Oakley

Oakley is a small village of some 1300 inhabitants, situated at the foot of Brill hill between Thame and Bicester on the B4011. Many years ago it was almost surrounded by woodland and forests which were used by royalty to hunt wild boar - hence the name Boarstall, our adjoining village, from as early as Saxon times. Oakley is mentioned in the Domesday Book as 'Acheleia' and later records call it 'Ockley'. There are many interesting houses in the village including the Elizabethan College Farm House which has a wealth of old beams and an unusual open inglenook fireplace upstairs. Oakley House used to be a hunting lodge and was rebuilt as it is today in 1660 after being burned down. It has some very interesting stone mullion windows. The Paddock Cottage has the round back of the old bread oven showing on the outside wall. Manor Farm is a very imposing farmhouse overlooking the Nap with its moat opposite the church. Hedges Farm was built in the late 17th century in red and blue bricks and has a wealth of interior beams. The Old Cottages dates also from the 17th century and was converted from three cottages. The beamed ceilings are very low and the house also features some large open fireplaces. In the centre of the village there is The Old Forge dated 1892. There have been many modern developments and numerous old cottages have been restored and enlarged.
The general appearance of the village changed enormously due to the scourge of Dutch elm disease which left Oakley very open and flat. However the chestnuts around the church and the Manor are a pleasure to all. Sadly the Sequoia tree in the old vicarage garden which had been a landmark for miles around was destroyed by lightning in 1985.
Our church is a very charming and peaceful place despite being on the main road. It has been developed over many centuries, the Nave being 12th century, the north aisle, chancel, sanctuary and south transept early 14th century, various windows are 15th and 16th century and a modern porch has been added on the south door.
The chief form of industry in the past was agriculture, but now most people seek their fortune in Oxford, Aylesbury, Bicester and London.

The hide-out of the notorious Great Train Robbers of the 1960s is Oakley's rather dubious claim to fame. Situated on the outskirts of the village, Leatherslade Farm was very well hidden on a lonely hillside up a narrow track, the house completely surrounded by trees. Now the big elms have all gone and the building can be seen from the main road.

The robbers took up residence some three months before the robbery and used the village stores for some of their supplies. The padlocking of the track gate onto the road immediately after the robbery gave the only clue to their whereabouts.
The peace of the village is threatened today by the proposed extension of the M40 motorway, which it is planned to run within I.5 miles of the village centre.

Article written by members of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes for the publication "The Buckinghamshire Village Book" (1987) and reproduced here with their permission