Location and general
1844 the tiny Parish of Widford (once united with Swinbrook, Oxon
of the Slaughter Hundred of Gloucestershire, though it is now in
Today, little remains of the village except the tiny
Oswald's Church (12th or 14th C dates are also suggested). The church
was built over the remains of a roman villa
and it contains interesting 14th-century murals.
In the surrounding fields can be traced the remains of a former,
The settlement of Widford's name is from the old English 'withig ford'
'the ford by the willows'. Its landscape may
have looked very
different in the 18th-century as it was then
part of Wychwood Forest, an area of wasteland which in 1809 comprised
some 6720 acres (Board of Agriculture 1809, 236) and was described as
being 'filled with poachers, deer-stealers, theives, and pilferers'
(Board of Agriculture, 1809, 236) .
The domesday survey records a mill at Widford and that it belonged to
St Oswold's Priory in Gloucester.
is some uncertainty surrounding when the village disappeared. Allison
concludes that it
was unable to sustain its former size after the Black
Death (Allison et al 1965, 27). That plague certainly impacted the
region, when, in the nearby manor of Witney, 14th century evidence
suggests that an estimated two-thirds of their tenantry died (Towley et
al 2004, n.p.). Witney Manor seems to have quickly reorganise its
affairs following the outbreak of 1348, but then proved unable to do so
following the recurrence of 1360-61 (Towley et al 2004,
n.p.). Goeffrey le Baker,
clerk off Swinbook, Oxon, (just a field or two downstream from
the plague in his journal (which spanned the period 1303-56) as having
“so violently attacked that scarcely a tenth of either sex
survived” (Horrox 1994, 81).
He also mentions that it “raged for more than a year and
many villages,’ though these comments are again applied to England as a
whole (Horrox 1994, 81). Gretton (1902, 163), studying the
corporate records of nearby Burford concludes: “we are unable to see
with any certainty the effects in Burford of that event [the plague of
1348]”, but that “All that we have to go upon points to the rather
strange conclusion that some such heavy blow as fell on the rest of the
country in 1348 had fallen here some time before 1344’ (Gretton 1902,
163). Gretton goes on to argue that “When the culminating horror came,
the place suffered again,” and thirty five years latter its economy was
still below the already-depressed levels of 1347 (Gretton 1902, 164).
early dating of a wall painting in the church, of the three
and three living and said to date to the early part of the 14th Century
(Aberth 2001, 203), is interesting in the light of Gretton’s suggested
pre-1344 population crash. Elsewhere in the country the theme became
popular only after the arrival of the plague in 1349 (Aberth 2001, 203).
In 1545 Henry VIII granted Edward Harman, esq. (of Taynton, Oxon
advowson of Widford, Glos, along with other lands including the rectory
of Burford, Oxon
the chapelry of Fulbrook,
and land in Fifield, all of which were former monastic
properties (GRO, Batford Park Estate Papers, D1447)
In his will dated 8 March 1576/7, Edmond HARMAN mentions lands other
than those already the subject of a deed of jointure which gave his
wife entitlement to them upon his death. These included a "one halfe or
moyitie of my lordshipp of widford" (Dix 2007, n.p.), which he devised to his wife
Katherine HARMAN, provided she did not re-marry for her life, thereafter to
descend to his daughter Agnes BRAY (Dix 2007, n.p.).
On the monument of his daughter Olive ATTWOOD (died 1603) in Elstree,
her father James HARMAN, brother of the above Edmond HARMAN, is
described as "of Tainton and Wytford "
the plague year of 1592 the nearby town of Burford remained unaffected,
but “the fear excited by this outburst of bubonic plague incited the
Privy Council to forbid its townspeople to hunt in the Forest of
Wychwood because of the queen’s express prohibition of all unnecessary
assemblies ‘in this dangerous tyme of infecon of the plague, which
spredeth yt self in many places” (Shrewsbury 2006 ,246)
When plague ravaged Oxford in 1636, the area was presumably unaffected,
as the Court of Assizes was held at nearby Burford instead of Oxford in
that year (Gretton , 222).
In 3 Jas II (c1687/8), Harman JOHNSON granted Sir Edmund FETTIPLACE a
license to inclose certain lands in Swinbrook and Widford (Fosbrooke
1807, Vol 2, pg 538-9).
