The Case of the Wandering White Horse

A Topographical Dictionary of the United KingdomOn 1st April 1974 The Times announced that at “midnight last night many historic names ‘disappeared’ from the local government map”.  In Berkshire, they didn’t exactly disappear but moved to Oxfordshire!

When Berkshire lost the Vale of the Berkshire Downs as a result of the 1974 county boundary changes, it lost more than just one or two ‘border’ villages, as you can see from the extensive list below.  However, emotions only started to run high when people eventually realised they were about to lose not only the Iron Age Uffington Castle and Wayland’s Smithy, immortalised by Sir Walter Scott, but also one of their most famous landmarks, the chalk White Horse of Uffington. A protest was organised and letters sent to the national press. There was even a last minute bonfire up on White Horse hill but the changes went ahead regardless and ‘Old’ Berkshire was no more.

Somewhat predictably, contemporary newspaper articles gleefully pointed out that in 1974, Berkshire may have lost a white horse but at least they gained Slough…

So, if you think your ancestors were South Oxfordshire through and through, you may be in for a surprise. Significantly for family historians, although the borders may have changed most of the historical records for those transplanted pre-1974 Berkshire parishes are still held by the Berkshire Record Office.

Here is a list of all the once north Berkshire towns and villages now in the postal district and administration of Oxfordshire:

Abingdon
Appleford
Appleton
Ardington
Ashbury
Aston Tirrold
Aston Upthorpe
Baulking
Besselsleigh
Blewbury
Bourton
Brightwell
Buckland
Buscot 
Challow (East & West)
Charney Bassett
Childrey
Chilton
Cholsey
Coleshill
Compton Beauchamp
Coxwell (Great & Little)
Cumnor
Denchworth
Didcot
Drayton
East Lockinge
Eaton Hastings
Faringdon
Fyfield
Garford
Goosey
Grove
Hagbourne
Hanney (East & West) 
Harwell
Hatford
Hendred (East & West)
Hinksey (North & South) 
Hinton Waldrist
Kingston Bagpuize
Kingston Lisle
Letcombe Bassett
Letcombe Regis
Longcot & Fernham
Longworth
Lyford
Marcham
Milton 
Moreton (North & South) 
Moulsford
Pusey
Radley
Shellingford
Shrivenham
Sotwell
Sparsholt
Stanford in the Vale
Steventon
Sunningwell
Sutton Courtenay
Tubney
Uffington
Upton
Wallingford
Wantage
Watchfield
Wittenham (Little & Long)
Wootton
Wytham

For a much fuller account of the reaction to the boundary changes you might like to read http://newhistories.group.shef.ac.uk/wordpress/wordpress/?p=3275

© Emmy Eustace

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