Thame Local History
The Early 19th Century Period (1821 - 1850)

Land enclosure and rural poverty were two great themes of early nineteenth century Thame life.

Thame's open fields were enclosed in 1826, with the town's Enclosure Award.

Enclosure brought new hedges to the landscape, and turned many smallholders into agricultural workers paid a wage.

There was already great poverty in rural communities and enclosure was often met with resistance from the local agricultural population.

Otmoor saw resistance to enclosure in 1829-32 and in 1830-31 there was a rural revolt across southern England, known as the 'Captain Swing' uprising.

Machinery was smashed at Long Crendon, but Thame seems to have avoided trouble.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 divided the country into Poor Law Unions, also known as Registration Districts, and each district was to have a workhouse. Poor relief became a national matter and no longer a local obligation.

The Thame Poor Law Union comprised 35 local parishes and a substantial workhouse was built at Thame in 1836.

Another great theme of Thame life at this time was the growing influence of the Nonconformist population.

In 1827 a Congregationalist Chapel opened at 14 High Street, now the site of the Masonic Hall. A Primitive Methodist chapel began at Moreton in 1830.

The Nonconformist influenced 'British and Foreign Schools Society' opened a Royal British School in Park Street, Thame in 1836, now the John Hampden County Primary School.

Following a local meeting, the 'National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Church of England' opened a National School on land donated by the Earl of Abingdon in the Hog Fair, just off the Lower High Street, also in 1836.

East Street was built in the early 1830's. It was then called New Road, and was linked to a new turnpike road from Thame to Princes Risborough.

Several new houses were built along East Street and Park Street, one seemingly by a family of Quakers in 1833.

Thame broke onto the national stage in 1840. The first letter sent with a Penny Black stamp was sent in 1840 to a certain George Waterman in Thame.

Mr John Stone, a wealthy local man, purchased and began to renovate the Prebendal House in 1835, as it had been in a state of disrepair for some time.

The Poor Law Unions or Registration Districts were the basis for the nineteenth century population censuses. The first detailed census was in 1841.

The 1841 census returns for Thame give us a view of Thame's population make-up following the upheavals of enclosure, dire local poverty and the beginnings of new building in the eastern part of the town.

In 1844 Montagu Bertie, 5th Earl of Abingdon, offered his lands in Thame for sale.

He succeeded in selling Priestend, but not Old Thame, New Thame and North Weston, which remained in the Bertie family.

More Information on Workhouses and Poor Law Unions

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  Thame, Oxfordshire, England