Woodstock – 900 years. 2010 Marked Nine hundred years since the enclosure of the Royal Park
A park and probably a hunting lodge for the use of royalty, existed in the area described as Woodstock, at the west of The Wychwood Forest, in Anglo Saxon times.
In 1110 the relationship of royalty with Woodstock was strengthened by the building of a stone wall around the park by King Henry I, creating The Royal Park of Woodstock, designed to retain his menagerie of wild and exotic animals. The enclosure also led to the first settlement of Woodstock – Old Woodstock – although the main part of the town we now know as Woodstock was only founded under Henry II, fifty years later.
In 2009, The Mayor of Woodstock, Peter Jay, raised the idea that the town celebrate the 900th anniversary of the creation of The Royal Park. This idea has been taken up with enthusiasm so, in 2010, a sequence of events focused on Woodstock and the Park’s long and interesting history. Local groups and organisations developed special Woodstock at 900 focused activities. ‘Wake up To Woodstock’ co-ordinated existing and new events under the ‘Woodstock at 900’ umbrella.
2010 was the year in which even more visitors discovered the delights of Woodstock and we welcomed all who came to join in the festivities
In Saxon times, much of what is now West Oxfordshire was still covered in primeval forest – the Wychwood. This consisted of heavily wooded areas with the occasional clearing. One such was Woodstock – the name signifying ‘a clearing in the woods’. It was the site of a royal hunting lodge and it is known that King Ethelred (the unready) held a royal council here in the late 10th century.
Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the royal connection with Woodstock grew stronger and in 1110 King Henry 1st, the youngest son of William the Conqueror, rebuilt the Saxon lodge and had a wall erected around the royal park in order to enclose his collection of exotic and wild animals. ‘Woodstock Manor’ or ‘Woodstock Palace’ as it was also known, became a favourite royal hunting lodge. Since Norman Forest Law did not permit persons unconnected with the King’s hunt to live in the park, the Saxon peasants were evicted and thus the original settlement of Woodstock, now known as ‘Old Woodstock’ grew up outside the walls of the royal park,
The royal connection with Woodstock strengthened over the years and ‘New Woodstock’ became a prosperous market town, servicing the Royal Court when it was in residence. However, by the mid 1500’s royal interest in hunting at Woodstock had waned and the palace fell into disrepair – moreover the Civil War of the mid 17th century was not kind to Woodstock or the palace and in 1646 Cromwell’s forces left it in ruins, in which state it remained until 1704.
In that year General John Churchill, the victor in the War of Spanish Succession and the vanquisher of England’s old foe, the French, was created the 1st Duke of Marlborough and was rewarded by Queen Anne with the gift of the old Royal Park and Manor of Woodstock, together with a sum of money to enable him to build a suitable residence there. This was to be known as Blenheim Park and Palace in honour of his most famous victory.
Nigel Clifford MBE
The Woodstock at 900 Legacy Fund
The Legacy Fund, called ‘The Woodstock @ 900 Legacy Fund’, was established in 2009 to hold the sum of £10,000 given to the local community as a donation by a visiting film company, Point Productions, for assisting their film production. The Fund can also benefit from any other donation made to it specifically as a response to the Woodstock @ 900 celebrations. The initial value of the Woodstock Legacy Fund is £10,000. It is run by trustees including the Mayor, two councillors and a representative of the local business community. Its eventual use will be for a major project or projects which bring a lasting benefit to the people of Woodstock as a ‘legacy’ to the Town in the 900th year since the enclosure of the Royal Park of Woodstock by King Henry I in the year 1110. The town council will choose the project in consultation with the people of the town.
For more information or to make a donation, please contact