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pels, 350 of that number are hereby declared to be free and unappropriated for ever.
Rev. Cranley Lancelot Kerby
W. Sparrowhawk, chapel-warden. Another inscription informs us that “the font was presented by the Rev. John Nelson, Sept. 2, 1839.” and that “The chapel was consecrated A. D. 1840."
An elderly inhabitant of the place, Mr. Fox, who lately died at the advanced age of 77, gave a donation of £ 4 per annum out of his hard-earned savings, to aid in the maintainance of this fabric for ever. Another inhabitant, Mr. Monk, alsɔ recently deceased, has left by will a sum of money to accumulate until it shall suffice to build a tower or steeple.
Next to the church in importance is the School-house, erected by the British and Foreign School Suciety. This is a large and commodious room, and is partly used as a place of worship by those inhabitants who are of the Baptist persuasion.
Adjoining to the school is the house of the Baptist minister : the late incumbent, the Rev. B. Wheeler, who was much respected by all his neighbours for the amiable and peaceful tenor of his life, has recently resigned his cure, and been succeeded by the Rev. J. Jackson.
Aston occurs in Leofric's charter, where it is called Est-tune i. e. East-town, but this is all we know about its former history.
Among the illustrations to this volume is a seal bearing the following inscription "SIGILLUM commune domus Sancti Bartholomei de Calceto," and copied from an old print which I found with other loose papers in the Rawlinson MS. As chere are no traces of a monastic foundation having existed at Aston, I am inclined to think that the seal belongs to some
other place bearing the same name.
§ 20. OF THE SYSTEM OF FARMING WHICH PREVAILS
AT ASTON AND COTE, RIGHTS OF COMMON, &c. Within the last century, nearly the whole parish of Bampton consisted of immense commons, which were farmed in a most singular manner, such as, I suppose, formerly prevailed, more or less modified, in many other parts of the kingdom. This system, as has already been noticed, has for many years ceased in Bampton, Weald, and Lew, having been necessarily superseded, at the time of the Inclosure in 1812, by the more simple mode of private occupation which now prevails generally throughout the kingdom : but in the primæval villages of Aston and Coat, where there are hardly a hundred acres of enclosure, the system of farming in common still prevails, and forms a fatal obstacle to the improvement which the land is capable of receiving. As in the course of twenty or thirty years, the few remaining traces of this system will probably disappear, the following account of it, if its intricacy does not puzzle the reader as much as it has already perplexed the writer, may be not unacceptable.
The whole district of Aston and Cote is divided into three parts, 1. Common Field, 2. Common Meadow, and 3. Common Pasture. The Common Field is ploughed and produces wheat, beans, oats, &c. &c. according to the four-course system already described in page 11. The Common Meadow produces grass for hay, and the Common Pasture is used for feeding horses, cows and sheep, but the sheep are fed apart from the horses and cows in a portion of the Common Pasture appropriated to them only. The three divisions contain nearly all the land in the parish, but concerning the number of acres contained in each division, I have not been able to obtain very accurate information. From the details which follow it
there may be about 2000 acres of Common Field, Common Meadow and Common Pasture combined. The whole of this land is supposed to be divided into 64 yard-lands, each of which, reduced to statute measure, would contain about 30 acres, which very nearly confirms the estimate of the total extent of common land, above-mentioned. But it appears that the yard-land is not a fixed measure, but was regulated in great part by the nature of the ground, and varies in different places as much as two or three acres.
It is probable that, in the first instance, the number of yardlands, 64, corresponded with the number of persons who enjoyed rights of common : but this is now no longer the case; for by far the larger part of the farmers of Aston have only half or even a quarter of a yard-land, whilst on the other hand some of the more wealthy have as many as ten or eleven yard-lands in their single occupation.
It is also likely that originally each right of common represented a homestead in the "town” of Aston or Coat, and that the right was, in fact, appendant to the homestead. This has however ceased to be the case : for the rights of common are appendant to the person and not the residence of the occupier, and are bought and sold as separate property, by which means it results that persons, resident at Bampton, or even at a greater distance, have rights on Aston and Coat Common.
But the proprietor of a yard-land in Aston and Coat is by no means in the same independent position, as the owner of 30 acres of enclosed and private property. The 30 acres, which form his yard-land, are divided into three parts. In the first place he has about 20 acres of arable land in the Common Field, from which he obtains wheat, beans, and other similar crops ; in the next place he has about 4 or 5 acres in the Common Meadow, which he makes into hay for feeding his ca tle in winter; and, lastly, on the Common Pasture he has the right of feeding either 8 cows or 4 horses, at discretion, besides feeding 16 sheep on that portion of the Common Pasture which is set apart for them only.
The principle, upon which this three-fold division of the land was founded, is evidently one of great utility in an early state of farming; and I have no doubt that at first every person enjoying a right of common occupied his ratable portion of all the three kinds of common. But at present there are some tenants who have rights in the Common Field, and not in the Common pasture; and, vice versa, several occupiers have the right of pasturing a certain number of sheep or cows, who do not possess any portion of arable land in the Common Field. I have been informed that the total number of
holding rights of cominon, of every kina, in Aston and Coat, is between one and two hundred.
As so large a proprietary would be sure to disagree, if they all shared in the government of the community to which they belong, they have, from time immemorial, established among themselves a sort of balanced government, which imitates the British constitution, consisting of the lord of the Manor, who is the king, 4 “grass-stewards" who are a sort of House of Lords, and 16 men called the “Sixteens," * who may fairly be likened to the British House of Commons. But the similarity is not perfect in all its parts : for the Grass-Stewards are generally the four most influential persons of the “Sixteens,” and so joying a privilege, which Lord Brougham would envy, if he knew of its existence—they may be said to have a seat in either House of Parliament. The duties of the grass-stewards are to see that the mounds and fences are in good repair, and to se
* A Classical epithet, reminding us of the “ Decemviri" at Rome, the council of “ Ten" at Venice, &c., &c.
cure the meadow from the incursion of cattle: the Sixteens are bound to provide at their joint expence four two-year-old bulls every season to run on the Common Pasture. At the end of the season they sell them again for their own benefit, and in the meantime have the privilege of claiming a fee of ls. 6d. for every cow that feeds on the common during that season. The bulls also are allowed to feed on the common, free and irrespective of the rights of pasture which their owners, the Sixteens, may possess.
The right of pasture in Common begins on the 14th of May and ends on the 14th of November.
The Sixteens and grass-stewards are chosen in turn out of these who have rights of common. Four yard-lands furnish
Sixteen every year, and thus in four years, every one of the 64 yard-lands has had its turn of sending members to the Aston House of Commons.
The Sixteens used in former times to hold their meetings at Aston Cross, but of late years the assembly has been adjourned to one of the Public Houses, where no doubt the full strong tap of Mine Host's best October is considered far superior to the possibility of a shower, from which even the sanctity of the Cross would not protect them, in the open air.
It remains to describe the Common Meadow. The principal difference between it and the Common Field, is that in the latter every occupant knows his own land, however small may be the fraction of a yard-land which he possesses. The whole of the Common Field is divided by land-marks, and each strip of ground belongs always to the same farmer, but all the farmers adopt, of necessity, the same mode of cultivation, according to the four-year course, a fourth part is consequently always fallow, unless, as is sometimes done, a portion of it is occasionally planted with vetches to supply fed for the cattle in winter.