South Newington originally had two manors and a number of estates. In the 13th century the manor houses of the Cranfords and St John’s hospital (the land originally held by Odo) occupied the lower land near the mill, whilst that of the Giffards (the land that formed part of the Earl William’s fief) is presumed to have stood near the church and the village centre. It is surmised that the later layout of the village reflects this earlier manorial arrangement.
The descent of the overlordship of the manors is complex, the name of the village changing periodically after the manorial lords; thus the village became ‘Paris Newington’ (in reference to William Paris) in the early 13th century and ‘Newington Jewell’ (in reference to Ralph Ivaus) in the latter part of the same century. During the 13th – 15th century, the village was referred to as ‘Newington Cranford’ (in reference to the Cranford family). It was at some point under the Cranfords that the two manors became one.
At the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536) houses and land held within the parish by Chacombe Priory and Sewardsley Priory (both in Northamptonshire) passed to the Crown. The Chacombe Priory lands subsequently were sold to Magdalen College and the Sewardsley Priory lands to Exeter College. These purchases extended the holdings of both the Oxford colleges in the parish but this land was divided amongst a number of copyholders and therefore despite the size of the holdings the colleges had little influence on the parish.
In 1663 the manor associated with part of the Odo of Bayeux’s estate was mortgaged to Martin Holbech and shortly after sold to Robert French. By 1710, the Duke of Shrewsbury, Charles Talbot, had purchased the manor. It was retained in his family until it was sold to Albert Brassey in 1870. The last recorded lord, Captain Robert Brassey, was in 1939. After this date the property was subsequently sold.
South Newington acquired brief notoriety in the 17th century during the struggle over ship money. Most taxes could only be requested and raised with agreement of parliament; however, ship money was a tax that the Crown could request from coastal communities without parliamentary consent to raise funds for the Navy if it was feared that England was under threat of foreign attack. Charles I (1625-1649) was in financial difficulty after inheriting large debts and a country that was on the verge of turmoil. Charles I was unwilling to call a disgruntled Parliament to raise funds, so in 1636 he requested ship money from the whole country. One of the constables of South Newington, Francis French did not agree with the levy and refused to pay. This resulted in the Sheriff of Oxford attempting to raise the money by seizing cattle. The case continued to be fought in the courts; it is said to be one small spark in the conflagration of discontent that lead to the start of the English Civil War (1642-1651).
Records dating from 1086 state there were 20 tenants and an unspecified number of ‘men’. By 1279, the village had expanded with 20 villains, 2 cottagers and 28 free tenants recorded.
During the 14th and 15th centuries records demonstrate a period of continued hardship, with a significant decline in the population possibly the result of the plagues or economic misfortune of the early 14th century. The 16th and 17th centuries saw the economic existence of the village return to a more even keel with the population remaining steady at between 200-300 adults.
In 1831 the population rose to a peak of 462 inhabitants but this had declined to 222 by 1911 and 209 by 1951. Much of this decline can be attributed to emigration financed by the parish authorities during the 1840s and 1850s. At the last census in 2011, the population for the parish stood at 285.
Traditionally the villages in the north of the Cherwell district relied upon agriculture as the main income to the village. South Newington also offered employment in the neighbouring quarries, mills or in other traditional trades such as weaving and blacksmithing.
Much of South Newington parish is good farmland. Apart from a few small inclosures round the village the open field system survived until parliamentary inclosure in 1795. At inclosure land was awarded to 41 proprietors. Farms remained small and in 1871 only Hill Farm, leased from Exeter College was over 200 acres.
The Inclosures Acts throughout the 18th and 19th centuries impacted strongly on the character and development of many of the villages and settlements within what is now Cherwell District. The Acts changed the layout of the villages by altering and organising the ownership of the land into the hands of the few, and this naturally impacted on the agricultural reliant settlements. However the character of South Newington parish and the village do not appear to have been greatly affected; this is most likely due to the relatively large number of small farms. This point is certainly observed on in the film ’24 Square Miles’ (Mander, 1944) filmed in 1944 when such farms had become economically tenuous.
The period post the inclosure award saw land use change and the percentage of arable land rise. But by the beginning of the 20th century this trend had reversed, farming land had reverted to meadow and permanent pasture and small neighbouring farms aggregated to create fewer, larger operations.
In 1977 returns were made by only 7 farms. With this change in farming practice came change in the requirements of farm buildings. The farmsteads within the village lost their original purpose; farms buildings were either demolished or retained and absorbed into the farm houses or converted into new houses. The last farm based in the village ceased operation 25-30 years ago. It was on the site of Old Farmyard in High Street.
