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Local History & Family History

Introduction – a brief history of Botley and North Hinksey:

Botley and North Hinksey were initially settled in Saxon times. The dominating local feature was the River Thames. It acted as a life-giver, but also caused regular flooding in the area and was a significant barrier to travel. Two of the most important local ‘businesses’ from before 1400 right up to the 1920s were both based on the Hinksey Stream – Botley Mill and the ferry at North Hinksey.

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Despite its proximity Oxford has played little part in the history of the area until recent times. A causeway to Botley built in 1530 did strengthen ties, but traffic to and from Oxford remained limited. Right up to the upgrading of Botley Road in 1924 it remained a small country lane. Having said that, Botley did establish a reputation as a good drinking spot, and a regular haunt for some Oxford residents, particularly those connected to the University.

Abingdon Abbey was the early landowner of the whole area, but following the Dissolution most of the land was purchased by the family whose descendants became Earls of Abingdon. In more recent times the Harcourt family also became major landowners around North Hinksey. Ties with Abingdon have historically been much stronger than with Oxford and this area was part of the County of Berkshire until 1974 when the whole Vale of White Horse District transferred into Oxfordshire.

From the earliest days up to the end of the 19th Century the villages of Botley and North Hinksey, together with the hamlets of Dean Court and Botley Pound remained small, fairly remote agricultural outposts with a total population of well under a thousand people. With progressive industrialisation, improvements in transport systems and the gradual selling off of land by the major landowners, levels of housing boomed and are still on the increase today with a total population for the area fast approaching the 10,000 mark.

Click on these links to read more about Historical Photographs & Maps and Historical Buildings & Monuments.

Articles and websites on the history of this area:

For a more detailed look at local history topics read these downloadable articles by clicking on the titles:

Other websites featuring interesting information about the history of our area
  • British History Online A wealth of historical information including sections from ‘A History of the County of Berkshire’ on the Parishes of North Hinksey, Cumnor, Seacourt and Wytham, and the Hundred of Hormer.
  • Further information about the lost village of Seacourt can be found on the Ashmolean website and Wikipedia.
  • The Cumnor Parish Record website focuses primarily on Cumnor but there are sections relating to Cumnor Hill, Botley Pound and other areas of Botley.
  • A Vision of Britain Through Time website contains extensive entries on both North Hinksey and Cumnor, and by clicking on ‘Units & Statistics’ and then the ‘Units covering this place’ access can be gained to data covering larger administrative areas such as the Vale of White Horse or Oxfordshire.
  • The Oxfordshire County Council Heritage Search page allows you to search their database for photographs, documents, newspaper articles, audio recordings and many more items held in their collections.
  • Oxfordshire History contains much information about the history of Oxfordshire including the Vale of White Horse. Particularly useful for researchers and people who would like to attend talks on specialist subjects.
  • The Oxoniensia magazine contains articles on the archaeology, history and architecture of Oxfordshire. You can search their archives online to find information relating to this area.
  • English Heritage Heritage Gateway is a website that allows you to cross-search 49 resources including some listed on the Historical Photographs and Historical Buildings pages, such as Viewfinder, Images of England and Pastscape.

Family History:

It is beyond the scope of this website to cover the subject of family history research (genealogy if you want to be posh) in any depth. If you would like to jump on the genealogy bandwagon and start researching now here are a few tips.

In addition to using the Oxfordshire History Centre or Berkshire Record Office records (more relevant if your family is from around these parts) you’ll probably do much of your initial searching online. Check out this list of useful genealogy websites.

This can be a very time consuming and expensive hobby. One way to avoid unnecessary expense is to start by finding out as much as you can from your relatives and add in details held on ‘free to use’ websites. Other websites that charge you to search records will hold much more information, but here’s a handy tip – one of the best is Ancestry, and instead of paying their expensive membership fees you can access information on their website for free via computers in Oxfordshire Libraries, including Botley Library!

Historical Buildings & Monuments

Three historical locations in this area that are worth visiting are Conduit House on Harcourt Hill (exterior only),  St Lawrence’s Church in North Hinksey, and the Commonwealth War Graves at Botley Cemetery.             Beyond that there are a wide range of other smaller historical sites which are easily overlooked, and not necessarily open to …

Historical Photographs & Maps

Historical Photographs:             You can view more historical photographs on the English Heritage Viewfinder website including a large number taken by local photographer Henry Taunt dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century. There are 41 images shown under North Hinksey , and 9 under Botley (N.B. 8 of these also feature under the …