Family names in Elsfield in 1825

In Reay’s study of three villages in Kent, he found that between 1851 and 1881 as many as 45% of the inhabitants over the age of fifteen were born outside the parish. Was this the case in Elsfield?

One approach to tackling this question is to study the continuity of family names. An account of the families living in Elsfield in 1825 was compiled for the North estate and lists the adults, their children and the housing conditions.

Listed in the 1825 accounts were five farmers: John Butler, William Butler, Samuel Tagg, Richard Holley and John Gurdon.

There was also Mrs Oglander, whose name appears on the 1703 map of Elsfield. The Oglander family had therefore been living in Elsfield for more than a hundred years. She does not, however, appear in the 1841 census. Two others named separately from the general list of inhabitants were John Beckley, who had a fishery, and John Weyland, listed as “Esquire”.

Other villagers were:

Name Family Age of children
Narroway Man, wife and children 17, 13, 10, 8
Durham Man, wife, children and grandchild 28, 20, 18, 12, 9, 4
Lock Man, wife and children 22, 13, 12, 8
Porter Aged widow
North Man, wife and children 7, 4, 2, 1
J. Gurdon Man, wife and children 4, 2, 1
W. Phillips Man and wife
Gammon Widower and children 20, 17, 12, 10, 8, 4
Taylor Man, wife and children 13, 10, 7, 3
Clay Man, wife and children 6, 2
Phillips Widow and grown up daughter
Sneeth Widow and children 20, 16, 14
Wakelin Man, wife, father and children 6, 3, 1
Tolly Man, wife and children 17, 14, 9, 6, 4
Gurdon Man, wife and child 1 child
Skitmore Man, wife and family
Humphries Humphries, married son and wife
John Humphries, wife and children 20, 16, 13, 8
Ford Widow and children 24, 16, 13, 8, 4
Munday Widow, married son and daughter and children 8, 7, 5, 2
J. Clay Man, wife and six children
R. Harris Man, wife, grown daughter and grandchild 11
Heagher Widow, married son and daughter and children 5, 2
Croton Man, wife, married son and daughter
Maul Widow
Harrison Blind widow
Richards Mother, son and wife
Cross Man, wife, married son and wife and child 1 child
Moby Man and wife
J. Harris Man and wife


There are 29 families listed which with the number of other tenants, eight in all, including John Gurdon, whose name appears twice, once as a farmer and once in the list of villagers, makes a population of 37 families.

Of these names, those who lived in the village for the longest time are:

Name Last listed in census Number of years in Elsfield
Cross 1871 46+ years
Crotton 1851 26+ years
Gammon 1901 76+ years
Gurdon 1871 46+ years
Harris 1871 46+ years
Humphreys 1871 46+ years
Maul 1861 36+ years
North 1881 56+ years
Narroway 1861 36+ years
Taylor 1901 77+ years
Tolley 1824-1851
36 years in all
Wakelin 1891 66+ years
Tagg The name dying out with Martin Tagg in 1865.


Judging by this list, there certainly were some very long term residents. However, excluding the Crottons and the Tolleys, who moved in and out of the village, and which in itself shows that there was movement, if we take a man’s working life as being from the age of eighteen to about 70, 52 years, very few of these families lived here for longer than one man’s working life. We should remember however that children often started working as early as ten and that there was no such thing as a retirement age. Generally, if a person was able to work he or she did so. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to reckon a working life from eighteen since any work done before that age will have been as a contribution to the family income rather than as a wage which supported a family, and at the older end of a working life, it would be fairly rare for a man to be working full time to support a family, even though he again might contribute to the family income.

Given these caveats, only the Norths, the Taylors and the Wakelins lived in Elsfield longer than the 52 years originally stipulated, three out of the thirty-six families, roughly 8%. However, we have to take into account the fact that women, when they marry, lose their own surname. Harriet Gammon, for instance, married William Elston, and their daughter, Ethel May, married Herbert Allam. So the Gammon family, even when the name has disappeared from the census returns, is still represented up to the mid 1960s, when Ethel May died.



Information from the census

An examination of the names of people staying in the village over the decades covered by the censuses and the 1825 document show that:

Percentage of people staying and moving out:

Decade % of families staying % moving, marrying or dying
1825-1841 75% 25%
1841-1851 52% 28%
1851-1861 52% 48%
1861-1871 50% 50%
1871-1881 56% 44%
1881-1891 46% 54%


The period 1825-1841 is obviously longer than that of the census returns so the 25% is possibly a higher rate than it would have been if only ten years had been counted. Nevertheless, it is clear that over the 75 year period there was increased movement out of the village so that by the end of the century less than half the families living in the village had been listed in the previous census.



