The Stansfeld Story
In January 2016 the Trust acquired the lease for the Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre on Quarry Road in Headington. The 18-acre site’s history dates back to 1919 when it was bought by John Stansfeld, then the Rector of St Ebbe’s, to provide a country retreat for the urban poor of Oxford. He also invited children from an impoverished Birmingham parish to attend summer camps there. The site was later sold to Birmingham Education Authority who continued to run it as an outdoor education centre until the summer of 2014. The Oxford Trust acquired the 250-year lease on the whole site so starting a new chapter in its history but one with education still at its core.
Headington Quarry had a number of stone and clay quarries. Headington stone, a type of limestone, was traditionally used for some Oxford University college buildings, although it was prone to erosion by pollution. In 1396, stone from quarrying in Headington was used to build the bell-tower for New College. Headington stone was also used in the 1520s by Cardinal Wolsey to build his Cardinal College (now Christ Church). The area covered by Stansfeld Park probably ceased to be used as an active quarry in the late 17th century returning over the years to a now undulating natural state.
John Stansfeld was born in Walworth, Surrey, in December 1855. Immediately after leaving school he held several jobs in London before entering the Civil Service where he worked for thirty years. In 1877 the Civil Service transferred him to an Oxford office. After his father’s s death in 1886, he decided to study medicine and matriculated at Exeter College at the University of Oxford. Until 1909 he continued to earn his living working for the Civil Service, but then decided to take Holy Orders. He served as vicar of St Ebbe’s in Oxford from 1912–1926. In 1918 John Stansfeld’s wife, Janet, died at the age of 47 from influenza and Stansfeld used money they had been saving for a trip to the Holy Land to buy land, formally used as a stone/clay quarry, off Old Road. He used the site to give children from the St Ebbe’s slums the opportunity to camp in the country at the weekend.
This land he initially called St Ebba’s, after his church. During this time, there were also opportunities for families from St Ebbe’s to visit for a country holiday – with the advantage that the breadwinner could still walk down the hill to Oxford to work. In addition, boys from the parish of St Saviour in Birmingham and school children from London also visited the centre. When John Stansfeld left Oxford in 1929 the Birmingham Education Committee rented the land from him to establish an open-air school for Birmingham school children. In 1933 the land was part-sold to the City of Birmingham. Stansfeld died in 1939 and Birmingham then acquired the rest of the land. The Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre was developed and run by Birmingham City Council until 2014.
The Oxford Trust is now in the exciting position of being able to bring the Stansfeld Park site back to life. It’s a great opportunity to invest in the area and fulfil our aims of supporting innovation, enhancing science education resources and enthusing people of all ages about science and technology as well as creating a new space for the local community to enjoy.
Stansfeld Park | Quarry Road | Oxford OX3 8BS
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