Stonesfield

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Stonesfield
Stonesfield StJames NorthSide sunset.JPG
St James the Great parish church
Stonesfield is located in Oxfordshire
Stonesfield
Stonesfield
 Stonesfield shown within Oxfordshire
Population 1,527 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference SP3917
Civil parish Stonesfield
District West Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Witney
Postcode district OX29
Dialling code 01993
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Witney
Website Stonesfield ~ Oxfordshire
List of places
UK
England
Oxfordshire

Coordinates: 51°51′04″N 1°25′44″W / 51.851°N 1.429°W / 51.851; -1.429

Stonesfield is a village and civil parish about 5 miles (8 km) north of Witney in Oxfordshire.

The village is on the crest of an escarpment. The parish extends mostly north and north-east of the village, in which directions the land rises gently and then descends to the Glyme at Glympton and Wootton about 3 miles (5 km) to the north-east. South of the Stonesfield, below the escarpment is the River Evenlode.

The 2011 Census reforded the parish's population as 1,527.[1]

Toponym[edit]

The Domesday Book of 1086 records Stonesfield as Stunsfeld, meaning "fool's field". This was because of the stony soil in the area, so the toponym's mutation is most appropriate. Thomas Hearne used the spelling "Stunsfield" in 1712[2] and Akerman spelt it "Stuntesfield" in 1854.[3]

Archaeology[edit]

The course of Akeman Street Roman road forms part of the south-eastern boundary of the parish. In a field just east of the village is the site of a Roman villa that was very close to the Roman road.

A tenant farmer, George Handes (or Hannes), found the villa in 1712 when his plough revealed the remains of a Roman pavement[2] dating from the 3rd or 4th century AD.[4] One of its panels showed the Roman god Bacchus riding a panther.[5] Handes' landlord, Richard Fowler of Great Barrington, Gloucestershire, did not welcome the discovery[2] and he quarrelled with Handes over any profit to be had from excavating and displaying the pavement.[6]

The pavement immediately attracted the interest of the Oxford academic Thomas Hearne, soon followed by Bernard Gardiner.[7] However, in 1724 the pioneering archaeologist William Stukeley reported that Handes had destroyed the pavement as a result of the dispute with Fowler.[6] Nevertheless, in 1780 the antiquarian Daines Barrington reported that much of the room and pavement found in 1712 still survived and a second, smaller room with a tesselated floor was being excavated.[6] At the same time parts of the villa's baths were also excavated.[6] In 1789 Richard Gough reported in his new edition of William Camden's Britannia that much of the pavement had been destroyed.[4]

In 1801 Stonesfield's common lands were enclosed and the division of land caused further damage to the remains of the villa.[4] In 1813 the antiquarian James Brewer reported in the Oxfordshire volume of his The Beauties of England and Wales that only fragments of the pavement found in 1712 had survived destruction.[8] In 1826 the Ashmolean Museum acquired hypocaust flue-tiles from the site and the base of a pillar that may also be from the hypocaust.[3] In 1836 a small coin from the reign of the 4th century Emperor Valentinian was found.[3]

In 1858 a visitor called Akerman learnt that the remains of the villa had been totally destroyed.[3] During the Second World War aerial archaeology discovered a number of Roman and other archaeological sites in this part of Oxfordshire. However, despite repeated attempts in different seasons and under different crop conditions, aerial archaeology has found no surviving trace of the villa at Stonesfield.[3]

About 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Stonesfield, on the other side of the River Evenlode and in the next parish, the remains of North Leigh Roman Villa survive in the care of English Heritage.

Church and chapels[edit]

Church of England[edit]

The Church of England parish church of St James the Great was built in the 13th century. Surviving Early English features from that period include the chancel arch, north chapel, south aisle, arcade and piscina[9] and most of the west tower.[10] Decorated Gothic remodelling in the 14th century includes the piscina and south windows of the chancel, the north window and west arch of the north chapel and the east window of the south aisle.[9] The octagonal font is also 14th-century.[10] In the 15th century the west tower was increased in height.[11]

Between the chancel and north chapel is a screen that is partly Perpendicular Gothic. The Perpendicular Gothic east window in the chancel is 15th-century. Fragments of 15th-century stained glass survive in the window, including a figure that has a 14th-century head and may represent Saint Peter, and symbols of the evangelists St John and St Mark. In the west window of the west tower is late-15th-century stained glass of four family coats of arms. In one of the south windows of the chancel is 16th-century stained glass of two coats of arms: one of a manorial family and the other of the Worshipful Company of Mercers. There is also mid-16th-century stained glass of two family coats of arms in one of the 17th-century south windows of the clerestory. The Jacobean pulpit was made in 1629.[10]

In 1743 a clock was installed in the church.[12] It was said to have been made for a local manor house in 1543, and transferred to the church after the house was demolished.[12] The clock has since been moved from Stonesfield, rebuilt, and installed at Judd's Garage at Wootton.[12]

In 1825 the north aisle was greatly enlarged,[11] opening directly into the nave without an arcade. This greatly changed the interior of the church, and in the 20th century the architectural historians Jennifer Sherwood and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner condemned the change as "lunatic". Other 19th-century changes include the addition of the south porch, possibly during a restoration in 1876.[9] The vestry was added in 1956. The church is a Grade II* listed building[11]

The ecclesiastical parish of St James the Great is now part of a combined benefice with the parish of St Laurence, Combe.[13]

Methodist[edit]

Wesleyan chapel built in 1867

Stonesfield had a Methodist congregation by 1800. A small Wesleyan chapel was built in 1827. It was part of the Witney circuit and had a congregation of about 150. In 1867 a larger chapel was completed and the 1827 building became the Wesleyan Sunday school and temperance hall. The 1867 chapel was still being used for worship in 1979.[14]

Stonesfield had Primitive Methodist congregation by 1846, which had a chapel built in 1853. The congregation dwindled and later in the 19th century it closed the chapel.[14]

The Salvation Army was active in Stonesfield from 1886 and rented the former Primitive Methodist chapel from 1897. In 1934 it bought the chapel but in 1949 it closed.[14]

Economic and social history[edit]

Spoil mound from the former stone mines

Until the 20th century Stonesfield was the source of Stonesfield slate; a type of Cotswold stone slate that is common on the roofs of older buildings in the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire. Many of the older buildings of the University of Oxford have Stonesfield slate roofs.

The first fossil bones to be described as those of a dinosaur of the genus Megalosaurus were found close to Stonesfield and named in 1824 by William Buckland. The slate-mining activities unearthed many finds in succeeding years.[citation needed]

In the 1960s and 1970s new houses were built on the eastern side of the village. Most of these and all of the old cottages and larger modern houses in the original part of the village are now unaffordable to the children of locals, many of whom consequently have moved out of the area.

Amenities[edit]

Stonesfield has a pub, the White Horse Inn.[15] A second pub, the Black Head, closed a few years ago.

Stonesfield Strikers Football Club has a number of mixed-sex and girls-only youth football teams.[16]

Transport[edit]

The nearest railway station is at Charlbury on the Cotswold Line. An hourly bus service between Charlbury, Woodstock and Oxford serves Stonesfield. Worths' Coaches of Enstone operated the route from the 1920s until 2004, when Oxfordshire County Council awarded the contract to Stagecoach in Oxfordshire.

Notable people[edit]

References[edit]

Sources and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Stonesfield at Wikimedia Commons