The village of Horton-cum-Studley lies about 7 miles north-east of the centre of Oxford, on the south-east edge of Otmoor.
It originally comprised of two hamlets, Horton in Oxfordshire and Studley, partly in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Both hamlets were originally part of the ancient parish of Beckley but the Buckinghamshire part of Studley became a separate civil parish and stayed so until it was transferred to Oxfordshire under the Reform Act of 1832, long after Horton and the Oxfordshire part of Studley had been separated from Beckley to form the civil parish of Horton-cum- Studley. The two parts of Studley were reunited in 1932 when the Studley and Horton-cum-Studley civil parishes were finally merged.
The oldest known record for the manor of Horton is a charter from 1005 that records the manor’s agricultural land as five hides. However, the Domesday Book of 1086 has no separate entry for Horton as it had been part of the manor of Beckley since before the Norman Conquest.
The founding date of the Benedictine Studley Priory is not known, but the earliest known record of its existence dates from 1176, when Bernard de St Valery granted half a hide of land at Studley to the priory. At one time the priory had fifty nuns, but by 1445 their number had fallen to nine. In 1520 there were still only ten nuns and the priory was significantly in debt. In 1530 the debt was £60 and the buildings were in disrepair.
Under the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Studley Priory surrendered its lands to the Crown in November 1539, which sold them off in February 1540. John Croke bought the priory’s lands at Studley and Horton.
In 1621 another Sir John Croke sold Studley to George Croke, who was a lawyer. Sir George died in 1642, leaving his estates to his wife for the remainder of her life, with reversion to their son Thomas and thence to other members of their immediate family. Thomas Croke was a Royalist in the English Civil War so Parliament sequestered his estates in 1644, but they were discharged in 1646.
Sir Alexander Croke succeeded to the estate in 1777. Alexander became a maritime lawyer and was the senior justice of the vice admiralty courts of Nova Scotia from 1801: a term of office that included the War of 1812 against the USA. Sir Alexander also wrote satirical verse, many letters and a genealogy of his family.
In 1877 Sir Alexander’s younger son John Croke sold Studley to John Henderson. In 1953 Studley was still in his family, with his grandson Captain John Henderson being lord of the manor.
Horton and Studley are more than 2 miles from the church of their ancient parish of Beckley. There is an isolated record of a chaplain serving Horton in the 13th century, but there are no subsequent records until 1553 when a chapel at Horton is recorded as having been there for some time.
Then, in 1639, Sir George Croke had the north wing of Studley Priory converted into a chapel. The old village chapel was allowed to fall into disrepair and by 1685 it had gone completely. Villagers worshipped at the new Priory chapel, and the residents of the almshouses were duty bound to do so or else half of their weekly allowance would be stopped.
Saint Barnabas’ Church was built in 1867 on the site of the former village chapel. This made the Priory chapel unnecessary, so when the Croke family sold their property in 1877 the Priory chapel was converted into a kitchen and offices.
The present church was designed by the Gothic Revival architect William Butterfield and is built of yellow brick relieved by red and blue brick detailing. It has no tower but there is a bell-turret at the west end of the nave with two bells.
Studley had a windmill in 1539, when it was listed among the estates of the priory that had just been dissolved and sold to John Croke. It was later recorded on maps in the 17th and 18th centuries and finally on the parish of Beckley’s inclosure maps of 1827. Its site is marked today by the name Mill Field, at the end of Mill Lane.
Sir George Croke established the Studley Almshouse Charity in 1631 by an indenture that gave it an income from land at Easington in Buckinghamshire. The houses were built in 1639 for four local men over 60 years of age and four local women over 50 “well reputed for religion and of good character and conversation”. A further endowment to the charity was added by Sir Richard Ingoldsby in 1668. The Otmoor Inclosure Award of 1825 added two acres and eight perches to the charity’s endowment. The number of beneficiaries was reduced to two men and two women in 1880.