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Chalgrove StMaryV SE.JPG
St. Mary the Virgin parish church
Chalgrove is located in Oxfordshire
Chalgrove shown within Oxfordshire
Area 11.15 km2 (4.31 sq mi)
Population 2,830 (2011 Census)
• Density 254/km2 (660/sq mi)
OS grid reference SU6396
Civil parish
  • Chalgrove
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Oxford
Postcode district OX44
Dialling code 01865
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
Website Chalgrove Information Website
List of places
51°39′54″N 1°04′37″W / 51.665°N 1.077°W / 51.665; -1.077Coordinates: 51°39′54″N 1°04′37″W / 51.665°N 1.077°W / 51.665; -1.077

Chalgrove is a village and civil parish in South Oxfordshire about 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Oxford. The parish includes the hamlet of Rofford and the former parish of Warpsgrove with which it merged in 1932. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 2,830.[1]

Chalgrove is the site of a small Civil War battle, the Battle of Chalgrove Field. The Parliamentarian John Hampden was wounded in the battle, as a result of which he died six days later.


A very rare silver Roman coin (circa AD 271) was found at Chalgrove: a base silver Roman coin called a radiate of Emperor Domitian II.[2] This was the first such coin found in Britain. The only other was found in France and was thought to be a forgery until the discovery of the British coin proved the existence of the short-lived emperor.

In the 1976 drought, aerial archaeology found cropmarks of filled-in moats and earthworks beside Back Brook. Subsequent archaeological excavation at this location revealed the remains of a 13th-century moated manor house.[3][4]


In the Domesday Book of 1086 the village is called Celgrave which may be derived from the Old English for "at the chalk or limestone pit".[5]

The manor house is the second-oldest building in Chalgrove. Standing partially on the site of an earlier building, originally the de Plessis manor and manorial court-house, this late 14th- or early 15th-century manor-house was repaired and restored during the 1980s. The central hall, which was horizontally subdivided in the 16th century, contains a medieval oak screen on the ground floor, possibly from the 13th-century house, late 16th century painted grey studding on the first floor and a finely-detailed arch-braced collar roof with double purlins with seating for a louvre. The carpentry in the roof is of exceptionally high quality and it is possible that the carpenters were the same as those who had been employed to construct the Royal Palace at nearby Ewelme around the same time. The south wing parlour has 17th-century painted grained panels and the north wing contains a medieval annexe and garderobe chute outlet. The rear extensions are early 16th century.

Parish church[edit]

St. Mary the Virgin church: painted monument to Robert Quatremaine (died 1697)

The earliest parts of the Church of England parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin date from the 13th century.[6] It was begun by monks from the Abbey of Bec, an important Benedictine abbey in Normandy. There is a canonical sundial on the south wall. The interior comprises a wide nave with two aisles separated by transitional Norman arcades with carved capitals and a chancel. The church is thought to remain substantially as it was in 1500, although some records state that there was a spire on top of the tower until violent storm in 1727 blew it down. Jennifer Sherwood confirms this and suggests that the "tower was probably remodelled during repairs"[7] at that time.

In the 14th century the chancel was decorated with a series of wall paintings showing a Tree of Jesse, the Last Judgement and the medieval legend of the Assumption of Mary. Historians believe these wall-paintings were completed around 1320 possibly at the request of the de Barantyn family, who lived in one of the two manors in Chalgrove at the time. Sherwood describe the paintings as "one of the most complete series in the country"[7] and suggest that they date from the mid 14th century. They were limewashed over at the time of the English Reformation and rediscovered in 1858 during renovation work commissioned by the then Vicar, Rev. Robert French Laurence.[8] Some of the paintings on the north wall are a little indistinct now due to their age and two of the paintings on the south wall were covered or damaged by marble monuments while the paintings lay hidden under the lime wash.

