Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

February 2011

This months News



Village History

Shoulder of Mutton Piece

At the end of the eighteenth century the farming and landholding system in England underwent a comprehensive change.  Instead of the medieval open fields, in which villagers had held scattered strips, hedges were planted to create individual fields, enabling holdings to be more compact and farmed more effectively.  These enclosures came to Oxhill in 1797, when the Commissioners, consisting of the major village landholders, the Rector, and two well-established Oxhill yeomen met at the Bell in Halford to deliberate.  (Presumably Halford was chosen as it was on a coaching route for the one or two who came from a distance.)  The resulting awards and plan of the allotments made can be seen in the Warwick Record Office.

One of the fields referred to is of particular interest, both for its distinctive curved shape, and for its aptly descriptive name “Shoulder of Mutton Piece”.  It is no longer a separate field, but now forms part of the long meadow by the brook, (reached by the footpath near the church), where not far down the meadow there is a large flat grassy depression with which many people will be familiar.  Detailed study of the 1797 Plan reveals that trees (presumably willows) then studded the outer edge of this Shoulder of Mutton field on its Tysoe side, going in a wide arc across the present meadow.  It seems likely that they had once fringed an earlier course of the brook, which perhaps took a meandering path here, though the map shows that by 1797 it already had the same straight course as it has today.  Oxhill Mill - which was mentioned in Domesday Book but had gone before 1797 - stood in what are now the grounds of Bilton Cottage, bordering this field.  It is possible that the brook could have been straightened in early times to quicken the current for the mill race, and perhaps the area of Shoulder of Mutton Piece could have subsequently become a pool or part of a series of pools connected with it.  When the mill was finally abandoned, the area could then have been grassed over as pasture.

Shoulder of Mutton Piece was awarded to William Davenport Bromley of Baginton, part of a substantial award of land.  He was the Patron of Oxhill Church, and already a major landowner here.  The Award names no-one as Lord of the Manor, but William Davenport Bromley had been named as such in the Gamekeepers Deputations in 1792.  Historically there had been two manors, (in the sense of major landholdings) in Oxhill in medieval times, although no resident Lord or Lords.  The Shirleys of Ettington, held claim to the other manor lordship, and were also allotted considerable land in 1797.

When Shoulder of Mutton Piece stood alone it lay within Oxhill parish, protruding out into surrounding Tysoe land, but now that that land has engulfed it, it has been absorbed into Tysoe parish.  The fact that it was once in Oxhill gives further weight to the suggestion that the field’s outer edge marked the original course of the brook, since the brook is here the parish boundary.  Old boundaries are customarily retained, even where waterways have had their courses changed, but perhaps in this case this has been forgotten over the centuries.  It seems rather too late for us to march on Tysoe to reclaim it,  though  the cry “Give us back our Shoulder of Mutton!” does have a certain ring!

Ann Hale

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Last modified: February 06, 2011