The name 'Ascott' comes from the Saxon for 'East Homestead', a reference to the fact that Ascott began as a child settlement of Shipton, a few miles to the west. Wychwood refers to the ancient royal forest of Wychwood, of which little remains today save scattered clumps of trees here and there.
The village is set around a triangular green, in the centre of which rises a tall chestnut tree. A series of four benches are ranged about this chestnut tree, and each of the four benches bears a plaque commemorating the 16 'Ascott Martyrs', some of the earliest leaders of the slow and painful movement to foster worker's rights in Britain.
Here is the story in a nutshell. Local men who had dared to join the new Agricultural Workers Union were sacked. Replacement workers from the village of Ramsden were hired. Sixteen women of Ascott tried to stop the replacement workers and convince them to join the union.
The women were arrested, taken to Chipping Norton, tried, and sentenced to hard labour. A mob gathered at the police court and violence broke out, whereupon the women were taken to Oxford gaol, under trying conditions.
The issue of the treatment of the prisoners was raised in Parliament, and eventually Queen Victoria issued a pardon to all the women. As a result of this episode an enquiry into wages and working conditions of Oxfordshire workers was launched. The Ascott Martyrs are thus considered to be early pioneers of the trade union movement.
On the banks of the river lies the manor house, now a farm. A public footpath leads past the house, where you can see a 16th century brick granary on staddle stones. More fascinating, though, is that the footpath leads directly through the earthwork remains of a 12th century Norman castle. The castle was built by Roger d'Oyley in 1129, but it was demolished by 1175.
The farmhouse stands within the castle bailey, or enclosure. Behind the farmhouse, a treed mound is clearly visible. This is the castle motte, where a wooden stronghold would have stood in the 12th century. There is sadly no access to the motte, but you get an extremely good view of the castle defenses, and the shape of the earthwork perimeter is clearly visible in the fields surrounding the farm.
Address: Ascott under Wychwood,
Attraction Type: Village
Location: on a minor road off the A361 one mile north of Shipton under Wyychwood
Website: Ascott under Wychwood
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