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
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.
. 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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
in private hands, County Museum Store and Ashmolean Museum
catalogue – village archive
on the Green Methodist Church Centenary booklet – village archive
at SP526194 – Weston Fen
Memories – village archive
census returns, school log books – County Record Office
Matters - printed 2000 to celebrate the
Millennium – copy in Village Archive