Old Woodstock: Introduction

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.

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A P Baggs, W J Blair, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn, S C Townley, 'Old Woodstock: Introduction', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, ed. Alan Crossley, C R Elrington( London, 1990), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp423-425 [accessed 16 July 2024].

A P Baggs, W J Blair, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn, S C Townley, 'Old Woodstock: Introduction', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Edited by Alan Crossley, C R Elrington( London, 1990), British History Online, accessed July 16, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp423-425.

A P Baggs, W J Blair, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn, S C Townley. "Old Woodstock: Introduction". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Ed. Alan Crossley, C R Elrington(London, 1990), , British History Online. Web. 16 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp423-425.


Old Woodstock township comprised c. 325 a. lying along the eastern edge of Blenheim, formerly Woodstock, Park north of New Woodstock; roughly rectangular in shape, it was bounded on the south and east by the river Glyme and on the north, probably, by Akeman Street. (fn. 57) Although Old Woodstock lay within the parish and royal manor of Wootton (fn. 58) it came to be regarded as little more than a suburb of New Woodstock. The epithet 'old', recorded in 1294, (fn. 59) affirms the settlement's seniority, but it was even then overshadowed by its better known neighbour. It was claimed in 1572 that the liberty of Woodstock borough extended on the park wall side of the Chipping Norton road as far as Podge gate, (fn. 60) and the occupiers of houses there seem to have attended the borough court leet into the 18th century. (fn. 61) In 1877 the southern end of Old Woodstock, 51 a. including the built-up area, was transferred for ecclesiastical purposes to Bladon parish. The same area was made part of Woodstock municipal borough in 1886 and created a civil parish in 1894. (fn. 62) A proposal of 1891 to incorporate the remainder of the former township in the borough was resisted by Wootton parishioners, (fn. 63) but in 1985 the boundary was adjusted slightly to include a row of houses on the east side of Hill Rise. (fn. 64)

The land slopes gently downward from 110 m. in the north-west corner, but falls sharply to 80 m. at the Glyme. The river divides into two streams, one sinuous and marking the boundary, the other fairly straight and apparently cut or canalized to control flooding. The boundary stream was straightened in the late 19th century or early 20th, though the boundary continued to follow its former, irregular, course. (fn. 65) The Woodstock to Chipping Norton road, called Manor Road within Old Woodstock in the 20th century, traverses the entire length of the township on the west; it was turnpiked in 1730 and disturnpiked in 1878. (fn. 66) The turnpike gate, depicted in 1789 standing on the boundary with Woodstock, was by 1806 removed to the north end of the hamlet, (fn. 67) allowing Old Woodstock residents to go toll-free into Woodstock. A tollhouse was built west of the road soon after the new gate was erected. Wootton way, mentioned in 1615, (fn. 68) left Manor Road near Barn Piece House and ran northwards across Old Woodstock's fields to Wootton village; it was declared a public road at the inclosure of Wootton in 1770. (fn. 69) Its southern end has been overlain by modern housing whose building plots nevertheless mark its former line. The track that starts opposite Ladder and Stile Row and runs north-east towards the Glyme may have been the Water Lane recorded from the 15th century. (fn. 70) It was made a private road in 1770 leading to old inclosures owned by the Acton family and later bought by the duke of Marlborough. (fn. 71) In 1805 the road also gave access to a footbridge across the Glyme. (fn. 72)

Old Woodstock's older houses are concentrated mainly in the south-west corner of the township, close to the road on sloping ground across the river valley from Woodstock. Later development mostly straggled northwards along the road. The origin of settlement at Old Woodstock is uncertain despite an allegation, made in the 15th century and often repeated, that Henry I removed Old Woodstock from a site within the royal park. (fn. 73) Earthworks just inside the park wall, suggested as a possible site, are more likely to be the remains of quarrying. (fn. 74) There was probably a mill at Old Woodstock by 1086. (fn. 75) Its site was at a convenient river crossing giving access to the park, and a settlement nearby in the area later said to lie within the liberty of Woodstock borough may have grown up to serve the royal manor house within the park and then become attached to the borough which superseded it. In the 14th and 15th centuries there were at least six houses in Old Woodstock, lying on both sides of the road; they included a cottage belonging to Wootton church. (fn. 76) One house was probably the former leper hospital of the Holy Cross, said in the 1220s to lie 'at Wootton towards Woodstock near the road to Woodstock' and in 1231 to be outside (extra) Wood 7 Oct. 1914. stock; (fn. 77) it was last recorded in 1336. (fn. 78) The hospital site has not been discovered but Spittle House close, recorded from 1519, lay west of the road and south of Ladder and Stile Row. (fn. 79) A kitchen described in 1468-9 as built against the park wall (fn. 80) may have been there and formerly the hospital's. It is less likely that Praunce's Place, later Manor Farm, was the hospital, although it was in the Middle Ages a substantial house with, unusually, no farmland attached: a grant of the house in 1342 made no mention of what would have been its very recent function. (fn. 81)

