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Clockwise from top left: the Radcliffe Camera, part of the University of Oxford; Islip, in the Cherwell district; and the Uffington White Horse

Ceremonial Oxfordshire within England

Historic Oxfordshire in the British Isles
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth East England
Time zoneUTC+0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
UK Parliament7 Members of Parliament
PoliceThames Valley Police
Largest cityOxford
Ceremonial county
Lord LieutenantMarjorie Glasgow
High SheriffAmanda Ponsonby[1] (2020–21)
Area2,605 km2 (1,006 sq mi)
 • Rank22nd of 48
 • Rank35th of 48
Density283/km2 (730/sq mi)
90.9% White, 4.8% Asian/Asian British[3]
Non-metropolitan county
County councilOxfordshire County Council[4]
ControlNo overall control
Admin HQOxford
Area2,605 km2 (1,006 sq mi)
 • Rank12th of 21
 • Rank15th of 21
Density283/km2 (730/sq mi)
ISO 3166-2GB-OXF
GSS codeE10000025

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

Oxfordshire (/ˈɒksfərdʃər, -ʃɪər/ OKS-fərd-shər, -⁠sheer; abbreviated Oxon) is a ceremonial county in South East England. The county is bordered by Northamptonshire and Warwickshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the east, Berkshire to the south, and Wiltshire and Gloucestershire to the west. The city of Oxford is the largest settlement and county town.

The county is largely rural, with an area of 2,605 km2 (1,006 sq mi) and a population of 691,667. After Oxford (162,100), the largest settlements are Banbury (54,355) and Abingdon-on-Thames (37,931). For local government purposes Oxfordshire is a non-metropolitan county with five districts. The part of the county south of the River Thames, largely corresponding to the Vale of White Horse district, was historically part of Berkshire.

The lowlands in the centre of the county are crossed by the River Thames and its tributaries, the valleys of which are separated by low hills. The south contains parts of the Berkshire Downs and Chiltern Hills, and the north-west includes part of the Cotswolds; all three regions are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The county's highest point is White Horse Hill (261-metre (856 ft)), part of the Berkshire Downs.[5]


Main article: History of Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire was recorded as a county in the early years of the 10th century and lies 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.

Although it had some significance as an area of valuable agricultural land in the centre of the country, it was largely ignored by the Romans and did not grow in importance until the formation of a settlement at Oxford in the 8th century. Alfred the Great was born across the Thames in Wantage, in the Vale of White Horse. The University of Oxford was founded in 1096, although its collegiate structure did not develop until later on. The university in the county town of Oxford (whose name came from Anglo-Saxon Oxenaford = "ford for oxen") grew in importance during the Middle Ages and early modern period. 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 role of agriculture as an employer declined rapidly in the 20th century; currently[when?] under one per cent of the county's population are involved due to high mechanisation.[citation needed] Nevertheless, Oxfordshire remains a very agricultural county by land use, with a lower population than neighbouring Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, which are both smaller.

During most of its history, the county was partitioned as fourteen divisions called 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 Cowley Barracks on Bullingdon Green, Cowley.

The flag which represents the historic county

The Vale of White Horse district and parts of the South Oxfordshire administrative district south of the River Thames were historically part of Berkshire, but, in 1974, Abingdon, Didcot, Faringdon, Wallingford and Wantage were added to the administrative county of Oxfordshire under the Local Government Act 1972. Conversely, the Caversham area of Reading, now administratively in Berkshire, was historically part of Oxfordshire, as was the parish of Stokenchurch, now administratively in Buckinghamshire. The areas of Oxford city south of the Thames, such as Grandpont, were transferred much earlier, in 1889.


Oxfordshire includes parts of three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the north-west lie the Cotswolds; to the south and south-east are the open chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs and the wooded hills of the Chilterns. The north of the county contains the ironstone of the Cherwell uplands. Long-distance walks within the county include the Ridgeway National Trail, Macmillan Way, Oxfordshire Way and the D’Arcy Dalton Way.

Extreme points

Rivers and canals

From the mid-point western edge to the southeast corner of Oxfordshire, via the city in the middle, runs the Thames with its flat floodplains. This river forms the historic limit with Berkshire, remaining so on some lowest reaches. The Thames Path National Trail follows the river from upper estuary to a source.

Many smaller rivers in the county feed into the Thames, such as the Thame, Windrush, Evenlode and Cherwell. Some of these have trails running along their valleys. The Oxford Canal links to the Midlands and follows the Cherwell from Banbury via Kidlington into the city of Oxford, where these join the navigable Thames. About 15% of the historically named Wilts & Berks Canal, in sporadic sections, has been restored to navigability, including the county-relevant[clarification needed] 140 metres near Abingdon-on-Thames where it could, if restored, meet the Thames.

Green belt

Further information: Oxford Green Belt

Oxfordshire contains a green belt area that fully envelops the city of Oxford and extends for some miles to protect surrounding towns and villages from inappropriate development and urban growth. Its border in the east extends to the Buckinghamshire county boundary, while part of its southern border is shared with the North Wessex Downs AONB. It was first drawn up in the 1950s, and all of the county's districts contain some portion of the belt.


Regional gross value added at current basic prices in millions pounds sterling.[6]
Year Regional gross value added[a] Agriculture[b] Industry[c] Services[d]
1995 7,607 120 2,084 5,404
2000 10,594 80 2,661 7,853
2003 12,942 93 2,665 10,184


The coat of arms of Oxfordshire County Council

See also: Oxfordshire County Council

The Oxfordshire County Council, since 2013 under no overall control, is responsible for the most strategic local government functions, including schools, county roads and social services. The county is divided into five local government districts: Oxford, Cherwell, Vale of White Horse (after the Uffington White Horse), West Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire, which deal with such matters as town and country planning, waste collection and housing.

