Heritage > Counties > England


The county famed for it's university city of 'Dreaming Spires' covers an expanse of just over 1,000 square miles.

Geographical features include the river Thames and it's tributaries, the Cotswolds and the Chiltern Hills.

Oxfordshire has a population of 600,000 people and each year this figure is under constant change due to the students attending the famous Oxford University.

The county itself is mainly agricultural in terms of it's production, with car, paper, brick and cement manufacture all high on it's list of commercial activities.

Apart from the city of Oxford, major towns in the county are Witney, Woodstock, Abingdon, Banbury and Henley-on-Thames (home of the Henley regatta).

One of the most scenic of all English counties.

Facts on the region

Origin of name: Oxenfordscir from the Old English 'Oxenford' meaning a ford over a river (possibly the Isis) for cattle to cross.

Name first recorded: 1010 as Oxenfordscir.

County Motto: Sapere Aude ('Dare to be Wise').

County Town: OXFORD Brilliant covered market selling anything from venison to Versace; visit the Nose Bag for coffee, and explore Broad Street and any of the cobbled streets off it like Turl St. Gloucester Green doubles as the city bus station and a budding piazza Covent-Garden style. All this before you even mention any famous Colleges ...

County Rivers: Thames, Evenlode, Cherwell, Windrush.

Highest point: Portobello in the Chiltern Hills at 836 feet.

Oxfordshire’s local government: The County of Oxfordshire apart from Caversham is governed by a two-tier structure with Oxfordshire County Council and the four district councils of Cherwell, Oxford City, South Oxfordshire and West Oxfordshire being the sum of two parts. Caversham comes under the unitary authority of the Berkshire town or Reading.

The local landscape

Oxfordshire is a gently undulating county which some classify as the South Midlands. I’ve always deemed it to be a southern county with the notable exception of Banbury which is more of a Midlands town, being closer to Birmingham than London.

Oxfordshire actually lies between the pastoral south and the industrial heart of England and midway between the estuaries of the Thames and the Severn. To the north are the picture-postcard rolling limestone Cotswolds (also mainly in Gloucestershire) rising to a plateau of about 500 feet above sea level; to the south lie the striking chalk hills of the Chilterns which have many beechwood slopes.

Between the two, the basins of the Thames and Cherwell form the central plain of the county with many large arable and livestock farms. The Thames actually becomes the Isis when it passes through the county town of Oxford. This river is also the boundary with Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire are often described as the Thames Valley.

Local Towns and Villages

BICESTER A noted hunting centre on the edge of the Cotswolds, now equally well known for its ‘Bicester Village’ shopping experience.

BURFORD Quintessential Cotswold stone town with the prettiest main high street.

CAVERSHAM Now a northern suburb of Reading, but with its own unique history.

CHIPPING NORTON Chipping means market and this town has a large sloping market place - friendly enough to lure Ronnie Barker to run his antique shop which is not Open All Hours!

DORCHESTER On the Thame near its junction with the Thames and dominated by its Abbey Church and nearby walk to Wittenham Clumps with a hill fort and commanding view for miles.

GORING-ON-THAMES Beautifully nestled beside the Thames between the Chilterns and Berkshire Downs. Good setting off point for the Icknield Way and other treks.

HENLEY-ON-THAMES Has a holiday feel about it with many old pubs (excellent local Brakespear brew) a sprinkling of agreeable restaurants, good shopping and relaxing riverside strolls.

THAME A main street of exceptional width and several medieval buildings. Nearby is Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons restaurant.

WITNEY The Old Blanket Hall, built circa 1720, has a curious one-hand clock on its front.

WOODSTOCK Check out the fascinating ancient chimney pots, one of which was clambered upon by Sir Winston Churchill as a 12-year-old.











Places to Visit

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxon

Broughton Castle, Banbury, Oxfordshire

Stonor, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Fawley Court, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Deddington Castle, Deddington, Oxfordshire

Ditchley Park, Enstone, Oxfordshire


Whitsuntide: The ancient village of Bampton has an all-day Morris Dancing festival.

Early June: Go to Broughton castle fete if just to see this impressive castle surrounded by a moat of water-lilies.

June: The marquees, the blue and white awnings and bunting announce that, the annual Royal Henley Regatta, dating back to 1829, is imminent. A firm fixture of the English social season, it climaxes at the beginning of July, often with a spectacular firework display.

Late August: the annual Cropedy festival is the annual get-together of local Oxfordshire folk band Fairport Convention, and a marvellous day out with all sorts of stalls and entertainments.

Early September: St Giles Fair, Oxford is the 5th largest fair in England, dating back to medieval times. Like other 15th-century fairs it has ceased to be a trading fair but is still held on the original site.

Summer Music in Oxford runs classic music in classic venues (such as the Wren-designed Sheldonian theatre, the grounds of Radley College, and Dorchester Abbey).

1 May: Get up at crack of dawn to see foolhardy students jump into the Isis off Magdalen Bridge while choristers greet the sunrise with a hymn at the top of the Magdalen town - medieval tradition - and Morris Dancers celebrate May morning in more traditional ways.

Famous names from the region

At 46 Leckford Road, Oxford a young allegedly naive proto US President Bill Clinton lodged as a student in the late 1960s.

Huntercombe House was home to industralist and philanthropist William Morris, later Lord Nuffield - the Henry Ford of the British car industry. He brought us the Morris-Oxford of 1913, over 1 1/2 million Morris Minors and the first MG. His stylish pre-World War II period aristocratic home is open on some weekends.

Bladon, a little village just south of Blenheim Palace has quaint cottages with mullioned windows and tall chimneys, but it is also the resting place of Winston Churchill along with his other, glamorous Lady Randolph Churchill.

Devotees of the book and television series Inspector Morse will have lots of interesting sleuthing to do themselves. A visit to the attractive riverside Trout Inn near Oxford is a good start. Or you can take a Morse tour.

Successful jangly pop-rock guitar bands are something of an Oxford speciality with Radiohead, Supergrass, Ride (sadly defunct), Ash to name a few all residing in the vicinity.

CS Lewis taught for many years at Magdalen College and his rooms became the focus for meetings of his close friends known as the inklings, among them JRR Tolkein.

Jerome K Jerome of Three Men in a Boat fame is buried at Ewelme Church as is Chaucer’s grand-daughter, the Duchess of Suffolk, who started the church there.

Headington Hill Hall, now part of the campus of Oxford Brookes University, was the longtime home of the infamous tycoon Robert Maxwell.

John Wilson buys and sells famous signatures from dead or alive 'names' from his office in Eynsham.

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