Thame Topography



This Map showing Thame is taken from a Map of Oxfordshire made by Jeffreys in 1767.  The degree of detail on this Map is of a different order from the previous Maps by Kitchen, Overton & Morden. It is a rich source of information.  The Aylesbury to Shillingford Turnpike Road was opened a short time after this Map was made. The course of that Road ran from Thame, past the entrance to Rycote Park and over Milton Common. (It is today the A329).  This Map appears to show this road in a state of partial construction.  It has been constructed over the Earl of Abingdon’s Land, running up from Milton Common, but it looks as if it has not yet been built across Priestend Common, which is clearly marked on the Map as the property of Sir Francis Knollys & Lord Charles SpencerThame Park Road has however been constructed by 1767. This formed part of the Thame to Postcombe Turnpike opened in 1785.  The ruined Abbey shown next to Priestend indicates the state of Thame’s Prebendal House in 1767.  The Windmill shown on earlier maps, where it was called Thame Mill, is visible here, and appears to be located on Barley Hill.

As an Ancient Market-Town on the Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Border, only 14-miles from Oxford and 46 from London, Thame has from time to time been directly affected by outside influences and by National & Regional movements in which its inhabitants have often played no mean part. The area appears to have been little affected by the Romans, though Stukeley says that Thame was a Roman Town,  but as part of the ancient endowment of the Bishopric of Dorchester.  Thame played a leading part in Christianising the surrounding District, probably from the 7thC onwards. In the 12thC through its Cistercian Abbey the Town was connected with the movement for Monastic Reform: Parishioners of Thame were generous in their Grants of Land to the Abbey, and some of the Abbots are known to have been local men.  In the 1460’s, at least a few Townsmen played a part in another Religious Reform Movement, for ‘Heretics‘ of Thame & High Wycombe, who were stated to have been influenced by the Heretical Teaching of the Rector of Chesham Bois (Bucks), were condemned by Bishop Chedworth. 

In the 15th & 16thCs the Quatremains of North Weston & Lord Williams of Thame were Pioneers in the care of the Poor & Aged and in the promotion of Education.

There is some evidence that at least some of the leading Townsmen were out of sympathy with the Religious changes made by Henry VIII, and the fact that ‘2 of the most seditious‘ were ordered to ‘suffer at Thame‘ for their part in the Oxfordshire Outbreak of 1549  suggests that the Crown may have had a special reason for choosing Thame as the place to stage a Spectacle calculated to deter Revolt.  In the next Reign, moreover, the Churchwardens of Thame showed a spirited determination to save the Wealth of their Church & Guild from Royal Confiscation, and they forestalled the Chantry Commissioners by selling the Church Goods.


The Inclosures of the Period certainly met with opposition: the Town supplied one of the Leaders in the abortive Agrarian Revolt of 1596.

In the 17thC again there was stubborn opposition to some of the unpopular measures of Charles I: in 1628 the inhabitants refused to Billet Soldiers,  and many of the Gentry of the neighbourhood were strongly opposed to Arbitrary Taxation.  Among the 40 in Oxfordshire who refused to pay Ship-money in 1636 was Sir Francis Wenman of Thame Park, and the Bailiff of Thame Hundred refused to have anything to do with its collection.

In the 18thC Thame showed itself equally alive: the Thame Troop of Yeomanry formed in 1788 was one of the 1st in the Country and in 1803 a Volunteer Corps of 3 Companies was enlisted by P T Wykeham of Tythrop.  The only Frenchmen, however, to invade Thame were the 100 or so Prisoners on Parole who were Billeted in the Town from 1805 until the end of the Napoleonic War.


The Town has twice seen violent conflict in its Streets.  The 1st occasion was a local affair, though it had National implications.  It resulted from a Papal Provision to the Prebend of ThameEdward son of Sir John de St John was provided by Pope Nicholas IV and tried to seize the Prebend by Armed Force from Master Thomas de Sutton, Archdeacon of Northampton, on whom it had been conferred by his uncle Oliver Sutton, Bishop of Lincoln.  St John’s supporters occupied the Prebendal House and expelled the Servants of Master Thomas, and it was alleged that they tried to prevent the Celebration of the Services in the Church by his Clergy.  Episcopal Appeals to the King to remove the ‘Intruders‘ were without effect and in August 1293 a Climax was reached with an Attack by some 200 Armed men on the Church by St John’s followers: Arrows were Shot at the Priests Celebrating Mass at the High Altar, 2 Clergy were wounded and Mass was said in the Desecrated building by a Priest ‘Suborned‘ by the Attackers.  Solemn Excommunication in Lincoln Cathedral, in Oxford, Thame, and other Churches of the Diocese followed and renewed Appeals were made to the King.  At the end of January 1294 the Bailiffs of Thame & Banbury with other Officials of the Suttons and a Band of Armed Men blockaded the Church in an attempt to starve out the ‘Clerks & Servants of the Church‘ supporting St John.  The Bishop and his Agents were ordered to appear before the King to answer for this Breach of the Peace, and the alleged obstruction of the Highways in 5-places by Dykes, the breaking down of Long Crendon Bridge, and the prevention of Passage by Wayfarers.  The Bailiff of Thame replied that they had Blockaded the Church in order to prevent the Escape of Felons and by Order of the Coroner, who had viewed the Body of a man murdered by the followers of St John.  They had blocked the Highways in order to preserve the Peace.  All those who supported the Papal Provisor were afterwards solemnly Excommunicated in the Cathedral of Lincoln and in the Churches of Oxford & Thame and in all those of Cuddesdon Deanery.

During the Civil War there was again fighting in the Town’s Streets.  Thame’s position on the Aylesbury-Oxford Road at a distance of only 14-miles from the City and its importance as a Market meant that both Royalist & Parliamentary Forces were interested in controlling it and were constantly Skirmishing in the Neighbourhood.  The Grammar School was forced to Close for a time and the ordinary life of the Market was interrupted.  Early in 1643 attempts were made by the Parliamentary Forces to obtain a permanent footing in Thame as part of their Plan of controlling Oxford.  Their Companies were reported in the Town in March and on 10th June Essex took up his Headquarters there.  So it was that John Hampden, mortally wounded at the Battle of Chalgrove Field, died at Thame.   The reverse at Chalgrove and other successful Royalist Attacks in the Neighbourhood forced Essex to withdraw to Aylesbury in July.  In August the Royalists were commandeering all the fat cattle bought by London Butchers at Thame Market; in October they were planning to ‘fetch away‘ all the cattle and stop the passage of provisions to Aylesbury; in January 1644 Prince Rupert made the Town his Base for an Attack on Aylesbury and Royalist Forces appear to have remained in Thame until the Spring of 1645.  With the King again at Oxford in November 1645 after his defeat at Naseby, the Parliamentarians decided to occupy Thame in Force in preparation for an Attack on Oxford and so as to prevent the City from drawing on the Thame area for Supplies.  A ‘Great Party‘ of Troops under Col Greaves was Quartered in the Town, and in December 2-Regiments under Col Whalley were sent from Fairfax’s Army to tighten the Parliamentary Grip.  Already as a result of the Occupation, the Town had suffered the Raid led by Col William Legge in September 1645, so graphically described by Anthony Wood.  In June 1646 the Operations against Oxford ended in the surrender of the Garrison, and Wood recorded that on the same day many of the King’s Foot came into Thame to lay down their Arms.

