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Oxfordshire was recorded as a county in the early years of the 10th century and lies between the River Thames to the south, the Cotswolds to the west, the Chilterns to the east and the Midlands to the north, with spurs running south to Henley-on-Thames and north to Banbury.

Although it had some significance as an area of valuable agricultural land in the centre of the country, it was largely ignored by the Romans and did not grow in importance until the formation of a settlement at Oxford in the 8th century. Alfred the Great was born across the Thames in Wantage, Vale of White Horse. The University of Oxford was founded in 1096, although its collegiate structure did not develop until later on. The university in the county town of Oxford (whose name came from Anglo-Saxon Oxenaford = "ford for oxen") grew in importance during the Middle Ages and early modern period. The area was part of the Cotswolds wool trade from the 13th century, generating much wealth, particularly in the western portions of the county in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Morris Motors was founded in Oxford in 1912, bringing heavy industry to an otherwise agricultural county. The importance of agriculture as an employer declined rapidly in the 20th century; currently[ when? ] under one percent of the county's population are involved due to high mechanisation.[ citation needed ] Nevertheless, Oxfordshire remains a very agricultural county by land use, with a lower population than neighbouring Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, which are both smaller.

During most of its history, the county was partitioned as fourteen divisions called hundreds, namely Bampton, Banbury, Binfield, Bloxham, Bullingdon, Chadlington, Dorchester, Ewelme, Langtree, Lewknor, Pyrton, Ploughley, Thame and Wootton.

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, the main army unit in the area, was based at Cowley Barracks on Bullingdon Green, Cowley.

The Vale of White Horse district and parts of the South Oxfordshire administrative district south of the River Thames were historically part of Berkshire, but, in 1974, Abingdon, Didcot, Faringdon, Wallingford and Wantage were added to the administrative county of Oxfordshire under the Local Government Act 1972. Conversely, the Caversham area of Reading, now administratively in Berkshire, was historically part of Oxfordshire, as was the parish of Stokenchurch, now administratively in Buckinghamshire. The areas of Oxford city south of the Thames, such as Grandpont, were transferred much earlier, in 1889.


Oxfordshire includes parts of three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the north-west lie the Cotswolds; to the south and south-east are the open chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs and the wooded hills of the Chilterns. The north of the county contains the ironstone of the Cherwell uplands. Long-distance walks within the county include the Ridgeway National Trail, Macmillan Way, Oxfordshire Way and the D’Arcy Dalton Way.

Extreme points

Rivers and canals

From the mid-point western edge to the southeast corner of Oxfordshire, via the city in the middle, runs the Thames with its flat floodplains. This river forms the historic limit with Berkshire, remaining so on some lowest reaches. The Thames Path National Trail follows the river from upper estuary to a source.

Many smaller rivers in the county feed into the Thames, such as the Thame, Windrush, Evenlode and Cherwell. Some of these have trails running along their valleys. The Oxford Canal links to the Midlands and follows the Cherwell from Banbury via Kidlington into the city of Oxford, where these join the navigable Thames. About 15% of the historically named Wilts & Berks Canal, in sporadic sections, has been restored to navigability, including the county-relevant[ clarification needed ] 140 metres near Abingdon-on-Thames where it could, if restored, meet the Thames.

Green belt

Oxfordshire contains a green belt area that fully envelops the city of Oxford and extends for some miles to protect surrounding towns and villages from inappropriate development and urban growth. Its border in the east extends to the Buckinghamshire county boundary, while part of its southern border is shared with the North Wessex Downs AONB. It was first drawn up in the 1950s, and all of the county's districts contain some portion of the belt.


The county is home to the local BBC Oxford News, which broadcasts from Oxford. [7] The town of Banbury in the north of the county receives BBC West Midlands and ITV Central [8]  from Birmingham as well as BBC Oxford News. Henley-on-Thames in the southeastern part of the county receives an overlap of both BBC London and BBC South as well as ITV London and ITV Meridian. The local TV transmitter for Henley [9] only broadcasts BBC and ITV programmes from London; Henley is the only town in the county within London's television region.


Arms of Oxfordshire County Council.svg
Sapere Aude
('Dare to be Wise') [1]
Oxfordshire UK locator map 2010.svg
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region South East England
Time zone UTC±00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)
  Summer (DST) UTC+01:00 (British Summer Time)
Members of Parliament
PoliceThames Valley police
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant Marjorie Glasgow BEM
High Sheriff Mrs Amanda Ponsonby MBE [2] (2020–21)
Area2,605 km2 (1,006 sq mi)
  Ranked 22nd of 48
Population (mid-2019 est.)687,524
  Ranked 35th of 48
Density264/km2 (680/sq mi)
Ethnicity90.9% White, 4.8% Asian/Asian British [3]

This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Oxfordshire at current basic prices published by the Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British pounds sterling. [10]

YearRegional gross value added [11] Agriculture [12] Industry [13] Services [14]


The Oxfordshire County Council, since 2013 under no overall control, is responsible for the most strategic local government functions, including schools, county roads and social services. The county is divided into five local government districts: Oxford, Cherwell, Vale of White Horse (after the Uffington White Horse), West Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire, which deal with such matters as town and country planning, waste collection and housing.

