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Headington history: Listed Buildings/Structures

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Wick Farm, and its well house and barn


Wick Farmhouse

List entry for Wick Farmhouse: 1047636
List entry for Wick Farm Well House: 1047637
List entry for eastern pair of gate piers and attached wall: 1047638
List entry for western pair of gate piers and attached wall: 1369181
List entry for Wick Farm Barn: 1369220

Wick Farm (also known as Headington Wick) in Barton, Headington was already in existence in the thirteenth century. Its name suggests that it was probably a dairy farm. (Stow Surv. 171 (1598): “In diuers countries, Dayrie houses or cottages, wherein they make butter and cheese, are vsually called Wickes”.)

In the seventeenth century Wick Farm was the second largest farm in the parish of Headington. On 17 November 1781, when it was available to let, an advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal stated it was then about 250 acres.

Arthur Maling, one of James Murray’s assistants on the original Oxford English Dictionary project, annotated a slip for wick (in the sense meaning “farm”) with the comment that “Headington Wick is a farm-house between Headington & Elsfield”.

The present farmhouse (shown above) was built in the mid- or late eighteenth century, and is Grade II listed. The barn behind the well house, and the gate piers and walls, are the same age and are also listed structures. The well house that can be seen to the left is older and is Grade II* listed (see below).

Although Wick Farm has always been part of Headington, it lies outside the current city boundary and is in the region covered by South Oxfordshire District Council.


Owners of Wick Farm

In 1813 Theophilus Wharton junior and his brother Brian, sons of the apothecary Theophilus Wharton and his wife Ann, bought Wick Farm for the then huge sum of £9,900 and let it out.

Theophilus Wharton died in 1831, and the farm remained in the ownership of his brother Brian. On 2 June 1838 it was advertised thus in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

TWO MILES FROM OXFORD.
TO be LET, for fourteen years.—The WICK MANOR FARM, in the parish of Headington, containing 200 Acres of Arable, Meadow, Pasture, and Coppice Lane.
Possession to be had at Michaelmas next.—For particulars apply to the proprietor, Mr. Wharton, Headington.

Bryan Wharton died in 1839, and the farm was held by their executors until at least 1850, probably until the expiry of the 14-year lease in Michaelmas 1852..

The farm then passed to Mrs Emily Stone née Morrell (1811–1891). She was the daughter of Theophilus and Bryan Wharton’s sister Jane, who had married James Morrell senior, the brewer of Headington Hill Hall in 1808. Emily owned the farm from 1839 until her death in 1891.

It was then inherited by Emily’s niece Emily Alicia Morrell (who had married her cousin George Herbert Morrell in 1874 and thus retained her surname). Kelly's Directory for 1936 records: “Wick Farm, the property of Mrs. G. H. Morrell, contains and interesing well, enclosed with a stone canopy of ancient date.” She owned Wick Farm until her death in 1938.

Tenants of Wick Farm

At the time of the 1841 census the lessee was William Eeley (20), who lived here with Mary Eeley (15) and a female servant and three agricultural labourers.

In the Headington rate book of 1850 the executors of Brian Wharton are still stated to be the owner of Wick Farm, and William Parker was the tenant farmer. It was then just over 202 acres in size, with a gross estimated rental of £248 and a rateable value of £237.

At the time of the 1851 census James Cross (30) was living at the farm with his wife Eliza (35), and in directories of 1854 and 1863 he is listed as bailiff at Wick Farm. By the time of the 1871 census he and his wife were still at Wick farmhouse, and he is described as an “agricultural labourer foreman”; and In 1881, when his two nieces were living with them at the farmhouse, he is again described as a “farm bailiff”. It appears that William Parker or Parke was still the farmer, however, as he is listed as such in an 1876 directory.

In 1891 William Richard Knowles (26) was the farm bailiff, and he was living in the farmhouse with his wife Sarah. They were still there twenty years later in 1911.


The well house at Wick Farm

Farms needed vast quantities of water, and a well house held machinery (such as a donkey wheel or horse gin) for raising it.

Well house, Wick Farm

The above picture, taken in 2015, shows the farm’s impressive well house, which dates from about 1660. Over the doorway is a lion mask, and a scroll pediment on brackets. Inside there are steps down to the well, which is now covered.

The postcard below shows the well-house in about 1918.

Old postcard of Well House

Wick Farm Well House is the only Headington building other than St Andrew’s Church and Headington Hill Hall to have a Grade II* listing.

In 2012 it was placed on the English Heritage’s At Risk register, but no longer appears there. The listing was as follows:

South Oxfordshire District Council
Well House, Wick Farmhouse, Barton, Beckley and Stowood
Well house associated with Wick Farmhouse, late C17, in poor condition and not in use. Square plan ashlar structure in Baroque style with stone benches lining walls. Well now filled in. Not in use
Designation: Listed Building grade II*
Condition: Poor. Priority Category: C (C).
Owner type: Private. Listed entry number: 1047637
Contact: Principal Adviser, Heritage at Risk: 01483 252000

Oxford Mail, 9 May 2012: “Rare well house on 'at risk' register


Drawings of (1) Wick Farm well house and (2) the Gate Piers of Wick Farm appear in The Builder of 20 July 1907.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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