In 1776 only one freeholder voted [Rudge, 1803, 203] .
In 1803 Rudge [Rudge, 1803, 203] stated: 'The manor belonged
the Johnsons in 1608, and passed from them to the Fettiplaces about
1700. Sir Charles Fettiplace, Bart. was lord of it in 1712, Robert
Fettiplace, Esq. succeeded, and Charles Fettiplace, Esq. is now lord of
the manor and proprietor of the whole parish. The family seat
park comprehend the greatest part of the
parish. Population, 36 [in about 1700]— 20 [in about 1770] —40
1801]. Houses inhabited, 8.
benefice is a rectory, in Stow deanery, in the patronage of Mr.
Fettiplace. The advowson passed with the manor. William Montague, A. M.
In 1819 John Paffit of Taynton,
. was sentenced
to 6 months in Gloucester Gaol for killing a Fallow Deer in the forest
at Widford. It appears that the forest in the area was not cleared
until about 1862.
first series OS Maps of around 1840 show nothing more in Widford than
St Oswold's Church, Manor Farm, and, down by the river, a corn mill.
The village itself appears to have been destroyed by the Black Death,
so the small number of buildings present in 1840
was probably quite typical of the preceding centuries as well.
October 1869 one Mrs. SECKER, of Widford, Burford, advertised
a household servant capable of undertaking a small dairy, suggesting
the lands near the Manor were used for pasture, much as they are now.
[Jackson's Oxford Journal (Oxford, England), Saturday, October 9, 1869;
In August 1891 one Mr SECKER of Widford spent
9 guineas at auction on the purchase of Cotswold Rams. [Jackson's
Oxford Journal (Oxford, England), Saturday, August 1, 1891; Issue 7219.]
In 2006 the mill was in the process of being converted for
type of use. The village may originally have had two mills, however the
only one that now survives is the structure shown above. At
point a mill in Widford was operating as a Fulling Mill, it was
then converted to a Paper Mill and
the Hatton Family, In their book, Paper Making in
Little Barrington (Tolsey Paper No 7, The
Tolsey museum, 1996), Basil Harley & R T Holmes explain how it
relatively easy to convert a mill from the process of fulling to that
of paper making.
On the 1st
series OS maps only the building above is shown and it is described as
Mill. I have spoken to one person who informed me that in more recent
times this building had been used by a plastic traffic cone
manufacturer (though I
have as yet been unable to verify this information). Mill Race House
in 2002 for around £365,000 and in 2006 Mill Race House was
The Widford Mill Management Company.
The sundial below is on the south wall of the Mill. There is also a
victorian post box set in the wall.
about this mill and the people connected with it can be found on
The manor farm is set on the valley side. At the time when the HATTON
family were in Widford the SECKER family occupied the Manor.
St Oswold's Church
The tiny church of St Oswold is beautifully set above the river but
unfortunately now suffering from a spring that has changed its course.
Inside there are boxed pews (one of which with early 19th C
grafitti), wall paintings and one or two plaques. The church has roman
mosaic tiles in the floor, though at the time of my visit (2006) they
were covered to prevent further looting of tessera.
The wall paintings depict the cautionary
tale of the Three living and the three dead ('As you are, so we: and as
so you will be, wealth honour and power are of no value at the hour of
your death.') and St Christopher crossing the river. The former is one
of the earliest depictions in the country and said to date to the early
part of the 14th C (Aberth 2001, 203). The SECKER
family were major local landowners and the mill
owning HATTON family married into the Secker family. John
daughter Elizabeth married John SECKER. They are both mentioned in the
memorial shown below. The altar table was given in memory of the SECKER
family (see below).
Capp's Lodge (aka Cap's Lodge)
The Lodge no longer exists.
