With the rapid increase in population it is imperative that Hanborough maintains its community feel and most importantly that those who live here feel welcomed and feel part of that community. This website is designed to promote that and bring everyone together in an appreciation of the space they inhabit.
Hanborough is made up of Long Hanborough and Church Hanborough. Long Hanborough so called because it was a long way from the main church of St Peter and St Paul and Church Hanborough because this is where St Peter and St Paul is situated. The spire of the church is visible from all around. Particularly notable is the view of the church from the train as it travels west along the course of the river Evenlode. Anyone travelling along that train will recognise the change in terrain from flat flood plain to the higher ground that gives a nod to the delights of the Cotswolds that are to follow. It is a most tranquil and rural scene that never fails to mesmorise.
Being on a hill brings benefits to the village. The flooding that often affects the Evenlode and the Thames never impinges on the village. There is clearer air compared to the valley and those living on the north side of the A4095 have spectacular views over to Combe. A visitor travelling through the village would have no idea of the majestic, beautiful and secret view that is behind the row of houses.
Other notable features of the villages are the woods. The ancient woodland of Pinsley is a particular favourite of all villagers and very much revered. It lies south-east of Long Hanborough and so nestles up closely to Church Hanborough. There are footpaths circumnavigating it and footpaths traversing it and every season brings something special. In the spring the numerous wild flowers, in the summer the abundance of wildlife, in the autumn the colours of the trees and in the winter the crunch of snow and muddy trails.
Other woods are to the north and west of the village and border the Evenlode. These were once hunting and shooting grounds for Blenheim but have been opened up more to residents and provide spectacular beech woods with wildflowers and an ever-increasing display of elaborate fungi.
There are a number of very old and notable buildings in the villages. The oldest being the parish church with its famous 15th century rood screen which goes across the chancel and aisles. As Pevsner relates the church dates back to the 12th century with original north and south door and a few windows. Much of the church was remodelled in the 14th century.
Other listed buildings are Millwood Farm House, Myrtle Farm House, Rectory Farm House, The George and Dragon amongst others.
The villages of Long and Church Hanborough are separated by a small section of countryside which is slowly being eroded and joined by a path known locally as the Coffin Path and a minor road.
To the north of the parish is Combe and East End Combe, to the west North Leigh and Freeland, to the south Eynsham and to the east Bladon. Surrounded by villages that do not have shops, such as Combe, Freeland and Bladon, makes Long Hanborough a rural magnet for those wanting a quick purchase of vital goods which they can find in the Co-op. The present building was built in the early 2000s replacing a very small shop squashed in between the existing houses bordering the entrance to the present Co-op. The original shop had been there since 1912 and in spite of its small size it still seemed to provide everything one needed for those emergencies.
There are a good range of shops and services making Hanborough almost self-sufficient. The Cycle Shop provides an inexhaustible range of goods and cycle maintenance to boot. There are three pubs going strong but the parish has suffered from the national problem of pub closures and the ones that have closed down are missed as they were an important part of Long Hanborough’s history. The good news is that the buildings survive and are being well looked after.
The first known mention of an inn keeper was ‘Walter the vintner’ in 1279. Other pubs mentioned in records are the Katherine Wheel (1661), the Holly Bush (1686) ad from 1775 The Hand and Shears, the George and Dragon, The Bell and The Swan.
Other shops and services have come and gone. At one point there was amongst other things a farm shop, a plant nursery, a butcher, a greengrocer, a deli and an antique shop and three garages.
Back in 1852 there were six shopkeepers, three bakers, a butcher, a tailor, a shoemaker and a blacksmith according to a directory of the time.
Even though the parish is predominately rural there are no resident farmers as the majority of the land is owned either by Blenheim or by Corpus Christi College and the land cultivated by farmers who rent the land. In the past the vast majority of the population would have worked on the land. The Woodstock glove trade gave some supplementary income to women and girls in the 18th and 19th century and there is a glove factory now converted to housing down Millwood End.
