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British History Online - Parishes: Great Faringdon pt1

GREAT FARINGDON

Farendone (xi cent.); Farendon, Ferendun (xii cent.); 
Great Faryngdon alias Chepyngfaryngdon (xv cent.).
'Parishes: Great Faringdon', in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4, ed. William Page and P H Ditchfield (London, 1924), pp. 489-499. British History Online.

The parish of Great Faringdon (fn. 1) covers 5,897 acres, lying along the ridge which divides the Vale of the White Horse from the low land lying about the Thames, its northern boundary. The town lies on the Corallian Beds, but the park and land to the north are on the Oxford Clay, while the soil about the Thames is alluvial. Leland described how he journeyed from Hinksey 'al by chaumpain, and sum corne, but most pasture, to Farington, standing in a stony ground in the decline of an hille,' (fn. 2) and, though the common fields or 'chaumpain' were inclosed in 1772, (fn. 3)this description still holds good.
The town is built on an ancient road from Wantage which apparently crossed the Thames at Radcote; to the west runs an important road to Lechlade which was the main road from London to Gloucester at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 4)
Faringdon seems to have been a royal residence before the Conquest, as it is recorded that Edward the Elder died here in 924. (fn. 5) Whether a royal household was maintained here after the Conquest is uncertain, but in or about 1144 Robert Earl of Gloucester and other adherents of the Empress Maud constructed a castle at Faringdon, which was stormed and taken by Stephen in 1145. (fn. 6) This castle, which was doubtless only an earthwork with timber defences, was probably destroyed shortly afterwards, but the fact that in 1179 Faringdon was in the charge of William the Porter (fn. 7) suggests that possibly part of the castle or some other royal residence then survived. In 1202, however, King John granted the site of the castle to St. Mary of Citeaux, to found there a Cistercian abbey, (fn. 8) and in the following year he provided timber for the buildings. (fn. 9) The monks entered into possession, but probably found the position unsuitable, and in 1203 they were moved to Beaulieu. After this date no further reference to the castle is found. Some 8 acres of land called the Bailey in the 16th century, (fn. 10) which lay next to the Parsonage Close, (fn. 11) seem to indicate the position of the site as at Faringdon Clump, on a hill that commands both the Oxford and Wantage roads. (fn. 12)
Faringdon is now a small market town, built on irregular ground round the Market Place. It is crossed by a brook which formerly divided the borough or port on the east from Westbrook, the manorial settlement. (fn. 13) This brook is now bridged, but was in 1551 crossed by a ford close to which was a smithy. (fn. 14) In the centre of the Market Place stands the Market Hall, a rectangular building of late 17th or early 18thcentury date, built on stone Doric columns with a hipped roof and deep eaved cornice. The upper floor or court-house has stuccoed walls and large square-headed windows with flush frames. Mention of the 'scholle hall' seems to show that there had once been a school in the town, but by the middle of the 16th century both the hall and the adjacent shop were let as ordinary tenements. (fn. 15) The 'Lady hall,' (fn. 16) perhaps once belonging to a gild, was also let at this time, but the Church House was still in the hands of the churchwardens. (fn. 17) In Hampton Street stood the tenement and close called Avelyns, belonging to Brasenose College, Oxford, and perhaps also their mansion of Eynsams. (fn. 18) The Corner House was in Port Street, (fn. 19) and in London Street were a tenement and close called Bolles. (fn. 20) Many of these houses must have perished in the disastrous fire which broke out during the siege of Faringdon House in 1646. (fn. 21)
The town was described by Thomas Baskerville about 1681 as 'pretty well built, with some good inns for entertainment, of which the Crown is chief.' (fn. 22) From the 16th to the 19th centuries, indeed, the 'Crown' shared its custom with the 'Bell.' (fn. 23) The 'Crown' and the adjoining inn, the 'Angel,' face the Market Place, and are probably of Elizabethan or early 17th-century date, now refronted, but the old stone-mullioned windows still remain in the basements. The 'Bell,' which was one of the most important tenements belonging to Beaulieu Abbey, (fn. 24) is on the opposite side of the Market Place; it is possibly a 15th-century house refronted at the end of the 17th century. (fn. 25) One of these inns played an important part in a serious mutiny among the pressed soldiers quartered here in 1640 when Lieut. William Mohun During the winter Sir Charles Lloyd, the king's was murdered; several soldiers were subsequently executed. The church stands at the end of 'Highe strete alias Chepestrete,' (fn. 26) leading from the northwest corner of the triangular market-place. Close behind it are the grounds of Faringdon House, an 18thcentury stone building. The residence of Colonel Ward Bennitt, it stands at some distance north of the church, and on the southern edge of a fine park. In the gardens that lie between the house and the church is the site of the older Faringdon House, of which various details have been preserved in an inventory made in 1620. (fn. 27) It had a hall, a parlour and a great chamber hung with arras and adorned with pictures. The gallery was hung with green; at the upper end were fifteen English pictures 'hangd in tables,' at the lower were twenty-eight 'pictures of Romans and Emperours'; here also were two pairs of virginals. (fn. 28)

