Thame Local History
The George III Period (1760 - 1820)
Turnpike trusts and the building of high quality toll roads proliferated throughout
the latter half of the eighteenth century.
Comfortable and safe travel by stagecoach from Oxford to London via Thame, and from Thame to many other places now became a reality.
The Aylesbury to Shillingford turnpike opened in 1770. This road runs from Thame via Milton Common to Stadhampton and on to Shillingford.
The hunting of foxes with hounds in organised hunts in the Thame area began in the same year. The fourth Earl of Abingdon, Willoughby Bertie, who inherited the title in 1760, stabled not only horses but also hunting dogs at Rycote House, which he was renovating after the fire of 1745.
The land between Thame and Tetsworth became the hunting ground for the Earl of Abingdon's hunt.
At Rycote Park Willoughby Bertie employed the renowned landscape gardener, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to transform the gardens, paying him £2,500 in 1778.
Willoughby Bertie, the fourth Earl of Abingdon, was a political radical, as well as huntsman, horse breeder, renovator of Rycote House and patron of Capability Brown.
Rycote House had been refurbished since the fire, but in 1779 the entire contents of the house, such as paintings etc., were sold off.
Willoughby Bertie, the fourth Earl of Abingdon, died in 1799. The fifth Earl of Abingdon, Montagu Bertie, took the drastic step of dismantling Rycote House altogether. In 1807 the actual fabric of the building was sold off, such that today only the stables remain, converted into a house.
In the eighteenth century, providing relief for the poor was the responsibility of each parish. Parishes were allowed by law to house the poor in workhouses, so as to defray the costs of their keep by the fruits of their labour.
In 1763-4 the churchwardens of Thame, effectively the parish council, advertised for a suitable person to run a local workhouse.
In 1790 a building used in the Middle Ages as a 'bridewell' or local prison in Wellington Street, then called Pound Lane, was converted into such a workhouse.
This venture apparently failed and the building has since burnt down. On the site now stands the former Wellington public house.
Without the workhouse, the people of Thame had to support the poor through the Poor Rate. In 1811 the sum required was £3,686, a crippling burden for the town and its farming community.
Fleeing persecution in France, 18 Catholic clergy arrived in England and found their way via Reading to Thame. They were accommodated in Thame in 1792, in the mansion that stood in the High Street.
In 1806 the town accommodated more Frenchmen, this time Napoleonic prisoners awaiting repatriation after the end of the war with France.