There were quarries in the parish from 1270, the earliest being the one in Pinsley Wood which was thought to be used to build St Peter and St Paul. Down Swan Hill there is a quarry to the left which was used to provide stone for the Oxford University Press building and for Eynsham Hall.
Brickmaking was another village industry brought about by the plentiful supply of lime. In 1706, 500,000 bricks were supplied by a village brickmaker called Henry Wise to build the kitchen gardens at Blenheim.
Absentee rectors and inadequate curates at St Peter and St Paul led to a rise in Methodism during the late 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. Worshippers first used the chapel at Freeland and then the chapel in Riely Close from 1895. The Primitive Methodists built a chapel in Millwood End in 1842 and then a second chapel in 1904 opposite the turning to Combe. This building is now a home but the owners have, to locals’ delight, restored the original front and inscription.
To encourage more worshippers, the Anglican church built the small chapel of Christ Church in the centre of Long Hanborough in 1893.
There was no attempt to provide any form of education in the villages until the beginning of the 19th century. At Church Hanborough a school was opened in 1832 funded by the church. This eventually closed in 1959. It wasn’t until 1879 that an infant school was opened in Long Hanborough, called ‘Little School’. This building was closed and converted to a dwelling in 1999 with all primary-aged children being educated together at the Manor School, which opened in 1960.
There have been a number of famous people living in the parish, most notably JB Priestley who lived in Church Hanborough in the 1920s. In the first chapter of his book Apes and Angels published in 1928 he describes the Hanborough Flower Show and some colourful local characters. In earlier times King Henry 1 stayed briefly in Hanborough in 1105 and signed three royal charters here. In June 1644 Charles 1 gathered his army at Hanborough Heath (near Shepherd’s Hall) on his night march from Oxford to Burford. On 29 January 1965 the train carrying the coffin of Winston Churchill arrived at Hanborough Station and then was taken by carriage in a cortege to Bladon churchyard.
There are many activities that Hanborough villagers enjoy. The rite of passage for many teenagers is discovering the delights of swimming in the river (amongst other things) and has become an annual summer ritual. A favourite and most tranquil spot for all is the pasture between the river and Combe where magical sunny afternoons can be spent paddling in the waters and dappled shade and fishing for cray fish.
The whole village descends on Daggers Hill on snowy days to navigate the treacherous slope to the bottom of the hill in whatever vehicle can be found from kayaks to trays to the standard sledge.
Hanborough has many local sites to enjoy such as the North Leigh Roman Villa and its mosaic house, Combe Mill with its beam engine and The Bus Museum with its spectacular collection of vintage buses. Slightly further afield there is Blenheim Palace with its all-year-round cycle of events and less than 10 minutes away on the train all the historic sites and museums of Oxford.
The train and the state of the railway is always a popular conversation piece but also a splendid way to meet people and cement friendships. The number of people catching the train has multiplied enormously in the past 20 years but the romance of the train has not gone. It is hard to imagine how once the only space to park was the area immediately outside the station and usually there was room to park if you turned up late.
There are annual events such as the Hanborough Show and the Musical Fireworks to enjoy. There are also the many charity and fundraising events that stay popular for a while and then get replaced by other events as people’s interests move on. These are held in the two main halls in the village, the Recreation Hall and the Pavilion (often a cause of confusion for visitors). The Methodist hall is also busy with clubs, activities, events and coffee mornings.
Witney tends to be the town Hanborough residents gravitate to for shopping and browsing. Its free parking lessens the stress and there are plenty of coffee shops to relax in. There are still some independent stores clinging on but, as with most high streets, shops come and go at an alarming rate.
Along the A4095 one way there is Woodstock and to the west is Burford and conveniently there is now a regular bus route that goes between the two. Sadly, the bus to Eynsham and Oxford was disbanded but a community bus has been set up to take those who need to go to Eynsham.
Since the 1950s the village has grown enormously. In 1995, 70% of the houses were built since 1950 and this figure would now be higher with the three large scale developments that are near completion at Hanborough Gate, Vanbrugh Meadows, and Hanborough Park. Even though the A4095 is at grid lock at rush hour there are still moments of peace and tranquillity in the village and plenty of places to escape the rat race.