The Parish Records

Burials in Elsfield 1841-1901:

One way of leaving the village is by dying. An examination of the parish records shows that while many people buried in Elsfield were listed in the census, a substantial number were not. They were often listed as dying at Headington, St Clements, Cowley or Marston. At both Headington and at Cowley Road, in the parish of St Clements there were large workhouses, which took in not just the elderly but the sick and unmarried mothers. At Marston, there was a house set aside for the poor of the parish, supported by the Mary Brett Charity. This shows that there were numbers of people leaving Elsfield and moving into the workhouse when they could no longer earn a living but returning here to be buried.

Children not appearing in the census had usually been born too late in the decade to appear in the census.

Burials between 1841 and 1901 are:

Adults Children Grand Total
In census Not in census Total In census Not in census Total
1841-51 18 13 31 8 14 22 53
1851-61 13 10 23 3 7 10 33
1861-71 16 11 27 3 6 9 36
1871-81 15 7 22 0 2 2 24
1881-91 10 4 14 3 5 8 22
1891-1901 14 1 15 1 3 4 19


There is a decline in the number of people being buried per decade as the century progresses and also a decline in the number of people not in the census being buried. This may not necessarily have meant that there were fewer deaths in the parish and the work houses provided by the parish. It might have meant that families were choosing to bury their relatives in places other than Elsfield churchyard. While burial grounds other than churchyards were opened as early as the 17th century, the Headington cemetery, the nearest to Elsfield, did not open until 1885, so it seems unlikely that this accounts for the decline in number of burials. It seems more likely therefore that there were fewer people dying per decade and also fewer people dying outside the parish.



 Family movement decade by decade

If we look at individual families decade by decade we can sometimes see the reasons for moving into or out of the village.


There were several agricultural workers who moved away from Elsfield, among them the gamekeeper William Udale, and four others. Among these is the Munday family. Sarah Munday, aged 45, died, leaving her husband and two children, twelve year old Ann and fifteen year old Thomas. Perhaps they left to be nearer to a family support network. Munday is a name still to be found locally in Beckley and Stanton St John rather than Elsfield. George Morby, who was living alone in 1841, and was an old man, moved to Headington, presumably the workhouse, and died aged 88 in 1844.

Two women moved away when they married. One, Hannah Taylor, is not listed in the census, but must have had local connections – Taylor is a well established name in Elsfield, while Eleanor Greaves was farming at Home Farm in 1841. The establishment consisted of her younger sister Jane aged 20 and brother Edward aged 15, along with one 70 year old manservant, John Cowley, Catherine Maul, aged 35, and two 15 year old boys William Mason and Nathaniel Barrett. Eleanor married a mercer from Banbury and the whole family probably moved with her, or at least dispersed. The name Greaves appears in subsequent censuses farming at Home Farm, but it is a John Greaves who is listed in1851, along with his wife Ann, so though they may well have been related, they were not immediate family.

There were eight other marriages in that decade, all between people living in the village. Martha Durham married James Quartermain, a servant, Sarah North married a Basson, Mary Ann Peveril, a servant in her thirties, living at the Vicarage, married into the Wakelin family. Sarah East married a Durham, Elizabeth Taylor married a Gurdon, a very numerous family at that time, living in three separate establishments, Mary Mills, who is not listed in the census, married a Tolley while Sarah Munt married a North. There were therefore considerably more marriages within the village than to outsiders.

Of the other names disappearing from the village census between 1841 and 1851 one was the squire, William Beresford and his family and servants while the other six who no longer appear in the 1851 census were servants either at the Vicarage or Church Farm.

In the 1840s therefore the bulk of the movement of people out of the village consisted of servants at one establishment or another and three families: the Mundays, the Greaveses and the Beresfords with their servants.


For many of the people who moved out of Elsfield in the 1850s, the reason was the death of a member of the household. Martin Tagg, the long-since widowed farmer at Hill Farm, died in 1855 and his three servants, deprived of a settled establishment, had to look for other work.