There is limited remaining physical evidence of the quarrying in the area; old maps are the best source of evidence with areas marked as ‘Old Quarry’ being identified. There was an application made in the late 1950s to re-open one of the open cast mines for iron ore. The application was rejected in 1960 because the open cast mine was deemed a threat to the beauty of the natural landscape.
In the 18th century the village boasted four public houses; the Pole Axe, the Horse and Jockey (which ceased trading in 1832), the Wykeham Arms and the Three Goats (sold in 1773). The Pole Axe was a large inn, complete with stables which traded until 1887. In 1897 the buildings were given to the village as a reading room and hall. Patronage declined and in 1927 the site was sold with most of the buildings demolished. The site was given back to the village in 1934 as a bowling green and garden of remembrance, which today has become a playground.
The name Wykeham Arms is derived from that of a local landowner. In 2003 this historic name was changed to The Duck on the Pond when the premise was rebranded as a restaurant and public house.
Some of the biggest changes experienced have been the shifts in employment during the 20th century. Traditional forms of employment such as the farm labourers and skilled crafts persons have declined in the village and the majority of residents are now active or retired professionals whose places of employment are or were outside the village. This undoubtedly has had an impact on the character and ambience of the village with the loss of the noise and smells that the former crafts and trades have associated with them.
A school opened in 1768 which took fee paying pupils with a few poor children, paid for ‘by way of charity’. By 1815 there were two day schools. A National School was opened in 1818, which was possibly located in the yard of the workhouse (on the east side of the High Street). This school was sold in 1836 and a new school, which included an infant’s room, was built the following year on land on Barford Road near its junction with High Street given by the vicar. The school remained in operation until 1965 when it was sold and converted into a house.
The late Norman church in South Newington is one of only fifteen churches in England to be dedicated to St Peter ad Vincula (St Peter in chains). The original church building was extended and now comprises a chancel, aisled and clerestoried nave, a south porch (15th century) and the west tower, added in the early 14th century and subsequently crowned with pinnacles in the 15th century.
The church became famous for the well preserved wall paintings, dating from two distinctive periods. The earlier and better quality paintings are mid-14th century. These are remarkable for their quality in a small village church, as well as being painted in oil on plaster, a technique rarely used because of the cost. The paintings represent several images, including the murder of Thomas a Becket, St Margaret and the unique subject of the execution of Thomas of Lancaster. Pevsner, the architectural connoisseur known for his sharp observations, gives these his highest praise describing them as ‘The finest group of medieval wall paintings in the county’ (Sherwood & Pevsner, 1975). The later paintings are dated to the late 15th or early 16th century and these depict scenes from the Passion.
Within the south east corner of the churchyard was a small building, dating from circa 1565. The small building was believed to be the church house (sometimes called the town house) and was used for church ales, administration purposes and occasionally as a poor house. (Ales were parish festivals of much ecclesiastical and social importance in medieval England. The chief purpose of the church ale (which was originally instituted to honour the church saint) was to facilitate the collection of parish dues and to make a profit for the church from the sale of ale by the church wardens. These profits kept the parish church in repair, or were distributed as alms to the poor.) The building was demolished during the 19th century.
As with elsewhere in the district, a small group of Quakers had formed in South Newington by 1663. However, it was not until 1692 that they constructed a meeting house with adjoining burial ground. The meeting house closed in 1825, when it was leased to the Methodists for a while with occasional use by Quakers.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries nonconformist worship was practiced by a number of village families at a succession of registered meeting houses visited by occasional preachers from neighbouring settlements, although by 1834 the Wesleyan Methodists were said to have a resident preacher and place of worship. From 1857 the congregation was said to be Primitive Methodist and a small, red brick chapel was constructed in 1875. The chapel closed around 1950 and has subsequently been converted into a house.
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described South Newington like this:
NEWINGTON (South), a village and a parish in Banbury district, Oxford. The village stands on the river Swere, 4 miles W N W of Deddington, and 6¼ W by N of Aynho r. station; and has a post-office under Banbury. The parish comprises 1, 460 acres. Real property, £3, 188. Pop., 400. Houses, 93. The property is much subdivided. The manor belongs to the Earl of Shrewsbury. The living is a vicarage in-the diocese of Oxford. Value, £250.* Patron, Exeter College, Oxford. The churchstands on an eminence; shows features of Norman, early English, decorated, and perpendicular architecture; and is a good and handsome edifice, with a tower. There are a Wesleyan chapel and a national school.
A detailed history:
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South Newington Wikipedia Page