Woodstock, Oxfordshire

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Woodstock town hall
Woodstock is located in Oxfordshire
 Woodstock shown within Oxfordshire
Population 3,100 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference SP4416
   – London  62 miles (100 km) 
Civil parish Woodstock
District West Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Woodstock
Postcode district OX20
Dialling code 01993
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Witney
Website Woodstock Town Council
List of places

Coordinates: 51°50′42″N 1°21′14″W / 51.845°N 1.354°W / 51.845; -1.354

Woodstock is a town and civil parish 8 miles (13 km) northwest of Oxford in Oxfordshire, England. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population at 3,100.[1]

Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is at Woodstock. Winston Churchill was born in Blenheim Palace in 1874 and is buried in the nearby village of Bladon.

Edward, elder son of King Edward III and heir apparent, prince of Aquitaine and Wales, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester was born in Woodstock Manor on 15 June 1330. During his lifetime, he was commonly called Edward of Woodstock.

In the reign of Queen Mary I, her half-sister Elizabeth was imprisoned in the gatehouse of Woodstock Manor.


The name Woodstock is Old English in origin, meaning a "clearing in the woods". The Domesday Book of 1086 describes Woodstock (Wodestock, Wodestok, Wodestole) as a royal forest. Æthelred the Unready, king of England, is said to have held an assembly at Woodstock at which he issued a legal code now known as IX Æthelred.[2]

King Henry I may have kept a menagerie in the park. Woodstock was the scene of King Henry II's courtship of Rosamund Clifford (Fair Rosamund). The market of the town was established when King Henry II gave Woodstock a Royal charter in 1179.[3]Bear Hotel in Park Street opposite The Oxfordshire Museum dates from the 13th century.

Near the village was Woodstock Palace, a residence that was popular with several English kings throughout the medieval period. The building was destroyed in the English Civil War. Sixty years later the palace remains were cleared for the construction of Blenheim Palace.

From the 16th century the town prospered by making gloves. Today it is largely dependent on tourists, many of whom visit Blenheim Palace.

In the 17th century the town was altered greatly, when the 1st Duke of Marlborough became a permanent resident.


By 1626 James Keene, who had a bell-foundry in Bedford, had started one in Woodstock.[4] Until 1640 another member of the family, Humphrey Keene, was a bell-founder with him.[4] James died in 1654 and was succeeded by his son Richard.[5] Richard Keene apparently closed the Woodstock foundry in the 1680s[5] but continued casting bells at Royston, Hertfordshire until 1703.[4]

Numerous parish churches still have one or more bells cast by the Keenes, including at Asthall, Cassington, Charlton-on-Otmoor, Chastleton, Chesterton, Duns Tew, Garsington, Islip, Kiddington, Merton, Milton, Oddington, Rousham, Steeple Aston, Steeple Barton, Stratton Audley, Tackley and Woodeaton in Oxfordshire, Stowe in Buckinghamshire, Middleton Cheney in Northamptonshire and Martley in Worcestershire.

Blenheim Palace[edit]

Main article: Blenheim Palace
South View of Blenheim Palace

The Palace was designed by John Vanbrugh, in a heavy Italo-Corinthian style. It was designated to John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. Most of the palace was paid for by the nation. Churchill was given this palace in honour for his victories over the French and the Bavarians at Blenheim in 1704.

The greater part of the art treasures and curios were sold off in 1886, and the great library collected by Charles Spencer, Earl of Sunderland, the son-in-law of the first Duke of Marlborough, in 1881. The magnificent park contains Fair Rosamund's Well, near which stood her bower. On the summit of a hill stands a column commemorating the duke. Blenheim Park forms a separate parish.

Elizabeth I[edit]

When Thomas Wyatt led an uprising in 1554 to depose Queen Mary I and put Princess Elizabeth on the throne in her place, Elizabeth was imprisoned in a lodge in Woodstock as a precaution. The lodge was used because the now lost Woodstock Palace or manor house was too dilapidated to house her. A survey in 1551 reported that "the mansion... for many years past hath been decayed."[3] While imprisoned, Elizabeth wrote a poem. "Much suspected by [of] me, None proved can be."[6] She was released in April 1555 after nearly a year in captivity.

