History of Nethercote

On 4th July 2023, the hamlet of Nethercote was acknowledged with a sign

Nethercote is a hamlet on the edge of North Oxfordshire, a semi-rural area bordering with West Northamptonshire. The hamlet sits South East of J11 of M40, lying South of the A422 and East of the M40.  An area of approximately one to two square miles, predominantly agricultural land used for grazing, a single-track road runs right through the hamlet, known as Banbury Lane, which has around a dozen residential properties along the lane. 

The original route from Northamptonshire into Oxfordshire

Banbury Lane is still often referred to as Blacklocks Hill and this refers to the history of the area and a time when this area saw a main route into Banbury, before the M40 and A422 dual carriageway were opened in the late 1980’s. Blacklocks Hill was the main route into Northamptonshire into Banbury. The road now known as Middleton Road was a turnpike road.

Census Records For Nethercote

1861 there were 19 houses and 56 people living in Nethercote

1871 there were 15 houses and 43 people living there.

1881 there were 15 houses and 58 people living there.

1891 there were 11 houses, 2 of which were empty, and 26 people living there.

In 1901 one of the residents that used to live in Nethercote was now living in the workhouse on Warwick Road

At some time three cottages stood along Banbury Lane running from Phoenix Cottage to The Bowling Green, it is thought that these burnt down at some point. It is said that the fire truck, at those times pulled by horse, had to fill up at the pond at Grimsbury and by the time of arrival, the cottages had already burnt down

If you have any information on these cottages or this story, please contact us to let us know!

This map shows Nethercote in 1888 to 1913 with an overlay showing where M40 and A422 Dual Carriageway now run

Map image(s) extracted from the ARCHI MAPS UK website at https://www.archiuk.com
A 1988 Drive Through Banbury; Heads East around 7:45
The pictures show where the road was cut off for the M40; where it is gated Nethercote end & where you would have come out onto the Middleton Road

Originally Nethercote fell within Northamptonshire, forming part of the Warkworth Parish, along with the then hamlet of Grimsbury.  In 1889 both hamlets became part of Banbury and have since fallen within Oxfordshire. At that time, a further hamlet of Huscote lay North of Nethercote, however today there only remains a farm in that area. There are 35 tree protection orders on Huscote Farm today

Morning Herald, Thursday 21 September 1865

Nerthercote appears in the Assize Rolls of 1202 and can
be found described as ‘by Bannebury’ in 1392

Warkworth is thought to have been a farming community, with Banbury’s largest flocks of sheep in the 17th Century recorded at Grimsbury and Nethercote. None of the ridge and furrow survives in Warkworth, only on the lower areas (Nethercote). The fields in the area are medieval ridge and furrow landform. Ridge and furrow is a term used to describe the earthen ridges and troughs that are created by the action of prolonged ploughing, which caused soil to build up in regularly spaced ridges along the length of a field.  Typically, this was a method of cultivation characteristic dating back as early as the medieval period. It is commonly identified by the broad reverse s-shaped undulations that were created by an ox drawn plough, as it cut and turned the soil over. The ox team needed plenty of space to turn at the end of each furrow because, by ploughing in a slight curve, the plough could start to turn before the furrow had been completed. This enabled it to be turned and brought back around into the curve of the preceding ridge.

Indeed as we can see from our corrugated fields, the open field system continued until very late in history all around Banburyshire. The parish of Warkworth however is of particular interest because it was such a complicated case. The parish was divided into three townships, “vills” or “tithings” each paying their tithes to different parishes. Warkworth Tithing consisted of 960 acres and paid tithes to St. Mary’s church at Warkworth, while Middleton Tithing (consisting mostly of Overthorpe) had 950 acres and paid tithes to Middleton Cheney. In addition, Banbury Tithing, the largest at 990 acres contained Nethercote, Grimsbury and Huscote and paid tithes to Banbury. All three tithings paid highway rates to Warkworth and incidentally, the Warkworth parsonage belonged to Marston St. Lawrence church! When we read all this information as laid out and explained in the 1764 Act of Enclosure, we finally realise why it was thought logical for Overthorpe to become part of the temporal parish of Middleton Cheney in 1894. Banbury Tithing all became appropriated to Banbury when the Oxfordshire border was moved in 1889, and of course much of it now lies under the M40 motorway!