In the 2016 European Union referendum, Oxfordshire was the only English county as a whole to vote to remain in the European Union by a significant margin, at 57.06% (70.27% in the City of Oxford), despite Cherwell (barely) voting to leave at 50.31%.


Brasenose Lane in Oxford city centre, a street onto which three colleges back. Oxford back street - geograph.org.uk - 774471.jpg
Brasenose Lane in Oxford city centre, a street onto which three colleges back.
The University of Oxford's Chemistry Research Laboratory. Chemistry Research Laboratory Atrium.JPG
The University of Oxford's Chemistry Research Laboratory.

Oxfordshire has a completely comprehensive education system with 23 independent schools and 35 state secondary schools. Only eight schools do not have a sixth form; these are mostly in South Oxfordshire and Cherwell districts. Oxfordshire has a large number of leading independent schools, including public schools such as Radley College.

The county has two universities: the ancient University of Oxford [15] and the modern Oxford Brookes University, which are both located in Oxford. In addition, Wroxton College, located in Banbury, is affiliated with Fairleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey. [16]


The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay, a 'textbook' example of the English medieval manor house. The Abbey Sutton Courtenay.jpg
The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay, a ‘textbook’ example of the English medieval manor house.

The "dreaming spires" of the University of Oxford are among the reasons for which Oxford is the sixth most visited city in the United Kingdom by international visitors. [17] Among many notable University buildings are the Sheldonian Theatre, built 1664–68 to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, and the Radcliffe Camera, built 1737–49 to the design of James Gibbs.

Blenheim Palace, close to Woodstock, was designed and partly built by the architect John Vanbrugh for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, after he had won the battle of Blenheim. The gardens, which can be visited, were designed by the landscape gardener "Capability" Brown, who planted the trees in the battle formation of the victorious army. Sir Winston Churchill was born in the palace in 1874. It is open to the public.

Chastleton House, on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire borders, is a great country mansion built on property bought from Robert Catesby, who was one of the men involved in the Gunpowder Plot with Guy Fawkes. Stonor Park, another country mansion, has belonged to the recusant Stonor family for centuries.

Mapledurham House is an Elizabethan stately home in the south-east of the county, close to Reading.

The Abbey in Sutton Courtenay is a medieval courtyard house. It has been recognised by the Historic Building Council for England (now Historic England) as a building of outstanding historic and architectural interest. [18] It is considered to be a ‘textbook’ example of the English medieval manor house [19] and is a Grade I-listed building. [20]


Wantage Market Place The Bear Hotel in Wantage - geograph.org.uk - 1395707.jpg
Wantage Market Place
1 Oxford 150,2002011Oxford non-metropolitan district
2 Banbury 46,8532011 Civil parish
3 Abingdon-on-Thames 33,1302011Civil parishIn Berkshire until 1974.
4 Bicester 32,6422011Civil parish
5 Witney 27,5222011Civil parish
6 Didcot 25,1402011Civil parish200 dwellings in the south-east of the town lie in neighbouring East Hagbourne parish. In Berkshire until 1974.
7 Carterton 15,7692011Civil parish
8 Kidlington 13,7232011Civil parishDoes not include Gosford.
9 Henley-on-Thames 11,6192011Civil parish
10 Wallingford 11,600 [21] 2011Civil parishIn Berkshire until 1974.
11 Thame 11,5612011Civil parishIncludes hamlet of Moreton.
12 Wantage 11,3272011Civil parish
13 Grove 7,1782011Civil parish
14 Faringdon 7,1212011 Great Faringdon civil parishIn Berkshire until 1974.
15 Chipping Norton 6,3372011Civil parish
16 Chinnor 5,9242011Civil parish
17 Benson 4,7542011Civil parish
18 Eynsham 4,6482011Civil parish
19 Wheatley 4,0922011Civil parish
20 Kennington 4,0762011Civil parish
21 Sonning Common 3,7842011Civil Parish
22 Woodstock 3,1002011Civil parish
23 Charlbury 2,8302011Civil parish
24 Watlington 2,7272011Civil parish
25 Bampton 2,5642011Civil parish
26 Deddington 2,1462011Civil parish

Emergency services

Places of interest

AP Icon.svg Abbey/Priory/Cathedral
UKAL icon.svg Accessible open space
Themepark uk icon.png Amusement/Theme Park
CL icon.svg Castle
Country parks.svg Country Park
EH icon.svg English Heritage
Forestry Commission
HR icon.svg Heritage railway
HH icon.svg Historic House
AP Icon.svg Places of Worship
Museum icon.svg
Museum icon (red).svg
Museum (free/not free)
NTE icon.svg National Trust
Drama-icon.svg Theatre
Zoo icon.jpg Zoo

See also


  1. (abbreviated Oxon, from Oxonium, the Latin name for Oxford)

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  13. includes energy and construction
  14. includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
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Further reading

Coordinates: 51°45′N1°17′W / 51.75°N 1.28°W / 51.75; -1.28