A Brief History

March 24, 2013 No Comments by Sally Robinson


Pyrton was originally known as Readnora, meaning the red slope – the colour of the hillside in autumn, but the name changed to Pyrton around the 11th century. Pyrton means Pear Tree Farm.  Pyrton Hundred formed one part of the Chiltern Hundreds, which are known for their relevance in the House of Commons.  When an MP takes the Chiltern Hundred he is taking a royal appointment and loses his right to stand as an MP.



The Parish of Pyrton is long and narrow – about 12 miles long, and 1.5 miles at its widest.  It runs from Christmas Common in the south-east to and including Standhill in the North-east. It included four hamlets at one time, Clare, Goldor, Standhill and Stonor,.

In the Victorian History Knightsbridge Lane is mentioned as existing in the Middle Ages, and was the main road through the area.  The name derives from the knights who kept the little footbridge and ford on Haseley Brook. The bridge existed as late as the 18th century.  This road may have had some military significance, as a route from Oxford to the Thames, and it may have been of importance in the Middle Ages as a route from Henley and the Thames to Worcester, via Islip.

Pyrton has benefited from its secluded position and single ownership of the manor from 1781.  When the Victoria County History was written there had been no twentieth century development in the village – though now four houses stand where Magpie Lane stood until it burnt down in 1934. Hall Close was built in the 1978, and a small amount of infill building has taken place.



There has been a parish church on this site since 987AD, when Oswald, Archbishop of York, granted 5 hides (about 600 acres) of land to Pyrton. Around 1100, William Fitnigel, Lord of Pyrton, granted the church to Norton Priory in Cheshire. When Norton Priory was dissolved around 1546, the church, parsonage and about 115 acres of land were granted to ChristchurchCollege, Oxford, who continue to share the responsibility for appointing the Incumbent. The church was rebuilt and enlarged in 1855 in flint and brick with stone dressings. However some of the original features, namely the Romanesque chancel arch and single window, remain. There is a Norman arch over the entrance, a Saxon font and a Jacobean oak pulpit.


The present Manor House is an Elizabethan building, in an E shape.  The original manor house was mediaeval, and probably on a slightly different site – probably where the moat is now located.  The present house is likely to have been built by Edmund Symeon who farmed the manor from about 1605.  His descendant Elizabeth Symeon married John Hampden in St. Mary’s Church, in 1619.  John Hampden himself later died in Thame of wounds received at the Battle of Chalgrove.



In 1635 the Rectory was described as a handsome building, but by 1777 it was partly in ruins.  A new house was built at the close of the 18th century – and still stands.  The house was purchased by Lord Macclesfield and from 1885 the vicar of Shirburn lived there, until the livings were amalgamated in 1943.  The house fell into serious disrepair, but was restored to a high standard in the 1980s.



The original Pyrton Vicarage is now called The White House.  Parts of the house date back to at least the 15th century, though other parts of the house may be Saxon, when it was a lodging for monks.    In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there was considerable alteration and ‘modernisation’ of the house.  In 1665, it is described as the third largest house in the parish after StonorPark (then part of Pyrton Parish) and the Manor House.  In 1807 a visitor described the house as `one of the prettiest abodes’, which it remains to this day.

Four new houses were built in the mid 1970s on a site known as Magpies Lane.   Originally a cottage stood on the site but this was destroyed by fire in 1934.   Opposite these houses stand two considerably older dwellings.



It is believed that Hubbards Cottage was built as a cottage serving the Manor House.   It has an unusual shape – hence the local name, Cheese Cottage.


Pond House is an eighteenth century farmhouse, built of the typical Oxfordshire brick and flint.   It has an addition on the left as you view it, which was once the village reading room.  This extension is built of brick and ‘clump’ which was freely available to villagers from the quarry further up the hill.



The Court House was originally a farmhouse, but may also have been used for the collecting of taxes and tythes within the Hundred. It has a ‘hipped’ roof and was originally a timber framed house built in the 17th century, the front of which has been ‘re-fronted’ with vitreous brick.



The Village Hall was built in 1895 by the Ducat Hammersley family and was used as the village school for 38 years.  That closed in 1933 since when the children of the village have been educated in Watlington.   The Hall itself fell into some disrepair but thanks to the energies and commitment of the Village it is now in use and available for hire for functions.



This property dates from around 1700 and was owned for several years by the Glanville family, who have farmed in the area for generations.



The Plough dates back to the late 16th Century and served as the village public house until 1997. For several years it also served as the venue for the village shop.

[JL, 4 Mar 07]

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