Stone Pit and Lock-Up

  • 1905 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, but this actually the map produced by Arkell
  • Arkell Map emphasising band of limestone and Kimmeridge Clay
  • Band of limestone with names of pits
  • Named pits on current Google Earth map
  • Looking across the Parish Pit to the Sun Inn, long before Templar's Close was built
  • Hand-drawn map with pit names
  • Evolution of limestone from 130-160 million years ago
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. However, contemporary press reports refer to them as Lock-ups and not as either Blind houses or Round Houses.

This building was a temporary prison built in 1834 by Cooper, the local mason, 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 all that was left after the excavation of a major limestone quarry, which had provided 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 then used for all sorts of unsavoury purposes, including badger-baiting and bull-baiting and for burning waste. As a consequence of the latter, it was plagued by rats and snakes.

Cock-fighting appears to have taken place within inns or houses. For example, on 2 April 1808, the Oxford Journal had advertised ‘A Main of Cocks will be fought at the Crown Inn, Wheatley, on Thursday and Friday, the 7th and 8th April, between the Gentlemen of Oxfordshire and the Gentlemen of Berkshire’

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. As confirmed in the Parish Council Minute Book, this was literally a rubbish pit which had been let out to Bullingdon Rural District Council for 10 years in 1938. Reports in the Minutes that levelling was complete by 1947 were premature, but it seems that this was finally achieved in 1950 when work started on the children’s playground section and, presumably, the remaining area was seeded. It is now the Recreation Ground and 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.

In 1855 in respect of another and unidentified part of the Stone Pit, there was an agreement between William Sanders, undergraduate of Magdalen College, and William Rogers of Wheatley, wheelwright (he is confirmed by the trade directory of that year). Sanders let the eastern portion of the stone pit for three years on condition that Rogers shall pick up the whole surface to loosen it, fill up holes, move all heaps of gravel or mould, level it and bring the whole surface into good cultivation …cultivate the land in a husband-like manner…“paying 2s  6d  each year. It went on ‘Should any portion of the ground brought into cultivation be needed for working the stone pit Rogers to be paid compensation as determined by two independent persons one chosen by each party, who, before they enter upon their arbitration shall appoint a third person whose decision shall be final.’ (Source Marshall deeds).

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. The Arkell map is shown with The limestone and Kimmeridge Clay areas.

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). The most common misconception about limestone is that it's a soft stone. In reality, limestone can range from very hard to soft

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

Wheatley limestone (shown on the sketch as W.L) was being deposited 130-160 million years ago, in and around Wheatley there were small coral reef patches forming. in tghe sea. See also record 1211

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