It belonged to Widford but was situated between Burford and Shipton
upon Cherwell and about 2 Km north of the village. Under a license
granted in 43 Eliz (circa. 1600/1), Harman JOHNSON alienated 50 acres
of waste, Widdley Copse, and Cap's Lodge (then called Potter's) to John
and Rowland LACY (Fosbrooke 1807, Vol 2, pg 538)
The HATTON family
The HATTON family at one time appear to have owned (or
leased) the mill and used it for paper making. There is more detail
about them on the Widford
page. Several of them are buried
at nearby Swinbrook,
The SECKER family
SECKER family came to Widford from Cambridgeshire with Henry SECKER
(c1744-1816) and his wife Anne (nee FRANCIS, c1740-1821). The SECKER
Family were lords of the manor and Henry's heir John SECKER
(c1775-1833) married Elizabeth HATTON, daughter of John
Widford Mill (see above). Several
mention the family (more details below). When, in 1810, Charles LODER produced a sale
catalogue for the 1700 acre Swinbrook Estate, John SECKER was involved
as occupant of some of the premesis [ORO Pickford/I/i/4].
In 1812 John SECKER entered into a lease for the lands with
their new owner Lord REDERSDALE [ORO Pickford/I/i/5].
In 1832 Esther WHITE (nee HATTON, wife of Edward Skeat WHITE) of London
Road, Reading, wrote to her brother [in-law] SECKER (presumably John)
concerning their Mother's Will [ORO Pickford/I/i/13]. This was probably
the Will of Sarah HATTON
(c1760-1830), John's Mother-in-law, who died in Swallowfield
Berks just south of Reading. Both Swallowfield
and the SECKER family had links with the surname PITT as Henry PITT of
Burford, Surgeon was one trustee of John SECKER's Will. John SECKER
died in a tragic riding accident, resulting in a trial for
Manslaughter in which the accused were aquited [ORO Pickford/I/i/15].
The report of this incident was carried in Jacksons Oxford Journal, and reads as follows:
Burford, Sep 19.
We have unhappily to to record a very
serious accident (occasioning the loss of life within two or three
hours afterwards), which befel [sic] a most highly respectable and worthy
farmer, Mr. Secker, of Widford, near this place, who has left twelve
orphan children to deplore his death. He was returning, as usual, early
from market, on Saturday evening last, when he was ridden against and
thrown from his horse with such violence as to cause an irremediable
concussion of the brain. An inquest was held upon the body on Tuesday
morning before Mr. Mountain, of Cirencester, one of the coroners for
Gloucestershire, and a very respectable Jury of that county, at which
the following evidence was adduced:-
Mr James Hale, of Minster Lovel,
deposed that he was in company with the deceased, riding a foot pace,
going home from Burford market, last Saturday evening, about 7 o'clock.
They were overtaken by John and William Mastin, in Widford Lane (about
100 yards from Mr. William Hart's paper mill,) who were going at racing
pace, and he and the deceased got on each side of the road to let them
pass: Wm. Mastin's horse ran violently against the horse of the
deceased, which threw him off, when deponent alighted to his succor.
William Mastin also stopped and expressed sorrow for the accident, but
John Mastin galloped on some way, yet afterwards returned. Just
previous to their coming up first, he had heard the smack of a lash
whip, and the cry of Tally-ho." After the accident, when John Mastin
returned, deponent spoke of his misconduct in riding so fast, when he
said, "What have you to do with it?" and offered to fight him. Mr. Wm.
Hart, Rich. Kilmaster, and John Robins, then came to the place, and got
a chair and took deceased in it up to his own house (about 400 yards
distant.) He tried to walk, but could not. William Mastin appeared
pretty sober, but John Mastin was drunk. Deponent staid at the house of
the deceased till nearly nine-o'clock, and then went home.
Wm. Robins examined - Was labourer to
the deceased: whilst taking up some potatoes last Saturday evening,
about seven o'clock, near Widford Lane, heard some horses galloping as
fast as they could along the road; looked up and saw his master's horse
going home without the saddle; caught it and gave it to his young
master, who was near, and who, saying "William, there must be something
the matter," got upon it, and rode it towards Burford. He soon beckoned
to me, and I followed and saw the deceased, sitting down on the
road-side, not far from Mr. Hart's mill: Mr. Hale and Wm. and John
Mastin were there. Asked deceased if he was hurt bad, when John Mastin
said, "What business is it of your's?" I replied, "I have a right to
take my master's part." Told John Mastin he had cracked the whip
several times; he said "he had only twice." Helped his master home in
J. J. Ansell, of Burford, Esq. examined
- Was riding last Saturday evening, about a quarter before seven
o'clock, between Burford and Widford. Met deceased and another person
riding gently. Afterwards met two persons riding fast, and got out of
their way; believes them to be the two Mastins. Said to Mr. Mills, who
was riding with me, "they are riding too fast." He replied "it is a
pity young men should ride so random;" observed "what can you expect of
young men who do not know themselves?" Soon after they passed heard a
William Mills, of Burford, baker,
corroborated the evidence of the last witness; and spoke to the
deceased and Mr. Hale, whom he had accompanied on foot part of the way
home, and then returned with the former witness, being both very steady
and sober. Met the Mastins going at a great pace.