Old Woodstock was still small in the mid 17th century, although a claim in 1661 that there were only four or five houses (fn. 82) was an underestimate. There is evidence of growth thereafter in the c. 30 surviving houses and cottages of the later 17th and 18th century, and a map of 1789 shows the hamlet extensively built up. (fn. 83) Building was presumably encouraged by the prosperity of neighbouring. Woodstock and was therefore concentrated towards the southern end of the township. There were one or two fairly substantial houses such as the Rose and Crown and those later known as Glove House (no. 105 Manor Road) and Barn Piece House, but building was mainly of cottages, often on narrow plots as at Ladder and Stile Row (fn. 84) and at nos. 64-70 and 117-23 Manor Road. Cottages then, as later, were built when possible end-on to the road, but some plots at the hamlet's north end were so straitened by the convergence of road and park wall that they were aligned along them, occasionally backing directly on the wall. By the early 18th century there were cottages (nos. 118-24 Manor Road) as far north as Old Woodstock green, which seems to have straddled the road and to have included the area later built over and called Hill Rise. The green was inclosed in 1770. (fn. 85) In the earlier 19th century land west of the road acquired by William Margetts (d. 1807) was extensively built over by his family: infilling on Spittle House close largely completed the row later known as the Bank, and on Dovehouse close, north of Ladder and Stile Row, a terrace of five cottages was erected south of the Rose and Crown and perhaps as many as fourteen cottages built or rebuilt between the inn and Glove house. (fn. 86)

Old Woodstock's growth culminated in a population of 427 in 1851, (fn. 87) but a steady decline followed as in Woodstock and neighbouring villages. (fn. 88) House owners seem to have found difficulty in obtaining tenants in the 1860s, (fn. 89) and in 1874 the cottages between Glove House and the Rose and Crown were replaced by three rows of three cottages, built on more spacious plots. (fn. 90) The duke of Marlborough built a pair of model cottages dated 1870 north of Glove House, and two pairs dated 1869 north of the mill, the latter replacing cottages apparently of the 16th century. (fn. 91) Also in 1870 an infant school replaced three cottages just north of the Rose and Crown, and in 1886 a mission chapel was built north-west of Manor Farm. (fn. 92) Old Woodstock's decline continued into the mid 20th century: in 1951 there were only 264 people, (fn. 93) and c. 1959 a row of cottages (nos. 65-73 Manor Road) south of the Rose and Crown was demolished. (fn. 94) From the 1960s, however, Old Woodstock became a focus for new housing, concentrated east of Manor Road: c. 250 new houses had been built by 1989, when the population was c. 1,020. (fn. 95)

The Harrow inn was recorded in 1711 in the occupation of John Bolton, (fn. 96) who seems to have retained possession until his death in 1738. (fn. 97) No later reference has been found. The Wheatsheaf inn, on the north bank of the Glyme and across the road from the mill, was recorded from 1775. (fn. 98) It retains a blocked window in the north wall and a ground floor fireplace of c. 1600, but the building was enlarged and extensively remodelled in the 18th century, in the early 19th, and again in the 20th. Part of the premises were said in 1914 to have been formerly converted into a gloving factory, presumably a reference to the free-standing building, later demolished, northeast of the inn. (fn. 99) The Wheatsheaf was c. 1983 renamed the Black Prince, apparently because of an erroneous local tradition that Praunce's Place was the birthplace of Edward, son of Edward III. The Crown, later the Rose and Crown, was recorded in 1777 (fn. 1) and was opposite the toll house in the building since divided into nos. 118-26 Manor Road; c. 1840 James Hunt transferred the licence to a new and apparently purpose-built house north of Ladder and Stile Row. (fn. 2) It remained a public house in 1989.

Fellows of Balliol College used Manor Farm in the early 17th century as a retreat from Oxford in times of pestilence. (fn. 3) Old Woodstock was reckoned to have a strong sense of independent identity before the rapid influx of newcomers in the 1960s, and for long expressed it in an annual mock mayor-making, a symbolic defiance of authority found in or near other corporate boroughs. A gilt mace-head dated 1786 is the earliest record of the ceremony, which was held on the Sunday following Wootton parish feast day (19 Sept.) (fn. 4) and involved a rowdy procession down Manor Road and around New Woodstock, culminating in the mayor's ducking in the Glyme at the Wheatsheaf. (fn. 5) The ceremony lapsed in 1928 and when revived in 1954 was more decorous in performance and eschewed the ritual challenge of crossing into Woodstock. (fn. 6) After relapsing in 1960 it was again revived in the 1970s. (fn. 7) Old Woodstock was the birthplace of the Blenheim Orange apple, which grew from a chance seedling in the garden of George Kempster (d. 1773), who lived north of the mill. The apple, known originally as the Kempster Pippin, acquired its later name in 1811 by courtesy of the duke of Marlborough. (fn. 8)


