On the drive back to London I took a short diversion from the more direct M40 route to enjoy an peaceful hour walking the water road at Thrupp, on the South Oxford just outside Kidlington.
It’s a grand spot! And, on a dramatic early May morning with thunderstorms threatening, it was the perfect place to breathe deep and allow the granny-knots in my shoulders a chance to unravel.
Before the Norman Conquest, Stigand – Archbishop of Canterbury – held the manor of Thrupp. In 1070 Stigand was deposed and William the Conqueror confiscated his lands. William granted Thrupp to Roger d’Ivry, who sold it to Wadard, a knight in William’s court. In 1086 Thrupp was such a small settlement that the Domesday Book did not record it as having any tenants.
The present Manor Farm buildings (located adjacent to Canal Road, and to the rear of the Thrupp sanitary station) date from the early part of the 17th century. As well as the farmhouse there are a granary and dovecote remaining from the same period.
In 1788 the Oxford Canal was extended southwards from Northbrook Lock just north of Tackley towards Kidlington and Oxford. It ran roughly parallel to the River Cherwell until Thrupp Turn, where it turns away from the river in a right-angle around Manor Farm in order to approach Oxford along the valley of the River Thames rather than the River Cherwell.
The canal company diverted the Cherwell in the process of building the canal, previously it had run along the line the canal now takes as far as The Wide and then continued into Canal Yard and the site of the manorial watermill. The canal company bought the watermill and demolished most of it. Remnants of the mill wheel were found beneath one of three thatched cottages built by the Canal Company, which still stand in Canal Yard. These thatched cottages used to be called Salt Row, and one historian suggests that they served as salt warehouses.
In the 18th century Thrupp had two public houses: the Axe which is now the Boat Inn, and the Three Horseshoes which closed in 1924. In the 20th century the Britannia opened on the main Banbury Road. It has since been renamed the Jolly Boatman. Both the Boat Inn and the Jolly Boatman are now controlled by Greene King Brewery.
Thrupp has no Church of England parish church of its own. In 1876 Woodstock Baptist Church converted a house, opposite the Boat Inn, into a chapel. In 1953 the Baptists built a new church in nearby Kidlington, and in 1954 Thrupp chapel was closed and sold. It has since been converted back into a house, but retains the external appearance of a chapel. The remains of a 15th century cross carved from local Jurassic limestone, which may have originally stood on the main Banbury Road, now stands in front of the former chapel. the cross itself has been lost, but the base and a rather weathered shaft survive.
The church was built in the latter part of the 12th century, and enlarged in the 13th century. It was demolished in 1831 and replaced by a new Georgian Gothic Revival Church of England parish church designed by the artist William Turner who lived at the manor house.
Shipton Manor House was built in the 16th or 17th century. William Turner lived there from 1804 with his uncle, also William Turner. He was married there in 1824 and is buried in the churchyard with his wife. In 1896 a memorial chancel screen was installed in the church, with a brass plaque reading “Erected in memory of William Turner of Oxford, Water Colour Painter and architect of this church.”
In the 20th century Richard Branson owned the manor house and turned it into The Manor Studio, a recording studio for Virgin Records. Albums recorded there included Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield in 1972–73 and Born Again by Black Sabbath in 1983. In 1995 it was closed as a recording studio by EMI (by then the owner of Virgin Records). It is now the country home of the Marquess of Headfort.
All round, this was a fascinating and rewarding hour. I wish I could have lingered longer, particularly around Shipton-on-Cherwell church. But that’ll have to wait for another day.