SACRED and Ancient Celtic Sites
Woodstock, eight miles North of Oxford, is often
visited for two reasons; Blenheim Palace and Sir Winston Churchill's grave in
nearby Bladon. But Woodstock has much more to offer.
Before the Norman Conquest, when the Wychwood Forest stretched from the Cotswolds to London, English Kings had lodges in Woodstock - 'a clearing in the woods' giving a possible derivation of its name.
King Alfred is reputed to have stayed at Woodstock in 890. Ethelred the Unready held a council in the town suggesting its size had grown fit to accommodate a king. In 1279, Henry II established a market and by the 13th century it had grown to the status of a Borough.
The church of St. Mary Magdalene, rebuilt in the 19th century, has a Norman doorway, early English windows and a musical clock which plays tunes on the hour.
The Town Hall is 18th century and there are numerous attractive period buildings including the 17th century Fletcher's house now home to the County Museum. Chaucer's house in Park Street was once home to Chaucer the poet.
Glove-making was once Woodstock's chief industry, but the town now prospers more from the tourists who flock to Blenheim Palace. Sir John Vanbrugh designed the palace for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. It was largely paid for by the nation in gratitude for his victory over the French and Bavarians at Blenheim in 1704. The deerpark surrounding the house was landscaped by "Capability" Brown.
Sir Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim in 1874 and is buried in nearby Bladon churchyard.
Woodstock is the quaint and lovely village that I liked best of all.
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