As well as medieval wall paintings and later stone monuments, St Mary's has a highly unusual painted monument dating from the end of the 17th century.[9] It was painted in or shortly after 1697 on the east wall of St. James' chapel, which is in the north aisle of St. Mary's.[9] In 1984 it was expertly removed for restoration and repositioned at the east end of the nave.[9] Its removal revealed a hitherto unknown medieval wall painting in St. James' chapel, which is earlier than those in the chancel.[9]

The west tower has a ring of six bells and there is also a sanctus bell. Henry II Knight of Reading cast the sanctus bell in 1659 and the second, third and fourth bells in 1664. Abraham II Rudhall of Gloucester cast the fifth and tenor bells in 1729. Henry I Bond and Sons of Burford cast the treble bell in 1888.[10] The tower has also a single-handed turret clock, part of which was made about 1699.[citation needed]

St. Mary's is a Grade I listed building.[6]

St. Mary's parish has long been linked with that of St. Helen's Berrick Salome. In The Departed Village, Moreau writes "so far as records go back it [St Helen's] has never officially been more than a chapelry of Chalgrove and since the Conquest the indications are that it has never had a priest not shared with that parish. Such an arrangement is the more surprising because Berrick and Chalgrove have had no common boundary for the last thousand years",[11] being separated by Berrick Prior (a part of Newington parish). "Moreover, while the incumbent has been only vicar of Chalgrove,"[11] "he is rector of Berrick."[12]

Economic and social history[edit]

Chalgrove originated as a linear village surrounded by open fields occupying a site on the banks of the stream. Early houses were built along the sides of the original road to Oxford.

In 1086 the Domesday Book counted five mills operating on Chalgrove Brook. Today there is only one mill, at the western end of the village on the appropriately-named 'Mill Lane' opposite The Manor. The mill was restored to working condition in 1998 — including turning the overshot water wheel around to become a high-breast one — and was used to grind corn on an open day in 1999. After Chalgrove, the Brook flows through Stadhampton and then Chiselhampton where it joins the River Thame, a tributary of the River Thames.

Flooding was a problem historically, with 22 houses seriously flooded in 1879. In the 19th century a sluice gate was built at the eastern end of the village and from the original Chalgrove Stream (now called the Back Brook) some of the water was diverted to run alongside the current High Street. This artificial loop (the Front Brook) has become a popular feature. The brook's flow is now much reduced and the risk of flooding has declined: only a small section of the High Street is now deemed to be at occasional risk.

Rev. R.F. Laurence (1807–85), who was vicar of Chalgrove and Berrick Salome for the last 53 years of his life[13] founded the parish's school and taught there himself.[13] Laurence was also secretary of the local agricultural workers' trades union.[13] He was a social reformer who campaigned for better housing for agricultural workers and had new thatched cottages built for them in the parish.[13]

After a long period of stability, the village's population grew very rapidly from under 1,000 in 1961 to just over 3,000 by 1996 mainly due to a new housing estate being developed in the area known as 'Sixpenny Fields' between the village core and the more recent bypass, the B480. The road into this development is named French Laurence Way after Rev. Laurence.

Parts of Chalgrove, and its airfield, featured in the episode Many Happy Returns of the Granada Television series The Prisoner.[14]

RAF Chalgrove[edit]

RAF Chalgrove from the air in 1944

During the Second World War the government needed level ground for airfields. The standard three-runway Chalgrove Airfield was constructed in 1943, and in February 1944 the United States Army Air Forces moved in with a photo reconnaissance squadron of Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft. Three more squadrons joined in March to bring the station to full strength. These squadrons performed many low-level operations over France to provide valuable information prior to, and shortly after, the Normandy landings in June 1944. In March 1945 the USAAF PR squadrons from nearby RAF Mount Farm moved to Chalgrove with their P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning aircraft. Reconnaissance work continued over peacetime Europe in order to assess damage. The USAAF left at the end of 1945.

