Headington history: Listed Buildings/Structures

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Wick Farm, Barton: Farmhouse, gate piers, well house, and barn

Wick Farmhouse

There are five separate Historic England List Entries for the buildings and structures
at Wick Farm, and each is given under the relevant heading below.

Until 1881 Wick Farm (also known as Headington Wick), which is across the brook on the north side of Barton Village Road, was in Headington, and the parish's boundary looped northwards to include it. In 1881, however, it was taken out of Headington and absorbed into Stowood parish, although it was still usually described as being in Headington. In 1932 the whole of Stowood was combined with Beckley to form Beckley & Stowood parish. As the Bayswater Brook now marks the boundary not only of Headington but also of the city of Oxford in this area, the former Headington farm comes under the administration of South Oxfordshire District Council and the parliamentary constituency of Henley and is situated in Oxford's Green Belt.

There was a Roman villa 500 yards north-west of the present Wick Farm in the fourth century AD.

Wick Farm was already in existence by the thirteenth century. In 1279 the hamlet of Wick appears to have consisted of one large farm, as one tenant there held 4½ virgates (about 135 acres), and apart from that there were just three cottages.

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”.) 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”.

In the seventeenth century Wick Farm was the second largest farm in the parish of Headington after the Manor Farm. It was held by Richard Lyde or Joyner of Cuddesdon frm 1595 to 1614, and then his son Francis.

There was a change in the ownership of Wick Farm not long before this boundary stone was erected, when Unton Croke junior became the owner. In 1687 Croke sold the farm to Sir William Walter (c.1635–1693), 2nd Baronet Walter of Sarsden. Anthony Wood wrote in his diary (Vol. III, p. 246):

By 1666 it was held by Unton Croke junior (who had been Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1658 and MP for Oxford in 1669 and was the son of Unton Croke of Marston). Then from 1685 until his death in 1694 it was held by Sir William Walter of Sarsden, near Chipping Norton. Anthony Wood wrote in his diary (Vol. III, p. 246):

In the winter time this yeare, 1687, Sir William Walter of Sarsden bought of Unton Croke the farme in Hedington parish called "The Wyke." Unton Croke changed Mert. Coll. lease at Chetwood in Bucks with ...., bart, for the Wyke post annum 1665.

In the early eighteenth century Wick Farm was held by the Acton family, probably by Samuel Acton (c.1676–1726), a grocer of London who has an ornate plaque on the wall of St Andrew's Church. According to the Victoria County History, it was then held by the Stebbings and Bishop families.

On 17 November 1781 when it was advertised to let in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, the farm was described as being about 250 acres in size.

The 1805 Headington Enclosure Award reveals that a large part of the present Barton Village Road (after the hamlet of Barton clustered at the top) was then a private road belonging to Wick Farm:

Also one private Carriage Road and Driftway of the breadth of forty feet numbered XIV leading in a Northward, North Eastward and South Eastward direction from Barton near the cottage of John Smith to the Wick Farm in Headington aforesaid which said private Road and Driftway is hereby set out to and for the use of owners and occupiers of the said Wick Farm for the time being

Even though Wick Farm was then still in Headington, the farm itself was not included in the Enclosure Award, as Thomas Snow explained:

The Map annexed to the Award of Headington dated 1802 does not show the Wick Farm containing 209 or 210 acres, altho' the said Farm is now part of Headington and as so probably for centuries past. At the time the lands were disafforested by the decree of King Charles IInd this Wick Farm was was allotted 20 acres in lieu of Forestal rights and this is the reason why it does not appear in the Award of 1802. The 20 Acres is pat of Wick Coppice and in Stow Wood....

The map below dating from 1830 shows Barton Village Road twisting and turning exactly as it does today on its way to Headington Wick Farm. It also shows the farm's position in relation to Sandhill Farm, the village of Headington, Stafford/Stowford Farm, and Bayswater Mill

Map of 1830

Fire JOJ 24 Dec 1842


Right: On 17 December 1842 a serious fire at Wick Farm broke out in the brewhouse and also destroyed other farm buildings (with this report in Jackson's Oxford Journal a week later). The farmhouse itself was saved.

In the spring of 1849 Llewellyn Jewitt discovered a Roman villa only 500 yards north-west of Wick Farm, in a field just to the east of the Beckley–Elsfield border and to the south of College Pond. .