Many persons of note have lived at or visited Thame. Royal Visitors included Edward I (as the Lord Edward) in 1264, Edward III in 1365, and Edmund of York, Guardian of England, in 1399.  The Bishops of Lincoln often stayed in the Parish and many of the Prebendaries, such as Adrian de Bardis, a local Benefactor, were distinguished men and were often Resident.  In the post-Reformation Period the Manors belonged to Families of National importance. Lord Williams, Thame’s greatest Benefactor, was the 1st Successor of the Bishops  and he was succeeded by the Norreys Family, who had close contacts with the Parish until the Earl of Abingdon gave up Rycote House at the end of the 18thC, and by the Wenmans, who inherited Thame Abbey from Lord Williams, and resided there until the 19thC.  Thomas Viscount Wenman (d. 1665) who was related by marriage to the Hampdens, was a moderate Parliamentarian. He had his House besieged and his Estate seized by the Royalists, but was later imprisoned by the Parliamentarians.  He offered Hospitality in 1649 to Seth Ward, later Bishop of Salisbury, when he was expelled from Cambridge.  Philip, 6th Viscount Wenman (d.1760), was the unsuccessful Tory Candidate in the Great Election contest of 1754, though he won in Thame by a large Majority.

Of those born in Thame, the most distinguished is Sir John Holt (1642–1710), Lord Chief Justice.  Like many other notable 17thC men he was Educated at the Grammar School.  Its Pupils in the 1st half of the Century included John Hampden, Henry King, Bishop of Chichester, Shakerley Marmion, the Dramatist, Edward Pocock, Orientalist, and John Fell, Dean of Christ Church & Bishop of Oxford.  Others born at Thame were Robert King (d.1557), the last Abbot of Thame and the 1st Bishop of Oxford;  George Etherege (fl.1550), Physician, Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford and a Recusant;  William Basse (d. c.1653) of Moreton, a Poet and sometime Retainer of Richard Wenman; Mary Bracey, 2nd wife of the Poet Edmund Waller (1606–89); James Figg (d.1734), a noted Prize-Fighter; and Richard Powell, MD (1767–1834), whose Portrait hangs in the Committee Room of St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

The Parish lies along the South bank of the River Thame and on the Borders of Bucks.  In 1932 it was reduced in area from 5,229 acres to 3,140 acres: the Land South from the Shabbington Boundary up to and including North Weston (1,094 a.) was added to Great Haseley & Lobbersdown Hill with the Land around Moreton Field Farm (995a) was added to Tetsworth.  The pre-1932 Boundary followed the River Thame on the North and for a short distance on the West, but for the rest, it followed an artificial Line that once separated the Open-fields of Townships.  This Line took many right-angled turns, especially by Sydenham where there were some particularly artificial twists as the Line turned North-east to skirt Thame Park and include Blackditch Farm before going North to form the County Boundary, dividing the Parish from Towersey on the East.  This area included the Town, which comprised New Thame and parts of Old Thame & Priestend, and the remainder of the Liberties or Hamlets of Old Thame & Priestend, together with those of North Weston, Moreton Thame Park.  The Parish, however, had only been limited to these Hamlets since 1841, when the Chapelries of Sydenham, Tetsworth & Towersey, formerly in Thame Parish, were made Independent.  Of these Villages, Sydenham lay in a different Hundred & Towersey in a different County and all 3 had long developed along Independent Lines.  Their Histories, therefore, except incidentally, will not be included in this article. The History of Attington Township (444a), on the other hand, which was defined as a separate Civil Parish and as extra-parochial in the 19thC, will be included.  It was originally in Thame Parish, and its Manorial History was closely connected with Moreton & Thame Park.
Thame Parish Tithe Map 1848

Map of the County of Oxford, from Actual Survey, by A Bryant, in the year 1823. Inscribed by permission to the Rt Honourable the Earl of MacclesfieldLord Lieutenant, and to the Nobility, Clergy & Gentry of the County.

Most of the Land lies between the 200 & 250-ft Contours, rising gently from the River’s edge towards the Chilterns.  On the South-west, it rises more steeply towards Lobbersdown Hill (333ft). Occasional Low Hills, Barley Hill, Christmas Hill & Horsenden Hill surmount the general rise.

Geologically the Land is composed of Portland Beds, Limestone & Calcareous Sands around about Thame, Clay & Lower Greensand along the Banks of the Thame, and Gault in the South.  These variations have considerably affected the Agricultural History of the District.

There is an ample Water-supply.  Apart from the Thame and its 2 Tributary Brooks, there is the Cuttle Brook, which roughly bisects the Parish.  All are often in Flood even today, and at one time the Floods could be dangerous.  In the Great Flood of 1798 a Wagon was swept off the Crendon Causeway, and by another in 1894 Thame Bridge on the Crendon Road was destroyed.  Both the River & the Brook were at one time full of a variety of Fish.

Round North Weston and in the North-east of the Parish the Landscape retains something of the Treeless character of Open-field Land, but the Roads are well lined with trees and Thame Park in the Southeast is well Wooded.  The Deer Park is one of the most Ancient in the County: it covered about 420 acres in 1852, but, if Davis surveyed it accurately, it was somewhat smaller at the end of the 18thC and in the 12thC covered about 300 Field acres (3 Carucates).  It was once the Property of the Bishops of Dorchester and later of the Bishops of Lincoln.  There is documentary evidence for its enlargement in Henry I’s Reign when the King Licensed before 1131 an Exchange of Land with Richard de Vernon, as the Bishop of Lincoln needed it for his Park.  Soon after this Augmentation, at latest before 1141, it was given to the Cistercian Monks of Ottley in Oddington as a Site for their New Abbey, later known as Sancta Maria de Parco Thame.  Throughout the Middle Ages, therefore, the Park was devoted more to Sheep than to Deer.

