The Iffley History Society

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History Continued

Links with Oxford
The firmest link was through the church. The Archdeacon, at Christchurch cathedral, held the right to appoint priests, and Christchurch was also a college of the University. The Rectory and its estate were often let out to scholarly gentlemen. Arthur Pits, Fellow of All Souls, lived there during the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century; his widow harboured a Catholic priest in the house, and two younger Pits fled abroad and became Jesuits. The Archdeacon Barten Holyday, however, did live in the Rectory; he died there in 1661, of the "epidemical fever that rageth now abroad".

It may be that many of the clergymen sent by the archdeacons to serve at Iffley lived in Oxford and rode out to do their duty, when they could. In the seventeenth century there are long gaps in the burial register: no entries for much of the 1620s, nor 1640-52, nor 1660-77, nor 1687-92. It does suggest that the priest in charge was not on the spot; not all the dates coincide with times of upheaval.

At least two principal tenants of the manor were also university men, David Lewis in the sixteenth century and Thomas Nowell in the eighteenth.

Horse Bus
Horse Bus from Iffley Turn to Oxford c1900

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of 1843-44 says the parish of Iffley with Hockmore had 590 people in 1801, and 1081 people in 1831. Oxford businessmen began to build houses in Iffley from the 1790s onwards; villagers, working for them as servants and perhaps becoming more aware of the city's opportunities, inspired their children to look there for better and more varied employment. Occupations given in the marriage registers after 1850 include: "railway worker . . . bookbinder . . . college servant . . . livery-yard foreman . . . engine driver . . .compositor . . . grocer's shopman . . ."

The school log from the 1870s records heavy truancy in summertime, when boys went to work on the cricket fields off the Cowley Road. College rowing eights race over a course that begins at Desborough Bridge, Iffley Lock; at least one Iffley man was employed building skiffs and assisting at the start of races in February and May.

At the turn of the century it was possible to go into Oxford by horse-bus from Iffley Turn. Shortly afterwards Iffley got mains water and sewer pipes, and was finally incorporated into the city in 1928.

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Education, Charities and Relief
The will of Alice Smith, 1679, provided apprenticeships for poor children and gifts to the poor; Stephen Field in the eighteenth century left money to buy bread. The Nowell Trust educated poor children from 1805 and also made provision for the aged. The parish overseers administered poor relief under Elizabethan law until 1835, when Iffley joined a Union of 24 parishes, with a central workhouse in Headington (see Links). There are few instances of Iffley applicants going into the workhouse; most continued to receive relief at home by application to the Union relieving officer.

Iffley Classroom
Iffley classroom

There had been dame schools and there would be small private schools, but the greatest improvement was probably the opening of a National School in 1838, in the building which is now the Church Hall; it functioned as a school until 1961, by which time a new primary school had been built on Rose Hill.

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Customs and Amusements
Eighteenth-century memoirs mention Iffley Feast each September. The village was always a favourite place of resort for Oxford people and had a number of public houses of which the "house by the great elm tree" was a favourite. Nineteenth-century memoirs describe village amusements celebrating May Day.

1906 Children's May-Day
Children's May-Day procession through Iffley, 1906, by Henry Taunt

1967 Children's May-Day
Iffley May-Day, 1967

Part of the old township boundary was called Bear's Hedge after a visiting entertainer with a dancing bear. The Foresters' Order (a friendly society) provided its members with regalia and occasions to march about with a brass band before sitting down to dinner. There were organised river trips to Nuneham Courtenay, and river picnics. There were all the usual concerts and "theatricals", designed to raise money - especially once the fiddlers had been thrown out of the west gallery in the church and replaced by an expensive organ needing constant attention.

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Farming and Small Trades in Iffley
Before enclosure in 1830, there were cottagers managing with small strips of land here and there, which they used for vegetables or grazing. The swineherd managed pigs on Hog Common south of the church. There was a farm attached to the Donnington manor house, Court Place, and another belonging to Lincoln College (its house now misleadingly called the Manor house). The thatched house at the corner of Mill Lane was a farmhouse and there was one in Meadow Lane. River meadows provided good pasture, and Iffley sheep farmers also had grazing rights in Cowley and in Shotover Forest.

Bayeux Agricultural Scene

Bayeux Scene
Bayeux Tapestry, c1077

Medieval farming society involved people in varied odd jobs as part of the service they owed for their own small holdings; a man might be obliged to use his cart to carry his lord's goods, but he would not describe himself as a carter. After the Black Death of 1349 this begins to change and the village acquired wheelwright, weaver, carter, fuller ( who treated cloth) and maltster - as well as the miller. There must have been a blacksmith. Malting (processing barley for use in brewing ale) was important, and in wills of the 17th and 18th centuries we have also a fisherman, a cidermaker and two victuallers (who provided food and stores). (Parish registers do not reveal trades until after 1830, when inclosure had tipped the balance from subsistence smallholding to waged labour. There are numerous labourers and servants, but also cordwainers (shoemakers), masons, carpenters, a seamstress and a laundress. Shoemaking was an especially useful trade; it could be done at home as a second occupation when there was no farm work, and its product was always needed. The same was true of dressmaking, and taking in washing. The masons and other building trades flourished with Victorian expansion, as did shopkeepers.

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Modern Times
The change from agricultural village to desirable suburb had become clear by the 1850s, when there were 23 gentlemen's houses, most of them spread out between the village and the main road. The Donnington Hospital was now aware that letting land for substantial building was the best course; it therefore allowed small cottages to fall into disrepair, and was criticised during an inquiry in 1894-96. Poorer families moved out of the old village, having found work and better accommodation in the growing east Oxford suburbs. New building in Iffley was for middle-class tenants.

Donnington's developments were not intensive. The result was an area of large houses with large gardens, pleasantly spaced and still grouped among green fields with many open views of the river. Most infilling has happened since 1960.

The old township fields filled up earlier. Oxford's motor and engineering industries needed to house a growing labour force after 1920. Part of Rose Hill was built up after 1930 and the rest from 1946, as a council estate. Iffley village for the first time in its history had a close neighbour, built on its own fields but at a time when its residents were no longer field-workers - they had prosperous suburban households with a suburban affection for peace and quiet. There have been problems, of theft and vandalism. There have been gains, especially to the life of the church. One Rose Hill resident served Iffley parish as a churchwarden for 21 years.

Some of the old village families are represented on Rose Hill; with rising property values there are few left in Iffley, and it was through them that the village had its strong family links with Cowley. Links with the university are still strong. Links with Littlemore, once thought unbreakable, were weakened when Littlemore got its own parish church in 1836, and severed by the Oxford Ring Road in 1966; the old church way survives only as a footbridge.

Old Maps of Iffley

1875 Ordnance Map of Iffley, Section 1, including Lock and Church, approx. scale 1:2500, 71k,
1875 Ordnance Map of Iffley, Section 2, including Iffley Turn, approx. scale 1:2500, 50k
1797 Map of South East Oxford and Iffley, 61k and 110k

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