Jane Blunsdean - Am servant to Mr.
Higgins, of the Roebuck Inn, near Burford. Know the Mastins; met then
Saturday evening racing, and was obliged to get away out of the road.
Mr. Pytt, surgeon, Burford, examined -
Was sent for to attend the deceased at about eight o'clock last
Saturday evening; found him sitting in Widford Lane, with symptoms
indicating a fatal injury to the brain; had him taken home in a chair,
and staid with him till a little past 11 o'clock, when he died. A fall
will occasion that. Have no doubt of its being the cause of his death.
Thos. Fortnam, of South Lawn Lodge,
examined - John Mastin came into Mr. Howse's, of Swinbrook, where I was
at the harvest home, about eight o'clock Saturday evening last; said he
and his brother had been racing; he beat his brother, who had run
against Mr. Secker, and hurt him; that they had gone home with him, but
the family would not let him go in; was very angry at it; offered to
race me for 5/., 10/. or 15/. with any horse I had got.
Here the evidence concluded, and after
a recapitulation of it by the coroner, the Jury immediately, and
unanimously, brought the verdict of "Manslaughter" against both John
and William Mastin. They are natives of Swinbrook, and were returning
to their father's house. A warrant was issued for their apprehension.
The offense is not bailable, except before a Judge.
Journal (Oxford, England), Saturday,
September 21, 1833; Issue 4195. "Burford, Sep 19."
"Saturday evening last" according to the calender for 1833 was the 14th
Sept. The Mastins were subsequently tried at Gloucester Assizes,
where they were both acquitted. [The Bristol Mercury (Bristol, England), Saturday, April 12, 1834; Issue 2303.]
was probably John SECKER or one of his brothers who was the
constable referred to in an article by S. E Waller concerning an
incident in 1781, quoted in 1899, and
concerning the capture of two highwaymen, who were part of the gang of
Thomas and Henry DUNSDON, who 'infested' the Forest of Wychwood at that
time. I reproduce a section of this below.
HOW FAMOUS HIGHWAYMEN WERE
Whit Sunday, 1781, when a village festival was being held, and a
distribution of forest venison was taking place, Henry and Thomas
DUNSDON joined the crowd of villagers and sightseers, many of the
latter country gentlemen. A move was made later on for Capp's Lodge.
The Dunsdons had ridden over from their cave at Tangley Wood: and
though they were known to the landlord, the whole neighbourhood was in
such terror of their name, that the worthy thought it wisest to hold
his tongue. Anyhow the robbers were sufficiently well dressed and had
enough money to take a part in the gambling scene in the Summer House,
where play was kept up till nearly daybreak. Whether the DUNSDONs were
unlucky at play on this occasion, we know not; but they stayed on,
evidently with some purpose, until four o'clock in the morning. A
suspicion arose that they had accomplices without, and an effort was at
length made to eject them. After some words and blows, William HARDING,
the tapster, closed with Henry DUNSDON. DUNSDON shot him without a
word. The shot broke HARDING's arm. He still held on, and DUNSDON drew
a second pistol, putting the bullets or slugs in HARDING's breast. At
that moment PERKINS, and ostler, ran up and tripped DUNSDON's feet from
under him; then, picking up one of the discharged pistols which Henry
had thrown to the ground, he turned on Thomas DUNSDON, who had run to
his brother's assistance with loaded weapons, and knocked him senseless
by a blow to the head. Thomas with returning consciousness tried to aid
Henry in killing HARDING outright. The landlord now joined in the
struggle, which lasted some time. When all were on the ground together.
