A Steeple Claydons’ History


We hear of a watermill in possession of the Doilys,  and  a windmill  (which must have been  one  of the  earliest  in  England)  and  a decoy  belonging   to  Oseney Abbey .The farmers’ land was  in  half-acre  s trips which were scattered  higgledy  piggledy over the two large fields   into   which   the    parish  was   divided. Many of the place­ names and field- names mentioned in the charters still survived (or did until recently). Thus Kingsbridge (possibly from the king’s highway which passed over it), Redland (reedland), Bean Croft, Elder Stump, Little Marsh, Long Lands, Portal, Small Thorn Furlong and Whitfield are all Names with a continuous history in the parish from   the thirteenth century. Claydon Brook was then called the Burn (later corrupted to Bune and Bone) and the stream From Twyford was always the Brook. Further glimpses into the life of medieval Claydon are afforded by the Hundred Rolls of 1278.  The population had increased by then to some four hundred souls. This included five freemen, each farming from thirty to two hundred acres, and  thirty- two  villeins with thirty acres each  (for  which  they  paid  in  money  or  services 7s. a year).

There we’re also thirty-two cottagers with smaller holdings. The entire names arc given in full.  The surnames were clearly mainly descriptive, either  professionally  (there are two Smiths, a Butcher, a Tailor, a Miller, a Woodward, a Gardener and a Fowler)  or   geographically  ( e.g·.Richard  Scot,   Walter   of Ireland,   Stephen   of   Cornwall,   Thomas  Horwood).The Oseney charters also include references to Richard the Gascon, Robert Sent, William of Whitchurch, Thomas of Hampton (Northampton probably)   and   Walter of   Twyford.    Medieval Claydon   was thus, a good deal more cosmopolitan than one might have expected. For  the  fourteenth   and  fifteenth  centuries  there  is  less  to  record.

T h e   principal  manor  passed  from  the  Doylys  to  a  John Fitz Geoffrey,  who  may   or   may   not   have  been   the   ohn   Fitz Geoffrey who in 1242  fell  from  a  cart  into  the  Burn  and  was  drowned,   By 1300 the manor was in the possession of the Earl of Ulster, from whose   family  it passed by marriage to

Lionel Duke of Clarence (Edward Ill’s second son), and eventually to Edward IV and Richard III granted  the  manor  for  life  to  his widowed  mother,  Cecilia  Duchess  of   York,  and  after  her  death Henry VII gave it first to Queen Elizabeth  (Edward  IV’s widow)  and then to Katherine of Arragon. Few of these grandees are likely to have visited Claydon.    The demesnes of both the Claydon  manors  were normally  let and Claydon must  have  been  generally free  to  manage  its  own   affairs.

Some degree of prosperity and in dependence is proved by the fact that   in   the   fifteenth century   the village   built for   its   own   use a ‘ common house ‘ fifty-six feet long by eighteen feet wide. This apparent precursor of the modern  village  hall  may  have  been identical with the  Church  House  (to  which  there  are  several  references  in the seventeenth century and which was still in  use  in 1833), which was an alms house maintained by the parish for the deserving poor.