Until the 1850’s Leafield was surrounded by the woodlands of Wychwood Forest and was relatively isolated from surrounding villages and towns. At that time the local inhabitants spoke a distinctive local dialect, indulged in a high level of poaching and other minor crimes and had a bad reputation in the surrounding area.
Fieldtowners tended to keep themselves to themselves and most inhabitants were related to many others in Leafield due to the high level of intermarriage in the village. They developed a distinctive Morris tradition, had their own version of the mummers’ play and had other local customs.
Leafield is centred round the ancient village Greens, common land now used as an area for children’s play and a site for fêtes. There was originally a pond on the north western part of the Greens, but it was filled in the late 1950s.
At the eastern end of the Greens is the village cross. Only the base remains of the original, the shaft having been destroyed by vandals around 1850. In 1873 the cross was restored to commemorate the inhabitants deliverance from smallpox.
Although the village was established by at least the 11th century, there are few medieval remains and these are limited to features in houses that were later extensively rebuilt. St Michael and All Angels’ church, built in 1859, is an outstanding example of the work of Sir George Gilbert Scott, though the previous chapels on the site date back to at least the fifteenth century. The picturesque school on the Greens was established in 1839 and has altered little over the past 100 years.
Nineteenth century Baptist and Primitive Methodist chapels have been converted into houses, as have three former inns, the smithy, the bakery, the butchers and other village shops of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. There are a few large farmhouses of the early seventeenth century, but most inhabitants live in modest cottages, mostly dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century small housing developments and individual houses were added, mostly in and behind Lower End and the Shipton Road.
Documents containing further information on Leafield’s history can be downloaded at the links below:
Charcoal burning in Wychwood Forest