Oxfordshire, England


Oxfordshire, Oxford, or Oxon, an inland county, chiefly within the basin of the Thames. It is bounded on the NW and the N by Warwickshire, on the NE by Northamptonshire, on the E by Bucks, on the SE, the S, and the SW by Berks, on the W by Gloucestershire. Its outline is exceedingly irregular; commences, on the N, in an apex, at the Three Shire Stone; expands irregularly southward till it attains a breadth of 34 miles; contracts suddenly at the middle, and for about 8 miles in the vicinity of Oxford, to a mean breadth of 7 miles; and stretches thence south-south-eastward with a maximum breadth of about 12 miles. Its boundary, over most of the contact with Northamptonshire, is the river Cherwell—over all the long contact with Berks, is the Isis or Thames; but almost everywhere else, is artificial. Its greatest length, from NNW to SSE, is 50 miles; its greatest breadth, as already noted, is 34 miles; its circuit is about 180 miles—of which about 55 is along the Isis or Thames; and its area is 483,614 acres. The population, which has steadily increased during the 19th century, was in 1801, 111,977; in 1821, 138,224; in 1841, 163,127; in 1861, 170,944; in 1881,179,650; and in 1891, 185,669. The northern section is prevailingly flat, wants sufficient sylvan embellishment, is disfigured by stone fences, and fatigues the eye by rude monotony. The central section, excepting an elevated platform E of Oxford, is also flat, yet has a profusion of wood, a luxuriousness of hedgerows, and a wealth of general cultivation which give it a pleasing aspect. The elevated platform E of Oxford rises in the immediate vicinity of the city, stretches away between the valleys of the Cherwell and the Thames, and attains its highest elevation in Beckley Hill. The south-eastern section is crossed by the Chiltern Hills, exhibits a charming contour, with fine diversity of hill and vale, and attains its greatest altitudes on Nuffield Common and Nettlebed Hill, respectively 757 and 820 feet high. The rivers are popularly said to be threescore and ten; two trivial ones in the extreme N belong to the systems of the Ouse and the Warwickshire Avon; the chief one, more than equal to all the rest, is the Isis or Thames; and the principal of the others, all flowing to the Isis or the Thames, are the Windrush, the Evenlode, the Cherwell, and the Thame.

The northern section of the county, to the aggregate of nearly one-half of the entire area, consists of lias rocks— sand, upper lias clay, marlstone, and lower lias clay and lime; the central section, to the extent of about one-third of the entire area, consists of lower oolite rocks—cornbrash, forest marble, Bradford clay, Bath oolite, fullers' earth, and inferior oolite; the southern section, to a considerable extent, consists of middle oolite rocks—coral rag, calcareous grit, and Oxford clay; and the south-eastern section consists partly of upper oolite rocks—Portland limestone, sandstone, Kimmeridge clay—and partly of chalk rocks. Very fine marl is often found at a small depth, and has been advantageously used as a manure. Oolitic sandstone is quarried in several places, particularly near Burford, and was the building material of St Paul's Cathedral in London and of not a few other noted structures. The grey oolite limestone of Stonesfield abounds in fossils, and is so worked as to be used as a roofing-slate. The forest marble of Wychwood is occasionally worked as a coarse marble. A very fine ochre, of true yellow colour, very weighty, and said to be the best in the world, is obtained at Shotover Hill, near Oxford. The clays of the Oxford clay formation were formerly used with some success in pottery, but are now little used. A land spring is at Assendon, and chalybeate springs are at Cornbury, Ewelme, and near Goring.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5
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Archives and Libraries

Oxfordshire Record Office
St Luke's Church,
Temple Road,
Tel: +44 1865 398200
Fax: +44 1865 398201
Email: archives@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Church Records

Ancestry.co.uk, in association with Oxfordshire Family History Society and Oxfordshire History Centre, have images of the Parish Registers for Oxfordshire online.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

List of Registration Districts in Oxfordshire from 1837 to 1974.

Directories & Gazetteers

The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Oxfordshire online, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, etc.

We have Pigot & Co.'s Directory of Oxfordshire, 1830 available to browse.

We have Pigot & Co.'s Directory of Oxfordshire, 1842 available to browse.

Land and Property

The Oxford - Return of Owners of Land in 1873 is available online.


Old map of Oxfordshire circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)

Old map of Oxfordshire circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Oxfordshire newspapers online:

Parishes and places

The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Oxfordshire, 1566, 1574 &1634 are available on the Heraldry page.