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Arson at Southfield Farm, 1839


Extract from The Times, 1 April 1839:

On Sunday night a fire broke out at Headington, Oxfordshire, on the farm of Mr. Burrows, which destroyed a double barn containing 20 quarters of corn in sacks, a new waggon, a winnowing machine, and other farming implements, besides two straw ricks. The fire is supposed to have been the act of an incendiary. The only cause which can be assigned for the diabolical act is the fact that Mr. Burrows, jun., as vice-chairman of the Headington Union, has taken an active part in carrying out the principle of the New Poor Laws, which has made him unpopular among some of the poorer classes, although he has always been among the number of their best friends.

Mr. Burrows jun. was Thomas Burrows (1808–1849), then of Southfield Farm


The Burrows family and their farms

Thomas Burrows senior (1770–1849)

Thoms Burrows senior was born on 19 August 1770. He was originally a baker of Butcher Row (now Queen Street) in St Peter-le-Bailey parish. He married Margaret Dewe (born at Stone Hill, Berkshire in 1779) at her home parish of Sutton Courtenay on 30 July 1807, and they had the following children:

  • Thomas the younger (1808–1849): see below
  • James (1809–1884): see below
  • Margaret, baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 25 March 1810,
    died aged 1 year 11 months, buried at the same church on 23 February 1812
  • Sarah, baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 8 July 1811,
    died aged 4 months, buried inside the same church on 21 November 1811
  • Mary Ann (1813–1883): see below
  • William (1814–1856): see below
  • Eliza (1815–1865): see below

By the time of the 1841 census, Thomas Burrows senior (70) held the lease of Southfield Farm (which lay to the south-west of Old Road and in the parish of Headington Quarry) from James Holmes and lived there with his wife Margaret and his three surviving unmarried children: Thomas junior (32), William (26), and Mary Anne (25).

Thomas Burrows senior died at the age of 78 on 10 May 1849, and was buried at St Andrew’s Church on six days later. His wife Margaret died on 21 August 1865 and was buried with her husband five days later.

Thomas Burrows the younger (1808–1849)

Thomas Burrows the younger was born on 12 June 1808 and privately baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church the next day. He originally worked for his father at Southfield Farm, but took over Mather’s Farm in Barton Lane in the parish of Old Headington at some point between 1841 and 1848, when he is listed on a sale map for Headington House as being in occupation there. In 1851 this farm was 140 acres in size and worked by six  men.

He was a pillar of the community in Headington, and was one of the first managers of Headington National School. He died at the age of 41 on 18 June 1849 (thus outliving his father by only six weeks), and was buried at St Andrew’s Church five days later. The 1850 rate book for Headington shows that Mather’s Farm was then owned by the executors of Thomas Burrows, and occupied by William Scarlett.

James Burrows (1809–1884)

James Burrows was born on 7 May 1809 and privately baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church two days later.

He took over his father’s baker’s business in St Peter-le-Bailey parish, and at the time of the 1861 census was described as the employer of two men, both of whom lodged in his house. He was then a bachelor of 49 living in New Inn Hall Street with his widowed mother Margaret (81) and his two spinster sisters Mary Ann (46) and Eliza (42).

He died in Oxford at the age of 75 on 6 June 1884 and was buried at St Andrew’s Church, Headington three days later.

Miss Mary Ann Burrows (1813–1883)

Mary Ann Burrows was born 24 March 1813 and baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church four days later. She held 15 acres in Town Furze which she let out to George Coppock, according to the Headington rate book of 1851.

Miss Burrows never married, and was still living in her mother’s house at the time of the 1861 census. She evidently ended her days in Reading, where she died on 18 November 1883. She was buried at St Andrew’s Church, Headington five days later.

William Burrows (1814–1856)

William Burrows was baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 30 June 1814.

In 1842 William Burrows (described as a yeoman) married at Bucknell Harriet Savours, who was seven years his senior and the daughter of William Savours, gentleman of Headington.

William kept hold of his father’s lease of Southfield Farm, which at the time of the 1851 census was 340 acres in size and worked by eighteen men. That census shows William (36) living at the farm with his wife Harriet (43), his widowed mother Margaret (73), and his children Harriet Mary (6), Emily Eliza (5), and William Thomas (3). His eldest daughter was baptised at Bucknell, and the two younger children at St Andrew’s Church in Headington on 31 December 1845 and 13 January 1848 respectively.

Thanks to his marriage, William Burrows was also able to lease Quarry Farm from the Executors of William Savours, according to the Headington Rate Book of 1851. He died at the age of 42 and was buried at St Andrew’s Church on 21 June 1856.

At the time of the 1861 census his widow Harriet and the children were living at Walton Street in St Mary Magdalen parish, and Emily Eliza was visiting with the family of Thomas Gardner, a farmer at East Adderbury. Emily died later that year at the age of 15, and was buried in Headington on 26 July 1861. Harriet died at Bicester at the age of 81 on 20 July 1885 and was buried at Headington five days later with her husband and daughter.

Miss Eliza Burrows (1815–1865)

Eliza Burrows was born on 5 May 1815 and baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church two days later. She was living with her mother in New Inn Hall Street at the time of the 1861 census.

She never married, and died at the age of 49 in St Peter-le-Bailey parish on 15 January 1865 and was buried at St Andrew’s Church, Headington five days later


By the time of the 1861 census, the whole Burrows family had disappeared from Headington, but they continued to be buried in the family tomb in St Andrew’s churchyard until 1885.

The fortunes of the farm went downhill after the tenure of the Burrows family. The following notice appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 12 April 1873:

IN CHANCERY
And in the Matter of a Farm, commonly called “The Southfield Farm” situate in the parish of Headington, now in the occupation of Thomas Edmund Miller, containing in the whole two hundred and two acres and two roods (or thereabouts), and consisting of a Dwelling House and Garden, and divers Closes and Premises, commonly known as “Seed Croll”, “Asylum Furlong,” “Wheat Piece,”, “Divinity Walk,” “Furlong over Bridge,” with two Cottages and Gardens, Moors and Sheep Walk, Lower Furlong, Upper Furlong, Croll near Cowley Marsh, Middle Croll, Grass and Orchard.

On 28 July 1883 there is an advertisement for the newly built family residence “Southfield House” and the adjoining farm, now reduced to 194 acres from the 202 acres of 1873.

In 1891 Divinity Road, Bartlemas Road, Southfield Road, and Warneford Road were built, eroding more of the land of Southfield Farm.

In the 1920s the remains of the farm were sold, and the Warneford Meadow and Southfield Golf Course are on part of this land.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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