Ann Butler, a widow living with her daughter Sarah and employing one servant, Caroline Justice, died in 1858 at the age of 83, resulting in her daughter and servant moving away.

Thomas Croton and his wife both died in 1853, he aged 62 and she ten years older. William and Mary Narroway also died, he aged 81 in 1852 and she in 1856 aged 82. They were both paupers. Susannah Harris died in 1853, aged 90, leaving her unmarried son Daniel living alone. John Tolley’s young children George and Samuel aged two and one in 1851, lost their grandmother Ann in 1852, aged 67. She was a pauper but earned what she could working in the fields from time to time.

William Herbert and his household, consisting of his wife, niece and three servants, left the Manor. Similarly, Joseph Gibbs left Church Farm taking his wife, son, daughter and servant, Matilda Weaver, with him.

The Reverend Gordon stayed, but two of his three servants, Sarah Richards aged 27 in 1851, and sixteen year old John Bowerman did not. The third, Martha Stanton, married into the Gurdon family.

Perhaps the most important group of people moving into the village in this decade were the Parsons family at the Manor. Herbert Parsons, aged 39 in 1861, established himself at the Manor along with his wife and two children, Herbert Junior, aged three, and Mary Jane, aged six. They had a visitor at the time of the census, Elizabeth Thompson, who hailed from Essex. There were seven servants: Eliza Watts, a lady’s maid, Elizabeth Wicklow, the cook, Mary James, a nurse, a butler, James Chambers and William Elston, a groom from Whitchurch. They also employed sixteen year old local girl Harriet Gammon as a nursemaid.

The Gibbs family at Church Farm had been replaced by William Treadwell and his wife. They had a visitor, Emily Berwick aged seventeen, who is listed as a governess, though presumably not to nine year old John, otherwise she would not be described as a visitor. They had four young servants: two housemaids, a gardener and a groom. John Greaves at Home Farm had remarried a woman ten years his junior, Mary, and while still retaining two servants, they were not the same as ten years previously. The sister of his first wife, too, was no longer in residence. Perhaps ten years earlier she had been in Elsfield to nurse her dying sister. At Hill Farm Martin Tagg had been replaced by the widowed William Parsons. The running of his household was under the charge of his housekeeper Catalina Law, from Malta. His four children were aged six, five, three and one in 1861, and he employed a nurse, a groom and a house servant to help the housekeeper.

The numerous Munt family moved into the village in this decade. William Munt and his wife Ann had two sons: William and George and five daughters, four of whom are not named. They range in age from fifteen year old William to one year old Elizabeth. William was a gardener and his older children were born at Shotover while the younger ones were born in Wheatley.

The farm bailiff William Weston had recently moved in to Elsfield along with his wife Elizabeth, an Oxford woman, as had Robert Culley, another agricultural bailiff living at Suscot (Sescut).

The Reverend Gordon acquired a cook from Noke, Ann Huggard aged 45, a groom from Islip, Thomas Dumbleton aged 19 and a house servant Sarah Pinson aged eighteen from Beckley.

A new shepherd moved in to the village – Robert Stevens, aged 30, from Horspath.

In the decade, there were five marriages within Elsfield and four women married men from outside the village. Of the marriages within Elsfield one was between John Wyatt and Eliza Woodley, both servants and illiterate. The Gurdon family saw two marriages, that of Amelia to James Cooper, a baker, born in Elsfield, and her brother William who married Martha Stanton. The other two marriages were between William Lockton and Sarah Rickards, and Richard Wharton and Emma Maule.

The young women marrying out of the village were Jane North, who married a policeman, James Mitchell from St Clements, Sophia Gammon who married Charles Vallis, a sawyer from Headington, Ellen Locke who married a labourer from St Clements, William Sanders, and on Christmas Day 1860 Emma Locke married Thomas Stilgoe from North Aston.


At the Manor, the butler, James Chambers from Wiltshire, has been replaced by James Barrett from London. Chambers had married an Elsfield girl, Eliza Bailey, in 1860. There was now a governess, Emily Berwick, though we do not know how long she stayed in Elsfield, since by this time Mary Jane Parsons was sixteen years old. One of the Munt girls was working as an under housemaid while Mary Luker from Oxford had replaced the previous cook, Elizabeth Wicklow. Matilda Maycock had replaced Eliza Watts as lady’s maid and there were now two young men employed as footman and groom: Edward Cottle from Oxford and Harry Blake from Andover. Elizabeth Clarke, Catherine Clark and Anne Brown, all housemaids, completed the household.

