Noke is a small village about 5 miles northeast of Oxford, on the southeast edge of Otmoor. It is known as one of the “Seven Towns of Otmoor”.

The toponym is derived from Old English and means “at the oak trees”. The parish still has two woodlands: Prattle Wood about 500 yards southwest of the village, and Noke Wood about 1 mile to the southeast.

Some land within the parish formed part of Edward the Confessor’s gift to Westminster Abbey, and Noke has been connected with the Dean and Chapter of Westminster at various periods in its history. As late as 1800 the Dean and Chapter claimed the overlordship of Noke and villagers were required to attend formal readings of documents in Islip, mainly concerning tithes. The advowson of the parish church was purchased by the Dean and Chapter in 1915.

St Giles’ Church
St Giles’ Church

The parish church of Saint Giles dates from the first half of the 13th century, though it is believed that a church stood on the site in the time of William the Conqueror and a priest is recorded as working there in 1191. This earlier church may have been a chapel of Islip. Traces of the foundations of an earlier building on a slightly different alignment to the existing church were revealed in archaeological test pits dug close to the chancel wall back in the 1950s.

The present church building is a small, but beautifully proportioned, stone building constructed in limestone rubble with ashlar dressings, under a plain-tile roof. The chancel arch is part of the original 13th century structure, as is the south wall, south door, porch and the plain double lancet window in the south wall.

War memorial window in the church.
War memorial window in the church

The nave roof with its curved wind-braces was probably replaced in the Elizabethan period, when the church was extensively repaired by Joan Bradshaw and her grandson Benedict Winchcombe, and a family mortuary chapel was added to the north side, but this was in a ruinous condition by 1745 when it was pulled down and its doorway blocked up.

Further repairs to the building were carried out in 1758. Then some restoration work was carried out in the Victorian period by W. Wilkinson, at which time the plaster was removed from the interior of the church and the square wooden belfry was replaced by the present bell- turret, carrying two bells.

Noke Parochial School - 1906
Parochial School - 1906

Noke Parochial School was built in 1863. It was reorganised as a junior school in 1931 and closed in 1946. Noke also used to have a public house, but this too has closed. Both the school and the pub are now private houses.