The Snake's-head Fritillary is Oxfordshire's county flower. Tourism plays a big part in Oxfordshire's economy and it is noted for the concentration of performance motorsport companies and facilities. The largest of a number of publishing firms in Oxfordshire is Oxford University Press.
Oxfordshire was created as a county in the early years of the 10th century and is broadly situated in the land between the River Thames to the south, the Cotswolds to the west, the Chilterns to the east and the Midlands to the north, with spurs running south to Henley-on-Thames and north to Banbury.
Due to its central location and the quality of the agricultural land Oxfordshire has always been a significant area. Oxford was originally ignored by the Romans and did not become established until the 8th century. The area was part of the Cotswolds wool trade from the 13th century, generating much wealth, particularly in the western portions of the county in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.
Wantage in Berkshire is the birthplace of Alfred the Great. In 1096 the University of Oxford was created. The university in the county town of Oxford (whose name came from Anglo-Saxon Oxenaford = "ford for oxen") grew in importance during the Middle Ages and early modern period. There are 23 independent schools and 35 state schools within Oxfordshire. The University of Oxford and Oxford Brooked University are the two universities within the county, both are located in Oxford. Banbury in Oxfordshire is the location of Wroxton College.
Morris Motors was founded in Oxford in 1912, bringing heavy industry to an otherwise agricultural county. Oxford is one of the most visited cities within the UK by international visitors, this is largely down to the "dreaming spires" located on the buildings of the University of Oxford.
Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is one of the more famous buildings, and the Radcliffe Camera, built 1737-1749 to the design of James Gibbs. The great architect John Vanbrugh built Blenheim Palace near Woodstock for john Churchill the first Duke of Marlborough. The gardens of the palace are arranged as the formations of the victorious troops of the Battle of Blenheim and were designed by the landscape gardener 'Capability Brown'. Sir Winston Churchill was born in the palace in 1874.
Chastleton House, on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire borders, is a great country mansion that was built on property bought from Robert Catesby, who was one of the men involved in the Gunpowder Plot with Guy Fawkes. Stonor Park, another country mansion, has belonged to the recusant Stonor family for centuries. In the south east of Oxfordshire, near Reading, is Mapledurham House, and Elizabethan stately home.