Click to Enlarge

Map of Oxford County
Surveyed by a local man, Richard Davis of Lewknor and published in 1797. This large Map consists of 16-sheets at an impressively detailed scale of 1:31,680 or 2-ins to one mile. No more than 200 Copies were ever made, the evidence is based on all sets of the Map having manuscript Serial No.s – this Image is part of No.34.  Very few complete Copies survive.  In terms of what the Map shows, a clear break has been made from the Saxton-led traditional County Map, as here far more detail than previously is featured. Not only are County & Hundred Boundaries, Rivers & Streams, Towns & Villages, Parks & Woodland depicted, but here we have Roads, Tracks, Hedges, indeed every Field can be seen, and relief is beautifully represented by the use of hachuresDavis was also Topographer to His Majesty, George III.

Thame is at the Centre of a Network of Roads coming into it from the surrounding Villages of Bucks & Oxon.  Most of them are Ancient Roads, but some have increased their relative importance and others have declined in value. The present Road from Oxford, for instance, was comparatively little used and remained a Bridle Road on the Thame side of North Weston as late as 1823.  The Old Road from Thame to Sydenham, on the other hand, has long gone out of use.  It is 1st recorded in 1317 as a Way running from Thame East of the Abbey to ‘parts of the Chilterns‘.  The Abbey was allowed to enclose part of it provided the Abbey made another of the same size on its own Soil.  Davis shows on his Map of 1797 a Way running along the East of Thame Park to Sydenham and a Way some distance to the West of it that peters out in the Park: these are very probably the Old and the New Roads.  After the Inclosure award in 1826 the Park Road only continued in use.

The most important through Road from earliest times until the mid-18thC was the way from Aylesbury to Tetsworth, passing through Thame, along Moreton Lane and over Horsenden Hill.  This took the Wallingford Traffic and was also used by Travellers to Oxford or London.  Its early importance is apparent from the fact that Thame, Tetsworth & Wallingford are 3 of the Towns shown on the earliest English Road Map (Gough c.1360).   The Bridge at the North end of this Road over an Arm of the River Thame was therefore of some importance.  A Manorial Court in 1444-45 reported that the Bridge at Cottesgrove End (i.e. Scotsgrove) was in decay and that the Bishop of Lincoln and the Prior of Rochester ought to repair it.  

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The Bridge at Priestend over the Cuttle Brook was even more important and appears to have been kept up by the Parish. It undertook its repair certainly in 1836 and widened its approaches, the County contributing £50.  The old Aylesbury-Tetsworth Route gave way in 1770 to the Turnpike from Aylesbury to Shillingford via Thame, which ran South of North Weston along the present Rycote Road and on to Little MiltonRycote Way had long been of importance, for as early as 1345 a Stone Causeway from Thame to Rycote had been begun at his own cost by a Thame Merchant, Edward le Spicer.  The other Principal Road in the 18thC ran along the High Street of the Town, skirted Thame Park and passed through Attington before joining the London Road 3-miles to the South of Thame.  The Road to Chinnor & the Icknield Way, which ran 4½-miles to the South-east, must always, however, have been of local importance, and the Road connecting Thame with Long Crendon and other Bucks Villages in the North by way of Thame Bridge was certainly much used.

The upkeep of this Bridge was a constant burden: in 1309 Bishop Dalderby Granted an Indulgence for its Repair; in 1335 it was again broken down and a Commission was appointed to find who was responsible for the upkeep and compel them to discharge their Duty.  Liability for its Repair was in dispute as late as 1829.  As the Owner of the Prebend, Baroness Wenman was declared responsible for the Oxfordshire Section of the Bridge and an Indictment having been preferred against her the Fine was spent on Repairs.  After its destruction by Floods in 1894, the Bridge was reconstructed in 1896 at a cost of £4,600.


The Roads about Thame were in a bad state before the Turnpikes were made towards the end of the 18thCDefoe noted that no provision was made for the repair of the Roads in the Vale of Aylesbury and beyond it into Oxfordshire; later Lord Torrington complained of the state of the Crossroads round Crendon & Thame, declaring that for the most part they were impossible to Tour in Chaises or Phaetons and ‘would tame the fiercest horse‘.   Great improvements had been made by 1813 when Brewer stated that the ‘majority of Parochial Roads or Crossways are much better than the great thoroughfares were a Century ago‘.  The coming of the Turnpikes made it possible to run a Coach from Burford via Oxford & Thame to London in 1773, and by about 1830 there was a Coach from Thame to London 3-times a week until 1860.  But Thame never became a Coaching Centre: with Tetsworth so near it was not too inconvenient to join the London Coach there.  Four Thame Roads were Turnpiked.  The 1st from Aylesbury to the Turnpike between Shillingford & Benson was opened in 1770.  There were Gates at Thame Mill & Priestend, and the Receipts at these in 1802 were £110 & £342 respectively.  The Road from Thame to the Oxford Road between Tetsworth & Postcombe was Turnpiked in 1785 with a Gate at Brick Kiln Lane (Park Street) at which the receipts in 1802 were £194.  In 1833 a Turnpike Trust was set up for a Road from Thame to Bicester.  In 1881 the United Trust with a Debt of £2,650 and Assets worth £1,549 was wound up.  A proposal, made in 1823, to carry the Oxford-London Road through the Parish almost along the Line of the Railway failed owing to the objections of certain Landholders.  Existing Lanes were used instead and the present Oxford-Thame-Risborough Road by way of Kingsey Field resulted.

In the 20thC the Chinnor Road has been increasing in importance owing to the growth of the Chinnor Cement Works and since 1929 has carried more Traffic than either the Postcombe or Rycote Roads.

The Railway came to Thame in 1858 when an extension of the Line from High Wycombe via Princes Risborough, authorised by Parliament in 1857, was built. The Line was taken over by the GWR in 1867, the connection between Thame & Oxford having been completed in 1864.

The Town of Thame lies in the extreme North of the Parish just to the South of the River Thame, from which it took its name. The word is probably a corruption of the Celtic root teme, meaning dark.  The Town’s Site must have been determined by the strong Defensive position of the River and its 2 Tributaries which lie on 3 sides of it and by the Sandstone Island that emerges here out of the surrounding Clay.  The Geological conformation also largely determined the present lay-out of the Town.  Along a gently sloping Ridge running North-west to Southeast runs the long and remarkably wide High Street with the parallel Wellington Street to the North-east & Southern Road to the South-west.


