Genealogy Notes for the Lost Village of Widford, Oxfordshire (formerly Gloucestershire)
A miscellany of pictures and data arising out of research into the KIRBY's family trees (but not all linked to them). This is a work in progress so please treat the data with appropriate caution.
For related information see List, Place Index and Wills Index

Location and general description

View east as one approaches St Oswolds Church, Widiford
Until 1844 the tiny Parish of Widford (once united with Swinbrook, Oxon) was part of the Slaughter Hundred of Gloucestershire, though it is now in Oxfordshire.

Today, little remains of the village except the tiny 13th-century St 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, larger, settlement.

The settlement of Widford's name is from the old English 'withig ford' meaning '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.

There 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 Widford), reports 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 emptied 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).

The early dating of a wall painting in the church, of the three dead 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) the advowson of Widford, Glos, along with other lands including the rectory of Burford, Oxon, the chapelry of Fulbrook, Oxon 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 " 

During 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 to 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 and park comprehend the greatest part of the parish. Population, 36 [in about 1700]— 20 [in about 1770] —40 [in 1801]. Houses inhabited, 8. The benefice is a rectory, in Stow deanery, in the patronage of Mr. Fettiplace. The advowson passed with the manor. William Montague, A. M. is incumbent.'

In 1819 John Paffit of Taynton, Oxon. 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.
View North across the Windrush to St Oswold's Church, Widiford
The 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.

In October 1869 one Mrs. SECKER, of Widford, Burford, advertised for 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; Issue 6076.]

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.]


Widford Mill (see also the Widford Papermill page)

In 2006 the mill was in the process of being converted for some other type of use. The village may originally have had two mills, however the only one that now survives is the structure shown above. At some point a mill in Widford was operating as a Fulling Mill, it was then converted to a Paper Mill and operated by 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 was relatively easy to convert a mill from the process of fulling to that of paper making.
 Widford Mill from the East Widford Mill viewed from the West Widford Mill
On the 1st series OS maps only the building above is shown and it is described as a Corn 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 was sold in 2002 for around 365,000 and in 2006 Mill Race House was the registered address of 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.
Sundial on the wall of the mill

More details about this mill and the people connected with it can be found on the Widford Papermill page.

Manor Farm

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 is 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 interior of St Oswolds St Oswald's, Widford St Oswald's Church, Widford Wall paintings at St Oswald's Church, Widford Wall paintings at St Oswald's Church, Widford

The wall paintings depict the cautionary tale of the Three living and the three dead ('As you are, so we: and as we are, 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 HATTON's 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).
The Secker memorial plaque at Widford St Oswald's Church, Widford

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 Papermill page. Several of them are buried at nearby Swinbrook, Oxon.

The SECKER family

The 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 HATTON of Widford Mill (see above). Several monumental inscriptions from Widford 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 the chair.
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 whip smack.
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.
Jackson's Oxford 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.]

It 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 Richard, Thomas and Henry DUNSDON, who 'infested' the Forest of Wychwood at that time. I reproduce a section of this below.
'On 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' [, accessed 12 Feb 2009]

By the early 19th-century the SECKER family held extensive farmlands in the area.
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 leases (Board of Agriculture, 1809, 70). Mr Secker was approximating to that and using: 1. turnips 'fed with sheep'; 2. Barley; 3. 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).
We also know that 'Mr. Coburn of Witney and  Mr. Secker, drill all 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).
'Mr. 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).
Messrs. 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 lost' (261)
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, 294).
'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).

In 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.

Monumental inscriptions

A selection of monumental inscriptions from St Oswold’s Church in Widford, Oxfordshire
Transcribed by Bob Kirby, 11/Apr/2006  (revised 12/Jul/2011)

1. John & Elizabeth Secker and their son Alfred

Type and Location: White marble plaque on the north wall of the Nave.
Condition: Excellent
In memory of John Secker who died on 14 Sep 1833 aged 58 years 
He was the only Son of the late Henry and Anne Secker and left 6 Sons and 6
Daughters surviving him
Also Elizabeth his wife who died on 6 Sept 1825 in the 45th
 year of her age
Also of Alfred their Son who died on 23rd
 July 1834 in the 22nd
 year of his age
Notes: From other evidence it appears that his wife Elizabeth was Elizabeth Hatton,
daughter of John & Sarah Hatton 

2. Charles Hubert & Lily Secker 

Type and Location: One of the few stones in the churchyard.
Condition: Good
Charles Hubert Secker
Husband of Lily
Eldest Son of
Percival and Alice Secker
And Grandson of Charles and Elizabeth Secker
Of Widford Manor
Died 26 Jan 1966
Aged 77
Also his wife Lily
Died 10 March 1981
Aged 88

3. Henry & Anne Secker

Type and Location: A large horizontal slab to the North of the church.
Condition: Weathered
Lie the remains of
Henry Secker
Who departed this life *****
Sep 16 1810 [The date of Henry’s will suggests that 10 should possible read 16]
Aged 82 Years
Also of Anne his wife
Who departed this life
Oct 20 1821
Aged 81 years

4. Gerald John Field Secker 

Type and Location: One of the few stones in the churchyard.
Condition: Excellent
In loving memory of
Gerald John Field Secker
Died 10 Dec 1980
Aged 83 years
Also his wife
Ellen Died 4 May 1989
Aged 89 years

Related links

A selection of links to other sites with information about this place


Information for this page has been taken from various sources including:
 I should also like to acknowledge the assistance of  Jean Stirk of the British Association of Paper Historians who provided some of the data on this and the related Paper Makers of Widford page.

Any transcripts and images on this page are Copyright R I Kirby 2007 unless stated otherwise.