The Parish of Westbury

The Early History

Westbury means west fort or castle, being derived from the Saxon word 'burg'. It is situated on the N bank of the valley of the river Great Ouse. At the time of the Roman invasion, Buckinghamshire lay in the territory of the British tribe known as Catuvellauni, also identified with the Cassii, ruled over by Britannia. Superior under the Romans and during the Saxon period, it was held by a tribe of the South Angles in one of 15 counties making up the Danelaw.

From the ninth century, places, names and features which we know today were largely in place and the character of the English village which has survived until now was being laid down.

c. 867 Saxons built an entrenched camp on a mound NE of the church (now Orchard Place), from the top of which the ground slopes away on every side, an obvious site for a fort protected by fosse and palisades. This fort was one of a chain of defences along the N bank of the Great Ouse to the Cherwell on the S side of Whittlebury forest.

c. 1005-66 Ainuld Cilt held the Manor of Westbury which was worth 50 shillings. He was thane of King Edward the Confessor 1042-1066, who founded Westminster Abbey, and was canonised in 1161 (and to whom the neighbouring parish church at Shalstone is dedicated).

1066 William Duke of Normandy was crowned King. William I and brought Anglo-Saxon history to an end and ushered in the Norman period.

1085/6 In the Domesday Survey Westbury Manor was part of the great possessions of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and William's half-brother, the holder being a certain Roger d'Iveri.

1088 The Bishop incurred the displeasure of the Conqueror's son William 11 and the manor was made over to Roger d'Iveri and Robert D'OilIy. Roger d'Iveri's son, also called Roger, became tenant but by espousing the cause of Robert Duke of Normandy against William 11 his younger brother, he was deprived of his lands and fled to Normandy and died in poverty there.

1112 Geoffry, last of the d'Iveri's, died without issue and the Honour of Iveri (which also comprised Mixbury, Ambrosden and Brackley) reverted to the Crown and the then King, Henry I bestowed it on Guy di St Vallery with the result that Westbury formed part of the Honour of St Vallery.

1141- 66 Guy was succeeded by Reginald who was also Lord of Haseldene in Gloucestershire. Then came Bernard who founded the Benedictine Nunnery, Studley, Oxfordshire and perished

1190 Thomas, son of Bernard held the manor but died without male issue. During the 12thCentury, Westbury was subinfeudated, that is granted by the landlord to an inferior whose family took their name from the parish. 

1198 Walter de Westburi was succeeded by his son William, who conveyed the manor to Ralph de Hareng. Early in the 13th Century the Honour of St Vallery which included Westbury also passed into the possession of Ralph. 


Beginnings of the Church

The construction of Westbury church was begun in the latter half of the 12th Century by Ralph de Hareng, Lord of Westbury.

In 1215 he gave the church, together with the manor of Westbury, to the Benedictine Abbey of Elstow, Bedfordshire (famous as being the birthplace of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress).

The first vicar, Jordanus, was presented in 1224 by the Abbess of Elstow.

"The Abbess and Nuns of Elnestow, Westbury. One Chaplain suffices for Westbury. The vicar will have the whole altar income with a proper vicarage and half the land belonging to the church, by paying the synodal only. But the Nuns will pay the other expenses of that Church. Jordan is admitted Chaplain and is instituted as perpetual Vicar." 

The Abbess of Elstow from 1241-1250 was Agnes of Westbury, possibly a relative of Ralph de Hareng. Most clergy would have received 23-4, an average income in a year. They were usually provided with house, garden and perhaps 'half a hide' of land to farm. In 1247 the General council of Lyons laid down that the parish priest must be not less than 25, of suitable education and character and reside personally in the parish. 

In 1260 Alexander was Vicar of Westbury. His son Roger was Parish Clerk and his daughter Margaret married Roger Couele (or Couley) of Westbury.

In 1271 a further gift was made by de Hareng to the priory of Benedictine nuns at Catesby, Northamptonshire, in the shape of all the assart (cleared wood) of the park and woods at Westbury which lay between the lands of the Abbot of Oseney and Biddlesden.

The rents which the Priory of Catesby had from Westbury in the year 1291 was returned as amounting to E14.13s.4d and a field in Westbury still commemorates the ownership by the nuns in the name of Catesby Riding. 

The grants of land in Westbury made to religious houses previous to the reign of Henry Ill were very extensive. Elstow, Biddlesden, Osney, Catesby, Acon's College London, the Prior of Brackley, all had their slices. One historian, writing of these gifts, said 'Really in this parish there seems to have been so much bestowed on religious that little remained to the temporal lords'.

Instituted in 1539, the last vicar presented by the Abbey was William Baddisley, who remained undisturbed by the Protestant Reformation.

The Parish Register commences while he was Vicar (1558). He was also Rector of Water Stratford, and he ministered for 86 years throughout the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth.


The Doomsday Book Entry


The following is a translation of Westbury's earliest historical notice taken from the Domesday book "Land of the Bishop of Bayeux in Stotfield Hundred. Roger holds of the Bishop two hides and a half in Westbury for one manor. The arable is seven carucates; two are in the demesne and there are four copyholders or villains and three cottagers or borders. There is one servant. Five carucates of meadow. Mast for 150 hogs. It is worth 23, when he received it, 50 shillings now"

The hide was a Saxon measure of land which could support one family. It varied in size in different parts of the country, from 120 — 40 acres. The carucate was a Norman area usually of land which could be ploughed by one team in a year and is considered by some to be around the same size as the hide.

The demesne was the lord's seat and its grounds kept apart from his tenants who were termed in descending order

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