The original Town of Old Thame lay at the West end of the High Street along the Roads which encircle the Church – the Oxford Road to the North-west & Bell Lane to the South-east.  Here in Church Road was the Bishop’s Court House.  When the Church was made a Prebend of Lincoln in about 1140 a Prebendal House was probably built and from this time, no doubt dates the Liberty of Priestend which lasted as a Unit of Local Government up to the 19thC.  Development Eastwards and the creation of New Thame probably took place in the 12thC, and in the 1st Quarter of the 13thC the Centre of the High Street itself, where Middle Row now is, began to be Built on. The early 13thC was undoubtedly a period of great Building activity: the Parish Church was newly Built on a large scale, and so it seems was the Abbey Church and the Prebendal Chapel and one-time Hall.  By the mid-15thC, if not earlier, the Town had extended to Friday Street (North Street) and partly along it.  By 1700 Houses extended as far as the White Hound Pond (Memorial Park) and by 1823 were almost continuous to that point & along much of Pound Lane (Wellington Street).  But Ludsden was still a Hamlet and the Land between it and the East end of Brick Kiln Lane (Park Street) was Open-field.  Even in 1860 Ludsden still consisted of 3-Farms with Cottages.  After 1850 the freeing of Land by the Inclosure Award (1826), the growing Population, and later the opening of the Railway Station and the increased Powers of the Urban District Council, led to the development of the Town to the South-east & South.  By 1880 the Gas Works (now pulled down) and a row of Artisans’ Houses at the beginning of East Street had appeared; also Tythrop Terrace & Railway Terrace.   These were followed by over 60 New Houses built between 1880 & 1890 along Chinnor Road and in Pickencroft (Queen’s Road). These were mostly Vitreous Brick & Red-Brick Villas for Artisans.  At about this date too, All Saints’ Church, a corrugated Iron Structure, was erected in Chinnor Road and a Row of 2-Storey Houses in the Gothic style in Thame Park Road; between 1900 & 1910 came Croft Road & Nelson Street; and after the 2 World Wars, there was further expansion.  Between 1919 & 1939 an Estate of 178 Houses was built off Windmill Road and between 1945 & 1959 Victoria Mead & Moat Crescent were laid out besides 172 Council Houses in Churchill Crescent and other Estates on the Northside of Thame.

Apart from dwelling houses several Schools and other Public Buildings have been erected in Thame since 1827 when the Congregationalist Chapel (now the Masonic Hall) was Built.  In 1835 came the Workhouse (later Rycote Technical College), designed by G Wilkinson of Witney, who was afterwards asked by the Poor Law Commissioners to design similar Buildings for Ireland.  Next came the National School and the British School; in 1861 the County Court, built of local Bricks & Embellished with a Royal Shield of Arms; and in 1878 the New Buildings of Lord Williams’s Grammar School on the Oxford Road.  In 1959 a new Secondary Modern School was begun.


County Court – This was Built from Local Brick in 1861 and altered to accommodate the Magistrates Court in 1984.  It was Purchased by the Town Council in 2005 to House the  Thame Museum.  This houses 100s of items with everything from Elizabethan Wall Paintings to a Civil War Soldier’s Uniform on Display.  The Royal Coat of Arms on the top of the Building is the Official Coat of Arms of the British Monarch.  On the left, the Shield is supported by the English Lion.  On the right it is supported by the Unicorn of Scotland. The Unicorn is chained because in Medieval times a free Unicorn was considered a very dangerous Beast.

The most striking feature of the Town today is still its wide High Street, stretching for over ¾-mile from the Oxford Road to the Old Police Station.  In the mid-19thC Billing’s Directory stated with much truth that if Middle Row was taken down ‘it would make this noble Street second to none in any Market Town in England‘.  Hotels, Public-Houses, Shops & Residential Houses lie on either side.  All periods of Architecture from the 15thC (or possibly earlier) to the present day, are represented, and though about 1900 many of the old Houses were re-Fronted and the Shops acquired plate-glass windows, the general effect is still one of beauty & dignity.

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The centre of Thame’s broad High Street is narrowed by an Island of Houses, once termed Middle Row, and above the Jumble of Tiled Roofs here rises like a Watch-Tower a most curious & interesting Medieval House known as the “Bird Cage Inn.”  About this Structure little is known; it is, however, referred to in an old Document as the “Tenement called the Cage, demised to James Rosse by Indenture for the Term of 100-years, yielding therefor by the Year 8s,” and appears to have been a Farmhouse.  The Document in question is a Grant of Edward IV to Sir John William of the Charity or Guild of St Christopher in Thame, founded by Richard Quartemayne, Squier, who died in the year 1460.  This House, though in some respects adapted during later years from its original Plan, is structurally but little altered, and should be taken in hand and intelligently restored as an object of Local Attraction & Interest. The choicest Oaks of a small Forest must have supplied its Framework, which stands firm as the day when it was built. The fine Corner-posts (then enclosed) should be exposed to view, and the mullioned windows which jut out over a narrow Passage should be opened up.  If this could be done – and not overdone—the “Bird Cage” would hardly be surpassed as a miniature specimen of Medieval Timber Architecture in the County.  A Stone doorway of Gothic form and a kind of Almery or Safe exist in its Cellars.


ThameBirdCageAmong the oldest buildings, the ‘Bird Cage‘ is one of the best-preserved and most interesting. The main structure dates from the 15thC, but its Stone Cellar maybe earlier. The House is Timber-framed and was Lath & Plaster filling, then Roughcast. The West end is a 3-Storey Building with its Top-Storey oversailing all round and supported on long and very heavy curved brackets on Corner Posts. On the 1st Floor are 2-15th-16thC rectangular Wooden Bays with Traceried lights, shaped & curved Aprons, and small Tiled Roofs. The centre of the House is of 2-Storeys and the East end has Single-Storey and an Attic, but part of the original East End has been replaced by a Shop. There is a Pentroof projection across the Ground Floor.  The House has been an Inn for some years, but the local Tradition is that it was once the Town Prison and it seems likely that it is identical with the ‘Tenement called the Cage‘ which was the Property of the Guild of St Christopher in 1529.

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Another Secular Building, partly of 15thC date and worth noting, is the House called the ‘Cruck‘.  It has 16thC Timber-framing with Plaster filling and Stands on a Rubble Base. There is a fragment of Elizabethan Wall painting inside.  One Gable-end has the remains of a Cruck built into the Lower Storey that was apparently part of an adjoining Cottage now destroyed.

