It is now a village and civil parish in Aylesbury Vale district in Buckinghamshire, England with about 400 households and a population of 1,059 people (2001 Census) within an area of 2,206 acres (893 ha).
11th to 13th centuries
Before the Norman Conquest two hides of land in Oakley belonged to Alwid (or Ælfgeth) the maid, and another half a hide of land granted her by Godric the sheriff on condition that she taught his daughter embroidery. Alwid is supposed to have been the same lady who held lands in Wiltshire under the name of Leuide, embroiderer to the King and Queen.
Oakley, like many English settlements, has its first written mention in the Domesday Book in 1086. It was a settlement in the Hundred of Ixhill. Robert Doyley, son of Walter, held Achelei (as Oakley was called). The exact area is not known, since borders with other local villages were not specified. The village was valued at £6, and its land consisted of 5¾ hides; with Oakley’s clay soil the total cultivated land would have been around . Seven ploughs, three by the Lord of the Manor and four by nine villagers (consisting of seven smallholdings) tilled the land. There were three slaves in the village and there was enough woodland for 200 pigs. Other local places mentioned in the Domesday Book were Brill, Addingrove and Nashway.
The earliest parts, the nave and some pillars, of the present church date from around 1100. In 1142 Empress Matilda granted Oakley parish church, with its chapels of Brill, Boarstall and Addingrove to the monks of St. Frideswide's Priory, in Oxford. St Frideswide's Monastery much later became Christ Church, Oxford. In 1208 William Basset was confirmed by King John, the knight's fee of Oakley (i.e. the Manor of Oakley), which his grandfather Osmund had held by charter of Brian FitzCount. In 1222 Ralphe de Norwich became first Rector of Oakley, appointed by the Henry III who had recovered the right of advowson by judgement of his Court at Westminster. Ralphe later founded the priory at Chetwode in 1226. A transaction in 1224 mentions selions (cultivated strips of land) in Oakley, suggesting an open field system, i.e. no fences or hedges. The Oakley area would have been a populated landscape of mixed farming and woodland, with roadways, drovers' roads, flocks of sheep, herds of cattle and pigs, small areas of meadow, and open fields of barley and oats (and possibly some wheat).
14th to 16th centuries
1327 John de Abingdon became the first vicar of Oakley (as opposed to rector). 1349 William de Grauntpont died in office as vicar of Oakley, probably of the Black Death. The first estimate of Oakley's population was, made by Lysons, of 257 in 1377.
In 1522 Oakley’s population of men eligible for military service (ages 16–60) was estimated at 140. The oldest existing houses in the village date from around this time. In 1570 coppicing enclosures drew complaints from Richard Leigh of Oakley (lord of Oakley). In 1586 Oakley had about 248 inhabitants in 56 households (22 landholders and 58 with small cottages within the Forest). These figures were drawn up by Hugh Cope of Oakley in his Court of the Exchequer return.
In 1589 Roman Catholic layman Thomas Belson escaped capture in Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire and fled to Ixhill Lodge in Oakley, where he hid in a priest hole. After some time he went to Oxford but was captured, tried and convicted in London and was hanged, drawn and quartered in Oxford.
In 1603 the Return of Communicants gave Oakley's population as 238. In the period 1622 to 1635 the Crown decided to remove Royal Forest status from Bernwood Forest, along with the severe laws protecting its contents (wood, animals and people). This was a most significant event for Oakley (and Brill and Boarstall), and transformed the economic balance of society. It modernised the farming structures of the communities in ways that left problems of poverty and rural under-employment for the smallholders and the landless.
The process of disafforestation — analogous in modern terms to privatisation — should not be confused with deforestation, meaning to strip a forest of its trees. Nevertheless, disafforestation of Bernwood Forest led to a gradual deforestation over subsequent centuries.
The Cottrell-Dormer enumeration of cottages recorded Oakley's population as 122 in 1622. In 1626 nine men were summoned to Aylesbury to resolve disafforestation issues. Two, Sir Timothy Tyrrell and John Dynham were from Oakley.
The effect of the English Civil War of 1642–46 on Oakley is unrecorded. It was near the front line between the Parliamentarian and Royalist sides. It was at this time the church font was smashed, according to local tradition, by Parliamentarian troops. Foraging by soldiers from both sides would have made caused even more problems to local villagers exacerbating problems due to disafforestation. In 1662, according to Hearth tax returns the population was 238. The Compton Census returned a population of 258 for Oakley in 1676.
