Stonesfield is a village and civil parish about 5 miles (8 km) north of Witney in Oxfordshire, and about 10 miles (17 km) northwest of Oxford. 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 river 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 village is known for Stonesfield slate, a form of Cotswold stone mined particularly as a roofing stone and also a rich source of fossils. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 1,527.
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 and Akerman spelt it "Stuntesfield" in 1854.
Stonesfield is on the Taynton Limestone Formation, a type of Cotswold stone that until the 20th century was mined as a roofing stone called Stonesfield slate. It is common on roofs of older buildings in the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire. Many of the older buildings of the University of Oxford have Stonesfield slate roofs. The mines were also one of Britain's richest sources of Middle Jurassic vertebrate fossils. The first fossil bones to be identified as those of a dinosaur were found early in the 19th century near Stonesfield. They are part of the skeleton of a bipedal carnivore, and in 1824 the pioneering palaeontologist William Buckland named it Megalosaurus. The bones are now displayed in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Other reptiles found at Stonesfield include the crocodile Steneosaurus, pterosaur Rhamphocephalus and the type specimen of the theropod genus Iliosuchus. Also found here was the type specimen of the quadruped Stereognathus belonging to the clade of animals called cynodonts, which were more like mammals than reptiles.
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 dating from the 3rd or 4th century AD. One of its panels showed the Roman god Bacchus riding a panther. Handes' landlord, Richard Fowler of Great Barrington, Gloucestershire, did not welcome the discovery and he quarrelled with Handes over any profit to be had from excavating and displaying the pavement. The pavement immediately attracted the interest of the Oxford academic Thomas Hearne, soon followed by Bernard Gardiner. However, in 1724 the pioneering archaeologist William Stukeley reported that Handes had destroyed the pavement as a result of the dispute with Fowler. 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. At the same time parts of the villa's baths were also excavated. In 1789 Richard Gough reported in his new edition of William Camden's Britannia that much of the pavement had been destroyed.
In 1801 Stonesfield's common lands were enclosed and the division of land caused further damage to the remains of the villa. 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. 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. In 1836 a small coin from the reign of the 4th century Emperor Valentinian was found. In 1858 a visitor called Akerman learnt that the remains of the villa had been totally destroyed. 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. 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
Church of England
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 and most of the west tower. 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. The octagonal font is also 14th-century. In the 15th century the west tower was increased in height.
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.
In 1743 a clock was installed in the church. It was said to have been made for a local manor house in 1543, and transferred to the church after the house was demolished. The clock has since been moved from Stonesfield, rebuilt, and installed at Judd's Garage at Wootton. In 1825 the north aisle was greatly enlarged, 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. The vestry was added in 1956. The church is a Grade II* listed building St James' parish is now part of the Benefice of Stonesfield with Combe Longa.
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. Stonesfield had a 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. 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.
For centuries the parish had one main open field for arable farming: Home Field, which was east of the village. Three others, Church Field, Callowe, and Jenner's Sarts, were much smaller, and an early 17th-century survey records that not every farmer had strips in Church Field. In 1232 the parish almost doubled in size by acquiring King's Wood, a nearby detached part of Bloxham parish. It was in this wood that people from Stonesfield created Callowe by clearing woodland, a process called assarting. By the time of the Hundred Rolls in the 1270s, every tenant in Stonesfield held assarted land.
By the first decade of the 17th century Stonesfield had at least four fields. Church Field is taken to be ancient like Home Field, but Jenner's Sarts was created by felling in Gerner's Wood. It is not clear whether this field is the same as that called Gannett's Sarte in another source. By 1792 very little of Stonesfield's common land had been enclosed, and most of it was still worked by arable strip farming. By 1797 most of this had been enclosed and converted to pasture. Some common land remained in the parts of the parish closest to the village, but this was enclosed in a land award of 1804.
Stonesfield has a pub, the White Horse Inn, on the edge of the village. A pub in Church Street in the centre of the village, the Black Head, ceased trading in 2010. Its owner applied in 2012 and 2014 for planning permission to turn the Black Head into a private house. Stonesfield Strikers is a youth football club with a number of mixed-sex and girls-only youth football teams. Stonesfield has a Women's Institute. More information on clubs is available on the Parish Council website.