After the airfield reverted to the RAF and became a satellite of RAF Benson, until an agreement was reached with the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company to use the airfield to test ejection seats. The first live ejection from a Martin-Baker seat, fitted to a Gloster Meteor, was made over Chalgrove airfield in July 1946. Martin-Baker still occupies the airfield. It is mostly used for ejection seat testing and very few aircraft now use the airfield.[15]

In 2016 ownership of the airfield site was transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).[16]

Chalgrove Band[edit]

Members of Chalgrove Band in 2011

Chalgrove Band[17] is an amateur brass band, which was formed toward the end of the 19th century, initially as Chalgrove Temperance Band. The earliest known photograph of the band is dated 1906. At that time, band practices were held in the top room of the Red Lion public house. Following a break in its history, the band was re-formed in 1972 by three local enthusiasts.

In 2007 the band won the London and Southern Counties Fourth Section Championship, and was promoted to the Third Section. In 2011, the band won promotion to the Second Section of the British Brass Band Association. In March 2012, the band took part in its first London and Southern Counties Areas Contest in the Second Section and came second, qualifying for the National Finals in Cheltenham in September 2012.

The band performs regularly in the village, including the May Day Parade, the Remembrance Sunday service and concerts in the Village Hall, which also serves as the band's rehearsal venue.


The Red Lion pub

The village has three public houses: The Lamb at the west end of the village, and The Red Lion[18] and The Crown at the centre, on the High Street. The Red Lion is owned by St. Mary's church and is vested in the Trustees of the Church Estate, but is leased out. There is a post office and five other shops including two grocers, a florist, pharmacy, and a newsagent. The village has a General Practitioner's practice, The Brook Surgery.

The village has a primary school,[19] with a Foundation Class for younger children. The local authority provides a bus service for older children to travel to local secondary schools.

Monument Park business park,[20] opposite the airfield and away from the main village, supports a diverse range of businesses.

Chalgrove has a Women's Institute.[21] Chalgrove Cricket Club plays in Oxfordshire Cricket Association League Division Five.[22]

Chalgrove Cavaliers Football Club[23] organises football for boys and girls between the ages of five and 16.

Chalgrove FC[24] have recently signed a partnership agreement with the Chalgrove Cavaliers and will play in the Oxfordshire Senior League in the 2012–13 season. Between the Cavaliers and Chalgrove FC the clubs offer football from the ages of 5 to adult for the people of Chalgrove.

Regular local events include the May Day Festival and the annual Chalgrove Live Music Festival,[25] held every year since 1988. Chalgrove Midsummer Ball[26] is held every alternate year in the grounds of Chalgrove Manor.


St Mary's parish church: baptismal font, probably made in the 1660s
  1. ^ "Area: Chalgrove (Parish): Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "Coin unearths new Roman emperor". BBC News. 25 February 2004. 
  3. ^ "Chalgrove Manor, Harding's Field, Chalgrove: Oxfordshire Archaeological investigations by Oxford Archaeology". 
  4. ^ Page, Atherton & Hardy 2004[page needed]
  5. ^ Chalgrave
  6. ^ a b "Church of St Mary". National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 526
  8. ^ Heath-Whyte 2003, p. 9.
  9. ^ a b c d Heath-Whyte 2003, p. 90
  10. ^ Davies, Peter (18 February 2011). "Chalgrove S Mary". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Central Council for Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Moreau 1968, p. 95
  12. ^ Moreau 1968, p. 96.
  13. ^ a b c d "Robert French Laurence, priest, social reformer, 23rd April 1885". Diocese of Oxford. 
  14. ^ Brady, Paul; Davy, Rick. "The S75d Milk Float". "Sixes and Sevens" The Unmutual Prisoner Vehicle Guide. Rick Davy. 
  15. ^ Martin-Baker Aircraft Company Ltd.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Chalgrove Band Archived 24 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ The Red Lion
  19. ^ Chalgrove Community Primary School
  20. ^ Monument Park
  21. ^ Oxfordshire Federation of Women's Institutes
  22. ^ Oxfordshire Cricket Association[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ Chalgrove Cavaliers Football Club
  24. ^ Chalgrove FC
  25. ^ Chalgrove Live Music Festival
  26. ^ Chalgrove Midsummer Ball Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine.

Sources and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]