Extract from “The Ancient and Noble Seat” by Shona Rutherford-Edge

Overthorpe and Nethercote are thought to have derived from their proximity to Warkworth, Nethercote. The word Nethercote is derived from the Middle English words “nether(e)” meaning “lower” and “cot” meaning cottage. 

In the census of 1871, the parish of Warkworth as a whole numbered 1905 souls, but only 42 of those people lived in Warkworth village itself. Warkworth consisted of 3 farmhouses and a cottage when Whellan surveyed it. Grimsbury on the other hand had 418 houses and several undergoing construction or extension. The latter half of the nineteenth century was a time of great expansion in Grimsbury, which had the advantage of being right on top of both the railway and the canal, the two forms of transport of which the Victorian men of trade and progress were so proud. Nethercote had 21 houses, Husscote only one farm, and annoyingly, he did not bother to number the houses in Overthorpe, having listed the inhabitants

Extract from “The Ancient and Noble Seat” by Shona Rutherford-Edge

There is a Grade II listed building in Nethercote, Home Farmhouse, by this definition it is considered a building that is “of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it”

Banbury Cheese!

Throughout the Middle Ages until the mid-eighteenth century, Nethercote along with the original hamlet of Grimsbury was the centre of Banbury’s cheese making trade, a product that was made from local resources and much prized at the time, although there is little mention of it by the nineteenth century

Banbury cheeses first appear in the historical record in 1430, when fourteen were sent to John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, among supplies for France.

The cheese was renowned in its day. It was given as a gift to several significant figures, including Thomas Cromwell (1533 and 1538), Sir Joseph Williamson (1677), and Horace Walpole (1768).[1] Barnaby Googe, in his 1614 guide to husbandry, called in the third best cheese in England. Robert Burton was even more flattering in his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621): “Of all cheeses, I take that kind which we call Banbury Cheese to be the best”.[4] According to the Victoria County History, “in the sixteenth century the name of Banbury at once brought to the mind of the hearer the famous cheeses

The production of Banbury cheese essentially constituted a cottage industry, centred in Grimsbury and Nethercote.

Extracted From http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/

A cow’s milk cheese, yellow and strongly flavoured, made in very thin (c1ins) rounds, known at least since Huswife 1594.

Banbury Cheese became something of a byword for anything unreasonably thin, Bardolph calls Slender a “Banbury cheese” in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, and in Jack Drum’s Entertainment we read, “You are like a Banbury cheese, nothing but paring.”

Nethercote Before the Building of the M40 and A422 Dual Carriageway

Banbury history records intertwine reference to the original hamlet of Grimsbury and Nethercote, today, the original hamlet of Grimsbury is designated a conservation area but Nethercote has been left exposed.

The A422 Dual Carriageway Route
A delivery of groceries to a cottage in Nethercote by H Stroud & Son, circa 1930

Did a Russian Spy named Anna Visit Nethercote?

It is said that a piece of treachery that changed world history took place in a quiet lane in Nethercote

Laus Fuchs is said to have handed over the secret formula of the atom bomb to a Russian spy named Anna, claimed to have taken place in 1945 on a bench in Nethercote. The bench sat on a bend in between the Willows & The Red House (known today as The White Cottage)

Often referred to as the most important “atomic” spy of the 20th century, Klaus Fuchs (1911–1988) was a German physicist who worked on the British and US-led atomic projects of the Cold War era. In 1950, Fuchs was caught passing vital secrets to the Soviet Union and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment!

You may wonder why The Red House had a change of colour & name!

In 1963, The cottage known as The Red House had become derelict and was offered for sale by auction as “an ideal subject for modernisation”

The lady who bought the house, Corrine Dennison, found communist literature in the property and had visits from Russians in 1964 and 1965. She found this disturbing and as part of the modernisation the house was therefore repainted and renamed The White Cottage.

Even some years after reselling the property, and shortly before her death in 2006, Corrine was still fearful and unwilling to talk publicly about the property or her experiences

During her time in Nethercote, Corrine planted an abundance of daffodils and snowdrops along the lane that still today, bloom every spring!

