Minster Lovell

Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire

The above postcard shows Minster Lovell in about 1900, and the photograph below taken by William Betteridge in October 2003 shows how little the scene has changed.

Minster Lovell in 2003,  © William Betteridge

Paul Betteridge adds:

The photographer was looking (roughly) eastwards along the main village street in the old part of Minster Lovell. He would have been standing quite close to the Swan. (SP 319 112) This street doesn’t seem to have a name on my Oxfordshire street atlas, and didn’t have one on a sign on the ground either.

The cottages in the foreground are still thatched in the same way. The nearer of the two doors has been changed into a window, so these are now just one house. The outbuilding on the left has been changed a bit and given a more rounded thatched roof; to match the rest of the house, I suppose. The ivy-covered building behind has gone, so there is a stone wall along the street between the cottages.

Remove the large tree in the background, tarmac the road and smarten the ditch in front of the cottages (little stone bridges to each doorway), add a telephone pole, a few cars, and groups of visitors walking towards the Swan, and you have the scene today.

Kelly’s Directory for 1891 describes Minster Lovell thus:

Minster Lovell is a parish, on either side of a valley through which runs the river Windrush, dividing the parish into what are termed Great and Little Minster, 2¾ miles west-north-west from Witney, in the Mid division of the county, hundred of Chadlington, petty sessional division of Bampton East, Witney union and county court district, rural deanery of Witney, archdeaconry and diocese of Oxford.

The church of St. Kenelm, seated on the south-west declivity of a hill, is a noble cruciform building of stone in the Late Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, with vestry on the north side, nave, transepts, north porch and a central tower with groined tower room and embattled parapet containing 3 bells; the chancel retains a piscina, and there are three hagioscopes, one in each transept and one opening from the vestry: the reredos, erected in 1876, in memory of Lady Taunton, is of Caen stone in five compartments, each being beautifully sculptured: the pulpit, of stone, is good perpendicular, and the font, octagonal in plan, has a panelled basin ornamented with quatrefoils and foliage, and supported on a deeply recessed panelled shaft: in the south transept is a fine altar tomb to Francis, 9th baron and 1st Viscount Lovell, and adherent of Richard III, for whom he fought at Bosworth Field, 22 Aug. 1485; he next became a partisan of the impostor Lambert Simnel, and after the encounter at Stoke, 16 June 1487, disappeared; the tomb bears a full-length effigy in armour, and the sides are relieved by cusped panelling and adorned with figures of the Holy Virgin, St. Christopher and others, together with shields of arms of Lovell, Beaumont &c. but has no date or inscription:on the west wall of this transept is a slab, formerly encircled with military trophies sculptured in stone, to Henry Heylyn, 1695, and his father and mother Edward and Elizabeth Heylyn, with an inscription in Latin and a shield of arms: in the chancel were memorials to Henry Powell, vicar 1791, and Anna, daughter of Dr. Clay, with arms, 1616, and in the south transept a monument to the family of Wheeler, 1661, as well as three brasses, with scrolls, but these have disappeared since the restoration of the church, effected in 1868, at a cost of £1,247: there are 126 sittings. The register of baptisms and burials dates from the year 1762; marriages, 1754. The living is a vicarage, gross income from tithe rent-charge £111, with 45 acres of glebe and residence, in the gift of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College, and held since 1873 by the Rev. Horace Charles Ripley M.A. of University College, Durham. An alien priory of Benedictine monks was founded here before 1206, as a cell to the abbey of St. Mary de Ibreio, or Ivry, in Normandy, by Maud Lovell, and dedicated to St. Kenelm; on its suppression it was granted to Eton College: of the Conventual buildings, the Perpendicular church, now the parish church, and some other portions, with the bridge, remain.

