(originally published - July 2008)
Our local Royalist, Daniel Blackford, lies in a place of honour in the aisle of Oxhill Church. However the other side did not go unrepresented here, and on the nights of 25th and 26th June, 1644, Oxhill was the site of a Parliamentarian encampment of horse. King and Parliamentary forces criss-crossed the Midlands that summer, destroying bridges as they went, and depleting local food supplies. In June, 1644 (two years after the battle of Edgehill) Waller’s army, marching from Stow, reached “Shipston-on Stower,” where the exhausted foot soldiers were quartered, while his cavalry came on to Oxhill.
It is probable that the church was used as accommodation for horse or men, as often happened, and it would be surprising if a visit over two days had not left some marks. There is an old local legend told to me by Bert Bloxham that might apply here, although it has been assumed to relate to the battle of Edgehill two years earlier. The story goes that soldiers sharpened their swords on the smaller window on the south (far) side of the church chancel. I have always been uncertain of the Edgehill connection, as there was to my knowledge no large band of soldiers in the village at that time. Local combatants such as Daniel Blackford would probably have born pikes, and in any case would have had their own whetstones at home for any swords. Nevertheless, the window’s mullions are quite noticeably flattened, and if this is due to sword sharpening it seems to me more likely that it would have been done by the troops quartered here in 1644.
Another thought. A month before they visited Oxhill, Waller’s soldiers had torn down the old market cross at Abingdon. I wonder if it was they who destroyed the top of Oxhill’s preaching cross, whose stump remains to the right of the churchyard path? Could be!