South Leigh


:''There is also a Southleigh in Devon.'' South Leigh is a village and
civil parish In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration Public administration is the implementation of public policy, gove ...
on Limb Brook, a small tributary of the
River Thames The River Thames ( ), known alternatively in parts as the The Isis, River Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London. At , it is the longest river entirely in England and the Longest rivers of the United Kingdom, se ...
, about east of
Witney Witney is a historic market town on the River Windrush The River Windrush is a tributary of the River Thames The River Thames ( ), known alternatively in parts as the River Isis, is a river that flows through southern England includi ...

Oxfordshire Oxfordshire is a landlocked county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), ...

. The
2011 Census2011 censuses were conducted in the following countries: * Australia: Census in Australia * Austria: Demographics of Austria * Bangladesh: 2011 Bangladesh Census * Bulgaria: Demographics of Bulgaria * Canada: Canada 2011 Census * Croatia: 2011 Censu ...
recorded the parish's population as 336.


South Leigh was not mentioned in the
Domesday Book Domesday Book () – the Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. The English language underwent ...
of 1086, but was recorded in 1190 as ''Stanton Lega''. The
manor house#REDIRECT Manor house A manor house was historically the main residence of the lord of the manor. The house formed the administrative centre of a manor in the European feudal system; within its great hall were held the lord's manorial court ...
was built in the second half of the 16th century. It is now called Church Farm House. In the middle of the 17th century William Gore acquired the manor. The Gores consolidated South Leigh as a separate estate within
Stanton Harcourt Stanton Harcourt is a village and civil parish In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration Public administ ...
parish, but this led to a series of disputes over landholdings intermixed between the two. When Stanton Harcourt's
common land Common land is land owned by a person or collectively by a number of persons, over which other persons have certain common rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect wood, or to cut turf for fuel. A person who has a ...
s were being
enclosed Enclosure, sometimes termed inclosure, was the legal process in England of land consolidation, consolidating (enclosing) small landholdings into larger farms from the 13th century onward. Once enclosed, use of the land became restricted and av ...

in 1773, its enclosure commissioners suggested promoting a single Parliamentary bill to enclose both estates. Edward Gore and his tenants in South Leigh disagreed due to the unresolved boundary disputes and consequent disagreement over what lands would be allotted to whom under the enclosure award. Instead Stanton Harcourt's enclosure commissioners were empowered to settle a definitive boundary between the two estates.

Church and chapel

Church of England

Church of England parish church A parish church in the Church of England is the church which acts as the religious centre for the people within each Church of England parish (the smallest and most basic Church of England administrative unit; since the 19th century sometimes ca ...
Saint James the Great James the Great, also known as James, son of Zebedee or as Saint James the Greater ( Aramaic: ܝܥܩܘܒ ܒܪ ܙܒܕܝ; Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE.Semitic langua ...
began as a
chapel A chapel is a Christian place of prayer and worship that is usually relatively small. The term has several meanings. Firstly, smaller spaces inside a church that have their own altar are often called chapels; the Lady chapel is a common type ...

of the parish of Stanton Harcourt, and remained so until 1868. The oldest parts of the church building date from the latter part of the 12th century. The present
chancel In church architecture Church architecture refers to the architecture of buildings of Christian churches. It has evolved over the two thousand years of the Christian religion, partly by innovation and partly by imitating other architectur ...

arch was built about 1300, the tower arch was built during the 14th century and the south doorway of the nave dates from about 1400. The church building was extensively altered in the 15th century: the north
aisle An aisle is, in general, a space for walking with rows of seats on both sides or with rows of seats on one side and a wall on the other. Aisles can be seen in airplanes, certain types of buildings, such as churches, cathedral A cathedral is ...

and chapel were added, the
bell tower A bell tower is a tower that contains one or more bells, or that is designed to hold bells even if it has none. Such a tower commonly serves as part of a church (building), church, and will contain church bells, but there are also many secular b ...

bell tower
was completed, and new windows were inserted in the south and east walls of the chancel. In 1871–72 the architect
Ewan Christian Ewan Christian (1814–1895) was a British architect. He is most notable for the restorations of Southwell Minster and Carlisle Cathedral, and the design of the National Portrait Gallery (London), National Portrait Gallery. He was Architect to ...
restored the chancel and C. C. Rolfe began restoring the
nave The nave () is the central part of a church architecture, church, stretching from the (normally western) main entrance or rear wall, to the transepts, or in a church without transepts, to the chancel. When a church contains Aisle#Church archit ...

. Rolfe's cousin H. W. Moore completed the nave restoration in 1887–88. During the restoration extensive 15th century were discovered. They include a Doom painting over the chancel arch, the
seven deadly sins The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings, although they are not mentioned in the Bible. Behaviours or habits are classified under this cat ...
Saint Michael Michael (; he, מִיכָאֵל, lit= Who is like El?, translit=Mīḳā'ēl; el, Μιχαήλ, translit=Mikhaḗl; la, Michahel; cop, ⲙⲓⲭⲁⲏⲗ; ar, ميخائيل ، مِيكَالَ ، ميكائيل, translit=Mīkā'īl, Mīkāl ...
weighing souls, the
Virgin Mary According to the gospels Gospel originally meant the Christian message, but in the 2nd century it came to be used also for the books in which the message was set out; in this sense a gospel can be defined as a loose-knit, episodic narrat ...
(originally part of an
Annunciation The Annunciation (from Latin '), also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of Our Lady, or the Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the ...

scene) and a rare painting of . Burlison and Grylls heavily restored the paintings, re-drawing the weighing of souls at twice its original size. St. James' tower has a ring of eight bells, all of which were
cast Cast may refer to: Music * Cast (band), an English alternative rock band * Cast (Mexican band), a progressive Mexican rock band * The Cast, a Scottish musical duo: Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis * ''Cast'', a 2012 album by Trespassers William * ...
by Mears & Stainbank of the
Whitechapel Bell Foundry The Whitechapel Bell Foundry was a business in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is a London borough The London boroughs are the 32 local authority districts that make up the ceremonial county ...

