Thursday, March 10, 2016

An abandoned village in Oxfordshire

Hampton Gay manor house ruins in black and white by Martyn Ferry Photography

Last week I took a visit to the abandoned village of Hampton Gay, all that remains of the place is a ruined manor house and church. The outline of the former village can be seen as raised plots in the fields. The name Gay originates from the de Gay family, former Lords of the Manor there in the 12th century. Hampton, or hamm tun is an old Anglo Saxon word meaning hamlet by the water meadow

The atmpspheric Hampton Gay ruins in Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography
Even the surrounding trees are starting to fall apart in sympathy with the house.

Hampton Gay is bordered by the River Cherwell, where it meanders through an alluvial flood-plain that is seldom less than 200 yards wide and in some parts well over twice that width. This has prevented the building of roads directly on to the lands, which means even today the only way to get to the village is via by a footbridge or two and over several fields. Which of course all adds to the atmospheric, abandoned nature of the place.

I wasn't completely alone on my trek to the village, a herd of sheep, in an unusual move for sheep, decided to follow me for part of the way. What they got out of the experience I'm not entirely sure.

Manor house at Hampton Gay in Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography
A view of the crumbling walls of this once grand manor house.

The land was variously leased to the Knights Templar in 1170 before giving way to the Knights Hospitaller when the Templers were suppressed in 1311, they in turn were turfed out during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and forfeited their lands to the crown. The land passed through the hands of various owners until it was acquired by the Barry family who built the manor house in the 16th century.

The remains of the manor house at Hampton Gay in Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography
The manor house is now one of eight historic Oxfordshire buildings placed on the 'at risk' register, due to
its advanced state of decay.

On Christmas Eve, 1874, there was a tragic railway accident at Hampton Gay. A wheel failed on the Paddington-to-Birkenhead Express, on a train crowded full of people travelling home for Christmas. Alarmed passengers quickly alerted the driver. Unfortunately, the sudden action of stopping caused the heavily-laden train to crash into one of the older carriages, pushing it off the track and into the Oxford Canal below. Thirty-four people died in the accident, including two children, and 64 were injured.

Manor house ruins at Hampton Gay by Martyn Ferry Photography
Looking towards one of the remaining walls. From the front, the house looks more solid than it is, most of
the house has collapsed.

The fire which gutted the largely unaltered Elizabethan manor house in 1887 was seen as the retribution of a curse said to have been put on the house when the inhabitants refused to offer help and shelter when the train crashed in 1874. The fire tore through the building leaving nothing but a shell which has stood for nearly 130 years.

A tree stands next to the ruins at Hampton Gay in Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography
A tree sprouts up among the ruins of the manor house.

St Giles's church, was built between 1767-1772 on the foundations of an earlier church. In 1859 the curate restored it according to his own wishes, replacing four round-headed Georgian windows with those of early English style, and building a new porch, which is now gone.

St Giles church at Hampton Gay on a sunny afternoon by Martyn Ferry Photography
As you can see the weather was extremely changeable that afternoon, so St Giles sits under a clear blue sky.
Hampton Gay church of St Giles and ancient grave stones by Martyn Ferry Photography
St Giles is in the background behind a fine stand of trees and a a few dots of spring flowers.

After my visit to Hampton Gay I decided to have a stroll along the Oxford Canal towards Thrupp, while the weather was still in a reasonably good mood, I had been dodging rain showers all afternoon, and where I grabbed a few shots of the narrow boats that are moored along its length. 

The Oxford Canal and Shipton on Cherwell church by Martyn Ferry Photography
Holy Cross parish church at Shipton-on-Cherwell as it overlooks the canal.

Once leaving the fields that house the remains of Hampton Gay, the footpath arrives at the canal next to the tiny village of Shipton-on-Cherwell. The village has a manor house, as many villages around here do, which was owned by Richard Branson, who turned it into The Manor Studio, a recording studio for Virgin Records. Several albums were recorded there including Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. It is now the country home of the Marquess of Headfort.

Narrow boats on the Oxford Canal near Thrupp by Martyn Ferry Photography
The banks of the canal were teeming with narrow boats moored up for the winter.
Oxford Canal at Thrupp Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography
Looking down the canal where it widens out and doglegs sharply off towards Oxford.
Oxford Canal as it heads into Thrupp by Martyn Ferry Photography
From here the canal passes the tiny village of Thrupp on its way to Oxford, In 1086 Thrupp was such a small
settlement that the Domesday Book did not record it as having any tenants, and it hasn't expanded a huge
amount since then.

The clouds started to gather at quite an alarming rate and it looked like it was going to belt it down in the not too distant future, so from Thrupp I swiftly made my way back to the car, and as it turned out, just in time.

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