Bishop Wake's visitation returns recorded Oakley as having 216 inhabitants. In 1713 a lace school is recorded as being in the village. On 8 May 1718 George I made William Cadogan the 1st Baron Cadogan of Oakley. Oakley's surviving parish records start in 1726, later than many English parishes. Most local parishes have registers dating from the 16th century, Worminghall going back to 1538.
The index of the Poll for Knights of the Shire for the County of Bucks in April, 1784, listed 11 knights in Oakley: Edward Batt, Thomas Dorrington, Isaac Fennimore, Thomas Hawes, Francis Kirby, Leonard Paulin, Robert Piers, Thomas Needham Rees, John Stevens, Reverend Robert Twicross and Thomas Wyatt.
In 1790 Mark Ing was recorded as being a member of the Oakley Morris Men. In 1798 Buckinghamshire was the only county to have kept a complete record of an early census called Posse Commitatus. Oakley at this time had 21 farmers, a cordwainer, a carpenter, a pedlar and a schoolmaster (although Oakley’s school was not established until the 1850s). 24 labourers and 12 other men were listed.
The United Kingdom Census of 1801 recorded 257 inhabitants in 65 families living in 34 houses recorded in Oakley. The 1811 dcensus recorded 325 people in Oakley. The first attempt to enclose Oakley was in 1818 and was unsuccessful.
382 people were recorded in the 1821 census. In the same year, the enclosure of common land was opposed by a mob that tried to prevent the attorney attaching notice of it to the church door. Villagers were outraged because large areas of land were granted to local landowners and were sold to cover the cost of the enclosure. Only were awarded to smallholders and only were set aside for the poor. The poor in Oakley would have to survive on what was left of Poor Folk’s Pasture in Boarstall parish, itself subject to stringent eligibility rules. The enclosure listed every landowner in the village. The 1831 census gave Oakley's population as 413. In 1833 a turnpike was approved between Bicester and Thame, passing through the centre of Oakley. This is now the B4011 and bypasses the village.
The first four censuses were merely a head count, but the United Kingdom Census 1841 was more detailed.
The 1851 census noted that houses had been demolished in Oakley as villagers left (for English cities and emigration to the Americas). The population was 425.
Oakley School was first recorded in use in 1853, in what is now School Lane. The first headmaster was Henry Fenemore.
In the 1860s Charles Edmund Clutterbuck, a master stained glass artist, made two windows for the parish church. They are the south window in the vestry and the east window in the north aisle. Between the years 1880-1887 Oakley church was re-dedicated from Saint Matthew to Saint Mary.
In 1889 a new local magazine was first printed, Waddesdon Deanery News. There was no mention of any Oakley people in the page of Oakley news in issue 1. However, in issue Number 2 in February 1889 carried the story about a pantomime and concert at the school – a complete success that befittingly crowned the exertions and careful organisations of its promoter, Miss Boys. A full-dress rehearsal of the piece was given on the previous evening to the Sunday School. Children were not invited in vain, a tea feast (generously given by Mrs. Kirby) winding up an extra-special treat, which coming as a surprise was all the more thoroughly enjoyed.
The first Parish Council was formed on 19 December 1894. Its members were Thomas Brooks, James Eborn, Rev. William Greenwood, James Kirby and Thomas Kirby.
Oakley Public Library (in the Lady Verney Reading Room) was opened on 17 February 1911 and closed in 1936.
During the First Wold War village boys went to war and 23 gave their lives for their country, including four brothers named Measey. Charles, Frank, George and Thomas were the sons of Joseph and Martha Measey (née Gladdy) of The Royal Oak. Thomas the first to be killed was a private in the 101st Machine Gun Corps. He died on 20 January 1917 aged 33 and was buried at the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery at Armentieres in France. Charles was a private in the 146th Machine Gun Corps and was killed on 11 November 1917. He is buried at the Aeroplane Cemetery in Belgium. Frank was a corporal in the 7th Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was killed in action on 22 June 1918 and was buried at the Karasouli Military Cemetery on the Macedonian front in Greece. George the fourth son to be die, was a private in the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He ended up as a wounded prisoner of war at the Hotel Berthad at Chateau Loes in Switzerland and died of illness on 5 October 1918. He is buried at St. Martin's Cemetery, Vevey, Switzerland.
The alehouse called The Foresters on the Bicester Road closed in about 1919. An alehouse was an ordinary domestic house in which people were allowed to come into the kitchen or front room to drink beer, but not spirits.
