Archaeologia Volume 37 On the Forest of Wychwood

Archaeologia Volume 37 On the Forest of Wychwood is in Archaeologia Volume 37.

By an Inquisition taken at Burford in the 17th year of Charles the First1, the bounds of Wychwood Forest were found to be the same as those of the 20th of James the First, beginning at a place commonly called Wittall, in the south corner of a field called Walcot Field, near the wall of Cornbury Park, and proceeding thence by the said wall to a place called Patchill-gate-corner, and so by the said wall to a coppice called Padise Coppice, and so by the hedge and ditch called Padise Hedge to the field called Lurden Field ; thence to Eight Acres, Rode-gate, Bene Hedge, otherwise Bennet's Hedge, and Gaddingate. Thence by the King's way to Ramsden Heath, otherwise Hulwerk, leading from the town of Woodstock towards Burford to the lake called Duckpool ; and so by the way to the place called Five Oak or the Wyseoke, to Dock Slad, Bynett, or Dock Slad end ; and so by the way to the entrance of the village of Field," commonly called Studlye or Stodlye. Thence to Little , Sarte, to King's Sarte, Grasseclosse, and Hatching-lane Gate; and so by the ditch to Hollow Oak Close as far as Hasill Stile. Thence to Holland Lane, Field Green Gate, Cow Close Corner, to the Hore Stone in Gadley. Thence to Cleysart Corner, and so by the boundary and ditch called Cleysart Hedge to Gadley Gate ; and so by the ditch to Watcham Sarte b Hedge to Loborow or Loneburie Corner. Thence by the road between the wood of the king and the copse called Loborow or Loneburie to Lillies Cross. Thence to Fordwell Bottom, or Duckpool Bottom, or Sukedene, by the ancient boundary stones. Then by the way leading to Burford, to Puntus, or Punbas Corner ; and so by the way called the Mere way, between the wood of the king and Westgrove Coppice to Rowstidge Corner. Thence by the way called Rowstidge way, between the wood of the king and Rowstidge Coppice, and the wood called Hengrove to the Elder Stump and Ladyham Corner d in Hengrove. Then to the cross in South Lawn called Tudvin, or Tudhill Cross, and so between the woods called Tainton "Woods and the wood of the king, including the house called Burford Launde Lodge. Thence in a direct line to the stone called Frethelestone2, and so far as the gate called Frethelestone Hatch, or Shippen Gate. Thence to the angle commonly called Langley Corner by the wall called Langlcy Wall, as far as the place called Langley Pound. Thence to Langley Gate, Furfield Corner, to Shakenhoe," or Forsakenhook, or Cutchatch Gate. Thence to Priestgrove's Corner and Priestgrove's End to Ball's Acre, excluding all the bounds and metes last mentioned on the left hand. Thence between the wood of the king called Shakenhoe, and the copse called Priestgrove, to the Hore Stone, and so to "Woofield Green, otherwise Priestgrove Lawn, between the wood of the king called Bun- stock and another wood of the king called Kingswood, and a wood called Boynall, to Kingswood Stile ; and so as far as the place called Braswell, or Brastenhall Point, or Corner ; and so between the wood of the king and the field of the village of Ascot as far as Braswell Gate to Smallstone Corner and Smallstone Stile. Thence to Hawkcwell Bottom, and so by the hedge and ditch of the field of Chilston to Waddon Green ; and so between the wood of the king and Kington Coppice. Thence to Cockshoot Hill, to the angle called Cockshoot Hill Corner ; then by the hedge to Nighton Coppice ; thence by the way called the Mere way, between the wood of the king and the said coppice called Nighton Coppice to Bigfjersden Gate, New Cross Gate, or Dampoole Gate, Littlewade's Gate, or "Walcot Gate ; and so by the hedge and ditch to the place first named, namely Wittall Stile.

Note 1. See original in Appendix, No. 2.

Note 2. This ancient boundary stone (Frithwaldes stan ?) is mentioned in the Perambulation of the 28th Edward I. On my search for it I was shown the spot where, until the disafforesting, it had long lain prostrate. It has been lately broken up to niiike the newly-formed roads in this district ! The " Hore tone," near this spot, is cracked in several places, and is doubtless doomed to perish in the same manner. Hundreds of our ancient land-marks have in this way disappeared within the memory of man !

Having thus traced the ancient and modern limits of the forest of Wychwood, I shall proceed to notice some of the more remarkable remains of antiquity which lie within, or adjacent to, its precincts. I confine my remarks to those of the earlier periods, leaving its mediaeval antiquities to more competent hands. Its interesting churches are described in the publications of the Oxford Society for promoting the study of Gothic architecture.

