Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for OXFORDSHIRE, Oxford, or Oxon

OXFORDSHIRE, Oxford, or Oxon, an inland county, chiefly within the basin of the Thames. It is bounded, on the N w and the N, by Warwickshire: on the N E, by Northamptonshire; on the E, by Bucks; on the S E, the S, and the S W, by Berks; on the W, by Gloucestershire. Its outline is exceedingly irregular; commences, on the N, in an apex, at the Three-shire-stone; expands irregularly southward till it attains a breadth of 34 miles; contracts suddenly at the middle, and for about 8 milesin the vicinity of Oxford, to a mean breadth of 7 miles:and stretches thence south-south-eastward with a maximum breadth of about 12 miles. Its boundary, overmost of the contact with Northamptonshire, is the river Cherwell, over all the long contact with Berks, is the Isis or Thames; but almost everywhere else, is artificial. Its greatest length, from N N W to S S E, is 50 miles; itsgreatest breadth, as already noted, is 34 miles; its circuitis about 180 miles, of which about 55 is along the Isisor Thames; and its area is 472, 717 acres. The nor thernsection is prevailingly flat, wants sufficient sylvan embellishment, is disfigured by stone fences, and fatiguesthe eye by rude monotony. The central section, excepting an elevated platform E of Oxford, is also flat, yet has a profusion of wood, a luxuriousness of hedgerows, and a wealth of general cultivation which give it a pleasingaspect. The elevated platform E of Oxford rises in theimmediate vicinity of the city; stretches away betweenthe valleys of the Cherwell and the Thames; and attainsits highest elevation in Beckley hill. The south-eastern section is crossed by the Chiltern hills; exhibits a charming contour, with fine diversity of hill and vale: and attains its greatest altitudes on Nuffield common and Nettlebed hill, respectively 757 and 820 feet high. The rivers are popularly said to be threescore and ten; twotrivial ones in the extreme N belong to the systems of the Ouse and the Warwickshire Avon; the chief one, more than equal to all the rest, is the Isis or Thames; and the principal of the others, all flowing to the Isis or the Thames, are the Windrush, the Evenlode, the Cherwell, and the Thame.

The nor thern section of the county, to the aggregate of nearly one-half of the entire area, consists of lias rocks, sand, upper lias clay, marlstone, and lower lias clay and lime; the central section, to the extent of about one-third of the entire area, consists of lower oolite rocks, cornbrash, forest marble, Bradford clay, Bath oolite, fullers' earth, and inferior oolite; the southern section, to a considerable extent, consists of middle oolite rocks, coral rag, calcareous grit, and Oxford clay; and thesoutheastern section consists partly of upper oolite rocks, Portland limestone, sandstone, Kimmeridge clay and partly of chalk rocks. Very fine marl is often found at a small depth, and has been advantageously used as amanure. Oolitic sandstone is quarried in several places, particularly near Burford; and was the building material of St. Paul's cathedral in London, and of not a few othernoted structures. The grey oolitic limestone of Stones-field abounds in fossils, and is so worked as to be usedas a roofing-slate. The forest marble of Wychwood isoccasionally worked as a coarse marble. A very fineochre, of true yellow colour, very weighty, and said to bethe best in the world, is obtained at Shotover hill, near Oxford. The clays of the Oxford clay formation wereformerly used with some success in pottery, but are nowlittle used. A land spring is at Assendon; and chaly-beate springs are at Cornbury, Ewelme, and near Goring.