William Parsons at Hill Farm had now remarried Rebecca, a woman two years older than him, from Kent. His youngest child, Edith died in 1862 aged two, but his sons Frank and James were now teenagers though his sixteen year old daughter Ellen does not feature in the census returns. They had three servants – a twenty year old cook Emma Parrott who was born in Adderbury, Ellen Matthews from Kidlington working as a housemaid and an eighteen year old groom with the Dickensian name of Elija Clack from Stanton Harcourt. At the time of the census they also had two visitors.

Home Farm was still occupied by John Greaves and his wife, with three servants Caroline Bounton aged 19, a dairymaid, Hannah Basson, a local girl aged eighteen working as a housemaid and Thomas Drewitt, a young boy of fourteen from Marston, a house-servant. All four servants listed in the 1861 census had left the village.

At Church Farm, the Treadwells now employed Ann Holding, a 23 year old dairymaid from Broughton and Ann Gunn, aged sixteen, from Piddington as a general servant. Ann may be related to the Gunns who had moved in to Sescut Farm, since John and Elizabeth Gunn and their three children ranging in age from seven to five months now lived there. The gardener, Arthur Faulkner, two housemaids and a groom had all left, not to be replaced.

At Forest Farm,  John Harris’ wife Amelia died in 1868, three years after her daughter, eight year old Carry or Cassy. The Harris family also saw a wedding in 1870 when daughter Amelia married James Beesley, a netmaker from St Clements.

The Munt family too suffered a grievous blow when both forty-eight year old William Munt and his wife Ann both died in 1868. Their seven children did not stay in Elsfield but by this date the eldest, William, would have been 22 year old though the youngest, Elizabeth, was only eight. It would not have been unusual for William to assume responsibility for his younger siblings, or for the youngest children to be taken in by relatives.

Amelia Harris and the Munts were all buried by the Reverend Gordon, who now had three different servants, a cook, a housemaid and a groom, all under thirty. By this time his son had left home though his 36 year old daughter Mary was still living at the Rectory.

Richard Ewers’ wife Sarah died in 1865, aged 76 and was survived by her husband until the year of the following census when the Ewers family name disappears from the record.

James Caterer, a servant at the Manor, married a local girl, Mary James, while James Andrews, a labourer born in Elsfield married Jane Clay, who signed with a cross rather than her name. It was not unusual for people to be able to read but not write, as reading was usually taught in schools at this period, but often not writing. Another couple both born in the village, Francis Becket and Elizabeth East, were married in 1870 while that year also saw the wedding of the schoolteacher, Sarah Anne James to the Marston school master Sutcliffe Gibson Greenwood.

There were therefore three marriages within the village though the Chambers moved away very soon after their marriage.


Both the Reverend Gordon and his wife died in the 1870s, he in 1877 at the age of 73 and she in 1880. His obituary in the local paper described him as a man of regular habits – he went to Oxford twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays – and was a man who never lost a friend. The parish seems to have been aware of his many good qualities, and commemorated his life with several stained glass windows in the church. The household dispersed, their daughter moving out of the village along with the servants. The Reverend Langhorne, who took his place, moved into the Vicarage along with his wife and niece, Agnes Firmstone, and two young servants from London, Caroline Berry who did the cooking and Emma, the housemaid, whose surname is indecipherable in the record.

Herbert Parsons still occupied the Manor House in some style. His children were now grown up, Mary Jane being 26 and Herbert Junior being 23 and a banker. They had a new lady’s maid, Alice Redgard, and a new cook, Eliza Griffith. Elizabeth Clarke, one of the housemaids, remained with them as did the butler, James Barrett, but all the other housemaids, kitchenmaids, underhousemaids and scullery maids had changed.

At Home Farm, John Greaves had his twelve year old nephew Alan Savier staying with him. He employed two servants both called Ann, Caroline Bounton and Thomas Drewitt both having left. The local girl Hannah Basson, who had also been employed by him in 1871 was no longer there.

At Hill Farm, William Parsons also had a nephew staying with him, Thomas Grey from Waterstock. The two domestic servants were sisters, Emma Hawkin, aged 22, and her younger sister fourteen year old Rachel. The three employed in 1871 had moved away.

