Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire

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Upper Heyford
Upper Heyford St Mary south side.jpg
St Mary's parish church
Upper Heyford is located in Oxfordshire
Upper Heyford
Upper Heyford
Upper Heyford shown within Oxfordshire
Area 6.59 km2 (2.54 sq mi)
Population 1,295 (2011 census)[1]
• Density 197/km2 (510/sq mi)
OS grid reference SP5026
Civil parish
  • Upper Heyford
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Bicester
Postcode district OX25
Dialling code 01869
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
Website Upper Heyford
List of places
51°55′48″N 1°16′26″W / 51.930°N 1.274°W / 51.930; -1.274Coordinates: 51°55′48″N 1°16′26″W / 51.930°N 1.274°W / 51.930; -1.274

Upper Heyford is a village and civil parish about 6 miles (10 km) northwest of Bicester in Oxfordshire, England. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 1,295.[2]


Upper Heyford is on the east bank of the River Cherwell. "Upper" distinguishes it from Lower Heyford which is about 1 mile (1.6 km) "lower", downstream along the Cherwell valley. Upper Heyford has access to the Oxford Canal from Allens Lane (at Allens Lock) which runs parallel to the River Cherwell. The canal flows from Banbury and Somerton to the north towards Lower Heyford and Oxford to the south.


The Portway is a pre-Roman road running parallel with the River Cherwell on high ground about 1 mile (1.6 km) east of the river. Its course bisects Upper Heyford parish and passes just east of the village. Part of it forms a minor road to Kirtlington.


The Domesday Book of 1086 records the village as Haiford, with a manor or 10 hides that was one of the many estates of the Norman baron Robert D'Oyly.[3] Along with many manors of the D'Oyly estate, Heyford became part of the Honour of Wallingford.[3] The manor was tenanted by the de Chesney family until the late 12th century, when Maud de Chesney became married to Henry FitzGerold, chamberlain to Henry II.[3] Maud left the manor to her eldest son Warin, who had succeeded to the manor by 1198 and after whom the village became called Heyford Warren.[3] Warin's daughter Margaret married Baldwin de Redvers, son of William de Redvers, 5th Earl of Devon.[3] Heyford Warren remained with the Earls of Devon and thereby passed to Isabella de Fortibus, Countess of Devon in 1262.[3]

Isabella outlived all her children, so after her death in 1293 her inheritance was disputed between Warin de Lisle and Hugh de Courtenay, who later became 9th Earl of Devon.[3] Warin died in 1296 but his son Robert eventually won seisin of Heyford Warren in 1310, except for two and a half virgates that were awarded to de Courtenay.[3] Robert also received the nearby manor of Fritwell from the Countess's estate. In 1380 his great-grandson, also Robert de Lisle, sold the manor along with some land at Barford St. Michael for £1,000 to William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, who made them part of his endowment for the foundation of New College, Oxford.[3]

New College Barn, built about 1400

In about 1400[4] or shortly thereafter[3] New College had a tithe barn built at Manor Farm in the village. Its plan is 120 feet (37 m) by 24 feet (7.3 m),[3] it is of nine bays and built of coursed rubble with ashlar quoins and buttresses.[4] The roof is of Stonesfield slate and has raised-cruck trusses.[5] The building has similarities with tithe barns at Swalcliffe[5] and Adderbury,[3] both of which were also built for New College early in the 15th century. It is a scheduled monument[6] and a Grade I listed building.[5]

Upper Heyford's common lands were enclosed in 1842.[3] New College still held the manor in the early 1950s.[3]

Parish church[edit]

The village had a church by AD 1074.[3] The current Church of England parish church of Saint Mary may have been rebuilt in the latter part of the 15th century, but only the Perpendicular Gothic tower survives from that time.[3] Major repairs to the roof and south aisle were made in 1668 and 1769, but by the 1860s the nave and chancel were in a poor condition again.[3] The architect Thomas Talbot Bury, a pupil of A.W.N. Pugin, demolished all except the tower in 1865, and rebuilt them in a Gothic Revival interpretation of Perpendicular Gothic.[4] This Victorian building has extremely regular coursed masonry, which departs conspicuously from the traditional Medieval rubble masonry of the tower and, presumably, the previous church building. Bury preserved only a handful of features from the Medieval church: a Perpendicular Gothic window in the north wall of the chancel, a piscina, a tomb recess and a 13th-century effigy of a priest.[4]

The tower has three bells, the oldest of which is the tenor bell cast in 1624 by Richard I Purdue,[7] who had foundries in places including Glastonbury and Stoford in Somerset.[8] Mears & Stainbank of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast the second bell in 1866 and the treble bell in 1946.[7] St Mary's has also a Sanctus bell of unknown date.[7]

St Mary's parsonage was designed by William Wilkinson and built in 1869.[9]

St Mary's parish is now part of the Cherwell Valley Benefice, along with the parishes of Ardley, Fritwell, Lower Heyford, Somerton and Souldern.[10]

Economy and amenities[edit]

Thatched cottages in the High Street
Former Church of England school, built in 1859–61, now closed and converted into a private house

The village comprises just over 100 homes: a mixture of original 18th- and 19th-century Cotswold stone cottages, converted barns, stone-brick houses, 1950s and 1960s brick bungalows and rendered houses. The most recent houses have Cotswold stone exteriors which is more in keeping with the village's character.

The village green is overlooked by the former school, now a private house. The village has allotments, a sports field (home of Heyford United football team), village hall, children's playground and a public house: The Barley Mow.

About 1 mile (1.6 km) east of the village is the former RAF Upper Heyford airfield. The RAF used the airfield from the 1920s as a bomber station, then in the 1950s assigned to the USAF. Since its closure in 1994, the airfield has become a substantial industrial and commercial estate. The runway, once the second longest in Europe, is used to store new cars awaiting delivery to dealers. Numerous Cold War relics remain including disused bunkers, water towers, huts and fences. There is a large number of former MoD houses immediately south of the airfield and industrial area which are rented.

There is a suggestion that Upper Heyford may be renamed "Heyford Warren" (the name for the village from about 200 years ago) with the Upper Heyford name being retained for the housing at the RAF station.[citation needed] It has been subject to much speculation regarding development for new housing. Several proposals (firstly for as many as 10,000 homes, then 1,000, then "several hundred") have been rejected. A further planning discussion is underway.

A planning application for RAF Upper Heyford was underway in 2007. The plan proposed the protection of most of the historic elements of the ex RAF station. However, most if not all of the bungalows south of the airfield would be demolished to make way for about 1,000 new houses.

In 2010 it was proposed that houses south of Camp Road were to be retained and renovated and a new primary school built as well as new homes with some for social housing.


"Tchure" is a common Midlands dialect word for an alley.[11] The Tchure in Upper Heyford is an old alleyway that is now a bridleway. Oxfordshire has identically-named alleys in Deddington and Charlton-on-Otmoor.


Air force sign, still at the entrance to the former airbase in 2001

External links[edit]