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Watlington, Oxfordshire


Watlington Town and Market Hall
Watlington is located in Oxfordshire
 Watlington shown within Oxfordshire
Population 2,727 (parish, 2011 Census)
OS grid reference
   – London  43 mi (69 km) 
Civil parish Watlington
District South Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Watlington
Postcode district OX49
Dialling code 01491
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Henley
Website Watlington Parish Council
List of places

Watlington is a market town and civil parish about 7 miles (11 km) south of Thame in Oxfordshire. The parish includes the hamlets of Christmas Common, Greenfield and Howe Hill, all of which are in the Chiltern Hills. The M40 motorway is about 2 12 miles (4 km) from Watlington. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 2,727.[1]


  • History 1
  • Churches 2
    • Church of England 2.1
    • Roman Catholic 2.2
    • Non-conformist 2.3
  • Amenities 3
  • Notable people 4
  • Bus services 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7
  • External links 8


The Watlington area is likely to have been settled at an early date, encouraged by the proximity of the Icknield Way. The toponym means "settlement of Waecel's people" and indicates occupation from around the 6th century. A 9th-century charter by Æthelred of Mercia records eight 'manses' or major dwellings in Watlington.[2] The Domesday Book of 1086 identified the area as an agricultural community valued at £610. Medieval documents indicate that the modern street plan was in existence in the 14th century, if not earlier. Cochynes-lane (Couching Street), and Brook Street are recorded and the High Street must have had houses.[2]

There are records of inns in Watlington since the 15th century. In 1722 the town's market was listed as being held on a Saturday.[3] By the end of the 18th century the town had six inns, all of which were bought up in the next few years by a local brewing family, the Haywards. The number of licensed premises increased until late in the 19th century when George Wilkinson, a Methodist bought six of them and closed them down. Today Watlington has three public houses: the Carriers Arms, The Chequers[4] and The Fat Fox Inn.[5]

Parliamentarian troops were billeted at Watlington during the English Civil War. It is thought that John Hampden stayed in the town the night before the Battle of Chalgrove Field.[6]

In 1664–65 the Town Hall was built at the expense of Thomas Stonor. Its upper room was endowed by Stonor as a grammar school for boys, and in 1731 Dame Alice Tipping of Ewelme gave a further endowment to increase the number of pupils. In 1842 the town Vestry established a National School, which shared the same rooms in the Town Hall. In 1843 a National School for girls was built next to St Leonard's church. In 1872 the boys' and girls' schools were absorbed into a new Board school, which like its predecessors was affiliated to the National Society for Promoting Religious Education. In 1927 the school was divided into separate junior and senior schools. In 1956 a new secondary school – the Icknield School – opened for senior pupils and the primary school took over the old premises.[7] The Icknield School is now Icknield Community College.[8]

View from Watlington along Hill Road towards the White Mark on Watlington Hill

The Watlington White Mark was designed by local squire Edward Horne, who felt that the parish church of St Leonard, when viewed from his home, would be more impressive if it appeared to have a spire. He had this unusual folly cut into the chalk escarpment of Watlington Hill in 1764. It is 36 feet (11 m) wide at its base and 270 feet (82 m) long.[2]

In 1872 the Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway was opened. Its Watlington terminus is in fact in Pyrton parish, 12 mile (800 m) from Watlington. In 1883 the Great Western Railway took over control of the line.[9] In 1957 British Railways closed Watlington station and withdrew all passenger services between Watlington and Chinnor, which was still being used by the local Chinnor Cement Works.[10] In 1961 BR withdrew all services from the line, the track was lifted and the line left abandoned. Watlington railway station site remains, as does the station building, the corrugated iron carriage shed, and the brickwork of the goods shed.

By 1895 the Town Hall, no longer used as a school, was in disrepair. In 1907 it was restored by public subscription.[2] It is a landmark at the meeting point of three roads in the centre of the town.


St Leonard's parish church

Church of England

The oldest parts of the Church of England parish church of St Leonard are Norman, including a diapered tympanum that was over the north door until this was dismantled for the building of the north aisle. The church was extensively rebuilt in the 14th century, and the arcade of the south aisle survives from this period.[11] The south chapel is 15th century, built for Maud Warner as a memorial for her husband Richard, a woolman.[2] The tower is also Mediaeval. A few Decorated Gothic and Perpendicular Gothic windows survive, but in the 1870s some were moved to different positions within the church.

