much the same as in the Late Middle Ages (see below).
A map of 'Ensham Town' prepared in 1762 allows us to visualize the Newland layout in a very rough way, although the original burgage tenements have undergone an uncertain number of amalgamations and sub-divisions over the intervening centuries, and indeed show signs of having undergone a few such changes between 1215 and 1366. Properties south of Newland Street, but west of Queen Street, are listed first in the survey and their number (10) is close to that shown in 1762. The Sclatter tenement, since flanked by roads on two sides, must represent the property on the south-east corner of the junction of Mill Street and Newland Street. Halewy's triangular-shaped tenement seems to be that shown on the 1762 map of Eynsham with its east end facing onto Queen Street, if we assume that its original northern boundary continued westwards to meet the eastern boundary of the Sclatter property near the latter's south-east corner; this hypothesis is supported by the description of the location of the tenement known as Pryuyte. Halewy's cottage tenement could be that shown on the map immediately to the south of the triangular property, again facing onto Queen Street; it could represent an extension to his principal holding, or a property he rented out to a third party. Properties north of Newland Street were next surveyed; here the property of Richard Lynde seems to correspond to the western-most plot on the map, with the Marche property, carved out within it, still apparent. Finally, the surveyor reverted to the south side of Newland Street to deal with a group of properties east of Queen Street.
Names of tenants in the Newland survey/rental do not give a strong sense of it as an urban settlement. Although the date is rather late to rely overmuch on surname evidence, few of the names are indicative of occupations, and practically none of these point to the more specialized occupations associated primarily with an urban economy. Nor do the names suggest that Eynsham had much pull for long-distance migrants, who would surely have been drawn more to Oxford, if seeking within this region improved opportunities or to break the bonds of serfdom. The prevalence, among the surnames, of patronymics, toponymics, and nicknames are suggestive more of a burgess population built from land-workers looking to upgrade their positions or prospects; a lack of references, beyond the survey, to most of these individuals does not give a sense that they were of any great account. However, it is dangerous to argue from silence and, besides, the sample is too small to draw firm conclusions. But occupational activities of most Eynsham residents seem to have retained a rural focus. The only individual named in the abbey cartulary whose occupation can clearly be associated with commerce is the John fitz Stephen merchant, who is seen in the years following the establishment of Newland. It is not clear whether he can be considered an immigrant, for his aunt was the daughter of an outsider though, once widowed, had remarried an Eynsham man; nor do we know if John had one of the Newland burgages. Around 1260 John's son William seems to be selling up all his Eynsham properties, including his rights in those held by his mother in dower. In 1437 a John Vyntenar was bailiff of Newland, but the surname does not necessarily point to the vintner's trade, as it might also be derived from the title of a sergeant of militia.
In contrast to this meagre indication of a commercial element within Eynsham's population is the fact that by 1268 the wool produced on abbey estates was, after being transported to Eynsham, not sold through any middlemen of Newland; rather Roger Harang, a merchant based at Witney, was given the contract to buy it all. Though we do not know for how long such arrangements persisted, the cellarer's accounts for 1471 show a large volume of cloth purchased from a Witney man, while in 1352 the abbey was involved in some large-scale financial transaction with a London woolmonger. Witney became a regional centre for trade in wool not only that of Eynsham abbey estates but also those of the bishops of Winchester, collected and stored at Witney and in sheep; this drew its residents into the cloth industry, supported by the construction of three or more fulling-mills on the River Windrush, and it became one of the principal cloth-making centres in the county, later acquiring a reputation for the rough woollen blankets woven there. It was Witney that in the Middle Ages achieved the commercial success and prosperity that eluded Eynsham.
This, then, was perhaps part of Abbot Adam's offence: to speculate maybe recklessly in the opinions of some with abbey resources by establishing a borough in the shadows of the existing market centres of Witney and Oxford, thereby giving it longer odds for success. Adam had contravened the principles of prudence and economy which were supposed to guide the manager of a monastery's assets. Whereas Adam's mentor, St. Hugh, is not evidenced as having any interest in, or particular experience with, markets, Bishop Hugh of Wells was certainly experienced in founding and administering markets, as well as protecting them from competition; he would have had no difficulty perceiving the flaws in Adam's policies.
