The first mention of Longcot is found in documents of 1080 relating to the Manor of Shrivenham where Longcot is described as the hamlet of Cotes.
Longcot is found in the centre of the western end of the Vale of the White Horse. Due to the geology of this area of the Vale, Longcot has very heavy clayey soil. This clay soil is an important factor in the development of the village right up until the present day. Probably because of the heavy soil there was little arable production in the Longcot area until relatively recent times. However there is evidence of animal enclosures dating from the 12th century and by the 13th century pastoral farming in the Longcot area had developed sufficiently to support a population large enough to justify the construction of a sizeable church.
The agricultural productivity was sufficiently important to be recognised as one of the reasons for building the Wiltshire and BerkshireCanal as a means of supplying markets beyond the Vale. The clay of Longcot was an important raw material for the construction of the canal with Longcot becoming the site of the largest brickworks on the canal. However the Great Western Railway rapidly eclipsed the canal in importance. The railway provided a rapid route for the transport of milk and other produce towards the towns and cities of the Home Counties.
Agriculture, once the mainstay of Longcot’s economy, has been in decline for many years, gathering speed over the last thirty years. Villagers have had to travel to find work in the surrounding area and this has increased with the improved roads and transport of the 20th century. In particular the railway employed people both relatively locally, for example as signalmen, but also in the large railway works in Swindon. The increasing industrialisation of Swindon and the growth of nearby towns has led to more and more villagers seeking work outside Longcot.
The major roads of the area bypass Longcot leaving it very much undisturbed, as a village ‘island’ and this has clearly contributed to the maintenance of its rural atmosphere. Equally, although there are no longer any farms to be found in the village, the local environment is still to a large extent defined by agricultural activity.
New houses built, in the recent past, and a good village school has attracted families with young children. People chose to live here both because of the good road links and because of the quiet rural atmosphere.
Longcot is situated near the western end of the Vale of the White Horse, roughly five miles from Faringdon and is well and truly a ‘village in the Vale’, as depicted in the book of the same name. As seen from the higher ground of White Horse Hill and the ancient chalk Ridgeway track, the village lies as a basic T-shape, with the cross arm running east-west, the down stroke north-south and the church standing at the joint of the two. The whole of the main body of the village lies just into what was a shallow sea around 150 million years ago in the Jurassic period. Finegrained sediments were deposited, leading to the formation of a blue-black clay, now known as Kimmeridge clay, that stretches from Abingdon in the east, through Shellingford and Stanford-in-the-Vale to Longcot.
The heavy soil was probably too difficult for cultivation by early ploughs, with the result that, until relatively recent times, the village was almost exclusively pastoral, with several farms being the major employers. What successful cultivation there was, was found immediately to the north of the village, along a layer of Corallian limestone that stretches eastward towards Oxford, taking in Faringdon, Pusey and Buckland as it leaves Longcot. This ‘Golden Ridge’ is nowadays used for growing cereal and oilseed rape crops and is also the site of the village allotments.
Natural drainage in the area is centred on the River Ock and its tributaries. Rising as a spring in Little Coxwell, north-east of Longcot, it skirts the northern perimeter and western edge of the village and then returns eastwards, passing the south of the village, to run towards Stanford-in-the-Vale and eventually the Thames.
Historically, until relatively cheap bulk transport was available, buildings were constructed of locally available products. Local rocks provided much of the stone seen in the village cottages and older houses, in particular ‘Coral Rag’ or ‘Ragstone’, a product of the Corallian limestone. It often appears as lumpy or nodular, because of the corals of which it is composed and it is often possible to discern the structure of the corals within the rock. There is also a local abundance of chalk, from the White Horse escarpment and there has been significant usage made of it.
Countryside and Village Edge
In addition to furnishing raw materials for brick and tile production – Longcot becoming the site of the largest brickworks on the Wilts & Berks Canal in the l9th century- The village clay provided the environment for the growth of elm and other hardwood trees, osier or withy beds and reed beds. These all provided building materials, from constructional timber, through wattling for walling to thatch for roofing. Once cereals began to be grown on the margins of the Vale, straw was also produced and used for thatching. The presence of elm trees historically was a particular characteristic of the village surroundings, which, sadly, following the devastation caused by Dutch Elm Disease, has very largely disappeared, leaving a denuded and open vista.
With the road from Oxford to Swindon (now the A420) by-passing the village to the north, it was long been regarded as ‘off the beaten track’, which remains so even today. There has been some change in the basic layout of the village over the centuries, most particularly westwards from the heart of the community at The Green, through The Dash, (thought to be the original village ‘High Street’) to the Shrivenham road. The current T-shaped pattern, however, has existed for most of the past 100 years and is now widely seen as being both the ‘natural’ shape of the village and the most desirable. The open space of the village green, together with The Dash to the west, now a recreation area, gives the centre of the village a feeling of space. This aspect is an important feature of the village, with many houses enjoying views to open farmland and, to the south, the downs with the Uffington White Horse dominate the landscape and are visible from all parts of the village.
