What makes Weston on the Green different? 

Partly it is the accumulation of history that has formed Weston and made it what it is.   Activity in the area can be dated back to the Bronze Age, with further artefacts [1] from the Roman era and later.  Ridge and furrow marks in the fields testify to the Medieval occupation of the village and an archaeological excavation in the centre of the village yielded Saxon, medieval and post medieval features. [2] .  By the time of the Domesday Survey the manor was in the hands of Robert D’Oilly who had come to England with William the Conqueror.  The manor later became the possession of Osney Abbey until the Dissolution of the monasteries when Henry VIII passed it to Lord Williams of Thame and by descent it remained in the Norreys Bertie family until the whole estate was sold at the end of the First World War. [3]     With a few exceptions all the village – farmhouses, cottages, hovels and land – belonged to the manor.  There had never been a stratum of the community of relatively rich landowners who farmed their own land.  The constitution of the population of the village was two tier – the family who lived at the manor and their tenants whose job and home were tied together. [4]   The fortunes of the village were joined to the fortunes of the family at the manor – when they fell on hard times the village also suffered.  During the majority of the 19th century the Berties were strapped for cash and in the village there were only two new properties built.  At a time of rising life expectancy and large families the village only increased by two homes – children had to move away to get work and a home.  The villagers who remained by and large lived in poor accommodation. When the village was sold many of these people managed to buy their own homes, sometimes for as little as £60, others for £100 or £200. [5]   The effect must have been huge; where once there had been total dependence on the manor for a living and a home, people could at last enjoy the freedom to work and live without reference to the manor.  

Weston Manor House, now a hotel, has a central core dating from the 16th century.  Much of the interior, including the entrance hall and panelled dining room have retained their original Tudor features. Although many traditions remain linking the building to monastic activity, it was probably never occupied by monks or nuns, but served as one of many estates which supplied the establishment at Osney with food and supplies harvested from the land, such as wood, game etc. A tenant would have lived in the house, maintaining the link between villagers and Abbey. After the manor passed into private hands it was often lived in by a tenant who looked after the interests of his Lord.  The Norreys family were prominent at the court of Henry VIII – one lost his head when he refused to implicate Anne Boleyn in adultery despite being a well known friend of the king.  Elizabeth I later restored the family to their home and position in recognition of the support they had given her mother.  The presence of the Norreys Berties in the village increased during the 18th and 19th centuries, when their involvement in school and church life is well documented.  

The Church as it is today was built in 1743, although there is evidence at the base of the tower of the earlier Saxon building.  This building had been in bad repair when Peregrine Bertie returned from Europe with paintings and grand ideas and had the church built in its present form.  It is unusual in that there are no side isles and instead of a window behind the altar there is a large painting attributed to the Italian painter Pompeo Battoni.  The carving around the door and the internal plaster decoration are exceptional. Perhaps as a way of expressing their independent thoughts the villagers built one of the earliest chapels in the area “by the labour of their own hands” in 1838 [6] and it remained in use until 1993. Despite the natural division of church from chapel, many children grew up in the village attending both and thereby gaining a place on two Sunday school outings!

  There are two public houses in the village – The Chequers and The Ben Jonson, both recorded as early as 1728 and by implication were here before that.  Both have sundials, as does the church.   Apart from these buildings there are a further 24 properties deemed to be of sufficient architectural interest to be listed. [7]   Together this represents almost 50% of the buildings that existed in the village at the beginning of the 20th century. Although there was redevelopment and building during the last century, it was all in small pockets, the largest of which was the building of Westlands Avenue in the 1960s.  Because none of these additions has swamped the village there has been complete integration of the newer properties with the older village houses and community projects such as those supporting the village hall, church and in the past the chapel and school have all reaped the benefit of the support of both long standing village families and those who have chosen to live here relatively recently.   Weston is one of the few villages in the area to still have on display their village stocks.  The age of the present stocks is unsure – probably 18th century or earlier – certainly records of law keeping in the village by the constable with a village pound, whipping post, handcuffs and staves is documented in the 18th century.  

