Oxfordshire A Glorious County. Woodstock

One of the places featured in the book Oxfordshire A Glorious County is Woodstock.

Woodstock is a fascinating country town which was the neighbour of the Royal Palace of Woodstock for centuries. The High Street leads to the Triumphal Arch which is the entrance to the grounds of Blenheim Palace which was the nations reward to the Duke of Marlborough for his valour in war and it was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

Woodstock was a Royal Manor before the Norman Conquest and the towns early development was closely linked to Royal Patronage. King Henry I built a palace, or hunting lodge, and enclosed the park in the early twelfth century. Henry II also came here for the hunting

The palace was enlarged, and the town of Woodstock built to house the Royal Court. In 133o Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, was born here. He was the son of King Edward III. The towns first Charter was granted by Henry VI in 1453. Henry VII often stayed here with Catherine of Aragon, and Princess Elizabeth was imprisoned here during the reign of her sister Queen Mary.

The people of Woodstock were sympathetic to Elizabeth and after she became Queen Elizabeth I she rewarded the town with the grant of a new Royal Charter in 1558. The Queen also gave The Woodstock Arms and The Kings Arms public houses to the town.

King James I also stayed at Woodstock. The palace was in a ruinous state by this time. In 1704 the manor was presented by Queen Anne to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who built Blenheim Palace and demolished the ruins of the old palace. The architect of Blenheim Palace was John Vanbrugh and the gardens were re-modelled by Capability Brown. Woodstock’s importance grew with the building of Blenheim Palace.

At one time Woodstock was the greatest glove making centre in the country. In the sixteenth century glove making became an industry here. Women and girls hand stitched gloves in their homes. The industry declined after World War II with the import of cheap gloves. A tradition dictates that a reigning King or Queen is presented with a pair of gloves and Queen Elizabeth II was presented with a pair of white kid gloves by the Mayor when she visited Woodstock.

The town has many stone buildings including the Town Hall, which was commissioned by George, 4th Duke of Marlborough. It was built by Sir William Chambers in 1766 and paid for by the Duke.

In 1785 John Byng visited the town. He wrote ‘When we arrived at Woodstock and had ordered dinner at that excellent inn, The Bear, I went to view the progress of the building of the steeple of their new church’.

Many visitors from all over the world come to Woodstock to see Blenheim Palace but they also enjoy the architecture, public houses, variety of shops, and restaurants which the town has to offer.