BORSTALL, in the hundred of Ashendon and deanery of Wendover, lies about nine miles north-west of Thame, in Oxfordshire, and about 13 miles west of Aylesbury. Tradition says, that the site of this manor was given by King Edward the Confessor to one Nigel, for his services in slaying a wild boar, which infested the forest of Bernwood, to be held by cornage, or the service of a horn; and that the mansion built by him on this land was called Boar-stall, in memory of the slain boar. It appears from an inquisition taken in the year 1265, that Sir John Fitz-Nigel or Fitz-Neale then held a hide of arable land, called the Dere-hide, at Borstall, and a wood, called Hull-Wood, by grand serjeanty, as keeper of the forest of Bernwood; that their ancestors had possessed these lands, and this office, before the conquest, and held them by the service of a horn, as the charter of the said forest; that they had been unjustly withheld by the family of Lisures, of whom William Fitz-Nigel, father of Sir John, had been obliged to purchase them. It appears that, about three years before the date of this inquisition, Borstall-house was the property of William Belet. It is certain that the manor of Borstall passed by marriage from the Fitz-Neales to the family of Handlo. John de Handlo had the king's licence to fortify his mansion at Borstall, in 1312. In 1327 he was summoned to parliament as a baron. From his descendants the manor of Borstall passed by heirs female to the families of De la Pole, James, Rede, Denham, Banistre, Lewis, and Aubrey. The present proprietor is Sir John Aubrey bart. Whose family have been in possession more than a century. It is remarkable that this manor has passed, without alienation or forfeiture, through a succession of female heirs, from a period prior to the conquest. Sir John Aubrey has in his possession a very ancient horn, supposed to be same by which this manor was originally held by the Fitz-Neales. The horn, which is thought to be that of a buffalo, is of a dark brown colour, variegated and veined like tortoise-shell. It is two feet four inches in length, on the convex bend, the diameter of the larger end is three inches; at each end it is tipt with silver, gilt, and has a wreath of leather, by which it is hung about the neck. This horn has been figured in the third volume of the Archæologia. Bernwood was disforested in the reign of James I.
Borstall-house was one of King Charles's garrisons, in 1644, and perhaps at an earlier period of the civil war. It appears that in the Spring of that year, it having been thought useless to retain possession of some of the lesser garrisons, this house(among others) was evacuated, and the fortifications destroyed. No sooner was this done, than the parliamentary garrison of Aylesbury, which had experienced much inconvenience from the excursions of their neighbours at Borstall, took possession, and soon became as great a nuisance to the king's garrison at Oxford, as the former garrison at Borstall had been to them, by seizing provisions and obstructing the intercourse between Oxford and the neighbouring country. The ill policy of having evacuated this garrison being now apparent, Col. Gage undertook to reduce it, and succeeded; with little resistance he got possession of the church and out-works, and then commencedso heavy a fire with his cannon against the house, that the besieged shortly surrendered it: Sir Edward Walker says, that lady Denham, the owner, conscious of her disaffection, stole away in disguise. Col. Gage left a garrison there, which nearly supported itself by depredations in Buckinghamshire, particularly in the neighbourhood of Aylesbury. In May 1645, General Skippon attacked Borstall-house, and afterwards Fairfax himself, but both failed in the attempt. The next year Fairfax was more successful, and it was surrendered to him on the 10th June, after a siege of 18 hours, by the governor, Sir Charles Campion, who was afterwards slain at Colchester. All that now remains of this house is a large gateway, with turrets at the corners, sufficiently spacious to have been occasionally the residence of Sir John Aubrey's family, whose chief seat in this country is at the neighbouring village of Dourton.
Borstall was formerly a chapel to Oakley: it was made parochial in 1418; an annual acknowledgment of two shillings is still paid to the mother-church. The church of Borstall, which was nearly demolished in the civil war, was repaired by Lady Denham: it contains nothing remarkable. The great tithes of this parish were given, by the Empress Maud, to the monks of St. Frideswide, in Oxford: the impropriation is now vested in Sir John Aubrey, who is patron of the vicarage.
At Borstall is a large field, called poor-folks pasture, given by King William III. In 1699, to the parishes of Brill and Oakley; it now produces a rent of 110 l. per annum to Brill and 75 l. per annum to Oakley.- Arrengrove is a hamlet of this parish.