During the Civil War, Oxhill in company with much of South Warwickshire would seem to have had mainly Parliamentarian sympathies. There were some noteworthy exceptions, however, including Matthew Clarke, who held the main manor, and his son Walwyn, who became Oxhill Rector in 1643. Daniel Blackford was another prominent Royalist: he was the third son of yeoman John Blackford and Elizabeth Bishop, whose brother Anthony owned the Grange manor.
Matthew Clarke and Daniel Blackford both served with the Earl of Northampton’s Regiment of Horse, raised in 1642 by the 2nd Earl, Spencer Compton. The regiment saw extensive action during the war, until its surrender in 1646. Captain Clarke commanded one of the regiment’s six troops and Blackford was his Quartermaster. With Compton’s battlefield death in March 1643, his eldest son James became 3rd Earl and regimental Colonel. His fourth son Spencer became governor of Compton Wynyates, the family seat and a Royalist Garrison, and as the boy was barely 15 years old, Matthew Clarke was appointed as his advisor. Parliamentary forces captured Compton Wynyates in June 1644 and held off the Royalist assault in January 1645 aimed at taking it back. Daniel Blackford was taken prisoner in the latter engagement. Daniel survived and resided in Burmington for at least a dozen years following the Restoration. He returned to Oxhill where he served as churchwarden in 1679-80. At the time of his death in 1681, he was described in his will as a yeoman and was survived by a wife and four sons. He is among Oxhill’s better-known historical figures, mainly by virtue of the inscription on his monument inside St. Lawrence Church:
Rector Walwyn Clarke was a fervent and outspoken loyalist. Well known for hurling insults at Parliamentary soldiers, he was sanctioned in 1646 and frequently harassed and taxed. Surprisingly, he managed to keep his post until well after the Restoration, and inherited the manor upon the death of his father Matthew in 1559.
On 25th June 1644, General Sir William Waller learned that the Royalist army had marched into Buckingham on the previous Saturday. That night (Tuesday) Waller's cavalry quartered in and around the village of Oxhill after an eighteen-mile ride, and the infantry lay down at Shipston on Stour, five miles away. To refresh the men, Waller commanded that the Wednesday fast be observed. Whilst they lay at Oxhill, they were joined by seven troops of Horse, 600 Foot and eleven pieces of ordnance from garrisons at Warwick and Coventry.
On 26th June, General Waller wrote to London:- “I am come to Oxhill near Keynton field.” (By Kineton field he doubtless meant the site of the battle of Edgehill.) Waller explains that he left the Foot at Shipston, and complains of the extreme hot weather, which his much-diminished forces found very trying, so that they could not manage long marches without pause for rest. He purposed to march in the cool of the evening. Waller begs that the promised one month's pay be sent down as it will be a means of preventing this army from dissolving.
According to the Calendar Of State Papers (Domestic) by Order of Parliament, the money was sent down for Waller's army on 28th June, above twenty horses laden with dorsers (panniers) being the easiest way of carriage, there being a man appointed to every horse with his sword and pistol, besides a Great Guard.
During the Fast in Oxhill on Wednesday, an officer in Waller's own Regiment wrote to a friend in London and his letter illustrated the high morale of the army at that time.
“Sir. We have again taken divers prisoners and doe chase the King's forces every day they run from us, and indeed be too light of foot for us: I should not have believed they could have run so well had I not seen it so, some few days since they drew up their forces into Battalia and made the Countryfolk believe they would fight saying now let the Roundheads come that dare not march out of the Lanes and Hedges; but we appeared since They ran from us and we took some of them.”
Waller resumed his march on Thursday, halting that night at Hanwell Castle. Waller's forces were defeated by Royalist forces at the Battle of Cropredy Bridge on June 28th, 1644.
There is a story on record that during the Civil War, Parliamentarian troopers, led by Lord Essex, galloped up to Oxhill Church, and thundered on the door during divine service. The Parish Clerk, quite forgetting his responses in his excitement, rushed out to see what was going on. He received a blow from a heavy cavalry sword for his pains, from which it is said that he later died. This story appears in several old books on Warwickshire, but it has been unable to be verified from authentic sources. It makes a good story, nevertheless. The Rector of Oxhill, Rev. V. H. Macy, writing to the Banbury Guardian at the end of the nineteenth century, quotes “Those who in quarrels interpose, will oftentimes get a bloody nose”, and he would appear to have been right.
Murray Duke, revision of the original article by Ann Hale, incorporating recent research