Roman Villa near Wick Farm

The farmhouse at Wick Farm

List entry for Wick Farmhouse: 1047636 (Grade II)

Wick farmhouse

The present farmhouse (above) which is built of limestone is believed to date from the mid- or late eighteenth century, which would make it contemporaneous with the farm's listed barn and its gate piers with adjacent walls. There are two entrance doors, one each side of the blocked central window. The footpath to the left of the house leads to the long footpath that stretches from Barton to Beckley.

W. Henry Jewitt (baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 5 June 1842 and the nephew of Llewellyn Jewitt, who had discovered the Roman villa at Wick Farm) wrote that what we see today is not a replacement farmhouse but one of the wings of the earlier much grander farmhouse dating from the seventeenth century:

The Headington Wick Farm was in my childhood [c.1850] a large square house with two wings. One of the latter is all that now remains. It was, I should think, of Restoration date, but might have been earlier. It was always reputed to be haunted. It was then occupied by a farmer of the name of Ely, and I remember hearing that Miss Ely being one night dressing for a ball, saw in the glass someone look over her shoulder, and that the shock caused rather a severe illness…. The place had been the residence of the Wharton family—not a farm, it was far too large for a farmhouse. I think that the last of that name who resided there was Bryan Wharton, who left a bequest to the poor of Headington, as recorded in a notice in the ringing space, under the tower of the church. At any rate, I was told by an old woman in Headington that Mr. Wharton was obliged to leave the Wick owing to the strange noises and sights with which it was troubled. He afterwards lived in a more modern house in Headington, and the old house was left in charge of the bailiff. The said informant further stated that the bailiff’s wife, if belated, would stay for the night at her father’s cottage some fields off, rather than go up to the house.
(Folklore, Vol. 14, No. 2 (24 June 1903), pp. 183–5 (available here on JStor)

The Aubrey-Fletcher family bought the whole of Wick Farm in November 2017, but held on to this farmhouse and let it out privately. In November 2021 (under their company name Parthings Farm Management) they submitted a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council to regularize the unapproved works to this house, including the reinstatement of three blocked-up windows on the front elevation, and this was approved on 21 January 2022 (P21/S4587/HH).

The gate piers

The two pairs of gate piers and adjoining wall at the two entrances to Wick Farm date from the eighteenth century and are made of limestone ashlar and rubble. Each has a separate list entry.

Eastern gate piers and attached wall, viewed from the south: List entry 1047638 (Grade II):

East gate piers

One of the western gate piers and attached wall, viewed from the north: List entry 1369181 (Grade II):

Gate piers west

The drawings below, made by B. H. Collcutt in August 1905, were published in The Builder on 20 July 1907. They give a better impression of what the piers would have originally looked like.

Gate piers in The Builder

Under the detail of the cornice at the top, Collcutt writes: “The enrichment on mouldings is very indistinct and has almost weathered away.”

The well house at Wick Farm

List entry for Wick Farm Well House: List entry 1047637 (Grade II*)

Wick Farm well house

Back of Well House

Seat of the Well House

The above photographs taken on 11 September 2021 show the front and back of Wick Farm’s impressive baroque well house, which is older than the present farmhouse and is understood to have been built by the Croke family of Old Marston in c.1660. (Unton Croke built the Manor House in Old Marston in 1617.)

The well was stopped up by the Walter family of Sarsden in the late seventeenth century

Inside (right) there is a stone seat around the edge.

Inside the well-house roof

Nickolaus Pevsner describes the well house thus in The Buildings of Oxfordshire (1976):

WICK FARM …has a WELL HOUSE of c.1660, a remarkable small square stone building, oriental in feeling, with an ogee dome and ball finial. Central doorway flanked by oval windows, with a moulded architrave with a lion's mask keystone, and a finely carved scroll pediment on brackets. Inside, a stone seat and steps down to a well (now covered up).


Right: The inside of the well-house roof

Percy Manning wrote in 1903 that the fine spring of water in this well-house was much used by poor people for curing sore eyes.

