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Oakley

Aerial photographs of fields north of OakleyA map in the Ashmolean Museum notes an Iron Age settlement at Meads Farm. An aerial photograph of fields south-west of Oakley shows an enclosure. When the field was walked, Roman and medieval pottery was found, suggesting the enclosure may date to either period. The information came from an anonymous source. Some Roman pottery has been found in the fields around Meads Farm and east of the church, and Roman tile around the fields of Addingrove Farm. Quite a lot of Roman pottery, tile and metalwork, and even a bone comb, have been found around Ixhill Farm since the 19th century, suggesting this was the site of a Roman building.

 

Oakley is recorded in Domesday and was part of Bernwood Forest from before this time. Bernwood had been a hunting forest from the time of Edward the Confessor. It grew to its largest extent under Henry II. The whole area was not covered by woods; in the medieval period a forest was a place where deer roamed for hunting and so included open land, villages and fields. All those who lived in the forest were not allowed to hunt or even gather wood without a special licence from the king. Bernwood Forest was finally disafforested in the reign of James I in 1635, although it had been shrinking in size since the time of King John (1199-1216).

 

Manor Farm was probably the site of the medieval manor house, though the current farmhouse dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Fishponds nearby may have originated as ponds or a moat in the medieval period and there is a medieval to post-medieval enclosure marked by banks nearby. There are also earthworks of the larger medieval village around Manor Farm.

 

In Oakley, there seems to have been a separate park for deer within Bernwood Forest, probably somewhere around Ixhill Farm. Ixhill Farm seems to be on the site of the medieval manor house. There used to be a hamlet around Ixhill, but now there is just the farm.

 

Addingrove is also recorded as a separate settlement and manor in Domesday though it was later deserted apart from one farm, similar to Ixhill. Earthworks south-east of Addingrove Farm were thought to be the moat around the medieval manor house, but may be fishponds instead. Earthworks of a medieval village have been found around Little Addingrove Farm. There are records of a chapel at Addingrove that may have existed before the Norman Conquest. It is also recorded in 1142 as being given with Oakley church to St Frideswide’s in Oxford and was still in existence in 1318 but may have been out of use by 1339. It’s exact location is unknown. There is also a moat near Meads Farm, and lots of medieval pottery has been found in the fields around the farm.

 

It’s not just medieval settlement that was deserted. A farmstead known as Moorley’s was recorded on an 18th century map but has since been abandoned and the slowly disappearing ruins of the farmhouse, a barn and two sheds were surveyed in 1987. Similarly, Oakleywood Farm is recorded on maps until 1960 but they were gone by the time the 1978 map was produced. An enclosure that once surrounded the farm can be seen on aerial photographs.

 

Tomb in Oakley churchyardThe oldest surviving building in the parish is St Mary’s church, which dates back to the 12th century. The chancel and tower were built in the 14th and the nave was raised in the 15th century. Some of the surviving standing buildings in Oakley include College Farm that dates back to the 16th century; Jericho and Home Farms, which both date to the 17th century; Meads Farm, which is 18th century; and Churchfield House, which dates to the 19th century.

 

RAF vertical aerial photograph of Oakley airfieldFrederick Brown, a gunner in the RAF described how he was posted to an airfield in Buckinghamshire:

 

            “Oakley a camp that defied description. Mud, more mud, everything seemed dripping wet, the mess, bare, little or no comfort, cold, everything was basic. Nissen huts without heat, no stoves to give a glimmer of comfort.” (BRO 1995, 6).

 

New Zealand airmen were also stationed at Oakley airfield. Ronald Maryan was a Londoner stationed there who fell for a local lady called Barbara. She liked a Maori airman at first but soon agreed to go out with Ronald. They married in 1944. The New Zealanders were welcomed into the local villages and pubs and would hold sing-a-longs, often in Maori.