In 1763 Edward Horne, a local landowner, obtained permission to build a burial vault east of the Warner chapel and south of the chancel.[2] In 1877 the architects H.J. Tollit and Edwin Dolby restored St Leonard's.[11] The church is a Grade II* listed building.[12]

The west tower had a ring of six bells until 1909, when two recently cast ones were hung and increased it to eight.[13] Henry I Knight of Reading, Berkshire cast the fourth bell in 1587. Ellis I Knight cast the sixth bell in 1635. Henry II Knight cast the third and fifth bells in 1663. Charles and John Rudhall of Gloucester cast the seventh bell in 1785. Mears and Stainbank of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast the tenor bell in 1869 and the treble and second bells in 1905.[14]

St Leonard's parish is now part of the Benefice of Icknield, along with the parishes of Britwell Salome, Pyrton and Swyncombe.[15]

Roman Catholic

During the English Reformation Oxfordshire had numerous recusant Roman Catholics. In 1549 William Grey, 13th Baron Grey de Wilton was sent to Oxfordshire with 1,500 troops to enforce the Reformation. Grey ordered William Boolar, a Catholic of Watlington, to be hanged as an example. Despite persecution, a number of local landowning families including the Stonors remained Catholic, and they and their chaplains supported small numbers of other Catholics in the area. In 1930 Fr. William Brown, the chaplain at Stonor Park, brought about the building of the Roman Catholic church of the Sacred Heart in Watlington.[2] The present Roman Catholic church in Watlington is dedicated to St Edmund Campion,[16] a Jesuit priest who was executed at Tyburn on 1581.

Watlington Methodist Church


During the 17th and 18th centuries several nonconformist denominations existed in Watlington, with Quakers, Baptists and Seventh Day Baptists most prominent in different periods. Methodist preachers visited Watlington by invitation from 1764, with John Wesley himself preaching in the town in 1766, 1774 and 1775. The Wesleyan chapel was built in 1796[2][16] and rebuilt in 1812.[17] It is now part of Oxford Methodist Circuit.[18]


The Ridgeway National Trail walking route, which is part of the longer Icknield Way, passes southeast of the town along the foot of the Chiltern Hills.

Watlington Town FC is a Non-League football club.[19] Its first team plays in North Berks Football League Division 1.[20]

Watlington has a cricket club.[21] Its first eleven plays in Oxfordshire Cricket Association League Division 3.[22]

Watlington has a Women's Institute.[23]

Since 1990 Watlington has been twinned with the town of Mansle in the Poitou-Charentes region of France.

Notable people

Decathlete Peter Gabbett was born in Watlington in 1941.

Actors Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack have a home in Watlington.[24][25]

First World War Royal Naval veteran Bill Stone lived in Watlington until he was 106.[26]

A bus on route T1 arrives in Oxford from Watlington

Bus services

Watlington has a number of bus services, including:

  • Watlington – Oxford, Mondays to Saturdays, Thames Travel route T1[27]
  • Watlington – Oxford, Sundays, Go Ride route 101.[28]
  • Watlington – Thame, Mondays to Saturdays, Red Rose Travel route 124[29]


  1. ^ "Area: Watlington (Parish): Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics".  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Lobel 1964, pp. 210–252.
  3. ^ Stow 1722
  4. ^ The Chequers
  5. ^ The Fat Fox Inn
  6. ^ Nugent-Grenville 1854, p. 359.
  7. ^ Watlington Primary School
  8. ^ Icknield Community College
  9. ^ "History".  
  10. ^ Oppitz 2000, p. 22.
  11. ^ a b Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 829.
  12. ^  
  13. ^ "Watlington". Tower List. The Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers South Oxfordshire Branch. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  14. ^ Smith, Martin (30 November 2006). "Watlington S Leonard".  
  15. ^  
  16. ^ a b "Watlington". Oxfordshire Churches & Chapels. Brian Curtis. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  17. ^  
  18. ^ "Watlington". Oxford Methodist Circuit. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  19. ^ Watlington Town FC
  20. ^ "League Tables". North Berks Football League. Pitchhero. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  21. ^ Watlington Cricket Club
  22. ^ "All Tables 2015". Oxfordshire Cricket Association. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "Your Nearest WI". Oxfordshire Federation of Women's Institutes. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  24. ^ "I like scruffy town, says actor".  
  25. ^ "Jeremy Irons helps nursery celebrate". Henley Standard. 7 July 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  26. ^ "William (107) takes a tumble". Henley Standard. 15 September 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  27. ^ "T1". Timetables.  
  28. ^ "101 Watlington – Oxford" (PDF). Go Ride CIC. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  29. ^ "Bus Timetables". Red Rose Travel. Retrieved 19 August 2015.  ("This Page is currently being updated.")


  • Oppitz, Leslie (2000). Lost Railways of the Chilterns. Newbury: Countryside Books. pp. 20–23.  
  • Sherwood, Jennifer;  
  • Stow, W (1722). Remarks on London, being an Exact Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Borough of Southwark. London. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 

External links

  • Watlington Parish Council
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