Farington House, Great Farington

The Pyes, lords of the manor, who resided at Faringdon House, (fn. 29) were Parliamentarians, (fn. 30) but owing to its strategic position the king's army occupied the town in March 1643–4, (fn. 31) and the Earl of Essex passed through the place on his way to Hungerford in June. (fn. 32) The house seems to have been garrisoned by December, the Parliamentary army at Abingdon being thus deprived of supplies from the west. (fn. 33) During the winter Sir Charles Lloyd, the king's quartermaster-general, was busy fortifying Faringdon. (fn. 34) Cromwell, then a colonel, marched against the house in April 1645, (fn. 35) and the lines on Faringdon Hill are ascribed to him. Cromwell captured Col. Sir Richard Vaughan (fn. 36) and the rest surrendered; the Royalists succeeded in again securing the house, and were still harassing the Parliamentarians in November 1645. (fn. 37) There were 300 Royalist horse stationed here in January 1645–6. (fn. 38) A determined attack was made on the house in the following April, and on 24 June the garrison surrendered, under the Articles of Oxford, to Sir Thomas Fairfax. (fn. 39)
The best known of Faringdon's worthies is probably Henry James Pye, poet-laureate to George III. (fn. 40)Faringdon was one of the early curacies of Renn Dickson Hampden (1793–1868), afterwards Bishop of Hereford. (fn. 41)
A Baptist congregation met in the town at an early date, and now has a chapel in Block Green Square. In the 17th century the Society of Friends became important here, and meetings are still held at the meeting-house in Lechlade Road. Of the other chapels, that of the Wesleyans in Gloucester Street was built in 1837, being followed by the Congregational chapel in Marlborough Street in 1840; the Primitive Methodist chapel in Coxwell Street was built in 1896. A Salvation hall in the south of the town, after having been used as a Primitive Methodist chapel, was bought in 1900 for a mission room of the Church of England. (fn. 42) There are in Faringdon four public elementary schools, the oldest being that established in the Stamford Road in 1825 and that for girls in London Street built in 1833.
For the most part the modern growth of the town has been on the west side of the brook, (fn. 43) and has been encouraged by the opening of a branch line of the Great Western railway to Uffington in 1864. Houses have also been built along the Coxwell Road, where stands the Cottage Hospital opened in 1892. At a short distance south of the hospital the road forks, the most westerly branch leading to Swindon. The picturesque hamlet of Little Coxwell lies between these two roads; its main street contains numerous thatched cottages. Coxwell Lodge, the residence of Capt. Wilbraham Taylor, lies at the western end of the village, while the church of St. Mary stands back from the road at its eastern entrance. The school and Baptist chapel are built on what may be called an island site between the two branches of the village street.
Due east of Little Coxwell, (fn. 44) and in the extreme southern angle of the parish of Great Faringdon, lies the tract of rough ground known as Cole's Pits, (fn. 45) where there are remains of pit-dwellings. North-east of these is Galley Hill. The water-mill that was appurtenant to the manor of Wicklesham in 1436 (fn. 46) must have stood on the stream which here forms the south-eastern boundary of the parish. From Wicklesham a foot-path leads northward through the fields to Wadley House, (fn. 47) the residence of Mr. John Richard Ralli. In 1437 apartments at the house then existing were assigned as dower to Dame Agnes Porter (fn. 48) : one chamber above the gate in what must have been the gate-house, two chambers below it, and two stables on the south of the manor-house. (fn. 49) No mention of this gate-house occurs in 1596, when the house contained, among other rooms, a hall, a long gallery, and a parlour. (fn. 50) In the study hung with gilded leather Sir Henry Unton had 220 books of divers sorts; the chapel was used for storing spare furniture and the stocks. The house was visited by Queen Elizabeth in 1574 and by James I and his queen in 1603. (fn. 51) It was renovated by the Pyes before 1774. (fn. 52) The park has been much enlarged since 1848, and now includes the ancient fair-ground. (fn. 53)

