Bampton (St. Mary)

BAMPTON (St. Mary), a town and parish, in the union of Witney, hundred of Bampton, county of Oxford, 16 miles (W. by S.) from Oxford, and 70 (W. N. W.) from London; comprising the hamlets of Aston, Brighthampton, Chimney, Lew, and Weald, the chapelry of Shifford, and the township of Bampton; and containing 2734 inhabitants, of whom 778 are in the township. This place, called by the Saxons Bemtune, was a town of some importance during the heptarchy, and for a considerable period afterwards: in the reign of Edward the Confessor it was annexed to the diocese of Exeter, by Leofric, chaplain to that monarch, and first bishop of the see. It is bounded on the south by the river Isis, on which are some convenient wharfs: the houses are neatly built, and the inhabitants are plentifully supplied with water, which springs through a gravelly soil. There are a subscription library and a newsroom. A considerable trade was formerly carried on in leather, but it has greatly declined. A fair is held on the 26th and 27th of August, the former day being for the sale of horses. Bampton has two divisions for the transaction of its civil affairs, the one called the eastern and the other the western; the justices in petty-sessions for the former division meet at Witney, and for the latter at Burford, and courts leet of the joint proprietors of the manor are held, at which constables and other officers are appointed. A town-hall has been erected in the market-place by subscription.

The living is a vicarage, in three portions, each valued in the king's books at £10. 0. 10., and in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter: net income of the first portion, £544; of the second, £492; and of the third, £510. The tithes, with certain exceptions, were commuted in 1812, for land and cornrents. The church is a spacious cruciform structure, partly Norman, and partly in the early English style, with a massive square embattled tower surmounted by an octagonal spire; the Norman doorway leading into the south transept, and the semi-porch and western entrance, in the early English style, are fine specimens, and the interior of the belfry, which is in its original state and perfectly entire, is a beautiful specimen of Norman decoration. There are chapels of ease at Shifford, Lew, and Aston. The free school was founded in 1635, by Robert Vesey, of Chimney, who endowed it with £200, which, with subsequent benefactions, was laid out in the purchase of eight acres of land, now let for £28 per annum: in 1784, £400 stock was given for the instruction of ten additional scholars. There are slight remains of a castle supposed to have been erected in the reign of John, and of a quadrangular form, with towers at the angles, and bastions at the entrance on the east and west sides. A field called Kinsey is supposed to have been originally the "King's Way." Phillips, the author of the "Splendid Shilling," a poem on Cider, &c., was born here in 1676.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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