A Steeple Claydons’ History


The earliest surviving document to mention Claydon by name is Domesday Book (1086). Free translation of the Claydon entry follows: ‘ Alaric the cook holds Claindone from the King [William the Conqueror]. Hitherto it has been assessed [for the Dane­ geld] at 20 hides [2,400 acres]. There are 5 hides [600 acres] of demesne  [the  Lord  of  the  Manor’s  home  farm]  with  5  ploughs. in addition 50 villeins [ small farmers paying rent in services on the demesne instead of in money] and 3 cottages have 19 ploughs between them. There are 7 slaves, and enough meadow to feed 4 plough-teams [ 32 . oxen]  and  enough  woodland  for  100  pigs.  In all _it is now worth £16, as it, ·as in King Edward’s [the Confessor’s) time; when received [in 1066] it was worth £11.  Queen Eddid [Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor and sister of his successor, Harold] used to hold this manor.’Claydons drop in value from £16 to £11 is probably to be explained by the destruction caused by William the Conqueror’s army on its circuitous march on London after the Battle of Hastings. lf  the  agricultural  statistics  are  correct  at  least  three­ quarters of the parish must have been  arable and the woodland  (at the southern end of the parish) cannot have been much more extensive than  it is to-day. The total population was probably about 360 souls.

Nothing is known of Alric; he was perhaps Queen Edith’s cook and had received Claydon as a reward for his culinary services. Edith was a keen church builder and Claydon Church may have been erected at her expense.  There  was  certainly  a church  in  Claydo1i  in 1129,  and  as  the  village  is  referred   to  as Stcpelclaendon   about 1218   a steeple or  tower  must  have been in   existence   by   that  date. Nothing, however is   left  of   the old church. The chancel, the oldest part of the present church, dates from about 1380 . Aftcr  Alric ‘s death the manor reverted to the King, and Henry I g:avc  it to  Edith  Forn,  a  former  mistress  of   his,  on  her  marriage to a Norman  nobleman  called  Robert  Doily.  Later Edith  and Robert  founded Oseney  Abbey  in  Oxford,  which  they  endowed with  several  churches,  including  Claydon’s.     This meant   that the Bishop of Oseney became the Rector of Claydon and received the tithes  due  from   the  parish.     On   Robert’s death   Edith  presentcd  Oseney Abbey with  4  hides  of  land  in  Claydon,  and  her  grandson Henry (who was Henry II ‘s Constable)  and other benefactors  later made  further  grants of  land  in  Claydon  to  the  Abbey,  all of which  camc  to  be  known  as the  Rectory Manor  and  remained  in  the hands of Oseney Abbey until its dissolution by Henry VIII.

The relevant documents, some forty    charters  dating  from  about 1150 to 1281, have now been printed  by  the  Oxford  Historical Society and incidentally these Oseney Charters  provide a good deal  of information  about  the  early  history  of Claydon.   Thus we  learn  that  all  legal  transactions   at  that  time  took  place in St Michael’s  Church  in  the  presence  of  the whole parish.