The soils are very various. Mr. Arthur Young, assuming the area to be 474, 836 acres, distributes it into79, 635 acres of red land, 164,023 of stonebrash, 64, 778of Chiltern chalk, and 166, 400 of miscellaneous soils. The red land is in the nor thern section; consists principally of rich and very fertile loam; and is deep, sound, and friable. The stonebrash prevails chiefly in the central section; consists of the detritus of the subjacentrocks, including many fragments of them; and is generally a loose, dry, friable sand or loam. The Chilternchalk lies in the south-eastern section; has a very considerable intermixture of flint, mostly brown, rough, crusty, and honey-combed; and is of various depths, and generally sound and dry. The miscellaneous soils are ofall sorts, from loose sand to heavy clay; pass into oneanother by very irregular transitions; and range fromfertile loam to either poor sand or stiff retentive clay. Georgical improvement has been extensive and various, and has converted a large aggregate of wastes into fruitful fields. Husbandry, in a general view, has made greatprogress, and now entitles Oxfordshire to a respectablerank among agricultural counties. The course of crops, on the lighter soils, is the four-year Norfolk rotation, usually lengthened to six years with pulse and oats, orwith crops of equivalent character; and, on the heaviersoils, which have been drained and lie on irretentive sub-soils, it is the convertible system, or such as divides thewhole arable land into moieties under artificial grass and under rotation crops, and usually consists of first turnipsor other roots, next barley or oats, next three or moreyears of clover and grass seeds, next wheat, and finallybeans. Barley usually yields about 7 qrs. per acre; and clover, 1½ tons. Other crops, in peculiar situations orunder peculiar circumstances, are sainfoin, lentils, rape, chicory, and rhubarb. Meadows and pastures, along thebanks of the streams, are of large aggregate extent; have been pronounced the greatest glory of Oxfordshire; and are devoted chiefly to the dairy. The average weekly produce of butter, from the richer pastures, has been estimatedat from 5 lbs. to 6 lbs. per cow. The short-horned cows, the Ayrshires, the Devonshires, and the Alderneys areused for the dairy; and so many other breeds, pure and crossed, occur either for the dairy, or for fattening, as tomake the bovine stock of Oxfordshire a most a menagerie of everything good or curious in the kingdom. The sheep are chiefly Southdowns, Leicesters, and crosses between these and the Cotswolds; and they amount toabout 300,000, and yield about 6,000 packs of wool-Hogs are chiefly of the Berkshire breed, and are kept forbrawn and sausages. Natural woods occupy a considerable area, especially in the S; and plantations are numerous. Estates, for the most part, are of moderate size; and farms generally range from 100 to 300 acres, and are held either on lease, or from 7 to 14 years, or mostlyat will.