  • 57. O.S. Maps ½, 500, Oxon. XXVI. 4, 8 (1881 edn.); ibid. 6" Oxon. XXVI (1884 edn.); ibid. 1/10,000, SP 41 NW. (1979 edn.); ibid. ½,500, SP 4417-4517 (1974 edn.).
  • 58. V.C.H. Oxon. xi. 265; below, Blenheim, Woodstock Manor.
  • 59. Balliol Coll. Mun., F.8.2.
  • 60. P.R.O., E 178/1824. For Podge gate, below, Blenheim, Pk. to 1705.
  • 61. Woodstock Boro. Mun. 96, ff. 10 sqq.
  • 62. Census, 1891, 1901; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1895); above, Bladon, Church.
  • 63. O.R.O., Woot. P.C. I/i/2.
  • 64. Inf. from town clerk, Woodstock.
  • 65. Balliol Coll. Mun., Misc. Bursary Papers 130A, letter of 7 Oct.1914.
  • 66. V.C.H. Oxon. xi. 260.
  • 67. T. Pride, Blenheim Map (1789); Mavor, New Description of Blenheim (1806).
  • 68. Balliol Coll. Mun., F.8.57; ibid. lease bk. 1588-1665, f. 39.
  • 69. O.R.O., incl. award.
  • 70. Balliol Coll. Mun., F.8.19, 63; ibid. map 7.
  • 71. Below, Econ.
  • 72. Balliol Coll. Mun., map 9.
  • 73. J. Rous, Historia Regum Angliae, ed. T. Hearne, 138, 140.
  • 74. County Mus., P.R.N. 4872.
  • 75. Below, Econ.
  • 76. Balliol Coll. Mun., F.8.8, 22; Woodstock Boro. Mun. 83/1, pp. 10 sqq.
  • 77. Bradenstoke Cart. (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxxv), p. 149; Pat. R. 1225-32, 419, 481.
  • 78. Cal. Pat. 1334-8, 264.
  • 79. P.R.O., E 178/1824; Woodstock Boro. Mun. 83/1; p. 102. The close was not, as has been claimed, part of Chaucer's House in Woodstock: cf. Ballard, Chron. Woodstock, 20.
  • 80. Woodstock Boro. Mun. 83/1, p. 14.
  • 81. Balliol Coll. Mun., F.8.22. For Praunce's Place, below, Estates.
  • 82. [T. Widdowes], Just Devil of Woodstock, 12-13.
  • 83. T. Pride, Blenheim Map (1789).
  • 84. For illus. of the ladder and stile, The Graphic, 12 Nov. 1887.
  • 85. O.R.O., incl. award; Blenheim Mun., boxes 130, 146.
  • 86. O.R.O., Misc. Mc. I/1-9; ibid. Rob. II/iv/1.
  • 87. P.R.O., HO 107/1730.
  • 88. Ibid. RG 10/1449; RG 11/1512.
  • 89. Blenheim Mun., shelf B 2, box marked '18th and 19th cent. Woodstock and Eynsham', man. ct. papers, 1866.
  • 90. Date on hos.
  • 91. Above, plate facing p. 349.
  • 92. Below.
  • 93. Census, 1891-1951.
  • 94. Kelly's Dir. Oxf. (1958-60 edns.).
  • 95. Local inf.
  • 96. Deed in possession of Dr. A. H. T. Robb-Smith, New Woodstock.
  • 97. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 210, ff. 204-5.
  • 98. Oxf. Jnl. Synopsis, 9 Feb. 1775.
  • 99. Balliol Coll. Mun., Misc. Bursary Papers 130A, letter of 20 June; D.o.E., Revised Hist. Bldgs. List (unpubl.).
  • 1. O.R.O., vctlrs' recogs.
  • 2. P.R.O., HO 107/890; Oxf. Jnl. 9 Feb. 1839.
  • 3. Balliol Coll. Mun. F.9.7.
  • 4. For the par. feast, V.C.H. Oxon. xi. 264 n.
  • 5. O.A.S. Rep. (1904), 26.
  • 6. O.R.O., Misc. Budd V/5(w); D. Stanley, Folklore, 1xviii. 425-7; F. A. Bevan, Top. Oxon. xxix. 1-3.
  • 7. Local inf.
  • 8. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 351, ff. 173-188v.; Clarendonian, N.S. i (4), 137-8; A. H. T. Robb-Smith, 'Blenheim Orange Variants', Fruit Yr. Bk. (1956); plaque on nos. 3-5 Manor Rd.