Some history on the county of Oxfordshire


Oxfordshire Places

Oxfordshire in Kelly's Trade Directory [1895]

Oxfordshire, sometimes called Oxon, is an inland shire; it lies along the north shore of the Thames, the windings of which it follows, and it is, therefore, very irregular in shape, being in some places only 7 miles across, and in others, as in the north-west, 28; its greatest length is about 50 miles; it runs in a north-west and south-east direction, having its longest dimensions on the river side; it contains 485,322 acres, and had a population in 1861 of 170,944; in 1871, 177,975; in 1881, 179,559; and in 1891, 191,191, viz., males, 92,366; females, 98,825; the number of houses were inhabited, 40,972; uninhabited, 3,104; building, 199, additions having been made from Northamptonshire and Berkshire.

The county in the Pre-Roman era formed part of the territory of the Dobuni, but was included by the Romans in the province of Britannia Prima. Notable Druidical remains exist at Little Rollright, near Chipping Norton, while Roman remains exist at Dorchester, Chadlington, Alcester and Bicester, a Roman villa at North Leigh, and portions of Watling Street and Icknield Street traverse or enter the county. Soon after the departure of the Romans it was conquered by the Saxons and became part of the Mercia kingdom; battles were fought at Bensington, Banbury, Eynsham and Brampton; a small portion [Bampton and neighbourhood] being held by the king of Wessex, numerous battles took place between the rival kings, notably at Bicester, Burford and Bensington.

Dorchester : Abbey Church [c.1937]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

In the seventh century St. Birinus of Rome was created first Bishop of Dorchester, and included both kingdoms in his diocese. In the Danish incursions this county suffered severely; Oxford and Thame were destroyed; numerous earthworks of this period remain. At the Norman conquest the county submitted quietly with the exception of Oxford, and the prosperity of the latter place consequently declined until the founding of Oseney Abbey on the Isis, to which the residence of the Bishop was removed from Dorchester. The Bishopric was afterwards transferred to Lincoln, and again removed to Oxford and separately endowed by Henry VIII.

Shillingford : Farming Harvest [c.1905]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Oxfordshire is bounded on the north by Warwickshire and by the river Cherwell and Northamptonshire, on the east by Buckinghamshire, on the south by the Thames and Berkshire, and on the west by Gloucestershire; it is a county having a very varied surface, from the lowlands of the river to high and bare chalk hills; it belongs partly to the secondary formations and partly to the chalk, and is traversed by the Chiltern Hills from south-east to north-east, and by other ranges. The soil on the river bank is a rich black mould; in north Oxfordshire it is a very fertile red earth or clay; in the midland district it is a decomposed stone brash or limestone, with sand and loam; and in the Chilterns, or south-east, it is a sandy loam laid on the chalk.

Bourton-on-the-Water : River Windrush [c.1911]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

The rivers are numerous, and mostly belong to the basin of the Thames, which is the chief waterway; this river is popularly called the Thames throughout its course, but is really the Isis until after its junction with the Thame; it enters the county at Lechlade, being navigable for vessels of ninety tons; its winding course forms the boundary of the county down to Henley. The Thame flows from Buckinghamshire past Thame and crosses Oxfordshire, past Dorchester, to its junction with the Isis between Day's lock and Shillingford bridge; after this junction the Isis is properly called the Thames. The Windrush rises in Gloucestershire, in the Cotswold Hills, passes Burford and Witney, to the Isis. The Cherwell comes from Northamptonshire, enters Oxfordshire in the north near Claydon, and runs to the Isis near Oxford. The Evenlode rises in Worcestershire, and after receiving the Glyme, near Woodstock, falls into the Isis about 4 miles from Oxford. The river Ray falls into the Cherwell.

Oxford Canal : Cropredy Canal Lock [c.1956]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

The Oxford Canal enters the county at Claydon, 6 miles north of Banbury, and passes near the Cherwell to Oxford; it was begun in 1769 and completed in 1790. It is 91 miles long, extending from the city of Oxford in the south to Longford in Warwickshire in the north, where it joins the Coventry canal. By the river Thames and the various canals Oxfordshire has water communication with nearly every part of England.

Ascott : Railway Station [c.1908]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Railway communication is effected mostly by the several branches of the Great Western; from its main line it sends off branches from Twyford by Shiplake to Henley, and from Didcot to Oxford, and by the line from Didcot through Newbury to Winchester direct connection is established with the South of England. From Oxford are lines in connection with the Great Western to Chipping Norton, Evesham, Worcester, Droitwich, Kidderminster, Dudley and Wolverhampton; to Warwick and Birmingham, passing Kidlington [the junction for Blenheim and Woodstock] and Banbury; from Oxford also are branches to Thame, Princes Risborough, Aylesbury and Winslow, joining the North Western at the latter place and the main line of the Great Western at Maidenhead.