Footnotes

  • 1. In 1831 the parish contained the townships of Great Faringdon and Little Coxwell and the tithings of Hospital and Wadley otherwise Littleworth and Thrupp (Pop. Ret. 1831).
  • 2Itin. (ed. L. Toulmin-Smith), i, 125.
  • 3. Local and Pers. Act, 41 Geo. III, cap. 73. In the townships of Faringdon and Little Coxwell 3,786 acres are laid down to grass, 1,808 acres are arable and 124 acres woodland (Statistics from Bd. of Agric. [1905]).
  • 4. Cary, New Itin. (1810), 171.
  • 5. Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), i, 446.
  • 6. Matt. Paris, Hist. Angl. (Rolls Ser.), i, 275; Gesta Steph. (Rolls Ser.), 149–50; Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 230–1.
  • 7Pipe R. 26 Hen. II (Pipe R. Soc.), 47; cf. Ibid. 29 Hen. II, 134, 137.
  • 8Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 254; i, 26; see under manor.
  • 9. Hardy, Rot. de Liberate John (Rec. Com.), 47, 70.
  • 10. Ld. Rev. Misc. Bks. clxxxvii, fol. 177–8.
  • 11. Ibid. fol. 183.
  • 12Berks. Bucks. and Oxon. Arch. Journ. vii, 80.
  • 13. Chan. Proc. (Ser. 2), bdle. 136, no. 59.
  • 14. Ld. Rev. Misc. Bks. clxxxvii, fol. 182.
  • 15. Ibid. fol. 178.
  • 16. Ibid. fol. 181. It was held by Matthew Jackson in 1547 (Ct. R. [Gen. Ser.], portf. 154, no. 27). It possibly occupied the site of the Salutation Inn.
  • 17. Ld. Rev. Misc. Bks. clxxxvii, fol. 184.
  • 18. Ibid. fol. 176 d. In 1514 Elizabeth Morley, widow, and William and Richard Fermour leased to the college 'their manor of Pynchepollys' in Chipping Faringdon, late of Edmund Bury and Jane his wife (Close, 8 Hen. VIII, m. 8). This reputed manor appears to have been held by Thomas Faringdon, lord of Farnham and 'Lusteshull,' who died in Feb. 1396–7 (Ashmole, Antiq. of Berks. [ed. 1723], i, 185). His daughter and heir Katharine Pynchepole died in 1443 (ibid.). Four acres on Ridon Hill were in dispute between the college and Toby Pleydell in about 1566–7 (Chan. Proc. [Ser. 2], bdle. 24, no. 30).
  • 19. Ld. Rev. Misc. Bks. clxxxvii, fol. 177 d.
  • 20. Ibid. fol. 180.
  • 21Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. vii, App. i, 50; xiii, App. ii, 297. The damage was assessed at £56,976 4s.
  • 22. Ibid. xiii, App. ii, 297.
  • 23. Ld. Rev. Misc. Bks. clxxxvii, fol. 176, 178 d.
  • 24. Mins. Accts. Hen. VIII, no. 3341.
  • 25. A Bell Inn is mentioned in the time of Henry VIII (Ld. Rev. Misc. Bks. clxxxvii, fol. 176). It was granted in fee to James Morris of Great Coxwell in 1545 (L. and P. Hen. VIII, xx (1), g. 620 (6).
  • 26. Ld. Rev. Misc. Bks. clxxxvii, fol. 178.
  • 27The Unton Inventories (Berks. Ashmolean Soc.), 18 et seq.
  • 28. Ibid.
  • 29Cal. S. P. Dom. 1636–7, p. 173; 1637–8, p. 574.
  • 30Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 31Cal. S. P. Dom. 1644, p. 54.
  • 32. Ibid. 230.
  • 33. Ibid. 1644–5, p. 204; cf. pp. 142, 245; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. viii, App. ii, 61b.
  • 34Dict. Nat. Biog. under Lloyd.
  • 35Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. vi, App. i, 56.
  • 36. Ibid.; cf. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1625–49, p. 681.
  • 37Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiii, App. i, 316; Cal. S. P. Dom. 1645–7, pp. 280, 374.
  • 38Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiii, App. i, 334.
  • 39Cal. S. P. Dom. 1645–7, p. 445.
  • 40Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. a This and other local information has been kindly supplied by the Rev. J. E. Cowell.
  • 43. Among 13th-century place-names in this part of the parish are the fields of Coppedethorn and Rydon, the Lokweye, Schuplongelond between the two ways, Huggihay, Pidenhulle and Quedham (Cott. MS. Nero A. xii, fol. 122 d.–123).
  • 44. The common fields of Little Coxwell were inclosed in 1801 (Priv. Act, 41 Geo. III, cap. 73 [not printed]).
  • 45. See V.C.H. Berks. ii, 283.
  • 46. Chan. Inq. p.m. 14 Hen. VI, no. 12. This with a fishery was valued at 20s.
  • 47. Sir Gilbert Talbot seems to have been living at Wadley in 1385 (Cal. Pat. 1385–9, p. 80).
  • 48. Chan. Inq. p.m. 14 Hen. VI (Add. nos.), no. 58.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50The Unton Invent. (Berks. Ashmolean Soc.), 1 et seq.
  • 51. Nichols, The Progresses . . . of Queen Elizabeth, i, 391; The Progresses . . . of King James I, i, 250.
  • 52. H. J. Pye, Faringdon Hill.
  • 53. Tithe Apportionment (Bd. of Agric.).

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