A new family, the Markhams, had moved in to Elsfield. The father was an agricultural labourer and his two eldest daughters found work as domestic servants with the Treadwells at Church Farm. He and his wife had two other children and squeezed in two boarders, having slightly more room now their two girls had moved out.

Other farm workers who moved in were the Merry family, who were to stay for at least another 70 years. Thomas Merry was a gardener born in Bethnal Green and was only 30 when he arrived in Elsfield in about 1877 from Shotover. They had four children, two born in Shotover and two born in Elsfield. The Maltbys also moved in to the village at this time. Charles Maltby, a 32 year old farm labourer from Bletchingdon arrived with his wife and three children, the youngest only 10 months old in 1881. The Dennis family also arrived in the 1880s, George and Charlotte and their five children, the youngest only a year old in 1881.

William Daw the carpenter had moved in along with his wife who took Fanny Hardwick’s place as schoolmistress and they lived in School Cottage. Also new to the village was Henry Higgins, a shepherd, living near Wisk Copse.

And finally the Stilgoe family moved in. The name ‘Stilgoe’ appears in the 1871 census, where a Richard Stilgoe aged nine was living with his grandparents, Richard and Susan Lock. In 1881, Richard was still living with his grandparents, and his brother aged 16 was also living with them, as well as a seven year old granddaughter Ellen. There was, however, a separate family named Stilgoe in residence. The head of the family, Thomas, born in Great Barford like young Richard, was a stableman. His wife Emma was born in Elsfield, so Thomas must have been the son-in-law of the Locks. They had seven children living with them, Kate, Dorcas, Albert, Arthur, Emma, Minnie, and Tom the youngest, only a year old. The eldest, Kate, died in 1881 aged eleven.

Less tragic was the death of Sarah Taylor in 1871 aged 88. Her son Richard, an agricultural labourer, died in 1874 aged 61. The parish clerk, Stephen Humphreys lost his wife Amy in 1876 aged 69 but married again the same year to a widow, Lucy Wallis, a laundress, unlisted in the 1871 census but described as from Elsfield in the marriage register.

In that same year Thomas Clay aged 87 died while his son William died four years later aged 46 in 1880. Another octogenarian, Ann Gurdon, died in 1873 aged 84 while at a comparatively early age, Edward Basson, the shepherd, died in 1876 aged 55.

In this decade, there were fifteen marriages, eight between people listed as living in Elsfield. Of these, George Tolley, an agricultural labourer who had been lodging with Mr and Mrs Andrews, married Ann Holding, a dairymaid at Church Farm, in 1871. The following year, the shepherd Thomas Basson married the daughter of a blacksmith, Emma Chamberlain, who was working as a cook for the Reverend Gordon and his family.

In 1873, John Gammon, the sawyer, married Mary Ford while Sarah Sophia Basson married the first of her three husbands, Tom George East, a minor. Albert Bateman, twenty-one years old in 1879, and unlisted in either the 1871 or the 1881 census, must have stayed only a short time in the village. In that time he acquired a wife, Eliza Anne Hathaway, who again is not listed in either census. He was a carter, so perhaps she was one of the servants at one of the farms. Nineteen year old Rebecca Nichols, who again is not listed in the 1871 census, married Henry Norwell Smith, from Farthinghoe, so perhaps she too was a servant who stayed only a short time in Elsfield.

Elizabeth Ford, wife of Henry Ford, living at Forest Farm, died in 1871 and Henry remarried a woman over twenty years younger than him in 1879, Emma Smith, aged 33. Emma Wharton married an illiterate labourer from Marston, Thomas Robbins, while Sarah Pritchett married a blacksmith from Islip with the same surname.

Hannah Basson married a gardener from Hatfield, George Morby. This is a name which appears in Elsfield records in 1824, 1841 and again in 1901, so although the Morbys do not maintain a constant presence in Elsfield, and seem to have been based in Stanton St John, they obviously kept contact with people living here. Sarah Locke married a butcher from Headington, Thomas Gardiner, and Gardiner is again a name which crops up in census data, being mentioned in 1871, 1881 and 1901. Emily Harris married a clerk from Hereford, George Clarke, and yet again Clarke is an Elsfield name, appearing in 1881 and 1901. So on the surface while these women appear to have married men from out of the village, they were possibly men who had moved away from the area to work.

