OXFORDSHIRE VILLAGES IN THE CHILTERN HILLS



The Assendons

Middle AssendonThe hamlets of Lower and Middle Assendon are in the low-lying Stonor Valley on the B480 which leads to Watlington. Lower Assendon, in particular, has some attractive old cottages. The names were first recorded in 800 AD as Assundene which was thought to derive from the Saxon word "denu", meaning a long, narrow, winding valley, and "assa", meaning an ass; together this was translated as the Valley of the Wild Ass. Assundene changed to Afsington and then to Assendene. This was the name of the hamlets until the early 20th century, when the modern name of Assendon came into use.

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Binfield Heath

Binfield HeathBinfield Heath is midway between Henley-on-Thames and Caversham, just over a mile from the River Thames almost on the county boundary. Most of the houses are near the two village shops and recreation ground. Prominently at the centre of the crossroads is a fine chestnut tree, which has always been a well known local rendezvous.

An interesting feature of Binfield Heath is an unusual covered well, called Keeps Well. This has recently been completely rebuilt exactly as before as the original was completely demolished a few years ago in a motoring accident. Next to the well one of the village ponds has been restored too and this is known as Green Pond. This area of the village was formerly known as Shiplake Common.

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Bix

BixByxe Brand was a Saxon settlement situated in the area around the ruins of the ancient parish church of St James at Bix Bottom, now a delightfully quiet area well off the beaten track along a road which leads to the Warburg Nature Reserve. The church was originally a tiny Norman Church and was built on a Saxon site. The ruins of the old church can still be seen and remain as consecrated grounds.

The small village of 'modern' Bix is just off the busy A4130 trunk road between Henley-on-Thames and Wallingford and is close to the location of Saxon settlements known as Byxe/Bixa Gibwin/Gibwyn. There appears now to be little evidence of historic Bix and the village now comprises mainly up-market houses spread around three sides of an open grassed common and out along the roads to Lower and Middle Assendon. The 'new' parish church of St James was built in the centre of the village in 1875.

An interesting feature in the village is a restored victorian brick-lined open water tank which was constructed c.1895.

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Checkendon

CheckendonCheckendon is a pleasant rambling Chilterns village between Woodcote and Stoke Row, north of the A4074 between Wallingford and Reading. It is surrounded by beech woods, with bluebells in the spring, and the rich colour of the autumn leaves. The older part of the village is centred around the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. The area around Checkendon Court and St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church is a conservation area.

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Cookley Green

Cookley GreenThe hamlet of Cookley Green is high in the Chilterns about half way between Nettlebed and Watlington along the B481. There are only a score or so of attractive houses and cottages but they are set neatly around a small green with the main road running through the centre. The road is lined on both sides by attractive, mature trees and the overall effect is very pleasing!

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Gallowstree Common

Gallowstree CommonGallowstree Common is named after on oak tree in the village that was used, as its name implies, as a gallows. It is thought that the last hanging was in 1825 for sheep stealing. The tree no longer stands and its stump was removed at the time of the village enclosure.

Gallowstree Common has an interesting well. The wellhouse has low red brick and flint-panelled walls and is a listed building. One side of the wellhouse is completely open for access to the well and its iron winding gear.

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Harpsden

HarpsdenThe village of Harpsden is a mile or so south of Henley-on-Thames and a mile and a half from the River Thames and the county boundary. As well as the small village of Harpsden the parish includes several nearby hamlets including Harpsden Bottom. Between and to the south of Harpsden and Harpsden Bottom is an area of open-access woodland known as Harpsden Woods.

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Highmoor

HighmoorHighmoor is a small village on the B481 about a mile south of Nettlebed and about 4 miles west of Henley-on-Thames. Highmoor consists of a few large houses which are sited away from the road, but most of the village is centred on Highmoor Cross, about half a mile to the south of Highmoor, where there aremore houses and cottages and also the village church, St. Paul's, which was built in 1859 as a chapel of ease. St. Paul's Church is now closed and has been declared redundant.

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Ipsden

IpsdenIpsden is a small village with a few isolated groups of older houses and cottages in a small valley in the open countryside of the western Chiltern Hills roughly half way between Reading and Oxford. A small 20th century estate runs down the hillside towards the village centre which is probably around the village store.

The medieval village church is about a quarter of a mile to the north of the village. It is thought to have originally been an upland chapel for the adjoining parish of North Stoke and was enlarged and repaired in the 12th century using stone from an earlier church.

Outside the church is a well that was presented to the community in 1865 by Rajah Sir Deonarayun Singh, K.C.S.I., who followed the example of the Maharajah of Benares who presented a well to the nearby village of Stoke Row.

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Kidmore End

Kidmore EndKidmore End is a pleasant village with most of its houses grouped around the church and the crossroads. The parish church is the Church of St. John The Baptist - a Victorian church with a high dome above the alter. In the graveyard are the obligatory yews, and here they are magnificant. Those over the gateway in particular! Adjacent to the church is the village school, which was established in 1862.

A landmark in the village is the late C19 well with its pyramidal wood shingle roof standing in the centre of the road junction outside the church. Although it is no longer used it is in extremely good condition having more than once in its lifetime been saved from demolition.

