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home > Towns & Villages > About Abingdon on Thames > Nuneham Courtenay

Nuneham Courtenay

Nuneham Courtenay is a village is five miles south east of Oxford on the A4074. It’s an unusual village of small, mainly semi-detached, single storey, and very uniform cottages which line each side of the main road.

The village was originally listed as 'Newham' in the Domesday Book. It was set inside Nuneham Park and consisted of pretty white cottages scattered around a piece of water and shaded by a number of fine trees. However in 1760 the whole village was rebuilt and relocated on the main road because the 1st Earl of Harcourt thought the existing medieval cottages spoiled the view from his new house and landscaped park.

The name 'Nuneham' means 'new village' and the 'Courtenay' part of the name comes from the Curtenay Family, who lived here in the thirteenth century.

The highest point in the parish is a hill 316 feet (96 m) above sea level, about 0.5 miles (800 m) south of the present village. It is called Windmill Hill, but no evidence of a windmill survives.

There are sporadic records of one or more locks on the River Thames at Newenham. One called "Bunselock" was referred to in 1279. In the 16th century the river seems to have had three locks at Newenham. A map of 1707 shows a flash lock on the channel past a small island opposite the appropriately-named Lock Wood. In 1716 it was repaired at the expense of the first Viscount.

By 1707 Newenham Courtenay had a ferry linking it with Lower Radley across the river. This continued to operate after the 1st Viscount removed Newenham Courtenay village.
In 1809 the Countess Harcourt opened a school for the village, run by a schoolmistress and supervised by the vicar.

The 18th century village was designed with a pair of large houses facing each other across the main road at the north end. That on the west side was the New Inn, then the Harcourt Arms and now trades as Cockadoo Bar and Restaurant. That on the east side was a blacksmith's forge and in the 20th century has been a car showroom. and Threadneedle House is now home to Emma Walker Flowers. Nuneham has also a post office and village hall.

Archbishop Harcourt commissioned the architect Robert Smirke to make unaesthetic but functional extensions to the house. Archbishop Harcourt destroyed Mason's flower garden and most of its sculptures, but he also bought and added adjacent land in Marsh Baldon parish to extend the park eastwards as far as the Oxford–Dorchester main road. On this new land he had the artist W.S. Gilpin build a Doric entrance lodge in about 1830 and plant a pinetum in 1835. Further alterations to the house were made in 1904.

Claim to fame:

In 1963 the pinetum became Harcourt Arboretum, part of the tree and plant collection of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden.  It includes 10 acres (4 ha) of woodland and a 37-acre (15 ha) wild-flower meadow.


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