By the time St Birinus brought Christianity to this part of Oxfordshire in 635 AD there was already a small Saxon settlement here. Situated in a strategic spot, high on a hill, overlooking a wide marshy valley and across to wooded hills beyond, Cufa's Wood had been established by Saxon raiders. They found their way up from the river leaving their long boats secured on the bank at a place which became known as Givete's ley. Cufa's (pronounced Coofa's) ley became Coolea, still pronounced thus as recently as 300 years ago, and Givete's ley became Iffley.
When the Saxons built their church it would have been set in the heart of the settlement on consecrated ground. It is not recorded, but it more than possible that when the present church was built it replaced a small Saxon church which stood on this very spot. The Norman conquerors gave us the main body of the church dedicated to St James the Apostle. After the conquest Cowley became part of the estates of Bishop Odo of Bayeux. He in turn made it over to Roger D'lvry and Robert D'Oilly, the Norman Governor of Oxford
who built the castle and its church dedicated to St George. In the middle of the 12th century St George's and its endowments (including the Cowley property) were given to the new Osney Abbey.
The Norman church dates from about 1130 AD. Architecturally it is far simpler than neighbouring St Mary's Church at Iffley, but has some interesting features dating from the very early days. One early writer describes it as "a long barn-like structure" with a stone bench running along the outer walls.
2012/2013 | £2000