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Things to do in Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Place
Blenheim Palace ©Shutterstock /Kiev. Victor

The lovely Georgian town of Woodstock is just eight miles from the collegiate spires of Oxford and is best known as the home of the stunning Blenheim Palace estate.

Woodstock means “place in the woods” and it was situated in the heart of the royal forest of Wychwood.

Woodstock has a royal heritage, having been developed by Henry II purely as a resting place for his servants when they accompanied him to his hunting lodge, Woodstock Manor.

The royal park was enclosed by the king in 1110 and his visits were frequent, mainly because it was the home of his mistress, Rosamund Clifford.

Woodstock Manor was the birthplace of Edward, son of King Edward III, in 1330. It was later used as the prison of Princess Elizabeth from 1554-55, during the reign of Mary I.

The sculpture on the west facade of the beautiful Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace ©Shutterstock /Kiev. Victor

The town received its royal charter in 1453, granted by Henry IV, which gave it many rights and privileges. Of course, the town was staunchly royalist during the English Civil War, at least until the Parliamentarians took control of government in 1642, when the town did a quick about-face.


After achieving victory at Blindham in 1705, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, was granted Woodstock Park, which became the great Blenheim estate. Constructed by Vanbrugh, the magnificent palace was complemented by 2000-acre grounds landscaped by Capability Brown.

Coaches, and later the railway, ran from London through Woodstock. The two main coaching inns, the Bear and the Marlborough Arms were owned by the Marlborough family.

Although Blenheim Palace attracted great wealth and prestige to the area, the family’s influence was somewhat resented by many locals in the 18th century.

In 2010, Woodstock celebrated the 900th anniversary of the enclosure of the royal park, which is now Blenheim Park.

Present Day Woodstock

Woodstock has grown into an affluent town, thanks in part to its close proximity to Oxford, and being within easy commuting distance to London. Close to Heathrow Airport, it has developed as a thriving tourist destination for both British and overseas visitors.

Employment opportunities at the Cowley plant of Morris Motors have given way to modern high-tech industries.

Some of the highlights of the town include the 18th century Town Hall and the parish church dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. It has a Norman doorway and a musical clock. The 200 hand stitched kneelers (hassocks) are well worth admiring. Woodstock also has some excellent pubs and restaurants, each with their own particular history.

Things to Do in Woodstock

Blenheim Palace is an unmissable attraction for anyone visiting or living in Woodstock.

Birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and currently the home of the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, this magnificent estate is a World Heritage Site. Visit the Churchill Exhibition and take a tour of the awesome State Rooms which house a collection of wonderful treasures and artworks.

The 17th century Fletcher’s House in Woodstock is home to many historical exhibits which make up the Oxfordshire Museum.

Pick up a copy of the Woodstock Historic Trail and take a self-guided walk around the town buildings with their historic plaques. There is also a Historical Children’s Walk and for cyclists, the Cherwell Valley Ride passes nearby.

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