Most numerous are the 16th to 17thC, 18thC & Regency Houses, though many of them were altered later. The chief characteristics of the 16th-17thC Houses are their irregular Gables, cut Barge-boards, Timber-framing, oversailing Top-Storeys, and diamond-shafted Chimneys.  Some have Plaster filling, some Rubble & Plaster, and others have Brick.  An important building material in the 16thC and earlier was white earth, later known as ‘Witchert‘.  Some have been re-Fronted in the 18thC and their earlier characteristics are observable only at the Rear of the Building or inside.  Some are still Thatched.  The 18thC houses or those with 18thC Fronts are usually built of Brick and are on the whole rather plain Georgian Houses, with the usual characteristics of the style.
Corner Cottage, Bell Lane
House. Circa early 17thC or earlier; faced in Brick in circa late 17thC or early 18thC and in circa early to mid-19thC. Timber-framed, faced in Flemish Bond Red Brick. Gable-ended Roofs, North Wing Thatched, South West Wing Clay plain Tiles. Brick Axial & Gable-end Stacks.
Plan: 2-Timber-framed Ranges at right-angles to each other; the East Front of the North Range faced in Brick in circa late 17thC or early 18thC; the South West Wing faced in Brick in about early-mid 19thC.  The rear West end of the South West Wing extended in Brick in 20thC.
Exterior: 2-Storeys & Attic. Asymmetrical East Front. Thatched-roof North Range on Right with Platband at the 1st-Floor Level, 2 & 3-light Casements with cambered Brick Arches on the Ground Floor and smaller 3-light Casement on 1st-Floor. On left the slightly advanced Gable End of the South West Wing with canted Bay window on Ground Floor with Sashes with glazing bars, tripartite Sash on 1st-Floor above adapted with Top Lights and small 9-pane Sash to Attic in Gable above; Doorway on Right with rectangular Overlight.  Left, South, return 4 window Bays, canted Bay window on Ground Floor with integral Porch; 20thC Brick Extension on Left.  The rear West Wall of the North Wing has exposed Timber-framing with Brick-nogging & Tension-braces.
Interior: Exposed Wall-framing and chamfered Ceiling Beams. Jowled Wall-posts, curved Braces to the Tie-beams, Attics ceiled but exposed clasped-Purlin Roof with wind-braces.
Among the best preserved 16th-17thC Houses is Corner Cottage in Bell Lane, a picturesque Thatched building of Brick, Plaster & Timber.  Another is No.1 Butter Market & ‘The George‘ which were originally one Building.  This House consists of 2-Storeys & an Attic, is Timber-framed, and part has a double-gabled Front oversailing at 1st-Floor Level with heavy Bracket supports, in their original carved form, and the other part (now ‘The George‘) has a similar Oversail, but without Gables.  A massive central Chimney with 4 diamond Shafts remains.  The ‘Saracen’s Head‘, although it has a 17thC Gabled Exterior, is really a much older House.  It is Timber-framed, but the inside Timbers appear to be of 15thC date and are set in a massive & elaborate symmetrical pattern with curved Braces in the Panels. Behind the Façade lies an early 14thC Cruck Built Hall House & Cross Wing.  The House had a vaulted Medieval Cellar but mutilated in the course of modern alterations.  Other 16thC buildings are the ‘Nag’s Head‘ with its 3 Oversailing Gables.


The 15thC provenance of the Nag’s Head Inn can be seen in the Timber-framed West Elevation.  The Pub was known as the King’s Head until, during the Civil War, a supporter of Charles I was Hanged from the Pub Sign by Parliamentary Soldiers.  Old Nags Head in Thame was used by the Parliamentary Army as a Quarter:   Antiquarian Anthony Wood tells also of certain doings at the Nag’s Head, a very Ancient Hostelry, though not nearly so old as the Bird Cage Inn. The old Sign is no longer there, but some interesting features remain, among them the huge Strap Hinges on the Outer Door, fashioned at their extremities in the form of Fleurs-de-lis.

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The tragical little Story belongs to the humble old “Nag’s Head” Inn at Thame, formerly the “King’s Head.” The old Sign of it was used as a Gallows for a Parliamentary Rebel who had deserted his side and joined the King, and was so unlucky as to be captured. Those Puritans had a grim humour.  One of the condemned man’s Executioners, before turning him off, turned his face, bound with a handkerchief, to the Sign, with the words: “Nay, Sir, you must speak one word with the King before you go. You are blindfold, and he cannot see, and by and by you shall both come down together.” Then he was hoisted up.

There is another historic House at Thame, for it was into the Yard of the “Greyhound” in that Town that John Hampden came, lying mortally wounded upon the neck of his Horse, from the Skirmish of Chalgrove Field, on 18th June 1643.  He had unwillingly taken Arms against oppression & iniquitous Taxation, and was thus at the outset killed.  No Enemy’s bullet laid him low it was his own Pistol, overloaded by a careless Servant, that, exploding when fired, shattered his hand.  He died, on the 24th, of Lockjaw (Tetanus).  The front of the House has been rebuilt, and the Yard somewhat altered, since the Patriot rode in at that tragical time; but the House is in essentials the Inn of his day. Long since ceased to be an Inn, it was occupied as a furnishing Ironmonger’s Shop & Warehouse.

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Coaching Inn, now shop & dwellings. Probably early 18thC with 20thC alterations. Grey Brick with Red Brick dressings; Roof & Chimney Stacks not visible. 3-Storey, 5-window Range.  20thC plate-glass shopfront to Ground Floor with plate-glass doors to left of centre . Carriageway to right. 20thC fascia board between Ground & 1st-Floors. Early 20thC angled Bay window to 1st Floor centre with wood mullion & transom windows .  Unhorned Venetian Sash windows with glazing bars to 1st-Floor left & right with rubbed Brick heads. Flat Brick band between 1st & 2nd Floors. 12-pane Sash with Brick flat head to 2nd-Floor centre.  Tripartite horned Sashes with glazing bars to 2nd-Floor left & Right with Brick flat heads.  Flat Brick band to base of plain Parapet.
Interior: 20thC shop to Ground Floor.
HistoryJohn Hampden died at Greyhound Inn on Site.