The drawings of the well house shown below were made by B. H. Collcutt in August 1905 and were published in The Builder on 20 July 1907:

Drawings of well house in The Builder

The postcard below shows the well house with the thatched barn behind 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 At Risk register:

Historic England (the Listed Buildings section of English Heritage) still has the well house on its Heritage at Risk register here at the end of 2018. The assessment information is as follows:

Assessment Type: Building or structure
Condition: Poor
Occupancy / Use: Not applicable
Priority Category: C - Slow decay; solution agreed but not yet implemented
Previous Priority Category: C
Ownership: Private

See Emily Floeser, “Wick Farm Well-house Building Survey

The Barn

List entry for Wick Farm Barn: List entry 1369220 (Grade II)

This barn dates back to the mid- or late eighteenth century and is probably contemporary with the present farmhouse. It is made from limestone rubble, and the thatched roof glimpsed in the postcard of the well house above has been replaced with asbestos. It can be seen behind the well house in this photograph, taken when both buildings were part of the Open Doors event on 12 September 2021:

Wick Farm barn

The picture below shows the roof from the inside:

Wick Farm barn roof

Owners and tenants of Wick Farm from the nineteenth century

(1) Owners

On 23 June 1804 Jackson's Oxford Journal reported on the marriage of Thomas Hall of Headington Wick to Mrs Cook, widow of the late Thomas Cook, Esq. of Hanney, Berkshire. They evidently moved away from Wick Farm after the marriage, as on 5 October 1805 when Ann Hall married the Revd Edward Grime of Brasenose College at Penyworlod, Llanigon, Brecknockshire, her father was described as an opulent Brecknockshire farmer “and late of Headington Wick, in this county”.

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

Trespass notice

Right Notice inserted by the Wharton brothers in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 5 August 1826 warning what would happen to anyone trespassing or gathering nuts at Wick Farm

The two unmarried brothers appear to have lived initially in Wick farmhouse, but following the death of their mother on 24 December 1823 they also had a residence at Headington Lodge in the centre of Headington. On 2 July 1829 at St Andrew's Church in Pershore, Worcester Brian Wharton married Catharine Grape (the sister of Mary Grape who had married the current Lord of the Manor of Headington, Thomas Henry Whorwood, in 1807).

When Theophilus Wharton junior died at the age of 52 on 21 October 1831, Wick Farm came into the sole ownership of his younger brother Brian, who on 20 August 1836 was definitely living with his wife at Wick Farmhouse when he gave his address as “Headington Wick Manor” in a notice in the newspaper again warning poachers that they would be prosecuted if they trespassed on his farm.

Two years later Brian & Catharine Wharton moved out of Wick Farmhouse (because of the alleged haunting, according to the extract from Jewitt above), and on 2 June 1838 it was advertised to let in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

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.

By 15 September 1838 it had been let, and the following advertisement for a forthcoming sale of all the “live and dead farming stock” of Brian Wharton gives a good picture of the farm:

Sale of Wharton farming stock

Brian Wharton moved to the newer and ghost-free Headington Lodge, but continued to own Wick Farm. He died at the age of 57 on 7 August 1839 after “a long and severe illness.

The farm was held by the Wharton family executors until at least 1850, and the ownership then passed to Mrs Emily Stone née Morrell (1811–1891). She was the daughter of Theophilus and Bryan’s sister Jane Wharton, who in 1808 had married the brewer James Morrell senior of Headington Hill Hall. Emily owned Wick Farm until her death in 1891.

It was then inherited by Emily Stone’s niece Emily Alicia Morrell,who had married her cousin (George) Herbert Morrell in 1874 and thus retained her surname. The farm was managed by Morrell's bailiff William Knowles, and Jackson's Oxford Journal reported on 7 January 1899 that the latter appeared in a court case relating to the theft of cabbages there. G. H. Morrell took a serious interest farming, and a report on 14 July 1900 headed “Rotation Experiments at Headington” records his trials at Wick Farm of swedes, barley, and oats, stating that “the soil is fairly deep, and consists almost entirely of fine sand, lying on one of the limestone rocks of the Middle Oolite system”.

(George) Herbert Morrell died in 1906, and his wife Emily continued to own Wick Farm until her own death in 1938. Kelly's Directory for 1936 records: “Wick Farm, the property of Mrs. G. H. Morrell, contains an interesting well, enclosed with a stone canopy of ancient date.”