“lest we forget…….” The village and surrounding area has close links to the war and in a recent Remembrance Service (2014) the following was presented to the congregation:
LEST WE FORGET Submission from Longcot for NEWS, December 2014 issue
Learning More of Lost Men Remembered on Longcot’s War Memorial
We hear so many names every Remembrance Sunday but what do we know about our village’s lost men and their grieving families? Thanks to the work of Shirley Dalton-Morris and colleagues, we can learn sympathetically about those men from Longcot, lost in the First World War; now knowing locations of their family home, last battle and distant grave.
Major Bruce Mitchell-Taylor was the son of Henry and Sarah Mitchell-Taylor of Longcot and served in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Because of his gallantry, he was awarded the Military Cross, with a bar for his second MC, and a Distinguished Service Order. He was killed in action on Tuesday 6 November 1917, age 30, and is buried at Ridge Wood Cemetery in Belgium. Netta Mitchell-Taylor, his sister, lived in ‘Rest Cottage’ in ‘The Dash’ until her death in 1961 and is buried in Longcot cemetery.
Corporal William Percy Cox – Royal Engineers – was the second son of Albert Edward and Elizabeth Cox of King’s Farm, Longcot and was killed in action on Thursday 18th November 1915, age 19 years. He is buried in the Rifle Brigade Cemetery in Ploegsteert, Belgium.
Percy and William Percy Cox are two names on our memorial, (but appear to be the same person, for they have the same Service number?) His family left Longcot after Percy’s death.
Private Meddows Hughes – Royal Fusiliers – sometimes listed as ‘Meadows’, was killed in action on 22 March 1918. His name is on the Arras Memorial which has names of some 35,000 soldiers who have no known grave. His connection with Longcot is not known.
Gunner Samuel Gordon Looker- Royal Artillery – worked in the Swindon railway workshops. His parents, Frederick George and Elizabeth Looker, lived in Kings Hill in Swindon. He was wounded in the shoulder and died of wounds on 4 April 1918, age 30.
Private Ambrose James Elbrow – Royal Berks Regiment – still has relatives living in the area, including Shrivenham and Longcot. He was killed in action on 16th May 1916 and is buried in Hebuterne Cemetery in France.
Private Lennard William Fereman – South African Infantry: Parents, William & Helena Fereman lived in S Africa but there must be a connection with the village because James Alfred Fereman was living in Longcot House in 1911 and there are 17 gravestones for members of the Fereman family in Longcot church cemetery. He was killed on 19th October 1916, age 23 years.
L/Cpl Herbert Greenway – Royal Berks Regiment: Parents William and Margaret Ann Greenway lived in Fernham Road. The last letter they received from their son was dated August 7th but he was reported missing and declared as killed in action on 16th August, age 20 years. He is named in the Tyne Cot cemetery Memorial of The Missing (totalling some 34,000 names) with another 12,000 buried there.
Private Jasper Packer – Royal Warwickshire Regiment – known as Jesse, was born in Wroughton to Jasper and Anne Packer, who later moved to Longcot. His mother, known as Annie, ran a second-hand furniture business from Roadside Farm on Longcot Green. Annie was the great aunt of Jack Luker of Longcot, who died in 1995. Jesse was killed in action on 25th April 1915 age 30. His body was never found and he is named on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres where his name appears with 54,388 others whose bodies were never recovered.
Private James Pound – Wiltshire Regiment – was the son of Charles & Christina Janet Pound, originally from Peasemore in Berkshire. He is the great-uncle of Rosemary Stallard who lives in Longcot. He was killed in action on 12th March 1915, age 26 years. His body was never recovered and his name appears on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres with that of Jasper Packer.
Private Walter E Monk – Yorkshire Regiment: It is believed that he is, in fact, Walter George Monk. The 1901 census shows that Emily Monk lived with her four children in the Faringdon Union Workhouse – two of the children named were Walter George, age 6 and Frederick, age 8. He was killed in action in Gallipoli on 21st November 1915, age 21. There is no record of any Longcot connection; perhaps he worked here on a farm?
Able Seaman Fred Alfred Monk – Mercantile Marine – was born in Faringdon and served in The Merchant Navy – although it is said that he was also a soldier. Fred was on the SS Lowmount journeying from Bilbao to Stockton on Tees with a cargo of iron-ore when, on 7th May 1915, she hit a mine laid in the Solent by a German submarine. Five crew members were killed, including Fred Alfred Monk, age 24 years. These two brothers, Fred and Walter Monk, were lost from the same family.
“At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them”.
At the moving Remembrance Service 2014 at St Mary’s Church Longcot, Rev. Frank Parkinson took the service and there first shared this valuable information with the community. If you can add more knowledge to the file about these men, please let us know.