COLD WAR IN A COUNTRY PARISH The seemingly insignificant hamlet of Nethercote does have one claim to international fame. It was here, conveniently mid-way between Oxford and Birmingham, yet safely off the beaten track, that a communist spy ring would exchange secrets to send to the USSR. Ruth Werner was born into a Jewish, middle-class, academic family in Berlin in 1907. She was the daughter of the prominent economist, Dr. René Kuczynski and at that time she was called Ursula. Having lived through the humiliation and defeat of the First World War, Ursula, like many other young idealists, held Nationalism and Capitalism responsible for Germany’s chaotic unemployment and inflation. She joined the Communist Youth League of Germany in 1924, and was soon a full member of the Communist Party. In the 1930s she was working as a Soviet 57 agent in war-torn China with Richard Sorge and Rolf Hamburger. With her British Communist husband, Ursula arrived in Britain in 1940 where she lived in Oxford as Ursula Brewer, a Jewish refugee. Her brother, Dr. Jürgen Kuczynski had already been spying here for some time, and had introduced Dr. Klaus Fuchs to Soviet Intelligence. Fuchs was developing the early stages of the atomic bomb at Birmingham University, and he would meet Ursula at The Red House in Nethercote, an easy walk from Banbury Station in Grimsbury for each of them. Fuchs apparently believed that both sides in what was later to become the Cold War should have Atomic technology in order that a fair balance of knowledge would promote Peace. In her autobiography published in 1977, Ruth always justified her work as being against Nazi-fascism. Throughout 1942 they would meet and she would send details by wireless. She returned to Germany in 1950, where she lived in East Berlin as Ruth Werner, and died in 2000. The Red House (was it chosen on purpose as a Communist joke?) is now called The White Cottage. Local word of mouth tells us that Ursula and Klaus would sit on a green council bench, just along from The Red House, outside The Willows. The bench was situated on a rather bad bend in the road and was always being crashed into by cars, so in time the council took it down and Kenneth Carrdus bought it and it stood in the garden of Overthorpe Hall for many years”

Extract from “The Ancient and Noble Seat” by Shona Rutherford-Edge
Nethercote early in the 1900s

Golf at Nethercote

In 1901 Banbury & District Golf Club emerged from the reorganisation and Bodicote Golf Club was disbanded. Although by 1905 the golf club had moved to Broughton Road

The principal event of the week has been the re-organisation of the Bodicote Golf Club, which will, in future, be known as the Banbury & District Golf Club. The old Bodicote club will be disbanded at the end of the present month, and the new links at Overthorpe – very suitable in every way – will be opened on the 27th inst.

An inaugural meeting was held at the Red Lion on Tuesday evening, when Mr A B Field was voted to the chair. There were also present – Mr E Lamley Fisher, Mr A Maxwell, Mr Eyre Crowe, Edgar Barrows, Arnold Stockton, Mr A D Allen (Overthorpe) and Mr Tayton. Mr Field said he had no doubt a great many of the old members would join.

He had a letter from Mr Blacklock offering him a cottage at very low rental. The cottage was at Nethercote, at the bottom of Blacklock’s Hill, and the members could cycle up to the door.

Mr Maxwell accepted the office of treasurer. It was resolved to ask the Hon. A E FitzRoy to be president and among the vice-presidents mentioned were; the Earl of Jersey, Mr Brassey M.P, Mr Grazebrook, Mr W H Wilson Fitzgerald, Mr E Hopcraft, Mr J H Blacklock, Mr T W Holland, Mr O Bland, Mr G W Peareth.”

From the Banbury Guardian Thursday 4 April 1901.

M40 Junction 11

The M40 motorway links London, Oxford and Birmingham, a distance of approximately 89 miles (143 km)

The motorway between London and Oxford was constructed in stages between 1967 and 1974

Nethercote Before M40

Late in the 1960s, not long after the first stretch opened, the Ministry of Transport announced the possibility of building a motorway to link London with Birmingham as an alternative to the M1-M6 route – as well as improving road links to the South Coast ports for The Midlands – but it was not until 1983 that the decision to extend the M40 from Oxford to the south of Birmingham was made.

Construction of M40 and A422 Dualling Around Nethercote

Construction began at Warwick in October 1987, with work on the section around Banbury starting in February 1988, and finally, the section north of Oxford in July 1989. The section between the M42 and Warwick opened in December 1989, and the remainder in January 1991

Map showing the original layout with the M40 and A422 Dual Carriageway overlaid

Later, the A422 was re-routed, cutting across Banbury Lane, to create a dual carriageway running from M40 Junction 11 up to the Middleton Cheney roundabout, creating a new junction with B4525

The re-routed A422

The M40 Banbury stretch essentially separated Nethercote and what was previously the hamlet of Hulscote, from the rest of Banbury

If you have information, records, photographs, maps etc relating to the history of Nethercote, please share them with us by emailing admin@keepnethercoterural.com