Harriet Gammon, however, married William Elston in 1879, and he really was from outside the village, having come to work at the Manor as a groom. He came from Sutton Wisk and was forty when he married Harriet, who was 34 in 1879. She had known him since at least 1861 when she worked as a nursemaid to the Parsons children. They lived at a house behind Tree Cottage, which has now fallen down. Ethel May Elston, their daughter, married Herbert Allam and helped Mrs Buchan embroider the WI banner.


There was an influx of new people in the 1880s. Some of them, predictably, were servants, others were farm labourers and three of the farms were under new management. At Hill Farm a new family had moved in: James Fenemore, aged 47, his wife Alice, aged 50 and their nine children, all of them born in Oakley. The oldest three boys, John, aged 23,William, aged 21 and Thomas aged 17, were helping to run the farm. No doubt the two older girls, Alice aged 21 and Lucy aged 18 were also making themselves useful with dairy work and poultry, traditional pursuits for women. Lizzie, aged 15 may well have been helping her older sisters. Meanwhile the three youngest, George, Frances and Grace, aged fourteen, ten and nine respectively are listed as scholars. They had no servants.

At Church Farm John Brown had moved in from Piddington with his wife Alice who gave birth to their daughter Mildred just four months before the census. They had a visitor and one servant, Louisa Reynolds aged 17.

At Home Farm James H. Parsons took over the farm from John Greaves, who died in 1882. He was born in Elsfield, so this must be, not the son of Herbert Parsons at the Manor, but the second son of William Parsons who was farm bailiff living at Hill Farm.

Sescut Farm was housing Robert and Mary Ann Culley, aged 60 and 71.

At the Vicarage the Rev Langhorne was still living there with his wife Jane and his niece, 17 year old Agnes Firmstone. They had two servants, Sarah Carter the seventeen year old cook, and Ann Cordery, a domestic servant.

William North, listed as formerly a cowman, and grandfather to Thomas Basson died at the age of 86 in 1881. This left Thomas, aged 39, sharing his home only with his wife Emma and his four children, the oldest eight year old Harriet and the youngest Gertrude Mary, aged six months.

The Maltby family moved in at this time, Charles, the head of the family, being 32 and a farm labourer, and his wife Elizabeth along with two daughters aged eleven and seven. The youngest child, a son, Joseph, was born in Elsfield 10 months before the census was taken.

George Dennis had also moved in with his wife Charlotte and his five children, the youngest, Thomas born in Elsfield, who died aged seven.

James Stone was the new gamekeeper and James Payne, a widowed 46 year old, had replaced Thomas Sandall and moved here along with his nineteen year old daughter Rosina and his 77 year old father Charles.

There were many changes at the Manor. Elizabeth Clarke, a housemaid now in her 50s was still there, as was the butler, James Barrett, and the lady’s maid, Alice Ridgard, or Redgard. Apart from those three, all the other servants had moved out and been replaced by others, among them George Fryer, a young footman from Liverpool and Ann Allam, from Stanton St John. Two of Ann’s relations were later to move to Elsfield and Jack Allam in particular was to play an important part in the lives of the young Buchan children at the Manor.

Sarah Lockton, a laundress and long term resident of Elsfield, died aged 66 in 1889. She had two lodgers: eighteen year old Ernest Caterer, a gardener, and Charles Shepherd aged 21, an agricultural labourer.

Joseph Lock, born in Elsfield in 1808, died in 1883 aged 73 and his wife Mary in 1887, aged 75. Henry Ford, also an Elsfield man, died in 1887 aged 63, but his wife was much younger, and she was left with a grown up son, Henry, and a little girl of six.

Thomas Faulkner, a groom, also died in 1887 aged 54 leaving his wife to take responsibility for their two boys aged 17 and 14 and a ten year old daughter Mary.

Thomas Gardner was the only member of his family listed in the 1881 census to survive the 1880s. His ten year old daughter died in 1881, his fourteen year old son George in 1883 and his wife, 49 year old Emma in 1887.

To offset the sadness of all those deaths there were sixteen weddings to celebrate in the decade. Thirza Watts, a servant at the manor, married mason Frederick Seccull, a widower at 28. He is not mentioned in either the 1881or the 1891 census though the register says he was living in Elsfield.

Joe Shepherd and Eliza Lockton, both of Elsfield, were married the following year and three other marriages of people living in Elsfield took place in 1885 and 86: John Messenger to Louisa Stilgoe, John Saunders aged 32 to an older woman, Mary Ann Wakelin, who was 42, and Edmund Stilgoe to Elizabeth Louch.

