Wychwood and Cornbury

Wychwood and Cornbury

by Charles Tyzack

Wychwood is a familiar name, though the forest it refers to has largely disappeared. In the Middle Ages the Royal Hunting Forest of Wychwood occupied much of what is now West Oxfordshire, though the term denoted an area devoted to hunting rather than one entirely covered in trees. Gradually it decayed, until it consisted only of the much smaller Royal Demesne Forest around Leafield. In its turn most of this was converted to farmland in the 1850s, leaving only a small portion surviving as part of the Cornbury Estate. (You can download the introductory chapter free at the foot of this page.)

Cornbury too was once a Royal Forest, but in the 1300s it became a park. In 1660 it was given by Charles II to the first Earl of Clarendon, who built there one of the great houses of Oxfordshire.

Harvey du Cros, whose company made and marketed the Dunlop pneumatic tyre and owner of Cornbury from 1896 to 1901, built a tower (left) which was demolished by the next owner, Vernon Watney, a few years later.

In 1910 Vernon Watney (right, in 1916) published his magnificent history, Cornbury and the Forest of Wychwood, now a valuable collector's item. Taking this as his starting point, but including the results of more recent research, Charles Tyzack retells the story of the Forest and its slow decline, together with the building of Cornbury and its links with some of the great names of English history.

A century ago Cornbury had extensive greenhouses (left) and was largely self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables, including bananas, orchids, grapes, peaches and melons.

The present book includes a number of portraits reproduced from Watney's book, together with illustrations from other sources and maps specially drawn by Ann Buckmaster.

Charles Tyzack
retired to Charlbury in 1998, after teaching English at universities in Wales and China.

£12.50 pbk 176pp illustrated with maps, photographs and paintings
The Wychwood Press, 2003
Jon Carpenter,
16 Nov 2009, 10:20