The Hamlet of Milton: An Introduction

The small Hamlet of Milton is the focal point of the civil parish which consists of 328 hectares (810 acres), mostly of farmland. A sizeable area was requisitioned during the second World War as an airfield and is still occupied by the Ministry of Defence (RAF Barford St John) as an extensive radio communication base. The ground is leased for grazing. The Parish is wedged between Bloxham to the West & North, Adderbury to the East and the Barfords to the South.

Until the formation of civil parish councils in 1894, Milton lay within the ancient ecclesiastical parish of Adderbury which was part of the Bloxham Hundred. A tax roll of 1316 refers to ‘Villa de Abberbury cum Bodicote et Middleton’. Other records show that, in common with many place names during the reign of Edward III a transition to later phonetic spelling took place resulting in Middleton becoming Milton.

In medieval times the Milton lands appear to have been held principally by the Manor of St Amand and the Bishop of Winchester, there being no manor based in Milton itself.

The tax roll of 1334 shows that Middleton (Milton) was assessed for £2 18s 3d as against £2 13s Od for Bodicote and £10 12s 2d for Adderbury village. This indicates the relative population and activity of each settlement. The existence of free tenants at an early stage is indicated by the reference, in 1240, to Richard, the Clerk of Middleton (Milton) whose son, Ralph, included some land in Milton in a grant to the hospital of St John the Baptist in Oxford, and the will of John de Abberbury (note the spelling of the period), who died in 1347. He left his relative Thomas, a piece of land in Middleton yielding 13 shillings and 4 pence (68p) yearly rent from a ‘certain free tenant’. Three years later, a parcel of land at Middleton was given to Wroxton Priory of which William de Abberbury had been Prior for the past 10 years. Historians believe that it is likely that a medieval chapel dependent on the mother church in Adderbury would have existed in Milton as they did in Bodicote and Barford St John. There are, however, no known records of it and it is thought that it was demolished at the time of the Reformation.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Wroxton Abbey lands were obtained by the Bishop of Winchester thus adding to existing holdings, many of which had become part of the endowment of New College in 1381.

The Hamlet has maintained its separate identity throughout the centuries having its own officers, i.e. a Clerk and later an Overseer who frequently is mentioned as having witnessed documents.

There was a strong puritan/non conformist element amongst the population of the Banbury area. Christopher Newell, the ejected Vicar of Bloxham took to meeting with other ‘dissenters’ in Milton in the house in Chapel Lane now known as The Cottage. The house was licensed in 1672 as a Presbyterian/Unitarian meeting place. A few years later a chapel of 3 bays was erected behind it.

Some 150 years ago it had ceased to be used and was demolished. the present Yew Tree Cottage stands adjacent to the site. The Friends movement of Quakers was quite strong around Adderbury during the 17th century but started to decline from 1780. At its height the Maule family of Milton was a leading influence, paying annual fines between 1692 and 1766 for organising meetings and not paying tithes. At this time, nine Quaker families lived in Milton. The Maule Family had a long association with Milton going back to 1638, when William held land, and carrying on until the turn of that century.

A document of 1665 records that Milton consisted of 7 substantial houses and 14 smaller ones. By 1754 an electoral return shows that of 11 free holders of Milton entitled to vote, 7 lived there, suggesting that little building development had taken place during the previous 90 years. They voted Tory 7 to 4! It is known that several of the bigger houses were built in the first half of the 17th century. One of these, ‘The Old House’, has been written up as a classical example of the vernacular architecture of that period.

In 1768 the Open fields of Milton were Enclosed thus changing the agricultural pattern.

By 1786, of 19 Milton landowners only 6 were owner occupiers. A study of church registers indicates that, for the period either side of 1800, the bulk of the population were labourers along with supporting craftsmen (harness workers, shoemakers, and plush weavers). Several women were in service. Of the population of 105 in 1801 some 39 Poor Law support at a cost of £156 raised by a rate of 4 shillings and 2 pence in the pound of rateable value. The support was supplemented by the feoffees.

The Black Boy Inn dates from late-16th century and early-17th century having external evidence of the typical round stairwell of that period. During the 18th century it probably flourished as the now ‘gated’ road from Deddington to Banbury via Milton and on past Way House, as a Bridle-Way was a well-used route to avoid paying the toll on the turnpike at Adderbury. Plans to develop this route into an ‘adopted’ road remained till the late 1800’s.

The present church in Milton, dedicated to St John the Evangelist, was built in 1856/7 after the villagers had complained about the problem of going to Adderbury. New College paid most of the total cost (£1339) having retained Butterfield, who built Keeble College, as architect. It is, as it’s possible medieval predecessor would have been, a Chapel-of-ease to St Mary’s, Adderbury.

The various charities and endowments for the purposes of fostering education locally, the relief of the poor and the repair of the church constitute together the feoffees of Adderbury and Milton. Milton by decree elects 2 of the trustees. In 1811 the feoffees sold some of its land in Milton to raise £203 to redeem land tax. The distribution of the feoffees income contains a requirement for the income in respect of the ‘Town Hook’ to benefit Milton only! The total feoffee contribution to Milton in 1823 was £60 12s. 5 1/ 4d. The feoffees continues to this day.

A copper beach tree – planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee was sited in the green triangle at the entrance to the Hamlet and was removed in recent years due to age. 2 new trees have been planted to mark the Jubilee Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

A later industry to come to Milton was the development of the Ironstone mining for use in smelting. While this was developed principally around Hook Norton, especially after the opening of the Banbury to Cheltenham railway in 1887, further workings were opened at sites convenient to the railway in Adderbury, Milton and Bloxham.

In Milton, the quarry was up the hill to the north of the Hamlet and serviced by a tramway (now a farm road) which connected with rail sidings and engine shed to the north west of the Hamlet. Mining commenced here in 1918 just before the end of the first World War. Work continued actively till 1924 but declined thereafter, finally ceasing in 1929. The quarry served as the municipal rubbish dump for many years till finally being covered over and grassed for pasture. A series of cement block bungalows were built for the ironstone mine workers at the western end of the Hamlet adjacent to Ironstone Farm. These have recently been demolished and replaced by new houses.

The Banbury to Cheltenham railway, having been routed along the north edge of the Hamlet eventually established a Halt here in 1908, thus at one stage, connecting Milton to the wider world by train several times per day. When the Hook Norton viaduct became unsafe the line was finally closed in 1962, although passengers services had ceased earlier, in 1953.

The population of Milton has not varied very much over the years. In 1801 it was 105 rising to 205 in 1831 then falling to 160 in 1921. The censuses of 1981 and 1991 showed 190 and 219 respectively. These latter figures include some 70 or so on a caravan site within the western boundary of the parish. The Hamlet, outwardly, remains virtually unchanged despite often massive development in nearby villages. There has been some ‘in-filling’ and replacement of Ironstone Quarry workers’ bungalows and upgrading of older cottages.

John Cordingley

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