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Oxford Lane 1


The Oxford Lane is a strange beast.  It disappears, then re-emerges miles later coming in from a different angle.  So maybe there was more than one Oxford Lane: one starting from Leicester, another from Buckingham, another from Bedford?

But, whatever colour coats they wore, all the Oxford Lanes had one purpose: to deliver meat to the (wealthy) colleges of the university to accompany their excellent wines. So perhaps the O.L. is as old as the university - 13th century - and older than more famous drovers' roads that cross it.

The Northants section reveals itself in the middle of Daventry. Then the lane becomes a treasure as it goes due south through Newnham and Preston Capes, and past Canons Ashby priory.

The Wheatsheaf, a drovers' inn originally on the edge of Daventry on the road down from Kilsby, is now 'Brownlands' (SP 573 623), a nursing home - but pines testify that it once catered for a different sort of clientele.

The Oxford Lane crosses the A45 going south, and climbs to the top of Newnham Hill where countless hooves have worn the stone into a holloway (#1).  Then there's a beautiful stretch down into the centre of Newnham, where there are 'Fattening Fields' (#2), but whether these were for the benefit of droves I don't know. (Don't miss the Romer Arms while you're there.)

The next village on the way south is Preston Capes, with Fawsley Park on the right.  The main feature of this stretch, besides its hills, is the width of the original lane, shown by lines of oaks sometimes 10 metres beyond the verge (#3)

Up the hill to Preston the animals struggle, wearing down the track so that the front doors of the houses in the main street are at head-height.  And on the southern edge of the village is The Swan Inn - was the Swan, I should say. (See # 4,5)   Thank you to D R Jenkins, the owner, for these pictures.

The Swan has a bar and a cellar, also most of the external hallmarks of a droving inn: it's on the edge of a village, on a crossroads, and has a large farmyard and outbuildings to deal with emergencies like the loss of shoes.

For the next stretch, see Oxford Lane 2.

Oxford Lane 1 image 1
Newnham Hill Holloway
Oxford Lane 1 image 2
Newnham 'Fattening Fields'
Oxford Lane 1 image 3
Oak Line
Oxford Lane 1 image 4
The Swan today
Oxford Lane 1 image 5
The Swan, early C20