The town[edit]

Chaucers Lane, Woodstock

The little River Glyme, in a steep and picturesque valley, divides the town into New and Old Woodstock. Woodstock has two main suburbs, namely Hensington to the south and east of the town centre, and Old Woodstock directly to the north. The town hall of Woodstock was built in 1766 after the designs of Sir William Chambers, and there are a number of 17th century buildings in the centre. The almshouses were erected in 1798 by Caroline, duchess of Marlborough. Chaucer's House was once home to Chancellor of England, Thomas Chaucer, thought to be the son of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer.

The primary school and The Marlborough School, the secondary school, are both situated on Shipton Road. Nursery provision is available through WUFA (Woodstock Under Fives Association).[7]

The Church of England parish church of St Mary Magdalene has a Norman doorway.[8] The church has a turret clock that John Briant of Hertford made in 1792.[9]

The Oxfordshire Museum, the county museum of Oxfordshire, occupies a large historic house, Fletcher’s House, in the centre of Woodstock. The museum has a garden containing works of art and a Dinosaur Garden with a full-size replica of a Megalosaurus.[10]

Oxford School of Drama is in Woodstock.[citation needed]

Sport and leisure[edit]

Woodstock has a Non-League football club Old Woodstock Town who play at Eynsham Hall Sports Ground, and was promoted to the Hellenic Football League Premier Division for the 2008/09 season.


  1. ^ "Area: Woodstock (Parish): Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  2. ^ See Prosophography of Anglo-Saxon England. In the 17th century, Robert Plot wrote that King Alfred stayed at Woodstock about the year 890 when he translated Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy. R. Plot, The Natural History of Oxfordshire. Oxford, 1677. p. 349 Ch. X § 118. The source cited by him was a "Cotton Otho A" manuscript, but no such manuscript has produced evidence of this. It may have been Cotton Otho A.x, destroyed in the Ashburnham House fire of October 1731, though the catalogues by Humfrey Wanley and Franciscus Junius make no mention of this. Bill Griffiths, Alfred's Metres of Boethius (1991), p. 13.
  3. ^ a b Pipe, Simon (October 2007). "Woodstock's lost royal palace". BBC. 
  4. ^ a b c Dovemaster (25 June 2010). "Bell Founders". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Central Council for Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Crossley & Elrington 1990, pp. 360–372
  6. ^ [1] Hentzner, Paul. A Journey Into England, (1598). Horace Walpole, ed. 1757. Fugitive Pieces on Various Subjects. Vol II. Robert Dodsley, ed. London: J. Dodsley, 1771. 258.
  7. ^ Woodstock Under Fives Association[dead link]
  8. ^ Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 856.
  9. ^ Beeson & Simcock 1989, pp. 24, 73.
  10. ^ "Dinosaur footprints go on display". BBC News. 10 May 2009. 


  • Aston, Michael; Bond, James (1976). The Landscape of Towns. Archaeology in the Field Series. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. pp. 94, 165, 171. ISBN 0-460-04194-0. 
  • Ballard, Adolphus (1896). Chronicles of the royal borough of Woodstock. Compiled from the borough records and other original documents. Oxford: Alden & Co. 
  • Beeson, C.F.C. (1989) [1962]. A.V., Simcock, ed. Clockmaking in Oxfordshire 1400–1850 (3rd ed.). Oxford: Museum of the History of Science. pp. 24, 73. ISBN 0-903364-06-9. 
  • Crossley, Alan; Elrington, C.R. (eds.); Baggs, A.P.; Blair, W.J.; Chance, Eleanor; Colvin, Christina; Cooper, Janet; Day, C.J.; Selwyn, Nesta; Townley, Simon C. (1990). A History of the County of Oxford, Volume 12: Wootton Hundred (South) including Woodstock. Victoria County History. pp. 325–430. 
  • Jenkins, S.C. (1987). The Woodstock Branch. Wild Swan Publications. ISBN 0-906867-51-7. 
  • Marshall, Edward (1873). The early history of Woodstock manor and its environs, in Bladon, Hensington, New Woodstock, Blenheim: with later notices. Oxford & Co. 
  • Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). Oxfordshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 856–859. ISBN 0-14-071045-0. 
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]

  • Wake Up to Woodstock - Complete town guide for all the latest, news, events, services in Woodstock.
  • Woodstock Guide — Complete guide to Woodstock, Oxfordshire, for visitors and business.
  • Woodstock Website — Guide to Woodstock accommodation, attractions, places to eat and more.