The ‘Rising Sun‘, the Swan Hotel, which has an 18thC front of Brick, and the ‘Abingdon Arms‘, though the last has been very much altered at later dates. It was once a 5-Bay Building, of which the main part was Timber-framed with Brick filling in the Front and Lath & Plaster and some Rubble at the Rear; it has been reduced in size & converted into Shops. No.109 Lower High Street is another 16thC structure and is typical of many Houses in this part of the High Street.  It is a Timber-framed House with Brick filling, a central Chimney Stack, and a side entry to the rear of the premises. Inside there are Spiral Staircases & 17thC Corner Fireplaces.  It has been re-fronted in the early 18thC and has an early-19thC Shopfront.

Map of the County of Oxford, from Actual Survey, by A Bryant, in the year 1823. Inscribed by permission to the Rt Honourable the Earl of MacclesfieldLord Lieutenant, and to the Nobility, Clergy & Gentry of the County.


Old Market Hall, c.1860/87 with the Mansion House opposite on its Left

Five buildings of interest dating from the 16th & 17thCs are known through Prints or Documents only.  They are 2 successive Market-Halls, the old Vicarage, the Court House & the Place House.

The 16thC Market-Hall was a Timber-framed Building of 2-Storeys with open spaces for Shops below. On the Top-Storey, there was ornamental Pargetting.  The Roof was Tiled and surmounted by a short Weather-vaned Turret.  It was this Building that John Verney, writing to Sir Ralph on 6th October 1679, said had fallen down.  A new Market-House built at the expense of the Abingdon Family in 1684 stood on large Stones embedded in the Ground which supported Oak Pillars.  About 1850 the Building was repaired & improved and was used for the Monthly Petty Sessions.  As it accommodated barely 80 people it was replaced in 1888 by the present Town Hall.

Three members of the Stone Family were Clockmakers. This Family was one of the most influential in the 2nd half of the 18thC and the ‘Spread Eagle‘ is said to have been Built as their Private House. Edward Stone’s Will (proved 1765) shows that he was a Saddler, and that of his 3 sons one was a Saddler, another a Watch & Clockmaker, and a 3rd a Silversmith & Whipmaker. The Clock-maker was Richard Stone, Apprenticed in 1761 to Charles House in London, but later of Thame.  One of his clocks is now in St Nicholas Church, Marston.  A John Stone was also making Clocks at Thame from about 1760 to 1795 when he seems to have been succeeded by Thomas Stone. A certain Tomlinson was making Longcase Clocks at the end of the Century, but he was not apparently John Tomlinson, Watch-maker & Gunsmith, who had a Shop in the High Street in the mid-19thC.

Corn Market – note the Suspended Sign for the Spread Eagle

The old Vicarage, where Anthony Wood Boarded as a Schoolboy, lay near the Site of the present Vicarage, but closer to the Road.  It was replaced in 1842, but 19thC Prints show it as a 2-Storey House of 2 Builds with picturesque Gables & Timber-framing.  It was assessed on 4-Hearths in 1665.  The 16thC Fireplace in the Hall of the present Vicarage may have come from the old House.

The original Court House, said to have contained early Tudor Timbering & Oak Panelling, stood, until 1891, at the East Angle of the Churchyard & Church Row.  This was the Manor-house of Old Thame and presumably replaced the ‘Hall‘ of the Bishop of Lincoln, which was the Administrative Centre of his Demesne in the early Middle Ages.  Bishop Hugh de Welles was Granted 30 pieces of Timber in 1219 for making it, and one of the Services of the Bishop’s Villeins in the 13thC was to carry Timber to his ‘Hall & Grange‘.  The Bishop’s Courts were held there: Court Close is still the name of a Field to the South of the Church, and the Large Barn, standing on the opposite side of the Road and now called Church Barn, was in the 15th & 16thCs called Court Barn.  When the Wrays had the Lordship in the 17thC Edward Wray Leased in 1626 the Manor House to Vincent Barry, his Steward, and it was from the Barrys’ House that Anthony Wood watched the Royalist Attack on Thame in 1645.  The Capital Messuage & Court Close were Leased to Robert Barry in 1691.   The Barn is a long low building with a Brick Base supporting a Timber-framed upper part with herring-bone Brick filling.  A Dovecot of Brick with a Hipped Roof also remains.  It adjoins the Churchyard and was ordered to be rebuilt in 1526 when Leased by the Bishop to Richard Rey. 

The most important Lay House in Thame in the Middle Ages was almost certainly the ‘Place House‘.  It was the Manor-House of Baldington Manor, and belonged 1st to the Baldingtons and then to the Dormers.  It lay in Friday Street (i.e. North Street) on the East side and at the High Street end in Lee’s Close.  In 1473 Geoffrey Dormer Sr, acquired it from Thomas Baldington’s daughter and apparently used it as one of his Residences until 1498 when he leased it to John Hall for life.  In 1484 it was described as having glazed & latticed windows, all shuttered.  The Arms of the Mercers’ Company are said to have been in the Window of the House and were perhaps placed there in the time of Geoffrey’s son Sir Michael, who was a London Mercer.  In 1592, when John Dormer Leased it to John Symeon (d.1619) of Pyrton, it was occupied by a Yeoman Farmer, and in 1611 was described as ‘lately his [Dormer’s] Dwelling House‘.
The Mercers’ Maiden is the Symbol & Coat of Arms of the Company. She 1st appears on a Seal in 1425. Her precise origins are unknown, and there is no written evidence as to why she was chosen as the Company’s Emblem.  She is often depicted wearing the Fashions of any given Period because she was not formally Granted as a Coat of Arms until 1911.

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ThameMansionHousePlaque.jpgA 5th House, once the ‘Mansion House‘ of the Knollys Family in the High Street, Built in 1572 and demolished in 1965. It was erected by Sir Francis Knollys (d.1629), and was later rebuilt & inhabited by Francis Knollys, MP (d.1757), and by Sir Francis Knollys, Bt, MP (d.1772).  During its time it served as a Private House, a Billet for Royalist Troops, a Refuge for 50 French Clergy.  The Mansion House School was opened in 1808–09 by John Jones, a former Master of the old Market House School, and continued for about 20-yrs.  In 1840 it was taken over by L D Hunt, and extensive alterations were made which included new Classrooms, Boarding Accommodation, 2 Halls, a Gymnasium & Swimming Bath, and the School was reopened as the Oxford County School.  In 1868 James Marsh, at one time a Master of the British School became Headmaster and the School was Amalgamated with Howard House School, a Private School which he had opened in 1854 at Cuttlebrook House.  At this School Instruction of a ‘Sound Commercial Character‘ was given for low Fees.  By 1866 he had 120 pupils, of whom 80 were Boarders.  The combined Schools Advertised under the joint names of the Oxford County Middle-Class School & Howard House School, and promised ‘a Practical Commercial Education‘. Boys were prepared for the Universities, the Civil Service, and especially for Professional & Business Careers. There was a Preparatory Department.  Marsh’s son J W Marsh succeeded him in 1883 but committed Suicide in 1888 because of Financial difficulties.  The School was then taken over by T Gardner and in 1894 by C H Hills.  In 1900 it became a Preparatory School and in 1908 it was transferred to London.  It was used as a Girls Grammer School from 1917 to c.1948  when the School moved to Holton Park, Wheatley.