And first of the village near Woodstock called Bladen. This, as already shown, was, up to the end of the thirteenth century, the name given to the stream now known as the Evenlode ; and the fact that it was also the earliest name by which Malmsbury, as well as the stream by which that town was watered, were designated, seems to furnish strong presumptive evidence that the now obscure village of Bladen was once a British town. The camp called " Round castle," on the hill, a little more than half a mile south-east of the village, may have been connected with it, a place of refuge in time of danger.

" The Devil's Quoits " at Stanton Harcourt. In a field about half a mile N.W. of the village of Stanton Harcourt are three large stones, set upright in the ground. Their dimensions, proceeding from south to north, are as follows:

There is a tradition in the neighbourhood that the northernmost stone, No. 3, was once removed by an occupier of the land, and laid across a water-course, where it served as a bridge over which waggons and carts for some time passed, and that it was restored to its old locality at the request of one of the Hai-court family. A groove in this stone, eight inches from the top, seven inches in width, and about three inches deep, is believed to have been caused by the wheels of the vehicles when it lay prostrate. The situation of this group is indicated in Speed's map of Oxfordshire, on which six stones are depicted, but they are called the Rollright Stones, and are apparently confounded with the well-known circle bearing that name, situated a short distance north of the town of Chipping Norton.

An examination of the ground on which these remains stand, might probably enable us to form an opinion as to the object of their erection. From the relative position of the stones they appear to have once formed a circle of nearly nine hundred yards diameter. That such was their form appears also from the name of the village (A. S. Stán-Tún, i. e. the Stone Inclosure) near which they stand.a

Accounts of the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon antiquities, recently discovered at Stanlake and at Brighthampton, have been read to the Society in the present session.

Note a. These stones also gave the name to the village of Stanlake, the modern orthography being obviously corrupt. The name is spelt without the d in the Rot. Hundr. temp. Ed. I.

Tumulus near Crawley [Crawley Long Barrow [Map]]. About half-way between the high road from Witney to Burford, and the village of Crawley, on the west side of the lane leading into the village, are the remains of what was once a barrow of considerable dimensions. It is one of the class termed by antiquaries Long Barrows. A considerable portion (nearly one-half) was removed some years ago, when several skeletons were laid bare, but no relics of any kind were discovered. On measuring the remaining portion, it was found to be 107 feet long, by 83 feet wide. By permis- sion of Mr. Stratton, the tenant of the land, I employed two labourers here for one day only, with a view to ascertain, if possible, the period at which this tumulus was formed, reserving its more complete examination for some future opportunity.

We commenced by an opening on the cast side which had already been recently broken into for the purpose of obtaining stone, on which occasion several skeletons, I was informed, had been discovered lying just below the surface. After clearing a vast number of stones, which had been dislodged by the excava- tions in question, we discovered, what did not appear from the general aspect of the mound, that the tumulus stood upon a rock, and was, in fact, much shallower than was suspected, being formed almost entirely of stone. The excavations were accordingly continued towards the centre, when three skeletons were found lying east and west, two of them of individuals in the prime of life, and the third apparently that of a woman who had attained a considerable age, the molar teeth being absent, and the alveolar processes being completely closed. These skeletons were lying nearly in contact with each other. They were well protected by some of the largest stones, placed over them with great care, so that the frames of the pelvis were not crushed, the pubic bones being entire. At the waist of one of them was a small bronze buckle, less than an inch in diameter, to which some decayed substance, resembling leather, still adhered. It was probably the fastening of a girdle.a Not a vestige of any other relic was observed, nor could I learn that anything had been found previously.

I am disposed to ascribe this and similar barrows to the later Romano-British period. A careful examination of the portion which remains may possibly test the soundness of this conjecture. The interments assimilate to many others which have come under my notice in the south of England.

Note a. This object is now in the Ashmolean Museum.

Astall Barrow. The situation of this tumulus is shown on the map. It is planted with a thick clump of trees, the roots of which have doubtless by this time destroyed the remains it was designed to protect.a

Note a. This pernicious practice of planting ancient tumuli with trees has destroyed their characteristic appear- ance in many places in England. The far-famed cromlech known as Wayland Smith's Cave (Archaeologia, vol. xxxii. pi. xvii.) has long since been shrouded from view by a belt of firs ; and the stone circle called Rollright [Map] is filled with a plantation of the same trees, which, as their roots expand, will infallibly dislocate the group.