Weston Airfield, itself one of the earliest in the country, being built in 1917, has a long history as a training ground and is now a parachute dropping zone and centre for civilian gliding.  The majority of the airfield is managed for crops or hay and the relative low level of disturbance makes this a special ecological area in itself providing the habitat for many species, especially an exceptional colony of glow worms.   An area to the north of the village and lying on the parish boundary is a SSSI, [8] having in the 18th century been the site of peat workings and now, along with the neighbouring Stone Pits is protected for the rare flora and fauna found there.  These are mainly associated with the exceptional drainage of the area supporting wetland loving plants and animal life and the species they in turn support such as reed warblers.   Drainage through this area and into the several ponds in the parish, most of which is low lying and prone to localised flooding is linked to that of Otmoor and a less intensive approach to agriculture towards the end of the 20th century has been to the advantage of all forms of wildlife in the area. The building of the M40 and the associated heavy traffic on the A34 have proved a barrier and much of the land in the east and south of the parish is not often visited by humans – giving rise in the field boundaries, small areas of woodland and ponds to undisturbed habitats for both plants and animals.   Another of the bonuses of the sale of the village is the survival of the sale catalogue and its accompanying maps which together with personal recollections collected over the years [9] detail the field names and gives us the biggest clue as to why we are Weston on the Green while other local villages, which do have village greens of some size are not so named.  We are left with small remnants of village green i.e. open land, along the side of the road, at the junction with the Bletchingdon road and adjacent to the two ponds in North Lane, but before the enclosure of the fields to the east of the main road all the area on that side of the road, stretching from North Lane to the junction with the Oxford to Bicester road in the south was actually our Green.  The field names preserve the original significance of this land – Upper Green Close, three called Green Close and one called Green Ground.  We were originally a village strung out along the west side of an exceptionally long Green – almost a mile long – and hence the distinguishing title of on the Green to identify us as the village with the long green rather than a green surrounded by houses.   There are several references to different schools, some a form of night school where men met in the evenings to learn from one of their own who could teach a little reading, writing and maths, others were Dame schools operating from a cottage and the school as we know it was certainly in existence by the 1850s in what had probably been an old tythe barn. [10]  Despite the difficulties of the 19th century, the lady at the manor and the vicar together attempted to improve the education offered at the village school.  One family to benefit was that of William Clark, one of whom – Fred – became a leading educationalist and was knighted in 1943 for his services to education.  In a similar way, Haman Porter, born and brought up in the village as the son of an agricultural labourer, lived here all his life but rose to become Deputy Lieutenant of the County, a Justice of the Peace and also worked to better the lot of the common man, formulating policies with the likes of Lloyd George.     As with many villages over the centuries some people have risen from humble beginnings to positions of trust and importance within their times.  This is doubly notable from a village such as Weston where the tie to the manor until after the First World War made such progress exceptional. The school logbook exists from 1873 until its closure in 1984 and also details the addition of children evacuated from Bethnal Green during the Second World War. Many villagers still remember the education they received in the thatched school at the end of North Lane.  The school bell now hangs in the village hall. The closing of the school resulted in the young people of the village being educated in one of several different schools, but the school reunion in 2000 – 16 years after closure – was attended by almost 100 ex pupils, may of whom are still in the area and in some cases representatives of 2 or 3 generations who attended the school were present.   Like many villages we have our own collection of legends, traditions and eccentrics and the wealth of historical information available, copies of some of which are kept in the Village Archive bears witness to this. [11]  A strong sense of community born of the tenant/lord of the manor relationship which existed until almost 90 years ago has continued and individuals can and have chosen to live here because they want to be in a small rural community.  


[1] artefacts in private hands, County Museum Store and Ashmolean Museum

[2] Oxoniensia LXIV 245-253

[3] Victoria County History

[4] Census returns

[5] Sale catalogue – village archive

[6] Weston on the Green Methodist Church Centenary booklet – village archive

[7] National Monuments Records

[8] SSSI at SP526194 – Weston Fen

[9] Village Memories – village archive

[10] Newspapers, census returns, school log books – County Record Office

[11] Weston Matters -  printed 2000 to celebrate the Millennium – copy in Village Archive








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