In 1887, John Narroway, aged 41 married Sarah Sophia East, a widow. She brought with her her two daughters from her previous marriage: Ethel, aged 10 in 1891 and Minnie, two years younger. They kept their father’s name and are registered as stepchildren of John Narroway, who was a servant. Sarah Sophia was to marry again after the death of John in 1895 to another Elsfield man, Harry Taylor in 1903. Meanwhile the 1901 census records that at this time Sarah was living on her own means while Ethel, who had been born in Adderbury, was an assistant school mistress, Minnie, born in Liverpool, was a school teacher and the youngest member of the family was Dorothy Narroway, daughter of Sarah and John Narroway, aged six.

Alfred Clements the gamekeeper married Eliza Long, a cook in 1888 while in 1889 two Elsfield couples were married: William Randall, a groom, married Edith Basson while Ernest Caterer married Elizabeth Adamson.

There were thus nine marriages within the village. There were seven people who married outside the village: Ann Ford married a mason from Towcester, Jane Maria East married a blacksmith from Stony Stratford, Edwin Downey, Kate Elston married William Russell Taylor, a carpenter from Headington, while Mary Ann Markham married a butcher from Oxford, William Lammas.

Eliza Taylor married a man from the Midlands. William Wagstaff came from Nottingham and is described as a pensioner. Presumably a man of independent means, since there was no such thing as an old age pensioner. He was 41. Mary Taylor, aged 38, married a shepherd from Chilton, William Varney, a widower.



The state of agriculture

One reason for leaving, or indeed entering the village is as a response to the state of agriculture, as one of the main ways of earning a living was by farming. If there was little work on the farms there might well be a decrease in the number of farm workers. Conversely, an increase in wealth for the farmers might well mean more workers employed on the land. The following list shows the numbers of workers on the land.

Number of workers on the land

1841 29 agricultural workers
1851 41 agricultural workers, 2 shepherds: 43
1861 29 agricultural workers, 3 carters, 5 shepherds: 37
1871 26 agricultural workers, 1 carter, 2 shepherds: 29
1881 25 agricultural workers, 2 carters, 1 shepherd: 28
1891 26 agricultural workers, 1 carter, 1 shepherd, 2 cattlemen: 30
1901 13 agricultural workers, 1 carter, 1 shepherd, 3 cattlemen: 18


One might have expected the numbers working on the farms to increase in the boom years 1851 to 1871 and to decline after that. This was not the case, however. These numbers do show that 1851 is a high point in numbers employed but the numbers only drop in 1901 midway through the crisis in the farming industry, which lasted from 1871 to 1914.

There is a further complication. The census information between 1851 and 1881 actually gives the numbers of men and boys employed by each individual farmer. The numbers are:

1851 1861 1871 1881
Hill Farm 31 men 16 men
7 boys
16 men
6 boys
12 men
4 boys
Home Farm 21 men 20 men
5 boys
20 men
6 boys
14 men
3 boys
Church Farm 16 men 14 men 10 men
3 boys
Manor House 22 men
9 boys
Forest Farm 4 men
1 boy
Total 73 62 79 46


The only explanation for the discrepancy in numbers between the number of farm workers given by the farmers and those in the village who describe their work as “agricultural” or “farm” worker must be that people from outside the parish were being employed by the farmers to augment the numbers recruited from the village.

This means that the numbers of agricultural workers in the parish was no indication of the state of farming, since farmers could probably lay off workers without this showing in the census returns for Elsfield.

Social historians make the distinction between an ‘open’ and a ‘closed’ village. The ‘open’ village is one where the freeholders control the development of the village. A ‘closed’ village on the other hand is one where the principal landowner controls such factors as where houses can be built and who can live in the village. Elsfield seems to fall into this category, certainly in the latter half of the 19th century.

Pamela Horn has pointed out that in a ‘closed’ village such as Elsfield it was in the interest of the owner in the first half of the 19th century to keep the number of workers in the parish down. This was because before the 1865 Union Chargeability Act every parish had to support its own paupers. It was in the interests of the landowner, as principal rate payer, to keep the number of inhabitants down in order to reduce the level of poor rate expenditure. She points out that even labourers who worked in estate villages could not always obtain cottages where they worked, and this seems to have been the case in Elsfield. Nationally, after 1865 improvements in housing provision occurred because the Act transferred the cost of maintaining the poor away from a single parish and assigned it to the Poor Law Union. It was in the interests of the landowner to make sure people had all the year round employment.