Latterly Wick Farm belonged to John Buswell of Bayswater Farm, and Buswell Parks (timber-framed starter homes) were opened there (as well as at Bayswater Farm, Bayswater Mill, and Old Marston).

in 2012 Buswell's sold the 280-acre Wick Farm site including the homes park to Harry Aubrey-Fletcher. He created the company Wick Farming Ltd and in 2017 announced his hope of building 1,850 homes there. They sold the homes park on to another individual, and then at the end of 2018 he sold the farm (including the well house and Barn but not the farmhouse itself) to Christ Church.

The Treasurer and College Accountant of Christ Church (James Lawrie and Keith Stratford) were appointed directors of Wick Farm Ltd in place of the Aubrey-Fletchers. Together with the existing Christ Church land to the west, the farm's fields are now part of the Bayswater Oxford development scheme.

(2) Tenants

From 1838 the executors of the Wharton brothers and then the Morrell family leased Wick Farm to tenant farmers, but they tended not to live on the premises, putting in young farm bailiffs. At the time of the 1841 census William Eeley (20) was the bailiff, and he lived in the farmhouse with Mary Eeley (15) and a female servant, and three agricultural labourers lodged with them. In Jackson's Oxford Journal of 24 December 1842 Eeley thanked his friends who helped to extinguish the fire mentioned above that destroyed several farm buildings. He was still listed here in the Post Office Directory of 1847.

The Headington Rate Book of 1852 lists William Parker as the tenant farmer at Wick Farm: it was then just over 202 acres in size, with a gross estimated rental of £248 and a rateable value of £237. He continued the practice of putting in farm bailiffs, and at the time of the 1851 census James Cross (30) was living in the farmhouse with his wife Eliza (35), and directories of 1854 and 1863 listed him as bailiff at Wick Farm. At the time of the 1871 census he and his wife were still at Wick farmhouse: he was described as an “agricultural labourer foreman”, but In 1881 (when his two nieces were living with them at the farmhouse) he was again described as a “farm bailiff”. William Parker was still listed as the tenant farmer at Wick Farm in Shrimpton's Directory of 1875 and the Oxford City & Suburban Directory of 1876.

At the time of the 1891 census William Richard Knowles (26) was the farm bailiff and was living at Wick farmhouse, now owned by G. H. Morrell, with his wife Sarah, On 19 September 1891 he advertised in Jackson's Oxford Journal for a shepherd to take care of a flock of about 300 Oxfordshire Down Ewes. Knowles and his wife were still living at Wick Farm at the time of the 1911 census.

In 1914 and 1916, George Henry Preston was described as the farmer at Wick Farm when he and his wife had their sons baptised at St Andrew’s Church.

In 1928 and 1929 William Stockford was described as a cowman living at Wick Farm when his children were baptised there, as was Herbert Thomas Stockford in 1931.

The 1939 register shows William White (born in Cowley in 1877, the son of the farmer John White) living at Wick Farm with his wife Alice and described as a dairy farmer.

Documents relating to Wick Farm held at the Oxfordshire History Centre

Included in the records of Franklin & Jones, Chartered Surveyors, Land Agents, and Auctioneers:

  • 1897: Valuation ledger, including Wick Farm, Old Headington: B28/1/F1/33
  • 1898: Valuation ledger, including Wick Farm, Headington: B28/1/F1/36
  • 1899: Valuation ledger, including Wick Farm, Headington: B28/1/F1/38
  • 1900/1901: Valuation register, including Wick Farm, Headington: B28/1/F1/45
  • 1901: Valuation ledger, including Wick Farm, Headington: B28/1/F1/49
  • 1902: Valuation ledger, including Wick Farm Headington: B28/1/F1/51 and B28/1/F1/54
  • 1912/13: Valuation ledger, including Wick Farm Headington: B28/1/F1/111
  • 1940: Valuation register, including Wick Farm, Headington: B28/1/F1/289
  • 1950: Plan of Wick Farm Headington, with summary of timber in Wick Copse: B28/1/M1/9/1
  • 1952/3: Valuation ledger: B28/1/F1/361 and B28/1/F1/362
  • 1955: Valuation ledger: B28/1/F1/378

Included in the records of the Oxford Preservation Trust

  • 1930–1952: Correspondence including Wick Farm at Headington: O21/2/5/C1/1 (see items 14, 15, and 26)

© Stephanie Jenkins

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