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Lewknor Church.jpg
St. Margaret's parish church
Lewknor is located in Oxfordshire
 Lewknor shown within Oxfordshire
Population 665 (parish, including Postcombe and South Weston) (2001 census)[1]
OS grid reference SU7197
Civil parish Lewknor
District South Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Watlington
Postcode district OX49
Dialling code 01844
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Henley
Website Lewknor Village
List of places

Coordinates: 51°40′19″N 0°58′01″W / 51.672°N 0.967°W / 51.672; -0.967

Lewknor is a village and civil parish about 5 miles (8 km) south of Thame in Oxfordshire. The civil parish includes the villages of Postcombe and South Weston.

Early history[edit]

Iron Age and Roman eras[edit]

Two ancient roads pass through the parish: the ancient Icknield Way at the foot of the Chiltern Hills escarpment and The Ridgeway along the top. Both have been roads since at least the Iron Age.[2]

Early in the 1970s archaeological investigations prior to building of the M40 motorway through the parish found traces of a Romano-British settlement near the village and a Romano-British cemetery near Icknield Way.[3]

Saxon and medieval eras[edit]

Lewknor is a Saxon spring line settlement near the foot of the Chilterns chalk escarpment.

The toponym is derived from the Old English name of its owner Leofeca, recorded in a lawsuit in AD 990.[2] In the 11th century the manor of Luvechenora was held by Edith of Wessex, who in 1045 became queen consort of Edward the Confessor. The manor then passed to a Danish thegn of King Edward called Tovi, who bequeathed it to Abingdon Abbey. For most of the Middle Ages the abbey leased out Lewknor manor, until the abbey was suppressed in 1538 in the dissolution of the monasteries.[2] All Souls College, Oxford had become a major landowner in the parish before the end of the 17th century[2] and has remained so until modern times.

Church Farm has a timber-framed barn that is considered to date from about 1400. There have been suggestions that it is a former Mediaeval hall-house,[4] but they have been disputed.[5]

Early in the 1970s archaeological investigations prior to building of the M40 motorway through the parish found traces of a large Mediaeval farmhouse high in the Chilterns in the east of the parish, on the alignment onto which the Christmas Common road was to be diverted.[3]

Parish church[edit]

Documentary and architectural evidence indicates the Church of England parish church was built some time after 1146 and before 1200. It was dedicated to Saint Mary but at some date was rededicated to Saint Margaret. It was originally a cruciform building with a chancel, nave, north and south chapels and a west tower.[6] The chancel arch, north chapel, two lancet windows in the nave, the font and some other features survive from this time.[2] Early in the 14th century the building was enlarged in the Decorated Gothic style with a south aisle that absorbed the south chapel, and the chancel was enlarged and received new windows including the present east window.[2] In the chancel is a memorial effigy of a lady that also dates from the 14th century.[6]

In the 15th century a new Perpendicular Gothic west tower was built.[6] In 1553 the tower was recorded as having four bells and a Sanctus bell.[2] The four bells were replaced by a ring of five cast by Ellis I Knight of Reading, Berkshire[7] in 1636.[8] The Sanctus bell was replaced with a bell cast in 1744, possibly by Henry III Bagley[8] of Chacombe, Northamptonshire, who at the time had a foundry in Witney.[7] The ring was increased to six with the addition of a new treble bell cast by Mears and Stainbank of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1950.[8][9]

In 1845 All Souls College paid for the chancel to be restored.[2] In 1863 the nave was restored, re-roofed and had two more windows inserted under the direction of the Gothic Revival architect Arthur Blomfield.[6] Two windows in the chancel have Pre-Raphaelite stained glass that Pevsner and Sherwood attribute to William Morris.[6]

Social and economic history[edit]

Lewknor was a strip parish that historically included three townships or divisions: Lewknor, Postcombe and Lewknor Uphill. Lewknor Uphill consisted of three detached parts in the Chiltern Hills: Ackhampstead, Cadmore End and Studdridge.[2] Ackhampstead was transferred to Buckinghamshire by the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844. Cadmore End became a separate parish in 1852 and Studdridge was transferred to Stokenchurch, but both places remained in Oxfordshire until they were transferred to Buckinghamshire in 1896.[10]


An open field system prevailed in the parish until the Georgian era. The first Inclosure Bill for the parish was moved in Parliament in 1792 but the Earl of Macclesfield opposed it and it was defeated. A second Lewknor and Postcombe Bill was passed as an Inclosure Act in 1810 and was put into effect in 1815.[2]


In 1836 All Souls College paid for a village school to be built next to the churchyard. This became a National School. In 1929 it was reorganised as a junior school, and senior pupils from the village were thereafter schooled at Chinnor. From 1859 the school was vested in the Vicar and churchwardens, and since 1950 it has been a voluntary controlled school.[2][11]


In 1869–72 the Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway was built through the parish. It ran right past the village but the nearest station it provided was 1 mile (1.6 km) away at Aston Rowant. The Great Western Railway took over the line in 1883 and built Lewknor Bridge Halt right next to the village in 1906.[12] British Railways withdrew passenger services and closed the halt in 1957.[13] Aston Rowant remained open for freight only until 1961, when BR withdrew this service and removed the track south of Chinnor cement works.

Early in the 1920s the Watlington — Chinnor road through the village was classified B4009. In 1974 the M40 motorway was built through the parish, passing just east of the village on an embankment. A bridge carries the embankment over the former railway trackbed, which has been reused to divert the B4009 to bypass the village. M40 junction 6 between the motorway and the B road was formed here. South of the village the motorway climbs the Chiltern escarpment in a cutting up to 150 feet (46 m) deep[3] with steep chalk faces. The minor road linking Christmas Common with the A40 road near Stokenchurch was diverted slightly eastwards where is now carried across the cutting on a bridge formed of a single concrete arch 180 feet (55 m) wide.[3]

Lewknor Turn on the M40 is a stop on the Oxford Tube coach service, which provides the village with frequent non-stop coach services to Oxford and London.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty[edit]

In 1965 the Chilterns including the escarpment and hills in the parish were declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.[14] On the escarpment on either side of the motorway is Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve, which despite its name the reserve is partly in Lewknor parish. The reserve has beech woodlands, chalk grassland supporting diverse rare plants and butterflies, and is one of the best places in England to see red kites.[15]


  1. ^ "Area: Lewknor CP (Parish): Parish Headcounts". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lobel 1962, pp. 98-115.
  3. ^ a b c d "Region: South East, M40. Stokenchurch to Waterstock". The Motorway Archive. The Motorway Archive Trust. 
  4. ^ Pevsner & Sherwood 1974, p. 684.
  5. ^ Turner 1973, pp. 187–91.
  6. ^ a b c d e Pevsner & Sherwood 1974, p. 683.
  7. ^ a b Baldwin, Sid (1 December 2011). "Bell Founders". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c Davies, Peter (14 December 2006). "Lewknor S Margaret". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  9. ^ Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers, South Oxfordshire Branch
  10. ^ Wilson, John Marius (1870–72). "ASHAMPSTEAD, or Ackhampstead". Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales. London & Edinburgh: A Fullarton & Co. 
  11. ^ Lewknor Church of England Primary School
  12. ^ Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway: History
  13. ^ Oppitz 2000, p. 22.
  14. ^ The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  15. ^ Natural England: Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve


External links[edit]

Media related to Lewknor at Wikimedia Commons