From the beginning of the 15th.century to the mid 18th. century Headington quarries were the chief source of stone for the buildings in Oxford and it was even sent by river to London. Several of the colleges had their own quarries – Magdalen Pit can still be seen behind William Kimber Crescent.
In the early 17th century the quarry workers began to build their cottages on the site of disused diggings and the separate hamlet of Headington Quarry was established.By the late 18th.century the better workings were exhausted and although the freestone was easy to work it also crumbled so demand declined. In the Quarry itself those who could afford to built their homes in brick. The 1851 census shows only twelve inhabitants employed as masons and brickmakers.
Family incomes were augmented by the women who took in washing from the Oxford colleges. The long gardens attached to the cottages not only supplied fruit and vegetables but were also where long lines of washing could be seen drying. Pigs were kept and sides of bacon hung in the kitchens. Some of the long gardens still exist although many have been lost through infilling from the 1970s.
Headington Quarry was very much a village with its own identity – the villagers were considered unruly and the police would only enter the village in pairs. Quarry entertained itself with celebrations on May Day and the village feast at harvest time. There had been morris dancing in the 17th.century and this was revived in the 1890s. The Headington Quarry Morris men have danced all over the world.
When Headington was enclosed in 1805 the pathway used by the villagers to go to St. Andrews in Headington was blocked so some of them decided to turn to Methodism, building their first chapel in 1830 in Trinity Road. Methodism was so successful that the Anglican church took the decision to give Quarry its own church and the foundation stone of Holy Trinity was laid in 1848. The Methodists responded with a larger chapel on Quarry High Street in 1860. This building is now The Cornerstone Church.
Quarry also had a school from 1805 – located next to the Chequers Public House. A later school was built in1864. The present nursery now occupies that building. Until the 1970s Quarry had a number of small shops. Vallis’ the Baker’s ( bread was baked on the premises )survived the longest and was where the violin shop is now. Lewis the Butcher was on the corner of Gladstone Road and Quarry High Street. . The Post Office and general store, which had been where Coopers Place is now, moved to Pitts Road. Only the post box survives on Beaumont Road. There was another general store in Quarry Hollow. Quarry had its own sweep with his donkey. – one garden in Quarry High Street was very fertile because of the soot deposited on it.
The village became part of Oxford City when the ring road was built in the 1950s and on 4th Januuary 1971 the Council designated Headington Quarry a conservation area.
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