The manufactures are neither numerous nor important.Blankets are made at Witney, Hailey, and Crawley; plush and girths, at Banbury, West Shefford, Bourton, and Wardington: leather gloves and delicate steel chains, at Woodstock: woollen girths and horse-cloths, at Chipping-Norton; and lace, by nearly 600 females, at Watlington and other places in the S E. The navigationscomprise only the Oxford canal and the river Thames; but the former gives communication to the Severn, the Mersey, the Wash, and the Trent; while the latter bringsup vessels of considerable burden to Oxford, and takesup small river craft to the highest point of the river'simpingement on the county. One line of railway, the main trunk of the Great Western, curves round thesouth-eastern boundary; runs about 3¼ miles within theborder, between Basildon and Moulsford; and goes thencewestward within Berks, at distances varying from 2 to 11½ miles S of the boundary. Another line, leaving theformer at Maidenhead, comes into Oxfordshire a little E S E of Thame; and goes past that town, and westward to Oxford city. Another line, only 4½ miles long, and leaving the first at Twyford, runs 2½ miles northward, within the S E border, to Henley-on-Thames. Anotherline, in course of formation in 1867, leaves the first at Moulsford; and goes nor theast-by-northward, past Wallingford and Ewelme, to Watlington. Another line, leaving the first at Didcot, and going northward, crossesa small wing of the county, 2 miles wide, immediately N of Appleford, to the vicinity of a short branch west-ward to Abingdon; proceeds thence, within Berks, to the Isis contiguous to Oxford city; and crosses to the W station at Oxford. Another line, continuous with the last, goes northward to the vicinity of Water-Eaton; proceedsthence, north-north-eastward, past Islip, to Bicester; and goes thence, north-eastward, into Bucks and towards Bletchley. Another line deflects from the preceding 1½ mile N of Oxford; goes northward, up the valley of the Cherwell, past Hampton-Gray, Tackley, Lower Heyford, and Somerton, to the vicinity of Clifton; passes there into the Northamptonshire border, but still proceeds northward, up the valley of the Cherwell, to thevicinity of Banbury; reenters Oxfordshire 1¼ mile N of Banbury; proceeds, past Cropredy, to the N boundary of the county; and passes away toward Birmingham. Another line deflects from the preceding in the vicinity of Woolvercot, 2½ miles N N W of Oxford; goes north-west-ward, past Hanborough, Charlbury, and Shipton-under-Wychwood; is crossed, near the W boundary, by a linecoming from Bourton-on-the-Water, and going north-eastward to Chipping-Norton; and passes into Gloucestershire, toward Worcester. Another line leaves the last a little N W of Woolverton; has connection eastwardwith the line to Bicester and toward Bletchley; and goeswestward, past Cassington and Ensham, to Witney-Another line, in course of formation in 1867, and leaving the main trunk of the Great Western at Uffington, enters Oxfordshire 2½ miles N of Faringdon; goes north-north-westward, past the vicinity of Burford; and curvesinto Gloucestershire, to proceed westward to Chelten-ham. Another line, also in course of formation in 1867, and coming from Blisworth in Northamptonshire, enters Oxfordshire 2½ miles E N E of Deddington; goes pastthat town; and proceeds west-north-westward, to a junction with the Oxford and Worcester line at Blockely. These railways give connection with the whole of the Great Western, the Northwestern, the Southwestern, and the Southeastern systems. The roads are amply ramified and good; and they have an aggregate length of about 1, 520 miles.

Oxfordshire contains 214 parishes, parts of 12 othersand 8 extra-parochial tracts; and is divided into the boroughs of Oxford, Banbury, and Chipping-Norton, the liberty of Oxford, and the hundreds of Bampton, Banbury, Binfield, Bloxham, Bullingdon, Chadlington, Dorchester, Ewelme, Langtree, Lewknor, Pirton, Ploughley, Thame, and Wootton. The act of 1844 for consolidating detached parts of counties, annexed to Oxfordshire a parish and a tything from Berks, three parishesfrom Gloucestershire, and a parish and a hamlet from Bucks, comprising altogether 8, 579 acres, and gave from Oxfordshire a farm to Gloucestershire, and a parish and two hamlets to Bucks, comprising altogether 1, 609 acres. The registration county takes in one parish from Berks, twelve parishes and parts of two others from Bucks, eight parishes from Northamptonshire, and eight parishes and part of another from Warwickshire; gives off twenty-three parishes, part of another parish, a chapelry, a township, a hamlet, and part of a liberty to Berks, five parishes and a hamlet to Bucks, and two parishes to Northamptonshire; comprises 479, 267 acres; and is divided into the districts of Henley, Thame, Headington, Oxford, Bicester, Woodstock, witney, Chipping-Norton, and Banbury. The county town is Oxford; the parliamentaryboroughs are Oxford, Banbury, and Woodstock; the other towns with each more than 2,000 inhabitants are Chipping-Norton, Bicester, Thame, Henley-on-Thames, and Witney; and the smaller towns, villages, and hamletsamount to about 450. The chief seats are Blenheim Palace, Sherburn Castle, Cuddesden Palace, Ditchley House, Broughton Castle, Bletchingdon Park, Cornbury Park, Middleton Park, Rangers Lodge, Stonor Park, Tusmore House, Wroxton Abbey, Langford House, Greys Court, Kirtlington Park, Shipton Court, Swifts House, Adwell House, Aston House, Badgemore, Baldon House, Barton Abbey, Bicester House, Bloxham Grove, Boulney Court, Braziers House, Brightwell House, Caversfield House, Caversham Park, Chastleton House, Cokethorp Park, Combe Lodge, Crowsley Park, Culham House, Eynsham Hall, Fawley Court, Freeland Lodge, Fyfield House, Glympton Park, Harpsden Court, Henley Park, Hethe House, Holton Park, Kiddington Hall, Maple-Durham House, Newington House, North Aston House, Nuneham Park, Phyllis Court, Prebendal House, Rousham Park, Sand ford Park, Shelswell Park, Ship-lake House, Shipton House, Shotover Park, Stratton-Audley Park, Swalcliffe Park, Swerford Park, Swyncombe House, Thame Park, Waterpery, Waterstock House, Watlington Park, Wormsley, and Wykham Park.

