Stanton Harcourt

Stanton Harcourt is a village and civil parish in Oxfordshire about 4 miles (6.4 km) southeast of Witney and about 6 miles (10 km) west of Oxford. The parish includes the hamlet of Sutton, 12 mile (800 m) north of the village. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 960.[1]

Stanton Harcourt

St Michael's parish church, with Pope's Tower in the background on the left
Stanton Harcourt
Location within Oxfordshire
Population960 (2011 Census)
OS grid referenceSP4105
Civil parish
  • Stanton Harcourt
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWitney
Postcode districtOX29
Dialling code01865
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament
WebsiteStanton Harcourt Parish Council


Within the parish of Stanton Harcourt is a series of paleochannel deposits buried beneath the second (Summertown-Radley) gravel terrace of the River Thames. The deposits have been attributed to Marine isotope stages and have been the subject of archaeological and palaeontological research.[2] Evidence was found for the co-existence of species of elephant and mammoth during interglacial conditions, disproving the widely held view that mammoths were an exclusively cold-adapted species.[3]


Stanton is derived from the Old English for "farmstead by the stones",[4] probably after the prehistoric stone circle known as the Devil's Quoits, southwest of the village.[5] The site is a scheduled monument.[6]

The Domesday Book of 1086 records that the manor was held by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux.[7] It became called Stanton Harcourt after Robert de Harcourt of Bosworth, Leicestershire inherited lands of his father-in-law at Stanton in 1191.[7]

Harcourt House was built for the Harcourt family in the 15th and mid-16th centuries, and its gatehouse was added about 1540. Harcourt House is a Grade II* listed building.[8] Its Great Kitchen was built in 1485, possibly incorporating an earlier building. The kitchen is a separate building from the house and is Grade I listed.[9] The service range attached to the south of the Great Kitchen is also 15th-century. It has been converted into a house, Manor Farmhouse, and is Grade I listed.[10]

Pope's Tower in the grounds of Harcourt House was built about 1470–71, probably by the master mason William Orchard.[11] It is a Grade I listed building.[12] The tower acquired its name centuries later, after the poet Alexander Pope stayed here in 1717–18 and used its upper room to translate the fifth volume of Homer's Iliad. In the summer of 1718 he also wrote the epitaph to a young couple, John Hewett and Sarah Drew, who were struck by lightning and killed in the parish. The poem is carved on a stone monument on the outside of the south wall of the nave or St Michael's parish church.

Parish church

The earliest known record of the Church of England parish church of Saint Michael dates from 1135, and the Norman[13] nave and lower parts of the bell tower are certainly 12th century.[14] In the 13th century the chancel, chancel arch and tower arches were rebuilt[13] and the transepts and stair turret were added.[14] In the 15th century the upper part of the belltower was completed, the Perpendicular Gothic west window of the nave and north and south windows of the transepts were inserted[15] and the pitch of the roof was lowered.[14] The Harcourt chapel was added on the south side of the chancel, possibly by William Orchard.[14][15]

In the chancel is the Decorated Gothic late 13th- or early 14th-century shrine of St Edburg of Bicester. It was at the Augustinian priory at Bicester until 1536, when the priory was dissolved. Sir James Harcourt had the shrine salvaged and moved to St Michael's.

St Michael's is a Grade I listed building.[16]

The central tower has a ring of six bells. Michael Darbie, an itinerant bellfounder, cast the second, third, fourth and fifth bells in 1656, which was during the Commonwealth of England. Richard Keene of Woodstock cast the tenor bell in 1686. Abraham II Rudhall of Gloucester cast the treble bell in 1722.[17]

St Michael's parish is part of the Benefice of Lower Windrush, along with the parishes of Northmoor, Standlake and Yelford.[18]

RAF Stanton Harcourt

In the Second World War there was a Royal Air Force airfield at Stanton Harcourt. It is notable for having been a transit point for Winston Churchill and for being a starting point for a bomber raid on the German battleship Scharnhorst. The runways are, for the most part, now gone, but some of the original buildings remain including a turret trainer, crew room and various other buildings. The hangars have been converted into office and industrial units.


Stanton Harcourt has a 17th-century pub, The Harcourt Arms,[19]. It had another pub, the Fox, but it is now a private home. The parish council owns Fox Field behind it and has renamed it the Jubilee Field, with installed play equipment. Trees and hedging have been provided by the Woodland Trust[20] and planted by volunteers.

The village has a primary school.[21]

Currently there is no bus service to the village.

Stanton Harcourt has a history of Morris dancing since the 19th century. Following a lapse, the traditional dances have been revived by the Icknield Morris, and continue today.[22]

Notable people


  1. "Area: Stanton Harcourt (Parish): Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  2. Buckingham, Roe & Scott 1996
  3. Scott, K (2001). "Late Middle Pleistocene Mammoths and Elephants of the Thames Valley, Oxfordshire" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 May 2006. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  4. Mills & Room 2003
  5. Crossley & Elrington 1990, pages 267–274
  6. Historic England. "The Devil's Quoits (1006359)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  7. Crossley & Elrington 1990, pages 274–281
  8. Historic England. "Harcourt House and attached walls and outbuildings  (Grade II*) (1199690)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  9. Historic England. "The Great Kitchen approximately 40 metres south of Harcourt House  (Grade I) (1053135)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  10. Historic England. "Manor Farmhouse approximately 70 metres south of Harcourt House  (Grade I) (1283234)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  11. Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 782.
  12. Historic England. "Pope's Tower approximately 35 metres south east of Harcourt House  (Grade I) (1053134)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  13. Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 778.
  14. Crossley & Elrington 1990, pages 289–293
  15. Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 779.
  16. Historic England. "Church of St Michael  (Grade I) (1053164)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  17. Davies, Peter (5 November 2007). "Stanton Harcourt S Michael". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Central Council for Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  18. Archbishops' Council (2015). "Benefice of Lower Windrush". A Church Near You. Church of England. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  19. The Harcourt Arms
  21. Stanton Harcourt Church of England Primary School
  22. "The Side as Stanton Harcourt Morris". Icknield Way Morris Men.

Sources and further reading

  1. Barclay, Gill; Gray, Margaret; Lambrick, George (1995). Excavations at the Devil's Quoits, Stanton Harcourt. Thames Valley Landscape Series. 5. Oxford: Oxford University School of Archaeology. ISBN 0-947816-84-4.
  2. Buckingham, C; Roe, D; Scott, K (1996). "A preliminary report on the Stanton Harcourt Channel Deposits (Oxfordshire, England)". Journal of Quaternary Science. 11 (5).
  3. Crossley, Alan; Elrington, C.R. (eds.); Baggs, A.P.; Blair, W.J.; Chance, Eleanor; Colvin, Christina; Cooper, Janet; Day, C.J.; Selwyn, Nesta; Townley, Simon C. (1990). A History of the County of Oxford. Victoria County History. 12: Wootton Hundred (South) including Woodstock. London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research. pp. 267–296. ISBN 978-0-19722-774-9.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. Lambrick, George; Allen, Tim (2004). Gravelly Guy: Excavations at Stanton Harcourt. Thames Valley Landscape Series. 21. Oxford: Oxford University School of Archaeology. ISBN 0-947816-66-6.
  5. McGavin, Neil; Symonds, Robin P; Harman, Mary (1980). "A Roman Cemetery and Trackway at Stanton Harcourt" (PDF). Oxoniensia. Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society. XLV: 112–123.
  6. Mills, A.D.; Room, A. (2003). A Dictionary of British Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-852758-6.
  7. Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). Oxfordshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 778–784. ISBN 0-14-071045-0.
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