The Wytham Estate was acquired by the University in 1942, mainly as a gift, and is a site of exceptional scientific interest and biodiversity. It encompasses precious ancient woodland and other key habitats, and is home to 500 species of plant and 800 species of moths and butterflies.
It has inspired and nurtured ecological projects over many decades. But the importance of Wytham goes beyond the natural ‘communities’ to which it is home: it has a rich social, economic, and architectural history, too.
For all its close associations to Oxford, Wytham was part of Berkshire until as late as 1974. There was a settlement of ordinary people by the time of the Domesday Book with a church built originally by the early twelfth century. The wealthy and important abbey of Abingdon owned most of the lands here and there were connections with the neighbouring nunnery of Godstow. The stone manor house was built in the sixteenth century and became the residence of lords of the manor, the Lords Norreys and the earls of Abingdon, who in the 19th century redesigned the house, calling it Wytham Abbey, and landscaped the surrounding parkland. After World War One the earls sold the estate to the ffennell family who used it, with the riches they had amassed from gold mining in South Africa, to fulfil a range of philanthropic activities, most notably the ideal of giving children from communities in Oxford and from London’s East End the chance to experience the countryside and the outdoors. That tradition continues at the Hill End site on the estate, beloved of many Oxford schoolchildren.
Wytham Estate is one of the University’s greatest treasures. This interdisciplinary day school, presented as part of a wider University community history project, will enhance your knowledge and understanding of the history, buildings, and natural environment of this extraordinary place, and perhaps whet your appetite for research into the many facets of its past that remain to be explored.
For more information and to register for this event, please visit the Department for Continuing Education website:
Deadline for submitting applications: 15 November 2023