A Summary of Chesterton History by Jane Stead
The village of Chesterton has Saxon origins, although its name is Roman, meaning ‘farm by a Roman fort’. Akeman Street, the Roman road, runs through the village with Gagle Brook on its eastern side. It originally had a mill and plenty of woodland and stone in abundance being building material for dwellings. The early village centred around the church, old manor house and village green.
In the census of 2011parish population was 850. The village has grown significantly with the addition of the Alchester Park.
Chesterton Manor House is the oldest house in the village dating back to the 12th Century although pottery has been unearthed in the garden which dates from the 6th to the 8th centuries. The house has a very interesting Norman undercroft, one of only 20 still surviving in the country. This was used as a refuge during the air raids of World War II by the villagers. The present house is a Grade II listed building , of 17th century origin and in the conservation area of the village.
Over the centuries, Chesterton Manor House has had some very important residents, the Maundes, from 16th to early 17th centuries, many buried in the church floor. In the 1680s the house was occupied by the 1st Earl of Abingdon. After his death in 1699, his younger brother Henry and followed by the Earl’s son James, who died in 1735. The family gave up the estate in 1767 when the Manor was sold to the Duke of Marlborough. The house was made much smaller towards the end of the 18th century and became the tenanted Manor Farm with the Tanners and, later, the White family as resident farmers.
There has been a school in the village since the 1800s, when it was a very small school for about 20 children. Supported by the Countess of Jersey of Middleton Park, she also paid for the old part of the present school to be erected in 1854. In the early days it catered for children aged from 4 to 10 years, later up to 14 years and then became a Junior School in 1933. Many head teachers were resident in the School House, now part of the present school.
The Reading Room later the Village Hall was the gift of Lord Jersey, opened in October 1878 as a reading room for the men of the village. It provided newspapers, periodicals and books. By the 1930s, billiards was played there. Women were finally allowed entrance to the room for the WI to hold their meetings and whist drives also proved popular. It was at this time that it became the Village Hall and later bingo was played regularly.
Recreation Grounds. The first site in the village was opposite the Old Rectory, now Alchester Road and Orchard Rise, where bungalows and houses now stand. Cricket and other games were played in earlier times in Revel Meadow on the outskirts of the village shown on a map of 1764-8. In 1950 a four acre field was bought for the present recreation ground opposite Chesterton Lodge.
The church was completed and consecrated in 1238 by Bishop Robert Grosseteste, the founder of Oxford University. The north arches of the nave were built a hundred years before the consecration and the tower is 14th century. Inside the church is a Norman font. The three stone seats in the chancel are perfect examples of stone tracery, 14th century work at its best. Very few of the original windows remain but the two windows on the south side of the chancel are the oldest. The wood carving of the pulpit, the north aisle reredos and screen by the south door was carved in Brittany in the 17th century and set up by the village carpenter at a later date. The church also houses the oldest church pew in Oxfordshire, thought to date from the late 13th or early 14th century.
The church clock was a leaving gift from Miss Francis Isabella Tyrwhitt Drake in 1884 of Bignell House. The clock was made by Smith’s of Derby and is wound by hand weekly by Mr Andy Johnson, a dedicated clock winder with 34 years of winding on retirement at age 70 in March 2017.
The fine organ built by Merlin and Coate of Oxford was the gift of Mr and Mrs Henry Tubb in 1898. Henry Tubb was a Bicester banker who had Chesterton Lodge built in 1890.
Additional village history?