In 1934, by Bucks Review Order, Little London, then part of Brill, was added to Oakley. On 27 May 1942 RAF Oakley became operational, initially a satellite airfield for RAF Bicester and then in August 1942 as RAF Westcott’s satellite. The 11th Operational Training Unit (OTU) moved to Westcott in September 1942, many Vickers Wellingtons were based at Oakley. After Victory in Europe Day in 1945, orders were received to clear the hangar and fit it for the provision of refreshment and succour to thousands of repatriated prisoners of war brought here as part of Operation Exodus. RAF Oakley was closed to military flying in August of that year. Two men from Oakley died in the war and are commemorated on the Oakley Roll of Honour.
Halls Brewery gave the playing fields to Oakley Village in 1948.
In 1957 Oakley Village Hall was completed having been built and financed by the village. In 1959 the original Oakley School in Bicester Road was closed and Oakley Combined School in Worminghall Road was opened, the first new post-war school to be built in Aylesbury Vale. The Sun Inn, an alehouse rather than a public house, closed in about 1961.
In 1963 Oakley was centre of national and international news, when Leatherslade Farm near Oakley was used as a hideout by the criminal gang involved in The Great Train Robbery. John Maris, a local farm worker, alerted police to the hideout at Leatherslade Farm. John Wooley, local policeman from Brill was the first policeman to go to the hideout.
On 16 January 1991 Malcolm Rifkind opened the section of the M40 Motorway: the stretch between Waterstock and Wendlebury, passing through Oakley parish. In 1997 the Oakley Village Appraisal / ACORN report reviewed what villagers thought about the village and what changes they would like to see. It was the most successful village appraisal in Buckinghamshire for a village of Oakley's size, with over 70% response.
In 2003 Oakley featured in national and international news again through an exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery. The guest speakers included the mastermind behind the robbery and ex-gang-leader Bruce Reynolds, John Wooley and John Maris (see above) - all meeting for the first time. On show were memorabilia from the robbery, Bruce Reynold's Lotus Cortina, the lorry and one of the Land Rovers used in the raid. Like many other English villages, Oakley has in recent years lost its Post Office, shop, surgery and filling station. Remaining businesses include two public houses (the Chandos Arms and Royal Oak) and the garage.
The village has a football club, Oakley United.
Birth, marriage and death certificates can now be ordered online from Buckinghamshire County Council. The full postal address is Buckinghamshire Register Office, County Hall, Walton Street, Aylesbury, HP20 1YU.
The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies (County Hall, Walton Street, Aylesbury, HP20 1UU) holds
In Buckinghamshire, as with other counties in England and Wales, the location of offices where Births, Marriages and Deaths were registered has altered with other changes in local government. A list of the location of Registration Offices since civil registration began in 1837 has been prepared by GENUKI (Genealogy: United Kingdom and Ireland). The table also gives details of when each Registration Office was in existence. In the case of Buckinghamshire, the same registration offices were used for the censuses since 1851.
Nineteenth Century Local Administration
English Jurisdictions is a webpage provided by FamilySearch which analyses every ecclesiastical parish in England at the year 1851. It provides, with the aid of outline maps, the date at which parish records and bishops transcripts begin, non-conformist denominations with a chapel within the parish, the names of the jurisdictions in charge: county, civil registration district, probate court, diocese, rural deanery, poor law union, hundred, church province; and links to FamilySearch historical records, FamilySearch Catalog and the FamilySearch Wiki. Two limitations: only England, and at the year 1851.
During the 19th century two bodies, the Poor Law Union and the Sanitary District, had responsibility for governmental functions at a level immediately above that covered by the civil parish. In 1894 these were replace by Rural and Urban Districts. These were elected bodies, responsible for setting local property assessments and taxes as well as for carrying out their specified duties. Thses districts continued in operation until 1974. Urban districts for larger municipalities were called "Municipal Boroughs" and had additional powers and obligations.
Poor Law Unions, established nationally in 1834, combined parishes together for the purpose of providing relief for the needy who had no family support. This led to the building of '"union poorhouses" or "workhouses" funded by all the parishes in the union. The geographical boundaries established for the individual Poor Law Unions were employed again when Registration Districts were formed three years later. In 1875 Sanitary Districts were formed to provide services such as clean water supply, sewage systems, street cleaning, and the clearance of slum housing. These also tended to follow the same geographical boundaries, although there were local alterations caused by changes in population distribution.
Online Historical References