South Oxford Community Centre

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Eastwyke Farm

Eastwyke Manor was first recorded in the early 16th century, with substantial land holdings either side of the Abingdon Road. 'Wyke' is Old English for farm (often dairy farm) or trading place. This makes sense, as Eastwyke was on good grazing land on the Thames floodplain and close to a main route into Oxford. Eastwyke Manor was owned by Abingdon Abbey in the Medieval period, and in 1528 half of its land, on the eastern side of the Abingdon Road, was bought by University College.

Eastwyck Farmhouse smallerThe farmhouse itself (left) appears to have been built in the mid 17th century. During the Civil War of the mid 1640s Oxford was a Royalist stronghold and a map of 1644 by Bernard de Gomme shows an outpost with star-shaped defences at Eastwyke Farm. There is reference to an incident at this fort between Parliamentary forces and the Royalist garrison on 27 May 1645:

'Two Regiments (the white and red) with two pieces of Ordnance, marched over Isis [the River Thames] at Godstow Bridge, and so by Botley to South Henxsey, which part were continually playing on that in Mr Oliver Smyth's house [Eastwyke Farm] (held by him of University College) standing without the South port, and continually guarded and relieved with Soldiers out of the Oxford Garrison, but for the most part repelled with the loss of men and members.' (Anthony Wood, The History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford (1792), vol 2, pp.475-6)

In the 19th century some of Eastwyke's land on the western side of the Abingdon Road was sold to the Oxford waterworks (and formed what is now Hinksey Park). On the eastern side, between the Abingdon Road and the river, land was leased for the building of University College's boathouse [which burnt down in 1999] and the adjacent sports ground and pavilion.

The farm had various tenants until 1881 when it was leased by University College to the Alden family. The Aldens were a large and well-established Oxford family, who are still very much a presence in the city today. Alden's the butchers was founded in 1793 by Isaac Alden who was head of the Alden dynasty (another branch of his family became printers and established the Alden Press). At Eastwyke Farm they reared and slaughtered beef, lamb and pork, and then transported meat products to be sold at their various shops in the Covered Market. The business was passed down from father to son and by the time it reached Isaac’s great-grandson Leonard Alden in the late 19th century it was described as 'probably the biggest butchering business under one roof in England'. Leonard Alden was President of the Master Butchers’ Association, a national cattle judge at Smithfield and elsewhere, and Mayor of Oxford in 1936–7. He died in a road accident whilst still in office.

[Eastwyck Farmhouse gateway smaller]

The gateway in the wall along the northern boundary of Eastwyke Farm.

Alden's were still slaughtering animals at Eastwyke Farm in the 1970s and from 1973 to 1986 they had a frozen food supermarket there; the family continued to live in the farmhouse. In 1986 the business moved back to the Covered Market and Eastwyke Farm reverted to University College. [In 1999 Alden's moved their offices to Osney Mead Industrial Estate.] Between 1999 and 2010 Four Pillars built the the Oxford Spires Hotel in the grounds of the farmhouse and in 2010 renovated the house itself, which had fallen into serious disrepair. During the work 31 bicycles, two red telephone boxes and a Triumph Spitfire were found in the undergrowth, as well as an outdoor swimming pool, which was full of newts and which has beautiful mosaic tiling. More recently the orchard between the house and the Abingdon Road has been restored.