The village of Islip lies about 2 miles east of Kidlington, on the banks of the River Ray.
King Edward the Confessor (1004-1066) granted the manor of Islip to Westminster Abbey by a charter which stated he was born there, and tradition holds that he was baptised in the village church. The font now in Middleton Stoney church (pictured below) carries an inscription that claims it was the font used for Edward’s baptism.
The present day St Nicholas’ Church dates back to about 1200, but there used to be a chapel to the north of the church, known as the King’s Chapel, which may have been the village’s original church. The chapel was damaged in April 1645 in a military engagement during the English Civil War, and in the 1780s it was demolished. In 1661 the font was rescued by Sir Thomas Brown, who found it being used to make animal feed, and taken to the church on his own estate, Kiddington, near Witney. In the 19th century it was reported in the parish of Ambrosden, and in the rectory garden at Islip. Later it was given to the Countess of Jersey who presented it to All Saints church, Middleton Stoney.
The chancel of the present St Nicholas’ Church was rebuilt in 1780 and the whole church was restored in 1861. It is Islip’s only Grade I Listed Building.
The old mediaeval road linking London and Worcester crossed the River Ray at Islip. The original crossing was a ford, but this was later supplemented by a bridge.
In the 1640s the bridge, and Islip’s location near Oxford, made the village a strategic objective for both sides in the Civil War. Early in the war, Islip was a strategic outpost for the Royalist capital at Oxford. In May 1644 the Parliamentarian Earl of Essex occupied Islip, but early in 1645 a Royalist force under the Earl of Northampton retook it. In April 1645 Oliver Cromwell retook the village in an engagement on Islip Bridge. On 4th July 1645 the Parliamentarian Lord Fairfax had his men demolish the bridge.
After the war the bridge was rebuilt and John Ogilby’s Britannia Atlas of 1675 described it as having six arches.
In the 18th century the road between London and Worcester became a main coaching route and Islip developed as a staging post. The village was also on the winter route between Oxford and Buckingham, when Gosford Bridge was impassable.
In 1788 the bridge was turnpiked and the turnpike trustees closed the ford. The Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey, who were responsible for the bridge’s upkeep, objected to this increase in traffic and wear on the bridge. In 1816 they tried, and failed, to pass responsibility for the upkeep to either the turnpike trustees or the county.
The Otmoor Enclosure Act of 1815 led to the partial drainage of Otmoor. This increased the flow of the River Ray, which scoured the river bed and undermined the bridge. Otmoor Drainage Commissioners denied liability for this, but nevertheless paid for the repair of two of its arches. This engraving, published by John Dunkin in 1823, shows the bridge as having four arches. In 1878 the Thames Valley Drainage Commission widened the river and replaced the bridge with a new one of three arches, which is still in use today.
In 1704 the rector, Robert South, founded a trust for apprenticing two children from the parish each year. In 1709 he enlarged and endowed the trust to create a school for the poor boys of the parish. A school building was completed in 1710, and in 1712 South finalised the size of the school at not less than 15 and not more than 21 pupils. The school issued each boy with a uniform of a blue coat and a blue cap.
In 1812 the number of pupils was increased and in 1815 there were almost 100 boys at the school. By then Dr South’s School was following the National School system. By 1833 the number of pupils had fallen to 75, but girls were also being admitted. In 1893 a new school building was completed to replace the original 1710 premises.
Dr South’s was eventually reorganised as a junior school, with secondary age pupils being transferred to a new school in Gosford. This left Dr South’s with only 34 pupils by 1937. In 1950 it became a voluntary aided school and is still going strong today.