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Maidensgrove

MaidensgroveMaidensgrove is a small hamlet which lies along a narrow lane between the hamlets of Russell's Water and Stonor, on the edge of the large area of common land known as Russell's Water and Maidensgrove Common. You could easily miss the hamlet as the houses of Maidensgrove are all away from the road, mostly along a narrow winding lane which ends eventually at a farm and an entrance to the Warburg Nature Reserve.

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Nettlebed

NettlebedNettlebed is in attractive wooded countryside on high land on the A4130 between Wallingford and Henley-on-Thames. The village is surrounded by large areas of common land and is the highest in the South Chilterns.

Clay suitable for pottery and brick making was found locally and, as a result, Nettlebed was the most important brick and tile making centre in the Chilterns from the mid-14th century onwards. A disused lime kiln is prominent in the centre of the village which was in use until 1938 and was restored in 1972-4.

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Nuffield

NuffieldNuffield is a small village half a mile south of the A4130 Wallingford to Henly road, about two miles west of Nettlebed in the heart of the Oxfordshire Chilterns. The village has an attractive common which is home to a golf club.

On the north side of the main road, opposite the golf course, is Nuffield Place, the former home of William Morris, Lord Nuffield. Built in 1914, Nuffield Place is a good example of a complete, upper-middle class home of the 1930s. It contains an interesting collection of Nuffield memorabilia and is furnished and equipped precisely as it was when Lord Nuffield died in 1963.

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Rotherfield Greys

Rotherfield GreysRotherfield Greys is a small village about 2 miles west of Henly-on-Thames and a mile or so east of Rotherfield Peppard. The village has a heavily restored Norman village church. The little housing the village has is near the church and the village pub. Nearby is the attractive Greys Green with its cricket pavilion and the village hall and where the wide grass verges to the road are lined with trees.

Half a mile from Greys Green is Shepherd's Green with its large and attractive houses circled around the village green.

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Rotherfield Peppard

Sandford-on-ThamesRotherfield Peppard (known also just as 'Peppard') is just north of Sonning Common on the B481 road which links Caversham and Nettlebed. It is situated on an old overland pack route from Henley to Goring which can still be traced, partly on footpaths and partly on modern roads. The pack route is thought to be the origin of pub names such as the Pack Horse and the Pack Saddle which, although not in the village, are not far away.

In the centre of the village is Peppard Common and the village spreads out around two-and-a-bit sides of the common, with the main road passing through the middle. All Saints' Church is at the end of a residential lane leading from the common. There is also a primary school in the centre of the village.

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Russell's Water

Russells WaterA large pond, complete with ducks, gives the hamlet of Russell's Water its particular character, and is quite unusual for a village so high in the Chilterns. Russell's Water is on the edge of the large area of common land known as Russell's Water and Maidensgrove Common.

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Sonning Common

Sonning CommonSonning Common is a large village on the B481 road between Reading to the south and Nettlebed to the north. Once it was apparently a community of scattered cottages, farms and beerhouses. Local pastures were used for grazing and pigs were allowed to feed on beech mast in the woods.

The settlement was originally mainly on the road that leads to Kidmore End. However in the first half of the last century housing began to spread southwards along the road towards Caversham with the result that now Sonning Common is a dormitory village.

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Stoke Row

Stoke RowStoke Row is at one of the highest points of the southern Chiltern hills between the Wallingford to Reading and the Wallingford to Henley roads, about 3 miles NW of Sonning Common.

In the centre is a village store and a garage and an attractive Indian-style well and a cherry orchard. The 365 feet deep well is known as the Maharaja's Well and was dug in the C19 entirely by hand as a gift from the Maharajah of Benares due to his friendship with a prominent local landowner.

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Stonor

StonorStonor is a small community consisting of just a few houses and cottages and a farm and which spreads for a short distance along a typical Chilterns valley on a road from Henly-on-Thames towards Watlington, passing through Lower and Middle Assendon on the way.

Overlooking the hamlet is Stonor Park, a landscaped deer park, and Stonor House which has been the home of the Stonor family for more than eight centuries. The earliest part of the house dates from the 12th century, whilst most of the house was built in the 14th century.

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Swyncombe

SwyncombeThe Swyncombe settlement, which comprises Swyncombe House and its cluster of farm and other estate buildings, dates from at least Saxon times and in its secluded valley the Manor, church and farm formed an enclosed medieval community. The present manor house at Swyncombe is a 19th-century rebuild of a fine Elizabethan house but the manor of Swyncombe was originally part of the manor of Ewelme and there has been a manor house here for hundreds of years.

The small Norman Church of St Botolph, which was probably constructed in the 11th century, is of flint and stone and has been largely untouched over the centuries. It has traces of early wall-paintings which include some thought to have been painted by medieval knights leaving for the Crusades. February sees masses of snowdrops and aconites which are planted in drifts around the church and people come from miles around each year to see the display.

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Woodcote

WoodcoteWoodcote is at one of the highest points in the South Chilterns. It is a large, some would say rather characterless, South Chilterns village situated about three miles west of Goring and a mile south of the A4074 road from Wallingford to Caversham. A green, a village hall, a couple of modern shops, a couple of churches and schools and lots of houses!. The village is rather a dormitary village and many people enjoy living there. Most of the population probably commutes to Reading and other towns.

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