According to legend, King Alfred stayed at this location in the year 890. However, the first concrete evidence of a Royal Domicile dates back to the reign of Ethelred the Unready (976-1016), who held at least one council (Witan) at the same place. This implies that there must have been a lodge or some sort of palace that
Henry I, William the Conqueror’s youngest son, is credited with the construction of the original Blenheim Park enclosure. Although the old wall has partially crumbled, remnants of it can still be spotted on the grounds. Additionally, within the enclosure, there was a manor located on the hill across from the current palace’s lake. After Henry I’s passing, the country was gripped by nineteen years of civil war and disorder until Henry II took the throne in 1154. Henry II alongside his wife Eleanor D’Aquitaine, exercised authority over a vast territory spanning from England to the Pyrenees in Southern France. During his stay at Woodstock with his mistress, ‘The Fair Rosamund,’ Henry II granted parcels of land to build lodgings for his men. Additionally, a weekly market was instituted on Tuesdays, and a three-day fair was established to celebrate the feast of St. Matthew.
By the Thirteenth century, Woodstock had developed into a significant town, and it was eventually taxed as a borough. On May 24th, 1453, Henry VI’s charter officially established this status. The old manor, which had likely sustained significant damage during The Civil War, remained standing until 1715. However, Sarah, the 1st Duchess of Marlborough, found it “ugly” and a hindrance to her view, so it was eventually demolished.
The Palace, as we know it today, was constructed in 1715 by the talented architect, Vanbrugh. Capability Brown also lent his hand in the creation of the Palace’s beautifully landscaped park. Following the construction of the Palace, many new buildings began to emerge in Woodstock, including the transformation of old timber-framed structures into contemporary buildings with coursed stone exteriors and slate
The Town Hall was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1766, under commission from the 4th Duke of Marlborough. The sundial on the south wall is believed to have come from the previous market cross.
The town has a rich history, dating back to pre-Conquest times and closely linked to a royal manor and ducal palace. Despite this, the town has developed its own unique character through the manufacturing of gloves, bells, and steel products. Today, visitors can admire the fine church, elegant houses, and substantial inns that are a testament to the market town’s prosperity. There is an array of wonderful places to visit, shop, eat, drink, and stay that encompasses the town’s charm.