Project aims to document history of Oxfordshire’s towns and villages

Over 80 residents and historians came together at an event at Shiplake College on 18 March to mark the launch of the latest encyclopaedic volume of the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire.

VCH XX launch 18.3.22 (3) The Victoria County History (VCH) of Oxfordshire forms part of a national project to create an encyclopaedia of each of the historic counties of England. In Oxfordshire, this latest volume covers the South Oxfordshire Chilterns and is number 20 out of a planned 23 encyclopaedias that document the history of the county pre-1974.  

 This work is led by a small team based in Oxford supported by the VCH Oxfordshire Trust and Oxfordshire County Council as part of its heritage services.

 Work is now underway on the next edition, covering the Chipping Norton area. The Burford and Chadlington areas are to follow.

 In Oxfordshire, it is in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council as part of its Heritage Services.

 Mark McCree, Oxfordshire County Council’s Service Manager for Libraries and Heritage, said: “From the Cotswolds, Cherwell Valley and Chilterns to the City of Oxford, Oxfordshire is a stunning county with so much history. Victoria County History Oxfordshire allows us to document some of this rich and colourful history.

“This edition focuses on the twelve ancient parishes of the South Oxfordshire Chilterns, which cover an area of over 30,000 acres, allVCH XX launch 18.3.22 (1) straddling the Chiltern hills and contained within a southward loop of the River Thames. This area has seen tremendous changes throughout its history, so this volume is both a valuable resource, and an interesting read."

 The economy of the South Oxfordshire Chilterns was predominantly agricultural until the 20th century. Woodland and woodland crafts played a significant role alongside local industry, including small-scale brickmaking and quarrying and the usual rural trades. Gentrification gained momentum from the mid-19th century, accelerated by the arrival of the railway in 1840, and particularly affected riverside villages, which saw extensive new buildings by wealthy incomers.

 The published volumes are available in Oxford Central Library, various branch libraries, and Oxfordshire History Centre. They are available for purchase at boydellandbrewer.com.

 Most are available online for free at British History Online (British-history.ac.uk).

 More information

  • Places included:
    • Caversham (including Cane End, Kidmore End, and Emmer Green); Checkendon (including Littlestoke and Wyfold); Crowmarsh Gifford; Eye and Dunsden (including Sonning Common); Goring (including Goring Heath and Gatehampton); Ipsden (including Stoke Row); Mapledurham; Mongewell; Newnham Murren; North Stoke; Shiplake (including Binfield Heath); Whitchurch (including Whitchurch Hill).
  • Current projects all fall within the ancient (pre-1974) county of Oxfordshire.
  • Places in the Vale of White Horse (absorbed into Oxfordshire in 1974) were covered in the Berkshire VCH series, published in 1906 - 27 but may be revisited in the future.
  • Two general volumes were published in 1907 and 1939 but detailed work on individual parishes and towns only began in the 1950s - 60s.

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