Lines are now open from Cheltenham to Chipping Norton and from the latter to Banbury. From Watlington a line was made to Princes Risborough by the Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway Company, but is now owned by the Great Western railway. From Yarnton, on the Oxford and Worcester section of the Great Western, is a branch line through Witney and Burford to Lechlade and Fairford, Gloucestershire, taking in its route the fertile agricultural district of the Colne Valley. The London and North Western railway has a line from Bletchley, through Bicester, to Oxford; and from Verney junction on this line is a branch through Buckingham and Brackley to Banbury. The county is connected with the whole of the Southern system of railways by the Great Western, South Western and South Eastern lines.

Thame : Sheep Market [c.1907]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

The climate of Oxfordshire is healthy, but rather colder than other southern parts of England. Large crops are raised of wheat, barley, oats, turnips, lentils, rape, cabbages, carrots, potatoes, chicory and rhubarb. In the many rich meadows on the banks of the river and streams cattle are fed; cheese is made. Many of the hills are wooded, and a good deal of copse wood is sent down the river; on the hills sheep are fed; some good hogs are also bred. The mineral productions are some coarse building stone, flints, Oxford clay [now little used for pottery], lime, slate and ochre [from Shotover Forest].

The manufactures are blankets at Witney; plush, shag and girth weaving and agricultural implements, portable engines etc. at Banbury, which is also famous for its cakes; and gloves and polished steel at Woodstock; tweeds are made at Chipping Norton, and there are paper mills on the banks of the Thames; lace is made by the country women. Chair making and turning are carried on to some extent, principally at Stokenchurch and Chinnor, near Tetsworth.

Oxfordshire contains 288 civil parishes and parts of eighteen others, and is in the diocese and archdeaconry of Oxford, subdivided into the rural deaneries of Aston, Bicester, Chipping Norton, Cuddesdon, Deddington, Henley, Islip, Oxford and Witney. The shire town is Oxford. There are fourteen hundreds. The county is in the Oxford circuit and has one court of quarter sessions and ten petty sessional divisions. The Municipal boroughs are : Oxford City, population in 1891, 45,742; Banbury, 12,768; Chipping Norton, 4,222; Henley, 5,288 and Woodstock, 1,628. Other towns are Bicester, 3,343; Burford, 1,346; Thame, 3,334; Watlington, 1,734; Witney, 3,110.

Oxford is a well-built city on the Thames; distinguished for its University, and is also the see of a bishop. Dorchester was the Roman station Durocina, and the seat of the bishop of the West Saxons and Mid1English.

Photographs of Oxfordshire

Contemporary Photographs

Thame : Town Hall [2005]
© Image taken by author on March 12th, 2005. DO NOT COPY

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Related Newspaper Articles

"On Saturday, the 3rd inst., the members of Oriel College were thrown into the greatest consternation, from the circumstances of the dead body of Mr. John Key, a commoner of that College, aged 19, having been found in the front quadrangle. Deceased had fallen from the top of the College, a height of about forty feet. An inquest was held; and it appeared from the evidence that deceased had been spending the evening at the rooms of a commoner of his own College, where he had become so much intoxicated as to be unable to take care himself; and that, on being conveyed to his own room, he became furious, and his friends were obliged to fasten him in by barricading the door with the sofa. The deceased afterwards, having probably got out through his window, attempted to get into the rooms of another fellow student, who heard him say something about getting cut upon the leads by the window. Nothing more was heard of him till he was found lying dead in the quadrangle the morning. The verdict returned was, "That the said John Key having, as it appears to the Jury, got out on the roof, did accidentally fall over the parapet, and was killed by the fall."
"Drunkenness And Death Of A Collegian"
Bell's New Weekly Messenger : March 11th 1849 Page 3

"Two Royal Air Force officers, Pilot Officer John Goodhart Mason and Acting-Pilot Officer Rodrich Gordon James, of No.6 Flying Training School, lost their lives yesterday in an air accident at Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire. Pilot Officer Mason was the pilot. The machine crashed about 60 yards from Shipton-under-Wychwood railway station. People saw the 'plane nose-dive out of low clouds. Part of the machine burst into flames after the crash. In its dive the 'plane narrowly missed the railway track."
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