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By the 10th century the area which was to become Oxfordshire demonstrated many of the key features of the county’s later local history. Intensive settlement, agriculture, open field systems, manors, increasing numbers of churches, growing towns, and familiar place-names mentioned in a slowly developing written record. At Eynsham Abbey, founded in 1005, the great scholar, Aelfric, was writing his bible stories, legends of the saints, and calendar for the Christian year. Yet there was one persistent destabilising factor to add to the rivalries between Wessex and Mercia in which Oxfordshire was often caught. Since the 860s Danish raids had been a threat. It was the danger of further attacks that seems to have galvanised Mercia into organising its territory into shires around 1007, a process that effected the Midlands generally. Wessex had created counties, including Berkshire, over a century earlier.


The rather sprawling boundaries of the new shire were drawn, Oxford by then one of England’s leading towns and fortified by walls became county town, and a shire reeve was appointed. The county was born out of a time of disruption and threat to an expanding and maturing society.

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