In the 2016 European Union referendum, Oxfordshire was the only English county as a whole to vote to remain in the European Union by a significant margin, at 57.06% (70.27% in the City of Oxford), despite Cherwell (barely) voting to leave at 50.31%.[citation needed]


See also: List of schools in Oxfordshire

Brasenose Lane in Oxford city centre, a street onto which three colleges back.
The University of Oxford's Chemistry Research Laboratory.

Oxfordshire has a comprehensive education system with 23 independent schools and 35 state secondary schools. Only eight schools do not have a sixth form; these are mostly in South Oxfordshire and Cherwell districts. Oxfordshire has a large number of leading independent schools, including public schools such as Radley College.

The county has two universities: the ancient University of Oxford[7] and the modern Oxford Brookes University, which are both located in Oxford. In addition, Wroxton College, located in Banbury, is affiliated with Fairleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey.[8]


Hand-drawn map of Oxford, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire by Christopher Saxton from 1576.

The "dreaming spires" of the University of Oxford are among the reasons for which Oxford is the sixth most visited city in the United Kingdom by international visitors.[9] Among many notable University buildings are the Sheldonian Theatre, built 1664–68 to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, and the Radcliffe Camera, built 1737–49 to the design of James Gibbs.

Blenheim Palace, close to Woodstock, was designed and partly built by the architect John Vanbrugh for John Churchill, 1st 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 army. Sir Winston Churchill was born in the palace in 1874. It is open to the public.

Chastleton House, on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire borders, is a great country mansion 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.

Mapledurham House is an Elizabethan stately home in the south-east of the county, close to Reading.

The Abbey in Sutton Courtenay is a medieval courtyard house. It has been recognised by the Historic Building Council for England (now Historic England) as a building of outstanding historic and architectural interest.[10] It is considered to be a 'textbook' example of the English medieval manor house[11] and is a Grade I-listed building.[12]


Oxfordshire population pyramid in 2021

See also: List of places in Oxfordshire and List of civil parishes in Oxfordshire

Wantage Market Place
Rank Town Population Year Definition Notes
1 Oxford 162,100 2021 Oxford non-metropolitan district
2 Banbury 54,335 2021 Civil parish
3 Abingdon-on-Thames 37,931 2021 Civil parish In Berkshire until 1974.
4 Bicester 37,020 2021 Civil parish
5 Didcot 32,183 2021 Civil parish 200 dwellings in the south-east of the town lie in neighbouring East Hagbourne parish. In Berkshire until 1974.
6 Witney 31,217 2021 Civil parish
7 Carterton 15,680 2021 Civil parish
8 Kidlington 13,600 2021 Civil parish Does not include Gosford.
9 Thame 13,273 2021 Civil parish Includes hamlet of Moreton.
10 Wantage 13,106 2021 Civil parish In Berkshire until 1974.
11 Henley-on-Thames 12,186 2021 Civil parish
12 Faringdon 8,627 2021 Great Faringdon civil parish In Berkshire until 1974.
13 Wallingford 8,455 2021 Civil parish In Berkshire until 1974.
14 Grove 8,336 2021 Civil parish
15 Chinnor 7,651 2021 Civil parish
16 Chipping Norton 7,250 2021 Civil parish
17 Eynsham 5,324 2021 Civil parish
18 Benson 4,801 2021 Civil parish
19 Wheatley 4,267 2021 Civil parish
20 Sonning Common 4,138 2021 Civil Parish
21 Kennington 4,133 2021 Civil parish
22 Woodstock 3,521 2021 Civil parish
23 Charlbury 3,063 2021 Civil parish
24 Bampton 2,993 2021 Civil parish
25 Watlington 2,697 2021 Civil parish
26 Deddington 2,301 2021 Civil parish

Places of interest

Main article: List of museums in Oxfordshire

See also: List of attractions in Oxford

Accessible open space Accessible open space
Amusement/Theme Park
Country Park Country Park
English Heritage
Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Places of Worship Places of Worship
Museum (free)
Museum (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust

See also


  1. ^ Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  2. ^ includes hunting and forestry
  3. ^ includes energy and construction
  4. ^ includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured


  1. ^ "No. 62943". The London Gazette. 13 March 2020. p. 5161.
  2. ^ a b "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2022". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2024. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  3. ^ UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Oxfordshire Local Authority (E10000025)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Homepage". Archived from the original on 23 November 2002. Retrieved 16 November 2002.
  5. ^ Edwardes, Simon (2001). "County and Unitary Authority Tops". The Mountains of England and Wales. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  6. ^ "Regional Gross Value Added" (PDF). pp. 240–253. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2011.
  7. ^ "Six of world's top 20 universities are in UK". BBC. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Four Worlds of Work: Preparing students for the global market". Study International. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Economic Statistics". Oxford City Council. Archived from the original on 17 December 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  10. ^ The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay archives.
  11. ^ Currie 1992, p. 225.
  12. ^ Historic England. "The Abbey (1052729)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  13. ^ Christopher Gale (7 July 2012). "Abingdon County Hall Museum". Archived from the original on 13 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  14. ^ "Home page". Chipping Norton History Society and Museum. Archived from the original on 16 May 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Home". Archived from the original on 10 September 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  16. ^ "Oxfordshire". Milton Manor House. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  17. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Sherwood, Jennifer (1974). The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300096392.
  18. ^ Glitz. "Wheatley Windmill Website". Archived from the original on 24 July 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014.

Further reading

51°45′N 1°17′W / 51.75°N 1.28°W / 51.75; -1.28