To the south-east of the church, near the river Windrush, are the ruins of an ancient mansion, formerly the residence of the Lovell family: the buildings, when perfect, formed a square, the south side being parallel to the river and within a few feet of its bank; the whole of the south and east sides are now destroyed and the only portions standing are the north side, part of a tower at the south end of the western side and a low wall attached to it, with several fine but now roofless and dismantled apartments; in 1708, during the rebuilding of a chimney here, a large vault was discovered in which was found the entire skeleton of a man sitting at a table on which were writing materials and a book and it has been assumed that Lord Lovell, who disappeared after the battle of Stoke, made his way to his house here, and concealing himself in this vault, was eventually starved to death; on his death, his titles, including the baronies of Lovell and Holland, Dean Court and Grey of Rotherfield, became extinct, and that of Beaumont fell into abeyance between his sisters, but was called out 16 Oct. 1840, in favour of Miles Thomas Stapleton esq. of Carlton, Yorks, one of the co-heirs thereto. The estates of the Lovells, confiscated by Henry VII, were subsequently granted to the Comptons, Cecils and other powerful families. This spot is the scene of Clara Reeve’s familiar tale “The Old English Baron”, published in 1777.

The principal landowners are John Dean esq. who is lord of the manor, Robert Abraham esq. of Ringwood Oak House and John Dutton esq. The soil is various: subsoil, clay and stone brash. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, and turnips, and on the allotments, potatoes. The area is 1,938 acres; rateable value, £2,180; the population in 1881 was 511.

Charterville is an allotment estate consisting of 90 small farms of 2, 3 and 4 acres, with a one-floor cottage to each farm: they were laid out in 1847 as part of Feargus O’Connor’s land scheme; the Wesleyans have a stone chapel and the Primitive Methodists a preaching room here.

Parish clerk: John Lock

Post Office: John Lock, receiver. Letters from Witney arrive at 8.10am; dispatched at 5.25pm. Witney is the nearest money order & telegraph office. Wall letter box at the Old Toll gate cleared at 4.50pm on week days only

National School (mixed), erected by subscription, together with master’s house, in 1872, on a site given by the late Lady Taunton, at a cost of £900, to hold 126 children; average attendance, 90; Thomas Farmer, master

Conveyance: Omnibus passes through from Burford to Witney daily at 10 am, returning at 6pm

Carrier: Milton carriers pass through to Witney every Tues., Thurs. & Sat.

Ripley, Rev. Horace Charles M.A., Vicarage

Little girl

Abraham Robert, farmer & landowner, Ringwood Oak house
Batts Joseph, farmer, Cot farm
Blake George, baker & shopkeeper
Bryan Charles, farm bailiff to John Deane esq
Buckingham Frederick William, shopkeeper, Charterville
Busby James, Swan P.H.
Clack William, farmer
Cooper John, miller (water)
Eeles Stephen, White Hart P.H., Charterville
Gould James & Son, blacksmiths, Charterville
Lock John, carpenter, Post office
Pruce Louisa (Miss), beer retailer, Charterville
Radburn John, baker & shopkeeper, Charterville
Simpson, Richard, farmer
Stribblehill, William, shoe maker & shopkeeper, Charterville
Taylor Jasper, surveyor & inspector of nuisances to Witney rural sanitary authority, surveyor of highways to Bampton East highway board, Charterville

Note on Charterville by Paul Betteridge:

Many of the Charterville houses do survive, although many have been altered. There were in fact complaints while the Charterville estate was being constructed that too much money was being spent on what were intended to be cottages for those labourers relocated to Minster Lovell from the industrial towns.

The structure of the original allotments is still present – it is very striking on the 1:25,000 scale Ordnance Survey map – although many of the plots have been subdivided at the end nearest to the road.

While Charterville may not accord with the romantic notions of every potential visitor, it is definitely a distinctive place, and the creation of about 80 smallholdings of 2 to 4 acres must have had some effect on the people of the area, although I believe that the labourers brought in in the late 1840s from the midlands and north almost all left very soon afterwards, discouraged by the practical difficulties of rural existence, compared to the idealistic plans of the Chartist Land Company, and the financial collapse of the company.

The company was promoted by Feargus O’Connor to provide a means for families from industrial towns to support themselves on rural smallholdings (and to qualify for a vote). It was based on using members’ subscriptions to buy estates which were developed and then allocated by a lottery. But the administration was poor, it was difficult to manage its finances, and the company collapsed. Five estates were developed including Charterville at Minster Lovell. (O’Connorville is the name of the estate at Heronsgate near Rickmansworth.)

See Alice Mary Hadfield, The Chartist Land Company (first published 1970, and reprinted with a new introduction by Square Edge Books in 2000).

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