People living in Elsfield were probably the elite of the agricultural labouring classes. They would have steady jobs, which meant a regular income, and would be the people who kept the farms ticking over in the winter. Jobs such as carting, which needed horses being cared for the year round, would come into this category. Casual labour would be recruited from places such as Marston, a practice which survived into the fourth quarter of the 20th century when women were recruited to pull out wild oats from the main crop, a process known as rogueing.




An examination of the movement of named individuals has shown that many of the people moving in and out were servants.

Another measure of prosperity is the number of servants employed by the prosperous members of the community: the squire, the farmers and the vicar.

Number of servants employed between 1841 and 1901

Farmers Vicar Squire Other Total
1841 12 2 6 1 21
1851 7 3 3 13
1861 10 3 8 21
1871 8 3 13 24
1881 6 2 11 3 22
1891 3 2 13 1 19
1901 2 2 10 4 18


(The term “squire” is rarely used in documents but is here used to denote the occupant of the Manor.)

The number of live-in household servants employed by the Reverend Gordon, the vicar, remains constant throughout the period covered by the census. He had one cook, one house servant and one groom. When the Reverend Gordon died and was replaced by Rev Langhorne in 1881, the number shrank to one cook and one housemaid. Rev Ettington, listed as vicar in 1901, manages with only one general servant and one housemaid.

At the Manor in 1841, William Beresford employed six female servants though W. Herbert, cabinet maker, in 1851, who succeeded him, had only three. When Herbert Parsons moved in the number increased to seven and later ten. In 1861, he employed a lady’s maid, a cook, a nurse, a kitchen maid, a nurse maid, a butler and a groom. In 1891, he needed a butler, a footman, groom, cook, ladies’ maid, laundress, under housemaid, kitchen maid and a scullery maid. By 1901, he was employing eight live-in servants and several servants who lived in separate establishments.

The numbers employed by the farmers show considerable variation. In 1851, for instance, Mr Greaves, farming at Home Farm, employed three house servants and a butler. In 1861 this had shrunk to one female house servant and one male house servant, while in 1871 he employed a dairymaid, a housemaid and a male domestic servant.

The numbers of servants employed by the farmers declined during the agricultural depression after 1871, and it seems likely that they maintained the numbers of agricultural workers in Elsfield at the expense of household servants. In 1891, Hill Farm was being run as a family concern by James Fenemore and three of his four sons with no servants employed, a pattern which had become common throughout Oxfordshire.

In the 1901, census there is only one farmer listed, Daniel Hatt at Church Farm, apart from Herbert Parsons at the Manor because by this time the whole parish had been bought by Herbert Parsons. Mr Hatt employed a lady’s maid and one other servant.

Sescut seems to have been used to house the bailiff (1861) and in subsequent years farm labourers.



Special skills

The need for special skills may have resulted in people moving into or out of the village. William Daw, for instance, a carpenter, had moved round the country and stayed in Elsfield for only a few years. He is mentioned in the 1881 census but not after that. His wife was the school teacher so it is possible that they moved here because of her skills rather than his. This seems unlikely, however, given the social mores of the period.



Changes in farming practice

There must have been an increase in the number of sheep grazed in Elsfield in 1861 since the number of shepherds was five, and by 1891, when Herbert Parsons at the Manor had bought Forest Farm, the number of shepherds was down to one while for the first time there were two cattlemen, increasing to three in 1901, showing that Forest Farm, which housed the cattlemen, was being used for cattle rather than general farming. Whether this was dairy or beef cattle we do not know.




The change in the percentage of people moving into Elsfield from other places accelerates as the 19th century progresses to a quite striking extent. In 1851, a third of the population was from outside the village while this had changed to a half by 1901.

There appear to be certain jobs which were occupied by newcomers to the village. The duties of agricultural bailiffs and gamekeepers, people who policed the estate, were undertaken by people from outside the village and these people moved on after a relatively short time. Shepherding also appears to be a job which entailed mobility. In the 1871 census, for instance, shepherd Henry Higgins had lived in Warwick and Kidlington before moving to Elsfield.

The one carpenter mentioned in the censuses, who may have worked on Herbert Parsons’ extension to the Manor, had also moved around the country.

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