[oks-ferd-sheer, -sher]
Oxfordshire or Oxon, county (1991 pop. 553,800), 749 sq mi (1,940 sq km), S central England. The county seat is Oxford. The terrain is generally flat except for a branch of the Chiltern Hills in the southeast. The county is drained by the Thames River (or Isis as it is sometimes locally called) and its affluents, the Windrush, the Evenlode, the Cherwell, and the Thame. The chief occupation is farming (wheat, barley, and oats), with some dairying and sheep raising. Ironstone and limestone are found. Oxford is the industrial center (automobiles and steel products). In the Middle Ages, Oxfordshire was a part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. During the English civil war it was a stronghold of royalist resistance. Near Woodstock, rich in historical associations, is Blenheim Park.
Oxfordshire (administrative county)
|- Geography
Status Ceremonial & Non-metropolitan county
Region: South East England
- Total
- Admin. council
Ranked 22nd
2,605 km²
Ranked 19th
Admin HQ: Oxford
ONS code: 38
- Total ()
- Density
- Admin. Council

/ km²
Ethnicity: 95.1% White
1.7% S. Asian

Oxfordshire County Council
Members of Parliament


  1. Oxford
  2. Cherwell
  3. South Oxfordshire
  4. Vale of White Horse
  5. West Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire (abbreviated Oxon, from the Latinised form Oxonia) is a county in the South East of England, bordering on Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and Warwickshire.

It is divided into five local government districts: Oxford, Cherwell, Vale of White Horse (after the Uffington White Horse), West Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire.

The county has a major tourism industry. The area is noted for the concentration of performance motorsport companies and facilities. Oxford University Press has headed a concentration of print and publishing firms; the university is also linked to the concentration of local biotechnology companies.

The main centre of population is the city of Oxford. Other significant settlements are Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington, and Chipping Norton to the north of Oxford; Witney to the west; Thame and Chinnor to the east; and Abingdon, Wantage, Didcot, Wallingford and Henley-on-Thames to the south. Future population growth in the county is hoped to be concentrated around Banbury, Bicester, Didcot and Witney, near the South Midlands growth area.

The highest point of the county is Whitehorse Hill, in the Vale of White Horse, reaching 856 feet (261m).

Oxfordshire's county flower is the Snake's-head Fritillary.


The county of Oxfordshire was formed in the early years of the 10th century and is broadly situated in the land between the River Thames to the south, the Cotswolds to the west, the Chilterns to the east and the Midlands to the north, with spurs running south to Henley-on-Thames and north to Banbury.

Historically the area has always had some importance, containing valuable agricultural land in the centre of the country and the prestigious university in the county town of Oxford (whose name came from Anglo-Saxon Oxenaford = "ford for oxen"). Ignored by the Romans, it was not until the formation of a settlement at Oxford in the eighth century that the area grew in importance. Alfred the Great was born across the Thames in Wantage in Berkshire. The University of Oxford was founded in 1096, though its collegiate structure did not develop until later on. The area was part of the Cotswolds wool trade from the 13th century, generating much wealth, particularly in the western portions of the county in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Morris Motors was founded in Oxford in 1912, bringing heavy industry to an otherwise agricultural county. The importance of agriculture as an employer has declined rapidly in the 20th century though; currently under one percent of the county's population are involved due to high mechanisation.

Throughout most of its history the county was divided into fourteen hundreds, namely Bampton, Banbury, Binfield, Bloxham, Bullingdon, Chadlington, Dorchester, Ewelme, Langtree, Lewknor, Pyrton, Ploughley, Thame and Wootton.

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, the main army unit in the area, was based at the Barracks on Bullingdon Green, Cowley.

The Vale of the White Horse district and parts of the South Oxfordshire administrative district south of the River Thames were historically part of Berkshire, but were added to the administrative county of Oxfordshire in 1974. Conversely, the Caversham area of Reading was historically part of Oxfordshire as was the parish of Stokenchurch, now in administrative Buckinghamshire.

Towns and cities in Administrative Oxfordshire

For a more complete list of settlements in the county see List of places in Oxfordshire.


This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Oxfordshire at current basic prices published (pp.240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.
Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 7,607 120 2,084 5,404
2000 10,594 80 2,661 7,853
2003 12,942 93 2,665 10,184


Oxfordshire has a completely comprehensive education system with 23 independent schools and 35 state schools. The state schools are from the ages of 11 to either 16 or 18. Only eight schools do not have a sixth form; these are mostly in South Oxfordshire and Cherwell districts.


The most famous building in Oxfordshire is Blenheim Palace at Woodstock. It was built by the great architect John Vanbrugh for John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, after he had won the battle of Blenheim. The gardens, which can be visited, were designed by the landscape gardener "Capability Brown", who planted the trees in the battle formation of the victorious troops. In the palace, which can also be visited, Sir Winston Churchill was born.

Chastleton House, on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire borders, is a great country mansion that was built on property bought from Robert Catesby, who was one of the men involved in the Gunpowder Plot with Guy Fawkes. Stonor Park, another country mansion, has belonged to the recusant Stonor family for centuries.

Towns by population

Rank Town Population Year
1 Banbury 52,000
2 Abingdon 36,000
3 Bicester 28,672
4 Witney 23,765 2001
5 Didcot 22,700
6 Kidlington(village) 17,000
7 Carterton 14,000
8 Thame 12,000
9 Henley on Thames 10,513
10 Wantage 9,767
11 Wallingford 7,000
12 Chipping Norton 5,972
13 Faringdon 5,600
14 Watlington 3,000

Places of interest

See also

Further reading

  • Philip Powell - The Geology of Oxfordshire (Dovecote Press, 2005) ISBN 1-904349-19-6

External links

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