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United Kingdom
Radcliffe Camera (2005).jpg
Radcliffe Camera, Oxford
Flag of Oxfordshire
Sapere Aude
(Dare to be wise)
[Interactive map]
Area: 756 square miles
Population: 512,345
County town: Oxford
County flower: Fritillary [1]

The County of Oxford (abbreviated Oxon. from Oxonia, the Latin name for Oxford) is a shire bound by the River Thames to the South, the Chiltern Hills, stretching across the East, and the Cotswolds to the West and North.

The county has a major tourist industry, concentrated firstly on the City of Oxford but also on the hills and charming honey-coloured towns of the Cotswolds, and on Oxfordshire's many delightful Thames-side towns and villages.

Oxford and Banbury are noted for the concentration of performance motorsport companies and facilities. Oxford University Press is the largest firm among a concentration of print and publishing firms; the University of Oxford is also linked to the concentration of local biotechnology companies


Oxfordshire borders five other counties: Berkshire to the south; Gloucestershire to the west; Warwickshire to the north-west; Northamptonshire to the north-east; and Buckinghamshire to the east. Additionally, two detached parts of Worcestershire (Evenlode and Daylesford) adjoin Oxfordshire on its western border.

The county has four detached parts, three of which lie locally in Buckinghamshire: the ancient parish of Lillingstone Lovell, the hamlet of Boycott in the parish of Stowe and the hamlet of Ackhampstead in the parish of Lewknor. Additionally a detached part of the ancient parish of Broughton Poggs is cut off from the rest of Oxfordshire by the intervention of a detached part of Berkshire.


The Hundreds of Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire is divided into fourteen hundreds:

Towns and villages

Oxford High Street

The largest town in the county is the City of Oxford, presiding over the north bank of the Thames. It is followed (in order of size) by Banbury, Witney, Carterton, Bicester, Thame, Henley-on-Thames, Chipping Norton, Charlbury, Woodstock, Watlington, Deddington and Burford.

Additionally, part of Reading, otherwise in Berkshire, extends into Oxfordshire.


Thames/Isis, Thame, Cherwell, Windrush, Evenlode, Glyme.

Prominent natural features

Chiltern Hills, Cotswold Hills, Ot Moor.


Oxfordshire was formed as a county in the early years of the 10th century and is broadly situated in the land between the River Thames to the south, the Cotswolds to the west, the Chilterns to the east and the Midlands to the north, with spurs running south to Henley-on-Thames and north to Banbury.

Historically the area has always had some importance, since it contains valuable agricultural land in the centre of the county. Ignored by the Romans, it was not until the formation of a settlement at Oxford in the eighth century that the area grew in importance. From the Anglo-Saxon period, Oxford (Oxnaford) became a major trading and fortress town of the realm, commanding a key crossing on the Thames. The shire around it prospered.

The University of Oxford was founded in 1096, though its collegiate structure did not develop until later on. The university and the town grew in importance during the Middle Ages and early modern period.

The northern and western hills of the county were part of the Cotswolds wool trade from the 13th century, generating much wealth, while the east of the county prospered from its river links to London and the south.

Morris Motors was founded in Oxford in 1912, bringing heavy industry to an otherwise agricultural county. The importance of agriculture as an employer has declined rapidly in the 20th century though; currently under one percent of the county's population are involved due to high mechanisation.


  • The "dreaming spires" of the buildings of the University of Oxford play a large contribution in Oxford being the sixth most visited city in the United Kingdom for international visitors.[1] Notable University buildings include the Sheldonian Theatre, built 1664-1668 to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, and the Radcliffe Camera, built 1737-1749 to the design of James Gibbs.
  • Blenheim Palace close to Woodstock was built by the great architect John Vanbrugh for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, after he had won the battle of Blenheim. The gardens, which can be visited, were designed by the landscape gardener Lancelot "Capability" Brown, who planted the trees in the battle formation of the victorious troops. In the palace, which can also be visited by the public, Sir Winston Churchill was born in 1874.
  • Chastleton House, on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire borders, is a great country mansion that was built on property bought from Robert Catesby, who was one of the men involved in the Gunpowder Plot with Guy Fawkes. Stonor Park, another country mansion, has belonged to the recusant Stonor family for centuries.
  • Mapledurham House in Mapledurham (opposite Purley on Thames) is an Elizabethan stately home in the far south-east of the county.

Main industries

Education, Farming, Tourism, Automotives, Distribution, Light Manufacturing.

Places to see

Cathedral/Abbey/Priory Cathedral/Abbey/Priory
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Amusement/Theme Park Amusement/Theme Park
Castle Castle
Country Park Country Park
English Heritage English Heritage
Forestry Commission Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Museum (free)
Museum (not free)
Museum (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust
Zoo Zoo
Blenheim Palace


Heritage sites


Noteworthy churches

  • Dorchester Abbey, Dorchester on Thames (sometime cathedral church of Mercia and Wessex) [13]
  • Cathedral Church of Christ (Christ Church), Oxford [14]
  • St John the Baptist, Burford (outstanding wool church) [15]
  • St Katherine's, Chiselhampton (unusual peculiar of Dorchester) [16]
  • St Mary's, Bloxham (highest spire in the county) [17]
  • St Michaels at the Northgate, Oxford (its Anglo-Saxon tower is the oldest building in Oxford)
  • St Mary's, Iffley (unspoilt Norman architecture) [18]


See also

Flag of Oxfordshire

Outside links


Further reading

  • Cannan, J. (1975) Oxfordshire Robert Hale Limited, London
  • Carleton Williams, E. (1935) Companion into Oxfordshire Methuen & Co. Limited, London
  • Gelling, M. (1953) Place Names of Oxfordshire Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  • Marriott, P. (1977) Oxford Street Names Explained
  • Millson, C. (1983) Tales of Old Oxfordshire Countryside Books, Newbury
  • Pevsner, N. (& Sherwood, J.) (1974/2002) The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire Yale University Press, London
  • Yurdan, M. (2002) Unexplained Oxford and Oxfordshire The Book Castle, Dunstable
Counties of the United Kingdom

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