Clayhills Pit (St Ebba's Pit) at the Stansfeld Centre
This clay pit was on the east side of Quarry Road on the corner of Old Road. The map on the left dated 1921 shows the exact site of the old clay pit. A former stone pit lay to the north, immediately to the south of the vicarage.
Abandoned clay pits filled with water, as this photograph dating from 1915 on the British Geological website shows: P252733. The exposure shows Kimmeridge Clay and Upper Corallian stone.
By the later nineteenth century the area became the waste extension of a nearby brickyard, and was used for lime-burning (to produce lime, which was needed for lime mortar and limewash for building purposes), and also as a source of brick clay.
People interviewed by Raphael Samuel in the early 1970s remembered the lime pits here burning day and night, and said Clayhills then had no obvious owner, so that it was “a handy spot for bird-catching and rabbiting”, and “timber-hunting”; and some village people even grazed their horses here.
In about 1920 John Stedwell Stansfeld bought a 20-acre site that included the old clay pit in order to give the children from the St Ebbe’s slums a chance of camping in the countryside at the weekend, and named it St Ebba’s after his church. He started off with a tree-house called the Crow’s Nest. Later he installed some rough huts or bungalows where whole families from St Ebbe’s could go for a country holiday but which would allow the breadwinner to walk each day down to his work back home in Oxford. In 1933, G. A. Coppock & B. M. Hill wrote:
What was once the scene of the traditional industries of the village, stone-quarrying and brickfields, and until recently known as the ‘Clayhills’, was purchased by the Rev. Dr. J. S. Stansfeld of Oxford and named St. Ebba’s.
Amateur labour has erected a small chapel at the southern end of it. Here and there are temporary dwelling-houses which were put up to help families in difficulty during the housing shortage. While Dr. Stansfeld was in Oxford, St. Ebba’s was the happy hunting-ground of Boy Scouts from the more crowded parts of Oxford. Schoolboys from London were allowed to camp there. Tired mothers from the Friars (Oxford) came there to fill their lungs with the health-giving air without the fatigue of climbing the hill to the plain above.
The men of Quarry parish built for the children a small chapel with a thatched roof in Quarry Road near the vicarage. This chapel, known as St Ebba’s, was demolished in the 1950s, along with the nearby Round House chalet.
The site of the Clayhills PIt became known as the Stansfeld Outdoor Centre, and is now a regeneration project of the Oxford Trust.