North Leigh - Social and Economic History

Social and Economic History

By AD 1005 there was an east-west road through Bladon, Long Hanborough and North Leigh parish that was the main link between Witney and Oxford. Over the centuries its course changed and it was straightened, and in 1751 it was made into a turnpike. It ceased to be a turnpike in 1869, and the modern course of the road is now classified the A4095.

North Leigh's first record of a public house is from 1587, when Richard Breakspear was licenced as an ale-house keeper. In 1774 North Leigh three ale-houses: the Chequers, the Dun Cow and the King's Arms, but the Chequers and the Kings Arms had ceased trading by 1795. The Dun Cow was on the main road opposite the north gate of Eynsham Park. It too had ceased trading by the 1820s. By 1847 there were two new pubs: the Harcourt Arms and the Parker Arms. The Parker Arms ceased trading about 1870. The Harcourt Arms used a house dating from 1783, and was turned back into a private house in 1984. North Leigh's next recorded pub was the Mason Arms, which had opened by 1871 and remains open today.

In 1642 Royalist troops were billeted in the village after the English Civil War Battle of Edgehill and "plundered and pillaged" the neighbourhood. On 4 June 1644 Charles I, while retreating from Oxford, spent the night at Perrotts Hill Farm before continuing westwards to Burford.

In the centre of the village is North Leigh windmill. It is a tower mill built in 1833 by Joseph Shepherd, who was a baker as well as a miller. It was restored in 1881 and 1933, but during the Second World War the cap was removed in 1940 to make an observation post. This led the interior of the building to fall into decay, and in the 1980s West Oxfordshire District Council tried to compel the owner to repair it. The mill still lacks sails, but it now has a new cap to make it weatherproof.

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