Whitechapel Bell Foundry
in 1907. The church also has a Sanctus bell cast by an unknown founder in about 1399.


John Wesley John Wesley (; 2 March 1791) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which ha ...

John Wesley
preached in South Leigh in 1771. A small
Methodist Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations Denomination may refer to: * Religious denomination, such as a: ** Christian denomination ** Jewish denomination ** Islamic denomination ** Hindu d ...
congregation was established in the village by 1817, and met in private houses until it had its own chapel built in 1876. By 1968 the chapel was used for worship only once a month, and in 1969 it was sold. It is now a private house.

Economic and social history

Sometime after 1773 the Gores sold South Leigh estate to John Sibthorp. In 1792, a generation after Stanton Harcourt's enclosure, two thirds of South Leigh's land remained unenclosed. Sibthorp obtained an
Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries, acts of parliament begin as a Bill (law), bill, wh ...
that led to their enclosure in 1793. About were enclosed, of which the commissioners awarded to Sibthorp. South Leigh had
coppice Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the ''plurale tantum A ''plurale tantum'' (Latin for "plural ...

s of Pollarding, pollarded elms to supply wood for various purposes. Between 1793 and 1795 Sibthorp had more than 3,000 trees around the estate, most of them pollarded elms, felled to make fences for the new enclosures. The Sibthorps felled large timber trees as well as wood, and early in the 19th century there were two major auctions of ash, elm and oak. Sibthorp wrote that in the first ten months after the enclosure award:
''I have worked up between 2000 and 3000 trees to posts and rails for my enclosure, besides a great quantity of timber used in the general repair of the farmhouses and cottage. I have Hedge#Quickset hedge, quicked near upon 100 furlongs and fenced with posts and rails one-half of it. Gates and gateposts on the enclosures. I had three teams of horses constantly employed during the summer, yet unequal to my work.''
The Oxford, Witney and Fairford Railway, Witney Railway was built through the parish and opened in 1861. South Leigh railway station served the parish until 1962, when British Railways withdrew passenger services from the line. BR closed the line to freight traffic in 1970 and the track was dismantled sometime thereafter. St. James' National school (England and Wales), National School was built in 1871 and was reorganised as a junior school in 1931. Declining numbers of pupils led to the school being closed down in 1946. The former school building is now the village hall. St. James' College next to the parish church was founded in 1875 as a preparatory school (UK), preparatory school. By 1923 it had become an orphanage, Holyrood Hospital.

Mason Arms

The Mason Arms, a Grade II listed building which may date to the early 1700s, was named after the Mason family who were once a major landowner in the area. It was originally known as Ivy Farm. It seems to have started as a pub around 1879, but also continued as a dairy and wheat farm. The pub's first known landlord was Thomas Harris, who was then followed by Mark Hopkins. His son, Albert Thomas Hopkins (b.1880) and his wife Mary took over the pub in the 1920s. Hopkins ran both the pub and the farm, as well as a business as a coal merchant. Their niece, Dosh Murray, went to live with them in the pub in the late 1920s, and has provided some information on the Hopkins’ time there, including the fact that the pub did not serve food, though it did provide accommodation. The pub's beer came from the Garne's brewery in Burford. Albert Hopkins died in 1963, and the pub was run for a period by Joan Lee. She was succeeded by Tom Litt. After several months of renovation, during which the bar was located in a barn in the grounds, Litt re-opened the pub on 15 July 1964, with thirteen customers for dinner. In 1974, he opened a micro-brewery at the pub, producing 72 gallons per week of Sowlye Ale. In May 1982, Don Franks took over the pub and the micro-brewery was closed. The pub's landlord from 1995 was Gerry Stonhill. He ran it as a gastropub that was commended by Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White. The Mason Arms had a number of celebrity customers and its facilities included a helipad for customers. Michael Winner is said to have called it the tackiest pub in Britain. Stonhill allowed his customers to smoke inside the pub in defiance of the ban on smoking in public buildings. In April 2008, he was successfully prosecuted and ordered to pay five separate fines and prosecution costs totalling £5,750. After Stonhill's departure in 2013, the pub was bought by a property developer and lay empty for a number of years. In 2015, it was listed as an asset of community value under the Localism Act 2011. The Mason Arms was subsequently bought by Justin and Charlotte Salisbury, and re-opened in 2017 as one of their Artist-in-Residence boutique hotels.

Notable residents

South Leigh has had a number of celebrity residents, including the entrepreneur Richard Branson, the comedian Harry Locke and the poet Dylan Thomas. Thomas lived in the village from August 1947 to May 1949, and continued work there on Under Milk Wood. The radio journalist, Colin Edwards, came to South Leigh in the late 1970s and interviewed a number of residents about Thomas’ time amongst them. These interviews have been transcribed, edited and published.D N Thomas (2004) ''Dylan Remembered 1935-1953'' vol 2. pp124-139, Seren. See als
Dylan Thomas and South Leigh


Sources and further reading

* Broome, Phyllis (1997, 1998) ''South Leigh Remembered'', Broome * * * * * * Thomas, D N (2004) ''Dylan Remembered 1935-1953'', vol. 2 pp124–139, Seren.

External links

South Leigh

360° Panorama of Church interiors

Dylan Thomas and South Leigh
{{authority control Civil parishes in Oxfordshire Villages in Oxfordshire West Oxfordshire District