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A map of Christmas Common circa 1960.

A map of Christmas Common circa 1960.

Ghostly Horse Rider at Christmas Common

14 December 2022 (Updated 1 February 2024)

High up in the Chiltern hills, the hamlet of Christmas Common is said to be haunted by a ghostly horse and rider who startles drivers before disappearing into thin air.

In his book Curious Oxfordshire, Roger Long provides descriptions of the horse given by people who have witnesses it. They describe the horse as grey, and its rider as having long greyish hair and a light brown jacket.

One person who witnessed the horse mentioned that, perhaps appropriately for Christmas Common, there was snow on the ground at the time, and yet the horse left no hoof-prints.

Hilary Stainer Rice's book Ghosts of the Chilterns and Thames Valley gives more details on this encounter, including that it occurred close to a bend in the road near a house called 'Shirburn'. This house is presumably Shirburn Lodge, a Grade II listed house dating back to c1730, that stands on a bend in the road leading north out of the village.

Christmas Common: what's up with the name?

The extremely festive name of this hamlet is said to have its origins in the English Civil War. According to the story, a battle was raging in the area but at truce was called on Christmas day so both sides could collectively honour Christ's birth. This event was later commemorated in the name given to the hamlet.

Given the Civil War connection, could the horseman be a ghostly cavalier from civil war times? The archetypical cavalier wore his hair long and wore a brown coat!

Another theory for the name's origin is that the area was historically known for the profusion of holly bushes that grew nearby, making it a popular site for people to visit during the Christmas season to pick holly boughs laden with bright-coloured berries to decorate their homes.


  1. 'Curious Oxfordshire' by Roger Long (Sutton Publishing, 2008, ISBN: 9780750949576)
  2. 'An Oxfordshire Christmas' compiled by David Green (Alan Sutton Publishing, 1992, 9780750901519)
  3. 'Ghosts of the Chilterns and Thames Valley' by Hilary Stainer Rice (Corinthian Publishers, 1983, ISBN: 0946681015)