The seeming lack of an urban character of the Newland community in 1366 may be due to the late date of the survey. Almost a century and a half had passed since the foundation of the borough and the situation in Newland, and indeed Eynsham as a whole, had altered somewhat in the interim. With the failure of any effort by Adam to relocate the market to the wide street through Newland, and probable abandonment of such a policy after Adam's departure, there was ample time in the next hundred years or so for tenements to change hands multiple times and deplete the number of tenants with commercial or artisanal occupations. We have no older survey or other documents that can show us what the Newland community was like in its early days. Other than the foundation charter and a deed of 1294, the earliest records clearly specific to the Newland are a few court rolls from the reign of Edward II, which have not been transcribed for publication. The Hundred Rolls of the 1270s include in the survey on Eynsham [Record Commission, Rotuli Hundredorum v.2, p.860] a list of freehold tenants, a number of whom have occupational surnames mason, clerk, porter, falconer, and cook but this hardly has an urban look and besides, it is very doubtful that any were Newland residents. By the Late Middle Ages, and probably earlier, the abbey was employing its own artisans and service-providers such as gate-keeper, carpenter, shoemaker, tailor, washerwoman (who also darned clothes), barber, cooks, bakers, maltster, brewer, and carters their services not necessarily limited to the abbey; but it seems more likely these would have lived closer to the abbey and neighbouring marketplace than in Newland. Other than such employees, the abbey's wealth was not necessarily channelled predominantly into the local economy. Some of the staples required to support the monastic community and guests entertained at the abbey hospice came from its own demesne resources, while most of the wine, spices, medicines, high-quality cloth, and other luxury or specialized goods purchased for the abbey were likely obtained by the cellarer or other abbey officials during trips to Oxford, London, Bristol or elsewhere, while the Stourbridge Fair seems to have been an annual source of purchases.
Salter believed Eynsham comprised an Old Borough and a New Borough (the latter being Newland), and this notion was adopted by the authors of the Victoria County History account of Eynsham, though they only mention it in passing and present no evidence of any ancient borough status. Indeed, it is not clear that there are any grounds for this interpretation. Salter did not explain his reasons for the distinction, but seems to have based it partly on the existence of a portmoot distinct from the Newland court the latter's early fourteenth century rolls not using such a term in their headers. But the portmoot records are all from the fifteenth century and, as will be seen below, not evidence of urban status but, rather, associated with a market-endowed settlement. It may also have been that Salter assumed, from the reference to Newland as a Novus Burgus, that there must therefore have existed an Old Borough, in the form of the original market settlement; however, many other examples of town foundations unimaginatively named Newport, Newtown, or the like, show that such naming logic did not apply. Given the fact of unitary lordship, there would hardly have been a need to describe New Land as a new borough, or give it its own court, if Eynsham already had borough status and a portmoot.
While not impossible that obtaining the grant of a market was associated with promoting at least part of the village presumably that around the crossroads and adjacent marketplace to borough status (that is, an area where property was held by burgage tenure), there is no clear indication in the cartulary that any such act of foundation occurred, nor documentary or cartographic evidence supporting the presence of burgage tenements around the original marketplace itself. The 1215 charter gives no indication of a pre-existing borough at Eynsham, and the selling-point of its new plots, not very convenient for the existing marketplace, was that they offered a more liberal form of tenure than was previously available in the vill; but then, it may be argued, nor does the charter explicitly refer to the New Land as a borough. On the other hand, a row of a dozen or so tenements of varying frontages but all of the same depth and terminating in Back Lane (a name often associated with burgage blocks) located along the west side of Mill Street, opposite its junction with Newland Street, has the look of a possible planned unit expanding the settled area; also, tenements along the east-west arm of the crossroads that is, the north side of both the future High Street and a stretch of Acre End Street (which runs west from the market square) just beyond the seeming extent of the older village, are possibly also burgage type, though less deep, and also furnished with service lanes at rear. If these represent morphological components of a late medieval borough, it is unknown whether all were laid out at the same date or as different phases of expansion, nor whether the growth of the cloth industry in nearby Witney was a stimulus for such.
