Epwell (pronounced locally as “Epull”) is situated in the north west corner of Oxfordshire, close to the county boundary with Warwickshire and approximately 6 miles to the west of Banbury. It is set in an attractive panoramic landscape of rolling ironstone hills, the most prominent of which rise to 200 metres high. Epwell village itself is about 175 metres above sea level and occupies a position sheltered from the north and north east by Epwell Hill and Yarn Hill, and by Sibford Heath to the south west.
Part of the village is situated in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while the remainder lies in a designated Area of High Landscape Value. Much of the village is built with the local “honey coloured” Hornton stone and there are 26 listed buildings in the parish.
A small stream rises and flows through the village eventually joining the Sor Brook, then the River Cherwell which in turns flows into the Thames. The ford in the village is known as “The Plank”.
It is thought that Epwell is named for Eoppa’s Well – probably named after a Saxon Eoppa sometime between 800 and 900AD. The circular ring settlement guarded a clean and reliable source of water. The Church of St Anne’s stands just outside the original Anglo-Saxon stockade or enclosure. By 1185 the settlement had become “Eppewella” and by 1537 “Eppewell”.
In 1377 the village had a population of 59 paying Poll Tax compared to 27 in Sibford Gower. Epwell began to benefit from its position as a midway point along the main road from Banbury to Shipston-on-Stour. All that changed with the Enclosure Acts (1773 for Epwell) and then by the construction of the turnpike road (now the B4035) which effectively by-passed Epwell. Current population is approximately 300 in about 120 households.
So the 19th century opened with Epwell very much in decline as a community. However we do now benefit from these changes in that Epwell is no “ribbon village” and its charm lies in its peace not to mention the safety it affords for the children of the village.
Nat Taylor wrote a publication called Epwell, a village a history. Another pamphlet of interest is Epwell – a short general history by Rev John Stewart, who was Rector of Epwell from 1970 to 1975. Copies of both are held in the Village Archive along with many other details and artefacts of Epwell’s history.