A Clergyman’s view of the Otmoor Riots
One of the main supporters of the enclosure of Otmoor was the Rector of Oddington, Rev. Philip Serle. His reward was the allocation to him of land on Otmoor. The result of his actions was that he was a much-hated figure amongst the local inhabitants. It is therefore most interesting to read an account in the June 1898 edition of the Islip Rural Deanery Magazine, written by the then Rector, Rev. Samuel Crawley:-
“From time immemorial up to 1805 Otmoor was a free common of 4000 acres, and the inhabitants of Beckley, Horton, Charlton, Fencot, Murcott, Oddington, and Noke, had the right of grazing cattle, sheep and horses. Enormous flocks of geese and ducks were also reared. In 1805 an act for draining and allotment was obtained, and canals made across the swamp, and the Ray brook widened. In 1830, Otmoor was enclosed and the inhabitants of the various villages lost their rights of free pasturage. Hence the riots which broke out in that year. The 5th Dragoon Guards were quartered at Oxford, to quell the riots, and there was a detachment of the 1st Life Guards at Oddington, and the officers lived at the Rectory. Mr Serle, son of Rector Serle, told me last year, when he called upon me, that he could distinctly remember, as a little child, seeing the swords and the helmets in the Rectory hall, and the officers at their dinner.
Trees were felled by the rioters, gates broken up, the canals cut in order to flood the enclosed lands, and much damage done. Many rioters were imprisoned, among whom I find the names of John Ward, of Noke, and George Savage and Richard Sergeant, of Charlton. Fortunately, there was little bloodshed. In this way, the inhabitants were unjustly deprived of their rights of free pasturage – a sad pity.”