Oxfordshire is governed by a lord lieutenant and custos, a high sheriff, about 40 deputy lieutenants, and about 160 magistrates; and is in the home military district, and in the Oxford judicial circuit. The assizesand quarter sessions are held at Oxford; and the countyjail and a city jail are there. The police force, in 1864, comprised 12 men for Oxford, at a cost of £624; 5 for Banbury, at a cost of £355; and 96 for the rest of the county, at a cost of £7, 294. The crimes committed, in 1864, were 40 in Oxford, 15 in Banbury, and 190 in the rest of the county; the persons apprehended were 26 in Oxford, 15 in Banbury, and 197 in the rest of the county; theknown depredators and suspected persons at large were203 in Oxford, 17 in Banbury, and 1,057 in the rest of the county; and the houses of bad character were 43 in Oxford, 9 in Banbury, and 96 in the rest of the county. Three members are sent to parliament by the county, exclusive of the boroughs; two by Oxford city, two by Oxford university, and one each by Banbury and Wood-stock. Electors of the county, exclusive of the boroughs, in 1833, 4, 721; in 1865, 5, 798, of whom 4, 103 werefreeholders, 264 were copyholders, and 1, 298 wereoccupying tenants. The poor-rates for the registrationcounty, in 1863, were £99, 933. Marriages in 1863, 1, 267, of which 187 were not according to the rites of the Established Church; births, 5, 795, of which 421were illegitimate; deaths, 3, 673, of which 1, 372 wereat ages under 5 years, and 1 16 were at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 12, 418; births, 54, 994; deaths, 35, 263. The places of worship within the electoral county, in 1851, were 266 of the Church of England, with 74, 369 sittings; 43 of Independents, with8,041 s.; 29 of Particular Baptists, with 5, 226 s.; 21 of Baptists undefined, with 2, 319 s.; 12 of Quakers, with2, 926 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 325 s.; 74 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 10, 988 s.; 41 of Primitive Methodists, with 4,097 s.; 1 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 95 s.; 1of Lady Huntingdon's Connexion, with 230 s.; 1 of the New church, with 50 s.; 1 of Brethren, with 150 s.; 3of isolated congregations, with 450 s.; 1 of Latter Day Saints, with 35 s.; 8 of Roman Catholics, with 1, 335 s.; and 1 of Jews, with 30 s. The schools were 247 public day-schools, with 16, 574 scholars; 344 private day-schools, with 6, 924 s.; 314 Sunday schools, with 19, 770s.; and 18 evening schools for adults, with 383 s. Real property, in 1815, £790, 866; in 1843, £1,025, 421; in 1860, £1,041, 268, of which £144 were in quarries, £40 in fisheries, £15, 567 in canals, and £2, 141 in gas-works. Pop. in 1801, 111, 977; in 1821, 138, 224; in 1841, 163, 127; in 1861, 170, 944. Inhabited houses, 36,034; uninhabited, 1, 329; building, 207. Pop. of the registration county in 1851, 170, 247; in 1861, 171, 233. Inhabited houses, 36, 206; uninhabited, 1, 388; building,