At the West end of the High Street also still has a number of Ancient Houses including Castle’s Farm, a 16thC Timber-framed Building of Lath & Plaster with a Central Chimney; some 16thC Cottages that retain in their Cruck Construction the remains of earlier Cottages; and the oldest of all Thame’s Houses, the Prebendal.  The Prebendal House & Chapel built by Grossetête are also worthy of the closest attention.  The Chapel is an Architectural gem of Early English Design, and the rest of the House with its later Perpendicular Windows is admirable.  The earliest reference to the Prebendary’s House occurs in 1234 when Ralph de Wareville, Canon of Lincoln, received a Royal Grant of Wood for his House in Thame.  The existing Chapel must have been built at about that date: it has 2 Lancets in the North & South walls and one at the West end.  The East window is a triple Lancet with moulded Rear Arches supported by detached Shafts with Foliated Capitals.  The Chapel has an Undercroft.  The original Stone House was built around a Quadrangular Courtyard.  The Dormitory & Undercroft still adjoining the Chapel extend almost the full length of the South Range; the original 13thC Hall, now destroyed, lay on the East side of the Quadrangle with the Chapel projecting Eastwards from its South-east Corner. The Building seems to have been used as a Great Chamber when a New Hall with a Porch to the North of this Building and a 2-Storeyed Block still farther to the North were built in the 15thC.  The North-western Range of buildings dates from the 14thC and the whole of the former Western Range no longer exists. The rebuilding may have followed on the inspection made by the Proctor of Nicholas, Cardinal Prebendary of Thame, who was appointed in 1380 to Survey & Repair the Houses and the Property of the Prebend lately held by a Rebel Cardinal.  When the Prebend was Dissolved the House passed with the part of the Prebend known as the Rectory to the Thynne Family and was ultimately sold to Baroness Wenman. Anthony Wood noted that the Hall & Chapel were standing in 1661, but were in Ruins and that there were the Ruins of other Rooms half round the Quadrangle.  Early 19thC Drawings show that the place was being used as a Farmhouse.  In 1836 Charles Stone of Thame bought the Building from Baroness Wenman, and converted it into a Dwelling-house by dividing the Great Hall into 2-Floors & small rooms. His Architect was H B Hodson.  Since then the House had been continuously used as a Private Dwelling and has been carefully restored.  The Chapel was 1st restored by Col Harman Grisewood & W W Seymour in about 1912.  The restoration of the Chapel has been completed by Mr & Mrs H G Keppel-Palmer, who have also modernised the House and at the same time restored many of its Ancient features.  Professor Dickie of Manchester University supervised these alterations in 1938–39.  The 19thC Ceiling of the Hall was removed and a 16thC Roof of Carved Oak from Essex has been inserted at a height of 17-18ft.  The remains of the Moat, which once surrounded the House on 3-Sides, the Thame River being on the 4th Side, have been filled in.


In its present form the House is L-shaped and of 2-Storeys with an irregular East Front. The 15thC Hall is to the left of the projecting Entrance Porch.  It is lighted by 2 tall mullioned & transomed 2-light windows with cusped heads. There is a 2-light window with Stone mullions & cusped heads to the lights on the 1st-Floor.  The Gabled Extension to the right of the Porch contains a tall similar 2-light window on the 1st-Ffloor and a later (probably 16thC) 3-light window on the Ground Floor with 3-centred Heads to the lights. The present Tracery has been added at a later date, for a Print of 1837 shows the House with mullioned windows & plain lights.  All the windows have drip-moulds. The Roof rests on a Stone Corbel Table dating from the 15thC.  It used to be Part Tiles & Part Thatch before the 19thC restorations.  The joining Wall shown in 19thC drawings was probably used for rebuilding the House in the 1870 restoration. It was built up again on the old Foundations by Mrs Keppel-Palmer.

At the Hamlet of North Weston, now consisting only of the Manor Farm and a few Cottages, the Chief House of interest was once the Manor-House, which was largely pulled down in the early 19thC.  In the 14thC it was the Home of the Quatremains and was called Quatremains Place, and after it had passed to the Clerke’s it was probably rebuilt by Sir John Clerke out of the proceeds of the Ransom of the Duke de Longueville, whom he had Captured at the Battle of the Spurs.  A Sketch of the old House shows that it was a picturesque 2-Storeyed & Gabled Building, composed of a Central Range of Rooms & 2 projecting Wings at each end.  It was Taxed on 16-Hearths in 1665.  Lupton, writing in the mid-19thC, says that he saw a Beam taken from the Hall on which was cut the date 1527.  The present Farmhouse & Outbuildings represent part of the East Wing and the Kitchen Offices of the old House. The House is built partly of Brick & Rubble, partly of Timber, and has a massive outside Chimney Stack with Brick Chimney Shafts set diagonally.

The Red-Brick Walling of an 18thC Garden also survives. The end facing South is rounded and contains a Stone Alcove with Ionic Columns and a Pediment above with the Arms of Clerke.  A Medieval Chapel lying to the West of the House was pulled down about 1810 or 1820.  The date of its construction is unknown, but a new window had been inserted towards the end of the 14thC when Guy Quatremain was Baptised. The Baptism took place before his father’s death in 1399.  The Chapel was used for a Baptismal Service as late as 1750 and in the mid-19thC, the Pillars of the Nave were still to be seen supporting the Roof of a Cart-shed.

Moreton lies on the Cuttle Brook and is still a sizeable Village with a number of Ancient Cottages & Farmhouses, as well as a 19thC Primitive Methodist Chapel, a former National School, and a number of 20thC Council Houses.  Its appearance was completely altered by the Inclosure Award.  The large Green in the South-west was Inclosed and though some of the oldest Houses are still in this area, the Modern Village has spread North-eastward.  An older part of the Village where there are Timber-framed & Thatched Cottages is grouped around a small Green to the North-east of the old one. Moreton never had a Manor-House or a Church.

