Woodstock is a captivating market town in Oxfordshire just ten miles north of Oxford on the way to Broadway and Worcester. It sits surrounded by the Glyme Valley which was once a part of Wynchwood Forest. This is the origin of the town’s name which in Anglo-Saxon means “Clearing in the woods.”
Woodstock itself is a lovely town with many pleasant inns and bed and breakfasts, tea houses, craft and antique shops and restaurants. The town is most renowned for being close to the illustrious Blenheim Palace which belonged to the Churchills. The nearby village of Bladon is the burial place of Sir Winston Churchill.
The northern section of the town above the Glyme River is called Old Woodstock and was settled by the Saxons. King Alfred was believed to have resided there in 890 and Ethelred the Unready was believed to have held a council there. Woodstock Manor, a famous site in Old Woodstock (demolished in the 18th century) was where Henry I created a deer park and seduced Rosamund. You can still visit Rosamund’s Well today, one of the most popular destinations in Woodstock. Woodstock Manor was also believed to be the place where the Black Prince was born in 1330. During the reign of Queen Mary, Elizabeth I was held prisoner in a gatehouse of Woodstock Manor.
The part of Woodstock south of the Glyme was developed by Henry II who started a weekly market there. New Woodstock became home to a prosperous glove making industry and subsequently grew to be an industrious and busy market town.
You can visit the Oxfordshire County Museum in Fletcher’s House to learn more about daily life in Woodstock over the centuries.
Perhaps one of the most magnificent sites in all the Cotswolds is Blenheim Palace. Queen Anne gave this gorgeous 2500 acre estate to John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough in the early 1700s in thanks for his military service and victories. She agreed to finance an opulent new home for him there next to Woodstock. John Churchill commissioned Sir Jon Vanbrugh, an architect, to design his house in 1705. The house is considered one of Vanbrugh’s greatest works, featuring such renowned rooms as the Long Library, The Great Hall with its ceiling painting of the Battle of Blenheim and the Green Writing Room.
The beautiful estate was eventually passed down to Sir Winston Churchill’s cousin who became duke through his inheritance. Winston Churchill was born there and loved Blenheim as though it were his own home; he proposed to his wife Clementine there. He desired to be buried upon his death in Bladon Churchyard with his family. Their graves can all be seen there today.
Woodstock’s history is long and highlighted by many intriguing personalities and events. Despite being a small, seemingly remote town, some truly famous personages have lived there and treasured it. Woodstock is a wonderful destination in the Cotswolds for history buffs who are interested in the Churchill family or want to appreciate a truly stunning English estate.