The territory now forming Oxfordshire was inhabited by the ancient British Dobuni; was included, by the Romans, in their Flavia Cæsariensis; became part of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia; and, in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, was settled by many Danes. The Dobuni long resisted the Saxons; fought several greatbattles with them; are supposed not to have been finallysubjugated by them till the time of Penda; and becamelost in the mixed race known as Wiccii. The Danes, in the course of effecting their settlement, ravaged everypart of Oxfordshire; and, during their long contests with the Saxons, repeatedly made its territory the seat of war. Oxfordshire seems to have been apportioned to Cannte, at the division of England between him and Edmund Ironside; and Oxford, in 1015 and 1018, was the scene of great councils of the Danes and the Anglo-Saxons. Subsequent events, till the wars of the Roses, were connected chiefly with the city or castle of Oxford, and have been noticed in our article on Oxford. In 1387, the insurgent nobles defeated the Earl of Oxford at Radcot-bridge, in the vicinity of Bampton. In 1469, the Earl of Pembroke, at the head of the army of Edward IV., marched against an army of 15,000 insurgents; foughtthem at Danesmoor, in the vicinity of Banbury; and wasdefeated, captured, and put to death. In the civil wars of Charles I., the contending armies traversed Oxfordshire from one extremity to the other; and, whetherunder the banner of the king or under that of the parliament, made heavy exactions and devastations. In 1642, on the eve of the battle of Edge-hill, the king encampedon the banks of the Cherwell, between Edgecot and Cropredy. In April 1643, the parliamentarians foughta smart skirmish, with a royalist force under Prince Rupert, at Cavershambridge; and about two monthslater, they were twice beaten by Prince Rupert, near Thame and near Watlington. In 1644, a battle wasfought at Cropredy-bridge, in which Sir William Wallerwas defeated, and after which the king drew off histroops to Deddington. In 1645, Cromwell defeated abody of royalist cavalry at Islip-bridge, and compelled Col. Windebank, who occupied Bletchingdon House with a garrison of 200 men, to surrender. Other events are noticed in the articles Banbury, Chalgrove, Oxford, and Woodstock.

Ancient British remains are the Rollrich stones nearChipping-Norton, the Devil's Quoits at Stanton-Harcourt, the Hoarstone cromlech at Enstone, some barrows, and several very curious coins. The Roman Icknield-street crossed the county from N E to S W, entering it at Chinnor, and leaving it at Goring on the Thames; Akeman-street entered at Ambrosden, passed through Chesterton, Kirtlington, Blenheim Park, and Stones-field to Astall, and there crossed the Evenlode into Gloucestershire; a vicinal way went from Dorchesternorthward into Northamptonshire; other vicinal wayswent from Dorchester; and another, coming from London, traversed the S E wing, from the N vicinity of Henley to Wallingford. A curious Roman vallum, with an embankment 2½ miles long, known as Grime's Dykeor the Devil's Ditch, extends between Mongewell and Nuffield. The Roman station Durocina was at Dorchester. Fine tesselated Roman pavements have been found at Great Tew, Stonesfield, and Steeple-Aston. Roman camps are at Chadlington and Kiddington; and Saxon or Danish camps are at Astall, Britwell, and Bensington. Mediæval castles or baronial mansionshave left remains at Bampton, Broughton, Woodstock, Astall, Castleton, Holton Park, Caswell, Swinbrook, Minster-Lovell, Stanton-Harcourt, Fritwell, and Maple-Durham. Great monastic remains are at Oxford, Ensham, Godstow, Goring, Cogges, and Minster-Lovell; and interesting ancient churches, or portions of them, are at Oxford, Iffley, Kidlington, Ewelme, Adderbury, Bloxham, Broughton, Burford, Chipping-Norton, Dorchester, Great Tew, Shiplake, Twinbrook, Stanton-Harcourt, and Witney.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "an inland county"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Oxfordshire AncC
Place names: OXFORD     |     OXFORDSHIRE     |     OXFORDSHIRE OXFORD OR OXON     |     OXON
Place: Oxfordshire

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