An alternative interpretation to Salter's is possible: that, as Adam's New Land failed to establish itself as a true borough, and with the effects of the Black Death, perhaps exacerbated by the contemporary power-struggle over the abbacy, giving impetus for changes in the terms of relationship between the abbey and its tenants, the former transitioned towards a freehold model, reliant more on rents than services, while at the same time squeezing as much out of rents as possible, and attempting to reassert claim to some services; the 1366 survey of the New Land was both a consequence and an illustration of changed circumstances, as were other similar documents entered into a new abbey register during the latter half of the fourteenth century. In this context the concept of borough, though not the characteristic tenurial privileges, was transferred to central Eynsham notably the area around the crossroads and market square (possibly excluding certain holdings associated with the abbey farm and houses reserved for lay servants of the abbey); this became the core around which future development would take place. Newland became little more than a neighbourhood within a larger burghal entity, and in the post-medieval period was treated as a manor in its own right; though still retaining its own officials and its own court sessions for tenurial pleas and nuisances, it dealt with no market matters other than the selling of ale, and in its final years only with transfers of tenements. Had there existed a borough in the market centre of Eynsham prior to the foundation of Newland, we might reasonably expect it to have been more clearly evidenced in the abbey cartularies.
Under this interpretation the portmoot, although it may have originated as a court for the Newland tenants, in the post-plague period acted as a court for the refocused borough; it dealt with the kinds of matters typically within the jurisdiction of borough courts, except for property transfers, which remained the prerogative of the manorial court. It might well have continued to be held in the hall situated in Newland. An alternative possibility is a building (demolished 1954) at the south-east corner of Carfax named in local tradition the old manor-house. A description of its features [C. Cooper, "The Old Manor House, Eynsham, Oxon", Oxoniensia, vol.19 (1954), pp.146-48 suggests it no earlier than late fifteenth century, but it represents an encroachment into the marketplace that would have required abbey approval, and it was associated with a family that in the sixteenth century supplied manorial officials; so it may have served as the manorial court-house, though probably not the original one. The same register in which the 1366 survey was recorded refers to a portmoot in two documents copied into it. One is a manorial survey of 1363 in which the jury included the declaration that "the lord has there, if he wishes, his [manorial] court every three weeks, and also a portmoot; as well he has there view of frankpledge." [Salter, vol.2, pp.27-28, my translation]; although this was a survey of Charlbury, it shows the abbey having instituted a portmoot in a non-urban context. The second is a group of memoranda related to local administration at Eynsham, undated but probably also from the later fourteenth century; after mentioning the three-weekly manorial court, it implies that the assize of bread and ale were administered (by grant of an unnamed king) through the portmoot, and that the market pleas were likewise dealt with in portmoot, each of these two courts having its own suitors. Judging from surviving records, portmoot sessions were also held every three or four weeks. The surviving fifteenth-century examples show it dealing with issues related to quality of commercial products, but do not give an impression that local commerce was particularly lively, nor that it was broader than the basic range of trades found in large villages or small towns: (victuallers, leather-workers, smiths, builders). No reference is made in either of the aforementioned documents, nor elsewhere in the abbey cartularies except for the 1215 charter, to the Newland court; even though it generated its own separate records, in the fifteenth century, it was probably only a specialized session of the portmoot. Under this interpretation the 1366 survey of Newland depicts a borough only in a vestigial form.
From the ashes of the original new borough emerged a larger entity that could, by the Late Middle Ages, be thought of by its lord as a borough perhaps unwarrantedly, yet there was no precise legal definition of a borough at this period; though lacking true burgage tenure and associated privileges, and having none of the other attributes that tended to characterize boroughs in the eyes of national administrators, its tenants were freeholders except ironically in the Newland, where copyholds would eventually become predominant, the survival of copyholds there was a factor in the preservation of an otherwise redundant Newland court. This newer borough had its market, a portmoot, and a chief executive who could in 1476 be styled a mayor. The marketplace, with its adjacent parish church and with the street linking it to the Thames crossing part of which would become the High Street had reasserted itself as the natural focus of what could in future be referred to as Eynsham Town, and to which the term burgus was in the 1470s applied, in the context of the account of the bailiff who collected the portmoot perquisites. Adam's new town initiative thus proved only a temporary deviation in the natural course of Eynsham's development, which entailed no long-term future for any borough component. Still today, although Eynsham has been undergoing a new period of population growth, its centre remains only lightly commercialized, the predominance of residential elements making for a village feel that the community values.
"bridge to Cassington"
"service or secular payment"
"a court convened"
"found at fault"
"view of his peers"
"may not exceed"
"the best and freest"
"John de Wygyntone"
"Joan atte Hulle, John atte Halle"
"planted with trees"
"complained to the king"
"demand on the forest"
"perjurer and squanderer"
"never proven a success"
"no clear indication"
"held in the hall"
|Created: April 12, 2016. Last update: January 5, 2019||© Stephen Alsford, 2019|