Wheatley, Oxfordshire

Wheatley is a village and civil parish in Oxfordshire, about 5 miles (8 km) east of Oxford.

Location within Oxfordshire
Area4.39 km2 (1.69 sq mi)
Population3,905 (parish, including Littleworth) (2001 census)[1]
 Density890/km2 (2,300/sq mi)
OS grid referenceSP5905
Civil parish
  • Wheatley
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townOxford
Postcode districtOX33
Dialling code01865
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament
WebsiteWheatley Parish Council


There was a Roman villa on Castle Hill, about 1 mile (1.6 km) southeast of the parish church. It was excavated in 1845, when Roman coins dating from AD 260 to 378 and fragments of Roman pottery and Roman tiles were found.


The village had its beginnings in the Anglo-Saxon era. It is in a valley running eastwards, the stream of which flows through the centre of the village to join the River Thame. The stream used to be in the open, with stepping stones for people to cross it. However, it is now in a culvert that runs along under the High Street.

In 1883 a Saxon cemetery was excavated, and artefacts removed from it are housed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In the 13th century Wheatley was part of the property of the Abbey of Abingdon and in 1279 was described as a hamlet of Cuddesdon.

Wheatley manor house was enlarged and improved in 1601, and bears an inscription on the front stating T.A. 1601, which stands for Thomas Archdale, the then owner. It still retains its original appearance whereas most of the other old cottages and buildings have been restored.


The Church of England parish church of St. Mary the Virgin was built in the 18th century. Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, disliked the building and had it rebuilt in 1855-1857 by the Oxford Diocesan architect, G. E. Street.[2] Its tower has a peal of six bells,[3] four of which came from the former 18th century church. There is also a Russian bell from Troitsa, thought to have been claimed as a spoil of war and given to the church early in the 20th century.

The Congregational church was built in 1842–1843 on the site of the old tannery. It is now a United Reformed Church. Wheatley's Roman Catholic church is Our Lady of Lourdes in Crown Road. It is part of the parish of Corpus Christi, Headington.

Wheatley Community Church is a new evangelical church which formed in 2015, and now meets weekly in the primary school.

There was once also an independent church in the old Granary building at 30 Church Road. Many Wheatley residents talk of having attended Sunday School at the 'mission', which is how a generation usually identify the church.

All the churches in Wheatley are now in a Local Ecumenical Partnership which also includes the parish church of Saint Bartholomew in Holton.[4]

Economic and social history

One of Wheatley's main industries was quarrying limestone which was used for building Windsor Castle, Merton College, local cottages and ecclesiastical buildings, most of which were erected between the 13th and 18th centuries. Other occupations included faggot cutting and ochre cutting, the ochre being crushed at the windmill which still stands today.

There were two windmills on the hill southwest of the village. One was a post mill which burnt down in 1875. The other, Littleworth Mill, is a tower mill that dates from before 1671. It has been rebuilt and re-equipped a number of times, including in 1784 when the Eagle Ironworks, Oxford supplied some of the machinery. The tower mill had fallen out of use by 1915, but since 1977 the Wheatley Mill Restoration Society has been restoring it.[5]

Wheatley once had ten public houses. A plaque on a gable of the King's Arms in Church Street says that it was built in 1756.

In 1719 the Stokenchurch Turnpike Act turned the main road into a turnpike. Stagecoaches between the Golden Cross in Oxford and London travelled via the Old Road over Shotover Plain to the west of the village. Many of Wheatley's inns had an upper entrance in Church Road and another in the High Street to accommodate the change of horses. The George coaching inn opposite the manor house is now a house with courtyards.

The village lock-up, built in 1834, is a pyramid-shaped stone structure standing near the edge of the former quarry site. It has a heavy padlocked door and the floor space is about 6 feet (1.8 m) square with a headroom of about 8 feet (2.4 m). In the 19th century it was used to lock up drunks overnight before sending them to the Oxford court. More recently it has been opened every May Day. For a small charge visitors can be locked up for five minutes or so, and given a certificate to prove it.

Wheatley railway station was opened in 1864 as part of an extension of the Wycombe Railway from Thame to Oxford. The railway linked the village to Oxford, Princes Risborough, High Wycombe and Maidenhead. British Railways closed the line and Wheatley station in 1963. Kelham Hall Drive and Kimber Close have been built on the site of the station.

Shotover Park was the home of Lt Col Sir John Miller, who was Crown Equerry to Queen Elizabeth II. In 1888, his grandmother gave the building known as the Merry Bells to the villagers for use as a temperance hotel as she was saddened to see so much hardship caused by drunkenness. Today the building houses a new public library and is a significant social centre of the village; ironically, it now has a licence to serve alcoholic beverages.

In the 20th century the Lady Spencer Churchill teacher training college was built on the north side of Wheatley. In 1976 the college merged with Oxford Polytechnic, which has since become Oxford Brookes University.

In 1974 the M40 motorway was extended from High Wycombe to Junction 8 at Chilworth, about 2.5 miles (4 km) east of Wheatley, giving the village a fast road link to London. In 1990 the M40 extension was completed, giving Wheatley a fast road link to Birmingham. The extension includes Junction 8A and Oxford Services about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) east of the village.


Wheatley has a Church of England county primary school[6] and a County Council secondary school.[7]

Wheatley has regular bus services. Arriva Shires & Essex runs route 280 between Oxford and Aylesbury via Headington, Wheatley and Thame.[8] Heyfordian Travel provides routes 103 and 104 linking Wheatley and nearby villages with Cowley and Oxford.[9]

Wheatley has a post office, a branch of Barclays bank which was closed in 2016, an Asda superstore with a petrol filling station, a Co-Op pharmacy, several shops in the High Street, and numerous village societies, including the Wheatley Society and a Village Produce Association which holds an annual show.

Wheatley has a number of pubs, including:

  • The King and Queen, High Street
  • The King's Arms, Church Road (Greene King Brewery)
  • The Cricketers Arms, Littleworth[10]
  • The Railway Hotel, Ladder Hill (Fuller's)[11]
  • The Sun Cafe + Bar, Church Road
  • The Plough Inn, London Road

Wheatley has a Rugby Union Football Club that field two senior sides every Saturday whilst playing the finest social rugby in and around Berkshire,Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The club also have an extensive mini/midis section from U7's and up. The seniors train on the Holton playing fields Tuesdays at 7pm, the Mini/Midis train Thursdays at 7pm and Sundays at 9.30am. The Wheatley XV 1st team play in the Berks/Bucks & Oxon Premier


Sources and further reading

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