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Besselsleigh StLawrence South.JPG
St Lawrence's parish church
Besselsleigh is located in Oxfordshire
Besselsleigh shown within Oxfordshire
Area 3.67 km2 (1.42 sq mi)
Population 87 (2001 Census)[1][2]
• Density 24/km2 (62/sq mi)
OS grid reference SP4501
Civil parish
  • Besselsleigh
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Abingdon
Postcode district OX13
Dialling code 01865
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
List of places
OxfordshireCoordinates: 51°43′N 1°21′W / 51.71°N 1.35°W / 51.71; -1.35

Besselsleigh or Bessels Leigh is a village and civil parish about 4 12 miles (7 km) south-west of Oxford. Besselsleigh was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire.

The village is just off the A420 road between Oxford and Swindon.


Besselsleigh is almost certainly the Lea or Leigh owned by a Saxon named Earmund in the 7th century. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 it was recorded (as Leie) as having been held prior to conquest by Northmann of Mereworth of Abingdon Abbey and to have passed under the same overall ownership to the minor feudal lord William the Chamberlain.[3] The manor of Leigh passed to the family of a Thomas Bessels in the mid-14th century and by the next century the village had acquired its present toponym.[4]

Parish church[edit]

The Church of England parish church of Saint Lawrence existed by the 12th century, and the west wall, Norman south door[5] and possibly some other parts survive from this time. The church was rebuilt in the latter part of the 13th century,[4] which is the date of the Decorated Gothic west window of the nave and east window of the chancel. Most of the other windows are Perpendicular Gothic:[5] that in the north wall of the chancel from the 14th century and others in the church from the 15th century.[4]

In 1632 William Lenthall paid for St Lawrence's to be "beautified and repaired"[4] and in 1788 William John Lenthall paid for further works on the church.[6] The font is 17th century and the pulpit is 18th century.[5] St Lawrence's is a Grade II* listed building.[6]

Air crash[edit]

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V aircraft similar to T4337 which crashed at Great Park Farm

On March 14 1944 an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V bomber aircraft, T4337 from No. 10 Operational Training Unit RAF at Abingdon, was on circuits and landings practice when its Royal Canadian Air Force pilot lost control while changing from flare path to instruments. The aircraft crashed onto what was then a military firing range at Great Park Farm, Besselsleigh and almost immediately burst into flames. All three members of its crew were killed.[7]

At the time United States Army soldiers were billeted at Besselsleigh Park. They and a local man, Ron Amey, tried without success to rescue the crew. The pilot, Sgt DC Adamson, is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of Botley Cemetery, on the outskirts of Oxford.[7] Ron Amey went on to succeed his father William Amey as head of the Amey quarrying and construction company.

Economy and amenities[edit]

The Greyhound public house

Besselsleigh has a public house, the Greyhound. The Greyhound is in the coat of arms of the Lenthall family who used to own Besselsleigh Hall.[8]

Parklands Campus (formerly Bessels Leigh School and Spires School) at the edge of the village is an independent special school for boys and girls aged 11 to 16, run by the charity Action for Children.[9]

See also[edit]

  • Marcham, where an RAF Armstrong Whitworth Whitley aircraft crashed on a training flight in 1942


St Lawrence's parish church: 13th century east window of chancel
  1. ^ "Area selected: Vale of White Horse: Parish Headcounts". Neighbourhood Statistics: Full Dataset View. Office for National Statistics; Note in 2011 ONS raw data was 'too small to publish all data for reasons of confidentiality of living people' so was incorporated in the parish data for part of St. Helen Without (its output area 'E00146433') so more demographic statistics may become available in a few decades from 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  2. ^ A Vision of Britain - Area in Acres of Civil Parish History of Parliament Trust, University of Portsmouth and Others. Retrieved 7 May 2016
  3. ^ Open Domesday Retrieved 7 May 2016
  4. ^ a b c d Page & Ditchfield 1924, pp. 393-398
  5. ^ a b c Pevsner 1966, p. 86.
  6. ^ a b Historic England. "Church of St Lawrence  (Grade II*) (1048397)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Minns, Pat. "Local crashes". RAF Abingdon 10 OTU. Retrieved 15 November 2015. 
  8. ^ The Greyhound Besselsleigh
  9. ^ Action for Children: Parklands Campus


External links[edit]

Media related to Besselsleigh at Wikimedia Commons