Henry DUNSDON, who was the undermost, drew a third pistol from his
tail-coat pocket, and fired at point blank at the landlord. A quantity
of half pence in mine host's apron pocket turned the shot. Constable
SECKER, of Widford, was sent for, and both the men were at last
secured. The robbers were tried, convicted, and, I believe, executed at
Gloucester, and even condemned, in addition, to have their bodies
gibbeted on the scene of their crimes. After execution, the brothers
were hanged in chains on an oak tree in Wychwood Forest.'
[The Belfast News-Letter
(Belfast, Ireland), Saturday, June 17, 1899; Issue 26168.]
Capp's Lodge, is off the A361 between Burford and Shipton. Although
within Wychwood Forest, belonged to Widford and
by ancient custom the inhabitants of Burford assembled there yearly to
choose a lord and lady. [Rudge, 1803, 203]
The Wychwood Brewery web site claims 'An Old Oak in a field near The
Farmer Inn, called Capp's Lodge has the
initials H.D and T.D carved into its bark and the date
1728' [http://www.wychwood.co.uk, accessed 12 Feb 2009]
the early 19th-century the SECKER family held extensive farmlands in
1908, several references to a Mr SECKER of Witney (Witney, Oxon
is the largest nearby town) appear in a
government agricultural report. At that time the management for
stone-brash land was
recommended as a seven year rotation to fit in with 21 year
(Board of Agriculture, 1809, 70). Mr Secker was approximating
that and using: 1. turnips 'fed with sheep'; 2.
Seeds 'mown, red and white clover, ray and trefoil'; 4: seeds, 'fed';
5. wheat, 'on one earth'; 6. oats, 'or pease, or vetches; one seventh
of the whole under sainfoil.' (Board of Agriculture, 1809, 117).
also know that 'Mr. Coburn of Witney and Mr. Secker, drill
their corn except what is dibbled : his wheat at nine inches across the
lands, as with beans ; some at twelve inches, and yields heavier corn,
but not so much in quantity : he is clear his crops are quite as good
as broad-cast ones, with the advantage of the land being kept clean by
hoeing. Mr. Secker was the first who drilled here ; uses the Vale of
Evesham drill and scuffler' (Board of Agriculture, 1809, 137).
Secker, of Witney, has ploughed, his turnip land once, and then
scuffled in the seed, and thus got the best [Barley] crops' (Board of
Agriculture, 1809, 154) . 'Swedes are much cultivated about Witney. Mr.
Coburn has this year a very fine crop : both he and Mr. Secker approve
them highly, as they are of excellent use in the spring.' (Board of
Agriculture, 1809, 180) .
'Mr. Seeker [sic] has one seventh of his arable under this [sanfoin]
grass, which, upon poor stonebrash, he thinks more
profitable than the common tillage course ; but not so on
better soils' (Board of Agriculture, 1809, 199).
Coburn and Secker, of Witney, both use dung (the former for wheat, the
latter for turnips) of the last winter and summer ; not laid in heaps,
unless it wants it ; and, in general, use it in a much longer state
than common : they both think, that by keeping it till rotten, much is
Around Burford many of the farmers used teams of Oxen, 'Mr. Seeker
[sic], of Witney,' works them successfully,
and thinks that four in a plough will do as much work as four horses :
Mr. Coburn is of the same opinion ; but
upon entering more particularly into the question of the
comparison, I did not find that either of them had
fully made up their minds upon this point' (Board of Agriculture, 1809,
'Mr. Secker and Mr. Coburn, of Witney, have a mixture of the Leicester,
but do not take it often, as
that breed lessens the wool and gives a smaller carcass, but brings
them to fatten at a younger age than if all
Gloucester blood. Shear hogs weigh 22 lb. to 241b. a quarter, and clip
five to a tod ; folds a little on the open
field but more to keep them from straying than from any approbation of
the system' (Board of Agriculture, 1809, 313-314).
1880, one Miss SECKER of Widford attended a Bachelor's Ball at Morton
on the Marsh, Oxon. [Jackson's Oxford Journal (Oxford, England),
Saturday, February 21, 1880; Issue N/A.]
Draft SECKER descendants tree