Weston-on-the-Green

The village of Weston-on-the-Green lies about 4 miles south-west of Bicester.

At the time of the Norman Conquest the manor was held by Wigod of Wallingford. But Wigod died shortly after the conquest leaving his estates, including Weston, to his son-in-law, Robert D’Oyly. Weston descended via Robert’s younger brother, Nigel, to his nephew, also Robert, who, in 1129, founded the Augustinian Osney Abbey and included Weston parish church as part of its endowments. Parts of the manor lands were later granted to Osney Abbey, including six virgates given by Robert’s wife, Edith, and son, Henry.

Henry’s son, also Henry, sold most of the remainder of the manor to Osney Abbey in 1227, retaining only the house, watermill and demesne lands. He gave the final parts of the manor to the abbey shortly afterwards and the abbey then retained the manor until it surrendered all its lands to the Crown at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.

Weston Manor House is a 15th or early 16th century building, built for Osney Abbey’s bailiff. It was built within a 13th century moat, two sides of which survived until they were filled in. The house was re-fronted in the 16th century and the entrance hall has a Tudor fireplace from about this period. In 1665 it was assessed at 20 hearths for the hearth tax. The panelling of the drawing room dates from the reign of William and Mary, just before the end of the 17th century.

In about 1780 the 16th-century great hall was renovated with a timber roof frame and linenfold panelling transferred from Notley Abbey in Buckinghamshire. The 16th century front was replaced in about 1820 and the Hon. Rev. F.A. Bertie then had the house altered and renovated in 1851. It is now a hotel.

Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The earliest surviving parts of the parish church of the Blessed Virgin Mary are the Norman font and the ground stage of the west tower, which was built around 1200. By 1741 the mediaeval building was in ruins, and in 1744 all but the 13th century bell tower was rebuilt.

The replacement Georgian church had originally plain round-arched windows on the north and south sides and an ornate plaster ceiling, but this collapsed in 1810. The surviving ornate Georgian surroundings of the south door are of a very high quality.

Batoni altarpiece inside the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Batoni altarpiece inside the Church

There is no east window. Instead the blank east wall is dominated by an altarpiece of the Ten Commandments thought to have been painted by the Italian master Pompeo Batoni (1708-87).

The architect R. Phenè Spiers restored the building in the 1870s, repairing the tower and adding the south porch and new seating. But a plan to rebuild the east end with an apse “to make the building more church-like” was not executed. In 1885 Spiers added a heavy tracery to the Georgian windows and the organ was installed.

The tower used to have three bells, one each cast in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. They were replaced in 1870 with the present ring of five, all of which were cast by Mears and Stainbank of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. There is also a Sanctus bell cast in 1834 by W & J Taylor, of Oxford.

A school was opened in the village in 1855. Oxfordshire County Council took it over in 1920 and reorganised it as a junior school in 1937. The village had no electricity until 1931, but the school didn’t have any until 1947. It was closed in 1984 and is now a private home.

RAF Weston-on-the-Green is about 1 mile north of the village. German prisoners of war and Canadian military personnel built it in 1915 for the Royal Flying Corps. It was redeveloped after the Great War when a number of the original buildings were demolished. The former RFC Officers and Sergeant’s messes are located on the opposite side of the B430 road, and are now in commercial use.

In 1967 the airfield was used for the launch of the first modern hot air balloon in the UK, called the Bristol Belle. It was created from an idea developed by members of the Bristol Gliding Club and Wing Commander Gerry Turnbull, then based at RAF Weston-on-the-Green, was brought in as an experienced gas-balloon pilot, to teach the team how to fly it.

The airfield is now a parachute training station, under the control of RAF Brize Norton, and is one of the few remaining active RAF bases with some original pre-RAF buildings.