Pishill with Stonor Parish : A Brief History

The parish of Pishill with Stonor was formed in 1922 and enlarged in 1931 by the addition of Warmscombe, previously a detached part of Watlington Parish, and now consists of the villages of Pishill, Stonor, Maidensgrove, and Russell’s Water.  Previously, Pishill had been a small independent parish, while Stonor had been part of the parish of Pyrton. ‘Pishill’ comes from the old English ‘peose-hyll’, the hill where peas grow, and is mentioned as ‘Pesehull’ as early as 1195. Stonor derives from ‘Stanora lege’ or Stony Hill, mentioned in a charter of King Offa in 774; but the village itself was known as Upper Assendon until comparatively recently. Maidensgrove was ‘Minigrove’ in the 17th century; and Russell’s Water is said to be named after the brickworks once owned by the Russell family, which operated from the mid-17th to mid-19th century, until the clay ran out; bricks from here were used to build Watlington Town Hall.

None of the four villages is mentioned by name in the Domesday book, although land-holdings in the parish can be identified. The parish of Pishill consisted in 1279 of two hamlets, Pishill Napper (around the church and current village of Pishill), and Pishill Venables (probably on the site of Russell’s Water). In the mid-12th century Pishill church was given to Dorchester Abbey; behind the Old Vicarage (now a private house) the remains of a medieval window and window-seat are incorporated into a later structure, but there is no evidence that that there was an abbey on the site as sometimes stated. Pishill Napper was part of the D’Oyley family estate but was sold to the Stonors in the 15th century; Pishill Venables had become part of the Stonor estate a century before.

The Stonor estate now consists just of the house (Stonor Park) and surrounding deer-park, where fallow deer graze peacefully. The house has been in the possession of the Stonor family since at least the 12th century. There is a 13th-century chapel.

Pishill Church is of Norman origin and is first mentioned in a papal confirmation of the grant to Dorchester Abbey made between 1146 and 1163. It was enlarged, and remodelled internally, in 1854, but some of the external medieval walling is still visible. It has a stained-glass window by the artist John Piper. A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in Russell’s Water in 1836 but is now a private residence.

At the beginning of the 19th century there were both Church of England and Catholic schools in Stonor. A National school was opened in Pishill in 1854 in an existing cottage onto which an extra schoolroom was built the following year; but the number of children attending dropped steadily from 1887 until 1939, when the school was closed.

The Crown Inn, at Pishill, dates to the 15th century; the Five Horseshoes at Maidensgrove has splendid views; and The Stonor Arms, which traded for a while as ’The Flying Pig’, has now re-opened as ’The Quince Tree’, complete with food shop. There were other pubs in the parish including The Beehive at Russell’s Water and The Woodman in Pishill, both now private houses.