Stone Pit and Lock-Up

  • Taunt picture of the Stone pit and lock-up with the church in the back ground taken in 1887
  • The 1362 document
  • Extract from OS map of 1890s
  • Map showing Wheatley limestone area from Hassall's book
Archive Notes:

Taunt photo of the quarry, stone pit and lock-up with the church in the back ground taken in 1887. Also a 2-page press article on the Wheatley and other Round Houses.

This building was a temporary prison built in 1834 in the corner of the parish stone pit, where bull¬baiting continued after its suppression elsewhere. It was built of stones out of the parish pit. The date 1834 is quite certain as there are details about it in the minute book of the Vestry, as the body which then ruled the parish was called. The Lock-up was only used as such for six years. See article on record 680 explaining the background to the need for this lock-up.

The Parish Pit or Village Pit was a major limestone quarry, providing some high quality stone for many Wheatley buildings and for the building of Windsor Castle, Wallingford Castle, Merton and Magdalen Colleges. As a pit, it was used for all sorts of unsavoury purposes, including bullbaiting, badger-baiting and cock-fighting and for burning waste. As a consequence of the latter, it was plagued by rats and snakes.

In 1813 it was just described as a ‘Stone Pit’ with no owner. In 1852, it was owned by the Surveyors of Highways and in 1910 by Wheatley Urban District Council. Gerald said that it was largely filled in with ash and then topped with a little topsoil, but Jack Turner says that any digging in it reveals broken glass etc. So, it seems that it was literally a rubbish pit finally completely filled by the second half of the 1940s when grass-seed was presumably sown on it. It is now the Recreation Ground, known then as the King George VI Recreation Ground. Its unevenness is probably down to the very rough and ready way that it was created.

But if you go left to the row of trees, you will see the original depth of the quarry, and the cliff-face created.

The stone quarries (see map sourced from W. Hassall, Wheatley Records, p.18) provided work for many people. Not only were quarrymen needed but masons to prepare the stone and carters for transport over a wide area. It is known that Wheatley stone was used in the construction of Windsor Castle in the 14th century.

Merton College chapel was largely built from Wheatley stone in the 1290s, see W. Hassall, Wheatley Records, p.22 and Plate 12.. There is a document from 1362 regarding the appointment of William Cok to supply stone for Windsor Castle. Accounts from Abingdon Abbey in 1383- 84 show that the transport route was to Sandford and then by barge along the Thames. It is interesting to note that there were varying qualities of stone bought for different uses.

Headington quarry appears to have usurped Wheatley as a source of stone for Oxford buildings by 1400. It is a reasonable assumption, however, that Wheatley quarries were used for the many existing stone buildings in Wheatley which date from the 16th to 19th centuries, with the new Church built by Street in 1856 being the last major stone building which used Wheatley stone.

Map by Jack Turner showing Roman aspects of Wheatley which also identifies the Charlgrove (his spelling) or Chalgrove pit at the west end of Westfield.

Map and pdf on 'Wheatley limestone quarries' by Michael Heaton showing this and other pits on an OS map (with geological map inset).

See Victoria County History on record 1536 for more detail on where and when the Wheatley limestone was used.

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