Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Cotswolds - Eynsham

The Square in Eynsham village in Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography

In the occasional series of tours around some the Oxfordshire Cotswolds more picturesque villages we visit Eynsham.

Eynsham is pronounced "Ensham". The spelling was changed by the Post Office in the 19th century, as it was constantly getting confused with Evesham. The origin of the name is a bit uncertain; 'ham' means meadow - and the 'En" may - or may not - be a contraction of somebody's name. 

Before humans arrived though, the area was occupied by mammoths. In the gravel pits just south of Eynsham, a large number of mammoth bones have been dug up over the past 10 years.

A causeway made of pebbles and stones was discovered recently near Eynsham by the A40 gravel pits. It probably dates from about 4,000 years ago - so it's one of the very earliest human constructions in Britain that survives.

Eynsham High Street in Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography
High Street.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records Eynsham as Egonesham and describes it as one of four towns that the Saxons captured from the Britons in AD 571. Evidence has been found of 6th and 7th century Saxon buildings. In 1005 Aethelmar, kinsman of Aethelred II founded a Benedictine abbey. By the medieval period Eynsham Abbey was one of the largest in the area, but it was dissolved at the Reformation in 1538 and only a few remains are still visible. Many of the houses in the village incorporate stones from the abbey, which were re-used for building materials at the time.

Red Lion pub on The Square in Eynsham Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography
Red Lion pub on the Square.

Cotswold village of Eynsham in Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography
A view of the village from the Square

The village suffered a number of fires in its history. Two of the most serious were one on the morning of Whit Monday 1629 that destroyed 12 houses and another in 1681 that destroyed 20 houses. By the early part of the 19th century the parish had its own fire engine, and from then until 1949 the ground floor of the early 18th century Bartholomew Room served as the parish fire station.

Eynsham in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds by Martyn Ferry Photography
One of the tranquil back streets.

The Bartholomew Room was built in 1703; the result of an endowment from a John Bartholomew in 1701 to found a charity school for the parish. Its lower storey was arcaded, presumably for it to be a market building. The arcades were walled up in the latter part of the 19th century. While part of the ground floor continued to serve as the fire station, another part was made into the village lockup. From 1928 the local Roman Catholic congregation used the upper room as its church. In 1983 the parish council bought the building and had it restored.

14th century cross in the Cotswold village of Eynsham by Martyn Ferry Photography
Reconstructed 14th century cross and Bartholomew Room.

Country lane in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds in Eynsham by Martyn Ferry Photography
Quiet lane leading out of the village.

Social unrest was recurrent in Eynsham's history. In 1296, when the town was crowded during the Pentecostal fair, there was a riot in which Oxford scholars were wounded and killed. In 1344 townsmen were presumably involved in the conflict between rival abbots of Eynsham which on one occasion brought 1,500 armed men to the abbey gates. 

In 1350, shortly after the Black Death had ravaged the parish, the inhabitants 'like madmen' attacked the justice, Thomas Langley. There were riots on Eynsham heath in 1696 and again in 1780. In the 19th century, parochial life was frequently turbulent, especially during the incumbency of W.S. Bricknell (vicar, 1845-88), whose quarrels with his parishioners became notorious in the county.

Old Cotswold barn conversion in Eynsham Oxfordshire by Martyn Ferry Photography
Old house that looks like it used to be a barn.

The Church of England parish church of Saint Leonard dates from the 13th century, although the nave and tower date from the 15th century, and is situated on the site of the old abbey.

The church, which has a canonical sundial on the south wall, has been restored three times: in 1856 by William Wilkinson, the British Gothic Revival architect who practised in Oxford, and in 1892 by fellow Oxford architect H.G.W. Drinkwater, and most recently through the fundraising efforts of the whole community over a period of eight years in the 1980s.

The Eynsham church of St Leonard's in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds by Martyn Ferry Photography
St Leonard's Church

Interior of St Leonard's church in the Oxfordshire village of Eynsham by Martyn Ferry Photography
A couple of shots of the church interior.

Interior of Oxfordshire Cotswolds village of Eynsham St Leonard's church by Martyn Ferry Photography

So that's it for Eynsham, you can see more images from the beautiful Cotswold countryside here.

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