Headington history: Descriptions

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Headington in 1852

History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Oxford
(Peterborough: Robert Gardner, 1852)
Headington Parish

This parish contains 1,780 acres, the rateable value of which is £4,980. The amount of assessed property is £4,148; and the population in 1801 was 1,388; and in 1841, 1,668 souls. The Rev. Dr. Whorwood is lord of the manor; and the principal landowners are George Baker Ballachey, Esq.; John Matthews, Esq.; William Peppercorn, Esq.; James Holmes, Esq.; and Miss Latimer.

The Village of Headington is pleasantly situated on an elevation, about 2½ miles E.N.E. of Oxford. Headington was a seat of a royal palace in the time of king Ethelred, and it is traditionally believed to have been chosen by several of the Saxon monarchs as a nursery for their children, on account of the peculiar salubrity of the air. In a field called Court Close, considerable foundations are said by Dr. Plot to have been remaining in the 17th century. At the time of the Doomsday survey, Headington belonged to the king; and in the 25th of Henry II (1179) it was constituted a barony, and given in fee farm to Thomas Bassett.

The high road from Oxford to Headington is broad and steep, and a fine terrace walk was constructed by the general subscription of the university, in the early part of the last century. This excellent foot-path reaches to the summit of Headington hill, and commands from different points, fine views of Oxford. It was near the top of this hill, according to popular story, that a student from Oxford was attacked by a wild boar, from the adjoining forest of Shotover, when he escaped by cramming a volume of Aristotle down the throat of the savage beast. Besides the village of Headington, there is a respectable hamlet called Headington Hill, near to which is the Warneford Lunatic Asylum. A stone cross formerly stood on Headington Hill.

About half-a-mile S.E. of Headington is a large hamlet called Headington Quarry. Here is a stone quarry of considerable extent and utility. The stone dug is chiefly of the two sorts termed free-stone and rag-stone. Of this stone the more substantial parts of many structures in Oxford are composed; but it is too coarse and porous for the ornamental divisions. It has been also used in building many elegant bridges. It is now in the occupation of Mr. Thomas Snow.

Barton is a small hamlet, situated about half-a-mile E. by N. from Headington; and there is a new village about to be erected in this parish, a short distance from the toll bar, about 1½ mile from Oxford.

Headington Manor House, the seat of John Matthews, Esq., is a good commodious mansion, pleasantly situated in prettily arranged pleasure grounds.

The Parish Church, which is situated in the mother village, is an ancient edifice dedicated to St. Andrew, and consists of nave, side aisles, chancel, south porch, and a low massive embattled tower in which are six bells. In the church yard is the lofty shaft of an ancient stone cross. A neat font was presented by Mr. Richard Finch, who died in 1802. The living is a vicarage, not in charge; valued at £121; gross income, £118. Patron, Rev. T. H. Whorwood; incumbent, Rev. C. Pring. The tithes were commuted for land.

There is a District Church at Headington Quarry, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It was recently erected at a cost of about £2,000, raised by subscription, aided by a grant of £200 from the Church Building Society. It consists of nave, north aisle, and chancel, with a spire and south porch. The Rev. John James is the present incumbent. There is also a small Wesleyan Chapel there.

Catherine Mather, by will in 1805, left the interest of £400, for teaching poor children in this parish.

The National School, which is of recent erection, is a neat Gothic structure, with a residence for the teachers in the centre. The average number of children in attendance of both sexes is about 180. The building was erected by subscription, aided by a government grant; and its site was given by Charles Tawney, Esq. The school is very ably conducted by the present teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Bird.

The Headington Poor Law Union embraces an area of 42 square miles, and comprehends the following 22 parishes or townships: – Beckley – Cowley – Chippinghurst – Cuddesden – Denton – Elsfield – Forest Hill – Garsington – Headington – Holton – Horsepath – Horton-cum-Studley – Iffley – Hockmoor – Shotover – Stanton St John – Stowwood – Studley (Bucks) – St Clement, Oxford – St Giles, Oxford – St John Baptist, Oxford – Wheatley, and Wood Eaton.

The Union Workhouse will accommodate 250 inmates. The average number of paupers for the past year was 72; and the average weekly expense of each was 2s. 0½d. The chairman of the board of guardians is the Rev. Dr. Wyner; Thomas Cripps, Esq., vice chairman; medical officers, William Rusher and Richard Lee, Esqs.; Mr. H. R. Haskings, clerk; Mr. John Thomas Smith, governor; and Mrs. Elizabeth Hester Smith, matron.

Letters are received through the Oxford Post Office

  • The list of Headington’s Principal Inhabitants in 1852, which follows the above preamble, is reproduced in the Family History section on this site.
  • The population figures given above are from the censuses. The whole of Headington had just 1,668 people in 1841; sixty years later, Kelly’s Directory states that Quarry alone had a population of 1174, and the total population of the Headington area was 3951.
  • The Revd Dr Whorwood had in fact sold his rights to the Manor of Headington to William Peppercorn three years before in 1849, which shows that directory material cannot always be relied upon to be up to date.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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