roman bone intaglio

Roman Bone Intaglio



The Medieval Manor of Wyfold

by Pat Preece

Wyfold was a Medieval manor, the name of which is perpetuated by the name of Wyfold Grange, Wyfold Lane and Wyfold Wood to the south-east of Checkendon. The former mental institution called Borocourt was originally a Victorian mansion built by Hermon Hodge and called by him Wyfold Court. I have a photocopy relating to the Wyfold lands when the estate was up for sale at the beginning of the 20th century and this shows all the woodlands in detail.

Wyfold Grange is probably a direct descendant of the original grange belonging to Thame Abbey and is now a Victorian house surrounded by a major earthwork. The earthwork may be Iron Age in date, or it could possibly represent later defensive works. The former seems more likely.

The manor of Checkendon, to which Wyfold originally belonged, was owned by Wulred, a Saxon, before the Norman Conquest. At the time of Domesday Alfred, the nephew of Wigod (a Saxon who managed to hold on to his lands including Mapledurham), held Checkendon and presumably also Wyfold (1). The next mention is found in the Thame Cartulary when Geoffrey de Iveto, presumably a Norman, holding the manor from the king, had rented all the land of Wyfold and Ruchmareshegge, described as part of Bensington (Benson), to Nigel Chyre for 23s 3d. Bensington was a huge royal manor and there was the Honour of Bensington. An honour was a grouping of several manors under the administration of a lord - in this case under the king - and the honorial courts.

In 1153 Geoffrey de Iveto granted Wyfold and Ruchmareshegge to Thame Abbey. Henry II confirmed the possessions of the abbey, among them Wyfold and Ruchmareshegge, which were still rented by Nigel Chyre. Possibly the abbey was paying 60s 4d for the leasehold to the king, as in 1189 King Richard remitted the payment that the abbey had been paying to his father. The holding was said to be ‘all the land of Wifold and Ruchmareshegge’. What ‘Ruchmareshegge’ comprised is unknown, although nowadays there is a wood called Rumerhedge. Possibly there were also some arable fields and perhaps a small hamlet. We will never know for certain. David Roden says that around 1200 most of Wyfold was still covered by heath and woodland with only small patches of cultivated land (2).

Thame Abbey acquired some more land when William Marmion, lord of part of the manor of Checkendon and Little Stoke, granted half a wood to the abbey - ‘40 acres called Hainge’. It seems probable that this wood is now called Hained in Wood and is part of Basset Wood (3). This name is interesting as it seems to suggest that the land was fenced off: ‘hai’ in Old English or ‘hay’ in Middle English refer to fences or hedges. In 1263 there was a law case when several people conceded all rights to 50 acres of a wood called Hawge (fenced or hedged) Basset, which must have been part of what is now called Basset Wood. This seems to have been as well as the 300 acres which the abbey had next to ‘their grainge at Wyfaud’. The abbot and his men at Wyfaud were to have common of pasture in the woods and ‘maste’ or beech nuts, presumably for their pigs. In the charter of 1263 the abbot was to enclose the woods with ditches and hedges (4). There are some very old-looking banks round the woods nowadays but no hedges.

Interestingly, the entry for ‘Wifaude’ in the Hundred Rolls is different from any other local entry. There were ten tenants who paid rents varying between 3s and 20s for what are described as crofts and groves:

Possibly the crofts mentioned are assarts or pieces of land cleared from the woodland. The groves may be shaws bordering the assarts or coppices that the tenants were renting to cut. My feeling is that here we have freemen who were woodmen. Another possibility is that Peter Cok with his two virgates may have been leasing Pinnocks Field. In a charter of 1230 states that ‘Pinnokes Feld’ belonged to ‘the Abbot and Convent pertaining to the grange of Wifalde’ (6). In the Tithe Award of 1841 there is a Pinnocks Hither Field of 32 acres and a Pinnocks Further Field of 33 acres, both arable. Now, allowing for variation in the size of acres, it may be that those two virgates were Pinnocks Field. This field still exists with a bank and hedge dividing it into two parts. There is a pond between the field and the woods, marked on the Ordnance Survey map as Sheepwash Pond - could this have relevance to the agreement about the right of common in the Thame Cartulary?

The Hundred Rolls lists only two tenants who gave services for the tenancy of their cottages; two others paid rents of 6d and 12d for their cottages. Where did this small population live? Was there a small hamlet or were they scattered, some of them living on their crofts?

The woods in the Medieval period would have been coppices with standards. This is confirmed by an indenture of 1355 about Notepotegrove, which may be the wood now called Nippers Grove. In the charter, the abbey sold ‘the crop of the wood’ for money, not specified, to William de Hilton, John Wyndou and John James, apart from all the trees and undergrowth growing in the ditches and ‘foreign growths’ of those ditches and in the hedges around the wood. This seems a bit strange but perhaps the abbey did not want the ditches and hedges damaged. The purchasers had to agree to fell the wood in reasonable pieces (probably meaning separate coppices) but were allowed to fell ‘the great trees’ (standards), when they pleased up to the end of a ten-year period, when it was to be left so that the abbey could enclose the cleared parts of the wood - presumably to stop the entry of animals until the coppice had grown up (7). The abbey also requested that the wood carts did not do any damage, and we have seen some of that!

The land is described in 1227 as being from the wood of Caverack (Caversham) to the wood of Khakindon (Checkendon) and this is the period when the abbey was still paying rent, in this case 60s (8). Rumerhedge Grove, also of the Wyfold holdings, was a coppice with standards. In 1210 the abbey granted common of pasture to nine people ‘and others in Rumerhagge as they and their ancestors had in the time of King Richard’ (9). The area is described and one point of interest is that it was to go as far as the ‘grove that was Henry Coks’ - was he the son of Peter Cok who had the two groves according to the Hundred Rolls? The name Rumerhagge means ‘hedged rough boundary’. The right of common was on condition that the nine men were to remit the common of pasture in ‘Pinnokesfeld’ to the abbey. These men probably had strips in the field. After harvest, the men of Thame Abbey could put their animals to graze there.

It is thought that at the Dissolution Wyfold was sold off in pieces - some to the Blackall family and some to Pollington, lord of the manor of Checkendon in the 16th century. There is mention about this time of a cottage at the grange of Wyfold (10). Certainly in the 18th century it was called Wyfield Farm and was owned by a family called Ketes or Keats.

The manor mainly consisted of woodland. Today, these are mainly high beech with some oaks. The banks surrounding the woods look Medieval in date as they are wide and spreading. There is a haphazard network of woodways in the woods which also indicates an old wood. Nowadays the woods are unspoilt and are lovely to walk in, particularly in the autumn when the beeches are beautifully coloured.


This article was first published in SOAG Bulletin No.60 (2005). The SOAG Bulletin is published yearly and is free to members.