No Trace has been found of the Medieval Village of Attington, – Eatta’s Hill,  but it is probable that it lay on the Thame Road over 300ft up and where the Ordnance Survey Map of 1885 marked a Well.  This position would agree with the references to the Village and various adjoining Closes in a mid-15thC Terrier: ‘South Close‘ lay between Attington & Copcourt, ‘West Close‘ between the West end of the Village & London Way towards Tetsworth, and ‘North Close‘ lay between Attington & Horsenden Hill.

By the time of the Hearth Tax of 1665 only Dormer Leys Farmhouse in the North-west of the Parish was listed, and Davis’s Map of 1797 shows only this House and the House later called Attington House, in the South-west of the Parish.  Attington House is a 2-Storeyed building with Attics of 18thC date.  It is built partly of Brick and partly of Ragstone with Brick Quoins & Dressings. It has 2 hipped Dormers and a Tiled Roof.


The Swan has been a prominent Inn in Thame since Sir John Clerke built it in the early part of the 16thC.  The Clerke Family Crest is of 3 Swans and it is from this that the Swan Inn most likely takes its name.  The 18thC Front hides the much earlier Timber-framed Building that originally had 2 Oversailing Jetties to the Front.  Until recent times there was Stabling for up to 30-40 horses at the Rear stretching back to Wellington Street.  It was not, however, a true Coaching Inn, but one of the Venues in Thame that Coaches would leave for other Local Towns on the Main Coaching Routes.  During these times a Glass Roof covered the 1st or Inner Courtyard to provide protection for the Visitors.  The Swan was a popular eating place for the Churchwardens with many references in their Accounts going back to 1634.  This popularity continued into the 1930s wherein the large old-fashioned Kitchen a Farmers Ordinary Fare was provided on Market Days for 2s and the Bar was used by Farmers settling their Market Transactions. An Ordinary was a Set-meal served Communally round a Large Table.  Originally part of the Earl of Abingdon’s Estates, Hannah Bennett, a wealthy Widow bought the Property in 1769 and held it until 1790The Swan remained in Private Hands until another Widow, Hannah Phillips was in chargeIn 1832, when it was repossessed by William Hall of Oxford. it thus came into the hands of Halls Brewery until the late 1970s.

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1st Series OS Map Of Oxfordshire
Surveyed by a local man, Richard Davis of Lewknor and published in 1797. This large Map consists of 16 sheets at an impressively detailed scale of 1:31,680 or 2in to 1-mile. No more than 200 copies were ever made, the evidence is based on all sets of the Map having manuscript Serial No.s – this Image is part of No.34.  Very few complete Copies survive.  In terms of what the Map shows, a clear break has been made from the Saxton-led traditional County Map, as here far more detail than previously is featured. Not only are CountyHundred Boundaries, Rivers and Streams, Towns & Villages, Parks & Woodland depicted, but here we have Roads, Tracks, Hedges, indeed every Field can be seen, and relief is beautifully represented by the use of hachuresDavis was also Topographer to His Majesty, George III.


Michael Burghers – Map Of Oxfordshire 1677
Beautifully embellished Map of the county of Oxfordshire engraved by Michael Burghers for Dr Robert Plot’sThe Natural History of Oxfordshire” Published in 1677, a work that contained descriptions and images of Fossils found in the County including the 1st known illustration of a Dinosaur bone. The defining characteristic of the Map is the extensive decoration of the Borders & Cartouches with 178 Coats of Arms of the Colleges of Oxford University, Noblemen and Clergy. Also included is a Key explaining the Symbols used to identify various types of Locations on the Map.



Thame Police Station is dated 1854. It was built by Giles Holland, a local Builder at a cost of £654.  Holland also re-built Emmington Church in 1873.  It was shared by both Oxon & Bucks.  Claimed to be the earliest surviving Police Station in the County.

StanleyAndersonMakingTheGate1948ElmsParkGatesA local Thame Farrier Rupert Timms from Aston Clinton won 1st Prize at the 1947 Royal Show Oxford for building a wrought Iron Gate to a Design by Towersey Artist Artist Stanley Anderson.  Subsequently, the Timms developed a Business as Ornamental Blacksmiths based on Anderson’s original Design and they made Gates for St Mary’s Church & Elm Park Recreation Ground in Thame.

Alfred Humphries, Millwright from Thame who worked on the Chinnor Windmill around a 100-yrs ago.  His Journals were used by the late Wilfred Foreman, Author of ‘Oxfordshire Mills‘.

Court Well, Thame – the Town’s oldest historical feature is now sadly neglected & forgotten. When you gaze upon the crumbling Brickwork & Stagnant Water today it is hard to imagine that this was probably once the Town’s most important Site.  The 19thC historian Lupton, writing in his History of Thame, talked of the Cuttlebrook to the West of the Town Centre and added:
…on the bank of the High Ground above is a fine pure Spring of high repute for its many virtues.  We doubt not that the Spring is a Holy one and that its original name was Court Well, that the Brook below had its name from the Spring which was corrupted into Cuttle 

The Well still exists today and can be found tucked under St Joseph’s RC School on the private Land that runs down to Cuttle Brook. The Stone structure is in a dilapidated state and sadly the Spring no longer Flows through the Structure. Probably the Building of St Joseph’s School cut off the Spring from the Holy Well proper, and it now bursts forth from the ground in the corner of the Field. Interestingly there are 3 Hawthorn Trees by the Well. This recalls the legend of St Joseph of Arimathea who on arriving in England struck his Staff on the ground and it took root as a Thorn Tree. This Thorn Tree (a cutting of which existed at Quainton, near Thame only blossomed at Christmas. Joseph buried the Chalice of the Last Supper (the ‘Holy Grail’) at Glastonbury and immediately a Spring gushed forth tinged with the Holy Blood. If the building of St Joseph’s School did cut off the supply of water to Court Well, it would be suitably ironic. The only other hint we have about any possible origin of the Well comes from its known ability to cure Eye Complaints. To Folklorists this is an indication that the Well may have once been associated with the Norse god Odin (the Germanic Woden, from whom we get Wednesday – Wodensday). He was also known as a Healer and, more interestingly, he is said to have sacrificed one of his Eyes in order to drink from the Spring of Knowledge, Mimir’s Well. The Well is now on Private Property but has sadly been vandalised over the years. There used to be a Stone Arch on top of the Structure but this no longer exists. An elderly woman told us that as a child she and her Schoolfriends were told that Hobgoblins haunted the Well. She quickly added that they did not seriously believe this story, but it does show that even at that time the Well had some importance in the Town.

Reproduced from VCH Oxfordshire XVIII (2016), available online at