Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Cotswolds - Ascott-under-Wychwood

The village of Ascott under Wychwood by Martyn Ferry Photography

The smallest of the three Wychwood villages, the other two being Milton and Shipton, Ascott is the most isolated, and is set in a lovely location beside the quiet River Evenlode. 

The name 'Ascott' comes from the Saxon for 'East Homestead', a reference to the fact that Ascott began as a child settlement of Shipton, a few miles to the west.  Wychwood was the ancient royal forest of Wychwood, and its name originated from the 'wood of a tribe called Hwicce'. Little remains today of the forest. 

Peaceful country lane at Ascott under Wychwood in Oxfordshire Ascott under Wychwood
A quiet country lane at Ascott

Despite its very modest size, it's quite surprising to learn that Ascott has been home to two castles. During the Norman period, Ascott was granted to Roger d'Oyley, who built himself a castle in about 1129-1150, the east end of the village is in fact still known as Ascott d'Oyley. The castle was subsequently demolished and now only a fragment of it remains, the site of castle bailey is now occupied by the 16th century manor house, which is now a farm. But the earthworks can still be clearly seen from the public footpath by the river. 

The west end of the village is known as Ascott Earl (after an Earl of Worcester) and also had a castle - though this was probably only motte and bailey and today only earth mounds mark the site.

Traditional Cotswold pub The Swan at Ascott under Wychwood by Martyn Ferry Photography
Re-opened in 2014, The Swan had been closed for three years.
13th century Holy Trinity Church at Ascott under Wychwood  by Martyn Ferry Photography
The early 13th century Holy Trinity Church.

The church was remodelled in the 14th century and the upper stages of the bell tower date from the 15th century.  At the back of the church are five wooden pews which were for the old and sick and possibly are the oldest in Oxfordshire.

Lime trees line the way to the church at Ascott under Wychwood  by Martyn Ferry Photography
The main access to the church is through an avenue of lime trees
which in the spring are carpeted with wild crocus.
The village shop at Ascott under Wychwood  by Martyn Ferry Photography
Ascott Village Shop is owned and run by the community.

Ascott is also home to a Neolithic long barrow, which dates from between 3760–3695 BC. The barrow was excavated in the 1960's and the remains of 21 people were found within, along with finds of pottery, flint, axe fragments and animal bone. Stones from the barrow have been set up in the village to represent how they were laid.

Stones from the  Ascott under Wychwood long barrow by Martyn Ferry Photography
Stones from the Ascott long barrow.

So while the village of Ascott may be tiny, it certainly holds a great deal of history. The next stop on our Cotswold tour will Asthall, another small but perfectly formed village, and also steeped in a great deal of history.

You can see more images from the beautiful Cotswolds countryside on my website.

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