Shipton Barrow is another large tumulus on the downs above the village of , that name. Like that at Astall it is planted with trees.

Leafield Barrow, in the village of Leafield, is likewise planted with trees, which form a conspicuous object for miles around. It bears evident marks of having been assailed by treasure seekers.

There are other barrows within the forest, which, it is to be hoped, may be explored in the course of the next summer by some person accustomed to such researches. That on Lychale Plain has been assailed. The situation of the rest are indicated on the map, with the exception of a large stone-chambered tumulus at Slate Pits [Map]. This last, however, was plundered by one of the keepers, a few years since.

The Hoar Stone [Map], near Enstone. This interesting monument, which gives the name to two villages in its neighbourhood, is a ruined cromlech. It stands near the three-mile stone north of the town of Charlbury, and is now protected by a stone fence from further injury. The antiquary will require no proofs of its remote age, of which the designation Hoar Stone is the best voucher. The frequent mention of hoar stones in land-limits prior to the Norman Conquest shows that our Saxon ancestors respected these monuments and adopted them as land-marks;b and it favours the supposition that they found these ancient sepulchres already desecrated and ruined on their arrival in this country.

Note b. Vide Codex Dipl. JEvi Saxon, passim.

Roman remains have been discovered at "Wilcote, at Fawler, and at Ditchley.c But the most remarkable evidence of the Roman occupation of this district is the Roman villa near North Leigh. An account of this discovery, which was first made in the year 1713, is given by Hearne in the preface to the eighth volume of Leland's Collectanea. The floors are said to have been found covered with charred wood and corn. In 1780 further discoveries were made on this site, when drawings and plans were taken of the remains by Mr. Lewington, of Wood- stock. These have long been preserved among the Society's topographical collections.

The following is Cough's account in his additions to Camden's Britannia:

"At Stunsfield, a small village two miles from "Woodstock, was found, in 1713, a large and entire Roman pavement, 35 feet by 20, not above two feet under ground, covered with burnt wood and corn, in part of a field called Chesthill Acre, a rising ground half a furlong from the Ikeneild way. In the middle of one of the compartments was, in a circle, the figure of Apollo or Bacchus, holding a thyrsus in his left, and elevating a flaggon in his right hand, and bestriding a tiger or dragon. The other compartment was square, inclosing an ornamented circle of wreath-work, a border of which went round the whole within another border of lattice- work. It has been since destroyed, except some of the borders under the Apollo, and part of the corners. In 1780 was discovered, adjoining to the middle of one of its longest sides, another room, 19 feet 10 inches by 19 feet 11. At the same time was opened here a room 12 feet square, and on the opposite side of the larger room, another, 12 feet square. Above this last was an liypocaust of brick, and just at one corner thereof, a bath 6 feet -4 inches by 5 feet 1, 3 feet deep, with leaden pipes in the sides, which were 18 inches thick, covered with plaster painted red. All the rooms except the liypocaust and bath have beautiful pavements of wreathed and other work. Roman coins, from Vespasian to the Lower Empire, were found here, with fragments of earthen vessels, burnt bones of men and animals, melted lead and iron, and various masses of calcined matter. Part of the hypocaust had been seen at the first discovery in 1713."

Note c. Mr. William Taylor, of Charlbury, possesses a fragment of a cup of Samian ware, with the Potter's mark TAVRICI, and several coins of the later Roman emperors, dug up at Fawler. At Ditchley, Roman remains are frequently turned up by the plough.

Many confused accounts, besides that here quoted, have been given of these remains. In the first place they are given to Stuntesfield ; but they lie in fact about midway between that town and the village of North Leigh, a short distance from the south bank of the Evenlode. Their being ascribed to Stuntesfield is, probably, owing to a discovery of a Roman pavement at a short distance east of the town, of which no particulars are recorded. On my visit to Stuntesfield I learnt that it had been totally destroyed. A reference to the map will show that the site of the pavements at North Leigh is not accurately described by Gough, who appears to have relied on the descriptions of others.

The very elaborate drawings now exhibited leave us in no doubt as to the identity of the figure on the principal pavement. It is plainly that of Bacchus, holding the cantharus and the thyrsus, and seated sideways on a panther, not "bestriding" it.

In the years 1813 1816, further researches were made at North Leigh, the result of which will be found in a notice by Mr. Henry Hakewill, inserted in Skelton's Illustrations of the Antiquities of Oxfordshire.