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Harden

Oxford

This county on the north is bounded by Warwickshire and Northamptonshire; on the west by Gloucestershire; on the south by Berkshire; and on the east by Buckinghamshire. The Thames gives a natural limit to the whole southern side; and it is partially separated from Northamptonshire on the north by the Cherwell. The figure of this county is singularly irregular, consisting, as it were, of two parts, a broader northern, and a narrower southern, with a still narrower neck between the two. The three counties of Buckingham, Oxford, and Berks, each of itself very irregularly shaped, are so fitted to each other as to form together a pretty regular circular tract. The extreme length of Oxfordshire is forty-eight miles; its greatest breadth twenty-six. Its area is computed at 742 miles. It is divided into fourteen hundreds.

With respect to soil and face of country; the northern corner is chiefly strong deep land, partly arable, partly pasture appropriated to the dairy. Further south is an extensive tract, the hilly part of which has a shallow stony soil, and is by no means fertile. The bottoms are clayey, and afford good pastures by the sides of the rivers. The south-west corner contains the forest of Whichwood, great part of which is woodland. Below it, to the Isis, the situation is low and wet, and the land chiefly meadow and pasture. About Oxford, to the north and south, the soil is various, part being light and sandy, part deep and rich. Near to Stanton St. John is a considerable tract of woodland On the banks of the Thames the sand is chiefly pasture. Between it and the Chilterns it is mostly arable, bordered by a range of downs. The Chiltern hills form a wide tract, of which the soil is chalk mixed with some loam and clay, but very full of flints. Much of this is covered with beech woods, but there are large wastes, and also considerable enclosures; and some values of meadow land border the Thames.

The products of Oxfordshire are chiefly those of the midland farming counties. Corn and malt are transmitted from it to the metropolis by means of the Thames. Good cheese is made in the grazing parts, but is chiefly used for home consumption. In the enclosed parts about the center much butter is made, and many calves are reared, the veal of which is sent to the London markets. The hills yield ochre, pipe-clay, and other earths useful for various purposes. The greatest want in this county is fuel; for most of the woods with which it once abounded being cut down, or greatly diminished, it has long been necessary to supply the deficiency with coal.

Oxfordshire is well watered by numerous streams, running from north to south, and terminating in the Thames. The most considerable of these are, The Windrusll, coming down from Burford and Witney, farthest to the west. The Evenlode, from the neighbourhood of Whichwood forest and Charibury. The Cherwell, which rising in the most northern part of the county, passes Banbury, and after collecting the waters of many rivulets, mixes with the leading stream at Oxford. The Thame, commonly supposed to give name to the Thames, is an inconsiderable rivulet, which, flowing by the town of Thame, meets the Isis near Dorchester. The river in which all these streams terminate is properly called the Thames, being known as such considerably earlier than it has acquired the supposititious title of the Isis, though that has been rendered not only its classical, but its legislative name. Becoming navigable at Letchlade, on the confines of Gloucestershire, it divides Berkshire from Oxfordshire, and in its stately course making a half turn round Oxford, it reassumes the name of Thames below Dorchester bridge, which it keeps as a boundary river through all its passage to the sea.

Oxfordshire has lately been taken into the system of canal navigation by a cut drawn from the Staffordshire Grand Trunk, which, entering this county by its northern extremity, passes Banbury, and holding a southern course near to, and parallel with, the Cherwell, at length joins the Isis at Oxford. By this means the deficiency of fuel is alleviated, which was particularly distressing to the poor, especially in the northern division, where the fences are chiefly stone.

Text: England Described etc (1818) by John Aikin M.D.

Map: Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc.,(1812) by John Cary

Jane Austen References

The Letters

Letter to Cassandra Austen, dated 9th January, 1796.

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 25th November 1798.