The nearest railway station is at Charlbury on the Cotswold Line. There is an alternative train service to London from Oxford Parkway on Chiltern Railways. 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. Stonesfield is on the Oxfordshire Way long-distance footpath, which runs for 68 miles (109 km) from Bourton-on-the-Water to Henley.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2020)
- Basil Eastwood, British Ambassador (Syria 1996–2000; Switzerland 2001–04), lived in Stonesfield until retirement, and founded the charity Cecily's Fund in the village. A Cecily's Day picnic is held every year in Stonesfield Manor.
- Rupert Friend, actor, director, screenwriter and producer. Born and raised in Stonesfield.
- Ed Atkins, artist, raised in Stonesfield.
- Nicholas Hooper, composer, has lived in Stonesfield since the 1980s.
- Robert Sherlaw Johnson, composer, lived in Stonesfield from the late 1960s until his death in 2000.
- Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, lived in Stonesfield until her election as an MEP in 1999.
- Walter Padbury, the Australian pioneer and philanthropist who arrived in Western Australia in February 1830, was born in Stonesfield.
- Sir William Strang, 1st Baron Strang of Stonesfield (1893–1978). Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1949–1953).
- "Area: Stonesfield (Parish): Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- Taylor 1941, p. 1.
- Taylor 1941, p. 8.
- "Key geological sites: West Oxfordshire". Oxford Geology Group. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- Taylor 1941, p. 7.
- Taylor 1941, p. 9.
- Taylor 1941, p. 6.
- Taylor 1941, p. 1–3.
- Taylor 1941, p. 7–8.
- Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 790.
- Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 791.
- Historic England. "Church of St James The Great (Grade II*) (1053074)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- Beeson 1989, p. 67.
- Archbishops' Council. "Benefice of Stonesfield with Combe Longa". A Church Near You. Church of England. Archived from the original on 1 September 2007. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
- Baggs et al. 1983, pp. 181–194
- Gray 1959, p. 510.
- Gray 1959, p. 84.
- The White Horse Inn
- "Shut-down Stonesfield pub could become house". Oxford Mail. Newsquest. 21 August 2014. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
- "Planning >> Application Summary 12/1126/P/FP". West Oxfordshire District Council. 16 July 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
- "Planning >> Application Summary 14/1173/P/FP". West Oxfordshire District Council. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
- Stonesfield Strikers FC
- "Your Nearest WI". Oxfordshire Federation of Women's Institutes. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- "Oxford – Chipping Norton Service S3" (PDF). Stagecoach in Oxfordshire. 27 July 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
- "Oxfordshire Way". Long Distance Walkers Association. n.d. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
- Ornos, Riza (24 February 2015). "'Agent 47' News Update: Paul Walker Replacement Rupert Friend First Images Released, Five Things to Know About the 'Homeland' Actor". International Business Times. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
- "Obituary: Robert Sherlaw-Johnson". The Guardian. 16 November 2000. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
- Cara Cammilleri, 'Padbury, Walter (1820–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, MUP, 1974, pp 388–389.
Sources and further reading
- Beeson, C.F.C. (1989) . Simcock, A.V. (ed.). Clockmaking in Oxfordshire 1400–1850 (3rd ed.). Oxford: Museum of the History of Science. p. 67. ISBN 0-903364-06-9.
- Baggs, A.P.; Colvin, Christina; Colvin, H.M.; Cooper, Janet; Day, C.J.; Selwyn, Nesta; Tomkinson, A. (1983). Crossley, Alan (ed.). A History of the County of Oxford. Victoria County History. 11: Wootton Hundred (northern part). London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research. pp. 181–194. ISBN 978-0-19722-758-9.
- Gray, Howard L (1959) . The English Field Systems. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press; Merlin Press. pp. 84, 510.
- Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). Oxfordshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 790–791. ISBN 0-14-071045-0.
- Taylor, M.V. (1941). "The Roman Tessellated Pavement at Stonesfield, Oxon" (PDF). Oxoniensia. Oxford Architectural and Historical Society. VI: 1–8.
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