Page 4 - Moreton Village Only Book
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4 Moreton Village Only
            4 Moreton Village Only

                        parts of much larger estates, were small bargaining pawns on the chessboards of power
                        and influence. In 1071, part of Moreton was in the domain of the Bishop of Dorchester
                        and by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, the See of Dorchester had been combined
                        with the See of Lincoln and the Domesday Book records that the Bishop of Lincoln
                        “held” Thame (which included Moreton) for the King.

                           However, the Bishop owned only 37/60ths of Moreton, the remaining 23/60ths were
                        held by a Norman knight – Hugh de Braimuster – who had his principal home at Bledlow
                        Manor. Hugh went on Crusade to the Holy Land between 1160 and 1180 and Moreton
                        passed to his son Odo who confirmed the arrangement with the Bishop. An early tenant in
                        Moreton (pre 1146) was one Osmund de Moreton who was succeeded, in turn, by Geoffrey
                        de Moreton (described in the records of 1150 as “Hugh de Braimuster’s man”), William de
                        Moreton and Walter de Moreton. Geoffrey de Moreton was well connected and pretty
                        canny – he gave Thame Abbey a “hide” of land (about 120 acres) on condition that during
                        his life or until he became a monk, the Abbey should give him every year “a certain amount
                        of grain, 2s.2d. (about £0.11) for his hose and shoes and allow him a calf and a half”.

                           The de Moreton’s (literally “of Moreton” from the time when names were the given
                        name followed by where they lived or their occupation – e.g. “William the Conqueror”
                        “Osbert the Cooper”) seem to have been the principal tenants of the de Braimusters until
                        well into the 1300’s but with the majority of the land still owned by the Bishop. Although
                        the main ecclesiastical centre of the time was Thame Abbey (long since gone) the Bishop
                        lived in some splendour in Thame Park where there was also a monastery and a thriving
                        academic community of monks.

                           In the Middle Ages, knights often performed military service in return for holding land.
                        Sir Nicholas de Segrave held the largest estate in Moreton for the Bishop and gave military
                        service to the king on behalf of the Bishop. There was no “army” in those days, the king
                        simply called up his nobles, his knights and his retainers and their men at arms and formed
                        an ad hoc army. Military service on behalf of church prelates was provided by knights and
                        barons in lieu of paying rent for land. There is no further reference to the de Segraves but by
                        1397 the estate had passed, through marriage, to a brother of the Duke of Norfolk.

                           Moreton continued as a small feudal backwater, no doubt paying its taxes in the form of
                        tithes to the church, until the mid 1500’s when it was time for the village to change hands
                        again. With the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, the outlawing of the Catholic
                  MS. Gough Gen. Top 16 (detail) – reproduction by permission of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
                        church and the dawn of Protestantism in England, Henry could not wait to get his greedy
                        hands on the rich church lands and their lucrative incomes to reward the nobles who had
                        supported him against the Pope in his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The value of
                        church lands and property was assessed and Moreton came out at £46.16.0d (£46.80). One
                        of Henry VIII’s loyal retainers was Lord Williams and Henry gave him Moreton along with
                        Thame Park, Tetsworth and North Weston. The estates may have briefly passed through the
                        hands of Lord Somerset (“Protector Somerset” of the future boy king Edward VI) but Lord
                        Williams was the principal beneficiary of Henry’s largesse at the expense of the church.

                           Lord Williams was a royal official who built up a large estate from dissolved monastic
                        lands. He was created Lord Williams of Thame by Queen Mary in 1554 and was an early
                        pioneer of care of the poor and the promotion of education and the secondary school in
                        Thame is named after him. What its pupils and ex-pupils reading this may not know is that
                        he also owned Moreton! Lord Williams died in 1559 and his embalmed body lay in state at
                        Rycote before being buried in the chancel of Thame church. His estates were shared between
                        his daughters – one of whom, Isabella, married Sir Richard Wenman. The other daughter,
                        Margaret, married Lord Norreys. And Moreton had yet another owner! The Wenmans were
                        rich wool merchants from near Witney and inherited the abbey lands in Moreton. They are
                        remembered today by having a road in Thame industrial park named after them! Through
                        the Norrey’s, Moreton eventually became part of the estate of the Bertie’s, Earls of Abingdon.

                           Towards the end of the 1500’s and in the first half of the 1600’s, there appears to have
                        been something of a property building boom in Moreton with many of the properties around
                        the village green and pond in “lower Moreton” having been built between 1590 and 1650.
                        Before this, the properties in Moreton were probably little more than simple structures of
                        mud with straw roofs. By the end of the 16th and 17th centuries, traditional black and white
                        timber-frame cottages constructed with wattle and daub and, in some cases stone, with
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