Tackley Local History Group

Tackley History Mysteries No. 10

Crecy Hill: Tackley’s French Connection?

Where does Crecy Hill get its name from? On the 1844 tithe map it was called Grassy Hill, and is often now known as Greasy Hill. Both names are good descriptions of the land: pasture and, in the winter, very muddy.

However, it is very unlikely that Crecy Hill is a modern corruption of those descriptive names. It is much more likely that they are both corruptions of an older name — and if this does refer to the Battle of Crécy in 1346, is there a possible connection with Tackley that would explain it?

There is such a connection, although it is fairly thin and circumstantial. The link is John de Shareshull who was rector of Tackley from 1329 to 1336 while he was a student at Oxford. After graduation he was appointed precentor of Oxford Cathedral, a post he held until his death in 1374.

The precentor was responsible for the cathedral’s music. His career was spent in the church, although it is possible that he was the same John Shareshull who took part in the 1355–56 campaign during the Hundred Years’ War led by the Black Prince that culminated in the Battle of Poitiers.

During the 1340s and 50s he served as a judge on commission in various assize courts, a position that he no doubt owed to his older brother Sir William de Shareshull (c 1289–1370) who became one of Edward III’s most important financial and judicial advisers and Chief Justice of the King’s Bench from 1350–60.

William Shareshull held extensive estates in Staffordshire and Oxfordshire, including the manors of Barton Odonis (now called Sesswell Barton and previously Sharshull Barton) and Dornford, as well as one of the two manors in Rousham. Their proximity to Woodstock, as well as his family links to royal courtiers, no doubt led to his connection with the Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of Edward III who was born in the royal palace there in 1330.

When the prince was made the first Duke of Cornwall in 1337, William Shareshull was appointed to the council of the duchy and then became guardian of the principality after Edward was made Prince of Wales in 1343. The Hundred Years’ War had broken out in 1337, and there is no evidence that William participated in the English invasion of France in July 1346 or that he was at the Battle of Crécy on 16 August 1346, where the Black Prince was one of the English commanders. But his presence there would not have been out of place: he had raised money for the prince’s campaign, and as chief baron of the prince’s exchequer he was the prince’s most important financial official.

Battle of Crécy from a 15th-century manuscript of Jean Froissart’s Chronicles

There is therefore a connection between Crécy and Tackley via the Shareshulls, but the direct link between the family and the village predates the battle by at least ten years. However, Crecy Hill is only two miles from Lower Dornford and is in direct line of sight from Rousham – two of William’s properties – so memorialising his young patron’s great victory would not be beyond the bounds of possibility.

The questions still remain. If Grassy Hill and Greasy Hill are corruptions of an earlier name, what was that name? And if it was Crecy Hill, how did it get the name?

Research and text: John Perkins

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